The Doctor awoke to the sound of people hustling and bustling. She opened her eyes and saw dazzling lights.
A dark-skinned woman grabbed her hand and whispered to her, "Come on. We don't want to make them angry." She saw what appeared to be the set of a game show, with various people standing in a circle around an odd creature. They all seemed oddly mortified, as if they were playing for their lives as opposed to for a sum of cash. They were each standing at individual, metal podiums with their names written on the front. One, in the middle, was signed, "The Doctor." She gulped, and walked up to her designated podium.
There were six people in a semi-circle around her. Directly in front of her sat a strange creature. It had the head of a woman, the body of a lion and large, feathery, angelic wings. In the middle of her neck sat a beautiful necklace with a large, cerulean jewel in the center.
"A sphinx," her brain supplied, but her brain was too hazy to remember where the creature was from. She still didn't remember how she had ended up here, either. She felt groggy and disoriented.
"Welcome to Extreme Trivia," the sphinx said in an altogether too perky voice, more like Dolores Umbridge than a traditional game show host, "you know the rules. Three strikes and you're out. The last one standing is the winner. Everyone ready to trivia!" Beside her, the woman's breath hitched. On her opposite side, a woman's eyes widened like a bug. The Doctor suspected that they were playing for more than just cash prizes. They were playing for their lives. That only left three questions. Where was she? How did she get there? And most importantly, where was Piper?
Piper awoke to warm air billowing through her chocolate brown hair, and the sound of a hair drier. She opened her eyes, and saw a robot standing above her. Piper let out a scream of fright and confusion. She was lying on what seemed like a chair at the dentist's office, but there were restraints holding both her arms and legs to the chair. She attempted to flail about, but made no progress.
"What the fuck is going on!" she shouted.
"Quiet," the robot said, in a voice that displayed no emotions, "I am giving you a make-over." Piper would have been less confused, and maybe even less mortified had she been told the robot was going to kill her. Or dissect her, or even experiment on her. This made no sense. She couldn't even remember how she had gotten here. Everything before she had awoken up was a blur.
"Why," she asked, trying to get her bearings, "why are you giving me a make-over? What's going on?" The robot seemed vaguely humanoid. A bit wider than an average human, silver, and bald, but human shaped. It had red lights where a person's eyes normally are and they gave Piper the subconscious desire to exorcise it.
"You are a contestant on The Earth's Next Top Model," the robot said. Piper almost wanted to laugh. That's what she was being picked at and plucked for? A reality television show?
"What happens if I try to leave," she asked cautiously.
Then the robot replied, "I will kill you." Piper's breath hitched. So this was it, she would be forced to compete in a modeling competition to the death. This was so surreal, and exactly what she should have expected after she started traveling with the Doctor. And then it hit her. Where was her Doctor?
"Amanda," to the the woman on the end, the one that had taken the Doctor's hand, the sphinx said in that same poisoned apple tone of voice, "This is your first question. When did the American Revolutionary War start?" Four options flashed onto a large screen behind the sphinx: 1779, 1801, 1668, 1775." The woman looked like a deer in the head lights, her warm, chocolate brown eyes widening.
"1779," she stuttered, her rich voice devoid of confidence.
"I'm sorry," the sphinx replied, a look, a total caricature of sympathy set in on her harsh features, "that is incorrect. The correct answer was 1775. You have two more strikes." Her shoulders slumped.
"Adelaide," the sphinx said to the curly haired ginger woman beside Amanda, "You're next. Your question is: what was the band Consigned to Darkness's best-selling single?"
"Fantastical realities," she said, a wild look in her ice blue eyes. She hadn't even allowed the options to pop up on the board.
"That is correct, Adelaide," the sphinx replied, "congratulations." The Doctor looked to the man beside her. He was tall, with tanned skin, a slightly hooked nose and curly, black hair. He was also next in the line-up.
"Elijah," the sphinx said, turning her head to face him, "your question is: which of these classic novels was later made into a musical?" The options flashed on the screen: Jane Eyre, The Fault in Our Stars, The Odyssey, and Les Miserablés.
"That miserable one," he said desperately, "Less Miserables?"
"That is correct," she said, "though your pronunciation is abysmal, Elijah." He breathed a sigh of relief, and the sphinx turned her attentions to the Doctor.
