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Voyage - The Final Warning (Interlude III - A Brief History of Galactus The Cow)


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  • 3 weeks later...

Interlude II - Stargazing Before The Storm

 

Spoiler

As you all have probably heard, we have completed our Tylo gravity assist without incident.

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Depending on how the rest of the mission goes, this may be our last time around Tylo. The current plan is to use a Tylo assist to correct our inclination and send us on a Kerbin return trajectory, but that could change. Because of this very efficient transfer profile, we might be able to get home without gravity assists, but because of the fact that our Laythe orbit will be near polar, I doubt it.

Alonya continues to be trained for the Laythe landing. We don't know where the monolith will be, but do know that landing the vehicle (Lost Dreams, not a very reassuring name) will be extremely difficult, so getting it down safely anywhere will be an accomplishment. Alonya may have to walk very far to get to the Monolith, maybe over the course of multiple days. As such, we're not just focusing on being able to land, but on Alonya's physical health, specifically her ability to walk long distances. Out of all of us, Cheng is the only one to have completed a long walk recently (on Tylo) and wasn't in bad shape to begin with. He is working fairly closely with her on that.

He seems to be incredibly concerned about this mission, and it's getting worse the closer we get to Laythe.

Like, I'm starting to get a bit concerned. He's starting to go a bit crazy. We've consulted experts on Kerbin, and he's not listening to him very much.

We will be around Laythe in a few Kerbal weeks. A short while later, the transfer window will open, and we will be on our way home. I look forward to seeing all of you again!

==========

"Planet Pock was just so beautiful! Oh, its aqua skies, dark foliage, the grand continent of the sticklands... So magnificent! And the pink marshes, along with those beautiful oceans!"

"Representative Galactus, please hold still."

"The oceans were much smaller than what most planets have. I can scarcely remember the gravity and atmospheric pressure, but it must be similar to Ratsch, or Kerbin, perhaps."

"Galactus - "

"And the rivers!"

"I understand you are passionate about your planet, but the sooner I can get this secured on your head, the sooner I can read your memories and extrapolate a virtual reality version of Planet Pock from them."

"Right, of course. I will hold still. And the other planets we had known about at the time... I almost have trouble recalling their names... One was red. There were two gray ones, at least two orange ones... Maybe a blue one?"

"And we still haven't found that system..."

"Yeah. I would assume it would be as easy as plugging the constellations I remember into the galactic star index and deriving possible locations, but it's not, apparently. Maybe I don't remember enough. Maybe I remember wrong."

"You are centuries old."

"And I sometimes still have the maturity of a 5 year old! But think, what if there are survivors out there? What if others survived the meteor? What if they managed to find their way to the red planet? Or one of the orange ones? What if I'm not the last Pockian?"

"Representative Galactus, I told you to hold still."

"I mean, I could find love, Arthur. Yes, it would be great for the species as a whole, but to think... Love. Some people these days don't know how easy they have it... Dreaming up reasons to never take a chance. Backing out, chickening out, even thinking about worst case scenarios and wasting their lives never knowing..."

"Alright. It's on."

"How long will this take?"

"A few hours, if you stay still."

"And you didn't tell me that until now?"

 

==========

 

Evelina's friends were gathered inside a hangout room in one of the tallest towers in the Kerbal city of Dani, one close to the Kerbal Space Center. They were playing a fairly standard game of four player three dimensional chess, if any playthrough of that game can be considered "standard." The conversation turned to the topic of Janicka, who wasn't there.

"I really wish she could have been here," said Riya.

"You're right, there's so much cool stuff to do in Dani," replied Zemel. "That waterpark was amazing, don't you think so?"

"No kidding. I miss her - and I bet you do, too, don't you Darrin?" said Savaria.

"Sorry, what?" he asked, putting down his phone.

"We're talking about your girlfriend, Darrin!" They chuckled.

"I was texting her just now, sorry for the distraction. The architecture competition is going well, she's currently estimated to be in second place!"

"She's doing that good?" asked Savaria. "That's awesome! Also, your turn, Darrin."

"Right, sorry."

"No problem. It's amazing that the Kerbals trust teenagers to build buildings..."

"I know, right?" replied Riya. "They trusted me to build a freaking submarine!"

"They trusted Evelina to build part of a spaceship, and then to be mission control."

"I'm worried about her," said Zemel. "She just straight up vanished during Homecoming."

"And we haven't heard from her since! We have something saying she's gone on vacation, but even her parents don't know where she is!"

"Yeah. Weird," responded Savaria. "Maybe she ran off with a secret boyfriend or something."

"Evelina? A secret boyfriend?" asked Riya. "Never in a million years. If she had a boyfriend, she'd have told me, and there's no way she'd jump into a relationship right away."

"She hasn't even told Ethan that she likes him!" interjected Darrin. "Even before he got selected."

"Yeah, circumstances are a big thing... It's not like telling him would do any good," said Riya.

"Still, her off with a random guy? No way! What if she got Kidnapped?" asked Darrin.

"Kidnapped? I've said this multiple times, this is Kerbin we're talking about! Nobody could get away with kidnapping."

"Well, hopefully we'll know the answer soon."

"Yeah. Also, Darrin, it's still your turn."

"Ah, right. Check, Zemel!"

"What? No way!"

And so the game continued. Riya thought again of her not-so-long lost friend Evelina... There was absolutely no way she'd run off with a guy that night, she would never unless she knew him really well, and the only person she knew that well was Ethan... And unless the laws of physics had changed, there was no way she ran off with him.

 

========== A few days earlier

 

"Hey, Ethan?"

"Yes, Evelina?" She took a deep breath.

"If we're going to do this, promise me one thing."

"Anything."

"Really?"

"Well, if you made me promise that I'd blow up the Earth, I probably wouldn't comply." We giggled.

"Promise me that if this doesn't work out, we'll be friends and nothing, or nearly nothing, will change."

"Absolutely. We've both said that's what we want multiple times, haven't we?"

"Right. Sometimes I just get so caught up in overthinking, and it can't hurt to make sure. Even if it involves forgetting the whole thing happened?"

"Yes. I promise."

"Then I promise too." We both stood there smiling for a few seconds.

"So, there's not exactly many options for a first date up here..." I said.

"Well, we've already gotten to know each other, so we can skip that step. There's still a lot we can do up here. There's movies. There's art. There's stargazing."

"Those sound like great ideas!"

"And as mentioned before, as far as the stars go, we have one of the best views anyone could ask for."

"Not as beautiful as you."

"Hey, you aren't allowed to say that yet, it's just the first date!" she joked, smiling and blushing slightly. My heart leapt. This was actually happening.

"I thought you said we could skip forward a bit!" I teased. I grabbed a blanket, walked over to the nearest galaxy facing window in the gravity ring, and sat down, leaning backwards onto an equipment cabinet. She followed.

"Well, I didn't mean it quite like that, handsome!" She sat down next to me, our shoulders touching. She smiled, and I smiled back, and after some internal nervous hesitation, I took her hand. We sat there for a few more seconds.

 

"Remember back on Kerbin, in the viewing area, where we watched the rockets and the stars together?" she asked.

"How could I forget?"

"I wanted to take your hand there."

"Me too."

"And right when I was finally about to make the move, we were teleported into that room, and you got selected to go into space."

"Yes. And part of me wished I hadn't been."

"And that was months and months ago... But here we are now, holding hands." She smiled at me again. We inched closer.

"So, where were we?"

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting tidbit to pass the time until the next chapter.

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Galactus the Cow is based on a comic book series I tried to make in middle school. There were supposed to be 13 books in the series, but I only finished the first three and a half. It's definitely not a 1:1 canon conversion, for reasons that are obvious if you were to read them (Galactus goes to Earth, the number of violent species, numerous copyright violations, that sort of thing) but many elements of the story are the same. Galactus escapes planet Pock on a TNT powered spaceship right as a meteor hits. He is on a quest for the Magic Boulder, a legendary space rock that has the power to restore planets.

Interestingly enough, Galactus' name wasn't even my idea, it was from a Voltz Wars Minecraft let's play where one of the players kept a cow named Galactus as a pet.

Also, I want to be done with this story by the time 2019 ends. I can't guarantee that I will meet that goal, but I finally have a complete or mostly so outline of the rest of the story. And it's summer, so I will have more time to write.

Edited by Ultimate Steve
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What is this 'middle school' you speak of? Is it like secondary school? Or is it something completely different?
(In England we have Primary school (Year 1 to Year 6), then Secondary school (Year 7 to Year 11, when you do your GCSEs) and finally 6th Form college (Year 12 to Year 13, when you do your A-Levels.))

