|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #01 - "DeathRace"
"The Spirit Of The Game" or "The Three Graces"
by Richard Auer
He rummaged in his pocket, finding an ever-burning match. He lit it, a pitiful glow in the eternal darkness.
With a sigh, he extinguished the ever-burning match.
Was this death?
If so, it wasn't quite the colour that he thought it would be.
Clumsily, he got to his feet, and edged slowly forwards, waving his hands to feel for obstructions.
His feet made no noise.
He was dead.
The Doctor had gone and got him killed. The indignity of it.
"I can't be dead!" he cried aloud.
There was no reply.
Then there was a groan from behind him, and the unmistakable voice of Doctor Grace Holloway saying: "You're not dead, Morok -- you're in a dark room. Death looks entirely different."
Jadi laughed with relief. "So where are we?" he asked.
"I should know in a second..." said the Doctor's voice, closely followed by "Aha!" as the lights came on.
The room was large, but empty. The walls were a deep brown, inset with shallow roundels.
"So, where are we, Doc?" asked Morok.
"It's a TARDIS, obviously," replied Grace. "I recognize the typical neo-classical Gallifreyan motifs. I don't think it's the Doctor's, though."
"Nor do I, Grace," chimed in the Doctor from where he was crouched by the door, fiddling with the lock. "The question is — whose TARDIS is it, and why are we here? At first I thought that when I saw through his cunning deception, the Toymaker had dismantled Deremar and put us to one side while he decided what to do. However, the fact that Jadi is here with us rather throws a spanner in the works of that theory. If Deremar isn't real then Jadi isn't real, and if Jadi isn't real, what is he doing here?"
"Trust me," said Jadi, "I'm real."
"So what happens now?" asked Grace. "If Deremar is real, then presumably the population are still in jeopardy."
"We get out of here, we find out where we are, we win the race, we whack the villains," replied the Doctor, grinning.
"Whack the villains?"
"I usually whack them, but I can thwok them if you prefer."
The lock made a satisfying click, and the door sprang open.
"Shall we go and find out where we are?"
* * *
The Toymaker was puzzled. The Doctor and his two friends had disappeared before his eyes, leaving just their vehicle. He could no longer sense them anywhere on Deremar. So they would probably lose. All he needed was for one of the other competitors to cross the finish line, and under the terms of the game, Deremar would be his. Licking his lips in anticipation, he returned to his headquarters to monitor the progress of the two remaining competitors.
* * *
"So — who lives in a TARDIS like this?" wondered Grace aloud, as she wandered around the console room. The Doctor was sprawled beneath the console, pulling indiscriminately at wiring, and Jadi was lounging on a convenient sofa, polishing his gun.
"I don't know — but it won't go far without this," exclaimed the Doctor, sliding out from under the console, a small component in his hand. "It's the temporal stabilizer — a sort of fuse. Could come in handy. Grace, come and look at this." Grace joined the Doctor in examining a display on the console.
"Doctor," said Jadi, clearing his throat.
The Doctor was completely distracted, however. "If we lose the race, the Toymaker gets the entire population of Deremar. If we win, he gets only half the viewers. Either way, the odds aren't good. Now, assuming that Deremar exists, the ideal solution would be..."
"Doctor," said Jadi, more insistently.
The Doctor and Grace looked up. Morok was being held at gunpoint by the Rani, her free hand holding another gun — this one pointing at Grace.
"Ah," said the Doctor.
"Oh," said Grace.
"I can't help but wonder what you have to gain by this, Rani," continued the Doctor, walking calmly towards her, being careful to shield Grace with his body. "Clearly you've kidnapped us so you can win the race, but what's in it for you? If I lose, Deremar will be a dead world; there will be nothing for you to experiment on." The word 'experiment' clearly left a nasty taste in his mouth.
"Ever the sentimentalist, Doctor," replied the Rani, now nose to nose with her fellow competitor. "When you lose, the Toymaker will keep half the people of Deremar, and give the rest to whoever wins, to do with as they will. Think about it; if I win, the Demarians will die serving science."
"And if not?"
