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  1. Jebediah stretched and yawned a bit more before sitting back up on the cold bed. He was bored because there were no entertaining shows to watch and freezing from the Russian weather. He flipped out his pocket calendar out his bag and checked the date again. 1979, Day 66 He took the pen off of the little wooden table between his and Valentina’s bed and crossed Day 66 off. It was pretty late out, and there was nothing else significant to do for a few more days. Besides getting Val back...Jebediah grimaced to himself. He could see her outline in the balcony through the thin curtains. He sighed and stood up after picking up his thick blanket to walk out onto the ice-cold balcony with her. He winced as the even colder air hit him in the face. The tropical weather of South America spoiled him a bit too much. It was lightly snowing, he saw the rooftops of the nearby buildings already dusted with fresh snow. A colourful cathedral was lit up in the distance, as well as a huge statue of some old mayor even further out. Valentina was born in this city, the city of Khabarovsk. She should’ve had more of a reaction, but she was in the same exact spot and position she was in twenty minutes ago, as if she froze. “Val, you okay? Admirin’ the horizon?” Jebediah came to her side and delicately laid a hand on her shoulder, expecting a warm reaction. Her scarf covered her chops, but he could tell she wasn’t happy. “Chto eto?” Valentina harshly whispered and straightened her jacket, still avoiding eye contact. “Haha, urm,” Jebediah nervously laughed. “C’mon, Val, you know I don’ know Munspeak, are you fine?” He rubbed her shoulder and returned his hand, forcing a smile. Valentina looked at him and mentally digressed herself. “I’m sorry, just thinking..,” She turned back towards the horizon and hunched over the rail. Jebediah patted her back and brought her close to his side. “We should talk, Val. You won’ feel better unless you talk,” Jebediah brushed the hair out of her face as he whispered to her. Valentina looked up at his face and then back down, tracing her finger through the snow on the railing. “Everything’s so different, Jeb. What happened? How long was I gone for?” She almost whimpered, her hand subtly trembling in her hair. Jebediah winced and braced himself to yet the truth out. She didn’t remember anything after her time on Eve. “Well, let’s go inside first. I’m gonna get a cold out ‘ere. I have hot cocoa in the room fer’ us,” He nuzzled her cheek, making her feel instantly warmer. She forgot how he could be. Valentina followed him back into the hotel room without a word. Jebediah poured his bottle of milk into the two cups the room had with the packages of cocoa powder he got at the nearby market. Valentina blankly stared off into nothing as she laid down, ignoring the TV and Jebediah sauntering about waiting for the hot cocoa. The microwave stopped with a pleasant ‘DING’, and he left the hot drinks on the little table to cool off. She snapped out of herself when he set the drinks down to her side. They smelled nice and homely, almost nostalgic. He sat down with that friendly smile on the edge of her bed, leaning his weight on one arm to face her. "Are you sure you wanna hear what happened?” "Y-yeah..,”
  2. 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.
  3. Intro: What would you do if the world was going to end in 3 years? This story tells what happened when the scientists on the Kerbal Space Center found out about Kerbin's impending doom, and what they decided to do about it. Plan Kappa isn't just a graphic novel told in the same style of Kuzzter's Duna Ore Bust and Eve: Order Zero series. It's also a complete career game report, covering (with varied levels of depth) all the missions of this condemned save game. It follows a few simple rules (By Volume 3, however, those rules no longer apply): I'm playing a mostly-stock career game in normal difficulty, but with no crew respawn and with entry purchase required on Research. The only mods used are Mechjeb (I like to delegate, especially when I need to take screenshots), Kerbal Alarm Clock (sorely needed for this campaign), HyperEdit (only for testing purposes), KAS, KIS, Pathfinder and OSE Workshop (for basebuilding and offworld construction), and a few other mods that help with the storytelling, such as Free IVA and Kerbal Animation Suite. Chapters: Volume 1 - Plan Kappa: - 1. The countdown - 2. The trouble with Val - 3. Sightseeing - 4. Orbit - 5. Flyby - 6. Rescue - 7. Ahead of their time - 8. Diverging - 9. Correspondent - 10. Timey-Wimey Ball - 11. Munwalking - 12. It's full of Jebs - 13. Bob's conspiracy - 14. Despite the Plan - 15. The kerbal who went to Minmus - 16. Running on fumes - 17. Days of a Future I'd Pass - part 1 - 18. Days of a Future I'd Pass - part 2 - 19. Days of a Future I'd Pass - part 3 - 20. Plan Kappa Before Volume 2: - Interlude Volume 2 - The Last Days of Kerbin - 21. Jeb has a bad feeling - 22. The Hardihood Headache - 23. Short on Delta-V - 24. From Gilly with Love - 25. Plan Yellow - 26. 7 Days of Khristmas - 27. New Year's Eve - 28. The Unity Theory - 29. Into the Unknown (Kerbfleet-Kappa Crossover Prelude)* - 30. Crossover - Part 2* - 31. Crossover - Part 4* *These chapters are pieces of a multi-part crossover with @Kuzzter's Kerbfleet: A Jool Odyssey. Click here for the full story. - 32. The Cabal - 33. Hostile Takeover - 34. Plan Omega - 35. Sitrep - 36. Long Distance Call - 37. Unpredictable Effects - 38. Waning Mun - 39. Birds, Snakes, an Aeroplane - 40. Last Flight of the Bad-S Before Volume 3: - Interlude Volume 3 - The Fateful Fifty - 41. Scattered - 42. The Meaning of Life - 43. Fabien and Jeb's Excellent Adventure - 44. Enemy Within - 45. Hard Choices - 46. The Eve Survivor - 47. Bob's Hope - 48. The Warning - 49. Sightings - 50. How I hate Gilly - 51. Glexit - 52. Not Exactly a SSTO - 53. Trial and Error Here's the first chapter. Hope you enjoy the reading!
