Category: FLATUS

FLATUS 5.3

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 five, scene three

The two teams of mathematicians worked continuously for almost two months, checking and verifying the Jinthae calculations. By agreement with Andy, Artivon and Tarquin, and with the full support of both Meredith and Chief Marshgass III, the two teams remained entirely separate until they had both reached a conclusion. As soon as both teams had signalled that they had a result they exchanged data and verified each other’s findings, following which a meeting was convened. It had been decided in advance that both results would be kept secret, only to be revealed at the final joint meeting. At this time, the engineering and scientific teams, as well as the relevant commanders, would be appraised of the situation and of the mathematicians’ findings.

Sadly, Artivon’s father, Flatulon, died during the course of the work. This resulted in Artivon being elevated to the positions of Explorer Grade 3 and Head Anemologist, as well as Project Manager. The death of their leader was kept from the Borborygmi working on the project until after the mathematicians had delivered their verdict.

The day for the big meeting came. The large assembly hall in Swindon had already been cleared of its contents in preparation for either shipping to the new facility to be built on the moon or for putting into long-term storage, depending on the outcome of the investigations. Being empty, the hall was an ideal place to hold the meeting, which would be attended by equal numbers of humans and Borborygmi – about one hundred of each.

At the top table sat, on the high chairs, Meredith, Joan, Andy and Tarquin; on the lower chairs, Chief Marshgass III, his ADC, Aitchtoo’ess and Artivon. A number of those present queried the two empty seats. In fact, the higher one had been reserved for Vice Admiral Alasdair “Reggie” Farquharson, who had refused his invitation with the words, “I can’t abide those bloody aliens”, an attitude which probably deserved its own -ism spanning, as it did, speciesism, racism, ageism an sizeism. The lower one was reserved for Flatulon Grumpblast, who had buggered up everyone’s plans by choosing a most inopportune time to die.

As Human/Borborygmi Liaison Officer, Commander Tarquin Stuart-Lane opened the proceedings.

“Thank you all for coming. Ahm. I’ll bet you’re all as jolly excited as I am to find out what these incredibly clever mathedematical chappies managed to find from the data they were given by the strange little fellow who came to see us. I have to tell you, I looked at it and it might as well have been written in a foreign language. All signs, symbols and numbers. How these chaps get anything from it is beyond me. But they did, clever blighters, and they’re going to tell us all about it now. Before they start, I have to tell you that Reggie, that’s Vice Admiral Farquharson to you lot, wanted to come, but—”

“He had a long-standing prior commitment—” Meredith interrupted.

“Did he?” Tarquin asked, “I thought he—”

“Yes, he did,” Meredith said, “Let’s get on to the other empty seat, shall we?”

“Yah. That seat was for Flatulon. We’ll talk about him later.”

“Get on with it,” Meredith hissed.

“Right. Okay. Yah.” Tarquin gazed down at the paper in front of him and read from it. “The teams of mathema… mathe… the teams have looked at the data and, after many, many hours…” He looked up. “A lot of long hours, folks. These beautiful people really worked hard for you, and they’ve got you a result. A beautiful result. We should all be proud of them.”

“TARQUIN!”

“Yah. After many hours, they have reached a result on which they both agree. Andy will tell you what it is.” Tarquin sat down again, relieved to have got that over with. Andy and Artivon stood.

“I could spend hours talking you through the evidence behind the conclusion reached by our mathematicians…”

“But that’s what we pay them for. They do the hard sums…” Artivon said.

Andy continued, “so the rest of us don’t have to. They apply their considerable skills and experience…”

“…to solve problems that are too difficult for us even to contemplate.”

“We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never hope to repay…”

“…particularly because, without their enormous efforts, we may have gone down a path…”

“…a path that may have led to a result none of us could live with.”

“Literally.”

Meredith stood and announced “It now falls to me, as overall commander of Project Prodigialis and its daughter projects, FLATUS and Ubiquitron, to announce the findings of the two teams of mathematicians. Each team has conducted its own independent investigation of the Jinthae calculations, then submitted their findings to the other team for verification. I am happy to announce that the two teams are of one mind; they are in full agreement one with the other.”

