One-Way Sherlock

by Dennis Mombauer

“Mr. Sherlock Holmes will assist you in your investigation.”

“Holmes?” I spat on the floor, and the commissioner raised a thin eyebrow. “As in the stories?”

“Exactly, although I did not figure you for a reader. As it turns out, Doyle’s character was a real man once; we exhumed his remains, and our most scientific minds produced a clone. Apparently, genius is indeed a matter of genetics.”

It was not the strangest thing I had heard while in the Extrasolarian Service, but it came close. “Alright. Holmes?”

The new arrival smiled with the precision of a laser scalpel: “Tell me about the case.”

“Two men get into a spaceship, but at its destination, only one arrives. Says, the other one vanished while the ship was tunneling. Never happened in the history of spaceflight, but what do we know? Everything seems possible nowadays.”

“What else did you find?”

“Two things. One of the cryo-coffins was defect. Maybe the missing man awakened mid-flight and encountered… something. And there is a sphere, fist-sized, glowing from within and not on the ship’s cargo lists.”

“I see.” He didn’t blink. “It’s quite simple, really. There is always an answer. A thing happened, and it did so in a certain way; there is only a limited number of possibilities. If you go through them all, you’ll find that only one fits all the details. Weigh the man.”


“You have the original medical records, and you have the survivor in custody. Weigh him. It solves your case.”

“You mean… are you certain? What about the sphere?”

“Of no significance. Misdirection.”

He had indeed solved my case, but I also figured out his. “So you out-riddled the riddle, just by thinking. All you can do, isn’t it? A clone would’ve been better off.”

“You are intelligent.” His skin was flaking off, and I could see the things beneath. “Yes. This is neither a real body, nor is it mine; it’s merely an extension of the intellect, thought made machine. They used the personality of a man imagined by another man centuries ago; and they gave me the capability to play through a thousand scenarios in the time it takes you to describe your case. Give me…”

He dissolved, not slowly, but as rapid as an inverted vortex, disgorging letter-shaped bits and pieces all over the floor. Almost seemed to spell something, a word, a name…