KSK

First Flight (Chapter 106 - The Sage of Barkton)

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Glad to see the intervals between new chapters going down a bit. Every single new chapter makes me eager for the next.

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Thanks! 

I’ve sketched out a rough outline for the rest of the story and I reckon there’s about another 13 updates to go, including the last chapter and epilogue which are already done but may need a bit of tweaking to make them fit - the story has grown somewhat since they were written.

That’s an extremely rough estimate and very much depends on how things go -  I don’t want to force the story into an arbitrary chapter count.

If I can, I would very much like to get First Flight finished before KSP II comes out. On past record that might be an ambitious schedule for another ~11 updates but we shall see...

Edited by KSK

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Quick update - I'm about 2,000 words into the next chapter.

In which our intrepid kerbonauts address a slight problem of lubrication and come face to face with the Hot Pickle Heresy* - which is something that no Kerm-fearing Wakiran should have to deal with before breakfast.

 

* may not actually be heretical

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:) 

Thank you!

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Wow - thanks to @LordOfTheNorth and @KerbMav for the blizzard of 'likes'!

Cautiously optimistic that I'll have the next chapter done by tomorrow but it depends how late I stay at my mate's housewarming party today. Next week however, is looking like a bust for writing. House improvements are happening, as is a family funeral on Friday, and then I'll be spending the weekend in London visiting friends and godchildren. 

The following week though, I've I'm on leave with the explicit aim of bashing on with First Flight. :) 

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Excuse the random, just-jolted-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night thought, but what happens to Kerm in winter? Are they evergreen or do they drop their leaves and go domant? Frozen ground can’t be good for sensitive Kerm fibers...

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Excuse the random, just-jolted-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night thought, but what happens to Kerm in winter? Are they evergreen or do they drop their leaves and go domant? Frozen ground can’t be good for sensitive Kerm fibers...

That is an excellent question. Hmmm.

Kerm leaves have been consistently described as a being a glossy green or dark glossy green colour. That's more reminiscent of an evergreen. On the other hand, Kerm do have leaves and not needles. We've also seen that agriculture does peter out towards the northern reaches of Kerbin, suggesting that there is a limit to where Kerm can successfully grow. As you say, frozen ground would make things difficult for Kerm fibres.

Biochemically, some degree of cold resistance isn't a particular problem. Various Terran species have evolved natural antifreezes, to prevent cell disruption due to ice crystal growth so I see no problem in, in principle, with Kerm having a similar ability. The antifreezes could even be a serendipitous byproduct of different metabolic processes in Kerban species. Kerm neural activity is also (as discussed earlier) based on some kind of electrical signalling, which wouldn't be overly affected by the cold.

Best guess?  They're evergreen and somewhat cold resistant although that resistance does have an upper limit. They don't go dormant but (and I rather like this so thanks for bringing this up!), fibre growth is probably inhibited by the cold, for self-protection. That implies, that if you're planting a new Kerm for Awakening, you're probably best to do it in summer so that Knitting of the individual trees can proceed as quickly as possible. In turn, that means that each tree is as young as possible (with fewer memories and life experience to integrate) when they cross the sapience threshold, thus not making the Awakening process any harder than it needs to be.

We haven't seen this yet because all the Kerm we've met so far have been growing in equatorial climes or not too far removed from them.

Does that sound vaguely plausible?

Edited by KSK

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15 hours ago, KSK said:

Does that sound vaguely plausible?

Wait a sec, so... is THIS a proto-Kerm?

40336977229ba2865a57b.jpg?itok=g_WvMGZ9

Pacific Madrona tree, native to the mild Pacific Northwest.

Glossy, evergreen leaves in a cluster, sort of fuzzy underneath:

6573d58efbd201947cfc13bdd81700b7.jpg

Doesn't smell of cinnamon but the bark kinda-sorta looks like it:

ArbutusM5.jpg

I'm told it makes a wonderful tea.

And the clincher: they're nearly impossible to transplant, doing so is all but guaranteed to kill the tree. No one's sure why, it's like there's some extra component in the immediate soil... :blink: You almost never see them in groups of any size, either...

I should probably go read the chapter now...

 

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Ahhh, Nature my old nemesis. You humble the soaring vaults of imagination once again.

Seriously, that sounds (and looks) like a dead ringer for a proto-Kerm. Hope they seed a little more often though!

