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THE SPACE SAUNTER - Racing to space in a time of peace


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Chapter 9: KNR Orbital Tours

    One thing common to both kerbals and humans is their sense of prestige.  People spend hundreds of dollars on Gucci sandals when a twenty bucks can get you a pair of tennis shoes at Walmart.  Rolex watches sell four thousands while Fitbits cost less than a hundred and are far more functional.  People will pay good money for a sense of exclusiveness and luxury.  This thought process is often thought of as unnecessarily lavish and even irrational.  But the fact remains that many companies have become massively influential, not through spamming their products all across the consumer world and not through finding the ideal supply and demand, but instead through limiting production and availability.  They then find that the demand rises to meet them.

    Mortimer Kerman was a businessman.  He had his supply and demand mapped out perfectly and scrutinized by multiple economists.  His advertising was brazen and extensive.  And his supply, well, his ability to supply the incoming demand was orders of magnitude greater than LNR Aerospace.  Trying to compete with Mortimer would be futile.  He had a fleet of eight planes, each carrying twice as many passengers as the Dawn Treader and Drefinger.  And they could all operate for cheaper.  Mortimer Aerospace would crush them.  If KNR couldn't win with power, they would win with prestige.

    The giant garage door on Hangar A rattled up and banged, knocking down clouds of dust into the strong beams of Kerbol.  Not just three, but five kerbals walked in, their forms silhouetted against the morning light.  The hangar was in darkness for several seconds until Lawrence flipped a lever, opening the ceiling windows with a series of bangs, casting light on a newly outfitted Drefinger and Dawn Treader.  The faint smell of welding exhaust still lingered on the four shiny new boosters on the Dawn Treader and aroma of ozone wafted from the four slightly sooty boosters on the Drefinger.


    There were two newcomers to LNR Aerospace.  Cynthia Kerman was a forty-four year old kerbal with a sharp personality and sense of strict orderliness.  If anything was amiss in the financial logbooks, if company taxes were overcharged, or if someone forgot to make a payment, she quickly found the source of the issue and forcefully dealt with it or them.  Her hair was just beginning to fade to gray, but each of those gray hairs represented two on the heads of mistaken KRS agents and forgetful customers.  Jim Kerman was a young engineer with an inventive mind, although his patience in his work was often lacking.  He was fresh out of graduate school and enthusiastic about a job involving routine trips to space. 

    The a roar rattled the windows in their frames as a shadow skittered up the beach and the face of the island toward the runway.  The shriek of gear brakes drowned out the voice of Rebecca as she instructed Jim in pre-flight checks and maintinance.  The first orbital tourist had arrived.  Gilbert Kerman who was one of sixty handpicked invitees for a personalized, fully-orbital flight covering the entirety of Kerbin in less than an hour.  Jim and Lawrence sat at the helm of the Drefinger as it glided up off the end of the runway.


    Lawrence had by now mastered the art of liftoff in the Drefinger.  His liftoff flawlessly blended from riding a runway of dirt to a runway of air by merely retracting the landing gear and letting the built-up air pressure under the bring him up off the runway.  As the airspeed filled the lungs of the plane, the Whiplash engine pushed the kerbals back in their seats and the Drefinger further into the sky.

    An alarm silently blinked on the left side of Lawrence's control panel.  "Lawrence to Raymond, aerodynamic temperatures on the nosecone are at 92%.  Should I cut throttle?"

    The plasma raged angry static in his ears.  Well, what the Ike.  The tourist didn't know how close he was to death so he didn't have to worry.  Instead of cutting throttle, Lawrence pushed a button activating the four airless engines strapped to the back of the Drefinger.


    All the fire and chaos outside registered as pure joy on Gilbert's face as he beamed his wide, open-mouthed smile out the window at the wall of violent red-orange attempting to tear his molecules apart.  In the cockpit, Lawrence wrestled the controls as he guided the Drefinger faster and faster around Kerbin.  It was the moment when either they would make orbit or not; whether LNR Aerospace could fulfill its promise of a circumnavigatory tour or not.  The guel gauges sank as the trajectory rose.  A green light blinked on and Lawrence cut all throttle with barely five liters of fuel left.  They'd arrived.  The same joy registered on Lawrence's face as he stared out the window at the great blue marbled globe outside.  They were in orbit.