  4. Thoughts and Ramblings on the Asteroid Sentinels Here’s a fun little thread for reflecting on The Asteroid Sentinels, and hopefully will act as a “behind the scenes” thread for future works. Some Basic Things I started the Asteroid Sentinels after seeing other comic threads and the release of the Asteroid Day mod. The original idea was just to launch the SENTINEL telescope, find an asteroid headed for Kerbin, intercept it (I would do this in many ways like with the ARM and ADM, or maybe the DART/AIDA concept), and maybe a few more details. I didn’t really care about storylines, so off I went. The earliest of episodes were made in Sketchbook Express. I hoped that this would let me edit and draw on the panels, but it also was far harder to do the main comic part so to speak… If you've got an idea for a bit I could write about, let me know! *Spoilers!* Let's start with a couple of thoughts on some of the characters! Characters Wernher von Kerman The first character seen in the series, he is the chief rocket scientist at the Kerbal Space Center. He was responsible for designing the Mun 3, flying to and back from the Mun, albeit with enormous delays (but it is often said to be the best performing flight). The mustached character has a rather strong accent that slips through translation devices (they are not perfect at decoding Deutchekerb, and while the long words are said to be the issue, it frequently fails at simple words). Wernher generally opposes Mort’s measures, trying to take a more pragmatic and reasonable approach. Wernher started the KSC Rocket Scientist program for young kerbals to help him. However, it must be said that he finds the youngest interns annoying, as he found with Linus, who once got a bit tired of waiting for the rocket launch, taking matters into his own hands... I personally think of Wernher as the main voice of reason, especially in the meetings with the main executives of the KSC. He’ll even act directly against Mort’s wishes. He’s someone intended as a sort of “father figure” to Linus, helping him along and correcting him when he’s wrong. Mortimer Kerman: Chief Financial Executive/Advisor (the writer failed to remember the proper title, and was promptly fired) The financially stingy Mortimer Kerman can be seen as a rather controversial figure, having essentially ruled by decree multiple times as both Financial Advisor and Emergency Administrator, though he labels himself as a middleman in an unfortunate upset of events. That can’t really explain his decision to blow up parts of the Refinery/Hotel rocket, a decision made almost certainly in a fit of rage. Mortimer usually advocates for the aggressive and even extreme measures to solve certain issues, with a rather cynical and disdainful view of adversaries, notably the RDF. As a general rule I wrote Mort as someone who didn’t want his job, acts aggressive to cover his weak points, but still works at the KSC because of his dedication and good pay. He rarely strays from his plan even when things change and rarely expresses much emotion. It’s quite accurate to describe his approach “getting the job done” and being quite a fan of “the ends justify the means”. Mortimer acts as a sort of villain, though he becomes the “enemy of my enemy” towards the end. Jebediah Kerman: “Pilot Extraordinaire” “Best Pilot” One of the first pilots of the KSC, he became a hero after the Mun 3 mission, with the role of landing safely. Especially when I first introduced him he was written as incredibly cocky and often did dangerous things purely for fun without considering the consequences. Jeb tended to overlook the big picture and instead focused only on what was happening now. He also had this view of the “good ‘ol days” when could do “all sorts of crazy stuff”, though he maintains the whole “let’s go to cool new places” thought. He’s probably the most dynamic character, become far more careful about the consequences of his choice. Bill Kerman: Chief Flight Engineer One of the best students at engineer school (though some teachers complained he wouldn’t shut up), he joined the KSC, and was unexpectedly thrust into a space station mission in the literal last hour. He did “pretty good” according to Wernher. Kind of snarky, especially in the early writing, and quite precise with numbers. He’s quite good with coming up with ideas and solutions, notably illustrated in the final approach against the Intimidator. In general he’s one to carry an argument for a fair while longer than it needed to be. Valentina Kerman The commander of the first expedition to Minmus, Valentina managed to save the mission by aborting when a fuel leak was noticed on the orbiter. A more thoughtful leader, who tries to unite the crew of the Asteroid Destroyer. She’s quite convincing, notably when she used a variety of arguments to make a demoralized Jeb join the crew of the Asteroid Destroyer. Barbarry Kerman The powerful “Great Leader” of the Real Deal Front. While rarely seen in public, he is arguably the mastermind of the RDF, a group that capitalized on the anger of many kerbals after the asteroid. Of course, this was part of a far bigger scheme to change the Kerbal Union. A kerbal crippled by the horror that was the downturn of Kerbal Dynamics, his focus became purely to get revenge. While he holds meetings at the RDF, it’s clear he’s the one who wants to be in charge. Linus Kerman A bright, young kerbal, Wernher picked him to be his main assistant. While originally described as “too eager”, over the years Linus has become more careful, enough for Wernher to trust him to be in charge in case he couldn’t lead. While not as noticeable a changing character as Jeb, he’s certainly still changed, becoming a bit more like Wernher towards the end of the Series. Gus Kerman Gus is perhaps a weak leader. His decisions are at certain times more emotionally based despite the need for careful thought. However he’s certainly far more liked than Mortimer, caring a lot more about the kerbals working there. He’ll do what he believes is right, even though this might go against what is agreed.
