Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter Six

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Meecros Gets His Come-Uppance

 

 

 

Buck spent the remainder of the day and far into the night with Dr. Goodfellow, working on the drone, while the scientist worked on Dr. Theopolis.  It only took a short time to reconstruct some of the robot’s inner workings so Theo could hide inside Twiki’s chest, but it took longer to figure out the robotic synapses that would allow the little drone to use the new and more dexterous hand.  Finally, he had all the electronics working and Twiki happily demonstrated his newfound mobility by de-activating Crichton for a few minutes.   

“Twiki, dear boy, you know better than that,” Goodfellow said, with a slight grin.   

“Leave him alone, Doc.  Crichton was getting on my nerves,” Buck said, straightening up and rubbing his sore back.

“Buck, if the truth be told, so was I, but you do realize that we have to re-activate him soon or he will never let me live it down,” Goodfellow replied.  “And you have to admit, he was helpful in keeping me apprised of Dr. Theopolis’ specifications.”  

“Let me get out of here first,” Twiki said. 

“Let’s both of us get out of here,” Buck quipped.  “You need any help with Theo, Dr. Goodfellow?”

“No, no, Buck, you go and get some sleep.  I daresay you will need it, what with that audience you have with King Meecros.”

“Okay, Doc.  We’ll see you in the morning.” 

Twiki beeped.  “It already is morning, boss.”

“Oh.”  Buck rubbed his tired eyes.  Yes, he thought, it certainly feels like morning.  “I’m going to my cabin and try to get a few hours sleep.”

“I’ll go see if the admiral needs me, Buck.” 

“Sure, do that, Twiki.”  In his cabin, after changing into his pajamas, Buck found himself sitting at the little table near the kitchenette, thinking about the upcoming ‘audience,’ as Dr. Goodfellow called it.  He planned on winging most of it, but he had to have a catchy beginning.  Pulling up the remote computer terminal, he began composing and then re-composing.   Finally, after another hour, he felt he had what he needed and had it hard copied on paper.  Buck yawned and finally collapsed on his bed.

What seemed to be only a short time later, Buck was awakened by Wilma’s voice at the door.  He tried to ignore it and fall back to sleep.  Why would anyone want to get up at this unholy hour, he thought groggily.  Suddenly, he was being shaken awake and he turned over to see Wilma standing over him, decked out in her dress blues.  “Hey, can’t a body get some sleep around here?”  Then he saw his digital on the small bed stand and almost fell out of bed.   He only had fifteen minutes to get ready and be at the hanger for his trip to Endril.  “Holy mackerel, give me a minute for a quick shower!” he cried, grabbing some clothes and dashing to the bathroom.  “Theo ready?” he asked over his shoulder.   

“Yes, he and Twiki are both waiting by your starfighter,” she answered as he rushed past her.    She couldn’t help it; she chuckled softly.  Dr. Goodfellow had told her how late it had been in his lab and she didn’t doubt that Buck had stayed awake for a while longer getting ready to face Meecros.  She frowned slightly.  This whole enterprise worried her.  More than she wanted to admit.  To keep herself occupied, she got Buck’s dress jacket out of the small closet and brushed it off, then pulled out his dress boots.  What did he call the uniform?  A glorified monkey suit?   She shook her head, hoping that all would go well on the planet below.  In less than ten minutes, Buck was out of the bathroom.  He sat on his bed and pulled on the boots, while Wilma held out his red sash.  He buttoned the jacket as they walked to the hanger bay.   She couldn’t help but admire him in the uniform.  There was something about a man in a uniform.  She had always thought so, and it applied even more to Captain Buck Rogers.  When he had finished, she handed him his white gloves.   

“Thanks, Wilma.  I appreciate the help, but I sure wish you had awakened me a bit earlier,” he said.

“I wanted to see if your boast was legitimate or not,” she said with a smile.  In reality, she had only gone to his cabin when he had not shown up at the hangar bay.   

Buck looked surprised.  “What boast?”  Then he remembered.  He had once boasted he could get ready in the morning in less than ten minutes, bed to duty station.  “Oh, yeah, that one,” he said.  “I guess you found out, didn’t you?  By the way, did you say Twiki and Theo were waiting by my starfighter?  I thought we were going down in the shuttle.   More befitting a vehicle for a pilot in the doghouse.”

