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


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15 minutes ago, Kerbalstar said:

Wonderful @Ultimate Steve! But... You forget to change the thread title. ;) When is moar coming? 

Ah, oops. I'll do that now. Moar sooner than later, as the screenshots for at least most of the next chapter are done, as they were supposed to be lumped in with this chapter, but it got really long (7k plus words).

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4 hours ago, Ultimate Steve said:

Ah, oops. I'll do that now. Moar sooner than later, as the screenshots for at least most of the next chapter are done, as they were supposed to be lumped in with this chapter, but it got really long (7k plus words).

Yay! Moar soon!

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

https://www.space.com/42932-spacex-mr-steven-fairing-recovery-test-video.html?utm_source=notification

Quote

Ultimate Steve

  • Mr. Steven
  •  
  • Ultimate Steve
 
  On 6/15/2017 at 7:56 PM, Ultimate Steve said:

Elon Musk sat, transfixed at one of the windows, probably thinking up a way to launch a Tesla to Mars.

On 3/6/2018 at 4:55 PM, obney kerman said:

Either Elon Musk reads this story, or you are a prophet.

I think it's the second. ALL HAIL HIGH PROPHET @Ultimate Steve!!!!

First Elon Musk launches a Telsa to Mars and now one of SpaceX's drone ships is called Mr. Steven!!! Either Elon Musk does read this story... OR @Ultimate Steve IS Elon Musk! Tell us the truth "Steve"!

Also,

On 1/4/2018 at 4:32 PM, Ultimate Steve said:

One of my few New Years' Resolutions was to do a chapter of this per month. It's the very next thing on the list once I get back from Ohio. So, not dead! Just semi-permanently dormant. :)

Again this year? So, moar, when? And soon tm I know, but it's like a contractual obligation to ask at least once. No pressure though, I'll wait patiently.   

Edited by Kerbalstar
Mars not MArs! :)
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2 hours ago, Kerbalstar said:

First Elon Musk launches a Telsa to Mars and now one of SpaceX's drone ships is called Mr. Steven!!! Either Elon Musk does read this story... OR @Ultimate Steve IS Elon Musk! Tell us the truth "Steve"!

To be fair I changed my title after they announced Mr. Steven.

As for the second point... With how long writing takes me, I can't imagine Elon having enough time to write this! Also, I'm changing the BFR design again, it's titanium and will feature a reusable raptor based third stage for direct GEO insertion of communications satellites without refueling. It will also be useful as a Phobos/Deimos exploration vehicle once you dock a Dragon to it. We're also shrinking Raptor so we can have 42 engines. And since the hopper is now outdated we're donating it to Blue Origin as a peace offering, which will also make it practical to launch the New Shepard as a 2 stage vehicle that could reach orbit... Except we're sticking a ULA ACES between the two stages, and we're modifying the New Shepard stage to be restartable and long term storable (really hard with hydrogen). These will be ready for launch in 9-16 weeks, and will have a first mission of intercepting and destroying Starman, who has, unfortunately gone rogue and must be destroyed. We'll launch a replacement in the form of a Starliner spacesuit posed on a tricycle. Or maybe a skateboard. With a cowboy hat on.

/s?

3 hours ago, Kerbalstar said:

Again this year? So, moar, when? And soon tm I know, but it's like a contractual obligation to ask at least once. No pressure though, I'll wait patiently.   

Unfortunately I think I'll be busy for a few days, but soon-ish.

Also I thought a lot about the story and I managed to find a way to fix two future plot problems, and hopefully make the story flow smoother.

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11 minutes ago, Ultimate Steve said:

To be fair I changed my title after they announced Mr. Steven.

Ah.

12 minutes ago, Ultimate Steve said:

 

As for the second point... With how long writing takes me, I can't imagine Elon having enough time to write this! .

But if you were Elon, maybe you actually write quickly, and just do it in your spare time. 

 

13 minutes ago, Ultimate Steve said:

.

/s?

 

Ah-Ha! ;) (Just kidding about all of that of course... Unless...)

14 minutes ago, Ultimate Steve said:

 

Unfortunately I think I'll be busy for a few days, but soon-ish.

Also I thought a lot about the story and I managed to find a way to fix two future plot problems, and hopefully make the story flow smoother.

Okay. 

Yay!

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  • 1 month later...
2 minutes ago, TeslaPenguin1 said:

When can we expect the next chapter?

I've been working on a huge project for the past few weeks. Should all go well it will be concluded this week, at the earliest, Wednesday, but if we don't have school due to snow I can't do it thursday, and the class schedule will be off so I can't conclude it Friday.

Then there is other stuff. But eventually.

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  • 3 weeks later...
48 minutes ago, Kerballing (Got Dunked On) said:

When is this "eventually" you speak of? Also, on behalf of all the people named Ethan on this (expletive) planet, thanks for giving us a little bit of hope that our lives may one day be important!

Hopefully soon-ish, but that's what I said last time. :( I want to get back to writing, but there's stuff I have to do. Fortunately the huge project has been completed:

But for the past month or two, all of my Saturdays/weekends have had something going on, most of the time Speech or Academic Decathlon. Luckily, the last (I think) occupied weekend will be this weekend. Weekdays are running low on time as well, but not as lacking, and I've been getting back into my long term KSP career. Spring break is 1.5 weeks from now, so I should have some time to do a chapter or two then, but don't count on it. I may have one before then, or it may be a month, but if I could choose one story to finish before college (1.5 years from now) it would definitely be this one.

I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far, thank you for your kind words!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Author's note: I included Jacksepticeye in the story originally as sort of a joke, but as the story went on I realized that it didn't really work well as more than a one off funny thing, especially as I haven't watched his videos in forever. And then the scope of the story exploded into much more than it was originally supposed to be, further diminishing his effect. So, if I ever do a revision of the story, which I want to do but may not have time, I will probably replace him entirely with someone with a similar personality. And I have finally admitted to myself that this whole thing isn't much more than a rough draft. There is so much that can be fixed in this story. There are plot points that I started writing towards and abandoned in favor of something better, there are formatting inconsistencies, general inconsistencies, and characters with no defined personality, like Alonya and Marie. There are also Bill, Bob, and Valentina, who almost may as well not be there at all. All of these things will be fixed in the revised version, assuming I get around to doing a revised version, which I intend to.

But I must be doing something right, people seem to enjoy this! Thank you all for your continued support (and patience!), and I hope you continue to enjoy the story!

 

 

Chapter 19 - Blink and You'll Miss It

Spoiler

"Ethan!"

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"Wha?" I said as I awoke, stretched, and accidentally disconnected my Velcro sleeping bag from the side of the cabin, falling down to the base of the hitchhiker module. "Ow! Wait, why do we have gravity - oh."

"Welcome to Bop!"

"Cheng, I thought I asked you to get me up before the insertion so I could see Bop!"

"Ethan, we both know that you needed the rest."

"Excuse me? Alien moon?"

"To be fair we've orbited more than our fair share of alien moons at this point. Also, I'm glad you didn't land on your head just then."

"Me too, thanks." I undid the zipper on the sleeping bag, rubbed my back, and made my way to a window. "Where's Bop?"

"Other side, Ethan."

"Ah."

"Attention, crew, this is Marie. We are in orbit of Bop!" The engines spooled down and shut off a moment later.

"Was she flying?" I asked.

"Yup! All by herself!"

"I guess all of those mutual instruction hours have been doing her good!"

"Me too, I've picked up a bunch of information. I don't know when I'll use it, but you never know..."

"That sounds like me whenever I go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole."

"I know!" He said enthusiastically.

"A day or two ago, I was looking at a list of R-7 launches for a story I'm writing. I got to Vostok 1, then to list of Vostok missions. Interestingly, there were a few cancelled missions... From there, it was Vostok 3. Before boarding Vostok 3, Andriyan Nikolayev reportedly kissed Valentina Tereshkova. They later married, but divorced. On her page there was a list of Russian manned space programs, and there was one called Spiral, which was a Soviet Dyna-Soar equivalent, and that took me to the concept of dead stick landings, which doesn't refer to the control stick, but to a non-rotating wooden propeller, and that took me to the Hudson rover ditching, which took me to the article on one of the bridges across the river."

"That's... Quite something."

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A few days later, we had located the Bop monolith.

"Alright, Jack. Remember, you've got a limited amount of fuel."

"You told me this already, Alonya."

"Don't die, okay?" I said.

"Really encouraging, you know," he said. "Reducing periapsis. See, guys? I remember what a periapsis is!"

"What is Delta-V?" quizzed Cheng.

"How much an object can change its velocity."

"All stable orbits are - "

"Ellipses."

"The emergency release for the EVA harness is - "

"On the left. Also, that was one time! And it was a defective retraction mechanism! Not my fault!"

"Actually," said Bob, "We programmed it to respond that way if you call it a seat belt instead of a harness."

"Really?" asked Jack.

"Why?" I asked.

"Nah, that was a joke. You're all really that gullible?"

"Yep," I responded.

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A few hours passed. The crew of Voyager coaxed Jack carefully through descent. Much of the crew were slightly worried, despite the fact that prior to Bop, Jack had landed on Pol with no assistance. Despite the constant nagging in his ear and the inability to remove his headset (turning it off would just provoke the Voyager's crew to override the order and turn it back on), Jack managed to touch down relatively safely near the Bop monolith.

