The Evolution of Nature

Based on Sanctuary, created by Damian Kindler

Featuring (three of) The Five; Helen, James and Nigel.

- . - . - . - London, England

"Well?" Helen asked, looking over James' shoulder.

He sat upright, resting his telescopic spectacles on his brow with a puzzled look on his face. "I'm not sure." He stood and handed her his spectacles, motioning for her to look as well.

She sat and examined the interest carefully. "It almost looks like a polyp," she said, letting the spectacles slide down her nose to glance at him over them.

"What does it mean for my dog, Doctor Ma'am?" the small boy asked, looking up at her with hope and curiosity, perhaps some fear.

Helen smiled comfortingly at him. "I'm not quite sure yet. But we'll solve it."

The dog belonged to the son of the cook employed by James and herself at the Sanctuary. Both the child and the dog were often visitors at the Sanctuary. James had taken to giving the dog scraps of meat, and the child bits of treats.

When the boy brought in his dog who had been "acting sad," James swung into action.

"Eloise," Helen turned to her cook and the boy's mother, "when did you first notice the growth?"

Eloise thought for a moment. "Yesterday, evening, perhaps. It was a deal smaller then."

"Then it's growing quickly?" James asked.

Eloise nodded. "Very."

James glanced at Helen, a silent conversation being had. "Jeremy," he turned to the boy, "do you mind if I take care of your dog this evening?"

The boy looked nervous.

James smiled at him reassuringly. "I'll give him a few scraps of meat," he said with a conspirator's grin. With a flick of his wrist, a small treat appeared on his hand. Helen and Eloise smiled at how James' slight of hand amazed the small boy.

Smiling, Jeremy nodded. "I don't mind at all, Sir."

James smiled and ruffled the boy's hair. "There's a good lad."

Eloise motioned for her son and put her hands on his shoulders. "Thank you, Doctor Magnus, Doctor Watson."

James smiled. "Don't think of it, Ms. Eloise. We'll know more in the morning."

They said their farewells and Helen walked them out, even though they were as familiar with the building as she was. She joined James again in the study.

"Well, what do you think?" Helen asked him again, knowing that he preferred not to speculate in front of the boy, as not to worry him.

"It's certainly not a natural growth, and you're right, it does reassemble a polyp."

"It wouldn't be unreasonable to hypothesize that it would mature into another form, like cnidarians," she sat down on her side of their partner's desk.

James petted the dog as he thought. "It would not. However, we've no way of knowing how its maturation would effect Toby, here." He scratched behind the dog's ear.

"You suggest we remove it?"

He shifted in his seat slightly. "Not immediately, but I'm considering it."

"We've no idea what that would do to the creature, or Toby for that matter."

He nodded thoughtfully. "That is why I am not sure."

Helen stood. "I believe I will peruse my father's books on abnormal cnidarians. Hopefully I can find some information there."

James nodded absently as she left, slipping the telescopic spectacles back on his nose. "Very well. I am going to run a few tests."

- . - . -

Helen pinched the bridge of her nose, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. None of her fathers books were helpful. He had more than several abnormal cnidarians on record, but none that grew on mammals. Closing the large volume, she began to rethink her strategy entirely.

It was growing on a mammal.

It had latched onto a mammal.

Like a tick or a flea.

She started perusing her shelves for a book on Acarina. She heard a commotion from the other room. The dog barked, she heard James cry out. Helen shouted his name, running to the other room. She found James lying on the floor, holding his arm, and the dog barking at a broken window pane.

"James!" She rushed to his side and dropped to her knees. "Are you alright?"

He nodded, clutching his upper arm. "It seems our polyp matured," he said with his typical dry humor.

She helped him sit and examined his arm. "Did Toby bite you?" she asked.

He nodded. "The old boy didn't know how to react when something on his skin grew wings and tore itself from his body."

"You'll be all right?" She helped him to his feet.

He nodded. "Helen, that creature grew significantly. Retrieving it may be difficult." She glanced at Toby's neck where the polyp had been growing. The patch of missing fur was perhaps the size of her palm.

She headed towards the door. "Come, Watson, your hat and coat."

The moment she opened the door, Toby ran through it like a hound on the scent. For a moment, Helen simply thought he was heading home after his traumatic experience.

"He's following it," James said with a hint of interest and amazement, also realizing the dog hadn't turned towards home.

Helen started out the door. "It appears we haven't a moment to lose."

