Freedom's Wings

 

 

Chapter Five

 

 

Wilma walked into the critical care unit and then stopped.  Buck was the only occupant, but among all of the medical apparatus, the supplies and other paraphernalia, he was almost lost to view.  But still, she immediately saw him.   Saw him and almost cried.  Get control of yourself.  You promised Dr. Huer.   He looked so peaceful, almost like she imagined that Buck would have looked as a boy asleep in his own room.   At least he was not in pain.  The OEI device on his head was blinking and the critical care suit encased almost his entire body.  She stood near his bed and took a deep breath.  His hand lay limply on his stomach and Wilma took it in hers, bringing it to her cheek.   There was no response.  Then she remembered, they had blocked the nerves from his brain to the rest of his body in an attempt to keep the garox-related messages from affecting the various systems of his body.   The therapy was only partially successful.   The garox was still embedded in all of his body systems, and affecting his vital organs.  

Still holding his hand in one of hers, she reached down with her other hand and lightly brushed a strand of hair out of his eyes.  Her fingers lightly caressed his cheek and he moaned softly.  Perhaps she was misinformed about Buck not having any pain.   He moaned again and then cried out something that was unintelligible.   As his agitation grew, Wilma leaned over and whispered reassurances in his ear.   She was beginning to get the impression that Buck was having nightmares rather than feeling any great pain.  

With a sigh, he opened his eyes, blinked groggily and then stared at her.  “Wilma,” he murmured.  

“Yes, Buck.”  She rose up so she could see him better.  Smiling, she added, “Did you think I would stay away?” 

He looked sad, yet his eyes gazed at her hungrily.   “Dr. Huer promised.”  

Suddenly, Wilma couldn’t help it, she laughed.   “Dr. Huer said you would bring that up,” she said.   “He also told me that you tried to extract a promise from him, but he didn’t actually make the promise.” 

Buck tried to recall the exact conversation, but his thoughts were sluggish and muddled at the moment.  He just shook his head and gazed back at Wilma. “I can’t remember, but I’m sure he’s right.”  He paused and tried to think.   It was impossible.   The OEI sent more images into his brain and he grimaced.  They were all remembrances of garox deprivation now.  Painful memory came to the forefront of his reality and he closed his eyes and moaned, biting his lip to keep from crying out.  Not again!  Please, not again. 

“Buck, what is it?” Wilma asked, her voice anxious and afraid. 

“The OEI.  Take it off, please.” 

“The OEI?” 

“Yeah, take it off.  There is nothing of my memories coming through except for the times I have been deprived of that damned garox.   It’s not working anymore.  I’d rather be able to talk to you.” 

Wilma nodded, but before she was able to remove the device, he had already fallen asleep . . . or unconscious.   She went ahead and took off the OEI, not caring if the doctors wanted it or not.  Right now Buck’s wishes were of foremost consideration.  After she had removed the OEI, she took his hand again and just stood and gazed at him.  She didn’t know how long she had been standing there before he coughed, moaned and then woke up again. 

He saw Wilma holding his hand and wondered just how long she had been there.   Looking into her eyes, Buck said, “Wilma, if you want a reaction, then you’re going to have to do more than hold my hand.” 

Without hesitation, Wilma bent over and kissed him, long and deep, her lips caressing his.  She felt the heat of her passion grow ever larger and more consuming.  She put her hands on his cheeks and kissed him again.  

“Oh, Lord,” he said when she had pulled away.   He had a bemused, wistful expression on his face.  “What a way to go.”  He grinned.  “Damn, that was good.  I wish I could reciprocate.”  

“Soon, you’ll be able to, Buck.” 

He said nothing for a moment.  “There is a part of me that wishes you had stayed away.”  He paused.  “I don’t want you to watch me die.” 

“Buck, you….” 

“But now I’m glad you are here,” he said softly, his eyes locked on hers.  As he had before, he felt as though he was drowning in her presence.   There was so much that he wanted to do with her, but now it would never be.   “Just promise you won’t stick around if it gets too . . . uh, too bad.” 

“I’ll make no such promise, Buck Rogers, just as you wouldn’t make that kind of a promise if the roles were reversed.”  She almost trembled at the thought of Buck actually dying.  It was inconceivable.  “So don’t even ask.” 

He nodded and closed his eyes for a moment, then he sighed.  “Okay, but Wilma….” 

