Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-four

 

 

Wilma felt fingers of dread traveling up and down her spine as she contemplated what could have happened to Buck and Hawk in the past couple of months. 

“And these things take time,” Peter said.  “Investigation or escape.” 

“It wouldn’t take this long for Buck,” she cried. 

“Although he is very wily and capable, Buck is human, Wilma.  He is not some sort of deity,” her partner said soothingly.  “Some forms of incarceration are harder to escape from than others.” 

Wilma sighed.  He was right, but her other fear was how he would be taking such incarceration.  “I am so worried about him, Peter.  Both of them.” 

“I know.”  He paused and they flew on for a while in silence.  “You know, maybe we’re not on the right track here.” 

“What do you mean?” she asked, hopeful for anything. 

“Okay, given Captain Rogers and Hawk’s propensity to escape, I don’t think Garrott would sell them to an individual.  It would afford too easy an avenue of escape.  Garrott would have instructions to sell them to a facility.” 

“Like a prison?” 

“Yes, a working prison.  One that’s known for a low or zero escape record.” 

“Records?” 

“Partly, but I think if we go the same route Garrott did, we might be able to find out that way more quickly,” Peter ventured. 

“Try to sell someone?” Wilma asked, incredulous.  

“Something like that.”   Peter thought of all his contacts, as well as those people who had stirred up trouble in the recent past.  He could see possibilities as far as getting the word out, but there was only one person who came to mind right now for the bait in such a scheme, and he wasn’t sure he liked that idea.

“I think this should be a multi-pronged effort,” Wilma said, beginning to feel a bit of Peter’s enthusiasm.   “We keep looking for Garrott, while searching for the right prison.”

“Yes, and if we create the right scenario, no one will think it’s an operation to break up illegal penal practices,” Peter added.  

“Whoa, back up.  Illegal penal practices?” 

“Sure.  Do you think any prison that takes in non-convicted inmates is totally legitimate?” he asked.

“Records can be faked.”

“True, but I don’t think that was done in this case,” Peter replied.  “I may be wrong, though.  I would guess that Captain Rogers and Hawk were taken to their new home within a couple of days. There would be no time to fake any kind of records.”  He paused.  “This whole thing was speedily conceived and executed.  The advanced planning was well done.  They almost botched it at the beginning, but otherwise it was well done.”  

“Yes, it was.  Three months and there is not the slightest shred of evidence,” Wilma murmured. 

“That’s only because we haven’t asked the right questions or followed this trail in the right way.” 

“So how do we set up this fake sale?” Wilma asked, eager to do something that might have a chance of success. 

“I would do it through the same operation that I had set up to try and catch Garrott and his buddies in his drug sales, but there is too much chance that they suspect my agents,” Peter said. 

“So we set up a new operation?”

“Yes, using the same man we have deduced is Kormand’s man on Cronis.” 

“Mic Froligen?”

Peter gazed at her meaningfully.  “How did you know?” 

“Hawk didn’t feel right about him.”  

“We could have arrested him the same time Erik Kormand was caught and not just because of his affiliation with the Human Rights group.”

“But you are using him to try and catch Garrott,” Wilma suggested. 

“And company.  Yes.”  Peter was silent for a moment.  “There are no guarantees, Wilma, because we never know in this business, who is working for us and who is working six other deals on the side.  But I think this may be a quicker solution than scratching around like we’re doing now.” 

“So how do we propose this to the Admiral?” she asked. 

“I don’t think the whole plan should be.  I think we let him select a team to discreetly looking into prisons and their operations and records, while we set up the actual operation,” Peter said.  “The fewer people who know about this, the better.  I have a basic set of contacts that I trust implicitly to keep track of things for me.  But I think you and I can set up the actual operation.” 

“Major, I’ll happily do what you ask if it will get Buck and Hawk back.” 

“No guarantees, but I think this will work,” he said with a grin.

“Great!   Now who did you have in mind for bait?” she asked, feeling real hope for the first time in weeks.

“You.”

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Buck and Tigerman stood before Dr. Beros, their wrists and ankles manacled.  They had arrived at the mine’s cargo terminus by late afternoon and had been shackled there.  Then they had waited, first in the warehouse, and then down in the mines.  The trip down the elevator seemed interminable and Buck felt as though his very soul was being ripped from his body as he descended.  Then they had continued to wait in a holding cell, barely large enough for the two of them to stand, much less sit.  As best Buck could figure, they had waited through the mines’ sleep cycle.  Without food or water.  But Buck knew when twenty-four hours had passed. He began to feel the need just as before, subtly at first and then with more force.  He couldn’t believe that a parasite could be so insidious and so pervasive.  Even as those thoughts crossed his mind, though, there were niggling doubts that he shoved to the far back reaches of his consciousness.  There were some things he didn’t even want to consider. 

Finally, they were escorted into the administrator’s office.  Beros glared at him in barely disguised fury.  Buck just stood quietly, only wishing he could go to bed, or be alone, or something, anything but here waiting for Beros to explode.  

