The Doctor and Clara find something very strange in a disappearing nebula.
"Clara!" the Doctor's yell reverberated down the Tardis corridors.
"Clara, Clara, Clara!" the Doctor poked his head around the corner, looking both ways. "Oh, there you are!" He sidled around the corner, a tall gangly man in a hoodie and a black frock coat, looking a bit like a preying mantis or grasshopper.
Clara shambled down the corridor, her hair askew. "What do you want?" she demanded petulantly.
"Where have you been?" he asked, prancing up and taking her biceps. He started dragging her toward the console room.
He looked her up and down, trying to figure out what was wrong with this picture.
"I was asleep. I'm human, we require a certain amount of sleep every 24 hours."
"That explains the nightgown," he sniped, eyebrow raised. He looked down at her cotton night gown with the tiny purple flowers. He shrugged and continued dragging her along by the arm. "It's a wonder your species ever managed to develop civilization."
She glowered at him.
He pulled her up the console room stairs and across to the controls, "Look, look, look!" He pointed with pride at the monitor, beaming a sharp toothed smile as if he was offering her the biggest treat in the universe.
She looked. She cocked her head in weary patience. "It's stars," she finally decided. Not knowing what he was wanting her to see. It was a field of stars, and a nebula, but not any one she recognized. "Can I go back to bed now?"
"Clara!" he said with a disappointed cry. "Why do I even bother?"
He pointed to the nebula taking up the lower right of the monitor screen. It didn't look like anything, not a horse or crab or anything, just a bunch of pretty colored gas.
"That is the Soulbound Nebula."
She waited a beat.
"Which is?" she asked.
He sighed a put-upon sigh. "It's the Mary Celeste of nebulas!" he threw his hands up in irritation. He pointed at the screen again. "It's the Sargasso Sea, the Flying Dutchman," he went on. "It only shows up occasionally, blaring out a distress signal, but when anyone goes to answer it, it's not there. The whole nebula just vanishes," he said melodramatically, with a magician's wave of his hands.
She looked at him, then looked back at the screen, her ratty hair bobbing. "Then why can we see it?"
"Exactly! Now you're getting it." He pointed that finger at her.
She looked around the console controls. The silent controls. "Why aren't we receiving a distress call?"
"That," he said with relish, rubbing his hands and positioning them to enter coordinates, "is the question."
Her shoulders slumped, she recognized that look. "No, really?" she whined wearily. "Can't it wait until morning?"
"What, morning? It's a time machine, it's always morning," he waved at the brightly lit console room. Already entering coordinates, "Why wait?" he looked at her cheerfully, all manic enthusiasm and fierce eyebrows.
"Because you used to be polite?" she muttered under her breath.
He glared at her, and threw the dematerialization lever.
The Tardis juttered and flipped sideways.
Clara shrieked, fell and slid toward the railing. She flipped over and grabbed, and found herself hanging vertically from the Tardis floor, her fingers dug into the Tardis vent holes.
The gravity shifted again, and she suddenly found herself lying horizontally on the floor again, fingers still in vent holes, her fuzzy slippered feet dangling over the edge of the dais.
The Doctor, naturally, had managed to keep his feet, clutching onto the console. "Hmm, bit of dimensional disturbance there. Interesting. I wonder what caused that?"
Abruptly the quiet was split by a shrieking siren. Clara flinched and pressed her forehead into the deck, not willing to move or let go to put her fingers in her ears until she was sure the Tardis was done with its gymnastics.
"Hah! Distress signal! Told you so." The Doctor shifted around to the communications panel, barely missing treading on her fingers. She didn't bother to look up.
She heard him fiddling with the controls, her eyes started to close.
"Huh, that's strange, I can't get a lock on it. The signal seems to be coming from the whole nebula."
His feet shuffled, and she could feel him looking down at her. "Are you going to lie there all day?" He waited a beat. "Are you asleep?"
"I'm thinking about it," she mumbled into the floor. She turned her head, pressing her cheek into the cool floor. "Can you please turn that alarm off?"
"What? Oh." The alarm cut off mid-wail. With a heavy sigh she gave up thoughts of sleep and pushed herself to her feet. She dusted grit off her nightgown and stared at the monitor. The Doctor was staring at her like he'd never seen her before.
Fine. If he was going to wake her up in the middle of the night, he could just get used to her bedhair and choice of sleeping attire.
