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


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Loved it. Why am I left with the impression that Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah is indeed the Ussari name of the beverage?

13 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

And deep in those shadows, with little more than whisper, something laughed.

Beautifully done. Of course, now you will have to write a third fic in the set.

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3 hours ago, CSE said:

Loved it. Why am I left with the impression that Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah is indeed the Ussari name of the beverage?

Beautifully done. Of course, now you will have to write a third fic in the set.

Whispers is only about 2/3rds thru as of now, the next Interlude is well underway.  And you're quite right, there is some law of modern media that says you can't just do one sequel, it has to be a trilogy. Working title, at the moment, is McGuffins of the Kraken. I'll probably change it. 

maybe. 

 

3 hours ago, Ten Key said:

That's where my brain went too. :)

You guys do have a point... seems logical the Ussaris would use something a bit stronger than brine in their pickling tradition. :D

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17 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Whispers is only about 2/3rds thru as of now, the next Interlude is well underway.  And you're quite right, there is some law of modern media that says you can't just do one sequel, it has to be a trilogy. Working title, at the moment, is McGuffins of the Kraken. I'll probably change it. 

The Kraken Wakes? :wink:

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On July 7, 2016 at 3:09 PM, KSK said:

The Kraken Wakes? :wink:

The Kraken follows all wake restrictions and other boating laws. Wouldn't want to disturb that sensitive marine habitat along the shore, it's a kraken after all. :sticktongue:

 

I did actually leave a hint to what I'm leaning towards a few chapters back... :wink:

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23 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Wouldn't want to disturb that sensitive marine habitat along the shore, it's a kraken after all.

But aren't krakens typically denizens of the deep seas? Why should a shortsighted kraken care about the shores in the slightest?

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21 hours ago, 0111narwhalz said:

But aren't krakens typically denizens of the deep seas? Why should a shortsighted kraken care about the shores in the slightest?

Even krakens got kin. Who wouldn't so much care if reality inverted into an extradimensional hell, but don't like wake waves disturbing their hidey-holes :D

mPeUQFF.jpg?1

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5 hours ago, SpaceplaneAddict said:

This would make a great book published....

moar plox?

Thanks for the kind word... and the reminder. :D

I needed to backup the completed Act II locally. So I could plug it into the word counter.

Right now, Whispers is at 122,869 words so it's well into novel territory. :blink:

Mildly interesting: 273 pages, 11-12th grade reading level, 7.45 hours reading time, and 11.38 hours speaking time if one were really a glutton for punishment.

 

I expect to be ready to drop the next Interlude Soon™

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Interlude: Whispers of the Past, Shadows of the Future

"Away and bathe yourself, you beslubbering tickle-brained canker-blossom, or I'll have your wee danglies for cufflinks!" Roland grumbled as he pushed past the guard into the sitting room. 

Her Imperial Majesty Alexandra II raised an eye... bulge, but maintained her serene face. Showing an unusual cache of wisdom, the guard let the slight pass, and returned to his position just outside the door. 

Roland hobbled forward, now assisted by a gnarled wooden cane. Any hint of amusement in her face was driven away by the grim look on his, belied even by the trickle of emotion in the back of her mind. 

He bowed deeply, "Majesty, I bring dire news. The Foreigners have abandoned their Münbase, and are now en route back to Kerbin. I am told, one of them is gravely injured..." he trailed off, eyes falling away. She kept her face neutral, giving him a moment to rally. 

At length, he met her gaze again, "it's his eyes, Majesty..."

She pursed her lips, the only tell from a revelation that would drive any other understanding person to their knees with despair, "how long?" She said simply.

"Two days," replied Roland, "enough time to move the girl, perhaps..."

"No," she said, "after all, this was expected. They will not act so quickly."

"Nevertheless, she will be in great danger."

"Her protector serves her well," the edge of her lip curled up a tiny fraction, "you have taken a fondness for her, I think."

