Angel-125

Kerbin Elcano Exploration Project - Epilogue

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42 minutes ago, insert_name said:

How did you get the decal on the airplane cockpit?

Just a custom flag.

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6 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

On a recent episode of Ancient Astronauts, I revealed that these monoliths are most likely beacons for ancient aliens.

That hair..... :D

 

6 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

A complete investigation revealed a faulty design in Kapollo’s autopilot coupled with maligned auto-struts

Ouch!  Which brings up a question....  I was looking at your reference designs in DSEV and they've got autostruts all over them.  Is that intentional?  I've never used autostruts myself (I use KJR) so am somewhat unfamiliar with them.

 

6 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

“They’re headed to Minmus!”

Well, isn't that an interesting development.  Are they building a missile base there?

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6 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

Since the load was too heavy to safely land, as the plane flew overhead once more, Gregorio airdropped the crates before landing in the valley (shout out to @JustJim, thanks for showing how this is done! :) )

Oh hey, your most welcome! But be warned, airdropping is quite fun, and can be a little addicting once you get the hang of it... 

Also, I love how you put the cargo containers under the wings, very kerbal looking!

But... but... that hair... Oh no, it can't be... that hair!!!  :0.0:

hehehe  

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It would be cool to see a continuation/sequel to this on Duna or Eve, seeing as airships work there as well

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34 minutes ago, Geschosskopf said:

That hair..... :D

 

Ouch!  Which brings up a question....  I was looking at your reference designs in DSEV and they've got autostruts all over them.  Is that intentional?  I've never used autostruts myself (I use KJR) so am somewhat unfamiliar with them.

 

Well, isn't that an interesting development.  Are they building a missile base there?

Yes that's intentional. DSEV craft use autostruts to keep the part count down. KSP put them in, so I use them. :)

As for what the Von Kermans are doing, we'll just have to wait and see...

 

5 minutes ago, Just Jim said:

Oh hey, your most welcome! But be warned, airdropping is quite fun, and can be a little addicting once you get the hang of it... 

Also, I love how you put the cargo containers under the wings, very kerbal looking!

But... but... that hair... Oh no, it can't be... that hair!!!  :0.0:

hehehe  

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4 minutes ago, Kosmonaut said:

It would be cool to see a continuation/sequel to this on Duna or Eve, seeing as airships work there as well

I do have plans. There is a reason why I designed the Heisenberg's and Buffalo's propeller engines to run on electricity... :)

Edited by Angel-125

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I was looking at the Gamedata folder you provided, but couldn't figure out which hover autopilot you were using on the runabouts. Is it a WBI part-specific module, or can it be used to control vertical velocity in other mods?

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3 hours ago, theonegalen said:

I was looking at the Gamedata folder you provided, but couldn't figure out which hover autopilot you were using on the runabouts. Is it a WBI part-specific module, or can it be used to control vertical velocity in other mods?

The hover autopilot is called Kerbal Actuators, and it's a mini-mod I made for the Buffalo specifically to run the tilt rotors. It's proven to be useful for other engines as well. Not as sophisticated as Thrust Controlled Avionics but it does the job..

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Just finished the story so far!  Great job, and I'm definitely going with WBI for my next career install now! :D

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 “The World’s First organization just recognized ‘Kerbin Galactic’ as the first entity to land kerbals on another world, the first to EVA around Minmus, the first crew transfer around Minmus, and the first to place a station around Minmus,” Gene lamented over the wireless. Enterprise's crew couldn't believe what they were seeing on their monitors. They could tell that Gene was livid. “They not only beat us to Minmus, they put boots on the ground and planted a flag before we did! Their ‘Abenteuer’ spacecraft is on its way back now, with surface samples and EVA reports and experiment results, and that’ll net them another set of world’s firsts. No doubt about it, we just got upstaged. And they’ve just announced that they’re shooting for the Mun next. We cannot let them beat us to the Mun!

“We’re stepping up production on the fuel tank modules. They’ll be delivered throughout next week. Also, Kapollo 3 was supposed to be a Kerbin orbit test of the Munar Lander. That mission is scrubbed. With Kapollo grounded we’re mounting it onto a Titan and flying the lander to Enterprise. Val, I know you and Bill were supposed to do the test, but we have to land on the Mun yesterday, so this is an all-up test. Once delivered, Val will undock from Enterprise, return home and immediately start preparing for the Munar Pathfinder mission. Bill, Bob, and Jeb will fly to the Mun on Enterprise, where Jeb and Bob will set down as close to the Munar Arch as possible. That’s just the first site. Enterprise has plenty of fuel reserves for multiple excursions to the surface. We’ll show the vonKermans- and the world- that we’re not just setting down, planting flags, and leaving. There’s valuable science to be had in a sustained presence.”

***

Repairs to the Akron took several days longer than expected, and the whole crew helped out in one way or another. Serving as chief engineer, Samalla led Bobus and Pepe on a stem to stern repair effort while Payin and Munvan double-checked their calculations. Kelbin and Gregorio couldn’t do much more than haul various items around as needed. During their off times, the crew mostly kept to themselves, except during meals and daily briefings.

Kelbin used his downtime to try meditating. His thoughts kept returning to some vivid dreams he had months ago of commanding a winged rocket plane and flying to a sprawling space station. Was it real? He was born and raised on Kerbin, looked into the night sky when he was young with dreams of exploring space, read and re-read all of Kuzzter’s novels, and even joined the Kerman Air Force in hopes of reaching the stars, so it wasn’t like he was from an alternate reality. But this… other self… Was it just a dream… or something else? Kelbin had a flash of insight. He hit the intercom to the ship’s botany lab.

“Yo,” Munvan called out.

“You know that pyramid we found? Tut-Un-Jeb-An?”

“Yeah?”

“Tut Jeb guarded the afterlife. Heaven or something.”

“Gael, dude, that’s what the language experts said.”

“Right. What if the Tut wasn’t a gatekeeper to the afterlife, but some kind of guard of a portal to another SAVE? You remember our conversation about Superimposed Alternate Variant Existences, right?” There was an uncomfortable pause.

