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Forgotten Space Program


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Begin Kerbal Space Program version 1.4.5

====

Forgotten Space Program

Hallock512.png

It's happened again. Those space-mad kerbals ran off and completely forgot about their space program. Maybe they shot a few kerbals out into the void and lost track of them. Maybe there was a bit of space piracy. Perhaps they went out for a jog and lost the keys to the VAB. Or maybe.... 

Wait... Space Piracy?

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--

Alone on Duna

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The lander's window had developed an annoying rattle. Up until now it had been solid, if perhaps a bit on the old and worn side. The atmosphere of Duna had changed that, thin as it was. At least the engine worked, though it too would occasionally sputter violently. Bad fuel? Probably. Given how long this craft had been in orbit it was likely that something had gone wrong. Between the violent objections from the engine and the aerodynamically questionable noises from the cockpit window, the craft seemed to be just barely holding it together.

An alarm sounded and two bright red warning lamps flashed on the lander's display. A black-mittened fist pounded the panel, the quick thump causing the alarm to quiet. It was as though the craft itself had decided it was best to not disturb the pilot. The white-haired kerbal which sat in the seat was calm and collected, but also quick to mete out punishment to the things which crossed him. The racket from the window grew louder, eliciting another thump and an inaudible grunt from the pilot. He checked his helmet seals, the sixteenth he'd done so since leaving orbit, then made a small adjustment to the controls.

The planet-spanning dust storm was thinner where he was landing, but still not thin enough to see his target. Everything had the same ruddy hue, an endless ocean of rust. The only other colors were those of his red and gold-trimmed suit's reflection in the lander window. A small grey speck appeared on the surface briefly through the storm, disappearing again a moment later. His suit radio chimed and he again adjusted the craft's trajectory.

"I see it. Going dark now."

He turned off the radios. All of them. 

The engine was still sputtering along as the lander made its final approach. The dust had thinned enough to see the target. A small aircraft, and what appeared to be a large rocket engine nearby. It was impossible to determine how long it had been on the surface, but it was unlikely the craft still had power for its radios. Not that he wanted the pilot to know he was coming. Assuming its pilot had survived, or existed in the first place. 

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Another violent kick from the engine bucked everything in the lander upwards, dislodging a toolkit and other supplies in the cockpit. It had no parachutes, this worn out rusty tin can. He could have rigged some from spare sheets, or robbed some from one of the other craft in orbit, but chose not to. The extra mass would have only made this operation more difficult. If something went wrong he'd be stuck on the surface no matter what, so using his own personal parachute would be just as good as one on the lander. Not like parachutes would do much for something this heavy in air this thin.

And then he was down. Just a soft bounce. He idled the engine and suspended the computers to save power. It took a few moments for the dust to settle, but once it did he had a clear view of the relic. An air breathing jet, on Duna. Not too surprising, and not the first time he had found a test article on some distant body which made no sense. The large rocket engine was also strange, but well within the usual antics of the agencies of the past. Just fling something to the distant edges of the cosmos and wait to see if it works. If it doesn't? Well, that was data too.

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He checked his helmet seals for the seventeenth time and tugged at his mittens. The straps for the crash couch were unfastened with calm and precise motions, and the pilot made his way to the hatch. He slipped into his EVA pack and snared a power drill to his belt. The hatch was almost open when he reached back and pulled a shovel from a cabinet. Best to be prepared, right? He was down the ladder and onto the sands and fines with a single bound. 

The wind was wicked, the blown sand fierce. Too thin to have enough energy to knock anything over, but just thick enough to be annoying. Probably thick enough to destroy unsuspecting solar panels. A flag was lying flat in the dust on the far side of the aircraft. Was the blame his or the wind's? Not likely it mattered. 

There was no greeting party.

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He gave the grip of the drill a quick squeeze. Its low-frequency buzz echoed up through his suit. These were fancy drills, where one could dial in all sorts of settings such as torque, rotation rate, probably even the exact number of electrons one wanted to have pass through the windings of the motor at a time. Supposedly it took years of study to understand how to properly calibrate and tweak these drills for the job at hand. Somehow he'd made it through all the work he'd done without changing any of the settings. And so far nothing had exploded or stripped out on him.

He clipped the drill to his EVA pack and pulled out his shovel, using it to steady himself as he made his way across the dune to the aircraft.

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There was not much salvage visible from the outside, but what he could see was something he would not leave without: a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Power. This far from Kerbol such a power source was almost required. No idea if it was still at a good strength (unlikely), but the only way to find out was to remove it and take it back to his workshop in orbit. The other parts of the ship were either trivial, such as the small batteries, or useless to him. What good would air-breathing engines be in space? They would serve no more good in the void than they would here on Duna.

The cockpit glass was glazed over from the inside. Ice? He couldn't tell if there was a deceased kerbal resting in it or if this had been an unpiloted drone. He brushed some dust off the glass and peered inside, but couldn't make any more sense of it than before. He'd get to that part of the ship in due time.

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The rocket engine made no sense. It had a large reaction wheel attached to it, and near as he could tell there was no damage. Looked as though it had been deliberately detached from some part of the aircraft. And there were no fuel lines on it either. Had it been part of some other lander assembly? Or parachuted down to the surface? If that was the case, then where were the parachutes?

And there was no way he could salvage it. Or even move it. The engine itself was far too heavy, and he knew better than to attempt to roll it. Maybe the turbopump assembly could be useful? Maybe. He'd look at stripping it for parts later. 

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Best to start with the most important loot: The RTG. He secured his shovel and stepped on the aircraft's wing, scrambling quickly onto the useless starboard jet engine. The drill was back in his hand and he was considering how best to acquire his loot when a buzzing noise started in his ears. He slapped at the side of his helmet once, and shortly after an ancient sounding heavily accented voice scratched across the suit's radio.

"Hey! What'cha ya think yer doin' up there!? Git down! Who in the dusty sands of tarntion are ya?"

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He turned to find another white-haired kerbal glaring up at him. Was it his own reflection? No. Didn't sound right. Different suit. Did kind of look like his old suit. Was this his own ghost? Unlikely. He blinked and the kerbal was still there, looking angrily up at him. OK, not his reflection. Maybe still a ghost. Or do reflections not go away when you blink? He shook his head and returned to sanity.

"Apologies. I was merely looking about, trying to decide how best to dismantle your ship. I don't suppose you have any suggestions?"

"Yeah. How about not?"

"Not an option." A smile should quiet him. And it did. A few seconds of confused looks were exchanged before the exasperated ghostly resident of Duna continued. 

"You the rescue crew, then? Took ya right long 'nough to git here."

"How so?"

"What do ya mean how so? Are you the rescue or ain't ya? Here to take old Ludke back for dissection?"

Dissection? Had he heard it right? What a weird ghost. He wasn't even sure kerbals could be dissected, given their tendency to explode into a cloud of spores when punctured. To deflect from the question he motioned towards the flag, lying flat in the dust.