"She is strong, but unsure of herself," the mat of white hair about his chin rippled in what she knew was a smile, a rare sight on his grizzled face these days, "she reminds me of one I once knew."

The Empress let her own smirk grow plain, "indeed. And likewise, you've a habit of taking silly risks for her."

He huffed, "are we really bringing that old thing up again? It's been years."

"It has," her smirk faded, "yet it remains a foolish thing for you to have had a hand in."

"Yes, well," he held up a hand that was notably short a couple of fingers, resembling a wrinkled green claw, "as half my hand is still in it, you are of course, correct, Majesty."

Her Majesty was not amused, "that was an awful risk you took. You could have exposed yourself. To Foreigners, no less."

Roland bowed deeply, "we have crossed this matter before, Majesty, delah. It was naught but a nudge, barely a whisp."

"And the explosion?" she raised an eye... bulge.

"Phaw!" He waved his... hand dismissively, "those Foreigners had already raised the blowing up of things to an art, they hardly noticed one more bang. I was not about to let that venomed, sheep-biting clotpole harm her."

"There were other ways..."

"Quite, Majesty," he bowed low, "the breadth of which we have expatiated upon until this particular cadaverous equine has become rather soft and runny."

"And besides," Roland intoned soberly, "that girl is our last hope."

The Empress's eyes dropped as thoughts passed her head, "no. There is another."

Roland raised an eye at her, but something, perhaps in her halcyon face, perhaps in the unspoken understanding between them, gave him pause. The welcome and unexpected moment of levity had passed, and he seemed to perceive this too.

He bowed lower than his wiry old frame should have allowed, "will there be anything else, Majesty?"

"That will be all Roland," she said softly, "thank you."

He hobbled out, grunting slightly, taking a moment to accidentally whack the guard in the shin with his cane and mutter, "eat a crocodile, you artless addlepated Apple-John!"

The Empress watched him go, watched the door shut behind him. Only a moment after the lock bolt slid home, her composure failed, and she fled to the towering not-glass case in the next room. For an instant, reason itself failed her, and she reached out for the scepter...

The jolt threw her across the room. 

Her bustle absorbed most of the impact as she hit the floor and slid to a rough stop against the far wall. She sat there, slumped, shoulders fluttering, not sure if she was crying or laughing. She cradled one hand, hoary frost clinging to her fingertips where they had touched the glass that wasn't glass. It trailed down her fingers, and along her palm, in wandering, jagged lines that belied the nerves beneath her skin, before disappearing into the long sleeve of her gown. She didn't need to look to know the same jagged lines wound their way up her arm, to the gold-set Münstone around her neck. Nor did she need to touch her fingers to it to feel the cold, but did so out of habit. 

That was a foolish thing to do, she knew that, but a forgivable lapse of reason. She was, after all, only Kerbal, like anyone else. There was no point in scourging herself over it. 

The old goats would see to that, she thought with a huff. They, of course, had felt it too. 

Sighing, she pulled herself to her feet and smoothed her skirts. She walked back to the case once more, and touched her fingers to it lightly, the frost already melted. She felt the familiar thrumming run up her arm, felt the Münstone again turn to ice.

Outposts on the Mün. Waystations in space. Concoctions of metal and electronics traversing the abyss of space to other planets. And driving all of it, chemistry, and physics, and equations. They were creations of Kermanity, yet her own mind struggled to comprehend those equations. 

And for that, she was glad. 

It gave her humility. And understanding. Her eyes, as always, fell upon the golden scepter. The same brilliant minds who wielded those equations would struggle to comprehend what was within these layers of gold, as much as she, herself, struggled to comprehend their equations. She withdrew her hand, flexing it slightly. 

