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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The Professor Speaks (1st October 1888 : 2 pm)
1st October 1888 : 2 pm

“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?"

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At the Station (1st October 1888: 7.30 pm)
1st October 1888: 7.30 pm

“Paper Guv?” the man asked Captain Shaw, as he walked into the station concourse. Shaw nodded his head-he had missed his paper this morning, and he had missed the latest catch-up regarding the East End murders-apparently some other poor soul had been killed on the previous evening.

He glanced at the headlines as he made his way towards the station buffet.

THE WHITECHAPEL HORRORS.

THE East-end fiend is still abroad, and two other victims have become his prey. On Sunday morning a woman was found with her throat cut and her body partially mutilated in a court in Berner-street, Whitechapel, close by the International Club situated in that locality. The discovery seems to have been made at one in the morning by Mr. Lewis Diemschitz, the steward of the club. Another member of the club, Mr. Morris Eagle, had passed through the court at twenty minutes to one, and had not seen anything unusual near the premises. Even if it was too dark to see the body of this woman it is impossible to suppose that Morris Eagle would not have tripped over it had it been there when he went into the club. The inference is therefore this: if the woman was murdered and mutilated where she was found, the deed was done in the short period of twenty minutes – the deed was done in the time which the police surgeon said a medical expert would take to do it. The residents in the court knew nothing about the murder. Neither they nor the people in the club heard or had seen anything that led them to suspect that foul play was going on around them. About three-quarters of an hour after this corpse was found, another was discovered in Mitre-square, Aldgate. It was that of a woman with her throat cut, but in her case the inevitable abdominal mutilation had been accomplished. A watchman was on duty in a counting-house in the square at the time the assassin was operating. Firemen were also on duty at a station close by. Yet nobody heard or saw anything likely to rouse suspicion. The silence and secrecy in which the atrocities were perpetrated wrap them in an impenetrable veil of mystery for the moment. As in former cases the murderer seems to have been almost miraculously successful in securing his retreat. His success in this respect seems to indicate a wonderful power of combination and organisation – an amazing gift for calculating the chances against the success of his schemes or purposes. In fact, the similarity of the murders leads to the conclusion that they have been committed by the one man or the one gang. The worst of it is that we do not know what a “gang” may mean. It might mean an organisation of great extent, or only the partnership between a criminal and his “pal.” Recent events seem to suggest that there is more than one individual in the horrid business.
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The public cannot fail to be impressed with one fact – the apparent bravado of the assassin. He seems to revel in brutality – and the more energetic the police become in tracking him, the more contemptuously does he defy their efforts. At first he seems to have lost nerve at the critical part of his operation. Now he holds the fancied interruptions of the police patrol in contempt, and commits his murder, and hacks his victim’s body, almost within their sight and hearing. Nay, he does this in spite of the fact that Sir Charles Warren has trebled his patrols in the region of the murders, and that it is under the close supervision of a vigilance committee: Cui bono? The assassin it is clear can baffle all ordinary means of detection, and till he commits a singular act of indiscretion – which murderers usually do sooner or later – it appears to us very unlikely that he will ever be discovered. If he has a “pal” that will increase the chance of detection. If he has many and is a member of a gang, his secret will probably be betrayed when a suitable reward is offered as “blood money.” The revolting details of the last murders need not be specified here.
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We need not say that no plausible explanation of these crimes is as yet forthcoming. The new feature in them is the fact that one followed the other within the space of three-quarters of an hour. All the old features are present. The victims are women of the same class. As women of this sort are now on the alert in Whitechapel, we may infer that the assassin must appeal to them in some way that disarms suspicion. In other words he cannot suggest by his appearance that he is a bloodthirsty miscreant. Hence the police are justified in coming to the conclusion that whoever he may be, he is not a person of the “Leather Apron” class. For the rest, all that we know about him is that for some reason he selects one locality as his hunting-ground, that his fixed idea is to obtain possession of a certain portion of a woman’s body, and that he perpetrates his atrocities at the end of the week, some time between Friday night and Sunday morning. Here we see a curious element of periodicity in the crime. This suggests the idea that if the murderer be a maniac at once lustful and bloodthirsty, he is a homicidal maniac of the type whose attacks only recur at regular intervals. The idea that he is a medical man, who for scientific purposes wants to obtain certain portions of the human body under unique conditions, is not quite compatible with the facts. Why should he want an indefinite number of specimens? Why should he want them at the end of each week? The notion that he means to sell them or issue them as illustrations to a book seems now to be abandoned even by the police. And rightly; for to sell the specimens would be to lose the market for them, and inevitably lead to suspicion being concentrated on the murderer. Sexual insanity, however, is, on the face of the facts, the only intelligible motive of the murder – but then the facts essential for the formation of a sound judgement are at present wanting. There are so few available facts that it is impossible to arrive at a very definite opinion as to the cause of these murders. Meantime the people of the East end are again becoming angry, first, because the police are unable to protect them, and, second, because the Government does not offer a reward for the discovery of the murderer.

