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Sleight of Hand (5/10)

Title: Sleight of Hand
Characters: Seven, Ace, Romana, Original
Word Count: 3419
Rating: PG
Summary: The Doctor, Ace and Jenna continue to search for the Key to Time
FollowsCuriouser and Curiouser
Notes: OK, this is yet another story version of a sim done by "Dr Who & Co". This follows "Curiouser and Curiouser". This one is a bit long, but you can blame the same folks : ) Enjoy!. This was first posted on FFN on 3/26/02

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four



Sleight of Hand


V

Romana knelt with her hands hovering over the wires, trying to decide which one to pull. On the opposite side of the console, Moriarty removed the panel over the demat circuits slowly, checking for wires. The last thing they needed was to set off another booby trap. "Any luck there?"

Romana counted down with the timer. "5....4...." She nodded silently and pulled out the grey one wire. She let her breath out slowly when the counter paused on three. "I've got it." A small hiss of gas was released from the canister, but nothing else happened. "Have you found anything else over there?"

"Another of the same, but there doesn't seem to be a booby trap." Moriarty attempted to defuse his own bomb. "What color wire?"

"If that's not a trialthonic bomb, I'd suggest pulling the grey. If it doesn't have grey and it's one of the standard Terran bombs, pull the blue."

"Grey? Here goes." He yanked the grey wire as he turned his head away. When there was no explosion, he peered back. The light panel was dead. "See? No problem."

Romana dug into the bomb she was still holding and pulled some more cords. The counter, still resting on the three, blanked out. "As the Doctor has stated before, 'piece of cake'. Now, are we sure we've gotten everything they've set for us?"

Suddenly, gas started to emit from the canisters. It was only the clock mechanisms they had shut off, not the power to the canisters. Moriarty pulled his jacket over his face. "Open the door!"

"You fool! I told you not to pull the grey if it was a Trialthonic!" she coughed as she staggered to the door control.

"You did the same thing! It's not just mine!"

Her fingers closed over the lever as she crumpled to the floor. Not seeing this, Moriarty thought she had run outside and did the same. Once in the open, he turned back to TARDIS, eyes tearing from the gas. "Romana!" he croaked, his throat raw from the gas. He took a step towards the TARDIS door and contemplated going in. He also thought on his respitory bypass. Would it even work? Vivien surely knew about it and acted accordingly. If she wanted them dead, the bypass wouldn't work on this gas. Part of him regretted leaving his TARDIS--and Romana-- behind, but there was nothing he could do now. Unless. . . He headed for the nearest sign of civilization knowing that's where the two witches went.

********************************************************************************************

Trav looked at a computer screen. "What version software do the type 40s use? Looks kind of.. I don't know.. early Bill Gatesian." She tapped the monitor screen. "Amanos. Shouldn't be too long till we get there."

The Doctor frowned at Trav and pushed her nosy fingers away. "My software is working quite proficiently, thank you. Not everything that's newer is better, Trav. I rather like the style of these early '40s. Compliments my persona."

Jenna turned to Ace. "Erratic, stubborn . . ."

Trav spun round abruptly. "Alan!"

Alan, standing right behind her, flinched at her loud call. "Uh, I'm right behind you, man."

"Yeah, you are. Cool. Now, could you tell me who I happened to leave the Princess with?"

"You left her at a castle with King Adam of Caravel. Man, I'll be glad when your feet are on the ground."

"Adam, yeah. I remember Adam. He played a mean game of table tennis."

The Doctor checked the navigation circuits when the TARDIS beeped. "Hmmm. Trav, are you certain you got those coordinates right?"

"Doctor, I told you, they're as sure as I am," she answered with a smile.

He furrowed his brows in thought. "Hmmm." He went back to the navigational flight path prediction circuits. "Ah, just one small adjustment." He punched in the coordinate adjustments just in time to avoid a temporal supernova.

"Oh. Must have forgotten to carry the 1."

The familiar wheeze and groan was heard. The console stopped with a soft- pitched landing beep.

"So, what's Amanos like?" asked Jenna. "Are we talking fairy tale castles or medieval castles?"

"Why don't we see?" said the Doctor as he activated the scanner.

"Well, it's sort of like the game Final Fantasy IV," said Trav. "Ever play it?"

"Remember, I'm from 1989. I've never even heard of it."

"Oh yeah!" She smiled. "Well, it's sort of a blend of technology, around 1930s, steam engines, geothermal power, the like."

"Ace! A castle. Are we going in there, Professor?"

"Yes, yes, a charming site," said the Doctor. "A little fresh clean air in a technologically understated world, just what the Doctor ordered."

Trav put a hand to her head. "Hey! I can think now! Isn't' that wonderful?"

"Princess Astra should be at home here. Nice choice, Trav."

