Corridors of Time

 

A Buck Rogers/Time Tunnel crossover

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

 

Buck gazed at the two small babies in wonder. They lay quietly, side by side in the large basinet next to Annís bed. Wilma had helped Ann clean up, to be more presentable as Wilma had put it, and she and the doctor and Doug had cleaned up the evidence of the difficult birth. Now the scene was one of calm satisfaction, although Ann appeared ready for a very long sleep. Little Tony was squirming in Buckís arms, calling for his daddy.

Doug came over and took the little boy from Buckís arms. "Thanks," he said to Buck as the toddler hugged his father tightly. Turning his attention to the little boy, he murmured, "Do you want to see your new sisters?" The boy nodded and Doug walked the few steps to the basinet. Ann watched silently, a tired smile on her face.

Wilma came over to Buck and reached a hand around his waist. "They are beautiful, arenít they?" she asked.

"Yes, they are. I am amazed at how tiny they are, though. Perhaps we should leave the family alone." He had noticed that the doctor had already left the bedroom and was most likely relaxing in the living room in front of the fireplace.

"Good idea," Wilma agreed. They left, arm in arm and entered the dark coziness of the living room with its roaring fire. The doctor was indeed sitting quietly in one of the easy chairs. She turned when the couple entered. "I am glad I came when I did. Everyone is going to be just fine."

With a smile, Wilma led Buck to the couch near where the doctor was sitting. "There is plenty in the kitchen to eat. Are you hungry?"

"Yes, I am, but you relax for a while," Dr. Marley replied.

"No, Iím hungry, too. Iíll make us some turkey sandwiches and bring them in here," Wilma answered as she got up.

After she had left, Dr. Marley drew in a deep breath. "I will be returning to the Tunnel complex in another day or so just as soon as I am sure the babies and mom will be all right. And speaking of which, what will everyone else be doing?" she asked bluntly. "Insofar as the Tunnel is concerned."

"I know that Wilma and I wonít be going back immediately. With Tony Newman in the complex for now, Dougís going to need some help here for a while," Buck said, evading the question that he knew was on the doctorís mind. It was on his mind as well. Buck was pretty sure that Tony would re-establish his roots in the complex, but what about Ann and Doug? "Eventually weíll be going back." A thought crossed his mind but he discarded it immediately.

"The children would be much better off in the future."

"That might be subject to debate," Buck stated. At the doctorís sharp look, he continued. "There are more conveniences in the future, but there is a simplicity here that canít be ignored," Buck explained. "Itís a peaceful beauty here that you donít find on most of Earth in the future. Clean air, no pockets of radioactive wasteland as yet. And there is pure water, trees, mountains, sunsets that would rival any on other worlds."

"You sound as though you would like to stay," Marley said.

"I guess it does sound that way. However, despite what I have said, I realize that I just donít belong here in this time or the time in which I grew up. You know the old saying; you canít go home again," Buck replied, then sighed. "Although itís a helluva nice place to visit here. And to be honest with you, I have learned to love the twenty-fifth century . . . and those in it." He paused. "I guess that is the main thingóthe people I have learned to love." He glanced toward the kitchen then turned to gaze at the fire.

"Isnít that the real key, Buck?" Marley asked. "Itís not where youíre at, but who youíre with?"

"I suppose thatís a great deal of it." The fire crackled merrily and the flames danced as though to music. Perhaps, thought Buck, it was the music of contentment.

Several minutes later, Wilma came in with a tray of sandwiches, each piled high with slabs of turkey. For someone who grew up and lived with faux everything as well as instantly processed and packaged foods, she was getting pretty good at fixing meals from the real deal, Buck thought. Though there wasnít much on the bread beside turkey, butter and mustard, it was very good. They ate in companionable silence. "I put some of the turkey in a pot with water, like you said your mother used to do with the Christmas turkey, Buck," Wilma said after a few minutes. "I thought Ann would like some turkey soup." She paused. "I put in some salt and pepper, but what else did you say was good in that kind of soup?"

"Hmm," Buck began, thinking quickly. "I think that there were some peas left from the dinner yesterday. Weíll see if there are any potatoes and any other vegetables. It would be great if there were some noodlesÖ." He finished his sandwich. "Let me go in and see whatís there," he told her. "You relax. Youíve been at it pretty hard all day."

All during this time, Dr. Marley had sat quietly, enjoying her sandwich. Finally she responded to the conversation. "I think what youíve described would be good for a new mother. Actually," she added, "It would be good for all of us."

Buck just smiled and got up. He rummaged around in the kitchen, went into the basement where there were still some vegetables packed in barrels and then began washing and peeling. To his surprise, there were some packaged, dried noodles and he added some of those. Soon the large pot was simmering with several types of vegetables and the noodles were waiting by the side to be added. When he went back into the living room, he saw that Doug, with little Tony dozing in his lap, was sitting in front of the fire talking to Wilma and Dr. Marley.

