UnusualAttitude

THE BARTDON PAPERS - "Cancel all previous directives."

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YEAR 6, DAY 80. CAMWISE.

When we awoke from our rest period, the sun had not yet risen over the crater rim but we were didn't want to wait any longer so we set out. The rover was now topped-up with oxygen, hydrogen, water and food. The fuel cells should be able to power the vehicle for many days, and a small electrolysis unit would use excess power to regenerate some of the hydrogen and oxygen. The small crew cabin was cosy but quite sufficient for the two of us, and the rover's cockpit offered an exceptional view of the Moon's landscape. Froemone had surpassed himself with this design.

Catbeth drove the first leg of our journey, taking us out of Drygalski crater almost due North. We passed Lentillac and our toppled lander on the way out, but even that didn't dampen my spirits. Looking upwards out of the cabin's small window on the right hand side, I could see the Earth, mostly shrouded in darkness as the planet was between the sun and us. The thin crescent of light from our home planet was sufficient to illuminate the landscape to our eyes that were now accustomed to the darkness of the lunar polar regions. Arcambal's brilliant headlights would pierce any of the remaining shadows.

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As Cat drove on, my thoughts drifted back to our home world and its fragile equilibrium. It is a strange place, if you think about it for a moment. A vast, empty planet, most of which has remained unconquered by my people's civilization. After generations of living underground, we have only just started to invest the surface, starting a few small settlements here and there, but mainly just building the infrastructure enabling us to get around such as ports and runways.

Our rover trek across the Moon reminded me of the very first journey I had made from my birthplace in the karstic caves near the western tip of the Eurasian continent, all the way across to the Pacific Ocean. A primitive vehicle with an internal combustion engine had carried my cousins and I across thousands of miles of bare landscape to the coastline bordering the planet's greatest ocean. There, an airship burning some sort of dirty hydrocarbon carried us, a lucky few, to the atoll where I would eventually become an engineer of the space programme.

That voyage above the ocean had taken us four days, and I had discovered the delights of turning pink and throwing up most of what I could manage to eat over the side of the airship from airsickness. How Kerbals ever came to conquer the skies I simply cannot imagine. Even our flight to the Moon had been shorter than that endless journey, and today I could make the same journey in less than an hour if I so desired, screaming through the upper atmosphere at some insanely high Mach number in one of our supersonic jets.

And if the jet were to fly back across Eurasia, it would still soar above league upon league of bleak, empty expanses of moss and lichen covering the hard, baked dirt. A whole planet to explore, yet here we were already trying to leave it. What does that tell you about our people..?

My train of thought was interrupted by the rover braking to a halt. We had reached the northern rim of Drygalski after a long climb out from the crater's floor. I made a short EVA to collect some rock samples and paused to look back across the one hundred mile wide dent in the Moon's surface that we had called home for the past month. The foothills of the crater's peak were still covered in darkness, and I could no longer make out our outpost. It was a pretty lonely feeling.

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I relieved Catbeth at the controls and crawled through the narrow tunnel into the cockpit. The glass canopy allowed an almost all-round view of the Moon's surface and gave me the strange impression of being in a fish bowl, looking out at the hostile, alien environment. It had felt a little unnerving at first, but I had quickly got used to it and I now thoroughly enjoyed driving Arcambal.

I engaged drive and set a course north-by-eastwards that would bring us down through a narrow valley into the neighbouring crater named Le Gentil. The terrain quickly became much steeper and more uneven than the gentle slopes we had encountered up until that point, so I selected four wheel drive. Plumes of moon-dust spewed into the vacuum behind Arcambal as the wheels skittered in the low gravity. Despite this, we continued to make good progress and by our next halt, we had reached the crater floor, and were well over one hundred kilometers from Drygalski Base.

We took five minutes to rest before continuing and I reclined the driver's seat back to look up at the stars. It just so happened that while I lay back and gazed into the heavens, Vers Seven - one of the very first satellites we had launched to observe the Moon – drifted past above us, a tiny point of light skimming through the endless void. I realised at that precise moment that leaving my home cave to become a space engineer had been damned good idea, and for a moment, I couldn't think of anywhere else I would rather be. My kind had dug far into our planet for millenia, to places deeper and darker than you could ever imagine. Yet here we were, the most isolated two Kerbals in history. No one could reach us. Ahead of us: mile after mile of unexplored lunar desolation, and behind us our tracks that would remain in the lunar dust for almost forever showing that we passed through here. It was thrilling.

Catbeth offered to take the wheel but I told her I was cool and would drive to our next stop. We blasted through Le Gentil in no time and were soon climbing the northern wall of the crater to the midlands that separated us from Bailly and the primary objective of our trip. Margaret had requested we head just a little further northwards until we reached the border of the massive Aitken Basin before cutting eastwards towards the anomaly in order to sample the rocks there.

The terrain began to get even steeper as we pushed on, and our path brought us around the rims of some smaller craters. Arcambal dipped in and out of the shadows as the terrain we traversed was in darkness or sunlit.