“Dude, I was like, high, ok? Like, I made that mulch up. Don’t tell me you’ve actually been trying to meditate…”

“Uh, yeah,” Kelbin said sheepishly.

“Dude, seriously?”

“I-“

“You know,” Gregorio spoke up through the intercom, “ancient Scripture talks about portals of the gods. It sounds like this ‘SAVE’ of yours and the portals are connected. One of my theories is that ancient aliens, not gods, created the portals, and used them to travel throughout the multiverse.”

Mulch, Kelbin thought to himself. He forgot that Gregorio and Pepe liked to hang out in the Botany lab with Munvan. I’ll have to talk to Gregorio later about sensitive data. Kelbin didn’t have time to respond.

“Captain to the command gondola,” Samalla interrupted on the intercom’s priority channel. “Repairs complete, we’re ready to get underway.”

A few minutes later, the crew had the Akron ready to launch. With Kelbin and Gregorio at the controls- he was a quick study- the giant airship’s old engines coughed into life- stubbornly- and the Akron once more went aloft. She headed back to Coaler Crater to drop off her mined cache of aurum, refuel, and then head straight towards the next anomaly. High atop another mountain range in the Glantry Pricipalities, they found it, another large tracking station. They also found something unexpected.

“Is that another airship? Is it one of yours,” Gregorio asked.

“No,” Kelbin said simply. “That’s the Valkyrie.”

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***

KSC rolled out the next fuel tank module to the pad, performed pre-flight checks, and launched it with little fanfare. Within a day it reached DSEV-1, and thanks to its redesigned hardware, it had no trouble docking to Enterprise.

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A day later, another Titan launched the Aquarius munar lander. The vehicle suffered burn-through on both SRBs, and both first stage Fulcrum engines suffered a hydraulic leak, but fortunately the vehicle didn’t explode. Worse though, the payload fairings got stuck during deployment and destroyed the lander’s solar arrays and broke off a landing leg.

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“If we had an on-orbit ability to print new parts, we could manufacture spares ourselves,” Bill remarked as Aquarius docked with Enterprise. He surveyed the damage and shook his head before getting to work. He scavenged the delivery vehicle for spare batteries and solar panels, attaching them to Aquarius before detaching the transfer stage.

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By the time he finished, he had an idea…

“Hey, Bob, what if we convert one of the hab modules into a workshop?“

“You want to do what now?”

“Convert the starboard hab into a workshop and jury-rig some kind of 3D printer to make parts with,” Bill elaborated.

“Bill, we don’t have the resources to do that- unless we cannibalize equipment to make material kits,” Bob thought aloud, “and/or recycle the RCS thrusters we’ve stowed. But we’d also have to dump half of our recycling resources to make room. Not a bad idea though, maybe on a future mission we could do it.”

“What if we empty the outboard fuel tanks and store the resources there,” Bill countered.

“That’d eat into our emergency reserves… which… we… really don’t need…”

“Exactly. We built Enterprise to test the systems we need for Duna, and she almost has the delta-v for that- and more than enough snacks- but we’re just going to the Mun…”

While they waited for KSC to finish integrating the remaining fuel tanks, Bill and Bob scavenged what they needed to convert the starboard habitat module into a workshop. They based their 3D printer on a hobby kit downloaded from the Lattice, turned it on, and loaded the blueprints sent by KSC. Nothing happened. Angel-125 Bill cursed and traced through config files firmware code in the converted Mark One Habitat until he found the missing OSE Workshop part modules firmware bug and created a patch. Moments later, the printer sprang to life and made a new landing leg. The crew celebrated their success, and Wernher made a note to include a workshop in all future Deep Space Exploration Vessels. Bill installed the new leg without much difficulty, shortly after the third fuel tank arrived- after forgetting to turn on angle snap fixing some minor software glitches that prevented docking…

The remaining fuel tank arrived a couple days later without incident.

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Bill removed the last of the construction equipment which was promptly recycled into material kits. The crew performed their final systems checks, topped off their resources from Big Brumby 3, and unfurled their solar arrays. Valentina undocked the construction module and headed home while Enterprise’s crew made ready to sail into the black sky.

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***

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“Nice to meet you, Captain Kelbin. I am Hauptmann Siegfried vonKerman, of, ah, Kerbin Galactic.”

Kelbin shook Siegfried’s hand. “Likewise. Um, aren’t you a bit far away from the Kosmodrome? I thought the Valkyrie was only used for capsule recovery.”

“I could say ze zame about your Akron,” Siegfried chuckled. “Ve are here investigating zis eh, tracking station, zame as you. It iz very old, ja?”

“Very. We sure didn’t make it,” Kelbin admitted.

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“Neither did ve. But zomeone did. Zey are goot for tracking spacecraft, ja?”

That explains how they communicate with their craft, Kelbin thought to himself. Note to self. Find out how to use the ancient tracking stations. “Of course.” He looked over to the Valkyrie. Part of its command gondola appeared bent. Siegfried noticed his stare.

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“Rough landing, I’m afraid. Stuck vent valve. Nothing Alice can’t eh, ‘handle’ though.”

“Alice? As in Alice vonKerman, the kerbonaut,”Kelbin asked.

“Ja, Kaptain Kelbin, ze same. Both she und Irina vonKerman are participating in zis expedition. Ve are here for ze zpace program, ja?”

That immediately broke the ice for Kelbin. “How would you and your crew like to share lunch aboard the Akron? Pioneer 1 is about to reach Duna, we could watch the events unfold together and compare notes. We’d love to hear about your adventures and speak to the kerbonauts as well. I can assure you that we have no contraband aboard...”

Hauptmann Siegfried laughed. “Zhere are no political officers on zis expedition, I assure you, Kaptain Kelbin. Ve vould be honored to share a meal with you und your crew.”

***

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As the Akron and Valkyrie crew had lunch, they watched as Pioneer 1 reached Duna’s sphere of influence and settled into a polar orbit to begin mapping the surface. Sadly, the probe lacked the power needed to transmit experiment data from its multi-spectral imaging platform and its GORESat instruments. Pioneer 2 was due to reach Duna in two days as well, but being a duplicate of Pioneer 1 meant that it didn’t have enough power either. It would instead settle into a high Duna orbit to serve as a communications relay after it arrived.

