GTI 4.3

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 four, scene three

Joan’s office door was locked when Jason arrived. He looked through the fluted glass panel and although he could make out two forms, the fluting was so fine that he couldn’t see clearly what was happening. He knocked three times.

“Wait!” a female voice called out. He saw the figures separate. One of them moved to a part of the office he couldn’t see through the small window whilst the other, whom he presumed from her more slender form to be Joan Weinberg, approached the door. A click signified that she had unlocked it. The door opened.

“Hello, Jason,” Joan said, straightening her uniform, “I wasn’t expecting to see you this afternoon.”

“Apparently not, Ma’am,” Jason replied with a wry smile, “the Admiral sent me to speak to Miss Pratt.”

“That’s Commander Pratt to you, Captain… oh, I mean Commodore,” Patsy said, trotting forward and giving her old comrade a hearty bear-hug.

“I take it you know each other,” Joan observed.

“I was on the Waist of Space security team when Meredith and Tarquin came aboard,” Jason explained, “I don’t think anyone can have spent time on board without gaining at least a passing acquaintance with Patsy.”

Patsy smiled. Coyly? If you think that, you don’t know Patsy Pratt!

“I came aboard to defend those two when they arrived,” Joan said, “but I don’t remember seeing you.”

“I saw you, Ma’am, but I was wearing a full beard at the time.”

“Were you? When did you shave it off?”

“When I was given command of the shuttle. Beards can be useful things to hide behind, but I didn’t think it appropriate for me, as the ship’s captain, to hide my face from those who served under my command.”

“Well, Jason. Congratulations on your promotion and your appointment to the Admiral’s senior staff. Whatever you want with Patsy will have to wait. She was talking me through her proposal for dealing with the One Dimension group when you arrived.” Jason raised his eyebrows quizzically and smiled. “Whatever you may think you saw through the obscured glass, Commodore Strangename, Commander Pratt and I were engaged—”

“Congratulations, I’m very happy for you both—”

“…were engaged in discussion about her assignment,” Joan added tersely, “What do you know about this One Dimension group? Anything? Eh? Come on, tell me!”

“With respect, Ma’am—”

“That means without respect, but carry on.”

“I am fully briefed on the history and progress of the Regiment’s efforts from the ill-conceived and poorly executed Waist of Space through to the current state of the GTI project. My briefing covers the One Dimension group, and I have in my possession the latest information on their formation, make-up, purposes and methods. You could say, Ma’am, that as far as that group goes, I know as much as anyone and more than most.”

“And your brief is?”

“My initial brief is to accompany and support Commander Pratt in her dealings with the group—”

“Not to wrest the lead away from her?”

“No, Ma’am. I understand that much of what the Commander will do makes use of some special skills in which I have no training.”

“Well said, Jason. The mark of a good senior officer, in my experience, is a thorough understanding of his or her own limitations, and the wisdom and ability to stand back and allow the specialists to do their jobs.”

“Delegation, Ma’am.”

“Precisely. Now, Patsy, how does Commodore Strangename’s involvement affect the plans you outlined to me earlier?”

Jason sniggered.

“Something funny, Strangename?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“Carry on, Patsy.”

“Well, Admiral, if the Commodore’s role is, as he says, to show senior support for my task, it can only do good. I mean, it was great of the Admiral to promote me so it wouldn’t appear to the group that they were being fobbed off with a junior officer, but to have a Commodore present – well, that’s only one rank short of a flag officer, isn’t it? They will believe that their concerns are being taken seriously.”

“And are they?”

“Are they what?”

“Being taken seriously.”

“Of course not.”

“Good.”

“So what’s the plan, exactly?” Jason asked.

“You know, Jason… can I call you Jason, or would you prefer me to be formal, Sir?”

“Jason’s fine, Patsy.”

“You know that the borborygmi have trained a select few of our officers in what they call EPHS – enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion?”

“I knew they’d trained a few in something, but I didn’t know what, exactly. What does it do?”

“It’s post-hypnotic suggestion. It places the subject into a, shall we say, controllable state.”

“So what’s so special about this technique?”

“You’ll see when I talk to the group. As you know, they’ve expressed some pretty strong objections to the GTI project.”

“And you want to talk them around, right?”

“That would be too easy. My job is to convert their leaders from ardent critics to fervent supporters of our work. They are, by nature, proselytisers; that’s how they’ve managed to persuade thousands to speak against our work. The Admiral wants me to make them into our champions. If I can get the dozen or so that we’ll meet with and arrange for them to cheer-lead for us, they’ll spread it to their followers in no time flat.”

“How much detail will you give them about the work?” Joan asked.

