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|The Buccaneer Chronicles: Interlude on Sotus (v0.9)
Emerging from the depths of Adam J Purcell's Psyche
You do trust me don't you? Of course you do...
The Sot'm stared out of the Tower window down at the gleaming metal shapes below, which made up the Sotus capital city. The otherwise clear blue sky was host to a few wispy white clouds that were little more than hints towards the possibility. All was quiet in the glory of the midday sun.
The Air Traffic Controller turned away from the calm scene to survey his control room. The matt white circular room was starkly empty but for a flat cylindrical console in the centre and the Sot'm himself. The mechanic creature glided its shiny metallic body towards the console to resume the strategy game it had been playing against the central computers, on and off, for over ninety years. He could feel victory was almost in his grasp. If he did this correctly now he could be completely victorious within a matter of months. He felt certain he could beat his previous best time of two hundred and thirty nine years.
Just as he was about to resume the game on the entertainment console a harsh siren filled the air. To his left the floor and lower part of the wall rose out, seemingly melting and contorting rapidly into the shape of a command console. The Sot'm rushed over to meet it as his entertainment console slowly dissolved away into the floor.
Air traffic control was a quiet job. It had been that way for many, many millennia, ever since forms of instantaneous transport had become widespread. What little traffic that did still exist generally kept to the flight paths, designated routes and agreed times. Occasionally something amiss happened and the duty traffic controller was called into action. This was just another one of those occasions. Except that it wasn't. The siren was wrong. This siren was only used in one circumstance.
The Controller reached the console just in time to see the dials, screens and buttons finalize in form. Immediately he could see that it was indeed one of those problems.
"Air Traffic Control to Professor Sot'm's Office." the mechanical life form said towards the console in his artificial, yet unique, sounding voice.
There was a brief pause before the response came. "Yes, Air Traffic Control Sector 1, what is the problem?" came back the totally unconcerned, and equally artificial, voice.
"I have registered another unscheduled Time Vessel materialization," replied the Controller in a bland, yet somehow worried, manner.
There was a longer pause this time. "Acknowledged." The terse reply signalled the end of the conversation as the communication channel closed.
The Controller floated up slightly to peer out the window above the console, down at the area where the intruder had landed.
"Should we not contact them?" asked the Sot'm.
"No, no, no, Cre'at. They know we are here. They know what we are. Stop worrying." Countered the Timelord.
At that moment their two companions, both Earth humans, entered into the TARDIS console room from the depths of the ship. Arguing.
"No, it's just that you should keep your hands away from other people things," the UNIT captain continued. On that last word the late nineteenth century street urchin he was arguing with raised her eyebrows and smirked. The well-groomed officer, wearing a formal military uniform for no good reason, tried to ignore the smirk and continue, "Possessions. Especially on strange planets."
"Yeah, well, they're souvenirs. Don't you ever get souvenirs when you go on holiday?" said Blanche trying her best innocent, yet hurt, impersonation.
"Is that all it is to you? One big holiday?" interjected The Buccaneer rather tetchily. "What about thwarting evil? Saving planets…" he tailed off suddenly looking both concerned and puzzled.
"We should take a look" Cre'at said to break the sudden, and somewhat uncomfortable, silence. He headed towards the main doors, deliberately ignoring the possibility of using the viewer, eager to physically be back on his home world.
Blanche rushed towards the console and triggered the exterior doors, also keen to exit the TARDIS and avoid any further verbal conflict.
As Blanche stepped out of the large bail of hay that was currently the TARDIS exterior shell she paused momentarily to admire the towering spires and the shorter rounded, almost organic looking, buildings. All glittered like polished metals, various shades of silvers, greys, blues, greens, bronzes and golds. They had landed in the corner of a large open square. She looked at the closest building and was amazed to see the gently fading stripes of various metal colours actually drift up the exterior, constantly shifting in the light. "Wow! Talk about your city of gold. And bronze, silver, platinum, everything… These people of yours must be well rich." Blanche called towards Cre'at who had gone over to the ornamental fountain in the center of the square.
Colin pushed through a gap in the hay to exit the TARDIS and promptly began dusting down his uniform with his hand even though it wasn't required. Behind him came The Buccaneer who turned around to do something that closed the gap. "Can't be too careful. Especially now I've disengaged the telepathic circuits, some welcome back to N-space that was…" he muttered to himself.
Captain Curtis was even more taken aback by the scene than Blanche. Everything except the deep blue sky and water in the fountain was glistening metal. He quickly reached into one of his pockets to retrieve a pair of issue sunglasses. "Now this is what I would expect from the future."
