Category: GTI

GTI 3.1

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 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 three, scene one

Returning to the moon on the Sir Prijs, Patsy went immediately to her old domain, the galley, and started training the current crop of chefs, sous-chefs and pastry chefs with a view to making them almost, though not quite one hundred per cent as good as she is. Her aim, she explained earlier to Andrea, was to make sure that the quality of produce the crew enjoyed was high enough for her not to be ashamed of the galley crew, but not so high that she would cease to be held in the highest esteem and awe.

Andrea, meantime, spent more time with Jason Strangename, examining and becoming familiar with the theory and practicalities of the SEP generator. During a tea-break, Jason asked Andrea if she’d heard anything more about his possible promotion and reassignment.

“Not really,” she said, “last time I spoke with the admiral, she said that she had a job in mind for you, but I couldn’t draw her on what it was.”

“Not even a hint?”

“No. All I know is that you will lose your command of the Sir Prijs. Are you okay with that?”

“I should say. I didn’t join the Regiment to run a shuttle. If I’d wanted to do that, I’d have stayed on Earth and become a mass transit driver.”

“I take your point, Jason. We’ll both just have to wait and see what the admiral has in mind. One question, though: what about Postlethwaite?”

“SEP, Ma’am.”

“Steady on old chap! That’s a bit excessive, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“You plan to feed him into the energy shield?”

“No, Ma’am. The original SEP field, as envisaged by Doug Adams, wasn’t Shielded Energy Porosity, it was Somebody Else’s Problem.”

“And that’s what Postlethwaite will be…”

“Precisely, Ma’am. Although, in fairness to my successor, getting him transferred off this ship would be more of a kindness.”

“To your successor, if not to Postlethwaite himself.”

“Quite so, Commodore.”

“We’ll talk more on the return journey, Jason,” Andrea said, rising from her comfy chair and heading out of the Captain’s ready room.

The Sir Prijs having reached the transit coordinates, Andrea and Patsy boarded the SOPT and travelled down to the Moon.

They experienced an unexpected situation when trying to land on the SOPT’s allocated spot – the entire area was packed out with borborygmi – except for a small patch in the centre of the crowd that seemed to be occupied by a solitary human.

“Oh, God,” Patsy said, “what’s Tarquin done now?”

“Let’s find out, shall we?” Andrea replied, making a rapid descent to the landing pad, and causing a large number of borborygmi to make a hasty relocation to a less contentious space.

Tarquin came rushing up as the two women were climbing out of the transport.

“Thank goodness you’re back,” he exclaimed.

Andrea looked around and sensed the mood of the gathered crowd. Whatever it was, friendly wasn’t an accurate descriptor to use for it. She moved towards Tarquin and rested her hand … well, you don’t need to know exactly where she rested it, but I believe that if I tell you the effect it had, you’ll guess.

Tarquin fainted.

“Do you want to carry him in, Pats?” she asked, “It looks like the borborygmi aren’t too well disposed towards him just at the moment, and I don’t want to risk him being hurt.”

“Not until we’ve found out what this is all about, anyway, eh?”

“Precisely.”

Patsy picked Tarquin up from the ground and put him into a fireman’s lift to carry him through to the humans’ work area.

“Who is the senior Borborygmus here?” Andrea asked.

“I suppose I am,” Artivon said from the back of the crowd.

“No, that’d be me.” Andrea didn’t recognise the voice.

“And you are?”

“I most certainly am,” he replied, “Malodor Skatole, Chief of Staff to Chief Borborygmus Marshgass IV.”

“You’d better come with me, then, please. And you, Arty.”

“I think you’ll find that, as the Chief’s right-hand man, I deserve more respect than to be ordered around by a human.” The look on Arty’s face was one of pure embarrassment.

“And I think you’ll find,” Patsy said, making small movements with her hands, “that as chief representative not only of the Royal Space Regiment but also of the Earth authorities who, you may recall, are funding everything you are doing here, Commodore Smithson has the authority to make that request and to expect you to carry it out.”

“You’re right,” Maladore Skatole said in a tone of utter resignation, “I apologise.”

“Way to go, Patsy,” Andrea said quietly.

“Two-nil,” Patsy replied.

“Not with you.”

“I’ll explain one day.”

Inside their area, Patsy administered smelling salts to Tarquin while the two borborygmi waited in the ante-room.

“Oh, Andy,” Tarquin said.

“That’s Commodore Smithson to you, Captain,” Andrea said sternly. Tarquin started to cry. “Pull yourself together, man!”

“Yes, Ma’am. Sorry, Ma—”

Tarquin reeled from the hefty thwack across the face that he knew he deserved and which, by virtue of enhanced post-hypnotic suggestion, he truly believed he’d received.

“Report!” Andrea bellowed.

“What?”

“I leave you here, unsupervised, for four days, and come back to find the borborygmi in open revolt – and you at the centre of it. You’re supposed to be Human/Borborygmi Liaison; now tell me: what the hell has happened here?”

“It’s a long story,” Tarquin stammered.

“Give me the executive summary.”

