KSK

First Flight (Chapter 105 - Knuckling Down)

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:) 

I thought we already had. But just in case that's all some wild conspiracy theory... yeah, NASA should get some more probes out to Ceres, asap. :D 

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ok, i've gotten it split between 3 volumes now, one containing parts 1 and 2, one containing part 3, and one containing part 4. now i just need to get the last few chapters in and redo the table of contents on volumes 2 and 3

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@Plecy75 - great work as always and thanks for keeping the downloadable version going! That's the split I'd go for as well, although I suspect Part 3 (formerly Part 4) will make the others look lopsided by the time we're done. :)

I'll have to think of a title for the merged Part 1 and Part 2 at some point.

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9 hours ago, KSK said:

'll have to think of a title for the merged Part 1 and Part 2 at some point.

"Book One" , "Book Two" ? ;o)

Edited by KerbMav

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well, i have it simply titles "First Flight" with a part one and a part two, using  their original titles. i want to preserve the original format as best as i can, but i have run into a couple of issues with page length, like only 1 line on the last page in one of them. idk if i should leave it or no.

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Next chapter is up...

 

Special Order 42

<very well...Jeb. We will talk again tomorrow but the hour grows late and you have already given me much to think about>

It's been a long day, Jeb agreed, and I've got my share of thinking to do too. So - uh, how do I...

<stop Communing? Like this. Peaceful night, Jeb>

Elton's leaves tugged at Jeb's scalp before lifting free. Blinking, he sat up, patted his head and inspected his fingertips. "Huh. No blood."

"The punctures are tiny and heal practically instantaneously," said Patbro with a smile. "They'll open more easily the second time too, whichever Kerm you Commune with. You're a marked kerbal now, Jebediah."

"Good to know that tomorrow isn't going to be as itchy," Jeb cocked his head to one side. "How specific are the punctures though? Will other Kerm know that I've Communed with Elton?"

"I don't follow you."

Jeb scratched his head. "You said I'm a marked Kerb - are these Elton's marks? Does he leave behind - oh I don't know - a personal scent or something?"

Patbro pinched the bridge of his nose. "You know, I have no idea. I haven't noticed anything different with my Kerm after speaking to Elton but another sapient Kerm... hmmm. That's an excellent question."

"Either way, you don't seem too worried about being a marked kerb," Geneney observed. "Which is probably more than Elton could say right now. What on Kerbin did you do to him?"

Jeb swung his feet off the bed. "What do you mean? I didn't do anything."

Geneney pointed at the leaves scattered over the sleep room floor. "It didn't look that way from where we were sitting. Whatever you did it made his branches fairly stand on end - I reckon we're lucky to still have a ceiling."

"I've never seen a Kerm react like that," said Patbro. He shivered, remembering all the leaf clusters  around them closing in waves. "Although Elton is far more expressive than a normal... than most Kerm."

Jeb's face cleared. "Oh... that would have been when I showed him the view from Kerbal 1. He was very... very…”  Jeb threw up his hands. "He was all sorts of things all rolled together. I don't know."

"Thunderstruck?" suggested Geneney.

"That was part of it. It all made perfect sense in Communion." A look of awe crossed Jeb's face. "It all made sense in Communion, Genie. Didn't matter if we got the words wrong because we knew what they meant anyway. I did most of the sharing but Elton…shared a couple of things with me too. Some faces from the past. They felt a bit blurry, a bit faded - I guess that's because Elton never Communed with them personally but his kerbals knew them so I got their memories second hand." Jeb frowned. "I didn't follow the part about his kerbals to be honest - I'll need to ask him about that tomorrow."

Patbro nodded vigorously. "You really should. You should be there too, Geneney!"

Geneney looked at Jeb's flushed face. "As long as that's all right with Elton," he said. "I don't think I've seen Jeb this excited since... well since Kerbal 1."

-----------

Jeb awoke to the nutty, grainy smell of hot natas mingling with the smell of fresh greenery and cinnamon all around him. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and sat up, peering at the rows of bunk beds on the far wall. A breeze from the half open window chivvied a drift of glossy green leaves across the floor and Jeb's face lit up in anticipation. He rolled out of bed, grabbed the poncho Patbro had left on the bedstead, pulled it over his shoulders on his way out of the sleep room.

"Morning Elton!" Jeb pushed open the door and sauntered into the kitchen. "Morning Genie, morning Patbro!”

Geneney looked up from his chopping board. "Morning, Jeb. You slept well then?"

"Took me a while to drop off but after that? Like a kerblet in its pouch." He turned to a rather bemused looking Patbro. "I'll get a brew on - where are the supplies?"

"Um - the pot's on the stove," said Patbro. "Filters and coffee are in the corner cupboard down there." He pushed his chair back. "But, please. Let me."

Geneney put his knife down. "Don't worry about it. Do him good to be on the breakfast shift again." He grinned at Patbro's expression. “The boss brewing the morning coffee used to be a KIS tradition until Derny - now our chef - turned up to volunteer his services. He's more creative than Jeb and better still, none of his brews have been mistaken for leftover window sealant."

Jeb aimed a rude gesture at him from over his shoulder before emerging from the cupboard with a jar of ground coffee, filters and an elderly tin of anise flakes. Levering the top off the tin, he rubbed a pinch between his fingers and sniffed. “Bit old but they’ll do nicely.” Ignoring Patbro's and Geneney's revolted expressions, he dumped a spoonful into his coffee cup, thought for a moment then added a second.

