Forerunners of Bosk
Several more scrimmages had
only served to whet the guards’ appetites for what Buck called a “real
NBA-style” game. There
had been enough interested guards to form four teams and a tournament had
been set up. Buck felt as though he was on a roller coaster racing down to
the finish. While he still
worked hard, sometimes not getting dinner until after the other prisoners
were already in their cells, at least part of the day was spent coaching
the guards on their game. If
Bosk could be said to have a national past time, basketball would be it.
It was as though the game was a seat belt on which many of the
guards relied. It was an
attempt at normalcy in an otherwise horrendous and depressing world. As for himself, it was something that allowed him
respite from the unremitting reality of his addiction.
The only person not happy
with the events was the administrator who had begrudgingly allowed a
one-night tourney as opposed to several nights of fewer games each.
Buck grinned at the thought that Beros was working for him in this
instance. Even the
administrator realized, after requests from almost all the senior guards
and many of the junior ones, that the consequences of not having this
diversion would be catastrophic.
Beros had finally given in, then harangued Buck for over an hour
with a warning and tongue-lashing that almost turned the office walls
“Barney,” Buck said, during a cleaning session. “I told you I grew up in pre-holocaust days on Earth, didn’t I?”
“Yes, and it’s still hard to believe you lived that long ago.”
“Yeah, sometimes I think
I’m dreaming now, or rather having a nightmare,” Buck said.
“It is better than it was
before,” Barney pointed out.
“True,” Buck said and
then he paused in his mopping and gazed seriously at his companion.
He hoped he had been reading the signals right or he was a dead
man. “I also told you about
where I lived, right?”
“Yes, the United States of
America. A place of many
Buck’s mind had been much
on his past, and the freedom that he had enjoyed.
Freedom almost seemed an obsession to him now, something that lay
on his mind heavily and constantly. “Yeah,”
he said wistfully. Then he
brought himself back to the present.
“Now don’t get me wrong, Barney, it wasn’t Utopia by any
means. There was even slavery
“You had slavery on
Earth?” Barney looked
“Yes, a long time before I was born. And it took a war to end it.” Buck continued mopping. “But after the war was over, the different states, uh, parts of my country were united again.”
Barney said nothing, but a
glance at the black man showed that he was thinking about what Buck was
“And the hatred?”
Buck wondered where his friend had picked up on that.
“Yes, always with slavery,
there is hatred. Hatred for
the masters; hatred toward the slaves.
If there were no hatred, there would be no slavery.
Hatred and fear.”
Buck was stunned, but he saw
the wisdom of Barney’s words.
“Were the slaves in your
United States of America black?”
“Yes, ‘fraid so,
Barney,” Buck answered. He
knew before he and Hawk had taken the shuttle down to Neckar that the
planet had been colonized by Earth refugees, but had not thought of the
implications of the dying slave system on the colony and from which source
its roots may have arisen.
“What happened to them
after this war?” Barney asked.
“It took a long time, but
eventually blacks and whites shared the same freedoms.
We were still working on it when we tried to blow ourselves up. Nuclear holocaust kills everyone equally,” Buck said
“My country, people were
afraid. Most of us slaves were sold off planet, like me.
Seemed an easy way for folks like the Ahern’s,” Barney said
“I’m sorry, Barney,”
Buck said softly.
“Slavery is a bad
“No argument here.
And I didn’t even grow up with it,” Buck agreed.
“Maybe that is why you
have been so . . . angry. You
know freedom.” Barney sighed.
“Would you like to know
freedom?” Buck asked softly.
“Yes, but it is impossible
for someone like me . . . here,” Barney said just as softly.
“No, it’s not,” Buck
said, his voice barely above a whisper.
“What are you saying?”
“How many people are going
to be at that tournament?”
Barney stared at him for a
moment. “Most of the guards,” he answered, realization dawning.
“Best opportunity to gain
our freedom,” Buck said softly.
“But how can we do
this?” Barney asked.
Buck noted with some
satisfaction that Barney had said ‘we’.
“No, it cannot be done,”
Barney suddenly declared with a shake of his head.
“Barney, do you want to be
a slave forever?” Buck asked fervently, his voice still low.
“Then we have to take a
chance.” Buck furiously scrubbed the floor, all the while willing
Barney to agree. He could not
do this alone as he had before.
“Take ident cards from a
couple of guards. You know,
the one that opens cells, lets you in elevators and offices.
We open the cellblocks. Capture
“How do we keep the
company from coming and taking it back over?” Barney asked.
“We contact Cronis and ask
“I still don’t know how
you can be sure this will work, Coach,” Barney said doubtfully, but Buck
saw hope in the black man’s eyes.
