Forerunners of Bosk
“I knew if they had
androids manning these things, they would know if anything different
happened to their transport vehicles,” Buck explained.
“So when the people at the spaceport check on the status of this
car and the people down in the mines realize that we are gone, they will
put two and two together and figure that we hopped the train for a free
and easy ride to freedom.”
“They will be waiting for us at the terminus, thinking to
recapture us there.”
“Yes, or stop the train to
capture us along the way.”
“How did you find out
about all of this, Buck?” Hawk asked.
“Relearned a little rock
climbing and then I prowled through the administrative offices each
night.” Buck paused.
“Let’s get off the beaten, uh, track and we can continue,” he
suggested. They walked back into the forest and Buck pulled out a crude
map and a compass. “Part of
the way, we can travel somewhat parallel to the train route, but there’s
a point here where we can save a few miles by cutting across.”
He showed the others the drawing he had made, then looked at both
men who were regarding each other with curiosity.
I guess formal introductions would be in order,” Buck said,
this is Tigerman, former bodyguard of the Princess Ardala, youngest
daughter of Draco, ruler of the Draconian Empire.
Tigerman saved my butt once.”
Buck peered meaningfully at the felinoid.
“Your being here wouldn’t have anything to do with that would
Tigerman shook his head.
“No. This time
“But I’m sure you were
punished for laying hands on Ardala,” Buck said.
“I’m sorry, Tigerman. I
know we had our differences, but….”
“Done and now I am
free,” Tigerman interrupted. “Thank
Buck pointed to Hawk. “And
this is Hawk, my close friend and co-worker on the Searcher.”
Hawk nodded an
acknowledgement as they continued through the forest.
While they were walking, Buck explained how he was able to get out
of his cell and explore the mine corridors and various parts of the mine
A short time later, Hawk
said, “Buck, there is something I must ask.”
Buck had a sneaking feeling
he knew what it was. “Yeah?”
“I knew about the
recreation area because Beros brought me into his office that day.
He showed you on a vid screen working out with a couple of guards. He timed it well; you collapsed shortly after he turned on
“He told me it was a
reward and the withholding of medication was a punishment for getting
smart-mouthed with a guard,” Buck said tersely.
“Apparently it was also a show for you.
What did he do, coerce your good behavior by threatening to
withhold my meds?”
“Basically, yes, Buck,”
Hawk said. “But he said the treatment was only a respite.
It did not eliminate the parasite.”
Buck snorted. “Not
surprised. The doctor told me it took a long time to cure.
I wonder how much bull is in those explanations?”
“I have no reason to doubt
what Beros told me in that regard,” Hawk said softly.
“When did you have your last dosage?”
“Well, thanks to Beros’
little show, I’ve been given my dosage at the evening meal the past few
weeks. I would say I have
about sixteen hours, maybe more, maybe less.
I calculated that we should be able to get to the spaceport in that
amount of time if all goes well, and even if I can’t pilot, you
certainly can.” He gazed
meaningfully at Hawk. “And even if takes longer, there is nothing that
can take away this moment of freedom, Hawk.
Absolutely nothing.” They
continued walking in silence. “I
thought I understood freedom. I
thought my background as an American citizen would make freedom something
as ingrained in my soul as breathing.
But it isn’t. When I
saw the sun, the forest, the hills and mountains a little while ago, I
felt free as I had never felt free before.”
“I understand, Buck,” Hawk said. “I totally understand.”
Wilma waited inside the
shuttle for Flagg to arrive. They
had come during the night, and under the cover of darkness had set up the
ambush. Anton would be
waiting in plain sight, while several other members called in from the Searcher
waited in strategic places overlooking the rendezvous site.
Only Flagg’s innate paranoia would cause problems, but Wilma felt
that his greed would outstrip his suspicious nature.
She also felt they had chosen well, this being the clearing where
Hawk’s village had once stood. Only
the statue of Make Make stood as a mute sentinel over the once vital
How fitting, Wilma thought,
that they would be meeting where Flagg and his men had reportedly stood
with bloody hands and hot lasers over a year ago.
Now she checked her own laser pistol, as there were still things
that could go wrong in an operation like this, despite all their careful
planning. And she
waited. It was light outside
the rented shuttle, but the sun had not yet shown itself over the craggy
Finally, the sun rose and
there was still no sign of Flagg. Wilma
had begun to wonder if they had misjudged the mercenary when the whine of
a distant shuttle came to her ears. She
smiled and then shuddered. She
would be alone with this slimy weasel.
This time, though, she would be in control.
