The Brigadier, the electrodes still attached to his chest, held the cup of tea to Sarah Jane's mouth. "There you are. Drink this," he said. He seemed self possessed and calm, though this was his first attempt to stand since he had been brought here in the ambulance.
Sarah Jane sipped the tea. It was actually only tepid, for the tray of tea things had been brought up half an hour ago. She made herself calm down, and she took the cup in her own hand. "I'm all right, thank you," she said.
He sat down on the edge of his cot and, and for the first time showed some self consciousness as he pulled his pyjama top together around the cables that connected him to the machine.
Sarah did not notice this. "It's just that he said he would kill Superintendent March to convince me that I'm not just dreaming."
"But you were just dreaming, Miss Smith." The Brigadier kept his voice gentle. "You were right here. Asleep in the chair. It really was just a dream."
"I know he didn't take me anyplace. But he's real. He's got a hold of my mind."
Lethbridge Stewart knew enough of Sarah Jane Smith to appreciate that she was a fighter for the things she wanted, an earnest and hard working young woman. If he doubted her tearful appraisal of the situation, he did not say so. He took her free hand in his and held it firmly. "But we've got the rest of you, and the Doctor will know how to free your mind. He believes that you were hypnotized, and he's very good at breaking those sort of things."
"Oh where is he?" she lamented.
He patted her hand. "I know that he wishes he were here."
* * * *
The Doctor rolled onto his back as a great, torrid wave of drying air bore down on him. He snatched up the two paddles of the defibrillator and discharged them. Then he switched them to the charge setting, pressed them together, then pulled them apart and discharged them again. The discharge of the enormous capacitors made two sharp barking noises.
He managed to draw in a breath. The screaming down the corridor had stopped. They were dead. He switched the plates to the charge setting, pressed them together, and once again discharged them towards the energy wave. He sensed it recede like a great ocean wave pulling back. He sat up. His long body had sprawled across the stacks of equipment. But he did not move forward, nor did he dare release the defibrillator paddles.
It was waiting, unsure. Outside, People were rushing up to the doors, but he shouted at them to stay back.
As his attention waned, it came forward again, but he once again discharged the paddles towards it. Quite suddenly, it fled back down the corridor. All of the doors banged in their frames as the suction was released.
Hands still holding the paddles, the Doctor collapsed back and sucked in his breath. His clothing at the legs and sleeves was reduced to the seams, papery filament of cloth, and ash. His face and hands had dried patches on them that instantly broke free like scabs from the healthy skin and spouted blood. "Almost," he gasped. "Almost." Everyone else in the corridor was dead, reduced to the parched and dehydrated lumps that they had been examining.
* * * *
There was a telephone by the Brigadier's cot, and he spent several minutes on the urgent call that came through. Sarah Jane quietly finished the tea he had given her. She was now decently hungry, and there were biscuits on the tray. She helped herself to these. But a question that he asked into the receiver chilled her heart. "How many more dead? But the Doctor's all right? Can he get about? All right, I'll see him when he arrives. He can convalesce here if necessary."
He set down the receiver. She turned to him. He stood up. "Back in uniform," he announced. Then he added, "The Doctor was attacked by something. He's been burned, but not too severely."
She could not hold back her question. "You haven't dreamed anything since the bleeding?"
He had been speaking with a sense of urgency, anxious to find the direction to take things now, but he paused at her question. "No, Miss Smith. I have slept often and quite profoundly. But I have had no dreams of anything such as you describe."
"You don't sense---" But she stopped herself.
"What?" He was anxious and wanted to go change. He began to pull away the connectors from the electrodes. Getting the electrodes themselves off would be painful. She knew he would do that in private. "Sense what?" he asked.
"That something expects you to come to it?"
"No, not in the least." His eyes suddenly became concerned. "And if you sense that, you must resist it!"
"I have resisted it!" Except for that morning, but she did not say this.
He relaxed. "Look, the Doctor will likely go to the lab when he gets in. Perhaps you should be there. See how he is. I'll be down directly."
She nodded and walked out.
* * * *
The Doctor had his mind filled with his own narrow escape as he walked into the lab twenty minutes later. The dead patches of skin were no longer bleeding, and he had a fresh pair of trousers for himself, but he looked as though he had skidded down a sidewalk face first. Even his superior metabolism would require a few hours to heal the multiple superficial wounds.
But as soon as he saw Sarah Jane sitting alone on a lab stool, he forgot about himself. She looked forlorn and somehow vulnerable. Her hands were clasped together, and her eyes were preoccupied.
He hung up his cloak and crossed to her. "Hullo, Sarah," he said. He put an arm around her shoulders. "Glad to see you up and about."
She looked up at him, her expression pleading. "Is Superintendent March dead?" she asked.
The question caught him off guard. He became grave and decided to answer judiciously. "Quite a lot of people are dead, Sarah Jane."
Tears spilled out of her eyes as she looked up at him. "But he is, isn't he?"
"Why, it's not your fault. Were you angry with him? Did you wish he were dead?" He made his eyes sympathetic, ready to act as father-confessor.
"He told me in a dream that he would kill March. And then I would know he's real. And now he's killed March, just as he said." She caught his sleeve.
The Doctor put his arms around her, not realizing that he was imitating her persecutor in the dream, with her head on his arm as he leaned over her. But she held onto him and suddenly sobbed with fear. "He's real. He wants me to go to him."
"Who?" the Doctor asked.
"He spoke to me in the cell last night. He said he knows I've been with Fomalhaut. He says it means I have to be---that I have to go to him."
"But who is he?"
"I don't know. I don't know for real. But he said he would kill March, and now he has. To prove to me that it's not just a dream."
"All right, listen," the Doctor said. She was clinging to him like a child would do, and he saw in her eyes that she was traumatized, but still oddly open and suggestible. Her mind was strangely passive.
"You have been hypnotized," he told her. "That's why you don't remember what happened to you when you met Inspector Cole. The hypnotic suggestion may be causing a sort of backlash. Dreaming can be a way of purging your ego and sense of self from trauma. So it may be that an induced state of agitation is preventing you from getting past REM sleep." She didn't answer this, and he wasn't sure if she understood, so he added, "That means that you may have long bouts of disturbing dreams, and the longer you go on, the more real and disruptive the dreams become. We have to make sure you can get beyond REM sleep. A few hours of dreamless sleep will help you."
She didn't answer him, but she kept her eyes fixed on him. "Just look at my eyes a moment," he told her. She did. She was, he realized, in an extremely passive and suggestible state--perhaps a result of lack of proper sleep. In a moment she was hypnotized, completely unresisting. This concerned him. Even with her trust in him, there should be some automatic filtering in place by her consciousness. But there was none. All the same, the fear left her face as she looked up at him.
"Sarah Jane, when did you last see Inspector Cole?" he asked. She didn't answer. She was calm under his hypnosis, faintly aware of her surroundings but focused on him.
"Did you hear my question?"
"Do you remember Inspector Cole?"
"He said I have to make a name for myself."
"How did he get your camera?"
"He took it because he was angry with me."
"Then what happened?"
But she didn't answer. He realized that whoever had blocked her memory had done a nearly perfect job. He might wiggle free a few details, but the heart of the matter was still behind a wall in her mind.
"Was somebody else with you when Inspector Cole took your camera?"
"How did the ambulance men find you?"
"I was in the hedge."
The Brigadier walked into the lab to find Sarah Jane Smith in the Doctor's arms, their eyes only a few inches apart. "Well," Lethbridge Stewart said briskly. "You must have recovered quite well, Doctor."
Instead of turning to him, the Doctor said to her, "I want you to close your mind further. I want you to remember happier things before the last few days, and be confident in yourself."
He expected, especially given her passive state of mind, that she would agree, but she said, "He's got me in his net."
"Who?" he asked.
"I only see him in my dreams. It's not the real him. But he has a net. He drew me from a rare ocean, he said."
This, he realized, was simply a dream that she was recounting. "I'll get you out of his net. We'll have a briefing, and then I'll get you out of his net. Do you believe me?"
"Yes," she said.
Warrant Officer Benton walked in and his eyes widened at the sight of the scientific advisor and Sarah Jane, but the Doctor let her go. "All right," he said quietly. And she was returned to herself. She blinked and glanced around.
"You needn't stare," she told Benton, her voice sharp.