Geneney ladled the natas into three bowls and added a generous portion of chopped pickles to each. The coffee pot burbled and slurped its way to a standstill and presently the anise laced aroma of hot coffee was adding to the distinctive smells of a traditional Kolan breakfast. Everyone dug in.

Patbro pushed his bowl away with a satisfied grunt and reached for his mug. "So - is there a plan for today?"

Jeb swallowed a mouthful of coffee. "Communing with Elton mainly," he said. "We've still got a lot of space stuff to talk through." His eyes lost their focus for a moment "And hopefully we'll have time to hear some of his story too." He looked at Patbro. "From all the bunks around here I'm guessing that Elton won't have any problems talking to Genie and me together?  I'll ask him first of course."

Patbro shook his head. "No problem at all," he said. 

"You're welcome to join us," said Geneney. "If you don't mind listening to a pair of engineers getting technical?"

"That sounds… interesting actually," said Patbro. "Like I said to Elton, I've seen three launches and I watched..." His voice tailed away and he stared at Jeb as if seeing him properly for the first time. "I watched yourself and Jondun walking on the Mün, sir." He blinked. "I don't suppose... don't suppose you showed Elton your Münwalk?"

"No need to 'sir' me," said Jeb. "But no - we didn't have time for that last night. Wonder how it works with all of us Communing?"

Patbro tried to bury his excitement. "If group Communion with Elton is anything like talking to Jonton back in the day - why it should be the next best thing to being there!”

Geneney raised his eyebrows, his voice deceptively calm. "Now that does sound interesting,” he said. "Always did wonder what it was like. You can give us the guided tour, Jeb."

"Be happy to, Genie. Breakfast dishes first though, I think." He turned to Patbro. "If you think my coffee’s bad, you don't want to let Genie's cooking congeal in the pan. Not unless you enjoy washing up with a hammer and chisel."

Patbro just shook his head.

-----------

No sooner were the breakfast dishes dried and put away than all three kerbals hurried through to the sleep room. Jeb clambered onto his bunk from the previous night, slipped a pillow under his neck and without further thought, lifted his head into the waiting leaf cluster and waited for the white light to engulf him.

<good morning, Jeb>

Good morning, Elton. You remembered!

<of course. There is much to discuss today, Jeb. Where did you want to begin?>

Could we start with the details we didn't have time for last night? Jeb paused. And, uh, I thought you might like to see the surface of the Mun now that you've seen it from space?

<and I think Patbro and your friend would like to see it too> 

Jeb sensed amusement and reassurance rippling down the mental link and blushed.

Elton's voice was soothing. <no, Jeb. I cannot read anything that you don't want to share. You were worried about asking me for something though and I could see two other kerbals at the front of your mind. It wasn't difficult to guess your thoughts> 

Ohh-kay. Going to take me a while to get used to this.

<you will. For now - yes. Patbro and your friend are welcome to join us. I should know your friend's name first though>

Geneney, or Genie for short. Uh, if you could let go of my head, I'll let them know.

<certainly, Jeb>

And with that, Elton’s leaves lifted away from his scalp. Jeb sat up and rubbed his head. “Definitely didn’t pull as much this time. And Elton says you’re both welcome to join us.” He watched Geneney  and Patbro find their own bunks, Patbro propping himself up and slipping his head into the leaf cluster with practiced ease. Geneney took longer to settle but eventually Elton’s leaves closed around his head too. Jeb flashed him a quick thumbs-up before leaning back onto his own pillow.

The light swirled away in tattered ribbons, buffeted by the mental currents sloshing back and forth  Jeb felt a moment of panic as he felt his own link constrict but then Elton’s voice filled his head.  <This is my doing, Jeb. Do not fear>

The link expanded, releasing him into relative calm. With growing wonder, Jeb sensed two more presences floating just out of reach as if seen from the corner of his eye. One of the presences spoke, Geneney’s words materialising fully formed in his mind. Instantly, the link narrowed again, deflecting and absorbing his sudden surge of delight.

<be calm my friends. When many Commune it is easy for feelings to magnify from one kerbal to the next. Left unchecked this can overwhelm, even harm>

Pogo! Understanding bloomed in Jeb’s mind. This happens with rockets too, he explained to Elton. The wrong vibration in the engine can be magnified by the rest of the rocket, sometimes strongly enough to tear it apart.

<I like this word. Do not worry - I will stop any pogo here before it tears us apart>

That’s good to know. Geneney’s mental voice was bland but both Jeb and Patbro could sense the unease beneath his thoughts. 

<last night you mentioned your Moho rockets, Jeb. I would learn more of them today.>

Jeb collected his thoughts, unsure where to begin. The rocket was just part of Project Moho, he said at last. An important one - without a powerful enough booster, we weren’t going anywhere - but it was only one piece of the puzzle. The Kerbal capsule was more or less just a tin can with parachutes attached. For Moho, we had to figure out proper life support, thermal protection, guidance and attitude control - all sorts of things. He stretched out, reaching for Geneney’s presence. Cover me here, Genie - jump in if I forget anything.

Patbro sensed Elton’s attention focusing on Jeb and braced himself for - two engineers getting technical - as Jeb had put it. To his delighted surprise, he found the details much easier to follow than he’d expected; Jeb’s easy-going delivery highlighted by real-life images of partially assembled rocket engines and spacecraft as seen through his own, and occasionally Geneney’s eyes. Even when the conversation turned to intricacies of mission planning and orbital mechanics, Patbro and Elton felt the patchwork of mental images and rules-of-thumb behind both Jeb and Geneney’s understanding, tapping directly into their years of hard-won experience.

