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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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Excellent chapter full of worldbuilding. I have to say the change of pace was made masterfully - from ruckus and excitement of growing space center, to backwater rural village of tree keepers. You are creating quite complex culture for Kerbals and Kermols. (^_^)b

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Thanks everyone. The Kermol chapters are a definite change of pace and scenery so I'm glad you're enjoying them too. They're actually quite soothing to write in an odd sort of way! Jake - you're not the only one pondering that question ;)

Anyhow, we now return to the KIS...


A van pulled up outside Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spaceship Parts Company and three kerbals climbed out. Halnie stretched and yawned after the long drive whilst Thomplin looked around. Jeb's company seemed to be doing well judging by the fact that there were at least three warehouses sporting signboards with the familiar tilted rocket logo painted on them. It seemed that somebody had finally decided to give the place a lick of paint as well - it still didn't really look like the busy hub of Kerbin's first space program but at least it didn't look quite as dilapidated now.

Shervin looked around skeptically. It was busy but only with kerbals queuing to get into one of the warehouses. There was certainly a conspicuous lack of large rockets anywhere or signs that anyone was thinking about building them. Thomplin spotted the expression on his face. "Yes - that's about what I thought the first time as well Shervin. Believe me though, it's a lot more impressive from the inside. The main warehouse is that one over there isn't it Halnie?"

Halnie nodded happily. “It is. Two new warehouses though, Tom! Looks like there's going to be a lot more to see this time."

The Stratus team walked over to the main gates. Thomplin's eyebrows lifted as he saw the new doorway cut into the gates with a freshly painted Reception sign over it. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Halnie gaped in astonishment as she followed Thomplin. Inside, the previously dingy warehouse was now brightly lit. The piles of junk that she remembered from the last visit had been corralled down one side and much of it was now neatly organised on a huge set of storage racks. Sets of enormous metal tubes were suspended from the ceiling girders, presumably to be turned into fuel tanks at some point. In the middle of the floor, two partially completed capsules rested on wooden cradles with what looked like a small army of kerbals working on them. A row of workbenches were placed nearby, with various parts neatly arrayed on them. Towards the back of the warehouse, other kerbals were busily assembling other parts of the spacecraft.

Shervin was starting to look more impressed, especially at the partially assembled capsules. Before he had time to go and inspect them in more detail, a bell jangled overhead and Jeb emerged from the Reception office.

“Hi, Halnie, Thomplin, good to see you again!" he said cheerfully. “And good to meet you too, sir."

Halnie made the introductions. “Shervin, this is Jebediah, owner, company manager and pilot. Jeb - this is Shervin, our director of engineering." The two kerbals sized each other up and both inclined their heads politely. Jeb turned to Halnie.

“I sure hope you guys brought some more tanks with you," he said. “We're just about as far through the assembly of Mohos Two and Three as we can get without them. We used most of them to build the Moho 1 of course, so we don't have many left."

 Halnie grinned. “We've got them in the van, Jeb. That was quite some order you placed. I hope the last set worked out?"

“I hope they did as well," said Jeb, “I hope they did as well."

Shervin was looking politely confused. “You'll forgive me for asking," he said, “but I don't really see where our tanks fit in here. They do hold quite a lot for their size of course but I presume you're not using them as fuel tanks?"

 Jeb glanced at him. “Actually we do," he said, “but only to power the maneuvering thrusters. They're a pretty important part of the booster as well but I can show you more of that in a moment if you'd like?" He cleared his throat. “Sorry, I havn't really explained the plan for the next couple of days. I thought we'd spend some time today touring the facilities here. Things have changed quite a bit around here since Thomplin and Halnie were here last and of course Shervin hasn't seen much of anything yet. This afternoon, we'll head out to the Space Centre and we can get you all set up with your stand. Some of the team here took the liberty of preparing some material for you which you might like to take a peek at. You're all very welcome to stay and meet the rest of the team this evening - Ornie is a pretty fair hand with a barbecue and the weather is about right for one tonight!"

Jeb looked at the Stratus team solemnly. “Tomorrow is launch day," he said, “so I'm going to be a bit busy I'm afraid but Ornie has volunteered to show you around and generally sort things out for you."

“That's fine, Jeb," said Thomplin, “It'll be good to see Ornie again. I guess you'll be busy with the flight?"

Jeb coughed modestly. “In a manner of speaking," he replied, “although as the pilot, I hope I'm not going to be too busy. Just an easy couple of orbits around Kerbin, re-entry and splashdown off the coast. If everything goes to plan we may try a couple of manevers too."

Thomplin looked startled. “You're the pilot, Jeb?" he said, “Isn't that a bit risky? What happens to the company if..." His voice trailed away in embarassment.

Jeb looked him squarely in the eye. “If I don't come back?" he asked.

Thomplin nodded unhappily.

Jeb shrugged. “I've left instructions to cover that," he said. “The company will probably change its name but there are plenty of good people on the team who'll be able to carry it on without me. Seriously though, Thomplin, I've got a lot of good friends on the this team. How can I possibly let any of them fly a spacecraft that I wouldn't be prepared to fly myself?"

Shervin glanced up sharply but only saw complete conviction on Jeb's face. He looked at the younger kerbal with increased respect.

At that moment, the door swung open and two kerbals stepped cautiously in to join them. Again Halnie introduced everyone.

“This is Leland from KBS news. Leland, you know Thomplin and me but this is Shervin, our director of engineering and this is Jebediah, owner of the Junkyard and Spaceship Parts company and pilot of tomorrow's flight."

