your face and my face should make face babies (cj_ludd18) wrote in paisley_pie,
your face and my face should make face babies
cj_ludd18
paisley_pie

[FIC: BBC SHERLOCK] Strangers: Part I

Title: Strangers
Rating: R
Warnings: Violence, gore, and all their friends, with a dash of swear words and allusions to sex on the side.
Summary: "The average human being is subject to a thousand different bothersome weaknesses every moment of every day, with hunger, thirst, fatigue and lust being the most prevalent. But would it be possible for one to create a human being sans the trivialities? All the strengths of man, and none of the weaknesses?"

In 2110, Sherlock Holmes builds a machine.

Notes: A ridiculous amount of gratitude and love to alltoseek for pulling of a wonderful and speedy beta job. To Pie, for planting the seed, and to patchworkwounds, who was there at the Beginning: my thanks.


Strangers
a story told in 3 experiments

human, adj. 1: of, relating to, or characteristics of man, 2: susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of man's nature.

machine, n. 1: a constructed thing, whether material or immaterial, 2: an instrument designed to transmit or modify the application of power, force, or motion.

love, n. 1: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration-in love: inspired by affection.


01100111011001010110111001100101011100110110100101110011


"The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are."



“The things you own end up owning you.”


--



bored

immensely so

the criminally inclined populace of this city is being so blatantly inconsiderate of the needs of others






alone

hungry, though why i cannot fathom

THIS IS A METROPOLIS THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE NOISE



speaking to the skull is getting old

and hudson isn’t nearly responsive enough to be interesting

should i call lestrade? no. i’ll look desperate.







but i am desperate












perhaps i could test a hypothesis



fill out the time




yes






yes






EXPERIMENT I

Purpose: The average human being is subject to a thousand different bothersome weaknesses every moment of every day, with hunger, thirst, fatigue and lust being the most prevalent. But would it be possible for one to create a human being sans the trivialities?

All the strengths of man, and none of the weaknesses?

Hypothesis: Of course it’s possible. If done correctly.

Materials:

1. one (1) out-of-commission battle droid



“How old are they?”

The room is high-ceilinged and so white it seems to glow—white walls, white floor, white-robed technician. Sherlock Holmes shows up blaringly out of place, his black overcoat and dark mop of unruly hair shocking against the snow-clean background. He’s standing imperiously before a row of battered and dinged droids with a deep, contemplative frown upon his face, hands jammed deep into his pockets.

Beside him, Molly glances down at her clipboard and dithers, running her pen down the page frantically. “Erm… Uh…The design’s from about a d-decade ago, but these models were built in oh-one,” she stammers out—what is it about this man that makes her tongue grow too big for her mouth?

“And they’re fresh back from combat?”

She nods. Sherlock blows out a thin stream of air through his teeth and taps the closest droid with one gloved finger. “This one. What’s the serial number?”

Another frantic flip of the pages. Another desperate dash for information. Sherlock watches impatiently as Molly scrambles about before surfacing with a broken, “C-W one-oh-one-three-two.”

“Hm.” To the casual observer, all ten droids look identical—same compact size, same scratched and burnished metal frames, same flat faces with lenses for eyes and streamlined speakers for mouths. But Sherlock Holmes is no ‘casual observer.’ He flicks his eyes up, down, side to side, touches, pokes, prods.

“Any good?” Molly asks, blinking politely.

“No, no… This one won’t do.” He walks down the line, one finger resting on his chin, brow creased in concentration. Pauses at the second to last droid. “Serial number,” he snaps, as if it’s a sin that he even has to ask. Again.

Fwit, fwit, fwit. Molly pauses and licks her index finger, before continuing to flip, a habit that irks Sherlock to no end.

“J-W one-three-five-three-four,” she says at last.

Sherlock kneels to inspect the short, stocky droid’s lower half, running his hand experimentally down one leg. “It’s been damaged,” he surmises. “Here, and…” He stands once again, prodding the robot’s shoulder with his pinky. “Here.”

“Yes,” says Molly, with a lift of her eyebrows. “Yes, all these models are somewhat, erm… impaired, yes. They were the only ones I could commandeer without attracting suspicion.” She giggles as if she’s done something incredibly clever.

Sherlock doesn’t bother acknowledging her, preferring to rake his eyes over the machine before him. “This one is in even worse state than the others, however. Terribly shoddy repair job. Interesting.” He stares into the droid’s semblance of a face only to see his own features reflected in the convex lenses. “Where was it stationed?”

Another flip of pages. Sherlock groans and rolls his eyes.

“Afghanistan,” Molly chirps at last. “Putting down the Arabistanian Uprising. Or trying to, anyhow.”

“Hm. Good. Good!” Sherlock claps his hands, rubs them together, and turns towards Molly with a glint in his eyes. “I’ll take it.”

“Oh.” Another series of frantic blinks. “But… You just said it was the worst of the lot.”

Sherlock shrugs and retrieves his coat and scarf. “It interests me,” he says. “Besides, I think it has character.” Let her chew on that for a while, see what she does. “When can you send it ‘round?”

“I can have someone bring it over on Friday,” Molly says. “I-if that’s okay.”

“Friday? Couldn’t you do it earlier?” Sherlock tilts his head to one side and grins winningly, turning up the charm to outlandish levels. “It’s just, this is so very important to me.”

Molly flails a little longer. “W-well… I could bring it to you… myself… after work, tomorrow.”

“Splendid! See you then. Oh!” He pauses in the doorway, slinging his scarf around his neck. “New address, by the way.”

“What was wrong with the old one?”

“Everything. I’m at 221b Baker Street, now. Ask for me by name; they’ll let you in.” He winks and slips out into the corridor.



