The distorted, overlapping babbling voices filled the Doctor's ears and the menacing silver sphere filled his vision. The Doctor thought he could hear a new, familiar sound mingled with the voices, and turned his face away from the sphere, to see the solidifying shape of the TARDIS in the alleyway.
The sphere retreated, apparently disorientated by this sudden arrival.
The police box door opened, and Romana stuck her head out. ‘Doctor!’ she called.
‘Yes!’ replied the Doctor, wriggling back out from under the gate.
He needed no further encouragement. Picking himself off the ground, he darted into the TARDIS, slamming the door behind him. Moments later the time craft dematerialised, leaving the sphere hovering alone in the alleyway.
After a few minutes of roving around like a dog trying to pick up a scent, the sphere moved off.
The Doctor leaned against the console with relief. ‘Romana, thank you,’ he said breathlessly. ‘Thank you very much... thank you so much...’ He paused. ‘K9, you took your time.’
‘It was K9 who traced you,’ explained Romana. ‘He picked up that voice babble.’
The Doctor had something more important on his mind. ‘Romana, we've got to get the book back.’
Romana was confused. ‘I thought that's where...’
‘I dropped it,’ admitted the Doctor.
‘Dropped it!’ exclaimed Romana incredulously.
‘Yes, dropped it,’ replied the Doctor fiercely, annoyed at himself. ‘What was that thing chasing me?’ he asked K9.
‘Unidentified, Master,’ the robot dog reported. ‘Origin unknown.’
‘All we know is it attacked the Professor,’ Romana told him.
‘The Professor! How is he?’ the Doctor inquired, and repeated his question when Romana found herself unable to reply for a moment. ‘How is he?’
‘The Professor's life is terminated, Master,’ K9 informed him, matter-of-factly.
‘Dead!’ The Doctor was horrorstruck.
‘We think that thing stole his mind,’ Romana told him. ‘The sphere.’
‘When did this happen?’
‘I thought you were meant to be looking after him.’
‘I had just gone back into the TARDIS,’ Romana tried to explain.
Romana took a deep breath and braved an explanation. ‘I had just gone back into the TARDIS for some milk.’
‘For some milk,’ echoed the Doctor quietly.
Romana nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘I see,’ he said, turning to the controls.
‘Well, otherwise he was going out to get some himself.’
The Doctor waved away her explanation. ‘You needn't explain,’ he said as he prepared to materialise back in the Professor's study.
As night fell, Clare slowly dozed off, sitting in a chair in the laboratory with her head resting in her arms on a table. She flinched slightly as the printer chattered into life again, but didn't stir. Moments later, the machine shut down again.
Chris Parsons had been keeping a constant vigil over the Professor's body, only leaving it to turn on lights as dusk fell outside. He found himself disturbed by the Professor's open staring eyes, and eventually summoned up the nerve to close them, but his hand passed straight through the body. He gasped as the body vanished altogether.
As if in response, the TARDIS rematerialised back in the corner of the room, and the Doctor and Romana emerged.
‘Who are you?’ demanded the Doctor, instantly noticing Chris, still crouched on the floor.
‘Me? I'm Chris Parsons - Bristol Grammar School and Johns,’ he said automatically, getting to his feet.
‘Never heard of you,’ replied the Doctor dismissively, and then reconsidered. ‘Ah, You're the one who's been causing all this trouble are you?’
‘Me?’ responded Chris indignantly. ‘You're the one who's mucking about with time machines.’
‘How did you...’ began the Doctor.
‘I told him,’ Romana interjected.
‘Where's the book?’ Chris inquired.
‘Where's the Professor?’ countered the Doctor.
‘Well, he just... just...’
‘I don't know,’ Chris admitted. ‘His body just vanished into thin air.’
‘What have you done with him?’ the Doctor demanded angrily. First the book and now the Professor had gone missing.
‘Doctor, please calm down,’ Romana interceded. ‘It's not Chris' fault. He's not involved.’
The Doctor paused to consider Romana's words, and then continued in a more reasonable tone. ‘Where was the body?’ he asked Chris.
‘Just here,’ Chris explained, pointing to a patch of carpet. ‘It disappeared just before you arrived.’