Leland shook Jeb's hand enthusiastically. “Did I just hear that right?" he said. “You're flying into orbit tomorrow?" Jeb nodded slowly as Leland's eyes sparkled. “Thanks Halnie!" he said, “When you said this would be a chance to cover a big space story, I had no idea it would be 'First Kerbal in Space' big! Oh sorry everyone - this is my cameraman Donbart, or just Don for short."

Jeb rubbed his hands together briskly. “Right. Now that everybody is here, how about we take a little tour. Feel free to ask any questions along the way and Don - you're welcome to take any pictures you like."


Five enthusiastic kerbals squashed themselves around the table in Jeb's office. Leland and Don were practically bouncing up and down in delight with the film footage they'd managed to record. Halnie was looking forward to a ride in the Whirligig later and even Thomplin's normal reserve had started to crack. Privately, Shervin thought that the most impressive part of the tour had been the engine test stands, the obvious level of detail and attention paid to the testing and the willingness of the propulsion team to discuss the problems they'd faced. Their candid admission that they hadn't told him everything about the new engine was reassuring too in its way. A little competitiveness was good and he really couldn't blame them for not spilling out all their secrets in front of the KBS news team.

Jeb retrieved a long cardboard tube from the corner and gingerly pulled out two rolls of thick shiny paper. He unrolled the first one onto the table and carefully weighed down the corners with odds and ends from his desk.

Leland and Don looked decidedly puzzled but the Stratus team were fascinated. The poster showed a labelled cutaway drawing of a rocket booster, showing it's internal workings, including a spherical pressure tank which had been highlighted in red. The label for that part was prominently labelled with the Stratus company logo.

“Camrie, from our systems and logistics team, put these together," said Jeb, “We thought you might be able to use them on your stand tomorrow. The other one is a schematic of the Moho capsule reaction control system - another part of the spacecraft which depends on a Stratus tank. I think Bill has some photos of the Moho 1 on the launch pad too - complete with Stratus logo on the lateral boosters. Incidentally, if all goes well, Camrie is slated as our pilot for the Moho 2 flight."

"Reaction control system?" asked Shervin.

Halnie jumped in before Jeb could reply. “The steering system for the capsule once it's in space - right, Jeb?" 

Jeb nodded. “The RCS also includes the retrorockets to bring the capsule out of orbit. Basically a slightly bigger version of the thrusters you and Thomplin saw, Halnie. Same idea though - and also powered by a Stratus tank."

Shervin kept his face carefully impassive. “So what happens if there's a problem with the RCS?" he asked.

For his part, Jeb kept his voice deliberately casual. “Depends what goes wrong and when, Shervin. Anything from leaving me stranded in orbit to burning up on re-entry. We're not just exaggerating for the sake of advertising - those tanks really are a vital part of the spacecraft." Jeb smiled faintly. “Anyway, lets move on. We've got time for a closer look at the Moho 1 and a tour of the Space Centre before Ornie fires up the barbecue!"


The next morning, Leland and Don were wide eyed as they watched the crowds pour through the gates. The launch was several hours away yet but the Space Centre was already getting crowded. Leland still thought that “Space Centre" was a slightly grandiose name for a pair of grandstands and a couple of, admittedly large, marquees. The commentary box was nice though, perched high above one of the stands to give him a good view of the launch and with a direct radio link to Mission Control so he could follow the details of the flight. Then again, thought Leland to himself, Mission Control was fairly impressive with it's large display screens and control desks for the flight controllers. Presumably Jeb had spent most of his money there rather than on the rest of the Centre facilities.

Not that anyone seemed to mind. The atmosphere was positively festive with young kerbals running helter-skelter over the grass - most of them wearing toy space helmets or clutching cardboard rockets. Leland grinned to himself - it looked like the Kerlington Model Rockets and Paper Products stand was doing some good business. He couldn't help noticing that some of the older kerbals were also carrying more sophisticated versions of the children's toys.

Over at the far corner of the field, a makeshift stage had been erected and the distant strains of musical instruments being tuned up drifted through the air. Leland shook his head. He figured that Jeb had been kidding about the preflight entertainment but apparently not. He tapped Don on the arm and pointed over at the stage.

“Ornie said he'd meet us by the stage. We should probably get over there."

Don nodded and packed up his cameras.

As the KBS team strolled towards the stage, they could see Ornie waving at them. At that moment a huge roar went up from the crowd as four kerbals walked out and picked up their instruments. The tallest one strode over to the microphone and waved to the crowd.

“Hello Barkton! It's Launch Day and we are... Fire in the Sky!"

“Alright - let's see your hands in the air Barkton! This one is called... Thunderbird!"

The band launched enthusiastically into their opening number. A huge smile spread across Don's face as he started swaying along to the music. Ornie grinned. “They're only a local band but they're good - and their music definitely puts you in the mood!"

“Good name too," commented Leland. “Fire in the Sky is about right for today."

Ornie chuckled. “Apparently they used to call themselves the Crash Test Dummies," he said. “Between you and me, most of the team thought that was pretty funny but we think Geneney had a little word with them and uhh persuaded them to change their name if they were going to play at the Space Centre."

Leland laughed."Yes - not really the image you want for a rocket launch. C'mon Don, we've got some interviews to run."

Donbart looked wistfully back at the stage and then, rather reluctantly, followed Leland into the crowds.


Don held the camera steady and trained on Wilmy and Leland as the crowds flowed around them.

“So what does your brother do in the space program, Wilmy?"

