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Title: Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii
Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (violence, whump)
Author: tkel_paris
Summary: Sequel to “Altered History: The Runaway Bride”. The Doctor's getting the location wrong (again) lands him and Donna in Pompeii on Volcano Day. She's determined to save as many as possible, but for him the events bring back the nightmare that still haunts him. Donna is in for a lesson on the consequences of the Dark Times.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I only just got into Classic Who heavily in the last three years. This idea would've been unthinkable for me back in early 2014.
Dedication: My friends cassikat and hezikiah, who between them brought me to an appreciation for the Eighth Doctor. The rest was all my own doing. I also thank my beta, tardis_mole, whose impatience for this brought my muse to start writing right away. And... since I'm positive I wouldn't have had the idea without seeing him at Gallifrey One this year, the always delightful Paul McGann. Although I'm not sure I ever want him or any DW actor reading any fanfiction I write... Of course, if the next showrunner wants to bring Donna back then he or she can read them all they want for ideas. Just appreciate an acknowledgement in that case. ;)
Author's Note: If you haven't read “Altered History: The Runaway Bride”, go back and read it now. Then come back to this one. Otherwise you will be very confused.


Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six


Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii

Started March 20, 2017
Story unfinished as of start of posting
Finished September 25, 2017


Chapter Seven: Multiple Explosions

Pompeii
August 24, 79AD


The Doctor and Donna wandered through the interior of the volcano. Donna's attention was divided between watching where she was going, and thinking about what the Doctor had just told her.

“These Keys, they're that important?” she asked when he went silent for several seconds.

“Created by Rassilon in the days when the Pythia was overthrown. To cement his power and keep the powers of the Dark Ages at bay. Much to our detriment. Had the two factions been able to work together from the start I doubt what would have been known as the Last Great Time War could have started at all.”

“How certain are you?” Donna said. “You've got things wrong before, and I've seen it.”

He grimaced, eyes narrowing at the barren caverns. “Not to sound too arrogant, and I've had my moments, but I have touched that power, and used it, twice.”

“What do you mean, touched?”

“Well, I was Lord President,” he said, deliberately not looking at her, feeling slightly embarrassed if he was honest. His eyes looked down side channels, looking for a way to the heart of the mountain.

“You?! A politician?” Donna chortled. “I'd love to see that.”

He turned to look at her over his shoulder, frowning deeply. “I fail to see what's so funny,” he declared. “You ought to try it. Being the most powerful being in the universe is not all it's cracked up to be. I hated every minute of it, because once it takes hold of you it never lets you go. It consumes you. I thought I would have to fake my own death to escape.”

“If it's that bad, then why did you take it on in the first place? Or even a second time?” she asked.

“There wasn't a choice. Gallifrey would have been overrun by the Sontarans if I hadn't.”

“What's a Sonterun?”

“Sontaran,” he pronounced. Only the situation and the subject kept him from finding even a tiny bit of humor in her mispronunciation. “And believe me, you wouldn't want to meet one. They're a warrior species, bred to fight. Any fight. Thankfully, someone had the sense to ban them from what nearly became the Last Great Time War. Otherwise, they would have swooped in and killed both sides. And enjoyed every second of it. Ah-ha, this is it. This way,” he indicated.

Donna followed, still filled with questions. “So how come you thought you'd have to die to get away from a bunch of keys?” she persisted.

“Donna,” he sighed patiently. “I told you. They aren't keys in the conventional sense. They're psychic amplifiers, each with a mind of their own. Even if someone has the approval of the Senate and becomes Lord President by vote, the Keys could just as easily decide not to bond with him or her and instead kill them, on contact. I've been that happen once. A new President stood up during his inauguration and the Crown, Sceptre and Sash conspired together and incinerated him.”

“I have a bit more respect for the Queen after hearing that,” Donna remarked after several seconds.

The Doctor glanced at her and would have smiled, but he was far too worried. “It's getting hotter. We must be close.”

/=/=/=/=/

“Sunrise, my love,” Caecilius said to his wife. Relief over the lack of any further strange activity since the previous hours made up for the lack of sleep. “A new day. Even the longest night must end.”

