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 nine, scene five.
“That’s right,” Meredith said to Joan and Patsy as well as to Andrea, Jason, Tarquin and Artivon who were present from Moonbase Alpha by way of the experimental holo-conferencing system the RSR was currently trialling, “we made the video feed available to the DPP and the four men are in police custody awaiting trial.”
“So this is being treated as a purely civil matter, then?” Joan asked.
“Not entirely. the police counter-terrorism group is controlling the enquiry but first, the four men were handed to the security services where they were robustly questioned.”
“And by robustly questioned, you mean…” an eerily translucent Andrea asked.
“Robustly questioned. No more, no less.” Meredith paused, put on her most serious face before continuing, “Of more concern to me now is what this represents. We know that there is a group, CNUT, which has as its sole aim to prevent us, human and Borborygmi, from pushing our project forward. We had just tasked two gentlemen with passing false information to this group, at the same time collecting useful intelligence for us. Double-agents, if you like. They met their end as soon as they left this building. The four men who came in here with murderous intent admitted to the killings.”
Tarquin blanched. “Cripes!” was the extent of his contribution.
“Is there any danger to us?” Artivon asked, “I ask for those of us on the two Moon bases.”
“So far, we don’t know,” Meredith said, “The security services and counter-terrorism police are still looking into that. We do know that Lady Newton has been called to appear before the House of Lords conduct and disciplinary committee to explain her involvement—”
“Another toothless bunch,” Jason Strangename sneered. Tarquin looked as though he was about to say something but changed his mind. [If only he would do that more often…]
“Not according to our ultimate boss, the First Space Lord. He chairs the committee.”
Tarquin turned to face Jason and silently mouthed the words ‘Daddy’s boss‘ before drawing an index finger across his lips in a zipping motion.
“And you have his ear?” Andrea asked.
“I can neither confirm nor deny that,” Meredith replied with a wink.
“So, where do we go from here?” Joan asked.
“We press on. I’m requesting additional security at all sites: Swindon, the moon bases and here at HQ, but I still expect our work to continue uninterrupted. If anything, I’d like to see the pace of work increased. Can we aim for the first in-system test journeys in … shall we say three years?”
“Might be ambitious for us,” Artivon said, “is your work ahead of ours?”
“Not by much,” Joan said, “we’re projecting four years now, but I’m sure we could cut it back. Might push the cost up, though.”
“Leave me to worry about the money, Jason,” Meredith said, “So we’re all happy, then?” No-one argued but, then again, no-one agreed either. Her question was met with silence apart from a few grunts and raised eyebrows. “Good. I’ll close this meeting then. Andrea – how soon can you come down and join us here?”
“What is it today?”
“Okay; Thursday pm. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it instantaneously in a few years.”
“That’s the plan, Rear Admiral. See you next Thursday.”
“What did I do to deserve that?”
“What you just called me,” Andrea said, with a wink and a grin. At Meredith’s signal, Nigel Swann ended the connection to Moonbase Alpha and turned to face Meredith.
“Coffee, Ma’am?” he asked.
“Sure,” Meredith said, “for three, please.”
“There are some of my apricot danish in the salad crisper in the fridge,” Patsy said. Nigel looked at her with an expression that looked almost as though he was pleading for something. That’s probably because he was. “Don’t worry,” Patsy said, “I brought four. I knew you’d want one.” Nigel’s face lit up and he left the office with a definite spring in his step.
“You spoil that lad, Patsy,” Meredith said.
“I prefer to think of it as cultivating him.”
“You sure you don’t mean grooming,” Joan suggested.
“Ewwww!” Patsy replied, to the evident amusement of her two superior officers.
After the three women had devoured the confections that Nigel had brought, Joan turned to Meredith and became most serious.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” she asked.
“How do you mean?”
“Your life was in danger, and if it weren’t for Patsy, here, it may have turned out very differently.”
“I know,” Meredith replied soberly, “it wasn’t easy,” then, more brightly, “I think I handled it okay, though.”
“You handled it spectacularly well,” Patsy said, “you were calm, resolute and so strong. It really turned me on. I very nearly—”
”We don’t need to know what you very nearly did, Commander,” Joan said haughtily, “The thing is, though, Meredith, you could so easily have been killed. Do you need to talk to someone?”
“I’m talking to you two now. You are my friends and confidantes.”
“So talk, already.”
“Fair enough. I was scared. I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared. But I knew that I had to take control of the situation and when I saw Patsy out of the corner of my eye… That’s a point. Patsy, were you – you know – helping me?”
Patsy inclined her head down and looked up at her chief. “I’m sorry, Admiral. I was just trying to help.”
“Patsy, I have one thing to say to you, and I want you to listen carefully and take it on board…”
“Thank you, Patsy. You probably – no, not probably, you did – you saved my life.”
“Just doing my job, Ma’am.”
“Well, just keep doing it, in that case. Listen, I’d like to keep you closer. I can’t have you permanently in this office, but how do you feel about sharing with Swann?”
“As long as it’s clear that he is sharing my office, not the other way round;”
“Of course. You outrank him, anyway.”
“Yes, I do, don’t I?” Patsy said with a grin of questionable provenance.