|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #01 - "DeathRace"
"Some Days are Better than Others"
by Rebecca Dowgiert
Don't look now,
Things just got worse...
- Everything Falls Apart — Dog's Eye View
* * *
The Daleks, rapidly powering up their weapons systems hesitated, swivelling towards the unexpected sound. Their leader Davros did likewise, turning to look at the female prisoner he was guarding. The Doctor, caught between his imminent execution and the sight of his former self lying dead in a ditch, simply stared.
Grace, having gotten everybody's attention and bought the Doctor at least a few more moments, took a deep breath, and, screwing her face up into an unpleasant scowl that resembled Davros' permanent facial expression, launched into a tirade.
"You want to kill him? Fine!" she shouted, pointing an accusing finger at the Doctor. "But I want to tell him just what I think of him, first! You owe me!" she exclaimed at top volume, spinning about to glare at Davros momentarily before turning back to the object of her fury.
Somehow projecting the air of someone stunned, Davros said nothing in reply to this. Taking this as assent, Grace continued.
"You rotten, dirty, lying, son-of-a--!" she screamed, pointing at the forlorn figure standing surrounded by a squad of confused Daleks. "You told me you were the Doctor, you lying scum bag! I can't believe I fell for that!"
The Doctor, for his part, stared blankly at Grace's furious face for a moment, blinked, and abruptly changed his whole demeanour. He suddenly slouched, jammed his hands in his pockets, and leered in her general direction.
"Can I help it if you were stupid enough to fall for it?" he sneered.
Davros glanced from Grace to the Doctor. "What?!" he shouted in his gravelly tones. "What are you saying, woman? Is that not the Doctor, as you claimed earlier?"
"Well, I thought it was," she snapped at him. "But you obviously killed the real one, didn't you!" She pointed over at the prone body where it lay in the ditch. "I don't know much about any 'temporal paradoxes', but I know that people generally can't be in two places at the same time. Right?"
Davros sat silently.
"Ergo, since that was the Doctor, and you killed him, then that..." she pointed over at the Doctor, scorn dripping from her voice, "is not the Doctor."
The Doctor strove to look disreputable and non-Doctorish, as Davros considered this bit of logic and the Dalek squad moved about restlessly.
Lest he should be missing the point, Grace talked on. "He told me he was the Doctor, and fool that I am, I believed him! He's been stringing everybody along!"
The Doctor shrugged. "Well, it was a great scam while it lasted."
Davros stared silently at the tableau in front of him as if bemused. Finally, he stirred. "So now you claim that this is not the Doctor, but some impostor."
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying," she replied, nodding encouragingly. She waited hopefully as he paused, considering.
"Exterminate him anyway," the wizened being decided.
* * *
A mesmerized Jadi Morok stalked along through the Farred swamp, the Toymaker's orders rebounding around in his mind. Finally, a clear target, a straight-forward task. What a relief! He moved quietly around trees and under hanging vines, pushed relentlessly past dripping leaves.
Suddenly he stopped and froze. Up ahead was a relatively dry clearing. He could hear sounds coming from it.
He crouched down in caution. Peering over a fallen tree trunk, he saw flashes of light off metal. A Dalek squad was moving about in the clearing, while a shiny black car with a gnarled gnome in it oversaw the proceedings. Nice wheels, he thought, admiringly. Recognizing his former travelling companions and current target, he smiled ferally. The Daleks had surrounded the Doctor, but they weren't apparently doing anything to him.
Well, the Toymaker had said that he should act if the Daleks didn't kill the Doctor. They weren't killing the Time Lord. Therefore, it was time to act. He'd pick off the Daleks while he was at it. He hated them, too.
Grinning, Morok took out his plasma rifle, rested it carefully on the tree trunk in front of him, and took careful aim.
This was going to be fun.
* * *
The Doctor winced in dismay as the Dalek squad spun happily about (if anything made the vicious creatures truly happy, it was getting an excuse to kill), and targeted their blasters squarely on him.
"Don't you have anything better to do?" he called out accusingly. "Conquering a few planets, perhaps?"
Grace looked on in horror. Her gambit had only postponed the inevitable. Davros, ignoring her for the moment, raised his good arm to give the signal to fire.
At that moment, several things happened, more or less simultaneously.
Grace leapt forward, desperately lunging for Davros's raised arm and the gun it still clutched, now not aimed at her.