During lunch, Bobus slipped away from the briefing room, exited the airship, and dashed over to the Valkyrie. He went inside to look around.

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A few minutes later, he ran back.

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“Uh, Kelbin, you got a moment,” Bobus asked nearly out of breath.

“Not now, Bobus,” Kelbin responded, “it’s a double feature today. Enterprise is boosting for the Mun. Take a look!”

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***

 “GUIDANCE?”

“GO!”

“BOOSTER?”

“GO!”

“ECON?”

“GO Flight!”

“GNC?”

“GO!”

“Enterprise?”

“MC go!”

“MS1 go!”

“MS2 go!”

“Enterprise, you’re clear for the Mun,” Gene radioed.

Cheers went up around Mission Control as well as inside Enterprise. Jeb spun the first Deep Space Exploration Vessel around to its maneuver node, and gunned the engine. The Hemi Cuda roared to life. Acceleration was slow but noticeable. Seven minutes of engine burning later, Enterprise was on her way to the Mun!

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A third of the way there, Enterprise made a couple of course correction burns to rendezvous with Kerbin’s first natural satellite.

***

“You sure you don’t need any help? I can get pretty lonely out here when your ship is broken down,” Kelbin asked.

“Nein,” Captain Siegfried said, shaking his head. “We, ah, as you say, ‘got it covered.’ Alice iz un goot engineer, ve shall be fine.”

“Ok,” Kelbin shrugged, “have it your way. You’ve got our frequency if you run into trouble and need a hand. Take care, Hauptmann Siegfried.”

“And you, Captain Kelbin.”

Back aboard the Akron, Kelbin looked around at the vista, then at the ancient tracking station. “I hope this is the last time I see one of these,” he said.

The KSC airship’s lift cells inflated, displacing the air around them until the Akron became bouyant and floated into the sky.

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***

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A day after leaving orbit, DSEV-1 entered a 32.7km by 30.6km orbit around the Mun. The ship’s main engine developed a hydraulic leak, but Bill easily took care of it with a short spacewalk. They spent a couple of orbits checking the ship’s systems and preparing the Aquarius lander for its historic landing. As luck would have it, it was just past dawn at their landing site.

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KSC Mission Control took the opportunity to briefly check in on Pioneer 2. The probe successfully entered orbit around Duna, though its engine burned late. KSC radioed commands to have the probe circularize its orbit in three weeks. After that, Elcano 1 will make its historic landing!

“Good luck guys,” Bill said as he closed the hatch to the lander. He took his seat in Enterprise’s bridge to watch Jeb and Bob undock and prepare for landing.

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“Gear down, the new landing leg works perfectly,” Jeb radioed. “See you in a few.” A half-hour later, Jeb performed the de-orbit burn at munar dawn after the auto-nav threw them off course and Jeb took over to manually perform the burn.

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Aquarius overshot the target and had to burn vertically a few times to avoid crashing into the ground, but Jeb managed to set the lander down within 250 meters of the Arch.

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“Enterprise, the Aquarius has landed,” Jeb said simply. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and then cheered.

“We copy you down, Aquarius, Congratulations! Good job, good job, everyone, good job,” Gene called back.

Wasting no time, Jeb exited the lander and planted the flag. “We come in peace for all kerbalkind,” he said. It was bittersweet, he wanted to be the first kerbal to set foot on another world, not some vonKerman! At least he was the first on the Mun.

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“Footing is solid, there’s a fine powder on the ground,” Jeb remarked. “Come on out, Bob.”

Bob excitedly left the lander and planted his feet on the ground. “Wow, look at the view! Jeb, did you get a sample? I hope you got a sample. That arch is enormous! Did you take any magnetic readings? We need to get the SEP set up. Uh, how are we going to do that without Bill? Uh-“

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“Calm down, Bob,” Jeb waved at his friend. “We’ve got plenty of time to sort things out. Let’s take a look at that arch-“

Bob immediately began sprinting to the arch. He ran most of the way there, then realized that he could just fly there. Jeb followed suit, hitting his jetpack thrusters and setting down next to Bob.

“Let’s go to the top,” Bob said, and immediately hit his thrusters.”

“Bob- oh, mulch, he’s overstimulated… Uh, Enterprise, Aquarius, we’re headed to the top of the arch to look around…”

“It’s 30 meters tall, wow,” Bob yelled.

Jeb landed next to him. “Squad, what a view. Hey, I can see my lander from here!”

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“Magnificent desolation,” Bob said. “We’re going to have so much fun here! It’s nice and flat too, perfect for the Pathfinder base. Let’s get some science going!”

***

A couple of days later, Bob and Jeb finished gathering their last surface samples and made their final EVA reports. If nothing else, they’d have the samples to return home. Jeb would have to return with Bill to set up the Surface Experiment Pack, and then come back again with Bob to calibrate it, but Enterprise had the fuel reserves for the excursions. But for now, it was time to return to DSEV-1.

“Preflight check complete and time to go. But we shall return,” Jeb said melodramatically. He hit the ignition switch.

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The lander’s engine promptly exploded, sending a fireball around the craft. The master alarm blared in the cockpit.

“Fire in the engine compartment! We’re gonna die,” he said panicked.

“Shut the fuel valves, Bob!” The scientist didn’t respond, he was too busy looking around and screaming. Jeb reached over and hit the cutoff switch. The fire died out immediately. He looked at his instruments. The entire engine status panel was dead. “Uh, Enterprise, Aquarius, we’ve had a, uh, major malfunction. There’s serious damage to the lander, and the uh, engine exploded,” he said as calmly as possible.

Bill’s heart skipped a beat and then started racing. Gene responded first. “Uh, Aquarius, Flight, we copy your last, we’re working the problem…” Gene took a breath. “Surgeon, Flight, how long do they have on the ground?”

Dr. Jade checked his instruments. “About five days, Flight. After that they’ll be gonners.”

