Turn Your Back by Singe
Summary: The Eleventh Doctor had a simple philosophy about public nudity. "If it embarrasses you, turn your back." Hmmm, what about the other Doctors? Here are ten humorous vignettes with a central theme of nakie-ness.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor, Multi-Era
Characters: Ace McShane, Adric, Barbara Wright, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Cliff Jones, Ian Chesterton, Jamie McCrimmon, Jo Grant, John Benton, Liz Shaw, Martha Jones, Mel Bush, Mike Yates, Nyssa, Sarah Jane Smith, Sergeant Benton, Susan Foreman, Tegan Jovanka, The Doctor (10t
Genres: Action/Adventure, Het, Humor
Chapter 1: Doctor #1
Chapter 2: Doctor #2
Chapter 3: Doctor #3
Chapter 4: Doctor #4
Chapter 5: Doctor #5
Chapter 6: Doctor #6
Chapter 7: Doctor #7
Chapter 8: Doctor #8
Chapter 9: Doctor #9
Chapter 10: Doctor #10
Chapter 1: Doctor #1
Author's Notes: "WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS MAN!"
"Confess, confess, confess to thy crimes, thy terrible sins..." the chanting continued ad nauseum but the old man stood upright, bare and defiant on the dais before them all. Ian admired the Doctor's stamina under such grueling, well, annoyances, really. Being shackled nude in front of the Margtig Cult was bad but after that shock had worn off the dullness became worse. Apparently the Margtig blathered their enemies into submission. Ian was fairly sure the Doctor, captive between two droning 'confessors,' had fallen asleep standing up.
Ian shivered, his own exposed flesh rising into goosebumps as another chill wind blew through the cave. He heard Susan try her chains again and Barbara gently telling the girl to stop before she hurt herself. Then Barbara sighed and Ian stretched out as far as he could to tap her bare shoulder with his fingertips in what he hoped was a comforting way. He kept his eyes down, though.
The woman turned as far as she could in his direction. "He's not dangly the way most old men are," she clinically observed under her breath.
"Barbara!" Ian exclaimed and stifled a bark of laughter. It would not do, it really would not, to twig (hah!) the Doctor now. Fortunately the old man was too far away to have heard, Ian hoped, but there was a jingle of nearby chains as Susan turned to look at Barbara curiously.
"Dangly?" Susan asked.
"Nevermind," Barbara mumbled as a red tinge crept over her face. But her lips twitched.
Suddenly one of the confessors brought out a pair of goggles from his chest harness (the only thing he wore) and carefully slid them over his apple-sized eyes. The other did the same and the remaining Margtig standing around the cavern backed nervously away. An important looking custodian stepped onto the dais with some ceremony. He was bearing a silver tube roughly the size of a can of aerosol. He aimed it at the Doctor's face. Ian's heart stopped and Barbara gasped as he thumbed a switch. "NO!" Susan cried.
The tube shone a bright light into the Doctor's face. Then it went out. Then it came on again as the guard clicked the switch on and off, on and off. The Doctor squinted at it irritably and Ian sagged with relief. Bright light would be torture to their subterranean captors, of course. click click click Ian shook his head in disgust as the solemn yakkety-yak started up again.
"Confess, confess, confess for thou has set BARRIERS between thee and the Mighty Ones, the Council of the Margtig, and that is an abomination and a sin and a wickedness in the eyes of the Mighty Ones, the Council of the Margtig, confess, confess, confess..."
Barriers being clothing. The Gods can't rule what they can't see. Still, the Margtig were civilized. They were giving the interlopers a chance to apologize before they were executed. The Doctor's refusal to do so was the only thing keeping the four of them alive. The Chasm itself, a dusty pit, was directly to Ian's left. He began to count the bones at the bottom of it. Hours of grueling boredom broken by moments of sheer terror. Death was damn near preferable to this. Twenty, twenty one, twenty two...but the really horrifying thing about the Pit was how deep it wasn't. Death wasn't guaranteed if you hit the bottom of it. No, there's a chance you'd linger down there for a long, long time. Ian stopped counting.
Susan shifted and Ian could hear her mental gears recover from her alarm and begin to turn again. "Barbara? You were momentarily embarrassed earlier so I'm assuming you were speaking of sexual functions. Old human males dangle?" Susan asked, not bothering to keep her voice low. Barbara nodded. "But Ian is dangling and he's not old." Ian dropped his chin onto his chest. Oh, this was not the education he had signed up to provide at Coal Hill School. Still, Barbara, ever the teacher, and perhaps as a way of diverting the young alien from their situation, began to very quietly explain. Ian overheard loss of elasticity and something something something erectile function and blah blah something leading to sometimes phenomenal droop before he cracked and began to silently laugh again. "Oh, I see," Susan finally said.
"We ALL see," Ian whispered and Barbara's chains rattled again.
From the dais the monotonous chanting and the blinking lights continued. "Confess, confess, confess to these most terrible transgressions before the Mighty Ones, the Council of the Margtig, and submit thee to a clean death, a correct death, in the Chasm of Righteousness..."
"Naturally, however," Susan began in imitation of Barbara's own lecturing style (because the girl believed it was only polite to repay knowledge with knowledge) "Grandfather is not human, nor is he very old, he's only 400 or thereabouts, so his reproductive organs would not suffer the same..."
"Enough, pleeeease!" Ian begged.
"I agree," the Doctor snapped. Every eye in the cavern turned towards him. "Enough. I confess! I confess everything! I did it!" The custodian put his light device into his chest holster and brought out an odd egg-shaped instrument. It made a clicking noise and the Doctor's chains fell away. "Throw me in! I'm too ashamed to live!" More guards loosed Ian, Barbara and Susan and they were all herded towards the lip of the pit. Ian and Barbara were stiff and slow but Susan and her grandfather were as fluid as ever in their motions. Ian envied them. As if to rub it in the Doctor wildly threw his arms up and his volume increased. "I APOLOGIZE! I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN! AND NEITHER WILL MY PEOPLE!" The look he threw Barbara was so quick that Ian almost missed it.
Before he could wonder what it meant, Barbara started shouting, too. And jumping?! "I'M SO SORRY! THAT DRESS SUIT WAS HORRIBLE! IT OFFENDED MORE THAN THE GODS, BELIEVE ME!" She began to do some calisthenics, stretching her weary body, and Ian's eyes boggled. "SORRY!" bounce "SORRY!" bounce "SORRY!" bounce
"WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS MAN!" Susan cried, stamping her feet. "QUINTESSENCE OF DUST! RAH! RAH! RAH!" She made an impressive leap.
Well, when in Rome. Ian tore his eyes off Barbara and set to work, too. "IT'S GREAT TO FEEL A DRAFT!" He did some jumping jacks and his spine popped. "OW JESUS YOU BASTARDS! I mean...SORRY!"
"WE"RE SO SORRY!"
"FORGIVE US, O MIGHTY ONES, THE COUNCIL OF THE MATTIG!"
The Margtig stared, amazed, at this strange liturgical dance. Then, "Oho, look what I have here," the Doctor said. The guards, the Council and the three penitents turned to see the custodian's silver light tube in his hand. Ian had just enough time to be impressed with the old man's sneakiness before he threw it to the floor. It hit with an almighty BANG! and a terrible burst of light.
The Margtig screamed and clawed at their faces. Ian rubbed his watering eyes and groped around for his friends. He hit soft flesh. "Oh, sorry, whoever that was."
"It was me," Barbara answered and Ian quickly squelched a smile. She took his hand.
"Hurry! This way!" The Doctor's voice sounded and all four visitors pelted out of the cavern, their bare fleet slapping the stone. "Dangly? Hmmp!" was the last thing the blinded Margtig heard of them.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Doctor #2
Author's Notes: "Never mind it, Victoria."
There was a electric popping noise and the TARDIS gave out something of a groan. The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria rose off the floor in a cloud of floating tools, books and a, mercifully empty, tea service. Victoria gave out a single squeal as her long skirts rippled in thin air. "Wrong button, Doctor?" asked a patient voice with a Scottish lilt to it. Jamie's. His sporran floated up and he whacked it down again as his kilt billowed.
"Yes. NO! Oh, blast it!" the Doctor huffed as he attempted to swim back to the open control panel. Jamie caught himself against a strut, turned around and pushed off in the Doctor's direction. He spun and gently booted the Doctor back to where he needed to be. "Thank you. See if you can catch my tools. Blast it, blast it, you wretched thing." He gripped the control panel with his left hand and started work with his right as his entire body dangled upwards.
Jamie noticed Victoria had a death grip on another strut and she was pale. Poor girl, she reminded Jamie of himself when he first started out on his journeys. He'd come a long way from Eighteenth century Scotland. A proper miss from 'The Victorian Era' could adapt, too, but it was going to be hard at first. "All right there, Vicky?"
"YES, PLEASE, THANK YOU!" she gasped and kicked with her legs, trying to stay upright. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. "I am, however, somewhat embarrassed at always having to ask the questions."
"Yeah?" He encouraged, grabbing at passing tea cups.
"I was just wondering...how did we come to be floating in the air?"
"The gravity is out." Jamie turned a perfect somersault as he maneuvered himself around the console room gathering the Doctor's floating tools.
"Gravity? Out? Out where?" she gasped.
The Doctor spoke up, "Don't tell me you've never heard of Newton?"
Victoria frowned. "Yes, of course I have," she said, clearly insulted. "But, what do you mean by OUT? Did it seep away?"
Jamie seized the opportunity to show off. "You see, Victoria..."
Victoria turned to look at him, did a double take, and went crimson. He didn't notice, he was chasing a passing screwdriver.
"The TARDIS uses artificial gravity." Jamie explained. "It's just as good at keepin' things in their place as planet-gravity. Most space-travelers use it and it can break. Don't ask me to explain how, exactly, it works when it does work. You'll have to ask the Doctor."
Victoria turned wide eyes on the Doctor. Jamie noticed the old alien seemed amused by something. "Never mind it, Victoria," the Doctor said. She gave a little choke. "No, no, no, no, no. Really. It's quite all right. Er. Throw me that, Jamie!" Slightly puzzled, the young man sent the screwdriver tumbling across the console. The Doctor took it out of the air and studied it. "Hmmmm. This would all be so much easier if I had an all-in-one tool," he mumbled. He went back to fiddling with the console with the air of a man who was staying out of it.
"Fake gravity," Jamie went on. "People make artificial forces that keep us walkin' tall in space." He did a cartwheel. "Ain't that impressive?"
"Oh, uh, I don't know? Yes?" She seemed to be suddenly fascinated by the wall.
"Yes!" Jamie enthused. "That's an invention right up there with rock 'n roll, med-scans, computers..."
"Underwear?" Victoria sweetly asked, her color returning, and the Doctor snorted.
The lights went out.
"Oh, thank goodness for small favors," Victoria said.
"Not that small," the Doctor stage-whispered and what sounded like scandalized laughter filled the dark.
"What's so funny?" Jamie asked.
Jamie sighed. His friends could be so strange sometimes.
Back to index
Chapter 3: Doctor #3
Author's Notes: WARNING: PUBLIC NUDITY. People get whistled at.
"All right, STRIP!" barked the Doctor and Dr. Liz Shaw looked at him in disbelief. Being hit with a hundred barbs thrown by a giant octopoid creature had been horrible enough but this, too?
She had time for a "Here?" before he began to help her. She swatted his hands away, sudden anger cutting through the fog of her pain. "I can do it! I can do it."
She heard someone calling for a medic as she turned her back on the UNIT soldiers, the Doctor, the unconscious Creature, both lanes of stopped traffic and, dear god, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and began to unbutton her cuffs. The Doctor shucked out of his own blue velvet jacket and shirt with a grimace. Most of his barbs came with it. Liz stared at the rash of what looked like hornet stings in his chest and spared him a little sympathy. His pants came off and so did Liz's blouse. A blush began to creep across her face as she stepped out of her skirt, the embedded barbs stabbing runs in her hosiery.
A motorist honked his horn, another one whistled. "'Ullo! Look over here!" There was a flash of light from a camera and Liz flinched.
She began to conjugate Latin verbs in her mind in an effort to stay calm. "Doceō, docēre, docuī, doctus," she mumbled. The Doctor spared her a smile as he plucked poisonous stings from his flesh. She smiled back but the Latin wasn't working. She began to chant the periodic table of elements under her breath. That didn't work either. She hooked her thumbs into the elastic of her panties and hesitated. More catcalls. She concentrated on the Doctor to distract herself from the world.
Hmmm. Interesting. The alien wore Y-fronts. And now he doesn't...ah. Even more interesting. Liz had seen some strange anatomy while on duty at UNIT and she was relieved that the Doctor's, er, morphology seemed so normal. It might be a squinch xenophobic but it'd be hard to look a man in the eyes if you knew he was packing shark claspers in his pants. And the carpet matched the curtains!
She slapped her forehead.
"Miss! Miss! Look over here!"
"Do it, bayyybeeee!"
She was frozen. To her complete horror, Liz also realized that she was coming close to tears.
"HUP!" The ground vibrated with the sudden pounding of heavy boots and Liz was startled to see the soldiers rushing towards her, the Brigadier urging them on with a flick from his swagger stick. Before her foggy mind could begin to wonder what he was playing at his men lined up, shoulder to shoulder, between her and the stalled traffic. "Parade rest. Tight formation," the Brig ordered. They faced the motorists and, as one, gave the butts of their rifles a slap before resting them on the ground. "Good chaps," he said. The day-trippers took the hint. Their applause died away.
"Good chaps," the Doctor echoed. "The one in the jalopy took a snap."
"Oh, did he?" The Brig's eyes flickered towards Captain Mike Yates and Sergeant John Benton. The two men descended on the jalopy to 'negotiate' for the camera. Said talks didn't last long at all and Liz heard a very, very, very satisfying CRUNCH.
