|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #01 - "DeathRace"
"Roadsters and Pterodactyls"
by Rebecca Dowgiert
When the mist surrounding them finally dissipated, Grace and the Doctor found themselves standing in the middle of a paved road that ran along the top of a cliff that over-looked an ocean, then down into a green grassland and away to the horizon. The car, indeed a bright yellow open-top roadster, shone dimly in the early morning light as the first rays of the Demarian sun peeked over the horizon.
Grace looked about her, then started violently as she noticed that the sinister robed figure was again standing behind them. Apart for the three of them, they were alone.
"Where are the other competitors?" the Doctor demanded imperiously.
"Really, now, Doctor - did you think I was going to deal you all your cards at once, give you all that time to strategize? No, I want to see how you perform under pressure," the Toymaker said, smirking.
The Doctor glared. "You're playing with a marked deck, Toymaker!" he accused.
"Yes, this is not at all fair! You can't just keep us in the dark like this!" Grace exclaimed.
"My game. My rules. You agreed to play." Their host smiled broadly, and continued merrily, "Don't worry - you'll find out soon enough - when they find *you*. I'm not setting a time limit, by the way - you'll be extremely lucky just to complete /this/ course."
"Thanks ever so much," the Doctor muttered, somewhat sullenly, as the Toymaker faded away, his smirk the last to vanish.
"Doctor," Grace said, pitching her voice low and glancing uneasily around, as if somehow hoping to avoid the Toymaker's hearing, "He's not really going to just let us go, even if we win, is he?"
"Well," the Doctor admitted reluctantly, "based on what happened the last time we met, no, probably not. Time doesn't seem to have mellowed him. It's all part of the contest, Grace. In the past, my companions and I were able to beat him two times - we can do it again." He suddenly grinned at her. The effect was contagious; Grace found herself smiling back at him.
"Nice car," Grace commented, taking a moment to admire the roadster. "But shouldn't you have chosen something with more power and speed?"
"Oh, there's much more to 'Bessie' here than meets the eye," he told her, patting the hood affectionately. "She's been modified extensively - I was quite the tinkerer, when I first got her." He bustled around the car, double-checking that everything was as it should be.
"Well, he's played this straight, at least," he muttered, satisfied. There was even a map in the glove compartment. "Let's see," he declared, unfurling it over the hood. He and Grace stood over it, poring over the route that they would take.
The Doctor pointed at a red circle, above which read: 'You are here'. "Very amusing," he muttered dryly, as the marks faded away immediately afterwards. "All right - our route, I'd say, is clear for the moment. We follow this road 'till we reach the city of Reen, down here," he told her, confidently, his finger tracing the route. "There, we can get supplies."
* * *
The drive was, for the first few miles, uneventful, even pleasant. The weather was, Grace had to admit, close to perfect. The sun, slightly more orange than Earth's sun, was rising in a cloudless sky of robin's egg blue. Having visited only a few planets so far, she was peering eagerly all around at the countryside.
So it was that she saw the speck in the sky behind them first. Some kind of alien bird? Then she grew uneasy. Whatever it was, it was quite large - and it was definitely heading their way.
Suddenly, she realized what it was. Her right hand latched onto the Doctor's sleeve, causing him to glance quickly over in surprise.
"There is," she heard herself saying, in a remarkably normal tone of voice, given the circumstances, "a gigantic pterodactyl coming towards us."
He looked quickly up, gauging its trajectory and speed. Its intent was already obvious. Staring down at them with beady reptilian eyes, it opened its jaws and let out an ear-splitting shriek of hunger.
"Oh, dear," he muttered, disdainfully. "And us caught out here in the open. How perilous."
"You don't sound very concerned," Grace commented. "Let me guess: mean but slow?"
"Oh, they're fast enough," he told her, skilfully keeping an eye on the road while occasionally glancing back to check on the reptile's course as it sped towards them. Grace suddenly realized that they were slowing down somewhat.
"What in the world are you doing?" she demanded, twisting around to stare first at him then back at the flying lizard that was now in a power-glide pointed directly at them. "It's going to be on top of us in a few seconds!"
"That's exactly what I want to happen," he replied.
"Grace, be ready to duck," he told her tersely.
Bessie's wheels squealed in angry protest as the Doctor, waiting until the last possible instant, jammed on the brakes. Grace, ducking down, felt the *whhuuusp* of air as the hapless dinosaur plummeted past and over their heads, unable to slow its momentum.
