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 forbears
were 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 two, scene one
The SOPT (Sub-Orbital Personal Transport) that Andy and Tarquin had used to transport them to the moon’s surface just a few days earlier, whilst remaining on the equipment manifest of the Sir Prijs, was more or less permanently allocated to Andrea for her personal transportation between its hangar on the shuttle and the moon. Monday morning, Andy boarded the SOPT and headed for the rendezvous point that she had agreed with Jason Strangename. She arrived at the exact coordinates precisely twenty seconds ahead of the agreed time. There was no sign of the Sir Prijs. Andy initiated a full scan. Nothing. She put out a call to the shuttle on each of its known default frequencies. Nothing. Just as she was on the point of messaging Earth base for instructions, a raucous laugh came from her comms speaker and the shuttle Sir Prijs appeared on her screen. It was directly in front of her and only a few hundred metres distant.
“Sir Prijs, this is SOPT1. What the hell’s going on, Captain?”
“Sorry, Commodore. Our boffins fitted one of these SEP jobbies to the Sir Prijs, and I wanted to take the chance to test the thing. Works well, wouldn’t you say?”
“You’ve had a shielded energy porosity generator fitted? You’re actually cloaked?”
“I guess you saw that for yourself, Ma’am. You’re cleared for bay three, by the way. Doors are open. You want us to tractor you in?”
“No thanks, Captain. I think I can manage.”
“It’s quite a small entrance, Commodore. Have you successfully docked this baby before?”
“You know I haven’t Captain. Tell you what. You tractor me in, but I want a full trace to be displayed on my monitor here. I want to be able to do it myself next time.”
“Of course, Ma’am. I’ll set it up.”
The SOPT made an impeccable automated landing and Andrea was soon piped onto the bridge and able to enjoy the limited hospitality the shuttle’s captain was able to offer.
“Commodore Smithson. Permit me to introduce my XO, Lieutenant Commander Jacob Postlethwaite. Jacob, this is Commodore Smithson.”
“Happy to make your acquaintance, Ma’am,” Jacob said, saluting, “I’ve heard a lot about you from Tarquin… I mean Captain Stuart-Lane.”
“Yes… I gather you and he have some sort of rapport. Tell me about it.”
“Not much to tell, Ma’am. I was just a driver when we first met. I had orders to transport him and three others from R&D, Swindon back to HQ. The Captain, he was Lieutenant Commander at the time, sat up front with me for the journey. We had a long chat, after which he took a close interest in my career and… well, here I am. Ma’am.”
“Doesn’t sound like the Tarquin Stuart-Lane I know. I hope there wasn’t any coercion involved?”
“That would have been a bad thing to do, Ma’am. Uncle Alisdair would have come down on me like a tonne of bricks if he thought I’d done anything so underhand.”
“I’ll be talking to Vice Admiral Winstanley on my return tomorrow. Just to be sure everything’s above board, you understand.”
“Of course, Ma’am,” Jacob Postlethwaite said with a downcast air that suggested he was aware that his position had not been helped by his uncle’s retirement, “Begging your pardon, Ma’am. Duty calls.” He saluted, turned and left.
“What’s he like, Jason?”
“Postlethwaite? Bloody useless, but he was allocated by Farquharson himself. One of his last orders before he retired, so what could I do?”
“I don’t think so, Commodore. Too damned thick for a start. I just try to give him a few jobs he can’t screw up and hope he doesn’t do any damage.”
“So you don’t have an effective XO, then?”
“No, Ma’am, I don’t.”
“Then it’s a good job you’re enough of an officer to handle this ship without one. Listen. I’m going to be flitting between Earth and moon base quite often. I can keep an eye out, and if there’s any trouble… well, let’s just say I’m not without connections; personal and family; and I have no qualms about using them.”
“Rumour has it, Ma’am, that Stuart-Lane and yourself were instrumental in getting the funding for this moon thing pushed up the agenda.”
“Can’t always believe what comes out of the rumour mill, Jason.”
“But this one?”
“Oh, this one’s true. But that’s all I’m saying about it, alright?”
“As you say, Ma’am.”
“And that Is strictly for your ears only. Clear?”
“Of course, Commodore.”
“Now listen. This SEP generator you have?”
“I’d like to see it, to know how big it is and so on. And,” she added, “I’d like to know what effect it has on fuel consumption. Presumably, it draws some power from the ship? But first, a favour… when it’s just the two of us, please call me Andrea or Andy. I still have trouble getting used to military protocol.”
“Actually, Ma… er… Andrea, it’s a net contributor to ship’s power. It draws a few megawatts to fire it up, but all of the solar energy that would normally need to be shielded against is absorbed and stored; and every bit of space junk, floating dust or bigger particles that strike it are converted to energy and absorbed, too. Follow me, Ma’am, and I’ll show you the generator.”
The two officers took the ship’s transit down the three floors to the galley.
“The galley’s to the left,” Jason Strangename said.
“Used to be Patsy… I mean Lieutenant Pratt’s domain, I gather,” Andrea observed.
“Apparently so. Crew complain that the current pastry chef’s not a patch on her. I find the produce most acceptable, but they say that Patsy’s were of a different order.”
“I have to tell you, Jason, that her apricot Danish is to die for, her pies are, indeed, the stuff of legend, and once you’ve had one of her baps in your mouth… well, what can I say? You’ll be forever spoilt.”
“So I’ve heard.”