The Curious Case of the Gorgon's Head

Chapter One

by TT

New London's centre was lit up like a store Christmas tree, from every window; door and shop front light tumbled and flowed out onto the streets in a cascade of illumination. Wares of any kind could be brought from the exotic to the mundane; each item had its own particular merit, buyer, and price tag to match. Crowds moved and jostled at each other in a great sea of people, thick swarms of them passing from shop to shop, street to street, eager to complete their own personal agenda.

Beth Lestrade was adamant elbowing should be made a capital offence; her arms and ribs were sore from the constant pushing and shoving as people made their own way through the crowd. Out of uniform and in civilian clothes she was just another body to be knocked about with everyone else and she grimaced as another shopper barged past her. Behind her Watson and Holmes seem to be having a better time of it, mainly because Watson was holding a rather large table above his head and people moved or faced a walking concussion.

"I think perhaps, Inspector, Saturday was not such a good choice for an outing into the centre of London." Holmes sheltered from the crowd beneath the table; as long as he was careful there was no danger from flying legs for him, and the crowd kept a table-width away. Lestrade was not amused.

"You know what a foul mood Greyson's in at the moment, Holmes, what with all these burglaries. Telling him I need a day off to find a table to replace the one you threw that card thief through will not make me top of his Christmas list this year."

"I wasn't aware you were even on it, Lestrade." She turned to say something but someone rammed into her legs, toppling her forward and into the seething mass of people.

"Hey, watch it," she yelled. Holmes dragged her back up. They were just in time to see a small red cardigan disappear into the crowd.

"It appears manners have not improved in the last two hundred years," Holmes started, and stopped for a fleeting moment.

"Watson, did you see..." Watson tried to look upwards, his bowler hat jammed over his eyes by the heavy table.

"...Never mind!"

Lestrade threw a sideways glance at him, he was frowning, his eyes puzzled. Suddenly he caught her eye and smiled, shaking his head slightly. 'Oh, no, you don't, Holmes,' she thought as he moved to help Watson negotiate through the crowds, 'you don't fool me that easily. What did you just see!' She glanced around the crowds. Nothing. Whatever had startled Holmes had disappeared.

At last the crowds began to thin, there was little parking in London most of the available space taken up with buildings for the millions of people who lived, worked and played in the capital. They had to walk at least three-quarters of the way back to Lestrade's flat before they could pick up any form of transport big enough to fit the table on. The shops were gradually decreasing, now there were only the unmarked fronts of various salons and boutiques, where the rich ordered rather than personally oversaw their shopping from the latest laser disc.

"Now if we take the next left maybe we could...."

From a nearby alley somebody screamed. For a minute they froze; Lestrade reached for her ioniser and started to run but Holmes was faster. Watson brought up the rear with the table still balanced precariously on his head.

Shopping was strewn all over the alleyway, a jumble of wrapping paper, boxes and trinkets mixing with the grime of the street. Amongst the carnage of bags and boxes a large silver droid held a struggling woman under one arm.

"Lex, put me down..." the woman thumped the metal arm of the droid.

"...You're only suppose to carry the shopping, LEX." The robot turned and began to make its way up the alley and towards the trio.

"01284349823784839," chanted the robot as it came closer, "8947849592038485937958.548455845985945955-58347583545893854.548568945..."

Holmes blocked its passage.

"Let go of the female, this can be resolved in a peaceful and..." The robot swung a huge metal fist at Holmes's head; it missed by centimetres as Holmes dropped to a crouch.

"...Or we can do this the hard way."

Lestrade raised her ioniser.

"Let's see how it likes the taste of an energy surge." She took aim and tried to fire but the droid took one look with its cycloptic eye and, with speed surprising for its bulk, hurled a garbage can at her. Leaping sideways to get out the way cost her the ioniser as it skittered off somewhere among the debris of shopping. Watson caught Lestrade with his free hand as she flipped up, huffing she swept the hair from her eyes with her hand just in time to see Holmes dodge another blow.

"Watson, can you reason with it?" Shouted Holmes over the noise of the woman. Watson put down the table and straightened his battered bowler. Holmes ducked again as Lex slammed at him again, shattering the surface of the brickwork.

"Let's see, I haven't spoken code for a while!" Lestrade leapt as another dustbin came her way, the captive woman was now battering her palms against the droid's side, not that it was doing any good. Watson walked forward and gave a nervous wave.

"Er...hello...9375497495475974934749457459575493?" The droid straightened.

"4754874739573993...see, Holmes, you just needed to...oh my goodness!" In one lightning movement the droid dropped the hysterical woman and charged. As Watson began to back up Lestrade cupped her hands to her mouth.

"WATSON, YOU'RE AN ENFORCER DROID. HIT IT." The droid was mere inches from Watson when he swung his fist. As the punch connected Lex lifted off his metal feet and fizzed, sparks of blue lighting hissing onto Watson outstretched hand, by the time Lex hit the ground his face was a mass of blue light and twisted metal. Watson stared at his hand in horror.

"Oh my...I'm so sorry!" Lestrade picked her ioniser out of the rubbish.

