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Chapter 1 UTPKA Territory. 'Phoenix' shuttle on the pad at KSC, with its 'Odyssey' core booster and 'Artemis' side boosters. Year 1, Day 123, 03:08 PM GMT. As he turned the tuner on the radio, static crackled across the speakers. "... I need a hero, I need a hero 'til the end of the flight..." "... Fly me to the Mun and..." "... When the sky falls, and the stars rise..." "... In other news, we sadly mourn the death of Deswin Kerman, one of the best Kerbonauts in the KSA. He died today during an in-flight accident during the circularisation burn of STS-3. A pipe, which was directing fuel into the main engines of the Artemis-I booster, became clogged, and the buildup of fuels burst the pipe. The hypergolic fuel mixed with the oxidizer, and the entire craft exploded in a shower of flames. Streaks of flames were seen in the sky as the debris re-entered the atmosphere..." Deswin Kerman casually switched off the radio. He spoke into his helmet mic: "CAPCOM, I'm astonished. I can't believe they fell for the flares, over." "Copy that, Des. Transfer burn T-minus 1 minute 30 seconds, over." Deswin clumsily removed his clunky suit gloves, before skillfully maneuvering the shuttle to line up with the maneuver node on the black-and-green navball. "Maneuver node aligned. Burn in T-minus 1 minute and counting, over." "Copy that, Control is watching your every move. Or, at least, the portion of it that knows..." The capsule communicator didn't even need to finish his sentence. Deswin understood what he meant. His fingers rested on the throttle. "T-minus 30 seconds." "T-minus 20" "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2..." Deswin rammed the throttle forward, and the shuttle accelerated with a jolt of power. He had his eyes tuned on the fuel balance, and his other finger on the 'Stage' button. The fuel ran down rapidly. "Cutoff T-minus 40" "30" "20" "15, 14,13..." The fuel in the 1st stage depleted, and Deswin flicked the 'Stage' switch. The 6 Thrustmax 200 engines roared to life, giving another half a G of acceleration. "11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." He carefully nudged the throttle lever backwards as the seconds ticked down. The map in his cockpit's LCD screen displayed his current trajectory, on an encounter with the Mun. He couldn't help but smile a sly smile, with the knowledge that he was only one in a handful of people who knew the Artemis Program's true goal. The 'Artemis' core booster separation during the transfer burn: Day 124, 01:23 AM GMT. "You're approaching the node for orbital injection, T-minus 3 minutes, over." "Copy that, CAPCOM. Pre-burn check complete, all systems nominal. However, somebody forgot to pack the sunscreen, over." Chuckles over the radio. "No, I'm serious. The guys back at R&D can't afford visors on the EVA suits, so we have to cover ourselves in sunscreen and wear a pair of those huge, blocky sunglasses that a dentist puts on you before they shine a giant light in your face." More chuckles. 02:50 AM GMT. The heads-up display showed a small object, highlighted in green, approaching the shuttle at 23 metres per second. "Capricorn Station approaching, close approach T-minus 50 seconds," chimed mission control. "I've got my hand on the throttle, ready for velocity match, over." The gap between the 'Phoenix' and the station grew smaller and smaller, as indicated by the heads-up display. 1.5 kilometres. 1 kilometre. 0.8 kilometres. Deswin nudged the throttle lever forward slightly. The relative speed on the HUD grew smaller. "Close approach T-minus 20" 20 metres per second. 15 metres per second. 10 metres per second. "T-minus 15." 5 metres per second. "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." 0 metres per second. "Zero!" The shuttle, approaching the station after ditching the 2nd stage: 03:00 AM GMT. The docking ports inched closer. Deswin watched eagerly from the LCD screen, displaying the docking port's camera. He fiddled with the docking joystick as he attempted the align the Latch-o-matic ports with each other. As the distance grew closer, the magnetic clamps kicked in, doing the rest of the work for him. The two ships floated gracefully towards each other, and the clamps safely secured themselves around the shuttle. "Phew," sighed Deswin, switching off the LCDs and opening up the hatch with a pull of the latch. "That was tense." Gene Kerman at mission control smiled carelessly to himself in his office chair. "Good," he said. "Phase one is complete." The 'Phoenix' docking and docked: Author's note: Please give me your thoughts! I would love to see the feedback these stories get; I have a much bigger project (and I mean HUGE) ready to come this way if you guys enjoy 'Kontakt'. If you think anything is bad, or needs to be changed, say so. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Kind regards, N.