Not good, Gene thought to himself. He took another breath, then looked to Wernher. “What do we have in the inventory that can reach them?”

The ex-vonKerman looked shocked and stared at the monitors in silence.

“Wernher?”

Wernher shook his head to clear it. “Ah, ve hav, ah, ve hav Kapollo 3, Gene. Ve… need to replace ze Corvette service module engine vith un Hemi Cuda to shorten ze bell,” Wernher said, his thick accent reemerging due to his nervousness. “Ve zen mount landing gear to ze service module und convert un cargo module to un fuel tank. Kapollo 3 flies to ze Mun, refuels at Enterprise, und lands at Aquarius.”

“How long to spin up Kapollo 3?”

“Four days if ve rush.”

“Do it,” Gene ordered.

***

Wernher and his team worked tirelessly to modify the Kapollo- they knew what was at stake. Four days later, Kapollo 3 rolled out to the pad. There were no celebrations, just a stoic countdown. The clock hit zero. The first stage engines fired, and Kapollo 3 roared off the pad- for about a second. The central Skipper engine shut off unexpectedly, and the tank cluster sprang several leaks.

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“BARIS,” Bobak cursed, “She’s falling!” Kapollo 3 struggled to remain airborne and nearly hit the ground until its six Fulcrum engines, burning furiously, consumed enough fuel to tip its thrust to weight ratio above one. In its struggle to survive, the rescue rocket stumbled around the launch site like a drunken sailor trying to stay upright.

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It failed.

***

Bill sighed, taking in the bad news from Mission Control. He sighed Heavily. He could tell Bob and Jeb weren’t happy either. “Autopilots,” Jeb said simply.

“Valentina won’t forgive me for not letting her fly it,” Gene radioed, “But we needed to make sure we could bring all three of you home.”

Bill swallowed hard. “So, uh, what’s our next step?” There was a long moment of silence.

“Bill, you need to go home,” Jeb said quietly over the wireless. “I’d order you to return, but I know you wouldn’t follow it. There’s nothing you can do for us. We all knew the risks, buddy. Don’t try to argue, we won’t be listening. This is Aquarius, signing off.” The channel went dead.

Tears welled up in Bill’s eyes as Enterprise coasted around the far side of the Mun.

“Enterprise- Bill,” Gene said softly. “We’ve got a maneuver node for you. Next orbit we’ll bring you home. Don’t worry, we’ll be back.” Silence. “Bill?” More silence.

“Copy, Flight,” Bill radioed finally, maneuver node received. I’m going to sign off for a bit until the burn. I need a moment. To say goodbye.”

“Roger that, Enterprise. Come back on the air at least five minutes before the burn. We’ll walk you through it.”

***

The Akron crossed over to the Northern Ice Shelf after taking a brief stop to conduct science for a few days. Just like the Great Desert, the ice shelf couldn’t be claimed by any nation. Small bases could be established that remained in possession of the sponsoring state, but nothing outside of the base’s perimeter could be claimed.

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The Northern Ice Shelf’s vast icy terrain was set aside as a vast wildlife preserve. Sadly though, broad sections of the shelf have been melting at an accelerated pace due to climate change. In a few decades, the shelf might very well be gone.

The Akron headed to the North Pole Bio-Dome, recently established by the Kerman States to study climactic changes to the ice shelf, and to serve as an analog to Duna. Once completed, Astronauts headed to the Rusty Planet would train at the facility and learn how to work together in isolation. Their overnight stop allowed the giant airship to refuel before searching for the next anomaly; with the vast stretches of ice, the crew hoped that it would be easy to spot.

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The next morning, after having breakfast at the base’s mess hall, the airship lumbered off the runway and into the cold air. Samalla plotted a course to the anomaly. The crew was in a festive mood- they were headed to the last anomaly on their list! Kelbin felt particularly happy since he would finally be able to guide the Akron back to KSC after cataloging the monolith/tracking station/whatever, and finally resign his commission. Maybe he could get a job as a test pilot at Wild Blue Industries…

The engines droned on as the airship flew over the ice, the sunlight glinting off of the shards here and there. One particular spot seemed particularly bright.

“Uh, Kelbin, what’s that,” Samalla asked.

Kelbin looked where the chief engineer pointed. He looked carefully. It wasn’t a shard of ice.

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***

“Flight, Telemetry,” Tanburry, Mission Control’s Telemetry Officer said, “I’m reading a decoupling event on Tanks 1 and 3.”

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Mulch, Gene thought, BARIS hit us again… “Alright, we need to break into Bill’s revere.”

“Flight, FIDO. Enterprise is burning too early.”

“Mulch. CAPCOM, get me Enterprise, Let’s find out why Bill-“ Gene froze. “CAPCOM, get me Enterprise now!” It took a couple of seconds to establish the connection. “Bill, what are you doing!?

“SAVING MY FRIENDS,” Bill thundered back.

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As the dust settled, Jeb looked over to Bob. “That’s not something you see every day,” he remarked.

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Oh dang.

I was so worried when it looked like Jeb and Bob were going to be stuck on the Mun. I was worried about fictional little space frogs / plants that die all the time and show up in the next save no problem. 

Are you using SVT?

Edited by theonegalen

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10 hours ago, theonegalen said:

Oh dang.

I was so worried when it looked like Jeb and Bob were going to be stuck on the Mun. I was worried about fictional little space frogs / plants that die all the time and show up in the next save no problem. 

Are you using SVT?

Yup, SVT really improves the graphics in the game. 

Technically Snacks won’t kill your kerbals if you run out of snacks. It will just ruin your reputation, levy fines, trash any science you gained, and make your crew pass out, but I’m considering an addon to Snacks that would let your kerbals perish from a lack of snacks. But for story purposes I decided that Bob and Jeb would have a bad day when they ran out of snacks. BARIS wouldn’t let me integrate and fly a rescue craft in time, so I crash landed Enterprise instead. It has a year of snacks aboard, plenty of time to rescue the crew.

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Gene was too livid to respond. Hearing about the vonKerman Republic’s successes didn’t help the matter any.

“So uh, I take it you’re still mad,” Bill radioed. The Flight Director still didn’t respond.

