GTI 5.3

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 spacecraft.

In part two, FLATUS, our dynamic duo help the aliens (and the RSR) build their own multi-locatable craft. Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having three such craft in space at one time? FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?

Part three follows the preparation and development of the Gap Travel Initiative (code named GTI) and the developing relationships among and between species, races and genders. Will humankind achieve the nirvana of limitless travel and if so, at what cost. Stick with Tarquin and Meredith as they navigate their route through an uncertain future.

GTI. Chapter five, scene three

“Who’s the new man?” Joan asked when she entered Meredith’s office, “and where’s Pippington?”

“Nigel Swann, Sub Lieutenant. He’s my new PA. Captain Pippington,” Meredith almost spat his name, “has been bugging some people’s offices; yours and mine we know about and no doubt we’ll find out about more later. He has gone off with a security team to assist in their enquiries.”

“Not Bill and Norman, I hope.”

“He left in the company of my personal security detail, Warrant Officer Bligh and Chief Petty Officer Fletcher.”

“Poor Algie. Those two have a bit of a reputation for being—”

“Thorough?” Meredith asked.

“I was going to say something stronger, but thorough will do.”

“Thing is, though, Pipsqueak clearly doesn’t reciprocate the respect and consideration you show him. Listen to this.” She played Patsy’s recording.

Joan was visibly shaken. “Honestly,” she said, “I don’t know who I can trust these days.”

“Let me give you a few clues: me as your boss and friend – yes, Patsy as your friend – yes, Jason as the new guy – let you know later, Tarquin the useful idiot – not in a month of Sundays.”

“Speaking of Tarquin,” Patsy said.


“You started it. You mentioned his name.”

“Only to say he couldn’t be trusted.”

“Be that as it may, you mentioned him which leaves the door open for me to ask how his retraining is going.”

“That’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about.”

“I’m beginning to feel like a gooseberry,” Jason said.

“We don’t have any,” Patsy replied, “you’ll have to make do with a chocolate digestive.”

Jason shrugged his shoulders and took the last of the biscuits, earning reproachful looks from Meredith and Joan, both of whom had had their eyes on it for some time.

Meredith pressed the button on her intercom. “Bring in another packet of chocolate digestives, please, Swann. There’s a good chap.”

Joan asked Meredith, “Did you have a reason for calling me in or did you just want to make up a four for coffee?”

“I did,” Meredith said. She then went on to detail her thoughts on the next phase of the programme. Some of it she had to repeat – more than once – as no-one present could make out what she was saying whilst she insisted on talking through a mouthful of chocolate biscuits.

The essence of it was that Jason would take on the role of Human/Jinthae liaison, complementing and supervising Tarquin’s work as Human/Borborygmi liaison. His main task was to project manage the work on both sets of equipment and ensure they remained in step with the schedules provided by the jinthae. At least, that was the official version. Much as Tarquin’s job of looking after Hotay, the donkey that was the regimental mascot, was a front to his liaison work, Jason’s official role hid a job, details of which were still under wraps. Jason was to travel to the moon with Tarquin to be introduced to the borborygmi and to brief Andrea – but don’t tell Tarquin that, you know how delicate a soul he is.

Once she had completed the briefing, Meredith handed each of her officers a document outlining the entire project and detailing their individual roles. She then dismissed Jason and Joan, asking Patsy to remain behind for what she termed further and deeper discussions.

“Have you met Tarquin yet?” Joan asked Jason as they left Meredith’s office.

“I’ve seen him on the Sir Prijs a couple of times, but haven’t really interacted with him.”

“What’s your impression so far?”

“He seems to be a prime contender for ‘upper-class twit of the year’ if you ask me.”

“I’d say that’s a fair appraisal. Let’s go see him now. Do you have any of that stuff with you?”

“What stuff?” Jason asked, feigning innocence.

“The stuff you put into people’s drink to loosen their tongues and render them incapable of saying anything untrue.”

“Oh, that stuff. One small phial. About 5cc.”

“Is that enough to—”

“More than enough.”

They walked together to the suite where Tarquin was receiving his final session, knocked on the door and entered. Tarquin was seated across a desk from an elderly, bearded man identified by his desk plaque as George Robson, professor of behavioural psychology. A balding man apparently in his mid to late sixties, the professor wore a white lab-coat over two-thirds of a mid-brown glen check suit. The third part, his jacket, was hanging from a hook on the hat-stand in the corner of the room. When he saw them enter his office, the professor looked at them over the rims of his half-moon glasses and raised his eyebrows.

