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First Flight (Chapter 103 - Coming Home)

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I hadn't read any of First Flight since mid-April, so I just read through the whole thing again over the last week or so. Just keeps getting better. Can't wait until I can get it in hardback. ;)

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I think you're doing better than me if you've read the whole thing through twice! :) Sorry about the late reply but I've been working on a little something to kick off the New Year...

 

The Days the World Stood Still.

A gap appeared in the queue. 

The car in front slid across a lane to let the KBS van through, its driver waving cheerfully at the news team as they eased past him. An over-long pennant flopped forlornly over the car roof, twitching in the occasional snatch of breeze to reveal the KIS tilted rocket logo trailing a longer than usual stream of fire. Passengers leaned out of the back windows, raising their drinks in salute. Judging by the colour of the cans, Leland was fairly sure that they weren’t drinking sapwood. 

He lifted a hand in thanks and drove on through the slowly moving carnival of traffic. The KIS logo fluttered from dozens of cars and vans, along with clusters of grey balloons and an eclectic profusion of homemade flags sporting an equally eclectic range of slogans. “Destination: Mün!” seemed to be a popular choice, closely followed by: “Pioneer 4 - All Systems Go!” Leland snorted with laughter at the “Bring us back a Mün Rock, Jeb!” banner rippling from the roof of an ancient electric bus, that was crammed to bursting with eager kerbals.

By the side of the road, a crowd had gathered around a truck; it’s owner cheerfully dispensing drinks and snacks from atop the trailer. Music blared out from a radio and a hastily scrawled cardboard sign declared the truck to be an unofficial mobile launch party. Inspired by this eminently sensible example, other drivers had followed suit and the number of vehicles crawling along the road to the Space Centre was very nearly matched by the number of vehicles parked on the verge. Sunlight twinkled from hundreds of binocular lenses, all trained on the distant rocket standing alone on its launchpad.

Thudding music drifted through the air, growing steadily louder as the KBS van wound its way towards the Space Centre. The closer they got, the more Leland became convinced that the drummer was making a spirited attempt to murder one of the guitarists with his own instrument, or possibly vice-versa. He glanced over at the kerbal sitting in the passenger seat next to him, tapping his feet and nodding his head in time, a distant look on his face.

"We can let you out here if you like, Don?"

Don shook his head. "Sorry? Oh right, the music." He grinned. "They've picked up a trick or two since Moho 1, haven't they? Nah, if we pull over here, you'll never get to the commentary box before the launch. Definitely going to get some interview footage down by the stage though."

Leland swung the van round a bend and pulled up at a pair of heavy bollards blocking the road ahead. He wound down the window and held out a bundle of press passes for inspection by the serious looking kerbal standing by a booth at the side of the road.

"KBS?"

Leland decided not to point out the large logo on the side of his vehicle, contenting himself with a nod and a scrupulously straight face whilst the guard peered in through the back windows at the rest of the KBS team, comparing faces to photographs and ticking off names on his clipboard.

"Hope he lets you through," murmured Don under his breath. "And doesn't ask any questions about the much younger kerbal on your pass." He grunted as Leland elbowed him in the ribs. 

The guard walked around to the driver's window and handed the bundle of passes back to Leland, who accepted them with a smile. It was not reciprocated.

"Please keep to the left, sir, and follow the signs for parking area C. The VIP and Press spaces are in the smaller park to the right as you go in."

From the corner of his eye, Leland saw Don open his mouth. "Keep to the left and take a right at the entrance to area C," he said hastily. "Thank you very much." He wound up the window and watched the guard walk back to his booth. The bollards sank smoothly into the road and Leland cautiously edged the van forward.

“So which are we - Press or VIPs?” said Don cheerfully as they drove off

Leland sighed, “It doesn’t matter,” he replied, “and I don’t think our friend by the booth was in a mood to joke about it either.”

“No, he didn’t seem the type for small talk,” said Don, He spotted another, equally officious looking, kerbal standing by the junction, waving them through to the left. “Kerm, they’re laying on the security today.”

Leland lifted his hand politely to the second guard. “Not surprising,“ he said, “There’s going to be a lot of disappointed kerbals sent back to Barkton to watch the launch on the big screens, and I’d be at least a bit worried that some of those roadside parties are going to get spirited later on.” He glanced over his shoulder before swinging the van into the car park.”Now where’s our… ah, right.” 

A large KBS logo was painted on the road inside one of the parking bays. Leland drove over to it and switched off the motor. 

“Everybody out!”

Don and his camera team began hauling equipment out of the back of the van. Leland pulled a spare headset and a cardboard folder stuffed with notes from the shelf under the dashboard and climbed out of the van. 

The kerbal at the Press entrance was no less thorough about checking passes than the roadside guard had been but was considerably more cheerful about it. Leland spotted him surreptitiously tapping his foot in time to the latest drum-and-guitar extravaganza from the entertainment stage, and grinned to himself as Don joined in.

Inside the Space Centre the stands were full to bursting, with long queues stretching back from all the many concession booths. The aromas of grilling meats, spicy vegetable and mushroom skewers and hot djan chips filled the air; carried aloft on ragged blue tendrils of smoke from portable barbecues. The music from the stage played on over a din of excited voices and Leland began to feel the familiar launch day flutters in the pit of his stomach.

The field leading down to the stage was almost as crowded as the stands. Kerblets hurtled past, bumping into everyone, clutching model rockets and trailing large grey balloons behind them on long, brightly coloured ribbons. Near to the KBS team, a kermol couple watched their children playing, patiently holding two of the, temporarily forgotten, balloons. Leland studied them curiously for a moment, then burst out laughing at the familiar mottled pattern of dark and light greys and the the prominent flag-of-all-Kerbin, pointing to a spot in the middle of one of the dark grey patches.

“Mün balloons! I like it!” He tapped Don on the shoulder and pointed “Something for your two?”

Don eyed the queues at the Kerlington booth. “If there are any left by the time we’re done.” he grumbled. Then he grinned, “I’ll get one for you too. We can tie it to the van on the way home." 

Leland chuckled. "I'd better get to the commentary box," he said. "Make sure you get some decent footage - and try not to spend all your time at the stage."

Don signalled to his camera team, who picked up their equipment. "No promises there!" he said cheerfully. "Enjoy the launch - and try not to lose your voice again."

-------

For a moment, Leland gazed out of the commentary box window, collecting his thoughts, savouring the atmosphere, and taking in the panorama of crowds, futuristic Space Centre buildings and the distant launchpad with its waiting rocket. Then he walked over to the commentary desk, plugged in his headset and, glancing at the single sheet of scribbled notes in his hand, listened intently to the latest update from Mission Control, occasionally underlining a word or two or jotting down additional points.

