Paul Gadzikowski


The Other Foot

"Who are you?" Ace demanded, moving up close to Professor Dudman. "How can you know so much about me?"

"Ace ..." started the Doctor.

"It's all right, Doctor," Professor Dudman said. She reached behind her head, gathered her white hair into a pony tail, and smiled at Ace. It was all the visual cue Ace needed.

"You're me," Ace whispered. "You're me from my future!"

"Yes," said the old woman.

Ace stared at her, backing away, breathing hard.

"Was that necessary?" the Doctor growled to Professor Dudman.

"You knew!" Ace shouted at the Doctor. "You knew and you didn't tell me! And you -" she screamed at Professor Dudman, "you're just like him!" She ran from the room, to the west, toward the meeting hall and the psi chamber.

"Yes, Doctor," Professor Dudman said. "It was necessary."

"We would have been done here and gone in less than a minute," the Doctor argued.

"No," said the old woman.

That's when the Orth, against all odds, roaring in pain from the burns of the fire thought to have killed him, charged into the room from the east, grabbed the souljewel from Professor Dudman, bowled the Doctor over, and fled in the same direction as Ace.


Huddled in a corner of the meeting room, Ace saw the Orth pass through. As she scrambled to her feet the Doctor appeared. "Stay here," he told Ace, without breaking stride.

The Doctor was chasing the Orth. Ace's thoughts charged through her mind as if they were chasing the Orth. The Doctor meant to retrieve the souljewel. If he followed the Orth into the psi chamber and tried to take the souljewel from the Orth, there'd be a fight. The Doctor would be in there at least as long as that other Time Lord, Hatvor, had been - the one who'd died from the exposure.

"He went that way!" Ace cried, pointing to the southeast corridor that curved back through the residences to Professor Dudman's room.

The Doctor reversed direction and pelted down the southeast corridor without another word. Ace waited just until she was sure he was gone, mixed emotions about blind trust surging through her, and ran west, following the Orth.


The Doctor barreled into Professor Dudman's room. She was weakly pushing herself out of her chair with her cane.

"Where's the Orth?" he barked. He had put it all together between the meeting room and here.

"He didn't come this way," said Professor Dudman calmly. "He went to the psi chamber."

But the Doctor knew that by now. He wanted very badly to remonstrate with Professor Dudman, but there wasn't time. "Ace!" he cried, and dashed out.


The psi waves seared her mind as she struggled with the Orth, both of them clutching the souljewel. He was weakening, she could feel it, but so was she. She had only to hold onto her strength for a second longer than he did his, and the planet would be safe.

There! With one last yank, she got the Orth to yield the jewel. The force threw Ace toward the chamber door, and the Orth farther inside. But that last effort had cost Ace the last of her concentration - she could no longer bring herself to move, against the pain in her mind. And the Orth was crawling toward her.

Then the Doctor was pulling her out of the psi chamber and slamming the door, and they both collapsed against the outside of it, gasping for air. The souljewel seemed to hold her eyes on itself while its glowing subsided. Despite this mesmerization, the Orth's pounding on the other side of the door still reached her consciousness through her ears. It grew weaker and weaker, unequal to opening the door, until finally the pounding and the glowing both ceased.

Just as Ace noticed that their breathing was in time with each other's, the Doctor said, "Are you all right?"

"Could use an aspirin," Ace gasped. "You?"

"If I hadn't," the Doctor gulped. "If I hadn't arrived when I did, you would have died."

"And if you had arrived when I did," Ace said, "you would have died."

"You could have told me," he insisted.

Ace laughed. Three minutes ago she would have shouted it at him, but now she laughed. "Shoe's on the other foot now, innit?" she said.

After quite a long moment, the Doctor gave her one of his toothy spontaneous grins.

"You've both learned something," came a voice from the door. Ace recognized it - now, in more ways than one. It was Professor Dudman, hobbling into the psi room on the walking stick that had looked so familiar. Ace remembered now: it was the one she'd tripped over and left behind in the TARDIS wardrobe just as they'd landed here.

Ace tossed the souljewel to her.

"It took two of me," Professor Dudman continued, snagging the souljewel out of the air with surprising deftness for someone who needed a cane, "and I had to gang up on each of you with the other, but ..."

With a groan the Doctor pushed himself to his feet. He held his hand out to Ace. She took it, but he let her pull herself up.


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