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 three, scene six

Before the new steering group came together for the first time, Meredith ordered that Tarquin should also be included in the meetings.

“Are you sure we need him, Ma’am?” Andy asked.

“Would I order it if I weren’t sure?”

“But we’re balanced so far. Ten scientists and engineers from each side and one in charge of each group. Wouldn’t Tarquin’s presence upset that balance?”

“Are you forgetting what his job is?”

“I don’t think so. He’s in charge of the mascot, the donkey.”

“His position as Hotay’s keeper is a front. In fact, that’s done by Corporal Formme, who is a professional groom.”

“So what does Tarquin do?”

“Tarquin is Human/Borborygmi liaison.”

“What? I’ve met him. How can you trust such an important job to someone like him?”

“Simple. The Borborygmi like him and trust him. He’s very close to young Artivon Grumpblast. And I control him.”

“If you say so, Ma’am. I’ll set it up.”

“Thank you, Andy. Report back after the meeting, will you?”

“Of course, Ma’am.”

Andy saluted, turned and marched out of Meredith’s office. He had learned a lot in a very short time.

And so Tarquin was co-opted onto the Joint Project Working Group. At its first meeting, Andy proposed that Tarquin, as Human/Borborygmi Liaison Officer, be appointed chair of the group. Artivon seconded the motion and, of course, with that backing, the motion was carried unanimously. Well, almost. There was one vote against the motion – Tarquin himself.

When asked why he had voted against it, he said, “Well, look around. If I’m the chair, it means people will sit on me, and have you seen the size of some of the Borborygmi?”

“We may be taller than humans,” Arty said, “but we’re less bulky and probably lighter, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“What are you talking about?” Andy asked, looking at Tarquin, “Being the chair doesn’t mean folk will sit on you. It means that you control the meeting, mediate disputes and have the casting vote in case of no agreement.”

“Oh, golly. Me? Actually in charge of the group? That, I can live with.”

“Yes,” Andy said, “but can we?”

“Haha. No choice now, old chap. The deed is done. The die is cast. The proverbial horse has, as they say, proverbially bolted. And I’m in charge. Now. Everybody. Do we have an agenda?”

“Shut up, Tarquin,” Andy said.

“So— ouch! Damn that woman.”


“Bloody Patsy. Put something called an enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion on me. Whenever I try to apologise, I feel that I need a slap across the face to stop me.”


“And when I feel that I deserve one, I feel like I’ve had one. And it blooming-well hurts!”

“That must be jolly inconvenient. Anyway, let’s get on, shall we?”

Norman the Nameless spoke first. “What assurance do we have that this so-called Working Group isn’t just a way for the humans to steal even more of our secrets so they can do better with their own project?”

“Good question,” Tarquin said, “I was wondering that myself.”

“With respect, Mr Chair, you have yet to be briefed on the purposes, aims and objectives of this group, so have nothing to add at this point,” Andy said. Then, turning to Norman the Nameless, he added, “We have no need or desire to, as you call it, steal your secrets. No need, because we are paying for this entire project, hence under current copyright law, we already own the intellectual property rights inherent in your work; no desire because we believe that the two developments are, as of today, running pretty much in parallel. Let me refresh your memories as to the reasons for the establishment of this group. We are both experiencing spatial and temporal anomalies as a result of leakages from components of the drives that are under test. They only happen, naturally enough, when tests are being run. Your leaders and ours have agreed to delay further development and testing work until such time as we have identified a more effective insulating medium. This working party will operate as a single team, equally responsible to both projects. That way, whatever results we achieve will be known to both sides at the same time, so neither project team will gain any special advantage. Our job, then, is to design an insulating material that will resist and contain the leakages. We will each apply our best brains to it and we will share whatever we come up with. It’s important, not only for the smooth running of the project, but also for the safety of our two races, that we get to the bottom of, and find a solution to this leakage problem. If anyone is uncomfortable working in that framework, let me know now, and we’ll release you and replace you with one of your colleagues.”

Isn’t it amazing what putting on a uniform can do to a man?

Source unknown…

“Are you sure this is the right road, Georg?”

“I think so, Sergei. The voice in my ear is telling me which way to turn, which road to follow.”

“And it said to follow this road?”

“Of course.”

“What is this voice in your ear and why don’t I have one?”

“Don’t have time to talk about that. Another message is coming through.”

“What’s it say?”

“Keep right on.”

“You sure?”



“That’s what it says.”

“But who are all these people at the sides of the road, and why are they waving at us?”

“No idea, mate. Don’t suppose it’s us they’re waving at, anyway.”

“Who else?”

“There must be someone else coming after us. Let’s face it, who wants to come out to see a group of mates out for a bike ride?”

“Anything else on today, on this road?”

“I should say so. The Tour de France is passing through later this afternoon.”

