(aka Power Room #5, Central Cortex Element)
Even the simplest TARDIS needs to be intelligent just to navigate the Vortex and keep itself whole. But more than sentience is required, to truly master dimensional stability in Space and Time an organic component is needed. For this reason, TARDISes are alive and semi-sentient. The Protyon Core serves as the Central Cortex Element and functions as the "brain" and "soul" of a TARDIS.
A TARDIS's Sentience Matrix is created with a Block Transfer System using specific artificial intelligence code. Using birthing matrices, the block-transfer artificial intelligence is rendered and physically formatted into several organic Protyon Units of morphologically unstable living protein. Each Protyon Unit is made up of a matrix of single-cell binary activators which function by flexing one way or another. Organic matter is used because only an organic mind can process Block-Transfer Mathematics. The matter needs to be morphologically unstable to adapt to the complex needs of a TARDIS. These Units are then implanted in the TARDIS's Core Service Module.
All the organic Protyon Units together form a Protyon Core that has a mental capacity and speed far beyond the human brain. This serves as the central cortex element or the brain of the TARDIS. The Protyon Core takes the form of a massive room filled with billions of organic eyes that wink on and off in binary. Due to its organic nature, each bit has some very limited decision making powers based on the input it receives. This makes it far more complex then traditional circuitry. It works on principles similar to the Matrix on Gallifrey and consists of a non-linear series of timeframes, which serve as neural pathways. The Central Cortex can make essential predictions concerning the currents and complexities of vortex travel. Dangerous Hadron Power Lines are used to supply power to block-transfer generators.
As a 4-dimensional life form that is capable of perceiving 11 dimensions, a TARDIS has casual probabilities instead of thoughts. These probabilities are only capable of replicating the most rudimentary of 3-dimensional thought processes.
A TARDIS cortex displays about the same amount of mental activity as a Time Lord. Most of that activity consists of monitoring and controlling the Relative Dimensional Stabilizers. Because of the RDS's role as an interface between the four dimensional TARDIS and its three dimensional crew the Relative Dimensional Stabilizers it is essential for the TARDIS to understand the desires and instructions of its operator. Control of the RDS takes up more of the Artron Mainframe's processing power than any other function, leaving only 5% of the processing capacity for other functions. Given the opportunity, a TARDIS will voluntarily communicate with other TARDISes, but attempts to fold this 11th dimensional matrix into some sort of mechanical verbal interface usually meet with failure.
A TARDIS's understanding of Time Lord thought processes is extremely limited (as are the Time Lord's understanding of a TARDIS). A TARDIS-Sentience Matrix can think, but in a manner similar to a machine, not that of a human. While sentient, it is not a true self-aware, sapient artificial intelligence. It tends to have a lot of trouble grasping the idea of personal identity and appears to lack a fully developed sense of consciousness. A properly maintained TARDIS doesn't have emotions. However, due to its four dimensional nature, it can anticipate some of the needs its crew will have.
This organic computer processes the Block-Transfer Equations from the pre-programmed TARDIS's Grey-Prints. A TARDIS, and almost everything inside, is generated by these equations. Even an outdated block-transfer modulator (with a few sticky-backed matter augmenters) can create massive (if simplistic) structures. Matter created by a TARDIS using block transfer has enhanced temporal properties and is resistant to being retro-annulled. This also makes it immune to the normal Vortex energies. During the Time War the matter used for the internal structure of a TARDIS was capable of withstanding a full-on thermonuclear blast. The Protyon Core's matter generation technology is used to generate custom designed modules and upgrade modules which are then linked (via space-time bridges) to the Core Service Module. A Protyon Unit uses the raw matter that makes up the walls of the Time Sceptre and unused secondary corridors and rooms to generate new modules as needed. The interior is constantly being reformed and remodelled The Protyon Core uses the auto-scan circuits to keep in constant communication with all parts of a TARDIS via Artron transmissions.
Any object the crew brings into a TARDIS will be replaced with a block-transfer duplicate if left alone long enough. Since it is now part of the TARDIS, this matter can be manipulated and deleted by the TARDIS.
A fully functional TARDIS is prohibited from creating mathematically modelled life-forms. And it is indeed impossible to create living matter using only block-transfer computations. However it is possible, and once created such life-forms can be reconfigured into other "species." It is even possible to use the organic protein of a Protyon Unit as a 'seed' to be reconfigured into other types of living matter. However, life-forms created by a TARDIS will have very simple programming. For this reason, it is impossible for a Protyon Unit alone to create fully sapient life-forms. Any life-form that is taken out of the confines of the TARDIS's micro-universe runs the risk of encountering complex ideas that it was not programmed to handle. In such circumstances the construct will overload and it will begin to convert into artron energy. It would require a TARDIS's entire power reserves and a merger with Gallifreyan Biodata just to create one stable human. It would be impossible to create a full Gallifreyan using this process.
The TARDIS Matrix and Protyon Core are protected by warning messages, a firewall, and Teleplasmic Minefields. This is a necessary precaution because damage to the Protyon Units can disable the link with the Prime Eye of Harmony. It can also be infected by creatures like the transmittable Virus of the Purpose - but it will quickly purge its systems with a rather explosive energy discharge in the control room. Outright deleting a TARDIS Matrix would blow a hole in the Universe. Because of the danger of outright deleting a TARDIS Sentient Matrix some criminal elements have discovered that it is possible to transfer the sentient matrix into the body of a lesser species, such as a human, so that the matrix would burn out while a safe distance from the main control room. A TARDIS which loses its sapient matrix will lose almost all power, with little more then the lights remaining operational.
Cramming a TARDIS Matrix into a human body that has been emptied of its original consciousness is dangerous. The Matrix will have a tendency to burst the mind's conceptual framework. The human body will begin to suffer kidney failure and other complications and will be dead in under two hours. Secret Time Lords research has discovered that the life span can be greatly increased by carefully preparing the lesser being and by leaving its original consciousness intact before implanting a TARDIS Sentience. But this physical stability came at a cost. Despite trying over 50 different lesser species in all but two cases the resulting being was completely insane. This was due to incompatibilities between the neural configuration of each being. Even a Time Lord will find his mind destroyed if forced to contain a TARDIS sentience. There is at least one known case of a Time Lady linking herself to her TARDIS's Protyon Core at the exact moment of her regeneration. The artron energy was channelled into the TARDIS, causing the two of them to become, in essence, one being, with the TARDIS functioning as her body. While the subject suffered massive psychological damage the network was stable, and remained so until outside input disrupted it.
Damage to the Protyon Units can disable the link with the Prime Eye of Harmony. Such damage can be repaired using morphologically unstable organic matter. Some of the very few races that can create this type of matter are the Time Lords, Axos, and possibly the Nestenes. However, care must be taken that this matter doesn't contain any dangerous contaminants.
The following color code is used:
- Black: For information from the TV Series, including Dimensions in Time, and 1996 TV Movie.
- Blue: For information from the Novels and Audios including Target, Virgin, BCC, and Big Finish.
- Green: For information from 'licensed' reference sources such as the Technical Manual, Doctor Who Magazine, and the Role Playing Games.
- Red: For information from unofficial sources -The Faction Paradox series, behind the scenes interviews, author's speculation, and popular fan belief.
The TARDIS Technical Index is copyright Will B Swift.