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10 hours ago, KSK said:

Ahhh, Nature my old nemesis. You humble the soaring vaults of imagination once again.

Sounds more like convergent evolution to me. ;)

 

10 hours ago, KSK said:

Seriously, that sounds (and looks) like a dead ringer for a proto-Kerm. Hope they seed a little more often though!

Every fall:

54380c01d80275a49c12ce2a72dd8a48.png

Also quite tasty, I’m told. I wouldn’t know, they’re too high.

But I’ll still be sure to keep my noggin clear of leaf clusters when doing yard work. :D

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There are trees growing in savannas that use toxins to make themselves less tasty. To save the energy producing it they only do it while being chewed on. But then they also release chemicals into the air telling trees around them "i am fending off a hungry giraffe, it will be looking foor tastier food soon" so all trees receiving the message start producing their toxin too preemptively.

(citation needed, heard it on TV years ago)

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Heya, I'm reading through this (currently on 41: Training Days), and I've made a Tvtropes page here. It really needs filling, since it's based off of what I've read so far.

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You know, I've been meaning to do that for literally over a year. Thanks buddy.

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3 hours ago, bigyihsuan said:

 I've made a Tvtropes page here

Forget Pulitzers or Oscars, as a creator, this is when you know you’ve truly arrived. :D

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3 hours ago, bigyihsuan said:

Heya, I'm reading through this (currently on 41: Training Days), and I've made a Tvtropes page here. It really needs filling, since it's based off of what I've read so far.

Warning! This post contains a TvTropes link. Proceed at your own risk, preferably when you don't have anything to do for the rest of the day.

 

I caught up yesterday and removed the 'new post' mails from my 'Story Update' folder. Those were literally half the mails in my story update folder! I should come here more often.

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And I've caught back up. Glad to see a return to rocket fire after a long time away from here.

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3 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Forget Pulitzers or Oscars, as a creator, this is when you know you’ve truly arrived. :D

It sure is. Thanks @bigyihsuan!

I had a look at the page this morning and I'll be intrigued to see any new additions as and when they appear. If you don't mind though, I'll not be contributing myself until the story is done. Mostly because I'd like to get the story done. :) 

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On 10/15/2019 at 10:38 AM, KSK said:

It sure is. Thanks @bigyihsuan!

I had a look at the page this morning and I'll be intrigued to see any new additions as and when they appear. If you don't mind though, I'll not be contributing myself until the story is done. Mostly because I'd like to get the story done. :) 

U monster!

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Afraid so. In the meantime, the next chapter is up and I'm about 1800 words into the one after that.

 

Knuckling down

Looking back, Jeb would remember the Barkton Space Centre refurbishment, or KIS 2 as some of the newer volunteers called it amongst themselves, as one of the more productive times of his life. There was indeed plenty of work to go around but the combined decades of experience from the older hands, an established network of contractors, and not having to build everything from scratch from creatively salvaged equipment, went a long way.

After quiet words from Geneney and Bob, the rocket-spotters began to get over their initial awe and tendency to become tongue-tied if spoken to by one of the kerbonauts, and set to work; their unfailing good cheer and willingness to do anything and everything to help, lifting spirits around the site. After a chance conversation with Malmy, where he admitted to ‘doing a bit of diving but only as a hobby really,’ Eldrin was transferred to the kerbonaut training team, much to the unspoken envy of his friends. After helping to upgrade the training Pool, he spent long hours as a safety diver, helping the Eve 4 crew practice for their upcoming spacewalks.

Crew selection for Eve 4 caused a brief undercurrent of resentment amongst a number of the older volunteers who remembered the original ‘we all build them – we all fly them’ KIS management philosophy. As the senior flight director, Geneney was careful to make time for everyone to air their views, whilst remaining adamant that he needed an experienced crew for the first real Tenacity assembly flight. Barrie, he noted out, had flown with both Wilford and Kerke, all of the crew apart from Bob had flown at least twice, whilst Bob himself was the senior liaison engineer with Rockomax and one of the last Munar kerbonauts aboard Pioneer 6. The fact that Bob was also a founding member of the KIS and one of the Original Three kerbonauts who’d flown on Kerbal 1, never needed to be mentioned. Besides, as Geneney pointed out, there would be plenty of Tenacity flights to go around, especially once both Bridge modules were on-orbit and the growing station could accommodate a crew of eight.

