Forerunners of Bosk

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-three

 

   

“There are two connected but separate cell blocks,” Ril pointed out.  “How do you plan to keep control?” he asked.

“First we need the administrator’s access key card,” Buck said, gazing meaningfully at Beros’ body.  Burrows nodded and dug into the dead man’s pocket, pulling out the asked for item.  Buck again addressed the guard.  “And that last question is loaded, uh . . . what is your designation, by the way?”  

“I am Ril.  My guard rank is captain.”  

“Uh, Captain, to be honest with you, I haven’t been able to work out everything, because just getting the first part done was going to be tenuous enough.  However, during my roaming days, I saw canisters of sleep gas in the storage area.”  

Ril saw the implications immediately.  “That would give you time to figure out some plan of action for the time after you take over.”  

“Yeah, and also keep the prisoners from taking it out on the guards and administrative staff.” 

“What do you have in mind when they wake up?” Burrows said, taking up the questioning from where Ril left off. 

“Guards and unruly prisoners stay in cells until they promise to be good to each other,” Barney suggested.  He looked at Buck, who just nodded.  “Everyone would sign a promise not to hurt anyone else.”  

“The cells idea was what I had in my mind,” Buck said.  “But the contract is an excellent beginning.  If we need to, we can use a few trusted people to keep the peace.  Set up a sort of law enforcement or judicial agency for those who can’t keep their promises.”  

“What about the company?” Ril asked. 

“What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” Buck said with a grin.  “But we’d better get that gas or all our plans are going out the proverbial window.”  

Burrows looked quizzically at Buck.  “You really didn’t have much in the way of plans, did you?” 

Buck laughed and then sobered quickly.  “No, I didn’t.  I figured that once we got some control of this place, we’d wing it from there.  I’m sorry, even though I knew eventually that my shipmates would find me, I couldn’t just sit and wait for it to happen.”  He turned to Barney.  “And I appreciate you trusting me.  I agonized over what this would mean to you if we had failed, but I had to try.” 

Barney nodded.  “I know.  And I’m glad.  But we must do something now or we will fail.  We have not succeeded yet.” 

To Buck’s ear Barney sounded more decisive than he had in the past.  “Yeah.”  He paused and gazed at Ril and then the doctor.  The other privileged looked from one man to another like a spectator at a tennis match.   Buck took a deep breath.  “I guess I need to ask if you two are with us in this little coup.  If not, then will you stay back and not interfere?” 

“I am in a bit of a quandary,” Burrows said.  “As I suppose the captain is, too.  But if you will accept me as an impartial observer, someone not actively helping, but not hindering then I would like to stay with you.” 

Ril nodded. “I trust you and will let you know when my conscience will not allow me to help you anymore.  That is the most I can promise.” 

“Fair enough,” Buck answered.  “You two will be our advisors.”  He motioned toward Beros’ body.  “Doc, I think we need to get him to sick bay.  I don’t think it would be wise to leave his body here in the middle of the corridor.” 

“I will do it and then meet you in the munitions supply room,” Barney said.

As the group headed down the corridor to the supply area, Buck looked up toward the cave overhang that he had traveled so much.  So much in so short a time, he thought.  But there were also times when his imprisonment had seemed like an eternity.  Eternity in hell.   Barney easily carried the body of the administrator, turning toward the sick bay, Dr. Burrows right behind him.   Buck felt the throbbing in his arm renewing in intensity and the nervousness that preceded the timing of his next dose of garox, but he pushed both distractions aside.  There was only the goal of freedom before him.  

Two guards were patrolling the corridors and Buck wasted no time.  With the confiscated laser he had taken off Beros’ body, Buck shot.  They sank unconscious to the ground.  He started to push the access card into the door slot, but Ril stopped him.  

“No, I’ll do it.  Places like this you also need a password and I don’t know the administrator’s password.” 

Buck stepped aside and Ril stuck his card into the slot.  He punched in his personal code and then stood in front of an ident viewer.   The door slid open and Buck started forward.  Again, Ril stopped him.  

“Captain Rogers, I don’t think that such exist here, but I have heard of the Arator Company using heat sensor plates in sensitive areas of their mines.  I’ll get the canisters.  When all is said and done, the codes can be changed.” 

“Hopefully that won’t be necessary, but this kind of failsafe will help to prevent disgruntled prisoners from getting into the weapons cache,” Buck said, grateful for Ril’s support.  “Some impartial observer you turned out to be,” he added wryly.  Ril just grinned over his shoulder.  