"I think it's fairly safe to say that there will be some indiscriminate extermination."
"Oh," said the Doctor.
"Ah," said Grace.
"Ahem," said the Toymaker.
All four looked up at the Rani's scanner, where the figure of the Toymaker beamed benevolently down.
"There is a rule which I believe I omitted to mention," he explained. "Any competitor capturing or hindering another competitor in such a way as to cause a ratings slump of more than 5% must relinquish that player until such a time as the ratings return to their original level. Since the disappearance of the Doctor — our most popular competitor, I might add — ratings are down by 5.3%. Ergo, Rani, you must release the Doctor and his companions or forfeit the race."
"I will not have my life dictated by television ratings!" snapped the Rani.
"I'm rather afraid you will," smiled the Toymaker, waving an arm as though swatting away a fly.
"Bu..." The Rani stopped mid-word, frozen and motionless.
"A small time penalty — nothing more. Think of it as an eighteen minute... hiatus... Return to your vehicle and continue with the race, Doctor."
"Well, well, well," said the Doctor, half to Grace and Jadi, half to himself. "I never thought I would be saved by the Toymaker in a cynical attempt to boost ratings."
* * *
The Rani's TARDIS was parked next to Bessie, and the three companions leapt into it — Grace and the Doctor in the front, Jadi lounging in the back, checking the map from time to time, and commenting on the poor quality of the Doctor's driving. It was a warm sunny afternoon, and the drive was pleasant. They passed through small villages which grew more frequent and larger, until they were driving through the outskirts of a sizable city without really noticing it. The streets were largely abandoned, but the few people on the streets pointed at them in recognition. Presumably, the rest of the populace were glued to their television sets.
After a few minutes of driving through a heavily built up area, the Doctor pulled to a halt outside what appeared to be a vegetarian coffee shop.
"I don't know about you two, but I need a cup of tea and a slice of asparagus quiche," explained the Doctor, vaulting from the vehicle, with Jadi and Grace following at a more sedate pace. "And hopefully this place will have a public access terminal where Jadi can check his e-mail."
* * *
They were welcomed as celebrities, and given refreshments on the house. Jadi was ushered into a back room to use the terminal, while the waitress enthused about how well they were doing, and how she hoped they would win.
"Thank you," smiled the Doctor. "I hope so too."
As soon as the waitress was out of earshot, Grace grabbed the Doctor by the cravat, and pulled him forward, forehead to forehead.
"You're up to something," she hissed.
"You're always up to something."
"Yes - you."
The Doctor feigned innocence. Grace folded her arms and pouted.
* * *
When Jadi emerged from the back room, his face was ashen-white, and he was shaking lightly.
Grace rushed to help him, closely followed by the Doctor.
"What's the matter?" asked Grace.
"I need to go home. Now." Jadi's response was simple. "It's my sister. There's... trouble... She needs me there to protect her."
"You can't leave us, Jadi," urged Grace. "We need your help to finish the race."
"I'm sorry, Grace, but I really need to go — and that 60,000 mazumas would have come in so handy..." Morok had tears in his eyes, and Grace gently wiped them away.
"Okay," she said, matter-of-factly, a broad, reassuring smile on her face. "We'll take you to the nearest travel terminal."
* * *
The next stage of the journey was very quiet, with nobody saying more than a word or two at a time. After what felt like an hour, they pulled up outside the grey building with the Demarian Transport logo outside. Jadi climbed out of Bessie, and Grace followed, giving him a huge hug.
"I'll miss you," she said.
"I'll miss you too," said the Doctor, shaking him by the hand. "We'd never have got this far if it hadn't been for you. And since you've been such a great help, I have something for you."
The Doctor passed Jadi a small brown felt pouch, sealed with green string.
"Open that later," he said. "I also have two pieces of advice. Firstly, the dungeon is empty and booby trapped. Try the attic. And secondly, when you get invited to a council of war, try to be ten minutes early."
Jadi smiled, weakly — still looking worried. "Thanks, Doctor," he said. "I hate goodbyes."
"Me too, smiled the Doctor. "So let's just say 'au revoir', shall we?"
