KSK

First Flight (Chapter 106 - The Sage of Barkton)

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At the very least, a few more references to the fact that they do have income sources would be good...

To be honest, I quite like how some things like this aren't explicitly mentioned (or even particularly implicitly). Especially with KSK's additional explanations, I think it allows for the story to be told without it getting too bogged down in details like these, and it does give the sense of more interesting environment, without letting it take over the story, which at its heart is still about Kerbals launching rockets into space. That said, I do very much enjoy hearing about the intricacies about the Kerbal society. :P

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To be honest, I quite like how some things like this aren't explicitly mentioned (or even particularly implicitly). Especially with KSK's additional explanations, I think it allows for the story to be told without it getting too bogged down in details like these, and it does give the sense of more interesting environment, without letting it take over the story, which at its heart is still about Kerbals launching rockets into space. That said, I do very much enjoy hearing about the intricacies about the Kerbal society. :P

Oh, I'm not proposing he add entire chapters about their money situation, or that he try to incorporate his entire picture of the Kerbal economics into the story. Just a few references to the fact that they have income sources and do have to concern themselves about money (not just 'Do we have enough? What can we do with it?' but 'How do we get more? Are we going to keep having enough?').

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It's KERBIN. Nothing is supposed to make any more sense than it has to, most of all the economy. Forget the monetary aspect, what was in some of those drinks Jeb & co. Ordered at that bar?

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Oh, I'm not proposing he add entire chapters about their money situation, or that he try to incorporate his entire picture of the Kerbal economics into the story. Just a few references to the fact that they have income sources and do have to concern themselves about money (not just 'Do we have enough? What can we do with it?' but 'How do we get more? Are we going to keep having enough?').

Reminds me of a line I cut from the climax of The Next Frontier, when Bob displays a surprising knack for hotwiring electronic locks.

"How the hell do you even know how to do that?"

"Space exploration's an expensive hobby and sponsorship deals and merchandising only go so far," Bob quipped.

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You do realise that I've now got a vision of Jeb et al. driving around the capital in the kerbal equivalent of brightly coloured Mini Coopers. :)

"Now hang on lads - I've had a great idea" - Jebediah Kerman.

"Bob - I only told you to blow the Kerm blighted doors off!" - Wernher Kerman.

The KIS -- 'this aint a self preservation society....'

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On a more serious note.

KerbMav - thanks for both parts of the that comment. Me too. :)

Mac - you pretty much nailed it with your thoughts on business, influence and emotion. Any reasonably local manufacturing shops looking to upgrade their equipment might well be inclined to donate their old gear to a good home for example.

GluttonyReaper - yep, definitely don't want to bog the story down. ("Now as you know, Professor, we kerbals have a very sensible economic system...") but I am wondering if I could add a couple of additional references in as per macdjord's second post. I do like the idea of work coming to a temporary halt because the VAB is being rented out for a fundraiser, not to mention Geneney going quietly nuts in the background, making sure that their donors don't trip over anything, break anything, cut themselves on sharp nose-cones etc. etc. :)

VelocityPolaris - I've thought those through too. :) I'll spare you the details though, unless anyone wants the low-down on assorted kerbal booze?

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You do realise that I've now got a vision of Jeb et al. driving around the capital in the kerbal equivalent of brightly coloured Mini Coopers. :)

"Now hang on lads - I've had a great idea" - Jebediah Kerman.

"Bob - I only told you to blow the Kerm blighted doors off!" - Wernher Kerman.

The KIS -- 'this aint a self preservation society....'

Jeb: "It's a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team. And that means you do everything I say." (This happens to be my late grandfather's favourite film quote.)

Hmmm. On second thoughts, that might be morte Jim's management style.

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VelocityPolaris - I've thought those through too. :) I'll spare you the details though, unless anyone wants the low-down on assorted kerbal booze?

How could I possibly NOT want the low-down on assorted kerbal booze?

(Seriously, though, on this thread or on another to spare the less worldbuilding-geeky readers, I will very happily read all the background you might feel like sharin'.)

-c

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Well alrighty then. :) Best to keep all the background on this thread I think, rather than scattering it over the forum. And without further ado...

