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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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I remember Apollo 17. I was sad that that was the last flight once I found out. I was expecting the next step, the next project, to being a base. As a 12 year old, I couldn't understand why we were stopping.

So I started writing NASA due to a suggestion by my Mother. I can't even remember what I asked about. Sent the letter off, not really expecting much. But a while later I got a large envelope in the mail. In it was a nice letter and. A Glossy, 8x11 Photograph of a Mercury rocket BLASTING OFF THE PAD!!!!!

Man I went on a letter writing stint big time. By the time the summer of 72 was over I had filled my room with photos, charts and maps (even the moon) that NASA gave me.

Over the next few years I had photos of the Apollo/Soyuz program. Tons of Apollo photos from the Saturn V rockets, LEM and the rover. The shuttle program followed this. There was not an empty space on my wall.

Sadly, I lost all of that over the years.

But it was the best time of my young life!

Edit: I still don't understand why we stopped. Lol!

Edited by BostLabs
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I remember Apollo 17. I was sad that that was the last flight once I found out. I was expecting the next step, the next project, to being a base. As a 12 year old, I couldn't understand why we were stopping.

So I started writing NASA due to a suggestion by my Mother. I can't even remember what I asked about. Sent the letter off, not really expecting much. But a while later I got a large envelope in the mail. In it was a nice letter and. A Glossy, 8x11 Photograph of a Mercury rocket BLASTING OFF THE PAD!!!!!

Man I went on a letter writing stint big time. By the time the summer of 72 was over I had filled my room with photos, charts and maps (even the moon) that NASA gave me.

Over the next few years I had photos of the Apollo/Soyuz program. Tons of Apollo photos from the Saturn V rockets, LEM and the rover. The shuttle program followed this. There was not an empty space on my wall.

Sadly, I lost all of that over the years.

But it was the best time of my young life!

Edit: I still don't understand why we stopped. Lol!

You lost all of that? That would have been worth something (money or memories, or other things that you can measure worth in), should have put it in a box or something. Cool that you had that though! I am sad that they cancelled Constellation, but that's just me (I have something of an affinity for the Altair lander: it was so cool!).

Anyway, good to hear the story is going along well! Keep at it!

Edited by Mr. Pseudonym
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Oh I had it all boxed up. I stored it with my parents while I was in the Marine Corps. During that time they moved from Oklahoma to Arizona. Lots of stuff was ditched for that move. My 'Space stuff' was part of it. :(

I'm pretty sure Dad said something along the lines of 'why does he need all this crap for?'.

And like my 60's comic book collection, it disappeared. LOL!

Don't let this derail your story KSK. I await the next chapter eagerly.

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BostLabs said:
Oh I had it all boxed up. I stored it with my parents while I was in the Marine Corps. During that time they moved from Oklahoma to Arizona. Lots of stuff was ditched for that move. My 'Space stuff' was part of it. :(

I'm pretty sure Dad said something along the lines of 'why does he need all this crap for?'.

And like my 60's comic book collection, it disappeared. LOL!

Don't let this derail your story KSK. I await the next chapter eagerly.

Oh it hasn't :) Besides a digression onto astronauts and Apollo era memorabilia with an ex (I'm guessing) Marine, a guy from Poland and other people from around the world, remind me of why the internet is in fact amazing!

Anyhow, next chapter is now up...

Project Moho

Jeb paused again and adopted a deliberately casual tone. “So if anyone wants to put their name down, just drop by my office. I've left a stack of cards on my desk - if I'm not there just write your name on a card and leave it there. You'll have plenty of time to think it over, crew selection won't be till the end of the week."

There was an amused snort from the back of the group. “Or we could just have a show of hands right now," said Ornie, “Whether they're going or not, I don't figure anyone is going to need a week to make up their minds. So - who's for volunteering?"

Twenty three hands rose into the air. Jeb looked startled but started to count the hands. “Or alternatively - who doesn't want to volunteer?"

Not a single hand went up.

Jeb blinked. “I wasn't joking about bigger engines you know. I'm not even sure how we're going to build them yet. And you're all asking to be put in a seat on top of the biggest, most dangerous rocket we've ever built, and fired into space?"

Twenty three pairs of large round eyes stared unblinkingly back at him.

Ornie coughed. “The thing is, Jeb - this is what we're all here for. We've all seen Bill's pictures but speaking for myself, that just whet my appetite to go out and see the real thing. Besides, it may be the biggest rocket we've built yet, it may even be just a mite experimental but if I was sitting in that capsule, I'd be knowing that everything underneath me was built by people that I trust." Ornie grinned. “Although I might be a bit more worried about the bits that I'd built."

Jeb surveyed his team. There was a general nodding of heads and murmurs of agreement with Ornie. He came to a decision. In that case good kerbals, I think crew selection just got moved forward a few days. I'll be right back."

