Forerunners of Bosk
a careful aerial survey of the area where Buck and Hawk had landed, along
with the place where the supposed distress signal had originated, Wilma
and her wing man set their starfighters down in the same clearing in which
the shuttle had landed. Several
days ago she had seen a signal just as everyone else on the bridge of the Searcher
had, but now there was nothing unusual at all except the still smoldering
remains of a building.
popped her canopy and gazed around, her laser in one hand.
Bristol, in the other starfighter, did the same.
It was quiet, a slight early morning breeze causing leaves to
rustle. They would have
plenty of time to investigate, try to find out what happened here on the
ground. That didn’t comfort
Wilma, though. A day had
passed since Buck and Hawk’s disappearance.
pulled the canopy closed and ident-locked it before jumping down and
surveying the small clearing. Her
wing-mate, John Bristol, did the same.
He then used his scanner to survey the forest beyond their little
clearing, making almost a complete circle before stopping.
In that direction,” he said tersely, pointing.
was a small path. “How
many?” Wilma asked. “Can
hard, but I think there are only a few,” Bristol replied.
“All in the same direction.”
nodded. “We’ll go slow
and easy,” she said, starting down the path, her laser pistol out and
ready. Carefully, they made their way through the forest until
they reached a cleared hillside covered with cultivated vines. Wilma remembered that this was mainly an agricultural world
only beginning to delve into extra-solar commerce.
And alcoholic beverages were their specialty, wines mainly.
“All right, what are your readings saying now?”
of us; over the next rise,” Bristol reported.
walked along the utility road, watchful.
Wilma noticed that a few plants were burned and she couldn’t help
but think that it appeared to come from laser fire.
She also examined the ground near those damaged plants.
When they topped the rise, Wilma, having hand-signaled Bristol to
leave the dirt road, paused, momentarily taken aback.
Before them, on the flat valley floor, lay the smoldering ruins of
what appeared to have been a dwelling.
There were several people wandering around, one poking amongst the
ruins, the others gazing directly at them.
as well go down and introduce ourselves, right Colonel?” Bristol said. “Sure apparent they know we are here.”
only nodded, holstering her weapon, but leaving the safety strap undone. Bristol followed suit. They
calmly walked down the hillside, but all the while, Wilma was looking
around her. She saw
outbuildings further down the valley which were untouched.
As they approached the burnt out buildings, Wilma noted evidence of
laser burns on part of the only still standing inner wall of the house.
The three watchers walked out to meet them, their faces almost
inscrutable, except for their eyes, which were hard and unwelcoming.
Wilma Deering from the exploration ship, Searcher,” Wilma began. “Two of….”
of your crewmen did this!” the man in the lead cried out.
“And my great aunt was killed as a result.”
was momentarily taken aback, but she quickly composed herself.
“The two who came down here were answering a class two emergency
distress signal.” She
paused. “In case you
aren’t aware of it, that’s an intra-space,
don’t know about any space distress call.
All I know is my aunt was an old woman living in the family home
and two off-world criminals came and set the house on fire, killing
her,” the man said tersely.
gazed meaningfully at him, her eyes boring into his.
“It looks more like an ambush to me,” Wilma said.
“And I wonder just who ambushed whom?”
She was gratified to see that the man who seemed to be in charge
flinched and looked away for a moment.
are you insinuating?” the first man asked.
was making an observation,” Wilma answered.
She pointed toward the part of one wall still standing. “See the laser burns?
They came from outside. It’s
my understanding that you people don’t have laser weaponry.”
men were outside,” the man argued.
but they went inside,” Wilma replied, showing Buck and Hawk’s
footprints that went to the bottom step of the porch.
They were partly obliterated by other’s footprints, but it was
still easy to see what Hawk and Buck had done.
“They went in and were ambushed.
There are no prints coming out.”
came out and then flew away.”
and who else?” Wilma asked tersely.
She had moved closer to the three men until they were almost
off this land before I call the law on you!” the man snarled.
“And be lucky we don’t have galactic authorities arrest you
worry. The Galactic Council will
hear about this. And if you
should suddenly remember what really happened, you can contact us through
the spaceport authority. We
aren’t going anywhere right away,” Wilma said pointedly.
out! Get off our land!” the
course,” Wilma said with a smile. She
motioned to Bristol and they turned and started back in the same direction
they had come. When they came
closer to the shed-like building, Wilma said, “Let’s take a short
watching,” Bristol said.
them watch. We are doing what
they said, just not the way they said.”
