KSK

First Flight (Chapter 96 - Humilisia Falls)

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On 11/9/2017 at 1:24 PM, roboslacker said:

Dang, I caught up.

I'll just have to get on with the next instalment then. :)

First draft of the replacement tech tree flavour text is done! I've updated my add-on thread with the latest ModuleManager patch file if anyone fancies giving it a try. Replacement part descriptions are ongoing but they'll be taking a back seat for a bit whilst I get on with the next First Flight chapter.

Edit. Just under 700 words on the page today. Not too bad all things considered and starting a new chapter is always the hardest bit anyway.

Edited by KSK
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OH. MY. GOD. I. FINALLY. CAUGHT. UP. WITH. THE. EDITING. REAL. LIFE. SUCKS.

Well, here's the 3 volumes: First Flight, First Flight: Kerbal Space Program, and First Flight: The Age of Fire

First Flight Volume I.pdf

First Flight Volume II.pdf

First Flight Volume III.pdf

This should be a lot easier to keep up with now that the volumes are properly redone

also @JakeGrey is it alright if i make a downloadable copy of The Next Frontier to incorporate here, since it takes place in the same universe? if so i need a link to it, as the one in your signature is broken

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2 minutes ago, Plecy75 said:

OH. MY. GOD. I. FINALLY. CAUGHT. UP. WITH. THE. EDITING. REAL. LIFE. SUCKS.

Well, here's the 3 volumes: First Flight, First Flight: Kerbal Space Program, and First Flight: The Age of Fire

First Flight Volume I.pdf

First Flight Volume II.pdf

First Flight Volume III.pdf

This should be a lot easier to keep up with now that the volumes are properly redone

also @JakeGrey is it alright if i make a downloadable copy of The Next Frontier to incorporate here, since it takes place in the same universe? if so i need a link to it, as the one in your signature is broken

Thanks for the offer, but I already made one to go online as a Patreon reward with illustrations drawn by a friend of mine... a project that unfortunately had to be placed on hold while my chosen illustrator was busy having her first child. You can also find it in the KSP section of AO3.

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5 minutes ago, JakeGrey said:

Thanks for the offer, but I already made one to go online as a Patreon reward with illustrations drawn by a friend of mine... a project that unfortunately had to be placed on hold while my chosen illustrator was busy having her first child. You can also find it in the KSP section of AO3.

ah ok, thanks for the location info tho. i was really freaking out trying to find it.

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Thanks for asking. :) 

I'll review the two sections that I have written and punt them over to yourself and Ten Key tonight if possible. The third section is picking up a completely unrelated plotline to the others anyway, so can be dealt with separately.

In a little more detail, the first section was relatively straightforward since it picks up directly from the end of the last chapter. The last section took a while to figure out a suitable POV to write it from and the middle section - ugh.  Finding a way into that was hard but hopefully it's moving along now.  

I cannot tell a lie - I've been procrastinating a fair bit with this chapter. Creative procrastination mind you - the part description mod is making steady progress and I even played a bit of KSP for the first time in forever.

Work has not been helpful either. The interior monologue on the way home has run something like this for the last several weeks.

"So why exactly are you doing this?"
"Well the pension is good."
"And?"
"The pension is good."
"Ah. Seriously, no other reason?"
"What the flarp else am I going to do? Bail out of this one and it's career change time."
"Hmph. Don't wanna think about that right now. Besides - change to what?"
"Exactly."
"Better suck in that gut lad and sign on for more of those sleepless nights, overflowing in-trays and non-stop streams of crashingly urgent deadlines then."
"Thanks."

Escaping to Kerbin has actually been rather cathartic - the trick has been finding the way there. 

Edited by KSK
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9 minutes ago, KSK said:

The last section took a while to figure out a suitable POV to write it from and the middle section - ugh.

Sometimes I really don't know how you manage to keep all that straight, and have done so so well for so long. I get befuddled enough just choosing two + extras. :confused:

12 minutes ago, KSK said:

Work has not been helpful either. The interior monologue on the way home has run something like this for the last several weeks.

"So why exactly are you doing this?"
"Well the pension is good."
"And?"
"The pension is good."
"Ah. Seriously, no other reason?"
"What the flarp else am I going to do? Bail out of this one and it's career change time."
"Hmph. Don't wanna think about that right now. Besides - change to what?"
"Exactly."

Get out of my head. :/

13 minutes ago, KSK said:

Escaping to Kerbin has actually been rather cathartic - the trick has been finding the way there. 

I've found following the sound of explosions will get you pretty close, then just go the opposite direction everyone is running in.

No, but really, summing up all of the above I keep a spare save around with some BD Armory stuff. Sometimes there's great insight to be found watching digital green guys pummel each other (and always quickloading them back!), and even when there's not... hey, more explosions! 

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4 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Get out of my head. :/

I've found following the sound of explosions will get you pretty close, then just go the opposite direction everyone is running in.

No, but really, summing up all of the above I keep a spare save around with some BD Armory stuff. Sometimes there's great insight to be found watching digital green guys pummel each other (and always quickloading them back!), and even when there's not... hey, more explosions! 

You're in the same boat? :(

Following the explosions is sound advice though. :) I don't have a BDArmory save but I can take my Converter* out for a spin. And a roll. And an uncontrolled pitch-over maneuver. Frequently all at once.

*Named after the notable Ussari VTOL craft (although there any resemblance likely ends) only considerably less stable or fuel efficient. Four Junos keep it off the deck, two more Junos push it along once it's airborne. It will maneuver but requires a light touch and much attention. Landing is... interesting, which is slightly ironic since I built the thing to be an easy to land, early tech tree craft for exploring Kerbin's biomes.

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I've found that flying really-close-to-the-ground sometimes helps gain new insights into things.  Low and fast, and preferably trying to skim the surface of the mountains when possible.  Get it right, it's a lot of fun.  Get it wrong, you get some cool fireworks.  Either way, it takes your mind off of something else and, at least for me, that sometimes helps with finding a solution to a problem.  Other times, though, it creates problems that need solutions, but those are KSP problems, which have solutions just waiting to be discovered.

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Sorry about the wait folks but at long last - the next chapter is up...


More Boosters

The grin disappeared from Jeb’s face. “Me?”

Nelton glanced at Ademone, who was keeping her expression carefully composed. She leaned forward, picked up her glass of water and took a sip. “An idea you borrowed from Jeb,” she repeated.

