All in the Mind Episode One;Liz Shaw;Caroline John;Third Doctor;Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi
All in the Mind
Written by Jeri Massi
Liz Shaw studied the pencil sketch before her and jotted down a few questions on the edge of the page. Sgt Benton, serving as her driver, abruptly braked, and the staff car stopped with a jerk. She caught the notepad before it slipped to the floor. She looked around. Traffic had been reduced to a crawl.
She threw a glance at her wristwatch and debated the chance of being late enough at the dentist's office to postpone the root canal. She decided not to hope for this. It simply had to be done. She'd spent the last five days eating porridge and wincing if she drank her tea without proper caution.
She forced her eyes back to the DNA sketch. In the last two weeks, she had learned more about DNA from the Doctor than she'd learned in all her molecular bio coursework at university. And now that she understood human DNA better, she had room to be further amazed at timelord DNA.
He had annotated the sketched DNA strand with the words, "human helicase unwinds DNA single direction." Beneath this legend, she wrote in her own comment as a reminder: "time lord helicase includes unfolding code."
These concepts of such complex DNA replication thrilled her curiosity, but she had been studying the subject so intensely over the last fortnight that she had moments of exhaustion. Just as well to take an afternoon off and visit the dentist. She wondered fleetingly if she'd driven herself so hard on purpose, just to block out any anticipatory jitters over this impending root canal.
Well before the appointed time, Sgt. Benton slowed the UNIT staff car further and pulled up before the magnificent offices where the dental specialist saw his patients. Liz told him not to get out, and she exited the car herself. She had to leave behind the notes and sketch book. These revelations about DNA were classified, under Benton's watch. She and the Doctor had agreed from the start that releasing such potent information could have a disastrous effect on human history. He had already warned her that over the next generation, human experiments in the DNA of bacteria and viruses would include plenty of catastrophe. There was no point in hurrying events.
She strode resolutely into the building as the Benton sped off to find parking.
Pain was what one thought about when visiting the dentist. Pain and the awkwardness of sitting for 90 minutes, mouth wide open, with human hands and a set of tools pushing, pulling, digging, and drilling against the jaw. Then there was the drooling, the ritual of intermediate spitting, the sensation of tooth dust and bits of amalgam tumbling to the back of the throat. She realized that she hated going to the dentist. The Doctor had offered to cobble up a device that would immediately kill any infection and reduce the inflammation for her, and then putty up the tooth with dental amalgam from the future. But after watching him struggle and wrestle with all sorts of cobbled up inventions that never helped his grounded TARDIS budge an inch, she had declined. The tooth hurt too much by this time to let anybody fool with it. She'd let it go far too long.
She forced the thoughts of her reluctance away. And as she pushed open the heavy glass door, a gentle breeze of rose tinted air touched her face. She entered a heavily carpeted entry that led to a set of elevators. Everything was hushed and quiet. The overhead lights shed a subdued, warm glow onto the dark, plush carpet. Even the lights on the dim control panels of the elevator were muted into pastel shades.
She entered an open elevator car and rode up to the fourth floor. She began to relax. This dentist was, after all, highly touted for his ultra modern methods: swift, painless, effective. That was the assessment the Doctor himself had relayed to her from one of the many acquaintances he maintained among the Harley Street elite. She reassured herself with his words. Ninety minutes of awkwardness and then all would be well again, she told herself.
As the door slid open, she stepped out into an open, carpeted area more brightly illuminated than the entry below had been. Large windows on the outer walls had their natural light boosted by carefully modulated ceiling illumination.
A blond, attractive, capable looking woman behind a broad reception station looked up with a smile. "You must be Professor Shaw. I do hope the traffic was not too inconvenient."
"Oh no, not too bad." Liz liked the calm courtesy. A vase of freshly cut garden roses adorned the station.
"If you'll sign in, I'll notify Miss Larch that you're here. She's the dental assistant. She'll prepare you and make you comfortable." It sounded almost like a ritual, Liz thought, though she did like the emphasis on making the patient comfortable.
