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  1. Genuinely curious about those test results. Naively, that sounds like the tank is pretty massively overbuilt, or is that just down to the fact that they're trying to crush a very large tube by pressing straight down along its major axis?
  2. I looked into this in a bit more detail. Turns out that Kevlar isn't used for its puncture resistance but for its tensile strength. From the Wikipedia article on TransHab: The key to the debris protection in the design and prototype units was successive layers of Nextel, a material commonly used as insulation under the hoods of many cars, spaced between several-inches-thick layers of open cell foam, similar to foam used for chair cushions on Earth. The Nextel and foam layers cause a particle to shatter as it hits, losing more and more of its energy as it penetrates deeper. Many layers deep in the shell was a layer of superstrong woven Kevlar to hold the module's shape. The air was held inside by three bladders of Combitherm, a material commonly used in the food-packing industry. The innermost layer, forming the inside wall of the module, was Nomex cloth, a fireproof material that also protected the bladder from scuffs and scratches. Jumping back to my original post, the reason this post caught my eye is because I've been looking into inflatable modules as part of my own sci-fi ship design. Putting details in spoilers because its kinda long and... well because spoilers for anyone reading First Flight. Those spokes are built from an inflatable tube supported by a girder section. This was for two reasons: firstly it let the ship designers optimise both parts separately rather than trying to build an inflatable module that would be structurally rigid enough and could resist all the various forces caused by spinning-up (and spinning down) the ship. No idea how realistic that is (I'm a writer dammit not a mechanical engineer) but it seemed at least plausible. Secondly, there were volume constraints when launching all the ship components to orbit. Much more efficient to launch one fairing full of girder sections stacked in parallel, followed by one fairing full of deflated tubes stacked atop each other and put enough parts on orbit in two flights to build three spokes, than to take three flights to launch each spoke already assembled and inflated. And if you think that's a little bit crazy, you're in good company “Good afternoon, Director. As Roncott said, I’m in charge of the Stratus Portable Systems Division and - as you might expect - we have considerable experience in designing, manufacturing and manufacturing with, space-grade fabrics.” Halnie gestured at the spoke module behind her. “Naturally, we’ve prepared a full technical specification for the KSA, together with details of our test protocols and outcomes of those tests. To cut a long story short, Director, we were able to devise suitable laminate materials which combine the requisite air-tightness, tensile strength and impact resilience.” “We fully appreciate that it’s not an easy idea to get to grips with.” Halnie offered Lodan a faint smile, “even Jeb dismissed it out of hand the first time he heard about it, but we believe that our fabrics offer some significant advantages over conventional spacecraft construction materials."
  3. Not as much as you’d think. They’re built from pretty thick laminate fabrics which include Kevlar and a whole bunch of other layers designed to slow and entrap debris and any fragments caused by the initial collision between that debris and the module. On that basis they’re probably as safe as a metal skin plus Whipple shield design. I think the bigger trouble is getting them to inflate reliably and safely. That’s where BEAM ran into problems as I recall and BEAM is a fairly simple (for space grade versions of simple) inflatable module.
  4. Yes - I didn’t want to dig too deeply into the details since I didn’t have enough information about Destiny’s construction to hand. However, I think that the decrease in volume per mass for an inflatable spacecraft module (BEAM) to a free-flying inflatable spacecraft (Genesis 2) is quite instructive.
  5. If your spacecraft design allows for a separate habitation module which can be readily attached to the rest of the ship, and if there are volume constraints on your launch vehicle such that you need to pack a lot of eventual volume into the confines of a payload fairing or cargo bay, then an inflatable would seem to be a good choice, everything else being equal. Otherwise, whether a hard module is 'better' than a soft one will entirely depend on your ship design. A couple of points to consider: 1. At present levels of development, the weight saving from inflatables is relatively low. Genesis II: pressurised volume 11.5 cubic metres, mass 1.36 tons, so 8.45 cubic metres per ton. BEAM: pressurised volume 16 cubic metres, mass 1.41 tons, so 11.35 cubic metres per ton. Compare to: Destiny ISS laboratory module: pressurised volume 104.77 cubic metres, mass 14.52 tons so 7.21 cubic metres per ton. I haven't had time to look up equivalent data for the other ISS modules although I'm sure it's out there somewhere. 2. Money usually is an object. The reason why present day spacecraft are optimised for lower mass on launch is because of the cost of that launch. Reduce launch costs and there's less need to optimise for mass in favour of optimising for cost using cheaper but more convenient materials that may be heavier. And finally, a thought exercise. Parts of the ISS were made of steel. Why wasn't a lighter material used?
  6. He does rather. And as for Walter Leland Kerman Cronkite - I don’t think KBN News were invited to this one.
  7. Quick aside - if you want a musical accompaniment to the Leviathan launch, may I recommend Thunderstruck by AC/DC - especially any live version! One of my all time favourite rock intros. The way it starts with that lead guitar riff. Then we get a drumbeat backing it up before the bass kicks in. The music moves into the background for that first verse and then... The sound of the drums. They’re beating in my heart. The thunder of guns. Tore me apart. You’ve been... ... Thunderstruck And just like that we’re off and riding that burning wall of sound into the sky!
