Gant

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. “Timeenergy? 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.

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29 Responses to Gant

  1. Aaron says:

    Fun…and a nice bit of karma for the fearsome Angel. But…”actually composed of stone until observation collapses waveform”. Isn’t this backwards? Observation makes it actually composed of stone. Lack of observation collapses the waveform so it can move. Right?

    • stchucky says:

      Ooh, good point, actually I was missing a word there (was going to say “actually composed of mobile stone until…”, since we’ve seen the Angels move and they still appear to be made of stone then too … my view on the Angels was that they could move when lack of observation gave them uncertainty-benefit, but when observed the waveform collapses and they become statues. Either way, rephrased to fix.

      This is why you’re my fact-checker.

  2. dreameling says:

    While the science nerd in me tuts at you for applying a wave function to a macroscopic object, my inner sci-fi geek finds your observed-reality defense a very cool concept. It’s one of those things that feels unintuitive but in a very intuitive way. (I thank my macro-world brain.)

    • stchucky says:

      I’m not sure if “waveform collapse” is actually used in the show to describe how these things work, but they do have a quantum defence mechanism and I wanted to try to minimise use of that phrase so it wouldn’t be too derivative. It was, as mentioned, a fan-fiction piece and I can’t take any credit for the Weeping Angel – that’s a Whovian monster.

      Gant was all mine, but so far he’s just a scientist with a skull helmet, so not particularly exciting. His knowledge and understanding of how the creature works is a large part of the story, I’ve always been curious about how a Time Destroyer would fetch up against something from the Whoiverse. Maybe the Doctor himself, if I add to this story. But in Gant’s home-universe, cut off from its power, surrounded by Gant’s toys and abilities at full strength, the Weeping Angel had no chance. It only gets interesting (for me) when Gant steps through.

      So naturally I had to end the segment there.

      • dreameling says:

        Clearly, I really, really need to start watching Doctor Who if I’m to fully enjoy this blog. If that defense thingie comes from the series, then there’s already something cool there! In addition to the Pandorica Speech, of course.

        Weeping Angels were introduced in “Blink”, right? I think I get the title now. (And my inner science nerd’s beef is with Moffat, then.)

        But Time Destroyers are yours?

    • Not sure why I can’t reply to your next comment but this will have to do. Yes, “Blink” introduces the weeping angels, and it’s epic (I think I mentioned it elsewhere in his blog). There are several more episodes of Angels but, “spoilers!”, as River Song would say, so I won’t tell you which other ones. The other alien here, yes, is Chucky’s invention.

      And don’t tut-tut! The statue version of the angel isn’t actually what they are. It’s merely the form they assume when observed. No one knows what they are when unobserved, because, well the sci-fi geek in you doesn’t need me to explain that =D So it’s easy enough to assume they’re a collection of quantum-affected particles/elements/etc. when unobserved. Hence a wave function can apply. Fair enough?

      • dreameling says:

        Well, if I’ve understood quantum theory at all, for the Angel to possess a wave function, the wave function of each atom in its body would have to cohere with the wave function of every other atom — a 70 kg human apparently consists of something like 7 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 atoms, so that’s a lot to harmonize at the same time — in addition to which the Angel would have to be completely isolated from the rest of the universe, because any interaction would interfere with and therefore collapse the wave function(s). So, it’s just really improbable followed by practically impossible.

        But who cares. It’s still cool.

        (I tried reading a bit more about wave functions, quantum states, quantum coherence and decoherence, density matrixes and so forth on Wikipedia, to make sure I wasn’t totally full of shit, but fuck if I could understand anything beyond the introductory paragraphs. Too much math.)

      • I hear you, dreameling, but you’re still thinking of the angel statue as being in possession of a wave function. This is not the case, though if that’s what Chucky wrote then “Doom on You”, Chucky (as the Dodo from Ice Age said) and I can’t hold it against you, dreameling. I didn’t go back and check his story.

        When observed the Weeping Angel is just a stone statue, a gargoyle of an angel. Mass converted into seeming-stone. Who knows what it is when unobserved, maybe just one dense particle with a wave function (surely you can allow that to exist, did the cosmic egg have a wave function, you think? I think it would have. I haven’t read anything on that though.) So don’t think about the form it takes when unobserved. Because that is where the sci-fi device is utilized to make it quasi-scientific by making it just a big black box, so to speak.

        Does that work?

      • dreameling says:

        I know I started this, but I’m thinking this is one of those things were I just gotta check my science at the door. Based on “Gant”, the angel seemed like a creature that uses quantum-level-like behavior in a really cool way — even though quantum phenomena mostly disapper when you move from microscopic to macroscopic — but I’m just gonna assume that quantum mechanics works a little bit differently in Whoniverse, or that maybe Weeping Angels do not employ quantum mechanics as such. Is that ok? 🙂

        In the end, as long as a story is internally consistent in how its world works and things kinda make sense in the context of that world, I’m mostly good.

