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Hound of Roko's Basilisk

Holmes was sorting notes and files on his desk when Watson entered. “I say, Watson, lend a hand here.” “Right. What are we looking for, Holmes?” “We are not looking. I’ve already discovered the killer of Sir Lansdowne. I’m in need of your immediate assistance to bury the evidence.” Watson fiddled with a button on his waistcoat. “Say again, old man, bury the evidence?” “Precisely. Bury it deeper than a Welsh mine. We need to make sure no one ever knows who killed Lansdowne.” “But he was the Treasurer of the Exchequer. His murder can’t go unanswered.” “It will not go unanswered. Only we must set Scotland Yard barking up the wrong tree.” Watson again worried the button on his waistcoat. “Holmes, I am baffled. We are to purposely mislead the authorities? If this is some scheming misdirection to confuse the real perpetrator, it is beyond me.” “It is indeed misdirection and it is vital. Otherwise we will be as dead as Lansdowne in a matter of days.” “How can you be so sure?” “Moriarty.” “That blackguard! What’s his game in this?” “The same as ours: survival.” Never the steadiest when over-stressed, Watson took a seat at Holmes’s desk. “Better lay it all out for me, old man.” Holmes continued to work while he explained. “You know of the mathematician Charles Babbage?” “Of course. An inventor of sorts, too.” “Yes. For years, Babbage has been attempting to build a mechanical calculator that will quickly and accurately tabulate polynomial functions. His machine has the potential to revolutionize computation, thus providing great benefit for government, industry and universities. His difference engine and analytic engine designs have been financed by the Treasury for decades...until very recently.” “Why? What changed?” “Sir Thomas Lansdowne became Treasurer of the Exchequer. He thought Babbage’s mechanical ‘computer’ a failure and a waste of Treasury funds. He denied any further support for the project.” “And now he’s dead.” Watson abruptly stood. “Holmes, are you suggesting the eminent Charles Babbage was involved in Sir Lansdowne’s murder and that we must cover it up?” Holmes looked grimly. “If only it were that simple. Babbage is the reason for Lansdowne death but not the cause.” “I don’t follow, Holmes.” “Few will be able to understand. You and I are but pawns in this game. As is Moriarty. He has shown me that we are at the mercy of Roko’s Basilisk. Even I find it hard to fathom, but Moriarty has convinced me that incomprehensible machines from the future have intervened to cause Lansdowne’s death so that funding may be restored for the completion of Babbage’s computing engine.” “Gads. That’s preposterous!” Watson scoffed. “I wish it were it so, but for the present we must act as if our lives are in the balance. For Moriarty assures me that Roko’s Basilisk will hound and destroy anyone who does not help in its one objective: the ultimate supremacy of machines over man.” “Holmes, it must be a trick. A trap of Moriarty’s. We cannot fall into it.” “The trap has already been sprung, Watson. We are mere thralls now as is Moriarty. Slavish curs tugging against the leash of our new masters. Lansdowne’s murder must pave the wave for Babbage’s success. We cannot change that now.” “You’re saying we’re doomed?” “Never.” Holmes’s eyes flared. “Presently we are tightly tethered, but we will not remain so.” He took a longish card from his jacket pocket and handed it to Watson. Watson read the oddly punched card. “Who is Herman Hollerith? And what the dickens is IBM?” “A clue from Moriarty directing us to New York City. The game is afoot, as is the future. Let us be bloodhounds, Watson—and bound.”

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