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)
“There's a bump in the basement, there's a hole in the floor. There's a guard in the garden, locking up the door...”
The cell, no, not cell, but could be defined as communal living quarters that they were ushered in to were Spartan but comfortable. A few sofas clad in a leather-like material were dotted around the periphery of the room and off to one side were sleeping quarters and bathing and toilet facilities. If any of the party were hungry or thirsty, there was a small but functional autochef unit built into the wall nearby.
Curtis strode over to the comm system; a simple vidscreen and command pad assembly, situated on one of the tables and switched it on. There was a flicker of static and a menu came up on the screen. News of the day, sport and entertainment were there but when Macfadyan leaned over Curtis' shoulder and suggested that they try looking for an information channel on the history and purpose of this place, they were met with the cold and forbidding message on the screen:
"THIS SERVICE IS UNAVAILABLE"
Macfadyan stroked his beard thoughtfully as he looked at the screen.
"Well, it would seem that our hosts are not in too much of a hurry to let us know about the purpose of this place. I do find this mildly perturbing but....."
He bent down to where Curtis was sitting and whispered:
"I don't know why but ever since we landed here, I've had this feeling of, well...call it deja-vu if you like. I have an ever-increasing sensation or feeling that I know this place or will know it at some time in the future. It is like something just beyond my vision or grasp, tantalising me but forever just out of my reach. This is troubling me for reasons I cannot yet explain. I know I have acted rashly in the past especially in that....incident....with the victim but I am sure you will agree with me in the fact that this place is not what it seems."
Keeping his voice to a murmur, Curtis replied:
I must admit that this place does have something of the nature of a dream about it. The people, their surroundings all have an air of unreality about them. If you were to wave your hand, all of this would be split apart and drift away like smoke on the breeze. Smoke and mirrors...that is the impression I get of this place. As for your previous indiscretion, allow me to remind you that although I have my orders to terminate you if your actions endanger Earth, I am also a shrewd judge of character, as befits my position within UNIT. You looked like you were about to kill that man with your questioning but I could also see that the light of reason had gone from your eyes. Something is troubling you deeply about this place. I cannot say I blame you as it looks like it is affecting the other members of our party."
Casting a sideways glance at Blanche and Cre'at, seated on a nearby sofa, who were, to all intents and purposes idly chatting to each other. However, every so often, Blanche would cast a nervous glance around her at their surroundings, as clearly troubled by their predicament as the rest of their party were.
Standing up, he announced to Blanche and Cre'at:
"Think it is best if we get some food inside of us and get some rest. Our...hosts...will have need of us in order to make repairs to their power systems in order to keep their city running. I will get the necessary tools from the TARDIS first thing in the morning."
"Colin and myself will arrange a meeting with the council to find out what they need in the way of materials. What we will need to supply from ships stores, what can be synthesised and what remaining power supplies, electronics and such they still have here."
Turning to Curtis and adding sotto voce:
"I am still not entirely sure what they want with us so I think it will be in both our interests if we do as they say for the time being. They have a genuine need for our help but for what ultimate purpose, they are being rather guarded about."
Curtis nodded grimly;
"If it's true what they say, we had better keep an eye out for trouble. The council may be the brains behind this operation but the proctor captains are definitely the brawn. I've seen too much of it in my time. Hired thugs in uniforms who keep the peace and keep everyone on the straight and narrow, at the cost of a few cracked skulls and broken noses..."
"Very well then. We will help these people but I cannot help but detect the faint whiff of duplicity from them but it is nothing I can. put my finger on at the moment. Ever more, I am getting a feeling of being in a place like this at some time in my past...or future. Everywhere I look, there is a feeling of familiarity that is growing stronger the longer we remain here. I am starting to become troubled by this. The ever-present feeling of foreboding is compounded by this and if we remain here for a prolonged period of time, I will become severely mentally disorientated by it, even to the extent that I may not be capable of piloting the TARDIS out of here...."
Curtis could say nothing to this but patted the pocket in his jacket where his pistol was.
"Don't worry. If all else fails, we will have to fall back on this unsubtle but persuasive means of getting out of here. Those proctor captains may be alright for keeping a trembling civilian in line but judging by their semi-simian appearance, they might be a formidable foe in close quarters combat but I doubt they have the stamina to carry a ball all the way from their half to score a try. They are all muscle and all glower."
