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Whispers of the Kraken (Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken)

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5 hours ago, TheKosanianMethod said:

Wait... don't know what Tin Turkey and Ivylog are, but if I'm right, Yeti = Iceman, Garter Snake = Viper, Waterfowl = Goose. D.N. = Maverick. Waterfowl gave me the the first clue, I was very sure with "I'm a maverick", the need for speed spoof was the nail in the coffin. Is D.N.'s SSTO called Phantomrunner?


Ivylog would absolutely totally not be Hollywood. As for Tin Turkey, see below.

On 5/8/2016 at 10:13 PM, Ten Key said:

I have a feeling the next chapter is going to be a lot of fun.     :cool:

I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who remembered that so-cheesy-it's-awesome flick. Had to go watch it again tonight, it's the movie that made me want to be a fighter pilot when I was a kid (unfortunately I'm blind as a bat, so...) They really knew how to compile soundtracks back then, but of course it's much better with visuals.

Or, if you really want to scar yourself.... :0.0::sealed:

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Chapter 58: Off We Go...

"Do NOT vomit in my aircraft, do you hear me?!"


"I don't care if you're a girl, if you vomit in my aircraft I will personally thump you!"


"Vomit in my aircraft and you're the one buying the groundpounders a case, you got it?"


"And quit with the 'da da da's,' you sound like a baby! There's no babies allowed in my aircraft!"

Valentina stared at D.N. flatly. 


"Gah!" He threw his arms up, "I can't believe Gene is making me do this! Of all the bratzafrackakraken..."

He stalked off down the length of the hanger, trailing off into a string of incomprehensible swear words, or possibly just random syllables. Valentina rolled her eyes, blew at the errant lock of hair tickling her face, and followed close behind. As she walked, she eyed the miscellaneous stacks of tools and equipment along the near wall, mentally considering their skull-crushing potential. That one looks nice and balanced... ooooh but that one has one end covered in nice pokey-outey bits! She briefly wondered if her diplomatic immunity covered premeditated murder before pushing the thought away. 

So far, the day had been exactly what she had been expecting. D.N. seemed every bit as happy about the arrangement as she was, and had given her a competent if profanity-laced briefing before practically throwing her flight gear at her. Donning that, at least, had helped to calm her. 

Once again, some things were universal. Multi-pocketed flight suit that hadn't been washed recently, standard G-suit, well-worn parachute harness, small survival kit, oxygen mask that, thankfully, used removable liners, and a flight helmet labeled NEW GUY in big, bold letters on the brow that hadn't been washed... well, probably ever. 

The deflated life preserver around her neck felt a bit strange, but clopping and clinking after D.N. wearing half her weight in stuff brought a calming familiarity. Flight gear, too, must be the same the world over. KSA gear, Ussari gear, it was all made in Gytep anyway. 

About this time, someone came walking past from the ramp outside, stacks of mops and brushes slung over his shoulders with buckets dangling from the ends. He whistled a happy tune as he went. 

"Who is that?" Valentina asked, looking after him. 

"Huh? Oh, I dunno, some spaceplane addict," D.N. said dismissively, "he washes the Widowmaker every day. I'm not even sure if actually works here." 

"You do not know if he belongs here?" Valentina said, aghast, "do you not have basic security?"

D.N. rounded on her, "oooooohhh, security! Is that what they call it Ooksi-land?"

"Papers, please!" He mocked in a bad accent, "in Ussari Union, paper push you, danyetborscht! You see Eye-vin, when shoot everyone, is no traitors!"

Valentina gave up on trying to crack his skull. This oxygen hose would make a handy garrote, actually...

"Whadda ya think someone's gonna do, waltz in and mess with something?!"

Once again, Valentina stared at him blankly. 

"Ha, ha, ha!" Scoffed D.N., "you still don't get how it works here, we're all on the same side! Well, except you, of course."

Her hands tightened on the ringed hose. 

D.N. waved his hands in the air, "ooooooh someone's gonna sneak in and sabotage the spaceplane, har har," then spun around and continued walking."

For a moment, Valentina bared her teeth at him, hands trembling on the hose, then winced and smacked herself in the head several times with it.

He didn't seem to notice, "besides, that's how I'd wanna go out, blaze of glory all the way! Be on the cover of every newspaper in the world, 'Fearless Kerbonaut Tragically Lost Pushing Edge of Space!'"

Reluctantly, she followed after him. Someone was going to end today with more bruises than they started with, that much was certain.

Ahead of them, out on the ramp, sat an enormous, dark shape. It somehow seemed to be all harsh angles and smooth lines, like a dagger stretched to incredible size. Even sitting motionless as it was, it looked to be moving... or wanting to.

Diplomatic. Be diplomatic.

Valentina swallowed bitterly, "is, um, that it?" 

"Her," D.N. shot back, but oddly lacking his recent ferocity. 

In fact, his entire countenance had changed, he was... smiling? He looked up at the sleek aircraft, ran a hand along its vaguely iridescent, charcoal-grey skin as they passed. 

"She's a lady. The Layland L-1011 Mark II. They call her the Widowmaker, though she hasn't actually, just scared the crap out of lesser pilots."