"You two want something to eat?" Buck asked.

"We finished what was on the platter," Doug said. "Thanks." Then he looked startled. "Whereís Tony? I was told he had gone out for the doctor, but you are from the Tunnel," Doug looked at each of them in turn. "I remember someone saying he was okayÖ."

"He is, Doug," Buck said quickly. "I found him where his truck had slid off the road and the Tunnel was able to do a fix and transfer him."

"Was he hurt when you found him?"

"If anything, a mild concussion, but I think he was affected by the cold more than anything. Iím just glad I found him when I did."

Doug sighed. "I canít believe I forgot about him."

"You kind of had other things on your mind, Dr. Phillips," Marley said and rightly so. "Your wife was in a dangerous situation."

"Iím glad you came, Doctor," Doug said softly. He watched the fire slowly dying as the toddler fell fast asleep in his arms.

Wilma got up and carefully picked up the child from his fatherís arms. "Let me put him to bed."

Doug nodded. "Are you sure the babies and Ann will be all right?" he asked the doctor.

"I wonít go anywhere until I am sure, Dr. Phillips," Marley assured him. She yawned. "I hope you have another room where I can get a quick nap, though."

"Of course," Buck said. "Tonyís bungalow is next door and there are two bedrooms. You and Wilma can sleep there tonight if you want. I know Tony wonít mind."

Marley smiled her thanks and got up. As soon as Wilma returned, they headed toward the smaller house. Doug rubbed his eyes and tried hard to stifle a yawn.

"Why donít you lie on the couch and catch a nap," Buck suggested. "Iíll take care of stoking up the stove downstairs and you will be able to listen for Ann or the babies. Iíll be back shortly and can take over for you." Before the other man could say anything, Buck was already heading for the basement. He stopped in the kitchen and checked the pot on the stove. The smell emanating from the pot reminded him of his motherís kitchen. He threw in a small log to keep the stove going and then headed toward the basement.

After he had checked on the ladies, making sure they had enough wood for the night, he was back in the living room. Doug was relaxed on the couch, but not asleep. His eyes focused on the dying flames in the fireplace. It was warm so Buck didnít grab a blanket from the back of the easy chair he sat in. "You want to try to get some sleep in the spare bedroom?" he asked.

"No," Doug said simply. He sucked in a deep breath. It was silent for a while. "If you and Wilma hadnít comeÖ. If the Tunnel hadnít been monitoringÖ."

"Iím just glad we did and they were, Doug. I think Jerry used a word in his journalóserendipitousóin regard to what happened to you and Tony during some of your travels. I think even better was the sentiment that he expressed often that you two were part of the fabric of time and meant to be where and when you were and doing the things that you two did, if that makes sense." Doug nodded in the dim light. "I guess Wilma and I were part of that same fabric when we came."

"She could have died. She would have died," Doug said with a slight catch in his throat as he said the last. "I would have lost her."

Buck didnít say anything. He had surmised the same thing and it wouldnít have done any good whatsoever to say anything different.

"And these babies that have been saved by the Tunnel will be victims of the Tunnel in a little more than fifty years." Doug paused a moment. "And itís not unreasonable to assume that they and little Tony will be around then."

"Your knowledge gives you the opportunity to prepare, though," Buck offered.

"Prepare how? With a super-duper bomb shelter? With food storage and modern gadgets that wonít mean a thing after the bombs stop falling? How long do I tell them to keep themselves and their families underground? How do I prepare them for the horrors that follow?" Dougís voice was filled with bitterness.

"I donít know, Doug," Buck said softly, remembering. "I woke five centuries later and it was still hard to cope." He recalled and shuddered. "I remember how hard it was to come to the realization that I had lost everything that I had known . . . and loved."

"But you have Wilma," Doug pointed out.

"Yes, I do now, but it took time, several years, in fact to become comfortable enough with my surroundings; with my situation to realize that I did have Wilma, and Hawk and Dr. Huer and Twiki and all the rest of my new friends." He paused. "Sometimes though, it still is hard to look around me and feel that itís my world. Things still sometimes seem strange and unfamiliar." He laughed. "I can fly a starfighter and out-dogfight the best, but things still seem unfamiliar and I still feel out of place." Buck shook his head. "Itís a strange phenomenon, although most of my friends seem to understand it better than I do."

Doug nodded. "Whatís it like in the 25th century, Buck?"

Buck laughed. "Where do I start?"

"You told me your story of how you got there and your first days, as well as the discovery of the Tunnel complex, but what is it like just living five centuries in the future?"

Buck took a deep breath and then told Doug about the Searcher and about being a starfighter pilot, the worlds he had visited and some of the enemies he had made. Then he found himself describing his new friendsóTwiki, Dr. Theopolis, Dr. Huer, Admiral Asimov and Hawk. And finally he talked about Wilma, but as he thought about her he found the words wouldnít come readily and he realized that he was simply staring into the fire, thinking. "I guess thatís why I, uh, feel I couldnít ever go back, even if it was possible."