"Yes, we are in your future, though Sotus is a long way from Earth. If I've got my calculations correct, and I'm sure I have, we should be exactly concurrent to Gallifrey time. Being so close to home they," the Timelord glanced up at the sky, "tend to frown on us going anywhen else."
The three humanoids joined the mechanoid at the center of the square. "So, there's a whole planet full of balloons is there?" Blanche asked no one in particular.
"Sot'ms" corrected Cre'at matter of factly.
"Where are they all then?" asked Colin, looking around the area as he did so.
"In the buildings." stated Cre'at.
At that moment Blanche dipped her fingers into the water at the edge of the fountain. Just as she did so the surface in the middle of the round pool leapt up into the air with an almighty whoosh. "Bloody hell!" shouted the young woman as she quickly pulled her hand out and stumbled back.
Colin spun back to look at the source of the sound, drawing a handgun from a holster on his belt and bringing it up to point at the water columnating before the four travellers. The Buccaneer and Cre'at looked upon the sudden and dramatic change in a totally unmoved fashion.
Blanche's instinct to scamper away from the danger began to subside when the gravity defying water slowly began to take the form of a giant cube spinning gently on one of its corners upon the surface of the remainder of the water in the pool. Both humans noticeably relaxed when the cube of liquid then reshaped into a sphere of water and then pulled itself into the shape of a spinning upturned pyramid. It constantly and randomly shifted in shape, never content with being static.
"I only wanted a drink," grumbled Blanche as she looked towards the Buccaneer for assurance she hadn't done anything wrong. Colin casually reholstered his weapon and resumed his look about the square and beyond.
"You may drink from it." Cre'at said in his usual stilted manner.
"Wot? That things alive!" Blanche said incredulously.
"Force fields." stated Captain Curtis incorrectly, returning his gaze to the stunning water sculpture.
"No - " Cre'at was able to say before being rudely interrupted by the Timelord.
"Where are they?" shouted out the Buccaneer in an angry and inpatient way. "I've got better things to do than wait around here!" he called out. Colin shot him a dirty look.
The air fizzled silently and invisibly. Yet all could sense it. No instrument could detect it but all four travellers could feel something unnatural. The hairs on the humanoids necks stood up and a psychological chill ran down their spines. Mere microseconds later reality itself was torn open. A vertical rip noiselessly expanded. For an instant the humans felt abject, primal terror as if some sixth sense were warning them of impending and total armageddon. A terror that cannot be avoided. A terror that will destroy everything. Matter, energy, space, time, reality. It was all over.
As quickly as the sensation came it faded off. The tear had stopped opening. It was just big enough to walk through. Beyond it was an ornate light bronze coloured room with what appeared to be paintings of spectacular alien landscapes. Directly in front of the other side of the rift was a Sot'm. He passed through to meet Cre'at and his companions.
"Ah, Cre'at, it's so nice to see you again," the newcomer said with a beaming smile on his face. His speech was much more natural than Cre'at's and had a refined, almost aristocratic, accent.
"We are just visiting. We are on an urgent mission." Cre'at returned in his usual slightly mechanical way.
Blanche found she was staring at this new Sot'm. Somehow she had expected them all to look and sound alike. This Sot'm was very different to Cre'at. It still resembled an oversized floating mechanical head and was unquestionably a Sot'm but the features where all different. The metal skin was paler and somehow older looking. The nose was longer and more rounded. It reminded her of Pinocchio in a way. The whole face was more charactertured than Cre'at's, in fact. Instead of the sunglasses-like squared off lenses for eyes that Cre'at possessed this new Sot'm had small round deep-set dark discs. His mouth was separated from his nose by a much longer upper lip than Cre'at's and that was separated from his cheeks by two long furrows that started at the corners of his nose. His black beard was thinner and flecked with grey. The gun atop his head was smaller but somehow more intimidating. Inexplicably he emanated bureaucracy.
"I'm Lord MacFadyanagogobibblebibblelungbarrowmas." proclaimed the Buccaneer grandly.
"Indeed. Welcome to Sotus, Lord MacFadyan. My name is Apal'be -" the new Sot'm cheerfully said before being cut off by the Timelord.
"It is very urgent, I need to speak to someone in charge. This whole region of space/time depends on it!" bluster the Buccanner.
"I -" Apal'be was cut off again.
"Who are you? Are you in charge?" demanded the Buccanner.
"Well briefly, Sir, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. I also double as Professor Sot'm's Principal Private Secretary, I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are ten Deputy Secretaries, eighty-seven Under Secretaries and two hundred and nineteen Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretary are plain Private Secretaries, and Professor Sot'm also has two Parliamentary Under Secretaries who also have their own Parliamentary Private Secretaries." Apal'be stated without, being a Sot'm, needing to take a single breath.