Background

Ethanol has a broadly similar effect on kerbal physiology as it does on human physiology although for the most part kerbals make for happy or (occasionally) melancholy inebriates rather than fighting angry ones. Like humans, kerbals also have a creative attitude towards alcoholic drinks. If something can be fermented, it's a safe bet that somewhere, somewhen, an inventive kerbal brewer has experimented with it. As such, many of the drinks available on Kerbin would be recognisable to humans and are produced in much the same way. Kerbals generally prefer lighter drinks and are particularly fond of fruit based beverages of all kinds.

RT-5

As on Earth, Kerbal beer is produced from fermented malted grains. However, kerbal brewers tend to be more varied with the range and types of botanicals that they add to their beer, mainly because kerbals aren't as fond of bitter flavours as humans - plants similar to hops do grow on Kerbin but they're rarely used as the sole flavouring agent in kerbal beer.

RT-5 is a local craft beer peculiar to the town of Barkton and inspired by the RT-5 'Trashcan'solid rocket booster used to launch the famous Kerbal 1 and Kerbal 2 suborbital spacecraft. Brewer, Jorfurt Kerman's new marketing slogan; 'One will give you a lift, four will put you in orbit' is technically inaccurate since the RT-5 SRB doesn't offer anywhere near the performance required to reach orbit and any kerbal consuming four glasses of RT-5 beer will be extremely lucky to reach an altitude higher than floor level. Fortunately, the crossover between 'kerbals who are pedantic enough to point this out' and 'kerbals who might seriously contemplate drinking four RT-5s' is vanishingly small.

RT-5 is a powerful IPA style of beer, with plenty of hopping (for a kerbal brew) and interesting herbal overtones.

905

Also brewed in Barkton and named after the LV-905 liquid fueled, pressure fed rocket engine, Jorfurt Kerman describes his 905 ale as 'slower, smoother and not as punchy as the RT-5.' 905 is a gentle 'session beer' of which the drinker can consume several glasses over the course of an evening and still be entirely capable of unassisted mobility and coherent speech at the end of it. Taste-wise it would be familiar to any Scottish drinker as a light ale, somewhat akin to a very good quality 60 or perhaps 70 shilling.

Citrus wine.

The craft of making citrus wines has a very long history on Kerbin and is one which is practiced by commercial companies and keen amateurs alike. Local 'citrus clubs' are common and competition between clubs can be intense. Traditionally, a citrus wine is produced solely from a blend of citrus juices with no added sugar or flavouring agents. Developing a blend that combines acidity, balance and flavour with sufficient natural sugar for adequate fermentation is regarded as a real skill. One exceptionally well known citrus club releases its produce by batch number (not to be confused with date of production) and their '78 batch is very highly regarded by connoisseurs.

Latterly, a number of clubs have also begun to experiment with sugared blends. Historically, 'adding more sugar' has been frowned upon as being against the spirit of the craft but proponents of the practice argue that it allows for much more creativity and the accommodation of a far wider range of palettes. The commercial success of heavily lemon based citrus wines does seem to have lent credence to this school of thought.

Bill Kerman is an amateur blender of the traditional school, although these days he doesn't have much time to devote to the craft.

Prickleberry cider

One of the less imaginatively named fruits to be found on Kerbin, prickleberries resemble the Terran lychee, although with darker flesh and a somewhat stronger flavour. Prickleberries are a versatile crop which can be eaten as a fresh fruit, made into preserves (prickleberry jam is an excellent accompaniment to many cold meats and cheeses) or processed into a number of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. First pressing prickleberry juice is normally consumed as a fresh juice, whilst the second pressing is laid down in specially prepared wooden barrels for up to a year. The juice absorbs tannins and other phytochemicals from the barrels, which act both as flavourings and natural preservatives. Third pressing juice and pomace is typically used to make prickleberry cider, a light, sparkling drink of no more than 3% abv.

Sapwood

Wild sapwood trees originated in the Kerbin rainforest and Kerbal scientists believe that they became insectivorous as an evolutionary adaptation to wet, nutrient leached soils. Long parallel grooves in their trunks exude a sweet viscous sap which traps insects and gradually carries them down to the base of the tree where they decompose and are absorbed by a network of near-surface roots. Sapwoods have long been cultivated by kerbals and in the equatorial and mid-latitudes of Kerbin they are very nearly as ubiquitous as the Kerm. Domesticated sapwoods are larger than their wild cousins and less dependent on insect consumption. This is partly due to centuries of selective breeding but mostly because they are grown in Kerm enhanced soils.