  8. And the next chapter is up. For anyone just catching up, this is Part Two of the promised double-bill. Part One is in the previous post. Leviathan Danfen and Hanbal stood in front of the transporter crawler. The Type 7 stack blotted out the sun, the brilliant halo surrounding the chequered band marking the interstage adaptor between the rocket and its payload, dazzling the two engineers. Beyond that, the payload stretched out of sight, seemingly touching the sky. “Dja orbdaban aliant, Leviathan,” Danfen murmured. Hanbal looked at him. “Say again?” “And they named the beast, Leviathan.” Danfen tucked his hands behind his back. “Pilla. Bar manaliant manalba. Ankerbal taklathdaban ar. Dja orbdaban aliant Leviathan. Or, in modern Kerba: In truth, the greatest beast of the sea. All the people feared it. And they named the beast Leviathan.” He raised an eyebrow at Hanbal’s incredulous look. “Just because I’m a hairy-knuckled engineer by day, that doesn’t mean I can’t I enjoy the classics by night. Chadvey’s ‘Chronicles of the Deeps’ – early Age of Sail. Leviathan was the Kraken’s Bane – its sworn foe.” Hanbal shook his head. “Well that won’t do. We don’t want anyone to fear the Type 7.” “Literalist.” Danfen thought for a moment. “How about this? Pilla. Manaliant soathraban. Ankerbal djaldaban mahomr. Dja orbdaban aliant Leviathan. Which, unless my Old Kerba is letting me down again, would translate to: In truth, a great beast took flight. The people watched it go. And they named the beast Leviathan.” He scratched his nose. “According to legend, Leviathan was the sailor’s guardian. Witnesses said that it was big enough to shelter a ship from the fiercest tempests but it was mercurial. Take its name in vain and it was as likely to sink your ship as save it.” “Or somebody ran their ship onto a whale-shaped rock whilst they were drunk,” muttered Hanbal. “Better not let Ademone catch you naming rockets after imaginary beasts.” Danfen shrugged. “I think she would appreciate the symbolism actually. A gigantic vessel built to save us from a looming darkness but loaded with enough propellant to comprehensively demolish the pad and surrounding square kilometres of landscape if we haven’t built it with sufficient care and respect? That definitely sounds like a mercurial Leviathan to me.” “Save me from engineers with delusions of high culture. Now how about we let our entirely real, and not at all mythological, booster get to the pad?” Danfen nodded and produced a pair of scissors from his pocket. He stepped forward and, with a brief flourish, cut the green tape, sending the ends fluttering to the ground. Amidst cheers from the watching crowds of workers, he and Hanbal moved off the road. High atop the transporter, a lone, yellow hatted kerbal watched them go before turning to face the booster and raising both clenched fists over his head. With a great clanking of steel treads and a deep thrumming rumble that shook the ground beneath their feet, the transporter crept forward, beginning the half-day journey that would carry the Rockomax Type 7, Leviathan to its launch pad. ------------------ “T minus forty seconds and counting. Starting sound suppression systems." “T minus twenty. Gantry retract sequence initiated, we have launch commit.” “T minus twelve… eleven… ten… nine… synchro is green…” Leviathan drew breath and its breath was thunder. A shrieking gale howled out from the launchpad, building in pitch and fury until the very air could take no more. “…three…two…one…” A sudden thunderclap rocked Launch Control. For a fleeting instant the gale seemed to abate but then the raw sound from the rocket engines struck like the Krakens of legend chasing down their ancient foe. “Lift-off! We have a lift off!” Incredibly, impossibly the noise grew louder still, Leviathan bellowing defiance at those who would drag it back to earth. Plaster rained down from the ceiling, paper coffee cups spun across console tops and fell silently to the floor. Flight controllers raised clenched fists in triumph, lips peeled back from savage grins. On the main screen, the five Mainsail engine bells appeared as gateways to the abyss, black and forbidding against the inferno raging below. The camera zoomed out revealing the Type 7 at the tip of a blazing spear, ascending into the morning sky. For a moment, Nelton watched it climb before turning back to her console and starting to page through her communication loops with the different flight control teams; listening to the ebb and flow of reports between the controllers but paying as much attention to their tone of voice as to the reports themselves. On the main screen, Leviathan accelerated through the cloud layer, its exhaust plume just beginning to fan out in the thinning atmosphere. And then a light stuttered on a flight console before lighting up in a baleful amber that matched the trailing edge of Leviathan’s exhaust plume. The controller stabbed a finger at his communication panel. “Flight, FD. I have a pogo warning!” Nelton’s head snapped round. “Booster?” “We see it too, Flight. No system warnings.” “Copy. You’re on the priority loop, monitor and running report.” “Will do.” Leviathan tore through the upper atmosphere, riding atop a great bonfire of light. Nelton sat upright in her chair, eyes locked on her master warning panel, a stream of increasingly urgent reports from the Booster console sounding over her headset. Then a constellation of warning lights lit up on the next console. “Flight, Propulsion! Low LOX pressure. Centre engine shutdown!” “I hear you, Propulsion. Status.” “One moment!” Nelton heard her Propulsion controller take several deep breaths. “Good telemetry and correct shutdown sequencing, Flight. We’ve still got an engine up there.” “Copy. Get me an update on the second stage engines. FD?” “Still getting a boatload of vibration, Flight. Going long on stage one outboard engines, guidance mode four.” Nelton cast a wary eye at her repeater displays. “Understood.” She toggled her microphone. “Payload, update please.” “Payload is Go, Flight. Tank sensors are definitely picking up that pogo but everything’s holding.” “Copy. Propulsion – any news on those engines?” “Aborted chilldown on engine one, Flight. Remaining engines are Go.” Nelton didn’t need to consult the mission rules. “Chamber temperature?” “Warm, Flight. We’re thinking a jammed intake valve, maybe a plumbing failure from the pogo but we’re not seeing a LOX leak.” Nelton heard more than a few relieved murmurs from around the consoles. “Thank you, Booster. Guidance?” “Working it, Flight but it’s not looking good. We’re off trajectory on stage one, which just threw out most of our contingency plans for stage two, which didn’t figure on an engine-out before staging anyway.” “Understood. Do what you can.” “Copy.” For a moment Nelton watched as the main screen flicked over to show an updated trajectory plot, before glancing at her master warning panel again. Around the room, the flight controllers sat hunched over their screens, one of them tapping a pen on the edge of his console in a broken rhythm that Nelton doubted he was even aware of. Then a green light glowed on her communications panel. “Flight, FD.” “Go ahead FD.” “Go for staging, Flight. Switching to onboard camera.” The controllers around the Booster console looked up before going back to their readouts. A sudden silence descended as the remaining controllers turned to face the darkened main screen. A crescent sliver of light appeared, followed by a dazzling glare from the stage separation motors. The flare subsided, leaving a view of Leviathan’s first stage falling away towards a curved, blue horizon. Seconds later the interstage