If you stopped by last evening, you may have wondered where the next chapter went. There were technical difficulties, so that gives us a chance to see how it works on a Wednesday. Although, unless there is a groundswell of sentiment for a permanent change, it will probably revert to Tuesdays next week. Thanks for reading.
And presenting the orange antimacassar, below which you will find the latest chapter.
Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 38
a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"Holmes, I was performing the anti-jinx routine when ...this happened," I said, gesturing in the direction of my relocated eyes.
"If, Watson, anything did happen, I think your performance or non-performance of any specific ritual has little to do with your present condition."
Otis said, "Be that as it may, Mr Holmes, it strikes me that the strength of whatever you may wish to call the spell..."
"A spell, Otis? said Evan with a hint of a smile, "I'm shocked that a rational mind such as yours would allow such a term even the meanest of visitation rights. What say you Mr Holmes?
"More potion than spell, I should think. What do you know of the rye ergot fungus, Watson?
"Wasn't there a theory about witches being burned because of it? Nasty business."
"Allow me, if I may gentlemen," said Evan, "But in the years between your time and our time there was a time called the psychedelic era. And the big kahuna of the psychedelic drugs was based on the rye ergot fungus. LSD it was called, but everyone knew it as Nancy. Sorry Otis, I couldn't resist the opportunity for a little word play, especially considering the applicability of the reference."
Otis said, "And everyone knew it as acid, actually. And having dropped said acid..."
("Like that beaker that you spilled on Mrs Hudson's new axminster, eh Holmes."
"it was a used rug, Watson, it was only new to Mrs Hudson. Besides, to my eye the hole made by the solution was an improvement, if anything. Now be still and let us learn from our young hosts.")
"Sorry, dated reference there," said Otis. "Dropping acid means taking a dose of LSD, which I've done a time or two, and the sensations were nothing like what we are experiencing now."
"Wrong!" said Evan.
"Excuse me," said Otis, "But I think I'm a better judge of the sensations I am experiencing than are you. Even if we happen to seem to be sharing the same mind."
"Sorry, Otis," said Evan, "I meant you were wrong in thinking that you were dropping real acid. Lysergic Acid was last seen when all the Beatles were still alive. There have been several substitutes over the years, all with one thing in common: they were developed to provide a much less intense alternative to LSD."
"So even drug dealers have marketing plans," said Holmes, "Very modern, I suppose."
Otis did not say anything, but I could tell there was some sort of dialogue going on with Evan in their shared mind. I wondered if Holmes and I were so transparent. And then, as if on cue, Holmes said, "Watson, you on your own are the very personification of transparency. I strongly suggest that you not play the game of poker for money."
Evan and Otis then said, almost in unison, "So what conclusion does this lead you to Mr Holmes?" and Otis added, "All this time I thought I'd tripped on acid and knew what it was like. Did it disappear entirely? I mean, we as a society even saved smallpox from total annihilation."
Evan said, "I doubt if Sandoz would have wanted to save it. Almost put them out of business, if I recall. And if the Sandoz Company is still doing business, that business is not on the SS Oligarch. What we call acid is not LSD."
I said, "Drug dealers are hardly the most open practitioners of publicity, Evan. How would you know, really?"
"Good point, Evan, how would you know, for certain," said Otis.
Evan said, "When one of your mentors is a detached head named Owlsley, you know. Trust me. You and Control treat Owlsley and Chalfont as if they were toys, when, in fact they are vast depositories of lore, gossip, and innuendo. You should talk to Owlsley about LSD sometime. You'd be amazed at what..."
"But we are talking about rye ergot, gentlemen. Watson, please hand me the guidebook I was using to collect evidence at the firefox-house fire scene."
"You mean the smoke samples, Holmes?"
"There are smoke samples, but they are there to act as the control for my experiment. Otis, since you designed the tri-fold, can you think of a way to have the camera act as a microscope?"
"It already does, Mr Holmes," Evan said, scarcely concealing the obvious pride he felt in his friend's accomplishment, "And if you'd like, it will even analyze what it is that it sees."
"Excellent!" said Holmes, "Can the tri-fold be told to look for anything one tells it look for?"
"That depends on the signal strength of the connection to the mainframe, Mr Holmes. We are in Hell, after all. But even without access to the main data base, we should get a pretty good idea of what we're up against. Evan, would you please hold the book open."
Otis pressed a virtual button on his tri-fold and pointed the device's lens at the corner of Holmes's improvised collection device. He said, "Mr Holmes and Dr Watson, would you enable your tri-folds thusly," and pointed to a series of directories, sub-directories and actions which he navigated with great skill and Holmes and I somehow managed to copy without looking like complete Neanderthals. "Mr Holmes, would you choose one smudge sample that is likely to hold more promise than the others?"
Holmes turned to a page somewhere in the middle of the book and said, "This was taken from a scorched part of the carriage house door that I thought worth investigating. It may prove interesting, albeit redundant. Truth be told, I was taking far more samples than I needed. Doing so allowed me to observe the onlookers somewhat unobtrusively."
Otis said, "Then I hope that scanning one page will suffice for now, because the process is slow and requires some degree of precision and coordination. As long as you and Dr Watson aren't too caffeinated it should work, though. What we are going to do is link the three tri-folds to act as one higher powered microscope. So Evan if you will first point out a target that all three machines can focus upon," he did so, it was the word, "The" that began the paragraph on the chosen page, then Otis said, "Now, if we three focus our respective tri-folds on the, "The" and hold very still..."
We did as instructed and all three tri-folds made a beeping sound and each emitted a light beam. Evan said, "Are you ready for me to reposition the page?"
"Yes! And hurry," said Otis.
Evan slid the book so that the smudged corner was now where the word had been. Eventually, the three tri-folds beeped, only this time, a spoken message followed, "Warning! The Micro-Star Program has identified a biological agent or agents that may indicate the presence of a potentially dangerous fungus. For details press or speak, "More."
"More," said we all, and the tri-folds had a new message, "This appears to be a rye ergot fungus. The addition of one or more tri-folds to the Micro-Star imaging matrix may allow more detailed analysis."
"That will suffice for now," said Holmes, "I think Watson's arm may be getting tired."
"So what other tidbits have you been able to deduce, Mr Strongarm Holmes," I said with the faintest tinge of sarcasm.
"I deduce that we are standing on some sort of gigantic game board and we are waiting on a toy train that we will somehow manage to ride."
Indeed, a crudely shaped locomotive soon chugged around the corner, pulled to a halt, and a voice from the train said, "All aboard!" The voice had an American accent.