The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborne
The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which the brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers that there are alternate realities, and said alternates are often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, is her means of looking in on these continua. In one particular reality, continuum 114, a certain Victorian detective (who, in fact, exists in several continua) was to have died along with his arch-nemesis at the Reichenbach Falls. Knee-jerking, Skye intervenes, rescuing her hero, who inadvertently flies through the tesseract wormhole connecting his universe with ours, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to send Holmes back without causing devastating continuum collapse due to non-uniqueness, he must stay in our world and learn to adapt to the 21st century.
Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage – Project: Tesseract.
Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” – or more?
And what happens next?
Chapter 1—Water Falls Through Wormholes
“Are you sure, Skye?” Dr. Caitlin Hughes, the Project Director, a roly-poly redheaded woman, murmured to the attractive woman at her side.
“I’m sure, Cait.” Dr. Skye Chadwick, a tall, athletic, well-proportioned blonde in her late thirties, and Project: Tesseract’s chief scientist, tucked an escaped strand of long spun gold behind one ear; the rest remained in the thick French braid that draped down her neck. “We’ve dinked all the way around it for several months now. We’ve got the alternate continuum thoroughly mapped out, and we know what we’re doing. All systems are fully operational and running like the proverbial top. It’s time to go in and observe firsthand. We’ll watch the actual event, then send in an exploration team.” She turned and met her friend’s bright green eyes. “Don’t worry. Washington will be more than satisfied.”
“Oh, I’m not worried about that,” the project manager waved away the reassurances. “I just don’t want you or any of the team getting hurt if something goes wrong.”
“Nothing will go wrong,” Dr. Chadwick said, almost in a whisper, but with confidence. Dr. Hughes took one look at the blue eyes, glancing between the clipboard full of notes and the information on the monitors, and realized Skye was concentrating on the preparations. Caitlin waited for a few moments, allowing Skye to follow through on the prep work before speaking again.
“I can’t believe you actually found an alternate timeline like this one. It’s…well, it’s fascinating. The similarities, and the differences…”
“Yeah,” Dr. Chadwick chuckled. “You know, the parallel universe concept has been around a long time, and it looks like we’ve finally managed to prove it. I’ll be glad to get this done and the sanitized paper written and published on the matter. It’ll blow the community wide open, not to mention the whole field of research.”
“Watch out how you write it. If you’re not careful, your colleagues will think you’ve gone off the deep end and believe that TV show is real.” Dr. Hughes laughed.
“Oh, you mean the time gate thing they film up in Canada?” Dr. Chadwick grinned mischievously. “Whose idea was that, anyway? It’s made for one of the best covers for a classified project I’ve ever seen.”
“Nobody you’d know,” Caitlin smirked. “Friend of mine in the Pentagon came up with it. He’s a real smart-ass. Fun guy, but full of it.”
“You don’t mean Mike Waters, do you?” Skye snorted, a decidedly amused, if unladylike, sound.
“The very one. I didn’t know you knew him.”
“Hell, yeah. Met him when I was in Washington two years ago for that conference. I don’t think I told you, but he made a play for me. We even dated once or twice, but it didn’t work out. I never could figure out how he wound up in D.C. instead of L.A., though.”
“He said it was more of a challenge.” Dr. Hughes shrugged, then paused. “This is going to be really interesting, Skye. I mean, aside from the proof of concept, you’re going to get to watch one of your heroes. In action, no less.”
Dr. Chadwick nodded, the expression on her face depicting decidedly mixed emotions.
“Yeah. I can’t believe he’s real. But you know, there was this science fiction author…he theorized that our literature is reality elsewhere, and vice versa. Lemme think…who the hell was it…? Somebody famous…Oh! Robert Heinlein! You know, his ‘World as Myth’ concept. And an Argentine writer named Jorge Luis Borges first introduced the concept, sorta, even before quantum mechanics did. So I guess it makes sense after a fashion.”
Dr. Hughes listened, understanding the notion; but she knew Chadwick better than to be easily diverted, and she scrutinized her friend, then pursued the issue. “This is hurting you.”
“He’s going to die—for real—and I get to watch it. I mean, in this continuum, there isn’t a happy ending after the Falls. Wouldn’t it hurt you, if he was your hero?” Dr. Chadwick shrugged.
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it would,” Caitlin sighed, sobering. “Why are you doing this particular timeline, then?”
“Because the team voted, for one, and for two, it’s the only one we’ve found where the incident isn’t…spied on. The…compatriot, henchman, whatever you want to call him…got rounded up, in this particular scenario. There’s only the two men, and we’ll be the sole witnesses to what really happened. When it’s…over, we’ll send observers in, take a good look, record some data, and pull out. We’ll be the only beings in the multiverse with an actual record of what happened.” Skye shrugged, trying to appear indifferent.
“Oh,” Caitlin said, subdued.
“Dr. Chadwick, Dr. Hughes, it’s ready,” Jim the technician called from across the large underground room.
