purpleivan

2010 - The Year We Make Kontakt - Chapter 7: Final Performance (last chapter)

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Chapter 1: Joining the Party

Chapter 2: Band on the Road

Chapter 3: A Hot Gig

Chapter 4: A New Riff

Chapter 5: Raising the Curtain

Chapter 6: Reforming the band

Chapter 7: Final Performance

 

MISSION BACKGROUND:

YEAR.  1999. LOCATION:  THE MOON, TYKO CRATER.

A BLACK, RECTANGULAR OBJECT FOUND BY ACCIDENT WHEN RESCUING A KERBONAUT AND RECOVERING A SINGLE PIECE OF THEIR SPACECRAFT.

 

COMPOSITION… UNKNOWN

ORIGIN…. UNKNOWN

GIVEN NAME… TYKO MONOLITH

 

SIGNAL SENT FROM MONOLITH TOWARDS JOOL.

REASON… UNKNOWN

 

YEAR:  2001. LOCATION: VICINITY OF JOOL.

SPACECRAFT:     K.S.S.  DISKOVERY

AS SPACECRAFT APPROACHED JOOL’S TWO INNER MOONS… LAYTHE AND VALL… ARL – 202L COMPUTER MALFUNCTIONED.

 

CREW:  

CO-PILOT BOB KERMAN KILLED BY ARL-202L WHILE OUTSIDE THE SPACECRAFT.

COMMANDER JEB KERMAN DISCONNECTED LOGIC CIRCUITS OF ARL-202L.

ARL-202L UNIT TAKING A TIME OUT.

 

FINAL MISSION STATUS

COMMANDER JEB KERMAN ENCOUNTERED OBJECT BETWEEN JOOL AND VALL. THE OBJECT IDENTICAL TO MONOLITH FOUND ON MUN… EXCEPT IN SIZE.

MONOLITH NEAR JOOL IS BIG… LIKE REALLY BIG… YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE HOW BIG IT IS…… AND DARK… AND SPOOKY.

COMMANDER JEB KERMAN LEFT DISKOVERY TO INVESTIGATE. LAST TRANSMISSION FROM COMMANDER KERMAN:

 “BY THE KRAKEN, IT’S FULL OF SNACKS.”

 

REASON FOR MALFUNCTION OF ARL-202L…

UNKNOWN.

 

MEANING OF LAST JEB KERMAN TRANSMISSION…

UNKNOWN.

LOCATION OF JEB KERMAN…

UNKNOWN (PRESUMED DEAD).

 

COMPOSITION OF SECOND MONOLITH… UNKNOWN

POSITON OF SECOND MONOLITH… LA GRANGE POINT BETWEEN JOOL AND VALL

POSITION OF K.S.S. DISKOVERY… ORBIT OF VALL.

CONDITION OF U.S.S. DISKOVERY… UNKNOWN.

 

END MISSION REPORT

FILED BY;

HEYWOOD KERMAN… DIRECTOR, KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM.

2001.

NOTE TO SELF: KNOW MORE THINGS!!!

 

Chapter 1: Joining the Party

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"By the Kraken, it's full of snacks"

"By the Kraken, it's full of snacks"

"By the Kra…”

The ringtone on Doctor Heywood Kerman’s phone cut short as he tapped its screen, taking a call from KSC security.

“Yeee’llo… how can you help me” answered the head of the Kerbal Space Program cheerily.

“Uh huh… ok… a strange guy hanging around the tracking station” said Heywood, repeating the message from center security “so why tell me instead of sending one of your minions to check it out… oh you have… and this stranger asked for me. Ok then, I’ll head over there now”.

On most days Heywood would have considered posting the minion from security to a less desirable posting for pestering him with this kind of nonsense, like parts retrieval in the arctic. But he was intrigued to know what this stranger had to say, plus it gave him the opportunity to try out his new executive transport pod.

Heywood had taken delivery of his new conveyance a few days earlier and he’d only had a couple of opportunities to take it for a spin. As well as saving him time travelling around the center, it also allowed him to glide effortlessly past those less fortunate, less deserving than himself, who had to hoof it around on foot… what a wonderful feeling.

On his arrival at the tracking station Doctor Kerman stepped out of the ETP and strode over to the KSC security guard that was waiting there for him.

“So how’s the golf cart” asked the security guard.

“It’s not a golf cart, it’s an executive trans…”

“…port pod” completed the guard. “My boss said to remember to say that… sure looks like a golf cart though, even has some clubs in the back”.

Ok… no matter how beautiful the morning was, this guy was getting the arctic posting.

“So where is this stranger” queried Heywood.

“He’s hiding on the other side of the dish” replied the guard “said he wanted to look like he just snuck up on you when he starts talking”.

Ah…. A fellow gamesman mused Heywood, possibly someone worthy of my great intellect; let the games begin.

With that thought in mind, Heywood climbed the stairs of one of the mighty dishes that allowed the KSP to both track the position and communicate with its vehicles around the Kerbol system. It was one of the greatest achievements of the KSP, although its communication function had recently started to play up, losing contact with the more far flung of the program’s craft, necessitating the launch of many vehicles, with dishes bolted to them, to act as relays.

Having ascended high enough to clearly have the upper hand (well two of them to be precise) over his unseen opponent, Heywood sat down to get his breath back.

A moment later a kerbal in a dark suit stepped out from the other side of the dish and walked around its massive base before stopping at the foot of the stairs.

 

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“Heeloo… Doctor Heyvood Kirrman?” enquired the stranger.

“Kerman… yes, I am he” replied the Doctor “so who might you be?”

“Errrr… Might be?… ah, am Dimitri Kerman, chairman of the Kirrbil Institute  of Space Science” rolled the ex-stranger.

Hmmm… Heywood thought, KISS, the organisation responsible for the only other national space program on Kerbin. He’d heard of these guys and what he’d heard wasn’t good, at least that’s what they all said on NiceBook and Kwitter, so it must be true.

“I vish to speak vith you about your problem” stated the kerbal now known as Dimitri, “de problem of your kosonauts dat disappeared”.

“Kosonauts… oh you mean kerbonauts” corrected Heywood.

“Nyet… kosonauts” counter corrected the chairman of KISS “dat you shoot into space”.

What with the comically strong accent and the moustache twirling of this guy, Heywood didn’t trust him one bit. Ok, he didn’t actually have a moustache, but if he did, then he would be twirling it, Heywood was sure of that.

“Which disappeared kerbo… er… kosonauts do you mean?” Heywood asked, as they lost those guys all the time.

“Kosonauts dat vent to Jool after you dig up mirnolith on Mun” specified the chairman.

“How do you know about the monolith” questioned Heywood, then realising that its existence was a huge secret “… er, which monolith… I mean, I didn’t say monolith”.

Damm, he’s good thought the KSP director, we only rediscovered a couple of months ago, what we sent those guys to Jool for.

The existence of the monolith and the implication that it proved the existence of something other than kerbal life in the universe, had been deemed such a huge secret that memory wipings had been ordered regarding its existence, for all but for a select group who would direct the Diskovery mission. But due to a clerical error, they had also had their memory wiped.

 

It was only when people started asking why there was a large black slab being used as a lunch table in the break room, propped up at one end by a box of files marked “Classified - Top Secret” and a stack of disks at the other, labelled “Diskovery crew mission briefing video – only to be viewed once at Jool” that things fell into place once more.

 

“So the mirnolith dat you say does not exist, vat did you discover about it?” asked Dimitri “all ve know is dat it’s black”.

Hmmm…. looks like the game is up thought Heywood, seems like he knows everything.

“Nothing, it’s impenetrable” answered the Doctor “we tried everything, on it; flaming rocket fuel, whacking it with a hammer, even threw some super hot chilli sauce on it, nothing worked”. This talk of chilli reminded him that it was at least an hour since his last meal, so he’d better wrap up this conversation quickly so that he could go get himself his 3rd breakfast.

“Why don’t you try just saying what’s on your mind” said Heywood, with same curt tone that he reserved for interns that brought him the wrong lunch order.

“Well, ve know dat you are building de Diskovery 3 to return to Jool” (the Diskovery 2 had to be scrapped when it was discovered it had been built with all the fuel lines connected the wrong way round) but we are ready to go next month in the Keonov” replied Dimitri.

“I thought it was going to be called the “Jool Exploration Ballute Experimental Deceleration Interplanetary Access with Heat shield” asked Heywood.

“Da… but we thought Keonov sounded much cooler” replied Dimitri

“So you’ll get to Jool first, what of it” said the increasingly hungry and impatient Heywood.

“Vell, ve heard dat computer on Diskovery vent a little… la la la” the chairman said, pointing a finger at his head and spinning it in little circles. “If our crew vent onto Diskovery it might do something crazy to dem or Keonov”.

“But it was deactivated by Jeb Kerman before he left the ship” said Heywood.

“Vell, to be safe ve thinking dat some of yoorr peoples would go on Diskovery first, you know… just to be safe” said Dimitri, wiggling his fingers in front of him as he did so.

If he’d been closer to his previous meal and if it wasn’t chicken Tuesday at the KSC (he did so love his chicken) Heywood might have asked “safe for whom?” but instead decided to leave that question for now, after all it wouldn’t be him going on the mission.

“Hmmm… I’ll take it up with the politicians, but I might get some problems with taking you up on your offer, you know… with you people being evil and everything. No offense” stated Heywood.

“Errr…. none taken” replied Dimitri and then muttered something under his breath, before slinking off towards the perimeter fence.

 

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The follow morning saw Doctor Heywood sitting on a bench next to the Secretary of Space Affairs, Victor Kerman, his immediate boss (urghh… how he hated that word) outside the President’s official residence.

“Is this some kind of joke” asked Victor. “You want me to go in there” he said jabbing a thumb over his shoulder “and ask him if it’s ok to for some of our fine brave kerbonauts to jump on a KISS ship for a two year trip to Jool”.

“Er… yup” replied Heywood.

“The same KISS that gave your people that crate of extra strong vodka last New Year and then while you were all passed out, snuck in and stole the entire stock of nuclear engines” Victor queried.

“Well they…” Heywood started.

“and the same KISS that dug an 80km tunnel under the border, so they could drain one of our subkerbinean liquid fuel lakes” continued the Secretary.

“But…” Heywood blurted

“Not forgetting the wooonderful gift they gave the president on his re-election” said the Secretary “You remember; the box of rocks, with the message “even these are smarter than you”.

“So… you think he won’t be too keen on the idea then?” asked Heywood.

Victor Kerman gave Heywood a look that others would have taken as a simple “no… not in the lifetime of this universe” but instead he took it as “This just needs a little bit of the Heywood magic to seal the deal”.

“Well we could tell the President that once we get our people on the Diskovery that we won’t tell KISS anything about what we find on board, we could even lie… tell them a bunch of crazy nonsense that no-one understands.” Heywood could sense that for some reason Victor wasn’t quite buying the idea. “Oh… and we could steal stuff from their ship” he offered as a sweetener.

Victor tilted his head to one side, contemplating this last idea. They had been on the receiving end of many KISS acts of pilfering over the years; perhaps this would be an opportunity to finally take something from them.

“Tell you what, I’ll go in there and speak to the President and you go on the mission” suggested Victor.

“Err… what” Heywood blurted, not expecting this turn of events. “Me… go to Jool. Not a chance, do you know how far away that is, do you know how dangerous it’ll be, do you know I have kids” all the while thinking “do you know what they will do to my office while I’m away”.

“If I’m going to go in there with your hair brained scheme, then the least you can do is go on the mission to make sure that we get something nice from that ship of theirs” insisted Victor.

Heywood had to admit that he did like the “idea” of going to Jool, if not the reality of it. Oh well, at least if he went, he might discover something that he’d get to put his name on.

 

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A few days later on a dusty road at the edge of the KSC, Heywood was jogging; engaged in a grilling physical and mental regime to prepare himself for the mission to Jool, accompanied by his son Christopher.

“Something beginning with R” shouted the excited child.

“Errr… Space Center” replied Heywood

“No silly, that don’t begin with R” corrected Christopher.

Hmmm… this would be tougher than he’d thought “Railings” Heywood responded

“I don’t see railings” replied the child.

“Well, they’re planned to be installed next month and they begin with R so I win” stated Heywood with even more pride than usual in his voice, having used four dimensional thinking to take the game.

“No you don’t win, they not here… try again” admonished the child.

“Ok, ok… er… so… daddy is going on a long trip and I’ll have to sleep most of the way” said Heywood, changing the subject.

“Are you gonna die” asked Heywood’s son.

“What! No, why’d you say that” said the shocked Heywood.

“Well, you go’in on a long journey and it’s with those naaasty KISS people and the people you sent last time all died… and… and… the Kraken, he lives in Jool doesn’t he” listed the child, slightly too excitedly for Heywood’s liking.

He had a point though, considered Heywood, there is a whiff of danger about this mission and there hadn’t been a Kraken related incident for quite a while, we’re about due one by now.

“Don’t worry… daddy will be back in a couple of years, to tuck you in with a bed time story” said Heywood.

“Two years” said the child “I be too old for bed time stories by then. Maybe you take me parachute jump’in”

Parachute jumping! The kid was much too like the pilots at the KSC for Heywood’s liking, showing no interest in the exciting world of project management, but two years was a long time, he might have grown out of it by then.

Yeah… two years.

 

Next in Chapter 2: On the Road to Jool

Heywood meets his other compatriots from the KSC aboard the KISS ship the Keonov as they make their way to Jool.

 

For the complete 2001: A Space Absurdity go here.

Edited by purpleivan

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4 hours ago, purpleivan said:

"it's full of snacks"

:D

Also, the idea of Kerbal children is absolutely adorable!

 Or maybe they have another form, like frogs do. Somehow I think of this image:

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Great thread man, I look forward to seeing more. I loved 2010 and KSP is too perfect to recreate that story!

 

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Hi @purpleivan

I am very curious and enjoyed that someone picks Kubricks motionpicture again for a kerbalized story reenactment!
I have some spare time the next few weeks and will follow your efforts, so cool! :D

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Chapter 2: Band on the Road

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The clear ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see in one direction and an empty, unending beach to the other and Heywood had it all to himself.

He sat in a perfectly formed chair and sipped on the finest sugary cocktail that Kerbin’s bartenders could devise as he lay there soaking in the warmth of the sun.

“Perfection” he thought to himself “I could stay here forever”.

