KSK

First Flight (Chapter 108 - Leviathan)

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On 10/19/2019 at 11:31 AM, KSK said:

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.”

Yes, relish is quite clearly a lunch food and best served upon boiled bags of mystery meat in highly-processed partially stale buns. -_-

On 10/19/2019 at 11:31 AM, KSK said:

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

All that technology stymied by an improperly greased bearing. :P Always apply grease until it’s dripping on the floor to be safe. 

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Heya @bigyihsuan,

I don’t have another map that I refer to but I remember another thread where someone was asking for city names for their map, so I posted some First Flight names with their approximate locations. I’ll see if I can find that thread for you.

Regarding scale - yeah I’m picturing the whole Kerbol system scaled up to the size of our solar system. So a journey to Duna will take about the same time as a journey to Mars. Haven’t really given much thought to hard numbers though.

As for part specs - that’s a tricky one. I haven’t played with RSS or any scale-up mods, so I don’t have a feel for how the stock parts would need to be scaled up to work with RSS. Also, some of the in-story parts (the RT5 in particular), were written into First Flight long before they appeared in the game (if indeed they have - I’m not sure if an LV-T20 ever made it in) so their specs probably don’t match up at all. I’ve also taken some liberties with the part specs - my LV-T30 is gimballed for example, unlike the Reliant.

Mostly (as you’ve correctly pointed out on the TV Tropes page) I was looking to provide some sense of continuity to the game parts rather than trying to exactly match in-story part specs to in-game part specs.

One thing that I’ve totally ignored though is part diameters, mostly because I don’t see them as being terribly important to the story. Or the game for that matter - to my mind KSP has never been particularly consistent or realistic about part sizes, and pinning exact numbers on them just raises more questions than it answers. But I digress.

If you want a rough point of reference to the game however, an in-game analogue of the Eve booster would have a central 2.5m core stage with three LV-T30s attached, with three 1.25m strap-on boosters each with an underpowered LV-T30 (in-story, the LV-T20) attached. The upper stage consists of a shorter 2.5m tank with a fourth, vacuum optimised LV-T20.

The early Rockomax boosters were heavily based on SRBs, their first decent liquid fuelled booster (for launching Endurance) would be based on 2.5m tankage with a single Skipper on the lower stage and a single Poodle on the second stage. No strap-on boosters that I recall.

I think both boosters would be grossly oversized for stock LKO flights and I have no idea how well they would scale for RSS LEO flights I’m afraid!

Edited by KSK

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12 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Yes, relish is quite clearly a lunch food and best served upon boiled bags of mystery meat in highly-processed partially stale buns.

Sounds like home... :P 

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@bigyihsuan - the cities thread I was talking about is here. In addition to the locations I mention, the Capital and the Berelgan are somewhere between points 47 and 23 - the version of the Kerbin map I'm using has more of a land bridge there.

Edited by KSK

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Next chapter is up.

In which we take a (temporary) break from rocket building to bring you an important announcement. 

 

The Sage of Barkton

<of course not. Why would I mind you speaking the truth?>

Because, Jonton chose his words carefully, not everyone believes that Kerm seeds should be frozen but if they hear that an actual Kerm doesn't object to it, then they might begin to change their mind.

<That would seem reasonable> Elton sent a fleeting image of a row of glass desiccators, each holding a fragment of matted fibre. <although I presume you do not intend to talk about the Berelgan experiments>

Jonton sighed. Not in so many words. The whole point of this interview is that we're as open as possible and that we give honest reasons for anything that we do need to hide. So, I will need to talk about the experiments but I don't intend to say where they happened. Hopefully everyone will understand why. He thought for a moment before sending an image of a kerbal guarding a Kerm sapling. So, I thought I should ask before dragging you into this.

The sapling bloomed into a fully-grown tree, it's branches bending to wrap themselves around the kerbal. A hint of amusement rippled down Elton's mental link followed by a startled pause. Ghostly afterimages of sparks swirled around the tree; their patterns of movement aggressive. The tree shrank, cowering in the sudden darkness as the sparks began to take on a far more solid cast

<I had thought to say that many centuries have passed since I needed kerbal protection> Elton's mental tone turned sombre <but that is not true.> The image of Kerm, kerbal and sparks swirled down to a point and vanished. <Tell what you need of our story, first of my Keepers - but I thank you for asking>

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

Meleny scowled at the luggage piled up by the front door. "I still think it's all a Blighted nuisance."

"It is and I'm sorry." Jonton rubbed his eyes. "Especially after all you’ve done for Joenie and me, but…”

“That’s why we’d make good hostages,” Meleny finished bitterly.

Jonton nodded. “Where the Sage of Barkton lives is no secret - it would be too easy to find you. To be honest, I’d be happier sending you all further away but Patbro’s Grove will have to do. If nothing else it’s further from the coast.”

Despite herself, Meleny shivered. “Do you really think it’ll come to that.”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know if the Children survived the war. But they’re not the only ones with strong opinions about freezing Kerm seeds.”

The door to Joenie’s sleep room opened and Joenie bounded out, travel bag in hand. The happy smile vanished from her face as she sensed the tension between the two adults. She put her bag down and disappeared back into her room, emerging with an armful of books. Meleny saw her and summoned up a smile. “Pillars preserve me, Joenie – they could last you for months.” Jonton saw the worn copy of Advanced Microbiology on top of Joenie’s pile, with what looked like a Twelve Riders bookmark poking out from its pages, and felt a sudden surge of pride.

“It’s a long way to the Berelgan and back,” Joenie replied. “And I don’t know which books I’ll want to read. I wish we could take an aeroplane.”

“I do too,” Jonton agreed, “but I don’t think they’re being allowed to fly yet.” Neither he nor Meleny mentioned the real reason for not putting the Sage of Barkton on a civilian airliner. “Will Jonelle be alright while we’re gone?”

A tolerant but loving expression crossed Joenie’s face that, Meleny thought, wouldn’t be out of place on someone twice her age. “She’ll be fine. She’s spending half her time sending telegraph messages to Obrinn anyway and if I ask Professor Erlin nicely he might let me Commune with Obrinn and ask him to send a message back to her for me.”

Jonton blinked. “I suppose that would work.” He gave Meleny a rueful look. “It’s always the way with new things isn’t it?”

“It always was with Adbas.” Meleny’s lip quirked upwards. “And on that note, I suppose we’d better get going. Come on – we can move all this outside before Ferry arrives.”

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

Jonton clipped the microphone to his lapel, sweating slightly under the studio lights. The sound technician gave him an encouraging smile. “A quick word if you wouldn’t mind, sir, just to check that everything is working.”

Feeling more than a little foolish, Jonton cleared his throat. “Uh, what do you want me to say?” He dabbed his forehead with his handkerchief. “It’s hot up here…umm…”

“Well you are sitting in the hot seat,” the technician said, straight-faced. “That’s fine, sir.” He offered Jonton his hand. “Good luck.”

Jonton shook the proffered hand. “Thank you.” He looked round at the stony-faced security detail standing by each stage entrance. “Although I’m sure we’ll be fine with those good kerbals keeping an eye on things.”

The technician blinked but decided not to comment. He checked his watch, muttering to himself, just as one of the doors swung open and a familiar figure hurried onto the stage. “Mr Jonton? All set then? Good, good – no don’t get up.” The presenter adjusted his own microphone. “The doors aren’t due to open for another five minutes and our VIP guests have only just arrived. Is that enough of a sound check?” he added, turning to the technician.

“Absolutely, Tom. Your checks are always plenty loud enough.” The two shared a well-rehearsed groan at, what to Jonton, was plainly a well-worn joke. Tom took his seat across the table from Jonton.

“I know how it is the first time,” he said. “Don’t worry – you won’t notice the lights or the audience once we get started. And don’t worry about our VIPs either – from what I gather, they need you far more than you need them.”

Jonton decided not to mention that he knew both VIPs by name, settling for a polite smile at the presenter’s well-intentioned efforts at putting him at his ease. Tom glanced at him and nodded to himself. “Ingenious piece of kit your Kerm telegraph,” he said. “I used to work in telecoms myself before I started in television, and what’s left of the engineer in me did like the combination of high-tech sensing and old-fashioned dot-dash code. How are the Kerm finding it to use?”

“It took them a while to get used to it,” Jonton answered. “Focusing on one small, specific task doesn’t come easily to Kerm – they’re used to working with all of their Grove at once, keeping everything in balance by instinct.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Although that’s not quite right. How best to explain?” Tom raised his eyebrows.

“I suppose it must be a bit like being a musical conductor,” Jonton said at last. “Listening to all the musicians at once, keeping them in harmony but at the same time knowing how the sounds from all the different instruments fit together to make one piece of music, and how to steer that music to make the piece yours. I’m not very musical myself but I can’t imagine that a conductor has time to consciously think about what they’re doing – they just listen and know.” He offered Tom a faint grin. “That was the mistake I kept making to begin with – thinking too much. The more I tried to plan everything out logically, the more of a mess I got into.”

Jonton shook his head. “Anyway – once they learned how to use it reliably, they certainly took to it. Jonelle – my daughter’s Kerm,” he added, “spends a lot of time on it, talking to Professor Erlin’s Obrinn.”

“And isn’t that always the way with new technology?” Tom agreed. He tapped his earpiece. “Ahh, it appears that our guests are ready. Shall we make a start?”

Jonton was surprised to notice a definite rumble of voices from behind the stage curtains. Composing himself, he turned to face the cameras and the hidden crowd beyond, as Tom flashed a hand signal at the broadcast director standing in the wings.

“Going live in four…three…” Tom raised two fingers, then lowered them one by one. The curtains swept back, the noise from the crowd becoming suddenly louder from the darkness behind the lights. Tom leaned forward in his chair and discreetly cleared his throat as the Engines and Engineers theme music swept out from the speakers overhead. Large screens around the side of the stage lit up, showing himself and Jonton sitting at the table

“Good afternoon, and welcome to a special one off – and I think the most unusual episode of Engines and Engineers that I’ve ever had the pleasure to present. With me in the studio is Jonton Kermol, known to many of you as the Sage of Barkton. It is also my distinct honour and solemn privilege to welcome two guests of the highest importance, neither of whom will need any introduction from me. Good kerbals, please be upstanding for the President of the Regionality of Doren, Dr Chadlin Kerman and the Chief Ambassador of the Forseti-Spierkan Confederacy, Mr Aldwell Kermol.”

