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The Beginning of Forever

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“So, Donna,” Rose smiled as the woman in question entered the console room. “First official trip in the TARDIS. All of time and space. Where do you wanna go?”

“Wait, I get to decide?” Donna asked.

“Of course, it’s your first trip!” Rose smiled.

“What are my options?”

“Anywhere and any when,” the Doctor smiled, crossing his arms as he leaned against the console.

“Uh,” Donna started, unsure where to start.

“Okay, Earth or alien planet?” Rose asked.

“Earth,” Donna replied instinctively.

“Okay, past or future?”

“Past,” Donna replied.

“Anything in particular?” Rose asked.

“Surprise me,” Donna said.

“I have an idea,” the Doctor said, running to the console and putting in the coordinates. He telepathically told Rose his plan, and she quickly agreed. They landed and the Doctor led the way out into the street. “Ancient Rome. Well, not for them, obviously. To all intents and purposes, right now, this is brand new Rome.”

Donna looked around quickly, taking it all in as she laughed, “Oh, my God. it's, it's so Roman. This is fantastic.” Rose and the Doctor laughed, and she continued. “I'm here, in Rome. Donna Noble in Rome. This is just weird. I mean, everyone here's dead.”

“Well, don’t tell them that,” the Doctor said, nodding and smiling at the few confused people that had heard Donna’s statement.

As Donna was turning to give the Doctor a witty remark, she finally noticed a sign. “Hold on a minute. That sign over there's in English. Are you having me on? Are we in Epcot?”

“No, no, no, no,” the Doctor started, preparing to give his traditional lecture on the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits.

Luckily for Donna, Rose beat him to it. “No, that’s the TARDIS. She’s telepathic, and sort of gets in your head and translates stuff for you. Not just the signs either. You’re speaking Latin right now.”

“Seriously?” She asked.

“Mhm,” the Doctor nodded.

“I just said ‘seriously’ in Latin?” Donna laughed.

“Oh yeah,” the Doctor replied.

“What if I said something in actual Latin, like veni, vidi, vici? My dad said that when he came back from football. If I said veni, vidi, vici to that lot, what would it sound like?” Donna asked.

“Well, I’m not sure,” the Doctor said after a moment. “You have to think of difficult questions, don't you?”

“I’m going to try it!” Donna exclaimed, grinning at Rose and the Doctor before turning to a merchant.

“Afternoon, sweetheart. What can I get you, my love?” the merchant asked.

“Er… Veni, vedi, vici,” she said.

“Huh?” he asked. “Sorry? Me no speak Celtic. No can do, missy.”

“Yeah,” Donna muttered before turning back to Rose and the Doctor. “How’s he mean, Celtic?”

“Welsh,” the Doctor replied. “You sound Welsh.”

“Well, that was unexpected,” Rose laughed. “You know I’ve been travelling with him over ten years and I never once thought to ask that!”

Thinking about another strange quirk of time travel, Donna asked, “Don’t our clothes look a bit odd?”

“Nah. Ancient Rome, anything goes. It's like Soho, but bigger,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Normally, I dress in appropriate clothes for the era,” Rose said. “The TARDIS will give you an outfit if you ask, or you can always raid the wardrobe room. But I didn’t know where we were going this morning, so I dressed normally. He’s usually right, but I usually think it’s fun to do a little bit of dress up.”

“You’ve been here before?” Donna asked.

“Yeah, got turned into a statue for a but, it all worked out in the end,” Rose shrugged.

“My Fortuna,” the Doctor said, kissing her hand and laughing before adding, “Also came a while before that. And before you ask, that fire had nothing to do with me. Well, a little bit. But I haven't got the chance to look around properly. Coliseum, Pantheon, Circus Maximus. You'd expect them to be looming by now. Where is everything? Try this way.”

“Not an expert, but there's seven hills of Rome, aren't there? How come they've only got one?” Donna asked, pointing to the singular mountain in the distance just seconds before an earthquake hit.

“Here we go again,” one of the shopkeepers said as he began to secure his wares.

“Doctor…” Rose said, glancing nervously at him.

“Wait a minute,” Donna said, looking up at the mountain. “One mountain, with smoke. Which makes this—”

“Pompeii,” the Doctor finished. “We’re in Pompeii. And it’s volcano day.”

The Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand and they took off toward the TARDIS, but when they got back to where they had left it, it was gone. “You’re kidding,” Donna exclaimed. “You’re not telling me the TARDIS has gone.”

“Okay,” the Doctor nodded, and Rose rolled her eyes.

