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


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"Hmm, if I squint hard enough at this piece of toast I can see the face of the Kraken on it." I think you are all seeing Krakens in every pool of water, even the ones only 3 inches deep.

This is a simple case of the guy with the biggest ego on the planet getting his cheeks handed to him by a girl .. a foreign girl at that. What happens when you get force fed humble pie? sometimes you choke on it.

My theory is that Donald couldn't handle the idea of having someone around who is proven better than him, or at least to have humiliated him infront of all the others. He was driving recklessly and (probably not deliberate) but he crashed, no Krakens involved.

cheeks? damn you autocorrect that's not the word I used!

Edited by Shania_L
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You all think you know the Kraken. You have not BEGUN to know the Kraken!

giphy.gif

To know the Kraken, is to know madness.

But I will say:

6 hours ago, Shania_L said:

cheeks? damn you autocorrect that's not the word I used!

Autocorrect. The only thing in reality more insidious than the Kraken. :confused: (to know this is ALSO to know madness.)

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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5 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Autocorrect. The only thing in reality more insidious than the Kraken. :confused: (to know this is ALSO to know madness.)

Isn't it though? :wink:

On 5/21/2016 at 11:42 PM, CatastrophicFailure said:

 

 Some time later, Valentina stumbled out into the cool night air, while the noises of carousel continued inside.

 

12 hours ago, Shania_L said:

This is a simple case of the guy with the biggest ego on the planet getting his cheeks handed to him by a girl .. a foreign girl at that.

Is it though? :wink:

 

On 5/18/2016 at 11:25 PM, CatastrophicFailure said:

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."

 

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On May 21, 2016 at 4:24 PM, vsully said:

Oh WAIT

We never saw Dean's body

Can the Kraken possess DEAD bodies?

:sealed:

Dun dun DAH!

No, I think Do-OUCH, MY SHIN! died of shock when he found out that someone was a better pilot than him. Although he should already know: *cough* Jeb *cough*

Edited by KAL 9000
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Chapter 61: Crash and Burn

Scattered clouds dotted a vivid blue sky beneath a sweltering sun. A drop of sweat slid from the band of Valentina's wide-brimmed hat and down her neck, but she took no notice. She stood stiffly, motionlessly, fingertips touched lightly to the edge of that wide brim. She stood in a line with others, but took no notice of them, either. A few dozen people stood around a hole in the ground, surrounded by rolling, verdant hills dotted with white headstones in a mirror of the clouds overhead. 

Suspended over the hole rested the coffin. It was more of a formality, really. The fire had burned down to smoldering coals before the water tanker arrived. They had found just enough to be... sure. It was empty; there was no medal. No life gallantly lost in the pursuit of space, no blaze of glory breaching the unknown, just a horrible, unfortunate accident. 

That's what they said. 

The 4000 SUX was tricky at high speeds, they said. 

The weight of those four turboshaft engines in the back made it squirrelly, they said.

Never touched his brakes, they said...

The bureaucrat had just finished his speech, some nonsense about duty and courage. Duty and courage, and sad misfortune. But not duty enough to get Donald's name right, she had noted, as the functionary stumbled through his notes. With the nuisance over, he retreated to a waiting car, which did not linger as the honor guard approached the casket. 

They moved stiffly, mechanically, with faces like stone. Three of them took position, in their spotless white gloves and perfectly pressed tunics, raising rifles over the flag-draped vessel. At a command, three volleys of shots shattered the stagnant tropical air. Valentina jumped at each one.  

It was over in an instant, they said. 

Those four huge engines crushed the passenger compartment, they said. 

Folded the roof into the floor like plastic, they said.

The riflemen retreated, and a single bugler stepped forward. On a brilliantly polished horn, he blew a tune she didn't know, slow and soulful like the breaking of a heart. 

Over in an instant, they said. 

Those noises, those horrible noises, just escaping gasses and melting plastic, they said. 

Certainly not screams, they said, no, certainly not that.

When the bugler finished, he was replaced by Chadvey, dressed in garb that at any other time might have seemed absurd, but today seemed only fitting. His face looked deflated and stark, drained of its familiar mirth. Under his arm was an instrument the likes of which Valentina had never seen, its droning sound like sadness personified even as he played a joyful hymn. 