The two leaders walked on-stage to a standing ovation and more than a few astonished comments from various members of the audience to their neighbours. At the back of the studio, two banners descended from the ceiling, bearing the flags of both Regionalities. President Chadlin shook hands with Chief Ambassador Kermol although, from his vantage point behind the table, Jonton couldn’t help noticing that their expressions were polite rather than effusive. The rather obvious political statement of bringing a decidedly pro-Kerm Chief Ambassador and a pragmatic President around the same table, did not escape him either.

Followed by Jonton, Tom walked out onto the stage, a quiver in his step. “Mr President. Honoured Chief Ambassador. Welcome to the show and thank you, on behalf of everyone here today, for making time for us.”

Chadlin stepped forward to shake hands with the presenter and the former an-Kerm. “It’s good to be here. “And, on behalf of the Council of Twelve Pillars, we would like to thank Mr Jonton for his time and the Engines and Engineers team for all their recent assistance at short notice.”

“And we welcome the opportunity to participate in this public forum,” Aldwell said formally.

“Then, please, let us all be seated,” said Tom. He waited for the two Pillars to take their seats and for Jonton to sit down again, before going to join them at the table. “I think,” he began, “it’s fair to say that last week was a very big week for the Council.” The expected ripple of laughter ran through the audience and Tom waited for it to subside before continuing. “Culminating, of course, with the Joint Declaration and its hope of an end to the Kerm Crisis.” Tom took a sip of water from the glass in front of him. “So, I expect that there are many kerbals in the audience who are wondering quite why you’re here today?”

“If you’ll forgive the political cliché, Tom, we’re here for you, the people. We understand that there will be public scepticism about the Declaration and so, to borrow the words of my esteemed colleague,” Chadlin bowed to Aldwell, “we are here in this public forum to try and address that scepticism and to answer any questions – about the Declaration, I should say,” he added to another ripple of polite laughter.”

Tom turned to the camera. “As I mentioned, we are also privileged to have Mr Jonton Kermol, known to many of us as the Sage of Barkton, here with us today. For those that don’t know him, Jonton brings with him a unique, and very personal, perspective on the Kerm crisis and, as you will hear, his experiences form the bedrock of the plan set out in the Declaration. But let’s start by casting our minds back to the heady days of the first Munar Landing and to the words of President Obrick.”

The stage screens turned black. The Engines and Engineers logo appeared for a moment before being replaced by an image of three kerbonauts strapped into a space capsule. Then, as it had for countless kerbals so long ago, a familiar commanding voice rolled out from the speakers:

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

President Obrick’s voice faded out and the screens switched back to the view from the stage. The sudden silence was broken by a cough from the audience.

“Stirring words,” said Chadlin, “but we did not follow them. Why the Kerm are led to fight amongst themselves remains a mystery. And we, the Council of Twelve Pillars, failed to unite the Regionalities behind us. However, a way of helping them live together without conflict or Blight has been discovered due, in no small part, to the deeds of the kerbal sitting before you today.” He dipped his head to Jonton.”

“Those deeds are many, and some of them you will find shocking,” said Aldwell. “But they hold the keys to our future and so they should be known by all.” He turned to Tom who cleared his throat.

“Thank you, Chief Ambassador. And on that note, please now hear the words of the Sage of Barkton – Mr Jonton Kermol.”

Jonton bowed to the two Pillars. “Thank you, Mr President, thank you, honoured Chief Ambassador. Thank you, Tom. As a good friend of mine would be sure to point out, this is a long story although I will try my best to keep this telling of it as short as possible.” He paused, a mix of emotions chasing their way across his face. “It all begins with a Kerm seed.”

Jonton described Gerselle’s discovery, the traditional one-day journey to find a place to plant the new Kerm, and his fateful decision not to bury the seed on stony ground but to plant it closer to his own Grove. Behind the stage lights, several kermol in the audience winced whilst others scowled and muttered to their neighbours. Those few shook their heads at Jonton’s clipped description of his Kerm’s battles with the new sapling, his and Gerselle’s realisation that those battles were the cause of the then recently discovered Blight, and finally his desperate reasoning that if a thirty-seven tree Kerm wasn’t intelligent enough to help stop the Blight, then maybe a thirty-eight tree Kerm would be.

“And so, I decided to plant a new cutting in my Grove.”

When the uproar showed no signs of subsiding after five minutes, Tom jumped to his feet to plead unsuccessfully for calm. Only the sight of President Chadwick getting to his feet, began to quieten the incredulous clamour from the audience. Kerbals sat with folded arms, glaring at Jonton as he described his struggle to preserve and eventual surrender to, the melting shards of his Kerm’s mind. By the time he’d recounted his experiences as an an-Kerm, leading on to his promise to stop the Blight still afflicting his Grove, the anger in the audience had begun to fade, replaced by fascination and, from a few, by sympathy. Still others leaned forward in their seats, eyes brightening with a dawning comprehension.

“Fighting against several hundred years of instinct was hard. Not to mention painful. But I was able to pull back my borders and give Gerselle’s Kerm space to grow in peace. From there, it seemed obvious – if enough Keepers could go an-Kerm, then we could make space to plant all the new seeds without causing Blight or conflict. But by then, the first shots were being fired in what would eventually turn into the Kerm Conflict. Gerselle and I took in a Wakiran refugee called Enely…”

To mounting awe from the audience, Jonton talked them through Elton’s awakening. Awe rapidly turned to sympathy and more than a few fiercely blown noses and jaws clenched against the onset of tears, as he described the disastrous attempt to Awaken Gerselle’s Kerm.

“Enely managed to save her Jonelle - her Kerm – although I still don’t know how. Gerselle is still in a coma.” Jonton swallowed hard. “And we discovered that Jonelle was extremely protective of our daughter Joenie. I made the mistake of trying to intervene and got badly Kerm-stung for it. But eventually we made peace with Jonelle and, more importantly, helped to broker a peace between her and Elton.”

Jonton took a long drink of water. Tom quietly re-filled his glass.

“By then of course,” Jonton said heavily, “the Kerm Conflict had escalated into all-out war.” He paused. “And, another Kerm was about to Awaken – after we had learned many hard lessons from Jonelle’s Awakening.” He looked down at the table before staring out at the hidden audience. “This is the last part of the story and it started with a request from Elton.” The cameras zoomed in on his sombre expression. “I know this will be difficult for many of you but please, please remember that it started with a request from a Kerm.”

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

The audience fell silent as Jonton finished his summary of Obrinn’s origins as a frozen seed with a brief description of the Berelgan’s Kerm telegraph. Around the table, Chief Ambassador Aldwell’s expression was unreadable. He glanced at Chadwick before shaking his head and turning back to Jonton.

“Thank you for a most illuminating – and admirably brief – summary, Mr Jonton.” Aldwell steepled his fingers and stared directly at the cameras positioned just off-stage. “My views on the cold storage of Kerm seeds have always been quite clear and I have made no efforts to hide them, as my fellow Pillars will be more than aware. On my own, I would not have authorised the course of action which led to Guardian Obrinn being planted.” Aldwell laced his fingers together. “However, I am kerbal, and as such, I would have found it extremely difficult to gainsay a direct request from Guardian Elton. I would encourage all those who hold similar views to myself to reflect on that.”

“Indeed.” President Chadwick took a sip of water. “And be assured that it was only after a great deal of personal reflection and considerable debate in Council that the decision was made to entrust the final decision on the cold storage of Kerm seeds, to the Kerm themselves. Including Guardian Elton, twenty Kerm in each Regionality will be Awakened. The Kerm telegraph will be extended to link each and every one of the Awakened Kerm. We shall present all sides of the argument to them, and then we shall act on their verdict.”

“We can also hope,” Aldwell stated, “but cannot presume to insist, that they will follow Jonton and Guardian Elton’s example by deliberately restricting their territories for the sake of all the Kerm yet unplanted. And thus, as set out in the Joint Declaration, do we hope to bring an end to the Kerm crisis.”

“As do we all, Chief Ambassador. As do we all.” Tom took a deep breath. “Before we open the floor to our audience, I do have one question of my own. What is going to happen to Project Starseed?”

“Thus far, the Confederacy has played a very minor part in the space program.” Aldwell gestured at Chadwick. “I believe that President Chadwick will be better placed to answer that.”

Chadwick nodded his thanks. “Very briefly, Tom, Starseed continues - because it may yet be our one and only option to survive the Kerm Crisis.” He ticked off his points on his fingers. “Even if the Awakened Kerm permit cold storage of seeds – which remains to be seen – that merely postpones the inevitable. Many more Kerm would need to be Awakened and to agree to restrict their territories to create sufficient planting space for the ongoing Seeding. As Chief Ambassador Aldwell noted, we hope but cannot presume that they will do so.”

Chadwick took a sip of water. “Therefore, the Council stands behind the Kerbin Space Agency and the magnificent achievements of it and all its volunteers.” The corner of his lip quirked upwards. “More tangibly, an emergency, cross-Regionality, Starseed funding bill is being drafted, as we speak.”

“And about time too!” came a call from the audience, to growing applause. Tom raised his hands for calm. “Mr President?” He saw the slight shake of Chadwick’s head. “In that case, I open the floor to our audience. And for our first question… yes, you ma’am, in the green poncho.”

“The Joint Declaration seems like an awfully large change of policy for the Twelve Pillars. May I ask what prompted this plan?”

