Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

It was dark enough that Wilma hoped the guard had not yet seen Mrs. Brock.  “Get down and stay still,” Wilma hissed.  Brisella followed her directions without saying anything and Wilma studied the approaching guard carefully.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw another one nearby.  Wilma couldn’t let too many of these security people get close to them.  There were usually three or four on duty outside, according to her sources.   Right now, two were as many as she wanted to deal with.  “Be ready to make a run for it,” she said quietly.  

With a single motion, she fired on the more distant guard, then the one that had come closer to them.  The farther one dropped like a stone, the closer one jerked to the side to miss most of her blast.  With a slight stumble, he still came at her and Wilma met him with a karate chop to the side of his head, followed by a kick to the side.  He, too, dropped heavily to the ground.  “Run!” Wilma said, hearing alarms going off.  Reluctantly, she left the wheel chair and the would-be assassin behind and took Brisella’s hand.  They sprinted toward the gate and the road beyond.  Wilma was amazed at the old woman’s agility and stamina.  A dark vehicle sat under a tree and she pointed toward it, activating her communicator at the same time.  “Devlin?”  

“I see you, Colonel.  Hurry!” he answered.   

She and Brisella reached the vehicle, and Wilma jerked the door open as the other guards began closing in.  She pushed Brisella in and jumped in after her, slamming the door behind her.    

A young face grinned back at her and Wilma grinned back.  “We are trusting your lives to your driving abilities, Anton?” she asked.  

The young man in front laughed.  “Just hang on and enjoy the ride.”  

“That sounds like something Buck would say,” Wilma said and then felt the familiar pang of sadness.  Where are you Buck Rogers?   The vehicle started with a roar and careened out onto the main road.   

Brisella touched Wilma on the arm.  “Captain Buck Rogers?” she asked.   

Wilma nodded.   

“He and his friend helped me when those accursed relatives of mine burned up mine and Edward’s house,” she said.  “Someone was out to get them, weren’t they?”  

“Yes.”  

“I felt it when the feathered man, Hawk, went into your ship.  But not enough to warn them,” she said.  “I’m sorry.”  

Again, that wondering about Brisella Brock.  “Felt it?” Wilma asked.

“Felt danger,” Brisella answered.

“They were kidnapped,” Wilma replied.  “We are hoping you can help us.”  

“I’ll do my best, but I didn’t see much. Only felt.”  

Wilma nodded.  “Well, at least we are getting you away from those people trying to kill you.”  

The vehicle kept its fast pace along the dark road, only occasionally meeting other vehicles.  The road climbed steadily upward, sometimes becoming winding.  Finally, they reached a spot where Anton pulled over onto a graveled area large enough to accommodate the vehicle.  Devlin stepped away from the shadows to meet them. “I’ll meet you at the shuttle,” Anton said, pointing out a trail across the road.  “That’s the way.  Devlin will guide you.”  

Wilma and Brisella got out, crossing a concrete surfaced road and following Devlin up a rocky path that meandered even higher up the hills.  “Let me know if you get too tired, Mrs. Brock,” Wilma said, concerned about the older woman behind her.  She certainly didn’t want to get Brisella out of one life-threatening situation and immediately put her in another.  

“Don’t worry about me,” the old woman said with a grim smile.   

They continued along the path, Devlin in the front, his flashlight picking out rocks and roots, and then warning those behind him.  Brisella stayed almost on his heels, with Wilma bringing up the rear.  They reached the crest of the hill and then started down again. The path was a bit wider and less rocky and they made a bit better time, although Devlin tried not to go too fast for Brisella’s sake.  They finally reached a level place and almost at the same time, Wilma saw a camouflaged shuttle.  Touching the ident pad, Devlin keyed in his personal code and Wilma was gratified when the door slid open immediately.   

“About time you made it back,” Twiki greeted them.  

Brisella stopped short and gaped at the quad.   “What is he?”  

“He’s a quad,” Wilma replied.  “A robot.”

 

Brisella reached over and gingerly touched Twiki, then tapped him lightly on the top of his metallic head.   

With a beep and a chuckle, Twiki said, “Come on in and let’s get better acquainted.”  

There was no hesitation.  Brisella stepped up on the short ramp and walked into the shuttle.  She looked around, awe struck as Wilma and Devlin followed her.  Within minutes, Anton dashed in and then pushed the button to shut the door.   

“Mrs. Brock, if you will find a seat, we will take off in just a moment,” Wilma said, walking toward the cockpit.  

“Take off?” the old woman asked.  “Where are we going?”  

“To our ship,” replied Wilma.  “You’ll be safe there and when we know for sure that it’s safe on Neckar, we’ll take you back home.”  

“Home?  The Ahern’s burned my home.  They raped the land and then burned mine and Edward’s home,” she said bitterly.   

Wilma only nodded and sat down in the pilot’s chair.  Anton joined her, having caught his breath after his run up the hill.   Soon they were lifting off, lights off to avoid undue attention.   

“Did you get rid of the vehicle?” she asked her young co-pilot.   

“Yes, indeed.  I just put it out of gear and then jumped out.  It took a spectacular nosedive into the lake.  Those primitive machines are easy to operate,” he explained with a grin.   

