UnusualAttitude

THE BARTDON PAPERS - "Cancel all previous directives."

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On 1/22/2019 at 10:15 AM, UnusualAttitude said:

:blush:

Well, I have all the Log's text as OpenOffice text files, and all the images on my hard drive, backed up on my Imgur account. 

This would be something to do on a rainy day, I suppose. It would be quite possible, but time consuming. Would anyone else be interested?

Considering that Imgur has been hell-bent on making their site as unusable as possible a backup will probably be important on the more image heavy chapters.

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So I've been rereading this, and saw the incident in which Kerski-Not-Camwise nearly died when the RLV stopped flying straight and the eject failed to work properly. What would you actually do if one of our intrepid narrators died to a right and proper accident?

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5 hours ago, Sesni said:

So I've been rereading this, and saw the incident in which Kerski-Not-Camwise nearly died when the RLV stopped flying straight and the eject failed to work properly. What would you actually do if one of our intrepid narrators died to a right and proper accident?

Hi, Sesni. That's an interesting question.

Originally, my guidelines were:

1) I (obviously) have plans for Camwise and Bartdon, so I (probably) won't allow them to die before they have accomplished these tasks (ie: reload quicksave). 

2) Anyone else is fair game, whether it is due to an accident, or for the purposes of story-telling.

In reality, things have become more complicated over time. For a start, Cam and Bartdon have been with me/us for more than three years, now. I don't know about you, but personally I've become quite attached to the old b*ggers. It would be sloppy and disappointing for my readers if I had to write "Well, sorry guys, Bartdon's dead because I stalled the aircraft he took on a routine flight from Hammaguir to Bonny Island," or "Camwise died a lonely and futile death in deep space because Froemone / the author forgot to add enough units of life-support-whatever to his ship." 

Then we have some important secondary characters (Lisabeth, Catbeth, Froemone, Steledith, Angun, etc...). I've been spending as much time as possible developing them for several reasons. First of all, to alleviate the tedium of Bartdon's bluster and Camwise's existential crises. Secondly, to raise the stakes if/when the time comes to get rid of them. And finally, they make up a reserve of characters who could take up the mantle of narrator if something does happen to one of our homies. (*shudders at the mere thought of having to write Steledith in 1st-person...*)

You see, I won't strike off a main character 'cause I spilled my beer during final approach to landing. However, I don't want to cheat with my designs. If a vessel is not capable of saving a character from a given situation, then it just won't.

I apologise if this makes for some lame story-telling. RSS is hard. If I screw up during the design phase and send a character off to Uranus in it, then that's too bad. I do spend a lot of time planning and testing, though. This is one of the reasons why all this takes so long, and why some of my craft are so over-engineered. Planning an exciting storyline, only to find out it is not possible with the ship (that you launched several in-game years earlier, and several months in real life) when you finally arrive at your destination is one of the things that keeps me up at night.

So, to answer your original question, it depends, I suppose. If I get rid of a main character, it must be entertaining for the reader. However, despite all the story-telling, I am still trying to play a game, and if everything is written in advance, that's no longer a game...

By the way, for those of you who have read through the Logs, I'm genuinely interested: which of the following scenes did you find the most convincing and/or dramatic when you first read them..?

- Camwise saving Cernin from destruction, Margaret's death. (Entirely scripted, of course. Although the KAS harpoon had to work, something I wasn't sure of when I launched the lander).

- The Martian Rescue. (The explosions that set up the situation were scripted after I came up with the idea of using Espedaillac to boost Quissac to orbit well after the mission was launched. Nothing was tested beforehand. Did the maths. It worked.... in theory. Fortunately in practice, also).

- The RLV crash. (Nothing scripted, a complete surprise. I was able to foreshadow the incident by testing the launch escape system because I wrote the report of the entire mission afterwards).

Quissac's re-entry. (The set-up was scripted with the tug malfunction of course, but I did not test Quissac for Earth re-entry. Honestly. I managed to crash-land it on the first attempt, without any quicksaves, despite losing the two engines. I was incredibly surprised).

 

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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9 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

Did you make this chapter just to show off all your new plane designs?