Jeb disappeared into his office, hurriedly returning with a wastepaper basket, a handful of pens and a stack of small white cards. He set them all down on the table beside the Kerbin 2.

“Right folks. Take a card, scribble your name on it , fold it in half and drop it in the basket here."

There was a squeak from Roncott. “Uhh - are you telling us that pilots are going to be picked at random?"

“Yes," said Jeb simply. “I've been thinking about this a lot, folks and the problem is that everyone here could give me a good reason to be picked. Ornie and Richlin have some piloting experience already - but I don't think flying a spacecraft is going to be a whole lot like flying a plane. Bill, Bob, Geneney, Lucan and Wernher have already gone up, so they have some idea what to expect. Everyone else is an expert on at least part of the capsule or the launcher, which might give them that crucial bit of knowledge in an emergency. Besides, my thinking is that everyone here will have their part to play in building the Moho spacecraft, so everyone here should get their chance to fly them too. So eventually, I realised that the only fair way to do this was to get a pool of volunteers and let chance decide who gets to fly."

Roncott nodded solemnly and dropped his card into the basket. Jeb picked the basket up and gave it a thorough shake. Everyone could see the flurry of cards through the gaps in the weave. He offered it towards them, taking care to look away from the contents.

“Anyone else want to give this a shake?"

Nobody moved. Jeb closed his eyes tightly, dipped his hand into the basket and rapidly pulled out a card.

“And the pilot for Moho 1 is..."

A startled look crossed Jeb's face as he unfolded the card and read out the name printed on the inside.


The tension in the room broke as everyone burst out laughing, amidst good-natured calls of “Fixed! Fixed!" Jeb grinned sheepishly and made to drop his card back into the basket, only to be greeted by a chorus of denial." He raised his hands in mock surrender and laid the card down on the table, before reaching for a second card.

“The pilot for Moho 2 is... Camrie!"

The logistics and design team went wild. Jeb could see Roncott bouncing up and down, thumping Camrie on the back in delight. He drew out another card.

“The pilot for Moho 3 is... Wilford!"

Wilford sat down with a thump and gaped incredulously at his friends, an enormous smile slowly spreading across his face.

“The pilot for Moho 4 is... Adelan!"

Adelan's mouth dropped open. She grabbed Camrie around the waist and swung her friend around joyfully. “That's even better! We both get to go!"

“And finally, the pilots for Moho 5 and Moho 6 are... Richlin and Joemy!"

Ornie solemnly shook hands with his friend before chuckling and pulling him into a great bear hug. “Well at least there's someone going up in one of these contraptions who knows a bit about flying!"

Joemy was the latest member of the capsule assembly team. Like Wilford, he just stared at Jeb in utter disbelief before being mobbed by enthusiastic kerbals. Jeb grinned cheerfully at the milling crowd of excited kerbals. “OK everyone - we've got our pilots - now we've got some serious work to do!"


The LV905 shut down in a brief spray of unburnt fuel, bouncing slightly as the sudden loss of thrust caused the test stand to pop and flex. The propulsion team removed their ear protectors and waited for the dust to settle before gathering round. Hando flipped up the restraining bar on the console and reeled back the strip chart for inspection.

“Looks good. I'd say we're getting about 5% more thrust over the 902. Quicker ramp up as well."

Malmie grunted in satisfaction. “Told you that the 903 chamber design was sound." He inspected the chart critically. “Combustion is nice and stable this time. Looks like Wernher's tweaks to the propellant lines were what we needed."

Wernher looked up. “Five percent is good - better than I expected actually. We could maybe get some more if we went back to the 902 turbopumps but I'm much happier working with the pressure fed design for these smaller engines." He looked apologetically at Hando. “I know you've been working hard on the load cells, Hando but are you sure they're calibrated?"

Hando shrugged and reeled the chart further back. "I ran both series of standard masses this morning. Data is right here if you want to look."

A quick glance told Wernher all he needed to know. “Excellent. That's going to help a lot, especially for the strap on boosters."He sighed. “The hard part starts now though I'm afraid. Even an extra five percent on the 905s isn't going to make up for the lack of thrust on the LV-15. I think it might be time to revisit the LV-10."

Ornie caught the reluctance in Wernher's voice. “I take it there's a story here?"

Wernher nodded. “The LV-10 was something I came up with back when we were building the Kerbal 1. It was obvious that a single LV-15 wasn't going to be enough and we never could get a cluster of them to work properly. So I figured we'd go for a single bigger engine and run it hotter. To stop the whole thing melting I tried running the fuel lines around the combustion chamber walls to cool them down." He stared into the distance. “Great idea in theory but not so great in practice. We never did work out what happened with the last test but it went very very blam indeed."