Those who had crafted what was within that scepter, and the other things... they had understood the equations, and the transcendent. From that, their power had been beyond imagination. They had done wondrous things. Wondrous... and terrible. To even contemplate their works, she was as an ape before the equations. But apes are quite intelligent, and they learn. And now, an ape not much different than herself had found Ilamnediúan

A chill not at all related to the freezing Münstone at her neck ran down her spine. The Empress left the case, and walked to her window overlooking the bustling city below. Whoever the poor creature was, her heart broke for him. Or her. Ilamnediúan would grant them power, of a sort... and suffering beyond words. It had taken her long, too long, to piece the puzzle together out of scraps of information from Roland and her other sources. 

This poor soul, this Adversary who now held the token had been working for years, chided on by its whispers. And now, by its design three more poor souls had been to the Dal d'Shadarn on the Mün, and were no doubt tainted by the Corruption. But which ones?

...there is another...

She hugged herself against the far more powerful shudder that now wracked her. If he were tainted...

No, that was an outcome far too horrible for even her to consider, and beyond insurmountable. It must be the injured one. And likely the third. She had failed to see the Adversary's plans until it was too late, and now the Shadows of the Kraken would shortly be free to stalk the world. Kraken. Such a silly name, but as good as any other, she supposed. Outside, past the edge of the grand city, the last light of sunset fled the sky, as if perceiving what was to come. Two stars hung low above the horizon, one bright, and one dim. Eve, and Moho.

...only the darkest heart can bear the Crown of Worms...

The fate of the world now rested on the girl... and the boy. She was so strong, but still shackled by doubt. And even now, so innocent. To know the truth, even a fraction of it, would tear her open. Could she bear that? 

...only the wounded soul can wield the Dominion Rod...

The boy... if he was tainted... by even the smallest measure...

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, to steady herself, the Empress turned back towards the case. Had she really become so hardened? If she had the power, would she really reach out and smite the tiny capsule from the sky for the sake of all the world? Her hand rose to the golden chain around her neck. It was a pointless inquest. Those old goats, they had all the power, the power of generations of her line... and they had no idea how to use it... or what else lay beneath their beards. 

She steeled herself. Already, she could sense their approach, but that was of no consequence. The ordeal to come, that was all that mattered. The Adversary would work from the shadows, as was his way. She would have to fight it on its terms, at least for now. Cat and mouse, move and countermove. It would move for Jool.

And then what? This truly was the dilemma of madness. If the Adversary found the prison there, and freed the thing called Kraken, this world, this existence, would not end, but be inverted, into a pandemonium of insanity and unfathomable torment.

And in doing so, protect all the others. 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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23 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Thanks for the kind word... and the reminder. :D

I needed to backup the completed Act II locally. So I could plug it into the word counter.

Right now, Whispers is at 122,869 words so it's well into novel territory. :blink:

Mildly interesting: 273 pages, 11-12th grade reading level, 7.45 hours reading time, and 11.38 hours speaking time if one were really a glutton for punishment.

That's a fine chunk of work right there! Congrats and thanks for sharing!

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HIS...HIS EYES

HIS. EEEYYEEEESS!!!!!!!

AAAAARGRGRGRGRRGHRRGRARARRAAAAAAAAguk.

Outstanding. You should publish your Kraken series as novels. Everyone who loves KSP and the old days of the Kraken eating spaceships would buy it :D

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Wait a minute... "And when he fixes something, it stays fixed..." and "His eyes..."... BILLY! NOOOOOOOOOO! You just brought back my least favorite part of Shadows...

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4 hours ago, vsully said:

HIS...HIS EYES

HIS. EEEYYEEEESS!!!!!!!

AAAAARGRGRGRGRRGHRRGRARARRAAAAAAAAguk.

Outstanding. You should publish your Kraken series as novels. Everyone who loves KSP and the old days of the Kraken eating spaceships would buy it :D

As my overactive imagination is well documented at this point, the thought has, of course, crossed my mind...