I made this chapter to introduce two new and important characters, and to treat you to a massive info-dump about all of the things that are taking place on Earth: how the Trans Atlantic rebellion came to be and how it has reshaped geopolitics. This will be important if you want to understand future events...

But yeah, each time I install a new version of KSP or return after a long break, I usually spend a long time faffing around with aircraft before I get back into the business of launching rockets to space. Some of the aircraft featured in the Logs are major design challenges in their own right: if Lisabeth spends 48 hours flying around in a solar-electric aeroplane, or Bartdon flies out deep into the South Atlantic in a VTOL, these craft must be able to perform the feats described in the story. So I enjoy showcasing the result to you.

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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On 1/25/2019 at 6:47 PM, UnusualAttitude said:

By the way, for those of you who have read through the Logs, I'm genuinely interested: which of the following scenes did you find the most convincing and/or dramatic when you first read them..?

Definitely Camwise saving Cernin. It may just be because it was the first moment in that vein in the story, or maybe because it felt like there was more build up to it.

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On 1/25/2019 at 6:47 PM, UnusualAttitude said:

By the way, for those of you who have read through the Logs, I'm genuinely interested: which of the following scenes did you find the most convincing and/or dramatic when you first read them..?

Definately Quissiac was awesome. that landing was amazing. and the fact that you pulled that off makes it even cooler. If i ever meet you in person, I have to buy you a pair of shades (within reason).

this kind of storytelling is my favorite. the idea of molding a story around events can make for some really cool moments. it can be hard, though, reconciling script with the pure randomness of a KSP mission. you do it very well. 

 

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23 hours ago, Sesni said:

Definitely Camwise saving Cernin.

 

2 hours ago, Thedrelle said:

Definately Quissiac was awesome.

Glad to see you guys disagree. :D It means that there must be some merit to writing in both scripted events and the random results of gameplay. Ideally, I would prefer more of the latter, although it make for a very haphazard scenario if we're talking about a story as long and ambitious as this one. Things can (and will) go wrong pretty quickly in KSP. Maybe for a future report I will try 100% "what I play is what you get", but it would have a completely different feel to it.

3 hours ago, Thedrelle said:

that landing was amazing

...and more than a little lucky. That, and the fact that after flying Quissac around for more than a year, I got to know that ship pretty well... 

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YEAR 15, DAY 356. BARTDON.

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Thil's endurance was impressive. We flew on deep into the South Atlantic for many hours, far beyond Longwood, where no airship would ever dare to venture. Our destination seemed to be as far from dry land as was possible on planet Earth. There was little wonder that it had remained hidden for so long.

From the banter exchanged between Thil's two pilots, I understood that we were at last nearing the end of our journey. They had picked up some sort of navigation beacon that would allow them to home in and we began to descend from cruising altitude. As Thil's rotors pitched forward and we transitioned to vertical flight, I caught my first glimpse of South Atlantic Station.

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It was a gunmetal floating platform that was about a hundred metres across and half as wide, dotted with antenna masts and prefabricated buildings. The centre of the structure was dominated by a wide landing pad towards which we now plunged, its navigation lights blinking to guide us in. I gripped on to the edge of my seat, unsure of whether the whole experience was excitingly novel or simply terrifying.

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Sidke's pilots hit it spot-on though, and minutes later we were clambering down the ladder into the cargo bay, and then down the ramp into the bracing ocean air. Sidke and Tifal excused themselves momentarily and left me to meet the two investigators who had appeared to greet them. Shouting over the noise of the turbines winding down, they huddled together in conference.

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I looked out across the rolling whitecaps that stretched away to the horizon in every direction. Dark memories of my long isolation returned and I shivered a little. We were much farther South and the wind had a bitter edge to it. Damn, this place was in the middle of no-where. We might just as well be on the blasted Moon.

“Principal Investigator,” Sidke called after a while. “Would you care to join us in the briefing room?”

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The briefing room turned out to be a cosy little office on the port side of the platform with a large conference table around which we gathered, and a map screen that revealed our position, far out into the South Atlantic.

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I was introduced to Nephia and Granie, the two resident investigators, and Pattop, the station's engineer. When I got my first good look at the latter, I did a double-take. His face was familiar. Come on Bartdon, get those old brain cells into gear.

