Time and Again

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

Buck’s Green Thumb

 

 

“I don’t know what’s in the atmosphere on this ship, but I never slept so soundly in my life,” Wilma said when she finally emerged from her quarters.   She, too, had on a jumpsuit provided by their hosts.  Buck couldn’t help but stare at her.  It accentuated her lithe and sensual body even more than her flight suit did, and that was saying a lot.

“I did, too, as a matter of fact,” Buck agreed.  He wasn’t about to tell her that he had had a dream about her, though, one that had slightly alarmed and yet, disappointed him at the same time.  Wilma had been in it.  It had been strange, to say the least.  He dismissed it; most of it had slid out of his memory as soon as he had awakened anyway.  “And you are probably right.”

Wilma looked up and down the corridors.  “I really don’t know my way around this ship.  I guess we should call for Breearth.”  As Wilma reached for her communications button, Breearth and Mreesa rounded the corner of the corridor and greeted them. 

“Do you two read minds?  We were just going to call you,” Buck told them. 

“Oh, no,” Breearth said.  “I had just called your room, Buck, and you were not there.  I assumed that you were up and would be here.  Shall we have breakfast and then we can study more floratats.”

“Sounds like a winner to me,” Twiki said.

Breakfast looked very much like any Earth morning meal of eggs, bacon and toast, along with coffee.  Buck glanced into the cup.  “Not Irish, I hope?” he asked. 

“Irish?” Breearth asked, puzzled. 

“Irish coffee has whiskey in it,” he explained.  He gazed at Breearth.  “I don’t know what was in that cordial you folks served yesterday after dinner, but it was potent.  And it didn’t even give an interim buzz, it went right to the pass-out phase.”

Breearth paused, as though trying to understand everything that Buck had said.  “It is not supposed to do that,” Mreesa interjected.  “We will be sure to check it out before dinner.  But rest assured, there is nothing here that will cause a reaction, Captain Rogers.” 

“Um, Buck, please.  And I appreciate that.”

“Is that what being intoxicated feels like?” Wilma asked. 

“Not totally,” Buck answered, spreading a light colored jam over his piece of toast.  “You’re supposed to have a bit of fun first.  Before you pass out.”

Wilma smiled as she finished her breakfast.  “I will agree on one thing.  I didn’t care for the headache I had when I woke up.”

The day was spent examining floratats, then details for implementing the first of the four terraforming projects.  Before they knew it, the group found it time for dinner again. This time there was no large banquet, but rather a quiet meal.  After being assured that the drink they were served was non-alcoholic, Buck tried it, finding it pleasing to the palate.  He found himself tiring quickly, but not quite the same as the night before.  This time Twiki and Theo stayed in the room with him, allowing their circuits to rest.  Buck’s sleep was restful and dreamless. 

Wilma, too, seemed to have rested easier, meeting him at his door when Buck emerged.  “Very nice,” she said, admiring his jumpsuit, this one a dark burgundy, with black around the waist and collar. 

“Ditto,” he said.  “But then I don’t think you’ve worn anything that didn’t look nice.  I suspect you would make sackcloth look good.” 

Wilma blushed slightly, “Why, thank you, Captain Rogers,” she said with a smile, genuinely flattered.

“You are very welcome, Colonel Deering.  May I escort you to breakfast?”

“Colonel Deering, may I remind you of your appointment?” Theo interjected. 

Buck decided that he needed to talk to Theo about timing, too.  Then he realized what the quad had just said.  “What appointment?”

“Oh, I totally forgot,” she said, her face showing embarrassment.  “Dr. Huer wanted me to sit in on a Directorate meeting of some importance.  I was so caught up in this project, I forgot to tell you.” 

Buck was disappointed.  He had been genuinely enjoying sharing this assignment with Wilma.   “Oh.  Well, I don’t think it will take much longer to wind things up here,” Buck said.  “We have seen what we need to see.  The Directorate has approved the contract.  Basically just fine tuning and setting up work schedules.”  He scratched his chin.  “As a matter of fact, it might be as boring here as it would in a Directorate meeting,” he said, a glint in his eye.  Wilma caught it and, knowing what those meetings could be like, said nothing.

“Now, Buck, Directorate meetings are not that boring,” Theo protested. 

“Gotcha,” he said to the quad with a grin.  “Now let’s go have breakfast.”

Laughing, Wilma said, “Actually, that is pretty much what Dr. Huer said to me when he scheduled this meeting, that you could finish this easily without my help." 

“So I’ll be joining you all in a couple of days, I would guess.  I just want to stay long enough to make sure they get everything right.”

“I am so excited to see the finished product,” she said as they walked into the dining room.

“So am I, Wilma.  So am I,” Buck agreed.

 

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“The Earth woman has left,” Jreeshnar told his superior.  “She had some kind of meeting with her superiors on Earth, as I understand it.”

Foreenizor frowned and waved his hands in the air.  “It would have been so much quicker and easier if both had returned to Earth infected.”  He gazed at his subordinate.  “Is she returning?”

“No, Doctor.”

“Then we will have to make do with the male.  Once the virus begins to spread through the population, the extermination will come almost as quickly as if there had been two carriers.” 

“But what about the slight anomaly we found in the two blood tests?  There were small microbiological differences between the two humans, and the male’s blood sample was not viable for more than the first test,” Jreeshnar said.

“They are negligible, probably only the difference between the males and females of humans.” 

“But would it not be better to infect the male with what has been developed from his blood?  Of course, there was not an opportunity to get another sample.  His drone and the quad have been with him constantly,” Jreeshnar pointed out.  “And we haven’t wanted to make any of them suspicious.”

“Yes, I know, but we have to be able to create a virus that will infect both males and females, so it won’t matter if the virus has been created based on the makeup of the female’s blood,” Foreenizor explained.  “This will work.  You and the technicians make sure that the virus is ready in the next two days.  That is when I was told Captain Rogers was planning on returning to New Chicago.”

“Yes, Doctor,” Jreeshnar replied. 

 

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Hawk gazed over the reddish brown rocks that rose toward the sky, looming high over his head.  On his back were the folded up quasi-wings, that which allowed him the power of free flight.  It was the best substitute for what had been lost so long ago in his people’s history.  Taking a deep breath, he began again, finding the finger holds and toe holds that let him continue climbing up this majestic natural tower.  And to think there was even more of this natural beauty here five hundred years ago.   Breathtaking was the only word he could come up with.   Oh, Koori, if only you could be here.  If only we could soar together on the currents of air here in this place so far from home.   He paused and let the wind pluck at him, raising his head feathers slightly, bringing him the scents of trees and scrub brush.    

He suddenly felt the presence of another and looked around as much as his precarious hold would allow him.  Nothing.  Sighing, Hawk continued upward.  This was the only part of his new life that still gave him pangs of sadness, the fact that his Koori was no longer with him.  But his anger was to blame.  His thirst for revenge had doomed his beloved and almost doomed the very man, the only human who had been sympathetic to him.   “Ah, Buck Rogers, I will get you in quasi-wings someday.   And it will be in this place.  On your own planet,” he said to the wind, letting the capricious breezes pluck his words away.   Finally, Hawk made it to the top of the pinnacle and looked around.  His sharp eyes saw two terran birds floating on the air pockets above him, presumably life-mates, looking for a meal.   

He shook out the quasi-wings, bracing himself as the winds caught in the panels and tried to pull him off of his narrow ledge before he was ready.   When the final strut snapped into place, he screamed a high-pitched challenge and leaped out into the sky.   The thermals caught and he soared high and then higher.   Oh, Koori!  We should be like those, he cried, trying unsuccessfully to bury his despair.   He suddenly realized that coming here had been a mistake.  He should have gone to the alien ship with Buck and Wilma.   

‘No, my love, this is where you belong,’ a voice whispered in his heart.  ‘And you are not alone.  I am with you.  Always…………..’  

“Koori!” Hawk cried aloud and felt his heart and soul soar as high as the alien sun that blazed overhead.  Most of the afternoon, he flew in and out of thermals, rising and diving, reveling in his knowledge that he was, indeed, not alone in this place.

 

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Buck handed the computer disk to Breearth.  “This disk shows you what the various habitats used to look like,” he said.

Breearth and Mreesa put the disk into their computer terminal and then gazed at the view screen, entranced. 

