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


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Chapter 46: Food and Drink

Valentina tilted her head one way. Then she slowly tilted it back the other. One eye... bulge was raised, the corner of her lip just below it matched. Somewhere, distantly, some part of her mind told her she should probably be offended, but... it was all just too weird. It was so absurd that surely it must be satirizing something, but she wasn't getting the joke. She tried switching the raised part of her face. Nope, still didn't make sense. 

Every room here in the Kerbonaut center had its own entertainment box. Bit of a wordy name for it, that. They had them back in the Union too, of course, but not nearly in such numbers! Quite literally every room in the building had one. And so many channels! Why, there must be a dozen of them, maybe a dozen and a half! Some things weren't all that different, but others were extremely, well, foreign.

The news programs were straightforward enough, if unusually frank. Although the weatherkerb who stood there so happily describing the incessant heat and humidity in the forecast was certainly in need of a sound beating. The "game-shows" were endlessly entertaining, apparently they would just give you all sorts of very nice things if you were willing to embarrass yourself on a national broadcast. Valentina still didn't quite grasp this concept of this "vacation" they mentioned so much. 

After that had been a long block of very strange, very serious people saying very serious things. Something about an hourglass and a hospital. Which was good, she supposed, as there seemed to be a lot of brain tumors involved as well. It was all quite confusing and just a bit melodramatic. 

And then she had found the Gytepi channel. 

It was some sort of satellite feed, apparently. She knew the Union had launched a number of communications satellites for the Gytepis, but... they certainly had some truly bizarre taste in programming. Their "game-shows" went far beyond the Foreigners', Valentina hadn't come close to discerning was was actually going on or even what the point was, but had laughed herself silly all the same.

But now, this. 

She tilted her head again. She really should be offended, she thought, even appalled, but... it was just so strange. This was either the work of a truly depraved mind or social commentary so brilliant it was far beyond her understanding. So she just shrugged, kept watching, and popped another morsel into her mouth with the funny little sticks. 

General Chang's chicken. "Gytepi day" in the cafeteria downstairs, someone had said. The food was delicious, even if the presentation was quite odd. It was served in little white containers with cute metal handles, and had to be eaten somewhere other than the cafeteria, so she had brought it back here to her room. There were half a dozen empty containers scattered about her small table. The attendant had given her a strange look when she had bought them, perhaps she had taken too few? There were many different dishes prepared, was it courtesy to sample them all? What she had finished was amazingly good, but this one was by far her favorite, such a delightful mix of sweet and sour and crunchy and firm. Not really what she would have expected a general to eat, though, and the bits had a tendency to cling on to the side of the container. 

The little wooden sticks circled the inside of the container a few times, and Valentina looked down and frowned. Empty. Just one of those skinny red peppers left. She knew better than to touch those, the Gytepis probably used them as rocket fuel. She sighed, set the container down, then burst out laughing. Her hand slapped to her mouth, eyes wide and searching. 

There was nothing funny. What was on the entertainment box certainly was not funny and what was in the take out box, or rather the lack thereof, was just plain sad. That bizarre sensation again, like she was feeling someone else's emotions. Valentina sighed again, and rubbed her face. It must be the strange drink at the bar. She should go ask about it. 

Before her, on the entertainment box, the... program was ending with a jarringly upbeat pop song. It was immediately followed by an advert for this "Wutani Kokuni" corporation. The spokes...thing was an anthropomorphic kitten. Valentina couldn't understand a single word, of course, but it was such a strange mascot for a large electronics firm. Deciding that was enough weirdness for one day, she reached over and clicked off the box... and paused. The emblem on the unit was the same as the one in the advert. Frowning, she wondered how many other electronic gizmos around here featured that same emblem. 

She sighed and pushed the thought away, turning to the window. The sun was just dipping below the horizon in a flourish of orange and red. Day became night very quickly here, but the sunsets were always magnificent, the sun seemed to sink right into the ocean driving a thousand brilliant hues as it went. It was a pleasant end to a, well, rather unremarkable day. Valentina had spent most of the morning giving interviews to the incredible variety of news agencies in the area, and met the mayor of Kerbin City to the south, who of course had invited her to come for an official visit, meet more official people, et cetera, et cetera. Then came a very stuffy lunch with the KSA Board of Directors. 

Pfft.

At first she'd thought it was the KSA's own little Imperium, minus the pointy beards. Instead, they would have fit right in with the typical ineffectual mid-level apparatchiks back home. Gene had done an impressive job trying to keep conversation flowing, but Valentina suspected he was the only other one in the room who had the slightest idea which end of a rocket was supposed to point towards space. 

And then, well, nothing. She had been on her own the entire afternoon, and spent it watching the confounding pictures on the entertainment box. Which wasn't bad, of course, but... somehow she had suspected more... structure to an official visit. She had the growing feeling this trip was every bit as improvised as it felt, and that led to the even more unnerving feeling that someone had arranged it get rid of her. Valentina shuddered, and recoiled from the thought. Too many implications down that road. Best to avoid it, and deal with what she could see. Everyone back home would be all right... right?

Again she pulled away from the thought. Her task here was to gather information about a new KSA spacecraft. That was seeming an odd thing too, they certainly didn't appear very secretive around here. She looked out the window toward the launchpad, where Burdous's rocket stood bathed in floodlights in the waning twilight, and shrouded in scaffolding. That certainly couldn't lift a ship of any size to orbit, and this "Rockomax" seemed unable to deliver a replacement. But surely development of the ship its self was proceeding... might it be as simple as just, well, asking someone? Wouldn't Imperium intelligence--

Again Valentina burst out laughing for no sensible reason. Someone, somewhere was having a grand old time, which irritated her to no end, being in on neither the punchline nor the joke. She stood up with a grunt, enough of this nonsense! She was going to march right down to that strange bar and find out what they put in her drink!

***

The place was considerably more... muted, this evening. Valentina stared, slack-jawed, around the room. Not a single glass looked out of place. Tables, chairs, all of it... looked perfectly normal. There were perhaps twenty people scattered widely about the main floor, a Kerbal on the stage was butchering a vaguely familiar song, but no one was bothering to throw anything at him. Then she spotted a lone figure seated at the bar, and thoughts of drink additives quickly evaporated. 

"Mister Edmund?" She said curiously. 

"Well, wasn't expecting to see you back here so soon," he replied with a smile that looked a bit forced. 

"You... are all alone, tonight," not a question. 

"Um, yes... when I drink alone I prefer to be by myself."

"Oh! Apologies, please. I will not disturb you further."

Edmund laughed bitterly, and gestured to the barstool with the drink in his hand, not quite looking her way, "relax, it's just a song. Get your tush in the seat."

Valentina managed to do so without embarrassing herself too much, stupid tall barstools.

"Your rattail," she pointed, "is not lit."

