CatastrophicFailure

Whispers of the Kraken (Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken)

919 posts in this topic

On Kerbin mosquitoes are a meter long?

In Shadows, Chadvey mentions they even impressed him.

Now just imagine the polar bears :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yeah - on CatastrophicFailure's version of Kerbin, the kerbals developed spaceflight as a way of escaping from the local wildlife once and for all. See also: RatSquirrelFish. :)

After finishing this next chapter, I've come to realize, you may be on to something there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 8: Starry Night

 

Valentina Kerman sat on an old driftwood log, on an empty gravel beach, before a roaring fire, kilometers from anywhere, with the stars spread out overhead like diamonds on the black felt of the sky, picking mosquito out of her teeth. They really weren't bad if you just knew how to cook them. Bit stringy though. She had prepared it with some wild onions and fresh kelp. The kelp was a nice surprise, she'd never had it before. Its salty fishiness complemented the mosquitoiness of the mosquito. Her pressure suit and flight clothes were hung up to dry next to the fire, and she could feel the chill in the air as the frost crept in. She didn't mind, the cold never bothered her anyway. You didn't last long in Kerberia if you didn't tolerate the cold.

Kerberia. Could she really be home? Well, not home home. That must be hundreds of kilometers to the east still. She wondered if it was even there anymore. It would have been abandoned and empty for years now. Ever since she left to join the Air Force. The cold crept in a little more.

So did something in the underbrush behind her. She tossed it a bit of mosquito. It chittered happily and scurried off. Until something else found it, chittered happily, and scurried off. Until something else found it, garrumphed loudly, and crashed off back into the forest. Such was life in the taiga. Eat or be eaten. Do what you must to survive, and never make noise. Her deda had always been emphatic about that.

Valentina sighed softly, and looked up at the stars spread out overhead. In the taiga, it always seemed that the colder it was, the clearer it was. Unless it was snowing. Or freezing fog. Or freezing rain. Or a blizzard. It was on nights like this back when she was just a kerbling, that she would sit with her deda on the sod roof of their little cabin, wrapped in layers of warm fur and his wiry, old arms, his perpetual old-kerb stubble scratching at her cheek, and he would name the stars for her.

"...that one is Harry, and that's Dave, and Bob, and that blinky one is Jeb..."

He could be a little senile at times. They would sit like that, sometimes for hours, until long after their faces had gone numb and that old scar over his eye had turned as white as the snow. She missed him now.

Never make noise noise, that's what he'd always said. Well, she had made plenty of noise today. The first of her people in space. However briefly. And it had been a disaster. Kerbin, from space, was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She'd never felt closer to home, like she belonged. She had to get back up there, she had to. And yet...

Valentina looked up at the pale, bright disc of the Mün. It seemed to be silently mocking her. Why had it terrified her so? Like a child. A child, afraid of the dark. She wasn't one to give in to such childishness. But for that one awful moment, she could have sworn that the Mün was... looking at her.

Like the creatures in the forest were looking at her now.

On cue, some unpleasant hairy thing with huge teeth and tiny eyes crept out of the underbrush towards her. It gnashed its terrible teeth and rolled its beady eyes and showed its terrible claws. Valentina gave it a look. It quickly retreated back towards the underbrush. Until some other unpleasant hairy thing with smaller teeth but bigger eyes found it.

The Mün. She supposed that would be the new goal, now that the Foreigners' lead had been narrowed. Today's flight was a major accomplishment, after all. Just had a minor mechanical defect, that's all. The Strannik series was the Union's most reliable launch vehicle, this must have been just a fluke. Dibella wouldn't be in any real danger... would she? The scaffolding Valentina saw the night before the launch must have knocked something loose. Just a simple mistake, nothing to be concerned about. In fact--

She blinked.

She was doing it again. She closed her tired eyes and rubbed the wide, flat spot between them. Fatigue? Exhaustion? Nerves? No. It was like there were competing whispers in her head, all vying for attention at once. And at the back of it all, formless and indistinct just below the murky surface, was a memory she couldn't grasp.

Valentina sighed again, and laid down on a pile of fresh spruce boughs nestled between the fire and the log. It blocked her view of the Mün, thankfully. She stared up at the stars. Growing up in the taiga, you learned to see the things just out of sight, hear the things just beyond hearing. To recognize the patterns. She could sense... something. But couldn't focus on it. That wasn't like her, and that, she realized, terrified her.

Never make noise, her deda had always said, do what you must to survive. And never, ever take sides.

He would never talk about it. Only a word here or there when groggy with tea and asked just so. But over the years, she'd pieced enough of it together. Her parents had done something awful. And one day Kerbs from the Imperium had come and taken them away.

With that thought lingering, Valentina drifted off into a troubled and restless sleep beneath the light of the full Mün. Occasionally through the night, strange furry things crept out out of the forest, but none of them dared come near.

***

She was awoken by a familiar low, rumbling whine in the distance. She quickly stoked the smoldering fire and threw some fresh spruce branches on, sending a thin pall of grey smoke into the clear morning sky. It wasn't long before the drone began getting louder. Ki-24 VTOL transports, called "Converters" for their unparalleled ability to convert fuel into noise. Sounded like half a dozen, standard search pattern. The hellacious noise sound grew and grew, drowning out the morning cacophony of the taiga and sending waves of terrified furry things scurrying and leaping, occasionally right into the mouth of some other furry thing, which was quite a surprise for both. Whoever the pilot was, he was flying extremely low.

Finally the airborne leviathan lumbered into sight over the treetops and then out over the water, perhaps a hundred meters up the beach from where Valentina was standing. Its wide tandem wings and stout, bumpy form gave it a bizarrely organic look that was unique among typically utilitarian Ussari aircraft. She waved. A red flare fired from a dorsal turret indicated she'd been spotted. The aircraft continued to circle, the others joining up one by one or flying low passes over the beach. Until yesterday the noise would have been staggering, but now Valentina thought nothing (sound) could compare to (the world became sound) that rocket blast.

The lead aircraft broke off, rounded back towards the beach, and then grew even louder as its weight transferred from the wings to its straining engines. In a bold maneuver, the pilot nosed in directly at the tree line, deftly setting down on the narrow strip of beach between the trees and surf while avoiding the scattered driftwood. Before the engines had even spooled down several figures were running towards her. The largest one quickly outpaced the others and in an instant Igor had scooped her up and was turning her over roughly in his huge hands.

"Are you well are you hurt where is wound I bring bandage have you eaten I bring food--?"

"Igor! Igor," Valentina protested, "I am fine! Put me down." He gently set her on he ground, looking slightly abashed. She smiled, "there is leftover mosquito by the fire." Igor's eyes lit up as he set off. She had only a moment's respite, though.

"TIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Dibella glomped into her, nearly knocking her down, the dangling oxium mask from the other's pilot helmet smacking her in the face and offering a teasing promise of breath as her lungs were squeezed, "I knew you were ok! IknewitIknewitIknewit!" Dibella bounced up and down to a percussive symphony of popping joints. Just when Valentina thought she would black out again, Tercella showed up and peeled the other Kerbal off.

"You scared the PЦTIЙ out of us," ("Language!") she said, her own hug enthusiastic but without the messy dislocations and crushed vertebrae, "when we lost the telemetry feed, we feared the worst."

"How did you find me so soon?" Valentina asked.

"Emergency beacon in the pod," said Dibella, "when we lost that signal too, the panic really started."

"Valentina."

PЦTIЙ.

"Sergei."

He wore his typical smug look, "so it seems you have survived after all." He looked around at the simple campsite and once-deserted beach, now swarming with more and more security and recovery crews fast-roping down from the other hovering Converters.

Shockingly, he held out his left hand, "nicely done." Valentina shook it awkwardly, the other one did indeed look like an eggplant.

"Comrade Pilot!" The four turned and quickly saluted the Political Officer, "or shall I say, Comrade Kerbonaut," then he held out a hand with a vice-like grip, "the Kommissar sends his regrets that he could not be here personally, but he is a busy Kerb. Yet it is a wondrous day! A glorious day! You have reclaimed our pride by being the first Ussari in space!"

"So... I did make it to space, then?"

He grinned widely beneath his huge mustache, "Indeed! You were tracked on radar to an altitude of just over 140 kilometers. Of course, we weren't sure at the time if you were actually alive or not or which track was you, but since you are here now, you must have survived, DД?"

"Now, where is the pod?" He asked, scanning around the area. Valentina sheepishly pointed to the sea. His grin faded, "oh... well, then... I shall have to modify my report..." he scratched his chin and mumbled to himself. Then he noticed the others staring at him, and clapped Valentina roughly on the shoulders. "This is a great day, a Great day!" He leaned in and whispered to her, "never speak of it again."

"AIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!" A security Kerb suddenly burst from the tree line nearby with his arms flailing wildly. Something that looked rather like a hairpiece with feet was making little barking noises and trying with surprising success to eat his rucksack, "get it off me, get it off meeeeeee!" Dibella took a step closer to Valentina, eyes wide.

The Political Officer sighed and put a hand to his face, "ah, a Political Officer's work is never done. Tonight, we celebrate, Comrades! Glory to Arstotzka" and he set off towards the screams.

The four Kerbals stared.

"Why does he say that?" Asked Valentina.

"You there, furry thing, papers, please!"

"I haven't the slightest..." Said Dibella.

"I can feel it chewing! Aaaaaaahhhhh!"

"What is an Arzotska anyway?" Asked Tercella.

"Quite the grip it has!"

"Perhaps a kind of cheese, DД?" Said Sergei.

"No that's my hair!"

"DД, definitely some sort of cheese."

Rustling in the brush drew their attention. They watched, silently, as a headless mosquito blundered past, feeling its way along the ground. Dibella edged closer still.

