July 2007, two days after the fall of the Master.
Donna Noble never had been a firm believer in such things as fate or destiny. She used to think of them as something that was merely confined within the boundaries of dreadful daytime television and children's fairy tales, but what was very unlikely to happen in reality. When she arrived at his funeral pyre, and began to dig up his ring among his still smoldering remains, while tears blurred her sight, she finally had the time to reconsider this.
She suddenly realized that they had always been heading towards this.
Every step she took, every decision that she had made, however small or seemingly insignificant, had brought her closer to this fixed point in time.
And as she realized this, a sad little smile curled her lips. A sigh escaped her when her fingers closed around the small metal object that was buried underneath the black ashes.
She did not need to see it, to know that it was the Master's ring.
If she had the choice to do it all over again, she knew she would, and she did.
Two years later
For Donna Noble, fate came in the disguise of the smallest of decisions, made in a fraction of a second, one normal, cloudy Tuesday morning. She woke up late for work, and was in the hallway putting on her coat, when she picked up the weather forecast coming from the loud telly in the living room. Heavy showers were predicted in the afternoon, so she grabbed the red umbrella from the standard without giving it a second thought and was ready to head out of the door when Silvia's voice came from living room.
"Donna, take the umbrella with you, they say it's going to rain in the late afternoon."
"Yes mum, I know. Going now, see you tonight."
"Don't take the red one, I need to go to the shops today. Take the white one."
Donna sighed, and turned her head. "You are already taking the car."
"It's my car Donna! Don't give me any of that young lady. Take the white umbrella, it's as good as new."
"I don't…" Donna's voice trailed off, she grimaced and dumped the red umbrella into the standard to replace it with the white one. The one with the tube map of London printed in jellybean colors, with a large ugly cartoon candy bar, shouting an irritating advertisement slogan into the speech-balloon floating above its stupid cartoon peanut sprinkled head. She hated that umbrella. It made people stare at her as if she was some kind of colorblind simpleton who liked talking candy.
"Take the white umbrella. Did you hear me Donna?" Silvia urged, without leaving the sofa. She could hear her stirring in her cup of tea while she watched her morning shows.
Donna's hand loosened around the cheap plastic handle. If she hated the umbrella so much, why did she let her mum force her to take it out with her? She was a grown-up woman of 35, she didn't need to run around the city like a bloody moron just because her mum didn't want to be seen with a novelty umbrella with a cheeky candy wrap design. Why did she always need to listen to her? Can't she make up her own mind?
"Donna? Donna did you hear me?"
"Yes I heard you. I heard you the first time already." She dropped the ugly thing back into the bin and stepped out of the door. "Going now, see you later."
She didn't actually believe the weather forecast would be that accurate, and forgot about the incident as soon as she arrived at work. Work was a desk-job at the British Museum. It was nothing fancy that needed a degree in paleoanthropology, or archaeology, or actually anything else ending on –logy. It was a repetitive and mind-numbing job that consisted of archiving paper documents into the new computer system. Most of the time, she didn't have a bloody clue what she was typing, having to decipher the god-awful handwritings of other people, who were clever enough to get a degree in anything ending on –logy that was needed to get a more interesting and better paid job than she had. By lunchtime, she was, as always, more than happy to get away from her desk. She grabbed her coat, ready to rush out into the streets where she would join her small club of friends, all of them single women in their thirties, all of them fed up with their dead-end carriers and chain-smoking their way through the worst of the mid-week malaise in their usual hangout down town. She didn't expect to find the streets of London to be swamped by a rain downpour so thick and heavy that she couldn't even see the other side of the road. Cars crawled by at walking-speed, and a lonely, miserable looking cyclist passed by, soaked wet to his underwear. Donna had seen enough. She was not going out for lunch today. Not without an umbrella.
She called Amanda to tell her that she wasn't coming. Then she went down to the canteen and brought a can of soda and a ham sandwich for lunch. She didn't want to sit there, for it reminded her too much of work, so she took a stroll in the exhibition area. The rainy weather trapped a large number of tourists inside, and the main halls were more crowded than usual. Donna slipped past the old security guard, knowing very well that food wasn't allowed outside the designated restaurant areas, and went into one of the smaller exhibition rooms. She sat down on a marble bench facing a row of ancient Roman artifacts, took the triangle of bread out of the plastic wrapper and tucked in. It tasted worse than expected, blend with a rubbery texture, very prefab. She chewed on her leathery bite, her eyes wandered joylessly over the exhibited pieces of lime stone rubble displayed in front, which basically seemed formless and meaningless to her. Most of them were engraved gravestones or roadmarks, and she had never studied Latin in her life. But then her eyes stalled on a marble slate in the corner. It had as one of the few artifacts in the room, stucco reliefs. It pictured a woman, standing next to what seemed a wooden box that was placed on top of a flight of stairs as if it was a temple of worship. The slate was damaged, and the whole left side was missing, but there should be a second figure standing there as well for she could see the beginning of a leg, but what was really upsetting Donna Noble was the fact that the woman looked exactly like her. She walked closer to the piece of marble, and saw that she even had the same mole on her chin. She dropped her sandwich and took a step back, pressing her hand on her mouth but couldn't prevent it to drop open into a perfect O.
"No way!!" She blurted out.
"Hey! What are you doing there?"
Rob, the old security guard was rushing into the room, having spotted the inedible ham sandwich. He recognized her and shook his head in dismay.
Donna Noble, you should know better. No food allowed in the exhibition area. Why don't you take your lunch down to the canteen like everybody else."
"I'm sorry Rob." Donna replied shakenly, as she tried to control herself. "It's just… this figure…"
The old man looked up at the slate, but didn't seem to notice anything.
"What Donna? Are you not feeling well? You look as if you've seen a ghost."
"Oh never mind that, Rob, do you know Latin?"
"A little, yes. You can't spend more than 20 years looking at stuff like this without trying to read it."
"Can you tell me what those words on this slate mean?"
Rob squinted his eyes and peered up at the inscription.
"Let me see, it says These are the noble Gods of Ceacellius Pompus, may they watch over his family and his descendents. It's basically a shrine, a family shrine to worship the house gods." He turned back to Donna. "Is there something wrong dear?"
"That woman's face, she looks just like me."
"Really?" Rob raised his eyebrows in amazement, and stooped over to the particular relief. "I can't really see the resemblance here. Are you sure?"
"Rob, she's got a flipping mole, on the left side of her chin. She even got my hair!"
"How could you possibly tell that her hair is red? And are you sure that's a mole? I thought it was just a bump or something."
Obviously, she couldn't convince him, and she returned to her desk after the lunch-break was over, feeling frustrated and upset. She cursed herself for not risking a soaked pair of undies and going to the restaurant after all. For once she had decided to do something cultural and look how much good it had done her. She spent the rest of the afternoon archiving crap, making one mistake after another, till her supervisor, mister Robbins, came to her desk to complain about the typos in the digital version of his manuscript. Normally, he would have spend a good 10 minutes worth of breath to point out Donna's incapacities in a patronizing manner. But today, he took one look at Donna's aggravated face and decided that it would be a very bad idea indeed. He let her off early, telling her that if she was ill, she shouldn't turn up at work to exert herself. Donna actually felt grateful, she did feel a bit flushed, and she certainly didn't want to stick around to get a piece of what's really on that stuck-up twat's mind. She grabbed her stuff and left without even taking the time to turn off her computer, hoping fiercely that the rain had stopped by now.
We meet a young man who seemed to be lost and in dire need of help, and Donna is roughly awakened from her perpetual mundane life.