Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-eight

 

 

“Thank you for the information, friend,” Hawk said.  “I wonder what the company will do then?” 

“I suppose they will build complexes for their own big shot employees,” the pilot said in a low voice. 

“It is getting too crowded here,” Hawk said.  “Shall we find a better bar?” 

“Of course, my friend, of course.” 

Hawk led the way out into the dimly lit street and down one block   They entered another garishly lit establishment, where they sat down and ordered drinks.  By this time the human was becoming rather inebriated and he revealed many things to Hawk about his job shuttling cargo for the Arator Company.  That job had ended when he had crash-landed on the desert planet.  Hawk suspected that the human had been too drunk to fly.  He bought the man another drink and then suggested that they try their hand in a gambling establishment. 

“No, no.  Want to save my money for a real gambling hall, like the one on Taladon,” the human, whose name was Telor, said.  

“Ah, but in order to do that, you must be clear-headed,” Hawk said.  “Let us leave this smoky place and walk to your room at the guest house.” 

Telor frowned for a moment.  “I have always been able to hold my liquor,” he stated tersely, but then he smiled.  “But a bit of sleep before reporting to the shuttle bay would not hurt.   The idiots have had me on probation ever since that crash and it wouldn’t do to smell like a Cloreian Wine factory on my first day back in space.”  He clapped Hawk on the back.  “You’re a good friend.” 

“Thank you,” Hawk said as he helped Telor out of the bar and to the street.  He was thoroughly disgusted at the friendship display he had to make.  He was disgusted with the human’s inebriation as well and would be glad to leave this man behind.   They walked past several gaudily decorated establishments.  Hawk guided his ‘friend’ into a more dimly lit roadway and toward the outskirts of the town.  They had gone a quarter of a mile before Telor realized they were not going toward his guest room. 

“Hey, this isn’t the way!” 

“No?  You told me it was,” Hawk said in mock concern. 

“It’s that way,” Telor said, pointing in the opposite direction. 

“Are you sure?” Hawk asked, turning a corner to a still darker path.

“Nah, not this….” 

Hawk used the butt of his laser on the back of Telor’s head.  The human sank to the ground without a sound.  Several figures materialized out of the darkness and helped Hawk carry the unconscious man further from the center of town.  There Hawk changed into Telor’s uniform, took his identification, money and whatever else he felt he would need for his impersonation.  The laser pistol was traded for a small palm sized stun device.  The helmet was strapped on and with that Hawk was ready.  

Dreesis stood in front of him, gazing at him intently, checking to make sure that all was right with the uniform.  “You do look like a pilot ready for a trip.  Then only thing you lack is the human’s personal gear,” he said.  

“Yes, I will go to his guest room for that,” Hawk said. 

“Go with the gods’ blessing, friend Hawk.” 

“Thank you, Dreesis.  And Make-Make give you success in all your endeavors, water for your family and shelter overhead,” Hawk returned, shaking the desert man’s hand. 

“We’ll make sure he doesn’t wake up too soon,” Willen added, stepping from the shadows. 

“He should sleep for a very long time, Willen,” Hawk said with a smile.  “He had enough Cloreian spice wine.”  He clapped the adolescent on the shoulder.  “You and Tris have my gratitude as well.”  He looked back down at the unconscious human.  “Do not let him see you.  If he is alone, he will wake up thinking he was robbed by a fellow guard and none of you will be suspected.”  

Willen nodded.  

“I must be off if I am to get this one’s gear and get to the spaceport in time,” Hawk told them.  

Dreesis nodded.  

Hawk paused another moment and then turned and stepped into the shadows.  The walk back to the center of town was short and soon Hawk was in the guest room reserved for Telor.  He looked through the small suitcase the human had brought with him, familiarizing himself with its contents, then he looked for anything else of interest that Telor might have brought with him.  There was nothing else.    He gathered up the pilot’s things, turned off the light and left the room.  At the spaceport everything went smoothly, a sleepy-eyed gate attendant only glanced at his identification.  Soon, Hawk was in the cockpit, looking over the dials and controls, mentally making a checklist of how he would proceed with a hijacking. 