slid free, lit from within by the glowing engine bells of the four functional SK1-P second stage engines, and then blasted away, limned with flame, by their exhaust plumes. As the still-burning shroud tumbled away, Kerbin was revealed in all its majesty, the Doreni coastline rolling past the camera. “Second stage ignition confirmed on two through five. All systems nominal at this time.” There was a patter of relieved applause. “Thank you, Booster.” Nelton sat back in her chair, eyes flicking between the repeater displays on her console and the view from space on the main screen. The sudden jangle of a ringing phone broke the quiet the light on her console indicating an external line. Frowning, she pressed the button to divert the call and turned back to her displays, flipping through her communication loops. Then the phone rang again. Scowling, she picked up the receiver. A handful of controllers glanced round and promptly turned back to their consoles at the sight of their flight director’s face. “Nelton.” She cocked her head to one side, lips compressing to a thin line as she listened. “You can tell Ademone that I’ll be there at her earliest convenience after we reach orbit. Now get off this line.” Not waiting for a reply, Nelton dropped the receiver onto its cradle and turned back to the main screen. “How’s it going, Guidance.” “Touch and go, Flight.” The strain in the controller’s voice was audible. “We’re in mode eight and our propellant levels are way off the curve.” “Understood.” Nelton picked up her phone and dialled for an outside line. “Hello, Gene. We’ve had a couple of problems here. You have? Yeah, we’re working that. Your bird’s going to space but we can’t guarantee your periapsis. Understood – we’ll drop the booster as soon as. Thanks, Gene.” “Flight, Guidance.” “Go ahead, Guidance.” “We’ve got a periapsis, Flight but we’ve also got an amber quantity light on both tanks.” “Good work. Stage on red.” “Copy tha… staging! Clean separation! All eyes turned to the trajectory plot on the main screen which showed Leviathan’s payload in a pronounced elliptical orbit. The seconds dragged out, seemingly into minutes, and then cheers erupted around the room as the ellipse began to expand, lifting the lower point of the Orbital Propellant Test Article’s orbit out of the atmosphere and up to a safer altitude. Nelton dipped her head, acknowledging the collective thumbs up from her flight controllers before mopping her brow and picking up the phone to Barkton. ------------------ “I can see that but what in the seven smoking hells happened?” Nelton surveyed the wreckage. One end of the flame trench had collapsed entirely, revealing twisted rebar and torn pipes. Blackened refractory bricks lay strewn across the floor of the trench, like a set of blocks discarded by a bored kerblet. Despite herself, Nelton winced at the sight of still more bricks scattered over the launchpad itself. On both sides of the trench, the massive spray heads for the sound suppression system were twisted out of true. “I would quite like to know that too.” Ademone’s quiet words cut through Nelton’s shock. “I thought these systems had been thoroughly proven on the test stand?” “They were.” Hanbal ran his hands through his hair distractedly. “We scaled them up from the Type 6 launchpad and added an extremely conservative safety factor on top of that. We never had a single problem on the test stand.” Danfen nodded. “He’s right. The sound suppression system was the most reliable part of that stand.” He poked a charred lump of brick with his toe. “The only thing I can think of is some kind of resonance effect. Something that only became a problem when the booster lifted away from the pad.” He lifted his hands. “Don’t hold me to that, but booster altitude is about the only factor we can’t simulate on the stand. I’ll start with the camera footage and see if we can pin down when it happened – whatever it was.” “Do that.” Ademone turned to her flight director. “Could the problems with the booster have been caused by acoustic damage?” Nelton shook her head. “Too early to tell. It might have contributed but the engine-out happened too high up for it to be the only cause.” She glanced at the chunk of brick by Danfen’s foot. “We saw a lot of pogo on the way up, so my guess would be that as the primary cause. The second stage problems were almost certainly caused by pogo.” She looked at the chief engineer. “We’ll cross check the telemetry feeds with your camera footage anyway and see if anything matches up. I’ll get a flight operations team together as soon as we hand over control of the payload to Barkton.” “And I’ll put a team to work on figuring out the pogo problem.” Hanbal rubbed the corners of his eyes. “We found a way to control it on the Type 6 – we’ll find a way to control it on the Type 7.” --------------- Jonton stacked the last of the lunchtime dishes in the sink and put the kettle on. “Who’s for coffee, who’s for djeng?” “Coffee for me please,” Meleny called from her sack chair. “Black coffee for me please,” said Enely. “Could I have a coffee and sapwood, Dad?” Jonton’s eyebrows lifted, as the rest of the party called out their preferences. He found a nearly empty bottle of sapwood syrup at the back of one of the kitchen cupboards and set it down on the worktop. The kettle clicked off behind him and presently, the aromas of fresh coffee and hot djeng filled the room. Jonton put everything on a tray and carried it over to the living room table. He poured everyone’s drink, watching Joenie’s change in expression with a faint smile as she stirred two spoonfuls of syrup into her coffee and blew on it before taking a sip. A dish of sweet nibbles was handed round before Jonton disappeared into the next room and returned with a bag. He tapped on the table for attention. “We all knew this day would have to come but now that it has, I think we all wish it hadn’t had to come so soon.” Jonton watched Joenie nodding vigorously. “In many ways it feels like Enely has always been here and having him go is going to be like losing one of the family. But we also know that he’s leaving to do important work that very few others in the world can do.” Jonton lifted his mug. “So, this one’s for Enely – and we wish him the very best of luck on his next journey.” “To Enely!” Everyone clinked their mugs against his in a toast. Enely blushed with pleasure. Jonton cleared his throat. “We’ve also got a few little things for you to take with you and remember us by.” He reached into the bag and pulled out Enely’s pack. “This is from Fred and Ferry, hopefully as good as new.” Enely turned his cleaned and mended pack over in his hands, noting the new stitching and straps, their buckles polished up to a soft gleam. Feeling a lump in the bottom, he opened it and pulled out a similarly polished and mended mess kit. “They’re better than new.” He looked up at Ferry. “You shouldn’t have… thank you both very much.” Fredlorf waved his thanks away. “You’re welcome. Couldn’t let a ‘kerb hit the road without mended gear or a good pack to see him right.” “This is from Meleny, Thombal and Adbas.” Jonton pulled a small wooden chest out of the bag. “Adbas and Thombal made the chest and Meleny filled it.” “It’s beautifully made.” Enely looked at Adbas. “You could be a joiner.” He opened the chest and found it packed with rows of labelled herb bags, each tied off with a little drawstring. “They’re all traditional Kolan blends. Some for food, some for drinking, and a couple for freshening a room and helping you sleep.” Enely read the label on one of the bags and smiled. “I know this one.” He lifted out another bag and tugged the drawstring open. “And I don’t