Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three

 

 

They fell into step, walking on the same path Buck, Hawk and Tigerman had come the day before.   “Hey, am I still under a gag order?” Buck asked. 

“Gag order?” Ril queried. 

“Yeah, am I still under that two week vow of silence that managed to stretch for somewhere around two or three months?” 

“Oh.”  Ril sighed.   “That’s up to Doctor Beros.” 

“But until then I can talk to my heart’s content, right?” 

Ril gazed at the prisoner, wondering if the garox dosage had been too high.  “It’s that important to you?”  Then he realized what a stupid question that was.  “Sorry.” 

Buck replied, “Free speech, freedom of worship, freedom to assemble, freedom to bear arms.  Mom, the flag and apple pie.”  He paused a couple of seconds.  “All those things that were important when I was a kid.  People weren’t just snatched up and stuffed in a hole.”  He paused another moment.  “Well, at least not most of the time.” 

Ril was struck by the passion of Rogers’ words even more than the words themselves, many of which he really couldn’t understand.  “I suppose it’s all right at least until we get to the loading warehouse,” Ril said.  Strangely, the prisoner was quiet for a few moments.  “Where did you grow up?” he finally asked, curious.  “I was led to believe that you are terran, but you haven’t talked about anything I know of Earth.” 

Buck smiled.  He was feeling rather good right now, physically anyway.  “Chicago, south side.” 

“Ah, New Chicago. Directorate headquarters.” 

Buck didn’t argue. 

“Never been there but I do a lot of reading.”  

“Have you read about the Bill of Rights?” Buck asked facetiously.    

“The what?” 

“A ground work of basic liberties.”  He paused.  “But never mind.” 

“You do take all that rather seriously, don’t you?” Ril asked.

“Damned right I do, but since it doesn’t apply, let’s just skip it,” Buck replied, suddenly feeling depressed.  

Ril nodded.  There was something that drew him to this man, something that made him stand out from the other prisoners.  But then Rogers was the first prisoner to leave the mines alive, even if temporarily.  They walked in silence, listening to the birds and other creatures of the mountains.  Ril slowed down a bit, presumably for safety sake, but mainly because he was enjoying the view, the sounds, the scents of his surroundings.  It was such a refreshing change from the mines. 

Rogers must have picked up on what he was feeling.  “Why is this land not used?  It’s really quite verdant, ideal for agriculture if nothing else.” 

“The company has rights to this continent and they don’t want anyone here, except those whom they allow.  Anywhere but the spaceport is off limits.” 

“Afraid some farmer might find a couple of chunks of crillite and bite into their profits?” Buck asked sarcastically. 

Ril smiled.  “Probably a great deal of truth to the statement, really.” 

“And the rest of the planet?  Or is it one planetary continent?” 

“There’s another continent.  It’s inhabited by the original colonists,” Ril said. 

“Overcrowded?” Buck asked. 

“Not yet, but hear its going to be within the next century.” 

Buck nodded. “Shame really.   This reminds me of some of the places I knew a long time ago on Earth.”  He paused.   “The mountains are a cross between the Smokies and the Tetons, the forested area reminds me of forests in the South.  The valley, what I saw of it, looked almost like the prairies of the plain states.”

“But Earth is mostly barren wasteland,” Ril protested.

“I know, although there is more to Earth than the new cities on the North American continent.   Not everything was blown to kingdom come,” Buck said.  “But Earth was also once the most beautiful place in the galaxy.”  His voice was wistful.  

Ril was puzzled.  “You talk as though from personal experience.” 

Buck smiled wistfully.  “Yeah,” was all he said. 

As they passed through the mountains and began descending to the forested flat land Buck viewed it with new eyes.  He saw the varieties of colors of green, at once similar to what he had known and yet slightly different.  “Were there people here when the colonists came?” 

“Not that they could find.  No ruins, records, nothing to indicate there was ever intelligent life on the planet,” Ril answered.  “There were one or two types of animals that could reasonably be considered borderline sentient, but nothing of a civilization building type.”

