"Get in on the ground floor of a new Sherlock Holmes story!"
OK, that's a stretch. The flat that Sherlock Holmes shared with Dr John Watson was actually 17 steps up. Up from what, I'm not quite sure. One assumes there was an outdoor stoop of some sort, (all stoops are outdoors, though, right?) and if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever said so, no doubt somebody will know. And perhaps they will tell me so. That sort of feedback is especially welcome. The canon of the stories of Sherlock Holmes is important and worthy of respect.
Fortunately, much as Sherlock Holmes was willing to adjust his theories and suppositions to fit the, 'facts on the ground,' his character also allows some degree of flexibility.
English has changed since the days of Holmes. And as a US born speaker of this most practical of languages, I expect my style to deviate from time to time. Please, though, feel free to chide me (gently) should I veer off into the written equivalent of Dick Van Dyke's dialogue in, "Mary Poppins." Thanks guvner.
Getting back to the whole, 'ground floor' thing, I understand that UK English and American English differ in describing the naming of floors. So I'll probably just try to skirt around saying whether Holmes and Watson lived on the main floor, or the second floor unless somebody decides to present a definitive argument for one case or another. In which event, I still may not say.
There will be occasions for disagreement. Though I think we can all agree that Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson have attained a form of immortality. Ah, but what does that mean?
Be advised that, "Sherlock Holmes in Space" does involve time travel. If in doubt as to the legality of reading such stories in your jurisdiction, please consult with local cultural regulatory authorities before proceeding any further. The rest of you, please join me below the orange antimacassar.
Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 1Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think. And please return for more. I hope to make this an ongoing series Tuesdays at 8 PM Eastern time.
a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
If you are reading this then you are living in a world that has banished want, ignorance and - for some - death itself; or if not quite up to defeating death, a world that will have extended life impressively, significantly and happily for almost all of its inhabitants. Of course there is a chance that something or somebody has defeated the protocol that Sherlock Holmes insisted I employ to safeguard this manuscript (I hesitate to call it a manuscript but shall do so for now). In that case you are likely to be living in a world vastly different from the one Holmes and I wistfully yet optimistically toasted with glasses of pinot noir from, of all places, California. A world that would still need a Sherlock Holmes.
Not that the world shall ever see another man his equal. Notably his amazing focus. As a doctor, I have gotten sadly used to those cases where all hope has been lost. Where heroic efforts prove not only futile, but, frankly, rather rude. Holmes once told me, "Watson, I would not have made a good bearer of the caduceus. In the time that you or one of your fellows might have treated ten or twenty patients, some of them even having been made better, I fear I would have attached myself to one case like a leech."
I chose to forgo the opportunity to gently tease Holmes about his fees. I almost never discuss such matters in depth with Sherlock Holmes, few others would dare to discuss them with him at all. Mrs Hudson, for example, would never criticize Holmes for being well compensated. That was what allowed her to bring us meals unblemished by cheap ingredients.
I looked forward to those most serviceable meals. Sometimes, after a hearty breakfast, Mrs Hudson would bring us an interesting letter or an interesting person.
It was on one particular Wednesday, shirred eggs and kippers I seem to recall, that Mrs Hudson knocked on the door of our flat at 221B Baker Street. "Begging your pardons Mr Holmes, Dr Watson, but there's a... body here to see you."
Mrs Hudson, whilst being an adequate cook, most of the time, invariably excelled in the social graces. So upon hearing that good woman hesitate in describing our caller, Holmes and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. "Please bring in our visitor Mrs Hudson," Holmes said in an amused, though kindly, tone.
The unmistakable sound of Mrs Hudson's rather un-dainty feet could be heard descending the seventeen steps that connected our comfortable flat to the serviceable neutrality of the entry-way. The weather being crisp and quite co-operative, and the evidence of one of Sherlock Holmes's chemical experiments still lingering in the haze of the sitting room, our landlady had left the door to the flat ajar while she went to fetch Holmes's visitor. The cross-ventilation was refreshing, at least for me. I suspect, though, it may have irritated Holmes.
I started to ask Holmes whether he wanted the last kipper, but he put a long bony finger to his lips and then cupped that same hand behind his ear. I did likewise, but all I heard was an odd, low hissing sound and Mrs Hudson saying how lovely the weather was today. As her voice drew nearer, Holmes's lips silently contorted into the appropriate shapes for the numbers, "One" through, "Sixteen" and then he audibly said, "Seventeen." A look of deep curiosity crossed his face.
