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)
“I am standing up at the waters edge in my dream....”
“Come along, old chap, it's your move!”
Macfadyan blinked a couple of times as he looked around himself at the scene that was playing out around him. He was in an office. That much was certain, with its corporately-decorated walls and a broad and imposing desk in front of him. He was seated in a black synthi-leather upholstered executives armchair that was slightly reclined, as though he was relaxing, at ease before making an important decision. He sat up and, raising himself slightly on the arms of the chair, looked out of the window at the cityscape in front of him.
Well, he was in a capital city on one of the planets in one of the major stellar systems of the galaxy. Procyon, Aldebaran, Sirius Major, he could not be certain. Gleaming spires of metal thrust their way into the night-time sky, brilliantly illuminated both from within and out. Punctuating the streets were illuminated advertising hoardings, showing wares both familiar and undiscovered to the casual observer. A multitude of things to be purchased, both human and alien were on display in all their garish glory for him to choose and advertised in neon, laser and particle and molecular manipulation. If he had been familiar with the Old Earth city of Las Vegas, it would have borne a faint similarity with the multihued and colourful display on the streets below.
A steady stream of wheel-less ground repulsor vehicles flowed by on the thoroughfares of the city, their sidewalks populated by a throng of sentient beings, both human, humanoid or completely alien. Looking upwards, the sky was punctuated by the blinking hazard lights of airborne personal transports, freight haulers going by on their business, and higher up in the atmosphere, shuttles on their pre-programmed courses up to the interstellar transports in geosynchronous orbit around this unknown world. If he was lucky and waited for a little while, he would periodically see one of the multitude of orbiting lights wink out of existence as the ship initialised the hyperdrive and was propelled through the unimaginable realms of hyperspace to its destination, tens or thousands of light-years away.
Looking more closely at his immediate surroundings, the office was sumptuously furnished. The carpet under his feet was deep-piled and the walls were covered with wood panelling. Pine, Oak or Teak shipped all the way from Old Earth, or one of the cross-hybrids from the settled worlds, he could not be too sure.
Adorning the walls were paintings by artists from a multitude of worlds. Both Human and alien, there were portraits of well known people of the day, abstract compositions and occupying pride of place were a few Old Masters, exported all the way from Old Earth at a doubtlessly expensive cost. The owner of the suite was into sculpture as well....In alcoves in the wall nestled small but exorbitantly priced Earthly pieces of art and also dotted around were alien sculptures as well. Sculptures that were, to the Human eye, plain white but to the alien range of vision, flowing with colour and patterns. Touch sculptures were in abundance too, their creators blind by Human definition but their works opening up a range of possibilities to their radar-like senses.
Turning back to look at his protagonist, he found himself looking at a lean man who could have been anywhere from forty to seventy five, his face was lean with pronounced cheekbones and his mouth, framed by a goatee moustache and beard and flecked with grey, was merely a faintly smiling gash across his face.
The nose was aquiline and his eyes....his eyes seemed to possess an infinite, cold and sadistic knowledge. Coal-black and unfathomable, they were lined by crows feet and looked back at him with sardonic humour, scorn and a certain pity for Macfadyan.
His hair was close cropped and greying at the temples and he was dressed in a close fitting high collared, black business suit that accentuated his lean but muscular frame.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Christmas?" he said with a certain amount of good natured annoyance.
Macfadyan snapped back to reality and looked at the chess board between them on the desk and weighed up his position.
"Not too good...." he mused to himself. A number of his important pieces were in dangerous positions and most of his pawns were gone.
After a moments deliberation, he reached out and moved his knight.
His opponent raised an eyebrow archly but said nothing as he moved one of his pieces to counter Macfadyan's move. The game went this way for a considerable amount of time; strike and counterstrike, a minor victory here and a minor defeat there. Neither player showed any signs of losing ground until the mysterious black stranger straightened up in his seat behind the desk and rubbed at his chin thoughtfully.
"You know, old chap. Each one of the pieces on this board has a function. The bishops and the knights there and the pawns, lowly footsoldiers that they are, here and there. All of them have a predetermined role, even the king and queen; seemingly safe behind their castle walls and yet not invulnerable...."
Macfadyan's brow furrowed, a chess piece held in his fingertips suspended in mid-air, between heaven and earth, as he pondered what to say and do.
"You offer a convincing argument for predestination. You are saying that the pieces, were they human, would be bound by unseen chains of destiny. Blind to this, they would stumble through their roles apparently doomed to following their fate without any release or deviance from their allotted role....."
The stranger clucked with amusement and mild annoyance as he eyed Macfadyan with a look of wry humour on his face.
"So it would seem to the untrained eye, held within our bonds of fate and yet there is always that element of chance that can enter the game and sent every thing awry...."
Catching Macfadyan completely off guard, the tall stranger suddenly stood up from behind his desk, and with a single violent sweeping gesture of his arm, he swatted all the chess pieces off the board. When the last one had finished rocking on the floor, he looked up at Macfadyan, and, with a glint of malice in his eyes, reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a chess piece that Macfadyan had never seen before. Holding it up to the light between them for them both to inspect, Adh Seidhe pondered upon this piece and mused aloud, almost to himself.
"...and yet this piece, so seldom used but of such importance. Very few people know its true importance and I only have a fleeting knowledge of what it is. You are intimately acquainted with it, I do believe, and yet you cannot fathom out why..."
Looking at the chess piece held between Adh Seidhe's fingertips with an ever-increasing horror that he could not explain, he had a faint yet dawning realisation of what it was.
The small circular felt-bottomed base was there, it could be moulded in either black or ivory, depending on your preference. Looking for all the world like a terrestrial globe on a stand in miniature but with one terrifying difference. Periodically, the small earth-like world would detonate in a sudden, immense release of energy and its atoms would scatter in a small cloud of dissipated energy, only to coalesce again until the world was as it was before, only to explode and reform again. An endless cycle of destruction and reformation in the palm of your hand...
Macfadyan could feel a cold sweat breaking out on his forehead but for the life of him, could not explain why.