Corridors of Time
A Buck Rogers/Time Tunnel crossover
"Did you pay for this room already?" Doug asked, looking around at the Spartan furnishings.
"Thatís a fairly silly question, Doug," Tony quipped. "With money as scarce as it is and Morgan as tight as he is, what do you think?"
"As a matter of fact, I havenít," Buck said. "All I had to do was show him this little chunk of Wesslogian gold and he was caughtó hook, line and sinker."
Tony grinned as he peered at the nugget lying in Buckís palm. "It looks real."
"It is real. Just not terrestrial," Buck replied.
"Where did you tell him you got it?" Doug asked.
"Alaska, the last great gold rush."
Doug chuckled. "Gather your things. Iím good for theÖ. How many nights did you tell him youíd pay for?"
"A couple. I was going to get some cash for this when the bank was open."
"Iím good for that. I want you and Col. Deering to come home with us."
"You can stay at my place and the colonelÖ." Tony began.
"Look, if we are going to be friendly, Iím Wilma." Her eyes flashed and her hands rested firmly on her shapely hips.
Buck couldnít resist. He walked over and wrapped his arm around her waist. "Iím game for being friendly," he said, relieved that things had worked out so well, that she was here, that both of them had made it in one piece, and that they had found the scientists.
"We have a problem," Tony commented dryly.
With reluctance, Buck pulled himself from Wilma and gave his attention to the scientist. "And that is?"
"Our truck only holds three decently in the cab."
Buck knew instantly what that meant and decided to deflect it immediately. "Iím not decent. Wilma is my fiancť and I sure donít mind her sitting on my lap." Tony studied his face and nodded when he saw that Buckís mind was made up. Sure is, the Directorate pilot thought. Tony was still very handsome and he wasnít going to sit in the bed of the truck while Wilma sat up there with two handsome men, one of whom he assumed was still very eligible. He handed Wilma her parka.
"Be a bit crowded," Tony said with a crooked smile.
"Thatís okay. Wilma and I have shared a small cockpit before."
She looked hard at him. "You shared the back seat with Twiki and Dr. Theopolis," she said wryly. "Are you mixing me up with someone else? Someone you havenít told me about?" Buck felt his cheeks warm in embarrassment, and then he saw the slight twinkle in her eyes and relaxed.
"Twiki?" Doug asked, a puzzled tone in his voice.
Tony looked as though he was ready to say something. Buck interjected, "Iíll tell you on the way."
They all left the room together, but Tony and Doug went out for the truck while Buck settled up. When Doug had handed him the money to pay for the room, Buck had wondered, but decided that the two men needed to talk privately. Despite the scientistsí claim to trust them, it was still too early. They had too much to lose and so little control over the situation. That had to make them nervous.
As it was, Buck was right. The two time travelers hunkered down in their warm sheepskin lined parkas and crossed the street to their truck. The wind was howling like a banshee. "You totally believe them?" Doug asked his partner.
Tony took a deep breath underneath his hood, feeling the warmth. He remembered just how anxious he had been when Doug had told him of the strangerís call. That anxiety had deepened when they drove into town. But now? Yes, he did believe them and he told his friend that. "Buckís story is too weird to be anything but the truth. Think about how weíd sound if we tried to tell someone our story."
"I tend to agree with you, but we also know, from Jerryís communications, just how devious Becker was, too," said Doug. He shook his head before continuing. "Yes, Tony, I think theyíre on the up and up, but Iím not quite ready to welcome them with open arms."
"Then why the invite to the ranch? To keep a closer eye on them?"
"Yes, if they are legit, then they will be more comfortable there. If they arenítÖ."
Doug didnít have to finish his thought; he knew what they would have to do if Buck and Wilma were Beckerís people. "I also want to examine that video that Col. Deering showed us a bit more closely. Ask more questions and just watch them." He jerked open the truck door and slid in. "Let me get a hold of Ann before they meet us."
The trip along alternately graveled and rutted frozen dirt roads took about as long as it took Buck to explain his first adventure on Ardalaís ship and subsequent rescue by Wilma.
"Iíd have been catatonic in a place and time as different and strange as what you have described to us and what you showed us in the hotel room," Tony said, moving back as Doug shifted and slowed the truck to turn into the entrance of a wooden-gated road.
Doug glanced at the pair scrunched against the passenger door and then sighed and pulled on his mittens. "Iíll get the gate open." He slid out of the truck and slammed the door shut behind him, but not before a gust of bitterly cold air took the small amount of heat they had generated inside the cab.
