The Michaelmas Phantoms
A Race against Time
The Doctor stopped the land rover outside the library. "Colin," he said, "there's a portable winch in the back. We'll probably need it to lower the transfer capsule down the stairs. Could you get it?"
They climbed out of the land rover, and Colin went to collect the winch from the rear. The Doctor looked up at the library. There was no external sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened here.
When they reached the front door, they discovered it slightly ajar. The Doctor cautiously pushed it open. The body of a young man was lying just inside. He had died from terrible mutilating wounds.
Colin glanced apprehensively at the Doctor. He hadn't been told to expect this. What else had the Doctor forgotten to mention? Colin suddenly feared for Thomasine's safety.
The Doctor pushed the door open further. The first thing Colin was aware of was a pool of coagulating blood spread across the floor of the entrance hall. Lying to one side was the body of a young woman, her throat savagely torn open. Fear gripped Colin, and he dropped the winch to the floor. "Thomasine!" he cried.
The Doctor suddenly grabbed his arm, and forced him to look more closely at the corpse. The face was covered in blood, and the features obscured. Colin wanted to be sick, but still he took in the fact that the hair was dark. It was definitely not Thomasine.
"Colin," said a familiar voice, timidly.
He looked up. Thomasine was standing in the doorway of her office. Colin rushed towards her, and they embraced in relief.
"What happened?" Colin asked. He started to lead her back into the office, away from the dreadful sight in the hall.
"I don't know," replied Thomasine, "I didn't see much of it. My head felt like it was splitting down the middle."
"What's that?" said the Doctor, following them inside.
"Was it another of your headaches?" Colin asked.
"These past few months," Colin explained, "Thomasine has been suffering repeatedly from severe headaches."
"That's interesting," the Doctor said. "Was it really bad today?"
Wells was leaning against the edge of the desk. Beside him was a pile of blood soaked tissues, culled from a box on Thomasine's desk. He had managed to get the worst of the blood from his face and hands, but some of his clothing was badly stained. "When I found her she was in great pain," he said. "That was just before the monster came. I do not think she could even see very far."
The Doctor turned to Thomasine. "Are you all right now?" he asked.
"I think so," she said. "It comes and goes. It's worse in here than out in the hall."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, then looked curiously at Wells. "I wonder," he muttered. "What happened to the monster?"
"I do not understand it," Wells said. "It was pouncing straight towards her. And yet it seemed to pass through her, and then it disappeared."
The Doctor nodded with satisfaction. He turned to Thomasine. "Where do you live?" he asked.
Thomasine looked at him in puzzlement. "Iffley Road," she said.
The Doctor shook his head. "No, I mean, where do you come from? You weren't born here, were you?"
"No, my family lived in Glastonbury," said Thomasine.
"I knew it," replied the Doctor.
"Would you care to explain it to us?" asked Colin.
"Well, Glastonbury is the only place on this planet with a stable time fissure. One result of that is the high incidence of time sensitivity among the people who live there."
"Time sensitivity?" said Thomasine, intrigued.
"Yes. It means a more acute awareness of fluctuations in the background time field. You see, random loose chronons cause small pockets of anachronistic time, a snippet of the past or the future. When people pass through these pockets, they shift slightly out of phase. That's what causes premonitions and feelings of déja vû. Time sensitives tend to stay in phase, and thus they can detect the anachronism around them. It manifests itself as clairvoyance and precognition - the second sight, if you like."
"Well, I can't predict the future," said Thomasine.
The Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "No, I think you're a more extreme case. The destruction of that phantom gave me a clue. I think you must be fixed permanently into this time track. The psychic projection was powered by chronon energy, which means there would be a temporal fluctuation around it. Anyone it attacked would shift out of phase with it. But you're fixed in phase, and that created a potential difference in temporal energy between you and the phantom. It couldn't bridge that difference, and all its energy bled out through the gap and into the vortex."
"Do you think the headaches are caused by this time sensitivity?" asked Colin.
"Perhaps," the Doctor said. "I'll look into it later, we're rather pushed for time now. Charles, will you go upstairs and seal the transfer capsule so we can move it?"
Wells nodded, and went out of the room.
