The phenomic driver was disconnected. Zara released the breath she had been holding. But if anyone knew how to control the time-manipulator, it was no longer Zara. Now science really was untested.

"Wormhole theory states that time must have a port into which it flows," Zara recited. Chucking aside the driver-belt, she added her own laws; "if there is no driver to hold back time, logic dictates that it may surge into any port it wishes. Thus..."

With a flourish, Zara hit a second group of switches. She cast one glance up to the barometer – and gasped without really meaning to. It was surging into the 80s already.

"Yes! Thus, it simultaneously fills and abandons the manipulator's ports, causing an influx in the electric reading."

Something wasn't right, though. Zara waited, and felt its absence. Firm fingers grasped the bar – not thrown-off fingers or those pulling back. The dreaded second pulse should have occurred as the time-manipulator locked onto its stream. Sure, there was less port-connection, but her plan didn't change the manipulator in itself.

Didn’t it?

Unclenching both, Zara lingered one hand in the space above the grip-post and the other over the phenomic lever. It was this particular lever that her own skill had let her done during the test-experiment.

She drew in her breath again, oxygen-rich, and gripped her hands into fists. In theory, she didn't need it if the driver had disabled. But that was only theory. Without a second pulse, no time-stream would be lured into the potential difference; the additional power pushed forth the energy.

About to draw away, Zara slackened. She thrust her fists down onto the console, in the square space no control occupied. This was ridiculous! Could she never win?

The whole floor shook in a rumble forcing Zara to the steel ground. With no hands to hold her, she was falling. Zara lashed out for the lever. Her thumb and finger pierced its apex, but slipped thereafter; the lever itself rallied against its spring and bounded back up. With no driver, the phenomic lever played only the role of the petty cavalry.

The second pulse rocked the whole sturdy frame of the manipulator. Zara scraped hands, knees and ankles against the floor as it moved on the spot with her.

Zara rolled her head. At the edge of her vision, the two circles of glass shimmered. Their hands were spiralling. Zara jolted. She grasped the grip-post and heaved herself off her knees. The volt-barometer was reeling: 90, 100, 110. It wouldn't stop.

Good. She deserved some compensation for the stress.

The time-manipulator rattled at an alarming rate. Zara’s very bones were tossed by the juddering. Her teeth chattered so she was afraid they’d be shaken right out of their pit. Edging feet along the metal ground of the manipulator, Zara came to its meters again. The volt-barometer was beginning to settle, stranded between 140 and 150, but the glass-fronted measure that had read today’s date swung its hands in odd degrees. One would soar one way and pretend to stop whilst the other went its merry way, before the whole show was repeated.

With a shake of her head, Zara ignored it. On those uneven feet, she reached out and stroked the shell behind which the warning lights flashed. Two flicks of switches again, and the buzzing eyes had cooled, even when the manipulator still quivered within itself. Better that than the other mishap.

At least this data would be enough to placate stuffy Professor Leigh. All there was left to do was record her barometer reading via the typewriter. If she used the photo-view in one of the drawers, she could also have a copy of the physical proof. Her experiment had worked! And thank god. Everything was going to be all right.

She tiptoed to the closed door of the manipulator. She stepped over the phenomic belt, itself vibrating shortly with the trembles. When Zara stretched fingers to the access, she jolted back, cursing the static that had shot through her. The box was coated with the electric gloss.

And it was just as difficult to open the door as it had been the first time. She heaved it open – but fingers kept slipping. Her grasp crackled away, this newfangled electricity hurting.

Zara sighed, pushing oxygen through her teeth. She would not be weak! The moving floor didn’t help, either.

The door-handle slipped from her fingertips. She lunged for it again, but the door had opened, and she toppled forward. Into nothing. Hands lunged at the silky air. Zara closed her eyes, stretching hands alone for the floor hard beneath her. However, she didn’t fall. Something – maybe nothing by its lack of smell and taste and sound in the air – wrapped up Zara in a whirlwind. Perhaps it was just the effect of the manipulator’s continuing tremors.

In a glimpse, she had spotted a purpureous vortex – but new light had caught her by surprise. It fractured her view, until her hands were swiped by many sharp-soft feelings. Pins and needles this was not.

Zara opened her eyes as she panted. Inch by sorry inch, a new sight materialised into her uncertain view. Before she knew how, she had landed on a grassy bank, face down.

The End

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