‘Here?’ asked the Doctor, bending down to examine the floor.
The Doctor passed his hands over the area, and then looked up. ‘Yes. He's gone,’ he confirmed. ‘He must have been on his very last regeneration. Did you say that someone has stolen his mind?’ he asked Romana, as he stood back up.
‘Yes,’ agreed the Doctor. ‘That's what he said to me.’
‘Who?’ asked Romana.
‘Called himself “Skagra”.’
‘Skagra?’ repeated Romana, thinking hard.
‘You know the name?’
‘Just before the Professor died, he said three things,’ Chris informed the Doctor.
Chris thought for a moment. ‘“Beware the sphere”...’
‘Now he tells me,’ muttered the Doctor.
‘And “Beware Shada”,’ added Romana.
‘Shada?’ echoed the Doctor.
‘Do you know the name?’ asked Romana.
‘Shada...’ repeated the Doctor, wracking his memory. ‘Shada... I've heard the name, but... does it mean anything to you?’ he asked Chris.
He shook his head. ‘Doesn't mean anything to me.’
‘Well, Mr. Skagra, or whatever it is you call yourself - you have killed a Time Lord, and a very old friend of mine,’ The Doctor declared. ‘It's time you and I had a little chat... K9!’
The automaton emerged from the TARDIS in response to the call. ‘Master?’
‘K9, can you detect any trace of that sphere?’
‘Affirmative, Master, but it is far too weak to take a bearing.’
‘It must just be moping around looking for me,’ the Doctor speculated. ‘We'll have to wait until it's active again. Now listen, K9, let us know the moment you pick up a stronger signal.’
Romana approached the Doctor. ‘Doctor, if it's still looking for you...’
‘Right,’ agreed the Doctor. ‘We'll wait in the TARDIS.’
‘Excellent thought,’ said Romana.
‘Come on,’ the Doctor urged. ‘You too, Bristol,’ he told Chris.
Through the darkened, deserted streets of Cambridge, the sphere hovered, still searching for the Doctor without success. In the early morning, the sphere began returning to the spacecraft, travelling along the banks of the Cam.
The river was largely deserted at this time of the morning. A solitary figure, a middle-aged man, sat on the riverbank happily enjoying a spot of fishing. He failed to notice at first as a large sphere glided across the water in his direction. By the time he looked up and saw the rapidly approaching shape, it was too late to react.
The sphere swiftly attached itself to the hapless fisherman's forehead. The man's face filled with alarm as the sphere carried out its mind-draining process. A babble of voices filled the air and then, as the sphere detached itself, its victim toppled forward into the river.
The sphere resumed its journey.
Early morning light streamed through the laboratory windows and over the slumbering form of Clare Keightley. The printer chattered into life once more, and this time Clare awoke with a start. Blinking in the bright light, she realised that she'd slept right through the night, and from a quick glance at her watch, saw that it was now after seven.
‘Chris?’ she called, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. ‘Chris? Are you there?’ The printer halted, and Clare went over to it, shaking her watch in disbelief at how long she'd slept. Tearing off the strip of paper, she stared at the results in surprise, and then looked around.
‘Where's he got to?’ she muttered, and pulled down a copy of the University Directory from a shelf. She flicked through the pages, and then ran a finger down one of the columns. ‘“Charlton, Charlton, Chester, Christie, Chronotis”.’
Finding the address she required, Clare scribbled it down on the back of the printout, and stuffed it in her pocket. Stopping only to grab her coat and bag, she dashed out of the lab.
The Doctor, Romana and Chris were dozing in chairs around the TARDIS console when K9 suddenly became alert. ‘Master!’ he called.
The Doctor awoke instantly. ‘Have you got something K9?’
‘Affirmative Master,’ K9 reported, as Romana and Chris awoke.
‘The sphere is active. 5.7 miles at bearing 4.378. Velocity 15.3.’
The Doctor was already busy at the console, entering the coordinates. ‘Good dog!’ he praised K9.
K9's tail wagged in response.
As the police box began dematerialised from the Professor's study, there was a knocking at the door, and Clare entered to be greeted by the completely unexpected sight of a police box with a flashing light emitting a loud trumpeting sound. As Clare there dumbfounded, struggling to comprehend this phenomenon, the box faded away before her eyes, and she was left completely alone in the book-filled room, boggling at the space where the police box had just stood.
