January 14, 1901 - London
The Doctor felt that at times like these a little inspiration was needed. He reached deep into one of his pockets, and casually pulled out... a rather crumpled, white paper bag.
The Doctor peered inside, confirming its contents. Something more useful might have come in handy, but one had to make to do with what one had got. He stepped up to the nearest Arab swordsman.
‘Have a jellybaby?’ The Arab looked confused. His guard dropped for a moment. The Doctor didn't need a second chance. He threw the contents of the bag at the Arab's face. The Arab screamed as he fought this strange menace, and as he fell back clutching at his eyes, the Doctor sprinted down the alleyway.
However the enraged swordsmen were soon hot at his heels. The Doctor rounded the corner at a gallop, and searched for some way of evading his pursuers. Spying a deserted carriage, he leaped on the side, bellowing at the startled horses.
He nearly came to grief as the terrified beasts bolted before he was securely balanced. After a few precarious seconds perched teetering on the running board he managed to establish his footing. His next challenge was to control the terrified horses.
Struggling to the roof of the hansom cab, he saw the reins disappearing over the edge. A heroic full length leap, and the reins were dangling from one outstretched hand. He let out a long slow breath, and looked back. His heart dropped.
These assassins were very persistent, he thought woefully, as he saw another cab clattering several blocks behind. The hansom cabs that usually plied the streets of London were limited to four passengers at the most. On the cab behind, Arabs were hanging off every available space. What was more distressing was that they were catching fast.
The Doctor turned, gripped the reins in both hands, and prepared for a race. He cracked the whip, and with that signal the horses were off.
It started a frantic, madcap chase through the narrow cobbled streets. The Doctor pushed the flagging horses to their limit, but he could not shake the second carriage. He veered round a corner and for a moment or two the cab was balanced on a single wheel. Hanging on for dear life, he breathed a sigh of relief when, with a familiar thud, the cab was once more on two wheels. As the Arabs' cab attempted the same manoeuvre, he heard several cries, as some of the less well-braced members lost their grip on the situation.
Another opportunity presented itself as he turned within sight of London Bridge. He noted with satisfaction that it was starting to rise to allow some vessel past. Steeling his nerves, he turned towards the bridge, urging the horses forward. Almost spent, they summoned some last reserve of energy to break into a gallop. The cab crossed just as the two halves began to split apart. The Doctor turned around and saw the other cab was still following. The ever widening gap was several feet by now, and the odds were slowly going against the cab. As it travelled the last yards, several swordsmen leaped off, preferring to take their chances in the Thames, without a cab on top of them. The driver, however, never wavered. Lashing at the horses, he spurred them to leap the widening gap.
For a few seconds the cab was suspended, caught in limbo, neither at one side nor the other. Then the wheels landed with a crunch on the far side. Beside the driver the last visible swordsman was jarred off.
The Doctor was now rattling past the docks, ignoring the silent cranes and menacing silos, looking for something. A forbidding tunnel presented itself, rusting railway tracks disappearing into its interior.
The Doctor was a resplendent figure as he entered the tunnel. Any observer would have looked twice in the half-light at the small figure standing on the roof of a hansom cab, floppy hat pulled firmly on, reining in two wild and frothing horses.
A moment later, the coach came out the other end of the tunnel. However this time, there was one major difference. No one controlled the fiery beasts, no one rode the bucking cab, like some ancient charioteer.
The driver of the second cab had not relented the pace. As he disappeared into the tunnel, he paid no attention to a slightly darker patch at the entrance of the tunnel. Only when the patch detached itself from the rest of the tunnel did he regret his mistake.
The impact sent the driver sprawling to the edge of the cab. As the Doctor moved closer, his legs scissored viciously, toppling the Time Lord. In a flash the Arab was on top of the Doctor, choking him, forcing him over the edge, holding the Doctor's head mere inches from the rock wall of the tunnel. The Doctor managed to resist these attacks, and they were out of the tunnel. The dockside was getting alarmingly close however, and the Arab was making no effort to control the driverless cab.
The Doctor braced himself for the inevitable, but at the last second the horses turned. This was followed by a sickening lurch as the cab tilted alarmingly. Unbeknownst to the two combatants, the pin holding the horses to the cab was beginning to groan under the stresses placed on it.
The Doctor used the scant seconds to reverse his assailants hold, swinging round, so that now the Arab's head was held over the edge.
‘I want to know what you want,’ the Doctor whispered fiercely, forcing the Arab's head back another inch.
‘You are a heretic. You would try to stop the ascension.’
‘What ascension?’ The Doctor's question would not be answered. The cab lurched again, and the Doctor's grip was broken. Grappling with his assailant he found himself underneath again.
The Doctor's situation was made all the more desperate when a sword suddenly sheared through the roof from below. Its deadly blade was protruding only inches away from the Doctor's body. The sword withdrew back into the cabin, and the Doctor cursed himself for not thinking of the passenger compartment.
With desperate strength he turned aside as the sword sliced through the woodwork again. They remained locked in that position as the sword came up between them, and the Arab was forced to release his hold.
The two gladiators rose to their feet. As the Doctor swayed unsteadily on the swaying coach, he wondered what his chances were in this fight. His thoughts were interrupted when the Arab gave a howl of pain, and losing his balance, toppled over the side. It was only afterwards the Doctor saw the sword penetrating the ceiling boards. The mysterious swordsman had aided the Doctor inadvertently.
The Doctor looked around. The cab was heading towards the riverside again. He quickly stepped towards the front of the cab and looked down. He saw the pin holding the horses and cab together was starting to come loose in its fittings. As the Thames came closer and closer, he made up his mind. At the last minute he leapt from the cab, as another sword thrust pierced the wood where he had stood seconds before.
The Doctor watched in fascinated horror as the horses turned away from the perilous waters. He heard in the silence the snap as the pin restraining the horses broke. In slow motion, the cab continued moving towards the edge, with no sign of stopping. The Doctor turned away as the entire structure disappeared beneath the turgid waves.