So, this is the tale of my Career mode, fleshed out into a story. It's ongoing, so... KSP: From Humble Beginnings The year: 2015 K.E. After millennia of strife which saw the Kerbal race brought to the brink of annihilation, peace reigns. The Kerbal race retreated underground following a disastrous nuclear exchange, but whilst living primarily in the vast series of caverns under Kerbin, something extraordinary happened. The Unification of Kerbalkind. It began as a sect of peace-loving hippies, the Kermen, whose message of universal tolerance and acceptance was ignored by most before the Fall, but was now taken seriously. Those leaders and power blocs who wanted to perpetuate the fighting and acrimony were voted out, shunned, and in some ironic cases forcibly overthrown, and to commemorate the unification, family surnames have been replaced with the surname "Kerman." The surface fallout has receded, but with most of the hearty Kerbal race well-adapted to life underground, few care to venture aboveground anymore. Some few, however, still venture to the surface; some wish to rebuild the surface's ruined cities, others yearn to soar through the blue skies again. And some Kerbals think those Kerbals don't aim high enough. Some know that before the Fall, Kerbalkind had mastery of the skies, and the blackness beyond had been encroached upon. Of course, those industries were largely lost, but not entirely. The Grassland Downs Amateur Rocketry Society consisted of four Kerbals but it started with three: Jebediah Kerman, the oldest (by five minutes) and hence, the inheritor of their mother's junkyard and the money man, and his brothers Bill and Bob, the brawn and brains, respectively. They were joined by their fourth rocketeer when one of their model rocket launches was interrupted with explosive results when another model rocket soared out from behind a nearby hill and intercepted theirs. Valentina Kerman had joined the gang. Valentina, however, had bigger ambitions than just launching toys into the sky. In her own travels on the surface, she had uncovered an old airport with a VAB and launch pad a mere fifty miles or so from Grassland Downs. It was very old, with an unpaved runway and a rough circle of concrete for a launch pad, corrugated iron airplane hangar, a few rough outbuildings and a small science lab. It predated the time of the Fall by about a century, give or take a few-three decades, and had apparently been unused at the time, and thus spared the devastation. Upon seeing the old test facility, the brothers knew their calling had come, especially when they discovered the famed Dr. Wernher von Kerman, one of the loudest and most respected voices advocating for the Kerbal return to space, tinkering in the old lab, having been sacked from his previous post as a parts designer for the Rockomax Corp after he had massively over-engineered several types of fuel storage tanks and then revealed to the company directors how their tanks would be ideal rocket fuel tanks. The seeds were set in motion, and more recruits were located: Jebediah's accountant Mortimer Kerman was quickly brought aboard to see to the financial feasibility of the project, as part of his normal duties with the hastily-renamed Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Space Program. His wise suggestion that Jebediah incorporate his spaceflight endeavours separately from his junkyard led to the final name of Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spaceship Parts Company, and to the Kerbal Space Program, which Mortimer secured public funding for and thus became not a company, but an NGO agency. Linus Kerman, Wernher's former assistant, was easily recruited from his high-paying job as Wernher's replacement at Rockomax as he too shared the good doctor's passion for rocketry, and the prospect of actually launching a Kerbal above the atmosphere was far more exciting to him than a good 401(k) or job security. Bob knew a Kerbal spin-doctor, late of the Probodobodyne company. His efforts pitching their latest series of deep-earth drill probes had been a dismal failure, largely because the new series was in every way inferior to the previous series, but the company sacked him rather than their designers, and bad-mouthed him so he wouldn't land another job. Walt Kerman joined as soon as the offer of a hammock, indoor plumbing and sandwiches were extended. Bill's best friend, other than his brothers and Valentina, was the extremely capable construction foreman Gus Kerman; a Kerbal with nerves quite possibly more steady than Jebediah's, Gus was well-used to extinguishing fires on the job, and could build anything from a custom industrial park to cavern-ceiling scraper high-rises. Bill got him to join by suggesting that he take a half-year sabbatical to try the space program, and see how he liked it; if the Kerbal Space Program really took off, eventually they'd build a space elevator, and Gus's name would go down in history as the man who got it built. (Bill was genuinely surprised to later learn from Linus that space elevators were a real concept and it might actually be possible.) The last of the founding group