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 four, scene one

The Rt Hon Forbes Fillingham-Smythe and Dr Finlay Robinson had been the closest of friends for as long as either of them could remember. Both in their mid-twenties, Forbes was settling well into his role as a member of the English aristocracy, whilst pursuing a career in Public Relations. Finlay, having achieved a PhD in Parapsychology at Edinburgh University, has put that on the back burner whilst trying his hand – sometimes successfully (but more often not) – as a member of the theatrical profession.

It was a bright, clear and pleasant late spring afternoon in the corner of southern England where Forbes and Finlay had their homes. It was the kind of day that we remember from our childhoods, but that seems rare in more recent memory. The friends were taking a leisurely walk in the woods, enjoying the comfortably warm air and the unmistakable sounds of an English wood. As they approached one of the larger clearings atop a small rise, a spot where they often stopped to rest and appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, there suddenly appeared before them someone, something that looked vaguely human, but clearly wasn’t.

Wearing a dark blue blazer over a white shirt and light green trousers, it was about four and a half feet tall and was quite plump. The overall impression was reminiscent of Billy Bunter from the 1950s Comet comic. With skin tone approximating to a southern European or Mediterranean hue, its head was large and hairless, with no mouth, but with very large eyes. It also had a wide, shallow nose with a single horizontal nostril, and one slit on each side of the head that Forbes thought were most likely either ears or perhaps even gills. Its hands sported four digits – two obviously fingers, one clearly a thumb and one other digit that seemed to act as either finger or thumb. Despite its appearance, it exuded an air of intelligence beyond that of many adult humans.

Finlay calmly reached into his inside pocket, drew his gun out – Forbes didn’t even know he had one – and shot it. He then put the gun back into his pocket and promptly passed out. Finlay, that is, not the whatever-it-was he shot at. The weirdest thing of all, though, was that the bullet didn’t hurt it. No hole, no blood. It just shimmered a bit but the bullet seemed to have passed right through it.

At this point, it is important to know one thing about Forbes. Forbes talks. Forbes is never, ever lost for words; words that he delivers at quite a high rate under normal circumstances. However, when the circumstances are not normal, the rate at which he delivers them seems to be in direct proportion to the deviation from normal that the circumstances display.

There is nothing remotely normal about a four and a half feet high, mouthless, boggle-eyed, half-human that speaks directly into your head!

“Oh my God, oh my God, OH MY GOD! Don’t worry about my friend Finlay. It’s the shock. Finlay’s a thespian, you know. Look at you, though. Is that a costume? Are you one, too? An actor? No, don’t tell me, let me guess. You’ve come as some kind of alien space monster. Anyway, I didn’t know there was a fancy-dress party on – where is it?” Forbes became more serious. “Hang on, though,” he said, “How did you suddenly just appear in front of us? Where did you come from? Is there a ship somewhere up there waiting for you to say ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ or something?”

Whatever it was in front of Forbes, it just stood there, silently. Then, despite it having no visible external orifice, Forbes somehow heard it say, “I need to meet with the humans responsible for space travel.”

“You want to meet with WHOM?” Forbes asked.

“The humans responsible for space travel,” the … whatever it was… replied, “and it is urgent.”

“Oh my God. I don’t know who that would be. Why do you need to see them? And what…” Forbes stopped talking. It was as though his brain had given up trying to make sense of what was happening to him, decided it was hallucinating and just sat back to enjoy the ride in silence.

Tha alien spoke again. “If you can’t help me, I would like you to take me to your—”

Forbes’ brain chose that moment to reactivate. “What?” he said, “that old cliché? Take me to your leader? Really? I don’t think you want that – unless you want to be killed, dissected and experimented on. Or worse. Look, Finlay’s coming round. He’ll know what to do, once he gets himself together again – this is so his area. He has a PhD in parapsychology, you know.”

Finlay blinked and, somewhat unsteadily, raised himself to a standing position. “What the…”

“Finlay, don’t pass out again, please. I think this is a real alien, probably from outer space. He said he wants to meet our space travel people. I suppose he means the Regiment.Shall we go back to mine and see what’s to do? And where did you get that gun from?”

“I don’t know,” Finlay replied, “I don’t own a gun.” He reached into his pocket to get it out again. “It’s not there,” he said.

“Listen, Fin. I’m relying on you to do something. I’ve told our friend here you’ll know what to do, what with your doctorate and everything. He’s all right so far. He hasn’t done anything bad to me, and he seems quite cool. He’s got no mouth, but somehow you can hear him talking to you. It’s OK, though. It doesn’t hurt, and I don’t think he’s doing anything bad in our heads – oh my God, I hope not, anyway, I’d hate my brain to turn into space mush! Let’s go.”

The three walked in silence to Forbes’s home. The eldest son of Hayden Fillingham-Smythe, and heir to a very significant family fortune, as well the Earldom of Arblington, Forbes occupies the cottage at the edge of the Fillingham-Smythe estate. This gives him all the privacy he could need whilst still only a few hundred metres from Fillingham-Smythe Towers, the mansion that he would one day call home. His family is directly descended from Algernon Fillingham-Smythe, a 17th Century London spice merchant, who built Fillingham-Smythe Towers as his country retreat, although the evidence for this is more apocryphal than evidence-based.