"Huh? Oh," Edmund looked at the whitish stick in his fingers, then bit the end off, " it's candy. Can't smoke in here, either. How's that for a bar? Can't drink, can't smoke, but scheduled gratuitous violence is encouraged."

His brow pinched, while he continued to stare at the wall of bottles, "they call cigarettes 'rattails' in Ussari?"

"No, are actual rat tails," she smiled innocuously, "is thriving cottage industry."

Edmund opened his mouth. 

Edmund closed his mouth.

He shrugged, "ok... not the strangest thing I've heard."

Ol' Sam meandered by about this time, "and what'll it be for ye, mum?"

What was that line from the entertainment box again? "Um... I have what he having."

"Yar, comin' roit up." 

A short glass, a single bottle flipped in the air, then plink, plink.

"And leave the bottle," Edmund said. 

Ol' Sam frowned, "suit yerself, but that's no way to be."

Valentina was still staring at her drink. She reached into the glass and plucked a rock out, studied it for a moment, then dropped it back in.

Beside her, Edmund chuckled, "don't ask."

He had turned a bit and--

"Oh!" Valentina cried, "your chin!"

"It's nothing," Edmund tried to cover the little bits of paper closing the skin, "he got one good one in and--"

"I am so sorry!" She pleaded, "I did not mean to cause problem, I--"

"Now don't you even start with that!" Snapped Edmund, "Dean had it coming. For once he actually reaped as he sowed."

Valentina blinked at the odd phase, then turned to her drink, and grimaced at the deep, smoky taste of the dark liquid.

"Is as they say," she sighed, "he is big shower head."

"Shower head?" 

"I think she means d-ouch, me shin!" Another rock plopped into Valentina's glass as Ol' Sam dropped to a knee, "blimey, that smarts! Best go get a bandaid meself."

"Yeah, like that," Edmund said, topping off his drink from the bottle.  

The two sat in silence for a time, taking turns staring at their own drinks, or at the rows of multicolored bottles on the wall behind the bar. 

At length, Valentina spoke, "drinking alone in empty bar, and so early, in my country, this is thing of mourning. Is not so, here?"

"Mourning," Edmund grunted, "s'pose that's one way to put it."

She frowned, "has someone died?"

"Yeah, my career."

"How... do you mean?"

"Got the mission assignment today," he said wistfully, "Command Pilot for DUOS 1," 

"I... do not understand. This is not thing for celebration?"

Edmund turned a bit, and waved the arm in its sling at her, "that shows you how confident they are it'll ever fly."

"What is this DUOS 1?"

"A spacecraft without a booster. Was supposed to be our answer to that Zare-ya of yours."

"Zarya," with effort, Valentina kept her face neutral. New space craft... 

"Close enough," Edmund said with a wave, "it's got problems of its own, but that doesn't even matter with Rockomax making like it's a damn fireworks company."

He turned back towards the wall, "this is how they hang you out to dry."

Silence descended once again. Was this the new spacecraft the Kommissar had mentioned? Edmund hadn't hesitated to mention it, there didn't seem to be any real secrecy about it at all. It felt more like... shame. But... the Imperium had ways of finding things out, surely more reliable than sending a nosy Kerbonaut. What were they playing at? Unless--

Edmund simply began speaking, staring into his glass as if seeking insight there, "it was my fault, after all. I felt it when the solids let go, knew something was wrong even before the chamber pressure on number two dropped out. Half the board lit up red. But I hesitated. I knew that stack better than any bird I've ever flown, I knew it couldn't tolerate an engine out. I saw the needle moving off the vector, heard mission control screaming in my ear. But I hesitated. I kept thinking, maybe it'll straighten out, maybe it's not over. Maybe if I give it just one more instant... I can still play the hero, like..."

He took a deep breath, then sighed it out, "Chadvey."

"By the time I reached for the abort handle, the breakup had already started. Torque came on so strong it slammed my arm into the couch rest. Snapped the bones like toothpicks, did something to my shoulder I can't even pronounce. When I came to, I was on the deck of an Ussari trawler, getting mouth-to-mouth from some burly bearded fisherkerb."

He stared up at the wall again, or rather, somewhere far beyond it, "I should have stayed on that damn boat. Always loved to fish."

 After another heavy silence, Valentina asked, "Sir Kerman, you do not like him?" 

"Hm? Oh, never call him that, he hates that," Edmund said, "we get along well enough, but it's... complicated."

His eyes rose to the picture case above the bar, "it was supposed to be me, y'know. Way back when, when Kleptogart and Omork first starting discussing a joint space program, after J--" he winced hard and lowered his face, waving vaguely at the photographs.

"Just... after. I was number one on the flight roster, then the Gednalnans started making a stink. Didn't want our rockets landing their heads. Airheads today, warheads tomorrow, that's what they said. Everyone knew it was malarkey, but the politicians did what they do. And Chadvey was the keystone. Close enough to their king to have his ear, far enough to be expendable."

Edmund topped off his drink again, "so that was the arrangement. Gednalna would allow overflights, build a tracking radar on Zaroeka... and Chadvey Kerman becomes the first Kerbal in space..."

"...officially," he sighed deeply. 

"And he's coming back tomorrow. Always has been a bit of a flake, but he'd never miss a comrade's launch," he downed the rest of his drink, then sat idly stirring the rocks with a finger, "I just wish... things could have been different. That I could have been... remembered."

Edmund pursed his lips, and stared down into the worn, scarred wood of the bar, "but if wishes were RatSquirrelFishes then beggars would gag. My old grandpabbie said that. Still doesn't make sense."

"Oh, and in case no one's told you, never sleep by the lake," he waved in her direction, then went back to studying the bar. 

Silence stretched on again, thick and pleading. 

Valentina did not look at him, just kept staring down into her own drink, "staging was nominal, at first. Then I saw needle move off vector, for second time. Radio, is just static, gee force, too much. I know, is wrong. I know, is much past flight rules. But..."

She glanced his way for an instant, "I hesitate. I think, maybe will smooth out. I think, maybe, I still can have honor like Sergei, maybe, I be more than shamed peasant girl. When I reach for knob, is too late. Gee force, is too much. I nearly break arm. I wake at bottom of ocean, and I think, now I shall be like Edmund Kerman."

She turned to him fully now, "then I think, yes, I shall be like Edmund Kerman, who was not broken by sea or sky, who rose from water to-- how you say?-- get horse on back," then taking another sip of her drink, added, "but is no burly fisherkerb for me, only stern look from great sea-beast."

"Would have preferred burly fisherkerb," she shrugged, drawing a hint of a chuckle from Edmund.

"But... now I have met Edmund Kerman," she took a sip, and looked up at the photographs, "Edmund Kerman, who raced alone into hurricane because he would not risk own crew, and returned with shipwrecked sailors. Edmund Kerman, who flew time after time to burning drilling rig to rescue stranded workers, until aircraft run out of fuel and crash, but they all safe."

