Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-five

 

   

Hawk followed his captor’s directions, hoping for a chance of escape.  The laser pistol never wavered, though, and he walked into a dim hut where another cowled figure waited. 

“So you found a bit of sand bait, eh?” the second figure said.  

A moon rose behind Hawk, large and orange, somewhat illuminating the hut. 

“Yes.  Perhaps he just got here.  Maybe on leave to Jarok?” the first one said hopefully, prodding Hawk with the laser pistol  

Hawk exploded into action, his elbow catching the one behind, a hand grabbing the one in front.  Both laser pistols were soon in his possession and he was gazing intently at his two, now frightened former captors.  The hoods hid much but Hawk felt that the two in front of him were very young, perhaps adolescent.  “I will not hurt you,” he said.  The pair just stared silently at him.  “Why did you ambush me?” Hawk asked.  

“You guards always have money,” one of the pair muttered.  “Sometimes they even have crillite or brielenin.  What are you going to do with us?  Send us to the mines?” 

Hawk heard fear along with the bitterness.  “No, I do not think I could do that to the worst of my enemies.  A clean death would be much more desirable.” 

The two youths stared at him silently for a few moments; their eyes round with anxiety.  Then, timorously, “Who are you?” 

Taking a chance, Hawk pulled off his helmet, allowing the pair to see his head feathers.  “I have come from Bosk, but I am not a guard.  I am Hawk.” 

Again, the boys said nothing for a brief time.  It was as though they were trying to figure out a dilemma they would rather someone else have to deal with.  “Well, that’s a guard’s uniform and the only other people on the east continent of Bosk are prisoners,” one of them finally said, his voice heavy with sarcasm. 

“You are correct.” 

As the implications of Hawk’s simple statement dawned on them, the boys gasped.  “But no one escapes the mines,” came the protest. 

“My friend conceived and executed the escape.  He brought me and another prisoner out.  We made it to the mountains to the west of the spaceport,” Hawk explained. 

“Where are the other two now?” 

“My friend is human,” Hawk said sadly.  “He was sick and could not finish the journey.” 

“Oh.” 

Hawk thought there was a great deal said in that one word.  “I am trying to get help to rescue him and the others in the mine.  Would you be able to help me?” 

“I don’t know, Hawk, but we’re willing to try.”  

The pair threw back their hoods and in the moonlight Hawk saw that they were indeed youths, barely more than fledglings.  Their skin looked tough, almost like the bark of a tree, and their coloration was a grayish brown.  Their hair was the color of light sand, their eyes intense green.  Hawk assumed they were native to this planet.  

“Where do you come from?” one asked.  “I am Tris, by the way.” 

“I come from Throm,” Hawk replied. 

“I am Willen,” the other youth said.  “I have never heard of Throm.”

“I am pleased to meet you both.  Throm is in another quadrant,” Hawk replied.  With a smile, he handed one of the lasers back.  “I would like to keep the other one, if I may.  And is there a possibility of getting a cowled robe such as yours?” he asked.  

“That should be easy enough,” Willen said with a grin.  “Come with us.” 

Hawk hesitated and then mentally shrugged.  He either had to trust these boys or blindly try to do this on his own.  Somehow he didn’t think he could get a ship without someone’s help.  At the very least, he had a laser pistol for protection against treachery.  Nodding, he put the helmet back on and followed them out.  They slipped through the shadows of the alleyways and then to the sandy paths between even more primitive desert homes.  The dwellings were rounded on the top, appearing to be made of the local equivalent of cement.  Finally Hawk was led into a larger domed hut some distance from the spaceport.  

A larger cowled figure barred their way.  “Why do you bring one of the dirt burrowers here?  Are you so weak that you could not rob him in the city?” 

“He isn’t a guard,” Tris said quickly.  “He’s an escaped prisoner.” 

The man suddenly reached out and cuffed the boy, sending him sprawling in the sand.  Hawk grabbed the man’s arm in a steel hard grip.  “The boy speaks truth.  I escaped from the mines of Bosk.”  

Only the eyes were visible, but they bored into his.  “No one escapes from Bosk.” 

“I did, with the aid of my comrade and a Rrilling,” Hawk said resolutely.  

The man asked the same question the boys did.  