At that point, Wernher looked hopefully at Ornie. “Looking back at it, I think a big part of the trouble was the fact that I just never could get the fuel lines to wrap properly around the chamber. You're a better kerbal than I am with a pipe bender though..."

Ornie looked thoughtful. “I take it we're trying to use the hot fuel somehow and not just dumping it overboard?" Wernher retrieved a pencil from behind his ear and sketched out a quick diagram on the chart paper. “Can't afford to waste the propellant. No - we use the vaporised fuel to drive the turbopumps. Engine start is a bit fiddly but once it's up and running it should work nicely."

Ornie nodded slowly. “I think I see how that works. OK - I'll give it a go." He scratched his head. “You're right though - that's going to be one heck of a job of pipe bending. Anyhow - reckon I'm going to take a break. Maybe head over to Shed 2 and see how the sim team are doing with the Whirligig."

Ornie let himself out of the side gate and headed across the road from the main warehouse. Now that they were building spacecraft on a larger scale, Jeb had decided that the Spaceship Parts Company needed more ship space and had leased another couple of smaller warehouses. The Spaceship Museum had been moved into it's own building, leaving the main warehouse free for vehicle development, testing and assembly. The other building - Shed 2, was for crew training.

Ornie stuck his head around the door to be greeted by a scene of organised chaos. The Kerbal 2 capsule sat in the middle of the dimly lit warehouse floor surrounded by a cats cradle of steel frameworks, gas cylinders and tubes and cables of all descriptions. A large screen curved over the capsule from either side of the framework, each with a display projector mounted on a tripod behind it. Across the floor was a makeshift booth, sheltering what appeared to be a large and bewilderingly complicated control board which was connected to the rest of the equipment by a thick skein of cables. Three kerbals were seated behind the controls, peering intently at the mass of switches, dials and other other displays. All the electronics gear had a shop worn appearance and Ornie was fairly sure he'd seen various bits of it gathering dust in a corner of the launch control bunker.

Ornie watched in fascination as the whole unlikely contrivance wheezed into life, lifitng the capsule off the floor and tilting it into a nose down attitude. One of the kerbals behind the control board tapped the microphone in front of him. “OK, Jeb, lets try the calibration again. Give me a plus oh one pitch."

There was a sharp hissing noise and the the capsule slowly tilted up towards horizontal and then, continued to tumble over and over. From the lack of flame, Ornie assumed that the noise wasn't caused by any kind of actual rocket system, which all in all was probably a good idea.

“Looking good, Jeb. Negative oh one whenever you're ready." With another hiss of high pressure gas, the capsule came to a halt, nose pointing jauntily upwards. The simulator whirred briefly and the capsule slowly swung round to its starting position.

“Perfect. Lets go for the rest of the calibration sequence."

The staccato sound of compressed gas jets filled the air as the capsule proceeded to twist and spin in a set of increasingly elaborate maneuvers, guided all the while by a series of increasingly cryptic commands from the control booth. Finally it came to a standstill and the hatch popped open. Jeb climbed out, grinning from ear to ear.

“What a ride ! I can't wait to take this thing out for a proper spin! Hey, Tomcas - everything felt sharp from inside the capsule - how did it look from your board?"

Tomcas consulted one of the panels in front of him. “Looked good from here too, Jeb. I think we're finally done with the calibration. He grinned at the two kerbals sitting next to him. “Time to move on to the real training."


“LV-T15 article 3 - beginning test."

Wernher crossed his fingers behind his back as Hando started up the test stand. The LV-T15 roared into life behind the blast shields and for one triumphant moment, Wernher thought the propulsion team had cracked it. Then there was a ominous bloom of orange light, followed a fraction of a second later by a loud explosion and a rapidly expanding fireball billowing into the sky. Hando hastily shut off the fuel supply to the test stand and waited patiently for the tinkling sound of pieces of metal ricocheting off the metal sheets to subside.

Ornie, Wernher and Malmy gloomily surveyed the twisted and blackened wreckage. The chunk of ruptured pipe hanging off what was left of the prototype engine told a painfully clear story. Ornie threw up his hands in resignation. 

“Sorry guys but I don't think the coiled pipe idea is going to work. I honestly reckon that was my best piece of work yet - but it looks like my best just aint going to be good enough."

Wernher gripped his shoulder briefly. “Don't worry about it, Ornie. I doubt anyone could have any better. We're just going to need another plan."

The unspoken question hung in the air, with neither kerbal willing or able to answer it. Eventually Wernher just shrugged. “We'll think of something eventually. In the meantime, as we're not doing much here, I think I'll see if the capsule folks need a hand with anything." 

The rest of the propulsion team nodded slowly and followed him into the vehicle assembly area.

