Journeys of the Mind
The Planning Stage
“Me?!” Buck asked,
incredulous. He finished his drink, admitting to himself that vinol had
the distinct advantage of some pleasure while still leaving one’s
faculties in linear order. He
just wished it tasted better.
“You were responsible
for the commuting of Hawk’s sure death sentence,” the admiral said.
“And there are some people who have a distinct dislike to bird
Buck rubbed his chin in
thought, then he laughed. The
other two just gazed at him, puzzled.
“That’s totally insane!
Especially in light of what King Toran told me.
He said that Meecros envisioned himself as some sort of superior
being due to his human blood. What’s
totally ironic is that Toran implied that Meecros’ family had no more
human blood than his did.” Buck
looked into his now empty glass. “Regardless,
that kind of attitude is scary.”
No one said anything for a moment.
“Something else to consider.
Hawk did mention that he believed Meecros might have been one of
the main suppliers of weapons to the humans who decimated his
village.” The cabin was
silent for a moment and then Buck looked up, his face showing
really put on a show in your ready room, didn’t I?
I’m sorry I was such an ass, Admiral.”
“Don’t be. In fact, I
think this works to our advantage.
You were genuine and Zrinn is going to report all the sordid
details,” Asimov replied. “But
before we go further, let me mention that without my suspicions, my
half-thought through notions, I probably would have still agreed.
That might have been ‘giving in to a terrorist’ as you put
it, but Meecros would have eventually been given the justice he so
Buck said nothing.
He was feeling that this was more than just the absolute notion
of never giving in, as he had felt before, but he really didn’t have
any clear-cut thoughts on the matter at present.
This whole fiasco seemed surreal to him, even as he accepted its
“When you get as old as
me and have your own command, you will find that simple answers and
simple solutions are not always that straightforward, especially when
you are not even afforded the opportunity to think about it.
Two hundred and fifteen lives, Buck.
That’s quite a decision. And
I don’t like playing God, even if the rule books tell me to.”
Admiral.” Buck got up and
replenished his vinol. “Anyone
want more?” Wilma and the
admiral both shook their heads. “So
what do we do now, other than me preparing to grovel? And what
conclusions or suspicions did you have?”
He looked a bit sheepish as he returned and sat down.
“I’m afraid I’m not too astute or objective right now.
The only thing coming to my mind is that Meecros wanted to show
off his new war toy, but I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t just
do it. Especially, if, as
he claimed, he had right by law to wage war on us.” Buck paused and shook his head.
“Could he have just wanted to test our resolve?
And I wondered about the sudden request for King Toran and his
family to meet with him on the Searcher,” Buck commented.
“I am beginning to think
that the entire scenario was contrived,” Asimov said, his gaze
“You mean the whole
negotiation, peace plan assignment?” Buck asked.
“Someone from the Galactic Council is in on this?”
“No, I don’t want to
go that far,” the admiral murmured, although he appeared to be
considering the idea. “But yes, the whole assignment, Buck.” Asimov rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The Galactic Council sent us out here to oversee the
negotiations between Toran and Endril, but they didn’t see fit to send
a mediator with us. If this
was so critical, so delicate that it required Galactic Council
intervention, why wasn’t a negotiator sent?”
He gazed meaningfully at his two exo’s.
“Yes, a very interesting
point, Admiral, unless the Council considered me to be a mediator,”
Theo added. “I have done that before.
However, King Meecros did not wish the presence of anyone but
humans. And there did not
seem to be a basis for our intervention at all, actually.
No wars, threats of wars, no deep disputes, other than the trade
treaty and the marriage treaty.”
“At least nothing that a
single mediator couldn’t have handled,” Asimov added.
“I think, Dr. Theopolis, we need to contact the Council and
find out why there wasn’t a request for a negotiator and who it was
who arranged our assignment to Endril.”
He got up, picking up the computer councilman.
Wilma had been quietly
contemplating, but suddenly she turned to Buck, her eyes filled with
sudden insight, “You seemed to be the catalyst, Buck.
It was as though…. But
why would he use you?”
specifically requested you, Buck,” Asimov said.
“Not by name, but in so many words.”
He paused. “They
wanted a higher ranking officer, preferably an executive officer.
Not a woman, not a non-human.
That pretty much left you.”
“There are not enough
clues, Admiral, to make any kind of concise or accurate conclusion,”
“I know that,” Asimov
said with a sigh. “Wilma,
you and Buck continue to brain-storm.
Dr. Theopolis and I are going to check into the background of
this assignment and try to make some more sense of it.
Let me know if you two come up with anything.”
“Sure thing, Admiral,”
Buck said as his commander left.
As Asimov was walking out,
Twiki walked in. He beeped
and asked, “Can anyone come to this pow wow?”
“Sure, Twiki,” Buck
said. Then he asked, “What ideas flashed in your brain, Wilma?”
“The look Zrinn gave
when you left the admiral’s ready room, Buck.
I remembered it and wondered why he should care one way or
another if you quit the Directorate.
I agree with the Admiral. I
think they had the Searcher targeted.”
Buck mused. “You know, I keep coming back to the fact that Meecros is
the kind of guy that wouldn’t hesitate to use his Death Machine on us.
He likes to throw his weight around.
So why didn’t he?” Suddenly, he sat up, his eyes wide in surprise.
“It’s so obvious….”
interrupting, “They didn’t plug it in.”
Wilma looked puzzled, but
Buck began laughing. “Out
of the mouths of babes and ambu-quads.”
Twiki beeped irritably.
“Hey, who are you calling a babe?”
Then he added, his voice curious.
“What did I say?”
“The machine isn’t
ready,” Buck said. “At least not ready enough to actually blow us
“Of course, that’s the
only explanation,” Wilma agreed.