As the guard was getting the canisters, Barney and Dr. Burrows joined him.  Ril came out of the storage area with a canister under each arm, as well as several laser pistols stuck in his waistband.  He handed a pistol to each person.  “Do you think there is need to send this to both cell blocks?” he asked.  

“I would prefer to do the recreation room first and then show the remaining guards our handiwork, but I am afraid someone might take it out on prisoners.”  

Ril nodded.  “Possibility is there.  It will be hard work controlling both cell blocks.” 

“How may empty cells are there, Ril?” Buck asked. 

“I believe there are about twenty in Block Two and half as many in Block One.  I can give you a more accurate number when I check the stats in the administration offices.” 

“Two is where most of the non-human prisoners reside, right?” 

Rill nodded.  “Right.” 

“About how many guards are on duty?” 

“Now that we are on rest schedule, about a dozen,” Ril replied. 

“With the gas, we take care of Block One, Administration and the rec room,” Buck said.  “I want to go down to Block Two myself.” 

“Alone?” 

“You are all going to be busy putting Block One guards into cells,” Buck said.  “If they aren’t expecting anyone down in the second cellblock, then it should be a piece of cake.”  Buck rubbed his hands.  They were trembling. 

“Time for your next dose?” Dr. Burrows asked. 

“Soon, but not now.” 

“Soon as in before you go down to Block Two, not after.”  Burrows had a set look that Buck wasn’t going to argue with.  The doctor was probably right anyway, as much as he hated to admit it.  

Ril broke the tension of the moment.  “I will get the gas filter masks and meet you in sick bay,” he said to Buck and the others. 

Buck nodded and the group followed Dr. Burrows.  By the time Buck had received his dosage, Ril had come into the room, a satchel of masks in his arms.  He handed each man a mask.  “Let’s get down to ops,” he said.  “And distribute this gas.   The quicker we do that, the less chance of anyone getting hurt.” 

“I am going to take care of this burn,” Burrows said.  “Garox enables quick healing, but not that quick.” 

“One advantage, twenty-six disadvantages,” Buck said sarcastically.  “No time.  We have been very lucky so far.  Few guards, most people still in the rec room, oblivious, and no deaths.  I don’t want to push that luck.”  He turned to Ril.  “Lead the way.” 

They only saw a few guards on the way to the operations center, all of which were stunned before they could even cry out.  The canisters were hooked into the ventilation system leading to all parts of the mines except for Cell Block Two.  

“You ready?” 

Buck nodded.  “Yeah.”  He gazed meaningfully at the small group.  Very small group, he thought.  “Only put into cells the guards and staff you think will cause problems.”  They nodded.  “And I would put anyone with access to communications in a cell, too.  We don’t want Arator to know before we want them to.” 

“We can’t keep them in the dark forever,” Burrows pointed out soberly. 

Buck smiled.  “Yeah, I know, but I would like to see just how long we can outwit them.  At least a couple of days, if we can.”  He pondered a quick minute.  “If any of the computer whiz kids are willing to work with us, I want all the codes changed so that only a few of us have access to the administrative offices.” 

“All right, Captain,” Ril said. 

Buck looked askance at him.  It was the second time Ril had referred to him by his rank.  With a mental shrug, Buck got back to the business at hand.  “By the way, same thing goes for the prisoners.  Anyone who will cause trouble, keep ‘em in their cells.”  

Barney nodded and then said, “I think I should go with you, Coach.”  

“No, it’s going to take everything you can give and more.  I will just go down the same way I did when I got Hawk and Tigerman out.”  He grinned.  “I’ll just borrow a uniform.”  He quickly found one the right size and changed.  “Give me a few minutes to get there and then send the gas out.  This needs to be done before the game is over.”

“Be careful,” Barney said.  

“Piece of cake,” Buck repeated, this time using a thumb’s up signal.  He stuck one laser pistol in its holster and kept the other one at ready.  A hand-held communicator went into his pocket, then he turned and headed for the other cell block.  With the uniform on, Buck was not challenged and all of the guards he met were quickly rendered unconscious.  Only once did he meet with any resistance and that was at the entrance of the cellblock.   Beros’ card got him in, but the guard at the door challenged him, demanding a password.  Buck felt the heat of the guard’s laser, but fortunately not the burn.  He finally caught the guard with his laser and watched him slide to the ground in satisfaction.  Buck stayed alert, however, checking the bend in each corridor, the contents of each cell.  

At the guard’s station, Buck was not surprised to see no one there.  He listened carefully, watched the two other corridors leading away, but saw no evidence of anyone.  Sitting down at the computer console, Buck checked the vid screens and saw only cells with sleeping prisoners.  

