Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

  Chapter Four

 

 

Dr. Carlock gazed intently at the directorate pilot sitting across from him.  Like many who worked for the Defense Directorate, he had heard of Buck Rogers, and like many of the doctors in New Chicago, he had wanted to meet him.  But he had not wanted to meet the captain under these circumstances.   “Captain, you are putting great restraints on my ability to find something to break the garox,” he said bluntly. 

Buck shook his head.  “Do a continued study on Bosk, Doctor.”  He leaned forward.  “I am not taking anymore garox.” 

“Do you realize just what is in store for you?” Carlock asked, his only desire to save the young man across from him from needless pain and suffering.  

Buck blanched and took a ragged breath.  Suddenly Carlock realized that Rogers knew exactly what he was in for.  

“Doc, I almost died once when I went without the garox and Beros made sure I understood just what power he had over me from that point on.”  Buck closed his eyes, and remembered all the evenings Beros had summoned him into his office just so he could watch the terran writhe in pain.  Buck remembered only the generalities of the sessions; the intense pain, his attempts at some semblance of control, Beros’ taunts and rage.  Several times Buck knew he had been beaten, the bruises attested to that, but he didn’t remember feeling it.  He had realized that the initial withholding of medication had only been a precursor to what went on after the escape attempt. His only salvation from insanity had been Dr. Burrows and Buck was intensely grateful for that.  Regardless, Beros had still found various times to show his power.  

“Captain Rogers,” Carlock said softly, breaking into Buck’s painful reverie. 

Buck opened his eyes.  “Sorry, Doctor.  I was remembering just how much I do know what I have to look forward to.” 

Carlock nodded.  “I think we could get a better idea of how the garox works, the exact chemical changes in your body if we could continue to administer the doses for at least a few days.  And it would give us more time to save you,” Carlock said, and then continued when he saw Buck’s frown.  “But I will not force the issue. We will simply do the best we can.”  

“You have about twenty hours to save me, Doc, and then I will be beyond anything the garox can do to me.”  The voice was light, but the eyes were sad, like one who hoped, but felt there was little to hope for.  

Carlock nodded.  “I have several theories, Captain, on how to deal with this.” 

“Buck.  If you’re going to try and save my hide, then call me by my first name.” 

Smiling, Carlock nodded and then continued.  “Results from my studies seem to indicate that the garox not only infuses all parts of the body, but seems to have a particular effect on the nervous system.  It sends messages to the brain, false messages.” 

“I would assume that is why I feel like I’m in an oven when I miss a dose,” Buck said. 

“Yes, and the painful sensations as opposed to the feelings of normalcy that you experience when you are taking the garox.”

“Normal?” Buck asked.  “There is something normal about anticipating your next fix?”

“Fix?”

“Dose,” Buck said tersely.  “I have about six or eight waking hours of what you would call normal continuity.  The rest of the time I am either thinking about the next dose or trying to control the physical manifestations.”  Buck paused, gazing meaningfully at Dr. Huer as well as Dr. Carlock.  “And it’s getting worse.” 

“In order to keep you alive long enough to break this addiction, we’re going to do two things that I haven’t tried before,” Carlock said.

“What have you got in mind, Doc?” Buck asked, curious and yet dreading what was to come. 

“When you get to the point where you can’t control the withdrawals we are going to block the neurological impulses to the brain.  We are also going to use OEI technology to help you cope with the psychological aspects.” 

“Whoa!  Back up,” Buck said.   “What’s this about blocking neurological impulses?” 

“We will put a temporary spinal block in your neck.  You will feel nothing and your brain will get no false messages from the garox,” Carlock explained. 

“Paralyzed?” 

“Yes, but it might allow us extra time to find the key to breaking this addiction.” 

Nodding, Buck agreed.  “Do your dirty work now….”   He paused when he saw the doctor’s puzzled look.  “Run your tests and things now, because I want a few minutes outside of this facility to, uh, think.” 

Carlock sighed.  “I’ll do my best, Captain.  But again, you aren’t making this any easier on us.”  

Buck laughed, but it wasn’t happy laughter.  

Later he and Dr. Huer were walking along the skywalk of the inner city looking over the dazzling heights that had so amazed Buck after his awakening.  

