Essay by Ludwig Wergenergener, Ph.D. (Oxon.), Dip. Ed.(Utrecht), D.Sc. (Knutsford); as provided by Darren Goossens
Illustration by Justine McGreevy
The Discovery: In the year 34.6 (2207 by the old calendar), the planet of Bruce was discovered. It was named after Bruce Fingleton, who found it one morning on his mail run in between Norman Street and Arthurton Street, Melbourne, Australia, where previously a dog-biscuit factory had been located. This was to prove significant. The planet was soon successfully identified as spherical and in fact in orbit around Canis Major, something that Bruce had apparently failed to notice. Its appearance in between Norman Street and Arthurton Street was put down to it having never been seen before–logically, it was pointed out that since the planet had not, until Bruce’s fortuitous happenstance, been observed, no-one had the right to say where it had or had not been.
The Expedition: Three years after Bruce’s discovery, an expedition to Bruce was launched. A small misunderstanding resulted in a Mark IVb Series 2 Interplanetary Exploration Vessel (the Fibonacci Munro, 2.4 million tonnes, extremely gross) crashing through the front porch of Mr. Bruce Fingleton’s house, killing Mr. Bruce Fingleton, his family, and all his neighbours out to a six mile radius. After an appropriate memorial service, a grease and oil change, and the construction of a brand new housing development, the Fibonacci Munro was relaunched, this time in a considerably more upward direction.
It had a crew of eighteen. Captain Joe, Navigator Shiralee Sextant, First Officer S. S. Wong, Engineer Werner Von Oberth, and fourteen scientists and military personnel, not excluding myself. As we flew through the void, battling vast cosmic fluxes of cosmic particles, cosmic rays, and other cosmic phenomena, we read up on Bruce. Or some of us did. Professor Winkyn Birnbaum propounded his theory of the “continuon,” the particle of space-time. “Why not,” he reasoned, with little or no respect for grammar, “should space-time be particulate when matter and energy are also? Why, matter and energy may be no more than effects of semistochastic nonlinear fluctuations in the continuon flow! We are all continually exchanging continuons with the past and future!”
After hearing this for the dozenth time, First Officer S. S. Wong, if I recall, made a comment about decomposing Professor Winkyn Birnbaum into his constituent continuons, a proposal which plunged the professor into deep and (thankfully) silent contemplation.
Bruce Itself: Bruce itself is an interesting planet for a variety of reasons. Unlike other planets, it has seven geographic poles, each more inaccessible than the last (though only if you visit them in the correct order). Like Earth, it has exactly two magnetic poles, but, rather inconveniently, they are both at the same end. This causes the average magnetic compass to undergo what can only be described as a nervous breakdown.
Our files said that Bruce only had one moon, a small one, dark and brown in colour. However, as we neared Bruce we could not help but wonder whether this information was the result of a small misunderstanding, since we found three large moons, one yellow and spherical, one blue and cubical, and one red and tetrahedral with rounded corners.
The Landing: After an epic journey lasting nearly sixty-five hours, we touched down on a wide green plateau in the southern hemisphere of the planet. As it descended, the Fibonacci Munro was as light as a ballet dancer–until the last three or four hundred metres, which were covered rather too quickly. We came down heavily, buckling the undercarriage and causing Captain Joe to cut himself shaving, an event that was to have far-reaching consequences.
The Oceans, Mountains &c. of Bruce: A quick survey of Bruce’s oceans quickly revealed them to be of a thick, treacly nature, though in taste they were more akin to a spicy vindaloo. Notes were made concerning a possible export industry, and we moved on. The arrangement of continents on Bruce was found to be as shown in figure 1.
Careful consideration of subtle geological evidence suggested that millions of years ago the continents had in fact formed one or two giant “super continents” which had since broken up. This was thought to be the reason for the proliferation of poles–initially, they had been clustered in one or two places, but continental drift had since carried them apart.
In addition, Bruce has mountains &c.
The Expedition: I was to lead a polar expedition to discover the fifth pole. My companions were initially four, but it was decided that this was too young and instead Navigator Shiralee Sextant was assigned to accompany me.