The Doctor turned back to Thomasine. "Do you feel better now?" he asked.
"Yes," said Thomasine. "It probably sounds rude, but it's worse when he's around."
"That's what I thought. You're locked so rigidly into this time track, that any temporal fluctuation would cause you physical and mental pain. Wells is an anachronism, and so there's a distortion of the time field around him. Most people wouldn't notice it, and would just sense something amiss."
Colin could sympathize with that. He had always found Wells a bit creepy himself. But that surely couldn't account for everything. "Wells isn't always around when Thomasine is ill," he pointed out.
"No," said the Doctor. "You've been getting these headaches for the last few months?"
"Since the accelerator project got under way in fact?" the Doctor added.
"I suppose so," said Thomasine.
"Yes, Wells's chronon stream has ripped open the fabric of the continuum in this area. But that shouldn't affect you, unless the time field is distorting. Of course!" He cried out with such sudden enthusiasm that Thomasine and Colin both started.
The Doctor rummaged in his pocket, and pulled out his phantom trap. He flipped open the lid, and started to tamper with the components. "Now, I just have to check the temporal vector scanner," he muttered. "I'll need to recalibrate to a different scale."
At last he had finished, and read the results from the scanner. "I thought so. Wells's meddling has caused the boundary of the continuum to extrude across the interstice, and overlap with a parallel reality. With his own continuum, in fact. I've found the crossover point. Wells has actually created it himself."
He looked up at Thomasine. "Time has been flowing back and forth between two different universes. The damage to the vortex must have been severe. And you'd have been feeling that. Oh, you must have been in agony."
Colin put a protective arm around Thomasine's shoulders. "Can we expect this to go on, Doctor?" he asked.
"No, once the accelerator stops functioning, the two universes should separate, and the distortion will cease. It'll be all right."
He took out his watch. "We've only got forty five minutes left, Colin,"
he announced. "Leave Thomasine here and bring the winch. We've got to get
the transfer capsule back to the accelerator."
Sonia stopped Bessie in Brasenose Lane, just around the corner from Radcliffe Square. There were a number of people walking along the lane, students mostly. As she switched off the engine, Sonia turned to Brennan. "We'll go the rest of the way on foot," she said.
The policeman had insisted on coming along. Maybe he was interested to see how his future counterparts operated. Sonia hadn't complained. She could do with the back up. She had felt exposed since the death of Starling.
They got out of the car, and walked towards the end of the lane. Sonia motioned Brennan to stop. She peered around the corner, and tried to take in the situation in the Square. She could see an old black car parked on the far side, outside the church.
A man was standing beside the car. He was wearing a dark suit and hat - a man in black if ever she saw one. She could see no sign of his companion, nor of Rhonwen. She presumed they were inside the car.
There were quite a few people in the square, some in groups talking, others just passing through. Sonia hoped that the presence of so many witnesses would prevent the Silencers from taking any drastic action. After all, their very function was to keep things secret.
She turned back to Brennan. "They're over by the church," she said.
"What do we do?" Brennan asked.
"We just go over and talk to them," said Sonia. "Walk slowly and don't make any sudden moves. We don't want to frighten them."
They walked around the corner, and into the square.
Crabtree started as he saw, amidst the crowd, two figures approaching him with obvious purpose. It did not take him long to realize that the Time Lord - the Doctor, as their hostage had called him - was not not one of them. He recognized the woman who had been with the Doctor earlier. The man with her was dressed in dark clothes, and for a moment Crabtree thought it might be Wells. Perhaps the bargain was being honoured even if the Time Lord had not come in person. But as the couple approached, Crabtree realized that it was the man whom, like the woman, he had previously seen in the Doctor's company.
Crabtree raised his guard. He suspected that a trick was being played. But, if that were the case, if they wished to rescue the hostage, surely they would not have approached so openly?
When they got to within a few metres, Sonia and Brennan halted.
Crabtree hesitated for a moment, and then said, "Where is the Doctor?"
Sonia said, "Where's the girl?"
Crabtree turned and signalled at the Wolseley. The door opened to allow Rhonwen to get out. Gates followed, keeping a firm grip on her arm.
"As you can see," said Crabtree, "she is unharmed. We will exchange her for Wells."
