FLATUS 7.2

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 seven, scene two

“Do you think he will do it, Ma’am?” Andy asked Meredith as they were leaving the Vice Admiral’s office.

“I certainly hope so, Andy. Either way, we’ll be checking, won’t you, Joan?”

Joan Weinberg looked sheepishly toward the floor then looked up at her boss with defiance in her eyes. “Are you suggesting that you want me to use the fact that Reggie used to have a bit of a thing for me, and advanced my career on the basis of that, to spy on him?”

“Did I say that? Did I even imply that?” Meredith asked angrily.

“What else could you mean, then?”

“I meant, Joan, that your office has a line to Trade and Industry…”

“You mean through Mary’s husband? He’s not with that department anymore. He’s in agriculture now.”

“But isn’t he still on the Overseas Trade select committee?”

“Only until they fill his position. They know they need to replace him, but—”

“Is there any reason he shouldn’t attend their sessions?”

“I’ll ask Mary to talk to him.”

“That’s all I’m asking, Joan.”

“But that’s a bit hit and miss for you, isn’t it? Relying on a possibility that the husband of a friend might just turn up for the sessions of a committee he’s no longer interested in?”

“It would be, were it my only line of attack.”

“What else have you got?”

“You know how I can get Tarquin to do anything I want…”

“Only because he’s desperate to have sex with you!”

“Hah! That’s not going to happen, is it?”

“So how can you control him, without that hope out there?”

“Did I say that he couldn’t hope?”

“No, but…”

“He can hope for whatever he wants to. He can even hope to win the lottery if he wants.”

“We all hope for that, Ma’am,” Andy said.

“True, Andy. But most of us feed that hope by doing the lottery.”

“Are you suggesting…”

“Thing is, Joan, he doesn’t do the lottery, but that doesn’t stop him hoping he’ll win it.”

“So what you’re saying is…”

“If Tarquin wants to hold out in the belief that I’ll one day fall for his extensive charms, let him. It would be cruel of me to deprive him of that glimmer of hope. No, I’ll let him carry on as he is. It suits me because he seriously believes that every little thing he does at my bidding moves him a step closer to that Nirvana he so yearns for.”

“Which means that he will do anything you want him to…”

“In the hope that he will get something in exchange.”

“So what are you going to get him to do?”

“His father is a high-ranking civil servant in Defence…”

“Which may have some bearing on your promotion, as did Reggie’s fancying me to mine.”

“You may very well think that, Joan. I couldn’t possibly comment. But it may get me some information.”

“Can I help?” Andy asked.

“How?” Meredith responded.

“My step-father is a Private Parliamentary Secretary in Procurement.”

“How will procurement help?”

“Dad is on the distribution list for various committees whose decisions might impact on Procurement.”

“And would any of them be—”

“Trade and Industry, External Affairs, Overseas Trade and Defence. Plus a few others that won’t help us too much.”

“Can you get to see any of these minutes?”

“I think so.”

“How?”

“I’ll just ask. He’s never refused to let me see any yet.”

“Don’t need to read all of them, though. Just scan for anything that looks like it’s about releasing the technologies we’re talking about and get what you can from it.”

“Sure, Boss. I’ll get started on it this evening.”

“Do you want to have sex with me?”

“Hadn’t thought of it, Ma’am, but now you mention it…”

“Don’t go there, Andy,” Joan said, “it’s a rocky road you may regret stepping onto.”

“I was only joking with the lad, Joan,” Meredith said.

“He’s a young, impressionable lad, Meredith. And you’re in a position of power over him. Look at the mess you could get into.”

“Good point, Joan.”

“Apart from which…” Joan added with a leer.

“Apart from which what, Joan?” Meredith asked.

“Well, Andy and I are at the same rank, so there’s no problem there, and he is, to quote the vernacular, well buff.”

“So you want him for yourself? Is that what this is?”

“Ma’am, you have Patsy. I have no-one.”

“Do I get a say in this?” Andy asked.

“NO,” the two women replied in unison.

Joan looked at him. “Okay, Andy. If you had to choose between us, which would it be?”

“Honestly?”

“Yes. Whatever you say, won’t be held against you,” Meredith said.

“Unless he says me,” Joan added, “I would definitely hold myself against him.”

“Ahem,” Andy coughed for attention. “You asked which of you I would prefer to have a relationship with. Are we talking about a sexual relationship?”

“We could be, possibly,” Meredith said.

“Oh, yes, Andy. We most certainly are,” Joan added.

“In that case,” Andy said, “I choose Tarquin.”

“You mean…” Joan said.

“Yes,” Andy said, ripping off his uniform jacket and undoing a pair of clasps to reveal a female form beneath the shirt, “Andy is short for Andrea, not Andromeda. I made that up. I knew that, as a woman, my chances of advancing in the ranks of science and maths were very slight. As a student, I aced everything. Top of my class in maths and physics, but when, as Andrea, I applied for post-grad studies, I was only ever offered low-level stuff. I knew I could do better, so I applied as Andromeda, and haven’t looked back since. I suppose you’re going to sack me now.”

“Hardly,” Meredith said with a twinkle in her eye, “as a strong, capable woman, you are very much more interesting to us than you are as a man.”

“And yes,” Joan said, “we do mean sexually—”

“But not just sexually,” Meredith added, “the Regiment needs more strong, capable women in its ranks.”

“That’s okay,” Andy said, “but I should tell you that I am straight. In my mind, anyway. Haven’t actually, you-know.”

“Let me ask you a question, Andy,” Meredith said, “I want you to take this away and think about it, because we’re loaded with enough for now, work-wise, and I do want the information from your Dad.”

“What do you want to ask me, Ma’am?” Andy asked.

“Would you decide whether you prefer tea or coffee—”

“Or both,” Joan interjected.

“Or both, without first sampling the two beverages, to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to make an informed choice?”

“I take your point, Ma’am. Can I give you an answer tomorrow?”

“When you’re ready, Commodore, when you’re ready,” Meredith said.

“Thank you, Ma’am. Good night.”

“Good night, Andy,” Joan said.

Meredith turned to Joan and said, “Fancy a nightcap?”

3 comments