The Detective and the Diplomat [working title]
by Beth Einspanier
Disclaimer: I do not own Discworld or its related characters or locations. These are the property
of Terry Pratchett, and I am using them without permission. I also do not own Sherlock Holmes,
Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, or London. These [with the notable exception of London] are the
property of Arthur Conan Doyle, and are also used without permission. If anyone is thinking of
suing me on these grounds, that person has no life. Other characters are mine. All rights
Author's note: For the longest time I'd been wondering who was smarter: Sherlock Holmes or
Lord Havelock Vetinari. What started out as a whimsical mental exercise may eventually turn
into a story, though it will certainly be interesting switching between the Pratchett style and the
Doyle style. Fans of each should feel free to check my consistency. Wish me luck.
Author's other note: Throughout this fic I will be switching back and forth between London and
Ankh-Morpork, which I will indicate at the beginning of each section. Any sections without a
heading are pretty multiversal. If you get confused, just remember that this is a little like watching
"Frequency," only with no radio, no Aurora Borealis, and no intratemporal bridging.
It was around March when Sherlock Holmes and I separately embarked upon the most curious
series of events that no-one in London ever saw. This was, of course, by design, or so it was
explained to me, or else something quantum would happen. Being a lowly physician, I did not
even pretend to know what the young man with the purple hair was talking about, but he forebore
any further explanation.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The evening immediately preceding what I will call The Event was a quiet one, rather to Holmes'
increasing annoyance. For the better part of the week he had leafed through various editions of
the four local newspapers on which he frequently relied for mental stimulation between cases of
citywide or even national importance, but to judge by his increasing torpor they were barren of
any puzzles. Even the weather seemed to share his sentiments, for the wind was picking up and I
could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. I hoped it would blow over by morning.
He was just about to retire for the evening out of sheer frustration when a telegram arrived for
Holmes. His previous lethargy notwithstanding, he leaped from the wicker chair with enough
vigour to nearly overturn it, and swooped down at the alarmed messenger, snatching the telegram
from the poor boy's hand. He tore it open and scanned it eagerly, leaving me to tip the
messenger. I gave the boy a bit extra to compensate for the fright Holmes had given him, and
sent him on his way. I turned back from closing the door in time to see Holmes' expression
sharpen in interest.
"What is it?" I asked.
"A curious incident at a birthday party."
"What sort of a curious incident?"
"An explosion." As was generally the case, he offhanded way of mentioning the presumed
highlight of the birthday party drove me to respond.
"An explosion! Goodness, Holmes, who would set a bomb at a birthday party?"
He brandished the telegram. "Our client will call upon us at noon tomorrow. I'm certain he will
be quite happy to fill in the particulars of the event."
Little did I know that Holmes would already be gone by tomorrow morning.
Ponder Stibbons, Reader of Invisible Writings, head of the Department of Inadvisably Applied
Magic, and the unofficial award-winner of Furthest in Appearance from a Member of a Grunge
Band amongst the recent graduates of Unseen University who shared the High Energy Magic
building, was never confused. He was frequently curious, occasionally perplexed, and sometimes
bloody annoyed(a), but he was never confused.
He watched with great curiosity through his pocket omniscope - cunningly adapted, he thought,
from the broken crystal previously used [a/n: cf. The Last Hero] - as Skazz, under the expert
guidance of the Librarian, emerged from L-Space into... a library. This was no surprise to
Ponder, since the reading of invisible writings was based largely on L-Space, which connected all
libraries in the multiverse and in which existed every book ever written, or would be written. But
the library that Skazz and the Librarian had left from only obeyed the natural laws of size and
volume when it felt like it, which wasn't terribly often. The one they were in now seemed like
one of the more boring sort, where the books didn't try to bite you and it was actually smaller
inside than outside.
"All right Skazz," Ponder said into the omniscope, "show me around a bit. Let's see where you
The next image Ponder saw with any clarity was an up-close view of the Librarian's left eye and
left nostril. Since the Librarian was a 300-pound orangutan, it was disturbingly easy to see his
nasal passages very clearly from this proximity.
"*Slower*, please," Ponder grimaced, trying to banish the image from his head, "I hardly saw
anything on that first pass. And *don't* put it so close to the Librarian."
Mercifully, the view panned away, more slowly, away from the simian sinuses and across the rows
and rows of books - Ponder guessed they only had a finite number immediately available - until it
framed a door leading outside.
"Where to now?" Skazz asked tinnily through the omniscope.
"Outside," Ponder replied, "Remember the landmark we're looking for."
"Right. Big clocktower."
