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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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Ok, this is a little tangential to what just happened but I just looked at the name of this part of the story The Age of Fire and I realised something: that name could have two, very different meanings.

First the obvious parallel with the age of sail, an age of expansion for kerbalkind, driven by spaceflight.

The second meaning could also refer to the "fire" that is currently consuming the planet as wars break out all over the place.

While I have an idea as to the kind of situation this will eventually result (having read the start of The Next Frontier), I'm still keenly wondering how far it will end up going and what it will take to finally resolve the issue. That and what's been going on with the space program lately with all this going on.


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Oh absolutely - that's spot on!

Although The Age of Fire was something I shamelessly borrowed from @Madrias who was kind enough not to mind! It just seemed like such a good fit for the story for the reasons you've already mentioned. Even if the impending fires of war weren't so obvious at the time I started writing Part IV, it was clear that the Kerm Crisis was going to cause some kind of major upheaval.

I thought it was also a nice little nod to Michael Collins' book Carrying the Fire and to Plutarch Kerman's oft quoted: "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled" If nothing else that seemed especially apt with the advent of the an-Kerm and the opportunities for the kerbals to learn about their past.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1-8-2017 at 8:29 PM, KSK said:

skilda bar an taleka

After being gone for quite some time, I returned to my position as reader and decipherer of First Flight. I tried to translate this with the knowledge I have*, but I seem to lack any knowledge of the word taleka. Translation so far:



skilda bar an taleka dissection:

balskila= means by which I cut, bal=means by which-->skil= to cut -->skilda=they cut

bar = possesion

an = inclusion = of/from (owned by)

taleka =

The full meaning can be deduced from text around it to be a judicial word for criminal or outlaw. The meaning ‘they cut possesion of ‘nation’’ would make sense, but taleka isn’t among the known states. Sadly I can’t find any source one the word or parts of it.


*read it here, feel free to leave a comment with additions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1r0eDcf2dWf6_HwHZTgiDGwFXxOZ7Qxv-LyD2Jgpj8u0/edit

EDIT: Why are all 'Enter'-presses as effective as 2 of them should be?! How will I write now! I'm am now even less of a fan of the new forum layout! /rant

Edited by superstrijder15
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10 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

After being gone for quite some time, I returned to my position as reader and decipherer of First Flight. I tried to translate this with the knowledge I have*, but I seem to lack any knowledge of the word taleka. Translation so far:

skilda bar an taleka dissection:

balskila= means by which I cut, bal=means by which-->skil= to cut -->skilda=they cut

bar = possesion

an = inclusion = of/from (owned by)

taleka =

The full meaning can be deduced from text around it to be a judicial word for criminal or outlaw. The meaning ‘they cut possesion of ‘nation’’ would make sense, but taleka isn’t among the known states. Sadly I can’t find any source one the word or parts of it.

*read it here, feel free to leave a comment with additions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1r0eDcf2dWf6_HwHZTgiDGwFXxOZ7Qxv-LyD2Jgpj8u0/edit

EDIT: Why are all 'Enter'-presses as effective as 2 of them should be?! How will I write now! I'm am now even less of a fan of the new forum layout! /rant

Had to review my notes for this. :) 

Firstly, there's a bit of author's license here I'm afraid. Taleka (singular: talek)  wasn't a word that had come up previously but it translates to 'ties' or 'bonds' or possibly 'connections'.

My initial draft read:  skilda taleka bar-onkerbal bar-onKerm - they cut ties possessed by all kerbals and all Kerm.

However it didn't seem likely that something that wordy would survive very long as, what is essentially, a piece of legal shorthand. Much in the same way that Latin phrases still creep into legal terminology on Earth. So I shortened it to:

skilda taleka bar-on -  they cut ties possessed by all. 

Then I realised that the case markers should probably go before the noun (markers after the noun being read as negatives), and changed on (signifying dependence on) to an (signifying inclusion) and ended up with:

skilda bar-an taleka  -  they cut ties possessed by all.


So your translation of the phrase as 'they cut possession of nation' is pretty accurate! It certainly captures its spirit and intention. Which makes me very happy - firstly that folks are translating Old Kerba at all and secondly that it's consistent enough to make sense even when I throw new words into the mix!



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5 hours ago, KSK said:

So your translation of the phrase as 'they cut possession of nation' is pretty accurate! It certainly captures its spirit and intention. Which makes me very happy - firstly that folks are translating Old Kerba at all and secondly that it's consistent enough to make sense even when I throw new words into the mix!

Luckily we don't get a full text of Old Kerba, but it is surrounded by a known language. This allowed me to know the meaning and work toward that. Connections could be used for persons we know, and then the sentence would mean 'they cut possesions of connections' aka 'they broke stuff of people we know'

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Working on the next chapter on the go - and I can tell you that having a portable Old Kerba grammar to refer to has just come in very handy! Thanks @superstrijder15.

As a mild teaser (and crowdsourced grammar check :) ) the phrase in question was:


Jebediah ebad belonmansatha


Edited by KSK
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12 minutes ago, KSK said:

Working on the next chapter on the go - and I can tell you that having a portable Old Kerba grammar to refer to has just come in very handy! Thanks @superstrijder15.

As a mild teaser (and crowdsourced grammar check :) ) the phrase in question was:

  Hide contents

Jebediah ebad belonmansatha


You're welcome @KSK. Of course, this means it's dissection time!


Jebediah ebad belonmansatha:

ebad: we are

belonmansatha: bel-on-man-sath-a

bel: person by which <action> is done

on: dependence on

man: biggest

sath: action

a: signifies plural

belonmansatha = person by which dependence on the biggest actions is done

Full sentence: Jebediah, we are the person by which dependence on the biggest actions is done

Possibly: Jebediah, we are the persons on which the biggest actions depend

Note: it looks better in the drive document IMO, due to the smaller distance between lines.

