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Excerpts from the Staggering Stories Blog:


Staggering Stories Podcast #265: Wonder Cough
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sat, 17 Jun 2017 16:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 2017 Doctor Who episodes ‘The Lie of the Land’ and ‘Empress of Mars’, discuss the 2017 film ‘Wonder Woman’, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #193: Doctor Who – Smile
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 11 Jun 2017 08:54

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, emojied, in front of the 2017 Doctor Who S10 episode, ‘Smile’, and spout our usual nonsense! The Doctor is interfering with a new species, Bill has a decision to make and the Vardy just want everybody to be happy. But enough of their problems, […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #264: Stimulated Reality
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sat, 03 Jun 2017 16:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Fake Keith, the Real Keith Dunn and Steve Brittain review the 2017 Doctor Who episodes ‘Extemis’ and ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’, discuss the Big Finish boxset ‘Charlotte Pollard, Series Two’, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #192: Babylon 5 – Between the Darkness and the Light
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 28 May 2017 08:33

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, sprung, in front of the Season 4 Babylon 5 episode Between the Darkness and the Light, and spout our usual nonsense! Sheridan is sporting a fetching head band, Garibaldi is looking for mercy and Ivanova is feeling crushed. But enough of their problems, please […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #263: Musical Helmets
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sat, 20 May 2017 14:03

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 2017 Doctor Who episodes ‘Knock Knock’ and ‘Oxygen’, tell of their recent visit to the Doctor Who studios in Cardiff and the Capitol 2 Doctor Who convention, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #191: Doctor Who – The Pilot
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 14 May 2017 09:46

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, puddled, in front of the 2017 Doctor Who S10 premiere episode, ‘The Pilot’, and spout our usual nonsense! This Doctor is a lecturing security guard, Bill is fattening up the locals and Heather has a very moist fixation. But enough of their problems, please […]

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Buccaneer Chronicles

The Buccaneer Chronicles:
Catharcerous

By Keith Dunn (despite interference by Tony Gallichan and Adam J Purcell)


Part One - There's a chair in my head, it's where I used to sit

Chapter Two - When Clones Attack!

 

Guard captain Crillia glared around the console room with grudging respect

"Its larger on the inside then the out!"

Macfadyan puffed himself up at the brilliance of his type 76 TARDIS.

"Yes it is rather impressive isn't it? It's all down to trans-dimensional engineering . . ."

"Well no, not really. I've seen such things as this before. Granted they were not on this scale..."

There was the unique sound of a Time Lord's ego deflating.

"Right. Well. Fine. Lets see how you like these apples then!"

Macfadyan started rushing round the console flicking switches, pulling levers, pushing slide controls and pressing buttons. The central column slowly ground into life, rising and falling smoothly.

 

1000 years later...

The sunlight danced through the thick columns of smoke that surrounded the 20th century style hamlet. Perhaps all that was left of the town after the devastating attack of the night before.

Macfadyan eased himself through the long grass; Crillia, Vanlan and Olvass were grouped further down. They were spaced out at about four meters between them, concealed the same way as he was.

It was only meant to be a short trip, only a few hundred years in to the planets future just to prove his good intentions to Crillia. But no, the guard captain had to get in contact with the royal family and so the planetary government got involved. Through dealing with them he became aware that they were all suffering from some form of mental conditioning. It didn't take him long to break it's effects, it was only an ocular conditioning, to, of all things, a Polka beat.

Crillia crawled through the long grass towards Macfadyan.

"Any sign of anything?"

"No, they are being unusually quiet down there at the moment ".

Down among the ruins there were half a dozen 'golf ball' like shaped ships. As the smoke momentarily cleared it revealed tall but compact, heavily armored figures with domed helmets that gave no allowance for any necks.

Macfadyan swore in an ancient forgotten language with such venom that Crillia reacted to him.

"What is it? What ails you?"

Macfadyan rolled on to his back to look up in to the smoke filled blue sky and let out a groan,

"Sontarans. Why did it have to be Sontarans?"

Crillia spoke, his voice steeped in concern,

"Do you know these creatures?" Macfadyan closed his eyes for a moment and a fleeting look of pain crossed his face. When he replied all his normal bluster was gone. Instead his voice, quiet and cold replied,

"Oh yes. The Sontarans and I go way back. Its sort of a hate-hate relationship!"