"You're flag has fallen."

"Yeah? It happens. I meander on out and put it right back up ev'ry now and then. But it's my flag. So I'll ya ask again, who are ya?"

"Me? I'm just an old farmer." He twisted his shovel and spun it by its tip on the aircraft's skin. He smiled, imagining the pleasing sound it would make were it not for the thin air and the heavy suit. "Or I was, until the First Kerbal himself visited. Twenty-six years I spent on the Mün, tending my farm and growing the crescent münfruit. I was the last kerbal...."

"The what now?"

"The Mün. It's Kerbin's largest satellite."

"Not that, ya daft clown. I know what yer Mün is. What this here croissant fruity stuff yer goin' on about?"

"Ah. It's a hybrid between bananas and the cacti that grow in the desert. As I was saying, I believed I was the last living kerbal anywhere in the universe, that everyone else had died in some great calamity. There I was, abandoned on the Mün, much like you" he waved his shovel towards him, "abandoned here in the dust. No contact, no hope of rescue. In time I grew frail, feeble. Bad diet, bad exercise. It's hard to stay in shape with münfruit and recycled water and nowhere to get a decent jog.

"And I continued to believe I was the last even after the First Kerbal and his ilk drifted into my base. Ghosts. They had to be. The First Kerbal been dead for almost a hundred years. Ghosts come to haunt and to rob. All of you. Ghosts. Ghosts." He stared down at the strange new ghost for a spell, but it didn't run when confronted. Curious.

"Except those other kerbals weren't ghosts. Not exactly. But they hadn't come to rescue me either. They really had come to rob me. To take my radialogicals. My power. Except I got the jump on them. I stole their shuttle and I stole their ship and I left them to rot on the Mün. As had been done to me. 

"Much like I'm here to rob you. To strip your plane of parts, particularly that nice, juicy radiological device that gives you warmth. And whatever fuel you have left, of course. I'd take the whole plane if I could, it's a nice-looking wreck. Such is the life of a pirate. Take what you can, give nothing back." He paused, grinning wildly at the stunned old ghost. He let his grin slip to a smile before he continued.

"'Cept I've changed. I've more of a heart now. I was space crazy, you see, stuck on that grey lump. The time that I've spent in space has improved my health, improved my attitude, improved my mind. It was wrong for me to abandon those kerbals on the Mün, just as it was wrong for the OSD to leave you here, forgotten. It was the OSD, was it not?"

"Skunksworks, yep."

"I won't repeat those mistakes. Neither mine, nor those of some corrupt and forgotten old organization. Going forward, no kerbal will be left behind. So maybe we didn't get off on the right foot. Please, allow me to correct that." The old kerbal wedged his shovel into a gap in the aircraft before extending his old, very old mittened hand to wave at this very, very old ghost. 

"I'm Hallock Kerman, Captain of the Memory of Tomorrow. And I'm here to free you from this desolate wasteland, from your forgotten space program, and to lead you into a new life. There's room for you in my crew if you care to join. Otherwise..." He raised his arms towards the all-encompassing deserts of Duna. "Otherwise you'll be free to make your own way in this heartless universe.

"So what say you? Plata?" Hallock motioned down towards the jet and then over towards his lander.... "O pala?" And then raised his shovel. 

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Silver, or Shovel. Play along and join the crew, or start digging your own grave. It really was a simple choice, and quite clever at that. He grinned at Ludke and laughed. 

If only every choice in life were so simple.

 

--

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Edited by Cydonian Monk
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21 hours ago, Cydonian Monk said:

"What do ya mean how so? Are you the rescue or ain't ya? Here to take old Ludke back for dissection?"

Dissection? Had he heard it right? What a weird ghost. He wasn't even sure kerbals could be dissected, given their tendency to explode into a cloud of spores when punctured

Unholy Kraken!  I knew there'd been some bad versions of Kerbal civilization come along during the various reboots but I never dreamed one would ever have converged on Circus practices.  That's quite horrifying to contemplate.  Such a collection of dangerous ideas in your much more-capable hands....  I'm surprised that version of civilization lasted until the next reboot, let alone long enough to strand a Kerbal on Duna.   Although, accepting that it did, it's not surprising at all he got there in an air-breathing plane ;) 

In the Circus universe, Kerbals, being fungi, can be sliced and diced quite a lot as long as they're not killed, which is actually hard to do (thus their ancient wars tended to last for centuries but they only needed small armies).  Thus, dissections are quite possible although explaining how they work would require a huger OT digression than this already is becoming.  Suffice to say,.an astronaut's psychological examination entails removing his brain, pureeing it in a blender, straining the resulting slop through coffee filters looking for impurities, pouring the purified slop back into his skull, and riveting the top of his skull back on.   It's an out-patient procedure usually performed without anesthesia and no Kerbal has ever seemed any stupider afterwards.

 

21 hours ago, Cydonian Monk said:

"So what say you? Plata?" Hallock motioned down towards the jet and then over towards his lander.... "O pala?" And then raised his shovel. 

Brilliant multi-lingual rhyme :)  And good to see ol' Cap'n. Hallock hasn't gone as soft as some of his previous words initially made me think.  Also, I get the impression Ludke wasn't the 1st of his recruits.....

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On 7/31/2019 at 3:34 PM, Geschosskopf said:

Unholy Kraken!  I knew there'd been some bad versions of Kerbal civilization come along during the various reboots but I never dreamed one would ever have converged on Circus practices.  That's quite horrifying to contemplate. 

An homage, to one of the more dangerously entertaining circuses in existence. I have a dark history of sending kerbals off on weird test missions from which they never return. (Especially in the days before I knew how to hack crafts into test orbits.) I can imagine a cycle where any that ever make it back would serve more of a scientific benefit if they were fully studied. 

On 7/31/2019 at 3:34 PM, Geschosskopf said:

Brilliant multi-lingual rhyme :)  

Danke. :) 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Well, I just caught up on about a year and a half's worth of this story. I was really glad to see it's still going! This story has always inspired me in my own games and head-stories that I never write down, and I have to say, if you collected these chapters into a book, I'd buy a copy just to have it. I love the way you weave the usual light-hearted Kerbal antics with some seriously dark stuff.

By the way, I'm curious. Why do you use the Iron shuttles instead of the Sulfur? I love the design of the Sulfur and I hate the look of the Iron. Just curious.

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3 hours ago, ruiluth said:

Well, I just caught up on about a year and a half's worth of this story. I was really glad to see it's still going! This story has always inspired me in my own games and head-stories that I never write down.... I love the way you weave the usual light-hearted Kerbal antics with some seriously dark stuff.

