Category: FLATUS

FLATUS 9.3

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 forbearswere testing a new kind of spacegoing vessel that had the ability to be in many places at the same time.

Part two, FLATUS, follows our dynamic duo as they help the aliens build their own multi-locatable craft (and the RSR to build one, too). Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having potentially three such vessels in finite space at one time? Will the ineptitude of key personnel result in disaster, or avert it?

FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?


FLATUS. Chapter nine, scene three

Everyone turned up to the next project meeting buzzing with excitement. The materials were piled on the table in the middle of the conference room. Tarquin went forward and picked some up.

“Gosh,” he said, “I expected them to be much heavier than this.”

“That’s the thinnest one, Tarquin,” Andrea purred (she didn’t, it just that’s how it seemed to Tarquin), “Try one of the ten-millimetre pieces.”

“Oh, that’s heavier,” he said, picking one up, but not showing any strain, because that would be unmanly, in front of the Angel Andrea, “a lot more rigid, too.”

“The ten-millimetre and the six-millimetre types are meant to provide support for the Borborygmi bone structure. The three-millimetre type doesn’t need to be rigid it just provides strength and radiation protection for us to go into the machine.”

“Does that mean when the first machines are built, I may be able to go?” Tarquin asked.

“Rest assured,” Meredith replied, “you’ll be on the first trip.”

“Oh, wow. Will I? Really?”

“Yes, really,” Meredith confirmed.

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Andrea asked.

“That, Andy, rather depends on what it is you think I’m saying.”

“I think you’re suggesting that poor, sweet, innocent Tarquin—”

“Are we talking about the same Tarquin?”

“I believe so.”

“Tarquin Stuart-Lane?”

“The same.”

“The Tarquin Stuart-Lane who’s a Captain in the Royal Space Regiment?”

“Is there another?”

“What’s your point?”

“You are suggesting sending Tarquin – that Tarquin – on an untested transport that could take him anywhere, with no idea (a) what state he’ll arrive in, (b) whether he’ll be able to get back, and (c) what state he’ll be in if he does get back.”

Meredith responded with a long, drawn-out “Yes.”

“That’s inhuman.”

“And what did you think about the Waist of Space mission?”

“I thought that was inhuman, too. I mean, sending two officers, ill-equipped and, it turned out, unsupported, to see how long they’d live on the moon. I mean, was it ever the intention that you should come back? Alive?”

“And yet here we are.”

“Yes, you survived, on your wits, from what I’ve heard.”

“Indeed. On our wits.”

“No, not both of you, just you, Meredith. Tarquin would never have had the strength to get out of there himself, and you know it.”

“Oh, I see what’s going on here. You’ve tried coffee, now you want to try tea. Let me tell you something about tea, Andrea. It’s a very nice drink, and it’ll leave you feeling good, but tea will never, ever give you the buzz that good draught of coffee does.”

“Has it occurred to you that I may have a hankering for a longer drink?”

“What do you mean? Are you trying to tell me that… you can’t mean… what!?”

“While I enjoyed, you-know, Meredith, I think I prefer a relationship that’s not based on sex, but on an intellectual partnership.”

“What? Who? Tell me you’re joking!”

“I’m not joking, Meredith. Just at the moment, my mind craves stimulation more than any part of my body does. Arty and I are going to give it a go, have a couple of test dates and see how we get on. I want to introduce him to some of our culture and vice versa. Actually, I’m quite excited about the whole thing.”

“I’ll give it a month.”

“Why?”

“Because by then, your drives will kick in. You don’t know you’re thirsty until you’ve had a drink. You’ll find that a celibate relationship just can’t do it for you any longer. Unless you’re planning to…”

“Heavens no, Meredith. That couldn’t possibly work. Or at least, I don’t think it could. No, my idea, if I am beset with physical needs, is to offer the position of ‘friends with benefits’ to—”

“Me, me, me,” Tarquin shouted, stretching his hand into the air like an excited schoolboy who knows the answer to a really, really hard question, “offer it to me. I’ll accept, straight away, on your terms, whatever they are, regardless of how much I have to debase myself for you. Oh, please say it’s me.”

“It’s you, Tarquin.”

Tarquin fainted.

“Patsy,” Meredith said, “pick Tarquin up and sit him on a chair, then do whatever you need to do to bring him around again.”

“Rubber gloves, Ma’am?” Patsy asked, hopefully.

“No,” Andrea barked, “emphatically not. Use smelling salts.”

“Don’t have any,” Patsy said with a pout.

