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 three

Meredith turned up the following morning. Joan, Tarquin and Patsy were with her. Jinnis and Finlay were at the study end of the lounge, doing something on the internet.

“Merry. It’s been ages,” Forbes said, nodding also to her companions.

“It has,” she said brusquely, so as not to show any real interest in what he’d said, “where’s the alien?”

“This way,” Forbes said, leading through to the lounge.

“Jolly nice pad,” Tarquin said, his eyes gazing around the room.

“Thanks, Tarq,” Forbes replied. “Actually,” he added, addressing Merry, mainly, “we’d probably be better off in the diner. Follow me. Fin, can you bring Jinnis into the Dining Room, please?”

Forbes showed the RSR party into the kitchen/diner and pointed to the dining table, which was large enough to pass for a conference table. Patsy, accompanied by Joan, immediately wandered into the kitchen section started to make what could only be termed an excessive number of oohs, aahs and similar appreciative outbursts.

“Come-on, Ladies,” Merry shouted, “Let’s get this show on the road. The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll finish. Ah, here comes the alien. Oh! Not like the Borborygmi, is he?”

“Of course, you have met the Borborygmi, haven’t you. That should make what I have to say easier to get across,” Jinnis Keet said.

“Who said that?” Merry asked as everyone took places at the table.

“How do you want to play this?” Forbes asked, “I thought it would be best if we just listen to what Jinnis has to say, then open a discussion once he’s finished.”

“Suits me,” Merry said, “though how it’s going to speak when it has no mouth is beyond me.”

Jinnis Keet started to talk. “I want to give you some background about my planet and my race, but first, let me explain how you can hear me without seeing any mouth parts moving. There are differences between our species in the way we communicate. Like you, we have ears and can hear and understand spoken language. We do not, however, vocalise speech. We use what you may call telepathy or mindspeak. We do not use language as such. I formulate thoughts in my head, my mind then sends the concepts and constructs of those thoughts as impulses to your primary auditory cortex. Your brain converts these impulses into language as though the sound had come through your ears. The voice you hear is in every respect the voice you expect to hear. It is not my voice. I don’t have a voice. You can reply in your own language. Shall I go on to talk about my mission?”

“I’d like to know a bit more about you and your planet before we get to what you’re here to tell me,” Merry replied, “it may help me to assess the validity of your message.”

“I understand and respect that. My home planet of Grintsk is the third planet from its star – Gliese 667 in your catalogue. Grintsk is a lot larger than Earth, and its mean gravity is higher – 38.72m/s² against your 9.81m/s². Our major life forms tend to be shorter and stouter than those on your planet. The adult of our dominant species, Jinthae (you would probably call us humanoid) stands typically around 120cm and has a mass of between eighty and ninety kilograms.

“Some time ago our scientists found that when a particular form of energy is tight-beamed into a Lagrangian point between two bodies, it can enter an inter-dimensional gap. Once in there, it can be sent to another known Lagrangian point in any part of the galaxy, where it will emerge in exactly the state it entered, at exactly the same point in time. Almost a hundred of your years ago, we developed our Mass Transport System, which converts mass into energy, allowing it to be sent through the gap. On emerging at its target Lagrangian point it self-extracts to a point chosen, reverting to its mass state as it was at the origin point. Of course, there are error checking protocols throughout the journey and procedures to roll back and abort if needed. Travel in the gap is at full light speed relative to the point of entry. Faster than light travel, if it is possible, has yet to be achieved. Our scientists currently say it can’t be.

I am one of a team of scientists and explorers at the Science Institute involved in the search for EGI – extra-Grintskan Intelligence. When I was in career preparation, the institiue was abuzz with news that their sweeps had identified a planet in orbit within the habitable zone around a relatively young yellow star, that they believed could support life. More than that, they believed that its age suggested that it may be sufficiently mature for intelligent life to have emerged. Having done that, and being aware that, although there are many planets capable of supporting life, very few develop intelligent life, we wanted to find out as much as we could about this system.

“My first job was to help prepare and programme atmospheric probes that we sent via MTS and self-extracted in the target planet’s atmosphere to sample the atmospheric composition and send results back. Unfortunately, the probes were briefly visible from the planet’s surface, which was not what we wanted. The deployments were, however, very successful, and gave us a good impression of the composition of the planet’s atmosphere. We then sent devices to collect radio signals and to connect to the planet’s information network. From this that we have learned much about the planet, its languages and cultures. The devices that collect this data are in stationary orbits around the planet, protected by a Shielded Energy Porosity (SEP) field, which makes them impossible to detect. There are about 500 nodes that, between them, cover the entire globe.

“The final step was to send an ambassador to make contact with the dominant species, exchange technologies and insights to enrich both populations. I was selected from a list of candidates. I accepted the mission without reservation.”

“Thank you,” Meredith said, “Tell me about this SEP field.”

“Yes. It is an energy field generated by the device. All energy that strikes the field is absorbed and is used to power the shield that protects the structure from solid objects and powers the SEP field generator as well as all of the collecting and retransmitting hardware.”

“Impressive. Let’s hear the message you’re here to deliver, shall we?”

Finlay was concerned that the alien appeared to be weakening. “I think Jinnis could do with a break, Rear Admiral. Shall we have some lunch and allow him to rest for a while?”

“If we must,” Meredith said, “but no more than thirty minutes. I have a schedule to keep to.”

“How’s that for you, Jinnis?” Finlay asked.

“Half of one of your hours… that’s about two percent of one of your planetary cycles… I shall go to my allocated space and recharge.”

“That’s fine, Jinnis. I’ll come for you when we’re ready to restart.”