Corridors of Time
A Buck Rogers/Time Tunnel crossover
Buck swung off the bed and began walking to the door. Before he even got there, the knob turned and the door swung open. He had neglected to lock it, but knew that normally, in this time, that wasnít as big an issue as it had been in his before he had gone up in his ship.
Perhaps it was an issue. As soon as the man, whom he recognized to be Doug Phillips, walked through the door, he pulled out a pistol; a very large .45 to be exact. Buck, for once, was at a loss for words. This wasnít exactly what he expected, but then instantly reconsidered. What other reaction? "Iím not one of the Air Force bozoís who took over your Tunnel," he said quickly. "If you'll ask questions first and shoot later, I'll be happy to explain."
Doug Phillips started, but then his features became even harder. He closed the door behind him and did what Buck had forgotten to do--locked it. "Then perhaps you tell me just who you are," he said coldly. "I know that Jerry closed the Tunnel and sealed the complex, so you have to be one of the men who was running it then. How did you get past Jerry? Did you kill him?"
Buck could see that the stress of this threat had made Phillips less than analytical. On the other hand, if Ricker hadnít contacted them again after Beckerís death, how was Doug Phillips to know someone else hadnít been able to get in the complex and then to the trio who had hidden in time? "Look, Dr. Phillips, I really am not one of your enemies. Jerry had been dead for almost five hundred years when we discovered him. So getting past him wasnít an issue." Buck didnít say anymore, only let the information filter past Phillipsí anxiety.
The gun wavered but didnít move from its aim at Buckís chest. "The future?" he asked, startled. Buck nodded. "But how? And how do I know youíre telling me the truth?"
Buck sighed. He had been so intent on getting to this point, that he hadnít figured on having to prove himself. "I guess thatís a good question, Dr. Phillips. I suppose the only thing I can do is to tell you my story and let you decide. Obviously you have the upper handÖ."
"Yes, I do and I have a very good reason for keeping it that way. You canít imagine how little it will take for me to simply kill you and hopefully discourage anyone else from coming back here."
Buck saw the desperation in Phillipís eyes and knew that it had been a stupid move coming like thisóperhaps in coming at all. How in the world could he convince this man, who had so much to lose and whose hold on any kind of stability seemed so tenuous right nowóhow could Buck convince him that he wasnít a threat?
Phillips continued. "You canít imagine what Iíve been through and how hard I have been trying to keep my family from being found. Do you have any idea what itís like to be displaced, out of touch with everything you knew, did, could relate to?" There was fire in the scientistís eyes; a very dangerous fire.
As Phillips began to open his mouth to speak again, Buck said quietly, fervently, "Yes, I do."
Doug didnít say anything for several moments, only keeping the gun steady. Buck could tell he was thinking furiously. "I doubt it, but you know, by telling me that youíre from the future, youíre really pushing your credibility. You trying to tell me there is a future after thatóthat horror?"
"Well, not much of one for a while, but yes, Earth is a viable force in the 25th century, even while still trying to dig up out of its past." Buck motioned to the chair with his duffle bag. "Look through my stuff and see if you find any contraband, then perhaps we can sit down and talk."
Phillips appeared unsure, staring hard at Buck as though he might be able to read his mind. "I, uh, I need to contact my partner, or heíll be in here to back me up," Doug said hesitantly.
Buck nodded and tried to keep his voice calm and even a little up beat. "Tony Newman? Invite him in. Thereís another chair to sit in, although it appears to be a little lumpy."
With his eyes still locked onto Buckís, Doug Phillips spoke softly into what appeared to be a very nicely built version of one of his own Directorate communicators. Buck wasnít surprised. These two were not only from this timeís future; they were top-notch scientists. What did surprise him, though, was the fact that Doug Phillips didnít look more than eight or so years older than his picture on file in the Tunnel archives. Whereas they had been lost for almost twenty years, or something like that, Buck thought, trying to do the math and getting a bit muddled in the temporal aspects of these menís journeys, Doug looked not much older than he had when he stepped into the Tunnel for the first time. He figured Tony would be the same. Was it all the temporal jumping around that wangled their body clocks? Was time travel the fountain of youth? Some fountain, Buck mused.
For want of anything better to do, Buck supposed, Doug began to paw through the duffle, even while still keeping the gun on him. While the barrel of the Colt still pointed at his middle made him nervous, Buck was very empathetic to the scientistís suspicious nature. If the roles had been reversed, he would have had the other man pinned to the wall and trying to choke the information from him. Buck had dreamed of having Col. Becker in front of him and there had been several scenarios that had presented him with equally satisfying results. Unfortunately, the war advocates were just as dead as their victims; some of whose bones had moldered in the complex for 500 years since the day of destruction.
The scientist held up the plastic wrapper of the bar Buck had eaten a couple of hours previously. "Whatís this?" he asked, his voice devoid of emotion.
"Just in case I wasnít able to get local chow, I was sent with a couple of those sustenance bars. Not very tasty, I tell you, but thereís another one in the side pocket if you want to try it."
