Forerunners of Bosk
seemed to have given up. There
was no more of the subtle touches of defiance, of identity.
Twelve-sixteen was like all of the other prisoners—existing,
probably for reasons that even the prisoners were unaware of.
For most it was deep-seated self-preservation instincts that
superceded anything else. Ril
suspected that was the only reason most of the prisoners lasted as long as
But somehow the downfall of
this prisoner, only about two and a half months after his arrival,
disappointed Ril more than he wanted to admit.
He had seen something there that made him want to root for this
prisoner. Indeed, Ril had
felt renewed interest in all of the prisoners lately, and he wondered at
that. Another part of him,
though, realized that getting emotionally involved would be disastrous to
not only his job but also his own mental health.
Regardless, Ril felt
Pulling on his tunic, the
guard just sighed and then left his quarters.
When he woke the forerunner and handed him his depilatory kit,
twelve-sixteen nodded, took off his weekly growth of beard and then washed
his face. He frowned as he jerked his slept-in shirt down and then he
yawned. Rogers walked out of
the tiny cell and toward the food service area, slowly eating his
breakfast before heading toward the equipment area.
The forerunner did his job during the day with deliberation, but no undo extra effort and without acknowledging him. At the end of the day, Ril delivered him and several others back to their cells. But before he sat down to his meager meal, twelve-sixteen turned to him and gave a quick salute. The eyes, though tired, showed a touch of humor. Ril didn’t react immediately, but then he returned the salute with a slight smile.
Buck waited a night, making
sure that the uniform and extra blankets weren’t missed.
He was anxious, though and it took him a while to get to sleep.
The next day, he had to force himself to act normally.
Normal, that is, for the beaten, depressed man that he had
temporarily been. He used the depilatory, having to resist the urge to
double-check his job. Tonight!!
Tonight was the night he would find Hawk.
He had the layout in his mind as well as on a crudely drawn
With effort, Buck forced
himself to concentrate on his job. He
blew five areas and was dog tired by the time he went back to his
cellblock. After giving Ril something to think about, then berating
himself for that little lack of self-control, Buck sat heavily on his
stone slab. He gazed at his
dinner with absolute disinterest. Same
ol’, same ol’ he thought. But
despite its blandness, and sameness, he knew he needed to eat some of it. He had been too busy to lay in wait for rock lobsters, so he
had felt the lack of food keenly at times.
With a sigh, Buck looked up and saw Ril still standing there
looking at him. His eyes were
friendly, or at the very least, they showed sympathetic interest.
Wish he were sympathetic enough to give me the keys to the front
door, Buck thought.
“It’s even worse if you
let it get cold,” Ril said.
Buck nodded and picked up
his bowl and bread. Ril moved
on when Buck began eating. He
finished and laid the bowl and spoon by the cell door.
Then he lay down to rest, playing mental games to stay awake.
There was no way he wanted to miss this opportunity to find Hawk.
Buck listened to the quiet tapping of the guard’s feet for a
while before it became totally quiet.
Soft snores from other prisoners, the slight sound of the air
passing through the corridor were the only things breaking the silence and
Buck knew that it was late enough to begin this next phase of his tenuous
plan. Silently, he got up and
then climbed up to the shelf above. He
returned to his cell with a bundle of blankets, which he formed into the
shape of a sleeping man. Buck
felt the need to have something there in case of a cursory check by the
guard, especially if it took longer to find Hawk than he expected.
When that was taken care of, he climbed back up with the ease of
much practice. Quickly
slipping out of his prison garb, Buck pulled on the guard’s uniform he
had confiscated. The boots he
carried in a pack he brought with him.
He padded along the stone pathway until he got to the end of the
ledge, then he quickly climbed down and put on his boots and helmet.
The empty pack was shoved into a dark crack in the wall.
With an air of assurance he
didn’t totally feel, Buck strode toward the other probationary
cellblock, one that housed most of the non-human inmates. Buck could only
assume that Hawk was being given the same privilege of extra probation as
he had been. Thankfully, he
had only seen one other guard on his trek, but despite his fear of
discovery, Buck had stayed calm, nodding and continuing on his way.
Reaching the cellblock, he
strode up and down twice, not only to locate Hawk, but also to see what
the other guard was doing. Smiling,
Buck saw the man sitting at a monitoring console, his chin resting on his
chest, snoring softly. Quickly,
Buck walked back down the corridor, stopping in front of Hawk’s cell.