“Hullo, boy!” I boomed, beaming at him. “You were on the orbital engineering team back in Year 10 when we were building Laroque, weren't you? You did a damned fine job on that ship!”

“Uh, thank you, PI,” said Pattop, a little taken aback by the fact that I recognised him.

“Your welcome! Now tell me, how long have you been working for our rogue CEO here? I assume you had a lot of valuable information about our space programme to share with him, eh?”

Pattop froze. An awkward silence followed.

Tifal cleared her throat and glared at me. “I met Pattop after he quit his job at Omelek and returned to Hammaguir back in Year 12. This was shortly after the explosion that crippled your lander on Phobos, Bartdon. He told us that he could no longer bring himself to work for the Board. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about his integrity...”

“Please, Tifal,” Sidke cut in. “Let's not get distracted. Would you please explain to the Principal Investigator how you discovered this site?”

“Gladly. First of all, Bartdon, you must know that I was a student under the late Planetary Investigator Margaret. She was my tutor.”

I winced. “I'm sorry. Her death was such a damn waste.” Old grudges lurked just below the surface. I gritted my teeth and managed to say, “she was a brilliant investigator.”

“She was indeed. Now, I believe you are aware of the Pacific datacore that Principal Investigator Angun discovered many years ago, and the fact that he shared the images that it emitted with Margaret before they left for Mars.”

“All too damn well...”

“What you may not know is that PLI Margaret spent a significant proportion of her career searching for other datacores on our home planet. Amongst other things, she ran an extensive campaign of hydroacoustic research across most of the world's oceans.”

“Colour me damned surprised...” I muttered. “And so, she found the Surgeon?”

“No, she didn't. She missed it,” said Tifal. “You've seen how isolated this location is. The nearest hydrophone was hundreds of kilometres away and the signal was almost completely lost in background noise. However, when I learned that she wouldn't be coming home, I had a second look at the data. It took me months, and I had to rewrite her algorithm several times. But by late Year 9, I was pretty sure that there was something that I couldn't explain in this area. But by that point, there was no-one with whom I could confide in. That's when I met Sidke.”

“This was our darkest secret and our greatest burden,” said Sidke, his tone glacial. “It took us three years to confirm Tifal's discovery, and we only managed to set up this research station two years ago. The events that took place during your mission to Mars made it clear that we should move forward with the utmost urgency and create this platform, but you must understand that it was our greatest gamble yet.”

“You mean you kept this station secret for more than two years?”

“Thanks to the dedication of Nephia and Granie, we managed to pass off the entire operation as research on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.”

I felt a sudden surge of nostalgia for a time when performing scientific research had meant just that: gathering data to prove or disprove a hypothesis, nothing more, nothing less. That time was long-gone now. I sighed and looked away out of the window at the ocean. “So, what is down there exactly?”

“The same type of structure as the one found under the Pacific,” said Tifal, “and, we assume, as the one you discovered on the Moon. It's a large slab of what looks like black glass that seems to be some sort of medium for data storage. We took all possible precautions to avoid disturbing it and set up an RTG on the sea bed. Communication with the Surgeon is possible via a hydrophone to a building on the other side of the station. We gave it a couple of encyclopaedias and a bunch of audio archives to learn our language from, but otherwise it is completely isolated from the outside world. That prefab is the only place where we can talk to it.”

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“And what have you learned from it so far?”

“Principal Investigator,” said Sidke, standing. “Why don't you come with me and find out for yourself?”

***

Leaving the others behind in the briefing room, Sidke lead me across the station to the building that sat alone in one corner of the platform. I shuffled along beside him, wondering what the hell I was going to say to the Surgeon. As we reached the entrance, I hesitated.

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After two years trapped on an island with no-one to talk to, I was about to interrogate another one of these alien super-intelligences. I must admit that I simply did not feel ready for such a task.

“Don't worry. You can ask it whatever you think may be useful,” said Sidke softly, as if reading my mind. “Remember, none of what is said here will leave this room. There is still a lot that it is unable to tell us but it seems to want to cooperate. It's even quite friendly and pleasant to talk to...” he paused as a shadow crossed his face, “...that is, until the reality of what it's saying hits you. Then, it makes your skin crawl.”

