Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

   

 

Hawk was left in his cell the next morning; left to his thoughts, which were bitter and despairing.  Even though he was well aware that his escape chances had been practically non-existent, still, the idea that he had actually been free from his cell and then so quickly recaptured, was a very bitter pill to swallow.  He had not even found Buck, much less figured a way out of the mines.   He had not received breakfast, but he quenched his thirst from the little cistern and cleaned up as best as he could with the water that had gathered during the night.

Now Hawk sat on his cold stone bench waiting, wondering what the punishment would be for his escape attempt.  He waited and paced and then he decided to conserve energy as best he could and dozed on his hard stone bench.  And as he drifted off to sleep, he dreamed of Koori.  They were in his ship, flying over the mountains of Throm, skipping across the stratosphere, then flying through the clouds.  They hovered next to monstrously tall thunderheads, watching the yellow and blue flashes of pent up energy.  Koori leaned forward and kissed him on the neck and he shivered with pleasure.  Ah, Koori, my love.  Her elegant long fingers lightly caressed the sides of his face and he laughed.  “Koori, do you wish me to lose control and crash?”  Hawk heard her answering laughter.  It was like the soft, warm breezes through the limbs of the trees, it was like sunshine sparkling on the water.   It was like freedom.  Koori!   He put the ship on autopilot and turned in his seat, taking off his gauntlets and gently holding her face in his hands.  The light scent of her body oils further aroused him and Hawk fiercely kissed her.  He was hungry for her, for her warmth, for her love.   

“Birdman!”  

Koori drifted away, her fingers slipping out of his fingers even as sleep slipped away into wakefulness.   A burning hot flame of disappointment and anger grew in his chest and he leaped up off his bed, ready to battle the one taking this brief moment of gentleness and pleasure from him.  Then realization of his surroundings and his situation took hold and the anger melted away, leaving only emptiness.  He sighed deeply.  “Yes?”  

“You’re to follow me.  And don’t do anything foolish,” the guard told him.  “It won’t be a stun shot this time if you do.”   

Hawk simply nodded and stepped out of his cell when the guard opened the door.  He noticed another guard, who fell in behind him as he followed the first one.  They walked down several corridors until they reached a doorway.  At a word from the guard, the door slid open and Hawk blinked at the sudden, increased light.  He walked in the room and then stopped, gazing at the human who had greeted him at the beginning of his captivity.  This was evidently the man in charge of this operation.  There was a cold and menacing aura about him as though he had all the power in the world.  And indeed, thought Hawk, down here he does.  

“You tried to escape last night,” the man said.   

Hawk said nothing.  The human had made a simple statement; it was not a question.   

“And you have found out just how futile that is.”  The human walked a bit closer to him and studied him.  “I am Dr. Beros, by the way, the head administrator.  Understand that I determine who lives and dies here.”  He paused.  “You came close to dying last night.”  

“Everyone here dies,” Hawk said simply.   

“Some die earlier than others,” Beros said tersely.  “I am assuming that you were trying to find your friend.”  When Hawk said nothing, he walked over to a console and slid back a door, which revealed a blank vid screen.   “Watch.  You will be able to see your friend.”  Beros pushed a button and the screen lit up to reveal what looked to be an exercise room built into a cavern-like area of great proportion.   Hawk saw Buck get up from a bench and begin playing some kind of game, basketball, he thought Buck had called it, with several other men.  They played fast and furious for a while and then Buck stopped, gasping for air.  Hawk could tell that something was not right, but within a few minutes Buck was playing again.  Then after a short while of playing he stopped once more, the ball dropped from his hands and he swayed slightly, one hand to his head.  One of the other men began to approach him, seemingly concerned, and then Buck collapsed to the floor.  Alarmed, Hawk began to step forward, almost trying to help Buck by his will alone, but he stopped himself.  There was absolutely nothing he could do and he had to maintain his control in front of this human.  Especially this one.   Hawk continued to watch, horrified by what he was seeing.  Would Buck die here before either one of them had a chance to escape?  The man got down beside Buck, talked to him a moment, and then helped him up and to a bench where his terran friend sat with his head in his hands.  Buck still seemed to be gasping for air and when he tried to stand up again, he collapsed back onto the bench.   

“What is the matter with him?” Hawk asked quietly.   

