Forerunners of Bosk
“Hey, Forerunner,” the
guard said as Buck gathered his breakfast ‘porridge’ from the server.
He quickly looked at it in
disgust before turning his attention to the guard.
Same breakfast, same dinner; nothing in between.
Not that he hadn’t needed to drop a few pounds, but he’d had to
tighten his belt several times since he came to this hole.
With a sigh, he looked at the guard, then pointed to himself.
It’s Recreation Day.”
Buck’s eyebrow raised in
inquiry and puzzlement. Recreation
day? What the hell is that?
“Uh, what does one do on Recreation Day, if I may ask?”
“You use the recreation room and exercise, or lay around under a sun lamp,” the guard told him. “What do you think you would do?”
“I don’t know.
I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing,” Buck replied
a bit sarcastically. At a
dour look from the guard, he shut up.
“There is and in your case
it was for your efforts in saving that injured forerunner last week,”
the guard said. “As soon as you eat your breakfast, a ‘privileged’ will
Buck nodded and turned back
to his food. He wondered if
Hawk would be there. Then he
wondered if anyone would be and if so would he still be under the same
edict of silence that he had been since his arrival.
It had seemed forever, this probation.
Buck knew that he was well beyond the two weeks that Beros had told
him probation was, but the only time he had asked, he had almost had a
stun pistol shoved down his throat. Somehow,
he couldn’t help but think that he had been singled out for ‘special
treatment.’ Or maybe Beros
hadn’t cared for his comments when they had first met.
Needless to say, though, his behavior not only effected his
treatment, but more importantly, Hawk’s.
So he had been careful since that day in Beros’ office.
Only that time when the blast had gone wrong had he lost his cool
and gone dangerously close to a punishment.
Buck continued to think
about Hawk, wondering how he was coping in this vision from some
sadist’s most elaborate version of hell.
The spoonful of mush paused halfway to his mouth.
Buck wished that his friend had followed through on his desire to
stay with his own people. Hawk
would be free right now. And
if he, himself, had paid more attention when they had returned to their
shuttle? Buck sighed,
shoving aside the useless could-have-beens, would-have-beens, might-have-beens
and ate, not even tasting the bland mush, and certainly long past gagging
over its cloying texture. It
was sustenance, after all.
Buck began to wonder anew
about this ‘Recreation Day’ and could only guess that even the cretins
that ran this operation saw the benefit in giving the prisoners some
diversion from the torment of endless mining and blasting.
There began to be some small stirrings of anticipation about this
Recreation Day. While still feeling that such a thing must be too good to be
true, Buck finished his breakfast quickly.
A ‘privileged,’ an older man, beckoned and Buck tossed his bowl
and spoon into the wash bin and followed.
They walked down a corridor that ended in a large cavernous room
with bright enough lights to dispel all shadows.
Buck blinked at the bright
light and looked around. The
ceiling was almost cathedral like, partly natural and partly carved out.
There was a tall lip of stone along one side, almost like a natural
running track, but he knew that it was just something that was there.
It appeared that it served as a place to allow the electrical
conduits. Dr. Huer would gaze
at such a set-up and make a comment on its primitive-ness.
Right now, though, it seemed almost homey until he reminded himself
where he was. Buck
continued to gaze around. The
floor had been smoothed enough to lay a hard wooden covering on it.
Around the outsides of the cavern, there were benches, some with
individual lamps, presumably the sunlamps that the guard had mentioned.
There were balls of various sizes lying in racks along with other
sports implements. There
were various exercise bars and other equipment mounted on the walls.
Buck saw a few men on the opposite side of the room, bare-chested,
grappling in what appeared to be something very close to Olympic style
wrestling. It was
indeed a recreation room and Buck wondered at the extra expense that had
to have gone into this.
“Enjoy yourself, forerunner,” the privileged said. “It only happens once in a great while.”
“How long do I have in
heaven?” he asked, still staring about him in the wonder of it.
“At least half a day,
forerunner,” his guide said with a chuckle.
“But don’t get any ideas about taking some of the equipment and
trying to cause a riot or escape. They
monitor this place.” He
pointed to various places on the stone walls and Buck saw devices that
looked like video equipment.
“I’ll remember that,”
Buck answered, walking over to one of the benches and looking it over.
“Someone will be back when
your time is up.” The
privileged turned and left.
With a sigh, Buck lay down
and relaxed as the lights bathed him in soft warmth.
He closed his eyes and pretended to be on the beach out on the
Cape. That lasted for only a few minutes. Nothing could dispel the totality of his imprisonment.
Restless, he got up and walked the perimeter of the cavern.
There was a room off to one side, that when he peered in the
doorway, seemed to be a locker room of sorts, complete with showers. Showers!!