“That’s the beauty of this method,” Patsy replied, “None whatever. They will have impressions and feelings painted on a very broad canvas. They will believe we are promising all sorts of things whereas, in fact, they will be unable to draw any substance from what they’re told.”

“That can’t possibly work, surely,” Jason said, “without details of what we’re proposing to do, how can they possibly be enthusiastic about it?”

“Politicians do it all the time, Jason,” Joan said, “Do you need examples?”

“So, let me get this right. You make a load of promises—”

“Vague promises. Nothing we can be held to.”

“And that gets them on-side?”

“Correct.”

“And how do you keep them on-side?”

“That’s even easier,” Joan said with a wicked grin, “The promises are so vague, that whatever result we get, we can tell them that we kept our word, that we had delivered exactly what we told them we would. Again, look at your political history.”

“Okay, let’s get down to detail.”

“Why bother, if you’re not actually doing anything?” Patsy asked.

“So I don’t interrupt you or act surprised when you’re in full flow.”

“Let’s sit around the table,” Joan said. They took their seats around Joan’s conference table. Patsy opened her folder and spread some papers in front of them.

The joys of marketing

img_1652a

Padma Gurumurthy called her husband as she pushed her way through the unusually dense crowds outside the historic red-stone fort. She was delighted at the size of the crowd when she arrived an hour or so earlier, but hoped that it would have dispersed by now. The sound of all the chattering was near-deafening, and as she passed through various groups her nose told her that not every cigarette being smoked was loaded with tobacco. It may have been diluted by the pervasive aroma of assorted spices and condiments, but the unmistakable bouquet of ganja fought through heroically and threatened to intoxicate all who passed by.

“Can you hear me okay, Sanjay?” she shouted at her phone, suppressing a giggle.

Nothing.

“Sanjay. Sanjay!”

Padma picked up some faint sound but couldn’t make out what her husband said, if indeed it was him speaking – she had no way of telling.

“I can barely hear you Sanjay – can you shout?”

She just about heard her husband say something about volume.

“Hang on.”

Padma looked at her handset and, with a wry smile, turned off her phone’s silent mode.

“Okay,” she said with a chuckle, “I’ve turned up the volume. Try again.”

“Can you hear me now?” he asked.

“That’s better. Listen, Sanjay. You may have to feed the kids and put them to bed tonight.”

“Why? You should be here to do that. The children expect their mother to feed them and prepare them for bedtime.”

“I hoped to be back in time, but can’t you hear the noise in the background? The place is crowded. I don’t know when I’ll be able to get through the crowd to my car, never mind getting out of the area and onto the main road.”

“When will you be home?”

“I just told you – I don’t know. Agra Fort is always busy, of course, but I have never seen it this bad. Has there been anything on the TV news about it?”

“I saw something but the volume was turned down while I was talking on the phone.”

“Did you see anything about how long it will last?”

“No.”

“That’s no good! I need to know if I can get home tonight. I want to see you and my children. And anyway, I’m feeling somewhat peckish. I may need to stop for some food.”

“It may be only around the fort. Perhaps the back streets will be better, no? And you can eat when you get home.”

“That is there, Sanjay; it may be better where I parked the car. I will call you back when I find the car.”

“What do you mean, find the car? Don’t you know where it is?”

“Of course I do. That was just an expression.”

“An expression of what?”

“I will call you back. If you hear anything, call me, okay?”

“Okay.”

Padma let go of the laugh she’d been holding back throughout the conversation.

***

The relatively short walk from the fort to where Padma had parked her car took almost twenty minutes to cover. The crowd hadn’t thinned as she had hoped, and it looked as though it would be some considerable time before she’d be able to get away. For some reason, her hunger had dissipated and she no longer thought any of this to be in the least funny. She called home again.

“What’s it like?” Sanjay asked.

“It’s just as bad,” she replied, “I don’t know how I’ll get through.”

“Listen to me, Padma. In the car, you can push your way through.”

“I can’t do that! I could hurt someone.”

“Use your horn, for goodness’ sake, woman. They’ll move if they think the alternative is to be run down.”

“Oh, sure. I can see tomorrow’s headlines now.”

“What do you mean?”

Author ploughs through crowd after book signing. That’ll help my writing career, won’t it?”


This was written in response to Kreative Kue 202 published on this site recently. As I am currently having issues with internet connectivity, there will be no further Kreative Kues until after my return from the Christmas break.

Kreative Kue 202

Kreative Kue 201 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 Wait by John W. Howell © 2018

“What the heck is he doing?”

“Let me adjust my scope. Ah yes. He is eating.”

“Eating? What is he eating?”

“Looks like sunflower seeds.”

“God in heaven.  I hope he doesn’t plan to sit there and eat a bag of sunflower seeds.”

“I think that is exactly what he is going to do.”