Just an accident, an unfortunate accident they said. 

Rumors that he was driving erratically moments before, well those just couldn't be true, they said. 

Like those that said he was despondent over something that happened earlier, they said. 

Never touched his brakes, they said. 

The guard surrounded the casket, lifting the colorful banner of Kleptogart from it and folding it with precise, mechanical motions. Now a perfect triangle, it was handed to the leading officer. 

D.N. Kerman was rude, egotistical, and vain. How could anyone like someone like that, how could anyone? Valentina remembered the thought plodding through her mind as she watched the officer kneel before a Kerbelle in a black veil, and hand her the flag. She struggled to accept it with the squirming Kerbling on her lap clinging so tightly to her dress, its tiny eyes wide and fearful and utterly uncomprehending. 

Yes, how could anyone...

The memory dug into Valentina like torn and jagged metal. 

The officer stood, and saluted, before the honor guard withdrew. Now Gene made his way to the podium, moving slowly. His face was gaunt, his eyes sunken. He looked decades older. No, he looked like a corpse. He stood there before the microphone, not quite looking up, his hands braced against the wood as if to steady himself. 

In the east, a noise arose. It built like thunder before a storm, rumbling, roaring. Five aircraft came into view: the dark, dagger-like shape of the Widowmaker leading an echelon of sleek fighter aircraft. As they passed over the gathered, the Widowmaker abruptly pulled up, shooting skyward like a rocket until it disappeared into a cloud. 

At the podium, Gene waited until the other aircraft had passed and disappeared over the far horizon, before he began to speak, his voice a taught thread about to break.

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings..."

***

Valentina jerked awake from the nightmare, a scream in her throat as her hands pawed at her neck. Her shoulders heaved as breath came in great, ragged gasps. Cold sweat plastered her hair to her face, her once smartly-pressed uniform now a disheveled, sodden mess. Still panting, she stared at her trembling hands in the darkness. 

So real... it had seemed so real...

The clock on the table read just after midnight. The funeral had concluded hours ago, she must have fallen right into bed when she returned. She took several moments to catch her breath before leaning over to pick her hat up off the floor. She frowned. Must have stepped on it, too. That wouldn't be simple to fix. 

Valentina set the hat on the table and stripped out of her rumpled uniform. At least the dry cleaning was competent enough here. She stepped to the mirror over her room's small sink, flicked on the light, saw her puffy, red-rimmed eyes and pale skin. Death warmed over, that's what they said here. Fitting enough. She felt like she'd been trapped in nightmares for hours. 

She splashed cool water over her face, sending chills down her spine in a delightfully refreshing way. Her hair was soaked through with sweat, thick and oily. A long shower would be welcome right now, and--

She sniffed. 

Sniffed again. 

A familiar, acrid smell seemed to be creeping into the room. Cautiously, she reached to the doorknob, and pulled it open slightly...

Thick, grainy smoke roiled in and began spreading over the ceiling like a black tide. 

Fire!

Not thinking, Valentina grabbed a towel from the rack and pressed it over her mouth as she bolted into the hall. 

"Fire!" She screamed, "there is fire!"

She slammed the heel of her fist against the first door she found, smoke churning all along the ceiling just above her head, "fire!"

Her lungs heaved with every caustic breath, drawing the the odor deep into her chest. She pressed the rag harder over her mouth, coughing against it. 

"Fire!" She went down the row of doors, pounding on each one. Smoke boiled and billowed. Nothing made a sound in the shadowy hall. 

That smell... she could feel it, taste it in her throat. Like kerosene and... meat. 

"FIRE!" At last she came to the alarm, and yanked down the handle. 

Nothing. 

No sound. No lights. Nothing changed but the swirling smoke above. 

Valentina crossed to the other door, slammed her hand against it... and recoiled.

Warm. Warm to the touch.

Her eyes fell on the nameplate in the center. 

D.N. Kerman

No...

She knew it was coming, she knew it, and then it did... that thin, reedy cry of anguish from the other side. 

No...!

