A missing scene from between the first and second season.  What in the world caused Buck, Wilma and Twiki to join the Searcher and leave Earth?




Chapter 1



Buck paced through his apartment several times before fully realizing what was happening.  With an exasperated sigh, he stopped himself and looked around.  Even though he had fixed it up and made it a part of him, a part of who he was, Buck still sometimes felt distant from all that was around him.  For some reason, after their return through the vortex, he felt restless, like he had accomplished everything that needed to be done here.  But how in the world could one accomplish something in a new world, a new time like the twenty-fifth century in the scant space of just over one year?  

It certainly hadn’t helped that the end result of the trip to Pendar was a kind of hush on any kind of threatening activities in the galaxy.   It was as though something chaotic had been soothed into complacency, like oil on turgid waters.  At least for the time being.   Oh, there had been a few missions, a couple of galactic thugs who tried to fill in the gap that the Draconians had left, but they had been easily taken care of, almost too easily, although Dr. Huer would disagree with him.  

Ardala had done nothing in the past five months.  Not a peep out of Draconia.  Directorate spies reported that the Draconians were seemingly licking their wounds of past defeats against the Directorate, as well as putting down insurrections in their empire.  Spreading themselves much too thin trying to take over Earth, Buck surmised.  Like the Roman Empire, it had tried to take over and administer too much and couldn’t effectively deal with it. 

Elsewhere, relations were, on the outside at least, friendly with everyone else the Directorate dealt with.  The new Galactic Council on Cronis seemed to be building a strong new alliance among the inhabited worlds in most of the known quadrants.  

Buck shook his head.  It wasn’t that he wanted war and discord, but if peace was going to mean sitting here on his butt for the rest of his life, training recruits for peacetime missions, and going out to occasionally take care of the bullies that popped up on the block, he figured he’d better find a new line of work.  Leisure was not his style.  He’d had five hundred years of that already.  

Back in the past, he had never felt this agitated before, and had never considered himself one of those “restless spirits” of the post cold war days.  Buck sighed again and sat down in the large chair he had picked out from the heap that Dr. Junius called a museum storehouse.   He thought about taking a stroll down to the garden shopping area, but that didn’t appeal to him enough to do more that think about it.  A stroll through the stars?   That might be the ticket, but the Directorate didn’t hand over the keys to a starfighter with impunity like his dad did the family car. 

Buck chuckled.  Dad didn’t hand over the keys nonchalantly either.   But that was the impetus he needed.  Grabbing his brown quasi flight jacket, he got up and strode out of his apartment, determined to take that little spin around the solar system, if for no other reason than to clear his head.  

Down in the flight hangar, the exo in charge just stared at him for a moment.  “Do you realize how much this little flight will cost the Directorate?” 

Buck grumbled under his breath.  

“What?” the lieutenant asked.  

“I said put it on my bill,” Buck retorted.  

“I daresay your bill would exceed your pay,” the exo shot back.  

“Look, Lieutenant, uh . . . Sanderson,” Buck began, peering at the young man’s name on his uniform.  “Let’s just say I don’t trust the universe right now.  Call it a patrol.  Call it surveillance.  Call it something.  I just need to fly and think.”

“Take a shuttle to Sinaloa.”

Buck frowned.  “That’s supposed to let me think?  Have you been there lately?”  Under any other circumstance, that would have been a decent idea, but not now.  Distraction wasn’t what he wanted.   He sighed.  “Just send through the request, would you?” 

The other man gazed into his eyes, pondered a moment and then turned to his console.  “All right, Captain.  I’ll at least do that.  But be warned that the Directorate has been curtailing patrols lately.” 

“A lull in galactic nastiness is just the time when one should be on his toes,” Buck said wryly.  

Sanderson gazed at him a moment longer and then nodded.  “Personally, I agree with you.  Unless there is anything specific against your name, I will honor your request.  The next patrol is scheduled to go out in a short while anyway.  You’ll just let someone get to bed a bit earlier.” 

“I appreciate that, Lieutenant.” 

“Think nothing of it.  I am fully aware of your reputation.” 

“Uh oh, and you’re still letting me loose in one of those?”  Buck smiled when Sanderson did a double take.  

