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First Flight (Chapter 101 - A is for Acorn)

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The next chapter is up...


Politics

Donman clasped his hands behind his back and stared across the central plaza to the Capital building. His gaze travelled slowly over the great Arches, each symbolising one of the six Regionalities of Kerbin, each anchored by two of the smaller, but still impressive, out-buildings given over to the administration of that Regionality. Four of the Arches were grounded in the light spilling from every ornately carved doorway and every arched window. The Wakiran and Firesvarn Arches were grounded in darkness, staff recalled to other administration centres on another continent.  The evening sun threw oddly angular shadows from the statues decorating the nearest out-buildings and the flag of all Kerbin drooped listlessly against its pole, as if cowed by the flaming evening sky. Across the great central Dome, a gap-toothed chequerboard pattern of brightly lit office windows stood out against the twilit stonework. 

Donman sighed and went back inside, nodding briefly to the guards as he walked past. Head down, deep in thought, he strode along the corridor and up the stairs to his chambers. Retrieving the coffee jar from where he'd abandoned it on Corsen's desk, he busied himself setting a fresh pot on to brew. For a long minute he stared at his red-eyed, haggard reflection in the mirror by the door. Then he shook his head and walked through to his office in search of eyedrops, casting a weary glance at the stack of old books on their cart as he went.

Some time later, moister of eye and fortified by hot caffeine, Donman carefully set his empty mug down on the edge of his desk before pulling on a pair of white archivist gloves and opening the leather-bound book in front of him. Delicately, he turned the yellowing pages until he found his bookmark, placed the square of silver filigree on its stand, and began to read. For the next couple of hours, he worked his way steadily through the book, pausing occasionally to jot down a note or look up a cross-reference in another, equally old book. Eventually he pushed his chair back, rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, and swore feelingly under his breath. 

Can't invoke Article 24 without declaring for one side or the other or declaring against another Regionality altogether. The Emergencies and Global Unity Act looks like it'll be useless unless we can broker a ceasefire. I don't have a Right of Conclave because I am Conclave. Donman set his jaw, reached into his desk drawer and found a sheet of headed notepaper and a fountain pen. He paused then, reluctantly took out a  small hand press, a sheet of thin wax discs and his seal of office. Setting them to one side, he uncapped his pen and began to write.

He hadn't got any further than a perfunctory 'Dear Mr President," when his phone rang. Groaning at the blinking red light under its keypad, Donman pushed his letter away and picked up the receiver. "Mr President?" He frowned, nodding impatiently at what he was hearing. Then his eyes snapped open. "They did what? Commander Valentina survived? Thank Kerm for small mercies. But where in the seven smoking hells were those planes? I thought they were under orders to keep to Wakiran airspace at all costs?!” Anger rapidly turned to consternation. "Fifty kilometres south of the border? We can prove that?”

Donman sat bolt upright in his chair. "That's ridiculous! The second Fleet are under strict orders to remain within the Jhazi Straits and surrounding coastline! Chadwick and Aldwell know the trouble we had getting permission to sail through Veiidan waters - what in all the Blighted Groves do they think Wakira and the Confederacy would do if we sent Gusden any further west? That fleet is there to secure our medical relief operations - end of story!” A bleak expression settled on his face as he listened to Obrick’s reply.

"I don't think we have a lot of choice. We promised medical aid to any kerbal involved in the fighting. If our relief workers need to go armed in order to protect themselves, then so be it." He listened intently for several long minutes then fell silent. 

"Wakira, Mr President," he said at last, propping his forehead on one sweating palm. "We offer succour to all but we stand with Wakira."

He laughed shortly at Obrick's reply. "One of the few ways we could, although I doubt anyone will be any more receptive to tales of sapient Kerm then they were last time, especially after an Article 24 declaration. What's that? No - apart from Article 24, it seems the only guaranteed way to force a session of the Twelve Pillars is for one Pillar to be impeached... or to resign." 

There was a long pause. Donman glanced at his seal of office lying on his desk. "I hadn't got much further than the usual pleasantries before you so kindly interrupted."

Shred that damn letter, Don. We can talk about that once we get out of this mess and even then you'd better hope you can write faster than I can.

——————

Enely led the two legalists up the hill towards Jonton’s hut. One of them raised her eyebrows at the three stacked rings braced against the Kerm trunk and the ropeways winding between them. The second just nodded and murmured something to his taller colleague. Enely caught the words ‘Sage of Barkton’ and smiled to himself. The front door opened and Jonton stepped outside to greet them, leaning heavily on his walking stick. Both legalists did a swift double-take before recovering with an obvious look of embarrassment. “Forgive my surprise, Keeper,” the shorter one said diffidently, “but I was led to believe that you were… indisposed.”

Jonton nodded. “I was until very recently.” He gestured at his stick. “And I’m looking forward to the day I can leave this behind. But please - come on in.” He hobbled through to the kitchen where Meleny and Thombal were waiting with Gerselle around the table. Once everyone was seated, a cup of fresh coffee or djeng in front of them, he found a convenient spot against the wall and leaned back with a sigh of relief. “I hope nobody minds if I stand here - I still find sitting for any length of time uncomfortable.”  He looked at the two legalists, gathering his thoughts.  “How much did Erlin tell you?” he asked at last.

"Almost everything I believe," replied the senior legalist. "Including a digression into some significant breaches of established Grove law, although there I am informed that you have special dispensation from Chief Ambassador Donman." The tone of her voice stopped politely short of outright disbelief. She ticked the main points off on her fingers. "You are about to engage in an...undertaking at Gerselle Kermol's Grove. Yourself and Gerselle have a daughter, Joenie. You believe this undertaking may be hazardous to the adult kerbals involved and therefore wish to register Meleny and Thombal Kermol - and the Kerm of this Grove - as Joenie's guardians." Meleny and Thombal nodded solemnly. ”Finally you wish to give both Meleny and Thombal power of attorney to speak on behalf of the aforementioned Kerm." She coughed. "I must be honest, Keeper - I'm not sure I completely understand your last request." 

