|Per Ardua Ad Astra
Author: Closet Scrawler PM
The motto of the Searcher, emblazoned upon her hull, comes to have special meaning as Buck Rogers struggles to forge a friendship where the only thing they seem to have in common is the death of an innocent woman. -Not slash-Rated: Fiction K - English - Friendship/Adventure - Buck R. & Hawk - Chapters: 3 - Words: 9,961 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 01-20-11 - Published: 01-05-11 - id: 6625990
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: It was bothering me that there are no character selection options for this category, so I took the liberty of submitting a list. It has been many years since I have watched this old show, so it's likely that I am missing a few memorable names. But they can always be added.
Only yesterday, Hawk had stood on the bridge of the Searcher as a condemned prisoner, certain of his fate. He had not desired to die, but neither did he wish to live out his remaining years as the last of his kind. He had sworn a vow to the ancient god of his people, to kill humans until they killed him, but his thirst for revenge had finally begun to wane. He had thought it fitting, then, that the humans finish what they had started. But it would seem that Makemake had a different fate planned for him.
Rogers shoved the last of the fruit hastily into his mouth just as the doors slid open, and the three of them entered the bridge. The room had not changed, but it now lacked the ominous sense of impending doom that had colored Hawk's perception of it. His keen eyes roved over the humans working at their stations, and he listened to the humming, clicking, and beeping of the machines surrounding him in a new light.
"Ah, there you are," Asimov said from the control pedestal where less than a day ago Hawk had awaited Earth's judgment. The admiral stepped down as Deering crossed to the fore of the bridge and conferred quietly with the man stationed there. "They haven't answered our hails, but we think that's because they can't hear us. Scans of the planet don't show much in the way of technology down there. We did find this, though," he said, pointing at a monitor.
"A low level power output," Deering said. "We're reading several of them, but only in this one area of the planet."
Rogers made a thoughtful noise, and swallowed his breakfast. "Looks like a decent sized city."
Asimov nodded. "We think it's the original settlement."
"Well, sounds like as good a place as any to drop a line," Rogers said and clapped his hands together. When he got nothing but blank stares, he turned to Hawk. "Let's go say hello."
"Captain Rogers," Asimov started with a stern note of reprimand, and Rogers turned slowly to give the admiral a polite look of question. But there was a hard, determined edge to the expression, and there was clearly some kind of communication passing between them in the sudden, awkward silence that descended. Asimov's eyes flicked from Rogers to Hawk and back again, and then the man heaved a long suffering sigh. "Good luck."
Rogers smiled. "Thank you, Admiral."
Hawk paused to look back over his shoulder as he followed Rogers through the door, and caught Asimov's displeased frown before the door slid closed. Hawk was shrewd enough to know that he was the spoils of a brief battle of wills. He turned and saw that Rogers was nearly to the lift, so he broke into a light jog to catch up.
"We'll stop by your ship on our way," Rogers said with a smile as the lift arrived.
Hawk's chest tightened with an odd mixture of anticipation and dread and he made no reply as the lift descended. The doors parted to reveal the massive hanger bay of the Searcher. Several fighters were ranged along one side. Opposite those were a variety of shuttles, each slightly different, designed for different tasks. In the center of the bay, surrounded by scaffolding, was his ship.
His breath caught in his throat when they stepped out onto the gantry overlooking the bay, and he found himself simply staring. He cast a critical eye over the lines of his damaged ship and winced at the sight of the plain metal strut temporarily serving as the missing talon, for it served to remind him that his ship was the instrument of his beloved's death. But this ship was the nucleus of his fondest memories, and he was determined to hold onto what little of Koori he had left. Despite everything, he felt a bittersweet smile tug at his mouth.
Beside him, Rogers breathed out a soft sigh and moved past him, boots clanking on the metal stairs that led to the bottom of the bay. Hawk followed, barely taking his eyes off his ship as they neared. Within moments, they were standing beside it. Rogers stood back as Hawk circled it slowly, examining every inch. The strut held the ship upright, where a framework of metal bars surrounded the damaged wing. The wing itself was covered in scorch marks from the welding that had been required to repair it, but otherwise looked intact.
At the raptor-beaked prow, Hawk absently pulled his right glove off with his left hand, and gently touched the metal of the hull. Rogers came up beside him and leaned casually against the ship. Hawk turned to him, his hand still caressing the metal, and found that the human's presence was not as intrusive as it should have been.
Rogers smiled. "They tell me she'll be as good as new by the time we get back. Flight worthy now, actually - you'd just have a hard time landing."