"Good afternoon everyone. I am Leland Kerman and this is KBS News, broadcasting live from the Barkton Space Centre. We are just ten minutes into the planned countdown hold at T minus thirty minutes, with the flight control team waiting for the expected confirmation of the KDS-4 launch. KDS-4 of course, is carrying the Munar lander together with the rocket stage that will boost it, and the Pioneer 4 capsule and service module - or CSM for short - to the Mün. The countdown to the CSM launch is progressing smoothly, with no other holds reported at this time. This is Leland Kerman at the Barkton Space Centre." 

For the next hour, Leland paced up and down the commentary box, listening to the quiet chatter from Mission Control and alternately staring out of the window or relaying such news as he had. Outside, the crowd had quietened, with any kerbal not responsible for kerblets, keeping a watchful eye on the countdown clock. Then, distantly, he heard the long awaited jangle of a telephone.

"Good afternoon to everyone who's just tuned in. I am Leland Kerman and this is KBS news , reporting live from the Barkton Space Centre, for Pioneer 4's historic Munar landing attempt. We have just received confirmation from the Rockomax Crewed Spaceflight Centre that KDS4 has launched successfully and initial indications are that all vehicle systems are functioning nominally. KDS4 consists of the Kerbin departure stage, from which it takes its name, and the Munar lander. Once on orbit and docked to the capsule and service module, the Kerbin departure stage will boost the completed spacecraft out of Kerbin orbit and onwards to the Mün." Leland paused. "This is Leland Kerman at the Barkton Space Centre."

Down on the entertainment stage, a lone kerbal stepped forward and unplugged his guitar from the mass of equipment at his feet. The sound system popped and sputtered before sounding out a quickly strummed scale.

"Alright, Barkton. This is our last song of the afternoon so we’re gonna take it down a notch and play you something a little different." The singer stared at his feet for a long moment, then looked up at the immense crowd of kerbals in front of the stage. "As some of you will know, Fire in the Sky have had the great honour and privilege to play at every crewed launch from the Barkton Space Centre since Jebediah Kerman's first journey into space." 

The singer settled his guitar strap around his neck. "We wrote this next song especially for this flight and we'd like to dedicate it to the space program and everybody who made that happen. This one is called: 'You Never Know.’

A single, pure chord rang out over the crowd, followed by another and then yet another. Shorn of all electronic effects, the sweet, deceptively simple melody sparkled in the air like cut glass before the entranced crowd. It spoke to them of the trackless void between the stars, of being far from home on a winters night and of the importance of having a hand to hold in the dark. 

The drummer picked up her sticks, laying down a muted but insistent percussion line. The bass player picked up the rhythm, adding subtle overtones to the building music. Then the second guitarist stepped up. 

The melody shifted up a key and suddenly, the lingering melancholy of the opening bars became a banner defying the night, a symbol of comradeship and a clarion call to the power of hope over adversity, that called on everyone at the Space Centre to never let go of their dreams. 

----------

"...you never know till you try. Try to walk - ohhhh they're gonna walk. Gonna walk. Gonna walk on the Mün..."

"Thank you Barkton."

Jeb broke the silence. “Well that was…where on Kerbin did they pull that from?"

"No answer here, Pioneer," Geneney replied, "but Bob is asking me to remind you, and I quote, 'I always told you there was more to those guys than three-chord overdrive.' "

"Well that's fine for him to say," grumbled Jeb, "He's not sitting here all suited up. Do you have any idea how hard it is to blow your nose in a space helmet, Flight?"

"That's an image I didn't need, Pioneer." Geneney paused. "OK, time to get serious, people. KDS4 is on orbit, all systems online and nominal. We're Go for countdown restart at T-minus thirty minutes."

"Copy that, Flight,' Jeb said briskly. "Malmy is standing by for RCS and SME pressurisation."

----------

"T minus six minutes and counting. The pad team is clear and all gantries are at launch stations. Flight Director Geneney Kerman has begun his poll of the flight controllers and we are seeing no further holds as we approach the five minute mark."

Sitting at his desk, Leland fidgeted with his headset microphone, clicking it back and forth on its pivot as he listened intently to the rapid-fire status reports from the flight control team. 

"T minus four minutes and counting. The spacecraft is just about to go to internal power and all flight controllers are reporting a Go for launch. From Commander Jebediah Kerman: 'We're feeling fine - tell the band we’re gonna give it our best shot.’”

"T minus two minutes and counting. The flight team have transferred power to the booster and everything is looking good. Launch control confirms we have a Go for engine start.”

Familiar adrenalin pounded through Leland's veins and his voice began to shake in anticipation. "T minus sixty seconds. Guidance is internal, autosequencer is Go."

"T minus forty seconds. We have a launch commit on Pioneer 4. T minus thirty seconds and counting!"

"T minus twenty seconds…”

"T minus twelve...eleven...ten...nine...eight...

Outside in the Space Centre grounds, all eyes turned towards the launchpad. Fingers pressed  earplugs firmly into place; parents lifted kerblets onto their shoulders.

"Seven...six...five...four...three..."

Fire blossomed over the launchpad. Leland surged to his feet.

"Ignition... and liftoff! We have a liftoff!" His voice soared exultantly over the watching crowds. "Twenty-two minutes past the hour and liftoff on Pioneer 4!" 

The raw sound from the rocket engines hammered against the commentary box windows, making it difficult to think, let alone talk. Down below he could see even the older kerblets racing around in circles, shrieking with excitement. A roiling inferno of smoke billowed out from the launchpad; from it's centre, the rocket climbed skywards on a painfully bright spear of light.

"Tower clear! Next stop - Mün!"

Pioneer 4 thundered past the launch tower, the river of fire pouring out of its engines still washing over the pad. Leland was dimly aware of somebody shouting "Go! Go! Go!" into his headset but fortunately nobody else seemed to be able to hear it over the noise battering at them. The booster marked twice its own length in flame above the launchpad and then its own length again, the ragged trailing edge of its exhaust plume finally clearing the tower too. Leland watched the rocket accelerate towards the clouds, the incandescent trail behind it curving out over the Great Tranquil Sea and tearing the sky asunder with furious noise and fire.

Leland pushed his headset back into place."Pitch and roll program complete," he said hoarsely, "and dear Kerm above, I've watched every launch from the Barkton Space Centre since Moho 1, but let me tell you - you just never get used to the sheer raw power of those machines."

----------

"Decouplers A through C armed. Go for T20 shutdown and detach."

Aboard Pioneer 4, Jeb struggled to turn his head against the mounting g-forces shoving him into his couch. Squinting out of the corner of his eye, he saw Malmy’s finger pointing at the control panel. Three lights winked out on the instrument panel and he just had time to register three muffled bangs far below him before the sudden drop in acceleration flung him forward against his harness.

“Ooof. Flight, Pioneer 4. T20 detach confirmed.”

