A Study in Solar Systems

Part 4: The Interaction of Objects Occupying the Same Orbit

by Trynia (tryniamerin at yahoo.com)

General Disclaimer

Next day, Holmes and Lestrade were in quite different settings, particularly when they arrived at the space resort. The expansive lobby spread out in many directions, its walls lined with ultra-modern pastel plastic and shiny brass. Squares of rich carpet separated by strips of astro-turf spanned the floor underfoot. Along the walls periodically of the hallways were small electronic computer terminals used for patron convenience. A resident could punch up a floor plan of any level of the hotel, ring up any specific info pertaining to hotel accommodations, or even see videos describing activities occurring at the resort. Guests and last minute walk-ins bustled past a long reception desk fabricated from plastic, its front surface inlaid with squares of bogus marble. Some VIP guests, such as the participants involved in the Interstellar Scottish Festival, and the Global Cricket convention, already had booked reservations far in advance. They could simply just check into their suites. Other people, such as overnight visitors, or walk-ins who missed the last shuttle, had to wait in line to process a double room request. Lately, due to the number of last minute room requests, reservations took a long time to process.
Various shops and businesses lined main hallways of the first level. Video game arcades and snack bars were packed with the latest walk-ins, waiting anxiously to find out if there were any rooms vacant in the crammed SpaceResort hotels. Inside of one refreshment bar sat one patron at his table right beside the glass window. Ye Old Malt Shop was written in swirling cursive reverse inside of the large window. Slowly he sipped his milkshake as he kept one eye glued to the long lines of people forming outside. His clothing was distinct; a brown coat half belted, a pullover sweater underneath, topped with a paisley tie. On the back of his chair hung a cane, decidedly Victorian.
Some of the travelers carried instrument cases and drums. One or two even wore caps and bonnets with their clan pins fastened to them. They stopped to admire Holmes' deerstalker and Inverness, and he tipped his hat to them. They sat down at a table nearby, next to another member who was also dressed in a long plaid and sporran, as a young Highlander. Unlike the first two, who wore a twentieth century kilt with ceremonial black jackets complete with silver buttons, the third wore a lovely loose peasant blouse and a leather bandoleer strap. A faded gunnysack was plunked on the floor under the table beside him.
Holmes grumbled as he noticed milk splattering onto his pants. Carefully he caught the drops with his handkerchief before they soaked into the fabric covering his thigh. Picking up a newspaper on the glass-topped table, he skimmed it hastily. "Where in the world is the `technology' section?" he muttered. It was a novelty in this century to have a paper copy of a newspaper to read. This station supplied novelties by the dozen.
On the other side of the window, people hurried left and right. Across from the refreshment court was a series of reservation terminals. Hunched over one of the terminals, a brown-haired woman intently depressed tan keys. Flashing letters on the monitor reflected backward messages on her glasses. One button rang up the floor plan of the lobby's AA wing. Another try and statistics revealed the current number of visitors presently registered in the hotel. "They said at the desk it would be a matter of minutes," she stated matter-of-factly.
At the main entrance from the SpacePort, the transparent glass doors flew open. Several strings of gentlemen wearing multicolored cable knit sweaters and sun visors wandered in. Glancing up from her terminal, the woman noted these chattering knots of athletically dressed men. Each carried a duffel bag and a cricket bat in hand. "Could be members of the cricket tourney -- or was it racquetball?" she thought. "Must have just arrived on the latest shuttle from Port Ghana on Earth."
One of the cricketers conversed about the weather with a man in a cherry red polo sweater. As he passed her, the cricketer raised his red-brimmed straw hat politely to her. Was it a sprig of celery she saw pinned to the lapel of his corduroy jacket with red piping?
"I tell ye, Rhianna. It's nothing to miss! Ye gotta come to Robbie Burns tribute!"
"I'm here to relax, kid! I just met this really cool guy, and you had to come over and botch it up!"
"Do ye call someone wearing a half pound of leather and feathers and a crazy smell 'cool'?"
Lestrade turned from the terminal toward the direction of the two young voices. That girl wearing silver with the French-braided red hair looked familiar, but it could be a coincidence. The young teenaged boy wearing the kilt and cable-knit sweater was unfamiliar, though. From the Hotel Lobby with the shops they walked, arguing. "There'll be plenty of bonnie gents at the Festival, Rhianna. Besides, some of the women think men in kilts are -- sexy."
"That may be, but they aren't my type."
"How do ye know?"
"I think Scots culture is cool and all. But mixing and mingling with a bunch of grownups in suits and ties just strikes me cold."
"Okay. I should have guessed. But make sure ye dinna miss some of the other great stuff! Like the Games."
"I promise I'll go to at least two events at the Fest, okay?"
"It's a deal," she nodded, and headed off from the redhead. Both of them stopped when they saw Lestrade at the terminal.
"What's a Yardie doing here?" the redheaded woman asked the Scottish gentleman standing next to her. Her eyes fell on Lestrade as if trying to recall who she was. But Lestrade was already on her way to rendezvous with Holmes at the coffee shop.
"Someone you know?" Hamish Cameron asked Melanie Rush.
"That looked like Beth Lestrade, my college roommate," she muttered. "Wait here...."
The vast SpaceResort lobby was a virtual hive of activity. It was interlinked with the SpacePort via a series of corridors. When she'd first spotted the Resort from the outside, she was impressed. Built in 2045, this marvelous cylinder contained a shopping plaza, a spaceport, three hotels, and even a full-size golf course. Pieces were added onto the giant cylinder rotating one hundred miles above earth's surface. It orbited Earth every twelve hours, like the space shuttles of the late twentieth century.