“Buck, earlier you told me that you considered me like a father to you,” Huer said. 

“Yes,” Buck said, studying his older companion.  “And I meant it.”

“Then I hope you will take my fatherly advice in the spirit it is being given.” 

Buck said nothing.  He just looked over the railing at the city and then nodded.  

“You are giving up, Buck,” Huer said bluntly.

“Giving up what?  The garox?” Buck shot back. 

“You are not giving Dr. Carlock and his team the time they need to fight and beat this,” the older man said.

“You mean by not taking any more doses?” Buck asked.  He thought briefly and then shuddered.  “I can’t, Doc.  I simply can’t take more.”  He turned to the Directorate leader.  “You have to understand.  Every time I take a dose, I hate myself more.  I feel weaker, less able to resist it.”  He turned back to the skyline.  “Please don’t ask me to take more garox,” he added softly.  “I would rather die jumping off this balcony than going through the withdrawals one more time, but that much I’ll do to help the doctors.”  He paused.  He looked at his hands and saw the trembling that preceded his next dose and felt the cravings intensify.  He pushed it aside, determined to enjoy at least a small amount of time he felt was left to him.  Somehow, it didn’t seem like it had been long enough.  “Just don’t ask me to do that,” he repeated.

Huer sighed.    “I won’t, Buck, but please think about it.  You will be helping to find a way to break this thing, not just for you, but for others, too.”  He gazed meaningfully at the young man.   “Just think about it.”

“I’ll think about it.”

When he began to feel hot, despite the breeze, Buck turned back to the medical facility.  “Guess I’m keeping Dr. Carlock from his job.”

Dr. Huer looked at him with concern.  “Is it starting?”

“Yeah, but I can hold off the drastic measure for a while,” Buck said, opening his collar.  Even the cool breeze felt like Vegas in July. He ignored it, reminding himself for the hundredth time that it was simply a physical stimulus of his garox affected brain. 

In the medical facility, the doctors began hooking him up to numerous diagnostic devices.  Carlock ran several checks and took blood.  “How uncomfortable is it?” 

“Uncomfortable enough, Doctor,” Buck panted.  “But don’t do your voodoo until I pass out.” 

“Voodoo?”

Buck just shook his head and concentrated on maintaining his decorum, his equilibrium and his lunch, not necessarily in that order.  He watched the doctors in the room as his body kept telling him of pain and misery. Finally it told him more than he could bear and Buck felt blackness overtake him.

 

 

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Hawk’s pace quickened almost to a run until the sun set and shadows began hiding the features of the land.    When he finally reached the hangar, he stopped the first worker he saw.   “A starfighter left earlier today.  Was it Captain Rogers?” 

“Yessir.  He had the two quads with him.” 

Twiki and Dr. Theopolis.  Hawk felt reassured that Buck had not left to end his life, but still he wondered what was on his friend’s mind.  “Did he say where he was going?” 

“No, sir.  Coach left quickly and didn’t say much.  I didn’t ask.”  

Hawk nodded.  “Thank you.”  Not sure of the timing of Buck’s next dosage, he went down to the doctor’s office.  On the way he observed more of the activity that indicated men preparing to leave the mines.  When he walked into the doctor’s office there was a former prisoner getting medical attention.  Hawk waited without saying anything.  

When the man had left, Dr. Burrows looked up.  “Hawk?” 

The birdman nodded.  

“I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to talk to you since your return.”  He smiled.  “I definitely think the wardrobe change is an improvement.”  

Hawk knew the human was doing what Wilma had called good-humored bantering, but he was not in the mood to banter.  “It is my armor of rank,” he said evenly. 

“It is very striking and suits you well.”  Dr. Burrows paused briefly, looking intently into Hawk’s eyes.  “But you didn’t come down here to discuss your wardrobe, I suppose.”

“No, I did not,” Hawk said.  

“You are here to talk about Captain Rogers.” 

“Yes, he has left.”  Hawk was pleasantly surprised at the human’s perceptiveness.  But then he thought of his friends on the Searcher.  Most of them were, too.  

“Yes, I knew he was going to leave,” Burrows said.  “He gave me this.  I haven’t quite gotten the nerve to pass it along.”   He handed Hawk a paper.  