"Some of the writing seems to be in code," Phillips mused, still studying the wrapper. Then he looked up sharply, his eyes glinting harder, if that was possible. "You seem to have a great deal of twentieth century vernacular for someone from the 25th century." The gun seemed to resolve itself on Buckís belly button.
"Thatís what Iíve been trying to tell you, itís a very convoluted story. I guess I wouldnít have even tried to come back if I hadnít been so intent on seeing someone from my own century again," Buck replied. "Seriously, I have a very vested interested in the days surrounding what has come to be called the Great Holocaust."
"Your own century? What the hell are you trying to tell me? First youíre saying youíre from the future and now from the 20th century? What kind ofÖ." There was a knock and Doug walked backward to the door and unlocked it. He opened it a crack took a quick glance. Then he opened it wide enough to admit Tony Newman. As Buck had suspected, Newman didnít look as though he had aged that much either, perhaps a little less.
"Join the crowd," Buck said, motioning to the bed and then moving slowly in that direction. "We might as well get comfortable." He knew he was taking a chance, but it was all he had. In the back of his mind, Buck wondered why Malcome hadnít just jerked him back to the Tunnel.
Buck held his hands up. "Just moving the luggage."
"Okay, move it and then sit on the bed. Chairs have a back and mine wants some support," Tony said with a grimace of pain. He had studied Buck from the moment he had walked in the door and in him seemed to be more curiosity than animosity, although there was suspicion in his features. Of course, Doug had a wife and kid to think about, too.
When the two men had sat down, Phillips glanced at his partner. The gun never wavered. "Tony, heís been double-talking me. Either heís a very stupid agent, or weíre in for a really whacked out story." Then the eyes bored back into Buckís. "Okay, you have the chance to save yourself some discomfort. Sit down. Who are you?"
"Captain William Anthony Rogers, to give you my proper legal name, although my friends call me Buck."
"Captain of what?" Phillips asked, his eyes hard.
"Captain in the Earth Defense Directorate, year 2495. Until temporarily assigned to the Tunnel, I was a senior officer on board the scientific and exploratory star ship, Searcher."
The two scientists glanced at one another and then back to him.
Buck continued. "But in order to give you the entire reason I am here; the one I hinted at, I have to start back to my origins. My rank transferred from my standing in the United States Air Force." Phillips and Newman cringed. Buck forged ahead. "I was born in 1953. I was almost thirty-four when my experimental long range spacecraft, Ranger 3, malfunctioned. That was just less than six months before the nuclear devastation destroyed everything I had known and loved, including my family. At the time it happened I was cryogenically frozen in my capsule and didnít have a clue what was going on. That was why, Dr. Phillips, I told you I knew just what it was like to lose everything. I did lose everything. I lost more than you can imagine."
The two scientists did more than glance at each other; they started as if they had been shot. "I think youíd better give us some more details," Tony said quietly. The voice was even and Buck couldnít tell what Tonyís disposition was. Doug was almost as inscrutable.
And Buck did, telling them as much about his pre-space mission life as he thought they needed or wanted to hear, and giving them everything pertinent to the situation after his awakening in the 25th century, including the discovery of the Tunnel.
"I canít believe that Becker, or one of his men, would come up with something that cock-eyed. StillÖ. I guess the question begs to be asked," Doug began, still holding his weapon steady. "What is your intention for the Tunnel?"
"At first I only had thoughts of going back and changing what happened. The Directorate head, Dr. Elias Huer, had the same idea, too. You know, preventing the nukes from being fired. But after reading Jerry Rickerís entire journal, I donít think itís possible. And even if it is, I donít thinkÖ."
There was another knock at the door. All three men looked up, surprised. Buck gained his equilibrium first. "Maybe Morgan felt sorry for me when he realized the diner wasnít open," he quipped, trying to relax a bit more. It was hard to tell, but it appeared that Phillips was a bit less anxious. He looked at the man or more particularly, the gun in his hand. "You want me to answer it?"
Doug looked puzzled a moment and then glanced down at the object of Buckís attention. "Yes, go ahead, but donít try anything. You may not have realized it, but Tonyís got one, too."
Of course he would, thought Buck, but at least Tony was less obvious about it. With Dougís pronouncement, Tony slipped his hand over the bulge in his pants pocket. Buck slowly walked to the door and opened it. He was totally flabbergasted at who was on the other side, although he couldnít help but be grateful for Wilmaís presence. Regardless, he would have preferred the Tunnel scientists just plucking him out of here, though, instead of her showing up in front of two jumpy, armed men. "Uh, what? Wilma, what the hell are you doing here?" She was dressed in a cold weather parka, like the one he had brought, but underneath he could tell that she was in her Directorate uniform, the blue shiny one that she wore when off duty. Oh, boy, he thought, that would go well in this time and place, and his thoughts became unworthy of the sermon he had heard earlier in the day.