Trav grinned. "Thanks, Theta."

"Now, let's see about finding our lost princess." The Doctor checked the external scanners. "Seems a bit nippy out there."

"Now, I need to .. Oh darn, I left my jacket in my TARDIS."

"Ace, see what you can find for Trav in the wardrobe."

"Ok, Professor." Ace entered the TARDIS corridors.

Trav called to Ace. "Make sure it's not too...frou-frou. Preferably denim!"

"What?" Ace yelled back.

"I detest frilly girly yech," Trav commented with a wrinkled nose.

Jenna looked down at the comfortable boots she raided from the Doctor's wardrobe. "Any tough terrain? Will this suffice?"

At least her personality is firming properly. Hardest part of regeneration for me, the Doctor said to himself. He heard Jenna's question. "Looks good Jenna. Could you fetch my boots for me, please?" Jenna went to the closet in the corner and burrowed for his boots.

Ace entered the wardrobe room and started to look through racks. She found a bomber jacket, grabbed it and headed back to the console room.

"Such a strange woman," commented Roderan looking at Trav. "Reminds me of my mother."

"From what I understand," said Jenna, returning from the closet, "sometimes a regeneration can be very, um, traumatic and unsettling. It's no wonder she's a little . . .off."

Ace returned and handed Trav the jacket. "Thank you. It's not denim, but I think It'll do for now." She donned the jacket.

"I think we'd better hurry out. No telling when we'll be spotted, if we haven't been already," said Alan.

"Nonsense. You don't think I'd have materialized in an obvious place, do you?" The Doctor opened the doors and walks out right into the middle of the castle courtyard.

"If this is the TARDIS I think it is, Theta, yes, I do." Trav followed him outside where people were gazing at the strange addition to the castle courtyard. The four companions followed.

Jenna nudged Ace. "Where is this? Sleeping Beauty's Castle?"

The sleeping guard shuddered awake at sudden movement. "Hey!" he pointed his spear at the Doctor. "Where'd you come from?"

"Oh, don't be alarmed my good man. Nice spear, could you possibly lower it?"

Trav looked at the guard. "Oh hey Garren!"

Garren looked at her. "How do you know me name?"

"You remember me, don't you? I brought that nice princess over for asylum."

Garren stared long and hard at Trav. Oh, you're the," he said as he twirled circles in air by his ear, "woman."

"Um, yes, well I still am at times, but not right now."

"Yeah, man. She's sort of gotten better since."

"What ye want now?" asked Garren tiredly.

"To see the princess. She's in grave danger," the Doctor stated.

Anxious, Roderan questioned, "Where is she? We need to see her right away.

"Look, can we go in or what?" Ace demanded of Garren.

"And I s'ppose you've come to protect her too? That princess is very popular."

"You mean someone else came for her?" asked Jenna.

"Huh? Who else has wished to see her?" demanded Trav.

Garren shrugged. "Some northern king's knights. Didn't like 'em much. All moody and threatening."

Jenna looked at Trav. "Who else would know she's here?"

The Doctor turned to his group. "I don't know, but I think we should retrieve the princess quick."

Trav looked to the others, shocked. "I don't want to even think about it." She turned to Garren. "Where is she?"

"Well, come on Bog Brain. Where is she?" demanded Ace.

"Wot do I look like, the town crier? Go ask the king."

The Doctor headed in the direction the guard pointed but not before topping his hat and saying, "Thank you."

"Yes, the king, good old Adam!" mused Trav. "Let's go!" She ran inside the castle without another word. The Doctor made a beeline after her, pausing only to smile and dodge the practicing sword fighters in between.

Jenna shrugged and followed, joined by Ace and Roderan. Alan was the last. "Geez, getting back to her old tricks again," he laughed.

The Doctor slowed down once inside castle. "Now, Ace, I want you to let me handle things, ok?" he told her in a hushed voice. "Communicating with royalty takes a certain knack."

Ace sighed. "Ok, Professor. Whatever you say."

In the corridors, Trav waved at passing matrons and guards, who seemed to know her from way back. She threw open the doors to the throne room and called, "Hey, Adam! You ol' Catfish! It's Trav again!" She looked around when she saw no one. "Oh. Where is he? I wasted a good line like that on someone who wasn't even here!"

The Doctor prepared to enter the throne room calmly and with dignity when he heard Trav. "Oh no, Trav." He rushed along with the others in tow only to see Trav in an empty room. "Good question. Where is the king?"

Jenna and Ace paused in the doorway, looking about the room in awe before entering. Seeing there would be no breach of protocol as the king wasn't there, Jenna entered. "This place is fabulous! Wish I had a camcorder."

"Just don't touch anything, Jenna," the Doctor warned.

