“L..Ladies and gentleman. Today, I want to talk to you about the Moon.” started the Professor hesitantly. He spoke with a slight nervous stutter, and paused while he adjusted his pince-nez.
“The Earths’ nearest neighbour, circling a mere 300,000 miles away, has to date been more elusive than Mars or Venus.” began the Professor, hands on lapels. “So far Ethereal navigators have been put to the test merely setting down on a world with no atmosphere, and Luna has no discernable attractions, mineral or otherwise.”
“Luna is a barren world without atmosphere or water, 2160 miles in diameter with a surface area of 14.5 million square miles. Its terrain is pitted and mountainous, impacted by meteorite strikes, and with a gravity 1/6 of earth.”
“As you may know, Ether flyers generally take advantage of world atmospheres to get from orbit to surface, with both Liftwood and hydrogen making the vessel “lighter than air”, using the atmosphere as a buoyancy medium.” Here the Professor paused for a moment, scanning the faces of his audience. “However, Luna has no atmosphere, making Liftwood and hydrogen useless. The only alternative is to use the Ether Propeller, a device whose speeds are measured in millions of miles per day, to navigate the surface. The typical Ether Propeller is nowhere near sensitive enough, and only a very daring or foolhardy pilot would attempt it.”
“That’s not to say some brave souls haven’t tried however” he continued." Luna was first visited by Sir William Otterbein in an Ether Flyer designed by his assistant, Luigi Piachetti, and financed by industrialists seeking cheap sources of iron ore. He determined only that the surface suffers from “moonquakes”, that the surface is dusty and difficult to traverse, and that the gravity is low and atmosphere non existent. He found no mineral deposits and his backers pulled their funding. He never returned to Luna. The Piloting was touch and go by all accounts."
“Others have also tried, including Brian Masterly of Great Britain, the Davis brothers of Philadelphia, and Vladimir Tereshkovitch of Russia. He made five trips for the Czar, failing to return from his last trip in 1887. No permanent facilities have been established on Luna, and it remains largely a mystery”.
“Nevertheless, a handful of sailors have now been and returned, and Mariner’s rumours do circulate. These include stories of great wealth in diamonds, and even a hidden race of Moonmen or Selenites. They insist that there is more to the Moon than meets the eye.” Again Professor Grant paused, this time taking a drink of water. All this time he had been projecting images of the previous Explorers, their ships, and photographic images of the moon. He now switched to a surface map.
“There is one rumour which is persistent, and which I believe has some basis in fact. “The Glow” is a persistent phenomenon which many claim to have witnessed, and which only serves to add fuel to the other rumours.”
“Allegedly if one is in the right orbital position, a faint glow can be seen on a particular part of the far side. The glow is barely a pinprick as seen with the naked eye, but telescopic observers claim that it might be something like a mile across. It’s greenish white light has never been examined. There is rumour that the Russians know more than they’re telling, and that this might have had something with Tereshkovitch’s disappearence.”
“I have a number of theories as to what this ‘glow’ could be. It could be some rare and mysterious mineral, with unusual luminescent properties, or it could be some sort of life form capable of living in a vacuum. Or, perhaps most interestingly, it could be an artifact left behind by an ancient spacefaring race, a ‘marker’ of some sort. "
“Either way, that is the task I propose: to investigate the Glow”. He paused for dramatic effect, and then the murmering started, and hands started flying into the air-not least from Professor Baxter.
“But Professor Grant”, asked Miss Pettigrew, “As you’ve said yourself, with no atmosphere conventional flying arrangements just don’t work, and an Ether Screw is just too imprecise an instrument to use for the precision required. The surviving expeditions used the finest Pilots, and a great deal of logistical backup. Do you have those?”
“No my Dear I do not”, proclaimed the Professor. “The Pilot will be my humble self. However I do have one advantage.” Here he beamed widely at the audience, his stutter temporarily in abeyance.
“None of these explorers have ever been able to thoroughly explore the moon, because of the nature of their Ether Flyers. You see, an Ether Flyer has an intense level of power driving it, but this can only be used to thrust forward, and the power levels are not easily modulated to allow for maneuvering. Thus, propulsion for finer maneuvers is usually accomplished through the venting of steam from a Solar Boiler. Naturally normal atmospheric propulsion is impossible on the Moon, since it is airless.
“I have invented”, and here the Professor puffed his chest out slightly, looking for all the world like some peculiar poultry bird dressed in a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, “an Ether Propeller Governor, which allows me to fine-tune the modulation of etheric flow in an Ether Propeller, allowing very fine control. Most Ether Propellers simply use coils of wiring and such to channel the ether, but I discovered that the crystalline lattice of a diamond could result in a more precise control of the Etheric medium. I have used three flawed diamonds in my Governor to effect this control, and my preliminary tests show that this should more than accommodate the results I desire.”
“My flyer” he continued, “is moored nearby outside the metropolis on a colleague’s private estate. Some of you fine young people…” Here he looked around the room, “are going to accompany me.”
The was a brief silence, and Captain Shaw put up his hand.
“Captain Sebastian Shaw, pleased to meet you Sir.” said Shaw, standing up. “I see that I am one of those fortunate enough to be accompanying you. May I ask when you propose to start, and how long the journey will take?”
“A pleasure Captain Shaw! A pleasure Sir!” beamed the Professor. “Well, I hoped for a start tomorrow morning. The journey shouldn’t take more than six hours, and with a little preliminary reconnaissance , I thought we might be back… oh, for tea and muffins on the following day?"