Outside, Sherlock jogs to the street and sticks his arm out in an attempt to flag down a cab. The smoggy sky above is even darker than usual, thick and gray and temperamental. Megaphones blare out advertisements and the latest news; large, fluorescent LED screens show off lurid models and shiny, new automobiles. Even higher up, drifting lazily across the stormy sky, a cruiser, heading for Heathrow.

The cars whizz by, quickly quickly quickly, somewhere to go, somewhere to be. Finally, one slows down and skids to the roadside, hovering in front of Sherlock and emitting waves of stifling heat.

“How much to take me to Central?” he asks. The automated driver tinks about a bit—an old model, the new ones are so much more efficient—before droning out,

“SEV-EN-TY PO-UND-ZZ.”

Sherlock nods and clambers into the back. The cab clinks and clanks for a few moments longer, before zipping back into the flow of traffic with a whoosh and a ding as the meter starts to run. London blows by dizzyingly fast, all tall metal buildings and high, glass windows, none of which interest Sherlock in the slightest.

He curls up on the back seat, which is stained and torn and littered with receipts and wrappers, and pulls out his mobile. NO RECEPTION, reads the screen; he grunts and stuffs the thing back into his pocket. They can send shuttles to Jupiter every other Saturday and yet he can’t get cell reception in the middle of a metropolis.

Typical.

Five frantic minutes later, the cab screeches to an abrupt halt with a clank and a burst of fumes. Sherlock chokes back a cough and slides the bills into the slot in front of him, before kicking the door open.

“THANK YOU FOR YO-UR SER-VICE. HAVE A NI-CE—”

Thunk. He slams the door shut again and marches up to the building, slamming one fist into the intercom button by the large metal doors.

“Hudson?” he shouts. “It’s me.”

There’s a faint buzzing sound, then a little beep. “I am opening the door,” Hudson declares airily. “It is opening right now.”

“Yes, yes, good.” BEEEEE…. “There we are, thank you.” He pushes the door open and bounds into the dimly lit building, taking the stairs two at a time.

Hudson is waiting for him in the sitting room, scowling. Or the bot equivalent of a scowl, in any case. “You are very late young man,” it blips. “You said you would be back in time for your dinner. It is now cold.”

“My deepest apologies.” Sherlock tosses his jacket onto the ground; Hudson squeaks over and picks it up slowly. “I’m not hungry anyhow,” he adds.

“I made potatoes.”

“I hate potatoes,” Sherlock snaps.

Hudson blips quietly, recording this information, then sidles off to hang Sherlock’s coat on the nearest hook. “How was your day?” it asks.

“Tea, thank you.”

Another blip. “Query not answered directly,” it hums. “Was your trip unsuccessful then?”

“Oh, for God’s sake… Tea!” Sherlock cries in desperation, collapsing onto the sofa with a huff. “Tea, unless you wouldn’t mind passing me a bloody cigarette. No, no, ignore that, ignore it.”

Hudson whirs into the kitchen, petite frame oscillating gently from side to side, a soft, neutral expression on its face. It is, without a doubt, the longest suffering house-bot in all of New London. With a weariness not typical of machines, Hudson places the kettle on the electric stove and pushes in the time. “I will be downstairs,” it blips, before pit-pattering out of the sitting room, shutting the door behind it.

Sherlock curls up on the sofa with a sigh, stretching languidly, the silence roaring in his ears. Such an eerie quiet. He left Montague Street to escape the monotony, thinking that being closer to Central would somehow help drown out the sheer nothingness that constantly plagues his mind.

It hasn’t worked.

He thinks of what it’ll be like, having someone—something, rather—around that’ll be mess-free, hands-off perfect. Not like Hudson, who’s chained down by a primitive series of a command a five year old would be capable of writing up. And not like Lestrade, either. No, no. Sherlock needs someone who’ll listen and execute and never question, never misunderstand—never have to stop for ‘refueling’ or ‘sleep.

A slow and patient breath slips out from between his lips. He’s quivering with excitement at the very thought of it.

The kettle starts to wail. He doesn’t bother with rising.

Hudson ends up whirring over with a distressed, “Oh my!” a few minutes later, rescuing the kettle just as the plastic handle begins to melt.



Early the next afternoon, the droid arrives.

Molly brings it in one of Bart Laboratory’s delivery vehicles, something which she takes care to mention she probably should not be doing. Sherlock simply nods and snaps out, “Be careful!” when she almost drops the other end of the crate as they haul it up the stairs.

In the kitchen, Hudson waits and watches and occasionally makes a small blip of confusion.

The crate is set down with a thump and a puff of ancient dust. Molly heaves a low, quiet sigh and flexes her fingers. “JW one-three-five-three-four,” she announces—as if he didn’t know already—and snaps a crick out of her neck.

“Yes. Yes, wonderful.”

Together they wordlessly loosen one panel of the box, slide it to one side, and reveal the silent machine within.

Molly reaches into her bag and extracts a thick pile of papers. “These are its files, documentation, all that.” She hands the information over with a satisfactory smile. “There you are.”

Sherlock takes them, gives them a fleeting glance, then tosses them onto the coffee table for later examination. “Yes, thank you,” he mutters, eyes still focused on the droid. Highly angular, not streamlined at all—he’ll fix that later.

Molly clears her throat. “Um. Sherlock?”

“I’m not hungry, don’t bother asking,” he says automatically. She gives a little start, ever so nonplussed.

“How did you—”

“You’ve your food card in your pocket; the distinct color shows quite clearly against your white coat. You typically keep it in your purse; its relocation would imply you plan to use it. What else for at this hour but lunch? And… you’re wearing lipstick,” he adds. “You weren’t wearing lipstick yesterday. You’ve been trying to impress me remorselessly for the past hour.” He shoots her an irritated glance. “Obvious,” Sherlock declares.

