Fandom: Doctor Who
Beta: The forever amazing starxd_sparrow and souleswanderer
Characters: The Tenth Doctor, Jack Harkness, Rose Tyler
Summary: "You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else." -Albert Einstein
A/N: This was written for the 2009 OT3 Ficathon. I'm writing for callme_al0
“So what’s next?” Rose asked, rocking on the balls of her feet with anticipation.
“What do you have in mind?” the Doctor asked, his hands poised over the controls of the TARDIS. “A sunset in Carseng? Fourteen suns surround that planet. Rather impressive, but sunscreen is a must. Wouldn’t want you to burn, after all. A show on Noldasna, perhaps? It’s been years since I’ve –"
“Doctor,” Jack interrupted, leaning against the console casually. “Why don’t you choose this time? You’ve let Rose and I pick the last six destinations.”
“Well, there was that mishap on Yaredhal,” Rose pointed out.
The Doctor crossed his arms over his chest. “Oi! It wasn’t my fault we landed five hundred years earlier than I intended! We sorted out their government, didn’t we?”
“All of that to say, you pick, Doctor,” Jack repeated, grinning at Rose when the Doctor continued muttering about tyrannical governments and political upheavals.
Rose moved around the console to stand next to Jack as the Doctor keyed in coordinates. “You do realize we’ll be running for our lives in less than an hour.”
Jack wrapped his arm around her shoulders, holding on to the console with one hand as the TARDIS traveled through the Vortex. “So does that mean you’re complaining?” he asked with a wink.
Rose grinned as the TARDIS rematerialized. “Never.”
The Doctor pulled on his coat and walked to the door, pushing it open and ambling outside as his companions followed.
Rose shielded her eyes with one hand as the afternoon suns bathed the marketplace with warmth. People were laughing and talking, some browsing the variety of fruits and vegetables available from the street vendors. A large, furry six legged creature with four eyes and two tails ran towards Jack and as he reached under his coat, he felt the Doctor’s hand on his arm. The animal skipped to a halt and spat what could only be described as a tree limb at Jack’s feet, its legs stretched out and its hind end sticking in the air, two tails waving erratically. A golden collar with a shiny charm was stretched around its neck.
“A walfi,” the Doctor commented happily, scratching the animal behind the ear causing the three legs on the left side to start hitting the ground with enough force to shake the surrounding soil. “You’re supposed to throw the stick,” he added, glancing up at Jack.
“That’s not a stick. It’s half a tree.” Despite his complaints, Jack grabbed the limb, spun twice, and tossed it as best he could. The walfi barked with delight and scampered off, tripping over its legs several times in the process.
“So where are we?” Rose asked.
“Ineokajith,” the Doctor replied, grinning as Rose attempted to pronounce the planet’s name several times.
“You do this on purpose,” she said, bumping him with her shoulder. “We never go to Mars or someplace named Bob.”
“You’d freeze to death if we went to Bob. Not to mention the fact that the air isn’t breathable,” the Doctor explained, oblivious to Rose’s glare.
“Ineokajith,” Jack repeated. “I’ve heard of this place.”
“It’s known for its hospitality, good drinks, and nightlife. I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of it.”
Jack rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “No, it’s something else.”
A bell chimed in the distance and people started running. Due to the wide smiles and cheers, it was easy to ascertain they weren’t running for their lives, but rather running towards something.
They tried asking several people what was going on, and eventually the Doctor grabbed a man who was jogging past. The man jerked out of the Doctor’s grip, dusting himself off and glaring. “Sorry to stop you, but could you tell me where everyone’s going in such a rush?”
“What rock have you been living under? The games are today!”
“Right, yes, the games,” the Doctor continued. “What games might those be?”
“If you’d stop yammering, you could go see for yourself!”
Out of habit, the Doctor grabbed Rose and Jack’s hands and started following the fast moving crowd. They skidded to a halt at an outdoor stadium; wooden angled benches surrounded the oval ring marked by rope. People were quickly taking seats. It seemed as though people were fighting for the seats in the middle rather than opting for the ones at the ends of the rows.
“Do you know what kinds of games they play?” Rose asked.
The Doctor shrugged. “No idea.” A man walked out of a tent located at the back of the ring and started towards the center of the grass covered oval. “But I have a feeling we’re about to find out.”
The man stretched out his arms and in a booming voice said, “Today marks the fifth year of Markel’s sovereign rule and with this cherished day comes the opening games!” The crowed erupted in cheers.
“The games are designed to test the three areas of character that we all hold most dear – strength, intelligence, and compassion. Contestants will be challenged and many will not succeed,” the man continued. “As you know, the rules vary depending on the contest.” With a decisive nod, the man said, “For the glory of our king Markel and for all people of Ineokajith.”
“I wonder what happens when you don’t succeed,” the Doctor commented, his gaze traveling over the crowds.
“Not everything has to end in death and destruction, you know,” Jack replied after a woman handed him a mug of ale off a large serving platter. He told her he didn’t have any money, but she said money wasn’t required during the games by order of the king. “My kind of planet,” he murmured over the rim of his glass.
The Doctor took a mug off the platter, using the brief interaction to get the woman’s attention. “So where are the contestants?”
“Have you never been to the games before?” she asked, giving him the same ‘what rock did you just crawl out from’ look the man from the market had given him.
He handed the mug to Rose before sliding his hands into his pockets. “Nope, first time.” He rocked on his heels before adding, “Not from around here.”
“Oh, you’re travelers.”
“That’s a good way to describe us,” Rose said.
“The king normally decides who participates in the games,” she explained. “His method of selection tends to change every year.”
“The king,” the Doctor repeated. “Well, that makes sense.”