He sighed, having hoped for a quiet take-over.  There had to be at least two other guards out there.  Then he spotted one near the end of the corridor leading to the loading dock.  That one could be easily gone by the time he got there.  Buck spotted another one, sneaking toward his position in the shadows.  Quickly, Buck found Tigerman’s cell and was not surprised to see the Rrilling standing at his cell door gazing out in anticipation.  The dark eyes looked upward at the vid camera and Buck would have sworn that he knew he was watching him.  Studying the controls Buck found one that would allow him to communicate with various parts of the cellblock, as well as unlock the cell doors.  “Tigerman,” he said, hopefully just loud enough for the felinoid to hear him.  “Your cell is unlocked. Be careful; there are guards prowling around.” 

Tigerman uncannily looked directly into his eyes and then nodded, opening his cell door and cautiously stepping out.  

Glancing at the monitors again, Buck saw other watchful prisoners, but he also saw one of the guards very close to his position.  He heard a very light tread and ducked behind a console as a laser blast lanced out above his head.  Rolling under the console, Buck dashed to the opposite end of the control room, firing off a shot of his own.  A soft thud told him he’d scored, and he doubled back to check the guard out and confiscate his weapon.  Buck headed down the corridor to the tiny cell where he had lived with Tigerman for a few days and was nearly jerked off his feet by something that felt like a steel pylon.  

Buck found himself flat on his back on the floor, gasping for air and gazing up into the grinning face of Tigerman.  At least he thought the Rrilling was grinning.  “Hey, it’s me, Buck!” 

Tigerman laughed softly.  “I know.” 

“Well, we’d better be careful or we’ll have the company of at least one guard,” Buck said as Tigerman helped him up.  

Tigerman just pointed.  On the floor were two guards, lying together in a heap.  Buck looked back at Tigerman in astonishment.  The felinoid simply grinned all the more.  “No more, I think.” 

“Let’s shove them in your cell and then find out.”  

Tigerman laughed, the sound almost a cross between a purr and a growl.  “See how they like it,” he said tersely.  

Buck laughed with him.  A check of the area revealed no more guards.  Several of the prisoners, human as well as non-human were awake, gazing at him in open curiosity, hopeful.  He pulled out the communicator.  “Ril, Barney?  What’s up?” 

“The gas has been sent out and except for one or two guards who had the foresight to have masks, it’s been a peaceful takeover.  We’re just getting some of the known hot heads and recalcitrants in cells while the gas disseminates,” Ril answered. 

“Hopefully, I’ll have some help for you soon,” Buck replied.  

“Good.  We’re going to have a lot of questions to answer when some of the folks wake up,” Ril said.  

Buck shut off the communicator and he and Tigerman headed for the cell block communications center.  Studying the console, Buck quickly opened the cell block communicator and began speaking into it.  “Fellow inmates,” he began.  “This is Captain Buck Rogers, formerly known as number twelve-sixteen.  We are currently in control of the cell block.  Steps are being taken to get control of the other cell block.”  He paused for dramatic effect.  “Be aware, however, this will be an orderly takeover.  Those who riot, cause injury to other beings, whether fellow prisoners or guards will be quickly dealt with.”  Buck sat back and listened.  There were distant cheers, some shouting for liberation.  

Nodding to Tigerman, he began down the cell block, stopping in front of each cell.  The question was the same, “Can you refrain from violence and revenge?”  From most he got quick agreement and Buck opened their cell doors.  Tigerman disapproved of several and Buck trusted his judgment, leaving the men in their cells.   When all were assembled in the mess area, he addressed them again.  

“Friends, you are free, you have the means to start over again….” 

“What about the company?” asked one, a Direllexian, whose large luminous eyes hinted of distrust.  

“Can we leave the mines, live on the surface?” 

“What about the guards?”

“Can we go home?” 

Buck held up his hand.  “The company doesn’t know about this yet and as soon as we have Cell Block One secure, you can leave.  The surface is beautiful and very fertile.”  He paused.  “Any guards who want to remain will be welcome to do so.  There will be no revenge.”

“I want to go home,” a small furry creature, one no larger than Twiki repeated. 

“So do I,” Buck replied quickly, but with great feeling.  “But that will come a bit later.”  He smiled.  “I think I have an angle on that.  But right now, let’s go help them in Block One and we can then work all this out.”

 

 

Chapter Thirty-four
Forerunners of Bosk Prologue
Buck Rogers Contents
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