There was a note of pride in the kerbal's voice as he answered Leland's question. “He started off as an engineer, working on the rocket boosters. Now he's training to be a kerbonaut and he's going to be commanding the Moho 3 flight!"

“Congratulations, Wilmy. That's a big career move though from engineer to pilot."

“Oh, he's still an engineer. That's how things work at the KIS - everyone helps to build the spaceships and everyone gets a chance to fly them! Wilford had only been working there for a few weeks but he got his chance just like everyone else."

“That sounds like quite a place to work, Wilmy - do you have any plans to follow your brother into space?"

“Oh not me. Wilford was always the engineer, even back in our village he would be the one to mend things that needed mending. I'm actually thinking of going kermol again, go back to the old Grove."

“Well good luck with that too, Wilmy. Thank you for talking to KBS."

Leland made a cutting gesture to Don. They shook hands with Wilmy and moved off into the crowd. Leland was fairly satisfied with their footage from the crowd and was considering going over to the marquee to visit the Kerlington Model Rockets stand when he nearly tripped over a diminutive kerbal in a grey cloak. He stumbled back in embarassment and bowed respectfully.

“Good afternoon Keeper," he said and then caught sight of the green trim on the kerbal's collar and bowed even more deeply. “I beg your pardon. Good afternoon Ambassador. What brings you to the Space Centre?"

The ambassador's wrinkled face looked up at him impishly. “The same thing that brought you here I imagine," he said, “The excitement of a rocket launch and a chance to see a little bit of history being made."

Leland was momentarily lost for words. “I, I suppose so, Ambassador. Nevertheless I'm surprised..."

“To see a Keeper here." finished the old kerbal. He smiled gently. “Kerman or kermol, my son, we are all still kerbals and exploration is in our blood. The Books tell us so - for as long as we have recorded such things there have been kerbals and Kerm trees. And ever we have taken the Kerm trees with us to new lands."

Leland gathered himself with an effort. “So do you think we'll be taking Kerm trees with us into space, Ambassador?" he asked.

The ambassador laughed merrily. “Not for a while yet I don't think," he said cheerfully, “but I'm sure the good kermans at the KIS are working on it."

Once again, Leland was at a loss for words. “KIS, Ambassador?"

“The Kerbin Interplanetary Society of course." The ambassador looked at him shrewdly. “I know of a good few Groves around here, my son, where KIS hats are very much the thing to wear - for young and old kermols alike! And now, if you'll excuse me, I know a particular pair of young kermols who'll never forgive their old grandfather if he doesn't bring them back a hat! Go with the Kerm, sir."

Leland bowed again. “And you also, Ambassador. Thank you for talking to KBS."

He nodded to Don. “Back to the stage I think. We don't want to keep Ornie waiting too long."

“Alright! This is our last song today." The crowd booed obligingly as the drummer made his way to the front of the stage and whispered in the guitarist's ear.

“I'm sorry." The guitarist paused theatrically. “What I meant to say is - this is our last song before the launch today! So we'd like to dedicate this to Jebediah Kerman and all the crew back at the KIS. This one is called... Badass!"

Leland gazed into the distance as the music washed over him. Tears pricked at the corners of his eyes and for a moment he wished he could be sitting beside Jeb in the Moho 1 capsule, ready to blaze across the sky on a great plume of rocket fire. Reluctantly he tore his gaze away from the stage. “I should get to the commentary box." he said.

Don looked even more reluctant but picked up his spare camera. “Yup," he said, “I'd better go with Ornie and get those last shots of the rocket before they clear the pad for launch."


“T minus fifteen minutes and counting. The last of the KIS engineers have left the launch pad and the Moho 1 is fueled up and ready for launch. The last message from pilot Jebediah Kerman, now strapped securely into his capsule, was “I'm feeling fine and looking forward to the flight."

“T minus ten minutes and counting. Mission Control have run the final pre-launch checks on the spacecraft and all systems are Go as we approach the five minute mark."

Leland was unable to hide his excitement as the clock ticked down towards zero. “T minus five minutes and counting. From Mission Control, 'we have transferred power to the booster and the transfer is satisfactory.'"

Now Leland was racing to keep up as the final moments of the countdown unfolded in quick succession. “T minus two minutes and counting. Guidance control and launch sequencing transferred. Tank pressures nominal. Mission Control reports we are Go for engine start.“

“T minus one minute, umblicals have detached, all gantry systems to launch positions. T minus forty seconds - we have launch commit. T minus twenty T minus twelve, eleven, ten, nine..." Leland gabbled, "Five, four, three..."

“Ignition!... and lift off - we have lift off! All engines running!"

Leland's voice soared joyfully over the PA system. “Moho 1 has cleared the tower and what a fantastic sight that is! Listen - just listen to those engines - five enormous rocket motors propelling Jebediah Kerman into history!"


“Moho 1 - you have cleared the tower." Geneney's voice was rather more restrained than Leland's but it still held a note of triumph. “How do you read me, Jeb?"

“Reading you loud and clear, Genie. Man this is a smooth ride compared to the old Kerbal 1!"

“Copy that, Jeb. You're flying the best one we can find."

There were more than a few grins around the bunker as Jeb's cheerful whistling echoed tinnily out of the speaker, although it soon began to sound a little strangled and then expired with a sudden grunt as the Moho 1 continued to accelerate. Lucan, Wernher, Joemy and Neling kept a wary eye on their consoles as the ship climbed through the atmosphere.

“Two minutes to LV9 separation," Wernher said quietly.

Geneney nodded, “OK, Jeb, standby for LV9 shutdown and detach."

The tension in the bunker went up a notch as everyone turned to watch the familiar four lights on top of Wernher's console. On board the Moho 1, Jeb was watching the status indicator lamps on his control panel just as intently. Geneney's voice came over his headset, counting down the last few seconds.


Four status lamps glowed steadily back at Jeb. Automatically, he flipped back the guard over the LV9-JETT button, waited three seconds for the automatic systems to cycle again and then mashed the button into its socket as hard as he could. The lamps didn't even flicker. Jeb keyed his microphone.

“OK, Gene, I've got a problem up here."

“We see it too, Jeb. Stand by."

Geneney broke his radio link with the Moho 1. “Lets go people," he said urgently, “What have we got? Propulsion?"

Wernher rattled off the key details. “LV9s have shut down. LV-T20 is Go. Spacecraft still accelerating."

“Got it. Guidance?"

Neling fought to keep the nervousness out of her voice. “Trajectory is stable. SAS is compensating for the additional mass."

“Thank you. Flight Dynamics - what are our options?"

To everyone's surprise, Lucan's response was quick and confident. “We're still Go, Flight."

Geneney blinked but he wasn't about to argue. He knew one thing though - if the first stage also failed to detach, the flight was over. He reached out and clicked the radio on. “OK, Jeb, we're working this but for now you are still Go."

“Understood, Gene."

Geneney toggled his radio off again. “OK, Lucan, what have you got in mind?"

Lucan swivelled round in his chair. “Staging will be lower than planned but we can still get to orbit with the second stage and final insertion from the RCS. If we don't get first stage separation then we shut everything down and go for a mode one abort."

Geneney thought it through rapidly. “That's going to be a long burn with the RCS and the guidance system is only designed to hold orientation for retrofire. That means that Jeb is going to need to keeping the capsule oriented manually for the whole burn. Guidance?"

Neling turned to face them both. “We can do better than that, Flight. SAS is set to hold capsule attitude along the flight vector minus twenty degrees of pitch. If Jeb can execute a manual offset on the gyros, the SAS should hold attitude correctly for the burn." Out of the corner of her eye she could see Lucan nodding in agreement.

“How much margin will that leave us for the deorbit burn?"

Wernher spoke up from his console. “Enough, Gene. We'll have to scrub most if not all of the planned maneuvers but we'll have enough propellant to to get Jeb home without cutting into the reserve."

Geneney made his decision. “Lets do it. Lucan, Neling - we're going to need a procedure for that gyro offset and quickly."

“On it, Flight." Lucan scrambled out of his chair and hurried over to Neling's console. The two kerbals bent their heads over Neling's flight logbook and started roughing out a set of instructions.

“OK, Jeb, stand by for staging. Once you lose the first stage we'll take things from there. If you don't get separation I want to you to punch out immediately. Mode One abort - just get that capsule out of there!"

Jeb's voice was calm. “Got it . Go / NoGo at staging."


The fifth light flickered off and seconds later, Wernher sighed with relief as his console lit up with telemetry from the second stage engine. “Second stage ignition confirmed!" he called out across the bunker.

“Thank you, Wernher." Geneney replied tersely, “Lucan, Neling - how's that procedure coming along?"

“Got it right here, Flight." Neling tore the page out of her logbook and took it over to the flight director's chair. Geneney scanned the checklist quickly and nodded as he keyed his microphone.

“OK, Jeb. We've got some additions to your flight plan here. You ready to take them down?"

“Ready and waiting, Gene."

“I've got Neling on the loop to pick up any transmission errors from here. This procedure starts as soon as we have a confirmed booster separation;"

SAS override - ON.


Gyros to LOCK.

Confirm roll orientation head up.

Pitch plus 20 degrees.

Gyros to FREE

SAS override - OFF

RCS translate plus zee for 3 minutes 17 seconds, then;

SAS override - ON.

Gyros to LOCK


Gyros to FREE

SAS override - OFF.

Neling listened intently as Geneney read out the checklist and Jeb repeated it back line by line. She nodded quickly and hurried back to her console.

“Understood, Gene. Gyro offset, burn one-nine-seven seconds with the RCS, reset gyros for orbital attitude. How much monopropellant will this leave me?"

“You won't be doing much flying up there, Jeb but you'll have enough to get you home without tapping into the reserve tank."

“That's good to know. The view should be pretty good from up here anyway, so I'll just take it easy for an orbit or two and do a little sightseeing!"

“Just remember to take some holiday pictures too. Second stage shutdown in three minutes."

The atmosphere in the bunker was tense as the second stage engine continued it's long burn, pushing Jeb and the Moho 1 higher and higher out of Kerbin's atmosphere. Everyone watched as the ship velocity climbed rapidly upwards, knowing that each metre per second on the board could be vital. There was complete silence, every kerbal in the room mentally counting off the seconds until shutdown. Suddenly there was a familiar and very welcome muffled bang from the speaker and the last light flickered out on Wernher's console. The capsule system displays next to Neling and Joemy shifted rapidly, as Jeb raced through the improvised checklist.

“...and SAS override off. Capsule attitude holding steady. Firing RCS."

“Attitude hold confirmed, Jeb." Geneney's voice caught in his throat. “One minute to loss of signal - good luck."

“It's all looking good up here, Genie. Go take a break - I'll be back in an hour or so."