Jadi turned and walked into the terminal. Grace watched until he was no longer visible. The Doctor, meanwhile had unfolded the map and checked their position.
"How much further?" asked Grace.
"About fifteen minutes," replied the Doctor.
"What happens to Jadi?"
"I thought you said you didn't want to know about your future," smiled the Doctor.
They got back into Bessie and prepared for the final stretch of the race.
* * *
The city remained deserted as they drove through streets of higher and higher buildings. The sun was low, casting an orange light which reflected on the glass and steel of the buildings, making them seem at once magical and strange.
As they slowed down for some traffic signals, Grace noticed a slight twinkling in the Doctor's eye, a furrowing of the brow. Bessie pulled to a halt at the red light.
"You drive, Grace," said the Doctor, sliding out of the driver's chair and vaulting into the back seat. Grace unbuckled her seat belt and moved into the driver's seat.
"What are you doing?" she shouted at him.
"I think I need to buy us some time," he explained.
Is that supposed to be an explanation? she wondered, as the Doctor started to rummage through the box of junk he had bought in Reen. "Now where did I leave that angle-poise gravity inverse polymathic inseminator?" he mumbled.
There was a screech of tyres behind them, and Grace swung round to see two vehicles racing towards them. One was a small pink sports car with a number Seven emblazoned on it. The other was a golf cart with three Daleks in it.
With a cry of 'exterminate', the Daleks opened fire on the sports car, missing it entirely.
As the golf cart and the sports car drew parallel, the bonnet of the sports car opened, and a large mechanical arm emerged, with a gigantic wooden mallet at one end. It hovered above the golf cart for a second then pounded once, twice, three times — reducing the Daleks and their vehicle to a metallic pancake. The impossibly huge mallet then disappeared back under the impossibly small bonnet.
Too late, Grace realized who was driving the sports car as the Rani sped past her, ignoring the traffic signal, still at red. Grace could have sworn that she saw the Rani adjusting her lipstick in the rear view mirror.
Grace cursed under her breath and slammed the accelerator to the floor. Bessie wobbled back to life, catching up with the Rani, and pulling ahead with ease. Grace tapped the dashboard, fondly, murmuring "Good girl."
The Doctor was still tinkering with the strange contraption that he was building in the back seat, looking more manic than Grace had ever seen him before.
"This," he grunted as he pulled out the back seat and threw it into the road, "is the sort of thing that Romana used to be good at."
The road ahead curved to the left, and Grace had to brake suddenly. There was a thump in the back as the Doctor was thrown to one side, and an ominous sounding tinkle.
"Anything damaged?" she asked.
"Only my dignity."
"I can see it!" she exclaimed, suddenly. "It's the TARDIS."
The Doctor stood up in what remained of the back seat, to get a better view. Grace was right. About half a mile ahead stood the dignified police-box shape of his ship, and in front of it a long pink ribbon stretched across the road. On either side of the road were stands filled with anxious Demarians, all wondering who would win the race, little suspecting the fate that awaited them if they had gambled the wrong way.
"This had better work," he muttered, squatting back down and connecting something that looked like a wire hair net to something that looked like two tins of soup strapped together with gaffa tape.
Grace peered back over her shoulder. The Rani was gaining on them — slowly, but unmistakably.
"Doctor," she hissed.
"I know, Grace, I know. Now listen carefully. When I say 'brake', slam on the brakes."
The Doctor continued rummaging around in the wiring that had been the back seat, making connections and adjustments to the bizarre creation he had made. It appeared to be made out of wire, small printed circuit boards, the Rani's temporal stabilizer and a large quantity of tinned peaches. He checked behind him. He checked the distance to the pink ribbon ahead, fluttering in the warm breeze. He checked his watch.
"Brake!" he yelled, ducking down and grabbing the back of the passenger seat.
Grace slammed on the brakes, and Bessie screeched to a halt, her front bumper only inches away from the ribbon, the end of the Race, and the TARDIS. The Doctor flicked a switch and his machine hummed into life.
"Doctor!" hissed Grace, "you misjudged it — we didn't make it. The Rani is going to win!"
