just closed my eyes again
Weaver... I believe you can get me through the night
high through the starry skies
Weaver... I believe you can get me through the night
dawn may be coming soon
Weaver... I believe you can get me through the night
Copyright©1975 MCA Music Publishing, a division of Universal Studios, Inc.
Hawk eased his starfighter, the Warhawk, into the landing bay of the Searcher and then into the berth assigned to him. Wilma and Lt. Mendleson had already arrived. Only Buck was still down on the planet below, checking out some readings for Doctor Goodfellow. The anomalies were just a bit too much for the old scientist to ignore and he had requested that an additional survey be conducted. A preliminary survey had been done because the planet, named Worrel after the one who had first landed there, seemed promising for colonization. The additional surveys would either continue to show the planet suitable for habitation or show cause for more detailed exploration.
Hawk shut down his engines and opened the hatch, reaching back for the container that held samples he had gathered. Between what he had found and what the others probably had brought in, Dr. Goodfellow would most likely be happy for the next month.
There was something, though, that made him uneasy. It was nothing he could pinpoint, and absolutely nothing on the initial surveys that would indicate anything dangerous. However, that had been the case on several planets since he had come on board the Searcher. Some of the places they had been to harbored secrets no sensor could pick up.
Hawk had found nothing when he had been on the surface that would play out his suspicions and there had been nothing more dangerous than a local life form that previous explorers had called brixtels, after some death deity on a different planet in the same quadrant. They were vicious animals that mostly stayed solitary, but could form into packs for hunting. And when they did…. Hawk had videographs of one of their concerted efforts to bring down an herbivore that was at least four times the size of one of these brixtels. The scene had showed some slight intelligence, but the colonization scientists would have to figure just how much. Hawk was just grateful that he had not been the object of that hunt.
“Welcome back,” Wilma said jauntily, approaching as he climbed down from his fighter.
“Thank you,” he replied. “I have much to make Dr. Goodfellow happy.”
“We did, too.” She paused a moment. “Heard from Buck?”
“No, he has not contacted me for the past six hours. I had assumed that he had checked in with Devlin or the admiral.”
Wilma frowned, her previous good mood suddenly muted. “No, he hasn’t. He’s not only overdue with an audio communication, but late coming back on board.”
The niggling of worry grew in Hawk’s mind. “How many hours overdue?”
“A couple. The admiral is waiting another hour and then he’ll send someone down to look for Buck.”
Hawk nodded. “And we know who that will be.”
Wilma nodded soberly. She felt the worry gnawing at her and wished she could go look for Buck right now. Looking at Hawk, she figured he did, too. “Indeed we do.”
Captain Buck Rogers woke with a headache that
seemed to rise to the heights of Mount Everest, topped by Denali, topped
by half the peaks in the Andes mountain chain.
The sun shone brightly, making him feel miserably hot.
When he moved, he realized that it wasn’t just his head that
ached, every part of his body hurt; so much so that things felt out of
joint, inside out and totally out of kilter.
He tried to remember what had happened, but couldn’t remember a
thing beyond the beginning of his assignment.
It had been given to him that morning, if it was still the same
day, he thought wryly, wondering how long he had been unconscious.
Buck opened his eyes and then blinked.
The world was in varying shades of bright, sparkling greens and
blues and browns of an almost metallic hue, everything somewhat
translucent in nature, at least around the edges.
What the hell kind of world is this? he thought, reaching up
with hands that seemed oddly jointed all of a sudden, to rub his eyes.
He cried out when the ‘hand’ that came to his view showed as a
mottled green and brown extremity, like a paw, ending in claw tips that
suddenly extended in his agitation. The
cry was equally distressing, being not that of a human voice, but a deep
and deadly hissing like that of a hunting cat from his days back before
Rolling over and looking at his body as best he
could; he saw through alien eyes, something that seemed a cross between a
mountain lion and a Chinese dragon. All
limbs, short mottled fur, very short, with muscles playing beneath
the skin, and a tail that seemed to have a life of its own.
Long whiskers splayed out from his face and when he reached up to
feel his head with one paw, he felt a slightly heavier thatch that seemed
like a short and perverted Mohawk. Ears
were short and rounded. He
realized that this must be one of those brixtels he was warned about in
his briefing. Very
short-tempered and ferocious animals.
