Forerunners of Bosk
“No, no! Dribble! Remember to dribble,” Buck called out to the guard with the ball. “Go show ‘em, Barney,” he instructed the privileged who had taken on the role of assistant coach. While Buck would much prefer teaching football, his favorite game, coaching basketball was almost making his stay in the mines bearable. He had been working with all the guards who were interested, which was most of them, for the past four days. There was a small group of privileged prisoners, Barney foremost among them, who had asked to be taught as well. They had much less time to work out, but Buck did what he could for them. Barney apparently also had more privileges than the rest so he spent more time in the rec room than any of the others did. Buck suspected that the prisoner was assigned to keep an eye on him, too. For someone as tall as Barney was, he had a grace and style that rivaled the greatest basketball stars of his day, college or pro. Buck could easily see a very interesting game between the guards and privileged prisoners in the future—if Beros allowed it, that is.
This day over twenty guards,
either playing or watching, were in the rec room and Buck felt the
stirrings of an idea forming in his mind.
After Barney had given instruction, Buck called all the men to the
center of the court. “We’re
going to play a scrimmage.” At
the puzzled looks, he explained. “It’s
a practice game to see how much you’ve picked up and how well you all
can play together.” While he was talking a few more guards had entered the
cavernous room and were watching with interest.
Buck split the group in
half. “You are the blue team and you are the red,” he said
“How do we tell each other
apart when we begin?” one of the guards asked.
Buck paused and pondered.
How indeed? Between
guards and prisoners the differentiation was easy, but all guards wore the
same outfits, dull gray and black. Jackets!
“One group—red team, leave your jackets on, the rest, take
Soon the two teams were
assembled. “Okay. Everyone
will get to play, but not all at once.”
He looked at Ril. “You
are coach of the red team. I’ll
coach blue team.”
“Me?” Ril asked.
“Yeah, you. Do you think I
can coach two teams at once?” Buck asked with a wry grin.
“Well, all right, if you
insist,” Ril said and he pulled his ten men to one side.
Buck motioned his men to the
other side of the court and gave them instructions.
“You men know the rules. You’ve
done a hell of a job these past four days.
Remember, though, and I know some of you are guilty of this – no
hot-dogging. This is a team
“Hot-dogging?” a guard
“Uh, you don’t try to do
all the scoring on your own. Share
the ball. Pass it to someone else if you are ganged up on.
Pass it to someone who can make a better shot.
In other words, share the glory.
This is a team sport,” Buck explained.
He looked at each one of them.
“Any questions about the rules of play?”
“No, Coach, let’s
play,” a muscular guard, Kris, said.
Buck grinned in remembrance. Three days ago, Kris had been the one who had tried his
patience the most; hogging the ball, shoving the other guards around,
acting like an arrogant jackass. But
the final straw had been when the guard had persisted in calling him
‘Twelve-sixteen,’ despite Buck’s continued insistence that he would
not be called by a number during the games.
had called yet again that day.
Buck was immediately in the
guard’s face in his best drill sergeant imitation.
“How badly do you want to play?” he shouted in the man’s
face. Kris had turned a
bright shade of red as the rest of the men stopped what they were doing
and watched. Buck knew then,
in a tiny corner of his mind, that he was pushing it too far, but he had
had enough. At least on the
court, he would be referred to by his name.
“You are a prisoner, that
is your number,” Kris had answered, ignoring Buck’s question.
“I am the coach during any
basketball session, I am not a number!” Buck had responded quickly and
loudly enough for the others to hear.
“During a sport’s game, the coach is boss and I will be called
by name, not by number.”
“But prisoners don’t
have names,” Kris had insisted.
“I’ll be damned if I
play another minute if I’m going to be called by a number!” Buck had
said and turned to walk off. He
had known he was going to catch seven kinds of hell, but he couldn’t
A voice had called after
him. It was Kris. “Uh,
Buck turned back in
surprise. “What did you say?”
“Coach?” Kris asked
He remembered grinning.
‘Coach’ would do. From
then on he was called ‘Coach.’ And
for some reason, he had lived to continue being ‘Coach’ without any
repercussions from Beros. That
had surprised him more than the guards’ interaction with him.
Buck had also been astounded
how quickly this game had caught on, too.
It was almost like drowning men catching at a life preserver and it
was then that he fully realized how oppressed the guards were, as well. He looked over the men again.
“Masters, you, Wilkins, Reesis, Ward and Pless will start.
You will play for a period and then five others.
