Winner Takes All

Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner Read Free Book Online

Book: Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jacqueline Rayner
the real aliens.
    â€˜Yeah, s’pose you’re right,’ said the Doctor, selecting an on-screen option.
    A graphic flashed, and the introduction began.
    There were a group of porcupine-aliens sitting round a table. It looked like a council of war.
    â€˜Fellow Quevvils,’ said a porcupine who had salt-and-pepper facial hair and long quills curving back off his head like a deadly teddy boy, ‘we meet to discuss the threat of the evil Mantodeans.’ The picture cut to footage of the giant praying mantises, then back to the Quevvils at their table.
    â€˜But what can we do, Frinel?’ said another of the aliens. ‘We are at a stalemate! We cannot hurt the Mantodeans, and they cannot hurt us!’
    Now it cut to a cartoon showing a Mantodean trying to fix its jaws round a Quevvil’s thick, spiny neck, and finally giving up with a shrug of its feelers. Another cartoon showed a Quevvil shooting a barrage of quills at a Mantodean, only for them to bounce off the insectoid’s tough exoskeleton.
    â€˜Looks as if nature had the right idea,’ said the Doctor in an aside to Rose. ‘Two species that could live together in harmony.’ He snorted. ‘Like that’s ever going to happen anywhere in the universe.’
    Back at the table, another Quevvil continued, ‘We have tried to infiltrate the Mantodean stronghold.’
    Cut to a structure rather like one of the great pyramids, only without the point. Mantodeans, dwarfed in comparison, scuttled in and out of the hundreds of doors around its base. The building seemed to be in the middle of a sandy nowhere.
    â€˜Looks like a desert planet,’ said the Doctor to Rose. ‘Porcupines and praying mantises are found in deserts on Earth. It’d make sense for creatures like that to have evolved there.’
    â€˜Really?’ she said. ‘Is that how the universe works?’
    â€˜Oh yeah,’ he said.
    â€˜But the catacombs within are not fit for our impressive bulk,’ continued the Quevvil, ‘And the Mantodeans have seeded their stronghold with fiendish traps.’
    The Quevvil called Frinel narrowed his watery pink eyes, showing his disdain for those who set fiendish traps. ‘Which is why we turned to technology to defeat our foes, developing the extremely clever science of teleportation, to enable us to reach the very centre of the Mantodean stronghold, defeat the enemy, and incidentally provide access to the valuable mineral deposits below.’
    â€˜Aha,’ said the Doctor. ‘Look for the money, they always say.’
    â€˜But the dishonourable Mantodeans have turned to technology also,’ said Frinel, snarling and showing stumpy but fearsome-looking yellow teeth.
    â€˜Porcupines are vegetarians, right?’ said Rose, a bit nervously.
    â€˜They have protected their stronghold with a force field. It prevents teleportation! And worse, it is tuned in to Quevvil biology!’
    A cartoon showed a Quevvil trying to run into the pyramid. With a sizzling sound and a lot of jagged lines, it was clearly fried.
    â€˜This is terrible!’ cried one of the Quevvils at the council of war. ‘What can we do?’
    â€˜I have had an idea,’ said Frinel. ‘We will scour the universe for aliens of great cunning and ingenuity. They will come to Toop and infiltrate the Mantodean stronghold for us. They will evade the traps, and get to the centre. And there they will place this.’ He held up a shiny metal cube. ‘This is the disruptor developed by our scientists. When placed within close range of the Mantodeans’ computer banks it will disrupt all their technology, taking down the force field and allowing us to teleport in – to victory!’
    â€˜But where will we find such beings?’ asked a Quevvil.
    Another Quevvil came running up to the table. ‘Frinel! Fellow Quevvils! I have found a planet within range of our teleporters, where the inhabitants

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