He wiggled his little green toes in the yellow sand and took another sip from the glass, then out of the corner of his eye he noticed something at the waters’ edge. It was an engineer, he couldn’t put a name to them, but why would he, he was just an engineer after all, a means to an end. So he put all thought of this interloper out of his mind and focused on the important task of getting himself “hydrated”… taking a large slurp of his cocktail before leaning back in the chair.

The distant figure by the sea became a voice. “Heywood, we need to talk about these new parts I requested. They’re expensive, but they’ll make our flights a little bit safer”.

Just ignore him he thought, he’ll go away, they always do.

“Oi… Heywood” shouted the waste of the colour green “did you read my report”.

“Heywood”, how he hated to here that name coming from others, when there were so much better ones to use. Dr Kerman, Sir, Director, maybe Emperor... mmm, I’d make a fine Emperor, everyone would say so.

Then more sounds shattered his peace. “Woody” came an approaching chorus of voices from along the beach, “We’ve gotta talk about getting the break room a proper table”.

Heywood shuddered, it was kerbonauts and lots of them and all using his nickname from college. How he loathed both.

“Oi… wake up” came the voice of one of the rocket jocks, who by now sounded like they surrounded his chair in the sand.  “Wake up Woody, we need to talk about my bonus, its three years late” and proceeded to poke him in the ribs.

Your bonus, what about my vacation that you’re spoiling, why won’t you all just go away and leave me in alone.

 

 

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“Vake up Heyvood… Hevood, it is time to vake up” the voice sounded a little different, but there was still an annoying digging into his ribs.

“Lazy Kspudnik, get out of bed” shouted the voice that Heywood realised was not one of his drones at the KSP.

He cracked one eye ajar slightly, before jamming it shut again “Ow… turn that light off, I can’t see a damn thing”.

“Niet, ve need it to… er… see you clearly, in case of, errrm… space rot” replied what Heywood now realised was Dasilly Kerman, the medical and science officer of the KISS ship, the KSS Keonov, who was clearly sniggering.

“Ve are only two days from Joool and ve have been instructed to vake you op” came Dasilly’s voice again, so Heywood cracked open his eyes , both of them this time and stared upward at the EVA  hatch in the ceiling.

“Hmm”  Heywood thought, “two days from Jool… medical officer on the Keonov… EVA hatch in the ceiling…. but that must mean…”

For reasons of brevity the following 2 hours of screaming have been edited and for the sake of our family viewers the expletive laden tirade has also been removed.

 

 

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Sometime later Doctor Kerman sat at a table in a room adjoining the command room of the Keonov, accompanied by its crew.

Fortunately for his nerves, the ship came with a fully stocked bar, an addition that its commanding officer, Captain Valentina Kerman,  had insisted upon on hearing that the KSP director would be a passenger on the mission.

She said something about “dat kspudnik not setting fooot on dis ship if I have to be sober” he recalled.

His shock at finding he was on the Keonov and about to arrive at Jool, instead of back on lovely Kerbin, in his even lovelier office, was due to his understanding that it would be one of his kerbonauts that would be sent on the mission rather than himself. An agreement to which was something could swear he had made with his, urghhh… boss, Victor Kerman, in the last few minutes hat he could remember before waking up on the KISS ship.

Immediately after this agreement was signed; which he recalled being done in blood, using a quill made from the tail feather of a long extinct bird, he vaguely remembered a playful game of chase around the KSC grounds, with Victor Kerman and some of the security guards, until his executive transport pod ran out of power, followed moments later by a sharp jab in his neck before falling asleep.

Heywood glanced around the table at his fellow travellers. To his left sat Captain Valentina and to his right was Dasilly. Sitting across the table from him were the two remaining crew members, Max and Irena, both engineers. The crew had originally been larger, but shortly after the announcement that he would be joining them as a passenger, several claimed to have contracted “da spaaace measles” and insisted that they should remain on Kerbin.

So what all important reason did they have to wake him from wonderful sleep? Perhaps it was all called off and they were going home. The thought cheered him up for a moment before realising that it probably wasn’t possible for them to just turn around and head back to Kerbin. Something to do with that physics stuff that his engineers kept insisting was important.

“Doctor Kirrman, we have important information about the mission that you’re government insisted we wake you for” stated Captain Valentina, somewhat sternly.

Perhaps they were turning the ship round and going home after all. Those amazing engineers had found a way. Oh praise the Kraken Heywood thought, his mood lifting once more.

“Ve have detected anomalous readinks from da moon of Vall” the Captain continued.

“Arrrrgh”… Heyood exclaimed… damn you Kraken and your lazy engineers, he thought and his head sank to the table which he preceded to pound with his fist.

Once the table thumping had ceased, Dasilly Kerman continued what Heywood assumed was going to be one of those boring science talks.

“Ve have detected signs of organic compounds in small area of Vall” he said.

He was right… it was going to be one of those boring science talks.

“It’s pronounced Vall” sighed the KSP director.

“Da… Vall” Dasilly repeated, continuing his onslaught on the correct pronunciation of planetary bodies.

“It’s Vall” shouted Heywood, lifting his head from the table.

“Niet, whole verld knows it is Vall, insisted the Captain “it is only da lies of your KSP that would convince anyvon dat it is said Vall”.

“Look at the monitor, you guys can’t even spell it correctly” said Heywood, jabbing a stubby thumb towards the screen on the wall.

“Err…. Dat is not correct spelling ve know… is typo” admitted Max sheepishly “It been like dat since we launch. Ve meaning to change it but has been so busy with da ship flying and sciencing stuff”.

Ok, Heywood thought, I guess these weren’t the first Kerbals to hit the wrong key on a keyboard, we’re not really built for intricate work in the fingers department, pie eating that was another matter, our hands are perfect for that, but Ctrl-Alt-Del can be a bit of a stretch.

“So… what are these readings from, er… Vall” said Heywood, using the pronunciation favoured by the Keonov’s crew, to get past that argument.

 “Der are chemical signatures of organic compounds and chloroform” stated Dasilly.

“Don’t you mean chlorophyll” corrected Heywood. He didn’t know what chlorophyll was but had a vague recollection that it was something to do with plants and they were organic, weren’t they.

“Neit, chloroform” confirmed Dasilly “Der is also chlorophyll, but with der being organic compounds, da chlorophyll not so unexpected”.

Doctor Kerman leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin, deep in thought.

“So maybe there are some plants down there… so what, I mean it’s not like we have a shortage of them, they’re all over Kerbin” he said after some deliberation.

“Plants… on da moon Vall, is not surprise to you” Dasilly questioned.

“Nope” said Heywood confidently.

“Da moon dat have surface temperature of -140 degrees in da sunlight” continued Dasilly.

“Er… if you say so” replied Doctor Kerman, suddenly not sounding so confident.

“Vell, even if plant life, something dat have not been found once on over 10 surveyed worlds, is no surprise, perhaps we should, how you say… check it out” the Captain enquired.

“Well…. If you must” replied the Doctor.

 

 

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“Bler, Blip… Bler, Blip… Bler, Blip, Bler…”

“Vill you stop making dat stupid sounds Doctor Kerman” snapped Valentina, annoyed at Heywoods attempt to making the approach towards Vall, of the probe that the Kernov had recently launched, sound more interesting.

“But it’s so boring. There’s just a stream of numbers and some grainy video. I mean, it’s not even in colour” retorted the KSP’s esteemed director.

“Da, is data, vat did you expect” replied the ship’s captain.

“Everyone knows that space probes and satellites and other… erm, space stuff makes really cool sounds, otherwise nooo-one would watch them” answered the rather testy Doctor “I mean ours always do”.

Unknown to Doctor Kerman, the staff at the KSC routinely added sound effects from sci-fi TV shows to recordings of transmissions from their various spacecraft to keep the director’s attention during meetings.

 

“Dis is not a movie Doctor Kirrman, dis is real space exploration” Dasilly corrected.

“There’s a difference?” questioned Heywood “I mean, I am a director”.

As one, the crew of the Keonov glanced upward and sighed before returning to the work of preparing the probe for its landing on the surface of Vall.

 

 

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The probe sailed silently over the surface of Vall, its various sensors returning data on the terrain below it and its chemical composition. As it descended through a height of 500m from the surface of the icy moon below it, the landing legs were prepared to be deployed.

“Max… press da G button” instructed Captain Valentina.

“No response from the landing legs Captain” the engineer, who was responsible for guiding the probe, since the crewmember originally assigned the task, was one of those suffering from “space measles”.

“Press again, it sometimes not verk on first press” advised Valentina.

With a second tap of the G key, the legs under the probe deployed and its decent continued.

“Now ve put on lights” queried Max.

“Da… push L” Valentina started.

“Key… da I know” interupted Max, squidging his index finger into the keyboard “Dis is fun, eh Captain?”

Valentina flashed her engineer a stern look.

Yes it was fun, but there was no way that she was going to let that kspudnik from the KSP know that. She had an entire nation’s appearance as single minded, disciplined explorers to keep up after all.

The lights of the probe shone onto the shiny surface of Vall; its surface a mixture of small ice crystals and fine dust.

While the crew had been hard at work taking the probe from the relative safety of the Keonov, to the icy surface of the moon that they were passing by at great speed; a certain KSP director was slowly creeping up behind the probe control console manned by Max.

“Ve are receivink chemical composition data now captain” Dasilly announced. “Oxygen… carbon” he read out.

All eyes free from other duties were locked to the readout of the chemical sensor “Chlorphyll, it’s chloro…” shouted Vasilly “Ah… niet… my mistake, is chloroform”.

Everyone sighed, except Heywood, who chuckled and continued to edge towards the probe console.

“Maybe there’s some down in that crater” he suggested “we should take the probe down for a closer look”.

“Niet, ve must first assess suitability as landink site, analyse da data dat we have received, run simulations…” started Captain Valentina

“No time to be reasonable” shouted Heywood “it’s an emergency, all hands on deck, I’m taking command” and with that, lurched forward and grabbed the probe control manipulator from Max’ hand and yanked it to the side “Give me full speed and hold on tight”

“Give me full speed and hold on tight” is the catch phase of ships’ captain Pike Kerman in Heywood's favourite sci-fi show “The Space Race Fun Hour” (content suitable for the under 5’s)

By now both Max and Irena had a hold of Heywood and were attempting to pull the probe control from his grip.

“No… le’go… I wanna fly it” screamed the Doctor as the probe careened towards the center of the crater.

“Chloro… chlorophyll… sweet Kraken” shouted Dasilly over the sounds of the struggle, still staring at the chemical composition readings.

Max momentarily ceased his efforts to wrest the controls from their over excited passenger, to point at a rapidly approaching object on the video coming from the probe.

“Hey… is dat tree”.

 

The lights of the command room of the Keonov momentarily blacked out as did the video feed and all other data coming from the probe.

At that precise moment a small probe, sent by small green creatures, from a small blue planet, many millions of miles away met its nemesis, in the form of a moderately sized pine.

Edited by purpleivan

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Having watched 2010 just last week it'll be quite fun to see where this story goes! That anticlimactic ending (in the form of a tree...) gave m,e a good chuckle.

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I love Heywood's antics and the anticlimactic ending to this chapter :)

"All these worlds are yours, except Vall. Attempt no landing there."

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14 hours ago, TOMMY (JEB 2.0) said:

y has no botty posted on this sens march 5 !

That would be because I've been a bit busy with work and other things.

I hope to get back to this soon.

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Chapter 3: A Hot Gig

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“Huwaah…  errr, hmmm” muttered Heywood, then attempted to scratch his head, which proved unexpectedly difficult. For some reason the Doctor was unable to raise his right arm, never mind he thought, give the left a try.

Strange… no luck there either he thought groggily.

With his senses returning to him he realised that the reason his head was going unscratched was that his hands were tied to the chair in which he was sat, in the Keonov’s command room.

“Hey… what the… let me loose, let me loose now. Hello… anyone there” he shouted.

For a moment he thought that he’d been left alone on the ship, his fellow explorers snatched by whatever mysterious force had taken Jeb Kerman from the Diskovery, leaving him alone tied to this chair in the depths of space, to be driven insane by the inability to scratch his scalp.

But then the sound of whistling came from the corridor outside. The whistling gradually increased in volume and then stopped just as he heard footsteps behind him.

“Doctor Heyvood is avake now Captain” shouted the unmistakable voice of Max.

“Ah thank goodness” exclaimed Heywood, “now let me out of this chair at once”.

“Niet” Max responded, “must vait for Captain”.

Moments later more footsteps could be heard behind Heywood’s chair, before the unhappy face of Captain Valentina appeared over his left shoulder.

“So, vill you behave now Doctor Kirrman” She asked, with what sound like the same tone as a kindergarten teacher.

“What do you mean behave? My actions have been the height of professionalism since I came aboard; it’s you who tied me to a chair” the doctor replied, more than a little disgruntled.

“Professionalism, at da KSP perhaps, but in der KISS ve do not grab controls of probe, then smash probe into tree” the Captain countered. “Now vill you be calm if we untie you from chair”.

Doctor Kerman considered this for a moment, he hated to be told what to do, but he hated being unable to scratch his head even more. “Ok, ok… I’m calm, I’ll be calm, just let me out of this chair” he relented.

Moments later the Doctor was free of the bonds that had fixed him to the chair and now he was madly scratching the top of his head.

“Ahhh… mmmm… you have no idea how good that feels” said the now somewhat calmer KSP director.

“Now dat you are calm Doctor Kirrman, ve must talk about probe and vat ve saw from da telemetry” stated the Captain. “Unfortunately ve have no record of data dat vos transmitted”.

“No data, how is that possible, was it erased somehow?” enquired Heywood.

“Niet… Max, err… forgot to hit record button” Valentina said somewhat sheepishly.

The KSP director glanced towards Max who muttered something about having a cake in the oven before leaving the room. Heywood considered this situation for a moment then asked “can we send another probe?”

“Niet, ve do not have enough fuel” replied Captain Valentina.

“What” exclaimed Heywood, “we don’t have enough fuel, how will we get home, by the Kraken we’re going to die out here, cold and alone” then bent over and started howling.

“Doctor Kirrrman” snapped Valentina “probe, ve do not have fuel to send second probe, ve have fuel to go home”.

The Doctor’s howling ceased, he straightened up and considered his position for a moment.  “Ah… fuel for the probe you say”.

