Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Buck watched a solitary guard walking the corridor; he studied the placement of the security vid cameras.  Even though he suspected that monitoring was lax Buck knew that the presence of a prisoner out of his cell during the sleep cycle would be noticed very quickly.  The only way he could get to Hawk would be to fit in with his surroundings, and the only way to do that would be to look like a guard.  Buck knew where the clothing supply area was.  He would get a uniform tonight and then find Hawk the night after being allowed shaving and bathing privileges.  He mentally laughed—Bosk’s equivalent of the Saturday night bath.  He had finally been allowed that privilege after he had complained bitterly to the doctor that his fellow prisoners were allowed simple amenities.   The beard alone had been driving him nuts.   

Bringing his mind back to the present, Buck thought of all the stash he had thus far collected in his numerous nights of scavenging and information gathering.  He had new boots, a flashlight, a stun gun, more rope, and he had made a copy of the map of the mines and surface region where the mine was located.   As he slipped silently along his ‘high road,’ Buck felt a confidence he hadn’t had since first coming to this place.  This was going to work!  They would escape!  They only lacked food and that was locked up in a vault-like cooler.  Probably from hungry rock lobsters, certainly not from prisoners.  But the information he had gleaned indicated that the surface had plenty of natural growth suitable for human consumption.   

Reaching the area he needed, Buck dropped down into the administrative compound, still amazed that this area was not monitored.  But he would not begrudge his blessings in this place.  Quickly, Buck found the area where the uniforms were kept and began his search for one that would fit him.  As soon as he had, Buck put on the accompanying helmet, tied the clothing into a bundle and slung it over his shoulder.  He ran back to his cell, left the bundle stored above and was soon back on his stone bed, lying down.  He quickly fell asleep.

 

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Wilma found herself preparing for another mission, this one of a more diplomatic nature than the so-called ‘abduction’ of Brisella Brock.  While Wilma still chafed at the time it was taking on this investigation, there was nothing they could do about it. Neckar and Erik Kormand on Cronis were their only viable links to Buck and Hawk’s whereabouts and they had to have some good will from the government to obtain their goals.  With the information gleaned from Brisella, the admiral had made a formal complaint against the Ahern family.  The government had acted, but Wilma felt that it was only a token action, something to try and placate the admiral without gaining undo ire from the Ahern family.  This family, it seemed, was very powerful and supported many political leaders.   

The admiral and Wilma decided it was time to pay a visit to one of the Ahern leaders.  Wilma needed to know more about the family and prepared to call on Habris again.  This time she did so under the cover of darkness, suspecting that he would be in grave danger if she visited publicly.  They had already given him a communication device to be used if he was threatened.  And indeed, Wilma worried that Habris may already have experienced some kind of threat because of his involvement with her.  

This time Wilma took a fighter.  It was smaller and easier to hide.   Landing at the very edge of a small wooded park in the middle of town, Wilma deployed the camouflage netting and then walked toward the now familiar center of town.  Staying in the shadows, Wilma was still able to make good time and she reached the newspaper office quickly.  The lights were off except for a very dim one in Habris’ office.  He was working late, just as he said he usually did.     

His back door was unlocked and Wilma wondered if Leon Habris was empathic as was Brisella or if he was just a very trusting soul.  Without saying anything, Wilma slipped through the printing room and toward the newspaperman’s office.  She heard nothing when she listened at his door, but still she pulled out her laser.  Something didn’t seem quite right.  Slipping in the room, Wilma saw, to her horror, Habris laying face down on the floor.  She quickly checked the other door and the outer room in the front of the office.  Finding nothing, Wilma returned to Habris and examined him.  She breathed a sigh of relief when she found a fairly strong pulse.  Checking him over, Wilma saw signs that he had been beaten.  With a moan, Habris began waking up, starting when he saw her leaning over him.   

“Who did this?” Wilma asked.  

“Some hooded thug.  Can guess, but can’t say anything for sure,” he said, rubbing a large lump on one side of his head.  “See that little door over there?” he asked.  

Wilma nodded.  

“Get a bottle and bring it to me, please.”    