"It's straightforward enough," replied Jonton, "but neither Gerselle, Elton or myself were sure about the legal technicalities."

"Elton?" asked the second legalist. "Pardon me, Keeper but I don't think we've met an Elton Kermol. Or should that be Elton Kerman?"

"Neither name suits him very well," said Jonton calmly. "Elton is the Kerm of this Grove and he's looking forward to meeting you both. If everyone has finished their drinks, we can go through.”

He led the skeptical looking legalists through to the sleep room and waved at the rows of bunks. "Please make yourself at home. All the bunks are much the same so pick any one you like. We can bring extra pillows through if need be. Once you're comfortable just rest your head against the leaf clusters and Elton will take it from there."

Both legalists looked startled at that. "You want us to Commune with the Kerm?" one of them said doubtfully.

"I do," said Jonton, "Once you've both had a chance to talk to him, I'm hoping you can find some legally binding way for him to grant Thombal and Meleny power of attorney to speak for him in mine or Gerselle's absence. We'd also very much appreciate some advice on writing him into our wills.”

The senior legalist raised her hands. "As you wish, Keeper." She nodded at her colleague. "We shall see what we can do for Guardian Elton." She smiled faintly at Jonton's surprised expression. "It's been many decades since I was kermol, Keeper but I was always taught that  the Kerm were guardians of the Groves." She walked over to the nearest bunk, lay down and, propping a pillow under her neck, tipped her head back into the waiting leaves.

By the time Jonton joined them, Gerselle, Thombal and Meleny had already paid their respects to Elton and had moved quietly back, to let him speak to the legalists without distraction. The Communion crackled with intense curiosity, awe and a barely suppressed excitement. Elton stopped in the middle of a sentence and Jonton sensed his sudden regard.

<good afternoon, Jonton>

Good afternoon, Elton. I brought the legal advisors whom Erlin recommended.

<yes, I have been speaking to them. They think very clearly and do not fear new things - we will need more kerbals like these>

A brief sense of sorrow washed over Jonton but was swiftly replaced by fresh excitement from the senior legalist. This is incredible, Keeper - we apologise for ever doubting you!

No apologies necessary, answered Jonton. If anything, I should apologise for being quite so cryptic but Elton can speak for himself far better than I can speak for him.

And I would speak with him for much, much longer if he has the time. For now, I can assure  you that it will be a straightforward matter for him to grant power of attorney to Thombal and Meleny. A simple declaration in front of everyone here and then we can sign the agreement bel-oncordaan, that is, outwith one contracting party, witnessed by myself and my colleague for Thombal and Meleny and yourself and Gerselle for Elton.

Thank you, said Jonton gratefully. For a long minute he turned inward, sensing the ebb and flow of emotions through the Communion link. Our undertaking at Gerselle’s Grove, he said at last. How much did Erlin tell you about it?

Very little, came the answer. He didn’t think he was the best person to talk about it although he did assure us that it was of the utmost importance.

It is, said Jonton simply. To cut a very long story short we think we can awaken Gerselle’s Kerm in the same way that Elton awoke from mine. And if we can do that for one Kerm, we can do it for all Kerm.

There was a stunned silence. That would be… wonderful, said the legalist at last. I don’t… I don’t think I have the proper words for what it would imply.

To be honest, I’m not sure I do either, said Jonton. But from personal experience I do know that awakened Kerm could mean an end to the Law of Territory. He waited expectantly.

But that would mean… Wild hope flared across the link. Please tell me that means what I think it does?

It does, said Jonton quietly. I know that Kerm do not need to fight amongst themselves. If we can awaken them and speak to them, we can explain the danger that the Seeding puts all of us in. And if we can do that, then… then we may be able persuade them to draw in their territories - and so create enough room on Kerbin for all the Kerm yet unplanted.

A sudden maelstrom of emotions churned the Communion link to near insensibility. Instinctively, Jonton tried to damp them down, Enely and Gerselle hastily following his lead. Then Elton came forward, a vast, calming presence helping everyone regain control.

<we can speak of this later. For now, tell me what words I must speak to guard my Joenie>

The two legalists conferred for a moment and then, hesitantly, spoke to Elton.

<very well> Elton paused, absorbing the unfamiliar language. <then I Elton, Guardian and Kerm of this Grove, do hereby grant Thombal Kermol and Meleny Kermol, jointly and severably, the rights and responsibilities to speak for me in all matters pertaining to the guardianship of Joenie Kermol and the estates and worldly properties of Jonton and Gerselle Kermol. Let any of those present, state their disagreement with no fear of coercion nor fear of censure nor fear of reproach>

All seven kerbals remained silent.

<Then by the laws of Grove, Enclave and Council, as we have spoken, let it be done>

——————

“…Nordham Bay. Firesvarn air support was severely impeded by defences around the town itself and by anti-aircraft fire from the Kolan 2nd Fleet commanded by Admiral Gusden. We don’t have accurate casualty numbers but losses are thought to be moderate to heavy depending on who you ask; pilot losses significantly less so.” The Chief of Fleets cleared his throat. “Firesvar, predictably, are pointing to this as evidence of Kolan aggressive intentions. Kolus - equally predictably - point out that the Firesvarn aircraft were defeated by defensive facilities, installation of which has now been shown to be fully justified.”

The grim silence around the table was broken by the clink of glass on lacquered wood. President Chadwick blotted his lips before tucking his handkerchief back into his pocket. “What of the Firesvarn fleets?”