“Sorry to disturb you, Professor. Rear Admiral Weinberg and Commodore Strangename,” Joan said.

“Ah yes. I was told to expect you,” Professor Robson said, “We’re about finished here. Just going through young Stuart-Lane’s course appraisal. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s scored me at five.”

“Out of?” Joan asked.


“Had to, Prof. You’re a decent chap and I’m sure you’ve helped me absolument oodles.”

The professor proffered a patronising smile.

“Ready, Tarquin?” Jason asked, “we’ve come to take you back to work.”

“On the moon?”

“Of course. That’s where your work is.”

“That’s where Andrea is, too,” he said with obvious relish.

Joan looked at Tarquin and pointed to her mouth.

“What?” he asked.

“On your top lip, left hand side. Chutney or something.”

Tarquin wiped his lip clean.

“Can I offer you tea or coffee before you go?” Professor Robson asked.

“That’d be great,” Joan said, winking towards Jason.

Jason tipped his head towards the professor and shook it gently. “No time,” he said.

“You’re right, Commodore. We’ll bid you farewell, Professor, and thank you for the work you have done with Captain Stuart-Lane.”

“I’ll send my report to HR by the end of the week,” he said.

Once they’d left the education block, Tarquin asked, “Is everything alright now? Can I go back to work as normal?”

“Almost,” Joan said, “there’s just one thing you need to do when you get back to the moon. You need to make it right with the borborygmi.”

“How do I do that?”

“You recant.”

“I say, that’s a bit rum, isn’t it? I know you don’t like me much after I upset those chaps, but… come on.”


“You just called me a—”

“I told you to recant; tell them you no longer believe the things you were saying to them.”

“Oh. Sorr— ouch!” Tarquin fell to the floor between them, holding his right cheek. “I thought you called me a—”

“I can imagine what you thought the Rear Admiral called you, Captain,” Jason said, “and in my view, she would have been justified in doing so, but let’s get one thing clear. She didn’t. Okay?”

“Sir,” Tarquin said, regaining his feet.

“Good. Now get smartened up and report to us in Rear Admiral Weinberg’s office at oh-eight-thirty tomorrow for a briefing. You and I will join the Sir Prijs at ten hundred and leave for the moon base.”

“Are you still captain of the shuttle?” Tarquin asked.

“I am not. My duties, like yours are on the moon base. Captain Al-Kawazi has command.”



How can you not love ’em?

Children writing

“What you doin’, Janie?”

“Colourin’ in.”

“Watcha colourin’ in?”


“Lemme see.”

“Not till I’ve finished.”

“What’s it of?”

“Teddy bear. It’s in the book Auntie Liz gave me. I’ll show you it in a minute.”


“When it’s finished.”

“When’ll that be?”

“In a minute.”

“Shame Dad’s not here, innit?”


“He could time a minute on his watch.”

“Yeah. What you doing, anyway?”

“Drawin’ a picture of Mum.”

“Can I see it?”

“Not till it’s finished.”

“Where’d ya get the paper?”

“Found some on Dad’s desk.”

“I’m telling.”


“I’m telling Mum you nicked paper off Dad’s desk.”

“He said I could.”


“Last week. I asked him for a bit of paper. He pointed to a pile and said help yourself.”

“Is that from that pile?”

“No. That pile was gone, so I took some from another pile.”

“Are you allowed?”

“It’s just a pile of bits of paper. What difference does it make what pile it came from?”

“Is it empty?”

“On one side, yeah. I can’t draw on the side he’s written on, can I?”

“What’s he written on it?”

“I’ll tell you later.”


“When I learn to read.”

This was written in response to Kreative Kue 207 published on this site.

Kreative Kue 207

Kreative Kue 206 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
John W Howell is the author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, co-author of The Contract, and blogs at Fiction Favorites.

The Fifth Encounter by John W. Howell © 2019

“I can’t understand frog. I said, ‘Hello little guy.’ Maybe you could sign or something.”

“For heaven’s sake. How about I use English?”

“Wow. You speak English?”

“No. The guy across the way is throwing his voice.”

“What guy?”

“Forget the guy. I was being facetious. I’m speaking English. What the heck is the matter with you?”

