“Colonel Deering, why don’t you go and rest
for a couple of hours. Or at
the very least, let us bring in a more comfortable chair so you can get a
few minutes sleep. You look
exhausted,” Doctor Carlock suggested.
“There are a couple of Captain Rogers’ friends who would be
happy to take your place while you rest.”
He pointed to Twiki. Dr.
Theopolis was hanging around his neck.
“We would be happy to stay with Buck for a
while, Colonel,” Theo said.
Wilma nodded. “For
a short while. I want to go
out just long enough to clear the kinks out of my body and the cobwebs out
of my head.”
“Sure thing, Wilma,” Twiki said. He stumped toward Buck’s bed.
“Twiki, hold the book up to my optical sensors.
I would like to read it,” Theo said.
“The doctor said that it helped a little bit.”
“Sure thing, doc, but still say that Hawk and
his healer friend would stand a better chance,” Twiki said.
“Perhaps, but they aren’t here,” Theo
Twiki complied and Theo began reading.
Twiki interrupted him. “Whoever
heard of a talking frog and toad?” he asked.
“I have,” Buck murmured.
He gazed at his friends lethargically.
“Sounds like a story I read . . . in class when I was a kid.”
Twiki turned the book around. “Frog and Toad All Year,” he said.
“Yeah. Remember that
“Buck,” Theo began.
“The doctors said that they could help you better if….”
“I will not take any more of that damned
drug!” he said in a harsh voice.
“Even for Wilma?”
“Wilma?” Buck blinked, trying to fully wake
up. Then he sighed. “Theo, I can’t add this burden to her.” He paused, forcing himself to stay awake, to think.
“I can’t ask her to live that way.”
“I somehow don’t think she’d mind all that
much,” Theo said.
“But I do!” Buck said, almost shouting.
“I do,” he added more softly.
Theo was desperate, even as he had been before.
This time, however, he felt he had some control over the situation.
“Buck, has it been pointed out to you that this research, your
ordeal, would also help other men in the same situation as you?
Men from the mines of Bosk and from other mines as well?
You cannot be the only one who hates the addiction this much.”
Buck mustered up enough energy to glare at Theo.
All he was interested in was sleep—forever, if possible.
He didn’t want to think, and yet, that is what he had done off
and on since Dr. Carlock and Dr. Huer had mentioned the same thing.
“Yeah, it’s been pointed out to me.
Several times.” He
blinked, trying to stay awake.
He thought of the men he had left behind when he had abdicated his
position on Bosk and he felt renewed guilt.
Some had been perfectly content to live with their daily dose of
garox and its attendant baggage, but some had been like him, willing for
death rather than life with such a thing.
With a sigh, he murmured, “Okay, you win.
Get Dr. Carlock.”
In the next moment, it was apparent to the two robots that Buck had fallen back to sleep. Theo called for the doctor.
When Hawk had settled the pair into the back of
his fighter, he carefully eased out of the natural launch bay and then
took the ship straight up through the stratosphere and into space. Awed gasps from behind him told Hawk that his passengers,
while probably a bit fearful, were still enjoying the spectacle.
“Are you comfortable enough?” he asked.
“Yes, Star Warrior,” Sky Mother replied.
“It is beautiful. Almost like what I dream flying must have been like for our
“I hope we can all use the quasi-wings while you
are on Earth. I find that
even more fulfilling,” he said.
“Please be aware that going through a stargate for the first time
may make you feel a bit strange, even queasy.
I will warn you before we actually enter one.”
“Thank you, Hawk,” Sky Father murmured.
Several stargates later, they approached Earth, at
once repellent and compelling. “I
am going to contact the Defense Directorate and then we should be able to
“So this is the home of our ancestors,” Sky
Mother said softly.
“Yes, Sky Mother,” Hawk answered. He worked the controls of his communicator.
“New Chicago, this is Hawk, of the exploration vessel, Searcher,
requesting permission to land, priority status one.”
“Hawk, you are cleared to land, hangar four-
zero- two. Dr. Huer will meet
you and escort you to the medical facility,” a young female voice
replied. “Computer coordinates are being sent to you as we speak.”
“Thank you, New Chicago.”