Now, in 2103, the SpaceResort had become the primary stop for business travelers. It had been the first hotel of that type, and was still the most popular. Even with the launch and construction of the Econolodge and the Whetstone Astoria, there was an allure in visiting the earth's first SpaceResort.
Of course, when most people wanted to stay in space, they just went to a resort on the Moon. The one-sixth G was a commercial gimmick for people to "take the load off their feet," and "live like Hercules" for a week.
Mostly the Resort served as a relay for people coming to and departing from Earth. Much like Newark Airport or Heathrow, it was just a stop along the way. Businesses still loved holding meetings here, and conventions were a must. If reservations weren't made a week or month in advance, travelers would find themselves roomless. Instead, they'd have to sack out on a guest couch for a layover. Various hotel units existed side by side. There was the rich section, closer to the golf courses and parks. Then there were the moderate sections, financed by Holiday Inn, and Ramada. Finally, closest to the spaceport, were the Motel-6 type accommodations. These were virtual shoeboxes just feet from the central corridor.
Back in Ye Old Malt Shop, the man in the brown inverness coat and deerstalker slowly lowered his paper. Through the reversed letters on the window, he saw a brown-haired girl waving to him. Instantly, he signaled her with a raised hand. As she approached, he raised his battered straw hat in greeting. "Anything to report?" he asked.
"You look like you’ve made yourself at home," she replied, drawing the chair opposite. She sat. "Sorry I've taken so long."
"Not long enough for me to have found the `technology' section of this silly newspaper."
Lestrade frowned. Ever since they'd arrived, her partner seemed preoccupied with thought. His petty complaints about the newspaper alerted her, as had his complaints regarding the inadequacy of his supply of astro-credits. Both were a subterfuge for something far more disturbing.
"Holmes, you've been in a funk. This weird state of behavior since we arrived. Is there something on your mind, or what? I mean you were excited to take a spin on that yacht and now you're on cloud three... in a fog."
"Just pondering old memories, not to worry." Before they could talk further, she stopped. Following her gaze, the detective saw her eyes fall on a redheaded woman in a silvery dress walking into the refreshment bar. The woman glared at the manager.
"Zed!" cried Lestrade. Holmes noticed her staring right past them to the entrance of the bar. "I don't believe it!"
"What?" asked Holmes annoyed that he'd been interrupted.
"Lizzie!" beamed Mel, waltzing into the restaurant with her arms held out in front of her. Curly red hair cascaded around her sloping shoulders. Immediately the Inspector rose from her chair, and rushed to meet her. The two old friends hugged each other gladly.
"I'd never thought I'd see you here," she began, patting her back.
"You been keeping out of mischief?" Mel asked Beth.
"Not likely," said Lestrade. "Where the blazes did you pop up from? I thought you were on Galileo City with your boyfriend Hector."
"He and I had a falling out. So, I told him to drop me off at the nearest space station. And wouldn't you know they had an opening for a computer technician. Naturally I applied."
For a moment, Holmes glanced up, watching the two women as they stepped back. Beth and Mel hugged each other, scarcely believing the other was there. "I don't believe it, Melly. Like, this is the last place in the Galaxy I thought I'd see you."
"Who's your friend?" Mel asked, poking a thumb in the detective's direction. Sherlock Holmes felt like an outsider to all these rapturous reunions. Lestrade had so many friends that he suddenly began to grasp the strange impact the inspector's casework left on so many lives. Traveling around the city of New London and the other cases worldwide, a Scotland Yard inspector was bound to run into old friends sooner or later.
"I must comment, Lestrade, this is quite a reunion?" he asked casually.
"Oh, Mel, this is Sherlock Holmes," she said. "He's working for us on the latest case...."
"Zed," gasped Mel. "So it isn't the tabloids. You really did bring him back to life!"
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss...." he said, taking her hand gallantly as he rose from the chair.
"This is my old college roomie, Melanie Bush," said Beth Lestrade.
"And I put up with Beth's collection of mystery stuff. You know, Mr. Holmes, she had a whole wall plastered with posters of...."
"Mel," she cautioned her. "Get over it. You were just weirded out it wasn't Ricky Rockett like you were gaga over...."
"Too right," Mel laughed, her exotic English accent sounding strange compared to Lestrade.
"Is there a Robert Burns tribute going on?" Holmes asked. "It would seem evident by the number of patrons I saw whilst going in when we arrived...."
"Oh, the Earl of Cameron's having a shindig," Mel said with a dismissive wave. "They do it every year. And then he has the great sailing of the solar yacht group... out to the asteroids and back...."
"Really?" Holmes raised an eyebrow. "Is it an annual event?"
"Yep. Every year in January the whole Scottish Anachronistic Society meets here, and takes up two ballrooms and their bagpipes and drums. And then they bring their oil lanterns, which are a natural fire hazard... and voila...."
"Most intriguing. I say, Lestrade, I think it would be interesting to stay for the festivities. Are they tonight? I had just had a call from Madame Armanda-Stuart that the yacht would be delayed till later tonight."
"Holmes, I thought we had an investigation," Lestrade groaned.
"We might hear a scrap of evidence to shed light on this case," Holmes protested. "After all, there are the Scottish reenactors here; and doesn't it strike you as a coincidence that these other power failures are related to patrons who all are of Scottish descent.... all yacht owners?"
"That's a wild guess." Lestrade rolled her eyes. "And if I do go to a dinner what on earth do I wear?"
"Not a problem," Mel said. "I can get you tickets. And you can pick an outfit from my wardrobe. We are about the same size. C'mon, it will be fun."
"Fine, you win," she relented, as Holmes smiled.
"I'll meet you back here this evening, then, whilst you ladies freshen up." He tipped his hat to them. Lestrade sighed and let Mel lead her off to the apartments, realizing she wasn't going to win this argument. Besides, it was a chance to catch up on old times.

On to Part 5!
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