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Sherlock Fanfic: Ad Astra (JWP 2014 #18) - CaffieneKittySpace
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Sherlock Fanfic: Ad Astra (JWP 2014 #18)
Title: Ad Astra
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Alternate Postings: At AO3
Rating/Content: PG13, set during the early bits of 2.03, during the case montage, astronomy, a bit melancholy, memorials, possibly incorrect location layout, might be OOC.
Warnings: none
Word Count: 1325
Disclaimer: Not my world.
Notes: Written for watsons_woes July Writing Prompt #18: Honored With a Star. A character earns or is awarded some honor. This is focused on a brief secondary character that I don't think gets much attention in fic, from "The Great Game." There are notes and links after the story regarding the award itself.

Summary: It's a ceremony they can't not attend. Even though no one told them about it.

Ad Astra

John stepped into the kitchen, ready for any resistance. He hoped that the short notice would result in less arguing and snide comments rather than more.

"We're going."

Sherlock was in his bathrobe, sitting at the microscope. "I'm not." Then he glanced up. "Going to what?"

"A ceremony."

Sherlock moaned. "Not another one. How many tie clips, cuff-links and ridiculous hats do people think I can wear?"

"It's not for you this time, Sherlock." John tapped his foot.

"Oh," Sherlock's face squinched up. After a moment of obviously futile memory searching he hazarded, "...congratuuuu...lations?"

John sighed. "It's not for me either. But we both need to go."

"Can't." Sherlock waved a hand and turned back to his microscope. "Far too busy."

John pulled the morning paper out and slapped it down on the table next to Sherlock, angling it so the detective could see the article. It was published on page five of the Lifestyles and Entertainment section; below the fold, no picture accompanying it. Nearly a footnote.

"We, very particularly we, need to go to this one."

Sherlock looked down at the article. "Ah. Yes. I suppose we do."


The last time they'd been in this room, they'd failed to save a woman's life and then had struggled to apprehend her murderer but ultimately failed at that too. No one knew where the Golem was now, only that he was no longer in the UK. John sniffed, his jaw clenching and his chin ticking upward as they stood in the back of the room.

The room was packed, all the seats of the auditorium filled, standing room only along the sides. It may have gotten only a bare mention in the paper, but the community of astronomers and star-gazers had turned out to honour one of their own.

Professor Cairns had not been even close to top of her field. The token biography included in the article listed very little in the way of significant accomplishments in astronomy. The professor had been a dedicated public educator, keen on the advancement of space science and future of space exploration, but other than that, no major achievements or significant papers were mentioned. Nothing of note in her career or life generally other than how and where she had died; murdered by a hulking assassin for the crime of knowing just a fraction too much about the Van Buren supernova, and sharing that information with a guard at an art museum.

Sherlock stood beside him at the back of the room. John wasn't certain the detective wouldn't be horrid about this in some way, thinking it all meaningless sentiment, mocking it and the field of astronomy as a whole. John just hoped any commentary Sherlock made would be either made afterward, away from the event, or surpassingly quiet if during it.

The presenter stepped up to the control panel where Professor Cairns had been murdered, and after a moment of meditative quiet, touched a control. The already-dimmed lights dimmed further, and the stars and constellations were projected on the ceiling above the seats.

"It is with greatest respect and deepest sadness today that we honour Professor Lynn Cairns - our brightest star, fallen too soon - with another light that will endure forever."

As the pinpoints of light spun on the ceiling, John glanced over at Sherlock, but couldn't make out his facial expression in the dark. If he says one word about that being sentimental drivel, one word....

"As most of you know, the International Astronomical Union does not recognize or catalogue the naming of stars except by scientific designation. They do support public campaigns on the names of exoplanets, so long as they meet strict guidelines and follow set procedures."

The star-field on the ceiling zoomed in on one distant speck of light, changing to an artist's representation of a planetary system. Tiny specks spun quickly around the central star, large outer planets rolled majestically past at a less frenetic pace.

"It's taken two years for the process to be completed and the results approved by the IAU," the presenter continued. "Now thanks to the twitter and social media campaigns which spread the story of the tragic and senseless loss of our beloved Professor Cairns, gathering hundreds of thousands of votes from the international astronomy community and amateur astronomers world-wide, the IAU has granted approval, and has placed her name out in the galaxy."

The perspective of the ceiling display pushed in on one of the large outer planets.

"We officially announce the designation of Exoplanet HD 10180g as Planet Cairns in Lynn's honour."

The alphanumeric tag flashed and then flared brightly to be accompanied by the exoplanet's new name, the name of the murdered astronomer.

The room broke into applause then, along with a few cheers and a few sniffles in equal measure. John applauded respectfully, glancing over to check Sherlock was doing the same.

Sherlock was staring up at the display, transfixed.

"A planet," he whispered as the presenter began giving details of what was known or suspected about the exoplanet that now bore Professor Cairns' name.

John tensed. It's bad enough we couldn't save her. Can't he just keep his mouth shut through this? "They worked really hard to get this to happen in her memory, Sherlock. I hadn't heard a thing about it myself, didn't know it was happening at all until I saw the article this morning, but this took them years."