He walked along the flank, caressing it, something like love in his wide eyes, "this is the future, the way forward. She's not meant to be here on the ground. It diminishes her, defiles her. She's meant to be up there, in the blue and the black. Not down here, awkward and helpless."

"She weeps, you know," D.N. glanced back at Valentina for a moment, but she didn't think he was seeing much of anything just then, "the fuel tanks, they... they don't seal right. By design. Fill her up, and the fuel seeps right out. You can see faint, shimmering cascades of it spreading out over the concrete. It stains her hull, long streaks of it, like tears. She weeps cuz the sky's been taken from her, she's seen the stars and lost them."

"Then she gets up in the air. Nudge the throttles forward, kick on the 'burners. The speed just builds and builds like she's been set free. Her skin heats up, the structure expands, and the tanks seal.  She's like a thoroughbred, the faster she goes the faster she wants to go. Doesn't know her own limits. There's no pushing her on, it's all holding her back. Every flight is a triumph... and a tragedy. You see, because you can't stay. You have to take the sky away."

Smiling, Valentina reached out a hand towards it...

"Don't you touch her!" D.N. shrieked. His cheeks looked damp--

"Don't you dare go getting your grubby Ooski fingerprints all over her after..," he gestured toward the hangar, "..after whatsisname just washed her!"

"Besides," he pointed, "we're flying in that."

Further out on the concrete apron, a pair of ground crew were readying another familiar aircraft. Valentina ground her teeth and followed after D.N.

"The Oskar EW-5894 Fleischgewehr! High-performance advanced trainer. Fast, agile, the cutting edge of Krünian aviation!"

"And besides," he said more softly, "we got 'em real cheap after that whole emissions thing..."

Valentina was still trying to figure out what he was talking about when the crewkerb with the clipboard raised a hand, "hey, Captain Kickstand, right on time! Got your booster seat all ready to go!" 'Gus,' his nametag said. 

D.N. stalked up to the snickering pair, "was that a height joke?! Do not try me today, buddy! I am already short on p--"

He just stood there for a moment, his slightly trembling finger before the other Kerb's face. A large vein throbbed disconcertingly on his neck. The other fellow sounded like he might be choking. 

"You--!" D.N. squealed several octaves too high, then coughed, "you will address me as sir, and furthermore--"

Gus scoffed, "this ain't the milit'ry, Fun Size, I'll call ya sir when ya sign my paychecks."

The vein in D.N.'s neck quickly called in reinforcements. 

"What ya are gonna sign is this here sheet," he rapped the clipboard against D.N.'s still-outstretched finger, "that is, if you want the airplane." 

D.N. curled his hands into claws, for a moment Valentina thought he might go for the other Kerbal's neck, but he just stood there, twitching. Then he snatched the pen from its holder, furiously scribbled on the page, ripping it, and slammed the pen back into its clip. Where it, of course, bounced out, and went rolling away down the pavement. 

Gus looked at the pen.

D.N. looked at the pen. 

"Y'know, FOD is everyone's responsibility," Gus said sweetly. 

D.N. shook with conniptions, the veins in his neck throbbing ever larger. Valentina wondered if he might simply have an aneurysm right then and there and this entire nonsense could just be called off. But no, he stomped over to the pen, swiped it up from the ground, and slapped it back into the holder somewhat more carefully, Gus and his comrade laughing the whole time. 

Gus bowed and swept an arm, "your chariot awaits, Lord Farquad!"

"Get in the back!" D.N. spun and wailed at Valentina, his voice edging on the ultrasonic, "only qualified pilots up front!" Then tromped up his ladder. Rolling her eyes, Valentina started toward the rear ladder when Gus gently caught her arm.  

"Intercom mute switch, left center panel, mum." he said with a wink. 

At the rear ladder, the other one nodded with a proper greeting, "good afternoon, mum. Lovely day for a flight, innit?" Ferlan, his tag said. 

"Yes, is very nice," she said as she clambered up into the rear cockpit. Ferlan wasted no time securing and rechecking the myriad of straps, cables, and hoses that connected Valentina to the aircraft with the swift, efficient hand of one who knew his job well. Just ahead, D.N. angrily batted away the same assistance from Gus. Finally, Ferlan pulled a long, red, REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT tag from above Valentina's head. 

"Seat's armed, now, mum. Give the handles a mind," he pointed to the large metal hoops just over her shoulders, then rapped twice on her helmet for luck, "right, then, all squared away. Safe flight, mum." He nimbly slid down the ladder, unhooked it from the cockpit rim and stowed it on support rig, then took up position next to a large, red fire extinguisher. Gus secured the other ladder before stepping to the front of the aircraft. 

A loud, mechanical whine announced the descent of the long bubble canopy. It slipped down into place to a clattering of latches, sealing the two pilots into what was, for the moment, a large plexiglass oven. The sweat that had been held at bay by the light ocean breeze now came running down Valentina's face in great torrents. Having secured his ear protectors outside, Gus raised his hands, pointed one finger at the sky and waved it in a wide circle. 

D.N.'s voice crackled in Valentina's ear, "all right, let's see if you remember the briefing. Open the start-up checklist and see if you can get through it. And do NOT hot start my aircraft, do you understand?!"

