All Doctor Who, all the time … this started out as a bit of fan fiction, with the main difference being that I used my own writing as the crossover material. I’ve always wondered how these guys might fare in the Whoiverse. Now this looks like it could shape up to be an honest-to-goodness short story.
I’m out of practice with fanfic anyway. This was fun.
Megalorn Gant – professor, explorer, inventor, visionary – crossed the vaulting space of his lab and fiddled with some equipment that really doesn’t bear naming, let alone explaining because doing so is just going to turn this into a festival of technobabble well ahead of schedule. If it helps at all, one of the bits of machinery looked like an umbrella with no cloth and its spokes all set at different angles. Another one looked like a vertical metal doughnut with a small radar dish on top, and another one looked like glassblower pornography.
It was some complicated stuff, but then Gant was a complicated fellow. You had to be, if you were attempting to master paradox-free time travel.
Gant – he’d always gone by his family name in spite of the fact that he’d disowned them for calling him ‘Megalorn’ – knew that by all conventional universal rules, time travel as popularly understood was not scientifically possible. That was why his kind generally opted to use those same rules, and that same science, to just damage time instead. He considered it a bit tacky, actually.
Still, if the rules of the universe wouldn’t allow it, there was a stunningly simple solution.
Gant made a final adjustment to the – oh, see, I almost told you what it was then – and a hole between his universe and another one entirely popped open.
It opened only for a tightly-controlled nanosecond, a bright crack like a jagged little smile in the air directly above the white-floored staging area. Then the machinery cut off the connection and the rift was gone. Gant consulted the mass of readings that his equipment had collected in that nanosecond, the lenses of his helmet swiftly filtering the glaring afterimage of the crack from his optic nerves.
Gant, it should probably be mentioned, was dressed in the traditional research garb of his species: functional boots and vest, protective bands of metal with more hideously overcomplicated machinery inside them, and heavy-yet-sensitive gloves. The helm resting on his broad shoulders was – again, as traditional – shaped into a gleaming bronze skull, its eye sockets lined with multipurpose lenses, its folded nasal cavity sealed off with filters and electronics, and its gleaming-fanged upper jaw melding smoothly into his collar. The Gant family took the stylised skull of an Atrogoyna AgaXidh – a Godran, to the layman – as its sigil. The Godran was a subspecies of Molran so the skull looked exactly the same and thus rather dull, with its broad flat top, flaring ear-ribs like skeletal wings on either side and elongated incisors gleaming in the wide, grinning mouth. Gant never got tired of explaining the physically minor but taxonomically very important differences between the Atrogoyna AgaXidh and the Atrolimba AgaXidh, and nobody else ever got tired of ignoring him.
It only took a couple of seconds for Gant to realise that, nanosecond or not, the rift had been open for long enough for something to come through. Something, evidently, insanely fast. By the time he straightened from his examination of the instruments and began to turn, the life-form was behind him, a cool grey finger touching his arm.
Gant completed the turn and performed a quick visual scan of the creature. It was standing motionless, finger extended, as if it had turned to stone as soon as it touched him. It was humanoid, winged, robed, all of it one seamless piece. Gant – largely on account of not having one of his own – wasn’t particularly good at gauging expressions but he tentatively identified the look on its smooth stone face as one of absolute and slightly-pained surprise. As he watched, a flush of sooty black crept over the life-form’s finger like fast-growing mould, creeping up to its forearm before slowing. A second later, the thing’s pointing hand crumbled into dark grey dust and drifted to the floor.
When the stunned-looking figure gave no sign of being about to move, Gant activated his instruments and lenses and performed a more thorough scan.
“Oh,” he said, “I see. Observed-reality defence … actually composed of stone, but only when observation collapses the probability into … that’s very clever,” he gave a little chuckle of admiration. “No wonder you’re so fast. Got nowhere in particular to be until someone sees you there, eh?”
The stone humanoid said nothing, but that was more or less to be expected.