"Such strange things here..." Mused Sergei. Chittering drew his attention the other way, and there, sitting on the end of a branch, was yet another small, furry thing. This one was tiny, covered in fur that looked luxuriously soft, with a long, bushy tail, oversized, bright, beady eyes, short, floppy ears, puffy cheeks, and long whiskers that gave it a perpetual welcoming smile. It circled the end of the branch one way, then the other, then chittered some more and waved its whiskers at Sergei. He approached.

"Ah, Sergei..."

"What an endearing little creature..." He poked a stubby finger at it. It stretched its nose out at him.

"I would not do that if I were you..."

"Pfft," he turned to Valentina, "you can't possibly expect me to believe this adorable little thing is dangerous."

"Well, no, not really him," she said, looking up, "but his kin on the branches above you could strip you to the bone in less than a minute." Dibella hid behind her. Sergei looked up into dozens of pairs of bright, beady eyes. One of them chittered.

"I... think... I'llbegoingnow--" he bolted for the nearest Converter, going up the dangling rope with impressive speed considering he had to climb over the two Kerbals climbing down.

"Is... is that true?" Said Dibella from behind Valentina, "to the bone?"

Valentina rolled her eyes, "well, they mostly hunt at night. Mostly." Dibella's huge eyes darted nervously back and forth.

Tercella wrapped her arms around both their necks, "bah, enough with the scary-scary! Let's go home, before I actually start to miss the smell of yak." She led them off towards the waiting Converter.

Valentina noticed she was actually starting to feel normal again. Had all this craziness really been less than twenty-four hours? She knew there would be days of debriefings and questions and interrogations ahead, but such was the way of things. She was beginning to look forward to that dinner with Director Kermanev.

Yet in the back of her mind, something still whispered.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Judging by the numerous types of furry yet terrifying critters you managed to get on a single beach, I would definitely see myself volunteering to sit atop a few hundred tonnes of rocket fuel and would consider it a safe option !!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 9: Reclining at Table

 

"...And so she says... she says... she says..." Director Kermanev fought through bales of laughter, then shifted his deep voice up a few octaves, "but honey, this one's eating my golubtsy!" Valentina joined in now, the pair of them howling with laughter across the small table. Director Kermanev slapped his hand on the table, making the half-empty plates clink and knocking over the empty bottle in the middle.

"But seriously," he said, coughing and chortling, "vile, vile creatures. If ever you find yourself there, never sleep by water. They say the taste lingers for days." More laughter erupted.

"Days?" Valentina asked, wiping away a tear.

"So I am told. And speaking of taste, you really must try the okroshka, the chef has truly outdone himself this time." The chef chose this moment to appear with fresh plates and a full bottle. The look on his face seemed like he took the compliment as a personal insult. He roughly exchanged plates then returned to the kitchen.

"Oh, no, thank you," Valentina said, still giggling, "I never did gain the taste for soured milk. In Kerberia, milk never sours, it just freezes."

All expression suddenly left the Director's face. "," he said, staring intently at something very far away, "."

Sensing the awkwardness, Valentina took a mouthful from another plate, "but the humidity is excellent, and so early in the season, too."

Director Kermanev shook himself, "er, yes, from a collective farm outside Kermangrad. They're expecting a bumper crop so I was able to pull some strings. Hard to come by this time of year."

The dinner had been quite pleasant so far. The Director's residence was typical of buildings on the facility: simple, stout, and hastily constructed. He had few decorations, but good, solid wood furniture that showed the scars of years of use. As one of the Four, Valentina always ate well, but this had been a veritable feast! Borscht, of course, and shchi, and pelmeni and pirogi. Black bread, and stuffed roasted this-and-that, with plenty of kvass to wash it all down, and of course, being Kerbals, the two knew how to eat.

It was all a welcome relief. As she had expected, it had been days of debriefings and reports and questioning. The Imperium, the Academy of Sciences, the design bureaus, even the Ministry of the Interior, who weren't happy about several kilos of hydrazine dumped in a critical fishery. The pair of officers from the NKOTB were actually the most agreeable. The Director, as it turned out, was wonderful company was filled with amusing stories that sent them roaring with laughter until he broke into another coughing fit.

He sighed and sat back for a moment, "it is a great thing you have done. You've single-handedly saved the crewed space program. If you'd wound up like that Foreigner- what was his name, Edmund?" he shook his head, "the Imperium wouldn't tolerate a propaganda loss like that. Even the Academy couldn't turn that around."

"I almost didn't," she said with a touch of irritation, "if I hadn't got past the control lockout--"

"Hah-haah!" The Director clapped his hands and shook a finger at her with a smile, "I knew you would figure it out!" Valentina blinked, then took a long quaff of kvass.

"The Kommissar insisted that there be a code, but he didn't say it had to be a good one! So I picked something simple, easily guessed. The same one I use on my luggage, and-- my dear, are you quite all right?"

Valentina was gagging and choking on inhaled kvass.

"--Fine," she croaked. "Swallowed wrong," she coughed.

The Director pinched his eye... bulges, "oh... well... At any rate, that formality has been done away with. There will be no control lock on Dibella's flight. The abort system has been configured to automatically trigger if gee-force exceeds expected levels as well."

Valentina was still choking, "the flight is going ahead? After what happened?"

"It is. The Kommissar was quite insistent. Learn what we can from failures but keep forging ahead," he glanced around the room, then lowered his voice, "someone in the Imperium is breathing down his neck. They're anxious to use this... lull... to gain parity with the Foreigners."

Politics again. She brushed it aside, "but Dibella... sir, what happened?"

He sighed again, and put his hands on the table, "I wish I knew. Right away, I had the upper stage from her rocket pulled and test fired, the next three in storage too." He paused, and lurched into another bout of dry, hacking coughs.

"Izvinitye, izvinitye, too many years breathing rocket fumes," he thumped a fist against his chest, then shook his head slowly, "every firing was perfect. Exactly on the numbers. Zero anomalies. I've read your report, it just doesn't make any sense."

He raised a hand before she could protest, "I believe every word of it. I just don't understand."

"But... what could cause something like that?" Asked Valentina.

"The only thing I could surmise would be a flaw in the engine casing," he absently twirled a hand in the air as he spoke, "the flaw allows the casing to buckle and balloon, the expanded casing allows more propellant to be exposed to the flame front, more burning propellant raises the internal pressure and thrust and the casing balloons more, exposing more propellant to the flame front... and so on until the motor either burns out or ruptures." Another round of coughing.

"It's possible I suppose, but the RT-10 is one of our oldest and most reliable engines, and I've personally inspected every one that comes in and never found a defect. It's very simple to manufacture."

"So there's no way to know?" She asked.

He gave her a pained look, "not unless more debris is recovered. I have teams out searching but it's spread over a wide area, most of it taiga, so any debris that survived reentry will be difficult to find, if it hasn't already been eaten by something."

He cough-sighed, "so without something more concrete, Dibella's flight goes forward. But I don't think you should be worried. This is rocket science, after all. Failure is how we learn, and I did learn from this incident, and made what corrections I can."

"You are sure?" Valentina asked.

"As sure as I can be. Listen, many things are about to change. I can't go into much detail, but... very shortly any problems with the Strannik series will become irrelevant. We march ever onward. But there are still two unassigned orbiters left. Flight-worthy test articles, leftovers. Since we have them anyway, I'm going to lobby the Academy for two more long-duration orbital flights before the close of the series. You and Dibella will each get your time in orbit. I just don't know how your rocket could have malfunctioned in that way unless something was tam--" he stopped, wide eyed, and looked furtively around the room again.

Valentina blinked, many questions in her eyes.

Director Kermanev laughed. It sounded forced.

"But, that's just the paranoid ramblings of an old man! Whatever happened on your launch was surely just a fluke."

"Well, I suppose you are right," Valentina said uneasily, "if there was a defect, that inspection the night before would have caught it."

"What?"

"Sir?"

"What did you just say?"

"The prelaunch inspection... I saw a scaffolding around the upper stage the night before the launch. I assumed it was another inspection."

"I did not authorize..." he said, mostly to himself, "are you sure?"

"Well, no, it had been a long day and I was very tired and--"

"Are you sure?" He looked at her with an intensity she had not seen in him before.

"Yes."

"Troubling... most troubling," he said to the table, and coughed, eyes wandering this way and that, then produced a little black book and thumbed through the pages, "no, no work was authorized on the rocket. The area should have been secured, sealed off. This means..." He looked around the room again, laughing awkwardly.

"But, there I go rambling again! Just a misunderstanding I'm sure, perhaps I did not get the memo. Certainly some simple explanation."

He rose, "I am very sorry to cut our evening short, my dear, but I really must speak to the Kommissar at--"

He coughed. But the timbre... something was different. He coughed again, and again, followed by horrible gurgling sounds.

"Comrade?" Valentina said, "are you all right?"

The Director coughed and retched, bending low over the table. Something black and unpleasant splattered on a half-finished plate. The tablecloth bunched in his balled fists.

"Comrade?!"

He coughed, and coughed, hideous, wet, ripping sounds, his entire body convulsing. Then gasping for breath he looked up and his eyes, what's happened to his eyes?!

In the distance, she heard horrible screaming.

His eyes!

He took a long, rasping breath, dark veins standing out on his face.

The screaming drew nearer.

"D'yavol," he said in a rasp, then fell to the table with a clattering of plates, and was still.

Valentina stared, uncomprehending, and realized the screaming was coming from her own mouth.

"Help," she said weakly. Where was that damn cook?! "Someone please help."

But she knew it was pointless. Director Kermanev's last word hung in the air like smoke from a pyre.

D'yavol

The devil.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 10: Changes

 

It had been another long day of questions, but this time surprisingly few. Director Kermanev was already on a train heading west, where he would receive a State funeral as a national hero, and be interred in the wall of the Fort with heroes past. This went unquestioned by Valentina, Dibella, and Tercella, as they sat around the simple wooden table in the small kitchen of their barracks, contemplating their untouched supper. Valentina stared at it vacantly. Dibella looked at her, concerned. Tercella just looked angry. -Er than usual.

