Author: Bill Cox
There’s no mistaking it now. The Professor’s advanced optics make it clear. A small blue orb, hanging in the void. I can see the Earth again. I can’t quite see England’s green and pleasant land yet, but soon, soon.
Is it really seventy-five years since we left our world, setting out from that remote moor in Caithness into the darkness of space? My thinking is sluggish, a consequence of the professor’s modifications, but the memories spark brightly in my mind.
Professor Sutherland really was a genius. We met as boys at Harrow, cementing our friendship on the cricket pitch. Afterwards, I took up my commission in the Army, but the Professor returned to his Highland Estate, there to take care of his sick father. We kept in touch, however, updating each other on our exploits as the years passed.
Whilst I was battling the Boer and the rebellious Chinese, the Professor, bound to his family estate, developed his mental faculties to a remarkable degree. In that mind, scientific mysteries fell like dominoes under the force of his brilliance. Through use of technological innovation he was reportedly even able to keep his father’s terminal illness at bay.
It was during one of his rare sojourns to London that we met in my club and he recruited me to what would be the defining adventure of my life. Taking leave from the Army, I returned with him to his ancestral home in Caithness and he demonstrated to me the culmination of his researches – an anti-gravity vessel capable of travel into the void.
I was keen to present this remarkable discovery to the Army Council. With such vessels our civilising Empire would dominate the world for the next century! The Professor however, wished for the adventure of discovery and his proposal was simple but breath-taking.
“Picture it” he said, “Halley’s Comet hangs bright in our skies this very month. Imagine a radio broadcast of ‘God Save the King’ from the surface of this celestial wanderer, to be heard all over the globe! And this at a time when our new monarch, George V, has just ascended to the throne.”
How could I resist!
We launched and reached the Comet after a mere matter of days. What a sight it was! A tumbling mountain of rock and ice, heated by the rays of the sun, trailing a huge, luminous tail.
However, the surface of this bizarre world was unexpectedly active, with plumes of gas jetting energetically out from crevices in the rock. We landed, but our ship was catastrophically damaged in the process. The Professor and I were both mortally wounded. Yet his genius was undimmed.
“I am beyond saving,” he told me, “But I can help you survive, in the way that I helped my father survive. I can link the essential parts of your biology to my machines. Your metabolism will slow, as will your thinking. Your new body will be immobile but long lasting and your mind will be able to access the ship’s optics and radio. These will be your senses”.
I have no memory of these surgeries, but when I awoke afterwards, the Professor was dead. It took some time to accept my new condition and my mind flirted with madness. Now however, as Halley’s Comet completes its great circuit, I find a degree of clarity returning. My fears subside and pride at our accomplishments swells within me. We who, in 1910, first planted the Union Jack in the Vaults of Heaven!
It is the year of our Lord 1986.
Long live the Empire!
God save the King!