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Lab Mice;Always the Third Doctor!;Liz Shaw;Caroline John;Jon Pertwee;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jeri Massi

Lab Mice

Illustrations by
Paul Gadzikowski

Written by Jeri Massi

This story is for Jean, a learned and gentle Instructor in her own right, and yet an avid Student. My thanks to her for her hospitality and kind guidance.

As always, I freely confess my debt of gratitude to my critics: JFGTESAR (especially for his technical knowledge on this one), Rebecca Bohner, and The Outsider. And for this story, I also thank Paul Gadzikowski. His previous cartoon illustrations of Liz and the Doctor inspired this story, and Paul has generously supplied new cartoons for this endeavour.

Professor Liz Shaw finished annotating the charts for the mice in Run 4. They were doing well, and that was fine: No surprises in the control group.

Now it was time for real work. She pulled on the latex gloves, lit the Bunsen burner and then took up the sterilised scalpel designated for Run 1. Moving with the dexterity of long practice, she opened the hinged screen on top of the roomy run, glanced quickly at the six white mice inside, and then carefully picked up one of the captives in her gloved left hand. The sweet scent of food mix, mouse fur, and urine rose in a small cloud as she disturbed the dust from their shredded bedding. Her captive struggled in her hand to get away.

"All right," she said quietly. "This won't hurt." With her hand curled gently but firmly around its body, she let the pushing feet slip between her fingers so that it could not get any leverage. She ran her thumb in a smooth stroke up its neck and onto its head to keep it still. Held this way, it could not effectively move.

She stepped over to the glass slide on the counter top. With quick precision and skill, she held her captive over the slide and deftly nicked the base of its ear with the tip of the scalpel. It renewed its peddling action. A single drop of blood fell to the slide. She smiled. Perfect shot.

With equal care and quickness, she returned the mouse to Run number 1 and closed the lid. Unaffected by its experience once it was released, it nosed around the bedding in search of food. She returned to the workstation, covered the slide, quickly ran it over the Bunsen burner flame to set it, and then slipped it into the microscope.

* * * *

"Instructor, the creature appears to be extremely sensitive to the effect of its senses, but at a lower level of consciousness."

"Student, before we get ahead of ourselves, let us follow the scientific procedures in their proper order."

"Yes, Instructor. The specimen is a female, an adult capable of reproduction, in good health. It is not the dominant animal of the group. The creature's mind is highly disorganized. Chaotic."

"Re-assess. Remember the introduction to the lesson."

"I amend my assessment, Instructor. The creature, in comparison to other members of its species, has a mind capable of limited reasoning." There was a pause. "Very limited. Its spatial reasoning is almost nil. May I ask one more question?"


"It has free access to food and water and group companionship. Yet it regards itself as a captive. There are indications of stress. Yet it has not been harmed, and the humans around it are not unkind."

"It is a captive. It was taken from its familiar home environment and brought to this lab."

"Yet it does not actively seek to escape."

"The ones who ordered it brought here foresaw that it would adjust. No more questions now. Store up your comments as you observe."

* * * *

Liz glanced up from the microscope as the Doctor entered the lab. "Any progress?" he asked.

She jotted down notes on the Group 1 stats sheet. "Not much. No sign of toxicity. For their size and weight, Group 1 are receiving equivalent doses to what Sgt. Benton received. Group 2 is at twice that amount now and showing no ill effects. Group 3, at three times the level of exposure, shows some minor bronchial effect. Urination has been frequent and uncontrolled immediately after injection."

The Doctor crossed to Run 3 and peered hopefully down at its inhabitants. These creatures were definitely unwell to an educated observer, their white coats thin and damp. But they nosed about the cage with unabated interest in food. He scowled in disappointment. "Benton is much more ill than this."

"Look." A hint of iron came into her voice. "We're on the wrong track, Doctor. Any human being would be as ill as those mice if we'd given him an injection of three times the proper dosage of vaccine." She nodded at Group 3. "And those creatures will recover if we stop the injections." She set down her pencil and stood up from the microscope. "I think we should stop. There's no point in torturing these poor mice to death."

He ignored the request and paced restlessly in the tiny, enclosed room. This was a small bio lab that they had set up for testing. Windowless, cramped, and lined with cabinets, it was quiet except for the rustling of the four groups of mice in their runs.

He stopped and looked at her, his eyes restless and uncertain.

"How is Benton today?" she asked.

"The edema in the bronchial passages has increased. They've put a tube down his throat, but with the fluid accumulating around his lungs, he's still struggling to breathe. And if infection should set in, that fluid would be like a pool of gasoline with a match put to it. He would die of pneumonia within a day or two."

"He needs a chest tube," she said.

"Scheduled for later today. It won't be of much help."

She threw her glance to the mice. "We've ruled out the infection that the Silurians dispersed when they attacked us. And now we've ruled out our own vaccines and antidotes. Benton received the normal vaccination dosage against the Silurian plague. We've overdosed two of the groups of mice, and only the most severely overdosed shows any symptoms at all."