approached them; Gene Kerman had heard through a friend of a friend of a friend of Wernher von Kerman about the founding space agency. A former administrator and mission controller for one of the Grassland Downs Aviation Society, Gene always wanted to go to space, but the directors always shot it down as being too risky and offering no prospects. KSP: The Early Days The early life of the Kerbal Space Program marked by amateur endeavours and fiscal mishap, with vast sums of the Space Program's starting budget, which consisted mostly of Jebediah Kerman's personal fortune, invested for good or for ill in facility upgrades, while the crew launched larger and larger model rockets from a real launch pad. Although this made Mortimer very unhappy, the tiny sensors they were affixing to those probes was enough to get a trickle of data coming in, with which Wernher worked near-miracles... Although Linus would say that most of the early advances were not so much the result of the data from the sounding rockets' college-level toy sensors processed by Wernher von Kerman as the data he was digging out of the antiquated, paper archives that were in the stacks. Things came to a head when Mortimer and Gene stormed into the VAB one day and threw down a file folder, right under the engine of a gigantic, four-meter tall sounding rocket. "What's this," Valentina was the first to ask, and Gene crossed his arms. "This, gentlemen, lady, is your last launch," was the irate reply. "After this, we're broke. Done for. After your stunt upgrading the VAB," he said, gesturing around to the newly-modernized building, "we are out of funds. We have maybe enough money to pay for taxis to drive everybody home. Less than three grand." The four rocketeers and the assorted launch crew standing around turned a pale shade of lime. "Broke?" Jebediah asked, his mental gears already turning. "Yes, Jeb. Broke. And I've already crunched the numbers. Even if you sell the junkyard outright, we're so heavily leveraged into spaceship parts production that any fiscally-responsible buyer would only give us scraps." "My mother left me that junkyard - us," Jeb clarified, drawing his brothers to him, "and she got it from her mother, who got it from her father, who got it from his father, who won it from a friend in a game of poker. It's not for sale." "Then we'd better make this last launch a good one," Gene said, "because after this, we're kaput, unless someone bails us out." "Um... That might be possible." All heads involved turned to look at the Kerbal wearing the hazmat suit. Mortimer blinked. "Walter, what are you doing wearing a hazmat suit?" Walt shifted. "I, uh... I found it in an old locker and I thought it looked good. I was going to wear it to the next strat meeting as a joke on the toxic environment that is P.R... But anyway, that's not the point." "You have a plan," Gene asked, and Walt nodded. "Yes I do! We get bailed out." Walt enthusiastically clapped his hands together, once, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Silence reigned for a moment, then Gene asked "Okay, smart guy, how do you plan to do that?" "It's simple," Gus said. "I remind the public grants agencies how much money they've already invested in us, and convince them we're too big to fall, so they can't just let us close shop for good because of a lack of money. They'll *have* to pay out!" "Uh... Won't like, everyone hate us if we do that," Bob asked, and Walt nodded. "Absolutely!" Walt clapped his hands together again, the hollow sound of his hazmat mittens reverberating through the VAB. "Nothing the public hates more than hearing that a fiscally-irresponsible boondoggle wasted a ton of public cash and was then given more of their tax money!" Silence reigned for a few more moments, and then Gene asked, at a volume usually reserved for shouting from the upper catwalks to someone below the lowest catwalk on the far side of the VAB, "How in the hell does that make anything better!?" "No, he's right! By Kott, he's right!" All eyes swiveled to see the new joiner to the conversation, though the thick accent and foreign loanword could only herald the arrival of Dr. Wernher von Kerman. "It doesn't matter vhat the public zhinks, zo long as zhey don't hate us so badly zhey burn ze place to ze ground. Bad reputation can be fixed; if ve deliver zome spectacular rezults, everyone vill have forgotten about how ve vent around, hat-in-hand, to get ze money to deliver zhem!" Gene snapped his fingers. "Yeah... Yeah! Damnit, you're right, Doc, Walt. Mortimer, what do you think?" With an ambivalent shrug, Mortimer nodded. "Fiscally speaking, getting a bail-out grant is feasible. If we were incorporated, they'd probably attach strings and conditions to it. As we're a public agency, they might demand some kind of restructuring..." "Alright. Then we'll beat them to the punch," Gene said. He pointed to the four rocketeers. "From now on until we have more than a million in the bank, you four don't get to make any budgetary decisions. Gus!" Gus Kerman had been listening in, but hadn't chimed up. He raised his wrench. "Yeah, Gene?" Gene pointed at the stacks of brightly-colored