Waist of Space, part one of the Unlikelihood series, followed Commanders Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Meredith Winstanley; hapless heroes of the Royal Space Regiment; who were sent on a mission to the Moon from which they were not expected to return. There they met with a group of aliens who had forged a living under the surface of the moon, and whose forbearswere testing a new kind of spacegoing vessel that had the ability to be in many places at the same time.

Part two, FLATUS, follows our dynamic duo as they help the aliens build their own multi-locatable craft (and the RSR to build one, too). Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having potentially three such vessels in finite space at one time? Will the ineptitude of key personnel result in disaster, or avert it?

FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?

FLATUS. Chapter five, scene three

The two teams of mathematicians worked continuously for almost two months, checking and verifying the Jinthae calculations. By agreement with Andy, Artivon and Tarquin, and with the full support of both Meredith and Chief Marshgass III, the two teams remained entirely separate until they had both reached a conclusion. As soon as both teams had signalled that they had a result they exchanged data and verified each other’s findings, following which a meeting was convened. It had been decided in advance that both results would be kept secret, only to be revealed at the final joint meeting. At this time, the engineering and scientific teams, as well as the relevant commanders, would be appraised of the situation and of the mathematicians’ findings.

Sadly, Artivon’s father, Flatulon, died during the course of the work. This resulted in Artivon being elevated to the positions of Explorer Grade 3 and Head Anemologist, as well as Project Manager. The death of their leader was kept from the Borborygmi working on the project until after the mathematicians had delivered their verdict.

The day for the big meeting came. The large assembly hall in Swindon had already been cleared of its contents in preparation for either shipping to the new facility to be built on the moon or for putting into long-term storage, depending on the outcome of the investigations. Being empty, the hall was an ideal place to hold the meeting, which would be attended by equal numbers of humans and Borborygmi – about one hundred of each.

At the top table sat, on the high chairs, Meredith, Joan, Andy and Tarquin; on the lower chairs, Chief Marshgass III, his ADC, Aitchtoo’ess and Artivon. A number of those present queried the two empty seats. In fact, the higher one had been reserved for Vice Admiral Alasdair “Reggie” Farquharson, who had refused his invitation with the words, “I can’t abide those bloody aliens”, an attitude which probably deserved its own -ism spanning, as it did, speciesism, racism, ageism an sizeism. The lower one was reserved for Flatulon Grumpblast, who had buggered up everyone’s plans by choosing a most inopportune time to die.

As Human/Borborygmi Liaison Officer, Commander Tarquin Stuart-Lane opened the proceedings.

“Thank you all for coming. Ahm. I’ll bet you’re all as jolly excited as I am to find out what these incredibly clever mathedematical chappies managed to find from the data they were given by the strange little fellow who came to see us. I have to tell you, I looked at it and it might as well have been written in a foreign language. All signs, symbols and numbers. How these chaps get anything from it is beyond me. But they did, clever blighters, and they’re going to tell us all about it now. Before they start, I have to tell you that Reggie, that’s Vice Admiral Farquharson to you lot, wanted to come, but—”

“He had a long-standing prior commitment—” Meredith interrupted.

“Did he?” Tarquin asked, “I thought he—”

“Yes, he did,” Meredith said, “Let’s get on to the other empty seat, shall we?”

“Yah. That seat was for Flatulon. We’ll talk about him later.”

“Get on with it,” Meredith hissed.

“Right. Okay. Yah.” Tarquin gazed down at the paper in front of him and read from it. “The teams of mathema… mathe… the teams have looked at the data and, after many, many hours…” He looked up. “A lot of long hours, folks. These beautiful people really worked hard for you, and they’ve got you a result. A beautiful result. We should all be proud of them.”


“Yah. After many hours, they have reached a result on which they both agree. Andy will tell you what it is.” Tarquin sat down again, relieved to have got that over with. Andy and Artivon stood.

“I could spend hours talking you through the evidence behind the conclusion reached by our mathematicians…”

“But that’s what we pay them for. They do the hard sums…” Artivon said.

Andy continued, “so the rest of us don’t have to. They apply their considerable skills and experience…”

“…to solve problems that are too difficult for us even to contemplate.”

“We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never hope to repay…”

“…particularly because, without their enormous efforts, we may have gone down a path…”

“…a path that may have led to a result none of us could live with.”


Meredith stood and announced “It now falls to me, as overall commander of Project Prodigialis and its daughter projects, FLATUS and Ubiquitron, to announce the findings of the two teams of mathematicians. Each team has conducted its own independent investigation of the Jinthae calculations, then submitted their findings to the other team for verification. I am happy to announce that the two teams are of one mind; they are in full agreement one with the other.”

There was a rising tide of muttering in the room. Meredith sat back down and waited for it to subside. It took a while. Once the room had settled again, she rose to her feet.

“I am less happy to have to tell you what the result of the calculations is. There is now no doubt in our minds…”

More mutterings.

