The Raging Sandwich

FLY HIGHER - A Scifi Novel [Updated Chapters]

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Hello, fellow scifi lovers! I'm back again with another science fiction book. This one is called FLY HIGHER, it's a book about a younger boy who starts his own little space program with the intentions of leaving Earth but runs into several roadblocks along the way. A full conversation about it between me and @Spaceception, author of other awesome scifi books such as The Void and The Children Between Worlds, can be found here:

 http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/profile/164377-the-raging-sandwich/&status=3130&type=status

Also, you may have seen parts of my first book (WIP) Outpost, a scifi story (not necessarily a novel) about a crew going on an intergalactic journey searching for a planet with life. It can be found here:

 http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/143762-my-book-outpost/#comment-2675169

 

So what do you think? Post any thoughts or ideas down below. :)

Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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Thanks for the mention :)

Although, The Void is being rewritten, and The children between worlds is still being edited :P

 

Y'know, Aside from you and me, there's been a few members who're writing science fiction, not just KSP fan works...

I gonna start a new thread for that.

 

Anyway, can't wait for the first chapter :)

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27 minutes ago, Spaceception said:

Anyway, can't wait for the first chapter :)

Its being written right now and will be posted here later! Since I'm writing two books at the same time, I'm writing one chapter at a time in each. Once I finish a chapter in one of the books (I'm starting this with Fly Higher), I'll write one chapter in the other. 

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Interesting! Before i even knew about the book you were writing, i was thinking of a story called "Alexander". It is a story about a boy who was born after a disaster were all electronics were shut down, so there are no satellite conncections any more and no internet. Alexander wants to recover this global network in his lifetime, but he also wants to colonize other celestial bodies. He gives birth of 2 kids later in his life, wich are going to be his first Astronauts when they grow up.

So i had pretty much exactly the same idea as yours, but i will leave it to you. Since you are the first one to actually release the idea to the public.

I would love to see how this goes! Good luck! Im looking forward on how its gonna look like.

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1 minute ago, NSEP said:

He gives birth of 2 kids

Things really get wonky when there're no electronics, right? :confused::sticktongue:

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Just now, 0111narwhalz said:

Things really get wonky when there're no electronics, right? :confused::sticktongue:

Well, there are, but not the fancy nancy x-ray stuff. The only electronics that are there are lamps and that basic stuff. I think if am going to write the story, the birth part will not be included because it IS wonky. Oh and i made a bit of a mistake, Alexander is not giving birth, his wife is. Lol that was a wonky mistake rofl.

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1 hour ago, NSEP said:

Interesting! Before i even knew about the book you were writing, i was thinking of a story called "Alexander". It is a story about a boy who was born after a disaster were all electronics were shut down, so there are no satellite conncections any more and no internet. Alexander wants to recover this global network in his lifetime, but he also wants to colonize other celestial bodies. He gives birth of 2 kids later in his life, wich are going to be his first Astronauts when they grow up.

So i had pretty much exactly the same idea as yours, but i will leave it to you. Since you are the first one to actually release the idea to the public.

I would love to see how this goes! Good luck! Im looking forward on how its gonna look like.

That sounds cool, but a bit different than what I have in mind for this. Different enough that they're not really the same idea, but the same concept of running your own space program!

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5 minutes ago, The Raging Sandwich said:

That sounds cool, but a bit different than what I have in mind for this. Different enough that they're not really the same idea, but the same concept of running your own space program!

Ok. So i can publish it? Thanks!

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So far, I've got about 1.2 K words in what I have in the first chapter, and I've barely gotten started on it. At this rate, I may have somewhere to 9 K - 11 K words by the end of the chapter. Still goin' strong!

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17 hours ago, The Raging Sandwich said:

So far, I've got about 1.2 K words in what I have in the first chapter, and I've barely gotten started on it. At this rate, I may have somewhere to 9 K - 11 K words by the end of the chapter. Still goin' strong!

Dang, that's a long chapter!

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About 4 K words and nearly 3/4 of the way done with the first chapter! By the end of the second chapter, it may be anywhere from 9 k -11 k words. First chapter should be coming out soon, I promise!

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Here's Chapter 1! Feel free to post any questions, comments, or concerns. Enjoy!

Spoiler

Thousands of stars stretched across the scarlet sky. The thick band of the Milky Way could barely be seen. The last slivers of the orange sun were sinking below the horizon of the wide pasture. A few faint shooting stars blazed through the sky. The last bits of the Perseids Meteor Shower were unfolding in the late Autumn. Most of the lights were off on the farm, giving little light pollution to hinder the sight of the stars. Few clouds were in the sky.

            Michael Baer sat watching these sights on his grandad’s farm. It was a great place to stargaze, one of Michael’s favorite things to do in the evenings. Sometimes, Grandad Baer came out with him, even though he wasn’t particularly interested. Tonight, Michael was alone and the Moon was high in the sky, giving of its brilliant light for the billions of people on planet Earth to enjoy. He could just see the Tycho crater, the largest crater on the Moon, left from a giant asteroid long ago. Perhaps some object from the Perseids left that giant scar on the Moon’s surface, Michael thought.

            As Michael was looking for Jupiter, which was in between the Moon and Mars at that time of the year, a streak began to appear from behind one of the lone clouds in the sunset sky. A bright light was in front of a long line of dark-red vapor. It was streaking across the sky almost as fast as the meteors were, except the white light at the end was very contrasted against the meteors. Houston must be doing another launch again.

            NASA’s space center in Houston did rocket launches regularly, sometimes Hypersonic flights all the way down to the Kennedy Space Center down at the coast of Florida. Houston’s launch days weren’t very public nowadays. They liked to keep things secret, mostly because Houston was where most of the experimental flights took place. In case anything went wrong, the public wouldn’t be too concerned, or at all for that matter. Most of NASA’s public relations took place in Florida.

            Michael watched the hypersonic craft go across the sunset sky with his knees bent and his arms bundling his legs together; it was a particularly breezy night in Texas that evening. Like he did when he was younger, he waved at the plane, this time being well aware that the pilot wasn’t waving back at him. I’m going to be like him one day.

            Michael heard footsteps behind him in the tall grass. The lightning bugs began to light up all around him as they were stirred by Grandad Baer. One began to buzz in Michael’s ear, and he reluctantly flicked it away from him. Michael, still sitting down, turned around to see his grandad. He was wearing his usual clothes, dirty, tattered blue jeans, an old leather belt owned by his dad, a white shirt covered in oil and grease stains, and a tan farmers jacket, all topped off with his baseball cap.

            “It’s getting a bit dark out here, Skipper,” he said, “You should probably come inside.”

            Michael grunted. “Look at that, Grandad,” Michael said. He pointed to the plane blazing across the sky in a brilliant streak. It was almost out of their view, about to go behind the silhouetted trees. Grandad Baer watched the plane as it went out of view, almost at a loss of words. Michael could tell he was lost in thought, probably remembering the Space Race in the 50s and 60s that he spent most of his school years watching it as it unfolded.

            Michael broke the silence by saying, “What was it like?”

            “What do you mean, Skipper?” Grandad replied.

            “During the Space Race? What was it like?”

            “Well, it was probably the only good thing exciting during that time period. It gave everyone a much needed break from Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. It seemed like something new happened every few weeks. When America learned that a Soviet man was launched into orbit… You just had to feel for Alan Shepard.”

            They stood there in silence, still watching the sky. The contrail left by the plane was starting to spread out across the sky, wind patterns blowing the vapor in all sorts of directions. Michael finally got up and dusted the tall grass and the occasional hay straw off of his clothes from where he was laying down.

            He and Grandad Baer walked through the now dark pasture back to the old farm house. Michael pointed to a dim streak from a meteor as it passed by. “I counted 87 meteors during the time I was out here,” Michael said. Grandad Baer patted Michael on the back as they kept walking. Even though there were no lights around, they could still see where they were going because of the number of lightning bugs.

            They reached the house and went up the rickety steps. The farmhouse wasn’t even that old, it was built about the time Grandad was born. The constant shaking from the noise of countless tractors and farming machines knocked everything loose in the house loose, making it seem older than it really was.

            It was a two story house, where you could see the whole town down the hill if you looked from the top floor. Not many lights were in the house, but just enough to make it where you could see where you were going. They went inside. The kitchen lights were off, so Grandad flicked the light switch. The lights hesitated to turn on, it flickered for a couple seconds, and came on, just barely lighting the whole room. It was a bit dimmer than usual. “I’m gonna have to fix that,” said Grandad to no one in particular.

            Michael left his grandad in the kitchen and went upstairs to his bedroom. Each step he took made the floorboards creak, especially at the stairs. He made sure to avoid one step altogether, for it made the loudest and most annoying creaking sound in the whole entire house. He stepped over one of the stairs, but it unknowingly the wrong one. He stepped on the particular stair and the all too familiar shrieking sound filled his ears. He stood there shaken, but continued on up the staircase.

            As he reached the top of the stairs and onto the second floor, Grandma Baer stepped out of his bedroom with a laundry basket full of his dirty clothes. As usual, she had a tired look on her face. “Your room is a mess, Michael,” she said.