sounding rocket parts. "It's time to hike up our britches and put on the big-boy pants. Throw away or sell off all the model rocket parts. Starting today, all our effort is focused on getting a Kerbal into space, so we can actually call ourselves a Space Program." Valentina, Bill, Bob, and Jebediah shot Gene a nasty look, and Gene sighed, rolling his eyes. "Okay, you can launch that one on schedule," he said, gesturing to the vividly-colored, red-and-orange monster sounding rocket. "But that's the last of them. We're probably gonna go broke anyway, so we may as well go big doing it. Cheer up," he said, with a smug grin. "We're gonna make real astronauts out of you kids." KSP: The flight of Salvation 0.5 "So, Doc... Is this going to work?" "All my calculations indicate zhat it vill." "Doc, I'm not asking for calculations here. I'm asking, will this work?" Doctor Wernher von Kerman shrugged at Gene Kerman's question. "Zhere are no guarantees in life, except death... Und I have colleagues working on zhat problem as ve speak." Gene raised an eyebrow at the good Doctor. "What do you mean?" "Transkerbalism, my friend! Zhat is a long und fascinating subject, but zhis may not be ze time," the Doctor replied, and Linus stepped up around him. "Gene, what Herr Doktor is trying to say is that, unless something goes catastrophically wrong, this *will* work." Gene rubbed his hand through his hair, and sat on the chair behind him, stroking his hand over the vest his wife had knit him. KSP had yet to pay its employees in anything except food and board, and when he'd written his wife about the accident in the lab last month that had resulted in most of his wardrobe dissolving, she'd sent him handmade replacements. At least there'd been no complaining about favoritism or embezzlement. All of the top participants in the program were heavily leveraged into it themselves, and Jebediah and his brothers were practically all-in, having underwritten a large loan for the program with the junkyard as collateral. If this didn't work, everyone was going to lose their shirts, and Jeb might pay a considerably higher price than that. "So, what kind of catastrophes could we see here?" "Well, something might go wrong in one of the engines. We don't have a launch escape system in place, so getting Jeb out of there will be tricky to impossible if something were to be going wrong on launch, or in flight," Linus suggested. "Or the heat shield might fail." "Ve still are not convinced zhat a heat shield is necessary for a straight up und down like zhis," Doctor von Kerman added, and Gene shrugged. "Yeah, but if we tell Jeb he can get away without a heat shield now, he'll insist on leaving them off on all of these trips, and that will lead to a disaster sooner or later," Linus said. "And, of course, the parachute might malfunction." Gene rubbed his eyes. "Okay. So, a lot could go wrong. I got it." He turned his chair to the desk, looking up at the big screen. Cameras focused on the launch pad from some ways away showed the rocket - a tall, slender, almost phallic thing, with only the sharply tapered nose of the capsule and the fins on the bottom to make it not look like a gigantic ink-pen. A second camera showed Jebediah Kerman wearing his spacesuit, in the capsule, his helmet was off. "Hey, Val," he asked into the microphone. "Why is your lunch in my capsule?" At the far side of mission control, Valentina Kerman stood with Jebediah's two brothers. Gene facepalmed, as Valentina leaned into the desk, speaking into her microphone. "Because it should have been my capsule, Jeb, and I put my lunch in it last night." Rubbing his eyelids, Gene keyed his mic. "Okay, guys, no more arguing. You lost the poker game fair and square, Val." Getting the two pilots, though the phrase was best used euphemistically when discussing Jebediah and Valentina, to agree to a way to decide on which of them got to go had not been easy. "I wouldn't have if you'd let me bet my bra," Valentina muttered, but then she brightened up. "Anyway, I put my lunch in before the poker game, when it was still my flight, and I forgot to take it out, okay?" Jebediah held up a bag of popular, super-spicy tortilla snacks. "That's okay. I'm going to eat your lunch." Valentina snickered, and placed at her desk a big blue toolbox with 'Jeb's Lunch' sticky-labeled on the side. "Then I'm going to eat yours. This had better be tavern ham." "Er... It's... Mushroom Forest Ham?" After a moment, Valentina shrugged. "This is acceptable. Don't you dare die out there, Jebediah Kerman." "Right. Can the chatter, kids," Gene said, into his microphone. "We're at T-5:00 to launch. Eat fast, Jeb." On the screen, Jebediah quickly improvised, setting Valentina's sandwich on his chest and opening it up, adding the eye-wateringly hot tightly-rolled tortillas to it, before crunching down on the enhanced sandwich. Gene couldn't even stand to look at something so spicy without cringing, but the test pilot was chowing down with unmasked enthusiasm. With the flight crews' mouths full, Gene had bought himself the precious time he needed to check with the far-more-professional mission control