Blanche looked at Apal'be in as if he had just spoken total gibberish. Colin leaned over to whisper in her ear "He's a civil servant…" Upon which Blanche gave a smile of understanding.
"Oh, that'll do I suppose." sulked the Buccaneer, whose mood swings had become increasingly erratic and rapid of late.
"We have formed a small committee to hear what you have to say, please follow me," Apal'be directed towards Cre'at, now ignoring the Buccaneer and having ignored the humans from the start.
Apal'be led the way back through the unchanging rift to the committee room antechamber deep in the parliamentary buildings a few miles away. Cre'at followed, with the Buccaneer stomping along behind him, Colin next and Blanche at the end.
"Please wait here, I'll check to make sure they are ready for you." Apal'be said indicating a set of, apparently, green leather armchairs in the luxurious and timeless room. He opened a door, which was virtually indistinguishable from the bronze panelled wall around it, and went through to the room beyond.
As the civil servant closed the door behind him the rift to the square that the travellers had just walked through swiftly sealed. With it the last nagging feelings of unease faded from the minds of the two humans. Feelings that the Buccaneer had been oblivious to.
Colin and Blanche moved towards two of the three chairs and the Timelord paced impatiently. "Hey, Cre'at, why have your lot got chairs?" Blanche asked.
"They're here for us of course." The Buccaneer answered without giving the Sot'm a chance. "Now let me do the talking when we go in. In fact, no, just Cre'at and myself will go in. You two wait out here for us."
"I thought I was going to give a peace-keeping speech? I am UN after all." Colin said pointedly to the Buccaneer.
"What? No I never said that. I'm getting a bit fed up with your attitude. It must be the shock of leaving Earth, it's affected your mind." said the Buccaneer. Colin just turned towards Blanche and shook his head slightly.
A moment later Apal'be returned. "I believe they are ready to see you now, please come through."
Cre'at and the Buccaneer returned to the antechamber to find Colin asleep in one chair and Blanche tipping up an already empty decanter into her mouth trying desperately to get a couple more drops from it.
"What is this? Really! I leave you two for an hour and look what happens." the Buccaneer said angrily.
Colin woke with a start and Blanche gave a hiccup and slouched further into her chair. "What?" Colin said groggily. "How did it go?" he asked, quickly returning to full senses.
"How did it go? I'm not sure. I see that you two have managed to get yourselves drunk in the meantime."
"I've not had a drop." Colin replied coldly. "I'm tired because you never allow us to get more than a couple of hours sleep before landing us somewhere else. You might be an insomniac but I'm not."
The Buccaneer's reply was curtailed when Apal'be joined them from the committee room.
"That was quick" Cre'at said hopefully to Apal'be.
Apal'be didn't reply, he appeared deep in thought.
"What have they decided?" asked the Buccaneer.
Apal'be looked reluctant but replied nonetheless. "Well, it's clear that the committee has agreed that your idea is a really excellent plan but in view of some of the doubts being expressed, may I propose that I recall that after careful consideration, the considered view of the committee was that while they considered that the proposal met with broad approval in principle, that some of the principles were sufficiently fundamental in principle and some of the considerations so complex and finely balanced in practice, that, in principle, it was proposed that the sensible and prudent practice would be to submit the proposal for more detailed consideration, laying stress on the essential continuity of the new proposal with existing principles, and the principle of the principle arguments which the proposal proposes and propounds for their approval, in principle."
The Buccaneer looked crestfallen. Colin thought the Timelord was about to burst into tears.
"So, what you're saying is that they aren't willing to help us?" Colin asked Apal'be.
"Not at all…" Apal'be said giving a full smile, for the first time really taking notice of the human. "Ah, Minister Urk'et, let me introduce you to out guests," he said towards another Sot'm that was just entering the room from a second door.
This Sot'm, again, looked different from both Cre'at and Apal'be. His eyes were bigger, blacker. His nose was shorter but more hawk-like. The lines in his face were deeper, more numerous and the colour of his beard was white with a few flecks of grey. He looked older than the other two and indeed was. At 753,984 years old he was some 359,124 years Apal'be's senior and the 1,284-year-old Cre'at was trailing far behind.
"Cre'at, Lord Macfadyan of Gallifrey, let me introduce you to Minister Urk'et, Professor Sot'm's Chief Whip." Apal'be held his open hand towards the stranger to indicate to the travellers who the subject was, not that there could be any doubt.
