The Ood were a telepathic species. That Lilith knew. But she didn’t think they were strong enough for the faint buzzing in the back of her mind to become a whole, clear, sad, yet beautiful song.
“Oh, can you hear it?” the Doctor said, sonicing the door open. “I didn't need the map. I should have listened.” He closed the door behind them and fried the lock.
“Hold on,” Donna protested. “Does that mean we're locked in?”
He paid her no mind. “Listen. Listen, listen, listen, listen.”
The ethereal music rang through Lilith’s mind. She pressed he heel of her palm against her forehead. “Oh, my head.”
“What is it?” Donna asked.
“Can't you hear it? The singing?”
Groups of Ood were sitting in cages. They turned away from the trio. “They look different to the others,” Donna noticed.
“That's because they're natural born Ood,” the Doctor said. “Unprocessed, before they're adapted to slavery. Unspoilt. That's their song.”
“I can't hear it.”
“Do you want to?”
Donna nodded. “Yeah.”
“It's the song of captivity,” the Doctor warned.
“Let me hear it,” she insisted. He put his fingers to her temples and Lilith could see the moment Donna started tearing up as she heard the Oodsong. “Take it away. I can't bear it.”
The Doctor disconnected her from the telepathic field.
“I'm sorry,” she whispered.
“But you can still hear it.”
“All the time.” The Doctor soniced open the cage. The Ood cowered in the corner. “What are you holding? Show me. Friend. Lilith, Doctor, Donna. Friend. Let me see. Look at me. Let me see. That's it. That's it, go on. Go on.”
The Ood opened his hands. He was holding a small brain.
Donna’s jaw dropped. “Is that?”
“A brain,” Lilith breathed. “A hind brain.”
“The Ood are born with a secondary brain,” the Doctor explained. “Like the amygdala in humans, it processes memory and emotions. You get rid of that; you wouldn't be Donna any more. You'd be like an Ood. A processed Ood.”
“So the company cuts off their brains?” Donna asked, appalled.
“And stitch on the translator,” Lilith spat.
“Like a lobotomy. I spent all that time looking for you, Doctor, because I thought it was so wonderful out here. I want to go home,” the elder ginger said, quietly.
The door crashing open cut Lilith off. The Doctor locked the three of them in with the Ood. “What you going to do, then? Arrest us? Lock us up? Throw us in a cage? Well, you're too late. Ha!”
Lilith face palmed.
Lilith, the Doctor, and Donna were handcuffed to some pipes.
The boss, Halpen, clasped his hands behind his back. “Why don't you just come out and say it? FOTO activists.”
“If that's what Friends Of The Ood are trying to prove, then yes,” the Doctor said.
“The Ood were nothing without us, just animals roaming around on the ice.”
“That's because you can't hear them!” Lilith hissed.
“They welcomed it,” Halpen dismissed. “It's not as if they put up a fight.”
“You idiot!” Donna snapped. “They're born with their brains in their hands. Don't you see? That makes them peaceful. They've got to be, because a creature like that would have to trust anyone it meets.”
“The system's worked for two hundred years. All we've got is a rogue batch,” Halpen said. “But the infection is about to be sterilized. Mister Kess. How do we stand?”
“Canisters primed, sir. As soon as the core heats up, the gas is released. Give it two hundred marks and counting,” someone said over a communicator.
“You're going to gas them?” the Doctor demanded.
“Kill the livestock. The classic foot and mouth solution from the olden days. Still works.” Halpen sneered. An alarm sounded. “What the hell?” He stormed out of the room.
Lilith shifted. “Am I the only one who has a really bad feeling about this?”
Halpen came back in. “Change of plan.”
“There are no reports of trouble off world, sir,” his partner reported. “It's still contained to the Ood Sphere.”
“Then we've got a public duty to stop it before it spreads.”
“What's happening?” Lilith asked.
“Everything you wanted. No doubt there'll be a full police investigation once this place has been sterilized, so I can't risk a bullet to the head. I'll leave you to the mercies of the Ood.”
“But Mister Halpen,” the Doctor said, “there's something else, isn't there? Something we haven't seen.”
“What do you mean?” questioned Donna.
“A creature couldn't survive with a separate forebrain and hind brain, they'd be at war with themselves. There's got to be something else, a third element, am I right?”
Halpen studied the Doctor. “And again, so clever.”
“But it's got to be connected to the red eye. What is it?”
“It won't exist for very much longer. Enjoy your Ood.” He left the Doctor, Donna, and Lilith alone.
Donna struggled against the handcuffs. “Well, do something. You're the one with all the tricks. You must have met Houdini.”
“These are really good handcuffs,” the Doctor said through gritted teeth.
“Oh well, I'm glad of that. I mean, at least we've got quality.”
Three red-eyed Ood came in holding their translator balls. Lilith swore in Gallifreyan.
“Lilith, Doctor, Donna, friends,” the Doctor said.
“The circle must be broken,” Donna tried.
“Friends of the Ood,” was Lilith’s attempt.
“Lilith, Doctor, Donna, friends.”
“The circle must be broken.”
“Friends of the Ood.”
The Ood kept approaching; the trio kept repeating themselves, more insistently each time. Then, the Ood stopped. “Lilith. DoctorDonna. Friends.”
They sighed in relief. “Too close for comfort, there. Thank you,” Lilith said to the Ood.
“Come on, we need to find the third element before Halpen destroys it.” Lilith and Donna followed the Doctor out into the cold air. “I don't know where it is. I don't know where they've gone.”
“What are we looking for?”
“It might be underground, like some sort of cave, or a cavern, or—” Something exploded, knocking the three of them down. “All right?” the Doctor coughed.