Although sapwood sap can be fermented and then distilled into a strong liquor, similar to a Terran rum, this is not a particularly popular drink on Kerbin. The vast bulk of harvested sap is cleaned of insects and then dried to make a sticky, toffee like substance, beloved of kerbals and kerblets alike. The dried sap is also used to make a number of extremely popular non-alcoholic cordials, which are consumed with water, sparkling water or milk. Two notable specialist cordials are smoky sapwood (produced in old-fashioned wood fired evaporating pans) and wild sapwood (colloquially referred to as 'crunchy sapwood') which is harvested, insects and all, from wild sapwood trees.

Edited by KSK

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Insects trapped in sap... so THIS is why everyone seems to look at Bob with a half -eye when found with sapwood extract :P

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It's a bit shorter than the last few but... the next chapter is up.

Pilgrims

The Kerm branches lashed wildly against the roof of Jonton's hut, scattering glossy green leaves into the gentle afternoon breeze. Inside, gnarled vines dug into bloodless flesh, drawing the kerbal so tightly against the Kerm trunk that they threatened to tear skin and bark alike. Two bloodshot eyes rolled back in their sockets, staring up at the thick cluster of leaves swaddled around the kerbal's head and tethered to it by a dense fuzz of fine white fibres.

A storm of memories ripped through Jonton's mind.

He felt the scorching fire of acid on fibre, saw a blurred image of a scowling kerbal standing defiantly in front of a Kerm sapling. Swirling patterns of sparks shimmered before his eyes, twisting and vanishing beneath a many-layered torrent of scents, sensations and knowledge. A fractured rose exploded in the storm, fragments of stem and petal whisking away into dark corners. He watched the Others' swarming attacks and saw them beaten back.

Before the battle, the fear. Formless shapes lurking in the dark, untasted, sensed but never caught. Once again he struggled for control against a barrage of conflicting and confusing signals, worn down and dulled by the need for a constant watch against unknown - and unknowable - foes...

The uncounted years of peace whirled past. Strong and secure in his own territory, undisputed ruler of his domain with time to devote to tending the strange plants and tasting the dreams of a long procession of kerbals...

Dully aching scars sapped his strength and fogged his mind. The aches became throbbing pain: clouding his thoughts, hiding them away from the raw wounds beneath. He heard screaming, pleading for the cleansing fire. Shattered fragments of mind slammed together in a blinding spike of agony and awareness, centred on a bright cluster of scents buried in the soil...

The memories begin to fade, turned dull grey by the centuries. Endless peace and then endless war. Time and time again he faced the Others, holding his territory, strength and vigilance his only defences...

Cannot yield. Cannot show weakness. Others will hurt me, hurt me badly...badly...badtree...bad tree...bad tree...

“Bad Tree! Bad Tree!"

The kerbal's head snapped forward. Dimly, Jonton felt something tear in the back of his mind.

He heard Joenie screaming, watched her hammering on his trunk with both tiny fists, felt fingernails digging into palms as he fought for control. He called out to her through the pain, saw her face turn towards his...

“Dada 'ossil."

Joenie dropped the stone into his hand and he heard himself thank her. The pouch slit in the front of Gerselle’s poncho gaped open as she lifted Joenie up and put her on her shoulders...

The smell of leftover white bean stew filled his nostrils as he watched Gerselle lift his tiny daughter out of her pouch and hold her out to him. He wrapped her in a corner of his poncho, felt her wriggling as she snuggled into his shoulder. Gerselle turned towards him...

...as a group of the villagers left the room, leaving the rest staring at Fredlorf lying nervously on her bed. He saw the fear on their faces as he lowered his leaves towards Fred's head, felt the first faint wisps of his friend's mind against his own.

My friend...

The Kerm branches slowed their frantic lashing. For a moment they stopped, held unnaturally still against the afternoon sky. Then they relaxed, swaying back and forth in the stiffening breeze.

My friends. All of them - my kerbals and my friends. And I promised them that this an-Kerm would rather retreat than fight.

