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It's Holmes in Space. Below the Orange antimacassar is the latest chapter. A little longer than the last few

First though, as usual, 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
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26

Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 27

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

"Tell me what else you know, Watson," said Sherlock Holmes in an urgent voice that was trying hard not to sound urgent.

"I know that there's no point in you trying to shield me from the reality of our situation," I said.

"Bravo Watson! It's about time," thought Sherlock Holmes.

"And for your information Mr Holmes" I said, "I am not some delicate flower that has to be coddled. I've been in war after all! And before you say something else you'll regret, I knew what you were thinking. I can quote you if you would like."

"Easy Watson," Holmes said, out loud this time, "If we are in some sort of Hell, it stands to reason that our words and our thoughts are subject to be used against us. We will do well to trust each other as we know each other to be, and we should be very dubious about, yet accepting of, what we consider reality down here.   If "Down" is really the operative word."

I didn't say anything for a while, but what Holmes said made sense. I came to the conclusion that this Hell was like...

"Like a dream, Watson?" Holmes said.

"Now see here!" I said, "It is one thing for you to complete my sentences, I have come to expect that. But my thoughts? Really Holmes!" Sherlock Holmes started to laugh and, before long, so did I.

"At least I am now certain we have a hope of getting out of here," said Holmes.

"And your conclusion is based on what?" I said.

"We are laughing Watson. Now tell me, do you recall our arrival at the burned-out pavilion?"

"Yes Holmes, I do. And I recall you giving last minute instructions to Doxy, before you and I started down the stairs with... Holmes where are the others!?"

"Edgar is helping Cody adjust to his new home, while Otis Ferg and Evan are on another mission that I am trying very hard not to think about. Quickly Watson, what else do you recall after we started down the stairs?"

I knew that Holmes asked me that question so that his mind would be taken off Otis and Evan, but I also knew what Holmes's reaction would be to my answer, and that his reaction would cause us to change plans, drastically, and that he would explain why he reacted thusly, but to get to that point I had to give an answer anyway. Hell is a very confusing place. "I seem to recall opening the basement door and starting down a steep flight of stairs. Except it didn't feel that steep. In fact, it didn't feel as if we were descending at all."

"Watson, would you repeat that last phrase, slowly and deliberately this yime please."

"It didn't feel as if we were descending at all?"

"Exactly my old friend, exactly. What a blithering idiot I have been. Thank you, thank you and thank you yet again Dr John Watson! Now tell me, when we were wandering about on the deck of the SS Oligarch were you not always aware of the vast curvature of the vessel itself?" Before I could answer that yes, now that you mention it, I did notice that, Holmes went on, "Yet on the surface of the Earth, though we presume it to be a sphere, by all appearances the Earth may as well be flat. Why? Because Earth is much larger than the SS Oligarch. Keep that in mind, then look around. Tell me what you see. And what you know. You need not justify how you know it, Watson, simply tell me what you perceive."

I began, "The old city itself is best approached from the north. To the east the city quick-fades to vast terraces. Vast empty terraces. Except for the cameras. To the west, more city, lots more city. And lots more cameras. And lots of androts to monitor them. What are androts, Holmes?"

"I have no firm idea yet, Watson, but I'm sure we will find out. Continue please."

I said, "To the south all the features of the west end with a hardened border. The hardened border means you have to be a Count of the Realm to get through. Or you have to be the guest of a count. This means lots of nobs and a few serfs in active service to their respective nobs. And the south side has the stairway."

"One stairway?"

"One. And then there's the north side of the old city. It feels the most familiar. Like something from my youth. But I couldn't begin to say how I'd have gotten into the north side of the city. Something about an autopilot getting me and a gangly passenger there. Now we, I as a youth and my passenger could reach out and touch the north canyon wall of the old city. But getting up the wall was at the time out of the question. Had there been a need to do so, the resources of the laundry would have been up to the task. Didn't Control move a laundry cart out of the way to give us access to the Smiley Grill Holmes?"

"Interpret later Watson, regurgitate as much as you can recall now. Before you forget. You were saying about the laundry?"