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"Alright, just set down gently!"

"I know, Alonya! I wasn't born yesterday!"

"But we also haven't aged in, like, a year," I pointed out. "That means some people have been through an extra year of puberty. Also, I'm still physically 15 but mentally 16."

"Ethan, you're mentally way older than that," said Bill. "Being an astronaut does that sort of stuff to people. Plus, you seemed like a mature person for your age even at the beginning of the mission."

"Aww, thanks, Bill! That means a lot to me!"

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"Touchdo-AAAAA!!!" Jack's feet slipped sideways and he immediately began sliding down the steep slope that the monolith was on.

"Jack!" shouted Marie. Jack scrambled, trying to find a grip on the surface. Eventually, his feet hit a decent sized rock and he stopped.

"Jack to Voyager, the surface of Bop appears to be made up of what might as well be marbles."

"Oh. Well, that was unexpected," said Alonya. "Kerbpedia didn't say anything about the surface being weird like that."

"Wait, let me get this straight," said Valentina. "You sent someone down to an alien moon and only read the Kerbpedia article about the moon?"

"No, ground control sent us a detailed information paper with data on the site of the monolith yesterday," said Cheng.

"What happened to - " began Jack. "Oh, that paper."

"I was going to read it, but I was really trying to get some sleep," I said. "Since I'm not going down today I said I'd read it tomorrow."

"Okay, that's understandable," replied Cheng.

"Marie and I were playing Whack-A-Kerbal with Jeb," said Alonya.

"I didn't even realize we had that information!" added Marie. "Also, why is it still called a paper? It's transmitted electronically. We have very little paper up here."

"Guys, task at hand!" said Jack.

"Right!" Cheng pulled up the paper on his tablet. "You landed in an area which the Kerbals call "Odnuforp Crater" after a meteor called the "Odnuforp Ourtsnom." It hit a long time ago and shattered a mountain, melted it even. The rock froze in air, became spheroidal, and was deposited mostly on a few mountainsides. It's fairly localized, you're on one of the few places where it happened."

"And I'm currently being prevented from falling down a long hill by a rock that might just barely be stuck in place!"

"And I fell from the top of a cave on a moon with way higher gravity than yours, and I survived."

"True."

"But the guide says you should dig a bit and lay there for a while. Also, don't blow anything up, it might cause a massive landslide."

"Alright. Don't blow anything up, got it. Also, I don't have a shovel to dig with."

"Use your hands, then," suggested Cheng. "Or a medium sized, flat rock if you can find one."

"Alright, a rock. Oh, here's one!" He picked up the rock. "Wha-AAAAAAA!"

"Jack, don't tell me you decided to use that rock!"

 

==========

 

 


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"John Cena to Voyager!" I said. "I have successfully undocked!"

"You remembered all of the cargo, right?" asked Marie.

"Marie, we went over this not five minutes ago."

"If we forgot something, this is the last chance."

"Alright, then. Significant amount of food, oxygen, and water, my keyboard, more of Cheng's alcohol, not for me, that creepy spider robot, a lot of EVA fuel, several flags, a Kerbal medical kit, a Human medical kit, three suit patch kits, a standard tool kit, a fire extinguisher, a few makeshift hiking poles, and three shovels."

"Yup, that checks out."

"Why did we bring shovels?"

"Same reason the ISS has a ton of buckets, I'd imagine," responded Bob.

"What?"

"The Zarya module of the ISS is where the Russians store their water tanks, and they're called EДВ, but they look a lot like buckets, and there's a lot of them piled up on the floor."

"And you know this, why?"

"Studying human spaceships is my new hobby."

"So you're saying that the shovels on Kerbal spaceships are there to hold water?"

"No, I was attempting to make a joke."

"Oh. Why do we have shovels?"

"By the way, did you know that a lot of the ISS is just being used for storage?"

"Yes."

"Zarya, Rassvet, Leonardo, and - oh. You said yes. Never mind!"

"Periapsis has been reduced to landing levels. How are you doing, Jack?" I asked.

"I am still questioning my intelligence. I have also found three redundant rocks, which are all below my feet, so I will hopefully not make the same mistake again."

"Alright!"

"I've dug down to the solid layer, which is about two feet down, and I've made myself a little house area with some of the other rocks."

"Oh?"

"I've got a shelf, a shovel rock, and am currently expanding the house."

"Expanding?"

"Hey, this is sort of like Minecraft, except there's only stone and gravel!"

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Did I mention how glad I was to be flying a spaceship again? Because you almost can't measure that feeling!

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"Alright, Jack, where are you?"

"Completely underground!"

"Why?"

"I tried to make a roof, but it's more of a blanket than a roof. And it's more of a "HELP I'M BURIED ALIVE" than a blanket, but I'm fine."

"I'm going to do what I did on Pol, I'm going to set the ship up against the monolith. Try and use your rocks to climb up here. Once you're up here, I can give you some hiking poles that should help with mobility."

"Alright, I'll try! I've got three rocks at my feet, I'll take two of them out and use them to help crawl up."

"Alright." There was a short pause and some sliding sounds over the microphone. "Jack, are you alright?"

"I'm falling again."

"What? Why?"

"The third rock broke."

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A few dozen minutes and several slips later, Jack had gotten up to the Monolith. I stepped out of the John Cena and jetpacked around to the other side to avoid touching the monolith. I then gave Jack his poles, food, oxygen, water, and EVA fuel. I was overjoyed to be on a moon again, but due to the difficulty of maneuvering, I didn't have very many moments to stop and enjoy it.

In fact, we considered completely cancelling the rest of the crew coming down due to that difficulty, but eventually we settled for shortening the Bop party.

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I tried to sleep on Bop, after making my own little "house," but I couldn't. I was finally relaxed enough to appreciate the moon, and I didn't want to miss that. On the next pass of the Voyager, Bob, Valentina, Cheng, and Alonya came down.

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The pass after that, the last three came down - Jebediah, Bill, and Marie. This is Jeb's first time on another moon on his entire mission. Unfortunately, in the process of maneuvering on the surface, several of the hiking poles snapped. By the time we were ready for Jack to touch the monolith, we were down to just over one per person.

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"Are you ready?"

"Let's see, I'm going to touch an alien object of unknown composition which will show me glimpses of the future that I'm not allowed to show anyone, that could severely alter my character, that could shoot me out in any direction or teleport me several dozen kilometers, and that will probably make me scream." He straightened up, threw his poles to the side, and shouted "LET'S DO THIS!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" and charged forward, fell on his face, slipping back down the slope. 

The people near him tried to grab him, but he was too far away and it didn't work.

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Fortunately, he caught himself after falling only a few meters.

"I'm okay!" he said as he started to crawl back up.

"I'll get his poles," said Marie. And then he fell again.

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"Jack, just wait there!"

"No, I can do th-AAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

A minute or two later...

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"Jack, at this point, just use your jetpack!"

"Good idea."

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A short while later, Jack had finally made it back up to the monolith.

"I just remembered something," he said.

"What?" asked Cheng.

"I never got to say my first words. I slipped and fell before I could say them."

"Oh. Did you have something in mind?"

"Yes, actually. Alright, take two. Monolith in three, two, one. SUBSCRIBE TO T-SERIES!" Jack reached out his hand and touched the monolith. Nothing happened for a second or two, but then he was yanked to the side.

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"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" He bounced several times, before curving away from us.

"Jack?!?!"

"THAT WAS AN AWESOME LASER!"

"What?"

"IT WAS LIKE "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!"

"Are you okay?" asked Alonya in a very concerned tone of voice as she reached for her jetpack controls.

"YEAH. A BIG, DEADLY LASER!"

"That's not what I - "

"I WANT ONE!"

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"Also, I'm falling up the hill now, I'm pretty sure gravity isn't supposed to do this!"

 

==========

 

Ethan 1's Private Journal, Surface of Bop

 

I can read my clone's thoughts.

I mean, I've known that forever, but the implications and consequences of that are now becoming apparent. I mean, I'm already doing something interesting. I'm exploring alien moons. On a spaceship. But Ethan 2? He's helping save the universe on a way cooler spaceship with his best friend/crush and the most powerful Kerbal in the universe, who also happens to be an amazing pilot*, who completely broke down and wept over all of the terrible things the humans have done, while they visited Earth with a nuclear powered spaceplane which almost crashed, which they then flew across the desert, and broke into an air force base, evaded several security measures, blew stuff up, helped steal a whole bunch of nuclear weapons, and are now preparing to take off and return to the main spaceship to go who knows where.

*Yes, Jeb is with me too, but it's not like he can exercise any of his political power or piloting skills while he's with me.

Holy mother of run-on sentences.

So, to be honest, I can't help but listen in on him while he's doing all of this amazing stuff. Thinking about it and watching it is keeping me up at "night," which is severely affecting my performance as an astronaut. I slept through the insertion burn, and if I hadn't forced myself to sleep through them mounting the nuclear weapons on the Wyvern, I would probably have fallen asleep while piloting the John Cena as well!

And my astronaut skills aren't the only thing it's affecting. It's affecting my writing skills! I'm having to write like the Voyager's mission is the most important thing ever, and it actually isn't any more! I can't make anything sound as good as it used to be because of the elephant in the room that is invisible to everyone else!