She looked at the Doctor. "Wouldn't dare."

"It could cost us our heads." He studied an ornate statue mask. "Hmmm, not bad."

"Oh, Adams' a pretty nice king. He's not had anyone's head for as long as he's reigned."

Ace followed her. "Where's he got to?" she asked the Doctor.

"I thought you knew this king," said Roderan. "Or are you just going off kilter again?"

"No, I think Trav's memory is functioning quite well," said the Doctor. Though I wonder about her reasoning skills, he added to himself.

"Let's see, where else would Adam be?" Trav mused.

"A great hall is mostly used for formal occasions. Where would go to be by himself?" Jenna asked.

Ace walked up to the throne and sat down, rubbing her hands up and down the red velvet arms. "Hey, this is nice professor. I could get used to this!"

"Ace, be careful," said the Doctor, distantly absorbed in his own studies. He took a closer look at a fine jade porcelain statue. "Very nice work indeed."

Jenna bowed down in front of her. "Is there anything you require, majesty?"

Alan picked up a goblet and considered pocketing it. Trav saw this. "Alan," she said in a warning tone as she shook her head.

"What? I wasn't going to take it."

Ace heard a noise to the left of her and looked to a door as it burst open. King Adam entered and spoke in a booming voice. "What is this?"

Everyone reacted differently to the king's entrance. Roderan stood to attention and Alan hurriedly put down a goblet. Jenna stood abruptly and quickly went to stand by the Doctor who jumped in surprise at her arrival and almost knocked over the statue he was admiring. Ace jumped out of the throne. "Gordon Bennett!"

Trav, on the other hand, grinned at her old friend. "Hey, Adam! How's it going?"

Adam looked at Trav. "Do I know you?"

His cool response made Trav wonder why her old buddy Adam didn't acknowledge her existence.

The Doctor steadied the statue and looked at his wayward companion. "Ace!" he hissed, his eyes darting to beside him. She walked to his side. He then turned on charm. "Your Majesty, it's a pleasure to meet you at last. I'm the Doctor. This is my friend, Jenna--" she dropped a rather awkward curtsey "-and Ace. And over there is Roderan, an Atrosian technician."

Adam walked over to the throne and sat. "Hello. What is your business in coming here?"

"We've come to collect a friend of ours," answered the Doctor.

"Well, it's pretty simple, really," started Trav. "Remember that princess I brought over a few weeks ago? Or was it months ago? Anyway, I've come to take her back home now." She smiled.

"Princess Astra of Atrios. I believe she's staying with you for a time?" clarified the Doctor.

"Yes, but she is happy here," said Adam, looking at the Doctor. "Why do you wish to take her so soon?"

"She is, uh, needed elsewhere. I'm afraid we must cut her retreat short."

Trav still couldn't believe that Adam didn't remember. "Well, because you said, 'Come get her when you want her' or something like that. Memory's a bit vague from that time."

Alan rolled his eyes at this understatement. "She was on a bender when she came here, King Adam."

"I was not!" Trav was indignant.

Adam pointed at the Doctor. "Did you say your name was 'The Doctor'?"

"Oh, Lord, looks like your reputation has preceded you once again...and not for a good reason," remarked Jenna.

"Is there any reason it should be a problem?"

"Answer me, please. Yes or no?"

The Doctor spoke above the din, deflecting the subject from himself. "Princess Astra is still in your keeping, your majesty?"

"I don't' see why she wouldn't be," put in Trav.

Adam would not be swayed. "She is safe. Are you the Doctor?"

Still puzzled, Trav looked enquiringly at the king. "Um, Adam, are you feeling all right?"

She received no reply for at that same moment, the Doctor replied, "Yes, I am the Doctor."

Adam looked to the main door. "Guards!"

"The Princess has nothing to fear from us, your majesty," he said quickly.

Trav looked to the Doctor. "What did you do?"

The Doctor shrugged at his friends. "I don't know!"

"You've really done it this time, Professor," whispered Ace as the guards entered.

Jenna rolled her eyes and whispered, "Wonderful, another jail cell. You could start a tour, maybe a guide book."

The Doctor looked at her. "Enough of that Jenna. Positive thinking helps, not sarcasm." He then turned to Trav. "Are you certain this king is a friend of yours?"

Trav looked hard at Adam. He's not acting right. She heard the Doctor. "Something's not right here. Something's not right at all," she said softly.

"Take them to the tower," Adam told the guards. "I will speak with them there."

"See? I was positive we'd be going to a cell," Jenna smirked.

But your majesty, you must listen to me!" the Doctor protested at the guards grabbed him.

Adam stood. "That will be all." He left for the adjoining room. Once there he smirked. "That'll take care of them for a while."

The Doctor futilely resisted the guards and shouted. "The princess is in danger, your majesty! We don't have time for this!!!!"