And he would say no more for a long time.

 

Meanwhile...

As the captain had gone on 'detached duty', it was decided to make camp where they were. Queen Aralan was occupied organizing the erecting of tents and digging of trenches despite being pestered at every opportunity by Cre'at, who was trying to pinpoint the level of their technological development. The tents had been erected, latrine trenches dug, fires had been lit. Hunting animals were roasting on open fire pits. In the royal tent the beginning of a feast was being set. In one corner sat Queen Aralan and Blanche, with Cre'at floating between them. Blanche was craftily sipping at the mulled wine, while the Queen and Cre'at were deep in conversation.

Cre'at could finally build up a technological, sociological background to life on Catharcerous.

* You have an understanding of quantum flux mechanics? *

"An understanding yes. A practical application? Not a hope in the nine hells!"

This was interesting. The inconsistencies were still mounting up. This society had either suffered from some massive catastrophic event or was artificial. There was properly a paper in this, maybe even a lecture tour. He started to imagine the crowd at the Bosher stadium, all eagerly absorbing the knowledge he had aquired and all slightly in awe of his work. With a strained, metallic noise, a smile appeared on his face.

 

Back to the future...

It was a stark, militaristically ready room, functional with straight lines. No evidence was given to the being that lived and worked there. Field General Slar, (first star burst), sat behind the desk authorizing data tablets that consisted of troop movements, procurements and updates. The only thing that gave evidence to his importance was the Sontaran guard behind him, at the back of the room, immobile at parade ground attention.

Things had been running smoothly, the seizure of the planet had been going according to plan. Well, until the being called Macfadyan had turned up. Now things seemed to be going backwards. Fortunately the interloper had been taken into custody.

The door chimed and then slid back into the wall and Macfadyan was pushed roughly into the chamber. His clothes were in disarray, dusty, frayed and ripped. There was a livid purple bruise fading on his check. General Slar put down his data tablet and sat back.

"Greetings Macfadyan! You have caused me a great deal of trouble!"

Macfadyan turned from studying the readouts on the monitor screens on the wall beside him

"Have I?" He gave a painful smile, "Oh good. One does try one's best but it is difficult to try and find new ways to remind you that I'm still here. Admittedly, I haven't had the material available to really get up your vent, I mean, really! If your going to invade a planet, then please try to find one where the primitive inhabitants have an ability to show gratitude to their saviour. Do you know, when I suggested attacking you they said they couldn't trust a man who dressed like a. a.." He tailed off at the look on Slar's face.

Slar dismissed the guard at door with a wave of his hand. He got up and walked around the desk, idly picking up his carbine.

"That will no longer be a problem to you."

Macfadyan looked shocked.

"What!? You're just going to kill me? No, no, no! Oh dear." he sighed, "Look Slar, your not very good at this are you, your first time is it Slar? I'm at your mercy you must gloat. Come on," he made the second word last a full three seconds, "at least rant a little, hmm?"

"We are not here to play your games!" he shouted while slamming a data tablet on the desk, cracking its surface, making the guard, who was slowly moving towards the door, jump.

"You have almost single handily halted this planetary invasion, jeopardizing the entire push in this sector!"

Macfadyan's eyes narrowed, flickering slightly from side to side,

"Does that mean you have the right to burn the surface of the planet off into space? "

Slar leant back on the desk.

"This planet is tactically important. Naturally we can't leave it in the hands of primitives!"

At this point the bodyguard whacked Slar in the back of his head and shoulders with the data tablet. Slar let out a strangled gasp as his hands scrabbled at the back of his head then he pitched forward on to the floor.

"You took your time," snapped Macfadyan. The Sontaran bodyguard ripped off his helmet to reveal a red-faced guard captain Crillia, hair plastered down with sweat. Macfadyan bent down and started dragging the bulk that was the general over to the desk.

"Help me with him ". Crillia looked up from stripping off the Sontaran space Armour, revealing the foam rubber used to pad out the Armour and give him the form of a Sontaran.

"Why?"

Macfadyan stopped tugging on Slar's arm and stood up to look Crillia in the eye

"Because we need to get him over to the desk and do a retinal scan ".

Crillia dropped the space amour.

"I'm not helping with that! Its disgusting!"

Macfadyan smacked himself on the forehead in frustration

"That's retinal, not rectal, eyeball scan . . . Rassilon save me from primitive humanoids."