            “What else is new,” Michael responded. “Anyways, I find cleaning to be pointless. You make something all neat and tidy and then it just gets messy again. It’s just a big boring cycle.”

            Grandma Baer sighed and passed Michael down the stairs, patting his shoulder on the way down. He walked over to his room near the end of the hallway. He turned the knob and the door creaked open. I could oil this, he thought as he went in and closed the door. His small desk lamp was already on, somehow lighting up half of the room by itself.

            More dirty clothes littered the floor and some chairs. Grandma Baer didn’t bother to pick up the clothes he didn’t put in his hamper; she thought it was lazy on his part. In a way, he agreed with her, but he still didn’t bother to be neat. Dust gathered in every corner and every surface of the room. It was Grandpa’s job to dust the house every few weeks, but he was busy all that month tending to the farm. Crumbled paper gathered in a pile near his overflowing trash can next to his desk, all scrapped designs and old drawings.

            Models of old rockets and other space memorabilia was scattered on numerous desks, tables, shelves, and windowsills around the room. Some of his favorite included the Mercury Redstone, the first rocket to send a US astronaut into space; the Gemini capsule, the second generation US spacecraft which carried two astronauts; and a signed mission patch from the Gemini 11 mission, signed by Richard Gordon.

            He quickly scurried around the room to gather up all of the clothes lying around his room. If he didn’t, Grandma Baer would for sure be mad at him. Trying to perfect his shot at basketball, he curled up every article of clothing lying around and tossed it into the hamper, missing it only twice. He sat down in his old chair and pushed himself across the room to his desk, spinning along the way.

            Numerous books were stacked all on top of the desk, some that haven’t been opened in years. Most of them were old space textbooks, describing the events of the Space Race, NASA projects that never got off the ground, and some about supersonic planes. He was keeping stock of them, so he could organize them on his seemingly endless bookshelves. He stacked them all together in a neat pile, clearing room for his notebook.

            As he opened it, the old streetlight outside his window turned on, flooding the room with light. He rolled over to the one window in his room and closed the shutters. He had ones installed that were made of lightweight wood to effectively block out most of the light coming in. He rolled back over to his desk and grabbed a pen lying on a chair on his way. He opened his notebook to a random page.

            His notebook was filled with pages and pages of spacecraft designs. He carefully and meticulously drew them up, not leaving out one detail. Some were engines, some were pressurized capsules, some were rocket boosters, and others were spaceplanes. Sometimes, he made models off of what he drew. He started off with small things like small solid rocket boosters capable of reaching miles into the air. He actually built most of them, launching them off in the pasture. Some of them came down relatively near the launch site, some of them were never seen again, and some simply just blew up in midair.

            They were all called Hornet rockets. He designed, built, tested, and launched six iterations of the Hornets. The only one he hadn’t launched was the Hornet Mk 7, which was capable of reaching altitudes of up to 9 miles and speeds of up to over 600 miles an hour. He had tested them at a static-test rig at the edge of the pasture. He would bolt the rocket body to the ground so it wouldn’t go anywhere and fired the engine, testing the capabilities of it. So far, he’s only tested a Mk 7 engine, and it burned for nearly a minute.

            He started designing different liquid fuel rocket engines. These ran on fluids like pure alcohol and liquid oxygen, among other things. These ran on hypergolic fuels, which combust when put into contact. Hypergolic fuels use an actual fuel and an oxidizer, which combust together out of the nozzle of an engine.

            The first ones he designed used furfuryl alcohol, or catalytically reduced furfural, as fuel and IRFNA, or Red Fuming Nitric Acid, as oxidizer. They had no need to be ignited and once pumped together, they combust. The combination of furfuryl alcohol and IRFNA were used for early rocketry and just recently for sounding rockets, and both are attainable (but not necessarily easily), so they were the obvious choices to use.

            Michael flipped to the first empty page in his notebook which there wasn’t many of them left. He wasn’t exactly planning to design anything; he was just waiting for his grandparents to go to sleep. They were older people, so they normally fell asleep earlier than most people do, normally about 9 at night. He normally waited about thirty minutes after they both went to bed when he was sure they were fast asleep. He would sneak out of the house to the old barn which was his designated Vehicle Assembly Building. When the newer barn was built just a couple years before, Grandad Baer let Michael use it for whatever he wanted.

            In the old barn were multiple power tools and building equipment, like band saws and belt sanders, that Michael had saved up for years to buy with his own money. Sometimes, Grandad Baer would buy them for Michael for Christmas, his birthday, or whenever he was feeling generous. Most of the time though, Michael had to spend his own money to buy them which he got for working on the farm or selling things from door to door.

            The loud sounds of the power tools probably wouldn’t wake up his grandparents, but just in case they did, Michael saved up for sound-proof padding to be put on the walls and doors of the barn that could be easily put up or taken down. Although his grandparents could probably sleep through a whole entire nuclear war, he took no chances. If he was caught staying up all night, let alone sneaking out of the house after dark, he would never hear the end of it. But his grandparents could never stay mad at him, they made sure to treat him well after his parents’ deaths. Even though those events didn’t effect Michael at any way, he appreciated how his grandparents thought of him like that.

            As he was doodling a nuclear-powered Mars spacecraft, Grandad opened the door. “G’night, Skipper,” he said.

            “Don’t stay up too much later, okay, Mike?” said his grandma.

            He said goodnight back to them and gave his grandma a hug. They left and closed his door behind them.  He kept note of the time – 9:21. At about 9:50, he would sneak out to the barn. He kept sketching the spacecraft, which to him was coming out quite nicely. He was putting on the finishing touches like windows and radiators when his clock said 9:50. He crept over to his door and opened it just a crack. He stuck his head out and listened; his grandparents’ loud snoring was reverberating around the hall, even when their door was closed.

            He grabbed his notebook, a flashlight, and his sweatshirt with him, because it sometimes gets cold in the old barn. Michael wouldn’t do something like this on a night before school, the school year would be starting later than it normally would due to a dangerous termite problem. The floors, stairs, and the doors in the house made too much noise, so he would be going out the window.

            He didn’t have any rope and the ground was too far down to just jump, it would be a miracle of he didn’t break his legs if he actually tried. The best idea (if there actually was one in a situation like that) was to slide down the lamp post. He grabbed some gloves, too, and put them on. He’d be spending all night picking splinters out of his arms and hands if he did it barehanded.

            He pulled the blinds back and opened the window, which surprisingly didn’t creak. Light flooded the room. He pushed himself over the ledge and closed the window behind him, like he did all summer. He pushed off of the ledge, twisted around in midair, and grabbed onto the pole. The friction in his gloves made his fall slow, but still fast enough to hurt a little on the impact with the ground. With a soft whoof, his boots touched the ground.

            The bright light on the lamp post lit up the way until about 10 yards from the barn. From there, he clicked on the flashlight. It didn’t light up right away, but after giving it a few good whacks on his palm, the light flickered on. It wasn’t very bright, but it lit up the front of the old barn.

            It was mostly brown except for the parts where the paint was peeling off. One of its large main doors was ajar, but not much. The two smaller doors next to it, the ones Michael used to enter and exit, were closed. The tin sign on the small doors saying ‘VAB’ in painted letters reflected back the light. Its high-sloping roofs were missing a few shingles. Several crooked pipes were sticking out of the roof, used for steam-powered heaters when it was being use. In the winters, Michael used them sometimes.

            The flattened hay crunched underneath his feet. When he lived with his parents when he was younger, being outside at night frightened him, it made him feel like someone was watching him. In his grandparents’ town and especially in the farm areas, crime was low, so he had nothing to be afraid of there. He reached the old barn and slid open the old metal door, trying to make the least amount of noise as possible.

            He reached around the corner with his gloved hands and flicked on the old switch. This time, the light came on with ease. Small lights hanging from the ceiling all down the barn lit up the whole entire building. He used the small portion of the right side of the building to build the Hornets. The roof on that part was much lower than the rest of the building (except the left side that was exactly the same); it was used for stables when the barn was actually being used. He would use the larger middle part of the barn for much larger projects.

            Smaller lights on support posts used to separate from the middle portion lit up the right area as well. On a long table sat his latest project, the Hornet Mk 7. All it was at the moment was a long 7-foot tube. Bits of metal, screws, a drill, and a propane welding torch sat on the table alongside it. He still had a lot to build on it.

            Left to the table was a band saw. It helped him cut wooden fins and nosecones for earlier Hornet models, but after the Mk 5 he switched to aluminum as his main building material rather than hard cardboard tubes and balsa wood. Now he used a saber saw and sometimes a torch to cut the aluminum parts.

            Next to the band saw was the belt sander. He didn’t use it much either, but only for fine-tuning and putting the finishing touches on parts newly-cut aluminum parts. He used it to trim off jagged metal on the edges of fins and to cut down on any lopsided parts of nosecones. Next to it was a much older, rusty belt sander that finally broke down about four months prior.