Deeply grateful, Liz looked at the Brig's...at Alistair's strong back. "Thank you," she said. He didn't turn his head but he seemed to stand just that much taller. Amō, amāre, amāvī, amātus, that's amore my dear Alistair. Liz drew a shaky breath behind her screen of soldiers and suddenly, desperately, in need of some release, she furiously tore off the ruins of her bra. Tiny beads of blood welled up over her breasts and she winced. Well, that didn't help.
Suddenly her hands stopped working. "Uh?" The Doctor, completely naked and perfectly unconcerned, strode up and took her hands in both of his own. He gave them a rub. "I can't feel that," Liz said and looked up at him with what she hoped was an expression of placid expectancy.
The Doctor shrugged, easing her mind. "It'll pass soon. The toxin isn't fatal to humans."
"Is it fatal to you?" Liz asked, blinking.
"Not a bit. I'll be good as new in an hour."
"You're the lucky one," she sighed.
"Doesn't anything faze you?"
"Not a thing." He bent and helped her off with her boots and knickers. Practically stapled to her flesh those were, ouch. She drew strength from his unconcern and became calm.
She found herself gazing on Alistair again. Yes, be calm. Don't think. Don't count the consequences. Don't consider his wife, but, oh, what sort of person would she be if she didn't? No, don't think. Don't think. Get bandaged up. Get pretty. Then take him.
No. She turned with a jerk. "Why did that thing attack us?" she asked and she couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice. The Doctor's calm, blue eyes caught her own and she looked away. He knew. He knew and he was sorry.
"It wasn't attacking, per se," he finally answered. One of his eyebrows twitched. Liz didn't speak the language but she knew what that meant and her mouth turned down in disgust. He nodded, confirming her suspicion. He plucked a barb from her neck. "These are, well, I suppose you could call them spermatophores. Spermatozoa? Spermies?"
"Uuuuuuuuugh." Her horror made him grin. "Why shoot them at us?! We're not even within spitting distance of the same species!"
He rubbed his chin in a wise-old-man sort of way. "Some people are less than particular when mating season rolls around. It's...quite a strong drive."
"That's true," Liz muttered.
He shook his head and there passed a sad, but oddly peaceful, moment as they both rested. Then "Turn around," he suddenly ordered. Yes, boss, she thought and obeyed. She held her arms out and rotated slowly while he pinched the remaining sper...ugh, the remaining prickles from her skin. Soon he gave her back a few final swipes as if it were dusty, which felt rather cool and nice, and said "There. I'm finished."
Liz saw the medics stumbling around the slimy hulk of the downed creature to shove their way through the gawking crowd. She turned her head for one last look at Alis...at the Brigadier. She kneaded her numb fingers. Then she made her decision. She looked up into the Doctor's suddenly impassive face. "I'm finished, too."
Back to index
Chapter 4: Doctor #4
Author's Notes: May a rabid holy man bless your nether regions with a power tool.
"Now, Sarah Jane, calm down."
"I AM CALM!" The small council of the Mir surrounding her backed away a little and some brought their hands up. Not to their ears, to their foreheads, and they winced. Sarah Jane checked the psionic blocker that was strapped to her wrist and, pushing up the thick sleeve of her parka (this planet was a cold one,) ruthlessly turned it up higher. The power humming through it nearly made her teeth vibrate but all the hands came down. She cleared her throat and started over. "I am perfectly calm, perfectly cool and perfectly in control. I saw what I saw. There's no need to..." Despite herself she showed a tooth or two. "...double check."
The Doctor, towering above the short, slender Mir and his equally short, slender companion (We represent the Lollipop Guild, she thought to herself) carefully reached out a hand and patted her on the shoulder. "Yes, your details were..." His other hand idly played with an edge of his long, long scarf. A habit of his when he was slightly nervous.
"I identified the ringleaders!" she reminded them all.
"AND I learned what they were truly up to!"
"AND I escaped from them, no thanks to you, by the way."
"Oh, fuss, whine, moan." The Doctor rolled his eyes at some people's lack of understanding of his lack of opportunity.
But Sarah Jane wasn't through. "You have everything! What more is there to know?" Her agitated breath fogged the air.
"The papers?" the Doctor stubbornly prodded.
She glared at him and let out a silent curse. May a yak with a rash play with your face. Then Sarah Jane crossed her arms. "I only saw them for a moment. I couldn't read them."
"If you'd turn that thing off, I could read them in your memory," Doctor Big and Tall reminded her. "And I could share with the Mir."
"OR you could deal directly with the Mir," one of the slight men suddenly volunteered. "If you don't care for him." The Doctor glared down at him, insulted. Several other Mir smiled at her hopefully.
Sarah Jane's stomach did a slow roll. She'd been dealing with the Mir since she arrived. What else was this torture device on her arm for? "No, thank you. 'Sharing' with anyone isn't necessary."
Tirl, headwoman of this particular group, cleared her throat and all heads turned towards her. "Actually it's very necessary. The documents you say you spotted could be names. Could be plans. Could be incriminating correspondence."
Could be your SPANK shopping list, Sarah Jane thought and shook her head firmly.
"Yes, could be shopping lists, I suppose," Tirl continued mercilessly as she blinked disapproval at the human. Sarah Jane turned her blocker all the way up to maximum and gritted her teeth at the increased agony. Boiling hot hate for all telepaths filled her soul. Tirl continued. "We have to know. We have to make sure and it is your duty to share with us. You understand your responsibility, of course."
"Of course," Sarah Jane said. May a rabid holy man bless your nether regions with a power tool.
"Choose who you want to share with." The pompous old bag indicated the assembly with a flick of her wrist. Mir men and women waved at Sarah Jane.
"Aren't we the popular one?" the Doctor teased and she turned to him.
"The Doctor," she chose, reaching out and tugging on his scarf for emphasis.
"Sarah! This is so sudden."
"Quickly, then," Tirl commanded with another imperious gesture. The Mir pressed closer, gawking.
"IN PRIVATE!" Sarah Jane exploded. "Haven't any of you heard of privacy?! I could strip down and do a little dance for everyone, too, I suppose?!"
Hands on heads all over the council room. Sarah Jane felt only a little guilty.
Even the Doctor took a step away. Then he cleared his throat in imitation of Tirl and spoke up. "Yes, some privacy, please. My friend needs peace and isolation in order to, ah, commune properly. Where can we go?"
Tirl opened her watering eyes and took a long look at her strange guests. Unexpectedly her expression softened with something very close to understanding. "Here," she suddenly said. "It's a comfortable room. Take all the time you need." She snapped her fingers and the room cleared. "We will be in the courtyard. Join us when you've finished." Sarah Jane saluted but Tirl only returned a kind smile and left, too, closing the door gently behind her.
"Spot the loonie," Sarah Jane muttered. "There's nothing wrong with me!" She flipped her hood over her head.
"No, no, no, of course not," the Doctor agreed, sweeping his scarf out of the way as he sat down on the nearest chair. He hooked a long leg around another chair and dragged it into place in front of him. Sarah Jane ignored the invitation and began to pace.
"It's all right," he said, so gently she could barely hear it. She almost burst into tears at his patience.
She paced some more.
Two minutes and twelve seconds passed. Her breathing slowed. She stopped and leaned against the wall. The death-grip on her parka relaxed. At four minutes and eighteen seconds she flipped her hood back.
"It's like watching a turtle come out of its shell," the Doctor said.
"Shut uuuuuuuup," she repeated.
Finally she glanced in his general direction. He held out a hand.
She pushed off from the wall and approached, dragging ten-ton weights behind her. "I really hate this," she whispered as if it were some great secret and not painfully obvious to every sensitive being she came across. "I hate it." She sat down opposite him, their knees touching.
"I can understand why," and his deep voice held a strange disappointment. He lowered his eyes and reached into his pocket. Something rustled. "Would you like a..."
"No, thank you." He nodded and helped himself to a couple of sweets out of a small paper bag. He chewed. He swallowed. Sarah Jane put her hands on his knees and leaned forward. "You have to understand. It really does feel as if I'm about to take all my clothes off," she admitted softly.
He choked. He was facing her so she couldn't whack him properly on the back so she patted his shoulder in a supportive sort of way. He gasped and she smiled, unable to stop herself.
Then she dropped her hand and took another deep breath. Welcome and chilly air filled her lungs, then she slowly let it out. She must remain perfectly calm. Perfectly cool. Perfectly in control. Yes. "All right then," she said (To him? To herself?) and leaned back.
She clutched at her courage and then...
She released the large buckle of her thick left glove. She pulled it off her small, slim hand and dropped it to the floor.
She released the buckle of the right glove. She gently threw it down beside its mate.
She was amused to notice that her toasty warm fingers were steaming slightly in the cold. She rubbed them together. The steam made her skin extremely soft and she enjoyed the feel of it. She realized she was hesitating and determinedly went on.
The blocker was attached to her wrist with three leather straps.
She turned her wrist up and slowly unfastened the first...snap.
Then the second...the leather creaked in the cold...snap.
Then the third. Snap.
She slid the contraption over and off.
She held it a moment and then she powered it down completely. The irritating WAAAUUUGH! that traveled up and down her last nerve disappeared to be replaced by a simple, thudding pain.
She let out a gentle moan of relief.
She put the device on the floor next to her gloves.
She stroked her bare wrist, her pulse warm in the cold, still air.
Then Sarah Jane sighed deeply and, turning to face the Doctor, was surprised to notice she had his full, intense attention.
"I'm ready when you are."
"REALLY?!" he shouted.
"YES!" she shouted back, startled.
"I'm fine, thank you," the Doctor said. He blinked. "Oh. You're ready then?"
"Yes," he echoed. Then he raised a hand to her temple. The hand that still had the bag in it. She almost got a jelly baby wedged into her ear. "Oh, pardon." She laughed softly as he thrust the bag back into his pocket. It was kind of him to make jokes.
He reached up again, his fingertips brushing back her hair. She held her breath and cringed...
...it was over very quickly. Her memories of the documents she'd glanced at were now his and he could share them with the Mir. "I hope they're worth all this turmoil," she said and realized he was still touching her face. His mouth slightly open as if fascinated. "Doctor?"
He seemed to wake up. Then he goggled at her, a frightening thing at close range. "May a crazed weightlifter clean and jerk your sister?!" he said.
"I've been watching American TV in the library," she explained, growing slightly red. "Twenty-first century 'The Best of Johnny Carson.' The Amazing Carnac had some beautiful curses. Will have." The Doctor smiled. His long fingered hands were cradling her head, his fingers completely wrapped in her hair now. Sarah Jane was just beginning to worry about him when the buzz-saw irritation the blocker left began to fade. Then it was going...going....gone?
The vacuum it left filled with sheer peace and she almost swooned into the Doctor's lap. She caught herself on his knees again. Gone, gone, the pain was utterly gone. Her eyes slowly closed. Sarah Jane had an odd sensation of...of...warmth. Of floating. Relief, oh, the relief. Such sudden, total...bliss? Oh, yes. Yes, please. She felt his fingers twitch in her hair and her eyes snapped open. "Are you still in there?!" she gasped.
"Yes. NO! I could be?"
She jerked back. "OUT! Get out, get out out out!" She slapped at his arms and shoulders until he scooted his chair out of reach, laughing. They retired to opposite ends of the room. Gone. Her pain was gone! He just...he just took it away. She felt light. She felt free. What a relief to be away from that grinding ache and noise. She stared at the Doctor as if she'd never seen him before then tore her attention away to focus on the floor, the walls, the chairs...she didn't know what to say. She laughed. His smile, his genuine smile, not the pulling back of the lips he bestowed on half the Universe, lit his face. He had a nice smile. She smiled back at him. Maybe not all telepaths were dealers in pain, at worst, and embarrassment, at least. Hold on, if he could generate such a feeling of peace, what other lovely things could he make her...NO! No, no, no, no, that way lies madness.
"Ahhh, thank you? Yes, thank you," she said. She ran a hand through her hair. "Much better."
"It won't last if you insist on wearing that thing."
To cover her suddenly burning face Sarah Jane strode back to her chair and bent to pick up the psi-blocker and her gloves. She tucked the gloves in a pocket and began to strap the hateful thing back on.
"Must you?" the Doctor softly asked.
"I have to. The Mir are out there." The door opened and Tirl stuck her head in. "Correction. They're in here."
Tirl studied them both. "Just reminding you to take all the time you need." She disappeared.
"May the hot desert winds blow a scorpion up your hoop skirt," Sarah Jane answered and her friend laughed.
Back to index
Chapter 5: Doctor #5
Author's Notes: "Must set a good example, must set a good example, must set... "
Out the door! Out the door we go! the Doctor thought wildly but he just stood there as mostly-and-all naked bathing attendants ran in and out of the clouds of steam rising from the thermal pools of clear, clean water. They were fetching buckets and soaps and brushes and perfumes and towels and...
He looked down at his three companions. Tegan stared straight ahead and picked at the mud-encrusted buttons on her ruined clothes, resigned already. Nyssa and Adric, however, were staring up at him. The NO NO NO PLEASE STOP THEM was clear on their young, filthy faces. Something crawled across the Doctor's scorched and slimy sleeve. He jerked and whatever it was plopped to the ground and escaped. He glanced around, embarrassed, then he made a command decision disguised as polite resignation. "The TARDIS is too far away. We'd never make it." He shrugged and smiled.
"I don't need help!" Adric hissed.
An old man dressed in a loin cloth and carrying an armful of sponges overheard the boy and paused. He smiled indulgently at the group. "We use raw Mring sap," he pointed at the black goo that covered them, "To glue metal together. There's no getting that off by yourself." Adric and Nyssa stared at him in horror. He then indicated several bottles full of a clear liquid that were being carefully arranged on a low table. "That's not soap there. That's solvent." He ducked his head at them, as much to hide the smile creeping over his face as it was to show respect, and continued on his way.
Oh, certainly, enjoy yourself at our expense. You only owe us your lives. The Doctor thought bitterly and sighed. Nyssa sighed. Adric scratched. Gloom descended in a smothering wave. After everything they'd all been through that day did they have to face this, too? This humiliation?
Tegan leaned towards them all and whispered, "Snap out of it. Think of it as a spa treatment!"
"What's that?" Nyssa asked. "A medical procedure?"
