Nikola tapped his foot impatiently. He was late for Helen's staff meeting and he knew it, but he had to finish feeding the electrical being inside him.
He was in the basement of the Sanctuary with his hand on an electrical conduit, bleeding off power very slowly; he didn't want to dim the lights. At first he'd only had to feed the creature once a day and it had been easy. Now it seemed twice daily wasn't sufficient.
Finally the creature was sated and he hurried upstairs, racing through halls when they were empty and just walking quickly when anyone else was around. Outside her office he settled his jacket, smoothed his hair, and sauntered in.
He wasn't very late, Helen was saying ". . . and item two . . . Nikola, I would appreciate it if you would make an effort to be on time." You should set a better example for the young people.
Nikola understood her unspoken comment and just nodded and sat down. He did try, at least sometimes, but old habits were hard to break and frankly he already knew most of what was on her agenda- he lived with her, after all.
Helen made no effort to recap whatever item one had been, so either it didn't concern him or he already knew about it. She went on "Item two: there has been a murder of one of our team in Mumbai under unusual circumstances. We'll need an investigative team on site as soon as possible. Nikola . . ."
"What do you mean, 'no'? I haven't said anything yet."
"I'm not going to Mumbai." I can't go anywhere where I don't have a constant ready source of electricity.
"I need a team lead who can handle something dangerous and you . . ."
"No. I've led all sorts of missions during your pregnancy and that's not what you hired me for. I haven't had any decent amount of time in my lab for months."
Helen just sat and contemplated the father of her son for a few moments. There was something going on, and it wasn't a longing for his laboratory, of that she was sure. He'd been acting a bit odd lately, but she'd initially put it down to him being a new father. But until she could figure out what was going on in Nikola's convoluted brain, perhaps it was better to keep him where she could keep an eye on him.
"Very well. Will? Do you think you could handle it?"
Dr. Will Zimmerman sat forward and said "I'd definitely like to give it a try. It would be a refreshing change to actually go on a mission without Nikola Tesla."
Helen sighed. When she was pregnant and couldn't lead missions herself she'd had Nikola go instead. Being both brilliant and nearly indestructible she thought he was the perfect choice as a substitute, but perhaps she'd overdone it a little.
She just nodded and then said "I know things have been a little off kilter during my pregnancy and they're still going to be for a while until everything gets entirely back to normal. Everyone has had to take on different duties at times, and I do appreciate the way you have all stepped up. Will, I'll forward you all the information I have and you can choose your own team."
Will gave her a little bow from his chair in appreciation and she went on to the next item. Nikola turned most of his attention away from the meeting and studied the creature inside him while pretending to study his fingernails.
It had been fairly weak when it first invaded him, and it had even fed him energy to help him get out of a collapsed mine. But it demanded energy too, and when it didn't get enough it became angry and incited him to anger and violence. It did its best to put violent excitement in his mind because in that state his own electrical production increased and it got a better feed.
Nikola was fairly sure that if the creature wasn't exactly the same as the one that resided in John Druitt it was at least a close cousin. He was determined to expel it or destroy it somehow, he just hadn't quite figure out how to do that. He'd tried using his own electricity to rid himself of it somehow, but that had failed. So instead he fed it, keeping it sated so it didn't try to control him.
But the more he fed it, the stronger it got. Well, he'd expected that, but he initially thought it would just be for a few days but now he'd been carrying it for two weeks and he still didn't have an acceptable answer.
The interminable meeting finally came to an end without any duties or chores being assigned to him; most satisfactory. He headed toward the Foss' apartment. He and Erica traded baby-sitting chores watching his son Danny and her daughter Angelina during the day when Helen needed time to work. Nikola picked up his son and went back to their apartment.
He kicked off his shoes and reclined on a couch with his tiny son, cuddling him. Nikola took out his phone and took a picture of them. He'd never been very interested in taking selfies before Danny was born, but in two weeks he had taken about 200 pictures of the two of them.
He wanted to capture and keep every moment; with the creature inside of him, he wasn't sure how much time he was going to get as a family man, and if he had to disappear from Danny's life, well, there would be proof that he'd cared. At least his son would have pictures of himself with his father, even if that father wasn't around to see him grow up.
Danny drifted off to sleep in his father's arms. Nikola closed his eyes, but he didn't sleep. He spent every available minute trying to think of a way to get rid of the creature inside him before it turned him into a murdering monster like John.
The one thing that would absolutely work would be to die; no electricity in the host, the parasite would leave. If done in the presence of an electrical source that could be permanently isolated, the creature would be trapped and possibly destroyed somehow. There was, however, the obvious downside to that plan.
Plan A was to entice it out by offering a bigger supply of electricity without allowing it to run wild through the electrical grid or infect computers or other people. The only place Nikola could think of with a huge isolated supply of electrical energy was Bhalasaam. But if going into that tunnel again actually got the creature out of him then the underground of the vampire's last city would have to be destroyed utterly so no one could ever give the creature another host.
He didn't like the idea. So little remained of the great civilization his ancestors had built, the thought of destroying what remained of that beautiful ruin was repugnant. Oh, there were other vampires in existence, but they weren't creating much except a few practical things and most of those were from his designs. Once Bhalasaam was gone there would never be another place like it.
There had to be another way, but he just hadn't discovered it yet. How much time did he have? He mentally recalculated the creature's growth rate from this morning's feed. Not long, perhaps another ten days, and the last few would be very difficult. He didn't dare cut it close; if he miscalculated and the creature overcame him he might kill his friends and his family and he couldn't, he wouldn't risk that.