Quintus' unease had not lessened since the Doctor had run off. He had held on to Evelina ever since. “The mountain's worse than ever.”

“We killed a messenger of the gods in our own house,” Metella said mournfully. She looked at her daughter, who was staring out at nothing, tears in her eyes. “Sweetheart, can you see? Tell us. What's going to happen?”

“Just... leave her alone,” Quintus pleaded.

“I can see...” the girl began, trailing off as the vision hit her harder.

“What is it?” her mother asked.

“A choice. Someone must make a choice.” The tears began to fall. “The most terrible choice. Echoing a painful past.”

/=/=/=/=/

The Doctor and Donna continued their walk through the tunnels toward Vesuvius. Donna was thinking about what he had said. “But if it's aliens setting off the volcano, doesn't that make it all right? For you to stop it?”

“Still part of history,” the Doctor said, listening to the scanner he had drawn out of his satchel.

She was confused. “Well, I'm history too. You saved me in 2006. You saved us all. Why is that different?”

He sighed heavily. “Some things are fixed, some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed.”

“How do you know which is which?” she demanded.

He stopped and turned to face her, making her stop. He feared it was less because he had stopped and more because of the empty look he knew was on his face. “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 the Time Lord, Donna. And it was very possible that I could have been the only one left after the war. But I can still see, in my mind, what would have happened if I had been alone. I get echoes of what would have been during adventures. It doesn't make for a great night's sleep. I stopped the war and saved my people, along with countless other worlds that would have been consumed. And after some time dealing with the aftermath and other events, I saved you and your planet. If I hadn't stopped the Time War, I would have lost my home world. I might have been angry enough to have sat back and let the Racnoss destroy yours. Just be grateful that things turned out differently.”

He walked on.

Donna was stricken on his behalf, and stunned that he would suggest he might have let her world be destroyed. And yet she had to know one more thing. “How many people died?”

“Stop it! I can't speak of the Time War!”

“Doctor, I mean Pompeii!” When he stopped and turned in surprise, she gently pressed her question. “How many people died?”

He hesitated for a few seconds. “Twenty thousand.” His voice was quiet, barely audible against the growing sounds of Vesuvius.

Donna's eyes went huge. “Is that what you can see, Doctor? All twenty thousand? And you think that's all right, do you?”

“Never-”

A loud screech interrupted them. He winced. “A Pyrovile. They know we're here. Come on!”

She followed gladly, not wanting to be left behind or face any of those creatures alone. But the closer they got towards the heart of the volcano, running as fast as they dared, the pair had to be careful to avoid pockets of flame. And there were more and more of them.

Finally, the Doctor and Donna stopped near some outcroppings that gave them some shelter from sight. They had arrived at a great cavern.

“We've found the heart of Vesuvius, Donna,” he said as they watched the Pyroviles walking about. “We're right inside the mountain.”

“There's tons of 'em,” Donna whispered, horrified and yet awed.

“And they're each a number of tonnes.” The Doctor blinked as something caught his attention. “What's that?” He drew out a small collapsible telescope from his satchel.

Donna resisted the urge to swallow. “Well, you'd better hurry up and think of something. Rocky IV's on its way.”

“Donna, I can see the interior of a ship,” he revealed as he realized what he was looking at. “But it can't be how they arrived unless they only send juveniles on space journeys. Or that's what's left of it. But is it an escape pod? Prison ship? Gene bank?” He was still pondering this question as he collapsed the telescope to put it away.

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

He shook his head. “No, I fear it's worse that that.”

“How can it be worse?”

A Pyrovile roared near them.

“Doctor, it's getting closer,” she warned.

“Yes, I can tell that.”

“Heathens!”

They looked across the cavern and saw Lucius. He stood higher up in the cave wall.

“Defilers! They would desecrate your temple, my lord gods!”

“Come on!” the Doctor cried, grabbing her hand and leading her in a run across the cavern floor.

“We can't go in!” she squawked.