He paused at her assessment, knowing she was correct but unwilling to admit defeat.

"What about that bio scanner from your TARDIS?" she asked. "Maybe you should try it again."

With a great effort he restrained himself from sounding impatient with her. "I've run it twice on him," he said. "As I've told you, the bio scanner can identify thousands of infectious agents. But to find a match and identify an infection, it must have the that same material in its catalogue, and there are millions of infectious agents in the universe. Whatever has infected Sgt. Benton is not in my catalogue. The bio scanner is useless!"

"So the infection must be extraterrestrial," she said. " Or else dormant for centuries. We're back where we started. The Silurians. He must have been exposed to something down in those caves. Something the others missed."

"Everybody was tromping about down there. It's not possible," the Doctor said.

* * * *

"Instructor! That alpha! He's not a member of her species! He is not even terrestrial!"

"Student, how can that be?" The Instructor paused and inspected the Doctor's mind. "Oh, you're correct. Excellent observation! He is not of her species. How odd! An extra-terrestrial mingling with humans. He must, of course, be excluded from the observations."

"He is her captor? The one who brought her here?"

"No. She views him as a peer and yet also as an alpha. But they are allies. Allies, not mates. There is a difference among the humans."

"But, Teacher, what species is he?"

"Oh, something slightly less low than the human species. It is not our concern. What about the female? What do you perceive?"

"It has a high degree of self awareness, and as it encounters the problem that it must solve, it also concentrates on its self awareness. It reshapes its view of itself even as it attempts to find a solution."

"Members of this species are easily distracted. Especially by self."

The student tapped at the water bottle with a forepaw. "This device has leaked again. It is empty."

The Instructor glanced at him and then threw her glance to Liz, who was by the microscope, her arms folded, her eyebrows knit in thought.

"Shuffle among the bedding if you are thirsty. She shall attend to us."

The student obediently plowed into the paper shavings and kicked his back feet furiously. The four mice that shared quarters with them scrambled to the far corner of the caged run.

* * * *

Liz glanced up at the rustling noise. "Oh dear. That bottle's leaked again. The rubber stopper is cracked. Do you know, one of these mice gets agitated when it misses its water. I never knew mice were that smart." She hastened to the run and lifted the water bottle from its wire bracket. "Is there a replacement?" she asked. She carried it to the tap and filled it.

The Doctor glanced up at her. "What? Oh, ask the stores clerk. Or maybe down there." He crossed the cramped room and knelt at one of the lower cupboards. He opened it up and fished around inside. After a moment, his long arm shot up, triumphant, displaying a new bottle, complete with solid rubber stopper.

"Good!" She seized it, set the old one aside, and filled the new one.

Grinning ruefully, he straightened up. "You do worry about those mice, Liz!"

"I know. But these two have lost their tails! How do you like that?" she asked. "The other mice avoid them." She hung the water bottle upside down in its wire bracket, lifted the lid of Run number 4, and scooped out the student. She pointed his stubby hind end at the Doctor. "Do you think the Farmer's Wife got to him, then?"

The student struggled in Liz's gentle grip. "Instructor, I don't like this." The student cast his glance down to his instructor, who stood on hind legs and watched from the safety of the run.

"She will not hurt you. We are in the control group. We don't even receive injections. She is only puzzled because we have no tails. In fact, she is slightly protective of us. She wonders why we are shunned by the mice."

The Doctor frowned and then shrugged. "Maybe a genetic mutation. You can figure it out when you dissect them."

"No thank you." She lifted the screened lid. "Poor things. Is there anything more helpless than a mouse?" She set the student back into the run and closed the screen.

"It's got to be done, Liz. And it will have to be done today if you want to confirm that the illness is not related to the vaccines we developed. The sooner we can confirm, the sooner we can try another lead. If we had one." He nodded to the glass tank that sat alone across the room from the cages. "You can try out your euthanasia invention."

"Oh, I've used it before. I used it at Cambridge. It's far more efficient than older methods, and quite humane."

He nodded, his eyes unreadable. "I'll leave you to it."

The Instructor paused, concentrating on Liz's emotions and thoughts. "I see we have a change of plan." Instantly, the Instructor calmed her mind in order to keep the Student calm. "Our schedule has been abbreviated."

"It has?" the Student asked. "Why?"

"They are in a hurry. They have decided to terminate us."

* * * *

Then Doctor always found a means to get out of messy or menial work. He strode to the door, suddenly purposeful. "I'm going to get the blood samples they drew from Benton. I'll see you later. See to the dissections, will you?" Before she could protest, he was gone.

Liz had long ago given up complaining about being treated as the Doctor's subordinate. She had learned to pick her battles here at UNIT, and that meant saving her strength to argue with the Brigadier when he pushed her too far in the direction of merely answering phones or typing up reports. So she had to let the Doctor get away with unloading the unpleasant tasks onto her. And besides, she had been foolish enough to demonstrate the euthanizing tank to him. And so letting her "get on with it" could be defended on the grounds that the tank was her invention and she used it most efficiently.