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20 minutes ago, fulgur said:

What is this 'middle school' you speak of? Is it like secondary school? Or is it something completely different?
(In England we have Primary school (Year 1 to Year 6), then Secondary school (Year 7 to Year 11, when you do your GCSEs) and finally 6th Form college (Year 12 to Year 13, when you do your A-Levels.))

In the US school is divided into three main sections. Elementary school is Kindergarten through 4th or 5th grade, Middle school is 5th or 6th through 8th grade, and High school is 9th through 12th grade.

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Chapter 21 - Pull Up

Spoiler

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You all know what happened.

And we don't know what we're going to do.

We're all freaking out.

Even Cheng. Especially Cheng. He's been frantically trying to come up with a way to help.

Mission control is too.

And almost everyone else on Kerbin.

We all are.

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But I suppose I'd better keep this up, and we've got time. It may help me think straight, and if I don't write it down, I may forget it all... I doubt that, though.

The Voyager was aligned retrograde for the aerocapture. In hopes that the entry heat would be better spread out, the entire craft was spun up to speeds it was probably not designed for, speeds that the crew definitely did not enjoy. It was anticipated that we would most likely lose a few solar panels and batteries.

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I was seated in the cockpit for this, and it was pretty uncomfortable, basically like being held upside down, although not to the extent of Earth's gravity.

One thing about Laythe's atmosphere. It is really sudden and intense. Probably more intense heat-wise than Kerbin's atmosphere based on what we know.

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And we barely dipped into the atmosphere, too!

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As expected, several things exploded.

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But after that decently frightening ordeal, we came out on the other side in an atmosphere crossing, elliptical, near polar Laythe orbit. The Voyager's systems were all in good enough shape to continue the mission.

The narrow band scanner was turned on, and we began looking for the monolith. Alonya kept practicing the landing profile.

At this point, Cheng began getting more nervous than Alonya herself.

"Cheng, are you okay?" I asked.

"Ethan, can't you see I'm busy finding optimal impact angles based on the moisture content of the sand and local atmospheric pressure?" He turned to face me, with an annoyed look on his sleep deprived face. You could tell that he had barely slept in days. He was more exhausted than I was. "You know, in case the landing gear shorts out and doesn't deploy." Over his shoulder I saw pages upon pages of paper - a very rare commodity on board the ship (Cheng later told me that he worked better on paper than electronics) - covered in multiple layers of complicated math equations, each layer in a separate color.

"Whoa, when did you become a master of Calculus?"

"I wouldn't call myself a master, but about two weeks ago I asked Marie to teach me."

"Two weeks, and Calculus? Cheng, don't you think you could use a rest?"

"There is so much that can go wrong on this landing. I've only worked through less than a third of the fourth level of failure modes. It could be weeks until we find the anomaly, or it could be minutes. We need to be ready."

"And in order to be ready, we need to be well rested."

"Ethan, I appreciate your concern, but in the kindest way possible, shut up."

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Very soon after our burn to raise our periapsis above Laythe's atmosphere, the anomaly was detected. The next landing window would be in a few short hours, when our orbit lined up with the landing site. However, the crew elected to delay the landing for another orbit of Laythe around Jool in order to have time to prepare. Laythe's orbits last a bit under 16 hours, so the next landing opportunity would be in about 24. Hopefully plenty of time to prepare.

Everyone slept that night except for Cheng.

 

========== Star-Ethan's Private Journal

Holy crap, these last two weeks have been amazing!

A few things about cuddling, though.

  1. It's awkward when you're comfortable and have to get up to go to the bathroom.
  2. It's awkward when you have to say "Hey, I love this, but unfortunately I have lost circulation in my arm, so can you shift around a bit?"

But if I had to choose between a cuddle without circulation in either arm or no cuddles at all, definitely the first one. It would be so worth it.

When Evelina is in my arms, or when I am in hers, it's almost impossible for either of us to not smile.

As far as actual "dates," we're done stargazing a few times, watched many movies, and several other cool things. Despite being inside a spaceship, there's a surprising amount of stuff to do.

And kissing, well, it's sort of a running joke now, about being interrupted, but we haven't actually kissed yet. There have been several cheek kisses from both of us, though.

If you think I'm focusing too much on that stuff, the normal friendly stuff has continued as well. She's still the same funny, intelligent, enthusiastic person, and she has said similar things about me.

 

But one thing I'm worried about, well... We get back to Kerbin in a few days. I don't know how long it will be before whatever genius plan that the galaxy comes up with saves us all, but, well... After some research, I have determined that it is standard procedure to combine two clones into one person, so fortunately both of me get to live (but as one).

The thing is, Jebediah is most likely to have that procedure done on me rather than let us live our own separate lives, which means I'll be stuck on the Voyager again, and millions of miles away from Evelina... And I don't want it to be like that. I'm going to miss her so badly, and I hope that whatever happens, well... Yeah.

Got to go, we're watching another movie soon!

==========

 

========== Space-Ethan's Private Journal

Dear Mr. Star-Ethan, how do you think I feel? This tenuous link of consciousness is not enough for me any more and it's driving me crazy.

I applaud you for taking the chances you have taken, and I am happy for you. I sincerely do not hate you. In fact, I love you. I am so, so happy for you. But I miss Evelina too, and I don't know how this is going to play out with there being two of us, with different thoughts and memories - One version who is her second best friend, and one version who is her best friend and boyfriend. I may bring it up with Evelina, unless that would be too awkward for you.

I am incredibly jealous of you. Sorry. I thought this would work. I'll speak with Jeb about increasing the consciousness link between us. I hope it's possible. You've just got to understand, that from my perspective, a cool person just swooped in and stole my crush.

Sorry if I sound really angry. I know I do. And despite my best efforts, well, I am. Mostly frustrated and disappointed, with only a little anger... But even though I am trying really hard to not be angry... A little bit has made it through.

But, yeah. I hope this works out, too. For both of us.

And you said you don't want to be stuck on Voyager, millions of miles from Evelina... That's really low, Ethan Edwards.

We're going to need to come to terms with the situation.

==========

"Hey, why did you write that in your journal? You could have just talked to me."

"You're busy, Star-Ethan. You're watching a movie with your girlfriend."

"And you're preparing for a critical part of the most publicized space mission in human history."

"And you're on potentially the most important space mission in the history of the galaxy."

"Touché."

"Again, I'm not that mad. That comment about being alone on Voyager far away from Evelina hit me, though. Hard."

"I know, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. I shouldn't have written that. I shouldn't have even thought it. And I'm sorry for being so, what's the word... I forgot about you for a while. I got absorbed in my current adventures."

"And for that I can't blame you... Wow. I think I've almost become desensitized to the adventure I'm currently on... There have been so many other adventures, each more amazing then the last... Some people would kill for less than one of them."

"Right. We need to find a way to come to terms with this, as you said."

"Right. First off, what does Evelina think of this?"

"Ah. I haven't talked to her about that. I should."

"Wouldn't that be extremely awkward?"

"Ethan, you matter in this situation. I'd push through that awkwardness for my own sake, and you are me."

"No, I'm not you."

"Ethan, shut up, of course you are."

"It's like identical twins. Same DNA, or nearly so, but different memories."

"The vast majority of our lives have been as one person, we have a close relationship, and we are getting recombined later on."

"But still, you've got to admit - "

"Ethan, shut up. Stop thinking of yourself as less worthy than, well, yourself."

"This is the sort of stuff you never see people talk about when they get cloned in the movies."

"Yeah. And it's harsh and difficult, but we, well, I, gah, what pronoun am I supposed to use? We will work this out."

"Alright. I know that you know my frustration, and I trust you with that. We'll talk to Jeb at our next available chances."

"And I'll talk to Evelina the next chance I get."

"Thank you for doing this."

"Dude, you are me and I am you. Of course I would do it, it's you. I could just have easily been in your position, it all came down to... Well, it all came down to which one of us Jeb told to speak first, I guess."

"Yeah, I guess."

"We cool?"

"I sure hope so."

"Good night, Ethan."

"Good night, Ethan."

 

========== Star-Ethan's Private Journal

"Evelina, I need to talk to you about something," I told her while we were eating a meal (maybe breakfast? Time is all jumbled and days are meaningless up here).

"Oh sure, anything."

"Well, actually two things."

"Go ahead."

"First thing's first... As you know, there are two Ethans. We are mentally linked just enough so that we can read thoughts, but not enough to really physically experience what the other is experiencing. The other me has recently brought up his frustration to me about maybe sort of having a girlfriend who is dating another version of himself, and as you can imagine, it gets weird pretty quickly." I was a bit nervous saying all that, but not as much as I thought I was.

"I have thought a lot about that, but haven't had the right moment to bring it up... And you're right, it does get weird. I'm probably going to be fine with whatever we think of, so you don't really have to worry about that. I want the best for both of you."

"Likewise us for you. The only problem is, you know, getting there."

"I haven't talked about it because I haven't come up with a realistic solution. Just let the other Ethan know that I care about his happiness just as much as yours." We were silent for some time after that, thinking. "I mean, there doesn't appear to be a clear solution, but I guess I could start emailing him some more once we de-cloak. That would be a start."

"True." There were a few more seconds of silence.

"You said you had a second thing?" she inquired.

"Ah, yes... Speaking of uncloaking, we are getting very close to home. Jeb's probably going to recombine both of us into one Ethan, the one on Voyager. You'll go back to Kerbin, and we won't see each other for several months." She avoided looking at me for a few seconds.

"Yes... That is also something that I've been thinking about, but haven't wanted to bring up. I mean, with the invasion, and the evacuation, we may not be separated for months, but then it will get hectic... Most likely far too hectic."

"Too hectic for what?" She took a deep breath.

"Probably this. Long distance, high stress, high school relationships? Recipe for disaster, if you ask me."

"So what you're saying is?" I nervously asked.

"Look, I really like you. I don't want to lose you. But remember what you promised me?"

"Yes."

"I mean this in the kindest way possible, but if push comes to shove, I think we should just be friends, at least until the extraneous drama slows down." I mulled this over or a bit.

"As much as I don't want to admit it, that does seem like a reasonable course of action." She nodded. We sat some more.

"Well, that was depressing."

"No joke," I responded.

"You know what, though?"

"What?"

"We still have at least a week together," she said.

"On a spaceship."

"An interstellar spaceship!"

"One that went intergalactic, pretty much!"

"With a badass alien ruler who stands for justice and awesomeness!"

"We're helping him save the galaxy from evil aliens!"

"We're seeing things that no humans have seen before"

"And I'm doing it with the most amazing person I have ever met!"

"Right back at ya, cutie!" she responded. I blushed quite a bit!

"Come on, you're the cutest human in the room!"

"There are two people in the room."

"You're also the cutest human for several thousand light years in each direction!"

"Still two people!" she said with a smile.

"Well, based on what you just said, the other person in the room set the bar pretty high!"

"Alright, I give." She kept smiling.

"And think, if you had told me, a year ago, that I'd get even one minute of an experience like this, I would have told you to stop reading so many sci-fi books, and maybe to get your head checked. But here are we now... We can look at it as just one week, or as a whole, entire week."

"You're right, Ethan. Let's quit moping and live." She leaned over and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, taking my hand in the process. "Come on, let's go watch the stars some more, or a movie. We could play a game. Race around the ship. Mess around in zero gravity. Build something cool. As long as we have fun together, and live life to the fullest we possibly can... I'd see that as one of the best ways that we could ever use our time."

"I agree wholeheartedly. Let's go do do something amazing." I squeezed her hand. "I mean, we should probably finish breakfast first, though."

 

========== Space Ethan's Private Journal

While Orbiting Laythe, Before the Landing

"Let me get this straight - you already have linking of consciousness, and you want recombination of consciousness?" asked Jebediah skeptically. We were meeting in the rear of the Voyager, speaking in whispered tones as to not be heard.

"If that's what it is."

"Ethan, this can get incredibly dangerous. It works by recombining your minds into one consciousness, focusing on just one body while the other one sleeps."

"And that's exactly what I want, is it not?"

"Well, yeah, it can be useful... But there are side effects."

"What sort of side effects?"

"If you spend too much time as a single consciousness, then even while you are separated, thoughts, and even actions will begin to transfer between your bodies."

"Meaning?"

"It starts with random thoughts, from the other you, then small twitches. Mild insomnia soon follows if the two of you don't coordinate your sleeping schedules. Emotions transfer over. Then, mild twitching."

"That's all?"

"I'm not done yet. The mild twitching can become full body movements if not corrected."

"So on occasion, if he reaches for a jar I end up slapping someone?"

"Yes. But if you're on the edge of a cliff and he walks forwards, well..."

"That only happens if I do it too much, right? I'll regulate it. How many hours a day can we spend as a linked consciousness?"

"Well, here's the thing... We don't know."

"You don't know?" I asked. "I thought this was a tried and tested technology?"

"Every species is different. Some species don't feel it for days, some, mere minutes. Some species, it doesn't even work on at all. No human has ever tried this before, so I can't recommend it."

"You sure?"

"It would be an experiment."

"An experiment, you say?" asked Bob as he entered the module.

"Ah, Bob!" said Jeb.

"What were you talking about back here?"

"Talking about attempting a recombination of consciousness on Ethan."

"Wait, Bob knows?"

"Of course I know, Ethan," he whispered. "I sincerely wish I didn't. Neither Bill nor Val knows, though."

"You didn't tell me?" I asked Jeb.

"There are a lot of things I don't tell you."

"And yet, when I ask, you always seem to crack."

"Not always!"

"Have you ever been married, Jeb?"

"No, regrettably. I did have a few girlfriends, but that was way, way back, before the first Kerbal spaceflight..."

"Favorite galactic representative?"

"Easily Xanth."

"How's the evacuation plan going?"

"Behind schedule, but we're ramping up."

"See? Three personal things you just answered right like that." Jebediah began to protest before realizing that I had a point.

"Okay, besides that... Bob! Do you want to perform the first ever attempted consciousness link on a human?"

"I'm a politician, Jebediah, I haven't done scientific work for years... But my old passion calls once more..."

"He wants it so he can interact with his - "

"SAY NO MORE! FOR SCIENCE!"

"Woohoo!" I said.

"Shh, both of you, someone will hear!"

"So, how long will it take until I can combine consciousnesses?" I asked.

"A few days for mapping, and probably a bit longer for training. Should be about a human week if you really try." My heart sank.

"But we're due to be recombined after about a week."

"Oh. Problem solved then," said Jeb. "Why bother at all?"

"Jeb, you've got me started and I can't stop!" proclaimed Bob. "We start now!"

"I mean, we've got something pretty important going on right now."

"Ah, right. We start tomorrow!"

 

==========

 

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Alonya had undocked and was now piloting the spaceplane, Lost Dreams, down towards the surface of Laythe. Cheng had been frantically bombarding her with information about edge case scenarios, and continued to over the radio. Alonya had little time to absorb that information, however.

She would enter at a shallow angle, bleeding off as much energy as possible before encountering the thick part of the atmosphere, so the spacecraft would receive minimal entry damage. While this was indeed risky, it was not the most difficult part of the landing - that would be the touchdown itself.

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After multiple systems checks, the de-orbit motors were fired, performing nearly exactly exactly as expected. This would put her landing site relatively near the anomaly.

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"Alonya to Voyager, we have had a good de-orbit burn."

"Voyager to Alonya, Godspeed."

"See you in a few days, guys!"

"You too!" At that point, Cheng took the microphone.

"Alright, I don't need to tell you the plan again, I have faith that you know it well enough to get the job done."

"Roger that, Cheng. Maneuvering to entry attitude."

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Five minutes later, Alonya was in the atmosphere, maneuvering wildly to help distribute heat.

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"Landing site in view, flames decreasing, damage minimal! Beginning turn maneuver!"

"Good to hear." Cheng was holding his breath. "All is going well so far, right?"

"All systems nominal." He breathed a sigh of relief. "Wait..." she said. He tensed up.

"What?"

"Control authority is much lower than expected." Cheng's heart skipped a beat.

"Set authority limiters to 150!"

"They are at 150!"

"Reaction wheels on?"

"Yes."

"Oh no." He scrambled to a nearby computer console, with loads of data pouring in. After a few seconds of analysis, he proclaimed: "The craft is behaving like it has an offset center of mass!"

"So instead of minimal control authority I have just about zero!"

"Get as far forward as you can in the capsule!"

"There's not much space in here, but I'll try. Subsonic. Scheduled landing gear deployment test now!" There was a buzzing sound and a click.

"Two landing gears are in position," reported Marie.

"What happened to the other one?" demanded Cheng. "We need to get it unstuck!"

"Oh no," I said, having a grave realization.

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"Well this explains the center of mass issue."

"WHERE DID IT GO?" screamed Cheng.

"I can't nose up any more!"

"HOW IN THE WORLD DID WE LOSE A WHEEL?"

"Cheng," interjected Sean, "We can focus on the how later. We need to focus on what we're going to do next!" Cheng glared and clenched his fists for a fraction of a second more, and then turned back to the microphone.

"Alonya, you are going to have to perform an ocean landing."

"Okay," she said nervously. "We've trained for this, but not much."

"What if she does a touch and go? Skims the surface of the waves and then immediately powers back to orbit?" I asked. Cheng got excited for a second, but then his face fell.