“Just open a tin of those sardines under his nose, Lovely,” Meredith said.

“Can I whip it up under his nose and maybe cut him a little?”

“No, Patsy, you may not.”

Patsy was clearly disappointed but did as she was told.

“I can’t say I’m not a little saddened by your choice, Andy,” Meredith said, somewhat dejectedly.

“You’ve no need to be, Meredith. What I was going to say before poor, sweet Tarquin became more than a little over-excited was: my idea, if I am beset with physical needs, is to offer the position of ‘friends with benefits’ to Tarquin and Meredith.”

Meredith smiled and gave Andy a hug.

Joan, however, was less pleased. “What about me?” she asked.

“You are Meredith’s deputy, aren’t you?”

“Only in matters military.”

“Well then, let’s just designate this a military matter, shall we?”

“And me?” Patsy piped up as she returned from seeing to Tarquin – and not in the pugilistic way she would have preferred, either.

“Sorry, full up,” Andrea replied, “I’m sure you’d find me less… erm… whatever than Meredith and Joan.”

“I guess I’ll never know.”

“Can’t win them all, eh Patsy?” Joan asked as she gave the pastry chef a hug.

While all this was going on, the Borborygmi were studying the specifications for the materials that had been delivered from Grintsk. Artivon, hereinafter to be known as Andy’s chap, announced, “We can make all these things on our base on your moon. It will give us an immediate use for the facility we were setting up to build FLATUS – okay, different machines and so on, but our engineers will be all over that in a trice.”

“Why can’t you make it here?” Meredith asked.

“We could, but not wearing these suits. And apart from that, it’ll be easier to take delivery of the raw materials we’ll have to import from the asteroid mines, due to there being no atmosphere to negotiate, and I rather suspect that manufacture will be easier and faster in low gravity. So our clever engineers tell me, anyway.”

“Does that mean you won’t need to come down here, ever?” Andrea asked, hoping for an alternative response.

“Oh, no. It does mean that we can do without these massive support suits, though. If we all return to our base, then make enough of the six-millimetre suits, those who need to, or want to, can come straight back down.”

“Oh, that’s good. I don’t want our relationship to become a long-distance one before it really starts.”

“It won’t,” Meredith said, “I shall want you to divide your time between here and the moon until this first phase is complete. Tarquin will spend most of his time there, carrying out his duties as Human/Borborygmi Liaison Officer, and you will do a similar job on the technical, scientific and mathematics levels.”

“If I may say so, Meredith,” Tarquin said, “that’s a very astute decision you’ve made. I shall be able to carry out my main duties without having to worry about that blasted donkey; the Angel Andrea will spend some time with us and, we can but hope, fall prey to the occasional need of a non-intellectual flavour, if you get my drift; and I shall be there to help her deal with those needs. Ding bloody Dong, I should say.”

“Just keep your mind on your job, Tarquin,” Meredith said, “I have a feeling it will gain in importance during the course of the project and, if you do it well, who knows? There may just be another stripe to be had.”

“Gosh, Meredith. Commodore? Be assured, my nose will be the cleanest in the known universe.”

As always happens, the meeting finally broke up and the groups each went their own way. Andy found herself seated beside Meredith on the coach home.

“Can I ask you something, Meredith?” she said, notably not resisting her boss placing her hand on her knee.

“Of course,” Meredith whispered into her ear before planting the lightest of kisses on her lobe.

Andrea shivered. “When you decided Tarquin should spend most of his time on the moon, and I’d only spend half of mine,” she said, giggling a little because of… well, you can probably guess why she was giggling.

“MM-hmm,” Meredith said.

“Might that have been to ensure there’d be no, shall we say, distractions for me when I’m down here, with my chap and my ‘friend’ on the moon?”

“You may very well think that Andrea,” Meredith said, kissing her neck between each word, “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“Ma’am, are you sure this is appropriate behaviour for two senior officers on the Regimental coach?”

“As the ranking officer here, my sweet, I think I get to decide what’s appropriate, and this seems very appropriate to me.”

“But Meredith, it’ll be the talk of the Regiment.”

“Oh, alright, spoilsport,” Meredith said, retracting her hand and sitting bolt upright.

The rest of the journey was passed in silence, although the two officers did hold hands for the whole time, and who can say what goes on beneath a Stuart-Lane tartan travel rug? (yes, his family have their own tartan, or so they claim. Personally, I think its one they fabricated themselves, or stole from a proper clan and just changed its name, but what do I know?)

Back at the barracks, Meredith called her little cabal into her office before retiring for the night.