Molly’s jaw dangles a little longer, before she clicks it shut and shrugs one shoulder sheepishly. “Just… Just wondering, s’ all!” she chirps, half-heartedly.

“Yes, well, I’m far too busy for that. I’d much rather get started on this.” He taps the droid again, before giving it a forceful shove, to no effect. “Hm. Sturdy. Well balanced.”

Behind him, Molly fidgets and twitches.

“Well, um, I’ll just leave you to it, then,” she whispers.

Sherlock doesn’t reply, feigning deafness as he pokes the droid here, there, runs his hands over the small sensors and dials and screens. A few moments later and the thick, hovering cloud that had been Molly and her tasteless perfume is gone, down the stairs and out the door.

Hudson whirrs over, sweeps its eyes over the droid, and makes a quiet exclamation. “Very handsome,” it says.

“Right!” Sherlock backs away and claps his hands together. “We’re going to need some new limbs.”

Beside him, Hudson murmurs something low and unintelligible and runs one mechanical finger down the side of the new droid’s face, tracing the line a tear would run if JW 13534 knew what it meant to cry.

“You don’t know what you’re in for, love,” it sighs. “You really don’t.”



2. numerous spare organic parts

New London Times: February 14, 2110

Central London Mortuaries Plagued by String of Robberies
Coroner states that thief made off with seemingly random collection of body parts
…D. I. Lestrade (NSY) investigating; “No, of course we’ve no leads yet. What kind of bloody idiot steals arms, anyways, for God’s sake? Wait, wait, don’t write that down—”



“Have you ever read ‘Frankenstein,’ Sherlock?”

In his Savile Row business suit and shiny dress shoes, Mycroft Holmes looks patently out of place in the little gone to wrack and ruin laboratory in his brother’s basement. Sherlock utters a tiny snort and glances up from the dissected droid, spread out and opened up.

“You know I’ve no time for that sensationalist drivel they produce these days,” he mutters.

“It’s hardly a new novel,” Mycroft sniffs. “But a shan’t spare breath telling you about it. Doubtless you’d simply ignore me.”

“Bloody well right I would.” Snick. “Fuck!”

Mycroft sighs deeply at the invective and removes his ancient relic of a pocket watch to glance at it in irritation. “I’ll leave you to your mad science experiments, then,” he says wearily. “Do watch yourself.”

“Hngm.”



Molly stands over the cadaver, her expression worried and mouth twirled down into a frown.

She shouldn’t be doing this, she really shouldn’t. Even if her only reason for why this is totally wrong is because Sherlock believes it is absolutely right.

“Heart as strong as an ox, I believe you said.”

She looks up and nods wordlessly. He grins at her, then sets a metal box upon the counter with a loud, obnoxious ‘clonk’ and opens the lid. The two of them watch as wisps of cold air rise.

“If you’d rather I performed the dissection—”

“No.” Molly shakes her head, manages a frail little smile, and snaps on her gloves. “No, I’ll do it.”



The synthetic skin stretches taut over the droid’s face, new and smooth as that of a baby’s. Sherlock slides his gloved hand over it and is offered no resistance. He frowns.

“Not realistic,” he declares.

There’s a clink and a hum as Hudson deposits a cup of tea, cooled to the perfect temperature, by Sherlock’s elbow. “Yes,” it agrees, enthusiastic. “Not realistic at all.”

Nose crinkling, Sherlock reaches out and pokes the skin, only to see it bounce right back. “I need a model,” he says to himself. Hudson nods again and gestures towards the tea; Sherlock gives a half-hearted wave. “Later.”

Hudson waits three hours before daring to venture into the basement again. It peers cautiously at the droid, its large, flat eyes open and curious. Behind it, Sherlock sips his cold and bitter tea.

“What are you planning?” Hudson says.

“Not sure yet,” he drawls.

“I think you should name him,” Hudson supplies.

“Maybe I should,” Sherlock agrees, with a little nod and a rare slip of a smile.


3. one (1) dead man’s life

Hudson comes up into the sitting room the next morning to find Sherlock cutting out scraps of newspaper. Mangled bits and pieces of the Telegraph, the Times, and the Mail have been thrown willy-nilly all over the coffee table and sofa. Sherlock has his teeth gritted and his jaw locked as he carefully scissors out another neat block of text.

“Do you require assistance?”

“No.” Snick. He glances up to see Hudson walk smoothly over to one clipping and observe it placidly, before lifting its head in surprise.

“An obituary? Sherlock, how morbid.”

He frowns and sets the scissors down with a ‘clunk’ of heavy metal. “It’s important,” he reiterates. “Every little piece is important. He has to be perfect. This isn’t like building a machine.”

Hudson nods.

“Now.” Sherlock lifts the nearest clipping, places it directly in front of him, and folds his hands. “Michael Gibbons, forty-two, lieutenant colonel. Killed by a grenade in Kabul.” He pauses and scratches his chin thoughtfully, before clicking his tongue against his teeth and ripping the thin paper in two, right down the middle of Michael Gibbons’ smiling face. “Won’t do.”

Hudson watches Sherlock stretch out and snatch up another clipping, slam it down in front of him, and repeat. Alan Li. Thirty-one. Won’t do. Samuel Oats. Twenty-four. Won’t do.

The house-bot leaves but three minutes later, feeling as troubled as its programming will allow.



Sherlock finds him when the kitchen clock reads precisely 11:32 PM. The plate of food wedged haphazardly between flasks and test tubes on the table has gone cold, the street outside is near silent, and Hudson has powered off for the day.

He hasn’t moved in twelve hours; has been going through at least four-hundred clippings. Maybe more. He’d stopped counting.

Just reached the Ws.