Thanks! Always good to know folks still occasionally read this. ;) 

I've been away from this since very early August, and had thought about just ending it here. Things are too busy at the moment (the last two years in a nutshell), I've had almost no time for hobbies, and besides which it's unlikely I'll be able to continue Forgotten as it exists in KSP v1.8+. Most of the very very old parts I use are deadski, some mods I use are broken in ways I don't understand how to fix (and so need to wait for their maintainers or someone new to fix them), and the save won't load in KSP v1.8 on my MacBook. (And I haven't had a chance to figure out why.)

Plus I don't have a working Windows PC at the moment, and I'm not sure if that will change. Even when it was running on my PC, it's been at a dead-slow FPS since about v1.5.x, and performance in v1.7.x was coma-inducing. That's mostly my fault for scattering several many-hundreds-part ships around the Kerbol system. :D But it also has a bit to do with the game being forced to deal with more than a half decade of persistence file cruft. 
 

Quote

... and I have to say, if you collected these chapters into a book, I'd buy a copy just to have it.

That unfortunately won't happen. Squad wouldn't allow such things even before the TakeTwo TakeOver; and TakeTwo and the KSP corporate enchilada as a whole haven't felt any more welcoming to me since. I increasingly feel like I'm tip-toeing barefoot around shards of glass whenever I interact with this organization (and occasionally feel that way about this forum too).

 

3 hours ago, ruiluth said:

By the way, I'm curious. Why do you use the Iron shuttles instead of the Sulfur? I love the design of the Sulfur and I hate the look of the Iron. Just curious.

Sulphur relies entirely on some very possibly overpowered high ISP and high thrust engines from the long-dead AIES (Agencia de Investigaciones Espaciales Suprema) mod. (Or if it's not dead, the version of the parts I'm using haven't been updated in four years.) Even with the AIES engines, it was still very limited in terms of Δv.

The Iron was developed to both use mostly-stock parts, and have a larger Δv budget to work with. It had slightly different mission profiles in mind too. The result was unfortunately something which resembles a badminton birdie (or shuttlecock).

Assuming this continues into the future, it's very likely the Iron will also be superseded by a new design. (Though there are a good number of them now in service.) I still like the idea of a stackable transport with a continuous crew section running its length. We'll see. ;) 

Edited by Cydonian Monk
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1 hour ago, Cydonian Monk said:

Thanks! Always good to know folks still occasionally read this. ;) 

I've been away from this since very early August, and had thought about just ending it here. Things are too busy at the moment (the last two years in a nutshell), I've had almost no time for hobbies, and besides which it's unlikely I'll be able to continue Forgotten as it exists in KSP v1.8+. Most of the very very old parts I use are deadski, some mods I use are broken in ways I don't understand how to fix (and so need to wait for their maintainers or someone new to fix them), and the save won't load in KSP v1.8 on my MacBook. (And I haven't had a chance to figure out why.)

Plus I don't have a working Windows PC at the moment, and I'm not sure if that will change. Even when it was running on my PC, it's been at a dead-slow FPS since about v1.5.x, and performance in v1.7.x was coma-inducing. That's mostly my fault for scattering several many-hundreds-part ships around the Kerbol system. :D But it also has a bit to do with the game being forced to deal with more than a half decade of persistence file cruft. 

I'm still here, always hoping to see a new update pop up when I visit the forums. I'd be quite sad if I had to say good-bye to the antics of those forgotten kerbals, but your situation does indeed not sound conductive to further missions.
This thread inspired me (a long time ago) to actually build up a proper career savefile; including "useless" things like submarines (was pleasantly surprised that there actually are world-first milestones for going under the sea!) or sizable space telescopes (which was launched on an SSTO plane and now is my desktop background).

If you do manage to somehow port to 1.8, the version change for Unity should significantly increase performance.

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11 hours ago, Cydonian Monk said:

Thanks! Always good to know folks still occasionally read this. ;) 

I've been away from this since very early August, and had thought about just ending it here. Things are too busy at the moment (the last two years in a nutshell), I've had almost no time for hobbies, and besides which it's unlikely I'll be able to continue Forgotten as it exists in KSP v1.8+. Most of the very very old parts I use are deadski, some mods I use are broken in ways I don't understand how to fix (and so need to wait for their maintainers or someone new to fix them), and the save won't load in KSP v1.8 on my MacBook. (And I haven't had a chance to figure out why.)

Plus I don't have a working Windows PC at the moment, and I'm not sure if that will change. Even when it was running on my PC, it's been at a dead-slow FPS since about v1.5.x, and performance in v1.7.x was coma-inducing. That's mostly my fault for scattering several many-hundreds-part ships around the Kerbol system. :D But it also has a bit to do with the game being forced to deal with more than a half decade of persistence file cruft.

Ah, that's too bad. Hmmm.. off the top of my head, I can think of two solutions that don't involve just giving up the story and not finishing it! :D First would be to just stay on whatever version is most comfortable and keep doing resets every time things update without actually updating. It would be a little departure from what's established but it might be a worthwhile compromise. Second, and since this is a major update to the underlying fundamentals of the Unity engine, I think you'd be entirely justified in overhauling everything and consolidating. Delete part modules that no longer work. Maybe whole ships vanish. This reset was harder than the last few, resetting not just Kerbin but the entire Kerbal universe. At least, that's what it feels like to all of us with heavily modded saves that can't really be easily updated...

Also, there must be a way to keep things a little more separated. Maybe have one save for each group of ships and transfer between them to keep any one from growing too big? So you'd have one save for Sieta and her crew, one for Thomlock and his, one for Jonbald and the current space program, and however many else. Then just transfer craft between saves as necessary to make it work. (Actually, that sounds like a good mod...) That would be a pain but it might make the game run a lot better. Actually, the new Unity engine probably would too.

Of course you could just end it and I think you'd be entirely justified in doing so, but I hope you do at least give us a story breakdown of what would have happened so we can imagine! :sticktongue:

11 hours ago, Cydonian Monk said:

That unfortunately won't happen. Squad wouldn't allow such things even before the TakeTwo TakeOver; and TakeTwo and the KSP corporate enchilada as a whole haven't felt any more welcoming to me since. I increasingly feel like I'm tip-toeing barefoot around shards of glass whenever I interact with this organization (and occasionally feel that way about this forum too).

I know what you mean... Hopefully someone, somewhere is backing everything up and this story will never be permanently wiped from the internet.

11 hours ago, Cydonian Monk said:

Sulphur relies entirely on some very possibly overpowered high ISP and high thrust engines from the long-dead AIES (Agencia de Investigaciones Espaciales Suprema) mod. (Or if it's not dead, the version of the parts I'm using haven't been updated in four years.) Even with the AIES engines, it was still very limited in terms of Δv.

The Iron was developed to both use mostly-stock parts, and have a larger Δv budget to work with. It had slightly different mission profiles in mind too. The result was unfortunately something which resembles a badminton birdie (or shuttlecock).