Hawk turned back to his ship, stroking the nose as though calming a nervous beast. How easy it would be, to simply climb into his ship and fly away. They would not be able to stop him. This was not a war vessel; it would not even be able to shoot him down. They could launch fighters after him, but his ship was far faster than any of those clumsy things. He stood for several long minutes, simply gazing upon his ship and feeling the cold metal of it on his skin. At length, he sighed and lowered his arm. His honor was one of the very few things he had remaining to him, and he had no desire to live as a hunted criminal.
He turned to look at Rogers, wondering if the human suspected any of what he had been considering, and blinked in surprise. Rogers was in the same pose, arms crossed while leaning against the ship, but his head had tilted to rest against the hull and his eyes had drifted half closed. Hawk sighed, and began putting his glove back on. Rogers woke with a start, blinking to clear his vision. Hawk was silent as the human pushed away from the ship with a soft grunt of effort.
"Sorry," Rogers said, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand.
"You require sleep," Hawk answered.
Rogers snorted. "As soon as I do, I just know those pinheads are gonna manage to push something else through, and I'll be damned if I let it happen," he said as he scrubbed a hand across his eyes. "But yeah, gonna have to get some real shuteye soon," he conceded.
Hawk's brows drew together in confusion as he carefully sifted through the jumble of words. "Pinheads?" he asked. He had studied the language and thought he had a reasonable grasp of it, but he was beginning to wonder if Terran was Rogers' native tongue.
Rogers sighed in irritation, apparently at himself, and started walking towards one of the square, blocky shuttles. Hawk cast one last glance at his ship before following. Rogers slapped the panel with far more force than was needed, and the door to the shuttle hissed aside. His shoulder clipped the edge of the frame, but he ignored it and headed toward the forward cabin. Hawk entered more cautiously, watching the human, not entirely certain he wished to be in a small cubicle with him.
"I do not understand the problem," Hawk said slowly.
Rogers dropped into the pilot's seat without answering, and Hawk took the co-pilot position beside him. The human began flipping switches and dials, starting the engines, and addressed the helm as though unable to look at Hawk. "Every shuttle that belongs to the Searcher has a built-in locator beacon, in case of a crash landing or something like that." Rogers' right hand came to rest on the throttle between their seats, and stopped. The human turned to look at him with regret. "But you should know, the one in your ship is designed to self destruct if there's any attempt to remove it."
Hawk was not surprised. "They do not trust me."
Rogers rubbed at his forehead as though trying to brush away a headache. "They don't know you," he said. "It was a condition of your release into our… custody."
Hawk tilted his head slightly, and peered at Rogers from under heavy, feathered brows. He supposed he should be angered by this condition placed upon his freedom, but instead there was only a sort of resignation. "It is expected," Hawk said simply, and turned away to study the controls of this unfamiliar vessel.
Rogers took a breath as though to speak, but let it rush out in a frustrated huff of air and flipped a switch on the consol instead. A small screen came to life and Wilma Deering's face appeared. "Requesting permission for departure," Rogers said.
"Permission granted," Deering responded formally, but then hesitated. "And Buck…" she added, pausing again as if reconsidering, "Be careful."
"When am I ever not careful?" he grinned back at her.
The woman shook her head, but wasn't quite able to hide the tiny smile at the defiant question. "Searcher out," Deering responded, and the channel closed.
Rogers chuckled quietly, and Hawk had the impression that their quarrelsome exchanges were not what they appeared to be at first glance. He said nothing on the matter, however, and the shuttle left the bay in silence. The blue and green world filled the main viewscreen as they neared the planet, but Rogers was looking at a monitor embedded in the helm that displayed a rear view of the Searcher. There was a soft look of pride on his face as the ship shrank from view.
"Why do you smile?" Hawk asked, realizing he was speaking only after the words had left his mouth.
Rogers tapped the screen. "I don't get to see the Searcher very often."
Hawk studied the picture for a long moment. As was the case with every human ship Hawk had ever seen, the thing was a massive assembly of metal. There was no grace to the design. And yet, Rogers clearly had a possessive sort of pride of the Searcher, and Hawk found himself not wishing to offend. But he was curious. "You believe the ship to be… pleasant to look upon?"
Rogers laughed and flipped off the screen. "No, she's a lumpy bucket of rust," he said happily, and reached for the helm as they began to enter the atmosphere. Hawk frowned out the main window, not wanting to press the issue, but he did not understand. He did not even understand why he wanted to understand.