Valentina set her glass down, and deliberately pushed it aside, "Edmund Kerman, who stand up to little shower head in bar and get punched in chin, for Kerbelle he hardly know, because he is Kerb of honor."

"I think," she looked at him again, "is good to be like Edmund Kerman. Edmund Kerman already is hero. Edmund Kerman... will not be forgotten."

"Yeah, well," Edmund said, flushing a bit as he still stared into his glass, "wouldn't do to have you beat him to a little green pulp. International incident, and all..."

"Wise friend once said to me, 'do not loose heart," Valentina smiled broadly at him, "is only beginning.'"

Edmund finally looked at her, and smiled back. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, a muted buzzing filled the air. Edmund scowled, and dug around in his pocket, finally producing a small black shape. He looked at it, silenced the buzzing, and frowned again.

"Gene's paging me," he said, sighing as he rose, "sounds important, I'd better go."

He clapped Valentina hard on the back as he passed, the hint of a smirk on his face, "and call me Ed."

She watched him disappear up into the light, then turned back to her half finished drink. Wouldn't do to waste it, after all. Still didn't understand the rocks, either. Perhaps--

"You," said a trembling voice beside her. She turned, and looked into the face of a madman. One of his eyes was purple, nearly swollen shut, a missing tooth peeked out from his sneer, and there were two little round burn marks in the center of his forehead. 

PЦTIЙS ЗДЯS, even like this he was still gorgeous!

"I spent an entire night in jail, because of you," D.N. croaked, advancing, "I've been suspended from flight status for a week because of you."

Valentina carefully slipped off her barstool. D.N. spoke in a thin, wavering voice, his eyes wide and bloodshot, pupils dilated. Valentina knew a face like that. There was no reasoning here, no talking her way out. Only force. She set her stance and tensed. 

D.N.'s face began to tremor, he raised his hands as he stepped toward her, "I'm going to k--"

A telephone receiver appeared in front of his face. 

"Phone call fer ye, Dean," Ol' Sam said, looking very confused, "some feller calls himself, uh, Igor?"

Valentina's jaw dropped like it was full of rocks. 

D.N. blinked, shrugged, then put the receiver to his ear. Surely it was... it couldn't... Igor couldn't speak Kerblish... could he? Igor could barely speak Ussari!

An unintelligible, rumbling susurrus came from the handset. First the anger drained away from D.N.'s face, then the color followed it. His unseeing eyes grew even wider. His trembling took on a distinctly different timbre. He even seemed to shrink a little more. Finally, with skin so pale it was nearly translucent, he handed the receiver back to Ol' Sam. He weakly raised a finger to Valentina. 

"This ain't--" he squeaked in a voice that might have been stolen from Lolli Kerman. 

D.N. coughed roughly, swallowed hard, then tried a again, still lacking both bass and conviction, "this ain't over." He limped off toward the door.

Valentina stared after him. Without moving her eyes, she picked up her glass and tossed back her drink in a single gulp. 

Then gagged and spit out a rock.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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10 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

"Phone call fer ye, Dean," Ol' Sam said, looking very confused, "some feller calls himself, uh, Igor?"

Valentina's jaw dropped like it was full of rocks. 

D.N. blinked, shrugged, then put the receiver to his ear. Surely it was... it couldn't... Igor couldn't speak Kerblish... could he? Igor could barely speak Ussari!

On the one hand, I'm happy Valentina is safe! On the other, I really hope someone addresses exactly how many telescopes Igor has pointed at Valentina at all times someday xD Awesome chapter, looking forward to more.

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8 hours ago, Nukeknockout said:

I really hope someone addresses exactly how many telescopes Igor has pointed at Valentina

Certainly nothing to do with Strannik-3.

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Absolutely not secret spy image of Kerbal Space Center taken from weather satellite!

 

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Strannik certainly is quite the impressive piece of hardware, it managed to see Valentina whilst she was inside the bar!

Roofs are squishy western construct no match for industrious Ussari telescope snooping capabilities? :)

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1 hour ago, vsully said:

Next chapter coming soon? I check this thread almost every day :(

Soon as I get home, got another unexpected chunk of free time today. 

 

Also, try the "subscribe" option, will save you the trouble of having to check the main thread :D

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Chapter 47: How to Make an Entrance

"Chadvey's coming!"

"Chadvey's coming!"

"Chadvey's coming!"

The words spread through the Space Center like a virus, likewise bringing along chills and cold sweats. By mid morning, the buzz was palpable, thick and full like the humid tropical air, droning in the ears like the ever-present mosquitoes. 

"Get there early," someone had said. 

"Find a spot quick, and claim it!" Cautioned another. 

So here Valentina was, half-standing on the lower tier of the railing that ringed the roof of the Mission Control building, fighting to maintain her position against the press of bodies all around while not tumbling over the edge. A rare westerly breeze was blowing down from the distant mountains, and a sleek training jet was slowly taxiing to the eastern end of the runway for take off.  

Someone shouted, "there he is!" and for a moment the mass of people threatened to crush Valentina right into the rail. She pushed back, made some judicious use of her elbows and the convenient height of her feet, then looked and saw a dust cloud to the north beyond the runway fence. It meandered back and forth down the old, sand-washed road that followed along the edge of the beach dunes, its source remaining hidden behind the towering hills of sand. As it drew nearer and nearer, the sound of screaming turbines began to fill the air over the babbling of the crowd. Suddenly it burst forth from behind the last dune, tearing along the north access road to the Center.

It was RED!

It was the reddest red Valentina had ever seen! Surely this was a red that would out-red all other reds, and leave them pale and wanting in comparison! Squinting against the glare, she raised a hand to her eyes. Anything that wasn't red was brilliantly polished to a mirror shine that glinted and gleamed in the morning sunshine like a daylight galaxy. Whatever it was was enormous, as big as the great sea-beast she had once locked eyes with. It must seat about twenty!

"What.... is it?" She said to no one in particular. 

No one in particular answered, "a 4000 SUX!" with the awe of one beholding deity.

"Quad turbines, dual-belt CVT, rear-wheel drive, 500-series Kerelli white walls, power retracting top, RetinaBurn™ chrome package, whale-skin hubcaps, all-leather cow interior, and bucket seats!"

Valentina just stared. She had no idea what any of that meant. The eye-watering vision screeched to a halt around the corner onto the frontage road beyond the fence, paralleling the runway, pulling even with the jet as it turned onto the center line. For a moment all was calm, then that calm was shattered by a discordant symphony of spooling turbines. 

