All the Doctor could feel was burning. Burning all over his body. He wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten into this state, but he felt like his entire head was on fire. And it all felt so familiar.
He tried to look around, but nothing really stood out. Nothing recognisable. It was dark and he was aware that he was in a large, building, but there was nobody about. He was on his own.
He looked at his hands. They were burning orange. Energy whipping up from them. This had happened so many times before that he had lost count.
He turned to his side and there was the TARDIS in the darkness, it’s blue paintwork illuminated and slightly off-coloured by the orange glow from his body.
He winced in pain and keeled over onto the floor.
“No!” he cried.
Something wasn’t right this time. Something felt different. He knew he was regenerating. It was a natural thing for a Time Lord, but this time it felt different. This time things weren’t going quite so smoothly. That was always the trouble with regeneration. You could never be quite sure what you were going to get.
He clambered up to his feet and leant against his time machine. He tried to focus all of his will power onto just helping him get through this regeneration.
He could feel his face burning.
“Concentrate,” he said through gritted teeth. “Concentrate!”
Finally, with a burst of energy, he flung his arms out to his side and his face exploded in orange light. Finally. It was working.
He could feel himself physically changing. Not just his face, but all over. His clothes were becoming ever so tighter on him and he felt himself grow ever so slightly.
Then, finally, with a scream and a final blast of energy, the orange light dissipated.
And he felt different. Very different.
He grabbed his face and felt around. No hair. He was bald.
And he was aware that something was standing just behind him. He tried to turn, but there was nothing there.
He was about to speak when…
He noticed somebody else standing in the darkness. It was the silhouette of a woman, monitor screens flickering behind her head. He reached out to her and then felt a twinge in his chest.
He fell to the floor, gasping for air.
The woman ran over to him.
“Are you alright?” she asked. “Are you okay? What happened? I tracked your ship. It was on fire. I thought you were going to burn up in the atmosphere.” The woman stopped for a moment to catch her breath.
The Doctor looked up, but she was still in shadow. “My hearts…”
“You’re a Time Lord, aren’t you?” she asked. “I could tell from the specs of your ship. You’re a Time Lord. That’s just brilliant,” she said with a little laugh at the end.
“Please, my hearts…” gasped the Doctor again.
“Okay, sweetheart, hold on. Give me your hand. We’ll get you back to the Lighthouse.”
“Where?” asked the Doctor, taking her cool, thin hand.
“The Lighthouse. It’s my home. It’s pretty cool actually. I can see everything.”
The Doctor could just make out her smiling in the darkness. He was about to say something when he flaked out.
“It really is you!” he heard her say as he lost consciousness.
The Doctor opened his eyes and Caroline was standing over him. Lying on the floor next to him with an overturned chair by his side was the stranger who Blackmore had been talking to. He was out cold and Blackmore was nowhere to be seen.
“What happened?” asked the Doctor, sitting up and shaking his head.
“There was some kind of flash,” said Caroline. “You and him were both knocked out. It blinded me for a second and when I looked Blackmore was gone.”
The Doctor groaned and rubbed his forehead. “There was a flash from just touching him?”
“Yep.” Caroline walked over to the smartly dressed man. “So far I haven’t been able to wake him up.”
The Doctor crossed over to Cole and opened an eyelid. No response. He took out his screwdriver and ran it over his face.
“Anything?” asked Caroline.
“No. He’s reading as Human. He’s perfectly normal. Except…those strange temporal readings are coming from him.”
“Is that possible?”
“We need to get him some help,” said Caroline, looking around. The whole place was deserted. Not a soul in site. “Something doesn’t feel right.”
“How do you mean?” asked the Doctor, clambering to his feet.
“It’s way too deserted here.”
“It is January. And it’s gone midnight.”
“I suppose,” said Caroline, “but surely someone would have noticed us lying about on the floor by now.”
Cole began to stir on the floor.
“Are you alright?” asked the Doctor, crouching over him.
“Was there a bomb?” he groaned, rubbing his head.
“Not exactly.” The Doctor helped him to sit up. “Take it easy.” He sat, crossed-legged in front of him. “You’re bristling with temporal energy. When you touched me, it ignited.”
“I beg your pardon? Temporal energy?”
“Do you have any idea how you could have been infected by it?”
“Infected? What? No. I don’t even know what you mean.”
The Doctor moved away and rubbed his chin. “This is very odd.”
Caroline knelt down beside him. “Hi. My name’s Caroline. What’s your name?”
Cole looked up at Caroline. “Matthew. Matthew Cole.”
“And what are you doing here at this time of night?”
“In the airport?”
“Yeah,” said Caroline, realising that a less confusing tact would work better with the man. “It’s late. Don’t you have a plane to catch?”
“I caught my plane,” said Cole. “I landed a few hours ago. But I can’t leave.”
There was a sound from the top of the escalators towards the main café area towards T3 departures. It sounded like the scraping of metal.
“Come on,” said the Doctor. “We need to find Blackmore. I’m sure he’s involved in this somehow.”