“A very good question,” Chadwick replied. “In truth, it was not a new idea. It had been mooted in Council and proposed a number of times by various sources. Including,” he added, “part of from Geneney Kerman – yes, the KSA flight director – given as part of a testimony on a matter concerning the space program. Mr Geneney advised us that he had communed with Guardian Elton and found him to be a firm supporter of Starseed. On that basis, he wondered if we should find out whether any other Kerm felt the same way. It later transpired from a conversation with Director Lodan that Mr Geneney had previously been heard to comment, rather pointedly, that the Kerm Conflict ‘mostly boiled down to people fighting over what they think the Kerm want and that maybe one of us needs to ask one them what they actually want.’ “

Aldwell nodded. “Whilst a perfectly reasonable suggestion it did have the very obvious flaw that we could only Commune with one Kerm at a time and, crucially, that there no was no apparent way for widely separated Kerm to confer amongst themselves and arrive at a joint decision without kerbal input. As you’ll appreciate, we anticipated a certain amount of difficulty in finding kerbal go-betweens whom everyone would trust. The Kerm telegraph avoids that difficulty.”

“Yes, indeed,” murmured Tom. He scanned the audience. “Next question please – from you, sir, I think.”

“The Kerm telegraph seems terribly convenient. Other than Mr Jonton’s word, what proof do we have that it’s real?”

Tom chuckled for a second. “Please excuse the levity because that is also a very good question. May I ask, sir, do you watch Engines and Engineers?”

“I can’t say that I’ve seen every episode but yes, I do. Or did.”

Tom nodded. “The Council didn’t expect people to take the Telegraph seriously. I didn’t, when I was first told about it – couldn’t get the image of a big old Kerm tree reaching down with one of its branches and tapping away at a telegraph key.” He waited for the laughter to die away. “They thought everyone might have an easier time believing it from Engines and Engineers which, I have to say, was extremely flattering. So we ran an ‘Is it Fake?’ investigation on the whole thing.”

Tom’s eyes lost their focus for a second. “The scientists at the Berelgan showed us everything. We got to Commune with Guardian Obrinn, we got to… experience is the only word I can think of… him using the Telegraph, and we tested that piece of equipment every which way we could think of. We’ll be broadcasting the investigation tomorrow night and I would urge everyone to watch it and make up their own minds.” Tom’s voice shook. “But my mind is quite made up. The Kerm telegraph is real – and it is wonderful. Next question please. Two rows back, striped scarf. Yes ma’am?”

“Who’s going to Awaken all those Kerm?” The question dropped into a sudden silence. Jonton raised his hand. “If I may?” Everyone around the table nodded their assent.

“As with so much else about the Kerm crisis, we’ll be seeking volunteers. They will get to Commune with Elton and his daughter.” A ripple of surprise ran through the audience. “Yes, he thinks of Jonelle as his daughter. The volunteers will get a chance to understand the joy of Communion with two Awakened Kerm. They will also get a chance to understand the risks involved.” Jonton’s voice went flat. “They will get to see Gerselle and, if I am strong enough to face it, to experience her… accident. Nothing will be hidden.”

“Thank you, Jonton.” Tom said respectfully. “Another question please.”

“What are you going to tell the Awakened Kerm? For all of Chief Ambassador’s fine words, how can we tell that the politicians won’t just ask the question that gets them the answer they want?”

Aldwell adjusted his microphone. “An excellent question and one which I personally raised in Council although not in quite such blunt terms. However, if I may borrow Mr Jonton’s words, nothing will be hidden. Everyone, be they kermol, neo-Kerman, or a Child of Kerbin, will have their views put before the Kerm. On that you have my word.” Aldwell looked straight at the camera. “In this forum, as a Pillar of the Council, I do place my words on the public record.” He turned back to the audience.  “I trust you will find that sufficient, sir.”

His questioner nodded dumbly. “Very much. Thank you, Chief Ambassador.”

“And on a practical note,” Chadwick added. “All aspects of our case before the Kerm will be made available to the public for scrutiny and suggested revisions, with the final version being approved by pan-Regionality referendum.” He paused. “Tom, before we go back to the audience, I have a question of my own.” Chadwick looked at Jonton. “You took it upon yourself to speak for Guardian Elton when you told us that planting Guardian Obrinn was done at his behest. May I presume that you consulted Guardian Elton before attributing these actions to him?”

Jonton nodded. “You may, Chief Ambassador. Before he Awoke, Elton was my Kerm and I was his Keeper. Since he Awoke, I instead count him as a friend and a mentor. In either case I would not have associated his name with such a sensitive topic without his permission.”

“And I would expect nothing less. Thank you, Mr Jonton.”

Edited by KSK

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I think I just realized a very important thing here:

 

If I understood that right Kerm trees can be considered "gods" to the kerbals to some extent.

And only now I realized that communing with awakened Kerm is basically like talkin' to whatever god one believes in, except everyone believes in the same god and as such there's no such thing as a "war" between religions like in real life. Only different beliefs about what the "god" wants.

So all these kerbals with their different beliefs should end up agreeing with everone else after communing with awakened kerm, right? That would surely get rid of a crapton of problems.

Edited by DualDesertEagle

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You pretty much nailed it there @DualDesertEagle. Another way of looking at it is that the Kerbals will be going to their gods and asking to be judged.

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6 hours ago, KSK said:

You pretty much nailed it there @DualDesertEagle. Another way of looking at it is that the Kerbals will be going to their gods and asking to be judged.

If only religion in real life was also based on something that actually exists and only 1 thing at that...

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Indeed.

I’m probably being over-cautious but let’s try and keep this particular conversation factual - that is to points of comparison between actual religions and the in-story relationship between Kerm and Kerbal, rather than folk’s opinions on faiths and religions in general. 

Happy to take that to PMs if anyone likes but let’s not get the thread locked this close to the end, huh? :) 

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I have to admit, it's going to be interesting to see how the Kerbals handle the Kerm in outer space.

And, yes, I've caught up again.

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Heya @Madrias.

Don’t want to drop any big spoilers but I will say that there may be a glimpse of that to come. :) 

Next chapter is under way. Visiting family this weekend but I have Monday off to recover and get some writing done. As a taste of things to come, I posted one of my research links on the Science and Spaceflight forum, which some kind soul nominated for TOTM...

Beyond that... I’ve been bouncing some ideas around with @CatastrophicFailure which helped me find the missing piece I needed.

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Hey folks,

Just as a quick update, I have a chapter’s worth of new material ready to go. However, after reading through my Good Editor’s comments, I agree that the various sections of that new material don’t fit together as well as they could.

The good news is that I think that can be fixed. The less good news is that the fix involves writing the next chapter and then doing a bit of cutting and pasting between the two. 

So it’ll probably be the end of the month before I post the next story update but that update should be a double bill. :)

 

Edited by KSK

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Ight, this is really interesting and I’ve read the first three chapters but I don’t have a lot of time... 

anyone that’s been reading this for a while, would you mind giving me a very quick summary?

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I can't speak for any readers on this thread but if you'll settle for a couple of words from the author? :) 

Spoiler

You'll have seen what the first few chapters are about. Jeb and company capitalising on the publicity from their first successful sub-orbital flight to start building a space program. One of the major story arcs in First Flight is how that fledgling space program grows from its humble origins. The major milestones won't be a big surprise if you've played KSP but I've tried to put my own spin on them - my kerbals tend to be a fairly serious lot, certainly when it comes to rocket engineering but the various space crews do find time for some light hearted moments as well. You'll get to see some of the major companies from the game (Rockomax features particularly prominently) and some of their backstory.

My take on that backstory at any rate - none of this is canon.

Interwoven with the space program story arc, (starting around chapter 6(?) The Other Side) you get to see a rather different side to the kerbals. Away from all the adrenalin and rocket fuel, away from the intrepid engineers and pilots of the space program, these are the farmers, villagers, and everyday kerbals-on-the-street. You'll get to know some of them quite well. Along the way you also get to find out about the historical significance of the Kerman name and why quite so many kerbals share it. There's also a fair bit of other worldbuilding mixed in throughout the story - architecture, food and drink (including those all important snacks :) ), family life, funeral rites, flora and fauna, and fragments of an ancient language. 

Crucially, you also get to meet the other sentient species on Kerbin and find out about their history with the kerbals, how that history has shaped kerbal society over the centuries,  how much of it  has since been lost. And when the ghosts of history come home to roost, they will shake the world - and kerbal society - to its core. The fourth (by far the largest and still unfinished) section of the story, deals with that shake-up and it's repercussions.

There will be dark times ahead.

But amidst the darkness, in the hours of despair just before the dawn, the quiet heroes of Kerbin will rise.

Everyday kerbals from all walks of life who refuse to give in. Bright beacons of the kerbal spirit, carrying the light of hope for their entire world.

And in the end, it comes down to the one line summary in my forum signature:

They went to space because they wanted to. They built a space program because they had to. 

 

 

Edited by KSK

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8 hours ago, burn boi said:

Oh, ok!

Oh wow... this is really deep... somehow...

:) Thanks - I guess time will tell if I've managed 'deep'.

After that wee summary, if you're still looking at the chapter list at the start of this thread and thinking 'I don't have time for this', I would say to try reading up to Chapter 31 (Echoes of Time). By then the story (and writing style) has settled down a bit,  you'll have come to a significant point in the space program arc and, more usefully, a very significant point in all that other stuff I was talking about.

Alternatively, if that still looks a bit much, or you're getting a bit bored with the space program arc (as I said, the first few milestones are a fairly predictable if you've played KSP although there is a story in there too), then I would just take a look at chapters 8 (The Other Side), 11 (The Seed), 15 (New Homes), 19 (Reunion), 24 (Dreams), 26 (Circles), the end of 30 (The Cords that Bind) and then 31 (Echoes of Time).

Obviously, speaking as the author, I'm hoping you'll be intrigued enough to want to carry on past chapter 31. But at that point, if you're still not getting into the story, then I'd also say you could put it down knowing that you'd given it a fair try but it just wasn't for you.

In any case, however much you read or don't read - thanks for giving First Flight a go and popping onto the thread to comment!

On the other hand, if you are getting into it, there's plenty more to come. Take your time - it's not going anywhere and who knows? It may even be finished by the time you're finished! :)

Edited by KSK

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Been having some fun this afternoon.