Up in the commentary box, Leland's voice was sober. "Mission Control has just reported the expected loss of communication with the Moho 1 during the final moments of the ascent. If all goes well they should re-establish contact with the capsule in exactly one hour and twenty-two  minutes. If something goes wrong and the thrusters don't fire for long enough, Jebediah Kerman will be faced with the daunting prospect of a difficult and dangerous re-entry, alone on the far side of Kerbin. Even if he survives re-entry, Mission Control will have no way of finding the capsule once it lands."

All around the Space Centre, the festival atmosphere was long gone as thousands of kerbals waited anxiously for more news. The control bunker was packed with members of the Kerbin Interplanetary Society, eyes fixed on the screens. Those few that couldn't fit in paced up and down outside, occasionally craning their heads around the door to try and catch a glimpse themselves.

“Control to Moho 1. Come in Moho 1."

Static hissed balefully out of the speaker as Geneney tried to raise Jeb on the radio. He gripped the arms of his chair to steady his trembling hands. Dammit Jeb, where are you, he muttered under his breath.

“Control to Moho 1. Come in Moho 1."

Joemy gave a startled exclamation as his console began to light up with data. “Flight - I have telemetry. Repeat - I have telemetry!"

And then a familiar cheerful voice filled the room.

“Looks like I am flying the best one you could find, Genie!"

The bunker erupted with cheering. Geneney's voice shook as he tried to make himself heard over the noise. “Copy that, Jeb. You've got a whole roomful of people down here that are glad you could join us again." He jabbed a finger at the Guidance and Flight Dynamics stations.

“And you my friends, are a pair of steely eyed rocketeers."


<< Chapter 11   ::     Chapter 13>>

Edited by KSK
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Tension. Action. Suspense. Good work with cramming those together into one small chapter. And: Thunderbird? Why did i had Thunderbirds March playing in my head then? :cool: Little, green and wrinkled ambassador? Why did i seen Master Yoda then? :D Excellent read.

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:) Working on the next chapter but there are some details that I'm still getting straight in my head first. In the meantime, I can thoroughly thoroughly recommend The Next Frontier. Enjoy it as a sort of sequel to First Flight by all means but trust me - it more than stands on its own regardless of what I write.

You might also want to take a look at Deadweasel's Kerbal Khronicles. Totally different universe but a really good read and beautifully illustrated to boot. While you're at it, go take a peek at BostLab's ' Beagle Flight' series. Completely different again but lots of drama and one seriously menacing main character, although I havn't quite decided whether he's actually a bad guy yet - I suspect things will get just a little more complex than that.

Plus of course, there's no shortage of other fine work on this forum.

Byter - Thank you very much! The chapter was actually inspired by one in-game flight where I failed to take proper account of fuel tank sizes and limped up to orbit with the lateral boosters carrying the dead weight of the main first stage tank and engine. Made it on RCS in the end and figured that would be a good tale to work into First Flight :)

Scotius - yeah I might want to dial back the Yoda imagery a bit :). Need to figure out a way of depicting age and dignity in a kerbal though. Still - at least bad grammar I resisted yes? As for 'Thunderbirds March', I was thinking more Coming Home by Iron Maiden :D More about airplanes than spaceships I think but it always conjures up images of spaceplanes for me.

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Edge of my seat, KSK. Woo what a ride. I had tears in my eyes when Jeb re-established contact.

Thank you very much for the mention on my AAR. my bad guy? Well let's just say he is a very complex character.

Can't wait until your next chapter. Love it!

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Hey Squirtgun. Thanks for hanging in there and thanks for coming back with the apology a couple of posts back.

Working on the chapter as we speak, although real life (and a certain amount of procrastination) have gotten in the way a bit. It's been a tricky one in many ways - the first crewed flight was an obvious milestone to write towards and I knew where the story was going along the way. Without giving too much away, the next chapter is pretty important and sets the direction for the next part of the tale but doing that without making it too dry or too much of an anticlimax (I hope!) took a while to figure out.

Rest assured though - it's all chugging along!


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All the Proof They Needed

A small rational corner of his mind was telling him that KBS probably wouldn't have broadcast the documentary if the flight had ended in tragedy. The rest of him was paying this comforting thought no attention at all and Obrick was on the edge of his seat as the urgent message went out from Mission Control;

“Control to Moho 1. Come in Moho 1."

Obrick flopped back into his seat and mopped his brow as the pilot's voice came over the air.

“Looks like I am flying the best one you could find, Genie!"

For a moment there was complete pandemonium as every kerbal in Mission Control jumped up and down, cheering themselves hoarse. Gradually the applause died away and the commentary turned to technical details of burn timings and re-entry interfaces as the camera panned around the surprisingly small looking room. The picture zoomed in on a map of Kerbin, with the flight path of the Moho 1 superimposed on it and then faded to black as the voices of the flight director and the pilot faded out with it.

The screen brightened again as the scene from Mission Control was replaced by a view over the rail of a large boat. Either the sea was rather choppy or the cameraman hadn't quite got his sea legs because the picture was rocking erratically. A clock was counting down in one corner of the screen and the KBS commentator was busily explaining that if all had gone to plan, the flight control team should have established contact with the capsule by the time the clock reached zero.

Only two minutes were left as the camera tilted towards the sky and began to pan back and forth as the cameraman hunted for any signs of the descending capsule. The voice of the flight director could be heard in the background calling out to the pilot, although all that could be heard in reply was the hiss and crackle of static. Obrick gnawed on one knuckle as he waited ;

“....to Control. My compliments to the heat shield team - the capsule didn't even get warm enough for me to break a sweat!"

Underneath the pilot's light hearted banter, Obrick could sense a very relieved kerbal.  And no wonder, he thought. The tension was bad enough watching a documentary of the flight - Kerm only knew what it was like in the actual capsule, plummeting towards the ground and knowing that the only thing keeping you safe from the inferno outside was a few centimetres of ablative resin.