Eventually, they caught up with Toby as he was circling back. "Borrowing" some rope from a street cart, James leashed the dog and again they were off. How long they tailed the creature, she wasn't sure, but Toby slowed near the base of a bridge. He handed her the leash to Helen and removed his jacket.

She took Toby to the other side of the bridge and saw the creature resting on the stone column. It appeared that she had been correct with her acarina hypothesis. It reassembled a tick, though it was nearly the size of a human skull.

James approached it slowly, preparing to use his jacket as a snare. It briefly occurred to Helen that they shouldn't have left the Sanctuary without something to apprehend the creature. At least they would never make the same mistake again.

James lunged at it, amazingly capturing it in his jacket. He struggled with it for several seconds. He cried out and almost dropped his jacket, but he managed to secure the bundle and held it away from his body. He was wincing.

"James?" she asked, stepping towards him.

He shook his head. "I'm all right. Let us get this contained and you can doctor me later."

- . - . -

They made it home that evening and were able to contain the creature. Helen doctored James' wounds, the dog bite on his arm and a bite from the creature on his neck. They returned Toby to Jeremy the next day, healthy and happy.

Over the next few days, Helen studied the creature. After several tests she dubbed the new found species Ixodiodea Cnidos, an acartina - cnidarian hybrid. It really was fascinating. On the evening of the fourth day, James came to her, saying her name softly.

Helen looked up. He had pulled the bandage off his neck. The wound had festered. "James!" she stood quickly, crouching before his chair. She put her hand to his forehead, he had a fever as well. "Come."

She helped him to his feet and to his room, where she helped him into bed. Helen removed his suspenders and his shirt. "Rest. I'll be back." She left him and quickly returned with bandages, towels, an antiseptic and bowl of water. First she placed a damp towel on his forehead and then turned to the wound on his neck.

It appeared as if the Ixodiodea Cnidos left a residue in the wound and it had festered. She applied a topical anesthetic and started removing infected tissue.

He was conscious and alert while she treated him, but she could tell the fever was slowly taking hold. She paused for a moment to wipe some of the sweat from his neck and shoulders. Helen applied an antiseptic and covered the wound on his neck.

"Helen," he breathed her name.

She wiped his forehead and replaced the cool towel there. "It's all right, James, I'm here."

The minutes turned to hours, but fever still racked his body. He had trouble keeping his eyes open, but she knew he couldn't sleep. Without a second thought, Helen removed her boots and climbed into James' bed with him. He fell onto her immediately, resting his head against her breast.

She wiped the sweat from his brow, neck and shoulders, and ran her fingers through his hair. He was noticeably calmer in moments. It wasn't long until they were both asleep.

- . - . -

James' fever broke before morning, and he was himself. He was tired, but all right. He stayed in bed all day with a novel he had been endeavoring to read but was never able to find the time. Helen visited him several times during the day, and brought him some light soup for dinner and again for supper.

She sat with him after supper for a few hours, condensing her notes on the Ixodiodea Cnidos into an entry for her records. After hearing him yawn several times, she closed her notebook, and looked up at him. "I suppose you're right," she said. "It is getting late." Making sure he was comfortable, she left him and retired to her own chambers.

Helen woke about an hour later. Something wasn't quite right. Nothing was Earth-shatteringly wrong, but something wasn't quite right. She got up, slipped on her robe and toured the halls of the Sanctuary. All was well. All the diurnal creatures were asleep, and all the nocturnal ones were awake.

Still aware of a slight tingling in her spine, she made her way to James' room. She quietly opened his door and leaned against the frame. Helen watched James roll over restlessly. He threw off his covers, rolled again, pulled one blanket back, and rolled again.

"Helen?" he asked, having turned towards the door and seeing her in the doorframe.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

He shuffled onto his back and turned his head towards her with a brave smile. "Trouble sleeping, my dear."

Without a second thought, Helen entered his room, shutting the door softly behind her. James watched in interested silence. She removed her robe and slid under his covers next to him.

"Helen?" he questioned her actions with the simple askance of her name.

"Sleep, James."

"Helen." This time her name conveyed his concern at her actions.

"James, sleep," she said with a little more conviction. She put her arm around him and pulled him to her. He rested his head in the crook of her arm. Helen let her fingers lazily comb through his hair and waited as his body slowly relaxed and fell into sleep, hers followed.

- . - . - . -

To be continued