23 : 4126
Violet laughs happily and skips ahead of the Doctor and Donna, her grey-blue eyes flying around, taking in everything. A delicate music can be heard as they cross a rock bridge, and it makes the half Time Lord stop in her tracks, frozen in place as the reality of the song strikes her.
The Doctor stops beside her. “Hold on, can you hear that? Donna, take your hood down.”
“What?” Donna demands, ripping her hood down.
“That noise is like a song. Over there.”
“I’ve heard this before,” Violet breathes. “So familiar…”
Violet pivots and darts in the direction of the song, falling to her knees beside where an Ood lies on the ground, partly covered in snow. The Doctor joins her a moment later, followed by Donna, but the human woman only stands, staring down at the alien Violet is cradling the head of in her lap, softly humming a more comforting tune of the Ood.
“What is it?” Donna asks in both wonder and disgust.
“An Ood,” Violet replies softly as the Doctor says, “He’s called an Ood.”
“But it’s face…” the Earth woman trails off, deterred by the tentacles coming down from the Ood’s face.
“Donna, don’t. Not now,” the Doctor berates. “It’s a he, not an it. Give me a hand, Violet.”
“I don’t know where the heart is. I don’t know if he’s got a heart. Talk to him, keep him going.”
“It’s all right, we’ve got you,” Violet assures the Ood in mid song, giving Donna a look to talk to the dying Ood.
“Er, what’s your name?” the human asks, making Violet scoff.
“Designated Ood Delta 50,” the Ood replies, the ball in his hand lighting up.
Donna speaks into his translator ball. “My name’s Donna.”
Violet snickers softly before continuing her humming.
The Doctor gives her a bemused look. “No. No, no, no. You don’t need to.”
“Sorry. Oh, God,” Donna says. “This is the Doctor. Just what you need, a doctor. Couldn’t be better, hey?”
“You’ve been shot,” the Doctor informs the Ood.
“The circle…” Delta 50’s voice trails off.
“No, don’t try to talk.”
“The circle must be broken.”
“Circle? What do you mean? Delta 50, what circle? Delta 50? What circle?”
Delta 50 sits up with a roar, and red eyes, then exhales and falls back dead. Violet stares down at the Ood with horrified eyes, not having seen this disease for centuries; since the last time she had been in the 42nd Century, fighting a war to free the Ood from slavery.
“He’s gone,” Donna says softly, closing the Ood’s eyes gently.
“Careful,” the Time Lord warns.
“There you are, sweetheart. We were too late. What do we do, do we bury him?”
“The snow’ll take care of that.” The Doctor stands.
“Who was he? What’s an Ood?”
“They’re servants of humans in the 42nd Century,” Violet says with disgust, gently placing the Ood’s head on the compact snow and standing, dusting the snow from her jeans. “Mildly telepathic. That was the song. It was his mind calling out.”
“I couldn’t hear anything,” Donna muses. “He sang as he was dying.”
The Doctor’s eyes turn dark. “His eyes turned red.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Trouble,” Violet seethes, walking off.
“Come on. The Ood are harmless. They’re completely benign,” the Doctor explains, walking towards the buildings in the distance. “Except, the last time I met them, there was this force, like a stronger mind, powerful enough to take them over.”
“What sort of force?” Donna asks, hurrying after the two.
“Oh, long story.”
“It was the Devil.”
“If you’re going to take the mickey, I’ll just put my hood back up.”
“Must be something different this time though. Something closer to home. Ah ha! Civilisation.”
Violet is already standing around with a group of people by the time the Doctor and Donna join her, and she’s already seething, hands clenched into fists by her side. The Doctor gently pries one hand open and links his fingers with hers, holding her hand and giving her some comfort, as well as grounding her.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry. Late. Don’t mind us,” the Doctor says cheerily. “Hello. The guards let us through.”
“And you would be?” Solana asks.
“The Doctor and Donna Noble.”
“Representing the Noble Corporation PLC Limited, Intergalactic,” Donna adds with a sharp smile.
“Must have fallen off my list. My apologies. Won’t happen again,” Solana apologises. “Now then, Doctor Noble, Mrs Noble, if you’d like to come with me.”
Violet laughs. “As if!”
“Oh, no, no, no, no,” the Doctor denies with a wild look. “We’re not married.”
“We’re so not married,” Donna agrees.
“But we will be,” Violet whispers into the Doctor’s ear, making him grin down at her.
“Of course,” Solana says with a smile. “And here are your information packs, vouchers inside. Now if you’d like to come with me, the Executive Suites are nice and warm.”
An alarm sounds.
“Oh, what’s that?” the Doctor asks. “That sounds like an alarm.”
“Oh, it’s just a siren for the end of the work shift,” Solana explains, but Violet has the feeling that the woman isn’t exactly telling them the truth. “Now then, this way, quick as you can.”
They’re all bustled into a warm building, allowing Violet to shrug off her Riverdale hoodie and tie it around her waist, showing off her white, classic Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt. However, it’s not just that which she is revealing; it’s also the plethora of scars littering her arms, both from wars on alien worlds in this body, and from her own personal, inner war that she has been fighting for close to a decade.
Donna tries not to stare, but she can’t help the pain that spikes in her, or the pained expression that crosses her face. However, the Doctor, having seen them, and more, before, simply gives his current lover a once over before taking hold of Violet’s hand and following Solana into a room full of people and three Ood standing on small platforms, other Ood taking round trays of drinks to the people.
“As you can see, the Ood are happy to serve, and we keep them in facilities of the highest standard. Here at the Double O, that’s Ood Operations, we like to think of the Ood as our trusted friends. We keep the Ood healthy, safe, and educated. We don’t just breed the Ood. We make them better. Because at heart, what is an Ood, but a reflection of us? If your Ood is happy, then you’ll be happy, too,” Solana recites like she’s reading a pamphlet. “I’d now like to point out a new innovation from Ood Operations. We’ve introduced a variety package with the Ood translator ball. You can now have the standard setting. How are you today, Ood?”
“I’m perfectly well, thank you,” the first Ood replies.
“Or perhaps after a stressful day, a little something for the gentlemen. And how are you, Ood?”
“All the better for seeing you,” the second Ood says in a husky female voice that makes Violet shiver.
“And the comedy classic option. Ood, you dropped something.”
“D’oh,” the third Ood says in a dead-on impression of Homer Simpson from The Simpsons.
Everyone laughs, but Violet sneers in disgust, holding the Doctor’s hand tighter.
“All that for only five additional credits. The details are in your brochures,” Solana informs with a smile. “Now, there’s plenty more food and drink, so don’t hold back.” She then leaves.
The Doctor goes to her lectern and uses its computer access to light up the big screen, Violet hovering behind him. “Ah, got it. The Ood Sphere, I’ve been to this solar system before. Years ago. Ages. Close to the planet Sense Sphere. Let’s widen out. The year 4126. That is the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire.”
Donna is in shock. “4126? It’s 4126. I’m in 4126.”
“It’s good, isn’t it?”
“What’s the Earth like now?”
“Bit full. But you see, the Empire stretches out across three galaxies.”
“It’s weird. I mean, it’s brilliant, but. Back home, the papers and the telly, they keep saying we haven’t got long to live. Global warming, flooding, all the bees disappearing.”
“Yeah. That thing about the bees is odd.”
“But look at us. We’re everywhere. Is that good or bad, though? I mean, are we like explorers? Or more like a virus?”
“Sometimes I wonder.”