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Having ascertained that the purported UFO is actually another tesseract desperate to reach Skye for help, Holmes must determine the true cause of McFarlane's death. While he does this, Skye works frantically to save another version of themselves from death, as their tesseract malfunctions, threatening to destroy not only the other continuum, but Holmes' and Skye's, as well as untold others.

 

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The Case of the Cosmological Killer

Endings and Beginnings

SF mystery

Stephanie Osborn

 

 

 

Chapter 1 — A Different Game is Afoot

Skye was sleeping peacefully in their bed in Gibson House, and Sherlock was deep in her hyperdimensional equations, reviewing them with all the grey matter he possessed, when a whiff of ozone reached his nostrils.

"Good day to you both," he said into the air without raising his head. "How are matters progressing?"

"We have hopes," his own voice came back to him. "The experiment devised by the firm of Chadwick & Chadwick, Limited, looks to prove successful." Holmes’ voice was tinged with humor. "Or perhaps I should say, Chadwick & Chadwick-Holmes, Limited."

"I am glad to hear it," Sherlock said softly.

"Speaking of Skye, where is she?" Chadwick wondered. "I wanted to give her the experimental setup and double-check for updates. We told her we’d come back at this time."

"Oh, I am sorry. I am afraid she did not mention that," Sherlock raised his head and shot a regretful but firm glance in the direction of the voices, knowing that the other Holmes would read his thought in his expression. "She is in bed, soundly asleep. She worked most of the night and barely ate at all today. I finally convinced her to take tea with me, and then discovered she was too inflexible to even stand upright. She permitted me to manipulate her musculature sufficient to release the kinks, but by the time I had done so, she was in a deep sleep. She is nigh exhausted."

* * *

"Damn," Chadwick breathed.

"He has a point, Chadwick," Holmes observed quietly, referring to the refusal to awaken Skye he had noted in the other man’s face. "It does us no good if she exhausts herself on our behalf, and falls short of the mark when her body and mind cannot take any more."

"I know," Chadwick agreed. "That’s what I meant, not, ‘damn, she didn’t get the work done.’ She’s me, remember? And she’s pushing herself as hard as I do."

"It appears so," Holmes agreed. "And that is saying quite a bit."

* * *

"Is that her work you were looking over?" Chadwick asked Sherlock.

"It is," Sherlock admitted.

"Can you make anything of it?" Holmes wondered.

"I can," Sherlock confirmed. "And it looks good, insofar as it goes. But it is incomplete. And as I have not been in this continuum as long as you have been in yours, I do not have sufficient knowledge of the science as yet to consider even attempting to complete it for her."

"You are the expert here, Chadwick," Holmes admitted somewhat grudgingly. "What do you wish to do?"

"Might I make a suggestion?" Sherlock offered.

"Please," Chadwick said.

"Dial back in around noon tomorrow," Sherlock advised. "It will not delay your experiment overmuch; for you, it is a matter of minutes. And this will give Skye time to ‘catch up’ her sleep—she has slept scarcely more than ten or twelve hours total in some three days—and I will see to it that she eats properly whenever she awakens. Then she will have the morning to complete her calculations here," he waved the notebook at them, "and she can give them to you at noon, then eat lunch."

"Ha! I know what you are doing," Holmes discerned with amusement. "Just as I—just as we—once managed Watson’s finances to ensure he did not come to ruin, you are taking control of her schedule to ensure she obtains adequate rest and nourishment. I have been known to do that once or twice with Chadwick, here."

"And, I would suspect," Sherlock retorted with the faintest hint of a smile, "she has likely done the same with you, on more than one occasion."

"She has," Holmes admitted, and this time Sherlock did not hear begrudging in the other man’s tone. "We four can become amazingly single-minded when need drives us."

"Indeed," Sherlock nodded.

There was a brief silence, and Sherlock could picture Chadwick gazing at Holmes with a sort of grateful, wistful expression. Open your eyes, man, and see the treasure you have in front of you, before it is too late, he thought with some vehemence. Eventually Chadwick spoke again, and this time there was a soft smile in her voice.

"That sounds like a plan, Mr. Holmes, and we’ll follow it. Tell Skye we’ll see her at noon tomorrow. Meanwhile, you take good care of her, okay?"

"As much as in me lies," Sherlock nodded.

"Which is considerable," Chadwick chuckled.

The air crackled, another surge of ozone wafted through the room, and they were gone.

* * *

The other continuum checked in the next day, and a refreshed Skye had some refined numbers for them. Then they disappeared for a few days, during which time Sherlock insisted that Skye rest more than usual. She still spent time jotting alternative theories and equations into her notebook, however. This meant that Sherlock was, to some extent, bound to Gibson House to ensure Skye didn’t dive head-first back into her calculations, but took at least some rest, and ate properly and on time.

Finally, after about three days, Chadwick and Holmes returned.

"Well," Chadwick noted immediately to the married couple, who were seated in the kitchen eating lunch, "you don’t have to look for anything else, Sis. We got instant, fast electrons and to spare, with quantities increasing exponentially with time. Probability oh point nine eight four that we had the tail end of Higgs boson decay."

"Then we’ve almost certainly got tachyon condensation," Skye announced, before drawing a deep breath.

"Which is bad," Sherlock noted in a slightly querying tone.

"Which is bad," Chadwick confirmed.

"So now," Holmes added, "we must start looking for the precise source of the tachyons in the tesseract, and correct it."

"I really think we’ve probably already found it," Skye decided. "I think if you re-order the string sequencing, and tighten the beam configuration, you’ll eliminate the tachyon condensation, and certainly get ‘em out of the brane."

"Yeah, but I’d really like to double-check the calcs before we actually start making changes," Chadwick admitted.

"We can do that," Skye said. "Gimme a chance to finish lunch here or Sherlock will pitch a fit—"

"And rightfully so," Sherlock fired back. Skye shot him an I won’t argue smile before continuing.

"…And then we’ll go in the study and work together on the blackboard."

"Deal," Chadwick agreed.

"In that case," Sherlock decided, "I will be of little help, so I may perhaps run over to the McFarlane estate and see what may be seen."

"Sounds like a plan, Hon," Skye nodded. Then she put a hand on his shoulder. "And don’t worry. I’ll be here when you get back."

Sherlock gazed solemnly at her. "As I said once before, Skye: Do not make promises you cannot keep."

Three acknowledging sighs were his only answer.

 

Chapter 2—Unpleasant Discoveries

While Skye worked with their counterparts in the other continuum, Sherlock headed for the McFarlane farm. He had no preconceived notions about what he might be looking for; he only knew he needed to look around. In this way he hoped to determine what was causing so much attention.

Upon arriving at the farm, he parked the car out of sight and meandered into the fields. He located a slight rise that would give him a reasonable view of most of the farm, then found a chalky limestone outcrop for a seat. He settled down and gazed about.