Letting the rag drop from her face, coughing and retching, she sprinted back to the extinguisher case. She pulled at the door but it wouldn't budge. Tore at it again. Nothing. Sobbing in frustration, she slammed her fist against it. Glass, bone, and skin broke. She ignored the pain, pulled the extinguisher from its mount. Moving back to the door, she braced herself, and slammed the metal cylinder against it. 

Thud.

Thud!  

THUD!

CRACK!

The door flew open, the inferno beyond forcing Valentina back. She raised a hand against the heat, tried to see into the blaze... that noise... that scream... it only grew louder. 

She pulled the pin on the extinguisher, pointed it... but knew it wouldn't spray. Nothing happened as she squeezed the handle. Just... nothing. 

Beyond, in the sea of flames, a shape arose. Twisted and broken, it moved with a halting, spasmic gait. It reached for her with a skeletal hand that rained blobs of melting flesh. 

"Burn..."

No...

"Burn!"

"No!"

"You let me... burn!"

"I... I didn't... I couldn't..."

"Flames around me! Flames! Nothing but flames! Burning my flesh!"

Back into the hall she cowered as the abomination reached for her, and found an old, familiar nightmare waiting there too. 

"I burned... I buuuuuurned! I burned because of you!"

"No... please..."

"I buuuuuuuuurned!"

"Go away!"

"You made me burn!"

"You let me burn!"

"NOOOO!"

She backed down the hall, hands raised in futile defense. Each pair of doors she passed swung open, more grotesque, fiery horrors spilling out, reaching, accusing, condemning...

"Buuuuuurn!"

"BUUUUUUUUUURN!"

"We all burn!"

Valentina turned to flee, but found only the clouded, glassy eyes of the Dead Girl before her.

"Do not think on such things too hard. You may not like what it is you find," blood burbled from the ruined neck with each word, as cold hands closed around her own.

***

Valentina jerked awake from the nightmare, a scream in her throat as her hands pawed at her neck. Her shoulders heaved as breath came in great, ragged gasps. Cold sweat plastered her hair to her face, her once smartly-pressed uniform now a disheveled, sodden mess. Still panting, she stared at her trembling hands in the darkness. 

So real... it had seemed so real...

The clock on the table read just after midnight. Picking her hat up from the floor, she set it on the table and stripped out of her rumpled uniform. She stepped to the mirror over her room's small sink, flicked on the light, and saw Jerdous behind her, grinning fiercely as he dragged the knife across her neck. 

***

Valentina jerked awake, gagging, clawing at her throat, icy fire tearing at her skin. She pulled and yanked, feeling the cold burn on her fingers, the back of her neck, but the chain refused to break. She screamed with effort, pulled the Münstone over her head and threw it across the bed. Panting, she could only stare in awe, one hand feeling the cold, frostbitten line below her chin. The glow was slowly fading from the stone, and frozen sweat covered the metal chain, whisps of vapor trailing off of it.

Any further thought was instantly halted when a spike of bright, searing pain and insistent pressure knifed into her mind. It was all she could do to press her hands against her head and scream at the invasion of something... other.

HIDE BEHIND YOUR TRINKETS IF YOU WILL. I AM THE LORD OF THE NIGHT, YOUR DREAMS WILL ALWAYS BELONG TO ME!

As quickly as it arrived, the pain vanished, leaving Valentina sobbing with exhaustion. Nearby, crimson light flooded in from the window, and the clock showed just before sunset. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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On 23 May 2016 at 2:27 PM, KAL 9000 said:

Dun dun DAH!

No, I think Do-OUCH, MY SHIN! died of shock when he found out that someone was a better pilot than him. Although he should already know: *cough* Jeb *cough*

I have a nasty feeling that you should probably edit that to 'better living pilot'. :(

"After thinking for a moment, Gene's shoulders fell just a hair, "full disclosure, right? Well it's... complicated. The Rockomax Conglomerate has been our primary contractor ever since the pre-KSA days when J--" 

He seemed to choke on his breath for an instant, "...when... spaceflight first seemed possible. They've built nearly all our launch vehicles."