Shaw shook his head; the Police certainly seemed to be out of their depth in the matter-four murders and nothing but a shock of theories ranging from crazed Jewish slaughtermen to Martian radicals. The Press seemed to be setting the agenda as much as the Police.

Mind you he had no faith in that bloody fool Warren. His persistent arguments in the press and the total Fist he made of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ demonstration last year: perhaps he should have stayed in the Army. He folded his paper away and looked round as he entered the buffet. His colleagues were already here he could see.

There was the Colonial chap- Henry something. He looked like a man who had seen his share of the outdoors, and it seemed to Shaw that he wore his London attire with a degree of discomfort.

“And then old Poofey started to imitate the newt, like this.” This from another of the attendees-Bertram Wilbourforce-Stretham. He arched his knees and leaned back with both arms held up like claws (a newts presumably), and then started to gyrate and wobble in a fashion which he gathered was supposed to be the mating dance of the male newt. Several onlookers looked on, possibly with disbelief.

“I tell you old chap, the old man’s eyes bally near popped out of his head” continued Bertie, and then made a high pitched snorting noise, which Shaw eventually realised was Stretham laughing at his own wit. Lady Glossop smiled archly, which only served to encourage the newt mating dance again.

Taking a deep breath Shaw walked over and nodded at his fellow travellers, formally introducing himself to them all.

The last of the five was the oddest-a foreigner by the look of him, and a somewhat nautical looking cove. He wore a black and white sailors peaked cap, and was dressed in black trousers and a dark seaman’s coat. A golden ear ring pierced one ear, and hawkish eyes stared out at him from a face framed by long sideburns.

“Marco Cortis” he nodded affably, pronouncing the name almost as though it ended with a ‘Z’. The english was very good, but had an odd lilt to it that hinted of spanish perhaps, or maybe italian. Shaw mentally harrumphed, but responded politely enough.

“Well here we all are,” said Shaw, “But where is our destination?”

“F….F..Frightfully sorry to be late” said a stuttering and puffing voice from behind. Turning they saw Professor Grant muffled against the night, and waving a handful of tickets.

“I…If you follow me the train for Reigate leaves in ten minutes, and I’ve arranged for a cab there to take us out to our destination. Hopefully we’ll be ready to dine around nine.”

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Professor Grant's Ether Flyer (2nd October 1888: morning)
2nd October 1888: morning

Early next morning they stood in the private grounds of a small mansion house, some five or six miles outside Reigate. They had been the guests overnight of Dr. Seacombe, a colleague of Professor Grant.

Moored in front of a line of poplars was the Ether Flyer: a Gondola some fifty or sixty feet in length, suspended below a Hydrogen Gasbag of perhaps twice that length. A small set of steps led up into the car.

The Professor had explained to those of them unfamiliar with Flyers, that an ether Flyer had two different operating systems: a lift system comprising either liftwood slats or a gasbag for changing altitude, coupled with a steam driven airscrew which propelled the vehicle through the atmosphere.