Calculating quickly, Liz glanced at the cages and then opened an overhead cupboard. She pulled down a small sealed jar, a cloth face mask, and a pair of heavy black rubber gloves. On the counter top across the room from the cages, there sat a long glass tank with a heavy glass lid. She crossed to it and set the bottle and other materials alongside it. Then she opened a lower cupboard and withdrew several folded white towels and a small, unused sponge. She unfolded the top towel and spread it alongside the glass tank. Finally, she retrieved the box of scalpels and carefully selected four of them, which she set out in a neat and orderly line on the unfolded towel.

She fixed her glance on the captive mice in Run 1 and spread the face mask across her nose and mouth. With a dexterity from long practice and many dissection sessions, she tied the strings behind her head with a firm, even knot. Mask in place, she unscrewed the lid of the heavy glass jar and quickly covered its open mouth with the sponge. Then she tipped the jar and sponge down and then up and repeated this action several times until the sponge was saturated. Though she held the jar well away from her face, the pungent, sickly fumes rose in invisible tendrils. She had to move fast.

Keeping her face up to avoid the fumes, she lifted the heavy tank lid and dropped the soaked sponge inside. She closed the airtight top. Then she screwed the lid of the jar back into place and returned the jar to its cupboard. It would be no good if that were accidentally knocked over and broken. Best to keep it out of the way.

Finally, she took a deep breath and removed her light latex gloves, threw them aside, and pulled on the heavy black gloves. A small lever had been installed under the counter top, and she moved it over a notch. In the bottom of the tank, two vented surfaces opened very slightly, and there was the faint sound of a fan operating at low power under the counter.

When she turned, only her dark eyes were visible above the mask. They showed a slight regret and a distaste for this task, but also a desire to be quick about it and get it finished.

* * * *

"Student." The Instructor carefully kept her mind tranquil and gentle, seeking to steady her young partner. "This is one of the dangers of working with the lower species. Calm your mind. She will proceed in numerical order, from one through four, and that gives us time."

"But why will she kill the control group? We never received any injections. Oh, these humans are savages!"

"No, you must reassess. She values the young male of her pack. She seeks to save him."

"I see no grief in her. She is merely carrying out her duties. Following the orders of her alpha."

The Instructor hesitated and did some reassessment of her own. When she answered, her own thoughts were slightly troubled. "No, you are too young to read all the nuances of her mind. She is troubled and does feel grief. But she tells herself that she does not care overmuch. She makes herself believe that she is only efficiently following orders. But this is only a ruse against her own mind. Behind that layer of her thinking, she has many fears that she cannot save him. And she blames herself for knowing too many useless things and not enough of the practical means to save a human life."

"Instructor, do you mean that a human actually feels compassion? I listen; I reassess; but I cannot find it. She is cold and detached and resents being here."

"Oh Student. Their minds have levels. It must seem disorganized to you. I had forgotten what it is like to be new to them and their ways. But I have assessed her. She is capable of compassion."

And yet she will kill the control group."

"To verify that our bronchial tubes are unaffected. It's part of her method of demonstrating that the young male she is caring for is dying of an unknown, rather than a known, agent. This system of control groups and protracted studies is the most accurate method they have, but it is painstaking and slow and not always foolproof. But she shall adhere to it."

"Do you know why the young male is dying?"

"Yes. There were enemies about. Reptilian creatures. They spread around an infection---a plague, to destroy the humans. This female and the alpha non-human developed a vaccine. They believe that either the plague or the vaccine has caused the young male's illness. But the truth is, he inhaled a chemical propellant that has caused irritation in his respiration system. They are unaware of this. They are on the wrong track entirely. He will die, and they will not know the truth until afterward."

"Instructor, we can tell her the truth. If she has compassion as you say, then she will spare us."

A hint of reproof came into the Instructor's mind. "Student, we are not allowed to interfere with research subjects. Remember, fear is suitable only for low creatures. We knew this type of research could be dangerous."

But the displeasure of his Instructor could not halt the Student's fear and grief. "I'm not ready. You have to help me. I would rather tell her and then go home and sit in the light and breezes and forget I ever undertook a career in research."

Her manner became more gentle. After all, he was very young, and this was his first crisis. "Well, Student, the truth of the matter is that we could not tell her the truth even if I permitted it."

"Because we are forbidden to interfere with the research subjects?"

"Because we cannot communicate with her. Humans use sound. Very low frequency emissions that they can generate through one set of organs and receive through another, separate set of organs. We use energy generators and receptors embedded directly in our brains. The female has no such sensory organ. Our high frequency emissions would not be meaningful to her. Indeed, from this distance, they would not even reach her."

"So we must be killed, without giving her the choice of sparing us?" He descended into grief and fear again.