And finally, after several hours of driving mainly uphill we came to the highest point of our journey, several thousand metres above the crater floor at Drygalski, with the rim of Bailly crater to our right, and to our left, the vast expanses of the Basin stretching away into the distance. Catbeth and I both geared up to go on EVA to witness this spectacle firsthand. We stood, gazing mutely at the stunning view for several long minutes before we remembered what we were here for and started gathering rock samples.

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We secured the rover for a short rest after having traveled about 250 kilometers across the Moon's surface. Tomorrow, if all goes well, we should reach the anomaly.

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Edited by UnusualAttitude

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YEAR 6, DAY 81. CAMWISE.

Today got off to a bad start. I nearly wrote-off the rover.

I'd just taken the wheel after Catbeth had driven the first leg. We were starting our descent into Bailly crater after negotiating some pretty rough terrain. It had looked pretty smooth to me and I had allowed Arcambal's speed to run away. Partially blinded by the glare of the low sun, I hadn't seen the crest in the terrain in time and Cat and I became the first Kerbals to unwittingly get air on the Moon.

U0niWZL.png?1

It probably wouldn't be all that spectacular if you saw a replay, but it sure scared the hell out of me, and the sickening crunch as the rear wheels contacted the surface once more, followed by an ominous scraping sound from the back of the rover certainly weren't reassuring. But at least we were still upright, and I managed to bring Arcambal to a shuddering halt quickly, as Cat yelled “What was that?!” from the crew cabin behind me.

I crawled through the tunnel into the cabin where Cat was rubbing a bruise on her forehead. She'd been lying on one of the small bunks in the cabin and my stunt had thrown her against the ceiling. I looked at her sheepishly and managed to say “We might have a problem”. I suited up to inspect the damage immediately. The good news was that all six wheels were still attached and were still more or less round. The bad news was that the Kevlar belt of the rear right wheel had been badly damaged by the initial impact and the tread was hanging off in places. We could probably still move, but we would have to do without four-wheel drive.

Catbeth decided she would prefer to drive.

We pressed on, and it turned out that Arcambal could still get us where we wanted to go. The ride was a bit noisier, particularly from the back of the crew cabin, which is precisely where I spent the next couple of hours feeling stupid. My mistake had brought back the sickening apprehension we had both felt back when we'd just touched down at Drygalski. There would be no towing service out here: if Arcambal stopped moving, Froemone's lunar rover would be nothing more than a comfortable, high-tech hearse.

I briefly toyed with the idea of informing mission control that we had encountered technical issues and we had aborted our attempt to reach the anomaly and intended to head straight back to Drygalski and relative safety. I had no trouble imagining what the responses of Angun, Margaret and the rest of the Investigators would be. Besides, we really weren't far away from our target now: less than fifty clicks. I gambled that if Arcambal could hold on for that distance, she could make it back to Drygalski. Or could she?

Options, Camwise, find the options. If she couldn't make it, maybe our friends Macfrey and Mitzon could remotely guide Padirac to our position and we could hitch a ride home on our favourite nuclear mining rover. Catbeth and I would take turns driving and hanging on to the ladder in our suits. Not exactly an elegant way to travel three hundred kilometers across the Moon's surface, but it would be something to tell my grandchildren if it came to that...

“Camwise?” came Cathbeth's voice above the noise.

“Yeah?”

“The anomaly we're looking for, is it supposed to be made of metal?”

“Uh, right now, it could be made out of dead badgers for all I care. Why?”

“I can see something down there....”

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Catbeth had spotted the flash of sunlight off metal lower down in the crater ahead of us. Despite myself I sat up and crawled forward into the tunnel that lead to the cockpit to look over her shoulder as she drove towards our objective.

As the rover cleared the last crest that separated us from the anomaly, we were greeted with a sight that left us momentarily stunned. A moment passed before Catbeth recovered the presence of mind to apply the brakes and bring Arcambal to a slow halt. At that moment I finally understood what Margaret had felt when she had ordered Cirq Two to take off. Maybe this was worse: the rock arch she had examined might just have been some sort of freaky natural occurrence. The object before us was clearly nothing natural, it was the work of sentient beings.

As if in a dream, we both suited up and depressurized the rover's crew cabin for EVA. I called mission control and requested the immediate attention of Investigators Angun and Margaret. Despite it being just after three in the morning in Omelek, Angun responded within seconds, and his voice was unusually tense.

“Camwise, what have you found?”

“I don't know what it is, but I think we have found your new material.”

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Edited by UnusualAttitude

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Still loving Camwise's narrative voice very much. :) 

Edited by Kuzzter

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12 hours ago, Kuzzter said:

Still loving Camwise's narrative voice very much. :) 

Hey, thanks Kuzzter. Nice of you to take a few minutes off conquering the Jool system to read this. :wink:

Speaking of voices (although I guess you didn't mean this literally), I imagine Camwise speaking with a subtle but slightly fruity Western Country accent, a bit like James May.

Catbeth should have an Australian accent, I reckon. 

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YEAR 6, DAY 82. BAILLY MISSION TRANSCRIPT (DIRECT COMMUNICATIONS LINK FROM ARCAMBAL DISH).

06:42:15: SE Camwise: Hey there guys, I'm all suited up now. Do you read me?

06:42:23 Capcom: OK Camwise, we have a good connection, we can hear you loud and clear.