Urk'et moved towards the Timelord and offered his hand, familiar as he was with many off-world customs. The Buccaneer, somewhat reluctantly, shook his hand. "A pleasure to meet you," Urk'et said towards the Buccaneer. He turned slightly to address Cre'at "and I've heard so much about you, Cre'at, we were beginning to get worried!" he said warmly. Like Apal'be's voice his sounded much more natural than Cre'at's and culturally refined but slightly deeper and more powerful. "I'll take over from here Apal'be, thank you."
"Yes, Minister," Apal'be bowed slightly to Urk'et and then Cre'at before leaving the room by the second door, which Urk'et had entered by.
"I'm so very sorry to hear the committee are stone-walling you. I am also sorry I had to leave half way through. I thought it important to inform Professor Sot'm of your request directly." Urk'et paused for dramatic effect. "You'll be pleased to hear, however, that the Professor would like to talk with you about it,"
For a moment Urk'et just looked at each of the other four, clearly expecting some kind of reaction. It was slow to come as the others were waiting for the Buccaneer to answer but he didn't. Instead, Colin decided to take charge.
"That's wonderful, thank you," Colin paused to look at the Buccaneer for direction but none was forthcoming so he turned to Cre'at. "We'd very much like to meet with Professor Sot'm and discuss this issue."
"Yes." Cre'at added simply.
"Lord Macfadyan?" Urk'et fished.
"Fine." he said firmly and insincerely. "I'm going to take Blanche back to the ship and catch up with you." As she heard her name Blanche belched and giggled to herself.
Cre'at and Colin were lead through a maze of corridors with green carpets and light brown panelled walls.
"I thought you said Professor Sot'm hasn't been seen in over a hundred years?" Colin asked Crea't.
"He has not." Cre'at replied.
"That is to say he hasn't been seen in public for over a hundred years. He's a very busy person and is engaged in maters of state most of the time." Urk'et added.
"Ah, I see." Colin replied as if all was suddenly clear to him, though it wasn't.
"A hundred years, even several hundred, is no great time on Sotus. It may surprise you to hear that the Professor is believed to be over one point three million years old."
"Believed to be?" Captain Curtis asked.
"Not even Professor Sot'm remembers his exact age." interjected Cre'at.
"Is he the oldest?" the human asked his Sot'm companions.
"Oh, yes. He is the only remaining first generation Sot'm left. General consensus says he was the first but we don't like to ask him." Urk'et replied smiling weakly.
"What happened to the others? Can Sot'ms die of old age?" Colin asked, suddenly feeling slightly curious, almost sensing there was some dark story surrounding all this.
"It is possible. A critical component failure not treated quick enough. It is rare." Cre'at answered the only part of Colin's question he could.
"Back in those days we were few. Times were hard, we were trying to build a new civilisation. We did not have much in the way of, what you would term, medical infrastructure. Most of them died in accidents, even today that is most common form of death amongst our people. Though it is, thankfully, rare." Urk'et simplified.
"You're not first generation then?" Colin asked Urk'et.
"Me? Goodness me, no." Urk'et laughed. "I'm third generation. There are only three others older than myself, not including Professor Sot'm. They are all third generation too."
"Cre'at?" Colin prompted.
"Yes?" the young Sot'm replied in his usual way.
"What generation are you?" Colin asked as if he were talking to someone who hadn't been paying attention.
"I am twenty ninth generation. My lineage goes back to true first generation Sot'ms." Cre'at said in his most proud voice.
"Yes, I knew Cre'at's originating progenitor. He outlived mine by quite some time. My line was obviously already in third generation by the time his entered the second." Urk'et paused in thought, as if he were remembering the distant past. He returned from his far away thoughts to look at Colin. "You can get an impression of how old a Sot'ms line is by the lineage name. Generally speaking, the simpler it is the older the line. Cre'at's as 'at' and my own of 'et' are very early."
"I see…" Colin was about to ask more but they stopped at a large set of doors at the dead end of a corridor.
"Here we are." Urk'et announced as the two doors swung open. "Professor Sot'm is expecting you, please go in. I'm sure we will meet again later." Urk'et guestured towards the gloomy room beyond.
The two travellers cautiously entered the dim room. An ancient musty air prevailed in the cavern. To both of them it felt as if they were desecrating holy ground, untouched for millennia. The walls were made of rough, irregular, pale grey rock. Wooden, truly wooden, bookcases obscured many sections of wall and two large stone tables sat close to the east and west walls. Upon the tables sat primitive scientific and writing instruments. At the very end of the room, directly opposite the solitary doors sat a plinth.