Assuming this continues into the future, it's very likely the Iron will also be superseded by a new design. (Though there are a good number of them now in service.) I still like the idea of a stackable transport with a continuous crew section running its length. We'll see. ;) 

Ah, I didn't know that. Lucky them, to get those when they did! I've been working on a few designs inspired by the Sulfur, and they all have 3-4 km/s of Δv.I could share them if anyone wants to see them.

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On 10/27/2019 at 1:58 AM, DragonsForce said:

I'm still here, always hoping to see a new update pop up when I visit the forums. I'd be quite sad if I had to say good-bye to the antics of those forgotten kerbals

:) I still have a good bit that I've played through to post; I'll get through that in the next month or so and we'll see what happens.

On 10/27/2019 at 12:06 PM, ruiluth said:

.... but I hope you do at least give us a story breakdown of what would have happened so we can imagine!

I'd definitely do that if I decided to bring this to an end. (It'll eventually have to end anyway, even if it was designed to be somewhat open-ended, but I do have a general idea of where I wanted to get it to.)

I'll give it all a bit of a test this weekend and see what I can get working. Cheers. ;) 

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  • 2 months later...

Finally decided to try my hand at KSP again, but this was the first place I had to stop by before doing anything else.

Crazy to think it's been so many years.

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On 1/14/2020 at 3:05 PM, DMSP said:

Crazy to think it's been so many years.

.... Swiftly fly the years. One season following another, laden with boosters and some struts.

I moved to Houston over 14 years ago and I kinda want some of those years back right now, or the chance to change some of my decisions or take some actions I was too timid to take at the time. Not really sure where all of those years went.

C'est la vie. 

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  • 10 months later...

Not Yet Forgotten
2020-11-23
Houston, Texas, USA

Pandemics are peculiar things. Some time during the summer of 2019 I broke apart my home PC, put it in storage, and dismantled the el-cheapo computer desk it once sat on. I almost sent the whole lot of it off to the recyclers and/or the rubbish heap back in February of this year. Then along came March....

It didn't take long for my office to switch to work from home, which we're still doing and plan to be for at least the remainder of the year. I've become rather accustomed over the years to working on three large monitors while hacking at binary rocks in the software mines, so attempting to do any legitimate coding on my 13" MacBook went stale after about 12 minutes. While I indeed _had_ sent a bunch of old hardware and electronics off to the recyclers, I thankfully kept the old gaming PC. At first I set up camp in a disused corner of my bedroom, but quickly moved back to the livingroom, a location which provides the added benefit of using my TV as a (somewhat large) third monitor.

I also kept most of the parts of my rickety old computer desk, for reasons I stil can't fathom. Some time back when this whole mess started I used some scrap lumber to build a hutch / platform thing to raise my monitors up and give me some space to store work papers and the like. I accidentally built this right, because I included a 2 inch overhang on the sides, which I've discovered is tremendously useful for clamping things to. And let's all be honest here - at this point who doesn't have three cameras, four spotlights, and a microphone attached to booms or snake-arms which are then clamped to a desk or some other flat surface somewhere in their home?

It was only natural that I'd be pulled back into this game at some point, that point being a couple weeks ago. In the interim I had entirely skipped KSP versions 1.7, 1.8, and 1.9 and remember being thoroughly frustrated with 1.6. While KSP v1.10.1 isn't perfect (hello resource transfers!), I think it's quite possibly the best version of the game we've seen since v1.0.5. It certainly runs better on my PC than everything released since v1.4.5.

--

And yet none of what I've written above is why you are here reading about this Forgotten Space Program. You want to know how well this save works in v1.10.1, right? And probably what happened on Duna? And whether or not the Jumble of Parts and the Jool Jester and their groups of wayward kerbals ever made it back to Kerbin, yes?

You're in luck.

After I went through the usual rounds of tracking down mods, getting RSS set up (on v1.8), and then experimenting a tiny bit with JNSQ, I set out on what I thought would be the arduous task of restoring the Forgotten save. Turns out that took all of about 5 minutes. In the end almost all of the old and now long-unsupported parts mods this saves uses work just fine. And in one case the mod parts work _again_ after having been broken by a KSP Unity update, oh, maybe four or five years ago. There are a couple new parts with broken old-style Unity textures, but they at least fail in ways that look good enough.

The only, and I mean only, headaches I encountered were some broken SpaceY parts which are now fixed thanks to a ModuleManager config (available over on one of those two threads), and a whole slew of missing struts and fuel ports from the obsoleted versions of Kerbal Inventory System. I, uh, "fixed" those KIS parts by copying them back from an older release and editing configs, just as I've done with hundreds of other parts from long forgotten or rebuilt mods such as AIES, CactEye, and even the original Squad parts. (Don't try this at home.) Those KIS parts don't "work" anymore, as the modules they needed from the KIS and/or KAS plugin no longer exist, but this hack at least allows those ships to load. I'll have some brave kerbal go EVA and "fix" them using the new KIS replacement parts.

I still haven't updated some things like my custom suit textures, and very likely won't except in perhaps one or two cases. Those changes can be explained away through story easily enough. And I do rather like the new suit picker in the base game, so if I do re-add any suit textures I'll almost certainly use that mechanism instead of using TextureReplacer or DiRT. And there's also something weird going on with the sandstorms on Duna and something  very very weird going on with Jool, both of which I'll take a look at here in the next few days.

As they say, the proof is in the blood pudding. Here's a few screenshots of Forgotten things from around the Forgotten neighborhood in KSP v1.10.1.

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20201119_0032_forgot_dres.jpg

20201119_0035_forgot_jool.jpg

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--

There are some interesting side effects that have crept into the save since it was started in KSP v1.0.5 (or the v0.17 Demo, depending on how you count). 

One of the regular things I encounter are craft which lack any of the newer "control" modules in their definitions in the persistence file. By this I mean things such as the modules used by the CommNet for communication. In older, post-CommNet versions of the game, this would leave the craft completely uncontrollable, which is the behaviour I would expect. Now I've discovered that as long as they have a probe core (and a "ModuleCommand" module in that probe core's instance) I can control them without a radio link. It's as though these craft have no concept of radio....

Another are the various jet engines scattered across the wastes of the Kerbol system. In every instance, all of these old engines are "running" and animated as though they are at full-throttle, yet are entirely non-functional. This isn't anything new as I had to edit the craft in the "Alone on Duna" post to remove this effect, but it certainly hasn't subsided with v1.10.1. Not really surprising or a big deal given these ships were in most cases launched in the pre-1.0 old jet engine days, but it still amuses me.

One of the more frustrating things I've encountered isn't even KSP's fault. For years I've kept my saves and GameData folders on my DropBox (using symlinks), both for backup reasons and because I played KSP simultaneously on both MacOS and Windows. Something in Dropbox and/or Windows has changed recently, and Dropbox now grabs exclusive control over files until it can sync them, preventing KSP from writing to them again. And boy howdy does KSP like to save the persistence file often! For most normal and sane save games this wouldn't be an issue, but the persistence file for Forgotten is currently around 50MBs. Some times it takes Dropbox a while to get around to uploading it. So for now I've moved the Forgotten save file back to my SSD and out of Dropbox. I'll lose the file versioning Dropbox provided, but at least it works again without having to wait for slow poke Dropbox to catch up. 