“Where is it then?” Donna yelled.

“You told me not to tell you,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Oi! Don’t get clever in Latin.”

“Hold on,” the Doctor said to the girls as he made his way over to the nearest shopkeeper. “Excuse me. Excuse me. There was a box. Big blue box. Big blue wooden box, just over there. Where's it gone?”

“Sold it, didn’t I?” he replied.

“But it wasn’t yours to sell!” the Doctor exclaimed.

“It was on my patch, weren't it? I got fifteen sesterces for it. Lovely jubbly,” the man said, going back to his work.

“Who’d you sell it to?”

“Old Caecilius. Look, if you want to argue, why don't you take it out with him? He's on Foss Street. Big villa. Can't miss it,” the man replied, clearly tired of the Doctor.

“Thanks,” the Doctor mumbled before turning back to the girls. “What’d he buy a big blue wooden box for?”

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor took off to find Foss Street and left Rose and Donna on their own. “Come on,” Donna said. “We’ve got to warn everyone.”

“Donna,” Rose sighed. “We can’t.”

“What do you mean?” Donna asked.

“It’s a fixed point. There’s no stopping it or changing it,” Rose replied.

“Says who?” Donna asked.

“Says the laws of time and the universe,” Rose answered sadly.

“What happens if you break those laws? Is there some sort of universal police to stop you?”

Rose sighed. “That used to be the Doctor’s people. But they’re all gone now. It’s just him.”

“Great!” Donna exclaimed. “Then there’s no one to stop us!”

Rose grabbed Donna’s arm. “No. They were there as a much nicer way of stopping people from meddling with time. But some very bad things can happen when someone messes with a fixed point.”

“How do you know? Did the Doctor tell you that?” Donna asked.

“Because I did it once,” Rose replied, staring at her shoes. “I messed with a fixed point and almost lost the Doctor forever. And Pompeii is a much bigger fixed point than the one I tried to change. If we stop this, there’s no telling how much the reapers will destroy.”

“But—” Donna started, but the rest of her sentence was cut off as the Doctor ran back up to them.

“Foss Street is this way. Come on!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Another earthquake rattled Pompeii as the Doctor, Rose, and Donna entered Caecilius’s house. The Doctor grabbed a marble bust that was threatening to fall on the floor and yelled, “Whoa! There you go.”

“Thank you, kind sir. I'm afraid business is closed for the day. I'm expecting a visitor,” the man said.

“But that’s me, I’m a visitor. Hello,” the Doctor said, waving a little.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“I am…Spartacus,” the Doctor replied.

“And so am I,” Donna added.

“Mister and Mrs. Spartacus,” the man nodded.

“Actually,” Rose said, taking the Doctor’s arm. “I’m Mrs. Spartacus.”

“Oh, then brother and sister?” the man asked, looking between the Doctor and Donna. “Yes, of course. You look very much alike.”

“Really?” All three of them exclaimed in unison.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not open for trade,” the man said, turning away from them.

“And that trade would be?” the Doctor prompted.

“Marble. Lopus Caecilius. Mining, polishing and design thereof. If you want marble, I'm your man,” Caecilius smiled.

The Doctor nodded and flashed the psychic paper. “That's good. That's good, because I'm the marble inspector.”

The older woman in the room gasped and turned to the young man lounging around drinking a glass of wine. “By the gods of commerce, an inspection. I'm sorry, sir. I do apologise for my son.” She poured the goblet of wine out.

“Oi!” he yelled.

“And this is my good wife, Metella. I must confess, we're not prepared for a—”

“Nothing to worry about,” the Doctor interrupted as he strode over to the TARDIS. “I'm, I'm sure you've nothing to hide. Although, frankly, that object looks rather like wood to me.”

“I told you to get rid of it,” Metella muttered.

“I only bought it today,” Caecilius protested.

“Ah, well. Caveat emptor,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Oh, you’re Celtic!” Caecilius exclaimed. “That’s lovely.”

“I'm sure it's fine, but I might have to take it off your hands for a proper inspection,” the Doctor said, stroking the side of the blue box.

“Although while we're here, wouldn't you recommend a holiday, Spartacus, Mrs. Spartacus?” Donna asked, staring at Rose.

I tried to tell her about fixed points,” Rose told the Doctor. “But she won’t listen to me.

The Doctor nodded and turned to look at Donna. “Don’t know what you mean, Spartacus.”

“Oh, this lovely family. Mother and father and son. Don't you think they should get out of town?”