Edited by superstrijder15
noted that the new forum visuals are more crappy than those of the drive document
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Well this was a good plan. Your last translation is spot on but it's not what I meant to say. :) 

Lets try this on for size:


Jebediah eb belonmansatha

which I think translates to:

Jebediah is a person on which the biggest actions (or deeds) depend.

Or colloquially - Jeb is a badS. :) 


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1 hour ago, KSK said:

Well this was a good plan. Your last translation is spot on but it's not what I meant to say. :) 

Lets try this on for size:

  Hide contents

Jebediah eb belonmansatha

which I think translates to:

Jebediah is a person on which the biggest actions (or deeds) depend.

Or colloquially - Jeb is a badS. :) 


I get what you want to say now, but you need to adjust it just a bit more:


Jebediah is a 3rd person singular (except in forgotten :D), so according to the list you need verb+r, or in this specific case, ebr. Essentially, it isn't 'Jeb am a badS,' it's 'Jeb is a badS'


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  • 2 weeks later...

Next chapter is up...


The Two Jebediahs

A tear leaked unbidden from the corner of Patbro’s eye and trickled onto his pillow. In a coma. She’s still in Jonelle’s leaves - there’s still a connection there but neither Enely nor Jonelle can hear her. And they’ve tried. So help me they’ve tried.

<And what of my first of Keepers?> The Kerm’s mental voice sounded hollow, as if heard from the back of some vast cavern.

He’s not getting any worse, Patbro answered, and the medic in charge of his case told me they still have plenty of treatments still to try.

<But none of their normal treatments have worked> It was a statement not a question.

Patbro sighed. I don’t really know what they do without a Kerm to help them, he said. But no, they haven’t. 

The mindscape around him clouded over and the sullen lightning flickering around its edges turned a dark, jagged black that charred whatever it touched. Elsewhere, the char was spreading, stealing through invisible nooks and crannies, tinging new swathes of Elton’s thoughts with grey.


<I am sorry, Patbro. I would not burden you so> 

A thin fog seeped out of the ground like hundreds of tiny vines which slithered back underground dragging the the worst of the char with it. The ground rippled and for a fleeting instant Enely sensed the dry chasms beneath, dark and impenetrable. The clouds stretched like rubber and when they snapped back into place, the dark lightning was gone too.

<Patbro - what do you know of travel to other worlds?>

Patbro blinked. Very little, he said. I’ve seen three rocket launches and I watched the first two Mün landings but I’ve only got the haziest notion of how it all works. He laughed. I expect young Gildas - Ferry’s lad - could tell you more than I could. Why do you ask?

<Gildas is a kerbonaut?>

Preserve me no, although he doesn’t talk of much else!  He’s only a kerblet - not old enough to go kerman, let alone become a kerbonaut.

Elton fell silent. <I talked of this with Jonton and Gerselle and Enely. Kerbals travelling to new worlds to find more soil for this Seeding so that the fighting can stop. But I know nothing of such travel or how long it will take.> A far-off bolt of black lightning shook the mindscape. <There is too much fighting, Patbro. I wonder if we have enough time.>

Patbro went cold. I don’t know, Elton. You’d need to talk to one of the high-ups at the Kerbin Space Agency. Or somebody from the old Interplanetary Society maybe. They were the first to put a kerbal into space after all - young Jebediah Kerman, although he’s not as young these day. 

The link yawned open. Patbro cried out, his thoughts squeezed back into his own skull under the weight of Elton’s sudden overwhelming regard.

<Jebediah Kerman?>

Yes…yes! First kerbal into space and the first one to walk on the Mün for that matter. He could tell you as much as you wanted to know about space travel. Elton - please!

The pressure relented. <I am sorry, Patbro> EIton paused. <I would speak to your Jebediah Kerman - it would be fitting. Will you bring him to me?>

Patbro sagged against the link. Me? I wouldn’t even know where to start looking. Although…

<There is another who could find him?>

Jonton would know. To hear Enely talk, Jonton knows everyone from President Obrick on down. Although - maybe Enely could help us himself. He knows one of the senior people at the Berelgan and they’ve been doing quite a bit of work for the KSA. I’ll ask him to speak to Professor Erlin for you.


“The new clover strains are good - much hardier than the standard soil improver types that most Groves use - but they’re still plants. So we’re experimenting with tougher organisms: algae, cyanobacteria, lichens, things that’ll grow almost anywhere. We’re hoping they’ll grow on the surface, fix nitrogen for us and break down the regolith into useful compounds whilst they’re at it.” Erlin twisted his fingers together. “Anyway, we’re not here to talk about Dunan botany.”

Lodan regarded him over the rim of his coffee mug. “No indeed. Nothing so commonplace. Frankly, Professor, even knowing something of the background to this matter, it seems… less than plausible and were it not for a remarkably testy communique from President Obrick’s office, I would not be sitting here this afternoon. I don’t suppose you can tell us why this…Elton is so keen to speak to Jebediah?”

“Because Elton knows about Starseed. And for what it’s worth he supports it. But according to Enely Kermol - one of the group responsible for his Awakening,” Erlin added, seeing Lodan’s raised eyebrow. “According to Enely, he doesn’t know anything about spaceflight and that concerns him. Why he was so keen to speak to Jebediah and not any other kerbonaut, I couldn’t say.”

Lodan nodded and glanced at the clock on his mantelpiece. Right on time there was a knock at the door. 

“Come in.”

Jeb walked into the room, followed by Geneney. The kerbonaut and the flight director both stared at Erlin curiously. Lodan stood up to greet them, his eyes meeting Geneney’s for a second. “Ah, Jebediah and Geneney. Take a seat and join us please. Allow me to introduce Professor Erlin from the Berelgan Institute. Professor, allow me to introduce Jebediah and Geneney Kerman.”