The smell of burning rubber reached her nose as the roadster screeched to a halt, skidding to one side. The Doctor winced in sympathy with the car's distress as they were flung violently forward in their seats. Fortunately, their seatbelts kept them from taking flight themselves.
Grace looked up, shaking her dishevelled hair out of her eyes. Ahead, their erstwhile attacker was a crumpled heap in the road.
"Oh, the poor thing," she murmured, surprised to find herself feeling sorry for the dead creature.
At her side, the Doctor tugged on his wrinkled jacket, adjusting it.
"Yes," he agreed. "Brought here out of its own time and place for the amusement of another..." he fell silent, his expression dark. Grace looked at him curiously. Noticing her glance, he explained. "In the ancient times on Gallifrey, some of my people used to do something similar." He pointed. "Look - our host is removing his broken toy."
The dead pterodactyl shimmered and was abruptly gone.
The Doctor glared skywards. "You'll have to do better than that!" he sneered.
Grace looked at her companion apprehensively. "Is it wise to challenge him like that?"
"You don't understand," he explained impatiently. "It's expected."
Indeed, as he said that, the voice of the strange being was heard, rolling in the air above their heads.
"Oh, don't worry, Doctor. That was just the 'appetizer' for thisdelightful 'repast'. I won't disappoint you."
"Hmmphh!" was the Time Lord's scornful response. "I'll believe it when I see it."
* * *
They travelled on through the countryside towards the city without further incident, Grace glancing apprehensively over her shoulder every few minutes.
"Must you?" the Doctor scolded, as she scanned the sky for the tenth time in as many minutes. "You're making me nervous."
"/I'm/ making you nervous?!" she replied indignantly. "I'd just like to know what's coming at us next, if that's all right with you."
"Oh, he won't repeat himself," he assured her. "It would be declasse. Gauche."
She shook her head, feeling, despite the seriousness of their situation, a sudden surge of amusement. "Does this kind of thing happen often? You know, omnipotent aliens and megalomaniacs trying to get rid of you in creative ways?"
"It's not as if it's an everyday occurrence," he protested. "But it /does/ help keep me on my toes," he concluded.
They topped the crest of a hill and saw, in the valley below them, the city of Reen.
* * *
The sun was now high enough above the horizon to cast mid-morning shadows, and traffic had started to pick up somewhat. Bessie was sharing the road with a number of Demarian vehicles. Outwardly, they didn't look all that different from Earth automobiles of the late twentieth century, if a bit more streamlined and futuristic looking. However, they ran silently. Grace found it a little eerie; she was used to the relative racket of combustion engines.
"Electric?" she guessed.
"Most likely. Clean and efficient."
"And 'Bessie', too?" She'd just realized that Bessie produced very little noise herself.
"One of the first modifications I made to the old girl," he admitted. "The solar storage cells recharge automatically, so we won't have to stop for lack of fuel."
They rolled into the city. The sunlight was cheerful and bright, the buildings the usual mix of galactic styles, and the city dwellers, including humans, humanoids and other reasonable species, were going about their morning business in a reassuringly normal fashion.
\\The Toymaker wouldn't try anything here, surely,\\ Grace thought, hopefully. \\There are too many people about.\\
The roadster, caught up in a momentary blockage of traffic, slowed down temporarily to a crawl. Neither passenger noticed the man on the street corner who started in surprise and stared intently at them as they went by.
* * *
Bounty Hunter Jadi Morok watched his two targets pass right in front of him, riding in, of all things, an open-top car. He repressed the urge to laugh - this bounty was going to be too easy. It was obviously his lucky day: he'd beaten his colleagues to them. He would take them at the next
intersection - In this morning rush-hour traffic, they weren't going anywhere in a hurry. The car would be a nice bonus - /they/ certainly wouldn't be needing it any more.
Not hurrying, he strode along the sidewalk, loosening his blaster in his shoulder holster, and checking the other he wore at his waist. He slapped his pocket, confirming the presence of the document that proclaimed him a fully accredited and licensed bounty hunter. Then, with that familiar
little surge of adrenaline, he waded into the traffic-snarled street and homed in on his prey.
* * *
The Doctor, drumming his fingers idly on the steering wheel while they waited near the entrance to the intersection's roundabout, was the first to notice Jadi Morok's approach.
"Oh, oh," he muttered. "Trouble."