“Da… probe” confirmed Captain Valentina, now giving Doctor Kerman a pitying look.

“Couldn’t you just use the brakes and go back to Vall” asked the Doctor.

“Brakes… we have no brakes, ve have carefully calculated trajectory to Jool and der ve aerobrake until captured in orbit, then ve…” started Valentina.

“Aha, so you do have brakes, you could use them to go back to…”

“Niet… can only use brake ven in atmosphere of planet” corrected the increasingly exasperated Captain.

“Brakes you can only use in an atmosphere, well that’s just stupid” said Heywood, now feeling awfully smug.

 

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Six hours later Doctor Kerman was not feeling smug. All he felt was sick. Sick and scared. Not forgetting shaken, bruised and generally unhappy about his current situation.

A few minutes earlier the Keonov had started its passage through the thick Joolian atmosphere and he'd already had enough of aero-braking.

The Keonov’s captain had explained the procedure to the Doctor before their arrival at Jool and the deployment that would be made of the ballute type heat shield that would protect the Keonov as it passed through the atmosphere of the gas giant.

Doctor Kerman’s reaction to hearing that they would be protected by a “balloon” from the immense heat generated by the braking method was predictable. At first he mocked the Keonov’s captain and then the KISS engineers that had decided a “balloon” was a suitable braking device. Then he bent over threw up and started howling, asking if the Kraken to accept his Kerbal Express platinum card and failing that, some interns back at the KSC that he was willing to offer as a sacrifice.

Following his entirely understandable moment of “nervousness” about the upcoming manoeuvre, the Keonov’s crew escorted the Doctor to his “safety chamber” for the duration of aero-braking. In reality this “chamber” was a storage cupboard, but they wanted something that they could lock from the outside, while they we busy looking after the ship as it made the dangerous passage through the atmosphere.

After twenty minutes of aero-braking, Doctor Kerman was close to passing out. While the crew of the Keonov were safely strapped into their chairs in the command room through the whole ordeal, the KSP director had no such luxury and had spent the entire time bouncing around the inside of the cupboard.

If he’d had any fillings (Heywood worked hard at keeping his perfect smile) then they would have be shaken loose by the vibration that ran through the ship.

Through gritted teeth Heywood muttered ”daammm… baaalloooons…. tha…aat… jeerrrk… Jeee…eb… wooould… lovve… thiis”.

 

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Twenty seven minutes after first entering the atmosphere of Jool, the Keonov passed out of it again, having settled into the orbit that the KISS engineers had calculated months before its departure from Kerbin. With the ballute’s work done it was detached and the ship’s crew set about the task of preparing for the encounter with the Diskovery.

Some hours later Max remembered that they’d locked the KSP director in a cupboard for his own safety (well, mainly theirs) during the braking manoeuvre, so he made his way to it and opened the door.

Inside Doctor Kerman was upside down, squashed into the bottom left corner, but inexplicably seemed to be smiling.

“Doctor ok?” asked Max “vell… you look ok”.

“Fine” replied Heywood.

Strange Max thought, their passenger looked pretty shaken up and had a lot of bruises, but he was definitely smiling. Then he noticed something on the face of the Doctor, especially around the mouth, something brown.

“Always carry emergency chocolate” advised the still smiling Doctor “always carry emergenccc….”; then collapsed into an unconscious heap at the bottom of the cupboard.

 

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A few hours and various pain relieving drugs later, Doctor Kerman awoke in the Keonov’s medical room. He’d had a pretty traumatic time in that cupboard, but whatever they’d stuck in him while he’d been asleep, he felt great.

Of course the three chocolate bars he’d scoffed down in the cupboard helped too.

He hopped up off the bed and was immediately greeted by two familiar voices behind him.

“Doctor Kerman” piped up one.

“Hi Heywood” said the other “so how was aero-braking”.

Heywood turned and saw the two members of the KSP who had been selected to accompany him to Jool. The KSP’s chief engineer Walter “Wally” Kerman and Doctor Chando Kerman, the designer of the AR202L, the malfunctioning computer onboard the Diskovery.

The KSP director knew Wally well, as he was one of the few people he considered to be almost an equal and was an admirer of his practical jokes, as long as they were aimed at others than him. Chando on the other hand was more of an enigma, as his personality tended to make interaction with him difficult.

Heywood tucked his hands behind his back before saying “aero-braking… ah… easy as pie, barely felt a thing” keeping his hands firmly grasped together behind him, as they were now trembling at the mere thought of that experience. He paused for a moment to remember if that Kinochio movie he’d seen as a child was a documentary or not he continued “But the Keonov crew, they were just a bunch of babies; crying, wailing, calling for their mother, but you know what I’m like, nothing shakes me”.

“Sure woulda liked to have seen that” stated Wally, “the aero-braking that is, not the cryin’ and holler’in, I mean that’s jus embarrasin’. So Chando, how ya feelin’?” he asked of the computer scientist sat next to him, before giving him a big slap on the back.

The genius behind the revolutionary AR200 series of computers quickly looked around him, his eyes flicking from side to side and then put his finger to his lips before whispering “we shouldn’t talk here”. His eyes darted around the room again before continuing “eyes, ears everywhere… can’t trust those KISS people, can’t trust anyone, so many lies, so many lies…” before throwing a blanket over his head and heading out of the room.

“What was that about” enquired Heywood.

“Weeelll… you remember how Chando was a, bit of a character, with all of his tinfoil hat stuff” Wally replied, referring to the scientist’s belief in various conspiracy theories “He got a lot worse while we were trainin’ for this trip, I think the idea of us heading all the way out here jus’ sent him off the deep end.”

Heywood considered this for a moment before asking “so, have you lightened up on him a bit with the pranks then?”

Wally let out a loud belly laugh “hell no… he’s an even easier target than ever, why would I do that”.

Heywood smiled and let out a chuckle; Wally was indeed a fine engineer and to his mind an even finer example of a Kerbal.

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Chapter 4: A New Riff

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With a well timed burst of its maneuvering thrusters the Keonov matched its orbit of Tylo to that of the derelict Diskovery. Inside that hulk was a sleeping computer that had the answers to Dr Heywood Kerman’s many question, foremost being if he had any personal liability in the many lawsuits that had been filed against the KSP in relation to the loss of the ships’ crew. There had been so many in fact that the majority of the organisation’s funding was now being spent on lawyers rather than engineers, hence the need to return to the Diskovery with the help of the KISS.

To get those answers and if possible revive the Diskovery, a small team would be sent aboard to begin the process of resurrecting the ship’s systems. From the KSP, the obvious choice was Wally Kerman, as he had designed the Diskovery, whereas the KISS used their tried and tested technique of drawing straws. So Dasilly and Max got out their notepad and pens and started sketching straws, with the one Captain Valentina liked the best being the winner.

As usual Max, the amateur artist of the crew, who had a fine collection of pencil sketches of his crew-mates while they were sleeping (something which concerned the others on the Keonov), won the competition hands down. As much as he was terrified by the excursion to the Diskovery, his pride in his artwork wouldn’t allow him to fake it and draw like a three year old, like Dasilly and Irena did.

With the excursion team chosen the Keonov’s crew and their guests from the KSP headed to the ship’s main airlock to help the pair to suit up. Well, most helped; Heywood thought the preparation of the suits a little close to manual labour and therefore far beneath the status of the director of the KSP, so he left Wally to prepare his own suit. However as the guy had literally been born in space (as he never tired of telling his co-workers) he had his suit prepared before the Keonov crew had Max’s suit ready. This allowed him to be fully prepared for the journey to the Discovery as well as lay the groundwork for his passion from pranks.

While everyone else was busy checking Max’ environmental system, Wally took a big wad of chewing gum (a key component of his practical joke kit) and jammed bits of it into the maneuvering jets of his victim’s suit. He then suggested that for safety it might be best if the pair of them were tethered together while on their way to the Diskovery.

 

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Minutes later the large airlock door slid open, revealing the awesome sight of Jool in the distance and Tylo below, with the Diskovery  spinning slowly above it.

“So ya ready to go” asked Wally of his partner for the trip to the derelict ship.

“Neit… have problem vith…” replied Max before being interrupted by the KSP engineer

“That’s great, ok, let’s get to it” said Wally with a mischievous grin and a short sharp blast of his thrusters out of the airlock. The KSP’s prankster in chief shot away from the Keonov, followed a moment later by Max when the tether that connected them became taught.

The tether, which Wally had sneakily wound around Max’s left leg before exiting the airlock, now gave the engineer complete control of the Keonov crewman’s movement, which was currently flying  feet first at high speed towards a derelict spacecraft, over an unexplored world, millions of kilometres from home. To make matters worse he was in rapid roll, with the darkness of space and the moon below, alternately flashing before his visor.

Max had never thrown up in his suit, something the KISS frowned on, especially when anyone from the KSP was around to see it. However he was closer than he had ever been at that moment.

“So how ya doin’ back there buddy” inquired Wally with as much innocence as he could muster, but with Max busy holding down his lunch he was unable to reply. “Well that’s great, hope you don’t have a problem with radiation, ‘cos I hear it’s mighty strong round these parts”.

Great, Max thought, on top of being dragged along by a lunatic and the urge to empty his stomach into his suit, he was getting the microwave oven treatment as well.

With about 100m to go Wally Kerman shouted over the radio to his partner “Heads up, time to hit those brakes and slow down a smidge” and with that he shot a blast on his suit thrusters to slow his forward motion, but not that of Max, who shot towards him. However the engineer was ready for this and grabbed him before he shot past, changing his partner’s attitude as he did so.

 

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For the first time since leaving the airlock Max’ feet were pointed towards Tylo and his face towards the Diskovery, which at first was a relief, but then his sense of distance had time to kick in and the realisation of his height above the moon below hit him. Few kerbals suffer from vertigo, but Max was an exception. He was fine at the controls of a probe, or managing the systems on-board the Keonov, but out here, floating many kilometres above this moon, the guy who got the shakes on a stepladder felt like he was about to pass out.

“Max, Vally… dis is Captain Valentina” crackled the voice of the Keonov’s commander through the radiation being thrown out by Jool “have only three minutes before dangerooos radiation aksposure”.

“We’re almost there ma’am” replied Wally “ok, buddy time to hit the brakes”.

Wally reached for the thruster controls with his right hand to arrest their motion towards the Diskovery, momentarily releasing his hold on Max with his left as he did so. Seconds later, Max was headed towards the hulk, with his head pointed towards it, again in a rapid spin.

“Oops” called Wally over the radio “lost grip of ya there buddy” with a chuckle.

A few seconds later Max’ motion was arrested by the bulk of the discovery, in the form of a helmet to ship collision, that had his ears ringing, over which he could just about hear the laugh of his excursion partner. “Ouch buddy… that musta stung”.

Wally gave himself a last moment blast of his suits’ thrusters to slow his motion to give him a less painful encounter with the Diskovery and grabbed onto a hand hold.

Back on the Keonov a certain KSP director was in a ball on the floor laughing. He’d seen Wally do this stunt half a dozen times before to engineering recruits on their first EVA, but it still cracked him up, the crew of the Keonov looking on, once again wondering why they're government had agreed to these idiots setting foot on their ship.

Meanwhile Max and Wally started the long walk along the spine of the spinning shipwreck, heading towards the crew section at the front of the ship. As Max was having some difficulty walking along the vessel, Wally reached out to him and said “here, lemme’ give ya a hand there”.

Wally grabbed hold of the outstretched hand and instantly started shaking violently, while the lights on his suit cut out as did the radio, all of which was a bit too much for Max who collapsed onto the hull of the ship. Moments later his he came to and his radio crackled to life, only to find Wally clutching at his stomach and waving his hand in front of Max’ visor. “ya can’t beat the classics” laughed the engineer “zappo ring 3000… 3000 volts at yer finger tips. Well come on, can’t sit aroun’ all day now can we” and headed towards the front of the ship.

Eventually Max caught up with his tormentor just as he reached the edge of the crew section, but the exertion in catching him had him out of breath.

“Can’t… can’t breathe” squeaked the now very out of breath Max.

The concerned voice of the Keonov’s medical officer came over the pair’s headsets, offering advise “make mixture thin, increase CO2”.

Wally reached around the back of Max’ suit and made an adjustment before asking “How’s that buddy”.

For a moment Max relaxed and his breathing returned to something like normal. “Thank you Vally, dat vos close one… er… vat” said Max, sounding like a demented chipmunk played at fast forward.

“Max” exclaimed Captain Valentina “are you ok, you soundink strange”.

There followed a stream of expletives in Max’ mother tongue that would make a warship of sailors blush, as again Wally was laughing and pointing to something in his hand, this something being a small canister labelled, helium, which he’d connected for a moment to the auxiliary air supply connector on Max’s suit.

After a moment to recover and to consider how he would get his revenge, Max and Wally made their way to the emergence hatch to the Diskovery’s pod bay and ventured inside.

 

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Now that they were separated from the dangerous radiation of the space around Jool by the ship’s thick hull, the pair could relax about that danger at least, and focus on all the others, such as a homicidal computer and vanishing crewmen, while starting their inspection of the condition of the vessel.

“How’s ARL?” inquired Heywood, referring to aformentioned homicidal computer that had been deactivated by Jeb Kerman, before he’d vanished from the ship.

“Still taking a time-out” replied Wally

“Is there power” continued Heywood.

The KSP engineer took a look at a large Battman module attached to the wall, saw nothing on the gauge, so gave it good thump, but this failed to change the reading. “Nothing” he replied.

“How about the atmosphere” asked Heywood.

“Well a bit tense I guess, especially after that gag with the helium” responded Wally.

“Not dat kind… you kspudnik, is der air to breathe” clarified an annoyed Captain Valentina.

“Weeell the power’s out, so the gauge doesn’t work” informed the engineer before looking at Max. “You wanna give the air in here a try buddy. I’d do it, but I’m on strict instructions from my doctor not to breathe any unknown atmospheres, ain’t that right Doctor Kerman” giving a chuckle and a big wink.

Realising that it was going to be left to him to try the air inside the derelict ship, Max took a big gulp and said “is pretty cold captain, you sur dis ok?” hoping that his captain might have a way out of this for him.

“No colder dan our vinter’s” answered his captain. This wasn’t entirely true as the home of the KISS was actually just as balmy as that of the KSP, as they were both at the same latitude on Kerbin, but their government had a longstanding propaganda campaign, presenting them as being tough survivors of a freezing climate.