The view from the boat was still just empty skies and bobbing waves though, as the voiceover from Mission Control rattled through details of course headings and splashdown checklists.

“Fifteen kilometres and dropping, Genie. Standing by for drogues."

A great cry went up from the boat and the view from the camera tilted and blurred as the cameraman tried to find the capsule. There was brief flash of orange and the camera darted sharply back and zoomed in to the sight of two large orange parachutes unfurling against the clear blue sky.

“We read you on the mains Jeb - welcome home!"

Obrick felt as drained as the flight director sounded as the boat pulled up alongside the bobbing capsule, its scorched sides a mute testimony to the fury of it's plunge from orbit. He watched as a team of kerbals jumped over the side and inflated a large collar around the base of the craft, before undogging the capsule hatch and swinging it open. Obrick caught a glimpse of a cramped space with the pilot strapped into his couch in the midst of control panels and other paraphernalia. As the credits rolled up the screen, the camera followed one of the recovery team as they climbed in through the hatch and helped the pilot out. The last image of the documentary was a close up of the grinning pilot, minus his helmet, sitting on a life raft in a bright orange spacesuit.

A flight attendant came up the aisle as Obrick flicked off the television screen. He leaned over and checked Obrick's seat belt.

“We're on our final approach now, Mr President. Twenty minutes till landing."

As the plane banked low over the city, Obrick was struck once again by the simplicity of the skyline. After the drama of Jebediah Kerman's journey into space, it was curiously jarring to be reminded that for all their technological progress and forward looking optimism, kerbals were a rather traditional people at heart. Even in their capital city, most of the residential and administrative buildings were still based around the ages old Kermol hut. Where a larger building was required, kerbals tended to simply build a cluster of smaller buildings side by side, or even into each other, which gave the city architecture a pleasantly scalloped, almost organic look from the air. Indeed, many of the smaller buildings, were built around a central tree in the Kermol fashion but even where this was clearly not possible, there was an obvious fondness for building next to greenery, with the largest buildings nestling within leafy parks.

The plane levelled out as it swooped over the city descending rapidly towards the airport. There was a rumble and then a solid thump from underneath the fuselage as the undercarriage lowered and locked into place. Even now, the view from Obrick's window was predominantly of trees and fields, although he knew that if he turned his head and looked out of the other side of the plane, he would see grey concrete and airport buildings.

With the briefest squeal of tyres, the plane dipped gracefully onto the runway and rolled towards a small private hangar. Obrick was pushed gently forward as the plane slowed to a walking pace. His mind was still very much on the KBS documentary and he found himself wondering what it must have been like in the Moho 1, thrown forward in your seat as the rocket engines shut down and the capsule flew on towards space.

As the plane came to a standstill, a set of steps was quickly rolled up to the cabin door. Obrick got to his feet, picked up his bag and reflexively checked his seat, in the manner of air travellers everywhere, to make sure that he hadn't left anything behind. Satisfied, he walked down the aisle of the small passenger cabin, thanked the pilots and flight attendant and marched briskly down the steps towards the waiting car.

The scalloped architecture was rather less apparent from the ground but the capital was still a very leafy, pleasant place to drive through. The buildings to either side managed to be quite colourful despite being constructed largely of dressed stone, wood and glass. All manner of building stone had been used somewhere in their construction, from clean creamy limestone to grey speckled granites and yellowy sandstones, all set off with the deep gleam of polished timbers.

Here and there a balcony garden or a brightly dyed drape of kaya wool added a splash of vibrant colour to the more muted natural tones of the walls. Taller buildings marked the offices of various companies. These tended towards the sober, with those of the larger companies striving bravely for grandiosity. Obrick noted that the current fashion for revolving billboards was in full swing, with each office proudly displaying a spinning corporate logo on its roof.

The pavements running along the sides of the road were generously wide and bustled with kerbals of all sizes hurrying here and there about their business. Much of the traffic of course consisted of the ubiqitous tik-tiks and a steady stream of the small four wheeled buggies trundled past, their drivers reclining in the typical deep set chair and pedalling furiously along. There were other cars around too but they were comparatively rare and much of the roadway was given over to the buggies. As Obrick whisked quietly past, the soft hum of the car's electric motors could barely be heard over the constant tik-tik-tikking of buggy chains.

The car turned a corner onto City Avenue, a wide tree lined thoroughfare that split the city into two. Halfway along the Avenue and right in the very centre of the city, surrounded by it's own park, was the Capital building. A masterpiece of kerbal architecture, Obrick knew that this was perhaps the largest building in the city and certainly one of the largest enclosed spaces. It was still built along the traditional Kerbol hut shape but cunningly designed braced arches managed to support a very much larger structure than even the most optimistic office building. Twelve smaller buildings were symmetrically arranged around the centre, each building the foot of one of six graceful arches that soared into the air and crossed far above the exact centre point of the main building. A tall flag pole jutted into the sky from the confluence of the six arches and the flag of all Kerbin fluttered proudly in the morning breeze. Picked out in white and green on a blue background, the flag was a stylised plan view of the Capital building itself. The twelve smaller circles around the centre green circle formed a flower motif symbolising Kerbin and each of the six white bars crossing at the centre of the flower, represented the people of one of its six major regionalities.