The young man realized Buck was joking and smiled in return.   “Not that reputation, Captain Rogers, although I am aware of that, too.”    

Now Buck did the double take.  “Hey, I have a sterling record!  I’ve only cracked up, uh . . .”   He began counting on his fingers, then he grinned.  “Just kidding.   I’ll take very good care of whatever jalopy you hand me the keys for.” 

“Huh?  Jalopy?  Keys?” Sanderson asked in confusion.  Then he shrugged.  He knew that reputation, too.   In a moment, he turned back.  “Starfighter D118.  Berth C.  Fully fueled and ready to go.  Don’t forget pre-flight checks, though.” 

“Of course not,” Buck replied, grinning.  He found his flight helmet and strode over to the starfighters.   D118, right in front, he noted with approval.  Climbing up on the wing, Buck lifted the canopy and got in.  Fitting the helmet, he began the requisite pre-flight checks and then pulled the canopy closed.   “D118, ready for launch,” he told the controller.  

“Launch Bay Three is ready, D118.  Have a good flight, Captain,” came the answer.  

“Thanks, I plan on it.  And I’ll let you know if I see any little green men out there,” he quipped.   Suddenly he felt very, very good, as though something totally great was going to happen this day.   Why, he didn’t know, but lately, his moods had been swinging like a pendulum.   Maybe this was the twenty-fifth century version of a midlife crisis.   Buck mentally groaned.  Heaven preserve him from that curse.  But as he eased into the launch bay, he realized that he had been moody of late, more than he had been before.  Of course, before, he had been too busy to be more than depressed in passing.  Except for that time where he had to deal with his loss of Jennifer again.  Or the woman that looked like Jennifer. 

He launched and felt the momentary thrill of being catapulted out of the bay and into the stratosphere, just as he did each time he took off.   Then he began pondering again.  Actually, his feelings of restlessness began with that little episode in his life.  It had brought back, full force, all that he had kept at bay after his awakening in this century.  More to the point, it had brought back emotions that he had kept carefully locked away for the most part.  So what was he to do?   Go to a shrink?   Again, Buck groaned, aloud this time.  Maybe that was what he needed to do.  But what in the hell could someone from this century know about his displacement, his loss, and his inner feelings?  

With a sigh, Buck guided his starfighter straight up from New Chicago, wanting the stars in his view port as quickly as possible.  Only those had not changed.   So up he went, until the sky turned black and the stars stopped twinkling.  He watched entranced; it never ceased to thrill him.   This was one of the main perks of his new life—that and his new friends.   With sudden realization, Buck realized just how lucky he had been in all this.  To be dumped so unceremoniously into something as strange and foreign as this world, he had found people of incredible understanding and warmth.  Even Twiki, he thought with a chuckle, had more feelings than many of his acquaintances of the past.  

But sometimes that wasn’t enough.  Sometimes the pain and loneliness was almost too much to bear and it was something even his new friends couldn’t help him with.  New Chicago was too close to old Chicago, the scars of the holocaust haunted him horribly.   It was at those times that he was grateful for off world assignments, those duties which would take him away from the reminders of what had happened to his home, friends and family.  Away from the terrible scars of a ravaged planet.    Now there simply weren’t enough of those assignments.   He had too much time among the graveyards of his past.  

Buck took the starfighter around the orbit of the moon, skimming over craters that were almost the same as when the first men had landed here.  He slowed until the anti-grav jets took over, cruising over the Sea of Tranquility until he saw the base of the old lunar module that Neil Armstrong had climbed from so many years ago.  The flag still stood, still outstretched, the stars and stripes almost as pristine as when that banner was planted over five hundred years ago.   Setting the starfighter down just beyond the designated distance for ‘sight-seeing’ Buck sat and gazed at the bit of history unmarred by war or politics.   Those guys had been heroes; they had done something no one else had done.  So have you, a tiny voice reminded him.   Startled, Buck wondered where that had come from.  He would hate to think he had begun talking to himself.  It had happened before; that something that warned, chided or exhorted.  Maybe that was what his mother had called a guardian angel.  With a sigh, Buck studied the old artifacts for a while longer, before engaging the anti-grav units again and slowly taking off.  