She did and he pulled the top off and drank avidly.  “This has gone far enough,” Wilma said hotly.  “We filed a report with your government, but they don’t seem to be greatly interested in expediting this.  And in the meantime, people like you are getting hurt.”  She remembered her anxiety about going to Cronis warring with her anxiety for Buck, but when she had been told that they needed to know the Ahern’s part in this plot, she had felt acutely frustrated.  More time and more time.  Even a day seemed forever.  Government bureaucracy, she had been told when she had complained.  Wilma sighed, the only outlet to her frustration that she had right now.  “Are you all right?” she asked.  

“Yes, I think so,” he answered.  Then he smiled.  “They warned me to stay away from you and your companions.  They also told me to quit saying things against the Ahern’s.”  

“Which Ahern would be most likely to have the information we need about Buck and Hawk’s kidnapping?”  

“Cordell is the Ahern family’s strongman.  He seems to be the one in charge of security for the family,” Habris told her.  

“Do you have a picture of him?” Wilma asked.  

“Sure do,” Habris replied, slowly getting up.  He walked into the archive room, where he pulled out a film cartridge and stuck it into the film reader.  A tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed man stared out at her.  He was standing next to an older man, one with a great deal of authority.  Wilma could see that from the arrogant look of his features and the stance of his body.   

“Joses Ahern,” Habris said, as though reading her mind.  “The head of the family.  Brisella’s nephew.”   

“Slight resemblance.”  Wilma paused her thoughts racing.  “I am not comfortable with you here alone.  Especially after you’ve been hurt.”  

“I’ll be fine,” Habris said, waving off her concern.  

“Do you want a ride in a starfighter?” she asked suddenly.  

Habris’ eyes widened and he grinned.  “Colonel, you have asked me something I can’t say no to.  Of course, I would!”  

“Let’s go, then.”  

“Where are we going?  Your ship?”  

“Yes, for a short while.  I have an idea and need to do some things to make it work,” Wilma said vaguely.  “I am going to ask someone to come down to watch over your office.  You have too much valuable information here to be lost to vindictive vandals.”  

Habris nodded.  “I will agree to that if your people don’t mind.”  

Wilma just nodded and then called the Searcher.  Within minutes, Habris had locked up and they were walking through the dark streets toward her starfighter.  They said nothing until Wilma had pulled the canopy closed.  “Do you have any idea where this Cordell Ahern might be this time of night?” she asked.  

“Yes, a bit of an idea,” Habris answered.  “With all that is going on, he will probably be in the main mansion, even likely to be with Joses Ahern.”  

Wilma smiled conspiratorially.  “Even better.”  Quickly doing her pre-flight, she called back over her shoulder.   “Get ready for the ride of a lifetime.”  

“Oh, I am,” he answered with a grin.  Habris watched the terran woman punch buttons and flip switches and then he felt the little starship rise slowly from the ground.  About twenty feet up, Wilma punched some more buttons and the ship shot upward at a speed he wouldn’t have thought possible.  The darkness of the night made way to a starry spectacle that amazed him and caused him to suck in his breath audibly in his wonder.  Within minutes they were approaching a large vessel and Habris’ eyes almost popped from his head.  “Is that your mother ship?” he asked.  

Wilma answered with a laugh. “Yes, that is the Searcher.  My home away from home.”  

“It’s immense,” he said softly, his voice filled with wonder and awe.   

“Has to be with a complement of two hundred people.”  

Wilma eased into the docking bay and shut down the engines.  The admiral greeted her. Despite her eagerness, she made the proper introductions.  All the while Habris stared at everything around him.   

“We have someone down there keeping an eye on Mr. Habris’ establishment,” the admiral said to Wilma.  “I got the impression, though, that you had something else on your mind.”  

“Yes, I think we should interrogate one of the Aherns.   Use the OEI if necessary,” she said.  

“The government would raise holy hell!” he protested.  

“Not if they don’t know.  And I suspect the Aherns won’t tell them, either,” Wilma replied.  

Asimov sighed, gazing intently at his second in command.  “Are there any specifics to this plan?”  

“Mr. Habris has told me the most likely candidate and where he might be right now.”  She paused.  “I want someone to run a scan of the Ahern buildings, detailed scan.  I want it done quickly and while that’s being done I want my ship refueled.  I intend on using the camouflaging device in case the Ahern’s have been provided with any advanced technology.”  

“You are going to do this tonight?”  

“Yes, I believe that this type of operation is best served by speed.  Especially if everyone thinks that we are waiting for the continental government to do something.”  Wilma gazed at the admiral, willing him to understand.  

