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.”