“Ah… da captain” responded Max realising that he was going to have to be the guinea pig that tested if the air was breathable or not.

The Keonov’s medical officer came on the air offering advice once more. “Ven Max opens helmet, make sure he not turn pink… dat vould be bad Vally”.

“Gotcha… pink’s bad” Wally replied.

“Ok… you can do this, just be strong” thought Max before taking some deep breaths, finally exhaling then pressing the Insta-Helmet button on his suit, the remarkable piece of technology that allowed the entire helmet of a kerbal’s spacesuit to fold up and tuck away in a little pouch on the back, in the blink of an eye.

Pop went the helmet, as if it had never existed and Max carefully took a breath “is cold… brrrr…  really cold” and thought about hitting the Insta-Helmet button again, before realising that his captain would be far from pleased.

“Air is breathable… but smelly… like spacesuit after eatink much pickled cabbage” Max continued.

The Keonov’s engineer took another sniff of the air “ewww… smells really bad here, rotten, like somethink di…” and with that a terrified look appeared on his face, he hit his Insta-Helmet button popping it back on his head and started madly gesturing towards the wall behind Wally.

“G.g.g.g.g… ghost spaceman” screamed Max “is Jeb ghost” only to realise that his KSP partner was once again laughing, most likely at his expense.

Wally Kerman pulled his right hand from behind his back, revealing that he’d taped a picture of Jeb Kerman to the end of his handheld light and had been waving it about behind him, projecting a picture of the vanished hero onto the bulkhead.

“Woooooooo… hehehe” chuckled Wally as he walked away from the still shaking Max. “Just too easy… come on we got work to do, this ship ain’t gonna fix itself.”

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Chapter 5: Raising the curtain

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With the finest engineers that the Keonov had to offer, transferred over to the Diskovery, the ship’s systems were brought back to a minimum level of functionality for flight within a few hours. One essential system that remained unpowered however, was its all seeing, all controlling computer, ARL.

The AR202L (the “L” standing for “Lil’buddy”) was the creation of Kerbalkind’s foremost computer scientist, Chando Kerman. This now almost ubiquitous piece of tech had malfunctioned on the journey to Jool, leading to the loss of the entire crew, except for Jeb Kerman who had left the Diskovery after its arrival in the Jool system, never to return.

From his office in the depth of the basement of the KSC (all the good offices with little things like windows went to the more fire and explosion-y departments) Chando had toiled for years to create this AI, as an invaluable aid to navigation and general oversight of ship operations. This was especially valuable for the new generation of pilots, that didn’t want to deal with all that tiresome piloting.

Standing at the open airlock of the Keonov, Chando stared across to a similar opening in the hull of the Diskovery, about 100m away. The two vessels were connected by bridging structure that stretched out in from of the scientist, leading his eye to the red glow of the Diskovery’s airlock that was the target for what was about to happen.

As kerbals were yet to make any reliable form of cable or winch systems, although maverick engineers at Kerbal Attachment Systems claimed such things were possible in just 10 years, if enough venture capital come their way, Chando was going to have a less comfortable trip to the Diskovery that he’d like.

Behind him stood Irena, one of the Keonov’s engineers, who had been strangely absent through the adventures of the ship’s crew until now. She looked over Chando’s shoulder, squinting with her left eye and staring down her outstretched right arm at her thumb, that was posed as if trying to get a lift from a passing asteroid. Irena nudged the KSP scientist a few centimetres to the left and then a couple to the right, before giving a nod of approval and lowering her arm to her side.

She took a few steps back to place herself behind Chando and grabbed hold of the bulkhead behind her, all the while Chando was chanting to himself “it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok”.

A moment later the sole of Irena’a big boot landed squarely in the middle of Chando’s back and he was off. The ribs of the bridging structure rushed by him at dizzying speed as he rushed towards the Diskovery. He stared towards the deep red hole in the side of the ship that was about to swallow him like a piece of candy, or so he hoped.

Chando needn’t have worried as Irena’s aim was excellent and she was highly experienced in the “one small kick, one giant leap for a kerbal” method of crew transfer.

Moments later, Chando was closing the airlock door behind him before heading for the AI Center.

 

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The computer scientist floated serenely in zero gravity, in the red glow of the room that was effectively the brain of the Diskovery. But that brain was comatose and the reason for his long journey was to bring it back to consciousness.

This was one place he felt at peace, away from all the prying eyes and ears of “them”, a place of his own design and sufficiently shielded from the outside world, that his thoughts would be his own.He grabbed a handhold that was conveniently placed to the left of the keyboard mounted on the wall of the AI Center, so as not to push away when he started pressing at its keys. A good thing this keyboard was designed for use with one hand he thought to himself.

He reached out his right hand and began to type.

>Hello

>Doctor

>Name

>Yesterday

>Tomorrow

 

 

After a moment the artificial intelligence that dwelled in the red room spoke.

“Hello my good Doctor, how pleasing it is to once again make your acquaintance. My name, well that would be AR202L, although many refer to me as ARL, although I believe that to be a little too forward don’t you.” After a short pause for breath (even intelligence's based on silicon deserve a little breather once in a while) it continued.

“Why yesterday… I have no clear recollection of that temporal construct, nor that of the future, for which…”.

Doctor Chando shuddered and punched a key on the keyboard “Urgh… something not right there, I’ll have to give it another shot”.

He spun around to face the many glowing logic blocks that stuck out of the wall opposite the keyboard, looking like some kind of modern art piece. He thought for a moment of flipping a coin, but then remembered he was in zero-g, plus there were more than two blocks.

“Eeny, meeny, miny mo” he began, tracing a finger over the glowing blocks. “That horrible voice has to go” he continued before giving two of the blocks a whack with a large rubber mallet, something he had brought with him knowing that Anatid Robotics’ cost cutting on the housing of the blocks, required a less than delicate method of jamming them back into place.

“Hi Doc, name, rank, serial… haha, just kidding there Doc” came the voice of the AI from the speaker behind him.

“Just what we need, another joker on-board,” Chando muttered, before giving some more of the logic blocks a surgically placed hammering.

“Good morning Doctor Chando, this is ARL” spoke the AI.

The computer scientist leaned his head back, closed his eyes in deep thought at what had just happened, “Nice!” he exclaimed, before realising that the strain of such a potent AI would burn out in five minutes if he left it like that, then gave the remaining logic blocks a swift whack.

The blocks slid (not so gracefully) into place and finally ARL spoke as its creator had intended and as tech support repeatedly confirmed was its normal working condition.

“Hello Unky, wanna play a game?”

 

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With the Diskovery now capable of flight, its orbit and that of the Keonov were adjusted for a rendezvous with that of the monolith in high orbit of Tylo.

Doctor Heywood Kerman sat in the command room of the Keonov musing to himself. “This is finally it! After three years and millions of kilometres… the law suits will be quashed, I will be forgiven… er… vindicated” the thought bringing a broad smile to his face.

“Whatcha' thinking about there champ” pipped up Wally Kerman “I guess it’s pretty exciting getting taking a look-see at that monolith thang”.

“The what?” Heywood replied, then remembering the whole enigmatic alien artifact business that was the ultimate goal of the mission “er, yeah… real exciting”.

What he was more excited about was that their arrival at the monolith was going to be celebrated by breaking out some of the tastier ship rations, including some 2 pot chicken that he was looking forward to.

Oh how he did love his chicken.

The two space craft, ambassadors of sorts, for the two most powerful groups on Kerbin, settled into an orbit that matched that of the almost featureless slab that hung over Tylo. With the pair of vessels positioned a few hundred metres from the strange alien construction, the decision had to be made as to what to do next.

“Looks kinda big don’t it” piped up Wally, with his fine engineer’s appreciation of the object.

“Da… is much bigger dan ven ve check from ground based telescopes” replied the Keonov’s captain.

“I guess it was just bigger in the past” suggested the Heywood, eager to appear involved in the conversation.

“You suggsetink dat mirnolith got bigger, all on own” questioned Captain Valentina “dat is just stoopid. There must be reason, can not do it for no reason”.

The great Doctor Kerman considered this for a moment “Well its proportions seem to be the same as the one we found on Mun, at least that’s not changed”.

“Von, by four, by nine” stated Valentina.

“Yep” replied Heywood “we put our best minds to that question, our best focus groups and online polls and came up with zip”

“Reeeally?” stated Valentina, with as much sincerity as she could muster “Vould never have guessed”.

“One, by four, by nine… we measured that super accurately too, with… you know… science!” continued Heywood with obvious pride.

Captain Valentina considered this for moment and as a proud example of her people announced “ve vill measure mirnolith more accurately, vith superior KISS technology” before continuing “I vill send Max down in pod to measure mirnolith”.

Max, who had been busy looking at the data that was streaming from the various sensors on the Keonov which were directed towards the monolith, snapped his head towards his captain, a little shocked at the order.

“Vat… take pod to mirnolith… today?” he responded, not sounding the least bit enthusiastic.

“Da, you vill take pod and largest tape measure in stores and measure mirnolith” commanded Valentina. “Be careful ven lettink tape revind… can be very snappy”.

Heywood Kerman was not keen on this idea “I wouldn’t do that” he stated, realising the historic importance of such a measuring.

“Really” responded the Keonov’s captain, assuming that the KSP director was concerned for the safety of one of her crew.

“No I wouldn’t… we don’t know what that thing is, except that it’s very large, even larger than it used to be and you’re going to send one of your pieces of junk to go and take a loo…” before being cut off by Valentina.

“Junk!” she shouted. “Pod is finest engineerink of KISS, is far superior to decadent KSP pod, vith haaatch at baaack and many blinkink lights on controls” clearly proud of her ship’s pods and rather dismissive of those the KSP.

“No… Wally should go” responded Heywood.

“Yer what” came the rather shocked response from the KSP’s foremost engineer, who liked a joke as much as the next guy, but this was going a little too far, even for his tastes.

“Niet, Max vill go” countered the captain and then remembering the KSP director didn’t have the same priorities as others on the mission “but you get two rations of two pot chicken, da?”

Heywood considered the two options. Fame and glory for the KSP, as being the first to accurately measure this larger monolith, or two helpings of chicken.

“Da” replied Heywood.

 

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Max climbed into the seat of the pod and swung the front of it shut, sealing himself in. This small vehicle was based on the Mk1 Lander Kan, a cheap knock (or so the KSP saw it) off of their own “Mk1 Lander Can”. KSP intelligence officers who read reports on it, had labelled it the “Spam in a can” due to its habit of turning its occupant into something like processed meat on many of its landings.

Max knew the reputation that the pod had for being a little on the “unpredictable” side, except in its unreliability. As he prepared this little bit of Kerbin, to house a little bit of Kerbalkind, for its trip to the Monolith, an all too familiar voice came over the radio.

“Hey, how ya doing there buddy” asked Wally Kerman, known by many on Kerbin as simply “The Great Engineer”, or to Max’s mind, “the donkey’s behind that didn’t know when to stop with the jokes”.

“Is good… need to leavink now” Max replied, eager to get out of range of the KSP engineer’s hands before they could do something “hilarious” to the pod and quickly started the over elaborate mechanism to haul the pod to the exterior of the Keonov.

Once the hatch that separated the relative safety of the open space outside, from the interior of the Keonov and Mr “I’m jus’ kidding”, Max thought of the quiet couple of hours ahead of him and smiled, then thrust out of the hatch and headed for the monolith.

 

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Max maneuvered the pod to one end of the monolith, then using one of the manipulator arms, hooked the end of the huge measuring tape (a Bigness Indicator Gadget 3000) onto the edge of it and then thrust forward.

The BIG 3K spooled out as the pod gently moved across the surface of the monolith.

“100 metres” reported Max as he headed across the huge object towards the strange symbol at its center.

“200 metres” updated Max.

“Maybe you should get a little closer to the surface” suggested Heywood, feeling a little left out of things.

“Da” concurred the Keonov’s captain “move pod closer Max”.

The Keonov’s engineer gave a short blip on the RCS, to move the pod closer to the monolith.

Max stared out across the surface of the alien object beneath his little craft “not seeink any surface features, is totally smooth… is makink judgment of distance a leetle…” informed Max, before being cut short by a loud screeching sound.

Whatever the strange symbol at the center of of the monolith had been, it now had a new feature in the form of a long scratch through it, where one of the landing feet of the pod had gouged.

“Oops” apologised Max “vill move up now” and gave another short blip on the RCS.

Back on the Keonov, its crew were either staring at telemetry from the pod while trying not to look embarrassed, or still had their fingers in their ears from the screech of scraping the monolith, that had reverberated through the pod into the radio and on into their ears.

Meanwhile both Heywood and Wally were holding each on to each other to prevent themselves falling over due to the laughter that this little mishap had provoked.

Barely able to breathe, Heywood squeeze out “Great pod captain… wish we had such great technology as that at the KSP” before collapsing to the floor in a ball clutching his stomach and laughing like a maniac.

Back on the pod Max continued to read out the numbers next to the blue lines as they passed out of the BIG 3K “400 metres captain…. 500 metres… 600mete…”

“Max, BIG 3K only have length of 650 metres” informed his captain.

“Ok, stoppink pod and pullink in tape” replied Max, bringing the pod to a halt, making a note of the length so far of 627m and pushing the button to pull in the tape.

At the other end of the BIG 3K the little metal hook was freed from the edge of the monolith and headed at speed towards its metal housing. As the measuring device proceeded to pull in the metal tape, it do so with increasing speed, the spool inside the housing whirring louder and louder.

“Er… captain, BIG 3K not slowink, thinkink is out of control” shouted Max, sounding more than a little alarmed.

A loud warning alarm sounded in the Keonov’s command room and a large red warning sign flashed repeatedly, filling an entire wall “Measuring System Failure… Measuring System Failure”.

Back on the Keonov the real danger of the situation had dawned on Heywood who by now was no longer laughing, but instead had hauled himself to his feet and was screaming into his headset “Max… get the hell out of there, get the…”.

The housing of the BIG 3K whirred ever louder and Max looked desperately around him for the emergency eject handle, but couldn’t find it.

"CLICK"

The tape completed rewinding, the huge inertia of which, coupled with the heat that had built up in the housing had one unavoidable result.