<but what of your flight controllers, Geneney? So many kerbals watching over so few - is this necessary?>

Patbro sensed equivocation shivering from Geneney’s link but before he could speak, Jeb’s emphatic response overwhelmed it.

Yes! When something goes wrong up there it can go wrong real quick. And when that happens you want as many people - and as much experience - on your side as you can get.

The mindscape blurred around them, four green lights suddenly glowing in front of everyone. A gloved hand appeared, one finger stabbing down on a button. The lights didn’t flicker and Patbro felt a surge of remembered tension chasing between Jeb and Geneney as their memories aligned.

[OK Gene, I've got a problem up here.]

[We see it too Jeb. Stand by.]

The mindscape swirled, revealing a crowded and cramped space full of screens, lights and kerbals. Patbro felt the humidity, smelt the earthy stench of tense bodies in close confinement, struggled to keep up with the rapid fire jargon even with his newfound understanding.

[Flight Dynamics - what are our options?]

[We’re still Go, Flight.]

Surprise and relief washed across them, followed by a metallic click and buzz of static. 

[OK, Jeb, we’re working this but for now you are still Go.]

And by the time the second stage burned out, they had a working plan for me. I made it to orbit and… well you’ve seen the rest. Still haven’t quite figured out how Gene’s team did it but yeah - they’re the kind of kerbals you want to have watching your back.

And sometimes, said Geneney, all we can do is double-check everything and hope for the best.

The cramped bunker expanded before their eyes, the number of controllers and screens expanding with it. The image stuttered, bouncing from one screen to the next.

[Flight, Lander. Radar is back!]

A surge of hope. Then a tightly controlled voice.

[Flight, Pioneer. Debris at the landing site - I’m going long.]

A lightning quick burst of thought flicked across from Jeb. Patbro nodded to himself. Of course going long was the best option. Far easier and safer than the alternatives. Somewhere in the corner of his mind he felt a spike of tension from Geneney. Two mental voices called out in unison, one of them too focused to be afraid, the other radiating enough fear for them both.

[Two hundred metres, down six. Slow us up, Jeb…]

[Lander, Flight. Fuel status?]

[Four minutes, Flight.]

[One hundred fifty metres. Down four, forward twenty…]

The spike sharpened. Patbro sensed Elton hovering on the edge of Geneney’s consciousness.

[All consoles - aborts and fuel only.]

[Seventy metres. Down one, forward five. Fifty metres. Down point seven, forward three.]

[Three minutes, Pioneer…]

[Forty metres, down one, forward one. Watch that lateral drift…]

Patbro felt the first twinges of alarm from Elton. He reached out to Geneney, finding nothing but a hard, ridged knot of sensation, impaled on the spike. The knot quivered, cushioned by soothing webs of thought spun out from the Kerm…

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

“…Abort stage override to auto. Descent engine arm off. ATO is in…”

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

The tension spike exploded, the mental blast-wave slamming into a smaller but no less powerful wave of relief erupting from Jeb. The two waves merged, swelled, tossing the mindscape around them like a cork in a tempest.

<Be easy my friends> To Patbro’s ears, even Elton’s voice sounded shaken. <I would have no pogo here>

Hey Genie? Jeb said softly. It’s okay. We made it, remember.

I…I guess we did didn’t we. Really did something that day. Sorry about that, people - hit me harder than I expected.

Don’t worry about it, Jeb answered. Uh - I don’t know how well this is gonna work but… you all want to see what happened next?

<I would like that, Jebediah> Elton’s presence gathered around them, enfolding the three kerbals in a great bowl that seemed simultaneously close enough to touch and too far away for Patbro to sense more than a misty patchwork of detail. <I would like that very much>

Patbro sensed a burst of images blurring past too quickly to see. They stopped, riffled back and forth and then settled on a single moment. Patbro found himself on his stomach, peering through a gold tinted window at a space-suited kerbonaut.

[You’re doing fine, Jeb. Mind your head on the door.]

[Feels a lot tighter than the trainer. Remind me to tell Genie to get that thing measured up.]

[Easy does it. There you go!]

There was a confusing moment of angular shapes then a ladder jerking past rung by rung. Light spilled in around Patbro’s peripheral vision, transmuted to a golden sheen by his helmet visor. His heart soared even as his legs felt strangely light despite the stiffness of his suit.

[Flight, EVA 1. Comm check.]

[You’re on closed loop EVA 1. Just you, Jondun and the team until you’re both on the surface. You did remember the speech, yes?]

[I’ll think of something, Fligh… oh forget all that, Genie - this is awesome! Okay - stepping off the ladder now.]

A rising tide of exultation gripped Elton. He took a tentative step back, watched his gloved hands let go of the ladder, then turned and walked out into a landscape of fierce greys and jagged beauty, unlike anything remembered from all his many kerbals. Great boulders threw needle sharp shadows across the ground and the curved horizon seemed almost close enough to touch. He turned, frustration leaping inside as an ugly, misshapen flying machine replaced his view of the Mün, and tipped his head back to watch a pair of chunky grey boots emerge from an open hatch, followed by a pair of bulky white legs.

[Bend a bit more, Jond. Down a bit…perfect! The next bit’s easier if you climb down a rung or two.]

Jondun’s helmet emerged from the hatch. Elton watched her propel herself down the ladder in slow two-footed hops. [What’s the ground like, Jeb?]

[All fine and powdery but it doesn’t seem to be that slippery. This gravity though! Feels like I could just jump straight up, knock on Malmy’s window, turn a couple of somersaults and still have plenty time to land!]

[We’ll pack you a pair of spring-loaded boots next time, EVA 1.]

