And he felt at peace. He felt as though something good had come of today.
He still didn’t quite understand what had happened or what had gone on. All he remembered was having these memories of being the Doctor - but now all he could feel was hatred towards him. How could he hate himself? And then he remembered - he had been told he was not the Doctor. Back on Xanji-For. That medic had told him he was not the Doctor. He was not the Doctor at all.
Then how could he have his memories?
And then he went back even further.
He was aware of something. A memory before he was created. He was aware of himself - a pure, white Proto-Time Lord, lying within a metal tube with a glass front. The figure of a man was above, staggering about and finding it hard to stay upright. And then he felt a pulse through his body. He felt something within him changing. And just as he felt the changes, he saw the man stagger over and out of site.
Then he was travelling through the space/time vortex. He was heading towards the blue police box - the TARDIS.
He collided with it. The tube fell apart. He followed the TARDIS down to the Earth.
He was standing behind the Time Lord - the Doctor - as he regenerated. He was about to reach out to him. The collision with his TARDIS had flooded his brain with memories. Memories of being the Doctor. He was the Doctor. He was sure of it. It had imprinted on his very mind.
And then he was gone. The Doctor had left and he - Matthew Cole as he would come to be known - was left behind on planet Earth.
But he wasn’t the Doctor. So who was he?
In the console room, in the shattered dimensions of the shed-TARDIS, the real Doctor was busy. He was half under the console, fiddling with wires and causing circuits to spark. Occasionally he made the odd grunting sound followed by a complaint and had to slide himself out, go to his coat pocket, remove another instrument and then slide back under again.
Jayne and Adrian were sat down, their backs against the roundel-covered wall.
“Do you think this is gonna work?” said Adrian, nodding towards the Doctor.
“Let’s hope so,” said Jayne.
“But we’ve got to help them all.”
“Oh, I agree,” said Jayne, “and this was what I was frightened of.”
“Then what do we do?”
“Doctor!” shouted Jayne.
The Doctor glanced from under the console, his sonic screwdriver sideways in his mouth. “Hmmm?” he mumbled.
“What are we doing with all the people still in here?”
The Doctor frowned, removed the screwdriver from his mouth and then slid himself out. “What do you want me to do?”
“Save them,” said Adrian simply.
“The moment that the ‘bad’ Apparites realise what we’re doing, they’ll descend on this place and tear us to shreds.”
“We can’t not tell them,” said Jayne.
“But if we do, they’ll come for us.”
“Then what do we do.”
The Doctor rubbed at his eyes and gazed up at the high, broken roof of the console room. He could see the moonlight coming through the large crack in the ceiling. He found it curious, how a moon could be within a broken TARDIS. He turned to Adrian and Jayne.
“The Apparites want out, yes?”
“Yes,” said Adrian.
“Then we let them out. All of them.”
“What!?” spluttered Jayne and Adrian together.
“At the moment they’re like flies. Most have sensed the window is open and have buzzed out, but there are some still buzzing around, oblivious to the fact.”
“Like the good ones. The ones I was with,” said Adrian
“Exactly,” said the Doctor.
“I can make more cracks in these dimensions. Enough for all of them cotton on that they can escape. It’d leave just us three in here.”
“But then what?” said Jayne. “We can’t just unleash the whole lot on Thornsby.”
“That’s why I’m not going to do it until I’m ready to shut the dimensions down. My theory is that as soon as the dimensions are closed, the Apparites will return to their former state.”
“You mean they’ll be Human again?” asked Jayne.
“Hopefully,” said the Doctor.
“Like the ones in the cave. Like Cope and Lilly. They’ve already been slowly changing back.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor, sliding back under the console. “The ones who were with Brandon - the hardcore ones, if you will - were being manipulated more. The ones who simply sat quietly are less affected. It’s all a matter of being mentally linked to this ship.”
“Are you even close to shutting it down?”
“Soon. Very soon.”
Caroline was struggling to understand how her parents had arrived so quickly. With all the commotion of the last hour or so, the questions that needed to be answered hadn’t been answered.
Finally, when everything was settled, Caroline crossed over to them, her baby in her arms once again.
“Can you believe it?” said Thomas, grinning from ear to ear. “We’re actually grandparents now.”
“Crazy,” said Rebecca, touching the little boy on his cheek.
Caroline looked at the pair of them. “How?”
Thomas smiled sadly. “I know this must be confusing for you,” he said.
“Just a tiny bit,” laughed Caroline nervously.
“Before we left we sent the pendant to Cath and Tony,” he nodded towards the necklace, still around Caroline’s neck. “Left them a note.”
“So I could call on you?”
“Yeah,” said Rebecca, holding Caroline’s hand and smiling. “It would automatically signal us to these vortex manipulators.” Rebecca held up her wrist and showed the complicated, overly-large wrist-watch-style device.
“And we would be automatically be transported to where you were,” continued Thomas. He frowned. “Good job I wasn’t in the toilet or in the shower or anything!”
Caroline laughed. “But I don’t understand. Why haven’t you come back before, if you knew you could.”
Thomas let out a long, long sigh and leaned back against the stone wall. “You have to understand; we never wanted to give you up. At all. But you needed to live a normal, safe life.”
“But I haven’t, have I?”
Rebecca smiled sadly. “If you hadn’t met the Doctor, then you would have. Those powers may never have come to the surface.”
“And where have you been living?”