Yes, she would definitely be under control, she reminded herself
more forcefully. And this was
not Erik Kormand.
Forcing herself into a
semblance of calm anticipation, Wilma listened as the shuttle settled
nearby. The door to her own
shuttle was open, the outside sunlight augmenting the interior lights,
allowing her, as well as her visitor, to see the rich opulence of this
rented shuttle. The bulkheads
had been covered with richly ornate gilded wallpaper and the lighting
fixtures were a type of crystal and gold that caused the light to sparkle
and twinkle like dancers. The
floor was carpeted and the seats were plush, the material a deep, dark
rust. An oval table of
simulated wood stood in the middle of the shuttle’s main room.
Wilma settled with
queen-like grace in the main chair as she heard Anton talking with Flagg.
After a brief exchange and then a short silence, during which Wilma
concluded that Flagg was quickly checking out the area, the clicking of
boot heels told her that her visitors were arriving.
Someone she didn’t recognize came aboard first.
“Who are you?” she
asked, her voice low but filled with authoritarian command.
“Krint,” the man said.
“Just checking out things for the boss.”
“Tell Flagg to get in here
if he wants to discuss this deal. Otherwise,
I will go back to Neutralis and find someone less . . . shall we say-
The man nodded and quickly
left. Flagg entered alone. Wilma
had been counting on the man’s greed; Flagg would not want anyone else
to hear the terms of the deal. Anton
and the others could handle Flagg’s men while she would deal with Flagg.
“Sit down,” Wilma said with a smile.
Glancing around, Flagg sat
across from her. “Exactly
what are the terms and details of this job you want me to do?” he asked.
A small signal buzzed in her
ear. Anton and his men were ready.
“Just this,” Wilma said, raising her hand where she had a tiny
laser pistol hidden. Before
Flagg could even register what was happening, she had fired.
As he slumped to the lushly carpeted deck, Wilma heard the sound of
Wilma flitted to the door,
using various pieces of furniture as possible shields.
Carefully, she peered out and saw Anton grinning at her.
“Smooth as glass, Colonel,” he said.
“Yes, I can see that,”
she replied with a smile. “Let’s
load them up and get them back to the Searcher.”
She gazed in satisfaction at the five men lying unconscious on the
ground. It had gone smoothly
without anyone getting hurt. Maybe
the tide was turning in their favor now.
Maybe they could get the answers that they had been looking for
these past weeks. Maybe they
could soon find Buck and Hawk.
While the men put force
restraints on the prisoners and loaded them up in the shuttle, Wilma
walked through what remained of Hawk’s home on Throm.
There were very few vestiges of the homes left.
Only a couple of stone foundations remained . . . and the
graveyard. It, too, remained,
a horrible reminder of man’s cold and callous depravity.
She remembered when she, Hawk, Goodfellow and Buck had visited
last. Hawk had worked here.
Alone, at his request. She
and Buck had examined the caves with Dr. Goodfellow.
Hawk did not even want them watching.
It was something he had to do by himself he had told them.
Only later had they all visited the cemetery together.
stopped in front of one stone marker.
She reached out and touched the markings that were already
beginning to fade. Koori’s
parents, she had been told. At the base of the slate-like stone marker was
a black volcanic-type rock. Wilma
wondered if it was what Hawk had used originally.
Picking it up, she traced the fading symbols.
She felt a rightness about what she was doing, a warmth inside,
even a feeling of power and Wilma wondered if the symbols were more than
just the names of Koori’s parents.
She remembered Hawk saying that the markers were as much a
remembrance for any sentient beings that might come to this valley, as
they were a tribute to his own dead.
Wilma sincerely hoped that anyone who came here might understand
what happened in this place and feel a determination to work toward peace.
It had been a hard time for Hawk, a very hard time and it had taken
weeks, even months before he had opened up and talked even a little bit
about his feelings.
The black marks seemed to
jump out at her as she traced. It
was uncanny, but she felt the warm glow of someone’s thanks.
When she was finished, Wilma sat back in satisfaction. Then she saw other stone markers and began tracing the
symbols on those as well, feeling even more the warmth of some power at
work, a power that she could not at this time understand.
She began to wonder if these people, so cruelly taken from life
still had some presence here; if that was what she was feeling.
“Colonel?” Anton said
from behind her.
“In a minute,” she
replied, refusing to let anything keep her from finishing her task.
Wilma only vaguely heard Anton walk away from her while she moved
to another stone marker. When
she finished the last, Wilma sat back in satisfaction, seeing the dark,
bold symbols against the light-colored stones.