With an innocent smile, she patted him on the cheek and slid into the room. "Are you going to introduce me to Drs. Phillips and Newman?" She nodded to each and then turned back to Buck. "Oh, and by the way, Hawk showed up. Dr. Huer promised him a look at his peopleís history once the Tunnel probe system was working. He negotiated the access port as well as you did." Suddenly a laser pistol was in her hand and she was gazing intently at the two surprised men. "Buck, take their guns. And if you have any other hidden weapons, gentlemen, I would advise you to give them to my partner."
"Uh, Wilma, everythingís cool. No shooting, no unpleasantness," Buck assured her. "We are working on solving any hostilities."
"I wouldnít call it totally pleasant," she returned. "Not what I saw."
"I donít blame them, Wilma. They have every right to be suspicious."
Wilma didnít waver and Doug placed the gun on the nightstand. Buck collected it and Tonyís smaller gun, putting the larger in his waistband and the smaller in his pocket. Phillipís features seemed resigned, almost despairing. "Who are you?" he asked. Then he sighed. "All we have wanted is to be left alone, especially by those who commandeered our creation."
"I know, Dr. Phillips, and Iím sorry. I insisted on coming through before I understood all of the ramifications," Buck offered and then turned to Wilma. "This is my boss and fiancť, Colonel Wilma Deering, formerly head of the Earth Directorate's Defense forces and currently second in command of Searcher," Buck said by way of introduction. He smiled softly, trying to reassure them. "I don't think she liked the look of your Colt .45, Dr. Phillips."
Wilma unzipped and then shrugged out of her parka, hanging it on the end of the bed. Tony and Doug gaped at the skintight utility outfit. "I was in a hurry, gentlemen," Wilma said by way of explanation. To Buck's amusement, she had colored slightly at their unabashed perusal. "Can I assume that you approve of 25th century military fashion?" she finally asked. The two men said nothing, but Tony Newman finally nodded. "I brought something that might help you to believe we are exactly who and what we claim to be." Buck recognized it as a portable vid-player. She handed it to Buck. "Would you show them how that works, Buck?"
Buck nodded and handed the device to Tony, pointing to the buttons that would begin whatever program or vid-cast that they had sent. The dark-haired scientist seemed to have exchanged any animosity for complete curiosity. Doug, he wasnít so sure of. Then Buck stepped back and let the two men watch. He could see from the side that it was views of the Searcher from an external source. It changed to some inside shots and Buck recognized what it was. This was Hawkís and he had loaned it trying to give credence to Buckís story. There were also shots of he and Wilma flying over the Grand Canyon in quasi-wings. Parts of the canyon showed damage from the nuclear holocaust. Short glimpses of New Chicago, Easter Islands, the damaged Andes Mountains, and Hawk as well. Finally there were scenes of Throm, stark and beautiful at the same time. Buck had not known that Hawk had vid-recorded anything, much less so much. He probably had the capability within his spacecraft. Buck felt a deep gratitude that Hawk would send something that was apparently private to save his butt. Then he realized that Hawk was probably at the Tunnel for that express purpose.
Finally, the two scientists looked up. "Uh, Colonel, we believe you and Captain Rogers are exactly who you say you are," Tony said quietly. "You can put your . . . gun away."
Wilma smiled and lowered the weapon, and then finally put it away in its holster. She left the safety latch unhooked, though and then she turned to Buck, a knowing look on her face. "Who was that politician you said talked quietly and carried bigger armaments than the other person?"
Buck chuckled. "Teddy Roosevelt, who said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." He turned to the two scientists. "I believe that illustrates the main reason Dr. Huer and his staff wanted to open and utilize the Tunnel. Much, if not most, of Earth's history was lost during the first dark years after the Great Holocaust. Most of the people who were left were too busy trying to stay alive to think about preserving what had come before the bombs."
"Until we found the Tunnel, Buck was a main source of information of pre-Holocaust days," Wilma interjected.
"And needless to say, I am no historian."
"Earlier you said something about being his fiancť? Congratulations," said Doug. "So you mainly want to use the Tunnel to rediscover history. That is a worthy ambition, but were you going to send someone back in history as you did today? You said something about a probe program." He sighed. "And can I assume that you have figured out and overcome the problems that we had back before we were lost?"
"Many have already been overcome. That's why we were able to come as close to where I wanted as we did. Six days before Christmas, 1935," Buck said. "While they are historically non-savvy, 25th century scientists are a pretty sharp group. They took what Jerry Ricker had left, what was in the computer files and then studied until they figured out how to first bring the complex back online and then send different things back in time." Buck nodded to both of them. "My congratulations on the invention of a phenomenal device of technology and engineering."
"It didn't help the people of Earth any, did it?" Doug growled. "So again I ask, why come back and see us? What do you want from us? As I said before, we came here trying to stay out of reach."
"Out of reach of those pro-war maniacs?" Buck ventured. "To be honest, we wanted some of your input. And I guess my other thought was to at least have an excuse to spend a bit of time in my own century."
"Is there something more?" Tony asked in a low voice.
Buck shook his head. "Well, if anything, I just wanted to meet the people who had built that complex. I have to admit that it was a better journey here than the one I took to the 25th century." Tony gazed at him curiously without saying anything.