“The Northern Ocean situation remains unchanged, Mr President. Forces in the Wakiran Ocean are on high alert but so far as we can tell, Firesvarn efforts there remain focused on increased coastal and near-coastal patrols in an attempt to intercept any Children of Kerbin vessels.”

“Do we have any indication that they’re operating any further afield?”

The Chief of Intelligence glanced at her colleague who dipped his head in reply. “Scouting operations only, Mr President,” she said. “Purely systematic at present with nothing to indicate that they’re specifically watching ourselves, Doren or Wakira. Formally, I have several reports of violations of our territorial waters - to which we’ve turned a carefully blind eye.”

Worried faces and angry murmurs rippled around the table. Chadwick contented himself with a nod. “Very good. And what of the Children of Kerbin? Do we have any new information there?”

Under the table, the Chief of Fleets’ knuckles turned white but his voice remained unruffled. “No, Mr President. We watch for them of course but we deem Doren, Kolus and latterly, Firesvar to be of greater concern at present.”

“Naturally, “ Chadwick replied. “And likely to remain so.”

Across the table Chief Ambassador Aldwell pinched the bridge of his nose. “For how long, Mr President? Our sympathies to the Children’s goals, if not their methods, are well known. What happens when a Firesvar scouting patrol finds something that we cannot conveniently ignore?”

President Chadwick raised his eyebrows. “Then we will of course lend any assistance we can, although Firesvar will understand that our resources are stretched very thinly. However, I believe we have made our opposition to unsanctioned Kerm planting perfectly clear and I trust that Firesvar will remember that.”

Erbabar-beldaonerba ebda berot pilla,” somebody muttered. Chadwick’s head turned.

“Excuse me?”

The deputy Chief Ambassador for Forseti looked up from her briefing papers. “An Old Kerba proverb, Mr President. The literal translation is ‘words possessed by those they rely on for words are half-truths’. Or in plain Kerba - the words of diplomats are but half-truths.”

“I fear I do not see your point,” said Chadwick politely.

Aldwell sighed. “My esteemed colleague is correct, Chadwick,” he said reluctantly. “We aren’t overtly supporting the Children but neither are we overtly opposing them.” His voice turned grim. “Wakira’s inability to prevent the Children’s incursions was sufficient pretext for Firesvar to invoke Article 24 against them, triggering  a war which Kolus has now been dragged into. How long before our inaction provides a similar pretext?”

Thank you. The Chief of Fleets’ hands relaxed for the first time that meeting. Carefully, he brought them above the tabletop, poured himself a drink of water and took a sip. “That would be my concern also, Mr President.”

The Chief of Intelligence nodded. “We would also run the risk of providing a common enemy for both Firesvar and Wakira combined, possibly supported by Kolus.”

At that, a clamour broke out around the table. Chadwick watched impassively, weighing his options. He let the clamour subside before tapping his glass on the table for attention. Gradually the room quietened as all eyes turned towards him. “So what would you suggest?” he asked.

“Veiid,” said the Chief of Intelligence bluntly. “We reach out to Veiid and, through them, to Doren proposing an alliance against the Children. With Doren on our side, we can persuade Firesvar that there is no further need for them to trespass on Confederacy territory.”

Chadwick’s eyes bored into hers. “Whilst betraying our people’s most deeply-held principles?” he said quietly. 

The Chief of Intelligence didn’t flinch. “No, Mr President. Whilst upholding those principles and upholding your publicly stated policy. However well intentioned, the Children’s misguided Kerm planting betrays the right to life of many Kerm for the sake of one.” Around her, the room fell deathly silent and she saw Chadwick’s expression harden. “Naturally, each member of the Alliance will be responsible for searching their own territory. If we find any Children operating from the Confederacy we deal with them sympathetically whilst reaping the diplomatic benefits of preventing further unsanctioned Kerm planting.” She locked eyes with her President. “With respect, Mr President, the alternative is running a growing risk that Firesvar will find us to be harbouring the Children. I believe the consequences of that discovery are obvious.”

Aldwell held his breath.  Chadwick’s expression remained stony. “Why Veiid?” he said conversationally. 

A murmur of agreement rippled around the table. “Veiidol ebda balsathona,” muttered the Forseti deputy Chief Ambassador under her breath. 

Chadwick sighed. “If you insist on demonstrating your erudition in Council, Madame Ambassador, might I suggest you read an Old Kerba grammar first? I have many excellent examples in my personal library which you would be welcome to borrow.” He flicked a glance at Aldwell’s deputy, now blushing dark green. “I believe the expression you were searching for is ‘Veiidol ebda beldasathona.’ Whilst the Veiidan Council are indeed bureaucratic to a fault, I would hesitate to describe them as useless items.” He turned back to the Chief of Intelligence. “Now, as I was saying before we were interrupted - why Veiid?”

“Because alone, neither we nor Veiid have the political capital to persuade Doren of the benefits of an alliance,” said the other bluntly. “Together we might, particularly if we can also demonstrate the effectiveness of Confederacy-Veiidan cooperation first.”

Chadwick absorbed her words unblinkingly. “Indeed,” he said. “Particularly as I suspect that Veidd will also be rather happy with the diplomatic benefits.” He looked at his Chief of Intelligence thoughtfully. “Very well. I want to see a position paper and heads of terms for a declaration of alliance by the end of the week. In the meantime, myself and Chief Ambassador Aldwell will speak to our Veiidan colleagues and propose a summit meeting.”

——————

Silently, Enely watched Gerselle at work, his thoughts a roiling mix of trepidation, happy memories, and sorrow, mingled with an undercurrent of guilty excitement. Jonton stood by her side, leaning heavily on his walking stick with one hand, holding Gerselle's tools with the other. Enely watched him bend forward and take the fresh Kerm cutting out of her hand, completely absorbed in the sight of Gerselle painting leaf paste over the exposed branch stump. 