I'm becoming overloaded with stuff I CAN'T EVER TALK ABOUT EXCEPT TO JEBEDIAH WHO IS ALMOST ALWAYS BUSY WITH SOMETHING ELSE! HE'S NOT EVEN THE SAME SPECIES AS I AM!

I don't usually swear. It is my firm belief that overuse of words can rob them of their power, so that when they are truly needed there are no words powerful enough.

But dammit, I'm jealous of myself.

 

Earlier on, back before the landing, I asked Jeb something.

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"Jeb? What are the monoliths actually?"

"I shouldn't tell you."

"You've told me a lot of things you shouldn't have."

"Fair point, and I don't have the energy to argue. The monoliths are a plot device to make the mission more interesting. They are a quantum device that lets the user see several possible futures with their own implications, and compel the user to not reveal much about what they saw. They usually come with a main point, something that the user can do to make the future way better. We just shaped them like monoliths to make them more relatable."

"So you don't control the vision?"

"Nope. What the user sees is completely out of our control. We can set a user interface, so that everyone sees, for example, five monoliths getting filled up with futures, a triangle, and doors flashing by, but we cannot control the actual message delivered. We also cannot see or record what the user experiences."

"So nobody but Cheng knows what Cheng saw?"

"Nope. I'm a bit concerned about Cheng's vision myself. And also, nobody but you knows what you saw."

"Right."

"Good job, by the way, completely avoiding any mention of the important thing you saw in your description of what the monolith did to you."

"Ah... Right. But, hmm... If the monolith has a main point for each... user... Marie's must have been to have a party and get me up to Voyager."

"Probably true."

"Which means that I found out about this whole thing for a reason."

"Also probably true."

"And it hasn't happened yet... I haven't been much more than a burden so far."

"Extremely true."

"Hey!"

"But if it's any consolation, if quantum mechanics, or tachyons, or God, or whatever is powering those devices, thinks you have a good reason to be up there, then let it be."

"You don't know how they work?"

"Nope. We randomly stumbled across the phenomenon one day while doing some work on the Galactic Subseptaquantum Relativity Accelerator.

"The what?"

"I don't understand what it does, you probably won't either."

"You're probably right. So we've figured out Marie's... And I'm not going to talk about mine... But what about Cheng's? He told Alonya to be careful on Laythe. What could that mean?"

"Probably that something bad happens on Laythe."

"That's the obvious answer, yes. But given how big of a deal Marie's seemed to be, Alonya getting stranded on Laythe and not coming back seems like not enough to compare."

"Sometimes the monolith tells you big things, sometimes it tells you small things. It's really annoying when they tell you small things, though, especially considering how insanely expensive they are."

"How expensive?"

"Do you want a Dyson sphere or a monolith?"

"Oof. Can they be reused?"

"Not really... If you pump enough power into one, then maybe. But it's usually more cost effective to build a new one. We don't use them often. There had never been more than two in existence at once until we began the challenge." I suddenly felt a bit guilty about using up something that cost the same amount as a Dyson sphere. I decided that I should just accept it, but it keeps nagging me. Why me? Why spend trillions of whatever unit of currency on me? For that matter, why send me to space? Why take me to Earth? Why tell me about the impending apocalypse? I feel like I'm being thrust into the role of hero... I'm not a hero. I mean, I people have told me I'm a good person, but I'm certainly not better than any other decent person.

"If she does get stranded on Laythe, will you save her? You've got to have bases there."

"I'm not allowed to tell you that."

"Oh come on, you can't just - "

"I've got to go, the council is calling."

"And you can't just have another clone do it for you?"

"I do. I'm observing as well, however. As you have found out by now, experiencing something through the mind of a clone is a very, very far cry from the experience of doing it yourself."

 

Since that conversation, Jack has confirmed that he saw the same hallway, triangle, and five monolith symbol that the rest of us did, now apparently a huge laser. When I asked him about it, he said that it was "really really big" and also "absolutely ginormous" and finally "Like the Death Star but a different color." I wonder what it could possibly mean... Does The Species have Death Stars? I don't think they'd make reference to those movies in their invasion. And laser weapons aren't even that practical anyways... Maybe it's a weird quantum laser or something. I don't know if those exist. But apparently, a lot of advanced technology is named by slapping the word "quantum" in front of it. We've got quantum communications, quantum accelerators, and quantum spectrums. Why not quantum lasers? Quantum toasters? Quantum guitars? Quantum pizza?

 

==========

 

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"The Wyvern flies again!" I shouted.

"This is awfully vertical, don't you think?" asked Evelina.

"I'm just trying to irradiate the jell-o instead of Albuquerque!" said Jeb.

"And this is getting cleaned up, right?"

"Eventually."

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"Beginning speed run."

"How fast are you expecting to get?" I asked.

"Speed is not the main concern here, it's pulling up and getting the apogee to space so I can fire the fusion engine without it blowing up. The extra four and a half tons of nuclear weapons won't help!"

"It will probably be easier than breaking into one of the highest security facilities on the planet."

"American cities look so blocky from the air compared to European cities."

"I've heard the stories... I can't imagine having to learn to drive in one of those big irregular cities."

"I'm not old enough to drive in Sweden. The minimum is 18."

"Me neither. In Illinois, it's 16. Despite that, I've flown spaceships. Wait, Jeb, is there a spaceship license for Kerbals?"

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"Be advised, it's gonna get hot! And yes, although owning your own spaceship is not very common. Engine thrust output near maximum. Approaching three kilometers per second."

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"I'm going to begin the pull-up maneuver now. Brace yourselves." Evelina and I sat back in our seats and adjusted them according to how Jeb had told us to. All of a sudden, a thought came to me.

"Jeb, I'm pretty sure that the nuclear weapons aren't designed to survive these temperatures."

"Oh snap. Pulling up now!" Jeb pulled back on the stick, much harder than we had planned for, to get out of this part of the atmosphere as quickly as possible. Evelina and I were slammed into our seats.

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"I keep forgetting that human stuff isn't designed with as much margin as Kerbal stuff!"

"Humans also aren't designed with as much margin as Kerbals!" I managed to say through the G-forces. The G-forces slowly lessened, and before long we were able to lift our arms again. Much of our horizontal velocity had been converted to vertical velocity, and the flames had died down. I was about to talk to Jeb more about how fragile humans were compared to Kerbals, but then the sky turned black and the curve grew.

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At that point, neither Evelina nor I said much. Launching off of Kerbin was one thing... Vall and Pol were also different things... But watching Earth, my home, fall away from me, especially after having not seen it for several months, is probably the most emotion I have felt throughout this entire journey.

My clone wrote something about words losing their power from overuse. He was using it to refer to negative words, but the same also applies to positive words.

Awesome = Inciting awe.

There's no better word by definition to describe what I felt, but that word has lost its meaning. It means nothing now, compared to what I was feeling.

The silence was probably for the better, as anything I had to say would have been a disgrace to the experience.

After several minutes of marveling at the Earth, I was brought back to reality by the sound of the fusion engine activating. We were above the atmosphere now, and it could be safely fired.

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We looked down on it for at least an hour. Even Jeb remarked, at one point, that Earth was more beautiful from space than Kerbin was.

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A bit less than one orbit after takeoff, we reached the Legacy II. Jebediah began the docking maneuvers.

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*CLUNK*

"Ah... It's being difficult... One second..." Jebediah backed the Wyvern up and tried going forwards again.

*CRUNCH*

"Oh," I said. "Jeb! You're ramming the nukes into the cargo bay doors!"

"Oops."

"Oops? That's all you have to say?" asked Evelina.

*THUD*

"Yep, the bombs at the top make it so we can't go in far enough to drop our back below the docking port lip, and go in."

"It looks like it should fit," I observed. All of a sudden, Evelina burst out into laughter.

"What's so funny?"

"We just flew a fusion powered spaceplane down to Earth, from a giant interstellar spaceship, stole nuclear weapons, flew back to orbit, in ONE STAGE, and we didn't pay any attention to being able to fit back in the cargo bay!"

"So goes our journey," said Jebediah. He started chuckling as well. Soon all three of us were laughing.

gKVu3iJ.png

"Okay, seriously, I just need to wiggle it a little bit..." There were more scraping sounds.

"Be aware that you're currently damaging the nuclear weapons!"

"Be aware that I'm also currently damaging the spacecraft's fusion reactor." The scraping got louder, reached a peak, and then the Wyvern popped in.

KP1jvn8.png

"There! Like a glove!"

"That's two sizes too small."

FR49nkN.png

All three of us were in the command module at the front of the craft. Jebediah was preparing the K-drive for use, and Evelina and I were glued to the windows.

"Can we stay for just one more orbit?"

"No. We must go, sadly. People of all species tend to appreciate their experiences in space more the shorter they are. It gives them a thirst to return."

"I agree with Evelina," I said. "I would appreciate more time here more than almost anything else."

"Sorry, Ethan. I really shouldn't. The sooner we go, the better. This detour has already taken longer than I wanted it to." Several lights lit up on the control panel. "Ah! The Muon bed is now at operational levels."

cFWswWq.png

"What if this is the last time I see Earth?" I asked.

"Before cloning was a thing, I used to ask myself that every time I left Kerbin."

"You still haven't told us where we're going," Evelina stated.

