Night had fallen. Quintus held a burning torch as he led the Doctor and Lilith through Pompeii. “Don't tell my Dad.”
The Doctor jumped up to a window and opened the shutters. “Only if you don't tell mine.” He climbed through the window.
Quintus looked at Lilith, who glanced at where the Doctor had disappeared. “Best not keep him waiting.” She climbed in after him. Quintus passed the Doctor the torch and followed.
The hypocaust was glowing red with heat. The Doctor looked around, and then took down a curtain to reveal a wall of different designed marble tiles.
“The liar,” Quintus hissed. “He told my father it was the only one.”
“Well, plenty of marble merchants in this town.” The Doctor shrugged. “Tell them all the same thing; get all the components from different places, so no one can see what you're building.”
“Which is what?”
“The future, Doctor.” The three of them spun around. Lucius was watching them. “We are building the future, as dictated by the gods.”
Lilith rolled her eyes. “Lovely. I always knew soothsayers were delusional.”
The Doctor began rearranging the circuit boards. “Put this one there. This one there. Er, keep that one upside down, and what you got?”
“Enlighten me,” Lucius said
“What, the soothsayer doesn't know?” Lilith taunted with a smirk
“The seed may float on the breeze in any direction.”
She sighed. “Somehow I figured you were going to say that.”
“It's an energy converter,” the Doctor said, enthusiastically. “But of what, I don't know. Isn't that brilliant? I love not knowing. Keeps me on my toes. It must be awful being a prophet, waking up every morning, is it raining? Yes, it is, I said so. Takes all the fun out of life. But who designed this, Lucius, hmm? Who gave you these instructions?”
“I think you've babbled enough!” Lucius snapped.
“That’s not going to get him to shut up,” Lilith muttered.
“Lucius, really, tell me. Honestly, I'm on your side. I can help.”
“You and your child insult the gods. There can be only one sentence. At arms!” the Augur ordered. The guards drew their short swords. Lilith drew her blaster.
The Doctor stepped back. “Oh, morituri te salutant.”
“Celtic prayers won't help you now.”
“But it was him, sir, he made me do it. Mister Dextrus, please don't--” Quintus begged.
“Come on now, Quintus, dignity in death. I respect your victory, Lucius. Shake on it? Come on. Dying man's wish?” The Doctor grabbed at Lucius' right arm beneath the cloak and pulled. There was a cracking sound and Lucius shouted in pain. The Doctor was holding a stone hand and forearm. Lilith’s jaw dropped.
“Show me,” the Doctor requested.
Lucius threw back the cloak. His entire right side had calcified. “The work of the gods.”
“He's stone!” Quintus gasped.
“’Armless enough, though.” The Doctor tossed the arm back to Lucius. “Quintus!”
Quintus threw the torch at a guard as the Doctor soniced the circuit boards, then they made their escape through the window.
“Run!” the Doctor shouted and they sprinted away. “No sign of them. Nice little bit of allons-y. I think we're all right.”
“But his arm, Doctor,” Quintus said, “is that what's happening to Evelina?”
The ground rumbled. “What was that?”
It rumbled again. “The mountain?” the boy guessed.
Lilith shook her head. “Too rhythmic.”
“And it's closer,” the Doctor added. Things started falling over as the ground shook. “Footsteps.”
“It can't be.”
“Footsteps underground.” Lilith amended.
“What is it? What is it?” Quintus asked.
They started running back to the villa, the grills blowing off the hypocaust vents as they passed. “Caecilius? All of you, get out!” the Doctor shouted.
Donna grabbed his arm. “Doctor, what is it?”
“I think we're being followed.” The hypocaust grill flew off. “Just get out!” he yelled.
True to the nature of humans, they stood and stared as the floor around the hypocaust cracked, and a creature made of stone and fire appeared. As it stood, it nearly touched the ceiling.
“The gods are with us,” Evelina breathed.
“Water. We need water. Quintus. All of you, get water!” Lilith ordered. Donna and Quintus dashed away.