Crillia still didn't move.

"Why not just pluck it out? ".

"Do I have to explain everything? It would be nice if just once, someone would take something on trust that I know what I'm talking about. Look just get over here and help me while try to explain in terms you might understand."

Crillia stooped to help and both men staggered under the weight of the general while Macfadyan tried to explain

"There are sensors in the 'eyeball' scanner that monitor the pulse rate in the capillaries at the back of the eye. No pulse and a charge of about 1.21 gigawatts is sent through the chair and control interface, reducing me into a pile of freeze dried coffee and then the only job I could do with any effectiveness would be to grit paths in the winter. And we don't want that, do we? "

They sat Slar in the chair and lent him against a complex microscope-like arrangement built into the desk. There was an electronic burble and the built-in desk controls came alive with inner lights. With an exclamation of satisfaction, Macfadyan pushed Slar off the chair on to the floor and sat down. He flexed his fingers like a major pianist then stared to manipulate the keyboard

"You see, all Sontarans are cloned from finite genetic stock. To stop the ground troopers from fighting the battles better than the generals and leading to a mutiny, they alter their genetic sequence, dimming them down." He paused, " A little like the BBC in the early twenty first century." Realising he was getting distracted he continued with his mini lecture." But this leads to reduced combat abilities. To make them combat effective they are loaded full of hardware, software, wet wear, tupperware and every type of 'wear' you can think of. Now if I can just send a reversed phased pulse in to there comm.'s network, like so..."

Macfadyan made a flourished stabbing at one of the illuminated controls " It will immobilise them enough for old Brigadier-general Marchfoot to mount a counter attack. Then we set the auto-destruct and then encrypt the whole lot just to make sure it can't be turned off. Then escape in the life-pod."

There was a rapid soft clicking sound as Macfadyan's fingers rapidly flew over the keys then he stood up and looked around the room

"Erm where's the life-pod hatch?"

With a roar, Slar suddenly exploded back in to life, snatching up the Rheon carbine, he came up firing. Macfadyan pushed Crillia out of the way and pulled out a long, rod-like weapon, with a numerical keypad and trigger grafted onto the base. Pausing to tap some numbers into it then he popped up and fired. A blue green bolt of energy flared out of the end, smashing into Slar's chest flinging him clear across the room into the wall. Not realising his body was already dead, Slar attempted to get up only to slump face first onto the ground. Macfadyan blew into the top of the Dalek gun like an old fashioned gunslinger before putting it back in his pocket.

"Where is that hatch? He was a General not some flash grown grunt. He should have his own life-pod!"

 

Back then...

Aralan leaned forward into the heat of the fire, her cupped hands being warmed by the flagon of mulled wine.

"The beast Rablan's empire is said to spread over a thousand worlds. He arrived on this world over two centuries ago. Since then, they have cut a bloody path over our lands. His forces can turn up anywhere, in any number. They are called the Chell. What they truly look like is unknown for they are swathed in black amour. They have all-covering helmets with no visor. Yet they see you by the ability of the dark arts. There is now part of their flesh that sees the light of day. The beast Rablan has now turned his attention to the provinces under my protection. This cannot be allowed to happen.

"To aid me in my quest, I have sorted an allegiance of marriage with my family's territorial enemy, the house of Glasotorany. With their army fighting by mine, we may have a chance of turning this black tide. This journey is to take me to my marriage in Torval province."

 

There...

The city was in celebration, bells were ringing, balloons were being released, cages opened for flocks of white birds. The fireworks detonating in the sky was a poor second for the Sontaran capital ship breaking up in the atmosphere. The celebration was only marred by the bombsites scattered over the city, smoking raw and fresh. The cabinet, royal family and generals were on a tour of the city, sucking up the adoration of the crowds. At the back of the group were Macfadyan and Crillia. Macfadyan leant his head towards Crilla and murmured,

"Come along Guard Captain, its time to move on. "

"What? Yes, yes of course. Though do we have to leave right now? "

"I have found that it pays not to outstay one's welcome. Besides they might remember it was you who punched out the lights of the prime minister when we first arrived!"

Crillia gave a resigned shrug and set off.

"Tell me, my lord Macfadyan, why do you do these things? Involve yourself in this way?"

