Red Sands

The Winter Lantern Show (1st October 1888)

1st October 1888

Carruthers looked around the room as Professor Grant fumbled nervously with his papers, and motioned to his assistants to draw the curtains. It was late afternoon anyway and the sky was laden with grey cloud, and an ice cold drizzle hammered down onto the pavements outside.

He looked round at the new batch of recruits to the Society. There were over a dozen of them in all, and quite an odd assortment they were.He sniffed slightly- some of them were not quite the sort of material he would have invited himself.

That frightful little snot Wilburforce- Stretham for example: a spoilt brat of the worst sort the more inferior public schools could churn out. What possible use could he be? Even a foreign lout like the sailorman Cortis could be useful in a tight spot, but Stretham? He shook his head.

His gaze drifted to the sneering Italian Luciano-an evil little sneak who had probably slit more than one throat in his time. “What is the Society coming to?” he thought.

All in all an odd mix of scientists, soldiers,outdoor types and misfits. Some of them with obvious skills of value to the Society, and others not so obvious. Not to him anyway.

He turned his gaze to Professor Grant, still arranging his notes and charts, and smiled quietly to himself. A lucky half dozen would be asked to provide the companions the eccentric inventor needed for his trip; the others would be assigned to visit Dr. Baxter, who was giving the second presentation on his excavations in northern Greenland. It was a toss up as to which was the more hazardous assignment- but that is what these newcomers had committed themselves too, and this was to be their Testing Ground.

Professor Grant looked shyly across at Carruthers and nodded nervously. Carruthers motioned to his minions and walked up to the podium.

“Welcome new colleagues. Congratulations upon your entry into this most illustrious of institutions, The Explorer’s Society. Looking among you I see a wide cross section of backgrounds, and even a few of the fair sex…” here Carruthers paused with a slight smirk.

“But this is only to be expected! A Brave New World, ladies and gentlemen! Science marches forward, and the frontiers of knowledge move with them. The old superstitions, the old prejudices, all must be pushed aside where they are no longer of value to Society! And this is the role of the Explorers Society within The British Association for the Advancement of Science!”

“We pride ourselves in to exploring the fringe mysteries of science, the secrets of the past,and exposing those fraudulent cabals who seek to hold back the march of Science! And to do that we need brave new people! People of enterprise, resolution and courage! Male and female alike!”

Carruthers paused to take a sip of water.

“And so here you are! New blood! New blood!” he scanned his small audience dramatically. “You have all been picked out because of some special talent. You have all been noticed because of some use you have demonstrated regarding our aims! Here you sit at last!”

“But this is only the beginning. You have yet to be tested in the fire: and so here you are tonight!” Here he gestured towards the two men sat off to the side. He noticed that Professor Grant was fidgeting nervously with a ruler.

“Tonight we have two speakers. Two exceptional members of our Society, with two presentations to give. Each of these presentations will outline a task, which we will need some of you to assist with. Half of you will be allocated to Professor Grant and his task, and the other half to Professor Baxter with his. If you check on your programmes at the bottom, you will see where you have been allocated.” He paused for dramatic effect, and there was a slight rustling as the audience fumbled with their programmes.

“And so we will commence. For our first guest I introduce that notable innovator of agricultural machinery, straight across from his retreat in rural Arizona, Professor Lionel Cyrus Grant!”



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