The car drove up to the park gates which silently swung open to let it through. As Obrick glided past he could see the kerbal guarding the gate lift a radio to his mouth. Obrick tucked his papers back into his briefcase and gathered his thoughts as the car purred up the road and stopped outside the Capital building. The driver hopped down and held the door open for him as he climbed out.

Normally, Obrick would have taken the time to appreciate his surroundings and perhaps take a stroll along the outer gallery that encircled the Council chambers, the better to admire the many works of art on display from across Kerbin. Today though was not a normal day and he hurried across the outer gallery and onwards towards the centre of the building. Pale sunlight gleamed through the skylights, throwing the wood panelling into sharp relief as he strode down the corridor towards a set of ornately carved doors, guarded by two kerbals. Neither guard was openly carrying a weapon but they both looked lean and alert. The ceremonial uniform of the Capital Guards also tended towards the practical rather than the excessively ornate and did not appear to be significantly impeding either kerbal as they pulled the doors open.

The eleven kerbals seated around the large round Council table all turned towards him as Obrick stepped into the room. He nodded briefly to the guards and the doors swung shut behind him with a very definite sounding thud. He bowed formally towards the table.

“Misters President, mesdames President, honoured chief Ambassadors. This session of the Council of Twelve Pillars is now open."

At that, Obrick took his seat at the table.

“As I'm sure you'll all be aware," he said, “the first item on the agenda today, is spaceflight and more particularly, the recent orbital flight by Jebediah Kerman." He paused, trying to judge the reaction from around the table. “As I'm sure you'll also be aware, this is not the first kerbal made object to be successfully flown into space but it is certainly the most significant one and I believe the time is right for this Council to consider its response."

The kerbal opposite Obrick cleared her throat. “Do we know who this Jebediah Kerman is?" she asked.

Obrick nodded. “So far as we're aware, he's a small businessman and noted aerospace enthusiast. He founded the so-called Kerbin Interplanetary Society - with your indulgence, the KIS for short - some time ago with a group of fellow enthusiasts, presumably with the intent of doing precisely what they have just done. Until recently, the KIS was a small informal organisation - I understand that it was somewhat larger to begin with but membership declined as it became clear that they were taking on a rather more ambitious project than they first imagined."

All eyes were on Obrick as he continued. “However, one of my staff has recently visited the KIS headquarters in Barkton and reports that they are now a much larger concern. Indeed they have recently expanded their operation into additional premises in order to support their piloted flights. They are quite admirably open about the whole business and my aide was able to take a tour of their factory floor and crew training facilities, as well as meeting several up and coming pilots in person."

Obrick coughed. “I think its fair to say that my aide was quite overwhelmed by the experience, or at least I've never seen him quite as excited about anything else during my time in office." He reached into his briefcase and drew out eleven grey folders which he passed around the table. “I've taken the liberty of preparing a short briefing on the KIS for you to peruse at your leisure. For now, I think the questions we need to address are quite clear. Where do we envisage this going and what, if anything, do we do about it?"

President Enemone looked unconvinced. “I'm still not quite sure what business this Council has with a group of amateur spacekerbals, no matter how enthusiastic. Unless you seriously believe that there's going to be some enormous demand for joyrides around Kerbin?"

At that point one of the chief Ambassadors spoke up. “Madam President. I have the honour to represent the kermol in President Obrick's Regionality. As fortune would have it, my Grove is not too distant from Barkton and I have also visited the Kerbin Interplanetary Society. With all due respect, I believe that a great many kerbals will want to 'take a joyride around Kerbin.'".

Donman reached under his chair for a large envelope and shook out a number of glossy prints across the Council table. There were several sharp intakes of breath around the table as Donman pointed at one of the prints. “That one I believe was taken on their first flight. I understand it was only taken from thirty-five kilometres up - not nearly high enough to reach space but still rather a spectacular Münrise, as I'm sure you'll agree. These others were taken from an orbiting satellite, which they were able to bring safely back to Kerbin. I find this one of sunrise from space to be particularly inspiring."

Enemone frowned. “Where did you get these prints from?"

“Why, they are available for sale at the KIS museum, Madam President, along with many more." Donman chuckled, “Whatever else you may say about them, the KIS certainly have a flair for the dramatic and an eye for an opportunity. All the prints were selling very well indeed when I was there."

Enemone looked resigned. "Well that's that gronnek out of the bag then." She made a half bow towards Donman. “I agree, Ambassador. If nothing else, those pictures are going to stir up demand." She looked around the table. “So what do we do about this?"

President Chadlin chose that moment to speak up. “It seems to me," he said, “that space travel should be a matter for all of Kerbin. I put it to this Council that such travel should be under the auspices of a single Kerbin-wide organisation. It need not report directly to this Council of course but I believe that a centralised agency is the best approach."

Obrick could see a number of heads nodding around the table, although some were looking more doubtful. He had to give Chadlin credit as well - the old kerbal had clearly prepared his position well and was handling the resulting heated debate with aplomb. The chief ambassadors though, was looking increasingly unhappy and Obrick decided to step in.

“Ambassador Aldwell - I take it you have some concerns with President Chadlin's proposal?"

The Ambassador looked mildly startled. “Thank you, Mr President but I don't have any particular problems with President Chadlin's proposal. I do however, have a great many concerns about the possible impact of a sudden explosion, if you'll excuse the word, of rocket launches. Even if the rockets themselves are relatively benign - which has yet to be proved - the industrial expansion needed to build all the rockets could have a very serious environmental impact on Kerbin."

The other Ambassadors nodded in agreement as Chadlin spoke up again. “A pertinent point Ambassador Aldwell and another excellent reason why space travel should be centrally regulated."