Thomas got up and crossed over to a console. He switched it on, punched in a few numbers and a small screen sprung into life. A lifeless, red planet hung against a blanket of stars.
“You’ve been living on Mars?” said Caroline, wide-eyed.
Thomas nodded. “Well, Mars in the future. Before we left we made contact with an ex-UNIT operative. He gave us a time ring - with a ‘use once only’ option - and we ended up a few hundred years in the future.” Thomas switched off the screen. “So we decided to settle on one of the Mars colonies. It was far away from Earth to not be noticed.”
“We even tried adopting,” said Rebecca sadly, “but she was a bit of a tearaway and ended up running away back to Earth.”
“And then we made contact with an ex Time Agent and purchased the vortex manipulators. Like time rings, but more sophisticated. We inputted the space/time coordinates of the pendant, and then waited.”
Caroline nodded. “All these years…living with the wrong parents.”
Rebecca shook her head. “You shouldn’t blame Cath and Tony. They did the best they could.”
“They were overbearing and overprotective,” said Caroline with a snort.
“They were just trying to protect you.”
Caroline folded her arms and sighed. “Maybe, but there could have been a better way than alienating your adopted daughter.”
Thomas nodded. “Are they okay?”
“Tony had a heart attack,” said Caroline.
“What??!” said the young couple together.
“He’s gonna be okay though. I had a big argument with Cath. That’s when she gave me the pendant.”
“We need to see them. It’s been a long, long time. Well, for them maybe. Not so long for us.”
“Bloody time travel,” said Rebecca, shaking her head.
Margot had been listening in. “Can we leave the reunions until we’ve dealt with this situation, please?”
There was a rumble from outside.
“Sounds like they’re getting ready for another attack,” said Ben, ominously.
Caroline shook her head. “I don’t know if I can do all that again.”
Caroline looked across. Danny was lying weakly next to Matthew. His arm was outstretched.
“Danny, are you okay?” she asked.
“It’s gone,” smiled Danny. “It’s left me at last. I feel free again.”
Outside the snow had completely covered the area around the church. A small trench-like walkway had been dug from the door of the church and out into the fields of snow. The Apparites had been set back, but they were now beginning to regroup. There was a sense among them that something wasn’t right. That something was threatening their world. Their very existence. And they weren’t about to let that happen.
Back in the crypt, Matthew’s breathing was becoming more and more rapid. He was rasping and gasping for air.
Caroline and Danny skidded over to him and knelt over his prone form.
He reached out a hand for Caroline. She grasped in tightly.
“The Doctor said to keep him alive,” said Danny, worriedly.
“Too…late…” croaked Matthew. “Tell…tell…tell…”
“Tell what?” said Caroline, feeling powerless.
Matthew gulped a few times, his eyes flickering. “Tell…the Doctor…I’m…I’m sorry…”
Caroline frowned. “What for?”
But Matthew’s eyes had already rolled to the back of his head. His arm went limp and Caroline let go of it. It flopped to his chest, lifeless.
Matthew Cole was dead.
“Oh, god,” said Caroline. “I don’t think I can take much more today.”
Danny took his jacket off and was about to cover Matthew’s lifeless face with it, when he noticed something. His face looked…odd. It looked like it was glowing slightly.
Caroline and Danny frowned at each other, and then leant in closer. It was glowing. Just under the surface of the skin were pinpricks of orange light. Soon those pinpricks gathered together to creature larger blotches of light.
“What’s happening?” said Caroline, edging away slightly.
They watched as Matthew’s entire face was engulfed in the orange light. And then, as though someone had jerked him up like a puppet on strings, he was pulled bolt-upright, his arms outstretched. His head lolled back as the glow covered his hands and then to the tips of his fingers.
And then…his whole body exploded in orange light. Flames danced around his face and arms as wave after wave of orange-golden light rippled from his body. And then.
“He must be regenerating,” said Ben from the corner of the room. “You didn’t tell us he was a Time Lord!”
“He isn’t a Time Lord. Well, not exactly,” yelled Caroline over the cacophony of noise.
The light cleared. But something wasn’t quite right. Usually, during regeneration, the whole face would change. This time, however, it hadn’t. Instead, standing there stock-still, with his eyes closed, was the same, familiar Matthew Cole, his hair a little longer and the hint of a beard growing around his chin and mouth.
“Matthew?” said Caroline slowly.
Matthew’s eyes flicked open. But they weren’t the warm, friendly eyes they had grown accustomed to. These eyes were dark and mysterious. They were full of secrets. And they certainly weren’t friendly.
“Are you okay?” said Danny. “Matthew.”
Matthew broke into a grinned and chuckled. “It’s all so clear now,” he said, his Scottish accent gone.
“What is? What’s going on?”
“All of this. All of this stupid, memory thing.” He tapped the side of his head. “I can’t believe I’ve been walking around in such a haze for the last few months.” He laughed again, but looked disappointed in himself. Almost angry.
“Matthew, what’s wrong?” said Caroline.
“My name isn’t Matthew!” he snapped.
Caroline, Danny, Rebecca, Thomas, Margot and Ben stood still and silent as he looked around the room, cold eyes mentally interrogating every single piece of detail.
“Then who are you?” said Danny.
He smiled. “My dear, young Danny,” he chuckled. “My name is the Master, and you will obey me.”
Next time: Sacrifice in the penultimate chapter to the Season 2 finale. Coming Thursday 27th November.