“Who need no further introduction,” said Erlin with a smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”

“And likewise to meet you, Professor,” said Geneney, accepting a mug of coffee from Lodan. “What can we do for the Berelgan?”

Erlin steepled his fingers and looked at them thoughtfully. “I need you to talk to a friend for me,” he replied at last. “A friend who’s very keen to learn about spaceflight and has requested a meeting with Jebediah. Although I’m sure he would be more than happy to speak to the KIS’s chief flight director too,” he added politely.

Geneney exchanged looks with Jeb before his gaze settled on Lodan. The other nodded minutely, a hint of steel in his expression. “I can’t speak for Jeb,” he said, “but your friend would be very welcome to take a tour of the Space Centre and I’m sure I could find some time for a meeting. However, I think there’s something you’re not telling us, Professor.”

“There is,” Erlin agreed. “And I’m afraid my friend would find it quite impossible to accept your kind offer of a tour, although I might be tempted to take it for him. You see - my friend is a Kerm.” He watched Geneney’s face, trying to ignore Jeb’s incredulous snort. “Perhaps I’d better start from the beginning.”

Geneney took a seat. “I think,” he said, “that would be a good idea.”

“A suitably abridged version if you please, Professor,” said Lodan.

“Naturally,” said Erlin. “Quite apart from anything else, much of it I only have at second hand from various associates of my friend, although I’ve come to trust them implicitly.” He took a sip of coffee. “You will of course have heard of Jonton Kermol, the so-called Sage of Barkton.” He sketched out Jonton’s background: the discovery of the Kerm seed in his Grove, the events leading up to his an-Kerm transformation and his realisation that the an-Kerm could hold the key to resolving the Kerm crisis. Jeb listened to the unfolding story in mounting disbelief at the description of Elton’s Awakening and rise to sapience, followed by Jonelle’s disastrous Awakening. 

As Erlin finished his summary and leaned back in his chair, Jeb stared at him. “So let me get this straight. There was a plan for saving the world. All it needed was a mass lawbreaking and thousands of volunteers willing to spend the rest of their lives as part of a Kerm tree. Then I suppose we kept our fingers crossed that enough of those volunteers survived the process without dying or going insane. And now you want me to get involved with this madness?” He stood up. “No thank you. I may be crazy but I’m not stupid.”

“Please sit down, Jebediah,” Lodan said quietly. “I think we can safely assume that that plan has been put on hold until we better understand the Awakening process. Since Guardian Elton now wishes to learn more about Project Starseed, I can only assume that he’s come to the same conclusion. In which case it would be prudent to grant his request on behalf of the KSA.”

Jeb laughed derisively. “Better pick a KSA employee then instead of a pensioned-off former kerbonaut. What happens if this Kerm mistakes me for a soldier and decides to run me through with its stingers. No thank you.”

His healing vines,” said Erlin patiently. “I’ve spoken to Elton myself and believe me…” Erlin paused. “Let me put it another way. Elton has lived on this planet since before our ancestors mastered fire. I have seen this because I’ve Communed with him and shared his memories. There is nothing you could say or do that would either surprise him or compel him to such an action. Please, Jebediah. I don’t know why he wants to speak to you but I beg you to go to him.”

“We came in peace for Kerm and kerbal,” Geneney said softly. Jeb’s head whipped round.

“That’s unfair, Gene!”

“Yes it is,” said Geneney, “We’re in an unfair business, Jeb and we’ve always known that. Everything we do has to be done right first time or someone pays the price - and Kerm knows we’ve found that out the hard way.” He stood up and gripped Jeb’s shoulders. “I’m coming with you old friend. We’ll take a trip out to that Grove, maybe talk things over on the way - and if you’re still worried about talking to this Guardian Elton?” Geneney shrugged. “Well he’ll just have to make do with a flight director and one-time sub-orbital joyrider instead of a Münwalker.”

Geneney let go of Jeb’s shoulders. “Or if you’re really set against this, I’ll go by myself. Because somebody needs to, Jeb. I’ve watched the news too - and as far as I can see it mostly boils down to people fighting over what they think the Kerm want.” He stepped back, silhouetted against the late afternoon sun pouring through Lodan’s office window. “Maybe one of us needs to ask one them what they actually want.”


The lines of headlights stretched for kilometres, cars and goods vehicles alike queueing up to join the main highway out of Barkton. The occasional horn blared in the dark, protesting, Jeb presumed, a driver taking unduly long to move forward another metre. He popped the top on a can of sapwood and handed it to Geneney. “We’d have been quicker walking to this Grove.”

Geneney nodded glumly. “I didn’t think it would be so bad at night. Hope they have a phone at the checkpoint so I can give this Patbro fellow a call.”

"You're taking all this seriously then?" 

"It's a lot to swallow," Geneney agreed, "but Professor Erlin was about this far from dropping to his knees in front of you and I've never known Lodan to have much tolerance for storytelling on that scale.”

Another horn blared nearby, followed by a sullen crump and the tinkle of metal on asphalt. The sound of slamming doors and angry voices escalated to the noise of breaking glass and the thudding clang of metal against metal. Geneney reached for his door handle but looked at Jeb’s withdrawn expression and thought better of it.

A sudden glare filled the inside of the car followed by a protracted horn blast. Muttering under his breath, Geneney lifted his foot from the brake, letting them roll forward another car length. "For the love of the first Grove!" 

Jeb looked up. "Why me, Gene. What does it want with me?"

Geneney raised his eyebrows. "Apart from the obvious you mean? I can't imagine why anyone wanting to learn about spaceflight would want to talk to the first kerbal in space or the first one to walk on the Mun."

Jeb stared out of the window. "That was a long time ago."

