The Michaelmas Phantoms
The Ghost in the Machine
Sonia ran up to the doors of the building and pushed hard against them. They refused to budge. She rattled the handles back and forth, but to no avail. She could swear blind that Wells had just run inside this very building, only a few hundred yards ahead of her. The sign beside the door said Pharmacology. She didn't think Wells would be likely to have a key. It wasn't his department.
She heard Keane and Brennan scurry up behind her. She didn't bother to turn round and talk to them. She lifted her revolver, and shot out the lock, then booted the door open. Immediately a burglar alarm started to go off.
"What the hell are you doing?" Keane asked.
"He's in here somewhere," said Sonia. "He's not going to get away from me."
She stormed inside the building, and started to look around the foyer. A corridor led off ahead of her, and a staircase went up to the floors above. The building had about six storeys. Wells could be anywhere.
Keane said, "What about that alarm? Someone will report it. There'll be a patrol car here before too long."
"I didn't realize you were so efficient," said Sonia. "Well, one of you can stay here and tell them we've got it under control. Constable, you do it. You can cover this door as well, and make sure Wells doesn't double back."
She peered along the dark corridor and perceived a dull glimmer of light in the distance. "It looks like there's another door at the far end of that corridor. Inspector, get down there and make sure Wells doesn't get out that way." She started towards the staircase.
"What about you?" Keane asked. He was getting fed up with the army ordering him around.
"I'll start at the top and work downwards. I'll soon flush him out."
Gates pushed past Crabtree, and ran to examine the body. There was no doubt that they had the wrong man.
"You fool," he said. "This is not Wells."
Crabtree thrust his stun projector back into his pocket. He would not be spoken to in such a manner. It was a mistake anyone might have made. "What is he doing here?" he demanded. "Clearly he must he an associate of Wells."
"That may be false reasoning," said Gates. He pulled a medical scanner from his pocket and started to read the vital signs of the unconscious man. "He may just have innocently discovered the transfer capsule," he continued. "You should have exercised more caution." He went on with the medical examination.
Crabtree took another step forward, and looked down at the body. The projector had been set to render Wells unconscious. The people of this period probably had different tolerances. "Is he dead?" he asked, uncertainly.
Gates frowned at the instrument readings. "No," he said. "He still lives. But his vital signs appear erratic."
"In what way?"
"The pulse and breathing rate are abnormally low. As is the body temperature."
"Could that be the after effects of the stun field?" asked Crabtree. What if he had caused permanent damage?
"Wait," murmured Gates, and his voice betrayed a feeling of confusion. "There are more anomalies. The cardio-vascular system is completely abnormal..." His voice tailed off, and he took a deep breath. "This one is not human," he announced.
Crabtree sensed feelings of dread rising up inside him. "What, then?" he demanded. He was already beginning to suspect the answer.
Gates checked a few more readings, and then looked up in consternation. "Gallifreyan," he said, and confirmed Crabtree's worst fears.
Gates stood up, and put away his medical scanner. "At least we do not need to worry about his health. They have remarkable recuperative powers."
Crabtree could feel a wave of panic starting to wash over him. He fought desperately to remain calm. "He is a Time Lord," he said. "He must have been sent here to investigate temporal anomalies. It is what we have always feared. If the Time Lords discover that we have let the anachronauts get out of hand, they will take reprisals against us."
"It may be too soon to conclude that," Gates replied. "He could have another purpose."
Crabtree shook his head vehemently. "We have discovered a Time Lord beside Wells's transfer capsule. It is too great a coincidence to dismiss. And now I have rendered him unconscious, his opinion of us will not be favourable."
Gates had to agree with that. "We must cover our tracks," he said. "There is no need for this Time Lord to ever make a report about us."
Crabtree stared at him in disbelief. "You cannot be suggesting we kill him?"
"It is the only way."
"I will not condone it." Crabtree looked about the room, as if he might find an answer. Slowly he said, "We could merely leave him here, unconscious. By the time he recovers, we shall have departed. With luck, we should have located Wells by then."
"It is an unsatisfactory solution," said Gates. "And the possibility of our finding Wells remains slim."
"Maybe," said Crabtree. "But we now know where his transfer capsule is. We know he must come back here. If we maintain surveillance upon this building, we shall see when he returns." He could see that Gates was still uncertain. "It is the only solution I will agree to," he added.
"Very well," said Gates sullenly.
Crabtree started towards the door, taking another look at the body on the floor. "He will recover?"