    As the Drefinger departed the day and night loomed on the horizon, Jim offered Gilbert some in-flight snacks and entertainment in the form of naming all the major cities glowing like veins of gold on a smooth obsidian wall.  Jim figured that that was the ideal time to bring the snacks out, as Gilbert would have recovered from the ascent, but still had enough time for the food to pass through his stomach before the 4+ g descent.

    As the Drefinger passed once again over KNR Aerospace Headquarters, Lawrence smiled and took a photograph of himself holding the island between his thumb and the rest of his glove.  Raymond would find it amusing.  Lawrence could almost make out a tiny wood-brown splinter in the pale blue-green thumb of the Effem Sea Island.  That was the entirety of his livelihood.  Years of his life had been dedicated to that tiny sliver.  He could almost see himself bustling around at warp speed, performing various mundane tasks as planes whizzed by on the runway.  And as Lawrence looked out over the rest of Kerbin's smooth, still face, Lawrence truly appreciated how insignificant he was.  So much of Kerbin had he never touched, so much of its air had he never breathed.  Such a perfect world, and he and Raymond contributed one small fraction of an island to the huge, animate whole; billions of kerbals bustling beneath him in what appeared, from a thousand kilometers away, to be slow motion. 

    And as the Drefinger swung around Kerbin and passed over the Cretasian Impact Sea for the second time, it spun around and coughed out the last remaining drops of fuel and began its descent.  Something caught Lawrence's eye in the south.  A delicate contrail hung in the sky south of the crater, barely visible in the evening light. 


    Lawrence made a rude gesture out the window, unseen by Jim and Gilbert. 


    Kerbin's atmosphere began reclaiming the Drefinger as it returned its passengers to KNR Headquarters.  Lawrenced monitored the elevon angle closely, deflecting the red-hot plasma away from the Drefinger while generating as much drag as possible.  The Whiplash and the four airless engines had labored long and hard to give the Drefinger its velocity during the ascent, and now that velocity dissipated rapidly in the four-g forces as Kerbin reclaimed the plane under its inevitable gravity.


    With the fun over, the Drefinger drifted back down to KNR Headquarters and settled gently onto the runway, the overheated hull glowing faintly and distorting the air around it into a shimmer.  Jim helped Gilbert out of the plane, and with that, the first KNR Orbital Tour was declared a success.  Only four flights were scheduled for the week, but each would be worth at least fifteen suborbital tickets.  The folks at LNR Aerospace knew life was going to be cheap for a while, but over time they would eventually build a name for themselves.  A name of prestige.  Mortimer could have quantity.  He could be the reigning emperor of supply and demand.  Hundreds of people could come flocking to him, waving their suborbital tickets.  But one thing Lawrence and Raymond knew:  they'd always provide a quality of experience beyond anything Mortimer could imagine.  People would some day prize LNR tour tickets as something you'd flourish in your neighbors faces.  They'd be a way to prove your importance and significance in the rat race of life.  But until then, Raymond and Lawrence had work to do.  A plane stood by, needing to be cleaned and de-prepped.  They had many tours to fly.  Lawrence and Raymond had a space agency to run.


Edited by RoninFrog
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4 minutes ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

You need an excuse for eye candy?


24 minutes ago, Maria Sirona said:

Since chapter four, there has been an image of Kerbin or Eve in a chapter's end. What's up with that?

my bad ill do duna next

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13 minutes ago, emord-nillap said:

Going from suborbital to ssto - Only in KSP

Yeah the smallness of Kerbin makes multiple stages somewhat unnecessary for orbital trips so staging off boosters would almost be more technologically advanced than an SSTO.  Also it'd be kinda hard for a private space agency to pay for all the boosters they lose unless they recover them like SpaceX, which would be even more technologically advanced than a Kerbin SSTO.