Off to his left lay the homestead: the house, stable, garage, and a few small sheds. Not unlike our ranch in Colorado, he thought, saving only that the stable is for cattle rather than horses. He watched the cows meander out of the stable and into the fields, counting as they emerged from the stable. When the last had emerged into the sunlight, he turned and surveyed the landscape in general, wrapping his muffler closer about his throat as a chill wind whipped the hilltop.

The McFarlane pastures were somewhat rolling, with some flatlands as well as a few hillocks such as the one on which Sherlock sat. The cows spread over the pastures, locating their favorite grazing spots. This, in turn, drew the detective’s attention to the various features of the terrain. Absently, he drew out his gloves and donned them against the cold, blustery winter day. He shoved his cowboy hat down further on his head.

He had been there for two hours, forgetting the cold in the intensity of his scrutiny, when he suddenly noted that there were fewer cows in the fields than before. He stood and counted swiftly, then spun to look back at the stable.

There were no signs of cattle inside.

A short jaunt on his long legs took him to the stable to verify its emptiness; the sleuth returned to his rock perch, and resumed his seat. Once again he counted cows, coming up with a different number than before.

"Hm…" he murmured under his breath. "First there were eighteen missing, now three have returned."

He kept counting, over and over. "Two more have disappeared," he noted softly, watching carefully, "over near that hill beside…" Sherlock’s breath caught. "Of course!" He rose and headed swiftly down the hill toward the area of the two most recently missing cows. "In the corner nearest the air force base! I have patently failed to use the brains with which I am blessed!"

Moments later, he spotted the two missing cows, as well as three more, emerging from an opening near the base of the hill.

"A cave. Of course! They go into the cave for shelter—from cold or heat, wind or rain…or unduly playful dogs."

Holmes circumspectly avoided the cave entrance, giving it a wide berth for the time; but he cautiously approached one of the cows that had just emerged.

An ulcerated sore, not unlike a kind of blistered sunburn, and free of hair, was plainly visible on the cow’s flank. He circled the cow, noting one or two other similar sores, then moved on to study the other cows from the cave. Each had at least one sore on it.

Sherlock nodded to himself, then embarked on a hike toward the far pasture.

* * *

When he arrived there, he carefully scanned the cattle, even doffing his gloves and feeling the hide through their hair.

"Most telling," he told the air. "Not one sore."

The detective turned and looked back at the hill containing the cave, a thoughtful, distant focus in the grey eyes.

"It seems I have made quite the unique find. Two mysteries have been solved. The question then becomes, is this the answer to the third, and most important, mystery? More pertinent, if it is, why are they in search of it?"

He nodded to himself. "This wants looking into. But perhaps it would be best to consult an expert before embarking upon a detailed exploration."

Holmes turned toward the McFarlane house and his car.

* * *

The tesseract was active and Chadwick and Holmes were reviewing Skye’s work from their console in the Chamber, and she, theirs, at the desk in the study, when Sherlock came in. Abstractedly, the three listened to him move through the house: Leaving muddy Wellingtons at the back door, hanging his coat and hat on the rack near the door, washing up in the mudroom, moving to the bedroom to replace shoes and shirt with slippers and dressing gown. Skye and Chadwick smiled absently, affectionately; Holmes noted the similarity in the expressions of the two women and grew thoughtful.

* * *

"Skye?" Sherlock called from the bedroom.

"Yeah, Sherlock?" Skye called back in a preoccupied manner. She never looked up from the calculations she was reviewing on the pad in front of her.

"Just checking."

"Okay."

"I have news," he confessed from the other room as he changed.

"Oh? What’s that?" Skye devoted more than half an ear to that statement; if Sherlock offered news, it was generally worth hearing.

"I found the source of the beta burns on McFarlane."

"Oh. That’s good. I—" Skye’s head snapped up. "Oh, dear God."

* * *

In the Chamber in the other spacetime, Holmes and Chadwick straightened up in sudden anxiety. They shot a dismayed glance at each other, eyes wide.

"Oh, shit," Chadwick whispered, horrified.

"Indeed," Holmes murmured, shocked. "Surely he would not have…"

"Dunno," Chadwick shot back. "He hasn’t been there as long as you’ve been here. He might not have learned enough yet to know better."

"She is about to run to him."

"Yup. And with good reason. Defocus and track subject."

"Defocusing, track initiated," Holmes agreed, promptly entering the appropriate commands.

* * *

Skye leaped to her feet with a panicked cry and spun for the door of the study, completely forgetting the tesseract.

"Sherlock!" she shouted frantically as she ran into the hall. "Sherlock, where are you? Where’d you go?! SHERLOCK!"

* * *

Hearing the urgency in her voice, Sherlock emerged from the bedroom door to stand in the hall, his dressing gown loosely draped about his lean frame, the belt not yet tied.

"HERE, Skye! What is wrong?!"

"Where? Where?" She launched herself at him, grabbing him and scrabbling desperately. "WHERE? Where is it? Show me! How bad?" she chattered frenziedly.

Sherlock stared in confounded amazement as his distraught wife pawed him, grabbing his hands and looking at their palms and backs; she even shoved the sleeves of his dressing gown up his arms and scrutinized his forearms. She cupped his head in her hands and stared at him, inspecting his face and neck with intent, almost wild eyes. Then she snatched at his dressing gown, holding it open and staring at his shirtless body. Her hands followed quickly, searching furiously.

"SKYE! Skye, calm down!" he exclaimed, worried. "What is wrong, my dearest?"

"WHERE ARE THEY!?" Skye wailed, nearly in tears. "Show me! How bad are they? How close did you get to it??"

"Where are what? Get close to what?" Sherlock wondered, trying to sort out her rapid fire and nearly incoherent babbling. He caught her frantic, trembling hands and held them tightly in his own, to still their frenetic explorations.

"Your burns!" Skye said, coming to a halt and gazing up at him with wide, despairing eyes. Her lower lip quivered as she fought to avoid bursting into tears.

"What…? Ah," he suddenly understood. "NO, no, no, my dear wife, calm yourself. I should never do something so rash as all that. You need have no fear, for I have no beta burns. I am completely unharmed. I suppose I should rather have said that I deduced the source, rather than that I found it; the statement would have been more precise, so, and frightened you less. I now know where it is, but have not myself approached it as yet."

"OH!" And suddenly Skye flung her arms around him, kissing him vehemently.

The detective wrapped his arms around his badly frightened wife, holding her close and returning her kisses as he soothed her.

"Hush, hush, my dear," he murmured against her face. "Settle down, my bonny Skye. All is well."

With a suddenness that took his breath away, Skye’s knees gave way and she sagged against him; Sherlock quickly pinned her against his body or she would have fallen.

"Oh dear," her voice said plainly.

