Corridors of Time
A Buck Rogers/Time Tunnel crossover
A week later by 25th century time, a small group gathered in a haunted, ruined area. By 20th century standards it was a little over a month beyond the previous visit. The visitors still wore radiation protective suits, even though the air was not quite as thick with radioactive pollutants as it had been before. A cold wind blew from the lake drifting snow against the remnants of the old apartment building. In the month gone by, refugees had alternately lived in and ransacked the place. It had finally burned down, leaving only blackened timbers standing as mute evidence of its existence. Four mounds showed where other people had been buried, crudely carved crosses marking the spots of more victims of the insanity. Buck felt it fitting that this place had become a cemetery of sorts.
The nuclear winter was in full force in what should have been an early fall day. Dr. Huer had delivered the headstone the day before. It had been transported directly from the entrance of the complex to the grave. Buck had been impressed with the precision of the Tunnel. If the truth be told, the time travelers/Tunnel creators had been equally impressed. As far as Buck was concerned, though, that was fine. It eased what he had come to feel as the upcoming ‘big good-bye.’ The marker was exactly as Buck had found it that time when he had been so new to the 25th century, except, of course it was newer right now. He briefly pondered the paradox of time and destiny while they stood in the howling winds.
"Did you wish to say something, Buck?" Dr. Huer, who was standing by his side, asked gently.
"Yes," Buck answered, but didn’t know where to begin at first. How could you describe four lives that meant so much to him in the time frame allotted to him? And how could you make their existence meaningful to people who had never known them. Finally, though, he began, quickly describing just who these four members of his family had been; snippets of what they had done in their lives. Then he ended simply. "They were good people, trying the best they could in a world that was at once exhilarating and frightening. I have a lot to be grateful for and most of it is because of the people lying here in this place and time," he said softly. "My mother, who believed I could do anything, even when she had to come bail me out of the principal’s office more times than she cared. Mom, you wiped my tears, held my confidences and put up with my antics with the patience of Job. Rest in peace. You certainly deserve it. My dad, who was tough, but underneath it all, had a hundred carat gold heart. I hope you’ve caught Old Scaley up there at the ice hole in the hear-after." Then he chuckled. "Hell, he’s probably caught you. I miss you, Dad. I miss you both." Buck swallowed hard and then continued. "Frank, you were my hero. Despite what they said when I got Ranger, you were a much bigger man than I ever was. Marilyn, thanks for all you did for me. You introduced me to so much, the real and the not so real. You were the only person who didn’t give me grief when I misplaced stuff on the bookcase. I promise, I’ll do my best to find out what happened to Mike and yours and Frank’s kids. Rest in peace…." He couldn’t say any more.
"Te ania maka me’olo nara’a’anui, Make Make," Hawk said softly nearby, one arm stretched in supplication toward the glowering sky and his head bowed.
Buck was moved, knowing what Hawk was asking from his God for his family.
"My gratitude to the family whose sacrifice gave me the one I love," Wilma murmured. "I’ll do my best to take care of him."
Several people nodded as Buck put his arm around Wilma’s shoulders. Then something, a stray thought that became a neon beacon flashed into his mind. "Wilma?" he began looking intently into his fiancé’s eyes.
"Let’s exchange our vows here. Now. They’re here, you know."
"Who?" Wilma asked, her gray eyes filled with confusion.
"My family . . . my parents. I can feel them, Wilma. This is the only way they could be a part of . . . of our wedding."
"Yes, and then we can repeat our vows in the hall with everyone else…."
She studied his face, saw the gleam in his eyes and glanced at the headstone. The snow swirled around them, the wind plucking at the sleeves of their protective suits, moaning softly through the limbs of the dead trees behind them.
"We are both children of the Great Holocaust, Wilma. Let this be the backdrop for new and brighter life. Let’s tell those responsible for this that they can’t destroy us, they can’t destroy humanity or our dreams and hopes."
His voice was as passionate, no, more so, Wilma thought, than she had ever heard it before. What did he say? His family was here? Why couldn’t they be at the hall when they married there if they could be here? But she saw how very important this was to him. And the spirits of his family, they had never appeared in New Chicago. At least Buck had never told her they had and he had confided many things to her, especially recently. This was very important to him. Wilma could see that. She turned to face him, felt his hands take hers, then she looked at Doctor Huer. "Would you officiate, please?"