            Again, next to the broken belt sander was the welding table. He gotten it as a birthday present. He waited to start building the Mk 6s (the first rockets he used made of aluminum) until he got the table, which he specifically asked for after finishing the Mk 5s. He used it to weld different parts together like the fins, engine mounts, and launch lugs. Although he wasn’t very good at it and sometimes needed Grandad Baer’s assistance, he did it mostly himself.

            The last piece of machinery in the barn lied next to the welding table. It was a hydraulic metal shaping machine. He used it to bend the aluminum sheets into many different shapes like nosecones. It could bend the metal sheets into 90 degree angles, cones, and cylinders; in fact, Michael used it to create the body tubes for the Mk 6s and 7s. He came close a couple times to crushing his fingers, but he didn’t tell Grandad that.

            On the far wall were all the past rockets he had built from the Mk 1 to the Mk 6. They all ran on solid fuel motors. Several of them were charred, twisted, and bent. Some of their paint was peeling off. The Mk 4 on display was actually a remake of the original one, which had exploded in a large fireball midair, which caused Michael to have to go through some trouble with the FAA. He got it all sorted out, though, and he could launch the Hornets again after about a month.

            The farthest to the left was the dinky little Mk 1. It was only about 3 feet in height and 2.5 inches in diameter. The bottom of its fins were charred from engine fire. The tip of its nosecone was slightly chipped and bent from lawn-darting into the ground after a slight parachute failure. Luckily, it was just a test flight and no cameras were onboard, which sat in the camera platform just below the nosecone. Its top altitude was 1.4 miles during the same test flight.

            Next to it was the slightly larger Mk 2. It was two feet taller and carried a much bigger engine. Because of its much larger weight compared to the Mk 1, its diameter was 3 inches to accommodate a much wider parachute. Like the Mk 1, not all of its flights were perfect. It had an 80 percent success rate out of its 5 flights. It too had a camera platform. Because of its increased burn time from its nearly 3-foot-tall engine, insulation had to be put in around the engine platform. Its top altitude was 2.8 miles.

            Then there was the Mk 3. It was the first Hornet iteration to use side boosters. Its main stage was a Hornet Mk 2 and its boosters were Mk 1-sized tubes with no nosecones, it did create a bit of atmospheric drag, but it was needed for effective staging. It staged by black powder destroying the top support struts by simply just blowing up. After that, the bottom support struts would just slip away and the boosters would fall back to Earth without parachutes. Its top altitude was 5.2 miles.

            The Mk 4 was the most troublesome of the Hornet rockets. It had the highest failure rate of 60 percent in just 5 flights. It was a two stage rocket with no boosters. The bottom stage was similar to the Mk 2 and the second stage was derived from the Mk 1. Both stages had parachutes to safely bring them back down to Earth to be reused. He had learned his lesson on using parachutes on whatever he planned to fall back to Earth after one of the boosters from the Mk 3 nearly fell on someone’s house. Another got picked up by a hard breeze and thrown onto the roof of a drug store, threatening the structural integrity of its roof. Its highest altitude was 5.3 miles.

            The Mk 5 was the last one to be made from cardboard and wood. It was a Mk 3 derived rocket but with 4 boosters. These boosters had parachutes and nosecones on them so they could land safely and be reused. On one flight, 3 of the boosters separated prematurely sending the rocket into a spin and creating a spiral of smoke in midair. Its highest altitude was 6 miles.

              Then there was the Mk 6. It was the tallest of them all at 8 feet.  It looked much sleeker than the rest due to its aluminum material. It was slightly conical in shape to fit the cluster of engines at the bottom. Its bottom diameter was 5 inches to accommodate the cross shape of 5 engines on its bottom. The engines were slightly smaller than those of even the Mk 1; only 1 inch in diameter but about 5 feet tall. but the Mk 6 was a rocket to test the effectiveness of clustered engines. Its highest altitude was 5.6 miles, less than that of the Mk 5.

            A space was saved for the Mk 7, the last rocket planned for the Hornet series. The only part of it already built was the body tube, which was not conical but extremely tall, about 9.4 feet. It was only about 4.5 inches wide. The Mk 7 engines were completely remade to be much lighter. The normally PVC exterior of the engine was replaced by a more lightweight but stronger plastic, capable of experiencing intense heat without melting. Using the new plastic cut down the engine weight by 40 percent.

            Michael shut the doors behind him, connecting the two sound-proof pads together by Velcro. He immediately got to work after putting on an old oil-stained apron hanging from a peg on one of the support posts. He had already assembled the body tube and the engine blocks. The bottom block could be twisted out like a screw so the engine could be slipped inside. The next thing to assemble were the four fins on the bottom of the body tube.

            Just as he picked out a sheet of aluminum leaning on the wall next to the assembly table, he could hear the Velcro on the doors snap open. He whipped around, expecting to see one of his grandparents, if not both, with an angry expression on their faces. The door creaked open quietly, just a crack, and a voice belonging to a younger person his age whispered, “Hey Mike!”

            Michael cleared his throat. He finally got the courage to mutter a faint, “Who is it? Who’s there?”

            “It’s me, Casey!” the voice replied back.

            It was one of his few friends. “Oh, hey. What are you doing here?”

            The door opened a little bit wider, just enough for her to slip inside. “What’s up, Mike?” she said as she closed the door and redid the Velcro.

            “Did I say you could come here?” he said jokingly.

            She smiled at him with one of her signature grins, knowing not to laugh along with it. “Well I know you’re always here at this time of the night,” she said.

            “How’d you get out of the house this late at night?”

            “My parents are out of town this weekend and told me to stay at Gavin’s house until they got back. But Gavin got sick just a couple hours ago. His parents told me that I could go over to your place until they got everything sorted out with him.”

            Gavin was another one of their friends.

            “You couldn’t stay at Evan’s house?” I asked.

            “He’s at his uncle’s house while his parents are at a funeral.”

            She stood next to him, almost nudging shoulders with him. They both had fellings for one another, but didn’t really show it. They didn’t even know that they liked each other. However, he didn’t feel like being together with because it would just be an extra thing to focus on other than rocketry, his grandparents, upcoming schooldays, and the occasional work on the farm. That was subject to change, though. Maybe someday, he thought.

            “So what are you working on now?” she asked, “It looks like a missile.” She pressed her fingers on the aluminum tube and ran her fingers down the side of it, feeling its sleek smoothness. “Pretty sleek, too.”

            He laughed a bit at her joke and continued on with the aluminum sheet he was holding. He explained at the same time, “It’s the new Mark Seven. It’s the last of the Hornet iterations I’m building until I switch over to liquid fuel,” he replied.

            “Good luck with the FAA on that one,” she said.

            “I plan on keeping it a secret. It’ll be hard, but I’ll do it.”

            He cut the sheet into smaller squares, just small enough to easily cut out the fins with the saber saw. Casey watched him work on it, and handed him tools. The fins were 4.5 inches in width like the diameter of the rocket body. They were all about 1.75 feet tall. They would be attached in four places radially around the base. He and Casey worked all through the night on the fins. The sound-proof pads were a life-saver for him. He could probably go without them because his grandparents were heavy sleepers, but it would be better safe than sorry.

            They finished with cutting the fins at about 11:00 at night when a car rolled up in front of the barn. They both knew it was Gavin’s mother or father coming to get her. They also both knew that whoever was in the car was going to honk the horn, and that would for sure wake up Michael’s grandparents.

            In a panic, not knowing what she was doing, she hugged Michael and ran to the door, immediately regretting it. “Bye, then,” he said. She tore open the door and ran outside, waving her arms to say, Don’t honk! The person in the car, who turned out to be Gavin’s older brother, had their hands to the horn button when she ran outside. He could tell what she was doing and refrained from honking. She got in and they pulled away.

            He stood there wondering why she hugged him. He was transfixed, wondering what to do next. He finally gathered his wits and realized he could collapse at any minute; he was so tired. He put everything back where it belonged. He unplugged the saber saw, stacked the fins next to the body tube, took off the apron, and turned off the lights in the barn. The whole barn was enveloped in darkness; the only light was coming from the lamppost outside. He closed back the door and headed tirelessly back to the house.

            There was no way he could sneak back into the house by going through the door and up the stairs, it would create far too much noise. He had to go back the way he came: the lamppost. He still had his gloves on to give him traction in his climb. He jumped up into the air and hugged the whole entire post with his body about 3 feet off the ground. He shimmied up the pole, gaining about a foot every time he moved his arms and legs. He made it back to the windowsill. Almost slipping off of the pole, he leaped into the hair and grabbed onto the windowsill.

            The latch inside wasn’t locked, so he could easily pull open the window and crawl inside. He fell out of the window as he slipped, crashing to the floor with a loud bang that for sure woke up his grandparents. Crap, he thought, they’re going to wake up and kill me!

            He sat there, frozen, wondering what was going to happen next. But, they’re older folks. They normally take a while to get out of bed, let alone them having been fast asleep for nearly two hours, he thought again. I have time to cover my tracks. He got up and closed the window, making sure it didn’t make a sound. He crept over quickly to the desk lamp which was still lighting the room. The light fluttered out with a click, making the room completely dark.