Inside, everyone was hard at work on the Moho 1. Bill was seated at a bench, soldering iron prodding at what looked like a control panel. A thick bundle of cables was gradually being hauled in through the open capsule hatch, accompanied by the clattering of a power wrench and odd mumbled expletive from inside. Roncott was working at another bench by the nose assembly carefully packing a parachute canopy. Two other kerbals were working with caulking guns, filling in sections of the broad saucer shaped heat shield already in place on the base of the capsule and peering critically at the already filled areas. Occasionally one of them would pick up a drill, gouge out an entire section and patiently set to work re-filling it.

In other areas of the warehouse floor, the remaining sections of the spacecraft were gradually taking shape. From the clusters of reaction control nozzles and general confusion of plumbing, Wernher recognised one of them as the retrorocket and RCS module. The benches nearby were full of neatly ordered components, presumably in strict assembly sequence order. Well away from the RCS module and indeed the rest of the Moho 1, two jigs were standing next to each other, each with a slim metal ring clamped carefully to it. Even from this distance, Wernher could see the yellow and black stripes painted around the outside of each ring. Geneney was kneeling on the floor next to them, slotting decoupler bolts into place.

Wernher sat down at a nearby bench feeling rather dispirited. Clearly there wasn't much he could do here and worse still, this beautiful piece of engineering wasn't going anywhere without a, so far non-existent, main engine to power it. Absently he prodded at what appeared to be a piece of corrugated copper, watching glumly as it rocked back and forth on the bench. Kerm only knew what it had been before but the level of polish suggested that it was due to be installed somewhere in the capsule and wasn't just a piece of scrap.

A voice rose over the general hubbbub. “Has anyone seen the primary heat exchanger baffle?"

“Should be on bench 4, Joemy, with the rest of the cooling system parts."

Joemy hurried over. “Ahh there it is. Could I just take that, Wernher? Thanks." He stopped as he saw the look on Wernher's face.

“Heat exchanger?"

Joemy was puzzled but happy to explain. “Sure - we braze a dual inlet manifold to each end of this. Primary coolant from the capsule systems runs through these channels here. We run secondary coolant in countercurrent through these channels here before sending it out to the evaporator plates."

“Heat exchanger..."

“Uh-huh. We put the whole thing in a casing of course," Joemy said nervously, “to close the channels over and keep them separate."

“Heat exchanger!" Wernher jumped to his feet, all despondency forgotten. “Joemy - you may just have saved this program! Do we have any more of this copper in stock?"

Now Joemy was completely baffled but pleased to have made such an impression on the chief engineer. “I'm not sure, Wernher. Geneney will know though, or if he's busy, Camrie could probably tell you."

“Ornie, ORNIE! Get over here and take a look at this!"

Ornie rushed over in alarm. “I'm here chief - what's the problem?"

“Take a look at this - you think you could stick this around the LV-T15 chamber?"

Ornie picked up the heat exchanger baffle and flexed it experimentally between his hands. “Seems to have enough give. Yeah, should be able to. He peered along the corrugations. “Nice and straight too."Then realisation dawned. “A double walled chamber - is that what you're thinking?"

Wernher nodded vigorously. “Yes - rather than one large tube, we use a whole array of them. Assuming we can do it, it should make for an even more efficient design!"


“De-orbit burn complete. Nice work, Jeb but watch that roll rate."

Jeb deftly countered the roll with a quick burst from his RCS thrusters. The capsule bumped and jerked around him as the air outside started to thicken.

“100km and dropping. Keep it steady."

There was a sudden lurch to one side. Jeb swore to himself as he fought to keep the little craft on course. Lodan's voice crackled over his headset in sudden alarm. “80 km and dropping. Nose up - nose up!"

Jeb gritted his teeth and bit back a pointed reply. The turbulence was smoothing out a little now as the capsule decelerated and his attitude rate indicators returned to something approaching normal.

“60km and dropping. Cabin temperature nominal, coming down 200km off target. 30 km and dropping... 15km and dropping - drogue chute deployed."

Bob watched as the Whirligig capsule gradually pitched upright.

“And you're on the mains. Welcome home, boss."

The capsule lowered itself to the floor and Jeb climbed out, shaking slightly , flight suit soaked in sweat.

“Well that was intense."

Bob gave Jeb a moment to catch his breath. “200 km off target - I guess the booth crew decided to break the automatics huh?"

“Yes they did," Jeb growled, “Right in the middle of the de-orbit burn." He ran his hands through his hair and looked wearily at Bob. “Still - that's why we built this thing. Better to have this all down cold before the big day." He raised his voice as he turned his head towards the booth. “OK you guys. Gimme five minutes to cool off and then we'll run through that again. And why don't you give me a real test this time!"

Bob looked him solemnly. Probably not the best time to mention this but when would be a good time.

“Just saw the news, Jeb. Looks like Rockomax have a satellite in orbit too. Pretty hefty one at that. The reporter at KBS was calling it the latest leap in the Space Race."

Jeb sighed. “Anything to make a story I guess. In actual fact I was kinda hoping to go visit Ademone at some point. I know Wernher is still puzzled by their launcher, keeps insisting that their last flight looked all wrong for a solid booster."

Bob was a little skeptical. “C'mon, Jeb. After all this effort, you're not trying to tell me that you'd be happy sitting on the launch pad in a few weeks time knowing that you were just about to play second kerbal to some Rockomax pilot."

“Well probably not." Jeb conceded. “After all the work we've put in, it would hurt not being the first - particularly as it was our own damn satellite that got Rockomax into the race in the first place." He shook his head. “Kerm's sake. It's not a race. We go when we're ready and that's that! Besides, we both know that there's a big difference between lobbing a satellite around Kerbin and putting together a piloted mission. No sense in hurrying things. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for being the first kerbal in space but I'd prefer not to stay there permanently."

He looked at his friend. “We'd best get used to not being the first at everything though, Bob. We've got a healthy start but Rockomax are good - and ambitious with it. Anyway - I'd best climb back into that machine over there and see what the booth crew have planned for me next."


“LV-T20 article 5. Beginning test."

Wernher gestured to Joemy to come and join him by the test console. “This one's all yours, Joemy. Start it up."

The engine rumbled into life behind the screens, the rumble rapidly building up into a howling fury. Light from the rocket fire blazed out around the test stand, which was shaking under the load. The screens began to rattle and then blew over with a resounding crash as they were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incandescent exhaust pouring out of the engine bell.

For one shining moment before Wernher shut down the test, the Kerbin Interplanetary Society were treated to the sound and sight of an LV-T20 engine at full thrust. Jeb clenched his fists in triumph. He didn't need to inspect the test data. Finally they had what they needed. A successor to the LV15 and the next generation engine that could propel him and his fellow pilots out of Kerbin's atmosphere and into space.

Far away at Stratus headquarters, Thomplin put down the phone and turned to face Halnie.

“How do you feel about another trip out to Barkton?"

No need to answer that question, Thomplin thought to himself. “That was Jeb on the phone, as you probably guessed. It seems they're planning something, and I quote, 'rather special in three weeks time, assuming the all-up tests go to plan.' He also had the neck to let me know that he'd set aside six complimentary launch tickets for Stratus."

Halnie smiled. “Looks like you, me and a couple from management then. I should also see if anyone has any contacts at KBS - I have a feeling that they're going to want to see this too."


<< Chapter 9   ::     Chapter 11>>

Edited by KSK
replaced 'lap' with 'leap'
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Woo hoo! The story proceeds! BTW; not to be picky, but I think you meant leap instead of lap. :blush:

As for your comment on being a Marine. Yes, I am a former, active member of the USMC. Once a Marine, always a Marine. That is unless you are an Ex Marine. Ex means you were kicked out in something other than honorable. I was a good boy. :)

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Have i told you that i love this setting? Your descriptions of a bunch of enthusiastic dudes putting together spaceship in a shed - brilliant :D And yes, inquiring minds want to know what Rockomax is cooking.

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Hey Agent30632. Glad you like it and yeah - the LV-T30 isn't too far away. They'll get there eventually but that's just iteration now that they've made the big conceptual leap going from LV to LV-T.

BostLabs - On the first point, reading that part again I'm not sure to be honest - it could have gone either way. I think I meant it as another lap of the field in an ongoing race but yeah leap as in 'the next leap forward for Rockomax' or 'Rockomax leaps past the KIS' (which is true so far as the media know :) ) works better! Thanks.

On the second point, that most definitely does not work either way. I apologise and stand humbly corrected.

Scotius - glad it works :) Certainly the 'dudes in a shed' setting sums up KSP for me, having read the tooltips for those spacecraft parts!

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Hey folks!

Next chapter is about 1/3 - 1/2 done so should be up reasonably soon. Couple of things getting in the way of late, for myself an ear infection slowed me down somewhat and for my trusty keyboard - well it turns out that keyboards don't appreciate milk and breakfast cereal (who knew?). Writing without delete, backspace or enter keys isn't terribly easy, or at least it isnt with my general keyboard accuracy. Anyhow, ear is now sorted and the keyboard is replaced, so looking forward to finishing up this next chapter!

Apollo1391, TJM and Mr. P - thank you all for the kind words! And czokletmuss - man what can I say but thank you. Definitely gives you a warm fuzzy feeling when the thread of the month author rolls in and enjoys your work.

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Hehehe, no they don't... sorry about the ear infection and keyboard, but my siblings have ruined a keyboard or two by eating at it too much and things (just recently, in fact, my sister spilled water on my ear's $1600 MacBook Air and almost ruined it. It still works fine, luckily), so I feel for you. Anyway, good to hear that there is progress being made. Keep at it, I can hardly wait for the next chapter!

