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“I guess the historians will call it Beanstalk Day this time.”
   — Frank Wood



Francis "Frank" Paul Wood (born in 1984) is one of the characters of The Long Earth Series.

In 2015, aged thirty-one, he was in the US Air Force and was a candidate to be a NASA astronaut before all space programs were shut down as a side effect of Step day.

He then became a tour bus driver at Cape Canaveral before he heard about the Gap and the possibilities it posed for space travel by Gareth Eames.[1]

Appearance

Frank is described as being in his fifties, being wiry, not tall but upright and having greying crew-cut hair.[2]

He is seen wearing a blue jumpsuit with a faded NASA logo and a name tag with "Wood, F." written on it when he met Sally and Monica for the first time.[2]

The Long War

I will not

In 2040, a video of an incident involving trolls at the GapSpace facility found its way on the outernet.

In the video, a group of space cadets were trying to force a female troll named Mary to hand them over her cub in order to try to make him step into the vacuum of space of the Gap. The troll, using American sign language, made them understand that she didn't want to. One of the helpers produced an electric rod when Mary fetched it, snapped it in two and shoved it in the man right's eye. When the men pulled a gun on Mary, Frank stopped them from putting her down.

After the recording leaked, it led to many similar reports about cruelty over trolls all over the Long Earth.[3]

Sally and Monica

A few months later, Sally Linsay and Monica Jansson decided to go to the GapSpace facility to see if they could do something to help the trolls.

Once there, they were greeted by Frank. Monica showed him her MPD badge and pretended to still be on active duty and that they were there for the trolls case.

Frank told them that they needed to see Gareth Eames, the closest to a chief executive there, about it and proposed to lead them to the admin block. Sally declined, saying she could find her way on her own and left Monica with Frank, asking her to distract him while she was looking around, arguing that Frank had obviously an eye for Monica.[2]

Frank gave Monica a tour of the facility, explained to her what they were doing at the GapSpace facility, mentioned that they managed to send a spaceship, the Kingfisher, to the Gap Venus and showed him some of things they were working on like the stepper shuttle.

They were interrupted by a man sent by Sally to fetch Monica.[1]

The garden party

Frank is seen again in September 2040 at Lobsang and Agnes's garden party in Madison West 11. There, he approached Joshua Valienté and asked for Sally. Helen, Joshua's wife, led them to a group of trolls staying farther, where Sally was.

Frank then proceeded to thank Sally and Monica for what they did for Mary and Ham and apologized for the GapSpace space cadets' behaviour.

Monica, being more ill than ever since her stunt at the Rectangles, started to feel nauseous and Frank was walking her away from the crowd when the first phone calls about the Yellowstone eruption started to come in.[4]

He then accompanied her to the new police station on Madison West 5 and stayed with her during all her stay at the Home until her death.[5]

The Long Mars

Lending a hand

After the Yellowstone eruption in 2040, Frank and Monica went back to the Datum to help.

After Monica's death, and the number of dead on the Datum diminished, he went back to the Gap.

Destination Mars

In January 2045, Frank was asked by Sally Linsay and Willis Linsay to join them on an expedition to the Mars of the Gap. An offer that Frank accepted.[6][7]

A couple of weeks after her arrival at the GapSpace facility, Willis, Sally and Frank are in a stepper shuttle piloted by Al Raup on their way to the Brick Moon, where they stayed twelve hours before boarding the Galileo to reach the Gap Mars.[8]

Their trip aboard the Galileo lasted several weeks. The ship has three separate levels that each one of the crew could use as his personnal space. Willis and Sally, trying to stay as far away as possible from each other, both secluded themselves in their respective space and it was that way most of the trip to Mars except on one occasion when Sally joined Frank to observe the stars.[9]

Landing

On March 15th, they finally landed on Mars. When Frank was busy planting the American flag and making a video claiming the Martian soil for the USA, a man in a spacesuit appeared from nowhere, just in front of him, singing the Russian national anthem and at the same time telling Willis that stepping on Mars is possible.[10]

Marsograd

The man in the spacesuit, Viktor Ivanov, helped them unload their cargo and unpack the spare parts for Woden and Thor. While Willis and Frank were assembling the gliders, Viktor invited Sally to visit his base, named Marsograd by Willis. Together they rode in Viktor's truck, dubbed Marsokhod by Willis, to the spatial base and there she was introduced to Sergei Djanibekov and Alexei Krilov, two other Russian scientists.