The sphere was nearing the end of its journey. It passed the car parked by the gate and set out across the field.
The TARDIS materialised near the edge of the field, and the Doctor, Chris and Romana emerged.
The Doctor pointed up at the sphere. ‘Hey! There it is!’ Even as he said this, the sphere disappeared from view, as it entered the shielded ship.
The Doctor turned to Romana. ‘Did you just see what I just didn't see?’ he inquired quietly.
‘Neither did I,’ agreed the Doctor.
‘It just vanished,’ added Chris.
‘That's what I said!’ The Doctor studied their surroundings. ‘Mind that cow-pat,’ he advised, as he walked off.
Romana turned back to the police box and called through the doorway, ‘Come on, K9.’
Skagra stood on the bridge of his ship. He had changed back into his previous outfit; consisting of a white tunic and trousers with silver trimmings, a long flowing silver cape, silver boots and a wide-brimmed white hat.
The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey rested in Skagra's hands. The book was proving to be an enigma. The sphere silently entered the chamber, and hovered obediently as Skagra turned to acknowledge its arrival.
‘Report,’ he instructed.
The sphere settled back onto its playback cone, and a holographic image appeared. Skagra watched with increasing annoyance as a scene of the TARDIS arriving and rescuing the Doctor was displayed. The picture froze on an image of the Doctor about to enter the police box.
‘Continue,’ Skagra instructed.
The picture unfroze, and continued until the TARDIS had dematerialised.
Skagra moved closer. ‘What is that machine?’ he demanded.
The image changed to a computer-generated outline of the TARDIS exterior, accompanied by a complex array of data. As this flashed up, the ship spoke. ‘My Lord, it displays the characteristics of a Gallifreyan Time Capsule. Type 39, possible Type 40.’
‘Present whereabouts?’ Skagra wanted to know.
‘In close proximity, my Lord. Intruders are approaching the ship.’
The holographic image reformed to show the Doctor and his party approaching across the field.
The Doctor and K9 were at the front of the group exploring the field. Romana and Chris hung back cautiously. K9 suddenly pulled to a halt, but the Doctor continued on, and suddenly struck his head against something hard and invisible.
Romana and Chris looked puzzled as the Doctor rubbed his head. ‘Hold it!’ he called back to them. ‘Don't move!’ He reached up and felt the invisible obstruction before him. The Doctor was reminded of lessons he'd once taken from Marcel Marceau, only this time there was no need to act as if there was nothing there.
The Doctor felt his way along part of one side of the ship's hull before speaking again. ‘K9,’ he said at last, ‘is there something here?’
‘Then why didn't you warn me, you stupid animal?’
‘I assumed you could see it, Master.’
Romana and Chris approached. ‘What is it, K9?’ asked Romana, as Chris reached up to feel for himself.
‘A spacecraft, Mistress, of very advanced design. Many of its functions are beyond my capacity to analyse.’
The Doctor whistled in amazement, but to his chagrin, Romana simply nodded.
‘If I'd built something that clever, I'd want people to see it,’ Chris observed.
‘What's it powered by?’ inquired the Doctor.
‘Aren't we all,’ the Doctor replied. ‘Where does it come from?’
Romana moved over to K9. ‘What does it look like?’ she asked.
‘Very large, Mistress.’
‘How large?’ added Chris.
‘One hundred metres long,’ K9 reported.
‘One hundred metres!’ exclaimed the Doctor. ‘That should keep the cows guessing.’ He looked up, trying to visualise the ship. ‘There must be an entrance somewhere.’
Chris looked around, trying to make himself useful, and suddenly saw to his amazement, a faded red carpet at his feet. ‘What's that carpet doing there?’ he asked. His question went unanswered.
‘The sphere disappeared about here,’ said Romana, pointing.
‘Got to be an entrance...’ muttered the Doctor, turning around. He stared at his feet. ‘What's this carpet doing here?’
Skagra had been observing the conversation between the Doctor, Romana Chris and K9 on the holographic display. ‘Admit them,’ he instructed.
‘My lord,’ replied the ship.