“Good.  Hopefully that will confuse them a little.”  What Wilma really hoped for was a miracle—in the form of Mrs. Brisella Brock.

 

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The night after what Buck termed his ‘second awakening,’ he had trouble sleeping.  He was more than tired, he was exhausted, but he simply couldn’t get to sleep. Buck hadn’t been able to ponder much during the day.  Of course, he thought wryly, you really couldn’t get distracted when working with cellenite.  But now?  Now he had to think and plan.  It was obvious that his and Hawk’s kidnappers had covered their tracks well and only luck would bring the Searcher here to this misbegotten planet.   

So what were the options, he wondered?  As he lay scratching his stubbled chin, he could think of none, but he couldn’t give up.  He watched a rock lobster slowly climbing down the wall of his cell, its slightly luminescent body showing its progress clearly.   His stomach growled, but Buck ignored it, more intrigued with watching than with catching.  Usually he was asleep when the creatures came calling for what little scraps might remain from dinner each night.  He had never actually watched one come down the wall.  As he gazed in fascination, though, Buck noticed a faint glow from above, as though there was at least one other rock lobster just out of sight.  Apparently the wall of his cell didn’t go all the way to the cave ceiling.  There was a gap, or a shelf up there somewhere.  That was something that Buck had not noticed during the day when the dimness was abated a bit more by the addition of a couple more small lights in the corridors.  He had noticed unexplained shadows, shadows that didn’t make sense optically speaking, but hadn’t really had time to think about it.   At least a small shelf would explain what he was seeing.  Slowly Buck sat up, still watching the now wary crustacean, which had turned and was heading back up the wall.  Its glow continued about fifteen feet and then the lobster disappeared.  A shelf!  That was the only explanation.    And with this bit of information, Buck felt a glimmering of hope.   

He stood on his bed and felt the walls.  He had done only a bit of rock climbing in his college days, once or twice while at the academy, but had found it a bit nerve-wracking, depending only on his fingers and toes to keep from falling against the rocks below.   This was well worth the effort, though, there being so much more at stake than just a possibly pain-filled end to a fun-filled afternoon.   The boots would be a hindrance, so Buck took those off and shoved them into the darker shadows.  When he found a couple of good finger holds and began climbing, he found that the gloves and socks would be a problem, too.  He had to have all the grip he could get and gloves and socks both had a tendency to slide.  He pulled them off and shoved them in his shirt.  He would put them back on when he got to the top.  When I get to the top? he questioned his usage of semantics.  But of course I have to get to the top.  There is no question on that point.  I have to.  This is the only bit of luck that has shown itself in all the time I’ve been here in hell, he mused.   

Listening for guards and hearing none, Buck took a deep breath and then reached up for the first finger holds.  Slowly, and with careful deliberation, he began his ascent.   While it wasn’t that far to the point at which the crustacean had disappeared, good handholds were at a premium.   Each handhold was sought cautiously, each toehold the same way.   The ascent was slow and his toes felt the bite of the cold, rough stone.  He had no idea how long it actually took, but by the time Buck pulled himself onto the stone “shelf,” sweat had drenched his clothes and he lay shivering as he caught his breath.  After a few minutes, he slowly sat up, not sure how spacious this shelf was and not wanting to knock himself silly.  The rock lobsters had scattered at his approach, he noticed gratefully. 

Though very dim, the illumination from the few scattered lights in the corridor let him see a narrow shelf, sloping down a bit from the outer lip.  It was not quite six feet to the ceiling where he was standing, so he would have to stoop to walk along it, but that didn’t matter at all.  It reminded Buck of a cave he had visited a long time ago on the Tennessee/Georgia border, which had had a natural shelf along parts of the tourist-used trail. Ruby Falls, it was called.  He seemed to remember that they had said the discoverer had to crawl along some parts of it.  Buck almost laughed out loud.   It didn’t matter if he had to crawl all the way to the surface, as long as this discovery lead to freedom.   

Excited, Buck, nevertheless carefully walked along the shelf, watching for rock lobsters, definitely not wanting to step on one of them, and have to explain why one had stung him when he normally wore his boots at night.  However, the creatures seemed to have a sense of his presence and stayed out of the way.  At times the shelf grew narrow enough to make his walking precarious and the ceiling sometimes lowered enough that he had to crawl on his hands and knees.  But always it seemed to parallel rows of cells, some empty, the rest filled with exhausted, oblivious prisoners.  It was as he had suspected all along about this prison; it had been built into already existing natural caves.  When the shelf finally disappeared, Buck was almost close enough to cross a corridor.  Only six feet, but it might as well have been sixty.   There were monitoring cameras here and there and Buck didn’t know if prisoners were observed at night or not.  He certainly didn’t want his escape-artist career cut short before it began.   He would have to try the other direction, but on another night.  Not knowing how long he had been away from his cell, Buck couldn’t risk being gone too long.   

Returning was quicker, now that he knew the route and Buck was soon back at his cell. 