Alexei explained how they were sent to the Gap Mars to study the local life forms and how humans could live on this world but unfortunately, after the Yellowstone eruption, Datum Russia was abandonned due to the new extreme weather conditions. It is said that Moscow is under ice and polar bears wander around the Red Square now.

After spending the night there, Sally went back to Willis and Frank.[11]

First step

The gliders, fully built sat next to each other on the Martian soil. After browsing around them, Sally found out that they were full of empty Stepper boxes, ready to be built. When asking her father what they were for, being as secretive as usual, he simply replied they were "trading goods" without adding further details.

The three of them were invited to spend the night at Marsograd, where they watched a movie before being brought back to the gliders at dawn.

Frank, being the cautious type, insisted on taking the first step on the ground. Seating in Woden with Sally in the back seat, he stepped with the help of his Stepper box.

The MEM and the tire tracks left by the Marsokhod blinked out of existence to a lifeless Mars.

There, on Gap Mars East 1, they discovered that the Earth of this world was not the one with the GapSpace facility. Meaning that the Long Mars chain doesn't run parallel to the Long Earth and that their only way back was through the Gap Mars.

Stepping across the Long Mars

After a while they finally took off, making sure that they were at least two persons on the ground when the first glider took off.

Then both gliders where in the air and they started to step at a speed of sixty worlds a minute with a succession of dead Marses underneath.

Sally, still in the back seat, and thanks to her special ability, felt the presence of soft places on Mars.[12]

Sand-whales and sand-crustaceans

Sand-whale

Rendition of a sand-whale by LittleJollyBoat.

A couple of hours later, more than forty thousand worlds from Gap Mars, they found themselves once again on a world with life.

Below the gliders, they witnessed sand-whales moving through the Martian dust like through a fluid.

A baby who got separated from the pack got attacked by sand-crustaceans. It was the last scene they saw as they stepped away to another lifeless Mars.[13]

First traces of sapience

More and more lifeless Marses until the twelfth day, around half a million steps East of the Gap Mars, when they found a city where the buildings were taller than anything built on Earth. The city presented traces of destruction and looked more like a vast cemetery.

They stepped away after Willis went down to take some samples.[14]

Another dead civilization

On the fourteenth day, around fifty thousand worlds after the million step milestone, they found other remains of a civlization, this one technologically more advanced than the previous one.

Frank and Willis went down to take some samples. Frank tried to probe Willis about what he was looking for but he remained vague as usual.

This secrecy started to get on Frank's nerves and he confronted Willis about it.

They were interrupted by a radio message from Sally and left before getting affected by the radiations caused by debris left there.[15]

Sapience

More than forty days into their expedition, around one point five million steps East, they found a Mars with sapience. Below their gliders, a herd fire-breathing land-dragons was running away from sand-whalers riding sand-yachts, armed with spears and bows.

The sand-whalers soon spotted the gliders and raised their fists at them but lacked the technology to do them any harm. North, of the scene, Willis soon spotted five huge black monoliths with inscriptions on them.

MarsMonoliths

Rendition of the monoliths by DSonla.

They tried to reach the monoliths to record the inscriptions but they were protected by some sort of invisible field that gave them a headache everytime they got closer.

After a while, they noticed that the sand-whalers were not affected by the monoliths and were just riding past them on their sand-yachts without even slowing.

Willis, pretending to take one of the glider in the air for safety, established contact with the sand-whalers. He showed them how to build and use the Stepper boxes and gave them some survival bubbles to be able to breathe in the nearby worlds. The leader took some pleasure at stepping around one particular individual, dubbed the crustacean prince by Frank, to humiliate him.

In exchange for all this, Willis asked them to take a handheld cam as close as the monoliths as possible to get a recording.

Having what they wanted, and after a thunder was heard in the distance, they stepped away after Willis explained to them that the thunder they heard was actually the sound of the true predator of the land-dragons.[16]

More dead Marses and more Jokers

As they left behind the world of the sand-whalers, they encountered more dead Marses and the occasionnal Joker like a flooded Mars where the northern hemisphere was drowned by an ocean and what looked like cities floated on huge rafts with crustaceans fishermen who came ashore on land-yachts to hunt whales or a glacial Mars where Sally swore she saw a herd of reindeer.[17]

The beanstalk

Eleven weeks since they landed on Mars, they finally found what Willis was looking for, around three millions steps East of Gap Mars. What Willis was looking for all along was a space elevator, a beanstalk, a cheap way to reach a planet's orbit without having to use rockets.