A tail of fire burst from the aircraft and the kar's rear wheels disappeared in a roiling cloud of grey smoke. It was noise and smoke and fire to rival a rocket launch, and then the two vehicles took off like rockets, tearing down their respective strips of concrete with incredible force. They jockeyed for position, first one gaining ground, then the other, neither able to gain an advantage as they roared along the pavement. The rail in shook, the building shook, the air shook! Finally the jet rotated, its wheels leaving the ground a moment later, pulling past and then away. With a wave to the pilot, the driver of the red streak slowed just slightly, then turned in to a fishtailing power slide, tires screaming, shot past the gatehouse and opened gate and tore across the Center grounds. 

The crowd erupted into cheers and moved as a single mass down the exterior stars, dragging a dazed and helpless Valentina along with it. On the concrete apron, the crowd spread out some, depositing her there rather roughly as they pointed and gaped at the incoming banshee. Valentina fought back to her feet, once more deploying her elbows, which also happened to be at a convenient height now, and made her way to the front of the press, but could only peek past a pair of onlookers.  

The shimmering red and chrome vision charged toward the crowd, then at the last possible second, fishtailed into a sweeping sideways drift, spinning through 270 degrees just in front of the gathered Kerbals, the rear-hinged door swinging open and the driver simply stepping out as the vehicle continued its pirouette, stopping at the exact moment he leaned casually against the hood. 

For a moment, the crowd stared in stunned silence, as the breeze tousled his bushy red hair. 

"Hullo, lads!"

"CHADVEY!" the throng called out in unison. 

"What was it this time, Chadvey? Wingsuits off K2?"

"Kite surfing at Rim Island?"

"Drinking tap water in Bhangdhong?"

"Ach, no, lads, nuthin' that dangerous," Chadvey said with a wave, "Ah've just come from the great cavy migration in Nusad."

He stepped forward, eyes gone glassy, raising a hand to the sky as if seeing it al over again, "they come down from the distant mountains, cascading over the rolling hills in a great undulating, ululating wave of floof and squeak, stripping the land bare of every green thing. And then, the next spring, their poops fertilize the bloom, and the cycle begins anew."

"Ah dunna think Ah'll ever lay eyes on a sight so profound ever again," he said, dropping his hand, "even if I see the sun setting over the green clouds of Jool with mah own two eyes."

For a moment, all was silent, save for the distant rustling of the breeze. Someone sniffed. So did another. A third wiped a tear from their eye. 

"That's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard..."

Suddenly Chadvey's grin returned, and he snapped his fingers, "ach, Ah'd nearly forgotten, Ah've acquired some special requests!" And just like that the crowd was all cheers again.

He popped open the hood of the massive car, then disappeared inside. A short time later he emerged with a large sack slung over his back. 

"Now let's see here," he said, plopping it down and rummaging around inside, "ah yes! Nusadi yak jerky for Dooding, mind yer teeth." He tossed the package to a Kerbal who caught it with a whoop of thanks.

"Djan chips for Anden, quite hard to come by, that."

"Kofi for Gregrigh, not to be confused with coffee."

"Bobrey, here's yer Kinder eggs, hope you've a good lawyer."

"Camlorf gets pickled muskfish, and noseplugs for his roommate. Those are on me."

"A Zamoan fertility mask, Dilrod, and Ah don't want to know why."

"Against mah better judgement, Loneanburger cheese for Dooddo, and for the love of all that's sacred, stay the hark away from Camlorf!"

He thought for a moment, "and Dilrod, too."

"Looks like that's--" he stopped with his hand in the bag, the dropped it, "my stars... it is you..."

"Major Kermanova, Ah presume?" Chadvey said, stepping forward and offering a hand. The crowd parted nervously around Valentina at his approach. 

"Indeed," she said, taking it, "is a pleasure to meet you again, S--"

The slightest twitch of his eye, "--m... Mister Chadvey..."

"Ach, no need for formalities, Ah'm just Chadvey," he smiled, then waved a hand around to the crowd, "best behavior, lads, you've a real Kerbonaut here!"

Valentina waved her hands dismissively, "oh, no... I am just pilot... would not seek to... um... what you have done..."

"Nonsense, nonsense, Ah did little more than push buttons and smile for the cameras. What you've done, yer comrades, and the others here, that's the real work!"

"You are too kind, mister... er, Chadvey. But, would love to discuss more of your ex--"

"Well, Ah've a bit of a busy schedule at the moment, perhaps you could find me after mah lecture tomorrow? Got t' keep the cadets occupied, after all," then he turned away and addressed the crowd again, "now, Ah do believe there's rather an obnoxious engineer 'round here due to be shot into space shortly, and Ah'm due to go and harass him!"

The crowd erupted into cheers and swarmed Chadvey, knocking Valentina roughly aside as some people hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him off, chanting his name. She picked herself up and could only stare after the throng, her mouth hanging open. After a time, it closed, and formed into a sneer. That certainly wasn't what she'd been expecting. 

But... what had she been expecting? She'd only met him once, barely said a few words, but somehow... she had expected... what exactly? Someone not so... flighty? Full of himself? Aloof? Just plain rude? No, that wasn't right either. She frowned. There seemed to be a lot of people like that around here. Back home, at least everyone knew their place, even if they were forced into it. Perhaps pilfering information about spacecraft from such people wasn't so bad. 

Beneath her shirt, Dibella's Münstone grew cold against her skin. She rubbed at it absently. It did that a lot, even here. This titanium certainly was incredible stuff, not even noon yet and the air was already thick and stifling, for it to draw heat away like that was quite--

"Now that there is a feller who knows how to make himself an entrance."

Valentina stifled a yelp and spun around.

"Howdy, ma'am," J.R. said, tipping his huge black hat, "lookin' like another scorcher today, Ah reckon."

"Um, yes, is quite hot," she said. How on Kerbin did he manage to go around in all those layers of black cloth and not even be sweating?

"Ah trust y'all are setting in to yer new digs satisfactorily?" that predatory smile flashed again.

She glanced around, wonder who else he was referring to, "yes... accommodations are quite nice. Is very different here..."

"Reckon it is," he pursed his lips and nodded thoughtfully, "found it a good might different mahself, when Ah first come over from Exast."

She blinked, "You are... foreigner here too?" 

He pushed the brim of his hat up with a thumb, "figured the drawl gave me up a mile away."

Mile? That was a kilometer and a bit, right?  Something about a king's shin, or was it kneecap? 

J.R. continued, seemingly oblivious to Valentina's mental calculation, "been with the Company since the very beginning, when it was nuthin' more than one mule-stubborn young roughneck and and a rusty ol' propellium derrick. And me, o'course."

"You have then, how you say? Come up in the world, yes?"

"Indeed Ah have, ma'am, indeed Ah have," a conspicuous wink from his left eye, "so you uh, might say Ah know a little sumpthin 'bout humble beginnin's."

Valentina's brow pinched, "how... do you mean?"