A very mild spoiler for the next couple of chapters but mostly a little something for @superstrijder15 and everyone else who ever weighed in on any discussions about Old Kerba.  It includes some new vocabulary and grammar, which I haven't used anywhere else so far, so I've included a translation too. :) 

Pilla! Manaliant soathraban!
Onkerbal djaldaban mahomr
dja orbdaban manaliant Leviathan

Truth! A great beast took flight!
All the people watched it go.
And they named the beast Leviathan.

 

 

Edited by KSK

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On 11/24/2019 at 11:29 AM, KSK said:

Been having some fun this afternoon.

A very mild spoiler for the next couple of chapters but mostly a little something for @superstrijder15 and everyone else who ever weighed in on any discussions about Old Kerba.  It includes some new vocabulary and grammar, which I haven't used anywhere else so far, so I've included a translation too. :) 

Pilla! Manaliant soathraban!
Onkerbal djaldaban mahomr
dja orbdaban manaliant Leviathan

Truth! A great beast took flight!
All the people watched it go.
And they named the beast Leviathan.

 

 

Leviathan? (O_O)

Oh no...

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On 11/24/2019 at 6:29 PM, KSK said:

Pilla! Manaliant soathraban!
Onkerbal djaldaban mahomr
dja orbdaban manaliant Leviathan

Truth! A great beast took flight!
All the people watched it go.
And they named the beast Leviathan.

Interesting...

As we have seen before, proper nouns are typically the same in Old Kerba and in modern English. However in earlier cases as far as I remember they were always words that seemed to have started as Old Kerba and kept as a name. However Leviathan is very, very different from any other word in Old Kerba so far, so it must be from later. 

 

Of course this instantly gives us new vocabulary:

Pilla: Thruth

Manaliant: great beast. man- indicates 'biggest', aliant seems to be a proper noun for beast

soathraban: -aban means past tense, -r means he, soath would logically by flight/to fly

djaldaban: -aban indicates past tense, djald remains, seemingly first person singular, or it could be avoiding aa and be They instead, which makes more sense

mahomr: it go. -r denotes 3rd person singular, mahom seems root of verb 'to go'

dja: and (suprised we didn't need it so far)

orbdaban: this convinces me the -daban is for 3rd plural past time. Root verb orb meaning 'to name'

Manaliant occurs again, but this time the translation leaves out the greatness of the beast. This shows the translation is not exactly literal.

 

We now have one word left:

onkerbal

This word is annoying. I seem to have misplaced the -al suffix, but even if we just use kerbal as a species name, like human, it still doesn't make sense. on- is for dependance on. Thus onkerbal ought to be 'dependance on the kerbals', while the stated translation is 'All the people' or plausibly 'All the kerbals'. We do not at this moment seem to have an 'all' classifier or a way to make one, but if I needed a word, at this point in the story, to describe all kerbals, I'd go with 'Kerbinada': Inhabitants of Kerbin.

There are only two possible answers to this pressing question: What happened with this translation?

1. We are dealing with an unrealiable narrator

2. 

Spoiler

Image result for the archives are incomplete

There is something I'm missing

 

Edit: Oh, let me not forget to plug my terrible amazing Old Kerba dictionary: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1r0eDcf2dWf6_HwHZTgiDGwFXxOZ7Qxv-LyD2Jgpj8u0

Edited by superstrijder15

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Good catch with the translation of beast vs great beast in the last line. Might correct that to:  dja orbdaban aliant Leviathan.

Everything else was spot on!

Onkerbal might be more of a confused author than an unreliable narrator! It was supposed to be Kerbal as the species name prefixed with the case modifier for inclusion, the whole thing translating as ‘all kerbals’ or more colloquially, ‘the people’.

May need to think that over a bit. We have Old Kerba terms for ‘any’ and ‘many’ (I think), so we clearly need one for ‘all’ to complete the set.

Edited by KSK

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2 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

Pilla: Thruth

Thufferin’ thuccotath... <_<

2 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

There are only two possible answers to this pressing question: What happened with this translation?

There is, perhaps, also the question of what linguistics came before Old Kerba, and survived into it... ;)

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Next chapter is up.

As promised, this will be a double bill, although the next but one chapter needs a bit of tweaking still - in true KSP fashion I need to check my staging because the sequence of events in one particular section doesn't quite add up. As my good editor put it, this is the kind of stuff that only a high level space nerd would critique but given that I'm writing for an audience of such*…

*and have some pretension of being one myself.

A special thanks to my good editor for his sterling work on these two chapters and helping to knock the big picture stuff into shape as well as picking up on the fine detail.

And without further ado.

 

Starflower

Danfen Kerman, the Rockomax Corporation’s Head of Structural Engineering, stood bent over an enormous drawing board which was covered from end to end in engineering drawings and other CAD printouts. Beside him, his Assembly Operations Officer summarised the items for the day, indicating different subsystems on the blueprints with a slender wooden pointer. A group of senior engineers and project managers stood around them, listening to the briefing and answering questions on their particular specialities.

The office walls around them were occupied by a whiteboard on one side and a floor-to-ceiling noticeboard on the other. Both were almost hidden behind more engineering drawings, together with a vast array of schedules, lists, and notes, all written in Danfen’s tightly spaced handwriting. A computer terminal sat on an old-fashioned style of wooden desk, in front of which, blinds covered a large window.

Danfen dug his fists into the small of his back and stretched. “Right then. Thrust structure is mated to the lower skirt and ready for tankage fitting. The fuel tank and inter-tank assembly are flight qualified, and ready for stacking; qualification of the LOX tank is ongoing, previous problems resolved by the upgraded slosh baffles. Where are we with the forward skirt and payload adaptor?”

“Forward skirt is in fitting and finish; payload adaptor components are in the jigs and ready for primary welding. Schedule-wise, there’s still room in the buffers but we are currently projecting completion of both sections in time for LOX tank qualification and stacking.”

“Excellent.” Danfen turned to another engineer. “Motors?”

“Ullage motors are cast, qualified and ready for fitting and stage avionics integration. The first set of five Skippers are nearing the end of post-assembly and should be ready for test-firing by the end of this week. At present, we remain on track for schedule convergence with the structural work. Two of the backup Skippers are in fitting and assembly, we’re still awaiting critical component delivery for the remaining three. LOX impellers,” she added in response to Danfen’s raised eyebrow.

The chief engineer walked over to the whiteboard and added a note to one of the many lists covering its surface. “Noted. Do what you can and escalate the suppliers to Hanbal if you need to.” He turned to face his team. “Thank you, everyone. Have a good day - and let’s make this happen.”

The project managers filed out, followed by the chief engineers. Danfen watched them go before turning back to his office window. He drew the blinds and stepped back, tucking his hands behind his back. The VAB’s main assembly floor stretched out before him, a Type 6 core stage, all four lateral boosters attached, stood atop its mobile launcher, cradled within a tower of gantries and walkways that allowed access to the various rocket systems. Overhead, the second stage edged towards the launcher, suspended from its oversized gantry crane. Danfen watched the crane crawl past, mentally measuring it up for the massive Type 7 second stage that he and his team were constructing.

At the far end of the VAB, a payload fairing sat nestled within its own gantries, both halves united and ready for mating to the completed Type 6 booster. Danfen could make out the faint seam between the halves, marked by the equally faint bulges covering the latches and modified Roncott actuators that would deploy the fairing in flight, to reveal the second of many cargo pallets to be delivered to the growing Tenacity space station.

Nodding to himself in satisfaction, Danfen picked up a full-to-bursting clipboard from his desk and let himself out of the office, locking the door behind him. As he left the VAB, he noticed a crowd gathering around the entrance to Manufactory B. Quickening his pace, he joined the group of engineers and machinists in time to watch a massive, blunt ended cylinder emerge from the main doors on its oversized tractor-trailers. Impossibly, the cylinder kept on coming, dwarfing the figures around it, an immense flag of all-Kerbin painted on its gleaming white flanks. The tips of two gigantic shrouds appeared, their smoothly flaring surfaces hiding the complexities beneath.

And then, finally, the engine bells emerged.

Danfen walked around behind the rearmost trailer and stared up at the five SK-2M Mainsails, each of their gaping maws more than able to accommodate two kerbals, one standing on the other’s shoulders. Assuming, he thought, that such a thing was possible. He lifted his eyes to the sky, picturing the booster stage in front of him, standing upright on the launch pad, second stage and payload stage stacked atop it in a titanic monument to engineering ambition and desperate need.

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

“Are they really, um, going to launch that?”

Seelan snorted. “They’d better. After the effort my boys put into building those tanks, they’d be unhappy if we dropped it in the Pool for a practice piece.”

“I suppose they would be,” Roncott stared up at the imposing flanks of the Orbital Propellant Test Article. “I thought the Pioneer CSM was impressive but that…” He gestured at the spacecraft hanging from its crane. “That wouldn’t even fit on an Eve booster. Not even if we used an expanded fairing adaptor.”

“No. Supposedly it’ll fit flush on a Type 7 though.” Seelan shook her head. “Which I have to see.”

“You will.” Both engineers turned to see Bob walking over to them. “Not this time though – Rockomax are keeping non-essential personnel well away from the launch site in case there are any problems with the vehicle. Anhydrous ammonia isn’t as nasty as our old hypergolics but I still wouldn’t want to get any in my eyes.”

“Nuclear engine propellant,” Roncott’s voice trailed away. “Are we still, um, planning to use this to refuel the nuclear test article?”

“If everything works. That’s way down the line yet though so don’t worry about it.” Bob eyed Roncott. “You know the test priorities as well as I do. Thermal management, slosh control under spin and full mission-duration storage and integrity test. If,” Bob emphasised the word, “we get through all that, then we send up a second vehicle for the first propellant transfer test. If that works and if the LV-N test flight goes to plan, then we try refuelling the LV-N test vehicle.”

“And that’s assuming we even get to orbit,” said Seelan.

“Exactly.” Bob gripped Roncott’s shoulder. “Propellant transfer testing is not the main objective of this flight, so don’t let it worry you.”

