Time and Again

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty

First Day Home

 

 

Dr. Huer continued to pump Buck’s arm in his happiness.  A thought occurred to Buck.  “Uh, Doc, you’re down here, too?”

“I was with Wilma shortly before I got yours and Hawk’s communication.”

“How is she?” Buck asked.  

Dr. Huer’s face told him the story before the older man even opened his mouth.  “She is sick, Buck.  Very sick.”  He let go of Buck’s hand and asked somberly, “How did you survive with something like that?”

Buck felt a wrenching sadness that Wilma was experiencing what he had gone through, and all he wanted to do was to go to her and reassure her.  But he knew what would be of the most value to her now.  “Doctor Huer, this is Njobo,” he said, placing his hand on the BaMbuti’s shoulder. “He took care of me and gave me medicines that saved my life.  He also has an immunity to what I had, too.  Perhaps between the forest remedies, his antibodies and mine, the doctors can come up with an antidote.” 

Dr. Huer turned his attention to Njobo and bowed slightly.  “Welcome to New Chicago and thank you for coming to help us.” 

Theo translated and Njobo smiled.  Mangese, we are all one people of the Ndura.  We all help each other when there is need,” he said formally.  Even as he spoke, he was looking all around the hangar trying to take in the strange and puzzling things he saw in the huge room. 

Theo translated again.  Hawk handed Njobo his medicines.   Huer pointed down a corridor.  “We have no time to spare.  We must go to the medical bay where the doctor can examine both of you and your medicines.” 

Again Buck told the pygmy, “Stick close to me.”  Njobo needed no further reminder; he was almost as close to Buck or Twiki as a shadow.  His eyes were wide as saucers as the small group left the hanger and walked down a starkly white corridor.

Dr. Huer walked close to Buck as well.  “You look very pale, Buck.  Are you doing all right?”

“Buck is feeling the effects of the virus, which, according to my calculations, attacks its victims….”

“Theo, thank you very much for your concern, but I’m fine,” Buck interrupted.  “I am two hundred and fifty percent better than I was a couple of days ago.  I’m just tired and dirty and very, very glad to be home.”  He thought of something and paused in mid-stride.  “Doctor Huer, I would appreciate it if you could keep a lid on my return from the dead for a couple of days.”

“A lid?  Oh, keep it secret.” he asked.  Buck nodded.  Huer’s familiarity with Buck told him that the captain has some sort of plot brewing in the back of his mind.  “I suppose that could be arranged.  So far we’ve managed to keep this virus a fairly well guarded secret.”  He turned to the man next to him and gave him instructions.

“Good, although in about a day, it might not hurt to let the news leak in such a way that the Lagrithians will pick up on it.”

Huer knew better than to ask the specifics of what Buck had just said.  He knew the gist of the comment.  “Now what do you have in mind?  And be aware, I have been discussing this with Earth’s representative from the Galactic Council.  Just so happens that he was visiting New Chicago.  The Council is going to take care of the Lagrithians.”

“I have in mind a small surprise for the Lagrithians, Doc. Especially Foreenizor.  I have an idea of what I want to do, but nothing specific yet.  First, I want to let the doctors do their stuff and find an anti-viral serum for this thing,” Buck said.  They arrived at the medical bay and were shown to a room.  There, Buck dropped all pretense of normalcy.  He grabbed the nearest chair and dropped into it.

“Buck, are you all right?” Huer asked.  

Buck nodded, only wishing at this point to be over this illness.  In lieu of that, he only wanted to crawl into a nice clean bed and hibernate.

Njobo touched his arm and pointed to his pouch.  “Even though you are in your home, do you wish me to make the medicine to help you regain your strength?”

“Yes, but only if you have enough to let these guys examine it in their lab and to give Wilma some,” Buck answered, indicating the two doctors who had appeared in the room as soon as he had.  They looked dubiously at the BaMbuti, but at a gesture from Buck, they stood back and let Njobo work. 

Theo translated Buck’s words and Njobo pulled a leaf-covered packet from his pouch.  “I need water,” the BaMbuti said. 

“Twiki, take care of that,” Buck instructed.   The next hour was a blur to Buck, a combination of Njobo’s ministrations, the doctors’ examinations and even more welcome to him, a bed.  As he lay back, he felt the pricks of several needles and then nothing but welcome rest. 

