GTI 1.2

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 spacecraft.

In part two, FLATUS, our dynamic duo help the aliens (and the RSR) build their own multi-locatable craft. Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having three such craft in space at one time? FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?

Part three follows the preparation and development of the Gap Travel Initiative (code named GTI) and the developing relationships among and between species, races and genders. Will humankind achieve the nirvana of limitless travel and if so, at what cost. Stick with Tarquin and Meredith as they navigate their route through an uncertain future.

GTI. Chapter one, scene two

During the hour or so of enforced absence from Arty and the Angel Andrea, Tarquin wandered about the area, avoiding the enormous lift they had forced him to take to reach the main part of the complex, where he had first faced Chief Marshgass III; the taller-than-average borborygmus whose ceremonial dress so resembled that of a clown that it had sent Tarquin into total panic. About twenty minutes into his exploration, a smile crossed his lips. Quite close behind, a steel band was playing Smokie’s ‘Livin’ Next Door to Alice’. The smile was because, in his mind, Tarquin heard the live version – the one with audience participation. The music behind him became louder, more strident, somehow more insistent until Tarquin remembered and turned his translator on and looked around at the impressively tall borborygmus now standing directly behind him.

“… in here, human,” the translated voice said.

“Sorry,” Tarquin replied, “didn’t catch that. Say again?”

“I said, this area is restricted while we make preparations for the feast and the elevation. You cannot be in here, human.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Why, have you forgotten?”

“Of course not. I am Captain Tarquin Stuart-Lane, the Royal Space Regiment’s official Liaison with the Borborygmi.”

“I don’t care if you’re Vice Admiral Winstanley herself. This area is off-limits to all. And that includes you.”

“On whose authority, may one ask?”

“On my authority.”

“And you are?”

“I most certainly am.”

“Let me try again. Who are you?”

“I am Malodor Skatole, Chief of Staff to the late Chief Borborygmus Marshgass III and Head of Mission to Chief-elect Marshgass IV.”

“Okay, got you. Perhaps best if you and I start again. We need to be on good terms to do our jobs.”

“Don’t see why. Your rôle is mostly ceremonial – chairing meetings and making inane remarks from what I’ve heard. As Chief of Staff to the Chief—”

“I thought you said you were Head of Mission.”

“That’s only until the elevation. I shall become Chief of Staff immediately Marshgass IV dons the ceremonial headgear. Tell you what, why don’t we make it your ceremonial duty to place the crown on his head?”

Tarquin blanched at the thought. “Oh, God,” he said, turning and running away. He switched off his translator and escaped to the strains of Dvorak’s Humoresque. By a process of trial and error, he found his way back to the room where his companions were. He burst in without knocking and found Arty and Andrea disturbingly close together.

“Nice time?” he asked.

“Very,” Andrea purred, looking up into Arty’s eyes. Arty played Ravel’s Bolero. Tarquin turned his translator back on.

“Sorry, didn’t catch that, Arty – translator not on,” Tarquin said, his voice tinged with annoyance.

“I said, you’re back too soon, but we’ve achieved what we set out to do, so it’s okay.”

“And what, may I ask,” he said, looking at the two alternately, “did you set out to achieve?”

“What we wanted,” Andrea purred, “was a coming together—”

“I bloody knew it,” Tarquin yelled, “that’s why you sent me away, isn’t it? How stupid do you think I am?”

“Very,” Andrea said, “As I was trying to say before you so rudely interrupted me, we achieved a coming together of minds. You may not realise it, and I know from what Arty told me, you didn’t get off to a very good start – he being very young when you first met – but Artivon Grumpblast is, by our standards, something of a genius. His grasp of mathematics, astrophysics and low-gravity engineering is more than a match for mine. In some areas, there are things he can teach me. Anyway, what got you so riled? What did you think we’d been doing?”

“I thought you might have… you-know.”

“No, I don’t know, Tarquin. Neither of us does. Enlighten us, please.”

“You know, benefits, if you get my drift.”

“You thought we’d had sex? Is that what you’re suggesting?”

Andrea looked at Arty. “Nothing personal, Arty, but per-lease!”

“Andrea,” Arty said reassuringly, “our species are not physically compatible. Even if we both felt sexual desire—”

“Which we don’t,” Andrea jumped in.

“Which we don’t,” Arty agreed, “but if we did, it wouldn’t work.”

“Can’t see why not,” Tarquin sulked.

“Let’s just leave it that we are differently structured, shall we? Now, come on, Tarquin. You and I are old friends. Let’s not spoil it over an imagined situation that never arose, that never could arise.”

Tarquin dropped into a chair, cupped his face in his hands and wept.

“Whatever’s the matter?” Andrea asked, putting her arm around Tarquin’s shoulders.

“They want me to crown the new chief,” Tarquin sobbed.

“That is a great honour,” Arty said, “it is normally done by one of the new chief’s closest friends or advisors.”

“Have you forgotten what happened when I first met the old chief?”

“What happened,” Andrea asked.

“I froze in fear. You see, I suffer from coulrophobia.” Tarquin resumed his sobbing.

“Not heard of that,” Andrea said.

“Fear of clowns,” Arty told her, “and yes, I remember. He has a bad case of it.”

“Yes,” Tarquin added, “and it may be called coulrophobia, but let me tell you, it isn’t cool. A long way from it.”

“Not a problem,” she said.

“Not a problem?” Tarquin blustered, “Not a problem? It’s easy for you to say that; you don’t have it.”

“No, but we do have a Patsy.”

“How does that help?”

“I imagine the usual dignitaries will come up for the … what’s it called?”

“Elevation,” Tarquin and Arty said in unison.

“Well, the admiral is bound to bring Patsy.”

“Again. How will that help?”

“Enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion.”

“Not with you.”

“If she can make you believe you’ve been slapped simply by you knowing you deserve it, she must be able to repress your … whatever it’s called.”

“Coulrophobia,” Tarquin and Arty chorused.

“Yeah, that. Don’t you think?”

“Well, perhaps you’re right.”

“Arty,” Andrea purred – really, this time. It wasn’t Tarquin’s imagination, she really did purr. “Can you leave us, please? I think it’s Tarquin’s turn for some quality time.”