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Keyboards, milk and cereal... Yeah they don't go for a quick wash in the sink either. :D

As for all the stories... Spaceman Spiff approves. I'm enjoying them too! :)

Rofl - I can so imagine my last post as a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon :D

"We join our hero, the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, high above the surface of Zorkon 4"

"Zounds! A treacherous Zork Cruiser appears and zaps Spiff's ship with a sinister Goop Ray. Spiff is going down!"

"None of the the controls will respond. Our hero grabs his trusty blaster and prepares to eject!"

And then the final panel of a rather disconsolate (and perhaps rather older :) ) Calvin, looking at a keyboard and an upturned cereal bowl.

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Rofl - I can so imagine my last post as a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon :D

"We join our hero, the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, high above the surface of Zorkon 4"

"Zounds! A treacherous Zork Cruiser appears and zaps Spiff's ship with a sinister Goop Ray. Spiff is going down!"

"None of the the controls will respond. Our hero grabs his trusty blaster and prepares to eject!"

And then the final panel of a rather disconsolate (and perhaps rather older :) ) Calvin, looking at a keyboard and an upturned cereal bowl.

I remember those! Lol, "rather disconsolate Calvin, looking at a keboard and an upturned cereal bowl." That made my day :D

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Rofl - I can so imagine my last post as a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon :D

"We join our hero, the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, high above the surface of Zorkon 4"

"Zounds! A treacherous Zork Cruiser appears and zaps Spiff's ship with a sinister Goop Ray. Spiff is going down!"

"None of the the controls will respond. Our hero grabs his trusty blaster and prepares to eject!"

And then the final panel of a rather disconsolate (and perhaps rather older :) ) Calvin, looking at a keyboard and an upturned cereal bowl.

Made my day! :)

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Next chapter up. :) Another interlude from rocket building and another view of life amongst the Kermol. These two plot threads will meet in the middle I promise you!

The Seed

Jonton's boots squelched through the early morning dew as he walked up and down the rows of breadfruit vines, patiently inspecting them for ripeness. The sun had barely risen over the Kerm Grove at the far end of the field and his breath steamed in the cold dawn air.

The tips of the large green globes were just starting to blush purple and Jonton knew that harvest time was only a week or two away. The vines weren't looking quite as healthy as he would have liked though. There were definite signs of wilt on some of them, although admittedly the weather hadn't been particularly good for breadfruit lately.

Jonton stopped abruptly and bent over to peer at a cluster of leaves more closely. That wasn't right at all. The brown spotting looked like some kind of fungus and one or two of the leaves had actually died. Hard to blame that on the weather too - if anything, the unseasonable chill should have helped to kill off any odd pests that the Kerm trees couldn't handle. Jonton made a mental note to look up the brown spots in the Record Books once he got back to the village.

Gerselle hummed cheerfully to herself as she pulled on her climbing gear. Joenie watched her solemnly from the warm confines of her carry pack which Gerselle had carefully hung from a nearby branch. The tiny kerblet inspected her hands gravely and then batted at the brightly coloured plush bird suspended above her head. The bird made a playful cheeping noise as it bounced too and fro, much to her delight. Gerselle smiled as Joenie squeaked happily back at her new toy.

Gerselle dipped her gloves into the adhesive, carefully letting the excess liquid drip back into the bucket. Hopping awkwardly, she dipped one boot into the viscous mixture before pressing it firmly against the trunk of the sapwood tree. She took a good grip on the smooth bark before repeating the process with the other boot. Satisfied that everything seemed to be holding properly, she rapidly clambered up the trunk.

The long grooves running down the trunk looked shiny and blemish free and Gerselle was pleased see translucent golden beads still forming in the channels despite the weather. Sap collecting wasn't her task for this morning though, so after a brief inspection, she climbed up further to the spray of huge green fronds at the top of the tree and the fleshy white flowers beneath them. Working with practised ease she wriggled her hand out of one glove, leaving it stuck to the leather patch on her leg. Carefully she dipped her hand into one of the pouches on her belt and sprinkled a pinch of bright yellow pollen into the centre of each flower.

By mid morning, Gerselle had settled into a steady rhythm of tree climbing and flower pollinating, taking the occasional break to rock Joenie back and forth in her carry pack. The novelty of being in a swing was rapidly wearing off however and Joenie was getting increasingly irritable as the morning wore on. Gerselle finally gave in to the inevitable and sat down against a particularly large sapwood trunk as she settled Joenie in to feed.

