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 forebears 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 five, scene five
Not much more than half an hour later there was a knock on Ishmael’s ready-room door.
“Enter,” the captain called out. “What is it, Nusha?” he asked as a young steward opened the door and poked her head around.
“Sorry for the interruption, Sirs,” she said, “but I thought the Commodore should know that the captain who came aboard with him is currently seated on the floor of his cabin with the door open, Sirs. He’s rocking back and forth and crying and, well, I suppose you’d call it babbling.”
“Thanks, Nusha. Carry on; we’ll take it from here.”
Anusha Nambeesan thanked her captain and left, closing the door behind her.
“I suppose I’d better go see what the little fool’s getting himself all upset about now,” Jason said, standing to his full height.
“Can I come, too?” Ishmael asked, “Just as an observer, of course. I need to see different types of management techniques in action—”
“And you want to see how I handle a snivelling wreck?”
“I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, Sir, but…”
“Nuff said. Follow.” The two officers marched in tandem as far as the open door to Tarquin’s cabin. He was, as the steward had said, rocking back and forth, his knees pulled tightly to his face – or vice versa – but had stopped sobbing. Jason looked at Ishmael and held an index finger to his lips to signal him to be silent. He sat beside Tarquin. Ishmael joined them on the floor. No-one moved or spoke for almost five minutes.
“I tried. I did. I tried my best,” Tarquin mumbled at last, “but I can’t do it. I thought I’d be able to. I mean, gosh, I’ve had all the sensitivity and awareness training and what have you; I know what I’m supposed to do and I know what I need to say, but I can’t. I just bally well can’t.” He started sobbing again.
Jason rested a hand on Tarquin’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Tarquin, maybe you don’t have to.”
“I don’t?” His face lit up.
“Not in the way we said, anyway. Listen. You do need to apologise to the borborygmi. You’ve hurt and insulted them and we need to make it right if we’re to carry on working with them.”
“But I can’t. I told you.”
“Maybe there’s a way you can do it. What is it you’re most worried about?”
“There are so many of them, and they’re so… so… big,” Tarquin said, “and they hate me!” he wailed.
“All of them?”
“According to the records, you and the admiral struck up a relationship with one of them when you were on the Waist of Space.”
Tarquin composed himself and settled down to subdued snivelling. “Yes. That was Arty, Artivon Grumpblast.”
“Is he still there?”
“Yes. He is.”
“Is he a significant player? If we talk to him, does he carry any clout?”
“Cripes, I should say so. He’s one of their top people. He is Head Anemologist, whatever that means, and in charge of this project thingy.”
“And you’d be happy dealing with him?”
“For a while not. I thought he and the angel Andrea had a thing, but I was wrong. No, Arty and I are fine now.”
“Why would you be concerned about a relationship between Arty and Rear Admiral Smithson?”
“She and I have what I call an arrangement, Sir.”
“Ah, so it’s you, is it?”
“I knew she had a… okay, Tarquin, no need to say any more. I’ll radio ahead and have her set up a meeting with Artivon. I’ll explain to her what it’s about, although I doubt she’ll need to be told why—”
“Will she be there, Sir? For the meeting?” he asked, his voice filled with excitement and hope.
“Probably not. I think it should be just you and this Artivon chap. I’ll be there to observe. I want to make sure that you do, indeed, deliver a suitable and appropriate apology, and that it’s well received. Now, I think it would be nice if you could find a young steward called Anusha Nambeesan. She found you and came and told us that you were in distress. You might like to thank her before we board the SOPT.”
“Anusha? The pretty little Indian girl?”
“That’s her,” Ishmael said, “she should be in the galley. Chop-chop. The SOPT will be ready in twenty minutes.”
“Oh ding-dong. I’ll be there before you can say…” and with that, he was gone.
“How on Earth do you keep up with that man?” Ishmael asked Jason.
“Don’t have to. Well, never had to before, anyway. Word is Rear Admiral Smithson has a way of controlling his, shall we say, baser instincts. No idea how and, frankly, don’t want to know. Happily, my responsibility for him ends when the borborygmus chappie accepts his apology and they let him get back to whatever it is he does there.”
“So, when will I be taking you back planet-side?”
“Not sure yet. I have a document setting out details of my new job, but I’m not allowed to open it until I’m on the moon.”
“Will anyone know if you open it before then?”
“Yes, Captain, I will. And I need to be able to look top brass in the eye and confirm I carried out their orders to the letter.”
A buzzer sounded in Ishmael’s ready room. “SOPT is ready and we’re approaching drop-off coordinates, Sir,” he said.
“Call Tarquin, will you?”
Ishmael pressed the button on a microphone on his desk and announced, “Calling Captain Stuart-Lane, Captain Stuart-Lane. Proceed to Dock One immediately.”
Jason and Ishmael marched out of the room and took the lift to the docking area. When they arrived at the SOPT dock, they found Tarquin already there waiting for them. His uniform was in a state of disarray and he appeared to have a young woman of Indian extraction is a similarly dishevelled state hanging on his arm and looking up into his eyes with an unfathomable expression on her face – but at least he was there.
“Time to board, Captain,” Ishmael said, “you can leave Miss Nambeesan with me. I’ll make sure she’s well taken care of.” Tarquin raised his eyebrows and started to say something. “And before you say anything, I mean in a pastoral, HR-ish kind of way, as befits the relationship between a captain and his crew.”
“Yah, right,” Tarquin said, stepping into the transport.