Above them the CGI planet and its hypothetical as-yet-undetected natural satellites rotated, filling the planetarium display room with a shifting wash of colour.

A small smile quirked on Sherlock's face.

Oh, fantastic, here it comes, thought John, bracing himself to elbow Sherlock in the solar plexus lest he seem about to launch into a mocking diatribe about the unimportance or insignificance of a planet hundreds of light years away that hadn't ever been, and possibly wouldn't ever be, directly observed.

With an air of quoting, barely audible above the presenter, Sherlock said, "Her soul was in the sky."

John blinked. "Pardon?"

Sherlock half-turned to John, leaning in, not taking his eyes from the display and whispered, "Midsummer Night's Dream, though not the exact line." His hand twitched up, indicating the image on the ceiling. "Her work and life was all for the stars and astronomy. They've put her soul in the sky, given her a legacy. It's quite fitting, don't you think?"

A little stunned, John stood staring at Sherlock a moment before turning to look back up at the planet on the ceiling. "Yes. It is."

Nothing more was said as they stood respectfully silent through the rest of the presentation.


John waited until they'd stopped for a curry on the way back home to turn the conversation back to Sherlock's comment at the planetarium.

"What you said back there, at the presentation. That was good."

"Oh?" Sherlock blinked. "Thank you."

"You don't mind then that no one alive is going to ever see this planet named after her, even through a telescope?"

Frowning, Sherlock poked at his biryani. "Mind? Why ever would I?"

"Well. Planets in our Solar System don't rate very highly with you, so a planet no one's going to see, even if we're lucky, for a hundred or a thousand years..." John gestured expressively with his fork.

"In the presentation the speaker mentioned the way exoplanets are discovered, John. From changes in the light from their stars, gravitational shifts. Evidence."

"Evidence," John repeated flatly.

"Evidence in a mystery that has no crime or immediate consequences for anyone on Earth, yes, but still evidence." Sherlock smirked. "The presence of any exoplanet is deduced."

That startled a laugh out of John. "I suppose it is at that."

"While the field of astronomy as a whole doesn't matter to me at all-"

John raised a finger. "Except the Van Buren supernova."

"Except that, yes, of course. The field doesn't usually apply to my work in any way, but I can appreciate the following of evidence to deduce something no one else can see or know."

John smiled and chuckled.


"Nothing. Just, you always manage to surprise me."

Sherlock raised an eyebrow and smirked again. They finished their curry in companionable silence.

(that's all)

[Research and links regarding the exoplanet and the process of naming an exoplanet]

I was originally going to have the Planetarium get a star named after Professor Cairns as per the prompt, but the IAU has some very stern opinions about that practice, and does not officially recognize or catalog them, so it's doubtful anyone in the astronomical community wanting to honour Professor Cairns' memory would go that route. However, the IAU does at this point allow public naming campaigns (subject to strict rules) to name an exoplanet which seemed appropriate and still feasible. Given Professor Cairns' murder at the planetarium was likely an immense shock to the astronomy community as a whole, social media campaigns would have been able to assist in getting the wide international participation required before a name is made official.

Exoplanet HD 10180g is an actual exoplanet, though it has not and likely never will be named 'Cairns'. Any details about it in this story are cribbed directly from the Wiki page on the planetary system. There were more details, but it was getting silly since this story isn't actually about the planet.

A few quick info-bits: HD 10180g is thought to be a Sudarsky Class II gas giant 24 times Earth's mass. It's in the happy zone for liquid-water-bearing planets but not likely to have any itself. However, there's a chance that it may have a natural satellite which could have an atmosphere and liquid water at its surface. Hypothetically.

Anyway, TLDR; Research, yay! All hail Wikipedia. *genuflects* \o/

Tags: , , , , ,
Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

8 comments or Leave a comment
tardisjournal From: tardisjournal Date: July 19th, 2014 12:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gorgeous! Both the tribute to the fallen professor and Sherlock's unexpected reaction to it. (It always shocks me a little when she dies in the show--usually the murders happen before Sherlock gets there, not while he's trying to prevent one!) Sherlock's reason for appreciating the award, while unexpected, seems very in character. His respect for Astronomy is growing by leaps and bounds since his association with John!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 19th, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I think Sherlock's appreciation for a lot of things he wouldn't have given a second thought to before has improved with his association with John.
gardnerhill From: gardnerhill Date: July 19th, 2014 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely - both the tribute and Sherlock's reaction.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 19th, 2014 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
aelfgyfu_mead From: aelfgyfu_mead Date: July 19th, 2014 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well done! You do justice to John and Sherlock and to someone who was barely even a character in the show. I really enjoyed this.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 19th, 2014 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I was a little surprised that the character tag for her didn't even exist over at AO3 yet when I posted this.
ciaranbochna From: ciaranbochna Date: July 19th, 2014 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is brilliant and perfectly done.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 19th, 2014 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

About a half hour to go yet for today, but soon.
8 comments or Leave a comment