"Welcome aboard the Nautilus. We hope your stay will be a pleasant one. Welcome aboard..."
Army Doctor John Watson paid no attention to the mechanical helper who shouted it's programmed greeting into the air. He could never understand the need for such platitudes to be shouted into the air and after having waited on the platform for more than twenty minutes, he was ready to take his service revolver out and shoot it.
Instead, he tried to occupy his mind by surveying the ship that would be his home for the next month, though he was using the term 'ship' loosely. True, the common people called it an 'airship', but around the company he was going to spend this trip with, it was best defined as a 'Dirigible'. John smirked.
The Nautilus was certainly going to be the grandest contraption he was ever going to have the pleasure of cruising on. It had taken all that he had saved from his last bonus to purchase a ticket, but it was going to be be well worth the money. It was the maiden voyage for the Dirigible; which showed by all the fanfare it was receiving. Long banners were hung on the outside making it visible for miles around.
It could hold more than a hundred passengers (which was evident by the long queue) and enough servants to wait on them. The metallic shine of it glittered in the November air and he found that sometimes it would even blind him. He had seen some pictures in the local editorial, but the grainy black and white pictures had not done it justice.
It was truly a marvel and further proof that the new century was going to hold even more promise. As long as this ridiculous war doesn't continue. Realizing were his mind was wandering, John shook his head to clear it. Suddenly, shouting cut through the air.
"I may not have a ticket but my name is on your list!" Bellowed an indignant male voice.
John signed and took out his pocket watch for the third time in the last ten minutes. So that was the real reason he was waiting; for what now seemed like an eternity. The people around him were also starting to shuffle with impatience, it won't be too soon before a scene broke out. Although he was never one for wanting fisticuffs, John knew he won't be too displeased if the gentleman was put in his place.
Thankfully, the staff let the man through and the queue surged forward. John grabbed at his hat as he was pushed forward.
"Pleasure or business?"
John blinked his eyes rapidly. "Sir?"
The attendant repeated the question, with slight irritation lining it. "Pleasure or business?"
John fumbled his pockets searching for his ticket as he answered. "Pleasure."
His ticket was barely glanced at before it was stamped. "We hope that your stay on the Nautilus will be a pleasant one."
Without a single look of the interior, John took a direct route to his cabin, only stopping to first pick up his cabin key. He released a sigh as he opened the door to 221A. John was not surprised to see how cramped it was, at least he wasn't sharing it. Bless the Lord for small favors. All the retired soldier wanted was peace and quiet, something that had been in short supply on the battlefield.
The decorating was nothing less on what he would have expected from a world class luxury liner. It was a bit too gaudy for his tastes, with gold lining everything and the wallpaper being so busy it almost gave him a headache.
He slipped off his tweed jacket, popped off his hat and placed them over the peg on his door. His suitcase was placed next to the bed and John opened it, searching for the novelette he had purchased before boarding. He slumped into the wing chair, propped his feet up on the ottoman and placed his cane against the wall. John pulled the draw string on the lamp, the room was bathed in a soft light.
John Watson could think of three distinct reasons as to why the novelette could not keep his attention. One: it was a horribly written dime thriller. Two: although he had tried to convince himself to the contrary, the last thing he really wanted was 'peace & quiet' Three: whoever was in the cabin next to his was making a hell of a racket.
There had been not only what sounded like small explosions, but also an odd odor had started to seep under the door that connected his cabin to the one adjacent to it. John threw the novelette at the wall and reached for his cane. He was tempted to smack the door to the other cabin until he felt better, but decided it would be best to avoid a confrontation. He put on his coat and left his room.
The rest of the interior of this Nautilus was slightly less 'ritzy' than his own cabin but the airship did its best to glamour her guests at every possible turn. There was a automated band playing a classical tune that John recognized as a Mozart. He was not shocked to see the instruments playing with no human to guide, although there were hands, the ones of automatons. Whether they had a face or they were just gears and it was still a marvel to see them move with such fluidity and grace. John slowly closed his eyes and allowed to music to flow over and in him.
John took a quick glance around him and saw that the other guests were already in their dinner wear. It had been a long time since he had seen men in spotless tuxedos and woman with their glittering jewels and fashionable gowns. John tried not to feel out of place, but he gripped his cane slightly harder as he felt their eyes looking over him. Judging. Picking.
His suit was by no means 'ratty' but compared to the tailored fashion that surrounded him, he might as well have climbed out of the gutter. He took one final sweeping look of the main lobby and then ducked out onto one of the observation decks. No one else was there; the Nautilus was still going to be docked for the next hour. The view afforded him was still breathtaking nonetheless. The massive Dirigible was docked hundreds of feet above the city skyline and the view seemed to stretch out with no end.
