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 two, scene three

The following day, the party returned to the facility, arriving a good fifteen minutes ahead of the design team. The offices that the Borborygmi had built were well appointed, with high seating for the humans, such as to put them at about the same level as the residents. During a general discussion, the Grumpblasts, supported by other families, outlined their requirements, after which those present broke up into two teams. The first, co-chaired by Flatulon and Artivon Grumpblast for the aliens, and Joan Weinberg and Tarquin Stuart-Lane for the RSR, was tasked with design, specification and provisioning, while the other, led by Meredith and Patsy for the humans and Chief Marshgass and Methanie Grumpblast, had the job of putting together a finance and administration package to keep the project running smoothly. The technical team started work immediately. The work involved the Grumpblasts compiling lists on their devices and beaming them to the RSR team, who collated them into spreadsheets and text documents. Discussion was limited to brief, utilitarian statements:

“Section 3b coming,” beep

“Got it.”

Like I said, brief and utilitarian.

As for the Admin team, things couldn’t have more different. They began with a tour of the accommodation and services areas. Meredith, and especially Patsy, were astounded at the size of the beds, and the height of dining tables and other furniture, although, given the size of the Borborygmi (and, most notably, of their chief) they should have expected it. There was a lot of discussion around the level of comfort the facility offered. Mostly, the RSR representatives thought the furnishings to be a little more spartan than they had anticipated. The Borborygmi, though, insisted that the accommodation was, if anything, superior to what they’d been happy with on the moon for the last five centuries. The kitchen was vast – at least by the standards to which Meredith and Patsy were accustomed.

“Apart from the height, obviously,” Patsy said, “I’d kill for a kitchen like this!”

“When we set up home,” Meredith told her, “you shall have one like this.”

Patsy showed her appreciation by punching Meredith playfully on the arm. Meredith responded by grinding her heel down on Patsy’s foot.

“And now,” Methanie said, “it’s almost lunchtime.” Approaching a cupboard, she added, “In your honour, we have a special treat for you.” She opened the cupboard and revealed its contents.

“Sardines?” Patsy asked, making no attempt to hide her astonishment.

“Sardines,” Meredith replied, making no attempt to hide her nausea.

“I know it’s your favourite,” Methanie said, “because that’s all you had on the little ship that brought you to us. I know Tarquin will be delighted.”

“I can’t wait to see his face,” Meredith said.

Methanie sent one of her team to let the technical team know that lunch was ready, while the rest of the admin team, humans and Borborygmi, set the table ready. Each human was given half-a-dozen tins of sardines. Meredith wisely chose not to ask what the aliens would be eating.

Meredith collared Tarquin when the tech team came into the kitchen.

“You remember when we were stuck on the moon, Tarquin?”

“How could I forget,” he replied, looking at her in a very strange way.

“That’s not what I meant. How was our stock of food on the Waist of Space?”

“Oh, that. All we had left was sardines.”

“Do you recall why that was?”

“Well, yah. We’d eaten everything else, cos we hated sardines. That’s why it was so awful when the aliens made us eat it.”

“But we were very British about it, weren’t we?” she suggested.

“I should say. We pretended to enjoy them, so as not to annoy them. I mean, they’re big!”

“What they took from that, Tarquin, is that sardines are the favourite food of us human beings.”

“Oh dear,” Tarquin said in a drawl of uncertainty, “I’m not sure I like where this is going…”

“Just act pleased when you see sardines on the table. They’ve bought in a ton of them in our honour.”

“Oh, cripes. A ton? Literally?”

“I don’t know about literally a tonne, but one of the kitchen cupboards – a floor-to-ceiling-one, and that’s six metres tall – is full to the top with nothing but sardines.”

“King and country?” Tarquin asked, understanding that he would have to put a brave face on this.

“King and country,” Meredith replied.

“Is there a reward for doing it right?” he asked, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“No,” Meredith said firmly, ushering him into the kitchen.

As soon as the two teams had seated themselves around the table, Chief Marshgass tapped his glass and stood to his full height of four and a half metres.

Through his translating machine, he said, “On behalf of the Sol 3A Exploration Team of the Borborygmus diaspora, I welcome our counterparts from the Royal Space Regiment’s design team. As you can see from our surroundings, the habitat design team from the Regiment helped us to design and build this splendid accommodation and administration area, and I am confident that we will enjoy similar success in the arranging of the area where we will work on the substantive project. In your honour today, we have arranged a special shipment of what we understand to be the favourite food of your species. Tuck in and enjoy.”

Meredith rose to her full height of a little under one and a half metres to respond. “On behalf of my team, Chief Marshgass, I’d like to thank you for your kind remarks, your hospitality and your great consideration in arranging for us what is probably the main staple for our and other species on our planet. Thank you, Sir.”

She sat and everyone tucked in, the Borborygmi with great gusto, the humans with equally great apathy.

The table was arranged with humans on one side and Borborygmi on the other. Opposite Tarquin was Artivon.

“Whatever your people are eating for lunch looks jolly interesting, Arty,” Tarquin said. Meredith blanched and signalled frantically in a vain attempt to stop Tarquin asking the question she knew was coming. “What is it?” There it is.

“I think you know, Tarquin,” Artivon said quietly and with great diplomacy. He then said, loudly enough for the other humans to hear (they having heard the question – Tarquin isn’t known for speaking quietly), “It’s just meat, Tarquin. The secret is in the sauce. It’s a recipe that our chefs guard most jealously.”