Cydonian Monk

Forgotten Space Program

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Posted (edited)

Into the Abyss

"Hello, old friend."

That voice. After all these years? He turned back to face him, to look deep into those eyes.

"Albro?"

"The one and only. So very nice to be remembered, especially by the famously dead Thomlock Kerman." The old kerbal chuckled. "Please, do come in, my very old friend. We have much to discuss."

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"I..." Thomlock started to ask something, but his mind was a torment of questions. He put his hands up in frustration and walked towards the very old kerbal who sat at the center of the universe. Of course it'd be Albro. Who else? He couldn't help but laugh. "Y'know, it figures. Here I am, all this time, all those years stuck in a tiny capsule in space, and somebody went and made you Space Emperor, or some nonsense like that. Nice throne you've got there, friend. Fits your megalomaniacal, bigger-than-Jeb personality perfectly."

Albro scowled at him. "I was the first true Bad-S, not that halfwit junk peddler. I should've been first in space, not you, and I should've been on the first rocket instead of Jeb."

"Hey, we both know you'd be just as dead as Jeb. Speaking of which, how are you even alive? The kerbals at Laythe said you'd died. You must be, what, one hundred and thirty? Forty?"

"One hundred twenty eight, if you must know. Still two munths older than you. And, no, they used very specific words. They said I had 'passed on.'" The smiles returned, now with even more wrinkles. "And so I have. I have passed on from the Park and into this new life."

"Seriously? What kind of life is this? You get to, let me guess, sit in a spinny chair and spy on kerbals all day? There's kerbals back home that get to do that too, and they never leave their parent's basement."

"Look here, you sarcastic little twit. If you'd prefer I can stop now and drop you back on Vall. With or without your helmet."

"Ok, Mr Big Spinny Chair, what's this Park you mentioned?"

"Kerbal Space Program, The Theme Park. 'Back home,' as you put it." Albro cleared his throat. "You see, Thomlock, we were created as toys. As an amusement, a pastime, an escape. Our creators had moved beyond simple technology such as rockets, yet they wanted to relive their first steps into the cosmos. And they needed a hobby. Something to keep them preoccupied and distracted.

"We were that hobby. A recreation of another old space program, reduced to a level even the simplest of their kind could understand. To round it out, to keep it light hearted, and to entertain all ages, this park was populated by cute, lovable, obedient, cartoon-like characters. Us. Kerbals."

"Lovable? Strange word to describe creatures that spend most of their time hurling their own kin into the sky atop hastily-built exploding death traps, but whatever. Where are they now, these so-called creators of ours?"

"Oh, they died. Many, many years ago. Died long before either of us were born. Our park and its toy space program have trundled on in their absence, forgotten and nearly alone ever since."

Thomlock shook his head and wondered if he was still asleep. No, there's no way his dreams could conjure a reality as insane as this. "Why do I get the feeling you're about to give some long, boring, expository speech?"

"Look, I brought you here because I need your help, and because you need mine. If you're not interested in what I have to say, by all means go back the same way you arrived. I won't hold it against you."

"Wait, you brought me here? Why?" 

"Perhaps I needed someone to talk to? I'm starting to regret it." He waved his arms wide, pointing around at the mostly dark displays. "This room is the Park Control Center. From here I can see everything that's going on in the Kerbol System, and have near total control. And you're right, I can spy on every kerbal everywhere.

"This facility served as both the Park Entrance and the General Administration Office. The visitors would gather here, kit out, and then slip onto Kerbin by way of the portal system. They concealed themselves amongst us, even traveled with us, helped us, hurt us. At least until they'd got their fill and wandered back home.

"And no one made me 'Space Emperor', as you put it. The chair was empty and needed someone to sit in it. Why not me?"

"I can think of a few reasons already. So how did you get here in the first place?"

"The same as you, through the Vall Portal. Perhaps I should start at the beginning."