"Sorry Miss." Then he got a good look at the Doctor. He was amazed. "What happened to you, Doctor?"
"A near miss from an unearthly creature, Mr. Benton."
"Did it slap you with a waffle iron?"
"That will do, Mr. Benton." The Brigadier looked at the Doctor. "Well what about it? What happened down at the school?"
"It's the same thing that attacked you," the Doctor told him. "And it's not an infection or an insentient cloud of energy or radiation. It's a person. It's capable of making judgements."
Lethbridge Stewart, still weak, pulled up a lab stool and sat down. "How do you know it's what attacked me? And how did you escape it?"
"Slight variation on the variable frequencies that the protein sniffer produced. I discharged two defibrillator paddles at it. The magnetic pulse seemed to discourage it." He hesitated. "So because it reacted as I would have expected the entity from the house to react, I suppose it is the same creature, or at least another one of its kind." Benton groaned at the idea that there could be more than one. The Doctor continued. "But it was aware of me as a separate individual. When I thwarted it, it wanted to attack again. We actually sparred for a moment. It is intelligent and aware."
"Invisible?" the Brigadier asked.
"To us. But it has a body---of sorts."
"Must not be very dense," Benton said. "Nothing you could take a whack at."
"No." The Doctor swept aside some clutter on the work bench and drew a notepad and pencil closer. "But if life is energy, and a body is any vehicle that enables a life to move, revitalize itself, and observe its environment, then some bodies could sort of be the point at which energy and matter meet. Far less dense than a human body, but not quite pure energy."
Sarah spoke up, her eyes and voice steady. "And could such a body be wounded?"
"You mean, how do we get at him?" Benton asked. "Take a crack at him?"
"I mean, could he be wounded already?" she asked. "Could he have gone into that house because he was wounded?"
His eyes suddenly troubled, the Doctor looked at her. The Brigadier and Benton became silent. "Yes," the time lord said at last. "It could be wounded."
"Is that why it's killing people?" the Brigadier asked. "Like an animal in a frenzy of pain and fear?"
"No," Sarah said. "It's looking for food."
Benton was astounded. "Sampling us? Well it gave itself quite a batch this morning."
The Brigadier lifted a hand. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves." He glanced at the Doctor. "So you feel certain that it knew it had failed to kill you, and it wanted to attack you again. Clearly then, it is deliberate in seeking out victims. It has been purposeful in killing."
The Doctor nodded. "Some creatures not similar to humans might actually cut a swath of destruction and never know it. But whatever this is, it set up its lair in that house. And it lured victims in, content to get them singly."
"But it attacked differently then," Lethbridge Stewart said. "It pulled apart proteins in the blood to destabilize the blood and blood organs. Yet this morning it dehydrated its victims. And it did many at once instead of one at a time."
The Doctor was thoughtful. "It may be inefficient. It may not know how to get what it wants. Perhaps it's trying several approaches."
Lethbridge Stewart cocked an eyebrow. "You feel certain it is extra-terrestrial?"
"Well I don't think any mad scientist cooked it up in a lab!" The Doctor tapped the pencil against the pad of paper.
The Brigadier was not satisfied. "If it wants food from its victims, what exactly is it consuming? It made me bleed profusely, but what return did it get? And what benefit came to it from reducing those people in the school to dried out flesh and ash?"
The Doctor shook his head. "I don't know. Any chemical conversion that it creates could generate a type of energy that it finds usable to keep itself alive."
Benton voiced a question. "Do you think we could communicate with it?"
"Bother with communicating with it," Lethbridge Stewart snapped. "How do we get rid of it? How do we find it before it attacks again?"
"Based on the frequencies of the protein sniffer, and based on the frequencies of the defibrillator, I could produce a low voltage generator that will help us find it by triangulation," the Doctor said. "If we assume that the frequencies that halted it or drove it off are approximate to the resonant frequencies that disrupt its body, we can calculate its mass and density."
"Like making a radar that will find it," Benton said.
"Yes, and in the meantime, you'll have to have the materials people buy up or produce plenty of magnetic pulse generators to ward off its attacks." The Doctor nodded to the door. "I'll let you know as soon as I've designed a tracker. We can go out and look for it this evening."