Geneney shook his head. "Not that long ago, Jeb. Which reminds me - did you ever have any more thoughts about rejoining the roster?"

"Not really," said Jeb. "Doesn't seem much point any more. Crewed program is dead after Pioneer 8 and that's not launching any time soon."

Geneney couldn't argue with that. "At least Bill will get his flight," he said. "Kerm knows he's been waiting long enough. And you never know - maybe Elton can jab a few vines up some bureaucratic backsides and get things moving."

Jeb gave him a morose look. "Well now I know its all over," he said. "Flight director Geneney Kerman hoping for a tree to save the mission. A tree talking to a washed-up kerbonaut whilst the world burns. Yeah - just what we need." He closed his eyes. "You got any tunes in this wagon?" 

"Tapes are in the side tray," said Geneney evenly. "but you won't find much unless you're in the mood for light opera or Spierkan marching bands. Winding Road is pretty easy listening for Spierkan pipe."

"You've been spending too much time with the tracking crews," said Jeb, rummaging through Geneney's stack of cassettes. He squinted at one cassette box which depicted a trio of implausibly coloured kerbals posing in front of an equally implausibly coloured desert scene.  "What in the Blight is a rainbow steelsnare?"

Geneney coughed. "They're... a bit experimental," he said. "Not really your standard pipe band."

"I'd call that a plus then," said Jeb, flipping open the box and slotting the cassette into the tape player, which promptly emitted a warbling electronic tone followed by a blare of truck horns. For a second Jeb assumed this was due to another angry driver but then the horns segued into a syncopated drumbeat overlaid with some remarkably up-tempo piping. The mournful drone that Jeb associated with Spierkan pipes was still very much present but seemed to want to wander off into a panoply of other sound effects. 

Jeb glanced at Geneney's set jaw. "They're different," he conceded. "Winding Road it is then." 


Floodlights lit the roadside in a harsh white glare. A steel girder on a chain loomed out of the night, the rest of the crane hidden by the dazzle. The harsh clatter of pneumatic drills drowned out the noise from a road roller as it crawled past behind a line of temporary bollards. Following the emphatic gestures from a uniformed kerbal, Geneney changed lane and pulled up in front of a heavy steel barrier. Overhead, translucent sheeting diffused the worst of the floodlight glare into a stark uniform whiteness that bleached the colour out of everything around them.

Geneney wound down his window. A flicker of recognition crossed the guard's face as he caught sight of Jeb but was quickly hidden behind a professionally impassive stare. "Good evening, sirs. Please unlock your motor and luggage compartments then step out of your vehicle."

"Certainly." Geneney reached under his dashboard and pulled a toggle. A second guard stepped forward, lifted the bonnet and poked a long handled tool inside.  No sooner were Jeb and Geneney out of the car than the first guard had beckoned an inspection team forward. One kerbal slid a flatbed trolley underneath it, her partner peering intently into an angled mirror mounted on one end. Another opened the rear motor compartment and began poking around inside. Others began removing the interior panels from the passenger door. 

After a brief consultation with the first guard, Geneney set off in search of a telephone booth, leaving Jeb to oversee the systematic dismantling of his car. Their travel bags were removed, upended over a tarpaulin and repacked. Geneney's tape collection was spread out over a nearby bench, one of the inspectors shaking his head at the Rainbow Steelsnare box, much to Jeb's inward amusement. 

By the time Geneney returned, the inspection team were busy refitting upholstery panels to his car doors. He frowned at Jeb. "Being a bit thorough aren't they?" He watched his car being put back together for a moment. "Managed to reach Patbro. Sounds like plenty of folks from the Grove have been caught up in the inspections too, so he wasn't surprised that we're running late. He sounded like a nice old guy actually; gave me directions for when we get to the Grove and asked if we'd eaten or if we'd need anything when we arrived."

Jeb shrugged. "Depends how long that lot take."

The inspection wore on and Geneney was starting to consider pulling out his KSA pass and having a quiet word with one of the guards, when there was a sudden flurry of activity around his car. The camera trolley was towed out from under the front motor compartment, the bonnet slammed shut and one of the guards approached them, clipboard in hand. "Your vehicle is clean, sir. Destination and nature of your business please?"

"Visiting a friend in one of the outer Groves," Geneney replied. "We don't expect to be out of town for more than a couple of days."

"Thank you, sir. Please be aware that you will be required to submit to further seed checks before re-entering Barkton."

"Understood," said Geneney, slipping into the driver's seat and sliding it forward. "All set, Jeb?" 

"For the last thirty minutes. Let's go.”

Apart from a slow trickle of traffic leaving the checkpoint, the highway out of town was almost empty and the Barkton suburbs soon gave way to open fields speckled with lights from nearby Groves. Away from the highway, the roads became much narrower, trees looming out of the shadows on either side, lit only sparingly by the car headlights. After a brief detour and a stop on the verge to consult their map, Geneney was thankful to find a turning he recognised. Presently the forest began to thin out and streetlights began to appear again by the side of the road.  

Remembering Patbro's advice, Geneney took a turn to the right, skirting around the village proper before parking at the foot of a shallow hill that led up to the biggest tree he'd seen in his life. The full Mün shone through it’s branches, catching the elaborate, multi-story kermol hut wrapped around its trunk, with a flat, pale glow. Jeb stared into the shadows wreathing the hut's lower tier and shivered.  

Geneney sensed his disquiet. “Everything alright, Jeb?” he murmured.

Jeb shook his head. “Never did like Kerm much as a kerblet. The way their branches rustle without any wind always gave me the creeps. Our Keeper too. Looking back he was just a harmless old kerb who'd been living on his own too long, but when I was young…” Jeb shivered again. “Yeah."

“And that’s a big spooky Kerm,” Geneney agreed, “Especially in the münlight. Come on - lets get inside.”


