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 five, scene three

The two teams of mathematicians worked continuously for almost two months, checking and verifying the Jinthae calculations. By agreement with Andy, Artivon and Tarquin, and with the full support of both Meredith and Chief Marshgass III, the two teams remained entirely separate until they had both reached a conclusion. As soon as both teams had signalled that they had a result they exchanged data and verified each other’s findings, following which a meeting was convened. It had been decided in advance that both results would be kept secret, only to be revealed at the final joint meeting. At this time, the engineering and scientific teams, as well as the relevant commanders, would be appraised of the situation and of the mathematicians’ findings.

Sadly, Artivon’s father, Flatulon, died during the course of the work. This resulted in Artivon being elevated to the positions of Explorer Grade 3 and Head Anemologist, as well as Project Manager. The death of their leader was kept from the Borborygmi working on the project until after the mathematicians had delivered their verdict.

The day for the big meeting came. The large assembly hall in Swindon had already been cleared of its contents in preparation for either shipping to the new facility to be built on the moon or for putting into long-term storage, depending on the outcome of the investigations. Being empty, the hall was an ideal place to hold the meeting, which would be attended by equal numbers of humans and Borborygmi – about one hundred of each.

At the top table sat, on the high chairs, Meredith, Joan, Andy and Tarquin; on the lower chairs, Chief Marshgass III, his ADC, Aitchtoo’ess and Artivon. A number of those present queried the two empty seats. In fact, the higher one had been reserved for Vice Admiral Alasdair “Reggie” Farquharson, who had refused his invitation with the words, “I can’t abide those bloody aliens”, an attitude which probably deserved its own -ism spanning, as it did, speciesism, racism, ageism an sizeism. The lower one was reserved for Flatulon Grumpblast, who had buggered up everyone’s plans by choosing a most inopportune time to die.

As Human/Borborygmi Liaison Officer, Commander Tarquin Stuart-Lane opened the proceedings.

“Thank you all for coming. Ahm. I’ll bet you’re all as jolly excited as I am to find out what these incredibly clever mathedematical chappies managed to find from the data they were given by the strange little fellow who came to see us. I have to tell you, I looked at it and it might as well have been written in a foreign language. All signs, symbols and numbers. How these chaps get anything from it is beyond me. But they did, clever blighters, and they’re going to tell us all about it now. Before they start, I have to tell you that Reggie, that’s Vice Admiral Farquharson to you lot, wanted to come, but—”

“He had a long-standing prior commitment—” Meredith interrupted.

“Did he?” Tarquin asked, “I thought he—”

“Yes, he did,” Meredith said, “Let’s get on to the other empty seat, shall we?”

“Yah. That seat was for Flatulon. We’ll talk about him later.”

“Get on with it,” Meredith hissed.

“Right. Okay. Yah.” Tarquin gazed down at the paper in front of him and read from it. “The teams of mathema… mathe… the teams have looked at the data and, after many, many hours…” He looked up. “A lot of long hours, folks. These beautiful people really worked hard for you, and they’ve got you a result. A beautiful result. We should all be proud of them.”


“Yah. After many hours, they have reached a result on which they both agree. Andy will tell you what it is.” Tarquin sat down again, relieved to have got that over with. Andy and Artivon stood.

“I could spend hours talking you through the evidence behind the conclusion reached by our mathematicians…”

“But that’s what we pay them for. They do the hard sums…” Artivon said.

Andy continued, “so the rest of us don’t have to. They apply their considerable skills and experience…”

“…to solve problems that are too difficult for us even to contemplate.”

“We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never hope to repay…”

“…particularly because, without their enormous efforts, we may have gone down a path…”

“…a path that may have led to a result none of us could live with.”


Meredith stood and announced “It now falls to me, as overall commander of Project Prodigialis and its daughter projects, FLATUS and Ubiquitron, to announce the findings of the two teams of mathematicians. Each team has conducted its own independent investigation of the Jinthae calculations, then submitted their findings to the other team for verification. I am happy to announce that the two teams are of one mind; they are in full agreement one with the other.”

There was a rising tide of muttering in the room. Meredith sat back down and waited for it to subside. It took a while. Once the room had settled again, she rose to her feet.

“I am less happy to have to tell you what the result of the calculations is. There is now no doubt in our minds…”

More mutterings.

“…and we have submitted the result to some of the best mathematicians and theoretical physicists in eight countries…”

A great deal of heckling followed, the general gist of which was a request either to name the countries or at least to confirm that it was only countries that were feeding into the projects – which means all except one.

“Those countries do not include any state that does not contribute materials, personnel or funding to our project. The global consensus is now fixed. The dangers inherent in this project are such as to render it impossible for us to proceed.”

“A couple of questions, please?” said a voice from the front row, identified as one of the senior physicists from the Borborygmi team.

“Go ahead, please,” Meredith responded.

“One: What about the project on the planet Borbor?”

“I can answer that,” Chief Marshgass III said. “I have seen confirmation that their project has been abandoned.”

“Thank you, Chief. My second question is this: What assurance do we have, can we have, that one of these projects won’t be resurrected at a later date and the universe once again plunged into potential danger?”

“We can’t know that for sure,” Merry said, “Knowledge like this can’t be unlearned, but an understanding of the results of utilising this kind of knowledge can be passed down from generation to generation. I suppose very much like the nations here on Earth, even though many possess nuclear weapons, have an understanding that they can never be used. I believe; I have to believe, that intelligent races, wherever they are in the universe, once aware of the dangers to themselves and all life, will never be so reckless, so foolish as to start again what we have just stopped. To that end, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations will be submitting to that body a binding resolution that will prohibit all nations from attempting to develop a device of this nature.”

There arose from the audience a spontaneous outburst of applause, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Robert Mugabe was sacked as President of Zimbabwe. Meredith sat down, satisfied that she had done her job, no matter how much it had pained her to do it.

The Borborygmus from the science team stood.

“One more question?”

“Go ahead.”

“We’re all unemployed now. What are we to do with ourselves?”

Chief Marshgass III answered, “Firstly, we the Borborygmi of the Sol 3a exploration team, will return to our ancestral home on the moon. I think we’ve all had enough of trying to adapt to this high-gravity planet. We have lost our Head Anemologist, Flatulon Grumpblast. He completed his innings, as they say here, during the calculations. We shall celebrate his passing in the traditional way, and feast to his son, Artivon, who has already taken on all his father’s duties and responsibilities. After that, I shall be in negotiation with Rear Admiral Winstanley and a being called Jinnis Keet from the planet Grintsk. It was this being who gave us the information needed to reach the momentous decision we have just reported, and it is with that being’s race that we shall engage in an exchange of technologies. There will be another project. We Borborygmi will contribute to another great endeavour.”

There was uproar among the Borborygmi gathered in the hall.

When it died down, Chief Marshgass III spoke again. “At the moment, though, I have absolutely no idea what that endeavour will be.” He turned to Artivon and whispered, “That should shut them up for a while.”


    • Keith Channing

      Thanks, John.
      Sadly, what most of us accept as blindingly obvious won’t be believed by politicians and military chiefs unless they can squander a lot of money to prove and explain it. For instance, we all know that if you let go of something it will fall to the ground; but how many man-hours (mathematicians, theoretical physicists and the like) and gazillions of pounds, euros and/or dollars have been expended so far to explain that one away?