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 four, scene three
Joan’s office door was locked when Jason arrived. He looked through the fluted glass panel and although he could make out two forms, the fluting was so fine that he couldn’t see clearly what was happening. He knocked three times.
“Wait!” a female voice called out. He saw the figures separate. One of them moved to a part of the office he couldn’t see through the small window whilst the other, whom he presumed from her more slender form to be Joan Weinberg, approached the door. A click signified that she had unlocked it. The door opened.
“Hello, Jason,” Joan said, straightening her uniform, “I wasn’t expecting to see you this afternoon.”
“Apparently not, Ma’am,” Jason replied with a wry smile, “the Admiral sent me to speak to Miss Pratt.”
“That’s Commander Pratt to you, Captain… oh, I mean Commodore,” Patsy said, trotting forward and giving her old comrade a hearty bear-hug.
“I take it you know each other,” Joan observed.
“I was on the Sir Prijs security team when Meredith and Tarquin came aboard,” Jason explained, “I don’t think anyone can have spent time on board without gaining at least a passing acquaintance with Patsy.”
Patsy smiled. Coyly? If you think that, you don’t know Patsy Pratt!
“I came aboard to defend those two when they arrived,” Joan said, “but I don’t remember seeing you.”
“I saw you, Ma’am, but I was wearing a full beard at the time.”
“Were you? When did you shave it off?”
“When I was given command of the shuttle. Beards can be useful things to hide behind, but I didn’t think it appropriate for me, as the ship’s captain, to hide my face from those who served under my command.”
“Well, Jason. Congratulations on your promotion and your appointment to the Admiral’s senior staff. Whatever you want with Patsy will have to wait. She was talking me through her proposal for dealing with the One Dimension group when you arrived.” Jason raised his eyebrows quizzically and smiled. “Whatever you may think you saw through the obscured glass, Commodore Strangename, Commander Pratt and I were engaged—”
“Congratulations, I’m very happy for you both—”
“…were engaged in discussion about her assignment,” Joan added tersely, “What do you know about this One Dimension group? Anything? Eh? Come on, tell me!”
“With respect, Ma’am—”
“That means without respect, but carry on.”
“I am fully briefed on the history and progress of the Regiment’s efforts from the ill-conceived and poorly executed Waist of Space through to the current state of the GTI project. My briefing covers the One Dimension group, and I have in my possession the latest information on their formation, make-up, purposes and methods. You could say, Ma’am, that as far as that group goes, I know as much as anyone and more than most.”
“And your brief is?”
“My initial brief is to accompany and support Commander Pratt in her dealings with the group—”
“Not to wrest the lead away from her?”
“No, Ma’am. I understand that much of what the Commander will do makes use of some special skills in which I have no training.”
“Well said, Jason. The mark of a good senior officer, in my experience, is a thorough understanding of his or her own limitations, and the wisdom and ability to stand back and allow the specialists to do their jobs.”
“Precisely. Now, Patsy, how does Commodore Strangename’s involvement affect the plans you outlined to me earlier?”
“Something funny, Strangename?”
“Carry on, Patsy.”
“Well, Admiral, if the Commodore’s role is, as he says, to show senior support for my task, it can only do good. I mean, it was great of the Admiral to promote me so it wouldn’t appear to the group that they were being fobbed off with a junior officer, but to have a Commodore present – well, that’s only one rank short of a flag officer, isn’t it? They will believe that their concerns are being taken seriously.”
“And are they?”
“Are they what?”
“Being taken seriously.”
“Of course not.”
“So what’s the plan, exactly?” Jason asked.
“You know, Jason… can I call you Jason, or would you prefer me to be formal, Sir?”
“Jason’s fine, Patsy.”
“You know that the borborygmi have trained a select few of our officers in what they call EPHS – enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion?”
“I knew they’d trained a few in something, but I didn’t know what, exactly. What does it do?”
“It’s post-hypnotic suggestion. It places the subject into a, shall we say, controllable state.”
“So what’s so special about this technique?”
“You’ll see when I talk to the group. As you know, they’ve expressed some pretty strong objections to the GTI project.”
“And you want to talk them around, right?”
“That would be too easy. My job is to convert their leaders from ardent critics to fervent supporters of our work. They are, by nature, proselytisers; that’s how they’ve managed to persuade thousands to speak against our work. The Admiral wants me to make them into our champions. If I can get the dozen or so that we’ll meet with and arrange for them to cheer-lead for us, they’ll spread it to their followers in no time flat.”
“How much detail will you give them about the work?” Joan asked.
“That’s the beauty of this method,” Patsy replied, “None whatever. They will have impressions and feelings painted on a very broad canvas. They will believe we are promising all sorts of things whereas, in fact, they will be unable to draw any substance from what they’re told.”
“That can’t possibly work, surely,” Jason said, “without details of what we’re proposing to do, how can they possibly be enthusiastic about it?”
“Politicians do it all the time, Jason,” Joan said, “Do you need examples?”
“So, let me get this right. You make a load of promises—”
“Vague promises. Nothing we can be held to.”
“And that gets them on-side?”
“And how do you keep them on-side?”
“That’s even easier,” Joan said with a wicked grin, “The promises are so vague, that whatever result we get, we can tell them that we kept our word, that we had delivered exactly what we told them we would. Again, look at your political history.”
“Okay, let’s get down to detail.”
“Why bother, if you’re not actually doing anything?” Patsy asked.
“So I don’t interrupt you or act surprised when you’re in full flow.”
“Let’s sit around the table,” Joan said. They took their seats around Joan’s conference table. Patsy opened her folder and spread some papers in front of them.