When he awoke, he saw Njobo curled up, sleeping, on a lounge chair near his bed, and Hawk sitting in another chair by the door, watching him.

“Welcome back, Buck,” Hawk said softly.

Buck adjusted the bed to accommodate his sore back.  “How long have I been out?”  He rubbed his hand, feeling where and IV had been administered. 

“Almost twenty-four hours.” 

“Holy cow!” Buck exclaimed.  “What’s going on?  What is the status on an anti-virus serum?  And most important, how’s Wilma?”

“The last doctor who was in here said that they believed that they had a preventative serum and one to give those who are already infected.  They couldn’t say enough about Njobo’s contribution.” 

“And Wilma,” Buck prompted.

“She is still quite sick.   I was allowed to see her very briefly, but she was not lucid.  Since then her nurse has let me know what is going on.  Wilma was in the greatest need, so she was the first one who received the serum.”  Hawk paused.  "I have not received word as to how she is doing since she was given the antidote."

Buck sighed and looked over at Njobo.  “How’s he managing?”

“So far, he’s doing fine, but he has not been out of sight of either you, Twiki, Theo or me,” Hawk replied. 

“Understandable.”

“How are you feeling?” Hawk asked.  

“Much better.”  He slid out of the bed.  Hospital garb hadn’t changed much since the twentieth century, but at least they were civilized enough in this century to provide a robe.  Buck grabbed the one next to his bed and put it on. 

“One of the med techs said they were going to be bringing dinner in a few minutes,” Hawk said. 

Buck felt his stomach rumbling in anticipation, but he ignored it.  “First things first.  Where’s Wilma’s room?”

“I was told it was the room next to this one,” Hawk said, pointing.

“Thanks.”  Buck rubbed his smooth chin and looked in the small mirror over the bathroom sink.  “Service in twenty-fifth century hospitals is much better, too.”  Njobo stirred, sighed and kept sleeping.  “Keep an eye on Njobo till I get back.”

Hawk nodded, not saying anything.  He thought, considering what he had been told, that this visit would be hard on his friend, but he felt there was nothing he could say or do that would make it easier. 

Buck sauntered out of the room and Hawk was amazed at what a difference a day could make, although his friend’s recovery was not quite complete.   Of course, considering all they had done to Buck and all they had given him, it was no wonder.   Njobo’s remedies times ten, Hawk thought sardonically.

Buck stood in front of Wilma’s door a moment before touching the access plate.  He felt apprehension warring with something else, something he wasn’t sure about.  Reaching up, he activated the sensor and waited for the door to slide open.  Instead of access, though, a computerized voice spoke to him.  “Only authorized personal are allowed to visit individuals in bio-hazard designated areas.  Please state your name and authorization number.” 

Authorization number?  “Captain Buck Rogers,” he said.  After a short pause, the door slid open and he stepped inside.  “Wilma?”

The lighting was dimmed and remembering how the sun had affected him at the beginning of his ordeal with the virus, he completely understood.  He saw Wilma sleeping on a bed on the other side of the room and he walked to her side.  She looked deathly pale and her hair lay limp on her pillow.  Despite the care she was receiving, Buck felt fear squeezing his heart.  She looked so very vulnerable, so small in that bed.  He reached out and touched her cheek and felt the heat of fever.  If only he could have figured a way to get a message to her.  If only he had tried to come back sooner.  He shook his head, trying to shake off the recriminations.  “You will get well, Wilma,” he whispered.

“She is still sick, so I doubt she’ll be lucid enough to talk to you,” a voice behind him said. 

Buck jumped slightly and turned to see a middle aged med tech, her gray-green eyes serious, but also they contained a slight curiosity.  Overall, Buck felt he was being measured.  He didn’t know why, he just did.   “Uh, that’s okay,” he replied.  “I just wanted to see her.  Let her know I’m alive and I’m here.”  There was something slightly familiar looking about this woman, but in the semi-light of the room, he couldn’t see her well enough to figure out what it was.  Buck gazed at Wilma, at the medical equipment that chirped and clicked and whirred, and then looked back at the med tech. 

“You seem to have this uncanny knack for surviving, Captain,” she said with a wry smile. 

“Must be those twentieth century genes,” he quipped, for wont of anything better to say.  He wished she’d leave so he could sit with Wilma for a bit. 

