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Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

I am finally ready to post the conclusion to Forerunner's of Bosk.  You folks have been most patient and I hope you will find that this story is a decent reward for your patience.  I promise no cliffhangers at the end of this one, but plenty of action and, I hope, surprises all through the story.  

The characters are tested and tried in this story and the solutions to various dilemmas presented in "Bosk" may surprise you.  (I hope!)

 

I have also uploaded the song that is printed below.  For those with dial up, it will take a long time to load, but it's worth it.

 

 

A phenomenal piece of art by Steve Stanley.  I got this at AdventureCon four years ago. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One 

 

 

“I am the eagle, I live in high country
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky
I am the hawk and there’s blood on my feathers
But time is still turning they soon will be dry
And all of those who see me, all who believe in me
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly

Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops
Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
And all that we can be and not what we are.”

   

The Eagle and the Hawk, 

Lyrics by John Denver and Mike Taylor

 

(“It is remarkable that an island (Rapanui or Easter) now so barren should be so rich in mystery.  Judging from the number of ahu (burial platforms), the island would seem at one time to have been as thickly populated as the Tahitian or Tongan Islands.”  Andersen, Johannes C.  Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. 462.) 

   

 

 

“Buck.”  A pause.   “Buck Rogers!  Are you listening to me?” Wilma asked in exasperation, pulling him back from whatever reverie he had been in.  

“Sorry, Wilma,” he said penitently, but his look was still troubled.  

They were on the surface of Bosk, in a beautifully pristine wooded area not terribly far from the mine entrance, but far enough away to try to forget the ugliness. A blanket had been spread over a sun-mottled patch of grass and they had shared a small picnic lunch.  Most of their time together had been spent on the surface.  Wilma had shuddered the first time she had gone down below.  It had not surprised her that Buck had shown evidence of his ordeal, but after ten days, she wondered just what else had gone on down there.  That Buck had been singled out for extreme punishment was a given but what?  He talked about various aspects of life in the mines but was totally reticent to talk about his feelings.  It seemed that only Hawk had his ear in that regard, but somehow Wilma didn’t think that Buck had even opened up to Hawk.  They were around each other a lot but usually their communication was non-verbal.  It was as though Hawk was simply around to provide some form of silent support.  

The admiral had been asking recently when Buck was going to return to duty on the Searcher.  Buck had only been on the huge ship once and for only a few hours.  The excuse had been viable at first.  He was the leader of this new continental government and was needed on the surface.  But now?   The Arator Company had been taken care of, being forced to enter into a contract with the fledgling government.  Barney was firmly in charge of day-to-day operations, helped by the guard, Ril Mentua and the doctor.  The former guards and prisoners had chosen land or work in the mines and those who hadn’t wanted to stay or who had been too recalcitrant to stay had been sent off world.  

Ardala had stayed for a few days, her outlook toward Buck seemingly different, although she had been with him alone several times.  But it was what the princess had said to her before she had left that gave Wilma pause to wonder.  They had been on the surface, just as she and Buck were now.  The air was clean, the sky such a piercing blue-green Wilma felt she could swim in it if she could leap high enough.  

“Congratulations, Colonel.  You have won,” Ardala had said.  

Wilma knew what or to whom the Draconian was referring.  “My feelings for Buck aren’t part of some kind of contest, Princess,” she had responded testily.  

“Maybe not for you, but he was for me.  The alternative being Kane.” 

“You mean your father would force you to marry against your will?” Wilma asked, incredulous. 

Ardala laughed.  “Well, evidently not now.  Father sent me a holo yesterday congratulating me on my successful endeavors.  He asked me to come home and accept my position as next in line for the Draconian throne.”  She smiled conspiratorially.  “And there was no condition of marriage on his request, although I have never been able to completely know the mind of my father.”  Her look became wistful.  “But Buck has been the only man for whom I have felt anything other than loathing.” 

Wilma said nothing for a moment, then she smiled.  “He does have that effect on people, doesn’t he?” 

After gazing at her for a moment, Ardala returned the smile.  “Again, Colonel, my congratulations, but you have not reached the altar yet and now Captain Rogers may have an even harder journey than the one that brought him to our century.”  Wilma looked quizzically at the Draconian princess, but Ardala said nothing else.  She just smiled, took Wilma’s hand briefly and then walked up the ramp to her shuttle which sat nearby.  Tigerman accompanied her.  

Now Wilma wondered. If anything, Buck seemed to be pulling away from her.  She was confused, angry and frustrated.   Something terrible had happened on this planet, even more horrible than what Buck or anyone else had told her.  Something totally ego-shattering.  But what was most frustrating was that he wouldn’t open up to her, tell her what was bothering him. 

“Buck!” she said again.  Wilma laid her hand on his arm as gentle reassurance and he covered her smaller hand with his own.  She could feel the hard calluses, see the healing scars from manacles on his wrists, but there was something more than physical scars.  After her own experience, she was well aware of that.  Wilma wondered for the umpteenth time just what could have been going on besides physical abuse.  “Please, Buck, let it out.  Tell me what’s bothering you,” she urged, again for the umpteenth time.

“Wilma, we’ve been over this.  There is nothing more I need to say.” 

He sounded a bit exasperated and she decided to back off a bit.  “Well, there will be time to relax after we leave tomorrow.” 

“The Searcher is leaving tomorrow?” he asked, surprised. 

“Yes,” Wilma said with a soft smile.  “If you had been on board more than once or if you checked in occasionally, you’d know.” 

Buck looked pensive and then he sighed.  

“Buck, everything is under control here.  In the last week, this fledgling little country has made remarkable progress.  The New United States is in good hands.  Even Mrs. Brock is planning her new life here.”  

“I know.  I know and I remember now.  Hawk told me.  It’s just that….” 

“Just what, Buck?”   Now she was exasperated.  

He shook his head and looked up at the intensely bright sky.  When he finally spoke, it was the last thing she expected to hear.  “I’m not going with you.  I’m staying here.” 

Wilma stared at him in open-mouthed shock.  “What?”  There was something despairingly sad in his voice.  But she couldn’t overcome the hurt she felt that he wouldn’t confide in her.  “Why?” she demanded.  “Why this sudden reversal, Buck?”  She stood up, gazing into his eyes.  “You told me a few days ago that you had dreamed of me often, that you couldn’t wait to see me, to take me into your arms.  What changed that?  Why are you staying on this world of torture?”  She knew her voice was angry; she knew she was louder than she needed to be.  Buck almost seemed to flinch at the intensity of her words.  

“It’s something I can’t talk about, but it’s real and I have to stay here.” 

Wilma forced her anger under control and tried to think logically.  It was hard.  Something tied Buck here, something as strong as the manacles that he had once worn.  She looked around.  It was really a very pretty world.  She could stand living here until whatever was the matter with Buck was resolved.  “Then I’ll stay, too,” she said quickly and then continued before Buck had a chance to open his mouth.  “Buck, I love you.  I have agonized these past months and I vowed that if I ever found you again, I’d never let you go.” 

Buck shook his head.  This was not going well at all.  He could not tell Wilma why any discussion of any kind of future was futile.  He knew, though, the moment he stepped aboard the Searcher that he could not return to the hectic type of normalcy that he had enjoyed before.  He was too ashamed to even think about commanding anyone on board the large ship.  What the hell was he supposed to do?  ‘Hey, Dr. Goodfellow, I need my next fix so I can take my shipmates into a dangerous situation?’  But Wilma would continue to insist on knowing why he was making this decision, just as she was doing now.  

The men here accepted him even with the garox, more than he accepted it himself.  Taking a deep breath, he gazed directly into Wilma’s eyes.  “What I mean, is that I have to stay here a while longer.  I was appointed and despite appearances, the situation is not quite ready for the president to resign,” he explained, hating himself even more for his half-truths.  Wilma was right. It would be difficult, but Barney, Ril and Burrows could handle things. 

“I can wait with you, Buck and we could go back together.” 

He shook his head.  “No, Wilma, you have already told me how the caves make you feel.  Depressed, I think you said.  I’ll be fine and I’ll call you every day.” 

“And as soon as things are in order here?” she prompted. 

“Yes,” he said before she could say anything further and he would be forced to dig his lies deeper and deeper.  

“I’ll hold you to it,” she said, kissing him gently.  “And then when you’re ready, we can talk about what’s bothering you.” 

Buck sighed again.  Damn! he thought, feeling that he was drowning in self-loathing as well as self-pity.  “Yes,” he told her softly.  

The next day, he watched silently as Wilma’s fighter took off.  Hawk was by his side.  He had also opted to stay longer, presumably until Buck left.  Somehow, Buck suspected that Hawk knew but so far he and the birdman had not discussed it.  

“I think it was wrong to not tell Wilma,” Hawk said simply.  

“So you know,” Buck said flatly. 

“Yes.  For some time.”  

“Why tell Wilma?  So she and the rest of the crew pity me?  Patronize me?” 

Hawk had no answers this time, no solace for his friend.  He understood only too well the patronization that Buck was talking about.  At first he felt very much patronized on the Searcher by those that didn’t know him well.  “You do not know that,” he replied, even though he figured he really did.  “But by so saying, you demean Wilma’s ability to care and empathize.”

“There is no way in hell I will ever marry her.”  Buck took a deep breath.  It caught in his throat and almost sounded like a sob.  “Not now anyway.  She deserves better.”  