  5. THE ASTEROID SENTINELS Due to the release of the Asteroid Day mod, I decided to write a graphic novel detailing my explorations of asteroids. It's notable that there is a huge bump in production quality and plot over time, which is why there are a couple ways to read The Asteroid Sentinels. 1. You can read the whole thing from Series 1. It's good if you want to know every bit in the story, but the current stories are quite different in format and plot from the first ones. 2. You can also read from Series 5 with this Star Wars-style title crawl that summarizes the Series 1-4. (Series 5's format is quite similar to the current ones) COMPANION THREADS Self-Analysis and More on the Series (Read it after you've read the series) The Many Ships of The Asteroid Sentinels Read all of Series 2 here (No Series 1, since it is all on this page, and some dialogue was on the forums itself. Both series don't have much character development, but still key to plot. 1 and 2 cover Sentinel and ADM. Series 3 (Switch to Powerpoint, some character, ARM launches) Interlude (Crisis) (Lots of character advancement) Series 4+4B (12 entries, main themes take rise) Series 5 (10 entries, Includes holiday special, etc) Interlude 2 (Transit) Series 6 Series 7 starts on this page. You can read the whole thing here. CRAFTS SENTINEL Space Telescope (Uses Asteroid Day Mod) Phoenix Supersonic Aircraft Gene Kerman: So what's the trajectory? Surely Elon's Falcon is too large for an LKO mission right? Why Infrared? Wernher Von Kerman: Nah, Heliocentric. We'll send it on a Eve flyby to cut the orbit, and because when we're inside Kerbin's Orbit, we will be able to investigate Asteroids IN Kerbin's orbit, something our telescopes on Kerbin can't do. We'll toss on the Infrared Scope because it can find faint objects we wouldn't see coming on our normal telescopes. Gene: So once we find a asteroid heading for us, we will deflect it with a large rocket? Wernher Von Kerman: Sure thing, I'm working on it. Hopefully we can capture it to study it too! Wernher Von Kerman: Launch window is in 10 days, we'll have to be quick but safe about it. End Of Entry 1.
  6. Chapter 1: Up the Rabbit Hole The VAB’s Cargo Bay 3 is a secluded concrete box behind a massive sliding door, but on that day, it nevertheless resonated with the ruckus as Jeb flipped over one of the empty fuel valve crates bearing his name, and perched on it. Bill shook his head, and joined him; Bob kept mulling about, while Val simply plopped onto the cold concrete floor, protected by the aramid fabric of her orange suit, gutted and stripped of badges. Around them stood the crowning achievement of KASA; but KASA itself was no more. The Kerbal Space Center was being stripped of anything that could be carried away by a swarm of workers that had descended upon it a week ago. The VAB, the Mission Control, the comms array, the administration and R&D facilities… like a swarm of locusts, they consumed everything. “So, I guess this is it,” said Bob, just to break the silence. “He… won the bet,” sighed Valentina, “and now we’re getting downsized.” “And Kerminsky didn’t hold his word either”, muttered Jeb, drawing surprised looks from everyone involved, “Yeah, I ‘have sources’”. Outside the door, amidst the extensive scaffolding, towered a half-assembled Sarnus V. They probably weren’t going to drag the five Mainsails and their fuel tanks anywhere, and would just leave them standing. A month back, another one of those monsters carried a tiny can containing Jeb and, unfortunately, Bob, all the way to Munar orbit, and the small ship on top landed onto its desolate surface. They planted a flag, they took measurements, they took samples, and then they blasted off and returned relatively safely. President Fitz Kerman was absolutely delighted – for about a week. Then, all this happened… “Hey, guys!” barked out Gus Kerman, in his usual safety helmet – which was coming in handy, because they could hear bolts and tools getting dropped left and right. “I’ve got a spare Rabbit out back, care to ‘accidentally’ launch it?” “Well…” drawled Val, “it’s not like we have anything better to do." ---------- The primary launch pad had been fully reconditioned. The modular gantry had been dismantled and the blast trench was covered by heavy grates that easily supported their truck. Gus casually drove straight over the crawlerway connecting the pad and the VAB, a big no-no back in the day. The Rabbit was a slender sounding rocket, three times as tall as Jeb, but only as wide as a helmet. A small slanted launch stand, the truck’s crane and a briefcase with remote firing controls; all of it about ten minutes’ work. However, Bob had to be sedated with Val’s elbow to the stomach. “Fire in the hole!” Jeb barked, appropriately. There was a brief hiss, then a burp, and the rocket blasted off. The screams of horror coming from the VAB were quite satisfying. The Rabbit spared itself the trouble of having any stabilization. The thick trail of its solid-fuel motor began to form a distinct spiral as the angled fins sent it into a wild spin, which actually helped keep it from veering off-course too much. They didn’t need any particular accuracy: after the motor burnt out, the empty casing tumbled into the bay to the north of KSC, with a parachute trailing behind it to reduce the impact speed to a reasonable 6 m/s. “Who do you think is going to buy all this stuff?” Val idly wondered. “I did,” Jeb answered nonchalantly, “All of it. And I also own Rockomax, so all that money the Pres has 'wasted' is now lining my pockets. And I have big plans.” Modlist (current as of June 2): This is going to be a poorly-roleplayed Sandbox game suffering from delusions of grandeur and realism.