“Indeed,” said Lodan. “He had a considerable amount of help with its execution of course.” Lodan dipped his head at Geneney. “But I believe the original idea was his.”

Geneney’s face cleared. “The KIS?”

“Correct,” said Lodan. “A group of students and enthusiasts who took a minuscule experimental rocket engine and, by dint of sheer dogged determination, turned it into a fledgling space program. Who managed to parlay their one successful flight into a whole audacious enterprise which succeeded in putting the first kerbals into orbit. A highly unlikely proposition on the face of it but, against all reason and probability it worked - because you were able to rally your fellow kerbals to your cause for little more than food, lodgings and their own chance to fly into space.” Lodan leaned forward. “I believe we can do something similar again.”

“Two successful flights,” said Geneney faintly. “We did manage one all-up test before Kerbal 1.”

Nelton made no attempt to hide her disbelief. “That’s it? That’s the big idea? The world has moved on, Director.” She threw Geneney an apologetic look. “The KIS was an incredible achievement, as many former Rockomax kerbonauts would agree. But spaceflight is a business now and running it all on handshakes and shoestrings?” Nelton lifted her hands. “I don’t see it.”

Geneney downed the rest of his coffee and blotted his mouth. “Do we have any choice?” he asked. “Requisitioning isn’t going to work and if we try restarting Starseed in the normal way, I’d give our good Director about half a day of liberty after the first bill lands on a Council desk.” He shook his head. “Kerm knows how its all going to work KIS style though.”

Jeb pinched the bridge of his nose. “We could run it down the supply chains,” he said at last. “Start with the big contractors like Stratus, get them onboard first and take it from there.” He looked up. “You remember Pioneer 1, Genie?”

“For lots of reasons. Which one were you thinking of?”

“The one where we were talking about rockets without capsules.” Jeb turned to Lodan. “The night the Kerm crisis broke,” he explained. “I was wondering who would care about spaceflight with their Groves going up in flames. Gene thought that plenty of people would, except that the rockets wouldn’t be going so far and they wouldn’t have capsules on top.” Jeb’s expression turned grim. “I decided that they could get those rockets from somewhere else. I figure most of our suppliers would still agree with me - and if they don’t, they can take their business somewhere else!”

Ademone stirred. “I don’t think we’ll need to resort to that.” She looked at Lodan. “You always do choose your words carefully, Director.”

Lodan raised an eyebrow.

“Food,” said Ademone. “Guarantee that and we’ll have more volunteers than we know what to do with. Especially if we make it clear that the families of any volunteers get fed too.” She drummed her fingers on the table. “Play up the saving the world angle for the idealists, convince the rugged individualists that they, and not the good-for-nothing, paper-pushing government are going to be doing the saving…”

“Keep the media out of it,” said Jeb. “They’re bound to pick up on it sooner rather than later but we don’t put any official stories out. Right, Genie?”

Geneney nodded. “Keep it personal. Back in the early days we did all our flight planning in one of the local bars.” He grinned at the expression on Lodan’s face. “Well that didn’t hurt. But mostly it let everyone in Barkton come and find us if they wanted, ask any questions they liked. Once we started flying in earnest, there was a pretty good chance they could come and meet some of the new kerbonauts too.”

“Bob started up a weekly lecture series for the more serious folks,” Jeb added. “We did a ton of outreach work, ran tours of the Space Centre - whatever we needed to do to keep the public on board.”

“Including the part where Jeb persuaded Adelan to carry a pair of wedding torcs into orbit,” said Geneney.

Lodan placed his cup back onto its saucer. “That,” he said, “is a side of Jebediah’s personality that I would hear more of.”

“Nothing much to say,” grumbled Jeb. “He was good lad, wanted to give his lady something a bit different for their wedding, and we’d more or less worked through the early problems with the booster. So I asked Adelan to carry his torcs on Moho 4. Bill engraved the couple’s names on the backs - did a good job too.”

“A suitably important contractor I presume,” said Ademone.

“Actually no,” said Geneney quietly. “Just someone we met at Jorfurt’s one night. Said that watching the Moho 4 launch was the last thing he’d be doing before going back to his Grove to get married. I think his train ticket and those torcs were about all he had to his name at that point. Jeb promised to replace them if the originals… got lost.” Geneney leaned back in his chair. “However, it turned out that one of the fellows on the next table over was a very big contractor indeed and he was suitably impressed by Jeb’s offer.”

Nelton shook her head. “Good story but you’re crazy if you seriously think that a nice gesture or two will be enough to get Starseed back on track.” 

To her surprise, Jeb just grinned. “Crazy as a gronnek with its paw in a trap, as one old ‘kerb told me once at great length. He was a great old guy - listened to everything we had to say but clearly didn’t believe a word of it. That’s okay, he was far from the only one - just a bit more open about it. We could respect that.” Jeb looked Nelton in the eye. “Two months later to the day, we launched Moho 1. We made that work, Flight - we can make this work too.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.” Nelton caught sight of Ademone’s warning look. “But as Geneney said…” She stared down at the tabletop for a moment. “Fine. You manage to sweet-talk the biggest crowd of volunteers in history - into doing what?”

Lodan leaned forward. “I believe Jebediah and Geneney have already discussed this between themselves.” He looked at Jeb. “Would you care to share your conclusions?”

——————

“Kerm - there it goes again.”

“Thrust is dropping. C’mon engine - c’mon!”

James flicked a glance at the helium pressure gauge. The needle stuttered again then began a remorseless steady decrease. “Losing helium pressure, Flight - descent engine thrust dropping to match. How’s that guidance update?” He turned to the kerbonaut standing beside him and mimed pulling a ripcord. Calley nodded and began tapping at her computer keyboard.

“Still convergent, Pioneer but it can’t hold. Recommend mode 2 abort, minimum safe orbit.”

“Copy.” James’ eyes darted from the engine readouts to his navball and back. “Heliu…” The master alarm shrilled in his ear. “Punch it, Calley!” 

The lander cabin lurched under his feet, followed by a rapid-fire hammering from the RCS thrusters. The craters outside shot into view, oscillated for a moment, then settled.

“Engine armed! Ignition!”

James stared straight ahead through the cabin window as the ascent engine cover rattled under his feet. Beside him, Calley’s eyes were locked on her computer display. “C’mon, c’mon….c’mon! You beauty! Got a periapsis, Flight. Few more seconds should do it… and shutdown!”

“That’s a good burn, Pioneer. Bill - what have you got?”

“Descending to retrieval altitude on your mark, Flight. Burn program confirmed and loaded, CSM attitude is green. I have the checklist figures for circularisation once FD is on-loop.”

“Copy, Bill.”

“I can’t be sure without the lander guidance data, Flight but I don’t think our phasing will be much good.”

“FD concurs, Bill. Let’s get you down to thirty first and we’ll take it from there.”

For the next several hours, the cabin was filled with the steady cadence of kerbonauts reading off checklist items and confirming strings of numbers with the flight dynamics team at Mission Control. In the lander cabin, James and Calley helped with the calculations but could only listen to the flurry of activity from the command module that marked each of Bill’s burns.

“Residuals nulled, Flight. I think that’s done it.”

“That’s affirmative, Bill. Nicely co-elliptic and your systems are looking good. Okay team, let’s call it there. Nice work.”

James’ navball froze and the cabin light over his head came on, washing out the luminescent glow from his instrument panel. He dug his fists into the small of his back and stretched, slipping his boots out of their restraining loops. Calley turned and opened the door behind her, blinking as she stepped out of the dimly lit simulator cabin, onto the floor of the Kerbonaut Training Facility. She twisted her helmet clear of its neck ring and set it to one side before peeling off her headset and running her fingers through her sweaty hair. Across the room, Bill was climbing out of a separate simulator.

Calley turned her head at the sound of footsteps behind her. “Hi, Tomcas. What’s the verdict?”

“Not bad at all. Couple of things to go through but I’ll be letting Gene know we can move onto the ascent and rendezvous aborts next week.”

James began stripping off the outer layer of his spacesuit. “Good to hear, Sims - sounds like we’re back on schedule. Any news on the capsule?”

Tomcas grinned. “Heat shield’s been finished for a while, Jim. Last I heard, they had Bob and Camrie cooped up inside working through the post-installation electrics and environmental checks.”

“The lander’s looking just fine though!” said Calley, stripping off her own outer suit. “That rover fixed to the descent stage, all folded up as neat as you like. Can’t wait to see how it goes on the Mün!” She caught a glimpse of Bill’s face. “Kerm. Sorry, Bill - getting carried away with myself.”

“No need to apologise,” said Bill mildly. “I did mean it when I said that Munar orbit is good enough for me.” His eyes lost their focus. “Besides, the science planning team finally approved the Quiet Time radio experiments. The chances against hearing anything are astronomical and I doubt we’d pick up anything anyway with the antennas we have but we can’t get all the way out to the Mün and not try.”

“Ohh, congratulations - which stars did they choose?” said Calley.

“Cherint Prime and Proxima Cherint. No surprises there. Nearest stars to Kerbol and both reasonably Kerbol-like themselves? It’s where I’d start.” Bill smiled. “A couple of the keener members of the planning team wanted me to try listening to Zyrix too, as our next nearest neighbour, but that would take too much time out of the observation and photography schedule.”

Calley smiled back. “And I don’t see them ignoring Kerbin’s first kerbonaut photographer when he tells them that. That’s a thought though - how much training did you do for Kerbal 1?”

Bill blinked. “There wasn’t really anything to train for. I took my camera along in the first place because there wasn’t going to be any piloting to speak of. The only controls in the entire capsule were the emergency hatch jettison and the manual backups for the decouplers and chutes. Bob taped the heights for drogue and main chute deployment next to the altimeter and the decoupler timings were just a matter of waiting for the engine noise to stop and pressing the right button if the automatic systems failed. No need to work from the flight clock even.”

Tomcas clapped a hand over his suddenly rumbling stomach. “And it seems that my flight clock is telling me its lunch time. You folks want to grab something before the debrief?”

“Sounds good,” said Calley, “I find that performance reviews are always best done on a full stomach.”

The Pioneer 7 crew and Tomcas’s simulation team arrived at the half-empty canteen just in time to find everyone standing up to leave amidst a great clattering of cutlery and scraping of chairs. Tomcas spotted Derny squeezing past and tapped the chef on the shoulder. “Hey, Derny - what’s happening?”

Derny glanced over his shoulder. “Oh - hi Tomcas. Jeb’s called a general meeting. No idea what about.”

Jeb’s called the meeting?” 

“Yep. Surprised me too. Hardly seen him around the place for Kerm knows how long.”

Tomcas waited for the canteen to empty before darting in and snagging a packet of ration cubes from their stand. He ripped the top off and stuffed one of the chewy, dark cubes into his mouth before hurrying after the others. They slipped inside VAB 1 behind the rest of the crowd, James closing the side door behind them. Tomcas saw Jeb standing on a makeshift podium with Geneney, Ademone, Nelton and, he was astonished to see, Director Lodan. A squawk of static stilled the room and Jeb hastily adjusted his microphone.

“Can everyone hear me at the back? Okay.” Jeb cleared his throat. “Thanks for coming, folks. We’ve got a bit of an announcement to make, so rather than hold you up listening to me, I’m going to pass you straight across to Director Lodan and I’d ask you all to give him your full attention."

Lodan accepted the microphone from Jeb and surveyed the rows of faces staring back at him. Here goes nothing. 

“Good kerbals - Kerbin has a problem.” A stifled cough from the back of the crowd was the only sound to be heard in the vast assembly building. 

“We all heard President Obrick’s bold solution to that problem and we all know that solution has stalled in the face of worldwide events. I believe the time is right to get it back on track.” Lodan paused. “I am therefore cancelling the Endurance 2 space station and replacing it with one that is better suited to our immediate needs. The new station - and I am open to suggestions as to what to name it - will be constructed from modules designed for the Starseed colony ships. At present those modules exist on paper only and paper modules will not get us to Duna. We need flight ready hardware and we need the manufacturing and supply lines to produce it in quantity. The new station will be our test program for all of that.

Bill nodded to himself as Lodan continued. “More importantly, construction of the new station will also be our test program for assembling the colony ships in space. As you’ll be aware, on-orbit assembly on that scale is a challenge that the space program has barely begun to address thus far and represents an unacceptable failure potential for Starseed. Good kerbals - that failure is not an option. Now, before we get into the details, does anyone have any questions?

A forest of hands shot up. Jeb jumped down from the podium and handed over his microphone to the nearest questioner. Lodan listened, smiling humourlessly at her tone of voice.