"It's...it's a sort of fancy bath," Tegan explained. "And it's just a bath, Nyssa. Er. I think. Hang on." She left them and accosted an attendant. There was a low consultation then Tegan came back. "No worries! Just, ah, recreational bathing. A massage if we want." She rubbed her hands together. "A massage!" She looked close to tears.
"Bathing? In front of everyone?" Nyssa whispered.
"What's bathing?" Adric (devotee of the neutron-shower) asked.
"That explains a lot," Tegan answered and the Doctor hid a reluctant smile as the sniping began.
He then saw that Nyssa's eyes were wide as she watched a nude and particularly fine specimen of a dark-haired man hoist a large, heavy jar up with ease, his biceps bulging. He measured out four equal portions of oil into small cauldrons and set each over elaborate burners to warm. "Ah," Nyssa began, her fingers beginning to twine together. "Adric is very young. This 'recreational' washing might disturb him."
"I'm not an infant..."
"Oh, he's already disturbed," Tegan interrupted, waving a hand. This began another round of conjecture between her and the boy regarding hygiene, foul habits and flea-picking.
The Doctor beckoned to Nyssa and she came closer. "Adric has absolutely nothing to worry about. We're honored guests and no one will dare hurt him. And he has Tegan and I to look after him, right?"
She drew a deep breath. "Right. I, too, will protect him."
"Of course, Nyssa of Traken."
Her spine became impossibly straight. "Of course."
The Doctor caught the rich smell of incense. Nyssa swallowed. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Then had a sinking feeling himself when he couldn't get it back. "Oh, dear."
As he pulled and Nyssa pushed, he noticed some of the more mature attendants, plus the old man, were having an intense council-of-war. They were studying bottles and jeweled boxes and piles of glistening powders while eyeballing their guests critically. He could hear the whisperings. "The readings say both women will be burnt by Tirsir leaves. Keep them well away from them. The man and the boy can withstand anything we have here but that's NOT a challenge. Make sure you ask first." Their colleagues nodded as they listened keenly. The Doctor appreciated their consideration but was a little surprised at how large a crowd it was. His small clan was outnumbered seven to one. He really didn't like those odds.
The old man clapped his hands once and the lecture ended. Extra logs were added to the fires. Small ladders were lowered into the steaming pools. The warm oil was given a final stir. The lights dimmed.
Adric and Tegan stopped bickering. The Doctor and Nyssa stopped struggling. The two factions faced each other. The attendants spaced themselves into four large groups and smiled. Their guests smiled back.
There was gonna be a scrubbin.'
"Brave heart, everyone," the Doctor murmured. The opposition advanced in a wave of bare skin and genuine bonhomie. Tegan met them eagerly, almost pathetically hopeful of some pampering. The Doctor and Nyssa stepped forward also, the Doctor out of resignation and Nyssa because, well, that Mring sap was strong stuff and she had to go where the Doctor went.
Adric turned and ran for it.
Letting out their world's equivalent of VIEW HALLOO! his attendants set off in hot pursuit. Laughter, Tegan's included, bounced off the vaulted ceiling of the bathing chamber to mingle with the gentle bubbling of the hot springs and the almost subliminal music of a stringed instrument being played somewhere.
The first station the three remaining guests were led to was a clear, recessed area with a drain in the floor. There was some experimental tugging on their clothes but the sap was everywhere, twisting the cloth uncomfortably around their bodies. So tall attendants held large bottles of the clear solvent up and gently poured it over their guests's heads, shoulders, and arms. The Doctor felt a strange fizzing sensation all over his skin. His hand released from Nyssa's shoulder with a pop. More goo was poured and his clothes relaxed their stranglehold. He dropped his coat to the floor with some relief but his dominant emotion was dread at what was going to come next. Dread slithering down his spine like some nasty creature...
"GAH!" The Doctor tore out of his shirt in disgust. The multi-legged thing went scuttling across the floor and Tegan stomped it dead. The Doctor counted to ten. Must set a good example, must set a good example, must set... "Are you sure you want to do this?" he muttered.
Someone actually patted him on the head. "Please take off your shoes."
Defeated, he took off his shoes and kicked them away. The attendants began to work the Mring-cutting gunk into his hair and he felt the mats and tangles loosen. More relief. He opened one eye to see how Nyssa was taking it.
She was docile. Still unsure but calm as the maddening stickiness was removed.
"These are buttons," he heard Tegan explain to a man who was pulling on her blouse dubiously. "They come out this way, see?" She unbuttoned her collar.
"How cute!" One of the women exclaimed and Tegan smiled as she took control of her own disrobing. The Doctor found himself unsurprised. Nyssa allowed the people to do their job, though, and so did he. Soon the floor was fouled with bog slime and the dregs of Mring sap swirling away down the drain. The old man and an assistant carefully gathered up their dissolving clothes and took them away.
He noticed Tegan and Nyssa, both under cover of pushing their hair back, giving his bare body a quick glance. He didn't mind. They were lucky he was a bog-standard humanoid. If he had been a Driblixix male who kept what looked like a diseased star-nosed mole between his legs...the very thought made him shudder.
There was a crash and Adric's gang went charging past led by a laughing young woman with unnaturally yellow hair. They were having fun meeting rudeness with rudeness and squirting their quarry with solvent shot out from tubal contraptions. They were also trying very hard not to actually catch him. The sap had to come off but no sense in making him truly unhappy. The Doctor approved. Adric noticed the state his friends were in and was almost shocked enough to stop. He gave them a look of sheer disgust instead and put on an extra burst of speed. The Doctor considered reining him in for a moment then decided against it. "We'll caaaatch him!" the blonde crowed as she stopped to refill her tube with their solvent. Her delight was infectious and the Doctor found himself grinning stupidly at her. She didn't notice and went tearing off again.
Tall men approached with great copper kettles of warm water and the solvent was rinsed away. All three guests sputtered with relief.
"There! That's done," said a mature woman, clothed only in geometric bird tattoos. "Now what would be good?"
The Doctor glanced at Nyssa. She still had a stoic mask on and her shoulders were tense. Enough. "We just want some fresh clothes, please," he said.
"We do?!" Tegan interrupted.
"We don't?" he asked.
"No, we don't!"
He faced her and crossed his arms.
Tegan squared off and crossed hers. Unable to help themselves the attendant and Nyssa crossed their own. The others tactfully stood and waited. The Doctor glared down at Tegan. She glared up at him. Why was she always so damn contrary?! He leaned towards her and flicked his eyes at Nyssa. Unfortunately Nyssa caught the expression and her face flamed red. Immediately she was shoulder to shoulder with Tegan. The Doctor held his pose for a count of ten and then to twenty but their wall didn't crack.
"The springs really are very lovely," the tattooed woman whispered.
Tegan's face softened into a half smile. "C'mon, Doc," she murmured. "Let's enjoy ourselves."
There is no enjoying this! Still, Nyssa had become determined and staying longer wouldn't destroy her. Or him. Much. He dropped his arms. "What do we want then?"
She beamed up at him. "We want everything!"
The attendants cheered her as if she were Churchill, the sycophants, and led them off into three different directions. The Doctor hesitated a moment but was reassured as the bathing chamber was open and all he had to do was turn his head to check on everyone.
And so it began.
First he sweltered in steam hot enough to kill anyone else in the room. His attendants (who DID ask first) were impressed but they promised they'd refrain from experimenting with his endurance any more. He appreciated their consideration, still, the heat seeped into his very bones and he left it reluctantly as they guided him over to the next station.
He was sat on a stool to be scoured to within an inch of his life with stiff-bristled brushes caked with a thick green syrup. Then a cool rinse that was followed up with a gentle scrub of delicate white foam on soft sponges. Another rinse and the smell of slime, sap, and solvent disappeared for good. He became used to the feel of several people laying their hands on him at once without the intent to hurt him. The men and women were calm, sedate and thorough. They chit-chatted about this and that over his head and made little jokes. It was...pleasant. "I do love your golden hair," the bird woman exclaimed and she ran her fingers through it. "It's very fine, very soft."
The Doctor's face cracked into a smile. "Yes, er, blond. For the first time, too. It's been black, white and brown but never this," he replied. He realized he had swallowed her flattery and was ashamed of himself.
Golden hair. He glanced around. The fake-blonde was trying to tempt Adric into cooperation with a piece of sugared fruit. She had a large, sweet smile and radiated reassurance but Adric wasn't having any of it. Or her. Or the fruit. Surprising given his adolescent appetite. The solvent was doing its work on his clothes and his pants fell down with a liquid plop. His face went scarlet. She very kindly didn't laugh and traded her sweet for a towel. Adric accepted that. With haste.
The Doctor heard Nyssa give out a "YEEK!" as a scrubber went where she was not accustomed for other people to go but she recovered quickly. The dark-haired attendant had obviously claimed her as his and was telling her outrageous jokes to calm and distract her. She was smiling genuinely instead of politely so it was working. Neither she nor Tegan (luxuriating under a hot waterfall) showed any sign of wanting to leave. The musician of the stringed instrument appeared and sat herself nearby. She picked up the tempo and Tegan grinned at her and clapped her hands. Water flew. She apologized. Nyssa scoffed at her.
"Everyone is well!" whispered Bird Woman and there was a chuckle lurking around the corner there. "Would you care to rejoin them?"
The women were now the center of a whirl of cheer and excited talk and music and splashing and the Doctor became tired just watching it. "That spring looks comfortable," he answered, pointedly looking in the other direction. "I think I'd like a soak. And a rest. By myself."
"Certainly," was all she said but she smiled. After scattering a handful of white flower petals on the surface of the hot spring he indicated, and lighting incense and candles all around the perimeter, his bathers left him to it. He stepped carefully down into the steaming water and sat on a ledge. He checked his people yet again. Adric was sullen but fine. Nyssa was grinning and fine. Tegan was more relaxed than he'd ever seen her. And fine. What a terrible, disgusting, tiring day. At least no one had been killed. So everything was fine?
These people were friendly.
This cavern was safe.
He closed his eyes and stretched out his perception. Every probability the Time Lord could sense ensured him that, yes, he wasn't mistaken. All was well.
As suddenly as if he'd been struck by lightning the Doctor surrendered. He lifted his legs and sank under the petaled waves with an exhausted BLURP. Let someone else deal with the Universe, he was going to just float for a while under here, thank you.
Float he did, and sleep, restful, blessed sleep, for twenty minutes and then awoke when he felt a small hand gently pulling on his arm. The contact enabled him to sense concern (he may be alien but I didn't see any gills) from the owner. Amused, he seized whoever-it-was's hand. (ALARM!) Oops. He let go, surfaced, shook his wet hair out of his eyes and smiled at his favorite blonde who was kneeling at the pool's edge and staring back at him with wide, brown eyes. "Sorry," he said.
"I'm sorry!" she gasped, "I was just checking!"
"No, I'm sorry!"
They laughed and he took her hand again, gently this time. "I'm all right. And I didn't mean to startle you."
She shrugged in a forgiving way and gave his fingers a little squeeze before she let go. "So!" she said cheerfully, the slightest flush of red creeping over her face. "Can that brat breathe underwater?" she asked, pointing behind her.
Brat? Unprofessional. He took a closer look at her. Bleached hair, breasts and hips modestly covered with strips of white fabric and tan lines on her skin (tan lines and modesty on this world?!) indicated that she was a non-native. Where did she...oh, who cared? Let it go for a change! He cleared his throat. "No. Like mine, Adric's is a highly adaptive species but he can't adapt that much."
"Cheers, mate!" she replied, practically rubbing her hands together. She ran back to her post as the Doctor stared after her. "He has to come up sometime!" she reassured her colleagues and they went back to prodding under the natural overhangs of the pool with long poles.
"Tie a sandwich to a string and fish for him," slurred Tegan who was being massaged by no less than six people. Six people, twelve hands, sixty-one fingers roaming, pressing, smoothing oil into every inch of her back, arms, legs, buttocks...a process that was almost as tranquilizing to see as it clearly was for Tegan to feel. She was almost unconscious. The Doctor pushed a few candles out of the way, leaned his elbows on the rim of his 'fancy bath' and watched.
Tegan gleamed copper-red and warm in the firelight. She was completely relaxed and her mouth turned up at the corners in a blissful smile. For exactly one minute the Doctor let his imagination go. It would be pleasant to touch her skin. Warm, soft skin with its pulse points there and nerve bundles there and there and there, everywhere really. She'd never notice an extra pair of hands.
The Doctor snorted at his unworthy and devious impulse. Then again, Tegan might surely notice. He remembered succumbing to temptation with a human friend before. Centuries ago he'd touched the back of Zoe's neck and she'd nearly jumped out of her skinsuit from the chilly shock. Mortally embarrassed he'd passed it off as a practical joke. Incompatible skin temperature, what a shame.
No, be kind. It was the folly of youth. The Doctor smiled at the memory. He focused again on Tegan and allowed himself another 60 seconds of dreaming. How far would she jump? How far would his bloody, severed hand fly through the air afterwards?
Then he grinned as Tegan's masseurs asked her to flip over so they could work on her front. She politely balked. Her people were a little puzzled but accepting of what they considered a job half done. Meanwhile, Nyssa's clique had gotten silly, especially her dark admirer who was rubbing her feet and making wild love to her. "You're a goddess. A vision. A delightful leetle love cockroach."
"What's a cockroach?!"
"Oh, darling, if only I could explain! I'm usually economical with the truth but I innuendo that mine's the euphemism you've been searching for."
"He lies, he lies!" Adric's blonde called over and the man shushed her with exaggerated throat-slashing gestures.
Her friend, eh? Another out-worlder? Interesting. But not nearly interesting enough. The Doctor submerged again.
He slept himself out (17 minutes, what a sloth) and when he came up it was time for refreshments. He heard Nyssa giving a drinks order for everyone. "Ginger for the Doctor and any sort of fermented fruit juice for Tegan and Adric." He would have retaliated but he had no idea what it was that got Trakenites tipsy. Shocking gap in his knowledge, just shocking. He drank and ate his fill (quietly brought over by a single attendant as if any contact would cause him to explode. Well, he had only himself to blame for that.) and relaxed further as he watched beautiful people flip grapes into Adric's pool.