“Gene, it was either crash-land Enterprise, or let two of our best astronauts die. Enterprise has enough snacks to last over a year- plenty of time to send a rescue ship. And she can continue her mission of testing deep space technologies- just on the Mun instead of in orbit.” Still nothing. Bill looked nervous.

Gene sighed and finally spoke up. “Munbase Enterprise, your mission is to now use that 3D printer of yours to print up as many Pathfinder base elements as you can and establish a foothold. I want a sustained presence, not some political publicity stunt. You’ll be glad you have a year’s worth of supplies because you’re not going anywhere for a while.

“Valentina, your Munar Pathfinder mission is hereby cancelled and redirected towards Minmus. Same mission as before: explore the terrain, find a good spot, and set up camp.”

Valentina rolled her eyes at her mission parameters changing. Again. She nodded and said nothing. The brief look on her face spoke volumes.

“I’ll make it up to you, I promise,” Gene countered. “Meanwhile, the Cargo Buffalo will link up with its Titan Tug and head to the Mun to support Munbase Enterprise. Kapollo 4 will be a repeat of 3- but actually work this time- and 5 will get Val and her crew to Minmus. I think you’ll like the new Buffalo rover that Wild Blue cooked up…”

***

“Kerbin Galactic” knew a golden opportunity when they saw one. As the Kerbal Space Program literally picked up the pieces, the vonKermans refueled their mobile space station and launched a new pair of Falke landers to it while Hanse and Lagatha enjoyed a parade and brief rest.

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A week later, they again launched into orbit to serve as the Abenteur’s crew. Abenteur headed away from her home planet once more.

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By Kerba 34, they arrived in munar orbit.

Like they did at Minmus, each pilot took a Falke down to the surface, ran some science experiments, grabbed surface samples, made EVA reports, planted a flag, and promptly boarded their lander and returned to their ship.

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Without much fanfare, the mobile station returned to LKO a couple of days later, where the crew placed the ship into a dormant state before taking their science and returning home. They received a standing ovation from the World’s First Society not long after landing and recovery- and a much deserved rest.

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With Eve’s transfer window just 34 days away, Kerbin Galactic announced their next goal: establish a basecamp in Eve orbit and land on Gilly. They definitely weren’t hiding it anymore, their space program, mothballed since the Last War, was in once again going strong.

***

On Kerba 37, 1967, KSC launched a Cargo Buffalo with relief supplies to expand DSEV-1. It promptly acquired fuel from a Titan Tug for its trip to the Mun, and boosted to Kerbin's closest natural satellite.

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A day later, entered orbit around Kerbin’s nearest moon. The rover then landed and parked next to the fledgling mun base a couple days later. Enterprise’s crew welcomed the rover and its generators- they were slowly freezing to death while on emergency power in the dark munar night.

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***

On Kerba 39, KSC launched the first of three new classified payloads headed to Dolores Air Force Station. The Air Force listed them as “science instruments” on the manifest, but Gene suspected that they were some kind of surveillance gear or worse, weapons from that new BD Armory company that had been raiding weapons caches left over from the Last War and claiming them as salvage.

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The vehicle waited in its polar parking orbit for a day while it caught up to the station and then performed its rendezvous burn. Sixteen minutes later, the craft arrived at Dolores’ operational area. The docking was uneventful save for its upper stage running out of electric charge and failing to deorbit. It was one more piece of debris that contributed to a growing problem. Gedra watched the upper stage drift away as she removed and secured the new module’s now useless RCS thrusters. Once back inside, she started taking them apart and recycling them in the station’s new 3D print lab. At least it beat the increasing repair requests aboard the station…

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***

With Munbase Enterprise busily turning material kits into new Pathfinder modules, Mission Control turned their attention back to Duna, where Pioneer 2 at last settled into high orbit around the Rusty Planet. With inadequate power reserves, all it could do at this point was serve as a relay satellite.

With everything that had happened recently- the lack of power on the Pioneer probes to transmit vital SCANSat data, the vonKermans landing on Minmus first, then the botched Mun landing, followed by the vonKermans landing on the Mun and returning safely, the Kerbal Space Program needed a win.

Gene checked on Elcano 1. It suffered a reaction wheel failure in the lander, leaving only the probe core to keep it pointed. It would have to do. Mission planners selected a landing spot along that enormous western canyon spotted by Pioneer 3. It would take almost all of the remaining delta-v in the transfer stage, but it was worth it. Half an orbit later, it performed its de-orbit burn.

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“Don’t jettison the transfer stage until the last possible second,” Linus, Elcano’s project director, decreed. “We can use it as additional shielding for the probe, and we may need its transmitter. Also, set the chute for minimum pressure and maximum altitude.”

“Instructions sent,” Bobak called back. Elcano 1 acknowledged its orders and performed its de-orbit maneuver right on time. It was all up to the probe core now. The World’s First Society’s representative cheered- Elcano 1 became the first craft to achieve suborbit around another world! Whatever happened, at least they’d have that.

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“Signal strength at 45%,” Bobak said nervously, “42%... 40%... still dropping.”

“If it drops below 20, the probe should follow emergency procedures,” Linus responded. “It’ll automatically drop the transfer stage and arm the chute. Let’s hope the programming works.”

“Signal strength at 25% and still dropping,” Bobak called out, “24%... and holding…”

Gene held his breath, there was nothing he could do at this point.

Bobak continued his monologue. “Altitude just dropped below 20,000, Elcano is approaching the target area. Pressure and temperature sensors just took readings…

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Altitude 13,000 and dropping… We’re in the western canyon… Altitude 11,000… Chute armed and transfer stage jettisoned… Good chute pre-deploy!” Cheers rang out throughout Mission Control. The WFS rep made another note about entering Duna’s atmosphere for the first time.

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“We’re doing good,” Gene encouraged the team, “Keep going team! We even met our contract to explore Duna!”

Bobak continued. “Signal strength is back up again, we’re getting a relay through Pioneer 3! Altitude 9700… SAS disengaged to conserve power… Chute fully deployed, Altitude 4300, speed 11 meters per second and dropping…

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"Terrain altitude just dipped below 1000 meters… 500 meters… 200... speed 9.6 meters per second… SAS activated, brace for impact!”