As the smoke cleared, and Ood was standing in front them. “Lilith, DoctorDonna, I am Ood Sigma. Allow me to escort you to your destination.”
The two Gallifreyans exchanged glances before following the Ood through the carnage to a warehouse. The Doctor soniced the door controls and pushed it open. Below them was what looked like a very large brain.
“The Ood Brain. Now it all makes sense, That's the missing link. The third element, binding them together. Forebrain, hind brain, and this, the telepathic center. It's a shared mind, connecting all the Ood in song.”
“Cargo.” They whipped their head around to look at Halpen. “I can always go into cargo. I've got the rockets; I've got the sheds. Smaller business. Much more manageable without livestock.”
“He's mined the area,” the partner warned them.
“You're going to kill it?” Lilith growled.
Halpen ignored her. “They found that thing centuries ago beneath the Northern Glacier.”
“Those pylons,” the Doctor said.
“In a circle.” Donna understood. “The circle must be broken.”
“Damping the telepathic field. Stopping the Ood from connecting for two hundred years.”
“And you, Ood Sigma, you brought them here. I expected better.
“My place is at your side, sir.” The Ood joined Halpen.
He chuckled. “Still subservient. Good Ood.”
“If that barrier thing's in place, how come the Ood started breaking out?” Donna wondered.
“Maybe it's taken centuries to adapt,” Lilith suggested. “And now the subconscious is reaching out.”
“But the process was too slow. It had to be accelerated. You should never give me access to the controls, Mister Halpen.” The partner laughed at the boss. “I lowered the barrier to its minimum. Friends Of The Ood, sir. It's taken me ten years to infiltrate the company, and I succeeded.”
“Yes. Yes, you did.” Halpen threw the man over the catwalk railing and onto the giant brain, which absorbed him.
“You murdered him!” gasped Donna.
“Very observant, Ginger.” Lilith pulled Donna behind her and gripped her blaster when Halpen pulled out a gun. “Now then, can't say I've ever shot anyone before. Can't say I'm going to like it. But er, it's not exactly a normal day, is it? Still.”
Ood Sigma stepped forward. “Would you like a drink, sir?”
Halpen frowned. “I think hair loss is the least of my problems right now, thanks.”
The Ood stood in front of the Doctor. “Please have a drink, sir.”
“If, if you're going to stand in their way, I'll shoot you too.”
“Please have a drink, sir.”
The human’s eyes widened as he started to shake. “Have, have you poisoned me?”
“Natural Ood must never kill, sir,” Sigma said.
“What is that stuff?” The Doctor nodded to the small cup the Ood was holding.
“Ood graft suspended in a biological compound, sir.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Halpen demanded.
“Oh, well,” Lilith smirked.
“Funny thing, the subconscious,” the Doctor said. “Takes all sorts of shapes. Came out in the red eye as revenge, came out in the rabid Ood as anger, and then there was patience. All that intelligence and mercy, focused on Ood Sigma. How's the hair loss, Mister Halpen?”
Halpen reached to his head and a clump of hair came away in his hand. “What have you done?”
“Oh, they've been preparing you for a very long time. And now you're standing next to the Ood Brain, Mister Halpen, can you hear it? Listen.”
“What have you? I'm not…” Halpen's face went blank. He dropped his gun, reached for his head and, to Lilith and Donna’s disgust, peeled the skin off. Tentacles fell out of his mouth.
“They, they turned him into an Ood?” Donna gaped.
“We have reached a whole new level of weird here,” Lilith muttered.
Halpen sneezed and a small hindbrain flopped into his hands.
“He has become Oodkind,” Sigma said, “and we will take care of him.”
Donna stared at the newly created Ood. “It's weird, being with you. I can't tell what's right and what's wrong any more.”
“It's better that way.” The Doctor shrugged. “People who know for certain tend to be like Mister Halpen.”
Something beeped. “Dad, the bombs!” Lilith reminded him.
“Oh!” The Doctor deactivated the explosives. “That's better. And now, Sigma, would you allow me the honor?”
Sigma nodded. “It is yours, Doctor.”
The Doctor grinned. “Oh, yes! Stifled for two hundred years, but not any more. The circle is broken. The Ood can sing!” The current around the Ood Brain shut off and the song in Lilith’s head got louder, slow but happy.
“I can hear it!” Donna laughed.
Lilith beamed. “Now that’s what I call a song.”
The three travelers and a group of Ood stood outside the TARDIS.
“The message has gone out,” the Doctor said. “That song resonated across the galaxies. Everyone heard it. Everyone knows. The rockets are bringing them back. The Ood are coming home.”
Sigma lifted his translator. “We thank you, Lilith, DoctorDonna, friends of Oodkind. And what of you now? Will you stay? There is room in the song for you.”
The Doctor shook his head. “Oh, I've, we've sort of got a song of our own, thanks.”
“I think your song must end soon.”
The Time Lord frowned. “Meaning?”
“Every song must end,” Sigma replied.
“Yeah.” The Doctor’s voice was uncertain. “Er, what about you?” he asked Donna. “You still want to go home?”
Donna smiled. “No. Definitely not.”
“Then we'll be off,” the Doctor declared.
All of the Ood raised their hands. “Take this song with you.”
Donna nodded. “We will.”
“Always,” Lilith promised.
“And know this, Lilith, DoctorDonna. You will never be forgotten. Our children will sing of the DoctorDonna, and our children's children, and the wind and the ice and the snow will carry your names forever.”
The Doctor, Lilith, and Donna went into the TARDIS, and the Doctor pulled the dematerialization lever. Lilith shook off the Ood’s ominous words and smiled. There were plenty of adventures left to have.
The song wasn’t over yet.