Valentina stirred her food listlessly back and forth, not really seeing it. Seeing. Had she really seen... anything? Stress could do funny things to a person's mind, she knew that. And there had been the bottle too, a particularly good one, she had thought. Maybe she imagined it.

Or maybe you have the madness they warned you about, something whispered in her mind.

Space madness. It sounded patently ridiculous... and she knew it was.

The mind is an incredible thing... Her Deda's voice drifted up, it can show you what you cannot see, and hide what you can.

She remembered him saying that. Long, so long ago, they had come upon a scene deep in the taiga so horrible that she hated to think of it even now.

Look, he had said, in his steady, comforting voice as she clung to his leg, look. And see it for what it is. See it in all its awfulness. See, and know.

She had seen, and been sick there at his feet while he patiently held her.

The mind is an incredible thing, he had said, wiping the corners of her mouth with a rag, it can show you what you cannot see, and hide what you can. It does this latter to protect its self, but like a seed under a rock, a mind forever sheltered cannot grow. So see this horrible sight before you. See it until you know it. Do not be numb, know it for the horror its is. Be sick, if you must, for growing is sometimes unpleasant.

Then he had looked down into her tiny, wet eyes, you will see awfulness in life. Know, when your mind does this thing. Know that what is really there may be far worse than what you see. Only when you know this, can you face it. And then, you will be stronger than it.

And, my Tinka, you are already so strong.

So together they had looked, for a long time.

It was that thought that so unsettled her now. What if what had really been there was far, far worse?

"Tia?" Dibella said, putting a comforting hand on her arm, "are you all right?"

"I am all right," Valentina said absently, "thinking..."

"I cannot believe he is gone," Tercella said to the table, "just like that."

"They say it was a heart attack," said Dibella, "chronic exposure to rocket fumes."

"Bah!" Tercella snapped, "a load of PЦTIИSКУ that is! You know where he really came from."

Dibella glowered, "you should not speak of such things."

"Pfft, I want to punch something," Tercella crossed her arms, "speaking of Sergei, where is he anyway? I have not seen him all day."

Sergei, of course, chose this very moment to burst through the door, eyes wide, "have you heard the news?"

"What?"

"What?"

"We're being relocated!"

"Wwhhaatt??!!"

"Where?!"

"To a new cosmodrome, near Kermangrad."

Valentina finally looked up, "the Capitol?"

"We're going home!" Dibella squealed.

"Yes... Home..." Tercella studied the table.

"Yes, back to civilization!" Sergei said triumphantly, taking a seat at the table, "and not a moment too soon. Everyone here smells of yak."

"What an awful thing to say," Dibella snapped at him, "the people here have never been anything but kind and welcoming to us, and after we were just dumped on them too!"

"Well they still smell of yak," he countered.

"It's how they live! They can't help it."

"They could bathe."

"They do bathe!"

"The people I mean, not the yaks."

Dibella opened her mouth, then closed it again.

"You know, he does have a point," Tercella said matter-of-factly.

"Why?" Valentina said, looking down again, "why are we being moved?"

"I suppose the Imperium thinks all the secrecy is no longer necessary, what with the Foreigners having been here and all. Having the entire space program on Ussari soil would solve certain... internal problems too."

"How soon?" Tercella asked.

"Immediately," Sergei said, "the trains to begin deconstruction have already arrived, I would imagine we'll be on the first one that leaves, in a day or so."

"But... the launch manifest... this will delay everything. A new launch facility will take months to build, at least!"

"It's finished. Mostly."

"What?!"

"There have been a number of launches of the new ethanol-powered rocket already."

"Wwwhhhaaattt???!!!"

Dibella slumped back in her chair, incredulous, "how do you know all this? How did we not know?"

"We're stuck in a hidden valley surrounded by impassible mountains and empty yak pasture," Tercella said flatly, "we're probably the easiest people in the Union to keep secrets from. Another reason they put us here." Dibella gave her a look.

Sergei sat back and smiled with the smugness of a know-it-all who, for one horrible moment, actually does.

"And one more thing--" he began, but then Igor came through the other door, his face ashen.

Dibella looked at him with concern, "what? What's wrong?"

He was looking directly at Valentina. He opened his mouth, then closed it again, and looked at the floor. He opened his mouth again, raised a finger, then reconsidered and studied the floor. He opened his mouth again trying weakly to smile, spread his hands, then returned to watching the floor. Finally, with obvious difficulty, he met Valentina's confused gaze.

"I see Kommissar," he said grimly, "he say... he say... you no fly again."

"What?!" Shouted Dibella.

"It wasn't her fault!" Screamed Tercella, "she had no control, she couldn't--"

Igor raised a hand, "Kommissar say, you too valuable now, to risk. You remain in training and support role." He looked as if he wanted to say more, but no more came out.

For a moment, all eyes turned to Valentina. Then, without a word, she fled out the door.

"Tia!" Dibella yelled, but she was already gone.

Sergei's smile nearly encircled his cylindrical head.

"You knew," Tercella turned to him, "all this time... you knew!"

Sergei now opened his mouth to say something, then closed it rapidly as Dibella began rhythmically driving the point of her knife into the table.

Thock. Thock. Thock.

He turned to Tercella and opened it again, then closed it as she drew her fork across the table, the tines gouging deep grooves in the wood and pulling up furrows of splinters.

Screeeeeeeeeeee.

He then looked at Igor, turned very pale, and quickly fled out the opposite door.

Dibella and Tercella looked at each other.

"Should... should we follow?" Tercella asked.

Dibella thought for a moment, "no. No, let's give her some time."

"I meant Sergei."

Dibella returned a smile as cold as a Kerberian winter, "yes, let's."

They rose.

Igor cleared his throat. Loudly.

They sat.

And watched the door as the day's last light faded in the windows.

***

Valentina Kerman sat on a rusting rocket stage, still embedded in the ground where it had fallen months ago. Around her, a herd of yaks lowed complacently. She hugged her knees and looked up at the stars in the satin sky, her eyes watering from the odor.

That's what she kept telling herself.

Not far away, concealed in the shadows and prudently upwind, Igor kept silent vigil. He had a job to do, and like always he would see it done.

But he didn't have to like it.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bet Igor is about ready to bite the head off a mosquito and spit the pointy end at somebody.

And that final paragraph...Yeah, just like that.

Great work and shaping up to be a more than worthy prequel to Shadows.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks. Replies have been a bit sparse at times, so I do get to wondering of I'm rambling a bit too much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I may not always reply, but have faith that I do always read!!

Rambling .. too much? but ... this is the fan works section .... isnt the whole point of this section for people to ramble in? If you want a succinct answer you go to the "what did you do in KSP today" thread, for epic meandering rambles that fill your afternoon with meter long mosquitos and other delights you head right here :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks. Replies have been a bit sparse at times, so I do get to wondering of I'm rambling a bit too much.

-eerie silence-

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
-eerie silence-

Touché. :wink:

-------------------------------

Throwing this up too since I finally got around to trying it:

QBbOmRZ.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 11: Kermangrad

 

It was a short train ride this time. Not like the days of endless pasture and steppe, and occasional errant yak, crossing Nusad and Abvonovichatkaderivokistan on the way to the new Cosmodrome. Then, not far from the border with Ussari, as they had passed out of the rain shadow of the mountains to the east, the terrain had suddenly changed. The sparse steppe gave way to patches of forest divided by swamps and marsh, each fighting for dominance over the land with only the humidity winning. Director Kermanev had been right, it was looking like a bumper crop this year.

The Director. Valentina tried not to think about him as she stared out the window, watching the world go by. Once they had arrived at the Cosmodrome, it had been days more of briefings, debriefings, orientations, questionings, and... politics. News reporters from Gytep and Dachland had come to interview Sergei, and even taken a few words from Dibella and Tercella. They'd shown no interest in Valentina, and she just felt... nothing. No irritation at the politics and procedure, no resentment or relief at being ignored, just... nothing. Numb. And she knew enough to realize that was a troubling sign. She just felt such--

"...Distraction," Dibella had said, "and a welcome one at that. The Kommissar has given most of the relocated personnel a day of leave before the countdown officially resumes, so come with me to Kermangrad. I will show you the sights. We could all use just such a distraction."

Valentina had listlessly agreed. Tercella had gruffly refused. And Sergei had, fortunately, been nowhere to be found. Oddly, neither was Igor. So now she found herself on another train, this time in a very comfortable private booth, making its way through a thick forest towards Kermangrad. The trees, at least, reminded her of home, although they were subtly different this far east. The needles were longer, the branches lighter, and, at least as far as she could tell, they didn't try to kill you. Or maybe they just found trains unpalatable. The forest eventually gave way to open farmland that went on and on, until it abruptly stopped and became the ring of smoke-belching factories encircling the city. They deboarded at the the next station, and Dibella hired a cab to take them into the heart of the sprawling metropolis.

It felt strange, being out of uniform, Valentina thought as the cab wound through a confusing maze of streets. She watched the crowds of people going about their business in their various attire. She liked her uniform. It was snappy and required little thought. Plus the shoes and hat added a few welcome centimeters to her stature. She really couldn't remember the last time she'd been out of uniform and out on leave like this, in her simple, sturdy, slightly ragged and mostly hand-made clothes from home. Dibella, on the other hand, was dressed very smartly, or what at least what Valentina thought passed for smartly. She really had little knowledge of such things. But she could recognize clothes that were well made, probably tailored too. Between Dibella and the city-dwellers with their city clothes, Valentina was feeling just a bit out of place. Dibella seemed to pick up on this, and the fact that Valentina still wasn't much for conversation. But, as Valentina would still appreciate later, she never pushed or pried, just let her friend process in her own way while playing the plucky tour guide.