When Mrs Hudson brought in our guest I could see the sources of her confusion. Notably, there seemed to be a space betwixt the soles of the visitor's shoes and surface of the floor. What sort of, to use Mrs Hudson's term, "Body" could do such a thing? And there was another source of confusion. The face of our visitor was youthful and attractive. But attractive to whom? The unusual upper garment did not reveal whether those dual charms uniquely identified with the fairer sex were present or not. Being a doctor and being a bit less modest than our rather old-fashioned landlady, I cast my eyes on the area below the waist. No doubt about the gender of our visitor. Holmes had reached the same conclusion.
"Welcome sir," said Sherlock Holmes. Our visitor said nothing. Though his look was one that came close to awe. He started to speak, more than once, but only succeeded in shaking his head as if not believing his eyes. Holmes's next words shocked me deeply. Had I failed to spot a mad-man? Holmes said, "What year is this?"
"For you or for me?" said our visitor, with the slight suggestion of a smile.
"Aha! I thought as much," said Holmes exultantly.
"As then you have probably already deduced..." Here, our visitor paused and sipped from a vessel that presumably was secreted in his curiously configured upper garment. He resumed, "Sorry for the precautions. A frightful buzzer sounds if I don't hydrate on schedule. The Scientific Integrity Team, the SIT, as it were - you'll hear that term a lot - that is, if you should agree to take our case. Anyhow, the SIT even wanted me to bring an external re-breathing device."
"I'll have you know I keep a very clean house," said Mrs Hudson in a surprisingly frosty tone, "And my refreshments are as good as any in Baker Street!"
"No no, my dear Mrs Hudson," said Holmes. "Our visitor has a scientifically dictated regimen that insists on as little interaction with... us as is humanly possible. Am I correct sir?"
"Correct Mr Holmes. And I did note the slight inflection on, "Humanly." That too, sir, is correct. Mrs Hudson I can assure you that this is one of the best kept flats I've ever been in. And at the risk of cutting this all too brief conversation even shorter and, trusting that I am not sounding rude, I should like to impose on you for the use of a freshly laundered lint-free towel. A small one will do." Mrs Hudson may have looked a bit puzzled as she went for a towel, but after a couple of years of Sherlock Holmes and, I suppose I should say, me, she seemed to be getting much better at masking any confusion she may have felt.
I, on the other hand, make little attempt to pretend to possess knowledge that I do not have. It never works around Holmes. "Holmes what is going on?"
"We are going on a long journey, Watson, unless I am mistaken." Holmes gave our visitor a piercing look.
Our visitor looked at me, then at Sherlock Holmes, then took another sip from the vessel, pressed a red button on a small device that he had removed from a pocket, cleared his throat and said. "Mr Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson, I have been empowered by the command staff and crew of the SS Oligarch to solicit your assistance in what will be a matter of great urgency in the future. You shall be generously compensated in the currency of and in line with the pay-scales of this era and locale. That is, uh, where we are now. And, uh, when, of course. Before you answer, I am obliged to inform you that in accord with our era's current understanding of time travel, such time as you may spend in the future..."
"The future Watson. Let the man continue."
"Thank you Mr Holmes, you have no idea how many ways I've rehearsed..."
"How many times you've rehearsed telling Watson and me that our lives will be foreshortened by precisely the span of time that we spend in the future. That's only fair," said Holmes, thoughtfully.
"Not precisely Mr Holmes. The rule only applies to the projected natural lifespan. And..." Our visitor paused and Sherlock Holmes exhaled audibly.
"Say no more, sir." said Holmes.
"Well I certainly wouldn't mind hearing more, considering it's my lifespan," I said.
"Doctor Watson," said our visitor, "Without revealing any more of your future than is absolutely necessary for this mission, I can say that when I ask both of you to accompany me to the future, I do so with a clear conscience knowing that my intervention will not have notably reduced your useful and desired lifespan so much one micro-second. And even at that, I've already said too much."
Holmes brushed a bit of rosin off his sleeve, "I gather we shall not be allowed to return with our memories?"
"Only Dr Watson may get the chance to keep memories of the future, I'm afraid. He... " here, the visitor turned to me, "You have not only proven yourself to be trustworthy with the most delicate of secrets, but you also can be trusted to not use what you will learn in the far future to help Sherlock Holmes solve his cases in the near future. And of course you will be sequestered from access to our current medical knowledge. Are those terms acceptable to you Doctor Watson?"