"Da," she grunted as she flipped to the relevant page on her kneeboard.

"If you hot start my aircraft I will personally come back there and thump you, do you hear me?!"

For a moment, she considered pulling that ejection handle, but couldn't quite remember if they worked on the ground or not. She wiped the sweat from her eyes, tuned out the yammering twit ahead of her, and focused on the checklist. 

Let's see... MAIN PWR to BATT... there it is. ENG FEED... ENG FEED... there, switch to NORM, FUEL to MASTER. A regular thudding noise somewhere behind her signaled that the fuel pumps were running. AIR SOURCE to NORM... check parking brake... Ok, JFS to START 1... Just behind Valentina's head, a loud sssshhhhhhhhhh erupted, followed by the low drone of a turbine beginning to spin.

"Get this right! Do NOT hot start this aircraft!" Said the harpy.  

She watched the RPM PERCENT gauge come to life and slowly begin to rise. 5... 10... 15 percent... A drop of swear rolled into her right eye... Blast, it was hot! Couldn't they at least put a fan--

"Hey, what're you doing?!"


Too late, she lifted the throttle over the idle detent. The engine coughed and sputtered, and the pitch of the drone began to drop. 

"Gah, what's wrong with you?! I tell you not to hot start it so you blow the bottle instead?!" screeched D.N., "switch to number two and try it again, and do NOT make me call those snaggle-toothed Omorkian dopes over for a ground start! Quickly, before we loose any more RPM!"

Valentina ground her teeth against a curse, and flipped the JFS switch to START 2. Another rush of air, and the engine began spooling up again. 10... 15... 20... there! She moved the throttle into position, watched the gauges... turbine temperature rising... oil pressure good... hydraulic pressure good... the engine shuddered once more, the low drone now rising to a high-pitched whine that built and built, tempered by a guttural rumbling. Forty percent, JFS off.. 55%, GEN to BOTH, MAIN PWR to ON... 60... 65... 70%... the SEC light on the indicator grid winked out, and the engine finally settled into a throaty roar. 

"There, now don't touch anything, gah!" Blared in her headphones. Various avionics and other systems clicked on in rapid succession. And, mercifully, a cool flow of air from the vent before her. The two ground crew waved before moving away. 

"Mucus niner ringworm, ready to taxi."

A new, rather bored voice came over the radio, "teacup othello macarena, taxi to runway zero-niner and hold short."

"Roger, hold short," a click, "do not touch anything until I tell you! If you really screw something up the call will be 'eject, eject, eject,' and if you say 'what?' you'll be talking to yourself cuz I won't be here. And most of all do NOT vomit in my aircraft!"


"And cut that out!"

Valentina bared her teeth at him, and folded her arms. The haranguing continued as the small aircraft made its way to the end of the runway. This was a test of patience the likes of which no one should have to endure. At least the intercom had a volume control. Pity the PЦTIЙSКI himself didn't. But, strangely... it did feel good to be back in a proper aircraft again. Even if she was just a passenger. 

The plane pivoted around just before the edge of the runway, and the radio blared again, "ginseng steeple handsaw, holding short runway zero-niner. Request flapjack upchuck departure."

"Roger, washtub onion plunger, cleared for takeoff. Don't dawdle," the eye-roll was apparent in the voice.

D.N. nudged the aircraft forward, turned exactly onto the center line, stopped. Somewhere behind, the engine howled into new fury like a thing unbound, the racket challenged only by the deafening whoosh of air rushing into the intakes that flanked Valentina's seat. The trainer bucked and rattled but didn't creep forward a centimeter. The control stick swung several times in wide circles, and managed to smack Valentina in the knees each time. 

Finally, a disturbingly calm voice cut through the noise, "and here... we.... go....."

The brakes released, and the plane shot forward like the proverbial winged mammal from a warm place. Acceleration shoved Valentina into her seat as a rumbling below rapidly grew in cadence and intensity. Abruptly it stopped, with only a subtle shift from the craft, followed by a series of loud thumps as the landing gear retracted. But the ground did not drop away, only hurtled past the canopy faster and faster. She couldn't see past the seat back in front of her, but they must be nearing--

"Express elevator to heaven, going.... UP!"

Now she was crushed down into her seat, her G-suit automatically squeezing her legs in a desperate bid to keep the blood from rushing out of her head. It was over in an instant, the horizon outside now skewed around as the nimble plane shot straight up like a rocket toward the brilliant blue sky and puffy, white clouds. Airspeed continued to climb for a moment, the altimeter spinning around and around. Then the stick jerked abruptly to the left, and the plane spun about its own axis once, twice, thr-- no, it ceased, and centripetal force crushed again as it pulled...


Valentina hung from her straps, arms still crossed, feeling rather nonplussed. That irritating bit of hair had worked its way free of her helmet, but was now dangling up. Still, she did have to admit the view was quite spectacular like this. The sea spread out below in a stunning vista, like an artist's study of every shade of blue in the spectrum. Fragile turquoise lined the shores along Cape Kernaveral, quickly surrendering to a deep, penetrating azure mottled darker here and there by the scattered clouds above. Tiny specks of white accented and gave texture to the surface, the golden light of the afternoon sun shone on it like a polished lamp, and...