“Why should we do that?” Caecilius asked.

“Well,” Donna began, “the volcano for starters.”

“What?” Caecilius asked.

“Volcano.”

“What ano?”

“That great big volcano right on your doorstep,” Donna exclaimed.

“Oh, Spartacus, Mrs. Spartacus, for shame! We haven’t even greeted the household gods yet,” the Doctor said, grabbing Donna’s arm and dragging the over to the alter.

“They don't know what it is. Vesuvius is just a mountain to them. The top hasn't blown off yet. The Romans haven't even got a word for volcano. Not until tomorrow.”

“Oh, great,” she snorted. “They can learn a new word as they die.”

“Stop it,” the Doctor growled.

“Listen, I don’t know what Blondie and your other friends let you get away with, but you’re not telling me to shut up,” Donna hissed. “That boy, how old is he, sixteen? And tomorrow he burns to death.”

“And that’s my fault?” the Doctor replied.

“Right now, yes.”

The conversation was cut short as a servant called, “Announcing Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of the City Government.”

“Lucius. My pleasure, as always,” Caecilius greeted the man in the cloak.

“Quintus, stand up,” Matella admonished her son.

“A rare and great honour, sir, for you to come to my house,” Caecilius said, extending a hand to Lucius, but Lucius didn’t shake it.

“The birds are flying north, and the wind is in the west,” Lucius said.

“Quite. Absolutely. That's good, is it?” Caecilius beamed.

“Only the grain of wheat will know where it will grow,” was the only response Lucius gave.

“There now, Metella. Have you ever heard such wisdom?” Caecilius asked his wife.

“Never,” she replied. “It’s an honour.”

“Pardon me, sir. I have guests,” Caecilius said as he turned to present the Doctor, Rose, and the Doctor. “This is Mister and Mrs. Spartacus and his sister, Spartacus.”

“A name is but a cloud upon a summer wind,” Lucius said.

“But the wind is felt most keenly in the dark,” the Doctor replied.

“Ah. But what is the dark, other than an omen of the sun?” Lucius asked.

“I concede that every sun must set.”

“Ha!” Lucius laughed, believing he had won.

“And yet the son of the father must also rise,” the Doctor finished.

“Damn. Very clever, sir. Evidently, a man of learning. But you,” Lucius said, turning to Rose. “You fear the task of the wolf.”

“I’m not afraid of the big, bad, wolf,” Rose replied, staring him down.

“Oh, yes. But don't mind us. Don't want to disturb the status quo,” the Doctor muttered nervously, like he always did when the Bad Wolf was mentioned.

“He’s Celtic,” Caecilius offered as an explanation for the Doctor’s strange behaviour.

“We’ll be off in a minute,” the Doctor promised.

“I’m not going,” Donna protested.

Ignoring them, Caecilius turned to a cloth covering something and said, “It’s ready, sir.”

“You’ve got to,” the Doctor argued.

“Well, I’m not,” Donna insisted.

“Please,” Rose begged.

“The moment of revelation. And here it is,” Caecilius said, pulling the cloth away to reveal a stone tile carved into a circuit board. “Exactly as you specified. It pleases you, sir?”

“As the rain pleases the soil,” Lucius said, nodding.

“Oh, now that's different. Who designed that, then?” the Doctor asked.

“My Lord Lucius was very specific,” Caecilius replied.

“Where’d you get the pattern?” the Doctor asked Lucius as he inspected the tile.

“On the rain and the mist and the wind,” Lucius replied cryptically.

“But that looks like a circuit,” Donna said.

“Made of stone,” the Doctor agreed.

“Do you mean you just dreamt that thing up?” Donna asked.

“That is my job, as City Augur,” Lucius replied.

“What’s that, then, like the mayor?” Donna asked.

“Oh, ha. You must excuse my friend, she's from Barcelona,” the Doctor laughed before turning to her and adding quietly, “No, but this is an age of superstition. Of official superstition. The Augur is paid by the city to tell the future. The wind will blow from the west? That's the equivalent of ten o'clock news.”

At that moment, a very pale, frail looking girl walked in. “They’re laughing at us. Those three, they use words like tricksters. They’re mocking us.”

“No, no, I'm not. I meant no offence,” the Doctor protested.

“I'm sorry. My daughter's been consuming the vapours,” Metella apologized.

“Oh for gods, Mother. What have you been doing to her?” Quintus asked.

“Not now, Quitus,” Caecilius barked.

“Yeah, but she's sick. Just look at her,” Quintus protested.

