Journeys of the Mind
"I've been through
the desert on a horse with no
It felt good to be out of the
In the desert you can remember your
Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain."
Dewey Bunnell. “A Horse
with No Name.” History; America’s Greatest Hits, Warner Bros.
Records, 1975. CD
Buck strode into Admiral
Efram Asimov’s ready room; curious about the summons he had received.
It had sounded extremely formal.
Dr. Theopolis sat quietly on the edge of the desk.
The computer councilman had decided to join the crew of the Searcher,
at least temporarily, and while Buck was happy for the quad’s decision
and glad he was around, his presence didn’t totally reassure him at
Instead of pointing to a
seat and inviting Buck to be informal, the admiral stood up and cleared
his throat. Buck remained
standing, having to consciously think about not coming to attention and
saluting. He suddenly
had a distinct mental vision of standing in front of the principal’s
desk, like the time he had, with his high school buddies, tossed the
class bully out into the hallway with only a towel around his waist.
The senior girls had not been impressed and neither had Mr.
Cavanaugh. Buck swallowed and thought furiously of any possible breaches
of etiquette or protocol he might have committed recently.
He couldn’t think of any.
“You wanted to see me, Admiral?”
Asimov drew himself up and
took a deep breath. “Captain
William Anthony Rogers, I would like to offer you the commission of
second in command of the Searcher.”
Buck was totally taken
aback and said nothing for a moment.
His mind working frantically, Buck thought of the duties of
second in command. “Why me?” he finally asked.
“Your name was given to
me by Dr. Huer. The
Directorate felt there needed to be a greater attention to military
protocol. They felt that I
needed an official second in command.
I chose you.”
Buck paused for only a
moment and came to a conclusion he sincerely thought was the right one.
“I respectfully decline, Admiral.”
Now Asimov looked
surprised. He blinked and then stammered, “What? Why?”
“I believe I told you
that this would be Captain Rogers’ response,” Theopolis said.
Asimov glared at the quad. Then he recovered his composure and asked,
“May I ask why?”
Buck glanced over at Theo
and smiled softly. For
something that claimed to not understand him most of the time, Theo was
very perceptive. “Of course. First
of all, I’m a starfighter jockey.
A doer. I like
exploring and not exploring vicariously.
I’m neither a decision maker nor an order giver.
And I sure as hell don’t pay a great deal of attention to
military protocol.” He
paused. “And there’s
someone who would be better than me for the job of being your second in
With a lusty sigh, Asimov
sat down and invited Buck to do the same.
“And who do you think would be better, Buck?”
Buck took a deep breath.
“Colonel Deering. I
assume that her name was given to you as well as mine?”
“Yes, but I have to know
something before we go on,” Asimov began.
Buck nodded. “Would
your suggestion have anything to do with yours and Wilma’s
“I would resent that
statement if I didn’t know you better, Admiral,” Buck said with a
slight smile. He liked Asimov, even given that the man could be impatient
and excitable on occasion. He
reminded Buck of his father a little bit.
“But the answer to your question would be no.”
Asimov got up and began to
pace. Theo continued to be
uncharacteristically quiet. “I
don’t know if I can work with Colonel Deering in that capacity.
No offense, of course,” Asimov added quickly.
“None taken, Admiral.
But having worked a great deal with Wilma for almost two years,
may I ask why you feel that way?”
Asimov continued pacing.
“She’s the head of the Defense Forces on Earth, for crying
out loud and yet she’s worked the communications and navigational
consoles like some up and coming recruit.”
He paused and looked at Buck, as though gauging reactions.
Buck gave none, knowing
exactly the reason for Wilma’s transfer to the Searcher.
“Now don’t get me
wrong. Wilma’s an
excellent exo, and she’s done a splendid job, but I know she was also
a tough, hard-nosed commander, one who, with a single-minded dedication,
saved the Earth on more than one occasion.”
Buck sat quietly for a
moment, looking over steepled fingers.
“It’s that single-minded dedication that will make her an
invaluable asset to you, Admiral. And
if you’re worried that Wilma would want to take charge, you don’t
“Well, it’s not that,
transfer to the Searcher really had nothing to do with her
performance as the head of the Directorate’s Defense Forces.