"Yes," said Gates. "I am certain of it."
Crabtree nodded, and went out. Gates began to follow him, but at the door he paused. He looked once more at the unconscious Time Lord. He had little faith in Crabtree's plan. The danger posed by the Time Lord had to be removed. Gates came to a hasty decision. Crabtree would surely miss him if he lingered too long, so he had no time to debate the matter properly.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out an implosion grenade. He set a long time delay fuse, and dropped the grenade casually onto the floor beside the Time Lord.
Satisfied, Gates started to hurry after Crabtree. It was the best
course. Not only would the grenade take care of the Time Lord, it would
damage Wells's transfer capsule, certainly stranding him here. They would
then be able to collect him at their own convenience.
Colin decided to make one more attempt. He turned to Saunders, who was pottering about between his own console and Wells's, checking the instrument readings.
"Listen, Professor. It's just like I said. The Doctor had Wells sussed. That device of his isn't a miracle of science. If you go on with this, all it'll be is a gigantic bomb."
"Oh, nonsense," snapped Saunders. "It's been perfectly safe until now."
"Well, we've been lucky, then," replied Colin. "At least let the Doctor explain."
"You did ask for UNIT's help, Professor," Rhonwen put in.
"No, I didn't," said Saunders. "The Ministry twisted my arm." He carried on with his work. "Either help me, you two, or get out from under my feet."
Colin made one last try. "Wait for the Doctor to get here. If he thinks the accelerator is safe, he'll help you with the test."
Saunders shook his head. "There's no more time to wait. I don't want to miss this evening's Grid connexion." He went on with the power build up.
Colin looked at Rhonwen, and shook his head angrily. He nodded towards the door. Leaving Saunders to it, they quietly went out into the corridor.
"What are we going to do?" Colin asked.
"We have to get the Doctor here as soon as possible," said Rhonwen.
"He could be ages yet."
Rhonwen rummaged in her pocket, and pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper. "This is Major McIntyre's telephone number. I mean, she's got a telephone that doesn't need a wire."
"You mean a cellphone?" Colin asked.
Rhonwen nodded. She thought it was best not to show her ignorance of the technology of the day.
"All right," said Colin. "You'd better use the phone in reception." He headed off towards the stairs, with Rhonwen in tow.
He couldn't explain the anger he was feeling. It was true that, to an extent, he felt he had never really belonged to this project. Sometimes it had seemed like Saunders's and Wells's mutual appreciation society. But increasingly Colin felt exasperated with Saunders, with the man's refusal to look beyond his nose if he thought there was some chance of the project succeeding.
Saunders refused to listen to reason. Nothing Colin could say would convince him. And now he was rejecting the Doctor's advice as well. Colin did not know why he believed the Doctor's radical theories so readily - for all his eccentricity, there seemed to be some authority behind the Doctor's manner, as of someone speaking from long and sure experience.
Colin opened the door of the reception office, and showed Rhonwen to the
phone. He was finished with this project. He didn't know whether he'd still
be here tomorrow, or whether he'd be destroyed along with the rest of
Oxford, in the temporal explosion the Doctor had foretold. If he survived,
he'd start looking for another research post. He already had a few feelers
out - perhaps deep down he had known that this project would not work out
Wells tried to remain calm. He knew the game was almost up. He had hoped to lose his pursuers, but Major McIntyre had proved difficult to shake off. She had him cornered. The exits were covered, and she was sweeping through the building from the top floor downwards.
Wells crouched lower behind the work bench. It afforded only minimal cover. When Sonia entered the pharmacology lab, she would certainly see him.
He could hear her footsteps outside in the corridor. There came the sound of the next door along crashing open. She made a thorough search of that room.
Then she was out in the corridor once more, and coming towards him. There was no escape. The windows in this room - indeed throughout the building - were high up and did not open wide enough to permit a man to get through, particularly not a man of his girth.
She would be at the door any moment now.
Sonia was becoming exasperated. If it wasn't for the fact that she knew Wells had to be somewhere in the building, she would have given up her search by now. She had checked the top two floors and they were clear. The second floor looked like it would turn out the same.
She was about to go on to the next room, a laboratory, when she was stopped by her cellphone ringing. She pulled it out. "Yes?" she snapped.
She recognized the Welsh accent as Rhonwen's, and listened as the girl explained what Saunders was up to.
"Can't you restrain him?" Sonia asked.
"What do you expect me to do?" said Rhonwen. "Break a chair over his back?"
