Corridors of Time
A Buck Rogers/Time Tunnel crossover
Buck quickly saddled and bridled the gelding he had ridden before. The horse turned his head and gazed at him with eyes that seemed to question his sanity. The wind whistled through cracks in the wooden boards of the barn, giving scant credence to the bright afternoon sunshine outside. "Yeah, we’re both nuts, but I’ll give you something extra when we find Tony and get back." The horse only shook his head and snorted.
Buck led the gelding outside the barn and then tightened the hood of his parka when the wind threatened to tear it off. With a deep breath, he mounted and rode down the wind-swept dirt driveway that led to the main road going into town. Drifts of snow had already reconfigured themselves from earlier in the day and the wind blew pellets of old snow into his face as they cantered along. He passed through the gate, one side almost covered in a drift and the other side scoured to the bare ground, and turned down the road toward Wolf Creek. The wind whipped into his face and a snort from the gelding told Buck that the horse was unhappy about it as much as he was. They continued onward at the same slow canter. It was fast enough to eat up the miles but slow enough to allow him to study the places along the road where a truck might have gone off into the ditch.
The sun continued to shine, but it gave scant heat. He figured he had gone a couple of miles when he saw a vehicle half-buried in a drift ahead of him. The horse had slowed to a trot by this time and Buck hadn’t argued with him. Now, however, he urged the gelding back into a canter and quickly reached the truck. He dismounted before the horse came to a complete stop and rushed to the stalled vehicle that was slightly tipped to one side. "Tony!" he called out, hoping to be heard over the wind. "Tony!" Buck jumped onto the running board and jerked on the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He wiped the icy pellets from the window and peered in. He breathed on the window and wiped away more ice.
Buck saw a figure inside but couldn’t see any movement. Then Tony raised his hand slightly. Buck jerked on the door again. It was most likely frozen shut. He could break the window out, but would prefer not to take the chance of hurting Tony further with broken glass. If he had more muscle to get the door open…. Buck turned back toward the horse and pulled off the rope that was tied to the back of the saddle. He tied one end to the door handle and the other he tied to the saddle horn. Then he mounted and urged the horse back. It was a well-trained cow pony and immediately began to step back. The rope became taught and the horse hesitated. Buck urged it back with a nudge of his heels in its shoulder and the gelding strained back two more steps. "Come on," he murmured and the horse pulled harder. More urging and then the door creaked, but still held. The gelding pulled harder and the metal groaned. The handle gave a great shriek and came loose from the door, sailing past the horse’s head from released tension.
The gelding snorted and pranced and Buck calmed him with a hand to his neck. It was inevitable; he would have to break the glass. Dismounting, Buck grabbed up the bent handle, untied the rope and returned to the truck. "Tony, I’m going to break the glass. Cover your head if you can." With the handle, he struck the bottom of the window and watched the shards of broken glass burst inward. Most of the pieces, thankfully, showered the driver’s side seat. Tony had slid to the other side either during or after the wreck and was lying against the passenger side door. Buck struggled through the open window, brushing the glass away before he sat down. "Tony, can you hear me?" he asked, anxiously. The time traveler hadn’t moved since that first slight movement of his hand.
"Mmmm, yeah," came a low murmur.
"You injured?" Buck asked.
"Too cold to tell," Tony replied slowly, finally opening his eyes. They seemed slightly unfocussed and Buck wondered if it was just the effects of cold or if Tony had been hurt when the truck had gone off the road.
"Let me check you over as best as I can, then I’ll have to try and get you out of here."
Tony nodded slightly. "Had problems steering. Right from the start. Engine began heating. Frozen, think…."
"Mmmm," Buck said non-committally as he continued looking the other man over. No bones seemed broken but he could have missed something through the heavy material of Tony’s coat.
Suddenly there was a soft popping sound, a breath of warm air and a small box lay on the seat between him and Tony. Buck looked at it in surprise and then it dawned on him. The Tunnel.
"Buck," came a slightly spectral voice. It was Dr. Huer.
"The watch inside contains the locater markers needed to bring Dr. Newman back to the Tunnel and to the medical attention he needs," Huer explained.
Buck opened the box and saw what appeared to be a gold watch, without hour or minute hands. The dial glowed slightly in a similitude of the Tunnel rings. He slipped it on the semi-conscious man’s wrist.
"Ann. What about Ann?" Tony murmured.
"A qualified physician has been sent to the ranch house to aid her in the delivery of her baby," Dr. Huer replied, the voice still strangely echoing.