“That’s our cue,” Dr. Chadwick noted, managing to approximate a cheerful smile, addressing the room at large. “Everyone please stand behind the yellow line until the doors open. No food, drink, flash photography, or video cameras are permitted. Once aboard the ride, please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times until we come to a full and complete stop. Otherwise, they’re apt to end up in another universe somewhere without ya, and wouldn’t that fry your noggin?”
Outright laughter ran around the room, and Dr. Chadwick added, “Checklist out!” She raised the clipboard she had held absently in one hand for the last several minutes while she talked, scanning over it.
“Checklist…” the nearest experiment controller parroted.
“Checklist out,” the next nearest vouched.
“Checklist here…” and so on, around the room.
“Go/no-go call,” Dr. Chadwick announced. “Processing?”
* * *
Ten minutes later, all was in readiness. Caitlin and Skye exchanged silent, eloquent looks. Caitlin “became” Project Manager Dr. Hughes, who nodded authoritatively. Dr. Chadwick accepted the unspoken permission to proceed.
“Sequencing, bring us to observation mode,” the chief scientist ordered.
“Going to observation mode,” the Sequencing position noted.
Dr. Chadwick checked off a block on her clipboard.
The room in which they stood was underground, deep beneath Schriever Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Chamber, as it was called, was the most secure facility in the United States, even more secure than Cheyenne Mountain, some miles to the west, newer, and far more advanced technologically. The underground facility was composed of a single large central chamber and eight smaller support rooms clustered around the main room, all carved of solid granite. Skye, Caitlin, and their companions occupied the central chamber, while support teams manned the equipment in each of the secondary rooms. Outside the complex, high-speed elevators and a network of corridors terminating in security airlocks covertly connected them to the rest of the base.
The center of the huge rock-hewn room stood empty. The controller consoles huddled close around the periphery, but eight large columns, monoliths of titanium steel and circuits, surrounded the empty center. Upon Dr. Chadwick’s order, a hum began, moving sequentially around the room from column to column as the system powered up. A carbon dioxide laser beam shot out, interlacing the monoliths in the classic hypercube design, exchanging data, forging them into one coherent unit. In the volume of space contained within the high-tech Stonehenge, vague, three-dimensional, ghostlike images flitted.
“Locus,” Dr. Chadwick called to the appropriately-labeled console, “dial in to Switzerland. Meiringen. The Falls.”
The images translated in a dizzying kaleidoscope, then settled on an almost holographic image of a tall, multi-tiered waterfall high in the Swiss Alps.
“Timelines, shift to Continuum 114…” Dr. Chadwick checked off a block on her clipboard. No change was seen, save that the hologram flickered momentarily.
“Continuum 114,” the Timelines position called. “Date?”
“Year 1891 of the Current Era, month five, day four,” Dr. Chadwick answered. Another check.
Multicolored flashes darted through the hologram for several minutes, then settled.
“Time?” came the request.
“13:30 Greenwich Mean Time.”
“Copy, 13:30 Greenwich,” Timelines answered.
The falling water sped up to a ridiculous rate, then suddenly slowed to a complete stop. After a moment, it resumed a normal flow. Abruptly two men could be seen on a ledge near the top of the falls. One—tall, thin, dark-haired, grey-eyed, handsome in an austere, hawk-like sort of way—sat quietly on a rock only yards from the pinnacle of the path, clad in Victorian-style tweed traveling clothes. A sturdy hiking staff rested against the side of the rock on which he sat, and he calmly scribbled something on a notepad. The other man was older: Balding, stoop-shouldered, almost reptilian in movement and appearance, clad in black, waiting patiently along the downward path, and in a subtle, almost menacing way, blocking it. Before them, the falls leapt down in tiers for over six hundred and fifty feet. To one side, a gleaming, wet rock wall; on the other, a sheer drop.
“Track subjects. Initiate recording. Begin silent protocol,” Dr. Chadwick ordered in an absent voice, her eyes fixed on the image in the center of the room. “Sequencing, focus, please.”
Suddenly the images in the center of the room became more than images. They solidified.
Skye and Caitlin tiptoed forward until they stood right outside the ring of monoliths, looking between two of the columns at the active tableau. Skye tensed, face drawn. Caitlin divided her attention between the events unfolding within the monoliths, and the pale, strained expression on her friend’s face.
Stephanie Osborn is a former payload flight controller, a veteran of over twenty years of working in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs. She has worked on numerous Space Shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Of those astronauts she trained, one was Kalpana Chawla, a member of the crew lost in the Columbia disaster.
She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several more, including Geology and Anatomy. She obtained her various degrees from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.
Stephanie is currently retired from space work. She now happily passes it forward, teaching math and science via numerous media including radio, podcasting, and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science fiction think tank, while writing science fiction mysteries based on her knowledge, experience, and travels.
To see more on Stephanie and to order The Arrival, go to www.stephanie-osborn.com
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