Kermangrad was, after all, a strikingly beautiful city, and certainly worth seeing. It sat on the border with Abvonovichatkaderivokistan, separated by the Never River from its much smaller sister city Falafelbad, which was unfortunate because the falafel there was actually quite good. The Never River was the tarnished brown jewel of the city, so named because you never wanted to be anywhere near it unless you absolutely had to. From its headwaters at the polar ice cap far to the north, the Never began its long journey already slow and heavy with pale blue glacial silt. By the time it reached Palace Square in the city center it had roughly attained the color and consistency of peanut butter, and likewise, could be found smooth or chunky. You could catch all sorts of things in the river, most of which were fatal. If you were lucky.

It was spanned by the Seven Glorious Bridges, incredibly graceful and airy structures, crafted with a talent rarely seen in the generations since their construction. Valentina mused that they didn't even look able to support their own weight. In truth, they didn't have to, as the threat of falling into the Never was quite enough motivation to keep them up on their own, although they were bolted down securely at either end to keep them from running off.

Valentina and Dibella walked across the Square, which took its name from the famous Summer Palace, once the seat of the old Ussari Empire. It was here that had begun what became the Glorious Octember Revolution. Which actually happened in Septober. It now stood as a testament to those turbulent days, meticulously maintained by special order of the Imperium, every char mark and shell hole carefully preserved. The Square was surrounded by a veritable wall of buildings several stories high, built in ornate style with tall columns and graceful, flowing trim. Here and there, the Banner of the Crimson Star flew from rooftops or hung from windows.

The pair turned, and began making their way down the Boulevard of Heroes opposite the Palace. All down the center median of this impossibly wide, tree-lined street stood towering bronze statues of Heroes of the Revolution and of the Union. The upper surfaces of the statues were caked and streaked with the opinions of the local pigeons, who did not seem to be much impressed. Valentina walked past the imposing figures in a mental fog that came and went in waves. It wasn't like her to feel this disconnection, this... otherness. As if she were standing still and all this scenery that should have impressed her was just drifting by. She knew this, she recognized the danger, yet she powerless.

An odd sight drew her back for a moment. The crowds moving back and forth wore mostly the drab, functional, officially approved garb of Ussaris or the flattened conical hats and colorful ponchos of Abvonovichatkaderivokistan, but scattered within the crowds were dark blue trousers that stood out in an unusual way. They appeared to be made of heavy canvas or sailcloth, garnished with metal rivets.

"I noticed that too," Dibella said when Valentina pointed it out, "those are Eastern-style pants, from Omork and Kleptogart, usually very difficult to come by. I do not recall seeing them around in such large numbers before."

Valentina watched as they walked down the Boulevard, past statue after statue, "an odd color, certainly, but they do look very durabluuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh....."

Dibella looked at her, confused, then followed her gaze across the wide street. Her mouth dropped open.

"ЬЯЗZHИЭV'S SHФЗ!" She swore.

There, on the other side of the Boulevard, hanging from a tall, ornate building and just opposite an empty plinth, was a three-story-tall poster of Sergei. The two merely stood, slack jawed, unable to comprehend.

Glory to the Hero! proclaimed the words along the top, as Giant-Sergei puffed out his now substantial chest and pointed to the future, Glory to the Union!

And as if on cue, a distant low rumble broke over the din of the city. They looked in the direction the Glorious Hero was pointing. At the end of the Boulevard, the legendary Crimson Square opened. At the far end of that was, of course, the Fortress,and looming over that like a storm cloud was the enormous Dome of the Imperium, and rising over that on a column of white smoke, was a rocket, ascending from the distant Cosmodrome. It was like an Approved Motivational Painting by an artist just a bit too full of himself had just come to life.

By the time either one of them moved again the trail of smoke was slowly drifting off with the wind and the disinterested crowd had adjusted to flow past them like the Never its self, slowly and grudgingly while making rude sounds.

"Inconceivable," Dibella said distantly, "the last launch was only the day after we arrived!"

Valentina said nothing. In her mind, something began to unhinge. The left side of her upper lip quivered slightly as above her, Hero Sergei continued to point.

Dibella noticed.

"Come," she said, taking Valentina's arm, "we should get some food," and gently led her toward Crimson Square.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 12: Crimson Square

 

Crimson Square had always been the beating heart of the city, having earned its name long before even the Empire existed, and for exactly the unfortunate reasons one might think. It was shaped somewhat like a T, with the Boulevard of Heroes leading down off the stem toward the Summer Palace. Not so long ago, following his arrest there, the old Emperor and the rest of the royal family had been led down that same street in chains, across this very Square, to imprisonment in the Fortress.

No one quite knew why it was the Fortress. There were lots of fortresses in Ussari, in practically every major city. Yet this one had always been the. It was an immense compound, surrounded by its equally famous Wall and Towers. It was still the residence of the current Empress, although in moderately more comfortable accommodations than her predecessor. In the Wall that faced the end of the Boulevard and Palace beyond, was the Mausoleum, a grid of solid marble capstones covering the face of the wall. Most of the Heroes whose likenesses graced the Boulevard were in there, whether they wanted to be or not.

So is the Director, Valentina thought as they stared from the far side of the square.

Yet as imposing as the Fortress was, it was simply dwarfed by the impossibly huge structure looming behind it. The Dome of the Imperium. The focus of the entire Union. Unquestionably the largest building in the world, it was said that the dome its self was so tall that inside it had its own weather patterns and occasionally rained, and every so often pigeons who tried to roost near the ceiling dropped dead from hypoxia. It was often called the People's Hall, which was somewhat ironic as only those people specifically vetted by the Imperium, and the Imperium its self, ever went inside. Now, seeing it with her own eyes for the first time, even Valentina was taken aback. She thought it looked patently ridiculous.

To the left of the Square was the storied St. Cilantro's Cathedral with its bright, colorful, garlic-shaped domes, and to the right was the largest GUM store in the Union. Here, those with the proper documentation could stand in long lines to acquire anything their hearts desired as long as it was approved by the Gosplan. Except, regrettably, gum. Everywhere there were signs of construction. Tall cranes towered over the city beyond the square, and even within, many buildings were covered with scaffolds and surrounded by construction workers smoking rattails and not working.

But of course, being Kerbals, the pair headed straight for the collection of snack vendors set up in front of the GUM. Here, at last, was something Valentina thought she could fully appreciate. Blini and shashlik, piroshki, shawarma, sausages, big barrels of kvass, a rather unsavory looking fellow selling suspicious-looking meat pies, and of course, the always popular borscht-onna-stick. They walked along the rows of vendors, trying to make up their minds, and were about to settle on "one of everything," when suddenly it was Dibella's turn to stare and make an undignified noise.

"What?" Valentina said, then looked that way. In the corner of the GUM building, a new shop was under construction. Still only half finished, a pair of pale yellow oblong semicircles graced the entrance. She squinted at the sign nearby, what is a McKerbal's?"

Dibella continued to stare, "it's a restaurant... an Eastern one... there are dozens of them, all over Gednalna, Dachland, Gytep... but how is there one here?!"

Valentina looked at it again, confused, "oh... I went to one of those, once..."

"McKerbals?!"

"No, a restaurant. When I was in flight training in Kernobyl. As I recall, it was something like a mess hall, but you paid them to be rude and serve bad food. I am afraid I do not understand the concept."

Dibella laughed and clapped the other Kerbal on the back, "a treat, then. Come, I shall take you to the best Dachlandish restaurant in Kermangrad!"

***

Click-clack

Click-clack

Click-clack

Valentina stared out the window at the darkness, as the train plowed on through the night. She had a full belly and a fuzzy head. Across the booth from her, Dibella was sprawled out on the plush seat, her head lolled back, a rivulet of drool coming from the corner of her mouth, snoring loudly. It was a sound like wet fabric ripping. Valentina thought it almost endearing, in a revolting sort of way. She went back to looking out the window with heavy eyelids.

Click-clack

Click-clack

Click-clack

The rhythmic click-clack of the train was starting to make her eyelids droopy. Dibella had certainly been right, the food had been incredible. She had no idea there were so many kinds of cheese. Or such small portions. But Dibella had kept the feast flowing, ordering deftly in a language that sounded like poetry. And like the language, the dishes had been poetry made food. Valentina had eaten ravenously, not really knowing what was on the plate, or caring much.

Click-clack

Click-clack

Click-clack

Except the snails. No amount of butter and garlic and pleasant names could make a snail not a snail. Well, maybe just one, when Dibella hadn't been looking. The servers had been had been just as rude as she remembered, except for one strange young Kerb who spoke rapidly and constantly as he cleared away their plates. They had finished the meal with ice cream, set on fire, of all things!

Click-clack

Click-clack

Click-clack

Afterwords, as they were leaving the restaurant laughing and giggling, they found a street performer out front in white face paint and a striped shirt. He seemed to believe he was trapped in an invisible box or some such. Valentina couldn't explain it, but she'd had the oddest urge to punch him as hard as she could. Judging by the other faces in the crowd, so did they.

Perhaps it was the snail. Nothing good could come from eating gastropods. Even with lots and lots of butter. And garlic.

Click-clack

Click-clack

Click-clack

Her eyelids were getting heavy now. But, in truth, she was feeling better. Valentina Kerman was a survivor after all, and even this was survivable. A solution would present its self. Things would get better, just as soon as she killed Sergei.

She gasped aloud, nearly screamed, and sat bolt upright. Across from her, Dibella snorted loudly, smacked her lips, and went from ripping fabric to sawing wood. Valentina sat back and hugged herself, now wide awake. Where had that thought come from? Sure, Sergei was a PЦTIИSКI but... It disturbed her how easily and organically that thought had flowed from her mind. She turned back towards the window, and returned to staring at the darkness. She had the discomforting feeling that the darkness was staring back into her.