He looked stunned, but he finally nodded.
"Hawk, you’re my best man," Buck said and the birdman stepped to his side.
"Ann? I think you called the role ‘matron of honor’?" Wilma said questioningly at her new friend and confidant. Ann nodded and stepped away from her husband to stand near Wilma. It had taken much discussion between the two scientists and Ann’s iron willed persistence that had made her presence even thinkable here. Doug had been very much opposed to her being exposed to the minutest bit of this atmosphere. In the end, it was also one of the main reasons that this little gathering had come over a month beyond Buck’s initial visit.
"This is most unusual, and in the interest of the inherent dangers of this place," Dr. Huer began, glancing nervously around him, "I will not give the full pre-nuptial address."
"Thanks, Doc," Buck said with a grin, while his eye contact remained on his beautiful bride. Even in this desolation, he felt a sense of euphoria, mingled with calm determination. He truly did feel the presence of more than the six individuals who had accompanied him for the final tribute to his family.
"As you said, Buck, the Great Holocaust brought death and destruction, but nothing can destroy the hope of the human heart, nor the determination of humanity. However, it is love that has brought men and women of Earth together even during the darkest days and it is that love that continues to bring out the best in our people, indeed, to continue our race. The union of marriage is a symbol of that love, hope, and determination. May this marriage be the bright beginning of two people who care for, love and cherish one another. May you, Captain William Anthony Rogers and you, Colonel Wilma Deering always put the concerns, needs and well-being of the other before your own concerns, needs and well-being. May you continue to be devoted to one another. May you see yourselves as one whole unit instead of two individual people. May this love be continually consummated with every thought, every breath you both take." He paused and gazed like a loving father at the couple whose eyes were still only on one another. "Exchange your vows, please."
When Wilma nodded to him, Buck began. "Wilma Deering, I love you, cherish you and take you to be my wife and companion; my friend and lover, not just until we die but forever, here on Earth, in the stars and in my heart." Somehow he thought there might be more. "I have traveled through the centuries to find you. Time and space will never separate us." He squeezed her hands, feeling he had said everything he needed or wanted to say.
"William Anthony…." She paused. "Buck Rogers, I love you, cherish you and take you to be my husband and companion, now and forever. You are in my heart and in my every thought, and you will always be there. Even though I didn’t realize it before, I have waited through the centuries for you to come to me. Time and space will never separate us."
As he took her in his arms, he heard Dr. Huer’s emotional declaration, "With this love and the promise of a new beginning, and in front of these witnesses, I pronounce you husband and wife."
Buck crushed her to his chest. When they finally pulled away from their embrace, they turned toward the grave.
"You’re right, Buck, they are here. I feel them," Wilma murmured.
"Yeah." He felt the darkness of his surroundings, the horror of what he had dealt with the previous week, the despair and helplessness lift from his heart. The echoes of his past were of happiness and renewed hope, love and peace. Good feelings swirled into his soul and throughout his entire being. He felt joy, like a visiting spirit, caressing him and pushing whatever guilt he had harbored throughout these past few years away. He paused and then a wicked gleam came into his eye as the voices of congratulations sounded near them. "Now let’s go do that consummation stuff that Dr. Huer was talking about."
She laughed. "Yes, I want that kiss that Ann said would be so special at the end of the wedding ceremony."
They were the first transported back to the Tunnel and as soon as they were on the walkway, Buck and Wilma pulled off their protective headgear and kissed. Neither heard anything around them, were aware of anything but each other. And Wilma knew that Ann was right, this was a kiss that surpassed anything that Buck, or anyone else had done before. They only pulled away when an embarrassed Frit Malcome informed them that the others needed to return. With a laugh, the newlyweds walked out of the Tunnel hand in hand and headed out of the main control complex only barely hearing the congratulations of those they passed.