John took out his chrome-plated cigarette case that his sister had given to him. He withdrew a single hand-rolled cigarette and light it with a match. Before putting the case back in his jacket, John looked over the inscription. From Clara Love Harry
He had sincerely hoped that the romance his sister had had with the other woman would have worked out. It wasn't that he was overly fond of Clara, he had just wanted to see a romance honestly blossom; albeit, an unconventional one. I'm getting bitter in my old age. Despite the fact that John Watson was a healthy thirty-two, he felt as if the whole world had already passed him by, without so much as a warning.
He took a long drag from the cigarette and the taste lingered in his lungs. As a doctor, he knew it was a terrible habit, but everyone needed their vices. He had told himself for the hundredth time that once he ran out, it would be his last. Maybe the commitment would actually last, as the excuse he had supplied himself in the first place was the fact that he was getting shot at-which was no longer the case.
John was lost in reminisces when a shadow of a lean figure came up to his right side. At first he ignored the figure, but he felt eyes on him so he turned his eyes up to see the outline of a dark haired man. He seemed to be eyeing his cigarette, so John took out his case and offered the stranger one. The man took it without a word, took out a lighter and lit the tip. They both puffed on their respective cigarettes, watching the sun dip lower.
"Iraq or Afghanistan?"
John started to cough, as the unexpected question came as he was halfway in between another inhale of smoke. "Excuse me?"
"You are a military man. So, Iraq or Afghanistan?" As if to mock him, the dark haired man took an elegant puff of his cigarette and released the smoke in small rings.
"Afghanistan but how would you know...?"
The man smirked, "Well, you have recently been shot. You still carry your revolver, which would be illegal on a civilian and your sleeve." He let the last word out as a sigh as the smoke escaped his lips.
John furrowed his brow, uncertain if he should be shocked by the man's words or astounded at them. He tried to regain his composure and put out his cigarette before he answered. "Might I enquire as to how you are aware of this personal information?"
He kept his eyes fixated outside the window. "It is obvious to anyone who actually observes."
John went to open his mouth but he was interrupted. "I am not a stalker if that is your next question."
John turned to finally face the man. His hair was a untamed mass of ebony curls and his cheekbones were high and sharp; a contrast to the cupid bow of his mouth. He was dressed in a form fitting suit that had unquestionable been tailored. The man wasn't wearing a tie, instead a pair of googles hung loosely around his neck. The money of the suit was offset by the first two buttons of the shirt being undone and the slight burns on the edges of his cuffs.
John Watson was still completely baffled by the man.
"No, I didn't mean to imply that. I was just curious."
The man raised an eyebrow. "You are?"
John tried to suppress a chuckle. "How could I not be? Now will you divulge how you made those 'observations'.
The man looked like he wanted to comment but decided instead to answer John's questions. "Well, you have a cane but that is not uncommon for a gentlemen. However, when you reached for your cigarette case your movements were stiff. Although it could be stiff muscles, it appears that it is only the one shoulder, pointing to a recent injury. Now as for the gun, I saw you brush your back with your hand as I joined you out here. It was an unconscious thought as if you were checking for something. Being a man recently done with a tour of duty it stands to reason it would be your most important possession-your revolver. Now as for the location, may I see your left sleeve?"
John presented his sleeve before he realized he had even done it.
The man took John's wrist in his hand and touched the upturned sleeve with his right. "That is a Lembert stitch, that while easily performed by a surgeon not often seen on a coat. You have an odd tan line, showing that you were often in the sun but not for the pleasure of sun bathing."
John made every possible effort for his jaw not to hang open. "That is brilliant."
The man blinked a few times as if in disbelief. He slowly lowered his hand from John's wrist and asked, "Seriously?"
John tried to not allow his face to give away too much, but he found it difficult not to break out into a grin. "That is the most excitement I have had in a long while. Humor me, is it a parlor trick?"
The man grunted and his curls bounced with his head. "As I stated before, I observe, doctor. My science is not a cheap trick."
Afraid that he had thoughtlessly offended the man, John held out his hand for a shake. "Watson. John Watson. I would add more, but you seem to know the rest."
After eyeing John's outstretched hand suspiciously the man raised his own hand. "Sherlock Holmes. I am pleased to make your acquaintance..."
Before Sherlock could add more, the overhead speakers blared. "The Nautilus will now be departing. We request that all passengers vacate all observation decks. The Nautilus..."
John went to the door and held it open while Sherlock walked through it. They turned to each other as if uncertain how to continue. "As you are unaccompanied, as am I, would you care to join me for dinner?"
"Yes, I imagine I would."