Grace looked up quickly. "Oh, my God," she whispered. "He's got a gun."
Her companion nodded. "Bounty Hunter. And we're stuck here."
"I suppose jumping out and running for our lives is not an option?" she inquired wryly.
"We need Bessie to complete this contest. And besides, he could shoot us before we got ten feet. No, we'll have to find another way out of this particular situation."
The grizzled, spacer's leather-garbed man approaching them quickened his pace when he saw that he had been spotted, but his targets did not attempt to flee the car. Not that it would have made any difference - the wanted notice did say /dead/ or alive.
He grinned at them as he made his way around the back of a delivery van next to them and strolled up to Bessie where she sat in the curb-side lane, caught in the morning grid-lock. Ahead, the traffic finally started to move.
\\Why couldn't you have gone just a little sooner?!\\ Grace thought venomously, glaring at the moving vehicles, then at the man who was now standing next to them, pointing a blaster at them.
Around them, people pointed and stared, but didn't move to help them. Interfering with bounty hunters tended to be bad for one's health.
Jadi Morok smiled politely and, without wavering in his aim, plucked his license out of his pocket and displayed it for their edification.
"Good morning. I'm Jadi Morok," he told them, cheerfully. "You two are now my prisoners. If you try to escape, you will be shot."
* * *
The Doctor looked down past the blaster's muzzle to the self-satisfied bounty hunter at the other end.
"Well, my goodness," he commented lightly. "Are you taking any counter-offers today?"
Jadi Morok's face shifted slightly, his eyes narrowing as heconsidered his two captives.
"Depends," he replied. "What have you got?"
"Double your present contract. Which was...?"
"Twenty thousand mazumas."
"Only twenty-!" the Time Lord snapped. "Of all the insulting..."
Grace could have sworn she heard a barely audible snicker coming from somewhere nearby. \\Must have imagined it,\\ she decided, shaking her head slightly.
"Fine," the Doctor said finally, controlling his indignation. "Forty-thousand. Conditional upon our reaching our ship, the TARDIS."
The blaster, which had begun to waver, snapped back up at them. "No deal," the bounty hunter told them, menacingly.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows at Morok. "Do you think we carry that kind of money around with us?" he asked pointedly.
"Not my problem," the hunter growled. "I could just take you two in right now — guaranteed bounty. Why should I take a chance on an I.O.U.?"
The Doctor sighed. "All right. We'll triple your original bounty. On my word as a Time Lord of the Prydonian rank."
Jadi Morok grinned ferally. The blaster disappeared back into its holster. "You have got yourself a deal," he told them with satisfaction.
"Hey!" Grace yelped indignantly, as the bounty hunter lifted a boot-clad leg over Bessie's side and climbed into the back seat. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Keeping an eye on my investment," he told her firmly. "Where you two go, /I/ go."
"Oh, let him be, Grace!" the Doctor soothed, putting the car in gear and checking the traffic, as they eased their way back into it. "I'm sure we'll hardly even know you're there, will we, Mr. Morok?"
"Right," their new passenger replied. "Fly on the wall, that's me."
* * *
Elsewhere, the being called the Celestial Toymaker chuckled appreciatively. "Oh, well done, Doctor — this early in the game, and already you've turned one of my pieces against me. Enjoy this minor advantage — I can hardly wait for the next gambit to begin!"
* * *
"We'll get our supplies for the journey here," the Doctor declared, hands on hips, staring up at the immense building in front of them. Behind them stretched acres of parked road vehicles.
Grace looked up at the sign. "Wal-Mart," she said dully.
The Time Lord shrugged. "They're everywhere." He walked confidently through one of the open out-doors. Grace and Jadi Morok followed more slowly, bemused. Before them stretched aisle upon aisle of merchandise, some of it familiar, but more of it obviously alien, of unknown origin and
"Here," the Doctor said, putting the handle of a hovering shopping cart into Morok's grasp. "Make yourself useful." He ignored the bounty hunter's irritated look. "We're certainly paying you enough," the Time Lord muttered, turning in a circle, then pointing down one of the aisles like a general on campaign. "This way!" he exclaimed, striding happily forward. Grace and Jadi shook their heads and followed.
* * *
An hour later, the cart was almost full. The three travellers strolled along contentedly, Jadi having found and turned on the cart's 'follow' function. The bounty hunter was apparently a man of few words; he seemed content to shadow his companions, glancing suspiciously about as if expecting one of his competitors to snatch his bounty out from under his nose.
The Doctor, gleeful as a child in a candy shop, had tossed in a number of unrecognisable electronic/computer/cybernetic components, claiming that they would 'come in handy later'. The megamarket also had a full array of food available, and they had piled in various bags and tins of non-
perishable foods. Some of the Doctor's choices were a little... unusual.
"Jelly babies?" Grace commented, raising an eyebrow.
"I still like a few jelly babies, now and then," he replied slightly defensively.
"Aldebaran sliced eels?" she pointed out next, queasily. "That's journey food?"
"I said you didn't have to try them if you didn't want to," he snapped. "Besides, I'm sure our 'host' didn't intend for us to live off of hardtack and water."
"Doctor, he seems to want to kill us!" she exclaimed, exasperated. Why wasn't he taking this more seriously?
Further up the aisle, Jadi Morok lifted a package of Velarian sugar-beet crumbles off the shelf. "Here. We'll need some of these."
Grace rolled her eyes and wandered ahead of her companions around to the next aisle. She was about half-way down it when she heard a sudden scream.
Her head snapped up. Ahead of her, at the end of the aisle, a woman had just appeared, pushing through a set of swinging doors in the wall behind. "Somebody help us!" she cried, her voice ringing with desperation. "My husband — he's collapsed! Is there a doctor in the house?!"
Grace, reacting instinctively, reverted instantly to her medical training and dashed forward.
"I'm a doctor," she told the terrified woman. "Where is he?"
"In here!" the woman exclaimed, holding open one of the doors.
Grace never heard the Doctor's warning shout. The woman gave her a hard shove, and when she had recovered her balance and noticed her surroundings, she stood gaping in astonishment.
She was in an old-style Earth operating theatre, around which tiers of observers benches rose. The benches were filled with people who were staring at her intently and occasionally murmuring among themselves.
In the centre of the room, dramatically spot-lit, was a table. When she saw what was on the table, she stared even more, if that were possible. It was a life-sized version of a familiar game from her childhood — 'Operation'!
She walked slowly forward. Except for the larger size, the game board was just as she remembered it — the cartoon outline of a man with a red bulb for a nose, the slots containing plastic 'organs' that had to be removed without touching the sides of the slots — or a buzzer would ring as the nose lit up. A pair of tweezers sat nearby.
She closed her eyes. "Oh, no. Don't tell me," she groaned.
* * *
Outside, the Doctor, with Jadi Morok just a few steps behind him, skidded to a halt in dismay, as the doors through which Grace had been lured disappeared, blank wall appearing in their wake. A viewing screen appeared from nowhere, displaying the scene within the operating theatre.
"Sorry, Doctor," a familiar disembodied voice chuckled. "But this game is just for your Dr. Holloway. Don't worry - your turn will come soon enough."
* * *
When Grace opened her eyes again, she saw standing before her a typical Hollywood doctor, complete with spotless white coat and stethoscope.
"Good afternoon, Dr. Holloway," he said cheerfully, indicating the game with a sweep of his hand. "This is your chance to show us how well you operate under pressure."
"This is ridiculous," she snapped, folding her arms. "I'm not playing!"
"Oh, yes you are, if you ever want to leave this room," he told her.
Sighing in resignation, she advanced to the table and picking up the tweezers, leaned over one of the cavities and prepared to fish out the 'funny bone'. "This is no way to test my surgical skills," she complained.
"No? Dear me, did I forget to mention that if you touch the sides of the slots that a bit more will happen than just a buzzer going off?"
She froze, staring in sudden realization at the section of polished metal floor the table stood upon and the metal tweezers she was holding.
"You're kidding," she said, feeling a chill of fear. "Aren't you?"
* * *
Outside, the Doctor glared at the screen as he clenched his fists in outrage. "I once felt sorry for you, Toymaker, but you've become even more twisted since I saw you last!" he exclaimed. Behind him, Jadi Morok looked around warily, blaster in hand, as the mysterious voice spoke again.
"Yes... Well, ten millennia of imprisonment in a personal hell will do that to you," the Toymaker replied casually.
* * *
Inside the operating theatre, the Hollywood doctor was growing impatient. "Come on, Doctor Holloway. Must we set a time limit in order to get you to move? Surely the threat of a little surge of current isn't enough to ruin your powers of concentration?"
Striving to keep her hand from shaking, Grace carefully moved the tweezers forward...
To be continued...
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