Gerselle peered at her work critically then, satisfied, handed the bowl of left over paste to Jonton. She took a pruning bag out of her poncho pocket and shook out the loose charcoal dust before slipping it over the stump and pulling the drawstring tight. She looked up to see Jonton staring at the cutting in his hand.  "Here we go again, Jonton Kermol," she said softly.

Jonton dropped the rest of the pruning gear into his own poncho, hobbled over and put his arm around her in an awkward one-armed hug. "Here we go again," he repeated. "We'll do better this time though, love. You, me and Enely - we'll do it right. And your Kerm is just a sapling compared to Elton - that should help with the..." He stopped, fumbling for the right words. "It should help," he said at last. Gerselle didn't reply.

The two Keepers made their way to the planting site, Enely following them at a discreet distance. He wasn't surprised by the crowd of kerbals waiting for them, from both Jonton and Gerselle's Groves. Fredlorf and Ferry waiting solemnly at the front. Silently, everyone watched Gerselle plant and water the cutting, watched her unfold a wickerwork screen and arrange it carefully around its stem. Enely watched her and Jonton work their way through the crowd, offering a reassuring word here, a moment or two of explanation there. He saw one or two of the eldest kerbals inspecting the leaves of the the nearest mature Kerm trees then, apparently satisfied, walk away. Others stood by the wickerwork screen, reaching over to touch the new cutting and even, Enely was bemused to see, caress it, running their fingers  over its leaves.

Gradually, the crowd dispersed, leaving their thirty-eighth Kerm alone in the soil. It was, Enely thought, a sign of the respect that the villagers had for their Keepers that the whole event had passed quite so peacefully. But why not? They've seen the Law of Thirty Seven broken, they've seen Jonton survive his time spent an-Kerm. Most importantly, they've all had a  chance to Commune with Elton. He shook his head. Besides - we'll be watching the new sapling. For black leaf spots if nothing else. 

 

Edited by KSK

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A new chapter!!! It has everything! Old Kerba, politics, Kerms and breaking the law! What is there not to love? :D:D

Now lets get to digesting bel-oncordaan.

EDIT: I got something in the dictionary, but the verb cor seems unknown until now...

Edited by superstrijder15

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New file is up

First Flight.pdf (3.7 MB)

damn this thing is getting rather large! congratulations on almost 600 pages! 

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3 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

A new chapter!!! It has everything! Old Kerba, politics, Kerms and breaking the law! What is there not to love? :D:D

Now lets get to digesting bel-oncordaan.

EDIT: I got something in the dictionary, but the verb cor seems unknown until now...

:)

Yep - another verb for the dictionary:  Corda - to agree.  The 'a' ending shows that it's an old word (recall that another old verb 'skirna' - to cut, also has an 'a' ending) and fairly basic to kerbal society. Haven't quite made up my mind whether its actually irregular.

And thanks once again to @Plecy75 for keeping the downloadable version up to date!

Edited by KSK

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It would seem to me to be 'they agree', and the 'a' ending is in most verbs so far. This may be because there is no real system for deciding what the infinitive is, so I just pasted inflected stuff.

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OK folks, I've got a confession to make. First Flight hasn't had my undivided writing attention this last week.

Yep, I've been moonlighting.

Moonlighting as a cub reporter for that most august of publications - the Kerbal Chronicles.

In case anyone missed this, the Kerbal Chronicles are a writing competition, launched by Squad, to celebrate the    next, localised, release of KSP. Turned out that writing about KSP was a pretty popular activity (who knew?) but the 90 odd entries have now been whittled down to a shortlist of 30. I'm delighted to say that a pair of entries by yours truly made the cut!

Moon Cheese discovery 'discredited by facts' which was inspired by a conversation on this thread, and Taking the Cake: Business contracts in the Space Age, which was probably 'inspired' by eating too much moon cheese at bedtime.

The four winners will be decided by forum poll. So go take a look and - if the mood takes you - vote! There's plenty of good stuff in there from some familiar authors and some first time (on this forum at least) authors. Something for everyone!

 

Edited by KSK

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Next chapter is up, this one with some actual spaceflight for a change! Comments on kerbal space cuisine inspired by @CatastrophicFailure. :) 

 

Blue and Grey

Milden paced up and down the communal living room of the KSA quarantine suite, privately referred to as ‘Jim’s Jail’ by the kerbonauts. After the last minute change to Pioneer 5’s crew caused by James Kerman’s illness, crew training schedules now included a mandatory two week quarantine before launch day. Despite their relative luxury, the isolation quarters used in the final week were regarded as something to be endured rather than enjoyed by the flight crews, particularly the first time kerbonauts.

Barrie looked up from her flight manual, speared another chunk of creva with her fork and turned back to her power up and prelaunch checklists. Wilford sliced a piece off his own breakfast steak and chewed on it thoughtfully as he watched Milden, mind drifting back to his flight aboard Moho 3 and his sleepless night before it. “Your steak’s getting cold,” he offered. “Last proper food for a couple of months - I’d make the most of it.”

“I know,” said Milden. “I’m just not hungry. You think they’ll let me bag it up and take it onboard for a snack later on?”

Wilford smiled at the weak joke. “Gene probably would,” he admitted. “but the medics might not be so amused. How much sleep did you manage to get last night?”

Milden looked at him oddly. “Enough,” she said. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I remember what it’s like,” said Wilford quietly. “I didn’t get much sleep at all before the Moho 3 launch. After the second nightmare, I was about this far,” he held up his finger and thumb, “from bailing on the flight.”

