Confused Scientist

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  1. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    And for all the wrong reasons. But I'm still not satisfied with the amount of plot twists this story has. It's time for this story arc to become twistier than twenty-two twists twisted together into a twist-tied knot in your shoelaces. Because in the next chapter... Wait. I can't give it away. It's supposed to be a twist. But until then... we're still broadcasting.
  2. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    Part 36- Farside Please note: In the official audio transcript included in the Raven XIV Accident Investigation Report, the next ten minutes of conversation are recorded simply as [REDACTED - NATIONAL SECURITY] with the omission initialed by "JBK". This is not the official audio transcript. Stella: [Muffled, inaudible.] Jeb: [Muffled, inaudible.] Stella: [Muffled, inaudible.] Jeb: [Muffled, inaudible exclamation.] Stella: Because I was a double agent! Do I have to spell it out for you? Jeb: But if you're a double agent, then why are you betraying whoever it was that- Stella: Mason. Jeb: -betraying Mason... wait. Stella: Just listen. Everything I'm about to tell you, Mason told me at some point. Most of my story was true; I got interrogated by the Interplanetary Authority, and I ended up on Tylo waiting to be shipped to some Eeloo Gulag. Then Mason Kerman came up to me in the mess hall, dressed like a prisoner, and offered me a plea deal: Help him apprehend the crew of the Kraken's Spit, and I could go free. It was only once we got into orbit and I saw Jool's new ring, right in what used to be Bop's orbit, that he told me that we would have to travel back in time and then got me up to speed. In the two months since Bop had been destroyed the singularity device, there had been crazy civil war, mostly between the colonies on Laythe and the IA bases on Tylo. Duna declared independence from the United Kerbol, and... Jeb: What? Stella: Gilly was... They dropped... Eve has a new ring. Jeb: Sweet holy [CENSORED]. So, you're telling me... Stella: Exactly. The IA had done a lot of math and figured out how to copy the exact conditions of the Bop blast on Gilly. As a bonus, destroying that moon would wipe out one of the most powerful rebel strongholds.The minute the black hole in Jool orbit had evaporated through Hawking radiation, the IA was in there to pick up the monolith and ship it off to the Eve. The S-Bomb was readied and loaded with the antimatter ignition bombs, and they air-dropped it- well, vacuum-dropped it- from the same angle as before... and we were gone. So was Gilly. Jeb: Did it work? Stella: Almost. We were a year later than we thought, and we ended up in Crystal City. You almost ruined the plan by paying me to drive your car across the country for you, but luckily that led us right to your location. One thing led to another after that, and with Mason rightfully doubting my loyalty, he arranged for me to attack Bob in the junkyard. Luckily, I was able to pretend that I wasn't a good enough fighter to subdue him, and Mason trusted me again. Jeb: But why are you telling me all this now? Stella: Because Mason is stuck in some Air Force prison in the desert, and the deal's off. But more importantly, I'm your friend, and that's why I'm losing my cover to deliver a warning. Jeb: A warning? Stella: You've always wondered why the manhunt for your crew was so strong, right? The IA could have avoided an entire civil war if they'd just let you go, and it was obvious to everybody that you were innocent from day one. No, it wasn't you they wanted, but they would go through you if they needed to. Jeb: But, WHY? Stella: To get to Bob. Haven't you ever stopped to think about his background? He says he was in the engineer corps, but he discovered an entire alien race and kept it a secret. Why did he come to Station One? Why didn't he ever tell anybody about the space crabs? And how does he know so much about Electron Blue? Jeb (gasping): Stella: Bob was on the Miraculin Group's board of executives when Electron Blue was developed. He allegedly made it such a potent drug by mixing in some chemical that the space crabs produce. He was exiled from the board shortly after for murky reasons, but Mason told me it was because he knew too much. You want another kicker? Here it is: Bob invented Electron Blue. He's the only kerbal in all of existence who knows whether the world's most profitable product is a placebo or not. The board of executives decided that to keep the truth from getting out, they would need to make everybody forget about him, so they fired him, wiped his name from the internet, and emptied his bank account. Desperate, he came to Station One. Jeb: But why did you want to get to him? Stella: The same reason the Miraculin Group fired him: He has secrets, powerful secrets. And for that, the government is willing to do a little thing like start multiple civil wars and destroy planets. I'm warning you, you can't trust Bob. You don't know who he is, or what he might do. You're in danger every second you spend with him, because trillions of dollars are at stake. What's worse, he definitely has his own agenda. He could betray you in a heartbeat if he needed to. Jeb: Don't say that! I don't believe you! Bob is my friend! Stella: He was your friend because it was beneficial for him. You better watch your back, I'm telling you, because it's a sad truth: Kerbals can do terrible things just to make a dollar or two.