[Or get Wernher to rig up a rocket assist for the EVA packs! Okay, Genie - it’s about flag time I reckon.]

Patbro took a cautious hop forward, plumes of Mündust puffing out from under his feet. Fascinated, he watched the dust particles shooting over the surface, before turning his attention to a thin metal tube secured to one of the ladder rails. He fumbled it free, his pressurised gloves making it a struggle to operate the clips holding it in place, and loped over to join Jondun.

The suit fans whirred in Geneney’s ear, the cool, slightly rubbery tasting oxygen drying out the back of his throat. Resisting the temptation to sneak another peek at the view, he depressed a catch on the side of the flag tube and pulled it’s two halves apart. He handed the upper pole and cross bar assembly to Jondun, just as he’d seen Jeb do half-a-dozen times in training, and with a grunt drove the lower pole into the regolith as far as he could. He pressed a button on its side and four supporting legs snapped out flat, raising puffs of dust from the Munar surface. [All set, Jond?]

Jondun slipped the unfurled flag into place. [Ready when you are.]

[Going live in five, EVA 2.]

Together, Patbro, Elton and Geneney stepped back from the flagpole and reached out to clasp Jondun’s hand. Then they turned to face the lander, it’s gleaming boxy shapes and jointed legs standing proud against the Munar dawn. They lifted their heads to see Kerbin high above in the midnight sky, as they listened once again to their much-rehearsed words:

[On this day we - voyagers from the planet Kerbin…]

——————

The emotional after-quakes subsided, leaving Elton’s sombre tones behind. <those were good words, Jeb. Even at such a moment, the Kerm were not forgotten>

I did my best, replied Jeb.

And then some, said Geneney. We were under a lot of pressure for Pioneer 4, he explained to Elton. The Council wanted a Mün landing to make Starseed look achievable and they were leaning hard on Director Lodan to give them what they wanted.

<but there is no new soil on the Mün. Kerm cannot grow there>

No, agreed Geneney. And Duna isn’t much better to tell you the truth but it’s going to have to do.

<Duna?>

Geneney summoned up an image of a screen showing Pioneer 4’s path from Kerbin to the Mün. Neling and Bill put this together for Hanbal’s television lectures, he said. It’s not much good for flight planning - was never meant to be - but it’s useful for getting across a sense of distance. The image blurred, replaced by three circles around a bright central dot. The bright spot in the centre is Kerbol, then we have Moho, Eve and Kerbin orbiting it. You can’t see the Mün or Minmus at this scale I’m afraid. The image blurred again, shifting in and out of focus as Geneney hunted for the right memory. Ahh - here we go. The software keeps Kerbol at the same size for ease of viewing but everything else is to scale. So here’s Kerbin again and right on the edge of the screen - that’s Duna.

The great mindscape bowl enfolding himself, Jeb and Patbro collapsed with a resounding thud.

<oh…I see>

It gets worse, said Geneney. We use a transfer orbit remember… Help me out here, Jeb - I don’t remember ever using this for the Starseed trajectories.

It’s been a while since I used it for anything either. Lodan didn’t want us to use it for the Capital News interview remember, in case it scared anyone. Hmm, Bob’s evening class slides maybe? I remember Luco setting the animation up for him.

A large white screen unfolded in Jeb’s minds eye, showing the same four dots orbiting a centre dot.  Okay, we launch when Duna is here. A dotted line appeared, curving away from Kerbin. Don’t remember the details but Bob was probably showing a minimum energy transfer, which gets us to Duna here. Exact journey time depends exactly when we launch.

We were planning for about 120 days, said Geneney, as a compromise between propellant requirements and flight time.

<that does not seem so long, even for kerbals. The great voyages of the Age of Sail took many more days>

No, agreed Geneney, Crews on the Endurance station have shown that journeys of 120 days are possible. The image of four dots circling Kerbol flickered over the mindscape in a ripple of unease that brought Jeb up short. An image of Kerbin from space drifted past, accompanied by familiar radio chatter. Suddenly Kerbin shrank to a blue dot, a grey dot floating beside it. More radio chatter, now with stilted pauses between each speaker. Another spike of tension lanced out from Geneney and suddenly Jeb understood.

Comms delay…

Exactly, said Geneney. The further a spacecraft travels from Kerbin, he told Elton, the longer it takes for radio waves to reach it. Out by the Mün the delay is about a second, which is manageable. But out by Minmus…

An image of a Pioneer lander standing on a flat, mottled plain surfaced in his mind, a kerbal standing in front of it carrying an armful of spindly equipment. The image drew back, revealing a screen and then a familiar view of the Barkton flight control room, off-screen voices calling out in sudden alarm:

[“Picking up above-background activity in sectors delta and echo, Flight.”]

[“Patch me in. Do we have enough signal to triangulate?”]

[“Working it, Flight, but I’d say…” A louder, two-tone beep sounded. “Oh, Kerm. First pass error ellipse is too large to call it, Flight but that’s way too close for comfort!”]

[“EVA1, EVA2. Abort to orbit - landing zone Red, repeat Red!”]

The seconds dragged past, the kerbonaut on the screen bounding away from the camera, seemingly oblivious to the flight director’s alarm. Suddenly he dropped his equipment, turned and leapt for the lander. [“Copy that, Flight. Returning to base!”] He skidded across the ground, boots churning up a double plume of frozen powder as it kicked off again. [“Barrie – where are you?”]

[“Out by Danfen’s Dip and heading home at speed. You?”]
 
[“Nearly there.”] The kerbal sprang up the ladder, clearing half the distance to the cabin in a single bound, scrambled up the rest of the way and squeezed through the open hatchway. [“Speak to me, Barrie!”]
 
