"I just want you to know, Doctor, that despite our differences, I continue to hold you in high regard as a fellow man of science," said the Inculcator, as he adjusted several dials on the control board behind which he hovered. "Perhaps we can discuss some of Genderth's recent scientific developments after this unpleasantness is over."
"Oh. Well, that makes this all worthwhile, then," the Doctor replied dryly, from where he sat pinioned in a chair, a skullcap and electrode contraption quashing his normally unrestrained light brown curls. Inculcator Nortis, a middle-aged academic run amuck after an unexpected promotion that had occured, with Fate's inexcreable timing, right during his mid-life crisis, glanced up from his preparations.
"I really don't see why you have to be so sarcastic about this," he complained, petulance entering his tone. "I'm not destroying any of your mind, just... rearranging your priorities a little, to a less socially-divisive view. After all, you chose to fall in with that disruptive Anti-Mind-Wipe' faction."
Blue eyes stared defiantly back from under the helmet. "Call them old-fashioned, but they don't appreciate having their minds forcibly changed for them. And I quite agree."
Nortis snorted. "Well, you won't remember your former neurosis, or any of this happening, so it scarcely matters what you feel now, does it?"
The voice was quiet but implacable. "That still doesn't make it right."
The Inculcator didn't deign to look up again, though his mouth tightened in annoyance, his fingers busy on the control board.
"There's also something else."
"And what would that be?" Nortis said impatiently.
"I look human, but I'm not. This process might have no effect on me at all. Or it might burn my brain out; there's no way to know. Is that what you want?"
Nortis's head jerked up, his mouth a thin, scornful line. "You're telling me you're not Genderthan -- what are you, some kind of alien?"
The Inculcator paused to shut his own gray eyes and rub the bridge of his nose, before looking over again. "I must say, that's the saddest excuse I've ever heard prior to an Inculcation session. You don't believe me now, but you will be much happier after this is finished."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. No one seemed to believe him anymore these days...
Nortis reached over for what looked like an activation lever, and the Doctor, his eyes following the movement, tensed - he'd been exaggerating his concerns for the Inculcator's benefit, but not by much-
The door swished open, affording a glimpse of the guards stationed outside, and Sam walked in.
The Doctor blinked. Well. He hadn't seen her since the police raid on the opposition headquarters the day before, where they'd been separated in the chaos...
As usual, she was thin of form, fair (and short) of hair, casual of dress, but, in a definite departure from the usual, exceptionally blank of mein.
The Inculcator, distracted, stayed his hand, staring at the young woman as she walked over to stand in front of him. His eyes narrowed as recognition dawned. "You're his friend, aren't you?"
Sam looked calmly back at him. "Yes."
"What are you doing here?"
"Sub-Inculcator Mauj sent me." Her voice was passionless.
"Mauj--? Oh! You've been inculcated, haven't you?" he said happily. "Well done, Mauj!"
A little frown mark appeared between her brows. "I don't..."
"Never mind; you wouldn't remember. Just believe me when I say that your future is guaranteed to be much brighter than it was before." He beamed at her, then stepped away from the control panel, prompting her to turn towards the Doctor.
"See, Doctor? No trauma; just calm, clear-headed thinking."
The Doctor looked morosely back at the pair. A tamed Sam didn't bear thinking about. Though if Nortis had his way, he soon wouldn't be thinking about it...
Sam looked at him, her face without expression, then, out of Nortis's line of vision, winked. The Doctor was barely able to supress an answering grin. A return wink was out of the question since Nortis was still looking his way, so he instead dipped his head in a nod of acknowledgement.
"Yes," Nortis said, mollified, assuming the affirmation was for him. "Now this won't take long..." He retreated behind the console again, as Sam followed, a look of curiosity on her face.
"Would you like to do the honors?" Inculcator Nortis asked her amiably.
"Oh, may I?"
The Doctor coughed to cover up the involuntary snigger that had just erupted, then glanced up at the startled duo behind the control console. "Sorry. Allergies."
"Okay, show me which button to press," Sam said, sending a narrow look the Doctor's way as they returned to their task. "I am really looking forward to this!"
Inculcator Nortis pointed at a lever on the right. "Right there."
Her eyes swept across the board, taking it all in. "Okay, here goes!"
The Doctor's eyes snapped wide in utter astonishment as Sam reached over and yanked down the activation lever.