The Buccaneer Chronicles:
Dreaming on the Spires of Immortality
By Andy Simpkins (despite interference by Keith Dunn, Karen Dunn, Adam J Purcell and Tony Gallichan)
“This cannot be happening? Is this some sort of illusion or fantasy?.” thought Macfadyan as he screwed his eyes shut after taking a hesitant look at what surrounded him. “I should be asleep in my quarters on the TARDIS but here I am… in this place…”
He opened one eye to see if his surroundings had changed but, to his horror, what surrounded him stayed in place and did not drift back into the realms of his troubled imagination.
Drawing a deep breath, he opened both his eyes fully and looked upon the unearthly panorama which surrounded him.
He was standing in the middle of a desolate plain or meteor crater, he wasn’t too sure. Gazing slowly around at the topography of the landscape, in the distance, tall pillars of granite and other stone thrust their way into the sky. In the distance on his left hand side stood a range of hills and low mountains; their edges harsh and jagged and not touched by the gentle hand of natural erosion. On his right hand side, the caldera of where he stood stretched off into the distance towards a perfectly clear horizon, punctuated only by more of the crags that dotted the barren landscape.
“Steel pillars clawing at the sky… the endless games played in the timeless zone.” he said out loud with a nervous edge to his voice, as the half remembered song lyrics came to mind. He said the words to reassure himself and to keep the all-pervasive silence at bay. However, all was not silence when he happened to glance upwards at the sky.
Macfadyan could not help his jaw from dropping as he looked upon the spectacle that was before him in the heavens above and stood rapt as he saw the sights that few men were awarded with in their lifetimes.
He was rewarded with the view of a night-time sky previously unseen by Human eyes. Stars were thrown across the coal-black sky like a handful of diamonds casually strewn across a piece of sack-cloth. Crowding out the pitch black sky, they showered the landscape with their glow; varying magnitudes of stars jostled for space in a sky that to Macfadyan's sight, seemed to clamour for his attention.
“I must be somewhere near the Galactic Core. But whether it is the Milky Way or a completely different galaxy, I cannot be sure…” He mused idly. It was then that he looked down. Apart from the sight of his feet dressed in their normal knee-length black bucket boots, the ground underneath his feet was grey, dry, arid and had the texture of fine dust or powder.
Nothing organic had lived here or ever would. This planet was a stillbirth of nature that would never have life in any form grace its surface. He took an experimental jump and landed on his feet in less than a second.
“Ha!Gravity’s still working then.” He said with a nervous cackle.
Only when he looked down did he see the dust that had been disturbed by his landing billow away from under his feet in eddies and vortices in to him what seemed like a slow-motion replay. A cold sweat started out on his forehead and he wondered:
“Where in Time’s name am I? Nothing here appears to follow the natural laws of science and physics…”
However, all of this paled into insignificance when he saw the spectacle that was present when he lifted his eyes once more towards the zenith. Directly above his head was a sight that was well documented but rarely seen by space-faring races. Approximately the size of a saucer held at arms length, a White Dwarf star hung in the sky, spitting prominences and faculae out into the surrounding sky. Even from this distance, he could hear the faint crackling and spitting that the star made as the internal fusion reactor that was its core still kept the star ticking over for millennia to come yet. By rights, Macfadyan should have been shrivelled and burnt to a cinder or given an almighty dose of radiation poisoning that demanded a thick layer of lotion with a sun protection factor of 3 billion. But as he stood there alone on that barren and lifeless plain, he felt nothing but a pleasant warmth on his body. This star was not alone, however, as it had a companion. Many millions of miles away from its neighbour but visible only by the stream of matter that it sucked, leech-like, across the miles to gather in a swirling eddy around it was the mathematical impossibility of a black hole. The titan of the universe was literally draining the life from the white dwarf as he watched.
Sure, the white dwarf would last for millennia to come but the black hole would eventually be victorious, reducing the star to a shrivelled husk of cold hard rock.
“By rights, I should be desiccated, burnt, shrivelled or reduced to small pieces of bloody flesh in a mad flurry of explosive decompression! I am stranded here, alive and well, in an airless, lifeless barren alien wilderness. Even in the midst of life, we are in death…” Macfadyan said out loud.
“Never a truer word said!” came a low and husky voice from behind him.
Macfadyan whirled around in surprise to confront the sight that was before him. Twenty feet away on the arid and lifeless plain was a sumptuously upholstered leather chaise-longue and reclining on it was a being he knew immediately. The being could take on any physical form it desired and at this moment in time, it had assumed the form of a woman, dressed in a one piece figure hugging jumpsuit, wearing high-heeled calf-length boots and had thick black wavy hair framing a face that could have been anywhere from 21 to a 101 in appearance. It was hard to say as the woman's facial features were in shadow no matter the way Macfadyan looked at them.
“Greetings. my lord Macfadyan. How dost thou fare this day?” She said with a half smile playing over her blood-red lips.
Even though he felt the hackles rising on his back and an empty pit open in his stomach, he put on his best patronising manner and said coldly and without preamble: “I am very well, Milady, although at a loss to explain why I am here. Please tell me why you have called me into your presence…”
The Lady looked around her, drinking in Her surroundings and nodding absently to Herself as though they met Her approval.
“I thought it was about time we had a little chat… An audience if you so wish to call it. I have been watching your progress with great interest and I wanted to call you here so we could chat further about what has passed and what will come to pass.”
She sat up on the chaise-longue in one supple movement; like a cat that had been slumbering peacefully and now had sprung to attention with all its senses attuned to the world around it. She smiled at Macfadyan and patted the space on the chaise-longue next to Her in a clear indication that he should sit beside her.