Sensitive to the developing mood, Jeb and Geneney quietly moved some of the most capable dissenters into the flight control or mission planning teams in the hope that training for their more demanding roles would give them less free time to complain as well as putting them closer to the flight line. Barrie and Kerke, both well used to working within the more stratified Rockomax management structure, proved to be adept at smoothing ruffled egos and pulling the support teams together around the crew.

Somewhat to Bill’s surprise, progress on the four-seat, Mark 2.5 capsule turned out to be comparatively smooth although, as anticipated, fitting in a fifth acceleration couch did prove to be unfeasible without completely reworking the entry, descent, and landing profile for the new capsule. The mission planning and flight test teams unanimously voted to put such a radical overhaul on hold although the more optimistic engineers did point out that a five-seater capsule would be useful for future Starseed flights.

In complete contrast to the capsule work, refurbishing the launchpad turned out to be a seemingly never-ending list of repairs and replacements. One week it would be residual hypergolics corroding a hastily decommissioned fuel line. The next week it would be a seized rotator in the crew access gantry. The week after that it would be a cracked propellant storage tank followed by stuck valves in the core stage propellant feed. After one particularly frustrating day, Geneney declared that evening to be a ‘good old-fashioned KIS beach party’ and despite a distinct shortage of food and drink, a rousing game of shepherdball followed by a bonfire and a rendition of the Ballad of Kerbal 1 plus assorted other pop favourites from Bob, did much to lift the Pad Team’s black mood.

And then the preparations were finished. Everyone at the Barkton Space Centre, from the flight control team to the janitors, lined the road from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launchpad to watch Eve 4’s rollout. To nobody’s surprise, the rocket-spotters were right at the front, waving flags and sporting faded red hats emblazoned with the original tilted rocket logo from Jebediah Kerman’s Junkyard and Spacecraft Parts Company.

Neither was anyone surprised when a faulty Go/No Go signal caused the pad autosequencer to abort the first launch attempt. After replacing a microswitch in Decoupler A and three more days of exhaustive testing, Eve 4 was rolled back out to the launchpad. This time the countdown proceeded flawlessly and, right at the appointed moment, the booster thundered off the pad, sending Bob, Barrie, Wilfred and Kerke on their way to a rendezvous with Tenacity.

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

“It looks like you’re pointing straight out but it’s really hard to tell from here,” Bob reported. He pulled himself over to the edge of the window and craned his head, trying to get a better view of the PAL assembly arm. “Can just see past the first elbow if I squint. Yep that looks straight.”

Further around Tenacity’s bridge from the rear-view windows, Barrie sat in front of a row of monitors, a pair of hand controllers and a bank of toggle switches within easy reach. “Not a problem, Bob – the system was never designed to be driven by eye.” She flipped a switch. “Okay, Flight – bringing up third section. She eased back one of the controllers watching as the next part of the assembly arm unfolded. “And the next one.” A red light lit up above the main monitor, accompanied by a low buzzing noise. Barrie immediately let go of her controls and glanced at the indicator panel. “Huh – current draw warning on number three elbow joint.”

There was a pause from Mission Control. “We think you’re getting some stiction on the bearing, Barrie. Try working it a little – no more than five-degree excursions either way.”

“Will do. Switching to diagnostics.” Barrie touched a control and the view on one monitor flicked out, replaced by a telemetry display. “Rotation to FINE.” The red light flickered off then lit up again. Barrie frowned and nudged her controller in the opposite direction. For a minute she thought the problem was fixed, then the buzzer sounded again and the warning light flickered erratically. “No joy, Flight.”

“Understood. Can you give us a close up please?”

“Coming right up.” Barrie pulled out a smaller control panel from under her console, touched a button and ran her thumb over a trackwheel. The view on another of her monitors zoomed in on the malfunctioning joint and she studied it for a long moment. “Nothing obviously wrong with it from this angle. I’m going to try rotating the wrist joint.”

“Go ahead.”

The rest of the Tenacity crew floated over to Barrie’s console, watching over her shoulder as her largest monitor showed a view of a section of the manipulator arm turning slowly through space. Barrie kept one eye on her indicator panel, which remained resolutely free of warning lights.