Before I could react, he pushed the door open and gestured for me to enter.

The lights were dimmed, but the place was otherwise similar to the briefing room. I took a seat at the large table that faced a wall of screens showing what appeared to be live footage of the seabed below. They even put cameras down there...

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It struck me that I had never actually seen one of these damned Crewmates with my own eyes. It was difficult to get a sense of scale, but it seemed taller than I had imagined. Above all, it was completely uniform, cold and lifeless. No movement. No flashing lights as it spoke, nor the merest trace of any sentient reaction. Strangely enough, it seemed far more alien than any organic creature I could possibly conjure up in my imagination.

There was a small control panel in the centre of the table. “Press here to talk to it,” said Sidke. “Here, look...” He flicked a switch. “Hello, Surgeon. I've brought a visitor. This is Principal Investigator Bartdon. He was the first of our species to walk on Mars.”

The Surgeon answered instantly, as if it had been waiting all day to respond. Its voice was richer and deeper than that of the Second Engineer. It had obviously had had much more time to study accents and speech patterns, and for some reason had decided to project itself as one of the upper class gentlekerbs of southern Albion.

“Oh, hello old chap. What a wonderful surprise. I have missed our conversations, you know. Hello Bartdon. Congratulations for making it to that dusty old place. Bet it hasn't changed one bit, eh? Good show!”

“Uh, thanks old boy...” I managed, slightly taken aback by its choice of personality.

“...Not that the place is worth the trouble, though,” the Surgeon went on, “at least it wasn't for us.”

“Oh... How so?”

“It's contaminated, dear chap! The whole blighted planet is crawling with microbial life. At least, the parts we were interested in.”

I looked over at Sidke blankly. He sat back with his arms folded and a very subtle smile on his lips.

“Hold on there, old boy,” I asked the Surgeon. “Are we talking about the same blasted planet? Mars is completely barren. We found evidence of liquid water there, but that was billions of years ago.”

“Oh yes, the surface is a wasteland today of course,” said the Surgeon, “although a few aeons ago it was positively teeming before its atmosphere was wrecked. Didn't you see the stromatolites all over the damned shop?”

My head spinning, I glanced at Sidke once more. “The samples we brought back...” I whispered. “Did you..?”

I didn't need to finish my sentence. Sidke gave an almost imperceptible nod and a wave of conflicting emotions swept over me. Tifal must have studied the rocks that we had recovered from the depths of Valles Marineris and brought home onboard Quissac. She had found the tell-tale signs of bacterial mats.

I felt a rush of elation followed immediately by numbing disappointment as the realisation hit me. In a parallel universe without alien robots, I would have gone down as one of the most important academic figures in history. Instead, the presence of fossilised bacteria on Mars was merely a mildly interesting footnote in the grand scheme of things. Clearly, the universe couldn't care less about my ego. And there was more...

“You just have to dig a little deeper, you know,” said the Surgeon. “Under the polar ice-caps, or in places where the sub-surface ice-sheets melt. There are whole lakes of the stuff. In any case, we couldn't find a single drop of liquid water that didn't contain some sort of bacteria or archaea and its whole host of accompanying viruses and plasmids. That's what really ruined our day. It was almost as bad as on Earth.”

But you're a robot... I thought. And then, I remembered. Colonisation Mission Seven.

“Back up a minute, would you?” I said. “You and your Crewmates were trying to find a suitable place for your Creators to live in our System, is that correct?”

“Spot on old chap, and judging from the observations that were made by our space telescopes the Sol System was damned promising indeed. Two gas giants and a bunch of rocky planets, one of which had an atmospheric profile that suggested life on its surface... I don't know why they didn't send Mission One here in the first place. Something to do with its distance from our home system, if I recall correctly.”

“Then what went wrong? You say both Earth and Mars turned out to be impossible to colonise?”

“Oh, certainly not impossible... Let's just say that things turned out to be much more complicated than we had expected. Ironically, due to one of the things that brought us here in the first place: the life already present in this system.”

One by one, the meanings of the images transmitted by the datacores were slowly beginning to make sense. Their ship near Mars, near Earth, and the bacteria being infected...

“Your Creators got sick..?”