Macfadyan let out a long sigh

"Well, because I can. Because so many of my people could but don't. Because those that do seem to be out for personal gain or power. Because if I travel long enough and far enough I will be everywhere in the universe at the same time and that's the nearest thing to omnipotence that I know of! And besides, I'm very, very good at it." He puffed out his chest,

"Lord Macfadyan. Saving the universe with style, charm, wit and dazzling good humour thrown in at no extra charge. Hah! I should have that printed on a business card."

 

and back again...

The horses reared five seconds before the wheezing, groaning, bleeping sound that signified the return of the TARDIS. When the crystal stopped glowing and the sound finished, a crowd gathered around it. A ragged cheer went up as guard Captain Crillia and Macfadyan stepped out of the ship. Queen Aralan rushed up and in a very un-royal act, but the act of a very close and worried friend, hugged him fiercely.

"Where have you been? You've been away for hours, what was it like?"

"My lady, we have been away for months."

The Queen and her entourage proceeded towards the tents. Macfadyan stood in the center of all this activity but separate from it. Gazing around him he caught sight of Blanche and Cre'at. He made a b-line straight to them. Lifting a casual hand he taped the side of Cre'at's shell.

"We need to talk".

 

The three figures settled down around the fire as the rest of the camp bedded down for the night. Macfadyan leaned forward.

"Cre'at, you've been here for awhile, I'm sure you have a few observations to make!"

* Your coat is different to the one you left in. *

"Sontarans, "Macfadyan muttered darkly, "they never did like my sartorial dress sense. But that's beside the point. I meant about this place." He raised his arm to indicate the area around where they were sitting.

* There is an error. They have sophisticated knowledge but no practical ability. Postulate two theories. Theory one massive planetary wide catastrophe, break down of civilisation and society, rivers of blood, Armageddon, wrath of god, cats and dogs living together *

Macfadyan raised his hand to stop the flow of words.

* Theory two the society is artificial but has gained some measure of stability. *

Queen Aralan approached,

"My lord Macfadyanagogobibblebibblelungbarrowmas may I speak with you?"

Macfadyan stood up,

"Please, just Macfadyan or my lord. My home world has enough sycophantic lap dogs that grovel and spout flowery words then stab you in the back as soon as it's turned. Besides, there seems to be no-one who can pronounce the ultra-sonic continence right!"

Aralan produced a small, shy smile that made her look like a sixteen year old. Then the warrior queen stepped back in

"Crilla still doesn't trust you but accepts you mean no harm to our personage. But I would like something more. The defeat of Rablan!"

Macfadyan looked at her.

"Well now. You would, would you indeed? Am I correct in thinking that you weren't expecting me but you were expecting something on that road?"

Aralan stood back and thought, weighing up the pros and cons,

"If you would be so kind as to follow me, Lord Macfadyan."

They left Cre'at and Blanche, (who was now snoring loudly), and headed to a group of tents.

Aralan pulled back the flaps of one of the tents giving vent to a wave of feted, moist air filled with a charnel house stench. Macfadyan hesitated and then entered. The interior of the tent was covered in drapes and carpets. Cushions were scattered around the floor. Enclosed braziers caste a flickering light. There was a figure reclined in the bedding pallet. As they approached the smell of death grew stronger. Trying to control the bile that was threatening to explode out of him, he examined the figure. Even though the figure was asleep he was twisting and flinching in pain. His flesh folded and twisted, lesions opened, sores wept blood, capillaries ruptured. As Macfadyan watched, the injuries healed themselves. Withered limbs grew strong and then wasted away again. Macfadyan rounded savagely on Aralan,

"You allow this poor, miserable abomination to live? "

Aralan raised her hands in a defensive gesture and spoke urgently but quietly so not to disturb the sleeping figure

"Understand this lord. When the creature that is Rablan came to our world the people that were called the Scurries were the first to aid him".

Macfadyan was still consumed by righteous indignation,

"That still gives you no reason no right to keep him alive in such torment!"

Aralan replied, her own anger beginning to ignite,

"My Lord you still don't understand the nature of the bargain that the Scurries made with Rablan. In return for harboring and aiding the beast they were given immortality and the ability to read the future." She cast her hand to the figure in the sleeping pallet "This is Rablan's gift made flesh. The body is in a constant state of flux, constantly healing and destroying itself. The only future they see with any certainty is that of there own death many centuries hence."

