44

PIECES OF MODERN SCIENCE

Helen woke with a start. Her dreams had been of wild roses and desert sands – things that history had lost.

She found herself sprawled out on the attic floor, laid over an old trench coat which, on closer inspection, turned out to be Nikola's. The silk lining was partly torn away, no doubt the reason for its abandonment. She looked at it sadly, fingering the frayed edges before laying her head down on the soft material.

He had only been gone five days. It was not long enough for him to write or a letter be returned to her. She checked the door every morning regardless. This was Tesla, he had a way of surprising her whether it be an invitation to a grand lecture or a fragment of poetry left inside her books.

This time, he didn't and the silence was unbearable.

She may as well stare at the evening sky and ask it for answers.


Half a world away, Nikola paced across the freezing snow. His boots sank through it in a futile search for solid ground. It was snowing even now. He watched the flurries fall from dark swells of cloud looming over the mountains like a silent wave.

He pulled his jacket around him and stumbled toward the small pair of bumps in the otherwise pristine hill. Underneath their ice-laden roofs were his house and the accompanying chapel. Ten more inches of snow and they'd entirely vanish from the winter landscape.

When he reached the house he heard the roof creak under the weight of snow. Nikola was terrified of what its walls might hide. John had been here, unattended among the people he cared for most in this world. He had not even slept since leaving Helen's house. Every time he closed his eyes he saw a pool of blood inching over the dusty floor .

Steadying himself, he knocked and stepped back, patiently waiting. He fiddled nervously with his clothes, trying to listen for sounds of life within the house as the seconds dragged by. He was considering pushing in the door when the latch went.

It opened slowly and there she was. His beautiful little sister.

"Milka..." he whispered, scooping her up into his arms without explanation, holding her tightly against his chest. She giggled lightly, always happy to have her brother returned to her. Nikola didn't care that there was snow blowing into the house, or that he was crying softly against her shoulder. She was alive and that was all that mattered.

"Nikky, you shall crumple this new dress if you do not put me down," she protested, with an affectionate smile.

He set her gently down and allowed himself to be ushered inside. They sat by the fire, their hands clasped together. Nikola had convinced himself that he would never look upon her again.

"Really, you're acting very strange," Milka insisted, squeezing his hands. "Did something happen in London – to your Miss Magnus?"

His Miss Magnus? Normally, that would have been sufficient to make him blush.

"She is not my anything, Milka," he reminded her quietly. Being his sister, she chose not to believe him and instead shifted, resting her head against his shoulder. "I was so worried about you," Nikola admitted, kissing the top of her head tenderly.

There was an uncharacteristic pause as a shiver passed over Milka's skin.

"Is something the matter?" he asked her.

She did not reply at first, watching a log tumble down in the fireplace with a storm of embers. "There was a man that came here," she whispered. "He appeared with Miss Magnus. She seemed to know him well enough so I allowed him to stay here."

Nikola tensed, his arms securely around her. What had John done...

"I – was afraid of him," Milka whispered, hiding against Nikola. She did not say anything further so Nikola simply held her close. When she did eventually speak, it caught him off guard. "Have you word from Mr Fort? I know you are not fond of him, Nikky but his letters ease the lonely winters here." And made her smile.

Nikola's breath froze in his throat.

Slowly, he sat back, turning to face her on the couch.

"You do have word..." Milka smiled, unable to hide her happiness. "I thought he must have been with you and Miss Magnus, helping you in your work – is he well? Have you brought a letter -"

Nikola's fingertips settled on her lips, gently silencing her.

"Milka..."


"Is there no way that you can wake him?" Sherlock peered sharply at the man strapped down to the bed. He was a slumbering demon, a shadow that prowled London.

Sherlock didn't like it when things weren't going according to his wishes. He was thoroughly used to getting his way. The extra pipe he'd smoked before coming here was making him pace in dizzying circles about the room, muttering unhappily. At least he'd left the damn violin at home this time.