"Jebediah Kerman?" Patbro couldn't quite keep the awe out of his voice. "And you must be Geneney Kerman. Preserve me but..." He shook his head. "Look at me, standing here like a starstruck kerblet. Please - come inside."

Jeb's nose wrinkled as he walked into the spotless kitchen. Patbro looked puzzled and then his brow cleared. "The cinnamon? Stronger than a normal Kerm I know but you get used to it. Can I get you anything before we go through?"

Geneney smiled. "We're fine but thank you. The traffic out of Barkton was slow so we had plenty of time to eat on the way."

Patbro scowled. "Those ridiculous border searches! It's bad enough getting out of Barkton but getting anything into Barkton is a blighted sight worse. White bean harvest from my Grove was held at the border for nearly a day. If one of the drivers hadn't told them to try using a roll of fencing wire as a sieve, they'd probably be there now picking through the blighted beans for Kerm seeds!" He sighed. "Anyhow, you're not here to listen to my problems. We'd better go through and introduce Jebediah to Elton - begging your pardon but I don't think he was expecting two of you.

"I think your problems are going to be everyone's problems," Geneney said quietly. "But yes, Professor Erlin was very clear that Guardian Elton wanted to speak to Jeb."

Patbro nodded and led them through to Jonton's sleep room. Geneney looked around in surprise at the rows of bunk beds secured to the walls. Jeb just stared at the empty room and the massive Kerm trunk that made up one wall.

"Any bed will do," said Patbro. "Elton won't mind which leaves you use." He gestured at a pair of kitchen chairs beside a crisply made bed. "Geneney and I will wait here for you."

"Actually," said Geneney, "Those sack chairs look fine after being cooped up in the car for so long. I'll just park myself beside Jeb's bunk. That Twelve Riders duvet looks just right for you, Jeb," he added. 

A stricken look crossed Patbro's face. "Not that one if you don't mind," he said, summoning up a wan smile. "Although maybe Joenie wouldn't mind lending her favourite bedspread to Jebediah Kerman."

Jeb started towards one bunk before stopping and looking at the one beside it. "I'm not so sure about this, Gene," he said.

Geneney saw the astonishment on Patbro's face and shot him a warning look. "It'll be fine, Jeb," he said gently. "C'mon - kerbals have been Communing with Kerm for centuries."

"They were Keepers though," muttered Jeb. "That's different."

Patbro cleared his throat. "Not all of them," he said. "Not by a long way. A lot of people came to speak to Jonton back when he was the Sage of Barkton and almost none of them were Keepers. Besides, as Elton could tell you, Keepers haven't been around forever - far from it."  

Jeb glanced at Geneney, who did his best to look reassuring. Squaring his shoulders he strode towards the nearest bunk and lay down on it. "Now what?" he demanded.

"You need to lift your head into the leaf cluster and keep it there," said Patbro. "Propping a spare pillow under your neck helps a lot. The leaves make the mental contact with you. You haven't Communed before so they'll probably need to be quite insistent and may be rather uncomfortable to begin with. After that, it's all up to Elton."

Jeb picked up a pillow and held it against his chest, staring fixedly at the leaf cluster suspended above him. Then he jerked his head up and whipped the pillow under his neck, clenching his toes against the prickling, squirming sensation crawling across his scalp. He sensed a sudden vastness yawning all around him and then all was light.

Two grieving minds touch. One, with a friend lost to the space programme, fearful of the Kerm. One, with a friend lost to the Kerm, fearful for the space programme. Images appear: a kerbal in a wingless, skeletal flying machine, a motionless kerbal on a bed, her head swathed in Kerm leaves.

Two grieving minds touch in a boiling foam of memory, a torrent of unleashed emotion. Sorrow. Futility. Hopelessness. Anger.  All turned inward, gnawing on the soul, growing like a canker, leaving but a husk behind. 

Two grieving minds touch and in the touch comes affirmation. For if the other so different can feel these things too then all is right. It is proper to grieve. It is natural to feel apathy and even despair. It is right to want permission to feel sadness. And with affirmation comes understanding. This will be no instant cure. There will be many more steps to take. But this is the first and perhaps the largest.



The kerbal on the bed - she was Gerselle?

<yes. And the kerbal in the machine?>

Was Ornie.

<ah> Acknowledgement rolled down the link between Kerm and kerbonaut. Then. <the flying machine, Jebediah. Was it for travel between worlds?>

Jeb blinked. No. It was just the Minmus landing trainer. He sensed Elton's incomprehension. Professor Erlin said you needed to learn about spaceflight?

<that is why I would speak to you now, Jebediah>

Right. Then I think we need to start from the beginning. We shouldn't keep Genie and Patbro awake for too long, so the details can wait for tomorrow, but I can give you a summary now?

<that would be acceptable>

Jeb began by outlining the earliest days of the Kerbin Interplanetary Society: Wernher's LV-1 prototype rocket engine, his own final year project and acrimonious departure from the Institute, culminating in the launch of the KIS's first proper sounding rocket powered by their new LV-5 engine. Through Jeb's memories, Elton witnessed the LV-10 disaster, the struggle and ultimate failure to develop clustered engines for a crewed rocket, and a steadily dwindling KIS, even as their plans for the Kerbal 1 reached fruition. He watched a succession of test flights flicker past, all ending in one catastrophic failure after another, all etched bright in Jeb's memory. Finally, he saw a pair of bright orange parachutes unfurling in the skies and felt the, still undiminished, exultation of a successful test flight.


Geneney watched Jeb stiffen, back arching as the Kerm leaves touched his head. Then, to his great relief, Jeb relaxed, one arm drooping over the side of his bed. Patbro levered himself out of his sack chair and placed Jeb's hands gently atop his chest. "Stops them going numb," he explained. "Happened to me once - wasn't much fun."