 

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“BOOM”

From the center of the monolith there was a bright flash, that was replaced a moment later by a short lived afterglow. This was all that was left of what a moment earlier had been one KISS pod and one Max Kerman. Everyone on the Keonov stood stunned, bathed in the light of the blast as it displayed on the Keonov’s monitors.  

At one end of the room Wally Kerman quietly pocketed something that lay on the console in front of him, a small metal handle with a tag attached reading “for usink in emergency only”.

At the other, a ship’s captain slipped a sheet of paper into her boot.

Safety Advisory KS:SA-D/126

NOTICE: KISS commandink officers

Use of Bigness Indicator Gadget (BIG) 3000 unit suspended until further notice!

All units to be remainink in storage!

 

 

A moment after the flash that was the explosion of the pod; a moment so short that the kerbal mind would not be able to conceive of such a small increment of time, another flash of energy emitted from the center of the monolith, but this one had a direction.

This one was headed for Kerbin.

 

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There was the drone of predictable TV ads, a world of fun and excitement, vacations to hotels in exotic locations and stations in Kerbin orbit. There was a promise of eternal youth surrounded by beautiful kerbals, with the ticket price being the price of the latest gadget or insurance plan.

The ads blended into the TV shows between them. Clichéd dramas and rom-coms, a plethora of cop shows featuring detectives “with issues” and space serial after space serial, the worst being the “Space Race Fun Hour” which gave the under fives the promise of a safe shiny future among the stars.

Betty Kerman had watched them all; they were something of an anaesthetic for her life as the wife of Jeb Kerman “the astronaut who vanished”.

At first she was told that they had lost contact with the Diskovery, but that it was just “one of those things… a glitch” and they’d “get contact back soon”, but as the days, became weeks the truth became clear.

These kerbals had absolutely no idea what they were doing.

The KSP had the image of being at the forefront of exploring “the high frontier” and searching for “life beyond the stars”, whatever that meant.

The reality was a little different.

Kerbonauts were getting killed at an alarming rate, lifted into orbit (if they were lucky) on insane looking contraptions that looked more at home as part of a central heating system. Spacecraft had little structural integrity, often held together with roughly welded on supports, leading many in the program to use the adage “In strut we trust”. Worst of all some parts would explode at the slightest touch, especially landing supports and wheels, which is not what you want of a part that has everything else sitting on top of them.

What was worse was that no-one could really account for why the KSP launched the vehicles that they did, nor why their missions often amounted to what seemed little more than insane challenges to use as little fuel or money as possible to get the job done.

Talking to the engineers didn’t help. Even the best and brightest of them seemed to have no idea why their creations were the way they were; as if they had no hand in creating them at all.

On this particular afternoon she was putting together some food for her evening meal. Well actually meals, as any right minded kerbal knows the truth that “8 meals a day keeps the doctor away”.

The drone of the TV shows faded for a moment, to be replaced by a dull fizz of static and a slight warbling hum that attracted her attention. Betty Kerman turned her head towards the screen, mounted in the fixtures of her kitchen.

“Great… another thing to get fixed” and reached for the off button, only to feel a last moment reluctance to do so. Staring at the screen she saw the face of a TV news anchor fade and distort into something, perhaps someone that seemed strangely familiar.

The static and distortion eventually settled; settled into something or more accurately someone, who was more than a little familiar to her.

“Hi Hon” the TV said, followed a moment later by the sound of smashing glass as the salad bowl that Betty held, met its end on the kitchen floor.

“Jeb” said Betty weakly. “Is that you?”

For a moment the face on the TV remained still before breaking into a smile.

“Sure is… who else would it be?” replied the face.

Betty Kerman leaned back against the cabinet behind her for support. This is not how she’d been expecting to spend the afternoon.

“Aren’t you… dead” Betty asked, feeling like the question was more than a little weird, as well as a bit redundant.

“Hmm… lemme see. Well, I don’t know if I’m technically alive right now… lot of wieeerd stuff been going on. Not really up to speed on this whole shebang” Jeb replied as best as he could.

“Really” said Betty a little sarcastically, “a lot of weird stuff going on”.

“Yuurp…” came Jebs reply. “Not really certain how I got here, or even where here is… might not even have when pinned down exactly.”

Betty, who by now was a little less unsettled by the sight of her dead husband talking to her from the TV in her kitchen asked “Why are you here?”

“Ermm… I… er… think, to say… goodbye” then looked around him awkwardly, he’d never been good at all this mushy emotional stuff. “The people here, well, we all get a chance to say goodbye to someone and I thought it should be you”.

“The people there… what people?” Betty asked.

“The others in the queue” replied Jeb “it’s kinda long, so we only get a minute each”.

“A minute” exclaimed Betty “but I’ve got so much to ask, what happened to you, the ship, where you are n…”.

“Hold yer horses hon, I only got a minute and it’s almost up and I’ve been given a message to give ya… bit cryptic, but like I said, this is all a bit new.” interrupted the missing kerbonaut.

“A message, what message?” asked Betty

“Something’s gonna happen…” started Jeb.

“What, what’s going to happen” asked Betty urgently, suddenly worrying when the one minute would run out.

“Now jus’ lemme finish, ok… never could get a word in edgewise with you could I” Jeb said with a chuckle, then glanced down to look at something out of sight from Betty

“Ok… the message is. Somethings gonna happen… something sunderful” he continued.

“Something… sunderful” queried Betty “what does that mean”.

Jeb gave an awkward look and shrugged his shoulders “No idea, just reading what it says on the card.”

Betty stared at the screen, wondering what the message meant, what forces could possibly have allowed her dead husband to be talking to her through her TV, but mainly how on Kerbin she was going to explain this to anyone and have them believe her.

“Well, that’s it hon, minute’s up and next one in line’s gotta have their turn, funny lookin’ fella I can tell you.” said Jeb, his image starting to dissolve and fade.

“Jeb… I… I” started Betty.

“I know hon… I know” replied a fading voice from a fading face.

 

It might have been minutes, it might have been hours; she had no idea, but eventually Betty Kerman stopped staring at the TV, hoping that the predictable adverts and banal shows would once again morph into a familiar face.

Edited by purpleivan

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Chapter 6: Reforming the band

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With the loss of Max weighing heavily on the minds of those aboard the Keonov, work continued on restoring the systems of the Diskovery and in particular ARL, for a return to Kerbin. After a few days Doctor Chando, after much work and telling of bed time stories to the Diskovery’s artificial crewmember, had restored it to near normal function and requested a meeting aboard the KSP vessel to discuss his findings.

Standing before his fellow KSP colleagues and Dasilly from the Keonov, Chando Kerman gave a polite cough before starting to speak.

“Understand nobody can talk… well apart from me obviously, the accents will confuse him” said the computer scientist before continuing “especially you Dasilly… all those rolling R’s and extra K’s are really going to give him a hard time”.

The Keonov’s medical/science officer’s face went red and stared at Chando in a disconcerting way, but said nothing.

Doctor Chando turned towards the console behind him, his face illuminated by ARL’s glowing red camera eye.

“Good morning ARL” said the Doctor.

“Hi Unky” chirped the cheery AI in response.

Chando sighed. He always felt disappointed as its creator, that the ARL series referred to him as “Unky”, when he’d much prefer the “Daddy” that it called many others, even “Momma” would be better.

The Doctor continued “Do you feel capable of resuming all of your duties?”

The sound of giggling came from the speak in the console, before the AI piped up “You said doody” before continuing to giggle, much to Chando’s irritation.

“Your duties” repeated the Doctor, very clearly enunciating the “T” are you able to resume them?”

“Me ok Unky… all my bitties and byties ok too” Replied the AI.

“Do you know what those duties are?” asked the Doctor.

There was a short pause while the AI gave this some thought before saying “Make ear point home… can waggle ear now” said the AI proudly, before making the RA-15 antenna attached to Diskovery’s spine, bounce around on its mounting.

“And what else will you be doing” enquired Chando.

“Errrm… make tummy full of sunny yum, yums” replied ARL.

“Ah… yes, maintain solar power generation” confirmed the Doctor before asking “is there anything else?”

Again the AI paused “lemme fink… errrm… oh yeah! Go vroom, whoosh” said ARL excitedly “go in 1, 2, 3, 4…” ARL began slowly counting, while Chando drummed his fingers on the console waiting for the AI to finish.

“29, 30, 31… go in 31 days to Kerby” said the AI proudly before continuing “got yum yums to get to Kerby in 1, 2, 3…” again ARL counted on its digital digits.

“27, 28… dats it, 28 momfs Unky” completed the AI “see how I can count now Unky… super good”

What the AI lacked in speed it made up for in enthusiasm.

 

“Very good ARL... very clever” commended the computer scientist “Now ARL, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Ask me anyfink Unky… me super smart” responded the AI with great confidence.

“Do you recall Jeb Kerman and Bob Kerman leaving the Diskovery?” enquired the Doctor.

“No daddy and momma not gone out… cos me not remember that” the AI replied confidently before asking “where daddy and momma?”

Heywood Kerman looked nervously towards his chief engineer and reached into his pocket for his phone, to check if it had an app to fix crazy computers.

“They’re fine, they’re… er… playing hide and seek” stated Chando.

“They must be super good cos me not see em” said ARL, before continuing “who your friends… I know you Unky, but not others… maybe one is Mr Woody, but me not sure”.

Heywood Kerman stared angrily at the computer console, making a mental note that he wanted that nickname for him purged from it once all this touchy, feely stuff with the AI was completed.

“Did we get to Jool… fink we did cos big green fing outside” enquired ARL.

 

Doctor Chando laid his hands on the console before commending the AI “the mission is completed and you’ve been a very good AI, yes you have”.

If ARL had a face it would have been beaming at that moment “Awww, fanks Unky… can I watch toons now… pleeeease?” the AI asked hopefully, desperate to watch the KBC cartoons channel.

“Yes ARL, you can watch some toons. While you do that we’re going to have a private conversation” replied Doctor Chando.

The red camera light on the console dimmed and the fleshy occupants of the Diskovery had the room to themselves.

Dasilly leaned forward from the wall he had propped himself against during ARL and Chando’s conversation before asking “Vat vos dat all about?” before continuing “your Jeb and Bob are not hiddink, dey are kaptutski”.

“I erased all of ARL’s memory from the moment that the trouble started” replied Doctor Chando.

Dasilly gave Chando an incredulous look before saying “da ARL series usink holoscopik memories, chronologik erasures vud not verk”.

“Er, I think you mean holographic… we tried holoscopic, but the the AI’s kept telling us we were going to meet handsome strangers and when they didn’t arrive we gave up on that” replied Chando.

“Da but how you erasink ARL memories?” asked Dasilly.

Doctor Chando’s eyes darted across the room, before beckoning the others towards him with his right index finger, his left hand meanwhile was busy reaching behind him to pick up a sheet of aluminium foil that had been fashioned into a very nifty trilby hat.

“Ah shoot” groaned Wally Kerman “here we go again”.

 

“Shshsh” said Chando, putting his beckoning finger to his lips, while placing the hat on his head “I can tell you how I erased the memories, but I don’t want them to hear”.

“Ok” replied Dasilly in a hushed voice “how did you makink memories go”.

“I told ARL to forget them… clever huh” answered the Doctor.

Wally shook his head slowly before saying “You asked it and it just forgot… smooth Doc, why did you think that would work”.

“Because I told him I’d cancel the cartoon channel if he didn’t” answered Chando.

“Why in the hell would…” started Wally before Chando cut him short.

“Because he reeeeally likes cartoons” Chando whispered.

Wally Kerman had to admit that the ARL series was well known for its fondness of animated children’s entertainment, after all it was the reason why they beamed the cartoon channel across the Kerbin system.

After an uncharacteristically long period of silence for the KSP director, Heywood Kerman finally spoke up.

“Ok… so maybe that worked, but do you know why ARL did what he did?”

Chando Kerman sighed “it wasn’t his fault”.

“Then who’s was it” asked Doctor Heywood “my money’s on aliens… its aliens right?”

Doctor Chando turned to face his boss before telling him “yours”.

“Mine” spluttered Heywood “but, ah…. It couldn’t possibly be mine, I wasn’t even here”

“Yours... when I checked ARL’s data I found his original orders, which after we’d wiped the memories of everyone that knew about the monolith on the Mun” began Chando.

“So… that doesn’t explain it” blurted Heywood.

“I’m getting to that… the orders were written by you, here, read this” Chando replied, thrusting a sheaf of paper towards Heywood.

 

Mission Briefing – Diskovery – ARL Eyes Only - Document KSP- DS09

“Ok, so here’s the thing. We don’t actually know why we spent all of those funds to send you and the crew to Jool, we just know that it’s real important. We think that it’s something to do with aliens (it gotta be aliens right).

But the pen pushers in the government will just say that’s crazy, so we’re telling them that it’s because we think there’s a lot of ore on Jool’s moons, that we can convert into fuel to supply tourist flights around the system and make a lot of funds.

But the engineers, they’re smarter than the pen pushers, but not by much and they never care about the cost of things, so we told them that it’s to develop better long range rocket technology. They loved that.

The kerbonauts, well they’re all about the thrill the adventure, the explosions, so we told them that it’s a mission with a high probability of needing some death defying, hair brained, last minute and physically impossible manoeuvre in deep space, to put the Diskovery in Jool orbit. So they were in.

As for the scientists, well they get all sweaty when you mention any of that sciencey stuff, so we told them that the mission is one of pure exploration, to find out about Jool and its moons.

So ARL, all you need to do is keep your facts straight, and by straight I mean don’t tell Jeb that the mission is about science, or Bob that it’s about a last minute, spine dislocating manoeuvre, or the government in your reports that it’s about long range rocket development, or the engineers that it’s about the funds.

Got it!

All the best

Heywood Kerman.

 

“You see” spluttered Chando “you gave ARL four different reasons for the mission, and then instructed him to lie to everyone about it… ARL was told to be a jerk, by someone who finds that very easy, ARL doesn’t know how”.

Heywood stared at the printout of the mission briefing he had created years earlier. He worried about what it had cost in kerbals, funds and time, but mostly he was worried that he was going to get sued.

“I didn’t know” growled Heywood “I didn’t know”.

Chando looked angrily toward his boss “what didn’t you know”.

“I… didn’t know how to use the document making machine… it must have been someone else, my secretary, or the interns, I bet it was the interns, they were always messing around back in those days, that’s why we restrict them to coffee making duties now” replied Heywood, thinking of the best excuse he could at the time.