"We should call the doctor back," James replied, reclined calmly against the cold cell wall.

"Can't..." Sherlock muttered, almost to himself. "No one has seen the doctor since last night. The man's vanished."

James frowned at that. Perhaps even the doctor was sick of London and its murderers. His thoughts were interrupted by a loud shuffle and clash of keys at the door as the Chief Inspector entered.

"Gentlemen," he greeted, locking the door behind him. "It has been decided by the Crown that The Ripper is to be executed, tonight."

Sherlock was – incensed. "We have yet to question him," he protested, infinitely more upset about having his plans upset than a man being punished without trial.

"Sir, it is not my decision. I've bought you a few hours but after that, even if he does not wake, you have to surrender him. He's been deemed too dangerous to transport to the courts so he'll be tried here and executed – death by firing squad, far kinder than he deserves."

"This – is a perversion of the course of justice," Sherlock replied darkly, advancing on the Chief Inspector.

The Chief Inspector nodded but in all his long years of service he found himself untroubled by it. "And this man is a perversion of God's creatures. He must die and he will – tonight."

"Well – aren't you going to say anything?" Sherlock snapped at James, who had remained silent after the Chief Inspector left.

"No," he replied flatly. "For once, Sherlock, I agree with The Crown."

"I am rarely wrong about a man's character James, this is not you. You'd follow the law off a cliff. Revenge – it doesn't suit you."

James's eyes were nearly as black as Nikola's. "Hang the law, Holmes. John must die."


"It's still human..." whispered Gregory, peering over the sand creature stretched out on Ranna's bench. "See – along here..." he trailed a silver instrument over the creature's slightly parted skin. It was alive but heavily sedated. "This reminds me of a body wracked by disease."

"I agree," Ranna moved closer, her shoulders pressed against Gregory's. "I have seen similar changes in our own kind but admittedly, never on a scale like this. This is closer to a partial mutation, an attempt at transforming the body into something else but it failed. It always fails."

"Perhaps it is not a human disease..." Gregory was taking more blood samples. "Our physiology may be similar to that of a vampire but internally there are no doubt a great many differences to allow their healing powers."

"And the claws... Fangs... Black eyes..."

"All right," Gregory chuckled softly. "Still, in my notes I theorised that pure blood vampires could be turned into humans and vice versa. There are accounts of half-breeds in some of the ancient writings so at our most basic, we are similar enough for this virus or whatever it is to attack both forms."

"And in vampires... I wonder what would happen..."

"There's a very simple way to find out." Ranna nodded at once of the grisly, floating corpses.

Gregory frowned, "I don't follow."

"Well..." Ranna grinned. "The one thing we do have is a surplus of vampires. Let us see if we can raise one from its watery grave..."


Nikola faced the dark mountains.

Milka draped a fur-lined jacket over his shoulders and then laid her head against his back for a moment. She was still crying silent tears, holding a tiny leather journal to her breast. Letters from Fort...

"Nikky – don't go..."

Another light snow started to fall, catching in Nikola's eyelashes. He blinked them away as black bled into his irises.

He left her standing in the snow, watching as his slender form vanished against the tree-line at the base of the mountains. It took him hours to clamber over the ice-covered rock, making his way up to the gaping cave mouth. At the faint breath of danger, Nikola placed his hand over his chest. There was no sign of what John had done to him but he could swear the pain would never entirely vanish.

Beneath him, he felt the faintest rumble. The ground was hollow. It trembled like spring ice, splintered by a thousand fractures. He wondered how many vampires had been driven into the cold regions of the world, fleeing their deserts and empires to sink into the ground.


Sherlock hit James so hard across the face that the scientist fell to his knees – one hand reaching for the wall to steady himself. A trickle of blood slipped over his split lip and dripped down onto the pavement.

"Bloody hell!" James hissed, staggering back to his feet.

