Hawk has escaped death from the nova thanks to the beautiful alien doctor,
but can he truly live when he believes he's lost all those he loves once again?
HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE
Hawk watched his ship's monitors warily. Flying blind, his viewports closed, he felt somehow maimed because his avian flying instincts were useless as he orbited the great bloated sun. He was subservient to human technology to fly a ship that was as much an extension of him as his own hand.
On his long range scanner, the image of Buck's shuttle paralleling his orbit but at a much wider radius from the enormous sun made him more uneasy.
A human would laugh away such distress, but he could not. His people trusted their instincts as the humans trusted their machines. He flicked on his communications equipment and grimaced at the roaring solar static.
"Buck, Hawk here. Can you hear me over the solar noise?"
"Yes, Hawk, I read you. Getting bored? Monitoring the birth of a nova is slow work."
"No, uneasy. Something is wrong."
"Dr. Goodfellow says there's no way this sun will nova for at least two more weeks. He's been receiving the information from your ship through my booster unit, and he says all data confirms that theory.
“By the way, he says that Ari's doing a terrific job with the equipment aboard my shuttle, and he is."
Ari's shy "thank you" brought a smile to Hawk’s face.
Buck laughed. "Your kid brother's something else."
"That means he's special."
"Yes, he is. My unease grows. I suggest we both pull away from the sun and return to the safety of the Searcher. I will not risk Ari's life or yours for a few extra scientific facts. The sun is unstable."
"You may be experiencing some form of solar poisoning. You're closer than anyone else, and Dr. Goodfellow wasn't certain of the solar effects on humans, I mean, beings. I'll check with him. Why don't you return to the Searcher. Ari and I will finish, then we'll follow."
Hawk turned his ship angling it toward the distant Searcher, and slammed it into full acceleration. "Buck, leave now. I beg you. 'Humor me.'"
"You must be concerned if you’re stooping to slang. I'm following. I'll beat you home."
As he saw the shuttle's movement on his scanner, Hawk laughed with relief. "Not in that turtle you fly so badly, Human."
"You're loaded down with equipment. I think we're about even."
According to the scanner, his ship was still closer to the sun, but he was moving rapidly away from the shuttle.
The sun reached out like a great octopus toward Buck's ship.
"Solar flare behind you, Buck!"
Sick with horror, he watched the shuttle race away from the flare. For a few brief minutes, the shuttle stayed just ahead, then, with one quick dart the flare caressed the ship and vaporized it.
"Ari, Buck," he moaned in despair.
With profound disinterest, he saw a second flare reach out for his own ship.
His body frying, he slumped as his ship melted around him.
Tiber Roland smiled to herself as she watched the tall, handsome avian beside her at the controls of her hovercraft. A fascinating collection of opposites -- fierce and tender, courageous and vulnerable, funny and solemn, unself-conscious and maddeningly self-absorbed-- he was that amalgam of opposites that made the superior male, the kind of man women wanted, and the man this particular woman yearned to keep.
At the beginning of this maiden flight, he had been nervous and uncertain, but as his confidence grew, he relaxed and began to enjoy himself.
Now he played with the ship by taking gentle spins, dives, and rolls.
Straightening the craft, he accelerated until the planet landscape beneath them became a multicolored blur. Grinning like a child with a new toy, he finally slowed to a leisurely pace and turned to her. "I like this ship. It is very maneuverable and fast."
"I'm glad. It's yours then. You can fly it as often as you like now. We can do some traveling around the planet now that your health is back. It's a lovely, virgin terraformed world like Earth was before man changed it. That's why I enjoy being here by myself so much. I look forward to showing it to you."
"I am a pilot," he said with pleased decisiveness.
"There was no doubt about that. You were the only person aboard your ship when I pulled it away from the nova. You'd have to be a pilot."
"I realized that, but now I know in my hands too. My head knew I was a pilot, but my hands did not until I touched the controls."
"Loss of memory is like that. You remember all your skills but not how you got them."
"I cannot remember my own name," he said bitterly. "You say it is Hawk, but I do not feel like Hawk."
"From what I could decipher from your ship's records, you are Hawk." She leaned closer to him and rested a comforting hand on his arm. "I have decided that the name fits you. In flight you have the fierce skill of your namesake."
Grinning ruefully, he motioned toward the downy white feathers that covered his head and his newborn pink skin. "I feel more a chick with my down and my month-old memory."
"The adult feathers will return in the next months. As will your memory. Give them both time. It's only been two months since the nova. My regeneration tank accelerated the regrowth of your burnt body during the month you were in a coma after the nova, but your strength, your feathers, and your memory must return at their own rate."
"I wish to force my memory. What if I have a family waiting for me? A mate and little ones? Friends and family who believe me dead?"
"Your ship records say that you were attached to the Searcher -- an Earth exploration ship heading out into the boundaries of the known galaxy. A man with a mate and loved ones would not be aboard such a ship for such a mission," Tiber reminded him gently.
"I understand. But I have to know."
"Perhaps that's a mistake. Perhaps you don't remember because there are things too horrible to remember. There was a time in my life when I would have given anything for what you have now.
"When I touch you telepathically, I sense a depth of grief equal to my own. I beg you, don't seek the source of that grief. Accept your past's disappearance as a gift of God."
Allowing her growing love for him to shine in her eyes and her voice, she smiled shyly. "You are welcome to stay with me. Your future can be with me. We can remain here another month for your recuperation to be complete, then we could travel anywhere that you wish to go. All time and space are open to you now with me. Or we could stay here. We can begin your new life together."
Staring blindly inward, Hawk seemed unaware that she had just offered herself to him and that she had admitted her love for him. "I cannot decide the future until I know the past.”
Slowing the craft to a hover, he gazed toward the forest landscape below them. "These are the coordinates you gave me for my ship. I do not see it."
"It's just beyond that rise. I'll bring the hovercraft in to that tiny clearing."
Contemplating the indecipherable glowing control board of her ship, he nodded gratefully.
"It is rather alien, isn't it?" Tiber chuckled. "My race has a vastly different, more advanced technology than you're familiar with."
"You do not look different from the humans."
"It's what inside that counts. I have a different internal system -- two hearts, for example. My telepathic healing gifts for another. I have a human grandmother though." She eased the hovercraft to a gentle landing. "We can walk to your ship from here."
Opening the cockpit, she stepped down onto the mossy carpet of the forest clearing. When he joined her, she gave him her hand. "Are you certain you want to see your ship?"
"I must know my past. Perhaps my ship will be the key to opening my locked memory."
She led him up a small hill and paused. "There it is."
Hawk stared expectantly at where she pointed. Mercifully obscured by the late summer leaves, his ship lay in another small glade in the primal forest. "It is a slag heap!"
"Yes. I told you so. When I spotted you as that sun went nova, I had to act fast. My ship darted in, put a tractor beam on your ship, and ran like hell. I managed to place a mind-produced force field around you. That stopped the physical damage and held you until I put you in the regeneration tank. The ship wasn't nearly so lucky."
Hesitantly, he released her hand, walked down the hill to the twisted pile of melted wreckage, and peered in at the barely recognizable cockpit.
"I shielded the area around you — the cockpit area. My ship android Leos has taken out the ship's computer and specs. We've managed to decipher some of it."
"You say that the ship looked like a great bird of prey."
"Yes. With talons to grasp and shred another ship with. A pilot like you would make it a formidable fighter craft."
He mimicked the action of ripping talons with his hands then shuddered.
"Someone just walked over my grave."
Surprised by the six-hundred-year-old human expression, Tiber studied him.
Almost convulsively, he repeated the talon's vicious rending motion. Soul fear fluttered in his eyes, and he moaned, "Koori." Falling to his knees, he clutched his temples in agony. "Help me, Tiber. I do not want to remember. Help me not to remember."