 

...followed immediately by thoughts of the incredibly long line of lawyers waiting to serve copyright infringement suits. :wacko:

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On 08/07/2016 at 0:52 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

Whispers is only about 2/3rds thru as of now, the next Interlude is well underway.  And you're quite right, there is some law of modern media that says you can't just do one sequel, it has to be a trilogy. Working title, at the moment, is McGuffins of the Kraken. I'll probably change it. 

I seem to have missed the hint, and don't feel like going to hunt for it right now. But that won't stop me from guessing! Let's see, we've got Shadows, a visual effect, and Whispers, an auditive effect, so probably something related to another sense. We have smell, taste and touch remaining, so one of those. Oh, and "sixth," but I would find that one a little clichéd choice so ignore it. Sight and hearing deal with the world outside our bodies while smell and taste are more related to stuff that goes in them, so that leaves the sense of touch. Shadows and whispers are not strong manifestations of the sensed phenomenons, so we're looking at something gentle, tender, ... Kisses of the Kraken?

EDIT: Maybe not, that sounds like it might get rated in a hurry.

Edited by monophonic
The Japanese "cartoon" industry
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6 hours ago, monophonic said:

I seem to have missed the hint, and don't feel like going to hunt for it right now. But that won't stop me from guessing! Let's see, we've got Shadows, a visual effect, and Whispers, an auditive effect, so probably something related to another sense. We have smell, taste and touch remaining, so one of those. Oh, and "sixth," but I would find that one a little clichéd choice so ignore it. Sight and hearing deal with the world outside our bodies while smell and taste are more related to stuff that goes in them, so that leaves the sense of touch. Shadows and whispers are not strong manifestations of the sensed phenomenons, so we're looking at something gentle, tender, ... Kisses of the Kraken?

EDIT: Maybe not, that sounds like it might get rated in a hurry.

Nah, but close. I was thinking Taste of the Kraken, as a cookbook. Covering the finer points of giant mosquito preparation and getting the cheeseburger just rubbery enough. :P

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Touch of the Kraken would seem to fit. Or token/seal/emblem/whatever-the-adversary-is-totin-around of the Kraken?

 

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'Whisper' and 'Shadow' are far more descriptive terms than simply 'Touch', the equivalents would be 'Sound of the Kraken' and 'View of the Kraken' so if we take the 'Touch' concept but fancy it up a bit we end up with...

"Caress of the Kraken"

Which I will submit as my guess as title for the next series .... (or the non-PG rated spinoff ... :blush:)

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13 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Nah, but close. I was thinking Taste of the Kraken, as a cookbook. Covering the finer points of giant mosquito preparation and getting the cheeseburger just rubbery enough. :P

Oh, what, I didn't miss by a mile? Amazing... and come to think of it, deep-fried calamari is a favourite food of mine. :wink:

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Soon my brother was playing KSP... and his plane went down... he had the Kerbal jump out to try and save him... and GUESS WHO SHOWED UP? His Kerbal did the old rubber banding, at one point got so big he covered all of Kerbin XD

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Hmm. Well, y'all are going the right direction but you're on the wrong road. :D

 

Quote

EDIT: Maybe not, that sounds like it might get rated in a hurry.

Quote

Which I will submit as my guess as title for the next series .... (or the non-PG rated spinoff ... :blush:)

 

And if you keep going down that particular road, it'll be Ban of the Kraken. :sticktongue:

So in that same spirit, here's a selection of some out takes I cut... for obvious reasons. 

 

***

...from Chapter 49...

He loves the Solpugids," [Jerdous] explained, "knows every song by heart. He can even hit the high notes, even though it does sound like he's been kicked in the--"

"Nuts?" Jorrigh grinned, proffering the bowl. 

"Er, no, thank you," Valentina said. 

"Hah, hah, dontmakemekillyou*", Jerdous sneered at a giggling Jorrigh, then turned back to Valentina, "...even if it sounds like he's been kicked in the--."