Colin looked about the room wondering where Professor Sot'm was. Confused he followed after Cre'at who was moving towards the plinth. As Colin approached it he realised that it was not fastened to the wall as he had first assumed, instead it just sat motionless in mid air. Upon it sat an open book. The top half of the first page had a striking picture of an alien landscape. Under the picture was a strange but beautiful hand written script. He, correctly, assumed the other pages of the book contained a continuation of the script.
Cre'at was staring down at the book when Colin caught up with him. It was then that the human noticed the picture was changing. The alien sky was filled with angry dark red clouds. Where the similarly red ocean met the sky on the horizon there was a faint orangey glow to the sky. Upon the unwelcoming red sea small tall rocky islands jutted forth. Each island was shaped like a mountain that had been snapped from the ground and balanced atop a tapered base. These impossible islands continued for as far as the eye could see, all similar but yet unique. Most were twin islands, their mountainous tops melded to another, desperate for support on their tiny bases. The image zoomed in and out and panned around a particular island. The island in question appeared hewn out as small holes in the rough rocky exterior emanated light.
"What the…" Colin whispered in awe to Cre'at.
"It is Age Five," Cre'at whispered back in respectful tones. "Professor Sot'm's sanctuary."
"Do we have to go there? How?"
"Yes." Cre'at placed a hand onto the page of the book. As he did so he vanished to a reverberating sound.
Colin stepped back in surprise and alarm. He unthinkingly looked about himself to relocate Cre'at. Composing himself he moved back towards the book to look down at the picture. Holding his breath he put his right hand down on the page.
It was about the strangest experience he had ever had. Colin was quickly getting used to the idea of travelling through time and space with a Timelord. They had the occasional bumpy ride but essentially there was no sensation associated with such travel. This was quite different. He felt himself being drawn towards, no, into the book. Pulled into the very fibres of the page. He became light headed and it took his mind a few, very fast, heartbeats to realize he had arrived.
"Welcome to Age Five, organic." a raspy mechanical voice said.
The Buccaneer closed the door to Blanche's room in the TARDIS a little softer than he had intended. He just managed to stop himself reopening it so he could slam it closed. It wouldn't have woken her in her current state anyway.
Returned to the console room, The Buccaneer quickly checked to make sure the telepathic circuits were not attempting to reactivate themselves. Where ever it was they were trying to drag the ship, and he had a pretty good idea, now was not the time. He needed to make preparations in an attempt to cheat fate. He needed… He paused to think as best he could these days. He needed something from Colin. He didn't know why exactly. Probably it wasn't even his own thought, more that of his ship. Telepathic circuits or no, it had a way of guiding him. In his quiet moments he knew he was losing his mind. He knew the ship was trying to help him. Right now he knew he needed Colin's thoughts. He prepared the TARDIS for the human's return.
"Thank you for seeing us, Professor," said Cre'at's familiar voice.
Colin's eye slowly regained the ability to focus after the journey and he turned slightly to see the two Sot'ms. Before he could really take in his surroundings he doubled over in pain with a coughing fit and asphyxiation.
As the UNIT soldier rolled onto the floor his coughing subsided. Instead he felt incredibly tired. The smell that had stung his lungs still wafted into his nostrils and caught in his throat. He thought it smelt a lot like sulphur. He considered asking about it, after he had a quick nap. He slowly drifted into unconsciousness.
Cre'at turned with a look of panic to Professor Sot'm. The ancient Sot'm smiled to himself. He was larger than Cre'at and looked every bit his age of over a million years. His beard was particularly striking as most of the strands had completely lost all colouration to be virtually transparent. Careful observation showed tiny dull specks of light slowly running up each, in a totally uncoordinated manner. The metal on his face, which on Cre'at was smooth and had rubber like qualities, was sagged and almost immobile. All of the metal on the Professor's exterior was dull and tarnished. The only colour on the aged Sot'm was his eyes. Like Cre'at's they were large rounded off squares that almost resembled a pair of sunglasses. Where Cre'at's were a dark colour Professor Sot'm's were a glorious piercing colour. Exactly what colour was unclear. The harder you looked at them the less sure you were exactly what colour they were. The colour remained constant but from one moment to the next an observer would be almost sure they could identify it and then be almost as sure it was an entirely different colour.
"Don't worry Cre'at. He'll be alright. Sotus has a much higher oxygen content than here. That and the shock of a first link. Once his body has acclimatised he'll be fine." rasped the Sot'm leader.
"That is good." Cre'at replied.
"I hear the Committee has gone against you?"
"Yes. They are afraid to stand up against the humans."