Good lord, Tegan was being hand-fed and Nyssa was laughing outright at her. Hearing her rare joy the Doctor grinned and decided that the benefits of staying away no longer outweighed the disadvantages.
He got out of the water and approached, more than a little self-conscious at crossing the floor in the state he was in, but he was immediately descended upon by the Bird Woman and several others and he relaxed as they escorted him the rest of the way. Another drink was shoved into his hand as Nyssa and Tegan applauded him, too, as if he was finally home from a long journey. "Welcome, Doctor!" Tegan crowed and he bowed to her. Next step: massage! It was his turn to fight back unconsciousness as oil was caressed over every cool inch of his skin by warm hands. "Where are the sensitive spots on your species?" he was asked.
"I'll never tell." Which stopped no one from trying to find them. Which was lovely, lovely, lovely. Ah, the follies of old age! Then his hands and feet were tackled with enthusiasm.
"Don't you dare let her paint your nails!" Tegan warned him.
He looked up from a case of sparkling colors the manicurist was offering. "And why not?" he asked, looking at her own nails which were glowing faintly green.
"It's not manly."
"Earth standards of masculinity don't exactly apply on this planet, hmmm?" He trailed long fingers across the little jars of paint.
"Don't do it, Doctor!"
"And human ideals certainly don't apply to me."
"NO! NO! NO!"
He chose the pink. "Now this is a masculine color on Earth. Or it was until the 1920s." Tegan went crazy and Nyssa laughed so hard the tears streamed down her face. The Doctor doubled over and laughed, too.
It was wonderful.
Soon (or was it hours later?) it was time to dry off and get dressed. Adric emerged to sulk in a corner, his people still ranged around him at a distance just in case he let his guard down at the Zero Hour. Nyssa's face was red as she politely shook her head at her dark man who was suddenly serious about arranging a meeting later. No. No, please, thank you. The man smiled, bent down and kissed her on the mouth. He was berated instantly by the Bird Woman as Nyssa blushed purple and retreated to the nearest bit of safety, which happened to be Tegan on her way to the wardrobe. The Doctor followed.
He was dressed in black pants, black boots and a black tunic embroidered with gold thread. He disliked wearing black and liked certain people that wore it even less but he enjoyed the way the silky fabric felt and the looks of admiration it was earning him. Nyssa was produced wearing scarlet and Tegan was draped in a deep green. Adric was allowed to keep his wet towel. The attendant that had squeaked over the cuteness of Tegan's buttons approached to arrange a trade with her. Her salvaged buttons for an enormous cobalt-blue bottle of perfume? Tegan accepted eagerly. The other woman ran off to claim her new treasures and Tegan nestled her payment in the crook of her arm. As they all emerged triumphantly back into the main chamber the Doctor's sharp ears heard "They're beautiful people," and he became proud. The compliment was clearly sincere as it wasn't meant to be overheard. And it was true, he decided as he looked over his companions. They were beautiful. Even Adric, bless him.
"And that, Nyssa, was a spa treatment," Tegan sighed happily, patting the curls in her gleaming hair. "You look beautiful! So do you, Doctor." He fluffed his fine, golden hair with his pink nails and laughed at the retching sounds she made.
Nyssa was still blushing. "My skin is squeaking!"
"Can we please go now?" Adric whined. The Doctor beamed down at them all.
The old man in the loin cloth reappeared. Behind him walked two strong men carrying a large tub between them filled with junk. Cricket balls, bags of sweets, odd coins, books, clothes, shoes, medical scanners, and, sitting on top in pride of place, a sparkling ruby the size of a human fist. "Your clothes are past repair," the old man said, "But we were able to empty your pockets." He stared at the Doctor in some wonder as the two men lowered the tub with relief. It hit the ground with a thud.
All the attendants gathered around; Adric's tormentors, Tegan's masseuses, Nyssa's flatterers, and the Doctor's favorite off-worlders and he realized he was expected to say a few words. He was impressed with all of them. It took craft, care and talent to restore four disgusting people to cheerful equilibrium. Well, three people anyway. Everyone stared at the light shining through the faceted brilliance of the ruby as the Doctor picked it up and turned it back and forth in his hand. He cleared his throat and decided to keep it short.
"We feel wonderful. We look wonderful!" There was laughter and nods all around. "This was a rare treat and we're deeply grateful. Yes?" Tegan and Nyssa agreed enthusiastically and their bathers preened. "So, we thank you," he said to them all. "'From the bottom of our hearts' as the humans say." He saw the blonde blink at him, startled. He slowly smiled back at her. "Until we meet again."
"Promise?" said the dark man.
The Doctor ignored him to swing the tub up and place it on his shoulder as easily as if he were giving a child a ride. The men who had carried it gaped at him. Then he turned and placed the ruby in the old man's hand. "Make sure everyone in the room gets an equal share of that. You all deserve it."
As his words sunk in there were gasps. Disbelief. The faint beginnings of joy. The Doctor balanced the tub with one hand and beckoned to his friends with the other.
"Out the door, everyone. Out the door we go."
Back to index
Chapter 6: Doctor #6
Author's Notes: Every odd scenario (with the exception of a visit from a space alien. I hope.) in this fictional hospital was based on REAL EVENTS.
Never. Ever. Ever. In his long-legged life had he had a companion foisted on him by paradox avoidance. But here she stood in front of him, his future friend, bouncing with excitement, "Now, remember, my name is Melanie Jane Bush and I was in Greystoke Hospital in London on July 7th, 1988 when my Doctor..." she patted his brightly colored lapels. He edged away from her. "...came and rescued me. All righty?"
"All right," he sighed and, without another word, turned and walked away towards his TARDIS. Out of all the Billions and Billions of interesting people in the universe he would never have chosen a veggie-juice swilling health nut to explore the cosmos with. But, to avoid blowing up reality, his future friend had to become his present friend. And by 'present' we mean 'right now.'
It wasn't fair.
He landed the TARDIS with his usual genius, hidden in the bushes on the grounds of the hospital on the very day and year required, and stepped out. He sighed again and headed towards the front doors.
Suddenly, he stopped.
There was a young nurse pushing a body on a cart down the shady sidewalk. The Doctor looked again. Yes, an obvious corpse. It was properly covered with a white sheet, the ends neatly tucked in against the breeze, but it was still an incongruous sight in this sedate place and time. Curious, he blocked her way. She stopped the cart with a slight slide of her sturdy white shoes and blinked at him.
"Anna!" someone shouted and she looked back. Another, older, nurse came running towards them, red in the face. "What are you doing?!" she shouted.
"I'm taking Mr. Sallers to the morgue, like you told me to," Anna said, pointing to a small, nondescript building just down the road.
"No, no, no!" the other panted. "You're supposed to take the tunnel!"
"What tunnel?! You never said anything about a tunnel!"
"The private tunnel under the...I didn't?"
"Oh, god." Both women looked down at the unfortunate Mr. Sallers as if it were all his fault. "Well, we're almost there anyway. Keep going!" They both put their hands on the cart and looked at the obstacle before them. Mouth twitching, the Doctor stepped into a petunia border out of their way. Determinedly keeping pleasant and professional expressions on their faces, they pushed the cart past. He continued on himself, rather buoyed by the incident.
He reached the hospital doors and threw them open wide. Every patient, visitor and medical professional stared at him as he looked around imperiously. Ah! A Welcome Desk. He strode forward, not noticing that no less than three people scurried out of his way. He leaned his hands on it and looked down at the worried man who squinted up at him through thick glasses. "Melanie Bush," he said.
"Eh?" the man answered.
"Melanie Jane Bush! She's a patient here somewhere. Where?"
"Are you friend or family?"
"Neither," he said coldly.
"FREEEEDOM!" a woman howled and the past Melanie Bush burst in through a far set of double doors. The myopic man gasped and scandalized surprise went twittering through the waiting room. She was completely nude save for a hospital gown that was wrapped around her arm. That only remained on because she was clutching her IV stand in her hand like a spear. She shook it. "I want out! I want my freedom! I want doughnuts!"
Two nurses quickly arrived, one threw a towel around the space where Melanie Bush used to be because the other nurse was a little too quick in yanking the woman back through the doors.
"Ah, there she goes," the Doctor observed and followed the trio. He went through the doors in time to hear the nurses exchange some choice, nasty words with each other while they cooperated in gently wrapping a towel around their patient. Melanie gasped for breath. Now that he was closer he saw that her skin was pale, she was thin and her hair (ridiculously curlicued in his memory) was limp and dead. His eyes went wide and he shoved his fists into his trousers as he studied this weird sight. Where was the annoying, energetic woman he'd met? Common sense belatedly tapped him on the shoulder. This IS a hospital, Doctor, it whispered.
She noticed him. "Krispy Kremes are made in the United States," she said and withered. She dragged in another breath and continued. "They serve 'em hot. I want a dozen, please."
"They're not very healthy are they, Miss Bush?" he asked. "Terrible rings of sugar and lard?"
"Who cares?" she groaned and sagged to the floor.
"Who cares? Who cares?! What on Earth's wrong with her?" the Doctor demanded.
"Oh, y'know, Demerol. It takes them that way sometimes," one of the nurses answered offhandedly as they scraped the wreck of Melanie Jane Bush up. "Nothing to worry about."
"YOU!" Mel cried, pointing at him. "Clown Man! You go to 'Merica and bring me a dozen doughnuts!" Another ragged breath. "Please?"
"Sounds good," one of the nurses decided as they led her away. "I'll take a dozen, too, dearie."
"DOUGHNUTS! I WILL BE FREE!"
The Doctor noted which room the three went into before he turned around and strode back into the waiting area.
"I dunno what's wrong with everyone today," he heard the squinting man whisper to a security guard. "Down in the emergency room Dr. Smythee stapled a man's balls to the gurney. He wouldn't stop fighting, y'see."
"Never!" the guard exclaimed and even the Doctor's eyebrow went up at he went past.
"Oh, yes. That calmed him down right quick." They both watched the Doctor barge his way out. "Must be full moon."
The Doctor walked quickly to the TARDIS, went in, set the coordinates for the United States and took off. The TARDIS disappeared. Instantaneously it materialized reasonably within the region he wanted. He found what he was looking for and bought two dozen steaming sweet pastries. He paid for his two boxes with a gold doubloon. Back to the TARDIS. Disappear. Reappear in Britain, at the hospital, right outside the front door. Excellent bit of piloting, that. Well, of course it was. He emerged from his ship with one box and headed back inside the hospital.
The two brave security men showed their absolute devotion to duty by ignoring him. "...and then Dr. Phlebman got arrested this morning."
"Felony pandering! With some of the nurses!"
"Negotiating amorous transactions," the Doctor answered as he went past the desk. Blank stare from Officer Obtuse. "Pimping, you idiot."
Stung, the guard tried to make a stand. "May I see your ID?"
"No." The Doctor swept through the far doors, down the long corridor and into the proper room. Melanie Bush was gowned and calmed again and she lay on the bed like the unfortunate Mr. Sallers lay on his cart. Her two fussing escorts, er, caretakers were putting the final touches on her and watching them gave the Doctor something of a chill. She lay so still. A small oxygen tube was under her nose and she was plugged into a variety of crude, monitoring devices. They flashed and beeped. She had a new IV tube in her arm and the bandage securing it displayed a drop of fresh blood. Miss Bush had pictures of her family and friends arranged around the bed, as well as motivational posters on the walls and plastic plants on the bedside table. They were dusty.
No window. The Doctor shuddered.
Everything pointed to a lengthy stay. Greystoke Hospital still kept patient charts at the foot of the bed for the whole world to see so the Doctor rifled one-handed through hers. He read her prognosis and blanched. "Oh," he whispered too low for human hearing. He slowly put the clipboard back on its hook with his fingertips as if it were going to bite him. "I see."
"Er. Are you family? Or are you here to entertain the patient?" the nurse that had called him 'dearie' asked and smiled. The other threw her nose up and left the room without acknowledging anyone with so much as a belch.
What a dreadful place, really. "No, I'm...I'm her Doctor." She looked at his clothes and gave a polite chuckle at his little 'joke.' Considering the doctors she had in this hospital he really couldn't understand her doubt but he didn't argue with her. She was friendly, at least.
Melanie Bush opened her eyes and saw him. "Freedom!" she cried as if it were his name.
"Doughnuts!" he answered as if it were hers. He held out the box. She gasped and eagerly reached for them. "Sorry," the Doctor said to the nurse as he handed them over. "I ate yours."
"Still warm!" their patient crooned. "So gooooood."
"I'll leave you to it, then," the nurse decided and walked towards the door. "She shouldn't make another run for it but hit the call-button if she does." The Doctor made a hmrph noise of assent and the woman left. He lowered the railing and sat down on the edge of the bed. It creaked dangerously. Neither he nor she paid any mind.
Melanie chewed and swallowed in complete bliss. She licked her thin fingers and offered him the box. He shook his head. She took another for herself. "Sooooo," the Doctor began. "Doughnuts and freedom is it?"
"I've got my doughnuts," she said, nodding, "And soon I'm going to be free."
She nodded. "That's what they say. No more, thank god. No more of this," she looked around the sad, plaster room. Then she stared at the doughnut in her hand and clarity appeared in her eyes for a moment. "How did you get these? They're fresh and hot!"
"I have my ways."
She weakly leaned up on one elbow and looked him over. Studied him from the top of his curly, blond head, past his fantastic coat, and down to the green spats on his shoes. "I'm hallucinating," she decided. "I don't mind you, though," she reassured him. "A big man full of colors all over everywhere is perfectly all right with me. Not like that...that winged spider thing I saw the other day," she lowered her voice to a confidential whisper, "And the farting radiator and the IV drip that won't stop calling my name. I hate those."
She nodded and they shared a moment of perfect understanding. Her eyes fluttered closed but she wrenched them back open. Despite her claims of acceptance the Doctor could tell she was fighting. Fighting like mad. Good. Good for her. "Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm the Doctor."