She felt that she ought to rebuke him, but she did not. She remained gentle and told him the truth. "I didn't say that we must be killed. We may be able to selectively block certain receptors in her brain. But we cannot do so until she moves closer to us. You must calm yourself and prepare your mind for strenuous activity. We shall render her insensible for a moment or two and make our escape."

The news of a strategy revived him. He calmed himself. He tried to help her think out their plan. "Instructor, do you remember how to reach the transport?"

"Yes. It is disguised as a parcel in their room of parcels. Now if you have regained your mental composure, let us not waste this time that is left. Let us observe her."

* * * *

Liz picked up the first cage of mice and carried it to the tank. The occupants nosed about, slightly alarmed but not terrified. All of their lives, they had been moved from place to place. She set the cage down next to the airtight tank, took in a breath, and then opened the lid of the tank.

Using both hands on the wire handles, she lifted the cage and lowered it into the tank. The rustling of the mice became slightly more agitated as they got a whiff of the fumes. But with the gentle air flow moving inside, pulling a faint breeze across the bottom of the tank, the gas simply made the mice drowsy without causing them to panic. She set the cage down and then closed the heavy lid of the tank. Within seconds, their movements became haphazard and unguided. One after another, they gently collapsed, unconscious. She pushed the lever back to its original position, and the tiny, grilled openings in the bottom of the tank closed. The air flow stopped. The fumes from the sponge continued to work. She fixed her eyes on her wrist watch.

When two full minutes had passed, she glanced back at the tank. The mice inside were limp and still, their tiny sides not showing any respiration. She threw the lever to open the small vents completely and start the fan again. Then she lifted the lid of the tank and withdrew the cage. Its occupants did not react to the motion, nor to the presence of fresh air. They were quite dead.

* * * *

"Instructor, I have realised a complication to our plan."

"Yes, Student?"

"If we render her insensible while the cage is closed, we shall still be trapped in here. We must somehow convince her to open the cage before we strike."

"That is a very good point. You have earned your marks today. Does it not amaze you how we can so brilliantly conceive of research strategies, and yet overlook the simple building blocks of the logic of an escape sequence?"

"But what can we do?"

"When I tell you, you must get her attention, Student. And then you must instantly lie on your back, feet up. Watch me. Like this. And let your mouth remain open. And then, whatever happens, you must not move until I alert you to do so."

* * * *

Liz pushed the cage of dead mice further down the counter-top and turned to get the next batch. Heedless of their impending doom, they nosed about. Several were sleeping. A frantic rustling of bedding---the sound that the intelligent mouse made when he could get no water---distracted her, and she glanced over at Run 4, puzzled. She had just given them a new bottle. Two of the mice, her favorite two, were prone on their backs, feet up.

Startled, Liz jerked down the face mask and stared for a moment. Then she pulled off the heavy gloves, stuffed them into the pockets of her lab coat, and peered into the number 4 cage.

The two tail-less mice lay still, mouths open in faint grimaces.

She opened the cage and gently lifted one of them, then the other. They would need to be examined. But she felt a pang of regret. She chided herself for it. After all, they had been minutes from euthanasia, anyway.

* * * *

"Now, Student! Throw your strength!"

A shock raced up Liz's arm, and her vision went dark. She felt the two mice run like trickles of water up her arms and then over her shoulders. She tried to catch herself by grabbing onto the counter-top.

She managed to slow her fall, and she felt the mice scramble down her back and leap to the floor.

"Doctor!" she shouted, and then she was overcome for a moment.

* * * *

"Instructor! The door is closed!"

"Calm yourself, Student, and attend to the environment. I feel vibrations from boots on the floor from the other side of the wall. One of the guard males of the pack is coming. Get ready."

The door swung open, and a soldier hurried in. He barely noticed as two mice shot out between his feet. He rushed to the side of Professor Shaw and knelt down.

The Instructor, in spite of being much older than the Student, moved with amazing nimbleness. "Quickly! Follow me. I remember the way." Without reply, the Student followed at top speed. Keeping to the baseboards, they raced down the short stretch of hallway.

But the Instructor was not one to allow a moment to pass without teaching. As they ran, she communicated her reproof. "Student, I must rebuke you. You did not need to strike so hard at the female. After all, she is only a human. She did not intend to be cruel to us."

"Forgive me. I was frightened, Instructor. But there are plenty more humans, aren't there?"

Her thoughts became agitated, much more so than when she had faced being terminated herself. "No, no, no! I am disappointed in you. You shall never understand them if you view them that way. I was able to lessen the shock to her system, but you must learn not to be overwhelmed by fear! Turn here. The transport is here, among the parcels."

* * * *

Liz opened her eyes. "I can't move my legs," she said. "Or my hands."

The soldier nodded and fished for his cellular radio. "I'll get a stretcher crew, Professor Shaw. What happened? Do you remember?"

Her dark eyes were frightened at the unexpected fainting spell and the paralysis, but she made herself sound calm. "I went faint. I thought I felt a strange tingling, and then dizziness and darkness. And two of the lab mice escaped. We'll need them returned. They're part of the investigation on Sgt. Benton's illness."