"And yet, thereís something bothering you," Doug prompted.

"Well, maybe you know what Iím talking aboutÖ." Buck hesitated and then just said it. "I, uh, well, I sometimes wonder why I survivedÖ."

"And so many others died?" Doug asked.

Buck nodded and then leaned back in the chair and sighed. "Sometimes I think about my family and how they must have died."

"I think I know what youíre talking about, Buck. I sometimes feel I walked out on the world," Doug said. "But what else could I do?"

"Absolutely nothing, Doug. You did what you had to do. Just as there was nothing I could do."

"So what do I do about my kids?"

"You could go back with Wilma and I," Buck suggested. "It might be a bit of a shock, but the kids would be safer and you could do the scientific work you have spent so much of your lifetime working on."

The fire crackled noisily in the silence that followed. Sparks popped and rose up the chimney. "Iíll think about it, Buck. Thereís so much at stake, either way we decide."

 

 

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Dr. Tony Newman stared at the living, glowing orifice of the Tunnel in rapture. Never, in his wildest imagination did he expect to see his and Dougís creation again. That he was five hundred years into the future didnít even occur to him. That wasnít real, even though the small man next to him claimed to be from that century. What was real was this complex, this temporal wonder that sat hundreds of feet below the desert floor.

Tony pulled his eyes away from the softly throbbing rings and looked around him. He saw where the old computers had been replaced with new ones. Walking toward the quiet consoles, he saw that although more compact, the new computer appeared to be much more powerful. That was probably the biggest reason for this groupís ability to take the technology they had found and improve on it in such a short time.

"Do you approve?" Dr. Huer asked beside him.

"Yes. Yes, I do. If we had possessed this kind of technology when the Tunnel was built, who knows?"

"Indeed, but the basic science was already here," another voice spoke up from behind him. Tony turned and saw a pencil thin man about his height, sandy haired, intensely blue eyes, bright with anticipation. He gazed at Tony almost worshipfully. Tony felt a bit embarrassed. "I am Doctor Frit Malcome, the head of this recovery project. It is indeed an honor to meet and work with you, Doctor Newman."

Tony offered his hand. "And youíve done a great job of recovering everything here. Iím amazed at how well preserved everything is."

"Well, when you consider just where the Tunnel is located," Malcome said with a knowing smile.

Tony returned the smile. "Itís good to be back," he murmured. Then he gazed at the semi-dormant Tunnel. "I wonder how Ann has made out."

"We sent back a highly qualified physician to assist her in the delivery of her twin girls," Huer replied.

With a start, Tony turned back to the two scientists. "What? Twins?"

"Yes, it was a surprise to your partner, Dr. Phillips, too," Dr. Huer said.

"Girls. Iíll beÖ."

Footsteps echoed on the side approach to the Tunnel and Tony turned to see who the newcomer was. He stared in surprise. A lean man, again, about his height, dressed mainly in black leather approached. Coming out of the shadows, like a shadow himself, the figure exuded a sense of muted power, like a creature of the wild readying itself for the hunt. The other manís face was one of seriousness and Tony noted that feathers covered the top and side of his head instead of hair. He walked with a hunterís stride, careful, and yet confident; an alpha male in a wolf pack, Tony felt. A kind of holster was at his hip and within rested a weapon. Here, Tony wondered? The man studied him briefly before turning to Dr. Huer. "When will Buck be returning with Col. Deering?" he asked formally. The voice was mellow and deep, but there was power there, too. Tony decided he would not want to have this man/alien as his enemy in a dark alleyway.

"I would suppose when everything is in order with Dr. Phillips and his family," Huer said. "Buck hasnít told me yet." He gestured toward Tony. "Hawk, this is Dr. Tony Newman, one of the scientists who built this complex and the first man to use the Tunnel. Tony, this is Hawk, Buckís friend from the planet Throm."

"Glad to meet you, Hawk," Tony said extending his hand. The birdman took it in a quick, tight grasp, as though the fingers were studying him as well. "As the old clichť goes, any friend of Buckís is a friend of mine."

Hawk just nodded, not saying anything until his fingers released their hold. "You and Buck have hunted together. I trust Buckís judgment in friends as well, Dr. Newman," he said simply.

"Buck calls me Tony," the scientist said quietly. Hawk nodded again and smiled softly. "I owe Buck my life now," Tony added meaningfully. Hawk said nothing, but Tony knew there were volumes in the dark hooded eyes.

"We are letting the Tunnel and the power source stay dormant for a while before we check the past," Huer reassured Hawk. "As soon as Buck, Wilma and Dr. Marley are back, we can begin some historical probing for your people."

"You mean you have been able to get the Tunnel to open up into the past of other planets?" Tony asked, taken aback.

"Oh, no, Hawkís people originated on Earth, Dr. Newman," Dr. Huer responded.

Tony said nothing in his surprise.

 

 

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