Once the Ether Flyer reached very high altitude however these systems would become redundant, and it was the Solar Boiler Driven Ether Screw which would propel the vehicle through the Ether.

The gondola contained several stateroom- all but one of double occupancy, a greenhouse, an engine room and a bridge area. The bridge area also contained a dining table and small galley. The whole was tastefully furnished with wood panelling and fabric wallpaper, in the fashion of something to a study. In deference to the lady present, the Professor gallantly gave up his single room for her convenience, while he moved temporarily into one of the double bunk rooms.

The Professor gave a quick tour of the small ship, and Marco nodded with familiarity as he pointed out the engine and trim controls.

“Er… have any of you any prior experience with Ariel Vehicles?” asked the Professor expectantly.

“Iva Professur.” nodded Marko. “I have served on many vessels, nautical and flyers. I have not been in an Ether Vehicle however.”

“Ah well, good, good. Certainly in atmosphere the principles are the same. In fact any of you with experience on boats may find a few familiar tasks to do. I’m sure Mr. Cortis would be happy to fill any of you in, as I would myself.” Lady Glossop raised an eyebrow archly, and then held one dainty hand up.

“Er yes my, dear, what is it?” smiled the Professor benevolently.

“Well”, said Lady Glossop, “I did have a friend-a Russian Count in fact, who owned his own Flying Launch once. I was his guest for some time, and he taught me to fly it.”

“Well yes my dear” beamed Professor Grant, “I’m sure he did let you try the controls a little. But you must know this this machine is a big, complicated old thing. I’m sure you don’t want to trouble your pretty little head with it.” Lady Glossop pouted slightly and looked a little crestfallen, dabbing a handkerchief to the corner of her eye. Unseen by any of the others, Marko smirked slightly.

“There, there now my dear” stammered Professor Grant. “I’ll tell you what. I will fly the machine up and out of the atmosphere with Marko, and once we’re safely in orbit I’ll let you handle the controls for a little while. I’ll let you try those big red knobs over there and we’ll see if you can handle them.”

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Journey to the Moon (2nd October 1888: 8.30 am)
2nd October 1888: 8.30 am

Bertie and Henry, who had never been in a Flyer of any sort, were somewhat apprehensive. Although he had tried hard not to show it, Sebastian too was a little queasy. He had been given a lift once on a British Army flyer in Afghanistan, and the titters of the boat crew as he vomited over the side still still rankled in the back of his mind. He was firm however, he would show these people that Sebastian Shaw was the stuff that British Cavalry Officers were made off. Especially the suspicious foreign Johnnie Marko.

He stood firm as the Professor rambled on, and then picked up a speaking tube and shouted “Ropes Away” at the top of his voice. Towards the rear of the vehicle the rumble of the airscrews could be heard as Marko fiddled with the boiler controls and disengaged the safety. The Professor was now at one of the Bridge control consoles and was yelling trim instructions to Marko.

Sebastian saw Henry’s eyes glaze over, and noticed that Bertie was desperately gripping the edge of the settee. He turned round and looked through one of the portholes, and received a sharp shock. Below them the ground was now a distant memory, and wisps of cloud started to obscure his vision. His gorge started to rise, and he fought to control it. It was no good, and he darted for the bathroom before he made a complete idiot of himself.

From the bridge crew area Sebastian could loudly be heard.

“Poor fellow” beamed the Professor. “I’m sure he’ll get his air legs eventually”

“What Ho. Rat..her.” agreed Bertie unhappily. Fascinated, Henry was staring out of the porthole, although all that could be seen now was the grey fug of a surrounding cloud.

And then they were above it, the grey October morning miraculously transforming into a clear blue sky. Below them the world was hidden by a blanket of cotton wool.

“My dear chap, could you pop the kettle on there’s a good fellow?” asked the Professor. “You’ll need to attach the wire clamp to the grille so it doesn’t fly off…that’s it.”

Somewhat shamefaced, Sebastian fumbled his was back into the main room. He mumbled something incoherently, and swigged down a glass of water.

