Lilith peeked out of the TARDIS, checking that they hand landed in the right spot. “We’re good.” She called over her shoulder and stepped out. The Doctor and Donna followed her into the sunshine. The streets were lined with vendors of various goods.
“Ancient Rome!” the Doctor declared. “Well, not for them, obviously. To all intents and purposes, right now, this is brand new Rome.”
Donna looked around, wide-eyed. “Oh my God. It's, it's so Roman. This is fantastic! 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.
Lilith sighed. “We always pick the cheery ones, don’t we?”
“Hold on a minute,” Donna frowned, looking over the Doctor’s shoulder. “That sign over there's in English. Are you having me on? Are we in Epcot?”
“Nah, that's the TARDIS translation circuits,” Lilith told her. “It makes pretty much every language look like English. Speech too. You're speaking Latin right now.”
“I just said seriously in Latin.”
“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?”
The Doctor furrowed his eyebrows. “I'm not sure. You have to think of difficult questions, don't you?”
“I'm going to try it.” Donna went over to a fruit seller. “Er, veni vidi vici.”
“Huh? Sorry?” The seller spoke slowly and loudly. “Me no speak Celtic. No can do, missy.”
“Yeah.” Donna walked away. “How's he mean, Celtic?” she asked the Doctor.
“Welsh.” The Doctor shrugged. “You sound Welsh. There we are. Learnt something.”
They continued on.
“Don't our clothes look a bit odd?” Donna wondered.
“Nah,” the Doctor said. “Ancient Rome, anything goes. It's like Soho, but bigger.”
Lilith looked down at her jeans. “Last time I was in period dress. Now I feel like an athlete at ComicCon.”
“You've been here before then?”
“Mm. Ages ago,” the Doctor confirmed. “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.”
They came out into the city square. “Not an expert,” Donna said, “but there's seven hills of Rome, aren't there? How come they've only got one?”
In the distance was one big, bare-headed mountain. Then the ground shook. “Here we go again!” a man shouted. The vendors hung onto their stalls as pottery fell and broke.
“Wait a minute. One mountain, with smoke. Which makes this…”
Lilith and the Doctor exchanged horrified looks. “Pompeii. We're in Pompeii. And it's volcano day.”
“We need to get out of here.” They raced back to where they had left the TARDIS, only to find it missing.
“You're kidding,” Donna panted. “You're not telling me the TARDIS has gone.”
“Okay,” the Doctor said.
“Where is it then?”
“You told me not to tell you.”
“Oi! Don't get clever in Latin.”
Lilith rolled her eyes. “Hey, you! Fruit boy!” she barked at the fruit seller. “There was a box over there. A big, blue, wooden box. What’d you do with it?”
“Sold it, didn't I?” he said, smugly.
“But it wasn't yours to sell!” the Doctor protested.
“It was on my patch, weren't it? I got fifteen sesterces for it. Lovely jubbly.”
“Who'd you sell it to?” Lilith demanded.
“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 Doctor frowned. “What’d he buy a big, blue box for?”
Lilith grabbed the Doctor’s wrist and dragged him away. “Next time, try not to sell other people’s property!” she shouted at the roman.
They caught up with Donna. “I've got it. Foss Street's this way.” The Doctor turned to run.
“No,” Donna said. “Well, I found this big sort of amphitheater thing. We can start there. We can gather everyone together. Maybe they've got a great big bell or something we could ring. Have they invented bells yet?”
“What do you want a bell for?”
“To warn everyone. Start the evacuation. What time does Vesuvius erupt? When's it due?”
“It's 79 AD, twenty third of August, which makes volcano day tomorrow.” Lilith shook her head. “Oh, Uncle Jack’s going to get a kick out of this.”
“Plenty of time,” Donna decided. “We could get everyone out easy.”
“Yeah, except we're not going to.” The Doctor grabbed Donna’s wrist to pull her along.
Donna tugged him back. “But that's what you do. You're the Doctor. You save people,” she protested.
“Not this time. Pompeii is a fixed point in history. What happens, happens. There is no stopping it.”
“Says who?” she demanded.
“Says me,” said the Doctor.
“What, and you're in charge?”
“TARDIS, Time Lord, yeah.”
“Donna, human, no. I don't need your permission. I'll tell them myself.”
Lilith looked at the other ginger stubbornly. “Donna, if you stand in the market place announcing the end of the world, they'll just think you're a crazy old soothsayer. I can explain the semantics of paradoxes later. For now, we need to get out of here.”
“Well, I might just have something to say about that, Spacegirl.”
“Oh, I bet you will,” the Doctor snapped. Together, they ran off towards the villa.
“Positions!” Caecilius shouted as the ground began to shake. He went to stopt a marble bust from falling, but the Doctor caught it first.
“Whoa! There you go.”
“Thank you, kind sir,” Caecilius said. “I'm afraid business is closed for the day. I'm expecting a visitor.”
The Doctor shook his hand vigorously. “But that's me, I'm a visitor. Hello.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Spartacus,” he decided.
“And so am I,” Donna added.
“Mr. and Mrs. Spartacus,” The roman man greeted. Lilith giggled.
The Doctor’s eyes widened. “Oh no, no, no. We're not— we're not married.”
“We're not together,” Donna denied.
“Oh, then brother and sister?” Caecilius guessed. “Yes, of course. You look very much alike.”
“Really?” the Doctor and Donna said in unison.
Lilith held out her hand and shot Caecilius a winning smile. “I’m Livia. Please excuse my father and aunt. They bicker constantly and loathe admitting that they’re related.”
Caecilius smiled back. “I'm sorry, but I'm not open for trade,” he said to the Doctor.
“And that trade would be?” the Doctor prompted.
“Marble. Lobus Caecilius. Mining, polishing and design thereof. If you want marble, I'm your man.”
“That's good. That's good, because I'm the marble inspector.” The Doctor flashed his psychic paper.
“By the gods of commerce, an inspection. I'm sorry, sir. I do apologize for my son.” Caecilius’ wife poured away their son’s goblet of wine.
“Oi!” the boy protested.
“And this is my good wife, Metella. I must confess, we're not prepared for a…”
“Nothing to worry about. I'm sure you've nothing to hide,” the Doctor said. “Although, frankly, that object looks rather like wood to me.” He pointed to the TARDIS, which sat in the corner of the room.
“I told you to get rid of it,” Metella hissed at her husband.
“I only bought it today,” Caecilius explained.
The Doctor shrugged. “Ah, well. Caveat emptor.”
“Oh, you're Celtic. There's lovely.”
“I'm sure it's fine, but I might have to take it off your hands for a proper inspection.”
“Although,” Donna said, “while we're here, wouldn't you recommend a holiday, Spartacus?”
The Doctor glared at her. “Don't know what you mean, Spartacus.”
Lilith rolled her eyes. “Oh, here we go.”
“Oh, this lovely family. Mother and father and son. Don't you think they should get out of town?”
Caecilius frowned. “Why should we do that?”
“Well, the volcano, for starters.”
“Donna,” Lilith sighed.
The roman furrowed his eyebrows. “What-ano?”
“That great big volcano right on your doorstep.”
“Oh, Spartacus, for shame. We haven't even greeted the household gods yet.” The Doctor dragged her aside to explain. “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,” Donna said, sarcastically. “They can learn a new word as they die.”
“Donna, please,” Lilith begged. “This isn’t the sort of thing we can meddle in without serious consequences.”
“Listen, I don't know what sort of kids you two've been flying round with in outer space, but you're not telling me to shut up. That boy, how old is he, sixteen? And tomorrow he burns to death.”
“And that's my fault?” the Doctor demanded.
“Right now, yes.”
“Announcing Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of the City Government,” someone announced. A middle-aged man wearing a cloak over the right half of his body walked in.
“Quintus, stand up,” Metella snapped at the boy.
“Lucius. My pleasure, as always. A rare and great honor, sir, for you to come to my house.” Caecilius held out his hand, but Lucius didn’t take it.
“The birds are flying north, and the wind is in the west,” the man said. “Only the grain of wheat knows where it will grow.”
Caecilius turned to his wife. “There now, Metella. Have you ever heard such wisdom?”
“Never. It's an honor.”
“Pardon me, sir. I have guests. This is Spartacus, Livia and, er, Spartacus.”
Lucius studied the trio. “A name is but a cloud upon a summer wind.”
The Doctor rocked back on his heels. “But the wind is felt most keenly in the dark.”
“Ah. But what is the dark, other than an omen of the sun?”
“I concede that every sun must set.”
“Ha,” Lucius scoffed.
“And yet the son of the father must also rise,” the Doctor finished, gesturing to Quintus.
The Augur’s expression didn’t change. “Damn. Very clever, sir. Evidently, a man of learning.”
“Oh, yes. But don't mind me. Don't want to disturb the status quo.”
“Are you really going to keep doing that?” Lilith asked her father.
“He's Celtic,” Caecilius whispered as an explanation.
“We'll be off in a minute,” the Doctor assured him, dragging an arguing Donna to the TARDIS. Lilith followed close behind, watching the romans with interest.
“The moment of revelation. And here it is.” Caecilius unveiled what looked suspiciously like a circuit board made of marble.
“Dad, look!” Lilith whispered.
“Exactly as you specified. It pleases you, sir?”
Lucius studied the stone. “As the rain pleases the soil.”
The Doctor slowly walked back over. “ Oh, now that's different. Who designed that, then?”
“My Lord Lucius was very specific,” Caecilius said.
“Where'd you get the pattern?” the Doctor asked.
“On the rain and mist,” Lucius replied.
Lilith snorted. “Oh, of course. The water told you what to order,” she muttered under her breath.
“But that looks like a circuit,” Donna said.
“Made of stone,” the Doctor agreed.