Everyone at Mission Control held their breath and grabbed their desks.

Elcano 1 hit hard at 9.3 meters per second. Its heat shield shattered on impact and destroyed its secondary solar arrays. But the thrown together probe stayed upright.

“TOUCHDOWN!” Cheers went up throughout the Kerbal Space Center. Everyone in Mission Control gave each other high-fours. The little probe quietly deployed its solar arrays and began transmitting its stored data. When that successfully went through, it ran the rest of its experiments on the ground and sent their collected data as well.

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While it continued to note temperature and pressure and seismic data, its primary mission was now complete.

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Wernher looked at the preliminary results and then turned to Linus and smiled. “Ach! Zere’s water on Duna! Very important for future exploration! Looks like you just won ze bet. Und now ve must learn how to mine it.”

Amid the celebrations, Bobak keyed Gene’s private communications channel. “Gene, it’s the Akron. They’ve found something. Something important.”

The Flight Director listened to the report. His jaw dropped as he gasped. “That’s just… incredible,” Gene said.

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17 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

Amid the celebrations, Bobak keyed Gene’s private communications channel. “Gene, it’s the Akron. They’ve found something. Something important.”

 

The Flight Director listened to the report. His jaw dropped as he gasped. “That’s just… incredible,” Gene said.

Dun dun dun

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On 4/3/2018 at 5:52 PM, Angel-125 said:

The Flight Director listened to the report. His jaw dropped as he gasped. “That’s just… incredible,” Gene said.

Next chapter is JOOL AND BEYOND THE INFINITE, right?

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 “This changes everything,” Kelbin said, staring at the alien craft embedded in the hillside.

“Aliens. Ancient aliens at that. Who’d thought,” Gregorio said, shaking his head. “I’m guessing no video, captain?”

“Oh no, definitely document everything. You probably won’t be able to release it for a while, if ever, though.”

“I understand,” Gregorio responded. “Just being here, seeing this… Wow. Just, wow.”

The Akron’s crew went down the hillside to the alien craft. It was shaped like a disk, about 30 meters in diameter, with a bulbous top and bottom. Its seamless metal gleamed in the sunlight until the sun hid behind a ridge. Then it was a dull gray. There was no obvious way in.

 

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After planting a flag and posing for a picture, the team got to work setting up their Pathfinder base and Surface Experiment Pack. It took a few days just to print and assemble a leveled foundation for the base, but it was worth it. Gregorio and Pepe documented the whole effort.

 

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The crew radioed Kerbal Space Center over a secure channel, catching Gene in the middle of celebrating Elcano 1’s landing to discuss their discovery.

“That’s just… incredible,” Gene radioed. “You’re on general communications lock-down as of now. No unencoded transmissions until further notice, and essential communications only over encrypted channels only. And please tell me you set up the Pathfinder base next to it.”

“Yes, Sir,” Kelbin responded. “We had to use the Sandcastle prototype to build a platform and it broke down shortly afterwards, but that… saucer is technically in the perimeter of the base. I figure we’d want to claim it, at least initially.”

“Good work, lieutenant! Good job! Ok. We’ll put in a Province Claim to the World Court right away. We’ll send the Fulton with a science team out to support you too. Once the base is firmly established, they’ll relieve you. You’ll be headed home soon for a debriefing. Well done, Akron.”

Kelbin breathed a sigh of relief. Headed home soon. Finally! He liked the sound of that.

A couple of days later, the Fulton arrived and settled down near the Akron. The crew got to work right away unpacking their additional Pathfinder elements.

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Fido’s front and mid wheels all suffered blowouts when the rover was overloaded with gear, but fortunately, Akron had several spares.

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Before long, Samalla repaired the reliable rover and continued expanding Camp Saucer. By sundown, the combined Akron and Fulton crew also established a small base camp up the hill.

 

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And after dinner, Kelbin quietly found his resignation letter and tore it in half.

***

 “Anything else you need, Captain Fredgan?”

“Nope, we’re all good here,” Fredgan said, smiling at Kelbin. “Thanks for staying an extra few days. You cadets have gone above and beyond with the whole K.E.E.P. thing. You’ve earned your wings in my book.”

Kelbin nodded. “Well, it gave us more time to check out that alien spacecraft! We’re all excited to learn more, but we’re also ready to go home and rest. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d stay just to figure out how to fly the thing!”

“Maybe one of these days you’ll get your chance to,” Captain Fredgan said. Kelbin opened his mouth to say something, closed it, and was about to respond when Gregorio called out on the wireless.

“Uh, captain? You know that ‘Valkyrie’ airship we met before? They’re hailing us and are asking to speak with you.”

 

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A few minutes later, the Valkyrie landed near the upper basecamp and her captain and first officer met with Kelbin and Fredgan.

 “No kerbonauts this time,” Kelbin asked. Fredgan chuckled and reached for another bag. He really liked Akron’s briefing room, it always had plenty of snacks.

 

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Siegfried smiled shook his head. “Nein. Zhey have other duties.”

“Ah,” Kelbin said, trying to smile and nod politely. “So, uh, looking for more tracking stations out on the ice?”

 

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“Ja, herr Kaptin, zere must be vone out here. Zhey are all over ze globe. But ve zpotted you on ze ice und decided to visit. You vere such goot company ze last time, ja? Und look at what ve found! Incredible!”

“Uh, well, we already staked a Province Claim on the site,” Kelbin said sheepishly.

“I vould have done ze same,” Siegfried admitted. “But perhaps we can share ze discovery und excavation, ja?”

“It would certainly help with international relations, but I’d have to pass your request on to my superiors,” Kelbin admitted.

“Ja, cooperation iz goot! Much more can be done zat way.”

Karl vonKerman, Siegfried’s aide, leaned towards his boss. “Hauptmann, Command vants us to resume our arctic exploration,” he said, pointing at his data pad. Siegfried shook his head and sighed.