“You ask that? Here I am holding a frog in my hand who is speaking English.”

“Yeah so?”

“So? Don’t you think that is cause to be a little confused?”

“If I were human I suppose it would be a little unusual.”

“If you were human? What the heck are you.”

“What do I look like?”

“A frog.”

“Looks like a frog. Just might be a frog.”

“Are you from outer space.”

“Nope. From right here in Murphy’s swamp where you found me.”

“How did you learn to speak English?”

“How many times have you come to this swamp to read your poetry?”

“Yeah, hundreds.”

“It would take a fool not to be able to speak after listening to all those poems.”

“Which one did you like the best?”

“I think the question should be, ‘Which one was the least offensive.”‘

“That was cold.”

“You are right. I just can’t help myself.”

“Are you a poet?”

“No, but I do review poetry.”

“You do?”

“Yup. For the New York Times.”

“My gosh. What is your byline.”

“Phineus P Phrog.”

“You are Phineus P. Phrog? I can’t believe it. I worship your reviews. You’ve made the most famous poets with your elegant words.”

“My goodness, you make me blush which is not a good thing when the crane comes around.”

“Please tell me my poems are not that bad.”

“I have professional integrity to maintain. Between you and me I think I would find something else to do.”

“Don’t say that. I love to read and write poetry.”

“You don’t have to give up reading.”

“You are breaking my heart.”

“I have an idea.”

“What’s that?”

“I could make you my assistant.”

“Your assistant? That sounds wonderful. What would I have to do?”

“Well. there’s a matter of needing proofreading.”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

“The mail is horrendous. Maybe you could answer the mail.”



“All over it.”

“My Facebook page needs a redo.”

“Consider it done.”


“I have a great organizational system.”

“My blog?”

“I’ll ghostwrite and post for you.”



“I eat a lot of flies.”

“You don’t catch your own?”

“No time.”


“Last resort.”


A special thank-you to Pamela Read from Canada, who offered this caption:

A prince in training.

Meanwhile, my effort was:




“I was happy down there. What’d you pick me up for?”

“Wow! A talking frog.”

“Who are you calling a frog?”

“You; who else?”

“Well, I ain’t a frog. Never have been, never will be.”

“To quote the duck test – If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

“Say what?”

“You look like a frog, move like a frog—”

“But I don’t croak like a frog.”

“Two out of three ain’t bad.”

“What are you quoting now?”

“Meat Loaf.”

“You are quoting your lunch?”

“Of course not. Meat Loaf is a singer.”

“Now I know you’re crazy. You’re quoting a sewing machine.”

“Not a Singer sewing machine, a singer – someone who sings songs.”

“Yeah. Bored. Put me back down.”


“Why not?”

“Firstly, because I’m about to cut the grass and I don’t fancy having to clear up a shredded frog.”


“Are so.”

“Am not.”

“Have you looked at yourself? How can you not be a frog?”

“You don’t know much beyond what you see with your own eyes, do you? What’s that by my back leg?”

“That little green patch?”


“I’ve no idea. A leaf?”

“No. It’s part of me and it’s what tells you that I’m not an actual, natural frog.”

“How does it tell that?”

“Duh – real frogs don’t have a green patch.”

“So, let me get this right. You’re not a real frog, so that means that if I kiss you…?”

“You’ll probably end up with warts on your lips.”

“Hah! Got you. It’s toads that have warts, not frogs.”

“Yeah, whatevs.”

“So, if you’re not really a frog, what happened?”

“Not what you read in the story books for a start. Not with me, anyway. I was working at the airport when this geezer comes along with some kind of gun I’d never seen before and ups and shoots me with it. I went over and when I got up – BAM. Suddenly I’m a frog.”

“So before he shot you, what were you – a man or a woman?”

“Neither. I’m a dog.”

“A talking dog?”

“Bite me.”

“Yeah, I can see the headlines – man bites dog.”

“Look. I enjoyed a connection with my handler that was as close to speaking as you can get. We communicated mind-to-mind, like I am to you now.”

“Okay, I’ll buy it. So. In real life, you’re a dog?”

“Yes. A police dog. A good one, too.”

“German Shepherd?”

“What else?”

“And your name? No, don’t tell me, let me guess. Prince? Ha ha ha.”

“No, Princess.”

Children writingOn 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 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 next Monday.