There was a rising tide of muttering in the room. Meredith sat back down and waited for it to subside. It took a while. Once the room had settled again, she rose to her feet.

“I am less happy to have to tell you what the result of the calculations is. There is now no doubt in our minds…”

More mutterings.

“…and we have submitted the result to some of the best mathematicians and theoretical physicists in eight countries…”

A great deal of heckling followed, the general gist of which was a request either to name the countries or at least to confirm that it was only countries that were feeding into the projects – which means all except one.

“Those countries do not include any state that does not contribute materials, personnel or funding to our project. The global consensus is now fixed. The dangers inherent in this project are such as to render it impossible for us to proceed.”

“A couple of questions, please?” said a voice from the front row, identified as one of the senior physicists from the Borborygmi team.

“Go ahead, please,” Meredith responded.

“One: What about the project on the planet Borbor?”

“I can answer that,” Chief Marshgass III said. “I have seen confirmation that their project has been abandoned.”

“Thank you, Chief. My second question is this: What assurance do we have, can we have, that one of these projects won’t be resurrected at a later date and the universe once again plunged into potential danger?”

“We can’t know that for sure,” Merry said, “Knowledge like this can’t be unlearned, but an understanding of the results of utilising this kind of knowledge can be passed down from generation to generation. I suppose very much like the nations here on Earth, even though many possess nuclear weapons, have an understanding that they can never be used. I believe; I have to believe, that intelligent races, wherever they are in the universe, once aware of the dangers to themselves and all life, will never be so reckless, so foolish as to start again what we have just stopped. To that end, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations will be submitting to that body a binding resolution that will prohibit all nations from attempting to develop a device of this nature.”

There arose from the audience a spontaneous outburst of applause, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Robert Mugabe was sacked as President of Zimbabwe. Meredith sat down, satisfied that she had done her job, no matter how much it had pained her to do it.

The Borborygmus from the science team stood.

“One more question?”

“Go ahead.”

“We’re all unemployed now. What are we to do with ourselves?”

Chief Marshgass III answered, “Firstly, we the Borborygmi of the Sol 3a exploration team, will return to our ancestral home on the moon. I think we’ve all had enough of trying to adapt to this high-gravity planet. We have lost our Head Anemologist, Flatulon Grumpblast. He completed his innings, as they say here, during the calculations. We shall celebrate his passing in the traditional way, and feast to his son, Artivon, who has already taken on all his father’s duties and responsibilities. After that, I shall be in negotiation with Rear Admiral Winstanley and a being called Jinnis Keet from the planet Grintsk. It was this being who gave us the information needed to reach the momentous decision we have just reported, and it is with that being’s race that we shall engage in an exchange of technologies. There will be another project. We Borborygmi will contribute to another great endeavour.”

There was uproar among the Borborygmi gathered in the hall.

When it died down, Chief Marshgass III spoke again. “At the moment, though, I have absolutely no idea what that endeavour will be.” He turned to Artivon and whispered, “That should shut them up for a while.”

FLATUS 5.2

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 five, scene two

The information that Jinnis Keet had promised arrived by courier the next day.

“This is going to be a bit of job for someone,” Meredith said to Joan and Patsy as they were enjoying their morning coffee with a plate of the most delicious apricot Danish pastries either of the senior officers could ever remember sinking their artificially whitened teeth into.

“How so?” Joan asked, “It’s only one memory stick—”

“Containing more than three terabytes of data,” Meredith added, “My mind is performing seemingly impossible aerobatics just parsing the directory structure.”

“You do know, don’t you,” Patsy said, “that what you’re saying means nothing to me.”

“Let me explain it to you,” Meredith said, … No. I’m sorry. I can’t go there. It’s all too rude, and most definitely the sort of thing that should be private between two… oops… three consenting adults. Do you know, there are some jurisdictions where I could be brought up before a magistrate (no, not vomited, let’s just call it taken to court) on charges of, if not public indecency, at least indecent intent. So let’s just leave it that, between them, Meredith and Joan gave Patsy an in-depth, detailed explanation of the intricacies of interstellar travel. Patsy then showed the two senior officers what she knew. By the time they were once again presentable and ready to carry on with their duties, everyone’s thirst for knowledge had been fully satisfied.