The monitor still showed a field of stars, partially filtered through wisps of colored gas. "If we're inside the nebula, does that mean we're invisible?" she asked.
He jerked, brought out of his introspection. "Good question." He flipped some controls and leaned on the console. "Well, if we are, it seems to be a one-way effect." Stars filled the screen, filtered through a gauzy veil of color.
She yawned, and rubbed at her forehead with the back of her hand, she slapped back her ratty bangs. "So now that we're in here, now what? Where are we going?"
"I've no idea." He started working his way around the console checking communications, scanners, the quantum foam manipulator. "There's no vector on the signal, no specific direction it's coming from, so I guess we just..."
"What's that?" Clara pointed at the screen.
"What's what?" He dashed up behind her, looming like a scarecrow.
She turned to look up at his reaction. He squinted and peered closer at the monitor, his gray eyebrows seemed to bunch together in disapproval at what he was seeing.
He jerked up and started fiddling with the sensors, dragging the monitor around with him, so she had to follow.
"What are you doing?" she asked, it seemed pretty obvious to her what it was.
He slapped both hands on the edge of the console and peered closer, almost daring the image to change. "It's not a Tardis, and there are no electromagnetic signals coming from it."
"Is it a hologram?" she asked.
He turned and glared down at her. "I just said there are no electromagnetic signals coming from it."
"Light is an electromagnetic signal." He peered at it again, frowning suspiciously. "So it can't be a hologram. Honestly, what do they teach teachers these days?"
"Then it is what it looks like," she said. "Somehow."
"What would a house be doing floating in the middle of a nebula?" he demanded, affronted by its very existence.
She grinned at his huffiness. "Maybe its planet dissolved out from under it?" she suggested. It was possible, not likely, but not impossible.
He checked some readings, more to humor her, she thought, than believing it. But, she could be right.
"No indication of planetary matter. No indication of weapons fire, it's not even on any trajectory, as if it had been blown off its planet. Or even planetary velocity. It's just sitting there."
"On what?" she asked, mostly to provoke him. Really, if he intended to disrupt her sleep he couldn't expect her not to be snarky about it.
"On space," he said, looking at her as if she was a moron.
"Okay, so we have a creepy looking haunted house floating around in the middle of a ghost nebula," she summarized.
Suddenly his face brightened. "If you put it that way..." He started setting coordinates and slapped down the dematerialization lever before she could stop him.
"I didn't mean..." the Tardis went wonky again. Her slippers slipped out from under her and she found herself clutching onto the Doctor's calf as they gyrated through the dimensions. She was really going to have to get some tread on her slippers.
After she'd cut off the blood flow to his knee, he'd apparently decided they weren't going to be able to materialize inside the house, instead he flew the Tardis manually over to the structure. Frankly, since the floor was still at a 60 degree angle, he dragged her along.
She sighed. The things she put up with...
The floor eventually righted and she was able to climb to her feet, glaring at him. He was already heading for the door and didn't see.
"Wait!" she yelled before he could open the door. "What about air?"
He turned a confused scowl on her.
"It's a creaky old clapboard haunted house floating in the middle of space. I'm sure some of the windows were busted. You can't mean to just walk out into it!"
With a lifted eyebrow he reached out and opened the door. She shrieked and grabbed hold of the console, instinctively holding her breath. Not that that would do much good during explosive decompression.
She held her breath, her cheeks puffing out until her face went red. He watched, interested.
"It's got an atmospheric shell," he said calmly.
She glared at him from behind puffy cheeks. She let her breath out in an explosive huff. "You do that on purpose," she said with glowering menace, it was strangely more effective, considering her ratty bed hair, flowered nightgown and fuzzy slippers.
He didn't dare smile. But she saw the lines around his eyes crinkle deeper. She glared harder. Her fingers hurt when she forced them to release the console.
She walked over and looked out. The Tardis was parked right next to the gray-planked covered porch. Floating. The house looked exactly like what it was, an old abandoned house. Warped gray boards, peeling paint, dingy ripped curtains hung mockingly still in broken windows.
"You're not seriously going out there?" she said.
"You can stay here if you like," he said. "But to investigate the only apparent structure in the Soulbound Nebula? Oh yeah, I'm going out."
"You trust it?" she asked. "It could all be an illusion, it could cut out at any time and leave us floating in space."
He shrugged. "You can go put on a spacesuit if you like. Although it might be a bit bulky in the hallways in there," he peered out at the old 1920's American style structure. "I set the Tardis to materialize around us if the atmospheric conditions change."
He held out a hand to her, a long, strong veined hand. He did that so seldom anymore that she took it. She'd gotten in the habit of trusting him. More fool her.
They tiptoed out onto the porch. Clara deliberately blocked out that first step, over an endless star void, onto the weathered planks of the porch.
They creaked under their footfalls. She kept a gimlet eye on the curtains in the window. They didn't flutter. There was no breeze to flutter them. But she wouldn't put it past them.
The air was fresh, like springtime after a rain shower. Not dusty and moldy as she'd expect. No smell of old wood or rot. The Doctor peered around and led her toward the door, it was an old screen door, complete with a jagged coin-sized hole at the bottom and edging seal dangling out on one side.
"Are you sure we're not dreaming?" she asked. The whole thing practically screamed "haunted house," almost too much.
He pinched her. She jumped. "Ow!"
"No, we're awake."
She rubbed at her biceps and glared at him. The floor creaked. Her eyes went huge. They'd been standing still.
His face went avid. "Uh, Doctor, are you sure we're alone here?" she asked, voice trembling just a bit. It's not like this was a house you could go running, screaming out of, into the yard.
He turned and looked at her, eyes agleam. "No, what gave you that impression?"
She glared a hole in him. "You mean there's something here with us?" she demanded through gritted teeth.
"I thought that's why you wanted to come investigate?"
Truly, why was there never a frying pan around when you needed one? Choking down on the impulse to beat him over the head with something, she looked around, ears straining. The sound didn't come again.
"Why would there be a house in the middle of a nebula?"
"You already asked that," he pointed out.
"It's still a valid question!" she said, nerves stretching under her skin as she watched his hand go toward the door handle.
"You're awfully cranky this morning," he said.
"It's not morning! I only went to bed two hours ago!" She watched in dread as his hand closed on the doorknob.
"I'll have to find you a teddy bear. Reduce the tension."
He turned the knob and shoved open the door. She flinched, and squinched her eyes shut. She peered out of the corner of her eye.
Nothing. An empty hallway. Not even any cobwebs.
He stepped inside. He tucked her hand into his elbow and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking around. "Not much here."
A bare room opened on each side of the hallway. A carpetless staircase led up to the upper story. What looked like a creepy 1920's kitchen gleamed dimly from the back of the hall.
Starlight shone through the windows, brighter and harsher than moonlight, throwing sharp shadows.
They toured through the downstairs rooms. A sitting room, a living room, a dining room. Clara was only guessing, since none of the rooms had furniture.
Her senses were knotted up so tight she expected a ghost to jump out at them at any minute. She'd seen too many haunted houses and creepy space stations in her time with the Doctor.
He, on the other hand, was soaking everything in with the appreciation of a Haunted Ride aficionado.
They ended up in the kitchen, with its dry sink drain and tattered curtains over the small window.
"It's very clean," the Doctor commented.
"What?" Clara said. Those crooked cabinets looked designed for harboring any number of mutant alien horrors.
The Doctor drew his finger along the countertop and held it up for her inspection. "No dust. No mice, no mildew. Very strange for a haunted house."
It was also very silent. Except for the creak of the floorboards and their own breathing, there was not a sound.
"Let's look upstairs." He joggled her arm in his as if he was jollying her along. Frankly, at this point, she'd rather be back in her bed sleeping.
They tiptoed up the stairs. Something about the place required tiptoeing.
The upstairs was the same, empty rooms, still curtains, and creaky floorboards.
"This is getting monotonous," Clara said, finally starting to relax. They'd found nothing the least bit dangerous. "What in the world is an extremely clean, creaky, haunted house doing floating in the middle of a nebula?"
"A disappearing nebula," the Doctor corrected her. He still had that look that hoped they'd find something interesting.
Clara reached out and pushed open another door with a squeal of hinges.
Then jumped back.
She knocked into the Doctor, he grabbed at her for balance, "Clara, what...?"
She was pointing into the room, hand over her mouth, eyes wide. "There's a body!"