That way, everyone will play for the same amount of time,” he
instructed. “I’ll let you
decide your positions. But
don’t argue over who will be forwards; there’s gotta be a few
guards.” A couple of the
men grinned fiercely, ready for the competition, but the positions were
chosen quickly and the scrimmage began within a few minutes.
A few times Buck had to call time outs for various violations, but
all in all he was pleased. His
only problem, something he hadn’t anticipated was not having a referee.
After a quarter of play, Buck called Barney over.
“You have to take my place.
Someone has to be the ref.”
Soon the game began again
and Buck was intent on following each play.
By the time another quarter ended, he was training a couple of
non-playing guards to be referees. Taking
a quick break for a much-needed drink of water, Buck thought how
complicated this game could be, something he hadn’t thought about when
he was younger. Then, someone
else was dealing with all the little nuances that went together to make
the games work. But he again
noticed what a great diversion it was for the guards and he thought of how
it also seemed to affect their outlook when they were on the job.
They seemed a bit more relaxed, more patient, and it pleased him.
Even better, though, Buck was quick to figure the possibilities of
such diversion. By the time
the scrimmage had ended, he figured the only guards not in the rec room
were the ones on duty in the cellblocks.
When the game ended, Buck
congratulated the men on a job well done.
“That was fun!” Ril
said. “I don’t believe
I’ve ever been so tired in my life, but it’s good tired.
“It was fun,”
Buck concurred. “We’re
going to have to have an evening game sometime soon where more can watch.
Maybe a real tournament-like series of games.”
“Well, the room’s big
enough,” another guard said. “I’ll
make the suggestion to the boss.”
Buck nodded and headed for the prisoners’ shower room to fulfill his maintenance duties. Barney joined him.
It’s a good game. I
liked being a coach, too,” Barney said, haltingly at first, as though
shy or unsure of himself.
“You’re a good one,
too,” Buck said. “You
have a talent for this game, Barney.
You’re already better than I could ever hope to be, even if it
was something I aspired to, which I never did.
You have a talent for leadership, too.”
Barney looked embarrassed.
“You are just saying that,” he finally murmured.
“No, I’m serious.
You are an excellent player and a terrific teacher.”
“Because I’m so tall.
I can reach the basket easier,” Barney argued.
“Maybe that helps your
game, but agility comes with or without height,” Buck replied.
Barney said nothing.
The only sound was that of his broom, sweeping the dust into a
“Yeah, and you weren’t
treated any different from any other man, either,” Buck added.
Barney gazed at him briefly
before continuing his sweeping.
“Despite the fact that
you’re a prisoner, everyone seems to respect you,” Buck went on.
He scrubbed the walls waiting for a response, well aware that what
he was saying now could very well get back to the administrator.
Somehow, though, Buck fully believed that Barney wasn’t giving
out any information.
“I don’t cause any
trouble,” Barney finally said, quietly as though someone might be
Buck couldn’t help it; he
began laughing. “I do have
a tendency to get in trouble, don’t I?”
“Maybe,” Barney said
“Barney, I know you were,
for all practical purposes, a slave on Neckar.”
He paused, watching the black man over his shoulder.
“By the way, I have checked.
Unless their technology is a lot more sophisticated than I’ve
seen in other parts of the mine, there aren’t any listening devices
here.” He paused. “Let’s
put it this way, if there had been, I’d have been nailed to the
administrator’s wall a long time ago.”
He smiled. “Walls
are great places to vent your anger.
They don’t talk back and they don’t give a hoot in hell who you
Barney gazed at him again
and then he smiled. “You
are right there, Coach.”
Buck smiled with him.
“You are a coach, too, Barney.
And when we’re alone, just call me Buck.”
Barney nodded and worked
quietly for a few minutes. “It
did feel good, them talking to me like I knew something.
Almost like I was one of them.”
He paused a beat. “I’ve
been a slave all my live.” He
paused again. “Don’t get me wrong, Miss Brisella was nice, but a
slave’s a slave.”
“Yeah and it’s a shame to have been subjugated that long. You have the makings of a natural born leader.”
Barney looked surprised.
Do you think they made you a privileged just because you can follow
orders?” Buck asked.
“Well, I guess I did.”
“There are others that have been here longer than you, that don’t have privileged status. Bet most of them are also good at following orders, too,” Buck said.
“Part of the reason is
because you could be trusted. The
other prisoners respect you.”
“Do you think so?”
“I know so,” Buck
They finished and went to
the guards’ shower room, which by now was almost empty.
They worked side by side for another hour and then went to the mess
hall where Buck picked up a bowl of the now cold dinner and his dose of
garox. He took his bowl back to his cell where he sat silently as
Barney regretfully snapped on his manacles.