Sherlock blinked, then stiffened. He had been looking directly into his overwrought wife’s semiconscious face when the statement was made, and knew she had not spoken. It was therefore obvious that the tesseract was active; and as he had not smelled ozone, it had been active since some time before Skye had come in search of him.

They saw everything, he realized, schooling his visage into a bland, neutral expression, even as heat rose in his face. Private, intimate moments I thought I shared only with my wife.

"Relax, old chap," Holmes’ voice murmured. "No one here sits in judgement. Please forgive us. We did not mean to intrude, but we were almost as concerned as your spouse, when we heard your statement."

"We sure were," Chadwick added vociferously. "Radiation sickness is nothing to mess with. We’ll unfocus so you can see to Skye. Looks to me like she needs to get horizontal for a few."

Sherlock remained standing stiffly for several more seconds before he was able to convince his offended sensibilities to ignore the situation. He swept Skye into his arms and carried her into the sitting room, where he laid her on the sofa. One pillow went beneath her head and several beneath her feet; and in a few minutes she stirred.

"Skye?" he murmured, kneeling beside the sofa. "Are you all right?"

"I…yeah," she whispered, staring up at him with huge azure eyes. "Are you sure you’re okay?"

"Positive. Calm yourself, my dear. All is well. I have no plans to investigate the source of the radiation for a few days yet."

"You mustn’t investigate it at ALL! At least not by yourself!" Skye exclaimed, lunging upward. Sherlock caught her shoulders, keeping her prone with some effort: It was patently evident to him that the tension she had been under for days was manifesting, and her reactions were greatly adrenaline enhanced. "PLEASE, Sherlock! PROMISE me you won’t investigate it alone!"

"Why?" he wondered, astounded at her vehemence.

"Mr. Holmes, what do you know about radiation?" Chadwick’s voice asked softly, as the other woman aided her alter ego.

Sherlock shrugged, turning in the direction of the voice. "By ‘radiation’ I assume you mean that which is due to radioactivity, given the circumstances. Isotopes of certain elements may have their nuclei spontaneously break apart, emitting one or more of three different types of radiation: alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays, in order of increasing penetrative ability." He paused, then added, "The initial research was going on during my day, but I have not been idle since arriving in this timeframe. The very first book Skye loaned me was a modern physics text; I desired to better understand the tesseract theory, and picked up considerable knowledge of particle physics and quantum mechanics in addition."

"Do you remember the section on radiation sickness?" Skye asked quietly, watching him. Sherlock glanced back at her.

"I do," he remarked grimly. "And once I realised your train of thought in the morgue, I myself recognised the symptoms in McFarlane’s body, if you will recall."

"Then you should know why your wife does not desire you to approach a radiation source strong enough to create beta burns of the severity observed upon your murder victim," Holmes remarked.

"It must be done sooner or later." Sherlock drew a deep breath, combining concern, frustration, and determination in the same action. "Whatever it is may be found within a cave on McFarlane’s property. And as the cattle are still experiencing beta burns, and we know that whoever killed McFarlane is likely looking for a way into the underground base…" Sherlock allowed his voice to taper off, knowing that he did not have to explain the implications to any of the three listening to him.

"Fine," Skye said, grabbing his arm. "But call Ryker and have his unit bring in proper protective gear. Don’t go in off the cuff and get yourself irradiated! Please, Sherlock. I can’t lose you. I CAN’T." She pulled herself up until she gazed into his startled eyes. "Don’t you understand?" she whispered, ardent love shining from the despondent blue eyes. "I…I can’t live without you." And she buried her face in his chest.

His grey eyes widened, then slid closed. No longer caring about the two observers—even though the observers were themselves—Sherlock gathered his bride close and held her tight.

* * *

Holmes’ identical grey eyes narrowed in defense against the nearly palpable feeling radiating from the couple in the other continuum and which threatened to affect him deeply. Sparing a glance at his own companion by way of diversion, he nearly did a blatant double take.

For Chadwick watched the other couple with a soft, open, pensive smile, and the sapphire eyes he knew so well sparkled with unshed tears. She looked at them for long minutes, while the light of memory flickered in her eyes. An unconscious sigh escaped her lips then, and the smile twisted, becoming wry and bitter.

* * *

Beside her, pain flashed through dark grey eyes at the disillusioned expression upon Chadwick’s face.

But she was gently understanding when she announced, "The two of you need a few minutes to yourselves. We’ll come back in an hour."

Then she shut down the tesseract and stood.

"I’m going up to the office to get something to eat before I keel over," Chadwick told Holmes curtly. "Either the continuum will collapse while I’m gone, or it won’t. So…wanna come along?"

* * *

"I—" he began. He had been on the point of refusing, but suddenly changed his mind. "Yes, I should like that…Skye."

The blue eyes blinked at the unexpected mode of address, then warmed. "Well, come on," she told him, waving him to her side with a smile. "Let’s go. I’m starved."

* * *

The faint sizzling pop and whiff of ozone told Sherlock and Skye their doppelgangers had departed, though they cared little by that point. He did take the opportunity to ease into position on the couch and pull her fully into his lap, but otherwise they simply sat and held each other. Skye eventually calmed down, relaxing into Sherlock’s arms, cheek pillowed against his bare chest. Long, nimble fingers picked loose her braid, then tangled themselves in the golden mass. She sighed, a long shuddering breath, before looking up at him.

"You won’t do it by yourself, will you?" she whispered.

"No, Wife. I give you my word, I will not. I did plan on consulting you, as the subject matter expert, regarding the best way to approach the matter in any event, and in fact to ask if you might be available to assist. On your advice I shall most assuredly contact Ryker and request appropriate equipment. Will that satisfy you?"

"Yes," she breathed in relief. "It sure will. Thanks, Hon."

"You are overwrought, my dear," he murmured, concerned. "You push yourself to the utmost, and are losing your self-restraint."

"I know. But we’re SO close to a solution, and their continuum’s destabilization seems to be accelerating."

"I have an idea. But it may seem counter-intuitive to you…"

"Shoot."

"Given the tesseract’s considerable, though admittedly not total, ability to negate gaps in time," he observed, "I should like to recommend that you take some time away from your figures, and assist me in the last throes of my little investigation. It should only be a matter of a day to ascertain what is in the cave, once Ryker arrives with whatever equipment is needful. Then we should know why McFarlane was murdered. It would be a great favour to me, and would allow your mind a break as well. A break I suspect it sorely needs."

"Ooo, not bad," she decided, raising a considering eyebrow. "I like the idea. It gives me time away from the equations, but I still have to keep using my noggin. That way I won’t get rusty, and I stay fresh. Yeah, I think it’s a plan. I’ll see if Chadwick and Holmes are okay with that when they get back."

"That is acceptable. In the meanwhile you are going to lie here and rest, and allow your husband to hold you and soothe you."