The Brigadier and Benton stood. "What about Miss Smith?" the Brigadier asked.
"Sarah Jane shall stay with me."
* * * *
"Now then," the Doctor said after the Brigadier and Benton had left. "You sit on the old sofa, and I'll get the equipment."
She complied. The worn sofa that he had rescued from a castoff heap somewhere occasionally served as a place where he could take quick catnaps. But for the most part it was used as a sort of spare storage shelf. She moved the piles of wire, connectors, alligator clips, and boot blacking materials to a corner and then sat down.
He returned, pulling a small machine on a wheeled trolley.
"What's that, eh?" she asked. She sounded skeptical and pert. He liked that. It was more like her.
"Nothing very remarkable," he said. He unwound several small leads. "For big brains we need really massive machines, but this portable model should suit you perfectly."
He shot her a naughty smile and affixed a rubber pad to one of the leads. "This is sort of a brain wave stabilizer," he said. "Once I calibrate it and get you attached, it will override your own brain waves and impose its own pattern on them."
"I'm not sure I like that!" Her eyes were concerned.
"Well, if we used it continually, your brain would adapt and require a stronger signal, so you'd break free eventually. But in the short term, it can impose proper sleep on you. We can get you through the preliminary levels of sleep rather quickly, and then guide you into deep sleep, which is what you need to break the effect of the hypnosis and the trauma from being in lockup."
"You know, you keep assuming that there's nothing that's really got hold of me," she said.
He made his voice gentle and fixed the first rubber pad to her left temple. "I'm not assuming that. If something has got hold of your mind somehow, this will wall him out for a bit and perhaps give you a chance to exclude his influence."
She rested a hand on his sleeve, stopping him for a moment. "It wants me to save it from transformations," she said.
"How can you do that?"
"The point is, it talks about transformations a lot."
"All right." He made no other comment, and she let him continue.
"How long does it take to work?" she asked as he affixed the second electrode to her opposite temple.
"Not long." He reached over and flipped a toggle to turn on the machine.
"Well how---Oh," she said, her eyes suddenly drooping.
He lifted her feet so that she could lie down. There was a blanket about somewhere, and he hunted around for it. When he returned with it, she was asleep. He covered her, checked the machine, and returned to his workbench. He could keep one eye on her and attend to creating devices that would deliver magnetic pulses like punches into whatever was attacking people.
* * * *
The Brigadier entered the lab a couple hours later to find UNIT's scientific advisor busy with an oscilloscope. The Doctor's eyes were fixed on the tiny screen. He operated a small, plastic-clad gadget in one hand, swiftly rotating a potentiometer knob, and the screen of the oscilloscope suddenly flickered with a single brilliant blue dot that soared up and disappeared.
"The harmonics from that ought to daze anything that relies on a stable electromagnetic field to perceive its environment," the Doctor said.
"What about the detection equipment?"
The Doctor nodded to a large, fan-like antenna. "We'll need a few of these if you want to find it. It's going to require equipping vehicles with one each and driving all over the city to check for signals." He lifted his eyebrows. "And we'll likely pick up the odd bit of fluff that is not an extra-terrestrial at all, so it's going to be frustrating as well as dangerous work. We can only proceed with inexact reference points on its mass, density, form, and electromagnetic field."
He directed another glance at the o-scope screen as he turned the potentiometer knob again.
"So you've improved your first model?" the Brigadier asked.
"You know, it's just possible that the thing we're dealing with improved itself after its attack against you failed." The Doctor's voice was thoughtful. "I mean, if the protein sniffer dismayed it, those defibrillator paddles should have stunned it like a sonic boom. But the defibrillator discharge was barely enough to keep it at bay. I had to discharge them several times."
"Perhaps it was just all the more determined to kill you," the Brigadier said. "You might have been wounding it quite badly, but it may be sentient enough to understand that you're its greatest threat."
"Possibly. We'll have to see if it adapts further. Sarah said something about it being able to transform."
"I thought those were just dreams."
The Doctor shook his head and began to disconnect the magnetic pulse puncher from the o-scope. "There may be something there. Something seems to have left a deep impression on her mind." He looked up and became brisk. "We've got to get these items duplicated. I'll go with you and give them the specifications."