"Oh, please, not another doctor."
"No, no, no," he said, patting her lightly on the leg. "I'm not 'a' or 'yet another' doctor. I'm the Doctor. I'm the one that arrives when the extremes have been reached. When there's no hope. When no one else will or can do." He grasped his lapels and exuded sincerity.
"You make it all better?"
"Now, I didn't say that."
She managed to smile and the sight made him infinitely sad. "What do you recommend then, Doctor?"
The Doctor took another look around. There was no air in here. No light either. Just a display of inanimate tchotkes and useless machines that went beep, beep, beep, beep, endlessly, beep, beep...
He turned back to her and smiled for the first time that day. "I recommend travel," he said. "Get some different air into your lungs. Meet strange and wonderful people. Exercise! Running and so forth. Eat exotic food. Drink..." his eyes almost twinkled. "Drink lots of carrot juice."
"No, no," he reassured her. "I'm told it's very healthy."
She smiled again and it wasn't so weary this time. "I will, then." She picked the box up an inch. "And thank you so much." Consciousness left her so quickly the Doctor practically heard it swoosh by his head. She still clutched the pastries, though. He admired that in a woman.
"You're welcome," he said, then he leaned over and, peeling back the surgical tape that held it in place, gently pulled the IV needle out of her skin. He flicked it away. Various tubes and sensors followed. The beeping became frantic. He threw her blankets off and picked her up, her bare bottom sticking out of the hospital gown. He didn't notice and really wouldn't have cared if he did. "Now, let's get started." He turned and nudged the door open with his foot.
The trick is to walk quickly and stare straight ahead. As long as you looked like you knew what you were doing and avoided eye-contact then no one will hinder you. Much. The Doctor crossed the waiting room, ignoring the startled "Sir? Sir?" from the guard and the little man at the desk who were politely squawking behind him as if he didn't realize he was carrying a patient away.
Through the front doors, through the TARDIS doors then gently put her down on the floor to work the controls. Then away into the vortex. Mission accomplished and goodbye. He paused a moment to choose an appropriate medical facility from the vast store in his brain. She would enjoy the 'hospital' on Vrixis, he decided. Patients there floated in a serene blue grotto while they healed. Ocean breezes. Sunlight filtered through pristine water. Mer-healers swimming without a ripple from one patient to the next. No barbaric needles. No debilitating drugs. And where Melanie J. Bush was concerned a 100% success rate. Perfect. He entered those coordinates in.
"WHEE HEE YOW!" He turned. She was clumsily scrambling to her feet as best she could. "Cold floor, cold floor," she winced and twisted herself around to check that her bare bum was unharmed by the chill. It was and she went to work on her third Krispy Kreme to settle her nerves. Then she noticed where she was and the Doctor enjoyed the look of surprise and amazement that broke over her face. She gazed delightedly at all the lights, the monitors and again at the Doctor's colorful coat. "What is this?" she asked.
"This is freedom."
"Really? Oh, good!" She grinned at him. Then she looked again at the TARDIS's controls. "What sort of system do you use?" she asked politely. The Doctor told her in intensely technical Gallifreyan. "Excellent," she said, nodding. "I use that myself."
"Of course you do, Miss Bush," he said.
She waved a hand and offered him the box. "Please! My friends call me Mel."
He looked at her as she swayed a little where she stood. He looked at the box. He took a doughnut, his thirteenth. They really were ridiculously good. "Thank you," he said. She nodded. "Thank you...Mel."
Back to index
Chapter 7: Doctor #7
Author's Notes: What does a girl have to do to get an all-over tan in this Universe?!
Ace lay on a beautiful beach of fine, royal purple, sand. Cool ocean water misted the clean air as the waves broke on the shore. Not-Jasmine released it's lovely scent throughout the seaside gardens. Children ran, hopped or slithered in and out of the water or they built sand temples to be gleefully jumped on.
The adults were much less energetic. A group of twenty or so sprawled, naked and enervated, across the sand. Ace felt a lethargic poke from the enormous lizard on her right. He was a L'zrd, appropriately enough. She nudged the grey humanoid woman, one of several Marzt (it was their lovely planet,) on her left who tapped a serpentine !Sst on the head who prodded another Marzt who sleepily reached into a tub of ice water and pulled out a dripping blue bottle. It was passed back hand over claw to the L'zrd who sighed "Seventeen Thanks," to them all as he bit the top off and took a drink.
A red beetle flew onto Ace's bare breast. She lazily flicked it off again and it journeyed on with a whirrrr of little wings. She sighed with contentment.
"Oh, it should be rrrather easy," a familiar voice purred some way away and Ace swore as she quickly covered herself with a spare towel. What does a girl have to do to get an all-over tan in this Universe?! The Professor strode into view. He was wearing a grey woolen bathing suit circa 1924, his hat low over his eyes against the warm sunlight, and he was waving his sonic screwdriver around in an all encompassing motion. He was being followed intently by a small group of aliens who seemed very excited. The screwdriver made a sickly noise and the Professor whacked it.
"What's this nonsense?" the L'zrd, Scraw, asked no one in particular.
The device suddenly blinked into life with a ping!ping!ping! and the Professor studied it carefully. His group waited in agonized anticipation.
Ace recognized the signs and she raised herself onto her elbows. "This nonsense," she whispered to her reptilian friend, "Is a trick of some sort."
"Ooooh," the Marzt woman, Pixti, also rose up to pay attention.
The Professor raised his other hand slowly into the air. And waited. And waited. And waited some more until Pixti was reduced to giggles, Scraw was tapping his claws on the sand and Ace was on the verge of screaming. Just before everyone dropped dead of suspense the Professor dramatically pointed West and shouted "SHE'S OVER THERE! Just inside the jungle!" His followers took off, kicking sand in all directions as they pelted en masse towards the treeline. "Quickly! Quickly!" the Professor jogged forward a few steps until the crowd passed, leaving him free to do a casual loop and come back to Ace's recumbent gang. He was grinning and he raised his hat to them all.
Ace squinted up at him and smiled. "What was that all about?"
He raised a finger to his lips and looked all around before he answered in a dramatic whisper, "There's a Human Female on the beach!" Pixti gasped. Scraw hissed. Ace looked on in burgeoning horror as everyone reacted, some with disbelief, some with disgust, to the Professor's news. "Her genetic signature was picked up at the resort but there's some sort of interference," he scratched his nose with his sonic screwdriver, "And they can't pinpoint her. But I can," he nodded in the direction of the trees.
No less than five people decided to take him at his word and they got up to investigate. Ace watched them go as she tucked her towel even tighter around herself. Gloom settled in. She had been having such a nice time. Well, of course she was. Always, always, you get lulled into complacency as the books say and then WHAM! Was she illegal for some reason? Should she run? The Professor calmly sat in the sand at Ace's feet. Apparently it wasn't time to run. So...
"Just what's wrong with being a Human Female?" Ace asked calmly.
Pixti was aghast. "Surely you can't be from such a backwater that's never heard of Human Females?"
"I assure you, she can," the Professor answered. "Her planet doesn't have interstellar travel yet."
There was general pity for Ace and she bore it well. Pixti decided to educate the ignorant, "You see," the grey woman began, "Humans come from, oh, far away..." she flung her arm out to indicate a vast distance, "So far away that they evolved differently from everyone else." Ace thought of the Australian platypus and nodded her head. Despite herself, she was intrigued. Pixti went on, her skin blushing blue with embarrassment, "Humans have no mating season."
She acted as if that explained everything but Ace looked at her blankly. Scraw decided to fill in the gaps. "She's not saying humans don't mate. They do."
"They do?" Ace asked innocently.
"Yes. The problem is they mate all the time! It's very hard to believe but it's true. Humans indulge whenever, however and with whoever they please any day of their year." He waited for some reaction from his audience.
"They have sex for fun!" Pixti emphasized.
Who didn't? Ace allowed her eyes to go wide with only half-faked astonishment. "And that's unusual?"
"Are you, perhaps, from a religious order that doesn't discuss such things? Or are you underage?" Pixti gently asked.
"No! Oh, no, I was just...er...all I know is what's normal for my own people. Sex is fun for us." Despite her assurance that she was worldly and mature this was quickly turning into a conversation she didn't want to have in front of the Professor. He was looking on with that horrible little half smile of his and Ace felt a blush lurking in the wings. She quickly looked down to make sure that her towel was doing its job.
"Fulfilling biological necessity is a relief, certainly, but I'd hardly call it fun," the !Sst, Mmarlsa, mused as she stretched out her coils. "I'm thinking seriously of retiring."
"Yes, I've gotten the operation myself," Scraw shared. "Two hundred and thirty healthy children is quite enough."
"Oh?" Mmarlsa asked, sweetly innocent. "Is that all?"
All the humanoids exchanged an amused glance at the competitiveness of egg-laying reptiles as Scraw started to tap the sand again. Ace quickly interrupted, "But the women? Why are the human females so bad?"
"The human males are limited," Scraw continued, "They can only perform once and then they have to build up their strength again. That takes days." A smile threatened and Ace fought it down. "But the Human Females can do this thing every day! Continuously! And enjoy it every time!"
"What?" said another Marzt woman, frowning. "Why would they stop then? They'd go insane."
"They ARE insane!" Pixti said.
"What?" Ace asked, staring at her.
Pixti nodded. "Their drive is too strong. It affects their minds. They rove around looking for pleasure."
"There are historical Human documents that show where Human Females have petitioned the courts for marriage to buildings and walls and bridges," Pixti went on. "I read it in a book."
The Professor outright snorted with amusement. "Are you enjoying yourself?" Ace asked.
"Oh, rrrather! The traffic is terrible on their homeworld. They can't keep them off the streets." Pixti didn't recognise the mockery but Ace curled her fingers into a fist at him. For twigging her friend and also for starting this entire...
"In all honesty," said Scraw, "If I could experience orgasmic ecstasy on a daily basis you couldn't keep me off the streets either."
"It can't feel that good if it can happen every day," Mmarlsa reasoned. Then she went on in a rush to show them all that she was as learned as anyone. "They will attack animals," Mmarlsa said. "And visitors to their world, and inanimate objects!" She gave a serpentine shudder. "They're covered in terrible scars," she continued. "From battles over males and for territory. And they're diseased with every venereal plague that exists."
"Ewww," Pixti wrinkled her nose.
"Wait. That's an exagerrr..." the Professor interjected and wilted a little.
He was eagerly interrupted in turn by a gawky teen. "I hear telepaths keep them as mistresses! They're addicted to the Human Female's constant pleasure," he said. The Professor, being a telepath himself, pulled a horrified face at the boy. "It's true! My cousins told me. Several got rich that way, they said."
"Your cousins know?!" the Professor began but the entire crowd interrupted again.
"But if they're lunatics how can they enjoy their wealth?!"
"How can mind-readers stand the insanity?"
"How do they get any work done?"
Ace picked her jaw up off the sand. Then she weakly waved her hands in the air. "Wait, wait, wait, hang on a minute." The Professor coughed. She lifted her chin and ignored him. "Why did that lot go galloping off after her then?" She pointed towards the trees. "If they're not, ah, in season or anything like that?"
"Don't be disgusting! Procreating with a Human Female?!" another L'zrd hissed.
"I'm sure they're only chasing a hilarious spectacle," Scraw said. "A crazy woman trying to breed with the drinks stand?" There was some snickering from the group.
"Or the vegetable market? They have all sorts of suggestive fruits there!" The laughter was in earnest now.
"My uncle's pet blood-raptor!"
"The games stadium?"
"No, not me!"
"The entire Galaxy? I'd like to see that spectacle myself!" Pixti pantomimed a delirious female pawing at the sky. Her tongue lolled out.
Guffaw, guffaw, snort, hiss, titter, hee hee har har har ha. Scraw was laughing so hard he was weeping and Mmarlsa was indenting swirly patterns in the sand as she writhed. "They're ridiculous. And just filthy!"
The Professor wasn't smiling anymore. He was suddenly hunched up as if he'd like to escape up into his hat. He caught Ace's eye and she waved a forgiving hand at him. He hadn't intended this. But her very human blood was boiling.
"WHO WOULD LIKE TO SEE A SPECTACLE RIGHT NOW?!" she shouted and the riot died down with some surprise. She reined in her temper and lowered her voice. "Who has a mobile gene-scanner?"
Most travelers in this sector did. It paid to be able to scan for people, places and things that might be poisonous to your species. Pixti reached into her large, woven bag. "Er. I do. But you won't find her. There's interference."
"Not anymore," Ace said as she shot the Professor a significant look. He brought forth his sonic screwdriver with a flourish and toggled a switch. "Now see if you can find her," Ace demanded. Everyone sat up, fascinated by Ace's sudden anger and her friend's obvious duplicity in blocking the resort's scanner.
Very interested and not wanting to give any more offense than she clearly already had, somehow, Pixti complied. She hit a series of buttons with her thumb and the small, circular screen lit up with a green light. Pixti studied the readings while Mmarlsa arched over her shoulder.
They reacted at the same time.
Pixti gasped and stared at Ace. Mmarlsa's tail whipped around and snatched the scanner out of her hand. The delicate tip hit the buttons again as she re-scanned. "What does it say?!" Scraw demanded.
Pixti pointed. "It's her! Ace is a...she's the..."
"Human," Mmarlsa confirmed, snapping Pixti's scanner back into the bag with a flick of her tail. "Great Serpentine Goddess, Ace is the Human Female."
"Hello there!" she waved at them, her mouth set in a wide, jolly smile.
"Not Ace!" Scraw objected, defending his friend.
"Oh, yes. That far off world without interstellar travel would be, ah, a human colony," Ace confirmed. Other scanners were produced and passed around. Ace watched the shock and fascination pass from person to person until she got tired of it. "Does anyone doubt that I'm human?"
"But you don't behave like a..." Pixti began.
"Just how many humans have you ever met?" Ace demanded. She glared while Pixti shrank a little smaller. The answer, of course, was "None! How do you know how they behave?"