That's odd. 

There were at least a dozen more immense propellium tankers sitting at anchor below, just north of the cape. That's an awful lot of fuel for a space program about to im--

Her thought was cut off as the plane snap-rolled upright, smacking both her knee and her head. 

"All right, I'm going to demonstrate some basic maneuvers," D.N. buzzed in Valentina's ear, "and do NOT vomit in my aircraft! We'll start with a loop..."

"Think you can handle a loop?" Valentina grumbled, a bit louder than she should have. 

"Think you can handle the music?" he mocked back in a whiny voice. Before she could respond, her ears were once again assaulted by one of those obnoxiously catchy foreign rock songs. 

"Masks on!" 

She barely had a chance to figure out the unfamiliar clip before gee force smashed her into her seat.

"Wooooohoooo!" cried D.N. as the plane passed inverted again. No sooner had it pulled level than he banked hard to the right, hard to the left, leading them through a stomach-turning series of rolls, dives, and climbs then shooting vertical again. Engine screaming, the small craft clawed for altitude. 

"Hammerhead!" He squealed, mashing a rudder pedal just before the plane ran out of energy, flicking it to the left and now charging straight down at the waiting sea. Speed built and built, the sound of rushing air drowning out the wailing engine, then he yanked back hard on the stick. The wings screamed in protest, Valentina felt the flesh pulled down away from her face, but kept her arms firmly crossed despite the crushing weight. 

Pulling level for a few moments, D.N. yelled, "Coooooooo-BRAAAAAAAAAA!" and jerked the nose up just past vertical before dropping it back down again. He dove away toward the nearest cloud, pulled up just before plunging into it. The agile little trainer jinked and twisted, swooped and rolled, a tiny gray speck against the brilliant white flank of the cloud. Tendrils of mist seemed to stretch out to it like reaching hands, but it darted away as easily as a dragonfly, D.N. giggling like a schoolboy the whole time. 

"This is the beating heart of air combat!" He proclaimed, while Valentina was roughly shoved about the cockpit, and occasionally battered by the flight stick, "you must have complete confidence in your aircraft and your ability! It's not enough to think you're the best, you have to know you're the best! Run right up to the edge of the envelope and tickle it! You have to trust your aircraft like sacred vessel, like a suit of armor. An iron eagle that noth-ing can pen-e-trate!"

"Iron eagle?" Valentina said tiredly.

"Yes, iron eagle!" He spat, "what kinda fighter pilot are you, anyway?!"

Valentina grunted, "am not fighter pilot, am test pilot. I fly airplane I do not trust, and have no confidence in, to go past edge of envelope and find it so big-head cowboy like you not go too far."

"Think you're so hot?!" D.N. snarled, "ok turkey, you fly it!"

Abruptly the stick jerked forward and Valentina was pulled up against her straps as the plane nose dived toward the ground. She sighed, unconsciously huffing at the hair that was once again hanging toward the canopy. She sat there another moment before serenely wrapping her gloved hands around the controls, cataloging by feel the various buttons and knobs. 

Beneath her mask, a wicked smile slowly split her face...




"...so I says.... I says... I says..." Gus tried to say, amidst a fit of chortles, "'bugger that for a box of bananas, I'd rather sleep by the lake!'"

He and Ferlan erupted into loud, shrieking laughter, rocking back and forth atop the cab of their fuel truck and slapping their knees. 

"Blimey, that one always kills me, it does!" Ferlan managed before another round of cackles took him. 

Presently, the portable radio on his belt crackled, pulling them kicking and screaming from their revelry. 

"Welp, look like we got incoming, mate," Gus said as he raised his binoculars. He saw a Fleischgewehr turn onto final, coasting down toward the runway as if it were on rails. There was no bark of rubber as the tires touched down, only a gentle settling of the landing gear. 

"Cor, ain't that Dean's plane?" He muttered, unbelieving. 

"Naw," Said Ferlan as he lowered his own binoculars, "Dean ain't even that smooth."

The pair looked on in bewilderment as the plane passed their position, nose-high, bleeding off speed. They glanced at each other, shrugged, and hopped down to don their gear. 

A few minutes later Gus stood on the ramp, directing the plane forward with large red paddles in his hands. He crossed them, gave the aircraft a moment to stop, drew one quickly across his neck. The roaring engine calmed, spooling down. Ferlan stepped forward with a ladder, but before the canopy had opened even halfway, a trembling and rather... pungent form tumbled out and smacked roughly onto the concrete. 

"By the Queen's frilly brassiere..." Gus swore. 

"And 'er knickers too," Ferlan added, the ladder forgotten in his hands, "Dean's puked 'imself!"

"Dean's puked 'imself!"

The two looked at each other, then burst into great, roaring waves of laughter. Face down on the ground, D.N.'s shoulders heaved while he coughed and gagged. He managed to look up at his tormentors, dirt from the pavement now clinging to the sticky, reeking, technicolor mess that covered his face. Trails of drool and snot hung from his mouth. Gus thought he might even have been crying. 

"Yer buying the case tonight, you rot-faced li'l imp!" Gus crowed. They pointed and laughed louder than ever before. 

