A Study in Solar Systems

Part 5: Movement in Rotation and Revolution

by Trynia (tryniamerin at yahoo.com)
(3/7/04)

General Disclaimer

Tables had been moved to the borders of the vast floor. All around were old-fashioned props, such as oil lanterns and model weapons. Someone had gone to great lengths yet again to duplicate a piece of Scotland onto this station. Those who weren't dancing sat at the peripheral tables chatting together. Beer, wine, soda, and other beverages passed freely around the room. Men and women consumed all manner of entrees, from fruit to fine Walker's shortbread.
Mel spun from partner to partner. One moment she was with Hamish, the next with another fair person. Men and women danced together, all laughing and shouting.
Amidst the storm of dancers, Lestrade found a seat at a table. None of this could she relate to. Before long, other panting women clustered around the same table at breaks in the music. Right next to Lestrade sat a woman about her age. Long hair was tucked meticulously into a chignon atop her head. Just her bare shoulders and chest were visible. She wore long silken gloves on her hands that came up past her elbows. And those off-the-shoulder puffed sleeves and layers of lace were beautiful. All around the chair spilled her long full hoopskirt, from an era long gone. Only a few other women were dressed as she.
"I say. That's a lovely dress," said Lestrade.
"Thank you."
"Especially an authentic replica of a nineteenth century...."
She smiled. "I rather like yours. Especially the ruffles."
"Oh this? I borrowed it from a friend."
"Is that the latest style here?"
"It depends, since nobody here is wearing the latest style anyway."
Both girls looked at each other, and started to laugh. Beautiful blue eyes twinkled at her brown ones. Then Lestrade realized the humor in where they were. Indeed, at the Festival, people were wearing garb from many centuries.
From the stage came a voice, enhanced with a remote control mike. A long and complicated list of welcomes was stated, as well as some credits.
"And now to lead us in our next dance, a featured performer. Straight from the heart of our fair land itself, Hamish Andrew McPherson will make mere sound into music with his violin." To her surprise, Lestrade saw Hamish seated on the raised platform, next to other important-looking people. Standing, he raised an old-fashioned violin to his chin. For a teenaged boy, he carried himself with remarkable dignity. Unlike many violinists, who played a steel-framed electronic instrument; his was genuine cured wood with fine strings and rosin. Fingers moved almost magically across strings for five minutes of a classical ballad.
Then grinning, he began to pick up the tempo. Bridged the gap into a fast jig. People stopped talking, and started dancing madly across the floor. Someone swept the Victorian-dressed girl from beside Lestrade, and whirled her out. It occurred to her that perhaps this was a member of that anti-technology society, albeit a tamer one, that Holmes had encountered with the five pips business. One of those souls who decided the nineteenth century was the epitome of greatness. Sighing, she glanced around, muttering, "Holmes, where are you?"
Flutes interwove with Hamish's violin. In spite of herself, Lestrade couldn't keep her toes from tapping. Usually she listened to the rock, techno and contemporary jazz popular in the twenty-second century. Scottish jigs didn't normally convince her to dance. Because this music was live, she couldn't resist jumping up. Carefully she watched everyone around her, copying the light toe action with extreme grace. This music begged her to frolic, to shed her twenty-second century inhibition. It transported her to glens and fields, and coastlines surging with foam.
"I wondered when you'd get up!" Mel laughed as she danced with the handsome young men in kilts.
"I don't know how!" Lestrade laughed. But soon a few young men grabbed her hand, and whirled her around. From one young man to another she was tossed. Partners switched every five seconds, or every turn. Lestrade began to get dizzy. Her chest ached from the laughing beat of her heart. Never had she felt so alive. Stars and tartans whirled around her.
Then it was all over. Triple hums of pipe drones filled the silence. Snare drums rattled staccato cadences. Lestrade wanted to cringe when she realized the pipers were playing. Yet, the ballroom echoed with the strange wailing nine-note melodies. People began to perform what looked like a dancing-free-for-all. Lestrade gasped as a brawny legged fellow bowed before her. "No thanks -- I don't know how...."