Willis predicted the existence of such things, arguing that any advanced civilization living on a Joker Mars will try to reach space before their world became too dry and inhabitable.

Upon getting closer to the root of the space elevator, they noticed the absence of maintenance facilities or housing, deducing that the beanstalk was probably several million years old.

To reach the base of the cable, the root station, they had to go down a twenty miles deep cylindric hole but Sally managed to convince her father to wait until the next morning.[18]

Down the beanstalk

It was decided that Willis and Sally would fly Thor down the shaft while Frank would stay on the surface as backup with Woden.

They rested, had dinner, slept and waited for dawn, in order to use the whole day to go down and have the time to inspect the root station before the sunset.

At about twelve miles deep, they started to see vegetation on the walls. Some kind of cacti like on Gap Mars.

The ground there was coated with life, purple-green bacterial slime, things like sprawled trees.

Sally even encountered a crustacean in the hole, like the lifeforms they met several worlds ago, but this kind, having been living in the dark for a long time, had no eye stalks.

Willis, on the other hand, found a crashed spacecraft and a crested skull, three times the size of a human head and arrow-shaped.

Their observations were interrupted when a piece of Woden landed on the floor.[19]

Attack of the crustacean prince

When Willis and Sally reached the surface, they found Woden smashed to pieces.

Luckily, Frank was unharmed and was standing by their camp. He told them how the crustacean prince, the sand-whaler that got humiliated in front of his peers around one million point five steps West from this Mars, appeared out of nowhere and attacked Woden.

Willis, still at the command of Thor, took it in the air to preserve it and to draw the prince's attention while Sally and Frank were packing whatever they could salvage.

The prince shot a rocket-worm at Willis, a living fire-breathing organism that uses that fire as a fuel and act like a living missile, and touched Thor.

Willis landed quickly at the camp and Frank and Sally started to load the supplies they could gather when the prince came at them.

Willis then went back in the air while a rocket-worm was fired at Frank and Sally, missing them, but not from far.

Frank and Sally decided to split and run in opposite directions to give a better chance at survival to at least one of them while the prince was back at the campsite, trashing it.

Willis, after a moment's hesitation, decided to go down to pick up Sally.

From the glider, they saw the crustacean prince head toward Frank who was standing his ground.

They stepped away just after the prince, who jumped from his sand-yacht, drove his spear into Frank's faceplate.[20]

Back to Earth

Inside the glider, Willis showed the Beanstalk cable sample they took saying that Frank's death was not in vain and how thanks to him, they will change the destiny of the world.

Thor having sustained too much damage because of the rocket-worm, Willis told her that they would have to ditch the glider and get back to the Gap Mars through the soft places.

Sally, recalling then Willis' hesitation during the attack of the crustacean prince, realized that her father contacted her after all those years only because of her ability to sense the soft places.

Disappointed at her father, she kept to herself all the way home.

On the Gap Mars, they were welcomed once again by the Russians who were saddened by Frank's death.

Once on Earth, Sally sought Frank's family to notify them on his passing and went to visit Monica Jansson's grave in Madison West 5 to tell her.[21]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Long War - Chapter 34
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Long War - Chapter 33
  3. The Long War - Chapter 1
  4. The Long War - Chapter 68
  5. The Long War - Chapter 69
  6. The Long Mars - Chapter 2
  7. The Long Mars - Chapter 3
  8. The Long Mars - Chapter 10
  9. The Long Mars - Chapter 13
  10. The Long Mars - Chapter 16
  11. The Long Mars - Chapter 17
  12. The Long Mars - Chapter 19
  13. The Long Mars - Chapter 20
  14. The Long Mars - Chapter 25
  15. The Long Mars - Chapter 26
  16. The Long Mars - Chapter 29
  17. The Long Mars - Chapter 36
  18. The Long Mars - Chapter 37
  19. The Long Mars - Chapter 38
  20. The Long Mars - Chapter 39
  21. The Long Mars - Chapter 40

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