-------------

Erlin drove the long end of the slender, L-shaped probe into the soil. Carefully, he fitted the syringe into the side arm, feeling the usual brief resistance as the needle punctured both membranes inside. The syringe piston slid out smoothly, coming to rest against its stops. Erlin eased the barrel out before depressing the plunger, twisting the syringe clockwise, and pulling it free.

He tugged the probe out of the soil and swiftly dismantled it. Laying the core tube flat on the ground, Erlin tipped the probe head into the palm of his hand and examined the small, silicone capped, stainless steel vial that fell out. Satisfied, he dropped it into a matching aperture in the lid of the small but heavily insulated box by his side. Then he took the last core tube and vial from a nearly empty second box and reassembled his soil sampler.

The Kerm tree stood in the centre of the copse, it's thirty-six companions arrayed about it in a loose circle. Neatly tended fields spread out in the distance, some left fallow, some newly harvested, others planted with a selection of crops. The pollinator breaks separating the fields were vibrant and diverse enough to satisfy the most exacting of kermol farmers. Of the farmers or their village however, there was no sign. Pairs of tall, brightly coloured and numbered flags waved jauntily in the evening breeze, each flag marking one end of a slim metal plate that jutted out from the soil. Seen from above, Erlin knew, the effect was striking; concentric rings of colour centred on the Kerm copse. He shivered, tightened the drawstring at his jacket collar and set off for the last pair of flags on his round.

The setting sun cast long shadows over the ground, its reflected light staining the marker plate a deep orange. Erlin gently tugged at the plate, frowning as it refused to move by more than a few centimetres. He sighed and climbed to his feet, brushing dirt and twigs off his knees, then picked up his equipment and set off across the fields towards his van.

By the time Erlin drove up to the Berelgan, twilight had long since faded into dusk. Eve shone in the darkening sky, bright against the first few scattered stars strewn across the sky. Brighter light spilled around the edges of shuttered windows as he strode towards the chemistry department, clutching his sample box in one gloved hand. Half of the laboratories were still occupied; white-coated kerbals standing by fume cupboards or bent over their lab benches. Occasionally, one would look up and briefly acknowledge Erlin as he walked past. The mingled solvent smell of the wet laboratories gave way to the tang of ozone and hot dust as he turned the corner, the ever present whine of electronic equipment buzzing like a trapped mosquito in the back of his skull. He scratched the back of his neck absently and pushed open the doors to the mass spectrometry laboratory.

Halsy was waiting for him.

“How are they looking, boss?"

“Well the new plates seem to be intact," said Erlin. He lifted the sample box onto the nearest bench and flipped open two catches on its rim. Icy white vapour billowed out as he lifted the lid away, revealing the frosted metal tubes fixed to its underside. “Although it would be a rare beetle that could chew through steel. Dispose of the dry ice would you - I'd better get these in the freezer."

Halsy upended the sample box into the sink, carefully not touching the double handful of steaming white pellets that cascaded out. “So the plates were loose then?" he asked Erlin's retreating back.

“Up to a point," said Erlin. “The newest ones still had some give but the five-lambda series looks like a wash - couldn't lift any of them more than a few centimetres." A stainless steel vial clicked against its labelled sample rack. “Wish we could work out what's causing that wretched chemotropism. Apart from anything else, if we had some kind of handle on its effective range, we could correlate root fouling of the plates with Kerm repulsion. If we ever find a repelling factor that is."

“Maybe we won't," said Halsy sombrely. “Goodness knows we've been looking long enough." He waved at a tottering stack of paper by the printer. “GC-MS for the last lot of soil vapour samples was inconclusive. Most of it looks like typical background pheromones, some of them are out of their normal ranges but nothing startling. EGF-alpha tends to be high as you'd expect, phenolamines are all over the place. There's nothing consistent though - nothing I can pick out that matches up with observed fouling rates."

Halsy rubbed his eyes. “Kerm are sentient, boss. They were smart enough to knock out the wooden plates and they're sure having a good go at the steel ones too, however they're doing it. Maybe the blasted fibres can't be repelled - maybe they're not even chemotropic at all."

Erlin shook his head. “They have to be," he said. They're effectively nerve fibres - too valuable to risk them in unhealthy soil."

“While they're growing, sure,“ said Halsy. “But after that?" He tapped the side of his head. “Dunno about nerve cells - can't see those - but I definitely can't wiggle my veins around at will. Maybe Kerm are the same."