“Not getting any problems with the wrist joint, Flight, and I’m still not seeing anything wrong with the elbow joint from the outside.”

“We concur, Barrie. I’ll get the team on it down here and let you know once they’ve got anything to report.”

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

Bob checked the hose locks on Kerke and Wilfred’s EVA suits one last time, studied the readouts on their chest units and gave his crewmates a thumbs up. He wormed his way past the fourth acceleration couch now installed in the lower equipment bay and pulled himself up the docking tunnel, through the hatch and into Tenacity’s far roomier airlock. Double-checking that the airlock door was sealed and locked, he manoeuvred through the forward gangway before climbing along the access way to the Bridge.

“All set.” Bob floated over to the forward windows, listening to Wilfred and Kerke running through the capsule egress checklist as he went.  He watched Eve 4’s crew hatch open and a mirrored helmet emerge, followed by the shoulders and upper torso of Kerke’s spacesuit. After fumbling with the hatch rim for a moment, Kerke pulled himself up and out into open space, the stiff, fabric-wrapped cord of his safety tether flapping behind him. He swung his legs back until they were parallel with the service module hull, tucked his boots into the nearest foot restraints and stood up and waved. Bob grinned and waved back, before drifting over to Barrie’s console.

They watched Wilfred emerge from the capsule and secure his tether, before he and Kerke began making their methodical way over the Bridge module and across the hub, reporting each tether change and significant manoeuvre to Mission Control as they went. Aboard Tenacity, Barrie switched from camera to camera to keep the spacewalkers in view.

“Flight, EVA-1. We’re at the work site and the joint is in easy reach. Nice positioning there by Barrie.” Kerke paused. “The lubrication port looks clean, no visual contamination or leakages.” Bob watched him operate his helmet visors. “Nothing unusual through the crossed polarisers either. I think we’re good.”

“Copy EVA-1. You’re clear to proceed with the interface test.”

Bob watched Kerke set himself by the now re-folded assembly arm, the cylindrical bulk of a lubricant dispenser tethered to his waist. At the bottom of his screen, the edge of Wilford’s shadow could just be seen. Kerke unhooked the grease gun and lifted it into position, lining its nozzle up with the receiver port on the arm joint, the dark grey coating applied to its oversized bayonet fitting, a stark contrast to its gleaming barrel. He moved the nozzle tip up to the port, rotated it slightly and then slid it home.

“Okay, Flight. We’ve got a good interface. I’m locking the dispenser now.” There was a long pause. “Dispenser locked. Felt pretty smooth.”

“Good to hear, EVA-1. Okay, we want you to take a one-quarter turn and check for leakage.”

“Understood.” Kerke shifted his grip on the dispenser and twisted its base, feeling it click into place even through his heavy suit gloves. “Good tactile feedback. No obvious back pressure.” He leaned forward to inspect the bayonet seal. “No leakage.”

“Copy. Take it another quarter-turn and we’ll work the joint.”

“Understood.” Kerke twisted the dispenser base through another click before disconnecting it from the assembly arm and joining Wilford atop the hub. They watched the arm pivot away from them before slowly rotating about the newly lubricated elbow joint.

“Flight, Tenacity. Still getting a current draw warning.”

“Okay, Tenacity. EVA-2, you’re up. Another half-turn of grease and we’ll try this again. Barrie, please go ahead and move the arm back into range.”

“Will do.”

Another turn and a half later, Kerke and Wilford stood atop the Hub, both with arms floating free and the fingers of their gloves splayed open, listening to the running dialogue between Barrie and the flight control team.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense, Flight. I just don’t think that joint was properly packed.”

“We concur, Barrie. We’ll pass the word along to the PAL team to requalify their filler. In the meantime, we’ll take a look at that telemetry - best guess is that we’ll need to take a second pass at this before clearing the assembly arm for construction. Right now, though, it’s time to call it a day. EVA-1 and EVA-2, please ingress at the capsule.”

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

The grainy, slightly earthy smell of reconstituted natas filled Tenacity’s hub module. Wilford disconnected his ration pouch from the hot water spigot and kneaded it before joining it to a second pouch and squeezing its contents onto his natas. He discarded the second pouch, snipped the top off the first and enthusiastically dug into his breakfast, amidst the sudden sharp aroma of pureed pickle.

