The Alan Turing
Want to come over to Manchester for a bit of live crypto stuff, the prize ceremony and an opportunity to meet the organisers?
"I can't believe that our parents agreed to let us go wild camping on the moors on our own," said Ellie as she unpacked their sleeping bags.
"With a dead body found nearby and the moor supposedly haunted by Old Schuck, it did seem very unlikely. It's like the Famous Five, Scooby Doo or some other old story. But let's just go along with it," said Mike as he attempted to put the tents up. He started to hammer in the final peg, only to see the whole structure start to collapse. "I think I might have broken the fourth wall of this tent," he said, looking at the pile of canvas and shaking his head. "Never mind. Do you have any idea where Barquith is?"
"Not a clue," said Ellie. "He's told us not to phone him, but instead to text every day with updates of anything we've discovered. Dr Cuddeny invited us to visit the Garamond Institute tomorrow, so let's spend this afternoon looking around the moor."
The moor was a strange place. Some parts were pleasant meadowland, and it was in such a place that Mike and Ellie had set up their camp. But higher up the moor changed dramatically: the air was cooler, the ground became increasingly wet and boggy, and there were peculiar rock formations that cast eerie shadows on the ground.
Mike and Ellie were standing on top of one such formation. Their intention had been to find a good vantage point to scout out the moor, but instead they had been having too much fun climbing. "Come down from there! You need to stick to the footpaths if you want to be safe!" a voice shouted out from below them. They looked down to see two middle-aged women in hiking gear. Mike and Ellie climbed down and introduced themselves.
"I'm Dr Verity Maliphant," said the elder of the two ladies. She was very tall and her piercing eyes stared down at the children from her gaunt face. "And this is my sister, Hope," she said, indicating the small timid creature next to her. "Hope is very shy, aren't you?" said Verity, as her sister appeared to shrink into her waterproof jacket.
"We're botanists, aren't we Hope?" Verity continued as her sister remained withdrawn. "Moorland like this has such a unique ecosystem. We're visiting the moor to find specimens of plants that only grow here." She bent down, reached into a crevice in the rock and pulled out a small plant. "Look at the leaves on this specimen of Hieracium here! Do you see how they spiral up each stem? Each leaf is about a third of turn further around then the previous one."
"Actually, it's the golden angle: about 137 degrees," interrupted Ellie. "We did this at school last term. The process is called phyllotaxis and it's an example of how Fibonacci numbers appear in nature."
Verity's eyes hardened at this interruption. "You may think you're clever. But beware: the moor is a dangerous place. People have died from exposure up here. The weather can turn in a heartbeat - once the mist descends, unless you stick to the footpaths, you can easily get lost." She pointed across the moor. "Take Oldgate Moss over there. It's one of the deepest bogs here and as dangerous as quicksand. Several people have lost their lives in there! And now with Old Schuck back, this is not a safe place for children. Take my advice and go home." Verity marched off down the path. Hope's face flashed a quick look of desperation at Mike and Ellie before she followed her sister.
"What a strange couple," said Mike, as he and Ellie walked back to their camp.
That night Ellie lay in her sleeping bag unable to get back to sleep. She had been woken by an unearthly howling coming from high up on the moor. "That doesn't sound like any dog I've ever heard," she thought. Bracing herself, she plucked up the courage to look outside her tent. As she did so, she noticed a flashing light on the skyline. "That's interesting," she thought as she recorded it with her phone, "it's clearly a message. But to whom?"
Photo © Geoff Potter (cc-by-sa/2.0)