High above the moon’s surface, Buck flew in intricate loop-de-loops, patterns that would have made most pilots dizzy, in fact they almost made his own stomach lurch.  He flew straight out toward the end of the solar system, pausing to fly intricate patterns between some of the asteroids, then out to Jupiter and Saturn, where he flew under the layers of rings, then on to Neptune and Pluto with its twin/satellite Charon, amazed at the ability he had to simply stroll around the solar system.  Too bad everything wasn’t in conjunction, so he could see them all in one pass.  He had wanted to do that from the moment he had started flying for the Directorate, but there had never been an opportunity.  

Buck looped around the planet that astronomers in his day only theorized by fuzzy photographs and he studied the dark and dreary landscape of the extra solar phenomenon.  Finally, Buck realized that he needed to start back soon.  While these birds had great range, and the fuel was very efficient, he had not used any stargates, and this fighter was a short-range craft.  Gazing at his instruments, Buck saw, to his chagrin, that he had almost over extended his range—in fact, he probably had.  He turned and headed on the most direct course back to Earth, determined to get there even if he had to coast part of the way, not wanting to call for help.   Putting the craft on computer auto-pilot, Buck leaned back as much as the seat would let him and contemplated once more.  

He was here, as Theo had told him, there was no way he could go back.  And as Dr. Huer had told him, there would always be moments of pain.  That was part of being human, especially a human in his situation.  So what was he going to do about this present situation?   He sure couldn’t keep on moping around like some grounded teenager.  Perhaps he could ask Dr. Huer for an off-world assignment.  That was a possibility, at least temporarily.   Buck dozed for a few moments, feeling the sudden lethargy of several nights of restlessness and too little sleep.  He was brought to wakefulness by the computer’s chime, telling him that his fuel was almost gone.   Cursing his inattentiveness, Buck sat up. 

He realized that he was only within range of Mars, much too far to coast and use his last bit of fuel to get to New Chicago.   Eat crow, Rogers, you pulled the stupidest stunt any Directorate cadet could have managed and you’re going to have to pay for it.  In loss of dignity, at the very least.   Buck reached for his communicator and then stopped.  According to the read-outs, there was a large space liner ahead of him, one that should be on visual at the right angle.  He slightly shifted his fighter and saw what appeared to be a duplicate of the cruise ship he had been on when he was playing bodyguard to Ms. Cosmos.  This one didn’t have the fancy trim and trappings of that one, so while it probably came from the same shipyards as the luxury liner, this one was different.  Buck switched on his communicator, while at the same time noting a great many smaller craft around it.  Then he realized what it was; this was a new ship in final fitting for space.  

Trying to remember any mention of any shipbuilding in any of the vids or in a conversation with Dr. Huer or Wilma, Buck drew a blank.  Regardless, he was dangerously low on fuel and this monster ahead of him had a landing bay.  Maybe even a spare canister of this century’s equivalent of rocket fuel.  It would beat hitchhiking.  Checking his instrumentation, Buck saw that the bay was completed, with all the necessities for landing a small spacecraft.   It appeared to be clear of personnel as well.  He turned on his communicator.  “This is Earth Directorate starfighter D118.  Requesting landing rights.” 

“Starfighter, you are not authorized to land on this craft,” came the immediate answer.  They had probably been watching him from out beyond Mars.  

“Sorry, guys, this is an emergency.  I am out of fuel.  I either land or you all get to tow me back to Earth,” Buck replied, a bit irritated.  

“Negative, starfighter.  This is a classified project and no unauthorized personnel are allowed on board,” the voice told him in no uncertain terms.  “Call for someone to tow you in to Directorate Headquarters if you were so stupid as to run out of fuel this far out.” 

“I am part of the Defense Directorate.  And I am practically out of fuel.  No fuel, minimal control,” Buck said, his irritation becoming anger.  “And guess what direction I’m heading in.”  He paused a moment.   “I’m coming in to your main hangar bay, unless, of course you want me to punch a large and very hard to patch hole in the side of that nice new cruiser.” 