--

So what now?

First up I'll work through the rest of the Duna story with Captain Hallock. I still have the screenshots from all of that, unedited as of yet, and I do need to do some post-effects on a few of them. Once complete, the business at Duna will bring Volume 2 of the Forgotten Space Program to a close, aside from a quick Epilogue.

After that I have some decisions to make. Some months back while working on what was going to be the final post in this thread, I hammered out the basic structure of what might have happened in the third and final volume of Forgotten. It's important to realize that while I've always had a general direction of where I wanted this to go, I mostly let the game drive there and have adapted based on what results it gave me. So for example, had Thomlock died in some freak launch accident, that would've been the end of him and I would've needed to change his parts of the story. 

I'm not 100% sure how to proceed with the next Volume. I had originally considered playing the lot of it in KSP2 with the crews of the Jumble of Parts and the Jool Jester arriving back "home" to find a vastly changed Kerbin. Unfortunately I'm increasingly skeptical that KSP2 will exist in my life time in some form beyond nice screen shots and the occasional video from the dev team(s). And even if it does show up on its new schedule, that means it'll still be 18 to 24 months before it phase changes from vapor to liquid.

So for now we're still Forgotten in the good old world of KSP1, for better or worse. I have to admit the 50MB save file and its accumulated cruft does at times bother me. It's not that it's slow, it's more that at times it's VERY slow. VERY slow only serves to add frustration. And it's large enough that, for whatever reason, it drives KSP's memory usage perilously close to its ~24-26GB functional limit on my PC. Out-of-memory crashes also add frustration. And right now, especially right now, anything that adds frustration is the enemy of Good Enough.

So we'll see. I still want to poke around a bit in JNSQ and RSS/RO and play with some of the neat new mods that have been released in the years that I've not been actively playing Kerbal Space Program. I figure v1.11.1 might just be released by the time I get all of the Duna story posted, so until I'm caught up with that I probably won't do anything in the Forgotten save itself beyond some house keeping and making sure I'm not missing something.

But know this - as 2020 draws to a close, we're moving ever so closer to being Remembered. And being Remembered is always a good thing. (Especially if you've been dismembered....)

Hope all is well with all of you.

Cheers,

Edited by Cydonian Monk
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There is something not forgotten:

The first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched in 1957. It was very simple. A small aluminium ball, about the size of a beach ball, with four long antennas, and was powered by batteries. Inside Sputnik were radio transmitters that sent out a distinctive beep, beep sound which was heard all over the world. The launch of this small and simple satellite marked the beginning of the space age.

 

So I have a question:

Who can exactly copy this mission?

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I’m so glad to see you again! This has been one of the most addictive stories I’ve followed so far, the increasing darkness of it only adds to that.

It is also a story of keeping an old save alive. My own first attempts to get anywhere at all in 1.0.5 are unfortunately lost in time and poor backup management, but I’m still working on the same career save I started in 1.2.2 almost four years ago. And your story has changed my own too. Not only is it ”only right and proper” to always have to dock to a station in complete darkness (why does that always happen?), your Baile Speir (a name which I blatantly stole for my own basic space stations without even being that embarrassed) somehow twisted my entire imagined back story into an entirely new (”kaelic”)  direction. Relying on Kopernicus, I’m still stuck at 1.9.1, but I’m very much looking forward to move onto a much smoother 1.10.

I brought most of the hardware, including those three monitors, home with me when that specific kerbal resource hit the fan this spring, so my own work has changed surprisingly little. That in itself doesn’t change the fact that there’s little time to maintain and develop my own old save game, but at least I’m always a bit closer to the machine where it actually resides. All is not lost yet, perhaps I’ll one day get to the point where I can begin publishing my own story. Until then, I’m very happy to see yours still alive, as is only right and proper!

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28 Days Earlier

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A finger reached out of the darkness towards a small, sickly-green backlit button. Soft chirping sounds ping-ponged their way from the intercom, tones that announced the Captain was about to speak. Hallock leaned forward from the shadows of the "Memory of Tomorrow's" cockpit and into the red glow of Duna, pulling himself closer to the microphone.

"We're here."

Seconds passed before a response, another soft chirp, this time in the pattern the Queen had chosen. The line was held open and silent, as was her style, the only sound an occasional pop of static as an interstellar particle released its energy into their ship. Finally she spoke. 

"Munths. We've been _here_ for munths, slowly limping into our frozen graves. Have we found our doom? What inconspicuous event has caused us to arrive at a place where we were and yet were not before?"

Sarcasm. It was sarcasm. Sieta had never been one for direct questions, but he had to admit she was right. The transit from Kerbin had used every bit of fuel they could steal. Fully stocked, the ship alone lacked the potential needed to safely burn for Duna. Their fault for stealing it before it was complete. The tin cans of propellant they had lifted from a supply depot in Kerbin orbit had been discarded as they emptied, one now drifting forever in interplanetary space. Even then they were left with barely enough to complete the Duna capture, had they done it conventionally. Gravity assists from Ike to drop their orbit over a series of munths was the only option left. That, or drift past Duna and out into the airless cold depths of nowhere.

He ignored her sarcasm, and sifted through the list of contacts their cobbled-together computer system had built. "Baile Speir", the station they had raided back at Kerbin, had provided a bounty of mysteriously still working electronics. They had taken all they could manage and put them to work. Sieta insisted these now formed a "cycle-proof computer", though he had no idea what she was talking about. Still, the faint list of contacts was proof enough that it worked, even if they occasionally had to punch programs in by hand.

Sieta spent her days listening to the background static as it scratched its way free of their radios. Occasionally she caught the spasms of existence as Cycles came and went, recording some on makeshift physical media. Impromtu records they had crafted out of bits of film and insulation. Some days she was completely lost in her trance, listening to the Cycles scream over and over and over. Hallock was now convinced she was a victim of Space Madness. And perhaps the only way to become the Queen of Space was to give in to one's own darker whispers.

The list of objects in the Duna system was substantial. Most were in the usual equatorials, but there were a few comms and mapping satellites at higher inclinations, some of which still worked. A handful of things resembled stations or maybe fuel depots, and there were a few larger and suspiciously positioned ships in orbits halfway to Ike. And lots and lots of space junk. Hard to say what worked and what didn't, what were rocks and what had been built by the hands of kerbals. Only way to know for sure was to go take a look.

Their first priority was fuel. If forced to he could take the "Rock Spear", the small asteroid-grabber which formed the very tip of the Memory, and use it to investigate a target before moving the entire ship. Once the tanks of the Memory were full, then they could set about robbing these orbiting zombies of their useful parts. Maybe even find a few long lost kerbals, or more likely their corpses, scattered about hither and yon. Or maybe worse. Was it possible for kerbals to die, but not die? Are there undead spacekerbs? Here, at Duna? The old pulp stories thought so. More than any other planet, Duna played host to hordes of meandering mindless dusters. There couldn't be any truth to those tales, could there?