"That’s acceptable, too," Skye grinned, "as long as some of that soothing lands right here." She tapped her lips with her index finger.

"I should not think of neglecting so effectual a method," Sherlock noted, eyes crinkling as he bent his head to hers.

* * *

February 9

My bonny comrade in arms, The Woman, My Wife, Lady Holmes, my dear Skye, The Woman I Love. So many names I have for this one being, this one woman I know so well—and yet today she still found a way to shake me to my centre.

For I never dreamed as capable a woman as she would ever utter the words now branded in my memory: "I can’t live without you." Five simple words—whose import means the world itself. In the three seconds it took her to utter those words, my life was changed forever. She has a way of doing that, my Skye.

I wonder if she knows she is not the only one to have considered the truth of that statement.

* * *

Holmes and Chadwick strongly agreed Skye needed a break, and Sherlock promptly contacted Ryker with a coded message and request for assistance. The next morning the MI5 agent arrived with the military part of his unit, ready to go.

"Righto! You two ready?" he called as their deuce and a half truck pulled up to the door of the cottage. "Got your level 4 MOPP gear already in the lorry. Get your bums into the back with the rest of my mates and the HazMat team from Porton Down, and we’ll help you get into the gear once we get to the site."

"MOPP gear?" Sherlock murmured, shooting an inquisitive glance at Skye, as they stood in the front door.

"Mission Oriented Protective Posture. Special HazMat—er, hazardous material—suits designed to protect against nuclear, biological, and chemical agents."

"Ah," Sherlock nodded, and headed toward the truck. "Excellent. Come, my dear Skye. It is high time. We must ascertain the nature of this situation and contain it."

* * *

The experienced units were soon in position outside the mouth of the cave on McFarlane’s farm; an additional covert guard was stationed around a small perimeter centered on the cave, to prevent spectators. A quick sweep of the area with a Geiger-Müller counter verified Sherlock’s deductions. The exploration team suited up in full Level 4 MOPP gear with the assistance of the decontamination team, and Ryker himself served as squire to Sherlock and Skye, assisting them into the extra suits the unit had brought for the couple’s use. Grey eyes twinkled with amusement as the detective peered out of his gas mask while Ryker taped down the openings in their suits.

"I shudder to think what ‘my’ Watson would make of this outlandish getup," he noted with a chuckle. "It would likely give him nightmares for a week. Still, if it prevents us becoming ill, it will be well worth it."

"Only as long as you don’t get too close," Ryker warned, affixing dosimeters to a patch of Velcro on the left breast of their suits. "The suits will only handle so much. Too much radiation will still injure or even kill, despite the suits. Remember that. If what’s in there is what I suspect, if it’s what we discussed, this team is trained for it and will take care of it ourselves. You two will stay back, stay out of our way, and watch. By rights we wouldn’t normally be letting the two of you even come with us. But as you’re the principal investigators on the case, we’re bringing you along to make sure you get the data you need."

"And we thank you." Sherlock somehow managed to execute a graceful bow, even from within the bulky environmental suit.

"But you DO AS WE SAY," the captain added sternly. "You are NOT in charge here, not this time. I am. So we do it MY way. That means: NO heroics, NO wandering off, NO leaving the group, NO inquisitive hands on ANYthing. EITHER of you curious buggers. Is that ABSOLUTELY CLEAR?"

* * *

Sherlock blinked at the other man’s vehemence, then glanced at Skye, seeking her reaction. The blue eyes peering through the gas mask were extremely sober as she nodded immediate and unequivocal assent to the MI5 officer.

"That serious?" the detective wondered softly.

"Worse," his scientist wife responded quietly. "According to the documents we saw, we might not even reach the central source, or we might have only minutes to observe it before having to leave."

“Min―?” Holmes breathed, astounded.

"Seconds," Ryker corrected, cutting him off. "Potentially, at least. Remember, for this one time, I’m the superior here, and I give the orders. If I say stop, you stop immediately, right in your tracks. If I say retreat, you turn around and go back. If I yell run, you haul ass out of there. Now let’s go. The two of you, stick with me. I don’t want either of you out of my sight. I’ll not lose two good mates, nor have it said that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes were lost on my watch."

* * *

Ryker turned and set off toward the mouth of the cave, signaling his exploration team to get into position with hand gestures.

Immediately behind him, two detectives—one of whom was also a physicist—hurried obediently in his wake.

* * *

Inside the cave, the Geiger counters clicked faster; some two hundred yards inside, as they slowly descended a gradual slope, the clicking became a continual chatter. They rounded a bend in the open tunnel…

…And were met with an eerie blue glow. It reflected dimly off the damp walls of the cave, and filled the far passage with a soft azure mist.

"Cherenkov radiation," Skye said aloud, awe in her voice. "I’ve always thought it was so…beautiful."

"You and Madame Curie," Sherlock murmured, a hint of affection in his tone, his smile hidden by the gas mask.

"All halt," Ryker ordered. "Readings?"

"Still within limits," Wang replied, checking the meter on his counter. "Recommend slowing forward speed, however."

"So ordered."

"Sir! There’s an opening in the cavern floor ahead!" Huggins called from his position only five feet ahead of Wang, on point. "About… mmm…twenty metres away, I’d say. Looks like the blue light comes from it."

"Huggins, hold your position. Wang, join him," Ryker ordered. "Stay with him. Get a reading."

Wang hurried forward, keeping an eye on his instrument. When he’d reached Huggins’ side, he scanned the other man carefully, then turned toward the opening.

"Skirting the line, sir," Wang reported. "I’d recommend halting here."

"Blast and damnation!" Holmes exclaimed in frustration. "So close, and yet unable to see our goal!"

"Sherlock," Skye said sternly. "No freakin’ way."

"Skye! It is right there! You cannot tell me you do not wish to see it yourself!" Holmes stared in fascination at the dim blue mist ahead, as if hypnotized.

* * *

Skye shot a meaningful glance at Ryker, warning him of her intent. When he met her gaze and subtly acknowledged her signal, she addressed Sherlock.

"Fine. I’ll go to the edge and look in, and tell you what I see. Then, no matter what happens, you can still finish the investigation." She turned toward the two men in the lead, determined to prove a point.

But before she could take a step, a tall body materialized directly in front of her. Strong, gauntleted hands gripped her shoulders gently but unyieldingly.

"Your point is made, Skye. But you are not so foolish as all that, my dear," her husband said quietly from above her, "nor am I. You misunderstand; I am merely frustrated. Let me remind you that frustration does not equal foolhardiness."

"Good. Let’s get out of here," Ryker ordered.

The rest of the team, which had frozen at the pair’s reactions, took deep breaths and began to pull back toward the cave’s mouth.

"Don’t worry, Holmes," Ryker told the detective. "We came prepared for this possibility. I think I can get you your look at what’s in that hole."