The voices began to fade out, a grey tinge of helplessness seeping over everything.

[“Surface is tracking minor shocks in Charlie and Foxtrot sectors. Prospector – are you clear for launch?”]

The grey tinge flickered midnight black before vanishing. Elton sensed Geneney leaning forward in his seat, willing the other flight director to give the launch order. Surprise turned to outright astonishment as the seconds and then the minutes dragged by.
 
[“I’m clipped on! Go, go, go!”]

The image cut to black. Geneney sagged against his link, Jeb and Patbro gathering around to support him. Elton waited until all three kerbals had recovered their mental strength before speaking.

<I… see. Even if many kerbals watch over the few, they may not be able to speak to them in time to help. But I still do not understand why the kerbal in the lander didn’t leave or why the flight director did not order her to?>

Because there was still hope, said Geneney softly. Even if Nelton had given the order, Wilford would have switched his radio off and ignored it.

<that… that makes no sense, Geneney. Two kerbals might have died instead of only one.

But instead both kerbals lived instead of one of them dying, said Jeb. I know Wilford - leaving Barrie behind, alive or dead, would have killed him more surely than that munquake.

It wasn’t the logical thing to do, said Geneney. But it was the right thing. And I can tell you - if Wilford had left it too late there isn’t a single kerbal in the space program who wouldn’t have been there to help. Staying on-shift until we either brought them home or worked through every last option. Geneney’s mental voice cracked. Every. last. option. And if we ran out of options then the flight control room wouldn’t have been big enough to hold us all. To watch over them, to be with our friends until the very end. Because that would have been the right thing to do too!

<you also have also given me much to think about, Geneney. But I wonder - how do you find such kerbals for your space program?>

Easily, said Patbro. Jeb and Geneney’s presences whipped round. If a kerbal is lost on the mountains, how many more kerbals will join the rescue teams? If a boat gets caught in a storm, how many kerbals will sail into the storm themselves to save the crew? Don’t get me wrong - I’m sure there are any number of fine people in the space program. But that’s because there are fine people all across Kerbin. And they don’t give up either. A surge of approval crackled up his spine. 

The mindscape shifted around them, elusive flickers of lightning tasting its edges, skipping out of sight if looked at too closely. It shuddered once, as if prodded from beneath, then stilled.

<then I will not give up either my friends. Not whilst there is still hope. But we have Communed for many hours. We should stop to let you eat and drink and then I would show you some of my story. Patbro - you would be welcome to join us although you have seen much of it before> Elton paused <I would ask one last question though. What does this Duna world look like?>

Geneney took a deep breath. Ruddy orange light rayed out around him, staining the mindscape around him in shades of russet and ochre. Rocks appeared under a dusty cerise sky, dotting a landscape that seemed to go on forever. Elton’s dismay struck like a hurricane, scouring up towering clouds of tan dust.

Then the dust clouds froze. 

Elton’s will struck the three kerbals like a hammer blow, striking unerringly at their most long-buried, primeval cores. Jeb, Geneney and Patbro snapped to attention. The desert would be tamed. There was no, could be no, doubt of this, for had not their Kerm decreed it? And this was proper, for they were… not kerbal but something greater. To be kerm-bal was to be apart from the Kerm and in the deepest, darkest depths of their souls, this was inconceivable.

The Dunan vista shattered, replaced by swirling grey light and a sense of shame so deeply felt as to be almost tangible.  <I… I overreach myself, good kerbals> The light dimmed, flecks of black char appearing around its edges <and I crave your forgiveness>

Elton’s voice shook. <I would still offer my help if you would have it, my friends. When kerbals make the voyage to Duna, you will take with you the knowledge of turning desert to soil fit for growing. This I swear on my First of Keepers and all my Keepers before him.>

——————

Jeb sat up, Elton’s leaves slipping free of his scalp. He looked across the room at Geneney sitting on the edge of his bunk, head buried in his hands. Patbro was already on his feet, swaying drunkenly and holding onto his bunk for support.

“Great Kerm above.”

“You… you got that right,” said Jeb hoarsely. “Elton told me I’d given him much to think about. Reckon he just returned that with interest.”

Patbro tottered over to the window and closed the curtains before switching on a pair of standing lamps. Geneney raised his head, blinking at the sudden brightness. “All the Pillars preserve me in their councils.”

“They can preserve me too,” Jeb shook his head. “That willpower… dear Kerm above, that…all…”

“Tell me about it. And all the… all the…” Geneney stared at his hands. “Just all of it.” He lifted his head at the sudden ringing from the kitchen, squinting at Patbro as he went to answer the phone.

“And then some,” agreed Jeb. “I think we got his attention…” He was interrupted by Patbro’s slightly wide-eyed face in the doorway.

“Geneney? Director Lodan on the line for you.”

Jeb looked up. “Lodan? What does he want?”

“He didn’t say,” said Patbro. “Although he did say that he’d been trying to get in touch for the last three hours.”

Geneney groaned. “I’d better take this,” he said. “It’s a late one, even for Lodan.” He got to his feet and went through to the kitchen, leaving the others alone with their thoughts. Jeb picked up a Kerm leaf from the floor, twisting it between his fingers. Patbro poured himself a mug of water from Jonton’s pedestal before propping himself up against Elton’s trunk.

“Change of plan.” Geneney walked in frowning. “You up for a trip out to Alpha?”

“Not after that Communion I’m not. What on Kerbin is the hurry?”

“I have no idea. Ademone and Nelton are on their way too, although Lodan was being remarkably cagey about why he’d called them in.”