    • You know, I wonder if we’re having problems because of the phrasing correction that needed to be done, in our comments above. I messed up in what I was saying too, and this might be causing problems. But Chucky’s reply-comment gets it right. It’s a waveform when unobserved. When observed this collapses and it’s a stone statue. What I should have said is “lack of observation collapses the stone form” not the “waveform”.

  3. stchucky says:

    Oh yeah, they’re a Moffat creation, and really very cool. Almost as cool as The Silence. I’d recommend checking a lot of your specific science at the door if you’re going to try Who … but if you can handle Trek, Wars, Stargate and pretty much any Whedon without your head exploding into a cloud of does-not-compute confetti, you’ll be fine.

    And yeah, Gant (although it’s not really mentioned here), is a member of a species known as Time Destroyers, which isn’t very important except that he likes tooling around with time and space. And the reason I crossovered them, obviously, is that I only just realised how much they’re like the Whoiverse’s Time Lords. If anyone was going to rip a hole in the universe, it’d be those guys.

    • dreameling says:

      You know, as far as the science goes, if you just change “waveform” to “wave function”, I think we’re good. (Not that I’m actually telling you to change anything.)

      ST, SW, and SG are all pretty much fantasy masquerading as sci-fi, and ST’s technobabble is just that, technical-sounding nonsense, so I just give them all a pass (especially if the stories entertain and the characters engage). But when a show messes up something really obvious or basic — often when trying to scientifically explain something fantastical — I do cringe a little inside. For example, it amazes me how many shows forget Newton’s laws of motion. (ST gets this wrong all the time.)

      • stchucky says:

        I think I will! Thanks for the tip.

        And yeah, I think most TV sci-fi has that failing, all they can hope to do is not get the *actually applicable* science arse-backwards.

        I should introduce my two active posters to one another. dreameling, Aaron. Aaron, dreameling. dreameling is my esteemed friend and colleague in the quality assurance field (case in point, I’m wondering what he’s going to say about me leaving his name in no-caps despite its position at the start of a sentence … I for one sweated over that). Aaron is my wingman from the US. Whenever I start an anecdote with “this annoying wisenheimer buddy of mine in America says…”, you can be reasonably sure the anecdote’s about him.

        And yeah, Trek has some problems there. But they also have artificial gravity and inertial dampers (or is it “dampeners”, I never remember, I think one show has dampeners and the other has dampers, which is funny because in Australia “damper” is a kind of bread that you cook like rosvopaisti). What do *they* do to Newton’s laws?

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Shit I am really gunking up your comment section on this one. My initial comment WAS fine but I ended it with the wrong advice. The problem was that “Observation collapses the wave form” applies to the unobserved, NON-stone state, and that’s not how you wrote the story. You spoke of the stone form as the wave form. That might be why dreameling is nitpicking. But I don’t want to add yet ANOTHER comment to clarify this =/

        I leave it to you.

        On Sun, Dec 1, 2013 at 1:02 AM, Hatboy’s Hatstand wrote:

        > stchucky commented: “I think I will! Thanks for the tip. And yeah, I > think most TV sci-fi has that failing, all they can hope to do is not get > the *actually applicable* science arse-backwards. I should introduce my two > active posters to one another. dreameling, Aaron. A” >

      • I know! You totally can’t have objects moving at multiples of light speed catching up to one another! Although that’s not Newton. Light always moves away from all other objects at the speed of light hence anything going at the speed of light will recede at that same speed from anything else! Wait…you can’t even have multiples of light speed as velocity options….

        (by the way, I’m not serious here. I’m highlighting the ridiculousness of attempting to critique the science in something like this. No offense ;D)

        Even down to misinterpreting Newton I’d have to see the specific example, because the science in ST is so far beyond what we can do now, it might actually not ever be possible. Newton, let’s not forget, was technically wrong! Just undetectably so until high speeds or high gravity fields.

      • dreameling says:

        stchucky, I think I once went all bitchy on you for writing my nick with a capital “D”. I always write it in lower case, even when it begins a sentence, so you did good, sir, you did good.

        Aaron, a pleasure.

        As to ST and Newton, here’s something that made me cringe recently: In the season 4 episode “Final Mission”, there’s an abandoned garbage scow full of radioactive waste that’s threatening the solar system (or something). Riker does not want to get too close because of the lethal levels of radiation, so he decides remotely attach thrusters to the scow and send it on its merry way towards the sun. Naturally, one of the thrusters breaks and compromises the hull integrity of the scow, forcing Riker to take the Enterprise up-close and tow the scow with a tractor beam, and exposing the crew to the radiation in the process. Hence the drama.

