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 three, scene one
Returning to the moon on the Sir Prijs, Patsy went immediately to her old domain, the galley, and started training the current crop of chefs, sous-chefs and pastry chefs with a view to making them almost, though not quite one hundred per cent as good as she is. Her aim, she explained earlier to Andrea, was to make sure that the quality of produce the crew enjoyed was high enough for her not to be ashamed of the galley crew, but not so high that she would cease to be held in the highest esteem and awe.
Andrea, meantime, spent more time with Jason Strangename, examining and becoming familiar with the theory and practicalities of the SEP generator. During a tea-break, Jason asked Andrea if she’d heard anything more about his possible promotion and reassignment.
“Not really,” she said, “last time I spoke with the admiral, she said that she had a job in mind for you, but I couldn’t draw her on what it was.”
“Not even a hint?”
“No. All I know is that you will lose your command of the Sir Prijs. Are you okay with that?”
“I should say. I didn’t join the Regiment to run a shuttle. If I’d wanted to do that, I’d have stayed on Earth and become a mass transit driver.”
“I take your point, Jason. We’ll both just have to wait and see what the admiral has in mind. One question, though: what about Postlethwaite?”
“Steady on old chap! That’s a bit excessive, isn’t it?”
“You plan to feed him into the energy shield?”
“No, Ma’am. The original SEP field, as envisaged by Doug Adams, wasn’t Shielded Energy Porosity, it was Somebody Else’s Problem.”
“And that’s what Postlethwaite will be…”
“Precisely, Ma’am. Although, in fairness to my successor, getting him transferred off this ship would be more of a kindness.”
“To your successor, if not to Postlethwaite himself.”
“Quite so, Commodore.”
“We’ll talk more on the return journey, Jason,” Andrea said, rising from her comfy chair and heading out of the Captain’s ready room.
The Sir Prijs having reached the transit coordinates, Andrea and Patsy boarded the SOPT and travelled down to the Moon.
They experienced an unexpected situation when trying to land on the SOPT’s allocated spot – the entire area was packed out with borborygmi – except for a small patch in the centre of the crowd that seemed to be occupied by a solitary human.
“Oh, God,” Patsy said, “what’s Tarquin done now?”
“Let’s find out, shall we?” Andrea replied, making a rapid descent to the landing pad, and causing a large number of borborygmi to make a hasty relocation to a less contentious space.
Tarquin came rushing up as the two women were climbing out of the transport.
“Thank goodness you’re back,” he exclaimed.
Andrea looked around and sensed the mood of the gathered crowd. Whatever it was, friendly wasn’t an accurate descriptor to use for it. She moved towards Tarquin and rested her hand … well, you don’t need to know exactly where she rested it, but I believe that if I tell you the effect it had, you’ll guess.
“Do you want to carry him in, Pats?” she asked, “It looks like the borborygmi aren’t too well disposed towards him just at the moment, and I don’t want to risk him being hurt.”
“Not until we’ve found out what this is all about, anyway, eh?”
Patsy picked Tarquin up from the ground and put him into a fireman’s lift to carry him through to the humans’ work area.
“Who is the senior Borborygmus here?” Andrea asked.
“I suppose I am,” Artivon said from the back of the crowd.
“No, that’d be me.” Andrea didn’t recognise the voice.
“And you are?”
“I most certainly am,” he replied, “Malodor Skatole, Chief of Staff to Chief Borborygmus Marshgass IV.”
“You’d better come with me, then, please. And you, Arty.”
“I think you’ll find that, as the Chief’s right-hand man, I deserve more respect than to be ordered around by a human.” The look on Arty’s face was one of pure embarrassment.
“And I think you’ll find,” Patsy said, making small movements with her hands, “that as chief representative not only of the Royal Space Regiment but also of the Earth authorities who, you may recall, are funding everything you are doing here, Commodore Smithson has the authority to make that request and to expect you to carry it out.”
“You’re right,” Maladore Skatole said in a tone of utter resignation, “I apologise.”
“Way to go, Patsy,” Andrea said quietly.
“Two-nil,” Patsy replied.
“Not with you.”
“I’ll explain one day.”
Inside their area, Patsy administered smelling salts to Tarquin while the two borborygmi waited in the ante-room.
“Oh, Andy,” Tarquin said.
“That’s Commodore Smithson to you, Captain,” Andrea said sternly. Tarquin started to cry. “Pull yourself together, man!”
“Yes, Ma’am. Sorry, Ma—”
Tarquin reeled from the hefty thwack across the face that he knew he deserved and which, by virtue of enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion, he truly believed he’d received.
“Report!” Andrea bellowed.
“I leave you here, unsupervised, for four days, and come back to find the borborygmi in open revolt – and you at the centre of it. You’re supposed to be Human/Borborygmi Liaison; now tell me: what the hell has happened here?”
“It’s a long story,” Tarquin stammered.
“Give me the executive summary.”
“The short version, idiot.”
“They wouldn’t accept my authority.”
“I’m not surprised. You don’t have any. What were you trying to do?”
“I just went into their labs to inspect them—”
“Inspect them. Listen: my Daddy had lots of chaps from other parts working for him, and he always made it clear how I should treat them.”
“And that is?”
“Iron fist. Not kid gloves.”
“So you went in there like a slave-owner and started lording it over them? I’m not surprised they objected. Look; I’m going to hate myself for doing this, but you will be confined to quarters for the rest of this week. When Patsy returns to Earth, you will go with her—”
“But nothing. You will return with her and you will receive appropriate re-training. You will remain on-planet until I see fit to call you back. Patsy, can you escort Captain Stuart-Lane to his quarters, please?”
“My pleasure, Ma’am.”
Accompanied by what sounded like the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah rendered on steel drums, Patsy frog-marched Tarquin through the ante-room and across the complex to his quarters where she deposited him. She then set a security over-ride code on his door, effectively locking him in.
On her return, she found Andrea speaking calmly with the two borborygmi.
“Ma’am?” she asked.
“Stupid boy. Believing he’d been left in charge, he tried to impress me by playing the big I am. Naturally enough, the guys here weren’t impressed. I think I’ve stopped them from lynching him, though.”
“I think we understand,” the Chief’s man said, “that he wasn’t being evil, just stupid.”
“I prefer misguided,” Andrea said.
“Either way, we’ll be happy to have him back here after a period of … re-education. We could have a lot worse – he is mostly a harmless idiot, and he does have his uses.”
“Sometimes,” Andrea offered.
“Yes, sometimes,” the borborygmus agreed.
“Now, before you go,” Andrea said, signalling that she expected them to go, “can you book Patsy in for a refresher course in EPHS, please?”
“But she’s already beyond most of us,” Artivon Grumpblast said.
“I know, but we have a job for her that will require the highest level of proficiency that she can attain.”
“Can we ask what it is?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you any details. I can tell you that it involves the benign persuasion of a large group of people around to our way of thinking.”
“Benign to whom? To them?”
“Heavens, no. Benign to us. Mostly harmless to them. It’s about calming a developing situation and making sure it doesn’t escalate.”
“So more like Jedi mind tricks than actual persuasion, then?”
“Look. If we don’t do this, the future of this project could well be in grave doubt.”
“Okay. Nine o’clock tomorrow morning okay?” Arty said to Patsy.