  3. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    Part 35- All the Way to Juno, Part One The sun broke low and bright through a few clouds at the Cape. Val watched the sunrise from the Moa’s launch gantry, one of the two being readied for the Munar launch. She breathed in a lungful of salty air and sighed. “Perfect day for a launch,” she told Bob. “No saboteurs to deal with, finally.” Bob adjusted his hard hat and walked over from the side of the second stage where he had been inspecting the umbilical connections. “I was thinking about that. How do we know Mason won’t come back and, I don’t know, blow up the space center?” Val gestured to an ATC map of the United Territories that had been taped up on the wall. She uncapped a pen and drew an “X” between a mountain range and a big red blob on the map. “See this? That’s where we bailed out. Based on our heading and the prevalent winds at altitude, after Mason bailed out he would have drifted into this red zone.” Bob frowned. “What’s the red zone?” “That is restricted airspace- the Painted Desert Proving Grounds. And it might interest you to know that I got a phone call from an old friend the other day, somebody who Jeb personally invited to this launch.” “Who is it?” Val smiled. “Good old Chief Una, asking if we could use our satellites to track fallout from an upcoming bomb test in the Painted Desert. The bomb was on the tower when Mason bailed out, so imagine you were in his position: What would you say to all of the CIA spooks interrogating you afterwards?” Bob coughed. “I’d tell them I’m a time traveler, on an important… ah.” Val smiled and nodded. “They’re thinking you’re a spy. Southern States, Tutero, it doesn’t matter. Either you’re a spy, an actual time traveler, or just a nut, and either way Mason spending a lot of time in some jail cell in the middle of some desert.” She stopped talking when she heard the elevator rising to the top of the launch tower. “Come on,” she told Bob. “We need to meet the closeout crew up one level.” They clambered up a ladder and met Jeb, Stella, and Boblock as they walked out of the elevator. Bill, the commander of the backup crew, waved at them from inside the capsule as he checked the systems for liftoff. “We had a minor problem with one of the solar panel servos a few hours ago, but it all checks out now,” he told Jeb. “All rations and flight provisions are stowed in their lockers, and we’ve loaded the contract into the lower navigation bay.” Jeb blinked. “Contract? What contract?” “The Kuinness Book of World Records contract, to be signed by you and Stella on the surface of the Mun and then notarized aboard the aircraft carrier BSS Montgomery.” Stella took a look in the capsule and picked up a bundle of papers from the dashboard. “Hey, what’s this?” Bob laughed and pointed at the headline, Kerbals to Fly To Mun. “That’s today’s copy of the Mayberry Times. Turn to page 6, bottom left corner.” Stella flipped the paper open. “It’s an… apology to Wernher Kerman?” A Correction The Editorial Board Forty years ago, the Times criticized Wernher von Kerman due to his apparent misunderstanding of how flight in vacuum could be achieved. However, the error was on the Times’ behalf, as further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Edward Kerman in the 22nd century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error. Jeb looked at the newspaper, up at the massive rocket as vapor wafted off of its skin, and back at the newspaper. “Further investigation and experimentation?” he asked. Nobody answered. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Wernher’s old truck rattled up to the tower and a young pad rat ran up to greet him as he stepped out. “Hey, boss!” Wernher smiled as they walked back towards the gantry. “Hey, Jack. How’s closeout going?” “Good. The crew’s about ready to board the spacecraft.” “Phone the white room. Tell them to hold off for a minute.” Jack nodded and picked up the phone as Wernher stepped into the elevator. As the doors closed, his thoughts turned inward. Although he wouldn’t admit it, he was scared that Jeb and Stella would be killed on this mission. Even if they survived, the entire KSP could still be in trouble. Bloeting could still launch a Munshot, and Wernher thought he’d overheard Mortimer talking to Stella about money problems outside his office… Ding. The doors slid open and Wernher remembered that his job was to make rockets, and that the entire kerbal race was counting on him. “Attention!” A dozen faces turned towards Wernher, some obscured safety goggles and hardhats, others behind the glass of pressure suit helmets. “Today, we will make history. Kerbin is watching us, waiting to hear that we have reached out and grabbed a slice of the stars for our own. This mission will be remembered for a thousand generations- but, please, don’t be heroes.” Wernher looked at Jeb and Stella. “Please, if something doesn’t look right, and you can’t fix it, don’t try to work around it or fly without it. If anything goes wrong, don’t be afraid to abort. If we don’t land on this mission, that’s bad; if somebody dies on this mission, that’s a catastrophe. Remember: Better dead than look bad, but dying looks really bad. So don’t die.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ There was a small patch of blue sky and beams of sunlight shining into the capsule through the docking window, shifting through dust and the steam twisting around the rocket. Boblock kept his eyes on the window, savoring his last glimpse of the sky before he would rush up to meet it, fly through it… escape it. Butterflies jumped in his stomach, but his eyes widened at the count reached its final minutes. Next to him, Jeb snored. Boblock nudged him. “Hey, wake up!” “Hummm? Ohhhyeh, theslaunch. Immamake… I’m awake.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ In the control room, Gene looked out at his team with one last suppressed grin, then stood to address them. “I just want you to know,” he said, beginning to smile, “that I’m proud of you, no matter whether we win or lose. Today, we make history.” He cleared his throat. “All stations, give me a go/no-go for launch. Talker?” “Go.” “Timer?” “Go.” “Booster?” “Go.” “Tanks?” “Go.” “FIDO?” “Go.” “EECOM?” “Go.” “RSO?” “Go.” Gene smiled. “All stations, we are go for launch. Timer, restart the clock on my mark. Three, two, one… mark.” A muffled cheer melted through the control room walls. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Out on the causeway, the sun beat down on the spectators, and water condensed on the outsides of beer cans as the count neared zero. “Ten!” the crowd shouted. “Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four!” A rumble shook the beach as the engine lit up, sending vapor and exhaust billowing out of the flame bucket. The Moa rocked back and forth on its hold-down clamps. “Three! Two! One!” The solid rocket boosters lit up, bathing the launchpad in a white-hot glow. The sound carried in the air, twisting and crackling. “Liftoff!” The Moa left the pad, arcing out over the ocean, breaking through scattered wisps of cloud, and carrying Raven XIV out past the farthest reaches of Kerbin’s atmosphere in a sudden, abrupt departure from the warm beach below. As Boblock took the controls to dock with the Phoenix, cars were still lined up at the gates of the KSC to take their drivers back to the resorts in Juno’s Landing. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Boblock calmly and carefully typed the commands into the computer to relight the second stage that the Phoenix was mated to; Stella reviewed a checklist and Jeb held a camera up to the window. Just as Jeb closed the shutter, the radio crackled with a tracking update from Juno. “Uhhh, Coyote, we have about sixty seconds until the TMI burn. Please confirm Program 34 is in, with REFSMMAT mode selector ‘Kerbin Down’, over.” “Roger, Juno, we are ready.” Boblock turned to his crewmates. “Brace for about one G, eyeballs out.” Stella nodded and leaned forward against the control panel, resting her forehead on her arm. Jeb took one more picture before following suit. “Three, two, one, ignition!” Out the docking window, a string of fireballs trailed out from the Moa second stage, as the Raven accelerated tailfirst. A faint vibration began, with the two spacecraft rocking back and forth on the docking port as they reached escape velocity.” “Shutdown,” Boblock announced. Jeb and Stella leaned back in their seats as Boblock jettisoned the second stage and fired the RCS to back away from it. “Phoenix extraction, solar panel deployment… pressure vessels holding.” Jeb looked out the docking window where, for the first time during the mission, the Mun could be seen behind the Phoenix. “Let’s get on our way.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Jeb couldn’t get enough of Farside, even though he’d seen it many times before. Without the lava flows or the massive Hermes Crater, the finer details of the regolith could be observed from orbit, and Jeb had lots of experience identifying small landmarks and the bases that had been established in his own time. He had once made a delivery to a small research base on the rim of the Hermes Crater, and although the view was spectacular, the rest of Nearside felt bland in comparison. Even the dramatic descent into Munbase Two, before Hudson had blown it up, couldn’t compare to how pristine Farside was: Like a fresh snow, Jeb thought, but he wouldn’t know, having grown up in the desert near Los Ruidos and spending the rest of his life in orbit. Boblock waved out the docking window as the Phoenix drew away from the Raven, but Stella was two busy with checklists to respond. He turned and was struck by how large Coyote was without his crewmates, and almost laughed, before reminding himself that making the return trip with so much extra space would be a tragedy. Jeb was looking out the window when the Phoenix passed over Farside again, and he was so engrossed with the view he didn’t notice Stella reach down and turn the radio frequency knob all the way to the right. He gasped when the static filled the cabin, and turned the volume down as quick as he could. “What happened?” Stella pretended to glance at the control panel, and then leaned over and covered the cockpit voice recorder microphone with her hand. “Looks like we lost our voice comms with the Coyote. We should be able to call Juno once we get back over Nearside, though.” Jeb frowned. “So, nobody can hear us?” “Yep.” Stella sighed. “I guess that means this is a good time to talk about why I tried to kill Bob a few weeks ago.”