Ever since the call from the stranger had arrived, Ann McGregor Phillips had been nervous. Even more so since Doug and Tony had left. It was the nightmare all over again. During the first year they had been here, Ann had jumped at every noise, felt the pulse of fear like the beating of her own heart. Not even the birth of little Tony had eased the fear, only made it worse. Only in the past year, when they had been here in Montana for a while, did she feel that they might make this work.
Of course, then had come the realization that they had brought into the world a child who would most likely live to see the destruction that had brought about with the Tunnel and manís ability to traverse time. Not only that but the child she was carryingÖ. She was a scientist, a supposedly enlightened woman, but she couldnít take the precautions to prevent the conception of another child? To keep another child from going through that horrible time? Ann sighed deeply. As she prepared the roast for the Sunday meal, Ann wondered what Doug and Tony were going to find. Would Becker and his men be waiting? This Buck sounded sincere, but that didnít mean anything. Gen. Kirkís successor had sounded sincere, too. Like someoneís dear sweet uncle. Some uncle, she mused. The jerk had only been Beckerís pet.
Little Tony fussed and Ann put aside her fears for the moment; at least enough hide her agitation from the toddler. She picked him up and hugged him, then pulled out one of the smaller carrots from the pile that was going to go in with the roast. He took it in his chubby little fist and stuffed it into his mouth, gumming it with a vengeance. Little Tonyís teething didnít help the situation any. The tip of the carrot came off with a snap as the front teeth were shown off.
Ann tossed the rest of the carrots in with the roast that nestled in the middle of the porcelain covered roasting pan. She had never considered herself a domestic person. Certainly those last years at the complex didnít hone anything but her worry and the beginnings of gray hair. At first when she had come here, she had savored the rich succulence of the T-bones and rib-eye steaks that Doug and Tony provided from their new enterprise of ranching. But when she had married Doug and become the Ďlittle womaní of the house, as one of the women in Wolf Creek had told her, she knew she was in over her head. Surprisingly, it was Tony who came more to her rescue than anyone. He had lived with several relatives during his growing up years and had learned many Ďdomesticí skills. Not the least of which was cooking. Ann smiled. She would have burned water if it had been left to her.
Thankfully, Doug and Tonyís resources had allowed for a few of the most recent technological advances, advanced even more by thirty-year future knowledge. Too bad they couldnít market them and live in a bit more affluence. Of course, doing that would call attention to themselves and take revenues from those who would eventually invent some of these energy and time saving devices. Still and all, gardening, preserving and storing things in root cellars, and all the other attendant duties of housewives in this day and age wasnít all it was cracked up to be.
Ann gazed at the clock ticking on the wall, the little pendulum swinging back and forth with merry abandon. They had been gone for well over an hour, almost an hour and a half. Little Tony wiggled and Ann put him down on the rug to let him explore around under the dining room table. The ginger cat, lounging quietly on one of the chairs, saw the little commando coming and got up, stretched and sauntered through the slightly open door to probably continue her nap in front of the fireplace hearth. That was something else. Central heat. There wasnít any and sometimes the kitchen was the only warm refuge in the middle of winter. Well, she corrected herself, when Doug was home; he was the best and warmest refuge.
She straightened up and stretched. Her back was hurting anyway. The new baby was getting larger and larger and making it almost impossible for her to carry little Tony around. Of course, the toddler didnít understand all of that, just patted her ballooning stomach every once in a while to point out the obvious. What did she have, another month? A little less, she thought, counting. It couldnít come soon enough. Then she remembered what would happen in only a bit more than fifty years from now. She remembered and felt remorse all over again. Doug had promised to build a very sturdy bomb shelter, but what good would that do after the bombs had stopped falling? And what about their childrenís children? How could they all be saved?
Tony chortled happily, crawling over and under the rungs of the chairs and Ann finished preparing the roast and slipped it in the oven. It would be ready by dinner. If there was dinner. Again, she wondered who this Buck was. That he had come through the Tunnel there was no doubt in her mind. She remembered the conversation, especially his reassurance that he was a friend. Doug would find out. He and Tony were very good, after all the people they had run across during their travels in time, at feeling out human characterówho was friend and who could be an enemy. However, it scared her that Doug had taken a revolver with him, but it scared her more what he would find. That Tony had taken a weapon, too, she didnít doubt. What they would do with this Buck if he were one of Beckerís agents frightened her. Softly she cursed Becker and all he stood for, all he had caused, or would cause. Then she sighed. Doug had promised that if all possible, he would contact her. They had their own mobile system that was independent of the local phone system; more on the order of a wireless or CB type of communication.