“You don’t think he is connected to Mendoza do you?”

“I think that is some schlub who is on holiday. His license plate is from the Avignon area.”

“He could be a mule you know.”

“I don’t think so. What mule have you ever seen in a van munching sunflower seeds?”

“There is always a first time.”

“Man I hope this guy moves on.”

“Yeah, I hear you.”

“He’s got about fifteen minutes until Mendoza shows up then all hell will break loose.”

“You think Mendoza would take him out?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“Anyway to warn him?”

“I don’t think we can get down there and then back up here in time. I think he’ll just have to take his chances.”

“He’s alone right?”

“Looks that way.”

“Well, I guess all we can do is pray.”

“Maybe I can take out Mendoza before he has a chance to hurt that old man.”

“Sounds like a long shot but then that’s what you are good at doing.”

“What a nice thing to say. Thanks.”

“Well, it’s true.”

“Still nice to hear. Oh, wait. The old guy is getting into his van.”

“Come on old man. Start it up and get the hell out of here.”

“He going.”

“Thank heavens.”

*

“Mendoza, you hear me?”

“Yeah old man I do.”

“I was at the rendezvous and no sign of the feds.”

“Excellent. You stay a while.”

“I did. Even had some sunflower seeds.”

“You look pitiful?”

“The most pitiful. If there had been anyone waiting for you, they would have come to warn me. I think the area is safe.”

“Thanks, old man. When I get back, I’ll be sure to reward you handsomely.”

“No need my boy. Your safety is reward enough. After all, you are my number one son. See you later.”


And this from Kristian, who blogs regularly at Tales from the mind of Kristian.

Target Acquired

Right, Target Acquired.” The sound of clicking guns didn’t carry beyond the abandoned rooftop.

Wait, She doesn’t look like the criminal type.”

She may not look it, but she’s dangerous!

What did she do?

She doesn’t use her indicators when driving.”

“Fire when ready!”


Meanwhile, my effort was:

Looking down

“What do you think, Boss? Are you ready for her?”

“Bring me the book, and open it to her profile page.”

“Okay..”

“Let me see… good enough life; brought up four kids, mostly on her own—”

“That’s no mean feat, and they turned out alright, didn’t they?”

“Mostly, it seems.”

“Anything negative?”

“You looking for excuses to send her downstairs?”

“No, of course not. But you know what he’s like. If we overlook something – even by accident…”

“Nothing I can see. Active; sporty – loved skiing before her hip gave out; helped out at church functions; taught little kids—”

“What about that business with that bloke? Went on for a long time.”

“Do you want me to revisit the relationship you had with that prostitute?

“Must you always bring that up? How many times do I have to tell you – nothing happened!”

“So you say, lad. So you say. But I’ll keep bringing that up as long as you keep harping on about people being less than perfect in their relationships. For your sake! People have emotions. People form relationships. Most work out but some don’t. If even you couldn’t get it right every time, how can you expect them to?”

“Okay, okay. Let’s take it as read that the relationship isn’t an issue. What you’re saying, then is that she’s okay to come home.”

“Yes I am. The next question is the one you asked first. Am I ready for her? Or, to put it another way, is she ready to come home?”

“And are her loved ones down there ready for her to come home?”

“One thing at a time. What is her life like now?”

“Mostly happy, I think. Certainly she is today. She’s on holiday, being looked after by her eldest.”

“So why is she on her own in that car park?”

“The youngsters have climbed a steep hill to look at a viaduct or something.”

“That’s nice.”

“Yeah. They’ll be back down soon, then they’re talking about having lunch in the town at the bottom of the hill.”

“So, for the time being, she’s okay. No pain?”

“Some, but it’s managed and she’s coping with it”

“Great. So we’ll hold off for a while. But keep a close eye on her, okay?”

“I’ll put my best man on it. He knows what to look out for.”

“Good. I hate this business. I want to call her, like I want to call everyone, before life becomes intolerable. Trouble is, they’ve got the technologies now to keep the poor sods going long after they should be gone. “

“This one’s not there yet, though, surely.”

“No. She should be good for a few years yet, but please – have your man keep an eye on her. Don’t let her suffer.”

“Then pick a good time; right?”

“There’s no such thing as a good time; you know that. Especially not for her loved ones.”

“What about the job she was sent down to do?”

“We can’t mention that whilst she’s still there. If downstairs catches on she’s one of ours…well, you know him and his obstacles.”

“Indeed. We’ll talk about it when she’s back?”

“Nope. She won’t know.”

“So how do we measure success?”

“The human race hasn’t wiped itself out yet, has it?”

“But how long can we keep running interference operations to prevent total self-annihilation?”

“As long as it takes, lad. As long as it takes.”


img_1652aOn 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 next Monday.