Authors: Addison E. Steele
Join the Greatest of
All Space Warriors on the
Most Incredible Quest of
His Star-Crossed Career . . .
—through the terrifying wilds of Anarchia, ruins of twenty-fifth-century Earth, on an impassioned search for his
—to the desolate remains of the Great Salt Lake, where ancient secrets are held . . . and the power-mad Kane crouches in ambush!
—to the asteroid Beta—where Theo, Buck’s trusted compuvisor, is prisoner of the Draconians, who have hatched a scheme to conquer the Universe!
—to the sin-filled supercity of Villus, where man’s every sensual wish is an android’s command . . . and the voluptuous Princess Ardala has big plans for Buck!
—to the rescue-ship of Wilma Deering and a spectacular chase through star warp, on an escape mission like none Buck had
seen . . . not, that is, until he became . . .
The Draconian fleet was on the run.
“Okay, Colonel Deering, let’s all zero in on that Draconian D-III lead ship and blast it out of the universe.”
Wilma checked her power sensor. “I’m not getting a power reading from that ship, Al. What’s going on?”
“They’re playing possum. Let’s blast ’em.”
“All right, Al. Let’s coordinate. All ships ready to fire . . .”
Al’s voice returned, crackling over the headset. “All right, fire on three. One . . .”
Suddenly, Wilma’s light-beam tracking signal came to life. The tiny yellow bulb started blinking on and off like a warning star.
Al’s voice again: “Two . . .”
“Stop,” Wilma commanded abruptly, the color draining from her face as the control slipped from her voice. “Al—don’t fire!”
“Hold fire,” Al commanded the rest of the fleet. “What is it, Colonel? What’s wrong?”
“Al, you won’t believe this.” Wilma swallowed hard. “But
I think Buck Rogers is on that ship!”
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BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY
by Addison E. Steele
Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
New York, New York 10017
This work is based on the teleplay by Bob Shane
Copyright © 1979 by Robert C. Dille
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
Dell ® TM 681510, Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
First printing—January 1979
B U C K R O G E R S 2
THAT MAN ON BETA
The threat of invasion had been met. The Draconian fleet had been whipped, its storm-force destroyed by Earth’s defense squadron—a squadron fighting under the command of Colonel Wilma Deering, and using the aggressive, free-swinging tactics developed on the American frontier seven hundred years before and updated to the needs of the twenty-fifth century by Captain Buck Rogers.
The storm-force destroyed, Earth’s defense perimeter secured, Draconia’s main force swung through a wide space-orbit and fled back to the boundaries of its home empire, fled like a whipped cur with its tail between its legs.
The flagship—also known as the
—had been blown to bits. The Princess Ardala and her would-be consort, Kane, had escaped with their lives—barely—in a tiny, sealed pod. Now they would face the wrath of the Emperor Draco.
Not that the Draconian Empire would rest while the bitter gall of defeat still burned in the heart of its emperor. Draco had other wars to fight, other enemies to subdue. But Earth’s turn would come once again, of that there need be no doubt.
And the Princess Ardala and her ruthless, oily, treacherous suitor would surely place themselves in the forefront of Draconia’s ceaseless war of conquest.
Meanwhile, life on Earth returned to normal—or what passed for normal in these closing decades of the twenty-fifth century. The Inner City ruled Earth in splendor while much of the planet’s surface remained a seething, radioactive wasteland where savages and mutants prowled the ruins of a long-ago civilization whose politicians and militarists had led it to Armageddon.
The defense squadron continued to train and maneuver under the guidance of its brilliant commander, Wilma Deering. And Colonel Deering continued to fret over the conduct of Captain William “Buck” Rogers, that strange revenant of the twentieth century whose return to Earth and enlistment in the space force had brought with it both the sharpest flying and fighting skills in the known universe—and the thorniest problems in personal relationships in Colonel Deering’s distinguished career.
At the Inner City defense squadron spacefield, Buck Rogers’ sleek starflghter flashed in for a landing. Its powerful engines and advanced guidance systems were as far beyond the crude spacecraft of Buck’s youth as those spacecraft were beyond the motorized boxkites of the Wright Brothers.
The starflghter rockets were fitted with computers of a complexity and speed that would have set a twentieth-century electronics engineer to gibbering with mystification and delight. And Buck Rogers was by no means averse to letting those computers handle all of the routine operation and checking procedures of his space fighter. But when it came to the crunch, Buck flew his own ship.
He remembered the legend of the first moon-landing, back in the dusty days of his own twentieth century. The LEM had been fitted with the fastest and most complex computers available in
long-ago days—but when it came down to the ultimate, life-or-death seconds as the module skimmed over a rock-strewn plain, desperately seeking a smooth landing area in which to set down before its fast-dwindling fuel supply ran out, it was the astronauts, Buz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, who took command and brought the
in for a safe landing.
This was the lesson that Buck Rogers had carried from the twentieth century to the twenty-fifth: that all of mankind’s creations could amplify and assist him in his efforts. But no machine could take the place of a trained, intelligent, determined human being.
Now Buck set his starflghter down on the tarmac and gave control of the rocket to its computers. They could monitor its condition, shut down its power systems, signal to maintenance crews for whatever parts needed servicing before the craft was next called upon to blast into the black void beyond Earth on a mission that would probably . . . most probably . . . involve only routine training and patrol responsibilities.
As Buck strode away from the starflghter his crew chief trotted toward the rocket. “Captain Rogers,” the chief called. “Captain Rogers, I need your condition readouts, sir.”
Concentrating on whatever thoughts occupied his mind, Buck hardly even heard the crew chiefs words.
“Captain Rogers,” the chief called again. “I need your closing fuel reading, ammo report, computer readouts . . .”
Buck half-heard the chief. Without breaking his stride he jerked one thumb back over his shoulder, indicating the starfighter with its built-in computer circuitry. The gesture said as plainly as words could have done, “Get that from the computers, chief. That’s what they’re for.”
Grumbling, the chief gave up on trying to stop Buck and trotted off toward the starfighter itself. Captain Rogers was right, he knew—the information he needed was all available in the spacecraft’s data-banks and condition-circuits. He undogged the pilot’s hatch of the rocket and tapped the first of a series of access codes into the ship’s master computer.
Buck disappeared from the spacefield itself, striding purposefully into the monorail station that served the field. He sank into a round mass that instantly adjusted itself to fit Buck’s body shape and his body temperature, and gazed abstractedly from the window of the car as the monorail whizzed from the spacefield into the heart of the Inner City itself.
The ultramodern buildings that flanked the monorail line had held Buck’s fascinated attention the first time he’d seen them after recovering from his five-hundred-years’ orbit in suspended animation. Their soaring towers, shimmering domes, gracefully swooping roadways, and splendid open plazas had dazzled eyes grown accustomed to the grime and pollution of twentieth-century Chicago, Buck Rogers’ home town.
But by now the glories of the Inner City were as familiar to Buck as were the sun-baked buildings of Houston or the whispering palmettos of Cape Canaveral to the astronauts of an earlier age. When the monorail glided smoothly to a halt at his stop, Buck climbed from the sleek car, made his way through glowing white corridors, and took a final familiar turn; doors opened automatically, slid inconspicuously into the wall.
He strode into a spotless, white-walled anteroom.
In the center of the room stood a sleekly functional desk fabricated of the same glowing white material as the room itself. Behind the desk, seated on a white swivel chair, was a vaguely humanlike figure also of the same glowing white. It was as if the whole environment—room, furniture, figure—had been carved from a single shimmering block of perfect white marble. Buck was the only bit of color in the room.