Kerke looked at him askance. “Why so complicated? Couldn’t you just package… whatever that stuff is, in the same pouch as your oatmeal?”

Wilford swallowed his mouthful. “This way you get properly cold pickle on hot natas. Package them up in the same pouch and you’d end up with hot pickle too.” Wilford looked around the Hub in mock despair. “I can’t believe we’re flying with a kerbal who’s seriously suggesting hot pickle for breakfast.” He paused. “Besides, the vinegar would soak into the dry natas and that would taste vile.”

Kerke just shook his head before hunting in the breakfast locker and emerging with a pouch of scrambled egg with creva and a foil package. Wilford looked up with interest. “What’ve you got there?”

“Crumb free flatbread, supposedly.” Kerke tore open the foil and pulled out a flaccid white pancake. He bit off one corner and chewed it thoughtfully. “Not bad. Bit rubbery but tastes alright.” He left the flatbread floating by a window and busied himself with his eggs and creva. “Pity you can’t make a proper breakfast roll in zero-G.”

“Have a word with Derny when we get home,” Bob said cheerfully. “He likes a challenge. Bet your roll would be improved by some good old fashioned Kolan breakfast pickle too.” Kerke gave him a look.

Barrie opened her mouth to speak, when the radio crackled to life. “Morning all. Welcome to another fine day in space!”

Bob raised his eyebrows. “Morning, Jeb. Gene having a lie-in, is he?”

“He’s earned it. He, Lodan and Camrie were up till all hours last night organising the last of the move, finishing up the paperwork and generally making sure you’ll be coming home to a fully recommissioned Space Centre.”

“Fantastic!” Wilford swallowed a mouthful of natas. “So, what’s on the task list for today, Flight?”

“Got some good news there as well. The hard-working folks at Foxham will be rolling your shipment of parts out to the pad today, to be sent up through the next window. So, we’re bumping the PAL systems checkout up the schedule and making a start on that once we’re finished with the filters.”

“Excellent.” Kerke drifted across the Hub, a squeeze bulb of coffee in one hand. “Any changes to the PAL flight plan?”

“No. Gene talked it over with Nelton and they both agreed that it would be better to get more experience with the autonomous systems now, before we add too many more parts to your home away from home. Crew rotations for supervising the docking manoeuvres haven’t changed either.”

"And the power-down checklist?"

"No changes. We'll do a last dry run as planned, once the PAL systems are confirmed Go for free flight."

"Copy that, Flight."

"Better grab yourself a coffee too, Flight," Bob added. "It's going to be another long day."

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

"All non-essential systems powered down. Eve CSM re-entry batteries charged. Requesting telemetry check."

"Copy that, Bob. You're looking good from here."

Bob flipped a switch, Kerke watching over his shoulder. "Isolating PAL from power grid." He scanned his instruments, before flipping another switch. "Connecting service module arrays. Confirming predicted draw through bus A." A row of lights flickered from amber to green. "Storage batteries charging. Grid configuration set."

"Copy. PAL status?"

"Tank pressures are green, propellant line heaters drawing power," Wilford reported from the next station. "Gimbal drives are Go. Starting TVC checks." He studied a set of tell-tales. "Clear excursions in pitch...and clear excursions in yaw. Bringing up the RCS."

"Thank you, Wilford."

Green lights lit up across a schematic of the PAL propulsion and guidance systems. Wilford nodded in satisfaction. "Quads one through four online. Manipulator stowed; docking port sealed and locked. Bob?"

"That's confirmed. Clear for PAL undocking on your mark, Flight."

"Whenever you're ready."

Bob reached up and flipped the protective cage back from a prominently labelled red button. "Undocking now." The button slid home with a faint click. Wilford cocked his head to one side, half-expecting to hear the familiar rattle of docking latches disengaging. The shifting lights on his instrument panel pulled his attention back to his controls. "Confirming PAL undock complete. She's all yours, Flight."

"We copy, Tenacity. We have the vehicle. Falling back to manoeuvring distance."

Wilford unclipped his harness and eased himself out from behind his instrument panel before drifting over to join Bob and Kerke behind Barrie's station. On her largest monitor the PAL slid slowly astern, its three photovoltaic arrays glinting in the sunlight, the interior of its docking port cloaked by shadow. The four kerbonauts watched it go, listening to the running commentary of status reports from Mission Control.