J.R. took a moment to straighten his finely-tailored suit, "in these parts, bein' born humble, don't mean you gotta stay that way."

The smile subtly twisted in a away that most unsettling, "in Mah employer's house there are many rooms. Ah can prepare one for you, if y'all are willin' to bat for the home team, on occasion."

"I am afraid I do not..." she trailed off.

"Do pardon mah mixed metaphors, kindly. Reckon that's the hardest part of adjustin' to a new language, all the new figures of speech."

"Er, yes... These... figures, of speech. Are most confusing."

He nodded, and scratched at his chin, "Ah seem to recall an Ussari phrase... something 'bout tickling a wolverine in winter, don't think it translates right. So how bout we just talk plainly, you and Ah?"

He pointed off to the distance, where the crowd could just be seen still carrying Chadvey, "now what you've got there is a real team player. 'Scuse me. Brilliant feller, knows a little about everythin', and he's been known to do some consultin' for us, here and there.

"Now, Ah fully expect you to return home in a few weeks to what can only be a long and storied career, wouldn't think of standing in the way of that. But you've demonstrated some rather unique talents. Ah've read up on your doss-ee-ay, you've done things by eye that our best computers still struggle with, you've got a natural talent for the mechanics of spaceflight. And ah reckon y'all will continue to be one of the most experienced Kerbonauts in the world."

J.R. leaned in closer, his cologne filling the air, "the Company can really use someone like you."

The ground rumbled, followed by the wisp of a shockwave carrying a weak cry of "brilliant!" nearly lost in explosive thunder.

"Heads up!" shouted someone nearby.

"Incoming!" yelled another.

"Going long!" called a third.

Something large and metallic clanged to the ground and tumbled for several meters before knocking over a vacant forklift.

"All clear! Dorie, you're fixing that!"

"Bloody hell I fixed it last week!"

J.R. turned back to Valentina, hardly seeming to have noticed the rotund projectile, "not suggestin' you violate yer principals, now. You're a loyal comrade of the Ussari Union, we respect that of course. But Layland Heavy Industries has some high hopes and grand ambitions. The kindsa things that go beyond all this silliness like national borders. The world's becomin' a global village, a synergistic interdependent society. We'd like to take you along for this ride, as a part-time independent consultant."

"Like your idol, yonder," he nodded toward the crowd.

"Mister J.R., is very kind of you, but--"

He held up a hand again, "wouldn't ask you for an answer now, just would like you to keep an open mind. Ah am a negotiator, by trade, after all. Ah'm sure we can come to a mutually beneficial, and completely legal, arrangement. The rest is just details, and the details are always negotiable."

The rapacious smile split J.R.'s face until it looked the top of his head might fall off, showing far too many teeth, as he held out a hand, "now, can y'all do that fer me? Just uh, keep your options open. That's all Ah'm askin', fer now."

"Uh... certainly I can--" his hand clamped down hard on hers.

"Excellent. We'll talk more later. Y'all have yerself a lovely day." 

He tipped his hat once more, and moseyed away, leaving Valentina again staring off and feeling bewildered. She watched until he was firmly out of sight, then looked down at her hand. 

One. Two. Three. Thumb. All present and accounted for. Now, to find somewhere to wash...

 

Spoiler

...and a special thanks to @KSK for directing me to that online Kerbal namer 59b86743ff6b62a108cb0d41fdbaff03_61295.g

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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:D

Somebody needs to make a mod for your R&D team! I can just picture the backdrop to the VAB and how it would be enlivened by the occasional chunk of twisted metal bouncing off the ground outside or one of those powersliding vehicles. All with appropriate comments appearing in speech bubbles of course.

Spoiler

You're very welcome and ah'm thankin' yeh for the wee shout-out too.

 

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1 hour ago, Ten Key said:

Grinning like an idiot over here. ;) 

9 hours ago, KSK said:

:D

Somebody needs to make a mod for your R&D team! I can just picture the backdrop to the VAB and how it would be enlivened by the occasional chunk of twisted metal bouncing off the ground outside or one of those powersliding vehicles. All with appropriate comments appearing in speech bubbles of course.

  Reveal hidden contents

You're very welcome and ah'm thankin' yeh for the wee shout-out too.

 

Thunk on this this mornin'. That would actually make for a useful mod, maybe in concert with Kerbal Construction Time.  You get a slider from "sane" to "not sane," the less sane your program, the quicker your research/construction goes but you risk blowing up something important. :cool:

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Chapter 48: Close Encounters of The Weird Kind

A muted rumble, and a rain of dust from the drop ceiling above signaled another one of those "events." Valentina was getting used to them, by now. Everyone else around here seemed to pay them little mind at all, as long as the debris wasn't falling their way. These people were so strange. Back home, regularly demolishing one's workspace, even in the name of glorious progress, was generally frowned upon. 

She grunted, and walked on down the hallway, trying unsuccessfully to rub at the little knot of anxiety between her shoulder blades. That had come unexpectedly with the morning, and was becoming quite obnoxious. She had no reason to be anxious. Even if it was a bit of a maze down here. 

Somewhere down here, beneath the Research Center, was the auditorium. The map hadn't helped much, she's already missed most of Sir Kerman's lecture. Chadvey. Chadvey's lecture. Odd name. Odder still that he seemed to reject the title that he was, well, entitled to. But people here were very strange. She had already known they didn't use honorifics, but quite literally everyone here was named Kerman! It was very confusing. Why couldn't they use proper Ussari names, like Kerman? Or Kerman? Or even Kerman? That one was especially common. 

Bah, let them have their funny names if they were all as--

Oof!

Valentina stumbled back from the impact, a curse forming on her tongue until her eyes locked with the other Kerbal's, wide and staring. 

For a moment, the two just stared. 

"Y... Yuri?" Valentina gaped, taking a step toward him, "it is you..."

"Gaaaaaaaaah!" The other Kerbal squealed, recoiling away, "you can't take me back, I'm not going back!"

"C...calm down, Yuri," she raised placating hands, "no one is taking you anywhere. But why are you--"

In an instant, he was upon her, gripping her lapels in trembling fists, "they left me in that thing... for days!"

His right eye fluttered in a most disturbing way, completely out of time with rhythmic twitching of his neck, "DAYS! Breathing nothing but rocket fumes and yak farts!"

He pulled his face closer, his voice barely a whisper, head twitching this way and that, "do you have any idea how much methane a thousand-kilo bovid ruminant produces?!"

He released her roughly, and stared off into the distance, his face a mask of anguish, "and then... at night... the yaks would gather... lowing and farting and rubbing their scent glands up against the hull..."

"Smile, Yuri!" He wrapped his arms around himself, eyes wide and vacant, "smile harder Yuri! That's better!"

"But... how did you get--"

"I escaped!" he hissed, grabbing her again and nearly lifting her off the floor.