A tall, slender woman with brown hair tied back in a thick, ornate braid approached from one of the many perimeter doorways.
"Ah, Professor Shaw. Do come this way," she said. "Let's get a look at you."
Liz followed her and---by habit---tried to judge the woman's age. She seemed to be a few years older than Liz, and there was a cool competence about her that belied her role as a dental assistant. As Liz followed her into a dental surgery room, Miss Larch swiftly pivoted and closed the door behind her. It closed with an astoundingly heavy sound, with the slam of a cell door.
"Now let's see," she said. She lifted Liz's chin with a firm expertise. "Oh yes---"
Liz started and stepped back. Then she made an instant decision and opened the door. "I'm sorry. I don't like closed rooms."
For a moment the tall dental assistant was startled. Then she smiled. "Well, Professor Shaw, a fear of the dentist's chair can force many other buried fears to the surface. And claustrophobia is one of the more common. We shall leave the door open."
She held up her hands to indicate that Liz should allow the examination to continue. Liz hesitantly stepped closer. "Yes, very nice," Miss Larch continued, holding up the chin again. "Very good profile of the jaw. I think we can get a good image with two exposures. We will have to x-ray, you know."
"Oh. Yes." Now Liz felt silly about her momentary fear. The door had a protective lead shield in it. Of course it was heavy. "Doesn't that take time? Developing the exposures, I mean?"
"No, not these days, Miss Shaw. We can view the X-rays almost immediately." But she cast her eyes to the door. "I will have to close the door---just to get the exposures. Regulations."
Liz's embarrassment heightened. "That will be fine. Perhaps it was just a bit of panic on my part."
"Very difficult to feel at ease prior to a root canal. We'll try to make you comfortable. Let us know if you require anything. Anything at all."
Miss Larch stepped down the room to the large black reclining chair. "If you'll just take your place." And she patted the shoulder of the chair.
Liz felt another momentary surge of fear, which she pushed away. The tall dental assistant nodded at a panel in the wall alongside the chair. "The X-ray device is on the other side. I'll set up the film against your tooth and then take the snaps." And she smiled.
Liz slid into the chair and allowed her to clip the standard dental bib 'round her neck.
"Let me do a quick scrub-up, and then I'll set up the first film." And she went to the long work area against one wall and opened the tap. She scrubbed with the method and efficiency of a trained medical person, and Liz felt reassured at sight of this painstaking process of hand washing.
"Right then," she said as she dried her hands on a fresh disposable towel that she dropped into a waste bin on the floor. She again took Liz's head with a firm expertise, and Liz felt the same uneasy surprise at the calm strength in those long hands.
"Open wide, please."
Liz opened her mouth, and the assistant pulled the light closer to Liz. "Oh, I see it plainly. Let me get the reflector."
She picked up an instrument from the nearby tray and inserted it into Liz's mouth.
"Yes, quite ready for a root canal, I should say. Well, it happens." She withdrew the tool and let Liz close her mouth. From the instrument tray, she took up a flat, plastic-framed plate about the size of a name tag. The assistant deftly peeled off its protective wrapping.
"Open again." She inserted the small plate behind the tooth. "Bite down very gently. That's right." And she leaned past Liz and pushed a button on the wall. A tiny motor in the wall whined as cables pulled, and a panel slid down to reveal a shielded plate and a small hole of reinforced glass.
"Let's get the apron onto you." And Miss Larch rose, went to a low cabinet, and extracted a long, gray cloth folded over. "This is lead-lined. Heavy, of course. It will protect you." She unfolded it, draped it over Liz, and fastened it behind her neck. "I'll be right back. Keep your head still."
In the moment when she exited to operate the x-ray, Liz shot a glance at the hole in the wall and the rifle-like pointer of the x-ray device behind it. She felt a sharp sense of misgiving. But then Miss Larch returned. "Perfect shot. Just one more."
Another shot followed uneventfully, and Liz was just reproaching herself for an overly active sense of apprehension regarding dentists when the dentist himself entered.
