Chapter 16

The lights were dim on the circular deck of the ship's bridge. The one exception being the middle of the floor, about one and a half meters behind the captain's chair. There, twin ceiling lights shown down brightly on two shiny steel straight back chairs. Both had been bolted to the floor by the ship's Gop technicians. From the backs of the chairs hung multicoloured wires. One end of the wires were plugged into special ports in the flooring, while the other end of each wire had a clamp of some sort attached to it.

A few moments later the doors to the command deck slid smoothly open, as the Doctor was led in by his guards. They themselves were flanked by the captain and his number one. Following behind them, his features carrying an arrogant, haughty air, strode the Aegis in his flowing, spotless garments.

Marching him over to the two chairs, one of the guards silently gestured with his head that the Doctor was to sit down.

"Are we playing charades before the match?" The Doctor asked, a delighted smile alighting on his face. "Brilliant! Hmmm—a head twitch...could be anything. Let's it a book or a film title?" He pondered. Giving his guard a cheerful wink he added, "Gotta' be something easy, I reckon. You wouldn't want to strain yourself, you know, thinking too hard...unless you're having some kind of nerve spasm and haven't given me my clue yet? That would be a bit of party faux pas, wouldn't it?

"Sit down!" The guard snarled, roughly forcing the Doctor into the chair.

"Alright, alright! Don't get your briefs in a twist—unless you're going commando today? Then I'm afraid you'll have to merely imagine getting your underpants twisted. If you have any imagination, I mean."

"Keep still. This is no game, Doctor." The guard commanded.

"Well, if that's going to be your attitude, I wouldn't go expecting an invitation to my next TARDIS birthday bash." The Doctor sniffed, folding his arms petulantly. "I'm blacklisting you. You're no fun at all. It'd be like inviting Mary Whitehouse. She tried to put a stop to the last party I had. Said hitting the pinata was encouraging the children to commit acts of violence. Worst. Party. Guest. Ever!"

Giving the Doctor a haughty, superior look, the Aegis calmly sat down across from the Doctor.

"Did you know if you keep your face like that it will give you high blood pressure?" The Doctor said conversationally. "Not to mention making you look like a complete a—"

"As you already know Doctor, you've requested a trial by cerebral pugilism." The captain spoke formally, as he came up to the pair of them. He began reading from an flat data pad he held in front of him. "Let it be recorded that the Time Lord known only as the Doctor will now enter into a bout of cerebral pugilism with Aegis Grenwold, Great Lord of the Dark Realms, Associate Controller of The MMC, Producer of 'They're Only Human', and sole owner of the ten outer planets of Exitar, as well as this ship and all her crew."

"Do you have to call him that all the time?" The Doctor said, raising an eyebrow at the captain. "Blimey! No wonder he's so smug. It's a wonder anything ever gets done when he's around."

The Doctor looked at the Aegis, "Pardon me Aegis Grenwold-Great Lord of the Dark Realms-associate controller of the MMC-producer of 'They're Only Human'-and sole owner of the ten outer planets of Exitar-this-ship -and-all-her-crew, but is this going to take very long? Not that I don't want to come out and play with you. Only, I have my friend Donna to rescue, you see. I'm afraid she gets rather tetchy about being forcibly detained. I'd never hear the end of it! And quite frankly, I'm running out of aspirin."

"I warn you again, Doctor. Do not mock the Aegis." Commander Pruda scowled. He was standing behind the captain, almost eagerly watching as the Doctor was being prepared for the trial. "One more outburst like that, I will make you sorry that you ever came abroad this ship."

Two Gop technicians had already proceeded to place a silver circlet, much like a crown, upon each of the two men's heads. The object was studded with small gold diamond-shaped plates. These had a copper stud projecting from the middle. One by one, the technicians clamped wires to each of the studs. The Doctor's wires were blue, the Aegis' were red. These were passed through the back of each chair, and then plugged into the ports in the floor.

"You call that a threat?" The Doctor smirked at Pruda, "I'm already sitting in the naughty chair. What more can you do? Slap me on the wrist? And believe me commander, I've been threatened by the best: Daleks, Sontarns the Great Carnivorous're no more scary to me than a grandmother sitting by the fire, knitting socks. Do you knit, by any chance? No? A bit of off-duty crocheting, perhaps?"

"Let's not wait for a trial, captain." Pruda hissed, drawing his gun out of its holster, "Let's just forgo the formalities and kill him right now."

"Silence, both of you!" The Captain ordered. He read again from his data pad: "The rules of this match are as follows: As he is not the one on trial today, the Aegis gets to choose the terms of the match. The Aegis has chosen multi-binary transcendental maths."

Glancing up from his reading, the captain gave a formal bow to the Aegis. "I have decided that as he is not on trial here, The Aegis will be granted the opportunity to begin the first round. Do you acquiesce to this, my Lord Aegis?

The Aegis gave a barely perceptible nod of acknowledgement. With a dismissive wave of his hand, he said, "I do so. You may proceed, captain."

The Doctor's face showed his surprise at the Aegis' choice. A slight smile traced his lips. Brilliant! Transcendental maths was his favourite subject in school. It was almost too good to be true.

It was that thought which abruptly gave him pause. Somberly, the Doctor reminded himself of the old human adage that if something seemed too good to be true, there was at least an eighty-seven percent likelihood that it probably was. There had to be some sort of a trap. But what could it be?

Resuming the formalities, the captain continued reading, "Taking turns, one contestant will think of a mathematical formula. The other must either match or excel what his opponent has devised, and then come up with a brand new formula. If he does not succeed, he dies. The winner is determined by whomever lives through to the final round. Should the prisoner win, he shall be considered innocent of all charges and thereby will be free to go. The match will be monitored by myself via the bridge view screen. I shall be acting as judge. Should I determine that one of you has gone too far beyond the rules, it is an automatic death sentence. Which I will personally order to be carried out immediately."

The captain looked up from his data pad. "I have read you the rules as they stand, and now verify for the record that they are in accordance with the procedures laid down by The Shadow Proclamation. Have you both understood these rules as I have read them to you?"

Steeling himself for what lay ahead, the Doctor merely nodded. The Aegis too, also silently nodded his agreement.

"Then you may begin, Aegis Grenwold."

On the view screen a complex mathematical equation appeared. The Doctor easily countered it with a new, even more complex equation of his own. As minutes passed, the maths formulas appearing on the view screen gradually evolved into a constantly swirling mass of byzantine symbols, the like of which the captain and his crew had ever seen before. In his chair, the Doctor's face grew more and more pale. He had squeezed his eyes shut, enmeshed in pure concentration.

As the equations became more difficult for even the Doctor's advanced mathematical skills, he felt the life slowly draining from him. He was gasping now, his hearts beating rapidly. Under his suit jacket, the Doctor's shirt became soaked with sweat. It was the machine. It sapped the opponent's life force and gave that person's strength to the other challenger. The siphoning off of his life and mental force got stronger for every pause between the Doctor's answers. The longer the pause the weaker he would become, until he finally died.

Then out of nowhere, it came. A formula so convoluted and sophisticated, so completely out of even his wide realm of experience, that the Doctor's mind was almost driven to a standstill. He was flummoxed by the realization that the mathematical knowledge of the Aegis was far more advanced than his own. For the first time since the match began, he had no clue as to what the answer could be, nor how he could possibly come up with something better. That's when the Doctor knew. He was going to die.

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