Kneeling, Tiber pulled him into her embrace, and her mind touched his to stem the memories, but she was too late. His memories exploded outward like that great nova.
She clutched him tightly and kept her mind with his as his past’s horrors washed over him. She could not protect him, but she would not let him be so horribly alone as he vividly relived his past.
After the memories had reaffirmed themselves, Hawk lay sobbing in her arms on the forest floor. Murmuring words of love and comfort, tears wetting her own cheeks, Tiber rocked him and let him cry for the devastation of his life, and for Ari and Buck.
His life pattern appalled her. Every person he had ever cared for had been taken from him. His mother had died at his birth. His father and his stepmother had disappeared, never to return, on a journey from Throm. His foster parents had been killed when he was in his early teens, then his people were massacred a a race.
Then Koori. He had forsaken love until Koori. She had given him back his heart and taken it away at her death.
In that emotional void, Buck Rogers had taught Hawk friendship, but Ari had taught him to love again. Ari was the brother he had never known existed until just over a year ago. Ari was his half-brother but not half-loved.
With his enormous need for love, Ari had battered at the emotional barricades that Hawk had built after Koori's death, and he’d forced Hawk to feel and love again.
Numbness and despair had left Hawk; peace and a different happiness came.
Now Ari and Buck were dead too. Watching them die in the nova, Hawk had welcomed death as a friend.
She had taken away the victory of death from him, but he had hidden in forgotten memory. Now, even that small victory was gone.
"I'm sorry, Hawk," she whispered, kissing his head. "So sorry."
Stunned and exhausted, he curled limply in her arms.
When he was completely asleep, Tiber carried him to her ship and returned to her solitary home, then had Leos put him to bed.
Each time Hawk woke, he would stare dully at her and not speak. Later that night when she was away from the room, he tried to commit suicide.
Not opening his eyes, Hawk lethargically turned his face away from the voice. He would ignore Tiber as he had for the uncounted eternity since the suicide attempt. There were but a few brief hours left to him. Already, he could feel the cold, chill wings of death brushing his fevered body. A few short hours, and he would be free.
Tiber could not force aid or food on him as long as he was conscious. That would be against her code as a healer. She had stopped the bleeding of his wrists, but she would not defeat him again.
"Hawk." Tiny hands caressed his face, and warm lips touched his.
His eyes jolted open.
Her eyes brimming with love, his mate leaned over his bed. She wore the dusky rose-colored dress she had died in. "Koori!" His hand trembled with weakness, desire, and happiness as he fondled her cheek. "You are not a fever dream. You are real."
"I am real. For this brief space I am real." Sitting down beside him on the bed, she clasped his hands in hers and held them in her lap.
"I am ready to die. Take me to our people. I freely release myself from life." He sighed deeply. "I have missed you so."
"I have never left you. I am not here to release you from life. I am the Koori of your heart, not the Koori of her spirit."
"I do not understand."
"I am all that you remember and have created of Koori. I am your memory of Koori."
"I wish death. Why are you here?"
"I wish you to live. The real Koori would not have wanted your suicide. I do not want your death either. You recognized that truth within your heart, or I could not have come."
"What have I to live for? You are real this moment, but soon you will be gone as all I have loved have gone. Ari and Buck are dead."
"They do not want you dead either. Suicide is the coward's flight. Koori's mate is not a coward. Her mate is Hawk," she said proudly.
"Even a hawk can be defeated. Cage him, and he will batter himself to death on the bars.
“My cage was built bar by bar by each death in my past. Ari and Buck were the roof of that cage. My wings are broken. I acknowledge defeat. My death is the only freedom."
"Tiber Roland would offer you a door to that cage."
"She is my friend," Hawk agreed.
"You can begin again with her. She can help you find our people on other worlds. That is a reason to live for."
"She could." A trace of hope entered Hawk, but he quashed it. "I will die. Anyone who is my friend or my kin has died. Loving me makes death a certainty. I will not risk another life. Tiber will not follow the others to her death because of our friendship."
"She is doomed already if you believe that, Hawk. She risked her life to pull you away from that nova. You were a stranger then. You are a beloved friend now. She would not thank you for suicide."
"She is remarkably stubborn about letting me die," Hawk agreed with a faint smile.
"You speak of saving others by this suicide. Ask yourself truly. Do you believe that your death will save others' lives? Does your life pattern mean that all will die from love of you? When I lived, you were not so accepting of our people's fatalism. Have you changed so much?"
"That was three deaths ago," he said sadly, caressing her cheek. "I no longer sneer at the philosophy of our dying race. After so many deaths it is easier to believe that the universe can be a dark, ugly and malevolent monster."
Her voice was richly earnest. "Do you believe that?"
He considered a long time. "No. I guess not. I am still the young fool who scoffs at his elders. I cannot completely believe that the universe is so terrible."
"Suicide is a cowardly, selfish act. You are not a coward, nor are you selfish. Live for my sake, and for Ari and Buck. Live for your old friends mourning for you on the Searcher. Live for your new friend,Tiber Roland.”
"I do not know."
"Have you considered the chance involved in your rescue from the nova? You were saved from death by one of the few healers who could restore you to health. Tiber Roland is almost unique in her knowledge and skills.
“You spoke so certainly of the universe a moment ago. Have you not wondered if the universe or Make Make does not have some special plan for you and spared you?
"You are Hawk. You are destined for greatness. You are brave and loving. You do not give up. You do not stop loving. I am proud to be Hawk's woman."
"Your faith in me has never wavered."
"I know you best," Koori replied simply.
"You do. You know that I can refuse you nothing, not even my escape from this life and this wretched cage of mortality."
"That is why I came. The Koori in you would not let Hawk die."
Hawk opened his eyes cautiously. The white ceiling of his bedroom at Tiber's house danced with midmorning light and leaf shadow patterns. Willing to live now, if not glad to be alive, he felt clear-headed, physically well, and drained as if from some long illness.
He looked toward the chair that Tiber always sat in by the bed. In the first weeks after he was taken from the regeneration tank, she had always been there any time, day or night, when he woke. When his physical pain came, she was there with her healer's touch and her gentle, consoling words.
Unconscious, Tiber sprawled out of her chair with only her head and arm on the bed.
He summoned Leos with a scream and a buzzer then dragged her onto the bed.
As pale as porcelain, she looked as if she’d been drained of life and all her enormous vitality. Except for faint respiration, she appeared dead. He stroked her chestnut hair and pleaded with her to open her gray silver eyes again.
Leos, the human-appearing android who acted as his nurse, flew through the door.
Staring in anger and accusation at him, Leos lifted her.
"What is wrong with her?"
Without a reply, Leos stalked from the room carrying her.
Almost half an hour later, Leos returned to tend and feed him. Since he was obviously not going to say anything until he was ready, Hawk lay patiently while Leos removed the bandages from his arms.
His wrists were now healed and unscarred although he had cut deep into the bone to assure himself a fast death before Tiber found him.
Intense blood loss was the one thing she could not cure with her healer's magic. Avian blood was more than rare. As far as he knew he had the only avian blood in the universe, and she had not had enough time to collect any of his blood or to synthesize it.
Somehow, she had defeated those impossibilities, and he survived without even scars to remember his idiocy by.
After cleaning him and helping him change his pajamas, Leos gave him a very large glass of the specially formulated liquid nourishment that Hawk had lived on during his early convalescence.
Tiber had always called the liquid "bird seed in a blender." Hawk had not understood the joke until he had first seen himself in a mirror. As far as his faulty memory was concerned then, he could be human.
He returned the now empty glass of nourishment to Leos. "Now will you talk to me?"
"Tiber is sleeping. She is very weak but not permanently damaged."
"What is wrong with her?"