Sonia sighed heavily. She didn't need to be troubled with this. But the Doctor had impressed upon them all just how dangerous the accelerator might be. Her priority had to be averting disaster.
"All right," she said. "I'll bring the Doctor as soon as I can."
She stuffed the phone back into her pocket. She would have to abandon the search. She hurried back towards the stairs, and descended to the ground floor.
She found Brennan still in the lobby. Shouting down the corridor, she called Keane to join them. Once the three of them were together again, she briefly filled the policemen in as they started to make their way outside.
She said, "I'm going straight back, in case I need to restrain Saunders
by force. Can you two stop off at the library and collect the Doctor?"
Wells stood up from behind the laboratory bench. He was still unsure whether it was safe to do so.
He had heard Major McIntyre stop in the corridor outside, and heard her talking into her telephone. Then her footsteps had sped off along the corridor.
Wells was uncertain whether Sonia had really abandoned the search, or whether she had pretended to depart, to draw him out into the open. If he emerged from the laboratory now, she might be waiting in the corridor outside. He supposed she could have removed her shoes and made her way back silently.
After a few more minutes nothing had happened. Wells told himself he was being foolish. If Sonia's intention were to capture him, she would simply have entered the laboratory and done so. After all, she had a gun. She would not lay elaborate traps.
Wells pushed open the door and went out into the corridor. Sure enough,
there was no sign of Sonia. She really had left the building. Nevertheless,
Wells decided to wait a while longer, to let the heat cool off, before he
tried going back to the library.
The Doctor opened his eyes slowly. For some reason, although it was night, even the dull glimmer of light was like needles poking into his eyes. Whatever had he done to his head? He made a mental note to stop frequenting voxnic bars.
As consciousness started to return, with it came memory. Ah yes, he remembered now. A sudden encounter with two Silencers and a stun field. The Doctor tried to get his eyes into focus.
The first thing that swam into view was a short stubby cylinder, that was lying on the floor not far from his head. It appeared to have a dial set in it, which was slowly rotating.
With a sudden shock, he realized what it was. There was a rush of adrenalin, a release of neuro-peptides, and instantly the synapses were bridged, and he was fully conscious once more. He jumped to his feet.
The next thing he became aware of was Inspector Keane standing in the doorway, panting heavily after climbing the stairs. "Doctor," he began, his nicotine poisoned lungs straining, "you have to come at once."
"Get out of here!" the Doctor snapped. He started to run towards the door, trying to push Keane ahead of him. The Inspector misinterpreted his intention, and stood his ground, managing to sidestep as the Doctor hurtled past.
"Quickly!" the Doctor yelled, throwing himself down onto the floor in the corridor. There was a sudden rushing sound, and the Doctor felt the air in the corridor whipping over him, back into the room he had just left. Inspector Keane was pulled from his feet and sucked back through the door.
Then it was all over. The Doctor got cautiously to his feet. A moment later, Constable Brennan came through the door from the stairs. "Doctor," he said. "Where's the Inspector?"
"In there," said the Doctor. He went back into the room. On the floor, where the grenade had been, was a small compact lump of matter, sucked into a tiny mass by incredible forces. Most of the loose items in the room had been destroyed in the implosion of course, as had most of Inspector Keane. Those parts that remained, bones, teeth and metal objects, were now the main constituents of the imploded matter block.
The transfer capsule had survived. Since it needed to withstand the forces of the time vortex, it would take more than an implosion grenade to damage it. Its outer casing was made of hardened siligtone.
"Where's the Inspector?" Brennan repeated.
The Doctor pointed to the compressed block. "That's the Inspector," he said. "Or what's left of him."
Brennan looked at the uneven greyish lump. He couldn't comprehend what the Doctor was saying. "He's dead?" he stammered. "How?"
"A grenade," said the Doctor.
"I didn't hear an explosion."
"Well, you wouldn't. It was an implosion grenade."
"Where did it come from?" asked Brennan.
"I'm afraid I fell foul of a couple of policemen," the Doctor said.
Brennan didn't understand. "We're policemen," he said. He couldn't bring himself to speak of Inspector Keane in the past tense.
"Ah," said the Doctor, "but these were policemen from the future."
He didn't give Brennan time to ponder this. "Why are you here?" he asked. "Keane looked as if it was something urgent."
