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 forbears
were 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 one, scene five
Almost two hours later, a car and driver finally turned up. Had our fearless foursome been sitting idly in the Wiltshire countryside all this time? Not at all. There was a lot of discussion between Meredith and Joan, with some contributions from Patsy and the odd confused (and confusing) interjection from Tarquin.
Let’s listen in to just a small part of this discussion.
“Like I said, Joan, all this talking isn’t pushing the plot forward. Perhaps we should speak more concisely.”
“I’d be all in favour of that, boss. Honestly, I would. I mean, look at the amount of time we’re wasting saying the same things over and over again.”
“In fairness, we’re saying it in different ways.”
“I’ll grant you that. We’re not saying it in exactly the same way all the time, but we’re saying the same thing, aren’t we?”
Tarquin felt the need to interject at this point, “Does anyone know what we’re supposed to be doing? I mean, is that all we have to do; wait for this car? There must be more important things going on.”
“He’s right,” Patsy said, “Surely the aliens are doing something. Wouldn’t it be better to tell about that, than just report that we’re talking?”
“That’s the problem we have, Darling,” Meredith said, “Our hands are completely tied. We know there’s something going on in there – bound to be, but the idiot who’s writing this stuff seems to be more interested in our chatting.”
“Do you suppose he’s exploring the developing interpersonal relationships within our little group?” Joan asked.
“Why would he do that? We’re just three women—”
“And one man…”
“That’s open to debate, as well. Why don’t we do that, Boss? Let’s propound our various thoughts on what makes a mere male into a man, what conditions we look for, then we’ll hold Tarquin up against those standards and see how far he falls short.”
“That sounds fun,” Patsy said.
“Can I join in?” Tarquin asked.
“Tarquin. Parse the following sentence: The women are discussing the man,” Joan said.
“Oh, I say. This is a jolly game. Remember parsing from school. Let me see… erm… The women would be the subject of the sentence, a plural noun; discussing, the verb, obviously—”
“And the man?”
“Is the object, of course. You want me to translate into Latin? Be much clearer.”
“Why not? We’ve precious little else to do until this damned car comes.”
“Okay, right, here goes. Erm… let me think… Yah! Feminae virum disserant,” Tarquin pronounced with a degree of smugness that was neither necessary nor becoming.
“Now think about this, Tarquin. If the object of the sentence were to join with the subject in actioning the verb, what does that do for the sentence structure?”
“Ahm. Feminae vir disserant. Word order not important. All the meaning is in the word endings, it… Oh! Golly. See what you mean. Messes it up completely.”
“Messes it up completely, Tarquin. And that is why it would be most unwise for you to join us in the discussion. Can you see that?”
“Now you put it that way, yah. I suppose it was obvious, really. Can’t have the sentence structure mucked up, can we? That’s not the sort of thing an educated chap should even think about doing. Not going to apologise, though,” he said, casting an eye towards Patsy and, more particularly, towards her raised gloves.
“Why not?” Patsy asked.
“Don’t want another slapping.”
“Boss…” Patsy said, “Can I anyway?”
“Look at that face,” Meredith said to Joan, “how can I refuse. Go on then.”
“Where were we?” Meredith asked.
“I believe we were about to start dissecting our tame idiot, Ma’am,” Joan replied.
“If I can be allowed to start,” Patsy said, “I agree that there should be a lot less talking and a lot more action.”
“Not that idiot. We’re tearing Tarquin to bits.”
“Okay. I think he should do a lot less talking and a lot more action.”
“Good point,” Tarquin said, “every time I talk, I seem to get in trouble. But when I actually do something…”
“When was that?” Meredith asked.
“When was what?”
“When did you ever actually do something?”
“Good point. Let me think.”
“Don’t do that, there’s a good boy. Leave the grown-ups to do the thinking for you. I’d hate to see you hurt yourself,” Patsy added.
“Now you’re all being jolly beastly to me.”
“And I’ve done nothing to deserve it.”
“Precisely,” Meredith said, “It’s exactly because you’ve done nothing that you deserve it.”
“I’m sorry you think that. I thought we were friends.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, when we – you-know…”
“We didn’t, Tarquin.”
“No, but we might have if you hadn’t been so—”
“So what, Tarquin. And be careful what you say,” Meredith said, pointing to the insignia of her rank.
“If you’d been a bit more Merry and a bit less Meredith.”
“Oh,” Patsy said, “I can’t wait to see what you get for that remark!”
And so it went on. For nearly two hours. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I can’t help but feel sorry for Tarquin. Yes, I know he’s an upper-class twit, but his heart’s in the right place, as far as I know. Having said that, I’ve haven’t yet subjected him to a full physical, although that’s a thought for later.
