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
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
“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.”
“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
“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.
“I have several theories, Captain, on how to deal with this.”
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
“Normal?” Buck asked.
“There is something normal about anticipating your next 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.”
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
“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.”
“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
“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.
“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.”
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.
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?”
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
“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.
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
“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 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.”
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
“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.
|Buck Rogers Contents|