"Don't anyone argue with me! I'm the expert, right?" The consensus was, yes, the various scanners said so. "Right. You want to see a human female, I'll show you a human female." She stood up and towered over them all. "Professor, look over there."
He gazed about. "Over where?"
"Over there!" Ace pointed out to sea.
"What? Why? There's nothing out there."
Ace smacked her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Don't look at me."
"Why not? I don't mind." Ace glared at him. "Oh! You mind?"
"Very much." The Professor mumbled something she couldn't hear but he turned around. Ace stared at his back for a moment but he was still. She dropped her towel. The cool breeze hit her warmed skin and she goose-pimpled. "See any scars? Anyone?" She turned around. "Any scars anywhere?"
"Any evidence of disease?"
"Did I attack or proposition any of you or any animals, vegetables or buildings at any time today?"
Pixti and Scraw, the first friends she'd made when the day was young, were looking down at the sand now. Scraw was twiddling his claws. Mmarlsa just continued to stare with a not-so-intelligent expression on her face. Then, very slowly, she raised her tail into the air and formed the tip into a circle.
Ace recognized the intent if not the gesture. "Yes, Mmarlsa?"
Mmarlsa dropped her tail and took a deep breath. "Every day? Is that truly possible?"
Ace scratched her nose and checked that the Professor still had his back turned. He did. Too bad he wasn't deaf. "Yes," she muttered. "Several times a day if I were in the mood. But it's nowhere near an uncontrollable urge. Call it, uh, a little gift from the Gods."
"I certainly do," Scraw agreed.
"Does it feel..."
"DON'T ask me to demonstrate," Ace warned them. God, what a party trick that would be. Standing in front of everyone, naked, the Professor listening, made her more than a little uncomfortable so she rushed on. "And our traffic is no worse than anyone else's and we get our work done with no great problems and I'm not a mind-reader's mistress." She picked up her bag and started to furiously stuff it with her possessions. Her final word on the subject was, "Ridiculous!" and she reached for her towel.
Pixti looked up at her with sad, guilty eyes. "Wait! Wait, please, Ace. Human Ace? I...uh..." She swallowed, still amazed. "I deeply regret the insult I've delivered upon you. It was unintentional." She stood up and bowed deeply from the waist, her hair swinging. Her Marzt protocol suddenly cracked and she burst out with a howled "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry." Her sincerity was evident. The Marzt prided themselves on their position as the mannered hub of this part of the galaxy. Pixti had let the team down and she was aghast. One by one many of the other Marzt stood and bowed, too, deep, embarrassed blushes on their faces. Scraw took his cue from them and ducked his alligator-ish head. Mmarlsa continued to stare rather wistfully into the distance. Suddenly Pixti was crying and Ace took a step back, her bag clutched to her chest. It was her turn to be gobsmacked. She had planned to blast them all in the name of righteousness and storm off back to the TARDIS, never to be seen again. She hadn't expected any of them to actually feel badly and apologize.
Ace never expected anyone to apologize.
"It's...that's...well." Ace breathed in deeply to regain her equilibrium. Uh. Wuh? Hmmm. Maybe she could finish out her holiday after all? Stay on these beautiful beaches? No! No, she'd become a tourist attraction. Everyone! Come see the Human Female do...nothing! She'd be followed around. Badgered with extremely personal questions. Urgh, how annoying.
Ace gazed longingly over her shoulder in the direction of the Professor's ship. Skip it! Skip it all. There were better beaches. Better people. Safer and more convenient that way. All she had to do was run.
Everyone was staring, waiting for her verdict. Pixti was flinching already.
Ace let out a breath. Run and she'd hate herself, she knew it. Stay. Answer their stupid questions. It had to be done, didn't it? Maybe. Well, it wasn't the same as clubbing the Daleks into scrap but it was just as worthy a fight. Right? Uuuuuugh, no. But yes. No! Yes. No, they can mind their own business. What about the next human to come along?
Ace decided to stay.
She heard another sob and turned to her friend. "Stop. Stop that, Pix, it's all right. You didn't know."
"Rudeness!" Pixti whimpered. "And you're my friend..."
Ace dropped her bag and patted the woman on her grey shoulder. "It's all right. Really." Pixti sniffed. Ace drew in a deep breath. "Everyone sit, please. Show's over." She waved everyone back down and sat on the beach blanket she'd been sprawled on for most of the day. She ignored the youngster who suddenly ran off towards the trees. Got a tale to tell, huh? Fine. So did Ace McShane. "So! Humans!" She clapped her hands together and rubbed them. "Who's first? With questions, I mean." Scraw rumbled with laughter and nudged Ace with his muzzle. His own apology. Ace smiled and patted him where his shoulder would be if he had one.
Suddenly one of the Marzt put his two forefingers together and held them in front of his eyes. "Yes?" Ace asked.
"He's looking," he said, pointing behind her.
"I am not looking!" Indeed, the Professor was radiating pride. "I'm admiring!"
Back to index
Chapter 8: Doctor #8
Author's Notes: I mean absolutely no disrespect to Finland, Finnish customs or the Finnish people! Please don't throw me in the fjord.
"DEEEATH!" the toothless old bastard yowled at his kneeling prisoners. The crowd cheered, shaking the rafters of their pre-fab Viking Longhouse. Sergeant John Benton would have glared defiance but blood was dripping into his eyes. He turned to a handy shoulder, the Doctor's, to wipe them clear as his own hands were tied so tightly his toenails were aching.
"Pardon," he mumbled after the fact and blinked.
"Not at all," the Doctor graciously said. He was bleeding, too. His long, curling hair was matted with it and it formed a stiff screen all around his face. The sergeant still disapproved of its sheer length.
"Deathity death, death!" the nutter jabbered. All over the gloomy structure energy weapons were set on 'stun' and bright bolts were enthusiastically fired into the ceiling. Dust and unconscious insects drifted down.
"You will be unharmed if you surrender to the authorities of New Finland immediately," the Doctor repeated for the umpteenth time. "They will destroy your compound otherwise."
He was ignored. The Militia of the Burning Renewal were drunk on their moment that had finally arrived. Children were taken away to bunkers and the armory was opened. Men and women scuttled back and forth, armed and excited.
Benton could hear the Doctor sigh and then he heard, "Oh, look! That's a Blue Crawler from Tarbis."
Benton glanced down at the cobalt arachnid that was twitching next to his knee. "Er. Pretty color."
"Its bite can kill a thousand humans."
Benton scootched away from it. "Please focus, Doctor."
The second-in-command raised her arms for silence. "The government is coming?" she asked the prisoners and she struck a melodramatic listening pose.
Benton rolled his eyes and fed her the line she wanted. "Yes, they're coming."
She jerked upright. "Let them come!" Cheer. "We're prepared!" Cheer. "We're strong!" Cheer.
"Woooo..." the Doctor joined in and Benton laughed. That went over well.
Number Two waited until they crawled back into a kneeling position. "The Bannik will now decide how you are to be killed." Benton wondered if the Militia were all so stupid as to execute two perfect bargaining chips. She waved the people quiet again as she turned to the old man who eagerly stepped forward. The Doctor and Benton couldn't help letting out identical grunts of disgust at the display. Yes, they were just that stupid. Or just that ready to get their rebellion started. "O Bannik! Wise One! How shall it be done?"
"Don't say by Boola Boola," Benton muttered and was rewarded with a punch to the back of his head. The extra pain was just a drop in the bucket and he shook it off.
The Bannik thought for a moment and then he brightened. "Aufguss!"
The verdict was met with enthusiasm and the crowd started to chant it. "AUFGUSS! AUFGUSS! AUFGUSS!"
"Are they joking?" the Doctor asked.
"What?" Benton asked, "What does that mean?"
"It means," one of his guards answered as he pulled Benton to his feet, "That you are to be baked with heat. Then choked with steam! Then," he grinned at them, "The last bit of life in you will be beaten out with burning Vasta!" He pointed to the hearth where some associates of his were settling large birch logs over hot coals.
"It means," the Doctor said and Benton was surprised to hear amusement in his voice, "That we're going to be sauna-ed to death."
"Isn't it amazing how some harmless traditions evolve into..." He was interrupted by the guard cutting the tight cords around their arms and hands. Benton took advantage of the sudden freedom and swung a numb fist. He missed by a mile and the crowd waded in. They were doing more damage to each other than they did to Benton in their eagerness but the Doctor grabbed his friend's arm. "Don't fight!" he ordered. "Sergeant...John, don't resist now. There's too many of them."
"But..." the soldier gasped, his head ringing.
"Not now. Wait. Trust me." A half-dozen laser rifles were aimed at him and, reluctantly, Benton stopped struggling. Their guards converged on them in earnest. They began to rip off the prisoners' clothes. Benton snapped to full alertness. Their clothes?! Strips of Benton's khaki mingled with the ruins of the Doctor's silk and velvet on the floor. Benton sent a glare at the alien but the Doctor gazed up at him imploringly. "Well, it IS a sauna. Wait. Please."
Benton was an infinitely patient man (With the Doctor you had to be. Even this affable article was turning out to be maddening.) but he couldn't resist a deep sigh. Then he noticed with much satisfaction that the Doctor's guards were disgruntled. They were trying to buffet the slight man back and forth but he had set his feet and they might as well be taking whacks at a stone-cold pillar. Hulking as they were, they were nowhere near as strong as the Time Lord. After the guards threw a few covert and embarrassed glances around the room, they went back to attacking his clothes instead. He offered them the most extreme of insults by helpfully holding his arms out while they tore and cut his shirt and pants off. Benton admired his gall. Then, directly after, he felt a strong wave of shame. When presented with this version of the ever-changing alien Benton and the other UNIT soldiers had unanimously agreed among themselves that they would definitely not be taking him down t' pub.
Benton now resolved to take the Doctor, cravat and all, to a dozen pubs when they got back to Earth. A friend was a friend, after all. It's not as if he wore a monocle. Or anything at all now.
A weapon prodded him in the back and the two were led outside into the snow. The chill brought goosebumps to Benton's skin but it felt very good on all his forming contusions. Being free of the smoke and the smell of unwashed everything was grand, too. They trudged through a copse of birch trees and across a small field. Benton saw movement in the trees. The Militia were digging in and Benton spared a thought for the soldiers who were going to face this maniacal group. He pitied the families, on both sides, who would be affected by the outcome. What a waste. His bare feet began to go a little numb from the cold but before he could worry about his toes dropping off the crowd reached its destination. It was a large, low dome of stone with a ring of some sort of transparent material circling the top. Benton recognized it as an observation window. The crowd surrounded the structure and began to jostle each other for an unobstructed view.
Benton realized the bulk of the place was underground as they were led down steep steps that had been dug into the earth. A heavy metal door with an old-fashioned grip handle was unlocked and he and the Doctor were thrust through. It slammed shut behind them. The place was empty save for a hearth of large stones in a pit in the middle of the floor and what looked to be ornate water pipes jutting out of the wall at odd intervals. The whole place was, oddly, clean. Benton heard "We have to wait for the Bannik!" coming from someone outside and the horde groaned with disappointment.
The Doctor looked up at them, at all the noses pressed against the transparency, at the many fingers that were making obscene gestures at him, and passed his judgment. "Charming."
Benton snorted with laughter and agreed. "Doomsday nutters are always fun. To be fair, though, there's no TV here. What else have they got to do?"
Flames suddenly appeared in the central pit and the Big Sleep Sauna was filled with flickering red light and dark shadows. "Television would only give them ideas," the Doctor said and wandered over to the pit to inspect the heating stones. "Bless the BBC."
Benton watched him and idly wondered what it was like to be him. Must be an interesting life. Doubtful it was an easy one, though. One day you're the big, beloved hero and the next day your mates don't want to be seen with you. Benton looked down at his feet.
The Doctor suddenly turned as if he'd been called and smiled. "That's all right, Sergeant. I don't care for the smoke in pubs and the stifling social mores of your time dictate that..." Benton's shame and embarrassment only increased. A friend was a friend, damn it. The Doctor stuttered to a halt. "Er. Anyway. It should take that old coot about twenty minutes to get here. So...would you say that negotiations have broken down?"
"Oh, indubitably, sir."
"Well, then." The Doctor darted his hand into the fire to snatch out a hearth rock. He knelt and brought it down on the hard floor. Benton was surprised to see it shatter like glass. "Shrapnel Flint from Morsus II," the Doctor observed. "Heat it up, pour cold water on it and watch it explode into a thousand stone needles that go flying all over the room, ouchie, ouch, ow, ouch."
"Because being heated, steamed and pounded to death isn't enough," Benton drawled. "Let's check the place for pecking ducks."
"Scorpions, adders, whoopie cushions." The Doctor approached with a large flake of flint that was sharp enough to shave a billy goat with. "Hold this." Benton took the small thing and wondered what the Doctor's intentions were. A single, crude arrowhead wasn't much in the way of assets but the Time Lord had always come through before. Benton looked down at him expectantly. "They won't blast their way in because all evidence points to this place being sacred," he indicated the pristine walls, "But they will try to force their way in or kill us outright to stop us, Bannik or no Bannik." He led Benton over to the door. The place was heating up well and the sergeant, at least, was beginning to sweat. The Doctor set his back against the steel and grasped the simple handle with his left hand. "Ready?"
"Oh! Telling you the plan might be helpful!"
"Sorry," the Doctor said, shaking his head sadly. "Sometimes my brain skips along too fast or I forget or I look at a person and I get distracted by their probabilities." His voice became a little wispy and his face smoothed into a dreamy, rather pretty, blankness as he scanned Benton's face.
"Well, that's different."
"The plan!" Benton yelped.
"OH! Sorry!" The alien rubbed his eyes. "I have a stun bomb embedded in my leg." Through his surprise and relief, Benton became aware of some frantic scrambling around the observation window. Listening are they? He hoped the Doctor had an earful to give them. His friend smiled and obliged Benton's unspoken thought. "The booooomb is organic so their scanners missed it when they searched us. Cut it out and set it off while I..." There was a tremendous THUD! against the door and the handle began to turn. The Doctor clamped it tight in his hand and dug in his heels. "While I hold this shut. See? The bomb will stun everyone harmlessly, including us, and then the New Finland government can come in and sweep everyone up without bloodshed."
