Entropy's Edge

By Daniel Spragg

The room spun wildly out of control, its many sides twisting and blurring into one another, creating a kaleidoscopic effect within the Time Travel Capsule. Rogan could see the five others around the console swimming through the thick air in nightmarish slow motion fighting with their respective panels as frantically as the temporal disturbance would allow them. Even his thought processes seemed to be unbearably slow as he absorbed what was happening.

‘Systems are unresponsive,’ Clea reported. He shuddered as the force of her words vibrated through his very being. He attempted a tortured glance in her general direction, which seemed to be in several different places at once, but was distracted by the harsh sound of shattering plastic. Rogan twisted to see one of the officers impact with one of the transparent screens that connected the raised walkway with the ceiling. Plastic shards cascaded over everyone as his body smashed into the screen, deactivating its displays in the process, to lie unmoving on the walkway. The prolonged snapping of the officer's neck would stay in Rogan's mind forever.

As he turned his head towards Clea, reality returned to the console room, and she came together once more into a comfortable number of dimensions.

‘Defensive shield layers?’ was his first suggestion, as he clutched his forehead, attempting to pull himself together.

‘Achieved. All systems are functioning at eighty-five percent capacity, but rising,’ Clea read off her displays, then adding, ‘Dematerialization scrambled.’

‘We should initiate a distress transmission to Gallifrey,’ the officer beside Rogan put forward calmly.

‘Agreed.’ He dropped into his chair, clicking the bones into his neck. ‘Is he dead?’ Rogan inquired exhaustively, gesturing to the fallen officer, now that priority issues had been addressed. Another officer moved to kneel beside the crumpled form. After a short while he rose and revealed his diagnosis.

‘Our associate has sustained a damaged spinal column, just below the cerebral cortex. An induced regeneration will be necessary to restore his life.’ The four officers at the console looked at each other.

‘Are we in compliance?’ an officer asked concernedly.

‘Affirmative,’ they responded.

‘Time and conditions of regeneration must be recorded.’ Clea added.

‘Confirmed.’ A glow covered the fallen body, then slowly subsiding revealing a new body underneath. The officer was carried away by two officers.

‘I suggest that once systems have resumed optimum efficiency conduct maximum resonance scans of this area...’ Rogan said.

‘We don't have a visual connection with the exterior, and the primary scans are coming up with nothing,’ Clea interrupted.

‘So we have no way of telling where, exactly, we are?’ he queried.

‘It's difficult to say - it could just be localized, outside interference, which can be filtered out, with a little time.’ She could see that she was wasting her own time with the explanation as he furrowed his brow.

‘That may be exactly what we don't have,’ he replied. ‘Do you have any ideas as to what happened to us?’ he asked.

‘I'm sorry, it could have been any number of phenomena... a random time fluctuation or wave... a freak time wind-’

‘But nothing could have produced the enormous amount of energy that this ‘fluctuation’ required in order to catapult us right off the established timescale.’ They both looked at Brynn, one of the six officers who sat around the console.

‘Would you care to repeat that?’ Rogan asked in utter disbelief. The current monitoring range of the time vortex was absolute to the best of his knowledge.

‘We have shifted beyond the range of our chronometers...’ the officer continued. ‘Whenever we are, it's further into our future than we have ever been.’ Brynn had an excited expression on his face, like a child with a new toy.

‘We need to find out exactly what happened to us, and how.’ He cursed inwardly - they would have a hard time locating that chronova particle again. A gasp from Clea interrupted his thoughts.

‘Something with an enormous magnitude is approaching on an interception vector. Scans were not able to detect it with the interference...’ but her explanation was waved away.

‘Do we have a visual link yet?’ Rogan enquired.

‘Negative,’ she shook her head.

‘I suggest we move us in the opposite direction, keeping a sizeable distance from whatever it is.’

‘We have matched its velocity, but it is generating extensive and extremely powerful corrosive fields.’ Clea looked up from her panel in horror. ‘It has already begun to decay the first layer of the defensive shield,’ she said apprehensively.

‘Try to send a message to the oncoming object. Transmit that we are merely a harmless scientific vessel,’ an officer said.

‘I don't think any form of communication we have available to us is going to get through to it,’ Brynn replied slowly. ‘Look...’ he activated the now functional scanner to reveal a wall of constantly changing matter, which filled the entire screen. Its inconstant surface gave off many reflections, like a massive, infinitely fragmented mirror.

‘Can you identify what it is?’ he asked, absorbed, yet cautious. Brynn responded immediately, reading data from his panel.

‘Some sort of animated plasmic force, highly destructive in nature, indestructible composition, dimensions unknown...’

‘Unknown?’ Rogan cut in, unbelievingly.