“There’s a surprise,” muttered Jeb. “Anybody else invited to this little party?”

“He didn’t say but I doubt it. Too far by road and nobody’s going to be flying.” Geneney gave Patbro an apologetic look. “We should get going I’m afraid. Get a few hours down the road before turning in.” His gaze drifted over to Elton’s trunk and he dragged his attention back to Patbro with an effort. “Please pass on our regards to Elton and thank him for his time.”

Patbro nodded. “I’ll let him know you were called away” he said. “And for myself - thank you both for the Communion. It was… it was…”

“It was all of that,” Geneney gripped Patbro’s shoulder, “And then some.”

——————

The midday sun shone down on the great tracking dish as Geneney pulled up in his reserved parking space and switched off the motors. Straightening his suit, he checked his reflection in the rear view mirror and finger combed his hair into something resembling tidiness. 

“Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” said Jeb, opening the car door. “Do you think he’ll go for it?”

Geneney shrugged. “If he doesn’t, we’ll drive him back to Barkton and introduce him to Elton.” He slammed his door shut and the interior panelling promptly fell off with a clatter, spilling the contents of the side tray under his seat.

“Oh for the love of the first Grove!” Geneney wrenched the door open and surveyed the mess. “Blight take those weevil chewed, kaya fondling, over-officious wastes of space!” He counted to ten under his breath then, rather more gingerly, closed the car door again. “Come on - let’s go.”

The grounds were quiet, even around the Probodyne complex. The receptionist at the main entrance took one look at them and waved them through into the laboratory block. Geneney ran his finger through a thin film of dust on one of the poster boards and sighed. Jeb raised his eyebrows.

“Just thinking about the first time we came here. Brand new research posters up everywhere, everyone piling out of the labs to see us, that poor technician practically falling at your feet.” Geneney gestured at the board. “I remember some of those posters from the last management committee meeting and they weren’t looking that fresh then.”

The conference room door stood ajar at the end of the corridor. Geneney glanced at Jeb, squared his shoulders and pushed it open.

“Good afternoon, Geneney,” said Ademone. “You made good time.” 

“Not too bad. We managed to avoid the worst of the checkpoints in the end. How about yourself and Nelton?” Geneney looked around. “Nelton is here isn’t she?”

“She is,” said a voice from behind him. “We’re not long here ourselves, Gene. We would have arrived yesterday if every Seed inspector between here and Foxham hadn’t decided to strip down and rebuild our car before letting us through.”

“Tell me about it. Blithering idiots owe me a new driver side door.” Geneney stalked over to the drinks table and helped himself to a coffee.

Lodan strode into the room. “Ah, Geneney, Jebediah. Did you manage to speak to Elton?”

“We both did,” said Jeb. “Geneney and I were hoping to speak to you about that, Director.”

Lodan gave him a sidelong look, stiffening in surprise at the earnest look on the other’s face. “Certainly,” he said. “I see…he…made quite an impression.” He saw Ademone’s raised eyebrow and made a snap decision. “You can brief us all as the first item on the agenda. Shall we make a start, good kerbals?”

Jeb waited until everyone was seated, took a sip of water and began. He described his first Communion, watching Ademone’s expression gradually shift from skepticism to a cautious wonder. Nelton shot him a look of fierce approval as he outlined his, Geneney’s and Patbro’s discussions with Elton, carefully skirting around his final promise to them. Geneney gave him a tiny nod.

Then, as he sketched out Elton’s history lesson, three very sober pairs of eyes stared at him across the table.

“…I mean it was the Kerm crisis he was describing. Which I knew about. But it turns out there’s nothing quite like seeing the problem for yourself to really hammer the scale of it home. Mind you, I think Elton felt the same way about Starseed. Communing with him was an eye-opening experience all round.” Jeb looked directly at Lodan. “We can’t afford to stop the crewed program, Director. Gene and I were talking it over on the way here and we both agreed what the next steps are with the hardware but couldn’t see any way to build or launch it.” He gripped the edge of the table, knuckles turning white. “We need a plan, sir.”

Lodan heard Ademone’s sharp intake of breath. “Which is precisely what we’re here to discuss,” he said quietly. “Thank you, Jeb.” He took a deep breath. “You will remember a certain meeting in my office. We discussed the Kerm crisis and the Council’s plans to address it. You and I disagreed significantly on a number of points.” Lodan turned to Ademone. “And I had a proposal for Rockomax which, as I recall, you thought was rather heavy-handed.”

Faint creases appeared in the middle of Ademone’s forehead. Then she sat up straight. “Haven’t they been rescinded?”

“No. I spoke to one of my contacts in President Obrick’s office - I shall not reveal names for all our sakes - and it appears that they both have legal force still.” Lodan leaned back in his chair, favouring the others with a bleak smile. “Under Special Order 41 of the Council of Twelve Pillars, the Kerbin Space Agency remains tasked with overseeing a far-reaching expansion of all spaceflight activities. Under Special Order 42, its Director retains requisition powers on any necessary resources or personnel to enable that expansion.”

Lodan lifted a warning finger. “As a practical matter, my ability to requisition is paper thin. If anyone chose to dispute it, I strongly suspect that both Special Orders would be annulled and the KSA Director would find himself behind bars for the rest of his natural life.” Lodan spread his hands apart. “The Council takes a rather dim view of overreaching authority figures figures failing to execute their duties with appropriate transparency.”

Jeb’s expression turned stony. “I think Patbro would call that a boat-in-a-storm scenario, don’t you, Gene?”