Like Miss Larch, he was tall. But where she was attractive, he looked the picture of the typical aging man of the middle class: bald, big glasses, gangly arms and a slightly protruding belly.
He smiled at Liz and drew up a wheeled stool.
"What's that hissing noise?" Liz asked.
"Air system," Miss Larch said.
The Dentist took Liz's head in his hands. "Oh yes," he said right away. "A bit nervous about the root canal, Miss Shaw? You must let us know if you feel any pain or discomfort."
"I'm going to press against the hinge of the jaw for a moment before I inject Novocain. Just relax. Nobody's going to hurt you."
"No, of course not," Miss Larch murmured.
"Do you still hear the hiss of the air compressor, my dear?"
"No," Liz said. He was pushing on the edge of her lower jaw. He worked his hand towards the hinge of the jaw. "Oh, you are tense. Relax."
"You have lovely teeth and a lovely smile," Miss Larch said.
"Yes," he agreed. "You're altogether a lovely creature, and nobody's going to hurt you. Do you feel a slight breeze on your face?"
"Yes," Liz said. Her body felt relaxed, but her mind was tense. Something was troubling her.
"That air flow will help you. It will help you relax. Now this may sting a bit. Breathe in."
The sting was in her neck. The room hazed over.
"Lower the angle of the chair, Miss Larch," the calm voice said.
Liz distantly felt the surface under her level out to a horizontal orientation. "Lovely creature," the voice said. "No one will cause you pain."
"No," Miss Larch's voice agreed. "Just relax and let us work. We'll work as quickly as we can. But we'll be very careful with you."
"Yes very careful."
A long time later, Liz opened her eyes. She felt calm and rested. The room was dim but not dark. She was alone.
She started to sit up, but the lightweight chain that fastened the bib stopped her. She unclipped it and sat up.
The entire office area was deserted. Liz looked around and listened, but she heard nothing. She cautiously touched her tongue to the tooth that had been troubling her. It felt smooth and whole. No residual soreness, not even in the gum.
"Hello?" she asked. She stood and walked to the open reception area. The vase of roses was gone. The desk area had been left in perfect order. The lifts stood with doors closed, the muted signal lights showed that the cars waited on the first floor.
Liz pushed the button, and the lift motor whined to life. The dot of soft light blinked for each floor as the car ascended. The doors opened with a hiss, and she entered and felt the push under her midsection as the car took her down to the ground level.
As she emerged, she saw that early evening had come. Harley Street was quiet, almost empty. To her surprise, the UNIT staff car sat in a no-parking lane at the curb. But Sgt. Benton was gone.
Liz exited the building and crossed to the car. She pulled open the driver's door and saw a note on the steering wheel: EMERGENCY AT UNIT
She hesitated and looked around. In the distance, the comforting sound of traffic reassured her. Whatever was wrong, it had not prompted a city-wide evacuation. Not yet, anyway.
She climbed in and found the keys in the ignition. She started the engine and tried the radio.
"Hello, Greyhound to Track. Greyhound to track. Do you read me?"
She turned up the volume and tried the feedback. The result was static. For a moment she thought she caught a faint voice, but it faded back into the static before she could identify the tone or words. She tried again.
"Hello? Greyhound to track?"
But the interference overwhelmed the line.
She decided not to waste time with it. Instead, she pulled out and drove for UNIT H.Q.
The traffic congestion had eased considerably and by the time she pulled into the winding lane that led to the gate, she was alone. The lane lay peaceful and quiet in the growing twilight. She could not make out the face of the soldier in the tiny gatehouse. He had his head down, as though reading a report on the tiny desk. Without looking up, he pushed the toggle that swung up the gate arm, letting her through.
Liz drove through and swung into the car park by the main doors. The day shift had ended, but the car park remained full---a sign that than emergency had taken over. Liz parked and hurried to the doors. To her amazement they were locked.
"Oh how ridiculous!" Liz exclaimed. She sometimes why wondered why Lethbridge Stewart retained her at all. Imagine leaving her at a dentist's office and then locking her out during an emergency!