need to read the label on this one – thank you all very much!” Jonton waited for Enely to put his herb chest to one side before handing him two small, oddly shaped parcels. “These are from Mallas and Joenie.” Inside the first parcel was a dark wooden trinket carved into the shape of a cactus. Enely held it up the light, turning it this way and that. “Kerm wood for luck,” said Mallas. “Guardian Elton contributed the wood; I just did the carving.” “It is also beautifully made – and a very good likeness. Thank you, Mallas.” Enely unwrapped his second parcel and a polished slice of lighter wood fell out, a keyring fastened through a knothole in one corner. Both surfaces were carved with the letter J, in slightly wobbly strokes.” “J for Joenie,” Enely hugged her. “And also, J for Jonelle?” Joenie nodded. “She let me have a piece of her branch.” A note of pride crept into her voice. “And I did most of the carving but Mallas helped with the curvy lines.” “It’s wonderful – thank you.” Enely clipped the keyring onto one of the buckles on his newly mended pack. “I’ll keep it on here and take it with me everywhere I go.” Joenie beamed at him. Jonton waited for Enely to sit down again. “And finally,” he said, “I wanted you to have this.” He handed Enely a small brass plate, chased with a Kerm leaf design around its edges. “It’s from my student days - I don’t know if you have them in Wakira but you wear it on your belt for good luck during exams.” Enely took the belt charm. “I don’t know… I don’t know what to say." He turned the charm over in his hands and noticed two numbers engraved between the belt slots. “Telephone numbers for here and my hut,” Jonton said quietly. He walked round and gave Enely a hug. “Call any time – don’t be a stranger.” Enely blinked the dampness out of his eyes. “I won’t. Thank you, Jonton.” “You’re very welcome.” Jonton raised his voice. “We’ve still got time for Enely to say goodbye to Elton and Jonelle, before we take him to the station. You’re all welcome to join us – as most of us have discovered, some things are easier to say in Communion than they are in words.” ------------------- “I’m going to miss having Enely around. I got the strong impression from this afternoon that Elton and Jonelle will as well.” Jonton stared at the chink of evening sky showing through the living room curtains. “Very much so,” he answered. “But as we were lucky enough to get two confirmed Awakeners in the first intake of possible volunteers…” His voice trailed away. “It was the right thing to do. Not easy – none of this has ever been easy – but right.” “Are we getting many more to visit any time soon?” “Quite a few more, I think. I’d hoped to see a few more from further afield but for our second group?” Jonton lifted his hands. “At least we got a second group.” Thombal tucked his hands behind his head. “I suppose it’s still a big decision to travel in from overseas at the moment. Maybe they’ll start coming once the airlines start getting back to normal.” Meleny set down her mug. “Or once Enely’s had time to help Awaken a Kerm or two that’re closer to home. Someone that they can visit, find out that some of your story was true and maybe get curious about finding out about the rest.” Jonton smiled to himself at Meleny’s choice of words. “That should help too,” he agreed. “Can I get you a top-up, Tom?” “Please,” Thombal paused, mug of djeng halfway to his lips, head cocked to one side at the sudden squeak from behind the door. He looked over at Jonton who raised a finger to his lips and shook his head. “Time for one more before bed.” He put his mug on the table and watched Jonton refill it from the pot. “That’s plenty, thanks.” The loud silence from behind the door was broken by the creak of floorboards, followed by a tense pause and another, fainter creak. Thombal looked up, unsurprised by the sadness behind his friend’s eyes. “Joenie?” Jonton nodded. “She’ll be going to see Gerselle again.” Meleny lowered her gaze. “Of course. How long has she been…”? “Since before our first trip to the Berelgan, probably quite a bit before. I haven’t asked.” Meleny looked up at him with a frown. “Don’t you think you should?” “Not yet. Maybe if it starts happening every night. As long as she still feels she can talk to me about Gerselle when she needs to though, I’m turning a deaf ear to any late-night squeaky floorboards.” -------------- Joenie froze, berating herself for her mis-step. The murmur of voices from behind the door carried on; she heard her father offering somebody a top-up of something. She lifted her foot, wincing at the second creak, before tiptoeing down the passage to the sleep room. Easing the door open, she darted inside, closing it behind her with a snick. She drew the curtains, letting munlight spill into the room, before turning to the figure on the bed. Shadowed Kerm vines twined up the bedframe and a fan of silver-tinted hair spread across the pillows. Joenie picked up a hairbrush from the bedside table and sat down on the corner of the bed. Scooping up one of her mother’s tresses, she began to brush it out, her murmured voice rising and falling with the swish of bristle through hair. “We’re home, Mum. We stayed at the Grove hotel again on the way back and the waitress remembered us from last time. Dad was worried that something bad might happen to Meleny or Thombal so he sent them and Adbas away to Mr Patbro’s Grove. They’re back now though.” Joenie ran her fingers through the tress of hair, laying it to one side before picking up the next. “We only stayed for one night at the Berelgan and Professor Erlin was busy, so I didn’t get to talk to Obrinn for very long. He sent a telegraph message to Jonelle for me.” Joenie smiled, munlight gleaming from her teeth. “He and Jonelle are getting good at using the Telegraph. They’ve started making up their own words for some things - I guess it’s quicker that way. I think you’d like Obrinn, Mum. He’s quite quiet compared to Jonelle, a bit like me and Adbas I guess.” A silvery droplet trickled down Joenie’s cheek. “Dad was great on the television, telling everyone about you and Elton and Jonelle and Obrinn. He told me on the train that he didn’t think he’d be able to talk about you but he did. I think it worked - people are coming to visit again, the way they did when Dad was still part of Elton. They get to meet Elton and then we bring them in to see you as well. That’s why I’m brushing your hair for you again.” The brush rose and fell. “Dad said that they needed to know all about what can go wrong if they try to wake up their own Kerm, so they need to see you.” Joenie sniffled. “You scared most of them I think but two of them weren’t afraid. There was one old guy – he was all smiley on the outside. He told uncle Enely that he wanted to be able to talk to his Kerm the way we talk to Elton. His eyes weren’t very smiley though – I think he was sad on the inside. I hope uncle Enely can help him quickly then he can come back soon.” Joenie blew her nose. “The other guy was much younger and sort of cute. I don’t think I’d better mention that to Adbas though – and definitely not to Dad. I wish I could talk to you about him, talk properly I mean…” The silvery droplet became a rivulet, dripping onto the bedcovers. “It’s not fair, Mum. You can’t get to meet him, or Doctor Mallas or Professor Erlin. You can’t talk to Jonelle, or Obrinn or any of the other Kerm that uncle Enely has gone to help wake up. The brush clattered to the floor, the rivulet becoming a flood as Joenie buried her face in her mother’s unmoving arms. “I miss you, Mum. I wish you could…you would…” A choked sob forced its way out of her throat. “…wish you would wake up too.”
  9. Next chapter is up. As promised, this will be a double bill, although the next but one chapter needs a bit of tweaking still - in true KSP fashion I need to check my staging because the sequence of events in one particular section doesn't quite add up. As my good editor put it, this is the kind of stuff that only a high level space nerd would critique but given that I'm writing for an audience of such*… *and have some pretension of being one myself. A special thanks to my good editor for his sterling work on these two chapters and helping to knock the big picture stuff into shape as well as picking up on the fine detail. And without further ado. Starflower Danfen Kerman, the Rockomax Corporation’s Head of Structural Engineering, stood bent over an enormous drawing board which was covered from end to end in engineering drawings and other CAD printouts. Beside him, his Assembly Operations Officer summarised the items for the day, indicating different subsystems on the blueprints with a slender wooden pointer. A group of senior engineers and project managers stood around them, listening to the briefing and answering questions on their particular specialities. The office walls around them were occupied by a whiteboard on one side and a floor-to-ceiling noticeboard on the other. Both were almost hidden behind more engineering drawings, together with a vast array of schedules, lists, and notes, all written in Danfen’s tightly spaced handwriting. A computer terminal sat on an old-fashioned style of wooden desk, in front of which, blinds covered a large window. Danfen dug his fists into the small of his back and stretched. “Right then. Thrust structure is mated to the lower skirt and ready for tankage fitting. The fuel tank and inter-tank assembly are flight qualified, and ready for stacking; qualification of the LOX tank is ongoing, previous problems resolved by the upgraded slosh baffles. Where are we with the forward skirt and payload adaptor?” “Forward skirt is in fitting and finish; payload adaptor components are in the jigs and ready for primary welding. Schedule-wise, there’s still room in the buffers but we are currently projecting completion of both sections in time for LOX tank qualification and stacking.” “Excellent.” Danfen turned to another engineer. “Motors?” “Ullage motors are cast, qualified and ready for fitting and stage avionics integration. The first set of five Skippers are nearing the end of post-assembly and should be ready for test-firing by the end of this week. At present, we remain on track for schedule convergence with the structural work. Two of the backup Skippers are in fitting and assembly, we’re still awaiting critical component delivery for the remaining three. LOX impellers,” she added in response to Danfen’s raised eyebrow. The chief engineer walked over to the whiteboard and added a note to one of the many lists covering its surface. “Noted. Do what you can and escalate the suppliers to Hanbal if you need to.” He turned to face his team. “Thank you, everyone. Have a good day - and let’s make this happen.” The project managers filed out, followed by the chief engineers. Danfen watched them go before turning back to his office window. He drew the blinds and stepped back, tucking his hands behind his back. The VAB’s main assembly floor stretched out before him, a Type 6 core stage, all four lateral boosters attached, stood atop its mobile launcher, cradled within a tower of gantries and walkways that allowed access to the various rocket systems. Overhead, the second stage edged towards the launcher, suspended from its oversized gantry crane. Danfen watched the crane crawl past, mentally measuring it up for the massive Type 7 second stage that he and his team were constructing. At the far end of the VAB, a payload fairing sat nestled within its own gantries, both halves united and ready for mating to the completed Type 6 booster. Danfen could make out the faint seam between the halves, marked by the equally faint bulges covering the latches and modified Roncott actuators that would deploy the fairing in flight, to reveal the second of many cargo pallets to be delivered to the growing Tenacity space station. Nodding to himself in satisfaction, Danfen picked up a full-to-bursting clipboard from his desk and let himself out of the office, locking the door behind him. As he left the VAB, he noticed a crowd gathering around the entrance to Manufactory B. Quickening his pace, he joined the group of engineers and machinists in time to watch a massive, blunt ended cylinder emerge from the main doors on its oversized tractor-trailers. Impossibly, the cylinder kept on coming, dwarfing the figures around it, an immense flag of all-Kerbin painted on its gleaming white flanks. The tips of two gigantic shrouds appeared, their smoothly flaring surfaces hiding the complexities beneath. And then, finally, the engine bells emerged. Danfen walked around behind the rearmost trailer and stared up at the five SK-2M Mainsails, each of their gaping maws more than able to accommodate two kerbals, one standing on the other’s shoulders. Assuming, he thought, that such a thing was possible. He lifted his eyes to the sky, picturing the booster stage in front of him, standing upright on the launch pad, second stage and payload stage stacked atop it in a titanic monument to engineering ambition and desperate need. ----------------- “Are they really, um, going to launch that?” Seelan snorted. “They’d better. After the effort my boys put into building those tanks, they’d be unhappy if we dropped it in the Pool for a practice piece.” “I suppose they would be,” Roncott stared up at the imposing flanks of the Orbital Propellant Test Article. “I thought the Pioneer CSM was impressive but that…” He gestured at the spacecraft hanging from its crane. “That wouldn’t even fit on an Eve booster. Not even if we used an expanded fairing adaptor.” “No. Supposedly it’ll fit flush on a Type 7 though.” Seelan shook her head. “Which I have to see.” “You will.” Both engineers turned to see Bob walking over to them. “Not this time though – Rockomax are keeping non-essential personnel well away from the launch site in case there are any problems with the vehicle. Anhydrous ammonia isn’t as nasty as our old hypergolics but I still wouldn’t want to get any in my eyes.” “Nuclear engine propellant,” Roncott’s voice trailed away. “Are we still, um, planning to use this to refuel the nuclear test article?” “If everything works. That’s way down the line yet though so don’t worry about it.” Bob eyed Roncott. “You know the test priorities as well as I do. Thermal management, slosh control under spin and full mission-duration storage and integrity test. If,” Bob emphasised the word, “we get through all that, then we send up a second vehicle for the first propellant transfer test. If that works and if the LV-N test flight goes to plan, then we try refuelling the LV-N test vehicle.” “And that’s assuming we even get to orbit,” said Seelan. “Exactly.” Bob gripped Roncott’s shoulder. “Propellant transfer testing is not the main objective of this flight, so don’t let it worry you.” “I know, Bob. Really, I do. It’s just, um…” Roncott bit his lip. “It is for me.” He waved his arms about shaking off Bob’s hand on his shoulder. “We’re not getting to Duna without transfer, we can’t do proper testing on the ground, we’ve only got the Endurance test data to work with and that’s only for a handful of experiments at low flow-rates – it would take years to fuel a colony ship that way…” “Ron!” Bob waited until he had the other’s attention. “It’s fine. The review team here thought your design was solid. The team at Rockomax thought so too.” Bob jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “You’ve got that spacecraft wired up with more sensors than I can count and with enough onboard cameras to film a movie up there. Whatever happens, we’re going to know about it in detail.” He looked Roncott in the eye. “But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We