----------

The living Grove. Trees providing shade and shelter for countless animals and birds; their roots the anchors that hold the soil in place. Ferns spreading across the forest floor, roots exuding subtle poisons which protect the anchors from burrowing mites, the grubs of a dozen species of insect, and other predators barely visible, or quite invisible, to the naked eye. A myriad of other plants carpeting the ground, each with its part to play in the finely balanced whole. Fungi feasting on the corpses of fallen trees, returning their essence to the soil.

Out in the fields, the crop plants thrive, carpets of clover around their stems trapping water, their roots absorbing gases from the soil and turning them into vital nutrients. Lines of sweet scented flowers threaded through the fields attracting - and feeding - the insects, on whose tiny wings, the next generation of crops depends.

One guardian binds them all together.

Ancient as they are, the thirty-seven gnarled and knotted trunks dotted across the Grove are only markers of the true - and incalculably older - Kerm beneath. Far under the soil, wrapped around the taproots, an intricate knot of fibres lies hidden under each trunk. Densely tangled, finger-thick fibres form the core of each knot, a core that sprouts countless slender offshoots which spread through the soil, dividing and dividing again, surrounding the core in a cobweb lace shell. Over time, the shells have merged, knitted together until the boundaries between them are all but invisible. Twisted bundles of fibres thread the shells together, linking the thirty-seven fibrous knots into a single sentient being.

Like the ferns, the Kerm fibres exude poisons, as well as a subtle arsenal of thousands of other compounds to repel or distract any creature that would feed on them. The fibres sit at the focus of the myriad food chains threaded through the soil, holding them all in a fluid balance. Immune to the depredations of time and predators, the Kerm has endured for millennia.

But now the barriers are crumbling. Along the edges of its domain, the Kerm’s defences are failing, not breached from without but methodically dismantled from within. Bit by bit the outer fibres are gnawed away, feasted on by swarms of tiny predators flocking to a new source of food.

--------

“You're very welcome. No, I'm afraid that nobody has any spare beds but there's still plenty of room in the village hall if you can wait until after supper. Sorry - what was that?"

Gerselle smiled. “Yes, I have - I couldn't find the words to describe it either. And yes of course I'll convey your thanks to the Keeper."

The grey haired kerbal picked up her walking stick and shuffled off down the path. Gerselle watched her go, waiting patiently as she fumbled with the gate. Eventually the latch snicked shut and with a last tremulous wave, the kerbal plodded away towards the village proper. Gerselle waved back then went inside, closing the door behind her.

Most of the section of Kerm trunk forming the inside wall of the living room was hidden behind an ungainly, ladder-festooned cross between a bookshelf and a set of bunk beds. Each of the shelf-beds was big enough, with care, to accommodate a single kerbal and contained a thin mattress and a pillow lying under a Kerm leaf cluster. Each bed also sported safety ropes and ceiling pads; Communion-dazed kerbals had a tendency to sit up or roll over, forgetting that they were resting in narrow wooden box.

Ignoring the pile of laundry at the foot of the shelves, Gerselle made her way to the sleep room, pausing just long enough to retrieve a bottle of prickleberry juice and two glasses from the kitchen. Jonton looked up as she pushed the door open.

“Prickleberry?" He smiled wanly. “You read my mind love - you didn't sneak in on the last sitting did you?"

Gerselle shook her head. “No room - I had to turn the last of them away as it was. Going to be another busy day tomorrow too." She handed Jonton a glass of juice. “You need to drink more of this, Jonton Kermol - it's supposed to be good for wrinkles around the eyes."

“How about grey hair?" said Jonton. His face spasmed and he hastily grabbed the glass with both hands.

Gerselle looked at him anxiously. “Are you sure you're up for another long day?" she asked. “We could just do the afternoon groups?"

Jonton willed his jaw to stop trembling. “I'll be all right, “ he said. “Honestly, love - the distraction will help. Better than...ow...standing here...owww...brooding all day." He forced himself to smile. “So - did we break the record today?"

Gerselle took a long drink. “Kallahat," she replied.

Kallahat? said Jonton, “but that's..."

“Yes," said Gerselle. “He's on a walking holiday apparently. He was on his way through to Barkton when he stopped for the night, two or three Groves away - didn't say which - and found the whole place talking about the “lore-Keeper" and the “truth-teacher.""

