KSK

First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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It took nearly 7 human years and a story most likely exceeding the length of all but the longest tomes in existence, but the Kerbals are finally an interplanetary species.

 

Thank you so much KSK. I have no idea how long I've been reading First Flight, but it's been since pretty close to the beginning. It's been pretty much the only reason I've ever come on the KSP Forum in the last few years.

Can't wait to see this all wrapped up, one last time.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, fire219 said:

It took nearly 7 human years and a story most likely exceeding the length of all but the longest tomes in existence, but the Kerbals are finally an interplanetary species.

Thank you so much KSK. I have no idea how long I've been reading First Flight, but it's been since pretty close to the beginning. It's been pretty much the only reason I've ever come on the KSP Forum in the last few years.

Can't wait to see this all wrapped up, one last time.

As always, you're very welcome and thanks again for all the kind words and support over the years!

It sure feels like the end of an era from here but yes, they finally made it.

For interest, according to the Spacebattles forum, the total word count so far is 450K. I suspect that's only accurate to the nearest 5K but by the time the epilogue is added to that, I don't think it'll be a bad estimate. If you want that in real money it's within an orc's eyelash of The Lord of the Rings, or not far short of the first four Harry Potter books back to back.

Hope you enjoy the epilogue when it comes...

Cheers.

Edited by KSK

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42 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

 

*pokes @KSK with a stick*

Yes, I agree. This must be a thing in First Flight.

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Posted (edited)

Morning folks,

One last something for the weekend. Hope you enjoy it and that it makes a fitting conclusion to the story.

The epilogue is up.

 

Epilogue – Founding Father

“The road to the stars is open.”
-   Sergei Pavlovich Korolev

 

Jeb sipped from his glass of sapwood and watched the shepherdball sized orange disc spin out of sight. The tip of the northern - southern? - ice cap drifted past his window frame and vanished, leaving nothing but the gently wheeling stars behind. He turned his head and saw Bill staring raptly out of the next window round, a smile playing across his lips.

A ripping, scrunching sound broke the silence as Bob joined them, swinging his zero-g slippered feet up onto his couch. He tapped his watch face, studied the steadily shrinking green line around its periphery and nodded to himself.  Jeb glanced over at him. “How much time we got, Bobcat?”

“Twenty minutes or so,” Bob replied. “And plenty of behind time on the checklist.”

Jeb took another sip of sapwood and held his glass up, admiring the surface of the translucent tan liquid inside. “This,” he declared, “is the kind of thing we started the Interplanetary Society for. The three of us, sitting in an honest-to-Kerm spaceship, exploring the universe.” He wedged the glass into its rubber-lined receptacle and gestured at Duna which was just rising again over the lip of the window frame. “Flying out to strange new worlds…”

“And joining everyone else there,” said Bob dryly.

Jeb grinned. “Only until the next transfer window. Then it’s onwards and outwards!”

Bill stirred in his seat. “I was thinking about a side trip to Ike,” he said. “Get some holiday snaps of Duna-rise for the office wall, maybe pick some additions for the rock collection.”

“We’ll have time for that,” said Jeb cheerfully. “We’re still kerbonauts after all; picking up rocks is what we do.”

“And eventually we’ll be loading them into elevator cars,” said Bill.

“Eventually,” said Bob, “Just as soon as the R&D department get their extruder-spinner to work reliably in zero-g and somebody persuades KSA management that hauling shiploads of polyethylene gel to Munar orbit is a good idea.”

Jeb shook his head. “Now that is a crazy idea,” he said. “Landing on the Mün by sliding down a hundred thousand kilometres of plastic rope.”

“Only half of that,” said Bill quietly, his eyes losing their focus. “It would be a ribbon between worlds. A piece of pure mathematics made real.”

“And a practical way of getting materiel off the Mün in bulk,” said Bob. “Get that working and the Mün would be to construction materials what Minmus is for propellant! Besides,” he added, “since when were we worried about crazy ideas.”

“I didn’t say I was worried,” said Jeb. “And I reckon you’d still need some good old-fashioned rocket engines to get kerbals up and down from there. Fifty thousand kilometres is a…”

Bob’s watch chimed.

“…a chat for another day!” finished Jeb. He leaned forward and tapped a button. “This is Jeb. All crew secure for spin-down and manoeuvring.” He bounded to his feet and crossed the room to the food preparation area built into one wall. Decanting his half-finished drink into a squeeze bulb, he wiped his glass clean, stowed it in its locker, and pushed the sapwood stained cleaning wipe through the seal of the nearest waste chute. By the time he clipped himself into his couch harness, the last of the crew stations were reporting in.

Jeb flipped back the cage from a prominent red button on the arm of his couch. “Spinning down in three…two…one.” 

The button slid smoothly into its socket with a faint click. Immediately warning lights began to flash around the window frames. Jeb felt a lightness in the pit of his stomach as if he was in an elevator coming to a stop after a long fall. He watched the stars outside begin to slow, felt his limbs lifting from the couch. Finally, with a muted clunk of locking bolts, the warning lights went out and everything came to a stop. 