A bit further back, and completely spotless, Valentina hopped lightly down from the cockpit, despite the ladder still being in Ferlan's hands. The laughter died away as she approached the other two, replaced by gaping wonder. Grinning broadly, she doffed her helmet, and pressed it into Gus's arms.

"How you say... fill her up, yes?" She winked, before setting off back towards the hangar, her ponytail bouncing jauntily behind. The ground crew could only stare after her in awe. 

"Wow," Gus breathed, "what a Kerbelle."

"Yeah..." Ferland said dreamily beside him, still clutching the ladder. Gus glanced at his comrade, rolled his eyes, then reached over and closed Ferlan's mouth for him. 

Which was unfortunate, as his tongue was still hanging out. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Now, looks like D.N. learned his lesson the hard way. Magnificent chapter, still laughing ... 

EDIT: I imagine her looking like this during her portion of the flight:



Edited by lodger
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The one thing I regret is that we didn't get a little more details about D.N's airsickness... and what Valentina did. Did she buzz the tower like Jeb?

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8 hours ago, vsully said:

The one thing I regret is that we didn't get a little more details about D.N's airsickness... and what Valentina did. Did she buzz the tower like Jeb?

Ahhh - now that's the beauty of the whole chapter! We know that D.N was pulling some fairly crazy stuff so kraken knows what Val did We may never know - but it's going to cast a long, long shadow in KSA folklore.

Fantastic chapter, CF!  (Sorry - getting a taste for these initials :) ) I loved Val's 'are we finished yet, little boy' attitude and I can just picture the screenplay version of that final smile. Aircraft screaming towards the ground in an inverted dive... cut to Val hanging upside down... cut to evil grin spreading over Val's face... fade to black with a long, drawn-out scream. :D 

Oh yeah and this...

15 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

KSA gear, Ussari gear, it was all made in Gytep anyway. 


And this...

15 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

You see, because you can't stay. You have to take the sky away."

Or perhaps:  "You can't stay because, you see. You just took the sky from me..." ? :)

And finally, this...

15 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Valentina grunted, "am not fighter pilot, am test pilot. I fly airplane I do not trust, and have no confidence in, to go past edge of envelope and find it so big-head cowboy like you not go too far."

Quoted for truth. Right between your eyes, flyboy!

Edited by KSK
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17 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Valentina grunted, "am not fighter pilot, am test pilot. I fly airplane I do not trust, and have no confidence in, to go past edge of envelope and find it so big-head cowboy like you not go too far."

This one needs to be framed and hung up on a wall somewhere. :)

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18 hours ago, lodger said:

EDIT: I imagine her looking like this during her portion of the flight:

LOVE this, where'd you find it? :cool:

7 hours ago, KSK said:

Ahhh - now that's the beauty of the whole chapter! We know that D.N was pulling some fairly crazy stuff so kraken knows what Val did We may never know - but it's going to cast a long, long shadow in KSA folklore.

The sort of thing certain members of the current class well tell to incoming cadets, in darkened rooms with flashlights held below their faces, becoming more and more fantastic with each telling, and invariably ending with something like "and there, the next morning, hanging from the canopy latch, was the hook!"

The monster you don't see is always scarier than the one you do (because SFX budgets).

5 hours ago, Ten Key said:

This one needs to be framed and hung up on a wall somewhere. :)

Wouldn't doubt if it is, if rather more eloquently put.

4 hours ago, SpaceplaneAddict said:

oh my god.

Well, you did ask for it :wink:


Next (considerably shorter) chapter manifested its self rather quickly and will be going up soon. :D

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1 hour ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

LOVE this, where'd you find it? :cool:

Just did a quick image search on google and found it. Just look at that tough expression on her face ....

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Chapter 59: ...Into the Wild Blue Yonder

"Major Kermanova reporting as ordered, sir!" Valentina snapped a crisp salute. 

"Stop doing that!" Gene put both hands to his face, "I'm not your commanding officer."

He moved to rubbing the wide, flat spot between his eyes, "I'm not even an officer! I'm just-- ugh. Have a seat, please."

Valentina did as he said. Outside the office windows, the day's last light was beginning its retreat from the land in a spectacular display. Somehow, she didn't think Gene had noticed. The bags under his eyes looked big enough to ship rocket parts, and his skin had gone from wan to dreadfully pale. She wondered if he'd slept at all since she'd been here yesterday. J.R. was here too, oddly enough, sitting next to Gene's desk with his ever-present grin replaced by a strange look of concern. 

"So... I've got the most usual report in front of me," Gene put a hand on the paper on his desk, the other rubbing his eyes, "about a biohazard cleanup in this aircraft..."

Awkward glances were shared by the three Kerbals in the small room.

"You said, do not go easy on him," Valentina offered cautiously. 

"I did say that," Gene seemed surprised by the statement. 

"Well, still," J.R. broke in, "these circumstances are... well, most unusual..." He absently flipped through his own sheaf of papers. 

"Um, what exactly did you do up there?" Gene finally asked. 

She told them. 