“Indeed. Cutting right to the point then, I chose to make this announcement in Barkton for a reason.  For the moment, Starseed will be critically dependent on volunteers. A vain hope one might say, were it not for the fact that we know it works.” Lodan’s gaze swept the crowd. “The Kerbin Interplanetary Society - all of you here today - are living testimony to that. Yes?”

Ademone stepped forward amidst a growing rumble of voices. “With the Director’s permission, I also have an announcement to make.” She waited for Lodan to dip his head. “As of today, on behalf of my board of directors, I am hereby placing the entire facilities, assets and personnel of the Rockomax Corporation at Director Lodan’s disposal. Moreover, as of today, the Rockomax board and senior management, myself included, wish to give notice of their volunteer status and will remain on that status until such time as the KSA sees fit to rescind it.” 

A faint smile crossed Ademone’s face. “A long time ago, a bold kerbal persuaded me to join him in building the first cooperative project between Rockomax and the Kerbin Interplanetary Society. That project was the CORDS program and it proved that two radically different organisational cultures could work together for their common good.”  The light caught Ademone’s face. “The CORDS program was the first step on the road to Pioneer 4. For as that same bold kerbal told me; what matters is that we tried. What matters is that future generations will be able to look back at a time when we were magnificent.” 

Ademone bowed her head then looked up, steely eyes radiating determination. “Rockomax stands with the KIS again. Together we will make this work.”

A tight look of approval crossed Bill’s face at Ademone’s words but, as the questions from the crowd continued and the scale of Lodan’s plans became clear, his heart began to sink. Mentally, he began adding up the number of launches needed to build the new station, a cold certainty settling over him like a cloud. He looked at Calley and saw the same cold certainty and resignation in her expression. James’s face was unreadable. Bill mimed pulling a ripcord and both his crewmates nodded slowly.

“…that’s correct. Most of the volunteers won’t ever get near the spacecraft they help to build. Theirs will be the hard, unglamorous work of reforging the necessary chains of trust between companies and kerbals around the world. We expect - and Kerbin requires - no less of them…”

“…Not immediately. Restarting R7 development will happen but the immediate priority will be to accelerate Type 6 production to meet the demand for more boosters.” Lodan saw a lone raised hand near the door and craned his neck trying to spot its owner. “Yes?”

“We can help with that, Director.”

Jeb froze. Oh Kerm take us all. Surprised murmurs rippled through the crowd. From the podium, an astonished Lodan watched a parting wave flowing from the back of the assembly floor, row after row of figures stepping aside to let the Pioneer 7 crew through. Bill cleared his throat. 

“We’ve got two spare boosters here that you’d be welcome to use.”

The cavernous assembly building fell utterly silent. On the podium, Geneney and Ademone exchanged startled glances and Lodan’s normally imperturbable expression slipped a notch. He raised his eyebrows at Geneney and was answered by a slow nod.

“The offer is appreciated, Bill. Your crewmembers - may I ask…?”

“We’re with Bill,” Calley called out.

“Bill speaks for us all, Director,” James’ quiet tones carried to the far corners of the crowd.

Lodan opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head. “Then I accept your offer, Pioneer 7… I accept it with heartfelt thanks.”

——————

Elton sighed to himself, flexed his leaves, and slipped his fibres through the invisible zones of toxins that marked the boundary between his territory and Jonelle’s. Immediately they began to tingle, then burn with a prickling heat, the sparks marking Jonelle’s defensive echelons of soil-borers making glittering beelines for him. His own sparks twitched in response, momentarily lured by a trickle of pheromones that he couldn’t quite suppress. As always, his instincts flared, skeins of microscopic nodules along his fibres swelling, poised to unleash their own chemical arsenals on the intruders. Then Gerselle’s face swam before him, pale and unmoving, and the nodules subsided. 

Elton pressed on through the rapidly intensifying barrage, ignoring the scorching lines of fire cobwebbing across his outer roots and steering directly for the heaviest concentrations of effectors and counter-toxins that revealed Jonelle’s own fibres. The ripping jolt as he brushed against them flattened every root hair for kilometres around, a boiling fury that clawed at his mind even as the second wave of beetles clawed at his own effectors. He held his ground, letting Jonelle rage at him, projecting calm reassurance in return. 

As always, the assault grew too much to bear. Elton held out a last, lingering image before breaking the link and making an orderly, stepwise withdrawal. At each step he paused, nodules leaking out just enough of their contents to reveal a glimpse of his own potent weaponry. The thin trail left, or so he hoped, the unmistakeable message to Jonelle that this retreat was no sign of weakness but a deliberate decision not to fight. As his scarred and burning fibres pulled back into the cool, damp earth of his own territory, he hoped for both their sakes that his message would be heeded this time.

——————

Enely trudged across the yellowing and wilted village green, grocery bags swinging at his side, trying his best to ignore the angry comments following him. Transferring both bags to one hand, he waved at a huddle of suspicious-looking villagers, who watched him go by before turning their backs on him. 

As he drew closer to Gerselle’s hut, yellow grass turned to brown, dotted with sickly, mildew-dappled flowers. The gardens around the hut, once decked out in bold primary colours that only a kerblet could love, was in equally bad shape. Stringy knotweed mats ran riot, broken by clumps of hookwort that were slowly but surely gaining a foothold around the larger bushes.  Enely stopped to inspect one of them, noting the aphids crawling over the brown-tipped leaves. He glanced up at the pristine Kerm branches overhead and frowned.

The door swung open with a squeal of un-oiled hinges, eliciting another sigh from Enely. One more task to add to the list. Pulling off his boots, he walked over to the kitchen counter and began unpacking the groceries before the muffled voices from inside Gerselle’s sleep room caught his attention. Frowning, he stepped lightly over to the door, threw it open and was confronted by a defiant Joenie and a guilty-looking Adbas. 

“Come on, Joenie. You know you’re not meant to be in here.”

Joenie scowled at him. “Came to see Mummy.” She scuffed her feet against the floorboards. “I’m bored. Everyone runs away from me outside.”

“Please tell me you haven’t been talking to Jonelle, Joenie. You know you promised Jont… daddy, that you wouldn’t do that.” He was answered by a long-suffering eye roll.

“Course not. I told you - we just came to see if Mummy had woken up.”