"We can rule out at least 90% of the planets," I said. "I mean, we're transporting alien embryos to somewhere far, far away. I'm assuming we had replacements loaded after the crash of the Memories. So, I think we can safely rule out any uninhabitable worlds."

"So we're probably not going to Mars, then?" she joked.

zgU4ycN.png

Jebediah suddenly turned the craft.

"Wait, Jeb, no..."

"Three! Two! One!"

xejUNY2.png

The Legacy II jumped away from Earth at a startling speed, and a few seconds, and some harsh turns later, we were presented with a fraction of a second of an up close view of Mars.

41DxFHe.png

As soon as it was there, it was gone.

F8Hqj7I.png

"Hey!" I shouted. "You can't do that!"

"I just did."

"That's messing with history! I can't be the first human to fly by Mars!"

"Why not?"

"That will minimize the sense of accomplishment when we actually do get to Mars!"

"If someone finds out."

"But it happened! That was Mars! Like, the real Mars!"

"Correct."

"THE ACTUAL PLANET MARS!!!"

"Yup, we've established that."

"Why me? Why is LITERALLY EVERYTHING happening to me? I'm not special, Jebediah Kerman! Leave some epic things for the other 7 billion people in existence! I feel like I'm stealing EVERY SINGLE big thing from them! I did LITERALLY NOTHING to deserve this and I don't deserve this and I will NEVER DESERVE THIS!"

"So you're complaining that I took you to Mars?" he replied. I opened my mouth and raised my hands, trying to think of a response. My brain did several flips, flops, rotations, transformations, and gyrations before I gave up, thoroughly confused, and sat back in my seat, shaking my head. While doing so, I caught a glimpse of Evelina, who had an equally startled and horrified expression on her face. "You too?" I asked.

"Worse! I blinked!"

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ultimate Steve
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Awesome! And: 

2 hours ago, Ultimate Steve said:

How expensive?"

"Do you want a Dyson sphere or a monolith?"

Ahahahaha! I literally laughed out loud at several points in this chapter. As for "a sense of accomplishment" , I feel like the fact that like 10,000 people have been to space and we have designed a complex space mission to a gas giant and it's moons in a little over a week (!) has already stripped humans of most senses of accomplishment. I know I sure wouldn't be complaining. Can they stop by Venus too?

 

As for your author's note: I, personally, like Jack just the way he is. I also have no idea if he's a reference to anybody, so that may factor in. As for the rest, I think it's great and doesn't need any revision! Also, you forgot an end quotation mark after "I'd read it tomorrow." Only mistake I noticed . And falling out of the sleeping bag was great! I laughed so hard!

So, moar when?

Edited by Kerbalstar
I sure, not I'm sure. Silly me.
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11 hours ago, Kerbalstar said:

Ahahahaha! I literally laughed out loud at several points in this chapter. As for "a sense of accomplishment" , I feel like the fact that like 10,000 people have been to space and we have designed a complex space mission to a gas giant and it's moons in a little over a week (!) has already stripped humans of most senses of accomplishment. I know I sure wouldn't be complaining. Can they stop by Venus too?

Right, I hadn't fully considered that... I guess visiting Mars without Kerbal assistance would be at least close to the amount of accomplishment attained by visiting a gas giant with a boatload of Kerbal assistance. Maybe.

It's not Venus, but I have an unused image from testing:

QYRKffD.png

Not canon.

8 hours ago, RealKerbal3x said:

Oh! Cool, another Voyage chapter!

@Ultimate Steve What mod are those big (3.75m?) cargo bays on the Legacy II from?

I believe those are the 5 meter cargo bays from Near Future Launch Vehicles.

4 hours ago, obney kerman said:

Me too! Also, @Ultimate Steve, don't worry about your doubts about this story. It's still funny, well-written, and relatable, at least in my eyes.

Thank you!

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  • 4 weeks later...

So, most of the screenshots for the next 2 or 3 chapters are done, I think. Don't quote me on that, it depends on if I decide to do anything extra, or how many chapters I cram into the space of one.

But I'd like to give an interesting update on something not directly related to the story.

The Wyvern can do Earth ascent, but IIRC I had to use ignore max temperature for both the ascent and the descent. It also uses a lot of part clipping.

For a potential future project, I started designing and testing a Wyvern II design. It is being designed to be able to land on and take off from any reasonable Kerbal-scale atmospheric world. It could do vacuum worlds too but another lander can do that much simpler... It also must not use part clipping, and must also not use ignore max temperature.

Not a very good picture, but here is the latest design:

0Zh0msP.png

A far earlier picture:

CYtXuIo.png

This picture shows the layout much better. Many of the details have changed, though. The wings, outboard engines, and crew cabins have been completely redone, and many other things have been tweaked.

Unfortunately I broke my "no clipping" rule by attaching nose cones to the backs of the engines and offsetting them inside to make the whole thing sleeker. I'll see if it works without those, but if not I'll keep them. But, this is still less clipping than in the original, which had the fusion engine, a hydrogen tank, a nuclear ramjet, and an antimatter reactor/power generator clipped inside each other.

I'm not sure if it will still be able to do Earth (it might, and should be able to but maybe not) but it makes up for that shortfall with more versatility. Wyvern II:

  • Can land and take off vertically
  • Can land and take off horizontally
  • Holds 4 crew instead of 3 (a bit cheaty, the 4th seat is a tweakscaled hatch, it will probably only fly with 3)
  • Can land on and take off from oceans (in most cases). It has a hydrofoil type thing to help with this. Unfortunately, it also adds drag.
  • Operates on 5 propellants instead of 6, antimatter, deuterium, tritium, hydrogen, and monopropellant. The original needed to refuel its nuclear reactor from time to time, but that's not really relevant.
  • Can fire hydrogen powered antimatter thermal engines (which can also be used as hydrogen jet engines) in order to increase apoapsis if it's too low to clear the atmosphere

Wyvern II has been designed with a greater range of worlds in mind, ocean worlds, thin and thick atmospheric worlds, but in order to fit those roles it has lost some of the original Wyvern's capability. Wyvern II:

  • Cannot fly near-infinitely for exploration. This is the biggest con. The atmospheric engines are antimatter powered, and the antimatter reserves on board are good enough for a few ascents/descents without refueling, but antimatter is not as efficient as you'd expect in atmospheric flight. It can fly around a bit, enough to get pretty far away, but antimatter reserves become a problem quickly. The original Wyvern had a nuclear ramjet instead of an antimatter one, which was much better for flying around. I'm going to try switching out the antimatter ones for nuclear ones to see if it is better, but if I'm probably going to stick with antimatter unless nuclear is just as good as ascent.
  • Cannot fit in any reasonable cargo bay.
  • Has more drag (I think) than the original Wyvern. I may be wrong, those radiator wings are actually pretty draggy and I replaced them, but I can't get up to original Wyvern speeds with Wyvern II. 3km/s? Nah. Maybe 1.6, but actually it's heating at that point that becomes a problem, but even with ignore max temperature I doubt it could get to 3...

And I'm not sure whether to put this in the pros or cons, but it has significantly higher performance in oxygen atmospheres because the engines can operate in hydrogen-intake air mode, giving better performance than atmospheric mode, while still remaining fuel efficient.

 

So, yeah. Progress is being made related to the story, but not towards the story.

BTW Wyvern II is definitely not canon, it's for something completely different that I may or may not do. It just had its roots in this story, so I thought I'd share it with you.

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So, that Vista fusion engine on the back of the Wyvern is the only reason for the 2.5m profile. It gets a specific impulse of 15,000 ish at the highest thrust setting, almost double that at the lowest. However, when I added the thermal rocket nozzles, I noticed that they had a specific impulse of 7,000. I only intended to use them for a little extra boost, but I decided to see what would happen if I dropped the fusion engine and replaced it with an antimatter thermal one.

Also, at this point I changed the hydrogen only fuel to a hydrogen fluorine mixture which is more dense, if it only gets a specific impulse of ~4000 seconds (haha, "only" 4,000 seconds!).

BOOM. Amazing performance, but only in oxygenated atmospheres, as the thermal rocket can't operate in just atmospheric mode. I still had to use the thermal ramjets to get up to orbit. Except, the thermal ramjets are vastly outperformed in hydrogen-intake air mode by the thermal rocket engine, giving much more thrust.

So I decided to try ditching the side ramjets, leaving me only with a single thermal rocket. Maybe I could do non-oxygen ascents on just rocket power.

So I tried that. I ended up with a vehicle with 10km/s of Delta-V with hydrogen and fluorine, plus a little extra hydrogen for oxygenated ascents. It was also single stick, so there was a bit less drag. The size of the engine was dropped to 0.95 meters because it actually had too much thrust. Unfortunately, due to drag, it got to Kerbin orbit with 5km/s left. Granted, I plowed through the atmosphere, but given the crazy worlds out there, I don't want to take risks.

I messed around with propellants. This is where I hit what I think is my gold mine.

PVC gets a specific impulse of 3500, but is very dense. The fuel tanks are less heat resistant, so I wrapped them in a fairing. At this point I may as well put the whole thing into a fairing... But this fuel, in the same volume gives me a Delta-V of about 20 kilometers per second.

The only downfall is the 1.55 TWR. I would prefer that at at least 3-4 in order to deal with some of the more crazy worlds out there.

