Transition

 

A missing scene from between the first and second seasons

 

 

 

Chapter 2

   

 

Buck took the Admiral’s hand and suddenly winced as pain shot up his arm. 

Asimov let go and looked at him in concern.  “Are you all right, Captain?” he asked. 

“I fell when I got out of my ship and came down a bit hard.  Probably just sprained,” Buck replied, rubbing his wrist.  

“Even so, I think it wouldn’t hurt to let our medic check it out.  We don’t have a qualified doctor yet, but Mortin can take care of you for now.  And in the meantime, we’ll put enough fuel in your fighter to get you back to Earth,” Asimov told him.  He glanced back at Buck’s ship.  “Provided it will make it.”

“I think we’re talking about a bit of damage to the strut, sir, nothing that will affect how it flies,” Buck said.  

“Good, then that means you get to explain all of this to your flight commanders,” the admiral said with a knowing smile. 

Buck winced.  Indeed, he would and then get to hear Wilma chide him for pulling a dumb schoolboy stunt.   He sighed as they left the landing bay.  They walked along a corridor that seemed to go on forever before they reached a turbolift.  When they came out, they walked down another corridor and then another, finally heading into a large and only partially finished room. 

“How do you figure your way around, Admiral?” Buck asked, not remembering the luxury cruise ship being this big.  

“Mortin?” Asimov called out.  Then he chuckled.  “It’s like anywhere else.  You get used to it, then you wonder how you ever got lost to begin with.”

Hmm, makes sense, Buck thought.  He remembered his first days in New Chicago.   Now he could make his way through most of the corridors with his eyes closed.  

“Yes, Admiral?” a voice from the back of a console called out.  

“Would you look at the captain’s hand and see what damage he did to it?” 

A young face popped up from behind the large medical apparatus and smiled at him.  “Hello,” he said.  “You’re new here, aren’t you?” 

“Well, not exactly,” Buck said hesitantly, intensely curious about this seemingly secret project.  He had heard nothing about the Searcher and he wondered about this monstrous vessel that was apparently not a leisure cruise ship.  And there was something that drew him beside curiosity, too.   He felt a strange sense of eagerness. 

“Captain Rogers is an unexpected guest,” the admiral said.   “Tried out our landing bay when his fuel ran out.” 

“Rogers?” Mortin asked gazing intently at Buck.  The Captain Rogers?”

Feeling self-conscious, Buck just nodded.  

“Well, welcome aboard,” he said holding out his hand.  

“It’s the hand that needs checking, Hans,” Asimov said, his mouth curved in a wry smile.  

The younger man struck him more or less as a younger version of Dr. Junius.  “Come on over here, Captain.”  

Buck followed him over to an examination table, where Mortin motioned him to lay his hand in the middle of it.  There was a slight hum and the med tech walked over to a small computer console.  “Hmm,” was all he said for a moment.  

“Well?” Buck said after several more ‘hmmm’s.’ 

“Nothing broken, but it seems that you’ve suffered a slight sprain,” Mortin said matter-of-factly. 

Sighing, the admiral said, “That kind of precludes you flying back to Earth for a day.”  

“Sorry, Admiral,” Buck said in a sincere voice, then his curiosity got the best of him.  “May I ask a question?”    Mortin wrapped his wrist and hand with a thera-wrap bandage, one that was supposed to promote healing of bruised tendons and muscles.  

“Yes, but no guarantees of an answer,” Asimov answered.  

“I gather this ship is something of a secret?” 

“For the time being it is.”  Asimov gazed thoughtfully at the young pilot.  As irritated as he was with him, there was something he liked about this hotshot standing in front of him.  He wondered if half of what he had heard was true.   

“I didn’t see evidence of much in the way of armaments, so I’m thinking this is not a ship of war,” Buck began.  “But there is a great deal of specialized equipment.  Is this some kind of exploration vessel?” 

