Which reminded the Doctor, he really needed to get around to reading that book.
So he had ensured the power source was not a danger to anyone, and had taken the opportunity to go on a quiet little walk in the sun. He didn't end up in this part of Earth that often. It was nice and quiet. It let him think.
Specifically, about the girl who'd saved his life in London from the Nestene Consciousness. Rose. She might have liked it, traveling around the universe. Not for the first time, the Doctor wished she'd come with him instead of clinging to that useless lump Ricky. Or Mickey. Whatever his name was, he wasn't worth the mental energy.
But the Doctor missed the potential that Rose represented. She was smart, she was spirited... and she was so alive.
Loneliness ate at his soul.
Anyway, it was time to move on. Apple finished, the Doctor pitched the denuded core into the woods. He'd expected a simple thump in the grass, but the one thump became two, then a skittering came from the undergrowth.
The Doctor's head snapped up and he rose to his feet. Couldn't he have one day of calm?
Out from under a bush came a small dog. The dog sat back on its heels and regarded the Doctor, a normal enough event, but the sight of the thing made the Doctor's skin crawl.
This... this thing wasn't right.
The Doctor slowly withdrew his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and pointed it at the thing to make sure of what he suspected.
The dog was dead. Stone cold dead, and yet it sat on the grass and looked at the Doctor with blinking empty eyes.
The Doctor cursed his timing. Something was reanimating dead animals in these idyllic woods for possibly nefarious purposes, and that was something that he simply not could allow.
Just as he was attempting to figure out a plan of attack (Romana would have told him to go back to the TARDIS to gather more reading, and Sarah Jane would have dragged him into the woods herself, and Susan would have gone right up to the dog and petted it and asked its name, but they were all lost to him now, like everybody else but he had to stop thinking about that), footsteps came pounding through the woods.
The Doctor readied himself for an attacking zombie horde, but he was certainly not expecting what came out of the trees.
A little girl.
A little girl who ran right up to the zombie dog and stood defensively in front of it. "What are you doing here?" the girl demanded. She was tiny, at least a foot shorter than the Doctor himself, with black hair flying everywhere and flashing brown eyes, and she was so very young.
She seemed vaguely familiar, and the Doctor couldn't figure out why.
"I could ask you the same question," the Doctor said. He tried to circle around the girl to get a better look at the dog, but she moved to block his way.
"Looking for my dog," she blurted out. It took the Doctor a moment to realize that her voice was edged with fear and panic. What was she scared of? Maybe of the thing that had animated the dog?
"Miss, are you in trouble?" the Doctor asked. Her eyes went wider and she wrung her hands. Too late, the Doctor noticed the blood smeared on her hands, at the smear of mud peeking out from under her 'who's afraid of the big bad wolf?' tank top. Realization hit him like a fright train.
This little girl was the one to raise the dog from its grave. And with that knowledge, he knew her.
Anita Blake, the Necromancer.
He ran across her centuries before, while Romana stormed around a twenty-fourth century space station looking for spare parts for an experiment. Anita Blake, a beautiful young woman with expensive clothes and hair tied back in a haphazard ponytail, sat idly in a dockside cafe, staring out into space while a cup of coffee cooled before her.
He dropped into the chair across from her, pulling his dangling scarf free of his feet and a wide smile on his face to hide the confusion he felt. She drew Death to her, and he, with life to spare, hadn't been able to resist the pull. "I say, do you know if they serve tea here?"
Anita looked at him, and after a long time she smiled back. "You remind me of someone I met, a very long time ago."
He waggled his eyebrows at her. "I do hope it was a pleasant meeting."
Her smile turned brittle. "Informative, in any event." She held out her hand. He took it in his before she introduced herself. "Anita Blake."
He knew that name. It echoed between the stars through time, whispers of power over death. And here she sat, waiting in a space-side cafe.
He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. "Ms. Blake, it is indeed an honor."
She withdrew her hand. "Indeed." She paused. "Doctor."
"Such a perceptive woman," the Doctor murmured. "Tell me, what are you doing in a place such as this?"
She turned back to her examination of the cosmos. "I'm waiting."
She was silent for a long time, long enough for his tea to come and cool on the table before him.
"I'm not sure," was all she said.
"Ah," he said. Then, "Might I wait with you?"
Anita looked at him, and smiled, and his left heart skipped a beat. "Please do."
So he did.
And here she was, centuries younger, still a child, still unsure, still effortlessly able to raise the dead and the Doctor battered away at the false hope in his chest. She could raise corpses, not resurrect a species erased from the universe by his own desperate actions.