Buck couldn’t help but wonder just how much the Tunnel people had been watching. No matter now. It was a good thing they were. "I’m going back on the horse, then. Take care of Tony," Buck said as the air around Tony seemed to glow slightly and then waver. Tony’s figure blurred and then it faded quickly. He was gone. The horse whinnied from just outside the truck and Buck crawled outside to see the glowing orange of the western mountains as the sun began to slide behind them. He would have to hurry if he was going to make it before it got dark.
Quickly mounting, Buck urged the horse back up the road he had just traversed. The gelding needed no further urging. It simply wanted to be back in its stall where there was some measure of warmth, as well as food and water. As long as the road didn’t appear icy or have drifts, Buck let the horse canter. Most of the time, though, he had to keep the animal to a trot. Still, the stars were appearing in the darkened sky by the time he reached the gate. It took all his strength to keep the horse from breaking out into a full gallop. This close, Buck certainly didn’t want to break his neck. Thankfully, by this time, the wind had actually died down a great deal.
As anxious as he was to know of Ann’s condition, Buck still made sure the gelding was comfortable in his stall. He had put a blanket on him so he wouldn’t chill after the saddle had been removed, and gave him a small amount of oats and some hay to munch on. Buck broke the ice on the top of the small trough and checked the other horses briefly before he headed out of the barn and toward the ranch house. Wilma was waiting at the door.
"I thought I heard the sound of a horse, but began to wonder when you didn’t come in," she said.
"Had to take care of the horse before I came in, Wilma, otherwise it would have gotten sick," he replied. "How’s Ann? Did the doctor from the Tunnel get here?"
She nodded. "About an hour ago."
"She did a diagnostic and found one of the babies was breach and having some respiratory distress."
"One? There’s more than one?" Buck asked, incredulous.
"Yes. Twins. Dr. Marley is surgically removing both babies
"A C-section? Well, I’ll be…." Then he had a thought. "But Ann…."
"Will be fine. Dr. Marley said she’d be all right." Then it was Wilma’s turn to have a sudden new thought. "What about Tony? Did you find him?"
"Yes, I did. The truck had run off the road, but he was still alive. The Tunnel retrieved him and he should be fine by now."
Wilma let out a sigh of relief. They both looked up as Doug called from the bedroom.
Tony knew he wasn’t in the truck anymore, but he wasn’t sure where he was. He opened his eyes slowly and blinked at the array of rainbow lights that greeted him before he landed within the oval rings of the device he thought he would never see again. His legs wouldn’t support him and Tony collapsed onto the ramp that ran the length of the temporal device. He heard voices and then felt hands. "Buck?" he mouthed.
"No, I am Dr. Elias Huer. You are back in your tunnel and we have a doctor here to help you, Dr. Newman."
Dr. Newman, he wondered. Tunnel? He was truly here in the Tunnel. Then everything faded into conflicting light and dark, and warmth and cold. Finally there was nothing.
Later he woke in a dimly lit room, the sound of instruments clicking and chirping all around him. He was in a bed . . . in the med bay . . . of the Tunnel. He hadn’t imagined it. He was back . . . or forward, if what Buck had told him was true. Tony let his eyes rove around the room without turning his head, and then he turned his head, first to one side and then to the other. A slightly strange looking machine was next to him and he was hooked to it. He didn’t feel the discomfort of intravenous ‘attachment’ though and wondered what this machine did. He felt almost comfortably warm, despite only being covered with a thin blanket.
His mind cleared even more and Tony sat up, mindful of the lightweight band around his arm that appeared to attach the glowing tubes from the machine to his body. The blanket fell away from his chest and he realized that he was not dressed at all. A young woman came into the room, followed by an older man.
"Ah, Dr. Newman, you are awake and apparently feeling much better," the older man said jovially. He smiled pleasantly and Tony felt warmed by his presence. Not as much for the woman. He glanced down to make sure the blanket was strategically resting across his thighs and around his waist.
"Dr. Newman, you were hypothermic and you need to stay in the bed until you are completely back to normal," she said, not sternly, but with a no-nonsense tone that brooked no argument.
"But I feel fine," Tony protested, as the nurse gently pushed him back into a prone position.
She smiled and her demeanor seemed to soften somewhat. He returned the smile. "Be that as it may," she replied. "I need to at least check you over and make sure all your diagnostic readings agree with you." She turned to the machine and Tony studied the older man who had been standing quietly by the side of the bed.
"I am Dr. Elias Huer, head of the Directorate of Earth," he said.