“Joenie didn’t do anything, Mr Enely,” said Adbas earnestly. “I’d make sure she didn’t.” 

I don’t think you’d be able to stop her, young one. Enely hid his amusement behind an approving expression, carefully ignoring Joenie’s mutinous look. “I know you would, Adbas - thank you.”

Adbas grabbed Joenie around the waist in a sudden, clumsy hug. “Maybe your mum will wake up tomorrow, ‘Nie.”

Joenie blushed dark green and threw a mortified glance at Enely. “I told you not to call me that in front of the grownups!” she hissed at Adbas. “Come on - let’s go!

At that moment, Meleny emerged from the moss room, narrowly avoiding being bowled over by the fleeing kerblets. Enely kept his expression carefully neutral until they were out of sight before turning to Meleny with raised eyebrows.

“I heard them,” she replied. “She’s sensible enough not to try anything and Adbas would stop her if she did. Try to stop her,” she amended.

Enely nodded. “Did you know that Adbas has a special name for her?”

Meleny chuckled softly. “Nie you mean?” She saw Enely’s expression and rolled her eyes. “They’re kerblets, Enely. Did you never have a nickname when you were young?”

“No, never.” Enely looked slightly abashed. “Amongst the Hazachim, such things are…personal between newly-weds, or soon-to-be-weds.”

“Well they’re both far too young for that, although I’m pretty sure Adbas is soft on her.” Meleny glanced at the clock. “Anyway, it’s time you were speaking to Jonelle - I’ll leave you to it.”

“Thank you.” Enely waited for Meleny to leave the room before lying down on the spare bed. Shivering despite himself, he glanced at the floor around the bed, remembering the eruption of hideously transformed healing vines Then he lifted his head up to the waiting leaf cluster.

Hello, Jonelle.

<Enely> The young Kerm’s voice was flat. <I want to talk to Joenie, not you>

I’m sorry, Jonelle. I think Joenie wants to talk to you too but you know I promised Jonton not to let her. I could get Patbro to talk to you again if you like?

<Don’t want Patbro. I want Joenie. Want Gerselle more but she isn’t here. Don’t think she’s coming back>

Sorrow chased away Enely’s frustration. I want Gerselle to come back as well. The Communion link made any platitudes meaningless. But I don’t know if she ever will.

<I will keep her alive but I will also talk to Joenie. Now>

Enely’s mind reeled under the blow. For a moment there was certainty and a fleeting puzzlement. Why shouldn’t Joenie be allowed to Commune with Jonelle? In fact why wasn’t she already Communing? He felt his legs swinging sideways off the bed, eager to obey. Then his mental barriers, honed from constant use, snapped back into place.

Please don’t do that, Jonelle. He sensed anger and frustration followed by a wheedling slyness.

<not talking to Joenie makes me sad. I can make all the kerbal plants sick when I’m sad. Lots and lots of them, not just the ones by my roots>

No! Alarm spiked across the link followed by a torrent of images. A team of chainsaw wielding kerbals cutting down Kerm trees, their heavily padded protective suits and bubble helmets impervious to the needle-tipped vines lashing at them. Terrified kerbals fleeing as Jonelle’s own vines erupted around Gerselle’s bed. The same kerbals, fear and anger in their eyes, watching him walk past. The kerbals are already frightened by you, Jonelle. If you hurt the plants they’ll be frightened enough to kill you. 

A stunned silence echoed around the mindscape.

<I am Kerm. It is right that kerbals should be afraid of me> Confusion rippled down the link to Enely. <but not Gerselle. That would not be right. Or Joenie.> Unseen, the ground began to bulge around Enely’s bed. <I protect Joenie. I don’t want her to be afraid>

I know. Enely did his best to project sympathy and reassurance. I know it’s confusing and I know somebody who can help you. Before he could shape his thoughts around Elton’s name, the mental image gave him away.

<No! Not the big Kerm> Jonelle’s mental tone turned savage. <Big Kerm keeps attacking me but I am stronger! Tell it to stop. Keep away from me, stop showing me stupid picture!>

Picture? said Enely in surprise. What picture? Can you show me, Jonelle?

The mindscape cleared. His own mental image of Elton appeared: an ancient Kerm on a hilltop, the elaborate, multi-story hut around its trunk sheltered by sparkling branches. The image drew closer, revealing a shimmering gauzy fabric draped over them. Then it drew closer still and Enely saw that the fabric was made up of thousands of silverlace butterflies, shining in the dawn sun.
 

Edited by KSK
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Huzzah! Now the space program can get back to being a space program! Since when do up-beat things happen in First Flight?

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Fine chapter, and a heck of a sacrifice from the Pioneer 7 crew for "the needs of the many".

One does wonder what they might hear if they did turn their antennae toward Zyrix, though...  :wink:

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22 hours ago, IncongruousGoat said:

Huzzah! Now the space program can get back to being a space program! Since when do up-beat things happen in First Flight?

Heh. :) 

Next chapter picks up from the end of this one, so it's all a bit Kermy. After that though, I have to figure out a way of putting Lodan's fine words into action!

13 hours ago, Commander Zoom said:

Fine chapter, and a heck of a sacrifice from the Pioneer 7 crew for "the needs of the many".

One does wonder what they might hear if they did turn their antennae toward Zyrix, though...  :wink:

If I remember rightly, suspicious amounts of static (aka transmissions garbled down to noise) in certain radio bands. If they were lucky. :) 

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Never sure what to say here, since I know... things... and don’t want to reference the wrong one. :wink: So I’ll just say moar plz. :D

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On 1/3/2018 at 6:45 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

Never sure what to say here, since I know... things... and don’t want to reference the wrong one. :wink: So I’ll just say moar plz. :D

Thanks. :) 

Moar is on its way to the tune of just under 1200 words. I'm never terribly good at estimating chapter lengths but the next one should* be relatively short and I'm hoping to have a good chunk of it done by the end of the weekend.*

* Actual delivery time may vary and can depend on the current phase of the Moon, whether my star sign is ascendant in Sagittarius, whether I have sudden inspiration for moar stuff that just has to be added, the Scottish weather and not getting called away on emergency maternity babysitting cover for a friend.**
** I'm quite serious about this one. :) 

 

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10 hours ago, KSK said:

and not getting called away on emergency maternity babysitting cover for a friend.**

Heh, now I have this image of @KSK with the wee bern in one arm and a copy of First Flight in the other. Fast forward a few weeks:

Mum: “awww he's about to his first word!”