“So you thought you could escape, eh Rogers?” 

Buck couldn’t help it.  He smiled softly.  Beros knew his name.  As though understanding his mistake, the warden reddened and stepped closer to him.  Tigerman growled softly, balling fists that were held close together with thick chains.  

Beros turned to the guards in fierce anger.  “Keep that animal at bay.  If he so much as makes a move or sound, kill him!” 

Buck quickly gestured reassurance to Tigerman.  Their eyes met briefly and the terran saw acceptance there.  

“I told you your friend’s life was forfeit if you did anything rash.  It was and by your own hand, prisoner.” 

“But he’s free,” Buck said simply.  And Beros, you just don’t know how free he is.  His hands were trembling slightly, making his chains jingle.  To his chagrin, Beros noticed. 

“Maybe, but you aren’t and neither is the Rrilling.  What is most important, prisoner, is that you were my prisoner even when you thought you had gotten away.”  Beros laughed and Buck thought Satan himself couldn’t sound better than the glee-filled, gloating warden.  He studied Buck for a moment.  “You really have no idea, do you?  The guard said you wanted the medicine.  You, a former Directorate official and you haven’t heard of garox.” 

Buck felt a hard knot in the pit of his stomach.  The suspicions returned, but he continued to push them away.  Irritation flared.  “But I bet you’re going to tell me, aren’t you?” he said sarcastically.  The knot grew larger. 

Beros’ fist shot out and Buck suddenly doubled over, gasping from pain, only kept from falling by Tigerman, who had caught him as he stumbled back.   Beros grabbed Buck’s shirt and jerked him upright, pulling him away from Tigerman and shoving him against a stone wall.  Beros’ face was only a few inches from Buck’s, and was red with intense rage.  Then he smiled, chuckled and said, “You will live the remainder of your pathetic life here, subsisting on garox until there is nothing left but desire for death alternating with desire for garox.”  He paused for effect.  “Did you think this so-called “medicine” would cure the parasitic illness only?”  Beros paused again.  “Well, it did, prisoner, you no longer have the parasite.  In fact, you have resistance for it now.”   

The knot in Buck’s stomach was a boulder and despair threatened to engulf him, burying him like some kind of huge avalanche.  What he had subconsciously suspected seemed to be a reality. 

“You have no resistance for the garox, though. Garox keeps humans here.  It keeps them in line and unwavering in their devotion to duty.”  Beros began laughing at his own joke, taunting, gloating laughter.  

He released Buck, who now totally understood the implications of what Beros was saying.    “An addictive drug,” he said, his voice filled with the same horror that resided in his soul.  

“Oh, very addictive and there is no cure for garox addiction.  You live, breathe and beg for the garox, prisoner.  And eventually you will die, and your last breath will be to beg for more.”

Buck stood slack-jawed in shock.  He remembered all the lectures of his youth, grim and vivid reminders of the fate of a junkie.  He watched his life fade and go black.  He envisioned Wilma and felt his blood boil at what could have been.  Now he knew what Ril had been asking him.  Had he known, he might have taken the guard up on his offer.  Rage boiled beyond his capability to control it and he cried out in his anger and despair.  Before guards could react, Buck had lunged forward, unmindful of the shackles and grabbed Beros around the throat.  As his fingers tried to squeeze the life out of his tormenter, though, Tigerman threw his arms over Buck’s head, and then pinned the terran’s arms to his side.  He effectively broke Buck’s stranglehold on the administrator.  The guards leapt forward, their stun guns ready, but Tigerman’s roar stopped them.  Buck continued to struggle, but finally sagged against the Rrilling’s muscular chest, his strength and rage spent.   Only blackest despair remained. 

Beros took a stun gun from one of the guards and approached the prisoners.  “Let him go,” he ordered Tigerman. 

Tigerman growled softly, warningly. 

Beros smiled maliciously.  “If you want him to live so badly—if you want to live badly enough, you will let go of him,” he said, his voice cold and emotionless.  

Tigerman slowly released Buck, who slid down to his knees, his head bowed. 

“Maybe there is more intelligence up there than I thought,” Beros said to Tigerman.  “But your loyalty is misplaced, prisoner.”  He gazed down at Buck, who had not moved from his position on the floor.  “Prisoner twelve-sixteen, you will work in the loading area, shackled and under strictest administration.  The beast will work in the same area, since that is the only logical place for a creature of his talents.”  He looked at the guards.  “Take them away.  Security code A.” 

The guard prodded Buck, who slowly rose to his feet.  He glanced briefly at Beros, but there was no anger there.  No rage was left, only raw despair.  He felt empty, drained.  Only one thing passed through his mind and that was a need for the garox.   He turned away and followed Tigerman out of the room. 

Beros would not get the bonus for breaking the birdman, but he would for Rogers.  And perhaps he could make the case for getting some money off the birdman.  He had broken him; broken him so badly that he had tried to escape and killed himself on the rocks.  Beros started laughing again.  Victory was sweet. Everlastingly sweet.  

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-five
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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