"I don't have Wells to exchange," Sonia replied.
"Then return to the Doctor, and tell him the girl remains a hostage."
Sonia reached into her pocket. She saw the two Silencers tense, so she deliberately made her movements slow and open. She didn't want them to think she was drawing a weapon - they might throw caution and secrecy to the wind, and do something nasty to Rhonwen.
Sonia drew out the piece of paper the Doctor had given her. She hoped to God that the Silencers would not understand the writing. "The Doctor advised me to give you this," she said.
"What is it?" Crabtree asked cautiously.
"An encyclical from the Lady President of Gallifrey," said Sonia. "It is for your attention."
She held it out to Crabtree. Slowly, almost reverently, he reached out to take it. After studying the characters in bewilderment for a few moments, he looked up. "What does it say?" he asked.
"It forgives and excuses all your mistakes and misdemeanours," Sonia explained. "It also requests your assistance in the fight against a serious temporal menace."
"Our assistance?" asked Crabtree, incredulously.
"Yes," Sonia replied. She realized that she had him on a hook. The fact that he might have some useful part to play seemed almost to hypnotize him. She remembered what the Doctor had said about how ineffectual the Silencers were. It was quite likely that this made them feel futile. She decided to play on this. Giving them a feeling of usefulness might be the way to win them over.
"The Doctor needs your help," she continued. "There are literally minutes remaining in which to prevent disaster and destruction. Your assistance may be crucial to overcoming the threat."
Crabtree looked at her, then down at the indecipherable Gallifreyan lettering. The seal looked genuine enough. There could be no doubt. He was clutching a personal letter from the Lady President of Gallifrey. And the Time Lords desperately needed his help.
Crabtree turned to Gates. "Release the hostage," he said.
For a moment, it looked as if Gates was about to protest. But then he let go of Rhonwen's arm. She moved quickly forward, to stand behind Sonia and Brennan.
"We've got a car round the corner," Sonia said. "Follow us."
The Doctor drove the land rover around the next corner. He drove carefully, for fear of damaging the transfer capsule further. As it was, he wasn't sure whether he would have enough time to repair it. He was very much aware of time ticking away, but he didn't dare drive any faster.
As he drove, he glanced out at the cars and pedestrians swarming about the streets of Oxford. None of them knew about the danger the city was facing. Of course there was no way he could warn them. For a start, they would never believe him. At least, if something went wrong, it would all be over before they knew about it.
The Doctor glanced up in the mirror to see the rear of the land rover reflected. The transfer capsule was carefully strapped into place. Beside it were Colin and Thomasine.
Wells was sitting in the passenger seat beside him. The Doctor watched him out of the corner of one eye, but it was impossible to fathom what Wells was thinking.
"Tell me," the Doctor began, "why did you choose to become an anachronaut?"
Wells looked at him in some surprise for a moment. It was not a question he had been asked before. The Silencers just wanted to stop his activities, without trying to understand them. He had assumed that a Time Lord would be the same.
"I was bored," he said. "Our society is going nowhere. We are so afraid of disturbing the wonderful balance we have established, that we are reluctant to try anything new or exciting. We invented transfer capsules, and then decided not to use them."
"Those rules do make a lot of sense," the Doctor pointed out.
"Oh, certainly," said Wells, "history must be safeguarded. But there are many responsible people who would never have tried to change the past. They could have been granted time travelling licences."
"How many times did you apply?"
Wells smiled. "Several. As you have guessed, I was rejected. I was not considered a genuine historian, it seems. So, I acquired a job as a building maintenance engineer at an historical research centre, and when an opportunity presented itself, I borrowed one of the capsules. I have done no wrong, and yet now I am a hunted criminal."
"You're an anachronism distorting the flow of history," said the Doctor in mock reproof. He sympathized with Wells to a great extent. The sense of frustration with a stagnating society was something he recognized in himself. It had been the reason for his leaving Gallifrey in the first place. Well, one of the reasons.
"But I merely observe. I do not interfere."
"You were hardly just observing in Monte Carlo," said the Doctor.
Wells looked surprised.
"I was there," the Doctor explained.
"I do not remember you," said Wells.