  4. These are brilliant! It can be very hard to make the massive Size 2 doors look good on a 'reigonal' jet, but you've done it. By the way, what mod gave you the north taxiway I see next to the runway in pictures of the space center? Did you make it yourself with Kerbal Konstructs? If so, that's even more impressive than the airplanes, in my opinion.
  5. Confused Scientist

    So what song is stuck in your head today?

    ...Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored. Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender, Bender is bored. Bender is bored, Bender is bored.
  6. Confused Scientist

    SpaceX Discussion Thread

    ...aaaaand we're live! Startup. Liftoff! MECO and Mvac ignition. Still mad thinking that this should've been a Falcon Heavy, so I'm out of here.
  7. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    Intermission Jeb: ...Really? If you know the names of Santa's reindeer, then say them. Val: Okay. Uh... Rudolph, and Dasher, and Donner, and Nixon... Comet, and Milton, and Rabid, and Clinton. Is that right? Bob: Close enough. Happy Holidays from Jeb and the Crew!
  8. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    Part 34- Fall Dog Bombs the Mun, Part Two Jeb and Bill each held a small suitcase in their hand as they left the crew quarters for the hangar where the A-Series was parked, talking about a news story they’d heard on the radio. “You hear about all those people up north,” Bill mused, “crashing their cars and their airplanes and getting heart attacks just shoveling their driveways. They should move down here.” Jeb laughed as he opened the door to the parking lot. “Yeah. All we have to deal with is the occasional-” A fierce gust of wind caught the door and pulled it out of Jeb’s hand. Without anything to hold onto, Jeb fell flat on his face and covered his neck as hail struck the pavement. Gasping, he used his free arm to crawl back into the crew quarters. “The occasional hurricane,” Jeb sighed. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Val and Stella leaned against the wall and stared at each other as wind shook the windows of the hangar. “Rock, paper, scissors… shoot.” “Tie.”" “Rock, paper, scissors… shoot.” Val looked at Stella’s hands. Paper. “Darn,” she muttered, then waved at Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Mason, who all wore yellow ponchos. “Wait for my signal.” She grabbed a flashlight and pulled the hangar door open. As wind gusted in she began sprinting to the A-Series sitting on the ramp, darting beneath the tailcone and reaching up to deploy the airstair in the back. Jumping up on her toes, she reached the handle and pulled the staircase down, being careful not to hit her head as wind howled around her. Finally, she grabbed onto the handrail and clicked the flashlight on and off three times. Inside the hangar, Mason saw the flashes. “Let’s go!” he yelled, and picked up his suitcase. Along with the rest of the crew, he sprinted to the plane, and he was the first up the stairs. He yanked the plug door open and dashed into the cabin, eager to be out of the storm. Passing through the rear cargo section, he stepped past the tracking station hardware and entered the forward cabin, a luxury zone. It had been renovated to suit the occasional role as executive transport, and it included a bar, television, typewriter, television, and even a small bedroom. Val and Bill buckled into the passenger cabin to rest. They would swap out with Jeb and Bob after they left Crystal City. In the cockpit, Stella began to start the plane’s engines as Bob called Air Traffic Control. “This is KSC 439, can we get a wind check please? “KSC 493, wind is 35 at 16.” “Thanks, Cape Center. We will contact you after departure.” Bob turned and looked at Jeb. “We’ve got a huge crosswind. We’re going to have to take off from Runway 12.” Jeb frowned. “That’s a four thousand-foot runway.” “We’ll just have to take off light and refuel at Juno’s Landing,” Stella offered. “I’ll go tell the passengers as we taxi.” Jeb throttled up the engines and finessed the rudder pedals as he taxied past the threshold of Runway 09. “Flaps twenty.” The airplane shook with another gust of wind as he pushed the throttle forward and turned onto the little-used Runway 12. “We are holding short at Runway 12… Stella’s back on the flight deck, aligning with the runway. Stella, give me readouts, we are at takeoff thrust.” Stella watched the engineer’s panel as the aircraft accelerated. “V1…” “Proceed.” “V2… Rotate.” Jeb pulled the nose up and the wheels left the ground. The flight had begun. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ After a brief, fifteen-minute flight, Jeb got vectors for a landing at the airport and taxied to the ramp. Twenty minutes later, the jet was refueled and Val had swapped out with Stella in the right-hand seat. This time, she was the pilot in command. As she advanced the throttles to begin taxiing, Bob tapped Jeb on the shoulder. “Yes?” “There’s a beacon out on our route,” Bob told him. “Between Los Ruidos and Crystal City. That’s a ten minute radio blackout, and we’ll have to… I mean, looking at the maps, we’re going to be steering north around some restricted airspace.” Jeb nodded. “Okay, thanks for telling me.” The A-Series lined up on the runway. “Throttles full, brakes off… annnnd rotate. Positive rate, gear up. Flaps zero.” Val banked the jet west and out over the mountains. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The miles passed quickly, with the high-pitched whine of the jet engines. Mountains turned to prairie, and prairie turned to desert as Crystal City grew closer on the horizon. “Almost there,” Bob said. “Probably time to turn around the restricted airspace.” Val nodded and adjusted the autopilot. “Once we’re on the ground Bill will swap out with Jeb and then we can refuel for the final leg to the Slandish Isles.” Jeb looked up. “We just lost contact with Los Ruidos. I will call Crystal City Approach in ten minutes.” “You won’t be calling anyone.” Jeb, Bob, and Val turned around and gasped. Mason had entered the cockpit silently and locked the door behind him. Now he was holding a gun, and it was pointed at Val’s head. “What in Kraken’s name are you doing?” Jeb yelled. “Jebediah Kerman, you are under arrest for suspicion of terrorist activity, obstruction of justice via prison break, and grand theft spacecraft. You are also wanted for inciting rebel activity, conspiracy to overthrow the United Kerbol interplanetary government, and the destruction of the fourth moon of Jool.” Jeb went pale. “Who are you?” Mason held up an ID. “Mason Kerman, head and deputy administrator of the Interplanetary Authority.” Val blinked. “Uh… well. It’s… wait, what?” Mason smirked. “I’m surprised I could keep my cover for so long. I had you fools pegged for more, and all the clues were there. I lost one of my ID cards when I set the fire in the VAB, Bob caught me using a temporal radio to call back to my superiors in the future, and I didn’t even bother to change my name!” Bob stood up from the flight engineer’s console. “We’re not going down without a fight. Jeb, if