            But, on his way to his bed, he slipped on a piece of paper on the floor. He fell down on his back with an even louder crash than before. He sat there, this time in too much pain to get up. He heard his grandparent’s door open with a creak. Heavy footsteps, only from one person but probably Grandad, were echoing down the hall to his door. It swung open, and the dark outline of his grandad was standing in the doorway.

            “The hell are you doing, Skipper?” he said in a harsh but humorous voice. He flicked the light switch, making the room brighter than the solitary desk lamp could have done. He saw Michael laying on the floor with a worried smile on his face, as if saying I can explain, but no words came out. “Don’t you know its 11:00 at night?” Grandad added.

            He grabbed Michael by the hand and pulled him off of the floor. “You sleep walking?” Grandad asked. Michael sat down in his desk chair to catch his breath; all the air from his lungs had rushed out of him as he collided with the ground.

            “Umm, I don’t know. I could have been,” Michael lied. It wasn’t in his nature to lie, especially not to his Grandad who willingly wanted to take care of him. Also, it meant not having to do excessive farm work without pay.

            Grandad looked at him with a look as if saying, I’m on to you. “Well go back to bed and get some sleep. Also, why are you sleeping in your day clothes? Change into something more comfortable, why don’t ya?” With that, he turned the light back off and closed the door as he went out of the room.

            That was close, Michael thought, I better lay low for a couple days so they don’t get suspicious. He grabbed his phone off of his nightstand. He texted Casey, Don’t come by for about a week. I didn’t get caught, but came close. I don’t want to arouse suspicion.

            And with that, he changed into some athletic shorts and went to bed. It took a while for him to fall asleep, even though he was tired. He just couldn’t stop thinking about why Casey hugged him.

 

Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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13 hours ago, The Raging Sandwich said:

Here's Chapter 1! Feel free to post any questions, comments, or concerns. Enjoy!

  Reveal hidden contents

Thousands of stars stretched across the scarlet sky. The thick band of the Milky Way could barely be seen. The last slivers of the orange sun were sinking below the horizon of the wide pasture. A few faint shooting stars blazed through the sky. The last bits of the Perseid Meteor Shower were unfolding in the late Autumn. Most of the lights were off on the farm, giving little light pollution to hinder the sight of the stars. Few clouds were in the sky.

 

            Michael Baer sat watching these sights on his grandad’s farm. It was a great place to stargaze, one of Michael’s favorite things to do in the evenings. Sometimes, Grandad Baer came out with him, even though he wasn’t particularly interested. Tonight, Michael was alone and the Moon was high in the sky, giving of its brilliant light for the billions of people on planet Earth to enjoy. He could just see the Tycho crater, the largest crater on the Moon, left from a giant asteroid long ago. Perhaps some object from the Perseids left that giant scar on the Moon’s surface, Michael thought.

 

            As Michael was looking for Jupiter, which was in between the Moon and Mars at that time of the year, a streak began to appear from behind one of the lone clouds in the sunset sky. A bright light was in front of a long line of dark-red vapor. It was streaking across the sky almost as fast as the meteors were, except the white light at the end was very contrasted against the meteors. Houston must be doing another launch again.

 

            NASA’s space center in Houston did rocket launches regularly, sometimes Hypersonic flights all the way down to the Kennedy Space Center down at the coast of Florida. Houston’s launch days weren’t very public nowadays. They liked to keep things secret, mostly because Houston was where most of the experimental flights took place. In case anything went wrong, the public wouldn’t be too concerned, or at all for that matter. Most of NASA’s public relations took place in Florida.

 

            Michael watched the hypersonic craft go across the sunset sky with his knees bent and his arms bundling his legs together; it was a particularly breezy night in Texas that evening. Like he did when he was younger, he waved at the plane, this time being well aware that the pilot wasn’t waving back at him. I’m going to be like him one day.

 

            Michael heard footsteps behind him in the tall grass. The lightning bugs began to light up all around him as they were stirred by Grandad Baer. One began to buzz in Michael’s ear, and he reluctantly flicked it away from him. Michael, still sitting down, turned around to see his grandad. He was wearing his usual clothes, dirty, tattered blue jeans, an old leather belt owned by his dad, a white shirt covered in oil and grease stains, and a tan farmers jacket, all topped off with his baseball cap.

 

            “It’s getting a bit dark out here, Skipper,” he said, “You should probably come inside.”

 

            Michael grunted. “Look at that, Grandad,” Michael said. He pointed to the plane blazing across the sky in a brilliant streak. It was almost out of their view, about to go behind the silhouetted trees. Grandad Baer watched the plane as it went out of view, almost at a loss of words. Michael could tell he was lost in thought, probably remembering the Space Race in the 50s and 60s that he spent most of his school years watching it as it unfolded.

 

            Michael broke the silence by saying, “What was it like?”

 

            “What do you mean, Skipper?” Grandad replied.

 

            “During the Space Race? What was it like?”

 

            “Well, it was probably the only good thing exciting during that time period. It gave everyone a much needed break from Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. It seemed like something new happened every few weeks. When America learned that a Soviet man was launched into orbit… You just had to feel for Alan Shepard.”

 

            They stood there in silence, still watching the sky. The contrail left by the plane was starting to spread out across the sky, wind patterns blowing the vapor in all sorts of directions. Michael finally got up and dusted the tall grass and the occasional hay straw off of his clothes from where he was laying down.

 

            He and Grandad Baer walked through the now dark pasture back to the old farm house. Michael pointed to a dim streak from a meteor as it passed by. “I counted 87 meteors during the time I was out here,” Michael said. Grandad Baer patted Michael on the back as they kept walking. Even though there were no lights around, they could still see where they were going because of the number of lightning bugs.

 

            They reached the house and went up the rickety steps. The farmhouse wasn’t even that old, it was built about the time Grandad was born. The constant shaking from the noise of countless tractors and farming machines knocked everything loose in the house loose, making it seem older than it really was.

 

            It was a two story house, where you could see the whole town down the hill if you looked from the top floor. Not many lights were in the house, but just enough to make it where you could see where you were going. They went inside. The kitchen lights were off, so Grandad flicked the light switch. The lights hesitated to turn on, it flickered for a couple seconds, and came on, just barely lighting the whole room. It was a bit dimmer than usual. “I’m gonna have to fix that,” said Grandad to no one in particular.

 

            Michael left his grandad in the kitchen and went upstairs to his bedroom. Each step he took made the floorboards creak, especially at the stairs. He made sure to avoid one step altogether, for it made the loudest and most annoying creaking sound in the whole entire house. He stepped over one of the stairs, but it unknowingly the wrong one. He stepped on the particular stair and the all too familiar shrieking sound filled his ears. He stood there shaken, but continued on up the staircase.

 

            As he reached the top of the stairs and onto the second floor, Grandma Baer stepped out of his bedroom with a laundry basket full of his dirty clothes. As usual, she had a tired look on her face. “Your room is a mess, Michael,” she said.

 

            “What else is new,” Michael responded. “Anyways, I find cleaning to be pointless. You make something all neat and tidy and then it just gets messy again. It’s just a big boring cycle.”

 

            Grandma Baer sighed and passed Michael down the stairs, patting his shoulder on the way down. He walked over to his room near the end of the hallway. He turned the knob and the door creaked open. I could oil this, he thought as he went in and closed the door. His small desk lamp was already on, somehow lighting up half of the room by itself.

 

            More dirty clothes littered the floor and some chairs. Grandma Baer didn’t bother to pick up the clothes he didn’t put in his hamper; she thought it was lazy on his part. In a way, he agreed with her, but he still didn’t bother to be neat. Dust gathered in every corner and every surface of the room. It was Grandpa’s job to dust the house every few weeks, but he was busy all that month tending to the farm. Crumbled paper gathered in a pile near his overflowing trash can next to his desk, all scrapped designs and old drawings.

 

            Models of old rockets and other space memorabilia was scattered on numerous desks, tables, shelves, and windowsills around the room. Some of his favorite included the Mercury Redstone, the first rocket to send a US astronaut into space; the Gemini capsule, the second generation US spacecraft which carried two astronauts; and a signed mission patch from the Gemini 11 mission, signed by Richard Gordon.

 

            He quickly scurried around the room to gather up all of the clothes lying around his room. If he didn’t, Grandma Baer would for sure be mad at him. Trying to perfect his shot at basketball, he curled up every article of clothing lying around and tossed it into the hamper, missing it only twice. He sat down in his old chair and pushed himself across the room to his desk, spinning along the way.

 

            Numerous books were stacked all on top of the desk, some that haven’t been opened in years. Most of them were old space textbooks, describing the events of the Space Race, NASA projects that never got off the ground, and some about supersonic planes. He was keeping stock of them, so he could organize them on his seemingly endless bookshelves. He stacked them all together in a neat pile, clearing room for his notebook.

 

            As he opened it, the old streetlight outside his window turned on, flooding the room with light. He rolled over to the one window in his room and closed the shutters. He had ones installed that were made of lightweight wood to effectively block out most of the light coming in. He rolled back over to his desk and grabbed a pen lying on a chair on his way. He opened his notebook to a random page.