“We can't go back! And notice he's not moving. He listened to my words about gods,” he added in a quieter voice even as they ran.

“Crush them!” Lucius urged on a shout as the pair ran through the chamber. “Burn them!”

The Doctor and Donna had to stop suddenly as a Pyrovile rose in front of them. Undaunted, the Doctor took the water pistol back out and fired the last water in it at the creature. It shied away, moaning in pain. The pair barely spared a look at Lucius before they kept running.

“There is nowhere to run, Doctor... and Daughter of London,” Lucius warned.

The Doctor stopped with Donna in front of the little pod. “Now, Lucius. My lord Pyrovillian... don't get yourselves in a lava.” When he didn't get even a little laugh from Donna he glanced at her. “In a lava... no?”

“No,” she replied, a flat tone even despite needing to fan herself against the heat.

He shrugged. “Fine, fine, fine. Not even my fourth regeneration could've made it work. Although he would have taken it for a spin anyway,” he muttered before raising his voice again. “But if I might beg the wisdom of the gods before we perish... once this new race of creatures is complete... then what?” he asked Lucius as another Pyrovile walked towards them, crushing boulders in its path.

Lucius was as stern as ever. “My masters will follow the example of Rome itself, an almighty empire, bestriding the whole of civilization.”

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

“The heaven of Pyrovillia is gone.”

That caught the Doctor's attention. “Wait, wait, wait. What do you mean 'gone'? Where's it gone?”

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

“You know, I should warn you, it's 70% water out there,” the Doctor said.

“Water can boil and everything will burn, Doctor!” Lucius decreed.

“Then the whole planet is at stake,” the Doctor realized as he put away the water pistol. “Thank you, that's all I needed to know. Donna!” he ordered, pushing her into the pod and followed, using the sonic screwdriver on the door.

“You have them, my lords,” they heard Lucius say. Seconds later they felt the Pyrovile breathing on the outside.

Donna looked around the little ship. “Could we be any more trapped?”

“I thought they wouldn't attempt to set fire to here. What I didn't think was that heat is the catalyst.”

Within moments, the temperature was clearly rising. She swore she could hear the creatures' triumph as they blew on them. “Little bit hot,” she remarked, looking at the Doctor.

But his attention was completely on the ship's mechanics. “Look, 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 at once. That means... Oh, that isn't good.”

“What isn't good?”

“They're going to convert everyone in Pompeii. Once the converter reaches maximum, everyone in the town will cease to exist. And it'll reach maximum at exactly the moment that Vesuvius should have erupted.

“Well, can you change it... with these controls?”

“Of course I can, but don't you see it? That's why the soothsayers can't see the volcano. Because right now there is no volcano. Vesuvius is never going to erupt, and they have no future to foresee. The Pyrovile are stealing all its power. They're going use it to take over the world.”

“But you can change it back,” she said, getting nervous over the growing grimness in his tone of voice.

The Doctor nodded slowly. “Well, I can avert the system, so the volcano will blow them up, yes, but... that's the choice, Donna,” he said, finally looking right at her. “It's Pompeii or the world. The city's people as Pyrovile, or as burned remains.”

“Oh my God,” she breathed in shock.

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

They could still hear Pyroviles breathing fire on the ship, making it even hotter. But their attention was still on each other and the horror they were facing.

“But the Pyrovile are made of rock,” Donna remarked as a horrible thought hit her while the Doctor worked on the machinery. “Maybe they can't be blown up.”

He shook his head. “Vesuvius explodes with the force of 24 nuclear bombs. Nothing can survive it.” He looked sadly at Donna. “Certainly not us,” he finished on a whisper.

“Never mind us,” she suddenly said, finding a sense of peace that seemed to be evading him.

The Doctor's eyes caught the lever. His hands went on to it, but he froze in place, even with sweat beginning to drip down his face. “Push this lever and it's all over. Twenty thousand people. It's too close to what she wanted me to do.”

Donna saw how the Doctor was unwilling to be responsible for so many deaths even in the course of saving the planet. Something from this event he had talked a bit about was holding him back even more. She placed her hands on the lever with his, catching his eye with all the compassion and support she had in her.