“Yes, and by making the
demands he made, Meecros still achieved his goal.”
Buck rubbed behind his ear, pondering.
“But I can only suppose that if the machine is not ready, it is
not far from completion. We
showed up too quickly. I
bet it was Meecros that specified that we be the ones involved.
And the wheels of politics moved a bit too quickly for him.”
“Which makes this a very
volatile situation,” Wilma said.
“There has to be something we can do to stop him before he
really does use his machine.”
Buck sat quietly, his gaze
focused on something beyond his room.
Then he began grinning and his eyes took on a mischievous glint.
Wilma gazed at him in
alarm. “Buck, I know you well enough to figure that you have
something percolating in that devious mind of yours.”
Yes, I think I do have something we can use.”
He paused, as though for dramatic effect. “Tell me, don’t you think Meecros’ boys would be
looking for someone to try and sneak down and sabotage this weapon?”
“Yes, that’s what the
admiral and I were discussing. Unfortunately,
you are the only person who has been given permission to go down there
and that’s only to apologize. I’m
afraid that you’ll be watched very carefully.”
“Well, I suppose if I
must apologize, then I must.” He
smiled conspiratorially. “Tell
me what harm a somewhat penitent pilot and his drone could do in the
palace of such a high potentate as Meecros?”
Do you think he could find the machine?
“You bet I could!!”
Twiki said confidently.
Patting the ambu-quad on
the head, Buck continued, “I think so. Especially if he has Theo
along. It’s my
understanding that Dr. Goodfellow has been working on some kind of small
appendage that will allow Theo some mobility.
And, of course, the obligatory luck.”
“You do realize that
you’ll have to probably do a great deal of debasing down there,”
Wilma reminded him.
“Wilma, there are
apologies and there are apologies.”
He grinned. “I
think it might look better if you came, too.
You have to keep your bad boy pilot out of trouble, you know.”
Wilma wondered, gazing
blankly at her hands. What
Buck had proposed sounded feasible, but carried a great deal of risk
with it. It had been an
understatement when Buck said luck would be involved in this assignment.
Meecros was mercurial and if he didn’t like what Buck was
Buck saw her look of
concern. “Wilma, something has to be done and done quickly.
This guy can’t be allowed to have free rein to terrorize this
part of the galaxy. Meecros
can be contained just as Draco was, and we know how big a shot he
was.” Buck reached over
and took her hand. “I’m
sorry for what I said earlier, but I will not apologize for my feelings
on this now that I know all the facts.
Meecros has to be stopped.”
Wilma nodded. “We’ll
go down and try this then. Perhaps
some diversionary bluster from the Searcher would help.”
“Perhaps,” Buck said
dubiously. “But I’ll need to work on Twiki so that they’ll not be
able to detect anything amiss.”
“What do you have in
mind for him to do?”
“I’ve been working on
something that will make him much more dexterous than he is right now
with those pincer hands of his. He
could carry the various components, that put together, would short out
the firing mechanisms of the death weapon,” Buck explained.
“But they’d still have
the weapon. They could
build a new firing mechanism.”
“Not if Twiki and Theo
install a failsafe devise that will activate on a timer.”
Buck sat pondering all he needed to do in the next twelve hours
to be ready for his ‘court’ appointment.
“That’s a lot to ask
of a drone,” Wilma murmured, worried.
“Even with the help of a quad.”
“A drone, yes, but
Twiki, no,” Buck responded before Twiki could protest.
“With Dr. Goodfellow’s help, I can finish some of the
programming I’ve been working on.
Theo will be hidden when we go down, but he will later be able to
direct Twiki in setting up the devices that will cripple the machine.”
“If you’re sure….”
Wilma let her voice trail off.
She felt bogged down in the intricacies of this problem and
couldn’t force a command decision right now.
“We could leave this to the Galactic Council.”
“All I have to do is
keep talking long enough to let Twiki get at the Death Machine.
There will be great purpose to my debasement.”
“I don’t doubt you can
talk that long,” Wilma said with a mischievous smile.
In mock hurt, Buck said,
“I resemble that remark.”
“It’s just that I
worry about you in there with that madman.”
Buck sighed and moved
closer, putting his arm around Wilma’s shoulder.
“Which one of you is worried?
Wilma, the friend, or Wilma the second in command?”
“I guess both, but more
Wilma the friend.”
“That’s okay, but
don’t go treating me differently than others just because we’re
tight,” he admonished.
Oh, you mean our relationship,” Wilma translated.
He leaned over and kissed
her. “You just leave the worrying to me.”
Wilma pulled away
slightly. “Oh? Well, let
me tell you, Buck Rogers, you’d better not start treating me any
different because of our relationship.
I’m just as capable now as I was before.”
“I know,” he murmured
in her ear.
I mean it.”
Laughing softly, he threw
up his hands. “All right!
I concede. You are a
tough lady and no pushover.”
Wilma smiled and leaned
back against his shoulder. “I’m
just sorry I couldn’t warn you about Zrinn this afternoon,” she
said, feeling the warmth of his body next to hers.
“As the admiral said, it
just made it more effective,” he said.
“I guess you can now give a specific time for Bad Boy Buck to
appear in the palace tomorrow morning.”
“Are you and Dr.
Goodfellow going to have enough time?”
“We’ll just have to
make sure we get it done. We
wouldn’t want to keep His Highness waiting too long, would we?”
He squeezed her hand and then stood up.
“I guess Twiki and I had better head down to the good
doctor’s lab. I suppose
I’ll see you in the morning.”
Buck thanked her with a
kiss. Despite his bravado, he figured he’d need all the luck he