Authors: P.C. Martin
Tags: #nautilus, #sherlock holmes mystery detective montana history tammany marcus daly anaconda mining, #verne, #steampunk, #steampunk new zealand adventure mystery gadgets mystical ministry of peculiar occurrences, #jules verne, #steampunk crime adventure, #steampunk sciencefiction fantasy, #sherlock, #steampunk clockpunk alternate history fantasy science fiction sf sci fi victorian, #sherlock holmes
Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus
By P. C. Martin
Published by Noble Beast, LLC
Copyright 2012 Noble Beast, LLC
Adapted by P.C. Martin from the short story
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Grateful acknowledgment to Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. for permission to use the Sherlock Holmes characters created by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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When I look over my case notes, I find that the early weeks of the year 1885 are prominently recorded as having been nearly devoid of those little problems which so fascinated my friend Sherlock Holmes. However, there began in that year a series of cases which quickly proved to be of the most fantastic and unbelievable nature, to the extent that I hesitate to write them down for fear that my sanity will be put in question. To my friend Sherlock Holmes and myself, these all began with the tragedy surrounding the case of the disappearance of the Nautilus submarine plans—though this proved to be merely a prelude, and that comparatively humble, to a sea of bizarre happenings which fully occupied our time and energies for many months to follow, and which taxed even my friend's singular powers to their very limits.
I have been constrained not to publish any account of this case and its strange sequels, for deep political intrigues were involved, and woven through the seams, lengthwise and cross, were state secrets of most sensitive importance. Indeed, though I cannot ever hope to thrill a long-suffering public with even a modest disclosure of that strange series of events, I feel compelled, nevertheless, to write a factual account of these cases, in which my friend Holmes and I took part, and although these documents must afterwards be padlocked and sealed in my private journal, I pray that some day, the knowledge I am about to disclose may be of beneficial service to some worthy soul.
I awoke one dank February morning to find Sherlock Holmes standing fully dressed, by the side of my bed. He was a late riser, as a rule, and as the clock on the mantelpiece showed me that it was only a quarter-past seven, I blinked up at him in some surprise, and perhaps just a little resentment, for I was myself regular in my habits.
“Very sorry to wake you up, Watson,” said he, “but it’s the common lot this morning. Mrs. Hudson has been woken up, she retorted upon me, and I on you.”
“What is it, then—a fire?”
“No; a telegram from my sister Mycroft,” replied Holmes, “which promises to be of exceptional interest. Mycroft never sends for me except in cases of the most baffling nature, and I thought you might rather accompany me.”
“Certainly I would,” cried I, leaping from my pillow and splashing my face from the basin in the corner.
“Excellent, then; have some coffee before we go. I'll get my coat and start up the Widow.”
I winced at the prospect. Holmes' enormous motorized bicycle, the Widowmak'r, was his pet hobby, and so enamored was he with its power and terrific capability for speed, he could not keep his enjoyment of the vehicle to himself. The Widowmak'r got its name from the engineer Holmes employed to help him build it. The engineer, a cankerous old man but a genius with H202 steam engines, told Holmes that no good could come of such a machine. He called it a “Widomak’r” because it would surely kill Holmes and leave his wife a widow. Holmes had laughed at that, and said he had no intention of ever marrying, but he immediately fancied the name Widowmak'r – or Widow for short – and has used it ever since.
As I had shown great unwillingness to ride pillion on the monstrous machine, Holmes had contrived a marvelous side-car in order that I might share in the excitement of the Widow's adventurous sallies in what he called perfect safety. I had been flattered by this excessive kindness on my friend's part, until about ten seconds had elapsed on my first ride in the Widow's side-car.
In defense of my own courage, I have been shot at, stabbed, and seen my own arm torn from my body upon the hostile battlefields of India and Afghanistan, and yet none of those terrors compare in my estimation with that of driving through London with Holmes at the helm. After that momentous and traumatizing inaugural ride, my mistrust of the vehicle had grown to a positive terror—less for the vehicle's sake than for my friend's tempestuous and unbelievably reckless driving skills.
This morning my mechanical arm felt clumsier than usual as I shaved and dressed, and gulped down my coffee and a scone. I scraped my brains for an argument which might dissuade Holmes from driving the Widow to the appointment with his sister.
Holmes was already seated expectantly upon the machine, wearing driving gloves and goggles, when I descended into the basement garage. Resolutely, I shouted over the rumbling din of the Widow's powerful motor.
“Couldn't we take a cab, Holmes?”
Holmes shook his head. “Too slow,” he said, handing me my helmet. I sighed and tried again.
“The train, then? I really must confess, Holmes, I'm feeling a trifle under the weather today...”
