Corridors of Time
A Buck Rogers/Time Tunnel crossover
Ann had not heard much of the conversation after the doctor had given her something for the pain. The first thing she really remembered was waking to bright sunshine peeking through the curtains and seeing Doug with the babies. His face was infused with happiness, even while there was something else that tempered that happiness. She could almost guess what it was.
As quietly as she could, she shifted to get more comfortable, but he still heard her and turned, one of the twins still tucked on his arm. "How are you feeling?" he asked as the baby made sucking sounds against his arm.
She smiled. "Sheís hungry."
"You didnít answer my question," he stated bluntly.
"Actually, Iím feeling quite good after yesterday." She paused. "It was yesterday, wasnít it? I havenít missed a day?"
"Of course not, Dr. Marley said you and the babies would be well aware of whatís going on by mid-day. You beat it by a few hours and apparently so did one of the kids," he said with a chuckle. "Any pain?"
"Back hurts some, little sore in front, but otherwiseÖ." She reached for the baby in his arms and he handed her to Ann. The new mother quickly started nursing her hungry baby. The little one began awkwardly at first, clutching on with half-open mouth and pinching, but soon picked up steam with a little coaching from mom. "We didnít come up with names for twins," she stated as the baby enjoyed its first meal.
"I still want one of them named for you," Doug replied quickly.
It was an old argument that she wasnít prepared to deal with right nowóor any other time, either. "No. Itís bad enough when I call Tony and have two responses. Not going to do that with these."
Doug sighed. "Okay, we had decided on Ruth, so what about the other baby."
"Thatís a male name."
"There are girls named Gerri."
"Jennifer." Doug simply stated it as though it was already decided.
Ann studied his face. She liked that name, but didnít want to give in too soon. "Middle name then."
Doug made a face. "Jennifer Gerri? That is too much alliteration, I think."
"No, Ricker. As though it was a maiden name," Ann reasoned.
"But itís not. If that was the case, it should beÖ."
"Doug, darling, I think we owe Jerry a great deal. And I think heíd be flattered to have a couple of our babies named after him."
Doug started to say something, but chose not to. Finally he nodded. All right, Ruth Ricker Phillips and Jennifer Ricker Phillips."
Ann nodded in satisfaction. She noticed that the baby was finished eating and dozing with the nipple in her mouth. "The other babyís awake; let me see if she wants anything."
Doug put the first baby into the basinet and then handed Ann the second one. "How in the world are we going to tell them apart? They are identical."
Ann laughed softly as the baby nursed sleepily. "This one is a bit smaller, but I see your point. This one is Ruth and if you put a ribbon around her ankle, it will make things easier until their personalities begin showing."
Doug chuckled along with his wife. "Three beautiful women," he murmured, sitting next to Ann and rubbing a finger along her cheek.
She blushed slightly, then sobered. "Doug, I donít want the children to have to live through the Holocaust. I want them to feel free to raise their own families without fear."
He nodded. "So do I," he murmured, softly.
She reached over and laid her free hand on his arm. "Letís go with Wilma and Buck."
"Not blindly, Ann." He edged closer to her and put his arms around her. "I want to check it out. I want to see this place and time. I did too much jumping blindly for too long."
"I realize that, but at least the kidsÖ."
"I know, darling," he murmured, kissing her. "Iíve been thinking about it before the Tunnel contacted us and even more for the past four days. I only want the best for you and the kids."
"Thank you," she said softly, returning the kiss.
Buck returned a day after Dr. Marley did, and it being the day after New Yearís Day where Doug and Ann were; he had stayed and celebrated with them, Wilma and the kids. He had a note from Doug, who had insisted that he was more than capable of handling things on the ranch now. Tony had read it without comment and then stuck it in his pocket, again without comment. Buck noticed that Tony was working closely with Frit Malcome, seemingly totally back at home in the complex. As the twentieth century scientist continued to familiarize himself with the new computers, Buck sat back and watched. Although he had studied the workings of the Tunnel console, especially with the new computers installed, he still felt he was out of his league. Right now, the scientists were mainly working and watching events in Doug and Ann's time frame, who were staying in Montana, for the moment. Wilma was staying with them for another few days to help Ann with the children. But laterÖ.
Later, the Tunnel crew would search anywhere, watch any event, record and keep it for the historians. Right now, Buck felt as though he was an extra thumb or the fourteenth donut in a bakerís dozen.
Bent over the console, studying some of the improvements, Tony finally rubbed his back and groaned softly.