"The Doctor," she asked, "which equation is has been compared to a Shakespearean sonnet?" The options quickly flashed across the board: Euler's Identity, Gelfond's Constant, and two others that the Doctor didn't care to read. She immediately answered, "Euler's identity."
"That is correct," the sphinx responded. The Doctor tried to focus. Obviously, someone wanted her here. She wondered if she should answer the questions incorrectly just to see what would happen. As she tossed the idea around, the next two people answered their questions incorrectly. Despite the fact that she really should answer her questions wrong, she couldn't give up her pride and just do it.
The next time that the sphinx asked her, "Which famous fantasy series introduced readers to Hogwarts?" She answered Harry Potter because she couldn't force herself to answer wrong.
Piper was dressed in a lovely lavender dress that contrasted nicely with her tanned skin, chocolate brown hair, and varicolored eyes. She itched lightly at her foot, which was covered in tall, silver heels. She looked gorgeous and was absolutely miserable and terrified. She strutted down the catwalk, into the bedazzling lights. She nearly tripped over her feet in her sky-high heels on her way to the other contestants. There were about eight of them, all with different skin tones and hair colors and dresses. A woman in a black pantsuit and a dazzling smile walked towards them and looked to the cameras.
"Hello people of Earth," her chocolaty voice said, "and welcome to this week's episode of The Earth's Next Top Model. Today, one of these lucky girls will be going home a winner. The others won't be going home at all. They will compete in a serious of events in order to determine who is," her voice took on a greater resonance, "The Earth's Next Top Model!" Piper felt her stomach drop because this really could be it. The Doctor was nowhere to be found, and if she wanted to live, she would have to defeat these nine gorgeous girls in a beauty pageant. Piper felt embarrassed that her life depended on a beauty contest: something so vain, so shallow, so like the girls that used to bully her. But if this was the only way she was going to live, Piper would do her best. She would be the most pageant ready of any of them, and then the Doctor would put an end to whatever insanity was going on in this studio. Piper put on a fake, glistening smile for the camera and told herself, "I can do this."
"Doctor," the sphinx said, "what is the wing speed velocity of an unladen European swallow?"
"Forty-three beats a second," the Doctor quipped.
"That is correct," the sphinx said in her high-pitched, candy-coated voice, "Amanda." The black haired woman turned her brown eyes to face her questioner.
"What is the name of the fourth moon of Apollo?" she asked. The screen displayed the answer choices: Daphne, Chrysothemis, Hyacinth, and Themisto."
"Daphne?" the woman said, though it was more a question than an answer.
"I'm sorry," she said, "that is incorrect. The correct answer was Hyacinth. You now have three strikes, Amanda. It is time for termination." The woman's chocolate eyes widened in terror and the jewel on the sphinx's breast lit up like a torch. The Doctor was certain that if she let the energy leave the necklace then it would kill Amanda. The Doctor drew her sonic screwdriver and stepped between the sphinx and the girl.
"Let her be," said the Doctor, "or I'll use this." She hoped that the sphinx wasn't aware that it was just a screwdriver.
"Get out of the way, Doctor," said the sphinx.
"I don't think that I will," she said, "now I suggest you let these people go if you'd like to leave this place with your life."
"Are you threatening me, Doctor?" she asked with a patronizing smile on her face. The Doctor glared and let that answer the question.
"How cute," she said, "threatening me with a screwdriver." The Doctor unleashed a bolt of sonic from her screwdriver and it went straight into the gem, causing the glow to cease.
"You've broken it," the sphinx screamed, a ravenous look on her face, clutching her chest. The Doctor ran towards the back door and unlocked it.
"Everybody out!" she ordered and the people immediately scrambled out the door.
The Doctor smiled at the sphinx.
"I should kill you," the sphinx said, all pretense of kindness stripped from her voice.
"But you won't," the Doctor said with a cocky smirk on her face, "you need me for something, and I'm no use dead. Now if you'll excuse me, I have someone I need to find. Sayonara." And with that, the Doctor exited the set of Extreme Trivia.