Barrie put down her manual. Milden stopped her pacing and turned to face him. “You had nightmares?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yep,” said Wilford. He decided not to go into details. “Not a surprise looking back. Jeb’s flight nearly ended in disaster because of a faulty synch trigger on the decouplers. We got that fixed for Camrie’s flight but…” He shrugged. “We were working with brand new technology. We tested it as best we could but another failure somewhere was always an option.”

“But you climbed aboard anyway,” said Barrie. 

Wilford nodded. “I figured I wasn’t going to get any more sleep that night, so I went down to the canteen to get a drink and think things over. I found Jeb already there with the flight plan and what looked like half of Wernher’s schematics for the Moho booster. I got my drink - made Jeb a coffee - and we had a chat. I’ll always remember the end of that chat.”

Milden sat down opposite him. “Why - what happened?” she asked curiously.

“It was something that Jeb said,” Wilford replied. He closed his eyes for a second. “I’m not going to lie to you - at the moment, it’s still a risky business. But when the recovery team fish you out of that capsule tomorrow and haul you up onto the boat, I'm going to be there asking you just one question; were the risks worth it?” 

Wilford looked at her solemnly. “Jeb thought he knew the answer  already - and he was right. They were. ” He smiled. “We used Minmus as a reference point for testing the attitude control system. Just seeing it with my own eyes, a tiny greenish-blue dot smack in the middle of the capsule window - I can’t describe it. I think it was at that moment that I knew everything was going to be okay. The spacecraft I was flying, everyone on the ground watching over the systems, all the procedures and planning - they were working just as we’d hoped.”

Wilford’s eyes sparkled with a sudden fierce joy. “When I brought Moho 3 out of orbit, I promised myself I’d go back one day. I never dreamed that I’d be on the first flight out to that greenish-blue dot - that I’d be one of the first to see what it’s really like!” He shook himself. “Sorry - getting carried away there. Seriously though, Milden, we’ve come an awful long way from the old Moho days. We’re flying the most advanced spacecraft ever made, built by the best in the business. Our flight control teams have Kerm knows how many hundreds of hours experience between them.” He looked Milden in the eye. “Like Jeb, I won’t lie to you - we’re still in a risky business but we’ve got the best kerbals in the world behind us - and the risks are all worth it.”

Barrie nodded approvingly. Milden picked up her fork and began to eat, mechanically at first but then with greater enthusiasm. Just as she swallowed the final mouthful, there was a knock at the door followed by a cheerful voice.

“Everyone awake in there? Ten minute call for suiting up!”

——————

“Okay, Milden - ready to take a short walk?”

“Ready.” Milden glanced down at her suit readouts and checked her water and oxygen hoses, hands moving automatically from one lock to the next. “Water and oxygen locked.” She gave her bubble helmet a sharp twist, nodding in satisfaction as it stayed exactly where it was. Finally she uncoiled a length of tether, snapped one end onto her belt and looped the other through its D-ring on her chest. “Hat and gloves sealed, life support green, tether set.”

“Copy.”

Milden edged her way carefully through the hatch. Clumsily, she pulled the rest of her tether through after her muttering to herself as the stiff material flapped awkwardly around her. Sweating slightly in the confines of her suit, she found the safety buckle at its other end and clipped it onto the outside of the hatch. Barrie watched her pull herself clear of the capsule.

“You’re doing fine. Left a bit. Great!”

Cool air blew across Milden’s face. She tipped her head back, peering through the top of her helmet but all she could see was blackness. She took a deep breath, settled her boots firmly against the restraining bar holding them to Prospector 2’s hull, and straightened up.

Like every other space-walking kerbonaut before her, she stared, enraptured by the blue-green sphere of her homeworld  - seen for the first time as a planet in its own right, and a fragile sanctuary against the frozen dark. Barrie heard her suck in her breath.

“It’s something isn’t it?”

For a moment, Milden didn’t reply. “No sign of the KDS,” she said at last.”

“We left that behind hours ago,” Barrie agreed. 

Milden tipped her head to one side, squinting at the glowing horizon along the edge of her visor. Awestruck she watched it crawl away from her rough and ready reference mark, Kerbin itself shrinking before her eyes as she sped away from it.

“Come on,” said Barrie gently, “We’ll point a window towards home once we’re all aboard.”

Milden shook herself, “Right.” She reached up, unclipped her tether and secured it to the next attachment point before easing her feet free. Slowly, deliberately, she worked her way along the hull, pausing occasionally to sneak a look around her. The flanks of her spacecraft gleamed mirror bright under her feet, matched by the reflected sunlight from the photovoltaic arrays jutting out to either side. Peering down between her legs, she could just see the habitation module hatch with Barrie’s head and shoulders poking out through it.

“I’m clear. Watch your feet on the edge. There you go - nicely done! You want to pass your tether down - get it out of the way? Okay, Wilford - we’re ready for you. Don’t lock the hatch behind you.”

Wilford’s answering laugh echoed inside her helmet. Milden watched his head emerge from the command module hatchway, helmet and life support backpack cutting an oddly blocky notch out of Kerbin’s horizon.

——————

An appetising smell emerged from the galley, followed by Barrie nonchalantly pushing a tray of steaming ration packs in front of her, already opened and clipped into their handles. Leaving the tray floating in midair, she unstowed the collapsible dining table from it's recess in the habitation module hull. The tray fitted snugly into its own recess, held in place by the ubiquitous patches of hook-and-loop fabric. "Hey - you two want me to eat these for you as well?" Milden looked over her shoulder in surprise as Barrie continued in mock indignation. "I got one spare white bean stew with extra firewhisker and one grey mush - my apologies, one tuber and pepper cactus surprise - with tomato sauce."

Wilford tucked his book into its elasticated pouch on the wall. "Better hope that Sherf isn't on a console," he said, "She and Derny spent Kerm knows how long perfecting this." He swung his legs over the edge of his sleeping shelf and carefully pushed off towards the floor. Tucking his feet under a convenient pair of restraints, he buckled himself into his sack chair and reached for his ration pack. Ignoring Barrie's amused look he dug happily into his meal. "Mmm - I think Derny is still tinkering with this one. The extra onion sure makes a difference."  