"The challenge specified someone walking on the surface! Skimming isn't walking!"

"What if she hung her foot out the window?"

"Pulling up at just the right time requires concentration! And she trained for slightly wrong flight characteristics! And the hatch is on the wrong side!" We were all frantically trying to think of a solution.

"Okay, forget landing near the monolith. Water landing. Big runway. Not like I have any other choice, this thing is falling like a dart!"

"Coming up on engine test!"

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"Engine gimbal has some effect on maneuverability! Shutting down!"

"Good! Do you need to abort to orbit?"

"If I do, we fail. Humanity dies." We were silent for a few seconds. The Kerbals had said nothing the entire time, watching with varied expressions. Bill glanced nervously at Bob.

"Fair point. The craft is more tail heavy, but more aerodynamic. Pull up altitude and behavior should be nearly the same as in the simulations."

"The number of batteries exploding during re-entry would affect landing characteristics more than this."

"Except on the ocean, horizontal velocity doesn't matter as much. Hit the water with any vertical velocity, and... Well, don't." Alonya's heart rate was displayed on one of the screens. It was high, and getting higher still.

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"Drogue parachute has been successfully deployed!"

"Who designed this thing?" asked Marie. "No or badly attached nose landing gear, control surfaces with no effect, and not even a proper parachute to land with!"

"Now is not the time to be pointing fingers!" said Jack.

"It's a deathtrap!" I said under my breath.

"Altitude five kilometers and dropping... Four kilometers..."

"Is your engine ignition timer program running?" Cheng asked. He was referring to the program he had coded which displayed proper engine ignition time based on pitch angle, atmospheric pressure, velocity, and altitude, among a few other factors.

"Yes. 3500."

"And - "

"Cheng, I need to concentrate. I need all of you to be, silent, unless absolutely necessary." We all shut up. We all held our breaths.

 

==========

 

A memory took over Alonya's mind.

 

Quote

"Heating at eighty percent of maximum! Whose idea was it that you fly this, Alonya?"

"Yours. I'm doing perfectly fine, Reginald. Apogee is rising. We're just a little close to the horizon, is all."

"Twenty degrees above is not "a little" close! We're at ninety percent of maximum fairing temperature!"

"I'm throttling up the center engine and detaching the boosters now."

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"How can we still communicate with it? It should be impossible due to the ionization! Why is the ionization showing up so slow anyway?"

"Reginald, you obviously didn't look up anything on how to fly Kerbal rockets. Heating up to 90 percent is perfectly normal."

"Alonya! Pull up!"

"I am pulling up, you - "

Alonya Chadova,

Pull up.

At the exact right time, pull up.

Pull up for your teammate, Reginald.

Pull up for your twin sister Vasilisa, who you haven't seen in months.

Pull up for your old coworkers at the Proton plant.

Pull up for Ethan and Jack and Marie and Cheng.

Pull up for every lover, every poet.

Pull up for every artist, every dreamer.

Pull up for every memory, future or past, happy or sad.

Pull up for all of humanity.

PULL UP!

 

The light on her monitor flashed. Alonya slammed the throttle forwards. The jet engine spooled up, pushing the craft faster, increasing the drag on the parachute, pulling the nose upwards.

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She adjusted what little she could to keep the craft on its proper course, but what she could do was, at best, minimal. The engine, with its slow response time, was her elevator.

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In the span of an instantaneous eternity, the Lost Dreams pitched up, slowly leveling out.

As the seconds passed, the ocean below got closer and closer, although time had no meaning in moments like this.

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This is the most pivotal moment in human history so far. If this is not perfect - If I am not perfect - people will only know my name for my failure. My failure to save humanity. Worse than what I was known for back home... And I am not, have not, and will never be perfect. What kind of engineer was I, anyway? Always dropping parts. Breaking things. How many launch failures did you almost cause, Alonya Chadova? How many millions of dollars of equipment was nearly blown up because of you? And Dimitri... No amount of pulling up can save him now, and it's all your fault, you stupid little - 

 

==========

KERSPLOOOSH!

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We all saw the ditching on the monitors. The plane hit the water and violently pitched downwards, splashing with a tremendous sound that maxed out the microphones. Most of us jumped a little bit. The craft came to mostly a standstill and the parachute deflated. And after what felt like an eternity...

"Alonya to Voyager, Lost Dreams is down, not a single part appears broken!" We all cheered, and clapped, grinning the whole time. Cheng looked the most relieved out of all of us. Marie, Jack, and I participated in a big group hug. The Kerbals noticeably relaxed, and a few joined in on the festivities. This landing had pretty much always been the most daunting moment of the mission, and now it was over - and it was a success!

"Guess you're going to have to swim quite a ways to go plant that flag!" joked Cheng.

"Haha, you're right! I've got to get out of this thing first, the nose dipped pretty deep into the water upon landing."

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Alonya pulled back on the stick.

"Weren't you on a swim team at one point, Alonya?" asked Marie.

"Oh no."

"You weren't?"

"No, I mean, yes, I was, but - "

"But?" Cheng froze.

"I can't pull up."

"Nonsense, of course you can!"

"The reaction wheels aren't strong enough!" Alonya began to panic. "The natural position for the craft is straight downwards!"

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"Fire the engine," suggested Marie. "Kerbal jets can store atmospheric oxygen long enough to go underwater. Go under, and porpoise out of the water!" Some of the tension in the room dissipated.

"You should have enough fuel to do a short test run," said Cheng. "Don't take off, though."

"Alright. Now?"

"I don't see why not."

"Engine on. Spooling to full thrust. Sinking... Sinking!"

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"Dammit," proclaimed Alonya. The engine cut off, having been unable to push the plane fully underwater.

"So..." I began.

"No," Cheng whispered. I turned around to face him. His face was pale. Extremely pale.

"Cheng?"

"Excuse me." Cheng reached for a puke bag. None had been needed for months. He exited the command center. We heard him throw up several times, even through the various compartments of the ship.

"Let's not panic yet," I said through the microphone. "Everyone on Kerbin is going to be working on this problem. There are things we haven't considered. We're going to get you home, Alonya."

"The monolith," she responded. "The monolith is the answer. I'm going there."

"Let's not make decisions too soon - " cautioned Marie.

"And why not?"

"We don't know if you can dive well in the suit. If the hatch is underwater, you could leave the craft and not be able to get back in."

"I didn't come all this way to be defeated by an underwater ladder."

==========

But I did come all this way to be defeated by one missing wheel.

==========

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"I tested. I can get back in."

"Can you push the nose up?"

"No. The craft is too heavy. And even if I could, I would have to be inside the plane in order to take off."

"Could you wait until you float to shore?"

"Ocean currents are very weak in this area," I reported.

"Wind?"

"What would I make a sail out of?"

"Could you get out and push it to shore?"

"Do I look like an Olympian? Even Olympians would have a hard time pushing a multi-ton mass several dozen kilometers across an alien ocean IN A SPACESUIT!"

"What if we - " I was cut off by Alonya's desperate, determined voice.

"I am going where I can find an answer. I am going to the monolith!"

 

==========

"Despite my best efforts, I have... failed," whispered Cheng, curled up in a ball, crying. "I have changed... Nothing... She is stranded... And I... I... NO!" He suddenly jumped up and punched a wall. A visible dent remained. His face bore an expression of resolute rage. "I CAN STILL CHANGE THINGS!"

 

"I WILL DEFY THE MONOLITH!"

 

 

 

 

 

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Wow.

As I said before, I wish I could give you more rep.

About 100 per chapter.

I also want to add that this made me feel almost as worried as when Tedus nearly crashed in E:O0. (I would have been more worried had you released the news that she surived several weeks later).

That is my highest praise for a fan-fiction work.

Edited by fulgur
ALONYA'S ALIVE
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13 hours ago, fulgur said:

Wow.

As I said before, I wish I could give you more rep.

About 100 per chapter.

I also want to add that this made me feel almost as worried as when Tedus nearly crashed in E:O0. (I would have been more worried had you released the news that she surived several weeks later).

That is my highest praise for a fan-fiction work.

Aww, thank you! That reminds me, I should read the Kerbfleet graphic novels again, it's been a while! And yeah, not as much of a cliffhanger as it could have been. I went easy on you... This time...

:)

5 hours ago, RealKerbal3x said:

A sublime chapter. :D

Is that different from sublemon?

2 hours ago, obney kerman said:

[adjective] chapter.

[adjective] reaction!

1 hour ago, Kerballing (Got Dunked On) said:

Wow... *reps for days*

My mind... cannot comprehend the vastness of this story!

