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 eight, scene one.
“There is a tide of activity about which we are being told nothing.”
Standing on a podium hastily set up in the middle of the largest sporting venue in the country and barely visible behind a batch of microphones that resembled a field of black tulips, Niamh Newton cut a solitary figure. With her entourage seated some metres behind her, she faced a restive audience who, over the past hours, had packed into the 150,000-seat stadium. The event had been billed as a renaissance for right-thinkers, although until Niamh rose to speak, its real purpose had been shrouded in levels of secrecy and misinformation not seen since the original Brexit referendum campaign decades earlier.
A renaissance for right-thinkers it was, although perhaps ‘far-right-thinkers’ might have been a more appropriate billing.
Niamh Newton, more popularly known as ‘Naïve Niamh’, was the titular head of the Campaign for Non-Universal Travel, known as CNUT. It’s worth pointing out here that any similarities between the Campaign for Non-Universal Travel and Cnut the Great, King of Denmark, England and Norway from 1016 to 1035 are, of course, purely coincidental. And by purely, I mean much more than. Hence the reference to a tide of activity.
Her opening statement gave rise to what, in a smaller population, would be a low murmur, but with a crowd of this size was closer to the roar of waves crashing against the shore in a gale.
Niamh waited for the noise level to subside before resuming, her tone strident and deliberate, “We know, for example, that our governments; and not just ours, but governments around the world; have made contact with aliens—” The sound of a gasp came from the large audience. “Yes, friends,” Niamh continued, “aliens; non-human, non-terrestrial beings. Beings whose intelligence may well be far more advanced than our own.”
The hubbub from the crown caused Niamh to pause again. Picking up where she left off, she announced, ”Friends, I have not seen these beings for myself, but I know they exist. How do I know? Because with us this afternoon are two people who have seen them, who have interacted with them, and who have some direct knowledge of their power and capabilities—”
Niamh was interrupted with cries of, “Who is it? Who has seen them? We want to hear from them.”
“All in good time,” Niamh said, “but first, let me tell you what makes it even more appalling. It seems there are two types of aliens here. One of them, apparently, has been living on our moon for more than five hundred years. The other has hundreds – yes, hundreds of satellites orbiting our Earth and observing us. Not only observing, but listening to our communications and even hacking into our globalnet, learning all of our secrets.” After another pause for the hubbub to clear, Niamh ordered the stadium lights to be lowered as a short, slightly overweight, kilted, thirty-something man with the brightest of red hair and a matching full beard stepped forward accompanied by a taller man of similar age but with sandy hair and an almost-gaunt expression. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Niamh announced, “I present the fifth Earl of Arblington, the Right Honorable Forbes Fillingham-Smythe, and parapsychologist Dr Finlay Robertson.”
The Earl leaned forward to the nearest microphone and said, “Erm, please, call me Forbes. Other stuff not helpful. Besides, Finlay here is really the man you want to hear from. Much the cleverer of us. Even has a PhD!”
“Thank you, Forbes,” Niamh replied, “Over to you, Finlay.”
Finlay Robertson reached into the depths of his sporran and gave a squeeze to its contents. Immediately, two holographic figures appeared beside him; one of them more than three metres high and stick-thin like something out of a Lowry painting, the other barely more than one metre in height, plump and rounded like an old-fashioned child’s doll but with no distinguishable facial features beyond two large eyes and a single horizontal slit roughly where its nose should be.
The reactions from the crowd were as varied as they were instantaneous. A good number jumped from their seats and tried to leave the arena, being prevented only by the immobility of their peers and, of course, the locked gates. Others screamed or cried out and some even vomited, whilst many just sat open-mouthed.
Finlay extended an arm towards the two images. “Let me introduce them to you. The tall one, on your left, is a Borborygmus—” A ripple of laughter came from one section of the audience, “and I’d like to extend a welcome to the medical personnel here today; let’s hope we don’t need to call on you professionally. The Borborygmi have understood inter-stellar travel for almost twenty-five thousand years. When we humans were in the throes of inventing harpoons and saws, g Groups of Borborygmi were dispatched to explore the galaxy. The descendants of one of these groups arrived in our solar system and made their home on our moon half a millennium ago. The other alien is a Jinthate from the distant planet Grintsk.”
“What’re they doing here?” someone shouted from the crowd.
“A very good question,” Finlay replied, “let me try to answer it. Our government had got wind of the fact that the Borborygmi were developing a new kind of space drive, one that would overcome the restrictions of our current technology and enable us to range much farther into space. In a deal arrived at in secret, we were to work together to develop this drive, but ran into some serious problems. Whilst trying to resolve these problems, a representative of the Jinthae came along and tried to persuade us to stop the project. That was when His Lordship and I met them.”
“Why did they want us to stop?” Niamh asked.
“Well,” Finlay said, “mostly—”
“Apparently,” Forbes interrupted, “they’d tried the same thing and it went horribly wrong. Broke some fundamental law of physics or other.”
“Anyway,” Finlay said, reclaiming the conversation, “they had subsequently developed a more powerful, more efficient and yet safer method, which they were prepared to share with us, against our undertaking not to proceed with our original plans.”
“So what’s the problem?” Niamh said.
“Very simple. We know nothing about these aliens; either of them. Are we really happy to let them take control of our travel plans; saying who can go where and when?”
“NO,” the crowd replied.
“Are we happy for them to control our planetary perimeters and defences?”
“Are we happy for these aliens to continue monitoring our every move, even our every thought, without being responsible to us for any of it?”
“No, we are not.”
As one, the crowd stood to their feet and yelled, “NO, WE ARE NOT.”
“Okay?” Finlay said, turning to Niamh.
“Absolutely,” Niamh replied, giving Finlay a hug and surreptitiously shoving a large wad of banknotes into his sporran. Finlay smiled.