Within minutes, Hawk eased the craft to a landing
in the designated berth, gratified to see Dr. Huer and Twiki just beyond
the landing bay. He popped
the canopy and stepped out of his seat, turning back to help Sky Mother. Dr. Huer approached, Twiki, with Dr. Theopolis just behind
him. Gingerly, Sky Mother
stepped along the wing of the craft and then let Hawk lift her to the
ground. After he had helped
Sky Father down, he turned, and found Dr. Huer almost at his shoulder. The human gazed directly into Sky Mother’s eyes, his look
one of deference and respect. Hawk
was grateful for the doctor’s actions.
“You must be the healer from Mendalis. Hawk has told me of you,” Huer said. He bowed to her. “Welcome to Earth, Sky Mother.” He turned to Sky Father, his gaze questioning. “And also to you….”
“Dr. Huer, this is Sky Mother’s husband.
His title is Sky Father.”
Huer bowed to Sky Father.
“Please, welcome,” he said formally and then his demeanor
changed to one of anxiety. “I
. . . uh, I apologize, but if you will come with me, please.”
“There is no need to apologize, Dr. Huer.
We understand the reason for our presence here,” Sky Mother said,
reassuringly. “Please, how
“He has gotten worse.
Only very short moments of lucidity.
The doctors have gathered a great deal of data, but they do not
feel they can analyze and use it in time to save Buck,” he paused, his
eyes showing intense anguish. “I
hope you can do something for him,” Huer said, then he stopped. He couldn’t say anymore.
He turned and led the way down the hall.
Sky Mother studied the man leading them.
She felt his sadness and it augmented her own.
She knew that part of that sadness was not just the condition of
Buck Rogers; it had to do with the planet as a whole.
She felt the anguish of many generations of humans and the pain and
anguish of her own ancestors. It
was almost overwhelming, but she had to force those things out of her
mind. It was imperative to be
able to clear her mind to help her clan’s member-by-adoption.
As they walked down the corridor, Sky Mother, gazed at the walls,
the ceiling and the floor, noting the bright austerity of the passageway.
Soon they passed through sliding doors and into a room filled with
machinery that clicked, whispered and chirped.
And she was appalled when she saw Buck.
Despite the coolness of the room, his face was drenched with sweat
and he was as pale as the pillow he was laying on.
Wilma Deering was next to him, holding his hand in one of hers and
wiping his forehead with a dampened cloth.
She looked up, and when she saw the group, visibly
brightened. “Thank God,”
she said fervently.
Sky Mother walked up to the bed and took Buck’s other hand. Wilma deferentially stepped back. “The treatment…. There is something that is keeping his senses suppressed,” Sky Mother stated.
“Yes,” another voice said.
When Sky Mother and Sky Father looked at him, he went on. “I am
Doctor Carlock. I am the
physician in charge of Captain Rogers’ care.
We purposefully blocked the central nervous system so that the
garox would have a lesser effect. It
also served to alleviate the captain’s pain.”
She nodded. “That
will have to be undone if I am to do anything for Captain Rogers,” Sky
“But that could be devastating to him.
It could kill him,” the doctor said.
“He is dying anyway,” she said simply.
“My husband and I work with the whole body, Doctor.
Captain Rogers has to be able to feel our touch as well as hear our
voices. And we have to be
able to feel what is happening within his body.
That is impossible if the feelings, the messages are suppressed.”
She paused and looked down at the sick human.
There was something that told her that what Buck contained within
him would reveal itself to her if he could only awaken enough to respond
to her and Creelis, her beloved.
“I think we can overcome the problem of pain, but you will need
to do what I have asked, or there is no need for me to do anything but
wish Buck a safe journey to the other realm.”
Doctor Carlock looked at her and then at Dr. Huer.
“Just before you arrived, Buck finally agreed to
take another dose,” Theo said simply.
“I was coming to tell you when Hawk arrived.”
The Directorate leader only nodded.
“Good,” Dr. Carlock said simply. He walked over to a computer and began typing.
Soon Sky Mother felt the human’s hand trembling and she became
aware of his pain, but she became aware of something else as well.
This drug did more than cause the user pain.
There was something deeper. Something
she felt it would take all of them to find.