So I bumped the engine back up to 1.2m, giving me 2.87 TWR and 17km/s Delta-V. I'm pretty sure that's enough for my purposes.

Near current design:

i2zuQ3o.png

At this point it has little in common with the original Wyvern except function.

Advantages over fusion design:

  • Lighter overall
  • Five propellants, but one is the plutonium for the RTG which won't need to be replaced for pretty much ever, so functionally it's hydrogen, PVC, monopropellant, and antimatter. Deuterium and Tritium were eliminated but PVC was added.
  • Less drag
  • The only clipping is for the RTG because I couldn't find out where to put it, and the clipping for the hatch (which is just structural clipping). Nothing is aerodynamically clipped. I intend to fix the RTG but I may not. The fusion version had nose cones and fairings clipped around to reduce drag.
  • I've only tested this once but it appears to be easier to land on water with this design

Disadvantages over fusion design:

  • Even less atmospheric endurance. The hydrogen tank is small and this can't operate in intake air only mode, so it's good for flags and footprints but not much else.
  • Probably harder to land vertically because the wings are higher up
  • A bit less heat resistant on average I think.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter Twenty - The Most Beautiful Song

Spoiler

HK4uq0a.png

And just like that, the first of us was off, jetpacking back up to the Voyager. We would go in three waves, one every few minutes, to minimize risk and provide an easier chance for rescue. I wanted to go all at once, holding hands or something, but Cheng provided me with a long report from mission control (which was populated again! Evelina is on vacation currently and her absence has led to more publicity, and many more people have volunteered!) stating how dangerous going in one group was. To me it seems sort of arbitrary, almost as if mission control only has the manpower to focus on one person at a time, but I guess it's alright to depart Bop one by one.

FQMgWFJ.png

As everyone left, they refilled their EVA jetpacks from the store on the John Cena, which was still against the monolith. Speaking of which, after several seconds, gravity finally returned to normal for Jack. But then he started sliding back downhill and caused a small landslide. After some more talking it became apparent that Jack would say nothing more to us than what he had already said - that there was a giant laser. Where it was, why it was, what color it was, and what it was doing remain up to the imagination. Maybe it's a giant, harmless laser pointer? If it is, maybe there's a giant cat playing with it?

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Several hours passed.

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One by one, everyone jetpacked to the Voyager. A few of them needed assistance with the rendezvous, but for the most part, everything went alright for them.

IBSFCDZ.png

And then it was just me. Alone on Bop.

I've never been alone on a world before. I think only two humans have ever experienced that. There have been people alone in space, there have been people alone in lunar orbit, but barring any top secret shenanigans (unlikely), the only times a human has been alone on any world were Marie on Pol and Jack on Bop. Unless you count the very first person ever, if the line between person and non-person is absolute and clear, those are the only two ever.

And now, me. After the last person before me left, I looked up at the stars. I knew I had to leave soon, or wait hours for the next pass of the Voyager. But I felt at that moment that the Bop landing had been the least formal and least poetic of any of the landings so far - more like 9 ordinary people messing around than a few heroic astronauts embarking on an epic journey. Don't get me wrong, all of our landings have been less formal than Apollo  - the tip over and skid on Vall, residual thrust, also on Vall, Cheng's crash and smugness on Tylo, the shock on Pol... Bop seemed even less emotional than those. The other landings all had their moments, but Bop was just "Hey, we're here! Let's touch a rock, try not to fall down a hill, and leave!"

So, before boarding the John Cena, I jetpacked to the top of a monolith and planted a flag, something everyone else had neglected to do, maybe because the surface of this part of Bop is very flag unfriendly.

Much to my surprise, the surface of the monolith accepted the flagpole.

zKmGYIx.png

A thought crossed my mind. It was quite possible that no human eyes would ever see the plaque but my own. I started to tear up at the thought. Call me silly, but, well... I kissed the plaque (through the visor), hugged it, then saluted it. I gave it one last look, and then jetpacked back to my spaceship - sorry, the spaceship, boarded it, quickly ran the science experiments, and took off.

eZP1xyB.png

I had never actually flown the John Cena upwards from a moon before. Someone else had done it at Pol, as I had jetpacked up to Voyager. As far as ascents go, once you get past the fact that I'M FIFTEEN YEARS OLD AND FLYING MY OWN SPACESHIP (technically 16 but the Kerbals stopped us from ageing) it was a fairly normal ascent. It went smoothly, and there weren't really any problems.

07mvXYW.png

And before I even knew it, I was docked to Voyager. It was at that point that I realized that I would most likely never fly a spaceship down to or up from a planet or moon ever again. I'd obviously need to land on Kerbin in the return pod, but I wouldn't be piloting that, I'd just be along for the ride, mostly.

That may be the last time I fly my own personal spaceship.

It's a feeling I'm definitely going to miss. I mean, how many humans can claim to have flown their own personal spacecraft? Certainly only a few dozen at most.

Great, I'm sad now.

In other news, we're running out of fuel. Fortunately, mission control and the others on board the ship (but mostly Cheng, Alonya, and Marie) have come up with a course that will get us from an elliptical Bop orbit to an elliptical near polar Laythe orbit for only approximately 105 meters per second of Delta-V, plus or minus 10-ish.

mgqQIKc.png

Our initial escape burn, the bulk of the delta-v expended, will take us on a Tylo flyby, correcting our inclination and lowering our orbit, while also putting us on a trajectory that, after a very small correction burn, will send the Voyager past Laythe, on a polar trajectory, with a periapsis just inside the atmosphere. If our calculations are correct, the Voyager will be slightly roasted, but with a short dip into Laythe's atmosphere, we will enter an extremely elliptical orbit, requiring only a short burn at our apoapsis to stabilize it.

I can't help but notice that Cheng seems like he is a little bit more anxious than usual. He has been extensively helping Alonya practice operating the Laythe plane. Several issues have been found with the Laythe plane, the most pressing being it's stubbornness in maneuvering. The control surfaces were installed very near to the center of mass, giving it extremely poor maneuverability. In our simulations, pulling up at low velocity is nearly impossible... Alonya will have to use the drogue parachute at just the right moment in order to land intact - and she will have to find a suitable hill to take off from, and possibly use the parachute once more to pull up later on in the ascent. And she will probably have to use her EVA jetpack to reach orbit, and we'll most likely have to send the Emerson to go get her.

So, what I'm saying is, if you're religious, pray for Alonya. For Laythe, we're going to need all the help we can get. And if you're not (or even if you are), send us some words of encouragement. We could use some of those. In times like these, they would be appreciated much more than Shrek memes.



==========

 

"That's beautiful," proclaimed Evelina.

Image result for milky way from far away slant tilt

"Also many, many times brighter than it should be. I'm really glad for the adjustable windows."

"Yeah, that too."

"But it is beautiful."

"You got pretty close to ruining the moment there!" she joked.

"Yes, the moment. It's not like we have much shortage of time with this view. We've had it for several days and Jeb won't tell us when we're stopping."

"What if we're never going back?"

"Jeb wouldn't do that to you. I hope, at least."

"Right." We admired the view some more.

...

"This never gets old."

"Interesting you should say that," I said. "This is a view from around 100,000 years ago, so by that logic it is pretty old."

"Yup. It's new to us, though."

"Yeah. And more beautiful than words can describe."

"Hey, Ethan?"

"Yes, Evelina?"

"Speaking of the moment... I was wondering if you'd like to dance with me." This caught me off guard quite a bit.

"Evelina, I - "

"Like, as friends. Mostly. Because of the situation and all, you know... And it's not like I'll ever get the chance to dance with anyone here, ever again." I opened my mouth to speak, but she kept on talking. "I went to the Eiffel tower a few years ago and I thought it would be nice to be able to say I danced with someone on top, but I never asked, so in that same vein..." I smiled.

"Well, I can't see myself saying no, we do have the perfect backdrop." Her face lit up.

"Oh, fantastic!"

"Although I don't know if we'll ever be able to tell anyone about this... It is a secret mission and all."

"Just having done it will be great!"

"So... Right now, or?"

"I mean, we could make it into something more formal than this if you want to..."

"Like a Space Prom?"

"Ooh, that sounds interesting! I still have my dress from Homecoming back on Earth... I could wear that!"

"I don't have anything to wear, though."

"Right..."

"I made a duct tape tuxedo top a few years ago. It sucked, but there's a well stocked duct tape drawer in the main spire of the ship."

"Yeah, that could work. How long do you expect that to take?"

"A few hours, maybe. It's not the sort of thing one does often."

"Alright then. Five hours from now? Will that give us enough time to get ready?"

"Maybe. Prom is supposed to be a bit more than just the dance, though."

"Like what?"

"I mean, I've never been to a Prom or anything, but, corsage, dinner, color coordination?"

"Right. I've never been either."

"I think there's also an after Prom party. From what my old friends told me, it involves a lot of eating, some sort of show, and quite a bit of struggling to stay awake. Do they have Prom in Sweden?"

"Yeah, but I think we should go with the American version. I never really thought about Swedish Prom."

"You know how American Prom flowers work, right?"

"Yup, my friends talked about it to me before Homecoming." She sighed. "I miss them... Anyways, I'll deal with the dinner. You can work on your tux. See you in five hours!"