“If I might offer a suggestion – find yourselves a seat. It’s safer that way,” she said quietly before carrying her tray towards the crowds of people waving their hands and asking for drinks.
“Safer?” Jack asked after emptying his mug and setting it aside.
While they were chatting with the woman, they neglected to notice the walfi with the golden collar bounding towards them. It spat the same branch at Jack’s feet and retreated several steps, barking loudly and wagging its tails.
“You again?” Jack said, picking up the stick and lobbing it away from the crowd.
“Our first contestant has accepted the challenge!” the announcer yelled to the delight of the audience.
“Oh, great! This should be fun!” Rose said, clapping her hands together. “Why is everyone staring at us?”
“Well, come along, sir,” the man at the center of the ring called, his arm outstretched towards Jack. “You’ve been chosen by Ambrollo, the king’s walfi! You mustn’t keep your people waiting.”
“Um…Jack, I believe they’re waiting on you,” the Doctor said.
Rose grabbed Jack’s arm as he started towards the ring. “We could make a run for the TARDIS.”
The roar of the crowd grew louder as people stood and tried to catch a glimpse of their first contestant.
“You said it yourself – this should be fun! After all, I wouldn’t want to keep my fans waiting.” He gave her a reassuring wink, peeled off his coat, and started for the ring, the crowd nearly beside themselves as Jack waved and bowed dramatically.
“Ambrollo has chosen a fine first contestant!” the announcer said, and if the cheers from the crowd were any indication, they agreed wholeheartedly. The announcer handed Jack a rudimentary spear and started walking towards a fence that separated the ring from the spectators.
“Wait – what’s this for?” Jack called. “Some instructions would be nice!”
“Doctor, we’ve got to do something,” Rose said, clutching the Time Lord’s arm.
Before the Doctor got a chance to respond, iron doors that were shielded by grass were opened and the sound of hissing filled the arena.
“Jack,” the Doctor shouted, but was unable to get his attention. The pit was towards the right of the ring, and the creature that emerged was nearly indescribable. It looked like a huge snake with twelve legs, massive fangs, and a long forked tongue. “Run, you fool!” the Doctor growled.
The crowd froze as they waited for the creature to strike. It slithered towards Jack, three sets of eyes blinking rapidly as it eyed its prey. A woman in the audience shrieked as it neared Jack, and the creature turned abruptly. The small fence offered little protection to the throngs of vulnerable people.
“Hey!” Jack yelled, waving his arms wildly. “Come back here! You’re supposed to be trying to eat me!” When the snake-like animal didn’t turn, Jack grabbed its tail and held on as he was bodily lifted into the air. The animal hissed its displeasure and shook several times before finally managing to dislodge Jack and send him flying across the arena. It seemed to work, though, because the creature turned and started ambling towards Jack, its mouth hanging open revealing razor sharp teeth.
Jack forced himself up using one arm; his other hand was pressed to a gash on his forehead. He blinked several times in attempt to clear his blurred vision.
“Jack, behind you!” Rose screamed. The animal was only a couple of meters from Jack who was struggling to regain his footing.
The Doctor’s hand slipped into his pocket, his hand resting on this sonic screwdriver. The sound was inaudible to humans, but the creature reared back and opened its mouth, a shrill scream echoing around the arena. It turned in a flash and started toward the Doctor and Rose.
The audience screamed in horror and started falling over themselves to get out of the way. The Doctor remained perfectly still, his hand holding the sonic screwdriver in attempt to get the animal as far away from Jack as possible.
“You do have a plan, right?” Rose asked through clenched teeth.
“Nope,” the Doctor replied. “I’m hoping Jack is making a run for it.”
The creature hissed, its mouth falling open as it spun around with lightning fast reflexes and attempted to grab Jack who had just kicked its tail. He managed to dive out of the way and roll to his feet.
“So much for that plan,” Rose muttered.
Jack evaded several attacks from the beast, rolling and twisting away mere nanoseconds before its mouth snapped shut. He backed himself into a corner, waving with one hand and holding the spear with the other. No one knew when he’d managed to pick the weapon up again.
The Doctor pressed the sonic screwdriver again trying to draw the creature away from Jack. Unfortunately, Jack proved to be tantalizing prey and with all the racket and jumping around he was doing, the creature continued to stalk him.
The beast flew forward, its attack almost too fast to see, and Jack dove away, his shoulder taking the brunt of the impact as he rolled across the ground and somehow managed to rise to his feet again. The animal lay in the mangled grass, its head had slammed against the wooden wall and green blood trickled down the side of its face.
People surged to their feet, applauding and cheering as Jack approached the wounded animal with the spear loosely hanging from one hand. Screams to kill it, destroy it echoed from the audience.
Jack looked down at the creature and raised the spear above his head. Everyone froze as they waited for their challenger to claim his victory. The spear angled down and viciously pierced the ground. “I won’t kill it,” Jack muttered, turning on his heel and stalking across the ring.
The announcer approached Jack cautiously. “You must finish the challenge,” he instructed.
“No,” Jack barked. “If this is how the game is played, then I refuse to finish.”
The man nodded and reached for Jack’s arm. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your champion!”
“Wait – what?” Jack asked, looking towards the audience, his gaze falling on the wide-eyed faces of the Doctor and Rose.
“This man has shown great compassion! He has finished the challenge!”
The crowd yelled and applauded as people tossed flowers and shiny stones into the ring.
The woman who they’d spoke with before approached the Doctor. “Your friend is amazing,” she said with apparent awe.
“Oh yes, he is,” the Doctor agreed.
“He’s incredible,” Rose said as she waved to Jack.
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck. “So what happens now?”
The woman shrugged. “Not sure, no one’s ever won before.”