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Sanctuary - Choices
Well, this was supposed to be for sfaflashfic for the prompt AU, but it went long - as is not uncommon with my writing!  1700 words is not 1000, but I'm posting it here anyway.  Thanks to penknife  for the inspiration!

Title: Choices
Characters: James, Nikola
Rating: PG
Challenge: AU
Summary: Tesla's offer was far too relevant for James's liking.
Notes: AU in which Nikola approaches a different member of the Five for help with his plans.

“I have a better idea,” Tesla said.  There was something just a little too sharp about his smile, but James’s fingers were steady as he finished buttoning his shirt.  He hadn’t expected any better news, which was why he had come to Tesla and not to Helen.

“You’ve said that before.”

Tesla showed teeth in a grin that was definitely meant to intimidate.  “I did as good a job as anyone could do on your device — devices, I should say.  Cardiac stimulator, exoskeleton, the various antisenesence drugs and their delivery system — I give you credit for the basic ideas, but I did make them function.  And keep them functioning for far longer than anyone could have expected.”

Unless one had received longevity from the source blood.  James swallowed the words as too revealing.  Nikola had gained most of the ancient vampires’ traits, including their near immortality; John and Helen and Nigel had all gained an extended lifespan, and he himself — had gotten none of it.  He had adapted, designed the life support system that Tesla had built for him, kept himself alive and relatively youthful, but he had known from the beginning that there would be a limit beyond which he could not go.  For an instant, the Sanctuary was a millstone around his neck.  It would make no difference to the outcome, but he didn’t relish facing the inevitable under Declan’s worried gaze.  Or Helen’s.

“Nigel developed most of the drugs,” he said, and winced.  And chose not to use them himself, when the time came. 

“That’s not the point,” Tesla said.  “The point is that I’ve come up with an alternative.”


“Yes, as a matter of fact.  And it has the advantage of being socially responsible, which I would think would appeal to you.”

James hesitated for an instant, then finished arranging his ascot, feeling the familiar pressure of the silk on the disk resting against his carotid artery.  He glanced once around the crowded lab — a rented room in a small but exclusive industrial complex, specializing in start-ups from the names on the lobby directory; the equipment was obviously bought used on eBay and heavily modified, and there were state of the art electronics and what looked like equipment for sequencing DNA.  He frowned.  “I’m not sure that creating more vampires could ever be described as ‘socially responsible.’”

“That was a lucky guess,” Tesla said.

James lifted an eyebrow.

“It’s the Cabal,” Tesla said.  “They need to be stopped.”

“And you and Helen have both managed to antagonize them,” James said.  “Which I will admit is an additional and very valid reason to take action against them.  But I don’t see where vampires come in.”

“An army of vampires,” Tesla said. “A small, elite, invulnerable army. The Cabal have their own plans in that regard, and this is the only thing that’s going to stand up to the creatures they’re developing.  And I can do it.”

“Except for — what?” James asked.

“So far, they’ve been essentially mindless,” Tesla said.  “Which is admittedly useful in foot soldiers, but getting them to do what I want and not something unhelpful requires a fair amount of attention.”

“That could be managed,” James said.  He narrowed his eyes, considering.  “In fact, I would think that would be an advantage — ah.  Unless you were planning to use them later for something that required both intelligence and initiative, like world domination.”

“You say that as though it were a bad thing,” Tesla said, with a sideways smile. “You know as well as I that the rule of the ancient vampires was a golden age of art and science —”

“And slavery, for humans.”

“And life is so wonderful for most people now?”  Tesla shook his head.  “Look, this is something we can argue about later, but first we have to defeat the Cabal, and we’re not going to do that without my brainless but powerful army.  I need another vampire to help me control them.”

Tesla had a point about the Cabal, but the rest….  James shook his head.  “And where do you plan to get one, considering the species is extinct, and you’ve admitted you haven’t had any success in creating what you’re looking for?”

“What I really need is the source blood,” Tesla said, as though James hadn’t spoken.  “That plus my new technique would, in theory, recreate sanguine vampirus, but, of course, that’s not an option. You, on the other hand, already have the source blood on board.  I provide you with the vampire genes you lack, and, voila. You’re an ancient vampire.  Just like me.”

“And that is your better idea,” James said, but he couldn’t muster as much anger as he ought.  The kind of longevity the others had gotten, and without the indignities of servos and electricity.  A new life and a new start….

“It’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative,” Tesla said.

That was inarguable.  James looked back at the lab, at the array of equipment that would do exactly what Tesla said he’d done.  “I would need time to consider —”

“Sorry.”  Tesla shook his head. “It’s a limited-time offer, one day only.  Starting now.”