“They stayed behind to cover my escape.  I have to get back to my ship and bring rescue,” Hawk explained.   He carefully let go of the desert man’s arm.   

The man slowly lowered his hand, deep green eyes all the while boring into Hawk’s.  Finally he stepped back and beckoned for Hawk to enter.   With a slight nod, Hawk did so. He found several laser pistols trained on him.  

“Take off the helmet.  It is not polite in our society to wear head covering inside a dwelling,” the man said.  He, too, had gray-brown skin, light hair and green eyes.  Hawk took off his helmet and saw his hosts’ eyes widen in astonishment.  

“Is this true then that the mines are not the perfect prison?”  There was a sense of satisfaction in his eyes.  

Hawk smiled enigmatically.  “It depends on how you define ‘perfect’.” 

His host hesitated a moment and then chuckled.  “I see your point.” 

“I suppose the answer would be no in either case,” Hawk said.  It had been obvious in the mines that the guards were all human, or near enough human to pass; the desert dweller’s reaction confirmed it.  “I need the means to get back to my ship and organize rescue for my two comrades,” Hawk added. “One of them needs medical attention.” 

“He’ll be dead by the time you return.  If he is sick now, they’ll continue to work him until he dies.” 

“He is fine as long as he has the medication.  It is not a cure for his affliction, though, and I am hoping that the doctor on the Searcher will be able to affect a cure,” Hawk explained.

The man gazed at him for a moment.  “Come, sit down.  Have refreshment,” he said, pointing to cushions that lined the floor along one wall.  A large, tapestry-like rug lay on the floor in front of them, covering the sand floor.  Hawk complied and the man sat next to him.  At a nod from his host, all laser pistols disappeared.  Willen brought cups and a skin bag and poured an amber-colored liquid into one of the cups.  Willen handed it to Hawk. 

“Share with me that which gives life, that which gives hope,” the desert man intoned.  He poured some of the liquid into the other cup, lifted it to a point just in front of his eyes and then drank it.  

Hawk followed the same procedure.  The drink was slightly alcoholic, but mostly it was mellow, slipping coolly down his throat. 

“I am Dreesis,” the man said after he had drained the cup and handed it to Willen.  The young man proceeded to pour the amber liquid for each of the rest of the occupants of the dwelling. 

“I am Hawk.”

“Please accept our hospitality and our help in your quest.  Can I assume your comrade is human?” 

Puzzled, Hawk nodded.  “How did you know?” 

“What your friend bears is not sickness unless dependency is considered a sickness.” 

Hawk remembered Beros saying that only humans got the ‘sickness’ and then he remembered the alarm he had felt when Buck had been no longer able to travel.  Ugly truth began to dawn. 

“From our association with the guards, we have learned that a substance that was originally used on Bosk to control an illness among human prisoners is in reality, a very addictive drug.  It has become a very effective way to control the human population of the prisons that the Arator Company runs.  They need very little excuse to use it.  The only reason they didn’t try to use it on you is because it seems to be peculiar to humans.” 

Hawk was stricken, then angry.  He thought about Buck’s behavior and it fit perfectly with what he knew about addictive behaviors.  “Nevertheless, I must still rescue him and the rest of my colleagues.  No sentient being should live as I have lived recently.” 

“But why would you be friends with members of the same race that put you in the mines?  The same race that seems only concerned with greed, avarice and cruelty?” Dreesis asked.  

“The same race that killed my people?” Hawk paused.  Humans were strange creatures.  He wished he could totally understand them.  “But there are others, my friend included, who are not that way.  I have found that truth in the past two years of my association with them.”   

One of the females brought a tray of food and placed it in front of him, beckoning him in sign to eat.  Hawk reached forward, taking what appeared to be a bread roll with some kind of spread inside.  He wasn’t sure what it was, but after almost two days without any kind of substantial food, he was not going to be overly cautious.  As long as it didn’t make him sick.   Savoring the first nibbled bite, he felt that it was safe and began to more avidly consume the rest of the roll while Dreesis continued talking.   Everyone else reached over and selected something off the tray. 

“That may be so, but I have found them to be much the same as the Draconians, may they all rot in the depths of Keniset.”  Then Dreesis nodded and then pondered for a moment.  “Perhaps you are right about humans.  You are certainly right about the mines, especially those on Bosk.  I would not wish an enemy a fate such as that.” 

“Can you help me?” 

“We can probably get you close enough to steal a ship, but we cannot fly it.” 

“I am a capable starfighter pilot,” Hawk said.

“We will give you garb such as ours, so you can pass along the streets more freely.  Many of our people work in the spaceport,” Dreesis said.

“I can pay you for your help,” Hawk offered.  

Dreesis waved his hand dismissively.  “We help each other,” he said.  “Before this became a terminus for the Arator Company mines, Draconian vassals, the Trilorians, stripped our planet of many of its resources and left us destitute.” 

“Apparently someone has figured a way to smuggle some of the crillite crystals, despite precautions,” Hawk said, pulling out one of the two crystals he had taken.  “I found this when the cargo ship I stowed away on crash landed.” 

Dreesis took the rough crystal and examined it.  The light from one of the two candles shone on the surface of the gem and reflected golden sparkles on the rounded ceiling of the dwelling.  “Ah, a nice one, too,” Dreesis said, admiring the stone.  “But you keep it for now.  You might need it after you steal a ship.”  He paused.  “So that was your ship we heard about in the desert.  A few of my relatives were sent out to help salvage.” 

“Yes,” Hawk admitted. 

“A good pilot, indeed, to engineer such an authentic looking malfunction.” 

“Thank you.  I did not wish there to be any link between my escape and this ship,” Hawk explained.

“You succeeded, because I have heard of no such rumor,” Dreesis replied. 

Hawk tried hard to stifle it, but a yawn escaped anyway.  

“You are tired.  Please accept the hospitality of a good night’s sleep in our home.  We will get clothing for you while you are resting.” 

Hawk nodded, realizing that he would not be able to stay awake, even if he was distrustful of this group of people, which he wasn’t.  Dreesis pointed out a pallet in a curtained off section of the dwelling.  Hawk took off his jacket and boots and lay down.  He fell asleep quickly.

The next morning Hawk awoke refreshed in a sun-lightened room and wondered how long he had slept.  A neatly folded bundle of clothes lay near him and he quickly made the change out of his guard’s uniform.  While he still longed for his own clothing of rank, Hawk felt one step further away from the mines of Bosk.  

A young face peeked around the partition. Tris.  “Good morning,” Hawk said amiably.  

“The morning is indeed good,” Tris replied with a smile.  “Come, there is breakfast ready.” 

Hawk followed and found Willen and Dreesis and the female desert dweller sitting on the decorative rug, cross-legged around a type of brazier.  He sat down in the place Dreesis indicated.  The female offered him a bowl of savory smelling type of porridge.  He smiled.  “Thank you.” 

Dreesis intoned something that sounded like a prayer of sorts and then he began to eat.  Everyone followed suit.   

Hawk took a bite and found the flavor to be slightly nut-like, with a touch of sweetness.  It was also the best meal he had eaten since his last meal on the Searcher.  He said as much to his hosts.  

It was then that Dreesis began asking questions, first about his planet of origin, then about Bosk and how he got there.   Hawk, in turn, asked about the planet he was now on. 

“This is Grallion and it is mostly desert with a more temperate climate near the poles.  During the hotter months most of us migrate south toward the Heelion Sea,” Dreesis explained.   “We have done this for centuries, except during the Trilorian occupation.  It was then that we had to live underground.”  He paused.  “We detested it.  As harsh as our planet is, our sun, the land is life and to be shut underground is an abhorrent thing.” 

“I understand perfectly,” Hawk said softly. 

For a moment, no one said a thing.  Only the bubbling porridge in the pot and a slight wind from outside broke the silence.  

“It is hard to understand those who seem to be so arrogant and biased,” Dreesis finally said.  “Even now, after they have been gone for the past twenty years, it is hard for me to think of Trilorians with anything but anger.” 

Hawk thought of his own people, of Koori and of his hatred toward humans, and he nodded.  “I believe our thoughts and emotions are similar.”  He smiled softly.  “But as hard as it has been, I am finding that there are those of all races with redeeming qualities.  And there is a diversity among humans as there is among my own people.” 

Dreesis nodded.  “Hawk, stealing a ship will not be a one day event.  The moment has to be right or your ship will be either caught as you leave the planet or blasted by their defensive weaponry.”

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-six
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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