“Sky Father, it is time. Star
Warrior, I believe we will need your help as well,” she said, motioning
for each of the Tane-rapanui men to the bedside.
She laid her hands on Buck’s head and concentrated on breaking
through the deep sleep that he was in.
Hawk and Sky Father each took one of the human’s hands in their
own. Beginning softly, she
sang the healer’s song of comfort and continued until she saw Buck’s
eyes slowly open.
He blinked several times, and took a shuddering
Mother,” he whispered. “You
came, as did Sky Father.”
He looked around, saw the people around his bed
and then stared at the ceiling. He
bit his lip, trying to suppress the increasing pain, but even more, he
tried to contain the despair. It
was too much. He couldn’t
deal with it in anymore. The
blackness that he had kept at bay for these past months enveloped him.
He looked at Wilma, trying with his eyes to get her to understand.
“I tried,” Buck whispered, a tear tracking down the side of his
face. “I really did.”
He sighed and then screamed as red-hot pain lanced through his
body. “Fire . .
. oh, God! It hurts!
“We are going to try to do more than block the
pain, Buck,” Sky Mother said softly, but distinctly, interrupting what
she knew he had been about to say. She
could not help a patient that had given up.
“We are going to try to look inside and find out why this drug is
continuing to affect your body and how it is doing it.”
Buck shuddered and then gazed deeply into her
eyes, saw her concern and determination and nodded.
“Sorry . . . don’t mean . . . to be so . . . such a baby.”
“You are not, my son.
You have done very well.” She
paused. “You are
going to help us. It is very
important that you listen closely to everything we say, even the notes of
the songs. You must be aware
of the touch of our hands. And
do not look away from my eyes.” She
paused while Buck was trying to assimilate her instructions.
“Do you think you can do this?”
“I . . . I will try.”
“No, Buck, you will do it.
You must do it.”
He looked again in her eyes; saw belief in his
abilities in them. He caught
Wilma gazing lovingly at him; saw the same belief.
Pain, like waves on the shore, pounded incessantly, but he was able
to push it back enough to answer. “Yes,
Sky Mother.” He
gazed at each of the bird people in turn, even as they were willing the
pain away, and whispered, “One request . . . please . . . then do it.”
Hawk nodded, as did Sky Father. They backed away from the bed.
Sky Mother kept one hand on his head, softly singing.
“Wilma,” Buck beckoned softly. She walked to his side, her eyes tear-filled.
He took one hand in his and pulled her closer to him.
His other hand reached behind her head, his fingers feeling the
soft locks of her hair. He
pulled her close to him and then kissed her, long and deep, his lips
caressing her and then traveling to her neck, where he not only felt the
warmth of her skin, but the life pulse throbbing in tandem to the rapid
beating of his own heart. Pain
could be ignored, thanks to Sky Mother’s efforts, but Buck knew she
couldn’t keep it up forever. He
released Wilma and whispered, “I love you.”
She smiled softly.
“I love you, too. You
beat this, do you hear me?”
He nodded, even as Sky Father and Hawk returned to
“The garox,” Sky Mother began. “It must be administered now in order for us to follow its
path through your body.”
Buck nodded, remembering that he had already come
to that decision just before the bird woman’s arrival.
“Listen carefully, Buck Rogers,” Sky Mother
said. “Concentrate on my
face, my words, my eyes.”
Buck said nothing, only doing what he was asked.
And as the garox surged relentlessly through his veins, he listened
to the cadence of Sky Mother’s voice, to the feel of Hawk’s and Sky
Father’s strong grip on his hands. He felt the beat of his own heart, the flow of the drug
through his body. He was
conscious of a vortex of dark and light, pulling him farther and farther
away from that which was familiar. The
light grew smaller and smaller, while the darkness was like an abyss
yawning wide. Buck continued
to lock his gaze onto Sky Mother’s eyes, but she seemed to be moving
away from him. Still he felt the hands of the Tane-rapanui; still he heard
the voices. They echoed as though in a tunnel, the ebb and flow like the
Then something soft broke through the maelstrom.
“Go with the garox. Follow
it, my son. We will help you back when it is time to return.
And he did, following the dark path into oblivion.
|Buck Rogers Contents|