Moho 27, Y003 "Not only is it something, but it isn't our something!" MISSION DAY +5.50
The orders were clear. We were to keep our distance from Kerbin. Since yesterday's flash message, I've had Lieutenant Obion and Ensign Hildi each assigned to a shift, monitoring all communications we can detect from our current distance. So far, our first trip beyond Minmus has taught me a lot about how inadequate the training is for spaceflight. Sure, most of the stuff the Kerbalnaut training program taught us was valuable in short, ten-day missions to the Mün and Minmus, but being out here on an extended mission has already presented unique problems our training didn't adequately prepare the crew for.
What makes the Excursion different than the other craft used is it's size. Ship navigation and communications, although somewhat automated, still require a Kerman presence. The refits made by Dr. Angelo did increase the on-board computer some, but now there's more mass. We've also discovered, during the process of docking with the Discovery IV crew, this ship lacks any significant way to reduce forward inertia without rotating the vessel. Commander Karloff suggested that a set of small, forward facing rockets would probably be all that's needed to solve this problem. In the meantime, he suggested we tie into the Discovery IV's computer and fuel systems and use it's engine as a sort of brake.
After dividing the crew into two shifts, it was time for me to get some much needed rest. "Lieutenant Gilti, you have command," I said, as I got up from the center seat.
"Aye, sir!' She replied. "I have command."
I slid to the rear of the command deck and watched as she took her position in the center seat. Once she was seated, it was my turn to catch up on much needed sleep. As I entered my cabin, Gilti was already paging me.
"Captain, there's a Priority Three message coming in from Dr. Angelo -- "
"Go ahead and patch it through," I interrupted.
"Aye, sir," she replied. "It is an audio transmission only. Patching it through."
"Captain Kerny," the familiar voice called out. "Are you there?"
"Yes, Dr. Angelo," I replied. "Why an audio transmission only -- "
"I'm sorry, but right now, I am sitting at some runway I didn't even know existed until a few hours ago." Dr. Angelo began.
"If you remember the last time we talked, I told you that Prime Consul Katrine had summonsed me to meet her at New Kerbin City for a meeting with her. Well, as I was heading to my personal plane, Major Thompberry offered me a ride from the tracking center to my waiting plane. He told me not to trust the Prime Consul. He didn't go into a lot of detail, but he believes there is something more than what she's telling us -- "
"Well," I started, "we've all figured that out. That's really nothing new -- "
"So, anyway," Dr. Angelo continued, "We left the KSC on a heading to take us to New Kerbin City. It's about an hour and a half flight and doesn't take a lot of effort to get there."
"Captain Podwin volunteered to fly with me," Dr. Angelo continued, "and I'd be flying as his copilot; that's not really important..."
Yeah, yeah, I thought to myself. And the point of this discussion is...?
"We did our pre-flight check, taxied to the runway, and awaited Kuzzter to give us clearance for takeoff. So far, there's nothing out of the ordinary about this flight. And within about twenty minutes, we were in the air and on our way to New Kerbin City."
"Captain Podwin and myself couldn't help laughing at the site of one of those external tanks, I think this was from the Jala Kerman, lying in the shore. Bobak said that the shuttle launch was perfect and the orbital insertion went well. But he did also mention her crew didn't jettison the tank at the planned time - but some twenty minutes later!"
"Yeah," I said through a slight chuckle. "I remember reading something about that. How even Kuzzter was warning of how close to the KSC the tank was coming -- "
"Yes, Captain!" Dr. Angelo exclaimed. "There it sits, right near the end of the runway! I imagine Major Thompberry will be all over that crew when they get back! Anyhow, the next leg of the flight was fairly normal. Nothing really major happened during that part of the flight..."
"What should have been the last twenty minutes of our flight turned out to be near the beginning..."
"Wild Blue Flight Alpha Zero," the voice came over the radio. "You are ordered to take a heading of forty-eight degrees and continue on that course until advised by control."
"Dr. Angelo," Captain Podwin began. "That can't be right. That's a heading of nearly east-northeast of where we are now. New Kerbin City should be to our north, not at all in that direction -- "
"New Kerbin City Control," Dr. Angelo said. "Please verify new heading -- "
"Wild Blue Flight Alpha Zero," a slightly agitated voice came over the radio. "The heading is forty-eight degrees. That's FORTY-EIGHT degrees and continue on that course until advised by control. New Kerbin City Control Out."
"We flew over New Kerbin City at an altitude of 7,000 meters. Captain, they never responded to any of our additional radio transmissions asking for clarification on our new flight plan. So, we simply kept that heading..."
"Once we were about two hours north of New Kerbin City, we received a new set of instructions about a homing frequency we were to switch over to. But here's the strange thing - this new frequency isn't listed under any of the guides -- "
"That's not really too surprising," I interrupted. "There's a lot of things -- "
"Changing, I know," Dr. Angelo said, nearly in a mocking tone. "But this homing frequency took us to an airfield which according to everything we have available... doesn't exist!"
"Wait" I interrupted...
"Captain," he began again. "I'm telling you, we are sitting in my aircraft with only 1/3 of the fuel remaining. And we are at an airfield along the northern coast. Sure, there's a control tower, but I don't think anyone is here -- "
"What's your plan, Dr. Angelo?" I asked. I had to ask.
"We have no choice but to stay the night here. We've got to conserve our fuel. We have a couple of choices and neither one of them sounds too good. One is to fly to the North Polar Station. I know they have a fuel production facility there, but it has been quarantined for the last month or so..."
"And your other option?"