"You all right?" Buck asked quietly.
Startled, Tony rose up sharply and swung around. "Oh, Iím sorry, Buck. I didnít hear you at all. This stuff is fascinating. I canít believe how much improvement this little bit of technology does."
"You ought to see what five hundred years has done for transportation," Buck replied with a grin.
Tony didnít say anything for a moment. "You remember that conversation we had about what it was like in your new century?"
"Itís my century now, it would seem. But right now, itís not really . . . real," Tony said hesitantly.
Buck smiled softly. "You want to take a short visit to New Chicago?"
"Maybe with a detour out in space?" Tony ventured, excitement in his voice.
"Yeah, the last time you went up, it wasnít in the most favorable of circumstances, was it?" Buck asked.
"Might I mention that your twentieth century space adventure wasnít either," Tony chided.
"You wonít forget this one, though," Buck assured his friend. Then he heard the distinctive muted tapping of Hawkís boot heels. He knew that Hawk felt about the same as he did, like a second left foot. Until the others came forward in time, the scientists didnít want to chance searching on another temporal plane, so Hawk was left without the ability to do any research of his own, despite having been promised. "And I bet Hawk will be happy to show you a bit of his skills in his own ship, too," Buck said without turning around.
"Yes, I do need to take the War Hawk up before she falls apart from disuse," the birdman said sardonically from just behind him.
"When?" Tony asked.
"Now?" Buck suggested.
Tony grinned. "Itís a deal!"
In less than an hour, they were sitting on the desert floor in two similarly-sized scout ships, blinking in the bright sunlight. Tony had almost begun biting his nails as they had slowly navigated the narrow passage up to the surface. He felt he could have measured the distance on each side of the corridor in micro-millimeters rather than the few inches that Buck told him they had on each side. Hawkís ship had simply retracted part of his side wings and had a slightly easier time of it. Now Hawk and Buckís ships sat almost wing-tip to wing-tip in the midst of a seemingly barren landscape.
"Under normal circumstances, the ships are kind of catapulted from their berths," Buck informed his passenger. "Youíll get that experience when we leave New Chicago. Ready?" Tony nodded. "Hawk, you go first. Show Tony what that war bird of yours is made of."
"You will have to take off shortly after me, or that experience will be only a few seconds," Hawk said from the communicator.
Buck simply laughed, but even as Hawk was lifting his craft a few inches above the surface, Buck was powering up. Suddenly the War Hawk shot skyward, almost gone before Tony realized it had taken off. Buck lifted and shot after the birdman. The sky turned from blue to navy to glittering black within only a scant few minutes. Buck heard the sharp intake of Tonyís breath behind him and laughed again. Hawk ship appeared beside them, then loop-de-looped around them. Buck shot forward out of the encircling maneuver and headed toward the moon, sitting serenely on one side of the view screen. It looked much more serene than his one and only encounter. Buck did something and the little craft seemed to pick up speed. They vaulted close to the moon, seemingly skimming the surface from only a half-mile up and then went around it.
Tony felt his stomach sink even lower as Buck dodged among asteroids in a belt that was apparently less dense than he had thought. Of course, he was a scientist and knew that the idea of a Ďbeltí was a relative term. Still, the objects that Buck was dodging were closer than suited him. Hawk showed up on the starboard side, his wings extended, and did his own aerial ballet, weaving and swooping like an earth-bound bird of prey. They did that for a short time and then looped back and headed past the moon again, this time swinging around the dark side.
"How long did it take you to learn to fly like this?"
"Actually, not long. Even though weíre in space, the mechanics are similar to F-15 Eagles that I learned to fly back in my Air Force days. The technology allows for the same kind of maneuverability." There was a moment of silence. "It . . . it was something to do."
Tony didnít ask more. "Youíre good at it," he said with a quick gulp as Buck finished calling some numbers to some entity he presumed was ground-based and then swooped into the upper atmosphere. A slight bumping of the craft and they were sliding over desert. Were they going back to the Tunnel? He had thought he had heard Buck say something to ĎNew Chicago.í
"If you think Iím good at it, you didnít pay close attention to Hawk."
The object of Buckís comment Ďwaggledí his wings and then flew aft. "Oh, I was paying attention, but we were flying so fast, it was hard to tell who was doing what."
"Believe me, Hawk is the best space pilot around."
"We are going to Chicago, right?" Tony asked.
"New Chicago, right."
"What desert are we over?"