They had been rising for almost half an hour now, and Bertie noticed that the rotations of the engine had taken on a different tone, almost sounding laboured. The Professor was staring intently at his instruments, and Lady Glossop, he noticed, was watching him.

“Hmm, yes, this should suffice.” Said the Professor. He picked up the speaking tube. “Mr. Cortis, can you power down the airscrew please and retract it? Time to bring the ether screw online I think.” Marko’s reply went unheard, but soon after the pistons driving the screw reduced in volume to a low throb, and then ceased altogether. The whistling of the wind outside was suddenly very loud indeed.

The professor adjusted the controls and Henry noted with some alarm that the cloudbank far below was retreating toward the rear of the gondola. With a feeling of dire apprehension he realised that the Professor was tilting the nose of the vehicle upwards…up and away from Planet Earth.

Before he could say anything however the Professor barked another command and this time a different engine sound kicked in. In the matter of a handful of seconds the sky in front of him him changed from pale blue to black…and it was dotted with stars. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Sebastian again darting for the bathroom.

“Withdraw the gas please Mr. Cortis. No need to risk losing it to a random accident” called the Professor. Strange gurgling noises could be heard, as gas was pumped out, leaving only sufficient to keep some minimum inflation.

“Is all fine Professur " said Marko. He was munching a bacon sandwich and had several others on a tin plate. Some engineers dodge no doubt. As Sebastian emerged from the bathroom he held the plate out.

“Bacon sandwich Kaptan Sebastian? There is no coal dust, I have been most careful.” he proffered helpfully. Sebastian’s face, which was already a dreadful looking pasty white, started to look even worse, and he turned round and headed back into the bathroom. Marco shrugged.

“Anyone else?”

Adjusting to the fact that he was in now flying through space, Henry suddenly realized he was rather peckish.

“I’ll take one.” he said, “And perhaps you could explain how to work the rigging a bit, old chap? I’ve a small amount of sailing experience which might help you in familiarizing me with the whole process”

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Dark Side of the Moon (2nd October 1888: 4 pm)
2nd October 1888: 4 pm

Much to his own surprise, the Professor had been wrong. After a few glitches Lady Glossop , it transpired, was somewhat familiar with Flying Controls. So much so that after twenty minutes of pats on the head, and “Oh I say! That’s very good my dear!” remarks, he felt confident enough to leave her at the helm console while he went back to check on the engine room. Henry noticed that Lady Glossop’s smile was wearing a bit thin.

Bertie and Henry occupied themselves with some of the minor crew tasks which needed to be performed, and indeed it did seem that some of the routines and disciplines were not at all unfamiliar in terms of their more general boating familiarities. Sebastian lounged somewhat wanly on the settee.

As the Moon grew ever larger the Professor wandered back at the helm, and started to do some calculations, and he activated the small panel which controlled the Ether Governer mechanism. Satisfied he reduced the cruising speed, and watched Lady Glossop as she followed his verbal instructions and placed the craft into an orbit of Luna.

“Well here we are” he beamed, “Now we have to move round to the dark side and keep our eyes peeled for the Glow. Perhaps I should set the telescope up.”

“Can you tell us anything more about the Glow Professor?”, asked Sebastian.

“Hmmm, well…” explained the Professor, " I’ve been gathering eyewitness accounts of this mysterious glow for five years now. According to my calculations on the orbit I’ve set we should be overflying its estimated position."

Sebastian glanced at the controls and saw that the ship was cruising at an altitude of about a mile. The Lunar surface stretched out below, jagged, gray, and inhospitable. There was no variation in the dead landscape.

The Professor set up the telescope and tripod, and the passengers took it in turns crouched behind it, or peering expectantly out of one of the portholes. The ether Governer certainly seemed to be working, and the Professor rubbed his hands in satisfaction.

After about two hours Henry stood up straight and pointed. “Down there”.

In the distance they could see a soft smudge of light in the blackness. It seemed to have a faint greenish tint. As the flyer steered towards it , Professor Grant asked Lady Glossop to descend to an altitude of 200 feet, and he activated the flyer’s searchlight, sweeping the ground ahead.