Slightly miffed, the fellow walked on. Mel sighed and swept him up instantly.
Feeling self-conscious, Lestrade wrung her hands. That is until a familiar voice spoke over her shoulder. "Care to dance, my dear Inspector?"
"Oh, it's you," she said, looking up. Lestrade spun, to see Holmes standing there minus Inverness and hat, wearing a more formal dinner coat, very Victorian, with his usual vest and tie. He looked elegant and fresh in his outfit, and Lestrade felt a jolt of something shiver through her. His gray eyes seemed fixed on her, but she dared wonder if he was admiring her as much as she was admiring him.
"That's not much of a how do you do," he laughed. "Why so reserved?"
"I don't know how to dance to this music."
"It's frightfully simple -- elementary," he said.
"I didn't think you danced," she lied, but knew that her heart was fluttering. She took his hand, and their skin touched as Holmes led her out onto the floor.
"What is this dance?" Lestrade asked.
"A jig. A quick one-two-three," he explained. "Here, follow me."
Grasping Lestrade's hands, he led her onto the varnished floor. Out into the sea of tartans and fine linens. Back into a time of dance cards and gaiety. Where ultramodern met archaic.
"Now watch my feet. Start with the left, while I start with the right. Put your hand on my shoulder, and grasp my other. The jig, a dance originating in French renaissance times . . ."
Lestrade let herself be led. She pushed her toes against his, barely managing to keep from stepping on his feet. Patiently he led her through. Triple step, triple step. Left foot back, right foot back, left foot turn. Then start over.
Over and over, the geometry worked out. Lestrade actually giggled. Holmes smiled and said, "See, my dear Inspector, this is simplicity itself! An arithmetic progression."
"Not bad at all," Lestrade grinned.
He smiled, dimples crossing his youthful face. Still, the angles and lines were covered with baby fat. Just like her face in a way. Lestrade was grateful for the rescue. Even if it was Holmes, who got on her nerves. Funny. Stars and satellites whizzed by the windows, and people were folk dancing. The detective nimbly trotted to violins and clarinet duos. Somehow, it was easy to copy his movements. Lestrade couldn't help but jig right along.
"Well, it's fun, but I never thought I'd be dancing on a case," Lestrade panted.
"Social situations are the prime place to gather evidence -- " Holmes said.
"You didn't have to ask me to dance, you know," Lestrade said, feeling she had to put up her wall, because the setting was becoming all too casual for her.
"I am rather sorry, Lestrade. I just saw you sitting there and thought you might like a dance...."
"I might have, if you hadn't whisked me away from that young man...."
Mel waved to them, from a table nearby. She was sitting with a handsome young man in McPherson tartan. However, he didn't wear the sash that Hamish had been wearing.
"I'd like you to meet William," she said. He smiled and nodded.
The two couples sat opposite each other. Mel had white wine poured in four glasses. Slowly they began to sip the beverage. "Having fun yet?" Mel asked her.
"Oh, fine," sighed Lestrade, feeling awkward.
"That bad?" Mel asked, eyebrows lowering. "Thought I saw you dancing with some rather handsome men. Including your charming partner?"
Holmes gave an amused smirk, which made Lestrade want to kick his knee. She said, "Well, he rescued me from the other guys in the kilts -- even though I was fine -- "
"This is a traditional ball," said the detective. "As the program here says."
"It's so sexist," Lestrade sighed, as she rolled her eyes.
"Depends upon the culture," said Holmes suddenly, looking a bit hurt. "What's sexist in your time is considered gallantry in another. Be glad someone asked you to dance."
"It's never like this when I've gone to parties...."
"I'm certain there's a virtual plethora of activities to choose from here," said Holmes. "Someone's throwing a mixer down in the Econohall."
Mel nudged Holmes' arm across the table. He fell quiet. "Are you all right, Mr. Holmes?"