“Something that most human forerunners pick up,” Beros said, watching the birdman with interest.  That the prisoner was greatly concerned about his friend was very apparent.  That he would do what was wanted of him, Beros had no doubt.  It had apparently worked with the other man, this Buck Rogers.  “It is a microscopic parasite that lives best in the lungs.  Without treatment, the infected individual will eventually die of asphyxiation.  Your friend seemed to be a little more susceptible to it than most.”  

Hawk didn’t doubt that Buck’s susceptibility was due to his slightly different physiology, but the idea that Buck was sitting there suffering appalled him.  And only the one man was willing to help him. “You said there was a treatment?”  

“Yes, there is.  It retards the progression of the parasitic invasion.”  

“Then why hasn’t Buck been treated?” Hawk asked, trying to keep his voice even.  While he was anxious at the sight of his friend struggling for breath, he would not beg or grovel.  Not yet, anyway.

“Oh, he has been.  For the last two weeks.  However, it is an ongoing course of therapy.”  Beros paused for a moment.  “His continued treatment is entirely up to you, forerunner,” the administrator said in a quiet voice.   

Hawk gazed at the human, gauging him, feeling he was pretty certain of what was coming next.   “Why do you say that?”  

“I believe you wouldn’t want your friend to die, but he will if you try another stunt like the one you pulled last night.  And as you see, he would die rather painfully,” Beros said coldly and then paused for effect.  “In other words, Buck Rogers’ life is in your hands.”  

Hawk watched Buck as he sat quietly on the bench.  His color seemed a bit better than just a few minutes previously, but he still appeared to be in distress.   And Hawk knew that there was nothing else he could say.  “Yes, I agree to your terms.”  

“No escape attempts, no insurrections, no sabotage,” Beros said.   

“I will do none of those things.”   

“Good,” Beros said with a smile, reaching over and turning off the vid screen.   

“How do I know that my friend will receive the treatment he needs?”  

Beros gazed coldly at him.  “You don’t.  But I have even more invested in prisoner twelve-sixteen, your friend, than I do in you.”  He paused a minute, his cold gray eyes boring into Hawk’s eyes, as though making a point.   “Do not make any trouble or you will both die.”  

Hawk said nothing, only holding the human’s gaze until Beros turned away to call the guard.   

   

                         ==========================  

 

Buck vaguely remembered being helped to the medical facility by Ril, but remembered little else until shortly before he was escorted back to his little cell.  By then he was breathing better, and his headache was subsiding, but he still felt a slight touch of nausea, and overpowering weakness.   He didn’t know if he slept or not, but after a while even the weakness seemed to subside and Buck sat up, wondering what time it was.    

A guard appeared in front of his cell.  “You will come with me.”  

Buck started to ask a question, but the austerity of the man’s look quelled that desire quickly.   Getting so tired of this.  All of it!  But right now, he was too tired to do anything other than playing the game, acting the part.  Acting the part? Ha!   At this point Buck didn’t give a damn about anything.   His breathing was still a bit off, but he was able to keep up with the guard without having to stop to get his breath.   They passed the sick bay, the equipment area and then the guard motioned him into a room that was not familiar, even if the area was.  And before him sat Dr. Beros.   

“I see you are feeling better.”  

It was not a question, so Buck played it safe and didn’t say a word.

Beros smiled, looking very satisfied with himself.   “I want you to understand that the company has invested a great deal in you and your bird friend, but if either one of you becomes too troublesome, then you will be terminated.”  He paused and then got up from his chair and walked up to Buck.  “The recreation time was as stated, a reward for trying to save another forerunner’s life.”  

Buck couldn’t help it.   He knew that everyone from Beros on down knew all the ins and outs of this parasitic condition.  They knew what would happen to him.  “And the withholding of medication?”   

“That was for deliberately disobeying a guard who told you to stay in the corridor-- and for your attitude.   You don’t talk the way you did to those above you.”  

Actually Buck remembered Ril telling him how dangerous it was in the cave where the explosions had occurred.   Nothing more.  Then again, who could tell?  It had been quite tense at the time and right now he didn’t feel like arguing any points with Beros.   As to his attitude?   He was guilty as charged, even though what he had said had been the truth.  Buck just nodded.  

“Glad you understand.   And I assume that how sick you were earlier today will be remembered the next time you decide to be arbitrary or independent,” Beros said smugly.  

“Yessir,” Buck said softly.   

