Forerunners of Bosk
They continued walking,
almost parallel to the track, stopping to watch as one of the cargo trains
rolled by, then ignoring them in their quest to put as much distance as
they could from the mines. When
the sun was almost completely overhead, Buck called a halt.
“We are going to cut across these hills,” he said, referring to
his crudely drawn map.
Hawk looked in the direction
indicated. “It looks pretty
rugged, Buck. Will that not
slow us down?”
“Maybe, but it will slow
them down, too. Especially if
they think we are following the train route.”
Hawk gazed meaningfully at
the terran. “Buck, I sense
you have a plan.”
Tigerman silently looked at
both before shrugging his shoulders and then studying the area around
them. He slipped into the trees, signing that he would catch up to
Smiling, Buck said, “I
have several things cooking in my mind, actually, but I am hoping that
straightforward sneakiness works best.”
“And if it does not?”
“Then we deal with that
bridge when it comes time to cross it.”
Somehow Hawk knew that there
was a part of this plan that Buck wasn’t telling him; something that he
knew he wouldn’t like. “Buck….”
“Trust me, Hawk.”
And the birdman had to be
content with that. They were
free from the mines after all and that was more than he had even hoped for
for at least a month and a half.
Tigerman growled softly to
get their attention. He held
a large yellowish fruit in each hand.
“Good for me, good for you, I think,” he said, handing one of
them to Buck and the other to Hawk.
It was obvious to Buck that
it must have been good, considering the juices that ran down the
felinoid’s chin. His
stomach growled audibly and he broke open the yellow globe, muttering,
“What the hell.” He noticed Hawk doing the same. Buck sniffed, noticing that the aroma was delicate
almost like banana mixed with coconut.
He let a little of the juice dribble into his mouth.
The taste was not unlike the two fruits. “You do realize, Tigerman, that if this stuff is battery
acid, you have to carry us to the spaceport,” Buck quipped.
Tigerman looked puzzled and
then barked a short laugh. “Draconians,
humans eat same things. This
good for Draconians, good for you.”
He gazed at Hawk, who was still examining his fruit.
“Not sure, you.”
Hawk sniffed again and then
took a slight taste, testing with all of his senses, much as he figured
Tigerman had, to see if the fruit was edible for him.
He detected nothing that was harmful to him and he bit into the
flesh of the globe. “It is
nourishment,” he murmured.
“Almost like a
daiquiri,” Buck murmured as he ate his fruit.
“But I think we need to eat as we travel.
No time for dine-in privileges.”
Hawk nodded, not even
delving into Buck’s first statement.
“Tigerman,” Hawk said as
he ate his fruit. “Can you
sense water near? In that
direction?” he asked, indicating the route that Buck had set them on.
Tigerman sniffed and then
nodded. They walked briskly along an animal trail that led in the
general direction in which they needed to go.
Within a few moments Hawk heard, then scented a nearby stream.
Shortly thereafter they all stopped and drank their fill before
Consulting his map about
mid-afternoon, Buck nodded in satisfaction.
“See the mountains ahead?” he asked, and then continued without
waiting for an answer. “We
are on the right track.”
Hawk again looked dubious.
“Going over those mountains will definitely slow us down.”
“According to the survey
map I got this from, there is a pass through this range,” he replied,
setting off again. “And
going this way will shave off miles from the other route.”
Despite his protests, as
they continued along this route, Hawk began to feel a strange sense of
excitement that was unrelated to their escape. This was the type of
terrain that he loved so well. While
the mountains ahead nowhere matched the craggy heights of Throm, they were
still mountains. He glanced
at Tigerman and saw a look on the felinoid’s face that indicated that
he, too, was at home in mountain heights.
Hawk could not quite understand Buck’s decision to take this
route, at least not yet, but he would enjoy it nonetheless.
They kept climbing, picking
out the sometimes non-existant path as Buck consulted a compass.
Then they came upon a solid rock wall.
“Buck, which way do we go now?”
There was no answer and he turned to his companion.
Buck was gazing back toward the way they had come.
Buck turned to him.
“Uh, there is a pass around here somewhere. Should be near. We
need to look for it.” He
turned to Tigerman. “You
look that way and . . .”
“I will look this way,”
Hawk interjected. “You
rest. You appear to be a bit
winded. Tigerman and I are
very familiar with this type of terrain.”