Enemone tapped on the table. “With all respect to President Chadlin, I think he might be being just a little hasty. Despite these extremely persuasive pictures, I think it will be quite some time before swarms of kerbals are flying rockets into space. After all, there has been a total of one kerbal in space so far and that took a great deal of time and effort. I would be inclined to wait and see how matters develop before pressing for a new agency." Enemone cleared her throat. “I also note in passing that only one other company so far has taken up the challenge of spaceflight and begun building their own rockets. This is not a vast industrial expansion to my mind."

“Actually, Madam President," said Obrick, “I believe the Ambassadors have raised an excellent point - and it occurs to me that President Chadlin's proposal would have some serious merit in countering it." He paused for a moment, mentally checking over his next words. “Council members, may I suggest that our response to this issue is to embrace it wholeheartedly and without reservation. We've all seen Ambassador Donman's pictures and if nothing else, we all know our fellow kerbal." A polite ripple of amusement spread round the table. “Throughout our history, the urge to explore and seek new lands has driven much of kerbal society - and I believe that the promise of spaceflight will only feed that urge."

Obrick took a sip of water. “Without wishing to disparage the Kerbal Interplanetary Society, I believe that the long term exploration of space will not be possible in any meaningful sense if we are restricted to launching tiny cargos on large, single shot rockets. And I agree with the Ambassadors that any attempts to do so will pose a grave threat to Kerbin's environment. I would therefore like to propose a two step plan for consideration by this Council."

“In the short term, we should allow our fellow kerbals to guide us. Let the new companies spring up if they so wish. Let them build, let them fly, let them dream - and let them fail. Let them compete and in so competing, let them drive forward the development of new spacecraft and new ambitions!"

“In the meantime, I propose that we do set up a central space agency and task it with developing the longer term answers to the problems of space exploration. If I may give some examples, if it should prove possible to harvest resources from the moons of Kerbin, it would save us the trouble of launching them from Kerbin. How do we set about such a task? I have no idea - but the Kerbin Space Agency will find a way! Are there alternatives to rockets that could be used to get into space. Again, I personally have no idea but the Kerbin Space Agency should be tasked with finding out."

"The KSA will not be a large agency to begin with of course. Barely more than a committee charged with finding the right questions to ask, let alone finding out the answers. If President Enemone's skepticism proves to be correct then it need grow no further. But if spaceflight really does take off, then the KSA will be ready."

There were murmurs of support from around the table. Donman tapped the table in front of him. "An excellent plan President Obrick and one that I believe this Council should earnestly consider. If I may make one small suggestion it would be this. Rather than be wholly guided by the endeavours of our fellow kerbals, why not let the fledgling KSA guide their early ventures? If I may use your example of resource gathering, then surely the first step along that path is to identify what resources are available and where they might be found? Therefore might we not set our space companies the challenge of mapping the Mün from space? Although," he added dryly, "It may well be that simply reaching the Mün will be sufficient challenge to begin with."

The Council started to look more enthusiastic as it debated the merits and the details of the Obrick-Donman proposal. Then President Chadwick spoke up again.

"What about crew safety?"

Obrick looked him in the eye. "Without wishing to be callous, I suggest that this Council does not concern itself with such matters beyond setting certain basic requirements. We should certainly ensure that rockets are not being flown recklessly over inhabited areas - ideally they should launch over the sea. As far as crew safety is concerned, I would venture to suggest that any crew, or indeed passenger in a spacecraft will be well aware of the risks and will have chosen to go regardless."

Aldwell nodded in agreement. "We could of course expand the remit of the Kerbin Air Accident Board to cover investigations into similar incidents with space vehicles but beyond that, I agree with President Obrick. Besides," he went on wryly, "if I may borrow President Enemone's expression, the gronnek is already out of the bag. I suspect that other groups of enthusiasts will attempt to launch themselves into space regardless of any decision handed down by this Council."

Obrick got to his feet. "Let us put the proposal to the vote then. Let all those against, mark their disagreement with no fear of coercion nor fear of censure nor fear of reproach."

He looked round the table at the silent figures before him. "Speak now or forever abide by the lawful decision of this Council."

The council room was quite still.

"Very well. As it has been spoken by the Twelve Pillars, let it be written by the Twelve Pillars. And may the Kerm give us wisdom to follow our course."


<< Chapter 12  ::     Chapter 14>>

Edited by KSK
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Haha, is that something like a kerbal cat? :P

EDIT: Also, how did you come up with that name?

Not sure to be honest, it just seemed like a word that would work :)

Random, off the cuff world building, gronneks are small wolverine like creatures native to the northern reaches of Kerbin. They can be kept as pets, although attempts to domesticate them have only been partially successful and on Earth, gronneks would usually be used as guard dogs or bird dogs rather than house pets.

The easiest way to catch a gronnek is to place a sack over the exits to its burrow and then set off some kind of commotion at the entrance. Finding all the exits of course is a skill all of its own, since they tend to be fairly well concealed. Once in the bag, gronneks are reasonably docile (for certain definitions of 'docile') much after the fashion of a hooded hawk here on Earth. Until the gronnek is adequately trained however, letting it out of the bag without due precautions is usually a bad idea, hence the well known Kerbal saying :)

Edited by KSK
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More generally, as always, thanks for reading folks! Jake - that was spooky timing. Didn't get a chance to reply yesterday as I was literally posting before bed but getting the first comment back before I'd finished the final on-forum read through and edit - wow!

Exsmelliarmus - very glad you're enjoying it and thanks for coming on on the comments!

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