“Copy, Pioneer. We see them gone.”

For the first time since lift-off, Jeb allowed himself to relax a fraction and for a moment his thoughts turned faintly melancholy. If Lodan was right, the space program was set to become bigger than even he had ever imagined - but the KIS would only be one small part of the whole.

His gaze flickered around the capsule, resting briefly on each of his crew and then returning to the instrument panel in front of them. He snorted at himself in disgust. Jeb - you’re flying to the Mün in a spacecraft in which every last nut, bolt, rivet, bulkhead and circuit board owes its roots to six kerbals working out of the back of a junkyard.

And nobody will ever be able to take that away from us.

Jeb grinned, melancholy forgotten. Above his head, the altimeter raced past thirty thousand metres.

----------

“We are now just over a minute and a half into the flight. Pioneer 4 is a little over thirty kilometres high, travelling at one point three kilometres per second. Downrange distance from the launchpad is just under twenty eight kilometres.”

Outside, the crowd silently waited for the, now traditional, affirmation from Mission Control. Leland glanced at the clock, twisting his headset cord between his fingers. Then, right on schedule, the public address system popped to life, Geneney Kerman’s measured tones rolling over the Space Centre.

“Thirty-six kilometres. Pioneer 4 - your trajectory and guidance are Go.”

Leland clenched his fists exultantly, the sudden roar from the crowd drowning out any reply from Pioneer 4.

Next stop - Mün. And may they have the strength to follow their course.

----------

On the other side of Kerbin, wherever the skies were clear enough, kerbals braved the chilly evening air in their thousands to send Pioneer 4 on its way. Observatories offered guided tours and a chance to watch the departure through their telescopes. Professional and amateur astronomers alike offered their services to friends, family or, more often than not, impromptu groups of strangers. Some had telescopes of their own, others watched through binoculars. Those that had neither simply stared up at the sky and crossed their fingers.

"Flight, Pioneer 4. Our board is green; requesting telemetry check.” 

Jeb’s voice crackled out from countless radio sets.  Gloved fingers twisted dials, trying to tune out the worst of the static. 

“Pioneer 4, Flight. We copy your board is green. Stand by.”

The radios fell silent. The sky-watching crowds milled around anxiously, hands tucked under heavy outdoor ponchos, stamping their feet to work some little warmth back into frozen toes.

“Telemetry confirmed. Pioneer 4, you are Go for TMI.”

"Copy, Flight. Go for TMI. KDS ignition in twelve minutes and counting.”

Older kerbals reached under their clothing to retrieve ornate timepieces from around their necks. Notebooks fell open to well thumbed pages. Astronomers handed out photocopied star maps, identifying constellations, pointing out where Pioneer 4 was due to appear in the night sky and occasionally took a map from a confused-looking kerbal, turned it upside down and gently handed it back.

“Pioneer 4, Flight. Booster is Go, starting re-press and ullage sequence.”

“Copy, Flight. Guidance is Go.”

“You’re looking good, Pioneer. Thirty seconds.”

Far away from Mission Control, all eyes turned skywards. Binoculars swung up, hunting for the right stars. Telescope owners made last second adjustments to focus and angles with fingers that trembled even inside their gloves.

“...three…two…one…Ignition!”

A new comet burst into view over Kerbin. 

Awestruck kerbals shook their companions by the shoulder, pointing wordlessly at the sky. One telescope owner reluctantly lifted her head from the eyepiece and stared up at the sky blinking water out of her eyes. A huge smile lit up her face as she saw the glowing trail pointing the way from the last sliver of setting sun out to the starry skies.

“Eight dot two kps. KDS tank pressures holding steady, guidance is nominal. Clear telemetry links through primary and backup channels."

For several long minutes the crowds watched in wonder, frozen feet all but forgotten. Then, as abruptly as it had appeared, the comet vanished.

"Ten dot two kps. Ten dot... and shutdown! We're running the numbers, Pioneer but that looks like a good burn.”

----------

In the days that followed, schools across Kerbin sprouted Pioneer 4 posters and activity charts from every classroom wall. Final year students - and their teachers - struggled with equations and proudly marked off distances and velocities. The youngest kerblets, with no less pride, coloured in pictures of Kerbin and the Mün and filled in boxes along stylised flight paths with the days of the week, written in big, careful letters. 

Students of all ages, whether Doreni, Wakiran or Kolan, put the finishing touches on model rockets and Mün landers that ran the gamut from lovingly constructed, glue-smeared assemblies of cardboard boxes, empty plastic bottles and tinfoil, to replica spacecraft that, in the words of Ornie Kerman to one delighted, final year class: “you could fill up with fuel and I’d fly it myself.”

In the fields and Groves, the surest way for a kermol to make him or herself popular was to bring a portable radio along for the day’s work and keep it permanently tuned to KBS Space News. A close-run second way was to bring a spare set of batteries for somebody else’s otherwise defunct radio. Lunchtimes saw groups of kermol gathered together, perched on whatever impromptu seat came to hand and listening to the latest news or broadcast from Pioneer 4. In the evenings, kerbals crammed themselves into packed village halls to watch the evening KBS bulletins.

Near a bleak mountain range bordering Firesvar, Wakira and Kolus, a lone soldier set out across the tundra, carrying a pair of fabric wrapped poles. In full view of the border forces of all three Regionalities, he, or possibly she, laid down their weapons, took thirty-seven measured paces and planted both poles in the ground. Before long, two makeshift banners flapped in the wind, one daubed with the flag of all Kerbin and the other with a tilted rocket streaming fire. A gloved hand retrieved a radio from a field pack and presently Leland Kerman's tinny voice drifted over the tundra. 

In time, the other sides sent out their own volunteers and they too put down their weapons and sat down beneath the flags. More soldiers came to join them and then still more. One squad rigged up a portable field shelter, another produced water bottles, kettles and camp stoves. Rations were shared out and, regardless of origin, commiserated on by all. One sergeant unearthed a bottle of distilled redfruit juice from his pack and neither his squad mates, nor the suddenly much cheerier kerbals around them, felt inclined to point out the numerous standing orders that he was breaching. Teams were dispatched to fetch additional supplies, tents and, most importantly, extra radios.

Along border after disputed border, kerbals of all Regionalities came together under the twin flags and, for an all to brief handful of days, Kerbin was reunited.

In the towns and cities, enterprising cinema proprietors began running regular ‘Mün Matinees’ for their customers to watch the latest, often shaky, film footage from space. Queues quickly became legendary with especially keen kerbals bringing sleeping bags and snacks, the better to wait through the night for the first morning show. Kerbals walking to work in the morning treated the queues with tolerant good humour, some making impromptu coffee runs for waiting friends or family, others hastily booking a quick day off and joining the same queue that evening. 