 

==========

 

--- Severely encrypted negative eighth di-septaquantum spectrum communications between a Kerbin-local clone of Representative Jebediah and Representative Hess ---

 

"Representative Jebediah, Status report."

"Representative Hess, the PRG-31 mission progresses well."

"And the crew?"

"You heard about the situation. The... three... of us are doing fine."

"Humans. Proving again to be nosy and intrusive."

"Taking a chance at one's dreams is not intrusiveness for the sake of intrusiveness. In her situation, I may have done the same."

"True." There was a beep. "Hixenshia has surrendered officially. Their planet is in the process of being enslaved."

"Oh."

"Embyre was blown up a few days ago."

"Yes. Yes it was. It was a beautiful planet... I wish we could have done something more..."

"We are doing our best. We must redouble our efforts to Project N-34. How is production coming along?"

"Our Duna shipyard is producing Runners by the thousands. The Kerbals have not been told yet, although some are getting suspicious. How are the efforts of the other worlds, like, say, Quiiiiizniuva going?"

"They deviated from the cause of the Union and created weapons that they turned against The Species. They are not doing too well. Their world is attempting an evacuation to Ziquunodia, of all places. Their world will be under Species control in days, if not hours."

"We are working as fast as we can. The Barlow Device is working as expected so far."

"Good. It may be our only hope."

"Jebediah... I've been meaning to tell you, but I do not wish to. Judging by the patterns exhibited by The Species... Kerbin is not far off from invasion. The time remaining may be now measured in weeks instead of months."

"I know. I have been keeping up with the news. But Hess... Your world will fall shortly after. The Council Chamber is up there on the expected targets list as well."

"I know as well. Some days it seems there is no hope..."

"That is what they want us to think. They wish for us to despair so it will be easier for them."

"True. I wish you the best, not for my sake but for everyone's."

"Representative Hess, may the infinities smile upon you."

"More and more I find it hard to believe that their smiles are more than twisted grins of malice.""

 

==========

 

 

"The ship is approaching the edge of the galaxy," said Y.

 

"Excellent. Execute the next phase of the plan," responded Z.

"It has been done."

 

==========

 

 

And then I was nervous and freaking out. Kerbals didn't use deodorant, so there was none on the ship. I did manage to shower, and the duct tape tux was at least passable. The corsage, well, it's not as if I was going to find flowers up there or anything!

 

I tried making duct tape flowers. It didn't work, it was too small and intricate.

lbgBIh-zrZIuBfR1ufIFXLQqHRbnzzEs1ltKYeqUvV4i5RvpU5APVv5IiksawcIzrLShMzW0yhkLP8QQfFY67LCIJbV5sEK6gigwFadwwrjUYHNGpHwNZKIQPGYkla7Sy_JVBTyo

I went through the whole ship. I could cut out the manuals, but they are all old, dusty, and worn. Plus, they are not colorful. I'd rather not tear up the games. There's nothing in the junk drawer, I regretted opening the raptor drawer, there weren't any empty cans...

ErBizJ9w7SKYLGKsYPJEOQwhXNbXlbFLmRkMvEWJYKbEyQ5_TzE-tiThFidl8TUR4PRlsJmnCBd36rm8vpSEtZEqvgPViwP75LcvsP_M-H5ZEaXUCEOLqVzu_AzpSX6dLvzY6FpT

The trash was all ancient. Soap carvings would just collapse, not that I had time. The rocks were dull!

And that's when I burst into my sleeping berth to see if there was anything in there I could use. I had less than an hour at this point. But I went into the wrong berth. Most of them were empty, save for mine, Evelina's, and Jeb's. But, well... This one wasn't empty, and it wasn't one of ours.

It was dimly lit, and cluttered in a calming, absorbing way. Tiny cutouts of sights from Kerbin lined the walls. The bedsheets were deep blue. It looked like a place someone called home and cherished forever. And on the small desk in the corner, pinned to the surface, was an ancient, unsent letter. I went over and read it.

 

My dearest Maybelline,

 

The Legacy II is approaching Erinodor, the next world on our hunt for intelligent life. Forgive me for my antique method of communication, but I do find it appropriate in this time of travel through the void. Antique can be appreciated just as well as the modern. While you will not receive this physical letter, you should receive the closest possible copy via the scanner... Regrettably, must wait for the technology to physically and effectively send letters at these great distances.

Erinodor is expected to be a mildly harsh world, most likely not fit for Kerbal habitation. Nevertheless it may harbor some life. Commander Hubert, Liselas and myself will pilot the DAAWEV Nobility down to the surface, as per standard operation. This will be my second to last landing of this expedition. For every second I enjoy space, I spend two thinking of you. While I am glad to have come, I will be even more joyful when I can feel your embrace once more.

I have a gift for you - On Ennolara, we found several life forms in early stages of development - mostly plant life. I retrieved several samples for scientific purposes, but I have preserved one of our most graceful samples in a miniaturized eternity vessel - It is called Auris Fascimilis. There it will remain until I return home to Kerbin, and from there it will be yours. Of course, its beauty cannot compare to a fraction of yours.

I look forward to seeing you soon, my dearest. Until then,

Tilmen Kerman

 

I opened the desk drawer, and inside was a transparent glasslike jar with gleaming metal caps. inside was the most intricate flower I'd ever seen - purple and magnificent, apparently from a world called Ennolara. I started tearing up. Evidently, this flower - The Auris - had never been delivered to Maybelline, but had survived across time in the ship. And Tilmen... Had he died? And the DAAWEV - was that the same one?

 

I couldn't take the flower. It was too emotional. I had no right to it. Maybe Maybelline had descendants or relatives... Judging by the apparent age of the letter, it had been a long time.

I decided to go up the main spire of the ship to ask Jebediah about the room.

 

"Hey, Jeb?"

 

"Yes, Ethan?"

"Do you know any of the history behind this ship?"

"Ah, yes. I looked it up a while back. How long do you have?"

"Not very long, I was just wondering."

"Well, it was an early exploration ship, from before the Galactic Union found us. It was used to explore planets around nearby stars in search of life. A few of this type were built, none of them exactly the same... None of them found intelligence, but a few came close. This one went on around a dozen expeditions."

"Did it always have the Wyvern - well, that particular DAAWEV with it?"

"No. The originals were a model or two older. On most missions it flew with two of them."

"Did either of them ever crash?"

"No, I don't believe so. There were several close calls, including one where a wing was damaged, but no destruction, at least until the end of the exploration series. That ended when we were found by the Union... It became a ceremonial transport ship and the DAAWEVS were made illegal and unnecessary. Most of them were scrapped. After its multidecade long role as a transportation ship for the Jankra'ani ambassador - "

"Sorry to stop you - but do you know what happened on Erinodor?"

"Oh." He had his back turned to me, working on something, but one could guess that his face fell. "I assume you found the room."

"Yes."

"It was locked for centuries, most likely. I got bored, I'll admit. I don't often spend weeks on a spaceship with not much to do, I'm afraid... So I learned a spot of lockpicking and got in. It's not a very practical skill, but I was always curious and I wanted to give it a shot before I died... As to Erinodor... The records aren't exactly perfect, but most sources say that Tilmen, well... Erinodor was shrouded in clouds that blocked all vision, and interfered with the Legacy II's sensors. The decision to land anyway was made. The DAAWEV Nobility touched down very roughly on a barren, rocky plane. Lava was prevalent, and ash filled the turbulent, dark sky. The crew looked around outside and took readings for a few minutes before the fierce hot winds drove them to make the decision to get offworld.... Right as they began the journey back to the craft, a sort of volcanic geyser erupted. Hubert and Liselas were not harmed, but... but a large rock landed on top of Tilman."

"Oh."

"He was not dead, but he was barely alive. The other two crew dragged him back to the Nobility, and managed to get him inside. They hoped to get him to the medical center onboard this ship... But he died due to his injuries during ascent."

I said nothing for several moments.

"That's... That's horrible!"

"A tragedy, but one not known well."

"A fatality on an interstellar expedition escaping the public eye?"

"Yes. There were many more important missions going on at the time, and time has certainly passed since then. Tell me, what percentage of the human population do you think knows the name Vladimir Komarov? Or about Soyuz 11? I doubt you could name half of those who died on Challenger or Colombia." I realized he was right, and it made me feel sick.

"Right. Silly me, I forget sometimes that not everyone is as passionate about space as I am..."

"I can't check the genealogy records right now, but I fully intend to find Maybelline's closest living relative and deliver the flower to him or her."

"Ah."

"Why, you weren't planning on using it for something, were you?"

"No. I would almost never use something that emotionally significant for my own purposes." I walked closer to him and looked at what he had been working on. "What's that, Jeb?"

o8idRvdODIfB_DpSXAVsUmWUYyXG-aRwETlEba3cB7m4BAUpwJchW3rC2ApDXjy34ijmv733oKbxFZVi4L-DfwRISbhJk_T5wBv0UwTfzvPK-R1Co04SwnHTu1OcEfgVwhqQ2STK

"Oh, this? That's supposed to be a rose. I took a break from lockpicking and tried my hand at origami. It's been years since I've done any, I thought I should revisit it. I would not die happy had I not revisited old hobbies..." Something struck me as odd about how he had mentioned death a second time in relation to his hobbies, but I pushed the thought aside. I had more urgent things to worry about.

"It looks great, Jeb!"

"Well thank you, but I beg to differ."

