Time rolled on and Donna and Echo started to join the other families in their sing-alongs. They were singing Bohemian Rhapsody when the sound of guns rattling outside disturbed the song. Rocco went to investigate, followed by Echo and the Nobles. The soldiers were firing at the exhaust pipe of a military Jeep.
“ATMOS,” Echo breathed.
“What?” asked Donna.
Rocco shouted at the soldiers. “Hey! Firing at the car is not so good! You crazy or what?”
“It’s this ATMOS thing!” a soldier yelled back. “It won’t stop! It’s like gas; it’s toxic. It’s all the cars. Every single ATMOS car, they’ve gone mad.”
“My fault, all my fault,” whimpered Echo.
Donna looked back at her. “This is not your fault.”
The soldier pointed his gun at Donna. “You, lady! Turn around! Now!”
“Are you crazy, boy?” Rocco shouted.
“Put the gun down!” demanded Wilf.
“I said turn around, now! Show me your back!” the soldier ordered. Donna raised her hands and turned around. There was nothing on her back. “Sorry, I thought I saw…”
Wilf started berating the soldier, but Donna’s attention had turned to the flash of blue light and the fact that the blonde girl from London was walking around the corner. Donna grabbed Echo’s hand and they followed her.
She was waiting for them. “Hi.”
Blondie motioned to a bench; she and Donna sat, but Echo stayed standing, watching Blondie with pained eyes. They were all silent for a moment. Then the stranger spoke. “It’s the ATMOS devices. We’re lucky it’s not so bad here; Britain hasn’t got that much petrol. But all over Europe, China, South Africa… they’re getting choked by gas.”
“Can anyone stop it?” Donna asked.
She nodded. “Yeah, they’re trying right now, a little band of fighters, on board the Sontaran ship. Any second now.”
The sky suddenly turned to fire, then went dark again. Donna was the only one who was shocked. “And that was…?”
“That was the Torchwood team. Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, they gave their lives. And Captain Jack Harkness has transported to the Sontaran home world. There’s no one left.”
Echo choked out a sob. “Uncle Jack…”
“You know him?”
She nodded. “He’s my godfather. If he’s on Sontar, he may as well be dead.”
Donna reached out and took Echo’s hand. Blondie watched them, curiously. “You sure her name’s not Lilith?”
“She said she doesn’t remember her name, that she forgot once she was supposed to stop existing, that she’s just an echo.” Donna sighed. “You’re always wearing the same clothes. Why won’t you tell me your name?”
“None of this was meant to happen,” Blondie said. “There was a man, this wonderful man and his daughter, and they stopped it. The Titanic, the Adipose, the ATMOS. They stopped them all from happening.
“Echo and her father. That… Doctor?”
She nodded. “You knew him.”
Donna jerked her head at Echo. “That’s what she said, too. That we met in our ‘prime universe’.”
“I think you dream about him sometimes. It’s a man in a suit. Tall, thin man. Great hair. Some really great hair.”
“Who are you?”
“I was like you. I used to be you. You’ve travelled with them, Donna. You’ve travelled with the Doctor and Lilith in a different world.”
Donna shook her head. “You’re wrong. You and Echo.” She looked at the latter. “I’m sorry, he’s dead.”
“We need the Doctor more than ever. I've been pulled across from a different universe because every single universe is in danger. It's coming, Donna. It's coming from across the stars and nothing can stop it.”
“What is?” Donna demanded.
“The darkness,” Blondie said, simply.
“Well, what do you keep telling me for? What am I supposed to do? I’m nothing special. I mean, I’m… I’m not… I’m a temp. I’m not even that, I’m nothing!”
Blondie turned serious. “Donna Noble, you’re the most important woman in the whole of creation.”
“Oh, don’t. Just… don’t.” Donna sighed. “I’m tired. I’m so… tired.”
She stood and offered her hand. “I need you to come with me.”
“Yeah, well, blonde hair might work on the men, but you ain’t shifting me, lady,” Donna sniffed.
To her surprise, Echo chuckled and Blondie smiled. “That’s more like it.”