Buck nodded.  He continued watching the scenery around him, hungrily eyeing the few large trees they passed by.  An unreasonable urge to climb one of them and sit on a limb, allowing his legs to dangle freely came over him, but he suppressed it.  In his mind’s eye, Buck saw gangly twelve-year-old boys at camp, swinging on a rope, yelling Tarzan yells and then letting go over a cool and inviting pond.  Cannonball!!  He wanted to lie on his back on newly cut grass, watching puffy clouds float overhead.   He wanted to watch ants climbing in and out of their hills with bits of leaves, bugs and whatever else they had found.  Buck wanted to step in squishy mud, letting the cool muck ooze cover his feet.  Knife sharp pangs of longing took his breath away and he knew it was because of where he was going.  Back to the mines, back to hell. 

“Are you all right?” Ril asked.  

Buck shook his head to bring himself out of his longing reverie.  “Yeah, I’m okay.  I just don’t take to captivity very well.  It even took the Directorate a while to get me to sign on.” 

“The Defense Directorate recruited you?” Ril ventured.

Buck nodded.

Ril was even more confused.  How did a member of the Earth Defense Directorate end up here?  “Who are you?” Ril finally asked. 

“I am Odysseus, Robinson Crusoe and Rip Van Winkle all rolled up into one package,” Buck answered enigmatically. 

“What?” Ril asked, confused.  “Who are they?” 

“Literary characters from pre-holocaust Earth.  Odysseus, by bad luck and the ire of the mythological gods, took twenty years to get back home to Ithaca after the Trojan War.  Homer’s Odyssey.  Robinson Crusoe was a character by Daniel Defoe who was shipwrecked for a number of years on a deserted island.  Alone most of the time.  Rip Van Winkle was a character who went into the mountains to hunt and ended up taking a twenty year nap.”  Buck paused.  “When he woke up, his whole world had changed.” 

“How does that relate to you?” Ril asked, intensely curious now.

“I went into space and took a five hundred year nap,” Buck said and gave his history in brief summation. 

“And you have come to this time to end up in a cave,” Ril murmured.  Earlier in the walk he had motioned his men back a few paces, so their conversation had been semi-private.   Now he was glad. 

“Yeah.” 

“I’m sorry, Captain.  I truly am.”

“I know.  By the way, the name’s Buck.” 

What Ril wanted to say now had to be totally private, something that would not get back to Beros.  He pretended to stumble or be pushed, however the men behind him wanted to look at it.  “Play along,” he whispered as he brushed against his prisoner.  He grabbed Buck and jerked him toward him.  “Don’t even think about making another run!” he shouted.  “You hear me?” 

“How could I?  You have the meds?” Buck retorted. 

“I’ll do what I can to ease it when we’re back, especially with Beros,” Ril whispered, all the while standing close and glaring at Buck.

Buck, his face toward the men behind, simply nodded and acted as though he was backing down.  “Thanks,” he murmured under his breath. 

“Just walk calmly and I won’t have to restrain you,” Ril said, his voice more normal, but still authoritative. 

Again, Buck nodded.  They walked in silence for a few more minutes.  They were about three or four more hours from the mine rail tracks.  Each step brought him closer to an inevitable confrontation with his two main tormenters; the mines and Beros.  Buck shook his head.  He couldn’t spend his whole remaining time on the surface dwelling on that.  

As though reading his mind, Ril said, “Well, prisoner, now that you’re cooperating, we can talk some more.  Why were you sentenced to Bosk?” 

Buck laughed mirthlessly.  “My friend, Hawk….” Here Buck paused, looking sorrowful.  “Uh, we kind of made life miserable for a big time bigot named Erik Kormand.  He was the guy who started the ‘Human Rights Organization.’ His buddies reciprocated.” 

Ril gazed at Buck Rogers in astonishment.  He had heard of the Human Rights Movement.  Many of the guards proscribed to its philosophies.   But Ril had never heard the name of the man who had started the organization.   “How did you and the Rrilling become friends?” Ril asked.

