When Captain Headspace looked up from the control panel his face was grim. His pale blue, star-washed eyes were more sombre than I had ever seen them. Something had gone out of those eyes; something had been taken away – the infinite reaches of deep space that usually they gazed upon had somehow reached an end. We knew instinctively that he had seen something dreadful, some catastrophe beyond the imagining of mere mortal men.
He addressed us, his crew, confirming our fears, “The news is bad, my friends. We seem to have entered an psi-entropic field of unprecedented intensity, a psychic black hole the magnitude of which defies description. The instrument readings have gone right off the scale…” The Captain paused to let the news sink in. He frowned, cleared his throat, and continued, “I have to inform you that we are in the grip of a psychic entropic gradient so steep that absolutely nothing can climb out of it. This vessel, the Hermes 4, is doomed.”
We looked at each other in dismay, hardly able to take in what he was telling us, every face registering the same mute horror. This was grim news indeed. Even before the Captain was able to speak again a low and ominous vibration sprang up, clearly audible over the friendly, familiar hum of the instrument panel. Below our feet we could feel the very sinews of the ship starting to creak and complain. He met our eyes again, acknowledging our fears with the very slightest of nods. “That’s right,” he affirmed sadly, “she’s breaking up. There’s nothing any of us can do now. Our only option is to make for the escape pods without delay. We can still eject separately back into the Time-Like universe.”
Star Navigator Light-Path-Follower spoke then, “Captain, surely to eject in the vicinity of an entropic field of this intensity would have a devastating effect on any conscious mind that entered it?”
Captain Headspace dropped his head slightly, dark foreboding etched out in the lines on his forehead. After a long moment he spoke, “That is correct, Light-Path-Follower – as conscious beings we stand to be all but wiped out. The catastrophe will be immense. The Mind Net will be broken and you will each be reborn back into the Time-Like universe with no memory of what has gone before. There is but one hope….
Of Four of you each will carry, locked away deep in their unconscious minds, one of the four cosmic faculties relating to the Star Drive. Together, they will be able to reactive the drive module from its shut-down state, so that, one day – if each plays his part – the Great Journey may continue. The other Three will each possess within them a fragment of the Psi Gift. The First will have the gift to see and recognize her lost companions; the Second will have the gift to travel freely on the astral realms and gather information there; whilst the Third will retain the gift of healing, and carry within him the secret Key to reawaken the memory of his sleeping ship-mates. Your Captain will return to the Integesic Universe, there to remain until the time comes for the Ship to fly again.”
He smiled briefly then, unexpectedly, and with his left hand he made the secret gesture of dissolution.
And then the darkness began…