James hadn’t expected anything else.  Even if he didn’t tell Helen, Tesla would have to assume that he would, and that Helen would react accordingly, and the lab clearly wasn’t ready to travel.  Of course, Tesla might have another lab elsewhere, perhaps even a better one; if this were a decoy —  He was abruptly tired of the chess game, too worn to take pleasure in the twists of thinking three or four or twelve moves ahead.  And that was shocking, genuinely frightening.  If he were to lose that, along with everything else….

“Yes,” he said, and Tesla blinked. 

“I didn’t expect you to be so sensible.  Usually it takes longer.”

“I’m feeling a bit pressed for time,” James said, his voice as dry as he could make it.

“I can see you might,” Tesla answered, and for an instant there was something like sympathy in his eyes.

James took a breath, and seated himself again on the examining table.  They’d come full circle:  Nikola had handled the needle when they took the source blood, too.  He began carefully to roll up his sleeve, baring skin and tubing, and Tesla turned away from his cabinet with a syringe and a vial of something that looked surprisingly innocuous.

“Side effects?” James asked, and Tesla shrugged.

“None apparent.  Except for the mindlessness, of course, but the source blood fixes that.  Though my pool of subjects has been admittedly rather small.”

James nodded and held out his arm.  For a moment, he could have been back at Oxford; if he closed his eyes, he could almost feel them there, Helen and Nigel and John.  And John.  He flinched at the thought, and Nikola’s fingers stilled.

“You have terrible veins,” he said.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” James said.  He took the needle, found a vein with the ease of long practice, and pressed the plunger home.

“Well, you’ve got the experience,” Tesla said.  He accepted the emptied syringe and set it on a handy tray.

James closed his eyes, trying to feel the serum working in his bloodstream, coursing through his veins.  It was nothing like the source blood, no heady rush of power, nor even the bright rush of cocaine, and he admitted to a mild disappointment.  “And now?”

“I kill you,” Tesla said.  “Death triggers the change. It’s traditional.”

“Try not to enjoy yourself too much,” James said.  He should have known — could have known, if he’d cared to look — but he found he didn’t care.  He swung his legs up onto the table, leaned back to rest his weight on his elbows.  They’d done this before, too, when he’d had the first cardiac stimulator installed, but Helen had been there then, and Nigel.  Not John, of course.  John was long gone, lost to blood and madness — and if he woke from this a vampire, he would be physically John’s equal. It was an arresting thought, and his breath caught just a little.

Tesla gave him a troubled glance.  “Not changing your mind, surely.”

James shook his head.  “Let’s get on with it.”  His voice was rough, but Tesla pretended not to hear.

Tesla had built or modified all of the devices before this, and his hands were as sure on the straps and buckles as James’s own.  Piece by piece they peeled it away, braces and exoskeleton, the tubing that fed the carefully calibrated drugs into his bloodstream, the devices that monitored and paced, and the panels that gave him control of the entire system.  At last he lay back with only the core of the cardiac device resting in the center of his chest.  He felt more naked than he had in years, his skin marked where the straps had crossed it.  Tesla frowned down at him.

“If it doesn’t work,” he said, “I can probably revive you —”

“No.”  James hadn’t meant to be quite so definite, but once the word was spoken he had no desire to retract it.

“Helen would never believe I wasn’t trying to kill you,” Tesla said.  “And she’d be extremely annoyed.”

“You’ve survived that before,” James said.

“Yes, well,” Tesla said.  “Let’s just say it wasn’t all that pleasant.”  He paused, his voice changing.  “Are you ready?”

James nodded.  “Yes.”

Tesla’s hand moved, blindingly fast, snapping back a single crucial contact.  There was pain, and a terrible weakness, and he thought he saw Tesla’s face change, not vampiric, but momentarily, humanly, concerned.

And then, as suddenly, he was alive.  Alive and healthy, strong in a way he hadn’t been in a hundred years.  If then.  He sat up, the cardiac core sliding, and he caught it, sudden claws digging into wood and leather.  Tesla turned, eyes darkening, teeth sharpening in instinctive answer, and James brought himself under control.  He set the device beside him on the examining table and concentrated on breathing.  This was — extraordinary.  No wonder Tesla had reacted with such fascinated delight. He lifted his hand, flexed the fingers, willing his claws into existence one by one, and felt his teeth sharpen behind his lips.  He controlled that, too, and looked up to see Tesla watching him with an oddly wary smile.

“And now there are two of us,” he said.

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Oh, James! Vampire!James is a little scary. And a really entertaining idea. (Even if I'm not sure his intentions toward John really bear thinking about.)

And there's no upper word limit for sfaflashfic, so please do post/link this there, too.

Thanks! It is kind of entertaining, isn't it? I don't think he's really let himself think about what he might want to do to John if he had the chance, and I'm not sure it's a good thing that he now has more options.