Frustrated, she rapped on the reinforced, opaque glass pane. To her surprise, the door swung outward at once.
"Doctor!" she exclaimed.
He looked relieved. "Where the devil have you been, Liz? I've been waiting and waiting for you. How long does a root canal take?"
"I was left in the dentist's office," she told him. "I think they put me out and then forgot all about me once they'd finished the job." She caught herself. "Why are you dressed like a soldier." Then she did a double-take. "That's the Brigadier's uniform!"
"Yes, yes, I'll explain later. Come down to the lab. We don't have much time." And he hurried her to the stairs to get down to the lab.
"Is the Brigadier all right?"
"Not quite himself Liz, but first we've got to focus on the highest priority tasks. Everything in the proper order, you know."
"Well what's been going on then?"
They hurried down the steps.
"Once you get a good look at what I've set up in the lab, I think everything will be more clear."
"You know I hate it when you won't give me a straight answer!"
"My dear Liz, you are experienced enough to know that complex difficulties cannot be answered with one or two words. Here we are. Let's see what you can contribute."
He pushed open the lab door and ushered her inside. Liz entered the large lab, but the workbench sat unchanged from its typical clutter. The Doctor entered behind her and closed the lab door. She heard the bolt shoot home as he locked it.
Across the room, a tall figure turned. It was the Doctor again.
"So you've come at last, my dear," he said. He smiled at her and ran his eyes appraisingly over her face. He was dressed as a UNIT soldier. "We've been waiting for you."
"Yes, waiting with keen anticipation," the first Doctor said from behind her. Liz turned, but the first Doctor effortlessly caught her. "Don't be difficult Liz. It's too late for all of that."
"And there's no need to be afraid," the second Doctor said. "What I mean is, there's no point in being afraid." He came around the workbench. "Oh very nice indeed. Very healthy."
She turned back to him, and the first Doctor allowed it, but he kept his arms at her arms, ready to catch her if she should bolt.
"What's happened?" she asked. "Which of you is the real Doctor?"
"Both of us," the Doctor who approached her said. "And neither."
"But more likely neither," the one behind her said.
"Where is the Brigadier?" she demanded.
"You see, that's who I was," the Doctor behind her said.
The Doctor in front of her stepped closer and ran a finger down the side of her face. "You're the last one, my dear. The last of the day shift, that is. All the rest have been----" But he stopped as his eyes suddenly became contemplative. A new idea seemed to be dawning on him.
"They've been what?" Liz asked, and she felt the Doctor behind her rest his hands on her arms. She jerked her arms free so hard that she crossed them. He caught her crossed wrists and firmly pulled her arms across her so that she couldn't escape. He pulled her back so that she was held against him, facing the second Doctor.
"We ought to convert her before the next shift comes in," the first Doctor said, behind her..
"It's just that she's so intelligent, so capable of knowing more," the second said. "We could make samples from her. Start a matable gender for ourselves." Now he deliberately stroked the side of her face with the backs of his fingers.
"But we don't mate."
"We can learn. You can bear young, can't you my dear?" the second one asked her.
"What have you done with the people on the day shift?" Liz demanded.
"You know, I think you should just relax," he told her. "While we decide what to do with you." He stepped even closer, and she would have backed away, but she was stopped by the first Doctor.
"We should follow the plan," the first Doctor said. "We've hatched into 175 carriers, all in superlative physical form now that we've copied the code into them."
The second Doctor took her face in his hands for a long moment. His eyes held a certain wonder and fascination. "Let's consider a revision to the plan. There are benefits to a duality in gender. And she is so---refined."
"I insist that you let me go!" she snapped.
The second Doctor looked over her head to his fellow. "Let's get started, anyway. The initial steps will be the same."
He turned his eyes towards the store room in back. "Is everything sterile?"
A third Doctor, dressed as a science technician in a white lab coat, with safety glasses, emerged from the darkened room. "Oh yes. All ready for her. We've been expecting you, Miss Shaw."