Sherlock looked remorseless. They were in a cramped alley out the back of Scotland Yard, both of them looking damp in the misting rain. Beneath their feet, the ice over the pavement was melting and cracking into slush.

"For God's sake, Holmes – you cannot just beat me into submission!" James protested, touching his lip gently.

"What happened to your questions – your unfinished business?" Sherlock demanded fiercely.

"When The Crown tells you to do something, Sherlock, you do it. If you're asking me, 'would I like to wake John?' – of course I do. I want to look into his eyes and find out why he did it. I want him to know his fate but as far as justice goes – I couldn't give a shit."

Sherlock hit James again, this time across the back of his knees with his cane sending James to his knees, scowling.

"Bloody fucking hell," James groaned this time. The freezing water on the street soaked into his pants as he sat on the ground. "Even if I wanted to help you – which I don't, there is nothing I can do. The Chief Constable answers to The Crown and I'm telling you now, Sherlock, The Crown couldn't care less about your little game of questions."

Sherlock hit the nearest lamppost sharply with his cane. "Being right is the most irritating thing about you," he muttered bitterly. "We'll have to do this the other way."

"Other way...?" James asked suspiciously, hauling himself back to his feet.

"Come with me..." Sherlock muttered, storming back into the building.

James wasn't sure that he wanted to follow. He knew Sherlock well enough to guess that this was a bad idea. That sick feeling in the pit of his stomach only grew when they stopped by an evidence room to borrow a hefty pair of bolt cutters. James swore as he watched Sherlock thieve a set of iron handcuffs and small hand gun.

They went directly to the holding room. In seconds Sherlock had the lock undone. He forced his way into the room swiftly followed by James, who closed the door. It was empty save for the slumbering Ripper.

Holmes went directly to The Ripper while James stalked slowly around the empty cell, running his sharp gaze over every inch until he hesitated.

"Holmes – Holmes stop!" James whispered, grabbing Sherlock's slender arm. There was a tiny blood splatter of blood near the chair – a day old at least. Beside it were halos of more blood cleaned from the concrete floors. Pools of it. The doctor. The Chief Inspector hadn't told them everything...

Sherlock had already half-untied John Druitt from the bed. The hand hanging free snapped up, grasping Sherlock's cravat. John dragged the flailing detective right down to whisper against his ear.

"Thank you..."

John threw the Sherlock across the tiny cell where he landed against the wall with a dull thud.

"Holmes!" James gasped, watching his friend hit the table first and then the floor, unconscious.

It only took a moment for John to free his other hand.

"Have to say, James... I'm surprised to see you here," John drawled, as he stood up. He circled slowly, staring down the significantly smaller man. His white cotton shirt was unbuttoned to the waist, torn at the edges where were flecks of red had faded into the weave. The scratch marks Nikola had left across his chest were still there...

James inched backwards, the unlocked door to his right and Sherlock on his left, lifeless. His back hit the cold wall. "I came to ask you some questions."

John's laugh was disturbingly warm. "You had such a long time to ask me questions, all those evenings in Oxford." He was almost wistful, dark brown eyes fixed on James. "You disappoint me, old friend."

"How many have you killed?" James whispered.

"More than you'll ever find," John replied. "There are so many nameless faces in this city."

"They're not nameless."

John smirked as Sherlock stirred. "I can't stop, James. Don't you see?" A ripple of energy flickered over John's skin, turning his eyes black. A moment later, he vanished – tearing apart the universe.


When James returned to Oxford, it was alone.

Sherlock had gone into hiding, both of them wanted men with Scotland Yard hunting them at every turn. James knocked on Helen's door, tugging his hat down to hide his face as he waited in the shadows.

"James?" Helen whispered when she opened the door. She beckoned him in, sitting down with a glass of Brandy in the library. "Is it done?" She was looking into her glass, watching the liquid swirl around.

"Yes," James lied, unbuttoning his jacket. "It's done. John is dead."