I believe you can get me through the night
Dr. Goodfellow was tending to the brixtel,
muttering to himself, when Hawk came in.
He sighed, knowing the conversation would be similar to that which
he had just had with Wilma and before that, the admiral.
“Hello, Hawk,” he said simply, barely looking up.
“How is Buck?” the birdman asked without any
Shaking his head, Goodfellow sighed, then said,
“The same. I finally had to
put restraints on him to get medical scans.
Couldn’t do the brain scan with him sedated.”
“No sign of injuries or trauma of any kind,”
the doctor replied.
“And no sign of recognition?”
“Then what do you propose?”
“Keep watching him.
Hope that his brain activity somehow increases,” Goodfellow said,
his voice sounding less than hopeful.
“Increases?” Hawk asked, alarmed. He only knew a little about human medicine but knew brain
activity was a measure of viability in almost all sentient creatures.
At least by the humans’ standards of sentience.
No measurable brain activity, little hope of intelligent
“Buck’s scans show only minimal activity,
perhaps that of a non-sentient animal,” Goodfellow explained sadly. He gazed meaningfully at Hawk.
“I haven’t told anyone else this, yet, except you, the admiral
Hawk could only imagine what effect this news
would have had on Wilma. He
nodded in understanding. “Do
you think it could increase?”
The doctor simply sighed and shook his head.
“There are exceptions,” he finally said.
“But they are rare.”
“But we must have hope,” Hawk said, gazing
intently at the scientist.
didn’t seem to be much hope in the old human’s voice.
Looking down at the creature on the table in front
of him, Hawk asked, “And the brixtel?”
“Mmm, yes,” Goodfellow murmured. “Just the opposite, I have to admit.”
“What do you mean?” Hawk asked. “Are you saying that the brixtels are more intelligent than
any of the previous surveys indicated?”
“This creature sustained many serious injuries.
I don’t think I can do anything for it,” Dr. Goodfellow said
distractedly, ignoring Hawk’s specific question.
Hawk was astonished.
“Doctor Goodfellow, I have seen you heal much more severely
injured entities than this. And
were you saying that this creature is sentient?”
“I can keep it alive, and perhaps give it some
measure of life, but you have to remember that it has to survive in a wild
and sometimes very hostile environment.”
The old man paused. “He
could not survive in the wild. He
has lost an eye, lost a great deal of blood, is partially crippled in such
a way that I am not sure if it could run fast enough to catch its prey.”
He gazed meaningfully at Hawk.
“But it could live with colonists,” Hawk
suggested. “You heard
Wilma’s report. Whether by
fluke or mutation or whatever, this animal was friendly to her and tried
to save her and Buck.”
“Presumably, and the answer to your earlier
question is yes. This
creature’s brain function scan shows incredible sentience, belying
previous reports on brixtels,” Goodfellow finally admitted.
“But the other brixtels behaved exactly as the
first science studies reported,” Hawk pointed out.
“That is the main reason I ran so many tests on this brixtel.
He is a mystery.”
“Is there anything I can do to help Buck?”
“Perhaps go in and talk to him,” the doctor
suggested. “He is heavily
sedated, but you never know what might be a key to unlock the mystery.”
“I will do that, Doctor Goodfellow.”
Buck woke to subdued but persistent pain.
He felt the grogginess of pain medication but after a while, the
foggy tendrils of sleep began to slowly drift away.
And with wakefulness came memory, muted and dull, but enough to
make sense of what had happened to him.
Buck remembered the readings, crazy skewed readings coming from a
cave, the entrance overgrown with thick vegetation.
He remembered entering, still following the strange readings on his
science monitor. He
remembered a brief thought of wishing for Twiki and a back of the neck
hair-raising moment. There
was an eerie glow in the cave, pinkish red, and two yellow pinpoints
farther away like animal’s eyes.
He turned on his flashlight and had a momentary
glimpse of various devices before he realized that the two yellow spots were
animal’s eyes. A brixtel
hiss-snarled and rose to its feet. Buck
dropped his monitor and jerked out his laser quickly thumbing it to stun.
As the brixtel leapt toward him, he fired and then everything
blazed into a world of fire and ice, searing heat one second, painful cold
the next and then nothing.
A transmutation device apparently, Buck thought as
he opened his eyes—no, eye, and gazed around him.
In his line of sight stood Dr. Goodfellow. He was on the Searcher!
They had brought him on board.
The pain couldn’t dull that flash of hope. Buck heard Hawk and the doctor talking, one sadly listing the
injuries this body had sustained and the other speaking of saving the
brixtel. His own body was
discussed. Apparently Dr.
Goodfellow had run quite a few tests on both of them.
Naturally there would be less than normal results, Buck thought.
Then came Hawk’s suggestion.
To be trapped in this body, crippled and silent was not an
option. He got here on board
the ship, there had to be a way to get him back in his own body.
But how could that happen when no one knew what had really
happened. The key was the
cave. Something in that cave.
No! The key was in getting Dr. Goodfellow and Hawk to understand
that he was in the brixtel. But
how to tell them? Somehow
Buck had to communicate. But how, he wondered again?
How? He let his
thoughts drift into a half doze, then he forced himself awake again.
Can’t sleep, he thought.
Buck considered his options. They could use an OEI, like they had when he was on Earth
when Hieronymous Fox had pulled his stunt, but still there was the problem
of communicating the need for one. He
couldn’t talk and he couldn’t hold a pen.
Buck didn’t know if he could tap a computer keyboard or even if
he could reach one with his injuries.
Extending his claws, one at a time, now easy to do since he had
figured out this body, he pondered. The
pain of even that small movement made him wince and the pain in his leg
shot through his body.