Yeah, this story is such a spiderweb at times... I kept having new ideas and putting them into the story... I'm mostly glad for that, though. The story would have been so different had I stuck with the initial concept... But of course that means that if/when I do a big revision there is so much to change...

Going on a vacation on the 22nd through the 7th, I think. I won't be able to write then, and I might get something done before then, I might not, just so you know!

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Yet another cliffhanger... You've got to stop!

Just kidding... I love this story!

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Chapter 22 - New Stars Above Jool

Spoiler

 

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It's been about a week since the ill-fated Laythe landing. Alonya has been alternating between swimming and sleeping, floating on the open ocean. We're told that fortunately, Laythe doesn't have sharks. At this point, she has reached the shore, and is a few more hours of walking away from the monolith. She had elected to rest before continuing. Fortunately, the spacesuits are just as waterproof as they are spaceproof.

As for getting her back, well... We don't have many good ideas. Our current best idea is to jury rig a tool kit out of various supplies we have up here on the Voyager, and then send it down in a jury-rigged entry capsule, with a jury-rigged parachute. Unless we stole one from the return vehicle, but that would be pretty unwise.

The Emerson is it's own entry vehicle... But we wouldn't dare use it. Without it, one of us isn't making it through the Kerbin atmosphere alive.

With those tools, Alonya would reconfigure the aircraft to be more controllable, and to float in a way to allow for takeoff. Some plans involve the addition of a hydrofoil, again jury-rigged. Alonya, being an actual certified aerospace engineer, is at an advantage as far as the modifications are concerned.

Unfortunately, well... Alonya can gather oxygen from Laythe's atmosphere, and water from the oceans, but the food... We can, to a certain extent, airdrop (spacedrop?) food to her, but we can't make too many of those drop pods with our limited resources. In addition, Kerbal parts are remarkably buoyant, but small pieces? Nuts and bolts, makeshift tools, and even smaller chunks of aircraft? They still sink. How much can Alonya drop before the plane becomes unfixable? Her time on the surface is limited primarily by the availability of parts.

A lot of people are trying to think about using one of our extra spacecraft as a lander to prop the spacecraft up so it can launch. We certainly have some extra spacecraft components up here. The John Cena, for instance. The anomaly scanner, as well. Those are pretty much dead weight at this point. The klaw adapter could even be of use, but we would have to free fly Emerson alongside the ship for the journey home because it would no longer have an attachment point.

The problem is, well... The Lost Dreams doesn't have a thrust to weight ratio of greater than one. The intake needs sufficient airspeed in order to provide enough thrust to take off. This would be fine if we had a runway... But we don't. We need to boost the plane to something like 15 meters per second in order for it to be able to sustain vertical velocity.

And to throw in another curveball, Alonya doesn't have enough liquid fuel to go fast enough to reach orbit. Too much was used on the descent, and the craft was already very borderline. Even with the EVA pack, we would need to swoop in with the Emerson or the John Cena and pick her up.

Which gets me to the next point, probe control and landing capability. Whatever we send down there also needs to be controllable and landable. The Emerson is pretty much useless except for its parachute, and we need it up here. The scanner is controllable but has no reaction wheels and no propulsion, and certainly can't land. The klaw adapter is controllable and has RCS capability, but not enough to land. The John Cena has enough thrust to land itself, but not much else, and is not probe controllable.

We're doing our best to think of a plan, it is far, far easier said than done.

We've even checked out the stuff we left in high orbit on moving day.

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The antenna has plenty of oxidizer on board, and still has some battery charge left despite not having any generators.

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The missile, in theory, is still usable, but has long since run out of power.

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Nothing of use here besides maybe an adapter and some RCS fuel, but we already have an adapter, and enough RCS fuel to do almost anything you could want to do.

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Now this. This has a probe core, fuel storage, maneuvering engines, and parachutes... However, it is nearly out of fuel, and completely out of electricity.

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This is also dead. No solar panels. Pretty much out of fuel.

In theory, with the Emerson and the klaw adapter, one of the small ones could be recovered and brought back to Laythe, but doing that before Alonya runs out of food, and depending on how long the maneuver takes, before the transfer window home, well... It would be difficult.

Whatever you believe in, pray for Alonya. But don't just pray. Think. Do. Help us. We are running out of ideas...

 

==========

 

Cheng looked at the map. Alonya was getting very close to the monolith now.

"How desperate am I... Begging for the entity that showed me the future to offer me a way out of it," he whispered to himself.

He looked at the piles of equations he had made, before and after the landing. Very little of it had been of any use, and none of the similar stacks on Kerbin had been either. The plan to rebuild the plane on the ocean was stupid. With the majority of the plane underwater? With minimal downmass in an improvised container that may or may not work? That might sink in the ocean? That might land dozens of kilometers away? The list of things that could go wrong was nearly endless. Despite all of that, it was the second best plan they had, in terms of getting Alonya home.

Cheng had not yet started work on the best plan, but he knew it was there, and he knew what would happen afterwards. The monolith had told him. However, he did not wish to pursue that avenue until he knew that it was the only way.

 

==========

 

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"Alonya to Voyager."

"Roger, Alonya."

"I'm ready."

"Are you sure?"

"No, but I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

"Just a quick recap on the side effects. We've had being thrown back, teleported long range, being teleported short range, and having gravity temporarily reverse. We've never had a duplicate, so we're unlikely to have one now. They all involve the position and/or momentum of the person touching it."

"Alright, then. It's always been nonlethal, usually a novelty, once helpful. I will be fine."

"Standing by."

"Right then. Please - show me the way home."

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"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

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Alonya was teleported into the air and dropped.

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"ROCK!" Everyone on the ship thought that she meant she was about to fall onto a rock. However, though the thud was loud and abrupt, she did not land on a rock.

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There were several seconds of silence before Alonya spoke. When she did speak, she spoke with disbelieving accusation.

"Jebediah Kerman, what did you do?" We all turned to face Jeb, who had been silent the whole time, and looked to be just as confused as we were.

"I don't know what you're - "

"Could you bring yourself to press the button again?" He froze.

"Alonya, how do you - "

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"Could you?"

"No. Excuse me." He left the forward section of the Voyager for the rear, stiffer and more briskly than usual.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me there," said Alonya. "I'm not sure that was me talking."

"What did you see?" asked Marie.

"Same as you. The five monoliths, now all full. A weird tunnel of events. And, of course, things that I am not at liberty to discuss."

"What can you tell us?" asked Cheng.

"I'm surprised myself... Four things."

"Four?" asked Jack. "We all pretty much had one, except for Ethan, who had none!"

"The rock is important. The flower is important. The no is important."

"Those are a bit vague," replied Jack.

"They are as specific as they need to be."

"And the fourth thing?" asked Marie.

"Well, I can shake off the crypticness now." We could see on her face camera that she started smiling. "There is a way to get me home!" We all instantly relaxed a bit.

"Good!" said Cheng, almost shouting. "Absolutely fantastic! What is that way?"

"I don't know," she said.

"You don't know?" asked Cheng.

"Nope."

"At all? Or are you just not telling us?"

"No, I swear. The monolith told me that it exists, but not what it is."

"Anything you can tell us at all?" asked Cheng. "Any details?"

"No, not really."

"Say it again. What you know."

"Cheng, you're analyzing minimal amounts of information," Marie replied.

"No, it's fine," said Alonya. "Maybe I'll remember something."

"Go on, then."

"The monolith told me that there is one way to get me home."

"One way?"

"Umm, yeah. Why?"

"Are you sure that it said "One?" Just one?"

"Yes. One way to get me home. I'm glad that there is a way!" Cheng abruptly stood up, fists clenched.

"Excuse me." Cheng left the room.

"Cheng, what are you doing?" I called after him. He froze, and spoke with resolve.

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm finding the way."

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"I'm going to rest for a while, then start the journey back."

"Alright. Rest well, Alonya," said Marie.

 

========== Star Ethan's Private Journal

My goodness. Things have gotten extremely crazy. Too crazy. I didn't think they could get this crazy... I haven't had a chance to write since about the same time as the Laythe landing.

That last week on the Legacy II was amazing. If I tried to go into detail, I couldn't. The only thing more powerful than the sense of connection Evelina and I felt together was possibly the K-drive powering the ship. However, the amount of time we had left together was low to begin with, and the date of our return to the Kerbol system loomed like a dark stormcloud in the distance, getting closer and closer with each passing hour.

We still hadn't kissed. The running joke went on too long, in my opinion... Part of me wanted to do it as a goodbye gesture, but there were two problems with that. One, kissing at the point in time that we were supposed to break up, well... Not wise. The second problem, the mood was terribly off. TERRIBLY.

