Donna Noble watched the ambulance drive away; she turned to start walking back down the street when a blonde woman ran over to her. “What happened, what did they find?” the blonde asked. “I’m sorry, did they find someone?”
Donna shrugged. “I don’t know. A bloke called the Doctor… or something.”
“Well, where is he?”
“They took him away. He’s dead,” Donna said. The woman looked shocked, then her face shifted to an empty expression, a sad one. She turned away. “I’m sorry. Did you know him? I mean, they didn’t say his name. Could be any doctor.”
“I came so far,” the woman whispered.
“It could be anyone,” Donna assured her.
She turned back. “What’s your name?”
“Donna. And you?”
“Oh, I was just passing by, I shouldn’t even be here. This is… wrong. It’s wrong. This is so…wrong…” The woman seemed distracted by something on Donna’s back. “Sorry, what was it? Donna what?”
“Who do you keep looking at by back?” Donna asked.
The woman looked away. “I’m not.”
“Yes you are. You keep looking behind me. You’re doing it now.” She tried to look over her shoulder. “What is it, what’s there? Did someone put something on my back?”
But when Donna looked back, the woman was gone. There was no one around.
“Damn, just missed her.”
Donna jumped at the sound of a new voice. She spun around to see a familiar girl with ginger hair and ice blue eyes leaning against a brick wall. “Who’re you?”
“Echo,” the girl said. “I’m an echo. A shadow of a friendship that could’ve been.”
“You’re an echo or your name is Echo?”
“Either.” She shrugged. “I don’t have a name anymore, I’ve forgotten it. Echo is as good as any.”
Donna was going to ask what Echo meant by not having a name anymore, but decided against it and shook her head, walking away.
“Honestly you two, there’s aliens on the news, that took that hospital all the way to the moon, and you’re banging on about raffle tickets!”
The doorbell rang; Sylvia got up to answer the door.
“Don’t be daft Gramps, it wasn’t the moon. It couldn’t be.”
“Yes, well I am telling you, it's getting worse, these past few years. It’s like all of a sudden, they suddenly know all about us. And, there’s keen eyes up there and they’re watching us and they're not friendly.”
“Donna,” Sylvia said, coming back into the kitchen, “why didn’t you tell me your cousin was going to be staying with us?”
Donna frowned. “Who?”
“Echo, your cousin from America? Your father’s niece? You were supposed to let me know that she had to stay with us for awhile.”
A girl came to stand next to Donna’s mother. The ginger girl she had met all those weeks ago when that Doctor bloke had died. “Hi, Donna. Hi, Wilf.” She took a seat at the table as Sylvia left the room again. “They’re called the Judoon, you know.”
“What’re called the Judoon?” Donna asked.
“The species that took the hospital. They’re the Judoon,” Echo said. “Big space rhinos. I’ve never run into them before, but I hear they’re damn hard to deal with.”
Wilf beamed. “Space rhinos! I knew it was aliens.”
Donna studied the other ginger. She watched the news with a devastated expression as the reporter announced the death of medical student Martha Jones, investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, and children, Luke Smith, Maria Jackson, and Clyde Langer.
Later that night, the two women were taking a walk. “Who are you?” Donna questioned. “Because I don’t have a cousin from America, but Mum is absolutely convinced you’re related to us.”
“I’m not,” admitted Echo. “I shouldn’t exist, actually. This universe is trying to compensate for that fact, trying to fit me in somewhere, and it stuck me with you. How does it feel, having an alien as a cousin?”
A loud, electrical buzz filled the air accompanied by a blue flash. A girl wearing a blue leather jacket ran out on an alleyway. “Blimey!” Donna exclaimed, rushing over to her. “Are you alright? What that fireworks or…?”
“I dunno, I was just… walking along. That’s weird.”
“Right,” Echo snorted.
Donna glared at her before realizing that she recognized the blonde. “You’re the one. Christmas Eve, I met you in town.”
Blondie pushed a lock of hair out of her face. “Donna, isn’t it?”
“What was your name?”
“How’re you doing?” She abruptly changed the subject. “You’re looking good. How’s things?”
Echo rolled her eyes. “You mean aside from aliens kidnapping a hospital?”
“Would you shut up about aliens?” Donna snapped at her.
Blondie furrowed her eyebrows. “I didn’t say anything about aliens.”
“I was talking to her.” Donna motioned towards Echo.
“Donna, there’s no one else around.”
“She can’t see me,” Echo said quietly. “She doesn’t know I’m here.”
Donna frowned at her. “Why can’t she see you?”