06:42:29 SE Camwise: Roger Omelek, what would you like me to sing?

06:42:34 Capcom: Whatever you like, buddy.

06:42:36 SE Camwise: I...

06:42:37 Investigation: Right, Camwise. Remember your instructions. We want a full description of the anomaly, however, as soon as you leave the rover Catbeth must back up to a safe distance. We want at least a couple of hundred meters between your vehicle and the object, including several meters of moon rock. Catbeth, back up behind the next ridge. You must keep the antenna in line of sight with Camwise so we have a link, but keep the hull of the rover behind the terrain.

06:43:15 TP Catbeth: Roger, Angun.

06:43:18 SE Camwise: Ok boss, but uh, do you know something about this thing we don't?

06:43:24 Investigation: It's a precaution, Camwise. We don't know what it is. It may or may not be dangerous. It may have a nuclear power source, or some other source of energy we don't know about. You were foolish to drive up and park right next to it like you did earlier.

06:43:32 SE Camwise: Yeah, well I'll try to remember that next time I run into alien artifacts while I'm cruising on the Moon.

06:44:50 TP Catbeth: Depressurizing now...

06:45:47 SE Camwise: (static)...coming down the ladder now.... (static, garble)... OK, Cat I'm clear of the rover. You can back up now.

06:46:34 TP Catbeth: This is Arcambal running away bravely. Go get 'em tiger.

06:46:42 Investigation: Camwise, wait until Arcambal is in position before proceeding.

06:46:49 SE Camwise: Yes sir. Permission to sing while I wait?

06:46:55 Investigation: Denied. Please focus on the task at hand, Camwise.

06:47:00 SE Camwise: Damn, you can be a real (static) sometimes, Angun. (garble, static) you.

06:47:05 TP Catbeth: (static)... too far, I'm moving forward a bit... (static).

06:47:25 Capcom: Arcambal, Omelek, Comcheck.

06:47:48 TP Catbeth: (static)... in position, do you copy, Omelek?

06:47:54 Capcom: We copy, Arcambal.

06:48:01 Investigation: You may proceed, SE.

06:48:10 SE Camwise: Ahem. Alright. I'm approaching the Bailly crater anomaly.... It appears to be a flattened disk shaped structure about forty-five metres in diameter. On what I presume is the top of the structure, there is a dome shape about fifteen metres across... The lower side of the structure has a smooth curve shape but no dome. I can see most of the lower side because the whole structure is tilted at an angle of more than forty-five degrees in relation to the terrain... Nearly two thirds of the apparent structure are visible, including almost all of the upper dome... Uh, it looks like a vessel that made some sort of crash landing on the Moon's surface.

06:49:03 Investigation: Avoid interpretation, SE. We need a clear, unbiased description.

06:49:10 SE Camwise: Yeah, but seriously, it looks as if the aliens got drunk and pranged their ship into the Moon. Or maybe it's one of Karanda's designs and it just couldn't stay upright...

06:49:16 Investigation: SE, please stick to the facts.

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06:49:25 SE Camwise: Roger. I'm moving in closer now. The whole structure seems to be made of the same material and it looks metallic. The surface is completely uniform. My helmet light reflects off it quite brightly... uh.

06:50:03 Capcom: SE, Omelek, Comcheck.

06:50:08 SE Camwise: Uh, sorry. I was just admiring the work here. You should see the surface of this thing; it's perfect. No joints, no rivets, no welding... It's perfectly smooth. The whole thing looks like it's machined out of a single piece of metal, or whatever its made of... And there's no apparent damage from any hypothetical impact with the lunar surface. Hold on, I'm taking a closer look...

06:50:31 Investigation: Do not touch the anomaly, SE.

06:50:46 SE Camwise: I'm just looking up close. I said the surface is perfectly smooth but it's not. Looking very, very closely, I can see very fine scratches, and a couple of slightly larger imperfections. It's as if it has been sand blasted by... by...oh.

06:51:01 Investigation: By what, SE?

06:51:08 SE Camwise: It must be micrometeorites. Thousands of them, maybe millions. This thing has been here for ages. Hold on... (static).

06:51:24 Investigation: SE, do you copy?

06:51:29 SE Camwise: I copy, sorry I was (static) get a closer look and my (static) touched the object's surface for a second. It's OK. (static) Uh, what was that?

06:51:35 TP Catbeth: Cam, did you feel that? Cam, come in!

06:51:39 SE Camwise: This thing is throbbing.

06:51:43 Investigation: Camwise, return to the rover immediately.

06:51:47 SE Camwise: Guys, it's (static). I'm out of here.

06:51:51 TP Catbeth: Cam, head straight for me, I'm on my way.

06:51:55 Investigation: Arcambal, hold your position, that's an order. Catbeth...

06:51:59: TP Catbeth: Cam, I can't see you... the dust...

06:52:01 SE Camwise: I, uh... (static).

06:52:30 Capcom: Arcambal, Omelek, Comcheck.

06:52:42 Capcom: Arcambal, Omelek, Comcheck.

06:53:05 Capcom: Arcambal, Omelek, Comcheck.

