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 seven, scene two
“Have I understood this correctly?” Jason asked once the meeting was underway the following morning, “The pod never actually goes anywhere?”
“That’s right,” Kada Kolash replied, “its function is to prepare and convert what is to transport through the gap and present it, in the form of pure data, at the first transfer point.”
“Like the transporter room in Star Trek?”
“It is analogous, Jason. But don’t forget, Star Trek is fiction. This is real.”
“How does the transfer point know where to send the data?”
“It works in the same way your communications on Earth work. The data are presented in discrete packets. The header of each packet includes the IDs of the packet itself, the one before it and the one after it. That’s so that it can be reassembled at the other end. It also contains information about the source and destination, so the entire system knows where to send it.”
“Okay. What about getting someone back again? It is a two-way thing, after all.”
“That’s the easy part. Once you’ve set someone or something up for transport, you press the green ‘send’ button. To get them back, press the red ‘undo’ button. The orange ‘redo’ button repeats the last send.”
“So when Jinnis Keet was shot at on his first visit—”
“Undo followed by redo. The same when it came back to take pictures.”
“But Jinnis’s return wasn’t immediate then,” Meredith said, “Taking the pictures must have taken time, but Jinnis seemed to have returned the same time it left.”
“That’s because the default for ‘redo’ is to return the subject at the instant it left. In practice, there’s an element of latency in the system – about twenty milliseconds as you measure time. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for us.”
“In that case,” Arty asked, “why do we need these special suits?”
“Two reasons,” Kitara Navilli said, “firstly to contain and delimit your body during the encoding and decoding, but equally importantly to make sure you have the support and protection your body needs to survive at your destination.”
The Right Honourable (and Learned) Kayleigh Marsden PC, QC, MP fidgeted in her seat and looked around the table at the human, Borborygmi and Jinthate delegates around it. “I hope all this means something to some of you,” she said, “what I hear you people saying and what I seem to think I hear the little chubby ones saying although their lips aren’t moving or wouldn’t be if they had lips in the first place; anyway all that is clearly the King’s English or something approaching it, although it means absolutely nothing to me. But the tall ones – well, all I hear is steel band music!”
“Switch your translator on, Ma’am,” Ben Hussain whispered to her.
“What? Speak up, Ben, for goodness’ sake. If you’ve got something to say, say it. And don’t mumble!”
Ben spoke more loudly. “Switch your translator on, Ma’am,” he practically shouted, much to the amusement of everyone, particularly the Borborygmi. The Secretary of State for Alien Affairs opened and closed her mouth a few times in a passable imitation of a goldfish, before hissing at her assistant in an accusatory manner, “Isn’t it your job to do that for me?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Ben said apologetically. Not that his boss could possibly have heard him above the laughter coming from all the other delegates.
The Secretary of State slapped the table as hard as she was able and shouted, “Order!” When that had no effect she added, “Quiet, please! NOW!” The room went quiet. “I have something to say. As the person responsible to the Prime Minister herself…” she inexplicably bowed her head and muttered something that was totally incomprehensible but that had the tone and rhythm of an incantation about it, “…it is incumbent on me, for the full, proper and timely discharge of my duties—”
“What Madam Secretary is trying to say,” Ben interrupted, “is that she doesn’t understand what is going on, but feels that she needs to.”
“Leave this to me,” Patsy said, rising from her seat and walking around the table. When she arrived behind Secretary Marsden, she whispered to the Secretary, did something with her hands that no-one else was able to see, and returned to her seat.
“Alright,” the Secretary of State announced, “Okay. Finally. All understood. Carry on.”
The humans present reacted with facial expressions and fidgeting that betrayed their confusion (except Patsy, who was predictably sanguine about the whole thing), the Jinthae are incapable of facial expression and so looked the way they always look and the Borborygmi… let’s just say that their linguistic expression sounded eerily similar to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ played on steel drums.
Patsy looked at the Secretary and made a sweeping movement with her right hand.
“Your mind tricks won’t work on the Secretary,” Ben said. Patsy produced her most angelic smile and demonstrated that she was still able to use a longbow.
Secretary Marsden stood, cleared her throat and said, “If there’s no other business…” she paused for a response, received none and so continued, “Very well. I now declare this meeting closed. Ben, get up; we’re going.”
The two government officials nodded to the group and, with no more ceremony than was necessary, they left. Okay, as he did on their arrival, Ben walked in front of his boss, sweeping the floor with his official broom so she didn’t get any dirt on the soles of her designer wellies.
“That was fun,” Meredith said, “Are we all okay with the pods now?” Andrea and Jason, Arty and Norman, Joan and Patsy, Kala and Kitara all nodded. “Good,” she said, “let’s just get on with it now, shall we?”
The remote links closed, the Jinthae returned to their home planet and the three officers… well, we don’t need to go into what Meredith, Joan and Patsy did next, do we?