At NORCO, a Southern California physics research center, a cleaning woman is vacuuming in a lab as a storm rages outside. She finds a dust bunny in the corner and tries to vacuum it up, and she finally manages to suck it into the cleaner tank. The tank expands and finally bursts, and an energy cloud flows out as the cleaning woman stares in horror.
Several days later, guard Warren Edgar Morley stands at the gate. He takes a cigarette out of his jacket pocket, revealing a pacemaker like device strapped to his chest. A car pulls up and Warren demands to know why they're there. The driver, Stuart Peters, introduces himself and says that he starts working there the next morning. He and his brother Jory drove cross-country to get there and Stuart wanted to take a look at his new job. Warren tells them to look fast, turns around, and writes something on a matchbook cover: "Don't come back to NORCO. Doomed." He then asks Jory for a cigarette and slips him the matchbook.
Once the Peters brothers drive away, a wind comes up and the energy cloud moves toward Warren. He says that he didn't tell, but the cloud disintegrates him in a matter of seconds and goes back the way it came.
That night at a motel, Jory is calling TV actress Gaby Christian on the advice of a mutual acquaintance. He tosses the cigarette pack and the matchbook to Stuart, who sees the message on the cover. Jory makes a date with Gaby, and Stuart asks him where he got the matchbook. His younger brother remembers that Warren gave him the matchbook, but figures that it's a prank. Jory is more concerned that Gaby made a date with him without getting his name, and leaves for the night.
The next day, Stuart meets with Dr. Bloch, the head of NORCO. He shows Bloch the matchbook and says that Warren gave it to him. He notes that there's a new guard on duty, and Bloch explains that they wanted a young fresh physicist for their work. Bloch points out that Stuart came anyway and figures that he didn't take the warning seriously. He knows that Jory came, and points out that they thought Stuart had no dependents. Stuart explains that Jory dropped out of school to stay with him and doesn't like being alone, and they have no parents or other relatives. He says that a warning on a matchbook wouldn't be Jory's idea of a joke, and Bloch takes Stuart to his new superior, Professor Stephanie Linden.
Stephanie is in the lab and a worker calls to say that Bloch is bringing Stuart in. She puts on a lab coat to conceal the pacemaker around her stomach, and the two men arrive. The two men come in and Bloch introduces Stuart and then asks Stephanie to show him around. Once he leaves, Stephanie apologizes for not making conversation. Stuart asks her about the "grotesque problem" that he was brought in to help solve. As she starts to show Stuart around, she says that they have to find a way to break the Conservation of Energy Law. They have to find a way to create energy, because they've failed to find a way to destroy it. Stephanie insists that they have to get started, and leads Stuart to a sliding door leading into a corridor. She opens it and tells Stuart to go on ahead. When he goes in, Stephanie closes the door and Stuart sees a flickering light through the door at the other end of the corridor. He peers out the window in the door he entered through and sees Stephanie looking away. She ignores his calls and opens the other door leading to the "Pit". The energy cloud moves down the corridor and Stephanie leaves as Stuart screams through the soundproof glass. Roaring, the cloud envelops Stuart.
That night at the motel, Gaby arrives at the brothers' room. She knocks and Jory lets her in, and Gaby says that she thinks that she's being followed. They hug and Gaby asks where he's been all day. He says that he's been sleeping all day, and hints that she wants to go to dinner with him again. Jory points out that he never sleeps during the day, and wonders if the hotel clerk saw Gaby. He says that something malevolent is going on. When he came back that morning, he smelled something "deadly sweet" and thought someone had come in. He fell asleep and while he did, someone cleaned up the room. Jory then apologizes for pouring out his neuroses, and Gaby assures him that what he's saying is spooky. She asks if he's neurotic, and Jory explains that when he was 8, he watched his parents die in a boating accident. When Stuart came back for the funeral, he asked why Jory didn't go sailing with their parents and Jory always had the feeling that Stuart thought Jory should have died with their parents.
At NORCO, Bloch and Stephanie look at Stuart's corpse. An assistant takes the body away and Bloch asks Stephanie if Stuart seemed interested in their problem. He tells her that she must get over her repugnance with death, and says that she should be grateful because she's faced the most terrifying experience of all and gotten it over with. Bloch advises her to enjoy the life he's given her. The new guard at the gate calls Bloch and says that Warren is there to see his brother, but Stuart isn't listed on the directory. Bloch explains that Stuart just started so his name isn't on the directory, and he went out with a field crew to inspector some generators and won't be back for at least a week. Stuart asks to speak to Bloch, but the guard advises him to take Gaby dancing. Jory repeats his request and struggles with the guard, who clutches at the pacemaker beneath his coat and then reaches for his gun. As Jory and Gaby leave, the phone rings. It's Bloch, and the guard tells him that Jory left.
A week later, Stuart enters the motel room as Jory comes out of the bathroom where he's running water in the tub. Stuart says that he was involved with an experiment at the lab, and claims that he told someone to call Jory. Jory turns down the water, and Stuart starts talking about how they're trying to break the Law of Conservation of Energy. He says that they need more energy than they can legally acquire, and they'll need more and more. Jory says that he thought he'd enroll at the university there, but Stuart tells him to go back to their home in Kingston. One of the conditions of his job is that he can't have any dependents, and says that Jory is dependent on him. He abruptly tells Jory not to lean on him from now on, and to leave immediately. Jory says that a girl there loves him and he's independently wealthy so he can live anywhere he pleases. Stuart snaps at him to leave, and Jory realizes something more is going on. His older brother tells him that he's tired of Jory hanging on him, and Jory notices him fiddling with his jacket. Jory yanks the jacket open, revealing a pacemaker. They struggle, and Stuart falls into the bathtub. The pacemaker shorts out, killing Stuart.