"Sounds good," Benton said and then felt stupid. It's not as if he had a better option. He gripped the sharp flint lightly, not wanting to crack the thin stone. "Where do I cut?"
"Here," the Doctor touched a spot on his inner thigh.
Benton was aghast. "There?!"
Boola Boola it was, then. Benton knelt in front of the Doctor, ignoring the Little Doctor as best he could, and prodded the spot. "I don't feel it."
"It's attached to the bone."
"Good god! That deep? What about the femoral artery?"
"It would be a serious consideration, of course, if I had one."
Benton saw his muscles strain with the effort of keeping the door shut and very quickly got over his squeamishness. Keeping in mind that the Doctor would heal he started to slice. Dark orange-red blood welled from the gash and poured down Benton's forearms. "Sorry! Sorry, Doctor." He stabbed deeper, slashed through muscle...
...fought back a real dizzy spell...
...then he gritted his teeth and dug deeper. Drip, drip, drip. He was kneeling in a pool of blood now. This was so far removed from the combat first-aid he knew. This was horrible. This was going to haunt him. This...his probing fingers found the bone and, there, a large lump. Another slice. The Doctor grunted in pain. "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" Benton could just get his fingers around the lump. It moved away.
Beady black eyes stared accusingly at him through the blood.
Benton didn't scream like a little girl. He didn't faint either. He let out an "UUUURRRRRRGGHH!" of horror and disgust that was so deep and visceral that only an elephant could have heard it. And the Doctor, of course.
"I said it was organic!"
"YOU DIDN'T SAY IT WAS ALIIIIVE!"
"I didn't? Oh, well. Quickly, John!" Benton steeled himself, caught the loathsome thing and pulled it off the Doctor's bone with a horrid scraping sound.
"The Bannik demands you stop what you're doing!"
There was a creak and the door opened an inch. Benton looked up at the Doctor's face. He was pale now and trembling from the effort.
He looked like Benton felt. He held up the thing so the Doctor could see its barbed legs waving in the air. "And just how do I set this off?"
"Smash it on the floor."
There was a combined WHAP! and squeak! and then there was a blessed nothing.
*******Earth. Ye Spread Eagle Inn*******
"What'll you have, soldier?"
"I would kill everyone in this room for one cold beer."
"Coming up. And, ah, what'll your sister be wanting?"
"I'll have a Ginger Fizz."
"Of course you will."
They were served quickly, the Doctor's drink had a pink paper umbrella in it. Benton put some money on the counter while the Doctor dug around in the pocket of his new frock coat. He then held out his hand towards the innkeeper. "Here's your tip." The fool took whatever it was.
While the man ran screaming into the street, Benton downed his beer in one slow, grateful draw. The Doctor sipped his drink with no less pleasure. Tell no one, but he liked the paper umbrella. He enjoyed the way the little thing actually worked and he opened and closed it with a smile on his face. Finally, Benton put his empty glass down with a sigh.
"Are you all right now, Sergeant?" The Doctor pocketed his new toy, took Benton's empty glass and stretched across the counter. He managed to put another pint in. The other customers watched this with interest but no one interfered with either man. They had a strange air of being...non-interferable. Not to even mention what had happened to the barkeep. Best to stay low.
Benton took the free drink with a smile. "I'm fine. You had the worst of it."
"Yes," the Doctor agreed, modestly. "But what you did wasn't the worst. The absolute worst happened when the Finnish doctors put the damn thing on my leg so it could burrow its way in." Benton shuddered and the two men raised a toast to each other. Then they toasted New Finland. Then they toasted the organic construct that gave its manufactured existence so an entire terrorist militia could be arrested. They drank to a job well done. They even drank to the television industry. Long live the BBC.
Then the Doctor put his glass on the bar with a decisive thunk. "Come with me."
"All right. Where?" Benton asked, eating a peanut.
Benton was surprised. "Do you mean...?" He jerked a thumb at the roof.
"Yes," the Doctor matched the gesture. "It was an an accident you went with me to New Finland, and that was miserable, I grant you, but I want you to give it another try." Benton breathed in deep. Good lord. The Doctor continued, "You would be an enormous help to me. My mind, well, sometimes I lose track as you saw. I need a sensible friend. And it's not all bloody horror out there, you know."
"It's not?" Benton's experience was made up almost completely of marauding invaders who were shooting at him. Shooting, stabbing, hypnotizing. Was that really all there was out there? He finished his beer.
"There's a world called Florana..."
"I want to tell the Brigadier I'm off first," Benton said. The Doctor blinked and then he grinned from ear to ear. Benton was shocked to realize that, just like that, he had agreed to go. It was probably the easiest conquest the old alien had ever made. But look at him! Velvet. Silk. Long hair. A brain with a hiccup. A cravat! Deep in his heart Benton knew that the Doctor needed him more than UNIT did right now. It was the right thing to do. "How on Earth will he explain my being gone though?"
"Tell him that, if anyone asks, he's to say you ran off to become a used car salesman."
"Who'd believe that?!" Benton laughed.
(Author Admission: I stole Benton's drink order from Homer Simpson.)
Back to index
Chapter 9: Doctor #9
Author's Notes: "Honestly, Cliff! Your hobbies are a nightmare!"
"It takes just a few weeks for a torsalo to develop into an adult Botfly," wheedled Dr. Clifford Jones.
"No," said his wife, Jo, frantically searching for the camphorated snake oil. What she'd thought was a nasty mosquito bite on the skin of her leg had turned out to be a warble, the Botfly larvae's breathing hole, and Jo's shriek was still ringing in Cliff's ears. She disliked maggots. Especially when they were feeding on her living flesh.
He could understand her position but Cliff didn't give up. "And there's very little risk of infection if you allow it to mature. It just crawls out and the wound closes."
"No." Jo threw open a trunk at random. Mosquito nets went flying through their tent. Dr. Ezra Sanchez and several local assistants paused on their way to the mess hall to watch the show. The tent had walls that rolled up during the day to let the breeze in so who could miss it?
"Adults are rare! I can't find any!" Cliff said. "And the larvae don't seem to like me."
"I like you, Senor!" proclaimed Dr. Sanchez.
"Oh, shut up," Dr. Tactful answered and Sanchez put a pained hand over his heart. His helpers snickered. Cliff tackled his stubborn wife again. "Jo, let it live."
"So you can dissect it? Honestly, Cliff! Your hobbies are a nightmare!"
"Entomology is very relaxing," he muttered, stung.
"SEE HOW CALM IT'S MAKING ME!" Cliff staggered back but he quickly recovered. Jo lurched to the door to address her neighbors. "I can't find the camphor. Does anyone have any tobacco?"
"I've outlawed it, Jo," her husband reminded her.
"Tabaco? Por favor?" Jo implored everyone, her hands clasped together, her eyes wide. Cliff watched in surprised disgust as she soon became the proud owner of three cigarettes, a half pouch of Red Man chewing tobacco and a fine Cuban cigar. "Gracias! Thank you, thank you!"
Feeling more than a little betrayed Cliff stood there while his wife rushed off to the medical hut to make a smothering poultice for her leg. The small crowd looked at him expectantly but if they thought he was going to storm off in a childish snit, the perfect ending to this little domestic drama, they could think again. He sat on a trunk and gazed evenly at them all. They soon dispersed, Sanchez still with a grin on his face.
Cliff picked up a mosquito net and rolled it into a tight ball. She was really going to kill it. She didn't care that her husband was going to be the only scientist in the entire Amazon Basin without a single specimen of Dermatobia hominis to call his own, oh, no. And he'd specifically outlawed tobacco! He told everyone they'd live longer without it. But nooooooo!
vworp vworp vworp!
What the hell was that?
Vworp! Vworp! VWORP!
It sounded like, well, it sounded like nothing he'd ever heard before. It was close. He left the tent quickly and prayed one of the generators wasn't about to blow. He joined Sanchez's agitated party and they all cast around for the source. Drs Woodson and Fromme ran out of the mess tent, Dr. Fromme still with a fork in her hand and Woodson, a man who enjoyed his meals, looking very angry. The Gonzalez family arrived and then Nancy, Cliff's right-hand woman.
VWORP! VWORP! VWOOOORRRRRP!
"Doctor!" All the doctors turned to look at Jo as she came pounding up from the med bay, her leg bandaged. She wasn't addressing any of them, though. She grinned, radiant, as she bounced on her toes and stared at the empty spot in front of the mess tent as if someone Cliff couldn't see there was handing her opals. "Everyone stand back now!" she cautioned and flung her arms wide.
Cliff opened his mouth to ask why when a flashing light appeared alone in the air roughly nine feet off the ground. He could see it reflecting off every shiny surface out of the corner of his eye. A blue rectangular object was taking form out of the thin air and everyone reacted. Some with awe some with...ow...Cliff's foot was stomped on as a colleague, he didn't see who, turned and ran.
It arrived and Jo gave a cheer.
Cliff's face screwed into an expression of disbelief.
A police box. It was a blue police box. It was blue. Police Call Box was written on it. It had windows and a dome light and a door and on the door was a handle. It was a big, blue, police box?
That was blue.
That had just decided to appear in the middle of the jungle.
"Some sort of teleportation experiment," Cliff decided. Yes. The Big Boys in London, the Kremlin or Washington were playing around, yet again, with something they shouldn't. Cliff's active imagination delivered an image of an atomic bomb materializing in the middle of Parliament and he shuddered.
"No, it's a ship," Jo said, not taking her eyes off it.
"How would you know what it is?!" Cliff asked.
The door opened and a man's voice answered "How would you know what it isn't?" The 'pilot' of the phone booth stepped out. He looked like...he looked like a hardened criminal really. Boots, jeans, crew-cut hair, ratty red jumper, leather jacket. A face hard enough to cut diamonds. Icy blue eyes looked Cliff over with an expression of sheer disgust. "Jo's flown in this ship more often than you've had hot dinners, you ignorant ape."
The pilot's attention shifted and his stone face cracked into a genuine smile as he saw Jo. She was looking him up and down in amazement. "It's me. Like it? New Spring model." He shifted himself an inch or two to the left and right as if he were showing off something shiny and spectacular.
Oddly, Jo reacted as if he was. "Coo, look at you! The Brig said you'd changed but..." she rushed forward and threw her arms around the man. "Where's the scarf?"
"I burned it." He lifted her up off the ground in a tight hug. Cliff stared. This bizarre teleporting stranger was hugging and...kissing?! He was kissing Jo's hair and breathing her in! Drs Sanchez, Woodson and Fromme and Nancy and all the assistants and all the Gonzalezes and all the birds in the trees were watching with their mouths open and Cliff absolutely lost his temper.
"I AM DOCTOR CLIFFORD JONES! I'm the Director here! I am the Nobel prize winning boss of the New Nut-hutch Research Facility and I demand to know what's going on! Who are you?!"
"Oh, Cliff, relax."
"Put her down!"
The man reluctantly put Jo down. He ignored Cliff and looked Jo earnestly in the face. "Do you still have that phrenic obsidian I gave you on Corsus?"
"Of course. I made it into a necklace."
He smiled. "Do you have it here?"
The man sagged a bit with relief. "I need it. Very badly. I can't get to Corsus any more," the stone face was back, "So I thought I'd try you."
"I do have it. I'll go get it."
She obediently rushed off. Cliff counted to ten or tried to. He got as far as four and then stepped up to the stranger. "Well?" he said.
"Hola?" Dr. Sanchez tried, smiling.
Cliff rudely waved him quiet and his "Well?" this time was definitely a challenge. "I'm Dr. Clifford Jones!"
"Oh, I know who you are," he said, his gaze following after Jo. His tone said scum. Dross. Waste. Rubbish. Vermin. He Who Has No Botfly. Cliff had the definite impression that he was truly and personally despised and he cleared his throat loudly. The pilot slowly turned to face him.
"Of course you know who I am. Now who are you?" Cliff asked again.
The pilot appeared to think about it for a long moment and then he said, "Y'know, duck? For centuries I'm the one who's been dying to do this!"
Arms as strong as a gorilla's laid hold of Cliff and the world went spinning round as the man flipped him upside down as easily as if he were nudging a kitten over. He didn't drop him though and Cliff's legs waved in the air as his hands scrambled along the ground.
"Ooooh?!" said the crowd.
"Jo!" Nancy yelped and took off running.
Cliff heard a SNAP! and felt something around his waist give way. He realized it was his belt when he fell out of his pants. He wasn't in the habit of wearing underwear. So there he sat (Dr. Clifford Jones, respected scientist, Nobel Prize winner, Director of one of the most preeminent research facilities in the entire world) bare-arsed and red-faced on the dusty ground.
His attacker swung the khakis around once before throwing them away into some nearby bushes. His grin was enormous and damn near insane.
"BWAAAHA!" burbled out of the crowd. The younger women shrieked. Dr. Sanchez was practically weeping with joy.
Cliff slowly got to his feet and dusted his pale ass off. More laughter. Schoolyard laughter. But, once again, if they thought he was going to cup his balls and waddle for the nearest cover for their entertainment they were mistaken. Cliff stood his ground and began to think. That was an impressive, one might almost say inhuman, show of strength coming from a man no larger than Cliff himself was.
Inhuman? Suddenly he remembered, too late, that his wife used to be a member of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Task force, an organization created for the study of and defense from, alien life forms.
Did they make friends with them, too?
Cliff's anger and embarrassment began to sputter out as he looked at the strange man then at the teleporting box and back again. Did extraterrestrials exist? Was one gloating over him right now?
First things first.
Causing even more shrieks of delight and amazement, he whipped off his t-shirt and offered it to the man as well. "Here. Since you like my clothes so much." Cliff now had nothing to hide and Dr. Fromme squealed and waved her fork in the air. There was loud applause and, though he didn't realize it at the time, Dr. Jones's stock went up considerably in the community.