"Well, I was in a different body at the time."
"That was merely an amusement. I synthesized the money for my stake. And I had little use for the money I won. I saw no harm in it."
"You must have used some complex technology to rig the table," the Doctor said.
"But I was careful not to leave any of it behind," Wells replied.
"There was still a risk," the Doctor insisted.
He stopped the engine. They had arrived at the Nuclear Physics building.
"Come on," he said, "we've got to get that capsule down into the
The Intelligence felt the power emanating from the particle accelerator. The fundamental forces of creation were its to command. Its supremacy over all inferior life was assured.
It was just a matter of time now. Just until the energy was released from the particles that contained it. Then it would do the bidding of the Intelligence.
The body of Saunders was lifeless, just a shell. But within, the
Intelligence exulted in its coming victory.
Even with Colin operating the winch to take the weight, it took the Doctor and Wells some time to manoeuvre the transfer capsule down the stairs. They worked as fast as they dared, taking the utmost care. Even so, the capsule crashed alarmingly against every step. Finally, they rolled it along the corridor and into the control room.
The Doctor grabbed the two cables that depended from the ceiling panel, and opened the hatch of the transfer capsule. He spread a selection of tools out on the floor beside him, and his head and shoulders disappeared inside.
From time to time a hand would fly out and grab a tool. Colin had never seen anyone work so fast. Sometimes the Doctor's hands appeared to be just a blur. Colin glanced at his watch. They had less than twenty five minutes left. He hoped that the Doctor would be ready in time.
As he worked, the Doctor still managed to talk to Wells. "If we're to contain the time bubble within the accelerator chamber," he said, "we must make sure we have adequate temporal shielding."
"Do you think the shielding in the capsule will be sufficient?" Wells asked.
"I'm not sure," said the Doctor. "It might be spreading it a bit thin to extend its field over so wide an area."
"It would be best to take additional precautions."
"I agree." The Doctor put down his tools and reached into his pockets. He pulled out several advanced electronic components. Then he looked at the work he still had to do inside the transfer capsule. There was no time to attend to everything himself.
"Colin," he called, "bring me a sheet of paper and a pen."
Colin tore a sheet from a note pad, and carried it over.
The Doctor laid the paper on the floor, and went back to working on the innards of the transfer capsule with his right hand. With his left hand, stuck out of the capsule behind him, he started to draw a complex circuit diagram on the sheet of paper. He never once looked at what he was drawing.
He continued to talk whilst he was doing all this. "Colin, I want you to make up this device. You should be able to get most of the components around the room. Cannibalize the monitors and computers if you have to. The specialized components are the ones I've laid out for you."
"But what does it do?" Colin asked.
"It's a time baffle. No time to explain. Just get it ready."
Colin picked up the diagram and started to get to work. He hadn't the faintest idea what the device was supposed to do. He would not have believed that circuits could be wired like that, but he had thought the same about the Doctor's phantom trap, and that had proved effective enough. Colin just trusted to the Doctor's expertise and got on with it.
The Doctor snapped his fingers at Wells. "Hand me those cables," he said.
With Wells's help, he started to connect up the transfer capsule to the particle accelerator.
"Have you repaired the capsule now?" Wells asked.
"Almost," said the Doctor. "I've had to patch up your power distributor with a couple of slivers of jethrik. They should handle the load for the time being. They'll burn out very quickly, so you ought to have a proper repair done as soon as you reach a more advanced time."
"I understand," Wells said.
The door opened, and Sonia came in with Rhonwen. The Doctor looked up. "I hope you looked after my car," he said.
Sonia passed him the keys to Bessie. "As if it were my own," she replied. "I'd have refilled the tank if I'd had time."
The Doctor seemed satisfied with this response, and turned his attention to Rhonwen. He gave her a concerned look. "Are you all right?" he asked.
Rhonwen nodded. "They didn't harm me," she said.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor began. He felt it was his fault she had been abducted. He didn't know how to apologize. "I haven't got time to talk now," he said.
Constable Brennan hovered in the doorway, and behind him were the two Silencers. Gates and Crabtree looked at each other. They saw the Doctor working with Wells, and wondered whether they had been mistaken after all.