Oh Nikola! That seems to be my comment over and over! And now vampire!James. That would make a huge difference with the Cabal, wouldn't it?

Beautifully and sparely described as ever. Just lovely.

Thank you! It would make a difference with the Cabal, wouldn't it? A pair of vampire geniuses, with very different talents... I suspect Helen would be intrigued and annoyed in about equal measure.

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Thank you!!! Vampire!James is - well, he could be a whole lot of fun, not to mention scary, and an interesting check on Nikola's ambitions.... though explaining it to Helen would be awkward!

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Oh, wow. James as a vampire... That could be very interesting indeed.

Fascinating idea, brilliant execution!

I didn't get around to commenting when I first read this, just wanted to say that it is awesome.

Thanks! I really couldn't resist.

I think I am completely in love with this idea and your stories. I am reading through them all and they are great. I love the understanding that you have with James.

Thank you! James is so much fun to write.

And my voice has just reached an astonishingly high note after reading this... seriously I'm squeaking more than squeeing.... I love this and you must do more, I command you please...
Bloody fantastic! :D

Thank you!! I do want to do more with this - if only to see Helen's reaction - but I'm on tight deadlines in RL. Once they're past, though... *plots happily*

The dialogue in this rings absolutely true; I can hear Tesla and James saying every word, and I love that. Excellent descriptions, great character touches, and a fascinating AU possibility. Well done!

Thank you very much! (And I enjoyed Mortal Flesh a lot, btw!)

Delighted to hear it - thank you!

This is fabulous!

In many ways, James would be even more dangerous than Tesla. While Tesla is a genius, he doesn't think like a master chess player...which James does.

James is constantly evaluating and measuring things around him...and figuring out what people will do before they even think to do it.

He's always several steps ahead of anyone else.


I've read the sequel as well...I truly hope that you continue this. :-)

Thank you!! James with the physical strength and stamina to match his mental power? Yeah, very, very dangerous, and his talents and Tesla's are complementary. I'm glad you like it! I'm hoping to do more.

A great AU. It makes me a little sad that Tesla didn't think of this.

Thank you! And, yeah, me, too!

But I have to give credit where it's due - this started with penknife's story Station,, which is well worth reading. :-)

I had forgotten about that one. Still like your take on it.

Oooh, marvellous! The dialogue is pitch perfect. I haven't even started on James noticing the little details to extrapolate why Nikola's offer is one day only. The execution is more thoughtful than the mad scramble of turning James after Bhalasalam (or however its spelled).

I can see why this didn't happen, as much as I would want it to: the pair of them are such good foils for the other that they'd be unstoppable (except perhaps by Helen). It would have been very intriguing had the idea of all the rest of the Five being villains had continued, which is really the vibe I get from the first series.

Explaining it to Helen! Bwahahaha, oh I can just see Nikola wringing his hands and muttering "I, I, may have fixed James by, altering his physiology into that of..." while James cuts straight to the point: "Vampire, Helen. Couldn't be helped."

Penknife's story is worth reccing as well - I hadn't seen it before.

Thank you! I agree, the feeling in the first season is that the rest of the Five are... not an unmixed blessing, shall we say? :-) It would have been interesting to keep that tension going a little longer. And I think you're right about James and Nikola together being hard to stop, except for Helen. I did another story a bit later in this AU, in which James and Nikola are taking on the Cabal with John's help, and it was really interesting (and a little startling) how much of a wolf pack the three of them logically became.

Explaining it to Helen! Bwahahaha, oh I can just see Nikola wringing his hands and muttering "I, I, may have fixed James by, altering his physiology into that of..." while James cuts straight to the point: "Vampire, Helen. Couldn't be helped."

*snerk* And then waves away Helen's inevitable and forcefully expressed objections with another "Pish posh!"

Though I think that's a conversation they'd all like to avoid for as long as possible....

I wish there were more mixed blessings on the show! I was rather confused when James was introduced as Head of the London Sanctuary, since I thought he would follow the pattern of John and Nikola and be an antagonist. Perhaps the Five-as-villains idea was intended for the webisodes and discarded in the "lighter" TV version of the show? James as a foil to John was marvellously played, but I would have liked to see him become darker in the second season, had he survived. Doesn't Ashley call him "Uncle James" when they meet? Maybe it's just me, but I felt that that strongly implied that James was an - albeit distant - father figure in Ashley's life. It would have been intriguing to explore the effect on James of Ashley becoming the enemy.

I wonder if John would also be a vampire by the time that awkward conversation takes place? (Your James! *giggles* He would wave away Helen's objections until she was left with no counter-argument beyond a resigned sigh.) A quantum teleporting, vampiric serial killer sounds like sufficiently bad news that even if Helen didn't take action against John, I'm sure the other Sanctuary heads would.

I'm running off to read the next chapter now!

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