He sidestepped around her and pushed the door open wider. There, in the middle of the bare bedroom, lay a long limbed humanoid body. Female from the look of it, dressed in a gown not dissimilar to Clara's.
It lay on its back, perfectly laid out, legs straight, arms down by its side. As if someone had arranged it for a funeral.
Clara grabbed the back of the Doctor's coat as she followed him. "Is she, dead?" she asked hesitantly.
The female, because she didn't look quite human, had a long fall of rainbow colored hair, and a decided V divot between her eyebrows. Not like the Doctor's frown lines, but as if it was some feature of her skull. Her large eyes were closed, thankfully, but even her eyelashes were rainbow colored.
She had perfect, flawless pale skin. Too pale.
Clara got herself under control. The body wasn't breathing. She stepped forward and knelt down, touched one arm. "She's cold." She looked up at the Doctor, then back down at the body. "Poor thing."
The Doctor walked all around the body, studying it from every angle with a scowl of concentration.
"Do you think she was abandoned here?" Clara asked. "Or died when whatever happened to the house happened?"
Clara pressed her palm down on the figure's forearm, trying to see if she could feel any faint lingering heat, see how long it had been since she died.
"Odd texture to the skin," she commented. She brushed back the rainbow hair. "Who were you?" she asked, softly.
The eyelids flipped open, large lavender eyes stared sightlessly upward. "Who are you?" a child's singsong voice repeated.
Clara screamed and backpedalled, crabwalking.
"Who are you? Where are you?" the little girl voice asked again. The body didn't move, still staring straight up. But the mouth moved. As if by itself.
Clara stared, goosebumps rising on her arms.
The Doctor waved his hands over the body's sightless eyes. It had no expression, no breath, no life.
"How are you hearing us?" the Doctor asked.
"I don't know," the childish voice replied, "you're just in the air."
"Do you know where you are?" he asked, looking interested.
"Of course I do, I'm on the courier ship, 'Remittance.' Where are you, why can't I see you?" the voice demanded.
Clara looked from the Doctor to the alien body on the floor.
"That does seem to be the question." the Doctor muttered. Looking around.
"What is she talking about, we're not on a ship," Clara said. The wood plank floors were ridged underneath her, the stars still shone through the tattered curtains.
"Where are you specifically?" the Doctor asked, digging for information.
"I'm in my cabin."
Clara looked around. "Your cabin in the woods?" she whispered, feeling like some dumb blond in a horror movie. She suddenly twisted around on her seat, leery of what might be behind her.
There was nothing but the door. And shadows.
"What's your name?" the Doctor asked the lifeless figure.
"Evissa," the voice said.
"Evissa, do you know your exact coordinates?" the Doctor asked.
"Uhm," it was a sound of extreme unease. Then in a softer, tenser whisper. "I don't think I should talk to you any more."
"No, wait!" the Doctor yelled, reaching toward the figure. He looked desperately at Clara and stirred his hand in the air, urging her to take over.
"Wait, Evissa," Clara said. "Please don't leave. We're just trying to figure out what's going on. We don't mean you any harm." Not that she saw how they could harm a corpse. Or a ghost.
There was no answer. Not even the sigh of a breeze.
They waited for what seemed like an hour. They went and looked in all the other upstairs rooms. The Doctor even stuck his head in the attic.
But they left the bedroom door open all that time.
Eventually there was nothing left to see, and they migrated back toward the room. The female still lay on the floor, staring.
The Doctor reached down and moved aside the strap of the female's dress with one finger. Drawing his finger along the shoulder joint.
"Doctor, what are you doing?!" Clara asked with alarm.
He looked up, bland faced. "Just checking something." He let the strap fall back into place, then went over and drew his finger along the grain of the wooden windowsill. He rubbed his fingers together. He stared out the window. Then cocked his head, as if noticing something.
"Who are you and why do you want our coordinates?"
Clara jumped like a cat. If she'd had fur it would all be standing on end. The voice was huge and booming, deep. Coming from the body on the floor. Definitely not a girl's voice.
Clara expected the figure's head to start turning around like the Exorcist.
"Ah, now we're getting somewhere." The Doctor rubbed his hands together.
"I'm the Doctor, my companion is Clara. We're travelers and just happened across you. It seems you are having a spot of bother?"
The voice growled. "Our warp engines have had an odd phase shift, but we're working on the problem."
"Yes, I can see that," the Doctor flipped a fingertip toward the window. "Perhaps I can help, I'm rather good with engines."
"Our engineers are working on the problem. What I want to know is why you are speaking to my daughter. And how? Where are you?" the voice sounded frustrated and a bit spooked.
"Ah. That's a bit hard to explain. We appear to be in the same place you are," the Doctor said. Clara stared at him, she hadn't seen any spaceship nearby.
"Then why do you need our coordinates?" the voice demanded.
"Just making sure." The Doctor waved it off. "The real question is, how many attempts have you made to engage your warp engines, and when is your daughter's birthday?"
"What?" the voice sounded totally confused.
"They're simple enough questions," the Doctor replied.
There was a silence, as if the voice conferred with something they couldn't hear. "What I want to know," the booming voice came back. "Is where your signal is coming from? Our instruments indicate the source is right here, and yet also at a great distance."
"Yes, that would make sense." The Doctor nodded sagaciously.
Clara looked back and forth from the Doctor, to the female humanoid on the floor. Its lips moved with the deep, masculine voice. But it still stared sightlessly out of long-lashed, lavender eyes.
Communication by possession?
"I'm assuming your daughter's birthday was recently?" the Doctor asked, his hands doing that wavy theatrical thing, his body posing in place the way he did when he knew he was right.
"How do you know that?" the voice demanded, becoming protective and suspicious.
"Oh, don't worry, I'm not on your ship. I've never seen your daughter. But I do think I've seen her birthday present. I have your coordinates, thank you for confirming that by the way. Now, if you want to get your warp engines working, you'll need to work with me."
"No. Our engineers think they have corrected the problem and we will be warping out in five minutes," the voice responded.
"Don't!" the Doctor jumped forward, almost grasping the figure's shoulders in his urgency. "You've tried engaging your warp field at least four times so far, haven't you," he demanded. "It hasn't worked. At the moment you're still relatively stable, but if you try again you could be irretrievably lost, and us with you!"
He scowled ferociously at the female figure, willing it to comply. It didn't move by so much as a twitch.
"How do you know we've tried four times before?" the voice asked in a softer tone.
The Doctor sighed out. "We've seen the effects here. And each time you do, it sets off you automatic distress call, doesn't it?" he demanded.
Suddenly Clara perked up. Now it was starting to make sense. She sat up on her knees on the floor where she'd backed away from the body. If they tried that again, they'd be lost. Just like the nebula. The ghost nebula.
"Please," she said, speaking to the figure and whatever voice was beyond it. "Trust him. He can help."
"Who is that?" the deep voice demanded, suspiciously.
The high, piping, little girl's voice returned. "That's Clara, I heard her first. She sounds nice."
Clara's eyebrows raised. He had his daughter in there with him?
There was a long silence, as the voice considered. Finally, "What would you expect us to do?"
They stalked back through the silent creepy house with long strides, downstairs, and out onto the front porch. The Doctor snapped the doors of the Tardis open, and jumped the gap into the console room.
Clara, again trying to ignore the endless starry depths below them, stepped wide across the gap, sliding a bit on her treadless fuzzy slippers, then gratefully closed the Tardis doors behind her.
"What are you going to do?" she asked, pattering down to the console after him. He was already cranking away at the controls, apparently whatever it was required a lot of cranking.
He grunted, checked something, then locked off the gear lever. He did something with the quantum foam thingy, then started flipping all those coordinates levers.
Finally he went to the communications console and pulled something up. "Can you hear me?"
"Yes." The big booming deep voice came over the Tardis speakers. A picture of the nebula floated on the scanner screen.
"We're back on our own ship," the Doctor explained. "Now, you don't need to do anything, just hang on. And do not engage your warp engines." He twisted a dial down hard, as if tightening a nut.
"You may get a collision warning from this," the Doctor continued, "but just ignore it. I can guarantee that none of my ship will touch yours." He gave Clara an, "I hope," grimace. "Oh, and your ears might pop. Just open your mouth, or chew some gum or something."
"What are you going to..." the voice started.
"Here we go!" the Doctor ignored him, and threw the dematerialization lever.
The Tardis rotors overhead ground to a heavy start, then started spinning, faster, and faster.
"do..." the booming masculine voice stretched and climbed up the octaves, ending on a high note that sounded like his daughter's before disappearing into the distance.
