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Below the Orange antimacassar is the new chapter. Above the Orange antimacassar is a listing - with links - of the previous chapters.

Our Chapters thus far:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22

Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 23

a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

...

"Can you pick out her voice?" said Sherlock Holmes to Captain Haggard.

"What do you mean?" the Captain answered in a voice that said he knew perfectly well what Holmes had meant. But I did not. I suppose my face showed my puzzlement, because the Captain turned to me, "Let Mr Holmes explain, Doctor. While I try to figure out what I've done."

"I shall Captain, if you will tell me how long the dual-shared mind lasts."

"24 hours, Mr Holmes. That's legally."

"Legal for what, Holmes?

"For disposal, Watson. When one person becomes two, one has to go."

"One becoming two? Now really, I have seen it all."

"Not all, Watson, not nearly all. There can be ramifications. Right Captain?"

"But how..."

"Watson, we are on a vessel in space, and we are in the future. Your body got here the same as mine: dissolved in one place and time, reconstituted in another. Based on what I've learned about computing, I suppose I should say that I am fortunate that only one copy of me showed up here. It would have been relatively trivial to clone two of me. Am I correct, Otis Ferg?"

Otis may have been shaken by this news, but in the few days that I've known him, I've learned this: Otis Ferg seems to take great pride in appearing non-plussed. No matter the situation. So I was not particularly surprised when he said, "Well this puts a new wrinkle on what we'd always thought of as a benign way of getting rid of wrinkles."

"Not all of us," said Captain Haggard.

"Indeed," said Holmes.

I could help myself no longer. I said, "While you are busy congratulating each other on your deductive skills, I am involved with a situation that is in serious need of some exposition!"

"Balderdash, Watson, own your curiosity. The situation neither needs nor would it recognize any exposition whatsoever."

Evan said, "I would like hearing what Sherlock Holmes has to say on the matter. And I'm one of the ones most intimately involved. That is, if you don't mind, Captain."

Captain Haggard drew a deep breath, paused for a moment, then, looking intently at Evan, said, "Mr Holmes may say whatever he pleases. I assure you Evan, whatever his words may be, they will have far less impact on me tonight than will your words, or more specifically, your lack of words."

"Gentlemen, I confess that I find myself in a most uncomfortable position," Holmes said.

"And that would be?" said Otis.

"Playing match-maker, or more accurately, re-match-maker for two individuals in a relationship that I would have considered unthinkable scarcely half a week ago."

"And what caused you to change your opinion, Mr Holmes?" said Evan.

"You did. You and Captain Haggard. There is something between the two of you that goes beyond your respective sets of personal plumbing."

Captain Haggard looked at everybody in the room, everybody, that is, except for Evan, and said, "Re-match-making may be even beyond your skills, Mr Holmes, nevertheless this whole mess needs scrutiny. And whether that puts me closer to Evan or further from Evan," here he engaged intently with Evan's eyes, "You have a right to know."

"Well said, Captain. Now, Watson, if you will retrieve the sound-blocking device that Edgar left us on his first visit, I'll begin."

When I came back in the room, Doxy said, "A Knower's sound scrambler? I'm impressed."

Holmes looked at Otis Ferg before answering, "Our friend Otis has raised an eyebrow, I see. He seems to hold the Knower's device in the same esteem as I do. Correct, Otis?"

"Correct, Mr Holmes. Though I am not at all sure I would have felt the same way, had I not recently witnessed what I saw for myself on D... uh. a particular wave form display."

"So Holmes," I said, "If The Knower's thingamajig is useless, why bother turning it on?”

“It’s not useless, Watson, merely less effective than it was thought to be. Our words will be overheard, but not by nearly as many people as would have heard us with the device off. Are you comfortable Watson?”

“As comfortable as I’m likely to get, considering how many miles and how many years I am from home.”

“Good Watson, I was afraid you might be getting grumpy.”

“I have a pipe full of anti-grumpy right here,” said Evan.

“Save it for afterwards, please, Evan. At which time I shall probably join you. But for the next few moments let us stick with lighter, more conventional pleasures. Coffee anyone?”

Coffee was served, and Holmes began, finally.

“Watson, do you recall that neo-Edwardian calling-card application on the tri-folds? The one that offered a choice of calling on Captain Haggard or Captain Maggie?”

“We didn’t choose either one, if I recall Holmes. We knocked instead.”

“And I answered as Captain Haggard, Dr Watson. But it was right on the cusp of the transition. Had you been a few hours earlier, you would have met me as the very lovely and most feminine Captain Maggie.”

“And you couldn’t have kept that body a while longer?” said Evan.

“No Evan, I couldn’t. At least not if I ever wanted to go back to my old gender and still remain comfortable in my skin.”

“So why me, Captain ...Haggard? Why did Captain Maggie, that is, you as you used to be, decide that I would be just the ticket for losing your, that is her, virginity. Assuming you hadn’t taken you own maidenhead. Why?”

“Because I thought you were hot, Evan. I still do.”

The clatter of Evan’s coffee cup hitting the table was the only sound in the room it seemed, until Holmes resumed. “Allow me to speculate, gentlemen. At some point in your scientific evolution, the cheese-grater, as Watson likes to describe it...”

“Cheese-curd-cuber, actually.”

“Indeed, Watson, members of this society became able to disappear in one place and to re-appear, seemingly unscathed, in another. So you had a most useful form of transportation. Not fool-proof, as Watson and I witnessed when observing Cody’s elaborate preparations for our very own cheese-curd-cubing experience. But with a few simple rules, the risk seemed manageable at the time. Correct gentlemen?”

The other heads in the room nodded affirmatively.

“And then there were two additional discoveries: the ability to move in time as well as space, which resulted in numerous rules and protocols, and the ability to change one’s physical form, which resulted in very few rules. At least at first. Or should I say there were rules for physical remodeling, but they were mostly medical; and, unlike the skillfully drafted time-line protocols, such rules as there were did more harm than good.”

“In our society’s defense, Mr Holmes, it was thought that the 24-hour shared-mind feature would be more than sufficient.”

“Shared-mind? I’ve heard that term more than once today. What does it mean?

Captain Haggard said, “Since I’m the only one here that’s experienced it, I should explain. When you saw me at the carriage house, I knew that Captain Maggie wouldn’t be walking in on us. Because I was Captain Maggie. And at the same time, I was, and am, Captain Haggard. Confusing? Indeed it is, even after it’s over. It's not easy being one mind in two bodies. Something as simple as going to the bathroom becomes a whole new experience.”

“Not to mention, potentially messy,” said Otis.

“Not only potentially, Otis. But I’ll leave the details to your imagination.” Turning to his companion on the couch, Haggard said, “One thing that you should know, Evan, there’s a strong taboo on having intercourse with yourself. Whether it’s one mind inhabiting two opposite sex bodies or two of the same gender. It’s a taboo and it’s at least as deeply implanted as the incest taboo.”

Upon hearing this, Evan seemed to relax a bit, although he remained firmly at his end of the sofa.

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