“Do you mean you just dreamt that thing up?”
“That is my job, as City Augur.”
Donna frowned. “What's that, then, like the mayor?”
“Oh, ha. You must excuse my sister; she came from Barcelona.” The Doctor pulled Donna to the side and spoke so only she and Lilith could hear. “No, but this is an age of 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.”
A young woman entered the room, swaying and pale. “They're laughing at us,” he said. “Those three, they use words like tricksters. They're mocking us.”
“No, no, I meant no offense,” the Doctor defended.
Metella went to the girl’s side. “I'm sorry. My daughter's been consuming the vapors.”
“Oh for gods, Mother. What have you been doing to her?” Quintus demanded.
“Not now, Quintus,” Caecilius chided.
“Yeah, but she's sick. Just look at her.”
“I gather I have a rival in this household. Another with the gift,” Lucius said.
Metella rubbed her daughter’s arm. “Oh, she's been promised to the Sibylline Sisterhood. They say she has remarkable visions.”
Lucius scoffed. “The prophecies of women are limited and dull. Only the menfolk have the capacity for true perception.”
Lilith glared at him. “Excuse you.”
“I'll tell you where the wind's blowing right now, mate,” Donna snapped.
A small tremor shot through the villa. “The Mountain God marks your words. I'd be careful, if I were you,” the Augur warned.
“Consuming the vapors, you say?” the Doctor asked.
“They give me strength,” the young woman claimed.
‘Yeah, cause she’s the picture of pristine health.’
“It doesn't look like it to me.”
“Is that your opinion as a doctor?”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. “I beg your pardon?”
“Doctor,” she repeated. “That's your name.”
“How did you know that?”
The young woman turned to Donna. “And you. You call yourself Noble. And she is a creature of the night.” She motioned to Lilith.
“I hate my name,” Lilith mumbled.
“Now then, Evelina. Don't be rude!” Metella scolded.
“No, no, no, no. Let her talk,” the Doctor allowed.
“You all come from so far away.”
“The female soothsayer is inclined to invent all sorts of vagaries,” Lucius dismissed.
The Doctor shook his head. “Oh, not this time, Lucius. No, I reckon you've been out-soothsayed.”
“Is that so, man from Gallifrey?”
“What?” the Time Lord demanded.
“The strangest of images. Your home is lost in fire, is it not?”
“I’d watch that mouth of yours, Malfoy,” Lilith growled.
Lucius turned to Lilith. “You with your strange references and your knowledge of his future times, child of the TARDIS.”
“Doctor, what are they doing?” Donna asked.
“And you, daughter of London.” Lucius looked at her.
“How does he know that?”
“This is the gift of Pompeii. Every single oracle tells the truth.”
“Doctor, she is returning,” the Augur said.
The Doctor frowned. “Who is? Who's she?” He looked at Lilith, as though expecting an answer, but she was preoccupied with what Lucius said next.
“And you, daughter of London. There is something on your back.”
“Even the word doctor is false,” the young woman accused. “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.” She fainted.
“Well,” Lilith muttered, “this just got interesting.”
Donna had retreated into Evelina’s room with the girl. The Doctor removed the hypocaust grill. “Different sort of hypocaust?”
“Oh, yes,” Caecilius confirmed. “We're very advanced in Pompeii. In Rome, they're still using the old wood-burning furnaces, but we've got hot springs, leading from Vesuvius itself.”
“Who thought of that?” Lilith asked,
“The soothsayers, after the great earthquake, seventeen years ago,” the roman answered. “An awful lot of damage. But we rebuilt.”
“Didn't you think of moving away?” the Doctor questioned. “Then again, San Francisco.”
“That's a new restaurant in Naples, isn't it?”
Lilith shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. We never made it to Naples, did we, Father?”
The Doctor glared at her. A loud roaring sound came from below the surface. “What's that noise?”
“Don't know. Happens all the time. They say the gods of the Underworld are stirring,” Caecilius claimed.
“But after the earthquake…” The Doctor thought for a moment. “Let me guess, is that when the soothsayers started making sense?”
Caecilius nodded. “Oh, yes, very much so. I mean, they'd always been, shall we say, imprecise? But then the soothsayers, the augurs, the haruspex, all of them, they saw the truth again and again. It's quite amazing. They can predict crops and rainfall with absolute precision.”
“Haven't they said anything about tomorrow?”
“No. Why, should they? Why do you ask?”
“No, no. No reason. I'm just asking. But the soothsayers, they all consume the vapors, yeah?”
“That's how they see.”
The Doctor reached into the hypocaust. “They're all consuming this.” He sprinkled some powder into Caecilius’ hand.
“Tiny rock particles. They're breathing in Vesuvius,” Lilith realized.
‘I need to talk to Quintus,’ the Doctor decided.
‘Why? What are you planning?’
‘Lucius is building a stone circuit board for a reason. I want to find out why.’
Lilith grinned. ‘Breaking and entering. Sound like my kind of plan.’