Even the drive-in cinemas, long the exclusive haunt of young kerman couples, were as likely to be showing starscapes and spacecraft as the latest date night movie. To the delight of local news outlets everywhere, more than a few young kerman unexpectedly met their future in-laws for the first time at the local outdoor screen, introduced to them by a blushing, stammering partners.

At the Capital building, seven huge screens were hastily erected between its rearmost arches, and semi-circles of temporary bleachers set up in front of them. By the second day of Pioneer 4’s flight, construction workers and the occasional curious tourist were camped out on the bleachers, watching the latest news from space. 

By the end of the third day, the bleachers were full and by the end of the fourth day they were mere islands in a sea of green faces. Those with seats gradually gave them up for the elderly or parents with the youngest kerblets. A handful stayed where they were, unfocused eyes staring unseeing through the crowds. In their minds eye, they too were strapped into a space capsule, Kerbin behind them, Mün to the fore; living vicariously on the very edge of kerballed experience. 

Knowing this well, their friends simply smiled understandingly and gently led them away. 

On the morning of the fifth day, the crowds watched in astonishment as a troop of kerbals hurried out from a side door and set up a lectern and set of twelve ornate chairs in front of the centre screen. Other discreetly dressed kerbals fanned out through the bleachers, murmuring into radio microphones clipped to their lapels. Then, amidst a sudden hush, the back doors to the Capital building opened and a group of figures emerged. Bowing to the crowds as they went, the Council of Twelve Pillars took their seats and like countless other kerbals across the world they sat in silence. 

Watching.

Listening.

Waiting.

----------

Flight Elapsed Time - 4 days, 3 hours, 42 minutes.
Munar orbit.
On board Pioneer 4.

“Radar is tracking. You’re looking good from here, Pioneer.”

“Thanks, Malmy,” Jeb replied, “Jondun?”

“Descent orbit initiation and abort phasing burns entered and loaded,” said Jondun.

Malmy cleared his throat. “You two take it easy down there, you hear me? Else I’ll be getting Gene to yell at you.”

“Oh, he’ll be way ahead of you there,” said Jeb. “We’ll be fine, Malmy - see you back here in a few hours.”

"Yeah, well, if I have to come and fetch you, I’ll be yelling at you too. Good luck guys.”

“Thanks, Malmy.” Jeb turned to his instruments. “Okay, spacecraft alignment is good. Throttle mode zero, SAS in auto. Go for DOI at T minus sixty.”

Jondun scanned her side of the instrument panel. “Attitude confirmed, guidance is green, descent engine is Go. Standing by for ullage burn.”

A blue light blinked on above the flight computer screen. Jeb took a deep breath. “Proceeding…RCS firing…ignition in three, two, one…and we’re burning!”

Less than a minute later the descent engine shut down again. Jondun promptly punched in a burn status request.  “Looking good, Jeb. Periapsis fifteen dot three kilometres - residuals nulling.”

The lander juddered to a brief burst of computer controlled thruster fire.

“Residuals nulled. Fifteen kilometre periapsis.”

Jeb glanced at his sleeve checklist. “Okay, landmark checks. Time and sighting angle for the Gateway Craters please.”

Jondun turned back to the computer. “One second. You want the numbers for Mount Kelvey and Bill’s Rille too.”

“Yep - might as well get ourselves ahead of the curve.”

----------

Geneney flipped a pair of toggles on his console, switching his headset to the private flight controllers loop and patching in the Rockomax crewed spaceflight centre.

“Okay team - this is Gene.” 

He paused. “This is the big one, people. We’ve trained hard for it, we’ve got a great crew up there, a great crew down here and I just want you all to know that I have total confidence in you all. Total confidence that when this is done, I’ll be able to look each and every one of you in the eye and say ‘dammit - we really did something today.’ “ 

Geneney unclenched his hands. “So let’s make it happen.”

The flight controllers sat up a little straighter, adjusting their headsets and rechecking their console settings. In the back rooms, the support teams flipped through flight rulebooks, checked their communication loops and cast the occasional swift glance at the flight clock.

“Flight - Comms.”

“Go ahead, Comms”

“Acquisition of signal for Malmy, Flight. Picking up telemetry.”

“Thank you, Comms. Guidance, CapSys, please review.”

“On it, Flight.”

“Copy that, Flight.”

Geneney toggled his microphone. “Malmy, Flight. Standing by for acquisition on Pioneer. Do you have a status?”

“They’re just catching up, Flight. No hitches on descent orbit initiation, crossing all landmarks on schedule - they’ve been sounding pretty chipper on the way down to the Mün there!”

“Cool, calm and collected, Flight,” added Jeb cheerfully. “How’s that telemetry looking?”

Despite himself, Geneney grinned. “We’re working it, Jeb. Stand by.” He clicked his headset back to the flight control loop. “All consoles, give me a Go / NoGo please. FD?”

“FD is Go, Flight.”

“Lander?”

“One moment, Flight.”

“Copy, Lander. Control?”

“We’re Go, Flight!”

“Comms?”

“Go, Flight.”

“Thank you, Comms. You ready for me, Lander?”

“Lander is Go, Flight”

Geneney took a deep breath. “Pioneer, Flight. You are Go for Powered Descent.”

Jeb couldn’t quite keep the excitement out of his voice. “Copy that, Flight. Alignment check?“

“Alignment is Go, Pioneer. Descent engine ignition at two minutes on my mark... Mark.”

Jondun’s eyes flicked from the flight computer display to the descent engine readouts and back again. Jeb stared at the computer screen too, finger hovering over the Proceed button. Then the blue light came on.

“Flight, Pioneer. Proceeding at sixty seconds. Descent engine armed.”

Jeb swiftly scanned the navball and rate indicators, one hand poised by the attitude hand-controller, the other by the manual ignition button. Beside him, Jondun checked the engine readouts one final time then fixed her gaze on the flight clock. Both kerbonauts felt the sudden burst from the manoeuvring thrusters.

“Ullage burn and three…two…one…Ignition!”

The descent engine rumbled into life, then throttled up to full power. Jondun’s hands raced over the controls.

“Flight, Pioneer. Descent engine Go, throttle is in Auto-one. Rendezvous radar to standby, landing radar to auto.”

----------

Braking on a plume of fire, Pioneer 4 fell towards the Mün, manoeuvring thrusters spitting bursts of flame to keep it on course. Thirteen kilometres above the surface, the little spacecraft rolled upright, the crew’s view of grey craters replaced by black skies and the blue marble of Kerbin. Suddenly a high pitched warble filled the cabin, accompanied by a glowing red warning light on the instrument panel.

Jondun slapped the cut-off button. “Master alarm,” she said urgently. “Flight - we have negative power-up on the landing radar. Repeat, no power to landing radar.”