The Doctor, staring in dismay at Grace's lunge, leaned forward, shouting a warning at her as the Daleks closest to their leader spun around.
As his head moved, a plasma bolt passed so close by the spot he had been an instant before that the hair on that side of his head was singed.
His hearts thudded as reflex sent him diving forward. That temporarily got him out of the line of Dalek fire, but he was still surrounded by them. He hit the ground and looked up. Well, the monstrous little machines weren't firing at him for the moment — they fortunately weren't so single-minded that they would suicidally ignore the more obvious threat of the blaster fire that was now pouring on them from the edge of the glade.
Turning, they opened fire on the spot the bolts had emerged from. Slightly to his left, he saw Grace struggling with the twisted creator of the Daleks, fighting for possession of the small hand blaster. Several Daleks had turned and were commanding her to stop, but were fortunately hesitating to shoot at her, for fear of hitting their leader.
He closed his eyes for a brief instant. It never rains but it pours, he thought ruefully.
* * *
Flooded with adrenaline and terror, Grace, holding desperately onto Davros's one good arm, tried to get him to open his grip. He screeched in fury and resisted her attempts with a stubbornness nothing short of maniacal.
"Stop!" commanded several Daleks, as they converged on the car. ""Stop or you will be exterminated!"
"Give me that gun!" Grace demanded through gritted teeth.
"Release me, woman!" Davros croaked. "Resistance is useless!"
"In your dreams, pal!" she snapped back. Finally, frantic to break the stalemate, she pulled viciously on his thumb, suddenly remembering from a self-defense course she'd taken during college that it was the weak point in a human grip. As the Dalek's leader screeched in frustration, his grip involuntarily loosened, and she snatched the gun out of his grasp and jabbed it into the side of his wizened skull, praying that she wouldn't blow his head off by accident.
"Get back!" she shouted, her voice cracking. To her immense relief, the Daleks in front of them halted. "Call them off!" she told her erstwhile captor.
The Daleks consulted among themselves. "We must not endanger the Emperor," they shrilled at last, reluctantly. They withdrew several metres before stopping to watch.
Grace, peering through the glade, saw the remaining few Daleks still decimating the vegetation on the left side of the clearing, saw the Doctor getting to his feet warily, for the moment not ringed by Dalek guards.
"Doctor!" she shouted. "Over here!" She was shaking badly in reaction to what she'd done; firefights and facing down killing machines were not her specialty.
He waved an arm cheerfully in her direction. "In a moment — I've got to check something first!" he shouted back, as he ran, crouching low to avoid several more energy bolts that passed close by him, emerging from yet another location in the vegetation surrounding the glade.
Grace winced. Typical.
* * *
Jadi Morok repositioned his rifle yet again and prepared to take yet another pot shot at the Doctor, who was proving to be surprisingly nimble. The bounty hunter had, of course, dived away from his original position after getting off the first few shots, which, though initially missing the targeted Time Lord, had bagged him several of the metal machines. Good thing, too, because what the devils lacked in speed of targeting they made up for in sheer firepower -- his original location was toast.
Aiming, he squeezed off another blaster bolt and watched with satisfaction as it blew the top off yet another Dalek. The machine shrilled and spun around before exploding in a satisfying shower of sparks. "Abslom Daak's got nothing on me," Morok muttered smugly. He was shooting better than he ever had before — he might as well take advantage of it. He leapt forward and took up a new position as the Daleks swung around, targeting the position from which his last shot had originated.
Suddenly, he saw the target jump up and hurry across the clearing, heading towards the relative safety of the other side. He swung the rifle to bear and squeezed off a shot. Damn! Missed again. He didn't want to hit the car by accident. Now that car had style &mndash; just the thing for Jadi Morok, bounty and Dalek hunter. Scowling in annoyance, he got up and began to circle the clearing, heading to the other side to intercept the
running Time Lord.
* * *
The Doctor hurried over to the ditch Grace had pointed out earlier with some trepidation, fearing what he would find. Still, he had to see.
Suddenly, he was there. He stood, staring. At his former, seventh self, dead of a blaster bolt.
It couldn't be, could it? And yet...
Almost mesmerized by the sight, he crouched down, then knelt, the better to examine the body, heedless of the mud.
He reached forward, fascinated, his hand reaching to touch the pale face. The dead eyes stared sightlessly upwards, as if shocked at their owner's ignominious end.