His own eyes showed alarm, and he nodded. He spoke into the tiny two-way radio. "This is Chalmers. I need a stretcher crew in Bio-Eval One, and we've got to get some rodent control down here."

"Find the mice," Liz ordered. "There was something wrong with them. They may be a clue as to what's wrong with Benton, though I don't know how. They were never injected. But perhaps something was passed to them from the other mice."

He looked uncertain. With a sharp sense of relief, she realised that the numbness was fading from her hands. "Go on," she said. "Every moment counts. I'll be all right."

He nodded. He reached up, snatched the clean towel from alongside the tank above them, shook away the instruments, and stuffed it behind her head to serve as a pillow. Then he raced out.

* * * *

The Student stopped and surveyed the mountain of cardboard and wrapping paper that blocked their way. "Instructor, the transport is wedged behind this great hulk!"

"This is called a box, Student. The humans use it to convey materials."

"But we cannot move it! It must weigh half as much as one of the male humans."

"They would notice anyway if we were to move it. Come this way, Student. We can squeeze between it and the wall."

* * * *

Corporal Chalmers raced up to the mail room door to meet two of the soldiers who had answered his call.

"Two mice just nipped in here," one of them said.

"Those mice are infected with whatever's laid Benton low," Chalmers exclaimed. "Professor Shaw said so! Make sure you don't get bit!"

They rushed inside and closed the door.

"This will do!" The second man rushed to the corner and retrieved two brooms. "My old dad's killed many a mouse with a broom!"

"They must be behind them boxes," Chalmers said. "I'll start pulling that pile apart, and you two commence to whacking."

"All right to kill 'em Corp?"

"It'd be best. We don't want no more infection. Let's go!"

* * * *

The tiny transport looked like a small paper-wrapped parcel on the outside. Inside, it just accommodated its two small pilots. The Instructor, calm again, prepared her mind to move them back home. "Here we are! We shall have quite a story to tell to the peer review committee. I have engaged the drive system to our frequencies, Student. Just concentrate, and we shall be quite safe in a moment or two."

"Yes, Instructor. Just a moment of silence---"


The walls of the frail transport, lined with fragile, hair-like sensors, trembled.

"Instructor! What is it?"

"They are seeking to crush us to death with blows, Student. Pay them no heed. Just concentrate, and we shall be away."


"Oh! I cannot think! Oh, I want to go home. They shall never let us go home, and we never meant them any harm---"

"Concentrate, Student. Calm yourself and concentrate. That's better. There we are. We have gotten away."

* * * *

Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart did not notice when a tiny brown parcel, the size of a coffee beaker, appeared on the shelf of military strategy books that lined the wall behind his desk.

He was in close conference with the Doctor, the two of them trying to determine the best method to save the life of Sgt. Benton.

"Shall I notify the family?" the Brigadier asked. "Has it come to that?"

"Maybe by tonight. Let's see how they do with the chest tube," the Doctor said.

"Listen, Doctor, you and Miss Shaw have been through the mill on this---days without rest, very little food. I don't want to distract either of you, but I've ordered in a special lunch for you. You must eat and rest. Certainly Liz Shaw must eat and rest. She'll try to keep up with you and probably kill herself."

"Yes, call down to her will you?" the Doctor asked. "She's in the Bio Eval Lab."

* * * *

Two mouse-like figures emerged from the parcel on the shelf. The Instructor quickly grasped the situation. She guided her Student to the cover of the enormous book on the end of the row of volumes.

"Student! We barely moved at all. We are in the den of the human alpha, the one who brought the female into this pack!"

The Student was ashamed. "It's my fault, Instructor. There was too much pressure on me. I failed to perform adequately."

"Well, it happens. Especially to young males. The non-human alpha is here as well. They seem to have set up a unique hierarchical arrangement for governing the pack."

"The humans have decided to terminate us. We should leave. I can concentrate now."

No. No, I correct my assessment. The failure of the transport was not your fault at all. The transport is damaged."

"Damaged? We're trapped on this world?"

"These transports are not designed to be struck by humans. I do not know how to proceed. I must think."

"Instructor, the non human alpha. He is extra-terrestrial. Would he help us?"

"That is a worthy suggestion. He surely has a wider experience of the universe than the humans. Let me consider him."

* * * *

Lethbridge Stewart looked up from the telephone as several of the clerks carried in the elegant lunch on covered trays. "Oh, you lads just set them here on my desk."

"Yes sir."

Standing on the opposite side of the desk, the Doctor lifted his eyebrows hopefully at the prospect of food.

"That's odd," Lethbridge Stewart said. "There's no answer from Miss Shaw over the intercom system."

* * * *

"Student, because the humans seek to destroy us as part of their scientific procedure, we must render the human alpha insensible before we attempt to contact the non-human."

"They are too far for an energy strike, Instructor."

