Chapter X: Pick a Card, Any Card...

"Hold it. So you're telling me that a funny world in a children's book is this place?"

"Quite so, Ace."

"Professor, that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard."

"I'm serious."

"B-But Wonderland only exists in fairy-tales! Stories for children," Ace insisted, running up in front of the Doctor. The three of them, including Cheshire, had been walking through the woods—side by side—for some time now.

The Doctor sighed.

"Ah, humans: always ignoring the facts that are staring them right in the face. Does this seem like an illusion to you, a world of fantasy and fairy tales?"

A hard question to answer considering that in the blink of an eye, Ace had been taken from twentieth century Earth to a strange alien colony where she would meet this strange little man covered with question marks who traveled inside an old police box that was bigger on the inside and could travel throughout the whole of human history. However, she knew these fantastic realms were no illusion. She knew that wherever (and whenever) she was, it had to be the real.

"No," Ace finally answered, begrudgingly.

"Then it must be real! For heaven's sake, this isn't rocket science, let alone quantum mechanics..."

"All right," Ace muttered. "If you say so..."

The Doctor sighed irritably, and continued on, eyes determined and stony. Ace watched him carefully for a moment; she had been with the Doctor long enough to know that whenever he deviated from that persona of the "whimsical adventurer," something was wrong.

She turned to Cheshire, who had been silent this whole time, walking with his hands folded behind his back.

"So, if this is Wonderland, then you're the Cheshire Cat, right?"

All three stopped walking as the cat-man grinned and saluted Ace, standing straight as a scratching post.

"The Grand Chz'zhr of Katoseuss; former president of the Nine Lives Alliance," he purred, smoothly, smirking. "But everyone here calls me Cheshire. At your service."

"Right," Ace said flatly, raising an eyebrow, and turned back to the Doctor. "Professor, how do you know him?"

"Well, before he was ultimately brought to the Madhouse, I once helped Chz'zhr and his people in defeating the Hellish Hound of Hades, who planned to invade Katoseuss, and enslave the local population."

"Even amongst the Galactic Federation, mongrel mutts and us felines seldom get along!" exclaimed Cheshire.

The Doctor smiled slightly, eyes turned heavenward, recollecting this particular adventure, "Thankfully the Cerberic forces were diverted by the Sacred Orb of the First Life's Leisure. And ever since then, we've been the best of friends," finished the Doctor with a short nod, looking at Cheshire, who nodded back.

"Funny...you never mentioned him," Ace retorted.

"Didn't I? I could have sworn I mentioned Nine Lives Alliance. Yes, it must have been after I told you about my encounter with the Terrible Zodin? Surely!"

"Zodin?" asked Ace, puzzled.

"...Oh, well, I suppose it is rather difficult to relay over seven-hundred years of time travel when you're mostly dodging arrows, death rays, and the odd strawberry fondant surprise. You can hardly get a word in edgewise," the Doctor noted. "Now…"

The walk went on.

"Okay. So, we're in Wonderland. How? Why? What now?"

No answer.

"...Professor!"

"Ace, not now!" the Doctor snapped, holding up a hand. "I'm trying to think."

"You mean you don't know?"

"Well, I believe I have an idea-"

"Is it a good one?" Cheshire broke in, smiling.

Ace glared at him quickly, then turned back to the Doctor.

"Not at the present. No. But it seems to be our only option."

"And what would that be?" interceded the young companion. "And for that matter, how come people on Earth know about this place? How did Lewis Carroll know? He lived centuries before there was space travel, and I'm guessing this place is a bit farther than the Moon."

"It is, and it isn't."

"What?"

"One thing at a time, Ace. I swear, I will explain later," the Doctor said, quickly. He continued to walk, using his umbrella like a cane. "For now, all you need to know is this: we are here, in the Madhouse, and it is one of the most deadly places in the whole of time and space. And now it may be even more deadly, if the time lock is broken..."