One of the servants stepped forward. “Blessed are we to see the gods.” The creature breathed on him, burning him to ash instantly.
“Talk to me. That's all I want. Talk to me,” the Doctor insisted. "Just tell me who you are. Don't hurt these people. Talk to me. I'm the Doctor. Just tell me who you are.”
Quintus and a slave returned with buckets, scooped water from the fishpond and threw it on the creature. Its fire went out, it solidified then cracked and crumbled to the floor.
“What was it?” Caecilius asked.
Lilith shook her head. “Not a benevolent god, that’s for sure.”
“Carapace of stone, held together by internal magma,” the Doctor said. “Not too difficult to stop, but I reckon that's just the foot soldier.”
“Doctor, or whatever your name is, you bring bad luck on this house.” Metella advanced on the Time Lord.
Lilith stepped between them. “I thought your son was brilliant. Aren't you going to thank him?” She turned to the Doctor. “Still, if there are aliens at work in Pompeii, it's a good thing we stayed. Right, Donna?”
Donna didn’t answer.
The Doctor looked around, but the elder ginger was nowhere in sight. “Donna? Donna!”
Lilith and the Doctor hid just outside the doorway to the large room where Donna was strapped to a table with a priestess standing over her with a dagger.
“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!” Donna shouted.
“This prattling voice will cease forever!” the priestess said, raising the blade
“Oh, that'll be the day,” the Doctor chuckled.
“No man is allowed to enter the Temple of Sibyl!”
“Ignore my father,” Lilith said with a dismissive wave. “Tradition is not his strong suit.”
The Doctor pouted. “Well, that's all right. 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. You all right there?” He directed the last question at Donna.
Donna rolled her eyes. “Oh, never better.”
“I like the toga.”
“Thank you. And the ropes?”
“Yeah, not so much.” He used the sonic screwdriver to cut them and free Donna.
“What magic is this?” the priestess demanded.
“Let me tell you about the Sibyl, the founder of this religion,” Lilith said, conversationally. “She would be ashamed of you. All her wisdom and insight turned sour. Is that how you spread the word now? On the blade of a knife?”
“Yes,” she hissed. “A knife that now welcomes you.”
Lilith’s hand twitched towards her blaster, but she stopped when a voice spoke. “Show me this man.”
“High Priestess, these strangers would defile us,” the priestess protested.
“Let me see. These two are different. They carry starlight in their wake.”
The Doctor shoved his hands in his pockets and wandered over to where a veil concealed the High Priestess. “Oh, very perceptive. Where do these words of wisdom come from?”
“The gods whisper to me,” the High Priestess said.
“They've done far more than that. Might I beg audience? Look upon the High Priestess?”
Two Sisters drew the veil aside to reveal what looked to be a living, breathing statue.
“Oh my God,” Donna gasped.
“I feel like I should insert a Medusa joke here. Would that be inappropriate?” Lilith wondered.
“The heavens have blessed me!” the High Priestess claimed.
The Doctor stepped forward. “If I might?” She held out her hand for him to touch. “Does it hurt?”
“It is necessary,” she replied.
“Who told you that?”
“Is that what's going to happen to Evelina?” Donna asked. “Is this what's going to happen to all of you?”
The priestess with the dagger showed Donna her stone forearm. “The blessings are manifold.”
Lilith snorted. “Blessings, my ass. Your skin is turning into solid rock!”
“Exactly.” The Doctor nodded. “The people of Pompeii are becoming stone before the volcano erupts. But why?”
“This word, this image in your mind. This volcano. What is that?” the High Priestess questioned.
“More importantly, why don't you know about it? Who are you?” Lilith demanded.
“High Priestess of the Sibylline.”
“No, no, no, no. We're talking to the creature inside you,” the Doctor said. “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.”
“Oh, but you can read my mind. You know it's not. I demand you tell me who you are!”
The High Priestess spoke with two voices, her own and one deeper, which took over. “We are awakening.”