The response from Mission Control was almost instant. “Copy, Pioneer. Go to manual and cycle your breaker.”

Jondun switched off the radar, pulled out the circuit breaker toggle and pushed it back into place, before flipping the radar switch back to its on position. Instantly, the master alarm warbled loudly in their ears. Jeb shot her a concerned look as she hit the cut-off button again.

“Not happening, Flight. What else have you got?”

“Four minutes to pitch-over,” said Jeb urgently. “Gonna need a working radar before then, Flight.”

“Working it, Pioneer. Stand by.”

Jondun stared at the circuit breaker panel, mind racing frantically through schematics and onboard systems. The air to ground loop remained unnervingly quiet.

Jeb gripped the edge of the instrument panel. “We really need a call on that landing radar, Flight!”

Jondun’s head snapped up. “Flight - the breakers for both radar systems have the same rating right?”

“One second, Pioneer.” Geneney paused. “That’s affirmative Pioneer. Lander recommends you…”

“Swap out the breakers for the two radar systems and use CSM radar as a backup for the rendezvous?!”

“Do it, Pioneer.”

Jondun leaned forward and pushed the circuit breaker toggle into the panel. Using it as a handle, she twisted its mounting unit a half turn clockwise and lifted the whole unit clear. Swiftly, she slotted the replacement circuit-breaker into place, twisted and pushed…

The warning light blinked off; the computer display flickering for a second as data flooded in from the landing radar. Jondun stowed the broken circuit breaker and hastily tapped out a command. “Flight, Pioneer. We’ve got a delta-H… and woahhh, Throttling down!”

Pioneer 4 tipped forward, balancing delicately on the thrust from its descent engine. Inside the crew cabin, Jeb watched the Munar surface slide back into view. 

“Sighting angle for the landing point please, Jondun.”

“Forty degrees, Jeb. One thousand metres.”

Jeb cursed under his breath. “That’s about what I thought.” He keyed his microphone. “Flight, Pioneer. Debris at the landing site - I’m going long.” He took hold the attitude controller and eased it back, pitching his spacecraft upright. “Gonna slow my rate of descent…”

“Got it, Jeb. Seven hundred fifty metres, down ten dot five, horizontal velocity off-scale.”

----------

“Two hundred fifty metres, down seven.”

Mission Control was utterly silent apart from Jondun’s running reports echoing from the main speakers. 

“Two hundred metres, down six. Slow us up, Jeb.”

Geneney’s stomach tightened. “Lander, Flight. Fuel status?”

“Four minutes, Flight.”

“One hundred fifty metres. Down four, forward twenty.”

Geneney stared grimly at his console. I got you out there, Jeb. Up to you now - nothing more I can do from here. He clicked his microphone. “All consoles - aborts and fuel only.”

“One hundred metres. Down one dot five. Forward twenty.”

----------

“Okay, cleared the rocks. Slowing us up.” Jeb tipped Pioneer 4 sharply back and throttled up the descent engine. Jondun’s eyes were locked on the computer display. “Seventy metres. Down one, forward five. Fifty metres. Down point seven, forward three.”

“Three minutes, Pioneer,” Geneney said quietly.

Neither kerbonaut had time to reply. Jeb worked the attitude controller, canting Pioneer 4 this way then that, letting the descent engine slow them to a hover.

“Forty metres, down one, forward one. Watch that lateral drift.”

“Twenty-five metres. Down point five. Looking good. Fifteen metres. Ten metres…contact!”

Jeb’s hand slapped down on the engine stop button. For a second, Pioneer 4 dropped away from underneath him and then came to rest with a firm thud. The two kerbonauts waited tensely for a moment then, satisfied that they weren’t about to tip over, flashed each other a quick, triumphant grin before starting the post-landing checklist.

“Abort stage override to auto. Descent engine arm off. ATO is in.” Jeb paused to savour his next words:

“Flight, this is Pioneer. We are on the Mün. Repeat, we’re on the Mün.”

For a moment, they couldn’t hear anything over the noise from Mission Control. Then Geneney’s shaking voice came on the air.

“Copy that, Pioneer - we see you down. Fine flying you both - fine flying.”

----------

In the KBS studio, Leland lifted his head out of his hands and blinked at the cameras. He mopped his brow with a sodden handkerchief and summoned up a wan smile before visibly pulling himself together.  

“The flight control teams will be working with the crew right now to check over the lander systems. The flight computer is already primed for an abort to orbit, or ATO, ready to get both kerbonauts off the Mün immediately if there are any problems with their spacecraft.” 

Leland suddenly tapped his headset, a huge smile spreading across his face. 

“And there we have it! Flight director Geneney Kerman has just given the crew a Go for the extended stay and surface EVA! They have quite a lot to do before then, so we’re going to take a break before bringing you the latest updates from the Barkton Space Centre and the Rockomax Crewed Spaceflight Centre. Then - and I can’t believe I’m saying this - in a little over four hours time we’ll be going live to the Mün.”

----------

On a hundred thousand television screens across Kerbin, white noise and static abruptly gave way to an alien landscape of sharp-edged craters, stark grey plains and a midnight sky. The view shifted, the unseen camera panning past an expanse of crinkled metal foil, before focussing on the foot of a spindly ladder and behind it, the end of a jointed metal leg.

“Mission Control confirms - both kerbonauts are suited up and the hatch is open.” Leland’s voice rang with barely suppressed excitement. “Commander Jebediah Kerman is on his hands and knees…backing out of the hatchway…and he’s on the ladder!”

An orange and grey boot came into sight, followed by a heavily padded spacesuit leg and then the corner of a bulky backpack. Millions of watching kerbals caught their first glimpse of an orange, fabric-clad shoulder and then finally the reflective visor of a spacesuit helmet. Holding firmly on to the ladder rungs, the suited figure paused for a long minute, then took a step back.

Jeb took another cautious step, letting the ground beneath his feet take his full weight before letting go of the ladder and walking out onto the Munar surface.

“And there it is! Jebediah Kerman takes his first steps onto the Mün! We appear to have lost the sound - hopefully that’s just a temporary fault with our transmitter and not a problem with any of the spacecraft equipment.”

Jeb turned to face the lander hatch, head unseen inside his mirrored helmet. The camera tilted up to follow Jondun’s white and grey figure as she too climbed down the ladder and stepped out onto the Mün. She paused for a moment and then bounded away from the lander, camera tracking her as she went. 

“And kerbonaut Jondun Kerman joins her commander. We still have no sound at this time but clearly that is not a problem at Mission Control and is not affecting this historic moment.”

Jeb retrieved a thin aluminium tube from one of the ladder rails before walking over to join Jondun. Before the puzzled eyes of the world, both kerbonauts turned their backs to the camera…

“Oh my. Would you look at that. Would you just look at that.” Leland’s voice caught in his throat. On the screen in front of him, two mirrored helmets faced one another across a landscape of grey. An orange glove clasped a white glove. And between them, in the background, the flag of all Kerbin flew proudly above the Munar plains. 