He was as careful climbing down as he had been going up, but it was more difficult as this time he couldn’t see where he was placing his toes.   And by this time, Buck almost couldn’t feel them they were so cold.   He made it down safely, though, and quickly slipped his boots back on.  Then Buck pulled the blanket over his body and quickly fell asleep.   Too soon a guard awakened him, but Buck didn’t notice, being too excited about this possible means of finding Hawk and blowing this hole.  

The next evening, Buck waited impatiently for his fellow inmates to quiet down, then he climbed back up, wishing he had a rope or something to help.  Perhaps he would find something in his travels.  His fingers ached, sore from the unaccustomed strain he had put on them the night before, but still he made it up to the shelf with little trouble.   

His overhead path in the other direction was shorter this time, but it ended in the widened cavern that housed the sickbay, supply area and storage areas.  Better yet, Buck had noted a heavy locked door at the entrance to the cavern below him not ten feet back.  He almost cried out in his elation.  There were no guards inside; apparently Beros had never considered infiltration from above.  Finally there was some scrap of good luck to be had.  

The shelf had ascended a little so he was about twenty feet above the cavern floor.  The actual path ended right above a supply room and Buck examined the wall as carefully as he could in the dim light.  There was a security vid, presumably to keep the inmate workers honest, but where he was climbing down was a bit out of the view of the camera.   He hoped.  If the cavalry converged, Buck would know soon enough.  And if he was noted, he trusted he’d have enough time to climb back up and hide before anyone came in this particular room.   However, Buck was really banking that this was a daytime camera, there to monitor activities during working hours.   Hooks had been set into the wall, and Buck used those to his advantage as he carefully climbed down.  His hands and arms felt a little trembly by the time he had reached the cavern floor, but he waited quietly, listening for any indication that he had been caught.   There was nothing except the slight sound of air softly blowing through the caves.  

When nothing happened, Buck relaxed and in his wonder at everything around him, he totally forgot his discomfort.   Hanging from the hooks and were ropes of various gauges, on shelves were flashlights, packs, hammers of differing sizes.  Buck selected a rope that was hanging with several others and then reached for a flashlight.  He paused.  Better to take just one thing at a time, see how well the inventory clerk did his job.  Quietly, Buck went through some drawers and found one with this place’s equivalent of Swiss Army knives.  He would take a chance on one of these. He picked up one from the back of the drawer that appeared older, but was still utilitarian enough.   

Buck continued to explore.  Most of the partitioned rooms were unlocked, but several were, like the room that he received his cellenite and jackhammers from, as well as the sickbay.  Understandable, considering the expense or the danger of what was inside.  Looking in each unlocked area, Buck couldn’t help but wonder how long this operation had been going on.  Long enough to get a bit arrogant about security, he thought.  He mentally catalogued what he saw with what he would eventually need for an escape attempt.  If he took one or two items a night, he could store up quite a little pile in a fairly short time.   

Then Buck came to some administrative offices.  When he saw a map on the wall, showing what appeared to be the caves, he paused, feeling he had hit the jackpot.  More than just maps of the mining operation, Buck saw what appeared to be print-outs of manifests in various piles on a desk.  He smiled.  Most were in terra lingua.  What he read in one pile were sales receipts of crillite to various markets, such as Draconia, Sinaloa and places whose names he didn’t recognize.   Another pile was for items bought for the running of the mines.  Buck would have to take a full night or two in order to go through all this.  In the meantime, he wanted to get an idea where the exits were and more importantly, where Hawk’s cell was located.   

Gazing at the map, Buck found where he was, where his cellblock was and then he tried to orientate himself to the exits.  He saw the location of the rec center, Beros’ office, and the elevators to the surface.  A sister map showed the upper level and transport area.  What surprised Buck was the fact that there was no nearby spaceport.  The surface was densely wooded, with only one road leading to a spaceport approximately fifty klicks away.   They used ground transport.  Why?  Maybe because a nearby spaceport would make it too easy for someone like myself to steal a ship.  Who knows?  Then a thought occurred to him.  Most likely the transports had anti-theft devices on them, making them almost impossible to steal.  Of course one can do that with space ships, too.   Buck pushed that out of his mind, figuring he could argue with himself all night.  Needless to say, that was a bridge that he and Hawk would have to cross when the time came.   

If need be, a thirty mile hike wasn’t all that bad, especially if the surface was temperate.  The doctor had mentioned that the parasites attacked humans, but Hawk wasn’t human.  His friend could make it to the spaceport and steal a ship.  Maybe by the time they actually made their escape, he could, too.  Regardless, this seemed the best option of escape.   

Buck studied the map for a few more minutes and then turned away to what appeared to be files.  He had to find more detailed logs of the cellblocks, list of prisoners, but that would have to be another night.  He had to get at least a few hours sleep or he’d do something stupid with the cellenite and blow himself up.  Probably tomorrow night he’d lay low to see if anything was missed.  

Throwing the rope over his shoulder and sticking the knife in his waistband, Buck slipped out of the room and back to the point where he had climbed down.  His fingers protested, but there were easier hand holds on this wall and he made good time back to his cell.  Soon he had settled himself on his stone bed, his contraband hidden above him and his hopes higher than they had been since arriving on Bosk.  He fell asleep, mentally listing again all the things he would need.  

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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