“I’ve got plenty more.”
“I know you’ll come with me. Only when you want to.”
Donna glared at her. “You’ll have a long wait, then.”
“Not really, just three weeks. Tell me, does your grandfather still own that telescope?”
“He never lets go of it,” she confirmed.
Blondie stood. “Three weeks time. But you’ve got to be certain. ‘Cause when you come with me, Donna… I’m sorry, so sorry, but you’re gonna die.” And with that, she faded away in front of Donna’s eyes.
“What did she mean?”
Echo shook her head. “I… I don’t know.”
A week later, Echo stood back as Rocco hugged Donna with his usual enthusiasm. “And you! I’m going to miss you most of all, all flame-haired and fiery.”
Donna laughed. “Oh, but why do you have to go?”
“It’s the new law! England is for the English, et cetera. They can’t send us home; the oceans are closed! They build labor camps.”
“I know, but labor doing what? There aren’t any jobs.”
“Sewing! Digging! Is good! Now, stop it before I kiss you too much.” Rocco turned to Wilf and saluted. “Wilfred. My capitano.”
Wilf saluted back. The two men regarded each other somberly, then Rocco climbed up to the military van were the rest of his family was sitting. Wilf’s eyes were red from unshed tears. His voice trembled. “Labor camps. That’s what they called them first time. It’s happening again.”
“I’m sorry,” Echo whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
Two weeks after that, Donna, Echo, and Wilf sat outside at night, by his precious telescope. “You know,” he said, “we’d get a bit of cash if we sold this thing.”
“Don’t you dare!” Donna scolded. “I always imagined, your old age… I’d have put a bit of money by. Make you comfy. Never did. I’m just useless.” Wilf didn’t seem to hear her. He was looking through the telescope. “You’re supposed to say, ‘no you’re not’.”
“It’s no use, Wilf,” Echo said, quietly.
“Well, I don’t know,” Wilf said. “I mean it can’t be the lens. I was looking at Orion, the constellation of Orion. You take a look. And tell me, what can you see?”
Donna looked through the telescope, and then looked at the sky. “I can’t see anything, it’s just black.”
“It was there,” Wilf insisted. “An entire constellation.” Looking up at the sky, they could all see clearly as, one by one, the stars began to disappear. “Look! Look there. They’re going out. Oh my god, Donna! The stars are going out!”
Donna looked down at Echo, who didn’t seem the least bit surprised. “You knew.”
“I’ve always known.”
The two of them turn around to find Blondie there waiting. “I’m ready.”
Donna, Echo, and Blondie entered a huge warehouse. There was a circle of mirrors in the center and in the background stood a large blue wooden box. Donna noticed that Echo’s eyes were trained on the box, she was hardly breathing. “What is that thing?”
“Home,” Echo breathed.
A UNIT captain came over and saluted to Blondie. “Ma’am.”
“I’ve told you,” the blonde dismissed, “don’t salute.” She went to check the computer that was hooked up to the mirrors.
“Well, if you’re not going to tell us your name…”
“What, you don’t know either?” Donna asked.
“Crossed too many different realities. Trust me, the wrong word in the wrong place can change an entire casual nexus,” Blondie said.
Echo nodded. “She’s right, you know.”
“And who are you?” the captain questioned.
“I’m the Doctor’s daughter,” Echo answered sharply.
“I was not aware the Doctor had any children.”
“Lilith, known to UNIT as the Collector, is a paradox,” Blondie explained without looking away from the computer. “She was there to witness her father dying before she was born. That’s why I can’t see her.”
The captain turned to Donna. “You must be Miss Noble.”
“Donna,” she corrected.
“Captain Erisa Magambo. Thank you for this.”
“I don’t even know what I’m doing,” Donna admitted.
“Is she awake?” Echo, who was stroking the wooden box, asked Magambo.
“Seems to be quiet today. Ticking over. Like it’s waiting.”
Echo’s hand hesitated over the handle. She looked back at Donna. “Come inside with me.”
Donna frowned. “What’s a ‘police box’?”