"I stowed away on a freighter full of beets and vodka..." his voice became an unsettling, lilting giggle, "for weeks that's all I ate, beets and vodka!"

He shoved her away again and wrung his hands, staring up at the ceiling as if in ecstasy,  "th...th...theytookmeinhere... gave me a job... a room... a window... a WINDOW! and no yaks!"

Cold, clammy hands clamped to Valentina's cheeks.

"No yaks!" Yuri screamed in her face, his breath smelled faintly of beets and vodka, "THERE'S NEVER! ANY! YAKS!"

She placed her hands over his, trying to be reassuring and also peel them off, "Yuri... you do not look well. Please, let me take you up the the infir--"

"No!" He squealed, shoving her away, "you can't make me go back! I'm not going back! I'M NEVER GOING BACK!"

He just stood there for a moment, twitching and trembling and ticking. Suddenly he spun around, tripped over his mop, knocked over the bucket, slipped on the spilled water and then ran off down the hall, wailing and waving his hands over his head. 

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaa!"

Valentina could only gape, and blink. She stood for a time like this, shook herself, sighed. She picked up the "CAUTION: WET FLOOR" sign, set it in the middle of the hallway, and trotted off in the other direction. 

A pause to glance at the simple map, then turned down a different corridor. It was like a maze down here, and nearly deserted, too. Creepy. A primitive part of her mind kept expecting to find an eldritch abomination or some other nightmare down every crossing hall, the uneasiness driving her rapidly onward. 

Wait, why am I anxious in the first place? she thought, I have no reason to--

OOF!!

The blow nearly knocked her off her feet, the curse out before she knew it. 

"ЬЯЗZHЙЭVS SHФЗ, ДЯЭ УФЦ ЪLIЙD?!"

"No, I'm not blind and my mother is a very fine lady, thank you very much!"

Valentina blinked, "oh! Mister Jerdous! Am sorry, I did not..."

"No, no, my fault, I should have been watching where I was going. You seem to be in quite the hurry, though."

"Excuse, please. Mister Sir Chadvey, was trying to find..." she could only stammer.

"Oh, the auditorium?" Jerdous smiled, "bit nuts down here, isn't it? Heard someone compare it to a gronnek warren the other day."

"Of course," he put a hand to his chin, "it might help if I knew what a gronnek was. Anyways, it's down this hall, then left-right-left, then your third left. I'm afraid you're a bit too late though, the room was already overflowing last I saw."

Her face fell, "why is such important place buried in ground anyway?"

On cue, the hallway shuddered and a gentle cascade of dust descended from the ceiling tiles.

Jerdous looked up at them, "that's the main reason. Anything this close to Fermi Kerman's lab needs to be well shielded... or just underground. Nothing spoils a good lecture quicker than transsonic shrapnel."

"He just... blow things up all day?!"

"You'd be surprised how much you can learn by blowing things up all day. As long as someone's still around to write it down. That's the difference between science and just mucking about, writing it down. Besides, he's on the verge of a real breakthrough, and--"

The hall rumbled especially loudly.

"Er, poor choice of words..."

Valentina put a hand to her face, "you people are so strange."

"It's quite the adjustment, isn't it?"

"Yes, is feeling like, how you say? Like fourth wheel. Like not expected."

Jerdous let out a long breath, leaned back against the wall, and shoved his hands in his pockets, "well, to tell you the truth, you weren't. The Board only gave Gene a couple of days notice, and with an important launch coming up, too. He really had to scramble to put anything together."

"Indeed," she said flatly. 

"It's just the way things have been around here," he said, studying the floor, "you've probably seen it too. One day the Ussaris are our friends, the next they're our bitter rivals, the day after that they're our friends again. It's all politics. I don't care much for politics, do you?"

"I hate politics!"

He nodded, "well, this place runs on it. Representatives from three different nations, four, now that Nefcarkaland had signed on, each trying to steer the Board their way. Competing contractors and subcontractors, a dozen major universities who all want their payload shoehorned into the next mission, a few dozen minor ones just clamoring for attention. It's a mess. Gene's doing his best but it's a bit like herding cats."

"Is... very strange way to run space program. You wander, like vagabond, no course. Very excited, but... no one seems..."

"To notice? Or care?" Jerdous raised an eyebrow. 

Valentina shrugged, "in my country, we do not ask question, but still leaders always have answer..."

Jerdous opened his mouth as their eyes met, then paused. He stepped forward, looking intently at her. Then closer still.

"What?" She blinked. His eyes... it looked like there were little--

"Specks," he said, "those little iridescent specs in the whites of your eyes..."

Valentina stepped back, "yes, I know of this, have always had. Doctor said is harmless, just superficial abnormality."

"Scleric flourochromia. Quite rare, don't think I've ever actually seen it before. And yes, mostly harmless, now a days."

"What you mean?"

An odd little grin crossed his face, "well for example, if the the ancient Vulgar tribe had seen that in your eyes, they would have put a silver crown on your head, a golden scepter in your right hand, and named you ten'bish.

Valentina's lips moved silently for a moment, "...driver of shade?"

"Sounds a lot like Ussari, doesn't it?" Now Jerdous grinned broadly, "the Vulgars were early contemporaries of the Ūs', their language is the most direct ancestor of modern Ussari. Although the usual translation for the word is 'Shadowscourge.'"

"Ah yes, you are this... anthropologist," she smirked back at him, "and these Vulgars, they would have made me queen for this?"

"Of a sort. You would have been showered with all the riches and furs of the tribe and granted the favors of only the strongest warriors..."

Valentina grinned broadly herself, and blushed just a bit.

"...and then on the third full Mün they would have sacrificed you to the dark god Ba'alzacropth by pulling your spleen out through your throat."

The grin disappeared, and her jaw fell open. 

Jerdous smirked again, "that's the main reason their language is still around, but they're not. According to an ancient scroll, they gave this treatment to the daughter of a powerful Ūs' chieftain, and as you can imagine he wasn't terribly happy about it. Supposedly the only survivors of the ensuing battle were marched to the banks of the Never River and had their--" 

A hand clamped across his mouth, "is... Quite enough. Indeed, you do study dead people."

"I find the dead so much more agreeable than the living," he replied, carefully removing her hand.

Valentina snickered a bit at this, "but... how you end up being space-kerb, mister anthropologist?"

"Politics, remember? My brother's doing, mostly. He may have the personality of sandpaper, but he's really, truly a genius. The Royal Astronomical Society recruited him when he was still officially in secondary school, just after receiving his first doctorate. I think he dragged me along more out of spite than anything else, but he did open doors. He got me a research fellowship with a very well respected Gednalnan professor-- no, not that one-- and my time in the Gerin desert, it was..."

A shadow seemed to flicker across is face, perhaps from the lights above, "...it was truly changing."

