|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #01 - "DeathRace"
by Ian McIntire
"I hate Twister."
Grace had once been talked into playing the Earth game at a high school party she had attended. She'd suffered a sprained wrist, a pulled calf, and a badly bruised ego as a result. Of course, the Earth version was nothing like the game that she and her companions were faced with now.
Bessie stood less than a meter in front of them, but the Toymaker had erected some sort of warping field around the yellow roadster. When any of them tried to put an appendage inside the vehicle, the field would stretch them until they reached whatever destination the Toymaker had in mind, no matter how uncomfortable, distant or deadly the location was.
"What should we do, Doc?" Morok asked. The bounty hunter had been absent-mindedly tossing stones in the direction of Bessie, and watching as one by one they disappeared.
"First, you can stop throwing stones at my car."
The Doctor stared at his vehicle, trying to see the slight bending of light rays caused by the Toymaker's distortion field. "I've got an idea," he stated. He reached for Bessie using his left hand, and watched as his arm once again arced over the horizon. An odd expression came over his face, as if he were trying to remember something that was on the tip of his tongue. After a few moments of this, his expression changed to one of disappointment.
"Grace," he called, motioning to his companion, "Come here and stand right next to me." Grace walked over to him. "I want you to put a hand intothe field, and describe to me in detail what it is you feel on the other side."
Grace looked at him sceptically. "Trust me," he said. Grace put her right hand in, and watched as it stretched into the distance, curving over the edge of the planet in a different direction than the Doctor's. Oddly enough, her arm felt completely normal.
"Well, it's a cold, smooth surface, maybe some kind of stone, or marble. It's not metal, but it's clearly man-made... or sentience-made, or however you want to put it."
"Well," Grace stated, running her hand across the object, "Parts of it are curved, but still smooth. Whatever it is, it's pretty large and solid. It hasn't moved since I first touched it. There's sort of like a hill, or a bump, or something on it." She gestured with her free hand, trying to relate what it was she felt.
The Doctor yet again mulled over the information relayed from the opposite side of the field, this time going so far as to use his free hand to measure the angle between Grace's spaghettified arm and the right ascension of the sun, before once again shaking his head sadly.
"Jadi, it's your turn." Jadi stepped forward and placed his own hand into the dimensional field. Yet again, the appendage stretched into infinity and curved across the horizon.
"What do you feel?" the Doctor asked.
"I think it's some kind of mud," Jadi said. "It's certainly very wet, and I can feel blades of grass. Could be a swamp of some sort. I can just reach-"
"AIGH!" shouted Grace.
"Grace! What's the matter?!" the Doctor asked.
"Something sharp -- actually, a few sharp things -- just came down on the back of my hand. Ow! They keep shifting position. If you've got a plan, Doctor, I suggest you put it into action soon." The pain returned, and Grace's imagination began conjuring up increasingly bad situations that her hand could be in. She imagined a factory, maybe some kind of conveyor belt, where machinery descended on her hand. When this was all over, she had no doubt she would be pulling back a bloody stump at the end of her arm. During her time as an intern working the trauma rounds, she'd once seen a factory worker who'd fallen into bread-making machinery. He'd only lived for a few hours afterward, but the sight of him still haunted her memories. It was becoming very hard to keep him out of her mind at this particular moment.
It might not be a factory, she kept telling herself. No, it could be a hive of flesh-eating insects. Maybe those little jabs she was feeling were just the scouting party. Any moment now, the entire hive would descend upon her arm and devour it to the bone, pausing only briefly as they crawled up her arm, oblivious to the warping field the Toymaker had used to stretch her body across a continent.
"Give me a better description, Jadi! What was it that you could just reach?" The Doctor was clearly becoming a bit frantic. "Don't worry, Grace. Just try to keep your mind on the here and now."
"I think it's a root of some sort."
"Good." The Doctor stared at Jadi's elongated arm, and rapidly mumbled to himself. He was doing some sort of mathematical calculations. He came to a decision.
"Grace, I want you to use your free hand and grab Jadi's. Don't let go, no matter what. Jadi, get a good grip on that root and pull with all your might.
Jadi planted his feet and prepared himself. "NO!" cried the Doctor. "I want you to use that root to pull yourself and us through the distortion field."
"Will that work?" Jadi inquired.
"Yes!" the Doctor shouted. He added, slightly under his breath, "It should."
"Just do it!" yelled Grace, grabbing the bounty hunter's hand.
Jadi pulled, his arm curling into the sky, following the path his hand had taken earlier. The pinpricks on Grace's hand had increased in number and frequency, and were becoming more and more painful with every moment that passed. Jadi's arm was completely through the distortion field, and his neck began to get pulled through.
"Doctor! What about you?" Grace called to her friend.
"Don't worry about me," he replied. Jadi's torso was through, and his remaining arm began pulling on Grace's left hand. She now had both hands in different parts of the distortion field, and even more of her body was being pulled through with every instant.
