It had only been a few moments since he’d woken up, darkness all around him. The Doctor-shaped cell he was secured in was probably some sort of plastic, based on the way it stuck to his leather jacket, which meant one thing: Autons.
His memory was fuzzy, but the Doctor remembered being separated from Rose and Jack before being captured by the Nestene-controlled Autons. Everything had the hallmarks of a full-blown invasion by the Nestene Consciousness, and he had to stop it.
* * *
Light streamed into the Doctor’s eyes when he woke again, cascading through a thick plastic film about six inches from his nose. Looking around again, his temporary accommodation looked somewhat familiar. Tightly-wound manacles kept him in place, arms and legs prevented from moving.
It seemed he was imprisoned in some sort of industrial installation. A distant whirring of mechanics confirmed this, and before the light shut off again, he noticed a row of cells some distance ahead, facing him. Although the Doctor couldn’t make out who they were, he knew they were prisoners, like him.
“I’ve got to save them!”
Fortified into action, the Doctor pulled at his restraints. In doing so, he noticed that his cell was moving. It wasn’t much, but it was there. Could this be a way out? Keeping it up, he pulled and pushed more.
And then it rocked.
It wasn’t much, but it was something. The plastic cell was not indestructible, and the Doctor now had a chance to escape!
* * *
Was this it? A final reckoning with the Nestene Consciousness? There was enough time to improvise, but while he stayed tied up like this, it would be tough for the Doctor to get the edge he needed. If only he knew something more about their plan…
And there was something else. “Why do I keep blacking out?” He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being forced into mental submission – something shutting him down when he resisted. His thoughts turned to the Nestenes and the plastic surrounding him… “but they have no telepathic ability.” Nothing that could influence a Time Lord…
* * *
The giant warrior robot smashed his immense foot against the Doctor’s head, yet strangely there was no broken bone. Not that he had a chance to check, as he was then catapulted across the clearing, smashing into a sheer cliff face, and falling into a soft, psychedelic meadow. There was a cry from below, somewhere, and the robot stopped.
He knew he should be in pain, but for some reason the Doctor could pull himself up. He was tired and frustrated, the events of the past few days confusing him. Standing, he looked around, and noticed a pretty blonde girl looking at him. Her clothes — silver, shiny, and a bit space-aged — were unusual, but it was the first friendly face he’d seen for what seemed like days. He tried a joke.
“Hello. Have you parked your rocket nearby, I could do with getting away from here!” His best grin worked, and the girl approached. “I’m the Doctor by the way, what’s your name?”
“Dane. Space Leader Dane Remi of the Earth Space Empire, actually.” She offered her hand, which the Doctor noticed was somewhat… plastic. “What are you a doctor of?”
“One or two things. How long have you been here?” The Doctor looked around, suddenly confused about his surroundings.
“Oh, not much longer than you. Seems the first guests were pretty interested in you and Omega Rocket, so me and the space rangers stayed out of the way.” She gestured to her team, a group of five other space women behind her, then to the giant robot. “I’m told he’s a bit of a softy, really. But you know these transforming robots; they have a reputation.” That last word she emphasised with finger quotes, mostly it seemed for the benefit of her team, who sniggered.
“What do you mean, guests?”
“You don’t know? Hey, girls, he doesn’t know!”
“Wait, wait; WAIT!” It was there, niggling at the back of his head. The obvious. But it wouldn’t come. And why had he been blacking out?
“It’s a toy fair! We’re the toys!”
The Doctor could almost hear the scream of the vortex as the realisation dawned on him. He hadn’t been in a cell, he’d been in a toy box. Shrunk down to action figure size!
“I’ve got to get out of here, we’re all in terrible danger!” Running, the Doctor shimmied up a nearby post, onto the table top, and looked around. Toys, everywhere, and thousands of people, looking at the toys. Picking them up, dropping them. And there, far in the distance, a familiar blue box…
Could he escape?
* * *
When they’d learned that their investigation would take them to a Christmas toy fair, Jack had become even more excitable than usual. His expertise in the subject had already resulted in one unpleasant exchange with a vendor, and now he was telling Rose how overpriced the merchandise was.
“Look at that one. It’s missing the gamma blaster. No one pays $400 for a Gamma Man original in a sealed box without the gamma blaster.”
“I had no idea you could be so lame!” Rose pulled at Jack’s arm.
“Wish we’d brought Mickey?” the cheesy grin teased.
“Look at him, he’s really not enjoying this.” She nodded toward the Doctor, busy scanning the room for trouble. “There’s something wrong here.”
Frowning, Jack looked around. Sensing danger — something he was familiar with — he straightened up. “You’re right.” Jack checked his weapon and caught up to the Time Lord. Rose followed, looking around.
“Doctor?” Jack’s tone of voice told the Time Lord that he was expecting a situation update. But what was the situation? They were in a room full of toys at the Doctor’s behest, following a bizarre psychic experience. Were the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits faulty? Was the TARDIS infiltrated? Either way…
“It was here. Somewhere around here.” They faced a corner of the exhibition centre, with a flat blue wall and soft carpet. A table top creaked under weight of several dozen figures. Turning, the Doctor took in the rest of the centre… then quickly, turned back, kneeling at the table. “It’s here.”
And on the table, a 12-inch-tall figure of the Doctor looked back at him, trembling, its right hand grabbing the wrist of the left. Rose and Jack backed away as the other toys, including a bunch of space women, stood, and offered their hands, as if in greeting.
But there was nothing welcoming about all this. In unison, the left hand of each toy flipped down with a click to reveal a stubby, black gun.
Looking around, the Doctor understood. He faced his 1/6th scale doppelganger, who had finally realised what was happening. All the little Time Lord duplicate could do was plead with the Doctor, Rose and Jack: