Chapter 1 The Omen of Class 217 "Jeb, how you doing up there out there on the pad?" Mission Control's voice crackled through Jeb's headset. "It's going great now that you fixed the damn comlinks, let's light this candle." "Countdown at T-10...9...8...7..." The rockets systems began to roar to life. Jeb felt no anxiety whatsoever as the countdown came close to one. "...6...5...4...3... main engine start..." Bolts, panels, the whole capsule shook as the giant mainsail engine roared to life. "...2...1... we have lift off for testing of the MK-1 capsule." "Rocket computers are nominal. Rocket's guidance is nominal. Engines are at 108% and nominal." Blasting off heavenward, Jeb felt the intense G's on his body. He loved it, he lived for it, it was his life. These tests were typically done unmanned but Jeb volunteered to do a manned test. The rocket rose to an altitude of 10,000 feet and began its automated gravity turn. "Everything seems to be going great KSC. This roller coaster is a blast," Jeb said as the sky began to darken as the atmosphere disappeared. He kissed his hand then pressed it against the window of his capsule. "Alright Jeb, we're going for rotation. RCS looks nominal, rotation is looking nominal." "I'm feeling that rotation. Everything feels fine so far Control." "Copy that Commander. Countdown to staging...5...4...3...2...1," BANG! The capsule shook from the vibrations of the decoupler and both stages seperated as planned. "Everything seems right from here control," Jeb relayed to the ground. SQAWK SQAWK SQAWK! The piercing sound of the master alarm began to go off. Jeb looked at the red light on his control panel. ****! He thought, what now? "Jeb, the alarm system just alerted us that something is wrong with the parachute system. We might not be able to open it." Jeb looked at the alarm as the capsule headed back into the atmosphere according to the test. Sweat dripped from his face. The capsule reached hundreds of meters per second over the ocean. He closed his eyes tightly as everything went dark inside his mind. As he opened them back up, he looked at the ceiling of his apartment. Sweat drenched his pillow. Humidity was thick at KSC and damn hot. The time on his clock read 0200. Class 217 arrived today at 0500. Every class he'd taught began with nightmares. This one wasn't any different. Watching over a class of four trainees as they learned one of the most dangerous jobs on Kerbin. Jeb looked over the four men of his class. Each member had earned nearly 10 years in the Kerbin Airforce. But none would be prepared for the intense training Jeb had up his sleeve. Being a Kerbonaut required the best, and only the best. "Gentlemen," Jeb spoke to them. "My name is commander Jebediah Kerman. I've served 12 years as a topgun in the KAF. I've done another eight in KASA. I've flown to the Mun, to Skylab and done more than a year's worth of time in space. I will teach you to be a Kerbonaut. It is up to you to make the choice to be one. It is dangerous, but I have not lost a man in training yet. I will not lose one this time. If you think you have what it takes, then today you will show me." Jeb turned around to look at the jet behind him. "This, gentlemen, is the Freyja. It's the fastest jet I am willing to let you four fly today. You will show me what you have to offer KASA." Looking at the formation, Jeb saw a smaller looking Kerbal. He didn't look confident. Jeb called on him. "You, trainee, what's your name?" "Lenzon, commander." He spoke quietly, almost so quiet to be indiscernible. "You'll be the first one up today. Grab your flight suit, and meet me out on the runway in an hour. Everyone else, start studying. You have a long year of training ahead." "Alright Lenzon, are you ready in the cockpit?" "Uhh... uhhh, I think so sir. Well, uhhh, I'm not sure I should go right now sir." "Nonsense," Jeb spoke through his comlink to Lenzon. "You'll be fine. Just show me what you have and I'll guide you through the flight. It'll be a quick flight around KSC." "Oh... uhhh... okay." "Alright, go ahead and take off." The Freyja roared to life as it bulleted down the runway. Picking up speed, Lenzon lifted the nose off the ground and gained altitude. "Alright Lenzon, you're going to turn right and make a loop around KSC and land back on the runway. Very simple task." Lenzon turned. He made his way back around KSC, flying by the Mission Control tower and the launch pad. The ocean lay to his left and the runway to his right. Sweat dripped as Lenzon remembered his training in the KAF. He had never flown anything like this. He had only flown small cargo planes. He looked out the side then made pulled on the joystick to turn. The jet instantly answered turning towards the runway. Then, a strong gust of wind and turbulence sent the plane off balance. Lenzon began to spin out of control going too fast. The nose pointed towards the ground. Jeb watched in terror as the jet was sent hurling towards the ground. He screamed over the radio to Lenzon. Lenzon blocked everything out of his mind in panic. The screaming was just more noise like the jet flying towards the ground. "Lift up the nose, put down the landing gear, something!" Lenzon saw his imminent death coming and tried pulling up at the last minute, instantaneously letting down the landing gear, but it was too late. Jeb looked on as the explosion thundered in the distance. The first death in all his years as an instructor sank on his soul. He fell to his knees and threw down his headset on to the runway. Class 217 was not going as expected.