Da’: “. . . och, what’s a Kerm?”

 

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Next chapter is up...


Family Tree

Enely frowned at the silverlace in confusion. Then his jaw dropped. Sweet Kerm above… Oh I’m sorry, Jonelle, not you. The sudden flare of pain in his lip and the salty taste of blood in his mouth barely registered. Butterfies, he murmured under his breath. Jonelle, does Elton - the big Kerm -ever say anything else?

<no. Nothing else. Just the stupid picture, then I scare it away.> Jonelle paused <what are butterfies?>

Butterflies, said Enely. They’re the little creatures on Elton’s branches there but I’m not quite sure what he’s trying to say. He’s showing you a picture of Joenie’s birthday present from Jonton, he said, half to himself, does he want to talk to Joenie? The mindscape flickered as Enely shook his head, tugging at the leaf hairs embedded in his scalp. That can’t be right - he’d just ask Patbro to send a message next time they Communed. Maybe he’s trying to send you a birthday present, Jonelle - but why choose one that only me or Joenie would recognise?

<what is a birthday present?>

Hmmm? Oh - kerbals like to celebrate the day their kerblets - their small kerbals - were born by making them toys or giving them other nice things. It was a few years ago now but Jonton… arranged the butterfly tree as a pretty surprise for Joenie.

<Joenie is Jonton’s kerblet?>

Startled, Enely turned to face Jonelle’s presence. Yes of course - did nobody tell you that Jonton’s her father? He sensed the Kerm’s confusion. Do you remember what I told you about mummys?

<yes. They look after the kerblets>

That’s right. Well another word for mummy is mother. And along with their mother, most kerblets have a father too.

<why?>

Well it takes two kerbals to… Enely coughed. Never mind - they just do. But just like mothers, fathers look after their kerblets too and give them birthday presents. A blast of cinnamon assaulted his nostrils.

<if the big Kerm is trying to send me a birthday present…is it trying to be my father?>

Images flickered past: Gerselle holding a mottled yellow and brown gourd; a group of kerbals wearing robes and backpacks, standing on a rocky slope; a pair of hands scooping a shallow pit in a patch of gritty soil and placing the gourd in it; Gerselle tamping soil over the gourd before sprinkling water over it. I hadn’t thought about it like that before, Enely said slowly, but you grew from his seed pod so yes…yes I suppose in a way he is your father. 

The mindscape heaved, blowing Enely’s image of Elton into a thousand glittering fragments.

<NO> NONONO> <not right! Not my father! Big Kerm fight me - I fight back! >

Jonelle! It’s alright - it’s alright! How did Elt… the big Kerm fight you? Did he hurt you? 

The mindscape turned pitch black, incomprehensible streaks and whorls of multicoloured light firing back at him, drowned in a torrent of fear and raw anger. Sparks ripped by him, swarming against an relentless intruder more sensed than seen. Buffeted and bruised, Enely clung on to his vantage point, Jonelle’s presence expanding all around him. Another wave of sparks rippled past fanning out into twisting streams that coiled around hundreds of invisible somethings in a cobweb of brilliant motes. And at last, he saw.

Jonelle - stop! All the sparks are yours - the big Kerm isn’t fighting back! Whatever he’s showing you the picture is for, that’s all he wants to do.

<big Kerm in my soil. Doesn’t need sparks to make a fight!>

Enely’s mind raced. Let me help you! I’ll talk to Elton and tell him you’ve seen the picture, that he can stop invading your soil. He cast about for anything to calm the enraged Kerm. I’ll talk to Jonton too and ask him if Joenie can talk to you!

The mindscape froze.

<I can talk to Joenie?>

I don’t know. I need to talk to Jonton first but I promise I’ll ask him. If you let me go, I’ll go right now.

The leaf hairs whipped free of his scalp. Enely collapsed against his pillows, a thin trickle of blood leaking from one corner of his mouth.

——————

Jonton sat up in bed and eyed the large paper bag in Enely’s hand with keen anticipation His friend drew out a large bunch of sunfruit with a flourish and laid them on the bedside table. Jonton tore off a handful of berries and stuffed them into his mouth, a blissful smile lighting up his face. Grabbing a tissue he dabbed the juice from his chin and swallowed, before helping himself to another berry.
“Ahhh. You would not believe how much I’ve been looking forward to some fruit - thanks, Enely. Hospital food isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be but it’s definitely been light on fresh produce lately.”

Enely decided not to trouble him with details of Jonelle’s threatened blighting of the Grove crops. “Last of the season,” he said. “You were lucky I managed to save some.” He studied Jonton’s face, noting the puffy, still-darkened flesh around his eye and the line of scabbed-over puncture marks running from temple to nose. “You’re looking better than when I last saw you.”

Jonton yawned. “Sorry. Yes - the punctures have been properly closed for a couple of days now but this finishing course of anti-venoms makes me awfully sleepy. I expect Dr. Altop will be here soon to chivvy me out of bed for an hour.” He popped another berry into his mouth and gestured at the window. “You couldn’t put these over there could you? Otherwise I’ll just lie here and munch the lot.”

Enely arranged the remaining sunfruit in the fruit bowl on the windowsill before pulling up a chair beside Jonton’s bed and perching on the edge of it, hands knotted together in his lap. Jonton looked at him soberly “No news I take it? How’s Joenie doing?”

Enely forced a smile onto his face. “Adbas is looking after her.” He saw Jonton’s raised eyebrows. “I caught the two of them in Gerselle’s room - the young lad assured me that he wouldn’t let Joenie talk to Jonelle. Not in so many words of course.” He raised a finger at Jonton’s rapidly darkening expression. “Meleny was keeping an eye on them too.”

“Well that’s something.” Jonton muttered. “How about Jonelle. How’s she doing?”

Enely stared at his hands. “Badly,” he said. “She’s missing Gerselle and still keeps wanting to Commune with Joenie instead. Patbro was a good distraction for a while but then he mentioned Elton and that was the end of that.” He looked up. “The garden’s in a sorry state and the village green is going the same way. Which isn’t encouraging the neighbours to visit.”

Jonton saw the shadows behind his friend’s eyes. “Has anything happened?” he asked.