When Buck returned to Searcher a month later, they found their belongings in a new, larger, family cabin. Buck gazed in wonder at the careful blending of his and her things decorating their new quarters. "Who….?" he began and then simply let Wilma pull him through the main living/entertainment area and into the tiny kitchen/dining area. They next walked into their bedroom, more than half again the size that either of them had enjoyed in their old cabins. A very comfortable bed occupied the center, with more of their belongings neatly hung and stored in the recessed closets. A thick-paned port showed the passage of the ship through the expanse of space and Buck continued to stare in wonder as Wilma made the rounds of the room.
"I hear Hawk was mainly responsible for having our new cabin ready," Wilma informed him.
"I am going to have to properly thank him," Buck murmured.
"Thank who for what?" a deep voice sounded from the main doorway.
Buck spun around, "Hawk!" He motioned his friend in and the birdman complied a happy gleam in his dark eyes. "I thought you would still be at the complex studying history," Buck told him.
Hawk shook his head, although the expression on his face didn’t indicate any kind of disappointment. "I know my duties and will honor them. Long term probes have been sent to the times and places where we have found more evidence of my people. I am pleased with the progress of my searches and will take my leave in the complex whenever I can. Tony has been very helpful, too, and has promised to reserve part of his efforts to continuing to look for my ancestors." He paused. "I suspect that what we find will only confirm what we and Sky Mother dreamed."
Buck only nodded. "I think you’re right. I just hope it’s not too painful." He remembered the dreams of that time during the birdpeople’s persecution and they weren’t pleasant, even for him.
"As it was for you, the pain of the seeing—of the experience—of your family; it was a hard thing. But it was necessary."
Buck considered his friend’s words for a moment and nodded. He wouldn’t give up any of it. "Yeah, I know." Then he brightened. "So you have found something?"
"Yes, there were more artifacts on Rapanui before the arrival of humans, many that disappeared in later centuries," Hawk said, with a satisfied smile.
Wilma joined him. "I’m glad, Hawk. I guess Miru is also excited."
"Indeed she is. I have been showing her the vids that the Tunnel took and telling her more of the history of our people that I know. In turn, she has been giving me more of our people’s history that she knows. It is good for both of us. We have dreamed the dreams of a united people."
"I’m glad, Hawk," Buck replied. "By the way, thanks for getting this ready for us," Buck said. "I like it. Have a seat," he added, pointing to the L-shaped couch in one corner of the room.
Hawk shook his head. "Perhaps later, my friends. I have a patrol coming up and I believe that Admiral Asimov would like both of you to report to him. I only came by to welcome you back and to see if everything was in order." He paused. "And I did not do this alone. Miru did much of it even before I came back on duty."
"We’ll thank her, too," Wilma said brightly.
"By the way, how’s Tony and Doug’s family doing? They still at the complex?" Buck asked. They had spent the first few days of their honeymoon at the Montana ranch. However, Wilma had wanted to spend some time away from the underground complex and so they had taken a nice cruise on a ship to the Leonid cluster, reveling in the wonders of the brilliant nebulae that could be seen there. All in all, it had been a glorious honeymoon.
"Yes, they are, although I saw less of Dr. Newman the last few days I was there."
"Oh?" Buck prompted, curious.
"He seems to have become close to one of the other Tunnel personnel."
"Oh?" Buck prompted again, his curiosity mounting, even though he thought he might know just who that ‘personnel’ was.
"Someone from the medical staff. An Aiyanna Carbonne," Hawk replied, his face expressionless, but his eyes showing humor.
"Ah," Buck and Wilma said together. Buck suspected that the young doctor had been smitten with the scientist from the moment she had laid eyes on him. Somehow, he was not surprised that the feelings were being reciprocated. He had sensed that Tony was now more accepting of his past and secure of his future and ready to begin developing relationships. Buck felt his own sense of peace and rightness to everything. Wilma’s arm that had wrapped around his waist when Hawk had arrived, tightened and he felt that sense of rightness increase. All was indeed right with the world, he thought. At least for the present…. For a quick moment he wondered at his temporal references and realized that he would never think of time in the linear sense ever again. Indeed, there were many things that had changed—and for the better. He gave a sigh of deep contentment and squeezed his wife closer to his side. He could ask for nothing more.