‘Sensors are still trying to evaluate its volume, but it stretches further back than we can trace. At its current speed, I'd say it has been growing for a number of millennia. Surface area is indefinite - changing too fast. Volume is continually increasing,’ Brynn finished his rundown.

‘And therefore its velocity,’ an officer added worriedly.

‘How is it projecting that corrosive energy?’ Rogan queried concernedly.

‘Indeterminate, but the force itself is composed of a process similar to entropy, which is definitely the source of the fields.’

‘Is it sentient?’ Clea enquired, almost fascinated.

‘Impossible to tell, with all this residual interference blocking the exterior scan, but I would guess that it is more of a force of nature than a sentient being,’ Brynn answered her.

‘A completely new area for us to research into...’ an officer began, but stopped as the console room rocked violently.

‘The force has penetrated the first shield layer... compensating,’ Clea played over the sensors a while longer until the room levelled out.

‘Let's try moving away at double its present speed,’ he suggested, and felt a slight jolt beneath his feet.

‘We have been ensnared in some sort of attraction that the force is exerting. It must be generating a natural gravitational pull due to its sheer size.’

‘It's still gaining speed on us,’ Brynn announced, and stated the obvious. ‘We're not going to outrun it.’

‘Not many of the phenomena we have observed have given us cause to retreat in such a life-or-death situation,’ Clea replied sardonically.

‘I have completed my analysis of the initial time distortion,’ one of the officers spoke up, ‘although I am not sure of the exact nature of the...’ His colleagues looked impatient so he went straight to the point. ‘I think we can duplicate the cause, and therefore the effect.’ The room swayed once more.

‘The second layer of the defensive shield has been breached,’ Clea reported.

‘With the information available to us we could recreate the distortion, on a smaller scale of course. It would however overload the system, eradicating all the data we have collected due to...’ he trailed off as the others stared at him.

Rogan stared at the approaching force. Finally he spoke.

‘I think we are willing to accept that consequence.’

‘I'm emitting a shrouded surveillance probe,’ one officer spoke.

‘There is no guarantee that the data will reach Gallifrey from this far out, should we return...’ his colleague responded.

‘When we return,’ Rogan corrected the officer.

‘Probe emitted,’ she reported, as a beam of light arced its way across the time vortex. ‘Link established, transmitting information home, er, Gallifrey.’ The tension in her voice was obvious. The control room began to shudder.

‘Dematerialization circuits have been resequenced.’

‘Third layer of the defensive shields have been attenuated,’ Clea's voice held unmistakable panic. ‘Am unable to compensate. We must dematerialize now!’

‘New program set and running.’ The officer's hands moved over his panel. ‘Two seconds to dematerialization.’ On the screen the ever-changing wall of energy drew forward. ‘One second.’

A tiny explosion indicated the destruction of the probe. ‘Zero.’ Rogan held his breath, and contemplated the total destruction of himself and the research team for a brief moment in time.

‘The crew had put themselves into cardiovascular stasis. A TT Capsule recovered the deactivated research craft three days ago, drifting on the outskirts of the Kasterborous system, thirty-two million years in our future. One casualty was reported.’ He paused, allowing the information to sink in. ‘All onboard data was destroyed, so all we have is a verbal account.’ The seated figure in front of the Time Lord shifted, more in boredom than anything else. ‘A dangerous force of gigantic proportions is approaching us. The term ‘entity’ was frequently used to describe it. It is impervious and unstoppable, and would appear to be, at current timescale, five billion years into our future.’

‘So how is it a threat to us now?’

The Time Lord shifted uncomfortably. This required individual thought, he couldn't just refer to the relevant file.

‘Well, it has been observed that a moving object that gains mass incurs a relative gain in momentum...’

‘The more of the Time Vortex this ‘Entropy’ eats up, the faster it will become?’ the seated figure summed up.

Another Time Lord drew forth.

‘If I may interrupt?’

‘Of course Chancellor,’ the figure smiled, opening his arms to show he welcomed suggestions.

‘Why not collapse the nearest Q-star to it with the Stellar Manipulator.’

‘Brilliant! Create an engineered Quad-field and disperse it into the anti-matter frontier, annihilating it completely,’ someone added.

‘Why not use the Validium device to neutralize it?’ cried someone else.

‘And where would our last defence be?’ came a selfish response.

‘We could call on our special agent,’ someone suggested.

‘Yes,’ the Lord President replied, ‘he has aided us in the past...’

The small figure, who had watched quietly from the shadows of the High Council chamber, picked up his umbrella, and slipped quietly into his tall rectangular blue box, which later dematerialized.

This is one problem you will have to deal with yourselves for once, the Doctor thought to himself. Sometimes he was disgusted by the selfishness of his race. Let them worry about their fate.

It might do them good to feel their mortality.

This item appeared in Timestreams 5 (August 1995).

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