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YEAR 6, DAY 82. Message Received via Tracking Station Asia starting at 08:33

This is Test Pilot Catbeth on board the Exploration Rover Arcambal. I don't know if you will get this message, as the rover's communications system was damaged back at Bailly crater. I'm certainly not picking up anything from any of the ground stations or from station Gamma. I wish I knew whether anyone is receiving me, but in the slim hope that the downlink is still functional, I have pointed the rover's antenna towards Earth and I'm hoping that you guys are listening.

At just after oh-six-hundred hours today, SE Camwise approached the Bailly crater anomaly on foot to make a close-up visual inspection of the object, as requested by mission control and the investigation department. During the course of his EVA, I began to feel tremors through the Moon's surface that were strong enough to actually physically shake the rover. I understood that the anomaly was the source of this activity and I started to drive the rover forward in order to extract my teammate as quickly as possible and leave the area.

The tremors had kicked up a lot of dust and I could barely make out his location. I had just passed the top of the crest when some sort of power surge disabled the rover entirely. Communications cut off and all of the vehicle's controls and screens went blank. The tremors came to an end at this precise moment, and a few seconds later power was restored. The ER's drive system was functional once more, although I later discovered that some of the other systems, such as communications and certain science instruments, were still partially or wholly disabled. I still could not contact SE Camwise.

The dust was taking a long time to settle and I didn't want to risk driving into the area in case my teammate was incapacitated and prone on the ground. Therefore, I performed an EVA to search for him on foot. I found him lying on his face just a few meters away from the anomaly. He did not respond when I rolled him onto his back but a quick inspection of his suit showed it to be intact. Mist on the inside of his helmet suggested that the suit's life support system had been compromised but also that he was still breathing. I managed to drag him back to the ER as quickly as possible and into the crew cabin where, once pressure had been restored, I removed his helmet. He appeared to still be breathing normally, but he remains unconscious as I speak. As soon as I was sure of his stable condition, I drove the ER away from the area.

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I intend to return to Drygalski Base by the shortest possible route and should arrive there sometime tomorrow; hopefully before noon if I encounter no further problems. I will contact mission control for further instructions from there. In the meantime, I will send updates on my progress every two hours. Test Pilot Catbeth, out.

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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YEAR 6, DAY 84. CAMWISE.

Nothing. Then Catbeth's voice coming from the end of a long tunnel, talking about something unimportant over the radio. Then more Nothing. Then Cat standing over me saying something about how nice it would be if I stopped doing whatever it was I was doing (nothing) and woke up. Then yet more Nothing....

I awoke with a start, with a gaping black hole in my memory, a strident ringing noise in my ears, and the hangover to end all hangovers. And because I was in a small bunk with a low ceiling, I bashed my head against the metal bulkhead above me, which didn't make things any better in the hangover department, and certainly didn't improve my memory. The light was dim but I could just about see, and for some strange reason I felt compelled to look down at my own body; my arms, my legs. I could feel them all, but something at the back of my mind made me wiggle everything and check it was all still attached and functional, as if by right it shouldn't.

Catbeth had apparently been nearby and appeared moments later with water. I gulped it greedily, and was finally capable of speech.

“Where are we?”

“Drygalski.”

The name sounded familiar, but if you'd asked me to place it on the map at that precise moment, it would have been a bit like chucking darts blindfolded at a picture of the Solar System. My blank face must have betrayed this, as Cat looked at me anxiously and asked:

“What's the last thing you remember?”

I thought about it for a moment and answered truthfully: “Uh, we were chilling on the beach in Omelek with your sister. Lovely girl, that Lisabeth. Damn, I don't remember us drinking that much...”

Obviously this was not the right answer, and I caught a hint of despair in Catbeth's eyes. There was not much I could do about it, though, as at that moment my brain decided to cancel Day 84, call in sick and let my head sank back into the pillow that seemed oh-so soft in 0.16 gees, even though it was standard space grade and therefore ought to be very uncomfortable. Hold on... 0.16 gees, that's not right. This can't be Omelek. Sod it, I'll figure that one out later.

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YEAR 6, DAY 85. CAMWISE.

My head was still ringing. In fact, no, it was more of a strange warbling sound that resonated up and down with a rhythmical regularity. And it didn't go away completely, although I was pretty sure I was now fully conscious and no longer dreaming. It remained there, chattering away to itself at the back of my mind. This time, however, I made it out of the bunk and managed to stay upright on my own two feet without falling.

I nearly stumbled over my own space suit that lay discarded on the floor near my bunk. In a stroke of inspiration I grabbed the regulator and gulped in a huge breath of pure oxygen that cleared my head somewhat. Then I staggered over towards the communications corner of the hab module, following the sound of Catbeth's voice. She was just signing off a conversation with someone. The good news hit me: I recognized my surroundings and things were starting to click back into place. I paused in front of the view-port and the desolate landscape of the Moon beyond. Arcambal was parked just a few metres away, her damaged real wheel an unwelcome reminder of my bad driving... yes, I remembered now.

Cat appeared looking concerned and... there was something else. I would realise later that she had just spent nearly three days on an alien world and – for all practical purposes – alone, after a rather traumatic event. A tough situation to be in even for the most hardened of space travelers. For a moment I didn't really know what to say, so I offered hesitantly...

“Uh, hello.”