Brennan tried to focus his mind. He couldn't understand the Doctor. It wasn't just that nothing he said made sense - he didn't behave like a normal person. If Inspector Keane really was dead, just a compressed lump on the floor, the Doctor didn't seem to be in the least affected by it.
Brennan tried to remember his reason for being here. "It's Professor Saunders. He's running the accelerator. They couldn't talk him out of it."
"What? We've got to stop him." The Doctor started to dash towards the door. Then he paused, and reached into his pocket. He took out the force field trap he had built earlier, and looked at it.
If he could overlook the danger of a temporal meltdown, this was his chance to solve the mystery of the psychic projections. He might not have another. Even if he were to permanently shut down the accelerator, the alien force controlling the phantoms would still be out there somewhere. Eventually it would find a new power source.
The Doctor tried balancing thousands of lives against the possibility of defeating an extra terrestrial menace. It had to be worth the risk.
"Come on," he said, "there isn't a moment to lose."
Brennan tore his eyes away from the block of matter that the Doctor said was Inspector Keane. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"You want to catch your serial killer, don't you?" the Doctor said, as
he went out. Brennan started to follow him. He was moving without thinking.
His mind was numb. He supposed the Inspector would want him to carry on
with the investigation. He didn't see what else he could do. He could
hardly bring Keane back.
Sonia hurried down the stairs and along the basement corridor. In the ante-chamber, she found Rhonwen and Colin waiting outside the door to the control room, seemingly helpless.
"What's going on?" Sonia demanded.
Colin shrugged his shoulders angrily. "I've tried talking to him again," he said, "but he doesn't take any notice."
Sonia paused to consider her options. It was clear that a little military force would be necessary. "If I arrest Saunders," she said, "will you be able to turn the accelerator off?"
Colin hesitated. "Only if he hasn't locked out the system."
"What do you mean?"
"The Professor has a personalized computer access code," said Colin. "He's never told me what it is. If he locks the system, I'll have no control over the main functions."
"Right," said Sonia. "Let's hope for the best." She opened the door to the control room.
Inside, they discovered Saunders hunched over one of the computer terminals, his eyes fixed to the displayed readings with an almost fanatical devotion. Without looking up, he called out. "Point nine five c, Colin. I think we're going to make it."
Sonia walked calmly up behind him. "Come away from the controls please, Professor," she said.
"Not now, Major," Saunders said exasperatedly. "I'm on the verge of a breakthrough to rank with Newton's apple."
"Professor," insisted Sonia, "I must ask you to comply with the Doctor's instructions."
"I don't need the Doctor now," replied Saunders. "This is the vindication of my theories."
Sonia took a deep breath, and drew her service revolver. "All right, Professor. I am ordering you to come away."
She nodded to Colin, and he rushed over to another of the computer terminals. Saunders had obstinately refused to get up from his position, and seemed far too smug with himself.
It came as no surprise therefore, when Colin looked up from his screen and shook his head sadly. "He's locked it to his personal access code."
"Tell us the code, Professor," snapped Sonia.
Saunders smiled. "Why don't you shoot me, Major?" he taunted.
Sonia felt horribly tempted to do just that, but she knew that Saunders had them over a barrel. They needed the code, and he wasn't going to part with it. She turned back to Colin. "Can't you pull the plug or something?" she asked.
Colin threw up his hands. "It's a sub atomic particle accelerator," he said. "It's got to be shut down properly or it could blow up. And the Doctor says it could blow up anyway. You'd better start praying, Major." He looked at Saunders with barely disguised contempt. "We're in the hands of fate, and scientific vanity."
Saunders ignored the comment, and calmly went on with his work.
Gates stared at the drab houses that flashed past in the darkness as the Wolseley drove through the city. He wondered if he had done the right thing. Killing the Time Lord had seemed the best way to cover their tracks. But perhaps Crabtree was right to be fearful. Could the Time Lords know when one of their number had been killed? Might they not even now on Gallifrey be planning dreadful reprisals?
His attention was suddenly drawn by the instruments in the glove compartment. They were detecting new signals. Gates started to examine the displays.
"What is it?" Crabtree asked.
"I am detecting definite temporal disturbances," said Gates.
"From the same source?"
"No. These are different in nature. They are almost the same as the first signals we detected."
Crabtree thought for a moment. "We were unable to trace those to their location," he said.
"At present," Gates replied, "I have insufficient data to determine the location of these traces."
"Continue scanning," said Crabtree. It had to be Wells. Perhaps this
time they would locate him.