Eventually the ship hovered over the source of the glow, which ws seeping up from a deep gorge, perhaps 100 feet wide, which cut down into the heart of the planet as far as the eye can see. After setting up a camera and taking some photographs, they discussed what they should do next.

“Well we’ve found the glow.” said Sebastian.“Since we came here, at least in part, to investigate it, it makes no sense to leave without doing so. The Professor’s invention seems to be wroking fine, so I propose that we descend a little down into the gorge.” The others agreed.

And so they started to descend, at a rate of only 20 miles per hour. As the passengers looked outside they saw that the gorge was a very jagged and dangerous passage leading straight into the Moon itself.

After an hour or so the reflection of the glow on the canyon walls grew more distinct, but the source of the phenomenon still lay far beneath them.

Lady Glossop noticed that they had drifted slightly towards one of the enclosing walls and started to correct her position, but the controls seemed a little sluggish. Noticing her distress Henry frowned slightly, and then realised that he could hear a whistling sound outside. He drew the Professor’s attention, and then watched his face grow round in utter horror.

“B..But it can’t be. That’s the wind, which means……..” He started sshouting at the top of his voice. “There’s an atmosphere down here! An atmosphere! We need to inflate the gasbag. Quickly Marko- and power up the airscrews!” Marko rushed back towards the rear of the ship, as Lady Glossop struggled with the controls.

“We can’t have forseen this!” cried the Professor. “The Ether screw won’t function properly in an atmosphere!That’s why the controls are sluggish!”

“We’re going to hit!” screamed Sebastian, peering out of the porthole. There was a sharp jolt, and then a breif ripping sound as the gasbag bounced off the canyon wall. The Flyer dropped with a lurch, and the passengers careered about the Gondola as the bow of the flyer dipped sharply.

Descending ever faster, the flyer glanced off the wall of the cavern with a sickening crunch. The controls were barely responding now, but up ahead Lady Glossop spied a ledge protruding from the wall of the cavern; hauling on the control stick she just managed to strike the ledge.

At the jolt of impact she was thrown forward against the controls, and for a moment she blacked out. The experience was momentary however,and a split second later she watched with horror as the flyer is skidded along the ledge, finally lurching backwards on its skids just short of the precipice…"

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Counting the Cost (3rd October 1888)
3rd October 1888

“We should be dead really” thought Henry to himself. He recalled the stunned moments after the crash,and then the realisation that they were not dead, and that there was actually a musty breeze blowing in through some dislocation of the steel plating: there was indeed an atmosphere, and it was breathable and moist.

Exiting the ship they found that the gravity was also considerably higher than on the surface of the Moon, though still lighter than Earth.

An inspection outside had revealed that both gasbag and hull were damaged, but repairable. The hydrogen bag was torn, but temporary repairs would probably be sufficient for a quick ascent up the gorge to where the atmosphere was thin enough for the ether propeller to take hold-though possibly for not very much more than this. However, Grant’s Ether Propeller Governor was disabled, the large diamond being used as an ether lens having shattered when the flyer hit the ledge. The Professor had explained that the diamond was badly flawed, nearly worthless for jewelry, which is why he could afford it for his governor.

All the while the greenish-yellow glow from within Luna bathed the ship in a curious light, mysteriously compelling and repulsive at the same time.

Today they were occupying themselves with conducting the repairs: under the Professor’s direction Marko was working away with the rivets and welding gear, while Lady Glossop was set with mending the ten foot tear in the hydrogen bag. Bertie had proved to be utterly useless at manual work, and so was reduced to the role of errand boy.

Sebastian and himself had been preoccupied with block and tackle works, as the hydrogen bag was detached and reattached to the Gondola: work which was made considerably easier by the reduced gravity.

By the end of the day the repairs were as complete as they could be, and they assessed their current situation. Their only hope was that the fabled Lunar Diamonds were not a myth, and that somewhere down below there was evidence of these.