“Doghouse?” Wilma asked, then she just let it pass, feeling she knew what it meant anyway.  “Regardless, you are the exo in charge of exploration and defense.  I believe that it is befitting your rank to fly your own starfighter.  And I’ll be escorting you, so Meecros doesn’t have to worry about you.”

“Thanks, and it also wouldn’t have to do with the possibility of us having to shoot our way out?”

“Well, hopefully it won’t come to that, but the thought crossed my mind.”

Buck just laughed and they continued down the corridor.  Some of the crewmembers had heard of the incident and wished him good luck.  Buck acknowledged them but said nothing, running some of what he was going to say in his head.   

Hawk met him in the hanger.  “Be careful, Buck,” he said, his dark eyes solemn.   

“I will, Hawk.  Thanks,” Buck responded clasping his friend’s arm.  Seeing that Twiki was already in the back seat of his fighter, Buck climbed aboard, slid into his seat and secured his straps.  “You ready, Twiki?  Theo?”  

“You betcha, Buck!”  

“Indeed we are, Buck,” Theo said.  “I believe that Dr. Goodfellow has done a very good job.”

“Good.  Now Twiki, you store Theo away now and once we get into space, no more chatter,” Buck instructed.   

“Right!”  Twiki placed Theo into the hidden compartment built into his chest.   

“I am deactivating myself now, Buck, and Twiki, do not forget to reactivate me when we are safely in the palace,” the computer councilman said.  

“Don’t worry, Doc.”  Twiki closed the chest plate concealing the smaller quad.  

Buck smiled.  “I’ll stall them as long as I can, but you will still have to work fast.  You have the schematics of the palace and the surrounding buildings?”  

“Yep.”   The drone tapped his head.  “Right up here.”  

“Good.  I can’t help but believe that the House of Entertainment is where the machine is.  He would want his toy close so he can play with it.”  

“Yeah, 99.5% probability, Buck,” Twiki said.  “Don’t worry, we’ll find it.”

During all this banter, Buck had been doing his pre-flight checks and he found that everything was in order and ready.   “Ready for launch sequence.”  

Soon he and Wilma had been catapulted out from the Searcher and were speeding through space toward Endril.   Buck began humming the same tune he had sung the first time he had flown to twenty-fifth century Chicago.  Despite all his reassurances to his friends, he was feeling somewhat nervous.  A great deal rested on his ability to bluff his way through his audience with King Meecros.  He didn’t doubt for an instant Twiki’s and Theo’s abilities, nor, for that matter, his own, but so much depended on things that they had no control over.  Like Meecros, for example.  And that oversexed, overindulged, bratty daughter of his.  

He would love to see the look on Meecros’ face when he got mad enough to try to use his fancy weapon and it blew up in his face. Buck smiled, some of his good humor restored, and executed a double roll.   

“Captain Rogers, may I remind you of your mission?” Wilma said, her voice seemingly stern, but he heard a hint of humor.  

“Absolutely, Colonel Deering,” Buck said, grinning.  “Just trying to ease the nerves.”

The rest of the trip was made with quiet purpose and they were soon in the royal hanger.  Buck jerked his dress uniform jacket smooth after lifting Twiki down from the starfighter.  Wilma stood beside him, her countenance anxious, her body tense. 

“Good acting, Wilma,” Buck said under his breath.   

“Who’s acting?  You aren’t,” she responded just as quietly.  “Please put up an appropriate front.”

Zrinn and two courtiers approached.  The ambassador gazed at Buck disdainfully, his eyes cold and hard.   

Buck frowned.   “Well, I’m here.  Shall we get on with it?”  

“Were you not the individual who said that you would prefer Hell to freeze over before coming and apologizing?” Zrinn taunted.  

“Their Highnesses and my superior officers presented very persuasive arguments to the contrary.   You were there when I agreed to do this, Zrinn,” Buck said tersely. 

Zrinn smiled frostily. “Well, His Highness, King Meecros and his family will be ready to see you in about ten minutes.”

It was closer to an hour, but while Wilma fumed quietly, Buck concentrated on his “apology,” frowning as he pondered.  Twiki walked beside him as he paced.  Finally Zrinn returned and beckoned them to the throne room.  Again, straightening his jacket, Buck, with Wilma and Twiki, followed the ambassador through a pair of large overly ornamented doors.  Buck glowered at the man’s retreating back.  It was like being in the presence of the oily courtier Kane.  When they entered the throne room, Meecros was sitting on his throne, an ornate dais encrusted with jewels and inlaid precious metals.  Next to him on a throne not quite so elaborate was the queen, Creesus.  The princess Oralinn sat next to her mother, smiling benignly.   