His mind seethed. He thought of the actual ending of his seventh form, as he recalled it. He remembered the shock he'd felt at the utter, utter banality and bad-timing of it all.
He thought of alternate futures, other realities. Then his imagination calmed somewhat. He'd have been able to sense it, somehow, if one of him had been wrenched away from his proper time and place. He'd have felt something. His mind turned to more realistic possibilities. Clones and dopplegangers...
Musing, he automatically began to move his hand across the body's eyes in order to close them...
He got the worst shock to date of his current incarnation, as the dead man twitched, his eyes blinking once and snapping into awareness, darting to stare malevolently at the figure leaning over him.
"Surprise!" The 'seventh Doctor' sang out, surging upwards at him and wrapping his clammy hands around his neck before he could even think to defend himself.
The Doctor jerked back in horror, his air supply already efficiently cut off. He reached desperately to pry the hands off, but they were tightening with incredible strength. Never mind asphyxiation; he was about to get his whole neck crushed to a pulp.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light that he barely saw from behind slitted eyes, and the crushing grip disappeared. He slumped forward, one hand to his throat, gasping. Shaking his head drunkenly, he raised his head and looked around, trying to figure out exactly what had happened.
Thrown away from him, the ersatz seventh Doctor lay sprawled half out of the ditch, a corpse once again. Staring in surprise, the Doctor saw that his attacker had a new hole - through his head.
Looking around for the source of the shot, he saw a figure step out of the swamp-tangle and into the clearing. It was Jadi Morok, slinging his rifle over his shoulder and taking out his hand blaster.
"Morok!" the Doctor exclaimed in surprise. "Much as I abhor guns, that was quite a shot!"
"Not really," Jadi Morok grunted, matter-of-factly. "I was aiming at you." He stretched out his arm, aiming the blaster straight at the Doctor where he still kneeled.
* * *
"No!" Grace screamed, swinging the hand blaster around. Seeing the Doctor being attacked by the reanimated body, she had been too shocked to react, but now she did. To have come this far, and then have Morok turn against them...
At the sound of her cry, Jadi swung instinctively around and fired at her.
* * *
The Doctor cried out in protest as Grace and Jadi fired on one another. To his immense relief, Jadi's bolt missed Grace, though it passed so closely by her that she reacted in horror, jerking backwards. Her shot also missed its target, by a wider margin. But Jadi didn't react with the same frightened shock as Grace, and was preparing to squeeze off a second shot, this time with much more deadly aim.
That was when the Doctor tackled him and sent him sprawling backwards, the blaster flying from his grip. Jadi hit the ground hard, and lay still for a moment, as if stunned. Suddenly, though, he was fighting back, thrashing about with more enthusiasm than skill.
Well, at least he doesn't know any martial arts, the Doctor thought gratefully. I do.
He pulled back his hand, about to deliver a blow that would render the bounty hunter unconscious, but hesitated for a few more seconds, noticing the man's eyes: fully dilated, even in the sunlight that was falling into the clearing. He'd been hypnotized.
"Morok!" he barked, grabbing the man by the collar of his leather spacer jacket. The bounty hunter glared up at him belligerently, startled into stillness for a few seconds.
The Time Lord stared fiercely, exerting all of his will at the mesmerized man before him. "SNAP OUT OF IT!" he bellowed.
Jadi Morok blinked. He shook his head and blinked again.
"Doc?" he said in confusion, looking questioningly up at the figure glaring at him. "What's going on?"
The Doctor stared at Morok's eyes; the pupils had shrunk back to normal. He released his grip and got to his feet, feeling suddenly exhausted.
"It's all right, Grace," he called. "Morok's all right, now. He won't attack us again."
A relatively short amount of time had actually passed since he'd reached the ditch — funny how time perception stretched out when you weren't having fun.
Over on the other side of the clearing, Grace had managed to recover from her near miss and was still managing to hold the Daleks at bay, by continuing to threaten Davros with the gun she still held. There were definitely many fewer of them than when the firefight had started; the clearing was littered with blackened and blasted Dalek casings. Several had dead kaleds oozing out of them.
What a day. What an incarnation. And he still wasn't sure whether his plan to defeat the Toymaker would work.
Third time pays for all, he reflected wearily. But I've already beaten him two times. What if that means that it's /his/ turn to win?
