Forerunners of Bosk
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
“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
He was right, but her other fear was how he would be taking such
incarceration. “I am so
worried about him, Peter. Both
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.”
“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?”
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
“Yes, it was.
Three months and there is not the slightest shred of evidence,”
“That’s only because we
haven’t asked the right questions or followed this trail in the right
“So how do we set up this
fake sale?” Wilma asked, eager to do something that might have a chance
“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.”
Peter gazed at her
meaningfully. “How did you know?”
“Hawk didn’t feel right
“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.
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.
Now who did you have in mind for bait?” she asked, feeling real
hope for the first time in weeks.
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
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
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
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.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|