A rocketship-themed clock on the shelf softly ticked away the time. Scattered papers rustled ever so slightly as the air handlers above cycled on. A fly that had been hanging on the wall took to the air, buzzing around in wide, lazy circles. It flew in and out of J.R.'s gaping, unmoving mouth, then circled a bit more before alighting on Gene's equally inert eyeball. It wandered about here and there, occasionally having a nosh. Finding little of interest, it eventually buzzed off. 

It took some time for Gene to rally his mouth into coherent motion, but when he finally did, he said, "that's... not possible. A 5894 can't do that..."

J.R. shook himself, then rifled through his papers, "accordin' to the flight data recorder, it, um..."

He looked at Gene, "...did."

"But... the airframe... the wings... the undercarriage..." Gene muttered as he leaned back roughly in his seat. 

More shuffling, "Ah've got a crew doin' a full inspection as we speak, but according to the preliminary..." flip, flip, "the aircraft's perfectly fine. <flip> Even straightened out a tweaked stringer."

Gene rubbed his hands over his face again, "this can't go on..."

"I am sorry," Valentina pleaded, "but he is just such titanic..."

She waved her hands vaguely as she struggled for the word, "wash-bag... shower head... hose bib...!"

J.R. blinked, "d'you mean d--ouch, mah shin!" A tiny rocked bounced around the office, ending with a hollow crack. 

"Tarnation that smarts!" he cried as he rubbed feverishly at his leg. 

"Ohhhhhhhh..." Gene's voice sounded on the verge of tears, "my model..." In his hand, he cradled a dozen bits of gold-colored plastic. He just stared at them for a long time. He tried to pick a single one up, but it crumbled between his fingers. 

At length, he let out a long sigh, "I don't want to keep you, Valentina. I did tell you not to go easy on him, and the plane seems to be fine, so don't let it trouble you any more."  

More uncomfortable silence spread out while Gene stirred at the DUOS wreckage in his hand with a stubby finger. Valentina quietly let herself out. 

She had almost reached the elevator when J.R. caught her arm, "miss Valentina, a moment, please."

She looked up at him cautiously, "yes?"

He pursed his lips in thought, worry creasing his forehead, before he spoke, "this whole thing is mah fault."

"How... do you mean?"

"The Spaceplane program is directly under our administration, that makes Dean my Kerb. Ah never should have let things deteriorate to this level, and for that, Ah do apologize. Ah'll have a talk him."

"And don't you worry, Ah give you mah word," the rapacious grin returned, with new ferocity, "he won't trouble you again."



The elevator doors slid closed. Valentina felt very, well, troubled. Not even the stack of extra-rubbery cheeseburgers from the cafeteria had managed to assuage that. This all felt too... familiar. 

A sinking in her stomach, not at all related to those cheeseburgers, signaled the elevator's ascent. Maybe she had been too rough on D.N. Maybe she should have backed off when he'd started screaming like a sorority girl in one of those silly horror films that came on late at night. 

Such ridiculous things, she always ended up rooting for the monster. The victims were just so stupid. And they usually brought the whole thing on themselves, anyway. She could completely understand why something would want to disembowel them. Their own fault, really. Own fault. 

The doors binged open, driving the thought away. With a huff for that stubborn lock of hair, Valentina stepped off. 

Still, it had felt good to take him down a p--

She nearly walked right into him again. D.N. stood in the hallway, a towel hanging over his shoulders, hair damp and tousled. There was still a faint odor, and he looked a bit... shorter. 

His eyes met hers only for an instant, then went back to studying the floor, "oh. Hey."

Silence stretched on. D.N. scratched at the back of his head. 

"That was some first rate flying up there," he said softly, not looking up, "you should be proud."

Valentina could feel her mouth working soundlessly, but her brain seemed to have halted. 

His eyes darted to hers for another instant, "and also, I'm sorry."

As he shuffled past, Valentina could only stare down the hallway in stunned disbelief. 

"Donald Nelson."

The words pulled her out of her fugue, and she turned, finally driving sound from her throat, "w... what?"

D.N. stood at the door to his room, hand on the knob. He squeezed his eyes shut before pushing it open.

"That's my name. Donald Nelson Kerman."

The door closed behind him, the lock sliding home with a soft click. 

Valentina stared at the empty hallway, more troubled than ever. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Well played Don. Graciously done.

I'm a bit more concerned about that tweaked stringer. Accident, comic license or a sign that Don's aircraft was protected by more than Val's piloting skills...?

dun, dun, duuuun....

Edited by KSK
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His real name is D-OUCH, MY SHIN!!!? I mean Do-OUCH, MY SHIN!!! Nevermind...

Edited by KAL 9000
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On May 18, 2016 at 11:25 AM, KSK said:

I'm a bit more concerned about that tweaked stringer. Accident, comic license or a sign that Don's aircraft was protected by more than Val's piloting skills...?




13 hours ago, monophonic said:

You know, I do really wonder who goes around throwing these pebbles about. Great aim though.

Well with all these stones flying about, we have met someone who does live in a glass house...




was hoping to get this next chapter up much sooner, but life conspired against me. Should be going up once I get home, now. Just filler & fluff and absolutely nothing integral to the plot... devil_smiley_005.gif


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On 5/17/2016 at 5:38 AM, lodger said:

Now, looks like D.N. learned his lesson the hard way. Magnificent chapter, still laughing ... 