There was a long wait. Patbro went through to the kitchen and presently the smell of fresh coffee drifted through to the sleep chamber. Geneney yawned and then clapped a hand over his mouth in surprise. For the first time in far, far too long, a familiar grin was lighting up Jebediah Kerman's face.


The sun rose over a most unlikely rocket ship standing on its launch pad. 

Elton sensed Jeb's hidden trepidation atop a rickety launch tower, heard his banter with Bill and Bob, shared the brief claustrophobia of three fledgling kerbonauts wedged into an impossibly small capsule. With new understanding he listened to the conversation with 'Control' and felt the rocket come alive around him, before surrendering to the primal release of energies and raw emotions as the Kerbal 1 blasted into the sky.

And then Elton found himself looking over another kerbonaut's shoulder through a tiny round window. 

<what is that?>

And then he knew.

Jeb’s memories tumbled around him and the mindscape reeled, scoured by blazing rocket fire that blew apart grey thoughts and lit the caverns beneath. Patches of char exploded skyward and were instantly incinerated. Kerm sparks gambolled around the brilliant motes, swooping and diving, soaring over the transfigured fields of thought below.


Patbro’s jaw dropped. All around him, Elton’s leaf clusters splayed wide open. Along his branches twigs flexed and rustled, leaves standing on end, springing away from one another as if charged by some inner electricity. Geneney looked up in alarm at the suddenly creaking ceiling, its supporting branches flexing and groaning.


Oh you've not seen anything yet!

The view from an open door, winding queues of figures stretching down the road. The bustle and clamour of kerbals in their dozens and then their hundreds, putting up new buildings, making more rocket parts and other strange new machines. A car on a dusty hilltop, a ball growing vines and making a strange beeping sound. Crowds of kerbals in a field watching the new rockets fly. An oddly shaped capsule - too small for any kerbal - on the end of a single parachute. Elton saw them all, felt the growing excitement. 

Then came the pictures. Mere memories of images, rippled as if seen through thick glass, although Elton could still perceive the curved edge of a blurry blue and white ball set against utter blackness.

Those were from our Kerbin 2 satellite, said Jeb. The satellite was spinning so they're not very good but they were enough.

<enough for what?>

Enough to make us think we could send kerbals into space and bring them safely home.

<and Patbro said that you were the first kerbal to make such a journey>

I was, said Jeb. It's a long story but... He stopped at the wave of amusement rolling through his link to Elton. 

<I am sorry, Jebediah. My first of Keepers also tells long stories. I think perhaps all kerbals do.>

Jeb pushed his confusion to one side. Probably, he agreed. One for tomorrow I think - the Moho capsules and boosters were our first proper spacecraft so you need to know more about them if you want to understand spaceflight. But for now.

White light receded, becoming edged with widening blue. Greens and browns appeared too, lending definition and shape to the blue. Finally, there was blackness. With a twist of perspective, Elton found himself racing the very edge of the night, soaring over a landscape of greens and blues and whites that glowed with its own numinous light. Some of that light he knew, was imparted by Jebediah's lasting memory of his journey.

But most of it was not.

Buffeted and spun by the waves of emotion pouring down the link, Jeb clung desperately to his mental image of Kerbin seen from space. Kerm... knows what...he's going to do...about the next ones. The waves receded, diminished by a rising surge of excitement and curiosity, lifting Jeb high above the mindscape. 

<there is more, Jebediah?>

Yep. Better hold on to your... whatever Kerm hold onto. Jeb summoned up his memory of the lander extraction manoeuvre aboard Pioneer 4. Four gleaming petals swung open to reveal an ungainly looking machine, its spindly legs folded up its sides. Thrusters fired with a clatter of solenoids, pulling the lander free. The cylindrical bulk of the Kerbin departure stage receded into the distance, revealing the slowly shrinking globe of Kerbin against the starry backdrop of space. 

The image shifted. A much smaller globe, its lower hemisphere half hidden by shadow, floated above a lifeless grey plain.


Elton’s branches sagged in shock. Internal tubules squeezed shut, denying sap to his suddenly wilting leaves. Münlight poured through the gaps in his canopy, radiant beams piercing the shadows beneath.


Jeb felt the overwhelming pressure of Elton's mind against his own, the astonished Kerm drinking in his memories of Kerbinrise with a fierce, almost terrifying intensity.

<All should see this. All.> The pressure eased a little. <I thank you...thank you for this, Jebediah Kerman.> Elton's mental voice seemed to deepen, rolling across the mindscape like an avalanche <Once again, Jebediah eb belad-onmansatha>  He sensed Jeb's utter bewilderment. <Something that was often said about another kerbal bearing your name. The literal translation is: Jebediah is a person we depend on to accomplish the greatest deeds.> Elton paused. <I do not know what the modern expression is.>

The mindscape vanished behind a veil of white. A stern-faced kerbal appeared before them, dressed in plain grey robes and sporting an exuberant pair of bushy white eyebrows.

<Jebediah Kerman. Founder and first leader of the Council of Twelve Pillars.> A tinge of regret crept into Elton's voice <I did not know him personally but many of my kerbals did> He smiled <Another long story that can wait for tomorrow. For now, you should know that he was not so very different to yourself, Jebediah. His deeds were the pinnacle of kerman accomplishments - they saved your world from disastrous war and shaped the very fabric of kerbal society into a form which endures to this day. But he too suffered sorrow and loss. He too despaired at the failures, the wrong decisions, those he could not save and the deeds he did not have time to finish.>

Elton smiled. <It will be confusing when I talk of this to others. Two Jebediah Kerman's and both so very similar.>

And for the first time in far, far too long, Jeb allowed himself to smile back. Not a problem, he answered. Just call me Jeb.