Click-clack

Click-clack

Click-clack

She knew she shouldn't have eaten that snail.

***

Igor stood in a dark alley outside the Dachlandish restaurant, ignoring the delectable smells and whatever was chewing on his foot. He watched Valentina and Dibella leave. His orders had been as explicit as they were simple, yet explained in detail so as to leave no room for interpretation. Even written down on a slip of paper. Just two short lines. Yet, for one of the few times in his life, he doubted. There had to be some sort of mistake, there had to be. Yet his Superior did not make mistakes. For the three-dozenth time, he looked at the piece of paper in his hands.

Follow Valentina.

He looked up, and gritted his teeth, then looked again at the second line.

Kill

This was wrong. He knew it was. Every bone in his substantial body told him it was. Yet it was not his to question, it was his to do as he was told. His orders were very clear.

Follow Valentina.

Do not kill mime.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
5 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 13: Crimson Dawn

 

Valentina awoke the next morning feeling very groggy, with a headache just bad enough to make it hard to think. Eyes still puffy with sleep, she made her way from her small room in the new Kerbonaut's dormitory. With only four of them still, the building was deserted at this early hour. She walked past dozens of doors, all propped open to air out the new construction, their shadowed interiors gaping at her in the dim hall. She tried again to blink away the sleep from her foggy mind as she plodded along the icy floor.

This... isn't right, she thought, I should be wearing shoes, but the thought wavered and dissipated like a Mün shadow.

She walked down the stairs, then across the expansive, darkened mess hall and its rows of stainless steel tables that reflected the low light in strange ways. One day, it would be filled with excited young Kerbonauts twittering about going to space.

But I won't be among them, thought Valentina, and it's all because of Sergei.

But... that wasn't right, was it? So hard to think...

Through the shadowed kitchen, and into the little room the four had been given to take their meals. Here, the lights were on, Valentina blinked against the glare. Their scarred old table from the old launch site was here, but... where was everyone? A single pace setting occupied the table. Steak and eggs, more decadent Eastern food. Tercella had taken a particular liking to it over the last few days. She looked around, feeling the cold floor under her feet.

"Valentina."

PЦTIЙ! She started and spun.

"Sergei."

"You're still here." Why was he wearing his flightsuit?

"Of course I am, you twit!"

He chuckled darkly, "then you do not know?"

"Know what? Where is everyone else?"

"They have been reassigned. Dibella and Tercella have been granted additional missions and had to leave for training. Igor has... moved on too."

"What are you talking about?" That smug grin was maddening.

"I have been assigned to the first operational flight of the next-generation space craft. Perhaps I shall make one of them my copilot, yes?"

"What...?" So hard to think.

"You, on the other hand," his grin became a sneer, with teeth. Lots and lots of teeth, "your services will no longer be required."

"I don't..."

"You're being returned to Kernobyl for remedial training," his eyes burned with hate, "or perhaps someplace else, yes? Perhaps the other Kerberia."

"No, I... I didn't... this isn't..."

"Come now, Valentina, you didn't really think this was for you, did you?"

"No, wait..."

"A bumpkin... a hick... going into space..."

"Stop..."

"A silly backwoods peasant girl..."

"Stop!"

"And of course, let us not forget..." he smiled an icy smile with teeth... so many teeth...

"Sergei stop!"

"...the progeny of traitors."

In an instant, the serrated steak knife was in her hand, in an instant, she swung it with all the power in her small frame, and jammed into the side of his neck.

"Glub," said Sergei, as life ran out in a crimson gush over his lips. He stumbled, tried to pull back, but Valentina held him close, twisted the knife, then sliced it forward, tearing his throat open as wide as his former grin. Blood sprayed forth in a torrent.

Valentina stared into his wide, panicked eyes. He fell against her, scrabbling, warm wetness soaking them. Her veins burned like fire. His mouth opened and closed helplessly.

Just like a fish, when you cut its throat.

Blood, so much blood.

Finally he fell back, his terrified eyes staring up at her. He raised a pleading hand.

Blood everywhere.

The hand dropped, and his eyes stared the stare of the dead. The room was silent, save for a distant sound...

Plip... plip... plip...

She stared at his corpse, her heart pounding, her veins burning. This, this at last...

Plip... plip... plip...

This is what she had been craving all her life...

So much blood...

This was power...

Plip... plip... plip...

Such power!

She down looked at her stained, dripping hands.

Such power!

She looked at Sergei again... only Sergei was gone.

The fire in her veins turned to ice.

No...

It was a girl... some girl she'd never met, her green dress soaked and stained.

No...!

On a chain around her ruined neck was a small, gray, sparkly rock.

I didn't... I didn't...

She turned to look at Valentina with dry, white, dead eyes.

Power... there was no power here...

She raised an accusing finger...

Only fear.

The dead girl opened her lips.

"D'yavol."

Valentina bolted awake, panting, soaked in sweat, heart slamming in her chest.

Light!

Panicked, she fumbled with the lamp. The bulb flashed for a moment then popped.

Wall switch!

She threw herself out of bed, and immediately her feet went out from under her and she landed hard on the slick floor, in a puddle of sticky wetness. She raised trembling hands before her, the dark stain visible in the sickly pale light of the Mün.

Blood, blood everywhere.

She tried getting up again and fell right back down, staring straight into the face of Sergei's corpseless head.

No...

It turned to look at her.

His eyes...!

"Do you see?"

Valentina awoke, screaming and flailing. She knocked the lamp from the nightstand with a crash, smeared wetness across the wall.

Blood, blood everywhere!

So much blood...

The door flew open and Igor flicked on the light.

No, he'll see!

So much blood...

"Where is he?! I pull head off!" He said as he looked around the room.

Blood, blood everywhere!

Valentina looked at her pale, shaking, sweaty hands, "a dream... just a dream..."

Igor continued to look around suspiciously, "so... is no intruder?"

Valentina looked out the window by the bed, her breath ragged. The Mün hung in a starless sky.

"Just a bad dream..."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I appear to have found the Stephen King section of the fanworks forum! I've read all of Shadows and Whispers over the last few days, and I would pay good money for this if it was an actual book! Although, by chance, we both have a character called Debbella/Dibella in our respective works, and we're using the same map, but in different universe's! I wonder if the kraken had something to do about this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All things serve the Beam :D

I pulled Dibella and Tercella's names from my last save, guess I got attached to them. Pity the fellow who did the map no longer seems to be around, he deserves some thanx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Chapter 14: Waiting

 

A full-stack Strannik launch vehicle stood on the new pad, bathed in floodlights, the tip of the abort tower on the nose pointed ever so slightly east. There was no scaffold this time, Valentina was seeing to that. She had been watching from the window of her simple room ever since night fall, with a set of "requisitioned" binoculars.

Her room was spartan even by Ussari standards, she'd had little to bring from the old facility. A basic, sturdy bed, a nightstand and lamp, a real closet here filled mostly with uniforms. And of course, the Pictures, required to be displayed in every home by edict of the Imperium. Over the door was Her Imperial Majesty Alexandra II, Regent of the Union, First of Ussari and Nihacima, Lady High Vizier of the City of Kerman, and Doge of Erakonia. Valentina always thought she looked very stately with her golden Globe and Scepter and hair, but somehow, always sad. In a semi-circle above her, always looking down, were the eight glowering members of the Union Imperium. If they ruled the Union, Valentina thought (privately) they could have at least picked better pictures.

She yawned, and went back to watching Dibella's rocket. She hadn't slept well at all lately, not since... the dream. Her nights were always restless, her dreams always bad. Running or falling, lights that refused to light in the shadows, or the Mün. She shuddered. She hated that one most of all. Suffocating, desiccating, her fingers burning or freezing or whatever it was Münar soil did to you. And something... something was there. Something she could never remember. Besides the dead girl. She was always there, always at the end.

Valentina yawned again. The Mün. Pfft. The rocket she and Dibella had seen launch from Kermangrad had sent a probe past it, Müna-1, the first of its kind. It had sent back a grainy, haunting picture of the entire planet Kerbin over the limb of the Mün. The next day it was on the front page of every newspaper in the world. People found it oddly moving, and for one brief moment, there was talk of not just coexistence but cooperation, even collaboration. A joint mission with the Foreigners, a handshake in space.

Then the probe left Kerbin's influence and all contact was lost. The Imperium publicly blamed the Foreigners, accusing them of tampering and espionage. Now the talk was of a new race, a race to put the first Kerbal on the Mün. Valentina was glad it wouldn't be her.

"Sergei, let him go," she grumbled softly, "let him stay."

Tinka!

She jumped at her Deda's voice in her head, you were not raised to be so spiteful.

She closed her bulging eyes, and rubbed the wide flat spot between them. She could feel another headache brewing just behind it. No, no she had not been raised to be resentful. Could Sergei really have had anything to do with her being grounded? He certainly gloated about it, but he had no real power. His father sat on the Imperium Council on Heavy Industry, but that had no connection to the space program.

But of course, something else whispered in the dark part of her mind, he surely knows someone... who knows someone...

Valentina sat back, and switched to rubbing her red eyes. Oh, how she despised politics. Sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation could do funny things to a person. Maybe she should talk to the flight surgeon. She'd heard there was a big blue pill now that could bring you sleep. Sleep, without dreams.

She sighed, and returned to keeping watch. She soon fell asleep where she sat, and dreamt of the Mün.

***

Valentina felt like a wreck the next morning at the breakfast table. Tercella was going through her steak and eggs like a thing possessed. Valentina wasn't even sure she was bothering to chew. Dibella seemed oddly quiet, and just a bit green. Er. The launch was in only a few hours.

Sergei slammed through the door, also looking drained. Valentina didn't look up.