"Now remember, we roll at midnight, so be in position by then." He pulled his pocket-watch
from the pocket of his robes and opened it. The watch - or more precisely the imp within the
watch - said that it was eleven-fifty-two and did he know that this was the seventeenth time it'd
been consulted that evening. He pocketed the watch. "Eight minutes," he told Skazz, ignoring
the muffled cursing within his robe.
"Right," said Skazz, and when he started running Ponder had a choice between shutting his
omniscope or getting motion sick. He opted for the former, pocketing the device so he could
attend to rechecking Hex's settings. He'd done a double teleport of this type twice before - both
times with Rincewind as a test subject - but never across such a vast distance before.
+++ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS (Y/N)+++QUERY+++
"I'm sure," Ponder reassured Hex, then called over his shoulder, "Drongo! Is Tezz in place?"
"He's right by Old Tom," Adrian "Big Mad Drongo" Turnipseed called back, "And I think he
nicked a book from your room to read while he waits."
"Which book?" Ponder asked.
"'Nymphs and Satyrs at Play'."
Ponder coloured. "I don't own any book by that title!" he protested
The message was relayed to Tezz, and when Tezz replied, Adrian started laughing so hard he
could scarcely pass it along to Ponder.
"It... it... it has... oh gods... it has your name... wizard-written... on the inside front cover!" he
finally managed to choke out.
Ponder turned an interesting shade and abruptly turned back towards the computer, certain he
wouldn't live this one down. Permanently etching his name inside the front cover, like a lot of
things, had seemed like a good idea at the time. He never expected anyone else in the department
to find it, to be sure.
What really hurt was that it was a specially engraved seventh edition with the enchanted full-
motion centrefold on pages 32 and 33.
Finally, Hex chirped at Ponder to indicate the two minute countdown. He relayed the message to
the rest of the team and started casting the complicated spell that would make Skazz and Tezz
switch places. This was a more refined version of the previous spell, thanks to Ponder's
tinkering, and so could be cast by a single wizard rather than a circle of them(b). All things being
equal, of course, the double teleport was, to be sure, easier than a single teleport, because of
conservation of matter. Skazz and Tezz were very nearly the same size and build, so naturally it
fell to them to be the guinea pigs.
Ponder was nearing the last syllable of the incantation when he suddenly realised that he had to
sneeze. *Oh no,* he thought, knowing that it was too late to abort the spell. *Okay, just try to
ignore it.* He shut his eyes and continued chanting.
The sneeze patiently and graciously waited until the middle of the last syllable to go ahead and
(a) usually when trying to explain to the Archchancellor what exactly he did during his research.
(b) mainly because Ponder didn't want to have to ask the senior wizards for help with an
experiment (see footnote a).
The variable rippled across the Multiverse. It was big and it was quantum, and it did exactly what
Ponder Stibbons (or anyone else) did not expect it to do. It switched two people in the target
cities, to be sure, but...
BIG BEN NEARLY DESTROYED IN FREAK STORM
Thousands of Londoners were awakened by what some compared to cannonfire during last
night's unprecedented thunderstorm, during which witnesses say Big Ben was struck by a massive
bolt of lightning that, miraculously, left almost no damage in the noble structure before arcing
away across the rooftops 'almost like it was looking for someone to hit,' according to one
"Er, Ponder?" Drongo asked as Ponder blew his nose. Smoke and the smell of burning tin filled
"Tezz is still here."
Ponder stuffed the handkerchief into his pocket (causing a fresh wave of protests from his pocket-
watch) and looked over at Drongo. "Are you quite sure?" he asked, a horrible sense of
realisation starting to develop in his stomach like some parasitic alien.
"Either he never left, or his hair never left." This was, of course a valid argument, considering
that the common theory was that Tezz had not had a trim in... well, ever, and so he looked as
though he had a sheepdog in his family tree.
"Oh, hell," Ponder muttered. He knew the spell had gone off... but-- He fished the omniscope
from his pocket. "Skazz?"
"Still here," Skazz said grainily, "I thought you said midnight."
"Did anything... happen over there?" Ponder ventured.
"I nearly got hit by octarine lightning. Does that count?"
"Lightning?" That'd be the spell, Ponder knew. It should have bounced off the clocktower and
"Yeah - great big bolt hit the clocktower and then arced off somewhere else."
"You have to find out where that bolt hit. This could be crucial."
"Ponder... a variable happened, didn't it?"
Ponder looked pained. "Just go and find out where the bolt hit. I have a feeling that the wrong
people got switched."
Skazz paled slightly. This could get seriously quantum. "Who?" he asked.
End Part 1.