"I suppose. This setting is remarkably like my own century," he said, with a sidelong glance at Lestrade. "And how much I sometimes miss it. Even though it's Scottish, it is a piece of a bygone era."
Mel glanced at Lestrade, Mel's date, and Holmes. Then Holmes took Lestrade's hand. "Would you care to get some fresh air? I mean...in a different setting."
"Oh, all right," Lestrade sighed. She felt she had hurt his feelings, and the fact that everyone had a partner was painfully evident.
"Will you be back soon?" Mel asked.
"Holmes and I are going to take a walk. See you in a few," Lestrade waved to her. She let Sherlock take her hand and put her arm through his to lead her off in silence, leaving the music behind them.
Out where the stars were brightest, the two strolled. "You drive me crazy," Lestrade said. "Coming here for a lead, and then we're partying. What next?"
"I have gathered some crucial evidence," Holmes said. "But since you seem in such a sour mood, I rather think I'll let you figure out what it is."
"Zed..." Lestrade sighed. "Look, if you're sulking about what I said in there... I'm sorry...."
"I rather thought that you'd enjoy seeing what life was like outside of your own modern time -- in order that you might understand where I come from," said Holmes. "The tables are reversed and I do believe you felt just as awkward as I did."
"Scottish bands are not Victorian England --"
"But they were integral in my time, and on the periphery of modern society of my times," Holmes corrected her. "Remember the few occasions from Watson's memoirs..."
"Yeah..." Lestrade sighed, glancing at him. "Look... I appreciate it, but I just... never cared for dances...."
"Jealousy is strange in its manifestations," said Holmes, mysteriously.
"Why should I be jealous?"" said Lestrade.
"Considering how you went out of your way to separate yourself and sit alone at a table," Sherlock said with a twinkle in his eyes. "And then you turned down a number of suitable partners for a dance... even when your friend was entertaining herself in the company of men. Rather elementary to deduce that you are not the sort that mingles."
"Look, Holmes, I was the awkward kid in school, okay?" Lestrade confessed. "I finally grew up and got halfway decent-looking... and then I didn't have time for silly stuff like parties, girls and boyfriends. Not all women are into the social thing, Holmes..."
"Indeed, which makes you who you are," said Holmes with a smile.
"Hey, you're one to talk about being alone. Considering you don't go out of your way to join parties...."
"When the occasion lends itself, I do," he said.
"You're not exactly Mister Social yourself," said Lestrade. "Did you cut a rug at school dances? I don't think so."
" I have always been highly intelligent. More mature for my age," Holmes said. "Much like you must have been in school."
Lestrade's jaw dropped at his similarity, and she felt her wall going up again, as she mumbled, "Like you know anything about what I went through...."
"It seems to me that you were perhaps almost as precocious as I was. Considering you were not dancing with any gentlemen your age in there."
"You are a royal pain in the ear, you know that, Holmes?" she snapped. "Totally irascible, irritating, and incorrigible. You show off his knowledge like...."
"Like you do," said Holmes. "As I recall, you just love to be right."
"But that's different," she said. "I have a right to be, when I know I am. And when you throw a bug into the circuit it drives me crazy! And now you're going on like socialization is suddenly the thing for me to do... when you're hardly one to be doing that yourself!"
"All right, I can surmise what you're going to say, Lestrade. Don't remind me. I'm just like a computer. Go ahead and say it, that I only concentrate on my eyes and brains. Well, perhaps I do, but you would be well to see that such a thing is a matter of exhilaration. That I enjoy the solving of a mystery with my own desires. I'm not all brain and no heart."
"All right, you've made your point," Lestrade sighed.
"Don't be so hard on yourself. Just by coming here you've taken the first step into a different world."
Suddenly it seemed like the stars were much brighter. Lestrade stared at their hard cold brilliance in silence. Just what was she trying to see out there? Slowly she felt her mind paging over the images once planted there by a young boy. Only two years separated him from her in age, yet a virtual chasm split them wide apart.