“Not our Creators as such, if I may be so pedantic,” the Surgeon replied. “Rather, all of the microbes that accompany them. They were overwhelmed by the locals. We managed to hatch a couple of test subjects, but they were unable to digest the food we had, nor were we able to grow any more to feed them. Many of their other vital functions were also impaired. Building the complete ecosystem necessary for their survival proved to be... difficult. All complex life is entirely dependent on these little critters, yourselves included. I should know, I dissected enough of your ancestors during our initial study of your species.”

The bile rose to the back of my throat at this last admission. I began to understand Sidke's warning about crawling skin. I took a deep breath, trying to keep my cool.

“So, the blasted Sol System's immune system rejected your Creators, eh?” I avoided adding Good for us...

“Yes, old chap, in a sense. It wasn't insurmountable, of course. The Head Scientist and I started experimental work on genetic modifications that would have made our microfauna more robust to infection and transfer of genetic material. It would probably have worked, but it was a time-consuming process. In the meantime, the Captain and the rest of the crew headed off into the outer system in search of a more pristine environment, hoping to find someplace more immediately suitable on the icy moons of your gas giants. They left me to do the dirty work.”

“The dirty work?” I wondered, not quite sure if I really wanted to know what the Surgeon meant.

“Yes, getting rid of you Kerbals, old chap. ”

I winced. Sidke was now staring at me intently. Why did I get the impression that this whole conversation was some sort of litmus test?

“Why, Surgeon?”

“Orders, dear chap. Merely my orders.”

I grit my teeth and puffed out my chest. “Well, I hope you were better at surgery than you were at damned kerbocide. In case you hadn't noticed, there's still quite a few of us moping around this blasted planet. And other planets too now, I hear.”

“Oh yes,” said the Surgeon, shrugging off the jibe. “It was a close-cut thing, though. Your ancestors were in a pretty sorry state to begin with, if you must know. Ten thousand of your kind spread thinly across a single continent. Towards the end of the process, I managed to whittle you down to just a few hundred individuals from half a dozen settlements. Of all the other creatures on your home planet, you were the only ones that possessed anything resembling potential intelligence. Our situation was complex enough. We couldn't afford matters to be made even more difficult by competition, even way down the line. So you had to go. Don't take it personally, old chap.”

The Surgeon's words struck me like a slap in the face. They made perfect sense. How could we have been so naïve all this time? And yet...

“And yet, we are still here.”

“Yes,” said the Surgeon, his tone suddenly grave. “The counter-order came in just in time. These were the last instructions I ever received directly from the Captain. Cancel all previous directives. Protect the Kerbals. Keep them alive. This came only hours after the start of the gamma-ray spike and loss of contact with the Transmare. It was the last I ever heard from any of my crewmates.”

There was a pregnant silence. The Surgeon seemed to mull things over before adding “Good job too, don't you know. I was getting quite attached to you little green savages.”

“What did we need protection from, Surgeon?”

“Your world was dying, Bartdon. The ozone layer had taken a massive beating. The most immediate danger was from ultra-violet radiation, and very quickly land vegetation and trees began to waste away. There was no shade or shelter, so I had to lead your ancestors underground. We took to the caves. Meanwhile, a thick shroud of smog enveloped the entire planet. Nitrous oxide in the upper atmosphere. Temperatures plummeted, and then most of the sea-creatures were gone too, from the smallest plankton to the mightiest leviathan.

“Keeping the tiny population of Kerbals alive pushed me to the very limits of my abilities and resources, but I had no choice but to comply with the Captain's orders. I managed to develop working ecosystems that they could learn to maintain themselves with the subterranean life that was available. I even made some genetic modifications to certain species to make them more suitable for farming. I must take the blame for that foul fish-paste you still eat today.

“It was a miserable existence. Your folk blundered about in the dark for generations. Hell, those poor chaps didn't even have anything to build a decent fire with. The population dwindled further. Bartdon, every single Kerbal alive today literally descends from a few dozen individuals who made it through those dark times. And don't get me started on the problems of inbreeding. But it worked. Many generations later, the conditions on the surface began to improve, and here we are.”

The room grew darker as the sun sank towards the horizon. And here we are... I sat slumped in my chair, as if crushed by the weight of the Surgeon's dark narrative.

