Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-nine

 

 

Dr. Cole Burrows angrily marched into Dr. Beros’ office, even as he was being announced by the administrator’s aide.  Buck Rogers was crouched in one corner of the office, his clothing drenched in sweat, intoning words in at least two languages.  His eyes were tightly shut in concentration.  Occasionally he moaned in pain.  If the doctor’s information was correct, the prisoner was doing very well considering it had been over eight hours beyond the time for his last dose of garox. 

Burrows walked over to Rogers, knelt down and pulled out a vial.  

“What are you doing?” Beros roared. 

Burrows stood up and turned toward the administrator.  It was hard to hide his disgust.  He wondered just how long he had been sitting in his office watching the terran suffer.  “I am doing my duty, Administrator; what I have been trained to do.  I am tending to the needs of those who work in the mines.” 

“Your duty is to follow my orders!” Beros stormed.  “You will leave the prisoner alone.” 

“Let me remind you, Dr. Beros, that I file reports directly to the company headquarters, as mandated by the company charter.” 

Beros reddened even more.  “I am the company’s representative here and I will do what is best for the fiscal stability of Avator Company.”  

“Does that include sadistic torture?” Burrows countered and then continued before the administrator could say anything.  “I am well aware, Administrator, that what the company does and what they say to do are sometimes two different things.  However, there is a limit to even the most blatant ignoring of rules and regulations.”  He looked back at the man near his feet, a man in a great deal of physical and mental anguish.  He turned back to Beros.  “I think you are getting a great deal of personal pleasure out of this man’s suffering.”  Burrows paused a beat.  “And that is a dangerous thing for an administrator of a prison mine to do.  It is something that I will have to put down on my personal status report about you.”  His voice was lowered, but was still forceful. 

“Be careful, Doctor, you can easily be ‘replaced,’ ” Beros threatened. 

Burrows narrowed his eyes at the threat.  “I am very careful, Dr. Beros.  So careful that all of my personal as well as professional notes, papers and computer files would immediately be sent to the company’s head offices should something happen to me.” 

He watched Beros’ eyes widen in surprise.  

“It would seem, Administrator, that with the push by many quadrants to form a unified galactic government, you would want to be careful about blatant acts of atrocity.”  

“The company will never be dictated to by a planet several hundred light years away,” Beros retorted.  

“Administrator, all of this argument is pointless.  Suffice it to say, the eastern continent is very much interested in a union with the Galactic Council.  That will bring more attention to the activities of the Arator Company and it’s practices.” 

“You would have me coddle the man who has caused so much discord, Doctor?” Beros snapped. 

“No, Dr. Beros, but let me point out a couple of things.  First of all, the man is addicted to garox and he knows it.   That is far from coddling.  He has been in manacles for the past two weeks.  Definitely not coddling.  And I believe you are getting some kind of personal bonus from some off planet group for each day Captain Rogers is a prisoner, especially a broken prisoner.   I think his reaction to your revelation after his capture proves that, but once he is dead, that bonus ceases, correct?”  Without waiting for an answer, Cole continued.  “He is exhibiting suicidal tendencies, Dr. Beros.  How much longer do you think he’ll last treated like this?”  Burrows gestured toward the man trembling at his feet.   “How much is he worth dead?” 

Beros’ eyes sparked with anger and Burrows knew he had struck a nerve.  “You know that just being a prisoner is punishment enough for someone as free spirited as this man’s history shows him to be.” 

Beros looked as though he had swallowed nails.  “You have beat that issue to death,” he growled.  “What is your other point, Doctor?” 

“Simply that the discord was here before Rogers and his friends showed up.  The guards have complained about feeling like prisoners themselves for several years,” Burrows pointed out. 

“They have been given raises.”  

“Credits can’t buy loyalty, Administrator. They need to have something to make life interesting.  And that game Rogers introduced is just what could do it,” Burrows said. 

“A frivolous ball game?” Beros asked, incredulous. 

“Yes, a ball game, Doctor.  A diversion, something to take their minds off the oppressive nature of, not only the job, but also life in a cave.” 

Beros growled out an unintelligible epitaph and then pulled at his chin.  “You are proposing that this prisoner be allowed to teach this game to the guards?” 

“And to some of the prisoners as well.”  At Beros’ frown, Burrows continued.  “A select few.  You know how the suicide rate has risen among the prisoners. And guards, too, for that matter.” 

“The guards, not the prisoners,” Beros spat out.  

Rogers cried out in pain and Burrows knelt down beside him again.  His eyes were open now, aware and lucid.  Their depths told of anger and fear, despair and determination.  Burrows pulled out the small vial.  “I think the guards will want to prove their superiority over the prisoners in this way, too,” he said as he pressed the vial against Rogers’ arm.

“No, that is not an option,” Beros snapped.   “But be aware, Doctor.  Twelve-sixteen will work.  He will not just play games with the guards.  And most of the time, he will wear the manacles.” 

“When he is not on the job,” Burrows said tersely.  “Infection kills as well,” pointing to open wounds on Rogers’ ankles and wrists.     

With a growl, Beros nodded.  “Get him out of here.”  He paused, gazing deeply into the physician’s eyes.  “You have pushed a great deal today, Doctor.  But even blackmail has a limit.  I think you also need to be careful.” 

“I will take that into consideration, Administrator.  And my next report will indicate your concern for the well being of the employees here,” Burrows replied, helping Rogers to his feet and guiding him out of the room. 

By the time Burrows got his patient to the sick bay, the garox had begun to take effect.  Rogers seemed more aware of his surroundings, although he was still groggy and weak.  “How do you feel?” the doctor asked.  

“Why don’t you just shoot me and put me out of my misery?” Rogers countered, leaning against the doctor for balance. 

Although delivered in a facetious sort of way, Burrows thought the prisoner was fairly serious.   “Considering how long you went without the garox, you did rather well.”  He pointed to an examination bed.  “Sit down while I get you something to drink.” 

“Thanks.” 

“You’re welcome,” Burrows gave Rogers his drink and then pulled out a controller for the shackles.  “By the way, I heard you speaking terra lingua, but what was that other language you were speaking in the administrator’s office?” 

Rogers’ forehead creased in thought.  Everything that had happened in Dr. Beros’ office seemed so jumbled   He remembered seeing Sky Mother and hearing her sing something.  He thought he remembered Koori, too, but he couldn’t be sure of that.   “I really don’t recall what I was doing or saying in there, but the one thing I can remember was a time with one of the bird people, a woman who served as a healer for her people.  So maybe it was some of her language I was remembering.” 

“Interesting, very interesting that you would pull up something like that from a healer in order to help you cope with another ‘illness.’ 

“I guess you do whatever works, doc,” Buck said somberly.  His head was clearing rapidly, and he was remembering more snatches of his time in Beros’ office.  The more he remembered, the more anger he felt.  He recalled the administrator wanting him to beg for the drug, he remembered the laughter every time the pain caused him to cry out.  And there was the promise of slow death in the darkness of the mines.   That had brought fear, more than it had anger and Buck resented that he had probably shown that fear in front of Beros.  

Burrows saw the range of emotions crossing the prisoner’s face and guessed that he was remembering his time in the administrator’s office.  He had no intention of asking Rogers about that time. He had enough evidence to guess what had happened, and with the great possibility of his office now being monitored or would soon be, he didn’t want Beros holding anything else over him.  There was one question he wanted to ask, though.  “This the first time he’s had you in his office?” 

“No, but the first time he’s withheld the garox this long.” 

Burrows sighed.  It was just as he thought.   He felt it had been risky enough confronting the administrator as he had, making the bluffing threats he had made, but the doctor felt he had to do something.  The administrator’s behavior, especially toward this prisoner was going beyond extreme.  Burrows knew, though, that he was going to have to put his notes in a place to ensure that what he had promised could actually take place.   With a sigh, he pressed the button that turned on the controller.  When he activated it, the manacles fell off the prisoner’s wrists and ankles.  

Buck almost dropped his glass in surprise.  He stared at his, now free hands, and then looked at Burrows.   “Thank you,” he said, gratitude heavy in his voice.  

“Only during work hours.  You will still wear them when you are in your cell at night,” the doctor replied.  

“Better than twenty-four seven,” Buck answered, finishing off the drink the doctor gave him. 

“Yes, it is.”  Burrows mouth quirked into a slight smile.  “Now, would you do me a favor and try to stay out of trouble?” 

“I’ll do my best,” Buck replied with a smile. “But since the administrator seems to have a vested interest in my misery….” 

“Prisoner, please, thoughts to yourself.”  