The orange suited figure turned towards the camera:

“On this day we - voyagers from the planet Kerbin… first set foot upon the Mün. We came in peace for Kerm and kerbal.” 

Edited by KSK

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Hey folks,

GluttonyReaper - it sure has. :) Got a bit to go yet but that last chapter was a big milestone for kerbals and author alike! CatastrophicFailure - thanks for hanging in there - hope the last hippie-tree chapter worked for you. :)

Madrias - thanks as always for the kind words and this next one is for you...

 

Starseed

Kerbals were walking on the Mün - and the world walked with them.

All across Kerbin, kerbals thronged around their television screens, smiling, cheering and blinking through teary eyes at the sight of two of their own taking their first clumsy steps on a new world. 

They watched in wonder as clumsy steps became tentative two-footed jumps, the two kerbonauts struggling to find their balance in the stiff confines of their spacesuits. They watched in awe and then delight as tentative jumps turned into increasingly confident rolling lopes; two figures bounding foot to foot across the Munar plains. They laughed aloud at the orange-suited figure’s exuberant leap, soaring high and then floating, unnaturally slowly, down to the ground.

For nearly an hour, Jeb and Jondun held an enthralled world in the palms of their gloved hands. Their high-technology suits, the harsh, ethereal beauty of the landscape around them and the disconcerting nearness of the horizon, all served as potent reminders of exactly where they were. In turn, that knowledge added weight to their every least action: walking, talking, climbing back up the lander ladder to retrieve equipment boxes, taking photographs or just simply standing next to the flag for a moment to catch their breath.

----------

Jeb opened the largest equipment box and carefully unpacked a pair of delicate looking instruments and two spools of cable. He plugged one cable into a socket on the descent stage and carefully unrolled it over the ground, propping it up on a pair of small clips to keep it clear of surface dust. The camera zoomed in to watch him work, treating the watching kerbals to a view of two wooden clothes pegs, of the kind to be found on washing lines all over Kerbin, resting in the Munar dust.

Jeb bounced back to the lander, retrieved his instruments and, stepping slowly and carefully, made his way back to the end of the cables. He plugged in the larger, boxier instrument, laid it carefully on the regolith and pressed a button on its lid. Two photovoltaic panels popped free from its sides, there was a brief pause and then a green light glowed brightly from one corner. The second cable fitted into a socket near the opposite corner connecting the box to what appeared to be a bundle of rods, wrapped in gold foil at one end. 

At the touch of a button the rods sprang open, unfolding into a gold foil umbrella mounted on a tripod. Jeb planted it firmly into the dust, bending over to inspect a panel attached to one of its legs. He straightened up, gave a thumbs up to the watching camera and loped away out of view. The camera panned right, zooming in on Jondun whilst the voiceover from KBS News busily explained that the boxy instrument was the first in a planned network of Munar seismometers for subsurface mapping, and that the golden umbrella was a combined radiation counter, thermometer and solar wind analyser. A different voice commented that the risk was low for Pioneer 4 but that the radiation data would be invaluable for planning longer stays on the Mün or even permanent bases.

Meanwhile, the camera zoomed in on Jondun, who was picking up a small chunk of rock with a pair of tongs and placing it in a plastic bag. She closed the bag and pressed one end against a fabric patch on her upper arm, where it joined the two other bags already fastened in place. Methodically, she worked her way around the landing site collecting samples as she went. From here, a scoop of dust and rock fragments; from there, a trowel load of smaller pebbles; from elsewhere a single, larger rock.

And then, all too soon, it was over. First Jondun and then Jeb climbed up the ladder and disappeared into the lander cabin, closing the hatch behind them. Very few of the millions of listening kerbals could make sense of the jargon-dense preparations for lift off but the import of the final four items on the countdown were clear to all.

“Ascent engine armed…abort stage…ignition… and lift-off!”

“Flight, Pioneer. We’re on our way.”

----------

Malmy peered anxiously out of the rendezvous window. “The radar doesn’t lie but I’m just not seeing them, Flight. No - hold… hold that - I got something!”

Outside, a glinting speck arced up from the Munar surface, sliding across the sky towards him.

“Beautiful! Just beautiful, Flight! Coming straight for me like they’re on rails! OK, Flight - going three way on omni alpha.”

“Copy that, Malmy. Signal strength from Pioneer is good.”

Malmy flipped a switch on the communications panel and the capsule filled with voices.

“Got his light. Radar on and tracking. Platform?”

“Reference loaded, aligning for rendezvous.”

“Not like Malmy to be this quiet. You sure about that breaker?”

“Breaker is in. Platform is green, loading circularisation burn.”

“We’ll get a double-check on that from Genie. Right, Genie?”

“You will, Pioneer. Be advised, Malmy is with us on three-way.”

“Hey guys!”

“Malmy!”

Jondun tapped out an instruction on her computer keyboard. “Flight, I’m getting a fifteen dot two metres-per-second RCS burn, attitude all zeroes, burn start at apoapsis minus thirty seconds.”

“That’s what we’re seeing, Pioneer. Two minutes to loss-of-signal.”

“Got the mirror manoeuvre loaded, Flight. Ready to pick them up if the RCS stalls on them.”

“Thank you, Malmy. Thirty seconds to LOS. Good luck.”

The radio crackled briefly and fell silent. 

“You still there, Malmy?”

“Right with you, Jeb -  give or take a kilometre or two.”

Jeb glanced at his navball and nudged the attitude controller, pitching the ascent stage forward. “Attitude - all zeroes. SAS to Hold.”

Jondun stared at the flight clock and mentally crossed her fingers. “Ten seconds, Jeb.”

“Thanks, Jondun… and burning.” Jeb pushed the translation controller forward, his attention flicking from navball to velocity readout and back again. “Done.” He let go of the controls, automatically swiping his gloved hand over the front of his helmet, before reaching down and turning up his suit fans. “OK, what’s our periapsis?”

“Way ahead of you, Jeb. Eighty-five dot two - just a little short of a perfect circle.”

Jeb grinned. “Not bad for a first try.” He scanned the engine readout panel. “RCS pressurisation still looks good - should be able to make this a lander-led rendezvous.”

“Loading my intercept burn just in case,” said Malmy. “You set with yours, Jondun.”

“All set.”

----------

The glinting speck of metal slowly resolved itself into the boxy shape of the lander ascent stage. Malmy squinted along the sight line painted on the rendezvous window and grunted in satisfaction at the neatly bisected main antenna.

“Lined up nicely, Jeb. One hundred metres, closing at point five.”

The two spacecraft drifted closer together, brief pulses of flame jetting out from the lander thrusters as Jeb made tiny, last minute corrections to their course.