“Ladies,” she said to Joan, Andrea and Patsy, “a lot has happened today and a number of decisions made on the fly that might have come as a surprise to you. They certainly did to me. Now, we can be professional and adult about this, can’t we? We’re all grown women and powerful women in our own rights. It is necessary for us to decide among ourselves, who will be joining whom for this night, and—”

“Meredith,” Joan said.

“And before anyone says anything, I bagsees Andrea. Any arguments?”

“No, Ma’am!” Andrea said with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm.

“No, Ma’am,” the other two said, with a show of disappointment, but that was just for show. They skipped out of the office, hand in hand.

“Sleepover?” Meredith said to Andy.

“I doubt it,” Andrea replied with what could well have been termed a wicked leer.

FLATUS 9.2

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 forbearswere testing a new kind of spacegoing vessel that had the ability to be in many places at the same time.

Part two, FLATUS, follows our dynamic duo as they help the aliens build their own multi-locatable craft (and the RSR to build one, too). Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having potentially three such vessels in finite space at one time? Will the ineptitude of key personnel result in disaster, or avert it?

FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?


FLATUS. Chapter nine, scene two

After the meeting, the three Jinthae returned to Grintsk with samples of the various materials that the human and Borborygmi scientists and engineers had spent the previous few months looking at, with a view to producing a barrier between the leaky engine components and the outside world.

Two weeks later they were back again.

“As you like to say,” Jinnis Keet said, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

“Give us the bad news first,” Meredith said.

“The bad news is that none of the materials you gave us to look at is suitable for your needs. They all have enough radiation shielding, but none of them is quite strong enough to withstand conversion back from the energy state.”

Tarquin said, “You said there was some good news.”

“There is,” Kala said.

“Go on then, tell us what it is—”

“Don’t be so impatient, Tarquin,” Andrea said. That alone was enough to turn Tarquin to jelly.

“Okay, Andy,” he said. “So— ouch!”

“Whatever’s the matter, Tarquin?” Andy asked in that sultry, sexy, irresistible way that only she can (according to Tarquin, anyway).

“Don’t worry about him,” Patsy said, “he’s just not allowed to apologise.”

“Is that still working?”

“Sure is.”

“Poor love…”

“Don’t offer him sympathy,” Meredith advised, “I did once, and it took me months to shake him off.”

“Did you want to know the good news?” Kala asked. Had it possessed a voice, it would have been tinged with impatience, but that’s just not possible when all you have to work with are concepts and constructs.

“Yes, please,” Joan said, “whatever the others are talking about, I still want to talk about this project.”

“Well,” Kala explained, “as I said, none of the materials is up to it… on its own. However, our specialists melded two of them together, samples three and seven, in such a way that the resulting material might just do it.”

“Might just do it?”

“Okay, I meant would be up to the job. It’ll work.”

Chief Marshgass was excited by this development. “Does that mean some of us will be able to use the device?”

“Yes, I guess it does.”

“From day one?”

“It means more than that, chief. It also means that you can, with the new material, make a suit like the ones you use to go outside on the moon. That will be enough to support you here on Earth.”

“Really?” the chief asked, hardly daring to believe such an advancement would be possible.

“And there’s more,” Kala said, “Suits made from ten millimetres of that material will be enough for transport, six millimetres for living on Earth.”

“Wow,” just about everyone in the room said in unison.

“And,” Kala added, “a thickness of three millimetres will be enough for humans to go through conversion to energy and back… with no physical training whatever. Obviously, the mental hardening will still be needed, but that’s all.”

“That is excellent news,” Meredith said, “I think we should now be in a position to press on with the substantive project.”

“We have to go back now, Meredith,” Jinnis said, “we just wanted to give you the good news. We’ll transfer down a batch of the material and the technical specifications so you can make it yourself… shall we say this time tomorrow?”

“Sounds good,” Meredith agreed, “We’ll reconvene here, fourteen hundred tomorrow, and I’d like full status reports from all departments.”

FLATUS 9.1

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 forbearswere testing a new kind of spacegoing vessel that had the ability to be in many places at the same time.

Part two, FLATUS, follows our dynamic duo as they help the aliens build their own multi-locatable craft (and the RSR to build one, too). Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having potentially three such vessels in finite space at one time? Will the ineptitude of key personnel result in disaster, or avert it?

FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?