Rogers looked away from the controls long enough to catch Hawk's expression, and bit his bottom lip in thought. "The Searcher means a lot to me," Rogers said quietly, as though it were some kind of confession. "The Holocaust didn't just devastate Earth. Compared to the original population, there weren't very many people left. But Earth couldn't sustain them. We barely had space technology at the time, but the largest countries pooled their resources and put everything they had into building colony ships. They took what they could, and left. Not all of them made it, but a lot did. There are humans all over this part of the galaxy now, some of them more advanced than Earth, some a lot less. Some kept in touch, some didn't."
"Humans spread like a plague," Hawk said.
"Well… I guess we do have that tendency," Rogers said reluctantly, and Hawk hid his surprise at the admission. "But the people of Earth, those that stayed or were left behind… they toughed it out. They had to live with what had happened. And it changed them, Hawk." Rogers shook his head, and concentrated on the helm for a moment until they had cleared the outer layer. Clouds streamed past the windshield as they descended lower, and soon forested treetops were visible far below. "They eventually recovered a lot of their technology, and more, and focused on trying to heal Earth. And just when they were starting to get somewhere, the Draconians came. And then I came."
Rogers paused then, and his hands went still on the controls. His eyes unfocused, seeming to see something very far away. After a moment, he returned to the present with a strange little sigh. "Well, to make a long story short, Earth is only just now at the point where we can go looking for some of the colonies that we've lost contact with. But the thing is… no one wants to, Hawk." Rogers made a frustrated gesture with both hands. "They've spent so much time isolated from nature and the outside universe that they've lost almost all interest in exploring, in learning, in knowing. Sometimes I wonder if the gene was bred out of them."
Hawk's first thought was that the fewer humans crawling through the universe, the better. Let them stay on their destroyed planet, let them reap the fruits of their labors. But Rogers' sad expression formed a pool of shame in Hawk's gut, and he did not know why.
"But I found enough to fill the Searcher," Rogers continued as they passed a sandy beach and skimmed over a wide expanse of ocean. "Sort of a hodgepodge of military folk displaced by the Draconian Peace Treaty, and a bunch of scientists. It's sometimes hard to get them to work together, but it's worked so far. The Searcher is Earth's first purely exploratory ship, and I'm hoping it'll sort of… rekindle something that I believe is at the core of every being that Earth gave birth to."
"And what is that?" Hawk asked carefully, curious despite himself.
Rogers looked at him with a sly grin. "Curiosty."
Hawk looked away, both irritated and embarrassed.
"Oh, come on, Hawk," Rogers said with exasperation. "I think it's more than obvious that you're the explorer type." Hawk said nothing, staring stonily out the windshield at the water passing beneath them. There was a pause as Rogers chose his words carefully, and when he spoke again the flippant tone was gone. "When I was looking for your hide-out," he finally continued, "my scanners didn't detect anything that even remotely resembled technology. You said it yourself – your people were a simple people. And yet you fly a ship, Hawk – you're obviously a little different."
Hawk gritted his teeth and said nothing, and Rogers gave a little sigh before deciding to leave well enough alone. They traveled in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes, and Hawk could just detect the dark line of trees in the distance before his anger cooled. And once it dissipated, Hawk felt a strange craving. He did not know what it was about this human that made him want to talk. He had lashed out with words of fury in that cave, even though he had known there was no use in trying to explain to a human. The earthman had not interrupted, had not tried to defend the actions of his kind, had done nothing but sit in the darkness and listen. And Hawk had talked, saying more in those few minutes than he had in the months since he had begun his rampage of vengeance.
There was something about the human that brought his anger to the surface, then leeched it away like a festering boil that needed to be purged.
"They came twenty seven of your earth years ago," Hawk said, breaking the silence. The words came out haltingly, forced from him by a need that he could not understand. "Throm is a small world, and the farthest of the livable ones from the sun. At the time that my people settled, it was in an ice age. But that was what we were accustomed to, and that was why we chose it. When humans came to the Argus system, Throm was too small and too far away to bother with. But Throm has an elliptical orbit, and eventually it drew closer to the sun. Our world warmed, the glaciers melted, and it became tempting to humans. And they came."
The ocean with the line of trees in the distance faded away, and he remembered when the day the ships descended. He could see the ships coming and going, but not what they were doing once they landed, so he decided to set out on a journey to go and see. He'd been warned by the elders that it was unwise. It was best if they hid from them, and remained undetected for as long as possible. But Hawk had been young, not yet a man. Stubborn, and foolish. They were creatures that had the power of flight, and he was driven by curiosity. It had taken him nearly a month to travel there, and by that time the Neutralans had constructed most of their spaceport.