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Chapter 10:  Inter-Mission

    Theoretical physics says that traveling quickly through the three spatial dimensions causes you to travel more slowly through the fourth temporal dimension.  Time slows down for people in space, and therefore the world speeds up relative to those in space.  In a sense, this couldn't be more true.  As Raymond gazed down at Kerbin, he could faintly make out faint, matte-blue landmasses amid the shining, sunlit seas.  Although he couldn't see them in detail, he knew what those continents contained.  On his left, young kerbal children were fed breakfast by their parents and driven to school.  As his gaze drifted rightward, they sat in their desks and watched their teachers disinterestedly.  Directly beneath him, countless thousands of children were eating lunch, playing on their many recess playgrounds, and picking petty fights with each other.  Tiny, invisible specks in tiny, invisible buildings and playgrounds.  Thousands upon thousands of them lived out their day in one sweeping motion from left to right, from one end of Raymond's view to the other.  They ate, they laughed, and they cried in a silent, cacophonous choir as Raymond watched from his seat in the stars.  Looking to his right, the timezones shifted, and the children left their schools and friends to go home and eat dinner with their families and complete, or in some cases neglect, their schoolwork.  But not to sleep.

    For a kerbal, their entire life passes in one waking moment.  From the moment a kerbal's eyes open when they are born, they remain open until death closes them.  The life of a kerbal is like a singular, decades-long day.  They wake up one century, live out their lives, and return to sleep in the next century (for some), unbroken by sleep or even blinking.  And Raymond watched all of it.  He estimated there were close to a billion kerbals in view from his place in orbit.  For every of his kerbal seconds, one billion kerbal seconds passed in the lives of those beneath him.  If he compiled each of those parallel seconds into a linear timeline, he could piece together the entire life of a kerbal.  In three seconds, a kerbal would be born, grow up, grow old, and die.  One-a-kraken, two-a-kraken, three-a-kraken.  An asparagus farmer in Mercadia.  A pilot in the Concord Republic.  A school principal in Beldorra.  Too fast for Raymond to fathom, they passed away in one blink of their eyes.


    And no different from the farmer or the pilot or the principal, a kerbal sat in a cockpit high above the Effem Sea Coast.  Raymond thought about his own precious three seconds and what he wanted from them.  Of course, he wanted to spend them taking kerbals such as the one in the back seat to space.  But not just that.  He switched his dashboard radio to a private channel and rang Rebecca.

    His voice traveled dozens of kilometers downwards and emanated from Rebecca's headset as she repaired an airless engine in Hangar A.  "Hey, Becca.  I was just thinking, it's been a hot minute since we've gone out and like gotten dinner or anything.  How'd you feel about hitting up Integral or the cannery?"

    His own headset vibrated in reply.  "I'd love that, Ray.  The new chef at Integral just isn't as good though.  Let's do the cannery."

    It was true.  David Kerman, chief chef and founder of Integral Kitchen and Cafeteria, now slept.  His few space-seconds had passed.  One fine morning as Raymond had lifted the Dawn Treader off the runway, David Kerman had sat in his apartment across the channel of the Effem Sea.  He had known about his diabetes for a while, but hadn't told his now-grown children of it.  Until then.  That morning, he had left them a telephone message to both his daughters telling them he loved them, and that he hoped their kids would love them as much as he knew they loved him.  He had then carefully shuffled across the room and had sat to rest in his favorite chair by the balcony window.  And with the rising sunbeams falling gently on his face, beckoning him home, he'd fallen asleep.  And such was the way of life.

    The young, new chef, hired by Integral's main stockholder, just didn't make his food as heartfelt as Dave had.  So that night, Raymond and Rebecca ate at Sean's Cannery.


    Although Sean's Cannery only served canned food, the food was guaranteed to be fresh, tasty, and hot.  Raymond ordered canned chicken and dumplings, and Rebecca had canned pierogi lasagna.

    "So Becca, how's that engine coming?"  Raymond wondered from behind his can.

    "Oh, it's going okay, I guess.  I'm having some trouble getting enough fuel pressure for such a large nozzle, but it'll be at least three times as powerful when it's finished."

    Raymond considered for a moment.  "Have you tested in a vacuum?  The suction could probably pressurize the nozzle enough for a good reaction."

    "It's a good thought.  I dunno how we'd lug one up to space though.  Our planes are, after all, only passenger jets."

    Raymond took a big bite of dumpling.  "Speaking of which, how are you feeling about being on-board engineer?"

    Rebecca pondered.  "Well, it's fun going to space every day but having to monitor all the flight systems, let alone the passenger, is kinda taxing.  Kinda takes some of the fun out of it."

    "Yeah, I feel you.  What do you say we take the Treader out for a spin after dinner, just the two of us?"

