Transition

 

A missing scene from between the first and second seasons

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

Wilma sat looking at the request on the screen in front of her.  How had he found out? she asked herself, even while she realized it didn’t matter.  Buck had found out about the special ship and, just as she had surmised, he was jumping at the chance to join the expedition.  Does he have any idea at all how his departure will affect those left behind?  Then she chided herself.  Should it matter?  But again, Wilma couldn’t help but feel betrayed.  Hadn’t they done enough to help him acclimatize?  Hadn’t they done their best to help him get over the culture shock that fast forwarding five hundred years into the future would cause him?   Buck Rogers, don’t you know what kind of a hole in my heart your leaving will cause? 

Her finger hovered over the button that would put a refusal on the request, but Wilma hesitated.   So far she had not denied any of those who had chosen to transfer to the Searcher and it would not be fair to refuse Buck’s request until she had had a chance to talk to him.   Deep within her heart, she knew it would be unfair to refuse it at all.  With a sigh, Wilma simply jumped to the next computer message and found out the reason for Buck’s knowledge of the semi-secret project.  It was the patrol log for late the previous night.  Buck had requested to do patrol and it had been granted.  He had flown an erratic course, according to the log.  The moon, Jupiter, Saturn and out to the end of the solar system.   What in the heck kind of patrol was that?   Almost immediately, Wilma knew the answer.  It was the meanderings of a very confused and lonely man.  Buck had been periodically moody ever since his little adventure with the quasi-Jennifer, Leila.  And since that trip to Pendar?   Buck had too much time on his hands.  She should have seen that.   And done something about it.   

She read further.  As she had suspected from the flight pattern, Buck had neglected to pay attention to his fuel supply.  She sat back and took a deep breath.  He knew better than that!   Shaking her head, Wilma read on.  He had run out of fuel just within the orbit of Mars.  And guess where the Searcher lay getting its finishing touches?   Wilma read in amusement and some amount of trepidation, a brief account of his emergency landing.  It was a wonder he hadn’t killed himself, she thought, irritated.   So he was now on the Searcher, nursing a sprained wrist.   Admiral Asimov probably gave him a good tongue lashing, especially if he had caused any damage.   However, it must not have lasted too long.  Wilma went back and perused the transfer request again.  It had come from Asimov.   

Shaking her head, Wilma couldn’t help but smile.  Buck had done it again.  He had charmed his way into the good graces of yet another commander.   But why wouldn’t Asimov be impressed with Buck?  Even when he screwed up, Buck had a way of coming out on top.   He could charm the flitters from a Mundosian cloud skimmer.  

Then she reread the transfer paper and felt her eyes burning.  Buck Rogers, what am I going to do without you?  The same thing she had done before he had come to this century.   But she still felt her soul being rent apart.  How could one man affect her this much?   It was a question she had asked herself before.  Finally, Wilma got some semblance of control over herself.  She looked over the other messages as well as the duty roster, putting the answer to Buck’s request on hold for the moment.  There was a message from Dr. Huer, telling her what she already knew.  There were several other requests from other members of her squadrons to transfer to the scientific ship.  She glanced over them and punched in the button that signaled her acceptance.  There were duty rosters, cadet reports, situation reports from the Dicron quadrant where their diplomatic envoy was being harassed.   She went through everything carefully, deliberately pushing the dilemma of Buck’s transfer into the recesses of her mind.   

After work, she went to her apartment, showered and changed, still trying to keep her feelings under control.  A chime at her door brought her out of a relaxed reverie that the hot shower had put her in.  She gazed at the ident signal and saw, to her surprise, that it was Buck.  She felt the same thrill that she always had when he came calling.  Then she wondered what kind of a mood he was in tonight.  “Come in,” she called out. 

The door opened and Buck came sauntering in.  He seemed happy and she suspected that his desire to go with the Searcher had put him in a better mood.  “Hey, Wilma.” 

“Hi, Buck.  I hear you had a great deal of fun with one of the starfighers.” 

To her satisfaction, his embarrassment was very evident in his face.  “Uh, yeah.  Sorry, didn’t pay as much attention to the fuel monitors as I should have.”  

“How bad did you damage the Searcher?” she asked.  

Now he looked a bit hurt.  “Not as much as I hurt myself,” he shot back. 

Wilma gazed at him carefully.  Sometimes it was virtually impossible, especially lately, to tell if he was, as he put it, jerking her chain, or really angry.   “I’m sorry, Buck.  I got the impression you hadn’t hurt yourself that badly.” 

“No, I really didn’t,” he answered, his tone more casual.  “And it was much less than I deserved, I guess.” 

She decided he had just been putting on a show.   “How did you like it?” 

“Quite a ship, Wilma.  Have you seen it?” he asked. 

“Not recently,” she answered.  There was something bothering him and she couldn’t tell what it was.   