“Eh, ‘duty calls’ as you Kermans say. Very well, Leutnant, inform ze crew. Ve launch immediately. Kaptin Kelbin, thank you for your hospitality. Next time we meet, ve shall host, ja?”

Kelbin nodded. The airship crews shook hands as the meeting adjourned, and they resumed their respective posts. Fredgan joined his crew at Camp Saucer. Not long after, Kelbin watched as the airship went aloft.

 

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Then she opened her cargo bay doors. Kelbin’s eye opened wide.

 

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“Gregorio! Send a distress signal immediately! The Valkyrie is armed!” Kelbin took a breath, then hit the ship-wide alarm. “Action stations, action stations! Set Condition One throughout the ship. This is not a drill. Repeat, action stations, action stations,” he said as calmly as possible. It was the first time in over twenty years that Condition One had been used aboard the Akron. It was reserved for combat operations. The crew looked puzzled and frightened but went to their stations like any other emergency drill.

The copilot finished sending their distress call. “I thought that cloud shredders were illegal after the Total Disarmament Treaty,” he commented.

Kelbin shrugged. “Tell that to them,” he said nervously and pointed at the vonKerman airship.

Above the arctic plain, the Valkyrie trained its weapons on the encampment. For several long moments it just circled with its guns ready.

“Why aren’t they firing,” Kelbin asked.

“Kelbin, its Bobus,” the engineer said over the intercom. “I can see the Valkyrie from Flight Ops. Remember that important matter I had to discuss awhile back? I snuck aboard their airship and saw what she was hiding. Valkyrie’s not firing because I sabotaged her weapons control. Now will you listen to me?

Kelbin momentarily froze and blanched. “I should’ve listened, that’s my fault. I’m sorry, Bobus,” he admitted.

Moho right you should’ve,” Bobus thundered. "We wouldn't be in this mess if you had!" Then he calmed down. “If they’re smart, we don’t have much time. Whatever you do, make it fast,” Bobus continued.

Kelbin nodded. They were unarmed and vulnerable and the Valkyrie knew it. He looked out the window and tried to calm his thoughts. His mind flashed to the dreams he’d had. That other self. He was a shuttle commander… Something in his mind clicked and fell into place. Kelbin felt calm and mentally focused for the first time in many months. He had to think fast though. They were unarmed. Unless… “Gregorio, you know those saucer videos you guys made?”

The acting copilot gave him a puzzled look. “Yeah..?”

“Send them everywhere you can. Hurry.” Kelbin punched the intercom. “Samalla, remove the general communications lockout. Crank up the transmitters to full. We’re going live. Then get up to the command gondola.”

“Aye aye, Sir,” Samalla squawked back. “You sound like the Captain.”

“That’s because I am,” Kelbin answered, knowing she referred to Captain James.

Gregorio left his seat and headed to the science lab. Samalla took his place and strapped in.

Seconds later, Gene could be heard over the wireless. “Akron, Flight. What the mulch is this about an ‘armed airship’ all about? What the mulch is going on over there?“

“Gene, the Valkyrie is a cloud shredder,” Kelbin said quickly. “They-“

Just then, a puff of smoke erupted from the Valkyrie’s belly, followed by a loud boom and an explosion.

 

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“Squad, that was close,” Kelbin said. There was a brief silence on the other end of the channel.

“Ok, I’m calling the president,” Gene responded. “Stall them as long as you can.”

“Already on it, Flight, we’re transmitting video of the site.”

“You’re what?!

“Flight, if we go down, somebody has to know what’s here. If we don’t then we need leverage in the World Court,” Kelbin countered.

“Well, you’re not wrong, Akron, but-“ a loud explosion rocked the ground as another round hit, this time tearing the upper camp site to pieces.

 

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“Those guys aren’t playing around,” Samalla said nervously.

“Hey, we got a pirate studio helping us out, we’re going global,” Gregorio shouted over the intercom. “They’re going to break into some national broadcasts.”

Kelbin was about to respond when the Valkyrie sent a large salvo towards their position. They heard the rounds whizzing by a split second before they found their target. The KSNS Fulton’s flanks exploded in a burst of fire as the airship split in two.

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Valkyrie wasted no time in finishing off the stricken airship with a hail of gunfire and missiles. Akron’s flight crew were in total shock.

 

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“- Repeat. Akron, this is your final warning. Withdraw immediately or you will be fired upon,” Leutnant Karl radioed over the international channel.

“Better do what they say, Kelbin,” Fredgan radioed from Camp Saucer. He sounded both mad and scared at the loss of his airship. “We’ve already transmitted our surrender and we’re heading up the hill to you. Camp Saucer signing off.”

 

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“Akron, Flight. We concur. Vacate the area. President Kenny is talking to Chancellor Alebeard as we speak. He’ll handle it.”

“But Gene-“

Don’t argue with me, lieutenant!” Gene took a deep breath before continuing. “There’s nothing more you can do. Return to KSC. Get Fred’s team and get out. Fast! That’s an order!”

“Akron, you have 30 seconds to comply,” the Valkyrie’s wireless operator added for emphasis.

“Alright, we’re shoving off!” Kelbin reached for the lifting gas controls. Akron lifted off right after the last of Camp Saucer’s personnel climbed aboard. As the airship gained altitude, Valkyrie trained her guns on the flying aircraft carrier.

They’re going to attack,” Samalla said in horror.

 

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All of a sudden, their armaments stowed themselves and the airship’s cargo doors closed.

 

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“What the-“ Kelbin said and watched, stunned. The Valkyrie turned, throttled up her engines, and veered off. “That’s… not what I expected…”

 

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Circling two Hundred and Fifty kilometers above the vonKerman Republic, Dolores Air Force Station opened the doors on its three newly installed cargo modules.

 

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“Those aren’t ‘science return capsules,’ are they,” Captain Gedra asked.

“No they most certainly are not,” is all Major Paire would say.

 

***

 

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Their around the world trip is over, but not this story! Stay tuned for the epilogue…

 

Edited by Angel-125

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6 minutes ago, Unturned_Fighter said:

Nice!

Just one question, though - what mod are the slabs that Camp Saucer was sitting on from?