  7. Author's Note: This story was originally posted by me during the 0.90 era on the Fanfiction website, but I am moving it here due to the flexibility and interest here. Also, with the releases of 1.1-1.12 it makes more sense to completely redo things, at least as far as operations are concerned. And just to set the record straight, my first name, Kavy, does not rhyme with "Navy," but is pronounced with the "a" sound in "father." Things just seem to come together a just the right time every so often... "And that was our number four hit this week, moving up the chart from seven and passing up 'Kresspian Melody' - which unfortunately appears to have gone into rating freefall. While we were listening to that, I thought we might listen to some tunes from yesteryear, so I'm going to play you 'Monotreym' by the Railers." I'd been a professional CJ for nearly two years by then and had come up with some clever shortcuts, positioning the sound cylinder to play the moment I flipped the switch - but before I did so, I hesitated. There was something off about what I was hearing in my earphones. An odd bit of static; coarser, less sibilant than what I was used to hearing. "Boley?" I called to my sound engineer. "Boley, are you picking that up?" "You betcha, Kav." He looked me squarely in the eye. "That's not us." "No, I didn't think it was. Go ahead an isolate it as well as you can. Looks like someone is messing with our signal." I ran my fingers through my dark hair in exasperation knowing I'd have to explain this and hope the listeners understood, "Okay, sorry folks, as I'm afraid you heard, we got some weird kind of interference there." I then flicked the audio player to avoid irritating any more AKKP listeners. I did have to handle a pair of annoyed callers and assured them that I'd get it handled. Boley, always helpful, had made a recording of the odd sound which I picked up after my shift. I ran a couple of blocks to the studio of AKKP's main rival, AKKT, and demanded to see Heekoo Kersal, the director of programming. "It wasn't us, Lady Kavy." I was just twenty-three years old, and not royalty or nobility, but it was a polite custom to address us female Kerbals as 'Lady.' Lying in Kerbal societies was almost unheard of, so this declaration kind of surprised me. He must have noticed the look I was giving him and raised his hand to acknowledge it. "I'm quite serious, Kavy. This was deliberately broadcast, but not from AKKT. We picked up the same thing." I sighed. Kerbals didn't lie much, but they were given to practical jokes. Still, Heekoo was just a competitor, not an enemy of mine and I never had any reason to mistrust him "All right. Fine. Any thoughts on what it was, Heekoo?" "We ran it though our computers, I guess you did the same. I think what we picked up used to be a lot stronger." I tilted my head. "I'm thinking we bring this to the scientists." That recommendation was readily accepted. Heekoo and I brought the recordings to KSO, the Kerbal Science Institute. "You picked this up from the airwaves?" asked Dr. Kerberka, the scientist on duty. "Were you able to get anything else?" "No, Doc, we talked things over and came straight to you guys as soon as we got things sorted out." "Very well, had you taken note of where the antennae were pointed when you picked up the signal?" "Er..." "Kavy is using somewhat more primitive equipment than my station," Heekoo interrupted. "Our own dishes were pointed at elevation eighty-eight degrees, forty-four seconds, twenty-one and a half seconds, the ascension was two hours, seven minutes, fifty-one point one seconds." "And all you got was static?" He shrugged. "Well, no matter. Let us take a little listen and see what comes of it." Not only was the static still there, within two hours there were reports of it coming in on other stations. All the signals were faint, some more than others, but they were there, and they all appeared to come from the same patch of sky. I looked on as scientists seemed to go from mildly interested, to intrigued, to fascinated. "What's going on?" I asked. "What's going on!?!" The good doctor looked at Heekoo and me, smiled, and shook his head. "It's not Kerbal." "...what?" "Kavy, the transmission" he emphasized the word "transmission," "the transmission you intercepted was from outside the Kerbol System. As far as we can tell, this is alien technology." Our mouths dropped wide open. It's one of those situations where you can't disbelieve what you're hearing, but at the same time, believing it just feels bizarre. "You mean we found alien life? How far is it??" Doctor Kerberka held up his hands attempting to calm us down. "Now please, we believe that it is alien. The signal is so degraded that it may be impossible to salvage, and therefore confirm. On a positive note though, we've been getting reports of similar signals coming in from several locations on Kerbin, and that makes it easier to triangulate the signal. For now anyway, we're estimating the signal origin from about sixty-five to eighty light years away." That was depressing; I'd never live long enough then to meet them. "So unless they were heading in our direction..." Doctor Kerberka smiled compassionately. "We won't be expecting any visits from them in our immediate future, most likely in our lifetimes. Not unless they figured out away around the light wall." "But they really are out there?" The doctor patted my shoulder appreciatively. "It looks like it Kavy. You, me and several others, we've just changed the way everyone looks at the world now." "So what happens now?" Doctor Kerberka shrugged. "We'll have to report this to the Governor. This might be the kick needed to get the possibilities of spaceflight back on the agenda." Kerbals are not the only form of life on the planet Kerbin, I could tell you a lot of stories on that front, but we are certainly the most