Sonia said, "Doctor, we've got about fifteen minutes left."
"I know," the Doctor snapped. "I'll work faster if you let me get on with it."
"Well, is there anything I can do?"
The Doctor looked up. "Actually yes," he said. "I'm not sure how effective the temporal shielding will be. If it fails, you'd want to limit the damage done, wouldn't you?"
"I suppose so."
"Well, why don't you go and evacuate the building? We don't want to risk more lives than we have to."
"All right." Sonia went out.
The Doctor turned to Wells. "Right," he said, "I think I've made the necessary connexions."
Wells looked at the directional systems. "You have set the controls for the far past," he said.
"Yes," replied the Doctor. "And I've reconfigured the temporal shielding. Instead of keeping time forces out, it'll keep them in."
"I do not understand."
"The directional circuits will affect the flow of the chronon stream in the accelerator, creating a negative time field."
"Contained, by the temporal shielding, inside the accelerator chamber?"
"Exactly," said the Doctor. "If it works, it should take time back to the dawn of creation, reversing the time stream of the Intelligence."
"If the temporal shielding fails," Wells pointed out, "our time streams will be reversed as well."
"Well, I didn't say it was without risk."
Sonia marched into the reception office adjoining the foyer of the Nuclear Physics building. There were a couple of secretaries manning the desks inside. One of them looked up brightly. "Can I help you?" she asked.
Sonia took out her identity card. "I'm Major McIntyre," she announced. "This a matter of national security. I want this building evacuated."
"Well, I'm not sure that's possible," said the secretary. "I'll have to check."
Sonia grabbed a note pad and pen, and scribbled a telephone number. "You've got one phone call," she said. "That's the Home Office. They'll tell you to do what I say."
One short phone call later, a very impressed secretary looked up at Sonia. "What do you want to do?"
"We need to get everyone out within ten minutes. Sound a fire drill, and
when the building's clear, I'll lock the doors."
The Doctor looked over at Colin. "Have you finished that time baffle?" he asked.
"I think so," said Colin. "I don't really understand this."
"Good," said the Doctor. "Now, you must promise not to remember anything about it."
"Because your race isn't ready for the technology."
Colin nodded bemusedly. He completed wiring up the last few last connexions as shown on the Doctor's circuit diagram. He now had three units connected by lengths of wire, essentially just PCBs with various affixed components. The central unit was the largest and most complicated circuit, and was dominated by a large switch. The other two had a couple of small switches and LCD displays.
Colin looked up at Thomasine, who was sitting near to him. Her eyes were half closed, and her face betrayed the stress she was under. The accelerator was roaring away in the background, and every fluctuation of the chronon stream must have been filling her with pain. Colin smiled reassuringly, although he wasn't sure that she saw it. It'll soon be over, sweetheart, he thought.
Crabtree took a step into the room. "If the work is completed," he said, "I will now place Wells in custody."
"No," said the Doctor, "I need him to help me. Now more than ever."
Crabtree tried to move further into the room, but he felt a hand on his shoulder, restraining him. He turned around to face Brennan. Crabtree tried to pull his arm away, but he was held tightly.
"Do as the Doctor says," Brennan warned. After a moment, Crabtree backed down.
"Good," said the Doctor. "Charles, get into the capsule. When I give the word, activate the directional systems."
Wells nodded, and levered himself into the tiny space inside. With all the internal mechanisms, not to mention the Doctor's modifications, it was cramped and uncomfortable.
The Doctor picked up his temporal vector scanner, and recalibrated one of the displays. "The power's building up," he announced. "It won't be long now."
He walked over to Colin, and looked at the device he had assembled. "Yes, very good," he murmured. "Charles!" he called.
Wells's head poked awkwardly out of the transfer capsule.
"When we form the time bubble," said the Doctor, "you'll have to monitor your temporal shield. If it shows any sign of collapsing under the weight, tell me immediately. I'll then activate the time baffle."
"Why not use the baffle from the start?" Wells asked.
"Well, I'm not sure if that's going to hold either. It's a makeshift job, using some very antiquated components."
Brennan looked apprehensively from the Doctor to Wells. "You don't sound like you have much confidence in either gadget, Doctor," he said.
The Doctor shrugged. "We've been forced to improvise with limited materials," he explained. "Keep your fingers crossed."
He turned back to Colin, and pointed to the larger central unit of the time baffle. "That switch on the top is the activator," he said. "If Charles shouts, hit it."
"All right, Doctor."
The Doctor turned to the two Silencers. "Now," he said, "I need your help as well. Come here."
Gates and Crabtree hovered by the door a little uncertainly.
"Quickly," the Doctor urged.
The Silencers looked at one another, and then proceeded into the room. A Presidential encyclical had been enough proof of the Doctor's authority.
The Doctor picked up one of the units with an LCD display that Colin had built, and handed it to Gates. "Now," he said, "we want to ensure the time baffle field is correctly formed. So, Mister...?"
"Gates," said Gates.
"Mister Gates," the Doctor continued, "you must stand here." He led Gates over to the corner of the control room, on the left hand side of the metal door to the accelerator chamber.
He picked up the second subsidiary unit, and gave it to Crabtree. "And you must stand here, Mister...?"
"Crabtree," said Crabtree.
"Mister Crabtree." The Doctor directed him to the corner opposite Gates, on the right hand side of the door.
"Those units are deflectors for the main time baffle generator," the Doctor explained. "They will bend the field to the desired shape. The LCDs will show a numerical figure. The ideal figure is zero. It can vary between plus and minus five, but must not exceed those limits. The switches beside the LCD are fine calibration controls. Use them to keep the field variance as small as possible. Do you understand?"
The two Silencers nodded.
"Good," said the Doctor. "Remember, I'm counting on you." That would keep them out of his hair, he thought.
Sonia appeared in the doorway beside Brennan. "The building's clear," she said.
The Doctor nodded. His attention was fixed upon the temporal vector scanner. He had marked a certain point on the display. When the reading crossed that point, all hell would break loose. Either he would defeat the Great Intelligence, or be swept away by a explosion of raw temporal energy.
There were only a couple of minutes left. No one spoke. There was nothing else to say. Wishing each other luck seemed somehow like tempting fate.
Colin moved behind Thomasine, and put his hand comfortingly on her shoulder. He didn't think she was even aware of it. He could feel her whole body shaking beneath his hand. When this was over, he was going to take her away, somewhere away from particle accelerators and chronons. Somewhere she could be safe. But then he thought again of the letter stuffed in his jacket pocket, and knew he wouldn't be able to leave science alone for long.
Rhonwen moved next to the Doctor. She wanted to talk to him, but she didn't dare to disturb his concentration. Because she hadn't shared the Doctor's plan and preparations, Rhonwen somehow felt left out of everything. Sonia had explained it all in the car, but it seemed to Rhonwen as if she wasn't a part of what was going on. She supposed she'd be a part of it if they all got killed.
Sonia took out her revolver, emptied out the bullets and started to clean the chambers. It was a natural reaction for her to clean her gun. It helped to relieve the tension.
Brennan wondered how he had got himself into this. Two days ago he had been investigating some murders - mysterious and inexplicable murders perhaps, but still routine police work. Now the Inspector was crushed to a pulp, and he was cheerfully waiting for the end of the world. He'd never be able to write up a report on this one.
Wells looked out through the open hatch of his transfer capsule. The Silencers were standing on either side of the accelerator chamber door, clutching their deflector units with a great sense of purpose. The Doctor had been very clever to manipulate them like that.
But once the crisis was over, and they had played their part, Wells knew they would again attempt to arrest him. That was their true purpose. No matter what the Doctor said, Wells did not think they would leave without taking him as their prisoner.
He would do anything to remain free. He did not wish to return to his own society, to face ridiculous charges simply for being curious. The way to escape was clear. The transfer capsule was fully operational - the Doctor had made sure of that. Some of the repairs were makeshift, but they would be good enough to get the capsule away from here, away from the clutches of the Silencers.
Wells looked at the cables the Doctor had connected to his transfer capsule. It would not be difficult to remove them. But could he do it? The Doctor had helped him. Wells knew he could never have repaired the capsule by himself. Was it fair to abandon the Doctor now, and abandon him to certain destruction?
