Look out below!
"Below what?" you may ask.
Below the Orange antimacassar, of course. It's the next chapter of Sherlock Holmes in Space.
Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 22
a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"Holmes, would you mind telling me what that was all about."
"Watch the road, Watson! You can communicate through the helmet microphone without looking back at me."
"Sorry Holmes. I'm not used to having a passenger on a motorcycle. The bulk of my experience with tandem riding has been more that of being the passenger."
"Watson, I do believe you have spoken a metaphor. Especially considering that the first time you were on an actual motorcycle in any capacity at all was, what? the day before yesterday?"
"Something like that. Though to tell the truth Holmes, it seems as if I've been riding for years." As I said those words, a rather scrawny black and white cat barely missed our front tire as it scurried across the road.
"Remember Watson, what pride goeth before. And while on the subject of proverbs and aphorisms, remember the one about little pitchers and the appendages they boast?" This last, Holmes emphasized with a short rap of his knuckles against my helmet.
Truth be told, I thought to myself, this entire "People may overhear" mindset is blasted annoying. Holmes seems to think it is a game! Which, I suppose, is a healthy way to look at it. As for me, I say spies and snoops be damned. But then I am a time traveler, I won't have to stay around to put up with consequences. And I am starting to like these people. Most of them, at least. So I will play the game using Holmes's rules. But I do not have to like it.
"Holmes, we do need to talk privately," I said as we dismounted our electrified steed.
"Why Watson? The people I have invited to our little after-picnic get-together are people I have decided to trust. If that trust is to be betrayed, then I shall be the fool. If my trust is warranted, then we shall have gained some time in preparing to battle a most fearsome adversary."
"I suppose Holmes. But did you see the cold looks that Evan was giving the Captain? What do you think that's all about?"
"Why don't you ask me?" said an amused sounding voice from behind that quite startled me. As I fumbled for an apology, Holmes spoke up.
"Evan, there is no need for Watson and I to delve into the details of a strong friendship which is undergoing a mild test. I am quite certain that Captain Haggard has noticed, and has picked up on your message."
Evan said, "It was that obvious? Perhaps the drama critic that accused me of "Over-acting that would have embarrassed a canned ham" had a valid point."
"You act?" I said, grateful for the chance to change the subject.
"Amateur theatrics only, Dr Watson. I played, Og the leprechaun in "Finian's Rainbow." And yes, Mr Holmes, your analysis of the situation between Captain Haggard and myself is essentially correct."
"Yes Mr Holmes. I fear there may, though, be a need to revisit certain incidences that the Captain would prefer had remained private."
"We shall see Evan. In the meantime Watson and I shall try to continue to avoid drawing attention to the important role that you actually do play. You learned the value of being underestimated from Otis Ferg, I suppose?"
"Yes, Otis for one. But also from Control, and from you. Both of you."
I felt myself blush. I saw Holmes blush. This was made plain in the glow of the headlights of the ROADMASTER which pulled up to the curb somewhat behind us.
At the same time, Otis Ferg pulled up on his motorcycle and parked in front of us.
"You've got your brights on!" Otis shouted to the unseen inhabitants of the automobile. "A Buick Roadmaster on a spaceship," he said in an aside to Holmes, Evan and me, "Doxy's got some nerve taking it out of the Parade of Homes install. Even if the gasoline engine has been replaced by an electric one."
Doxy emerged from the driver's door then Captain Haggard got out of the other front door. "There's your nerve, Otis," Holmes said gesturing toward the Captain. "Having an authority figure as a passenger tends to bolster a person's courage."
Captain Haggard spoke loudly, "Save the talk for inside please, we could use some help unloading the trunk. Doxy it looks as if you've packed enough vintage computer gear and hi-fi equipment to start a branch of the museum. Careful or the SIT will accuse you of trying to do a turf-grab."
"I can imagine the movie poster," Otis said with a laugh, "The Day of the Docents!"
Evan said, "I don't know. Hi-fi gear from the 1950's and 60's, computer equipment from, what, the 1980's and 90's? I hope we have enough adapters. Otherwise the poster will have to read, "Plan 9.01 From Outer Space."
"Faith dear boy, faith," said Doxy, "This is how our ancestors, and your generation's descendants, of course, Mr Holmes and Dr Watson, had to make do before tri-folds and centralized storage. I can hook this up with my eyes closed."
Several trips up the stairs later, after some degree of jury-rigging on Doxy's open-eyed part and some improvisations contributed by Evan, Otis announced, "My friends, behold, sound and images totally untethered to the OMFS."
"That's the Old MacDonald's Server Farm, right?" I said. "What do the letters actually stand for?"
"We don't know, it's what the largest symbols on the device sort of look like," said Otis, "The SIT may know, but if they do, they aren't telling."
"Seems strange to me," I said, "Why not take what you have determined about The Scream to this Scientific Integrity Team and have a sit-down with them? Share what you know."
"Because Dr Watson, the penalties for whistle-blowing are far worse than enduring The Scream, especially if 'untrustworthy' musical sampling equipment is involved." said Doxy. "I can skate-by because I'm a docent with a specialization in archaic electronics."
"Untrustworthy, meaning any recording done by a device that is not connected to the OMFS, I presume."
"Correct, Mr Holmes," said Captain Haggard, who was now seated at one end of the sofa. "Now let me ask you a question, is there a reason why Jerome, the only black man in our small group wasn't invited?"
"And what about the ladies, Holmes? Times have evolved, you know." At my statement, Captain Haggard and Evan both coughed and appeared to be stifling laughter.
Before I could ask them why, Holmes said, "I am keenly aware of the talents of Jerome and Control. That's why I've tasked Control with the mission of brokering a peace-treaty between Jerome and Dixie, another potentially vital member of our team. I'm not sure why Jerome seems so antagonistic towards her, though. Is there a history between them Otis?"
"Not a personal history, Mr Holmes, rather a cultural history. The name, "Dixie" has baggage attached to it, even now." Otis then went on to expound at some length on minstrelsy, The Confederacy, and the civil rights movement.
"Well," I said, "I'm sure Dixie didn't mean to adopt the name out of spite to any particular group."
"You're smitten with her, Watson, but even so, I'm sure you are correct."
Doxy said, "Actually it was the next docent name available after Dexy."
"I suppose somewhere in the Parade of Homes there is a Docent named Duxy, then?"
"Oh yes, Mr Holmes. Poor thing."
"OK," said Evan, "But what about Yvonne? Doesn't she have something to contribute?"
"Not at this time," said Holmes. "She would be an impediment, I fear."
"Two reasons, Watson. One is her insistence on orthodoxy, despite seeing evidence to the contrary. As for the other..." At this, Holmes looked keenly at Evan and then at Captain Haggard."
"Because I used to be the other woman in Evan's life," said Captain Haggard.
"But you are a man," I said. "How could... Oh."
"Not nearly as simple as that, Dr Watson," said the Captain, "I used to be a woman. And before that I was a man."