Later, the police arrive with Detective Sergeant Thomas Siroleo in charge. Gaby arrives and Jory tells them what happened, and the coroner confirms that the pacemaker was defective and the water shouldn’t have caused a short circuit. They're surprised that Jory didn't know Stuart wore a pacemaker, and Jory insists that Stuart never had any heart trouble. The coroner points out that surgery was required and that Stuart must have been operated on for the last month. Jory admits that he wasn't with Stuart during the week when he was at NORCO. Siroleo asks to speak to Jory the next morning at his office, and Jory demands to know where Stuart is going. The detective says that an autopsy will be performed and then Jory can make whatever arrangements necessary.
Siroleo goes to NORCO and asks Stephanie about Stuart. He says that Stuart died in an accident, and Stephanie explains that they were equals. Stephanie says that Bloch performed the surgery on Stuart installing the pacemaker, and Siroleo suggests that Stuart suffered a heart attack due to an industrial accident and NORCO covered it up to avoid bad publicity. He says that the coroner's report showed that the operation took place after Stuart arrived at NORCO. However, Stuart had a complete exam in Kingston and there was no indication of any heart problems. Siroleo figures that Stuart suffered from shock or fright to cause a heart attack, and asks if he can look around on his own. Stephanie insists that he has to be accompanied by someone and needs Bloch's permission.
Stephanie says that Bloch is in the Pit, their energy chamber, and opens the lab door to the corridor. Siroleo realizes that he's scared and asks if she's all right, and Stephanie recovers and tells him to go on. She's still sobbing, and finally says that she can't do it and runs out.
That night at the motel, Gaby suggests that they go for a drive. Jory tells her to get away from him, and admits that he called her on his own. Gaby wonders why she called him, and Jory says that she had very fine legs. He asks to borrow her car, telling Gaby to stay there, and admits that he's going to NORCO.
Siroleo enters the corridor to the Pit and behind him, someone closes the door. He continues to the Pit door and looks through the window, and sees the energy cloud inside. Shocked, he turns and runs back to the lab door, and discovers that it's locked. Stephanie stands in the lab, deliberately ignoring him as he pounds on the glass. After a moment, she goes back and opens the door. She tells Siroleo to get out, warning that the cloud will kill him. Stephanie says that Bloch will kill her again, and Siroleo tells her to go. She tells him that she's already died once and clutches at the pacemaker. Bloch comes in and says that there's nowhere for them to go.
Jory and Gaby park down the road from the gates as the guard dozes off.
Bloch trains a gun on Siroleo, and says that the energy cloud is pure power. The cleaning lady gave it life, and Bloch doesn't want to destroy it even if he could. He explains his staff tried to destroy it but couldn't, so they tried to destroy him. Stephanie insists that they just wanted to protect themselves, but Bloch explains that he used the energy cloud to terrify them to death and then brought them back to life using the pacemakers. He can cut off the power and kill them anytime that he wants. Bloch explains that the energy cloud would suck the power out of the pacemakers if he allowed it to. Siroleo jumps Bloch, knocking the gun from his hand. Stephanie picks it up and shoots Bloch.
Jory tells Gaby that he wants to go up to the guard and force him to let him in. However, he admits that he has trouble making decisions but will have to learn now that Stuart is gone. Gaby tells him to go ahead, and apologizes when Jory tells her not to make him.
Siroleo comforts Stephanie as she says that she didn't want to kill Bloch. She explains that when the energy cloud first appeared, Bloch looked at it as a scientist would. They were all sure that it could be controlled and studied, but if their control slipped then it would kill indiscriminately. The scientists tried to destroy it but Bloch didn't want it destroyed. As Stephanie talks, the dying Bloch gets up and goes to the button panel. He tells Siroleo and Stephanie that every man wants to solve one mystery before he dies, and opens the lab and Pit doors.
Bloch collapses dead and Stephanie discovers that the door out is locked. The energy cloud moves down the corridor and into the lab, as Siroleo and Stephanie take cover.
Jory runs up to NORCO and hears the energy cloud.
The energy cloud sweeps through the complex, destroying the pacemakers of anyone in its path… and killing them.
Siroleo calls the authorities but Stephanie warns that the cloud will consume any form of energy used against it. She says that they have to control it by getting it back into the Pit. Stephanie says that if they cut off all of the power then it will go back into the Pit. Siroleo tells the authorities to cut off all of the power in the area, and he'll kill as much of the power as he can inside of NORCO.
The gate guard wakes up and then dies as the cloud drains the power from his pacemaker. Jory finds his corpse and runs inside.
Stephanie tells Siroleo that the cloud is taking the power from her pacemaker. She dies as the cloud reenters the lab and goes back into the Pit. Siroleo closes the doors as Jory runs in, and Siroleo tells him that the cloud is under control... for the moment.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 8, 2018