Tony remembered that name as well as the voice, but couldn’t figure from where. Then it dawned on him. "You were the voice in the truck."
He smiled and nodded. "Yes, we couldn’t get a fix on you until Buck found you."
"But then you sent something that allowed you to pull me back," Tony finished, incredulous. "But how? Our scientists weren’t able to do that in all the years Doug and I were out there."
Huer only shook his head. "You will have to discuss that with Dr. Malcome. As I understand it though, it was a combination of some new technology, something from off planet that would more safely allow a fix on a living body and the fact that your previous tie to the Tunnel had been severed by . . . uh, time, so to speak."
"Oh," Tony replied, knowing that a good long talk with this Dr. Malcome would occur as soon as he was released from the infirmary. "I congratulate you."
"Tony," he corrected quickly.
"Tony," Huer began again. "I am thoroughly amazed at the amount of scientific progress you were able to make with the materials and technology at hand 500 years ago. Frit simply studied what was already here, and then used our improved technology to build upon that. Things went rapidly from then on."
"And you only want the Tunnel for scientific research," Tony said bluntly. "No forays against enemies, nothing to change the past to suit your own present."
"Doctor, it seems to me that while you began this with the idea of research and study of the past, you and your partner tried to change the past, even if it was only to help those you had become acquainted with. Or to save lives."
"Touché, Dr. Huer," Tony said with a sigh. "We lost our objectivity. We were only fortunate that some kind of bigger-than-us-force seemed to be keeping temporal integrity intact." He ran his hand through his dark hair and smiled softly. "Most of the time we were only trying to stay alive. That was why it was decided that the experiments to bring us back would be conducted those last few years with a minimum of movement in time. We figured we had been lucky those first years and our luck might run out and we’d do something horribly drastic to the fabric of time."
"And yet, it seemed that you were a part of that fabric, Tony. From what we read in Dr. Ricker’s journal, plus what we could pull from your computers, you and Dr. Phillips were a part of history and meant to be there at the times and places you went to. Dr. Ricker found some kind of study in the early 1980’s that he called the Novikov self-consistency principle that said something pretty close to what you are saying."
Tony remembered vignettes of some of their adventures and nodded. "Certainly seemed that way, but then there was the Tunnel’s part in the horrible nuclear holocaust in 1987."
"Yes, again, our first inclination was to learn enough about the operation of this tunnel so that we could go back and prevent what had happened. I don’t think we would be able to do that after all we have learned."
"I’m not sure you would really want to," Tony began and then hastily continued. "If not Becker, then someone else would most likely have come along, if not then, probably later." He felt his mind was running in circles, but Dr. Huer’s eyes showed understanding.
"Yes, I thought of that, too," Huer admitted. "That is why I have decided that for now, this complex and this technology will remain secret and will only be used to relearn a past that was lost to us a half a millennium ago."
Tony nodded. "Wise decision, as far as I can tell." He gazed at the nurse. "Am I going to live?" he asked ironically.
She frowned at him and then laughed when he smiled his reassurance. Her dark brown eyes sparkled with humor. "Yes, Dr. Newman, you are going to live. And," she added, "You are going to be released from my clutches."
He laughed at her quick humor. "Perhaps I ought to be sick again."
She studied him carefully and then blushed. "Dr. Newman…."
"Tony, please." Then he realized something. "I don’t even know your name."
"Dr. Carbonne," she replied promptly.
"Your first name, Doctor, if I may. We are in a pretty closed society here in the Tunnel complex."
"Aiyanna," she said after slight hesitation. "And do you come on to all women like this? Is this a twentieth century thing? I remember Colonel Deering saying something of the like about Captain Rogers."
Tony couldn’t help it, he laughed softly. "Maybe it is. But I have learned over the course of my travels that you can’t let things wait for the next day or even for the next moment." His smile faded at the thought of another woman of dark hair, complexion and dark eyes. Then he pushed that one away and studied the woman in front of him. "I hope that philosophy doesn’t offend you."
"No, it doesn’t and I can understand why you feel that way. I am familiar with the records here, since I am not only a medical doctor, but a bio-physicist."
Tony was astonished but tried not to show it. He simply nodded, glanced at the still present Dr. Huer and then returned his attention to Aiyanna. "We have much to talk about, then, Aiyanna. But first . . . um, could someone bring me some clothes? Streaking was big in the seventies, Ann told me, but I would really prefer not to do that here."
Both Huer and Aiyanna looked puzzled, but the latter quickly recovered her aplomb. "Of course, Tony, I’ll have some clothing brought here immediately."