Herbert Waine. Twenty-nine. Won’t do.

Daniel Ward. Fifty. Won’t do at all.

The unmistakable buzz of a cruiser as it rumbles by rings down from overhead. Sherlock squeezes his eyes shut for a fraction of a second—always a bad sign when the words start to run into each other—and when he opens them, there’s a new bit of paper in front of him.

John H. Watson. Thirty-five. Shot twice in Kandahar. Bled out in the middle of the Afghan desert.

The photograph is gray and unsmiling, but there’s something about him, something not quite… tangible. An electricity surrounding the flat air he occupies.

Sherlock breathes a sharp breath inwards and grips the newsprint so hard, the sweat of his fingers bleeds through.

John Watson had blond hair, broad shoulders, a mild face.

Is… was… will be…an army doctor.

Interesting.

Sherlock throws a quick look from paper to basement stairs and smiles.


5. eight (8) medical journals

Hudson is powered on by Sherlock a little past three in the morning. Any other housebot would be appropriately surprised. But not Hudson. Not even when its immediately bestowed with a veritable flood of memory drives.

“Where did these come from?” Hudson asks airily, watching Sherlock shed his gloves and throw them onto the mantle.

“Did a little light reading at Barts; decided to take my work home with me. Download them into the computer.”

“Right away. Would you like some tea?”

“What is it with you housebots and tea?!” Sherlock snaps. “Is there an entire chip inside your little heads dedicated entirely to making you ask us if we want caffeinated drinks every few minutes? Is this the Gattrell Corporation’s big conspiracy, to slowly drive the populace insane with a constant barrage of menial questions—”

“I will go plug in the drives for you.”

Hudson disappears quietly down the stairs, carefully ensuring it doesn’t drop a single disk as it goes.

The next day, Sherlock will edit them while nibbling half-heartedly at a dry scone, before sending them all into John Watson’s near-finished brain.

The hardest part is still yet to come.


5. two (2) sets of stolen memories

At precisely ten thirty the next morning, Sherlock stands in the center of his living room and says into his mobile, “I need a favor.”

This would be disastrous enough if it weren’t Mycroft on the other end.

But there cannot be victory without sacrifice. And besides, the last time Sherlock tried to hack into Scotland Yard’s databases, he found himself handcuffed to the door of a holding cell while Lestrade gave him two earfuls of ceaseless whingeing. Sherlock would much rather hear his brother gloat than Lestrade complain.

Mycroft says he’ll think about it, before hanging up. It can’t be too hard a situation to pontificate upon, however, because less than half an hour later, all the necessary information is shooting into Sherlock’s mobile and a grin is curling across his face. He rises from his seat by the droid—John, John, he needs to grow accustomed to that, now that he’s so close—and crosses the basement to the shelves that line the opposite wall.

Finds what he’s looking for in less than a second. The small bits of metal are cool against his palms.

He remembers stealing them. The flicker of memory that trails down the center of his thoughts is enough to make his breath hitch. Sherlock smiles from ear to ear as he climbs up to the sitting room and slings his jacket over his shoulders.

He’s down the main stairs in a flash, taking the last five in a triumphant leap that’s all a flurry of long, gangly limbs and flying hair. Lands with a thud.

Outside, the pavement is damp and the sky is overcast. His cab is newer, smells like hot leather, and tells him it’s fifty pounds to go where he wants to be.

“Step on it then,” Sherlock growls, the moment his right foot leaves asphalt. The vehicle is off and screeching before he can even manage to close the door, the speed sending his stomach reeling and lungs gasping for full breath.

Just the way he likes it.

Ten minutes, three seconds. Cab stops, money goes chunk-chunk-chunk into the machine, and then “THANK YOU FOR FOR YO-UR SERV—”

Wham.



Harriet Watson’s flat subtly reeks of alcohol. It’s badly lit and filled with half-decent furniture, the shutters are closed, and there’s a vase of wilting flowers sitting on the coffee table. No one’s even bothered to take the card out.

From Aunty Lucy and Uncle Joe: Our condolences.

“So sorry for your loss,” Sherlock finds himself muttering, hand extended. Miss Watson takes it automatically, pauses, seems to realize what she’s doing, and jerks away, walking determinedly towards the kitchen and a humming coffee percolator, at least four decades out of date.

“Everybody is,” she says.

Sherlock takes advantage of her absence and settles in one of the threadbare chairs facing the sofa, crossing his legs at the knee, before reaching into his jacket pocket and curling his fingers around the Device.

“So. Army, you said you were?” She comes back with one steaming mug of coffee. Sherlock feels his nose twitch at the smell, then stiffens and refocuses.

“In a fashion, yes.”

“Is this about the compensation, then?” Miss Watson says brusquely, eyes never leaving Sherlock’s face. He remembers the photograph, quickly draws the parallels between bone structure and hair color and the shape of their eyes.

“Yes,” he drawls, before pulling the Device out and setting it on the coffee table between them, to rest on top of a small bed of dead flower petals.

Harriet Watson raises the mug to her mouth, drinks, licks her lips, and frowns. “What’s that?”

“A simple recorder. I’ve a terrible memory, I’m afraid.” Sherlock smiles as sincerely as he knows how. Even shows a flash of teeth. She’s got to trust him. She’s got to trust him or she won’t open up.

That glint in her eye that starts up whenever the money’s discussed could also work in his favor.

“Tell me about your brother,” Sherlock says, just as he hits the only button on the Device, the one that says ‘START.’ Five types of illegal, this. “Speak into the machine now,” he continues, keeping his voice flat and empty.

He’s been told his tone can be soothing.

“I… erm. John was… John was nice. Good man. Good brother.” She stops to drink the coffee again; Sherlock flicks his brows down in irritation.