EDIT: I imagine her looking like this during her portion of the flight:

Wow, where's that picture from? Are there more?

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Chapter 60: Girl, On Fire

"You don't have to do this."

"Yes. Yes, I do."

"There are other ways..."

"Time grows short."

"You have diplomatic immunity. You don't have to do it our way."

"This is why I must do it your way."

"Their judgement is final, and strict. Your status won't help you. Once you go in there... I can't help you anymore, either."

"I understand."

"I wish you would reconsider."

"I have. Have considered much. Sacrifice... must be made."

"They're ready for you, now," said a large, gruff-looking Kerbal in a crisp uniform.

Gene pursed his lips as he held out a hand, "you're a brave Kerbelle, Valentina Kermanova. Good luck. One way or another, I'll see you on the other side."

She smiled and shook his hand. His grip felt weak and sickly. But that was a concern for later. For now... Valentina squinted against the light beyond, and stepped forward...

...the assault began immediately. A thundering rush of screams, whistles, and cat-calls. The cold sweat of a moment before became flowing rivulets as the harsh spotlights seemed to burn her flesh. She crept out, half blind, raising a hand against the glare. 

"That's right, ladies and germs..you know what time it is!"

Boom-boom thud. Boom-boom thud. Boom-boom thud. Boom-boom thud. 

The percussion beat at Valentina like blast waves. In front, she could just make out a couple of onlookers slapping bottles against their open palms in time to the beat. 

Trial by fire! Trial by fire! Trial by fire! Trial by fire! Trial by fire!

Had... had it been this loud before? She could feel the sound pushing her back like a physical thing. It was like leaning into a hurricane. 

"Our victim tonight needs noooooooooo introduction... but I'ma do it anyway!"

The chant shattered into a thousand, thousand screaming, calling voices. 

"All the way Kermangrad, Ussari, put your hands together for Valentina Kermanova!"

Louder, ever louder the uproar grew. Whistles, shrieks, and some things that sounded quite crude even if she had no idea what the words meant. With hands that felt weak and trembling like Gene's only moments before, she took the microphone from its stand, nearly dropping it. She had faced down plenty of things that could kill her. There had been no fear then. Once you were dead, it was over with. She had faced clicking cameras and obnoxious reporters, even cheering crowds, but nothing... nothing could stand to this. It took a conscious effort to keep her knees from knocking together. Her bladder felt suddenly full. Maybe she should have skipped that last--

At once, the noise died away.

PЦTIЙ, that's the cue!

Valentina lifted a microphone that felt like lead... and began to whistle...


The last few notes rang to silence, Valentina held her own a breath longer. A drop of sweat rolled into her eye, stinging like fire. That infuriating bit of hair was plastered to the skin between them. Yet despite her sopping face, her mouth felt like she'd been eating crackers and sand. Her throat was a desiccated waste, her larynx a little ball of pure pain. Shoulders heaving, her arm dropped away, the microphone barely remaining in her grip. If it were lead before, it was something far heavier now. Degenerate matter, perhaps. If her mind were still capable of conscious thought, it would have been amazed she was still upright. 

Beyond the stage, hundreds of pairs of unblinking eyes bore down upon her. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound. Only tiny motes of dust danced back and forth in the blinding glare of the lights. Heart pounding in her ears, Valentina could only stand there as time stretched on, and await the inevitable. 

Someone in the back coughed. 

Someone sniffed. 

So did someone else. 

"That..." said a fragile voice in the front row.

"That was bloody brilliant."

"Hell yeah it was," said another.



"Let's never quarrel again!"

"I love you, man!"

Two Kerbals in the front embraced, and the crowd... well, to say it exploded would be like saying the sun's nuclear fire was warm. The wave of cheers would have blown Valentina clear off her feet and some distance backstage if they had not rushed the stage at the very same time. She found herself hoisted on shoulders to whoops and whistles, applause and exaltations. All around the bar-goers hugged, or shook or slapped hands, all to cries of--




"Free drinks!"

The hullabaloo instantly stopped, and all eyes turned to Ol' Sam...

"Not bloody likely, yah cheap bunch o' reprobates!"

The crowd let out a collective "awwwwwwww" before returning to their revelry. A thought fought for attention in Valentina's mind, but was constantly shoved out of the way as she tried with only moderate success to avoid the decorations hanging from the ceiling. A new chant slowly emerged from the fray...

One of us! One of us! One of us! One of us!

The celebrations of new-found fraternity continued long into the night, which was a bit odd as everyone generally got on pretty well even before then. No one would say it out loud, if they acknowledged the thought at all, but an excuse to party seemed quite welcome just at the moment.


 Some time later, Valentina stumbled out into the cool night air, while the noises of carousel continued inside. She bounded along, occasionally skipping and twirling, feeling very much unlike herself. She wondered for the umpteenth time what it was Ol' Sam put in those drinks. She felt fuzzy and light and so very much alive

A thick full Mün hung low in the sky, bloated and pallid and casting a sickly pale light. Valentina paused to stick her tongue out at it. No, not even the Mün could spoil her mood tonight! She did it! She finally did it!

One of us....