Meredith called Andy into her office.

“Andy, here’s the data that Jinnis Keet promised.”

“Are you okay, Ma’am?” Andy asked.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, you sound out of breath, as though you’d just run a marathon.”

“It’s tiring work, commanding this crew,” she said. Andy shrugged, then looked at the item Meredith had just given him.

“Is that it? Just one stick?”

“Three terabytes of data,” Patsy said – as if she had any idea what the words meant.

“Wow,” Andy said.

“I know,” Patsy replied.

“When you’ve finished,” Meredith interrupted, “can you make three copies of the stick, please? One for me, for archiving, one for your team of mathematicians and one for the Borborygmi team.”

“And the original?”

“Upload its contents to the RSR cloud, alongside the data drawn from the original craft.”

“Okay, Ma’am.”

“Thanks, Andy. Dismissed.”

Once Andy had left, Joan asked Meredith whether she was comfortable losing physical control of what was, at that time, the only copy of the data.

“I didn’t come up the river on the last banana boat, Joan,” she said, “One of the reasons it took me so long to examine the directory structure when I had it in my machine was because the Google sync software was copying its contents to my personal space in Google’s cloud. Anything I plug in any of my computers is automatically backed up there.”

“Three terabytes? Can you have that much?”

“I pay Google a lot of money for unlimited storage. Or at least the regiment does, on my behalf.”

“Meredith…” Patsy said in what was, for her, not a bad impression of coquettish, “when you say everything, does that mean literally everything?”

“Duh… yes.”

“Including photos and movies?”

“Of course.”

“Can I have your password, please?”

“Let me think about that carefully. Right, I’ve thought about it.”

“And?”

“No.”

“Spoilsport.”

Meredith pointed to the insignia of her rank.

“I hate it when you do that,” Patsy said, pouting.

Meredith again pointed to the insignia of her rank and raised her eyebrows.

“I hate it when you do that, Ma’am,” Patsy said, her manner switched from coquettish to apologetic.

“Don’t you have duties, Lieutenant?” Meredith asked.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Patsy mumbled in reply.

“Dismissed.”

Turning to Joan, Meredith said in an exasperated voice, “I don’t know why I put up with that girl.”

“Oh, I do,” Joan replied, her tone suggestive and sultry.

“Yes. So do I,” Meredith said with calm resignation, “Call her back, will you?”

FLATUS 5.1

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 five, scene one

The next morning, things were back to what, at least temporarily, passed for normal. The scientists in the working group were pushing on with the business of trying to find or create a material that could do the job of insulation while the engineers were investigating ways that a solution could be found using existing materials. The main area of their concentration was the design of the engine components themselves, to see if there was something in them that could be causing or permitting the leakage.

When Meredith and Joan entered, the room hushed and everyone stood smartly to attention.

No, they didn’t! Meredith would have liked that, but she knew that the extent to which she was able to impose Regimental military discipline on this group of human and Borborygmi civilians was only marginally more limited than the fabled King Canute’s ability to control the incoming tide.

One or two of the human team members looked up and briefly nodded, but otherwise, their arrival passed apparently unnoticed.

Patsy, who arrived with the two senior officers, approached an engineer, smiled sweetly, said, “May I?” and calmly took a spanner out of his hand. She then selected a suitable metal part, which she proceeded to bash twice with the spanner, and called out, “Quiet everybody. The Rear Admiral has something to say, and she will be heard.” She smiled sweetly towards Meredith and Joan, her sweet smile, as always, hiding an almost frightening amount of decided unsweetness.

“Thank you, Subaltern,” Meredith said then, raising her volume and addressing the room, she said, “We, Commodore Weinberg, Commodore Smithson and I, have received contact from an ambassador from another civilisation…”

A rising hubbub began among the Borborygmi, who had been convinced that theirs was the only other space-going planet in the universe. Their mutterings seemed to suggest that they wanted to know who these upstarts are to send emissaries to a system they had only recently started to colonise.