“Your first flight to Taladon?” a voice asked from behind him. 

Hawk turned around to see an older man gazing at him.  “Yes,” he said truthfully.  

“I thought maybe the information I was given was off a few years, but I see it wasn’t,” the newcomer said with a smile.  “You seem a bit young for this assignment, friend.  Did you irritate one of the cargo line attendants?” 

Hawk only wanted to get the ship out of the hanger and into space, but he had to humor this man, who apparently was the pilot after all.  “I suppose I must have,” he said. 

“Which run?” 

“Bosk,” Hawk said, wishing he could have found out about this man he was flying with.  

“Name’s Marcus Kollin.” 

“Telor Witt,” Hawk said. 

“Glad to meet you, Telor,” Kollin said, holding out his hand.  

Hawk took it and shook hands.  

“Hopefully this will be the first in a series of pleasant runs.”  Kollin sat down and began a pre-flight check.  “You go make sure everyone’s on board, Telor, and then we’ll get this beast into space.” 

Hawk nodded and took the roster from the human.  He readjusted his flight helmet as he walked into the main cabin, checked off the passengers’ names and then returned to the cockpit.  Kollin was just finishing up the pre-flight when Hawk returned. 

“All set?” the pilot asked.  

“Yes,” Hawk answered.  

“Then take her out of here.” 

Hawk gazed at him for confirmation.  

“I want to see how good you are,” Kollin said matter-of-factly. 

Hawk nodded and sat down.  He alerted the hanger crew of impending launch and then powered up the engines.  They launched smoothly and without incident.  Hawk lay in the coordinates for the first stargate, one that lay a short distance outside of this solar system.  Several hours later, he took the ship through the stargate and Kollin punched in the coordinates for the next stargate.  

“Nice job, Telor.”  The human leaned back and closed his eyes.  

Hawk took advantage of his companion’s nap and consulted the computer for coordinates to Cronis.  The route would take them through several stargates.  Surreptitiously, he plotted the course and lay in the coordinates for the trip to the Galactic Council home planet.   Just before the ship reached the next stargate, Hawk reached over to change the coordinates.  As his finger touched the switch, a hand on his arm stopped him.  

“Just who are you?” Kollin asked, his voice hard and menacing. 

Hawk stared, unable to think of anything to say. 

“And don’t tell me you are Telor.  I have heard of Telor, done some research on him.  You fly too well to be Telor Witt.”  Kollin’s eyes snapped with anger.   “What are you doing with my ship?”

 

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

 

Wilma sat in the ‘cell,’ trying very hard not to think of the last time she had been a prisoner.  It was impossible.  The picture of Erik Kormand kept marching into her mind, relentlessly.  It was all she could do not to rush to the entrance, just inside the force field and scream her demands to be released.  

In another room, one where a monitor kept watch over the prisoner, Peter was discussing terms with a slaver.  “So where can I tell my people you are going to take her?” he asked.  It had been a long four weeks, setting this up.  Harrowing for Wilma, he knew.  But standing next to him was Garrott, the man he had most wanted to catch for several years.  

Garrott smiled.  “When I was contacted from Cronis, I really couldn’t believe it.  I can imagine the Human Rights people are celebrating this victory.”  

“I certainly know that my contacts in the Draconian inner circles are certainly happy,” Peter replied.  

Smiling, Garrott continued watching the screen where an obviously nervous former Directorate Defense commander was pacing, her face showing almost equal amounts of anger and fear.  “First Rogers and his friend, the birdman, and now Colonel Wilma Deering,” he said. 

“I would imagine it would be quite a blow to Rogers to have his lady love in the same place he is.”  Peter paused for dramatic effect.  “Assuming he’s still alive.” 

“Why is it important to you?” Garrott asked. 

