part 8

Built by Jay "Portishead" McIntyre, Driven onto the Information Superhighway by Lith "Peter Gabriel" Skye Rael

    "We'll probably have to climb one of the trees--" the Doctor began, 
but was interrupted at that point by a lionness, roaring at them as it 
charged.  Maxx jumped in front of it, and it bowled him over.  His claws 
were keeping it's fangs at bay, barely.  Ace waded in with her Hand of 
Omega supercharged baseball bat, and whacked the lionness on the head.  
It slumped into unconsciousness.  Maxx pushed it off him.

    "I think that's enough excitment for one day," said Joel.

    "Quite right," said the Doctor.  "Up the tree, everyone."

    "This isn't Lothlorien," Joel said to the Doctor.  "Just because 
we're up a tree, doesn't mean we're safe."

    The Doctor gave him a queer smile.  "No safe places in this 
country," he said, in a good imitation of Gollum.  Joel cringed.  
"Besides," the Doctor went on in a normal voice, "We can't sleep on the 
ground at night."

    "But we should be wary," said Maxx.  "Leopards can climb trees, and 
there are some of them here, too."

     "Then I'll take the first watch, since I don't need as much sleep 
as the rest of you," the Doctor replied, and began climbing the nearest 

     Mike stared at the giant dollhouse before him.  He knew it was a 
dollhouse, cause of the cheesy Barbie-style construction.

     The Celestial Toymaker appeared beside him.  "Welcome to the house 
of dolls," he said.

     Mike jumped back from him.  "Who are you?"

     "You'll never know," the Toymaker replied.  "All you need know is 
that if one of the denizens of this house catches you, you will become 
like them."

     "And why should I go in then?" Mike demanded.

     The Toymaker smiled malevolently and gestured with one hand.  Mike 
heard a *thunk* behind him.  He turned, and saw that he was cut off from 
the Labyrinth by a bare brick wall.  The Toymaker laughed, and faded 
away.  Mike sighed and pushed open the door.

     The entry foyer was empty, as were the adjoining rooms.  Mike 
reasoned that a way out should be around back.  He stepped towards the 
back of the house, and froze.

     Standing by an empty plastic "pot" on the "oven", was Barbie.  She 
turned towards him, a plastic smile on her face, and charged.

     The Doctor idly swung his feet in a lower branch of the tree.  Ace 
and Joel slept deeply.  But Maxx stirred, and woke, and looked down at 
the Doctor.

     "Will you not sleep?" Maxx asked him.

     "Later," the Doctor answered, distantly.  Maxx noted that his eyes 
were grey again, and he seemed to be focused inward.

     "What do you brood on?" the Maxx asked him.

     "Something about that city we saw...reminds me of someone I faced 
long ago," he said, and said no more.

     Mike was running out of breath.  Barbie had been chasing him around 
the lower floor of the house for what had seemed to be hours.  In 
desparation he charged up the stairs, to the second floor.  He was much 
faster than Barbie, but she did not tire.  He barged through a door to a 
bedroom, and saw an action figure lying on a bed.  At his entrance it 
jerked upright and began to move towards him.  He ran back out, to be 
caught by Barbie.  She lifted him over her haid and began to bear him 
downstairs, where he presumed he would be turned into a doll.  That 
thought almost froze him in terror, but then he realized; she must've 
once been human, too.

     "Hey you," he said, feeling rediculous talking to a doll, "Barbie."

     Barbie kept moving forward, but her head crained upward, her 
painted face looking at him.

      "Shouldn't you be in your dream house with Ken, instead of here 
serving the guy in the 'Big Trouble in Little China' outfit?"

     Barbie hesistated, and her grip on him loosened.  He wriggled free, 
and ran up the stairs.  The action figure was waiting for him.  He 
jumped through it's legs, and charged into another bedroom.  In this 
one, a robot doll rested.  As it jerked up, Mike jumped desperately 
through the window.  It crashed, and he fell...and landed on his feet on 
a high wall.  He looked back, and saw the three action figures staring 
at him from the window.  The wall he was on ran around the house.  And 
below the wall was a long walkway, leading away from the rear of the 
house.  He nervously clambered down on it, but before he had gone far, 
the Toymaker faded in behind him.  

     "Well done!" he said with false cheer.  "Now you come to the next 
stage.  A popular video game, which you might recognize."  He faded, but 
in his place stood a ninja in yellow and black.  Mike whirled to face 
the other way, and saw a woman dressed in green blocking that direction.

     "Oh no," Mike whispered,  "Mortal Combat."