As her head entered the disruption, she was amazed to watch as the entire continent rushed past her eyes, even though her body didn't feel any different from normal. She could still feel the ground beneath her feet, and Jadi's hand in hers as he pulled her across thousands of miles. Suddenly, she was stuck. No, not just stuck, something was holding her back. She began panicking. What would she do if she were stuck like this for the rest of her life? Worse yet, what would happen if the Toymaker were to suddenly get bored with this game, and shut off the distortion field? The sharp jabs on her right hand increased yet again. She felt Jadi shift his grip and pull on her hand with both of his. Slowly, he was winning against whatever it was that was holding her back.
Her head broke through the surface of the distortion field, and she found herself in the middle of a swamp, with Jadi pulling as hard as ever. She knew enough to simply let him pull, and not try to pull herself towards him (since it might serve to pull him back into the field again). Her torso came free, pulling her right arm behind her. The sharp jabs had not abated in the least since it had re-entered the field.
Whatever was holding her back, it was definitely attached to her foot. Jadi was finally able to pull her completely free of the field, and as her legs materialized, she finally saw what had almost prevented her from reaching her destination. It was a hand. The Doctor's hand.
She and Jadi both grabbed the Doctor's hand and pulled as hard as they could. Clearly, something was holding him back as well. His head broke the surface of the anomaly, bringing with it his characteristic grin. "Come on, pull!" he encouraged them.
"You're a lot heavier than I thought you were, Doctor," Jadi said. Grace watched as a surprised pigeon flew off her right hand, and then continued pulling the Doctor. A few moments of dedicated yanking later, the Doctor was completely free except for his left foot. Strangely, the resistance they had felt earlier was just as great as before. As his left foot came through the field, they noticed that it was hooked around Bessie's bumper, and joined him in pulling the rest of the car through the warping. When the car was completely through, they all collapsed into its comfy seats for a well-deserved rest.
* * *
"So where are we?" Jadi asked through a mouthful of Wal-Mart raisins.
"Well," the Doctor answered, consulting the map, "It looks like we're somewhere in the Farred Swamp, which puts us 500 miles closer to the finish line than we were before."
"Good," declared Grace, applying some ointment to her former bird-perch.
"All the same, I'd like to remain here for a few minutes, so I can get an accurate positioning of the sun. That should give us a betteridea of precisely where we are."
"Fine by me," Jadi said, leaning back in his seat and shutting his eyes. Grace looked at the Doctor. Her alien (well, half-alien at any rate) friend seemed lost in thought.
"Penny for them," she offered. "Hmmmm?" he mumbled. "Your thoughts," she replied.
"Well," he said, shifting to face her. "I was just thinking about the conditions that the Toymaker set down for the vehicles we could use for this race. Do you remember them?"
"Something about having wheels and travelling on land?" she ventured.
"Close enough. But the only problem is that the Rani was using her TARDIS, which I don't think qualifies under those conditions."
"Maybe the Toymaker is bending the rules for her. Maybe he's playing favourites."
"No. If the Toymaker played favourites, his favourite would always win and his games would become boring for him. It's got to be something else. I just wish I knew what it was."
"You'll work it out, Doctor."
"I wish I could believe that. I used to be so good at plotting, at assessing the weakness of an enemy." He sighed, looking up at the sky again. "Well, judging by the position of the sun, I'd say the quickest route to a road is..." he consulted the map Grace was holding "...that way." He pointed in a direction that could have been completely random. He put Bessie in gear and prepared to drive--
--When suddenly he was transported to a smoke-filled room, which had a single lamp hanging over a green felt table. At the six other places around the table sat the Toymaker, Bonnie and Clyde LeGrew (professional assassins and expert card players), the Rani, an Alpha Centauri and a Legion.
"Ah, Doctor. Glad you could join us." The Toymaker, wearing a card dealer's visor, beamed warmly.
"As if I had a choice. Very well, what are we playing?" the Doctor asked resignedly.
"Oh, Doctor, you sound as if you're not having fun," Bonnie said reprovingly.
"We're playing a game called 'Mao,'" the Toymaker said.
"How do you play?" asked the Doctor.
"That's the brilliant part," declared the Toymaker. "You have to learn as you play. I can't tell you any more, or I'd have to kill you." Everyone at the table except the Doctor laughed hysterically. "Now, shall we begin?" He began dealing the cards to the assembled players, saying, "Well, Doctor, standard wager? You win, you go free temporarily; you lose, you die?"
"Do I have a choice?" The Doctor noticed that the Toymaker was using about three times the normal amount of cards for an Earth deck.
"No." He had dealt four cards to each player, none of whom picked the hands up. "Now then; This is a game called Mao. It is a lot like life, in that you go in knowing nothing." He looked at the Doctor, seated to his right. "You will be penalized for your mistakes. Play begins to the dealer's right," he placed the remainder of the oversize deck in the centre of the table, turning over the top card. It was the Eight of diamonds. "Now."
To be continued...
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