Suddenly, he wasn’t
exactly sure how to awaken his friend without causing undo attention or
Even in his sleep, Hawk felt
the eyes of someone on him. He
woke fully and saw a guard standing just outside his cell staring at him.
The helmet was down low over the human’s forehead, further
shading his eyes in the dimness of the night cycle-darkened corridors.
Hawk wondered what kind of perverse punishment they were thinking
up now? Then his irritation
turned to amazement and joy when the guard flashed a grin at him; a smile
he would have known anywhere. “Buck?” he whispered, his joy almost overcoming his
Buck motioned him to silence
and then began signing. Some
of the signs he couldn’t understand, but Hawk felt he understood the
gist of what Buck was saying to him.
His friend had figured a way out of his cell and was formulating an
considering that Buck is standing out in the corridor, apparently free to
go anywhere he chooses.
‘I can’t stay long,’
Buck signed further. ‘Scouting
an escape route.’
Hawk signed his
understanding, as well as his happiness in seeing his friend again.
He smiled, feeling hope growing in his heart.
‘How will you open the door to my cell?’ he signed.
‘The guard likes to sleep
on duty. Won’t be hard to put him to sleep for a little longer and
then get the access cards,’ Buck signed.
‘I’m going. It
won’t be long. I
‘I will be waiting,’
Buck gave him the thumbs up
signal, another reassuring grin and then sauntered down the corridor,
quickly swallowed up in the dimness.
They would be free.
Finally. Then Hawk
remembered Buck’s illness and wondered how it would affect them in their
escape. But he dismissed it.
They would be free. They
could steal a spacecraft and get Buck the medical attention he needed.
They would be free….
Buck went back to a main
corridor and then headed toward the area indicated as freight elevators.
He stopped when he saw workers ahead of him.
They were filling transport bins with raw crillite.
To his shock and horror, he saw that some of the workers had
shackles on. Apparently this was the duty station for those who were real
discipline problems. There
were also those who appeared on their last legs; gaunt and listless, their
skin sallow and their eyes sunken. These
were people who had been here way too long.
What surprised him the most,
though, was the presence of someone familiar.
can’t be! But it was.
The longer he looked, the more he was certain that Ardala’s
bodyguard was here and he wondered if Tigerman’s presence was due to the
fiasco on Ardala’s cruiser so long ago; that day when the Draconian
bodyguard had saved him. Or
in his ineffectiveness in stopping him from destroying the orbital weapon.
The bins were closed after
they were loaded and then they were shoved into the elevator shaft where
they immediately began their assent to the surface.
Buck didn’t see an easy way to escape here.
But nearby were the passenger and employee elevators, the ones the
guard took when they were off duty, and, he supposed, the ones that new
prisoners took on their one-way trip to the mines.
Buck decided to take a quick look and then it would be time to go
back to his cell.
Later as he climbed down
into his cell, Buck felt a deep sense of satisfaction.
While there was still a great deal that would be left to luck, the
way out of this place seemed clear. He
felt with some of that luck, they could be away from here within a week.
As he quickly hid the extra blankets and lay down for a few hours
sleep, there were only two niggling points that kept clamoring for his
attention. One was Tigerman. He wouldn’t leave Tigerman down here when he and Hawk
escaped. Not in good
conscience anyway. Buck could
only assume that Tigerman was kept in the same cellblock, as was Hawk.
He’d ask tomorrow when he went to visit his friend.
The other problem was that of his sickness and his dependency on the medication. He was going to have to make an attempt to get more of the stuff, but if he couldn’t, then at least Hawk could get to the spaceport and escape, bringing back help. And if they could commandeer a transport, then all the better. Regardless, any freedom, even brief freedom, was better than no freedom at all. He would have to do more research and figure a more concrete plan of total escape from this planet.
Wilma pulled up the records
of Hawk’s capture that Buck had filed, seemingly so long ago.
“Flagg,” she muttered, knowing that Buck had mentioned that
name before. And she had been
sure it was from his time on Throm.
When Cordell Ahern had
finally, after two days of badgering, cajoling and even a bit of lying,
submitted to their questioning and then to limited OEI interrogation, he
had given them that name as the spaceman in charge of Buck and Hawk’s
Wilma even had his picture
to go with it. She gazed at
the report on the computer screen. Buck’s
queries on Throm about Hawk had netted him some visitors.