"Please." Thomlock sat down on the ramp and got as comfortable as one can get when wearing an EVA suit in full gravity. "It's not like I have plans to be anywhere, or a crew waiting on my crazy hide to get back to them. Please, by all means continue with your exposition dump." He crossed his arms and leaned back on his jetpack. "I'll just get comfortable here on the floor."

"You're welcome to leave at any time. I just thought you'd like some answers. And perhaps avoid a painful death and help prevent the total destruction of everything we've built...."

"What's wrong with writing a book? Something I could carry with me, take home, read in my free time? No, no, don't let me stop you. Please."

"Very well. 

"In the beginning there was Jeb. And Bill and Bob. They died."

"Fast forward past this part. Tell me something I don't know."

Albro ignored him. "The fourth launch didn't go so well either, as you no doubt remember. There were two launches after you were ejected into Solar Orbit: Nelsey and myself. Nelsey's Hawk 4 disintegrated during launch, unsurprising considering the haphazard design. He managed to disengage the capsule and land safely on the beach, only to be crushed by falling debris moments later. The program administrators decided the Hawk was cursed and moved forward with Falcon. My launch was the first successful mission, lobbed into a very clean suborbital trajectory that reentered over the space center. 

"Except the space center wasn't there when I landed. Nothing was, except myself and my capsule. Just empty prairie and some scrub brush. It was a bit of a hike but I eventually found a nearby town, a town filled with staring kerbals. None of them had any idea who I was or what I was talking about when I asked what happened to the space center. Blank looks and disbelief when I said I'd been to space. I got the same from the next town, and yet more from Kerbin City. It was useless.

"So I went back to my life, best as I could. Back to the freeclimbing and basejumping and all the other insane pursuits of my youth. I still had these memories though, the program, the kerbals who I worked and trained with. Ghosts, every one of you, following me around every day. Ghosts who were completely forgotten by everyone else. 

"Some years later I learned of a new space agency. It was on the news, fully funded by the new government, launching as regularly as we had. It took them a few attempts, but eventually they placed a very happy kerbal by the name of Jebediah Kerman into orbit."

"The same Jeb? The dead Jeb?"

"Yes, absolutely the same Jeb. I tracked them down and convinced one of the administrators to make some introductions. Jeb was unmistakable, with that same magnetic personality and endless bravado. The very same Jeb we watched die in the Hawk 1." He closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. "And we both know he was dead. No doubts are possible there. Bill and Bob were there too, though none of the three recognized me. 

"I tried to stick around, tried to get hired on as another spacekerb, but this agency disappeared before I could even get skin deep into this new mystery. Everything disappeared, just like before. Everything except Bill, Jeb, and myself, the three kerbals who had been to space. And they were both as confused as I was. Three kerbals now living as outcasts and aliens on their own home planet. 

"The cycles didn't stop there, and soon enough we'd picked up a few more Jebs. Bill noticed some patterns in these resets, some opportunities, and he persuaded me to start a space program of my own. So began Continuum, a project intended to get us to space and to bring an end to the cyclical amnesia plaguing Kerbin. I figured if we gathered enough of us forgotten kerbals we could eventually crack the nut we were stuck on. As it turns out, sometimes strength is not in numbers.

"At first we were only mildly successful, placing a scant six kerbals into space: Another Jeb, an extra Bill, a new Bob, Milbas, Chading, and Rayming. Sadly Milbas and Chading died to parachute failures. Milbas' death was especially difficult, he was such a well-liked kerbal and quite the media darling. Plus he'd already been to space three times before the accident. We didn't talk about the Milbas Incident for quite some time; we danced around his name like he was just another ghost. It really haunted us.

"Fast forward a few cycles and we'd landed on The Mün, Duna, and I had a small mission on the way to Jool. Continuum had grown into a large organization, with several long-term, multi-cycle missions in progress. We had passed off direct control of the space program to the 'natives' of the new cycles, thinking it would be best if they grew organically while we did our thing with what equipment we had in the field. It was fun to watch them as they discovered the strange lie they were living. Some of them even fought against us, at least at first."