"I don't think so," grinned the Doctor, helping Grace out of the roadster.
Indeed, the Rani seemed to be having problems of her own. Her car had slowed down to a walking pace, and seemed to be getting slower and slower as it approached the finish line.
"What have you done?" asked Grace, taking the Doctor's arm.
"Well, I set up a localized semi-specific time stasis environment. Basically, the closer the cars get to the finish line, the slower they go. Neither will ever make it, and the race will never end. I've used Bessie's solar batteries for power, so it should last until the sun explodes. Or the peaches go off. Either way, it should last until any worthwhile civilization on the planet has come and gone. We haven't won the race, so the Toymaker won't let us have the TARDIS back, but we don't have the blood of billions of souls on our conscience. I think it's worth the sacrifice. The people of Deremar are safe, and we have the rest of our lives to share with them."
The Rani had climbed out of her car — which was still moving — and was making her way across to them, hands outstretched, as she faded away and vanished, with only a dark chuckling sound to mark her passage.
"The race is over, Toymaker," shouted the Doctor to the sky. "Nobody won. All bets are off. You said there was no time limit. The race will now last until eternity."
With a low rumbling, the previously clear blue sky began to cloud over with dark brooding storm clouds. The air grew suddenly chill.
"What's happening, Doctor? It feels li--" asked Grace, as she was hit by a bolt of lightning and reduced to dust.
"Oops," thundered the voice of the Toymaker.
"Now you're just acting like a spoilt child!" shouted the Doctor, gazing up at the sky.
The thunder roared, and lightning flashed...
...and the Doctor found himself under a spotlight in an otherwise dark room. Feeling a presence behind him, he turned and found himself face to face with the Toymaker.
"I am feeling somewhat generous today, my dear Doctor," began the Toymaker. "So I shall give you one last chance. Behold."
Three more spotlights stabbed out in the dark, highlighting the seated figures of three hooded women. One by one, they pushed back their hoods.
"Here are three Graces," explained the Toymaker. "Pick the right one, and you can go free. You, Grace, the TARDIS. I'll even close my eyes and count to a hundred before I come looking for you again. Of course, the catch is that you only get to ask one question — the same question — to each of them. Then you must make your choice. Choose correctly, and your freedom is yours. Choose foolishly, and you forfeit your life."
The Doctor looked at the three identical women as they sat perched on their stools. Each wore a numbered badge. He rubbed his chin for a moment, then took three paces, tugging at his lapels, before turning and bounding back to his original position.
"All right, Toymaker," he said, finally. "One question."
"One question," nodded the Toymaker.
"Well," began the Doctor, walking from one Grace to the next. "If you could travel anywhere in Space and Time, where would you like to go, and why?"
"And that question's for you first, Grace number one," grinned the mandarin.
Grace 1 smiled broadly, showing all her teeth. "Well, Doctor, I'd have to settle for Italy in the fifteenth century — the age of reason. With all that brilliant inventiveness around, we'd both satisfy our curiosity." From somewhere, there came the sound of laughter and applause.
"Artificial," muttered the Doctor. "Same question, number two."
"Well, Doctor," smiled Grace 2, a childlike innocence in her eyes, "I'd let you choose, because with your knowledge and experience, I'm sure you could open my eyes to new joys and wonders." Once more, laughter, applause.
"And number three," continued the Toymaker.
Grace 3 leaned forward, looking earnest and serious. "I would like to go to the dawn of life on Earth, to see the miracle that brought forth such beauty and diversity."
More laughter. More applause.
The mandarin placed a hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "It's nearly 'make your mind up' time - but first... a little something to help you to decide."
"So, Doctor," boomed a voice which seemed to come from all around. "Which will it be? Will it be number one, who wants you to satisfy her curiosity? Or perhaps number two, who'd leave it all up to you and your every whim? Or how about number three, with her demand for miracles? The choice is yours!"
The Doctor said nothing. He rubbed his chin for a moment, but showed no sign of reaching a decision.
"So," grinned the Toymaker, "which will it be?"