I looked at Holmes and his face offered no clue as to what response he wanted from me. As I thought of my current circumstances and the profoundly different prospects promised by our visitor's proposition, a cat yowled from the street below. "Curiosity?" I said.
Holmes almost smiled and said, "Unlike that poor cur at Baskerville Manor, at least the companion-seeking feline in the street is making its voice heard. What say we let our voices be heard in the future, eh Watson?"
"Very well, Holmes. I can only hope the food is at least as edible as Mrs Hudson's."
At this, Mrs Hudson walked in carrying a dazzlingly white towel. "Will this do?" she asked the visitor.
"Thank you. Yes indeed it will do, Mrs Hudson. Mr Holmes, have you any evaporating solvent?"
"I wish you'd said so earlier sir," Mrs Hudson said to the stranger, "I'd have gotten you some from the laundry room."
"No problem, Mrs Hudson," said Holmes. "I'll be able to help our guest from here on out, I think. Don't bother with lunch today. I'll let you know about supper later. In fact, don't bother with supper, either. Watson and I will dine at O'Neals Chop House tonight." Mrs Hudson left and Holmes retrieved a stoppered glass beaker from his cluttered bench.
"Thank you Mr Holmes. Thank you Dr Watson. Now if I could impose on you for one more favor."
"Of course, Mr..."
"Cody" said our visitor, "Please call me Cody. Now if you would find a clear space on the floor approximately twice the size of this." He held out a pad of some sort which unfolded to a one and a half by one and a half foot rectangle. "And then use the rag and solvent to clean the space as thoroughly as possible. Oh and close the windows first."
"Holmes, don't let Mrs Hudson see you cleaning that patch of floor. She might think it one more duty you wanted to usurp. O'Neal's indeed! The poor woman looked hurt."
"She'll be fine, Watson. And she deserves a day off." Holmes turned to Cody, (first name, surname, a title perhaps? strange business this future promised to be) and said, "How about this?" as he pointed to a spotless patch of clear floor.
"Uh oh, I almost forgot. Will both of you put on your thickest soled shoes, or boots or whatever you wouldn't mind having to get re-soled. Unlikely, but a precaution. You will, of course, be compensated for that eventuality as well."
When we had returned from our respective bedrooms wearing heavier footwear, Cody spread the unfolded square dark side up on half of the recently cleared floor. He asked Holmes to stand in front of the square and to raise a foot. He cleaned the raised sole, then had Holmes position that foot on the square. He did the same with the other sole so that Sherlock Holmes was finally standing only on the dark square. What happened next was a complete surprise. A set of three integers, a divider that looked like a full stop, and a five figure string to the right of that suddenly appeared on the formerly opaque surface of the square.
Then, Cody manipulated the previously used smaller device and an alphanumeric display appeared on it too. This display, though, showed only naughts. He then pointed one end of the device at the square on the floor, and that same numeric string then appeared on the small device. Using distinct syllables, Cody said, "Sherlock Holmes" and the small display showed, "Sheer luck homes." "I'll edit it later," said Cody. "That figure and this picture are the main things for now..." here he pushed a button and the image of my good friend appeared on the smaller device's display.
I know that what happened next would seem even more outlandish to most people. But after witnessing such a technological tour de force, both Holmes and I later agreed, little else would ever seem strange again. Nevertheless, what happened next was this. Cody asked Holmes to move his feet to the bare part of the hyper-clean floor and after Holmes did so, Cody turned the square over so that its light side was up. Then, with the display on Cody's hand-held device still showing the image and weight of the famous, "Sheer luck homes" Cody gestured Holmes to stand on the overturned pad, turned his hand-held device toward the light square currently supporting the great detective and pressed the small display in the region representative of Holmes's stomach. But my friend did not laugh, chuckle nor giggle, or if he did I would not have noticed, because the image grew indistinct and then disappeared. As did Sherlock Holmes.
"I can pull him back if you'd like a confidence check Dr Watson."
"Uh no, I think that Holmes's destiny is already sufficiently intertwined with my own. If he's willing to risk it... well, never let it be said that John Watson MD was a coward..." The cat outside yowled again. "Or a fraidy cat." My subsequent experience was similar to that of Sherlock Holmes, no doubt. However, my name was spelled correctly.