Behind the discouraged Time Lord, Jadi, back on his feet, swung his rifle from behind his back and pointed it at the small group of Daleks, all that were left, that were hovering protectively in front of Grace and Davros. Before he could shoot, though, they shimmered and disappeared. Across the glade, Grace yelped in surprise as the black hot rod and its occupant, along with the hand blaster she'd appropriated, similarly vanished, sending her backwards onto her behind into a damp but otherwise harmless patch of ground. She muttered a few choice phrases as she got up and swatted ineffectually at the mud on her lower extremities.
"Crud," Jadi muttered disconsolently. "I'd always wanted to take out a Dalek squad."
Grace looked up warily. "What are you talking about?! You did take more than half of them out! And you almost shot me — and the Doctor!"
Jadi blinked. "Damn," he said sadly. "Best shooting of my life and I don't even remember it. Oh, hell, the car's gone, too!" He suddenly registered the last part of her statement. "I tried to kill you two? Now why in heck did I do that?"
"The Toymaker told you to." The Doctor's voice came from behind Morok, and he turned to look. "He seems to fancy himself a mesmerist," the Time Lord said, his eyes narrowed. "But compared to some people I've known, he's strictly a RANK AMATEUR!" he shouted suddenly up at the sky.
A voice chuckled. "No, no, Doctor. Over here."
All three travellers spun around to stare at the viewing screen that had appeared in mid air, the Toymaker smiling at them from it.
"Well, Mr. Morok, since you were such a dismal failure as a catspaw, I suppose I'll have to give the others a chance." With a sweep of his arm he displayed Bonnie and Clyde LeGrew, the Alpha Centauri, and the Legion who had been the Doctor's 'Mao' playing partners. They all grinned wickedly as he continued. "Professional assassins all, they are so looking forward to showing you how it's really done. For the sake of sport, I'll give you..." he consulted an imaginary wristwatch. "Fifteen minutes head start. Then, they'll appear in your current location."
The three contestants, exhausted, mud-spattered, and discouraged, stared without comment back at the hovering screen and the self-satisfied mandarin who looked expectantly back at them, one eyebrow raised
"Well?" he inquired. "The clock is ticking away. Or," he purred, "are you giving up?"
The Doctor, Grace, and Jadi Morok stirred, galvanized reluctantly into action.
"Car," Grace said, slurring her words from fatigue and shock as she pointed off into the undergrowth. "That way."
Jadi checked the charge remaining on his rifle and snarled an imprecation when he saw how much it had been drained.
The Doctor turned away from the screen and peered at his two companions as if gauging their endurance. "Let's go," he told them quietly.
"Oh, Doctor!" The Time Lord turned back tiredly for one last look, as the others headed out of the glade.
The being smiled broadly. "I just thought you'd like to know: ratings and wagering at Interactive Central Network are at an all-time high. This race is all anyone can talk about."
The Time Lord turned away, his face grimly set. As he left the clearing, he heard the smug tones calling after him.
"Keep up the good work, Doctor. We both know how this will end."
* * *
Beams of late afternoon Demarian sun angled low down through the swamp trees as three figures half-ran, half-slogged through the mire, following the course of a wide, murky river. One of them stumbled, but caught herself. The other two paused to see what had happened.
"I'm... I'm sorry," Dr. Grace Holloway gasped, leaning on a tree while gulping air. "I'm not much of a long distance runner."
The Doctor fidgeted, caught between concern and impatience. "Come on, Grace," he told her. "According to you, Bessie's just around the next bend of the river."
Grace nodded, blinking in exhaustion "Yes. We followed the river." She pushed away from the tree. "I'm all right, now. How much time do we have?'
The Doctor looked at her intently. She was patently not all right. In fact, she was near collapse. Doing a fifteen-minute mile was not such a difficult task - fresh and rested, on a level track. Recovering from several shocks, exhausted, and fearing for your very life were the conditions they were labouring under at the moment, and Grace just didn't have the same level of endurance that he and Jadi did.
"We passed the fifteen-minute mark two minutes ago," he told his companions. "If the Toymaker kept to his word, his assassin squad has already begun to track us."
"What do you mean, if he kept to his word?!" Jadi Morok asked suspiciously.
"I mean, if he didn't actually release them earlier."
Grace, her breathing finally starting to regularize, gulped in shock. "I thought you said that the Toymaker didn't cheat; that he at least played by the rules, once he'd laid them down!"