Wilma felt her anger seething.
She had wanted nothing better than to shove her fist into the
man’s face. Liar,
she thought. You are
probably the one pulling a trigger out here. “And I thought I saw evidence of some activity near there.
I just want a closer look.”
they approached the small building, Wilma saw that indeed there had been
something going on here. There
was the print of Hawk’s distinctive boot soles, his footwear having been
made on Throm to his own specifications.
There was another set of footprints, slightly larger that she took
to be Buck’s and then smaller prints, shoes, not boots.
A third person? The
great-aunt? she thought. “Keep
looking around where they can see you, Lieutenant,” she ordered.
Going around to the far side of the building, Wilma found a door.
It was locked, but she could have been willing to bet that there
was some sort of passage from the house to this shed.
of them are coming,” Bristol informed her.
okay. Let’s go,” Wilma
said. “I believe I have
found out what I need to know.”
walked toward the forest, following the tracks that led from the shed. Just inside the foliage and out of sight of the Neckarese
Wilma stopped. “Buck, Hawk
and someone else, possibly that old woman they were talking about, came
from the shed and went into the forest.
The direction appears to be toward the shuttle,” Wilma told her
how did they get from the house…?” Bristol began and then it dawned on
him. “A cellar or tunnel?”
nodded. “Yes, let’s
follow the trail as long as we can.”
small trail appeared to be a little used one, but it headed unerringly in
the direction of the clearing where Buck and Hawk’s shuttle had been.
When they reached the clearing, Wilma gazed more carefully around
the area. Bristol did the
there’s a lot of tracks over here,” Bristol called out.
joined him. “Yes, and near
where their shuttle was sitting,” she concurred, pointing to the
impressions made by the shuttle’s landing gear.
In fact, even to her untrained eye, it seemed as though a veritable
army had been here.
have been those guys from the vineyard,” Bristol suggested.
be, and possibly others, too,” Wilma added.
“But I don’t think they were in on the actual kidnapping.
I think they just provided the place of ambush and maybe some
firepower.” She wished she
was better at this, but somehow, she thought these were not locals.
Some of the prints had the conformation of space boots. “I’m
going to look around the perimeter of this clearing.
You watch our back trail.”
she studied the fortuitously soft ground, Wilma noticed the extra set of
tracks leading into the forest. The
other person with Hawk and Buck had not gotten on the shuttle with them. So where is she? she thought, feeling even more that
this was the mysterious woman Buck and Hawk had been accused of killing.
tracks disappeared among the leaves and debris of the forest. Wilma
returned to the clearing where Bristol was waiting for her. “There is
nothing else we can do here,” she told him.
you find anything?” he asked.
to be even more suspicious.” Wilma
climbed into her starfighter and began preflight checks.
Bristol did the same. Soon
they were winging through the atmosphere toward the Searcher.
morning since his arrival, Buck had managed to mark the passage of each
day on the wall of his cell. On
the fourteenth day, he awoke and began gasping for air, coughing and
choking, trying to clear the phlegm that seemed to fill his windpipe and
lungs. The last thing on his
mind was marking a day. What most occupied his thoughts was staying alive.
Within minutes a guard was at his door, silently watching, his eyes
uncommitted, unsurprised and, for the moment, unresponsive.
Finally, Buck was able to take slow breaths, painful though they
were, and get some of the air his lungs craved.
he felt a bit better, he gazed meaningfully at the guard. “Don’t think
I’m going to be blowing caves today,” he wheezed and then concentrated
on his breathing. His lungs felt as though they were on fire and his body
ached. Sweat trickled
down the side of his face, but he felt chilled and only wished he could
crawl back under his blanket.
the guard asked, inanely, Buck thought, “Are you all right,
at the guard in the dim light, Buck saw no evidence that the guard was
trying to bait him or be sarcastic. “No,
I’m not. Hard to
take you to the med bay,” the guard said, opening the door.