"I wish you'd remember you what you are sometimes, Watson. That punch was meant to be used for smashing in doors, it can make short work of a servo droid." Holmes looked up from helping the shaking woman to her feet.

"God forbid he ever goes back to that programmed monstrosity, Lestrade. Where would I be without my Watson?" Lestrade nodded.

"I'm not saying he go all automated on us, Holmes, I'm just saying he should remember his own strength occasionally."

Watson stared at his fist in amazement and then back to the droid who lay fizzing on the floor. "Oh my!"

Lestrade pulled out a communicator and buzzed the main computer for some uniformed officers to get down there, she'd learnt that when Holmes was around she was never off duty and always carried her ioniser and communicator wherever she went. "Back up's on the way Holmes."

Holmes wasn't listening; he was already in the middle of a conversation with the victim.

"....I just asked him to call a cab and he went berserk, absolutely crazy, started spouting all these numbers and throwing the shopping everywhere. How I'm ever going to repay my boss for all this I'll never know, one of those packages was an authentic Stalzt suit, the ones that are made out of real glass beads not a plastic mix, that'll be smashed into a zillion pieces by now. I was only trusted to go and pick it up because his personal assistant's down with a broken leg, and I was sure I followed the operating instructions for Lex down to the last letter." The woman dabbed an already grubby tissue to her nose Holmes nodded reassuringly.

"Items like Stalzt suits have insurance from manufacturers, your employer will be able to claim everything back without any trouble. Can you tell me which taxi company you told Lex to ring?" The woman frowned.

"I didn't specify, so it would probably be Swift's, but I don't know which office it phoned." Holmes smiled a thin smiled but Lestrade frowned.

"Just what company is Lex from anyway Miss..." The woman seemed to notice Lestrade for the first time and began nervously tearing at the tissue.

"Mrs...Andrews for a couple of months now, anyway, I still have to think about it. The company, now let's see, Bonzo the cook that's a Botman's and so is George the butler and the secretary is a Selectron but he's not keen on them, and most of the cleaning robots are from J.Peterson's Servidroids, but Lex is much older than that, he was one of the first Mr Harvey bought." Holmes raised an eyebrow.

"Mr F. Harvey the billionaire plastics engineer."

The woman nodded. "Yes, that's the one. The amount of work Lex has had on him he'd have to be, why in the service last week the man said the only thing still working properly was the primary processor cells, everything else was shot again. It's anyone's guess how Lex get worn so quick; it's not like Mr Harvey really uses him for much now, he just likes to have him around." She sighed "In fact he'll probably be more upset about Lex than the suit."

Lestrade coughed before the woman could continue.

"Mrs Andrew, who was he made by?"

"Oh, dear, yes. Now it was that firm that went out of business five years ago, bankruptcy case, big scandal over skimming of must, Robotrix, that was it. Lex is a Robotrix droid model 12, very old now -- they were up to 213 by the time they went."

Sirens began to wail steadily overhead and a police car touched down at the beginning of the alley, landing on a package and probably crushing the rest of the Stalzt suit. A uniformed officer stepped out of the car closely followed by a police droid, quite a number of series down from Watson, its one eye scanned the alley.

"One weapon, Constable Jones, ioniser, issue 3345, Inspector Beth Lestrade, license number 556709, licensed to detain, licensed to injured, licensed to maim, licensed to use lethal force. One Police Enforcer droid issue 961, licensed to Inspector...."

Lestrade grimaced. "Can't you shut it off, Constable."

Jones shook his head and grinned. "Wish I could miss."

The droid continued in its grating voice. "... Beth Lestrade, supplementary license to Sherlock Holmes, standard police contract 1507. One Robotrix droid, inoperative, model 12 submodel servitude droid. There are no deceased bodies in the area, Constable Jones. There are no hidden narcotics in the area, Constable Jones."

He shrugged and slapped the droid on its shoulder.

"It took long enough to make him learn to quote weaponry before body count, miss, his not like the Model 7's." He gestured to the droid. "These guys you just tell them to point and shoot." The droid raised its arm as if to fire, Jones slapped it back.

"That was a figure of speech, Tin Grin." The droid lowered its arm.

"Jeez, I love this hunk of scrap metal. Anyway, what's the problem..."

Lestrade flashed her badge.

"...Inspector Lestrade?"

She motioned to the droid and the woman. "Droid malfunction -- we need a statement and Mrs Andrews needs a medical, a note for her employer and a cup of strong tea; and the droid needs to be examined and scraped."

Jones nodded. "No problem. I was just on the way back to the station, anyway. Tin Grin, pick up the servo-droid and put it into the back of the car...and open the boot first this time."

Tin Grin began to walk out of the alley.


The droid stopped.

"This droid here." He placed an arm on Lex's shoulder. "Not whatever you're sensing in the nearest shop. Mrs Andrews, if you'd like to accompany me down the station we'll get you sorted out...Excuse me, Miss, this isn't a spectator sport."

Lestrade turned to see a small girl in a red cardigan staring into the alley; behind her a tall slender servo droid stood patiently holding her hand. The girl smiled and waved and then pulled the droid off down the street. Lestrade frowned. Hadn't she seen a red cardigan like that somewhere before?

On to Chapter Two!

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