Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

   

"I've been through the desert on a horse with no name,                                                                     It felt good to be out of the rain                                                                                                            In the desert you can remember your name                                                                                 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 the moment. 

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 command.”   

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 relationship?”

“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 need to.” 

“Well, it’s not that, exactly.”

“Admiral, Wilma’s 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, but, well….”

Asimov smiled briefly.  “Flout?  Sometimes 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 think.” 

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.

Asimov smiled.  “Dr. Huer said as much.”

“As did I,” Theo added. 

“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. 

Buck snorted.  “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.”

“What?”

“Don’t let Wilma know that you asked me to take the position.”

“I won’t.”

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 . . . almost verbatim.”

 

                                       ==============================

 

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 know?” 

“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.   

“Buck!”  

“Well, something has obviously made you happy.  What happened?”   

“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 party!”

“What?”

“Hey, in my day when someone got a big promotion they usually had a party to celebrate.”

“You aren’t 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?” she asked.  

“We are going to have a party the likes of which you have never seen before,” Buck said. 

“You mean with that dancing and….”  

“Hey, if you can handle Andromeda, you can handle Three Dog Night and the Stones,” Buck replied.   

Wilma gave a mock shudder and then smiled.  “I’ll make something.”  

Buck was scandalized.  “Oh, no you won’t.  It’s your party.  Twiki and I are in charge.”  

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?” 

Wilma laughed.  “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 traveling.  

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 Defense.  My congratulations, Captain.”    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 embarrassment.

“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 him?”

“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?”  

“Yes, totally.”  

“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 short one.

 

   

 

 

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