* * *

Soon they were outside, and the decontamination team was checking out the exploration team, ensuring that no one had been unduly irradiated, nor had they come back contaminated.

"Everyone’s clear," Murphy called. "You can shed your suits now."

"Good," Ryker decided, then ordered, "Gear off. Huggins, you and McGregor get the remote up and in place as soon as you’ve ditched your gear."

"Yes, sir!" McGregor acknowledged.

Five minutes later Skye and Holmes watched as a squat, tracked robot, bristling with cameras and sensors, trundled its way into the cavern.

"C’mon over here," Ryker waved them across to the cab of the truck. "We’ve got a video monitor set up to watch." Sherlock and Skye joined Ryker by the monitor.

"Um, how long is that gonna take?" Skye wondered, waving a hand at the screen. "I mean, to get to the opening where the radiation is."

"Oh, probably a good twenty minutes, maybe as long as a half hour," Ryker estimated. "Ol’ Tin Can was made for manoeuvreability, not speed."

"Uh, okay," Skye said in a mildly strained tone, glancing around the area in search of a likely clump of bushes. Holmes eyed her with amusement.

"The house is a short walk over that rise, my dear," he murmured in her ear, nodding his head in the proper direction. "In this locality, it is never kept locked. The, ahem, ‘little scientist’s room’ as you call it, is down the hall, second door on the left. I told you not to drink that third cup of coffee at breakfast."

Skye shot him a rueful grin. "I’ll be back before the probe gets there," she informed them, then scurried for the top of the hill and the McFarlane homestead beyond.

* * *

To her surprise, Dr. Victor was wandering around inside when she arrived.

"Oh, hello there," Skye greeted the man warily. "I didn’t expect to see you here. Is everything okay?"

"Oh, yes," Victor smiled back. "I came by to make sure James’ things were being taken care of, and to see if there was anything I could do to help. But it seems the neighbours have matters well in hand. Is your husband’s investigation proceeding well?"

"I guess so." Skye shrugged, pretending ignorance. "I’ve been following him over half the farm today, seems like. I finally told him I had to come up here and, uh, use the facilities."

"Ah. It sounds as if he’s much like his namesake—very fixated and single minded."

"Sometimes, I guess," Skye grinned, trying not to dance by this time. "Um, if you’ll excuse me?"

"Certainly. When nature calls, we can only answer. I’m afraid you won’t find any linens," he called after Skye as she hurried down the hall. "The local ladies seem to have taken them all off to wash, or something. But I have a handkerchief you’re welcome to dry your hands upon when you’re done…"

* * *

After her bathroom break, Skye did indeed make use of Dr. Victor’s handkerchief to dry her hands.

"Thank you," she told him politely, offering the damp cloth back to the physician.

"You’re more than welcome, Madam," he replied courteously. "And now I think I shall depart. I have an appointment in an hour, and I shall just have time to return to my office and prepare for my patient."

He held the front door for her as they exited together, then Victor walked around behind the house. As Skye made her way through the fields, deliberately meandering in an aimless way as if looking for Sherlock, Dr. Victor’s Cooper Mini emerged from the back of the McFarlane house, sped down the drive, turned left onto the road, and disappeared.

Skye watched him out of sight, then headed for Ryker’s unit.

* * *

Skye was back in plenty of time to see Tin Can approach the pit in the floor of the cave, though she made a point of telling her spouse in detail about her encounter with Victor. Then she, Holmes, and Ryker huddled over the monitor in the truck cab, while the rest of the unit viewed either the monitor the remote controllers were using to guide Tin Can, or another, linked video display in the back of the truck.

Huggins and McGregor skillfully maneuvered Tin Can into a position as close as they dared to the opening, then extended a boom camera out and tilted it to look down. Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, Ryker let out a long whistle, and Skye muttered, "Sonuvagun."

"That is NOT what I expected," Ryker noted.

"I can tell it is some very large aeroplane," Holmes observed, "but what is in its aft, and why is it glowing so?"

"It’s one of the old nuclear test aircraft, I think," Skye decided. "That’s the only explanation I can come up with, anyway."

"Righto," Ryker confirmed. "It’s a Convair X-6."

"I thought those never made it off the drawing board," Skye said, surprised. "They really built one?"

"They did here, back in the late 50’s," Ryker nodded. "Unfortunately they also had a reactor breach. Killed the crew. I knew that was one of the classified little things ‘downstairs,’ but I thought it was a lot further that way," he made a furtive hand gesture in the direction of the Bentwaters base. "I guess they wanted to get it out, away from the functional part, for the safety of the base workers. I wonder if they realised they’d placed it under private lands. I’m betting not, based on the files I saw."

"A bit more explanation, and a bit less speculation, please," Holmes remarked testily. "Are you trying to say this aeroplane was powered by a…what is it called again…nuclear pile?"

"Exactly, Hon," Skye nodded. "A nuclear reactor. They were looking for a way not to have to refuel the aircraft all the time. But the shielding was a problem—it was a tradeoff, the weight of the shielding for the usable payload."

"They got it to work, on this aircraft," Ryker explained. "But it turned out that the materials they used for shielding degraded in the radiation environment a lot faster than they expected. After the containment shield cracked on its fourth flight, and the crew voluntarily sustained fatal exposure in order to land the plane safely on the tarmac at Bentwaters, the project was put to bed—literally. The crew…from all accounts, it was a nasty death." He shook his head, expression grim.

Skye’s face crumpled in sympathy, and she surreptitiously slipped an arm around her husband’s waist. Upon receipt of the very private message, the detective pressed his arm against her hand. She drew a deep breath, noting, "It looks like they built a containment sarcophagus around it."

"Yeah, I think they did," Ryker agreed, "if I remember the report aright. But it doesn’t look to be in good shape now…"

"No, it looks like the Chernobyl sarcophagus," Skye decided. "If not worse, and probably for the same reasons. Judging from the condition of the aft part of the fuselage, there was a partial meltdown, probably after the onboard cooling system died. So the exposed nuclear fuel is aging the construction material of the sarcophagus at an accelerated rate, and I’m sure the dampness of the cavern above isn’t helping the matter. Looks like the roof just…caved in. Take a look over there." She tapped the video screen. "Isn’t that a pile of roof debris?"

"It does appear so," Sherlock agreed.

"Sherlock," Skye considered, "the instability waves that come through the tesseract when it’s active…are they felt outside the core?"

"I cannot say, Skye. I have felt them when I was with you inside the core, certainly; but I have not noted any earthquakes when I was investigating here and you were at the cottage, working. That does not argue that there were none, merely that I could not detect them."

"I can check seismic stations, if we need to, Boss," Ryker offered to Skye. "Is it important?"

"Potentially. If a decent sized quake came through, it might bring the rest of the sarcophagus down around that mess."

"Ew," Ryker grimaced. "THAT would be bad."

"Very bad," Skye agreed firmly.