“Did you have plans tonight?” he asked suddenly. 

“Not really.  Just relaxing,” she said warily.   “You want to join me?” 

Buck gazed at her appreciatively and nodded.  “Yeah, your place or mine?” 

“I’m here, so how about my place.”  

He shrugged.  “Suits me.  Want me to order out?”

“Order out?”  Then she understood what he was meaning.  “You mean call up something to eat?”  He nodded.  “Not unless you’re hungry.  I wouldn’t mind a glass of vinol, though.  There’s some in the refrigerator.”

He smiled.  “I’m not hungry, except for some adventure.”  He went over to her little kitchenette area and got the drinks.   Soon they were sitting across from each other in her small living room.  

“Is that why you put in the request for a transfer?” 

“Partly.”  He poured her some of the vinol and then poured some for himself.  He gazed at the drink and shook his head.  “Your synthesizers have to get their acts together.  This stuff doesn’t even look like the real thing.” 

Wilma chuckled softly, then sipped her vinol.  “What should it look like, Buck?” 

“Depends.  Some wine is a rosy color, some white, or almost clear, rather.” 

“Turn in your recommendations and see what they come up with,” she suggested.  

“Ah, well, I am the only connoisseur around here and I’ll be gone in a couple of months,” he said nonchalantly, then took a drink.  

“Why, Buck?” she asked, suddenly somber.  “Really.  Why did you decide to do this?  And so quickly, too.”  

Buck took a deep breath.  “I noticed that you approved about a dozen requests, but didn’t approve mine.” 

“I . . . uh, wanted to talk to you first.” 

“You mean talk me out of it?” 

Wilma squelched the flash of irritation that she felt.   “That’s not fair, Buck.” 

He sighed.  “I’m sorry, but I know that every request has been almost immediately approved—by either you or Dr. Huer,” he replied.  

“Buck,” Wilma began.   “I think I just wanted to talk to you and try to understand why you feel you need to do this.”  She gazed into his eyes and sought for understanding there, but he was keeping his feelings hidden.  

Looking at the ceiling, Buck said nothing for a moment.  Then he took another deep breath.  “You know how much you and Dr. Huer, and yes, even Twiki have helped me adjust to this century.  And how much all of you mean to me.”  

“But it’s not enough,” Wilma said, trying to keep the sadness out of her voice.  

He looked at her, his eyes boring into hers.  His look spoke of gratitude and friendship.  Then he gazed into his glass of vinol.  “No, it’s not enough.”  When he looked up again, she saw pain.  “Wilma,” he said pointing to his left.  “Over there is the place where I lived and grew up.  It’s the place where the people I loved died and are buried.  It’s ghosts and graveyards.”  He stopped and sucked in a tortured breath.  “And it’s haunting me, Wilma.  Every time I go anywhere in New Chicago, I feel the breath of old Chicago.  Every time I fly in, I see that horrible wasteland and see, in my mind, what it used to be like.  I am surrounded by ghosts.   I thought it would go away with time and it did a bit when I was too busy to think about it, but lately….” 

“Lately, it’s been quiet and peaceful and we all have time to think about more than trying to keep Earth from being invaded or threatened,” she finished for him. 

“And to feel the specters of the past,” he added.  

“Would it help if you moved to New Phoenix or City by the Sea?” 

“No, the spirits of all who lived and died, everything that reminds me of what used to be would be at my fingertips.  This whole planet is like a graveyard to me sometimes,” he said, his voice almost a whisper.   “Maybe someday when the memories aren’t so fresh, so quick to surface, maybe then I’ll be able to come back and feel at ease.  Feel comfortable with my past, as well as my present.” 

“I’ll miss you, Buck,” Wilma said, trying desperately to avoid crying.  She blinked, trying to focus on Buck’s features that had become suddenly blurred.  Only partially succeeding, she felt a tear escape and trickle down her cheek.  

Buck reached over and wiped it away, then touched his finger to his tongue.   “There’s supposed to be some kind of saying about tasting someone else’s tears.   I just can’t remember what it is,” he said tenderly.   He sat back, quiet for a few minutes.  “Damn, Wilma, I’m going to miss you, too.  That’s what hurts the most.”  He took her hand.  “But I have to do this.  Can’t you see?” 

No! she wanted to say, but she couldn’t, because she did understand.  She understood that she wanted him to feel happy and whole.  “Yes, Buck, I can see that and that’s what hurts the most for me, too,” she said.  “I can feel your pain and see your anguish and marvel at your resilience.  And I cannot hold you back from doing what is best for you.”  She smiled softly.  “I could never do that to a friend, to someone I respect and care for as much as I care for you.” 

Buck reached over and took her in his arms, enveloping her in an embrace that spoke volumes of his deep friendship for this incredible woman.  He felt the warmth of her body against his and felt her cry softly against his shoulder.  For a long time, he simply let her release her emotions, then he pulled back.  “Hey, the Searcher will be back from time to time.” 

