Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 34

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-four

 

Revelations

 

 

 

It was not long before the communicator chimed.  “Come on in,” Buck called out over his shoulder.  He was trying to select something appropriate for dinner music, but nothing really triggered any distinct chords in his mind, so he simply programmed in the same thing that had played the day before.  Turning, he saw Wilma with two trays, walking into his tiny kitchenette.  She put the trays down, pulled a bottle out of an equally tiny refrigerator and two glasses from a cabinet.  Buck couldn’t help it; he stared.  Wilma was ravishingly beautiful.  She was in something that was definitely not shipboard attire, but also casual, if the form fitting shiny, light-blue jumpsuit could be termed anything near casual.  Her hair was down, cascading over her shoulders, a dark waterfall softly glowing from the effects of the lights in the ceiling.  

After she poured the drinks, she held one out for him and then lowered her eyes when she caught his abject appraisal.  

Appraisal? Much too mild a term, he thought.  Buck jerked his eyes away from her figure and took the drink.  “Ah, anyone tell you how beautiful you are?” he asked inanely.  He felt as though he was drowning in her presence.  This was one powerful woman, not just a beautiful one, and it was all he could do to keep from pulling her close and kissing her.  Have I kissed her before? he asked himself.  If not, then I was stupid.  Does she have any idea how she is affecting me?  Damn, Buck, get control of yourself.

“Yes,” she said in a soft voice. 

Strangely, to Buck, it sounded almost sad, but her demeanor also served to jerk him back into some semblance of what he could best term as professionalism.  After all, this woman, for all her sensuality; and she could deny it, but her vibes were most definitely coming on to him; was his boss, so to speak.  She definitely outranked him and as second in command of the Searcher, she was effectively his superior.  Definitely superior! he thought and then mentally slapped himself into submission.  He had to get control of himself.  “Thanks,” he said, referring to the drink.  Then he motioned her to the couch.  

As though understanding a little of what was going on inside of him, she shook her head.  “Uh uh, not until we eat,” she replied. 

“What did you bring?” 

“I will see if you can figure it out,” she said with a smile. 

Taking a deep breath, Buck felt himself more in control, slipping back into camaraderie mode and he returned her smile.   “Okay, I’ll do my best,” he said walking into the kitchenette and taking the cover off the top tray.  “Both the same?”

“Yes, they are,” came the response.

He gazed at the food, seeing what appeared to be noodles, vegetables and some meat in a kind of white sauce.  The noodles were wide—egg noodles.  The vegetables, dark and—mushrooms, the meat, light, maybe chicken; then he thought of where he was, a chicken substitute.  The sauce, smooth-- he took a taste.  Sour cream.  “I know I should know this, but it’s not coming to me, only the names of the individual components.”

“I thought you were crazy the first time you served me this meal, Buck.  It’s from a very large country on one of Earth’s continents.  Or rather it was.  Russia isn’t there anymore.  I won’t even repeat what you said when I asked about the mushrooms.  But I have since learned to like this dish.  Apparently others have, too. It was on the menu.”  She looked expectantly at Buck, but his questioning look told her that this particular recognition wasn’t forthcoming.  “Stroganoff.  And the mushrooms—you called them ‘fungus among us.’  At the time I wasn’t amused.”

Buck couldn’t help it, he began laughing, finally having to put the glass down to wipe his eyes.  It was like a release of tension that he didn’t know he was holding in.  “I said that?” he finally choked out.

“Yes, but it just got a chuckle the first time.”

“Sorry, don’t know why, but it just hit the right chord for me,” he replied. 

“That’s okay.  This is the first time I have really seen you loosened up since you got here from the Titan.  Wilma handed him the tray.  “Let’s eat.  This time I really am hungry and we aren’t going to talk until after dinner.”

“Yes, mom,” Buck said with a chuckle. 

Wilma cocked her head.  “I will take that as a deep and sincere compliment.” 

“Take everything as a compliment.  You are something else.” 