"I’ll check," Ryker decreed.

"Good. This is certainly not the sort of thing that should be left to lie, in any event," Sherlock observed. "Especially if our faux heirs know of it. If they are in search of the radioactive material, that could be ‘very bad,’ as well."

"It sure could," Skye agreed. "They could be spies looking for an energy source, or terrorists looking for toxic material, or anything. But then again, that presupposes a knowledge of the situation that we didn’t even have."

"True," Sherlock noted. "If even Ryker, who checked the records before coming out for this little sortie, did not know this was here, how would someone not privy to the records know?"

"They couldn’t," Ryker declared. "They had to be looking for something else."

"But what else could they think was in there?" Skye wondered. "I mean, even if they’re…I dunno, scavengers or something, they have to have SOME notion of what they’re looking for!"

"That is the question," Sherlock averred. "But irregardless, we must take action. As I said, it cannot be left so."

"No," Ryker confirmed. "It’ll have to be sealed up again. The question is how best to do it…" He paused, then picked up his radio. "Huggins, have Tin Can get samples and readings."

"Roger," Huggins’ voice responded.

They spent the rest of the day watching as the agile little robot wormed its way around the sarcophagus collapse, taking readings and obtaining samples for analysis. It was a chilly winter’s sundown by the time they left the area.

* * *

Upon delivering the Holmeses to Gibson House, Ryker followed them inside that evening, intending a brief discussion regarding how best to proceed. It was necessary to handle the matter delicately to permanently seal off the damaged containment sarcophagus without revealing the truth about Bentwaters. He and Sherlock were deep in a discussion of the matter as they entered, and neither man noticed Skye’s flushed face, or the slight shivering wracking her body as she crept about the house, turning on the lights.

"I think we should consider the matter carefully before taking the next step," Sherlock noted. "Handled incorrectly, the whole truth comes out. Yet we cannot afford to wait too long; we know another is intent on finding his way into the sarcophagus."

"Whoever it is can’t possibly know what’s in there," Ryker pointed out. "It’s a death warrant to go in any farther than we went today."

"That is likely so. Still, it is just possible that they are after either exposing the base, or obtaining the radioactive fuel for their own nefarious purposes. In the which case, they will know how to approach the deadly material contained within. Wife, you have been uncharacteristically silent on the matter, and you are the scientist specialising in the subject. What say you, Skye?" he addressed her as she re-entered the room.

"Um…what, Sherlock?" Skye glanced up at them with a blank expression. "I’m sorry, I’m afraid I…wasn’t listening. I’m kind of tired." She shivered. "Honey, could you start a fire in the fireplace? I’m freezing."

"I’ll get it, Holmes," Ryker offered, moving to the fireplace in the sitting room and kneeling. "You go ahead and catch her up on what we’ve been saying. Can’t say as I blame you, Boss; it’s been a stressful day, and I’m tired, too. Not to mention the wind was pretty stiff out there in the field, and you’re smaller than the rest of us."

"Certainly," Sherlock agreed. "And you do have a point, Ryker. Poor Skye is probably half frozen; I should have considered urging her inside the lorry, out of the wind, instead of standing about with us. My dear, we were discussing how to proceed with the reactor and the damaged containment sarcophagus. We are trying to find some happy medium between acting with all due haste to prevent a calamity, and preventing word of the underground base from leaking."

* * *

Skye struggled to listen to her detective husband as a chill went through her frame; she was exhausted beyond reasonable explanation, and only wanted to lie down and sleep. Momentary dizziness gripped her, and she fought it down to answer Holmes.

"I think maybe we need t-to…sleep on it," she murmured wearily. "Leave the guards on it tonight and decide what to do tomorrow. Maybe slap a guard perimeter around it…"

"But if we put a lot of guards on it, then anyone watching will KNOW something’s up," Ryker observed, having laid the logs on the grate atop the kindling. He struck a match and held it to the kindling. With a cheery crackle, it lit.

"After today’s exercises, they will likely know in any case," Holmes said, watching the logs catch and the flames leap up. "Guards are definitely in order, and I am glad for tonight’s detail, but they should—"

Another wave of dizziness, far stronger than the first, assailed Skye, and this time she could not fight it off. She staggered, stumbled, then fell to the Persian rug.

* * *

With an exclamation of distress, Holmes spun, leapt the coffee table and knelt beside his wife, laying a hand on her shoulder.

"Great Scot, she’s burning up! Ryker, is your unit still outside?"

"Yes, sir! You want me to fetch Dr. Wilder?"

"Please. Make haste. By the feel of her, Skye is quite ill." The detective lifted his wife and laid her on the sofa nearby as Ryker sprinted out the front door.

Two minutes later Ryker was back with Dr. Wilder. The physician moved immediately to the couch with her medical kit and knelt. Holmes eased aside to allow access for the medic as she took Skye’s vitals. After a few more anxious minutes, the physician raised her head.

"It’s a nasty case of influenza," Dr. Wilder diagnosed, and Holmes tensed, feeling the blood drain from his face. "Looks to be the very strain we immunized for this year, which is surprising. Did Mrs. Holmes not take a flu shot this year?"

"No," Holmes sighed, dismayed. "She reacts rather violently to them, I have it to understand. So, as she was not working on the base this past autumn, and in fact interacting little with the populace as a whole, she opted not to take it."

"She still should have had it before flying over here," Wilder pondered. "Vaccinations like that are de rigueur for international travel these days."

"The good Lord knows, she had everything else," Holmes noted with distaste, despite his anxiety. "Roughly a week prior to our wedding, my poor wife was made a miserable pincushion—which is something I have experienced firsthand myself. It must have been an inadvertent oversight. I wondered, at the time, why she submitted to them. I did not know we were coming, as the trip was a gift, or I might otherwise have made certain all was properly done."

"Have you had the shot, Mr. Holmes?" Wilder pressed.

"Yes. I did do some consulting on the base in the autumn, so I was required to have it, as well as a few others. I am quite up to date on my vaccinations."

"Well, that’s something," Wilder decided with relief. The group fell silent as Wilder tended the sick woman.

* * *

Influenza, Holmes thought, clenching his jaw against the roiling sensation in his gut. The same thing that made Watson nearly despair of me in the Russian outbreak. The same thing that killed a million people around the world, only a couple of years before I came to this continuum. And my wife has the damnable stuff. God, help me. God, help HER.

* * *

"How serious is it?" Holmes finally asked the physician in a distinctly subdued manner. "Will she…survive?"

Dr. Wilder blinked in surprise, then suddenly remembered to whom she was speaking: A man who had lived through at least one deadly pandemic long before the advent of modern antiviral medications, and for whom the term influenza was not to be taken lightly. His experience gave him reason to be concerned, she concluded.