“Joenie’s getting the worst of it,” said Enely. “None of them let their kerblets get anywhere near her. Pillars preserve Meleny - without her and Adbas around, I don’t know what we would have done.” He sighed. “The neighbours have made it quite clear that I’m about as welcome as speargrass in the malkaball field too but I’m old enough and ugly enough to handle it.”

“That doesn’t make it any easier though,” said Jonton. “Pillars preserve you too for shouldering it all.” He rubbed his eyes. “For what it’s worth, they’re good people but they’ve been through a lot. Starting with a wrecked prickleberry harvest and…” The sudden tightening around the other’s jaw stopped him dead. “She hasn’t…”

“No,” said Enely, “but she’s threatened to unless she gets to Commune with Joenie.” He forced himself to look Jonton in the eye. “They’d kill her wouldn’t they?”

“And Gerselle with her.” Jonton held his head in his hands. “| don’t know - I just don’t know. Right now I think they’re still too frightened of the vines to do anything but if the crops start failing on top of everything else… What’s your expression about mallek backsides and cactus spines?”

Enely didn’t reply. “There’s one more thing,” he said eventually. “Elton’s been trying to - talk to her I guess, or whatever the Kerm do instead. And I think he’s trying to send you a message too.” He told Jonton about the silverlace tree and his conversation with Jonelle. “Which didn’t go well. In fact its why I came to visit again so soon - I promised I’d ask you…”

“To let Joenie Commune with her?”

“Yes.” Enely hesitated. “I don’t think she’d hurt her, Jonton. Not deliberately.  She wasn’t at all concerned about frightening everyone else but she was protective of Joenie.” He swallowed. “If she can’t be with Gerselle then I think she wants to be with Gerselle’s daughter instead.”

Jonton’s expression turned stony then sagged in bitter resignation. “No choice,” he muttered to himself. “And the Pillars preserve me for it.” He looked at Enely. “Do it. But I want you there too to protect them both - and to persuade them to Commune with Elton.” He saw the skepticism in Enely’s eyes. “He wants to Commune with them - that much is clear, although I don’t know exactly why.” He gestured at the room around him in frustration. “I need to get out of here and talk to him.”

The door opened and Dr Altop bustled in. He glanced at Enely. “Good - you can keep him company. Make sure he gets a proper hour of exercise.”

Jonton noted the doctor’s rumpled white coat and lined face. “Actually,” he said. “I’m feeling well enough to go home, I think. I’m sure Enely would make sure I got there in one piece.”

“Don’t be absurd.” Altop inspected Jonton’s scabs. “This is the first time all week that I haven’t needed to wake you up for your afternoon walk. He frowned. “And if you think I’m letting my test subject out of my sight when…” He sighed. “Never mind.”

A chill ran down Jonton’s spine. “You’re treating more of them aren’t you? More Kerm-stung I mean.”

“I am,” said Altop tersely. “And I need to get back to my other ward, so I think we’d better stick with our normal routine today if you don’t mind.” He saw the silent desperation in Jonton’s eyes and his expression softened. “Maybe for the weekend, if you’re still improving by the end of the week.”

“But I need to Commune with…” Jonton’s voice tailed away. “Maybe he could help. If there’s any venom left in me, maybe he could treat it…”

“Are you completely out of your mind?” snapped Altop. “Or have you just forgotten about your first examination?”

“Elton would be different.” Jonton sat up, bedcovers falling away from him. “I could talk to him first, let him know what to expect - he wouldn’t panic like your Kerm! Please, doctor - I can explain everything.” Jonton launched into a hurried summary of his conversation with Enely. “So you see,” he concluded, “it’s for all their sakes, but especially…” His voice tailed away and he gave Altop a pleading look.

The medic dropped onto the spare chair and fixed Jonton with a brittle stare. “You know,” he said conversationally. “If I was new to all this, I’d be taking you - very gently - along to the Blight trauma ward about now. I understand that our standard sedative causes very pleasant dreams. Fortunately - or unfortunately for me - I’m not new to it.” He rubbed his eyes. “And you do appear to be healing at last.”

Jonton crossed his fingers under his bedcovers as Altop ran his fingers through his hair. “Oh Kerm take it all. Very well -  I’ll arrange to have you discharged for care at home. On two conditions.” Altop held up a finger. “One - that you book yourself in for a weekly check-up until I’m convinced that you’re fully recovered.” A second finger joined the first. “And two - if Elton is able to treat you, that you promise to ask if he would be willing to help with our most desperate cases.”

Jonton swallowed hard. “I will and I do,” he said. “I can’t promise that he’ll agree to help but I can promise to ask him.”

——————

Head down, Enely walked across the much-recovered village green, oblivious to the scattering of kerbals watching him go. A splash of colour caught his eye as he approached the hut and he stopped to squat down by a lopsided square of newly planted star poppies, smiling at the sight of Joenie’s little wheelbarrow and her trowel stuck in the soil beside the flowers. He leaned over and tugged at a straggle of browning knotweed, nodding in satisfaction as it pulled free of the ground, a long, rank root emerging behind it. He tossed the dead weed into the wheelbarrow and continued on his way.

Inside, he found Meleny watching over Joenie, Adbas on the floor by her feet working on a jigsaw puzzle. He jumped to his feet at the sound of the sleep room door opening. “Hi, Mr Enely!”

“Hello, Adbas,” Enely looked at Meleny. “Any problems?”

“None,” said Meleny. “No cinnamon, no drooping branches, thrashing branches, or anything. And Joenie seems quite happy too.” She sighed. “I think it’s doing them both good to have somebody to play with.”

Enely thought back to the gardening tools by the star poppies. “Yes.” he said. “I know Joenie used to enjoy Communing with Jonton when he was an-Kerm, so I suppose Communing with Jonelle is even better - like talking to a friend rather than talking to her father.” A pensive expression crossed his face. “In some ways, Jonelle is very much like a kerblet.”

“Complete with temper tantrums,” said Meleny with a shiver.

Adbas looked up from his jigsaw. “I want to play with Jonelle too, Mummy.”

“I know you do, sweetheart but we don’t want to scare her by letting too many people talk to her at once. Maybe when she gets a bit older.”

Enely saw Adbas’s face turn sulky. “Your mum’s right, Adbas. I tell you what though - it’s almost time for lunch and after that I think it’s time for Joenie to play with her other friends instead.” He patted the kerblet on the shoulder before walking over to the spare bed and settling himself under the waiting leaf cluster. White light engulfed him and the sounds of giggling drifted past his ears.