There was some sputtering on the other end of the transmission, but Buck cut it off.  The guy he had been talking to was right.  He had been stupid.  But communications even cut into the fuel and he needed all he could get to guide this craft safely into the large bay.  You simply didn’t have the kind of options in space that you had in the upper atmosphere.  You couldn’t lower flaps and kill speed, you couldn’t put the nose up—no air for friction or anything else for that matter.  You ran out of fuel in space and you just coasted in whatever direction you were going in when you ran out and hoped to hell there was nothing in the way.  

He heard the alarms in his helmet and on the panel before him just as he was winging into the landing bay of the nearly finished space ship.  The sudden influx of atmosphere inside allowed him to use his atmospheric controls, and he did so, feeling his head snap back against his chair.  It was a dangerous maneuver but he had not had enough fuel to slow himself with the forward propulsion units.   The ships engines screamed as the last bit of fuel was expended and he hit the deck hard.  Buck had already engaged the anti-grav brakes and the force of them as his landing gear touched the deck whipped him forward against his harness.  He didn’t have time to cry out in shock as the webbing bit into his chest.  He was too busy willing the ship to stop, holding the anti-grav brake controls steady before it hit the end of the bay.    And it finally did, a scant ten feet before the bulkhead.  Canisters of blue paint flew everywhere on his entry, making an almost psychedelic effect against the drab gray and white base coat on the decks and walls.   

Almost as an afterthought, one of his landing struts buckled and the starfighter was suddenly sitting at an angle.  Shaky, Buck popped the canopy and slowly pulled off his helmet.  Angry and frightened workmen poured into the bay, shouting curses as they saw the mess he had made.   With extra careful deliberation, he pulled himself out of the ship and tried to jump down onto the deck.  Big mistake.  His knees buckled and he landed awkwardly.  There was a pain going up one arm and he bit off a cry.  He didn’t think that landing had been that rough, but apparently it had.  The adrenalin rush was over and Buck was left feeling dizzy and weak.  

An arm grabbed him and jerked him to his feet.  “Who the hell do you think you are, coming in unauthorized like that?  You almost took this thing out before….” 

“That’s enough, Garen,” a deep voice said.  

“But Admiral….” 

The workman released him, but stood close.  Buck looked at the newcomer.  He was older, a bit on the chunky side, but very much in control, even wearing the gray work suit he had on.  And the man didn’t look very happy with the situation.  Of course, thought Buck, he would be unhappy, too.   “Admiral,” he began.  Even his voice was shaky.  That had been way too close. 

“Who in the hell are you to come in like some green cadet who thinks he knows more than his instructor?” the admiral thundered.  

“Captain Buck Rogers, Admiral,” Buck answered more sure now.  The man next to him gaped at him in recognition.  Buck stood up straighter.  “I’m sorry.   I….” 

“You should be.  Is Colonel Deering your commanding officer?” 

“Uh, yessir.” 

The admiral gazed carefully at him and then at the ship.  “You know, you could have changed trajectory and drifted until picked up,” the admiral said, his voice a bit softer in tone.  “You could have done a great deal of damage, pilot.  In fact you did, but it’s superficial.  You’re also lucky you weren’t killed.”   He sighed.  “I have to admit, though, that was one damned fine piece of flying, Captain.  Where did you learn that kind of stunt?”  

Buck was feeling surer of himself, although he still felt stupid.   “I, uh, learned some of that in the Air Force Academy, but the rest was just experimenting with what these things can do . . . and training from Colonel Deering.”  He paused.  “I agree, though, sir, it was a stupid thing to do.  I should have known better.” 

“Mmm, yes.”  The admiral looked thoughtful.  “Air Force Academy?” 

“Yessir, Colorado Springs, United States Air Force Academy.”  

The admiral looked intensely puzzled and then comprehension dawned.  “Who did you say you were?” 

“Captain Buck Rogers, sir.” 

The admiral suddenly smiled.  “You’re right, Captain.  A man of your years really should have known better.” 

Buck wondered if the admiral was joking.  It was definitely hard to tell, even with the smile.  

The admiral strode forward and held out his hand.  “I am Admiral Efrem Asimov.  Welcome aboard the Searcher, Captain Rogers.” 




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