He reluctantly sat down next to The Lady. Even though there was a pleasant temperature in the air surrounding them, he felt a distinct chill emanating from Her.
“I thought it best to call you to this place. Call it a compromise between My realm and yours and a comfortable enough place to converse.” She said, airily waving a hand around to indicate the surreal landscape surrounding them.
“I wish you could have called the decorators in before you decided to call me here. I do so hate shabbiness…” said Macfadyan in an attempt to add light to what was becoming a very dark situation indeed.
The Lady chuckled throatily. “You know all too well who I am. I have been here since The Beginning and will be here until The End Of All Things.” She shrugged and continued: “It is the way of all things that Creation begins, exists and ends. I administer to all of this…”
“You must realise that you are only one part in the cycle of all things!” said Macfadyan with sudden vehemence “Look around you and what do you see!?A cosmos swarming with life and sentience a-plenty. There is Order and a reason for all of this!” He said, jabbing an angry finger in The Lady’s direction.
She sighed heavily and spoke as to a child who needed to be taught a valuable lesson. “My dearest.” She sighed. “You sentients. You have to perceive order and progression in all things that you witness and experience. I must point out to you that all of this is a sham. Despite what you see, there is a natural progression towards disorder. It is the natural…order…of things.” She chuckled at the irony that her last sentence contained.
Macfadyan could only sit and glower at Her as She continued:
“It is the way of all things that there is a natural slide towards dissolution. Order is just a smokescreen and an excuse that you sentients throw up to defend yourselves from the obvious: that the universe will end in howling oblivion despite your best efforts to the contrary.” She paused for a moment to inspect the perfectly manicured and painted nails on her hands.
“And what is your place in the Grand Scheme of Things? We all have to choose sides. Who or what do you stand for?” said Macfadyan, his patience wearing thin. He shifted uneasily on the chaise-longue but remained seated.
The Lady did not reply at once but stood up in one limber movement and strode sensuously around the chaise-longue until She was standing behind Macfadyan. She leant over and slid Her arms around his neck and with a half-smile playing across Her face, unfastened the top two buttons of his shirt so She could slide Her hands inside to caress his skin, feel the warmth and life coursing through him and to feel his hearts beating beneath Her touch.
“My Love, ” she whispered hoarsely in his ear. “You must realise that there is no such thing in the Universe as Order and Chaos. These things are as labels that you see fit to hang upon natural events. I merely stand above such things. I am but the natural conclusion to all things…”
Without warning, her face contorted into a feral snarl as she racked her fingernails across his chest, leaving bloody gouges in their wake. Macfadyan grunted with pain but otherwise remained silent..
“You fool!! I could have you snuffed out of existence in an instance if I so willed it.!”.She hissed in his ear. Her manner changed back and She was all honey poured over ice once again. “You must realise, my love, that you have a large and important part to play in my overall plans. I can but only admire the work that you performed on Catharcerous and you added many souls to my entourage. You are capable of so much more and that is why I am so enamoured of you.”
Striding around the chaise-longue until She was in front of him. She placed Her hand under his chin and gently urged him to get to his feet. Once Macfadyan was standing in front of Her, She reached up and slid Her arms around his neck and pulled him close. Putting Her face close to his, She murmured: “I am in so much need of you to be my aide in my pursuits. I beg you, my love. Be my lover, be my fool, be my….Champion!” Her breath was sweet on his face but had an underlying odour of decay and corruption.
“I can give you so much if you are willing to be my servant.” She whispered. “Absolute power… infinite wisdom…” Her hands snaked around the back of his neck and she pulled his head closer in an attempt to kiss him.
Macfadyan snapped his head to one side at the last moment. To have those lips touch his would mean all these things at the awful cost of the thing that he treasured most: his mortality.
“My lady, this is a very tempting thing you offer me but I do have a streak of altruism running through me that cannot be ignored. I need to have a physical presence to correct all the wrongs that are so prevalent in the universe these days. You have your place in the natural scheme of things and I accept that, along with the billions of souls you have clasped to your bosom. I thank you for your offer but it is one I must decline.”
He bowed slightly from the waist after he had said this statement in a gesture of acknowledgement.
He grasped hold of Her slender wrists and pushed Her away with a little too much force that he had wished for. She tripped and sprawled out on the ground; a mixture of rejection and admiration playing across Her face.
“Very well, my love. You reject my offer at this moment in time but I am sure that I will entice you eventually.”
She climbed back onto the chaise-longue and propped Her hand under her chin and looked at him pensively.
“On a parting note, my sweetheart. I appreciate your sentiments in this matter. There have been few who I have offered this gift to in all of the span of existence and all have refused. To help you in your decision, I will leave you for a brief while in the company of those who spurned my offer and also of those I have called into my presence through the progress of natural decay. I am sure they will help you in making your ultimate decision.”
She waved her hand at him in an ironic gesture of parting and said: “Farewell for the moment, my Lord Macfadyan; my toy… my fool… my star-crossed lover!! Until we meet again…!”
The last sight he saw, before the ground opened up beneath him, was the sight of Death, sprawled back on Her chaise-longue, laughing maniacally up at the dark and uncaring sky….
He fell through a reddish brown roiling mist, his hair and coat streaming out behind him. As the wind whipped around his face, he looked around him to see a multitude of faces pressed up against the mist in a vain attempt to break out of its confines. On their faces were looks of terror, madness, hatred and a host of others. Most of them, however, had wide staring eyes and mouths that were screaming out a single word:
“Macfadyan!!” …a plea.
“Macfadyan!!” …an entreaty.
“Macfadyan!!” …a curse.
And their hands, reaching out for him, beseeching him, imploring him, clawing at him, clutching at him… clutching… clutching… clutching…