It’s me. I’m writing this stuff.
“I don’t know if I like you.”
I don’t know that you have that choice.
“What do you want, anyway?”
How would you feel if I offered you an electrocardiogram?
“Do they still use those? I thought everything was emailed these days.”
Not a telegram, Tarquin, an electrocardiogram. It measures your heart output and tells the medics about the condition of your ticker.
“That sounds like jolly good fun. Does it come with an anaesthetic?”
No, but it does come with a cup of tea and biscuits if you behave.
“Like giving blood?”
If you like.
“Oh, I do. Sign me up.”
Okay, we’ll do it in a later chapter. I’ll leave you to the tender mercies of your companions, now.
Yes, Tarquin. I must.
“Who were you just talking to?” Meredith asked.
“Nobody,” he replied.
“Actually, it was my imaginary friend.”
“What’s he called.”
“He doesn’t have a name.”
“Doesn’t have a name? What kind of silly talk is that?”
“It’s true, Meredith. I’ve never given him a name.”
“But you’re sure it’s a him?”
“Well, yah. Naturally. Wouldn’t do for a chap to have a female imaginary friend, would it?”
“Bit creepy, eh?”
“One of these days, Tarquin.”
“Just one of these days. Ey up – cars arrived.”
The replacement car and driver turned off the road and into the driveway. Meredith walked up to the driver’s window.
“What’re your orders?”
“I’m to pick up three officers and a rating and tek em back to t’ camp.”
“Forgetting anything, sailor?” Meredith said, again pointing to the insignia of her rank.
“Appen I am, Ma’am. Begging your pardon.” He jumped out of the car and held the rear door open. Meredith and Joan climbed in. Patsy was about to get in when the driver looked at her and closed the door.
“Oy,” she said.
“Sorry, luv. I only open t’door for higher ups. I outrank you, so I don’t have to.”
“Cheeky bugger,” she said, “I’ve been promoted to Chief Petty Officer!”
“When I see t’ badge, I’ll open t’door for you. Till then, you’re on yer own.”
“What about me?” Tarquin asked.
“You can get in’t front,” the driver replied.
“I’ll have you court-martialed for impudence!” he said.
“I’d like to see you try, Sir. I reckon Uncle Alasdair’d have summat to say about it.”
“And who might your uncle Alasdair be, young man?”
“He might be the Aga bloody Khan, but he’s not, he’s Rear-Admiral Farquharson.”
“Reggie? Give him my best.”
“Who’re you, then?”
“Lieutenant Commander Stuart-Lane.”
“Oh, you’re the famous Tarquin, are you?”
“I am, and who are you?”
“Leading Hand Jacob Postlethwaite, at your service, Sir.”
“Well, Jacob, take us back to HQ, will you?”
A polite cough came from the back of the car. “I think I give the orders around here,” Meredith said.
“Okay, Ma’am. Give th’order.”
“Take us back to HQ, will you?”
“Surely, Ma’am. Any particular preference as to route?”
“JUST DO IT!”
“Raise the soundproof glass, and turn off the listening device.”
Tarquin was convinced they were about to spend the journey talking about him, and he’d never know.
“I say, Jacob?”
“Oh, call me Tarquin – we’re practically related.”
“What’s your pleasure, Tarquin?”
“Well, golly. We’ve only got an hour, and I have so many pleasures I could tell you about. Hmmm. Where to start?”
“You said, ‘I say, Jacob’ as though you wanted something, Tarquin. What were it?”
“Oh yah. Is there any way you can turn the listening thingy on without the fillies knowing?”
“Strictly against orders.”
“Don’t want to know if you’re allowed to. Can you do it?”
“Aye. Appen I can, if you make it worth my while.”
“What do you want in return?”
Jacob leaned across and whispered into Tarquin’s ear. Tarquin blushed. Jacob whispered some more. Tarquin blushed some more.
“Well, can you?” Jacob asked.
“I can, but I don’t know whether I should. Isn’t it a bit, you-know?”
“It’s a lot you-know, but then, so’s turning on’t listening device.”
“Do I have your word on that, Tarquin?”
“As long as you never breathe a word about it to a living soul.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Do you want me to… you know… now? Here?”
“Best not, Tarquin,” Jacob said, patting Tarquin on the… again, best not go there.
“When we get back, then,” Tarquin said, “I’ll set it up.”
Jacob smiled and turned the listening device on.
The conversation coming from the back was educational, in the way that listening in on a hen party with a bunch of male exotic dancers is educational. The difference was, whenever the conversation turned in that direction, the name that passed their lips was never Tarquin’s. And I don’t think it my place to reveal whose it was.