Wells moved his hands away from the cables. He continued to watch for the first opportunity to escape however. He would not let the Silencers take him.
The Doctor did not look up from the temporal vector scanner. The reading was almost touching the mark on the display. There were just a few seconds remaining.
When the reading hit the mark, the Doctor called out, "Now, Charles!"
Wells activated the directional systems.
The Intelligence felt the power flow building up. Inside the accelerator, the chronons were starting to split open. The energy of creation was released. It would be the energy of destruction. Soon it would escape from the torus, and sweep away all in its path.
The Intelligence knew that the first thing to be destroyed would be the body it inhabited. But the Intelligence itself was indestructible. It would dwell within the energy, feeding on it, growing in strength. Then it would create its new form from the matter remaining after the time storm.
Suddenly the Intelligence became aware of new forces coming into play. The energy was not being released as it had planned. What was happening?
The body of Saunders began to move backwards. Time was flowing in
reverse. The Intelligence tried to flee the body, but it was trapped,
moving backwards through its own time stream. Was it possible that now, in
its moment of triumph, it was facing defeat?
The Doctor looked up from the temporal vector scanner. "I think it's working," he cried.
Wells studied the readouts on the directional systems. Everything was happening exactly as the Doctor had predicted. The time bubble was starting to form. Even the temporal shield was holding.
Wells saw his chance. The time bubble would only require a few more minutes to form fully. After that it would be self contained. He watched the readouts carefully. As soon as that moment came, he could disconnect the Doctor's cables, activate the main drive, and make his escape.
Of course that would leave the Doctor without the temporal shield. But the Doctor had the time baffle. He would surely realize what was happening, and activate it in time. Wells felt that he should shout a word of warning at least, but that might alert the Silencers and give them a chance to stop him. He wanted his escape to take them completely by surprise.
The time bubble was now complete. Time was running backwards in the accelerator chamber. Wells's moment had come. He disconnected the cables, and dropped them out of the open hatch.
Sonia happened to look up from reloading her revolver at that moment. She saw Wells starting to pull the hatch shut. She ran into the control room, her gun at the ready. "Look out, Doctor!" she called. "He's getting away!"
The Doctor spun round, in time to see the hatch closing. The capsule started to ripple as its chronon drive caused phase fluctuations in the local time field. Finally the capsule slipped out of phase and vanished into the time vortex.
In that instant, the Doctor realized two things. The time bubble would hold, and reverse the time streams. And without the capsule, they had no temporal shielding. They would be caught in the bubble as well.
"Colin!" he shouted. "The baffle!"
But it was too late. Time was already starting to flow in reverse. Sonia ran backwards out of the control room, lowering her gun. The others were moving in reverse as well.
The Doctor forced himself to move against the direction of the time stream. He was a Time Lord, and to some extent he existed outside of the normal flow of time. With a supreme effort, he managed to move a couple of steps forward towards the time baffle. It was like trying to swim in treacle. As the time stream continued to reverse itself, each step became harder. He knew he wasn't going to make it.
Then he became aware of someone standing beside him. Someone who walked slowly past him and towards the time baffle. Someone who wasn't affected by the pull of the time bubble.
It was Thomasine. Of course, she was locked into her own time track. The time bubble was trying to pull her out of phase, and she was moving against a great opposing force. But somehow she reached the time baffle, and extended her hand towards the switch with agonizing slowness. The Doctor wondered whether she would fail just at the last moment.
Thomasine's movements became slower and slower as she pressed her hand down on the switch. But finally the switch clicked home, and time started to run forwards once more.
Sonia ran into the control room, her gun at the ready. "Look out, Doctor!" she called. "He's getting away!"
She stopped short when she realized that the transfer capsule had vanished. "Well, he was there a moment ago," she said lamely.
"He's already gone," said the Doctor.
The two Silencers looked around in dismay, but there was nothing they could do. Wells had successfully eluded them. They could not even rush out to consult the instruments in their car, perhaps in the hope of tracking him. They did not dare put down the deflector units until the Doctor said it was safe to do so.