“Ma’am?”

“The short version, idiot.”

“They wouldn’t accept my authority.”

“I’m not surprised. You don’t have any. What were you trying to do?”

“I just went into their labs to inspect them—”

“To what?”

“Inspect them. Listen: my Daddy had lots of chaps from other parts working for him, and he always made it clear how I should treat them.”

“And that is?”

“Iron fist. Not kid gloves.”

“So you went in there like a slave-owner and started lording it over them? I’m not surprised they objected. Look; I’m going to hate myself for doing this, but you will be confined to quarters for the rest of this week. When Patsy returns to Earth, you will go with her—”

“But—”

“But nothing. You will return with her and you will receive appropriate re-training. You will remain on-planet until I see fit to call you back. Patsy, can you escort Captain Stuart-Lane to his quarters, please?”

“My pleasure, Ma’am.”

Accompanied by what sounded like the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah rendered on steel drums, Patsy frog-marched Tarquin through the ante-room and across the complex to his quarters where she deposited him. She then set a security over-ride code on his door, effectively locking him in.

On her return, she found Andrea speaking calmly with the two borborygmi.

“Ma’am?” she asked.

“Stupid boy. Believing he’d been left in charge, he tried to impress me by playing the big I am. Naturally enough, the guys here weren’t impressed. I think I’ve stopped them from lynching him, though.”

“I think we understand,” the Chief’s man said, “that he wasn’t being evil, just stupid.”

“I prefer misguided,” Andrea said.

“Either way, we’ll be happy to have him back here after a period of … re-education. We could have a lot worse – he is mostly a harmless idiot, and he does have his uses.”

“Sometimes,” Andrea offered.

“Yes, sometimes,” the borborygmus agreed.

“Now, before you go,” Andrea said, signalling that she expected them to go, “can you book Patsy in for a refresher course in EPHS, please?”

“But she’s already beyond most of us,” Artivon Grumpblast said.

“I know, but we have a job for her that will require the highest level of proficiency that she can attain.”

“Can we ask what it is?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you any details. I can tell you that it involves the benign persuasion of a large group of people around to our way of thinking.”

“Benign to whom? To them?”

“Heavens, no. Benign to us. Mostly harmless to them. It’s about calming a developing situation and making sure it doesn’t escalate.”

“So more like Jedi mind tricks than actual persuasion, then?”

“Look. If we don’t do this, the future of this project could well be in grave doubt.”

“Okay. Nine o’clock tomorrow morning okay?” Arty said to Patsy.

“Whose time?”

“Yours.”

“Okay.”

GTI 2.5

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 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 two, scene five

Training the human scientists, mathematics and engineers in the fundamentals of inter-gap travel took a day longer than they had planned. Willi had finished with the borborygmi on schedule, a day earlier and it came down to join its sibling to give a final push. Many of the attendees wanted to know how it was that their moon-based colleagues completed their training on time. They were convinced that the timetable was unrealistically ambitious, given the sheer amount of information they needed to absorb, and would have preferred five or even six full days to cover everything fully.

Of course, the Jinthae were loath to suggest that, perhaps, the borborygmi, as a species, were brighter than humans, but that was the truth of it. Channelling Jinnis Keet’s diplomatic skills, Willi Navilli simply pointed out that the borborygmi are genetically predisposed to the more rapid acquisition of knowledge, as they only have one sixth of the lifespan that the human race typically enjoys.

“That would make sense,” Andrea offered, “I did notice that my borborygmi contact, who is only eight years old by our reckoning, has already surpassed me in some fields – and I’m said to be quite quick.”

“And what did you think of the pace of the course,” Willi asked.

“With the ongoing support we’ve been promised, I think it was probably about right—”

“The original or the extended?”

“The original plan would have been okay, except that a number of our people wanted to delve into some of the concepts in greater detail than the plan envisaged. As it is, I wouldn’t have liked to try to do it in less than the full four days.”

“And would you have liked longer?”

“In the absence of the support commitment, yes; although I think there are some who would have liked longer anyway, to give them the freedom to explore concepts away from the syllabus.”

Addressing the entire body, Kitara said to everyone present, “In that case, people, my sibling and I will leave you now. You each have an expanded information pack geared to your particular discipline and needs; Willi and I, in fact, the entire technical team, are at your disposal should the orbiting devices be unable to give the answer to any question you have. For the sake of good order, any requests for help should be passed through Vice Admiral Winstanley’s office, via Commodore Smithson or your team leader – the head of mathematics, the head of science or the head of engineering. The borborygmi have similar instructions.”

“Please accept our thanks for your work here, Kitara and Willi,” Andrea said, “and we wish you a safe journey back to Grintsk.”

“No need, Commodore. Gap Travel is foolproof.”

“You haven’t worked with humans for very long, have you? We live by Murphy’s Law.”

“We don’t know that one. I thought we’d examined all your theories and laws.”

“Murphy’s law is the simplest of all laws, and it is both universally applicable and immutable.”

“What is its main tenet?”