Hawk read it quickly; totally unsurprised that it was Buck’s resignation from the Bosk leadership.  He nodded.  “I am worried about him.”  

“Yes, I know the garox is a source of great pain to him,” Burrows said sadly.  “Even more than most men.” 

“Why would it not?” Hawk asked pointedly. 

“I’m sorry.  I wasn’t trying to demean what he’s going through.”  

“I fear he will eventually consider suicide if he cannot find a way to break the addiction.”  

“He indicated that I had given him his last dosage,” Burrows said.  He was thoughtful for a moment.  “I remember giving the first dosage.  I remember giving all the prisoners their first dosage.   It haunts my nights.” 

“Did he say where he was going?” Hawk asked, not wishing at the moment to get into a discussion of the doctor’s guilt. “I believe I know of a way to help him.” 

Burrows looked at him in surprise.  “Are you serious?” 

“Very much so.  But I need to know where he went.” 

“We talked about doctors on Cronis and Earth.  Buck seemed to dismiss both,” Burrows replied.   “But he didn’t quite sound like someone who was ready to fly into a sun.”  Burrows paused in thought.  “He did say he had something in mind, but he didn’t want to tell me.”  He gazed up at Hawk.  “He knows what it’s like during garox withdrawals.  Beros made sure of that.  I don’t think he wanted any of his close friends to see him that way.” 

Hawk nodded.  Maybe Buck had decided to see what Dr. Goodfellow could come up with on the Searcher.  “Thank you,” he said and turned to leave. 

“Good luck, Hawk.  I would really like to see you and Buck succeed.”  

He repeated his thanks and then headed toward the surface, still considering where Buck might have gone.  While going to the Searcher would be a logical choice, Hawk decided that Buck most likely didn’t go there.  First and foremost, Buck had felt very uncomfortable during that short time he had visited before.  He was simply too close to everyone there, especially Wilma.  The other point was that Buck was not totally logical at this time.  Dr. Burrows had indicated that Buck had dismissed Earth and Cronis, but had he totally?  Cronis, yes.  But Earth?  Buck had a great affinity for Dr. Huer and trusted him implicitly.  When he reached topside, Hawk went directly to the communications center. 

“I would like to speak with Dr. Huer of the Earth Defense Directorate,” he requested.  

“I don’t think I can reach Earth with this set up, sir,” the technician said.  “But I’ll try.”  Within a few minutes the young man looked up and shook his head.  “The garbage that they set up here was only meant to reach the space port and the other continent.  We haven’t received our new communications equipment yet, even though we’ve been told it’s on its way.”  

Hawk just nodded and left to find the shuttle pilot.  Soon the sub-atmospheric transport was winging toward the spaceport.  He chafed at the delay, but knowing there was nothing he could do about it, leaned back and rested.  The flight would not be too long and he would soon be in his own fighter.  When he reached the spaceport, he went immediately to his starfighter and did the pre-flight check. 

Within an hour he was space borne, heading toward Earth, sure that Buck had gone there almost a day ahead of him.  Once through the first stargate, Hawk turned on the communicator trying to reach Dr. Huer.  He, like the tech on Bosk, was unsuccessful. Hawk continued.  When he went through another stargate, he tried again.  This time he was successful.  “It is very important that I contact Captain Rogers or Dr. Huer,” he insisted as he flew closer to the blue, brown and green orb.  

“Captain Rogers is unavailable and Dr. Huer is not answering communications,” came the answer.  

Hawk frowned but persisted.  “Contact Dr. Huer and tell him that Hawk has important information for Buck Rogers.”  

When Hawk landed, a young medical technician greeted him.  “Dr. Huer asked me to meet you.” 

Hawk simply nodded and followed the young man down several corridors and into what appeared to be a medical wing.  Dr. Huer greeted him, shaking his hand cordially, but his face was drawn, his eyes worried.  Without a word, he pointed to a window and there Hawk saw Buck in a bed in the next room, only semi-conscious, his face flushed and covered with sweat, his features contorted in pain.  In that moment, Hawk knew he would never be able to get Buck to Mendalis, and he bowed his head in defeat. 

 

 

Chapter Five
Chapter One
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