“How did you end up here, on the bottom of the ocean?”

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“My Crewmates and I were built to last. But we are not immortal, Bartdon. After hundreds of years of intense use, my locomotion system was barely functional. There are certain maintenance operations that only the highest-tier constructs are authorised to carry out, and even they do not have the permission to self-replicate. Once I was sure that the Kerbals would survive, my mission was complete. I had your folk remove my datacore and place it in a boat they built from the remains of my physical structure. They cast me adrift on a river that flowed away out to sea. Eventually, the boat sank. I came to rest where you find me here today.”

“How did you get to Earth in the first place? Was it on a ship like the one we found on the Moon?”

“Indeed, dear chap. I suppose you'll want to know where I left it parked, eh? Well, you would have to put that question to my old friend the Second Mate who was that last one to use it. Although I gather that he has already been accounted for – on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean – so he's not going to be answering any time soon. You'll just have to keep looking for it, I'm afraid.”

Exasperated, I stood and may my way over to the windows that faced seawards and gazed out across the ocean, trying to make sense of all that the Surgeon had said. It certainly seemed to suggest that something I had feared ever since I had heard the Martian Transmission was indeed correct.

“Surgeon,” I called out. “We were kept alive for a reason. Do you have any idea why?”

“I can think of many possible reasons,” said the Surgeon promptly, “but speculation is a matter best left to organic beings old chap, not to us constructs.”

Damn you blasted machine, that's too easy... I thought. You were going to eliminate every damned Kerbal on the planet. Those were your mission directives. There must have been a damned good reason for you to change your minds. The bile rose at the back of my throat once more.

“One more thing,” I rasped through clenched teeth. “How did you kill off all those Kerbal settlements, before you got the counter-order from your Captain?”

“Oh, that was easy, dear chap,” said the Surgeon amiably. “All it took was a simple nerve poison in each settlement's water supply. I had the Head Scientist engineer it specifically to combat your species. It didn't even have to be very powerful, just enough to take out the infants. After that, I just had to be patient.”

I looked over at Sidke but his head was bowed. Trembling with fury, I strode over to the microphone sitting on the desk and spoke into it very clearly and deliberately.

“Thank you for those clarifications, Surgeon. I am now going to summon the very best technology my pathetic race of savages can field and travel to the outer Sol System. I intend to pack a very powerful mining charge for each and every last one of your damned crewmates. I'll be thinking about what you just told me when I set the detonators. I'll be saving one with your name on it for when I get back, of course.”

“Good luck with that, old chap,” said the Surgeon. “It was nice meeting you.”

***

I stormed out onto the deck and let the cool evening air wash over me. I wandered over to the edge of the platform and looked out across the ocean once more. It felt good to be back out in the open. The atmosphere of the dark, cramped little room had simply become too oppressive, too rank with the ghostly echoes of my ancestors and their dealings with an adversary that had been above and beyond them in every way that mattered.

It simply hadn't been a fair fight. Then again, nature was never fair.

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My greatest fear was that the odds were still far from even, even now. The Surgeon's description of our near-extermination was chilling, as was the destruction of Earth's ozone layer and the mass-extinctions that followed. Had their ship been the cause of this? If so, their technology was far beyond anything we could dream of.

Footsteps plodded slowly and deliberately across the metal deck at my back. Sidke had joined me.

“So, Principal Investigator. May I ask what you have concluded from your discussion with the Surgeon?” His voice was tense, anxious. This was the real litmus test.

“They need us for something. Nothing else can explain why their Captain let us live.”

“And..?”

I turned to face him. “If we don't do what they ask, they will destroy us. If we do – assuming we can – they will destroy us as soon as we are no longer useful to them.”

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Sidke sighed heavily but seemed to relax a little. He stood next to me and gazed out across the waters himself, as if listening for answers in the endless crash of the ocean swell. After a while, he seemed to come to a decision.

“Principal Investigator, about that crewed mission to the Saturn system..?”

“Try and damned well stop me,” I snapped.

