The Buccaneer Chronicles:
The Iytean Menace
By Keith Dunn (despite interference by Tony Gallichan and Adam J Purcell)
Part One - "Daisy, don't drown me this time."
Of Time and Takeover Bids
The galactic hub, somewhere near the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. Here the stars are packed so tight that even moonless planets experience nights that are moon bright, with a sky full of stars.
The planets in this sector were among the first to spawn intelligent life, it’s now healed by the Gamell Homogeny, a loose affiliation of worlds that have banded together for mutual protection. On their star charts this area of space is called sector 3102. But many still call the sector by its old name; Kasterberous, after the mythical Hero who was also known as the Fibster. There are still a few planets that remain independent of the homogeny, Sotus for example deals with lesser cultures, but likes to maintain a policy of genial neutrality. In another system nearby, the planet Karn is a blasted world whose population is spread across its surface and barely reaches 2000. Nobody has any interest in it, nobody goes there. Farther out in the system the gas giant Polarfrey moves with stately grace through its orbit. Then there is planet 113#4; a force wall that blocks any landings on its surface surrounds it. Any surveillance satellites put in orbit are destroyed utterly even unto their shadow and a polite requested to be left alone is sent via the Sot’m embassy. On the older star maps the planet is listed as Gallifrey, but the name and all it implies has long since past to legend.
The large room could only be described as a high tech office but in a Victorian style. Leather bound data tablets and info wafers were stored behind the oak desk. Holo projectors displayed information flat or in 3D above the desk. Standing in one corner dumped on a hat and coat stand were the regalia of the President of Gallifrey. She was sat at the desk, as with any government job the cosmos over the paperwork was the killer. Her golden hair was long and worn lose over her shoulders and for those times when she didn’t need to ware a public face, she wore a simple muslin shirt and slacks.
The door opened and the Lord Chancellor bustled in. He gave his embodied robes of office a yank to get them past the heavy door, shuffled over and placed a stack of info wafers on the deck. The Lady President looked up, “My Lord Chancellor, what’s the latest evaluation on the situation?”
Fishing out the correct wafer he slipped it in to the slot in the desk and a new screen opened above it, he also gave a verbal report, “As you can see the disturbance is growing and has already risen two points on the Boca scale since it was first detected.”
“Are there any operatives involved”?
“Just one. His bio data is listed. You may find it…interesting.”
The Chancellor pointed to the relevant section of the data and the Lady President had to check it twice before her brain registered, “ Well I’ve never heard of him or his house! I’ll have to investigate it further. Hmm… tricky. Activate a hazard team, inform them to just observe and formulate a response.”
Another region of deep space, rim ward of the galactic hub known on many galactic charts as Mutter’s Spiral. There is at this time in its history an unrecognised yellow sun known as Sol. Its inhabitants call the third planet in the system Earth. It is some decades into an industrial revelation. At this point in its history most of the planet is claimed by one small country on the northern hemisphere and any of the inhabitants of this country will tell you that “The sun will never set on the British Empire”.
The sewers spread for miles under the city of London, under every building Bannister had told him that “Didn’t know when the digging’s been this ‘ard” Jenkins complained. He was an agile, quick, almost bird like little man in a coarse workman clothing, somewhere in his mid twenties. Setting down his shovel, he removed his grubby bowler hat, produced a large red handkerchief and mopped his brow “Yer sure a bout yer ruddy map mate?”
His partner scowled in to the flickering light of the lantern “Shut up and dig you bloody fool!” He answered, his voice menacing and even. “Another fifty feet and we’ll be right under the bank”. In an undertone he added "Damned Cockney fool!”
“I ‘erd that” Jenkins said cheerfully. “Don’t go swearing at me, Jack Bannister. Or do yer want to dig yer own bleedin ‘ole?” He took up the shovel again and started once more, whistling as he dug. Making his taller, darker partner angrier then ever.
Bannister’s bearded face grimaced as he pulled back on the pick and attacked the surface of the tunnel ahead with renewed, savage determination. After a few minutes silence Bannister put his pick to one side with a grunt.
“This ones about full. You keep digging, Bert while I drag it back to the sewer line.”
Suiting his actions to his words, Bannister begin man handling the earth filled basket back down the narrow irregular dug tunnel, while Jenkins kept shovelling spadefull’s of dirt.