 

            His notebook was filled with pages and pages of spacecraft designs. He carefully and meticulously drew them up, not leaving out one detail. Some were engines, some were pressurized capsules, some were rocket boosters, and others were spaceplanes. Sometimes, he made models off of what he drew. He started off with small things like small solid rocket boosters capable of reaching miles into the air. He actually built most of them, launching them off in the pasture. Some of them came down relatively near the launch site, some of them were never seen again, and some simply just blew up in midair.

 

            They were all called Hornet rockets. He designed, built, tested, and launched six iterations of the Hornets. The only one he hadn’t launched was the Hornet Mk 7, which was capable of reaching altitudes of up to 9 miles and speeds of up to over 600 miles an hour. He had tested them at a static-test rig at the edge of the pasture. He would bolt the rocket body to the ground so it wouldn’t go anywhere and fired the engine, testing the capabilities of it. So far, he’s only tested a Mk 7 engine, and it burned for nearly a minute.

 

            He started designing different liquid fuel rocket engines. These ran on fluids like pure alcohol and liquid oxygen, among other things. These ran on hypergolic fuels, which combust when put into contact. Hypergolic fuels use an actual fuel and an oxidizer, which combust together out of the nozzle of an engine.

 

            The first ones he designed used furfuryl alcohol, or catalytically reduced furfural, as fuel and IRFNA, or Red Fuming Nitric Acid, as oxidizer. They had no need to be ignited and once pumped together, they combust. The combination of furfuryl alcohol and IRFNA were used for early rocketry and just recently for sounding rockets, and both are attainable (but not necessarily easily), so they were the obvious choices to use.

 

            Michael flipped to the first empty page in his notebook which there wasn’t many of them left. He wasn’t exactly planning to design anything; he was just waiting for his grandparents to go to sleep. They were older people, so they normally fell asleep earlier than most people do, normally about 9 at night. He normally waited about thirty minutes after they both went to bed when he was sure they were fast asleep. He would sneak out of the house to the old barn which was his designated Vehicle Assembly Building. When the newer barn was built just a couple years before, Grandad Baer let Michael use it for whatever he wanted.

 

            In the old barn were multiple power tools and building equipment, like band saws and belt sanders, that Michael had saved up for years to buy with his own money. Sometimes, Grandad Baer would buy them for Michael for Christmas, his birthday, or whenever he was feeling generous. Most of the time though, Michael had to spend his own money to buy them which he got for working on the farm or selling things from door to door.

 

            The loud sounds of the power tools probably wouldn’t wake up his grandparents, but just in case they did, Michael saved up for sound-proof padding to be put on the walls and doors of the barn that could be easily put up or taken down. Although his grandparents could probably sleep through a whole entire nuclear war, he took no chances. If he was caught staying up all night, let alone sneaking out of the house after dark, he would never hear the end of it. But his grandparents could never stay mad at him, they made sure to treat him well after his parents’ deaths. Even though those events didn’t effect Michael at any way, he appreciated how his grandparents thought of him like that.

 

            As he was doodling a nuclear-powered Mars spacecraft, Grandad opened the door. “G’night, Skipper,” he said.

 

            “Don’t stay up too much later, okay, Mike?” said his grandma.

 

            He said goodnight back to them and gave his grandma a hug. They left and closed his door behind them.  He kept note of the time – 9:21. At about 9:50, he would sneak out to the barn. He kept sketching the spacecraft, which to him was coming out quite nicely. He was putting on the finishing touches like windows and radiators when his clock said 9:50. He crept over to his door and opened it just a crack. He stuck his head out and listened; his grandparents’ loud snoring was reverberating around the hall, even when their door was closed.

 

            He grabbed his notebook, a flashlight, and his sweatshirt with him, because it sometimes gets cold in the old barn. Michael wouldn’t do something like this on a night before school, the school year would be starting later than it normally would due to a dangerous termite problem. The floors, stairs, and the doors in the house made too much noise, so he would be going out the window.

 

            He didn’t have any rope and the ground was too far down to just jump, it would be a miracle of he didn’t break his legs if he actually tried. The best idea (if there actually was one in a situation like that) was to slide down the lamp post. He grabbed some gloves, too, and put them on. He’d be spending all night picking splinters out of his arms and hands if he did it barehanded.

 

            He pulled the blinds back and opened the window, which surprisingly didn’t creak. Light flooded the room. He pushed himself over the ledge and closed the window behind him, like he did all summer. He pushed off of the ledge, twisted around in midair, and grabbed onto the pole. The friction in his gloves made his fall slow, but still fast enough to hurt a little on the impact with the ground. With a soft whoof, his boots touched the ground.

 

            The bright light on the lamp post lit up the way until about 10 yards from the barn. From there, he clicked on the flashlight. It didn’t light up right away, but after giving it a few good whacks on his palm, the light flickered on. It wasn’t very bright, but it lit up the front of the old barn.

 

            It was mostly brown except for the parts where the paint was peeling off. One of its large main doors was ajar, but not much. The two smaller doors next to it, the ones Michael used to enter and exit, were closed. The tin sign on the small doors saying ‘VAB’ in painted letters reflected back the light. Its high-sloping roofs were missing a few shingles. Several crooked pipes were sticking out of the roof, used for steam-powered heaters when it was being use. In the winters, Michael used them sometimes.

 

            The flattened hay crunched underneath his feet. When he lived with his parents when he was younger, being outside at night frightened him, it made him feel like someone was watching him. In his grandparents’ town and especially in the farm areas, crime was low, so he had nothing to be afraid of there. He reached the old barn and slid open the old metal door, trying to make the least amount of noise as possible.

 

            He reached around the corner with his gloved hands and flicked on the old switch. This time, the light came on with ease. Small lights hanging from the ceiling all down the barn lit up the whole entire building. He used the small portion of the right side of the building to build the Hornets. The roof on that part was much lower than the rest of the building (except the left side that was exactly the same); it was used for stables when the barn was actually being used. He would use the larger middle part of the barn for much larger projects.

 

            Smaller lights on support posts used to separate from the middle portion lit up the right area as well. On a long table sat his latest project, the Hornet Mk 7. All it was at the moment was a long 7-foot tube. Bits of metal, screws, a drill, and a propane welding torch sat on the table alongside it. He still had a lot to build on it.

 

            Left to the table was a band saw. It helped him cut wooden fins and nosecones for earlier Hornet models, but after the Mk 5 he switched to aluminum as his main building material rather than hard cardboard tubes and balsa wood. Now he used a saber saw and sometimes a torch to cut the aluminum parts.

 

            Next to the band saw was the belt sander. He didn’t use it much either, but only for fine-tuning and putting the finishing touches on parts newly-cut aluminum parts. He used it to trim off jagged metal on the edges of fins and to cut down on any lopsided parts of nosecones. Next to it was a much older, rusty belt sander that finally broke down about four months prior.

 

            Again, next to the broken belt sander was the welding table. He gotten it as a birthday present. He waited to start building the Mk 6s (the first rockets he used made of aluminum) until he got the table, which he specifically asked for after finishing the Mk 5s. He used it to weld different parts together like the fins, engine mounts, and launch lugs. Although he wasn’t very good at it and sometimes needed Grandad Baer’s assistance, he did it mostly himself.

 

            The last piece of machinery in the barn lied next to the welding table. It was a hydraulic metal shaping machine. He used it to bend the aluminum sheets into many different shapes like nosecones. It could bend the metal sheets into 90 degree angles, cones, and cylinders; in fact, Michael used it to create the body tubes for the Mk 6s and 7s. He came close a couple times to crushing his fingers, but he didn’t tell Grandad that.

 

            On the far wall were all the past rockets he had built from the Mk 1 to the Mk 6. They all ran on solid fuel motors. Several of them were charred, twisted, and bent. Some of their paint was peeling off. The Mk 4 on display was actually a remake of the original one, which had exploded in a large fireball midair, which caused Michael to have to go through some trouble with the FAA. He got it all sorted out, though, and he could launch the Hornets again after about a month.

 

            The farthest to the left was the dinky little Mk 1. It was only about 3 feet in height and 2.5 inches in diameter. The bottom of its fins were charred from engine fire. The tip of its nosecone was slightly chipped and bent from lawn-darting into the ground after a slight parachute failure. Luckily, it was just a test flight and no cameras were onboard, which sat in the camera platform just below the nosecone. Its top altitude was 1.4 miles during the same test flight.

 

            Next to it was the slightly larger Mk 2. It was two feet taller and carried a much bigger engine. Because of its much larger weight compared to the Mk 1, its diameter was 3 inches to accommodate a much wider parachute. Like the Mk 1, not all of its flights were perfect. It had an 80 percent success rate out of its 5 flights. It too had a camera platform. Because of its increased burn time from its nearly 3-foot-tall engine, insulation had to be put in around the engine platform. Its top altitude was 2.8 miles.