“You're back, then?”

“I guess so...”

We sat down and while I raided the galley's supply of juice and breakfast rations and ate ravenously, we went over the events of the previous days, up to the moment all hell had broke loose at the Bailly crater anomaly. And that's when things got fuzzy, no matter how hard I racked my brain for details. I could remember the ship starting to vibrate and kick up dust, and I could remember the voices of various people screaming at me to stop just standing there and bug out as quickly as possible (huh, it's easy for you guys to talk when your sitting in your comfortable swivel chairs three hundred thousand klicks away from the nearest menacing alien technology...), but that's where my memory cut off.

Catbeth reckoned that the same power surge that had knocked out the rover had also caused my suit's life support system to malfunction and that I had lost consciousness. She then went on to tell me about her lonely drive through the lunar highlands, making shortcuts through the rugged, unknown terrain with a damaged rover and no communications. And finally arriving back at Drygalski where she finally managed to contact mission control who had been going nuts, despite having received some of the messages she had sent while en route.

She cut off her story there and looked over towards the radio. “Uh, Camwise. I have to talk to mission control. I said I would call as soon as you woke up.”

Again, there was that strange look in her eyes. I caught her arm as she made to get up.

“What did they say to you?”

She hesitated.

“What did Angun ask you to do?” I insisted.

There was an awkward silence, and finally she said, “You must get back to Earth. Angun wants to see you immediately. He wants a first-hand description of what happened at Bailly.”

“Cat, we can't. We have a lander that isn't even capable of sitting upright, let alone launching us to space.”

Again, the strange look. And finally, she admitted, “He said nothing about us, he just said that you must return to Earth.”

“What...?”

“You know perfectly well that it is possible for one of us to leave. You can fly Lentillac up to our return capsule. Macfrey and Mitzon can take you up if you don't think you can-”

“Cat, stop. This is not going to happen. I'm not leaving you here.”

“This is a direct order from mission control. The investigators have unanimously agreed that-”

“I don't care what they have agreed. As Senior Engineer, must I also remind you that we have very specific orders with regards to teamwork? No-one is to be left on their own during surface operations.”

“Angun said that the Mars crewed mission will not leave without you.”

With that I stood up and made my way over to the view-port unsteadily, filled with rage at Angun's attempts to lure me back to Earth without my pilot. I glared out angrily at the uncaring, hostile dust of Drygalski crater. Options, Cam.

I drew a deep breath. The warbling tone in my mind would still not go away but I brushed it off as an ordinary side-effect of being blasted by an alien electromagnetic death-ray. “OK, Cat. I can think of at least two possible ways of getting us both to polar orbit and back to our capsule. The first one will probably not work. The second one will almost certainly get us both to space, but one of us might die in the process. So, let's get to work and try and make it the first one.”

You remember I told you about my first flight across the ocean to Omelek in an airship, throwing up for four days straight? If it comes to that, this may be a shorter but even less pleasant experience...

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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YEAR 6, DAY 86. CAMWISE.

The sun was now about as high as it ever got in the skies of Drygalski crater as we set out in Arcambal to go about our business. We drove the two kilometers that separated us from the scene of our crash landing. Lentillac was still parked nearby, as she had been since our failed attempt to right the lander with her winch. The first thing was to get our shuttle out of the way to make room for the stunt we were about to perform. Cat got to it while I inspected our toppled ride.

I still felt a little weak and unsteady on my feet as I walked around the lander, but the pure oxygen of my suit was doing wonders for my head. The strange noise still disturbing my sleep and always present at the back of my mind wasn't going away, and I'd begun to wonder if it was some sort of tinnitus or damage to my inner ear caused by the pulse from the anomaly. I'd have to get it examined back on Earth, and in the mean time, put up with the splitting headaches.

Once I was satisfied that the lander's low gain omni antenna was undamaged and that everything at least looked functional, albeit not pointing in the right direction, I drove the rover to pick up Catbeth. In turn, she dropped me back off near the lander and moved Arcambal to a safe distance. I was now alone in front of Karanda's dreadful creation, with a clear view of the proceedings.

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“Hey, Cat. When is Station Gamma scheduled to come into line of sight?”

“Three minutes.”

Perfect timing. In a few moments, our orbital guardian angels Macfrey and Mitzon would appear above the horizon. From their remote command station, they could take control of the lander and attempt to get it off the ground in one piece and then very gently, with my guidance from the surface, put it back down to rest on the docking port underneath the pilot's cockpit. Even if this damaged the docking port itself, we could always EVA over from the lander to our return capsule once in orbit.

Such a maneuver had never been attempted, although it had been discussed briefly at the after-work buffet of one of our disaster-scenario seminars in preparation for the first lunar landings. It was of course better for such shenanigans to be performed with no-one actually on board the vehicle in question. We would have flown the lander remotely ourselves from Drygalski Base, had there not been a small rise in the terrain separating the crash site from our own command station on the ground, cutting off line of sight and therefore communications.

The radio crackled and I recognized Mitzon's voice. “...Morning ladies and gents. Dial-a-pilot, at your service.”

“Don't you guys ever get tired of stalking us? You creeps.”

