Historian's Note: Immediately following 'Time of the Hawk', because the potential of that character was never, ever realized.
Author's Note: While I found the first season of this show to be humorous and fun, it is the second season that truly captures my devotion. It said to be a mixture of Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica (original versions of both), but I believe it has a distinct and unique flavor all its own. There is an enormous gap between the first and second season, and the series ended with so many loose ends that my muse long ago felt an overwhelming urge to gather up all the frayed edges and attempt to weave them back into the tapestry.
There isn't a lot of fanfic out there for Buck Rogers, so I have decided to make my own contribution by posting this scrawling, incomplete though it is.
Per Ardua Ad Astra
Buck brought his hand to his eyes to shade them from the glare of the sun and sighed. He watched the crew scurrying around the battered ship, removing the various evidence seals and tags that had been placed in and around the craft.
Earth was usually extremely prompt to salvage its own ships from whatever mishaps that left any pieces large enough to cart away. Buck supposed it was a carryover from the Draconian war. But Hawk's ship, and Wilma's fighter, had been deemed as potential evidence in Hawk's trial. Both had first been thoroughly scanned by imagers, and then members of the Searcher's own security had made sure it remained untouched until a properly equipped investigative team could arrive from Earth to document everything.
Typical Directorate overkill, in Buck's opinion. Hawk had never claimed innocence.
Buck winced at the screech of metal as a technician forcefully removed a dangling shred from Hawk's ship. Wilma had flown down with Doctor Goodfellow to explore the caves. When Buck had arrived later, he had sent them back in the shuttle he'd been using to try to ferret out his quarry. Wilma hadn't protested, probably hadn't wanted to argue the matter with him. Getting Doctor Goodfellow out of there and back to the ship was more of a priority. Now her fighter would be sitting in a repair bay for another week, in addition to the three weeks it had been sitting in this forest waiting for the trial to end.
But everything he'd heard up to that point had indicated the man was an excellent pilot, with a superb ship, and at the time he'd been thinking the shuttle would be too bulky a thing to find this 'Hawk' with. That was before he'd found Koori. Buck sighed again and closed his eyes, dropping his arm to his side.
The sound of metal groaning as the salvage crews prepped the ship brought memories, vivid behind his eyelids. He squeezed his eyes closed tighter, but could not hide from his conscience. He'd thought himself to be so clever. It was a fairly cowardly act, using a civilian as bait, but he hadn't known he was at war. He hadn't known how very desperate Hawk was. He hadn't known he was hunting down a man driven to the edge of madness by pain and loss. He'd thought he was dealing with a vicious murderer, a simple pirate.
He'd seen the shadow, and had looked up through the plexiglass of the canopy and saw Hawk's ship descending, two huge talons stretching out towards him. Caught off guard, Buck had veered the fighter away. But not fast enough - one talon of Hawk's ship had punched through the roof of the fighter, depressurizing the small cabin in a brief flurry of rushing air. Koori's cry of pain would haunt him forever. Up to that point, it had been almost like a game. Hotshot pilots showing off, trading taunts over the 'com.
But in that instant, everything had changed.
He turned in the cockpit to look behind him and saw the woman pinned to the back of the seat, a crimson stain spreading far too quickly across the fabric. "Hawk!" he called to the open 'com. "She's hurt – you've speared her!"
"Koori?" The single word, uttered in a shocked whisper, sent Buck's mind frantically trying to work out some way out of this. This was not how it was supposed to happen!
"Hawk," she gasped, "it was m-my fault."
Hawk could not retract the talons without shredding her. He told Buck to release the controls - that he would bring both ships down in a controlled crash. Buck briefly considered the possibility that he was lying, but he suddenly felt, with a clarity that almost hurt, that Hawk wanted nothing more at that moment than to get her to the ground, alive.
So he had released the controls, placing all their fates in the hands of a self-confessed murderer.
Buck leaned back and braced his arm on Koori's uninjured shoulder, trying to support her as the two ships, locked together in a parody of avian rapture, plummeted to the ground.
Terran fighter vessels had the appearance of wings, but they were far too short to provide any real ability to glide. Hawk's wide-winged ship, fashioned in the likeness of a bird of prey, was taking the brunt of that task. The trees rushed up to greet them, the shriek of tortured metal vying with the wail of wind through the shattered canopy of the cockpit. The ships shuddered under the stress, and Koori could do nothing but gasp, unable to get enough breath even to scream.
The claws of Hawk's ship had never been intended to bring a ship down like this, bound together. They were designed to retract, shredding the enemy vessel without destroying it to force it to land. In the end, that is what saved them – for the strain snapped the metal talon off at the 'knee'. Koori screamed in pure agony, and blacked out.
Suddenly relieved of its burden, Hawk's ship went spinning off into the forest, engines roaring. Buck snatched at the controls, wrenching the nose of the craft upwards. The fighter's port stabilizer was damaged; the ship would not be able to hover in order to come to a proper landing. He managed to dodge the largest of the trees, and simply plowed through others. He aimed for a shimmering reflection, a glint of sunlight on water. It was a stream. It would do little to cushion the landing, but he used it anyway – he needed a path clear of trees. The fighter splashed into the shallow stream, slid along the pebbled bottom, and coasted to a halt.
Buck leaned against the control panel, gasping. Then he shut down the engines, unfastened his flight harness, and twisted in his seat to get a clear look at Koori. The fighter was a narrow vessel, with two seats, one behind the other. There was no room between the seats and the sides of the cockpit, and Buck had to kneel in his chair and lean over the top to get to her.
She was unconscious, but breathing. He gently touched the metal bar imbedded in her shoulder. It had dug itself deeper into her flesh when it had been wrenched free of Hawk's ship. There was almost no blood on the front of her clothing, but the back of the seat, and now the floor, was red. He suspected the metal itself was keeping her from bleeding completely out. He followed the bar upwards with his eyes. It came in through the canopy… he didn't think he could open it without hurting her.
He drew his laser pistol, adjusted the setting, and sent a quick prayer to any deities that might be listening. He was glad that she wasn't awake for this. Then he began to burn through the metal.
"Captain Rogers, sir?" The question brought Buck to the present with a start and he opened his eyes. God, he was tired.
"The ship is ready for transport, sir," the technician said. Buck did not know his name. He wore the tall headdress and long flowing robes that were the preferred attire of a Neutralis official. A rather uncreative name for a city, Buck mused. Still, the name stated the purpose of the city quite plainly, and translated into all known languages well. The Neutralans were known for their practicality as well as their discretion.
Buck nodded. "Thank you. Guess we should get this show on the road, then," he added. If the man had any difficulty understanding the reference, his face did nothing to betray his confusion. He simply gave a bow, and headed back to his workers.
Hawk's ship lay on its belly at the end of a furrow of scorched earth. The remaining talon, which Buck realized also served as the landing gear, had crumpled beneath the ship and stuck out to the side, leaving the nose of the ship pressed against the moist forest soil. The right wing had been wrenched upwards by the impact when the ship's non-existent right landing strut had failed to keep the ship upright. It looked for all the world like a giant, wounded eagle, laying broken on the forest floor. In the past three weeks, dead leaves and other debris had accumulated on the craft.
He looked up as an enormous ship came to a hover over their work site, and the techs began hooking up various cables to a heavy line the hovering ship lowered to them.
When everyone had cleared the area, the salvage ship began to winch up the tow line. Hawk's ship rose with the sound of protesting metal. The bent wing had been reinforced, and he'd been told it would hold together for the transport, but he still watched it to reassure himself. The winch pulled Hawk's ship up into the cargo bay of the salvage ship, and giant twin doors closed under it. Then, turning ponderously, it headed for the sky.
Buck sighed in satisfaction. He had told Hawk that the damage wasn't that bad, that it could be repaired easily for him to use again. He hadn't really known that at the time, but he'd been willing to say anything, promise anything, just to get Hawk to at least consider joining the Searcher on her quest. Buck was not a psychologist, but he knew, knew with the absolute certainty gained by experience, how important having a purposeto existing would be right now.
And Buck had acquired enough friends in high enough places to make the offer. The irony of the situation was not lost to him… he now had a much better understanding of what it must have been like for Doctor Huer to deal with a very bitter five hundred year old refugee. His appreciation and gratitude for the man's patience had risen in the past few weeks. And as much as Buck had lost, it was nothing compared to what Hawk had lost. Hawk didn't want his help, but Buck was determined that there would be a Huer for him.
He rubbed the back of his neck tiredly, and headed to his shuttle.