“I know, Bob. Really, I do. It’s just, um…” Roncott bit his lip. “It is for me.” He waved his arms about shaking off Bob’s hand on his shoulder. “We’re not getting to Duna without transfer, we can’t do proper testing on the ground, we’ve only got the Endurance test data to work with and that’s only for a handful of experiments at low flow-rates – it would take years to fuel a colony ship that way…”

“Ron!” Bob waited until he had the other’s attention. “It’s fine. The review team here thought your design was solid. The team at Rockomax thought so too.” Bob jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “You’ve got that spacecraft wired up with more sensors than I can count and with enough onboard cameras to film a movie up there. Whatever happens, we’re going to know about it in detail.” He looked Roncott in the eye. “But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We go back to the drawing board and try again – with plenty of honest-to-Kerm test data to work with next time.” A flashing light in the distance caught Bob’s attention. “Right now, though, I think our transport is arriving.”

As if on cue, doors began opening around them, a growing crowd of kerbals joining the three engineers. Everyone backed themselves against the walls to let the enormous flat-bed truck back up into the VAB, its cab doors painted with the logo of a local speciality haulage company. Bob watched the massive test spacecraft descending centimetre by centimetre, finally settling into place on its shipping cradle. He saw the tension on Roncott’s face as a team of white hatted kerbals tied the spacecraft down. Then, with a blast on its horn and a whine of high-powered electric motors under strain, the truck rumbled forward. 

As it cleared the Space Centre gates and pulled out onto the main road, the truck was joined by two outriders from the Barkton Department of Civic Works, the warning lights on their roofs strobing bright orange. Bob could hardly bear to see the look on Roncott’s face as the haulage truck, and its oversized cargo, reached the next junction and took a ponderous left turn towards Barkton railway depot.  With a last glimpse of flickering orange, the trailing outrider rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.

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

Jonton writhed on his bed, only deep-seated instinct holding his head still enough to maintain Communion. The memories crashed through his mind, smashing down carefully constructed barriers and flensing still-tender mental scars wide open.

Stop, Enely!  It’s too fast - too soon! Let them go!

The Kerm shards erupted from Gerselle’s mind. Once again, Jonton hurled himself at her, tried to wrap himself around her, to catch the expanding cloud of fragments and gather them to him. And once again, for the barest second, they held.

Gerselle! To me!

Then, yet again, the fragments of memory and personality swirled, twisted around him and then blew apart, everything that Gerselle was and had been, tumbling past him like leaves driven by a hurricane.

Jonton! Help me…J…

GERSELLE!

The mindscape shrank to a pinprick, the mental connection linking him to Elton dimming to an echoing whisper in the back of his skull. A distant part of him registered his pounding heartrate, sensed the throbbing agony in both of his hands. Jonton lay in the darkness; hot, raw tears streaming down his face.

The link spun open a fraction, cool white light absorbing the heat, blunting the physical pain but powerless to dull the edge of splintered glass memories.

I can’t do this, Elton.

<no> A sense of reluctance swept down their link. <I should take this burden from you…>

For a moment hope flared, only to be replaced by shame. I cannot ask that of you. I spoke to Patbro – I know you grieved for her too.

<and yet there is no other choice. Placing this burden on Enely would be wrong> Elton paused <and perhaps my memory of your memory will hurt me less than the memory itself will hurt you>

We could bear the burden together.

<no. We would create too much pogo> Elton sensed his Keeper’s confusion. <it is a word that Jeb taught me. Your pain would increase mine, then mine would increase yours in turn. We would tear one another apart. The same can happen with a wrongly built rocket. Noise builds on noise until all is destroyed>

Jonton blanched. Gerselle’s last, desperate plea rang in his ears, his link to Elton constricting again in response. Including whichever poor kerbals were Communing with us. His mental voice shook. I hate to do this to you.

<as I said, First of my Keepers, we have no choice. But to anyone who wishes to know about Gerselle, I would ask that you tell them of our words. They should know that what I show them is true>

As Elton’s mindscape faded into white light and a distant tugging at his scalp, the bond between himself and the Kerm seemed to take longer to break, as if tempered by the promises they had just made. Jonton sat up and rubbed his, still-throbbing, knuckles, the gashes across the backs of his hands matched by the streaks of blood across the bedstead.

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

 

The next morning, Jonton watched a small group winding their way up the path to his hut. Most of them were elderly but he was pleased to see a number of younger faces in amongst them. He waited for them to gather at the top of the hill before stepping out to greet them.

“Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming – it’s good to see so many of you. Please come on in. This is Patbro,” Jonto gestured at his friend sitting at the kitchen table. “Keeper of one of the nearby Groves and one of my best friends. I spend a lot of my time at Guardian Jonelle’s Grove and Patbro has been very kind in helping me look after my hut here and being a companion for Guardian Elton.”

“Not that that is any sort of chore,” Patbro stood up. “Welcome everyone.” He studied the group, noting the green trimmed collars on several ponchos. “Guardian Elton has asked to Commune with you all together without myself or Jonton present.” Two or three of the faces staring back at him looked suddenly nervous and he gave them a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry if you haven’t Communed before; we will be there to help you get ready, and I’m sure some of the Keepers here will be glad to help too. So, if you’d like to follow me please.”

Jonton followed the group into his sleep room and its rows of bunks, all neatly made up. He and Patbro moved through the group, helping everyone to get settled, bringing extra pillows for some, and offering discreet reassurance to others, including some of the Keepers. They watched as everyone lifted his or head into a waiting leaf cluster, waited until they were all safely in Communion and then left, closing the door behind them.

“What did you think?”

Jonton scratched his head. “The number of first-timers was encouraging. Definitely a few nervous faces when you mentioned that we wouldn’t be there.”

“But none of them backed out. They all passed Elton’s first test.”

“Which was also encouraging.” Jonton’s face looked suddenly haggard. “I wonder how many will pass the second one.”

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

The clock on the wall had just chimed twelve, when the kitchen door opened and a group of pale-faced and visibly shaken kerbals filed into the room. Jonton stood up to greet them.

“I’m sorry that you had to see that.” The quiet sincerity in his voice and shadows behind his eyes were enough to still any questions. “One reason that Elton asked to speak to you without me was that he knew I couldn’t bring myself to live through it again, even with his support. Please believe me when I say that we tried.” Jonton swallowed and when he spoke again, there was an unmistakeable quiver in his voice. “If any of you wish to, you would be welcome to visit Jonelle’s Grove this afternoon and see Gerselle for yourself.”

“I would like to see her.”

A young kermol, possibly the youngest in the group Jonton thought, stepped forward. “I don’t know how many new Kerm will be in the One-Twenty but I would like to be Keeper for one if you’ll have me.” The kermol looked up, shadows behind his own eyes. “My great uncle’s Grove was one of the first to Seed.” He looked straight at Jonton. “And after Communing with Guardian Elton, I think it may have been seeing great uncle Cormund on the news that prompted you to plant that thirty-seventh cutting in your Grove.”

Jonton’s jaw dropped open. Before he could speak, one of the older Keepers stepped in and clapped the young kermol on the shoulder “Bravely said, lad. Your great-uncle would be proud to hear you.” He turned to face Jonton. “Reckon I’d like to see your Gerselle too – and you can all count me in for the One-Twenty if you need me. If I could talk to my old Kerm like I jus’ did with your Elton, that would make it all worth it. And if anything goes wrong, well we’ve both had a good turn.”

His expression turned inward. “My missus passed on two years ago this month and our lad never came home from Wakira. Nobody left to miss this old kermol. And we’re at the end of a valley to boot – only one neighbouring Grove and that not close enough to take any hurt. Just promise me that the folks in my village will be taken care of if it comes to it.”

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

As he turned off the highway and onto the back roads leading to Elton’s Grove, Jeb glanced at Wernher in the passenger seat. “We missed that last turning when I came here with Gene. Took us a while to find the right road again.” The engineer and veteran kerbonaut grunted, staring straight ahead with his arms folded across his seatbelt, as he had for most of the journey. Jeb glanced at his friend and nodded to himself before turning his attention back to the road.

As before, the forest began to thin out and streetlights began to appear by the side of the road. Jeb caught a glimpse of a marquee in a field, ghostly with lights glowing behind its canvas walls. He took a now-familiar right turn, skirting around the village before pulling up at the foot of the hill leading up to Jonton’s hut. He thumbed the motor off and rested his hand on Wernher’s shoulder.

“If I know Patbro, he’ll have a good hot meal waiting for us. Come on – let’s not disappoint him.”

Wernher nodded and climbed out of the car. He glanced at the multi-story hut silhouetted against the evening sky. “Odd-looking hut. Was the Keeper trying to make it look like something out of a kerblet’s storybook?”

Jeb chuckled. “Now that you mention it – and you should have seen it by munlight.” He closed the car door. “Long story but Jonton had it built to accommodate all the travellers coming to Commune with him. Apparently, that’s when the whole Sage of Barkton thing got started although it was around the time of Ornie’s crash which probably explains why I didn’t hear much about it.” And about the time you flew out to Site D, he added silently.

“Oh,” Wernher frowned. “I thought Jonton was the Keeper, not the Kerm?” He saw Jeb’s patient expression. “Sorry – I think you’ve explained all this to me before but it didn’t really sink in.”

“Not a problem.” Jeb gripped Wernher’s shoulder. “Elton – he’s the Kerm – will be able to show you everything much more clearly than I can explain it anyway.”

As they walked up the path, the front door opened and a figure stepped out to greet them. “Good evening, Jebed… sorry, Jeb.” He shook his head. “Preserve me but I’m still not used to that. And you must be Wernher? Please – come inside.” Patbro bustled in ahead of them. “There’s fish stew on the stove if you’d like, although I don’t have much more than herbed bread and butter to go with it and fruit and coffee for afters.”

“Fish stew sounds more than welcome to me.” Jeb glanced at Wernher, who nodded. “To both of us. You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble though, Patbro.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble.” Patbro hunted in a cupboard and produced a tin. “Do you take your coffee with anise, Wernher? I know Jeb does.”

“Yes please. And a pinch of firewhisker if you have any.”

Jeb opened his mouth before hastily closing it again. Patbro looked surprised. “You don’t sound Wakiran, never mind Hazachim. I should introduce you to Enely.”