intelligent. We're ambivalent about cities, but being as gregarious as we are, we tend to congregate around them just the same. The wealthier Kerbals enjoy living in single family homes that incorporate seamlessly into the landscape. The poorer ones...they tend to occupy cities. Typically Kerbals have a surname beginning with "Ker" and nobody is sure where this tradition got started. In order to avoid confusion, most Kerbal families have adopted at least one middle name, some, with the intention of standing out, have adopted four or five of them. I was not among them; my full name is "Kavy Ann Bethany Kerlem." Despite having more than the rudimentary technology for it, full-scale organized space exploration had taken a back seat to more mundane research and projects for the past fifty years. There had been pioneers in that field just the same. Being a junk dealer isn't usually considered a lucrative profession, but for Rufus Kerman it had resulted in him becoming one of the wealthiest Kerbals on the continent. After he died, his fortune was distributed to and all but squandered by his three sons. The Kerman brothers, Jebediah, Robert, and William, all in their thirties, seemed to be the only contemporary practitioners of "spaceflight" and even that was now severely constrained after one too many incidents led to Jeb being effectively grounded by local authorities. Kerbal City was expanding, the largest urban area on Kerbin, and people were enjoying the prosperity it brought. We don't have nations as such on Kerbin; it would be more accurate to say that we grouped themselves into city-states; of course some city-states are more willing to cooperate with others. People gravitated towards Kerbal City and its environs because of all the city-states, KC was indubitably the freest. That was not, unfortunately, the norm. There was little outright tyranny to be found, but while a few of the twenty-eight major city-states were happy to accept guests, they not so happy about seeing them depart. There were ways to "discourage" Kerbals from leaving, especially those who were more learned or talented. A couple of days had passed since our discovery. I was more than a little dismayed to come back to work and find myself the center of attention. For someone who enjoyed working on the radio, I was a fairly shy and inarticulate young woman. I have to credit my survival on job as being a result of intense preparation prior to my shift and being able to use the time during songs and musical pieces to come up with something meaningful to say in-between. "Before we go on to our next song, I've just been handed a news report by Stephen, our intern. Let's see...oh apparently the governor is going to be speaking on an urgent matter in the next ten minutes regarding a recent scientific discovery..." I nearly laughed out loud at this, I'd been told to keep a lid on the recent scientific discovery until it could be "officially verified." "Of course we prefer playing music for you," I said wryly, "but in this case I think you will all wanna stay tuned." After three of those tunes, I cut my microphone and listened to the Governor. "My Dear Kerbals... A few days ago, a young lady by the name of Kavy Kerlem was performing her usual duties as a cylinder jammer..." Oh no! I buried my face in my hands. "She and her sound engineer Boley noticed a strange kind of static in their headphones..." Boley, in contrast, seemed thrilled to hear the Governor calling him by name. "Consulting with their friendly rival station, and then with the Kerbal Science Institute, it was determined that this static was in fact a significantly deteriorated radio signal from outside the Kerbol System. This would indicate one of two things. The first possibility is that it was one of our older broadcasts returning to us after being warped and redirected by a neighboring star some thirty-five to forty light-years away. Now, my friends, this possibility seems exceedingly unlikely, though not entirely impossible." That's an interesting idea, I thought. We send out a radio signal, it hits a star and is warped back around and right back to us. What amount of mass would that have to use?? "The other possibility, the more likely and infinitely more compelling one is that we picked up a signal from an alien intelligence." Boley and I shared an amused look as we heard gasps and shouts from the adjoining rooms. "I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't take into account the worst possibilities. Like you, I'm sure, the hope is that we are going to eventually be opening up a channel to intelligent life elsewhere in our Ehcel galaxy - and of course that will be a major part of our focus. But we have to consider the possibility of hostility. Fortunately, we can concentrate our efforts on both simultaneously." What efforts are those, I wondered. We'd all seen movies about hostile aliens invading Kerbin and brave Kerbals fighting them off, but that the government would actually consider that as a real possibility surprised me - at first. Then I realized that it made a certain sense. "We have always looked towards the stars, but our technology towards reaching them has been, shall we say, somewhat lacking. But we know that we can go into space, to the Mun, to the outer reaches of our system and beyond should we so desire. That being the case, and knowing what we do now, the objective of Kerbal City will be to colonize the terrestrial planets outside of Kerbin's orbit, with the far objective of reaching for the stars." "Wow...." I breathed aloud. The Governor chuckled. "Of course we're not gonna be doing this tomorrow. My office will be contacting some key people over the next two weeks, and we will flesh out some tentative plans. For now, my friends, let's keep looking up." My eyes rolled at that signoff. 