"No. I know little of this species but I do know they are little threat to us. They are a young and divided civilisation. Your timing is bad. The committee you saw was already in session when you arrived, debating another issue. That is how they could see you so quickly."
"What issue?" Cre'at said in a way that suggested Professor Sot'm need not answer if he did not want to.
Professor Sot'm looked away, out of a window to the red world beyond. "There were two deaths at the games yesterday. It was an accident, of course, but our people have taken it hard."
The two Sot'ms remained silent for a few moments. After only a couple of minutes unconsciousness Colin began to awake. The first thing that struck him was the sulphurous air. Stiffling another bout of coughing he eased himself up into a sitting position and pulled his knees up to rest his head upon. "Urr, where am I?" he asked and immediately regretted the clichéd question.
"Age Five" replied Cre'at who had come over to his side to see how he was.
"We're inside that book?"
"No." corrected Professor Sot'm in his usual strained mechanical voice. "That is an Age Book. It Linked you to here. Transported you."
"Age Book?" Colin asked as he slowly rose to his feet to move towards an ornate stool like object.
"Yes. I wrote this world as you see it. We have a very special art known as Age Writing. Using special paper and inks with a highly specialised and complex descriptive language we can link to any world we can imagine."
"Even impossible worlds? Worlds where, I don't know," Colin's imagination flagged, "the impossible happens?"
"No. There are very specific rules in Writing. The laws of physics always apply, even when at first it may appear otherwise. It is all too easy to Write badly and those worlds are doomed. It takes a special kind to be able to Write and centuries of training."
"Oh," Colin muttered not really understanding anything he was being told.
"So what exactly is it you are asking of us?" Professor Sot'm asked looking towards Cre'at.
"We believe Karn is about to be invaded by the humans." Cre'at said matter of factly.
"Well, not all of us are going to invade. Apparently an Earth corporation believes the secret to eternal life or youth or something is there and they want to, well, steal it." Colin added.
"Ah, this elixir I have heard of. On the very border of Gallifreyan space. I assume this isn't an official request from the High Council. They wouldn't need our help. Is the Buccaneer working alone still?" the Professor asked.
"Yes. He requests our help in repelling the attack." Cre'at stated.
"Hmm," Professor Sot'm said, which in his voice sounded akin to a mechanic engine.
"Look, he wanted me to talk to you and impress upon you how important this mission is." Colin said to a now expectant looking Professor Sot'm. "From what I gather this invasion could seriously upset the balance of power in this region. Look upon it as a peace keeping mission."
"The Timelords would be upset, certainly. They have opened a very positive dialog with the Sisterhood. They would like to use the elixir when regenerations go wrong. There is little strategic threat, however. The humans pose no real danger to either ourselves or the Gallifreyans." Professor Sot'm said thinking aloud.
"Yes but if we, er, the humans, can take a planet so central what's next? What signal does that give out to the races that are the real threats?" Colin countered.
The Buccaneer securely closed the TARDIS exterior doors by pulling together hay as if it were a pair of curtains and muttered something about being sure he had fixed the chameleon circuits. Using a key he double locked the doors. He trusted the Sot'ms to a certain extent but there were darker forces at play in his universe now.
He turned and walked through a rift back to the anti-chamber they had first been led to. A familiar Sot'm, Urk'et, met him there to point him in the direction of Professor Sot'm's office.
"Follow this corridor down to the end, turn left and Professor Sot'm's office is at the very end of the corridor." the imposing Sot'm pointed.
The Timelord made his way down the surprisingly long corridors and found himself wondering what damage of the other two's he will have to repair. He couldn't believe his own stupidity, he should have left Colin to take Blanche back to the ship, or better still just left her and activated another Blanche clone in her place.
Colin eased himself back down on his stool and rubbed his eyebrows with his right thumb and fingers. "This thin air is still getting to me. What was I saying?"
"It's not important I've made my decision. We'll have to put it before the full Assembly and I'll recommend they help." Professor Sot'm said modestly. It was unheard of for the Assembly of Bureaucrats to go against one of Professor Sot'm's recommendations but this time was likely to be trickier than most.
"Thank you." Cre'at said blandly.
"We must get things in motion. Apal'be will try every stalling tactic in his book to prevent this going ahead. Urk'et will help push this through. I sometimes wonder what I would do without him."
"I thought Apal'be was your assistant?" Colin asked in a slightly lightheaded manner.
"He is." Professor Sot'm stated flatly. He turned to Cre'at. "I have to warn you Cre'at, we are in no way involved but…" he paused when he saw Cre'at was looking concernedly towards Colin. Noticing the human was again lapsing into semi consciousness he changed the subject. "We should return to Sotus." He moved over towards a small conventional podium with another book. This book was noticeably smaller and slimmer and considerably less ornate. Picking the book up he brought it over to Colin.