Asimov looked startled for a moment, then he nodded.  Well, Rogers was astute.  “Yes, it is, or will be.”  Asimov rubbed his chin.  “You have figured out this much, I can only assume you would figure out the rest, seeing as how you are going to be with us for a short while.”  There was a slight pause.  “The Searcher is a joint effort between the newly formed Galactic Council and the Earth Directorate to go out into the various outlaying quadrants.  This is a scientific vessel.  We hope to have it fully fitted and commissioned within a month.  Our mission will begin shortly thereafter.”  

Buck said nothing for a moment.   His mind was spinning at the possibilities.  

“I would hope when you go back to Earth, you will keep most of this to yourself,” Asimov said.  

Buck looked puzzled.  “Why the secrecy?” 

“While it seems very peaceful right now, the Council and the Directorate feel that there might be those who would not want such a venture to succeed.  We can’t take the chance of sabotage when the ship is most vulnerable.” 

“So I’m not the only one who’s paranoid,” Buck said with a slight smile.  

The admiral returned the smile.  “We can’t keep it a total secret, but we haven’t broadcast ourselves yet.  Those in the upper echelons of the Directorate know.” 

“Like Colonel Deering?”

“Yes, she is aware of it,” Asimov said.  “And select pilots have been keeping patrol in the area to protect us from unwanted intrusion.” 

Buck couldn’t help it, he began to chuckle.  “But apparently they aren’t totally successful.”   He wondered remotely why she hadn’t let him in on this. 

“Apparently.”  The admiral’s mouth quirked.   “I would guess the colonel will put you on one of those patrols now that you know.” 

“And I promise not to make that kind of landing again,” Buck replied with a smile. 

“Or to run out of fuel.” 

Buck felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment, but then renewed excitement made him forget his discomfiture.  “You have your full compliment picked yet?” 

“Not entirely.  For now, we have been carefully studying records of Directorate employees and asking those we thought would be interested in this mission, as well as those with the expertise we need.  Once the ship is fully operational, it will be publicized and the call will go out for any additional scientists and crewmembers who wish to sign on,” the admiral responded, looking curiously at the younger man.  “Were you thinking about joining?” 

“As a matter of fact, Admiral, I would like to be considered,” Buck said.  This might be just what he had been looking for. 

“These will be deep space assignments.  We don’t expect to return to Earth that often,” Asimov reminded the pilot.  

Buck considered.  Yes, that would mean separation from those he had come to call friends, but he had wanted something different, something that would take him from Earth with all its attendant ghosts and horrific history.   This was the perfect answer to his restlessness.   “Admiral, there isn’t much here to hold me.   As I guess you already know, my Earth is five hundred years gone.  Only the ghosts are left to haunt me.” 

There was silence for a moment as the older man continued to study this potential crewmember who had made such a spectacular, though non-stellar entrance.  That he was not a scientist was obvious, but there was always need for those who would do initial exploration, fly patrols and similar duties.   And this man seemed perfect for that kind of work.  “I don’t know if you are that familiar with Earth’s history after the holocaust,” the admiral began, feeling he could trust him with the other part of the ship’s undertaking. 

“The sickness and hardship?” Buck asked.  “I know some of it.” 

“But did you know there were those who were able to escape into space during the early days of the post-holocaust?” 

Buck was startled.  “No, I didn’t.” 

“Yes, well, it is not hard and fast, but there are enough records to believe that it actually happened.  Apparently, there were those who had kept enough technological know how and the materials from old space yards to build spacecraft.  It is believed that they launched into space and no one knows where they ended up,” Asimov explained.  “That is the other part of our mission.” 

Buck felt his excitement growing.  “I had no idea, Admiral.”  He paused for a moment.  Then he felt the rightness of his decision.  “Yes, I think I would like to be considered for this.” 

Nodding, Asimov said.  “Very well, I will send a request for your transfer to your commanding officer.” 

While still excited, Buck wondered how Wilma and Dr. Huer would take the news.  It bothered him a bit, but he knew he could not remain on Earth for very much longer and be happy.  He would just have to explain it to them when he returned to New Chicago.  Then he realized why Wilma and Dr. Huer had not told him about this project and he felt twinges of guilt.  