"She had no avian blood to give you so she gave you her life force. Using her telepathic abilities, she poured her own energy into you. She ‘transfused’ you. By this means, your body's blood-making capacities were accelerated a thousand thousand times. You had lost far too much blood.
“Just to bring you to a minimum blood level she nearly exhausted her life essence. She's in worse condition than you are now because of that."
"I am sorry. I would never hurt Tiber intentionally. She is my friend."
Unplacated, Leos glared at him. "I hope you're worth it." Without another word, he left.
When Leos carried Tiber in to visit the next day, she was content just to sit by Hawk for the five minutes allowed her, to hold his hand, and to gaze at him.
Her strong, gentle hand seemed, suddenly, terribly fragile. Her silver eyes were dark with the knowledge of both their near deaths, yet glowed with the light of something gained that was of inestimable value.
After Hawk had thanked her for risking her life, not for saving him but for risking herself, Leos came back in to carry her to her bed. Her chestnut hair brushed Hawk's face as she bent kissing his cheek with her cold lips, and Leos took her away.
It would be several weeks before Hawk would once more wake hearing her sing as she worked in her flower garden outside his windows.
Hawk fidgeted nervously in his flight seat beside Tiber. Her large space yacht, the Helios, was but a tiny toy behind them. The hanger doors of the Searcher loomed open before her shuttlecraft.
"I dread this," he admitted.
She clasped his hand, squeezing it. "There are many memories on Searcher," she agreed. "We can turn around now. The people aboard don't know you're alive yet. I just told them who I was, that I needed to talk to them, and that I wanted to board. We can turn around now."
"No. It is best that they learn I live. I must face my past before I can go on. I will tell them I live, then I will leave with you to search for my people." Hawk tightened his grip on her hand. "You are a good friend, Tiber Roland. I thank you."
Silver pain flashed in her eyes. "You're welcome. Hawk." She pulled away and concentrated on landing her craft inside Searcher. The outer bay doors closed, and the area repressurized. She stood up. "Ready?"
"Yes." He straightened his best tunic and brushed ineffectually at his down that was now badly rumpled by newly emerging adult feathers. "Do I look all right?"
Tiber grinned at his nervousness and said playfully, "You are magnificent. They will not be pleased when I take you away."
"They are my friends. They will not force me to stay," he said soberly. "Go first, please, and warn them."
"Wouldn't want any happy heart attacks," she agreed. "Give me a couple of minutes and come out."
Hawk nodded and peered out the port hole of the exit. "They are here. The distinguished man in uniform is Admiral Asimov. The elderly man in the sweater is Dr. Goodfellow. The tall, beautiful woman is Col. Wilma Deering."
"Got it. Give me a couple of minutes and come out." Tiber let him step out of sight of the door, opened it, then she walked out to give his friends the good news.
He paced for the required several minutes then slipped out of the exit.
Asimov stared in glassy-eyed shock at him, and Wilma was statue still, but her mouth dropped open. Goodfellow had not seen him yet and was talking to Tiber about her reputation as a medical archeologist. She kept trying to interrupt him.
With a grin, she shrugged resignedly at Hawk.
He had forgotten it took more than several minutes to get Dr. Goodfellow's attention.
Even Goodfellow was now aware something unique had happened. He turned. "My dear boy. . . oh dear. . . oh dear. ..."
As Hawk watched his human friends' shocked disbelief become warm pleasure and love, he realized how much he had missed them.
Wilma threw herself into his arms giving him a very un-Colonel-like hug and kiss. Goodfellow muttered vagaries interspersed with pleased chuckles while the Admiral silently patted his shoulder and radiated joy.
Someone cleared his throat from the ship's interior bay doors. "What's going on here?"
Hawk looked up over Wilma's head buried on his chest, and his eyes met a well-remembered pair of blue eyes. He whispered, "Buck?"
His best friend hobbled toward them aided by a tall, spindly avian boy.