Still, when little Tony found a spoon that had been dropped and missed under the table and started banging it on the rung of a chair, she started and let out a soft cry. Ann chided herself for her needless worry. The boys would take care of it, in whatever fashion they deemed best for their family. And Doug would contact her. He had promised. She called softly to the toddler and when he came out from under the table, she gathered him up. He nestled painfully on her stomach. There was nothing in here that needed doing until the leg of lamb was nearly done, so she might as well go into the living room and enjoy the warmth of the fire.
She picked up the small communicator and put it in the pocket of her apron. When she sat down in the overstuffed chair, little Tony got restless. Usually this chair and her relaxing indicated a meal. He was more than old enough for solid food, and he was eating a variety of things now, but still he wanted her milk every once in a while. Or at least he wanted the comfort that nursing provided because she didnít really have anything to offer him these days. It had amazed her that somehow, all those who had said she wouldnít be able to conceive while nursing, had been wrong. Little Tony pulled at her blouse and she let him. He would get nothing but it was soothing to him and most of the time it was soothing to her, too. That is when he didnít accidentally bite with those new front teeth of his.
Ann let him nuzzle at her for the few minutes that it took him to settle down, letting some of her tension drain away, too. It wouldnít all go away, but having her little boy on her chest, dozing and the other one gently moving inside her stomach relaxed her. Enough so that when the communicator buzzed, she started slightly, which woke up little Tony. He looked questioningly at her while she fumbled for the pocket and pulled out the communicator.
Pressing the button, she put it to her ear. "Doug?"
"Sweetheart, weíre bringing home a couple of friends for dinner," he said almost noncommittally. She was unable to tell if he was pleased or not. Her worry increased.
"Friends? Plural? And this Buck is legit?"
He hesitated. "Believe so, dearest." He hesitated, as though wanting to say something else, but finally he added, "It is a long story, though." She could hear the wind howling loudly into the little communicator. "Weíll let Buck and Wilma tell you when we get there."
"Wilma? He has a companion?"
"Yes, she is a most liberated woman." This time he seemed more upbeat.
"Anyway, warm up the radio and listen for the weather report out of Billings. Feels like weatherís brewing and Tony and I may need to prepare the livestock for something more than a quick storm."
"Barometerís been dropping all day, dear," she informed him.
"Weíll get there as fast as we can. Just getting ready to leave town."
"All right, darling. Thanks for calling." He gave his love and cut the communications.
Ann sighed deeply in relief. While he had not been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, at least he didnít sound like he was being coerced, at least not at the end of the conversation. It was as though a load had been taken off her shoulders. Little Tony looked questioningly at her. "Daddy?"
She smiled and nodded. "Daddy." At first it had irritated her slightly that he had said Daddy before Mommy, but that was okay. Little Tony had actually said Ďkittyí before he had called out to his father.
"You come with me and letís fix some coffee for our guests." As soon as the coffee was brewing in the coffee pot, she went back into the living room and switched on the radio. She dialed up Billings and turned the volume up. Another log on the fire would be good. It was getting chilly in the house. When they got home, Doug would fire up the coal stove in the basement and the house would heat up properly. She would have done that herself, but since she was getting so big, he had insisted that she not go up and down the narrow, dark stairs. Feeling as clumsy as she had lately, Ann hadnít argued.
The small basement was something he had insisted on when they had enlarged the original cabin and made a proper house. The builders thought he was crazy wanting a hole in the ground under the house, but Doug had insisted and now in the winter, they had nice heat. It hadnít been difficult to create the conduits for heat and there was even a thermostat of sorts that would damp the stove when it got hot enough in the house. She smiled and felt grateful. While the anxiety had been almost unbearable when they first settled here permanently, most of the time it wasnít a bad existence.
Sometime later, almost long enough to let her start worrying again; she heard the truck rattling up the driveway and stop in front of the house. The door opened and Doug stepped in, immediately crossing the room and pulling her tightly against him, or at least as tightly as he could get. He kissed her soundly, picked up his son and kissed him, and then turned to their guests. "Ann, darling, this is Captain Buck Rogers and Colonel Wilma Deering."