“They salvaged her from underneath the Thames. Just go inside.” Blondie gave Donna a little push.
Donna wrapped her hand around Echo’s and together they pushed opened the doors. “No. Way!” Mouth open, she walked around the outside of the box, then back inside to make sure that she wasn’t hallucinating.
Blondie came to stand in the doorway. “What d’you think?”
Donna looked around her. “Can I have a coffee?”
Someone brought her a coffee mug and the blonde joined the two gingers. “She’s called the TARDIS,” Echo said, stroking the console fondly. “It stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.”
“Time and relative dimension in space,” Donna repeated, shaking her head.
“This room used to shine with light. I think it’s dying.” Blondie touched the console and the rotor rose a bit. “Still trying to help.”
“And it belonged to the Doctor?”
“The Doctor and Lilith.”
Donna turned to Echo. “And you, your real name is Lilith?”
Echo bit her lip. “I…I think so, yes. The two of us, the Doctor and I, we were the last of the Time Lords.”
“But if he was so special, what was he doing with me?”
Blondie and Echo spoke in unison. “He thought you were brilliant.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Donna scoffed.
“But you are!” the blonde insisted. “It just took the Doctor to show you that, simply being with him. He did the same to me. To everyone he touches.”
“Were you and him…?”
She thought the other woman wasn’t going to answer, but she did. “We were.” Her eyes drifted to Donna’s back. “Do you want to see it?”
“No.” After a moment, she changed her mind. “Go on, then.”
Blondie led Donna to the center of mirrors. “We don’t know how the TARDIS works, though I’m sure Lilith could explain it. But we’ve managed to scrape off the surface technology. Enough to show you the creature.”
Donna winced. “It’s a creature?”
“Out of the circle, please,” Magambo said.
“Yes, ma’am.” Blondie left the circle, unknowingly standing next to Echo.
“Ready? And activate.” The lights around the circle turned on. Frightened, Donna closed her eyes. “You’ll have to open your eyes, Miss Noble.”
“Is it there?” Donna asked, weakly.
“Open your eyes,” Echo urged. “Look at it.”
Slowly, Donna opened her eyes and was able to finally see her back in the mirrors. There was a massive beetle clinging to her shoulders. She started to spin around in panic, trying to get a better look.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Calm down. Donna? Donna.”
Donna stopped spinning and took a shaky breath, trying to calm herself. “What is it?”
“We don’t know,” Blondie shrugged at the same time Echo said, “A Time Beetle.”
“A time beetle?”
“That seems likely,” the blonde admitted. “It feeds off time by changing time, by making someone’s life take a different turn. Meetings never made, children never born, a life never loved. But with you its…”
“But I never did anything important,” Donna protested.
“Yeah, you did. One day, that thing made you turn right instead of left.”
“When was that?”
“Oh, you wouldn’t remember. It was the most ordinary day in the world. But by turning right, you never met the Doctor and the whole world just changed around you. We can’t even touch it. It seems to be in a state of flux.”
Donna, fed up with the technobabble, demanded, “What does that mean?”
Blondie shrugged, but Echo answered. “It means one millisecond it’s there, the next it’s not. Time itself can’t decide whether it’s presence is a fact or not.”
“You two told me I was special!” Donna shouted. “But it’s not me! It’s this thing, I’m just a host!”
Blondie shook her head. “No, there’s more than that. The readings are strange. It’s… it’s like reality’s just bending round you. We get separate readings from you and the creature, see. And they’ve always been there, since the day you were born.”
“This is not relevant to the mission,” Magambo snapped.
“You can shut your mouth,” retorted Echo.
“I thought it was the Doctor we needed,” Blondie continued, “but it’s the both of you. The Doctor and Donna Noble, together, to stop the stars from going out.”
“Why? What can I do?” Donna paused. “Turn it off, please.” Magambo powered down the machine. The lights went off and the two others went to comfort Donna, Blondie touching her arm and Echo taking her hand. “It’s… it’s still there, though. What can I do to get rid of it?”
“You’re going to travel in time,” the blonde answered. “We’ve adapted the—”
Echo interrupted. “Tell her you don’t need their technology.”