“A little more than that, Miss Watson.”

“Harry, please,” she sighs. “Miss Watson sounds like my sainted mum.”

Sherlock sighs and leans forward. “Your brother,” he reiterates, doing his best to keep his teeth from grinding in frustration.

“Yeah. Yeah, three years younger than me.” She stares at the Device. “Hated him when my parents brought him home. My first real memory, watching him come in through the door, screamin’ the roof off.”

“What was your childhood like?”

Harry pauses. “Hey, what’s this got to do—”

“Helps us determine your financial status.” He waves his hand through the air dismissively. “Important.”

She narrows her eyes. But she must be thinking about the money, she must be, because she shrugs and quickly opens her mouth again.

“Grew up here n’ there,” she says. “Da used to be a fighter pilot. Ended up flying airships over the Channel. S’ where Johnny got his ‘King n’ country’ streak, I guess. Mum was a nurse.” Harry snorts into her coffee mug. “I mean, John just ended up a glued together version of our parents, didn’t he? Took all the things he liked for himself. Left bollocks for me.”

Sherlock bites his tongue. That’s not quite how it works, he wants to snap. Genetics isn’t a pack of cards. But this is far too important to botch up over a badly timed lecture about Punett squares.

“Continue,” he says instead.

She takes a deep, shaky breath. “I’m sorry,” she says, apologizing. Probably not to Sherlock. Probably not to anybody alive.

“It’s fine. Just continue. Please.”

Harry nods, swallows, scratches her nose. “School was… school. He was always everybody’s favorite. I think every single one of the teachers wanted to take him on as their own kid. If they knew the half of what he got up to afterwards—”

“What?”

There’s a pair of fairly incandescent eyes on Sherlock’s face now. “Johnny was good with his fists. Fancied he was, in any case.” Harry hardens her mouth. “S’ how it was. He grew up fairly kickin’ n’ screaming. Always me who ended up getting him out of his messes.” She fidgets with the coffee mug. “I guess when we grew up it went the other way ‘round.”

Yes. Yes, siblings do so love to complain about each other.

She tells him about uni and about John’s girlfriends and about him getting his degree with honors and then about joining up. He learns about her along the way—learns about her girlfriends and her failed marriage, her disappointment with her brother’s abandonment.

“Saw him often, did you? Before he left.”

Harriet Watson blinks once, and only once, gaze re-fixed on the Device’s reflective surface.

“No,” she whispers. “No, first time I saw him since my divorce was, uh.” She bites her lip in shame. “Three weeks ago.” A wan little smile crawls across her face like an insect. “Doesn’t really count though, does it?”

Voice cracking.

Time to go.

“Thank you for your time, Harry.” He rises, reaches out, grabs the Device, and hits the button again, the one that’s turned to read ‘STOP’ now. “We’ll get back to you about the compensation as soon as possible.”

She wipes her eyes and gets to her feet. “What, no… no paperwork?”

“No. No paperwork.” He smiles and digs his hand into his pocket again.

The cylinder his cool and smooth when he pulls it out to hold it before Harriet Watson’s tear-reddened eyes.

“What—” she starts to say, except then there’s a Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and a blip of one infrared light, and words fail her, they really do.

Sherlock whirls around and charges through the front door, shutting it quickly behind him, before speeding down the corridor, down the stairs, victoriously heading home.

Harry wakes up the next morning in a pool of cold coffee with a splitting head-ache, and not a single memory of the past day to her name. She doesn’t notice the square-shaped indentation on the flower petals atop her coffee table, not even when she gathers them all up in the bin, to be tossed down the incinerator chute alongside the family photo albums.

Something tells her John would’ve done the same.



It’s risky, talking to old service mates. Then again, it’s risky talking to anybody.

Sherlock rips through the files and hunts down the one regiment member that’s in London, invalidated home, and he takes a deep breath inward and forces himself to be calm, because this still might not work. This still might not work at all.

Bill Murray lives out in the East End, his apartment three floors up a five story building that’s leaning slovenly on the one next to it. He answers his door with an expression that screams suspicion, eyebrows creased down and a ghoulish frown weighing upon his mouth. Then Sherlock waves a falsified ID card around and mutters some gibberish about a follow-up survey and it all vanishes, replaced by the blank mask of business.

Sherlock is invited in to sit on a torn up sofa and rest his feet on a hole-ridden carpet. Murray settles down across from him with a look of apology upon his face—boyishly handsome, inexplicably tired.

The Device is extracted, set down. “Recorder,” says Sherlock, and Murray nods and believes him and doesn’t press the matter further.

The button is pressed and the dancing begins.

“You were in Afghanistan,” Sherlock says flatly. “Tell me about it.”

The other man gives a shrug of one droopy shoulder, a feigning pass at nonchalance. “Interesting,” he says. “Not too difficult, when you think about it. Those droids did all the work.”

“And what did you do?” Sherlock leans back with his legs crossed at the knee, eyes flickering about, gathering data, processing it at the speed of light.

“Well, we were, uh, ‘medics,’ weren’t we? Did what we could to patch up everyone. People and bots.”

Sherlock watches the man across from him run a hand through his hair, inspect his fingers, and frown.

“Wasn’t what we expected in school,” Murray continues. “Thought I’d be going down to run the machines, ended up screwing loose bolts and shit. Then they want me to help plug holes in people, too.” He laughs softly now, shoulders shaking. “Odd place, Afghanistan. Gets under your skin and you won’t ever get it out,” Murray muses, his voice a low hum.

Nod. Nod. “Hm,” says Sherlock. “Beautiful country?”

“I… erm. Alright, I suppose.” He supposes a lot. Sherlock wishes he’d just get to the point. “Not like here. Sky’s actually blue and all. Mountains.”