He paused. “It is
only right, after all. You
are the one instrumental for our escape.”
Buck gazed at his friend,
but could not see anything below the surface with his suggestion,
certainly nothing to indicate that Hawk was aware of what was going on
inside him. Buck couldn’t
explain it; he was feeling an almost physical urge to return to the mines.
He sighed and then nodded, sitting down on a rock to rest.
He was tired. While
he had spent a great deal of time traversing the mine tunnels, he had not
slept much and there was a great deal of difference between walking in
flat corridors and traipsing around hilly terrain.
He consulted with the map in his hand.
“I think we may be a bit too far south,” he called out to his
companions as they searched for the pass.
The sun was warm on his
back, but it also served as notice that they needed to hurry, to get
through here before sunset.
Within a few minutes,
Tigerman returned, pointing to the south.
Calling out to Hawk and then following the bodyguard, Buck soon
sighted an almost imperceptible animal trail.
So far they had not been bothered by animals, although there had
been plenty of evidence of such. While
Buck didn’t want to tempt fate, he knew that the trails were much easier
going than trying to make their own paths through the brush.
He nodded and Tigerman led the way, sure-footed and confident. Buck could only imagine that Tigerman, like Hawk, was a child
of the heights.
The path led into a pass,
which took them between two fairly rugged mountains.
Soon they were looking down on a small, but flat plateau and a
valley beyond that.
Buck felt hope stirring once
more; despite the exhaustion he had been fighting.
They would make it. Then
he felt his hands trembling.
“Buck, are you all
right?” Hawk asked, his voice filled with concern.
“Perhaps we should take a
moment to rest,” Hawk suggested. “A
misstep here could be disastrous.”
“No!” he snapped, then
he reined in his nervousness. What
the hell is the matter with me? he wondered.
He thought about Hawk’s statement.
Now was the time to reveal the other part of his plan.
The part that he had hoped that wouldn’t be necessary to
Tigerman, how far do you think we have to go?” he asked, pointing to a
shining beacon in the valley that indicated the spaceport.
Tigerman grunted, but said
nothing, only looking at him with his dark, golden-flecked eyes.
“I would say we have gone
somewhat more than half of the distance, perhaps close to fourteen or
fifteen miles. But this is a downhill journey from here and should be much
quicker,” Hawk said.
“Except for the climb down
from the plateau,” Buck said. “And
it will be dark in a few hours, not enough time to make it to the
spaceport before dark.”
“We can steal a ship under
the cover of darkness,” Hawk said.
“But it will be harder to
do that if they are expecting someone,” Buck returned.
Hawk looked at him sharply.
“What are you suggesting, Buck?”
“I am beginning to feel,
um, a bit strange-- weird.” He
paused and took a deep breath. The
sun now felt almost uncomfortably hot and again, Buck longed to return to
the mines, to get the medicine that would alleviate what he was feeling.
And that, too, made him uncomfortable.
How long had it been? He
had taken his last dose before supper, when he had put away his equipment.
Then he had waited over six hours after dinner before initiating
the breakout. A couple hours
or more to actually get to the surface and away from the mines, and they
had been walking for over fourteen hours.
It had been twenty-four hours since his last dosage.
He sighed, realizing that he was right to have come up with this
contingency plan. “You know about the sickness that affects humans in the
mines. In a few hours I will
be a detriment to you two.”
“We are in this together,
Buck,” Hawk said forcefully.
Buck shook his head.
“Hear me out.”
“Only if we continue
walking,” Hawk insisted.
“All right,” Buck
replied. “See that river
down there?” he asked pointing. The
others nodded. “There’s a waterfall where it goes over the plateau.
At least that’s what the map said.
That’s where we’re heading.
Let’s go a bit further and I’ll explain what I have in mind.”
At Hawk’s frown, he added with a slight smile.
“We have to go that way, anyway.”
They set out again and found
that it was just as Hawk had said. It
was much easier. The rocky
trail soon gave place to a slightly switch backed dirt track.
Within an hour they had reached the plateau. The sun sat at the top of the mountains behind them.
Here Buck outlined the rest of his plan.
“At the waterfall, we are going to stage your death, Hawk.”
Hawk said nothing, only
“They know my condition
and figure they can pick me up anytime.
I suspect that they figure Tigerman would take to the hills and
fend for himself.”