"Ari?" Hawk murmured as the universe became, suddenly, very right again.
Glancing toward the group, Ari paled, stopped, spoke his brother's name, and collapsed.
Finding himself kneeling by Ari on the floor, Hawk glanced toward Tiber, kneeling beside him, who touched the boy’s face with her healer's telepathic wisdom then moved it to the pulse at his throat as a human doctor would.
"He fainted. Emotional shock. He's unharmed." With a smile, she left the three to their reunion and joined the others at a distance.
Kneeling on Ari's other side, Buck snorted. "The kid's the smartest one of this group, always the right action for the right occasion. I could use a good faint myself."
Hawk lifted Ari at the shoulders and cradled him with tight possessiveness. "As could I. I thought you were both dead." Closing his eyes, he savored the aliveness of his brother -- the body heat, the heart beat, respiration, and the avian smell of him. These small truths made the great truth of Ari's survival real.
At Buck's carefully stifled moan of pain, Hawk jerked open his eyes. With little success, his friend was struggling to come to his feet.
Remembering with clarity the maimed movement of Buck's entrance into the hanger, Hawk asked, "What is wrong?"
"This is wrong." Buck turned the hidden side of his profile to Hawk. Keloid burn scars in vivid purples extended from his temple to his jaw line and down into his shirt. Reddish pucker scars of minor burns covered the rest of that side of his face.
Hawk winced. "I am sorry."
As if stung by Hawk's pity, Buck snarled, "I'm not finished. This is wrong." He pulled up his shirt exposing the scarring of his left chest. "This is wrong." He showed his twisted and burnt arm and hand then motioned downward.
"My left arm and leg are crippled, and my left eye is blind. The nova's heat knocked me out, and I fell to the shuttlecraft's deck. My left side fried against the metal surface. I can no longer fly, or walk, or run. The doctors aren't even sure I can be a man anymore, and I'm too damned frightened and hideous to find out. That's what's wrong."
Hawk lay his hand lightly on Buck's burnt cheek and offered the only consolation he could. "I am your friend. I will help you."
"A fat lot of good that does me," Buck said bitterly and hid his marred profile.
When Ari stirred against him, Hawk’s pity turned to fear. "No, not Ari. He is just a child. Not Ari." Frantic to examine the boy's body for burn scars, Hawk ripped at Ari's tunic fastenings.
Buck stopped Hawk's hand and spoke gently, "There's not a mark on the boy. Not a scar. One got Ari out before me. Ari didn't even get a third degree burn."
"Not even a tan," Buck grinned lopsidedly. "We've taken good care of the kid for you, and he's taken good care of me. He wouldn't let me give up and die. With you gone I was the only brother he had left, even if I'm only adopted. He's as stubborn a bird as his big brother."
"I have met only one being who is as stubborn as we three, Buck. I will enjoy watching our acquaintance grow."
Tiber returned and knelt beside them. "Why don't you take Ari some place private so you two can become reacquainted. After this shock he doesn't need a bunch of people."
Hawk rose holding his brother. "I will go to our cabin. One will take me if I ask." His gaze met Tiber's, and he motioned with his head toward his maimed friend.
"I'll do what I can. I've already talked to Dr. Goodfellow."
"Thank you, Tiber, for cheating me of death so many times. For the first time I no longer regret it."
Hawk walked away from the others. Calling mentally as Ari had taught him, he summoned the telepathic energy creature that was Ari's constant companion.
A glowing, amorphous ball of energy suddenly hovered beside him. With a high-pitched shriek that made Hawk's teeth hurt, the creature spun, danced, and bounced in circles of joy around the two avians. Finally, slowing, it rubbed against Hawk’s side like an affectionate cat.
"I have missed you too," Hawk admitted reluctantly. "I do not know if you can understand me completely as you can understand Ari, but thank you. Thank you for Ari's life and Buck's. I know you faced certain death being so near that sun. I though you had died trying."