“…and we have submitted the result to some of the best mathematicians and theoretical physicists in eight countries…”

A great deal of heckling followed, the general gist of which was a request either to name the countries or at least to confirm that it was only countries that were feeding into the projects – which means all except one.

“Those countries do not include any state that does not contribute materials, personnel or funding to our project. The global consensus is now fixed. The dangers inherent in this project are such as to render it impossible for us to proceed.”

“A couple of questions, please?” said a voice from the front row, identified as one of the senior physicists from the Borborygmi team.

“Go ahead, please,” Meredith responded.

“One: What about the project on the planet Borbor?”

“I can answer that,” Chief Marshgass III said. “I have seen confirmation that their project has been abandoned.”

“Thank you, Chief. My second question is this: What assurance do we have, can we have, that one of these projects won’t be resurrected at a later date and the universe once again plunged into potential danger?”

“We can’t know that for sure,” Merry said, “Knowledge like this can’t be unlearned, but an understanding of the results of utilising this kind of knowledge can be passed down from generation to generation. I suppose very much like the nations here on Earth, even though many possess nuclear weapons, have an understanding that they can never be used. I believe; I have to believe, that intelligent races, wherever they are in the universe, once aware of the dangers to themselves and all life, will never be so reckless, so foolish as to start again what we have just stopped. To that end, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations will be submitting to that body a binding resolution that will prohibit all nations from attempting to develop a device of this nature.”

There arose from the audience a spontaneous outburst of applause, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Robert Mugabe was sacked as President of Zimbabwe. Meredith sat down, satisfied that she had done her job, no matter how much it had pained her to do it.

The Borborygmus from the science team stood.

“One more question?”

“Go ahead.”

“We’re all unemployed now. What are we to do with ourselves?”

Chief Marshgass III answered, “Firstly, we the Borborygmi of the Sol 3a exploration team, will return to our ancestral home on the moon. I think we’ve all had enough of trying to adapt to this high-gravity planet. We have lost our Head Anemologist, Flatulon Grumpblast. He completed his innings, as they say here, during the calculations. We shall celebrate his passing in the traditional way, and feast to his son, Artivon, who has already taken on all his father’s duties and responsibilities. After that, I shall be in negotiation with Rear Admiral Winstanley and a being called Jinnis Keet from the planet Grintsk. It was this being who gave us the information needed to reach the momentous decision we have just reported, and it is with that being’s race that we shall engage in an exchange of technologies. There will be another project. We Borborygmi will contribute to another great endeavour.”

There was uproar among the Borborygmi gathered in the hall.

When it died down, Chief Marshgass III spoke again. “At the moment, though, I have absolutely no idea what that endeavour will be.” He turned to Artivon and whispered, “That should shut them up for a while.”

Every second counts

“What are you doing there, Dear?”

“You said if I got lost I should stand somewhere and wait for you, but I couldn’t remember where you said so I stood here.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Between fifty-three and fifty-three and a half minutes.”


“Can’t say.”

“Why not?”

“You broke my concentration.”

“What were you concentrating on?”


“Counting what?”



“To know how long I’ve been here because I knew you’d ask.”

“So you’ve been counting the seconds for… let me see…”

“If I’d just counted the seconds it would be between three thousand, one hundred and eighty and three thousand two hundred and ten.”

“If you’d just counted the seconds.”

“Yes, if I’d just counted the seconds.”

“But you didn’t.”


“Why not?”

“Because I can’t guarantee to maintain accuracy for that long.”

“So what did you do?”

“I looked at my watch every thirty seconds and counted to thirty in between.”

“And that’s how you know you’d been here for between fifty-three and fifty-three and a half minutes?”

“Yes. I had reached fifty-three minutes and seventeen seconds when you spoke to me.”

“Wasn’t that rather boring? Wouldn’t you have enjoyed looking at all this beauty and all these people?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I’ll never know because I had to keep track of how long I’d been here because I knew you’d ask me.”

“But you didn’t remember where I’d told you to wait if you got lost?”

“No. So I came here.”

“I said the main entrance, but never mind. What made you choose this place?”

“Isn’t it obvious? The bright background contrasts with my sweatshirt and jeans, making it easy to spot me. Additionally, the patterns that the visitors’ movements follow mean there will always be a large space in front of me, so it would be even easier for you. At the same time, the female tourists keep well away from me, because that’s what women do.”

“So you’ve been standing there like that for almost an hour, just counting the passage of time?”


“And you weren’t bored?”

“Not at all. I enjoy counting in small sets and I get a lot of pleasure from observing the passage of time.”

“One final question.”


“Why are you holding your hat like that?”

“I told you. I get a lot of pleasure from observing the passage of time.”

I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 183, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.

Kreative Kue 183

Kreative Kue 182asked for submissions based on this photograph:

My thanks to John W Howell, author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, co-author of The Contract, and who blogs at Fiction Favorites, who sent:

Camouflage by John W. Howell © 2018

“Sush, someones coming.”