“Tell me about your comrades.”

Murray leans back and clicks his tongue against his teeth.

“Which ones?” he says.

Sherlock shrugs. “Who were you close to?”

“We were all close.” Murray’s eyes narrow and his jaw tightens. “Say. What’re you getting at, here?”

“Mr. Murray, there’s hardly any need to turn defensive.”

“I’ll stop being ‘defensive,’ if you stop pussy-footin’ about and say what it is you want to hear.”

Sherlock flicks his eyes at the Device, then back up again.

“Tell me about John Watson.”

The following silence is so great it seems to fall in onto itself. Murray sits still for three seconds, then starts to fidget again, hand moving up to scratch the back of his head, eyes refusing to settle on any one object.

“What happened?” Sherlock presses.

“You know damn well what happened,” Murray snaps, a contained explosion, the bitterness so thick in his voice Sherlock can practically taste it. “Everyone’s read the bloody file.”

“Oh, but I’d like for you to tell me.” Sherlock’s voice is flat and empty of emotion, but inside, his stomach is bubbling with excitement. He hadn’t expected this sort of reaction. Thing about people, they don’t work quite like chemicals. You can’t anticipate everything.

“Is that what this is about? There gonna be an inquiry or something?”

“We wanted to hear from you what happened before we proceeded.”

Murray’s jaw is moving in circular motion, now, his fingers tightening into fists.

“It wasn’t my fault,” he says at last. “It wasn’t. I don’t care what those hoity-toity C.O.s say.”

Sherlock gives him time, time to breathe and time to recollect. In truth, Murray doesn’t have to say a thing. Just… pull out the memory; the Device takes care of the rest.

“We were in Kandahar,” Murray begins. “The droids were up ahead, they were, um. Scouting. Medics, we’re supposed to stay in back. ‘S the army; you do as you’re told, right?”

“But not John.”

“Hm?” Murray looks up, surprise written across his face. It passes quickly, replaced by irritation, then guilt. “No,” he whispers. “No, not John. Not Watson. Idiot never did think them droids were good enough. Didn’t trust them. ‘Can’t let the bots have all the fun,’ he said. I said back that we were medics, but he… he’d waved ‘round that gun of his and was off after the battle droids.”

Of course. Of course, of course. No wonder, then!

This is excellent.

“And now he’s dead.” Murray’s eyes are cold and his mouth is unsteady. “What could I do, eh? I didn’t know bollocks about how to patch people up. I still don’t. What could I do?”

Sherlock nods steadily, before reaching out and turning the Device off.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Thank you for your time.”

Murray bites his lower lip and shakes his head. “Fool. Bloody selfish fool.”

More nodding. Sherlock’s on his feet now, hands back in his pockets, gloves sliding over two small, cool objects.

“Well? There gonna be an inquest or not?”

Sherlock shrugs. “You should call them yourself,” he grunts. “I can promise you that they never pay any attention to what I have to say.”

Apparently, Bill Murray doesn’t either, because he formulates no immediate response. He rises and rubs the back of his neck, standing still for ages, staring at the carpet. Finally, a ripple of movement runs through him and he darts across the room to a bookcase.

“You’ll be wantin’ this,” he says, pulling out tome after unread tome, tossing them to the ground. “Dunno why the hell I thought I’d keep it. Sentiment, God, sentiment’s a fucking bitch.”

A glint of light shivers in his hands. Few moments later, he’s holding out a laser gun.

Sherlock’s eyes move from weapon to man. “Is it his?”

“Yeah. Nabbed it off him when the medics came.” He sniffs, scratches the side of his nose. “Meant to give it to his sister or summat. Ever since they stopped using tags, this sort of felt—”

“Right.” Sherlock takes the weapon—still loaded, a half-used energy cartridge lodged inside the magazine. It’s smooth in his hands and feels dangerously foreign.

He pockets it silently.

Murray breathes out a belly-deep burst of air, almost in relief, eyes closed so that he doesn’t see Sherlock pull the small cylinder out and run it between his fingers.

“Do you know,” Murray sighs, right before the beeping begins, “I wanted to be an engineer, once.”



Method:

A memory is a fascinating thing to see.

It starts off as a simple color, nothing more, almost vapor-like. Weak and unsteady. Then it begins to blossom, grow, expand, move, shades and tints and hues coming out, shapes, shadows, faces. Sound—the murmur-murmur of distant, underwater voices, then louder, clearer, into shouts and cheers and I love yous.

Sherlock watches this all develop, watches the Device project every recollection Harriet Watson and William Murray saw fit to give him.

“Brilliant,” he says, a smile spreading across his face. “Brilliant.” He gets up, walks over to the droid—the one that’s already been given a face, courtesy of a new mapping technology, best one this side of the Atlantic, Sherlock should know, he built it—and runs his hand over the synthetic skin.

Simple algorithms. Child’s play.

Wordlessly, Sherlock picks up the wires and plugs them in. Flips the switch.

There’s a brief flash of light on the end of the Device, before John Watson’s life begins to return to him once more.


New London Times: February 28, 2110

Serial Suicides: Fact or Fiction?
Fact, according to New Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Lestrade… A second body has been found under similar suspicious circumstances as the first… DI Lestrade is characteristically cagey regarding the investigation…



…who obtains memories or recollections through means not approved in Chapter 18 shall be guilty of an offence…

Sherlock slams the book shut with a, “Hudson!”, before tossing the hefty volume over his shoulder, sending it slamming into the opposite wall, then floor, with a distressed ‘thump-klunk-bomp.’

“You called?” Hudson stands in the doorway with a wary look on its face.

“My brother plans to visit later today. Lock the basement door; don’t let him in. Hit him if you have to.”