“He is awakening, Doctor,” said Hawk.
“Oh dear, I hope he doesn’t react violently to
his surroundings,” Dr. Goodfellow said.
“I can only imagine how strange they might seem to a creature
used to living in forests and fields.”
Buck forced himself to relax as Dr. Goodfellow
leaned forward to look him in the face.
He thought of the irony of the doctor’s last statement. How can I get you to understand? he wondered
desperately. He gazed
steadily into the doctor’s eyes, willing him to understand, willing him
to even think that there was more to this brixtel than just a fluke
mutation. He almost laughed.
When he had been a kid, his grandfather had told him that cats
could give one ideas by just concentrating.
Dr. Goodfellow sighed and looked sad.
Apparently, thought Buck, there wasn’t enough cat in a brixtel to
do what his grandfather and others thought felines could do.
Buck closed his eye and lay his head back down on
the table. A claw scraped the
edge. It was still out from
its protective sheath, probably due to injury.
It scraped against the metal again, softly, but Buck felt a
tingling. Something he should
be figuring out. It was
important, but he couldn’t think. Why
was the scraping of the claw important?
“He appears to be in pain,” the doctor said.
There was some rustling, like paperwork.
“Perhaps,” Hawk said, but he didn’t sound
totally convinced. He gazed
thoughtfully at the brixtel who was, in reality, his first human friend.
It tapped, then scraped the edge of the metal examination table.
“Yes, it’s been long enough. I should give our poor patient something so he doesn’t
become too agitated from the pain and the strange surroundings,”
Buck heard the doctor’s voice, but concentrated
on the tapping claw. Tap,
tap, soft scrape. Tapping—tapping.
A code—Morse code! All
pilots had to learn Morse. It
was basic in the first year of the Air Force Academy.
In case voice communication was out, or they were trapped
somewhere, or injured. Buck
thought sardonically, I am certainly trapped—in a body that doesn’t
allow me to talk. And I am
If he could only
control his injured leg enough to tap out a message.
He concentrated on making the paw do what he wanted it to do.
Move! Cooperate! He
curled the thin digits of his front right paw and then relaxed them; he
moved the leg more onto the exam table where he could tap to greater
effect. Good, he thought,
“Ah, my friend, you will soon be feeling
better,” Doctor Goodfellow said.
Buck felt the prick of a needle. No! Not now!
Desperately, Buck began tapping, willing his body to cooperate
before the pain medicine took effect and knocked him out.
Dash, dot, dot, dot. Dot,
dot, dash. Dash, dot, dash, dot. Dash,
dot, dash. ‘Buck.’
Dr. Goodfellow and Hawk stopped talking.
Buck felt the sedative taking effect, making his mind sluggish,
more sluggish than it already was. Dot, dash, dot, dot. Dot,
dot. Dot, dot, dot.
Dash, dot. ‘Listen!’
Then he began his name again, but couldn’t continue. Consciousness
wavered, just as the two people in front of him wavered.
They looked puzzled. He
tried again, finally getting his name out again, then having to stop, worn
out as well as lethargic. Through
the crystalline eye, Buck saw Dr. Goodfellow staring at him curiously. Hawk’s gaze scrutinized him and Buck willed understanding.
Hawk turned away and Buck felt despair covering him like the
blanket of torpor that the drug was inducing.
Slowly his mind darkened and he fell asleep.
“The poor creature must have been having
spasms,” Dr. Goodfellow said sadly after the brixtel fell asleep.
“If it didn’t seem so fantastic, I might think
it was trying to communicate,” Hawk murmured, turning back to the
“What an intriguing thought,” the doctor said.
“But totally impossible.”
Hawk gazed meaningfully at the human, not
understanding how he could entertain such notions after all they had seen
in their travels. Indeed, it
had been Dr. Goodfellow, as well as Buck who had proposed the idea that
there could be other bird people among the stars.
“Why?” he finally said. “Rock
eagles on Morester have a clicking code.”
“Yes, with their beaks.
I have heard of them.”
He paused and lightly touched the severely injured brixtel on the
shoulder. “But why
would there have been only this one creature showing such awareness and
Hawk shook his head.
“I do not know, but I think we should consider such a thing
within the realm of possibility.” He
walked over to the table where Buck lay sedated and strapped to the
Behind him, Dr. Goodfellow nodded.
Miru drifted in a fog, much like that at the
Cauldron of Visions in her home place in the mountains.
But it was a white fog that slowly changed colors.
First red, then gray, then darkening to brown and finally back to
white. Sometimes she felt a
surface under her and then it was as though she was floating.
A slight wave of dizziness passed over her and tendrils of pain
behind her closed eyelids. Then
she heard a tapping. Tap,
tap, tap. It varied even as it spoke of cadence. There was a slight whispering of scratching that broke the
rhythm of the tapping. But
even that held a cadence, a song. Or
was it? Miru couldn’t tell,
only that it was trying to tell her something.
She felt desperate need, a desire that was so strong to be painful.
More tapping and more sighing that was light scratching.
It was almost like a heartbeat, except that it varied in its pulse. Then there was a plea for understanding.
Understand what? she asked in her mind.
What? Who are you? Where
are you? There was no
answer, only more tapping, then it softly began to whisper away, until
there was nothing left except the desperate need, the hunger for
understanding. Then that,
too, was gone.
And she jerked awake to face the muted light of her cabin. Someone on board the ship was in pain, physical pain, and that same someone was in anguish. It was like they were lost and couldn’t find anyone to help them. She lay there for a while, then closed her eyes trying to find whoever it was again. But there was nothing, no answering to her query.
|Cat's Cradle 1|
|Buck Rogers Contents|