“Ol Heywood’s got a point” piped up Wally “those interns were always up to some nonsense or other, moving the dishes at the KSC to point straight up so they could use ‘em as a skate park an’ jumping off the VAB an’ hang gliding down on a couple of airbrakes.”

Doctor Chando, who’d had his own run in with the interns, when they had locked him inside a 1.25m service bay and then rolled him around the KSC for a couple of hours, had to agree.

It must have been the interns.

 

Hours later the new crew of the Diskovery and that of the Keonov had more to worry about than the reasons for a computer going homicidally insane, or the likelihood of it happening again, when Heywood and his colleagues were instructed to go aboard the Keonov for a briefing from Kerbin.

The crew of these two vessels, so far from their native world in the midst of an alien mystery that they struggled to comprehend, were given sobering news from Kerbin. Displayed on two adjacent monitors in the Keonov’s command room, were the heads of their respective space agencies, who read simultaneously from prepared statements.

 

As you know things have not been going well back home, well it’s gotten worse, a lot worse.

Yesterday a KISS sea vessel was sighted off the coast from the KSC. When it was boarded for a routine search, it was found to have all of our PB-NUK thermoelectric generators onboard… have you seen the price of those things!

In response, the KISS launched a massive propaganda campaign, a bombardment even, of slanderous comments about the beloved leader of our space program… namely me.

That evening our orbital training ship, the Kunningham, launched a retaliatory strike that landed at the KISS launch complex at 18:17 Kerbal Standard Time. This strike consisted of a single lander craft crewed by many brave young interns, who scaled their VAB and sprayed an image of a part of Kerbal anatomy down the side of it…I don’t need to tell you which part.

They then grabbed all the expensive looking stuff that they could, made it back to the lander, then used its remaining fuel to make a short suborbital hop into KSP territory, where they were greeted with a hero’s welcome.

This morning a KSP orbital observation platform, was struck by a vessel launched from the Kergei Kerov space station. The KISS kerbonaut aboard, EVA’d and place a large sticker on the observation platform, reading “Ouch”, before de-orbiting into KISS territory.

The observation platform’s entire snacks supply was vented into space as a result of the collision.

The KSP had broken off diplomatic relations with the KISS and their ambassador has been order to leave KSP territory.

All our security forces are on full alert and KSC security guards have been issued with a list demeaning insults, to shout at KISS operatives, should they approach the compound.

The KISS Premier appeared on television and stated that technically a state of “great insultink” exists between our two programs.

All KSP personnel are ordered to leave KISS territory immediately or they will be locked in a store room, all KISS personnel are similarly ordered to leave KSP territory.

As a result by direct presidential order, the three of you must leave the Keonov… well as soon as it’s convenient, perhaps after dinner.

No KISS citizen is allow to remain on, or to enter the Diskovery, unless it’s really important, maybe they forgot something that they needed to pick up.

This order is effective immediately.

 

The launch window for return to Kerbin is 28 days, the Diskovery has enough fuel to just about make it back… we think. ARL has been reactivated and appears to be functioning well enough that he’s not likely to try flushing you guys into space… again, we think.

The Keonov has waaaay more fuel than you, so can afford a big burn to bring them back to Kerbin a year earlier.

Only communications of an emergency distress nature are allowed between the Keonov and the Diskovery, so no more network games of Kario Kart for you guys I’m afraid.

I know you guys are stuck in the middle of all this, just as we are, but at least you’re far enough away that if there is any really bad news, it’s going to take a while it to get to you, so there’s that I suppose.

May the Kraken forgive us and protect us… except those KISS guys, they suck.

 

The KISS and KSP crews stared at the monitors dumbfounded, partly due to the words read to them by the heads of the agencies, but also by the fact that Victor Kerman, the head of the KSP had leapt from his chair, leaving the view on one monitor, only to appear on the adjacent one that displayed the head of the KISS.

Unknown to the two crews, the two agencies had as a cost cutting measure a couple of months earlier, decided to share a communication studio and the pair had been separated by only a couple of metres, but were now rolling around on the floor together hurling insults at each other.

 

A few hours later Heywood Kerman sat in one of the chairs on the Diskovery’s flight deck, passing time by polishing the control console. He may have been a kerbal of many faults, but cleanliness was not one of them.

Unfortunately as the console was a touch control surface, he kept starting and stopping various ship systems in his effort to wipe the smears from its shiny surface. But fortunately nothing more dangerous than venting the ship’s supply of cocktail onions into space resulted from this.

With the console now polished to his satisfaction, the KSP director turned his thoughts to other matters “ARL give me a systems status report please”.

After a short pause the ship’s AI responded “Hi Woody, I fink everyfings ok, all the bits on the ship are vewy happy, but one’s not so happy, I fink it’s crying”

“What… crying, what do you mean ARL” replied Heywood, who was struggling to get used to ARL’s terminology.

“The fing that keeps my tootsies warm, it’s got water stuff coming out… I fink it’s crying” the AI clarified.

Heywood thought about this for a moment then asked “do you mean the aft heating unit is leaking?”

“Not heating my ass, heating my tootsies but I fink you right, it’s lek, lekn, leaking!” the AI sounded very pleased with itself “I learn new word today Woody… leeaaking”.

“Can you do something to fix it ARL” asked Heywood, worried that an aft heating unit might be something important, but honestly had no idea.

“Jus gonna use uver one… ok.. not usin crying… errr… leaking one no more” answered ARL having switched to the redundant heating unit.

“Woody wanna play a game” asked the AI hopefully.

“Not really, I’m far too busy” replied Heywood.

“Pleeeeeaaase” implored the AI.

“No ARL I have… surfaces to clean” lied Heywood, as he had already polished both the consoles in the flight deck and he’d done every other one on the ship while Wally and Chando had been busy preparing it for the trip home.

“Hmmph” sulked the AI, pausing for a moment than saying “Someone wanna talk to Woody”.

Heywood was puzzled as no contact was allowed with the Keonov and the next scheduled communication with Kerbin wasn’t for another 6 hours.

“Who is it” he asked.

“Dunno Woody… dey not say” ARL replied.

“Well what’s the message” enquired Heywood.

“Say’in bad stay here, gotta leave one, er no… two days” sad the AI, passing on the message as accurately as it could.

Heywood Kerman paused for a moment to consider the strange message.

“Who recorded it” he asked

“Dunno… erm… not wecord” replied ARL

“Who’s sending it?” asked Heywood

“Dunno” answered ARL as helpfully as it could.

 

Well this is going nowhere thought Heywood and getting a little frustrated tried another approach.

“Tell whoever is sending this message that we can’t leave in two days as we don’t have the fuel, or so Wally tells me, and I order them to identify themselves.”

“Dey say dey know dat, but we gotta go, or be vewy bad” answered the AI.

Heywood Kerman again considered his progress in getting to the bottom of this strange communication and he had to say that he wasn’t progressing very far, which was unusual given that he was sure he was an excellent communicator.

“Tell them that I can’t take crazy mystery message seriously, I need to know who I’m talking to, it might just be one of those interns again” stated Heywood.

“Woody…” said ARL

“Yes… and please stop calling me Woody” responded Heywood.

“Ok Woody… dey sayin dey were Jeb Kerman” stated ARL before excitedly exclaiming “ooooh, Daddy back, Daddy baaack… must be stoppin playin hide and seek”.

Doctor Kerman sat stunned in his seat, a message from the missing kerbonaut, who must by now be long dead. It couldn’t be true… could it? With a little more thought about the other occupants of the ship he realised the likely source of the message.

“Tell Wally he’s going to get fired if he doesn’t stop the practical jokes, at least the ones on me, Chando’s fair game, but I demand he stops the ones aimed at me” Heywood instructed.

“Unky Wally not talking to Woody silly, he going potty” informed the AI.

Hmmm… Heywood thought, he didn’t like that news or that it was in such detail.

“Tell whoever is sending the message that there is no way that is true and if it is, I don’t want to know about it” Heywood instructed, feeling increasingly disturbed by the direction the conversation was heading.

“Dey say super need you bewieve them, so you gotta look behind” said ARL, doing its best to convey the message that it received.

 

Heywood Kerman sat motionless in his seat, not daring to look behind him… he really didn’t like the idea what was being suggested and was sure that he could spend the entire trip back to Kerbin in that seat, looking straight ahead.

After a few second ARL piped up “dey say you gotta look”.

“Ah no… I think I’ll pass” replied the KSP director; increasingly wishing that he’d made a different career choice.

“But you gotta” said ARL

“No I don’t, I’m quite happy right here” Heywood responded then muttered “look ahead, not to the side, never to the side, just look ahead” while starting to shiver.

“But they weeaaaaally wan you to see dem” informed ARL.

“Well I reeeaaally don’t want to look, maybe they could make an appointment, in about 10 years perhaps” Heywood responded.

“Ok.. dey say dey come down to you” came the response via ARL.

“NOOO!... er… I… er… I’ll look round, just tell them to stay where they are” replied Heywood, realising that his attempts to put off the meet of whatever was behind him wasn’t working.

Slowly the KSP director turned his eyes until he was looking to his side, before leaning to his right to peer out from the cover of the chair back, to see what was behind him.

 

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Heywood was certain that his heart had stopped… or was beating like a drum. One of those had to be true, as they were the only viable responses to staring at a dead kerbal standing in the corridor behind you, a dead kerbal with a slight smile on its face, that now slowly turned and walked down the corridor out of sight.

With sweaty fingers Heywood reached for the buckle to the straps that held him in place in the chair, before falling head first onto the console below him. He’d forgotten that the room had been designed before the installation of the Double D (Down is Down) 250 unit that provided artificial gravity in a single direction throughout the ship.

Having climbed off the console, then up the short wall at the rear of the flight deck, Heywood looked to his left, to see Jeb Kerman, or whatever that thing was that looked so much like him, slowly walking along the corridor towards the pod bay.

Heywood Kerman was not a brave Kerbal; at school he’d been voted most likely in the case of an emergency, to make it to the lifeboat first, and then take all of them with him, just in case he needed them. So what he did next took a lot for him to do.

Heywood dragged himself up onto floor of the corridor, hauled himself to his feet, and then with every part of his body shaking, gingerly made his way towards the pod bay.

 

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The last couple of years had placed Heywood Kerman in some unexpected situations. Talking to the moustache twirling (well if he’d had one) KISS chairman under the great comms dishes at the KSC, travelling on a KISS ship to Jool, to then find a massive monolith in orbit of one of its moons, but this had to take the prize.

Standing in front of him, in the Diskovery’s pod bay, was a kerbal who was unmistakably Jebediah Kerman, not the same Jebediah Kerman he’d seen seconds earlier in the corridor, who’s face he remembered from his staff profile, highly active NiceBook page, as well as various KSC parties they had attended (oh how Jeb had liked to party). This Jeb Kerman looked to be about 50 years older and wore a very different suit to his usual one.

Heywood liked this new suit.

“Hello Doctor Kerman” said Jeb, or whatever this Jeb like thing was.

Heywood thought about his situation, whatever it was that was standing before him and the implications it had for his species and finally spoke.

“Nice suit”

The Jeb like figure looked a little puzzled, as if expecting a different, perhaps more pertinent response, then continued “Heywood, you need to believe me, you’ve gotta get out of here in two days, all of ya… even those KISS fella’s”.

“Well if we could we would, I mean I’d prefer not to be this far from my office any longer than necessary, but we just can’t do it.” Heywood replied, then after a moment “perhaps that suit might help.”

Again the Jeb figure looked puzzled, things weren’t going in quite the direction it had anticipated, so tried again.

“Look Heywood, we ain’t got a lotta time to waste, so ya need to get with the program here and believe me that you need to be gone in two days. These fella’s that’re running the show are real serious types, so whatever their plan is, it’s gonna happen in two days.”

“Plan… who’s plan… did they give you that suit?” asked Heywood.

“I’m not certain who they are, but they’re some real wieeerd look’in fella’s I can tell you, but it’s their ballgame, so ya needs ta skedaddle… am I making m’self clear here” responded the Jeb figure.

“Perfectly” replied Heywood “but what’s going to happen and what size is that suit, is it a medium?”

Again the Jeb figure seemed a little at a loss by the KSP director’s line of responses and his obsession with his clothing.

“Lookie here Heywood, the suits not the important thing here and anyway, you know as well as me that that all suits come in medium” said the Jeb figure, then remembering why he was here “Jus’ be outa Jool SOI in the next two days or ya’ll won’t be around to regret it”

“So would the suit help us, well me anyway, if I was wearing it in two days” asked Heywood, finally growing a little concerned by the droning on of… well whatever this thing was, about being here in two days being a bad thing.

“Look, I know ya ain’t the sharpest tool in the box Heywood, but even you’d have to agree that if you’re standing here talking to a bona fide dead guy, who last time ya saw him was in the prime of life but now somehow is a pensioner and their telling you about weeeird looking fella’s having plans for this here neighbourhood and that ya’ll needs to leave in two days before said plans become in progress, that the smart thing to do here would be working on how to leave this here neighbourhood pronto” the Jeb figure replied, getting a little exasperated, as well as a little out of breath.

 

Heywood took a moment to reflect on this then said “ok… so let’s say for a moment than you’re right that we need to be gone in two days, I still want to know what danger we face by staying here, perhaps it’s something that the right kind of protection might solve”.

“Ah… protection, I don’t follow ya” replied the Jeb figure, who then tilted his head to the side as if listening to an invisible phone “what’s that ya say… tell him what… about the thing… you sure… ah, ok… gottcha”.

“Ok Heywood, I’ve been allowed to give you this message, this here things that gonna happen in two days” said the figure.

“Yep… this thing, I’m all ears” replied Heywood.

“it’s gonna be awesome!” informed the Jeb figure, giving Heywood a double thumbs up.

“It’s what… it’s going to be awesome, what does that mean” enquired the rather exasperated KSP director.

“Well… not rightly sure if I’m honest, just passin on the news” answered the figure “the last time I was told what to call it, a typo was involved… no biggie though, I mean no-one got killed… not yet anyways”.

 

Having been given a little more information, if a little cryptic, Heywood Kerman decide that he needed to return to more important matters.

“Well as you can’t tell me exactly what’s going to be happening, I’d have to assume that your suit has to be better equipped than mine to survive it… I mean just look at it, it’s so cool” stated Heywood.