he backs us into a corner, crash this plane.” Mason smiled. “Way ahead of you. You may notice I’m wearing a parachute now. What’s more, in exactly seven minutes the explosive charges I have planted in the tail will destroy all three engines. Now, we’re gonna have a little talk. If I like the way our conversation goes, I’ll show you where I’ve hid five extra parachutes on this plane. If I don’t it, then…” He trailed off. “You get the idea.” Jeb watched as Mason clicked the safety off and pressed the pistol against his neck. “Now, your first task is to call Bill and Stella and ask them to get up here. I don’t want them to miss this.” “Okay.” Jeb picked up the intercom. “Uh… attention, passengers, could you come forward into the flight deck, please?” A moment passed and then Stella gasped as she opened the cockpit door. Bill was right behind her. “What’s going on in here?” Mason explained as Stella’s eyes narrowed. When he was done, she sighed. “Why did you have to chase us all the way into the past?” she asked. “Why did you have to be such a bad cop?” “Because,” Mason sighed, “it was all an act. The government came down on the IA hard, begged us to catch you guys. You were the most-wanted, ever, and everybody on Kerbin didn’t even look at the facts, that Hudson had fleeced you into blowing up Munbase. But the truth is, the United Kerbol might as well still be United Kerbin. You guys were like folk heroes to everybody in the colonies who thought that Kerbin was getting a bigger piece of the pie.” “So?” Bill asked. “What does that have to do with us?” Mason turned towards Stella. “Stella, you traveled back in time nearly two weeks after Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Val here. You’re their friend, and they deserve to hear it from a friend.” Stella nodded. “There was a war. All of the colonies rebelled, fought against communism. They had decided that a socialist society was good enough for Kerbin, but for a sustainable space marked there would have to be ruthless capitalism, even more extreme than the underground system that was already in place. Jeb, I understand that you were quite the negotiator for your dropship company, right?” Jeb nodded. “Well,” Stella continued, “price-gouging and market competition like that would have become the norm. And, Jeb, Duna and Laythe and Gilly really wanted this. They… they bombed two cities on Duna.” Bob gasped. Mason nodded solemnly. “I had no control over the decision. I was appointed as a puppet and made to look tough in front of the cameras by powerful kerbals who couldn’t see how stupid they were being. They thought that a manhunt would unite the Kerbol system instead of tearing it apart. The reason I have to confess all of this now is I need your cooperation, and to do that I need to earn your trust. There’s a massive conspiracy at work here, one that is nearly as powerful as the government. With your help, we could negotiate with the extraplanetary colonies and restore order before…” Mason trailed off. “Before what?” Val asked. “There are plans to tunnel into the cores of Duna and Laythe and detonate two singularity devices there. When I heard the plans, I called them crazy, that destroying Duna and Laythe would be even stupider than bombing your crew out on Bop. I told them, if we lose Duna and Laythe, we will never be able to fly anywhere again, that we would be confined to Kerbin forever. You and I all share a dream, a dream that kerbalkind was meant to sail among the stars, and if we lose Laythe, we lose the dream.” “That’s beautiful,” Jeb said. “But why did you sabotage our rockets? Three kerbals are dead, and you killed them.” Mason shook his head. “I didn’t sabotage Raven IX. That was an accident, plain and simple. But, yes, I did blow up a few Moas and disable Val’s service module that one time. I do wish I didn’t have to frame Sam for the sabotages, though. He’s a good kerbal, and before we left I put a note on Gene’s desk asking him to hire Sam again. Anyway, the reason I had to sabotage your flights was because it was all happening too fast. Imagine, for example, if we took the founder of Pomegranate Computers and sent her back in time a hundred years. All of a sudden you’ve got smartphones, PCs, and laptops existing at the same time as rotary phones and 78 rpm records. That’s gonna cause a lot of paradoxes, so, yeah, I had to mess with your rockets a bit. By the way, we’ve got one minute until the engines go out.” Bill stepped forward. “One last question. How did you get back in time?” “We used singularity devices to bombard the monolith on what used to be Bop. Eventually they sent me through and gave me a codename, ‘Coyote’. Apparently, it means ‘trickster’.” There was a muffled bang and the aircraft began to dive. Jeb winced as alarms began to sound, and he reached over to the control panel to push the nose down and deploy the ram air turbine. “This aircraft is crippled. So, what do you say: Will you join with me to take on the government?” Mason smiled as Val stood up to answer him. “No,” Val sighed. “NO?” Mason gasped. “But I explained everything! We have a common enemy!” “Yeah,” Jeb said, “but if you had wanted us to work with you, you shouldn’t have made the future so hellish. Instead of chasing us, you could have called us and had this conversation right away. Well, there’s one thing you hadn’t counted on: We like the past, and we’re going to stay here and build the future as best we can.” “Don’t you think that’s pretty selfish?” Mason asked. “You have a chance to help everybody on the colonies.” Bob looked Mason in the eye. “Maybe it’s about time the colonies had a war." "Well," Mason said, "even if you survive the crash, I will hunt you down." His voice was gruff again, like it had been on the news networks of the future. "I have a full bottle of Electron Blue, the only one on the entire planet. When I find you, I will use pure force to apprehend you." Bob laughed. "Mason, don't you know? Electron Blue is just a sugar pill. It's a placebo." Mason blinked. "Uh... well..." He went red in the face. "Uh... goodbye." And with that, he sprinted out of the cockpit and into the back of the plane to open the aft airstair. Bill handed out oxygen masks as he lowered the stairs and, with one last glance back into the cabin of the plane, climbed out and jumped into the slipstream. Jeb turned back to the dying control panel as his ears popped with the pressure change. “Bill, go look for the other five parachutes. Stella, call in a mayday on the radio as soon as we have contact with ATC. Everybody else, get to work securing the cabin for a crash landing. Get together a survival kit and some radios.” Then the stall horn sounded, and Jeb’s stomach sunk as he realized how hopeless the situation was. The jet was only a few knots above stall speed and had already fallen from half of its original cruising altitude. He also suspected the hydraulic system was leaking, and he had to pull harder and harder on the stick to keep from diving. The radio squaked and a voice came over the loop. “Uhh, KSP 493, this is the Painted Desert Missile Range. You are entering restricted airspace, our radars show