I know what it was, but I’m not at liberty to say.”
Asimov studied him for a
moment before sitting back down. The
admiral was a fairly astute man and Buck figured he pretty well guessed
the reason for Wilma’s transfer.
“Wilma is used to being
in command, she could run this ship if something happened to you,”
Buck added. “That is one benefit to running the consoles, I suppose.
She has ship savvy and she has leadership savvy.
She is well aware of the hierarchy of the military and of
protocol. And as I
mentioned, I have a tendency to flout it.” Buck
smiled. “That’s one of
the reasons for my nickname. I was always bucking authority.
Not enough to get into real trouble or to put anyone in danger,
Asimov smiled briefly.
you downright knock it down and stomp on it, Buck.
But you are still a damned fine officer, for all that.”
“Thanks, Admiral,” he
replied, grinning sheepishly. “I
The admiral said nothing
for a few moments.
“Again, I am speaking
professionally and not from my personal feelings for Wilma.
I think she’d make a helluva terrific second in command,”
Buck said softly.
“Dr. Huer said as much.”
“As did I,” Theo
“Thanks for the
confirmation, Buck.” The
admiral rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“It’s something I will have to get used to.”
“You’re the boss,
Admiral, but I don’t think you’re going to regret this decision.
And I think she’ll really be honored by it.”
Buck was thoughtful for a moment.
“As I was. I
appreciate your confidence in me.”
“I think it’s well
placed. If the Searcher continues to be a successful venture
and more such ships are built, I do see you as a captain of such a
vessel,” Asimov said.
“Well, I guess with anti-grav belts, pigs could fly, too.”
Asimov looked puzzled.
“Never mind, I was just joking.
But I would appreciate it if you could do me a favor.”
“Don’t let Wilma know
that you asked me to take the position.”
Buck got up.
“I guess I need to go so I can prepare to be appropriately
surprised by Wilma,” he said with a smile.
Asimov chuckled as Buck
left. Little did the younger man know that he was going to find
himself in a command situation sooner rather than later, just not the
one he had been invited to accept.
He turned toward the quad on his desk.
“And don’t rub it in, Doctor Theopolis.
I know you told me this conversation would take place . . .
Buck was practically
upside down in the cockpit of his starfighter, studying some of the
computerized relay switches under the control panel when he heard
someone climbing into the cockpit with him.
Buck knew it wasn’t Twiki, and Hawk would announce himself
unless it was an emergency, so he figured it must be Wilma.
“Hi, Wilma,” he said,
smiling to himself. He knew
what had brought her here.
“Buck,” she said, her
voice floating happily down to his awkward position, “how did you
“I read mystery novels
when I was a kid,” he said with a chuckle.
Buck pulled himself out from under the panel.
It was harder getting out than it had been getting in.
He felt Wilma’s hands grabbing his belt and pulling. He emerged, grasped the arm of his chair and pulled himself
up into Wilma’s waiting embrace.
“Hey, what’s that for?” he asked after she had pulled away
slightly. “Not that I
mind at all, you know.”
“I should hope not,”
she laughed. “You won’t
guess what just happened to me.”
“Ardala abdicated her
father’s throne to you?” Buck quipped.
“Well, something has
obviously made you happy. What
“I have been appointed
second in command of the Searcher,” she said breathlessly.
Buck grinned and then
kissed her soundly. “That’s
great news! It couldn’t
happen to a better person. Let’s
“Hey, in my day when
someone got a big promotion they usually had a party to celebrate.”
serious,” Wilma said in disbelief.
But she knew he was. And
that, too, made her happy. She
didn’t think she could be much happier.
Laying her hand on his cheek, she said softly, “I don’t think
I was this happy when I received my appointment as head of the defense
forces.” Buck moved a bit
closer to her and she felt her body responding to the nearness of his.
Yes, she could be happier, but not much, she thought.
“Wilma, you deserve
this. You deserve the honor, the position . . . and the party,”
Buck murmured in her ear. “Asimov’s
one lucky man to have you as his right hand man, er woman.”