Thomlock grunted. "Can't say I blame them, controlling kerbals such as that." This wasn't the Albro he remembered, but then again that memory was of a kerbal from more than a century ago. Something had obviously changed him, drawn him down a darker path.

"Funny you should mention control. Several of our researchers, and one of the Bobs in particular, discovered peculiarities in how Gene and Wernher chose their missions and craft designs. Sometimes they would be in the middle of a thought, mid-sentence even, and completely abandon it to go off in some other direction. It was as though the first design was now cursed. This was odd, both of them being rather rational creatures, so we started digging deeper. 

"And that's when we found them. The puppet strings. They manifested as a band of radio frequencies, messages in a simple and obvious encoding. There were several channels over which commands could be whispered to a target, commands they would execute without question."

Thomlock jumped to his feet. "You son of a...."

"What?"

"It was you. Your voice. The one I heard on the ice. You didn't bring me here, you 'commanded' me to come here. Pulled my strings."

"Would you have willingly jumped into a pillar of pure energy had I not?"

"No! Would you?"

"I'm here, aren't I?"

"You really are crazy, you know that? Who else's strings did you pull? What else have you changed?"

"Thomlock, if it wasn't for me, you'd still be drifting through empty space." One of the screens blinked to life, showing his capsule hanging in the nothingness. "One of the first things I did when I arrived was to nudge your capsule, move a bit of space dust, micrometeorites, to put you into an orbit that would hit Kerbin. Otherwise you would still be out there drifting through the void, frozen for all of eternity. And yes, I've changed things, spoken many whispers. Too many, perhaps.

"At first we went easy, only pulling on strings to see what they would do. Have Wernher stand on one leg, cause Gene to spill his koffee, have Linus eat a goo, things like that. Then we moved on to heavy research, testing the limits, seeing how far a whisper could bend a kerbal before they broke. In one test a kerbal spent ten days atop the flagpole. In another they gleefully rode through reentry while holding onto a ladder. Or rather they tried to.

"There seemed to be no limits, even for ourselves and how far we would go to achieve our ends. Continuum had near total control over every aspect of kerbal life. Control we were abusing, and regularly so. Others started to catch on, kerbals in powerful places, so we had to make them forget. Usually we would just wait and let the cycles do the work for us. Sometimes we had to take action. Sometimes forgetting wasn't enough.

"A large part of Continuum took issue with my methods, especially with us erasing ourselves from the minds and memories of innocent kerbals. This splinter group had been working for quite some time to find ways to block the control. They were good kerbals, spacekerbs each, so I let them continue their side project. Eventually they left Continuum and formed a series of monasteries, establishing a mental discipline they thought would protect them from the whispers.

"These monks still serve a purpose, even outside of Continuum. They keep the records, they store the designs, they track everything kerbals do. They help rebuild society from the null state that forms at the start of every new cycle. But again we're getting ahead of ourselves. 

"As Continuum pressed on with our research into the mind of the kerbal we became somewhat paranoid about our reasons for wanting to do so. Were we doing it because we wanted to? Or because we were being told to? I commissioned a special research project to listen for and track whispers we didn't start.

"We found several sources of them, scattered all across the Kerbol System. I sent out a new series of probes, the ABISS project. On the surface they were simple science probes, destined one-each to all of the regions and biomes our early explorers had found. Secretly they were listening stations. A system-wide antenna, built to allow us to stare into the very abyss from which we had sprung."

"Did it stare back at you? Did it feel a chill when it looked into the abyss that is your heart? Did the two of you start an abyss club? Are there now little abysslings running around?"

"Your continued sarcasm is noted. And no, it did not stare back, but it did reach out and pull me in. At first we didn't find anything interesting. Blips here, bloops there. And then a high-energy burst from Vall just as Gene and Wernher decided to abandon kerbal exploration of the outer planets and dedicate their every effort to building a large base on the Mün: Pioneer Base. You've been there."

"Still have the shovel, somewhere."