"Balls!" Chadvey blurted out, looking up at the ceiling, "that's what this place needs, a couple of disco balls! Liven it up a bit."

He took an elbow to the ribs from Jerdous, "wonderful observation, O fearless leader. Anyways, like he's been kicked in the--"

"Rocky Mountain oysters!" Ol' Sam now set down a plate of deep-fried delicacies, "tho Oi must say you lads are a good bit braver than Oi, and Oi made 'em!"

"Gah!" Screamed Jerdous, "what's with you people? Shin! Shin!* Like he's been kicked in the shin*! I swear, you all could drive a Kerb to murder!"

Several pairs of eyes blinked at him.

********

"Chad-VEY!"

"Chad-VEY!"

"Chad-VEY!"

The bar crowd was chanting his name long before he appears on stage, to a wave of cheers. A crunchy electric guitar played a quick rhythm, and Chadvey began singing in a high, equally crunchy voice Valentina absolutely did not* expect.

"She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best damn Kerbelle Ah had ever seen! She had the sightless eyes, telling me no lies, knockin' me out with those Omorkian thighs..."

***

Unused "sitting around thinking about stuff" gag:


They got along well enough, but the Omorkians reveled in calling the Kleptogartis Kleptogarters* when their backs were turned, which the Kleptogartis hated*. It seemed to have something to do with ladies' undergarments. Valentina felt she was missing the joke. It was all very* confusing. Apparently Omork and Kleptogart had been a single nation not long ago, but had had some sort of a spat over tea. She supposed that if you were going to have a spat, tea was a completely* reasonable thing to have it over. After all, who doesn't get passionate about a nice cup of tea?

And speaking of passionate, the Kleptogartis were absolutely* passionate about a sporting game that involved hitting a ball thrown by another fellow with a wooden club. The Omorkians also* had a game that involved hitting a ball thrown by another fellow with a wooden club, yet somehow they were not at all the same thing. It would seem there was an absolutely striking number of ways to club another fellow's balls. Valentina had related this to the other Kerbonauts, who promptly laughed themselves to tears until the were rolling on the floor in a most* undignified way.

Once again, she felt like she was missing a joke. 

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18 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

"Gah!" Screamed Jerdous, "what's with you people? Shin! Shin!* Like he's been kicked in the shin*! I swear, you all could drive a Kerb to murder!"

This....

So I haven't actually played KSP lately, been doing a lot of War Thunder, but I made the mistake of trying to drive a tank and read this at the same time. The results were rather catastrophic and have resulted in me losing about $50K from repair bills. Once I even read a new chapter while my plane spawned in and ended up flying a expensive jet into a mountain. 

 

Moar pls! I have money saved up for the repairs!

Edited by vsully
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6 hours ago, vsully said:

This....

So I haven't actually played KSP lately, been doing a lot of War Thunder, but I made the mistake of trying to drive a tank and read this at the same time. The results were rather catastrophic and have resulted in me losing about $50K from repair bills. Once I even read a new chapter while my plane spawned in and ended up flying a expensive jet into a mountain. 

 

Moar pls! I have money saved up for the repairs!

:blush:

 

next chapter is written, just have to finish editing. It's a longun. 

 

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Act III: Shadowscourge

Chapter 67: Awakening

In an unremarkable corner of an unremarkable universe, sharing an unremarkable black hole with the rest of an unremarkable galaxy, hung a blazing yellow star that was, well, quite remarkable. The third planet of this remarkable star was home to curious beings, which was not that remarkable, and even they had begun to notice that something about their little corner of existence was just a bit... off. The thermonuclear furnace at the center of this star fused hydrogen into helium, which was not at all remarkable, sending heat and light and energy out into its stellar system. The planets, asteroids, and assorted dust motes of this system followed logical, predictable orbits, which was also thoroughly unremarkable, and the denizens of the third planet, the most clever ones, at least, had taken note of this, and remarkably transcribed it into unremarkable equations describing the motions of the heavens. 