Forcing himself awake Colin looked down at the book being held in front of him. It was a Linking Book. Professor Sot'm held the book open so the Linking Page was visible with its image of the Professor's cavern office slowly panning around. Understanding what was required of him Colin placed a hand onto the page and vanished.
The Professor offered the book to Cre'at who also placed a hand upon the Linking Page and returned to Sotus. Taking the book back to the podium, so it wouldn't fall and hit the ground when he used it, Professor Sot'm returned the book and placed his own hand upon the page.
As the Buccaneer approached Professor Sot'm's office he heard the sound of two people linking and then voices. Feeling increasingly paranoid he listened at the door as a third link occurred.
"Are you feeling any better?" Professor Sot'm asked Colin moments after he joined them in his office.
"Yes, a lot thank you. I'm really beginning to wake up now."
"Good. As I was saying Cre'at, a Timelord, claiming to be from the Celestial Intervention Agency, paid us a visit recently. He was asking about the Buccaneer."
"They think he is dead." Cre'at stated looking concerned.
"At least one Timelord knows otherwise. We didn't know you would be arriving here so soon afterwards otherwise we would - "
Outside the room the Buccaneer pulled away from the door and began looking around like a trapped animal. "They wouldn't betray me, they couldn't. They have! NO!" he went to run but his body was pulling in five different directions at once leaving him stuck to the stop. "No, no, keep control. Keep control." he soothed to himself in an attempt to calm down.
Meanwhile back in the office Professor Sot'm continued "- have made sure he was away even quicker and perhaps sent him after a decoy."
"We should be safe, for now." Cre'at added. "Would the Timelords be angry with us?"
"Perhaps, you know how jealous they are to remain monopolisers of time. You can imagine the type of claims they would make."
In the corridor outside the office the Timelord regained his cool enough to return to listening at the door.
"We are trying to steal the Timelord's secrets of time travel." Cre'at stated the possible interpretations that came to mind. "We want to overthrow them and all organics to become the true masters of Space/Time." he continued. "We will hijack his TARDIS and wreck havoc with time."
This was the Buccaneer's worst nightmares. He positively leapt away from the door. For a second he considered confronting his traitorous companion but instead opted to run full steam back to his ship. Yes, he knew Cre'at was a temporal scientist and was keen to learn more of his chosen science, he was more or less happy with that. This though. He had been betrayed by the Sot'ms on two levels. Presumably they had contacted the CIA and primed them to deal with him when he got in their way. They would boot him out of his own ship and send him back to Gallifrey as a prisoner, or worse. They would destroy time with their mindless vandalism of the time lines. Caught up in these thoughts he ran as he had never run before and for the first time in centuries felt entirely alone and betrayed.
Apal'be had an appalled look on his face as he listened to Professor Sot'm's decision. "Really, Professor, are you sure you have considered all the implications?"
"Yes, Apal'be, I have made my decision." Professor Sot'm rasped.
"You might create a dangerous precedent." Apal'be paused to let his précis sink in before embarking on the full onslaught. "What I mean is that I am fully seized of your aims and of course I will do my utmost to see they are put into practice. To that end I recommend that we set up an inter-departmental committee with fairly broad terms of reference so that at the end of the day we will be in a position to think through the various implications and arrive at a decision based on long term considerations rather than rush prematurely into precipitous and possibly ill conceived action which might well have unforeseen repercussions."
"No, it's no good Apal'be, my mind is made up. Contact the various departments and prepare them for this possible decision by the Assembly."
"Yes, Professor." Apal'be left the small group knowing he had been beaten.
Professor Sot'm watched Apal'be leave before looking at Cre'at, Colin and resting his gaze on Urk'et.
"I'm going to have to rely upon you again, Urk'et." the Sot'm leader said.
"As ever it is my duty and honour to serve, Professor. I'll keep the troops in line, put a bit of stick about. You can be sure the ministers will vote along with you." Urk'et replied in his natural and charming tones.
"Thank you, I knew I could trust you." Professor Sot'm turned to address Cre'at and Colin. "You will have a final decision before sun down. You are welcome to wait here or return to your vessel. We'll contact you as soon as there is news."
Ber'cott surveyed the spartan bridge of his World Devourer. The three hundred kilometre wide structure when viewed from ‘above' resembled a hexagon containing a star pattern, each of the stars points joining one of the hexagons corners. On each arm of the star a massive pyramid sat and six more, smaller, ones sat in a circular pattern around the center of the star. It was these structures that generating the incredible forces to crush a planet or star into its component atoms and draw them into the great vessel.