Aralan took a deep calming breath, her own spark of anger already burnt out

"They now use their 'gifts' in the destruction of Rablan and all his creation. We try and ease Magyar's suffering with creams, potions and poultices as much as we can but it is not us that keeps him like this. It is Rablan. He cannot die until it is his time." She turned to the figure and with a muted voice full of tenderness and caring called to him, "Magyar, Magyar we have found a stranger on the route you suggested at the a noted hour. Is he the one you whose coming you foretold? "

The eyes in the peach bruised face opened. One was milk white with cataracts; the other was a blood red orb of burst blood vessels. The breath escaped him in painful short gasps. The blind gaze looked straight at Macfadyan,

"He is both one and many, steeped in blood of the innocent and guilty. He walks the path of the righteous. The path is blurred. He will aid free us from the beast Rablan but it might be at the most cost."

Macfadyan gave an indignant snort,

"'The path is blurred' indeed. Pish and Tush. Luck, educated guesswork and very limited sensor ability. I'm sorry to mock your beliefs but I make my own destiny thank you very much."

Magyar let out a painful sigh,

"As you wish. My lady could I trouble you for a Poultice? "

Aralan turned to Macfadyan,

"I shall be out in a moment". He nodded his understanding and, giving a sharp, almost contemptuous look at Magyar, he stepped out of the tent.

Once he had gone, Aralan turned back to Magyar,

"What is it you want to tell me? "

"The one they call the Buccaneer, treat him as a friend. Treat him with respect. Don't make an enemy of him; don't tarry with him any longer than absolutely necessary. When Rablan is dead as he will be, send Macfadyan on his way with a smile and thank the gods your still alive. He can set my people free. But the price would make our atrocities seem like spilt pigs blood. He is..." Magyar broke off in a fit of coughing and struggled to complete his warning, "He is the beloved of the dark lady!"

The Queen grew pale and reserved as she contemplated the meaning of his words,

"I shall remember your words Magyar. Thank you, my friend. Now rest easy. I shall send Byman in with a poultice. "

 

The camp broke at first light (except where it was stalled for half an hour as the TARDIS was lashed to a cart). The entourage set off at mid morning at a sedentary pace. The lush landscape soon had a calming effect on those traveling. By late afternoon Cre'at floated up to Macfadyan,

* We are being observed. I have recorded a grand total of twenty pulses microwave energy along our route. It conforms to coms traffic from a dozen worlds. It is encrypted *

"Encrypted? Interesting. Can you set up a jamming wave?"

* Yes but the surface area will be extremely localised and will not block visual observations *

"Ok, I'll see what I can cobble together in the TARDIS."

Macfadyan gave the reins of the cart to Blanche and then scrabbled in to the back. Macfadyan looked critically at the TARDIS on its side, lashed to the cart, "I do hope I left the gyro- circuits engaged. What that's going to do to the cat litter room, I dread to think. Dear oh dear... "

 

It took a week to travel through countryside that came from a fantasy portfolio. Blanche had taken every opportunity to sunbath and had taken on a dusky almost Mediterranean appearance. Macfadyan, on the other hand, was as pale as ever. However, he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. The change of pace, the scenery, the freshness of the air all seemed to be doing him the world of good. Of late he had seemed on edge, preoccupied. On more than one occasion Blanche had caught him staring off into whatever sky they were under at the time. She had asked him what was bothering him and only once got something other than a dismissive wave of the hand. He had said that: "I can feel something in the air. Something is coming. It's on the tip of my mind. Insanity laughs," he growled, "under pressure, we're breaking. Wise words indeed." Then he had trailed off, "Hmmffed" and stalked back to the TARDIS leaving Blanche to mutter mild obscenities at his back.

Now he seemed relaxed and smiling. It was, Blanche thought, like it had been. Not just with his old self, but how he had been when he had first changed into his current form. She just hoped that it would last. She caught his eye and gave him a cheeky smile. Macfadyan smiled back and hoped that his feeling of foreboding wasn't showing on his face.

Throughout the whole journey they were monitored. Not only remotely by electronic means either. From time to time figures would appear on remote hilltops and sometimes, in the distance, the shadows might move.

By what would have been the early afternoon on the second week they reached the outer-walls of Ure Denlock. It was a town constructed in a steep valley between two mountains with major fortifications at each end of the valley.