"Did you come looking to put it back?" the Doctor said slowly, pointing at the dog. The dead creature only had eyes for its mistress.
"I don't know what you mean!" she exclaimed, growing even paler.
"Put it back in its grave." Too late did the Doctor realize that he was speaking too freely. This new regeneration did that. He'd practically blurted out the history of the universe to Rose Tyler within a few minutes of meeting her.
Anita's eyes narrowed and she took a step back. "What do you know about it?" she demanded in her brash American accent. "Are you a vadun priest? Or a reporter?"
"Nah, I'm none of those." The Doctor sat back on his fencepost. "It's odd to see zombies up at this time of day, isn't it?"
Anita crossed her arms over her chest. "What do you know about zombies?"
"I know they're only raised after dark, unless you're very powerful." No need to explain he'd gotten all of this information from Anita herself. Or would get it, one day in her future. "And I know that it's seldom done with pups, so either you're practicing and it got out of hand, or that dog's been following you around for a while."
The girl kept glaring at him.
"Look, I'm not trying to trick you or anything," the Doctor continued. "I'm the Doctor, by the way."
"Just the Doctor." He gave her what he hoped was a harmless smile. "What's the problem? Salt not working?"
Anita took another step back. "How do you know how to lay a zombie to rest?" she demanded suspiciously.
Saying, 'you told me how' was probably out, so the Doctor kept smiling banally. "Makes sense, doesn't it? Blood to bring 'em back, salt to lay them down. Dirty organic life-force first, then inorganic purity to take it all away again."
Anita shuffled her feet, looking suddenly very young. "I tried with the salt, but this one won't go back!"
"And the others did before?"
Anita shrugged. She was growing increasingly terrified. "I'm not supposed to be raising zombies! That's why Dad sent me away last year."
A cold weight settled in the Doctor's chest. His children had died on Gallifrey, as had all of their children and their children, all the generations of his blood, all of whom had died at his hand.
And this girl's father had sent her away because she could raise the dead? Why did no one ever realize that life and its spontaneous gifts were to be cherished?
Anita stared at him with ancient eyes in such a young face. He made himself smile. "What kind of salt did you use?" he asked.
"Salt from the dining room table shakers," Anita told him. "I was using sea salt before but Josh, that's my brother, he spilled paints on it because he always gets in my stuff and I couldn't get more because then Judith would ask why and she'd totally freak."
The Doctor's smile softened at this childish rush of words. "You have that salt now?"
Anita reached into her pocket and pulled out an honest-to-goodness table salt shaker. The Doctor beckoned, and she tossed it to him.
"Your problem is that iodine disrupts metaphysical energy transfer in humans," the Doctor said as he aimed his sonic screwdriver at the shaker. "Straight up makes it impossible to do anything with. Still, it does the garden slugs." He tossed the salt back to Anita. "Go on now, give it a go."
Hesitating only a moment, Anita turned to the dog. Within moments, the dog was lying down and the earth had swallowed up the inanimate corpse without a trace.
"See?" the Doctor said. "Practice makes perfect." He stood. "Now, if you'll excuse me, Anita, I've got to be on my way."
"I didn't tell you my name," Anita said, bristling with suspicion. "You know, I'm really not supposed to talk to creepy old men."
"Who are you calling creepy?" the Doctor asked.
"How did you know about the salt?" Anita shot back in response.
The Doctor looked at her, with her hair flying all over, the way she squinted at him under the bright summer sun, and he suddenly wished that he had someone to go back to, someone to tell this story to, someone to travel with once again.
"A very wise woman once told me a few secrets about necromancy," he said. Turning, he walked away. "Keep at it, Anita, you'll be the best in the universe one day."
"You're weird!" Anita called after him.
He was almost around the bend in the path when he heard a small voice call out, "Thank you, Doctor!"
The Doctor made it back to the TADRIS without other incident; no more zombies or other kinds of alien attacks. He closed the door tight behind him and went up to the console, wondering where to go next. The encounter with Anita had reminded him of how bad he was at traveling alone, with no one to talk to. He'd lost so many of his friends... if a Time Lord could even have friends.
But maybe, just maybe, it was time to make a new friend.
Resolute, the Doctor manipulated the switches on the console. He'd go back to London, just a moment after he'd left Rose Tyler and that useless oaf Rickey. Mickey. Whatever. He'd ask Rose again if she wanted to go traveling. And this time, he'd bring in the added benefits of the TARDIS. Not only could it travel in space, it could travel through time.
All the time, it would seem, to let a Time Lord cross paths with the most powerful Necromancer the universe would ever see.
The Doctor flipped a switch, and the TARDIS flung him into his future.