"When... J--?" Valentina asked curiously."

and:

"As Valentina paused yet again trying to decode Ol' Sam's odd accent, a display on the wall behind him caught her eye. In a case of very thick glass, surrounded by more space-like memorabilia, was a pyramid of photographs of people she recognized. Sir Kerman was at the top, followed by Jorrigh and D.N., with more open spots on the next rows. Big block letters at the top spelled out 'WALL OF FAME,' but... who was that fellow above Sir Kerman? In the picture was a Kerbal  with short-cropped hair that had begun to recede just a bit, bright, wondering eyes, and a beguiling smile holding a dated-looking pressure helmet."

I think everyone's favourite thrillseeker is watching proceedings from the great Mission Control room in the sky in this story. And I'm not talking about a secret Ussari space station.

 

 

Edited by KSK
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Ain't nobody wants a bruised kidney.

I know how that feels - hope whatever did the kicking resolves itself soon!

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4 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Thanks guys. There's nothing like a spike-covered medieval torture device marauding through one's innards to sour one's mood.;.;

Pfft, iron maidens are fun!

*Determination.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's only been a couple of weeks since the last update, folks. No need for concern just yet I don't think, especially if CF has been unwell. 

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Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. :D

Besides, if I ever did try to give up, Val would probably manifest out of thin air and beat the tar out of me. Things are moving along again, slowly. Hoping to have the next chapter up by the end of the week, it's looking quite long. Much info will be dumped. :wink:

 

Tho I really don't get how those "real" artists do it. In my own experience, Pain and narcotics seem rather detrimental to the creative process. :P

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42 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. :D

Besides, if I ever did try to give up, Val would probably manifest out of thin air and beat the tar out of me. Things are moving along again, slowly. Hoping to have the next chapter up by the end of the week, it's looking quite long. Much info will be dumped. :wink:

Tho I really don't get how those "real" artists do it. In my own experience, Pain and narcotics seem rather detrimental to the creative process. :P

Nah - you just have a (medically sound) dosage shortfall in your creativity booster. :)

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So after much delay, here it is. Special thanks to @Ten Key for playing editor again. bxKQEh9.png

 

Chapter 62: Casting Out

The hatch swung open to the protesting groan of hinges already rusted from the warm salt air. As Valentina had suspected, the route to the rooftop was the same as the VAB back home. Right down to that same, angular emblem in the center of the hatch. Her rumpled uniform ruffled as a sigh of breeze wafted past, the sweat still soaking it causing a pleasant chill. Off to the west, the sun was slowly sinking to the mountains surrounded by a mantle of blood, and not even the clouds dared cross it. She took this in for a moment, then, with a sigh and a jarring crash of metal, she slammed the hatch and--

"Bloody hells would yah mind keepin' it down?!"

"Mister Chadvey?" She blinked. 

"No, the other-- oh, bah! S'pose you can pull up a..." he looked around at the various bits of roof machinery, "thing, and sit a spell."

Valentina plopped down on a... thing next to Chadvey. Apparently he hadn't changed after the funeral either.

"Fancy a wee nip?" He said, offering a heavy, ornately cut crystal bottle filigreed with gold. She took it, frowned at the dark liquid inside, then shrugged and had a swig.

And instantly regretted it.

"Gah, is real!" Valentina wheezed when her powers of speech finally returned. 

"Aye," Chadvey nodded, taking the bottle back, "hundred and fifty year old barrel-aged highland naln."

"Taste like rocket nozzle!"

Chadvey stared at it for some time, crimson light reflecting off his sweat-sheened face.

"The bottle alone's worth more than most folks see in a year," he finally said, not looking up, "but Ah suppose... royalty does have its privilege," and spat. 

"You... do not care for your royal title," not a question. 

"Titles," he sighed. 

"Is more than one?"

"Delah," Chadvey said with a wave of his hand, "many. Sir Agatha Alphonse Ritonkulus Winthrope Kerman IV, RSTLNE, PDQ, Most Noble Order of the Panty and Stocking (Honi soit qui mal y pense)."

Valentina could only blink at the ramshackle combinations of syllables. 

"Your name is...?" The question began to form, but after a quick glance from Chadvey, "...very long."

"Aye," he nodded, "m'brother's goes on for a good page and a half, takes him thirty minutes just to sign anythin'. But that's how it goes. Signin' things and decreein' things and changin' lives with the stroke of a pen. Ah grew up on a hundred hectare estate surrounded by such nonsense, lords and ladies and servants."