Donna frowned. “Why? Isn’t technology kind of necessary for time travel?”
Blondie seemed to understand though. “Lilith has her vortex manipulator, it’s safer than what we have. Can she hear me?”
“The TARDIS tracked down the moment of intervention. Monday the 25th, one minute past ten in the morning. Her car was on Little Sutton Street leading to the Ealing Road, but she turned right heading towards Griffin’s Parade.” She turned to Donna as Echo messed with her ‘vortex manipulator’. “You have to turn left. That’s the most important thing. You’ve got to go back, turn left. Have you got that Donna? One minute past ten, make yourself turn left, heading for the Chiswick Highroad.”
“I can’t make us end up right outside the car, so I’ll set the coordinates for about nine minutes to ten,” Echo said.
“That thing,” Donna pointed to the tech on Echo’s wrist, “that’s a time machine?”
Blondie smiled. “A mini time machine. Just remember, when you get to the junction, change the car’s direction by one minute past ten.”
“How do I do that?”
“It’s up to you and Lilith. Good luck.”
Donna gulped. “I understand now. You said I was going to die, but you mean this whole world, it’s going to blink out of existence. But that’s not dying, because a better world takes its place. The Doctor’s world where I’m still alive! That’s right, isn’t it?”
Echo didn’t give Blondie a chance to respond. She put Donna’s hand on the vortex manipulator and pressed a button. In the blink of an eye, Donna found herself standing on an ordinary street. She looked around. “This is Sutton Court! We’re half a mile away.”
Echo swore. “This damn thing got the time coordinates wrong. We’ve only got four minutes to work with.”
They looked at each other, then started to run. They ran down street after street until Donna had to stop to catch her breath. “We’re not going to make it.” A blue van caught her eye and she was hit with a realization.
You’re gonna die.
Echo came to the same conclusion and glared at the other woman. “Don’t you dare, Donna Noble!”
But Donna didn’t listen. She threw herself in front of the van.
Next thing she knew, she was lying on the ground with Blondie and Echo standing over her. No, not Echo. Lilith.
“Tell him this,” Blondie said. “Two words.” She whispered something in Donna’s ear. Donna’s eyes closed and her head fell to the side.
Somewhere on Little Sutton Street, a past Donna turned left.
Lilith found herself sitting in a fortuneteller’s tent. She struggled to remember what had happened in the other reality while the Doctor was poking at the Time Beetle with a stick.
“Sometimes I think there's way too much coincidence around you, Donna,” the Doctor was saying. “I met you once. Then Lilith and I met your grandfather. Then I met you again. In the whole wide universe, I met you for a second time. It's like something's binding us together.”
“Don’t be so daft,” Donna snorted. “I’m nothing special.”
The Doctor looked at her fondly. “You are. You’re brilliant.”
He thought you were brilliant.
“They said that,” Donna whispered.
“Echo, er, Lilith and that woman.”
“Well, she never existed now,” the Doctor dismissed.
Donna frowned. “No, but she said… the stars… she said the stars are going out. In all worlds. Every world. She said the darkness is coming, even here.”
The Doctor was suddenly suspicious. “Who was she? What did she look like?”
“I don’t know. She was blonde.”
“What was her name?” he asked, urgently. “Donna, what was her name?”
“I don’t know!” she exclaimed. “But she told me to warn you. She said two words.”
“What two words? What were they? What did she say?”
Lilith had a sick feeling she knew the answer before Donna said it. “Bad Wolf.”
The Doctor and Lilith exchanged looks of shock and a bit of horror. They ran outside and looked around. ‘Bad Wolf’ was everywhere. On the banners, the posters, and even on the TARDIS. Every piece of text was replaced by those two words.
Terrified, the two Gallifreyans pushed into the TARDIS followed by their companion. The interior was lit by a red light and the cloister bell was ringing. “Doctor, Lilith, what is it?” Donna asked. “What’s Bad Wolf?”
The Doctor’s reply was filled with fear. “It’s the end of the universe.”