“If he didn’t, Elton certainly would,” agreed Geneney, ignoring the baffled looks from around the table. “What Jeb is trying to say, Director, is that if they send you down, they’ll have to throw him and me into the next cells along.”

“I appreciate the show of solidarity,” Lodan steepled his fingers. “But not the lack of logic. If I’m arrested, I expect you and Jebediah to give all due assistance to any lawful authority.” He saw Jeb lean across the table. “I would have your words on that.”

To Ademone’s utter astonishment, Jeb sat back in his chair. 

“And I would have your word that you will succeed where I failed,” Lodan continued.

A fierce grin split Jeb’s face. “Yes, sir.”

“A paper thin ability isn’t the same as no ability.” said Nelton bluntly. “What’s the plan?” 

“I fear that you’re being over-optimistic,” said Lodan. “At best I have an idea.” The corner of his mouth twitched upward as he turned to face Jeb. “An idea that I borrowed from Jebediah.”
 

Edited by KSK

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So... I've started a small side project. 

I figure it should provide some nice bite-sized bits of writing to fit in around First Flight. The formatting is going to need some tweaking though. :) 

 

MVJwzws.png?1

 

gnEWHWY.png?1

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Kerm-bal, kerm suffix bal

kerm: noun

bal: means of accomplishment/I use, suffixed: means of not accomplishing, not means of accomplishing, not used

full meaning: not used by the Kerm/ nothe the way the Kerm will do things/ the way the Kerm will fail to do things

You sure this is right?

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On 10/31/2017 at 1:40 PM, KSK said:

To be kerm-bal was to be apart from the Kerm and in the deepest, darkest depths of their souls, this was inconceivable.

 

24 minutes ago, superstrijder15 said:

You sure this is right?

Sounds good to me.

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Another thing I just saw: apart from the Kerm, and in their souls. That is quite a contradiction, isn't it? Did you possibly mean a part, or is my English just degrading into nothingness around midnight?

So the kerb-bal are basically a part of the kerm, they are inside the actual kerm? The current meaning would be more like the kerbs are declined by the Kerm, or something else is chosen. I would use an-Kerm, but that is already taken, or bal-kerm, possesion of the Kerm. 

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The point appears to be that the idea of being kerm-bal (that is, a seperate, independent entity without care for the Kerm's wants) is rendered absurd by the strength of Elton's willpower.

Also note that "apart" means something completely different from "a part." The two are basically antonyms. (in the first, the a is negation; in the second, the a is an article)

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Hey folks,

@superstrijder15 - your translations are spot on, which makes me think I did get it right (not always guaranteed :) ). Kerm-bel would perhaps be better (persons not used by the Kerm rather than things not used by the Kerm) but once it was pointed out - thank you @Ten Key - the contraction of Kerm-bal to kerbal was just to good to pass up.

With a certain amount of handwaving, it also kind of works. Prehistoric kerbals were essentially slaves to their Kerm, used as soldiers and seed carriers. I don't think it's too far-fetched to say that they didn't have much sense (if any) of individual identity, so as they started to grow apart from the Kerm, having them start out by referring to themselves as things rather than persons isn't too much of a stretch.

Until the events set out in First Flight, it's probably fair to say that most modern kerbals (certainly most modern kerman) didn't really think too much about their historical connection to the Kerm. It's still there in various forms, most notably in their funeral rites where the deceased is generally referred to as a child of the Kerm, but most kerbals paid lip service to the concept at best.

But  deep within their psyche, at the very back of their subconscious along with all their basic instincts and darkest fears, the kerbals know that they are still children of the Kerm...

And when their gods come calling, they will obey.

If their gods call loudly enough, they have no choice but to obey.

Which, as I think @0111narwhalz got,  is what happened with Elton. He saw the Dunan desert, realized that Duna was no real place to be planting Kerm but made up his mind that, like Geneney's flight controllers, he would not give in, that he would work this problem for the kerbals.

But for the deep rooted historical reasons we just discussed, when a Kerm decides something needs to happen - its kerbals ask no questions, indeed the very idea of asking questions is inconceivable. For his part, Elton's immediate response to triggering that eons-old imperative was shame. From everything that he'd just experienced about the Space Program, it was clear that modern kerbals were not just disposable tools of the Kerm. He's also been an-Kerbal with Jonton for long enough to have 'gone native' to an extent and to have developed very definite pro-kerbal sympathies.

Or that was my thinking behind that scene anyway. :) 

Edited by KSK

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Must get started on the next chapter at some point. For now, I'm having far too much fun writing snippets of worldbuilding for the tech tree and parts descriptions. :)

For one of the early Science nodes.

Quote

The Space Program became a dream come true for the astronomy community. Far away worlds barely visible through our telescopes could be studied in unprecedented detail through an increasingly sophisticated array of scientific instruments - and sometimes visited in person.

Dunney Kerman:  “Principles of Planetary Geology.”

For a couple of science parts and a probe:
 

Quote

The original Mystery Goo was a sample of experimental hull sealant that Bob took up on one of our early flights. On opening the sample container he discovered that a clear polymer gel had transformed into a 'viscous black goop.' This was later traced to a combination of a slight leak in the container, greater than expected vibration during flight and a trace contaminant reacting with the container wall. 

At Gene's insistence, Bill’s team rigged up a small external monitoring pod to let us run subsequent experiments outside the capsule. We ended up taking all sorts of materials to orbit, including tubes of algae and other marine life. Whatever we packed into that pod though was always dubbed Mystery Goo, in honour of Bob's first sample.

Jebediah Kerman:  “KIS - A History of Kerballed Spaceflight.”

