Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own OCs, should I create any for these stories.
Author's Note: Set around the events of The Mind of Evil. See end of work for more notes.
John Benton was a strong man; solid, dependable, and useful to have on your side in a fight. But even the strongest men have fears of one kind or another, and he was no exception.
He'd been claustrophobic as a young boy, and it had never really gone away as he'd grown up, though he had managed to get it more under control.
Nowadays, it only manifested itself if he were to get in extreme situations; crawling around in mines and the like, and even then he was able to keep it mostly under wraps, only outwardly appearing to be slightly uncomfortable. He had never been so happy to be on clean-up duty during the Silurian investigation a while back; he wasn't sure if he could have taken it, wandering around in their endless underground tunnels and caverns for an extended period of time.
At least no other similar circumstances had occurred since then; he was more than happy to deal with other menaces where his phobia wouldn't impede his judgement or actions. He never wanted to be a burden to anyone else, or to put anyone at risk due to his fear. Unfortunately, it seemed circumstances were working against him this time.
Benton didn't often get a chance to do undercover work; more often than not, those jobs were given to Captain Yates or other men who could blend into a crowd much more easily. It was unfortunate, yes, but he never tended to dwell on it, contenting himself with the jobs he was given.
Due to the lack of available personnel during this peace conference that was going on, though, meant that the Brigadier had no one else to ask when he needed someone to tail Captain Chin Lee to find out if she was up to anything. And so, the Sergeant had found himself unexpectedly on plainclothes duty, shadowing the Chinese girl as she went about her business after leaving UNIT HQ.
It seemed that the Brigadier was right in his suspicions about her - the first thing she did was make a phone call on a public telephone. That made no sense, unless she really was up to no good and had something to hide; after all, there were plenty of working phones at UNIT.
He was trying to be inconspicuous as he watched her, but he didn't really think he was doing a very good job. The fact that Chin Lee looked directly down the street where he was standing as soon as she left the phone booth confirmed this.
He tried to brush it off and simply act like any other passerby, but he started feeling a pounding in his head. Not one to get headaches very often, he tried to push past it, but the feeling simply worsened, feeling like an odd sort of pulsing, making everything around him seem to spin. By now, he was clutching his head and gritting his teeth against the pain, when suddenly he had a terrible sensation of walls closing in on him.
He tried to think rationally - he was in the middle of the street, for goodness sake - there was no reason for this to be happening. But no matter how hard he tried, the feeling of being closed in got steadily worse, and he found his heart was pounding, and that it was suddenly harder to breathe. Eventually, he could no longer longer stand, feeling much too sick. He collapsed insensate against the railings nearby, unable to cope with the severity of the full-blown panic attack he had just experienced.
Upon seeing that her follower was now incapacitated, Chin Lee quickly walked off before he could recover, uncaring as to his condition.
Benton had regained consciousness mere moments later, regaining his senses to find himself being helped up by a stranger. "Are you all right?"
He shook his head to attempt to clear it, then nodded slowly. "Yes, I'm alright. Thank you." He then realized that the Chinese girl had disappeared. He took off back towards UNIT HQ, hoping to find her. He was unable to stop himself from initially stumbling, but was able to regain his balance relatively quickly.
As he approached the HQ, Benton could still feel a slight ache in his head, and noted with dismay that Chin Lee was nowhere to be seen. He inwardly berated himself; he thought he had gotten his claustrophobia under control. He hadn't had such a bad attack in years; certainly not since he'd joined the army, anyway.
He really was not looking forward to explaining this one to the Brigadier.
After the whole incident was over, he'd been confronted by Captain Yates about the incident with him losing Chin Lee. The Captain was one of the few people who knew about his claustrophobia, and Benton trusted him to not tell anyone about it.
During the course of that conversation, Benton had been initially embarrassed by what he felt was his fear getting the best of him, to which Yates had explained that it had - but through no fault of his own, he hastened to add. She had been using a telepathic amplifier that let the Keller Machine transmit its terrifying influence on peoples' minds far beyond its confines at Stangmoor prison. It sensed peoples' deepest fears and brought them to the fore, overwhelming the victims' minds and killing them through their fear.
It was how the Chinese delegate had been murdered, and how the American delegate would have been murdered, had it not been for the Doctor and the Brigadier's intervention. If Chin Lee hadn't been merely looking to subdue him and throw him off her trail, Benton himself might have found his name added to the list of the dead.
It felt a little better to know that it hadn't entirely been his fault for losing Chin Lee during the investigation, but he still felt partly responsible, as it was his fear that had caused UNIT to lose their lead (even if it had only been for a short time). It was also a sobering thought; to think that his fear might literally have been the death of him, rather than a stray bullet.
He resolved in future to try and get over this phobia of his; control it fully so there was no chance of it controlling him again. He didn't want to ever let UNIT (or himself) down like this anymore if he could help it.
Notes: Based on a comment from John Levene in an interview, in which he admitted to being claustrophobic.