go back to the drawing board and try again – with plenty of honest-to-Kerm test data to work with next time.” A flashing light in the distance caught Bob’s attention. “Right now, though, I think our transport is arriving.” As if on cue, doors began opening around them, a growing crowd of kerbals joining the three engineers. Everyone backed themselves against the walls to let the enormous flat-bed truck back up into the VAB, its cab doors painted with the logo of a local speciality haulage company. Bob watched the massive test spacecraft descending centimetre by centimetre, finally settling into place on its shipping cradle. He saw the tension on Roncott’s face as a team of white hatted kerbals tied the spacecraft down. Then, with a blast on its horn and a whine of high-powered electric motors under strain, the truck rumbled forward. As it cleared the Space Centre gates and pulled out onto the main road, the truck was joined by two outriders from the Barkton Department of Civic Works, the warning lights on their roofs strobing bright orange. Bob could hardly bear to see the look on Roncott’s face as the haulage truck, and its oversized cargo, reached the next junction and took a ponderous left turn towards Barkton railway depot. With a last glimpse of flickering orange, the trailing outrider rounded the corner and disappeared from sight. ----------------- Jonton writhed on his bed, only deep-seated instinct holding his head still enough to maintain Communion. The memories crashed through his mind, smashing down carefully constructed barriers and flensing still-tender mental scars wide open. Stop, Enely! It’s too fast - too soon! Let them go! The Kerm shards erupted from Gerselle’s mind. Once again, Jonton hurled himself at her, tried to wrap himself around her, to catch the expanding cloud of fragments and gather them to him. And once again, for the barest second, they held. Gerselle! To me! Then, yet again, the fragments of memory and personality swirled, twisted around him and then blew apart, everything that Gerselle was and had been, tumbling past him like leaves driven by a hurricane. Jonton! Help me…J… GERSELLE! The mindscape shrank to a pinprick, the mental connection linking him to Elton dimming to an echoing whisper in the back of his skull. A distant part of him registered his pounding heartrate, sensed the throbbing agony in both of his hands. Jonton lay in the darkness; hot, raw tears streaming down his face. The link spun open a fraction, cool white light absorbing the heat, blunting the physical pain but powerless to dull the edge of splintered glass memories. I can’t do this, Elton. <no> A sense of reluctance swept down their link. <I should take this burden from you…> For a moment hope flared, only to be replaced by shame. I cannot ask that of you. I spoke to Patbro – I know you grieved for her too. <and yet there is no other choice. Placing this burden on Enely would be wrong> Elton paused <and perhaps my memory of your memory will hurt me less than the memory itself will hurt you> We could bear the burden together. <no. We would create too much pogo> Elton sensed his Keeper’s confusion. <it is a word that Jeb taught me. Your pain would increase mine, then mine would increase yours in turn. We would tear one another apart. The same can happen with a wrongly built rocket. Noise builds on noise until all is destroyed> Jonton blanched. Gerselle’s last, desperate plea rang in his ears, his link to Elton constricting again in response. Including whichever poor kerbals were Communing with us. His mental voice shook. I hate to do this to you. <as I said, First of my Keepers, we have no choice. But to anyone who wishes to know about Gerselle, I would ask that you tell them of our words. They should know that what I show them is true> As Elton’s mindscape faded into white light and a distant tugging at his scalp, the bond between himself and the Kerm seemed to take longer to break, as if tempered by the promises they had just made. Jonton sat up and rubbed his, still-throbbing, knuckles, the gashes across the backs of his hands matched by the streaks of blood across the bedstead. ------------- The next morning, Jonton watched a small group winding their way up the path to his hut. Most of them were elderly but he was pleased to see a number of younger faces in amongst them. He waited for them to gather at the top of the hill before stepping out to greet them. “Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming – it’s good to see so many of you. Please come on in. This is Patbro,” Jonto gestured at his friend sitting at the kitchen table. “Keeper of one of the nearby Groves and one of my best friends. I spend a lot of my time at Guardian Jonelle’s Grove and Patbro has been very kind in helping me look after my hut here and being a companion for Guardian Elton.” “Not that that is any sort of chore,” Patbro stood up. “Welcome everyone.” He studied the group, noting the green trimmed collars on several ponchos. “Guardian Elton has asked to Commune with you all together without myself or Jonton present.” Two or three of the faces staring back at him looked suddenly nervous and he gave them a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry if you haven’t Communed before; we will be there to help you get ready, and I’m sure some of the Keepers here will be glad to help too. So, if you’d like to follow me please.” Jonton followed the group into his sleep room and its rows of bunks, all neatly made up. He and Patbro moved through the group, helping everyone to get settled, bringing extra pillows for some, and offering discreet reassurance to others, including some of the Keepers. They watched as everyone lifted his or head into a waiting leaf cluster, waited until they were all safely in Communion and then left, closing the door behind them. “What did you think?” Jonton scratched his head. “The number of first-timers was encouraging. Definitely a few nervous faces when you mentioned that we wouldn’t be there.” “But none of them backed out. They all passed Elton’s first test.” “Which was also encouraging.” Jonton’s face looked suddenly haggard. “I wonder how many will pass the second one.” ------------------- The clock on the wall had just chimed twelve, when the kitchen door opened and a group of pale-faced and visibly shaken kerbals filed into the room. Jonton stood up to greet them. “I’m sorry that you had to see that.” The quiet sincerity in his voice and shadows behind his eyes were enough to still any questions. “One reason that Elton asked to speak to you without me was that he knew I couldn’t bring myself to live through it again, even with his support. Please believe me when I say that we tried.” Jonton swallowed and when he spoke again, there was an unmistakeable quiver in his voice. “If any of you wish to, you would be welcome to visit Jonelle’s Grove this afternoon and see Gerselle for yourself.” “I would like to see her.” A young kermol, possibly the youngest in the group Jonton thought, stepped forward. “I don’t know how many new Kerm will be in the One-Twenty but I would like to be Keeper for one if you’ll have me.” The kermol looked up, shadows behind his own eyes. “My great uncle’s Grove was one of the first to Seed.” He looked straight at Jonton. “And after Communing with Guardian Elton, I think it may have been seeing great uncle Cormund on the news that prompted you to plant that thirty-seventh cutting in your Grove.” Jonton’s jaw dropped open. Before he could speak, one of the older Keepers stepped in and clapped the young kermol on the shoulder “Bravely said, lad. Your great-uncle would be proud to hear you.” He turned to face Jonton. “Reckon I’d like to see your Gerselle too – and you can all count me in for the One-Twenty if you need me. If I could talk to my old Kerm like I jus’ did with your Elton, that would make it all worth it. And if anything goes wrong, well we’ve both had a good turn.” His expression turned inward. “My missus