It was only then that she spotted the unusual looking gourd at her feet. Shuffling carefully around so as not to disturb her daughter she examined it curiously. Whatever it was, it was certainly no sapwood pod and Gerselle couldn't remember seeing anything quite like it before. The thing definitely looked like a seed pod of some kind but it was larger than usual and covered in a dense mat of mottled yellow and brown fibres. She picked it up and shook it tentatively, raising her eyebrows slightly as it made no noise. She shrugged and dropped the gourd into a belt pouch, making a note to look it up in the Records later.


As Gerselle walked up the path to the village archives she was surprised to find Jonton heading in the same direction and looking worried. “Is everything alright?" she asked, a note of concern creeping into her voice.

Jonton looked at her. “I'm not sure, he replied, “The breadfruit vines aren't looking too good - they seem to have caught some kind of fungus. I was just going to consult the Records."

Gerselle frowned. “It's been pretty cold for a fungus," she said, “and its unusual for one to get past the Kerm trees. Are you sure?"

“Not really," said Jonton, “but it's the only thing I could think of that would explain the brown mottling on the leaves. Anyway - what takes you to the Records. Don't tell me the sapwoods have caught something too?"

Gerselle shook her head. “No, they're fine. They're even managing to trickle out some sap in this weather. I just found this gourd whilst I was out. I don't remember seeing anything like it before though, so I was just going to look it up." She drew the gourd out of its belt pouch and handed it to Jonton.

Jonton frowned. “Not sure I recognise it either. That fibrous coat is pretty distinctive though - should be easy enough to find in the Records." Absently he twisted the fibres around his fingers and then stopped in surprise, sniffing at the air.

“Odd. Do you smell cinnamon?"

Jonton twisted another handful of the fibrous coating, rubbing it vigorously against his fingers. There was definitely a scent of cinnamon in the air. Almost like the smell of...

“No, he whispered to himself, “no, it can't be." He hurried into the archive house and went over to the very oldest section of the shelving. Without hesitation he reached for the first book on the shelf and took it over to the table. By the time Gerselle joined him, he had found the section he wanted. Wordlessly he pointed at the faded but carefully rendered drawings on the page in front of him. Gerselle's eyes widened as she recognised the picture of the tree and the picture of her gourd right next to it.

“It can't be..." she said faintly,

Jonton gripped her hand. “I know, love," he said, “but the book even mentions the smell of that bruised fibre. I'm having a hard time believing it myself but think you might just have found the first Kerm seed on Kerbin for nearly five hundred years."

He kept his voice deliberately casual but a small worm of unease was beginning to gnaw at him. If Gerselle's gourd really was a Kerm seed then it would need a new Keeper and he had a sinking feeling that he knew exactly who that Keeper would be. “I'd better read up on this, Gerselle. There looks like quite a lot to get through and... well it's a Kerm seed. Most of this stuff is probably important and we don't exactly have anyone else we can turn to for help.


The Walkers stood in a loose group at the entrance to the village. Jonton and Gerselle stood slightly apart from the rest, both clothed in grey robes belted securely around them to ward off the pre-dawn air. Gerselle's robe was so new that the wool hadn't had a chance to soften and she shifted from foot to foot, scratching herself surreptitiously. The cowl of her robe was draped down her back, weighed down by the Kerm seed inside. Joenie was fast asleep in a makeshift sling strapped across her chest.

A group of six kerbals stood in a row, each with a heavy grey pack on his or her back. Each pack was full of damp earth, with six Kerm cuttings planted carefully inside. Another dozen kerbals were carrying similar packs, these dyed brown and filled with saplings of all the trees in the Grove, all carefully packed in damp sweetmoss. Others were equipped for camp, carrying bundles of food and waterskins for the whole group, along with bedding and rolls of fabric wrapped around light wooden poles. The rest of the village looked on with a mixture of sadness and joy. Most families were proud to have at least one son or daughter listed amongst the Walkers but that pride was tempered with the knowledge that they were finally leaving home.

Jonton squeezed Gerselle's hand reassuringly and then stepped into the middle of the group.

“My friends. We are setting out today on a journey of great joy. A journey that hasn't been seen on Kerbin for centuries." He paused. “By sundown today we will have founded a new village and planted the seeds of a new Grove. Each and every one of you has promised to help our new Keeper with her task and for that you have my deepest thanks."

Jonton smiled gently. “Of course, some of you will be making this journey many times in the days ahead. Even the stoutest group of kerbals cannot carry a whole new village on their backs and even with proper transport there will be much to carry and much work to do over the coming weeks. But for now, the seed kindles and our time grows short." He knelt before the Walkers, arms stretched towards them in the ancient gesture of benediction, then climbed to his feet. “Lets make a start my friends."


The sun rose over the treetops as the Walkers set out. The village stream wound it's away across the grasslands in front of them, running down from the hills on the distant horizon. As far as possible, Jonton kept them on a trail along the banks but where the stream's course was looping and erratic, the Walkers kept to a far straighter path. Everyone seemed reluctant to break the peace of the early morning with chatter, although the clinking of buckles and the occasional bird call stopped the silence from becoming oppressive. The grass underfoot was coarse and springy and the kerbals were able to keep up a good pace.