 

            Then there was the Mk 3. It was the first Hornet iteration to use side boosters. Its main stage was a Hornet Mk 2 and its boosters were Mk 1-sized tubes with no nosecones, it did create a bit of atmospheric drag, but it was needed for effective staging. It staged by black powder destroying the top support struts by simply just blowing up. After that, the bottom support struts would just slip away and the boosters would fall back to Earth without parachutes. Its top altitude was 5.2 miles.

 

            The Mk 4 was the most troublesome of the Hornet rockets. It had the highest failure rate of 60 percent in just 5 flights. It was a two stage rocket with no boosters. The bottom stage was similar to the Mk 2 and the second stage was derived from the Mk 1. Both stages had parachutes to safely bring them back down to Earth to be reused. He had learned his lesson on using parachutes on whatever he planned to fall back to Earth after one of the boosters from the Mk 3 nearly fell on someone’s house. Another got picked up by a hard breeze and thrown onto the roof of a drug store, threatening the structural integrity of its roof. Its highest altitude was 5.3 miles.

 

            The Mk 5 was the last one to be made from cardboard and wood. It was a Mk 3 derived rockets but with 4 boosters. These boosters had parachutes and nosecones on them so they could land safely and be reused. On one flight, 3 of the boosters separated prematurely sending the rocket into a spin and creating a spiral of smoke in midair. Its highest altitude was 6 miles.

 

              Then there was the Mk 6. It was the tallest of them all at 8 feet.  It looked much sleeker than the rest due to its aluminum material. It was slightly conical in shape to fit the cluster of engines at the bottom. Its bottom diameter was 5 inches to accommodate the cross shape of 5 engines on its bottom. The engines were slightly smaller than those of even the Mk 1; only 1 inch in diameter but about 5 feet tall. but the Mk 6 was a rocket to test the effectiveness of clustered engines. Its highest altitude was 5.6 miles, less than that of the Mk 5.

 

            A space was saved for the Mk 7, the last rocket planned for the Hornet series. The only part of it already built was the body tube, which was not conical but extremely tall, about 9.4 feet. It was only about 4.5 inches wide. The Mk 7 engines were completely remade to be much lighter. The normally PVC exterior of the engine was replaced by a more lightweight but stronger plastic, capable of experiencing intense heat without melting. Using the new plastic cut down the engine weight by 40 percent.

 

            Michael shut the doors behind him, connecting the two sound-proof pads together by Velcro. He immediately got to work after putting on an old oil-stained apron hanging from a peg on one of the support posts. He had already assembled the body tube and the engine blocks. The bottom block could be twisted out like a screw so the engine could be slipped inside. The next thing to assemble were the four fins on the bottom of the body tube.

 

            Just as he picked out a sheet of aluminum leaning on the wall next to the assembly table, he could hear the Velcro on the doors snap open. He whipped around, expecting to see one of his grandparents, if not both, with an angry expression on their faces. The door creaked open quietly, just a crack, and a voice belonging to a younger person his age whispered, “Hey Mike!”

 

            Michael cleared his throat. He finally got the courage to mutter a faint, “Who is it? Who’s there?”

 

            “It’s me, Casey!” the voice replied back.

 

            It was one of his few friends. “Oh, hey. What are you doing here?”

 

            The door opened a little bit wider, just enough for her to slip inside. “What’s up, Mike?” she said as she closed the door and redid the Velcro.

 

            “Did I say you could come here?” he said jokingly.

 

            She smiled at him with one of her signature grins, knowing not to laugh along with it. “Well I know you’re always here at this time of the night,” she said.

 

            “How’d you get out of the house this late at night?”

 

            “My parents are out of town this weekend and told me to stay at Gavin’s house until they got back. But Gavin got sick just a couple hours ago. His parents told me that I could go over to your place until they got everything sorted out with him.”

 

            Gavin was another one of their friends.

 

            “You couldn’t stay at Evan’s house?” I asked.

 

            “He’s at his uncle’s house while his parents are at a funeral.”

 

            She stood next to him, almost nudging shoulders with him. She had feelings for him, and Michael knew it, too. Deep down, he had the same feelings toward her, but he tried not to show it, and sometimes it slipped. She didn’t know that he knew she liked him, but she knew he had feelings towards her as well. However, he didn’t feel like being together with because it would just be an extra thing to focus on other than rocketry, his grandparents, upcoming schooldays, and the occasional work on the farm. Maybe someday, he thought.

 

            “So what are you working on now?” she asked, “It looks like a missile.” She pressed her fingers on the aluminum tube and ran her fingers down the side of it, feeling its sleek smoothness. “Pretty sleek, too.”

 

            He chuckled at her joke and continued on with the aluminum sheet he was holding. He explained at the same time, “It’s the new Mark Seven. It’s the last of the Hornet iterations I’m building until I switch over to liquid fuel,” he replied.

 

            “Good luck with the FAA on that one,” she said.

 

            “I plan on keeping it a secret. It’ll be hard, but I’ll do it.”

 

            He cut the sheet into smaller squares, just small enough to easily cut out the fins with the saber saw. Casey watched him work on it, and handed him tools. The fins were 4.5 inches in width like the diameter of the rocket body. They were all about 1.75 feet tall. They would be attached in four places radially around the base. He and Casey worked all through the night on the fins. The sound-proof pads were a life-saver for him. He could probably go without them because his grandparents were heavy sleepers, but it would be better safe than sorry.

 

            They finished with cutting the fins at about 11:00 at night when a car rolled up in front of the barn. They both knew it was Gavin’s mother or father coming to get her. They also both knew that whoever was in the car was going to honk the horn, and that would for sure wake up Michael’s grandparents.

 

            In a panic, not knowing what she was doing, she hugged Michael and ran to the door, immediately regretting it. “Bye, then,” he said. She tore open the door and ran outside, waving her arms to say, Don’t honk! The person in the car, who turned out to be Gavin’s older brother, had their hands to the horn button when she ran outside. He could tell what she was doing and refrained from honking. She got in and they pulled away.

 

            He stood there, his face as red as a cherry, wondering why she hugged him. He was transfixed, wondering what to do next. He finally gathered his wits and realized he could collapse at any minute; he was so tired. He put everything back where it belonged. He unplugged the saber saw, stacked the fins next to the body tube, took off the apron, and turned off the lights in the barn. The whole barn was enveloped in darkness; the only light was coming from the lamppost outside. He closed back the door and headed tirelessly back to the house.

 

            There was no way he could sneak back into the house by going through the door and up the stairs, it would create far too much noise. He had to go back the way he came: the lamppost. He still had his gloves on to give him traction in his climb. He jumped up into the air and hugged the whole entire post with his body about 3 feet off the ground. He shimmied up the pole, gaining about a foot every time he moved his arms and legs. He made it back to the windowsill. Almost slipping off of the pole, he leaped into the hair and grabbed onto the windowsill.

 

            The latch inside wasn’t locked, so he could easily pull open the window and crawl inside. He fell out of the window as he slipped, crashing to the floor with a loud bang that for sure woke up his grandparents. Crap, he thought, they’re going to wake up and kill me!

 

            He sat there, frozen, wondering what was going to happen next. But, they’re older folks. They normally take a while to get out of bed, let alone them having been fast asleep for nearly two hours, he thought again. I have time to cover my tracks. He got up and closed the window, making sure it didn’t make a sound. He crept over quickly to the desk lamp which was still lighting the room. The light fluttered out with a click, making the room completely dark.

 

            But, on his way to his bed, he slipped on a piece of paper on the floor. He fell down on his back with an even louder crash than before. He sat there, this time in too much pain to get up. He heard his grandparent’s door open with a creak. Heavy footsteps, only from one person but probably Grandad, were echoing down the hall to his door. It swung open, and the dark outline of his grandad was standing in the doorway.

 

            “The hell are you doing, Skipper?” he said in a harsh but humorous voice. He flicked the light switch, making the room brighter than the solitary desk lamp could have done. He saw Michael laying on the floor with a worried smile on his face, as if saying I can explain, but no words came out. “Don’t you know its 11:00 at night?” Grandad added.

 

            He grabbed Michael by the hand and pulled him off of the floor. “You sleep walking?” Grandad asked. Michael sat down in his desk chair to catch his breath; all the air from his lungs had rushed out of him as he collided with the ground.

 

            “Umm, I don’t know. I could have been,” Michael lied. It wasn’t in his nature to lie, especially not to his Grandad who willingly wanted to take care of him. Also, it meant not having to do excessive farm work without pay.

 

            Grandad looked at him with a look as if saying, I’m on to you. “Well go back to bed and get some sleep. Also, why are you sleeping in your day clothes? Change into something more comfortable, why don’t ya?” With that, he turned the light back off and closed the door as he went out of the room.

 

            That was close, Michael thought, I better lay low for a couple days so they don’t get suspicious. He grabbed his phone off of his nightstand. He texted Casey, Don’t come by for about a week. I didn’t get caught, but came close. I don’t want to arouse suspicion.

 

            And with that, he changed into some athletic shorts and went to bed. It took a while for him to fall asleep, even though he was tired. He just couldn’t stop thinking about Casey’s hug.

 

Well done! It is awesome so far! Is this going to be such a story with a neverending summer break? Just wondering.

