Journeys of the Mind
Truth and Consequences
Admiral Asimov waited
until the door had shut and then he addressed the Endrillian ambassador.
“You have what you came for. You
can leave now.”
Zrinn began to say
something but then changed his mind. He bowed slightly and turned to
leave. His Highness would
be pleased. Zrinn had not
only tested the resolve of the terrans and won, but he had rid His
Highness’ partners of a threat in the guise of the unorthodox Buck
Rogers and his companions. Yes,
Captain Rogers and the Earth Directorate had been very obtrusive in the
affairs of the galaxy lately. And
now that Earth was sending out a ship to the various quadrants of the
galaxy? Presumably to
explore for the ‘lost tribes of Earth.’
No, that had been a threat too big to ignore.
Sooner or later the Galactic Council would see what was happening
here in this section of the galaxy.
Things could not have gone better if it had been scripted. When King Meecros had requested the services of a Galactic
Council ship to convey the royal families to the various negotiation
places, he knew full well that the Searcher was the only such
ship in the quadrant. And
it was the Searcher that King Meecros wanted to test the new
Death Machine on. Zrinn smiled. King
Meecros had almost panicked when the Earth ship had shown up several
days before it was expected, but Zrinn had assured His Highness that the
terrans would back down. And
he had been right—so very right.
Yes, indeed, King Meecros would be very pleased.
And knowing of the terrans’ weakness, the ultimate destruction
of the Searcher would only bring token repercussions.
Turning back, he looked steadily into the eyes of the admiral and
said, “We expect Captain Rogers in a day.”
He walked out of the room with a very satisfied smile on his
Asimov sighed and wiped
his hand over his eyes.
“I can’t help but
agree with Buck, Admiral,” Wilma said, her voice filled with
incredible sadness. “We
have given in to a terrorist.”
“Ordinarily I would
agree, Wilma, but I think there is something here that we are not
seeing,” Asimov said, standing up and pulling down the jacket of his
“What do you mean,
Admiral?” Wilma asked.
“Something I cannot put
my finger on,” the admiral said.
“I feel the same way,
Admiral, but I, too, cannot figure out what I am missing about all of
this,” Theo concurred.
“I think we should
consult with Dr. Goodfellow and Crichton about this, see if they can
shed any light on this,” Asimov said.
“That is a very good
idea, Admiral,” Theo added.
Asimov picked up Dr.
Theopolis and started for his door, beckoning to Wilma.
When they were in the corridor and the door slid shut behind
them, he turned back to Wilma, “I think you need to see Buck before I
do. Why don’t you give
him a chance to cool a bit and then talk to him.
I want to talk to him, too, but I think he will be more apt to
listen to you than he would to me, at first, anyway.
I imagine this hit him like a tidal wave, and wounded him
Wilma nodded, “Yes,
enough to tender a resignation.”
She both dreaded and wanted to talk to Buck.
To make him understand what was at stake in all of this.
They walked into the
elevator and the admiral punched the communications button.
“Debugging detail to the admiral’s ready room,” he said.
Wilma looked at him in
detail? Do you think Zrinn planted something in your room?”
“Not really, but I
don’t want to take any chances.”
They walked into the doctor’s workroom and detailed the
situation to him. Soon the
three humans and the robot and quad were working on the problem.
After an hour, Wilma looked at the printouts yet another time and
then leaned back with an exasperated sigh.
She could see no way to get the so called ‘death weapon’ away
from Meecros or to neutralize it. She looked up at the Admiral and Dr. Goodfellow and saw the
same defeated look that she was sure existed on her own face.
With a yawn, Wilma got up
and stretched. “I think I
will go see Buck now. I am
getting nowhere here and I think he’s owed an explanation.”
As the door slid shut
behind the colonel, Dr. Theopolis said suddenly, “I think that’s
“What’s it?” Dr.
Goodfellow and the admiral said at the same time.
“I think that Buck is
the key to neutralizing King Meecros’ machine,” the computer
“Oh?” Asimov coaxed.
“He is the only one who
has a clear invitation to the king’s palace and we already know that
the machine is in a secure room somewhere in the palace,” Theo
“Why, I don’t know,”
Goodfellow murmured. “Very
dangerous, dangerous place indeed to put a machine of that type.”
Inside his quarters, Buck
sat in his lounger, trying to make sense of everything.
But nothing made sense!
He got up and paced, but that didn’t help, either.
Finally, he sat down again, recalling everything that was said in
admiral’s ready room. He
remembered what Hawk had said. Yes,
I would trust Wilma with my life, but why all this kowtowing to a
planetary regent? he asked himself. Had a threat of a trial at
the hands of the Endril people been real enough to give in to them?
Somehow he couldn’t believe that was possible.
It couldn’t be. He
got up and walked to the small view port.
“Okay, boss, now tell me
what’s up,” Twiki said as he clumped in from the bedroom.
There was no need to keep
the news from the ambu-quad any longer.
Twiki would find out anyway.
Buck told his robot friend the whole sordid tale.
“Uh, oh,” the drone
“Do me a favor and make
yourself scarce in a little while.
I think Wilma might be coming by,” Buck said, not sure if he
was ready for such a visit, but knowing it was necessary.