"Nice one Doctor!" said Ace dryly.

"You're very observant, Trav, you know that?" commented Alan as they were both grabbed.

"I tell you... usually he's a really nice guy!" Trav declared as the guards dragged and pushed them all down the corridor to the tower stairs.

"Sure he is," said Roderan. "Nice enough to treat us like this."

"Whadda we do now?" questioned Ace.

"I'm thinking," grunted the Doctor as he was dragged backwards up the steps by two stout guards.

Alan murmured expletives at the guards.

"Alan, shush, that's beneath you," Trav told him.

"Trav, will you just get a grip and see what's happening?"

Jenna looked down one of the many other hallways they passed. "My God! It's him!"

"Huh? It's who?" asked Trav.

"Moriarty!"

"Moriarty?" Ace couldn't believe what she was hearing.

Jenna nodded down the hall. "Yes! He must be one of the others that guard was talking about."

"Think he can help us?" Trav asked her.

The Doctor twisted to see what was going on. "What?" He squinted and peered down the hall.

"Gordon Bennett. We really are in a jam, aren't we Professor?"

"Which is Scylla and which is Charybdis?" mused Jenna.

The prisoners were dragged up yet another spiraling staircase to the topmost forgotten part of the castle. One of the guards used an iron key to unlock a large wooden door that creaked when he opened it. They were all pushed into the large cell. They took particular satisfaction in shoving the Doctor forcefully dank room.

"Oooh!" He banged his head on iron chains and came up sneezing from the foul-smelling straw on the ground.

I've never been here," said Trav looking around. "I don't' think Adam ever used this area before. "Strange he'd start with one of his best friends."

A spider dropped onto Ace's shoulder and she flicked it off in disgust. "Listen Bilge Bag," she said to the guard closest to her. "I'm too young to go to the tower!"

The Doctor rubbed his head. "Ace, don't fight."

"Why not?" She kicked the guard behind her in the chest.

Not one to take anything lightly, the guard shoved her deeper into the cell where she fell on the floor beside the Doctor.

"Ace!" He turned to her with concern. "Are you alright, Ace?"

Ace coughed. "I'm OK, Professor. Don't know about the other guy." She stood and dusted herself off.

Jenna smiled and high-fived Ace. "Nice one"

Trav sat back against the wall and tried to think. "Ace, please that's going to get us nowhere." She pressed her fingers to her temples.

Jenna was too worried about Moriarty's presence to be angry at being locked up. "Whatever Moriarty is doing here, it doesn't bode well." She sneezed from the dust.

"Oh what else will go--" started Roderan.

"You say that and I'll kick your butt," declared Alan vehemently.

"Stop yer moaning, or his majesty will bring back the beheadings," laughed one of the guards. They slammed the door and locked it shut, and the inmates could hear their feet descend the spiral staircase.

Alan slid down the wall and sat on the grimy floor. "Now what?"

"Beheadings?" questioned Trav. "There's not been a beheading since ... well.. ever."

"Hmmm, because the king is so understanding and peace-loving? I wonder just how long it's been since you've been here, Trav."

Trav sighed. "To the best of my knowledge only 2 weeks. My TARDIS can be steered."

"Oooh, that's gotta hurt, Doctor," smiled Jenna. "I guess this would be a good time to reassess the situation."

"Oh wait, you did run into me in the vortex. I could have been knocked ahead a few months at least."

The Doctor looked at a man chained in a corner, perfectly still. He had extraordinarily long hair and wore a dusty but fine fabric robe.

Ace saw him too. "Professor?"

"I don't who he is, Ace." He walked over slowly.

The man looked up wearily and saw the Doctor. "Who are you?" he asked in a husky, rarely used voice.

Trav looked up at the sound of the husky voice, barely recognizable. "Wait."

The Doctor saw intelligence and gentleness in the man's eyes. "My good man, you wouldn't the king, would you?"

Trav crawled over to the huddled figure. "Adam?"

"Trav." Adam coughed. "What are you doing here?"

"I could ask the same of you, Bud," said Trav with a gentle smile. "But I think I already know. There's an imposter in our midst."

"Quickly, Ace. Do you have some water in that rucksack of yours? This man is dangerously dehydrated."

"Sure." Ace reached into her rucksack, pulled out a canister of water and handed it to the Doctor. "Here you are."

"If this is the real King Adam, who's downstairs?" asked Jenna.

"Good question Jenna," said the Doctor as he gave Adam a drink of water. "More importantly what has he done with the princess Astra?"

A real mean sunova--" Alan cut himself off. "Um, that's who's downstairs.

"You know who it is?" Jenna was stunned.

"The pieces surely are fitting together, Jenna." Trav was grim.

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