“You have a good point there,” he said.  “All right, go ahead.  And Mr. Habris will be our guest while you are gone.”  

Habris started.  “Oh, no, please don’t leave me behind.”  

“We have to, Mr. Habris.  First of all, if they had sure knowledge of your cooperation with us, especially in this operation, you might be targeted for much worse than a beating,” Wilma told him.  

“I agree.  You and Brisella Brock can visit until things are safe.”   

“Ah, so she is safe,” Habris said.   

“Yes, we brought her on board five days ago.  That was why we were able to file the report with your government,” Wilma explained.   

“I’m glad.  I was worried about her.”  

“As well you should have been.  The reason we brought her here was because someone was trying to kill her when I made my first contact with her,” Wilma explained.   

Habris sighed and shook his head.  “I am glad I asked you to help her.”  He sighed again and then grinned.  “Well, I guess if I must miss the action, I can think of no better person to miss it with.”

Smiling, Wilma said, “I will leave you in the most capable hands of the admiral.  I have several things I have to do while I wait for the pilot to return with the scans.”  

A little more than an hour later, Wilma was gazing intently at a very detailed scan of the Ahern mansion with Habris.  “There are two people here in what appears to be an office.   Would this be Joses and Cordell?” 

“Most likely,” Habris said.  “There are several guards inside and out.”   

“Laser stun pistols should take care of that problem.”  Then she stopped and thought.  “Yes, someone outside and I will handle the inside.”   Her mind was racing with quickly put together plans as she thanked Habris, folded up the plans and then met with the admiral and Captain Rodriguez, her wingman in this operation.  As soon as they launched, Wilma activated her camouflaging device and let Marcos fly ahead of her.  She landed not too far from the house, undetected, even while guards were rushing toward a point just inside the outer wall of the estate.  A stately pond, complete with a small fountain, rippled behind her while the ivy covered walls of the Ahern mansion laid in front of her.  Leaving the device on a short timed sequence, Wilma popped the canopy and stepped out of her starfighter, closing the canopy behind her.  She was near a rear entrance and Wilma wasted no time using a small laser device to offset the lock mechanism.  Quickly, she was down the hall and at the door of the office where she heard angry voices.  Several men were arguing, partly, it seemed, about the attack on Habris.  She wondered how long this had been going on.  Quite some time, Wilma thought for them to have not only been on the scan but still here.  She was grateful for whatever luck came her way.   

“Cordell, you had better take care of whatever’s out there.”  That had to be Joses.  It sounded arrogant.  There was another voice, indistinguishable, probably, hopefully Cordell.  Then there was Joses again, loud and angry.  “You idiot.   Habris is friends with those terrans.   And it’s most likely the terrans that got to Brisella Brock….”  

She had heard enough.  Wilma reached for the old fashioned doorknob, turned it dashed through in a crouch, her laser flashing at everyone in the room.  Joses Ahern only had a chance to hurl an epitaph at her before he fell on the colorful flowery rug.  Another man fell almost simultaneously.  Cordell dodged, aiming a deadly looking weapon at her, but Wilma’s laser hit him before he could fire.  Wilma checked the entire room before she was satisfied that she had stunned everyone.  

Quickly placing force restraints on Cordell Ahern, she dragged him to the office door.  Wilma paused only long enough to make sure there was no one in the hallway and then Wilma dragged him to the outer door.   There Marcos met her and helped her load the unconscious man into her starfighter.   

“Any problems?” she asked.  

“One of them was a bit agile, but I finally got him,” Marcos replied, with a grin.  “Shall we leave?”  

“Yes,” was Wilma’s simple reply.  She did a quick pre-flight and then lifted off, Rodriguez right behind her.   

Within minutes they were back aboard the Searcher and a short time later, Ahern was in Dr. Goodfellow’s lab preparing for his interrogation.  

“I assume that it all went well,” the admiral, who had met them in the hanger, said.  

“Piece of cake,” Wilma answered brightly, feeling hope that now they would get the clues they needed.    

The admiral looked at her in puzzlement for a moment and then smiled.  “One of Buck’s phrases, I gather.”  

Wilma nodded.  “Went perfectly.  Now we’ll get some answers.”  

The admiral sighed.  “I certainly hope so.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
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