And here is where the problems began. 

These inquisitive and observant creatures had recently begun observing the billions of other stars sharing their galaxy, charting their motion, estimating their mass, predicting their courses. At first puzzled, they soon realized that all these other unremarkable stars needed a completely different set of equations. 

It seemed their own star, called Kerbol by some, was entirely too large, while its planets were entirely too small. 

According to the physical laws of the rest of the observable universe, Kerbol and its motley collection of space rocks shouldn't work. It shouldn't work at all. According the the equations, the densities were all wrong. If the Kerbol system suddenly began following the same laws that everyone else did, the result would be extremely remarkable, and also, extremely brief

And while this endlessly befuddled those who sat around discussing it, they could not deny the empirical evidence that they were, in fact, sitting around discussing it, and therefore, it must, in fact, work. So, like so many other things in their lives, they simply accepted it, without further questions. 

Questioning such things often had... unpleasant consequences.

Presently, from the edge of the photosphere of this remarkable nucleosynthetic furnace, a single, quite unremarkable photon that had been blundering about inside for the last few dozen million years burst forth. It raced away from its birthplace at a speed that was both unremarkable and very remarkable, streaking, for no particular reason, in the direction of the closest planet. 

Brown and withered, itself a child of an unimaginable release of energy, Moho baked in the heat of that remarkable star. The photon whizzed past, its encounter lasting only a few seconds, oblivious to deep, dark pit it shot across at the planet's north pole. It smashed into a completely unremarkable rock on a hill, and, in the way of photons, bounced off, now going in an entirely different direction at roughly the same speed. 

In just minutes more, it was charging toward the massive, bizarrely twisted world of Eve, forever shrouded in her royal veil. The photon penetrated only a small way into the soup-like atmosphere, unaware of the strangely shifting shadows far below, before hitting a molecule of purplonium and once more ricocheting off in a much different direction. 

Back across the not-quite-that-empty void of space, passing dust grains and errant hydrogen atoms and discarded rocket parts, toward a distant blue jewel. Not to be confused with the distant green Jool. The small planet swelled rapidly, clouds and oceans and landforms resolving themselves, and the photon might have wound up as a part of one of these, had it not crossed paths with a drifting satellite. 

It hit a solar array first, but was one of the few not absorbed. It rebounded off the glass, glanced off a reflective gold foil thermal blanket, then found its way inside through an open inspection cover. Here, it bounced around randomly a few billion times before a last nudge from an out-of-place, tumbling, absolutely unremarkable bolt sent it through a plexiglass faceplate. It passed a cornea, was nudged again by a lense, and finally ended its long, mildly remarkable journey in the retina of Valentina Kermanova, who was, of course, very remarkable. 

"Got you!" She huffed as her gloved hand closed around that wandering bolt, "you uncooperative PЦTIЙSКI!"

A flash of static, "ah, One, this is an open channel, mind the language, please."

"Haah... haah... copy control," she panted back.

"One, your heart rate is becoming a concern, please confirm you've secured the object?"

"Confirmed, I have it," puff, gasp, "I am ok."

"Copy, One. Two, go ahead and pull her out, carefully."

"Two copies," said a new voice. Valentina kept a firm grip on the bolt as she was gently pulled backward out of the bowels of the satellite, her head threatening to start spinning in a way not at all related to the lack of gravity.

"Comrade Captain!" Said the new voice, "you have-- oh, my..."

"Two, control, we didn't like that tone..."

"Control, Two, Comrade Captain's faceplate is completely fogged! I am turning up her circulation fans."

"I am <huff> all right, Vasily, we <pant> knew this would be a breaker," she blindly held the bolt up, "but please do not <gasp> loose this again."

"Once again, Comrade Captain," the other Kerbal said, tucking the bolt into a suit pocket, "you have saved my bacon."

"Two, keep a mind on your words, as well. You know the Political Officer's distaste for foreign phrases."