“In other news, refugees continue to flee the increasingly bitter fighting between Wakiran forces and the so-called Clean Earther rebels. This neo-kerman sect is now reported to…”

Lodan switched off the television and slumped into his chair. The mug of Doreni Blue coffee by his elbow smelt sour and stale. He took a swallow, more out of habit rather than any particular enjoyment, staring at the lights from the Alpha tracking dish gleaming in the twilight. He pushed his mug to one side and laid his head on his desk, eyelids closing.

“…construction of Alpha, Beta and Gamma stations is approved. Full expansion of the KSA mandate will require authorisation from the Twelve Pillars…for the moment, I strongly advise against any further unplanned expansions of that mandate. I trust we understand each other Director Lodan…"

"...on this day we - voyagers from the planet Kerbin… first set foot upon the Mün. We came in peace for Kerm and kerbal..."

"…For we have also tasked our greatest scientists with a mission of peace… Our very survival as a species depends on their success and for that we must buy them time. Which is why we now call upon the six Regionalities of Kerbin to unite behind this Council of Twelve Pillars…"

Lodan’s eyelids flickered, the voice of a younger Lodan Kerman prodding at the back of his mind.

“I'm well aware of our mandate, Mr President… we identified a serious problem…and we devised a solution to that problem…”

“…under Special Order 41 of the Council of Twelve Pillars, the Kerbin Space Agency will be tasked with overseeing a far-reaching expansion of all spaceflight activities…”

Lodan’s eyes snapped open. Kerm! He drained his mug of coffee in a single gulp, the darkly bitter dregs bolstering his determination now rather than fuelling his despair. Then he reached for his telephone.


With apologies to Dylan Thomas:

And you, my kerbals, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


<< Chapter 82     Chapter 84>>

Edited by KSK
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22 hours ago, IncongruousGoat said:

Wow. Just... wow. I wish I had more than one like to give.

:) That one like is very much appreciated!

12 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

Another great chapter @KSK! I like how we see Jeb has struggles too, but he seems to be able to overcome them.

Thanks! After the last couple of chapters, it made a pleasant change to work on one that, if it's not precisely upbeat, is heading in an upbeat sort of direction. :) 

Next chapter is about 2,000 words in and I'm thinking that's probably about 40% of the first draft done.

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A single chapter that made me laugh like an idiot, gave such an insight into a couple of characters and left a sense of wonder and excitement. Also, how suitable that modified quote at the end. (Interstellar shout out?)

On a side note, I've been wondering how you go about writing this, notably, how long does it typically take to make a chapter?
Speaking as a (very) amateur writer, I'm curious as to what goes into making a masterpiece such as this (maybe I can learn something).



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Thanks. :) 

I'll try and answer your side note in a separate post but for now...

It's funny - I don't remember those lines from Interstellar at all but I did remember the 'we will not go gentle' line from *cough*  the President's speech in Independence Day. So I looked that line up, figuring that if I was going to quote it, I should probably make sure I was quoting it right (or at least misquoting it right :) ). And of course, I found the rest of the poem which...just hit me right between the eyes. For many reasons, but so far as First Flight is concerned those last lines just captured my mood for the chapter so well. And thinking about it now after the event, the whole  poem fits so well with that last chapter. Which says far more about Thomas's words than my own.

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

There's Elton. One of the oldest living beings on the planet, witnessing the end of days for Kerm and kerbal alike.

"Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night."

And there's the Council of Twelve Pillars and the government in general. All their bold words about colonizing new worlds have fallen on deaf ears.

"Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

There's the Space Program. If only they had had more time, they may have been able to do something...

"Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night."

And if Jeb isn't a 'wild man who caught and sang the sun in flight, I don't know who is.

"Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

"And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."


They will not go gentle. And, in their own ways, they will rage.

It's time.

Time for the quiet heroes to rise.

Time for kerbals across the world to stand and be counted.


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9 hours ago, AviosAdku said:

On a side note, I've been wondering how you go about writing this, notably, how long does it typically take to make a chapter?
Speaking as a (very) amateur writer, I'm curious as to what goes into making a masterpiece such as this (maybe I can learn something).


Let's start with the easy question first. :)  Typically, it takes me about four weeks to put a chapter together, maybe a bit longer. That includes drafting, passing it along to my good editors for dissection, and re-writing. Normally, I can guarantee that my Sunday afternoons will be clear for writing - I do try and make time on other days but that's heavily dependent on real life not getting in the way. First Flight is never terribly far from my mind though, and I try and jot any ideas down as and when they occur, even if I know I won't get to do much with them for a while. The 'Jeb meeting Jebediah' part of the last chapter was one such idea - goodness knows how long I've been lugging that around.

As for what goes into a chapter and how I go about writing - erk. Good questions, never easy ones to answer and there are probably as many answers out there as writers. But as one amateur writer to another, I'll see what I can do. :) I'll also put everything in spoilers for the folks out there who are content to read the final product without peeking behind the scenes at the sausage machine!



Hoary old cliché number one - read lots.

A lot of First Flight, whether that be overarching themes or concepts or little snippets of dialogue has been inspired by other books or films. In the last chapter, for example, Gene's musical tastes were inspired by the real life Gene Krantz who, or so I've read, was particularly fond of John Philips Sousa marches. Although I thought it would be fun to have a couple of guilty pleasures in Gene's tape collection including some prog bagpipe music. :) 

That last chapter was also inspired by (of all things), Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Specifically, the 'reboot' sequence near the end, which is just one of my favourite movie moments ever:


The T800 is down, overwhelmed by superior technology, broken beyond repair, pinned to the ground by a steel spike which has just shorted out its primary power cells. Game over - the light in its eyes go out and the film goes on.