FLATUS. Chapter nine, scene one

Two months after that initial meeting, Andy was able to present to Meredith and Joan, a fully costed proposal for phase one, which took them to the point where they could carry out test jumps in-system. If the timetable for this phase were to be believed, it would take a little under two years before the first jump could be tried. The personnel requirements were probably the biggest surprise. The number of mathematicians, scientists and engineers was roughly the same as were required for the combined FLATUS and Ubiquitron projects. This was good, in a way, because it meant no redundancies and little additional hiring. The plans allowed for the movement of Borborygmi staff back to the moon and included for enhanced communications between the two centres. One extra requirement, initially for humans only, was a squad of no less than fifty young men and women to enter the selection and training programme for what became known as the Golf Club – so named because a car with the name of Golf, made by a firm called Volkswagen, was the first to be given the designation GTi, which referred to the performance and comfort levels of the vehicle and that it made use of the then emerging technology of fuel injection. The training programme for the Golf Club, devised by physicians, physical training gurus, nutritionists and other specialists, and overseen by the chief of training for the Jinthae, was made up of an intensive eighteen-month body-building and mind-strengthening regimen, followed by regular booster sessions until the candidates were ready for the transport and the transport was ready for them. Indications from the Jinthae, which were ultimately proven to be correct, was for a drop-out rate over the programme of sixty percent. By the time trials were ready, there were twenty extremely fit and well prepared young people ready to face the challenge.

***

The bigger problem is one for which there’s no easy solution. The Borborygmi on their moon base came to the realisation that their physiology meant that if they were able to send some of their people through the gap, it wouldn’t be for a very long time. This did nothing for their commitment to the project. A meeting was hastily arranged at which Meredith Winstanley, Joan Weinberg, Andrea Smithson, Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Patsy Pratt were present for the Royal Space Regiment, Chief Marshgass, Artivon, Methanie, Norman the Nameless and his sister Norma the Nameless for the Borborygmi, and Jinnis Keet and Kala Kodash for the Jinthae.

Meredith called the meeting to order.

“What we need to talk about today is the position of our Borborygmi friends vis-à-vis the overall GTI project.”

“Is there a problem?” Jinnis Keet asked.

“There most certainly is,” the chief replied, “We have committed a lot of our time, personnel and energies to this project, and it looks like it will be a long time before we will be able to make use of it, if at all.”

“What makes you think it may never happen?”

“What did you say the training time was, to get potential travellers fit enough to withstand the journey?”

“We generally think ten to fifteen years.”

“And training starts when?”

“As soon as the subject reaches full adulthood.”

“So, for a human, about 18-20 years of age.”

“That sounds about right.”

“And what is the lifespan of Borborygmi?”

“Hmm. I see your point. Kala, do you have any thoughts?”

“Not immediately, Jinnis,” Kala said, “Let me consult with… better yet, I’ll get our senior training manager, Kitara Navilli, to join us here. It’ll know what can be done.”

“There is a solution,” another voice in everyone’s heads announced, “but I’m not sure they’ll like it.”

“Try us,” the chief said.

“I’ve looked at your physiology, and at these rather ingenious suits you wear to support your fragile structures in this high gravity.”

“And?”

“And I think you could use them as a basis for a similar support outfit for Mass Transport.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“The problem is the materials they’re made from. It’s just not suitable for our purposes. The suits would need to be much more rigid.”

Tarquin understood where the Jinthate was going. At least, he thought he did. “You mean like a suit of armour like the Knights wore in the Middle Ages?”

“No.”

It seemed that Tarquin didn’t understand what the Jinthate was trying to explain. How unusual.

“In fact, in a way you are rather close, except you need to think more like a cross between a vacuum suit for wear in open space and a deep-sea diving suit. It needs to deal with extreme pressures, internal and external, and incredibly high radiation. It also needs to be flexible enough for the wearer to be able to get around.”

“How on Earth can we manufacture something like that?” Andy asked, “We’ve nothing like it on the planet. Never had a need to.”

Tarquin was thinking again. “What if we got the chaps who make our EVA suits to make one big enough for one of our friends. Wouldn’t that be a start?”

“For a space-walk, yes,” Kitara observed, “but will it hold up against the forces involved in the matter-to-energy-conversion machine you’ll need to build? And, by the way, when you design your mass-to-energy-converter, you’ll need to take account of local gravity, as well as ambient atmospheric pressure and density, and the size and mass of objects you’ll be wanting to convert; but we’ll look at all that later. For the time being, we need to think very carefully about the design of the suit for your large, thin friends.”

“It all seems jolly complicated, if you ask me,” Tarquin complained, “surely there’s an easier way, some kind of workaround.”