He took his sleeping son to Helen- it was almost time for a feeding anyway. She had a crib behind her desk and enjoyed having her son near her while she worked. She was on the phone when he went in and he just deposited Danny in the crib at her nod. Nikola had work to do, and a lab was no place for Danny, at least not yet.
Late in the afternoon Helen took Danny back to Erica to watch for a little while and went looking for Nikola. It was time to make him confess to whatever he was doing. But she was shocked when she found him in his lab working with explosives.
"Nikola, what is this for?" she asked, indicating the half-filled small box of carefully packed nitroglycerin.
"Just a little project of mine; I'm going to do some exploration for usable ores."
Helen immediately knew it was a lie; he was looking straight at her and trying to convince her it was the truth.
"You would use dynamite for that, it's far more stable. You could bring down the entire Sanctuary cavern with this."
"I'm not going to blow up the Sanctuary, or anywhere that's populated, believe me."
She almost did believe him. He really didn't want to hurt anyone, but sometimes he misjudged the effect his actions had on his surroundings.
Time to throw him a curve ball. "When I was looking for you I found your phone in the apartment. You've taken so many pictures of you and Danny, but there are hardly any of the three of us. Why is that?"
"Well you're not usually available during the day."
"Nikola . . . please stop avoiding the issue."
"That's what I'm trying to find out. You've been behaving oddly since Danny was born and at first I put it down to being a new father after all those years. But it's more than that; tell me."
Nikola let out a long sigh. He hadn't wanted to say anything this soon, in fact he had been considering leaving her a note. But apparently he was going to have to tell her. "I . . . I have a little problem."
"That can be solved with nitro?"
"Hopefully. I didn't want to involve you or anyone else. It's my problem, let me fix it."
Helen moved in close to him. "Nikola, you are my . . . my mate. If you have a problem, then I have a problem. Don't shut me out, let me help, please."
Nikola ran a hand through his hair and began to pace. "All right, all right if you must. You know that creature in the mine that we took care of? The ending to that story is a little different than I led you to believe."
"You lied to me?"
"Not exactly, I just let you make a bad assumption."
"The creature is still there and you're going back to blow up the rest of the mine?"
"No, the mine is safe . . . because the creature is, well it's . . ."
"I didn't want you to know. The father of your first child was a murdering monster because of an energy being inside of him. Well, it turns out the father of your second child has the same problem, although I haven't killed anyone yet."
"It's inside of me. I'm managing it for now by giving it electricity, but it's growing and I can't manage it forever."
"A few days, maybe a week or a little longer."
"So you're going to blow yourself up?"
"Well I hope not. I'm going to Bhalasaam, back to that little test your father set up for me and try to either give the creature more electricity than it can handle or see if it will abandon me and take up residence."
"If it does you can blow up the area and bury it. But why not use something safer like plastic explosives or dynamite?"
"Because with that much electricity a radio signal wouldn't penetrate to set the explosives off. I've considered dynamite with an old-fashioned fuse, but I'm not sure it would stay lit and I am trying to give myself some room to get out. Nitro- well I can set it in various places and toss one or two vials and it will all go up."
"We don't have to blow the tunnel directly. We can bring down everything around it and that will have the same effect. Keep in mind there is an entire city above those tunnels, caving them in should be sufficient."
"Maybe you're right, but there's no 'we' involved here. I won't make my son an orphan Helen. You know I can survive a lot more than you can."
"Nikola, you're not doing this alone."
"Well I'm not doing it today in any case. First I'll have to strip out all the wiring and remove any other source of power besides that tunnel. It's connected directly to the earth's magnetic field and all the other wiring is separate."
"Well we can both do that."
"I have to find the power source and shut the whole thing down and frankly I can do that more quickly by myself than if I have to worry about you."
"All right. But you swear to me that that is all you are going to do and that you are coming back here tonight."
"I swear I'll be right back."
"And you're only going to pull the wiring and any other sources of electricity."
"Yes, I promise."
She let him go then; he was being honest with her and she knew she could trust him when he gave his word for something important. Helen retrieved Danny from Erica and took him home. It was nearly time to feed him again anyway and she wanted to hold him.
What if she lost Nikola to the creature the way she'd lost John, and Danny was all she had left of the man she loved? She'd been that route before and she really didn't think she was strong enough to do it again. Not after raising Ashley by herself and then losing her. She simply could not let the creature win; there had to be a way to get rid of it.
Helen waited with her son for Nikola to come back. The hours passed slowly, mostly because she kept checking the time. Surely it wouldn't take him this long just to remove a power source and rip out some wiring? Well it might, her father was very thorough and would have put in backups. But it was Nikola Tesla who was doing the job; electricity was his area of expertise, surely . . . She realized she was going around in circles and distracted herself reviewing educational software for preschoolers.
Danny was long put down for the night when the apartment door opened and Nikola finally came in.
"There you are at last. What took so long?"
"Uh, well, I sort of forgot to take a flashlight so after I eliminated the power sources- three of them mind you- I was in the dark, had to juice a bulb so I only had one hand to work with on the wiring."
"Well I'm glad you're finally home. Danny's already asleep for the night, don't you dare wake him."
Nikola just shook his head and went into his son's room. Helen trailed after him. Nikola could sit by his son's bed for hours and it was far too early for the vampire to be tired in spite of all he had done that day. She let him check on Danny but then took him by the hand and led him to the bedroom they shared. She had thought she would have Nikola for years, decades, even centuries, and now it might only be days. But tonight he was hers.