“She’s not from this universe. For her, it’s like I’m wearing a perception filter. The Doctor died, Donna. I’m a living paradox.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What did they say?” Blondie asked.
“She said she’s a paradox because a doctor is dead.”
Her eyes widened. “What’s her name? Is it Lilith?”
Donna shook her head. “She says that her name’s Echo.” She watched disappointment flicker across Blondie’s face before her eyes shifted to something just over Donna’s shoulder. “You’re doing it again.”
“What?” Blondie’s face was the picture of innocence.
“Looking behind me. People keep on doing that. Looking at my back.
“What sort of people?”
“People in the street. Strangers. I catch them sometimes, staring at me like they’re looking at something. And then I get home, and I look, and there’s nothing there.” Donna attempted to look at her back, slapping at her shoulder. “See? Look, now I’m doing it!”
Blondie changed the subject again. “What are you doing for Christmas?”
Donna blinked. “I don’t know, that’s ages away nothing much I suppose. Why?”
“Just… I think you should get out. You and your family. Don’t stay in London, just leave the city.”
“Can’t afford it,” Donna said.
“Well no, you got that raffle ticket.”
“Ooh, she’s in trouble,” Echo chuckled.
“Why is she in trouble? How does she know about the ticket?”
Echo bit her lip. “She’s warning you. Though, she is right. We do need to get out of the city. We’d be safer somewhere else.”
Donna stared at her. “Safer?” She glared at the blonde. “Why won’t you tell me your name?” The girl didn’t answer. “I think you should leave me alone.” She walked away, noticing Echo shoot Blondie a wistful look before following.
The car pulled into the driveway of a country mansion hotel where Donna had won a trip. Footmen appeared once the car pulled up. Wilf got out, wearing two pairs of antlers on his head. “Cor blimey! That’s what I call posh!” He turned to Donna, who was getting out of the car with Echo. “I said you were lucky, didn’t I? I always said, my lucky star!”
“Dad! Take those things off!” Sylvia hissed, referring to the antlers.
“No, I shan’t! It’s Christmas!” he argued.
Echo tensed; Donna noticed. “You’ve been agitated lately,” she noted as they walked up the driveway.
“I’ve never liked Christmas, something always goes wrong.” Echo sighed. “It always ends in disaster.”
“Well, let’s not focus on that. It’s been a hell of a year. I reckon we deserve this.”
The next morning, Wilf was lying on the couch, Sylvia was on the double bed, Donna was brushing her hair in the bathroom, and Echo was pacing back and forth nervously.
Someone knocked on the door. “Oi, Gramps! Get that!” Donna shouted. “That’ll be breakfast. We’ve got croissants!”
Wilf groaned and got up. “Why can’t you get it, Lady Muck?” he asked Sylvia.
“It’s Christmas Day, I never get up before ten. Only, madam there was up with the dawn chorus, like when she was six years old.”
“Oi!” Wilf whistled and pointed at Donna. “Merry Christmas!”
Laughing, Donna pointed back. “Merry Christmas!”
Sylvia joined in on the laughter. “Merry Christmas, Dad.”
Echo muttered something that sounded suspiciously to Donna like, “Damn Christmas to the pits of hell.”
The news came on the TV. “We have interrupted your program to bring you breaking news.”
“Have you seen this?” Sylvia shouted to Donna.
Echo stopped her pacing and said something in a different language. Donna walked out of the bathroom. The maid stared at her. “Tienes algo en tu espalda,” she said.
“Tienes algo en tu espalda.”
“What does that mean? I don’t know what you’re saying.”
The maid's voice carried both fear and suspicion. “Tienes algo en tu espalda!”
“Gracias, señorita, nosotroas sabemos ella tiene algo en su espalda!” Echo snapped at the girl.
Donna seemed to catch on and tried to look at what was on her back. But where she finally got a good look in the mirror, nothing was there.
“For God’s sake, Donna, don’t just stand there! Come and look!” Sylvia shouted.
“…how this is possible, but this footage is live and genuine. The object is falling on Central London. I repeat; this is not a hoax. A replica of the Titanic is falling out of the sky and it’s heading for Buckingham Palace.” The TV showed the ship headed towards London.
Donna noticed Echo flinch. “Is that… a film or something?”
Echo shook her head. “It’s real. She’s going to die all over again.”
The Titanic crashed into Buckingham Palace and the transmission went dead. A second later, the hotel was shaken. Sylvia tried to change channels. “It’s gone dead. All of them.”
“No,” Echo whimpered. “No, no, no, no, no.”
All the staff and guests were gathered in front of the hotel, watching a huge mushroom cloud where London used to be.