Bessie hurtled through the streets, and came to a neat stop outside a large pair of iron gates. Constable Brennan looked around. The Physics building, which he had assumed would be their destination, was a little distance along a side street. He could just see it from here.
But the Doctor had leapt from the car and rushed up to the gates, beyond which lay the University cricket ground.
Brennan got out of the car, and followed him. The Doctor seemed to be carefully studying the metal box he held in his hand, in which there was set some kind of instrument display.
"This is the place," he said. "Closer than the other times. I wonder if that's significant."
He looked up at the gates. They were secured with a heavy chain and padlock. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen laser.
"You didn't see this, Constable," he murmured. Quickly, he used the laser beam to slice through the heavy links of the chain. It fell clanking to the ground. The Doctor shoved open the gates, which swung inwards with a loud creak from their unoiled hinges.
The Doctor hurried through. Brennan tried to keep up with him. "What are we doing here?" he asked.
"Well," the Doctor replied, "the temporal vector scanner says this is where I'm going to catch a phantom. The fabric of the continuum is already starting to warp."
He rushed on, until he reached the centre of the cricket pitch. There he stopped, placing his trap on the ground and crouching down beside it.
Brennan stopped a few yards away from the Doctor, and watched him curiously. He had dropped his head, and fixed his gaze firmly on the metal box before him.
"What are you doing, Doctor?" Brennan asked.
The Doctor said nothing. It was almost as if he was in a trance, unable to take his eyes from the box on the ground.
But then he looked up, instantly alert, like a bloodhound that had caught the fox's scent. "It's here," he said quietly.
Brennan found himself looking around, but he could see nothing. He returned his attention to the Doctor, who had resumed his contemplation of the metal box. As Brennan watched, the top of the device suddenly flipped open and an electronic whirring sound was emitted.
At the same time, Brennan became aware of a new sound, distinct from that of the machine. It seemed to be an animal sound, a sort of snuffling, like some creature seeking its prey. Brennan looked around once more, but still he could see nothing.
The sound was becoming clearly audible. If he hadn't had the evidence of his eyes to convince him, he would have sworn there was a wild animal coming ever closer. Yet it wasn't a savage sound. It seemed to have a note almost of curiosity in it.
The Doctor suddenly snapped at him. "Don't move, Constable! Stay absolutely still!"
There was such a note of authority in the Doctor's voice that Brennan found himself obeying instinctively. It was as if he was rooted to the spot. Despite nothing being visible, he was convinced there really was an animal present. It seemed to be approaching him.
Then it was past him. It was heading for the Doctor. Brennan felt a great urge to move to help the scientist, or at least to shout some warning, but he found he couldn't move at all.
The Doctor was still crouching there, seemingly oblivious to any danger. The sniffing of the unseen beast grew louder by the second, as it bore down on him. Yet at the same time, the whirring sound from the Doctor's device gained in volume to match it.
The whirring turned into a piercing electronic shriek, and the animal snarling changed to the squeal of a creature in pain. The top of the Doctor's device snapped shut, and both sounds were instantly cut off. The sudden silence was deafening.
The Doctor quickly leapt to his feet, snatching up the box as he did so.
On his face was a huge smile. "Come on," he called. Before Brennan could
even react, the Doctor was running back towards the gates.
"Stop," said Gates. Crabtree brought the car to a halt. He looked out of the window at two buildings. They were in different architectural styles, probably from different eras. Both seemed equally archaic to him.
Gates was continuing to study his instruments. He seemed more confident this time. The traces he had detected had lasted longer than usual.
He looked up, with something of a satisfied expression. "This is the place," he said.
Crabtree began to run through a plan of action in his mind. The simplest way seemed to be to rush into the building, following localized readings, and seize the anachronaut, to whom the signals would surely lead them. He reached for the door handle.
Suddenly he stopped. A flurry of movement outside had caught his eye, and made him more alert. As he looked carefully, he saw the Time Lord he had stunned earlier, running along the street with some piece of equipment in his hands. A second man was following him.
Both men went straight up to the left hand building, which was constructed mostly of metal and glass, rather than the stone of the right hand building.
Gates wore an expression of dismay. "The Time Lord must have recovered," he said. He was feeling a little worried. His plan had failed, and it was likely the intended victim would not be pleased. What was he likely to do? Gates knew that the Time Lords had on occasion destroyed entire species - but were they likely to hold personal grudges?
"That building he entered?" asked Crabtree.
"Yes, that is the source of the temporal disturbance," Gates said.