No. Hallock shook his head. No. Nonsense. He had piracy to focus on, not silly daydreams of ridiculous old ghost stories. There were good odds the larger flares they'd spotted in lower orbits were used in the past for crewed expeditions to the surface and back. If they were going to find fuel anywhere, it would be at one of those. A quick glance at the math caused him to grimace. Hundreds of meters per second to drop into an intercepting orbit. Another thirty or maybe fifty to make the actual rendezvous. They would be cutting it close, very close, really eating into their reserves. And they could very well end up stuck in low Duna orbit, but they had to start somewhere.

He keyed the intercom again.

"Sieta," he paused, corrected himself. "Queen Sieta, have you gained access to any of these satellites?" Silence. A chirp. A few more seconds of silence. 

"They sing to me. Soft beeps, sharp shrills. Sweet whispers in the dusky night sky." Yep, she was in one of her states. Mad as a hatter. More days than not she was now lost to this insanity. And he had nothing to do but play along.

"Good. I'm marking two targets in a lower orbit. I think we'll find what we need there. Would you see if they'll, uh, sing to you? Mayhaps tell us how full they are?"

"I will sing to them. They will sing their song or they will BURN."

Yes, he realized, then and there, Space Madness was the absolute prerequisite for becoming a Queen.

--


Ghosts and Stuff

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Their first target was one of the brightest objects in low Duna orbit. In Hallock's experience visual magnitude was a good indication of size, so, they had a better than even chance of success. The burn hadn't been as severe as he first thought, a mere 110 m/s to drop to intercept, and another 115 m/s to match velocities. The initial separation was a kilometer and a half, but that was brought down with a short burn part way through the transit. The rest of the rendezvous Hallock was sure he could manage using RCS.

They came in slightly underneath the target, approaching out of the Sun. Blind their victims until it was too late. Hallock was more than a bit surprised when the Memory's computer lit up with a connection alert: close-approach and docking guidance from their target, which was identifying itself as "5-020 Seconee 1". This name meant absolutely nothing to him. He was hoping the navigation data was an automated process, but he also wasn't about to try to hail them either. No reason to give up the element of surprise, assuming they still had it at all.

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It was quickly apparent he had chosen correctly. As they drifted alongside, he could make out not only a storage tank for refueling, but also some landers and a shuttle in addition to a small habitation area on the station. Even if there was no fuel to be found, he could strip the rest of the craft for desperately needed spare parts.

He made one last quick course adjustment for the Memory, then went down to the airlock to suit up. Their closest approach would be in the dark on the shadowed side of Duna, as was only fitting and proper. He grabbed his shovel, some miscellaneous tools, and a spare drill, and made his way into the soon to be inky black void.

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He drifted slowly at first, then moved quickly once the darkness had taken them. The lights were on in one of the docked shuttles, otherwise he would have been forced to find his way by memory and guesswork. As he neared he decelerated quickly, grabbed hold of the side of the station, and spun his way onto a set of grabs. He was near one of the windows of the habitation section, the outer skin of the station dimly lit from the cockpit of the shuttle below. It was as dark inside as it was out, no obvious signs of life. He waited a few moments, nothing moved. No lights. He climbed downwards towards the shuttles, peeking in every window he crossed. The same story each time. Nobody home, nothing on.

In all there were two landers, a small shuttle, a science station, the (hopefully full) fuel depot, and a space tug docked at the very pinacle. Loot, and lots of it. Just one problem.

No open docking ports.

He drifted silently back to the Memory and let some ideas run through his head. As it currently stood, the Memory of Tomorrow had two open docking rings. The problem is both were too close to the power armatures and the solar arrays for him to safely dock anything. The science station would fit nicely between the Rock Spear and the Memory's main habitat, and maybe the small shuttle would too, but the rest would need to be secured somewhere else.

Could he move the two docking rings? They had a plentiful supply of foam sealant, and he was pretty sure he could weld the inside hatch of the docking rings in place. If he could get them free without causing too much damage, he could even put one of them in place over the hab modules airlock. It would limit their access in and out of the ship, but if he did this right it wouldn't matter in the long run. The most difficult part would be convincing Sieta to move her court into the Rock Spear until he was done with the cutting and the welding.

First order of business was to set up a station keeping orbit. No reason to let their quarry drift away from them. This was a task the Memory's primitive computer was more than capable of handling, especially with the telemetry data fed to them from the Seconee. Once he had both that and his royal diplomacy out of the way, he got to the hard work.

Permanently closing the inside of the old docking port was easy. They were designed to seal from the inside, so it was just a simple matter of welding them permanently in place. That task took close to an hour, fully suited minus the EVA pack, just in case he did something very wrong and punched through the hull. Once the welds were complete, he fully vented the habitat and moved back outside.

Moving the ring itself proved to be much simpler than he expected. He just released a few bolts with the PGT, the drill, and it floated away on its own. The ring that is. He stuffed the bolts into a suit pocket, then maneuvered the bulky mechanism towards its new home. 

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Getting the ring secured into place presented a new issue. Where it had previously been secured using bolts driven into pre-tapped holes in the outer shell of the hab module, the new location had no such support. He could of course drill his own holes and attach nuts to the other end of the bolts. The downside to that plan was it required him to breach both the outer and inner layers of the hab module's pressure vessel. He could seal the bolts holes with foam, of course, but it just seemed slightly risky.

The only other alternative was to weld the docking ring directly to the outer shell of the ship. He wasn't entirely certain that would provide enough strength to keep docked ships from ripping the ring and the outer skin of the Memory away, so he decided to avoid such a weak construction. And the last thing he wanted was for a docked ship to break free and tumble along their side while under thrust.

In the end he drove bolts the entire way through the hull, secured from the inside, the outer ring welded down, and everything sealed completely with foam. This seemingly simple task took the better part of a day to complete, but in the end he had moved the docking ring and had a fully working hatch inside of it. Unfortunately he had another of these to move and reattach.


--

Two days after the initial rendezvous and the work was done. Nobody had tried to contact them from the station, and surely any living kerbals would have noticed a pirate ship hovering off their port bow for the last couple days. Something was nagging him about the whole situation. Who had been here in the past? Had they gone back to Kerbin? Were they still here somewhere? Were they trapped on the surface of Duna? Were they dead? What if they were dead, but not dead, laying in wait on this dimly lit graveyard of a station? He could really use some backup right about now, an extra hand, but Sieta had to stay with the Memory. He couldn't trust her with so much as a stick to use for a weapon anyway.