Alonya got stranded on Laythe about a week before we were due to return. At that point, we panicked a little bit, but we still had faith that we would figure out a solution. As the hours passed, however, more and more possible solutions were ruled out, and the situation got bleaker. I decided to ask Jeb about what would happen.

"What if she is permanently stranded?" I asked.

"I'm not at liberty to answer that question."

"You won't just let her die, will you?"

"I've answered too many of your questions already. I appreciate the company, but you weren't supposed to be here at all. You're supposed to be back on the Voyager. And you're supposed to be wearing your Kerbal disguises."

"Romance sucks when you're masquerading as another species."

"I know. But planetary security - "

"Marginal planetary security. Remember all those decades ago, when you had girlfriends?"

"Centuries, not decades. And how could I forget..."

"Just remember how that felt."

"I get your point, but at the same time - "

"I'll keep the disguise on whenever we're not together, and I'll tell her to do the same."

"And when are you not together?"

"Actually a lot."

"I need you two to both be ready to put your disguises on at a moments notice, and any time that is not strictly important to romance, wear the disguises. Got that?"

"Yes, Jeb. Thank you."

 

At about that time, Alonya touched the monolith. And Cheng... Oh, boy. I don't know what he saw in his monolith... But he looks like he has been hit even harder by what he saw, and by the things that Alonya's monolith implied. That's Space Ethan's job to keep track of, though. I have way too much to deal with right now, so I'll leave that to him.

 

But Jeb also got hit by Alonya's words, the ones the monolith gave her.

"So, Jeb...  Talking about what the monolith told Alonya... What did you do, exactly?"

"Go away."

"You pressed a button?"

"Get. Out."

"That you can't bring yourself to - "

"SHUT UP! I SAID GET OUT!" He turned to face me, fists clenched, his face twisted into an expression of agony. This was the angriest I've ever seen Jeb. So I turned and walked away.

"Sorry."

"Ethan... I'm far more angry at myself than I ever could be at you." He stayed in a sour mood for several days.

 

==========

"Meros," Jebediah whispered to himself.

==========

 

Much of the work towards Recombination of Consciousness (ROC) was done on my end, as I didn't have to keep the endeavor secret. However, time was running short, and none of the tests had been successful. With less than a day left until we arrived at Kerbin, my clone asked Bob, "What do you think my chances are of having a successful ROC by tomorrow? Not that it matters."

"Near zero."

"And there's nothing I can do to help that?"

"Extreme emotional response and extreme stress usually help, but also dramatically increase the side effects."

"So Alonya being stranded could help?"

"I said Extreme emotional response. Even if you had been in Alonya's situation during the landing, that wouldn't be enough."

"Alright. I don't think I'll pursue that avenue then."

"Don't. You've gotten yourself into plenty of trouble already."

"Yes, I'll admit, sometimes, I get myself into trouble. But, Bob? Most of the time, the trouble comes right to me."

 

We were mere hours away from our return to Kerbin. We were all in the control section (bridge, cupola, cockpit, whatever you want to call it) of the Legacy II, travelling slower than usual, as was the protocol for most approaches into populated star systems. Evelina and I were holding hands, but not smiling. We both knew that we did not have very much time left, in addition to the emotional turmoil that remained from all of the events listed above.

"The current plan is a docking at the high Kerbin orbit ring. Another ship will ferry a recombination device, Ethan, and I, to the Voyager. Ethan will be recombined, and in order to make it look like the mission never happened, me as well. Evelina will be taken back down to Kerbin in a space elevator, and that will be that."

"How much longer do we have here?" I asked.

"You've asked many times, but now it's down to the traffic."

"There's traffic all the way out here?"

"Well, no. Only once we get closer to Kerbin. If there was another ship close enough to us to make a difference, it would have to be looking for us."

"Well, I hope we have a lot of traffic, then," Evelina said, squeezing my hand.

"Uncloaking in three, two, one... There. We are visible to the outside world again.Now we can return to the system without looking as suspicious."

"Oh yeah, what's suspicious about the most powerful Kerbal in the galaxy going who knows where with two younger Kerbals who have almost no idea what they are doing, all alone in a decades old obsolete interstellar spaceship?" Jeb looked at his monitors and didn't respond. His eyes widened.

"Jeb?" asked Evelina. Jeb's eyes widened.

"Disguises on!"

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The ship rocked to the side violently. There was a visible flash and a very loud bang, followed by a scary amount of creaking.

"WARNING: PROXIMITY ALERT!"

"A bit late!" shouted Jebediah.

"The ship can talk?" shouted Evelina.

"Never mind that, we're being shot at!" I panicked.

"We're not being shot at!" shouted Jebediah. "Unidentified vessel, we have been caught in your warp wake, please maneuver away!"

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Another explosion rocked the ship.

"HYDROGEN TANKS DAMAGED. K-DRIVE DAMPER 14 DAMAGED."

"Okay, we're being shot at. Strap yourselves in!" Jeb shouted. I got myself into the nearest seat and fumbled with the buckles on the harness, dropping them several times in panic. Evelina did the same.

"What are we going to do?" panicked Evelina. Jeb flicked several switches.

"WARNING: K-DRIVE OPERATING OUTSIDE RATED REGIME."

"Override."

"K-DRIVE AT 1000 PERCENT CAPACITY."

"Engage combat mode."

"ENGAGING COMBAT MODE."

"Combat mode?"

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The Legacy II immediately jumped away from the unknown ship and abruptly began retracting both of the gravity rings.

"This ship was an exploratory ship before we met the council!" explained Jeb. "We didn't know whether other species would also be peaceful!"

"So this was a warship?" asked Evelina.

"No! This is secondary and emergency!"

"MANEUVERING THRUSTERS ONLINE. FUEL 62%. NUCLEAR MISSILES ARMED."

"Finally!"

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The Legacy II was now accelerating extremely fast. I could visibly see Kerbol getting larger through the window. The ship shook. It had never shaken before this moment.

"Do you think it's The Species?" I asked, panicking, dreading the response.

"Who else could it be?" Shouted Jebediah.

"Hopefully they can't accelerate this fast," said Evelina.

"You think that they can't accelerate as fast as a decades old exploration ship? Are you mad?"

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"Oh no."

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"Pulsed warp! They have pulsed warp capability!" shouted Jeb.

"What's that?"

"Enough power generation on board to jump into warp hundreds of times per second!" Jeb suddenly turned the ship in an attempt to dodge a volley of laser bolts. "And they have two separate laser systems! Bolt and constant!" I was still trying to properly buckle my harness. "Pulsed warp allows for extremely high maneuverability, especially when coupled with high precision warp differential, and both of them allow for mid-warp rendezvous with ships at any realistic speed!"

"Do we have that in any ships?"

"Everyone thought that the required energy density and efficiency were impossibly high!" he shouted. "That and its only real use is combat!" There was another blast that came from the rear of the ship. And another. The ship vibrated even more, and spun around several degrees, almost throwing me out of my seat. Jeb turned around again.

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"And there's two of them! At least!"

"HYDROGEN TANK 3 DESTROYED. MUON CATALYST 4 DESTROYED. DAMPER 2 DESTROYED."

"What are we waiting for? Nuke them!" I shouted.

"How?" he asked. "Pulsed warp! All they need to do to warp is literally almost nothing! Dodging would be trivial!"

"Well what are we going to do?"

"It's been theorized that pulsed warp engines are very sensitive to radiation and can totally fail under a high load," responded Jebediah. Another explosion rocked the ship as the lasers made contact. "But that's all just theoretical!"

"So we could nuke them?" I asked.

"We'd need a terribly large nuke to have any chance of hitting them!" said Evelina.

"No. We'd need a big nuclear reactor," replied Jeb. There was another large explosion.

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"HYDROGEN TANKS 4 - "

"SHUT UP!"

"Pilot the ship, don't let us distract you!" said Evelina. The ship began accelerating even faster, bobbing and weaving.

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"Fortunately we have the biggest nuclear reactor in the solar system at our disposal!"

"What reac - "

"Activate enhanced window dimming!"

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"Jeb, we're going to fly into a STAR?"

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"AROUND a star, thank you. K-drives are way less susceptible to radiation than - "

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"Close your eyes!"

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I shut my eyes.

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Dozens of warnings about overheating sounded at the same time, accompanied by many sirens.

"OVERRIDE!"

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All at once, the ship flipped around to horizontal and unleashed a tremendous burst of acceleration, in effect nulling out the vertical velocity of the ship so we were skimming the surface of Kerbol. The warnings only got louder and louder, drowned out by the groans of the ship. The insides of my eyelids were brighter than daytime, despite the window dimming, eyelids, and hands providing protection. Evelina had windows on two sides instead of one, so I can't even imagine how she must have felt. There was another sharp yank as the ship pulled up, and the starlight finally subsided. I opened my eyes.