“You are dismissed.”  Beros watched as Rogers was taken from his office.   The prisoner was vastly different than the self-assured, cocky man he had been when first brought to the mines.   And in such a short time, too.   From what he had been told, Beros had figured that these two would be harder to crack.  But they all broke here in the mines.   And there was certainly nothing superhuman about either of these men.  Laughing softly, Beros made the entry in his log of the visits of both the birdman and Rogers.  If these two broke as he had assured the Human Rights organization they would, then it would add almost twenty thousand credits to his own personal bank account.   He rubbed his chin.  Of the two, it was the birdman who bothered him the most.  Despite the fact that he had given in, there was something still inside the birdman that caused Beros a bit of anxiety.  Maybe it was simply something to do with the fact that he was a birdman.  There were so many rumors about that race.   But this one would eventually be broken, too.   And anticipating that time made Beros smile.  

Actually, Beros had lied to both men about the investment of the company towards their purchase.  They had paid very little for these two.   LeeGrand and his group had taken the first offer, a basic bid, not even trying to haggle for a higher price.  He had wanted them in the mines very badly, LeeGrand had.  Beros smiled as he lit a small cigar.  He puffed on his cigar and blew a smoke ring into the air.  These two must have hurt the Human Rights organization in the very worst way.    Someday he would have to make some inquiries and find out more than the idle rumors he had heard.   He puffed out a cloud of blue-gray smoke.  Someday.  

 

Buck was handed his bread and bowl of stew and escorted back to his cell.  Since he still felt a bit queasy, he only nibbled on his bread and then lay down, pulling his blanket over him.  As he dozed, he heard the lyrics of an old song in his head,  

“Hello darkness, my old friend,

I’ve come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain,

Still remains, within the sound of silence.”

And it refrained itself over and over, melody and all.  He remembered when he was last on Earth.  Dr. Junius had found several old music disks from his time and had been as excited as a little boy.  “Buck, my boy, you can’t imagine what I found,” Dr. Junius had told him.  He carried a box small enough to make Buck wonder just what could have made the good doctor so excited.   

“A Nintendo player to go with that Mario Brothers game you found earlier this year?”  

“No, no, no, Buck.  This is even better.”   

“Some Ben and Jerry’s?”  

Dr. Junius had looked blank at that one, but knowing Buck, he just shook his head and then grinned again.  “No, I found some intact books and some more music.”  

“As long as it’s not some of that Lawrence Welk you found last time,” Buck had said with a laugh.   “Or the copy of Dr. Spock.”  

“Oh, no, the music is more like that Four Dog, uh, Night, that you said you liked so well.”  

“Really?  And that’s Three Dog Night, not Four Dog Night,” Buck corrected.  “Don’t tell me you found ‘Jeremiah was a Bull Frog’.”  

“I’m sorry, Buck.  I don’t think that was one of them,” Junius said, looking momentarily sad.  

Buck had immediately regretted his words.  Dr. Junius seemed to feel it was his life’s mission to not only recover all that he could of the past, but to provide Buck with as much of it as he could.  “Hey, Doc, don’t sweat it.  I’m just kidding you anyway.  I know I’ll like what you found.”  

The doctor’s boyish smile returned and opening the box, he had invited Buck to peek inside.  There were several books, all of which held some interest to him and there were several disks of music.  He was delighted.  There was CCR, Chicago and then there was one that he could have done without, Simon and Garfunkel, not particularly liking folk-type music.  But Buck wouldn’t have said anything at all to his friend to hurt his feelings, so he had smiled and clapped the doctor on the back.   “Wow, Doc!  You really found some great stuff.   Don’t know what I’d do without you.”  And really, he did appreciate what the archivist had done for him in finding all these things.  Dr. Junius had helped to take the edge off his ‘future shock’ by providing him with these small links to his past.  

“Put one of them on,” Doctor Junius had said, pulling out the Simon and Garfunkel disk.  

And Buck had done so and then set the box of books and disks on the table of his Earthside apartment.  He would be going back to the Searcher in a day or two and there was no need to put anything away.  His greatest pleasure in the discovery of these old songs and albums was watching his friend’s face whenever he tried out something.  Often Dr. Junius would make Buck replay the music so he could hear each word, then ask Buck what the singer had meant.  This time was no exception, so the words had stuck in his brain and the melancholy of the tune had resurfaced now in the mental darkness of his soul and the physical blackness of this cave.   And it became even more poignant than the doom and gloom pre-Holocaustic song had been five hundred years before.  

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…………”  

 

 

Chapter Eleven
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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