She waited, but he didn’t say anything.  “What, Buck.” 

“I . . . I don’t know,” he stammered.   “I don’t remember.”  He looked up at her, his expression puzzled and even a bit frightened.  “Sometimes things seem so clear and sometimes it’s like everything is sludge.  It’s like chunks of my mind breaking away like ice from a glacier.”  Again he sighed and then he closed his eyes.   Soon Wilma knew that Buck had fallen back to sleep.   It was then that she cried.  Softly, so that she wouldn’t awaken him, but still she cried.  

She felt a hand on her shoulder and she looked up to see Dr. Huer.  “Go and get some rest, Wilma.  I know that all of this and the past months have been horribly nerve-wracking.   I’ll stay with Buck for a while.”  

She shook her head.  “No, Doctor.  I want to stay.  Please.” 

Huer took her in his arms and she sobbed against his chest.  He held her tight like he once did his own children.  Soon she quieted and then she composed herself.  “At least go get a cup of coffee,” Huer told her. 

She nodded and left, rubbing a hand across her face to get rid of tears that didn’t seem to want to go away.   Huer brought over a chair and sat near the bed.  Dr. Carlock came over and stood near him.   “Is Colonel Deering coming back soon?” he asked. 

“Yes, she refuses to leave, but I talked her into getting something to drink.  I felt it would be a good way for her to work out her feelings before Buck awakens again.”  Huer gazed up at the doctor.  “Any progress in creating a block to the effects of the garox?” 

“We have plenty of data to analyze already and I know that something there is going to be the catalyst, but I don’t know if it will be in time,” Carlock said sadly.   “I do know this, though, when Col. Deering was interacting with him, the deterioration markers slowed somewhat.”  He studied Buck as he slept.  “I want to continue monitoring everything that happens here, even if it embarrasses the captain or his visitors.  There is something that has to affect the drug.  I feel it.  When I presented the theory of using visual stimuli to counter the effects of addictive substances, I think I was only half right.  I think that we are talking about total sensory stimuli.  Touch, hearing and vision together are much more effective than just one of the senses.”   

Huer nodded.  “Why don’t you let Wilma know that before she returns.  I know that nothing she could do that would possibly help Buck would be embarrassing to her,” he said.  “They are very close, after all.” 

“So I’ve heard.  Another reason I’m glad she showed up.”  He smiled reassuringly and then walked out of the room.  

“Ah, Buck,” Huer murmured.  “I can’t help but believe that somehow you will beat this thing, too.” 

Buck murmured something, slowly waking up.  He looked at Huer, then gazed around.  “Wilma?” 

“She went out for something to drink,” Huer replied.  

“You didn’t promise?” 

“No, Buck.  I didn’t.  I wouldn’t have been able to.  I wouldn’t have been able to do that to her,” Huer said with a soft smile.   

“But . . . this can’t be….”  Buck sighed, and stared at the ceiling for a moment.  “Who am I fooling?  As much as I hate for Wilma to see me like this . . . to know, I’m glad she’s here.”  

“So am I.”  He was reluctant to tell Buck what the doctor said, feeling that it might put restraints on their visits.  He heard the door slide open and looked up to see Wilma approaching.  She had composed herself completely, but then Huer knew she would.  Wilma Deering had not been the commander of Earth’s Defense Forces because she was emotional.  She was tough when it was necessary.   He turned back to Buck.  “I think I’ll leave you two love birds alone.”   He got up.  

“Wait, doc,” Buck said. 

“Yes, Buck?” 

“Hawk.  Where is he?   Someone said he had been here.”

“He is on his way to Mendalis,” Huer said.

Buck’s eyes grew large in surprise.  “Mendalis?  What the hell did he go there for?”  But he already knew the answer.  “Sky Mother?”

Huer smiled softly.  “He seemed to feel it was an important enough mission to undertake.   And he left a message for you.  I’m sorry, I forgot to pass it along earlier.” 

Buck was overwhelmed by what Hawk was trying to do, futile though he figured it would be.  “What did he say?” he asked, his voice choked. 

“He told you not to go anywhere.” 

Buck’s lips quirked into a smile and then he began to chuckle softly.  “Thanks, doc.” 

“You are welcome.   I’ll be back later.”   He left as Wilma approached the bed. 