The Doctor and his companions were now standing on the carpet. ‘The door is opening, Master,’ K9 reported.
‘Affirmative, K9, affirmative,’ replied the Doctor, and cautiously began to climb the invisible ramp. ‘Come on, K9. Heel,’ he called down to the dog.
Chris, Romana and K9 carefully followed the Doctor up the invisible ramp and into the ship. As soon as the entered the craft, their surrounding instantly became visible. They found themselves in a long, hexagonal shaped corridor with gleaming white walls. The Doctor began moving up the passage, followed by Romana, Chris and K9 in single file.
Chris was visibly impressed. ‘Better than an old police box,’ he commented.
‘Shhh,’ replied the Doctor indignantly. ‘K9, any sign of that deranged billiard ball?’
‘The gaggleback, the beastie.’
K9 was none the wiser. ‘Master?’
‘The sphere!’ exclaimed the Doctor.
‘All signal sources are confused, Master.’
The Doctor frowned. ‘Romana, I'd feel happier if you three went outside again,’ he confided to her quietly. ‘No point us all walking into the spider's web.’
She disagreed. ‘No Doctor, I'll stay. You might need help.’
The Doctor started to protest. ‘I...’
At that moment, a sharply defined spinning cube of intense light engulfed Romana, Chris and K9. It then disappeared, taking the trio with it.
The Doctor stared at the empty space where his companions had stood only a moment earlier. ‘Romana!’ he called, and frantically looked around, searching for any trace of them. As he turned to look back up the corridor, he saw Skagra standing a short distance away.
‘They will not be harmed, Doctor,’ Skagra assured him. ‘For the moment.’
‘I'm not very impressed by the party tricks, Skagra,’ replied the Doctor contemptuously. ‘That is your name isn't it?’
‘These party tricks, Doctor, are purely functional; their purpose precisely defined. As is mine.’
The Doctor changed tack. ‘Where have you taken my companions?’
Skagra ignored the question. ‘Come with me, Doctor.’ He led the Doctor towards the bridge.
The Doctor appeared disinterested in his surroundings and instead continued his questioning. ‘Skagra, what have you done with the Professor's mind?’
‘It will be put to a more useful purpose,’ Skagra replied curtly.
‘I would argue that it was serving a very useful purpose where it was.’
‘Not to me,’ Skagra stated.
The Doctor stiffened. ‘You realise he had died?’
‘Only his mind was of use to me,’ Skagra informed the Doctor, ‘not his life.’
‘You take a very proprietorial attitude to other people's brains.’ the Doctor observed.
Skagra smiled thinly. ‘It seems to me that Time Lords take a very proprietorial view of the Universe,’ he observed pointedly.
The Doctor was taken aback by Skagra's familiarity with his own race. ‘Just exactly who are you, Skagra?’
‘That knowledge will be of no use to you.’
‘Then I think you may as well tell me,’ the Doctor reasoned.
‘And I think I may as well not,’ said Skagra. ‘We have more important matters to discuss.’
Clare had recovered from her initial shock at witnessing the departure of the TARDIS, and was now searching the Professor's rooms with increasing concern. She checked the kitchen, and then returned to the study. ‘Chris?’ she called. ‘Professor Chronotis?’
She stopped, noticing Chris's coat lying over a chair. ‘Chris?’ Her eyes then moved to take in the general chaotic state of the room. The Professor's books were scattered about the floor. She looked around the floor, but finding nothing to indicate the disappearance of both Chris and the Professor, she grabbed her bag and ran out of the Professor's rooms, down the staircase and across the courtyard - straight into Wilkin.
‘Mind out where you're going now,’ the porter warned, not unkindly. He picked up her dropped bag.
Clare gratefully accepted it from him. ‘I'm sorry,’ she apologised. She was about to run off again, but hesitated. ‘You don't know where Professor Chronotis has gone, do you?’ she inquired breathlessly.
‘Now, now, calm down,’ Wilkin advised. ‘Isn't he in his room?’
Clare shook her head adamantly. ‘No, I've just come from there.’
Wilkin scratched his head just below the brim of his hat. ‘Well that's funny. He didn't come out this way. I'll tell you what, if you want to leave a message, I'll see that he gets it.’