"And we can still patch the EVA suits with it in an emergency," said Barrie. "How's the stew, Milden?"

"It's very good," said Milden softly. Barrie followed her gaze and smiled.

"Never gets old does it?"

Milden shook her head. "There's so many of them. There's got to be somebody else out there, Commander. Somebody other than kerbals I mean. I sometimes wonder if some of them are flying to one of their muns right now and asking themselves the same thing."

"Maybe some of them are," said Barrie. "And I bet they're wishing they had a hot pouch of coffee to help them along the way. Can I get you two anything to wash these fine rations down with?"

"A green djeng please, Commander," said Milden.

"Coming right up," replied Barrie. “And I keep telling you - that's Barrie to you. Leave the ranks and titles for the simulator and the kerbonaut office." She waved at the window. "Out here, it's just us. What are you drinking, Wilford?"

"Just a water please," answered Wilford. "Thought I'd brew up a sapwood later for the TV broadcast." He glanced at the instrument panels above his head. "We're still set up for the finale?"

"Yep," said Barrie. "Should have quite a show for them tonight."

The Prospector 2 crew finished their meal in companionable silence. Milden sat cross-legged by a window, her pouch of djeng floating within easy reach. Wilford gathered the empty ration packs and tidied them away before pulling out a Tiles set from its webbing by his sleeping bag. He raised his eyebrows at Barrie. "Spot you five?" 

Barrie snorted. "I was going to ask you the same question. Set ‘em up - honours even. I'd better check in with Mission Control." She pulled herself carefully over to the communication panel and flipped a switch. "Flight, Prospector 2 on high gain alpha. How do you read?"

Nelton's reply was tinny but clear. "Loud and clear, Prospector. Be advised, we've just run a poll down here and you're looking good across all boards. CapSys recommends you restart the thermal control roll after the broadcast though."

"Understood, Flight. Confirm we have the spin-up program loaded and checked."

"Copy. How are you all doing up there?"

"I've said it before, Flight but this habitation module was the best idea we ever had! Proper bunks, an honest to Kerm dining table and I don't get Kerke's elbow in my eye for the whole journey. Can't beat it. Milden's enjoying the view and I'm thinking we've got plenty of time before the broadcast for me to hand Wilford his box at Tiles."

"Not a hope," Wilford put in cheerfully. "Just so the flight controller pool knows, the good Commander has refused my generous offer of a five-spot."

Nelton chuckled. "I like to see confidence in my spacecraft commanders - but I think I'll sweep low on this stake."

"No faith," said Barrie sadly. "That's the problem with flight directors these days. No faith.”

The first game of the set was long over and Barrie was frowning at the board, trying to stave off a second defeat, when the communication panel chimed overhead. "Pioneer 2, Flight. Twenty minutes to showtime.”

“I’ll get the cameras,” said Milden. “You finish your game.”

“Appreciate that,” said Barrie wryly as she tapped a tile into place on the board. She ducked slightly as Milden drifted overhead. “At least this one should be over in time to spare the folks back home my blushes.”

Milden checked the battery charge on the camera before unclipping it from its mounting bracket. She pushed off for her sleeping shelf, careful not to snag the trailing power and data cable on anything. Settling herself, she flipped up the viewfinder and switched the camera on. “Flight, Prospector. Camera on, are you receiving?”

“We’re getting a good picture, Prospector. Recommend Barrie takes that five-spot next time.”

“Everyone’s a critic,” grumbled Barrie. “Well played, Wilford.”

“Thanks,” said Wilford. “You too. Think I’ll go through to the galley - get that sapwood ready.”

Barrie nodded. “I’ll get the window camera set up then start the comms check.

Milden took a set of note cards out of her pocket and flipped through them, half listening to Barrie’s running conversation with Nelton and occasionally glancing up at the flight clock.

“Two minutes, Prospector.”

“Copy, Flight.” Barrie flipped a switch on the communications panel and suddenly the background chatter of technicians and television crew filled the habitation module alongside the more measured responses from the capsule systems team. 

“Prospector, Flight. Audio test.”

“Good pickup, Flight.”

“That’s affirmative. Going live in ten…nine…eight…”

Milden panned the camera around, tracking Barrie as she pushed away from the control panels.

“…Jonbo Kerman, going live to Prospector 2. Can you hear us Prospector?”

Barrie smiled into the camera. “We can hear you, Jon. Good to have you with us again.”

“Thank you for taking time for us, Barrie. How’s the flight going?”

“Very well thank you, Jon. We’re a little under three days out from Minmus right now, so we’re making the most of our last day in the habitation module. Tomorrow we’ll be going back into the command module, where we’ll be staying until we’re on the way back to Kerbin in six days time.”

“You won’t be staying their for the whole six days though, I hope?”

Barrie laughed. “We hope not too, Jon, but we won’t know for sure until we wake the lander up. That’s a big part of what we’ll be doing for the next two days - we have a third midcourse correction burn first thing tomorrow morning your time - and then we’ll be running a complete systems check on the whole spacecraft to make sure we’re ready for the landing attempt.”

“And everyone at KBS News is wishing you the best of luck with that, Barrie. But for now, for the folks that couldn’t join us for our last broadcast, we were all wondering if you could show them around a little?”