And the leader had been Flagg.
Buck had laid in wait for them and gotten information from them,
but Flagg and his group had then tried to kill Buck later.
If not for some unknown intervention, Buck had conjectured someone
called the Llamajuna, Flagg and his men might have very well succeeded.
She had to go to Throm.
Try and find Flagg and interrogate him.
The admiral had already dispatched a couple of people, including
Twiki and Theo to Cronis to interrogate Kormand and his cronies, which,
she was loathe to admit, was something of a relief.
She would have had a hard time dealing with her rapist, even now.
“What have you dug up,
Wilma?” the admiral asked.
Wilma started, not having
heard Asimov approach. “Information
on Flagg, the man who kidnapped Buck and Hawk.
“How useful is it?
The Galactic Council is ready for us to resume normal
Wilma asked, exasperated. “How
can anything be normal when two of our top men have been kidnapped with no
“I understand, Wilma,”
Asimov said. “You know I
do. But this is a very sophisticated and expensive research
vessel and they feel that orbiting Neckar for over a month is much longer
a time than we can really justify.” Seeing Wilma’s deepening anger and
frustration, he hastened to add. “And
they do not mind us continuing to investigate Buck and Hawk’s
disappearance, but they want us to head to Taurus quadrant.”
“The information that I
have found so far tells me where Flagg may be headquartered,” Wilma
said, deigning not to even go into assignments and missions.
As far as she was concerned, there was only one mission of
“Where?” Asimov asked,
his curiosity piqued.
And I intend to go and check it out.”
That’s Hawk’s home world,” the admiral said.
Flagg is the man that Buck had dealings with when he was looking
for Hawk,” Wilma explained. “And
Flagg is the man who tried to kill Hawk and Buck when they were trying to
get help for Koori.” She
paused. “I thought I had
remembered the name when Cordell Ahern gave it to us in the interrogation.
I just had to dig up the particulars.”
She gazed meaningfully at the admiral.
“I do intend to go to Throm.”
“I concur, Wilma,”
Asimov said immediately. “As
soon as possible. The longer
this goes on, the harder it’s going to be to find the clues necessary to
locate Buck and Hawk.”
Wilma blinked, feeling her
emotions close to the surface, but forcing herself to keep tight control.
“I can go now.”
Asimov knew what kind of
anxiety his second in command was feeling and he nodded.
“I would like you to take Lt. Corelli with you.”
Wilma smiled softly. “All right, but I will do the driving.”
Asimov looked puzzled for a
“The vehicle on Neckar,”
“Oh, yes, I remember you
mentioning that.” Then he
smiled. “Just be careful. Both
of you. This Flagg appears
dangerous and he seems to have even more dangerous characters backing
“We will, Admiral.”
It took only a couple of
hours to make the necessary preparations and soon the pilots were winging
“Colonel, remind me not to
let you judge a Tortarian wampel race,” Anton said.
He was sitting next to her in the four-seat starfighter, gazing in
amusement as she drummed her fingers on the armrest.
Despite her anxiety, Wilma
had to chuckle, then she sighed. “Is
it that obvious?”
“Colonel, I believe you
have acted with a great deal of patience.
I would have been foaming at the mouth and tearing off the
bulkheads if it was my fiancé out there,” Anton said.
“But, yes, it’s that obvious.”
“Lieutenant, first of all,
there is no formal engagement and second of all, I have mentally torn off
every bulkhead from here to Earth. But
“Begging your pardon, Colonel, but formal, schmormal.
Captain Rogers is bound by some convention I don’t know about but
the whole ship has you two engaged, even if he hasn’t asked the proper
Wilma smiled sadly,
remembering the conversation with Buck where they had discussed that very
thing. “You are probably
right, but it’s just a matter of time, provided we have it, of
“Colonel, Captain Rogers
and Hawk are tough,” Anton assured her.
“If there is any way possible, they’ll somehow find the means
to escape from their kidnappers’ hands.
He paused and then added, a jaunty note to his voice.
“In fact, they may be sitting back on the Searcher waiting
by the time we get back.”
“I certainly hope so. It’s
been two months now.”
“Somehow, they’ll come
out of this okay. They’re
fighters, both of them.”
“I know, and I hope
“And in the meantime,
we’ll be able to take care of this character, Flagg.”
That, Wilma thought, would be a distinct pleasure.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|