“Glad to hear your back to your usual self, Cam. OK, since you can't fly your own ship, allow us to start your checklist for you...”

And so Mitzon and Macfrey went through the pre-launch checklist, and found everything to be responding surprisingly well, considering that the lander had spent more than a month on its side in the lunar dust. Well, everything except for one small detail...

“Uh, Camwise? I'm not getting any response from the RCS. It doesn't seem to be working at all.”

“That doesn't surprise me in the least.”

“...and according to what we can see from here, it can't work. The thruster blocks are incompatible with the fuel supply.”

“Even better... although that does explain why one of our best pilots couldn't pull off a decent landing. You're just gonna have to do without it, guys. Look, hello Macfrey, it's very simple. As soon as the lander starts to move, you pull up like crazy until the top end is pointing towards space. Is that clear? Once it is, you reduce power very gently and I will call out your precise height above the terrain. When call out zero, you cut off the engines. D'you think you can do that for me?”

“Sure thing, Cam sir.”

“Good, now. When you're ready.”

“Yes sir, mark.”

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The lander burst into life, the four small radial engines blasting it across the lunar surface. It quickly gained speed, but utterly failed to pull up into a vertical attitude of any description.

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Instead it tore itself apart as it ploughed into the hard surface of Drygalski crater.

Miraculously, a small part of the vehicle made it a couple of hundred metres above the Moon's surface before plunging through a graceful arc into the dust.

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“Uh, zero.”

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“SE, sir. We seem to have lost the connection. Is everything alright down there?”

Oh, well. Time for Plan C.

 

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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YEAR 6, DAY 86. CAMWISE.

The atmosphere at the breakfast table this morning was subdued, to say the least. Catbeth tried to raise my spirits by remarking that this was the last time we would be eating dehydrated food here at Drygalski, and that in just a few days time we would be picnicking on the beach in Omelek. Her attempt to coax me into eating failed, since I had made the firm decision that flying on an empty stomach would be safest in this case, not that “safe” was an appropriate word for what we were about to attempt.

I got up and looked out of the view-port towards the foothills of the crater peak to where Padirac and her nuclear reactor had been banished to extract the last of the oxygen and hydrogen that were needed to fill the tanks of our shuttle, Lentillac. The launch window to rendez-vous with our return capsule was just a few hours away, and so I started the day by powering down the reactor and driving Padirac over to where Lentillac was parked via the base's remote command station. We would EVA and plug everything in for refueling as soon as we had closed up shop here.

Just as we were about to suit up and make our way over to Arcambal, mission control called. To my complete lack of surprise, Angun wanted to make absolutely sure that I intended to make use of today's window.

“Good morning Camwise, we are looking forward to see you back home safely.”

“I'm sure you are, boss. And I'm sorry to disappoint, but I've changed my mind. You see, my recent near death experience made me see the light. We were meant to live here on the Moon. We're staying for the polar winter.”

“SE, get on that shuttle and report to me from orbit!”

“TP Catbeth and I are going skiing on the slopes of the crater peak. I've already found a way to make the skis from the wreckage of that awesome lander you gave us...”

...and rather than listen to Angun rant, I killed the channel and turned to grab my helmet. Catbeth had been nearby listening, and was grinning.

“That will keep them guessing for the next few hours...”

We made our way out through the airlock to where Arcambal was waiting to take us over to the shuttle. I turned to look back at Drygalski Base one last time, wondering if we'd return any time soon. Someone would, no doubt, but it wouldn't be me if I was to be carted off to Mars. I felt like I should hide the keys to the base under the doormat; but there was no key, and no doormat, or even a convenient flower pot. If people are going to live here permanently, we would have to brighten the place up a bit, I thought idly as I climbed the ladder into the rover and closed the hatch.

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A few minutes later Cat and I pulled up next to where Lentillac and Padirac were parked together. I had just plugged in the fuel line when Catbeth confronted me, holding the canister of EVA mono-propellant I had insisted be included in the emergency supplies of the base's service module.

“Are you sure you want to go through with this? Look, I can take the back seat. If something happens to you, I will never be let anywhere near a cockpit again...” she said, holding out the EVA fuel to me.

“Well, look at it this way: if you take the back seat, that means I'll be at the controls, or that hotshot Macfrey. So would you prefer to be grounded, or have both of us dead? I'm no pilot, Cat. Get in that cockpit and do your worst, that's an order.”

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And that was that. Lentillac was fueled up as Catbeth performed the preflight checks one last time. As the launch window approached, the only thing left to do was to send the rovers away to make room for our shuttle's departure. She then turned the vehicle round slowly on its wheels to face northwards. Today's only good news was that, thanks to the lottery of orbital mechanics, we would be taking off away from the crater's peak and wouldn't have to worry about crashing into the terrain. At least not that part of the terrain...

I stood there in the dust, waiting for her to complete maneuver, suddenly feeling rather lonely and apprehensive. I must admit that I gulped when I saw Lentillac's cargo bay doors glide slowly open, but I trudged forwards through the grey dust one last time to meet my fate nevertheless.

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Once I was underneath the shuttle I looked up at the cavernous cargo bay above me. I felt tiny and insignificant, somehow out of place in such surroundings. But our options had narrowed to this, it was the only way I could think of to get both Catbeth and I back to Earth alive. I'd missed out on ladder-surfing a nuke-powered rover across the lunar highlands. So what? This would be something to tell my grandchildren.