"Of course you do. That signal was obviously what we were looking for, so I set about building a small Jool craft while the others preoccupied themselves with a colony on the Mün." A monitor to Thomlock's left flashed to life, displaying an image of Macfred's infamous Thing A, just with considerably more bits to it.

20170713_x028_anchorpoint.jpg

"AnchorPoint Station, which Continuum partially built using the scraps that launched Pioneer Base. Most of it was assembled and welded in orbit, though we launched the superstructure pre-assembled in two pieces. That was where we built the Vallkyrie, my Vall craft. It was a good ship yard with a good crew, a crew that could've built anything we asked. They finished the Vallkyrie in record time. Once that was complete I flew to Kelgee Station in an old SSTO and transferred to Anchorpoint by EVA. 

"We had planned to continue using the station, build a fleet of carrier-shuttles like the Vallkyrie, but that never happened. That's when it all fell apart."

"Did your mindslaves finally wriggle free of your strings? Try to strangle you with them perhaps?"

"No. Worse. That's when the Kraken awoke. They slipped out of the inky darkness, at least two of them, and wrapped their black tendrils around the station's framework. I had just launched in the Vallkyrie when they struck, and could only watch in horror as they thrashed pieces of the station about. They shook kerbals out of hitchhiker cans and then tossed them around in space, as though playing with their food. They went for the fuel stores after that, and proceeded to rip the station apart. The skeleton you see today is all that survived.

"And those eyes. Those horrible, golden, fiery eyes. They haunt me to this day."

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"I wasted no time in leaving, and activated the Vallkyrie's nuclear drives to burn into a higher orbit. There was nothing I could do anyway. Maclie, Kening and a few others from Kelgee later rescued a handful of survivors. They followed me to Jool aboard the Jool Jester, and said the station was a total loss. Vallkyrie would be the only ship of her kind. Then another cycle hit, and we lost contact just as I left Kerbin's gravity well."

"Fitting."

"I spent more than two years in the dark, alone. I can't imagine how you managed to stay sane."

"I was frozen. It's easy to stay sane when you're a popsicle." Albro smiled at that one.

"At least you had someone to talk to on your way to Jool, I made sure of that. Two years out in the dark alone for me, nothing to talk to but Mr and Mrs Empty Chair and Mr Goo. Mr Goo was especially entertaining, having learned several tricks from the scientists who used to torture him. Did you know goo can count from one to six? Probably even more, but that was the most I ever got out of him."

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"Anyway, after entirely too long in solitude, I finally arrived at my destination. A quick aerocapture at Jool and I was plopped right into Vall's orbit. The Vallkyrie was designed to do it all: no disposable tanks, no disposable engines, a hanger bay for a lander to take to the surface. I would fly back in the cabin of the lander, then return to Kerbin alone in the Vallkyrie itself. I had no idea at the time Maclie and his crew were already in-system and trying to reach me. Didn't really matter, as I wouldn't have deviated before landing at the Vall anomaly."

20170713_y091_vallkyrie.jpg

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"The ice spires were very impressive, their pattern symbolic of our puppet strings, though I'm not sure how many have ever noticed. It didn't take long to activate the structure as I already knew the frequency, the encoding too; by that point we had successfully controlled kerbals for decades. I reasoned this new structure was no different. So I whispered to it. I asked it to open its secrets to me."

Albro closed his eyes for a moment more. 

"You asked if the Abyss stared back? No, but it did whisper. Everything whispered, every kerbal, all at once."

"I heard them."

"It was deafening. Nonsense. Babble. Sentences hanging in the void, disconnected. Voices, so many voices. And in that storm of voices I heard you, a familiar whisper from the past. 'Stop,' you said. 'Everything will be ok.' And so it was."

20170713_y138_vallkyrie.jpg

"Just not immediately."

--

 

Edited by Cydonian Monk
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On 16.6.2017 at 9:52 PM, Cydonian Monk said:

 

Daaaaaaaaaaaaamn!

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4 hours ago, Cydonian Monk said:

--

The krakens seem to be a defense mechanism meant to protect against the kerbals realizing too much, or griefers :sticktongue:.