passed on two years ago this month and our lad never came home from Wakira. Nobody left to miss this old kermol. And we’re at the end of a valley to boot – only one neighbouring Grove and that not close enough to take any hurt. Just promise me that the folks in my village will be taken care of if it comes to it.” -------------- As he turned off the highway and onto the back roads leading to Elton’s Grove, Jeb glanced at Wernher in the passenger seat. “We missed that last turning when I came here with Gene. Took us a while to find the right road again.” The engineer and veteran kerbonaut grunted, staring straight ahead with his arms folded across his seatbelt, as he had for most of the journey. Jeb glanced at his friend and nodded to himself before turning his attention back to the road. As before, the forest began to thin out and streetlights began to appear by the side of the road. Jeb caught a glimpse of a marquee in a field, ghostly with lights glowing behind its canvas walls. He took a now-familiar right turn, skirting around the village before pulling up at the foot of the hill leading up to Jonton’s hut. He thumbed the motor off and rested his hand on Wernher’s shoulder. “If I know Patbro, he’ll have a good hot meal waiting for us. Come on – let’s not disappoint him.” Wernher nodded and climbed out of the car. He glanced at the multi-story hut silhouetted against the evening sky. “Odd-looking hut. Was the Keeper trying to make it look like something out of a kerblet’s storybook?” Jeb chuckled. “Now that you mention it – and you should have seen it by munlight.” He closed the car door. “Long story but Jonton had it built to accommodate all the travellers coming to Commune with him. Apparently, that’s when the whole Sage of Barkton thing got started although it was around the time of Ornie’s crash which probably explains why I didn’t hear much about it.” And about the time you flew out to Site D, he added silently. “Oh,” Wernher frowned. “I thought Jonton was the Keeper, not the Kerm?” He saw Jeb’s patient expression. “Sorry – I think you’ve explained all this to me before but it didn’t really sink in.” “Not a problem.” Jeb gripped Wernher’s shoulder. “Elton – he’s the Kerm – will be able to show you everything much more clearly than I can explain it anyway.” As they walked up the path, the front door opened and a figure stepped out to greet them. “Good evening, Jebed… sorry, Jeb.” He shook his head. “Preserve me but I’m still not used to that. And you must be Wernher? Please – come inside.” Patbro bustled in ahead of them. “There’s fish stew on the stove if you’d like, although I don’t have much more than herbed bread and butter to go with it and fruit and coffee for afters.” “Fish stew sounds more than welcome to me.” Jeb glanced at Wernher, who nodded. “To both of us. You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble though, Patbro.” “Oh, it’s no trouble.” Patbro hunted in a cupboard and produced a tin. “Do you take your coffee with anise, Wernher? I know Jeb does.” “Yes please. And a pinch of firewhisker if you have any.” Jeb opened his mouth before hastily closing it again. Patbro looked surprised. “You don’t sound Wakiran, never mind Hazachim. I should introduce you to Enely.” “No, I’m not Wakiran. I’ve just spent a lot of time working near the edge of the Hazachi desert. You pick up some of the local tastes.” A bleak expression crossed Wernher’s face. “One of my colleagues was Hazachim – he introduced me to firewhisker coffee.” Patbro looked from one to the other. “And maybe that’s a story for another time, if you ever feel like telling it. But for now, you’re here to Commune with Elton and that always goes better on a full stomach. Pull up a seat both of you and I’ll serve up.” After a hearty supper in which Wernher was persuaded to take second helpings of stew and Jeb managed to eat over half a loaf of herbed bread, the three kerbals finally pushed their plates away. Wernher sipped at the remains of his coffee, a distant look on his face. Jeb eyed him for a moment before leaning back in his chair. “Thanks, Patbro – that was excellent.” “You’re welcome.” Patbro cleared his throat. “If you’re ready, Wernher? I know Elton would be keen to speak to you tonight if he can.” “I suppose so.” Jeb got to his feet. “I’ll help you. It’s a bit unnerving the first time.” He put his hand on Wernher’s shoulder. ‘Come on.” He led his friend out of the kitchen, nodding to Patbro as he went. The Keeper poured himself another coffee and retired to the sitting room to wait. He had just begun to think about reading the book that he was thumbing through when the sound of footsteps made him look up. “Is everything all right?” Jeb came into the room, closing the door behind him. “He’s fine, I think. He wasn’t showing any signs of coming back out of Communion anyway.” Patbro sniffed the air and glanced at the ceiling. “No reaction from Elton either.” He waited until Jeb was seated. “How is Geneney?” “He’s very well. It’s been a long couple of weeks for him though, taking the second half of the Tenacity flight.” Jeb stretched out his legs. “We can show you Tenacity tomorrow if you’d like, assuming Guardian Elton is still available?” “He will be for that. We’ve tried to keep him up to date with the space program but we can only show him what we see on the news.” Patbro’s face clouded over. “Unless Wernher needs more time with him. I’ve seen that thousand-metre stare before on Jonton and it was never a good sign.” “No.” Jeb sighed. “Between you, me and the four walls?” “Of course.” “The colleague he mentioned, the one who introduced him to firewhisker coffee, was Hading Kerman.” Patbro looked puzzled for a moment, then his eyes widened. “As in the…” “Hading Accords? Yep. Wernher was out at Site D when all that happened. Led the survivors to safety and nearly killed himself in the process.” Jeb shivered. “I saw him in hospital afterwards – he was wizened. Like a piece of fruit left too long in the sun, which I guess isn’t far off the truth. The hospital managed to fix his heatstroke and dehydration on the outside but they’ll still be there on the inside; locked away behind that thousand metre stare. Elton will help.” Jeb’s voice lost its bleak edge. “He helped me and before we Communed, I would have told you that that was impossible.” Patbro nodded. “He has a way about him. Sometimes I think it’s just his sheer age. I doubt there’s much he hasn’t seen over the centuries.” “That would give him the long view on most things,” Jeb stared at the ceiling reflectively. “Awakening the One-Twenty… I just hope that most of them turn out to be like him.” It was Patbro’s turn to shiver. “As do I but I fear they may not be. There’s a lot of Jonton in Elton I think, because of the length of time that he spent an-Kerm before Elton’s Awakening. The others won’t get that.” “And isn’t that a cheery thought.” Jeb shook his head. “Genie was right though, for better or for worse. Asking the Kerm what they actually want rather than fighting over what we think they want.” He glanced at the door. “They’re taking a long time in there.” “You took longer,” Patbro replied with a faint smile. “How about a game of Tiles while we’re waiting?” “You’ll have to remind me how – I can’t remember the last time I played.” The game trickled along, both players paying more attention to listening for footsteps than the game board. Jeb was about to suggest that they called it a draw and put the board away when Wernher appeared in the doorway, blinking in the light. “Great Ker…” He paused. “That doesn’t seem particularly appropriate.” “Don’t worry,” said Patbro. “You’re far from the first and I doubt you’ll be the last.” Wernher nodded and arranged himself on top of a sack chair. “I see why you insisted on doing this, Jeb. That was…was…” He shook his head. “I could go kermol right now and join the One-Twenty.” “That’s far more coherent than Genie and I were after meeting him,” Jeb said wryly. “Did you manage to get a word in edgeways or have you