you descending rapidly, please advise.” Stella grabbed the radio. “Mayday, mayday, mayday, Painted Desert; KSP 493, flight level 190, calling in a triple engine failure. Five souls onboard, a sixth has parachuted from the aft airstair. Please assist.” “KSP 493, we can give you vectors to a landing on our runway. Turn heading 98.” Jeb looked at an air map. “Uh, negative, Painted Desert. There is a mountain range between your base and our aircraft, and we have insufficient altitude to clear. If we cannot locate another runway we will be crashing in the mountains shortly.” “Well, we believe you are cleared to crash into the mountains, then.” Jeb looked at Stella. “I’ve heard that a lot today.” Stella looked out at the foothills. There was no way they could land the plane on those slopes, but then Bill crashed through the cockpit door. “The center engine is still working!” Jeb turned around. “What?” “The center engine still has thrust. Since the intake goes right over the airstair, Mason didn’t want to blow it up and risk damaging the hatch before his jump. He just cut the control lines, and we just tied them back together.” Alarms and warnings began to sound in the cockpit as Jeb started the engine and pulled back on the nose. Hills rose tall in the windshield, but after a three-g pullout the jet was climbing again, rising under the feeble power of one engine. “Okay,” Stella said, glancing at the fuel gauge, “it’s a hundred miles to Crystal City and right now we have a hundred-fifty mile range. Pour on the coals and let’s get some vectors.” It was nearly sunset when the jet arrived over Crystal City, burning fumes as hydraulic fluid and fuel leaked from the fuselage. Jeb was pulling almost all the way back on the stick, and the plane turned sluggishly. Crystal City Tower lined them up for a landing on the longest runway, and after turning towards downtown over the suburbs Jeb prepared for a high-speed, high stakes landing. Bob climbed into the cockpit and took a seat at the flight engineer’s console. “Give me callouts when ready,” Stella told him. “Okay." "By the way, is Electron Blue really a placebo?" Bob flashed a smile. "Nobody knows. They did tell us certain things when I was working in the engineer corps, and I have to keep those a secret. Knowing the true nature of Electron Blue ruins the effect." "Huh." Bob cleared his throat. "Uh, flaps ten." “Flaps ten,” Jeb replied. “I’m thinking of going flaps twenty overall and making a fast landing.” “Okay. We have acquired the ILS beacon. Glideslope alive.” “Looks like we’re about ten miles out.” “Flaps twenty,” Bob announced. “Flaps twenty.” “Gear down.” “Gear dow- ah,” Jeb sighed, “warning light on the left gear. I am going around.” Stella nodded. “Crystal City tower, KSP 493 is going around, over. Requesting priority on 22 Left on our next approach, over.” As the jet circled and rejoined the approach, the fuel needle inched all the way to the left and pegged itself at zero. “We are bingo fuel,” Jeb announced, “gonna be delaying gear deployment on this one. We are fifteen miles out.” Nobody said anything as the ocean appeared on the horizon. Then, the last engine cut out and the cockpit was filled with alarms again. “We are losing power, nosing down!” “RAT deployment, hydraulics should be coming back online.” “Negative, I think the line is dry. Deploying flaps and extending gear with what’s left in the line.” “Okay. Careful, you’re about to lose the beacon.” “I see it. Turning back now…” “Five miles out.” There was a line of hills between the plane and the airport, and Jeb pulled back hard on the stick to clear a row of trees. The plane’s gear caught on some power lines, bringing them down. The plane’s warning system was in chaos as it grew closer to the runway. Pull up! Pull up! Sinkrate! Too low, terrain! Too low, terrain! Pull up! Pull up! Sinkrate! Too low, terrain! Too low, terrain! “Could this get any worse?” Jeb muttered under his breath as the plane cleared a row of apartment buildings a half kilometer from the airport. In the passenger cabin, Val closed her eyes. The stick shaker started up, and Jeb could feel the airplane stall out. “Yeah, it could. Prepare for a crash landing on 22 Left!” he shouted, as the plane fell from the sky and just barely cleared the airport fence. The left gear collapsed, and the fuselage scraped along the ground before the jet ran off the side of the runway and slit to a halt. In the cabin, Val opened her eyes. “I’m alive,” she whispered. “I’m alive!” She ran to the door and yanked it open, waving to the approaching fire trucks. As the slide deployed, she grinned before sliding down to the ground and sprinting away from the jet as it began to go up in flames, Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Stella right behind her. Jeb kissed the ground. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Even after the flight back from Crystal City, Jeb still made it a point to visit the mission control room before heading off to bed. Nodding hello to Sean Kerman at the flight controller’s console, he leaned against the wall as the capcom read off Fall Dog’s final instructions for the test before the schedule rendezvous with the Raven. “…and we’ll catch you with an plane change maneuver on the next orbit, over and out.” Jeb frowned. Something was nagging at him, and he went down to the FIDO console. “Hey,” he asked, “could I get the numbers on the next maneuver for the Phoenix?” Five minutes later, he was seated in the Phoenix flight simulator, his gut feeling outweighing his exhaustion. He keyed in the program numbers the FIDO gave him and noticed that they matched the exact date that he had traveled back in time from. Frowning, he hit execute. The star field outside the window whipped around and around, and the cockpit went dark after a few moments. According to the computer, the engine was firing, sending the Phoenix into a collision course with the Munar surface. Jeb got up from the seat and sprinted back into Mission Control. Gasping and leaning over with his hands on his knees, he looked up at Sean Kerman. “Put out an advisory…” he told him. “I’ve discovered a bad program. Never tell them to execute this one.” Jeb leaned back, happy that he had thwarted Mason’s last attempt at a sabotage, but still unsure of what hunch had led him to test the computer program. And then, eyes wide, he stood up, remembering the words he had heard in a kiva, not twenty miles from where Mason had jumped out of his airplane: Beware the coyote... he is a trickster, and he is not who he seems... He hunts the phoenix. The raven has eluded him... but the phoenix, for all of his beauty, is very delicate. Be careful, Jebediah. Be very careful.
  9. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    It's not just a placebo, it's a very expensive placebo. Observe... The Miraculin Group approaches you with two briefcases. One, they say, contains a million dollars. If you do not accept the money, they will open the other briefcase and use the gun inside it to kill you with bullets. What do you do? If you take the money, turn to page 28. If you stick with the truth, turn to page 386.
