Monday, 28 September 2009

Bees (7)

MICROFT was built without the ostentation and affections I gave to HOLMES. He is a tool of the government and, although I designed his brain, I gave him a more serious practicality than my own detective. With the Home Office scientists helping me it seemed harder to justify gimmicks such as the metal face and pipe for expelling excess steam like a man deep in thought. Instead, MICROFT’s pipes are tucked away behind panels and lead away, dispelling the effluence of the computer into dark sewers nearby.

I know that since I first built him, and further developed him in the war years of 1914 and 15, he has been expanded and enhanced by the team of younger men dedicated to him. I am, however, unprepared for the extent of the change. Bigger, I knew. The small screen fixed with simple brass bolts to his surface was something new. I had heard of the technology, a television, but had never seen it. On the grey, snowy screen the features of a stern, jowly old man peer out from an over-size white moustache; the very picture of English sensibility. The figure grins at me and I realise with a start that this is MICROFT. A speaker, hidden behind a delicate wooden grill, crackles and the familiar, deep voice spills into the room.

“Watson, my dear fellow” He says. “It’s good to see you. How long has it been? Ten years? Fifteen.”

I nod, still slightly in awe.

“Things have changed, eh?”

“They certainly have. I’m not as young as I used to be,” I say, shaking the cane in demonstration of my fragility. “And you have certainly grown.”

It offers a small bark of a laugh. This is a device well beyond the primitive imaginings of HOLMES and I find it slightly terrifying.

“Your new face is particularly remarkable.” I say.

“Indeed. I felt it would help me project a more human, trustworthy air for our masters. Sometimes I felt that they would not take my suggestions as seriously as those of a person in a suit.”

“I would have thought your successes in Germany would have been enough.”

“Memories are short. And the dangers are greater than ever. This is why I’ve asked for you, Watson. I fear that it is only you that can help me now.”

Sunday, 21 June 2009


Rock encrusted with dead grass and moss. Dry, brittle, a tired, old scene of late summer, the harsh buzzing of insects, the heat heavy on the soil. Brakeman leans over the wooden fence and pulls the flask of warm, brackish water to his lips. He sips gratefully and with a grimace, his lips and tongue flickering like a pale amphibian to stop any of it escaping.

His throat feels like it will work again and he coughs, gently.

"What are you doing?" He asks.

The boys stare at him, a mixture of awe and fear. Brakeman is the stuff of their nightmares, fed up on half-heard tales of vengeance whispered amongst the older kids.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


The first feeling I get is one of inquiry, a gentle interest like that of a Buddhist monk looking to understand the world that is in front of him by simply sitting and watching. Then the lights start to move away, a spiralling and intricate dance leaving a smell of dying autumn leaves. They shrink, briefly illuminating the clouds, and suddenly disappear in the dark sky to leave only after-images, the fading false glow of memory.

The sight has been increasingly common, reported on local news channels across the world, but it is still dismissed by the major nationals, apart from Fox who have run it as a nut piece. No-one understands it yet, no one has thought about it enough yet. The truth is, people seem unwilling to really acknowledge that it might be real. Fear, I guess, keeps it hidden in plain view. Despite all those films the truth we all know is that alien invaders would win. Apple computers, cold viruses and good, old-fashioned, human ingenuity will not win us a war against creatures so advanced that they could probably just wipe the planet clean of life and start again if they chose.