been answering questions about spaceflight for the last couple of hours?” “No…no we talked about a lot of things. A lot of things.” Wernher stared at the wall. “Including the thing we came to talk about, before you ask, Jeb.” He raised a finger. “Not now. I’m going to need some time to think it all over but tonight… gave me a different perspective on it all.” “I know that feeling,” Jeb said quietly. “I’m glad he managed to help you as well, old friend.” Wernher gave him a wan smile. “He certainly did. But if you good kerbals will excuse me, I think I’ll turn in.” The smile became more genuine. “You should get some sleep too, Jeb. Elton was asking after you and wondering how the space program was going.” ------------------- <good morning, Wernher. Did you sleep well> Very well, thank you, Elton. Surprisingly so. <that is good to hear. Good morning, Patbro, good morning, Jeb. It is good to have you here again> It’s good to be here. Thank you for talking to Wernher last night. <I would be pleased to talk to him again> Jeb felt the Kerm’s amusement <It is refreshing to speak to a kerbal who does not think in long stories. Unlike yourself and my First of Keepers> You didn’t find the right story is all, Jeb replied. Get him started on an engineering problem and he can spin out a conversation with the best of them. A shimmering haze on the edge of Elton’s mindscape, caught his attention, two dim presences hidden behind it and beyond them a misty expanse, veiled by the haze. Elton sensed his sudden comprehension. <indeed. I would introduce you to Jonton my First of Keepers, his daughter Joenie, and my own daughter Jonelle> A flicker of pride rippled over them and the haze fell away. One of the two presences came forward, greeting Patbro happily and studying himself and Wernher with what felt like awe. The second presence stayed back at a more reserved distance. Beyond them, the previously misty expanse flared into brightness, revealing a second, flatter mindscape, a row of trees marking the border between it – her, Jeb realised belatedly – and Elton. <…Jebediah and Wernher. Wernher builds the machines for flying to other worlds. I believe you will know Jeb> Jeb sensed the embarrassed pleasure rippling from Wernher’s presence. Joenie’s presence flowed towards Jonton’s. Fragments of muted conversation and flickering emotions washed over the others, finishing in a wave of resignation that was echoed by an undercurrent of amused tolerance from Elton All right, Joenie. All right. I’ll ask him. Jonton turned to Jeb, his mental voice sounding faintly embarrassed. I’m sorry about this but my daughter has reminded me to ask if you have time to visit a friend of hers. An image of a cardboard box appeared, a pair of small feet protruding out from under it and what looked like a framed picture of Kerbin from space resting against the side. A kerblet crawled out from under the box, turned the picture round to show a picture of the Mün and disappeared back inside. Jeb stared. I recognise those photos. From the old KIS shop I think, said Wernher. I like the spacecraft design – very compact. Sturdier than Kerbal 1, Jeb agreed with a grin. He turned to face Joenie. I’d be very happy to meet your kerbonaut friend, he said. What’s his name? Gildas. Joenie’s presence shrank in on itself. Ferry and Anlie’s son, Jonton said to Elton. A good friend of mine, he told Jeb and Wernher, and his young lad is absolutely obsessed with space. <then perhaps he should join us next time> Jeb thought he could detect a subtle deference in Elton’s tone. <He too would want to hear Wernher speak and learn more of the home in space. Of course> he added in response to an unvoiced question from the engineer, and the mindscape shimmered into a star-speckled blackness. They sensed Wernher’s concentration and then a shape appeared, an outline at first, which only Jeb recognised, but quickly acquiring more detail. A second, larger, shape sketched itself out behind the first, before it too gained definition and form. These are the first two parts of the Tenacity space station, Wernher began. As I mentioned to Elton last night, Tenacity can’t fly anywhere – it isn’t a spacecraft – but we’re building it to practice making the parts for the Duna ships and to practice putting them together in space. <how many kerbals can live inside?> Only four at the moment. There’s room for many more but we can only bring four home if something goes wrong because we only have room for one actual spaceship. A Pioneer capsule blinked into view, docked to the front of the fledgling space station. Eventually we’ll have room for a second spaceship, so we’ll be able to double the crew, but that won’t happen for another two flights. Right now, we’re building another part of the station. It’s not finished yet but this is what it looks like so far. One by one, a set of eight tubular spokes appeared, arranged around the central hub module which Wernher had already sketched out. Jeb felt a familiar wave of concentration from Elton, matched by intense curiosity and then delighted recognition from Jonelle. A burst of images flickered between her and Joenie. <this is good. You make very clear images> Jeb sensed Wernher’s reticence. I suppose I’ve always found it easier to build things if I can visualise them first. Anyway, each spoke will be more than twice as long when it’s finished and then we’ll join them all up to make a wheel. But at the moment… <it looks like a flower. A flower in the sky> They all sensed Elton’s surprise. <I suppose it does, my daughter> The surprise faded, replaced by a sudden deep satisfaction. <and that too is good. For is it not proper that a Starseed should begin as a Starflower?>
  10. Changing the electromagnetic force would change the chemical properties of anything in the affected area because you’d be changing the interaction between atomic nuclei and the electrons surrounding those nuclei (ie chemical bonding) How those properties would change, I have no real idea. Turn off the electromagnetic force and there’s nothing to hold matter together, so it all turns to plasma. Tweak the strong force and you start doing fun things like messing around with quark confinement. (The strong force increases sharply over distance, so much so that under normal circumstances you never see an isolated quark. And by ‘normal’ I mean not even in most particle accelerator experiments.) Turn off the strong force and you switch off the force holding atomic nuclei together and the force holding the protons and neutrons in those nuclei, together. This is probably bad news for any bystanders. Gravity is an odd one. If we’re going with Einsteinian gravity then turning the gravitational force up or down implies that you’re changing the local curvature of space. At which point you can build an Alcubierre drive. Forget SSTO’s though, with this level of control over matter you could probably build a Star Trek style transporter and beam everything you need to orbit.
  11. Your reasoning is flawed. Say - for the sake of argument - that 20% of men have green eyes. I have four male friends. They all have brown eyes. Therefore I must have green eyes?
  12. Or if he could find something to hook his boots under?
  13. Is that the 24th century equivalent of going round to borrow a cup of sugar? For the discerning starship crew member, etchings are probably back in vogue too - the real thing mind, none of your holo-replicated ‘etchings’. “Easy, Captain. I could resolve this problem by simply recalibrating the deflector to accept a phase sensible pulse from the narrativium core. Unfortunately that’s not an option.” ”May I ask why not, Mr LaForge. I remind you that lives are at risk.” ”Writers Guild will go on strike, Captain. Again.”
  14. Yeah. “Captain, scanners indicate that we’ve located the 3127th ball of rock, ices and not-even-prebiotic organic molecules, for this mission. The away team are reporting that their brief and pointless EVA has consumed 125% of the budget for this episode.”