Pathfinder. I used KerbalKonstructs to move them into place.

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11 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

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I forget, who owned the Dolores Air Force Station again?

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2 hours ago, roboslacker said:

I forget, who owned the Dolores Air Force Station again?

The Kerman Air Force. It was supposed to be MOLE-3, but the Air Force stepped in and took it over while, for a time, allowing KSP use of its lab space. It now services the DenEye spy satellites and sports 18 "science return capsules." (Actually, they are science return capsules, but in the story they're nukes.)

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6 hours ago, Angel-125 said:

The Kerman Air Force. It was supposed to be MOLE-3, but the Air Force stepped in and took it over while, for a time, allowing KSP use of its lab space. It now services the DenEye spy satellites and sports 18 "science return capsules." (Actually, they are science return capsules, but in the story they're nukes.)

in other words, its mission is "Plausible DenEye ability". ;-)

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ufyu8MN.png

“Congratulations on your promotion, Major Kelbin,” Gene said over the wireless. “The Air Force thanks you for your service by giving you more stuff to do. Be sure to check your personal effects once you reach orbit. Ok gang, you, Dr. Munvan and Samalla are in for one Moho of a ride. Kapollo 6, you are go for launch. Now get up there and get Skybase unpacked and ready for business!”

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***

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“Alright nuggets, you want to go into space like Kelbin and his crew? You’ll have to pass my training course first. The Original Four, The Next Three, and The Five New Guys all learned to work as a team on this course. Now you, the Scientific Six, must do the same. Just don’t expect any around the world trips; that was an anomaly. Now climb aboard the Rubicon, we’re airborne in five. Dismissed.”

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All but one of the student astronauts left the rooftop.

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“You know you don’t have to do this, Jim,” Liscella said. “With your service record and what we went through, you’re way overqualified. Mulch, you wrote the training course.”

“Actually, I do,” Captain James T. Kerman admitted, “It’s punishment for getting us jailed. Something about reading the manual and following it… Besides, I get to go on Akron’s last tour before she becomes a museum ship...”

***

Kerbin Galactic Launches Abenteurer Towards Eve

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Duna 23, 1967

Kosmodrome: Director Oskar vonKerman announced today that the Abenteurer, which previously had flown to Minmus and the Mun, launched towards Eve with a crew of four aboard. If their mission is successful, then the crew of Kerbin Galactic’s flagship will become the first to leave Kerbin’s sphere of influence, the first kerbals to reach another planet, and the first kerbals to land on Gilly. The unkermanned Kerbal Space Program’s Pioneer 4 mission, which also launched towards the purple planet but also with the intention to land on it, pales in comparison.

After her historic mission to the Mun, the Abenteurer was refit with a revolutionary nuclear thermal rocket system and advanced but untested life support…

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***

“Because of Chancellor Abelard’s press conference yesterday, the Lattice nearly shut down with all the talk about the arctic saucer lawsuit,” KIA Director Ryan Kerman said. “His claim that we tried to take the craft for ourselves won’t hold up though, especially after Akron’s live broadcast.”

President Kenny shook his head. “Between their flying battleship and our orbiting atomic weapons, the Total Disarmament Treaty is pretty much out the door. And so much for expanding ‘Camp Saucer,’ that alien ship will be tied up in the World Court for years.

“Speaking of aliens, we need to sanitize this speech a bit before the call with Enterprise...”

“Munbase Enterprise, Sir,” Ryan corrected.

“Right. We again acknowledge our discovery of ancient aliens and that they made the tracking stations and the mining pyramid and the monoliths, but we make it clear once more- truthfully- that they’re long gone. The skeleton the Akron’s crew found, the DNA that we share with the aliens, and the rest will have to wait. There’s a lot to take in as it is.”

“These continued cover-ups are going to cost us a lot of resources. And information leaks, whether deliberate or accidental, are bound to happen sooner or later. I’m starting to think it would be easier to just come clean,” Ryan admitted.

“Finally changing your tune then?”

Ryan shrugged. “More or less. Well, some things should be kept secret…”

President Kenny nodded. “Which brings me to our next item. How are we doing with the other one?

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“MSR-2 has done all it can.”

“Explain.”

Director Ryan took a deep breath. “Well, the rover is pretty beat up from all the crashes- KIA agents make better spies than remotely operated rover drivers. It lost both its surface scan lasers, one of its hydrogen sensors, the primary relay antenna, the auxiliary solar-“

President Kenny waved Ryan silent. “What have we determined with what’s left?

Directory Ryan continued. “Not much. We have mapped out its shape and have verified that its design is the same as the arctic saucer. Which reminds me, the Kerbal Space Center rolled out a rocket-powered mockup yesterday. It’s a hybrid saucer with wings. My informants say that they’ll have a working prototype in the near future. I suggest we add their designs to our research.”

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“Approved,” the President responded. “Back on topic. Anything else we know about the munar saucer?”

“Not really. To do more, we’ll need a research base, our own astronauts to staff it, some hidden bandwidth on the Echo Relay II satellites, and to appropriate the Round Range launch site where nobody will ask questions about our missions. Here’s the black budget request. It’ll be a joint venture between the Kerman Intelligence Agency and the Kerman Air Force.”

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President Kenny whistled. “Hm. It’ll be costly, but we’ll get a big head start before anybody else can crack open that arctic saucer. Very well,”

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“Project Excalibur is a go…”

Kelbin Kerman will return in: When We Left Kerbin

This story took months of planning and the creation of my Heisenberg mod to pull off along with tilt-rotors in Buffalo. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did making it. Thanks for reading! And just what is Project Excalibur? That’s another story, but it involves this:

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Oooh, good chapter. I love the vehicles and the interaction of the characters. And Ryan does have a good point... you can drop a Kerman on his or her head and nothing happens! But you drop a rover or if it flips over, parts fly everywhere!

For some reason, I'm not getting notifications about your work here. I now have a few chapters of yours to read and catch up on! :D 

And am glad to see the UFO mod in action!

Edited by adsii1970

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were the "science return capsules" expended or not, the story didnt make that clear?

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