"I grew up in hand-made cabin in woods, surrounded by things that would like to eat me."

Chadvey laughed bitterly, "well you know what it's like, then. Chew yah up an' spit yah out. Care naught but for their own interests. Always scheming, plotting. Tis all a game to them, just a silly game of Houses. Or thrones, even."

Valentina frowned at him, but he didn't seem to notice. She'd come up here for a bit of peace, to think. Chadvey, it seemed, just wanted to talk. Or perhaps, needed to. She rubbed absently at the Münstone once again beneath her blouse. Perhaps... that wasn't so bad. 

"Ah've done nothing to warrant any titles," he huffed, "just born to the right parents. Wanted no part of it, mind you, but still Ah stood there before mah father an' brother an' said the words, shook the hands, drank the drinks," he paused to do this as well, "all for the sake of politics."

"I hate politics!" They said in unison, looked at each other, and smiled. 

Chadvey leaned back, turning the bottle over in his hands as he spoke, the setting sun glinting off it in a thousand thousand colors, "Ah ran as soon as Ah could. Signed on as an able-bodied seakerb on a merchant ship, traveling up an' down the coast. Saw the world. Ah'd stay here or there, thinking, 'this place is different. This place is sincere.'"

"But it never was," he picked up a small pebble, and hurled it over the edge of the rooftop, "every place has its games. Ah'd see it, and Ah'd run again. Garnered quite the following back home, it seemed. 'Intrepid princeling travels the world,' the stories said. All carefully massaged by the game masters to serve their ends. Long as Ah kept mah head down, and didna do anything too dense, Ah'd always find whatever Ah needed waiting at the local Royal Bank branch."

Another pebble flew over the railing, "and just like that, Ah realized Ah was right back in the game. Ah'd never left at all. Just a face and narrative to serve someone else. By the Nine bloody Hells, Ah was so sick of it. Ah thought of joining a monastery in Kednarm, giving up material possessions, cloistered from the outside world. The life of an ascetic. Besides, they made some damn fine brandy there. Was on mah way there, passing through Kleptogart, when Ah heard about J--"

Chadvey's throat seemed to clamp shut on the word, teeth clenched, his Adam's apple twitching up and down in spasming waves. For a long time, he just sat there, his eyes vacantly searching the roof structures. Myriads of thoughts filed through Valentina's head, but in the end, she just pushed them away, and put a consoling hand on Chadvey's arm.

"The young Kerb, in the photograph, in the bar," she said softly, "who is he?"

Chadvey didn't move, only squeezed his eyes shut, casting down a tear the sparkled like diamond in the fading light. A thousand emotions played across his face. When he opened them again, he was looking at something a lifetime away.

"Jebediah Kerman," he breathed, "the greatest Kerb Ah've ever met."

A hand waved over the sprawling compound far below, "he did this. All of it. Well, planted the seed, really. O'course, back then this was all just worthless mosquito-infested swampland nobody wanted. Jeb owned a junkyard, just there, where the lake is now. Bloody stupid place for a junkyard, between the swamp and the sea. Even his junk was junk."

Then, a fond smile lit Chadvey's face, and suddenly he was seeing something much closer, "but his enthusiasm was infectious. He started with just Werner and Gene, his brothers Bob and Bill. They... they had this crazy idea that they could put a Kerbal into space, with a rocket bodged together from whatever they found lying by the side of the road. But no matter how hard they tried, everything was always exactly 6.4 times harder than Jeb figured it should be."

"But he never gave up, never would let anyone else, either. They just rebuilt and tried again. And again. He drew people to himself, beckoned them like a beacon in the darkness. They came from all over. People nobody else wanted. Ah never even knew him that well, came a bit late to the game, but..." he trailed off, once again staring a thousand meters away. 

Valentina stared at him, his shaggy red hair dancing in the rising evening breeze. There seemed to be a few more gray strands mixed in, now.

"So... what happened to him?" Her voice was barely a whisper. 