"Not to worry, Mr. Holmes. Influenza is much less serious nowadays than it used to be—at least this strain is, though there are a few potentially fatal ones out there. Mrs. Holmes is in no danger, unless her fever runs very high. Some tender loving care, and she’ll be fine in a few days’ time."

* * *

Thank God, Holmes thought, relieved. He closed his eyes briefly and nodded silently. "What needs doing?"

"Oh, I’ll give her an antiviral here in a moment, and some decongestants for use later. Then it’s a matter of keeping an eye on her fever. If it spikes up around 39.5º or so, start lukewarm sponge baths. Other than that, acetaminophen and plenty of fluids are the rule. Keep her in bed and make sure she rests."

"Thirty-nine and a half degrees…centigrade?" Holmes verified.

"Oh, that’s right. You’re probably used to the old Imperial System of units. Yes, that would be around, uhm, 103º or 104º Fahrenheit. Do you have a thermometer of some sort?"

"Not here, no."

"Okay, I’ll get you set up," Wilder offered. She extracted an electronic oral thermometer from her medical kit and demonstrated to Holmes how to use it, then set it aside on the coffee table and turned her attention to her patient. "Mrs. Holmes? Are you awake?"

"Mmh," Skye groaned, rousing from her fever induced lethargy. "Yeah."

"Brae, go fetch a glass of water," Wilder ordered, and the captain was off to the kitchen, returning seconds later with the requested drink. Taking the glass, she addressed Skye again. "Mrs. Holmes, you need to take some medications, love. Can you sit up for me?"

With an effort, and a certain detective’s supportive arm at her back, Skye pushed into a seated position. Wilder handed her the glass of water, then got out several different tablets and capsules from her kit.

"This is an antiviral, and this is acetaminophen, and here’s a decongestant," the doctor explained, handing over each medicine in turn. "Down the hatch, now."

Skye popped the pills into her mouth, washing them down with a mouthful of the water. She started to set the glass aside, but the medic stopped her.

"Drink it on down, dear," the physician urged. "I want you properly hydrated."

"I’m freezing," Skye murmured, obediently sipping the water.

"I know, love," Wilder said sympathetically. "Your fever’s around 38.5º C. I expect you feel like someone’s beating on you, too."

"Yeah," Skye sighed, setting the empty glass aside and leaning back. "I ache all over. And I’ve got concrete setting up in my head."

"Yup, that’ll be the flu," Wilder nodded confidently. "Mr. Holmes, get your wife to bed; I’d recommend stripping her down and keeping a sheet and maybe a light blanket over her tonight. If you have to sponge her down to lower her fever, concentrate on areas where there’s lots of blood vessels. That’d be areas like—"

"The throat, the wrists, the underarms, backs of the knees, the feet," Holmes nodded knowledgeably. "And other, more private areas. I have some knowledge of anatomy, doctor; thank you most kindly."

"Do you need any help, mate?" Ryker queried, as Holmes bent over his ill spouse, placing his hand on her forehead to feel her temperature, before allowing it to slide down and cup her cheek for the briefest instant. The affectionate gesture was barely noticeable, but Skye looked up at him gratefully.

"Not at the moment, Ryker," Holmes decided. "But I thank you."

"Brae and I’ll pop back by in the morning to check on her, Mr. Holmes," Wilder noted. "Would you like a nurse tonight? I can arrange for Mrs. Holmes to have one for the next several days. That way, you can continue your investigation."

"I…" Holmes paused, torn. There was a time when I would not have hesitated to accept, he thought. She should be in no danger; yet, if her fever rises too high, I fear it could damage that delightful intellect. And therein does lie danger. For she is needed to help stop the deterioration of the other continuum, and by extension, possibly our own. No, I cannot leave her in the hands of a stranger, even one of the Secret Service. Too much is at stake. Still, I may need the assistance of a nurse, if Skye becomes very ill.

"Let us see how the night goes, Doctor," Holmes decided. "Not for tonight, not unless she grows worse—in the which case I shall contact you at once. Tomorrow, if she IS worse, I may need a nurse’s assistance, for I fear I am no nursemaid. But for now, I shall endeavour to tend my own wife."

"What about the cave, Holmes?" Ryker wondered.

"We left a clandestine guard on it overnight. It might be wise to set up a shift schedule, sufficient for several days. I dare not leave Skye until her fever has gone down—the matter of the other continuum takes higher precedence than the murder case and the cave." He scooped up Skye and headed for the hall.

"How do you figure that?" Dr. Wilder wondered, surprised.

Holmes paused and turned back to look at them. Skye’s head lolled tiredly against his shoulder as he observed, "It is my understanding that, if the other continuum collapses, it would likely take a number of continua with it, almost certainly including our own. I cannot speak for you, Dr. Wilder, but in my estimation, the dissolution of our entire reality trumps the potential exposure of a secret military base."

Then he turned and carried his wife to the bedroom, as Ryker let himself and Dr. Wilder out.

* * *

Sherlock carried Skye into the bedroom, got her undressed and tucked into bed. She lay there miserably, shivering violently, even after he pulled the covers over her and tucked her in. He frowned as he watched her by the light of the bedside lamp.

"Skye, would you like some dinner, my dear?"

"N-no," she murmured despondently. "Not hungry. Just wanna lay here and die."

"Come now! Let us not use such morbid language, Skye."

"’Member how you felt after all your vaccinations last spring?" Skye reminded him somewhat tartly.

"Yes, I do indeed." Holmes winced, recalling.

"Okay, then. Lemme ‘lone."

My, someone gets grumpy when she feels unwell, Holmes decided in fond amusement. Not, I suppose, that I have room to talk. If she can deal with my fiendish temper, I can certainly deal with hers. She is starting to sound distinctly congested, also.

He considered for a moment, realizing he was hungry, then suggested, "Would you mind if I ate?"

"No, go ‘head," Skye agreed affably, turning to face him and curling on her side in an effort to feel warm. "You’ve had a long day, too. Go eat, an’ I’ll just lie here an’ try to rest. ’Ventually that medicine’s gotta kick in. Then maybe I c’n go to sleep."

"Very well. I will return shortly. In the meanwhile, do try to rest."

He left the bedroom and returned several minutes later with a sandwich in hand. Sitting on the bedside, he ate it silently, resting one hand lightly on Skye’s blanket swathed hip as he did so. She sighed.

"That feels good," she observed quietly.

"What does?"

"Your hand. Just to know you’re there."

That clinched Holmes’ decision. It is quite early, he considered, but if it helps her to feel better… He polished off the last of the sandwich, then disrobed.

"Move over," he murmured, sliding in beside her. "There. Now, come here." Gathering her close, he lifted her until he could cradle her in his arms, bringing his knees up on either side of her body to complete the effect. "How does this feel?" He settled the covers over them both.

"Ohh," she sighed, relaxing against him. "Warm and comf’ble."

"Good. Now settle back and try to sleep, my dear wife."