“I gather I have a rival in this household. Another with the gift,” Lucius remarked.

Metella held her daughter proudly and declared, “Oh, she's been promised to the Sibylline Sisterhood. They say she has remarkable visions.”

“The prophecies of women are limited and dull. Only the menfolk have the capacity for true perception,” Lucius replied.

Rose and Donna both bristled at that and Donna muttered, “I'll tell you where the wind's blowing right now, mate.”

A small tremor shook the room and Lucius said, “The Mountain God marks your words. I'd be careful, if I were you.”

Looking to diffuse the tension, the Doctor turned to the girl and asked, “Consuming the vapours, you say?”

“They give me strength,” she replied.

“It doesn’t look like it to me,” the Doctor replied, taking in her pallor and the fact that she could hardly stand on her own.

“Is that your opinion as a doctor?” she asked.

“I beg your pardon?” he asked.

“Doctor, that’s your name.”

“How did you know that?” he asked.

Then she turned to Donna, “And you. You call yourself Noble.”

“Now then, Evelina. Don't be rude,” her mother said.

“No, no, no, no. Let her talk,” the Doctor said, intrigued.

She turned to Rose. “My Lord Lucius was right to compare you to the wolf. But you do not fear it because you believe the path of the wolf to be lost to you. Do not give up hope.”

“What?” Rose asked, confused. Donna and the Doctor had gotten such obvious fortunes from this prophetess, but hers made no sense.

“You all come from so far away,” Evelina muttered.

“The female soothsayer is inclined to invent all sorts of vagaries,” Lucius snorted.

“Oh, not this time, Lucius. No, I reckon you've been out-soothsayed,” the Doctor smiled.

“Is that so, man from Gallifrey?”

“What?” the Doctor exclaimed.

“The strangest of images. Your home is lost in fire, is it not?” Lucius continued.

“Doctor,” Rose said, taking his hand in an attempt to ground him.

“And you, daughters of London,” Lucius said, looking at Rose and Donna.

“How does he know that?” Donna asked the Doctor and Rose.

“This is the gift of Pompeii. Every single oracle tells the truth,” he replied.

“That’s impossible,” Donna muttered.

“They are returning,” Lucius said, looking at Rose.

“Who is?” Rose asked, scared at the way he said that, her mind instantly flashing to Canary Wharf, a day she hadn’t really thought about in years. Daleks? Cybermen?

“Even the word Doctor is false. Your real name is hidden. It burns in the stars, in the Cascade of Medusa herself. You are a Lord, sir. A Lord of Time. And you are his goddess. Burning oh so brightly,” Evelina said, staring at the Doctor and Rose before she fainted.

“Evelina!” Metella exclaimed, catching her daughter before she hit the ground.

Rose and Donna helped Metella carry Evelina to her room, and they laid her in bed while Metella tried to take care of her.

“She didn't mean to be rude. She's ever such a good girl. But when the gods speak through her…” Metella said, unwrapping a bandage on her wrist.

“What’s wrong with her arm?” Donna asked.

“An irritation of the skin. She never complains, bless her. We bathe it in olive oil every night,” Metella explained.

“What is it?” Rose asked, stroking the skin.

“Evelina said you'd come from far away. Please, have you ever seen anything like it?” Metella begged.

“It’s stone,” Donna gasped, looking at Rose.

They both helped Metella bathe it in olive oil, though Rose doubted it would do much good. The Doctor briefly told her through their bond that he and Quintus were going to go investigate Lucius and the circuit he had requested. Rose hated that the bond wouldn’t stretch that far, but she knew she needed to stay with Donna to try to convince her they couldn’t go messing around with a fixed point.

Eventually, Evelina woke up and decided that Rose and Donna needed to dress like they belonged. Rose ended up in a pink dress and shawl, and Donna ended up in the same, but in purple.

As Donna twirled, Evelina giggled. “You're not supposed to laugh. Thanks for that. What do you think? The Goddess Venus?”

Evelina gasped, but the twinkle was still in her eye. “Oh! That’s sacrilege!”

“Nice to see you laugh, though. What do you do in old Pompeii, then, girls your age? You got mates? Do you go hanging about round the shops? TK Maximus?” Donna asked.

“I am promised to the Sisterhood for the rest of my life,” Evelina replied.

“Did you have any say in that?” Rose asked.

“It's not my decision. The Sisters chose for me. I have the gift of sight,” Evelina said, staring down at her hands, which were gently folded in her lap.

