The Doctor was hustled into the back of one of the UNIT trucks, Sergeant Crombie shoving him forward and clambering in behind him. He whirled, twitching with energy, up on his toes, and Crombie tensed, ready for an attack.
“All right, Doctor,” he said in his heavy voice. “Just settle down, the Colonel will have this sorted out before you know it.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” the Doctor snapped back. “Your colonel is going to destroy the world, do you realise that? If they switch off the machines in there...”
“I don’t know what they did to you in there,” Crombie broke in, “but it’s obviously the same thing they did to Doctor Castle. Try and get a grip.”
The Doctor frowned at him in vexation, then tucked his chin down onto his chest and leaped lightly forward, striking with two stiffened fingers at a point between Crombie’s shoulder and his heart.
The soldier recoiled by a matter of inches and stood there glaring at him suspiciously, unaffected.
“Blast,” the Doctor muttered. “I wish I could remember how to do that.”
Crombie shoved him in the chest with one thick-knuckled hand, sending him stumbling back to crash down heavily into the heavy equipment stowed at the far end of the truck.
“Now stay there,” he rumbled.
The Doctor glared up at him and fished into his pocket, extracting a silver device the size and shape of a ballpoint pen.
“Since you’re keeping me prisoner, you might as well confiscate this,” he snapped.
“What is it?”
Crombie approached cautiously. The Doctor flipped the gadget over in his palm.
“It’s a sonic screwdriver. It’s useful mainly for opening things. Like these tear gas canisters for instance.”
He clapped one hand over his mouth and nose and squeezed his eyes shut while with the other hand he touched the sonic screwdriver to the lid of a securely locked metal case. It sprang open like a toy and the grenades within spewed out great gouts of choking yellow gas.
* * * * *
Inside the Sanctum, Angela stood tensely and listened to the sound of metal slamming against metal reverberating around the great concrete chamber. Hazelbrook, his hair in greater than disarray than ever and his moustache drooping where he had chewed at it, hurried down the steps to join her.
“The front door won’t last long,” he fretted. “I’m going to have to let them in. Perhaps if we just put up our hands we can keep them from breaking anything or switching anything off.”
“Maybe,” said Angela grimly. “But I don’t think the Colonel’s in a mood to be reasoned with. You made him pretty angry.”
Hazelbrook huffed out a nervous breath and ruffled his hand through his hair. Then the phone rang on the desk.
They exchanged glances. Slowly, as though half suspecting it might bite, Hazelbrook lifted the receiver.
He listened for a few moments and then proffered the handset to Angela.
“It’s for you.”
“Angela ” came a familiar sharp voice, tinnily reproduced by the phone. “Are you there?”
“Doctor?” She grabbed it and turned away to face the sphere at the centre of the room. “Where are you? I thought you were going to talk the Colonel out of this.”
“Slight change of plan. I think the Colonel has had one too many people telling him about all the good work the Sanctum does. Now listen, he has his heart set on smashing or deactivating every piece of equipment in there. You’ve got to stop him.”
“Me?” Angela gestured helplessly as though he could see her. “What can I do?”
“Well, I can’t do anything, I’m stuck out here and there are soldiers all round the building. Fortunately you do have one very powerful weapon at your disposal.”
Angela opened her mouth to demand to know what he was talking about, but the sense that she already knew was gathering around her like a thundercloud. Tentatively, more from reluctance to voice it than from doubt that she was right, she asked:
“You’re... you’re not talking about the sphere?”
“Set the forcefield on low power for a minute or two. Phantoms will come pouring out. You’ll send the soldiers running for their lives.”
“Terrific. What about us?”
“You’ll be frightened too, but you have to hold it together, because you have to bring the forcefield back up again before the thing inside can break free entirely.”
“I...” Vividly, the experience of facing a single phantom flashed across her memory, all the pain, all the fear and humiliation and despair she had ever experienced concentrated into one moment and played out over and over again. “I can’t do it, Doctor. There’s no way. I can’t work a computer while...”
“Angela.” The sharp impatience in the Doctor’s voice was enough to silence her. “I’m not going to give you a long speech about the faith I have in you. I’m going to give you a short speech about how if you don’t do this we are all going to die, closely followed by the rest of the human race.”
She was silent, her mind roaring with objections that this was too hard, that it was too much to ask, that she couldn’t do it. The knowledge that she had no choice standing like a wall against them.
“All right, Doctor,” she said heavily. “I’ll try.”
“Oh, you’ll try,” came his arch voice down the line. “Well, that’s all anyone could ask. As long as you’ve done your level best and made an honest effort, the extinction of all life on Earth won’t really count, will it?”
“Oh, shut up, Doctor,” she snapped. “I’ll do it, all right? You’d better get ready, you’re not immune to those things either, remember?”
“Fine. Just try to bear in mind, whatever it shows you, it’s not real. Things that happened in the past can’t hurt you. You survived them when they actually happened, you can certainly survive watching a slideshow of them.”
Angela sighed, closing her eyes as the things she had seen the last time reared up anew in her memory.
“Right,” she said. “Here we go, then.”
She set the receiver down on the desk and hunched over a computer terminal. She knew how to do this, in the short time she had been working in the Sanctum she had already familiarised herself with the details of the sphere’s power supply. Switching it down to its lowest level would let the forcefield fail little by little through the leakage of its energy cycle. Leave it off too long and it would fail altogether. She tapped out the commands and failsafes one by one on the screen. Her finger hovered over the Return key.
“Time is a factor,” came an impatient voice from the phone. He really was an annoying man.
Angela closed her eyes and smacked a finger down firmly on the key.