"Two copies!" Valentina didn't need to see to know Vasily rolled his eyes. 

"One, control. Your vitals are still of some concern. The Flight Surgeon is requesting you take a few minutes rest."

"No, I am all right to continue," she rasped with a tongue that felt like sandpaper.

"It was not a matter for discussion, One."

Vasily clapped her shoulder in the slow, awkward way of spacewalkers, "it is no trouble, Comrade Captain! You have done the hard part, take a moment to regroup, I will complete the repair."

Valentina thought of arguing, but in all... she really could use a break, "copy, control," she said finally. She clapped Vasily back, then pushed off lightly. The tether running from the Zarya capsule nearby stopped her before she went far. Moving by feel, and from years of practiced muscle memory, she activated the stabilization routine on her suit controls and allowed herself to drift. Her arms stuck out to the sides from the stiff space suit, looking like a ridiculous impression of a bird trying to fly. That had always bothered her. Why not make the suits so the arms were forward, where most of the work was done?

She cocked her head, took a couple of gulps of water from the tube in her helmet, and just let herself drift in the moment of no obligations. Even for her, easily the most experienced Kerbonaut in the world, now, this was quite the rarity. Long ago, she'd passed the point where she could no longer quite remember how many missions she'd been on. Half a dozen six-month tours on TINKAN space stations, a week here or two there flying bioscience platforms, and an extremely long half-year excursion to deep space above Kerbin's orbit with Lujorie. The shorter ones... no, she had no idea how many, any more. What she always did remember, and never got tired of, was the view. 

The fans were gradually clearing the mist from her faceplate, and already she could see the endless ice sheets of the north polar cap far below. Looked to be a frightful storm blowing across the ice, too. No, Valentina certainly never got tired of this. She'd often spent long hours watching, from whatever passed as her quarters at that moment, when she was supposed to be sleeping. Oddly, that had never bothered her. She never felt like she needed to sleep in space. 

The two spacecraft and their pair of tethered spacewalkers drifted sedately southward, roughly following the terminator line far below. Mind drifting as well, Valentina's eyes traced the line of her own tether back to Zarya 84. It floated in the void, exactly 10 meters from the malfunctioning weather satellite. Occasionally, she would see the faintest puff of exhaust from an RCS nozzle, maintaining the position. She frowned. 

It didn't seem like that long ago, that every mission had to have a pilot. Someone had to fly the ship, after all, just common sense. It was also common sense that such left only a single seat open for a scientist or engineer. As missions became longer and more complex, the trouble with this arrangement became clear. Now, there were very few pilots left, when they once made up a third of the Kerbonaut ranks, and they only flew on the rare launches of the larger Krasniyy Zarya spacecraft. 

Valentina was, as usual, the outlier. She had managed to earn an engineering degree to keep herself technically relevant, and her world-wide fame made it advantageous for the apparatchiks and kommissars to keep her on the active roster. She scowled down at her ship with a grudging respect. 

MechIVAN had fulfilled every promise of its designers, and well beyond. She didn't really have to 'fly' at all, anymore. Just push a few buttons, and the odd little box with the unblinking green light executed maneuvers with a precision and economy not even she could match. She never had been able to shake the feeling that light was staring at her. 

The collection of space vessels continued its southerly course, passing beyond the ice and over the turbulent green Northern Sea. The shadows of night were slowly creeping across Ryemnarg as they passed. In the distance, Valentina could just see the familiar shape of Kerfrica coming into view, and the tiny spit of land that held the KSC

The Foreigners. Once more the ebb and flow of relations between the Union and its... counterparts, had swung to the negative. The Gulf of Edinkurgh incident, the recognition of South Erakonia, the nuclear-powered rocket that didn't quite make orbit. Tensions ran high again, over silly things that could be resolved with a conversation and copious consumption of surplus rocket fuel. 

