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 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?