“Thanks, Buck,” she said, clearly embarrassed by his praise. 

They ate with minimal conversation, Buck finding himself ravenously hungry after an afternoon of workout.  Only when he was finishing a dessert with no name, did he finally venture a question.   “Tell me about you,” he asked her.

“Well, uh, I don’t know exactly what to say, where to begin, or….” 

“How about our first missions together,” he prodded.

“There was that first flight through a stargate,” she began, chuckling.  “You were positively green.” 

“Green?”

“Stargates have that affect the first few times a person goes through them,” she said with a smile.  

And she talked for over an hour, with Buck asking questions any time she faltered.  They shared a bottle of vinol as they conversed.  As it grew later, Buck felt even more drawn to Wilma, feeling her presence pull at him and he realized it wasn’t just a sexual attraction, it was more complete.  He refilled her glass and then sat back down, a little closer, putting his arm around her.

Immediately, she stiffened and stopped talking for the briefest of moments.  Almost instantaneously she relaxed again, but not like she had been.  Buck pulled back and gazed at her.  “I’m sorry, Wilma.  I, uh, guess I came on too strong,” he said, getting up and walking toward the other end of the room.  You idiot! he berated himself.   But what did I do that was so wrong? he wondered, confused.  “I guess I misread the signals.”  Turning, he walked back, but didn’t sit down.  “I was thinking that we must have been more than friends.”  He rubbed his jaw.  “I even asked Hawk what our relationship was before I was Kormand’s houseguest.”

Wilma started.  “And what did he say?”

“He told me to ask you,” Buck replied.  “I’m confused, Wilma.  I feel so drawn to you.  I, uh, I don’t even know how to say it.”  He paced and then stopped in front of her.  Wilma looked ready to cry.  “I felt like taking you in my arms and kissing you.  That’s how you affect me.  I really felt that we had been that close before this . . . this journey into hell.” 

Wilma didn’t know what to say.  Without his memories, Buck was apparently showing true, uninhibited emotion insofar as she was concerned.  Part of her was elated, wanting to tell him to go ahead, kiss her, hold her and comfort her, but her actions were betraying her desires.  Under no circumstances did she want to hurt him any more than he already was hurt.  And she didn’t want to burden him with her problems when he had so much to deal with of his own, problems that she had generated, she thought bitterly.  Oh, Buck, what do I say?  What do I do?  How can I explain all of this to you?  How can I tell you how ashamed of myself I am.  

“Is it Erik Kormand?  Is it the fact that he affected me?  Have I changed that much?”  He slapped his hand on the table, making Wilma jump slightly.  “Damn this amnesia!” 

“It’s Erik Kormand,” Wilma blurted out before she could stop herself.  “But not the way you think.”  She took a deep breath, trying to control her emotions, then she got up to leave.  She couldn’t allow herself to unload on Buck.  She couldn’t.  He had so much to bear right now.  And how would he feel about her after knowing what had happened, how she had let him down. “It’s getting late.  I think I had better go.”  She looked up and saw him gazing thoughtfully at her, his eyes not angry, only puzzled and concerned.  

“Wilma, I feel there is something you’re not telling me, something painful.  If I am the cause….”

“No!!” she cried out.  “No, you haven’t done anything, Buck.  It’s not you, not you at all,” she hastened to say. 

His eyes showed a hint of relief, but mostly they showed concern and his voice was gentle.  “Wilma, I may have amnesia, but that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to anything you need to talk about.”  He walked a little closer.  “I’ve been so wrapped up in my own problems, but I care about you.  Whatever we had or didn’t have, I still care about you and I think you care about me, too.”

Wilma was so torn.  She wanted to tell him, but she didn’t.  

“You’re a very special woman, Wilma Deering, to make me feel this way after only two days.”   He lightly touched her cheek with one finger and she shivered, but it was not like before.  This time it felt like a caress, something soothing, and something comforting.  Reaching up, she very lightly put her hand over his. 