Honest to goodness showers! With
a grin, he started in, already feeling the pleasure of warm, clean water
on his skin.
“Forerunner, you aren’t
allowed in there,” a voice told him from behind.
Buck turned and saw a guard
approaching him, an irritated expression on his face.
Gazing at the room one more time, he shrugged and turned back to
the cavern. “A guy can
hope, I suppose.” Buck was
astonished at how his world had narrowed to desires for simple things like
showers, decent meals and warmth. It
made so many other things he had felt important, to absolute and
ridiculous insignificance. Then
anger began to supplant the disappointment.
He barely had enough water in his cell to quench his thirst most
days, much less bathe. Some
days he went thirsty in order to maintain some tiny semblance of hygiene.
And here were showers, empty and begging for a dirty forerunner to
“I don’t even know why
they are letting prisoners in here during our time off,” another guard
Buck took a deep breath,
trying to rein in his growing irritation.
It would do no good to antagonize the guards, knowing that it would
most likely curtail his use of this facility.
With a shrug, Buck simply smiled innocently and said, “I guess I
was a good boy and Santa Claus gave me my Christmas present early.”
The frown deepened. “Are
you trying to be clever with me?”
“No, when I saw the
showers, I was only hoping that I could take a few moments to get
clean,” Buck said evenly, still trying to temper his anger.
“This is for the guards.
There are places for prisoners to shower.”
“Over there,” the guard
said, pointing to the other side of the room.
“Thanks,” Buck said.
He sauntered over to the other room and saw a much smaller, dim and
dank room. The showers
consisted of crude conduits with a faucet-type control under each one. There were only a few such showers, but Buck wasn’t going
to be picky. He wasn’t
going to be picky about the dim light, the rough hewn, damp walls and the
slightly slippery, stone floor. After
pulling off his boots, he walked over and turned the faucet, standing
under the conduit, clothes and all. Only
once during his sojourn here had he been given a change of clothes and
like his body, he had done his best to clean them with the tiny bit of
water in his cell. Here was
the opportunity get thoroughly clean.
However, when the water hit
him, he almost cried out in shock. It
was as cold as ice. His skin
crawled and his teeth chattered. But
Buck endured. It was water
and there was plenty of it. Nearby
was a small shelf bolted on the rock wall.
It held a bar of soap and a depilatory.
Even better, he thought, grabbing the items and returning to
the Arctic waterfall. Quickly
stripping off his clothes, he bathed, took off his beard and then he
washed his clothes. He turned
off the faucet, wrung his clothes out, and put them back on.
With his boots in his hands, Buck quickly dashed across the cavern
and lay under one of the sun lamps. Soon
he had stopped shivering and felt the warmth of the heat lamps penetrating
the damp clothes. Rolling
over, Buck lay quietly, letting his clothes dry, almost falling asleep
before getting back up with a satisfied sigh.
He wandered toward the other
side of the cavern. Pulling
one of the balls out of a rack, he bounced it on the ground.
It had the size and feel of a basketball, and although hoops
weren’t exactly his forte, it was something familiar.
Buck remembered the one-on-one games that he and his brother used
to play, the friendly and sometimes not so friendly competitions among his
fellow Air Force cadets. The
ball had a nice bounce to it and Buck began dribbling it back and forth
across the cavern floor. There
were chinning bars attached to the stone wall that were a few feet shy of
the right height for regulation basketball hoops and Buck headed toward
one, continuing to dribble. Still
have it, he gloated mentally. Passing
the ball back and forth, changing hands, dribbling forward and then
backward, as though avoiding a defensive guard.
He continued dribbling across the cavern, pointedly ignoring the
few guards who were exercising on the opposite of the rec room.
As he approached the chinning bar, Buck stopped short, pivoted on
one foot and then launched his field goal shot.
It sailed over the bar and behind it, bouncing on the ground a
couple of times before he scooped it up and began his dribbling again.
Trying to take his mind off
of the past weeks, Buck immersed himself in plays, moves and strategies
against imaginary foes. Then
he approached the quasi-goal and tried a slam-dunk.
Leaping up, he shoved the ball behind the chinning bar even as he
grabbed it. With a grin, Buck chinned himself and then let go.
It didn’t matter that the lack of height of the bar was to his
advantage in a makeshift game of basketball, it only mattered that this
was the first fun he had enjoyed since his capture and subsequent
“What do you call that, forerunner?” someone called out from behind him.
Buck straightened up from
gathering up the ball and faced the approaching guard.
sport from my neck of the woods.”
Never heard of it.”
“I don’t doubt it.
But it’s over five hundred years old, regardless.”
Buck grinned. “It’s a team sport.
