The chaos stirs into form.
Dentist 10 lives behind glass and steel.
In the morning when he wakes up he is out on the glacier. He has been sleeping inside the skin and fat of a polar bear he’d had to kill.
“Dangerous,” he says.
He shakes his head at himself. He must have passed out, he thinks—too tired to drag the body back to his tower, so he’d just cut it open and crawled inside.
“Dangerous and stupid.”
He pulls himself out. The corpse is still warm, but it’s colder than it was. He heaves one great paw over his shoulder. He drags the bear to his tower.
The tower is glass and steel.
Dentist 10 looks nervously up at the sun. It’s been shining for almost six months but it’s looking like it’s beginning to set. That’s why he had to go out onto the ice and get a stock of meat, but it also makes the danger more acute.
He enters his code into the tower doorway.
Perched atop an arch of ice, clad in an adorable white parka, Jane watches him. She is looking at him through special field glasses that make everything look red and provide scrolling data regarding various points of interest.
“Don’t forget to wear layers,” scrolls past on the left.
Stock data displays on a running marquee.
One scrolling reminder informs her, “Nine out of ten dentists endorse the continued existence of the world!”
Dentist 10 finishes entering the code. His fingers, slick with polar bear blood, leave smears on the numbered panel.
The door opens.
Dentist 10 drags the polar bear into the lobby of his tower. He deposits it into the autokitchen. He walks through the sterilizing shower, stripping as he goes, leaving his filthy blood-colored lab coat behind, passing through sprays of water, chemicals, and soap, and emerging on the other side dressed again and pulling on a fresh white coat.
He pushes a button behind him. It sets his shower to KILL.
Then he enters an elevator and begins to rise through the beanstalk of his home towards a cold space fortress suspended over the world.
Behind him, Jane is in the lobby. She’s staring at the shower from the other side. It’s got blinking red lights and looks about as malicious as a shower can.
She speaks into her lapel.
“Cut power to the first floor,” she says.
Elsewhere, Martin operates a fuse. The shower goes dark.
Dentist 10 looks down as he ascends. He frowns. There’s a spot of darkness below that should be red.
He grits his perfect teeth.
“Susan?” he says.
The computer that governs his home comes online. A simulation of Majel Roddenberry’s voice says, “Yes, Dentist?”
“We have an intruder,” he says. “Flood the lower floor with Fimbulwinter.”
Jane is standing at the base of the elevator. She is prying open the doors with a Fisher-Price Jaws of Life set. Then a radio-triggered explosive bursts open the lobby’s outer door and windows. Hydraulic pumps, their power subsystem pre-isolated, dredge up icy water from the sea, add a fine mix of chemicals to accelerate their icing, and spray them in a large-dropped mist throughout the bottom floor. The building ventilators pump away the heat. The air fills with shards of ice.
Jane squeaks. She wraps her scarf across her face. She pulls her hood over her head. She attempts to squeeze into the elevator through the partly-opened doors despite the bulging awkwardness of her layered clothing and the wash of ice. For a long moment she is stuck, as the air lashes her with winter. Then with a pop she falls through into the base of the elevator shaft.
She kicks out the jaws of life. The doors slam closed. She begins to climb.
Dentist 10 arrives at his space fortress. He walks out into the entrance bay. He considers. Then he decides that it is better to be safe than sorry.
He takes down his shotgun from the wall.
He sits down.
He waits to kill, just in case the intruder makes it up.
When Jane forces open the elevator doors, he fires.
There is a flurry of red-tipped parka down. The body falls backwards. The doors close.
Dentist 10 approaches.
He pushes the button. The elevator door opens. He walks in. He kneels by the body. He checks its teeth for signs of life. Then he frowns.
“It’s a Fisher-Price Body Double Playset,” says Jane from behind him. “Suitable for operatives and medical students ages five and up.”
“It’s very realistic,” says Dentist 10.
He doesn’t turn around.
“But nobody has teeth like these.”
“No,” Jane agrees. “And nobody ever will again.”
He spins. He fires. But he isn’t expecting Jane to be quite so short or quite so close, and he definitely isn’t expecting the sharkbone-tipped spear with which she knocks his shotgun away. She hooks out his leg with the haft and as he staggers, she goes PUSH!
Dentist 10 slumps, defeated.
“Pushing people is impolite,” he says.
“That’s pre-9/11 thinking,” says Jane.
“10 is pre-11,” Dentist 10 points out.
“But it’s not pre-9!”
There’s a pause.
Jane gives Dentist 10 a strained, apologetic smile.
Dentist 10 looks away.
“Listen,” says Jane. “Somebody shot Baldur with mistletoe.”
“I know,” says Dentist 10. “I saw. Winter is coming.”
“So I need 10 out of 10 dentists to approve of him, or Hel won’t let him live.”
Dentist 10 looks out through the glass elevator wall at the endless depths of space.
“I had a wife,” he says. “Her name was Nora. And I never approved of her while she lived. I thought that she was weak and she was trivial. And one day after she died, I realized that that wasn’t because she was weak or trivial or bad. It wasn’t anything to do with her. It was just that it was easier for me to live my life if I could judge people according to my preferences for their character.”
“That’s very tragic,” Jane concurs.
“So I promised myself,” says Dentist 10, “in her name, that I would never approve of anything ever again. Not Trident. Not Crest. Not even peace. And I won’t approve of Baldur, even if that ends the world. That is my resolution.”
“Oh,” says Jane.
“People were always troubling me for their approval,” says Dentist 10. “Because I am Dentist 10. So I moved to the arctic and built a beanstalk into space. Ever since then there have never been more than 9 out of 10 dentists approving of anything.”
“But Baldur fights tooth decay,” says Jane.
Dentist 10 shudders.
“And he’s a deadly enemy to plaque!”
Dentist 10 looks up. His eyes are haunted. “Don’t do this,” he says.
“What kind of dentist lives in space and seals his heart in ice?” she asks.
“The tenth,” he says.
So Jane turns away. She follows his gaze into space.
“No,” she says.
“To live in the sky and give your love to no one— to cover yourself in the blood of a bear and greet children with winter— to fire a shotgun at a glass elevator wall and do no harm— this is not dentistry. This is death.”
And he crawls out into his space station and he stares after her as he descends, stripped by her clarity from his role as Dentist 10.
She is right, he knows.
He isn’t a dentist at all.
He is Space Hermit 1, one out of one, and he does not approve.