Monday, March 30, 2020

The Case of the Missing Populace

The cavernous warehouse pulsed with an air of electric menace. A glass-brick wall illumined the two-story structure with grayish light, lending sinister life to skeletal frameworks stuffed with mechanical innards.

"It looks the same," Dr Watson said with a shudder of unease. "It's a shame Professor Tavington's teleportation device proved unfeasible."

"The Case of the Frozen Monkey," Holmes recalled, strolling down one of the humming passageways. "The professor neglected the planet's movement and rotation. His simian test subject ended up in orbit. Indeed, the calculations are exceedingly complex, lest the adventurer fall from a great height, or arrive with ankles fused in the ground."

Watson scowled. "There's something sacrilegious about the business. And now he's tampering with time itself!" Hence the professor's frantic summons of the great detective. What devilment had he gotten into this time?

"Ah, Holmes!" Tavington hurried toward them, open lab coat flowing behind.  A mass of wiry hair topped his high forehead. Though no believer in phrenology, Watson thought him the quintessential mad scientist.

Holmes took the proffered hand. "What's this about the end of the world?"

"Come with me!" Tavington led them to a small paneled office where the clamor of the infernal engines was muffled. He clasped hands on his cluttered desk and faced them grimly. "Curiously, I cannot travel less than a century forward in time. I first sent a dog in a cage to New York, along with a sign inviting someone to send back a message. None came."

Watson settled back in a creaking leather chair. "And then you were obliged to brave it yourself."

"I did, Doctor, setting the same destination. It lay in ruins! Worse still, it was the same with every major city I visited in the future. All ruined!--and nary a soul to be seen."

"What about animals?" Holmes inquired.

"I saw birds, vermin, all manner of plants."

"Ah." Holmes fired up his pipe. "Then the malady does not involve disease or poison, unless specifically aimed at humans."

Watson harrumphed. "You've taken a grave risk, Professor. I must examine you for signs of infection or toxins."

"I feel fine," Tavington insisted. "We must uncover the cause of this. Who's to say we even have a hundred years? I haven't yet deduced why I'm unable to access the near future. Nor could I bring back samples, which simply disappeared."

Holmes puffed thoughtfully. "Our first two clues, then. Gathering others means a trip to the crime scene. Come, gentlemen--the chase is on!"

The professor conducted them to the same barred cage used in the teleport experiments. One corner held the control unit, which sat atop a bank of batteries. "I've adjusted the setting, as the first arrival point was on a street. This should locate you in an open park, reasonably safe from falling debris. New York in the year 2004 is quite a tumble."

Watson blanched when the cage door clanged shut. The professor took up station behind a console comprising a forest of dials, switches, and glowing tubes.

Holmes nudged the doctor. "I'm glad you've brought along your bag. You shall have to give yourself a tranquilizer."

"Tut!" Watson huffed. "After that case involving the succubus, I'm prepared to believe anything."

With a grim expression, Tavington sent them on their way over a hundred years to the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment