Genre Adventure/Action, Kidfic, Espionage, Romance, Dark,
Characters Sherlock/Irene, Sherlock&John, Mycroft/Anthea, Lestrade, Sally Donovan, Anderson, Moriarty
Length 40,000+ 16 Chapters
Meeting new people was something John always enjoyed. The turnover of soldiers in Company C was fast, and new faces appeared at regular intervals. Some of them came from exotic-sounding countries like “Congo” and “Egypt”. John loved to hear stories about these mysterious places: about the camels, pyramids, jungles and lions.
John was especially excited to meet Dr Sigerson because he had never met a doctor before. He imagined the man would be wearing a gleaming white coat, like the doctors on TV, with multiple-coloured pens in his top pocket; or perhaps Dr Sigerson would be wearing a smart suit with matching tie and carrying a big leather briefcase, like the doctors on TV who weren’t really doctors.
He’d met very few people actually from London who liked to talk to him about the surface world. Seb always muttered darkly about corruption and suffering, but from what John had seen on TV, the surface people looked just as happy as he was – and they had things like sunshine and grass. When he was younger John had wanted to see grass more than anything else in the world, but when he’d told Seb about it, the captain had snapped at him to stop daydreaming.
Sunshine was another thing that John had wanted to see, but on his first-ever mission above ground he’d been shocked by the intense light. He was convinced for several long hours that he was going blind, and he desperately wanted to run back into the dark comfort of the Underground. Eventually he got used to the light and the heat, but he never got used to the noise. The noise of cars, people, birds, animals – all jumbled together and amplified by his sensitive ears. He found it hard to cope with the cacophony, and even as he lined up his sniper scope to shoot the Home Secretary, he couldn’t block out the sounds of the pigeons cooing and fluttering on the rooftops. It was a good thing that shooting had become second nature to John, or he would have missed.
Perhaps Dr Sigerson would tell him more about the surface. Although he didn’t relish the thought of actually setting foot there once again, his curiosity pushed him to find out more about the strange world just metres above his head.
Murray and John were currently sitting on the disused railway tracks firing pebbles at the wall. The glow orbs hanging from the ceiling above the platform weaved slowly from side to side as a gust of wind swept through the tunnel. The old wall tiles the young soldiers aimed for were so thick with dust and grime that it was almost impossible to make out the words painted at regular intervals on the enamel. Every time a pebble hit the wall, it would leave a dust-free mark.
Once, out of curiosity, John had wiped away the dirt to read the name of the old Underground station. It was called E-u-s-t-o-n, but the name meant nothing to him, and he didn’t really know how to pronounce such a strange word. The remnants of his cleaning effort still stood out from the rest of the station, a bright patch of colour amidst the gloom.
“We could go on the slide,” suggested Murray as his pebble bounced off the wall with a ping. “This game is getting boring.”
John looked over his shoulder towards the disused escalators and the smooth metal barrier that separated each set of steps. The slide was his favourite pastime apart from reading, but Captain Moran didn’t like seeing the boys playing on it. They weren’t really supposed to be playing at all, but base patrol was incredibly boring. Nothing ever ventured this deep into the Underground; the most dangerous creatures John had ever seen here were rats.
The sound of running came echoing through the disused station, and Slightly came tumbling down the steps onto the platform.
“Dr Sigerson’s arrived; you need to go to the meeting room!” he said breathlessly. “I’m supposed to take your place on patrol.”
John jumped up and flung his weapon at Slightly without even bothering to see if the other boy had caught it. He clambered nimbly onto the platform and dashed off towards the disused bunkers that now served as military briefing rooms. As he climbed the long flight of black metal steps towards the top level of their base, he almost wished the stairs themselves could move, as Seb said they once had done.
By the time he got to the meeting room, John was aware that everyone had already gathered for the briefing. Seb was standing against the wall, and when the captain gave him a grim nod. John beamed back at him, filled with pride at his idol’s acknowledgement.
Colonel Madine, Brigadier Cracken and General Dodonna were sitting at the head of the oval table, with identical stern expressions. John tried to stand straighter and smooth out the frayed uniform he was wearing. He was acutely aware that the shirt was too big for him and the trousers too short, but he wanted to look as smart as possible for the top brass and the doctor.
There was no fanfare to accompany the arrival of Dr Sigerson, despite how important John had been told this man was. Instead the good doctor appeared in the doorway completely alone, as if he’d made his own way here. To John’s disappointment, he wasn’t wearing a white coat or a suit; instead, he was dressed in a long, dark overcoat and blue scarf. He didn’t look old, like the doctors on TV, and he didn’t have a kindly smile, either. This man possessed strange, exotic features: sharp, high cheekbones, a long chin and unnerving black eyes.
“Dr Sigerson, thank you for coming,” said Madine, though John thought his tone wasn’t very welcoming. “Letting you come into our base is a demonstration of our great trust in you. I hope you will not abuse it.”
Dr Sigerson smiled, but it wasn’t a real smile. His cold, black eyes remained unchanged even though the corners of his mouth turned upwards. “I appreciate it.”
“We’ve invited you here to discuss the logistics of carrying out a bombing in central London,” continued Madine, without inviting Dr Sigerson to sit down.
John hovered next to the door, both awed and frightened. Dr Sigerson was much taller than he had imagined, and John tilted his head backwards to get a better look at the man’s face. At the same moment, Dr Sigerson looked down and straight into John’s wide eyes.
John was petrified; he could feel the dark black eyes boring into his mind and rooting through all his thoughts and secrets. Finally, Dr Sigerson looked away, and John let out the shaky breath he hadn’t known he was holding.