“I do not say you should marry her, only tell her.”  Hawk’s dark eyes bored deeply into his friend’s.  “She trusted you enough, even when you had amnesia, to tell you what had happened to her.”  

“This is different,” Buck insisted.  “This is bigger than both of us.  All of us.” 

“But not insurmountable.”

“What the hell are you talking about?  You figure Sky Mother can put me in one of her healing trances and the garox will disappear?”

“The healer’s art helped before, Buck, but that is not what I meant,” Hawk replied. 

“Then what?”

“That the issue of your addiction is not insurmountable.”  

“Hawk, I’ll figure out a way to overcome this or die in the attempt,” Buck stated vehemently.  He turned and walked toward the mine entrance.  

Hawk watched for a few minutes and then he followed his friend into the mines. 

 

                                 ======================

 

Wilma ground her teeth in frustration as she got the standard response for seemingly the millionth time.  Buck was busy with ‘official duties.  He would call later.’  She had heard it over and over again for several days.  But even before that his conversations had seemed to get more vague and his promises less meaningful.  Wilma had the sneaking suspicion that Buck had no intention of coming back at all.

The admiral and Dr. Goodfellow didn’t know anything and Hawk, still on Bosk, wasn’t saying anything.  The doctor on Bosk wouldn’t say anything either.  But Wilma knew there was something Buck considered so terrible that he was thrusting everyone away from him because of it.  But, as she had asked herself so many times before, what was it? 

Twiki and Theo were investigating Arator Company’s mining practices for the Galactic Council judiciary.  They had filed numerous reports.  If she couldn’t get Buck to tell her, perhaps there would be clues in the reports.  She didn’t have duty for another six hours.  Hopefully that would be plenty of time to dig through Dr. Theopolis’ notes.  

And dig she did.  Wilma was most fascinated with the transcription of one of the guards, Ril Mentua, the one who was now one of the leaders of the newly formed government.  According to his deposition, new prisoners were given numbers, were under strict probationary edicts.  Hmm, probation.  She read the indoctrination notes, paying close attention to the use of intimidation and physical indoctrination with new prisoners.  She wondered if that was where Buck had received his wrist burns.  But no, he had mentioned that the manacles had come after his escape.  So, she thought, let’s see what this probation entailed.  Almost complete isolation, she read, silence unless spoken to, strict regimen.  Wilma winced.  She knew that had to have been extremely hard on Buck and Hawk, both being the free and independent spirits they were.  But Hawk had seemed to be recovering from his ordeal well.  Whatever it was had to have combined with the already harsh treatment to push Buck beyond a quick recovery.  It had to have happened after the escape attempt.  Buck had said very little about that time except to explain how he and his companions had taken over the mines and formed their new government. 

Wilma read on, taking in the details of day-to-day life in the mines.  There were forerunners, gatherers and loaders among the prisoners.  She read what each did.  Wilma thought she remembered Hawk saying they had been forerunners.  The doctor’s report was next and she read that one with rapt attention as well.  He had decried the sadistic form of medical treatment to get rid of a parasite that seemed to plague about one half of the prison population.  Of several treatments, the one chosen by the company was something called garox.  Wilma frowned.  She knew about it.  Garox was relatively inexpensive for the company to obtain or make, and it not only killed the parasite but it was believed by the mine officials to be a great method of controlling the prisoners due to its highly addictive nature.  

Wilma remembered how there had been a time when she was a little girl when garox was considered an up and coming wonder drug; one that would cure a variety of illnesses.  It had been introduced under some other name.   But it was outlawed quickly when it was discovered that it was garox by another package and name.  It was also interesting that no one had a very clear idea of where the drug had come from.  At one time a form of the garox had been considered an enhancement to sexual pleasure, and run the gamut of the black markets, but again, that died out quickly, too.   What fun was sex when the enhancement became permanently binding.  And most studies showed that those addicted didn’t live very long lives.  That the company was using garox, knowing of its addictive nature was more than enough to bring Arator up on charges.  It was cruel and horrible, she thought.  

Then a cold chill went up and down her spine.  Hawk had said something about Buck being too sick with some kind of parasite to escape with him.  Buck had been a forerunner, one of the groups most susceptible to the parasitic condition.  Sudden and intense revelation caused the tears to flow.  So terrible was the revelation that she felt sick to her stomach and had to take a moment to calm herself.  She washed her face and looked into her mirror.  The gray eyes looking back at her were haunting in their sadness and she suddenly realized that this was the same look that Buck had every time he had looked at her.  It was no wonder he was reluctant to come back and was pushing her aside.  He was garox addicted.  Now she understood everything, and understanding, wept hot, bitter tears of disappointment and despair. 

 

 

 

Chapter Two
Buck Rogers Contents
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