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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #01 - "DeathRace"


Chapter 8
"Stick or Twist?"
by James Farmer


---


Even in toad-ish years, it was old toad. An old toad that had seen more things in it's life than any excitable frog or curious newt. The toad had got to be old by not being excitable, by not being curious. It had simply made sure that it was safe. Over the course of its long life, it had become adept at recognizing an unsafe situation when it saw one, and then making a quick getaway. The disturbance of its sleep by the sudden appearance of three humans and a massive yellow object, for example, was immediately recognized as an extremely unsafe situation.


       It had hidden under the yellow object for a few moments, selecting the optimum escape route. Then it had started to swim slowly, conserving its energy for the dangerous journey over open swamp.


       But for once, fortune deserted it. It only managed to get about thirty toad-feet away from the yellow object before a human hand descended from above and captured it.


       The toad was an old toad because it was a smart toad. It knew better than to try to escape from the human, even though the grip on it had now been relaxed. And so, it just sat on the human's hand and tried not to look threatening. It could hear the human making human noises, but didn't let that worry him.


* * *


"Don't worry, Doctor. We'll get you out of this somehow."


       In different circumstances, Grace would have found the situation slightly humorous. After all, it wasn't often you got to see a professional bounty hunter kneeling in a swamp, holding a toad in his hand. It was even more uncommon for said bounty hunter to be speaking words of encouragement to the toad. But, at this precise moment in time, Grace was finding very little funny.


       "Morok! Put that toad back where it belongs."


       Jadi glanced back at her, surprise written over his face. "Eh? This is the Doctor! Your friend, the Doctor! Don't you remember?!?"


       "Of course I remember the Doctor!" Tempers were becoming a little frayed. "But really, Morok, that is NOT the Doctor. Can't you see that?"


       "It is the Doctor. This Celestial Toymaker character must have transformed him into a toad! Isn't it obvious?"


       Grace's mind involuntarily regurgitated a memory of medical school. There had been a student there who had gone crazy. One day he had been normal, the next he was talking to the ceiling of every room he entered. He would greet them, ask them questions, sometimes argue with them violently. And, to the day when they had dragged him away, kicking and screaming, he swore blind that the ceilings were really alive, that they were the original inhabitants of the Earth forced into subservience by the conquering humans.


       Fortunately, Jadi Morok wasn't that crazy. Probably. Grace decided to try to apply a little logic to the situation. "Morok, why do you think the Toymaker would want to transform the Doctor into a frog?"


       "A toad!"


       "Okay, a toad."


       Jadi considered. "Well, isn't it the kind of thing that he does?"


       "No, not really." said Grace, recalling her last conversation with the Doctor. "He seems to make you play games, things where there's a chance of you winning and a chance of you losing. But turning the Doctor in a fr-- a toad isn't much of a game."


       Jadi looked at the toad disconsolately. "Sure?"


       "Totally."


       The bounty hunter spared the toad one last glance, then tossed it gently into the swamp. He pulled himself back into Bessie. And then he asked the question which Grace had forcibly not been thinking.


       "So, if the Doctor wasn't turned into a toad, where is he?"


* * *


The Doctor, to be frank, had absolutely no idea of what to do. He had studied the backs of his cards in the (somewhat far-fetched) hope of finding that they were marked, but they were not. He had stared at the eight of diamonds, but that told him nothing. The faces of his fellow players told him even less.


       "Hurry up, Doctor; there's a penalty for delaying tactics," prompted the Toymaker.


       Ah well; when in doubt, do the first thing that came into your head. It had always worked for him in the past. The Doctor cleared his mind...


       His mouth opened, and words tumbled out.


       "There'll be Blue Bells over,


       the White Cliffs of Dover..."


* * *


"Can you hear something?"


       Jadi Morok strained his ears. "What like?"


       Grace considered. What was the sound like? "A sort of, err, humming noise."


       "Nope. Don't duck the question - if the Doctor wasn't turned into a toad, what did happen to him?" Jadi reiterated.


       "Well, presumably the Toymaker must have transported him elsewhere to make him play a game on his own." Grace had to admit that it didn't explain much.


       But Morok seemed momentarily satisfied. "Right." He stared at Bessie's steering wheel for a moment, then suddenly vaulted out of the car, did an impressive somersault, and landed on a solid bit of swamp several metres from Grace. "It's no good - I can't take it any more!"


       "What?"


       "Life used to be so simple. I hunted down people and took them in quietly. If they were lucky. But now-"


       "Morok - are you sure you can't hear anything?" The noise was definitely getting louder.


       In mid-rant, Morok didn't take time out to listen. "But since I met the Doctor, I've been attacked by bats, spent a night in the motel from hell, been shot by mad women, then twisted through spacetime! And now my insurance policy has vanished again!" Pause for breath. "Megalomaniac, all-powerful, game-playing mandarins: they don't ex--"


       "Morok! Behind you!" yelled Grace, horrified, as the source of the humming sound was revealed. A jet black car imbedded with silver hemispheres crashed out of some undergrowth behind Jadi at great speed. Finally realizing that something was wrong, the bounty hunter spun (rather impressively continuing with his rant as he did so), and found this awesome automobile bearing down on him VERY QUICKLY. There was no time to run, no time to jump, no time to dodge.


       Grace turned her head so she wouldn't see him getting hit.