“Then what can you see happening tomorrow?” Donna asked.

“Donna!” Rose exclaimed. “You can’t—”

“Oi! Blondie! I don’t know what spaceman said to you to convince you that what he says goes, but I’m not having that, you hear me? I’m doing the right thing,” Donna argued.

“Please, Donna. You don’t understand,” Rose tried.

“Is tomorrow special?” Evelina asked, trying to figure out what could have the two friends fighting so.

“You tell me,” Donna replied. “What do you see?”

Evelina closed her eyes for a moment, then shook her head. “The sun will rise, the sun will set. Nothing special at all.”

“Look, don’t listen to Blondie here or the Doctor, but I’ve got a prophecy too,” Donna said. Evelina covered her eyes, and Rose quickly noticed the tattoos of eyes on the backs of her hands. “Evelina, I'm sorry, but you've got to hear me out. Evelina, can you hear me? Listen.”

“Donna, please,” Rose said.

“There is only one prophecy,” Evelina whispered.

“But everything I'm about to say to you is true, I swear. Just listen to me. Tomorrow, that mountain is going to explode. Evelina, please listen. The air is going to fill with ash and rocks, tons and tons of it, and this whole town is going to get buried,” Donna said.

“That’s not true!” Evelina yelled.

“I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, but everyone's going to die,” Donna said, laying a comforting hand on Evelina’s shoulder. “Even if you don't believe me, just tell your family to get out of town. Just for one day. Just for tomorrow. But you've got to get out. You've got to leave Pompeii.”

Before anyone else could say anything, a rumbling noise shook the house, and Rose, Donna, and Evelina rushed into the main room just as the Doctor and Quintus arrived. “Caecilius? All of you, get out.”

“Doctor, what’s going on?” Rose asked.

“I think we’re being followed,” the Doctor said, right before the grill covering the hypocaust flew off “Just get out!”

A huge creature of fire and stone crawled out of the hypocaust and stood staring at them all. “The gods are with us,” Evelina declared.

“Water. We need water. Quintus. All of you, get water. Rose! Donna!” The Doctor yelled.

One of Caecilius’s servants declared, “Blessed are we to see the gods,” and then was almost immediately turned to ashes by the creature.

Rose and Donna both rushed out of the room but were grabbed by members of the sisterhood before they could return. Rose cursed the range of the temporary bond when she was unable to call out to the Doctor because of the distance, but then she and Donna were knocked unconscious.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Donna woke up tied to an altar with a woman standing above her holding a knife. “You have got to be kidding me!”

“The false prophet will surrender both her blood and her breath,” the woman declared.

“I’ll surrender you in a minute,” Donna muttered. “Where’s my friend?”

“We had no need for her,” the woman declared. “And as she did not speak false prophesy, she did not require the ceremonial death that you do.”

“She didn’t do anything wrong, so you killed her first?” Donna exclaimed, looking over to see Rose, lying dead in the corner. Right as she was about to panic, she saw Rose gasp and sit up, before quickly laying back down and winking. Donna decided then and there that it didn’t matter how long that day ended up, when she got back to the TARDIS, Rose was explaining the whole immortality thing to her.

“You will be silent,” the woman declared.

“Listen, sister, you might have eyes on the back of your hands, but you'll have eyes in the back of your head by the time I've finished with you. Let me go!”

“This prattling voice will cease forever!” The woman declared raising the knife high above Donna’s chest.

“Oh, that’ll be the day,” the Doctor muttered, striding into the room, causing all of the women to look around.

“No man is allowed to enter the Temple of Sibyl,” the woman threatening to kill Donna exclaimed.

“Yeah, I had things under control,” Rose said, standing up and walking around to stand next to him.

The priestess gasped, “You were dead! How can this be?”

The Doctor turned to look at Rose and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze before turning back to the priestess, “Would you believe it if I said I was actually a goddess?”

“That’s sacrilege!” She exclaimed.

“Only if it’s not true,” Rose countered. “And you did just kill me yourself, but here I am, living and breathing.”

“Speaking of sacrilege,” the Doctor said, “that’s exactly what this is. Do you know, I met the Sibyl once. Yeah, hell of a woman. Blimey, she could dance the Tarantella. Nice teeth. Truth be told, I think she had a bit of a thing for me. I said it would never last. She said, I know. Well, she would.”

Rose had already moved over to Donna and used her sonic to undo the ropes that were binding her to the table.

“What magic is this?” the priestess asked, looking at Rose as though she was starting to believe the whole goddess thing.