staff; a huge checklist of things which could have gone wrong, scrubbed their launch, rolled by without a single fault, as Jeb scarfed his sandwich and put his helmet back on. "I hope his stomach is as ironclad as he claims," Linus murmured at his side. "We don't have any provision for vacuuming vomit out of a space helmet." "Don't worry about zhat," Wernher advised his intern. "Jebediah Kerman has the second strongest stomach ve haff tested." "Sure, in a centrifuge," Linus said. "We don't have any live action test data, though." "Zhen pay attention and take notes," Doctor von Kerman ordered him, "and ve vill get zome data vun vay or anozer." "Can it, docs," Gene said, leaning up in his chair as the countdown clock hit 0:15, and the mission timer started the countdown. "We are at T-10; 9; 8; 7; 6; 5; 4; 3; 2; 1; ignition!" Salvation 0.5 was a simple rocket, all told- an FL-T400 with a Swivel engine, both manufactured by Jeb's Junkyard, above a Rockomax BACC Thumper, with an attached Quadcore service module from New Horizons and Nox Industrial, above it a standard service bay, and a decoupler. Above that was the simplest imaginable flight stage; an O.M.B. Demolitions heat shield, a Mk 1 Command Pod produced by Kerlington, and a Mk. 16 parachute nose-cone that had been found lying by the side of an old dirt track which Jebediah swore the junkyard boys had refurbished to perfectly working order. The big Rockomax engine ignited, and Jebediah got a giddy grin on his face as the rocket shot skyward. Gene glanced down at the contracts in his hand; an observer from the Kerbin World-Firsts Record-Keeping Society was on-hand to record what the KSP had promised would be the first flight into space. That was worth a lot of money to the program, not to mention the potential outstanding bounties for highest velocity and longest flight from the vehicle departure point. They were competing with the aviation societies for that one after Kerbin World-Firsts had declared that rocket-powered craft were in fact eligible for those prizes. Gene didn't feel even a slight pang of guilt over that. He'd been arguing for ages that the Grassland Downs Aviation Society should become the Grassland Downs Aerospace Society, and that they should stop trying to literally reinvent aviation whilst ignoring the techniques, data, and technologies already pioneered by pre-Fall Kerbalkind. On-screen, Jebediah looked absolutely thrilled, and Gene blinked as he saw that in the span of a few moments' introspection, Jeb was already six kilometers up. "Hey," Bill said, into his microphone. "Did anybody remember to remove the thrust limiter on that middle BACC?" Gene blinked; originally as-designed, Salvation 1 had been a four-stage rocket, with two full-thrust BACCs on the side of the main, middle BACC, which had been limited at 90%. Gene shrugged, and looked at Gus, who also shrugged, and looked at Doctor Wernher von Kerman, who was sharing a mutual glare with his assistant. "You mean I could be going even faster," Jeb asked with a disappointed look on his face, and Gene snorted. "You're already goin' up at over mach one, Jeb. You're the fastest Kerbal since the Fall, so be happy." "Waitaminute, forget the thrust limiter," Bob said. "When we switched from those two FL-T200s to the FL-T400, did anyone remember to reattach the parachutes?!" Another round of guilty looks went around, and Mortimer facepalmed. "Does anyone but me have any idea how much that middle stage costs?" Gene grimaced; he had a rough idea that it was A Lot, but he didn't have the exact figures on hand. "Fifteen-thousand, three hundred seventy K-Bux," Mortimer said. "The whole rocket only costs twenty-thousand, nine-hundred one!" Gene grimaced, reaching for his box of antacids, as Mortimer did likewise, but Doctor von Kerman shrugged. "Vell, a small sacrifice for ze data ve vill get out of zhis flight - look, he's already in ze upper atmosphere!" Gene looked back up, his antacid chewables forgotten, to see something amazing; Jebediah Kerman was busily taking notes on his smartphone with one hand, while the other was flipping through the read-outs of his onboard instruments, and the control stick was carefully balanced between his knees, keping the rocket perfectly level. Gene put his hand over his microphone. "Doc, uh... I just realized something. how are we going to recover the data if it's in the stage that's gonna burn up?" Doctor von Kerman smiled at him. "Ze zhanks for zhat go to Gus and my assistant Linus. Linus noted that it was possible to manually remove ze data drives from ze experiments, und asked Gus to run ze cables through ze decoupler stage to record ze data on ze capsule's hard drives. Ve expect quite ze bounty! Both in data, und in ze funding from ze prizes." Gus beamed at the praise from Doctor von Kerman, while Gene let out a sigh of relief. He was about to say something, when a loud "Yahooo!" caught everyone's eyes, and he looked back to the main screen. A chorous of gasps and shrieks filled mission control, as Jebediah's feet were the only part of him in the camera frame. He had opened the capsule and climbed out of it. "Jebediah Kerman, are