Suddenly his shovel struck a solid barrier, with a jarring clang, “Bleeding rocks!”
Jenkins tried another spot higher up, with the same result, and then a third. Finally he straightened up to his full, yet diminutive height, leaned on his shovel rubbing his back and muttering to him self, now less cheerfully, “Bit of a big one that!”
“Damn you Jenkins, if you keep stopping we’ll never get through!” Bannister said angrily, coming up behind him.
“T’aint my fault yer precious route runs up against some big rock”.
“Well dig around it then” Bannister ordered
“I already tried that, Jack” Jenkins voice was taking on a whining note.
“Garn on with yer, you make me sick” Bannister growled He pushed Jenkins out of the way and grabbed the pick, struck several blows. He stopped, staring down dumbfounded at the blunted end of the pick. He then started in again this time digging slowly and carefully until the barrier was exposed in the flickering lantern light. Then he took a critical look “This ain't no rock. Look its metal, like one of those ironclad battle ships in the docks”.
Jenkins pitched in to help enlarge the hole, “Look ‘ere Jack! There’s n ‘ole down ‘ere” He pointed to the twisted metal that bent inwards near the bottom of their tunnel.
Bannister considered for a moment “Lets dig it out. I don’t know what it is, but I want to find out!”
“Ant no reason for one o yer ironclads to be underneath Oxford street” Jenkins protested.
Bannister just glared at him “Dig out that hole!”
While Jenkins hesitated, Bannister continued, “Look all this metal must be made to keep something out. Maybe it’s a hidden vault of some kind.”
The Cockneys easy grin returned, "Well why didnchur say so first time? I bet yer roight… I bet there’s probably gold n silver n jools buried down there”.
The two of them went back to work, more eager than before “Ant no vault n that’s a fact”. Jenkins said an hour later as the two of them held their lanterns high and looked around them. The hole now revealed to be a huge rent in the large metal wall was behind them now. While before them was a vast darkened chamber filled with strange shapes. Even the odour from the sewers that wafted down their tunnels smelled less foul and stuffy in this room. Neither Jenkins nor Bannister liked the empty watchfulness of this that seamed to surround them in this room.
Bannister, trying to show he wasn’t as frightened as Jenkins by this strange place, was moving, slowly further in to the room, until he came to a wide curved console standing at almost chest height. Glass covered gauges and dials reflected the light of the lantern as he examined it. When he rested his hands on it he could feel a very slight but constant vibration. Come to think of it, the metal floor that had echoed loudly beneath them had a certain vibration, throbbing with hidden energy. As he looked down at the console his eyes came to rest on a small object that seamed to be held in place by an odd metal clamp. He spoke softly but nevertheless his voice echoed loudly round the chamber “Hey Bert, come and look at this”.
Jenkins joined him, his eyes darting everywhere “Wot is it Jack?”
Bannister fumbled with the clasps for a moment then removed the slender glass-like rod from the panel
“I don’t know… But it ain’t come from around here. It don’t look like nothing I ever seen before.”
He turned it over in his hands thoughtfully “Wot kind of place is this”? Jenkins’s demanded.
Bannister didn’t answer right away: His eyes focused on something far off, beyond the darkness, he spoke softly “I wonder, I wonder… Bert you remember that French fellow I told you about – that chap Verne?”
“The one with the balloons and that boat that went underwater and things? Wot about im?”
“He wrote about ships that could travel to the moon and back too!” There was silence. “Don’t you see Bert? This is a place relay is some kind of Ironclad, but not a boat, its another kind of ship, for travelling to other planets!”
Jenkins face showed scorn and disbelief “But who can do that? And wot’s it doing under the Capital and Counties Bank? Talk sense, Jack!”
Bannister shock his head slowly “Look around you Bert, this wasn’t built on Earth! I’ll bet it was buried here for a long, long time, as long as London’s been here maybe. But it didn’t come from Earth”.
“You mean it’s from the Moon, Jack?”
“Maybe so” Bannister said.
“Wot do we do about it then?”
Bannister smiled “If there’s more of this stuff around…” He held up the thin rod in his hand “Then we’ll get rich from it, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll sell junk from this place to any one who will pay. We’re the only ones who will know about this thing, and we’ll make a fortune selling gadgets and stuff.”
Jenkins grinned “Wot a notion! Wot an idea! There’s all sorts a’ rich folks just luv to collect useless stuff. Yer rioght jack!”