    "Sounds like great fun, let's do it!"


    As Raymond and Rebecca stepped out onto the evening tarmac, the cool breeze of twilight wafted through their hair as the remainder of the day's heat radiated from the still-warm pavement.  The clouds above them streaked across the sky, racing away from Kerbol along frigid jetstreams into the deep blue ocean of the stratosphere.  The tide rose with the Mun, and it brought the faint sifting sound of waves breaking on the shore to their ears.  As the pair sauntered across the cracked brown dirt towards the Dawn Treader, the crickets around them fell silent at their footsteps.  The tranquility was only broken by the faint sounds Raymond and Rebecca made themselves: the crunching of the gravel under their boots, the stuttering pop of the cockpit door handle, and the clambering of two kerbals climbing through the hatch into the cabin of the Dawn Treader.


    And then the settling silence of the evening was rudely shattered by the roaring of a blue tube of exhaust blooming out of the back of the Dawn Treader.  The landing gear folded into their compartments and the Dawn Treader was borne away on the noisy wind of the Whiplash.  As the small plane rose from the runway and climbed into the sky, it was, for a brief minute, fully illuminated by the light of Kerbol until the horizon again rose behind it and the darkness once again prevailed.  The sea below glowed a faint blue-green, the reflection of the sky giving it a faint luminous quality, as if it was not yet ready for it to be night.


    In the air, Raymond and Rebecca didn't talk much.  Raymond had to focus on piloting, and the clamor of the engine and the crackle of the plasma cones made communication difficult in the first place.  It wasn't until they reached orbit and the plane went into a continuous free-fall through the darkness of the night.

    "Ya know, Becca, even if LNR isn't seeing as much traffic these days, at least we got a lot of free time on our hands.  Not constantly running kerbals up and down all day.  It's more relaxing.  I think I almost enjoy it more."

    "Yeah, there sure isn't as much to do around.  Sometimes it can get a little boring, but it's good work."

    "Better than Kerbodyne?"

    "Yeah, of course!  Working on real planes is way more fun than that.  Back then half the job was legal paperwork and waivers and blueprints and such.  Give me a welding torch and a spanner any day over that."  Rebecca glanced at the horizon and pointed at a speck of light on the surface.  "Hey, speak of the devil, there it is."

    Raymond couldn't quite tell what she was looking at.  "What's it?"

    "Oh, you can't really see it from here.  But that's my old Kerbodyne warehouse.  Or at least that's the city where it is."

    "You miss it at all?"  Raymond asked.

    "No, I didn't really know my coworkers very well.  They were all just kinda grumpy old engine nerds.  I enjoy working with you and Lawrence a whole lot more."


    As the sky lightened in the east, Kerbol suddenly blared its light from between two mountains, illuminating the interior of the Dawn Treader in a soft light.  This was what astronomers call the "diamond ring" effect.  The moment was perfect.

    Raymond cleared his throat.  "Say, the real thing just doesn't look as good does it."

    "Huh?"  Rebecca, confused, glanced over at Raymond.  His face had an unnaturally bluish tinge to it.  Clutched in his trembling, gloved hand was a diamond ring.

    Raymond stuttered out something.  Crêpes! Practicing in the mirror would've been a good idea.  "You know Becca, we've known eachother for a while now, and I'm hoping to know you for a while longer.  In fact, Rebecca, I love you.  And because of that, I'm hoping I'll be able to know you for as long as I live.  Rebecca Kerman, will you marry me?"

    Rebecca's face took on a similar bluish undertone.  Her mouth dropped open and her eyes, if possible, bugged out even more.  "Oh, Ray, of course!"

    As they kissed, Kerbol grew brighter on the horizon and rose to conquer its kingdom of the sky with its light.  For some unknown reason, kerbals like to get engaged in places like the tops of mountains, the roof of Hemingway Tower, or the bridge of the immense Cretisian Impact Cruiser.  Something about being up high with a good view is inspiring and romantic.  It's not exactly clear why, but places like those just draw young, passionate couples.  But whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: of all the lofty engagement spots of all kerbalkind, Raymond and Rebecca had the highest of them all.