Need at least five players on each side for a regulation game, but
you can make do with less for informal play.”
“How do you play?
Doesn’t look that complicated,” the guard said.
He looked familiar to Buck.
“Well, it would be better
if you had a basket instead of the chinning bar, and if it was a few feet
higher, but we can make do,” Buck replied.
The other two guards looked a bit dubious.
“Basket?” the guard
“Sure, it’s a hoop with
a net hanging down. In the
very beginning, the inventor used peach baskets nailed to trees,” Buck
said. Then he grinned.
“It was hell trying to climb up and retrieve balls until someone
got the bright idea of cutting a hole in the bottom.”
The guard smiled back and
Buck recognized him. It was
the same guard that helped him dig out the injured forerunner.
“Let me show you how to dribble the ball,” he suggested.
“What is the purpose of
doing something like that?” one of the other men asked with a snort when
Buck had demonstrated.
“Wouldn’t be sporting if
you could just pick up the ball and run with it,” Buck replied.
“There has to be some challenge.
Now you come after me and try to keep me from making a field goal. You can’t punch, hit or knock the ball handler around, but
there is a certain amount of contact allowed.”
“Field goal?” the first
“That’s when you shoot
the ball toward the basket. If
you get it in, then it’s a goal. Two
“If you do it from half
court, it’s three points.” Buck
showed them how to guard and block and then began dribbling toward the
goal, pivoting and moving in another direction when the men began closing
on him. Buck dodged and
weaved, slowly moving the ball toward the chinning bar.
The guards began to get into the game, waving their arms, coming
close to batting the ball away. Finally
Buck pushed past one guard, stopped, and shot.
The ball sailed over the chinning bar and bounced on the ground.
“That was great blocking,” he puffed.
“And a great workout.”
“Could we play two on
two?” the familiar guard asked.
“Sure,” Buck replied.
They paired up and played, Buck showing the guards more moves and
plays as he remembered them.
During a short break,
Buck’s partner, the familiar guard, leaned against the wall and
chuckled. “I don’t think
I have had a better diversion since I began here.”
Buck looked at him in
curiosity. “How long has that been?”
“About six years.”
The guard looked at Buck. In
a softer voice, one that only Buck could hear, he said, “I am Ril, by
Buck nodded and then
frowned. He felt the beginnings of a headache and wondered if that
freezing shower and then the intense workout might have been too much.
But then he dismissed it; he had done far worse in the Air Force
Academy. He took the
ball and began playing again, then stopped when he noticed his hands
shaking. “What the….?”
he murmured. Buck
stopped and tried to catch his breath.
Apparently, he had done too much.
Just a rest, that was all he needed.
He sat down on one of the smaller benches.
“Are you all right?” Ril
asked. The other two guards stood back and watched him.
“Yeah, overdid it, I
think,” Buck answered. “Just
need to rest a bit.” He lay
down and tried to get comfortable. He
continued to lie there a while as the others began to play more
basketball. Their laughter floated in and out of his consciousness as he
wondered what was wrong with him. This
was more than being out of shape.
And then Buck realized that he had not received his shot earlier in
the day. The one that was
supposed to get rid of the parasitic condition.
Apparently not yet.
But I don’t have the same symptoms as before.
However, this place wasn’t exactly a healthy environment, he
thought sardonically. Just
have a cold or something, that’s all.
“You sure you’re all
right?” Ril asked. His
concern, unlike the others, seemed genuine.
“Yeah, I’m all right,”
Buck said. “Just needed a break.”
And to prove his point, he got up and joined in the play.
His headache continued, but the trembling had eased up and he got
the ball and began dribbling down the court.
As he made another field goal, he found his lungs laboring to draw
in enough air. Apparently, he
was not over his problem with the parasites.
The drug, while quick acting, didn’t eradicate the problem.
And the idea of something growing inside his body continued to
As soon as he caught his
breath, Buck began to play again.
But as he was trying to guard one of the men, Buck felt
light-headed, his heart thundering in his chest, which was heaving to draw
in air. Suddenly he found
himself on the floor, Ril’s face close to his.
“No, not . . . all right. Parasite.
Not over it.”
“You have your medicine
this morning? Ril asked.
“I think you’ll breathe
easier if you are sitting up. Then
I’ll call medical,” he said as he helped Buck to a bench.
The pain in his head was a throbbing that warred with his struggle for air. Buck tried to stand up, but fell back on the bench, hacking and choking. He moaned, saw his hands shaking again, but he wasn’t cold. On the contrary, he felt the sweat rolling down his face. He was just miserable. Miserable as hell. He sat quietly, concentrating on breathing slowly and deliberately, and finally he began to feel some semblance of relief.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|