Buck got up and walked out of his small cell, following behind the guard. He was almost panting by the time they got to the sick bay.
down,” a small, gray-haired, sad-eyed man said, pointing to an exam
table. “Take off your
nothing, Buck did as he was told.
do you feel?” the man whom Buck assumed to be a doctor, asked.
doctor raised an eyebrow. Then
he smiled grimly. “Could
you be a bit more specific?”
to breathe . . . lungs feel full of junk . . . muscles, joints ache.”
He took a shallow breath and then coughed, loosening up phlegm in
his throat. “Like the
winter of seventy-nine. Kamikaze
will accept your description and not try to understand what else you
said.” He paused.
“But you have a malady common to those new to the mines,
especially forerunners. Sets
up in the lungs and hits pretty fast, although I have not seen a case hit
quite so fast as yours.” He
turned and walked to a locked cabinet.
After thumbprint identification, he opened the cabinet, pulled out
a small hypodermic vial and returned to Buck’s side.
“Where did you say you were from?” The doctor set the vial down
and picked up a small note pad and an old-fashioned pen.
terran. Which city?”
taking a few notes, the doctor put down his note pad.
“I am going to give you a shot that will counter the effects of
your illness. You will begin
to feel better in a few hours.”
looked incredulous at the doctor’s claim, but at this point, he was
willing to believe the man. All
he wanted to do was lay down and just forget life existed for a few days.
will also feel a bit more energized.”
just sat silently while the doctor gave him the shot in his shoulder.
need a bit of background. I’m
studying this cave sickness, trying to learn enough about it to possibly
come up with a vaccine to prevent it.”
nodded, thinking that even in his day there were flu vaccines, but they
couldn’t figure out a way to prevent this?
old are you?”
was no way Buck was going to get into a discussion of his chronological
age. “Thirty-four,” he
doctor checked his pulse, heart rate, and blood pressure.
He took a sample of blood and then he dismissed Buck into the
custody of a guard. Buck
was taken to the breakfast room where he was given his morning repast,
something that looked like a cross between grape nuts and oatmeal.
This morning, though, he only picked at it listlessly, not feeling
very hungry. He wondered if
they truly expected him to blow open caves this morning.
Finally, he laid his head on the table.
A tap on the shoulder took his attention from the now cold
breakfast and his misery. Buck
looked up into the not unsympathetic face of a guard.
with me. You are going to
sighed, but said nothing, knowing it would do no good.
He sincerely hoped the claims of the doctor were true, because if
they weren’t he was going to be carried back to his cell. Nodding, he slowly got up and followed the guard.
As they walked down a corridor, a trustee handed him a bag.
The satchel was heavy and Buck looked in it, seeing a small shovel
and a pick. That answered his
previous question. He was
working, although it was lighter duty, getting the gems the forerunners
had blown loose.
what seemed an interminable walk, one where he had to stop briefly and
rest a couple of times, the guard stopped him.
“Wait. You will mine
the crillite as soon as the forerunner is finished.”
nodded and waited, leaning against the rough wall, catching his breath. Surprisingly, though, he seemed to be having a slightly
easier time breathing and he did feel a bit less tired. Soon there was a sharp blast, a rattling of loose
stones and then only settling dust. The
forerunner walked out of the corridor, a cannon on his shoulder. Buck was startled to see that it was Hawk.
friend was equally surprised, but he quickly recovered and with his free
hand, signed, ‘How are you?’
but I am getting better,’ Buck replied in sign.
Then he made another quick sign.
on to the next cave,” another guard said to Hawk.
“You inside and gather the crillite,” he said to Buck. With a last look at Hawk, Buck gathered his satchel and
walked into the cave. Hawk
was escorted to his next duty station.
the rest of the day Buck gathered the crillite, feeling somewhat better as
the afternoon progressed. Within
a couple of days, he felt almost back to normal.
He was still surprised that they seemed to be able to make medicine
that could work so quickly, and yet not be able to find something to
prevent this malady. The
following days added the routine of the medicine to his schedule and he
didn’t dare question the whys of such long-term care, familiar as he was
with the same types of medical regimens during his younger days.
began placing marks on the wall again now that he was feeling better and
by his best reckoning, almost three weeks had passed.
Buck began wondering why he bothered, but still he continued
accounting for the days.
|Forerunners of Bosk Prologue|
|Buck Rogers Contents|