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3 hours ago, NSEP said:

Well done! It is awesome so far! Is this going to be such a story with a neverending summer break? Just wondering.

No, but it won't really focus on when he's at school.

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Chapter 2 is here!

Spoiler

Michael woke up from his sleep. Was it all just a dream? he thought. No, it couldn’t have been. It felt too real.

            Light was pouring in through the cracks in his blinds, printing a lined pattern on his floor from one wall almost to the other. He kept track of the lines’ angle as the seasons progressed. As spring and summer progressed, the lines were shown to the right of the room and were kept close to the wall. As fall and winter progressed, they were more to the left and spanning the whole room.

            He kept thinking about Casey, like her hug imprinted onto him, like it never even left. Surely she didn’t mean to do it, but it felt so thorough and sincere. It gave him a rosy feeling just thinking about it.

            He reached over to his nightstand to check his phone for the time. It said it was 7:43, but there was a text from Casey on it. He tapped the notification. It read, Did I really hug you last night? I feel embarrassed about it. But why should I be? He couldn’t help but smile. Maybe she did actually mean to, maybe she was trying to tell him that she liked him.

            He replied back, It’s fine! Do you want to come over again? He immediately felt stupid sending it, but the deed was done. He couldn’t take it back, but at the same time he didn’t really care. He unplugged his phone from the charger and got out of bed. He switched out of the clothes he was wearing in turn for some regular shorts and a t-shirt he got from the Space and Rocket Center in Alabama a couple weeks ago.

            He put the phone in his pocket and headed downstairs, making sure to put the piece of paper he slipped on the night before on his desk. As he was walking down the rickety steps, his phone buzzed in his pocket. It was another text from Casey. Okay, see you there! He turned it back off and continued back downstairs. His grandparents were already awake; Grandad was reading the newspaper and Grandma was watching the morning news.

            “How come you’re not getting ready for church?” Michael asked. They stopped what they were doing and looked over at him.

“Oh, mornin,’ Skipper,” said Grandad.

“Pastor Johnson is sick today, so it’s been cancelled for this week,” Grandma replied.

“So we’re just not having church today? Normally when he’s sick or on vacation Mr. Frank does it.”

“He just got sick this morning so Mr. Frank couldn’t get the sermon in advance like he normally does,” said Grandad.

Michael understood and went on to make breakfast. The only appliance that wasn’t really broken in the house was the toaster, so he made some waffles. He poured himself a glass of milk and got out some syrup and a fork. He still had some time as the waffles were still cooking to text Casey. How does 11 sound?

Almost immediately, he got a reply. Sounds good. Gavin’s parents are keeping me as far away from him as possible, so spending time at your place will reduce my chance of getting the plague… He ate his waffles without any further interruptions while watching the news.

“…and we’ll get more on that story in the next hour, but you have to watch this! Look at the way this kitten and the way it drinks its milk!” the reporter said. Michael groaned and switched off the TV. Nothing good is ever on during the morning news shows. He spent the rest of breakfast in silence, or as much as he could get with whatever his grandparents were watching just in the other room.

He finished up and headed back upstairs where his shoes were. He put his phone back on his desk and put on his socks and shoes. He went backstairs downstairs where his grandparents were still sitting. “I’m heading out to the barn,” he told them.

“Okay, don’t work too hard,” Grandad replied jokingly. Michael smiled and walked out the door. The air was surprisingly dry, like the moisture that was in the air from the rain a couple days ago just suddenly disappeared sometime in the night. He didn’t think much about it, as he wasn’t the type of person to give things like that much thought.

He went inside the barn and set up the sound-proof pads like before, as his neighbors just beyond the tree line were probably still asleep. The newly-cut fins from the night before were still sitting next to the unfinished rocket. Their edges were still jagged and sharp. Running them over the belt sander made them smooth to the touch. He made them round at the top to make them as aerodynamic as possible. He fashioned the bottom into a point.

The fins were complete; all that was left to do was to assemble them onto the rocket. He had already marked lines on the bottom of the body tube to plot the exact point to attach them. After putting his welding mask on, he lit the propane torch. A triangular pillar of blue flame billowed out of the nozzle.

With his free hand, he put one of the fins inside its guideline and touched the nozzle of the torch to where the two aluminum surfaces met. A small sea of sparks flew in every which direction as he slowly moved the torch across the surfaces, leaving a stream of hot metal in its tracks. He did the same with the other side of the fin. He let it cool for five minutes and tested its strength; it was rock solid.

He spent about 30 more minutes doing the same with the other fins. After he took his helmet off and admired his work, the door to the barn opened and Casey stepped inside. “You’re here early,” said Michael. It was only about 10:15.

“Yeah, Gavin was really starting to get bad,” she said. She walked over to Michael and the rocket, giving him another hug which caught him off guard. “That time I meant it,” Casey said with a smile. She let go and looked over at the rocket, like nothing even happened. “The fins are on,” she observed.

He stood there wondering what happened. “Yep, just finished,” Michael said, “Be careful, they’re pretty hot.”

“So what are you going to do now?” Casey asked.

“The payload bay, probably. Unlike the other ones, this rocket will come down in two pieces. Once the engine runs out of fuel, the main tube will detach and land back somewhere by a large parachute. The payload will then continue to go upwards while taking video, tracking altitude, monitoring temperature, atmospheric pressure, and all of that stuff.”

“So, what does that mean in actual English?”

“The rocket will launch a small little cylinder and the nosecone and it will do experiments as it flies,” Michael explained. “Want to help again?”

“Sure,” she said, and Michael grabbed another piece of aluminum. It was a smaller one, already cut in its needed dimensions, about 7 inches tall and 4 inches wide. A small adapter would go underneath it to make the diameter change from 4.5 inches to just 4.

He put it onto the hydraulic press and flattened it out to match the table perfectly. “Push that thing down,” he told Casey, pointing to the press above the sheet. She pulled it down to as low as it would go. “Now flick that switch,” he said. She turned the small switch to the on position. The machine started to whir softly. “If I start screaming and my hand is getting crushed, press that red button.”

The press came down further and came in contact with the sheet with its rounded bottom with nearly a ton of force. Michael pulled the sheet through the press and it came out curved. The sheet came up and over the press until it came out as near-circular. All that had to be done to it was to weld it.

They continued to work all throughout the day, taking short breaks now and then. The payload bay had been welded. A hole was cut into it for the camera to see out of. A camera platform was put into it to house the camera. A small rack just below the platform was placed to store experiments and altimeters. Grandad had checked up on them a few times throughout the day. By the time they were done, the Sun was already setting.

“Come on, I need to show you something cool,” Michael said. He took off his gloves and apron and turned off the lights. Casey did the same and followed him out the door. He led her to his favorite stargazing spot at the edge of the hill overlooking the city. They both sat down and looked up at the sky.

Casey had an awestruck look on her face. “W-wow…” she said with a loss of words, “This is amazing…” They both sat transfixed, staring up at the scarlet sky.

The Perseids were starting to show themselves again. They continued gazing as the last sliver of the red Sun began to sink below the skyline of the city below. Lightning bugs began to immerge and light up the grass around them. The bright yellow crescent of the Moon was high in the sky above them, as if looking below down at them. The faint Milky Way began to show itself to them.

Every few minutes, one of the bright meteors blazed across the sky, some faster and some brighter than others. The blinking lights of airliners flashed all around. Yellow and orange clouds were blowing across the sky, blocking only meager portions of the sky. Bright wisps of ice crystals hung high up in the air almost motionless. The stars and the planets twinkled brightly.

 All of a sudden, a lightning bug flew into his ear. He got up and started running around, digging the bug out of his ear canal. Casey got up and watched him frantically run around in the tall grass. She couldn’t help but laugh. Finally, he got the bug out of his ear, but all that was left was its guts. He flicked it away in disgust. He looked over at Casey who was still laughing.

 

13 days later…
            The barn doors opened to Michael and Evan with the monstrous 10-foot, 20 pound rocket on their shoulders. Casey, Gavin, and Grandma and Grandad Baer were waiting by the Launchpad just 50 feet away in the empty field. They walked over to them and set down the rocket just next to the Launchpad. A group of about 30 people who gathered from the city were eagerly waiting behind wooden fences for the launch. They clapped when they saw the rocket that was taller than anyone there.

            It was almost conical in shape, but it only appeared that way because of the payload adapter above the main body tube. Its four monster fins jutted out of the bottom. The nozzle below them was ready for hot gasses spewing out of it, thrusting the giant rocket miles into the sky.

            The Launchpad consisted of a concrete base dug into the ground with a large, charred metal circle in the center of it. Two metal rods rose into the air on either side of the circle. Michael and Even picked the rocket back up and slid the rocket down onto the pad, its two launch lugs place firmly into the rods.

            Gavin bent down to the rocket which was suspended just off the ground by small pieces of metal sticking out of the launch rods. He stuck the igniter inside the engine compartment. Once an electric charge was sent to it via long-distance cable, the rocket would launch. The cable was already connected at the Mission Control Center – a small camping trailer.