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On 11/29/2022 at 9:50 PM, RoninFrog said:

However, without the ubiquitous fear of failure and war on the horizon, any program toward cosmic exploration would lack the support and interest of fellow Kerbals

Would they?

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20 minutes ago, Zozaf Kerman said:
22 minutes ago, Bej Kerman said:

Would they?

It’s their story, so yes, if that is what they wrote, then it would.

I'm not a big fan of the sentiment behind "war is necessary for quick development".

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Kerbals like a) snacks, b) shiny things and c) snacks. Any opportunity to find the most exotic snacks on other worlds- cheese from the Mun, mint from Minmus, cinnamon and other spices from Duna etc.- would surely provoke a metaphorical gold rush as anyone with the means raced to secure the supply of those pricey, tasty morsels. The fact that doing so requires making some very shiny spacecraft would be the icing on the proverbial cake.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Bej Kerman said:

I'm not a big fan of the sentiment behind "war is necessary for quick development".

In one decade war pushed us from suborbital to man on the moon.  In the half-century of relative peace (no world powers in conflict) since, we haven't done almost anything further or even returned to the moon.  NASA hasn't sent anyone to space in over ten years.  War, or the threat of war, has a galvanizing effect on society.  Without this, there isn't a unified interest, at least on a national level.  We have private companies like SpaceX, but nothing government-funded and no national space programs doing much.  A lot of Kerbin timelines of other fanworks, and especially the gameplay timeline itself, are much faster paced, where it goes probe-suborbital-manned-orbital-mun-interplanetary all way to fast, often times with the starting point of a funded, dedicated space program which doesn't seem realistic at all given how peaceful Kerbin is.

Goodness sakes I've started writing my basic forum responses in the Saunter style.  :D

Also I do understand your point and I'm not trying to argue it with you, I'm just trying to help you better understand the premise for Space Saunter.

Edited by RoninFrog
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6 minutes ago, RoninFrog said:

In one decade war pushed us from suborbital to man on the moon.  In the half-century of relative peace (no world powers in conflict) since, we haven't done almost anything further or even returned to the moon.  NASA hasn't sent anyone to space in over ten years.  War, or the threat of war, has a galvanizing effect on society.  Without this, there isn't a unified interest, at least on a national level.  We have private companies like SpaceX, but nothing government-funded and no national space programs doing much.

The perceived problem: there's no war, no driving force for development

The actual problem: humans are too obsessed with hate to focus on development without sinister motives.

7 minutes ago, RoninFrog said:

A lot of Kerbin timelines of other fanworks, and especially the gameplay timeline itself, are much faster paced, where it goes probe-suborbital-manned-orbital-mun-interplanetary all way to fast, often times with the starting point of a funded, dedicated space program which doesn't seem realistic at all given how peaceful Kerbin is.

That's probably for the best. Wouldn't want Kerbals to be tarnished, to be seen as something like Humans, savages driven by brutalism, only developing tech for the sake of... well, we both history in school, didn't we? If there's one single thing that ever keeps me going, it's at least the idea that humans can imagine a species that doesn't suffer our horrid problems with violence, without people making the complaint that said fictional species being able to go on without violence as a means to an end is unrealistic. That's besides the underlying assumption that a species focused on spaceflight without doing it for the sake of death is unrealistic, which could be considered a very biased and silly assumption given that all we have to go off is one single species, one that has stagnated because its inhabitants can't seem to imagine technological development without some kind of greater "us vs them" threat.

I'm not trying to attack anyone or start arguments, I'm just saying that short timelines aren't a problem, and that fanworks that don't place war on a pedestal shouldn't be discourged. I always like to see fanfics that do say, yeah, if we put the unproductive history of the human race aside for a sec and start blank and follow the misadventures of a few aliens from a race that doesn't have the same baggage as Humans do, then yeah, it's completely possible to go interplanetary this quickly without the looming threat of war. Ultimately, that should be a message everyone should be spreading because it is possible as long as we are at least trying to imagine a future of development and peace :)

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I love the direction you've taken with this. And I totally agree, Kerbals are non-military. My own opinion is the closest they'll ever come to organized warfare (as we know it) is a good snowball fight... And they love those. Finding a reason for them to go to space without a space-race being involved is a very intriguing idea to explore.
This is a fun ride so far and I look forward to seeing where you go from here.

:valhappy:  :happy:

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