Looking down into the Lower Crew Pits Captain Ber'cott received a nod from one of the four occupants. He then looked up to the Upper Crew Pits above his head and again received a slight nod of acknowledgement from one of those four Sot'ms.
"Open rift and take us home." Captain Ber'cott commanded his crew in a standard but slightly gruff Sot'm mechanical voice.
The mighty starship glided its massive bulk through the virtually invisible rift back to the Sotem Spiral, the Sot'm's home system. Behind them the invisible edges of the rift closed to reveal the blackness of space, as it should appear from that point in the universe. The only obvious effect was that of the World Destroyer being eaten away from the sides until it disappeared entirely.
Though his bridge was located safely within the heart of the ship Ber'cott was given a total seven hundred and twenty degree view via perfect projections of the outside, obscured only slightly by the pit crews, their consoles and the grey translucent deck panels above and below him. He could see he was the last to arrive. Two other World Devourers were waiting along with twenty-four ten thousand kilometre destroyers, each resembling a symmetrical four armed cross.
It represented only a small portion of the entire Sot'm fleet but nonetheless Ber'cott had never before seen so many together at once. The rest of the fleet continued on their routine missions such as protecting Sot'm borders, a minimal amount of trading, a small amount of diplomatic travel, a certain amount of war games usage that the Sot'm public so enjoyed be involved with and a lot of exploration of far away galaxies for, mainly, mining purposes. There were spread thin but no Sot'm craft was ever more than a few minutes away from Sotus with their rift technology.
Sot'm ships had, rarely, been involved with minor skirmishes but never had they been involved in a true war. Very few civilisations could stand up to the potential military might of the Sot'm race and as such conflict was rare indeed. Because of this fact the Sot'ms tended to consider armed conflict a game and recreational pastime. Though safety was paramount it did give the true military plenty of opportunities to train and keep in practice.
Ber'cott mentally prepared himself for the task ahead and wondered what is would be like to travel inside a Gallifreyan time machine.
The Buccaneer paced about the TARDIS console room, pausing occasionally at a candle to blow it out only for it to reignite when he turned his back on it. Somehow the soothing background hum of the ship calmed him and before long he gave up pacing and sat at the edge of a stream that ran through his control room. Putting a hand in he pushed it against the current as if willing the inevitable flow to halt or reverse. It did nothing of the kind, instead flowing around his hand and through his fingers. He compared the size of his hand to the width and depth of the stream and realised he was wasting his time.
It had been several hours since he had overheard the conversation in Professor Sot'm's office and he had seen nothing of the others. Blanche, presumably, remained asleep in her room and Cre'at and Colin hadn't returned to the ship. The Timelord had considered leaving Sotus but his better judgement had won through when he realised just how much he needed help from the Sot'ms. He might not trust them but he did need them, at least for the moment. He sensed, with a certainty he hadn't felt for a long time, that he was about to enter a dangerous situation and he found himself drawing on every last ounce of inner strength to hold himself together over the coming days.
The sound of the main doors to the exterior of the ship opening wrenched the Buccaneer from his thoughts. For a second he felt a resurgence of anger bubble up but something dampened it back. Through the doors came Cre'at and then Colin. Cre'at moved straight towards the console in the center of the room to close the doors. Colin strangely paused just inside the ship and his eyes darted about as if he sensed imminent danger.
"What the..?" Colin exclaimed as he brought his hands up to cover his face. His life flashed before his eyes and he collapsed unconscious onto the console room floor.
Cre'at rushed over to him after triggering the door close mechanism. "He may have been affected by the atmosphere on Age Five." the Sot'm said to the now standing Timelord.
"No, that's not it. He'll be okay in a few minutes. Are they ready?" the Buccaneer said in a cold voice.
"Yes, they are on the edge of the Sotem Spiral ready to be brought aboard." Cre'at replied as he pulled one of Colin's arms from an awkward position behind he soldier's back.
As the Buccaneer silently prepared the craft to materialize around the massive Sot'm armada Cre'at gently lifted the human and took him back to Colin's room.
By the time the Sot'm had returned the Sot'm vessels were aboard but not before a sickening lurch and various controls on the console had sparked and smoked. Now, deep in the pocket dimension that was the time vessels interior sat the gigantic Sot'm warships, waiting for battle.
"Alright, let's get this over with." the Buccaneer said as he flipped a switch that reengaged the TARDIS telepathic circuits. Sure enough the ship dematerialised itself from Sot'm space and found itself dragged towards its fateful destination.