Perhaps the sun slipped behind a bold cloud on the horizon, or perhaps not, but Chadvey's face darkened. She could see shadows there, of something long restrained, old and... dangerous. The muscles in his forearms strained against the skin, and a lesser bottle surely would have shattered in his grip, as his eyes focused to a razor's edge on it. 

"A young... entrepreneur, by the name of Layland Kerman," he hissed through clenched teeth, "he betrayed and murdered Jedediah."

"Layland..." Valentina breathed, "Layland... Heavy Industries?"

"Aye, the same. Still Layland Propellium, back then." 

"But, if he has done this, how does he walk free?!"

"No proof," Chadvey said, and spat, leaning back against a metal box, "Layland found Jeb around the same time Ah did. The only person Ah've ever known who could rival his passion. They became fast friends, and with Jeb's ingenuity and Layland's financing, we finally saw some real progress. Sent empty capsules into space and got back something that didna look like a briquette more often than not."

"For a few fleeting, beautiful moments," he laid his head back and squeezed his eyes shut, letting the wind blow hair across his face, "...everything was perfect."

For a few fleeting, gravid moments, the two sat there in silence as the sun finally dipped behind the jagged mountains, leaving a parting shot of brilliant ruddy colors across the sky. Valentina watched Chadvey's face, there in the dwindling light, half hidden by his ruffled hair. She could see the subtle creases in the skin where wrinkles would one day settle, yet he seemed far too young for even that. She wondered, by the evanescent twitches in his cheeks, if the demons he now wrestled had something to do with that. 

At length, Chadvey spoke again, the light behind his eyes fading with the words, "but it didna last, of course. Such things never do. Jeb's dreams were grand, but Layland's... they were grandiose. He wanted to commercialize the effort, sell it to as many governments as could pay. Use the proceeds to expand it more and more. After pocketing a good chunk, too, naturally. He wanted to make Kerbals a spacefaring species, was obsessed with going to Jool..."

"Jool?" Valentina frowned, "why Jool?"

"He never really would say. Just prattled on about 'power' and 'future.' He and Jeb eventually had a falling out over it. They parted amicably enough, with a smile and a handshake. Or so we all thought," here, Chadvey paused to brush his hair from his face, not seeming to notice when it fell right back down, "when the day came, Ah was the last one off the gantry. Triple-checked the hatch, did the final close-out. Ah knocked on the tiny window, gave Jeb a thumbs up. His smile was bigger than ever that day. It seemed invincible."

His gaze reached out over the indigo waters to the east, his eyes tracking something that wasn't there, "the rocket rose with a noise like thunder, arced out over the sea. Every data point was exactly on mark, every parameter dead center. The engine shut down within a tenth of a second of nominal. Then, at the very moment Jeb crossed the Kerman line into space, it exploded."

Chadvey's eyes dropped to the floor again, but she didn't think he was seeing anything, anymore. He had finally reached that far away place he had been searching for. 

"The recovery team saw what was left of the capsule hit the water, said it must have been doing over a hundred. We never could recover it. We found just enough to be... sure.

"Jeb was brilliant in many ways, but he didna know a damn thing about the law," and now the darkness returned, turning Chadvey's face into a deeper shadow among shadows as the last of the evening light faded, "within a month, Layland owned the junkyard lock, stock, and rusty barrel, along with the rights to every scrap of paper and cocktail napkin Jeb had ever so much as scribbled upon. He pillaged what he could, bulldozed the rest, and sold the junk for scrap before slinking off back to Exast. But even that wasn't enough, oh no. He wanted to send a message, a 'good-faith' offerin', he called it. He had the entire site excavated down thirty meters, dumped the fill into the sea, then let any company who'd pay enough dump their hazardous waste in the hole. It's no wonder it's infested with those blighted... things, now."

Chadvey Kerman was possessed of a deep, fearless voice that always spoke proudly and without hesitation. But now, as the shadows gathered close around him and the past whispered its neglected lament, even that began to whither. 

"After that, it didna take long. Our close-knit group tore its self apart, just like he wanted. 'Its your fault, no it's yours! You did this! No, you didn't do that! You helped him! You colluded! No, Ah--!" his voice cracked, he stumbled, but forced himself on, "Bob and Bill vowed never to speak to each other after that. Bob emigrated to Omork, eventually founded Rockomax. Bill went up north somewhere and became a banker. Werner went back to Krünia, tried to continue. And..."