“Tigerman?” Buck asked, pointing to the felinoid following with the other guards.  

Ril nodded.  

“Long story made short, his mistress, the Royal Draconian Princess Ardala wanted to make me her consort and Tigerman helped me get away one of the times she got me in her chambers.  Recently he came afoul of the high mucky muck, Kane, and was sent here.” 

They walked in silence for a short while.   “What brought you to a place like this?” Buck asked.  

“No family and excellent pay,” Ril answered shortly.  

“I know this is probably none of my business, but what in the hell are you going to do with all this money you are making here?”  

“I don’t know,” Ril said, his voice distant.    

“Not exactly the job you expected, right?”

Ril looked at him sharply.  “No, it’s not.”  

“And do they let you retire?”  

Ril gazed at the prisoner and then sighed.  “I don’t know.”  He paused a beat.  “You hear rumors.”

Buck shrugged.  “Just appears like the type of operation that the bosses wouldn’t like folks to know about.”

They continued to talk, or watch the scenery until they were near the edge of the woods that bordered the rail line.  As they walked into the clearing, a non-rail land vehicle met them.  Heavily armed guards were waiting for in front of it.  

“Well, gang,” Buck said, trying to sound upbeat, but not succeeding.   “Looks like the party is over.”

 

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

 

 Wilma fumed as she and Major Peter Reeve flew away from Takrisian to another planet in the Mandras quadrant.  No one seemed to know where Willis Garrott was.  Oh, they knew who he was; there was no lack of knowledge about Garrott among the planetary businessmen.  But he was either a genius in the world of shady business or a devil of immeasurable proportions.  No one would tell them where he was.  

The more she found out about Garrott, though, the more she feared for Buck and Hawk.  Her prior knowledge of Garrott’s activities had been a drop in a large morass of horrifyingly illicit and depraved activities.   Apparently for the right price, Garrott would not only sell his own family, but blow up his home planet, too.   And he not only bought and sold on the slave market, but he sold illicit drugs that carried an automatic death penalty on many planets for those caught with them.  Gresh, sirox, aldaris, garox, wix and probably substances even she wasn’t aware of.  

This whole affair seemed to be getting deeper and deeper with an end nowhere in sight.  

“Colonel,” Reeve said from the seat next to her.  He had been assigned to help her in the search for Hawk and Buck by the judiciary on Cronis.  He was supposed to be a highly trained agent, especially at ferreting out criminals of the very worst sort.  The Galactic Council had been very interested in Garrott for some time.  

But, Wilma thought bitterly, he hasn’t been able to come up with anything more than air, either.  She didn’t even want to turn and look at him.  She was afraid of what she might say.  

“Colonel, I know how frustrated you are, but understand this, we aren’t going to have the same quick results you people had getting Erik Kormand. 

Wilma was flabbergasted.  Quick?  Where do you get that idea, Major? she fumed.    “I doubt you know anything of the sort, Major, but I appreciate the sentiments,” she said through gritted teeth.  

“Colonel,” he said softly.  “Maybe I don’t exactly.  However, I do know a little of the misery that devils like Garrott and Kormand can exact on people.  If I can get only one or two of these scum out of commission in my lifetime, I’ll be happy.  You and the Searcher should be proud that you did so much damage to such an organization as Human Rights—and in such a short time.” 

“But that doesn’t help Buck and Hawk,” she shot back. 

“No, it doesn’t, but Wilma….   May I call you that?” he asked.  She nodded.  “We’ll find them.”   He paused a moment.  “We will find them.  And I fully believe Captain Rogers and his friend, Hawk, will not have been sitting around idly.” 

“Don’t you think I know that?” Wilma cried out, and she turned her head to hide tears that threatened.  “Yes, if there was any way possible Buck and Hawk would escape.  So why, after three months, has there been no word?”  Why? she repeated silently.  It could only mean they were either dead or so badly injured that escape was impossible.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-four
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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