Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I pay homage in this story of my expanded Baker Street Universe to the renowned and boisterous Professor Challenger, whom I owe Conan for creating. The good Professor is featured many times in my stories because he exhibits a character of great fearlessness and bravery and ultimately, because he cares for what happens to the world he lives in. Who says you can't be brave, smart, adventurous, wealthy and kind to the world about you? He is an ideal man, and one for whom I hope to inspire all towards becoming.
Sour Grapes for Atlantis
"A Professor Challenger Story."
Challenger wasn't exactly afraid of going into the very narrow tunnel. It was more like thoughtful. He remembered quite distinctly getting caught in the last one and being humiliated when he had to be dragged out by the seat of his pants to freedom.
"I can do this." He told himself, not believing a word of it.
"I really am getting too young to be doing this." He muttered, angry at himself for having even an ounce of doubt.
"Challenger, are you going to enter or not." Conan hollered at him from inside the tunnel.
"Well if you can do it, I see no reason why I cannot." Challenger decided with a certainty he wasn't exactly feeling. Sweat broke out on his flushed red forehead as he tilted into the opening, dropped to his knees and began crawling towards Conan.
"Come on, Challenger; don't go sour grapes on me." Conan chided.
Challenger swatted at the huge flies pouring all over him from inside and outside. "It's beastly hot in here and I hate grapes, sour or not." He confided in a burst of righteous outrage.
Conan ignored him. He kept sliding backwards deeper into the opening, like a carrot before a donkey, teasing his friend to follow. He knew he wouldn't get stuck. He had already been inside and back now to lead Challenger, but he knew his friend's fears of tight spaces were very real and didn't want to shortchange him by calling him a coward, for he was nothing such. A man who could survive the attack of a Tyrannosaur had nothing to worry about heroic moments, even the ones that required him to go into a very tight enclosed space.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." Challenger said over and over, as if to calm Conan, when in fact it was to keep his mind off his own nerves.
And the last time.
It was Atlantis. Or rather what remained of it at the time? Most of it had submerged off the coast of Africa, and its remains stretched all the way to the new world of the Mericas. He had been enticed by the possibility of finding one of the legendary crystals that that ancient civilization had supposedly had the use of. Such power was unheard of, even with Tesla, Edison and Einstein driving modern technology at a breakneck pace.
He had been invited in the explorations by an old friend of his, the Count, or as some called him Dracula. He preferred being called the Count, as it didn't have as many negative ramifications as Dracula. A long maligned family line, he had proven a true prince of grace and rescued many natives of the sinking portions of Atlantis, and removed them to his native lands, given them new land to build and cultivate, and help in the construction of new homes and jobs.
The Count never liked to talk about that part of his life, he considered it dull and unromantic, besides the lack of humility it implied. Ever the humble man, except when in public, he preferred anonymity for his gracious deeds.
He had been helped to function in the daylight by a device created by Tesla and Edison based on some physics that Einstein had come up with. With the device he was able to cloak the harmful rays of the sun so they did not harm his body. He could survive in direct sunlight, but it took him weeks to heal from the damage he incurred. Rumors of silver and sunlight killing vampires were nonsense, as vampires were a natural mutation of the order of life, and not supernatural creatures. At least not in the world that this Professor Challenger had been born.
Magic was taken as natural and normal here, and no one gave it a second thought, unless they were being harmed by it. But there were organizations that dealt with black magic, voodoo and the practice of evil spells. They were highly hidden and remarkably efficient in taking out those who promised to be a threat to the world of today.
They were the Baker Street Adventurers, of whom he was one.
But at that time it was just him and the Count. The Count had discovered a vault was hidden deep in the central core of a falling island. It only had a matter of hours before it would sink completely and he and the Count had to work quickly if they were to invade the vault and retrieve some of the valuable crystals of Atlantis hidden there.
The Count had slid through the tunnel effortlessly, able to use his double jointed nature to slip through tight crevices. But alas, poor Challenger had gotten stuck on the way out, and with but a few minutes to spare before the sea claimed the tunnel and all within. Himself. The Count had to use drastic measures.
He had bitten Challenger in his bottom. The pain of it was nothing like the humiliation he felt to have a vampire take a healthy chunk from his generous bottom. He had screamed as if his very soul were being taken and broken through the crevice holding him, rushed outside, and then turned around to battle the Count, quite having forgotten why he was bitten in the first place.
"Well, here we are. The water is rising and our ride awaits us." The Count said calmly as the Professor reached for his heavy pistol.
Challenger suddenly relaxed his color normalizing as he realized he had been saved. He rubbed his aching bottom and told the Count. "If you tell a soul what happened here, I shall never let you see the light of day again."
The Count laughed. "Not such a big loss. But I will be quiet as a form of friendship which I owe you."
Challenger, mollified, had taken the one crystal they had found and raised it up to examine it more closely. It was purple in color.
As he looked at it the purple seemed to break apart, and he could see his other hand. Then the stench struck him.
He dropped the crystal, which was no such thing.
"We have been hoodwinked!" Challenger cried out. "This is nothing more than a prehistoric grape!"
And ever since that day whenever Atlantis was mentioned he could only think of that foul odor of the sour petrified grape.
Challenger finally managed to squeeze through the narrow opening that Conan had widened for him and entered a chamber of magnificent proportions that he could stand in. He felt all his fears vanish as he looked on in awe at the beautiful Elven runes carved into the marble walls, which formed a semi-circle about a fountain of spring water that flowed endlessly from a bulb shaped flower that lit up the room with sparkles of light.
Conan smiled. "I told you it would be worth it."
Challenger smiled. "My dear friend, Conan, I feel absolutely no sour grapes about Atlantis this time. For we have found the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately..." He laughed. "It only works for Elves."
They both laughed, then Conan gave him a peculiar look and Challenger laughed even harder. Conan didn't need to know exactly why he knew that.