“Let me tell you about the Sibyl, the founder of this religion. She would be ashamed of you. All her wisdom and insight turned sour. Is that how you spread the word, hey? On the blade of a knife?” the Doctor continued.

“Yes, a knife that now welcomes you,” the priestess said, pointing it at the Doctor.

“Show me this man!” a booming voice declared from behind a curtain.

“High Priestess, the stranger would defile us,” the priestess holding the knife gasped.

“Let me see. This one is different. He carries starlight in his wake,” the High Priestess said.

“Oh, very perceptive. Where do these words of wisdom come from?” the Doctor asked.

“The gods whisper to me,” the High Priestess replied.

“They've done far more than that. Might I beg audience? Look upon the High Priestess?”

Two sisters drew the curtain aside, revealing the High Priestess, who was completely made of stone.

“Oh my God,” Donna whispered. “What’s happened to you?”

“The Heavens have blessed me,” she replied.

“If I might?” the Doctor asked, and the High Priestess held out her hand. He touched it gently and asked, “Does it hurt?”

“It is necessary.”

“Who told you that?” Rose asked.

“The voices,” the High Priestess replied.

“Is that what's going to happen to Evelina? Is this what's going to happen to all of you?” Donna asked.

The priestess that nearly sacrificed Donna held out her arm to show Donna that it too was made of stone. “The blessings are manifold.”

“They’re stone,” Donna gasped.

“Exactly. The people of Pompeii are turning to stone before the volcano erupts. But why?” the Doctor mused.

“This word, this image in your mind. This volcano. What is that?” the High Priestess asked.

“More to the point, why don't you know about it? Who are you?” the Doctor asked.

“High Priestess of the Sibylline.”

“No, no, no, no. I'm talking to the creature inside you. The thing that's seeding itself into a human body, in the dust, in the lungs, taking over the flesh and turning it into, what?”

“Your knowledge is impossible,” the High Priestess declared.

“Oh, but you can read my mind. You know it's not. I demand you tell me who you are,” the Doctor said, his calm unable to mask the anger in his voice.

At that point, the High Priestess began speaking in two voices, simultaneously. “We are awakening.”

“The voice of the gods!” one priestess exclaimed.

Then all of the sisters began chanting, “Words of wisdom, words of power. Words of wisdom, words of power.”

“Name yourself. Planet of origin. Galactic coordinates. Species designation according to the universal ratification of the Shadow Proclamation,” the Doctor demanded.

“We are rising!” the creature said.

“Tell me your name!” The Doctor roared.

“Pyrovile,” it answered.

“What’s a pyrovile?” Donna asked.

“Well, that’s a Pyrovile, growin inside her. She’s a halfway stage,” the Doctor explained.

“What, and that turns into?” Donna asked.

“That thing in the villa. That was an adult Pyrovile.”

“And the breath of a Pyrovile will incinerate you, Doctor,” the creature roared.

The Doctor pulled a yellow water pistol out of his pocket. “I warn you, I’m armed. Donna, Rose, get that grill open.”

They went to open the hypocaust grill, and the Doctor turned back to the Pyrovile. “What are the Pyrovile doing here?”

“We fell from the heavens. We fell so far and so fast, we were rendered into dust,” the creature replied.

“Right, creatures of stone shattered on impact. When was that, seventeen years ago?” the Doctor asked.

“We have slept beneath for thousands of years,” it answered.

“Okay, so seventeen years ago woke you up, and now you're using human bodies to reconstitute yourselves. But why the psychic powers?”

“We opened their minds and found such gifts,” the creature smiled.

“Okay, that's fine. So you force yourself inside a human brain, use the latent psychic talent to bond. I get that, I get that, yeah. But seeing the future? That is way beyond psychic. You can see through time. Where does the gift of prophecy come from?”

“Got it open!” Donna yelled.

“Good, now get down,” the Doctor replied.

“What, down there?” she asked.

“Yes, down there,” he said before turning back to the creature. “Why can't this lot predict a volcano? Why is it being hidden?”

The priestess that tried to kill Donna gasped, “Sisters, I see into his mind. The weapon is harmless.”

“Yeah, but it’s got to sting,” he shrugged, firing it at the Pyrovile, who flinched. “Get down there!”

Once they were all down in the hypocaust, Donna exclaimed, “You fought her off with a water pistol. I bloody love you.”

“Hey, that’s my fiancé you’re talking to,” Rose laughed.

“This way,” the Doctor called, taking off down a tunnel.

“Where are we going now?” Donna asked.

“Into the volcano,” he replied.

“No way,” Donna gasped.

“Yes way,” he replied. “Appian way.”

“But if it's aliens setting off the volcano, doesn't that make it all right for you to stop it?” Donna asked as they walked.

“Still part of history,” the Doctor replied.

“But I'm history to you. You saved me in 2008. You saved us all. Why is that different?” Donna asked.

“It’s like I said earlier,” Rose explained. “This is a fixed point. That was something that was in flux.”

“How do you know which is which?” Donna asked.

“Because that's how I see the universe. Every waking second, I can see what is, what was, what could be, what must not. That's the burden of a Time Lord, Donna. And I'm the only one left,” the Doctor spat.

“How many people died?” Donna asked.

“Stop it,” the Doctor said.

“Doctor, how many people died?”

“Twenty thousand,” he replied.

“Is that what you can see, Doctor? All twenty thousand? And you think that's all right, do you? Both of you?” Donna asked.

Before Rose or the Doctor could respond, something roared, and the Doctor said, “They know we’re here. Come on.”

They made their way into a huge chamber filled with Pyroviles. “It’s the heart of Vesuvius,” the Doctor explained. “We’re right inside the mountain.”

“There’s tons of them,” Donna gasped.

“What’s that thing?” Rose asked, pointing at something in the distance.

“That's how they arrived. Or what's left of it. Escape pod? Prison ship? Gene bank?” The Doctor mused.

“But why do they need a volcano? Maybe it erupts, and they launch themselves back into space or something?” Donna asked.

“Oh, it’s worse than that,” the Doctor sighed.

“How could it be worse?” Donna asked.

Lucius was standing on the other side of the cavern, and he declared, “Heathens defile us. They would desecrate your temple, my lord gods.”

“Come on,” the Doctor said, taking Rose’s hand and walking into the cavern.

“We can’t go in!” Donna gasped.

“Well, we can’t go back,” he reasoned.

“Crush them, burn them!” Lucius roared.

A Pyrovile appeared in from of them, and the Doctor distracted it with the water pistol as they ran to the pod.

“There is nowhere to run, Doctor and daughters of London,” Lucius crowed.

“Now then, Lucius. My lords Pyrovillian, don't get yourselves in a lather. In a lava? No? No. But if I might beg the wisdom of the gods before we perish. Once this new race of creatures is complete, then what?” the Doctor asked.

“My masters will follow the example of Rome itself. An almighty empire, bestriding the whole of civilisation,” Lucius replied.

“But if you've crashed, and you've got all this technology, why don't you just go home?” Donna suggested.

“The Heaven of Pyrovillia is gone.”

“What do you mean, gone? Where's it gone?” the Doctor asked.

“It was taken. Pyrovillia is lost. But there is heat enough in this world for a new species to rise,” Lucius declared.

“Yeah, I should warn you, it's seventy percent water out there,” the Doctor said, hoping it would deter them.

“Water can boil. And everything will burn, Doctor,” Lucius said.

“Then the whole planet is at stake. Thank you. That's all I needed to know,” the Doctor said as he and the girls climbed into the pod and he sealed it with his sonic.

“Could we be any more trapped?” Donna asked. As the pod started to heat up, she added, “Little bit hot too.”

“See? The energy converter takes the lava, uses the power to create a fusion matrix, which welds Pyrovile to human. Now it's complete, they can convert millions,” the Doctor said, examining the circuits that Lucius had collected from all of the marble merchants in town.

“But can't you change it with these controls?” Donna asked.

“Of course I can, but don't you see? That's why the soothsayers can't see the volcano. There is no volcano. Vesuvius is never going to erupt. The Pyrovile are stealing all its power. They're going to use it to take over the world,” he explained.

“But you can change it back?”

“I can invert the system, set off the volcano, and blow them up, yes. But, that's the choice, Donna. It's Pompeii or the world,” he said.

“Oh my God,” she whispered.

“If Pompeii is destroyed then it's not just history, it's me. I make it happen,” the Doctor whispered.

“Doctor, the Pyrovile are made of rocks. Maybe they can't be blown up,” Donna asked, panicking.

“Vesuvius explodes with the force of twenty four nuclear bombs. Nothing can survive it. Certainly not us. Well, maybe Rose,” the Doctor mused, looking at his fiancée.

“Never mind us,” Donna said.

“Push this lever and it’s over. Twenty thousand people,” he said, staring at his hand on the lever.

“You aren’t alone this time,” Rose said, settling her hand over his. Donna looked at them both and added her hand to the pile. They all nodded at each other and pushed the lever.

The pod flew out of the volcano first, and all three occupants climbed out. They took off for the TARDIS. Along the way, Donna tried to tell all of the screaming people to go to the mountains, but no one listened to her as they all took off toward the beach. They finally made it to Caecilius’s house, and the Doctor strode past the family as they cowered in the corner.

“Gods save us, Doctor,” the man begged.

As the Doctor ignored him, Donna yelled, “No! Doctor, you can’t.”

Donna and Rose followed him into the TARDIS. “You can’t just leave them!” Donna exclaimed.

“Don't you think I've done enough? History's back in place and everyone dies,” the Doctor said, moving around the TARDIS, preparing to send them into the vortex. Rose stood frozen by the door.

“You've got to go back. Doctor, I am telling you, take this thing back. It's not fair.” Donna said.

“No, it’s not,” the Doctor agreed.

“But your own planet,” Donna reminded him. “It burned.”

“That's just it. Don't you see, Donna? Can't you understand? If I could go back and save them, then I would. But I can't. I can never go back. I can't. I just can't, I can't.”

Finally, Rose moved, walking up to the console and stopping the dematerialization sequence. “Donna’s right.”

“What?” the Doctor asked, turning to look at her.

“Today’s a bad day,” she said. “I’ve had plenty of those, believe me. And just ask Martha, on those days, the story I told was usually the one about the gas mask zombies. Do you know why? Because that was one of the few days where everybody lived. I needed that reminder on those days because I felt like I had failed. But on those days, one of the things that really helped was a question. Just one question that Martha would ask me. Do you know what that question was?”

“What?” the Doctor asked, unsure why she would bring up the year that never was.

“She would ask me how many people lived because of me. Not how many died. So Doctor, yes, twenty thousand people are going to die today. But how many are gonna live?” Rose said, staring him down.

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor, Rose, Donna, and Caecilius’s family stood on a hill as they watched Pompeii burn. “It's never forgotten, Caecilius. Oh, time will pass, men'll move on, and stories will fade. But one day, Pompeii will be found again. In thousands of years. And everyone will remember you,” the Doctor said.

“What about you, Evelina? Can you see anything?” Donna asked.

“The visions have gone,” Evelina replied.

“The explosion was so powerful it cracked open a rift in time, just for a second. That's what gave you the gift of prophecy. It echoed back into the Pyrovillian alternative. But not any more. You're free,” the Doctor explained.

“But tell me. Who are you, Doctor? With your words, and your temple containing such size within?” Metella asked.

“Oh, I was never here. Don't tell anyone,” the Doctor said.

“The great god Vulcan must be enraged. It's so volcanic. It's like some sort of volcano. All those people,” Caecilius muttered as the Doctor, Rose and Donna slipped into the TARDIS.

“Thank you,” Donna said.

“You were right,” the Doctor said.

“Yeah,” Rose agreed. “Thank you for reminding me of what’s important. I’m finally learning the rules for real, and it’s easy to get caught up in them. I get why the Doctor’s always been so fond of us humans.”

“Speaking of humans…” Donna said, “I think you owe me an explanation of what happened to you. I mean, you’ve died twice in the past two days. That’s not normal, but you’re treating it like it’s just a minor inconvenience.”

“It’s been a long day…” Rose protested.

“No,” Donna said. “I need an explanation tonight.”

Rose sighed, “Okay. I’ll meet you in the library in a minute. I’m going to go make some tea and call Jack.”

“You’re making a phone call?” Donna asked.

“I really should have called him last night,” Rose sighed. “But I’ll explain all that in a minute. Just, go get changed and meet me in the library in twenty minutes.”

Donna left, and the Doctor turned to Rose. “Are you sure? I know you’re tired.”

“I’m fine,” Rose said. “And Donna does deserve an explanation.”

“I just don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with,” he sighed.

“Doctor,” Rose replied. “I’m not the one who has issues with me dying. I’m fine, and I’m just going to explain it all to Donna. You don’t have to come if it’ll make you uncomfortable.”

“I know I promised to be okay with all of this,” the Doctor whispered, hugging Rose and holding her close, “but it’s hard. I mean, Donna’s right. You’ve died twice in two days. That’s a lot. And I’m not letting you out of my sight for the rest of the night. So I’m coming with you.”

“Well, then you make the tea while I talk to Jack,” Rose smiled, disentangling herself from her fiancée and taking off down the hall.