"We are trying to raise Colonel Ralph. His craft carries fuel production equipment. If he is nearby..."
"Understood." I added. "Is there anything I can do for you, Doctor?"
"Yes," after a brief pause he continued. "Send a flash message to Colonel Ralph. You might have better luck than I will."
"Roger, out." and with that, I ended the radio communication. Why would the Prime Consul request Dr. Angelo to meet her in New Kerbin City only to change his orders in mid-flight? Before I could even begin to put those pieces into the ever-growing puzzle,the communications panel in my quarters came to life again.
"Captain," Gilti called out. "Bobak has sent you a data packet. He said Gene wants you to review it."
"Sure," I replied, "send it back."
Within a moment, the screen of my communications console came to life. Gene and his coffee cup stared down at me from the viewing monitor on my communications console.
"Captain," He began. "I've identified another potential crew member for you. Her name is Katman and currently she's in the pilot training program. I've sent you the images of her first solo flight..."
"Tango Two, this is KSC Control," Kuzzter's voice said. "Change heading; use coastal area as your visual reference. Maximum altitude of one-seven-five-zero meters, minimum altitude of eight-five-zero meters. Maximum speed of two-five-five meters per second. Begin course as defined in your flight briefing."
"Roger, KSC Control" the young female voice said. "Beginning programed flight plan now..."
Within minutes, she had reached the first point of the course she had been assigned. But what made Cadet Katman stand out was the way she handled the craft - almost as if the craft was an extension of herself! With great precision, she made her first banking turn and gradually increased her speed to the maximum allowed for this flight.
"Tango Two," Kuzzter's voice could be heard. "Gene says to bring her on back in. Once you land, please report to the briefing room in the tracking center."
"KSC Control, this is Tango Two" Katman replied. "Request permission to land -- "
"Oh, yeah," Bobak added. "I know what we taught you in training... What was that, Gene? Oh, ahem, excuse me, cadet... Permission to land granted..."
And with that, I watched as one of the newest pilots of the Kerbin Defense Forces execute a near perfect landing and taxi to the apron next to the space plane hangar. The screen then returned to Gene.
"Kerny, with your next mission still being planned, I really think we need to assign her to your crew. I know that you've said you would like some more engineers and scientists, too. And we are working on those. I also know that Dr. Angelo is supposed to be discussing the next refit of the Excursion with the Prime Consul. But for now, Captain, this is all I have. Maintain your current distance from Kerbin until you've been given an "all clear" by either Dr. Haywood or myself. I wish I could go into more detail; for now, this is the way it must remain."
And with that, the screen indicated the data recording from Gene had ended. Apparently Gene was totally unaware of the current situation with Dr. Angelo.
I did try to get some sleep but after two hours tossing and turning in my bunk, I decided to return to the command deck. Second shift still had another two hours before the end of the shift but I didn't have any desire to stay in my quarters for another minute.
"Lieutenant what's the -- "
"Captain on deck," Triy called out. Yes, an annoying bit of protocol Commodore Valentina insisted be continued on larger space-ships, as she called them.
"Captain has the command," Gilti called out. "Sir, here's our status," she began as she returned to her normal duty station. "We've not detected any abnormal communications from New Kerbin City or from any of the smaller surface settlements. Commodore Valentina did issue a flash order to the Dres. She's been ordered away from the crash site and is resuming her previous patrol route. She departed the search area about an hour ago - just a little before Kerbolset at the KSC."
"The orders from the commodore state she's to depart the area and head to the Great Southern Ocean to resume her patrol. Any debris recovered from the crash site is to be turned over to Major Thompberry as a part of their port call at the KSC Oceanside facility. The cargo vessel Emiko and a few other ships will be following in a few days.
"It appears," I began. A small lump in my throat started to grow. "the search for Dr. Edmund is officially over."
"Aye, sir" Karloff's voice answered from the rear of the command deck. "It definitely has. They say the passenger compartment either broke apart or sank on impact. It's hard to believe he's... he's -- "
"Gone." I said, in almost a whisper. "Is there anything else you wish to add to your report, Lieutenant?"
"Yes," Gilti added. "About the time I sent Gene's message to your quarters, there was a high frequency radio burst. We tracked its source and it came from somewhere near Minmus - almost like the source was in orbit around it. But the intensity of the radio burst made it obvious the target was somewhere on Kerbin -- "
"Yes, sir!" Obion exclaimed. "It happened when the area of Tulum Station - where the pyramids are -- "
"So," my turn to interrupt. "What you are telling me is something orbiting Minmus is sending radio signals to the surface of Kerbin?"
"Yes, sir!" Obion continued to explain. "Not only is it something, but it isn't our something! The type of signal is unlike anything we have on Kerbin -- "
"Yet it sent a signal to Kerbin?" Karloff asked. And I have to admit, I was going to as a similar question.
"That's exactly what I am saying." Obion finally was calm enough to explain what he meant. "We have nothing - either civilian or military - which can produce that high of a frequency wave..."
"Now that's interesting!" I caught myself saying. Could this radio wave pulse be the reason Gene wants us to stay out here? Is it some sort of new communications experiment? "Karloff, what do you say we take a trip to Minmus..."
"Captain," he began, "Gene did tell us to keep our distance from Kerbin. He didn't say anything about Minmus -- "
"Sir," Gilti interjected. "I've plotted our course. We can insert ourselves into orbit around Minmus in four days -- "
"Let's do it," I ordered. "Commander, let's see if we can figure out what's sending out that signal."
"Captain, our course has been changed." Karloff reported. "We are now on a trajectory to rendezvous with Minmus."