"Madhouse, time lock...what does all that MEAN? Professor, I-"

"Never mind, never mind! Right now, it is imperative we find our way to Card Castle. I, for one, would like to know just how we got here and, more importantly, how we can get out."

Ace sighed.

"Fine..."

Cheshire chuckled.

"Not one for explaining things, is he?" the cat-man purred.

"You have no idea."

"I think I do, madam. I think I do."

Just then, the Doctor stopped, staring straight ahead.

"Oh, dear," he whispered.

"Professor? What is it, what's-"

Ace froze.

Out of nowhere, a circle of tall, lithe, silvery, faceless figures had appeared. Each of them were marked with images of playing card signs. Their heads—battered with loose wires protruding from their skulls—occasionally twitched. However, they were otherwise motionless, like an army standing to attention. They awaited orders, and the Doctor the arrival of such a command. The Doctor recognized these figures from a past life, and knew just what they were capable of.

"Robots," Ace inquired, reaching for her bat should the need arise.

"Not just rrrobots...Rrraston Sentries," the Doctor whispered back. "They act as guardians of the Madhouse, but it appears they've been tampered with. Look at that circuitry, inside their crrranial cavities. I had a terrible run-in with one back in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, but this is far worse..."

"How worse?"

"They're faster than lightning...practically undetectable, till it's already too late," the Doctor said grimly.

"So we didn't see them coming."

"Precisely. And, now," he added, noting the Rastons' paint jobs, "They appear to be in the wrong hands..."

One of the Rastons suddenly flicked its wrist, and a long, sharp blade snapped out of its sleeve into its hand.

All the others followed suit.

"Well, what do we do now?!" Ace hissed.

The Doctor did not answer, but held up his umbrella like a sword, as if to fend off the inevitable...and in that moment, Ace found the answer to her own question.

Now, we pray.

Holy Blackjack!

How will the Doctor and Ace get out of this one?

Will they be bedeviled, bedraggled, and BEHEADED?

More importantly, will the Doctor finally start having an actual role in the story that bears his name, instead of following the path of Colin Baker in "Revelation of the Daleks" (or David Tennant in "Love and Monsters," and "Blink," for that matter)?

The answers to these questions and more in the next part of "Dr. Who: Descent Into Madness!"

Same Hat-Time, Same Hat-Channel!

VS: I love this Hat-exit, but we are SO NOT keeping it!

Me: Ooh, pretty please? (puppy eyes)

VS: Your puppy eyes shall avail you not! The Great and Powerful Van Skittles forbids it, lest you wish me to include a magical Unicorn in Part Two!

Me: I would say, "you wouldn't dare," but then I'd be forgetting who I am talking to.

VS: Heh heh...yes. Ohh, I love it when I'm nasty!

Me: ...You know how high I hold you, my bizarre Brony-Whovian friend, but your impression of Vincent Price is just awful!

VS: How about Gilbert Gottfried reading Edgar Allen Poe?

Me: Please, don't.

VS: ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY, AS I PONDERED WEAK AND WEARY...!

Me: HA! Okay, I'll confess, that was good! Though it is very likely Edgar Allan Poe is rolling eight times in his grave right now...

VS: Most likely. But, personally, I wouldn't take it to tell-tale heart!

Me: [Slaps Van Skittles over the head] Leave the puns to me.

VS: I know, I know...the Great and Powerful Van Skittles will be here all week! See you all next time for part two of Doctor Who: Descent Into Madness! Now with more Unicorns!

Me: I'M the one publishing this story, you know. No Unicorns for you and your Brony cult!

VS: Very well. Unicorns are SOOO overrated, anyway! It's all about Alicorns now (am I right, Bronies?)! Yousee,they'relikeaPegasusandaUnicornrolledintoone ,andrecentlywhentheleadcharacterof "FriendshipisMagic," TwilightSparkle,wasturnedintoanAlicornprincess,Iwa sallexcitedand-

Me: "SILENCE! I KEEL YOU!" GOONS, END TRANSMISSION!

VS: (whisper) Pinkie Pie...

Me: SHUT IT, YOU NUTCASE!