"No, I'm serious! It's all intricate and everything!"

"It's really not, though!"

"Hey, Jeb?"

"Yes, Ethan?"

"Can you teach me how to make these? Preferably really quickly?"

"Well, I can't see why you would want to know how to, but I guess I could."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"Yes! Thanks, Jeb!"

"Alright, so you start with this little bit of paper here..."

 

==========

 

 

"Representative Galactus... That's genius!"

 

"Just "Galactus" please, Xanth. And it's most likely futile anyways."

"Explain again! Let me make sure I have this right."

"Crazy idea. The Species is supposed to be this hyper energy efficient race, which has the most efficient way to do everything calculated to a T. I just need to game the system."

"Go on!"

"Enslaving me won't work. I'm the last of my kind - I'd need a custom atmosphere for optimal work efficiency, and that's not worth doing for one extra slave, so they'd just kill me."

"Yes."

"But they will only kill me if it's energy efficient to do so. I just need to put myself in a situation where it's not worth the effort to kill me. That means I can't pose a threat to any Species operations. Now don't get me wrong, I really want to help you. It's all I can do to not ram my ship into one of theirs as fast as I can. I mean, it would accomplish nothing, but it would be symbolic, you know... I can't bear the thought of so many people suffering..."

"Now there are people who know what you felt when you lost your planet."

"Sadly. I wish that feeling unto not one being, not even those of The Species."

"So, Galactus... How are you going to eliminate yourself as a threat?"

"Simple. I intend to lock myself in somewhere I can't get out."

"And how do you intend to do that?"

"I do not know, but the enclosure must be small, and use only low energy, low value materials. Otherwise, The Species will declare it worthy to be used as an energy source."

"So you have to keep yourself trapped, alive, entertained, and fed using only low value, low energy materials?"

"Yes. I intend to make a small cabin with a regenerative nearly closed cycle life support system, powered by nothing more than starlight, and place it in a very low orbit of a black hole, possibly the one in the middle of the triangulum galaxy. That way, in order to salvage what little high value matter there is, The Species must dive deep into a gravitational field to get me! Plus, I will be unable to escape the gravitational field as I won't have a ship! I'll self destruct mine when I seal myself in!"

"Two things. That's moot if they have tech that allows them to bypass that sort of gravitational field, or make use of matter efficiently in its conversion to energy. There isn't anything we can really do about that, but what about entertainment?"

"The enclosure will house three redundant fully immersive virtual reality machines with a replica of the entire known galaxy, where I can live out all of my dreams... And that may be the only way I will ever return to Planet Pock. In a computer simulation."

"...Wow."

"That should keep me occupied until I'm finally dead. No more clones. It's been a good couple of centuries, I do believe..."

"But you're not going to do that, are you?"

"I don't know, Xanth. I hate to sound rude, but I could either run away with a small chance of living, or stay and have a chance at a virtual life for as long as I live. My first choice was a time dilated micro-universe, but those are in high demand and short supply. The energy needs are atrocious, too... At this point, it's a thought experiment. I don't know what I want to do."

"At all?"

"Actually, now that I think about it, I do know, Xanth. I want to be happy. I want to have fun. I want to go on an adventure. And I want everyone in the entire universe and beyond, if there is a beyond, to feel the same. But that will not happen. The best I can do is one last lap around the two thirds of the galaxy we still control, visiting all of my favorite worlds one last time, and taking one last longing glance at my friends... Well, road trip time. Would you like to come with me?"

"I would, Galactus. But I have a planet and a people I need to take care of."

"What I wouldn't give to have a planet or a people..."

 

==========

 

Okay, so, I tried to write this next bit as a dialogue narrative. As it turns out, I am not good at writing dialogue narratives about semi-awkward yet not awkward social yet slightly romantic yet friendly yet a bit romantic yet confusing situations.

I tried. It took me a long time, but then there was a glitch and it got deleted. I took that as a sign, so I'll just sum up what happened. I mean, it's not like anyone besides me will ever read this.

So, Space Prom.

First off, we had both ditched our Kerbal disguises. It was great looking like myself again, I hadn't seen myself in quite a while. I looked a bit weird. Admittedly, it was also great to see Evelina's face again.

It begins with me showing up in the rotating ring. She had mildly decorated the place, it was as fancy as you could make a semi-industrial spaceship with the limited supplies we had on board. We greeted each other. We smiled. I put the corsage on her wrist, and she complemented me on my origami abilities and asked how long I'd known how to do that for. I told her the truth, less than an hour.

She pinned the boutonniere on the lapel of my (good looking, according to her!) duct tape tuxedo coat. Fortunately, I did not get stabbed!

We did a few prom pictures, slightly in jest, with varying backdrops, by using a timed camera on one of the Kerbal smartphones.

Also, BTW, Kerbal smartphones are actually thicker than human ones due to the poor battery technology of the Kerbals. It also allows for the inclusion of a headphone jack and a heavier duty charging cable. Wireless headphones are cool and all, but they get lost quickly. Actually, the charging port was added for the human editions, as Kerbals actually use wireless headphones as they don't have ears and need something that will reach around their head anyway, so they end up with large headphones that are really hard to lose. I mean, they have ears, they are just not super visible and you can't stick things in them.

Anyways, back to the topic.

At that point, we sat down and had dinner. Our favorite of the preserved food on board. And we talked a bit, just a normal comfortable friend talk. We both agreed that it would be great if we had other friends to talk to. She's great, but at the same time, she's the only other human that this version of me has talked to for a long time.

All too quickly, dinner was over. The music started playing. She had a playlist going, a mix of her favorites, my favorites, and traditional dance hits. We generally goofed off, laughed, and had fun. There was actually a minimum of awkwardness, surprisingly.

And then there was a slow song. Something calm and tranquil. I cheesily (on purpose) asked her "May I have this dance?" and well, we started slow dancing. And it was great - I haven't slow danced outside of a few isolated, awkward scenarios. It continued in a joking manner for a while, but then it got more serious, and we quieted down significantly. But then... Well, I have to do this part in a dialogue narrative. This isn't the most accurate retelling. It's definitely not exact,  but it is close, and this is the gist of how it went.

"Ethan?" she asked, with a hint of nervousness in her voice.

"Yes, Evelina?"

"Can I be honest with you?"

"Absolutely."

"And don't take this the wrong way... But, well, I have realized that I still like you." This definitely caught me off guard, but less than I was expecting for some reason.

"And which way do you want me to take that?"

"The same way you've been taking it, I think. It's not like we can act on it much, with the current state of the universe, and it's too good of a friendship to risk ruining."

"So why bring it up?"

"I feel like I need to say it. I may not get many more chances. And while I am in that vein..." She hesitated. "Ethan Edwards, you are an amazing person. You're great fun to be around. I feel like every day with you is a new adventure, and not just because of the whole space thing. And I feel really safe around you, and I feel like I could talk to you about anything." I was briefly taken aback.

"Evelina..." I hesitated slightly and took a breath. "I feel that too. I can be myself around you. I have enjoyed nearly every instant of my time with you. And your spontaneity and enthusiasm have not been matched by anyone I've met." We both were definitely blushing by this point.

"Well, that's quite the list, it's very flattering!"

"I'm telling you that I feel pretty much the same way about you that you do about me, you said it about me first!"

"Alright, copycat," she joked, "Anything original?"

"Well, you're cute!" I blurted out spontaneously. I was actually surprised that I had said that.

"You really think so?"

"Absolutely. Not that looks are the most important thing, your personality is worth far more than looks could ever be worth."

"Well, you have a great smile."

"Oh, so now you're copying me!" I joked. "And my smile is nowhere near as great as yours!" She turned away, blushed some more, and smiled some more.

"Yes it is!"

"And your laugh, I love your laugh!" I said. Oops. I didn't mean to say that.

"Oh, popping the l-word already, are we?"

"I said I loved your smile, and technically you already used one of the l-words... You said you liked me."

"Well, I do like you!"

"And I like you too!"

"Well, then, mister copycat!"

"Like!" I said.

"Love!" she responded. I opened my mouth to say something more, but stopped myself.

"What? What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"No, what were you going to say?" I hesitated.

"Loss."

"Loss?"

"I don't want to lose you."

"Then we will have to win. Win against The Species." I hesitated again. "Ethan? What's wrong? You can be honest." I took not one, but two deep breaths.

"Right now, I am not as afraid of them as I am of messing up. Messing up this... Messing things up with you."

"Ethan, there are few things you could reasonably do to mess this up."

"Really?"

"Yes. And Ethan," At this point, we had stopped dancing and were standing close to each other," I think you need to be far more confident in yourself."

"I - "

"Stop for a moment, I need to tell you this. You. Are. An. Amazing. Person. Reading your public journal entries and talking to you like this, I see you belittling yourself and doubting yourself so, so much. It sickens me. You are worth it, you can do what you put your mind to. Alright?"

"And if I do mess things up?"

"Ethan, if you continue to mean well, be kind, and be considerate of others, you could never, ever mess this up."

"Never is a very strong word."

"Yes, but so is love. And Ethan? I..." she hesitated. "I love you. I don't know in which way, yet, if it's a friend love or something more, but I do. And that will not die easily." I felt myself beginning to tear up slightly. Okay, maybe more than slightly.