It was difficult to tell just by looking, but Kala Kodash gave off an aura that suggested it was, well, angry is probably the best word. It looked straight at Tarquin and said, “Son, we live in a universe that is governed by laws, physical laws. The relationships between matter and energy, within each dimension, are covered by a large and complex body of rules. The relationships between the laws that govern each dimension, which, incidentally, are not all the same, and the laws that exist in the gaps between dimensions, are so incredibly difficult that the brightest and best of our scientists, and I include myself in that number, and Kitara Navilli, undergo post-graduate and post-post-graduate studies that take twenty of your years and make your doctorates look, by comparison, like kindergarten stuff. You believe, and not entirely without cause, that your scientists are approaching a full understanding of how the universe works. They have, over the years, discovered, named and formalised a number of laws, all of which have one thing in common—”

“They’re wrong?” Tarquin offered.

“No, young human. They’re not wrong – well, not completely wrong, and not all of them, anyway. What they are is incomplete. Look at gravity. Way, way back, one of your physicists defined gravity, yes?”

“That was Sir Isaac Newton. Brilliant man. Discovered a number of theories. Quite a lot of them went on to become laws – fixed, immutable, and—”

“And incomplete. More recent discoveries on your planet have shown Newton’s theories to be deficient. As have most of the theories put forward by one of your greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein. They are right, but they don’t go far enough. They explain and predict behaviour in very large systems, but don’t apply at the quantum level.”

Meredith was becoming quite indignant at this disparagement of Earth’s finest minds. “That,” she said emphatically, “is why we have been investing a lot of time and energy – yes, and money, too – trying to track down a definitive unified field theory; a theory of everything, if you will; a single formula, as simple as E=MC², that will embrace the universe.”

“Doesn’t exist,” Kala said.

“What?” Meredith asked. “Our best brains are convinced that it must exist, and they can’t all be wrong, surely.”

“How long ago was it, Vice Admiral, that the best brains on your planet believed that the Earth was flat? How many years have passed since someone who actually understood planetary relationships was killed for disputing that your star, its planets and every other body in space, were in fixed orbits around your planet?”

“That was all ages ago,” Meredith said. “We’ve come on a long way since then.”

“It was no more than five hundred years ago as you count time. A blink of an eye, to use one of your sayings.”

“But look how far we’ve come in that time.”

Chief Marshgass felt that he had to defend his civilisation, at the same time bringing some context. “Meredith,” he said, “you speak with pride of your civilisation and its achievements in five hundred years, and rightly so. But remember this. My team landed on your moon before this man was killed for preaching that your planet revolves around its star, not the other way around. My forebears were proficient in inter-stellar flight twenty-three thousand years before that (or more, or less, because of the way the universe expands). Yours is a very young civilisation. That its rate of advancement is remarkable is beyond question, but you are only at the beginning of a very long road; a road that is badly signposted, if it is marked at all; a road that is on no map, and that will certainly allow you to branch off into many, many blind alleys. My advice? Accept the counsel of our friends from Grintsk. And consider this: when you go to your universities, you soon come to realise that the professors don’t know everything. This is good. This is true. It is also true, though, that they know a great deal more than you do. So it is with the Jinthae. They will, I hope, be the first to admit that they don’t have all the answers. However, they have discovered a lot more of the answers than you have; and the most important thing? They know where to look for the rest. Tell me I’m not right, Jinnis Keet.”

“You’re not right,” Jinnis answered, “not entirely, anyway. We don’t know where to look for all the answers we haven’t yet found. A lot of them, yes. But not all of them, not by any means. Let me give you an example. After many tens of thousands of years looking, we still have no idea how or why, against all scientific thought, against all logic and against all the evidence, belief in a supernatural creator-being who still influences if not controls at least some aspects of our daily lives is still prevalent, to the point of being pandemic.”

“You will never find that answer, my friend,” Patsy said, “for does not every religion say that you can’t find faith by looking for it? That faith requires believing without or even against the evidence of your own eyes?”

“And yet many do…”

“And many,” Patsy added, “not only live their lives according to the tenets of their faith but will also attest to a personal experience at the root of it.”

“I didn’t know you were religious,” Meredith said.

“I’m not. But, to quote one of your favourite sayings, Ma’am, I know stuff.”

“So,” Kala asked, “where does this leave us?”

Norma the Nameless raised her hand so high it almost disappeared into the clouds. “The material we were looking for to stop the leakages from FLATUS and your thing. Could that perhaps be suitable for this suit they’re talking about?”

“Send me what you have,” Kitara said. “I’ll have our experts analyse it.”