“TP, please extend the winch.”

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“Yes, sir.”

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"Now, when you're ready, reel me in. Gently please..."

 

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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Aw, thanks man. Not quite as esoteric as your OPTC, but fun to write nonetheless! 

Tune back in this week to find out if Cam makes it to orbit with his spine intact. If Kerbals even have spines, indeed. 

 

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YEAR 6, DAY 86. CAMWISE.

Nothing happened for a moment as the slack of the cable was taken up, then I felt a sudden tug on the attachment point of my suit's backpack. In the low gravity of the Moon, it wasn't the violent jerk I had expected; it was effortless. But this also meant I had already started floating around in a kind of pendulum swing before the cable had even fully retracted. As the winch came to a halt, I winced as the back of my helmet bumped into Lentillac's hull for the first time in what would be many. My movement settled into a lazy spin around the socket on my back.

PvWu3Nn.png?2

“Um, Cat. I'm still spinning...”

Catbeth could see me slowly gyrate thanks to the docking cameras and we could communicate through the cable via the shuttle's intercom.

“I know. The winch won't retract fully.”

“What- ulp!” I suddenly felt myself falling.

Catbeth had started releasing and then retracting the cable several times, trying to get the tether to lock into a fully retracted – and hopefully safe – position. As a consequence, I started to lurch up and down in slow motion, banging my head and various other bits of my anatomy on the cargo bay ceiling at the top of each ungraceful arc. I was already congratulating myself for forgoing breakfast, and we hadn't even taken off yet...

lQgZpNf.png?2

“I can't get it to lock.”

Only about ten centimetres of cable were still deployed, but if we went over a bump on take-off or if Cat had to do some hard maneuvering, this was enough to allow me to spin and gyrate sufficiently to hurt myself pretty badly. Probably. Frankly, we didn't have much experience with this sort of thing, which was probably a good thing if you think about it.

“So, SE. Go, or no go?”

I gritted my teeth. “Go, TP. Promise not to be too rough with me.”

“Yes sir. Closing bay doors. Lights on or off?”

“What?”

“Would you feel more reassured in the dark, or do you want me to leave the cargo bay light on?”

I grinned at the docking camera fiendishly as it spun in and out of my view. “However you like it, TP.”

jg67qNq.png?1

Instead of responding, Catbeth hit the gas and the sudden lurch backwards knocked the smile off my face. My head banged once, twice against the hull, then I spun round once more and somehow managed to brace my feet against a frame of the ship's structure and stay in that position. I could feel the rumbling and vibrations of the shuttle's wheels careering through the dust through the cable, and after what seemed like an eternity, silence as they unweighted, a jolt as they hit the dust once more, and silence again as Lentillac left the lunar surface for good. It was only then that I fully realised how much of an effort it seemed to take to get my shuttle off the ground in just once sixth of a gee. Remind me to give this design a serious overhaul...

“Good news, Cam. We haven't crashed into the Moon.”

“Great, but my stomach sure has crashed into my bowels.”

Actually, the acceleration proved to be quite manageable with my legs still firmly braced against the hull. However, it proved to be more of a strain as time went on, as Lentillac burned fuel and got lighter, and her acceleration increased. It was nothing like a launch from Earth - and I had by now experienced several of those – but it lasted for minutes on end and I began to pray for the moment when Cat would announce engine cut off.

“Watch it, Cam. Engine cut off.”

The acceleration ceased with a jolt, sending me crashing forwards. The top of my helmet slammed into the hull, sent vibrations through my skull, and everything went black.

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Once the blackness had turned into stars, and the stars had cleared, I opened my eyes, and was greeted by one of the most breathtaking views I had ever seen, which coming from one of Earth's most well-traveled space engineers is saying something. Catbeth had opened the cargo bay, and hundreds of kilometres of lunar landscape were spread out beneath me. I was floating, weightless once more, my feet dangling into a majestic open void framed by the bay doors. It was so amazing I even forgot to be terrified for a moment.

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Catbeth must have seen me start to move again. “Congratulations. You made it to orbit.”

“What happened to the injection burn?”

“Oh, that was five minutes ago. You missed it. We're coming up on Faure. Enjoy the view while you can.”

I took her advice and let her concentrate on the rendez-vous with our return capsule. I felt the short jolts as the RCS sputtered and killed velocity relative to our target. I didn't even mind the banging of my knees and elbows against the ship: I was transfixed by the sight of the lunar farside rolling past beneath us. Then I saw Faure slip into view on our port side, coming up along side Lentillac.

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Now came the final gamble of my plan: Catbeth was the only one of us with fuel for her KMU. The cable attached to my back was the only thing that prevented me from drifting off into space. Cat would EVA over to the capsule and maneuver it very carefully into the cargo bay, hopefully getting it into a position where I could grab onto the ladder, and not crushing me against the bay walls in the process.

“Going EVA. Won't miss ya, Lentillac.”