He locked his helmet seal and started the depressurization cycle on the airlock. Then checked his helmet seal again. Still locked. The cycle completed and the door opened. He nearly jumped out of his suit when he caught his own reflection in his faceplate. He blinked and it was gone. Were reflections supposed to do that?

It was dark outside, but it was usually dark. Hallock double checked that he had what he needed, a drill, some equipment to bypass the station's locks, his EVA pack, and his shovel. One last check of the helmet seal and he shoved off into the void. 

The situation at Seconee was unchanged. Shuttle lit up like the Sun, darkness everywhere else. He checked the windows once more, this time shining his lights inside, seeing only his own reflection looking back. Empty darkness, cold and alone. If there was anyone here they were hiding exceedingly well.

He decided it was best to enter at the point furthest from the fuel depot. The lander there looked roughly the same age as the station itself. Simple, just enough room for two kerbals and their gear on the inside. He was surprised when the outer airlock's controls lit up, still working after however many years. He was not surprised when it refused to let him enter. Thankfully this model of airlock, as all do, had a physical bypass. A small handle which could be rotated to vent the air and release the lock. He inserted a forked tool into his drill, put it to the bypass handle, and started it spinning.

The airlock controls had shown an atmosphere, which was draining slowly as the handle rotated. His mind inserted a slow "hisssssss" sound, there was no way he could hear it through his suit. Not over the low-frequency "whirrrr" of the drill. The PGT. The whatever. He felt a small tug as the bypass handle hit its limit and the drill tried to torque him around. The controls showed the airlock fully vented, but the low hiss sound was still there. There inside his head. He checked his helmet seal again, just to be sure, and pushed the outer door inwards.

Small pieces of debris drifted into the void as he moved inside. The door closed with a deep "tong" sound, the automatic latch locking it in place. Inside was dark aside from the red glow of the controls near the interior hatch. They showed error codes and refused to auto cycle the airlock, angry over his forced entry. He spent minutes poking at them with his mittened hands before he successfully cleared the errors and started a manual repress. The hiss returned in force, growing louder as a new atmosphere filled the room. 

With a loud clack the red glow changed to green. Equal pressure on both sides of the interior hatch. He gave the door handle a spin with his free hand, holding on to the grabs with his other, and pushed in to the lander. More darkness. More silence. The pressure inside was less than that of his suit, but still within the safety margin. He decided to keep his suit on anyway, hanging up only his jetpack. What kind of pirate would take off his armor during a boarding action? More dust and debris were meandering about inside, their trajectories elucidated by his helmet lights. A disassembled EVA suit was secured near the hatch, its helmet rocking back and forth slowly. The lander's controls were dark, its computer shut down.

Suddenly his helmet lights flickered and went out. Cold crawled it way up his spine.

"Lah".

A whisper as soft as an explosion. He spun around, making sure he was still alone. No one. He quickly glanced through the window. A ghost, an old kerbal with white hair and wrinkled skin, looking back at him with fear in its eyes. His reflection. He shook these demons from his head and regained some composure. What sort of space pirate was afraid of ghosts? This was just his mind losing a battle with itself, and he was in control, not the other way around. He found the light switch and flicked it on, flicked it off, flicked it back on. Nothing happened. A thump from his fist and one light briefly blinked to life before fading back to darkness.

He opened the overhead hatch and was immediately blinded by the light from the shuttlecraft. The inside was clean, very clean, very white, and very new. Almost too new. The fit and finish were better than anything he had seen in his life. No loose parts, no rushed patches, no stains, no sticky notes stuck anywhere. Like something out of a science fiction film.

And still no kerbals.

"Keh".

There it was again, the chill, that whisper. Forget it. Just your imagination, inserting sounds into a perfectly silent environment. Hallucinations. Not hallucinations. Just nerves, starved of input, firing off on their own. Gentle reminders of sounds lost. The brain forcing an issue, demanding to know why the nerves have left their posts. The nerves protesting as best they can.

The next hatch was closed, but only loosely. Not secured. He pulled it towards him and drifted into the unlit space. A tube, round, small, no obstructions along its walls, passing through the lander's fuel tank. At the other end another hatch, also closed but also unsecured. He drifted into this new lander's cockpit, pulling the hatch below him closed and locking it. The light from the shuttle grew dim and went out completely as the hatch slipped shut. 

Darkness. Darker than before, his eyes having been blinded by the light. Flashes as random particles collided with his retinas. Nerves, firing in the absence of noise. Lights where there were none. Sounds where there were none. Sensory deprivation at its peak. He blinked, fumbled for his helmet lights, only to find they had been on. He was now in complete darkness.

"Weh".

He jumped again. That was no mild hallucination, something was talking to him. He turned his lights back on, moved, and suddenly a kerbal in an EVA suit was floating centimeters away from him! A scream!

He pushed back violently, quickly, moving back down, back towards the lower hatch. His attacker crumpled into itself, drifted away, empty. The kerbal was his own reflection. His mind, twisting his senses inward upon themselves. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Quickly. His heart. Did kerbals have hearts? He clearly did, and his was racing. Crawling one step further up his throat with every beat. Sounds, blood, echoing through his body and into his empty ears. Thump.

The fearless space pirate reached out carefully toward the suit, tapping at it, pulling his hand back quickly as it started to spin. The helmet came loose, tumbled about. Empty. Just like this ship.

Just like his sanity.

He reached for his own helmet seal. Still locked. Only two more modules to go. He could do this. He had to do this. What was wrong with him? Nothing. This was perfectly normal. He'd been confined for a year in close quarters with a munatic, a completely crazy kerbal who had convinced herself she was a queen. And not just any queen, but The Queen. He hadn't fought through decades of solitude on the Mün just to finally lose his mind here. No. No. No. He was in control.

This lander's controls were just as dead as those in the first. He could attend to them later, once the ship was cleared. This was just an empty ship. This was just an empty station. There were not hordes of dead kerbals waiting behind the next door to kill him. There were no such things as zombies. No such things as ghosts. He pressed on into the next module, opening both hatches, one in, one out.

More darkness greeted him.

This was just a regular old habitation module. Four bunks, four lockers, one airlock, two hatches. The tried and true hitchhiker. It was dark, and thin shafts of sunlight streamed in through the windows as the ship orbited underneath him. There was considerably more debris here. Dust, cloth fibers, scraps of papers, broken bits of pencil, a boot. One of the bunks had broken free and was drifting about aimlessly.

He glanced through a window just in time to see Ike slipping in front of the Sun. The ship descended into total darkness. His sanity fled further away.

"Keh".

Something pushed against his legs! He kicked reflexively, spun around, and kicked some more. He was fumbling with his lights when it hit him in the gut, strongly, and sent him spinning towards the window. His helmet slammed into the bulkhead, ringing in the violence, but he caught himself. He reached behind his back for the shovel, braced for another attack, ready to respond in kind.

The third attack never came. 