        Here’s my beef: You’re in empty space. You don’t have to actively pull or push anything unless you want acceleration. All you need to do is align the scow so that it points toward the sun, give it a single push of sufficient force, and constant velocity will take care of the rest! You don’t need to go all tractor beam on it and almost kill your crew while you’re at it! And you know what, they use this logic toward the end where they release the scow and let its momentum carry it the rest of the way! NNNNNGGGHHHHHHHAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!

        Basically, the drama is built on a completely artificial premise. And that is probably what annoys me the most — not that the show does not understand motion in space, but that botching up this very basic thing undermines the human drama. (There’s actually a similar moment in the new film Gravity.)

        Phew. I feel better now.

        PS. The way they’ve rebuilt and remastered ST:TNG on Blu-ray is nothing short of awesome.

        PPS. Oddly enough, faster-than-light travel does not bother me. (Provided it’s not explained in too much detail, because that’s when you invariably mess up something.)

  4. stchucky says:

    I updated the sciencey-wiencey musing to:

    “Observed-reality defence … actually composed of stone, but only when observation collapses the probability into … that’s very clever…”

    He’s just woolgathering after all, never having seen anything like this before (and the whole point of the story was sort of to establish that the whole thing wouldn’t work in the “real” universe [as represented by the one Gant comes from], and him wanting to know how it possibly manages to work in the “other real” universe [as represented by the one the Weeping Angel comes from]), so he’s just trying to figure it out in his own terms. And any discrepancy between those and the terms 21st-Century human beings use can be easily shrugged off as “this is Time Destroyer science, he’s not actually speaking English and has never learned quantum mechanics or wave/particle science and has never heard of Newton, in fact he probably would have hunted Newton for sport because that’s just the way Time Destroyers roll.”

    And this is just the way the Weeping Angels move and defend themselves! We haven’t even gotten to how they feed, which is even more impossible.

    I thought we had seen them move, though, in a later episode where Amy Pond is the only person there, her eyes are closed, and we see the Weeping Angels moving around her. And they still look like statues. But I’m not sure how legit that was, because of her situation and the whole universe-tearing-apart mess they were in.

    • Phrasing works for me, don’t mind us nitpickers…. As for them moving around Amy, I can’t recall exactly what we saw or didn’t see but remember, we were still observing them! ;D

      *escape hatch always available*

      Good points about Gant. Also our physics could be totally wrong, there is still that possibility. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you recover from that admission of mine. Keep in mind I don’t consider that very likely. But in your story, it certainly could be the case, even in our universe.

    • dreameling says:

      Since we’re already nitpicking — and I am really sorry about that, since I sorta feel we should be talking about narrative techniques or prose or something else that’s actually relevant to storytelling, but — I think it should be “collapses the probability distribution into”, because, if this is a wave function, you’re talking about the probability of something appearing in different points in space and time, not just a single point. Or you could just go with “collapses the wave function”.

      Did I already say I feel really weird nitpicking this issue? Especially since I’m no physicist?

      • stchucky says:

        Don’t think for a second I’m not onto you two. Since the *other* main point of this story was an amusing rejection of the concept of technobabble and scientific specifics, you’ve turned it into the biggest load of quasi-scientific bullplop I’ve seen in years.

        Anyway, there will be no more revisions. I’m going with “collapsed probability” and “humans aren’t in possession of the facts”, and if you want to take apart the actual TV show’s science when the time comes, you have at it.

      • You know, not to nitpick because I’m no writer, but isn’t the saying “on to you two” instead of “onto you two”?

        *smri*

        *runs away*

  5. stchucky says:

    Is that an edit button next to your comment? Why, I think it is.

    *fork-finger-eye-watching gesture*

  6. stchucky says:

    Incidentally, you guys might be interested to know (or maybe not) that we all got it a bit wrong. The good news (for me) is that my wrongness is narrative-excused by Gant being an alien and his musings being vague and preliminary.

    However, I just re-watched the first of the episodes with the Weeping Angels (who are / were actually called the Lonely Assassins), and found this:

    – They’re almost as old as the universe and nobody knows where they came from.
    – Their evolved defence system is that they are “quantum locked”.
    – They “don’t exist when they’re being observed”: the moment they’re seen, they freeze into rock.

    The Doctor’s words, not mine.

    • dreameling says:

      I could be missing something here, but it still sounds to me like your story (and our nitpicks about quantum stuff) are appropriate? I mean, it’s all a bit fuzzy anyway. Unless the quantum lock (which I did read about a little earlier) has nothing to do with quantum mechanics…

      • stchucky says:

        Yeah, we’re golden.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Yeah I was going to say, we were both (irregardless, *girn*, of our Dr. Who experience level) were just commenting on your story. I was bringing in SOME Who knowledge on the Angels to help dreameling know the fundamentals, but I was taking your statements as canon and just rolling them in to how the angels have 2 states, and such like that. So I’m definitely golden. But, you knew that was both my observed and unobserved state, so yeah. And, good find, though.

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