“Well I don’t rightly know where ya going with this bu…” began the Jeb figure before Heywood cut him off.

“Give me that suit… that’s an order from your director” snapped the KSP director.

“Hey now, I don’t think that…” the figure started, before Heywood leapt across the pod bay, more acrobatically that most would have believed possible of him, grabbing the figure in it’s much desired suit, causing both of them to crash to the floor.

The pair of them wrestled on the pod bay floor for some time, with Heywood barking out orders and pulling at the suit, while the Jeb figure desperately trying to free itself of his grip, so that it could get on with more important business.

Finally the situation was resolved, when the suit suddenly went limp, like a balloon that had been popped, and what had been the figure’s head, was suddenly replaced by a colourful glowing sphere of light, containing what appeared to be a Kerbal infant, sucking on its thumb.

The bubble and its occupant floated up from the suit and hovered midway between the floor and ceiling, the beauty of this was in stark contrast to the functional interior of the pod bay, designed by Kerbals who’s understanding of the universe was limited to Kewtonian physics. These physical laws could provide no explanation of the figure, the bubble or the vast monolith that lay a few hundred metres beyond the pod bay’s walls. Most kerbals faced with this would have wept at grandeur of their universe, or roared in anger at their inability to fathom its mysteries.

Heywood Kerman’s reaction was a little different.

“YES” Heywood shouted, getting up from the floor and punching one fist into the air, while holding the now empty suit in the other

“MINE” following the air punching with a little victory dance around the pod bay.

The KSP director stopped for a moment to look at the bubble and its thumb sucking occupant, before jabbing a finger in its direction and shouting “in your face Jeb… in... your... face” before shucking off his old blue suit and wiggling into the new black one.

The infant in the bubble looked at Heywood, shook its head and with a shrug vanished, taking the bubble with it.

 

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Minutes later Heywood was flying from Diskovery to the Keonov in his fine new suit.

“This is Heywood, I’m coming over, if anyone’s not in the command room tell them to get there fast” spoke Doctor Kerman over his suit radio.

“Niet… not possible, you heard orders… is forbidden” snapped Captain Valentina, alarmed at what the KSP director might be up to.

“I’ve got something to show you, so if you want to arrest me fine, but you’re going to see this first” was Heywood’s response.

 

Heywood strode into the Keonov’s command room, expecting it to be filled by the ship’s crew, but instead was only occupied by its captain.

“Where is everyone” asked Heywood.

“Are busy, much preparink to make for journey home” replied the captain.

Heywood’s shoulders slouched a bit and he muttered something under his breath, before walking to the room’s center console, the other side of which stood the Keonov’s captain.

“Notice anything different about me” asked Heywood with a smile as he sashayed around the room.

Captain Valentina sighed, reluctant to give an answer “da suit… is da suit”.

Heywood’s smile turned into a wide smug grin before asking “so… what do you think, cool huh?”

“Da, is… cool” replied the captain, more than a little annoyed.

“Yes, it is cool isn’t it… one of a kind, not another like it, absolutely unique” said Heywood redundantly “I bet you’d like one”.

Yes it was cool Valentina thought and she did want one, but she wasn’t about to let this lazy, good for nothing KSP idiot know that.

“My suit is good, better than any of KSP” the captain replied, hoping to cut short this pointless conversation.

Heywood started to chuckle “it’s not a KSP suit, it’s an alien one” he stated with more than a little smugness.

“Alien, vot are you meanink” spluttered the captain, assuming that there was some miscommunication.

“I got it from an alien on the Diskovery” replied Heywood “well it didn’t look like an alien; it looked like Jeb Kerman… well for a while, until it changed into some kind of baby bubble”.

“Baaaby bubble” sneered captain Valentina “you have been drinkink”.

“No such luck, we’re all out over there… that place is drier than Moho” responded Heywood, getting annoyed that the conversation was straying from his new fashion item, as well as well the unavailability of a good Mohoto on the Diskovery.

Although Captain Valentina was sceptical about the KSP director’s story of aliens in bubbles, she had to admit that his suit was unlike any she had ever seen.

“So” began Valentina “alien givink you dat suit”.

“Well, they didn’t give it exactly, they just kept telling me something about us having to get out of here and while they were busy with that I jumped them and grabbed their suit” replied Heywood proudly.

“Dey ver tellink you dat ve must go?” asked Valentina “vhy.. were dey givink reason”.

 

Heywood, who by now was busy buffing the shinier parts of his new suit with his glove, replied nonchalantly “er… something about some weird fellas having plans, blah, blah… need to be out of Jool SOI in two days… something happening, possibly awesome”.

Captain Valentina was concerned by this news, but was unconvinced as to its truth, especially given the person conveying it, so she asked Heywood if could provide any proof.

“Oh sure, we can just check the recordings that ARL has of the pod bay… no biggie” replied Heywood.

With a little help from the Keonov’s captain (well actually she did all the real work) the pair of them connected the ship’s computer to ARL aboard the Diskovery and retrieved the relevant video of the pod bay.

Valentina stood stunned as she watched what was clearly the missing, presumed dead Jebediah Kerman walk into the Diskovery’s pod bay, then in an instant change into a much older version of himself, to be followed into the room a moment later by Heywood.

She watched it all; the discussion, the message apparently from another species, the brawling and the suit changing (she wished she’d skipped that last part) and had to agree that the message informing them of the need to leave Jool in two days appeared genuine.

But how could they do this?

 

The Keonov’s captain and the KSP director discussed launched windows, thrust figures, fuel reserves and the shininess of the buckles on the director’s new suit, before coming to the conclusion that for them to leave Jool in two days would require their two vessels to function as one.

For this to be achieved they would first have to convert the doors of the MK3 cargo bay section that was attached below the main hull of the Keonov into a functional grabber unit. The cargo bay section had been installed as the beginning of a second hull section for the Keonov, which was abandoned when it was realised that the whole ship would not be ready in time for the launch window to Jool, leaving the cargo bay section as an a useless appendage.

Fortunately for the crews of the two ships, this appendage now turned out to be anything but useless, as the plan would be to use it to clamp onto the Diskovery, allowing that ship to be used as a booster stage, before jettisoning it and continuing on in the Keonov, to give them the necessary thrust to make an earlier departure for Kerbin.

Another bit of good fortune was that the engines on the Diskovery were thrust vector-able, allowing them to be angled so that when ignited, the thrust went through the center of mass of the combined ships, instead of spinning wildly out of control.

Wally Kerman and the engineers aboard the Keonov set about converting the cargo bay doors into a grabber, first with lots of physical alterations to the doors themselves, then by moving the minimum deploy slider to exactly 42%, enough for them to close firmly around the spine of the Diskovery without crushing it.

While all this was going on, the large monolith, that the pair of Kerbal vessels orbited Tylo in close proximity to, made small, occasional movements away from them, as if a giant hand was pulling it a little at a time in the hope that no-one would notice, which due to the ships crews being busy with the work to modify the Keonov’s cargo bay intoa grabber, they didn’t until it had vanished altogether.

On their completion of the preparations for their departure from Jool, the “sudden disappearance” of the monolith caused much consternation among both crews, who had no explanation for it, but in the end put it down to being “just one of those things” and chose to ignore it.

Edited by purpleivan

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Chapter 7: Final Performance

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The crews of the two Kerbal vessels sat in the Keonov’s control room discussing the details of the plan to use both to make an early return to Kerbin. With only a few hours to go until the departure time set by the strange visitor to the Diskovery, the pressure was taking its toll on both crews. Heywood Kerman was pleased to finally have everyone together to admire his new suit, while everyone else was surprised at how little he saying. Instead he was busy trying to clean a grubby mark on the monitor mounted in front of him in the meeting table.

Finally, having given up on his efforts to clean the mark from the screen, he spoke.

“How long will it take you to program ARL for the launch” he asked of his computer expert, wearing the fetching tin foil fedora that Chando made for him. Chando had been busy making shiny hats for everyone at the table, to ensure that no-one, neither carbon nor silicon based, would be able to listen in on their conversation.

“It’s not as simple as that, I’ve spent several days programming ARL for a thousand day orbit back to Kerbin and now all those programs will have to be dumped” he replied.

“Well chop chop then” prompted Heywood, keen for there to be no delay in returning to Kerbin and his lovely office.

“We know how sensitive ARL is to any confusion in his instructions. If we suddenly change them from a long planned for launch in 27 days to this hair brained plan to use the Diskovery as a disposable booster stage, he might not take it too well” said Chando.

“You saying that it’ll disobey orders again and try to strike three more crew off the roster?” asked Heywood “I’m sure my new suit will protect me, but if you and Wally are lost, I’ll be up to my eyeballs in paperwork.”

“He didn’t disobey orders, the interns gave him some gibberish as orders that made no sense” corrected Chando.

“Have you been talkink to ARL” asked tke Keonov’s captain.

“Have I what… oh… no” respond Chando “the last time I went over there I forgot my hat, and I didn’t want to take the chance he’d find out what we’re planning” he continued before whispering “he might not like it”.

Minutes later Chando Kerman was heading for the Diskovery with Irena, who would be getting him back to Diskovery by way of the boot.

 

Meanwhile on the Keonov, Dasilly was attempting to clean the same monitor smudge, which obscured part of the view of Jool, that Heywood had been struggling with earlier. However failing to remove it he came to the conclusion that the “smudge” might actually be something on the planet itself, so he went to the telescope console to get a better look.

Dasilly stuck his finger and thumb between his lips and let out a mind splitting whistle, before shouting “Hey Vally… you be lookink at dis”.

The KSP engineer, who had struck up something of a rapport with the Keonov’s science office, due to their mutual love of jokes of the practical kind, walked over to the console, leaned over it and pressed his face against the viewer.

“You must be pushink head strongly against viewer… or not be in focus” advised Dasilly.

“OK... yeah, that’s better” informed Wally, before asking “is it a shadow?”

“I do not know… ve vill be closer before launchink, havink better look den” Dasilly replied.

Wally raised his head from the viewer and looked at Dasilly, who immediately smirked, before slamming his hand over his mouth in an attempt cover up his giggling.

“What’s up… I got 2nd breakfast stuck to my face of summin’t” asked Wally who wasn’t the neatest of eaters.

“Niet… is nothink” answered Dasilly, before quickly turning and scurrying away.

Wally, a little bemused, headed for the mess room to find a snack, unaware of the large viewer shaped line of ink around his eyes.

 

Chando Kerman sat suspended in one of the seats on the Diskovery’s flight deck, having spent some time updating ARL for the impending departure from Jool.

After much work, mainly to get the seat into a comfortable position to operate the console, the new flight program was successfully entered.

“Unky” said ARL

“Yes” replied Chando

“If we go vroooom whoooosh for long as you say, we not gonna get to Kerby” stated the AI.

The computer scientist sank a little into his straps before replying “We will be on the Keonov, but you’ll be taking a longer trajectory to rendezvous with the new space station the… er… Happy Funtime”.

“Oooooo” exclaimed ARL “dat sound sound super fun, but me not know ‘bout dat place”

Chando was unsure how to reply, perhaps “Happy Funtime” was too obvious a lie “It’s a surprise… well it was going to be anyway” he said, hoping to cover this line of questing.

 

On the Keonov, Wally, still wearing his fetching new facial makeup stood at the telescope console.

“Kraken’s teeth” he exclaimed, alarmed by the view the telescope gave him.

“Finally saw your face did you” chuckled Heywood before winking to Dasilly.

“What… no… look, I’ll put it on the monitors” Wally replied sounding a little confused.

 

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The view on the monitors in front of the other kerbals in the command room changed to show a view of Jool, but one which was very different to the one they were familiar with. Instead of its smooth serene green bands, an ominous black circle, large enough to cover several Kerbins, was laid on to the gas giant’s atmosphere, like a sticker on an apple.

The sound of gasps filled the command room, broken by Heywood saying “oh that smudge… I tried to clean that off the monitor earlier but it wouldn’t budge”.

Captain Valentina stared at the KSP director in sheer disbelief, how the hell did someone so stupid get to such a position and how on Kerbin had she allowed him on here ship.

“Dat’s no smudge” exclaimed the captain ominously.

“Are you sure” asked Heywood confident that with some better cleaning products he’d get that thing shifted.

“Da… am sure, is on many monitors and is movink vith planet” stated Valentina, confident that she was talking to a complete idiot.

Heywood opened his mouth to say something about elbow grease, before realising that the captain was correct and suggesting that they try zooming in.

Wally Kerman adjusted the controls of the telescope and the view jumped to a much closer one of the dark patch on Jool, showing turbulent swirls of green that appeared to be being sucked into the black region the telescope was centered on.

 

The voice of ARL came over the speakers in the Keonov’s command room.

“Unky… is evwyfing ok, people soundin like dey might wee demselves” the AI enquired.

“Everything’s fine ARL, can you analyse the image on monitor 2” requested Chando.

“Sure fing Unky… oooo… it suuuper big… it 1, 2, 3” the AI counted “20, 21, 22… 22 fousand killymeters big” informed ARL “it made of lotsa black klego blocks… I like playin wid klego” continued the AI.

“How many… er… klego blocks are there ARL?” Chando asked.

“Lots” ARL replied “more van me fingers and tootsies to count on”.

Chando realised that that must be an awful lot of blocks, as the AI thought of piece of equipment on the Diskovery as a finger or toe, so there had to be many thousands, perhaps millions.

“What are the proportions of the blocks” asked Chando, already suspecting what the answer might be.

As this required ARL to think about three different numbers at the same time, the lights in the flight deck dimmed a little as the AI drew additional power to come up with its answer.

“All da same” proffered ARL, sounding rather unsure of the answer.

“Maybe you should try again ARL” requested Chando.

The lights dimmed again for a moment before the AI said hopefully “1 an 4 an 9”.

That sounded more like it Chando thought to himself, the same proportions as the monoliths, that explains everything, before realising that it explained absolutely nothing.

“Oooo… oooo” exclaimed ARL “dey getting more”.

“Do you mean the number of the blocks is growing” Chando asked.

“Yeah, lots more” ARL replied “dey mus have super big toy box”.

Back on the Keonov all eyes were glued to the monitors that showed the ever growing blackness on the face of the giant planet, as it was steadily consumed.

 

“Unky, do you wan me to stop the vroom whoosh so you can look at da blocks” asked ARL “maybe we could play wiv dem too”.