Fragile traces of sorrow and enormous love touched Hawk's mind.
"I know, One. We both love Ari."
Hawk glanced toward his friends. Wilma, Goodfellow, and Asimov stood together in companionable silence near Tiber's shuttle.
Tiber was helping Buck up from the floor. Buck's eyes shimmered with the same look Hawk had often seen when his friend had met a stunningly beautiful and imminently seduceable female.
With a grin, Hawk murmured to himself, "You have not lost everything in the nova, Buck, but you have mistaken your female. She is not human, and her people mate for life. Even she could not seduce you into such a permanent arrangement."
He glanced up at One hovering above him. "Could you take Ari and me to our cabin, please. I do not wish to embarrass him by carrying him through the halls."
One bounced up and down in an affirmative and floated around the pair.
As the universe grew white in location transfer and then vaguely cabin-colored. Hawk spoke in confidence to the creature, "I know Buck said that Ari is unhurt, and I believe him. I intend to check every inch of the boy, though. I have discovered that hand knowing is much more reassuring than head knowing in these last months."
Yawning, Hawk stretched lazily in his bed and glanced about his old quarters. Nothing had changed since his "death." Except for a few empty, open drawers and closets of Ari's, it was exactly as Hawk had left it. Even One was in the exact spot where he and Ari had left it, dormant and safe from the effects of the dying sun.
When he had awakened from his faint, Ari had told him that he and One had lived with Buck in Sickbay and in his cabin since the nova. Except for hastily taking some clothes, Ari had not been able to bear their room and its memories.
Hawk shuddered. If Ari had not been here to share this room, he would have sought other quarters.
The ship's clock by his bed said that he and Ari had been here for over twelve hours. Except for several hours when they had exchanged their last months' events with each other, they had slept. Weakened by emotional exhaustion and sheer joy, they both had hibernated for over ten hours.
Slipping out of bed, he came to his feet and walked over to his brother’s bunk, then straightened the covers over Ari’s sprawled body. Appallingly skinny, the boy must have existed on air and One and Buck's love over these last months.
As he reached automatically for one of his black uniforms, he paused. He could just tolerate the silken garments that Tiber had created for his new, baby-tender skin. The uniforms chaffed his normal skin.
He slipped back into the brown tunic and pants he had worn the day before.
Cocking his head, he heard within a mental door knock. He opened the door to his quarters.
Tiber stood there with a covered meal tray. "I sensed you were awake. Can I come in? I brought you both breakfast," she whispered.
"Yes,” he said in his normal voice. “Ari sleeps heavily. You will not waken him.”
Dormant in the corner, One suddenly yelped in a series of high-pitched whines.
"He sleeps. He is not deaf. Shut up," Hawk muttered angrily.
As Tiber lay her hand on it, One calmed. She whispered, "We will talk later after Ari has introduced us. Now is not the time. Return to your rest state."
She moved from the sleeping creature. "One has only known Ari as a telepathic link. It was surprised by my telepathic presence."
"I am surrounded by such gifts. It must be catching, to quote Buck. I knew you were at the door a moment ago."
"Telepathy is catching." She sat down on the bed beside Ari and caressed his head. "He's a beautiful boy, Hawk. A beauty of body and spirit. You're very lucky to have him."
“While you two have been sleeping, I've been slaving away completing a regeneration tank for Buck and running tests on him. The regeneration tank will work for him too. I'll have to do microsurgery to remove scar tissue first, then I'll put Buck into the regeneration fluid. In a month, Buck will waken with skin as clear, pink, and unblemished as his friend Hawk."
Grinning, his heart lighter than he ever known it, Hawk tugged at his head. "Will he have down too?"
Tiber chuckled. "That I can't guarantee."
She retrieved the food tray from beside the door and set it on their small table. "Here's your breakfast. You two eat, dress, and come down to Sickbay. Buck wants you both to 'hold his hands and tell him funny stories while he's waiting for the pretty lady with the knife and the fish tank'."