“See what I meant by tree bark?” Buck asked, pointing.  “And that’s just one type of terran tree.”

“Yes, these images are going to be most helpful, Buck,” Mreesa said.  “Did these come from your archives?  Maybe we can get more, to be even more accurate.”

Buck just tapped his head and smiled.  

“But so vivid.  I had no idea that Earth had such places in existence.  Perhaps we only need to prepare the land and transplant cuttings and floraclones.  But it is no wonder you wish to duplicate these in your wastelands.”

“You misunderstand me, Mreesa,” Buck said.  “These are what the wastelands looked like in the past.  There are some of those plants and trees extant in other places on earth, or preserved in specially built habitats, but some of those plants are gone.  They died in the Great Holocaust.”  He pointed to a map of North America.  “This is where the woodlands and grasslands used to be.  This is where the mountain forests regions were.  This, the desert habitat.”  Buck sighed.  “The Directorate is most eager to make this land appear as it once was.  And I am going to do my best to help them.”

“You must have found the best archive possible to have something this sharp and clear from a mind probe,” Breearth said.  “May we keep this disk?”

“Sure you can,” Buck said.  “And let me clarify something.  Most pre-Holocaust records didn’t survive to the present.  I am the archive.  I lived in that time before the Great Holocaust.”

Buck remembered the disagreement he and Theo had had that morning just after Wilma had left.   The quad didn’t think he should divulge too much of his past.  “Hell, Theo, half the galaxy knows my history.  It’s there for anyone to find out,” he had told the computer councilman.   And he felt comfortable around these Lagrithians.   “By making them understand where this knowledge is coming from they won’t be tempted to take any liberties with the floratats.  And you are the one who told me I was paranoid.”  He had won the argument.   The two women gazed at him in amazement. 

“Doesn’t look a day over one hundred and thirty,” Twiki quipped. 

Breearth glanced at the drone and then back at Buck. 

“A freak accident cryogenically froze me for five hundred plus years and I was revived a year and a half ago,” he explained.  “I did this disk so there would be no mistakes.  So it would look the same, or as close to the same as possible.”

“I understand, Buck Rogers,” Breearth murmured.  “It means even more to you than it does to the Directorate.”

“Yes,” Buck said simply.

They spent the rest of the day going over the details of the foothills floratat, adding into the computer the changes and additions.  Buck felt much had been accomplished and sent a detailed report to Dr. Huer before he went to bed.  Tomorrow they would take care of the other floratats and he’d be able to return to New Chicago.  

The following day, Mreesa and Breearth poured over floratat specifications, making changes and adding things previously overlooked.  Buck enjoyed working with the two Lagrithians, feeling their enthusiasm for their work and their interest in making sure Buck was pleased with the floratat plans.

The more he immersed himself in this project, the easier it was to push his anger and depression over the past events aside.  His excitement grew as he began picturing himself and his twenty-fifth century friends walking, without fear, along grass-covered meadows, picking black-eyed Susans, violas and daffodils.   When he got back to New Chicago, he would have to look in the science archives for the names of all of the plants that he pictured in his mind.  There were so many for which he had forgotten the names.  So much he had taken for granted before his journey to this time and place. 

Theo and Twiki served more as recorders, but on occasion pointed out slight deviations on the computer specifications from Buck’s memories.   Time seemed to fly by as the five of them worked together.

At the end of the day, he stretched and rubbed his back, trying to loosen stiff muscles.  “Well, Breearth, Mreesa, I believe we are finished until you come down to Earth and check out some of our surviving fauna and the land you’ll be working on.”  He stretched a bit more, feeling his muscles popping.   “I think this has been the most pleasant assignment I have had since I landed in your time zone, but I believe it’s time to head back to New Chicago now.” 

“It has been such a pleasure working on this.  We are eager to come to your planet and get started,” Breearth said, her fingers moving in what Buck had come to understand as pleasure.  “But Dr. Foreenizor has asked if you could stay one more night, especially since it’s so late.   He would like you to be his guest at dinner tonight.  He has been wanting to meet you, but has been very busy up to now.”

Buck looked at his watch.  “It is rather late, isn’t it?”  He smiled.  “Sure, why not?  Consider the invitation accepted.”

 

 

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