<hello, Enely>

Enely! Do you want to play the creepy bug game too?

Enely blinked. What game is that, Joenie? As if in response, the light swirled away and he found himself plummeting towards a lopsided square of rippling colours amidst a washed out pastel blur.

There’s another one there!

It was all Enely could do to fight off his sudden bout of motion sickness. The mindscape wobbled disconcertingly before swimming into focus, the washed out pastels flashing into a migrainous spike of colour before subsiding again. For a second he sensed Jonelle’s increased concentration.

And another one! Get it, Jonelle!

<I do not need to. These plants fight back>

Enely watched rings of silvery speckles fanning out from a myriad of unseen points, criss-crossed by darker flecks. A diffuse swarm of blue sparks began to coalesce around the speckles, slowly but surely homing in on the flecks. He stared through them, deliberately letting his mind drift then, as before, he saw. Roots under attack by…something and exuding…something else to lure protectors to them.

<you must find this fighting plant. More of it will help clean the soil near my roots>

Clean up the mess that you made said a tiny voice in the back of Enely’s mind. He felt Joenie’s frown as she studied the projected image of her poppy patch.

‘kay. I’ll find it. Enely will help me, won’t you, Enely? Joenie’s mental voice brightened. I’ve been helping Jonelle find the bad bugs in my garden, so she can kill them with the good bugs! She sensed Enely’s bemusement. It’s fun - you’ll see!

I’m sure it is, Joenie but it’s lunch time now - Adbas and Meleny are waiting for us. Enely paused. Has Elton tried to talk to you?

The mindscape snapped back to a uniform white light.  <no. Big Kerm hasn’t come back> 

I know, said Enely gently. Jonton asked him to stay away from your soil. The weight of Jonelle’s sudden puzzlement pressed against his mind.

<Jonton tell big Kerm what to do?>

Yes. He promised me that if you let Elton talk to you that he would be there to make him go away again if you started to get scared.

<this is very strange. Big Kerm doing what kerbal says> There was a long silence. Enely felt Jonelle’s presence withdrawing before sidling back again. A sly thread of thought brushed against his mind.

<I talk to big Kerm but only if Jonton and Enely and Joenie are there too>

Of course. Enely kept his mental tone deliberately casual. Jonton will want to catch up with everyone anyway. But now - it really is time for us to eat. Could you let us both go please, Jonelle?

———————

<he comes> 

Jonelle’s mental voice was tense. Enely sensed the flicker of shared nervousness between the young Kerm and Joenie and imagined himself putting his arms around them both. The  image of a kerbal with its arms wrapped around a Kerm trunk made Joenie giggle, and the tension eased slightly.

<he comes>

Enely steeled himself before projecting reassurance with all the conviction he could muster. It’s alright, Jonelle - he’s not here to fight. He just wants to talk. He felt the first faint flickers of another awareness at the fringes of Jonelle’s mindscape. The awareness expanded, acquiring definition and familiarity and then stopped. A second awareness came forward, as if out of a wall of mist. Joenie’s presence darted past him with a cry.

Daddy!

A flurry of images and emotions lit around them, quicksilver bright, whirling past too quickly to follow, before settling on an image of Jonton hugging his daughter. Enely caught snatches of laughter amidst the salty tang of tears. The misty wall at the edge of his vision seemed to absorb the outburst, its steadying presence maintaining a discreet distance. With a final squeeze, Jonton released Joenie and turned to face Jonelle with a respectful bow.

Jonelle. Thank you for looking after Joenie for me.

Jonelle was silent. Enely sensed her confusion and sudden shyness, followed by a sudden flicker of alarm as the wall of mist began to fade. All three kerbals instinctively reached out to her in reassurance. The last tatters of mist swirled away, revealing a vast, tranquil mindscape bordering Jonelle’s yet still separated by a thin black line.

<I also thank you for looking after the daughter of my first of Keepers> 

A sapling sprouted from the black line, growing at an impossible rate. A gale of wholly alien emotions buffeted the emerging Kerm tree, its branches creaking and swaying under the onslaught and in the process, damping it. Then the branches shimmered under a sudden cloak of silver-winged butterflies and the gale abruptly blew itself out.

<daddy?>

Lightning flickered around the edges of the second mindscape accompanied by a fleeting wave of surprise. <I had not thought so in kerbal words but you speak truth…my daughter?> Elton seemed to gather himself <Yes, Jonelle, I am…daddy> 

Elton turned to the dumbfounded kerbals. One of the butterflies flew over and perched quivering on Joenie’s hand. <I would be happy to talk more, Joenie> The Kerm smiled. <but for now, I would ask you to leave us, my friends. My daughter and I - we have much to discuss>

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On 1/4/2018 at 6:45 PM, CatastrophicFailure said:

Heh, now I have this image of @KSK with the wee bern in one arm and a copy of First Flight in the other. Fast forward a few weeks:

Mum: “awww he's about to his first word!”

Da’: “. . . och, what’s a Kerm?”

:)  The wee lad has arrived safely, with all fingers and toes present and correct. Mother and baby doing well. He was asleep for pretty much the whole time when I went round to visit yesterday but given that he was only at T+60 hours or thereabouts, that's to be expected.

@roboslacker and @Garibaldi2257 - cheers for the comments! Next chapter is rolling along nicely with just short of 2000 words down this weekend. More usefully, I'm starting to get a feel for how the next couple of chapters are going to go.

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10 hours ago, KSK said:

The wee lad has arrived safely, with all fingers and toes present and correct. Mother and baby doing well. He was asleep for pretty much the whole time when I went round to visit yesterday but given that he was only at T+60 hours or thereabouts, that's to be expected.

You’re getting him a Planet mobile right? Every aspiring young Spacelad needs a planet mobile. And other spacey things. Especially noisy ones that will drive his parents bonkers. :D

And, as always, looking forward to the next chapters too!

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Wow, I finally, FINALLY caught up and can now join the discussion without causing confusion by asking about too old chapters.

 

This story is a frickin' BLAST to read, even more so than emiko station! It's all so well thought out that it just makes perfect sense despite it all being fictional (or is it? who knows...)!

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1 hour ago, DualDesertEagle said:

This story is a frickin' BLAST to read, even more so than Emiko Station!

Hey!!!!  :mad:

(hehe)

Just kidding, I'm also a big fan of @KSK

 

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