“I was supposed to be out there selling papers. I should have been there, we all should,” Wilf said. “We’d be dead.”
“That’s everyone,” Sylvia breathed. “Every single person we know. The whole city.”
Donna shook her head. “Can’t be.”
“But it is, it’s gone! London’s gone!”
“If you hadn’t won that raffle…”
Echo gripped onto Donna arm, crying. “No, no, no, no, no.”
Donna turned around to see the Spanish maid who, despite everything that was happening, was only watching her with hatred filled eyes.
Donna, Echo, Sylvia, and Wilf were in a small, crowded office talking to a housing officer. “Leeds?” Donna exclaimed. “I’m not moving to Leeds!”
“I’m afraid it’s Leeds or you can wait in the hostel for another three months,” the housing officer said.
Sylvia sighed, tiredly. “All I want is a washing machine.”
“What about Glasgow?” Donna asked. “I heard there was jobs going in Glasgow.”
“You can’t pick and choose! We’ve the whole of Southern England flooded with radiation. Seven million people in need of relocation, and now France has closed its borders. So it’s Leeds or nothing.” The officer stamped LEEDS on their papers. “Next!”
The Nobles, including Echo, and a bunch of other refugees were driven to Leeds in an army bus. They were left on a street waiting for instructions. “The Daniels family, billeted at number fifteen. Mr. and Mrs. Obego, billeted at number thirty one,” a soldier announced. “Miss Contrane, you’re in number eight. The Noble family, billeted at number twenty nine.”
“That’s us,” Wilf said. “Come on, off we go.”
They walked passed a woman standing in a doorway, who gave them a hostile look. “Used to be a nice little family, number twenty nine. They missed one mortgage payment, just one, they got booted out. All for you lot.”
“Don’t get all chippy with me, Vera Duckworth!” Donna snapped. “Pop your clogs on and go feed whippets!”
“Sweetheart, come on. You’re not going to make the world any better by shouting at it,” Wilf soothed.
“I can try,” she muttered, darkly. The came to a stop at number twenty nine. “What happens? Do we get keys?”
The door opened and a, enthusiastic, short Italian man came out to welcome them. “Hey-ey! Is a big house! Room for all! Welcome! In you come!”
“I thought this was our house,” Donna said.
“Is many people’s house! Is wonderful! In, in, in.” The man, who introduced himself as Rocco, continued to talk. Donna was only half listening, she was more paying attention to Echo. Before Christmas, she had been peppy and talkative and wouldn’t shut up about aliens that she and her father had met.
She had barely said a word since the Titanic crashed into London. She’d been quiet, reserved. She ate less and less and seemed like one of the most depressed people Donna had ever seen. It broke her heart. Echo certainly wasn’t her cousin, but she had begun to care about the girl like family.
“And this, this is you.” Rocco had led them into the narrow kitchen. “This is your palazzo!”
“What d’you mean, this is us?” Sylvia asked.
Rocco’s smile was unwavering. “You live here!”
Donna’s eyes darted around the tiny room. “We’re living in the kitchen?”
“You got camp beds. You got the cooker, you keep warm, you got the fridge, you keep cool. Is good! Is fun! I go wake Mamma. She likes new people.” He left them alone, shouting as he went. “Mamma! Is people! Nice people!”
“Oh, well.” Wilf sighed. “We’ll settle in, won’t we? Make do, huh? Bit of wartime spirit, eh?”
“Yeah, but there isn’t a war. There’s no fight. It’s just… this.”
The old man tried to say optimistic. “Well, America, they’ll save us. It was on the news. They’re going to send Great Britain fifty billion quid in financial aid. God bell America!”
Donna tried to cling on to that hope until the news reported sixty million deaths in America. Sixty million people dissolved into little fat beings. “Aliens,” Wilf concluded. Donna didn't even argue.
“I should’ve stopped it.” It took Donna a moment to process that Echo had spoken. She was staring at the TV, forlornly. “We should’ve stopped it.”
Donna didn’t ask what she meant until after Sylvia and Wilf had fallen asleep. “How do you mean, you should’ve stopped it?”
“We were supposed to stop the invasion,” Echo whispered. “Dad and I. We were supposed to investigate Adipose Industries. That’s where I met you.”
“We met on Christmas Eve by the Thames,” Donna reminded her.
She shook her head. “No, I mean in our prime universe. We met because Dad, the Doctor, was trying to cheer me up by taking me on an adventure. But it’s different here; it’s just us. And there’s nothing we can do.”
Donna knew better than to press when Echo started talking about different universes. Instead, she rolled over and went to sleep.