Even though she didn’t know what they meant, she still felt a
kind of joy in their renewal.
Wilma turned and saw Anton
watching her from a short distance away.
“All of Hawk’s people are here,” she said.
“Except for Koori."
“I think Hawk would be pleased.”
“There’s great power
here,” she said, wondering why she said it.
But it was true. It
was as though Hawk’s friends and family were standing by, watching,
maybe even helping them. Even as she thought it, she knew it was true.
She had felt coldness the first time she visited here, almost an
animosity; now she felt acceptance.
“Considering that Flagg
might have been part of this massacre do you think they could have been
helping?” Anton asked reflectively.
Wilma smiled and walked
toward the shuttle. “I was
wondering the same thing. But
now I don’t doubt it for a minute.
Hawk has mentioned how he has felt the presence of his wife at
times.” She stopped and
gazed over the valley. “Let’s
get back to the Searcher and interrogate our prisoners.
They may have more to say than just about Buck and Hawk’s
“I would say they might,
Colonel,” Anton said with a smile.
They entered the shuttle and saw a slightly groggy, but very angry Flagg cursing the lieutenant standing guard over the six prisoners.
“What the hell are you
doing to me?” he demanded.
“Why, Mr. Flagg, we are
going to take you and your friends to the Searcher, where under the
direction of the Galactic Council you will be questioned about the
disappearance of Captain Buck Rogers and Hawk.”
“What?” sputtered Flagg.
“Oh, and incidentally, you
will be questioned about the massacre of these people here in the Valley
“That was almost two years
ago!” Flagg cried out.
Wilma smiled sweetly.
Doesn’t really matter, Flagg.”
Flagg opened his mouth and
then shut it again. He glared
at her and finally said, “Who are you?”
Wilma motioned for Anton to
begin pre-flight activities. The
other men left for their own ships. “Colonel
Wilma Deering, second in command of the Searcher and former
commander of the Earth Defense Directorate forces.
Any other questions?” she asked tersely before turning back to
Colonel,” he said from the cockpit.
“If you just want to keep our guests company, I’ll get us off
“All right, Anton. It’s all yours.” Wilma settled herself in one of the plush chairs as Flagg glared at her. “Cheer up, Flagg. We do treat our prisoners decently, which, I presume is better than can probably be said for Captain Rogers and Hawk.”
“You’ll be sorry you did
this!” Flagg declared.
Wilma smiled again.
“Oh, no. I am not in
the least sorry.” The
ship’s engines came to full power and then with smooth precision, lifted
off. “Not in the least,” Wilma murmured.
Ardala stood looking out the
view port at the cloud-enshrouded planet Kresis IV, her foot tapping with
impatience. “Captain, I
want to speak to Kerok immediately.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Soon the ship’s commander
came back to her, bowing low. “The
message I received, Your Highness, was that Kerok is asleep and can be
reached in the morning, approximately eight hours from now.”
“What?” she cried.
The captain began to repeat his message. “Never mind,” she cut him off angrily. “I am going to my chambers.
Wake me in seven hours.” With
her head held high, Ardala turned on her heel and left.
Seven and a half hours later
she was in a small shuttle heading for the spaceport of Bissen at first
light. Within a short time, Kerok was sitting at his desk looking
distinctly annoyed. “You
want to know about what, Princess? A
“This slave, Kerok,” she said, showing the merchant a picture.
“Why, if I may ask?”
“You may not ask.
It is my own business if I wish to inquire about a slave,” Ardala
snapped, then reined in her emotions.
Anger was not the way to get what she wanted here.
She had learned that lesson well from the War Witch when she had
traveled to Pendar. “This
slave has value to me and he was sold without my permission. I would like him back.”
“Very well, Princess
Ardala. I will check, but please be aware that I broker slaves to
many markets,” Kerok said. “You
might have to check out several worlds.”
Ardala paced only once
around the room while Kerok looked through the records on his computer.
“Hmm,” Kerok said to
Ardala refrained from saying
anything although she wanted to wring the small man’s neck for being so
“It would seem that your
bodyguard was part of a group of slaves that were sold by your father.
I saw no particular need for any of them, so I sold the whole group
of them to another slave broker named Mellis.”
Ardala was ready to scream
in frustration. “And where
do I find Mellis?”
“On Xrix VII, Your
With a sigh, Ardala, simply nodded her thanks to the man and turned and left, her ever-present android bodyguards behind her. Among her black thoughts was one that told her that someday she was going to get rid of those irritating creatures.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|