"Excuse me." Wilford eased his way past Kerke and pushed off for his station. On Barrie's screen, four pulses of flame, seemingly aimed directly at the zoomed-in camera, hastened the PAL's stately departure. As Barrie adjusted her field of view, two more bursts of flame set it into a slow spin, one of the photovoltaic arrays suddenly brightening as it caught the sunlight.

"Okay, Tenacity. All systems check out so we'll just get our space tug clear of your orbit before heading over to pick up your parts. Afraid they're travelling economy class, so they'll take a couple of days to get to you."

"Not a problem, Flight," Kerke replied. "No offence to the trajectory team but we're as happy for them not to be aiming the payload straight into grapple range."

"We hear that, Tenacity." Geneney paused. "Looks like we're ahead of the clock here, so let's take ten before handing you over to Foxham for the next EVA.

"Understood, Flight."

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

Several days later, the Power, Assembly, and Logistics spacecraft crept towards Tenacity on its final approach, an ungainly looking cargo pallet of parts and equipment docked to its nose. The far end of the pallet tapered into a second docking adaptor, designed to match the CORDS-3 ports used to connect the space station modules.  Onboard Tenacity, the crew huddled around Barrie’s station, watching the approach through the station’s camera system. On the ground, engineers, at both the KSA’s main Mission Control centres, kept a watchful eye on the spacecraft systems whilst the flight control teams monitored its trajectory and distance from the station.

Geneney sat behind his console, eyes flicking from the main screen to his communications panel and back, listening with half an ear to the murmured conversations around the consoles.

“Flight, FD.”

“Go ahead, FD.”

“Vehicle is at the approach point, Flight.”

“Thank you, FD. Guidance?”

“Alignment is green with a good return from all sensors. RCS to FINE; auto-reverse loaded.”

Geneney switched his headset back to an outside line. “Foxham, Barkton. How are we doing, Nelton?”

“Not seeing any problems here, Gene. Ready when you are.”

“Thanks.” Geneney cut in the all-consoles loop. “OK, team – we’re looking good from Foxham. Take us in, Guidance.”

“Copy, Flight.”

On screen, Tenacity’s hub module began to drift closer, the triangular petals securing it to the bridge module, clearly visible. Dead ahead, one of the eight CORDS-3 docking ports arrayed around the hub gleamed in the sunlight, slowly swelling to fill the view on the main screen as the PAL drew closer.

“Inside the capture zone, Flight. Standing by for contact.” A set of red lights on the payload controller’s console flickered to amber. “Contact. Coarse alignment confirmed.” The amber lights turned green. “Ready to latch. RCS OFF, auto-reverse disengaged.”

Geneney could sense Nelton’s tension coming down the phone line.

“All latches at pre-tension, Flight. Fine alignment confirmed.” There was a long pause. “And we have a hard dock.”

A muted ripple of applause ran around the room. Geneney leaned forward. “Good work.  Systems – PAL status please.”

“All Go, Flight.”

“Very good. Go ahead, Guidance.” Geneney crossed his fingers under his console, listening to the guidance and systems teams going through their checklists. Then, spots of flame flickered around the edges of the main screen. A hairline crack appeared between the PAL and the cargo pallet, slowly widening as the space tug pulled away. More puffs of flame and the interior of the pallet docking adaptor edged into sight, the view of Tenacity behind it beginning to recede. Unseen, Geneney clenched his fist under his console as a second, much louder, buzz of applause and conversation filled the room.

“Excellent work, everyone. Let’s take it back to manoeuvring distance and get set up for the repositioning.”

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

Wilford sighed with contentment as the globule of warm coffee splashed against the roof of his mouth. “It sure is good to have our main power module back. Cold meals were good for the Moho nostalgia but I’m definitely looking forward to some proper hot food tonight.”

Barrie shrugged, catching the edge of her seat with one hand before the movement could put her into a tumble. “I don’t know. Those flatbreads are growing on me.” She slipped behind her console and strapped herself in, before adjusting her headcap and keying her microphone. “Flight, Tenacity. Ready to start unloading.” She checked her monitor, watching the two spacesuited figures working at the cargo pallet. “Everything set, Kerke?”

“All set. We’ll head back to the Bridge and give you space to work.”