* * *


The Alpha Centauri applauded as the Doctor reached the climax of his song. The five other players just looked nonplused.


       "Well, Doctor, what was that?" cackled the Toymaker.


       The Doctor smiled. "I realized that 'Mao' is early Arcturan for 'War Chant'." He surveyed the other players. "Well? Did I win?"


       The Rani snorted. "Win? No, of course you didn't win! What did you think these cards were for, Doctor! He's been delaying the game, Toymaker, you must make him pay the price!"


       "I thought the cards might be a distraction." replied the Doctor. "Something to make the game a bit more-"


       "No, no, no, Doctor." said the Toymaker. "You amuse me, but I'm afraid the lady is correct. You have been found guilty of using..." the mandarin paused for dramatic effect, "...delaying tactics. For a first offence, though, I think a relatively moderate penalty is in order."


       The smoke behind Clyde LeGrew cleared, revealing a large round cage suspended from the ceiling. In the cage was Jadi Morok.


       "Doctor!" he called. "Where is this place?"


       The Toymaker made a small gesture and suddenly Jadi's mouth was covered with a gag. "There, that's better; we don't want him interfering with the game, do we?"


* * *


The car sped past Grace at high speed, but slowing slightly as the driver struggled to turn it around. Grace had no illusions about what would happen she were still there when it returned - sparing a silent prayer for Jadi Morok, she scrambled into Bessie's driving seat, engaged first gear, and floored the throttle.


       The back wheels spun manically, unable to get a grip in the mud.


* * *


"Don't worry, lad. I'll get you out of there." The Doctor could see that Jadi wasn't too reassured by this statement, but there was little else that he could say.


       "We have wasted enough time on this!" bellowed the Legion, hitting the table with an appendage. "It is the Doctor's turn. I believe that we should impose further penalties if he does not make it IMMEDIATELY!"


       "Oh, don't I sort of lose my turn for those delaying tactics?" said the Doctor in his most optimistic voice.


       Five heads shook slowly. The Legion bellowed, "Certainly Not!"


       The Doctor licked his lips. Well, obviously the cards did have something to do with it, after all. Taking a sudden decision, he reached out and flipped over his top card. He found a jack of hearts.


       The Toymaker leaned back with a smile. "Well, Doctor? What do you decide?"


* * *


"This thing doesn't have traction control!" screamed Grace, lifting her foot off the accelerator slightly. The back wheels spun slower, found grip, and Bessie lurched forward unsteadily.


       Behind, the black car had completed a full circle and was now heading towards her.


* * *


"What are the options?" asked the Doctor, thinking furiously.


       "Now, Doctor. I explained that I can't tell you that." The Toymaker looked as if he were going to say something more, but there was a sharp crack and a flash of light from behind Clyde LeGrew. For the smallest of instants, the table was encased in a fluorescent bubble.


       The seven seated players all looked towards Jadi Morok, who was holding his rifle in his hands and looking worried. "Tut tut tut," scolded the Toymaker. "We can't have things like that happening." With a wave of his hand, Morok's rifle turned into a child's water pistol.


       The Doctor shook his head and muttered something about the military mind. Turning back to the Toymaker, he decided to beg. "No chance of a hint?"


       "That is not allowed!" boomed the Legion.


       The Toymaker seemed to consider for a moment. "No, Doctor. You must work it out all by yourself."


* * *


Now that Bessie was moving, Grace found that she could give it a little more throttle and was soon going at a good speed. However, the black car was in chase and was slowly gaining on her.


       It was only a matter of time...


* * *


The Doctor decided to take the kind of 'suck it and see' approach he had been fond of in his youth. "I choose to stick." he said, choosing a word at random from a compendium of the card-playing terminology of galaxies.


       Gasps ran round the table. "You really didn't want to do that," stated Bonnie.


* * *


Grace slammed on Bessie's brakes just in time. Ahead of her, the swamp had seemed to continue indefinitely, but she could now see that here a river flowed through it. A rough, deep, dangerous river. Neither she nor Bessie would be likely to survive if they went in there.


       The black car was also having difficulty stopping in time; it eventually ground to a halt only inches from the riverbank. Up close, Grace could see it was of a sleek design, with small turbines at its rear. It vaguely reminded her of something. But she could think about that later; for now, getting away was her prime objective. Since she didn't think she could get Bessie moving again quickly enough, she slid out of the roadster and started to run.


       "Stop!" screeched a voice from behind her. "Stop or I will shoot!" It was a harsh, metallic voice. It vaguely reminded her of something.


       Not having much option, she stopped and turned around. Half of the near side of the black car had opened up, and in this opening, lit by flashing lights from behind as well as the sun from above, was a creature. Its bottom half was artificial; almost a "bath chair", a septagonal object in the same design (shiny black with silver hemispheres) as the car. But from this sprouted the top half; an organic humanoid torso; stunted and malformed, it was clothed in shiny black. One arm hung limply by it's side. The other held a short, stubby gun.


       But the head was the worst. The mouth was a small gash in the gray-green skin. The eyes were tightly closed, but a third, artificial eye was imbedded in the forehead. The head was wreathed in wires and circuitry.


       "Resistance is useless." The voice was almost pleading, yet the hard metallic screeching was still an undertone.


       "I have killed the Doctor, and now I shall kill you," said Davros.


---
To be continued...



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