“You sure you don’t
want me to stick around and referee?” Twiki asked.
Buck frowned. “No, I
don’t want you to stick around and referee.”
“Be gentle with her,”
Twiki said as he headed toward the door.
When the Searcher had left Earth, his and Wilma’s
romance had been the topic on everyone’s lips, much to his chagrin,
but not to his surprise. Gossip
spread fast in an enclosed society like a ship.
What had most irritated him, though and Wilma as well, was the
speculation after Wilma’s promotion.
Buck had even heard of bets being taken on how quickly they would
split. Now this!
Ron’s betting pool is seeing action now, he thought,
annoyed. But why this
decision? Despite what Hawk had said, despite what logic said, he still
felt betrayed. With a sigh
Buck clicked the remote on his music system and began listening to some
songs he had ferreted out of the archives on Earth.
He sighed when he realized
what was playing. ‘A
Horse With No Name.’ That
was one of his favorite songs, even though it was a somewhat quirky one.
He began to sing along with the chorus.
“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
Maybe that’s what he
would do; take a trip into the desert when he got back to Earth.
But that prospect didn’t appeal to him either.
The thought of leaving his friends behind, leaving this life of
exploration of the new and the unexpected saddened him.
Buck sighed. He
would miss Hawk, but then Hawk said he wouldn’t stay here either. Maybe they could find something they could both do.
Despite his feelings right now, he would miss Wilma.
Buck would miss everyone he had become close to, but he didn’t
know what else he could do. In
his day, even the president was not so important as to give in to
terrorists for. Then he
pondered. What is behind
all this? There had to
be something! Running
his hand through his hair, Buck pondered.
Damn, it was so complex. But
regardless, giving in to terrorist’s demands was wrong.
And Meecros is a terrorist, Buck thought angrily. A terrorist who thinks he’s better than everyone
He got up and pulled out a
bottle of vinol and two glasses, almost sure that within the next hour,
Wilma or the admiral would be by to talk to him.
Into the glasses he poured some of the drink and then added
several other ingredients that made the vinol somewhat similar to what
he was used to back in his day.
As he worked, he kept murmuring the words of the song,
occasionally missing one, but he had the song on repeat and soon
remembered all of the words verbatim.
While he was still mixing the drinks, he heard a knock at the
“Happy hour,” he
As Wilma walked down the
corridor to Buck’s cabin, she saw Twiki and stopped him.
“Do you know where Buck is?”
“His cabin,” the drone
replied with a beep.
“Thanks,” she said,
relieved and anxious at the same time.
“Be gentle on him,”
Twiki added as she began walking again.
Wilma stopped and turned
back. “Did you tell him the same thing when he sent you on an
errand?” she asked with a soft smile.
Wilma shook her head,
amazed at the independence of Buck’s drone and how much of Buck’s
personality Twiki had picked up. “Thanks,”
At Buck’s door, she
hesitated and then did something totally old-fashioned.
She knocked. The
door almost immediately slid open and she heard the strains of a
twentieth century tune. ‘After
nine days I let the horse run free, ‘Cause the desert had turned to
sea….’ She looked for
Buck, but didn’t see him. Then she heard his voice singing along with the tune, “
‘There were plants and birds and rocks and things, there was sand and
hills and rings….’” Wilma
stood and listened for a moment, enjoying the rich sound of his voice,
then she walked into the tiny kitchenette where Buck was fixing two
“The closest to a
Marguerita I can get,” he said, handing one to her.
“In my day this would be called a Virgin Marguerita.
“Get comfortable, Wilma.
I believe we have some things to discuss, but I don’t want to
do it standing here.”
His voice was
dispassionate, controlled, but his eyes didn’t seem angry, only sad.
A somewhat good sign, Wilma thought, but it added to her sense of
sadness as well. She took
the doctored drink and sat on his sofa.
He sat down next to her. Another
good sign, she thought.
“Bottoms up,” Buck
said and took a drink of his vinol.
Then he pushed a button on the remote and the music stopped.
“Now tell me what Meecros has over the admiral’s head that
has caused you two to sacrifice my integrity to the Endril gods of
business and politics.”
“Buck, it’s not
that.” Wilma felt anger
growing along with the sadness and she took a deep breath to calm
herself. “Since when did
you begin believing I would betray you?”
Buck heard the hurt behind
her words and he sighed. “Deliberately,
no, Wilma. But it was a
shock, just the same. And
until I have a very good reason for all of this, I will still feel angry
about it.” He paused and
took another drink. Then he sighed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.
I know you’d never do anything . . . I mean….
This is just so unbelievable.” He
turned to Wilma, gazing into her gray eyes, struck by their
expressiveness. Right now,
they were expressing a desire for him to understand.
“Wilma, this whole
situation makes me mad as hell, but I really want to understand.
Last I heard, they had been complaining that I didn’t treat the
princess with deference and then the next thing I know, I’m being
accused of trying to seduce ms hormones in the cockpit, with a female
co-pilot in attendance, no less.”
He paused. “What
As if on cue, the door
chime sounded. “Go away,
I gave at the office,” Buck called out, annoyed at the interruption.