‘Look,’ said Clare, ‘it's just it's terribly urgent. A book that a friend of mine was taking to him... well, I think it's very dangerous.’
‘Oh,’ replied the porter knowingly. ‘Well all I say is people shouldn't write things if they don't want people to read them.’
‘No, you don't understand,’ Clare insisted. ‘The book itself - it's atomically unstable. It seems to be absorbing radioactivity. I think it's very, very dangerous.’
Wilkin frowned. ‘A book's doing that?’
‘Yes. We must find the Professor!’
Clare's fierce determination had made an impression on the old Cambridge porter. ‘All right then miss. I'll tell you what. You go back to his room and I'll ring around the College and see if I can find out where he's got to.’
Clare started off apprehensively back towards the room, and then hesitated. ‘But where to look? It's...’ She caught the porter's reassuring smile. ‘All right. Yes, I'll go back.’ She walked back across the courtyard.
Wilkin shook his head as he made his way to his lodge to begin tracing the Professor's whereabouts. ‘I don't know,’ he muttered. ‘They'll publish anything these days...’
Skagra escorted the Doctor on to the bridge of his spacecraft. Skagra went over to one of the couches and picked up the book. He weighed it thoughtfully in his hand.
‘This book, Doctor...’ he began.
‘Which book?’ the Doctor bluffed. Skagra passed it to him. ‘This book?’ He flicked through it and then handed it back to Skagra. ‘I've read it. It's rubbish.’
Skagra patiently returned it to the Time Lord. ‘Then perhaps you would read it to me?’ he purred.
‘I have a very boring reading voice,’ the Doctor advised him. ‘By the time I'd got to the bottom of the first page you'd be asleep, I'd escape, and then where would you be?’
Skagra's voice took on a menacing tone. ‘Read it to me.’
‘I presume you can't read Gallifreyan then?’ the Doctor inquired.
‘Like a native,’ Skagra assured him. ‘Read it to me, Doctor.’
‘All right. Are you standing comfortably?’
‘Then I'll sit down.’ The Doctor sat down on the nearest of the couches, and then noticed the sphere perched on the cone next to the seat. He blanched visibly at the memory of his last encounter with the device, and moved across the chamber to the other couch.
‘Begin,’ instructed Skagra.
The Doctor shrugged, opened the book to the first page of text and began to read. His words were nonsense and gobbledygook. After a couple of lines, he paused. ‘I'm paraphrasing, of course.’
‘Doctor...’ Skagra began warningly.
‘Shh,’ replied the Doctor, pointing to the page. ‘This is a good bit...’ He read another line of meaningless sounds. Suddenly a look of mock worry clouded the Doctor's face, and he began to hunt through the book. ‘Skagra,’ he said, looking up ‘Do you realise this book doesn't make one bit of sense?’
‘Doctor, a fool would realise it was written in code.’
The Doctor stared back at the book. ‘Skagra!’
‘This thing's written in code!’ the Doctor declared. ‘How am I doing?’ he added.
‘I believe you know the code,’ Skagra told him.
The Doctor was all innocence. ‘Who, me?’
‘Oh, no, no. I'm afraid I'm very stupid,’ the Doctor insisted. ‘Very stupid. I am very, very stupid.’
‘Doctor, I believe you as a Time Lord know this code, and you will give that knowledge to me!’
‘There's no point in giving me orders,’ the Doctor reminded him, ‘I'm very, very stupid.’
‘That is not an order.’
‘It is a statement of fact.’
The Doctor nodded. ‘Ah, how stupid of me,’ he grinned.
Skagra made a small quick gesture with one of his hands, and the sphere rose into the air and approached the Doctor. ‘You will give me that knowledge because you have no choice.’
The Doctor watched the sphere, his face strangely devoid of fear. ‘Ah, well I don't know about that,’ he replied blithely. ‘I don't know about anything in fact. I'm an appallingly stupid person.’ This last assertion seemed to be delivered with complete sincerity.
‘That, Doctor, will soon be very true,’ Skagra assured him.
The sphere attached itself to the Doctor's forehead, and the babble of voices could be heard once more. The strange sounds mingled with a long cry of pain from the Doctor, and he collapsed.