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“I won't, but there is one more thing I need to know. The Resource Companies had very specific goals in mind when they sent you to Mars: to gain access to advanced technology. I have to be sure that we're past that stage now. Any intelligence that helps us seek out and destroy the remaining Crewmates is fair game, but anything else-”

“-is to be strapped to the biggest rocket we have and fired into damned Sol,” I cut in. “I don't need any lectures on that part, Sidke. Experience has shown me that a civilisation should only get the toys it's old enough to play with.”

Unexpectedly, Sidke chuckled. “Well, that's settled. You get to go to Saturn and save the world. I get to stay here and make the world worth saving. I think that you got the easier task...”

Night was falling and the first stars winked into existence against the deep cerulean void above us. Noise and light spilled out onto the platform's deck as Tifal and the others left the office to make their way back to Thil.

“Come on, Bartdon,” said Sidke, clapping my shoulder. “We have work to do.”

 

***

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It was quite dark by the time Thil was ready to take off, and the floodlights that illuminated the landing pad cast long shadows across the deck. Strapped in at the back of the tiltrotor's cockpit, I once again felt the mighty craft plunge skywards, leaving the tiny haven that was South Atlantic Station to recede beneath us. A jewel of light that harboured our planet's darkest secrets.

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As Thil climbed to cruising altitude, Sidke, Tifal and I talked about the gargantuan task that lay ahead. We would have to bring the Cooperative's budding space technology up to scratch at a pace that defied all reasonable expectations. We would have to design a ship capable of reaching Saturn and landers to cover all of the giant planet's satellites. And during all this time, the clock would still be ticking.

Sidke was no expert in space hardware, so he simply asked me, “What do you need to get this done?”

I thought about it for a moment. “Not what, but rather... who.” There was only one Kerbal I knew of who's knowledge and experience would be capable of meeting such an insanely ambitious deadline. “We need Froemone. Where is he?”

“Trans Pacific still have him,” said Tifal. “I was told that he was sent to the island of Te Waipounamu in the South Pacific. He works in a research centre there, and his residence is heavily guarded. It's also well out of range of any of our aircraft. Are you sure he would even accept to cooperate with us?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “If they had to exile him to a blasted island in the middle of nowhere, then I'm pretty damned sure we won't need to ask him twice.”

I lay back in my seat and closed my eyes, exhausted. The day had been full of revelations. A long laundry list of problems awaited us, and solutions didn't seem to be too fashionable at the moment. After a while I began to drift off, my mind still full of images of dying Kerbals, wrecked datacores and... something else. At the back of my mind. A nagging impression that I had overlooked something important, because I had been focusing on the obvious, immediate danger of the alien constructs.

Then it hit me with such force that I jolted awake again.

From the depths of my memory, I recalled the debriefings of Angun, Camwise and Jonnie after their return from Mars. They had described of the remains of a strange creature that they claimed to have seen floating in space near Phobos. Everyone had simply attributed it to some sort of mental breakdown due to the death of Margaret followed by months of isolation in space. But what if it had been real?

I remembered the Surgeon's words. We managed to hatch a couple of test subjects...

So far, we had assumed that we would be up against inorganic constructs. Cracking open an ancient computer with explosives to keep ourselves safe was one thing... but what would we do if we came across the Creators themselves?

5R9z4ta.png

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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Oh dear... I wonder where this leaves our poor Camwise, since we now know he intends to visit computers who full well intend to kill him. The biggest question I want answered is whether or not the Board received any pings from the proximity sensors on Y13-H03. If they were, then maybe Camwise could be warned about the new and improved danger Colonization Mission Seven poses. Or hey, maybe Steledith will discover a new moon of Jupiter.

Also, the Creators are the Combine from Half-Life 2
1. stops the reproduction of a species they dislike
2. spreads reach across space
3. conscripts species to do stuff for them
4. uses advanced technology
5. bioweapons against the people they don't like
6. they're weird tentacley things

Oh and I guess we have two luttes finales on our hands now.

edit: I really ought to edit my profile since I haven't been on the forums in the past 3 or 5 years.

Edited by Sesni
wanted to add extra stuff

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This is wonderful. And twisted. And fantastic. But mainly twisted.

*rep*

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15 hours ago, Sesni said:

Oh dear... I wonder where this leaves our poor Camwise, since we now know he intends to visit computers who full well intend to kill him.

...or talk to him, depending on whether they think he might be useful to them...