Tigerman growled softly and
“But they would expect you
to try to escape off planet.”
Hawk nodded, conceding that
much. “Go on, Buck.”
“So we stage your death
and when I can’t go on any longer, you and Tigerman will continue to the
spaceport. They won’t be expecting either one of you to show up, so
the theft of a fighter will be a surprise.”
“Buck, if you are sick
like you were before, I cannot leave you behind.”
Buck turned to face Hawk
directly. “You’ll have to. Don’t
you understand? Someone has
to get word to the Searcher. They
aren’t going to come here unless someone gets word to them,” he
pleaded with his friend. “That
someone has to be you.”
Growling softly, Tigerman
finally spoke. “You are
Hawk looked at him in
despair. “No, I cannot do that!” he cried out, his voice
desperate in his anguish.
“Hawk, you have to,”
Buck repeated. “I don’t
see any other way.” He was
They kept walking, the
setting sun continuing to beat down on their backs.
Buck felt as though he was in a furnace.
He jerked off the outer jacket, using it to wipe the sweat from his
face. Tigerman went into the
surrounding brush and came back with more of the fruit.
They ate as they walked, each man in his own thoughts. The juicy orb quenched his thirst, but the fruit felt like a
stone in his stomach. Buck
turned to Tigerman. “I know
there are animals in the brush. I’ve
heard them. Do you think you
could catch and kill one?” He
paused to let Tigerman answer. When
the felinoid nodded, he continued. “We
need some kind of evidence of Hawk’s death; blood evidence.”
With a soft growl, Tigerman
nodded again and then slipped into the dense brush that grew along the
base of the mountains and onto the plateau.
“How are you feeling?”
How about you?”
“Tired, but hopeful,” he
replied. “Do you really feel you cannot make it to the spaceport?”
“You told me you saw that little performance in the rec room.
Tell me honestly that you think I can.”
He paused and took a deep breath.
“As much as I would like to be hopeful, I don’t think I’ll
make it past sunset.” He
smiled. “I’ll do my best,
“That is all we can do in
a situation like this.”
“Just get back to the Searcher,
Hawk. That’s all I ask,”
“I will, Buck.
By Make-Make, I will!” Hawk declared.
In his heart, though, he continued to hope they would make it
They continued toward the
waterfall, guided more by the dull roaring sound than by the compass and
map that Buck still carried with him.
The sun had set by the time they reached the falls.
Tigerman had still not shown up, but Buck knew the bodyguard would
have no trouble following them. He
wiped the sweat from his face, wishing it would cool down.
As he had before, he mentally cursed the damnable parasite.
“There are several places
where this death can be staged, Buck,” Hawk said.
Buck looked but only vaguely
registered what Hawk was saying. The
heat was making him sick. The
fruit was still sitting like a stone in his stomach and he was dizzy.
He felt Hawk’s hand on his arm.
“Buck,” Hawk said
Again the non-registering. “Buck,
listen to me.” Hawk wished
he had all of Sky Mother’s skills, but hoped what he had learned from
her would be enough. He
remembered his own clan’s healers, he remembered Koori’s abilities and
he concentrated on his own inherent skills.
He had to get Buck to focus on him.
“Buck, look at me,” he said, repeating his command several
times before the human finally looked at him with reasonable clarity.
“H . . . Hawk?” Buck
asked. His eyes held
uncertainty and even a semblance of fear.
“Buck, I want you to watch
me and listen to me carefully.” Hawk
only hoped he could break through whatever barriers this sickness was
putting up. He wondered at
this organism that could manifest in so many different ways.
Buck nodded, gazing intently
into Hawk’s eyes.
Hawk thought. “Buck, do you
remember the trip we made to the healer?
Our journey to the Lamajuna?”
Buck nodded, his eyes still locked onto Hawk’s and the birdman
spoke of the horrific journey, concentrating mainly on Buck’s part in
that trek. Then he shifted to
the first days on the Searcher and Buck’s attempts to break
through the grief and pain Hawk had felt.
Then with only a few words in his own language, he was among the
stars, free, soaring, feeling the wings of his spirit catch the currents
of space and of freedom. It
exhilarated him and it mesmerized Buck.
Finally, when there was no more to be said, he stopped and studied
Buck blinked and gazed at him. He was still sweating in a heat that was internal but it was not as bad as before. “How did you do that?” Buck asked, incredulous.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|