"Yes, yes. It is time for a lesson on the usefulness of books. You should have learned by now that the humans have only limited long-term memory and limited short term memory."

"Yes, Instructor."

"And so they use their long-term memory to learn a symbolic interpretation called print, and they store their knowledge in permanent form, symbolically. They can then resort to the stored symbolic information, reinterpret it from the print, and retain it in their short term memory in order to perform specific tasks."

"It is a cumbersome system, Instructor."

"Considering their limited mental abilities, it is quite an efficient system, Student. They store the print in enormous and heavy containers called books. Books have many uses. We shall take advantage of these uses."

"What shall we do?"

"These heavy objects on this shelving are books---volumes of their stored symbolic information. Each one weighs a great deal. We should be able to unite our minds briefly and create a moment of telekinesis."

"But that is quite dangerous to us."

"Yes, but we have no choice. You are young, and I am old. I shall help you. I shall protect your mind. We need only push one volume far enough to create an off-center fulcrum, so that it can overbalance. We shall use it to render the human insensible. He is directly below the third volume from the end."

"Yes Instructor. What shall I do?"

"First, don't be afraid. I can protect your mind. Now, come here behind this volume. I want you to shut everything out of your mind and concentrate with me. Close your eyes if you must."

* * * *

Oblivious of the two mice-like creatures that crept behind the row of Margot's Military Strategy in Nineteen Volumes, the Brigadier leaned forward, restless. "Where's Miss Shaw got to? I thought she would be hard at work in the lab."

"Perhaps she was called away," the Doctor said.

"I'll have Corporal Bell go do a recce of the washrooms." The Brigadier stood up and strode to the door. He swung it open. "Corporal Bell?"

The Doctor, never one to stand on formality when he was hungry, came around the desk and leaned over the trays. He lifted a cover and took an appreciative glance at the mounds of sliced beef, cheese, pickles, and other condiments. He lifted another domed cover to reveal a chocolate cake so dark and satiny that it seemed to glimmer. His eyes lighted up. Above him, Volume III of Margot's Military Strategy in Nineteen Volumes edged forward, teetered, and then slipped over the edge of the shelf.

It struck the Doctor directly on the crown of his head, and he plunged face first into the cake, unconscious.

* * * *

"Gadzooks, Student! We hit the wrong one!"

"Instructor, what was that transmission? I did not comprehend."

"I used an expletive: a purely human means of relieving mental stress. And then I gave my assessment. We have rendered the non-human unconscious!"

* * * *

Lethbridge Stewart pulled the Doctor out of the cake. He quickly set the unconscious timelord back into the chair behind the desk.

The Doctor worked his lips, tasted the cake and icing, and opened his eyes. Looking like a blue-eyed Zulu warrior under the layer of cake, he jerked to a bolt upright position. "Who hit me?"

"That book fell." And Lethbridge Stewart nodded to the fallen Volume III of Margot's Military Strategy in Nineteen Volumes, which lay on the floor. The Doctor stared up at the shelf above. Just then the telephone's intercom beeped.

Lethbridge Stewart scooped up the receiver. "Yes?"

The Doctor drew out a clean handkerchief and mopped his face with it, removing about two thirds of the cake and icing. He slowly stood up and scanned the shelf. His sharp eyes settled on the small brown parcel. He snatched it and peered at it closely. "I'll need to take this to the lab," he said.

The Brigadier set down the receiver. "Miss Shaw was found unconscious. She's been taken to the infirmary."

The Doctor shot him a sharp glance. "Still unconscious?"

"No. Quite recovered. Insisting that she's able to get back to work. But she wants you to know that two of the mice escaped from the control group."

A light of understanding was kindled in the Doctor's eyes. "Tell her to meet me in the lab. The main lab. I'll need some privacy, Brigadier. Would you lend me this office for the next ten minutes?"

"Whatever for?"

"I'll explain later. It really is urgent, I assure you."

* * * *

"Student, his mind is suddenly closed to me. I cannot get a good reading on him. He knows that something has been observing him, and he is now cautious."

"Instructor, he has the transport in his hand. What shall we do?"

"The human alpha is leaving. The non human knows we are here. I'm sure of it. Don't move. He may be more intelligent than I first assessed."

As the door closed behind the Brigadier, the Doctor fixed his eyes on the shelf above. "All right, you," he said quietly. "Pompous and small and prone to eavesdrop on the thoughts of lesser creatures. Also quite cowardly, if I remember my studies of galactic cultures correctly. And capable of delivering brief bursts of energy at short range."

He became quiet for a long moment and studied the shelf above, the transport held in his hands. "Yes," he murmured. "And not quite as intelligent as you assess yourselves to be." He flexed the long fingers of his right hand.

* * * *

"What is it doing, Instructor?"

"Looking for us."

"Agh!" the Doctor shouted. The noise assaulted the ears of his prey, and a brief charge of mental energy tapped at their perceptive minds. Agile and sure in spite of the confusion, the Instructor raced in a beeline to get behind Volume II. But the Student blundered right into the Doctor's hand as he snatched at the opening in the row of thick books.