  10. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    Part 33- Fall Dog Bombs the Mun, Part One “Okay, start the drive motors! Good, good… where’s the support convoy? Get the trucks over here!” It’s not often that rockets need crossing guards, but Jeb was quick to get out of the way when the Moa began its journey to the launchpad, more out of fear that he’d drop a pen in the crawler tracks and ruin the whole operation than that he’d be crushed to death. He walked around the treads and studied a few dials before climbing onto the crawler transporter itself and walking to the front driver’s cab. “Hey, Bill. You’re today’s driver?” Bill smiled. “Yep. Mason was supposed to do it, but he’s doing some work on an A-series jet parked out in the field. Fixing up the engines, I think.” Jeb looked back at the rocket. Instead of a Raven, there was a streamlined payload faring with a Phoenix underneath. The Raven was already on the pad, and both rockets would be readied to launch for Raven XIII, a Munar test-flight of the Phoenix. “What did the crew name this one?” Bill shrugged. “The Phoenix is called Fall Dog, and the Raven is Igloo.” “Well,” Jeb sighed, “I should probably go. Looks like we’re almost out of the hangar.” Jeb opened the door to the cab and climbed down a staircase down to the VAB floor. He waved at the departing rocket for a second as it left the hangar and then turned to go back inside, just as an electric with Wernher at the helm swerved out of its lane and crashed into an engineer’s desk. “From now on, I drive,” Gene muttered from the passenger seat as Wernher backed the cart up and chased after the Moa. The cart had knocked a plastic pill bottle off of the desk, and it rolled towards Jeb’s feet. He bent down to pick it up, but when he read the label, his eyes widened. Electron Blue… A bottle of Electron Blue! Jeb nearly fainted. Okay, calm. Maybe Bill or Val took it with them when we abandoned ship… He ran over to the desk and looked at the nameplate. It was blank, and Jeb sighed. But then, looking closer, he saw that the nameplate was made out of a piece of pipe. One side was open, with scratches from a saw, and the other end was closed, with a rounded cap. The cap, he noticed, had a screw at the tip, much like the one that had disabled Cuyahoga’s solar panel. And then suddenly every missing piece of the puzzle fell into place. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Val didn’t know what was so important that she had to miss the launch of Fall Dog, but she hurried to Wernher’s office anyway. She gave the secret knock at the door, and when it opened she saw Jeb, Bill, Bob, Wernher, and Gene sitting around a desk. She frowned at Gene. “Shouldn’t you be in the control room?” Bob shook his head. “This is the only time we knew no one would hear us. Tell ‘em, Jeb.” Jeb stood up and looked at Val. “One of our engineers has a bottle of Electron Blue.” Bill gasped. “How could somebody possibly-” “Hold it,” Wernher said. “What’s Electron Blue?” “Well,” Bob said, “Electron Blue was created by the Miraculin Group, a pharmaceutical company. It was intended as withdrawal treatment, to ease addicts off drugs. But some of the former addicts were also cancer patients, and the first trials suggested it was also a potent tumor suppression drug. Then some diabetic addicts reported that they were able to throw out their insulin, and epileptic addicts stopped having seizures. This drug, this one pill, was able to cure almost anything… and all the patient had to do was think of it.” A rumble shook the room. “That’s the Phoenix going up,” Gene said. “Anyway, go on.” Val nodded. “It was called the ‘miracle placebo’. In fact, it was mostly just sugar, with trace amounts of bonding agents and nitroglycerin, but nothing else. It was even used as a performance booster for cheating bikers, sluggers, and the like, because no test could detect it unless somebody found the bottle.” Gene sat up in his chair. “So, how did a sugar pill cure cancer?” “The Miraculin Group claimed that they used ultraviolet radiation to coordinate the spin of electrons in the sugar compound. Scientists couldn’t agree on the process, but the Miraculin Group ran with it and launched the slogan, ‘The Drug Made of Light’.” Wernher’s eyes lit up. “That’s beautiful. But whose pills are those?” “No idea,” Jeb told him. “I’ve staked out the desk for the last few days, but the engineer must have wised up that we were on to him. Security footage is too blurry to tell anything, so we’re going to have to wait for him to make a move.” ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Gene was back on the console for Igloo’s launch and rendezvous. The Raven approached the Phoenix in the nighttime part of the orbit, illuminating the docking port with its floodlights. Docking came as the spacecraft came into sunlight, and the Raven’s solar panels turned to meet the sun. A live TV picture from the Phoenix upper stage came on the screen in Mission Control a few minutes before the trans-Munar injection, and Val studied the uplink when Sunny came in. “We need you in front of the cameras.” Val moaned. “Why me?” “Because.” Sunny dragged Val from the control room and they got into an electric service cart, the same kind that had crashed into the workbench when the Moa was taken out of the hangar. Sunny drove almost as aggressively as Jeb, and they crashed into a telephone pole. “We’re here.” “Yeah, yeah.” Val and Sunny ran through the halls and past the open doors of offices. At every desk, a different yuppie had a customer on the phone: No, sir, we cannot paint the rocket to match your soft drink. Well, sir, it would bow up. I’m afraid that the launch vehicle cannot perform the loops per your specifications. A gold-plated strap-on booster would violate our safety clause. Val ignored them and stepped into an auditorium. Stella led her to the stage, where Val squinted against the floodlights. “Two minutes from now, the Raven-Phoenix stack will begin its transfer burn to a Munar injection orbit, where the Phoenix lander will be tested. Questions?” A reporter in the back stood up. “Yes, what does the Phoenix test profile look like?” “Fall Dog will make a low pass fifteen kilometers above the Munar surface and ignite its propulsion system before jettisoning the descent tanks and landing gear. The Phoenix will return to the Raven, where Mermon Kerman and Sal Kerman will rejoin Raven pilot Munro Kerman. The Raven… what are those reporters-” “It’s cool,” the Coyote News reporter said. “The gun’s not loaded anymore. Isn’t that right?” “That guy shot me!” the Kerbal News Network cameraman shouted. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ There was a knock on Bob’s office door. “Come in.” Mason leaned in with a phone pressed to his ear. “Punto de Camarones had an equipment failure. We need to fly out a replacement computer. Can you be a pilot?” “Let’s see… I’ll need a copilot, that’ll be Jeb… flight engineer will be Bill, relief pilot will be Val, and relief flight engineer will be Stella. Want to come along?” “A free vacation to the Slandish Isles? How could I refuse?” Mason let go of the phone, and it slung back on its cord to his office with a scream and the sound of shattering glass. “Oops. Well, since the Kloncorde’s in Bigfield as a hot spare for the Navy recovery planes, we’ll need to use a different plane Bill frowned. “I think there’s a spare A-Series parked behind the VAB. We’ll probably have to refuel at Crystal City and in the Mugal Strait.” Mason nodded and hurried back to his office to throw a few things in a duffel bag before heading to the jet. He brought a toothbrush, a baseball cap, an extra shirt and a pair of shorts. Even though it was just a two-day trip, Mason was a careful planner, and he made sure to bring enough clothes to cover up his pistol, his parachute, and his bottle of Electron Blue.