Well, if he was going to be something other than himself, he began
thinking, then cut himself short. There
had to be an explanation; there simply had to be.
Otherwise he was going crazy.
Slowly, he got to his feet, wobbling with the
effort to stand in a position unlike what he was used to. What in the world has happened to me?
He took a step and fell flat on his face.
He got up gingerly again and waited until he felt steadier before
he tried another step. He
moved a leg, trying not to work against this creature’s natural form.
This time, Buck didn’t fall, but still it was strange and
awkward. He took several more
steps and as it became easier, he began looking around.
As he continued getting used to this form he was in, Buck tried to
think, wracking his brain to figure out all of this.
It was like some kind of perverted nightmare, something so absurd
that he would surely wake up from it, laugh and then go about his
business. No matter how
much he tried, he couldn’t think of anything beyond his flight to do
more detailed surveys of Worrel. And
he couldn’t wake up, he realized somberly.
He was already awake. After
he got beyond standing upright on all fours and slowly walking around,
Buck looked around. The sun was shining down into a small clearing, one
ringed on almost all sides by spindly-trunked trees topped by compact
branches covered with small, round leaves.
There was a mound of boulders on one end of the clearing where the
brush had been cleared away, or burned away, he thought in passing,
glancing at the charred and withered brush at the base of the largest
boulder. There was the gaping maw of a natural cave in the
solitary rock outcropping. He
felt like he should remember something about it, but try as he might, he
Then he saw something nearby that almost had him
screaming again. Himself.
His body, lying unconscious (or dead?) about ten feet away.
Fear pulsed through his body, paralyzing him.
couldn’t be dead. If he
were dead, then he would be stuck….
Suddenly, Buck exhaled breath he didn’t realize he had been
holding. He couldn’t be
dead, he repeated in his mind. But for several more minutes, he was too afraid to check and
make sure. His body was so
still, crumpled in a way that would be expected with death.
Stop it! he rebuked himself.
There was only one way to find out and standing here like some kind
of frightened child wasn’t the way to do it.
Slowly, Buck made his way over to his . . . he
corrected himself before he began to get morbid . . . himself and leaned
down. He nudged his arm, then
laid his brixtel head on his chest. Relief
flooded through his body. There
was a heartbeat, but when he nudged harder, he realized that the
unconsciousness was very deep.
More like a coma than plain sleep.
There were no obvious wounds, but something had definitely affected
them both. Then another thought struck him.
What about the emotions, thought processes, instincts of the
creature whose body he seemed to be inhabiting?
Was this like some perverted fantasy sci fi movie, where the minds
of various creatures were supplanted into the bodies of other creatures?
Was the mind of this brixtel inside his mind?
Buck sat back, stunned. What
the hell is going on? Buck asked again.
He looked around for something that might make sense of all this,
his starfighter, or some inhabitant that might be responsible for all
But there weren’t supposed to be inhabitants.
There weren’t supposed to be on the planet of the old
Guardian, either, he reminded himself.
Regardless, he had to get his bearings, try and remember what had
happened to him and get help somehow.
Nothing difficult, he thought sarcastically.
First the bearings….
Slowly, Buck stretched, getting used to the muscles that seemed
like springs, tight, hard and very responsive.
Eat your heart out, Tigerman!
Sobering quickly, Buck wondered what would happen when his physical
self awoke, especially if the mind of the brixtel was in his body.
He sighed and was disconcerted when the sound came out like the
soft hissing of steam.
Pondering his options, Buck figured his body was
safe enough for him to check his surroundings. If his starfighter was
nearby, maybe perhaps he could figure out a way to send a signal to the Searcher.
Getting up, he stretched, got his brixtel legs working in concert
and padded to the edge of the clearing.
He was assaulted by scents from all sides and he tried to make
sense of them. Most of the
smells were earthy, as though someone had concentrated forest smells into
some kind of bizarre, highly scented candle.
Buck tried to make sense of it, then attempted to ignore what he
could. He felt another
headache coming on, and he tried to take a deep breath through his mouth,
but apparently there were scent receptors in his mouth, too. Again, the
assault on his senses.