“OK, slowing up. Point three…point two. Twenty metres out.”

The lander bumped gently into the capsule's blunt conical nose, thrusters pulsing in response. All three kerbonauts held their breath, before the familiar and very welcome rattle of docking latches echoed through both spacecraft.

“Welcome aboard, guys!”

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you could get a look in here,” said Jondun, “This Mün dust gets everywhere!”

“Not a problem,” said Malmy. “I’ve got the cabin pressure dialled up for the leak test. We’ll open the hatch, let the overpressure blow all the dust to the bottom. Don’t want you two Münwalkers tracking up my nice clean spacecraft.”

“Don’t want to be breathing in fragments of Mün all the way home either,” replied Jondun. “Right - that’s our hatch stowed. Cabin pressure holding nicely.”

Jondun felt the faint clunk of withdrawing bolts through the lander hull. Air rushed through in a gentle blizzard of swirling dust particles. She waited for the cabin pressure gauge to settle and then, with a sigh of relief, she twisted her helmet free of its locking ring and lifted it over her head. 

“Mmm - fresh air. Fresher air anyway.” Jondun disconnected her suit from the lander systems, peeled off its grimy outer layer and wriggled through the open hatch.  Silently, Jeb passed her the surface sample box before removing his own helmet. He took a last, long look around the lander cabin, shucked the outer layer of his suit and pulled himself up and out into the capsule.

Malmy was waiting for him. He held out a hand then, laughing at Jeb’s expression, gripped his commander by the shoulders and hugged him. 

“You made it, boss - you finally made it!”

Jeb coughed. “With a lot of help from Rockomax.” He grinned at the startled, hastily hidden, look on Jondun’s face. “Guess we owe them a hug or two as well.”

Jondun raised an eyebrow. “I think I’ll settle for just walking on the Mün,” she said dryly. “Although right now, I’d settle for getting out of this pressure suit too.”

----------

Hours later, trans-Kerbin injection behind them, the Pioneer 4 capsule and service module climbed away from Munar orbit on a homebound trajectory. By common consent the crew had broken with the tradition set by Pioneers 1 and 3, and were flying backwards, engine pointed along the direction of flight, capsule pointing back at the rapidly dwindling Mün.

“So what was it really like?”

Jondun stirred, eyes still fixed on the Mün. “I don’t know,” she said slowly. “The flying was a lot like the sim when it came down to it - complete with problems to solve. The Münwalk was…busy. Lots on the checklist and not really enough time. Downtime by the flag though…looking at that weirdly close horizon, no good way of judging distance…”

“No dust clouds,” said Jeb. “Funny, but even more than the gravity, that’s what really got to me. I’d scuff a boot through the dirt and all these little particles would shoot straight up and out and disappear. Makes sense when you think about it but… yeah, I think that’s when I finally realised where I was.” He eyed the radio. “I wonder what they made of it back home.”

“According to Gene, the Capital came to a complete standstill,“ said Malmy, “They had a set of big screens up around the Capital Building itself - folks came to watch the launch and just stayed right through. They’re probably still there now. Seems that you can’t buy a radio for love or money these days either - anyone who couldn’t be near a screen bought themselves one to keep up with the KBS broadcasts. KBS are still trying to work out the listening figures but apparently they gave up counting in real numbers and switched over to using percentage of total population instead.”

Jeb blinked.

“Speaking of the Capital,” Jondun murmured. “I wonder what the Council are doing right now?”

“I was wondering that too, “ said Jeb. He shook his head. “Still figuring out how to sell the Duna program I imagine. Kerm knows how that’s going to work.”

The radio squawked in the sudden silence. “Pioneer 4, Flight. What’s your status?”

Jeb scanned the instrument panel. “Board is green, Flight. We were just catching up on the news from home.”

Geneney’s voice sounded oddly tense. “Copy that, Pioneer. We think there might be some more news on the way if the reports from KBS are anything to go by. We’re patching you through now - recommend you strap in and give this your full attention.”

The radio crackled loudly, spattering static across the capsule, before an unknown voice came on the air, speaking with a Doreni accent.

“…have the grave and distinct honour to hear President Obrick speaking for the Council of Twelve Pillars.”

A throat cleared. Privately, Jeb thought he could make out the sound of shuffling paper. Then, a familiar, commanding voice rolled out of the capsule speaker.

----------

“Good kerbals.

Time is the fire in which we burn.

These are the words of one of our greatest and oldest philosophers but never have we felt their truth more keenly than we do today. In the Kerm Crisis, we face a challenge unprecedented in our history. One that will require equally unprecedented efforts if we are to overcome it. One that may force us to re-learn what it is to be kerbal.

But here we can take consolation from another great philosopher. One who taught us that the mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be lit! And never before have we witnessed a more glorious outpouring of that philosophy than in today’s historic Munar landing! Pioneer 4 - you were well named indeed!

But now we need more.

We have ridden upon the shoulders of our space pioneers. We have mapped our world from orbit and we have taken the measure of the Kerm challenge in full! Now we call upon the spirit of Jebediah Kerman - the first leader of this Council - in the hope that we may use that knowledge wisely for Kerm, kerman and kermol alike.

For we have also tasked our greatest scientists with a mission of peace. To understand why the Kerm are led to fight amongst themselves and learn whether we kerbals can help them to live together without conflict or Blight. Our very survival as a species depends on their success and for that we must buy them time. Which is why we now call upon the six Regionalities of Kerbin to unite behind this Council of Twelve Pillars.

Together, we have watched in awe as the Kerbin Interplanetary Society took their first, faltering footsteps off our world. We watched as the Rockomax Corporation spurred them onwards in rivalry and then still further in friendship. We have watched their fledgling space program grow and blossom and triumph!”

“But now we need more.

We need a space program for us all - a Kerbal Space Program - tasked with nothing less than building us a new home amongst the stars. And here I can offer no better words than those of Jebediah Kerman - kerbonaut and Münwalker:

Make no mistake my friends - this will not be easy. It will require all the skills and all the technologies we have built so far. We have rocket engines - but now we'll need bigger ones. We have spacecraft - but now we'll need better ones. But most of all, we need volunteers. Engineers and agronomists, young and old, kerman and kermol. Volunteers to forge our new path and lead us to our new home on another world.

Volunteers for Project Starseed."

 

Here ends Part 3 - Kerbal Space Program. The story will conclude in Part 4 - The Age of Fire.

Edited by KSK

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So you're telling me that those three clown astronauts have already been to the Mun and back and have the temerity to make me start off the KSP with trashcans?!

 

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On January 4, 2014 at 11:03 AM, KSK said:

They all look very different, today.

Ch.25 What you did there, I see it. :cool: "Adelan" even fits the rhythm. 