"Okay…" Another sigh escaped Skye, and she snuggled against him, falling into a fitful sleep within minutes.

Holmes’ smile grew deeper. He himself relaxed, under the influence of comfort, a bellyful of food, the nearness of his mate, and the warmth of her fevered body.

Five minutes later, he too was asleep.

* * *

He woke several hours later. The alarm clock read 11:04. The bedside lamp was still on. Skye was squirming restlessly and had managed to work her way off his limp slumbering form, though she had not herself awakened. His hand to her bare skin told the tale: Holmes rose in haste and went in search of the thermometer Dr. Wilder had left.

Returning with it, he sat on the bed and gently shook Skye by the shoulder. When her eyes finally opened, he murmured, "Here, my dear, let me take your temperature," and promptly stuck the device into her mouth. Sixty seconds later it beeped, and he read the tiny screen, then took a deep breath. "104.3º. And not yet time to take more of the prescription febrifuge. This is not good." He gazed down into glazed azure eyes, adding, "Stay here, my dear. I will be right back."

She nodded weakly, and he laid the thermometer on the nightstand, stood and headed for the bathroom, coming back with a bowl of lukewarm water and a washcloth.

"Now it is my turn to return the favour of last spring," he smiled at her, dipping the cloth into the water and wringing it out.

Gently Holmes tugged the covers away and wiped the damp cloth across his wife’s skin, moistening her throat, shoulders and breasts. Her breath caught as he skimmed the cloth over her left breast, and her eyes widened in alarm as she stared up at him.

"I…where am I?" she whispered, peering at him with eyes that wouldn’t quite focus. "What are you doing?"

"You are in our cottage in Suffolk, my dear," Holmes explained, disturbed by her confusion. "You have a bad case of influenza, and your fever is quite high. I am trying to lower your temperature."

"You’re…I’m…who are you?" Skye asked, and Holmes froze.

"You…do not know me?" he breathed, shocked.

"You…" Skye shook her head. She glanced down the length of her nude body, then looked up with troubled eyes. "I should know…no, I don’t know." She blinked slowly, then scanned his naked form. "I’m cold, and I hurt. And I’m scared. Are you a doctor? Why aren’t you…?" She gestured jerkily, indicating his unclad state.

Oh, dear God, he thought in horror as a shudder ran through him. "I am your husband, Skye," he murmured, trying to jog her memory. "I am Sherlock. Your ‘very own Sherlock.’ Can you remember? Try hard, my dear."

Her forehead creased, and she frowned. "Mama," she said finally. "I want Mama. Is Mama here?"

Holmes swallowed hard, pain filling him. Not only did he feel rejected by the plea, but also he could not possibly remind his wife that her mother was dead while she was in her current condition.

"No, Skye, Mama is not here. But I will take good care of you, this I swear."

Does she remember nothing of the last year? he wondered in dismay. Nothing of our marriage, of my arrival in this continuum, even of her parents’ horrific deaths? Then another thought struck him with the force of a sledgehammer, and he grew alarmed. "I want Mama" is a CHILD’S CRY…

By this point, the detective was in a state of agony. Skye does not know me. She is afraid because we are both nude and she does not recognise the man whose hands are upon her body. Good Lord, if this does not resolve itself upon lowering her fever, she is lost to me. And if she has suffered irreversible brain damage, if she truly has reverted to a childlike state, then our universe and many others are lost, as well.

He temporarily set aside the bowl and washcloth, reaching for his dressing gown to help alleviate Skye’s fear, but by this time she was delirious, unaware of her surroundings, and murmuring incoherently about handkerchiefs and insects. Nevertheless he donned the garment, cinching it closed, before returning to bathing her.

Long thin fingers, used to ferreting out clues, trembled as they gently swabbed Skye’s body. Dear God, he thought, almost desperate, in Your tender mercies, do not take her from me; I shall have nothing. And our world, and many like it, may very well collapse.

The telephone rang just then. Holmes set aside the bowl of water, throwing the washcloth in its general direction, before sprinting into the sitting room to answer the instrument.

"Holmes," he barked as he held the receiver to his ear.

"Mr. Holmes, it’s Dr. Wilder," the voice on the other end announced. "I hope I didn’t wake you. I know it’s late. I wanted to check on Mrs. Holmes."

"If at all possible, come over right away, doctor. Her fever is quite high—over 104º—I cannot get it to subside, and she is delirious."

"I’ll be there in five," the doctor answered swiftly, and hung up.

 

 

The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings Copyright © 2012. Stephanie Osborn. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Stephanie Osborn is a former payload flight controller, a veteran of over twenty years of working in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs. She has worked on numerous Space Shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Of those astronauts she trained, one was Kalpana Chawla, a member of the crew lost in the Columbia disaster.

She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, and she is "fluent" in several more, including Geology and Anatomy. She obtained her various degrees from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.

Stephanie is currently retired from space work. She now happily "passes it forward," teaching math and science via numerous media including radio, podcasting, and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science fiction think tank, while writing science fiction mysteries based on her knowledge, experience, and travels.

TTB title: Burnout: the mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281
Extraction Point! with Travis 'Doc' Taylor

Cresperian series
The Y Factor with Darrell Bain. Book 2 Cresperian series
The Cresperian Alliance with Darrell Bain. Book 3 Cresperian series.

Displaced Detective series
The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus
The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival
The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed
The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident
The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings

Author web site.

 

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List Price: $17.95 USD

 

  Author News

Check out Stephanie's interview in Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine:
http://www.fmam.biz/showcase/showcase_author_oct16.html

Another interview in The Big Thrill
http://www.thebigthrill.org/2016/09/fear-in-the-french-quarter-by-stephanie-osborne/

Upcoming Appearances

Keep up with Stephanie on Sector Five Radio, where she is the Science and Technology Consultant "Extraordinaire"! Saturday nights at 7PM CST on KTKK 630AM in Salt Lake City!

 

Science Fiction Conventions

Upcoming Appearances

 

  Reviews

A return to the homeland for Holmes! Today’s England meets the famous detective of past times.

What an idea! The storyline continues, in merry old England, this time, with the continued presence of some old acquaintances and the introduction of definitely surprising others! Social status is “caste” aside when, again, preservation of this “continuum” is threatened, among other things.

Evildoers are evildoers regardless of the timeframe. Some things just don’t change! Holmes is, as always, in incredibly good form and those foolish enough to challenge him will definitely fail.

The settings can only be described as “delicious.” Old fashioned outrage combined with space age technology adds to the mixture. Then, “Sir” Sherlock and “Lady” Holmes; huh? My head nearly bursts with all of the unexpected, but, I LOVE IT! What else can one say? READ IT, READ IT, READ IT!

~Bill Markie aka Webley, Nashville Scholars of the Three-Pipe Problem
 



 

 

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