Towards mid morning, the last of the dawn mist finally burned away and the mood of the party became less contemplative. Murmured conversations could be heard up and down the trail and some of the younger kerbals kicked a ball back and forth between them as they walked. By the time they stopped for their midday meal, everyone was in good spirits, as they retrieved packets of food from their backpacks and sat down by the stream. The youngest kerbals splashed happily in the shallows but even the oldest could be seen dangling their feet in the water to cool off.

Lunch was a short affair though, as Jonton was keen to get moving. The afternoon walk was rather harder going, the springy grass gaving way to coarse shrubland and outcrops of rock as they moved into the foothills. The group gradually spread further and further apart as some of the walkers found it increasingly difficult to keep up. Finally the shrubland petered out altogether and Jonton looked at the rocky slopes ahead of them with increasing dismay. The stream was still keeping them company as it bubbled and foamed over the stones beside them but this was no ground for planting. Worse still, as far as he could see, they wouldn't find anywhere better before sundown. He called a halt and waited for the stragglers to catch up.

“I don't know about you my friends but this doesn't look like good country for planting a new Grove."

There was a general murmur of agreement.

“The Records are clear - the new seed should be carried on foot from sunrise and it shall be planted at the last minute of the day. Unfortunately, it looks like the last minutes of this day will be spent climbing rocky slopes and stony scree." Jonton took a sip from his waterskin. “I need three volunteers to scout ahead, in case there is better ground before us. The rest of us will turn back. As soon as we find enough soil to plant our trees, we will stop and wait for news from the scouts." A fleeting look of worry passed across his face. “This was not an easy choice my friends. However, I can't believe the Records would intend us to let a Kerm seed die by leaving it on bare rock. We shall turn back."

The sun was just dipping below the horizon when the three scouts appeared over the hilltop and made their way over to Jonton. They spoke to him briefly in lowered tones and Jonton nodded solemnly and called the rest of the Walkers to him.

“So be it. We plant the new Kerm here. "He knelt down and scooped out a shallow pit in the gritty soil. As the last rays of sunlight sank out of sight, Gerselle reached into the hood of her robes and took out the seed. As the others stood reverently around them, she placed it carefully into the pit and tamped the soil down over it. Finally she shook out the last drops of her waterskin out over the newly planted seed.

One of the sapling carriers raised his hand. “Keeper - where should we plant the other trees?"

Jonton scratched his head. “The Records don't tell us anything about the other trees," he replied. “but the Kerm cuttings should be planted no more than seventy paces from the seed and no less than forty paces apart. In the village Grove, all the Kerm trees are planted in a loose group with the rest of the trees planted outwards from there. That seems like as good a plan as anything."

As twilight crept over the hill, the air was full of the sound of spades scraping against soil. Gradually the bald hilltop became covered in a thin stubble of slender saplings as the kerbals planted the thirty-six kerm cuttings and then the dozens of other trees they had brought with them. As twilight faded into a deep starry darkness, the last of the tents was put up and all the Walkers fell into a deep and well earned sleep.


The next morning, the new villagers kept at a respectful distance from Jonton and Gerselle as they said goodbye. Jonton drew his wife into his arms and hugged her tightly as they stood wordlessly on the hillside, the new saplings dotted around them.

"It'll be alright, love. As soon as the four months are up, I'll be on my way to visit."

Gerselle fought to keep the bitterness out of her voice. "Four months, Jonton! Four months on my own with no father for Joenie." Joenie heard her name and made a happy chirruping noise.

Jonton swallowed a sudden lump in his throat. "I know," he said softly, "I know. The Books leave no doubt though - only one Keeper in a Grove until it has properly knitted." He took her by the shoulders and gazed tenderly into her eyes. "It's a wonderful feeling you know, to wear the grey cloak. To bond with a Grove, be its guardian and sometimes even share its dreams."

Jonton looked at her earnestly. "The village Grove is old, Gerselle, just like every other Grove on Kerbin. My family have been it's Keepers for generations. Even then, to be chosen as Keeper was a great privilege - and a great joy. But you get to be the mother of the first new Grove for over five hundred years! Not even the village Records go back that far." His eyes misted over. "You'll get to feel it grow, to guide it on its path from a handful of saplings to a beautiful new Kerm."

Gerselle was silent. "It is only four months isn't it?"

Jonton nodded. "So the Books say. Four months until knitting and then other Keepers can visit. Trust me - I'll be here to see you and Joenie on the very first day I can. He smiled. "The village Grove will understand. After all, it has a child of its own now."


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Edited by KSK
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