“I need to know where and when,” demanded Dr Sigerson, taking a seat at the table despite the lack of an invitation. “I also need to know exactly who will be involved.”
“We are not at liberty to divulge that information at the current moment,” replied Cracken flatly. “You will be informed in due time. For now we just want to discuss what you’re able to do with the bomb.”
John listened with rapt attention to the rest of the meeting, as electronics and bomb wiring were discussed in minute detail. Some of the concepts he understood, but others sounded completely foreign to his ears. A bright array of diagrams was passed around the table, and John craned his neck to get a glimpse of the plans.
Finally, when the details had been agreed upon, Dr Sigerson rose and walked towards the door. “I’ll need to see the bomb now,” he stated in a flat tone.
“Sergeant Watson will take you,” said Seb, and John almost jumped out of his skin. Although it was a great honour to be part of this mission, he didn’t want to be alone with this strange man who didn’t conform to his ideas of what a doctor should be.
Dr Sigerson was staring at him again, and John felt the hair prickling at the back of his neck.
“Yes, sir,” he stammered, and gave a passable salute. John walked quickly out of the room without looking back to see if Dr Sigerson was following him, half-hoping that he wouldn’t.
It didn’t take long for the sounds of conversation from the meeting room to disappear completely; the Underground tunnels seemed to have a supernatural ability to swallow and muffle sound. Soon only the sharp clicking of Dr Sigerson’s footsteps could be heard reverberating through the hallway. John almost wanted to turn back to look at the shoes this stranger was wearing, but he didn’t dare. Instead he cautiously opened the door to his platoon’s sleeping quarters and stepped aside to allow Dr Sigerson entry.
The tall, dark figure wrinkled his nose in disgust and surveyed the room with a pinched expression. “Do you live here?” he demanded imperiously.
“Yeah…sir,” muttered John, trying not to make eye contact.
John didn’t think his billet was filthy, but maybe it was by surface standards. They didn’t have much water, so no one ever washed their clothes or bedding. He tried to make sure that any rubbish was thrown away every morning, and the boys dusted the place down every week or so.
“It’s the best we can do,” replied John, raising his voice as much as he dared.
Dr Sigerson swivelled his head around to look at John, and this time John forced himself to stare back into the deep, black eyes. “I never said it was your fault,” conceded Dr Sigerson as he rested his hand on the table. “Is that the bomb?”
“Yes, sir,” said John, and he reached over to undo the padlock that Seb had fastened to the footlocker.
Dr Sigerson peered into the locker for what seemed like an eternity before straightening up with a sigh. “It needs a lot of work,” he concluded. “It’s even more basic than I imagined.”
John wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to relay this to his superior officers or just pretend he didn’t hear anything.
“How old are you?” asked the doctor out of the blue, and John blinked in confusion. He had no idea how old he was and his age had never been an issue.
He opened his mouth to speak, but Dr Sigerson cut him off.
“You’re at least nine, maybe ten: you’ve finished losing most of your milk teeth but haven’t yet grown all your premolars. There’s still one tooth loose on the right-hand side; you keep worrying it with your tongue.” Dr Sigerson spoke the words like a spate of gunfire, sharp and fast, until the sentences blurred into each other.
“The callus over your left trigger finger: you’re left-handed and a good shot – sniper. Your shirt is newer than your trousers: wounded in battle – torso or shoulder – used your old shirt to bandage the wound; it was ripped beyond repair. You love to read; books are your life: you squint into the distance because of your short-sightedness, no doubt developed over years of trying to read in such dim light. Your books were salvaged from an abandoned library when you were much younger; you only took the books with pictures in them, except for that dictionary which you picked up by mistake because of the pictures on the cover.”
The confusion gave way to all-encompassing astonishment. John was rendered speechless as his mind belatedly processed the torrent of information washing over him. Never had he imagined Dr Sigerson would be so extraordinary. “That – that was brilliant,” whispered John, staring up at this genius of a man, all his previous misgivings instantly vanishing.
Dr Sigerson looked confused for a moment, and John was suddenly afraid that his praise wasn’t good enough for such an awe-inspiring person.
“You think it was impressive?”
“Yes,” said John breathlessly, “it’s amazing, marvellous, wonderful, stunning!”
Dr Sigerson looked down at him and for the first time broke into a genuine grin that melted his cold, hard eyes. “Thank you, John,” he said as the corners of his eyes crinkled with the smile.
Production notes: Sherlock’s backstory
Ever since he infiltrated Moriarty’s operation ten years ago, and thoroughly failed to capture/kill the man, Sherlock has been obsessed with hunting Moriarty down. His obsession finally led him to be sacked from MI5 because he completely disregarded standard procedures and nearly blew the cover of hundreds of operatives. This is the Congo mission that Sherlock refers to in the chapter. It’s going to get dragged up in future chapters as it is central to the bad feelings between Sherlock and his former colleagues.
Moriarty was ironically killed by MI6 instead, depriving Sherlock of the chance to reprieve himself. However soon after Moriarty’s reported death Sherlock became convinced that Moriarty was still alive somewhere out there. Unfortunately the intelligence community begs to differ and his utter conviction has led him to be labelled “insane” and “unstable”. He has spent the last two years operating independently, using his old contacts as a freelance intelligence operative for Mycroft.
I felt the first meeting between John and Sherlock was a difficult one to write. What would their dynamic be like if there was this huge age difference? Not to mention the life experiences that John has are incredibly unconventional. I settled very much for trying to keep them as close to their canon counterparts as possible. John is still in awe of Sherlock, but this is magnified by the fact that he is just a child. Sherlock having been shunned, insulted and stigmatized for the last few years finds John’s sincere and utter adoration a welcome breath of fresh air.