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2 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

 "Adelan" even fits the rhythm. 

Honestly? I never spotted that one. :) It works though.

 

MaxL - nah, starting off the KSP with trashcans is right - you just need the temerity to give your trashcan-rockets-out-of-a-barn program an overly grandiose name like the Kerbal Space Program. :)

In game terms, Jeb and Co. are about at Tier 2 space centre buildings and have just been handed the most completely over the top "build a base on..." contract ever. Fortunately, the down-payment on the contract is equally over the top...

Edited by KSK

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23 hours ago, KSK said:

Hey folks,

GluttonyReaper - it sure has. :) Got a bit to go yet but that last chapter was a big milestone for kerbals and author alike! CatastrophicFailure - thanks for hanging in there - hope the last hippie-tree chapter worked for you. :)

Madrias - thanks as always for the kind words and this next one is for you...

(Removed the story to keep the quote short)

Here ends Part 3 - Kerbal Space Program. The story will conclude in Part 4 - The Age of Fire.

 

I'm honored, KSK.  Deeply and truly honored.

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Uuuuh, I know what I will read on my drives home/to work the next days! :)

Relax all, I am going by tram/streetcar. :wink:

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And thus was born KSP.

 

The last two chapters in particular gave me chills. What was already one of my favorite stories of all time is rapidly becoming a contender for the favorite. :)

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On 19 June 2015 at 2:39 AM, Kagame said:

You need an artist, I'm your man. Excellent worldbuilding- by far the best I've seen on here.

It's been a while but Kagame - if you're still following this, I would love to have a picture of this scene:

"On the screen in front of him, two mirrored helmets faced one another across a landscape of grey. An orange glove clasped a white glove. And between them, in the background, the flag of all Kerbin flew proudly above the Munar plains."

For that matter, if anyone else wants to take a crack at it, the more the merrier! I'll dig out my flag of all Kerbin and post it.

On 5 January 2016 at 0:48 PM, Madrias said:

I'm honored, KSK.  Deeply and truly honored.

And you're more than welcome!

20 hours ago, briansun1 said:

Said this before and I'm saying it again. That was really really good.

:) Thanks. I've said it before (I hope) but thanks for staying along - the ongoing support and comments are very much appreciated.

19 hours ago, fire219 said:

And thus was born KSP.

The last two chapters in particular gave me chills. What was already one of my favorite stories of all time is rapidly becoming a contender for the favorite. :)

And I really can't ask for more than that! Thank you.

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Sorry about the gratuitous double post folks but the last one was getting a bit long and I really wanted to share these. Two videos linked by the good people over at Spacebattles in response to the last two chapters. I give you:

Jeb's Theme. Well not really but it's how I'll always think of it now:

And if Bob ever decided to do folk music, it would probably go something like this...

 

Cheers.

KSK.

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Beautiful, just beautiful. I was having shivers all the way, and, wow, it was gorgeous. I was almost in tears at a couple points, in fact.
Thank you, it was all more than worth the wait.:D

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Alright, I'll go ahead and take a crack at it.

 

90gbO1P.pngFlagpole area's still a little rough 'cos I need the flag to finish that bit up, pinch/whorl can do a number on proportions. Anyways this something liek what you were thinking of? also eugh whats going on with the horizon...

Edited by Kagame

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Nice - thanks! The horizon has gone a little weird though. :)

As promised - and courtesy of MadHorse - the flag of all Kerbin:

 pvjaWXc.png\

 

Edit:  And that's me finally done with cleaning up the busted formatting for all the older chapters. Hopefully I won't have to do that again. :mad:

Edited by KSK

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Now to find and (mis)interpret all the significant imagery! Let's make a game of it. My go:

Twelve green circles: Kerm cuttings. You can have one seed, and twelve cuttings, otherwise the Kerm at once becomes sentient and goes mad.

Twelve blue(?) lines, meeting in the center: The Twelve Pillars. Not sure 'bout the significance of the meeting. Maybe it symbolizes the Council itself?

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Finished ch 31 last nite, and of course, wow. Can't say much that hasn't already been said, but I am curious, do I detect shades of Robert Jordan in the Age of Madness?

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10 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Finished ch 31 last nite, and of course, wow. Can't say much that hasn't already been said, but I am curious, do I detect shades of Robert Jordan in the Age of Madness?

Cheers! I saw you were getting close to it - glad it worked when you got there. :) To my mind it's very much the key chapter, so much so that I was originally going to call it 'Shadows of the Past' after the chapter at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, where we learn about the Ring and its implications. 

Interesting question about Jordan. I would have to say 'not consciously' but I can see the parallels now that you mention it. Echoing your excellent advice of "Keep at it, that's how you learn. Maybe consider a creative writing course. And, of course, read copiously," it's quite possible that bits of Wheel of Time bobbed to the surface of the great stew of ideas, fragments of language and other such bits and pieces that you accumulate through the latter. But I can honestly say it wasn't intended to be a direct shout-out.

1 hour ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

And extra kudos for that word count of famous books link. Very interesting...

Thanks! I just glanced over that again and good grief some of the lower entries in that list. I mean War and Peace is the archetypal epic novel but it's only after writing a (considerably shorter) novel that the real weight of that 587,287 word count really sinks in.

10 hours ago, 0111narwhalz said:

Now to find and (mis)interpret all the significant imagery! Let's make a game of it. My go:

Twelve green circles: Kerm cuttings. You can have one seed, and twelve cuttings, otherwise the Kerm at once becomes sentient and goes mad.

Twelve blue(?) lines, meeting in the center: The Twelve Pillars. Not sure 'bout the significance of the meeting. Maybe it symbolizes the Council itself?

:D  Some good guesses there. There's a Word of God answer if you'd like it but I don't want to spoil the game...

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Thank you, KSK. I've never been happier to have to come up for an explanation on why a 30 year old man was crying like a baby at the office.

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On January 10, 2016 at 2:49 AM, KSK said:

. Interesting question about Jordan. I would have to say 'not consciously' but I can see the parallels now that you mention it. Echoing your excellent advice of "Keep at it, that's how you learn. Maybe consider a creative writing course. And, of course, read copiously," it's quite possible that bits of Wheel of Time bobbed to the surface of the great stew of ideas, fragments of language and other such bits and pieces that you accumulate through the latter. But I can honestly say it wasn't intended to be a direct shout-out.

 

All Things Serve the Beam. :cool:

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*crawls out of hiding*

 

I cried.

I laughed.

 

Bring on the Age of Fire!

 

Now I'm going to reread the Mars trilogy (K.S. Robinson).

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46 minutes ago, OrtwinS said:

Now I'm going to reread the Mars trilogy (K.S. Robinson).

Better you than me, squire. I only got through the first volume, but I can't think of a single main character in it who was either likeable or interesting.

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