I continued, "But the laundry's unwritten, and therefore more rigorous, code was that one's entry method and exit route were one's own damn business. To request the laundry to help with either would serve to implicitly undermine the code to the very slightest of slight degrees. But the code was absolute. So for the young me and my companions, I thought it was companion singular a moment ago, but it is companions plural now, the wall remained unscaled."

"Very good, Watson, what else?"

I said, "I as a youth had learned a great deal about the city and somehow have added to that knowledge very recently. At least according to the theories currently in vogue at the laundry. The old-fashioned city androts are there to keep up the city. And to make more androts. Both of which they do quite successfully. The city is immaculate. And the androts rejoice in keeping it that way. Seriously. Rejoicing is one of the emotions hard-wired into the early androts. Most of the ones servicing the city have been upgraded with the up-to-date firmware that allows an androt to conceal his or her rejoicing, though not to suppress it. And rejoicing is the default option for many actions ranging from saving a tree-full of bingcat kittens all the way to finding a point, edge, or surface that needs repair or cleaning. And that is just for finding it. Double jolts of rejoicing await the androt or androts that actually do the kitten saving, or the point, edge, and surface repair and cleaning. Since there aren't a lot of trees with bingcat kittens waiting to be rescued, and there are a lot of androts eager to do themselves some rejoicing, the city undergoes a lot of maintenance.

"This might have been wonderful for the residents of the city wandering about, had there been any."

"Wandering about, you mean Watson?"

"Yes Holmes. The androts don't seem to do anything for the people indoors."

"Any other androt functions, Watson?"

I said, "The androts that discreetly roam the old city are charged with the task of keeping out serfs and nobs. Unless the serf or nob is there at the invitation of a Count of the Realm, of course. But proving that you have an invite takes time, so, as cruel as it might feel to do it, the easiest way for a nob (or a serf, I suppose) to get around is to litter past the androts. It works. Why? At the time the city had been closed to people after the great decrease, androts had been assigned to obey a Count of the Realm, then repair, then cleaning, then directly assisting nob law enforcement, then assisting nobs that had earned their names, then assisting nobs that had not earned their names, then accepting the assignments of the city general pool. In that order."

Holmes slapped his brow when he learned of the direct littering trick. He must have been pondering the problem of getting past the city androts, but instead of making some tricky calculations as to which prioritization scheme the androt at hand should be using, a simple school-boy's prank would do. "I'm sort of sorry you told me about the littering trick," Holmes said, "It seems almost like cheating and rather mean."

Otis, the leader of the laundromat who had seemingly appeared out nowhere laughed and said, "Kindness forgive me, but there's nothing like having a city androt watch you tearing open a candy wrapper so that a tiny corner gets torn off and drops to the ground at the same moment you stuff the rest of the wrapper in the trash or your pocket."

"They don't consider it littering but they still have to react." said Evan, who had likewise just shown up.

"Right," said Otis, "But it's knowing how much they are rejoicing for finding this tiny little piece of wrapper. And I know they're wired not to care if you laugh. But I mean have you ever seen a city androt with the rejoicing reaction shutoff on partial?"

"No," said Holmes.

"Well they say bingcats cooperate or not based on the project. The activity. Whether they like it or not. But what if what you're doing is right at the edge, and the bingcats look at you as the guy that not only pulled the mean partial littering thing on an androt but then laughed about it?" Otis said.

Evan said, "I've heard about bingcats and projects, activities. Just because you're in a band, for example, they won't automatically let you approach them, but if they support a song your band plays, you're fine. Sort of like that, right?"

Otis said, "I've heard some of the bands you like, Evan. I don't think some of those songs are going to get you on the bingcat approved list. Those cats are smart. Good thing they don't talk and have opposable thumbs. They'd rule us all. Right Dr Watson"

Evan said, "Dr Watson here has demonstrated pretty excellent musical taste. Why don't we let him DJ for the bingcats?"

I said, "Should I Holmes?"

"Why not Watson, why not. Lets head to that stairway. Which way did you say it was?"

I pointed in the direction and then Holmes started walking, leading the way and saying in a soft voice, "Here kitty kitty."

Originally posted to jabney on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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