“I can’t be totally
sure, but I am sure that I will not remain a slave any longer than I have
to and this is our best possible chance,” Buck replied.
He was also aware of the fact that Beros was not happy with this
state of affairs and was showing signs of a big blow-up.
It was in his eyes. Dr.
Burrows was apparently the only one who was keeping it from happening.
The administrator had as much as told Buck that once the tournament
was over, things would go back to normal.
No games, more work, the shackles, the garox, unremitting and
endless. Somehow, Buck felt
that the guards wouldn’t like the cessation of games either, but that
was a minor point in the totality of things.
Even though he felt that Hawk would eventually get to the Searcher,
Buck was not in the least doubtful that the administrator would commit
genocide on prisoners when the large ship showed up and demanded that he
be turned over. “And
I think you want a taste of freedom as well.”
Barney was silent for a few
minutes. “Yes, I would like
that, I think,” he said softly. “What
do I need to do for this freedom that is so precious to you?”
Buck was momentarily struck
by the uninhibited poetry of his fellow prisoner’s way of speaking.
Then he got back to the issue at hand.
“Just watch the administration.
Get an idea of everyone’s habits,” Buck said. Don’t tell anyone what we’re contemplating, but try to
figure out who we can trust.” Buck
paused. “We have only a few
days, but I think that works to our advantage, too.” He paused a beat. “And I don’t think we’ll get a second chance.”
Barney nodded and they resumed working. But they had not been alone. A pair of eyes had been watching; eyes that were not the least bit sympathetic.
Beros sat at his desk,
fuming. It was no wonder ‘Human Rights’ wanted Rogers to have
special treatment here on Bosk. No
wonder that they wanted the terran broken.
He should never have listened to Burrows.
Rogers was too dangerous in any capacity and had to be eliminated.
The money he was receiving from his outside sources wasn’t worth
it. And now the prisoner was
too popular to simply jerk him away from this game business and throw him
in a punishment cell. Rogers
had to be caught in the act. Beros
looked over the roster of guards. Most
were caught up in this basketball business, but they were all loyal.
One thing for which he was very much grateful, Beros thought, and that was the fact that his suspicions of Rogers had led him to plant the monitoring device in the prisoners shower. Otherwise, he’d have never known of this little mutiny.
The tournament was three
days away. He would wait two
days and then call the veteran employees in.
Rogers and that privileged would have three and a half days to
live. For that matter, the Rrilling might as well be disposed of,
too. He was loyal to the
terran pest. And the good
doctor would be totally unaware of what was going on until it was too
Ril stood with five other
men, facing the administrator, wondering what was going on.
“You six men have been here the longest. You have proven your loyalty,” Beros said. He paced back and forth in front of the men, stopping in front of Ril. “You have been in close association with prisoner twelve-sixteen more than anyone else. How sympathetic are you to him?” At Ril’s puzzled look, he added, “The one called Coach.”
Ril knew exactly who the
administrator was talking about. He
also knew of Administrator Beros’ animosity toward Rogers.
He could only wonder that this summons was some kind of test.
“My sympathies are with my job, Administrator, and with the
Beros nodded, looking
satisfied. “Yes, I was told how you captured that one and kept him in
line on the way back to the mines. Good.”
No one said a word and Beros
paced some more. “There is
going to be an attempt by several prisoners and possibly some guards to
take over the mines.”
There was an audible gasp from the guards. Ril wondered at the audacity of the prisoner who had named himself several months ago, but was not totally surprised. But guards?
Ril felt a flaring of anger.
Rogers was using the games for his own purposes.
He turned his attention back to the administrator.
“I realize that several of
you are going to be participating in this so-called tournament, but also
watch prisoner twelve-sixteen and his privileged assistant.
If they do anything unusual, kill them.
Put the guards not watching this game on alert.
If you feel it is necessary to post more guards during the game, do
so, but do not alert the mutineers to what you are doing ahead of time.
I think the six of you, along with myself are more than capable of
taking care of a few insurgents, but however you do it, I want this
“Why don’t we just throw
them in detention or punishment now, sir?” Ril asked.
“No, I want them caught in the act.”
Ril saw the wisdom of that,
even as what he was hearing made him ill.
He had seen what had been done to the prisoner in the past.
Nodding along with the rest, making the same promises, Ril still
pondered deep inside. And he
continued pondering that night. Had
Rogers planned this all along, from the first moment he picked up one of
the balls? Ril thought back
to the time Rogers had taught him and Terrence how to play.
No, that had only been the attempts of a sick and depressed man to
cope. The prisoner had
actually escaped using another avenue.
Somehow Ril thought the idea to use the tournament was a recent
one. He remembered how
surprised Rogers had been when so many guards and even privileged
prisoners had shown up for the scrimmages. It was then that the idea had been formulated.
Ril was sure of it.
Again, Ril could not wonder
at the prisoner’s attempt. He
tried to put himself in Rogers’ shoes.
No, he would definitely try to do the same thing himself.
And would it be such a bad thing if twelve-sixteen did escape? No, a tiny voice in his head whispered.
Ril knew that most pets were treated more humanely than these men
were in the mines, especially since the most recent administration took
over. Company quotas seemed
to go higher and higher, while the number of prisoners seemed to stay
constant or even drop from time to time.
He had heard that many prisoners were what were referred to as
‘dumping ground prisoners,’ those sold not because they had committed
crimes, but because someone was seeking revenge on an enemy or a rival.
And Rogers was one of them, having made one of the worst enemies in
But why should I jeopardize what I have for a prisoner? he argued with himself. Because they are sentient beings, his conscience answered. And what the hell do I have? An endless round of watching misery, banking useless money and feeling depressed at the depravity around me. Ril shook his head, a bit irritated not only with himself, but also with his wishy-washy attitude. Whatever he decided, Ril knew what he was going to do. He knew for the past six months what was right. It was just that at the time, Ril didn’t know what to do about it. Now he had a better idea.
“Madame, please!!” Dr.
Goodfellow said in exasperation. Brisella,
while a nice lady, obviously thought him her boyfriend.
All he wanted to do was to run his experiments, try to find out
more about the cultures they had found on their journeys so far. It fascinated him, enthralled him, kept him from remembering
a past that, while long and pleasant, at times had been painful.
Brisella was lonely.
Goodfellow understood that, but he couldn’t give her what she
needed or wanted. He could
not give her the flowery antebellum past that her late husband had given
her. Goodfellow was on this
ship because it suited him, because he was needed.
He wasn’t the best doctor in the world, but he was a darned good
one and he prided himself on his absolute dedication to science.
This ship and her crew were perfect for his twilight years.
It made him feel so much more needed and important than the
Earth-side job he had been in for the past decade.
He was most happy when he was alone, studying the specimens that
had been brought to him, puzzling out mysteries of dead civilizations.
Bless her, but Brisella, for all that she was a sweet and plucky
old woman, was a distinct distraction to him.
And because of that, she
couldn’t supply what he needed either.
She could not take the place of his sweet Alice.
No one could, and he wasn’t interested in her trying.
Perhaps if she had been a scientist like Alice was, but no, she was
the former matriarch of a large land holding on a largely agrarian world.
Brisella was an expert in hospitality and genteel living, even
though there was something very, very tough about this woman.
He knew that she wouldn’t have survived all these years without
that kind of hidden toughness.
“I’m sorry, Wilfred, I
just thought you needed some company,” Brisella said, her voice a bit
Goodfellow knew that part of
her sadness was her incredible acting ability that she had perfected over
the years in her role as mistress of her family’s domain on Neckar.
“My dear, you are a wonderful, sweet woman, but I am in the
middle of an experiment. It’s
crucial that I finish.”
“That is what you said
last night and you never came after you finished.”
“That’s because I’m
not finished,” he replied patiently.
“I am unable to predict a timeline for the conclusion of an
experiment or an investigation. That
is why I couldn’t promise that I would be at dinner yesterday.”
“That was two days
ago,” she pointed out.
“Oh,” Goodfellow said.
With a sigh, he pointed to a chair.
She sat down and he sat beside her.
“Brisella, you are a wonderful, wonderful woman, and you would
make someone very happy. But
that someone isn’t me. I am
a confirmed bachelor. I am
married to my science, my laboratory.
You need to go home, fight the ones who took your holdings and find
someone to help you keep them.”
This time she really did
look deflated. “I can’t
go home. They were desperate enough to try to kill me before, they
would do it again.”
Goodfellow patted her on the
hand. “Then find a new world, one where you can begin again.”
“At my age?!!” she cried
“Indeed, at your age,” he replied. “Look at me. I started over again on this ship and I am happier than I have been since my late wife died.” He paused. “I think I might even be able to help you develop some newer strains of fruits that would make very good wines.”
“But who would help me?”
“I am sure the admiral
would be able to suggest a good world for you to set up a new Brock
enterprise,” the scientist suggested.
“Do you think so?”
Goodfellow certainly hoped
so. “Once we find Buck and Hawk, I am sure he will.”
“But in the meantime, would you at least come by occasionally and
let me treat you to dinner?”
Her mischievous eyes
twinkled and Goodfellow wondered what she had in mind for him.
“Gladly, Madame, as long as you don’t try to seduce me!”
Her laughter was infectious and he laughed with her.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|