“No, I’m not Wakiran. I’ve just spent a lot of time working near the edge of the Hazachi desert. You pick up some of the local tastes.” A bleak expression crossed Wernher’s face. “One of my colleagues was Hazachim – he introduced me to firewhisker coffee.”

Patbro looked from one to the other. “And maybe that’s a story for another time, if you ever feel like telling it. But for now, you’re here to Commune with Elton and that always goes better on a full stomach. Pull up a seat both of you and I’ll serve up.”

After a hearty supper in which Wernher was persuaded to take second helpings of stew and Jeb managed to eat over half a loaf of herbed bread, the three kerbals finally pushed their plates away. Wernher sipped at the remains of his coffee, a distant look on his face. Jeb eyed him for a moment before leaning back in his chair. “Thanks, Patbro – that was excellent.”

“You’re welcome.” Patbro cleared his throat. “If you’re ready, Wernher? I know Elton would be keen to speak to you tonight if he can.”

“I suppose so.”

Jeb got to his feet. “I’ll help you. It’s a bit unnerving the first time.” He put his hand on Wernher’s shoulder. ‘Come on.” He led his friend out of the kitchen, nodding to Patbro as he went. The Keeper poured himself another coffee and retired to the sitting room to wait. He had just begun to think about reading the book that he was thumbing through when the sound of footsteps made him look up. “Is everything all right?”

Jeb came into the room, closing the door behind him. “He’s fine, I think. He wasn’t showing any signs of coming back out of Communion anyway.”

Patbro sniffed the air and glanced at the ceiling. “No reaction from Elton either.” He waited until Jeb was seated. “How is Geneney?”

“He’s very well. It’s been a long couple of weeks for him though, taking the second half of the Tenacity flight.” Jeb stretched out his legs. “We can show you Tenacity tomorrow if you’d like, assuming Guardian Elton is still available?”

“He will be for that. We’ve tried to keep him up to date with the space program but we can only show him what we see on the news.” Patbro’s face clouded over. “Unless Wernher needs more time with him. I’ve seen that thousand-metre stare before on Jonton and it was never a good sign.”

“No.” Jeb sighed. “Between you, me and the four walls?”

“Of course.”

“The colleague he mentioned, the one who introduced him to firewhisker coffee, was Hading Kerman.”

Patbro looked puzzled for a moment, then his eyes widened. “As in the…”

“Hading Accords? Yep. Wernher was out at Site D when all that happened. Led the survivors to safety and nearly killed himself in the process.” Jeb shivered. “I saw him in hospital afterwards – he was wizened. Like a piece of fruit left too long in the sun, which I guess isn’t far off the truth. The hospital managed to fix his heatstroke and dehydration on the outside but they’ll still be there on the inside; locked away behind that thousand metre stare. Elton will help.” Jeb’s voice lost its bleak edge. “He helped me and before we Communed, I would have told you that that was impossible.”

Patbro nodded. “He has a way about him. Sometimes I think it’s just his sheer age. I doubt there’s much he hasn’t seen over the centuries.”

“That would give him the long view on most things,” Jeb stared at the ceiling reflectively. “Awakening the One-Twenty… I just hope that most of them turn out to be like him.”

It was Patbro’s turn to shiver. “As do I but I fear they may not be. There’s a lot of Jonton in Elton I think, because of the length of time that he spent an-Kerm before Elton’s Awakening. The others won’t get that.”

“And isn’t that a cheery thought.” Jeb shook his head. “Genie was right though, for better or for worse. Asking the Kerm what they actually want rather than fighting over what we think they want.” He glanced at the door. “They’re taking a long time in there.”

“You took longer,” Patbro replied with a faint smile. “How about a game of Tiles while we’re waiting?”

“You’ll have to remind me how – I can’t remember the last time I played.”

The game trickled along, both players paying more attention to listening for footsteps than the game board. Jeb was about to suggest that they called it a draw and put the board away when Wernher appeared in the doorway, blinking in the light.

“Great Ker…” He paused. “That doesn’t seem particularly appropriate.”

“Don’t worry,” said Patbro. “You’re far from the first and I doubt you’ll be the last.”

Wernher nodded and arranged himself on top of a sack chair. “I see why you insisted on doing this, Jeb. That was…was…” He shook his head. “I could go kermol right now and join the One-Twenty.”

“That’s far more coherent than Genie and I were after meeting him,” Jeb said wryly. “Did you manage to get a word in edgeways or have you been answering questions about spaceflight for the last couple of hours?”

“No…no we talked about a lot of things. A lot of things.” Wernher stared at the wall. “Including the thing we came to talk about, before you ask, Jeb.” He raised a finger. “Not now. I’m going to need some time to think it all over but tonight… gave me a different perspective on it all.”

“I know that feeling,” Jeb said quietly. “I’m glad he managed to help you as well, old friend.”

Wernher gave him a wan smile. “He certainly did. But if you good kerbals will excuse me, I think I’ll turn in.” The smile became more genuine. “You should get some sleep too, Jeb. Elton was asking after you and wondering how the space program was going.”

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

<good morning, Wernher. Did you sleep well>

Very well, thank you, Elton. Surprisingly so.

<that is good to hear. Good morning, Patbro, good morning, Jeb. It is good to have you here again>

It’s good to be here. Thank you for talking to Wernher last night.

<I would be pleased to talk to him again> Jeb felt the Kerm’s amusement <It is refreshing to speak to a kerbal who does not think in long stories. Unlike yourself and my First of Keepers>

You didn’t find the right story is all, Jeb replied. Get him started on an engineering problem and he can spin out a conversation with the best of them.  A shimmering haze on the edge of Elton’s mindscape, caught his attention, two dim presences hidden behind it and beyond them a misty expanse, veiled by the haze. Elton sensed his sudden comprehension.

<indeed. I would introduce you to Jonton my First of Keepers, his daughter Joenie, and my own daughter Jonelle> A flicker of pride rippled over them and the haze fell away. One of the two presences came forward, greeting Patbro happily and studying himself and Wernher with what felt like awe. The second presence stayed back at a more reserved distance. Beyond them, the previously misty expanse flared into brightness, revealing a second, flatter mindscape, a row of trees marking the border between it – her, Jeb realised belatedly – and Elton.

<…Jebediah and Wernher. Wernher builds the machines for flying to other worlds. I believe you will know Jeb>

Jeb sensed the embarrassed pleasure rippling from Wernher’s presence.

Joenie’s presence flowed towards Jonton’s. Fragments of muted conversation and flickering emotions washed over the others, finishing in a wave of resignation that was echoed by an undercurrent of amused tolerance from Elton

All right, Joenie. All right. I’ll ask him. Jonton turned to Jeb, his mental voice sounding faintly embarrassed. I’m sorry about this but my daughter has reminded me to ask if you have time to visit a friend of hers. An image of a cardboard box appeared, a pair of small feet protruding out from under it and what looked like a framed picture of Kerbin from space resting against the side. A kerblet crawled out from under the box, turned the picture round to show a picture of the Mün and disappeared back inside.

Jeb stared. I recognise those photos.

From the old KIS shop I think, said Wernher. I like the spacecraft design – very compact.

Sturdier than Kerbal 1, Jeb agreed with a grin. He turned to face Joenie. I’d be very happy to meet your kerbonaut friend, he said. What’s his name?

Gildas. Joenie’s presence shrank in on itself.

Ferry and Anlie’s son, Jonton said to Elton. A good friend of mine, he told Jeb and Wernher, and his young lad is absolutely obsessed with space.

<then perhaps he should join us next time> Jeb thought he could detect a subtle deference in Elton’s tone. <He too would want to hear Wernher speak and learn more of the home in space. Of course> he added in response to an unvoiced question from the engineer, and the mindscape shimmered into a star-speckled blackness.

They sensed Wernher’s concentration and then a shape appeared, an outline at first, which only Jeb recognised, but quickly acquiring more detail. A second, larger, shape sketched itself out behind the first, before it too gained definition and form.

These are the first two parts of the Tenacity space station, Wernher began. As I mentioned to Elton last night, Tenacity can’t fly anywhere – it isn’t a spacecraft – but we’re building it to practice making the parts for the Duna ships and to practice putting them together in space.

<how many kerbals can live inside?>

Only four at the moment. There’s room for many more but we can only bring four home if something goes wrong because we only have room for one actual spaceship. A Pioneer capsule blinked into view, docked to the front of the fledgling space station. Eventually we’ll have room for a second spaceship, so we’ll be able to double the crew, but that won’t happen for another two flights. Right now, we’re building another part of the station. It’s not finished yet but this is what it looks like so far.

One by one, a set of eight tubular spokes appeared, arranged around the central hub module which Wernher had already sketched out. Jeb felt a familiar wave of concentration from Elton, matched by intense curiosity and then delighted recognition from Jonelle. A burst of images flickered between her and Joenie.

<this is good. You make very clear images>

Jeb sensed Wernher’s reticence.

I suppose I’ve always found it easier to build things if I can visualise them first. Anyway, each spoke will be more than twice as long when it’s finished and then we’ll join them all up to make a wheel. But at the moment…

<it looks like a flower. A flower in the sky>

They all sensed Elton’s surprise.

<I suppose it does, my daughter> The surprise faded, replaced by a sudden deep satisfaction. <and that too is good. For is it not proper that a Starseed should begin as a Starflower?>

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And the next chapter is up.

For anyone just catching up, this is Part Two of the promised double-bill. Part One is in the previous post.

 

Leviathan

Danfen and Hanbal stood in front of the transporter crawler. The Type 7 stack blotted out the sun, the brilliant halo surrounding the chequered band marking the interstage adaptor between the rocket and its payload, dazzling the two engineers. Beyond that, the payload stretched out of sight, seemingly touching the sky.

Dja orbdaban aliant, Leviathan,” Danfen murmured.

Hanbal looked at him. “Say again?”

“And they named the beast, Leviathan.” Danfen tucked his hands behind his back. “Pilla. Bar manaliant manalba. Ankerbal taklathdaban ar. Dja orbdaban aliant Leviathan. Or, in modern Kerba: In truth, the greatest beast of the sea. All the people feared it. And they named the beast Leviathan.” He raised an eyebrow at Hanbal’s incredulous look. “Just because I’m a hairy-knuckled engineer by day, that doesn’t mean I can’t I enjoy the classics by night. Chadvey’s ‘Chronicles of the Deeps’ – early Age of Sail. Leviathan was the Kraken’s Bane – its sworn foe.”