He flashed her a grateful smile, just a hint of one, before they pressed down together.

With seconds to spare.

Suddenly the roaring from outside was definitely not from the Pyrovile. And they felt the ship moving, tossing them about.

“Hold on!” the Doctor cried, trying to hang on to both the side of the ship and to Donna.

If it weren't for how certain she was that they were going to die, she would have felt mortified over how much she was fighting to cling to him. “What's happening?!”

“It feels like the volcano is sending ash and rocks into the air. And us with it!”

She squawked, but with a tiny hope. Although she could barely find the voice to say it. “An escape pod?!”

“Maybe!”

Suddenly they hit the ground, but not as hard as he expected. He struggled to his feet, helping Donna as well.

“So we made a lucky escape,” she asked as they climbed out of the escape pod, both a little shaken.

His eyes widened as he looked at the volcano. “Don't speak too soon, Donna. Vesuvius will soon send a pyrocaustic floe our way. Run!”

They grabbed the other's hand and raced as hard as she could. He could have run faster, but held himself back to keep her safe. The sounds of the explosions behind them and the emerging floe chilled them both. And it did not help that the cloud of ash began turning day into night, blotting out the sun.

If he had more confidence in the strength of this body, he would have carried her and ran at his fastest speed. But he wasn't sure they would make it. So running alongside her it was.

Luckily as the ash began to fall, the Doctor was leading Donna through the streets of the marketplace as they ran. As they fought to make their way back to the TARDIS amidst the chaos in the streets, Donna tried to help anyone who would listen. “Don't! Don't go to the beach! Don't go to the beach, go to the hills! Listen to me! Don't go to the beach, it's not safe! Listen to me...!”

She spotted a little boy crying, alone. She tried to go to him, but the Doctor didn't let go of her hand She was a little relieved to see a woman grab him and rush away.

“Come on,” the Doctor commanded, not willing to look at the horror of the people around them. He knew he could do little, and he could do nothing if he didn't make it back. And he would not go without Donna.

At last they made it to Caecilius' villa. The family was huddled together, and it seemed like the servants had all died already.

“Gods save us, Doctor!” Caecilius cried.

The Doctor stared at them for a second before heading for the TARDIS, dragging Donna along.

“You can't!” she cried as she unwillingly followed him inside the TARDIS. “Doctor, you can't!”

The doors closed at his psychic command and he flew to the console, preparing to dematerialize.

“You can't just leave them!” she pleaded, finally able to move without him forcing her along.

“Donna, don't you think I've done enough?! History's back in place and everyone dies,” he said, the words grating on his soul as he frantically moved the controls.

“You've got to go back!” she shouted, grabbing the console but avoiding the controls as tears streamed down her cheeks. “Doctor, I am telling you, take this thing back!”

The Doctor released the brake and the TARDIS dematerialized promptly. He fought to show no emotion on his face, but his eyes were showing several chasing each other.

Donna was choking on her emotions. “It's not fair.”

“No, it's not.”

“But your own planet, it nearly burned. You said so.”

“Yet it didn't,” he whispered, looking at the console rather than her. “I couldn't allow it, and because I had warning. But I nearly paid a terrible price.”

Donna forced herself to speak calmly, trying to refocus him. “What happened when Romana finally agreed to step down in your favour?”

He shivered suddenly. “Donna-”

She reached over and touched his hand. “It can't hurt you unless you let it,” she whispered. “Tell me.”


Chapter Eight: Dangerous Confrontations

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
bas_math_girl
Oct. 20th, 2017 07:50 pm (UTC)
All caught up now and still loving this! It's the added emotional depth with Eight's backstory that gives it all an extra layer to enjoy and intrigue at the same time.

So when do we get the next bit? *ducks* ;)
tkel_paris
Oct. 21st, 2017 12:45 am (UTC)
Ah, your icon is fitting! :D

Thank you. I was hoping that it'd hit those notes. It makes things very different from the episode, while keeping the events. :)

Coming shortly. ;)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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