Hudson blinks. “Hit… him?”

“Oh, never mind.”

Hudson nods and sashays off to find a padlock.



“I looked up that book you told me about.”

Mycroft peers over his steepled fingers and curls one eyebrow. “Really,” he says flatly.

“Really. Load of rubbish. ‘The Modern Prometheus?’” Sherlock snorts disdainfully and carefully repositions the small, glass plate under the microscope lens.

“You have to admit it is appropriate.”

“The resemblance is purely superficial, I assure you.” A pair of translucent eyes flicker from the kitchen table towards the bolted door to the basement stairs. “This is different,” Sherlock mutters.

Mycroft nods and makes a small noise in the back of his throat. “Of course it is,” he says, smiling. “By the by… May I inquire as to why you requested those old service files?”

“You can ‘inquire’ all you like, Mycroft; doesn’t mean it’ll become your business.”

“Am I to assume you, uh… ‘Have the situation under control’?”

“Yes. As always.” Sherlock smirks to himself and adjusts the magnification with an expert twist of the wrist. Mycroft sighs and dismounts from his stool before striding authoritatively towards his brother, hands folded behind his back.

“You only ever act this way when you’ve done something wretched, my boy.”

Sherlock scrunches his nose up in lieu of a reply.

“Well. Glad that’s been sorted.”

Nothing.

“How is that machine of yours coming along? I’m rather curious.”

“You’re always curious when it involves me.” Sherlock sniffs irritably and stiffens his back. “You can’t see it, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Whyever not?”

“It’s a work in progress.”

Mycroft chuckles. “If I’d known you’d be so protective over this companion of yours—”

“Who said I was building myself a ‘companion’?” Sherlock snipes, affronted, shoulders tensing.

“Aren’t you?”

“It’s an experiment.

Mycroft scoffs at the time-worn excuse. “My dear boy, if you simply wished to find yourself a spot of company, there are easier routes one can take that don’t require quite so much… scrambling about.” Mycroft raises his eyebrows and sighs. He’s never been very good at being candid. “This is rather like fixing a toaster with a laser gun, isn’t it?”

“Not hardly.”

A prolonged silence follows. It is to Mycroft’s credit that he somehow manages to make it feel thoroughly incredulous.

“You’re hiding something, Sherlock.”

“With you around? Impossible.”

“Brother mine—”

Sherlock groans and swings around, leaning his elbow on the back-rest of the chair. “Mycroft, I promise you’ll be the first to know when I’ve engaged in illegal activities,” he says, nostrils flaring in exasperation. “There’s hardly anyone else who deserves the privilege.”

The two men glare at each other.

“Very well,” Mycroft concedes, with a faint narrowing of the eyes.

Moments later and he is trudging down the main stairs, a crease settled on his brow as he disdainfully inches past Hudson on his way out—Mycroft Holmes never did care much for robots. Paltry imitations of human beings, in his opinion, and his opinion has always stood for quite a lot.

His assistant is waiting for him on the curb, leaning casually against the car with her thumbs flying across her mobile projection and a concentrated frown on her face.

“How did it go?” she asks absentmindedly, one hand briefly stopping its jerky little dance to wrench open the door.

“We have an emergency.”

“Hm?”

“There is an issue,” Mycroft emphasizes as patiently as he can, sliding into the vehicle and watching as she joins him, eyes averted, face still as calm and placid as space in a vacuum.

“What sort of issue?”

The door slams shut and the car is off; Mycroft crosses one leg over the other and drums his fingers worriedly on the hard bone of his knee.

“A dangerous one,” he murmurs.

His assistant quickly tap tap taps away.



Hudson enters the kitchen to find Sherlock exactly where it left him. “Did your brother want anything important?” the housebot blips, moving to stand directly behind Sherlock’s left elbow.

“Yes, well. He seemed to think it was.”

Hudson nods sympathetically and places the day’s paper onto the table. A clatter of glassware later and it’s in Sherlock’s hands, his eyes devouring the headlines in a way that’s almost predatory.

“Intriguing,” he murmurs, tapping one column of text with his forefinger. “Three bodies, now. And Lestrade on the case? Even better.”

“Sherlock?”

“Serial suicides my arse.” He glares at the paper fiercely. “These are murders, I’m sure of it. God, why didn’t I notice before…”

Sherlock shoves his hand into his trouser pocket, extracts his mobile.

Out of your depth again?
SH


“And… send.”

Not a minute later, the ferocious reply:

We’ve got it under control, thanks.
GL


Sherlock grinds his teeth for the briefest fraction of a second, then pounds out another message.

You always were a horrendous liar.
SH


Thirty-five second wait. Maybe thirty-six.

And you never knew when to LET A THING GO.
We’ve got this.
GL


“Fuck,” says Sherlock. Hudson gives a little jitter at this as he charges from the kitchen, following in time to see him whirl past the sofa in a blur of white skin and dark, unruly hair.

“He does this on purpose, you know,” Sherlock is snapping as he grabs his jacket and slings it on over his thin shoulders. “The old bastard. Don’t bother with dinner, I won’t be back till morning.”

“I was under the impression the Detective Inspector did not require your assis—”

“Yes, well, he does,” Sherlock shouts. He wrenches the door open with far more force than is necessary, making the whole frame groan.

Outside, the sidewalks are taking a beating, a deluge slapping down mercilessly. “Power yourself off,” he throws over one shoulder, before shutting the door behind him and running out into the night, chasing the wet and glittering lights.



The Device malfunctions at a little past one in the morning.

For such a small object, it manages to pack quite a punch to the electrical grid. The blowout takes six blocks worth of generators out of action in a matter of seconds.

Sherlock arrives home to men in uniform standing on the street interviewing people. They’re all holding their info-pads and punching in information, all the while chewing gum, being obnoxious.