“It’s okay,” Buck
mouthed, giving the sign as well. Barney
smiled and then left.
The stargate was coming up.
Hawk turned to the human. “Check
the figures. I am not taking
us anywhere to cause harm to anyone on board this shuttle.”
Without taking his hand off
Hawk’s arm, Kollin did as suggested, his eyes scanning the coordinates
at a glance. “What are you
going to Cronis for? Some
kind of political statement or something?”
In a move faster than he
thought capable, Hawk had the small stun gun against Kollin’s side.
The next motion set the coordinates into the navigational computer.
Within minutes the shuttle passed through the stargate on its way
“Now that we are on the
right course, I can explain what I am doing,” Hawk said.
“By deviating our course,
this ship has been put on a ten quadrant alert.
Other ships will be under orders to capture or disable us.”
“Even though there are
passengers aboard?” Hawk asked.
“Even though,” Kollin
replied. “And some of these spaceship pilots aren’t that worried
about whether anyone lives or dies. They
only care about the reward the company gives.”
“Then feel glad I am a
better pilot than Telor Witt,” Hawk said with a wry smile.
“Who are you?”
“I am Hawk.”
It was said with bold declaration.
“Obviously you are not an
employee of Arator Company,” Kollin said.
Somehow when his companion had said he had no intentions of causing
harm, he believed him. It was
also becoming clear that this man was a non-human, even though in uniform
he easily passed for a human pilot. The
eyes, Kollin determined. That
had to be it.
“Oh, but technically, I
am,” Hawk corrected. “But
not exactly the kind of employee you are thinking of.”
“I was taken to Bosk
against my will. Myself and a friend.”
Kollin thought of Hawk’s
words and the realization began to dawn on him.
“A prisoner?” he asked.
“A slave,” Hawk replied
Kollin stared in disbelief
as Hawk entered more information into the navigational computer.
Then his mind took in what Hawk’s actions.
“What are you doing?”
“Adding something that
will keep the course coordinates from being altered.
I have gone too far to be thwarted now.”
He paused a moment. “My
friend is counting on my success,” he added softly.
“You do realize that I
have an obligation to the passengers and ship,” Kollin said.
“Then it is in your best
interest to trust me,” Hawk said. “But
if the company questions your actions, I did pull a weapon on you.”
“I am going to trust you
to keep your word about my ship and these men.
If I have any doubts….”
“Those men back there will
suspect nothing for a few hours, but after the next gate, they will,”
“I will deal with that
when it happens,” Hawk responded.
“They won’t be happy and
some may become violent.”
“Again, that will happen
or not happen at a future time,”
Kollin decided to change
tracks. “I heard of an attempted escape on Bosk.
That related to you?”
“Yes,” Hawk said simply,
deigning not to elaborate.
They flew on in silence for
a half an hour before anyone said anything.
Hawk pondered Kollins’ warning and kept a close watch for other
ships. He also considered the passengers and thought of several
options. He had to get to
Cronis. That was all there
was to it. No choices.
If he could get there, he could contact the Searcher.
Then they could rescue Buck—and Tigerman.
“Your friend,” Kollin
finally said. “He’s still
on Bosk, I gather.”
“Yes, and his friend.”
“Arator will not give them
up without a hard battle. They
paid a great deal of money….”
“We were kidnapped!
We were taken against our will and forced into the most depraved
and cruel slavery!” Hawk snapped.
“Regardless, the company
will not relinquish anything easily,” Kollin pointed out.
“They will have no choice
in this matter. My friend was
serving as an executive officer on a Galactic Council Earth Directorate
research vessel when he and I were kidnapped,” Hawk said.
“I suspect you will have eventual success but still not without a
fight. Arator Company is a
hard nut to crack when they are crossed.”
The Arator Company does not
totally understand who they are dealing with, either.
My people have lived a type of bondage for centuries.
I am harder than any “nut,” as you put it.”
“Somehow I don’t doubt
your word, Hawk,” Kollin said. “Who
are your people?”
“I am of the bird
people,” Hawk declared. Then
his full attention returned to the computer screen.
They would soon be going through the next stargate.
The transaction was smooth and Hawk felt Cronis within his grasp.
Only one more gate and they would be within a few hours of the
Galactic government’s headquarters.
Then he saw the ship that had just appeared on the computer
read-outs. It was massive,
and fully capable of taking them in tow.
And it was turning toward them.
“It looks as though we get a real test of your flying abilities,” Kollin murmured.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|