'Keep looking up,' how trite! *** Three days later I was enjoying a day off from work and was reading one of the books I had picked up from the library last night. I have a widely eclectic taste in literature as well as music, but for tonight I was content to enjoy a light romance. We Kerbals are quite an affectionate and high spirited people; good writing can move the most callous - though callousness is an exceedingly rare trait among us - to tears. The phone rang. I sighed in annoyance, undoubtedly another marketing call. I supposed it served me right to make my first job with a radio station that would take any advertising that would pay well enough - one of the first campaigns my station had been involved with had 'strongly urged' me to give them my phone and speedywyre address. "You reached the Kavy Kerlem residence, listen, I know you..." "Lady Kavy Kerlem?" "Yesss -" I stopped suddenly, I knew the voice, somehow. "This is Jax Kermynn, science advisor to the Governor." Oh. That made...sense?? "Uhm....right...whatcanIdoforyou...Sir Jax?" He chuckled. "If I may call you Kavy, by all means call me Jax. Look, I'll be brief about this. I trust you saw or heard the Gov's speech from a few days ago?" "Sure!" "He wanted to get you involved in 'fleshing out the plans,' as it were. Can you be ready to come to the City the day after tomorrow? We'll pick you up in the morning, give you three square meals, and listen to your input on what we might do over the next few years." "Um..." I hadn't expected this. "Um...Sir J....Jax. I...you realize that you are talking to a girl who's a really, really, good CJ - but who knows next to nothing about space or planetary defense." "Of course, Kavy. I'm fully aware of this, and I know that you graduated fourth in your class from the KC School of Broadcasting three years ago, that you have a four centimeter scar under your left arm - I won't embarrass you by mentioning the details about that, and that you excelled in math and science when you did concentrate on those subjects. The Governor is aware of this as well, but he wants the input from a layperson. Since you played no small role in bringing the original signal to our attention, it seems fair that it be you." I was curious to know how they found out what they knew about me, and since I was never one to turn down a free meal, especially three offered by the Governor, I readily agreed. The day after the next I was chauffeured to the Governor's mansion as promised, given a security badge, and was escorted into a small conference room where Heekoo and five others were chatting among themselves. "We're waiting on just a few others," said my escort, "the Governor will be along shortly." I shyly eased up to the group and greeted Heekoo. "Kavy! I didn't know they invited you too!" He chucked at this. "Oh but they would, of course they would have to." He turned to the others. "Boys, this young lady is Kavy Kerlem as you might have guessed. Kavy, I'd like to introduce you to Bob and Bill Kerman." "Hi!" I said eagerly, shaking their hands with both of mine. Of course I'd known of the three brothers, but I never thought I would get the chance to meet them. "How's business and where's Jeb?" "Jeb is...well, Jeb is away pouting" answered Bob. "He was invited but thought he'd sit this meeting out as a protest of some sort." "He's probably working on our newest engine" said Bill. "Business is slow, so we need this contract." I nodded and was then introduced to Johnnie Kerplen of Rockomax and Sean Kerstin of C7 Aerospace. Both of their companies were doing well, except that they had expressed frustration that they were unable to find a market for their most intriguing projects. "The company we really need to watch is Kerbodyne," said Johnnie, "and I'm frankly amazed that they haven't been invited." "They were," said the Governor, Smedlee Kervrum, as he entered the room with three other men and another woman. "Couldn't make it, and apparently they have been having some issues with leaks...in more ways than one." He stood behind the chair at the head of the table. "Good of you, all of you, to come. Shall we begin?" I sat between Bob and one of the new men I didn't recognize. "I'm assuming that you all know why you're here, but just to state the general theme: we are operating on the assumption that we are about thirty years from an alien invasion - and that at this moment there would be absolutely nothing that we can do about it. My friends, I want that reality changed as soon as possible. Each of you has something up here," he tapped his head, "that you can contribute to that objective. I want at minimum a basic integrated plan to defend Kerbin while reaping the benefits of planetary exploration." He sighed, thinking deeply. "I don't think we'll have the chance to worry about interstellar spaceflight any time in our lifetimes. The possible exception of course being Lady Kerlem." I blushed a deep green. Oh brother. After the chuckles had died down, the Governor continued. "Oh, and before you get too enthusiastic with your planning, the council - in its wisdom - is only allocating five hundred thousand in funds for our little endeavor." Bob Kerman shook his head. "It will be a little endeavor indeed if all we get is 500K. You saw what we were able to do with fifteen million of our papa's fortune. After we purchased Boxey Point, there really wasn't a whole lot left. And with Jeb's pilot's license revoked, all we can do are launch ballistic rockets. Notta lotta profit in that, even if Jeb thinks it's a lot of fun." Johnnie of Rockomax agreed. "We can test our fuel tanks under laboratory conditions, but we can't really put them to use - except to cut the tops off them and sell them as swimming pools and fuel storage containers. Put a rocket engine on one though..." "Why can't they be used?" "We're still having problems with leaks when it comes to attaching the rockets. To