Shortly after he landed in New Chicago, Buck found
himself in Dr. Huer’s office.
“Well, Buck, you are looking particularly well
and in good spirits,” Huer said with a smile.
Buck paused a moment in thought. Yes, he was in a good mood, all things considered.
Smiling, he unhooked Theo from Twiki and set him on the table.
“Thanks, Doc. And I
brought a mutual friend back to you.”
“Good morning, Dr. Huer,” Theo announced
“Good morning, Dr. Theopolis,” Huer responded
with a smile.
“I understand that things went rather well on
Cronis,” the older man stated.
“Hmm, as well as can be expected,” Buck
replied, his tone yielding a bit of sarcasm.
“Well, the Galactic Council does its best,”
Huer reminded him.
“Oh, I know.
At least a lot of the gang is off the streets.”
“Yes, thank goodness,” Huer sighed.
“Twiki, would you be kind enough to go and get us some
“By the way, Doc,” Buck began as the ambu-quad
trundled from the room with a beep. “I
was wondering if you could do me a favor.”
“Of course, Buck. What do you need?”
Buck handed the scientist a small package.
“I have all the instructions inside and I can pick it up when the
Searcher swings by again.”
Huer looked inside and his eyes widened in
surprise. One large uncut
crillite gem was nestled among several smaller ones.
“Little something I picked up on Bosk,” Buck
said. “I had meant to give
it to you before, but I was too busy having a pity party and it slipped my
“There was a great deal going on then, Buck.
And it’s perfectly understandable that you were feeling sorry for
yourself,” Huer said in a conciliatory tone.
“Anyway, if you could take care of that for me,
I would really appreciate it.”
“I would be delighted to,” said Huer, clapping
Buck on the shoulder.
“Now Dr. Carlock would most likely want to check
you over before the Searcher disembarks.”
“I figured he would. And
I want to see if Dr. Junius has found any new music.”
Several hours later, Buck was winging back into
space with Twiki. By then he
was beginning to feel the effects of lack of sleep, so with very little to
say to anyone, this time Buck retired to his cabin and was soon fast
“So much has died on Earth and yet so much has
lived as well,” Sky Mother said as she stood near the shuttle that sat
on a high, rocky plateau overlooking a distant valley.
“Yes, I have noticed that as well,” Hawk
agreed. “Perhaps the Earth,
like her people will always survive.”
He turned to the two older Tane-rapanui.
“We will be traveling to find our kind in the Earth ship, Searcher.
Do you think you will be able to make the journey in a space ship
filled with humans?”
“It will be difficult, especially at first, but
I see no other way,” she said. “And
besides, my son, you have made that journey for almost two years. Surely we can as well, my beloved and I.”
“I will help you as much as I can, Sky
Mother,” Hawk said. “I
have been around humans even before I became part of the Searcher
crew.” He paused as a gust of wind blew his feathers and tried to
push him back. Another gust
tried to propel him forward. Hawk
could picture the ancestors hurtling off these cliffs; their wings
outspread, catching all of this capricious wind.
He shook his head and turned toward the shuttle.
“It is time,” he said.
His companions nodded and stepped into the
shuttle. Soon they had left
the mountains behind. Hawk
contacted the Searcher even as they were flying through the upper
reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.
Hawk made a slow approach to the large ship,
letting his passengers get used to the dimensions of their temporary home.
He also was slowly deliberate because this time there was no
emergency. As he docked the
shuttle, though, Hawk noticed a small crowd in the hangar and he wondered
what was going on. When he
led his passengers through the hatch he was surprised, then pleased to see
the admiral, Wilma, Buck and a whole group of junior officers in their
The admiral stepped forward. “On behalf of the entire crew, let me welcome you to the Searcher,”
Sky Mother and Sky Father nodded. “We thank you,
Admiral Asimov and are flattered by the honor being paid to us.”
She acknowledged the others with a nod as well.
“We are most appreciative of your help in our quest as well,”
“Hopefully that quest will be successful,” the
admiral replied. “And I
hope that you will be comfortable while you are on board.
We have the guest quarters ready for you both.
They are adjacent to the executive officers quarters, so you will
be near Hawk.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Sky Father said.
“We are a little tired, though.
Could we see our quarters, please?” he asked. While he was very
touched by the reception granted them by the humans, Sky Father was still
somewhat nervous in the proximity of so many of his former enemies.
“Of course, Sky Father. Captain
Rogers and Hawk will take you to your quarters.”
Buck escorted the small group down what Sky Mother
felt was endless corridors, all of them the same, then she remembered her
people’s caves on Mendalis. She
could walk them in her sleep. Buck
had seemed to have the same problem with the caves that she was having in
this human ship.
Buck led them to the VIP quarters. “Hawk, one of these rooms is yours, if you want to stay
even closer to Sky Mother and Sky Father.”
“Thank you,” Hawk and Sky Father said almost
Sky Mother just smiled enigmatically.
“You are very dressed up for the arrival of two very simple
people, Buck Rogers. But it
was very much appreciated.”
“It was the admiral’s idea
His and Wilma’s,” Buck replied.
“And that is the way we greet all dignitaries.”
He led the way into the rooms.
“Whenever you’re comfortable with it, Hawk and I can give you
the grand tour.”
“Thank you,” Sky Mother said, looking around. “I think we will be very comfortable here.”
Buck soon left, feeling that the group wanted to
be alone. He quickly changed
and headed to the bridge, where he had watch for the first time since his
return to the Searcher. It
The admiral, still in his dress uniform, got up
from the command chair. “About
time you showed up,” he quipped, looking at his watch.
“We have been cleared to break orbit at 0200 hours, Captain,”
he added more formally, and handed Buck the logbook.
Glancing at it quickly, Buck noticed stargate
didn’t look familiar. “Destination?”
We are going to make sure of our destination before we pick up more
of the Tane-rapanui.”
“Wilma will relieve you at 0700 hours,” the
admiral told him.
“Sure thing, Admiral.”
“Welcome back, Buck,” he said softly.
It’s sure good to be back,” Buck said as the admiral left the
Buck exchanged greetings with the rest of the
bridge crew and then sat down in the command chair.
He ordered a cup of coffee and studied the notes Asimov had left
while he waited for it. When
the door slid open he heard the familiar clumping sound that told him
Twiki had come visiting. He
smiled. Everything was as it
should be, at least for the moment.
“Here ya go, Buck,” Twiki said with an added
beep, handing him a steaming cup.
“Thanks, Twiki.” Yes, indeed, life felt good. He sipped the coffee. Twiki had gotten it right again. He smiled his appreciation to the ambu-quad and settled comfortably in the chair, occasionally glancing at the various instruments on the bridge.
Ardala sat in languid ease in the throne-like seat
next to her father. Tigerman
stood behind her. She was
enjoying her new status and role, but she was fully aware that such status
could be fleeting, wiped out by a mistake on her part or by the mechanisms
of someone like Kane. She
smiled in self-satisfaction. One
of her first orders upon her arrival was the demotion of her former
counselor, Kane. He was now a
chancellor of a remote provisionary outpost on an equally remote part of
the empire. She would have
preferred very much to have sent him to the Noren pits or to have put him
to death, but she realistically couldn’t do that without more proof of
his duplicity. However, she
also realized that Kane was still dangerous and she had given bonuses to
some of her father’s most trusted spies to keep an eye on him.
Yes, life was much better now, the future
brighter. She knew her father
still wanted her to marry, and indeed she would like nothing better, but
at least he was allowing her leeway in her timing as well as in her
choice. Maybe he had realized that choosing for her sisters had
resulted in less than desirable matches and by allowing her to pick her
own mate, the throne of Draconia might have a more solid base. Whatever, she wasn’t going to complain.
“The delegation from Earth is here, my
daughter,” Draco said, bringing Ardala out of her reverie.
Turning to a servant, he ordered, “Go and tell the terrans that
we will have audience in ten minutes.”
The slave bowed deeply and left.
“You did well in the negotiations on Bosk,” he
said. “I will let you
handle this. I suspect,
considering the name of the ship, that the delegation will contain some of
the same people.”
“The Searcher?” she asked hopefully,
and then quickly regained control of her emotions.
Ah, will I never stop hoping?
But if Buck Rogers was dealing with some of the things she thought
he was dealing with, then that might very well preclude him from being on
his ship. That he was a very
proud and independent man, she well knew by experience.
“Yes,” Draco replied, studying her carefully.
“I suppose we shall see just what they want that would bring them out to Draconia to see us,” she said evenly.
Draco just grunted.
At the proscribed time, the Earth delegation was
sent for. Ardala was pleased
to see that Buck Rogers had come, but she was totally surprised to see
that the only other entity with him was the insufferable little robot that
seemed to tag along with Buck everywhere he went.
What he saw in the little hunk of metal, she could not guess.
Ardala felt a flaring of irritation.
“The commander of your ship could not pull himself away long
enough to pay his respects to my father and I?” she asked coldly.
Buck bowed to both of them.
“Your Highness, Admiral Asimov sent me to invite you and your
father to a reception in your honor on board our ship.”
“He did?” she asked, wondering what Buck was
“Yes, Princess,” Buck replied, realizing that
Draco was going to be an inactive participant in all of this. He smiled. “And I thought that we might possibly have a
pre-party toast before I escort you to the Searcher.”
Ardala laughed. “Still charming as usual, aren’t you, Captain.”
“For what purpose?” Draco asked tersely.
“Purely social, Your Highness. For old times sake.” Buck
tried his most disarming smile, but Draco didn’t seem impressed.
“Your social endeavors with my daughter seem to
have had a way of causing disaster for the Empire,” Draco retorted.
“For that alone I could have you shot where you stand.”
“Uh, guilty as charged, Your Highness, but I
assure you, our visit is social, mainly to pay respects.
You can check and see that we are an almost completely unarmed
scientific vessel and we are not here for any hostile intent.”
He paused. “Besides,
your daughter did extend an invitation for me to come visit.
We were in the neighborhood.”
Ardala sighed, she most likely had, although she
didn’t remember. “I
always welcome a visit from you, Captain Rogers.”
Draco made a small noise in his throat that
didn’t sound like approval. He
turned to his daughter then turned back to Buck.
“We will accept your invitation.
Go tell your admiral to be ready for us tonight.”
He smiled and then waved his hand in dismissal.
“You may go now.”
Buck glanced at Ardala and then bowed and turned
“Wait,” Ardala said suddenly, not glancing at
her father. “I think I
would like that private toast in my quarters.”
Draco grumbled softly, then growled, “The time
for this reception remains the same.”
“Of course, Your Highness,” Buck said with a
“Escort us to our chambers,” she said formally
to Buck, also motioning to Tigerman.
In her quarters, Ardala ordered her other servants out and then sat
down on a softly cushioned sofa. “Fix
us a drink,” she ordered Buck in her softly seductive voice.
Tigerman stood in front of the door, his arms
folded over his massive chest.
“Been working out, I see,” Buck quipped to the
felinoid as he poured the iridescent liquid.
Tigerman just grinned.
“You never taught fighting.”
Leave it to Tigerman to remember something like
that, he thought. Aloud
he said softly, “I’ll see what I can arrange.”
He took the drinks over to Ardala and handed one of them to her.
She patted the cushion next to her.
“Sit down, Buck.”
|Buck Rogers Contents|