“You are a sight for sore eyes, Wilma Deering.” 

“Why, thank you, Buck,” she said brightly, almost too brightly.  

“By the way, how did you know I was here?” 

“Not many choices,” she replied.  “And I got a hold of Dr. Huer to see if you had contacted him.”   

He was silent for a few minutes.    “Is it just me, or did someone turn up the heat in here?” 

Wilma thought Buck looked flushed.  She reached over and felt his forehead.  It was warm. 

“You know, one of the very first memories I have was my mother sitting with me when I had the chicken pox,” Buck said.  Right now, he felt everything in his mind working the way it should.  “She would feel my forehead just like you did, read stories to me, bring me 7-Up with a straw.”  He smiled.  “Only got a straw when I was sick.” 

“7-Up?” 

“A twentieth-century soft drink.  Carbonated.  When you were sick, it usually stayed down when nothing else would,” Buck explained.  He paused, sighing.  He wished he had one now. 

Wilma wasn’t sure if she still understood what this drink was, but that wasn’t what she was most interested in.  “What kind of stories did she read to you?” 

Buck paused, remembering, “There was Curious George, and Dr. Seuss.”  He paused again, picturing in his mind his mother sitting at his side.  “ ‘I will not eat them on a box, I will not eat them, Mr. Fox.  I do not like green eggs and ham, I will not eat them, Sam-I-am’….”  Buck smiled at the memory.  “Or something like that.  She used to get tongue-tied at that one.” He paused, feeling muddle-headed again.  “Appropriately enough, it was called Green Eggs and Ham.”  

Green Eggs and Ham?” Wilma repeated.  “I didn’t know that eggs were green.” 

“They aren’t.  But they were in the book.”   Buck closed his eyes and within a moment, he had fallen back to sleep.  

That was when an idea popped into Wilma’s head.  She went to the communicator and punched in a code.  “Dr. Junius?”   It took a few minutes, but that was no less than she expected, considering all that the historian had to crawl through to get to his communicator.  She related her wishes and then signed off.   While she was at it, she got another cup of coffee.  When she returned, Buck was awake again, and there was nothing reticent in his gratitude at her presence.  

“Hi, beautiful,” he murmured. 

Wilma couldn’t help it.  She giggled.  

“Now you tell me your first memory,” he said. 

Wilma thought.  What was her first memory?   “I remember sitting on my mother’s lap.  She was brushing my hair.   It was much lighter in those days.  And there were pictures of birds dancing on the wall.” 

“Dancing on the wall?” Buck asked. 

“Early holo-projections,” she replied.  “There were red ones and blue ones.  Some that were brown and red and some that were yellow.  I remember telling her I wanted one of the blue ones for a pet.  She looked sad and then told me that even if they were not extinct, no one kept bluebirds for pets.” 

Buck was silent for a moment.  “That is sad.  Brown and red—robins?” 

“I think that’s what she called them.  I believe you can still find them in some places.” 

“Good.  And cardinals?” 

“Yes, the red ones.  There are still some of those, too.  But I don’t know about the yellow ones,” Wilma said.  

“Mmmm.  Hopefully there are a few finches hiding out west or down south somewhere.” 

“Yes.” 

“I remember getting upset on Saturday mornings when the birds woke me up when I was trying to sleep in,” Buck said.  “I guess everything is relative.”  He paused and then sighed. 

“Are you all right, Buck?” 

“Yeah, just tired.  You’d think, just lying here, that wouldn’t be, but I am.” 

A med-tech came through the door with a package.  Wilma smiled and thanked him.  

Buck’s curiosity overcame his sleepiness.   “What do you have?” 

Wilma smiled.  “Something Dr. Junius sent up.” 

Buck saw the shape and size of the package and came to a quick conclusion.  “More books?” 

“Yes.  Do you want to see what he picked?” 

“Sure,” he replied, genuinely interested. 

Wilma opened the seal and pulled out two books.   The covers were worn and warped, the titles indistinct, but the pages inside were intact and one of them had pictures with the words.  She turned the yellowed pages carefully. 

“Well?” 

“I am going to read some of them and you get to guess what they are,” she teased. 

“I read a lot when I was a kid, but not that much,” he protested.  

“We’ll see,” she said as she opened the bigger one to what appeared to be an interesting place, and began to read.

 

 

Chapter Six
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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