It didn't seem like that long ago Valentina had swung open the hatch at the end of a Zarya's docking tunnel, reached through and shaken Chadvey Kerman's hand. The four Kerbonauts, not this-countrians or that-countrians, but simply Kerbonauts, had spent thee days performing joint experiments, regaling each other with tall tales, and showing off what goodies they'd managed to sneak on board without the Flight Directors noticing. 

Things had seemed so full of promise, then. The small orbital module and docking adapter the KSA's Mule had brought was left in space, to be the keystone of a future cooperative station. Months later, a Mule with a full crew of three visited TINKAN 4, setting a shared record for the most people together in space that lasted a long time. Not long after, plans began to form for Valentina to return to the KSC and fly on a fourth, extra mission to the Foreigners' Highlab station before it was retired.  

And then it all went to PЦTIЙ.

Plans were delayed and budgets exceeded. Bureaucrats bureaucratized and apparatchiks apparatchiked. She never went to their station. Eventually, the module's orbit decayed and a half-full tank of toxic hydrazine survived re-entry and crashed into a village in Eduacor. The Union blamed the KSA. The KSA blamed the Union. Plans for cooperation evaporated. After a while the KSA used the resources they'd allocated to build their own space station, grander than anything the Union had flown by then. Attitudes when back and forth, back and forth, friends one day, adversaries the next. Valentina didn't understand any of it. 

Now, things were as bad as she ever remembered. Two years ago, there was some sort of... incident, at the Foreigner's ill-conceived Münbase. She'd never understood that, either, why anyone would want to go to the Mün. The Union had never bothered, just a probe here or there, instead they focused on incremental improvement of long-term space endurance through space stations. 

She never heard what really happened up there. No one would talk about it. An odd measure of secrecy, especially for the KSA. Some said it was an equipment failure, like on that new space station two years before. Others said one of the crew, or all of the crew, couldn't handle the isolation and went mad. Still others said they found... something. Something they shouldn't have. And still others said they never really went there at all, that it was all just a grand hoax to shame the Ussari Union, which of course was really to benefit the shadow government that actually ran the world at the behest of some ancient demigod from beyond reality. 

Whatever the truth was, diplomacy had only grown colder since then. Politics. Bah! Politics, politics, and more politics! She hated poli--

What on Kerbin is that?

"Vasily... Vasily, do you see that?"

"See what, Comrade Captain?"

"Just there," she pointed, then realized how ridiculous that was from her position, "equatorial orbit, just passing over the tip of Gednalna, toward the terminator."

"Hmm, I do not see anything, Comrade, but you have much better eyes than I."

"Control, One, do you copy this?"

"One, control... what is it you see? It it a collision threat?"

"No. No, but... are you tracking anything large in KSA orbit?"

"Negative, One. It's probably just their horrible space station. Pay it no mind."

"No... no, I do not think so... it is too big! You really are not tracking anything?"

"We have no uncatalogued contacts, One. What exactly are you seeing?"

"It has form... It is not just a point of light. It looks like a string. I would guess, two hundred, maybe three hundred meters in length," she strained her eyes until they ached, "I can almost see more, like, spheres... Bah, it is too far away." She watched it go, now backed by orbital night. How could Vasily not see something so bright? How could Mission Control? Something that size must be lighting up every radar screen in the hemisphere! And why was control taking so long to--

"One, control. The Flight Surgeon has cleared you to return to your work."

"But, control, what about--"

"You ask many questions, One."

Valentina scowled to herself. She knew that tone.

"You are no doubt fatigued after you great exertion, your eyes must be playing tricks. Return to your position, please. EVA Two has nearly finished securing the satellite, then we will get you both back inside for a proper rest."

No point in arguing, "copy that. I am returning to position." She pulled up the controls to her suit thrusters, and puffed her way back to Vasily. She had seen a great many strange things in space, but this...

Pursing her lips, she decided to see the Flight Director about it, personally. 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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