Mr. Spock, or whoever, was caught flat-footed and he looked at his nemesis with distaste. Well played, sir.
"CLIFFORD! What are you doing!" Jo and Nancy were back and Jo absolutely could not believe what everyone was seeing.
"Jo, your husband is having a nervous breakdown or something." Klaatu shrugged. "Do you have the crystal?" Jo shook her head disbelievingly at her husband and produced a glittering black stone dangling from a silver chain. Cliff had never seen it before. The man took it gently. "Thanks, Jo, I owe you."
"Er. You'll bring it back?"
Ming the Merciless looked a little sheepish. "No. I have dire plans for it."
"Oh, but it was from you!" Jo wailed and Cliff's defiant calm was threatened again by his rampaging jealousy. He flushed red and turned his shoulder to everyone to hide it but he needn't have bothered. Despite everything no one was looking at him.
"I'll bring you back something better." Dr. Durand Durand leaned down and kissed Jo on the cheek. "Soon."
"Can we look inside your shed?" Dr. Sanchez asked.
"No, sorry, gotta rush," he clenched the obsidian crystal and threw open the door. "I'll be back, Jo. And you!" He glared at Cliff one final time. "You'll catch your death if you don't watch out." As if yanked by an invisible rope he disappeared inside his ship.
VWORP! VWORP! VWORP! Vworp! vworp vworp vwor...
Gort was gone. Cliff wanted to run around the compound with relief. He settled for locating his pants and using the iffy cover of the bushes to pull them back on with some small amount of dignity.
Jo was surrounded by friends and colleagues begging for or outright demanding explanations. She shrugged her shoulders and said the man was a freelance scientific adviser for UNIT, very advanced technology, yes, and beyond that she wasn't at liberty to say. After a short while the crowd broke up, reluctantly, everyone still laughing or exclaiming at the wonders of the day. Jo was finally left alone. She stared at the square in the dust where the box had stood.
Cliff, lurking by the tent, stared at her.
She ran her fingers through her hair and then, with heartbreaking tenderness, she scuffed the square out of existence with her feet. Then she looked up and saw him watching her. "Now I'm going to worry," she said. "He's off doing something dangerous and if he doesn't come back quickly..." She stared up at the sky, at the clear shining stars. Was that where he was now, Cliff wondered. Could his phone ship travel the stars as well as jump from place to place on the Earth? Could he travel to other worlds? Did Jo go with him? Where was Corsus?
"And just what was going on between you two?" she suddenly demanded. "Nancy said you were fighting!"
"Just a little," he admitted. "I won, though." Jo scoffed at him but he insisted. It was a moral victory, true, but that counts. He wandered over to her. The past hour's bewilderment and irritation fizzled out entirely as he studied her. She really was going to worry about Superman. He held his arms open and Jo gratefully stepped into them.
He smelled her hair. It smelled of rainwater and jungle vines and Jo. No wonder the man'd tried to inhale her. "You're at liberty to tell your husband a few things?" he asked hopefully.
She thought about it for just a moment. Then "Yes," she agreed. "A few things. Just you, though. You can't pass it around or write anything down."
"Agreed. Er. He wasn't human, was he?"
"No. Nowhere near it."
She pressed closer. "Why were you fighting? You got on all right with him before."
"I've never met him before in my life!"
"Yes, you have." She smiled at his dumbfounded look. "We'll start with that story then. Once upon a time, a terrible glowing green infection was stalking the mines..."
"I've already heard this one."
"You ain't heard the half of it," Jo said.
Her closeness, the warmth of her, tipped Cliff over into spontaneity and he brought his mouth down on hers. She returned his kiss with a little moan and held him tighter. There were absolutely no jungle drums in the rain-forest but Cliff heard them all the same. Finally, he raised his head.
"You can keep your 'ol larvae," he told her and she kissed him again.
Back to index
Chapter 10: Doctor #10
Author's Notes: "Your woman is causing a most devastating furor!"
He was seven feet tall and all naked. His people, the Margtig, did not believe in clothing and Martha prided herself on taking this in stride. She couldn't resist tightening the belt of her coat, though.
He spoke. "Welcome to the Caverns of the Margtig! My name is Zess and I'll be your guide today." He took a protective face mask out of his chest strap and put it on over his peach-sized eyes. Martha could see him smiling behind it. "First, of course, I'm going to guide you through the gift shop."
The Doctor grinned and Martha groaned. She had to fake her own death to get him out of the shops on Ackk Prime and even then he left reluctantly. They followed Zess's enormous naked rear into the cave, shuffling obediently along with the other tourists down a narrow stone corridor and around a bend.
Everyone gasped and Martha put a hand to her mouth as the corridor opened up.
Good god, the colors! The brilliance! The prisms as huge as elephants reflecting the sunlight as it streamed in from the heights! Rainbows... no, 'rainbows' didn't do this justice. Martha felt as if she could shower in the incredible beams. She held out her hands and was almost surprised there was no weight to the wonder. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.
As her first shock wore off she looked around closely and noticed that right smack in the middle of the room were several shelves, barrels and tables full of merchandise. This was the gift shop?! The commercialism and the immense beauty was a wild contrast and, appropriately, Martha wanted to laugh and cry at the sight. Everything was in white. Bags, boxes, tables, shelves, even the food was white. The better to reflect the radiance she supposed.
The Doctor was smiling up at the glittering stalactites and Martha admired the way the light fell on his hair and played along the sharp angles of his face. She dropped her eyes. "Amazing," she breathed.
"Yes," Zess was smug. "This is one of the minor side-rooms. All the Caverns are holy but this one isn't so holy that we can't have a lovely selection of souvenirs in it. You'll be truly astounded by the rest," he promised.
"Breaking us in easy?" Martha asked and Zess smiled again.
"Just so. You're not the type that faints are you?" Martha shook her head. "Good, you wouldn't believe how many people I've had to carry out of here." She chuckled and he raised his voice. "We'll be here for six bips!" he announced to all.
"Guh!" said Martha eloquently and turned to her escort. "Doctor, if this is a minor cavern a major one is going to kill me."
He had wandered over to a large rack of wind chimes but he turned back and smiled. "I don't want to spoil the ending...well, actually, I do. I don't want you to be disappointed," he said. He sidled over to her, looked around, and bent down to whisper in her ear. Martha felt his breath and hid a pleasant shiver as best she could. "The center of the Caverns, the very Holiest of Holies, is a plain, grey stone chamber. Inside is a dusty pit called the Chasm of Righteousness and the bottom is covered with brittle, old bones."
"People bones. The Margtig, uh, used to be sticklers for being correct in the eyes of their gods and the ruling Council. Drafty place. Drafty, dull place. Drafty, dull, depressing, despicable place. Drafty, dull...!"
"Drafty, dull Doctor? I'm not!"
"You said you'd never been here before?" Martha asked patiently. Good thing she often wanted to climb the tall, maddening alien like a tree. Otherwise he'd drive her daft. Daft Doctor. Daft, dizzy Doctor. Daft, dizzy, delirious, delightful Doctor. She realized he was answering her question.
"We weren't here, no, but there. Staring down into the Pit. We wanted to see THIS but all we got was a tour of THAT. Disappointing. Despicable. Dangly..."
Martha cleared her throat. "We?"
He nodded absent-mindedly. "It's a good story. I'll tell you later. Anyway, the journey is what's important here, not the destination, believe you me. And I think we have only 4 bips left!" He quickly took off towards what looked like confections. Smiling, Martha began to explore, too.
She looked over the heaping mounds of food and sweets but she didn't take any. The Doctor usually loaded himself down with goodies and he shared freely. She also disregarded the shelves of historical tablets and the dust catchers; crystals, carvings of the current Council etc. She wandered into what looked like the children's area.
There were dolls there, representing the heroes and villains of the planet, and she looked them over eagerly. None had clothes and she shook her head. Half the fun of dolls was dressing them up! But that was not proper among the Margtig. Ah, well. She examined the soft 'n fuzzy Dragon Guardian of the Fifth level, several warriors dripping with weapons and the Sorceress of Peeeel. Strangely a quartet of pink humanoids in chains seemed to be very popular. She idly read the names on the holo-label (Soozin, Een, Dogder and Barbah) and was reaching for them when she was distracted by a flicker of motion out of the corner of her eye.
She turned and saw a far shelf full of goggles. They were all rimmed with whirling, blinking lights and, like a moth to a flame, they easily attracted her. She picked one. Its label read: See everyone as righteous! See what they ate for lunch! See their bones! Only five rezrs for this educational marvel! Martha blinked and then laughed out loud. A nearby Vorpi, a species that didn't laugh, took the bizarre sound as threatening and scuttled far away from her. Martha slapped a hand over her mouth but laughed harder until she slowly controlled herself.
X-Ray glasses! Or goggles, actually. Oh, that brought back memories. When she was four years old she used some of her precious Christmas money to buy a pair of X-Ray Eyeglasses at a joke shop. She was going to see! See everything! She was going to see guts and bones and the inside of ant hills and the differences between boys and girls and what her Grandmummy kept in that enormous handbag. All the secrets of the world would be hers.
Oh, her bitter disappointment when they didn't work. The lenses were just colorful celluloid film that distorted her vision. Bah! Humbug! Her father had to buy her a gelato from Sanguini's to stop her crying. Being robbed was still a pain that lingered. She ran the goggles around and around in her hands and smiled at the wrath of a bilked four-year old girl. Who's to say that wasn't the inspiration behind her deciding to become a medical doctor? The thwarted desire to see into everything? To know?
She grinned and slipped the goggles over her head.
The Doctor was talking animatedly to Zess about the historic fall of the 7th Council of the Margtig, who had lost face when four prisoners made a spectacular escape (the Doctor tried and failed to look modest) from their death sentence, when the two became aware of a heavily breathing Vorpi behind them. Zess stepped away as if a rat had run over his foot but the Doctor leaned down. "What is it?"
"Your woman is causing a most devastating furor!"
"My woman? I don't have a...OH! You mean Martha! Martha doesn't cause furors, what are you talking about?"
A crash sounded from the far end of the gift shop. There was a shriek and then whooping laughter. The Vorpi bristled at that and turned to complain some more but the Doctor and Zess were already gone.
Zess had longer legs but the Doctor arrived in the children's section first. They were met by a sight that made the Doctor boggle in wonderment. At least a dozen adults were wandering through the toy department with glowing goggles over their eyes. They were staring at each other or falling over toys or squealing or giggling or all of the above. Martha was right in the middle of them, her goggled eyes just inches away from the chest of a huge, furry being that could've removed her spine with one swipe. It was looking down at her head through goggles of its own. "I CAN SEE YOUR BRAIN!" it shouted and Martha laughed with sheer joy.
A small green woman walked head on into a crystal pillar and bounced off into Zess's arms. "Oh! Oh! Pardon me!" she chirped.
"No injuries. But what's happening?" Zess asked pleasantly, making a show of dusting her off.
"Actinic Spectacles!" she gasped. "That work! The tall lady found them." Her goggles blinked furiously as she caught sight of the Doctor. With an "Ooooh!" she adjusted the focus. She grinned. "Hello there!"
"Er. Hullo. MARTHA!"
She turned towards him and made a standing leap of delight. Right off hand he couldn't remember anyone ever doing that at the sight of him before. "Doctor! Everyone! Look at the Doctor! He has two hearts!"
Her fellow tourists turned their blinking, glowing faces towards him. Many general equivalents of "Ooooh!" went up from them. They were a veritable firing squad of curiosity and the Doctor clutched at the lapels of his overcoat as if to pull it closed against their wonder and approval. He stopped himself just in time. Martha stepped close, her goggles so bright he blinked at them. She raised her hands and placed them gently on his chest with a smile of sheer bliss. Then her gaze traveled down. Suddenly "What is that?!" she exclaimed, pointing at his groin.
"The corkscrew looking thing! It looks like a pig tail."
"It does NOT." Belatedly he remembered a Gallifreyan vestigial thingy matching that description and located in that general area. He gasped in relief. Martha was examining his internal organs. "Oh, that! It's just there, like the human appendix."
She took a step backward as if to take him all in at once and went sprawling over another, not so neurotic, Vorpi. The fur-covered behemoth also took a step too far and landed heavily on top of her. Right before the Doctor's marveling eyes there was quickly a five alien pile-up next to the toy sword section and he and Zess waded in to disentangle everyone.
"The danger of these toys," Zess explained to everyone, "Are the tricks they play with your perception. You think you can see everything but..." There was a terrible jingle, jangle, jingle as the green woman got tangled in the wind chimes. "Please remove them for your safety," Zess finished as he went after her.
"Take 'em off!" the Doctor yelled as he dove to the rescue. A few reluctantly obeyed but others only took them off one eye. They resembled blushing pirates with luminous eye patches.
The Doctor dug and dug and, pulling the huge muppet up, hit gold at last. Martha was unmoving on the floor. Worried, he gently removed her goggles. She snatched them back without even opening her eyes. He stopped worrying. She drew in a ragged breath, "They work. They actually work," she groaned. She took his arm and slowly crawled to her feet as well as she could while clutching her find to her chest. "What a fantastic diagnostic tool! I could wear these in the emergency room. The time saved taking X-rays!"
"Too advanced for the Earth of your time. And you'll look pretty silly with flashing pince-nez strapped to your head."
She held a finger to her lips. "They'll think I'm an eccentric genius."
"No, they'll think you're mad. Mad, I tell you!" he answered. She nodded. He shook his head. She nodded harder. He threw his body from side to side. "NO!"
"They're coming with me nevertheless!" She laughed. "They're a dream come true."
The Doctor grinned back. He was used to Dependable drifting into Disappointed Martha but Delighted Martha was a rarity. Delightedl Martha! Delightful, dependable Martha. Delightful, dependable, delicious, desi...she was blushing now. Oops. He dropped his eyes to the goggles.
She put them back on and adjusted the focal settings. "Now turn your head and cough."
"Get away from me!"
"No! Stop that!"
"Six bips! Let's go!" Zess called from the entrance. The Doctor ducked under his arm and eagerly ran in where once he ran out.
Back to index