 

 

                     ============================================

 

 

The request came much quicker than Buck’s return.   Dr. Huer walked into his office several hours before his official working time and sat down with a fresh cup of coffee.  Seeing the furiously blinking computer screen in front of him, he sighed lustily.  Most of it had to be for that new project commissioned almost six months ago, the project that had been approved right after their return from Pendar.  It was a good thing that the shipyards on Lngris had already been building a ship and had done everything except the special and final requirements.  Otherwise it would most likely have been more than a year before the project would be ready for fruition.  It had been only a simple matter to divert this vessel from its intended buyer, a cruise line that was a bit financially strapped anyway, to the Directorate/Galactic Council auspices.

But Huer was still amazed at the speed with which this had all happened.  It was almost as if the mission through the vortex had spurred not only peace, but a new wave of restlessness, a desire to go and do and explore and find.  He wondered if there had been something similar that happened in Earth’s past history that had spurred the old explorers.   “Ah, well, enough speculation for now,” he said aloud to no one in particular.  “It’s time to get to work.”   He reached over and turned on his computer.  

The door opened and Twiki, with Dr. Theopolis around his neck, entered.   “Good morning, Dr. Huer.”   Twiki beeped his greeting. 

“Good morning, Doctor,” Huer returned.  

“You are starting quite early this morning.” 

“Yes, this Searcher project has been increasingly time consuming and demanding, and I needed to get a head start on the paperwork,” Huer replied.  He took a sip and then laid the cup down.  “It seems there have been more requests overnight. 

“Yes, now that the project is coming closer to completion, I imagine that there would be.” 

“Yes, more requests for transfers.”  Some of the requests were taxing the ranks of the Directorate. 

“I assume that there will be a public call sometime soon,” Theo said.  “Now that the ship is almost completed.  Then it will be even worse.” 

“Yes, but by then, those who are most needed will already be selected.  It will mainly be a matter of filling in the gaps.”  Huer began studying the screen.  Then he took a deep breath and sat back suddenly.   What he had dreaded and expected had finally happened. 

“Doctor Huer, what is wrong?” Theo said, seeing the look on the Directorate leader’s face.  

“Something I had hoped would not happen,” he said softly.  “But something I expected would anyway.”  He sighed and began reading.  “A request for transfer for one Captain William Anthony Rogers to the research and exploration vessel, Searcher. 

“So Buck knows.” 

“Yes.” 

“I would assume that your reaction is why you and Wilma kept this project secret from him?” Theo asked.  

“Well, not exactly secret, but we didn’t….” 

“Doctor Huer, you knew that Buck would be interested, didn’t you?” Theo asked pointedly.    “And you didn’t want him to leave.” 

“No, I didn’t want him to leave.”  Huer thought of his feelings right now and they were similar to that which he had felt when Buck went into the vortex.  Fear, anxiety, loneliness; it was much as he had felt when his son had left to serve in a far quadrant.   No, he had really not wanted Buck to leave, but he felt that the restless young man would have wanted to eventually.  The signs were there, more especially of late. 

“I believe I told you that Buck has been feeling very impatient and restive of late, did I not?”  

“Yes, you did.” 

“This is something that would be good for him.   I think he feels too confined here on Earth.  Even with all he has done this past year,” Theo pointed out. 

“I know, Doctor, I know, but I . . . I will miss him fiercely,” Huer said softly, still gazing absently at the screen. 

“As will I,” Theo said.  His voice, too, was low.   The quad had become quite attached to the anomalous and energetic young man from the past. 

“I want to go if Buck goes,” Twiki piped up, punctuating his sudden request with several beeps.   There was silence for the space of several minutes. 

“I think that would be a good idea,” Dr. Theopolis said before Dr. Huer could say anything.  

Huer nodded.  “Yes, I agree.”  Then he paused.   “I guess I had better send this to Wilma, in case it hasn’t already reached her.  Since she is his commanding officer.” 

“Yes.  I believe it will affect her just as it has you,” Theo stated.  

More, Huer thought as he forwarded the request to the head of Directorate Defense.  Much, much more. 

 

 

Next Chapter
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
Main Page