“This representative has come from a civilisation that claims to have abandoned the construction of a drive such as that we are working on, due to the dangers they believe are inherent in its use. We have satisfied ourselves that the ambassador is who he claims to be and that he is, indeed, a traveller from a planet twenty-three light-years distant. As to his claims about our drives, I have asked him and he has agreed to give us a copy of the data that convinced them of the alleged dangers. That data will be placed before our mathematicians, human and Borborygmi, and we will be guided by their advice. In the meantime, the hold on development stands, but I want you to continue investigating the leakage and insulation issues so that we won’t be further delayed, should we finally decide to go ahead with development and construction.”

“What’s the danger?” Tarquin asked, “It seems perfectly safe to me.”

“Except for the leaks,” Joan said.

“Yah, obviously, except for the leaks, but we’ll soon fix that, eh, chaps?”

“The danger,” Andy explained, “is that if we are able to produce a vehicle that has the ability to simultaneously occupy every point in the known universe, it will of necessity share space with other solid objects.”

“Such as?” Tarquin asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Andy replied, his voice carrying more than a hint of sarcasm, “things like planets, stars or, if both groups develop one, the other craft.”

Artivon spoke for all his group, when he asked, “What of the craft that our cousins on Borbor are developing? That could confuse things even more.”

“An emissary from the planet Grintsk—”

“Where’s that?” Tarquin asked.

“You were there, Tarquin, weren’t you listening? Grintsk is the planet our visitor came from, twenty-three light-years away. Do try to keep up,” Meredith said, “Carry on, Commodore.”

“Thank you, Rear Admiral,” Andy said, then resumed, “An emissary from the planet Grintsk has gone to Borbor with the same message that Jinnis Keet…” he looked pointedly at Tarquin and carried on, “that’s our alien’s name; the same message he brought to us.”

“What is that other alien called?” Tarquin asked.

“Does that matter?”

“It does to me.”

“Why?”

“I think it’s important to give people names. It makes it more personal and gives them some dignity. It makes them matter, it—”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Tarquin. If you had been paying attention at the meeting, you would have heard the ambassador tell us, the other alien is called Eaten Messe. Happy now?”

“Eton Mess? That’s a pudding, not a name!”

“Not Eton Mess, idiot. Eaten Messe.”

“Still sounds like a pudding to me. So what do these aliens look like? Are they tall and thin, like the Borborygmi?”

“Tarquin, for pity’s sake. You were there. You saw the ambassador, you heard what he had to say. Why are you asking all these questions?”

“On behalf of those who weren’t there, obviously.”

“And you don’t think they’re capable of asking questions?”

“They may not know what to ask.”

“Lord, give me strength,” Joan said, “these aliens are not ‘tall and thin, like the Borborygmi’, as you so eloquently put it. Quite the opposite. Have you ever read any Billy Bunter stories?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Well, I suggest you toddle off and read some. They’re jolly good fun and the illustrations of Billy are very similar to what the Jinthae look like.”

“The what?”

“The Jinthae. They are the dominant life form on Grintsk.”

“Why aren’t they called Grintskians or something?”

“I expect, Tarquin, that they wonder why we are called human, not Earthlings.”

“That’s easy, even I know that. We’re not called Earthlings because we’re called humans.”

“Do you know, Tarquin, I would never have thought of that. Perhaps I’ve been over-thinking things for all these years,” Meredith said.

“Even so,” Tarquin said, “You’re still—”

“I”m still what, Tarquin?”

“Phwoaaaar,” he replied.

“I’ve a good mind to charge you, Commander,” Meredith said angrily.

“How much?”

“What do you mean, how much?”

“How much are you going to charge me, and what do I get for it?” Tarquin responded, looking at his commanding officer in a most un-military manner.

“Not charge you like that, idiot.”

“Then how? Like a charging bull?”

“You know very well what I mean. One more remark like that and I’ll have you stripped of your rank.”

Tarquin started to giggle.

“What are you giggling about?” Meredith asked.

“You said you’d strip me, hee hee.”

“And I meant it!”

“Ding Dong,” he said, removing his jacket.

“What are you doing?”

“Saving you the trouble, Merry,” he said with a wink.

“Patsy,” Meredith called to her steward, “do you still have that spanner?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Can you do me a favour?”

“Ooh, anytime.”

“Lord preserve me from the Viagra generation. Just hit Tarquin over the head with it, will you?”