Small voices muttered and gasped. Starting, Lestrade felt a hand on her shoulder. "I say, what happened to the lights?" said Holmes.
Lestrade turned. Only by starlight could she trace Holmes' form standing near her, minus his deerstalker and Inverness. "Zed...this is impossible...."
"Apparently not... come along, Lestrade, to the main reception area!"
They raced into darkness. Guests muttered and gasped. Some men and women were rushing about in frenzy toward the door. A few sharp taps from a snare drum signaled to a band. Immediately a lantern was lit. Some of the other Scots all raised old-fashioned oil lanterns. They had been brought as decorations. Now they served a more practical purpose. "Everyone stay calm!" came the voice of the Event Manager. "Stay where you are."
"What's going on?"
"Lassies and gentlemen, there appears to be a power flux. While we find out what's going on, the 14th Regimental Pipers band will entertain you with a medley of tunes...."
Bagpipes droned through the silence, cutting through the chatter. Nine-note modals echoed in the ballroom with drums tapping. People calmed down in the warm lantern light. After all, the room lights were off anyway.
"Is there a computer operator in the house?" asked the manager.
Melanie Rush, Lestrade's friend said, "I'm qualified in systems software."
"Great. Come with me."
Holmes came forward. "Perhaps I can be of assistance...."
"He works for me," Lestrade said quickly, rushing off to speak to some of the security people who were nagging her for help in crowd control.
"I can assist in determining the source of your problem, if given all the facts."
"Fine," the events manager said. "I've been contacted by the SpaceCorps. Several space stations have spontaneously lost power. Backup solar panels are running basic life support. But environmental circuits are malfunctioning."
"Hmm," muttered Holmes, "I wonder why. Were there any signs of electromagnetic disruption?"
"I'm not certain yet," admitted the Manager.
Little pools of light formed. Faces were lit with lanterns and candles at the various table. Gentle plucks on dulcimer strings counterpointed a few tin whistles in the room. The band played enough to keep calm, but not too loud to drown out the voices of important people.
"Everyone is to remain here until further notice. Robert Burns' tribute is not canceled. Please help yourself to some mulled wine..." announced Hamish, his voice cracking through the soft atmosphere. "There's been a temporary power fluctuation."
Lestrade and Holmes found each other through the dusk. "What now?" she wondered.
"Paging Sherlock Holmes," shouted someone from the ballroom doors. "Will the gentleman please come this way?"
A blue-suited security guard passed the detective a hastily scribbled note. "There's a Transgalactic phone call for you. If you'll just report down to the Message Center...."
"I thought all the power was off," said Holmes. He picked up the receiver and began to speak to Watson.
"Emergency repair crews have gotten most of the main systems on backup."
Technicians in blue coveralls scurried through the dim emergency lights in the station corridors. Only starlight gave any real illumination, complemented by the artificial lights. All over, the Resort people were told to stay where they were while crews reached the various levels. Luckily, most of them were at the Festival events, and remained calm. A power spike couldn't stop bagpipers and bands.
Lestrade and Holmes watched the space yacht being readied for its trip. Both sat together at a table. To him and his friend, oil lamps and candles seemed normal. What Holmes seemed unsure of was the thought of plunging into the Earth, out of Earth's orbit.
"That's not going to happen," Lestrade told him.
"Why? If the power's not on, won't we crash?"
"Holmes, this time use your eyes and brains," Lestrade groaned.
"Well, granted, inertia will keep us in orbit, but I also read that orbits decay, without the necessary solar power. Despite the fact that things in motion tend to remain in motion... there is the chance that our velocity will decrease due to gravity...."
"Holmes, we're falling around the Earth so fast that there's little danger we'd crash into it. We're overcoming gravity every second. Isaac Newton was right," she insisted. "He did formulate his laws at least a century or two before you were born, Holmes."
"But don't the laws of science become revised every so often?" Holmes raised an eyebrow and twisted his lips into a cute yet annoying grin.
"Oh zed, I hope they get the power back on," Lestrade mumbled.

TO BE CONTINUED
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