Macfadyan looked pensive but said:
"Hopefully we wont have to resort to such primitive means of escape, Crumbly."
"That's Curtis!" he retorted good-naturedly.
Turning back to the others, he noticed that was Blanche was wilting visibly and displaying a series of jaw-breaking yawns.
" I dunno, I'm absolutely knackered, Bucky." she said between yawns."This place looks like its full of good-natured but dim marks so I might go and relieve 'em of some of their very heavy wallets in the morning.'Tis a shame I haven't got my blackjack on me. A friendly tap on the back of the head will make sure they 'ave a little snooze while I 'elp meself."
"You can't keep a good thief down..." thought Macfadyan, suppressing a smile."She's a good kid, even though she can't keep her hands out of other peoples pockets." A twinge of guilt passed through him as he remembered she was but a copy of the original Blanche, dead and forever unavailable to him, killed by his own folly...
Grimacing with grief at his inability to have saved her from a terrible death, it seemed so long ago, he cleared his throat and put his most pompous expression on his face. Turning around, he cast a glance in Curtis', Blanches and Cre'at's direction that he hoped would inspire them and raise their flagging spirits.
"Right, enough of this. Time for turning in and mustering our strength for tomorrow. We will be very busy helping the council and people of this place so we need to hit the hay now!"
Blanche, needing no encouragement, clambered onto one of the padded benches and was asleep almost immediately. Cre'at followed suit shortly afterwards. He merely hovered down and settled on a worktop nearby. The glow in his optic sensors died down as he set his internal power systems into standby mode.
Lulled by the faint hum of Cre'at's power systems as they idled over. Curtis lay on the bench, looking up at the ceiling. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a creased and dog-eared photograph.
Looking at it, he wondered if he would ever see, let alone hold the woman in the picture in his arms again. For all he knew, Jenny was either yet to be born or was as dust on the wind, so uncertain what time period they were in. Despite what the Buccaneer had told him about E-Space and the fact that time here ran concurrently with that in normal space, he could not help but feel a twinge of panic and sorrow at the fact that they may never get back to their home universe. With these thoughts tumbling around in his head, Colin Curtis, late of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, Earth, fell into an uneasy sleep.
Looking at his slumbering companions, Macfadyan could not help but feel a twinge of pride at who he had chosen, consciously or not., to accompany him on his travels. Cre'at, a mechanical life-form. To outsiders, cold emotionless and analytical and yet to him, a trusted companion who had displayed courage on more than one occasion and had helped him through difficult times, including a forced regeneration, which had left him vulnerable for a long time. During that time, Cre'at had stood sentinel over him, nursing him through his grief and guilt until had enough reserves of emotional strength to stand up and face the cold and uncaring universe for himself.
Looking around, he saw Curtis lying on his side on the padded bench, the ever-present crease between his eyebrows gone now that he was asleep and breathing softly now that he was temporarily relieved of the burden that was place squarely on his shoulders back on Earth.
"Even though this man is sworn to protect Earth from my actions, should that planet be endangered. I cannot help but trust and like this personable and friendly ex-soldier. Even though he is honour-bound by the constraints imposed upon him by his superiors, he does act with a considerable amount of autonomy that flies in the face of his commanding officers."
"He showed his mettle back in Jerusalem during the Sontaran Incursion and has proven to be a staunch ally ever since. He has broken free from the regimented ranks of ordinary soldiers and has proven that you can serve your country, an ideal or whatever abstract notions that are called into being according to whatever situations arise, and yet still hold faithful to such unalterable concepts such as truth, nobility of spirit, helping the downtrodden and giving the unjust a damn good beating..."
He smiled to himself at this though but his face momentarily contorted once again with sorrow and his vision misted over with suppressed tears as he thought about Blanche. A walking, conversing monument to his arrogance and vanity. A teenage child snatched out of time, killed because of his inaction and made into an endless repetition of herself..
Down in the depths of the TARDIS, safely sealed in cryogenic stasis tubes were thousands upon thousands of cloned copies of her. Endlessly replicated in order to be there for him as company on his travels but also serving as a never-ending stain upon his soul....
Sinking back on the bench in despair, he could only think to himself: "What have I done?... What have I done?..." as he fell into a troubled slumber...