"Ethan, take this!" said Jebediah. I could barely see anything, everything was still white, but he pressed a small pill into my hand. "EVELINA! TAKE THIS!" I did my best to push it down my throat.

"What's it for?"

"So you won't die immediately due to radiation exposure! You will have a few days to weeks until the cancer gets to you!"

"Cancer!?!"

"If we get back to Kerbin we'll fix you up, don't worry, it's easy!" Just then, one of the space fighters popped into place right next to us.

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There was a brief sputter and it vanished.

"It... worked?" asked Jebediah, astonished.

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"NOPE!" I shouted as the ship rocket once more.

"Both ships appear to be damaged but still operational!" shouted Jebediah.

"Can you call for reinforcements?" asked Evelina.

"WHAT REINFORCEMENTS?!?!?!? The Kran are sectors away and nobody is on good terms with them!"

"They are damaged! Let's dive into the sun again!" I said.

"No, that was the limit!"

"You mean we would die due to radiation?"

"No, the ship would. By human standards, you are dead a hundred times over. By Kerbal standards, well, we should be able to keep you alive - "

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"IF THEY WOULD STOP SHOOTING AT US!"

"What will we do now?"

"K-DRIVE SEVERELY DAMAGED. REVERTING POWER LEVEL TO THIRTY PERCENT."

"They appear to be warp pulsing fifty times per second, far down from what they were. But now we can't run as fast!"

"Eject Evelina and fly into the sun," I said.

"WHAT?!?" shouted Jeb.

"We have clones, they'll go after the bigger target. Evelina gets picked up, the ships get destroyed."

"You can't guarantee that!"

"I veto that!" said Evelina.

"And we can't turn back to the sun!" said Jeb. "We're too slow and they are on our tail!"

"Wait," I said. "They don't like radiation, right? And can't warp through it? Like a roadblock, right?"

"Yes," said Jebediah. "Not without damage."

"And they can't warp through objects?"

"No!"

"Nuclear weapons won't provide radiation for long, but maybe they will provide a barrier long enough to ram one of the ships into something!"

"The ships can change velocity fifty times a second!"

"Can we limit that at all?" asked Evelina.

"We need to make them use more power!" he said.

"Wait," I said. "If warping at c uses the least energy, and lower and higher use exponentially more, then we should be at an advantage going slower!"

"But we can't dodge going slowly!" A ship fired its lasers again.

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"POINT TAKEN!"

"MUON BED SEVERELY DAMAGED. CENTRAL HYDROGEN TANK COOLANT DESTROYED."

"There should be an equilibrium between speed and dodge!"

"If we can't outrun them, then we have to destroy them before they destroy us!" I said. "What else diminishes pulse warp frequency?"

"If they are using a triquantum singularity, or any quantum singularity as their power source, and this is mostly theoretical, gravitational strength, gravitational field complexity, and magnetic fields - Wait."

"What?"

"You two are genius."

"WARNING: POWER LEVELS UNSAFE."

"OVERRIDE!"

"Where are we going?"

"Strong magnetic fields, gravity, many moons? JOOL, OF COURSE! According to the computer, in order to nuke a space fighter into Jool, we need to reduce warp frequency to twice a second and still be less than half a second from colliding with Jool, even factoring in the ships maximum maneuverability."

"And how do we dodge Jool at that point?"

"By pulsing the K-drive. It's what I did over the sun. A sudden speed boost. However, I can only do it a few times before it explodes!"

"Great, another K-drive explosion!" said Evelina.

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"Pulse frequency 40... 30... 20..."

"Jeb, get ready to fire!"

"Right. Ready to fire..."

"What do you need to press?"

"A... A button."

"Which one?"

"It's red."

"There are eight gazillion red buttons!"

"PULSE FREQUENCY 10. 9. 8."

"And we need to fire it opposite of Jool, above and in front of the fighter," said Jeb. "We will propulsively maintain altitude, like an orbit but faster, and then dive down, fire, and pulse away!"

"6... 5... 4..."

"I hope this works!"

"3... 2!"

"Maintaining orbit. Ships following."

"HOLDING AT 1.5 PER SECOND!"

"Jeb, it's time!"

"DIVING!"

"JOOL IMPACT IN 3... 2... 1..."

"NUKE!"

==========

"Jebediah, you're never going to believe this," said the messenger.

"What?" responded.

"We have discovered intelligent life on another planet." Jebediah spit out his coffee and shot out of his seat.

"You're joking!"

"I swear, I'm not!"

"Where?"

"The ISS Hope has discovered life on the fourth planet from the star GC-371A in Sector 20!"

"Oh my goodness!"

"Based on our limited grammatical understanding of their language, they call their world Meros."

"How soon can we get a proper ambassador team there?"

"It will be the top priority. The crew of the Hope has already made first contact via radio. Our top linguists are about to begin work on deciphering their language."

"Fantastic!"

"Unfortunately, there is a problem."

==========

"Could you bring yourself to push the button again?"

==========

"PULSE!" Shouted Jebediah as he pulled up. The ship jumped forward, shaking extremely violently.

"You forgot to launch the missile!" I said.

"CHANCE OF NEXT PULSE CAUSING LOSS OF VEHICLE - FOURTEEN PERCENT."

"I couldn't!"

"Why the hell not?"

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"I can't explain it!" He took a quick, deep breath. "Attempt two!" The Legacy II once again began spiraling closer and closer to Jool. Jebediah removed the cover of a red button, the first in a row of four. These were obviously the launch buttons. "Diving!"

"JOOL COLLISION IN THREE... TWO...." Jebediah's face was one of trepidation and conflict. One could tell that despite the fact that his hand was inches over the launch button, he was not going to press it.

*CLICK*

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"ONE..."

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"EVELINA!" shouted Jebediah as he pulsed the engine of the Legacy II once more.

There was a bright flash.

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"YOU WEREN'T GOING TO DO IT!" she shouted.

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"CHANCE OF NEXT PULSE CAUSING LOSS OF VEHICLE - THIRTY SEVEN PERCENT."

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"Sensors show they managed to warp out of that!"

"How?!?" I asked.

"Missile delay! They detected us firing it! Why didn't I think of that?"

"SHIP TWO WARP RATE 0.2 PER SECOND."

"That's one every five seconds! That still damaged it! If they are that slow, that's enough to ram them into a nuclear explosion without Jool!"

"Then what are we waiting for?"

"Timing warp... Now." His hand flew down over the second launch button but stopped short."

"JEB! Our lives are at stake!"

"Five four three two one!" He slammed down harder, but directed his hand upwards at the last minute. He hit an empty section of panel.

"Five four three two one!" he shouted once more. Evelina reached over and pressed the second button.

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We accelerated as fast as we could without pulsing.

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"YEAH!" I shouted.

"SHIP TWO PULSING LOW AND ERRATIC."

"It survived? It flew right through a nuclear explosion!"

"It survived but at low pulse rates, it will continue with its pre-warp inertia, rendering it useless for now! Possibly dead in the water!"

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"Now where's ship one..." We quickly rocketed back to the sun side of Jool to get a better vantage point.

========== Space-Ethan's Private Journal

"Whack-A-Kerbal," declared Marie flatly. The atmosphere hadn't been the same here since Alonya got stranded. But, as there was little we could do, we decided to play Whack-A-Kerbal. Cheng did not play. We managed to get Jeb to play, but it was evident that nobody's mind was primarily focused on the game.

"That's a double multiplier, I'd say?" suggested Bob.

"Yeah, yeah, looks like it," replied Bill.

I kept looking out the window, trying to spot any sign of the battle. When nobody else was looking, Jeb kept mouthing "NO!" at me. I really, REALLY wanted to jump up and get near a window, but that could possibly expose the truth to everyone on board.

==========

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"YES, I'M TELLING THE TRUTH! Two Species ships IN THE KERBOL SYSTEM! Representative Hess, listen to me!"

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That explosion was the most powerful one so far. It spun the ship almost a complete revolution before Jeb regained control and continued executing marginally effective evasive maneuvers.

"Well, there's where the other one went!" shouted Evelina.

"WARNING: LARGE RINGS SEGMENTS 2 AND 3 DEPRESSURIZED!"

"I hope you didn't have anything in there!"

"No! The duct tape tux!"

"My dress!"

"WARNING: K-DRIVE CRITICAL. LIMITING AT TWO PERCENT POWER. CHANCE OF LOSS OF VEHICLE ON NEXT PULSE SEVENTY FOUR PERCENT."

Jebediah began approaching Jool in an attempt to crash the last Species ship into it at relativistic velocities.

"No," he said icily.

"What?" I asked.