“Capital!” shouted Holmes, before I had quite finished. “A leisurely drive through London to the Ministry will do for you beautifully. Hop in, Watson, and strap up well!”
I shook my head and climbed, with the greatest of reluctance, into my appointed space, and found that the compartment had shrunk considerably since my last ride in the side-car.
“Holmes? What have you got in here? My legs hardly fit.”
“Oh, just a minor feature or two I’ve added recently. Pay no mind to it.”
I had scarce settled myself when the garage door slid open with a clang and we shot out into the foggy London air.
Twenty minutes later found us in the environs of the Ministry where Mycroft Holmes had her office. Holmes parked the Widow some several hundred yards away in a sheltered and well-policed lane, and I clambered out of my confines with unsteady legs and trembling hands, immeasurably grateful that we had reached the end of the journey unharmed.
As we walked through muddy slush towards the Ministry building, I remarked bitterly on the dreary weather, and Holmes, correctly interpreting my thoughts, smiled.
“I assure you, Watson, knowing Mycroft as I do, that our small sacrifices this morning will be amply rewarded by the divine complexity of the puzzle she will lay before us. “
“By the way, Watson,” said Holmes abruptly, “have you any idea what Mycroft is?”
“You once told me that she holds some small office under the British government.”
“Bless you, Watson,” Holmes laughed, “I suppose I did not know you well then. One must always be cautious when speaking about state affairs. But I believe it is fair to say that Mycroft occasionally
the British government.”
“My dear Holmes!”
“I thought that might surprise you. My sister Mycroft is the most unambitious person in all of England. She has extensive authority and draws a small fortune annually; yet she will never receive honor nor title if she can possibly avoid it, for she abhors publicity of any kind. That said, Mycroft is by far the most indispensable person in the Empire.”
“Sister Mycroft has the greatest brain of our time, Watson, with a limitless capacity for storing facts. Those same powers that I have employed in the detection of crime, she has put to use for the government, and has created for herself a unique position in which to employ her peculiar and marvelous talents. She receives the conclusions of each department, and acts as a central exchange or clearing-house, balancing all factors and decisions made between one and another. All men are specialists; her specialism is omniscience. Supposing a Minister requires information involving the Navy, China, the West trade, and the bimetallic engineering question; he would get his separate advices from the various departments, but only Mycroft could say how each factor would affect the other. Again and again her word has decided the national policy. She has on numerous occasions, to my certain knowledge, been highly commended by her Majesty the Queen herself.”
I was suitably impressed by my friend's description of his illustrious sister, of whom I had only heard Holmes speak once some years before.
“Here,” continued Holmes, “why don't you read her wire aloud and see what you make of it; the name she refers to recalls nothing to my mind.” He handed me the telegram, and I read,
'Must see you over Cadbury. Come at once.'
I shook my head doubtfully. “Well, it couldn't possibly be the chocolate confectioners, could it?” said I.
“I hardly think so,” Holmes chuckled. “Sister Mycroft's influence is most unlikely to extend into the realm of sweets. Anyway, it is evident that this Cadbury must be a person of supreme importance, since Mycroft is concerned.”
He took up the note and scrutinized it intently, as though searching for missing clues within its lines, as we approached the massive Ministry, and walked up the steps to the entrance hall.
At the door Holmes exhibited Mycroft's telegram to the guard at the latter's request, and then we proceeded to the lift, ascended to the third floor, and were ushered into an imposing office.
Mycroft Holmes rose with alacrity from behind an enormous rosewood desk, and came forward to greet us as Holmes introduced me. As all mention of Mycroft's appearance had entirely escaped Holmes' description of her, I had vaguely formed a mental picture of a stern, imperious feminine replica of my friend.
In fact, at first sight Mycroft Holmes was almost disturbingly beautiful; tall, statuesque in figure, graceful in motion, and possessed of a subtle element of quiet charm. But in her attractive face I recognized the alert steel-gray eyes and the keenness of expression that I knew so well in my friend Holmes, and vividly called to my attention the dominant mind that commanded such influence over the affairs of the Empire.
Near the window stood our old friend Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. His grave, austere face was more solemn than usual as he shook hands with Holmes and me in turn.
“I see that it is not necessary to introduce the Inspector,” said Mycroft Holmes, settling herself in a huge leather chair. “This business is dreadfully annoying, Sherlock, and
bad timing, in the present condition of Siam. The Admiralty is in such a state, and good heavens, the Prime Minister! I have never seen him so upset.”
“Ghastly,” agreed Holmes. “Perhaps you will give us the facts, dear sister Mycroft?”
“The facts, yes. Have you ever heard of the Nautilus submarine?”