"Oh my Instructor! Save me!"

"Student! Poor student! Come back!"

The Doctor clasped the alien visitor in his strong hand. He brought it up to his face to look at it.

"Now then," he said quietly. "What's all this about knocking timelords on the head, eh?"

"Oh Instructor! He is impervious to energy strikes! His mind is far more powerful than we assessed!"

"Monster! Please, great Monster!" the Instructor pleaded to him. She raced from cover to the edge of the shelf, where he could plainly see her. The energy disturbance of her call barely touched the Doctor's mind, but he sensed a faint distress. He looked up to see a second mouse-like creature on the shelf. It nearly toppled over the edge in its efforts to be seen. "Oh you poor savage, if you can understand me, please spare my Student. Or take us both. We must not be separated. He is a part of my own sunlight and air."

He squinted at her, not understanding her sentiments, but sensing her distress.

"So there are two of you. And apparently quite fond of each other. Well, if you've a mind to come, then you may come," the Doctor said softly. He still had the parcel in his left hand. He set it down and held his hand, palm up, to the shelf. Trembling in defeat and fear, the small creature climbed onto his hand. She turned so that he could hold her as he held the other one, and he circled his fingers around her.

He quieted his mind. He did not release either creature, but he brought them together so that they could be near each other. He sensed their minds more clearly, then.

"All right," he whispered. "I won't hurt you." He uncovered his mind so that they could read him better. "The problem," he said softly, "is that you can hear my thoughts, but I cannot hear yours. Not very well."

"It's all right, Student. Don't be afraid. He means us no harm. He is not angry about the blow to his head."

Carefully, the Doctor slipped first the Instructor into his pocket, and then he carefully set the Student alongside her. He picked up the brown parcel and walked out.

* * * *

Liz glanced doubtfully from the table top array of delicate wires and CMOS chips to the Doctor's face. He had cleaned away the cake from his skin and hair and now had a single electrode affixed to the side of his head. The twin leads attached to the electrode twined down to a clumsily made step-down transformer circuit, and from there through the timer circuit box, and from the timer circuit box to the tiny mouse-like creature that sat and stared up at the Doctor. Bits of scotch tape held the leads to either side of her groomed and furry face.

"They don't like being laughed at," the Doctor said softly.

"Then don't laugh at them," Liz replied quietly. On her part, she felt somewhat intimidated that she had been under observation by a superior race and had never known it. The fact that she had misjudged them simply because they were small niggled at her. She felt rather foolish.

"I have to laugh at them, Liz. They're not the first researchers to realize that they've gotten in over their heads. From now on, perhaps they will not be so condescending."

"I might have killed them, Doctor. Were any of the other mice actually aliens?"

"No. Just these two. They are actually devoted to each other. The Instructor has been appointed to study humankind, and the Student will be her successor. In their culture, that makes for a close relationship. She takes great pride in him, and he is grateful to her."

Liz glanced at the young male, but he sat alone, huddled into himself on the table top, not wishing to communicate with the Doctor and not wishing to be near Liz.

"What are their names?" she asked.

"They don't have given names on their world. It's an unnecessary convention in a telepathic society. But they address each other by titles, as it suits them." He took up the transport device and a tiny screwdriver. He had been toying with it for the last 30 minutes.

"Can you repair their machine?" Liz asked.

"Oh yes. Not difficult. These creatures do have extremely powerful minds. They travel by their own mental powers. They just use the transport as a sort of amplifier and direction finder. I can repair it easily enough. It's their minds that do most of the work when they transport."

"But they've done no harm here?"

"Oh no, none at all. They simply observe humans and learn about them. Just to know. Then they go back home and make long reports. They remember everything. Everything. No need for books on their world." He set down the transport. "There! That's fixed!" He looked at her and the sparkle of good natured amusement left his eyes. "We'd better let them return home. We need to return to Sgt. Benton. Though I must confess, I am at a loss. It's down to hours now. We've exhausted every possible avenue." He deftly twitched away the bits of tape from the face of the Instructor.

As soon as the bond between the Instructor and the Doctor was broken, the Student communicated his concern. "Instructor, are you well? Was he unkind?"

"The non-human finds us amusing, Student. He thinks us to be pompous and inexperienced."

The Student was not really capable of bearing a grudge, but he answered very quickly. "He has assessed incorrectly. He is too primitive to understand the value of research."

"Oh, perhaps we are pompous and inexperienced. Look, here is a human before us, watching us, and we have not so much as touched her."

"Instructor, why should we touch her? She is here to be observed."

"Oh Student, I must teach you a great deal. I have learned more from the non-human than I had thought I would. He understands the humans. I can read her thoughts more clearly, now, perhaps enable her to read mine---at least to a degree."