The Tardis shook, not in any direction, but as if it was shaking in and out of reality. Clara felt her stomach advancing and receding, trying to crawl up her windpipe.
There was a feeling of huge pressure, like being inside a giant balloon.
"Almost there!" the Doctor stared intently at the readings on his scanner. He held onto the dematerialization lever as if he was applying the pressure himself. "Almost..."
"There!" He flipped the lever up with the panache of a balloon artist tying off a balloon.
"What have you done?! Where are the stars?!" the booming masculine voice was back. Somehow it sounded nearer, and clearer.
"Oops, sorry," the Doctor jumped sideways, flipped the catch off the gear panel, and all the gears snapped back to their original settings. "Just a mo.!" he yelled.
He went back to the coordinates panel, leveled all but one of the levers there, then bobbed back around and pulled the dematerialization lever down, then abruptly back up.
The Tardis bounced.
"There we go." The Doctor grinned in satisfaction and shoved his hands in his trouser pockets. He stared at the scanner screen.
On the screen was a large sleek spaceship where the nebula had been. It had some sort of symbol painted on the side, lines streaking off one side of it indicating swiftness.
There wasn't a wisp of colored gasses anywhere.
"The postal courier ship, Remittance, I believe." The Doctor said with a note of satisfaction.
The screen changed and the image of a bridge appeared, a large burly man and a small curly haired girl appeared on it. They both had the divoted forehead of the body they'd seen. But while its hair had been rainbow colored, and its eyes lavender, these had eyes and hair of orange just short of luminous.
"What did you do?" the Captain asked, in that familiar deep voice. "According to all our instruments we are back in normal space and..."
"Your warp fields were disrupting your molecular structure. Instead of warping you across space it was increasing the space in your warp field, making you diffuse. From the outside you looked like a gaseous nebula.
"All I did was surround your nebula with my ship and compress it back to normal dimensions."
"So where did the stars go?" the Captain asked.
The Doctor shrugged. "You were in one of my hangar bays, I had to dematerialize around you to put you back into normal space. And time. No need to do a Rip Van Winkle."
"So now what?" the Captain asked. "Our warp systems are still malfunctioning."
"So now you call for a tow," the Doctor said. "Seriously, I can't be expected to solve all your problems."
The alien Captain scowled at him, a particularly effective expression with that divoted forehead. He turned to relay a command to a member of his crew.
Evissa jumped up and down into the monitor, trying to get their attention. She leaned in close, her orange-eyed face filling the screen.
"How could I hear you?" she whispered dramatically in that overly loud children's voice. "I thought you were a ghost!" Her sherbet colored eyes went huge at the memory.
Clara grinned at her expression.
"We found your birthday present," the Doctor said, matter of factly. "You got a 'Talk To Me Tillie' doll if I'm correct?"
Her eyes went even larger, and sparkled with excitement. "Yes! And a dollhouse! A nice creepy one!"
Her eyes sparkled with bloodthirsty good humor. Clara laughed out loud.
Her father's hand appeared on Evissa's shoulder and pulled her back away from the screen. She waved at them and ran off. "Wait here!" she called back over her shoulder.
"How were you able to communicate through the doll?" the Captain asked. "If we'd all been diffused throughout the warp field?"
"We found it floating in the nebula," the Doctor answered. "In order to save space I assume you stored it in a compression capsule?"
"Yes," the Captain said. "One of the perks of being Captain."
The Doctor nodded. "The mass differential was enough to make the casing diffuse, like the rest of the ship, while the compressed contents appeared larger than normal, still in regular space."
"Look! Look!" Evissa came running back, orange curls bobbing. She waved two objects at them. As she came closer, Clara could see they were a gray creaking dollhouse, and a rainbow haired doll, the size of a Barbie.
Clara gulped. A sickly grin spread over her face. "They're lovely," she said, her voice wavering. She swallowed. "I especially like the rainbow colored hair."
The girl hugged her toys to her chest. She grinned up at them. "I like your hair!" she said with enthusiasm.
Clara's hand went up to her head. Her hair was a bird's nest of ratty bed hair. She looked down in horror. She was wearing her pyjamas.
She stared at the Doctor in horror, her mouth hanging open. "I'm in my nightgown!" She punched him in the shoulder.
And sidled sheepishly out of range of the monitor.