"Wha appen oo you?" Tercella said around a mouthful of steak. Or maybe eggs. Or both, "wha were oo etherthay?"

Sergei groaned, "oh, it was exhausting! The Political Officer is a slave driver. I had an all day photography session with the Empress, and--"

"The Empress?!" Dibella said, agog.

"Not the Empress, my Empress."

"Oh," Tercella swallowed and set down her fork and knife, "your space ship."

"A ship needs a name, yes?" Sergei puffed out his narrow chest, "the Empress Alexandra I, what better name for such a historic vessel?

"Besides," he glanced at Valentina, "it's better than Pine Tree."

Valentina still didn't move, but her fist clenched.

"Haven't they taken enough photos of that thing already?" Said Tercella.

Sergei twirled his hand idly, "it was part of some information request from another space program, but then--"

"From who?" Asked Dibella.

"I don't know," Sergei rolled his eyes, "some fellow with a big mustache, I did not speak with him. But--"

"Which space agency has mustaches?" Tercella asked Dibella, "is it Dachland?"

"Um..."

"No, they don't like mustaches, Kruenia perhaps?" Dibella pondered.

"Er..."

"No, I do not think so, they only like the little square ones. Nefcarkaland?" Tercella offered.

"If..."

"But I thought they signed on with the KSA?" Dibella again.

"Excuse--"

"You may be right. Ryemnarg!" Tercella exclaimed, "lots of facial hair in Ryemnarg."

"But--"

"No, no I think they do beards there," Dibella rubbed her chin.

Sergei cleared his throat loudly. The two looked at him.

"I have been trying to say," he said with exasperation, "I spent all night going over the mockup of the new two-Kerb pod. The Kommissar has taken full control of the space program now, and he named me as commander of the new ship's first flight!"

Valentina didn't move, but the knuckles in her fist cracked softly.

"Wwhhaatt??!!"

"But he's not an engineer, how could he..." Dibella trailed off.

"So soon?! The prototype won't even be complete for months, why name any crew now?" asked Tercella incredulously.

"The program has been advanced," Sergei puffed out his thin chest even more, "perhaps one of you girls will be my copilot, yes?"

Valentina hand moved toward the serrated knife.

"Since when does--" Dibella began, "Tia? You don't look well..." She put a hand on Valentina's arm.

Valentina snapped back, and blinked, "wha--? I... um... I am just tired. Have not been sleeping. You do not look well either."

Dibella smiled weakly, "just nervous. I am not brave like you, I will be ok once the routine starts."

Valentina looked concerned, "you know, you do not have to do this..."

"Have to?" Dibella said with surprise, "this is a great opportunity, I could not pass it up over nerves! To be among the first Kerbonauts... that is something special, something historic. I am humbled even by the opportunity."

Sergei looked annoyed. No one else seemed to notice.

Dibella looked at Valentina, "I told you, this is only the beginning. Your part is not yet done. Trust, even if understanding eludes you, yes?"

Valentina saw the solace in her friend's face, and found some comfort. But it did little to assuage the rising feeling that she was just waiting for something awful to happen.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 15: Krazniyy Oktyabr

 

The Mission Control center was now a flurry of activity. Rows of technicians and engineers sat at their consoles, busily running the final checklists. On the launchpad beyond the massive multi-paned window, Krazniyy Oktyabr stood ready to launch. Dibella had named it for the Glorious Octember Revolution. Which actually happened in Septober.

And in the middle of it all, Valentina Kerman stood, with a huge headset on her head and a mug of thick, black coffee in her hands. It nearly matched the shade of the bags under her bloodshot eyes. It was now her turn to assume the role of capsule communicator, and with the Director gone and the Kommissar, as always, sequestered in his office atop the vertical assembly building, she had become a mission coordinator of sorts as well.

She took a sip of coffee and grimaced. It still tasted awful, but less so now. Weakening it with milk and honey didn't help, it needed to be stronger, that was the secret. She'd made it as strong as the funny little machine had allowed. Someone had told her the Kerblish name plate said "Mr. Koffee." What a ridiculous thing to call a machine! She took another sip. Stronger, that was the key. Tercella was really on to something there. Speaking of whom...

Valentina keyed her microphone, "Recovery-1, what's your status?"

Tercella's voice was barely audible above the familiar drone, "exactly the same as when you asked three minutes ago! I have enough Converters out here so that I could walk from Bylia to Gytep, to the ice cap without ever touching the ground! Relax. When Dibella lands, there will be no hunt, we'll be on scene in minutes."

"Um, excuse--"

"What?!" Valentina rounded on a wide-eyed technician.

He swallowed hard, "um... the Kommissar sends word, final clearance has been given."

"Very well, carry on," Valentina chuffed. She rubbed at her temples, she could feel another doozy of a headache brewing. She shouldn't have snapped at the fellow like that, that wasn't like her.

She keyed up the alternate channel, " Krazniyy Oktyabr, final clearance has been received, ten minutes to launch."

"Copy that," came Dibella's confident voice, "ready as I'll ever be!"

"Nearly there, check your systems over once more."

"Um... copy control."

Valentina walked down the rows of flickering monitors and flashing lights, searching for anything out of place, anything that might have been missed. Everyone seemed to be discreetly avoiding eye contact. It vaguely registered to her that she was scowling, but she pushed it away. Now was not a time for pleasantries. Just routine. She finished this latest of many rounds and returned to staring out the window. Just follow the routine, and hope nothing goes wrong.

" Krazniyy Oktyabr, control, five minute to launch, terminal countdown has commenced."

" Krazniyy Oktyabr copies, final gyro synch complete, all my systems check out. Again."

This was maddening. It was worse than being in the pod. Valentina could feel that odd twinge between her shoulder blades. They were all watching her, plotting, waiting for the moment to--

She blinked, sighed, and took another sip. Just follow the routine.

"Krazniyy Oktyabr now on internal power, umbilicals clear," said an engineer, "ignition heaters beginning sequence. The key..."

Valentina stepped to the console, took the key from around her neck, and inserted it into the panel. She took a breath, and turned it. The ignition clock began counting down.

"One minute, Krazniyy Oktyabr key in, all systems go."

"Copy, one minute. Let's kick this pig!"

Valentina nearly giggled at that.

"Désyat..."

"Dévyat..."

"Vósem..."

"Sem..."

"Shest..."

"Pyat..."

"Chetíreh..."

"Tree..."

"Dva..."

"Odéen..."

"Ignition!"

Valentina jumped as Sound shook the windows like thunder. The rocket disappeared into smoke. Great billowing clouds of it poured forth and descended upon the building like the wrath of a fallen star.

She was about to reach for the remote abort handle when an engineer called out, " Krazniyy Oktyabr has cleared the towers, all lights green!" Cheers erupted from the other controllers.

"Holey yak!" Dibella crackled over the radio, "that was quite a kick. All my gauges read good. Can barely hear myself think."

"Rocket is stabilizing. Course looks good," a technician confirmed.

Valentina watched the display, watched the gee force quickly rising. Through the window, the rocket climbed higher and higher on an arcing pillar of smoke. Soon it was little more than a speck in the distance. She switched to the telephoto monitor.

"Getting bumpy up here..." came Dibella's call, "can't see the panel anymore. The physical strain in her voice was evident. Valentina saw the gee climb past five.

"Her heart rate's really rising," said the flight surgeon from his station.

"Tracking, status?" Valentina said.

"Course is spot on," said an engineer, "never seen a Strannik fly so straight before."

Then shut up before you jinx it, Valentina thought. This early in the flight, the massive rocket was still uncontrolled. Only careful design and aerodynamics kept it going the right way. If it went just a little off-balance... She clenched her hand to keep from reaching for the abort handle again. Why was it so stuffy in here?!

"Krazniyy Oktyabr, how are you doing?" She said into the mic.

Nothing but muffled breathing returned.

"Heart rate is spiking," the flight surgeon said.

Seven gees... eight...

"Five seconds to booster burn-out!"

Valentina watched the dwindling camera feed, feeling helpless. The rocket was nearly imperceptible behind its plume of flame and smoke.

"Tree... dva... odéen..."

Something happened in the monitor. Valentina was sure her heart stopped for a moment... then the plume cleared, she could see the five spent boosters tumbling away trailing smoke... and Krazniyy Oktyabr accelerating onward on a new pillar of flame.

"We have booster separation," said a technician, "core stage ignition good, course is good."

"Whoo, that was intense!" Dibella nearly squealed from the radio, "think I blacked out for a moment... core stage is much smoother, all systems read green."

"Heart rate coming back down. Vitals are stabilizing."

On the monitor, the rocket disappeared into a mere point of light. Valentina realized she'd been holding her breath. Someone really needed to open a window. She began pacing up and down the rows of consoles again, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, despite everything going right. She watched the burn timer count down, saw the RCS guidance light illuminate exactly on time, the pre-stage indicators run through their sequence.

"Ten seconds to core burnout, Krazniyy Oktyabr"

"I am ready! Gee-force still tolerable, course is stable."

The rocket was gone, now, from the monitors. Valentina could only stare at the panels of lights and gauges that represented the telemetry. This was it. This was where her own flight had gone so horribly wrong. She watched banks of lights swap between green and red. A drop of sweat dripped into her eye. Why weren't the air handlers working with so many people in here?!

"Staging is good, what is your status, Krazniyy Oktyabr?"

"Nominal. This stage is very gentle. I read guidance on point."

The gee meter climbed, but slowly, very slowly. Something... something was...

No, everything was exactly right. Perfectly on the numbers. The flight couldn't possibly be going better. Valentina wiped more sweat from her face. The knot between her shoulders tensed.

"Stage burnout coming up... tree... dva... odéen..."

"I have stage shutdown, control. Capsule is--oof!"

"Krazniyy Oktyabr, what just happened? Krazniyy Oktyabr, do you copy?!" Valentina could feel her heart pounding in her chest. It matched the cadence of the throbbing in her head.