Perhaps if he moves quickly—

“Young man!”

Drat.

“We’ve just a few questions for you.”

“No,” Sherlock says, eyes thinned to slits.

“Sir, we’re not requesting that you reply.” The woman—5’7’’, slender, young, dark-skinned, hair dyed an unseemly shade of red—clicks her tongue against her teeth and shifts her weight from foot to foot. Her uniform is disgustingly fluorescent.

“Very well,” Sherlock grunts. He does like being stood up to on occasion. There’s something delightfully outré about it.

“Do you have any high-power electronics in your house?”

“No.”

“Use your own generators for anything?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

It’s her turn to mim her eyes. “You sure? All the houses to your left n’ yours have lost power. All the ones to the right…” She points. “…are fine. Looks like the problem started with you.”

“Did it? Terribly sorry. Then again, the grids here are distressingly primitive, aren’t they?” He smiles broadly, showing all his teeth. She’s unimpressed and taps something into her info-pad.

“Name, please,” she sighs. “Just for record-keeping purposes.”

He feigns consideration, then hits the intercom button beside the door and raises one eyebrow. “Rather not,” he grunts.

Sir—”

“I know the law. I don’t have to tell you a thing. Now, unless you’d like to arrest me for doing absolutely nothing…” The door beeps open. He slams the handle down. “… I’m a busy man.”

He leaves her spluttering on the step, the color rising into her cheeks and refusing to leave.


New London Times: March 6, 2110

Mysterious Blackout Plagues Central Londoners
Source As Yet Undetermined—Power Restored to Majority of Those Affected…


It shouldn’t have happened.

Sherlock observes the carnage with a passive expression upon his face. He was lucky; they were both lucky. Sherlock and the android.

The wall, not so much.

Hudson is trotting about with an air-freshener, trying to get rid of the smell of burnt plaster that’s sitting in the room like a persistent squatter.

His phone starts to vibrate again, fourth time in as many minutes. Sherlock takes it out of his shirt pocket and hurls the small, metal square across the room with a frustrated grunt, because he’s far too busy to listen to another one of Mycroft’s little ‘reprimands,’ which always start with “Mummy would be” and end with “disappointed.”

“Are you finished with your paper?” Hudson blips, pointing loosely at the Times, the air-freshener whirring gently in the background.

“No, leave it there,” Sherlock mumbles. His hands are set palm to palm, positioned just under his chin. Inside his head, there are ideas, hypotheses, gibberishes, floating around in a little cloud.

If this were an ordinary experiment, he’d start over from scratch right away. Cut his losses, and the like.

He laces his fingers together. Nothing appears to be amiss. And preliminary examinations on the monitors are indicating that there aren’t too many memories gone down the drain.

Of course, unless he chops John’s head open and looks around inside, he couldn’t possibly know for sure. And that would mean going back to ground zero.

“Can you save him?”

“Not quite sure what’s missing. If anything’s missing at all.” Sherlock peels back the android’s eyelids and sniffs. “Could be more than just the head that got messed up.”

Ground zero. He’d have to choose a new name. Steal a new set of memories.

Interact with more people.

Wait for god-knows-how-much-longer.

“Not very bloody likely,” Sherlock grumbles under his breath.

What’s the worst that could possibly happen?

“When do you plan to try again?” Hudson asks.

“Now.”

“Would you like me to make you some—”

“No.”

“According to readings, you have lost at least three-point-two kilograms of late—”

No.

It’s been three months since Sherlock last threatened Hudson with the scrap pile. He contemplates doing so again, but turns to see the machine has already whirred on up the stairs. He rises, moves fluidly towards the droid, and calmly inspects it, head tipped and hands resting on the dissecting table.

“Quite the troublemaker, aren’t you John?” he murmurs, untangling the wires that lead into the machine’s head and re-attaching the Device. Everything still smells of smoke and is vaguely warm. “We’ll get you sorted.”

He has faith in his machines and his abilities. He reads his own impatience as a sign, and pushes onwards.

Sherlock blows a layer of pulverized plaster off the Device before letting the process resume itself.


New London Times: March 7, 2110

Londoners Report Strange Burst of Light Near Central
Theories As To Cause Have Ranged From UFOs to Freak Lightning Storm…

…an anonymous spokesperson for the government has announced that the event is “nothing to be worried about… Doubtless some fool, intent on risking his life to prove he’s clever…”



Conclusion: Inconclusive.

I shall require more data.


0111000001111001011001110110110101100001011011000110100101101111011011100000110100001010



“Can you smell that?”

There’s the faintest of buzzes, before the door of the boat house slides open and two men step out, one fairly bouncing, the other moving slowly and measuredly with his head held stiffly upon a pair of ram-rod shoulders.

“Smell what, exactly?” the near-immobile one says. “If you’re referring to that potent odor of rotting fish—”

Jim Moriarty doesn’t respond, per-se. He does a little spin on his heel and flicks his well-tailored sleeves so that they slide over his wrists and smiles, before crying, “Liberation!”

Lord. Not this again.

“Oh, daaarling, it’s been yeears…” Jim sings, voice aimed in an easterly direction. The wind is at his back and he stares across the vast body of water in front of them both. He can already taste the flammables in his mouth.

Petrol is archaic, yes, but none the less delectable for it.

The evening is dark and cold and lovely. In the distance, lights flicker.

To London town, to London town… Where bridges fall and little boys drown…

“Seb,” Jim says, turning and grinning. “Fancy a swim?”



Part II
Tags: !author: cj_ludd18, [r], ƒsherlock holmes(BBC), Ωinspector lestrade, Ωjim moriarty, Ωjohn watson, Ωmisc other people, Ωsherlock holmes
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