Looking only like a small and tail-less mouse, the Instructor hesitantly crossed the table to Liz. She focused her thoughts on Liz. "Come here. Come here, pretty female. Will you say goodbye to me?"

Liz frowned. She sensed a faint tingle of longing from the small alien. She threw a doubtful glance to the Doctor. "I think it's trying to communicate to me."

"Well," he said, and he nodded to the Instructor.

"Come here, my dear. Pretty female."

Hesitantly, Liz extended her hand to the mouse-like creature. It gracefully stepped up onto her fingers.

"Instructor," the Student warned. "That is a savage human."

Liz carefully lifted her open hand to bring her observer closer. She felt the trembling of the little alien through its small feet. But the tingle of longing that it generated had overtones of delight: fear and delight.

"Student, this is quite exhilarating. Who among us has ever looked with knowledge into the face of a human? Who has ever had a human return that gaze? They are noble creatures, Student. Come closer, pretty female. I will not strike you with my mind. Come closer, my little dear. You are a young little doe, and this is a hard world."

Liz bent closer, looking at the face of the creature.

The Instructor lifted a simian paw to Liz. "They reach with their hands. I shall reach and perhaps she shall understand." She stretched out her paw toward Liz's face.

Concerned about startling such a small being but compliant with its evident wishes, Liz very slowly leaned closer still.

"That's my girl. My pretty doe. I shall touch you." She stood on her hind feet and rested both cool paws against Liz's face on either side of her nose. She looked up into the human's eyes.

"These creatures," Liz whispered, gazing at it. "They don't seem to have much fear."

"Call it overpowering curiosity rather than courage, Liz," the Doctor corrected her. "They truly do long to know all things, and only to know them, not to be great or powerful. They can feel fear, but never fear of reputation or fear of failing."

Liz regarded the tiny, bead-like eyes of the galaxy's smallest research scientist. She saw its inner peace and realized that it had never meant her, or any creature, harm. She wished that it could know about Sgt. Benton. She was sure it could have saved him.

"This is not research any longer," the Instructor declared to the Student as she stared at Liz's face and sensed the human's regret.

"What is it?" the Student asked.

"Now I understand her. I truly understand her. All my life is fulfilled now. Take comfort, pretty human doe. I will help you."

She lowered her furry arms, and Liz set her down on the table top. The Instructor returned to the timer circuit and nosed at the leads. Obligingly, the Doctor took them up and reattached them.

"Good Monster, the male guard has been poisoned, not infected."

The Doctor started at this communication, and the Student started as well. "We are not to interfere, Instructor, not with research subjects!"

The Instructor continued her report to the Doctor. "The young male sprayed a chemical to kill the plague, and he handled a faulty container. He inhaled the propellant."

"We've got to stop the antibiotics," the Doctor whispered. "I can precipitate the propellant out of him."

"Go then, and tell the female I thank her."

"Yes, yes."

"What is it?" Liz asked.

"I've got to get to Sgt. Benton. He'll be all right. I know what to do. Those two can leave at any time. I'll see you later!" And the Doctor tore off the electrode and bolted from the room.

The two mice-like creatures climbed into their parcel.

"And now you love her," the Student said.

"Yes. I shall study her no more, for now I have seen her face to face and spoken to her---as well as she could understand me. And I love her. Poor human doe. They have hard lives." They took their positions among the hair-like fronds that formed their amplification system. "Now, clear your mind, Student."

"Do you love her as much as you love me?"

"How could I?" Her thoughts coiled around him like a soft blanket. "You are my Student. My own dear Student. Can you concentrate on going home?"

"Yes, Instructor. All is well." His thoughts became suddenly optimistic. "What a report we shall have to make!" And then he set his mind on home.

Liz went to the lab door, confused, but the Doctor was already gone. And when she turned from the doorway, the parcel was gone, too.

She took in her breath. But after a moment she let it out. She left the lab and went down to the Bio Eval room.

Once inside, she glanced at the three cages of remaining mice, all still alive. She picked up the telephone and dialed a number. "Oh hello, Violet. This is Liz Shaw. Yes, quite well, thank you. Listen, are you still teaching primary school? Oh you are? Well, I thought you might like a donation of white mice. I'll need a week to make sure they're all healthy. Yes, I'm sure the children will learn from watching them. And they'll be quite gentle? Good."

She glanced at the cupboards and then began pulling out boxes of food and bags of shredded paper as she held the receiver to her ear. "Yes, in fact, I can donate several weeks worth of food, their cages, and lots of bedding for them."

She had hung a small mirror on the back of the door, and as she spoke she turned and saw herself. The sense of the two tiny paws on her face returned to her. For a moment she was lost in the memory of that tiny face, its awe and wonder as it gazed at her.

The voice on the other end of the line called her back. "What's that? Oh yes. I'm still here. Yes, they were intended for experimental purposes. No, I'm not going soft on mice. But if you can spare a creature, perhaps you should. Even if it violates procedure."

"Th-Th-Th-That's all, Folks!"

--Jeri and Paul

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