"This is whatís left of the heart of the Midwest," Buck said solemnly.
Tony ogled the tortured and burnt out land below him. Not even the sparkling spires ahead of them took away from the horrible devastation below. "I . . . uh, donít know what to say."
"The greatest majority of the land east of the Mississippi River was totally blasted. The West didnít take quite as big a hit, but was affected, too," Buck said. "Weíre going in."
Tony didnít say anything more as they entered a cavernous area of lights and activity. There was a great variety of spacecraft, most like what he was in, but there were some that appeared to be more for cargo. They landed close behind several other ships and Buck powered his ship down. The hatch popped open and Tony slowly stood up, watching, in amazement, the beehive-like activity all around him.
"Welcome back, Captain Rogers," a female voice called out. "Whoís your . . . uh, friend."
Tony looked toward the voice and saw a petite, blonde-haired woman in a snow-white uniform smiling at him. He smiled back. "Dr. Anthony Newman, maíam," he replied before Buck could say anything.
"Doctor? As in med bay or as in Science Directorate?" she asked, striding closer. Buck had already climbed down and was taking what the woman had in her hand, signing something off and handing it back.
"Science Directorate," Tony answered quickly. She didnít leave when Buck handed what appeared to be an equivalent of a clipboard back to her.
"Welcome to New Chicago, Dr. Newman," she said with a broad grin. Her eyes told of a variety of welcomes possible to him. Tony felt his cheeks getting warm.
"Hey, whereís my greeting?" Buck asked, teasingly.
"Captain, I lost a bet because of you," she jibed back. "Do you think Iím going to raise Colonel Deeringís ire flirting with you?" She turned her attention back to Tony. "If you stay for very long, I can show you all the fun places, Doctor."
"Tony, maíam, and I donít think I am going to be able to stay very long."
"No, Iím just showing Tony a bit of New Chicago and then we have to head back down toward New Phoenix."
She frowned, but then smiled reassuringly to Tony. "You do need to come back when you have some time, Tony. I really could show you a fun time."
Tony raised his eyebrows, but smiled his reassurance. "If I am able toÖ."
"We have to go, Simma. I will be sure to give Tony all the information he needs to know for his next visit," Buck said, motioning for Tony to follow.
When they had left the landing area, Tony asked, "Whereís Hawk?"
"He went back to Searcher to extend our leave, check on Twiki and Miru, and then heíll be back," Buck answered. "Between you and me, I think he was a bit bored, too."
"Twiki? Didnít Wilma mention him, or did you? And Miru?"
"Donít remember, but Twikiís an ambuquad, like that one," Buck pointed to a small vaguely human-shaped robot. "He was fried helping me out on another planet not too long ago. And Miru is Hawkís ward, another bird-person from a different planet. Sheís the local equivalent of an exchange student." Buck led Tony to through a corridor and then to door that led into a transport that reminded Tony of the New York subway, except this was above ground. "Hawkís people ended up getting scattered all over the galaxy," Buck continued. "All of them we know of not having a clue that there were others on other planets."
"But you said that they came from Earth," Tony prompted.
"Yes." And Buck explained the findings that he and others had made over the past few years.
"Easter Islands? Thatís intriguing. I can see why Hawk was so interested in the Tunnel." They arrived at another point that was at the top of a large building and Buck led them to an open-air walkway. There was a slight shimmering of the sky above them and a haze in the distance that Tony took to be evidence of the blasted lands.
"Yes," Buck replied and leaned on the railing of the walkway. The ground appeared to be at least twenty or more stories below them. Everything around them bustled like the spaceport had. "Out there, give or take a degree or two, my family lies buried."
"After five hundred years, you actually found their remains?" Tony asked, incredulous. Then he wondered if he had gone too far. Buck didnít say anything for a long time.
"Dr. Huer said something to the same effect. He said I was lucky there was any kind of marker for them at all."
This time Tony didnít respond.
"One of the reasons I transferred to Searcher was so I wouldnít be reminded so blatantly of what happened right after my accident on the Ranger." Buck shook his head. "Come on and see what I did to the historical wing of the Science Directorate. Dr. Junius is a good friend of mine."
"I think Wilma said you were his best customer, too."
Buck laughed, his good humor restored. "Yeah, I liked his junk better than the 25th century mod stuff they have here."
Like Buck, Tony enjoyed the quirky little man and his theories on the different salvage items. It was only a buzzing on Buckís communicator that pulled them away and back to the Tunnel.