"Final separation light," said an engineer.

"Krazniyy Oktyabr, please respond!"

"I..." The radio crackled.

"Dibella...?"

"I'm in space...!"

Valentina let out a huff and rubbed her temples again. She moved to take a sip of coffee and realized her other hand was empty. Who took her mug?

"That was quite the jolt again," Dibella said, "post launch checks good, ready to fire kick motor."

Valentina blinked. A technician cleared his throat loudly and nodded toward the checklist on the console.

She picked it up. It seemed very heavy.

"Ah, um, yes, you are go for kick motor fire, Krazniyy Oktyabr"

The small solid rocket motor on the back of the craft fired, this time boosting it faster along its sub-orbital path. The same engine would eventually be used to return Sergei's capsule from orbit.

Valentina flipped through the coast checklist. Now was a series of observations, activation of a scientific payload, tests of the craft's manual attitude controls, and PЦTIИ'S ЗДЯS why was it so STДLIИLУ hot in here?! She went through the procedures, each breath seeming to take more effort. She was going to have to have a talk with the maintenance supervisor, this was unacceptable.

"Um, lieutenant, ma'am," a nervous looking engineer tapped her on the shoulder, "maybe you should--"

"What?!" She snapped at him, "now is not the time, we're in the middle of a flight!" He made a warding gesture and backed away hurriedly. Honestly, the pod would be hitting the atmosphere at any moment, why would he pester her at a time like this? Go pester the facilities guy, turn a fan on, open a window, something! Her vision was getting blurry, must be sweat in the eyes again.

With difficulty, she watched the panel, watched the gauges climb, said a few things to Dibella but it was all indistinct, distant. Getting hard to think. Something wrong, but... but... what? What was...? Something about parachutes airbags... what did...

"Augh!" Grunted Dibella.

Valentina snapped back from wherever she had gone, "Krazniyy Oktyabr, did not copy, what happened?" Of course, now, now! She let her concentration slip and now the disaster would come! She feverishly scanned the instruments but nothing made sense.

"Aack!"

"Dibella, what--"

"Oof! Landed on--ow! hill. Rolling down to--ugh! Deflated airbags too--gah! Ouch...! Ow...! Augh...! Thatsgonnaleavea--aargh...!"

Silence. Valentina's head was swimming. She should be doing something... but what? The thought kept drifting away.

Then a loud noise in her headset, a burst of static... then nothing.

The silence stretched out. The room began to sway.

A new voice buzzed over the radio, "this is Recovery-15, we have the pod in sight... the pilot is outside, she's ok! She's waving. She's in the mud near the river, we'll circle around and try to land."

"Fifteen, this is Thirteen, we're at your three o'clock, moving in to assist."

"Recovery-7, we copy too, changing course."

Oh, good. That sounded good. It was good. Everything was good, now. But why did the wall look like the ceiling and--

Thud.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Strannik really isn't a gentle accent is it? Nothing your stalwart girls cannot handle though!! ... Sergei however ... :)

It seems Valentina has found something very wrong, but it is however inside her head. A truly terrifying problem that perhaps a girl from the steppes hasn't had to encounter before?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tis a beast. 2.6G off the pad even with that heavy payload, tops out around 8. Probably a reason no ones ever rode a rocket like that, heh.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 16: The End of the Dream

 

The tiny lander plummeted toward the darkened surface of the Mün, its pilot fighting for control. The sun disappeared below the horizon as the surface rushed up and warning buzzers blared.

"Overpressure in the aft oxium tank!" Said Dibella, to the right, "relief valve isn't responding, if it ruptures it'll rip open half the hull!"

"Visors down!" Yelled Valentina, "try to purge it."

"Just keep it steady," said a Voice to the left, "I can reach it, I'll try to purge it manually."

"No, don't!" Valentina shouted, "keep your harness on!" She struggled to keep the descent controlled.

"Hang on, I've almost got it," he said.

"No..!" She turned, and saw only her own terrified face reflected in his golden sunshade. An ominous creaking rocked the small cabin, before all sound died away.

"I'll find you," he said softly. For an instant the cabin filled with fog, and he was gone. Valentina looked out through the jagged hole into the inky, empty darkness of space. That darkness then shifted, and began pouring into the capsule like black ichor. It swirled around the floor and filled it, thick and sticky. She could smell its stink, feel the fumes in her lungs

DARKNESS, it spoke, YOU CANNOT ESCAPE DARKNESS. YOU CAN ONLY EMBRACE IT.

It swirled around her feet, still rising. Icy fingers gripped her arms, pulling her down.

"It's too late for him," Dibella said. Valentina turned right, and looked into the white, desiccated eyes of a corpse.

"It's too late for any of us," she turned left, and saw the Dead Girl.

They pulled, and Valentina slipped down into darkness' embrace.

***

She shot up in her bed, panting and sweating. For some time, she stayed just like that, her face buried in her hands, trying to get catch her breath as late afternoon sunlight streamed in through the window.

Where...?

How did...?

Disoriented, Valentina looked around her small room, not remembering how she got there. On the nightstand was a small glass bottle taped with a doctor's seal. She looked at the label. Darnitol, 75mg. Large, translucent blue pills.

Sleep. Sleep without dreams.

The easy way out.

She set it back down, sighed, then winced at the knot in her back. She thought she must have been asleep for hours to be so stiff. She changed, and headed down past dim corridors flanked by yawning doors, and empty rooms of gleaming steel. Valentina found the other three in their kitchen, apparently just finishing dinner.

"TIIAAAAA!" Dibella glomped into her, "we were getting so worried!"

"You have been out for nearly eighteen hours," Tercella said. Sergei just sat at the table, looking annoyed.

"What... happened?" Valentina asked groggily.

"They say you fainted," said Tercella, "Igor had to carry you back to your room."

"The flight surgeon said it was stress and chronic sleep deprivation," Dibella offered, "he left you a prescription and said to just let you rest for now."

Valentina rubbed at her eyes, "what have I missed?"

"One incredible party!" Tercella said with a smirk.

Dibella rolled her eyes, "it wasn't anything special, and no fun without you. Besides, I had to spend the entire time giving interviews with Sergei."

"Yes, you handle yourself quite well for the cameras," said Sergei, rising, "perhaps I shall take you as my copilot."

Dibella glared at him, "I would sooner go into space with a yak!"

"I can arrange that!" He shot back.

"Both of you, enough," Tercella turned back to Valentina, "come, eat, you look pale."

Sergei crossed his arms, "why is she still here, anyway? Are her services even required any more?"

Valentina's fist clenched.

"That is uncalled for, she has had a difficult time." Said Tercella.

"Of course she's had a difficult time, she brings doom everywhere she goes."

"Stop it, Sergei," Valentina said flatly.

Darkness...

"It's like a cloud, following you. You didn't really think this was for you, did you?"

You cannot escape...

"Stop!" Dibella snapped.

Sergei drew up to his full, limited height, "a bumpkin, a hick--"

"Stop it, you PЦTIИSКУ!" Tercella growled.

Cannot escape...

"A silly backwoods peasant girl..."

Cannot escape...

"And let us not forget--"

You cannot escape...

"Sergei, stop!"

Darkness...

Sergei smiled his smug smile, "the progeny of traitors."

Only embrace it.

In an instant, the knife was in her hand. In an instant, she swung it with all the power in her small frame...

And buried it up to the handle through Igor's wrist.

Tercella gasped. Dibella put her hands to her mouth. Igor was instantly between the other two, his arm before Sergei's neck. The tip of the knife drew a single drop of blood from Sergei's throat. No one moved. No one made a sound. Save for the drops of Igor's blood falling to the floor.

Plip...

Plip...

Plip...

Valentina and Sergei both stumbled back. Igor looked to Dibella and Tercella, then nodded at Valentina. The two half led, half carried her away.

"Did... did you see that?!" Sergei clapped a hand to his neck, "s... she assaulted me!"

"I saw," Igor stepped to him, and loomed over him like a thunderhead. He seemed to rumble softly, too.

"I think, you talk very big, little man. I think, maybe one day, I not be here to save hide. I think, maybe one day, she break you," he looked off in the direction the others had gone, "I be sad for her that day."

Then he returned his focus to Sergei, with an intensity that made the smaller Kerbal shrink even more, "if day come, best for you, if she kill you."

Igor lowered his face till their bulging eyes nearly touched.

"Or. I. Will."

Sergei made a soft noise in the back of his throat, and felt a familiar warmth run down his leg.

"Now, go," Igor said, "you make puddle on floor."

Sergei skittered in panic, slipped in said puddle, and nearly fell several times before disappearing through the door. Igor watched him go with narrowed eyes. He plucked the knife from his arm as one might a splinter, and tossed it in the sink. He thought for a moment, then went back and washed it off. Something... something must be done. He grunted in annoyance, and went off to see the Kommissar, leaving the room in darkness.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Igor watched him go with narrowed eyes. He plucked the knife from his arm as one might a splinter, and tossed it in the sink. He thought for a moment, then went back and washed it off. Something... something must be done. He grunted in annoyance, and went off to see the Kommissar, leaving the room in darkness.

ìï×ZHØíV!

You know, I'm pretty sure that some of the minor Ussari apparatchiks have a saying:

"Do that and I must speak to Igor. I do not like to speak to Igor..."

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 17: A Pleasant Night

 

A hatch swung open, and banged against the roof with a loud metallic clang, scattering a flock of sleepy pigeons.

"Careful!" Chided Tercella, you make more noise than a rocket!"

"It is slippery, it slipped," said Valentina as she pulled herself up and onto the roof of the Vertical Assembly Building. Then, more nervously, "we are not supposed to be up here."

"Yes, and now everybody within half a kilometer probably knows about it!" Tercella said from below.