He really didn’t feel ready to talk to anyone else yet.
“Captain Rogers, it’s
Admiral Asimov. I would
like to come in.” The
voice over the communicator was polite, but still held a note of command
Sighing, Buck said,
“Come on in, the door’s not locked.”
Asimov came in, carrying
Dr. Theopolis. Buck got up,
motioning the admiral to his spot.
He turned and walked into the kitchenette where he opened a
cabinet and pulled out another glass.
He poured it full of vinol.
“It is on this type of occasion that I wish I had a fifth of
Jack Daniels,” he said, handing the glass to the admiral.
Asimov looked puzzled. “Tennessee
Bourbon whiskey. Potent and
powerful,” Buck explained. He
sat down across from his guests. “Here’s
to politics,” he said sardonically, finishing his vinol.
Asimov looked ready to say something but Buck started speaking. He wanted the admiral to know exactly what he was feeling
before the conversation went any further.
The brunt of his anger was now directed to Asimov, rather than
Wilma, not that it hadn’t been anyway.
“I was in the service
for over twelve years, including my academy days, fully expected to do
at least twenty. I’m military, Admiral.
Maybe unorthodox military, but military nonetheless.
I was lucky, I rose quickly, not necessarily in rank, I was a bit
outspoken for that, but I got some plum assignments.
One of them was as a liaison from NASA to the Israeli space
program. I had worked with
a real sharp guy, Levi Weiss. Everyone figured he’d be Israel’s
first astronaut. He took a
flight back to Israel before the rest of us.
His wife and baby were booked on the same flight that I was on,
leaving the next day.” Buck
paused and glanced at Wilma. Her
drink was untouched, her eyes intent on his.
“His plane was hijacked
by terrorists. They forced
the pilot to land once; that was in Quebec.
They sat on the tarmac for a day repeating the terrorist’s
demands. Levi was the first
one shot and tossed out. Several others followed.
Not one government gave in to the demands. Finally a special force stormed the plane and took it,
killing all of the terrorists and saving most of the passengers.
I accompanied Levi’s wife and child back to Israel for the
funeral.” He sat quietly
and gazed into his glass. “That
terrorist group didn’t try that stunt again.
At least before my mission.”
“Buck,” Wilma began.
“You don’t give in to
terrorists!” he exclaimed.
“But what about everyone
else on this ship?” Theo asked, his lights blinking as he sat on the
small table next to the sofa.
Buck looked at the quad,
He was beginning to feel that there was something he hadn’t
“I did what was
necessary, Buck,” Asimov said. Buck
started to say something, but the admiral stopped him with a gesture.
“You have often talked to me about that game that was played
back in the 20th century.
nodded. “Yes,” Asimov
said. “I even watched you
and some of the crewmembers playing down in the workout room one time.
It’s a game that is won by employing several smaller, um, what
did you call them?”
Each side runs several plays hoping to get the ball to the goal
line and thus score and eventually win.
But what did….”
“Yes, so if one play
doesn’t accomplish this goal….?”
“Then another one
might,” Buck finished, his face showing curiosity along with the
previous puzzlement. “Are
you saying that you had some kind of plan cooking against Meecros while
I was in there thinking I was getting hung out to dry by the Endrillians?”
“Not really, Buck,”
Asimov said. “And let me tell you that under normal circumstances the
Directorate, and therefore I, make no deals with, or give in to
terrorists threats. But
there were things here that didn’t seem right.
And there was something that told me that we had a chance to win
this ‘game’ against Meecros if we only had the time to plan another
play, so to speak.”
“Look, I have the
distinct idea that there was something that happened in that ready room
of yours that I don’t know about.
So what in the hell did Meecros have that caused you to give
in?” Buck asked.
“As I was about to tell
you a few minutes ago, King Meecros found the arrival of the Searcher
to be the perfect opportunity to test his new ‘Death Weapon.’
Zrinn even had a long range detonator.”
Whoa, there. A Death Weapon?
So that’s what I missed?”
Wilma smiled softly.
“Yes, Buck and we didn’t see it coming either. Apparently Meecros bought the services of several brilliant
scientists who, between them, have managed to perfect a long-range
extra-solar laser weapon of mass destruction.”
“And he threatened to
use it on the Searcher,” Buck stated.
Wilma nodded. “But
why? Why would that serve
any feasible purpose? What’s the Searcher to them?”
“At first I was thinking
it was something to do with the peace plan, but now I’m not so
sure,” Asimov said.
“What’s being gained
with this peace plan? Or
lost, as the case may be?” Buck asked, beginning to see parts of a
“Other than peace?”
Wilma asked with a wry smile.
“Peace plans don’t
usually work unless there is something else of value to be gained,”
Buck replied cynically. “And many times peace plans are simply ruses used to gain
time to build a bigger military advantage.
Kind of like Draco’s attempted treaty was.”
“I suspect that is the
case here. I think we
interfered in that ruse,” Theo interjected.
Wilma sighed and finished
her drink. “And there is this, too.
Meecros is obviously xenophobic.
He publicly protested the Searcher’s presence for
another reason—Hawk, and to a lesser extent, you.”