In our All Terrain Tracked Countryside Crosser (ATTCC), Sextant and I set off one fine Bruce morning, heading into the setting sun. Bruce’s day is exactly the same length as Earth’s, but the nights fall during our days and vice-versa, which means we did a lot of driving at night. In addition, the sun rises in the west. This does tend to complicate things.
As the days went by I knew that this was no routine expedition. With Sextant’s name and figure playing on my mind, I felt a strange mixture of doubt and perhaps déjà vu. No. I dismissed the déjà vu–I remembered feeling like I’d been here before, but I definitely hadn’t felt déjà vu at the time, so I could hardly be feeling it now.
The pole proved elusive. Our Long Arm Pole Detector (LAPD), a dashboard mounted device that doubled as a stud-finder, gave off what appeared to be nonsensical signals–when we went forwards, the long arm pointed backwards, and when we went backwards, the long arm pointed forwards. We could neither of us explain this phenomenon, until after five or six days of to-ing and three-ing, Sextant suggested that perhaps we were parked atop the pole, so to speak, and so when we went forwards the pole was behind us and when we went backwards the pole was forward of us. As might be anticipated, I was suspicious of such a pat explanation and decided to check for myself. Collecting from beneath the passenger’s seat the Personal Portable Pole Detector (PPPD–one of the newer versions, with fish-hooks and a retractable fork in the handle), I put on my bioproof suit (to protect the local environment from me). Getting into it was like trying to put your entire body into a rubber glove. As compensation, you felt a number of rather pleasant sensations as you inserted yourself. At length, I walked north (Bruce’s north, that is, which is a direction orthogonal to all such directions on Earth), then right. I looked back at the ATTCC. The needle on the PPPD was indeed pointing at the ATTCC (TNOTPPPDWIPATATTCC).
I walked around the ATTCC and noted that the needle was still pointing at it. There was only one conclusion to be made.
The ATTCC was the pole. Somehow this vehicle had become Bruce’s fifth pole. I knew this because there was no snow to be seen. Poles on Earth are always denoted by ice and snow–it is a fixed rule, 100% verified and cross-checked, at least until recent climate shifts undermined the North Pole and it fell into Alaska. There was no snow under the ATTCC, but the vehicle itself was white. I felt this to be conclusive.
I communicated as much to Sextant, who could do nothing but argue with me. She said:
“Are you out of your mind?”
I declined to answer.
The Triumphant Return: And so I alone returned to tell the tale, for Sextant was accidentally battered unconscious against the driver’s console of the ATTCC for insubordination, insofaras she pulled the marker I had erected off the roof of the ATTCC and tried to stick it in the ground. This was plainly unacceptable behaviour. I tried to convince her of my point, but she would not listen. Perhaps the console battering thing should have waited until after the explanation. Be that as it may (and it was), I returned to the Fibonacci Munro.
I leapt down from the ATTCC, picked myself up off the ground and said: “There it is! There’s no snow, but it’s white and so it has to be a fifth column!”
I knew from the looks they gave each other that my words had impressed them.
Epilogue: So that’s how I ended up in here. This is the strangest “think tank” I’ve ever contributed to. Stop banging your head against the wall and listen to me! You have to help me get out of here. There is so much left to do! Next week I’m going to reveal Earth’s other moon.
It’s called “Kevin,” and it’s made of kryptonite.
Prof. Ludwig Wergenergener has a D. Phil. in Bovine Husbandry (Oxon.) and three gold stars for colouring inside the lines (Knutsford North Preschool). His work on waterproof cheese was described by the President of the Royal Society as ‘filling a much-needed gap in the scientific literature’. His selection for the first manned expedition to another planet was controversial but certain, given the photographs he obtained of the key members of the selection panel at their New Year’s BBQ (throwing, as they do, a new light on the Chair of the Panel’s battle for legalisation of interspecies marriage). His subsequent history is perhaps too well known to bear repeating here; suffice to say that the Eurovision Song Contest will never be the same again.
Apart from interpreting Professor Wergenergener’s writings and presenting them to the public, Darren has published fiction in Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways, amongst other magazines, and some allegedly humorous drawings in NFG magazine.
Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at http://www.behance.net/Fickle_Muse and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.