"I told you, it is slippery," Valentina retorted, "and... gooey."

"Guano."

"What?"

"It is guano. The bats, they like to roost in here."

"Bats?" Valentina moved to wipe her hand on her slacks, then thought the better of it and wiped it on a... thing, instead.

"Give me the light, I cannot see a thing up here!" She said.

She grunted as the beam hit her right in the eyes.

"Ow! Careful, now I am blind and covered in bat PЦTIЙ!"

"Whoops, sorry. Thought it was the other way around."

Valentina groped the flashlight from the other Kerbal and scanned it around the roof, trying to blink away the spots in her vision. Apparently the pigeons took over for the bats up here.

"Ew," she shook her hand, "do you have a rag or something?"

That, too, hit her square in the face.

"Now quit whining, and take the bag," Tercella said below, passing it up, "oh, and do mind the guano."

"Ugh, you do not have to remind me."

"There are blankets to sit on," said Tercella as she climbed through the narrow hatch, "and snacks. Careful you do not spill the borscht."

They found a bare-ish spot between roof machinery that had a good view of the launch pad, and spread out the blankets. On the ground below, pockets of pale yellow light revealed the more official gatherings to watch the launch. A loudspeaker voice drifted among them, soft and indistinct from this height. The two Kerbals sat, Tercella handing Valentina a thermos.

"Here, try this, it is a new formula," she said.

Valentina cautiously sniffed at it, "it is not laced with rocket fuel again, is it?"

"No," Tercella laughed, then somewhat more uncomfortably, "er... no... I will admit, that did not work well."

In the darkness, Valentina raised an eye... bulge, "they had to pull poor Vladimir from the rafters..."

"But he has no memory of it! Besides, the doctor says he will be up and walking again in a few weeks."

Valentina grunted, and took a careful sip, "this is... not bad. Not good, certainly, but an improvement."

She passed the thermos back to Tercella, who took a swig, "I am getting closer. I ground the beans as finely as I could, but now the water does not want to flow through. I need some way to force it through, under pressure."

She scanned over the patches of lights below, "it is a pity Dibella is still stuck down there."

"Indeed," agreed Valentina, "giving more interviews and playing emcee with... Sergei." Amplified over the loudspeakers, their voices could just be made out in the darkness below.

"Well, you have to admit, the cameras do love her," Tercella said thoughtfully, "I really do not know if she is cut out to be a Kerbonaut, but the way she handles herself under that kind of stress... she will surely do something even greater."

"Indeed..." Valentina stared off into the distance.

"And what about you, hmm?" Tercella suddenly asked.

"What about me?"

"Do not think we have not noticed you moping about these past weeks. As the foreigners say, what is chewing upon you?"

Valentina laughed, "chewing upon me?"

"Well STДLIЙS STДCHЗ that is what they say... or so they say."

Valentina thought for a minute, "a rather small mosquito." There was a crunch and squeak, and she reached for the rag again.

Tercella's bright eyes narrowed, "do not make me hurt you."

Valentina sighed, and looked out toward the rocket waiting on the pad, "I just feel like I am loosing my mind."

"You? Loose your mind?" Said Tercella incredulously, "and what foolish army would dare try to pull it from your thick skull?"

"I tried to kill Sergei."

"No one could blame you for that."

Valentina wondered if Tercella could feel her glare in the darkness.

"Besides," Tercella continued, "the PЦTIЙSКI was completely out of line. Saying something like that to the wrong person will likely get you stabbed even in Kermangrad."

"But... he is right..."

"Is he? Do you know what happened so long ago?"

"Well, no... but whatever it was, Igor came with the assignment to the space program."

"That could be worse. He is the most devoted nablyudatel I have ever seen. Most of them are far less... cordial. And besides, you were still selected."

"But what is there here for me, now?" Valentina sighed again, "maybe I should just quit the program."

Tercella punched her in the arm.

"Ow! What was that for?!"

"For saying foolish things. Do you know what my papa told me about giving up like that?"

"What?"

"Nothing. By the time he came home most nights he had left his powers of speech by the roadside, along with a boot and his hat. And not always for the same reason. But his new bruises, the old scars, they taught me much."

Tercella flicked the light back on, and held it below her face, giving her grin a sinister cast, "you do not let the PЦTIЙSКIS and STДLIЙSКДS  and ЬЯЗZHЙЭVФVITCHЗS of the world win."

"Has anyone ever told you you curse like sailor?"

"Yes, a STДLIЙSКД of a sailor did once, why?"

"No reason."

"Well, the point is, you fight, even if you loose. Even if just to spite them. You do not disrespect another Kerb's family, and you never give up on your own."

"I do not know," Valentina said, hugging her knees, "but I feel so alone, now."

Tercella punched her hard, this time.

"Ow! What was that for?!"

"For saying foolish things again."

Then Tercella punched her so hard her whole arm went numb.

"Augh, that is going to bruise!"

"Good, let it remind you," Tercella said, still grinning fiercely.

"It has gone all tingly now, gah!" Valentina flexed her hand, "remind me of what?"

"That you are not alone. You have us. And you are not to let the likes of Sergei Kermanski get the best of you, vy ponimayete?"

"DД! PЦTIЙS ЗДЯS, that stings!"

"Then you will remember," Tercella genuinely smiled now, "we do not give up on family."

Valentina kept rubbing her arm, "and since when did you get to be so strong?"

"Daily strength training regimen," Tercella's flexing might have been more impressive had the night not been pitch black, "I am strong like bull, no?"

"No... I mean, yes! I mean... do not hurt me. But... why?"

"The flight surgeon wants me to be able to bench press a yak. He thinks I will need all my strength for the EVA on my flight."

"Oh, yes... your flight..." Valentina said sadly.

"Do not start with that again!"

She put her hands up in defense. Tercella just glared at her.

"You will go to space again," Tercella shook a finger, "if I have to stuff you in a storage bin."

Valentina finally smiled.

"Though I may have to charge extra for those bags under your eyes. They are well over the carry on limit."

Valentina laughed and gave her a playful shove. Tercella shoved back. Valentina shoved her back, then she shoved so hard Valentina toppled off of whatever it was they were sitting on and fell to the roof with a crash, scaring the life out of a rat that had come within a whisker of making off with their entire bag of snacks. It ran off, squeaking angrily.

"Oops..."

Valentina retrieved the bag and pulled herself back up onto the blanket, trying to ignore how unsettlingly crunchy the roof surface was.

"Can we just watch the rocket launch now? Without any more bodily harm?" She said.

"You started it." Tercella said gruffly.

The other Kerbal huffed and rolled her eyes on the darkness, "do yo really think it will work? Putting a probe on the Mün?"

Tercella stared out at the waiting rocket, "it will have to work sooner or later."

"But did not the Foreigners do so already?"

"They tried. You can see the crater through the Observatory telescope. It is quite impressive. We have a much better track record with such things."

"Yes, Müna 3 and 4, but..," Valentina mused, "what do you suppose happened to Müna 2 and 3?"

"This, we do not speak of."

The two Kerbals yelped and spun around.

"Greetings, Comrades!" The Political Officer held his pen light below his face in a way that, with his bushy mustache, looked truly disturbing, "Papers, please! Yes, yes, good, good, thank you. As expected, all is in order. It is a Glorious night for a rocket launch, DД?"

"DД Comrade! very Glorious, Comrade! Lovely evening, Comrade!"

"And especially from so unorthodox a vantage!"

The pair could only stammer.

The Political Officer grinned ferociously over his pen light, "but do not fret, Comrades! Surely one cannot blame our Great Union's most fearless pilots for venturing where they ought not be just to get a better view of yet another magnificent and historic space launch!"

"Um..."

He grabbed their shoulders, spun them around towards the launch pad, and stuck his head between theirs, "after all, brave Comrades, today we go to the Mün! Surely this is an auspicious day! Perhaps one of you will one day be the first to set foot there, yes?"

"Er..."

"Um..."

"So perhaps under the circumstances," he squeezed their shoulders, "exceptions can be made..."

"They... they can?"

"But mind that you do not stay out too late, brave Comrades, for when the bats return from their long night they are... cranky."

"B... bats...?"

"C... cranky...?

Somewhere high overhead, a rhythmic, staccato squeak echoed in the cool night air.

"Children of the night, what music they make, yes?" He clapped the two roughly on the shoulders.

"But fear not, brave Comrades! Our brilliant doctors and cutting edge medicine can even cure the scourge of rabies! But I understand the treatment is..."

He let the word draw out in the still night.

"...unpleasant."

He spun them around again, and stepped back, "have a pleasant evening, Comrades... Glory to Arstotzka!"

And then he was gone.

"How does he do that?"

"Did... he have a cape on?"

"Well, it is just a bit chilly out..."

"Bah! PЦTIЙ on him!"

"I heard that."

"We came here to watch a rocket launch and that is what we are going to do. Sit."

In the darkness down below, there was a flourish in the voice from the loudspeakers, and a round of dim applause.

"Quickly now, it is almost time."

And so the two friends sat, eating borscht onna stick, which is every bit as difficult as it sounds, and watched, as for a brief moment night became day over the Cosmodrome, and Müna 6 rose on a river of fire and smoke like Prometheus unbound. Talking with Tercella had helped, Valentina did feel a little better. Well, except for her arm. She didn't think it could take another blow, so she hadn't mentioned the voice whispering in her head. Or that it was slowly beginning to make sense.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, slice the beets coarsely and thread them on the sticks before cooking. Or maybe add some aspic to the cold soup and have a sort of borscht jelly onna stick.

I'm sorry - I'm over thinking this yes? :)

Great chapter as always and I guess the good comrade Political Officer really is bat.... crazy!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This... we do not speak of.:P

Must be the time of year, with all these pseudo-Slavic voices in my head, one of them turned into Dracula.:sealed:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now