you insane," Valentina demanded, almost at a shriek, as Jeb pulled himself all the way out. No sooner had he done so, however, than he slammed himself back in, slamming the capsule closed. "You're not in space yet, dummy," she chastised him, and Jeb laughed. "Yeah, but the air pressure up here's so thin, and I'm out of fuel, that holding on isn't hard," Jeb said, pointing to his altimeter, which had just passed 62Km. "And I got an amazing selfie!" Gene tipped four antacid chewables into his hand, as Linus said "Ooooh, we'll want a copy of that, Jeb," he said, and Jebediah nodded. "Don't worry, it's already queued up." He started quickly dictating notes about his upper-atmospheric EVA to his phone, and finished up just before he hit 70Km, the accepted definition of the boundary of space. Gene glanced to the front of the mission control center, where the observer from the Kerbin World-Firsts Record-Keeping Society very visibly made a huge check-mark on his clipboard, and Mortimer let out a sigh of relief. Jeb was still ascending, and scribbling notes, while working the controls for his scientific instrument cluster. "Okay, Jeb, you're in space. You ready for another EVA? One that was planned this time," his brother Bill asked, and Jeb laughed. "You betcha. Just give me a minute..." Jeb finished scribbling notes, as the radar altimiter indicated his ascending speed had begun to fall. Jebediah popped out, and stayed out until the capsule hit and then blew past 0 m/s ascent speed. He popped back in, laughing. "Floating up here is incredible, guys!" He navigated himself back into his seat with ease like he was born to do it, strapped in, reached up and plucked his phone from outside the capsule, then closed the hatch. "Time to come home now," Jebediah said. "I'll see y'all in a few minutes." He then cranked his control stick hard over. Gene felt his throat tighten, and he crushed the box of antacid pills in his hand. "Jeb, what the hell are you doing," he asked, as he watched the big representation of the craft's navball spin on-screen in mission control. "I'm gettin' rid of the stage below me, what'd you think I was doing?" With the ball spinning, Jebediah hit the stage button on his console one more time, and the the spinning suddenly accelerated rapidly, then stablized with surprising ease, facing the sky. "What... I... What?" Gene stammered, and Valentina let out a laugh. "Well, if he comes straight down and he just stages with the rocket below him, he's gonna hit it," Valentina said into her microphone. "By spinning real hard and letting it go when he was facing down, he flung it away from the capsule." "It is not incorrect to zay he also flung himzelf away from ze upper rocket stage," Doctor von Kerman added, "But yes, ze principle vorks! It gets ze rocket stage out of ze way, with no need for ze seperation rockets ve have yet to procure. It is clever, and costs us nothing but ze electricity in ze batteries to run ze reaction veels!" Gene swallowed his mouthful of antacid with a swig of coffee, and just settled back to watch, as Jeb hurtled down through the atmosphere. Numbers ticked down, while Jeb had a surprisingly serene look on his face. He still hadn't triggered his parachute by the time he passed 5,000m, and Gene sat up, starting to worry. "Jeb? Jeb, you need to fire your chutes." The rocket had drifted west - or the planet had rotated under it, either was fair to say - and Jeb was going to come down in the grassy hills west of the spaceport's mostly-level coastal plain. "Jeb? The chutes," he prompted again at 3Km, and Jeb remained silent. "Jeb! Now!" Valentina urged into her microphone just as Jeb passed 2Km, and he reached out, flicking the switch when he hit 1,500m. The parachute deployed, and his vertical descent speed dropped rapidly. Gene gulped, watching the numbers tick down; all of the nmbers, then when the chute fully deployed, Jeb's descent drastically slowed, and he drifted to the ground calmly from 200m. Everybody in mission control breathed a collective sigh of relief, as Jebediah reached up, opening his capsule. "Jeb, it's okay," Gene said. "We've got some boys in a truck heading out to get you now. You don't have to walk home." "I'm not going to walk home," Jebediah said. "But we don't have an EVA report from the grasslands, and I want to plant a flag. I figure I've got some time before the truck gets here." Gene laughed at him, shaking his head. "Yeah, all right, smart-ass. Get yourself another selfie, and come on home." He cut his microphone. "How long can you guys justify quarantining him? We all owe Jeb some payback for those stunts." "Perhaps a veek," Doctor von Kerman suggested, "und I'll be sure to schedule him for zome very unpleasant, very thorough physical examinations." The doctor had a bright grin on his face. "But look at all zis vundebah data! Ve vill be busy for ages!" He was poking a checklist of the conditions and experiments Jeb had brought back experiment data for, and Gene laughed. "Yeah, yeah. Go, then. Go, laugh it up. I'm going to crawl into my hammock and collapse after that." Gene slumped back in his chair, breathing a sigh of relief.