They helped Cole to his feet and made their way up the escalator. Huge glass windows overlooked the runway. In front of the windows were seating areas and to the left a collection of café’s, fast food restaurants and shops.
“This is spooky,” said Caroline. “Why is it so quiet everywhere?”
“It’s late night,” said the Doctor. “Even airports have to shut down at some point.”
“Yeah, but we’re running around. Why aren’t there any security guards. Surely we look a bit suspicious, lying around on floors and darting up escalators.”
Cole chuckled as they walked slowly past the darkened café’s. “I’ve been here for hours now, and if there’s anything you can be sure of, it’s that nobody seems bothered about what you’re up to.”
“And you,” said the Doctor, spinning around to face Cole, “need to tell me exactly what’s wrong with you.”
“What do you mean?” asked Cole, looking confused but wary at the same time.
“You’re giving off strange readings. You don’t seem quite…right.”
Cole looked at the ground and sighed. “I feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare.”
“What do you mean?” asked Caroline.
“I can’t leave the airport.”
“Why not? What have you done?” asked the Doctor, grabbing a chair from a nearby table and sitting down.
“It’s not anything I’ve done. I arrived, walked through arrivals, got on the train and then appeared back in arrivals. Tried to walk out, get a taxi. No use. And every time I speak to anyone - barring you two, Magnus and a nurse called June - they seem to forget about me. And then there was the earthquake-”
“That must have been when the TARDIS tried to land,” said the Doctor, rubbing his chin in thought.
“And you don’t have any idea how this happened?”
“No idea at all,” said Cole, shaking his head and looking more and more frustrated with the situation.
“And Blackmore? The man you were with?”
“I found him near the sky link. I took him to the medical room. The nurse checked him over. Reckoned he had concussion. Then I bought him a coffee. He said some strange things about the future and asking about whether he was on Earth.”
“That’s because Mr Blackmore - Magnus - is from the future.”
Cole burst out laughing.
“It’s true,” said Caroline. “We met him a while back. He was up to no good on another planet.”
Cole continued to chuckle at the absurdity of it all. “Another planet? Come on!”
“Now listen to me, Mr Cole,” said the Doctor, getting up and staring down at the Scotsman. “Something very peculiar is going on here and I am determined to get to the bottom of it.”
“Okay, okay,” said Cole, holding out his hands, motioning for the Doctor to back down. “I guess after all that’s happened to me today, I can begin to accept that there’s life on Mars.”
“It wasn’t Mars,” said the Doctor, sitting back down and staring blankly out of the huge windows.
And then the metal sound came again. This time from the shadows near to Starbucks.
“What is it?” asked Caroline in a hushed whisper.
“Hello?” shouted the Doctor. “Who’s there?”
“Who are you?” came a metallic, grating reply.
The Doctor swallowed hard. “Show yourself!” he said, getting up.
“Exterminate!” came the metallic voice.
Danny was now down in the bar drinking a vodka and coke. It went down well. He hadn’t had alcohol since the night the ghosts had invaded Thornsby. It seemed like such a long time ago as well.
And now, instead of sitting with Caroline - his friend - he was alone in a boring, plain looking hotel bar with no friends or company.
“That glass isn’t gonna refill itself,” came a female voice from down the bar.
Danny looked up from his glass to his left.
Sitting on a bar stool was a woman in a red dress and black jacket. She had a pale white face, short, dark hair tied back and full red lips. Her eyes were green, and they looked sad.
“Are you going to buy me a drink?” asked Danny, arching his eyebrows.
“Actually, I was hoping you’d buy me one,” she said, moving over to the stool next to him.
“What the hell,” said Danny, motioning for the barman to get them two more vodka and cokes.
“Just a water for me,” said the woman.
Danny frowned. “The water’s free.”
“Exactly,” said the woman. “I’d never expect a complete stranger to buy me a drink. Not until we’d gotten to know each other better.”
Danny smiled as he took a sip from his second glass.
“So, what are you doing here all on your own?”
“I had a falling out with some friends,” said Danny, smiling. “Stupid reasons, of course.”
“Oh, of course. It always is.”
“What about you?”
The woman took a sip of her water, swirling the liquid around in her glass and then looked back at Danny. “I’m on a business trip. Up from Southampton.”
“I thought I recognised the accent,” smiled Danny. “I’ve got an uncle from down there.”
“What’s your name?” she asked, leaning on her elbow.
“Emily Reed,” said the woman, extending her hand.
“Nice to meet you, Emily,” said Danny.
“Now, are you going to tell me what’s on your mind?” said Emily.
“I told you,” said Danny. “I had a falling out with my friends.”
“It’s more than that,” said Emily. “Something’s on your mind.”
Danny sighed and drained his glass. “It’s nothing.”
Danny looked at her. Her eyes were burrowing deep into his soul. He felt like he couldn’t lie to her anymore. “It’s my brother.”
“Yeah. Adrian. He went missing. Or he’s going to go missing.”
“He’s either gone missing or he will go missing. Which one is it?”
Danny closed his eyes. “Emily, would you believe me if I told you that I’m from the future?”
Emily smiled, her full lips ruby-red and glistening. “Tell me more.”