Valentina trotted along, not really caring where she was going, a long, disfigured shadow trailing out beside her. She had faced the Foreigners on their own terms, and won their respect. She left the bar not as an exotic outsider, but as one of us...


And best of all, she had finally stuck it to that obnoxious PЦTIЙSКI Dean, and--


She stopped. 

His name was Donald

Why did everyone call him Dean? 

She trotted on again. They probably just didn't like him. Not that she could blame them, how could anyone like someone like--

She stopped again. Only... that wasn't right... was it?

Valentina moved on, with perhaps a bit less trot in her step. She wouldn't let the odd thoughts spoil her mood. She felt on top of the world! That was quite the odd phrase, really. She'd grown up not that far from the top of the world. It was all ice and snow and whumpers up there, hardly seemed like the place a happy person would want to be. 

Anyway, Dean- Donald- was stubborn enough, he'd get over this. And besides, her time here was growing short now. She needed to think of some gifts. Wouldn't do to be a rude guest, if maybe she could return some day. She might have to make a few phone calls, and--

Some distance away, just past the east fence, a police VTOL streaked by, lights on and siren screaming. Hmmm. That wasn't good. That was never good. That meant someone was having a bad night. She hoped it got better for them, whoever they were. No one should be having a bad night, not tonight. 

Yes, it would be all right. These were strong people. Stubborn, and strange, but strong. They would find a way to keep this space program going. All those tankers, after all. Must be a need. What else ran on propellium? Not all these ridiculous kars, they just used standard jet fuel. If not for the space program, why else--

A sudden rush nearly knocked her off her feet. A fire department VTOL shrieked past just overhead, flanked by two more police cruisers. For a moment, brilliant red strobes cast twisted shadows on the ground. That... certainly wasn't good. Maybe just something minor, a kitten in a tree perhaps? Or maybe--

Something else nearly knocked her over, or rather someone. Valentina watched the dark figure sprint in the direction of the emergency vehicles. A night breeze caught her neck just so, sending a chill down her spine. 

Yes, that was all... just a breeze... certainly not the rising cloud of inky black smoke in the distance, silhouetted by the Mün and lit from below by a deep orange glow. 

Another person ran past, then another and another. A vast stampede of bodies swept Valentina off her feet, carried her along amidst cries and yells.

What happened? 


Just outside the fence!

It's a fire!

No, an, explosion!

No, a crash! 



The throng broke against the perimeter fence like a vast wave, somehow depositing Valentina at the very front. All around people jockeyed for position, crushed her as the fence groaned in protest. 

An ashen-faced police officer, his face streaked with soot, tried impotently to wave the crowd back, "go on, back up! You'll take the whole fence down, there's razor wire up there!" His voice was weak and breaking. 

Valentina tried to push back, make a space for herself, bathed in infernal crimson light. Not far away, one of the stunted, ubiquitous palm trees that surrounded the space center was ablaze. Thick, oily smoke rose up from it, flames danced around its waving fronds. There, at the base, a twisted form embraced the trunk like a lover. A trail of ruin led from it back to a curve in the perimeter road. Valentina could feel the heat searing her skin. From somewhere, a sound, thin and reedy like... like a...

"Why don't they do something? Why are they just standing around?!"

The firefighters seemed to mill about aimlessly. Two of them half dragged one of their comrades back, a large extinguisher in his hands. Turning away from the conflagration, he threw it angrily to the ground where it bounced with a hollow ring. 

The police officer raised placating hands to the crowd, "move back, you lot! Off the fence!" Wide, darting eyes betrayed mounting panic beneath. 

"Why don't they DO something?!"

"Th... there's no hydrant out here! The tanker apparatus is on its way, but they're having trouble--"

"Do something!"

"DO something!"

He began to shrink back, looking this way and that as if about to flee from the throng.

"Randall! Randall, it's me, Fredsby!" Yelled someone next to Valentina, as he tried to reach a hand though the fence, "c'mon, Kerb, you know me! Our kerblings to to school together!"

"...know?" confusion flashed in Randall's face, then he and everyone else jumped as another gout of fire erupted from the wreckage, sending bits of flaming metal high into the air. The inferno roared like a thing alive, boasting, gloating. It roared... and whispered...

"Randall, what happened?" Screamed Fredsby.

"Yeah, what happened?!"

"Tell us!"

"Tell us!"

That horrible, horrible thin reedy sound droned on again. All around, people clasped hands to their ears to block it out. Then a loud crack, and another. Orange-white sparks exploded into the night air, carried upward by the breath of the pyre, as the base of the tree ripped in half. With a slow, guttural creaking, the blazing palm toppled over and smashed into the burning hulk beneath it, scattering fiery debris all around. Demonic shadows danced and writhed and cavorted from the perverted light. 

Randall lifted his face from where he'd been hiding it in his hands, smeared with ash and soot and sweat and tears.

"It's Dean," he croaked.

"Dean's dead."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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13 hours ago, RocketSquid said:

Wow, where's that picture from? Are there more?

I dunno. Just found this while searching for Valentina Kerman on Google. It just fits to that chapter.

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So did Dean fight the Kraken, win, then the Kraken murdered him? :0.0:

I'm hoping that it gets sucker-punched. Again.

Edited by vsully
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