Buck paused and when he continued, his voice was barely audible and yet it seared her soul.  Wilma felt his compassion to the very depths of her being and it was shaking her out of the tight controls that she had erected since she had talked with Hawk. 

“Please, tell me what’s wrong.”

She sat back down.  The tears began trickling down her cheeks.  Fiercely, she blinked to control them, to keep from totally breaking down.  “You were right about one thing, Buck,” she said, her voice beginning to tremble.  “It is about Erik Kormand.  I had the opportunity to kill him, to keep him….”  She looked up, feeling the guilt and anguish wrapping itself around her heart and squeezing.  Her breath came raggedly.  “If I had only done it, this wouldn’t have happened to you.  You would remember.  You wouldn’t feel so lost.  You . . . you…”   She felt hot tears and couldn’t control them.

“What do you mean, Wilma?” Buck asked, alarmed at the emotional outpouring.  What had happened to her, he wondered?  He sat down next to her and gently took her hands.  “Wilma, what’s wrong?” he asked again. 

And she told him about her mission, the ill-fated journey that had stripped her of so much.  She didn’t even know when Buck took her in his arms, his strong, encompassing, protective arms, comforting her even as Hawk had comforted her.   Then she realized, it was even more, much, much more.  Only when she began sobbing quietly did Buck say anything. 

“I am so sorry, Wilma.  So very sorry,” he whispered, his heart filled with sorrow.  His fingers gently ran through her hair, but this time she didn’t pull away.   “I wish I could have been with you; to protect you, to keep you from all this.” 

She thought about his words and felt irony in them.  “And the whole time you were missing, I was wishing I could be with you,” she said.  “I feel so guilty because it was due to my escape that Kormand doubled his efforts to find you.” 

Buck thought about Erik Kormand and thought about all that this one man had done to the woman at his side, and he felt a deep and burning anger building.  With effort, he squelched it, knowing that it was not the time for it.  Later.   “You can’t blame yourself for that, Wilma.  Erik Kormand is a very smart man.  Very evil and very smart.   He has gotten away with a great deal in the past.  But then we came along.”  Buck smiled grimly.  “And he’ll be caught and punished.”

“Oh, I hope so, Buck.”  She sighed and settled her head against his chest.

“I know so,” he stated confidently.   “And Wilma?”

“Yes?” she murmured.

“It’s the person who refused to kill even a sadistically evil man like Erik Kormand that I am sitting next to.  Don’t you dare feel guilty about that!   You couldn’t have done anything else, or you would have been less than the person you are now.”  He paused.  “The person I care very much about.”

“Do you mean that?” she asked, looking up at him.    

To prove the veracity of his words, he kissed her, long and deep.  There was no hesitancy on Wilma’s part either.  Finally, Buck pulled away and took a deep breath.  “Erik Kormand will be found.  I promise that.” 

She pulled back and gazed at him in concern.  “Buck, what’s on your mind?”

“Nothing, really.  What can I do?  I’m stuck here,” he replied bitterly.  Then his demeanor softened.  “I’m just trying to think of anything that might help Alvarez figure out where Kormand could be hiding.  So they can find him.”  He reached over with one finger and wiped a tear from her cheek.  “I am amazed how well you have held up, and how well you have coped with this,” he murmured.  “You’re a hell of a woman, Wilma Deering.” 

She smiled, grateful that Buck had listened and understood and still cared so much for her.  “And you’re a hell of a man, Buck Rogers.   No memory and you can still make me feel better.  Hold me, again, please.”  

Gladly, he complied.  “Don’t ever hold back like that again, Wilma.” 

“I wasn’t, Buck.  I just didn’t know how much you could handle.  You were pretty confused back there on the Titan when we picked you up,” Wilma reminded him.  

He sighed.  “Yeah, I know.”   She lay quietly in his arms, and he continued to stroke her hair. 

A voice came over the communicator on the wall, “Colonel Deering, report to the bridge.” 