“How hard? Same as I did in the car on the way home?” Patsy asked, a wicked leer spreading across her face. That, at least, goes some way to explaining Tarquin’s precipitous descent from normality for most humans to normality for Tarquin.

“Very.”

And she did, although I get the impression that it was closer to extremely than very. Funnily enough, Tarquin got the impression, too; the impression of a twenty-four-millimetre ring spanner on the back of his cranium. Tarquin fell to the ground, eliciting an audible gasp from everyone else in the room. There was also in the air a reinforced, if not new-found respect for the Rear Admiral – oh yes, and for her steward.

“Get up, Tarquin,” Meredith said.

He sprung up and stood smartly at attention.

“How are you feeling, Commander?”

“Never better, Ma’am,” he replied formally.

“What are your duties this afternoon?”

“Ma’am, with your permission, I need to coordinate the efforts of the human and Borborygmi members of the joint working party.”

“To what end?”

“To be sure we’re ready with the upgraded insulation against temporal and physical anomaly leaks, should we receive the go-ahead to develop the vehicle, Ma’am.”

“And who do you report to?”

“Why, to Commodore Weinberg, Ma’am.”

“And what do you think of her?”

“A fine officer, Ma’am. It’s a privilege to serve under her.”

“And what do you think of me?”

“Don’t know what you mean, Ma’am.”

“When you picture me in your mind, what do you think?”

“Oh. Yah. Phwoarrr, Ma’am.”

“Patsy.”

“Yeah?”

“One more, please, then put him to bed in his quarters.”

“Not my type, Admiral,” Patsy said.

“I said put him to bed, Patsy, not take him.”

“Okay, sure.”

Meredith raised her eyebrows towards her steward.

“…Ma’am,” Patsy said, respectfully, and established fresh contact between the engineer’s spanner and the Commander’s cranium.

Patsy picked Tarquin’s lifeless form from the floor and carried him out of the area and through to his room, where she threw him onto his bed before returning to the meeting.

“Now,” Meredith said, “where were we? Oh, yes. The investigations must continue in case we are able to proceed. In the meantime, as soon as Commodore Smithson has the information from the alien, we’ll pass it around both sets of mathematicians, as well as making a set available for everyone here. I’d like as many eyes on it as we can muster.”

“Can I have a word alone with you, when we’re finished?” Artivon asked.

“I’m finished,” Meredith replied, “Andy and Joan, can I leave you to wrap it up?”

“Of course,” the two Commodores agreed.

“Arty, walk with me,” Meredith said, marching quickly to the side office. Of course, quickly for someone with a height of one point four metres is significantly less so for one of more than twice that height, so Artivon kind of marched with the pace and rhythm of a pall-bearer. Inside the office, the two sat at the specially-made desk that allowed them to use differently-sized chairs such as to put their heads at approximately the same level. That way, no one gets to feel small. I suppose the Rear Admiral’s seat could have had another cushion on it to raise her head above that of her interlocutor, to reinforce her position of power and authority, but hey-ho, there wasn’t another cushion, so what’re you going to do?

“What’s your problem, Arty?” Meredith asked.

“We’ve been on your planet for some months now, and we’re still having to wear these awkward inflatable splint things to support our bone structures. I’m afraid it’s looking like we may have been over-optimistic about our ability to adapt to the gravity here. Many of us are having increasing trouble, and I think I’m starting to get phantom pains in bones I don’t even have.”

“What are you saying, Arty?”

“I’m saying we may need to move our work area back to your moon.”

“That’s it!” Meredith said, excitedly.

“Excuse me?”

“If we relocate the facilities to the moon, we won’t have any problems with the anomalies. Well, we will, but they’ll be well away from other people. How long will it take you to finish the investigations for insulating materials?”

“It’s impossible to say. If we get a breakthrough, it could be as little as a matter of weeks. If not, it could take years.”

“Either way, we should have the results of the analysis of the Jinthae data within a couple of weeks. I would expect to be in a position to give a go or stop command
within a month from now. If it’s go, we move all production to a new facility we’ll construct on the moon – your guys can help with that, you have experience building in the conditions there. If it’s stop, there’s an alternative long-term project we can all get involved in.”