“Let’s see if we can get a bit more out of you,” Gant turned and crossed to a nearby desk and rummaged for a moment before producing a – no, I’m still not telling you what it is, but this one looked like a little golden sparkplug – on a long, slim cord. He turned back, and clucked in amusement. The life-form hadn’t approached him again, evidently realising its primary mode of attack – attack, Gant wondered, or feeding?– wasn’t working out as intended. Instead it had flicked off to look for a way out of the lab. But since the lab was sealed, and the creature had never even been in this universe before, it had simply fetched up in a corner, facing the wall with its remaining hand over its face. There was something charmingly vulnerable about it, and Gant chuckled again.
He looped the cord around the creature and connected it end to end, then tapped on the sparkplug bit. The coil stiffened, lit up red, and floated into the air to hover around the life-form’s stone waist – yes, like a hula hoop. Gant checked the settings, then deliberately turned his back. The creature, of course, did not move. The loop was a quantum observing device – and that’s all I’m going to say – and the life-form was now in permanent view. If he’d assessed its defence mechanism correctly, this would render it permanently immobile.
“Now,” he said, “let’s see what else we can see.”
For a while he studied the creature, ascertaining that it fed by touch, and in a singularly astonishing way. It was difficult to assess in this universe, but it looked like…
“Time energy?” he murmured. “Time … energy? Time doesn’t have energy. And yet … if contact is supposed to move a living thing back through time, while simultaneously maintaining its position in space … why, it would age at a normal rate, until it died sometime after catching up with its own timestream, and that time potential could be…” he hissed in awe. “You feed on that? And that works in your universe?” he leaned in and looked directly into the stone eye that the creature’s missing hand left bare. “And nothing stops you? Leviathan’s hooks, your universe must be an absolute shambles.”
Gant clucked again, and went back to his examination. Sure enough, it seemed like the creature had some sort of facility for absorbing a form of energy that didn’t exist – couldn’t exist – in this universe. That was why it had injured itself trying to feed from him. Gant almost trembled with excitement. Was it possible that – had he contacted this creature in its own universe – he would have travelled in time?
He had to go there.
“I’m going to reverse the observation on this device,” he said, fiddling with the sparkplug again. “It will render you technically unobserved, and should allow us to…” the loop glowed blue, and the creature lowered its hands and stepped fluidly to one side before freezing and staring at Gant in miserable shock. “Strange, yes? Your eyes tell you I’m looking right at you, but your body’s convinced otherwise. Can you talk?”
“This place cannot feed me,” the life-form said in a high, harmonious voice. “I am starving and I burn.”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Gant murmured, and crossed back to his workstation. The creature hesitated, and he waved it over impatiently. “Oh come here, I should be able to synthesise something to nourish you, the basic energy signature’s much the same as…” he lapsed into muttered techno-gibberish, then finally produced a gleaming hemisphere of dark metallic stone with a flickering mechanical interface on its underside. He pressed this against the life-form’s torso as it sidled closer, and it shrieked. “Oh hush,” Gant twisted on the sparkplug and dampened the sound, leaving the creature to twist and make faces in silence. “It’s not going to taste very good, but it will feed you. Now…”
Gant made some preparations, then crossed back to his main experimental interface and entered a few commands. The rift, which had appeared previously on top of an existing instability, flicked open again and stayed open, this time spreading from a jagged little arc into a wide, smooth rectangular doorway of brilliant plasma. Gant let his lenses dial down the luminosity again, and spent a few minutes equipping himself for a brief fact-finding jaunt. As an afterthought, he activated a chameleon protocol in his uniform to make himself resemble a winged, robed humanoid made of grey stone, complete with stone-fur-topped humanoid head instead of the handsome skull of an Atrogoyna AgaXidh.
“What?” he said, noticing that the thing had stopped squirming and screaming and was now smiling broadly. He flicked the volume control back over.
“Nothing,” the humanoid said, its voice soft and melodious once more, “please step through into Cardiff looking like that.”
“What’s Cardiff?” Gant waved his hand dismissively. “I’ll go through, run some basic experiments, and come back to collate my findings. Oh,” he turned back and adjusted the floating loop to red once again, locking the life-form in place. “I’ll need to take a sample with me in case I can’t find any others of your kind. This should be enough to establish an interlink with your preposterous time energy system, and take readings on how your feeding process works.”
He severed the creature’s other arm at the elbow, hefted the smooth stone in his own grainy grey hand, then stepped through the doorway.