“I know, Buck.  And you’ll have to tell me all of your adventures.” 

“I will, Wilma.  That’s a promise,” he said.  “The admiral has already told me some of the assignments that he has been given.”  Excitement animated his voice and his features. 

There was no way she could ever refuse his request.  

“Have you ever heard of the Lost Tribes of Earth?” he asked, excited. 

“Yes.  Is that one of the assignment?” 

“Yeah.  I had no idea, Wilma.   Imagine finding some of these people!  I can’t believe that a group of people could have such resourcefulness as to build a spaceship after something as devastating as the Holocaust.  It’s incredible!”  He continued to talk, and she listened, falling under the spell of his eager anticipation.   When he left a short time later, she remembered the warmth of his embrace and the animation in his voice and wondered how she could live without that until the Searcher made a return trip to Earth. 

 

 

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The week after the Searcher’s official commissioning ceremony, Dr. Huer held a farewell party for those in the Defense Directorate who had transferred their service to the new ship.  Buck pulled at his collar and hoped that this would be the last time he would have to wear this blasted monkey suit.  

Wilma smiled at him across the table and winked.  She knew how much he disliked having to wear the dress blue uniform.  But she knew how nice he looked in it, too.  Glancing at Dr. Huer, sitting halfway down the table from them, she noticed that he was doing a very good job of hiding his true emotions.  Some of these transfers had hit him hard, being people he was so very close to.   She sighed, feeling deeply sorry for him.  Of course, as Buck had told her, the Searcher would come back to Earth periodically.    

“My friends,” Huer said as he stood up.  “I wanted to have this dinner to let you know just how much I care about all of you and how much I, and indeed, the rest of the Directorate will miss you.”  He paused and cleared his throat.  “But what you are doing is going to be even better than what you were doing here on Earth with the Defense Forces.  I can only say that those of you who are heading out with the Searcher will be leaving a huge hole in the ranks of the Directorate, but you will be advancing peace and cooperation among all galactic entities.”  Dr. Huer paused again as those in attendance clapped.  “If I was a few years younger, I would be going with you,” he added.  More applause.    He opened his mouth to say something else and then stopped, as though changing his mind.  Instead he picked up a glass of vinol and raised it high.  “To you who are going on this glorious adventure.  I salute you.”  The sound of a hundred glasses clinking together were the only sounds for a moment and then the room burst into applause again.  

Buck glanced at Wilma, who gazed at him from over the rim of her glass.  While he was feeling the excitement of his imminent departure, he was also feeling a great deal of sadness.  Dr. Huer’s bravado only served to heighten his feeling.  The separation from his dear friends was now a reality; he would be gone in a few days.  Buck was not regretting his decision, but getting used to life without those who had befriended him from the very outset was going to be harder than he ever imagined.  At times he felt like a betrayer, even though neither Wilma nor Dr. Huer had said anything that was remotely close to sounding accusatory.   Perhaps that made it even harder.    He looked up as Dr. Huer began speaking again.  

“It is with great pleasure, that I present to you Major Brandon Orlov, second in command of Earth’s Defense Directorate, as the temporary head of Earth’s Defense Forces for the duration of Colonel Deering’s absence,” Huer announced loudly.  There was even louder clapping and cheering as the older man stood up.  

Buck could only gape at Wilma, who smiled a Cheshire Cat smile at him.  “What the hell is going on?” he mouthed to her.  

She smiled all the more and raised her glass.  Absently, he did the same.  When Dr. Huer sat down, Buck leaned across the table and said in a low voice, “What is that all about?” 

Leaning over, still smiling.  “You painted an exciting picture, Buck.  Your enthusiasm was contagious, so I decided to see the galaxy, too.”  She sat back, obviously enjoying his shocked expression.  

“You mean, uh, you’re . . . you joined the Searcher?” he asked, shocked.  She had not even hinted. 

“Yes, I did.”

“When did you decide that?  And why didn’t you tell me?” 

“It wasn’t until just last week, Buck, that I made my decision.  I have pondered and argued with myself and finally decided that I needed to go onward, too,” she explained.  

“I’m glad you left yourself open to return to your old job,” Buck said.  “You’re a top notch commander.” 

She blushed and smiled.  “Thanks, Buck.  I appreciate that.  Sometimes I wonder.” 

“Take my word for it, you are.”  

Wilma suddenly felt overwhelmed by everything; her decision, the change that her life was taking, leaving Earth.  Leaning over, she touched Buck’s cheek and then kissed him soundly.  When she pulled back, he had the bemused look of someone who was in shock.  

“It will be a grand voyage, Buck Rogers.” 

“Indeed it will.”  And suddenly he felt an overwhelming euphoria.  Wilma was coming on this voyage, too.  Now it really would be a glorious adventure….

 

 

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