“Appreciated.” Barrie watched her crewmates retreat off-screen, switching to a second camera to check their progress.

“EVA-1, EVA-2, tethered and secure, Flight.”

“Copy, EVA-1.”

Barrie turned all her attention to her controls. Switching back to her aft camera, she touched a series of buttons. “Manipulator arm unlocked and powered up. Unfolding all sections.”

Outside, a bundle of thick, fabric-wrapped tubes, linked by solid, disc-like hubs emerged from the top of the PAL and unfolded into a straight line. Then, one section at a time, the manipulator arm twisted about itself, lining up its grapple tip with the cargo pallet docked to Tenacity’s hub module.

“Switching camera.” Barrie’s eyes were locked on her monitor screen, now showing a view straight down the manipulator arm towards the waiting girder section. She wiped her hands on her jumpsuit, before touching a button on her keyboard and taking hold of the hand controllers. “Translation mode armed.” She eased one of the controllers forward, watching the girder swim towards her. “Rate to FINE. Standing by to grapple.” The arm tip crept forward and slipped into a matching socket on the girder, before clamping shut.

“Arm locked on. Extracting spoke segment.” Barrie took a deep breath and pulled back on her controller. The indicator lights above her screen flickered amber as the girder tugged free of its restraining clamps and then winked out. Barrie blew out her cheeks with relief. “Segment extracted, Flight. Translation rate to SLOW”

“We see it, Barrie. Outstanding!”

Over the next two hours, with Kerke and Bob offering constant encouragement from their vantage point atop the bridge module, Barrie painstakingly grappled the spoke segment into position, acutely aware of the added mass she was steering. She let go of her controls for a moment, rolling her shoulders to relieve their stiffness and smiled as Wilford handed her an icy cold squeeze bulb of water, before heading over to his own station.

“Thanks, Wilford.” She took a long drink, before attaching the bulb to the side of her console and flexing her fingers. “OK, Flight. Moving to soft capture.”

“You’ve got two roomfuls of people keeping their fingers crossed for you.”

“Tell them thanks from all of us, Flight. Here we go.”

A single amber light lit up on Wilford’s instrument panel. A second one flickered and went out. “Hold it, Barrie. Almost there – try backing up and taking it one notch clockwise.”

Clenching her jaw, Barrie worked her controls, making the minute adjustment before winding the manipulator arm towards Tenacity’s hull.

“Four lights! Flight, we have a soft capture!”

Barrie flipped a switch on her hand controller. “Unlocking arm.”

“Engaging retractors.” The four amber lights turned green and blinked off. Wilford cleared his throat. “Flight, Tenacity. Confirming hard capture on spoke segment one.”

The noisy applause over the radio link told the two kerbonauts all they needed to know, Kerke and Bob adding their congratulations from outside. Barrie quietly pulled up the aft camera view on her screen, leaning back in her seat to take in the blues and greens of Kerbin shining through the new girder section attached to Tenacity’s hub.

One down, another fifteen to go. We can do this. By all the Kerm, we can do this.

Edited by KSK

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I thought u were gonna hold all upcoming chapter back Until u were done with the story?

I'm glad u did NOT of course.

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Ahh - a misunderstanding there. I did wonder about the 'monster' comment.

No - going to hold back on contributing to the First Flight TV Tropes page until the story is done!

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I wasn't expecting an update so soon after I started reading it. And it was good.

By the way, @KSK, you've said that map is pretty much what you have in mind, but do you have a map of your own that you reference? I'm a little obsessed with maps, especially ones for fiction. It also helps me with knowing where what is what while reading.

I'm also interested in what sort of specs the parts in the story is compared to the game, and if the rest of the Kerbol system is scaled up to real life like with Kerbin-Mun-Minmus.

Just based on the fact that Rockomax is using Mainsails, Skippers, and Poodles, their rockets are at least 2.5 m, and the KIS LV-909, LVT-30, and RT-5 implying 1.25 m. Though the Saturn V-like rocket mentioned in "Shoulders to the Wheel" makes it seem like they're using a much larger tank width (or incredibly compact Mainsails and Skippers!), for the first 2 stages at least.

I remember seeing some screenshots and recreations of the early rockets in the first dozen or so pages, but a lot of them are unviewable because of Photobucket being a terrible image hosting service as usual.

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