“That must be what all these people are here for.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Georg, you don’t suppose…”

“They think we’re professional racers? Nah. We’d not be playing ‘follow my leader’ if we were, would we?”

“S’pose not. Still. I’m interested in the voice in your ear. Some sort of satnav, is it?”

“No idea. It’s just there, telling me stuff.”

“What sort of stuff?”

“Like which way to turn, and other stuff too.”

“Other stuff? Like what?”

“Usually things that help me decide what I’m supposed to do.”

“Ahh! Which one is it: Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana or Alexa?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, mate.”

“Tell you what. When we stop, would you let me borrow the earpiece, so I could hear it?”

“Earpiece? What earpiece?”

I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 175, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.

Kreative Kue 175

Kreative Kue 174 asked 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, and who blogs at Fiction Favorites, who sent:

Friday by John W. Howell © 2018

“We need to make this a good fight, Sasha.”

“Why is that, Pradeep?”

“There’s a guy up in the stands with an iPhone?”

“Should I turn around?”

“No, take my word for it.”

“What about him?”

“He is a Bollywood producer.”

“You’re kidding. How exciting.”

“I think he is videotaping our performance.”

“How cool.”

“So quit dancing around and come at me.”

“Wait a minute. I’m dancing around because I don’t have a sword like you.”

“You are supposed to use your staff like a Ninja and take me out.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Use my sword like a warrior.”

“Like we practiced?”

“More or less.”

“How much more and how much less?”

“That guy up there will want action. It is hard to fake a fight.”

“Are you telling me this is for real?”

“No not for real. Just almost real.”

“Good grief. I’m getting out of here.”

“Stand where you are unbeliever. Defend yourself.”

“Unbeliever? Hey, Pradeep. It’s me Sasha, your brother.”

“Lies all lies.”

“For heaven’s sake. Put that sword down.”

“Okay, Sasha you can relax.”


“The guy is gone.”

“You were going to come at me with that sword, weren’t you?”

“Well, yeah. How would we stage a convincing fight if I didn’t?”

“I would think we would have time to practice.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter anymore—”

“What are you looking at?”

“The guy is back.”

“Does this mean?—”

“Defend yourself, unbeliever.”


My effort was:


“You know I like to spend time with you when I’m in the region, Rajesh, but must we really come to watch this fighting? I could have spent the evening at home with Priya, which I know she would have preferred.”

“Listen to me, Sanyam. This is not just fighting, this is Kalaripayattu. It is an essential part of our heritage. It is the oldest and most scientific martial art form in the world.”

“Look at it, man. Whatever fancy name you give it, it is still fighting. Look at them; they are using weapons. They could hurt each other. Badly.”

“What you are seeing, my friend, is a performance art. No-one gets hurt.”

“So why the weapons?”

“These men are highly skilled. They look as though they are attacking each other with weapons, but none ever strikes home. It is like a dance, but highly disciplined.”

“So what is the point of it?”

“What is the point of any art? When a painter makes a portrait, what is it for but to be looked at? When a musician plays his instrument, what is it for but to be listened to? This is the same. It is an art form to be appreciated, but is also an indispensable part of our cultural environment – like Kathakali.”

“Kathakali I understand. It tells a story. Even though I am not from this region, I can learn some of its history from the Kathakali and from other dramatic works. This fighting, even if it tells me that the practitioners are incredibly skilled and disciplined, gives me no real information.”

“I have another reason for coming, too.”

“What is that?”

“You see those two in the arena now?”

“What of them?”

“The guy on the left is my cousin Krishnan; the other is another cousin, Ramesh.”


“Don’t mock me, Sanyam. Do me one favour, will you?”

“What favour?”

“Hold my phone for me. No, hold it up in front of you so I can see the picture on it. That’s it. Keep It there.”

“Okay, but why?”

“Because when they are in exactly the same positions as in that picture, I want to take a photograph with my camera.”

“Again, why?”

“Because Krishnan likes that photo and has asked me for a copy. I need to make it exactly the same, otherwise it won’t be a true copy, will it? Nearly the same isn’t good enough.”

“Tell me, Rajan, how many photos do you have on that phone?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Probably hundreds, maybe even thousands. It isn’t a new phone, you know. I am not like you, I can’t afford a new phone every year.”

“Okay, but what happens if your phone has a problem and you lose your photos?”

“It’s okay. I would be able to get them back again. They are all backed up to the cloud.”

“How would you get them back?”

“Just copy them from my computer.”

“How? Is your computer in the cloud, too?”

“Not exactly, but something like. My computer synchronises with my cloud account.”

“Now, don’t take this personally, Rajan, but I think you’re missing something here.”


“If you have these photos on your computer, why can’t you just email them to your cousins.”

“I think it is you that are missing something, Sanyam. He doesn’t want a copy of what is on my computer, he wants a copy of the picture that is on my phone. Now hold it still, we’re almost there.”


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 – pingbacks don’t often work.

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.