They had tinned rations for about twenty days, and the Ships Locker was stocked with packs and a variety of useful gear. Fortunately the professor had the foresight to include sufficient climbing gear and a plethora of ropes and tools. As they surveyed the canyon from their ledge they realised that there were many ledges below them, and hopefully it would prove possible for them from make their way downwards by leap frogging them.

After assembling their packs and gear for the next day, they settled down for a weary nights sleep.

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Descent into the Moon (4th October 1888)
4th October 1888

As they descended the light from the glow was sufficient to allow the party to dispense with the Ruhmkorff’s Apparatus that Marko was carrying. This probably made the descent easier, but the very slippery nature of the rocks did cause a few problems. Even though climbing was much easier than it would have been on earth, some of the group were utterly unfamiliar with the technique required, and there were a few falls, though fortunately nobody suffered serious injury.

In fact the gorge walls were damp and coated with a fine coating of mud, almost slime. Many small stalactites were attached to rock outcroppings. The Professor reasoned that moisture evaporated deep within the Moon, and the vapors rose until they condensed on the gorge walls. The slime seemed to be a combination of water vapor, rock dust, and what appears to be organic matter. It was encouraging however, as it perhaps indicated that they might find drinkable water as they progressed.

Towards the end of their climb they started to find a variety of small fungi living in the cracks and crevices of the gorge. This perhaps accounted for the organic matter in the gorge muck. These fungi tended to be gray or brown in color and were spongy to the touch, much like fresh mushrooms, and with a faintly musty smell. As the food situation was not yet desparate, nobody was tempted to try them.

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Deeper and Deeper (5th October 1888)
5th October 1888

With the light drawing ever closer from below, its eventual source was revealed as they descended. A new variety of yellow-green fungus started to appear, and they saw that it had a phosphorescent glow. Though faint, in large amounts it could very well be the ultimate source of the glow.

Eventually they landed on a shelf which had a colony of the fungus growing on it. Sebastian reached down for a piece, and rubbed it in his fingers, before promptly cursing and flinging the sample away. Examining his hand he noticed that the skin was now red and blotchy where he had touched it, and in a few places the skin had even started to burn away. He plunged his hand into a particularly slimy rock pool, and washed the green fungus off.

“Look here” said Marko, displaying one of the ropes they had used to descend. At one point above them the rope had rubbed against a patch of the green fungus, and it appeared to have frayed part of the rope away. It appeared that the fungus had some mild acidic effect.

From now on they would need to be a lot more careful with regard to where they positioned their ropes.

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An Old Mystery Solved (6th October 1888)
6th October 1888

The third day of their descent went without much incident. As they were becoming more accustomed to the changes in gravity, they were making good progress now. The variety of fungus was now quite prolific, though this unfortunately meant that the green fungus was now becoming more of a hazard.

Towards late afternoon, when they were considering making camp, Henry pointed with an exclaimed oath as he peered over the next ledge. Some fifty feet below them, on another ledge both broader and longer, sat the wreck of another ether flyer. It was in poor shape- it was clear that it’s back was broken and it’s hull split. The vehicle was slightly larger than Grant’s flyer, but in much worse shape.

“Possibly it fell farther” suggested the Professor, “Or maybe its crash was more violent”.

“Perhaps it’s the missing Russian’s vessel?” suggested Sebastian.

After a moment’s thought Professor Grant nodded and spoke. “Indeed. This must be Vladimir Tereshkovitch’s ship. He disappeared in ‘87 and no one’s ever found the wreck. I am afraid that we may find a very sad tale down there.”

With the Professor’s ominous warning in mind, they decided to make camp early, and leave the potentially sombre business of exploring the wreck to an early start in the morning. As they peered over the edge Marko pointed.

“Fittex Professur! Hemm għerien stabbiliti hemmhekk! Caves! There are caves down there!”

They followed his outstretched hand and it seemed that there were indeed several openings in the side of the cliff further down. Perhaps tomorrow they might be able to leave the gorge behind them, and penetrate further into the mysterious interior of Luna.

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