Piper took a deep breath as the host's words echoed in the back of her mind. The contestants will be judged on the three core areas: appearance, poise, and the talent. Now, it was her turn to go over and "strut her stuff." And she was nervous. One girl had drawn, another had performed a short monologue from a television show, another had told jokes, and Piper had no idea what she was supposed to do. Piper didn't consider herself a particularly talented person, especially not in the face of death. As the last girl before her performed a short dance, Piper raked through her brain for something that she could do.
She had a passible singing voice, she knew, but what could she sing? Would the words come out at all? Piper finally settled on an old favorite of hers that seemed to summarize her travels with the Doctor.
She took a step into the spotlight and took a deep, low breath in preparation. She opened her mouth, and in her light soprano voice she started to sing.
I'm sailing away,
Set an open course for the virgin sea,
Her voice was soft and uncertain. Her vibrato was trembling, and shifting uncontrollably around the note. She willed herself to focus on the song, the melody, the lyrics, the meaning, and to block out the world.
'Cause I've got to be free,
Free to face the life that's ahead of me,
She could see the Doctor's smirking face and her eccentric ways.
On board, I'm the captain, so climb aboard,
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore,
She could see all their adventures together. She could see their tomorrow.
And I'll try, Oh Lord I'll try, to carry on
They'll get through this. She's certain of it.
I look to the sea,
Reflections in the waves spark my memory,
She could feel her voice start to crack, but she willed it not to. She could feel the nostalgia of this verse, but she willed her voice not crack. She felt it tremble, but she willed it to hold firm. She willed her vibrato to stay light and consistent.
Some happy, some sad,
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had,
We lived happily forever, so the story goes,
But somehow we missed out on the pot of gold
But we'll try best that we can to carry on
The song was starting to build, and she allowed her small voice to crescendo.
A gathering of angels appeared above my head,
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said,
They said come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me,
She could feel herself truly getting into it by the chorus. It was her favorite part.
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me,
I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise,
We climbed aboard their starship, we headed for the skies
And Piper remembered. She sailed away with the Doctor in her beautiful blue starship.
Singing come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me….
She allowed her voice to slow fade away with her last chorus. Piper gave a small smile to the audience and exited the stage, hoping that she had done things right. The announcer came forward at the end of her performance.
"That was the last act of the night," she said in her same comforting alto voice, "and now for the results." She held up a large envelope and a blue gem.
"In this envelope are the names of all the losers," she said, "and this is the crystal that will be used to eliminate them. Are you ready?" None of the girls said anything.
"Alright," the woman said, "First is Lacy." The blonde girl that had danced for her talent let out a small whimper. The gem sent a blue beam of light, much like a bolt from a sonic screwdriver, at her and the girl disappeared. Piper bit her lip to stop the scream that wanted to let itself lose. She hoped to whatever god may exist that the Doctor would come soon.
"Drew," the woman said, and then an Asian woman with black ringlets and a face coated in makeup started yelling at her.
"You can't do this to me!" she said, "I am Drew Tanaka, do you know how gorgeous I am, how important I am?!" Piper would have rolled her eyes had these been normal circumstances, but now she just felt sorry for the poor woman. She was promptly turned into a dust bunny.
"Katrina," she said as a beautiful black woman with curly brown hair let out an anguished cry. Piper averted her eyes as she was eliminated.
"Anna," the woman said and a girl with caramel hair closed her eyes and bit her lips before joining the rest.
"Let's see who's booted out of the final three first," said the woman and Piper looked around. It was just herself, the announcer, and two others, a tanned woman with dark brown hair and a black woman with straight, black hair.
"Alexa," the woman said and the tanned woman beside Piper wrapped her arms around tightly around herself. She closed her honey eyes and Piper looked at the ground.
"And now," the woman said, "the moment you've all been waiting for," dramatic music started playing in the background, "Earth's Next Top Model is- Victoria!" Piper's opponent's face lit up and she started to laugh. She had lived. Piper's breath caught in her throat- that meant, that meant that she would die.
"Piper," she said, "I'm sorry, dear, but second place doesn't get a prize." The backdoor burst open and Piper saw a face that made her heart stop.
The Doctor's curly hair was bobbing behind her as she shouted, "Piper!"
"Doctor!" Piper cried, but she felt something odd against her back. It seemed as though she was falling, and then the world was black.