"He used to; but he seems to be changing. He seems to have reached a new level of petty vindictiveness; it's as if it's become extremely personal to him." Judging Grace to be recovered enough to continue, the Doctor grabbed her hand. She grimaced but said nothing, knowing that vastly more was at stake than her embarrassment at being their momentary weak link. The trio resumed their flight.
A few minutes later, they saw a flash of bright yellow through the trees. "Thank God," Grace breathed. "I was afraid that it would have disappeared, or something."
"She," the Doctor corrected, absent-mindedly. "And anyone trying to steal Bessie would have run into some interesting defences."
"Anybody ordinary. I'll bet the Toymaker could just whisk her away. Like he did to the TARDIS."
The Doctor grimaced at the reminder. "Yes, well, even he wouldn't tamper with such a fundamental aspect of the race."
They quickly climbed in. Bessie started immediately and hummed eagerly, as if happy to see them. The Doctor shifted into gear and they rolled quickly off down the trail they'd been following through the swamp, before the Toymaker had snatched them away for yet another 'diversion'.
Jadi, riding shotgun in the back seat, glared dangerously back down the way they had come, and brought out his hand blaster, expecting to be attacked at any moment.
Grace sat slumped gratefully in the front seat, staring blankly at the swamp. "It's beginning to look," she stated flatly, "as if he's going to fix the race so that there's no way we can win."
"Probably. But don't worry — I have a few ideas," the Doctor told her, encouragingly.
"Ideas? Like what?"
"I'd rather not discuss them where just anyone can hear."
She winced in chagrin. "Oh. Right."
"Why don't you get some rest?" he suggested lightly. "If anything starts to happen, you'll be one of the first to know about it, I assure you."
"Very funny," she muttered, eyes closed as she shifted slightly to find a more comfortable spot. "Wake me when it's all over."
"What, and have you miss all the fun?" But when he glanced affectionately over, he saw that she was already fast asleep.
* * *
In about an hour, they had left the swamp completely behind and were proceeding through more ordinary woodland, this time on an actual paved road. Sprawled in the back seat, Jadi decided to have a look at the map. Wrestling it into submission, he peered suspiciously at it, half-expecting it to have changed all around. Well, it still looked normal.
"Lessee," he grunted. "Farred... Farred Swamp. Okay... Say, we're closer to the coast than I thought!" he said in surprise.
"Keep it down," the Doctor cautioned. "Grace needs the rest."
"Sorry," Morok muttered, annoyed. "I was just saying that we're only a few days away from the coast, depending on how fast we drive."
And how long they had before the Toymaker's assassins found them, or before he sprang another surprise on them. Neither of them mentioned the obvious.
"Good, good," the Doctor muttered distractedly. "Any towns coming up?"
"Yup. Menaxus Junction. About four hours drive, I'd say, at the rate we're going." Which was fairly fast. Even Jadi had agreed that it would be better to just stay ahead of the assassin squad.
The sun had just sunk below the horizon when they left the woodland proper, and entered a savanna, a plain of waving golden-brown grasses punctuated by occasional trees and bushes. In the distance, a lazy river, perhaps the same one which they had followed back in the swamp, meandered away over the countryside.
Twilight was swiftly falling. The road was now double-laned and in good repair. Moths and smaller insects danced through Bessie's headlights. Jadi lifted his head up as something out in the darkening grassland suddenly called out.
"What the heck was that?" he muttered, reaching for his blaster.
"Probably just a night bird."
"Really, Morok, we ought to be all right for a while. Remember, we were able to stay the night in the MortE' Posthouse without being disturbed — I don't think he'll spring anything on us for a little while. Any way you look at it, we've earned a break."
Jadi snorted. "Don't remind me."
There was silence for a while, as they rolled along through the cool night. Several times, Jadi noticed distant lights far to the side. Distant dwellings, perhaps. Once he saw a glow on the horizon far to the left, most likely a town. He wondered if the inhabitants were watching a recap of his exploits of the day.
He turned restlessly. "You want me to take over?"
"Thanks, but I'll be fine. I need the time to think."
Morok shrugged. "Suit yourself." He stretched out the best he could (which was not very much) and settled down to relax. Of course, he wouldn't really fall asleep, he told himself; he had to be ready for anything.
A few minutes later, a string of snores came from the back seat.
It was just as well Morok couldn't see the Doctor's involuntary smile; his dignity, such as it was, would surely have been very offended.
The roadster and its occupants, two dreaming and one planning, sped on through the night.
To be continued...
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