Quote

The HECS probe core was the first one to use our Modular Equipment Drivers. The concept is simple - standard interface modules, power sockets on one end, data and command and control ports on the other. Plug one end into the probe core, plug your science instrument into the other end and you’re good to go.

Unless you plug them in the wrong way round. That just gets you a bang, a couple of crispy circuit boards and about two weeks work sent straight down the Wak. We learned that one the hard way - and redesigned the power couplings shortly afterwards.

Germore Kerman:  “Probodobodyne - the Early Years.”

Quote

Once the popular press found out that we were designing a barometer for our next generation of spacecraft they never seemed to tire of reminding us that there is no air in space. When we landed the Hope 2 probe on Duna, guess which instrument we didn’t forget to include with the science payload?

Germore Kerman:  “Probodobodyne - the Early Years.”

 

Edited by KSK

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11 hours ago, KSK said:

But for the deep rooted historical reasons we just discussed, when a Kerm decides something needs to happen - its kerbals ask no questions, indeed the very idea of asking questions is inconceivable.

Given the current state of the world, the Kerm, and the track record on Awakening Kerm, this has some potentially pretty terrifying connotations. :0.0: 

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11 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Given the current state of the world, the Kerm, and the track record on Awakening Kerm, this has some potentially pretty terrifying connotations. :0.0: 

Yes.

:) 

Thanks for all the comments and likes on the last chapter, folks. Big welcome to @roboslacker too - glad you're liking the story so far!

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Wow, great chapter! (Although reading it on my lunch break wasn't the best idea, now I'm going to be late back to the office)

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One more of these, then I'll either quit spamming you all, or move them to a separate thread. :)

I'm thinking I'll use this for the 'Survivability' tech tree node.

Quote

I flew onboard our second sub-orbital rocket. Booster separation to main chute deployment felt like an impossibly long wait from inside the capsule. But sitting in the flight director’s chair? Listening to static on the radio and hoping to Kerm its just re-entry blackout? Waiting for the drogues, then the mains then the “we’re in the water - blunt end down!” call from the crew?

That's the longest wait of all. And it never gets any shorter.

Geneney “Gene” Kerman:  “Tales from the Trenches - a flight director’s journal.”

 

Edited by KSK

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Oh please more of the part and tech tree descriptions!! Are you planning on trying to do them all or at least clean up the current ones? If you need any help, I'd be glad to lend what assistance I can. Would so love to see these in game!!! :D

 

P.S. If you feel up to it, how about the science results while you're at it? That could wait for v2 as well :P.

Edited by aeroeng14

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10 hours ago, roboslacker said:

Just finished part 3. This is beautiful.

Thanks! The last two chapters of Part 3 are still two of my favourites. :) Hope you enjoy Part 4 as well.

 

4 hours ago, aeroeng14 said:

Oh please more of the part and tech tree descriptions!! Are you planning on trying to do them all or at least clean up the current ones? If you need any help, I'd be glad to lend what assistance I can. Would so love to see these in game!!! :D

P.S. If you feel up to it, how about the science results while you're at it? That could wait for v2 as well :P.

And thanks for this too. :) 

I'm definitely planning to do them all.  The tech tree descriptions are about 60% done I think, although they'll most likely need an editing pass once I'm done. I have a handful of part descriptions written up but that's (obviously) going to be a much bigger job, so I figured I'd start with the easier task of redoing the tech tree.  Finding something interesting to say about all the various wing components (for example) might get challenging but I'll see what I can do.:)

I'll be starting up a dedicated thread for all this stuff over on the add-ons forum - will post the link here once it's up and running. Mainly to keep the modding stuff separate from the main story and also because having that dedicated thread will be a good way of keeping my nose to the grindstone to get it finished. I'm also hoping that a real modder can figure out a way of changing the tech tree screen around a bit to make the descriptions look a bit more elegant. At the moment they're all:

Quote

The Space Program became a dream come true for the astronomy community. Far away worlds barely visible through our telescopes could be studied in unprecedented detail through an increasingly sophisticated array of scientific instruments - and sometimes visited in person." - - -Dunney Kerman:  “Principles of Planetary Geology."

But what I'd like them to be is:

Quote

 

The Space Program became a dream come true for the astronomy community. Far away worlds barely visible through our telescopes could be studied in unprecedented detail through an increasingly sophisticated array of scientific instruments - and sometimes visited in person."

Dunney Kerman:  “Principles of Planetary Geology."

 

Last but not least, if anyone does get inspired to do some localization work for these, it would be good to corral all of that into a separate thread!

Redoing the science descriptions would be interesting but definitely a v2 stretch goal for the moment. I might have a word with some of the Realism Overhaul folks and see what they suggest. Or possibly, if @MinimalMinmus is agreeable, I could borrow some of the excellent work from the Encyclopedia Kerbalis. A decision for another day, either way. :) 

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7 hours ago, KSK said:

Redoing the science descriptions would be interesting but definitely a v2 stretch goal for the moment. I might have a word with some of the Realism Overhaul folks and see what they suggest. Or possibly, if @MinimalMinmus is agreeable, I could borrow some of the excellent work from the Encyclopedia Kerbalis. A decision for another day, either way. :) 

It would be an honor if you did, of course.

Oh, and thanks to a finally lower work schedule, I'll try continuing it.

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15 hours ago, MinimalMinmus said:

It would be an honor if you did, of course.

Oh, and thanks to a finally lower work schedule, I'll try continuing it.

Excellent!

As promised, I've started an add-on thread over here, complete with the current work-in-progress version of the tech tree patch.

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