“All right then, lets look around for some more and see what else we can find, that we can take out tonight and sell off.”
Jenkins started to turn away, and then swung back suddenly “Yer don’t think any of theses moon men people to stop us, do yer Jack?”
“Ho come on Bert. I told you this thing must have been here for years. Since before this city was built. They’ll be long dead by now. Don’t worry about it”.
It knew time had gone by. Even a stasis pod only slowed down the flow of time, but didn’t halt it completely. But something was wrong, the trip to Prime world would not take as long as this. It should not have noticed the passage of time at all on such a short trip, outside centuries must have past. For it, many cycles had past since its last host had been killed and the monitors had taken it. Many cycles without food, without senses almost without life, only a miracle would free it now. The flicker in the smooth flow of awareness, so many cycles past must have been a crash or an explosion. The ship's crew must be long dead, but the ships power cells would maintain the stasis pod until the end of time and it would perish of multiply depravations long be for that.
Bert Jenkins set his lantern down on another console and squinted in to the gloom. It was the fourth room that he had explored and the strangeness of the dark circular, metallic world weighed heavily on him. He wished Bannister was with him, but Bannister had insisted that they explore their discovery separately. His patronising tone still echoed in his memories
“We’ll find more to cart off by morning if we look separately, Bert”.
Maybe Jack Bannister wasn’t afraid of the ship from the moon, but Jenkins was, all these strange shapes, and metal walls, doors to big and shelves to high off the ground. Jenkins hated the place and wanted to be done with it. But Bannister had said they would be rich. Jenkins had been working for Bannister for a long time now, making money and Bannister’s schemes had nearly always paid off.
Reluctantly, Jenkins took his lantern again resolving to trust his friend as he had so many times before, and kept searching for small removable pieces to sell. He was however to nervous to notice the button of the lantern had banged against a large button set in to the console until it was too late. Behind the console was a great spherical shell of dull grey metal, taller than a man and perfectly round. As Jenkins turned around, there was a noise that made him spin back and gasp. The sphere moved, the walls of it rolled back and slid down until only the bottom half remained. Jenkins stayed rooted to the spot in object terror, breath coming in short gasps, until gradually realising that nothing more was going to happen. Nothing had jumped out of the opening to attack him; nothing else moved or happened around him. All he saw was where the sphere had been was a shape like a shallow bowel within. The remaining half of the globe, a bowel that seemed to contain a small pool of liquid at the very centre.
“Wot’s this then?”
He took a few slow, cautious steps towards he bowl, raising his lantern higher to try and see what was inside. It seamed that the liquid within, more like thick oil than water was rippling somehow. But he wasn’t sure if it was real or just the flickering of the lantern light. He set the lantern down on the edge of the bowl and leaned forward to see better, placing a hand on the inner surface of the shallow depression. Quicker than the eye could follow the oily liquid moved, before Jenkins could react, it flowed up the side of the bowl and engulfed his hand. Jenkins found that he could not move even though he desperately wanted to scream and run. All he could do was watch as the strange liquid pooled around his hand, then thickened in to a slime jelly but at the same time dwindled before his terrified eyes.
Freedom! The pod was opening up and when the walls had slid apart, the cycles of slow time had ended at last. It sensed that sweet life was nearby. Now it must feed once more, and see and act, as it had not been able to do for so long. Though it could not see or hear in any way that we would understand it. Helpless as it was without a host, it could sense the presence and movement of life that was near it. It knew that this life was intelligent, but not giving the usual double aura of life that told of one of its own was riding an unintelligent host. If centuries had really passed outside the pod then the monitors that had caught it were long dead and this life was some other species that had found the ship. It would claim this life for its own. The sensations it makes would be glorious; it didn’t feel bound by the laws of its peers or the monitors. Now nothing could stand in its way. It sent out a feeler and encounter an appendage, it immediately jammed its neural net. Then gathered itself, slowly working its way into the pours in the aliens dermal layer. It entered its new host. As it distributed its three pounds of proto plasma thought the hosts body it probed the beings mind. Primitive, ignorant and stupid. But with a wealth of sensations, it was free. All that remained was to see if the host was subject to control and … the change. It probed, tightened its grip on the mind and body … and Bert Jenkins screamed in anguish.
He was still screaming when Bannister found him five minutes later.