“Be happy to, Jon.” Barrie cleared her throat. “Okay, Prospector is a lot like the Pioneer spacecraft that we use for going to the Mün. We’ve got a service module at the back which holds our main engine for getting into and out of Minmus orbit. We’ve got a lander on the front for getting down to the surface and back, and we’ve got the main command module. That’s the only part of the ship with a heat shield and it’s the part we’ll be flying back down to Kerbin in.” Barrie smiled again. “The thing is though - that command module is pretty compact. It’s fine for flying to the Mün and back but it’s too small for the round trip to Minmus. By the time we’d filled it with all the supplies and for the journey, there wouldn’t be much room for us kerbonauts! So the KSA built us a habitation module to live in.”

“Is it true that the habitation module was based on the Endurance space station, Barrie?”

“Absolutely, Jon. The original Endurance module was originally designed to support four kerbals in space for four weeks. We had to move the hatch around to the side and make some other changes too but the Endurance design turned out to be a good place to start. We’ve got Milden here with the camera, if you’re ready for a guided tour?”

“That would be splendid, Barrie.”

Recognising her cue, Milden tilted the camera until the hatch was framed neatly in her viewfinder. “Um. Like Commander Barrie said, the habitation module has a side mounted hatch. It’s in the middle of the spacecraft, in between the service and command modules, so, um, a hatch in the end would be no good.” The camera panned slowly left. “At the end there is the toilet compartment and then most of the module is divided into two by these shelves fitted to either side. They’re, uh, a bit like bunk beds - we sleep two to a shelf.” Milden zoomed in on her sleeping space. “We get our own sleeping bag and lots of elasticated webbing pockets to store personal belongings in like books and things. It’s a bit like being in a tent.”

“But with a better view outside, right?”

Milden’s face lit up. “Oh yes! If I get any spare time during the flight, I like to sit by a window and watch the stars. You just never get tired of it.”

“But when we do need to take a break from stargazing,” Barrie put in, “there’s room for other things too. Down here,” the camera tracked her gesture, “we’ve got a table and sack chairs. It looks a little snug but it’s actually pretty roomy in zero-g. Wilford is a bit of a traditionalist - he likes to use the table as an actual dining table.” Barrie tore a tile off the abandoned board and held it up to the camera. “As you can see, we’ve got a Tiles set too. The hooks on the back here stick onto little bits of fluffy fabric on the game board which stops them from floating away.”

“So where is Wilford?”

“He’s in the galley making himself a drink. Could you pass me the camera please. Milden?”

“Um. Certainly, Commander.” Milden turned the camera around and carefully pushed it over to Barrie, treating the watching KBS team and their viewers to the sight of the habitation module walls drifting slowly past. Deftly, Barrie snagged the camera from mid-air and carried on talking. “This compartment here is the galley, where we keep all our food supplies. What you got for us, Wilford?”

Wilford waved at the camera as it appeared around the doorway. “Just mixing up a sapwood from one of our new multi-bag packs.” He held up a pouch of white powder with a nozzle attached to each end. “I prefer my sapwood with milk, so that’s what I’m going to take care of first.” Wilford unclipped the cold water hose and pushed the end over one of the nozzles. “We have to make sure this is on tight - if the hose pops off, we’ll have water balls floating everywhere. Okay.” He pressed a button and a jet of water shot into the bag, breaking up into a myriad of shimmering spheres that slowly turned a pearlescent white as the milk powder stuck to them and began to dissolve.

Wilford disconnected the hose, catching the stray water droplets with a towel. “Next, we knead the bag, make sure all that powder is properly dissolved. Then we screw this nozzle on this bag onto this nozzle on this other bag here…and squeeze.” The milk streamed through into the second bag, splashing off the toffee coloured coating inside. “Knead the bag again, give it a shake and there you have it - one zero-gravity sapwood!”

Barrie applauded from behind the camera. “And before you say it, Jon, we did try putting the milk and sap into a single bag but they just don’t mix right. Unless you use hot water.” Wilford made a face. “Which doesn’t taste so good,” Barrie finished.

Wilford screwed a spout onto his sapwood bag. “Last but not least - the drinking spout. Beloved by parents all across Kerbin, with a built in valve to stop spillages by clumsy kerblets - or kerbonauts!”

—————

Gerselle laughed. “He’s right - that looks just like something you’d give a kerblet to drink from. I wonder how well it would work for pastes - a bag of puree with a spout would be perfect for weaning.”

“Oh Kerm, yes,” agreed Jonton. “Anything to keep the food in one place instead of over the floor and into little eyes.”

“And hair,” said Gerselle. She shuddered. “I still have nightmares about washing Joenie’s hair after the blueberry pudding shampoo game.”

Enely rolled over on his makeshift bunk and smiled at the unforced banter between his two friends. The long watch over Gerselle’s Kerm was beginning to take its toll on all three of them, none of them able to stray too far from the sleep room and at least one of them being constantly on the watch for the first sign of black spots. Speaking of which. He glanced up but, much to his relief, the glossy green leaves overhead remained resolutely blemish free. He yawned and picked up his book, flipping idly through the pages in search of his bookmark.

“…this is our main camera by the window here. We brought it for um, for photography of Minmus from orbit but when we saw this, we really hoped we could um, share it with everyone back on Kerbin.”

“We’re picking it up just fine, Milden and what a…what a truly incredible sight that is.”

Gerselle sucked her breath in sharply. “Enely - look!”

Enely looked up from his book. He blinked, peering at the television screen and then his eyes widened. 

“On the left, Kerbin. From here I can hold up my smallest finger and eclipse that fragile blue dot behind my finger nail. And, if you can see it on the right, that tiny grey speck is the Mün. Blue and grey, side by side, reminding all of us aboard Prospector 2 of how far we’ve come - and how far we still have to go.”