The odd uneasiness had crept back between Valentina's shoulders at some point. It was becoming quite annoying. Jerdous was a bit odd himself, but... 

"You and your brother... it seems, is much there to tell," she'd already missed the lecture, why not? "But, what was in desert?"

"I had an epiphany, of sorts," Jerdous nearly squealed with glee, "it's been the cornerstone of all my work ever since. Well, except for all this space stuff, but even some of that."

Valentina raised an eye... bulge. 

"It led me to this theory, my own little theory of everything, that all the cultures that have ever existed on the planet are all connected, that there's a reason for it, maybe even an explanation behind our weird local cosmology."

"Weird local cosmology?" Valentina said slowly. 

"You're a Kerbonaut, you're certainly aware that Kerbin and everything else in our solar system is far denser than it should be, none of it should work, and now that we're getting accurate measurements of the mass of stars beyond our own that aren't so dense, it--"

A slow, rhythmic buzzing emanated from somewhere. Jerdous uttered a curse and began fishing around in his pocket, coming up with another of the tiny black boxes.

"Ugh, that's Gene. Looks like another fire to put out," he glanced at Valentina, "figuratively speaking, of course. Well, probably."

"Don't worry, you're a tough one. You can handle some obnoxious foreign politics for the good of all Kerbalkind, right?" Jerdous smiled, and clapped her on the shoulder. He said something else, too, but she didn't hear a word of it. Dibella's Münstone had frozen its self to her skin like steel in darkest winter. By the time her senses returned, he had trotted off.

Valentina stood for a few moments, simply breathing, pawing at her chest. Something was... was... was what? She shook her head, trying to clear the fog that had suddenly taken it. Somewhere, she had to be somewhere. She spun around, sure she would see... the hall was empty. A light in the distance flickered. One step back, then another. No... No, something is... something is...!

Her feet burst into motion of their own mind, and in an instant, she was running, fleeing, the knot between her shoulders now abject terror. Doors, closed doors, flew past on either side. She tried to look back but saw only shadows and flickers.

Run!

Run!

Her conscious mind devolved, nothing but base instinct remained as she flew around a corner and--

BLAM!

"Wow, Ed, you went BLAM!"

Valentina found herself on the floor, head spinning, eyes struggling to focus.

"Sorry! Sorry! Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!"

She screwed her eyes shut, then opened them wide, trying to seek the sources of the strange voices. Eventually, they focused on a hand held out in front of her face. They followed the attached arm, and looked up into the most earnest face she had ever seen. It was smiling broadly. 

"Hi, I'm Billy-Bobrim, Billy-Bobrim Kerman, that's me!"

Another Kerbal was still busily "sorry"-ing on the floor and trying, with only moderate success, to gather the papers that were now scattered across it. 

Still feeling dazed, Valentina took the hand, "yes, hello, excuse--"

It pulled her easily and smartly to her feet, pulling a yelp free as it did, "I know you, you're Val-en-tin-a Ker-man-o-va, famous Kerbonaut."

The floor Kerbal's head shot up so quickly that his neck crackled like dry wood. His face disappeared behind wide, staring eyes. A long, inhaled gasp rasped in his throat. The earnest-faced one's eyes jumped back and forth between the other two Kerbals for a moment, the he gave the one on the floor a light kick.

"Eeeeed, inner-duce yourself!" He said from the side of his mouth, gesturing with his eyes, "where are your manners?"

"I... I...."

Valentina held out a tentative hand, tried to put on a polite smile. The floor Kerbal awkwardly un-floored himself and took her hand with his own trembling, extremely clammy one.

"I-I-I-I-I-I'm... Gas-man Ed-ker! No! No! Imean... I'm... Ed-man Ker-gas! No, wait, no... Imean... I-I-I-I-I-I-I'm Edgas Kerman! No, wait, Imean..." He bared his teeth in something that might have been a smile. 

Valentina struggled to retain her own, "er, yes, is pleasure to--"

"Wow, Ed!" Said the other one, "you're right, she is even prettier in person!"

His whole body tensed, and the hand clamped down on Valentina's like a bear trap. Somehow, his eyes grew wider.

"Edgas here is your really biggest fan, Mizz Ker-man-o-va," the earnest-faced one then spread his hands wide, "he's got this biiiiiig poster of you on the ceiling of our room!"

The other one squeaked deep in his throat, and incredibly the hand clamped down even harder. Valentina thought she saw a tooth crack. 

Finally, he reached over with his other hand and peeled the first one off of hers, speaking in a lilting, creaky tone, moving only his lips, "weeeeeeeee MUstbeGOingNOW."

The earnest one blinked at him, "but Ed, you said if you actually ever met her you were gonna mrrrf grrf prrf-?!"

A hand had been clapped over his mouth, and this "Gas-man" was now half-leading, half-dragging the other one away down the hall, despite muffled protests. The two disappeared down another corridor for a moment, then the earnest-faced one reappeared, hand still over his mouth, just long enough to wave "mrrrf grrrrf!" before vanishing again. 

Valentina could only blink, and stare. Or stare, and blink. And wait for feeling to return to her hand. It was tingling. 

At length, she recovered, a bit unsure of what exactly had just happened. Such strange people here. They both wore cadet's jumpsuits, but... perhaps the young fellow was simple? Yes! Yes, that was it! The young Kerb was simple, and the earnest-faced one was his keeper, that must be it. Perhaps this really wasn't such a bad place, then, they gave poor Yuri a job, after all. 

Valentina's foot nudged something on the floor.

She looked down at the scattered papers, and picked up a heavy book. It took her a moment to translate the long words in the title.

Advanced Orbital Mechanics and n-Body Physics

Hmm, odd reading for a simpleton. Might he then be one of those, what was the word? Savants? Well, far be it from her to deprive a savant of his reading material, so Valentina dutifully gathered up all the papers and folders and set off after him. 

Finally, after much searching, she found the hallway to the auditorium. She stood to the side, out of the path of the throng of people walking out, scanning faces for the strange young Kerbal. Occasionally someone's eyes would meet hers. There would be recognition, a smile, perhaps a nod, but her presence seemed to be becoming less and less remarkable here. That was fortunate, at least for the moment. At length the crowd passed, but without the face she was looking for. 

She glanced around the corner toward the auditorium, and saw him. Talking to Sir Kerman, of all people! Chadvey. Such an odd name. Anyway, what did the young fellow say his name was again? Gas-man? She looked at the binder in her hands. Ah yes, Edgas. She frowned. So many odd names here. But where was his keeper? With a shrug, she approached the two.

"Excellent question, lad, Ah only wish you'd've asked it during the panel," he was saying to the younger Kerbal as Valentina neared, "the thing about n-body physics is that-- well hullo, Major! We've just wrapped up here, Ahm afraid, if you've come for the lecture."