Their legends had always spoken of humans as savages, but Hawk did not see that in the Neutralans. They were surprised to see him, but not violent. They welcomed him to their city, taught him their language and their history. Hawk knew they had a violent past, but it seemed to him that it was long ago. They were businessmen, and Hawk came to learn that they valued the baubles that were common in some caves he knew of. Hawk bartered these for the construction of his ship, designed by his own hand. The first day he flew – actually flew in the sky – was a memory that he would cherish for the rest of his life.
It was nearly two years before he returned to his clan, and it was much the same as when he had left. He was past his time to give up his fledgling's name, and he chose Hawk after completing his rights of passage. A bird he had learned of in his studies, native to Earth; a creature that Throm had no equivalent to. He had stayed with his people for a while, but he was consumed with a thirst for knowledge that eventually drew him back to the city. The Neutralan's port was a great success – it attracted beings from all over the quadrant. Humans and creatures so alien looking that Hawk could do nothing but stare at them as they passed in the streets.
Hawk had never once divulged the location of his village, but it was inevitable that they were found. Some rather unsavory examples of humanity had gone looking for gems in the rocks and had stumbled upon them. When Hawk had heard of it, he had immediately flown home. The humans had left, for they had been few and the clan more numerous than they, but his people were in a panic. There was talk of fleeing farther into the mountains, to let the humans have the useless rocks they so desired.
But Hawk had known that doing so would only prolong the inevitable. And so he had returned to Neutralis to spread the word that if any human so much as stepped foot in the Valley of Eagles, he would swoop down upon them and tear them to shreds. Even then, Hawk was known for his ability as a pilot. He was a fine hunter amongst his people, and he honed these skills until that, too, became well known. No human would dare challenge him, and his people were safe for many years.
Koori had been the only one who ever understood him. For years, Hawk had flitted back and forth between the city and the clan, torn by his desire to live among his own people and by his hunger for everything that was not clan. She had waited so patiently, for many years. It was when she overcame her own fear and journeyed with him to Neutralis that he realized he had found his lifemate. She alone would fly with him to the soaring place, she alone came to understand him.
Hawk blinked, and the memory of the Valley dissolved around him. He swallowed thickly, struggling to rein in his emotions. It took him a moment to recall where he was, and he realized he was staring out the windshield at a field of tall green grass waving in a gentle breeze. He jerked his head around to look at Rogers, his shoulders hunching slightly in a guarded wariness as he struggled to hide his sudden horror at just how much he had said.
The earthman blinked a couple times, and Hawk was shocked to see moisture glittering in his eyes. Rogers opened his mouth to speak, but choked on the words. He cleared his throat, and Hawk did not know what he had expected the human to say, but it was not, "I'm so sorry, Hawk."
Anger instantly welled up within him, and Hawk's brows drew together. A flood of harsh words sprang to mind, but died on his tongue at Rogers' expression. It was as if the open, honest sincerity drained away his anger and sent it dissipating into the air around them. It left Hawk feeling tired and drained, but somehow… better. Hawk's shoulders slumped in exhaustion and he turned away. "What's done is done, and the blame is more mine than anyone else's."
Rogers drew breath to speak, but whatever he would have said was cut off by the communicator. "Searcher to Rogers, come in. Requesting status update."
Hawk took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. Rogers seemed to debate whether or not to answer the summons, but they both knew he had to. In truth, Hawk was grateful for the interruption. His entire body was knotted with tension, and he was confused and disturbed by his own actions. It was as if, once he began speaking, the words simply poured out of him in a tidal wave of… need. It was not something he wanted to admit to, let alone discuss farther.
Rogers flipped the switch. "We've landed about a kilometer from the city. We're just, uh, checking supplies in case we end up staying overnight."
"Shouldn't you have done that before you left?" Deering replied with just a touch of disapproval.
"Yeah, well, sue me," Rogers said.
"What?" she asked, then hurried on. "Never mind. Don't forget to check in every two hours, Buck."
"Gotcha. Rogers over an' out," he said and flipped the switch. Rogers looked around for a moment, as though trying to get his bearings. "Oh, right," he said and got to his feet. Hawk watched as the human crossed to the back of the cabin and opened a locker to root around inside. "Should have given you these before we took off, but I forgot." He pulled out four devices and tossed two of them to Hawk. "One's a communicator, and the other is a data recorder," he explained as he tucked each into a different pocket of his jacket.
Hawk stood, and tried to decide where he might store the machines. Rogers gave him a short laugh, and tossed him a belt. Hawk caught it awkwardly with one hand, then set the devices on his chair so he could put on the belt. He noted that he was given no weapon, but neither did Rogers carry one for this mission. Once they were both geared, Rogers hit the button that opened the shuttle's doors.
Hawk stepped foot on the first alien planet in his life.