Hanbal shook his head. “Well that won’t do. We don’t want anyone to fear the Type 7.”

“Literalist.” Danfen thought for a moment. “How about this? Pilla. Manaliant soathraban. Ankerbal djaldaban mahomr. Dja orbdaban aliant Leviathan. Which, unless my Old Kerba is letting me down again, would translate to: In truth, a great beast took flight. The people watched it go. And they named the beast Leviathan.” He scratched his nose. “According to legend, Leviathan was the sailor’s guardian.  Witnesses said that it was big enough to shelter a ship from the fiercest tempests but it was mercurial. Take its name in vain and it was as likely to sink your ship as save it.”

“Or somebody ran their ship onto a whale-shaped rock whilst they were drunk,” muttered Hanbal. “Better not let Ademone catch you naming rockets after imaginary beasts.”

Danfen shrugged. “I think she would appreciate the symbolism actually. A gigantic vessel built to save us from a looming darkness but loaded with enough propellant to comprehensively demolish the pad and surrounding square kilometres of landscape if we haven’t built it with sufficient care and respect? That definitely sounds like a mercurial Leviathan to me.”

“Save me from engineers with delusions of high culture. Now how about we let our entirely real, and not at all mythological, booster get to the pad?”

Danfen nodded and produced a pair of scissors from his pocket. He stepped forward and, with a brief flourish, cut the green tape, sending the ends fluttering to the ground. Amidst cheers from the watching crowds of workers, he and Hanbal moved off the road. High atop the transporter, a lone, yellow hatted kerbal watched them go before turning to face the booster and raising both clenched fists over his head. With a great clanking of steel treads and a deep thrumming rumble that shook the ground beneath their feet, the transporter crept forward, beginning the half-day journey that would carry the Rockomax Type 7, Leviathan to its launch pad.

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

“T minus forty seconds and counting. Starting sound suppression systems."

“T minus twenty. Gantry retract sequence initiated, we have launch commit.”

“T minus twelve… eleven… ten… nine… synchro is green…”

Leviathan drew breath and its breath was thunder.

A shrieking gale howled out from the launchpad, building in pitch and fury until the very air could take no more.

“…three…two…one…”

A sudden thunderclap rocked Launch Control. For a fleeting instant the gale seemed to abate but then the raw sound from the rocket engines struck like the Krakens of legend chasing down their ancient foe.

“Lift-off! We have a lift off!”

Incredibly, impossibly the noise grew louder still, Leviathan bellowing defiance at those who would drag it back to earth. Plaster rained down from the ceiling, paper coffee cups spun across console tops and fell silently to the floor. Flight controllers raised clenched fists in triumph, lips peeled back from savage grins. On the main screen, the five Mainsail engine bells appeared as gateways to the abyss, black and forbidding against the inferno raging below. The camera zoomed out revealing the Type 7 at the tip of a blazing spear, ascending into the morning sky.

For a moment, Nelton watched it climb before turning back to her console and starting to page through her communication loops with the different flight control teams; listening to the ebb and flow of reports between the controllers but paying as much attention to their tone of voice as to the reports themselves. On the main screen, Leviathan accelerated through the cloud layer, its exhaust plume just beginning to fan out in the thinning atmosphere.

And then a light stuttered on a flight console before lighting up in a baleful amber that matched the trailing edge of Leviathan’s exhaust plume.

The controller stabbed a finger at his communication panel. “Flight, FD. I have a pogo warning!”

Nelton’s head snapped round. “Booster?”

“We see it too, Flight. No system warnings.”

“Copy. You’re on the priority loop, monitor and running report.”

“Will do.”

Leviathan tore through the upper atmosphere, riding atop a great bonfire of light. Nelton sat upright in her chair, eyes locked on her master warning panel, a stream of increasingly urgent reports from the Booster console sounding over her headset. Then a constellation of warning lights lit up on the next console.

“Flight, Propulsion! Low LOX pressure. Centre engine shutdown!”

“I hear you, Propulsion. Status.”

“One moment!” Nelton heard her Propulsion controller take several deep breaths. “Good telemetry and correct shutdown sequencing, Flight. We’ve still got an engine up there.”

“Copy. Get me an update on the second stage engines. FD?”

“Still getting a boatload of vibration, Flight. Going long on stage one outboard engines, guidance mode four.”

Nelton cast a wary eye at her repeater displays. “Understood.” She toggled her microphone. “Payload, update please.”

“Payload is Go, Flight. Tank sensors are definitely picking up that pogo but everything’s holding.”

“Copy. Propulsion – any news on those engines?”

“Aborted chilldown on engine one, Flight. Remaining engines are Go.”

Nelton didn’t need to consult the mission rules. “Chamber temperature?”

“Warm, Flight. We’re thinking a jammed intake valve, maybe a plumbing failure from the pogo but we’re not seeing a LOX leak.”

Nelton heard more than a few relieved murmurs from around the consoles. “Thank you, Booster. Guidance?”

“Working it, Flight but it’s not looking good. We’re off trajectory on stage one, which just threw out most of our contingency plans for stage two, which didn’t figure on an engine-out before staging anyway.”

“Understood. Do what you can.”

“Copy.”

For a moment Nelton watched as the main screen flicked over to show an updated trajectory plot, before glancing at her master warning panel again. Around the room, the flight controllers sat hunched over their screens, one of them tapping a pen on the edge of his console in a broken rhythm that Nelton doubted he was even aware of. Then a green light glowed on her communications panel.

“Flight, FD.”

“Go ahead FD.”

“Go for staging, Flight. Switching to onboard camera.”

The controllers around the Booster console looked up before going back to their readouts. A sudden silence descended as the remaining controllers turned to face the darkened main screen.

A crescent sliver of light appeared, followed by a dazzling glare from the stage separation motors. The flare subsided, leaving a view of Leviathan’s first stage falling away towards a curved, blue horizon. Seconds later the interstage slid free, lit from within by the glowing engine bells of the four functional SK1-P second stage engines, and then blasted away, limned with flame, by their exhaust plumes. As the still-burning shroud tumbled away, Kerbin was revealed in all its majesty, the Doreni coastline rolling past the camera.

“Second stage ignition confirmed on two through five. All systems nominal at this time.”

There was a patter of relieved applause.

“Thank you, Booster.” Nelton sat back in her chair, eyes flicking between the repeater displays on her console and the view from space on the main screen. The sudden jangle of a ringing phone broke the quiet the light on her console indicating an external line. Frowning, she pressed the button to divert the call and turned back to her displays, flipping through her communication loops.

Then the phone rang again.

Scowling, she picked up the receiver. A handful of controllers glanced round and promptly turned back to their consoles at the sight of their flight director’s face.

“Nelton.” She cocked her head to one side, lips compressing to a thin line as she listened. “You can tell Ademone that I’ll be there at her earliest convenience after we reach orbit. Now get off this line.” Not waiting for a reply, Nelton dropped the receiver onto its cradle and turned back to the main screen. “How’s it going, Guidance.”

“Touch and go, Flight.” The strain in the controller’s voice was audible. “We’re in mode eight and our propellant levels are way off the curve.”

“Understood.” Nelton picked up her phone and dialled for an outside line. “Hello, Gene. We’ve had a couple of problems here. You have? Yeah, we’re working that. Your bird’s going to space but we can’t guarantee your periapsis. Understood – we’ll drop the booster as soon as. Thanks, Gene.”

“Flight, Guidance.”

“Go ahead, Guidance.”

“We’ve got a periapsis, Flight but we’ve also got an amber quantity light on both tanks.”

“Good work. Stage on red.”

“Copy tha… staging! Clean separation!

All eyes turned to the trajectory plot on the main screen which showed Leviathan’s payload in a pronounced elliptical orbit. The seconds dragged out, seemingly into minutes, and then cheers erupted around the room as the ellipse began to expand, lifting the lower point of the Orbital Propellant Test Article’s orbit out of the atmosphere and up to a safer altitude. Nelton dipped her head, acknowledging the collective thumbs up from her flight controllers before mopping her brow and picking up the phone to Barkton.

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

“I can see that but what in the seven smoking hells happened?” Nelton surveyed the wreckage. One end of the flame trench had collapsed entirely, revealing twisted rebar and torn pipes. Blackened refractory bricks lay strewn across the floor of the trench, like a set of blocks discarded by a bored kerblet. Despite herself, Nelton winced at the sight of still more bricks scattered over the launchpad itself. On both sides of the trench, the massive spray heads for the sound suppression system were twisted out of true.

“I would quite like to know that too.” Ademone’s quiet words cut through Nelton’s shock. “I thought these systems had been thoroughly proven on the test stand?”

“They were.” Hanbal ran his hands through his hair distractedly. “We scaled them up from the Type 6 launchpad and added an extremely conservative safety factor on top of that. We never had a single problem on the test stand.”

Danfen nodded. “He’s right. The sound suppression system was the most reliable part of that stand.” He poked a charred lump of brick with his toe. “The only thing I can think of is some kind of resonance effect. Something that only became a problem when the booster lifted away from the pad.” He lifted his hands. “Don’t hold me to that, but booster altitude is about the only factor we can’t simulate on the stand. I’ll start with the camera footage and see if we can pin down when it happened – whatever it was.”

“Do that.” Ademone turned to her flight director. “Could the problems with the booster have been caused by acoustic damage?”

Nelton shook her head. “Too early to tell. It might have contributed but the engine-out happened too high up for it to be the only cause.” She glanced at the chunk of brick by Danfen’s foot. “We saw a lot of pogo on the way up, so my guess would be that as the primary cause. The second stage problems were almost certainly caused by pogo.” She looked at the chief engineer. “We’ll cross check the telemetry feeds with your camera footage anyway and see if anything matches up. I’ll get a flight operations team together as soon as we hand over control of the payload to Barkton.”

