(Preview art by Christine Mitzuk and pulled from the story)
This short story by Rhonda Eikamp is fascinating.
It adds one addition to the society: the amalgamated. By introducing a portion of the population that is mechanical there are social customs around them and policies about them.
The author then takes the concept of Sherlock Holmes and turns him into one of these amalgamated. For much of the story he goes about how one might expect Sherlock Holmes to solve a murder, studying, puzzling, and in theory trying to solve the case.
One of the cultural taboos in this society to to modify a amalgamated made by someone else, the fear likely being of the amalgamated being put to immoral use. “Gearlock” Holmes as he is called is not a standard amalgamated because he better understands emotions, at least intellectually. He does not feel them because he is not a “fleshy” but he mimics them.
Gearlock is self-aware of his lacking, but all amalgamated are programmed with certain emotions they can mimic, but they too do not feel it. This is a world where, by definition the amalgamated are second class citizens because not only are they limited on how they can behave (they can’t have children or feel emotions), but they are culturally expected to be treated as objects. It is noted at one point that one is supposed to acknowledge the fleshy’s before the amalgamated because many look at amalgamated as no more important than errant flywheels.
The impact that this state of being has on Gearlock’s character is evident in the conclusion of the story when the mystery is solved, in how the lack of emoting was detriment to him, how in a lot of ways he had just enough humanity to yearn for more but couldn’t ever actually achieve it.