"It was a most bizarre case," I reminded as we entered the lab. "And here we are again. What devilment is afoot this time?"
"Ah yes," Holmes mused. "The Case of the Frozen Monkey; Professor Charmon's experiment in teleportation. He forgot the earth's movement and rotation. Thus, the poor simian found himself briefly in orbit, a most chilling proposition."
Tall stacks of storage batteries lined the passage to the reaction chamber. There, a large white screen dominated a space humming with infernal gadgets--at least in my opinion. The fundamental laws of time and space ought not to be tampered with.
The professor came out of his office, both hands extended to us. I was obliged a left-handed handshake. "Holmes, Watson--I'm glad you could make it. Once again I seek counsel outside of my immersion in physics. I cannot accept the outcome of my experiment."
Holmes regarded the wild-haired, bespectacled researcher. "I understand it involves a search for alternate dimensions."
"Quite so, and we would expect an infinite variety of worlds. But they're all the same! The law of statistics makes this impossible."
I hovered uncomfortably close to the portal. "Harrumpf! My very hairs are standing on end before this gateway to the river Styx!"
"Hardly from fear, old boy." Holmes approached. "I daresay it's the electric potential about the screen, eh Professor?"
"Ey? Oh yes, yes. Now then, are we ready for a quick look 'round?"
"Good heavens, man!" I objected. "After what happened to the monkey?"
Charmon shook his head. "It's quite safe, Doctor. As expected, the site is recognizable by certain landmarks.We'll be right here, only in a different reality. We cannot stay long due to the foul air. I need only select one of my stored settings, though I hardly see the point. There is scant difference in the blighted landscapes."
I could practically hear the gears churning in Holmes' mind.
"Is there a world," Holmes asked, "in which there is some type of mass media?--a newspaper, perhaps."
"I saw something skittering about in world number six. I'll set the dial, and away we go."
The screen didn't change from its bland white. Incredibly, the professor walked right through it. We followed hesitantly.
The place was indeed bleak. Gloom enshrouded tumbledown structures, as colorless as the wasted grass. A scant breeze did little but stir up noxious fumes. We all took to covering our mouths with a handkerchief.
Holmes held out a hand to collect some floating flotsam. "Ash. Perhaps this world is volcanic, or suffered some man-made calamity." He spotted movement. "There! It appears to be a paper." He rushed up a low hillock before it fluttered out of sight.
I kept a nervous eye on the glowing gateway behind us, fearful of its collapse ere we escape this charnel house.
The detective walked down, still reading. "I have news for you, Professor. You have merely traveled to our own future." He leafed through pages. "An asteroid called Apophis struck the planet in the year 2029, laying waste to over a third of it. In spite of this, there's a world war going on. It seems nothing will ever bring us together in common cause."
Charmon coughed in the bad air. "I knew it would happen. The pass-through phenomenon!" He explained for our benefit. "Alternate realities vibrate at extremely small increments to ours It's easy to pass right through the dimensional potential into time itself." He looked glum. "We've not much of a future, it seems."
"But surely," I pointed out, "there is plenty of time for science to deal with a mere space rock. Think of what we'll accomplish in over a hundred years!"
Holmes let the paper drift away. "You're forgetting the nature of politics, dear boy. Money is better spent getting re-elected, and buying favors from the arms conglomerate. The wonder of it is that we make it that far."
After a bout of gloomy reflection, we went back into the gateway. I looked back one last time. A pair of noisy flying machines screamed by overhead, powered by some means I could not fathom." Humpf! You've got the money for those at any rate." Distant explosions prompted me to hastily depart.