He trailed off, once more staring at nothing behind the shades of his bushy hair. Valentina watched him for a time, saw the subtle tremor in his shoulders, heard his quiet, ragged breath. 

She laid a hand gently on his arm, "and what about you?"

"Ah did what Ah always do," Chadvey's voice rasped over his trembling lip, "Ah ran."

"Went off and joined a militia in Cerima. Learnt Ah'm no bloody good at killin' people," he sniffed, drew an arm across his face, rambled on as if the words would hold the torrent back, "only Gene stayed. He refused to let Jeb's dream die. It took him years, he once..." a weak chuckle, "he once camped out on the steps of the Kleptogart capitol building for three weeks trying to get a meeting with a congresskerb. When he did, the old bodger finally agreed to fund him as long as he promised to go away and stopped stinking up the place. 

"It took Gene a long time, but he eventually convinced Werner to come back. He gathered the best minds east of the border, but they never got much farther than very expensive model rockets. Kleptogarti industry just couldn't manufacture to the size and tolerances they needed. It wasn't just amateurs in a junkyard anymore, everybody knew the price of failure, now. Over in Omork, they had the industry, but nobody seemed to know what to do with it, other than to give it to a young savant named Burdous and hope he was in a good mood that day. 

"It was Gene who finally made the connection. He spent months traveling back and forth between the Beige House and Baking-ham Palace, pestering interns, beseeching aides, bribing custodians, just trying to get someone to listen. Managed to convince the Queen of Omork that she wanted a space program, and what the Queen wants, the Queen bloody well gets, and parliamentary procedure be damned! It moved quickly after that. Omorkian industry producing Kleptogarti technology, turning a worthless spit of swampland not far from the original junkyard into the world's first spaceport. And to support it all, a brand new city dedicated to the whole world, though Ah think they could have found a more creative name than just 'Kerbin City.'"

Chadvey was quiet for a while, then let out a long, labored breath, "and then mah damn fool brother got involved."

"Far be it from him to miss an opportunity to stick his, er, face, into other's business. The new Kerbal Space Administration had to launch due east over Gednalna. Most efficient way, besides, if they launched far enough south to avoid it, they'd have rocket bits landing in Cerima, and sooner or later the Cerimans would start shooting back. So mah brother hashed out a deal to his own advantage, like he always does. But he needed a face to represent the Crown. One already known, but not for all the reasons mah other damn fool scheming brothers were. And of course, far away enough to be..."

He leaned back again, "...expendable. Ah should have stayed in that damn jail cell in Dachland. At least the food was good. But he's always known how to manipulate me. All they had to do was mention going to space..."

"It wasna s'posed to happen like it did," the shadows danced and swirled across his face, "that should have been Edmund's flight, it was his by rights... And there wasna s'posed to be an EVA, either. Ah knew it was a 50-50 chance Ah'd get that far, 50-50 again that Ah'd make it back at all. Ah had to see for m'self, with mah own two eyes. Not just that silly little periscope. Ah knew Ah'd never get another chance. So Ah popped the hatch and stuck mah head out. Almost couldn't get it closed again. They covered it up, o'course, made it look like it was planned all along. Afterwords..."

The evening breeze rose toward a steady wind, and Chadvey seemed to draw in upon himself, diminish, as if shrouding himself against it. Or perhaps something else. 

"Long as Ah've known Gene... that's the only time Ah've ever seen him angry. Not because Ah broke procedure or embarrassed the Agency, but because Ah risked mah life. Needlessly. Ah don't think he's ever really trusted me, since."

"So here's to mah damn fool brother, long-may-he-reign!" He suddenly blurted out, thrusting the bottle up into the air, "everybody raise a glass! Raise it up his royal...!"

His intensity died away, and he paused there, before pouring out a libration on the roof, "and here's to the lost, may they rest in peace. And now poor Dean, too. He deserved better. Knew it was coming, didna think it'd happen like it did, but Ah knew something would. It'll all fall apart, now. Always does. They've cancelled the spaceplane program, announcement'll come in a day or two. The rest of it wont last. Layland always gets his way. Just a matter of time. 

