- Tao Te Ching
That's the choice, Donna. It's Pompeii or the world.
Her eyes go wide. Oh my God.
A terrible, terrible choice. Turn off the blocks holding Vesuvius back and cause the eruption or lose the world to these creatures.
It's not just history, it's me. I make it happen.
It's always him. The fire that burned Rome, the deadly fire of 1666, and now Pompeii. All the guilt that sits on his shoulders isn't quite as horrible as the lingering thought that maybe he is responsible for all the horrible things that have happened to his favorite planet.
For all he knows, he could be.
It's not getting any cooler in this little pod, so he immediately starts flipping switches, resetting coordinates. He reaches over Donna's shoulder to turn a few more knobs. Everything's clicking into place and the machine is resetting easily. It should never be this easy to fix something that will murder 20,000 people.
But the Pyrovale are made of rock, what if they can't be blown up? Donna's question is a reasonable one, but his answer is immediate and easy. He knows how Vesuvius works, it's one of the most famous eruptions in history.
Vesuvius erupts with the power of 24 nuclear bombs, nothing can survive it. He pushes down one final lever. It's like priming a mousetrap only 20,000 people are going to be the mouse.
Certainly not us, he adds.
Donna looks terrified in that moment. The realization of death is a horrifying thing and it's something he doubts she's ever really had to experience. It only lasts a moment, then something like understanding settles on her face. He realizes that she really isn't young like the others he's traveled with. He doesn't have to show her that episode of Star Trek for her to realize the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Never mind us, she says. She sounds completely certain in that moment. Of course she's certain, it's a whole planet she'll be saving by dying. He'll be saving a planet but ending so many lives.
His hands drop to the release lever. Push this lever and it's over, he explains. He feels Donna's eyes on his hands. He just has to push down. Down, down, down. They'll live as Pyrovales or die as humans. Sweat drips down the side of his nose and he wants to wipe it away but his hands are stuck to the lever. It's only 20,000. Not like the billions on Earth. Only 20,000. It's just one city. There are hundreds of thousands of lives out there that won't even notice Vesuvius erupting.
20,000 people, he breathes. Each one of them came out screaming and tugged on a toga awkwardly for the first time and said their first word in Latin and looked up at the stars and wondered if it were Gods twinkling at them. Some of them fell in love or are falling in love and some of them are too bloody young to understand the idea. The Doctor's lungs ache from breathing in Vesuvius and he tries to think what other options he has. There has to be something. Anything. Just not----
Donna's hand slides over his. The warmth is comforting despite the stifling heat and he turns to look down at her. She calls herself Noble, they said. From the way her eyes are shining up at him---a little scared and sad---they were right. She understands the sacrifice and the choice and part of him wishes she didn't because then he could pretend that everything is okay. He hates what he has to do, but she's there, hands on his. Understanding him.
There was another moment not so long ago where he had another lever to press down. Die as humans or live as Daleks and he had a way to stop it all. Wipe every single Dalek out of the universe. What are you Doctor, coward or killer? the God of all Daleks laughed at him. Coward any day, he replied at the time.
He wonders now, as he feels his arm muscles push down on the lever, if Rose or Jack or even Donna had been there and held his hand and understood then, would he have stepped away?
He's rather rubbish on his own.
Donna was right. He needs someone.
He wishes there was enough time to tell her that.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 772