"We can do nothing about it now," said Crabtree. "We will have to let
the Time Lord deal with it."
"It's working," Saunders shouted. "Particle velocity now at point nine nine c, and no sign of any power drain."
Even with his misgivings, Colin could not help moving forward to a monitor screen. Everything Saunders said was true. They were about to take the final crucial step. If they could break the Winser Limit, and get the particles to the speed of light and beyond, there would be no stopping them.
Sonia stared at the two scientists. She wondered whether Colin had turned against her. He seemed to be taking in every word that Saunders said.
The door burst open and the Doctor entered. In his hands he held the metal box he had been carrying around all day. Behind him came Constable Brennan, looking a little confused. But there was no sign of Inspector Keane. Where, Sonia wondered, had he got to?
There was no time to ask any questions. The Doctor marched straight up to Saunders, his face a picture of indignation. Sonia guessed he didn't like having his advice questioned.
"I distinctly told you not to run the accelerator tonight," the Doctor snapped.
At least the Doctor had some effect on Saunders. The Professor turned slightly in his seat, and seemed almost apologetic. "But Doctor," he said, "it's all right."
"It is not all right," the Doctor replied.
Saunders tried to explain. "I've beaten the power drain. The chronons are accelerating to the Winser Limit now."
"Well, they would be. I've put a stop to the power drain."
Both Rhonwen and Colin looked at the Doctor. They suddenly realized what he meant.
Rhonwen gestured at the trap. "You mean it worked?" she asked.
"Of course it worked," said the Doctor, hurt that she could doubt him. He tapped the metal casing. "It's in here now."
"Is it safe?" Colin asked.
"I hope so. As long as the force field holds. It's cut off from the source of projection, and therefore from the power of the chronon stream."
A chiming alarm signal sounded from the computer terminal. Saunders turned back to the screen in delight. "We have reached c," he announced. "The chronons should start breaking down now."
The Doctor grabbed the back of Saunders's chair and spun the Professor round to face him. "Listen to me," he implored. "You cannot split the chronon. The magnetic field is not powerful enough to contain the energy that will be released. Saunders, you've got to shut down."
Saunders hesitated for a moment. There was something very convincing about the Doctor.
But Saunders knew he was right. He shook himself free, and turned back to the computer terminal. "I have to gather the data to prove my theories," he said.
"Then I'll shut it down myself," said the Doctor.
Colin shook his head, and said, "He's locked out the system."
The Doctor dropped his trap onto a desk top, and rushed to one of the computer terminals. He tried to get access to the system. His fingers seemed to blur over the keyboard. "It's only a twelve digit code," he said, "that's just a billion combinations. It'll only take a few weeks to crack it." He looked up with sudden anger. "Saunders, you are about to reduce the Thames Valley to raw protomatter."
Before he could say anything more, an electronic whining sound came out of his trap. He got to his feet and ran back to the box.
"What is it?" asked Rhonwen.
"The force field's starting to collapse," the Doctor said. Suddenly he understood. "Of course, the projection is absorbing the energy directly from the accelerator. If the chronons are starting to break down, raw temporal energy is being released. That's one of the most potent and most basic forces of creation. Just like human life essence. This phantom must have the capability to feed on primitive foundation energies."
Colin looked at one of the computer screens. "I think you're right, Doctor. The power output is tailing right off." He turned to Saunders. "For God's sake, Professor, shut the accelerator down."
The box started to throb in the Doctor's hands. The electronic whine abruptly cut off, and the lid flipped open. The Doctor dropped the box onto the floor. Then a deep gurgling, snarling sound filled the control room.
"It's got out," Rhonwen cried.
"It was too powerful for the force field," said the Doctor. "Everyone stay calm."
Sonia drew her revolver instinctively. She didn't know whether she had a viable target, but she would try. It looked like she was the only force opposing this invisible beast. Rhonwen was clearly terrified, and Colin looked pretty distraught. Well, they weren't military personnel. They didn't have the training to cope with such situations.
The thing was moving. Sonia suddenly realized that it was not invisible at all. As it moved, it seemed to leave some dark shape behind it in the air, like a shadow, yet cast by nothing. The shape was indefinable. It could have been an animal, it could have been a man. It wasn't really there. She could see it, but couldn't take in what it looked like.
The shadow seemed to be all around the Doctor, who had been standing right on top of the phantom. There was no way Sonia could shoot without hitting him.
The Doctor suddenly cried out in pain and fell to his knees.