be perfectly candid, it might be a year before we can clear it up. Funding problems, y'see." "Okay," said Kervrum. "Okay. Let's take it one step at a time. We have thirty years. What. Should. Be. Our. Next. Goal!?" "If our ultimate goal is defending the planet," said the Defense Chief, "our first goal should be making sure that Kerbals can handle themselves in a space environment. Let's face it; we don't even know the extent of our own system." "If you want to be picky," offered Von Kerman, "our little system shouldn't even exist. Our star is too small, our planet too small. But it exists just the same, here we are. And I agree with our Chief. We must find out what Kerbals can do up there." "We are currently designing a chamber or capsule that could help us with that," said Eduard Kerlington. "We call it the MK-1, it will keep a Kerbal safe for as long as the supplies last." "Do you just lock him in, does he have any control?" asked Bill. I suspected that Kerlington knew perfectly well what was being asked. "There is no control during launch, but there is a reaction control system that the subject could use to control the capsule after separation. Bill and Bob shared a look. Jeb wouldn't be happy with that. "Let's work with that then, at least for the time being," said the Governor. "How many pilots do we have to work with, Bob?" "Um..." "'Um' is not the answer I'm looking for. Am I right in assuming that your roster of test pilots is somewhat lacking?" "With Jeb being grounded? Yep!" "Well, whatta 'bout you two?" Bob and Bill again exchanged glances. "Nope!" Seeing the governor glaring at them. "Lord Governor, we are a scientist and an engineer. I determine if something is possible. Bill makes sure it is practical, and helps Jeb build it. Jeb flies them, or at least he did. Couldn't the Defense Chief provide us with some pilots?" The governor turned to his Defense Chief. "Um..." I was unable to stifle a giggle. The Governor noticed this immediately. "You have something to add to this, Lady Kerlem?" "I'm sorry, Governor," I offered as a nervous apology. "But why don't we try sending up rockets without Kerbals first? I mean, the communication we got was through wadio...radio. Shouldn't we send them a message that way before we start sending people up to risk their lives?" "That's not a bad idea on its own merits, Kavy," said Bob. "Right now though, we don't have the communications needed for it." Bob thought a bit, scratching his cheek. "We're definitely gonna need a network like that though. You can't fight an effective war without good communications - not that I think it'll come to that. If we could get a proper communications network in place, that will open a lot of doors for us." "And to put that network in place, Bob," said the Governor, "you'll need space pilots." Bob nodded readily. "Space pilots, space engineers, space scientists. But mostly pilots at first, preferably those trained in engineering." "All right then," said Kervrum. "We're getting somewhere. So our first objective then is getting enough pilots and putting a communications network in place." "Sign me on for that project..." muttered Heekoo. "Right!" said Bill. "And how many pilots do we have. Oh...that's right...none!" The governor shook his head. "Jebediah-Kerman's-license-suspension-is-hereby-repealed-he-is-now-fully-returned-to-flying-status. See? Done." Bob and Bill exchanged a gleeful glance. "...Provided that your brother passes a full military physical. We can't have him losing consciousness at 70K now can we?" Bill and Bob shrugged. A minor detail it seemed. "And I will need at least six other volunteers within...five days from now." Bob tilted his head at this. "Wait, Governor, what are you telling us?" "I am beginning a new quasi-governmental organization called the Kerbin City Space Agency, Bob. And I want you...and Bill...and Jeb to run it. You indicated, as I recall, that you were having some...fiscal issues?" "Not only that, we're goin' broke!" piped up Bill. "Oh...sorry." "Well I like dealing with companies that have fiscal issues. It always seems to make them more...malleable. I'll tell you what I'm gonna do for you and your brothers, Bob..." "Uh, Lord Governor," I asked. "Did you need me to stay for this?" The Governor thought for a few moments. "Actually...yes, Lady Kerlem. Since you and Heekoo are the closest thing to press in here, I would like you both to stay." He addressed the other members present. "Gentlemen, I thank you all for coming, please help yourself to luncheon, I'll be getting in touch with all of you personally sometime over the week." There was no shortage of grumbling but they did as requested. The Governor motioned for the four of us to come up front. "All right, Bob, Bill, here is my offer. I'm going to give you the grant for half a million. Now you can spend that money in any way that you like - but here is the catch: I am going to need to see steady progress - and I need you to meet the goals that I set." Bob thought a moment. "What kind of steady progress do you have in mind?" "You're getting the 500K. That's guaranteed. What's not guaranteed are any more funds. You're going to have to figure out a way to do three things. Number one is that you're going to have to turn a profit. Number two is that you're going to have to set up a satellite communications network - I'll give you five years to do that. Finally, and this is just an arbitrary standard, I want at least the beginnings of bases on both Mun and Minmus. You have ten years, starting from the beginning of next year and ending on the last day of 1690. Failure means that we send you a tax bill for 750K, five percent interest. Is that understood?" "Crystal." "Waitasec, waitasec, waitasec!" shouted Heekoo. You're saying that if they don't get to the Mun and Minmus, they gotta pay you back a grant? That sure doesn't sound