"Yes come along," the second Doctor said.
Liz set her feet. "What's in there? What are you going to do?"
The two Doctors glanced at each other and by silent consent they picked her up between them. They smoothly carried her to the dark storeroom doorway.
"Let me go!" Liz shouted. In her sudden fear she had a split second to see that one section of wall had been replaced with an iridescent blue panel, populated with unrecognizable characters like letters or digits. In spite of her fear, she suddenly paused.
"Make sense to you?" the second Doctor asked.
Then he nodded to the other and they carried her to the storeroom.
Liz resumed her struggles with redoubled effort. "Who are you? Have you killed the day shift people? Why do all of you look like the Doctor?"
"What a lot of questions you have," the second Doctor said. "You know, it's a shame sometimes."
She stared up at him. "What is?"
"Replacing such a lovely creature like you. All that curiosity. And that wonder. About to be wiped out. I am sorry. It's not personal." He glanced across her to his duplicate. "I think she should be templated."
They crossed the threshold of the dark store room with her. Liz arched her back and struggled to pull free of them, but their grips were inescapable. They stopped and simply let her struggle.
"Yes, just allow her to tire herself out," the third Doctor said as he watched. "It's rather sad, as you noted, but it's best to get them in their prime."
She kept pulling and pushing against them, but they both gave with her, not releasing her but not trying to keep her still. After a moment or so, she gave up, exhausted. Only then did they lift her to keep her steady.
"Is the table ready?" the second Doctor asked. The store room had been changed, but it was too dark for Liz to see what had been done. She heard the humming of electronic components and sophisticated power delivery systems. The store room shelves were gone.
"What are you going to do to me?" she asked.
"One of two things: Send you off to sleep and then replace you with one of our own. Or ----if I get my way---keep you on a bit longer and use you as a template for a second gender. All right. It's ready."
They set her on a flat surface that felt like hard plastic. Tiny holes across the surface sucked in air. The numerous pinpoint vacuums pulled her down and held her as effectively as tight ropes.
"What do you mean, replace me?" she asked.
Finished with the task, the first Doctor and third Doctor walked out to resume their duties. The second Doctor stayed to answer her. He seemed fascinated with her.
"We are a parasitic race," he told her. "I'm sure that sounds dreadful to you, but it's how we're made. Once upon a time, when we were as primitive as you, the best we could manage was to physically get our hooks into our hosts and then slowly digest them into ourselves as we took over."
"It does sound dreadful."
"Yes, and it was very self-limiting. Then, when we discovered template processing, we learned to select highly fit species, take their biological template, adapt it to suit us, and combine the template DNA with a series of viruses that perform our parasitic process for us with far less destruction to the host's original body. We inject the biologic template code into our selected hosts, and within a few minutes the host original is wiped out and converted by the template. And there's a perfect biological receptacle waiting for one of us to take over."
"It's fatal? You did kill all the first shift people?"
"Oh yes, my dear. In the sense of the conscious life and personality of the host, it's quite fatal. But we always make it as painless as possible." He rested his hand on her forehead. "It's been a bit unfair to you, as most of the others never knew what hit them, and you do know."
"If you know it will cause me suffering, then reconsider."
"No, that's not possible. We will certainly wipe you out and replace you, and it is fatal." He tried to smile reassuringly. "But it will be painless. Once we start, you won't feel a thing."
"You people are monsters," Liz said. "Parasitic monsters."
In a ghastly way, he seemed to be trying to comfort her. He stroked her forehead. "But perhaps the end will be postponed for you. You have several highly desirable characteristics." He seemed distracted for an instant by her hair as her bangs were brushed aside by his hand. "I favor using you to create a new template. A second gender to enable mating. Developing templates through the reproductive process and replacing them in vitro is the most compassionate way to proceed."
"I'm not mating with you!"