"And Evelina... Same as you, I don't know which way, but, well... I love you too." I pulled her in for a hug. We stood there, interlocked, for several seconds.

 

 

The music continued playing. We slowly resumed dancing, more of a shuffle at this point, much closer. We spun as the wheel spun as the galaxy spun. And then, a song started playing. It was potentially the most beautiful song I had ever heard. It must have been one of hers, as I did not recognize it. It was just so... Magical....

It was a happy song. It was a sad song. It was the final song. And about halfway through that final song, a feeling passed through me, one I had never felt before.

It was so many things. Warmth... Contentment... Peace... Tranquility... Ease... Fulfillment... And many, many more. It was all of them at once, yet none of them at all. But whatever it was, whatever it is called... I felt it.

 

And call me crazy, but I could sense that she felt it too.

 

I pulled away ever so slightly, far enough that I could see her face well. She looked up, and her gaze met mine. When she saw me, she smiled. It was a soft smile, a kind, welcoming smile, one unlike any other I had ever seen.

 

 

"So, confidence, you say?" I whispered, returning that smile. Time began running in slow motion.

"Confidence," she responded, nearly breathlessly, as she seemed to hold me ever tighter, pull me ever closer, and beckon me even nearer.

I closed my eyes and leaned in.

 

"HEY, GOOD NEWS!" shouted an extremely enthusiastic Jebediah Kerman, racing quickly (and noisily) down the ladder. Evelina and I (startled would probably be the biggest understatement of my entire life) abruptly pulled back from each other. In the fraction of a second it took for him to descend the ladder enough to see us, we had put several feet between ourselves.

"We have successfully completed our mission!" He smiled enthusiastically as he climbed down into the room, and then he saw us, looking extremely preturbed, shocked, and embarrassed. His face then changed to one of panic. "WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING?"

"Well, err - " I began.

"I told you a thousand times, your Kerbal disguises are NOT TO COME OFF UNTIL I SAY SO!" I was momentarily glad for the change in subject. "This was literally the most crucial part of the mission! We had probably a fifty percent chance of dying or getting captured by The Species! You could have involved humanity! That's careless! Reckless! Irresponsible! Irrational! Stupid and idiotic! What the hell were you doing that could have warranted this blatant disrespect for the lives of TRILLIONS of souls of every peaceful race in the galaxy?!?!?"

"Um - " I began, my already preoccupied brain doing gymnastics trying to figure out how to justify and rationalize Space Prom, and also, if necessary, the failed kiss.

"We had a fifty percent chance of death?" Evelina was blindsided a second time by this announcement. Her face turned the palest of whites. "We could have DIED?"

"Yes, that was a real possibility."

"And what if we had died?"

"We would have all continued on with our lives via our clones."

"OUR CLONES?"

"Yes, Evelina, our clones."

"Well, I'm sorry mister immortal Prime Minister of the Galaxy with who knows how many doppelgangers,  THERE IS ONLY ONE OF ME!" Jeb abruptly stopped, frozen, and over the course of the next few seconds, his face turned from one of panic and anger to one of concern and shock. "And even if there wasn't, even if there were TEN of me, that doesn't give you the excuse to put me in extreme danger without telling me!"

"Oh my goodness, Evelina, I'm so sorry!"

"FIFTY PERCENT!"

"I really meant to clone you back on the orbital rings, but you kept hanging around to stare, and I couldn't find a ship, and... Well... I guess you are right. None of those are excuses for risking your life."

"Right then, we are still far, far from home, am I going to get cloned NOW, or what?"

"There's nowhere to do it for thousands and thousands of light years!, and we won't need to now! The moment we get home, you are going straight back to Kerbin, where you belong, and you are going to stay there."

"Sorry," I interjected, "but what happens if a clone dies?

"Well, Ethan, two things. One, you feel a chilling emptiness that eats away at your soul and sanity. I recedes but never goes away entirely, it hangs around for the rest of your life, like a shadow, haunting you until the end. I am not used to it, and I never will be. That is why I try to die as little as possible. Two, if there is a God, he will have had to decide how the afterlife will work for copies of the same person." I felt a chill pass though me. "The risk is not over, but at this point you are most likely not going to die. I still cannot tell you all of the details - "

"Even after our lives have been risked without us knowing why and just how much?" interjected Evelina.

"Hush. Tell no one." He gathered us in close and whispered to us. "This ship has been cloaked using top secret bleeding edge technology. We ventured out into Species controlled territory. Every ship that has ventured out that far has been destroyed - until now. And we're back, make no mistake! We survived!"

"Oh my!" I said. His enthusiasm was getting to me, and mine was getting to him. It was a positive feedback loop! We both grew ecstatic, as the implications bounced back and forth between the two of us.

"I don't see why this couldn't have been done with a probe!" asked Evelina, still in her shocked and slightly angry mood. That brought both Jeb and I back down several emotional levels.

"Evelina, the mission started as me taking frozen embryos as stealthily as I could to a galaxy far, far away to restart civilization. I cloned myself on Voyager to make my clone less traceable, and brought Ethan because he was going to blab. I had to turn back to Kerbin because of a forgotten payload, which was actually a ruse to tell me the improved plan. It could have been done with a probe, but the original mission required an operator to restart society once at the destination, and that ship's ancient pathetic excuse for a computer was not going to cut it for even much remote piloting! Originally it was just going to be me. I am Jebediah Kerman, I have died dozens and dozens of times. I am not expendable, per se, but despite being a Galactic Representative, I am more expendable than most. The new mission was a slight modification from the old one, so we kept the same hardware in an attempt to speed things up, and maybe it would have also  alleviated some suspicion. But then Ethan ran off and got you, I rescued you both, the ship exploded, and we had to find the new one. So, yes, Evelina, it definitely could have been done with a probe if it had been planned that way from the beginning, but it was intended that the only life at stake would be MINE. No Ethan, no Evelina. Just me. Once you joined I could not reasonably get you to leave. There."

..."Wait... Jeb?"

"Yes, Ethan?"

"You were about to take me to a galaxy far, far away on a tiny ship to restart society with a minimal chance of survival, no chance of return if the mission succeeded, and no idea that any of this was happening?"

"Well, I..." Jeb was at a loss for words. "It was stupid of me to do that. I should have convinced you to stay. I had no right to potentially put you through that, but in my panic, I let you come anyway, come with me to what I thought would be a lonely life at best, capture and death at worst. There is no good justification for that, Ethan. I am sorry." He seemed extremely genuine.

"And taking off our disguises had no good justification either," Evelina replied. "We are both sorry."

"Well - yeah, I guess so."

"You guess so?"

"I mean, if I had known that we were about to potentially die, I would definitely have not removed my disguise. But, there was no way of knowing that, and I can't say that I regret what we did," I said. Evelina looked like she was having an internal struggle about what to think, but before she could say anything, Jeb spoke.

"What exactly were you doing?" I looked at Evelina. She looked at me. "Did I interrupt anything?" I cleared my throat and looked at the ground.

"Yeah, just a little bit."

"Just a bit? Oh, good, I was worried I had interrupted something important."

"Well, I mean..." said Evelina.

"What?" asked Jeb.

"Nothing."

"Alright, then. I guess I'll go back to piloting, lockpicking, and origami. He turned to go.

"Wait, Jeb?" asked Evelina.

"Yes?" He turned back.

"How significant was this mission?" Jebediah looked at her straight in the eye.

"It could be just a fluke, but if this truly works, and is kept secret... I daresay that there may be hope for the galaxy yet." Jebediah started walking and turned back, in an extremely dramatic manner, but turned into the ladder that lead out of the centrifuge, banging his head. "Ow!" He nearly fell over, holding his head in pain.

"You alright?" I asked.

"Billions of funds worth of research and development, and they didn't think to add pads to the ladders." Jebediah chuckled ever so slightly, but then had a visible moment of realization. "Oh, hey, that actually reminds me, the Wyvern still lacks a ladder, I should replace it."

"Is that necessary?" I asked.

"It's something to do," said Jeb. I've integrated human weapons with Kerbal missile technology, refined that a few times, exercised, disassembled and rebuilt several subsystems, played chess with myself, and now I'm resorting to lockpicking and origami. Rebuilding a ladder will definitely keep me occupied for a while."

"Jeb, do you need any medical assistance?" asked Evelina. Jeb was now walking around, obviously struggling with balance.

"I'm going to build the best ladder for several light years in every direction!" he announced with loopy enthusiasm, as he grabbed onto the ladder and climbed up, back into the central stalk of the Legacy II.

I looked back at Evelina. She was obviously still an emotional wreck. So was I.

"I don't know about you, but I think I could definitely use a rest," she said.

"That's probably a good idea," I said. Evelina looked around at all of the Prom supplies.

"We can clean this up tomorrow. The stuff for the After Prom party, too."

"Yeah. It has been a long and eventful day. Good night, Evelina."

"Good night, Ethan." There was a brief hesitation, but she stepped forward and hugged me. A few seconds later, we both stepped back and went our separate ways up to our rooms. And then, despite the whirlwind of thoughts and feelings which had invaded my head, I eventually managed to drift off to sleep.

 

==========

"Report," said Y.

"The next step of the plan has been completed," X responded. "The ladder will now be repaired."

"Report total energy expenditures."

"The energy required to upload and play one song."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ultimate Steve
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