“Yessir,” Buck said contritely.  He seriously didn’t want to get the doctor in trouble.  Like Ril, Burrows had truly been trying to help him. 

“Not too much time before dinner, but see if you can do some work in the recreation area,” Burrows said, calling in a privileged.   He turned to the other prisoner.  “Take twelve-sixteen to the recreation room to do some clean up before dinner.  When he is returned to his cell, he will be re-shackled.”  The privileged nodded and motioned to Buck to follow him. 

 

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

 

“Look, Peter, we have narrowed this down now. We can reasonably find Buck and Hawk.  Why wait?” Wilma asked in exasperation.

“Two reasons, Wilma,” he said.  “First, we have a chance to get Garrott and rid this part of the galaxy of another drug and slave trafficker.  Captured, he could narrow our search down even more.” 

Wilma sighed.  “I’m not totally convinced, but go ahead.”  

“If we leave now, Garrott gets suspicious.  Probably figures we were here doing just what we are here doing, digging up information on Buck and Hawk.”  

Wilma started to say something, then stopped as possible implications occurred to her.  

“He might be so inclined to contact Buck and Hawk’s captors and get rid of the ‘evidence.’ ” 

“Yes, you’re right,” Wilma admitted, slightly deflated.  “But I am not looking forward to being in that cage again, waiting for Garrott to bring his bullies along with him.” 

“It will be over tonight and I have a plan that will put you in charge when Garrott and his men show up.” 

“What do you have in mind?” Wilma asked, her curiosity piqued. 

“Just this, Wilma,” he said, pulling out a small box and opening it up.  She leaned over while he showed her a tiny device of remarkable simplicity.  “Detonated remotely and it will immobilize everyone in the room almost immediately,” he explained. 

She nodded and then grinned.  “I might just enjoy doing this, Peter,” she quipped.  

“And as soon as Garrott is in custody, we find out what prisons the Arator Company runs,” Peter said. “And then we can find Hawk and Buck.” 

“Yes.” 

Later, as the afternoon ground toward evening, Wilma again waited, once again feeling as though snakes were creeping up on her in the dark.  She paced, then she sat down.  She kept peering beyond the force bars, watching, waiting.  It was nerve wracking.   With a soft whoosh, doors on the opposite side of the room opened, admitting Garrott and several of his enforcers.  The slaver had a leering grin on his face that boded ill if Peter and Wilma’s plans went awry.  Peter followed, still in character, smiling as though he had just been given a shipload of precious gems.  

“Well, Colonel Deering, it seems you will be privileged to spend the remainder of your days on the Palatis Pleasure asteroid.  And I get the first pleasure.”  Garrott turned to Peter.  “Turn off the force-field so I can get a closer look at what I’ll be delivering to Brendel.”  

Peter turned to the force field controls.  One of Garrott’s men watched him closely.  It was obvious there was a great deal of mutual distrust.  All three of the enforcers had their pistols out and pointed either at Peter or Wilma.  They were taking no chances.  

The force bars disappeared and one of Garrott’s men reached in and grabbed her, dragging Wilma close to him.  With great effort, she repressed a shudder, but still she struggled, digging her heels into the floor.  

“Not so self-assured now, are you, Colonel?” Garrott asked. “But then I think Erik Kormand took care of a bit of that before, didn’t he?” 

Wilma felt anger flare at references to what Kormand had done to her.  The idea that others outside the inner circle of her friends knew; and had passed along to anyone that came along, caused not only anger, but a renewal of the shame she had felt during that horrible time on Mendalis.  She lashed out and attempted to break Garrott’s hold on her, but he simply shoved her into the arms of one of the enforcers.  

“Search her,” Garrott ordered.  “And then let’s get out of here.  I don’t like the surroundings.” 

With an anticipatory grin, the man holding her started feeling down her sides, then he felt her breasts.  Suddenly with a soft pop, the sonic disrupter sounded; its shrill scream painful to the ears.  Everyone in the room doubled over in agony.  Except Wilma.  Even though the sound still hurt, the earplugs protected her from the worst of the blast.  She grabbed one of the enforcer’s pistols and stunned everyone except Peter into unconsciousness.  Garrott fell last, his look of disbelief very satisfying to her.  Then she turned off the disrupter and checked Peter.  “You all right?” 

He rubbed his ears, groaning softly as he sat up.  Then as he recovered, he grinned, and saluted. 

 

 

Chapter Thirty
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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