"They've figured out what we're doing. It's maneuvering in a way where we can't slam it into Jool. Not like we could reliably pulse away, either."

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"AAH!"

"K-DRIVE INTEGRITY CRITICAL. MUON BED CRITICAL. TACHYON BED SEVERELY DAMAGED."

"We've got minutes left on this engine!"

"What are we going to do?" shouted Evelina. Jeb looked up.

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"You can't possibly - "

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"HULL ATMOSPHERIC LEAK CARGO BAY 1. SEALING OFF."

"It's a small target but they aren't expecting it."

"THROTTLE LIMITED TO ONE PERCENT."

"OVERRIDE!" There was another large explosion.

"PORT SIDE NUCLEAR ENGINE NACELLE DESTROYED."

"We've never used it anyway!" The K-drive at the back of the ship seemed to scream in agony. The ship shook harder than the Memories had, even at maximum acceleration.

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The ship bled parts over those last few hundred thousand kilometers.

"I'm going to get him right behind us, and detonate the nuclear warhead when he's right there!"

"Right there?" I shouted, barely audible over the K-drive, on its last legs.

"I'm not going to give him time to warp away! He'll fly straight through the explosion, be too damaged to move, and smash into - "

"You're going to blow the nuke INSTANTLY?" shouted Evelina.

"Yes."

"And won't that blow us up?"

"Not if the pulse works!"

"And if the pulse doesn't work?"

"Then you've got one hell of a funeral pyre. Start praying to whatever you believe in, we're going to need it." The moon got larger and larger in the window. Jebediah removed the cover on the third launch button. The timer was set to 0.1 seconds.

"PROXIMITY ALERT!"

"He's right behind us!" Jebediah took a deep breath.

"Three. Two. One."

==========

"Meros is dying." Jebediah's face fell.

"No," he said in disbelief. "How?"

"Runaway greenhouse effect. Too much pollution. It will be as hot as Moho in a few decades. Their technology could not hope to remedy it. It's beyond even Kerbal help."

"So we have a giant interstellar effort to evacuate everyone on Meros to Kerbin," Jeb suggested.

"We don't have the resources, and they are most likely unable to breathe Kerbin's atmosphere for enough time."

"We could build a sunshield to buy us time to fix the atmosphere."

"We don't have the resources for that either! Have you seen how our other space megaprojects are going?

"Tell the people of Meros that we will do our best work to come up with a solution. Tell them that we are here to help."

"Will do. Translation is almost at the point where we can."

==========

"Could you bring yourself to press the button again?"

==========

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

*click*

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========== Space Ethan's Private Journal

"WHACK A KERBAL!" I shouted right as the third nuke blew up. I slammed my fists down on the table and kicked the floor in an attempt to be as distracting as possible. It worked. Everyone blinked, and jumped.

"What even did you do?" asked Jack.

"Oh, uh.... That was supposed to be my attack on Maxfly. I guess it didn't work."

"Where would you even attack from?" asked Valentina.

"Uh, Randea 10?" I said. Valentina rolled her eyes.

"One tenth multiplier?" she suggested.

"Yeah, sure." In the background, Jeb thanked me with his eyes. Nobody on board had noticed the massive nuclear blast.

==========

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"AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

"We're alive!" shouted Evelina.

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The ship flew straight through the nuclear explosion. The systems on board appeared to hiccup, then partially shut down, operating erratically.

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The ship tumbled at a significant fraction of the speed of light, ramming into Laythe's atmosphere before it could recover.

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"SHIP ONE HAS BEEN ELIMINATED."

"We... We did it," said Jebediah. his fist was still on the third nuclear button. The button had cracked under the pressure.

"We killed a Species ship?"

"Two of them," Jebediah said. "Jebediah to the Galactic Council, send an armed recovery fleet to the Jool system. We have an incapacitated Species ship somewhere in Jool's sphere of influence."

"ANTENNA SYSTEM DESTROYED."

"Switch to backup."

"BOOTING UP BACKUP ANTENNA. FILES HAVE BEEN CORRUPTED, LAST ACCESSED 4 DECADES AGO. ATTEMPTING TO RESTORE... WARNING. DATABASE FAILURE."

"Take your time." The Legacy II coasted out of Laythe's sphere of influence. Jeb flew it once more around to the day side of Jool.

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"K-DRIVE CRITICALLY DAMAGED. CANNOT RESTART ONCE SHUT DOWN. ALL BUT THREE DAMPENERS INOPERABLE. MUON BED DESTROYED. TACHYON BED LEAKING. LOSS OF VEHICLE CHANCE FOR NEXT PULSE ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. MAXIMUM THROTTLE ZERO POINT ZERO SEVEN PERCENT. ESTIMATED TIME UNTIL SHUTDOWN SIX MINUTES."

"Easy there, your job is done. We'll get you fixed up soon."

"REPAIRS NOT COVERED UNDER WARRANTY. WARRANTY HAS EXPIRED."

"Yikes," I said. "I wonder how many decades ago that was."

"TRANSFORMER HAS FAILED. REACTOR TWO POWER COUPLE DESTROYED. ESTIMATED BATTERY LIFE TWO HOURS FORTY FIVE MINUTES. ATMOSPHERIC LEAK DETECTED. TIME UNTIL LETHALITY ESTIMATED FORTY MINUTES. PRIMARY NAVIGATION OFFLINE." Jebediah flicked a switch.

"Yes, we get it," he said.

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"I have activated a distress beacon. We should be picked up within the next fifteen minutes. Keep your disguises on and try not to say much." I undid my harness and floated over to Evelina. We were both visibly shaking. We hugged harder than we ever had before, and began sobbing. "Once we have been found, I will send for the finest Illasticonian doctors. Your cancer should be cured in under a week. Then we will recombine the Ethans, and that will be that."

"If the invasion of the Kerbin system doesn't happen before then," I said.

"Those were small fighters, most likely recon. We still have weeks before the main fleet shows up."

"Weeks?"

"A small number of weeks." At that point, I didn't care. Although I would be in a hospital, recovering from an extremely traumatic experience, I would be with Evelina for several more days.

Yeah, I know, how selfish of me.

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"Listen carefully," said Jebediah. "Any chances of you having a normal life at this point, at least in the near term, are gone. You both have survived an encounter with Species fighters, something only a few can claim to have done. You will be debriefed, even interrogated, by many beings from many species. You are some of the galaxy's leading experts in Species combat."

"All we did was sit here!"

"And most people died."

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"And I'll still be recombined?"

"If I have it my way. But the galaxy, well... They will want as many of you to interrogate as possible."

"I can barely handle the two of me."

"Jeb, you're scaring me," said Evelina.

"These are scary times. And we are going to try to keep it to two." The computer console beeped. "Ah, a ship!" Jeb turned the Legacy II around to try and get it into a proper Jool orbit. "Our rescuers are here!" I looked out the window.

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"JEB!"

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Just as soon as the damaged ship was here, it was gone, off to who knows where.

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"No..."

"It's gone!" I shouted. "It's gone! The K-Drive is gone!" Jeb jerked the throttle lever back and forth uselessly.

"It knows we're done for... it left," He said.

"Jeb, are we stranded in space?" asked Evelina. Jeb checked his displays, and stood back in shock and disbelief. He then looked out the window. It confirmed what the display read.

"No... Far worse."

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I came to the same realization Jeb had.

"We were accelerating downwards at the time the drive was destroyed," I said in disbelief. "We were trying to get into an orbit but then we got distracted by the blast!" Jeb turned the craft around and ignited the one remaining decades old nuclear engine in a vain attempt to slow us down.

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"We're going to hit Jool, just like that Species ship hit Laythe," Evelina said. "We'll burn up!"

"WARNING: IMPACT IN TWENTY SECONDS."

"HELMETS ON!" Jeb shouted. "STRAP YOURSELVES IN!" I scrambled into my seat and fiddled with the harness. Jeb pressed several buttons. Our seats reclined all the way to horizontal.

"FIFTEEN. FOURTEEN."

"Listen to me! This is going to be very difficult, but you need to relax. You will break fewer bones if you relax. Put your arms at your sides and put your head back. If you have time, get a piece of fabric in between your teeth." Jeb was strapping himself in. "If you survive, get to cargo bay three."

"If we survive?" asked Evelina in the most pleading, desperate voice I'd ever heard her use. Jeb looked at her, pain in his eyes.

"How good are our odds?" I asked. Jebediah looked at us, silent.

"FIVE. FOUR."

"Head back. Relax. Close your eyes. Think of your favorite memory."

"Ethan, I love you," said Evelina. That took me by surprise.

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"I lo - "

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A cliffh... a... n... g... e... r... n... oooooo! 

In all seriousness, this was a great chapter! Great job!

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