like any grant I ever heard." Heekoo had a great point; "That really doesn't sound fair," I said. "After all, the people of Kerbin want to see this happening, they want to see what's out there." The governor considered. "The people also want to ensure that the government remains solvent," he murmured. "All right," he said, "if you don't get the bases started in ten years, I'll give you a five year extension - but I'm going to need a Kerbal on Duna by the end of the fifteen years. If you do get those bases started within ten years and get us to Duna within...fourteen, I'll give you boys a grant - a real one, Heekoo - for ten million. Do we have a deal, Bob?" "And we can make money any way we like? I mean, upgrading our facilities, such as they are, is going to take a huge chunk of kredits all on its own." "As long as you aren't lying, cheating, stealing or being sneaky, you can make it any way you please." "What about paying our people?" "Ah, yes. Well, I'm going to be assigning a few government employees to keep an eye on things - Werhner being one, I'll let you know who else in a few days. You will be responsible for hiring, training and paying your space pilots - and as you suggested, I don't think Jeb will be able to handle everything that we need you all to do." Wernher spoke up at this. "I don't expect that you'll have much trouble hiring people. We can rig up the capsule so anyone could fly it, or they could just sit in it and we send our commands to an onboard guidance system. Not so much training needed, yes?" Bob shook his head vigorously. "I'm not going to send anyone up there without proper training; they need to handle anything that could happen." Wernher was annoyed at this. "Well then, I expect you will have trouble hiring people. We are conspicuously short of test pilots." "Maybe so," said Bob. "But the three of us could train anyone for that job." "Oh? Anyone??" "Yes. Anyone." "Including, let us say, Lady Kerlem?" What the... "Sure," said Bob. "Why not? She's got the brains, she can handle the mathematics, and I know that she can do the reporting. Jeb would just need to teach her to handle the stick." Now I was bewildered. "Uh...guys...uh why are you bringing me into this??" Nobody seemed to be listening to me. "Would you care to make a little bit of a wager on that, Bob?" Kervrum shook his head at this. "Hey, now fellas come on!" Bob stood up. "You name it, Wernher!" "So be it! If you succeed, I will buy your entire staff of space pilots dinner for a month!! If not, then you use your funding to build a science academy on KSA grounds!!!" "Done!!!!" "Guys, uh...hey!! Hello!!" After that outburst, I looked and noticed Bill regarding me with an amused smirk. "Excuse me gentlemen," Bill said. "I think a relevant party in this wager should have some say in it." "Thank you Bill," I said. "Bob, I appreciate your confidence in me, but I'm really just a cylinder jockey. I'm happy where I am, it's...interesting work." "But Kavy," said Bill. "Think of what you could be involved in. Exploration! Seeing space, being in space. Surely you don't get that working in radio." "No," I had to admit. "I don't." "Kavy," Bill now spoke up. "Once we get home to discuss this with Jeb and he concurs, we're going to be throwing open the doors for applicants. This is a guaranteed opportunity for you now, but only now. What are they paying you at AKKP? Never mind answering, just show me your next pay stub, and we'll triple it. Plus we'll give you a few extra perks." Triple the paycheck. A few extra perks. I figured that even if things didn't work out, I could at least stay long enough to help Bob win the wager - and with the way my working paper was shaping up, there was little doubt that I could find another radio job soon enough. Besides, it would be pretty cool just learning how to fly. Bill was right; there was no way I could pass up this opportunity. "All right Bill," I said. "I'm game."
  8. Chapter 1: In Space, No One Can Here You Scream… Bob was screaming. No one heard him of course, he was drowned out by the giddy laughter of Val and Jeb. They freaked him out sometimes. He squirmed in his seat, almost trying to escape the claustrophobic seat. He was strapped in, but not tightly. He was shaking too much to pull tightly before launch. Bill looked over to him and put his finger over his mouth. Shhh... Bob started to relax a little. Jeb and Val fell silent. Bill and Bob perked up. Now, this was an occurrence. “KSC?” Bob began to tremble. No one was smiling anymore. When Jeb and Val weren’t smiling, that was terrifying. Mission control gave no response. That was unlike Gene. “KSC, please respond…” Nothing. Jeb adjusted the radio signal to the KSC2. It had been abandoned years ago, but the old tracking station was still operational in case of malfunction at KSC Prime. “KSC, this is the Alternis capsule, please come in.” Static. Val looked back on Bill. He looked at his console. “Nothing Val. Nothing on our end.” Val sighed. Jeb put down the com controls. “We need to make our transfer burn in the next three minutes, if we don’t, we lose our Plock encounter.” Bob shuddered at the thought. He looked up. “Jeb, how long specifically until the burn?” “2 minutes, 37 seconds and counting.” Bob unstrapped himself. “What are you doing,” asked Bill. “I’m checking my experiments,” replied Bob. “Not so close to the manuever, you aren’t” “There are seats in the lab, I’ll strap in.” Bill grabbed at the hatch, and pulled himself into the science lab.he loked on the mystery goo. It was moving, as if probing for a way to escape the sealed pod that contained it. Bob took no notice, blaming the strange motion on the Gravioli detector nearby, even though Bob new all well that that wasn’t how the detector worked. “Strap in!” It took Bob a second to recognize Jeb’s voice and acknowledge what to do next. A second too long…