"Mister Chadvey, is pleasure to see you again, I am sorry to have missed it," she said.

"Just Chadvey, please," he grinned broadly, "but indeed, Ah was just saying to young Edgas here-- ach, where are m' manners?" 

He turned to the other Kerbal, whose face seemed to have mostly disappeared again behind two massive, bulging, white eyeballs, "Edgas, thus is the famous Major Valentina Kermanova of the Ussari Space Agency. Major, thus is Edgas Kerman--"

"Er, we've met..." she said flatly.

"--soon to be a risin' star in the Kerbal Space Administration Kerbonaut Corps."

Valentina's eye... bulge pinched, "you are... Kerbonaut?" She said to Edgas. 

Against all probability, this Edgas's eyeballs grew wider, his speck-like pupils darting back and forth like a cornered animal, "huh? What? Who? Me? Go into space? Um, no... I...I...I...I...I'm just a cadet here at the Research Center, I-I-I-I-I could never do that!"

"Oh, nonsense, lad, the Corps needs sharp, young minds like yours. It won't be all daring test pilots much longer. We'll need someone in the other two seats doin' the real science."

Wait, three seats? Not two? Was this finally the new KSA spacecraft? She's need to talk to Chadvey more about it. Now, how to get rid of the odd one?

"Er, Edgas, was it?" She held the book and folder up to him, "you drop this back in hall."

The one called Edgas reached out tremblingly to take the items, and his stubby fingers brushed hers.

"Hurk," said Edgas. 

Valentina Kermanova had spent countless hours training to handle unpleasant situations. In the dark, upside down, under water, and through thick gloves, she could locate all the switches and levers of her craft by memory. She could withstand 18 gees in the centrifuge without blacking out. Surviving in the harsh Kerberian taiga with nothing but lip balm and a plastic coat hanger was second nature. She had even been to space now, and more than once. 

But nothing, nothing could have prepared her for the torrent that suddenly erupted from Edgas's mouth. It spewed forth with all the fumes and rage of a rocket engine plume, deflected off the book, sprayed splattered and filled the hallway with billowing, foamy clouds like a rocket launch. Conscious thought had run, screaming, for the nearest bunker, and for all her training, she could do nothing but hold fast against the onslaught. 

After what seemed like an eternity, the flow ebbed, slowed, and then ceased, leaving the hall quiet. The three Kerbals just stared, wide eyed, at nothing. For some time the pungent silence was broken only by the soft plip... plip... plip... of liquid on linoleum. 

"Oh dear," Chadvey finally said, his shaggy, red hair matted into a dark mass against his neck, "oh dear, dear, dear, dear, dear..."

The one called Edgas's face was a frozen rictus of horror, that Valentina was sure mirrored her own. His pupils had disappeared to singularities. The book and folder slowly slipped from her still-outstretched hand and made a horrid thick splashing noise as they hit the floor.

"Excuse us, please, Major," Chadvey said softly, gently gripping Edgas's shoulders with a squish, "come lad, let's get you to the infirmary." He guided the younger Kerbal away, slowly, hand still outstretched. 

Valentina stood there for a long time, unblinking, gaping, her own hand dripping before her. 

"PЦTIЙ!" She swore aloud. She looked around and took stock. Incredibly, the book seemed to have shielded her from most of the noxious assault. She turned stiffly, hand still out, and headed for the nearest washroom. 

To boil it. 
 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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So, I hope this last chapter gives as many grins as it gave me writing it. Been looking forward to putting this one down for a long time. This was the thought that started it all, well, that last part with Ed & Billy. After Shadows I got to wondering, "what if?" and one thing led to another and lo, a story was born!

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10 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

So, I hope this last chapter gives as many grins as it gave me writing it. Been looking forward to putting this one down for a long time. This was the thought that started it all, well, that last part with Ed & Billy. After Shadows I got to wondering, "what if?" and one thing led to another and lo, a story was born!

It did, to me anyway.

15 minutes ago, SpaceplaneAddict said:

So, is this the end? Of Whispers? 'Cause I tell ya, this was one genuinely fascinating story. Beautiful job, CatastrophicFaliure!

I doubt it, there's a lot that's still untold before Edgas was shot to the Mün... will shoot for the Mün... oh, whatever!

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1 hour ago, SpaceplaneAddict said:

So, is this the end? Of Whispers? 'Cause I tell ya, this was one genuinely fascinating story. Beautiful job, CatastrophicFaliure!

Oh, nonononononononononono! I meant last as in latest. Not quite half way thru yet. And thanx :D:D:D

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30 minutes ago, Shania_L said:

Edgas, Chadvey, the twins, all we need now is a Derpy cameo!!

 

PleasepleasepleasePleasepleasepleasePleasepleasepleasePleasepleasepleasePleasepleasepleasePleasepleaseplease :P

Well actually... :ph34r:

Spoiler

 

He was the busboy in the Dachlandish restaurant in Kermangrad...

Quote

Except the snails. No amount of butter and garlic and pleasant names could make a snail not a snail. Well, maybe just one, when Dibella hadn't been looking. The servers had been had been just as rude as she remembered, except for one strange young Kerb who spoke rapidly and constantly as he cleared away their plates. They had finished the meal with ice cream, set on fire, of all things!

 


 

...beyond that, I have something special planned for him.  :sealed:

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And now we come to the audience participation part of the story. -_-

Next chapter will be a pretty tongue-in-cheek affair titled, "a history lesson." 

Quote

Free internet points to anyone who guesses the general theme...:D

So... Here's the part to ask any as-yet unanswered questions about Ussari history and I'll try to incorporate them (minus plot spoilers, of course).

Come to think of it, ANY questions about my bizarre little take on Kerbin would be useful. The more obscure, the better. :sealed:

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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It's not that bizarre. Too many parts of it keep making sense, however hard I try to stop them.

The thing about your canon is that your Val is so clearly the real Val, that how could the Kerbin that bore her not be the real Kerbin?

An idle musing, which doesn't necessarily need any answers: whether there would be a Kerbin analogue to Earth's age of discovery, how it would have proceeded, and how this would affect the nations of Kerbin as they stand today. Whether, with more contiguous land masses, global exploration would be achieved eariler, following coastal routes. Or it might be achived overland. (And would land-based explorers make the kind of long-distance charts that ocean-farers do?) Would there be no age of discovery at all, with the whole of Kerbin in communication from 'ancient times'?

Edited by CSE
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It's cop-out time. Anything and everything that you alluded to in Heavy is the Head, I would love to hear more about! Especially about the Empress (may she rule forever).

Oh - and on a completely different note, somebody please feed Edgas a nice nourishing bowl of mush. Put some spine into the lad, or at least bung him up so solidly that ruining Val's shoes is no longer an option. Because foamy hurk should not be a thing! :) 

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