            The whole crew at the Launchpad walked over to the Control Center except Grandma Baer, who went to the crowd behind the fence to watch. Many people had cameras pointed towards the rocket.

            Once Michael, Casey, Gavin, Evan, and Grandad Baer got to the Control Center, they all put on wireless headsets to talk to each other long distance. Grandad got in his truck with a small flatbed trailer attached to it, Casey climbed to the top of the trailer with a communications antenna to keep contact with the rocket, and Michael, Gavin, and Evan went to their seats in the Command Center.

            It was a small area filled with computers, tables, and chairs. Posters and other spaceflight memorabilia adorned the walls and tables.

Michael sat at a table in front of a window. It had a large red button and a small box full of switches with wires running across the room and up to the ceiling where Casey was stationed. They controlled the staging of the rocket. Evan was at a table with a small screen that tracked the rocket via GPS, which also had wires running up to the roof. Gavin sat near Michael with a list of pre-launch procedures.

Casey was on the roof. She had a communications antenna on a small maneuverable tripod. She overlooked communications with the rocket as the antenna kept itself constantly aimed at the rocket, receiving a signal every 5 seconds. Grandad Baer was in his truck as the recovery team.

Everyone turned on their headsets. “Everyone coming in okay?” Gavin asked everybody.

“Launch in,” said Michael.

“GPS in,” said Evan.

“Tracking in,” said Casey.

“Recovery in,” said Michael’s grandad.

“And Communicator in,” finished Gavin. “Prelaunch status check,” he continued. “GPS?”

“Go.”

“Tracking?”

“Go.”

“Recovery?”

“Go.”

“Launch?”

“Go.”

“Roger. We are go for launch,” confirmed Gavin. The crowd outside applauded. The early morning light flooded in the trailer. After the introduction to the Mk 6, the team adopted that form of preflight checking used by actual launch controllers.

“Countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” Gavin counted.

“Ignition!” said Michael as he pressed the big red button. With a near-deafening roar, the rocket came to life. It zoomed off the Launchpad at lightning-fast speeds, leaving the launch rails wobbling. The long, silver rocket and the pillar of flames beneath it flew into the sky. The crowd cheered once more.

“Everything looks good up here,” said Casey, “Bet you wish you could see it.” Soon the rocket was too far off to see it with the unaided eye. Casey switched to the binoculars hanging from her neck. “Everything’s go at thirty seconds.”

“Roger,” said Gavin.

Casey continued watching as the rocket almost went out of sight. “We got a slight drift to the west, but everything looks good so far.” After about 20 more seconds, she was still observing the rocket. “Main stage flameout,” she said as the gasses ceased.

“Roger flameout,” said Gavin.

“Status at flameout is still go, height is 10.52 miles. Estimated max height is 13.05 miles.”

“Staging,” said Michael. He flipped a switch and the signal went through the wires and out the transmitter on the roof.

“Roger, staging is confirmed,” said Evan.

“How’s it looking, Casey?” asked Gavin.

“Staging is confirmed. Parachute should be deploying any minute now. Standby.”

“Copy that.”

“Parachute deployment is confirmed,” she replied after a few moments.

“Same here,” said Evan.

“Looks like it’s having a bit of trouble opening. Its fluttering all over the place.”

“Give it a moment, it’s still going upward. The parachute should be producing drag on the stage, it should be coming down and deploying any moment,” said Gavin.

“Okay. Yeah, its opened now. It’s falling,” said Casey, her eyes still glued to the binoculars. “Should be falling back within a mile radius of us, looks like it’s going to land somewhere around the city border.”

“Maybe wind will carry it towards us,” said Gavin.

“Fat chance,” she replied.

“How’s the payload looking?” asked Michael.

“I don’t know let me check…” Casey replied.

“Everything looks fine here. Altitude is 12.02 miles, almost at apogee,” said Evan.

“I’m having a hard time finding it… Wait a second… Oh, there it is! Let me zoom in,” Casey said as she fiddled with the binoculars. “Nosecone’s still intact. Looks a little iffy at the bottom. It’s twisting around a little bit and tumbling end over end slowly, everything’s looking good.”

“That’s good,” said Gavin.

            “Okay, max altitude of 13.16 miles achieved, more than planned. It’s falling down now,” said Evan.

            “Okay, parachutes deployed,” said Michael as he flipped another switch. “How’s it look?”

            “Hmm… Let me see…” said Casey.

            “I see the main stage,” said Michael’s grandad in the truck. “It just came down at the bottom of the hill. The wind was in our favor after all! Should I go get it?”

            “Please,” said Michael.

            “Parachute hasn’t deployed yet,” said Casey.

            “Check the transmitter,” said Evan. “It says the receiver in the payload is on, just not getting anything.”

            “Okay. Yeah, the transmitter stopped moving,” she replied. With a few small tweaks to the automatic joints, the transmitter started to move again. “Okay, it’s good now. Transmitter is go.”

            “How’s the parachute now?” asked Gavin.

            “Give me a second, I just need to find it again. Okay, I see it. Nosecone is deployed, and so is the parachutes. They’re fully deployed now!” she exclaimed.

            Michael gave a sigh of relief. “Same readings here,” Evan confirmed.

            “Were do you say it will end up?” asked Grandad Baer.

            “Looks like the other side of the city. Maybe near the Walmart,” said Casey.

            “I agree with that, it sounds about right,” said Evan.

            “Speedometer reads the payload is falling at about 10 miles an hour. May be a rough landing, but it will survive,” said Evan.

            “I found the main stage,” said Grandad Baer. He got out of his truck and loaded it onto the trailer. “Stage is recovered.”

            “Copy that,” confirmed Gavin.

            “Payload is at 1 mile… 4,000 feet… 2,000 feet… 1,000 feet… 100 feet… And landed!” said Evan. “Landing site is on the corner of Main Street and Grover Street.”

            “Heading that way now,” said Grandad.

            “We’ve landed!” said Gavin. The crowd outside applauded and went back to their cars. Michael’s Grandma went to the Control Center.

            “You did a good job,” she said.

            About 10 minutes later, Grandad Baer came in saying, “Found the payload! There’s a good crowd around it… Excuse me, pardon me sir…” He grabbed the payload and got back inside his truck to inspect it. “Minimal damage is done to it. The camera platform window is crack a bit, but it’s not bad. The bottom of it is a little worn from staging, but everything looks good.”

           

            Michael, Casey, Gavin, Evan, and Grandma Baer were helping themselves to some lemonade in the Control Center when Grandad got back. All of the spectators and their cars were gone. He pulled up in the truck with the trailer and the slightly-burnt tube on top of it. “He opened the door with the small cylinder of the payload in his hands. “This is some fine engineering, Skipper,” he said.

            Michael took it and everyone observed it. He took the top of it off and the camera slipped out. He shook it and nothing rattled inside. “That’s a good sign,” joked Michael. He plugged it into a computer on the launch desk. All the videos made by it popped up. He chose the one from the launch.

            Immediately, it showed a view out the window of the city below. Scratches were permanently marked over it by the camera platform window. With a deafening sound, the rocket started to rise, slowly at first, but then it got faster and faster. It picked up a slight spin, but it wasn’t too bad. Within seconds, the spin and the height gave a nice panorama of the farm and the town alike.

            It rose up higher, capturing the sunrise every few seconds. All of a sudden, the window was covered in a whitish fluff. As the rockets ascended into the clouds, small droplets of water clung to the window but were blown off by the ever-increasing speed of the rocket. It ascended out of the clouds, giving a magnificent view 6 miles up.

            A swirling pallet of yellows, oranges, blues, reds, and whites immerged. The sunset shined brightly above the thin blanket of clouds covering the sky. Parts in the cloud cover gave a great view of the city below. The rocket just kept going higher and higher.

            Soon, it began to rattle and twirl. Then, the noise of the engine stopped. It was a few seconds until- Clang! The main stage separated. Frayed bits of the payload could be seen. It began to tumble even faster.

            A few seconds later, another clang! could be heard when the nosecone popped off. With a loud whoosh! the parachute billowed out of the top of the payload. It began slowing down immediately. It descended through the clouds again, almost at a crawl, but it was just an illusion.

            The payload immerged from the clouds and buildings could be seen below. A crowd of people were looking up at it. Then, seemingly moving at tremendous speeds, the payload came to a halt on the ground, but the speed was also an illusion. A clamber of feet grouped around it. A hand came close to grabbing it, but a voice said, “Don’t touch it!”

            The crowd began murmuring. “Is it aliens?”, “What is it?”, “Where did it come from?”

            Then the sound of a truck came rattling by and stopped. “There’s a good crowd around it... Excuse me, pardon me sir…” said Grandad’s voice. He picked it up, inspected it, and carried it back to his truck. He got in and pressed a button on the outside, stopping the recording.

            The crew around the computer just couldn’t help but smile and laugh at the whole thing. The Mk 7 worked!

The chapter itself was 3.8k words and the book is now 9.8k words long. Making progress!

Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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9 minutes ago, The Raging Sandwich said:

Broke the 10k word count on chapter 3!

Nice!

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