“The Draconians have an even longer hatred for Captain Buck Rogers than does the Human Rights organization, Mr. Garrott.  They want the maximum punishment value for what Rogers has done to their designs for galactic unity.  They mentioned the distinct possibility of a bonus if he is provided with extra discomfiture.  They even made that specific suggestion.” 

“Your bonus would be no good.  The prison where Rogers was taken, provided he is still alive, does not take women.” 

“Where is it?  Perhaps the Draconians can exert some pressure on this prison to make an exception.”  Again, Peter paused.  “Imagine being the only female prisoner in an all male facility,” he added with a smirk.  

Garrott laughed.  “Good luck getting the Arator Company to change that policy, although your idea certainly has merit.”  He looked again at Wilma in the viewscreen, pacing back and forth in her cell.  

Garrott’s eyes had a hungry look and Peter knew who would have a chance at Wilma first if this had been a real transaction.  He had to suppress a shudder, even while he was thinking of foolproof ways to pull this off.  He could not afford for something to go wrong and Wilma end up in the hands of someone like Garrott.  He found himself gazing appreciatively at his partner himself and thought for the thousandth time what a lucky man Buck Rogers was.  Then he jerked himself back to reality.  “I will contact my superiors and let them decide whether to pursue this idea or simply sell her and be rid of her that way,” Peter said. “Shall we meet tomorrow and I will give you the balance of the credits and the result of my superior’s investigation.”

Garrott nodded.  “Tomorrow or the deal is off.  No more delays.  We will meet here and I will have my men with me.”  He paused.  “After all, Colonel Deering will be going somewhere suited to her considerable talents.”

“Of course, she will,” Peter replied, much more brightly than he felt.

 

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

 

“Have you heard anything from Wilma?” the admiral asked Devlin for the hundredth time that day. 

“No, sir, nothing other than a brief acknowledgement that our message was received.” 

“Damn!  What in the world are they doing?”  He paced back and forth in the bridge, stopping behind the communication console as though wishing for someone to call.  It was not only frustrating, but frightening.  First he loses Buck and Hawk, now Wilma was totally cut off, or rather cutting herself off from the Searcher.  He could only imagine what might be happening to her.  She had been through a great deal already, and Asimov simply didn’t want anything else to happen to his second-in-command.  He had already thought the unthinkable and wondered how she would take the news if Buck and Hawk had been killed. 

“I’m sure they’re all right, Admiral,” Devlin said encouragingly.  

“After four months, I’m not sure of anything,” the admiral growled.  

“The probability of Colonel Deering being in any kind of harm is 31.786 percent, Admiral.  She is with a very capable espionage expert and she is very capable herself . . . considering she is human,” Crichton, who was standing to one side of the bridge, said. 

That was the last thing Asimov needed in his present mood.  “Thanks very much, Crichton,” he replied sarcastically.  “Will you go and see if Dr. Goodfellow needs your help?” he suggested.  

“Dr. Goodfellow is doing very well with his new friend, Mrs. Brock,” Crichton answered.  “But I will go and check with him anyway.  Especially since you do not seem to welcome my services.” 

Asimov just grunted in appreciation when the robot left.  

“Sir,” Devlin said.  “Incoming call.  Seems to be an official announcement of some kind.” 

“Put it on,” the admiral said, grateful for anything that would divert his mind from the various morbid thoughts.  

“To all ships, military and civilian,” the voice began.  It was clear to Asimov and all on the bridge that this was an automatic, computer generated announcement.  “Hijacked shuttle, serial 4432TZ, belonging to the Arator Mining Company.  To be captured or disabled.  Approximately twenty persons on board.”  

“Acknowledge receipt,” Asimov said with a sigh.  “Then go on to the Rix quadrant, as ordered.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

They made the jump and lay in a course toward Colrix, one of the planets suggested by the Galactic Council as a source of information on slave trading, as well as Buck and Hawk’s whereabouts.  “Let them know our ETA and base purpose.”  Asimov sighed again.  “You know the routine.”  

“Yes, Admiral.” 

An hour later notification of an unauthorized spacecraft came over the communicator.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-nine
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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