“And I’ll put a team to work on figuring out the pogo problem.” Hanbal rubbed the corners of his eyes. “We found a way to control it on the Type 6 – we’ll find a way to control it on the Type 7.”

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

Jonton stacked the last of the lunchtime dishes in the sink and put the kettle on. “Who’s for coffee, who’s for djeng?”

“Coffee for me please,” Meleny called from her sack chair.

“Black coffee for me please,” said Enely.

“Could I have a coffee and sapwood, Dad?”

Jonton’s eyebrows lifted, as the rest of the party called out their preferences. He found a nearly empty bottle of sapwood syrup at the back of one of the kitchen cupboards and set it down on the worktop. The kettle clicked off behind him and presently, the aromas of fresh coffee and hot djeng filled the room. Jonton put everything on a tray and carried it over to the living room table. He poured everyone’s drink, watching Joenie’s change in expression with a faint smile as she stirred two spoonfuls of syrup into her coffee and blew on it before taking a sip. A dish of sweet nibbles was handed round before Jonton disappeared into the next room and returned with a bag. He tapped on the table for attention.

“We all knew this day would have to come but now that it has, I think we all wish it hadn’t had to come so soon.” Jonton watched Joenie nodding vigorously. “In many ways it feels like Enely has always been here and having him go is going to be like losing one of the family. But we also know that he’s leaving to do important work that very few others in the world can do.” Jonton lifted his mug. “So, this one’s for Enely – and we wish him the very best of luck on his next journey.”

“To Enely!” Everyone clinked their mugs against his in a toast. Enely blushed with pleasure.

Jonton cleared his throat. “We’ve also got a few little things for you to take with you and remember us by.” He reached into the bag and pulled out Enely’s pack. “This is from Fred and Ferry, hopefully as good as new.”

Enely turned his cleaned and mended pack over in his hands, noting the new stitching and straps, their buckles polished up to a soft gleam. Feeling a lump in the bottom, he opened it and pulled out a similarly polished and mended mess kit. “They’re better than new.” He looked up at Ferry. “You shouldn’t have… thank you both very much.”

Fredlorf waved his thanks away. “You’re welcome. Couldn’t let a ‘kerb hit the road without mended gear or a good pack to see him right.”

“This is from Meleny, Thombal and Adbas.” Jonton pulled a small wooden chest out of the bag. “Adbas and Thombal made the chest and Meleny filled it.”

“It’s beautifully made.” Enely looked at Adbas. “You could be a joiner.” He opened the chest and found it packed with rows of labelled herb bags, each tied off with a little drawstring.

“They’re all traditional Kolan blends. Some for food, some for drinking, and a couple for freshening a room and helping you sleep.”

Enely read the label on one of the bags and smiled. “I know this one.” He lifted out another bag and tugged the drawstring open. “And I don’t need to read the label on this one – thank you all very much!”

Jonton waited for Enely to put his herb chest to one side before handing him two small, oddly shaped parcels. “These are from Mallas and Joenie.”

Inside the first parcel was a dark wooden trinket carved into the shape of a cactus. Enely held it up the light, turning it this way and that.

“Kerm wood for luck,” said Mallas. “Guardian Elton contributed the wood; I just did the carving.”

“It is also beautifully made – and a very good likeness. Thank you, Mallas.” Enely unwrapped his second parcel and a polished slice of lighter wood fell out, a keyring fastened through a knothole in one corner. Both surfaces were carved with the letter J, in slightly wobbly strokes.”

“J for Joenie,” Enely hugged her. “And also, J for Jonelle?”

Joenie nodded. “She let me have a piece of her branch.” A note of pride crept into her voice. “And I did most of the carving but Mallas helped with the curvy lines.”

“It’s wonderful – thank you.” Enely clipped the keyring onto one of the buckles on his newly mended pack. “I’ll keep it on here and take it with me everywhere I go.” Joenie beamed at him.

Jonton waited for Enely to sit down again. “And finally,” he said, “I wanted you to have this.” He handed Enely a small brass plate, chased with a Kerm leaf design around its edges. “It’s from my student days - I don’t know if you have them in Wakira but you wear it on your belt for good luck during exams.”

Enely took the belt charm. “I don’t know… I don’t know what to say." He turned the charm over in his hands and noticed two numbers engraved between the belt slots.

“Telephone numbers for here and my hut,” Jonton said quietly. He walked round and gave Enely a hug. “Call any time – don’t be a stranger.”

Enely blinked the dampness out of his eyes. “I won’t. Thank you, Jonton.”

“You’re very welcome.” Jonton raised his voice. “We’ve still got time for Enely to say goodbye to Elton and Jonelle, before we take him to the station. You’re all welcome to join us – as most of us have discovered, some things are easier to say in Communion than they are in words.”

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

“I’m going to miss having Enely around. I got the strong impression from this afternoon that Elton and Jonelle will as well.”

Jonton stared at the chink of evening sky showing through the living room curtains. “Very much so,” he answered. “But as we were lucky enough to get two confirmed Awakeners in the first intake of possible volunteers…” His voice trailed away. “It was the right thing to do. Not easy – none of this has ever been easy – but right.”

“Are we getting many more to visit any time soon?”

“Quite a few more, I think. I’d hoped to see a few more from further afield but for our second group?” Jonton lifted his hands. “At least we got a second group.”

Thombal tucked his hands behind his head. “I suppose it’s still a big decision to travel in from overseas at the moment. Maybe they’ll start coming once the airlines start getting back to normal.”

Meleny set down her mug. “Or once Enely’s had time to help Awaken a Kerm or two that’re closer to home. Someone that they can visit, find out that some of your story was true and maybe get curious about finding out about the rest.”

Jonton smiled to himself at Meleny’s choice of words. “That should help too,” he agreed. “Can I get you a top-up, Tom?”

“Please,” Thombal paused, mug of djeng halfway to his lips, head cocked to one side at the sudden squeak from behind the door. He looked over at Jonton who raised a finger to his lips and shook his head. “Time for one more before bed.” He put his mug on the table and watched Jonton refill it from the pot. “That’s plenty, thanks.” The loud silence from behind the door was broken by the creak of floorboards, followed by a tense pause and another, fainter creak. Thombal looked up, unsurprised by the sadness behind his friend’s eyes.

“Joenie?”

Jonton nodded. “She’ll be going to see Gerselle again.”

Meleny lowered her gaze. “Of course. How long has she been…”?

“Since before our first trip to the Berelgan, probably quite a bit before. I haven’t asked.”

Meleny looked up at him with a frown. “Don’t you think you should?”

“Not yet. Maybe if it starts happening every night. As long as she still feels she can talk to me about Gerselle when she needs to though, I’m turning a deaf ear to any late-night squeaky floorboards.”

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

Joenie froze, berating herself for her mis-step. The murmur of voices from behind the door carried on; she heard her father offering somebody a top-up of something. She lifted her foot, wincing at the second creak, before tiptoeing down the passage to the sleep room. Easing the door open, she darted inside, closing it behind her with a snick. She drew the curtains, letting munlight spill into the room, before turning to the figure on the bed. Shadowed Kerm vines twined up the bedframe and a fan of silver-tinted hair spread across the pillows. Joenie picked up a hairbrush from the bedside table and sat down on the corner of the bed.

Scooping up one of her mother’s tresses, she began to brush it out, her murmured voice rising and falling with the swish of bristle through hair. “We’re home, Mum. We stayed at the Grove hotel again on the way back and the waitress remembered us from last time. Dad was worried that something bad might happen to Meleny or Thombal so he sent them and Adbas away to Mr Patbro’s Grove. They’re back now though.” Joenie ran her fingers through the tress of hair, laying it to one side before picking up the next.

“We only stayed for one night at the Berelgan and Professor Erlin was busy, so I didn’t get to talk to Obrinn for very long. He sent a telegraph message to Jonelle for me.” Joenie smiled, munlight gleaming from her teeth. “He and Jonelle are getting good at using the Telegraph. They’ve started making up their own words for some things - I guess it’s quicker that way. I think you’d like Obrinn, Mum. He’s quite quiet compared to Jonelle, a bit like me and Adbas I guess.”

A silvery droplet trickled down Joenie’s cheek. “Dad was great on the television, telling everyone about you and Elton and Jonelle and Obrinn. He told me on the train that he didn’t think he’d be able to talk about you but he did. I think it worked - people are coming to visit again, the way they did when Dad was still part of Elton. They get to meet Elton and then we bring them in to see you as well. That’s why I’m brushing your hair for you again.” The brush rose and fell. “Dad said that they needed to know all about what can go wrong if they try to wake up their own Kerm, so they need to see you.”

Joenie sniffled. “You scared most of them I think but two of them weren’t afraid. There was one old guy – he was all smiley on the outside. He told uncle Enely that he wanted to be able to talk to his Kerm the way we talk to Elton. His eyes weren’t very smiley though – I think he was sad on the inside. I hope uncle Enely can help him quickly then he can come back soon.” Joenie blew her nose. “The other guy was much younger and sort of cute. I don’t think I’d better mention that to Adbas though – and definitely not to Dad. I wish I could talk to you about him, talk properly I mean…”

The silvery droplet became a rivulet, dripping onto the bedcovers. “It’s not fair, Mum. You can’t get to meet him, or Doctor Mallas or Professor Erlin. You can’t talk to Jonelle, or Obrinn or any of the other Kerm that uncle Enely has gone to help wake up. The brush clattered to the floor, the rivulet becoming a flood as Joenie buried her face in her mother’s unmoving arms. “I miss you, Mum. I wish you could…you would…” A choked sob forced its way out of her throat.

“…wish you would wake up too.”

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Quick aside - if you want a musical accompaniment to the Leviathan launch, may I recommend Thunderstruck by AC/DC - especially any live version!

One of my all time favourite rock intros. The way it starts with that lead guitar riff. Then we get a drumbeat backing it up before the bass kicks in. The music moves into the background for that first verse and then...

The sound of the drums. They’re beating in my heart.

The thunder of guns. Tore me apart.

You’ve been...

...

Thunderstruck

And just like that we’re off and riding that burning wall of sound into the sky!

 

Edited by KSK

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