They both sighed.  Wilma didn’t want to go.  She wanted to sit with Buck forever, but she couldn’t.  She was the second in command and she had been summoned.  

“Tell them you’re busy saving the universe,” Buck murmured, leaning over and kissing her gently on the forehead.  

“I would love to, but duty beckons,” she said, suddenly giggling at his comment.

“Yeah, I know.”

She didn’t trust herself to a quick kiss, so she simply grabbed his hand and held it to her cheek for a moment.  “Thank you,” she murmured.  Then she got up and headed to the door.  “I’ll be back in the morning.  You get some sleep.”

“I’ll be here,” he said, carefully reining in his emotions until she had left.  

But sleep was the furthest thing from his mind.  He paced, his anger increasing with each step.  He was in his room, confined to quarters in order to flush out Kormand, a weasel who might very well already be in another galaxy by now.  There had to be more he could do!  He stared at one wall and growled in frustration.  I was with this sick son of a bitch for a week after he raped Wilma.  I was his buddy, his up and coming lieutenant.  I dined with this sleazy snake.  How easily he could have taken him down then.   But now Kormand was gone, vanished like smoke.  But where was he? 

Buck continued to pace, pondering, trying to remember anything that might be a clue.  He had been set up on that raid.  The whole week was a set up.  But at the time of his departure the compound was normal.  Nothing was changed. 

Then he stopped pacing, his thoughts suddenly remembering the visit to Sreena just before he left on his ‘mission.’  She had been afraid for him.  She had known.  But she was also gathering her equipment.  They had gotten wind of a raid by the Galactic Council, she had said.  And she had mentioned a nearby plateau.  Cave system, she had told him, that had been discovered during recent reconnaissance.  A place where they could hide until the council ships gave up.  Hidden caves!  This whole time Alvarez thought they were hiding in Brix and all along they were in this plateau.  Excited, Buck turned off his lights and pulled up his computer screen, typing in his name, hoping that was all he needed to link to the main ship’s computer.  Apparently it was, he thought with a smile as the connection was made.

Buck pulled up all information available on Mendalis and then on Zeron, the continent on which Kormand’s compound was located.  He saw how close it was to that plateau.  No wonder Kormand was able to disappear so quickly and to stay hidden so well!  The caves were a natural shielding for most detection devices.  Kormand was there.  Buck would bet his last dollar on it.  Dollar?  He shook his head slightly, not even bothering to figure what recess of his mind that came from.  Buck thought about what Kormand had done to him, but he thought even more about what Kormand had done to Wilma.  And the more Buck thought about it, the more determined he was to find Kormand and bring him to justice.  But how?  He was presumably under closely guarded house arrest, the two guards outside thinking him truly a traitor.  

Buck dug out anything he could find about Erik Kormand, getting the briefing papers of King Meecros’ death machine.  Meecros had sent periodic updates and some of these scientists had disappeared before Meecros had been killed, so Kormand had to have that knowledge, too.   Buck remembered that some areas of Kormand’s compound had been off limits to him.  Scientific experiments, he had been told.  Top secret, known only to a chosen few, it had been explained.  And Arrans had told him that there were parts of Kormand’s compound that were devoid of anything, totally empty.  The Death Machine!  What better place to build something like that than in relatively unknown caves?  If he hadn’t known what Kormand truly stood for, Buck would have almost admired the man’s ability to move so much in total secrecy.   With a weapon of almost unlimited power at Kormand’s disposal, it became even more imperative that the ‘Human Rights’ leader be found and captured.

Again, how?  Call Alvarez?  No, Buck argued with himself.  He had to do this himself.  A single person could probably get into those caves and find Kormand much more easily than a large assault force.  He would somehow trick the guards, knock them out and then steal a starfighter.   Buck began searching through his little closet for something dark to change into. 

Suddenly, his door slid open and Buck jerked in surprise.  It was Twiki, with Dr. Theopolis around his neck.

 

 

 

 

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