He kissed her again. “Sit
back and enjoy the party, Wilma, because I suspect you will be one busy
girl.” He leaned
back and laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“We are going to have a
party the likes of which you have never seen before,” Buck said.
“You mean with that
“Hey, if you can handle
Andromeda, you can handle Three Dog Night and the Stones,” Buck
Wilma gave a mock shudder
and then smiled. “I’ll
Buck was scandalized.
“Oh, no you won’t. It’s
your party. Twiki and I are
Wilma laughed again.
This was going to be very interesting.
But she felt Buck was right.
It would be fun. She
couldn’t believe her fortune. This
was like a dream come true. The
communication’s job, even though relieved by other duties, had stifled
her, making her feel like a prisoner after her previous position.
“I had better head off
to plan that party. See you
at 1900 hours. Have your
dancing shoes on,” he said as he slid out of the cockpit and began
striding toward the door.
“You mean . . . do you
seriously mean tonight?” she asked incredulous.
“Of course, I mean
tonight.” He paused in mid-stride and turned back to gaze at her.
“Surely you don’t doubt my abilities, do you?”
“No, of course not, Buck Rogers.
In the realm of parties and having a good time, I can never doubt
your talent. Where?”
“Rec room, where else?
Only place large enough,” he called over his shoulder as he
sauntered out of the bay.
Later, Wilma gasped when
she saw the recreation room. Somehow, Buck had managed, in the space of
only a few hours, to transform the recreation room into a garish array
of sparkling lights and flashing strobes.
She couldn’t believe her eyes.
The only things not covered with decorations were the view ports,
which showed off the beauty of the starry realm through which they were
The music was similar to
that which Buck had requested at Ardala’s party back after his
awakening. Here, though, it
was strictly informal. Buck
saw her enter and immediately pulled her onto the dance floor.
The next several hours were a blur of fun and frolic.
But there was one moment that she would remember forever.
About halfway through the festivities, Admiral Asimov had tried
to get everyone’s attention. Even
she hadn’t noticed until the music inexplicably quit in mid-dance.
The admiral cleared his
throat, pulled his jacket down and then reached for a full glass of
vinol. “My friends,” he
began. “As you know we
are here celebrating the recent promotion of Colonel Deering to second
in command of the Searcher.”
He raised his glass and continued, “So I hereby propose a toast
to my new second in command, Colonel Wilma Deering.”
As soon as the music stopped, Buck had retrieved his own glass of
vinol and raised his glass at the admiral’s toast, all the while, his
eyes on hers. She felt his
joy mingle with hers and she basked in it.
“And by order of the
Defense Directorate, we have another appointment to make,” the admiral
went on quickly. Buck looked up, puzzled, along with most of the rest of the
people in the room. “Captain
William Buck Rogers is hereby appointed commander of Exploration and
While everyone applauded, Buck stood open mouthed in shock.
Reaching for his glass, Wilma immediately proposed a toast to
him. She laughed at his uncharacteristic display of
“You responsible for
that?” he asked when the festivities had begun again.
“Maybe I had a bit of
influence, but I think the admiral already had you picked for the
job.” Wilma saw his
dubious look. “This is
the perfect position for you, Buck. You are a leader, that’s so very obvious.
But this will also allow you to be directly involved, too.”
“Hmm, I suppose.”
When Buck escorted her to
her cabin, she felt totally exhausted, but happily so.
“How did you do that?” she asked Buck.
“You mean the party?”
She nodded. “Well,
I promised Baker a copy of the music and he did the decorations. I, um, well promised Lorkin several dances and she took
charge of the condiments and appetizers.
Twiki laid the floor lights….”
“What did you promise
“You don’t want to
know.” Buck laughed. “And
I promised Morgan….”
“I get the picture.”
She laughed with him. “Thanks,
Buck. I really appreciate
what all of you did for me.”
“You had fun?”
“Well, you deserved it.
Congratulations, Colonel,” he murmured and sealed his comments
with a kiss.
“And my congratulations
to you as well, Captain,” she said as her door slid open.
Before she entered her cabin, she favored Buck with a kiss of her
own. And it was not a