"No of course not!" And he let out a short laugh. "We will not be that crude. No, we shall create the mates from you." He lifted the hem of her sweater and folded it back, just above the waistband of her slacks. He thoughtfully rubbed the stripe of her exposed skin. "Right there, the prime selection area for template cells. That's the population of the new gender. You shall not give birth to a new race one at a time, young lady, but by the hundreds, extracted from you and then put into template form and grown artificially. But each one a model of you." But for a moment his eyes were arrested by her, and he moved his hand away only reluctantly. Then he looked at her eyes, and his expression should a wistful curiosity and a sudden contemplation. "But such a change in our planning must be approved."
"And this is what you've done to the Doctor? He was the template used to create you?"
"We moved much more quickly with him, of course: immobilized him, took the cells, cultured them, and started the replacement process in short order."
"And he's dead?"
"Oh no. We can generate lots more templates from him before he expires. We can create an entire population to fill this city."
"Where is he?"
The second Doctor folded down her sweater, but his eyes lingered over her from head to foot. There was something of reverence in his expression, as well as longing and regret. "You're very beautiful." And this was said with a hint of ruefulness. "We'll be as compassionate as possible. But you won't see him again---the original, I mean. Now as for you, do you want to sleep away your last few hours or days, or would you prefer to understand this process, make peace with your life, before we start any processing?"
"I want to stay awake."
"You may, then. At least until we actually begin." But as though reading her thoughts, he shook his head. "There is no escape, my dear. We are experts at processing our hosts. Quick and efficient. Spend your last hours wisely. That's the kindest and most honest thing I can say to you."
She decided to take a chance on his interest in her. "Look," she said. "The vacuum on this table is stronger than it needs to be. It's hurting me. Can't you adjust it? Not let me go, but ease the suction so that it doesn't hurt?"
He frowned with an expression that seemed horribly like the real Doctor. Then he pushed against her leg in an experimental way, testing her words. He tried to nudge her arm. Then he nodded.
"It is quite powerful. Set for the strength of a male. Perhaps a bit lower." And he touched a small dial that was clipped to his belt. The suction eased slightly. "Better?"
"Yes, much better. Thank you. And there is one more thing---"
"Yes?" He showed instant curiosity.
"Because you said you try to be compassionate."
"Do you understand what a last request is?"
He inclined his head. "We have studied your species and its culture. Do you have a last request?"
"But it's a secret. Really a secret. And you could do it for me, but I'm afraid you'll laugh at me. You're in a position to be very cruel to me." She hesitated. "But I want it very much."
"I will not be cruel to you!" And his eyes were astonished that she should think he would torment her for sport.
"Well it's personal---no, never mind, I can't. You'll make fun because you don't understand love at all. You'll make a joke of it. You won't be able to help yourself from laughing."
"No, that's not true. I've studied what love is among your kind. Listen, you may well be the mother of our next race. I'll do what I can for you, with consideration and kindness. I understand your sense of dignity."
She hesitated and made her eyes large and wistful. It enticed him. He moved closer, hopeful to hear her secret.
"Do you promise you won't hold it over me or tell the others to make them laugh at me?"
He tried to stand upon his own dignity. "Young lady, we do what we have to. We do not enjoy the suffering of our victims, no more than you would find pleasure in tormenting the pigs and cattle you slaughter for food. It's a processing operation ruled by laws and rules of ethics. No torture."
She mad her eyes large and child-like. And so you promise not to tell anybody, even if you have to say no to me?"
"I promise not to tell, and I will try to do what you ask. I know this is a difficult circumstance for you, and you're being very brave and forthright."
He was trying to behave with detachment, but she could see that this foray into her secret wishes fascinated him.
She took in a deep breath as of a person about to throw herself into a great matter, and she said, "I've been---I've been in love with the Doctor. The real Doctor, ever since I came here."
In completely undisguised amazement, his eyebrows went up, and his jaw dropped.
"I want---I want you to let me think you're the Doctor. And---And I want you to kiss me." She made her eyes large again, and then let her breath out twice in agitation. "There, I knew you'd say no! And you'll think it's funny! Well laugh at me while I'm helpless, but I have loved him, and---"
He hastened to calm her. "No, no, it's all right. It's all right. I'll do what you ask. But---well I've never done that before. But I know what it is."