There was a stream of people leaving the central castle-like citadel. But there was not a despondent face amongst them. Instead a sense of carnival filled the air. Man at arms lined the walls. Townspeople lined the streets waving, jumping and shouting. The fair had come to town. The entourage rode into a large town square. Awaiting them was twelve knights, weapons drawn. But still the sense of fun remained. Crillia and Aralan dismounted followed moments later by their troops and approached the central figures.

An expectant hush descended on the waiting crowd. The lead knight's voice rang out thought the square.

"Stand and be recognised".

"I am Queen Aralan. Daughter of the house of Avoever. Protector of the Chalice Well. Empress of the Trin Vail."

"And these others? Would you vouch for them of your own free will?"

"These others are mine and I would vouch for them with blood, steal and life if necessary!"

"As you wish!"

With that the city knight leapt into action. The fight was very stylised and showy, with ritual shouts and curses. With every blow the crowd roared its approval. After ten minutes the mock battle as over. Crillia and the guards had defeated the city knights. But the head knight had defeated Aralan.

"Queen's guard yield. You have won the right of entry!"

With that the crowd exploded in celebration. The leader of the knight's removed his helmet revealing short-cropped hair and noble features; a smile of joy softened those features.

"Well at least we don't have to go through that every time we want to see each other." He and the Queen embraced with a fierceness that can only be expressed by two people deeply in love. Then they and their entourage entered in to the fortified citadel. The crowd surged forward and the festival began anew.

A week of carnival, feasting and parties was planned, beginning with a celebration that night. The Queen's entourage, including the TARDIS crew, (despite Macfadyan's protests that he would rather stay in his ship), were given rooms in the citadel.

 

Macfadyan raised himself from his still steaming bath and dressed in a velvet brown robe and re-entered his rooms. Like everyone else the rooms he had been given were sumptuous. Throw rugs and cushions were scattered around an open fire. An enlarged bed dominated the room. Next to it was a comfortable reading chair table and oil lamp. On the table were a selection of cheeses and a de-cantered bottle of spice port. His clothes were cleaned and pressed and laid out on the bed.

He stood by the window gazing down on the town, a cut crystal glass of port in one hand a chunk of cheese in the other. Beneath him the party was still raging, bonfires had been lit, singers and minstrels were plying their trade at every street corner and everywhere you looked there were people having fun. Above them fireworks detonated in the sky.

Suddenly something caught his attention. Putting down his food and drink he scrambled back into his clothes and stormed out shouting for Cre'at. Five minutes later they were standing on the Keep's ramparts. Macfadyan pointed,

"Look there, its another one!"

In the sky, a tiny pinprick of light was moving slowly against the inky blackness of the night through the stars. Cre'at hummed slightly as his scanners went to extreme range

* It is not a ship. Postulation that it is an artificial satellite of unknown class. This is another anomaly. *

"I thought as much. It seems our opponent, this Beast; "Rablan" is going to up the antsy. Look, see? The satellite has stopped moving now. You better keep your eyes out, Cre'at!"

* My visual circuits are an integral part of my operating procedure. I cannot get them out! *

Macfadyan just rolled his eyes heavenward and started back down the steps.

 

The time travelers congregated in the lobby hall. Macfadyan looked around at the other visiting dignitaries. Spotting Blanche and Cre'at he started towards them. Macfadyan was still wearing his old clothes but they had been cleaned and pressed. Blanche was wearing a flowing dress of red crushed velvet with a plunging neckline that, in Macfadyan's opinion, showed far too much of her cleavage. Even Cre'at looked like he had been polished. They drifted down the stairs in groups to the base of the steps were they were officially announced. The grand hall was alive with people. Tables were heavy with food and drink. A strange ethnic sounding music came from the minstrel's group in the corner sounding gentle over the murmur of conversation. Almost immediately several young beaus made straight for Blanche, much to her joy. When the last guests were announced the music suddenly upped the tempo and beat. Almost as an unspoken agreement formation dancing broke out in the hall, and the party started properly. But it was a party that was strained. The conversation was muted, the laughter sounded too harsh, too false. Groups gathered in corners, political and diplomatic deals were being made.

Macfadyan was shown around by the royal couple and indulged in polite small talk, but for the most part he seemed distracted. His eyes kept straying towards the minstrel's platform. After a while, he firmly and politely excused him self. Less than a minute later the minstrels stopped playing the party staggered to a shocked halt as everyone looked towards the minstrel's platform. On it, Macfadyan and the lead minstrel where involved in an animated discussion that involved a lot of arm waving and as if Macfadyan was trying to land a plane. The minstrel was vigorously shaking his head as Macfadyan shushed him into silence. Picking up one of the wind instruments he gave it an experimental blow, nodded his head as he got the feel of it and then launched into a hauntingly joyous melody. After a few minutes, he stopped and quietly said to the band,

"Ok gentleman, three-four time, just follow my lead. One two three, one two three."

The minstrels joined in - they didn't really have a choice. Once they had got the melody, Macfadyan stopped and looked around. Giving the wind instrument back he went over and requested, without words, another minstrel's instrument, akin to an accordion, playing this for a few moments at a counterpoint melody, then giving it back. This happened a few more times then Macfadyan stopped, plunged his hands into each pocket and pulled out his violin and bow and started playing. Having fun with the melody, changing the composition, the beat, the rhythm. Sometimes what he played spoke of the joy of life, sometimes of its bone deep sadness. Some people stopped and listened, some continued dancing. But throughout this sometimes frenetic activity was Macfadyan and his violin, existing in one moment that was stretched into eternity. The look on his face was one of rapture, as if he was feeling the music, seeing it as it looped and waved around the room.

Cre'at was over by the buffet tables trying to tempt the waiters to a vegetable product. He was also keeping a discreet scan on his surroundings and noticed that Blanche's collection of suitors had grown. He turned part of his attention back to the dissertation he was giving about the life cycle of the Melrosian Tapeworm, much to the disgust of those people trying to get at the food.

Then one of his sensors reacted to changes in the environment around him. He broke off his sentence; much to the relief of those standing next to him, started looking around for Macfadyan, then sped towards him.

He eventually managed to push his way past the people who were gathered around Macfadyan watching the man loose himself in his music. He managed to attract Macfadyan's attention. Macfadyan saw him, groaned and stepped down from the platform, pocketing his violin and bow. The crowd applauded him. He quickly acknowledged their appreciation and pushed his way through the crowd until he got close enough to talk to the Sot'm.

"What's wrong, Cre'at?"

Cre'at spoke in subdued tones.

* I am reading energised neutrinos as typified by an annular confinement beam! *

"You mean a transmat beam?"

* That is what I just said! *

"Right! Begin to get these people out of here as fast as you can!"

Suddenly all over the ballroom floating lights appeared, hovering in the air like fire flies. Where they appeared around people, it gave them an edge of fairy fire. The crowd of partygoers began to draw back in mounting horror and fascination, as those afflicted begin to gag and gasp for air.

The burning silhouette of a Chell etched in fire appeared of the top of these afflicted, before bulging eyes and slack jawed, they exploded in a mixture of blood, gore, brain tissue and chitin.

Elsewhere the lights resolved themselves into solid Chell whose first action was to fire a volley of plasma like energy before reversing their spear-like weapons and setting into the guests with the bladed edge.

And that was when the spell was broken and chaos descended on the ballroom. As half the guests scrambled to get out of the way and the rest pulled their weapons and charged towards the Chell. The sound of Macfadyan's voice rang over the chaos.

"Crilla, get these people out of here NOW!"

This action brought several plasma beams in his direction, coursing him to dive headlong behind a row of tables. Blanche snatched up one of the discarded Chell weapons and managed to fire a full salvo before the weapon emptied. Five Chell rounded on her, firing. Blanche gave a quick yelp and dived behind a marbled pillar that exploded from the combined firepower. The Chell group was moving in for the kill when Cre'at came spinning out of the chandelier firing as he came, blowing them into greasy smoke. At that point, Macfadyan overturned a table and popped up from behind it firing his Dalek gun. He and the Chell began trading shots but for every Chell Macfadyan took down another stepped up to take his place. After a few moments, silence descended on the ballroom. Macfadyan poked his head tentatively up from behind his almost shattered barricade and looked around. He was taking in the wounded, dead, dieing and the shattered when a musical tinkling heralded another beam in. A small sphere materialised in front of the barricade. It immediately disappeared in an expanding distortion wave that picked up Macfadyan and slammed back in to the far wall of the ballroom. Most of the ceiling came down on top of Cre'at.

And after that, they didn't really care what happened next.

 

Catharcerous: Chapter Three