The Doctor regarded the space where the transfer capsule had stood. He should have expected Wells to try and escape. He could not find it in himself to be too angry. He understood Wells's wanderlust and desire for freedom. They were traits the Doctor recognized in himself. He just hoped that Wells would heed his words of warning, and take more care to avoid contaminating history with anachronisms.
The Doctor looked at the temporal vector scanner. The readings were blank. It was all over. The time bubble had swept the Intelligence back to the dawn of creation.
Now that the time phases had equalized, the door to the accelerator chamber was back in their own time field. It stood open once more, but there was nothing to see within. The accelerator and all the equipment had vanished, gone back to a point in time before they were constructed. Of Saunders there was no sign.
Colin placed his arm around Thomasine. "I had hoped that the Professor would be all right at the end of this," he said.
The Doctor shook his head sadly. "He was already dead. The Intelligence was just animating his body."
"Has the Intelligence been destroyed, Doctor?" asked Rhonwen.
"I don't know. It may have been taken back to a point before it ever existed. But it's quite possible that it's timeless - it may still exist somewhere in space and time."
The Doctor walked over to Thomasine. "You were very brave," he said. "You must have been in great pain."
"I knew I could do it," Thomasine replied. "I knew I had to."
The Doctor nodded. "How do you feel now?" he asked.
"A bit better."
"The distortion in the vortex will be starting to repair itself," the Doctor explained. "You'll be fine in a couple of days."
"Are you sure?" Colin asked.
"Trust me. I'm a Doctor."
He grinned and picked up the time baffle mechanism. He quickly removed the anachronistic components and stuffed them back into his pockets. He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Now you won't remember how you built that, will you, Colin?"
"I don't even begin to understand it," Colin said.
Seemingly satisfied with this response, the Doctor turned his attention towards the two Silencers. They were still clutching their deflector units, and looking despondent. They had failed in their mission once again.
The Doctor rubbed his hands, and said, "You can put those down now, gentlemen. I suggest you leave here as quickly as you can. As soon as the vortex is whole once more, the path between this continuum and your own will be closed forever. You don't want to get stuck here."
"And what of Wells?" asked Crabtree.
"Well, maybe he's still in this continuum. Maybe he's back in yours. But it's not worth going on with your mission if you can't get back home again."
Crabtree nodded. He turned to Gates, who nodded in his turn. Then, without another word, the two men in black turned and walked out.
Sonia moved forward to look at the empty accelerator chamber. "Well," she said, "I guess that's the end of your project, Colin."
"I suppose so," Colin replied.
"What will you do now?"
"As a matter of fact, I've had a job offer from the Devesham Space Defence Station."
"Ah," said Sonia, "to work on the Uranus mission."
"That's right," Colin said.
"I'm rostered for security duty there," Sonia went on. "I might well be seeing you."
She turned to Constable Brennan. "Don't worry about Inspector Keane," she said. "A clear up team will be here tomorrow, to take care of business in the library and the mortuary." She glanced again at the accelerator chamber. "But I don't suppose there's much to be done here, is there, Doctor?"
She turned around to the door. "Doctor?"
But the Doctor and Rhonwen had vanished.
Outside, the Doctor and Rhonwen climbed into Bessie.
"Aren't you worried?" asked Rhonwen.
"About what?" the Doctor replied.
"About Colin knowing how to build a time baffle. Doesn't that knowledge alter the course of history?"
"No," said the Doctor. "He didn't understand it, and he won't be able to recreate it. But he's been intrigued by the concept, and he'll spend a number of years trying to build something similar. And in thirty years, he'll get a Nobel Prize for developing a time shield. Rather crude compared to the time baffle, but enough to open up the possibility of faster than light travel. In fact, when I was here for the conference in 2107, they were discussing incorporating the Dicken Time Shield into the first proposed star drive designs."
"So you knew that all along?" Rhonwen asked.
The Doctor smiled enigmatically. Rhonwen knew it was the only answer she'd get out of him.
She looked back at the Nuclear Physics building. "Shouldn't we stay and help Sonia clear up the mess?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't think so," said the Doctor. "I'll just have to suffer everyone congratulating me, and you know what a terribly modest man I am. Besides, I can think of a much better way of spending the afternoon."
He started the engine. "Do you know, it must be some centuries since I went punting on the Cherwell."