Shaking his head, Buck looked up into a tree and
figured he would see more of the country that way.
He was in the body of some sort of cat, after all.
He looked down at his feet, paws, he corrected himself and
tried to figure out how to make the claws come out.
Open sesame! Apparently
there was something in the mind of this creature that triggered the claw
response, but it was nothing conscious.
Buck reached up and tried to climb up the trunk, but there was
nothing to hang on with and he slid back down.
Frustrated, he tried again, making a leap this time.
Finally, sitting down on his haunches, Buck gazed
upward, frustrated. How in
the hell did those claws work before?
How did Wolverine do it? He
tried again, to will the appendages to work, but his mind was too
cluttered to focus. He had to
find out where he was and had to take a chance on leaving his body in the
clearing for a while. Again,
Buck mentally cringed at the term ‘body.’
He got up and padded through the brush, trying to discern where the
more metallic scents were coming from.
The sun seemed to be burning his skin and then he
remembered that brixtels were more nocturnal.
According to the last survey, Buck recalled, brixtels had been
coming out more during the day because of a change in the weather pattern,
which had changed the ecology of their hunting grounds.
In other words, the creatures were hungry and had to hunt during
the day to keep from starving. As
if it was listening, his stomach growled, but he ignored it. Finally getting a bit of a handle on the scent signals, Buck
trotted off in what he believed was the direction of his starfighter.
The trees thinned and became brush, then the brush
thinned and in another clearing stood his starfighter.
With an exclamation of joy, which didn’t sound the least bit
joyful coming from his borrowed body’s throat, he ran to the star craft
and leaped onto the wing. Looking
back, Buck was amazed at the power in this smaller body.
Even though his mind was housed in the cat/dragon that was the size
of a mountain lion, he had to have leaped close to twenty feet from a
It was a relief to Buck to be getting used to the
way this creature moved. Not
only was falling all over these feet more than embarrassing, it was
dangerous to be in such a precarious position in such a wild area.
He reached over and tried to push the button that would open the
canopy, but nothing happened. He
tried again, pushing harder with one stubby digit.
Still nothing. Buck
sat back and considered, then berated himself for his stupidity. The ident plate would only recognize his fingerprints.
Paws didn’t count. And what could he expect to do if he was able to get into his
starfighter and try to send a communication?
He sat back on his haunches and considered this latest predicament.
Hawk and Wilma stood side-by-side, resolute in
their desire to return to Worrel. The
admiral gazed at them, the concern showing in his eyes.
Finally he nodded. “I
am hoping we’re only dealing with a mechanical malfunction or something
similar. But in case it’s
something more serious, I don’t want the search to take a long time.”
He paused briefly. “Wilma,
I want you to take the south quadrant of Buck’s sector and Hawk, the
north. Keep communications
open- here and with each other. Whoever
finds him first, call immediately.”
He paused again and paced a few steps before realizing what he was
doing and then took a deep breath. “And
“Thank you, Admiral,” Hawk said, pulling on
his gauntlets. “We’ll
irritating as Buck Rogers could be at times, Asimov felt an affinity to
the young man and was more worried than he cared to admit.
Wilma and Hawk walked quickly down the corridor
toward the launch bay. Miru
was waiting for them at the elevator that went to the hangar.
Her eyes were filled with fear and she reached out to touch Hawk on
the arm. “Be careful,
please,” she said, then she looked at Wilma.
“Both of you. I feel
there is something down there. Something
very powerful. Something that
has enveloped….” Miru
couldn’t continue for a moment. “Something
“We will, Miru,” Hawk said softly, his gauntleted hand covering hers for a moment. Then he and Wilma continued to the elevator, his demeanor communicating as much assurance as he possibly could. When they arrived at their respective ships, berthed side by side, the pair looked at each other, their eyes showing much more than any words could. Hawk gazed deeply into Wilma’s eyes, knowing how she felt about Buck. “He’s all right. We’ll find him.” Wilma said nothing and Hawk finally gave her a thumb’s up signal. She smiled softly and returned the signal that Buck had taught them both.
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