Jonton shook his head. “I prefer “truth-teacher" to “Great Sage" he said wryly, “but Kallahat? What on Kerbin are we going to do if a whole kerman town descends on the Grove?" He gestured at the wall of shelf-beds arrayed agains the Kerm trunk.“We're going to be turning away more kerbals than we take in."

“Patbro's Grove is already helping with the catering," said Gerselle, “and plenty of other Groves have volunteered to help too. Fred had some ideas for building platforms around your upper trunk so you could Commune with more visitors at a time but I told him that could wait until...until..."

“Until I've finished retreating?" said Jonton gently.

Gerselle latched onto his words gratefully. “Yes," she said. “Exactly."

Jonton's jaw suddenly clenched and a dribble of prickleberry juice ran down his chin. “That would be best," he grunted. “Safer if Fred doesn't get too close whilst I'm being chewed on."

Edited by KSK

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

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Thank you very much!

With regard to art - there's one scene coming up that I would love to see somebody put into a picture. No details for now because spoilers but I'll definitely flag it up later on. :) Apart from that, I hadn't really thought much about illustrations yet to be honest, but feel free to borrow any scene that grabs your inspiration!

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Slow going at the moment I'm afraid, mainly due to a heavy few weeks at work. We're not done yet though - this parrot is nowhere near the point of pining for the fjords. :)

Cheers. KSK

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Just finished reading up to this point, and, My Kerm! What an amazing job, sir! You deserve a cookie!

On another note, I've been thinking about a way to turn (part) of your story into a mod....using KSPI, couldn't you make it so that a part could be upgraded? So you could 'evolve' from the LV-9 to the LV-909?

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Thanks!

Not familiar with KSPI but that sounds feasible. You'd probably want to do something with the LVT-30 as well to reflect its evolution from the LV-15. Although you'd need to add gimbals to the '30 too - in-story, all the LV and LVT series engines were gimballed.

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Can you check out Tantares & Tantares LV, and tell me if you think any of the engines (even rescaled) are what you feel your story engines should look like? If I'm not mistaken, Tantares has an LV-15 or LVT-15....or was it -20....

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Will do, although I'll be a while since I'm on holiday at the moment, accessing the Internet via tablet. I've had a look for Tantares images but haven't found any good close-ups of the engines.

In general though, the KIS and Rockomax hew to US style boosters with fewer but more powerful engines, rather than Soviet style multiple combustion chambers and nozzles on what is effectively a single engine.

The LV-15 engine was pretty crude with most of it's internal workings visible at the base the rocket. Like all early KIS engines it was ablatively cooled. The LV-10 was Wernher's first attempt at a regeneratively cooled engine but his first design (which relied on a coiled tube around the combustion chamber) never worked and resulted in a number of costly failures before he abandoned the idea. Much later on the invention of a double walled combustion chamber, paved the way for development of the the LVT series of regeneratively cooled engines, most notably the LVT-20 which powered Jebediah Kerman's first orbital flight aboard the Moho 1.

Rockomax made extensive use of SRB's in the early days because of their heritage as the Speciality Fireworks Company. However their SRB's were a lot more sophisticated than the KIS 'Trashcan' boosters. In particular, they developed shaped propellant loads which gave them some degree of (pre planned) throttling and also experimented with steering by liquid injection into the exhaust stream. Rockomax were fairly late to the party when it came to gimbals, their first proper gimballed engines were the breakthrough SK1 series.

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1st: Ok, I can wait.

2nd: Ok. So.....moar power. Got it.

3rd: Soo.....I could do that.....

4th: NO ****ING CLUE! Really, I have no clue how to make pre-planned throttle adjustments in-game. I might just make them (for simplicity) semi-throttle-able. (I.E. only going from, say, 100% of thrust to 75% of thrust)

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Jesus, KSK. With all the socio/cultural, biological, and technical brainstorming you've put into the story, I don't think I am the only one here who would LOVE to peek into your notes for First Flight after you are done with it. Something tells me they might be as long as FF itself.

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Jesus, KSK. With all the socio/cultural, biological, and technical brainstorming you've put into the story, I don't think I am the only one here who would LOVE to peek into your notes for First Flight after you are done with it. Something tells me they might be as long as FF itself.

Or longer :-)

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