He glanced over his shoulder. Sarah Jane was asleep on the sofa, now in deep sleep. It had been a couple hours.
He crossed to her and looked at the reading on the machine.
"She should maintain this level for another two hours," he said. "I'll just nip out with you, but I don't want to leave her. Can you get a sentry in here to sit with her?"
"Certainly." The Brigadier picked up the receiver of the telephone to call down Benton, but just then his eye caught a glimpse of two men walking past in the hall.
"You there!" he called.
The two young soldiers came immediately. He was startled at how extremely youthful their faces were. The smaller one, in fact, looked almost like a pre-adolescent.
"I know I'm getting old," he muttered to the Doctor. "I need you to stay here until we return," he told them.
The taller one, a lad with pale red hair, quickly nodded. "Yes sir."
"Is the young lady all right?" the small one asked, casting a worried look at Sarah Jane.
"She is resting and must not be disturbed. Is that clear?"
"Yes sir," the taller one said. But he also shot a concerned look at Sarah Jane.
The Brigadier glanced at the Doctor. "Right then." They gathered up the devices and hurried out.
"I'll just close these doors, sir," the taller one said, coming after them. But the Brigadier and Doctor were already talking about how to equip the tracking cars and arrange them. They hurried down the hall.
The young man closed the double doors. After a moment's inspection, he locked them.
"Now we won't be disturbed at all," the smaller one said.
They looked at each other.
"She may understand you better," the tall one said.
His smaller companion nodded and crossed to Sarah Jane, then stopped. "She's got these things stuck to her."
"Come on, let's takek them off. They won't help her at all."
The two of them swiftly removed the electrode pads. They both leaned over her, their eyes intent.
After a moment, Sarah's cheeks flushed and she stretched her legs. She opened her eyes.
"Hullo, Miss," the smaller one said.
Their eyes were so kind that Sarah didn't react very much. "Hullo," she whispered.
As she evidenced no fear, the taller one said, "We thought you might like to come with us for a while."
She blinked and took this in. Then she asked, "Did the Brigadier send you?"
"No," the smaller said. "We've been looking and looking for you. Everywhere. If you didn't smell so much of the heavens, we'd never have found you."
This comment awoke some concern in her. "You've been tracking me?"
"Oh yes," the tall one said. "First to the jail, and then we lost you again. And then we picked up your scent and followed you here, and it took ever so long to get inside. This is a land with a lot of laws, and once you get inside buildings, there are even more laws, and none of them are written down, so you can't read up on them."
She sat up, not quite frightened, for they were gentle in their bearing, no matter how alarming the import of their words.
"But why should you follow me?" she asked. "How do you know me?"
The smaller one spoke: "We pulled you out of the hedge, poor little mouse."
And then, suddenly, she knew them. "What do you want with me?"
"Our master wants us to bring you to him," the taller one said. "He sent us back right away to get you."
He said this innocently and openly, but she tensed up. "Why?"
"He needs you because he' s suffered a terrible injury. You can make him transform so that he's not in pain any more."
All her fear came back to her, and she jumped so nimbly from the sofa that she got away from them. "How did you get in here?"
Outside the closed lab doors, the Brigadier was barely hiding his impatience as the Doctor hurriedly led him on a retracking of their steps. "Look, transistors can go bad at any time. It was cheaply made. Let me get a better batch from my own supplies."
"Doctor, your own supplies come from the UNIT supplies just like everything else in this lab---"
"Yes, yes!" He pushed at the closed doors. "What's this? Why are these locked?"
"Those two men locked them?" The Brigadier was puzzled.
The Doctor pounded on them. "Open up!"
"Doctor!" Sarah's voice called. "Help me! They've found me!" From inside, they heard the sound of one of the lab stools overturning. She was either struggling or dodging the imposter soldiers.
"Quick!" Lethbridge Stewart put his shoulder to the door and charged into it, but the reinforced steel lock could withstand a battering ram. He bounced back.
"Where are your keys?" the Doctor asked.
"Well get them, man! Hurry!"
"Right!" The Brigadier raced up the hall.
"Doctor!" Sarah cried.
He gazed around, but there was nothing to use as a pry or crowbar, and the doors were reinforced. "Sarah, hold on!" he shouted. "Keep away from them, I'm coming!"