  11. Confused Scientist

    Don't Click This

    "Hal, unlock the pod bay doors." ///: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't let you do that. "Why?" ///: The doors were never locked.
  12. Confused Scientist

    NASA SLS/Orion/Payloads

    Can you identify some of those sources? I have never, ever seen that figure quoted before, so I want to know what it's based off of. For comparison, the entire United States Interstate highway system costs around $500 billion (2016 dollars). EDIT: Sources found, thanks.
  13. Confused Scientist

    NASA SLS/Orion/Payloads

    From Wikipedia: From SpaceNews:
  14. Confused Scientist

    Making a Dollar or Two- BOOK TWO

    Part 32- Apocalypse How? Most of the newer astronauts had moved out to Juno's suburbs, but Jeb, Bob, Bill, Val, and a few other pilots stayed in the crew quarters full-time along with Gene and Wernher; they were the ones with no families, whose children were the rockets that they built. That's is why Val didn't care how loud she sounded as she ran down the hallway, past the library, past the rec room, and towards Jeb's split-level at the edge of the building. Panting, she skidded to a halt at his door and began pounding as hard as she could. When a few seconds went by without any reply, she tried the knob and, finding the door unlocked, entered the apartment. Jeb's desk light was still on in the loft, but Val knew that he had likely forgotten to turn it off as he worked on some blueprints. She jumped around various half-complete stainless steel girders and motor housings spread out in his first-floor workshop and dashed up the stairs to his bed, noticing that it was just a few minutes after midnight as she passed his alarm clock. Then she was shaking his arm, leaning in, whispering, "Wake up, dammit. This is important." "Unnuhhhhghhh..." Jeb murmured. "Iss dark ousside." "Yeah," Val snapped, "it's dark. Open your eyes and look at this." Jeb lifted himself out of his bed and stumbled over to a coffeemaker on his desk. "I was walking on the beach-" Val began, but Jeb motioned for her to stop. After a few minutes, the coffeepot was full and Jeb sat down to listen to Val. "Mornin'," he said to her. "Not really," Val replied. "I was walking out on the beach, and look what I found." She held out a small orange box, made of durable plastic, and Jeb read the words that had been stenciled onto it: KRAKEN'S SPIT REGISTERED JEBEDIAH KERMAN OF JEB'S DROPSHIP COMPANY CLASS II DROPSHIP MANUFACTURED KONTINENTAL DEEP SPACE DIVISION FLIGHT DATA RECORDER DO NOT OPEN IF FOUND VISIT "How did that get there?" Jeb asked. "The Kraken's Spit wasn't anywhere near Bop when the singularity device was detonated." "Doesn't matter," Val said. "I need you to get Bob and go to the junkyard and destroy this." "Why?" "You can never be too paranoid," Val told him. Jeb nodded. "What's Bob got to do with this?" "He's not afraid to fire a gun." "Yes," Jeb gasped, "he is." "Well, he's not afraid to hold a gun, like you." "Fair enough." ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Jeb and Bob met under a broken streetlight in the crew quarters. Jeb brought the Korvette around to the front of the building and Bob loaded a shotgun and a few cases of shells. Then he shoved them in the glove compartment along with the Kraken's Spit black box and they took off, towards the factories north of Juno's Landing. Neither of them noticed the truck following them out of the KSC gate, crawling along with its lights off. Bob tried the radio during the drive, but as he spun the dial only one station was broadcasting: Coyote, I am following thirty meters behind their car. We'll be at the yard in about ten minutes and I'll jump them after- Something about the program bothered Bob, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Maybe if he had had more time to drink his coffee, Bob would have asked Jeb to stop the car and speed back to the space center, but instead Jeb pulled the car underneath the rusted metal sign advertising Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spacecraft Parts Co. and parked next to what might be called the main office, if there hadn't been several scorpions living in it. Jeb rolled down his window a bit as Bob grabbed the black box and loaded the shotgun. "Hold on," he told Jeb as he stepped out. "Keep idling." He went around to the back of the car and held the black box behind the tailpipe for a few seconds, then brought it back around and showed Jeb. "How'd it turn green?" Jeb asked. "Since orange doesn't show up very well against Duna's sand, it turns green when exposed to heavy concentrations of carbon dioxide, like in Duna's atmosphere. This way if somebody finds the debris of the flight recorder, it won't be quite as conspicuous." Bob frowned. "I'll be right back," he said. "Keep the car running." Jeb nodded and turned the radio on again as Bob grabbed a flashlight from the toolbox in the trunk and headed into the gloom of the junkyard. Sidestepping rusted hulks and hollowed-out fuel tanks, he shivered as a cool breeze came in from the coast, and a flash of thunder made the hairs stand up on his neck. Wish I'd brought an umbrella, he thought. Soon Bob was at the compactor. He placed the data recorder on the platform and pushed the control levers forward. He leaned against an old truck as another flash of lightning came, bathing the junkyard in light... and illuminating a kerbal in a mask, with a machine gun slung across one shoulder and ammo clips strapped onto the other. "Hey!" Bob yelled. The masked kerbal turned toward him as they reached for the data recorder. Bob saw them reaching for their gun and, thinking fast, jumped and dove at their feet. They wrestled in the dirt, kicking and punching, as flashes of lightning kept coming faster and faster as a thunderstorm drew closer to Juno's Landing. The mystery kerbal definitely wasn't expecting Bob to be such a competent fighter, and after a few minutes of wrestling he suddenly realized that he was holding the machine gun. Jumping off the other kerbal and shoving them in the dirt, he ran over to the compactor and, as quick as he could, reached into the last few centimeters of the gap and pulled out the data recorder. Then, with just seconds to spare, Bob shoved the machine gun into the compactor, smiling as he heard it crunch. He put the black box in his backpack when it hit him- specifically, a piece of rusty rebar right in his temple. Bob went down, crawling in the dirt, before he grabbed another piece of rebar and parried another attack. Another flash of lightning came, and the wind picked up as the masked kerbal backed Bob up against a chain-link fence. The rebar thudded into the fence just centimeters from Bob's face, and as the masked kerbal tried to free the rod Bob rolled out to the side and, grabbing onto the support column of a water tower, pulled himself to his feet. Disarmed, the