“The voice of the gods!” gasped the priestess.
All of the Sisters started bowing. “Words of wisdom, words of power. Words of wisdom, words of power. Words of wisdom…”
“Name yourself!” the Doctor insisted. “Planet of origin! Galactic coordinates! Species designation according to the universal ratification of the Shadow Proclamation!”
“We are rising!”
“Tell me your name!”
“Pyrovile!” the High Priestess finally answered.
“Pyrovile. Pyrovile. Pyrovile,” the Sisters chanted.
“What's a Pyrovile?” Donna asked.
“Well, that's a Pyrovile, growing inside her.” The Doctor nodded to the High Priestess. “She's a halfway stage.”
“What, and that turns into?”
“That thing in the villa. That was an adult Pyrovile.”
“And the breath of a Pyrovile will incinerate you, Doctor!” the High Priestess hissed.
Lilith didn’t even have time to reach for her blaster before the Doctor produced a yellow plastic water pistol. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing with that?’
‘Trust me.’ “I warn you, I'm armed. Donna, get that grill open.”
“Just!” He jerked his head towards the grill, and then returned his attention to the High Priestess. “What are the Pyrovile doing here?”
“We fell from the heavens,” it responded. “We fell so far and so fast, we were rendered into dust.”
“Right, creatures of stone shattered on impact. When was that, seventeen years ago?” the Doctor guessed.
“We have slept beneath for thousands of years.”
“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.”
“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?”
Lilith and Donna managed to open the grill. “Got it!”
“Now get down,” the Doctor ordered.
“And leave you behind?” Lilith demanded with a growl.
“Yes, go now. Why can't this lot predict a volcano? Why is it being hidden?”
“Sisters, I see into his mind!” the priestess declared. “The weapon is harmless.”
“Yeah, but it's got to sting.” He squirted the water at the High Priestess. It must have had some effect, because it recoiled. “Get down there!”
Donna, Lilith, and the Doctor went down into the hypocaust while the Sisters helped their High Priestess.
“You fought her off with a water pistol. I bloody love you!” Donna exclaimed.
“This way,” the Doctor decided, looking down the stone tunnels.
“Where are we going now?”
“Into the volcano.”
“This is a bad idea,” Lilith muttered.
“Probably,” the Doctor agreed. “But it’s our only option.”
“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 made their way towards the center of Vesuvius.
The Doctor shook his head. “Still part of history.”
“But I'm history to you,” Donna protested. “You saved me in 2008. You saved us all. Why is that different?”
“Some things are fixed points in time,” Lilith tried to explain, “and some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed.”
“How do you know which is which?”
The Doctor stopped walking and whirled on Donna. “Because that's how we see the universe. Every waking second, we can see what is, what was, what could be, what must not. That's the burden of a Time Lord, Donna. And we’re the only ones left.”
Donna looked at him. “How many people died?”
“Stop,” Lilith begged.
“Doctor, how many people died?”
“Twenty thousand,” he answered, voice hard.
“Is that what you can see, Doctor? All twenty thousand? And you think that's all right, do you?”
Something roared in the distance. “They know we're here. Come on.” They came to a large cavern filled with Pyroviles. “It's the heart of Vesuvius. We're right inside the mountain.”
“There's tons of them,” Donna breathed.
“Look.” Lilith pointed at a construct on the other side of the cavern. “That's probably how they arrived. Or what's left of it, anyways. Escape pod, maybe? Prison ship? Gene bank?”
“But why do they need a volcano?” the human wondered. “Maybe it erupts, and they launch themselves back into space or something?”
“Oh, it's worse than that,” the Doctor muttered.
“How could it be worse? Doctor, it's getting closer.”
Lucius stood on a ridge a ways above them. “Heathens defile us! They would desecrate your temple, my lord gods!”
The Doctor pulled the two women towards the escape pod. “Come on.”
“We can't go in!” Donna hissed.
“We can't go back.” Lilith argued.