Buck didn’t have to pretend any of his displeasure now.  All he wanted to do was take the girl over his knee and spank her.  She batted her eyes at him and smiled even more brightly.  Buck ignored her and turned his attention to King Meecros.  “Your Highness, I am here as specified by the terms previously agreed upon.”  Buck bowed stiffly from the waist.  Twiki beeped noisily beside him.  Buck mentally smiled at the robot’s performance. 

“What is the drone doing here?” Meecros demanded.  His face darkened in his displeasure.  “In fact, I only demanded the presence of Captain Rogers, to pay for his insult to my daughter.  I want everyone and everything else to leave!”

“Your Highness, in my capacity as second in command of the Searcher, as well as Captain Rogers’ commanding officer….”  

“You will wait outside the throne room with the drone, Colonel!” Meecros shouted.   

Wilma seethed even as she exulted since this was exactly what they had desired.  Buck had assured her that Meecros would object to Twiki’s presence and probably hers as well.  This gave her the opportunity to help cover for Twiki’s absence.  “Your Highness, the Galactic Council will hear of this insult,” she huffed, turning and escorting Twiki from the room. 

“Do that, Colonel,” Meecros hissed and then turned his attention to Buck.  “Now Captain, Count Zrinn will read the charges.”   

“Your Highness, I am fully aware of the charges.  I am here to offer the apology as stipulated.”

“You will first hear the accusations.  It is the protocol of the Endril people,” Count Zrinn barked.   

Buck rocked back on his heels and nodded slightly.  These pompous windbags were going to make it even easier for Twiki and Theo.  He listened to the blow-by-blow description of the princess’s very overactive imagination.  It took some time.  When he was finished, Ambassador Zrinn intoned, “How say you, Captain Rogers?”  

Buck blinked and suppressed a yawn.  He also suppressed the urge to look at his watch.  “It was my understanding that I was here to offer an apology, not to answer to any charges, real or imagined.  However, if you really want to rehash the whole incident, I have no problem with it, Count Zrinn,” Buck said emphasizing the ambassador’s royal title.

“The apology is sufficient,” Meecros interjected.   

Buck bowed.  “Very well and thank you, Your Highness.”  He reached into the inside pocket of his uniform and then paused as several guards pointed their weapons at him.  “Uh, just some notes, if you don’t mind.  I want to do this properly,” he hastened to say.

Meecros nodded and Buck finished pulling out the papers that he had prepared the night before.

“As pursuant to the conditions agreed upon between Admiral Efram Asimov of the Earth exploration ship, Searcher, the Galactic Council of the Federation and the ruling family of the sovereign planet Endril, I, Captain William Anthony ‘Buck’ Rogers, formerly of the United States Air Force, assigned to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, last assignment date, 1987, more recently assigned active duty with Earth Defense Directorate in the capacity of Captain in a Defense Directorate starfighter squadron and at present, head of exploration and defense on board the aforementioned exploration ship Searcher, do submit the following formal apology and statement of humility.”  Buck figured that had to be the longest sentence he had ever written in his life.  It took two breaths to deliver it.  He shuffled his papers and looked up innocently with an apologetic smile on his face.   

“As part of my status with the Defense Directorate, I was given the use of the ambu-quad, Twiki.  Uh, he serves me in many capacities, including that of major domo.  He keeps everything in order for me.”  Buck shuffled some more.  “He was supposed to keep these in the right order.”  When Meecros looked ready to explode, Buck cried out.  “Ah, there.  I have it!”

He took a deep breath.  “In regards to the physical handling of the very regal Princess Oralinn….”  Buck noticed the princess sitting up straighter at the mention of her name and primping.  He went back to his notes.  “….I do apologize most profusely for picking up Her Highness and removing her from the cockpit of the Searcher shuttle XO331 during the flight from Toran to Endril.  While the navigational maneuvers were precise and delicate, needing the utmost concentration, it was inexcusable on my part to indulge in such physical conduct with the Princess Oralinn.”  Buck took another deep breath and proceeded to the fictional account of all of the princess’s and royal family’s considerable attributes. 

 

 

 

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