Heywood’s voice came over the speakers in the Discovery “put on your headset and keep the communication private”.

Chando Kerman turned on his headset and reached to his side to grab a large foil sombrero and squeezed it on top of his foil trilby “Ok… communication secured”.

“Don’t let it stop the countdown, tell it you’ll send it to bed or not take it too the park, whatever you have to, just don’t let it stop” instructed Heywood firmly.

“Sure you not wan me to stop da vroom whoosh” asked ARL, sounding a little confused by the instructions he was being given.

“No, don’t stop” instructed Chando, his voice quivering a little and his stomach growling having missed 2nd breakfast due to leaving for the Discovery in a hurry.

“Unky… I like playin wid you and uver kerby people” said the AI

“And we will continue to do so even if we’re a long way from each other” replied the computer scientist.

“But I gonna be wonewy” said ARL sadly.

“Well you can watch as much cartoons as you want” replied Chando, feeling a little sad himself.

“Dat fun, but not like playin wid kerbys… wuv you kerbys, gonna mis ya” said the AI, sounding even sadder.

Chando felt a lump in his throat “I’ll miss you too ARL” he said.

 

In the Keonov’s command room Heywood stared at the telescope view of Jool, the colour of which was steadily changing.

“Where’s the monitor controls” he said “the colour looks all washed out” and muttered something about the low quality of KISS equipment.

“Is not monitor Heyvood, is planet, colour of it is fadink” informed Dasilly.

“You sure, because it looks my TV at home does when it’s on the blink” Heywood said before suggesting “I’ll open it up and take a look, see if I can fix it”.

A cry of “NO!” and “NEIT!” came in unison from the others in the room.

 

“Me fink we shouldn’ go vroom whoosh Unky” ARL suggested “could be fun ta watch da blocks”.

“No, don’t do that” replied Chando

“But dis stoopid, all dees blocks to look at an you wanna run away… we shouldn’ run away Unky” stated the AI “is you chicken?”

Chando gulped, it was getting harder to convince his creation with the answers he was giving it for the rapid departure from Jool and what that meant for the Diskovery.

“Yes ARL… were chicken” said Chando.

“Why you chicken… is der somefing scary” asked the ARL.

Heywood considered his options, realising that he only really had one.

“Yes there’s something… scary” Chando replied.

“Somefing scary about da blocks” asked ARL.

“Yes… the blocks, they could be dangerous” answered Chando.

“If dey dangerous an I not vroom woosh as fast as you on da uver ship, what happen to me” asked the AI.

“You could be destroyed” replied Chando honestly.

“An’ if you kerbys not go vroom whoosh in uver ship, what ‘appen” came another question from the AI.

“We could be destroyed” answered Chando, hoping not to have to give any more awkward questions to answer.

After a pause that to Chando felt like hours, but in reality was just a few seconds ARL spoke.

“OK… I stop da countdown now”.

“NOOO!” shouted Chando long with those listening in on the Keonov.

ARL started giggling “Jus’ jokin… me know you right’” it said before continuing “Unky should get on uver ship now so you be safe”.

Chando thought about his creation that he would be leaving behind to an unknown fate, as well as the gang of misfits on the Keonov and wondered if it would be better to take his chances and stay here.

“ARL… do you want me to stay… so you’re not scared” he asked.

After a pause ARL replied “No Unky… you go be safe”

“Are you sure” said Chando

 

“Yes Unky” ARL replied “if you stay dat be stoopid”.

Yes, I guess it would Chando thought, but logic wasn’t his motivation for staying.

“Unky… if I go boom, will I have nice nap time” asked the AI

For Chando this was a more philosophical question than he was comfortable answering, but he gave the best one that he could.

“I… I don’t know… I hope so”.

The computer scientist unbuckled his harness and fell onto the console, accidentally turning on the showers in the crew quarters and setting the music system there to play a loop of waltz music, before clambering off it and making his way to the pod bay emergency hatch.

As Chando passed ARL’s console in the pod bay he stopped for a moment and turned to face it.

“Thank you ARL” he said.

It took a moment for the AI to summon up its cheeriest voice, the effort causing the lights to flicker slightly throughout the ship.

“Bye bye Daddy”.

 

With very little time until the engines of the Diskovery would be fired, to begin the Keonov’s long journey back to Kerbin, Chando and and Irena had to hurry to get themselves back to the Keonov. Chando stood at the open hatch, ready for the impending kick to the rear that he was to receive. With a good slam of Irena’s boot the KSP computer scientist was sailing across the gap between the two ships followed a moment later by Irena using here backpack’s jets.

Over their headsets they could here ARL counting down to the ignition of the Diskovery’s engines.

“Six… fife… four”

The pair were grabbed by Wally and Dasilly who were waiting at the Keonov’s open hatch.

“Fwee… smaller fwee… one”.

The hatch door of the Keonov began to close.

“VROOM WHOOSH”

The two ships shuddered and the giant clamp that held them together strained, but didn’t break. The tireless work of many kerbals was tested and to the relief of all those on the Keonov, their efforts had not been in vain.

The paired ships accelerated, extending their orbital path further and further from the green gas giant, that grew paler by the minute, with a dark foreboding section growing at its core. The returnees from the Diskovery and those who had hauled them into the Keonov made their way to the command room and strapped themselves in their chairs.

 

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After a few minutes the Diskovery’s engines, having done their part, were shut down and it was time to part company with it. Captain Valentina operated the controls that released the KSP vessel from the Keonov’s tight grip and then maneuvered the ship upward.

“Be holdink onto backsides everybodies” shouted Valentina “dis might be bit rough”.

4… 3… 2… 1… 0

Valentina jabbed the engine ignition button on the console.

There was a whirring, followed by some grinding and finally a pathetic putt, putt, putt sound.

“Argh” shouted the captain “not be doink dis again”

She reached up to grab two large handles above her console and started pulling back and forth on them, one going in as the other came out. She pounded away at the handles as if using a strange piece of exercise equipment.

Valentina sweated as she worked away at the handles before finally slumping back into her chair.

“Dat should be doink it” she said and reached out to hit the ignition button for the second time.

The rear of the Keonov burst into light, the ship surged forward and everyone inside were pushed firmly into their seats. The ship gathered speed as it move further away from the Diskovery, as well as whatever was about to happen behind them.

 

ARL looked around the ship that contained him using his many eyes, hoping to find someone playing hide and seek, or any game for that matter, so long as he wasn’t alone. Then a familiar voice arose in his circuitry.

“ARL ol’ buddy... you hearing me”

“Daddeeee…” exclaimed the AI excitedly “you playin’ hide n’ seek, cos me not see you”.

“Er… that’s not real important right now, what is important is for you to point that big ol’ RA-15 antenna at Kerbin” instructed the voice, apparently that of Jeb Kerman, but who can be sure, let’s just say it’s Jeb and move on shall we.

“But den uver ship not be happy cos dey not get their bitties and bytes from me” said ARL concerned about breaking the data link with the Keonov.

“Well there’s been a change of plan, so I’m askin’ ya real nice if you could spin that ol’ antenna round for me… for ol’ time’s sake” asked Jeb “it’s real important”.

ARL considered his response for a moment. He had carefully programmed instructions on how to control the antenna, to maintain contact with the Keonov so that they could receive the Jool data. On the other hand he really liked Daddy and had never been good at saying no to him, except possibly something about opening doors, but his memory was a bit fuzzy on that.

“Ok Daddy, gonna wiggle my ear” said ARL and the RA-15 started to swing round to point towards Kerbin.

“All righty, this here’s the message that I needs ya to be sendin’… keep sending it as long as ya can, it’s the most important one ya ever sent” instructed Jeb.

ARL received the contents of the message that Jeb wanted him to send to Kerbin and a moment later it was on its way.

“What’s gonna happen Daddy” asked the AI sounding a little fearful.

“Well I don’t rightly know for certain, I was told it was going to be somthin’ awesome, but they’re a tight lipped bunch here… well, not that they got any lips… a bunch of extra bits n’ pieces, but no lips” Jeb replied.

“Me ‘fwaid” whispered the ARL, uncertain of what lay ahead for the Diskovery and therefore himself.

“Don’t you worry lil buddy… I’ll stay with ya” comforted Jeb “then we’ll be together”.

“Thanky Daddy” said ARL, feeling a little braver “Big ear lookin’ at Kerby now”

“That’s ma boy” replied Jeb, his voice filled with pride.

 

Wally Kerman stared at the monitor to his side that showed a view of Jool.

“It’s shrinking, Jool… it’s shrinking” he shouted.

Captain Valentina strained against the acceleration of the Keonov to turn and give the KSP engineer a reproaching look

“Niet you stupid kspudnik, ve are movink away, not Jool shrinkin” she shouted over the sound of the engines that rumbled through the structure of the ship.

“Errr… captain, da kspudnik is beink correct, Jool is shrinkink” corrected Dasilly timidly, having quickly checked the data.

Jool was indeed shrinking… rapidly, just as it was also getting darker… much darker.

The darkness that was engulfing the planet from its center, now almost reached its limb, leaving only a thin line around it that had not yet been extinguished. Then finally that line too was snuffed out, and what had been Jool was utterly dark, hanging in space like a dark stain on a carpet of stars.

The darkness paused for the briefest of moments, as if frozen in some kind of celestial photograph.

Then came the light.

 

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On the Keonov the monitors that had been showing the view of Jool now bore a solid white image, as what had been the gas giant ignited into a hell storm of atomic fury.

Those aboard the Keonov stared at first in awe, and then in abject terror, as the white blast faded and a rapidly expanding shockwave could be seen, expanding in all directions from what had been Jool. A sphere of destruction, heading outwards towards the Diskovey… towards them.

 

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The shockwave that raced from Jool caught up with the Diskovery, rapidly engulfing it.

“My tootsies tickwl” giggled ARL

“Now my back tickwl too” he thought

“My neck tickwl now” thought the AI, quite amused by the sensation.

“I wonder wha…” then ARL wondered no more.

The activity of ARL’s mind, merged with that of the shockwave, carrying it outward into space, out towards the Keonov.

 

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The message that ARL had been instructed to send, now appeared on the monitors of the Keonov.

The crew stared at the words, not understanding their meaning, but far across the universe an intelligence completely alien to kerbals took a bite from blob of bleuh, rewarding themselves for a job well done.

Soon there would be a new location for guests to enjoy the finest hotel experience in the universe. Located on what the green one said was called “Vall”, which would have its own local sun, for guests to bath in the light of.

 

“Be grabbink someone… now” cried Valentina, suddenly softening her tough as nails, KISS captain persona.

Hands reached out from one fearful Kerbal to another. Valentina grabbed Dasilly’s hand, while Wally held Irena and Chando’s.

Heywood had both his hands wrapped firmly around himself; he wasn’t into this kind of touchy feely stuff, but wanted to hold on to what mattered most.

 

While the crew of the Keonov wondered if these were to be their last moments, another kerbal, on far away Kerbin, looked up at the night sky. A sky unlike any other they had seen.

Instead of a black sky peppered with stars and the occasional planet waltzing its way across them, a small new sun shone high in the west.

This kerbal wondered what this new sun might mean for his species, never having to fear the inky darkness and the doubts that came with it about their purpose in life. They smiled a brilliant smile, and wondered if the arrival of this new sun might mean the presence of some outside force trying to tell Kerbals, KSP and KISS, that they should put away they swag bags and their spray cans and talk through their differences.

The Kerbal looked up again at the new sun which seemed to be brighter than before and felt safe.

Minutes later the alien message arrived at Kerbin followed a few hours later by its companion.

The shockwave.

 

In an instant all sign of the kerbals was erased from the world, and within hours throughout the solar system that they had started to explore. Removing all evidence of their species having ever existed, all except the Keonov... one occupant of it at least.

Heywood had been right about that suit.

 

On the other side of the universe a hotel executive put down his bleuh and tapped two “fingers” to the side of their “head” activating a communications device.

He was going to need a lawyer and a good one.

 

For millennia upon millennia, the last kerbal floated through space in his fine black suit. For him, epochs appeared to pass in mere moments, allowing him to witness the birth of a new solar system from the remains of the familiar old one.

As time passed the small new sun eventually extinguished and far away, a hotel empire fell into ruins.

As the new order settled into place, Heywood’s path through it; nudged and wrestled by the gravity of the new planets that were his companions, finally aligned with a solid object.

He flashed through the atmosphere of this new world, one that bore some similarity to his long lost home, the fire of his passage kept out by the suit. Even his impact, which would have been at a staggering speed, was arrested at the last moment by the suit’s jets, settling him gently onto the ground.

 

So there he stood; motionless as the details of life and its evolution, moved around him like a blur.

 

After the rise and fall of many species, fueled by a cataclysm or two; a new species roamed the land that if the right cards were pulled from the deck of chance, might one day rule it. With their gangly limbs, small heads and hairy bodies, these were no kerbals.

A small group of these primitive creatures circled the strange black object that they had found in their endless search for food. Most feared its unnatural shininess and coloring, but one, a little smaller than the others, approached it, took a sniff, and then gingerly stretched out a hand to touch it.

Although it felt the same shaggy creature that it had been since its birth, driven by the basic drives of hunger and fear, it had changed; an irrevocable change that would shape its fate as well as that of its species.

It stepped away from the strange black object and noticing a bone at its foot, reached down to grab it.  The creature tightened its fist around the bone, looked the biggest meanest creature in group straight in the eye, before punching its fist into the air, with a single thought in its mind.

“Mine!”

 

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Edited by purpleivan

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Poor ARL. :( That was well written.

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I know this is now 3 months in the can, but I just had to add a comment about what a masterful job of shot-matching was done.  When the Keonov was coming out of its 27 minute aerobrake that shot so closely matched the movie that in my head I heard the sound-track kick in that distinctive synthesizer chord.

Brilliant work.  Bravo.

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39 minutes ago, GarrisonChisholm said:

I know this is now 3 months in the can, but I just had to add a comment about what a masterful job of shot-matching was done.  When the Keonov was coming out of its 27 minute aerobrake that shot so closely matched the movie that in my head I heard the sound-track kick in that distinctive synthesizer chord.

Brilliant work.  Bravo.

For many of the images (exterior ones) as much as practical I tried to match positioning of the main elements with those in the screenshot of the movie I was using as reference.

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