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For several minutes, I was left there dangling helplessly from my tether attached to a now otherwise unoccupied shuttle, trying not to contemplate my options if something happened to Catbeth during her transfer to Faure or if she was unable to perform the pick-up for some reason. The radio was also silent until she powered up the capsule's communications system. Finally, a crackle of static and a simple “On my way.” delivered me from my morbid imagination, and after a while, Faure drifted into view.

“Guide me in, Cam. Just yell when I'm about to crush you.”

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It took several more minutes of slow maneuvering to bring the capsule ever-so-gently into the cargo bay, until the ladder was within centimetres of the outstretched tips of my clumsy, gloved fingers. I would have to hold on with one hand, while reaching behind my back to unclip the tether with the other. On a normal EVA this would have been an absolutely crazy procedure, but this was no normal EVA.

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Then Faure's hatch swung open, and Cat stuck out a hand. She grabbed me firmly by the wrist, and braced herself on the capsule's bulkhead.

“Unclip yourself...”

I reached for the quick release...

“...now!

And with a snap and a tug, I was heaved into the safety of the capsule. I slammed the capsule door closed, secured it, and pulled the lever to restore pressure to the cabin. Only when I had removed my helmet did I realise I'd been hyperventilating for the past five minutes, and my pulse had been hammering away inside my chest. I took a huge gulp of air.

“Thank you TP. Can we go home now?”

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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Poor Camwise.  He has a hard life, certainly.  I hope he gets paid well :)

 

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6 hours ago, Geschosskopf said:

Poor Camwise.  He has a hard life, certainly.  I hope he gets paid well :)

 

Well, he couldn't pull off a deal to the rights to his story with Warner or Century Fox, so he came to me instead. I imagine he's pretty desperate for cash.

Seriously though, I wish to see Camwise suffer from the blistering craters of Mercury to the icy brink of the Verona Rupes. Eventually.

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5 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

Seriously though, I wish to see Camwise suffer from the blistering craters of Mercury to the icy brink of the Verona Rupes. Eventually.

Hehehe, so would I.  Is that a bad thing? :D

 

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44 minutes ago, Geschosskopf said:

Hehehe, so would I.  Is that a bad thing? :D

 

No, that's great. But we'll first have him suffer in some places that are slightly easier to get to.

Dammit I have some long evenings ahead of me... :confused:

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So lads and lasses, Camwise and Catbeth have made it back to Terra Firma with only minor bruises and concussion. I suppose I will call this the End of Part One.

Camwise and friends will continue exploring the Real Solar System, come rain, shine, or KSP 1.1. I'm hoping 1.1 will at least allow me turn up my graphics a bit, but I will not allow it to kill my save, even if I have to resort to obscene amounts of Hyper Edit to bash things back into shape. I'm enjoying RSS far too much for a minor thing such as a game-engine update to ruin my fun.

I'd like to take advantage of this moment to humbly request your feedback and state your preferences, if any. Do you like Camwise's ramblings or would you like him just to get on with it a bit more? I know some of you guys have stated that you enjoy his narration, but I was wondering if 16,000 words is perhaps just a bit much for the average mission-report reader to plough through, just to read about this random Kerbal landing some stuff on the Moon, driving to look at an anomaly, then scooting off back to Earth. I do have a story planned (um, sort of) that may include some of the other anomalies around the system. The challenge is shoehorning this stuff into a plausible plot, as many more accomplished KSP story-tellers than myself can attest.

As Camwise has already stated, the next destination is a crewed Mars orbiting mission. Eventually, thanks to the magic of Near Future Propulsion systems and a little bit of hand waving and .cfg file hacking, we may acquire the technology to reach the outer planets and more exotic destinations. So, I hope you will be in for the ride.

Otherwise, qui ne dit mot consent, and Camwise will keep on truckin'.

Thanks for reading.

UA.

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5 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

[...]

I'd like to take advantage of this moment to humbly request your feedback and state your preferences, if any. Do you like Camwise's ramblings or would you like him just to get on with it a bit more? I know some of you guys have stated that you enjoy his narration, but I was wondering if 16,000 words is perhaps just a bit much for the average mission-report reader to plough through, just to read about this random Kerbal landing some stuff on the Moon, driving to look at an anomaly, then scooting off back to Earth. I do have a story planned (um, sort of) that may include some of the other anomalies around the system. The challenge is shoehorning this stuff into a plausible plot, as many more accomplished KSP story-tellers than myself can attest.

[...]

I really like the ramble-on-y style.  It makes it very different, and makes a reader more invested than in a simple mission report.

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8 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

... but I was wondering if 16,000 words is perhaps just a bit much for the average mission-report reader to plough through, just to read about this random Kerbal landing some stuff on the Moon, driving to look at an anomaly, then scooting off back to Earth ...

You've found a great voice and for this narrative.  Roll with it.  Anyone turned off by the word count probably isn't going to be interested in this sort of story to begin with.

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OK, thanks guys.

4 hours ago, Vim Razz said:

Anyone turned off by the word count probably isn't going to be interested in this sort of story to begin with.

You're probably right. These Logs are a bit of a niche product anyway, I suppose. Maybe not quite geeky-techy enough for the RSS/RO purists, not quite disaster-time-with-Jeb enough for the casual KSP player. That's fine, I like niche products. :D

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