Edited by KSK

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Jim's Jail???  :)

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48 minutes ago, Just Jim said:

Jim's Jail???  :)

Yep - but it's not just a jail. :) 

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22 minutes ago, KSK said:

Yep - but it's not just a jail. :) 

Ahhhhhhahahaha..... awesome  :sticktongue:

Edited by Just Jim

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16 hours ago, KSK said:

Next chapter is up, this one with some actual spaceflight for a change! Comments on kerbal space cuisine inspired by @CatastrophicFailure. :) 

An episode of shout-outs, I see. :D Be sure to try new Tangy Epoxy flavor on the next flight. It's... Tangy.

And speaking of food, you've elsewhere given me my own little case of fridge logic on the musings of emerging sapience. 

 

But I digress...

16 hours ago, KSK said:

CapSys recommends you restart the thermal control roll after the broadcast though."

So I've been wondering about this... In a slow, continuous roll like that, what happens to the interior contents? Is the interaction between the structure and the inside air enough to "stabilize" things, or would the occupants find loose bits floating around in strange ways?

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6 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

So I've been wondering about this... In a slow, continuous roll like that, what happens to the interior contents? Is the interaction between the structure and the inside air enough to "stabilize" things, or would the occupants find loose bits floating around in strange ways?

If the viscosity of air is low and the rotation brief or swift, objects will not spin with it. You will find that things are not where you left them.
If the viscosity of air is high or the rotation long or slow, objects will be quietly centrifuged towards the walls.

Either way, you'll probably have some Coriolis when you toss things about. Weird stuff happens in non-inertial reference frames.

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2 minutes ago, 0111narwhalz said:

Either way, you'll probably have some Coriolis when you toss things about. Weird stuff happens in non-inertial reference frames.

That's what I was thinking. Apollo was probably too small for it to be noticeable, but on a Kerbal-scale ISS-sized module in a slow roll, I wonder if the food wouldn't be the only odd-smelling mush floating about before long. :wacko:

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I think (not completely sure) that any ill effects would depend on module radius about the spin axis, and angular velocity. Big and slow is fine, small and fast - could be mush time. :) 

The Apollo PTC roll was about one revolution per hour and the capsule radius about 2m. I was assuming a similar rotation rate with a larger diameter, so everything should be OK for our intrepid crew!

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Really need to stay caught up with this. You don't look at it for a few weeks and another short novel get's added.

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Finally! Back to some spaceflight! I'm getting tired of more and more chapters about war!

Oh yeah, that reminds me, the file has been updated, here it is 

First Flight.pdf

Ok this thing is getting gigantic! Word is actually starting to break when saving it. I may need to split it into two files!

UPDATE: The first volume of First Flight will definitely conclude with Chapter 75. Volume 2 will start after that. Some chapters from the end of Volume 1 may be moved to Volume 2 if the storyline warrants it. This will not affect the order of chapters in any way, just the place where Volume 1 ends and Volume 2 starts.

@KSK, don't let this affect your writing in any way, I would hate for crappy software to interfere with such a great novel. I foresee an amazing trilogy coming out of this! Just keep writing!

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... I am speechless. This thread had been going on since 2013! And this is some brilliant writing. I would rank this up there with Douglas Adams's work.

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On ‎08‎/‎04‎/‎2017 at 5:42 PM, NISSKEPCSIM said:

... I am speechless. This thread had been going on since 2013! And this is some brilliant writing. I would rank this up there with Douglas Adams's work.

*blinks*

Thank you very much. I'm a big fan of Mr. Adam's work myself, so that is high praise indeed!

And that's some much needed encouragement right now - I could sure do with channeling some of the Adams writing mojo because the next chapter is not going well. I'm a couple of pages in after taking a writing break to deal with some family stuff and finding it hard to get back into the swing of things. I know what I want to say, some of the words are there, but they're not really speaking to me yet.

I'm thinking that the brute force 'dump a ton of words on the page and edit without mercy' approach might be needed here.

Edited by KSK

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The tried and true "More Boosters" approach that Kerbals love so much.

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I'm still thoroughly enraptured by this saga. Hopefully you'll be able to beat that Muse into submission.

Maybe a different voice would be helpful. A new report or something if it deals with the war might be a fun change of narrative pace.

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35 minutes ago, notrealDannyDeVito said:

you have a lot of time on youre hands dont you

Apparently not enough, since us readers are continually clamoring for "moar!"

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On 4/10/2017 at 1:02 AM, KSK said:

*blinks*

Thank you very much. I'm a big fan of Mr. Adam's work myself, so that is high praise indeed!

And that's some much needed encouragement right now - I could sure do with channeling some of the Adams writing mojo because the next chapter is not going well. I'm a couple of pages in after taking a writing break to deal with some family stuff and finding it hard to get back into the swing of things. I know what I want to say, some of the words are there, but they're not really speaking to me yet.

I'm thinking that the brute force 'dump a ton of words on the page and edit without mercy' approach might be needed here.

Would Chandler's Law be applicable?

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55 minutes ago, Commander Zoom said:

Would Chandler's Law be applicable?

Hah - that shouldn't be necessary, although you may well see a rather old Chekhov's gun being fired. :) 

10 hours ago, notrealDannyDeVito said:

you have a lot of time on your hands don't you

Heh - not nearly as much as I'd like, which is why it's taken so long to get this far. :)  Typical working day: up at 6:30am, leave the house at 7:30am, get home anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. By the time I've eaten I don't have much time in the evenings for writing and, truth be told, I'm usually more in a mood for switching my brain off for an hour or so before bed.

Hence, First Flight has largely been written in my spare time at weekends and has taken up a fair chunk of that spare time over the last four years.

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Hey folks,

No new chapter to post I'm afraid but I thought a quick update was in order after the last, somewhat pessimistic, post a couple of weeks back.

Anyhow, things are moving again. Words are being set down and some of them even make sense on a second reading. This chapter is coming together in chunks and the chunks aren't necessarily being written in chronological order, so some sanding and polishing will probably be required to fit them all together. But - be fitted together they will!

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