Forerunners of Bosk
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?”
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
“The company will never be
dictated to by a planet several hundred light years away,” Beros
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
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 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.”
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
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
“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
“I’ll do my best,”
Buck replied with a smile. “But since the administrator seems to have a
vested interest in my misery….”
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.”
“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
“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
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.”
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
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
He rubbed his ears, groaning softly as he sat up. Then as he recovered, he grinned, and saluted.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|