Big question: who did the stringpulling that allowed <forgot the name already> to notice stringpulling? Maybe the precursors are still around, and this area is part of the playground... And if not, that is still scary, as then we truly don't know what could cause it.

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Really cool! Kind of reminds me of WestWorld. :)

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Angel-125 said:

Really cool! Kind of reminds me of WestWorld. :)

While of course the WestWorld movie is now generations old, and didn't conciously affect this narrative, the new WestWorld TV show almost made me abandon this idea. It was just too frighteningly similar. I sketched out most of this part of the story early last year, long before I had even heard about the new show.

That said, I've read Jonbald in Tony Hopkins' voice ever since. I just couldn't say that until now.

(But not Albro, who is arguably more like Dr. Ford than Jonbald. In early drafts Albro was going to be a feeble old man trapped in a chair, time and stress having reduced him to a mere whisper. More in line with Bryden Rivers / Bloodraven, just connected to the controls by a life support chair instead of a weirwood. His voice has flipped back and forth between Christopher Lee and Max von Sydow in my mind.)

 

6 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

Big question: ....

... will have to wait until the next post. :wink: 

Edited by Cydonian Monk
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I can feel my brain melting. is that normal?

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LrL5QL7.gif

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49 minutes ago, Thedrelle said:

I can feel my brain melting. is that normal?

It is here

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6 hours ago, Thedrelle said:

I can feel my brain melting. is that normal?

 

5 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

It is here

Very normal here

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Quick question Cydonian, what image site do you use to embed the images in your posts?

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31 minutes ago, The_Cat_In_Space said:

Quick question Cydonian, what image site do you use to embed the images in your posts?

They're self hosted on a server and domain I rent. Seemed the simplest and most reliable approach. 

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24 minutes ago, Cydonian Monk said:

They're self hosted on a server and domain I rent. Seemed the simplest and most reliable approach. 

Ok. I was asking the question after Photobucket, the most common image-embedding website, changed it's terms so that people have to pay $40 a month or $400 a year for images to be embedded in posts.

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1 hour ago, The_Cat_In_Space said:

Ok. I was asking the question after Photobucket, the most common image-embedding website, changed it's terms so that people have to pay $40 a month or $400 a year for images to be embedded in posts.

Yep. A couple of my model railroad friends got burned by that.

And it's exactly the reason I self host most things. I do occasionally drop an image on Flickr or Imgur if I'm on mobile, or if I'm sharing to some super-high-traffic site, but only rarely.

Edited by Cydonian Monk

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@The_Cat_In_Space I've found Imgur to work pretty well for my purposes although I'm no expert but it's free and quite popular around here as far as I've seen.

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4 hours ago, AviosAdku said:

I've found Imgur to work pretty well for my purposes although I'm no expert but it's free and quite popular around here as far as I've seen.

Yeah. I use it, but I'm not exactly very savvy in these matters.

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On 7/14/2017 at 7:05 PM, Cydonian Monk said:

While of course the WestWorld movie is now generations old, and didn't conciously affect this narrative, the new WestWorld TV show almost made me abandon this idea. It was just too frighteningly similar. I sketched out most of this part of the story early last year, long before I had even heard about the new show.

Really? I haven't seen more than the ads, didn't even know there was an old movie, it's all new and original to me. Thanks for staying with it. :)

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1 hour ago, monophonic said:

Really? I haven't seen more than the ads, didn't even know there was an old movie, it's all new and original to me.

It's a bit of a campy sci fi movie (I guess that goes without saying as most 70s SciFi is campy by design), but worth watching at least once if you can stream it or catch it on TV somewhere. I'm of a mixed opinion on the "sequel" film.

The new series is a different story than the original, in much the same way that "Blade Runner" is a new story when compared to "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." Similar concepts, completely different themes. 

 

Also - This thread hit the official 100,000 views point sometime last week. I know it's just a number, but it's a big round one with an extra digit.

Thanks for reading! This wouldn't be here and wouldn't still be going without you folks.

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