But then it jumps back to that pile of humanoid wreckage. The camera zooms in on a flicker of red in one eye. We get a jump cut to the T800's POV. Glitching like mad, backup systems frantically cycling, trying to find something - anything - to work with.


Then they find something.

...alternate power.

The lights come on - all the way on. An arm comes down, seizes that spike and begins hauling it out, one jerk at a time. Then that music starts up and suddenly we're back in the fight. That whole scene just nailed the central conceit behind the T800 - it will not stop, it absolutely will not stop.


In my mind, that last chapter was always going to be the 'alternate power' moment for First Flight. That turnaround point, that spark of hope that the good guys might be getting themselves back in the game. The chapter was originally going to be more focused on Lodan (essentially picking up the closing section of the chapter and running with it) but, as I said, I've had that 'Two Jebediahs' idea kicking around in my head for quite a while and the more I thought about, the more I figured that now was the time to get it out of my head and into the story.

As an aside, the two Jebediahs idea also started off as a bit of a throwaway - I just thought it would be interesting to give Jeb an illustrious namesake. Then, later in the story, when Jeb's life went the way it did, I figured that getting him to meet his namesake and learning that this great historical figure also suffered from depression, would be the turnaround point in his own inner battle. Then, when I actually got to writing that scene, it occurred to me that Jeb's current issues were very similar to Elton's, which in turn gave me a nice lead into that part of the chapter and also saved a lot of dialogue. In many ways, Jeb and Elton were kindred spirits and Communion allowed them to get that very quickly. Finally, the meeting between Jeb and Elton was an opportune moment for Elton to really see what's at stake with the Kerm crisis - and to learn some pretty important lessons about kerbals  that may have a bearing on his future story arc.... :) 

So that gave me the outline of the chapter.

Hoary old cliché number 2 - write what you know. Aka - life experiences can help your writing

I'm fortunate in that I haven't suffered through any episodes of serious depression, although I know friends and family members who have. That's coloured a lot of my telling of Jeb's story and especially Geneney's part in it, and also Lodan's. They've both given Jeb a lot of leeway and support and most importantly, have been wise enough to know that 'snap out of it!' isn't a helpful or appropriate way of dealing with his troubles. All of which helped me figure out the interactions between Jeb and Geneney on their mini road trip out to Elton's Grove and make that journey a real part of the chapter. Being able to use it to show the added security theatre now that the Kerm crisis is in full swing, was helpful too.

Jumping back to cliché number one, Jeb's story was also somewhat inspired by Buzz Aldrin's well documented personal troubles after Apollo 11.

Its serendipity - but I'll take it!

First Flight has been running long enough now, that I have quite a lot of background material and world-building to refer back to when writing new chapters. This can be incredibly helpful. In the last chapter as originally planned, Lodan was going to stand up and be counted, just because somebody needed to do it. Then (much to my surprise) I realized that I'd given myself a decent hook for this plot turn many, many chapters ago, in the form of a couple of Special Orders as granted by the Council of Twelve Pillars. Not only does Lodan want to do something but he actually has the authority to make that happen, which should make his continued story arc rather more plausible.

As another example, the concept of the mindscape, which I'd introduced in earlier chapters turned out to be a hugely convenient 'show don't tell' device for conveying Elton's feelings and mood at the start of the chapter.

Get a good editor.

Not always possible when writing fan-fic but highly recommended if you can. I'm tremendously fortunate to have someone who gets what I'm trying to do but isn't afraid to poke holes in it either with constructive criticism or suggest ways of amping it up where required. For example in the last chapter:

  • The road rage incident when Jeb and Gene were stuck in traffic.
  • Sharpening up the dialogue between Jeb and Elton.
  • Adding some additional 'external POV' sections showing Elton's physical response to Jeb's spaceflights.

All done (as well as many more) following suggestions from Ten Key and all examples of those polishing touches that turned a first draft (that I was pretty happy with) into the final version that I was really happy with.



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Well that was a fun night out at the science quiz. Lots of nice spaceflight and astronomy questions - I think quite a few folks here would have scored well!

All questions were multiple choice format. Was secretly amused by the 'First spacecraft to land on the Moon' question which included Pioneer 4 as a choice. :) 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry i've been gone for so long, real life has been kicking my S lately. I will probably need a while to update the downloadable copy, and i am going to split up the volumes into even smaller files, lining up with the parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. expect an updated copy within a couple weeks.

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Thanks @Plecy75!

Not a problem - real life always takes priority. Besides, the next chapter is written and into editing, so there'll likely be more content reasonably Soontm. :) 

And, apropo First Flight, although not remotely connected to the next chapter, I was listening to an interesting podcast about Ceres the other day. If anyone's interested, the 'cast is Spacepod - mostly featuring lots of short interviews with various astronomers and planetary scientists. They're intended for a general audience so they're very much at the pop-sci level of detail but that suits me just fine!

Anyhow, it turns out that Ceres has deposits of some weird (I quote) minerals that are basically clays formed in an ammonia environment rather than an aqueous one. Which implies that Ceres has quantities of ammonia ice beneath the crust (I may be getting some details wrong here) and ammonia ices are only stable on a long enough timescale in the outer solar system. So a current theory is that that's where Ceres started out and was kicked in-system by something. It also turns out that Ceres is blotchy - every so often there's an outpouring of ammonia/water brines from the interior, which sublimate on the surface leaving lighter coloured deposits of ammonium salts and the aforementioned weird minerals on the surface.

It's nice when your fictional planetary science turns out to be not too far out in the scientific weeds. Although the podcast made no mention of cryovolcanoes or daring crewed landings. :) 

Edit:  If anyone is really curious, here's a Nature abstract on telescope (ground and orbiting) based observations of Ceres, talking about the minerals and their origins. And here's a nice JPL summary of two papers written by the Dawn team, which talks about the bright patches.


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