"You can tell the others," barely a whisper, "Ah'll be gone by morning."

"What?!" Valentina cried, "you're leaving? Why?!"

The bottle turned over in Chadvey's hands, starlight glinting off the dozens of facets. His face was nearly hidden by the darkness. 

"It's what Ah do. There's nothing for me here, now, if ever there was. Ah can fly but Ah'm no pilot. Ah know mechanics but Ah'm no engineer. Ah've written books but Ah'm no scientist. Ah'm nothin'. Nothin' but a..."

The darkness swirled, and he seemed to sink into it, disappear, as he closed his eyes.

"...figurehead."

Valentina sat there for a time, staring off into that darkness, the wind blowing her hair back from her face, before she finally spoke.

"Is so. You are stupid, stuck up PЦTIЙSКI."

"Ah--" Chadvey's head swung around so quickly his neck crackled, "WOT?!"

"You are stupid, stuck-up PЦTIЙSКI," she nodded thoughtfully to herself, then reached out without looking and seized him by the collar, pulling his face to hers.

"They will listen to you!" Valentina roared with every bit of volume in her small frame, "you! You, who is comrade to pilot, cohort to engineer, colleague to scientist! Apparatchik respect you; cadet, adore you! You, alone in this crazy, backwards place, they will listen to you!"

She shoved him away, crossing her arms, "but no, you rather sit on rooftop feeling sorry for self, drinking bad liquor taste like rocket nozzle. You are stupid, stuck-up PЦTIЙSКI."

Chadvey could only gape at her, his eyes wide and pleading in the gloom, "Ah... Ah dunna understand..."

More softly, she turned to him, hugging her arms tighter against her chest, "perhaps... first you must believe... and let understanding... come later," then blinked in spite of herself. Where did that come from?!

Shadows danced about his face more rapidly than ever, his huge eyes darting and searching. The wind rose to a howl as the darkness seemed to press in from all sides. Then, all at once, the shadows fled... an instant before the rooftop floodlights came on.

"Bloody hells, yer right!"

Chadvey looked to the ornate, gilded bottle in his hands, "this does taste like a rocket nozzle!" He slammed the cork back in, "Ah dunna need this!" With a grunt, he hurled it over the side of the building.

<bonk> Ow! Hey, what's the big i-- THAAAANKS, MISTER!

"Ah am a stupid, stuck up PЦTIЙSКI!" he jumped up from the metal cover, thrusting a leg up on the railing as the rushing wind blew his hair and pulled his clothes.

"Well Ah'm through runnin'!" He bellowed to the night, "they want a figurehead, well Ah'll give 'em a figurehead! If that bum with the funny accent wants a team player, that's what he'll get, but maybe not for the team he thinks! Tomorrow, Ah'ma march right into Gene's office and--"

He stopped as he noticed the horrified look frozen on Valentina's face, "what now?"

She clapped one hand to her eyes and pointed with the other, "your kilt..."

Chadvey looked down, "bloody hells!" and quickly dropped his leg, "and it's not a kilt."

"Is.. is not kilt?" Valentina peeked from between her fingers.

"Bah, any old fool can gird his loins with a bit o' cloth and call it a kilt, but it takes a real Kerb to wear a skirt!"

She dropped her hands and gaped at him, then drew one slowly to her face, "you people are so strange..."

Below the other, the Münstone continued to burn like fire against her skin.

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Ahhh - I always did figure Chadvey as a whisky drinker. Sounds like he just lost his taste for Laphroaig though.  He's also spot on about the skirt. :)

Did I just think out loud again. 

On a serious note - great back story, even if it's inexplicably blown all the dust off my monitor. That's what I'm blaming the damp eyes on anyway. Yeah. Oh and I did like:

11 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

He spent months traveling back and forth between the Beige House and Baking-ham Palace,

:) 

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On June 18, 2016 at 4:09 PM, SpaceplaneAddict said:

Rest in peace, the true BadS.

My earliest (mental) drafts here had Jeb accepting an offer he couldn't refuse and retiring to a tropical beach somewhere. But then I got to thinking, naw, that is NOT Jeb's style. 

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