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

“I see. One of your jocular laws.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s related to entropy or, as the twentieth-century songwriter Paul Simon put it: everything put together sooner or later falls apart.”

“Unless it is managed and well-maintained.”

“Okay, Kitara, I’ll grant you that. Farewell until we meet again.”

“Farewell,” it said as the two travellers phased out of view.

GTI 2.4

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 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 two, scene four

What can I tell you about the training? It was training. The only difference between this course and the many courses all the attendees had sat through previously is that it wasn’t a human being directing the virtual pointer onto the display and saying what everyone could easily read on the slides and on the handouts they had all been given beforehand. For most of the participants, it was their first experience of a Jinthate and they were all – well, many of them, anyway – somewhat bemused by the experience of hearing a voice when not only could they not see lips moving, but when there were no lips to move.

At the end of the first session, as a testament to just how good the Borborygmi-designed translation devices are, two of the mathematicians, Oleg Bellicoski from the Russian group and Paolo Pugnacio from Italy argued about Kitara Navilli’s tutorial – not the content, but the presentation (and almost came to blows).

“How is it you could follow what this man was saying?” Oleg asked, “Can you understand Russian? He spoke in flawless Russian with no trace of an accent. In fact, his voice sounded, to me, very much like one of the lecturers that I admired and respected so deeply during my time at university.”

“Why would I need to understand your language?” Paolo replied, “She spoke in perfect Italian. When I closed my eyes, I saw the beautiful face of the first woman I truly loved.”

He,” Oleg emphasised, “he spoke Russian. His tones were both stentorian and authoritative”

“I fear you are mistaken, my friend, maybe even deluded. She spoke Italian with an accent from northern Abruzzo – my region and the region of my ancestors. Her voice was soft and seductive. How dare you suggest that my Gina speaks like a Cossack?”

“And how dare you suggest that my professor sounds like a… a… a woman?”

At that point, Kitara Navilli, who had overheard some of the developing discourse, intervened. “Let me settle your argument, please. There are differences between our species in the way we communicate. We Jinthae use something akin to what you call telepathy. We do not vocalise speech and we do not use words. I formulate thoughts in my head, my mind then sends the concepts and constructs of those thoughts as impulses to your primary auditory cortex. Your brain converts these impulses into language as though the sound had come through your ears. What you hear is in every respect the language and the voice that you expect to hear. It is not my voice. I don’t have a voice. You can reply in your own language. We have ears and we can hear and understand your spoken languages.”

“In that case,” Oleg said, “how do we know that what we are hearing is exactly what you want us to hear? Don’t things get lost in translation sometimes?”

“That’s a fair question,” the Jinthate replied, “but you are thinking in human terms. To explain: when you want to say something, you build pictures, concepts and constructs in your mind. Your speech centre then converts those thoughts into words using your preferred language. You then use air-based sound, which, incidentally is rather slow and range-limited, to communicate those words to another. The hearer’s auditory system then interprets your words and processes them into thought-patterns and the communication transaction is complete. Five steps: think, speak, transmit, hear, think. The method of communication we have evolved uses only three: think, transmit, think; and transmission is at the speed of light, not at the very much slower speed of sound. As to accuracy, having removed the two steps of conversion and interpretation, the risk of errors is dramatically reduced, if not eliminated. No Jinthate ever has to say anything like: that’s not what I meant.”

“Never?” Paolo asked.

“Never. And shall I tell you why?”

“Please.”

“It’s because you don’t receive my words, you receive my thoughts. There is, however, one possibility of error.”

“Which is?” Oleg asked.

“If I send you a concept you’ve never met before—”

“Such as some of those in this tutorial?”

“Precisely. Your mind has to match it to something it can handle. That can have unforeseen results. The skill in my job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“I don’t really get that,” Paolo said.

“Okay,” Kitara Navilli replied, “what if I send to you that I’ve just bought a nice new lummi car?”

“Lummi?”

“Oh, is that how you rendered it?”

“What is lummi?”

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. Is it a make, a colour, what?”

“That’s my point, Paolo. Your mind has nothing to hang on to that concept. Now, what if I tell you I’ve just bought a nice new white car with my people’s flag on the roof?”

“I see.”

“I’ll leave you with that thought,” Kitara Navilli said, moving on to another group.

“So,” Oleg said to Paolo, “whoever writes this stuff thinks that all Russians are Cossacks and all Italians are sex mad or at least incurable romantics. Talk about stereotyping!”

“I don’t know about you, but he’s got me nailed.”

“Maybe he’s a she.”

“I don’t think so, my friend. Look back over a few chapters. It doesn’t look to me like the sort of stuff a woman would write.”

“Doesn’t that make you guilty of stereotyping, too?”

“Maybe, but what’re you going to do?”

“True. So, tell me about this woman, the one whose voice you heard.”

“Listen, Oleg. We may be colleagues, working on the same job for the same boss, but that doesn’t automatically make us best buddies. There are still a lot of things I’m not ready to share with you.”

“And that’s one?”

“And that’s one.”

“Okay, keep it to yourself. I was just curious.”