“I don’t hear anyone.”

“I have this super sense of hearing. Trust me. Stop chewing that gum.”

“How did you know I had gum in my mouth. I barely chewed it.”

“I could hear your molars coming together. If I can hear them so can they.”

“Okay, then. I’ll spit it out.”

“No don’t. The sound of you spitting can carry for miles.”

“For you maybe. How many people do you think have your hearing sensitivity.”

“You want to take a chance there is one?”

“You make a good point. I’ll not chew.”

“Thank you very much. Can you hold your breath?”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Now you are going too far.”

“Sush. Your blabbing is going to get us killed.”

“You really think those folks are going to kill us?”

“Do you know what they do to others like us?”

“No, I can’t say I do.”

“I have heard sometimes they cut off your skin while you are alive.”

“My God. That is horrible.”

“Also they put you in hot water after cutting you in half.”

“In half. That’s barbaric.”

“One guy told me, and he swears it’s true that he witnessed a group being drawn and quartered.”

“Okay, I’ll stop breathing. How close are they?”

“I can hear their young ones screaming as they run ahead.”

“Why do they do that?”

“I don’t know I think they use their young to draw fire in case of an ambush.”

“So how close?”

“A few hundred feet. They are also carrying baskets.”

“Baskets what the hell for?”

“Prisoners. Those they don’t kill and eat immediately they take as prisoners to torture and kill later.”

“I think I’m going to cry.”

“They could miss us if we keep quiet. Who knows, they may be more into those poor apples in the next forest. If so we will be spared.”

“Where are they now?”

“I think they are going for the apples.”

“Thank God. We pears live another day.”

“Yeah, they are hitting the apples. I can hear them screaming. We dodged the bullet today. Long live the pears.”

“Long live the pears.”

“Sush. Whisper. The hairless apes could still find us.”


My effort was:

Jingly bells

“You know, Jimmy, I can’t look at that tree without thinking of my favourite TV programme from when we were young.”

“When we were young? How long ago was that then, Eth?”

“Ooh, I don’t know. A very long time ago. Back in the days when we were bringing up the children.”

“Don’t I always tell you, Eth? You shouldn’t have eaten them.”

“Yes, you do, Jimmy. And I always laugh, don’t I?”

“That’s what I love about you, Eth. Always have. You know my jokes aren’t funny, but you laugh at them anyway.”

“That’s because I love you, you daft old fool, and I know it makes you happy. That’s why I do it.”

“Anyway, what’s this television programme?”

“You know – the one with whatsisname… Calloway in it.”

“Cab Calloway? Him as did Minnie the Moocha? That’d be the Blues Brothers, I’ll be bound, except that was a film, not a telly programme.”

“No, not him. Ooh. I know. Butch Cassidy.”

“That’ wasn’t a programme, either, Eth. That was a film, too. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Coupla bloody eejits riding around on bikes singing about raindrops. Bit soft, if you ask me.”

“No, not that, either. There was a bunch of them. A whole family.”

“I know. Brady Bunch. Goodnight, Elllie-May, goodnight Bo.”

“You silly old bugger, Jimmy. That’s a bit of The Waltons, a bit of The Beverley Hillbillies and a bit of Dukes of Hazzard.”

“Well, you know what I mean.”

“Shall I tell you the saddest thing, my love?”

“What’s that?”

“The saddest thing is that I think I do know what you mean. Ooh, I remembered. He was a singer – pretty boy, as I recall.”

“But you can’t remember what he was called.”

“That’s just it. I do. David Cassidy. That was his name. Yes, David Cassidy. Hee-hee, I remembered. Now who’s a daft old duffer, eh?”

“I remember him, too. Didn’t he marry that Kylie – the young motor mechanic?”

“No, that was Jason Donovan on Neighbours – that Aussie show.”

“Still going on, that one.”

“Are they still in it?”


“Jason and Kylie, of course.”

“Not for years. I accidentally saw it once and didn’t recognise anybody.”

“When did you see it?”

“Most days.”

“So you’re watching it regular, like?”

“I call it my guilty pleasure.”

“Is it any better than it was?”

“Hard to say.”


“I don’t follow the story. I only watch it for—”

“You don’t have to tell me, James Birthwaite. I know you too well. You only watch it for the pretty girls. That’s your guilty pleasure, isn’t it?”

“Stop trying to confuse me by changing the subject. What were we talking about before you got me all worked up?”

“Ermm. Let me think…”

“I got it! You were saying that tree reminds you of a TV show.”

“Oh yes.”

“Which one? Have you remembered?”

“Yes, I have. It’s The Partridge Family.”

“How on Earth can that remind you of The Partridge Family?”

“Duh. Pear tree? Partridge?”

On to this week’s challenge: Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at keithchanning@gmail.com before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries, with links to your own blog or web site, next Monday.