His lights were back on. He wasn't sure how they had gone. The helmet was still latched, he had made sure of that, and turned to face his attacker. Nothing. Just the loose bunk, now drifting about with more force. It left a cloud of dust and debris in its wake, more scattering with each soft impact. He looked to the window once more, watched the distant and growing formlessness that was Ike. A green speck flickered in his vision, moving across the impossible darkness. The darkness was his mind, the speck his fleeting sanity.

His attacker was his own mind. He took a few deep breaths, slowed his heart, and moved upwards once again. A short tunnel connected the habitat to the lab, various controls for the station's power systems crammed into its walls. The computers here had all failed in some cycle long past, but the physical control systems still worked. The docking radar still worked. Not much else.

The lack of lights and power was due to a long series of tripped breakers. Climate control, life systems, access controls, and the docking aids had remained online, but ancillary systems such as flight control, lighting, and the general purpose electrical bus had failed over the long years. He carefully worked through them, holding his breath as each system powered back up and showed as green on the board. 

The last two breakers were for the lights in this control tunnel and the power systems in the science lab. He flipped them both simultaneously. The hatch to the lab was painted a rich, bright red. A yellow note was stuck to it. He reached out and pulled it close enough to read.

"Do Not Open."

Do not open? Not a chance. This was it. With the computers down, the only way he would know for sure that the fuel depot still had fuel was to read its gauges. He hadn't seen any on the outside, meaning they had to be in the docking ports. And those were only one accessible through the lab. 

The lab he apparently wasn't supposed to open.

What could be in there that would stop him anyway? These "ghosts" hadn't done anything except run up his heart rate, and that was just his mind giving in to sensory deprivation. If there were space zombies surely he would have heard them by now, or would have spotted them through the windows. And besides, zombies are slow. If they even exist. 

No, this entire misadventure was just pure nonsense. A manifestation of an undercooked mind. This note wasn't going to stop him. It was probably a joke of some sort, left by the previous crew to mess with their replacements. He was the Space Pirate Captain Hallock. Nothing could stand in his way. Freedom lay on the other side of that door. The freedom to make his own decisions, to be what he was meant to be, to go his own direction. If he backed down now, he was as good as dead.

Fear is the domain of the weak, and weak he was not.

He was the Captain. He was in control.

He unsealed the hatch, pushed on it, and followed it in.

Even before he was through he could hear a new noise. A soft sound, not quite bubbling, not really crackling, but nothing his mind could connect to. It was just wrong sounding. This was interrupted by a growing hiss, a low rumble, and then a world-ending roar. Arms of smoke leapt forth, ghosts in the dust and haze. Visions of kerbals long gone, their arms reaching down from their heavenly graves to pull into their trap. Screeches, screams, tearing through his ears! There was no silence! No silence here! No redemption for one so lost as he! 

He reflexively raised his shovel, swinging at these spectres, driving away his demons. The swipes and thrusts caused him to tumble, to drift further into the mist. Each parry brought him closer to his doom, each riposte further from his mind. He was spinning now, his motions becoming more agitated and disorientation took over. The blade of his shovel made contact, scratching here, smashing there, each time setting him tumbling a different direction. One particularly strong swing hit something important. The lights flickered, started strobing, ghosts flashed in front of his eyes for one instant, only to be replaced with another the next.

There was a loud pop at some distant end of his universe. A flash of orange, some small cloud going up in a blaze. Fire! The glow was gone nearly as fast as it had appeared, just a thin blue halo remaining. Then another cloud lit up bright, burned quickly, faded to blue. Hallock reached out with his shovel towards a wall to slow his tumble, bisecting a ghost in the process. Another hazy arm reached towards him as he drifted back. He waved it away. This was serious, no time for this flailing about nonsense.

How best to deal with fire on an unknown space station? He couldn't let it burn into the fuel. He needed that fuel. Vent the atmosphere? Probably. He could open the airlock in the hab module if he could prop the pressure hatches open. The not-really-bubbling sound had been growing louder. The strobing lights continued, which he recognized as some sort of fire alert. Terrible design. Another bubble of flame billowed from orange to blue and disappeared. Was there a vent in here? He looked around briskly while bracing himself against a rack of science equipment, spotting no obvious doors into the vacuum.

A sudden bright flash caught his attention an instant before a large projectile came hurtling towards him. He raised his shovel to block it, and the blade flew violently back into the glass of his faceplate.

"TON"!

His helmet rang and his suit slammed into the lower hatch, tumbling yet again. His body was still inside, but his mind was on the edge of chaos. Whispers, louder than artillery! That cold shivering embrace again! A fire ballooned out of control at the other end of the lab, burping forth from the source of this mortal threat. The strobing lights flashed their last, his world descended once more into darkness, illuminated only by orange and blue spheres. Droplets of fire rained from the heavens, falling down towards him. Towards the station. Only one thing to do. He sealed the red hatch and pushed off into the burning maelstrom. He had to extinguish its source or he would burn with it. "Or they will BURN." Flames licked at his arms as he sailed into certain death.

And that was when he saw it. Small, round, green. Lit only by the flames it belched forth. It stopped as he approached, the lab now in total darkness. He slapped at his helmet and the lights flashed back to life. It was right in front of him! Right there! Grinning!

And then the mystery goo sang to him.

He screamed.

The darkness screamed back.

This was no mere salvage, no wayward vessel abandoned by its gods. He had come here expecting to take what he needed with no opposition, to do as he fancied. And yet these craft were no simple husks, no empty tins. Inside each were the souls of those who had built them, those who had piloted them, and the scars of whatever darkness had claimed them. Where one, so went the other. He had come expecting to brush that darkness aside, to win over these spoils.

The darkness had won.

The goo smiled at him, cooed softly, then cocked its head to the side questioningly. It didn't have a head, not exactly, but he understood what it was trying to say. He lowered his shovel and the goo shifted slightly, ejecting a small cloud and moving towards him. It landed with all the gloopy grace one would expect from an amorphous green blob, attaching itself to his upper arm and sliding up to his helmet. In such close contact he could now hear that the not-quite-bubbling sound was more of a cute gurgling. It let out a sharp squawk before belching forth another sphere of fire, followed by yet more soft cooing.

He held up his shovel to look at the goo in the blade's reflection. It seemed happy, perched there on his shoulder, and wasn't obviously trying to get through his suit. He pulled at his helmet latch anyway. Best to be safe. He poked at the goo with a mittened finger, trying to push it slightly to the side, and it laughed playfully at him. It wasn't dissolving his suit away either.

It would seem Hallock had found himself a pet.

Outside Ike finished its eclipse, and sunlight came streaming into the lab. The darkness withdrew, and the lights came back on. Dimly, at first, but then brighter. Dark scorches marred the walls by a rack of mystery goo canisters, undoubtedly where his new pet had originated. The last of the globes of fire extinguished themselves. The deathly silence abated. The ghosts applauded in the background.

Maybe now he could get back to work.

--
 

Edited by Cydonian Monk
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