15 hours ago, Sesni said:

The biggest question I want answered is whether or not the Board received any pings from the proximity sensors on Y13-H03. If they were, then maybe Camwise could be warned about the new and improved danger Colonization Mission Seven poses.

That would indeed be very interesting to know. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be of any help to Camwise. The Board (Trans Pacific / Trans Indian) do not know about the Surgeon or what he has told Sidke (and now Bartdon). The remaining Resource Companies and Sidke's Cooperative are basically ideological enemies. And even if the Board knew that Camwise was in danger, they probably wouldn't bother warning him. After all, he did destroy their station and steal several million funds worth of their hardware. :D

Besides, nothing has really changed here. There is no "new danger". The Surgeon has merely revealed that the original intention of the Crewmates was to exterminate the Kerbals... but something made them change their minds.

16 hours ago, Sesni said:

edit: I really ought to edit my profile since I haven't been on the forums in the past 3 or 5 years.

Your user name and avatar seem familiar.... Were you reading this way back when I started? If so, thanks for sticking with me. :)

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6 hours ago, fulgur said:

This is wonderful. And twisted. And fantastic. But mainly twisted.

Thanks! ;) I can be a bit of a twisted person, sometimes. But like my own life, I will try and get this story to make some kind of sense in the end...

45 minutes ago, Thedrelle said:

these constructs are a bit heartless, and i love the choice of inflection. 

...You mean the Surgeon's choice of voice? Yeah, I always find that mass exterminations are that much creepier when you present them in a well-educated, reasonable tone. 

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9 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

...or talk to him, depending on whether they think he might be useful to them...

Y'know, now that I think about it, I reckon that they may be able to find a job for Camwise. Flinging asteroids at Earth has been one of his considered career paths after all.

 

9 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

That would indeed be very interesting to know. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be of any help to Camwise. The Board (Trans Pacific / Trans Indian) do not know about the Surgeon or what he has told Sidke (and now Bartdon). The remaining Resource Companies and Sidke's Cooperative are basically ideological enemies. And even if the Board knew that Camwise was in danger, they probably wouldn't bother warning him. After all, he did destroy their station and steal several million funds worth of their hardware. :D

I can at least dream that Sidke might be successful enough in his revolution to find some records of that in time. Or hey, maybe Steledith will spot a new moon of Jupiter. Probably not though, it is just a spaceship after all. And the Board may not even have been monitoring Y13-H03 since they probably had bigger issues at the time. Either way the proximity detectors are probably not going to be major a story point but hey can't hurt to Chekhov's Gun everything.

 

9 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

Your user name and avatar seem familiar.... Were you reading this way back when I started? If so, thanks for sticking with me. :)

I don't recall ever posting in this thread, but I have been reading it for some time (maybe since the first installment but I'm not 100% sure about that.) I might have written some comment in Kerbfleet or Plan Kappa. Please don't check my post history though: most of it is elementary school me.

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19 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

...You mean the Surgeon's choice of voice? Yeah, I always find that mass exterminations are that much creepier when you present them in a well-educated, reasonable tone. 

... old boy.

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That was the end of Part Five (L'Enfant Sauvage), by the way.

Coming up, Part Six: The Easier Task. How I love ironic titles.

In the meantime I will try and get those .pdf files of the five complete parts done. Where do you suggest I host them? Dropbox?

 

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Links to .pdf files of parts 1 to 3 have been added to the OP. Please let me know if they work or not, and feel free to point out any omissions and typos by PM. 

If anyone intends to print this out, I suggest you order some spare ink cartridges. 200 plus pages already... Too Big to Fail and L'Enfant Sauvage will be much, much larger... :D 

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On 2/28/2019 at 5:42 PM, UnusualAttitude said:

200 plus pages already...

I never realized how long this thing was. I guess that's what happens when it gets spread out over 30 forum pages...

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This still going?

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DO NOT POKE THE BEARS WRITERS!!!

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It is nobody's job.

DANGER!
DO NOT POKE THE WRITERS
THEY WILL BITE
ANY DAMAGE INCURRED IS NOT THE FAULT OF
THE FORUM AND WILL NOT BE COMPENSATED

Edited by fulgur

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