A Pyrovile reared up in front of them, so the Doctor extinguished it with his water pistol. They ran to the escape pod.
“There is nowhere to run, Doctor, child, and daughter of London!” Lucius yelled.
“I’m no child, you twisted lunatic!” Lilith shouted.
“Now then, Lucius, my lords Pyrovillian, don't get yourselves in a lather. In a lava? No?” The Doctor looked at Lilith, who shook her head. “No. But if I might beg the wisdom of the gods before we perish. Once this new race of creatures is complete, then what?”
“My masters will follow the example of Rome itself. An almighty empire, bestriding the whole of civilization!” declared Lucius.
“But if you've crashed, and you've got all this technology, why don't you just go home?” Donna questioned.
“The Heaven of Pyrovillia is gone.”
The Doctor furrowed his eyebrows. “What do you mean, gone? Where's it gone?”
“It was taken. Pyrovillia is lost. But there is heat enough in this world for a new species to rise.”
“You do realize this planet is seventy percent water out there,” Lilith pointed out.
“Water can boil. And everything will burn!”
“Then the whole planet is at stake. Thank you. That's all I needed to know. Donna, Lilith.” The Doctor pulled them into the escape pod, which contained the circuit boards. He closed the doors with his screwdriver.
“Could we be any more trapped?” Donna demanded. Outside, the Pyroviles breathed fire at the escape pod. “Little bit hot.”
The Doctor studied the circuits. “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.”
“But can't you change it with these controls?”
“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.”
“You can invert the system, set off the volcano, and blow them up,” Lilith realized. “But that’s what causes the destruction. It's Pompeii or the world.”
Donna’s face fell. “Oh my God.”
The Doctor didn’t take his eyes off the controls. “If Pompeii is destroyed then it's not just history, it's me. I make it happen. Vesuvius explodes with the force of twenty four nuclear bombs. Nothing can survive it. Push this lever and it's over. Twenty thousand people.”
The Doctor reached for the stone lever, but Lilith stopped him. “No, Dad.”
“It has to be done, Lilith.”
“Not by you,” she said sincerely and pushed the lever before he could stop her.
The escape pod shook as it was launched into the air. They were thrown against the walls and floors, reminding Lilith of hiding in the closet in Downing Street. When everything finally stopped shaking, the three of them stepped out of the escape pod.
Lilith looked behind them and swore loudly in Gallifreyan. They ran for the city as the avalanche of ash rolled down the mountain and the eruption blocked out the sun.
Back in the villa, Caecilius and his family were cowering in a corner. “Gods save us, Doctor.”
The Doctor ignored them and went to the TARDIS. Donna tried to stop him. “No! Doctor, you can't. Doctor!”
Lilith grabbed his arm. “Remember the Titanic?” she asked, staring into his eyes. “One family, Dad. Just one.” She could see the conflict in his face and as pushed open the doors to the TARDIS and extended his hand to Caecilius.
“Come with me.”
The seven of them stood miles away from the city, watching as Pompeii was filled with volcanic ash. “It's never forgotten, Caecilius,” the Doctor said. “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.”
“What about you, Evelina?” Donna asked the young woman. “Can you see anything?”
Evelina shook her head. “The visions have gone.”
“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.”
“But tell me. Who are you, Doctor?” Metella questioned. “With your words, and your temple containing such size within?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Oh, I was never here. Don't tell anyone.”
“The great god Vulcan must be enraged. It's so volcanic. It's like some sort of volcano,” Caecilius said. “All those people.”
The Doctor and Lilith looked at each other before slipping back into the TARDIS, Donna right behind them.
In the year 80 AD, one year or centuries later, the only remaining residents of Pompeii had settled in Rome. The father still a marble merchant, the daughter a normal teenage girl, and the son a student of the physical sciences.
A woman with raven hair, wearing a ratty grey sweater from the 22nd century stood in the shadows, smiling at the man whose face her father had taken. She pressed a button on her vortex manipulator and disappeared.