"He would be kind and gentle," she said.
"Yes of course." She could see that his mind was racing as he grappled with this request. He looked at her. "Ah well then, close your eyes. Here goes."
She burst out with tears and let her eyes fill with reproach and wounded feelings. "Oh you are making fun of me! It must seem hilarious to you! I'm at your mercy, and you can make a joke about my love for him!"
"I'm not making fun of you---what do you need?"
She sniffed but did not diminish the hurt and distrust in her expression. "People in love don't say, 'Close your eyes; here goes!' when they kiss!" Then she sniffled and let her lower lip tremble.
"My dear young lady, I am very inexperienced. But I honestly want to kiss you the right way. Just let me think a moment."
"Don't closeness and tenderness matter to your species at all?" she asked.
"They will in bodies like this," he told her. "We've watched your kind, and I do advocate that we engage in the emotions and activities natural to these bodies. Just give me a moment."
She became quiet. He closed his eyes in thought. Again, in spite of the soldier's uniform, he looked just like the Doctor as he concentrated.
"Yes I have it." He opened his eyes and leaned over her to study her face. He made his voice kind. "I love you, darling. And I will kiss you."
It was actually a good impersonation of human tenderness. He was as hesitant as any man would be for a final kiss. But the kiss itself, though gentle, was brief. She moved her lips as he straightened up as though she would have followed with more.
"I want a real kiss," she said in a small voice. "A passionate kiss."
He put his hand on her forehead and leaned closer again, ready to comply.
"No, hold me, please. Hold me and kiss me, and let me hold you. Can't you adjust the table to keep my legs restrained but let me be held in your arms? Just to kiss."
"Well---" Now he hesitated.
"I want it so much. And I'll still be held to the table. And in your arms."
He swallowed as he contemplated this. "It can do no harm," he said.
He adjusted tiny buttons on a dial on his belt, and she saw that the dial was divided into four quadrants.
The suction eased on her upper body.
"Hold me first, please," she said.
"Of course." And he did. She nestled her head into his neck. For a moment she sensed his wonder and surprise at the sensation of her closeness, as she became yielding and soft. Then he remembered his role and did his best. "I'll hold you in my arms, Liz, at least for a moment. And I treasure you."
She slipped her hand up to his shoulder and lay back on his arm to look up at him.
"You are quite beautiful," he said.
She stroked the side of his face and then the fringe of his hair. "Doctor, all that we've been through and seen-you've always been so good, so kind," she said. 'You're the greatest man I've ever known. Please, hold me tighter."
"Oh yes, Liz. Yes. I've got you now." He tightened his arms and decided to improvise by kissing her forehead first. Then they kissed. Liz let it work on him. He was in no hurry to return her to the table.
She used the side of her face to caress his face. Their lips met, and they kissed again. She stroked back his hair and then put her arm around his neck. "Hold me tighter," she whispered.
He kissed her with complete abandon. She ran her hand up the back of his neck, into the thick sheaf of white hair right at the top of his head. With all her strength, she gripped a handful of hair and pulled towards herself, against the grain.
The template Doctor roared with pain and for a moment made the mistake of pulling back to get away. He shouted again and gave under the pain. With her other hand, Liz slipped the table control off his belt. She stabbed her thumb into the lower quadrants. The table abruptly released her. She threw aside the control, seized her captor's hair with both hands, and pulled with all her weight as she slid off the opposite side of the table.
He screamed and grabbed at his hair. She got her feet on the floor, planted herself with feet wide apart and knees flexed, and gave him one, good two-handed pull with all her weight braced. She used all her strength.
No living creature could have stood against that pain. He came across the table top, but he thought to strike out with his hands. She released him and ran for the door.
I appreciate comments from readers. Please tell me what worked for you in the story and what did not work. Did any part move too slowly? Was the story hard to get into? Were any of the characters not true to the television series? I appreciate all input.