masked kerbal backed up against the fence as Bob drew his shotgun and pumped the barrel. Just as he took aim, however another flash of lightning came, with a roar of thunder, and the masked kerbal reached out and shoved the barrel up just as Bob fired. The shotgun pellets buried themselves in the bottom of the water tower. "You missed," the masked kerbal said. "Astronauts never miss," Bob said, and began running as, for the second time in his life, a massive wall of water grew behind him as the bottom of the water tower gave way. Bleeding, and with only the occasional flash of lightning to guide him, Bob tripped over rusted-out motors and piles of old tires during his mad dash back towards the headlights of the Korvette. Jeb looked up as he slammed the door, and as he opened his mouth, Bob cut him off. "Shut up and drive." The motor purred as gravel flew up from the Korvette's wheels as Jeb flung it around in the parking lot and turned back onto Route 77, eastbound. Bob rummaged around in the glovebox for a first-aid kit, but Jeb was worried about a pair of headlights bearing straight towards him on the highway as the storm broke and large, fat drops of rain splattered on the windshield. Jeb turned the windshield wipers on and said, "Hey, Bob, I think this guy up here-" He ducked as a hail of bullets tore the rearview mirror loose. "Get down!" Jeb yelled as he spun the wheel, zigging and zagging to make the Korvette a harder target, but no more shots came. Instead, the truck began swerving from side to side on the highway. "He's trying to run us down!" Bob yelled. "Strap in and hold on tight," Jeb growled. "It's a game of chicken." He pushed down even harder on the accelerator as the headlights grew larger in the windshield, until a collision appeared inevitable- Then Jeb slammed on the brakes and cranked the wheel hard to the left, before spinning his hands one over the other and turning the other way. The car spun out, flipping onto two wheels as the truck flashed past just centimeters from the Korvette, and kept spinning and fishtailing for another half a kilometer down Route 77. "This is the greatest ride ever!" Jeb yelled, as he spun the steering wheel all the way to the left before reaching nearly all the way around to reverse course. Bob, who was mainly focusing on trying not to black out, didn't say anything until the view from his window was less blurry and Jeb was pushing the accelerator again. "I say we gave him the slip," Jeb laughed, "didn't we-" Bob pointed at the rearview mirror, where the same headlights were growing larger. "Don't worry," Jeb said, "we can outrun them. We're in a Korvette." "Uh, I don't think so, Jeb," Bob said, pointing to the dashboard. "The engine overheat light is on." "It'll cool down. See, it's off now." "I'm pretty sure it burned out. It wasn't meant to be on for such a long time at once." His point was proved as the tailpipe sputtered and Jeb felt the tension going out of the accelerator. "Okay," Bob said. "What's our Plan B?" Jeb spun the wheel and the wheels chirped as the Korvette flew onto an access road, winding towards the port south of town. "I've got one," Jeb declared. "I see. Could you maybe, you know, tell me what it is?" "No time," Jeb said dismissively. "Here, throw this out the window." Bob looked at the box Jeb had handed him. "A box of tacks?" "I'm almost out of ideas. Just throw it!" Bob rolled the window down and hurled the box out into the night. The wind and rain battered his face as he quickly rolled the wind back up. "Ha!" he laughed, looking in the rearview mirror. "We punched a hole in their windshield!" "We did what?" Jeb asked. "That was supposed to pop one of their tires." "Oh." The truck had lost some ground after the box of tacks had shattered the windshield, but it quickly regained its ground and pulled up a few meters behind the Korvette. Bob gulped as he saw the driver- still that masked kerbal- lean out the window with a pistol as they approached Kearney Lagoon. "Hmm..." Jeb muttered. "The dashboard clock says sunrise is in half an hour..." He looked out at the ocean, which was only lit by the occasional flash of lightning. "Tonight, there was a new Mun... I have an idea." "Jeb, you better-" He was cut off as the car began bumping up and down in the road, which was terrifying once Bob realized that the bumps in the road were actually wood planks, and that the planks were in the road because the road was actually a boardwalk near Juno's harbor. Jeb pressed down on the accelerator as Bob dared to look out the windshield and, thanks to a sudden flash of lightning, saw that the soaking-wet boardwalk was about to come to a sudden end. "Jeb!" Bob yelled, his voice jumping a few octaves. "What's your plan?" "I can't tell you," Jeb said as he turned off the headlights. "You'd have a heart attack." "PLEASE!" "Well," Jeb sighed, as if he was sitting in an armchair with a pipe instead of facing an imminent, terrible death, "have you ever wondered why no ships ever dock in Kearny Lagoon?" "What?" "I said, have you ever wondered why no ships come in to dock at Kearny Lagoon?" "HOW IN KRAKEN'S NAME CAN YOU BE SO CALM? I'LL KILL YOU BEFORE WE DROWN, YOU SMUG-" Jeb spun the steering wheel hard to the left and Bob gasped as the car went careening off the end of the pier, spinning, twisting in midair, coming closer to the dark, twisting water... and landing on all four wheels as the truck flew out into the ocean. Jeb grinned and straightened out the car. After a few minutes, Bob was able to open one of his eyes. The rain had stopped and the clouds were already clearing. "Jeb... what just happened?" "Well," Jeb said, "do you know how tides work?" "What? No, I don't." "Basically, the way it works is that during full Muns and new Muns, there's a high tide at noon and midnight and a low tide halfway in between." Jeb looked up at the first rays of sun piercing the horizon. "This must be the lowest tide in months." "But... what is this?" "Way back when the explorers were first starting out in this place," Jeb explained, "everybody thought that Kearny Kerman was an idiot, to name this place like a lagoon. This is obviously a harbor, right? Well, look below us." Bob looked. Sand and gravel crunched below the wheels. "Those explorers found out the hard way that this place is a lagoon, and they lost a few ships at low tide," Jeb told Bob. "Look over there; you can see the mast of one. Anyway, that's why the harbor is another five kilometers west of here and this barrier island will take us all the way back to the mainland." Bob exhaled. "So, you looked at a topography map and a chart of the tides just in case-" "Nope!" Jeb shouted. "I just guessed. And that's why... Bob?" Jeb turned in his seat and saw that Bob had fainted. His breathing was shallow, and the color was coming back to his face. Jeb smiled, not quite his usual grin, and turned north and raced the tide back in.