"It doesn't really matter, does it?" asked the Doctor, rounding on the mandarin suddenly. "Whatever I choose, you're not going to let the game end. You'll just keep changing the rules forever. You just won't play fair, will you?"
"Doctor, what are you doing?" asked two of the Graces. "Make a choice, it's your only hope!"
"I should have noticed it really when you gave me the wrong Bessie. The real Bessie has inertial dampers which mean that you don't need seatbelts. The Bessie you gave me had seatbelts. Not at all right. But I overlooked it. Silly really. I thought you'd changed, become more vindictive — I even said so, back in the swamp. And then you made that last big mistake. The race wasn't over, but you gave me a chance to win back the TARDIS. That's changing your own rules. Completely out of character. You might omit to mention a rule or two here and there, yes, so you could surprise me, but to change your own rules so dramatically? I doubt it."
The Doctor had been drawing closer to the Toymaker as he said this, and the last three words were shot out at point blank range, accompanied by three sharp pokes in the ribs. Then he turned and walked away.
"Hardly in the spirit of the game," he said.
He was not surprised when the Toymaker was still standing in front of him.
"You forfeit," laughed the Toymaker. "I win," he giggled, rubbing his hands together. "Now - which execution chamber, I wonder — the Mousetrap or the Haunted House, hmmm. Shall I let Ghoulish Gertie drop you down the chimney, eh?"
The Toymaker froze, and the Doctor turned to see a second Toymaker — a slightly transparent figure, but otherwise identical to the first.
"Aha!" exclaimed the Doctor. "I thought so!"
"Okay, Doctor," began one of the Graces.
"Now I'm confused," continued the second.
"What's going on?" concluded the third.
"Oh, it's very straightforward, really," began the Doctor. "The last time the Toymaker and I met, I imprisoned him in an interdimensional trap created from his own mind. When he showed up, he was very reluctant to tell me how he escaped. That's because he didn't escape — he's still trapped."
The Doctor pointed to the spectral Toymaker. "This is the real Toymaker, still trapped within his own imagination."
The translucent Toymaker chuckled wryly. "As perceptive as ever, Doctor, as perceptive as ever. As I grew used to my prison, I found I could reach out of it, find willing minds, who I could... persuade ... to continue my work. This soul was one. I taught him well, but he lacks honour and a true sense of gamesmanship. Games, like everything else, have their time, their place, their rules. You can try to play tennis in a swimming pool, but your chances of success are infinitesimal."
The other Toymaker was still frozen. His transparent counterpart walked round him, examining him closely.
"He looks the part, certainly. I might almost have been convinced myself. However, there is only one possible outcome here..." said the real Toymaker, fading away.
There was a loud buzzing sound, and the Doctor looked up to see a green neon sign in the sky.
It read simply "GAME OVER. YOU LOSE."
"No," whispered the false Toymaker, in disbelief. Then louder "NO!" he screamed into the sky, as his robes lost their lustre, and grew ragged and his hat transformed into a brown felt cap. His face grew older, greyer, sagged more, with his lips thickening, and stubble growing on his chin. He grew shorter, stooping. There were holes in his shoes and the smell of liquor on his breath. The light in his eyes died.
"Don't hurt me, sir, don't hurt me," he whispered pathetically, in a cockney accent. "All I wanted was to be someone..." His voice trailed away to nothingness.
The Doctor rummaged around in a pocket before pulling out a five pound coin and passing it to the man who had been the Toymaker, who grinned, pocketed it, and shuffled away into shadows.
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor, hands in pockets.
He felt Grace's hand on his shoulder, and turned to face her. They
were once more in the grass clearing, the TARDIS back where it had been parked.
"Is it over?" asked Grace.
"For now, although I have a feeling that the Toymaker'll be back," smiled the Doctor. "Shall we go?"
"Wherever we want. I don't know if I've ever told you this, but out there are worlds where the sky is burning, where the sea is asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there is danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Grace, we've got--" The Doctor paused, a startled look on his face.
"What's the matter, Doctor?"
"Nothing, just a little twinge of deja vu."
And with a grin, he unlocked the TARDIS and led Grace inside.
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