She cocked her head, her eyes impassive and clinical and then she looked at the little med computer sitting on her lap.  “I think in this case, you are at least partially correct.  From the reports it seems that between the help of the forest doctor and your microbiological makeup, you were able to survive in the primitive forest.”

“Maybe it was because of Njobo and the forest that I did survive,” Buck said somewhat testily.  Get lost, lady! he thought.  He forced himself to calm down.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so crabby.  What about Wilma?  I was told that she’s had a dose of the anti-viral serum, but she still looks very sick.”  Buck half turned away from the med-tech.  He took Wilma’s hand in his and began to softly stroke it.

“The virus incubated quickly and made her sick very quickly.  Believe it or not, the serum seems to be working.  Her fever has come down and she seems to be in a great deal less pain.” 

Buck nodded.  “And others?”

“The serum seems to have prevented most of what you and Wilma have had to deal with.  Most recent manifestations of the virus seem to be more like an ordinary case of the flu.”

“Good.”  Buck turned back to Wilma, reaching over and pushing an errant lock of hair out of her eyes.  She moaned softly and then settled back into a semi-restful sleep.

They are closer than you realize.  The thought came unbidden into his mind.  Where had he heard that?  Then it came to him. His parents!  He continued holding Wilma’s hand, remembering all the times she had come on to him.  He had either ignored it or rebuffed her.  Now Buck wondered why.  Could it be that first impression?  The hard as nails, tough, boss lady exterior that had put him off?  But they were close; they respected each other.  So what was it?  Me?   But could it change?  Then he decided that if nothing ever went beyond what they had now, this safe filial bond they had developed, Buck had to at least explore a deeper relationship.   Wilma was a special woman, not just a beautiful one. 

He remembered the med tech and glanced around.  “Any possibility of privacy?” he asked. 

She shook her head.  “No, Captain.  I’m sorry, but Wilma is still under critical care.  You will have to simply try and ignore me, or come back later when she is better.”

Buck sighed, disappointed.  He would let her know he was back and talk to her later when they could be alone.   “Wilma, it’s Buck.”

“Buck?” she murmured almost inaudibly.  Slowly Wilma opened her eyes and gazed at him, puzzled.  “But you’re dead. You crashed.  In the forest.”  Her eyes stayed locked on his but they had a befuddled, far away look.  “Am I dead, too?”

“No, Wilma.  I am very much alive and so are you.”  Gently he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

She gazed at her hand in puzzled wonder and then looked back into his eyes.  “Then it’s a dream.”

Buck laughed.  “Wilma, they didn’t call me Lucky Buck for nothing.  Believe me. I am alive and I’m back home.  And you’re alive and soon you’ll be well.”

There was still doubt in her eyes.  She blinked and continued to gaze at him.  Then she smiled slightly.  “But what a dream it is!”

“Wilma, you are the most hard-headed woman I have ever met!” Buck said in exasperation.  “I am alive!”  He didn’t even think about what he did next, he just did it.  Bending over her bed, Buck placed his hand behind Wilma’s head and then he kissed her, long and deep.  She was limp for a moment and then, as though finally understanding, she responded.  Buck felt the warmth of her passion, even as sick as she still was.  And he felt his own passion rise.  Then he remembered that they had an audience and Buck gently pulled away, his fingers moving lightly down her cheek.  Wilma gazed at him in wonder.  “Oh, thank God you are alive.  Oh, Buck, I missed you.  I . . . I, oh, when I thought you were dead….”

He put his finger on her lips.  “Wilma, I am so sorry I didn’t find some other way to warn you.  I felt terrible that I couldn’t tell you, but I couldn’t.”

“The Lagrithians?”

He nodded and changed the subject to something more pleasant.  “You are beautiful, Wilma Deering.” 

She blinked in surprise and then she blinked again, as though trying to stay awake.  “Buck, you . . . you kissed me.  And then you….   Buck Rogers, are you only doing this because I am….?”she began, a frown on her face. 

“….sick?  No,” he said softly.  “Because I have finally, truly let go of my past and discovered my present and future.”  Again, he remembered the med tech, sitting in the corner, not in the least bit trying to be unobtrusive.

Wilma yawned and closed her eyes.  “Still think I am dreaming,” she murmured, but when she fell asleep, she had a smile on her lips. 

“Sleep well, Wilma,” he whispered in her ear.

 

 

 

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