Jeb promptly unstrapped from his couch and pushed off for the access tube in what had been the ceiling. He reached over his head, grabbed the topmost rung of the ladder fixed to the tube wall and pulled himself along it hand over hand. Casting a wary eye upward for descending crewmates he turned a cautious half somersault and planted his feet on the deck. Pausing a second to steady his head, he set off for the bridge.

—————

“Ow! Kerm’s sake, Pioneer had more legroom than this,” Jeb grumbled, trying to ignore his throbbing toe. “Any closer to the hull and we’d be in vacuum.”

“You would think he’d remember by now wouldn’t you?” Bob said conversationally to Bill. “With the amount of time he’s spent down here.”

Bill shrugged. “He’s not wrong though.”

“Damn right I’m not,” said Jeb. “Remind me to have a word with the Steadler designers once we get this heap back to Kerbin.”

“I already sent them a report.”

Jeb opened his mouth then closed it again. Bob burst out laughing. Jeb eyed him for a moment then gave up and joined in.  Bill just looked mildly bemused.

“Are you lot done in there?” Lucan called out from the lower deck. “Only some of us have got work to do. Systems to warm up, capture burns to make, that sort of thing.”

“Better see if they’re still expecting us then,” Jeb called back, checking a display on the comms panel and punching up a copy of the burn program on a second screen. “Good signal strength on all antennas.” He flipped a switch. “Duna Control, Dres Explorer inbound. How do you read?”

“Reading you loud and clear, Dres Explorer,” came a familiar voice. “Tracking you inbound, as near to zero inclination as makes no difference. I see Lucan hasn’t lost his touch.”

“He’s still the best in the business,” agreed Jeb. “Optimal capture burn starts at fifty-two dot six degrees west, Gene. Does that get us in without toasting anything?”

“Concur fifty-two dot six west, Dres Explorer and you’re on a clear trajectory.”

“Copy, Control. Let’s get to it then.”

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

The star raced eastwards across the Dunan sky, sailing from dusk to sunset then across the terminator and into the night. It slowed, a star turned comet, braking on sparkling trails of vapour hurled along its path. The vapour swiftly dispersed but the star carried on, sailing from night, through dawn to daylight. A second star leapt from the surface, carried aloft on plumes of fire, outrunning the first star then climbing. Slowing as it rose, matching speed, matching height until at last, the two became one.

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

Richlin’s eyes flicked from his instruments to the docking window and back again. Dres Explorer hung in front of him, a gleaming silvery counterpoint to the dusty orange world below. Her bulbous bridge section tapered into a stubby cylindrical hull, bulging slightly at the centreline. For a moment, Richlin marvelled at the sedately spinning grav-wheel, its round-cornered viewing ports sparkling in the sunlight. Then the one-hundred metre light flashed on, dragging his attention back to his instruments. 

The open comms link hissed softly in his ear, Duna Control maintaining a tactful - and welcome - silence. Richlin tapped the controls, edging his spacecraft into position; Dres Explorer’s running lights running straight and true along the sight lines scribed on his docking window. A soft chime from the navigation computer confirmed what he could already see as circle by circle, the running lights blinked out; thirty metres, twenty metres, ten metres…

The docking latches rattled shut. Richlin's hands raced over his control board, safing thrusters, setting the service module to standby, verifying cabin pressure and environmental systems. He grasped the airlock release lever, depressed the locking button on its top and pulled it firmly down. Then he clambered along the ladder connecting the cockpit to the passenger compartment and eased himself into the airlock. He thumbed the cycle button, waiting impatiently for the inner hatch to close and lock before the outer one swung open.

“Richlin!”

“Kerm but it’s good to see you again!”

“Should have known it’d be you!”

Richlin waved at the beaming kerbals packed into Dres Explorer’s docking bay, a huge grin lighting up his face. “Hey guys! Love the new ship - and that grav-wheel looks incredible from out there!”

“We’ll give you the guided tour before we leave,” Jeb called. “Get Wernher and Genie up here too - do you some fresh-baked djan - with Jorfurt’s No.5 spice paste no less! And even Bob’s coffee tastes pretty good in point three gee.”

The rest of the Dres Explorer crew hung back at a respectful distance back as Jeb and Bob launched themselves towards their friend and former colleague, Lucan close behind them. Bill followed at a more sedate pace and was promptly snagged by Jeb and pulled into the general scrum. Presently the unwieldy knot of laughing, crying kerbals broke apart and assumed a more dignified disposition.

Jeb caught his communication officer’s eye. “She’s all yours, Aldny. As soon as we’re down I’ll get Gene to send up another shuttle.”

“No hurry, boss,” replied Aldny, “Any time in the next day or two will be fine.”

Jeb laughed. “I’ll see what I can do.” He turned to Richlin, “Ready when you are, Commander.”

Richlin grinned at him and disappeared back into the airlock. “Room for two in here if we both breathe in. Bob?”

Bob slipped deftly through the hatchway which thudded shut behind him and Richlin. No sooner had the airlock cycled than two of their crewmates eagerly took their place, until finally Jeb and Bill climbed in themselves. Inside the shuttle they found Richlin holding onto the cockpit ladder, waiting for them to find their feet. He pointed up at the pilot couches. “You want to drive, boss?”

Jeb smiled and shook his head. “Your ship. Happy to do ballast duty if you need it though.”

“Wouldn’t want an unbalanced craft,” agreed Richlin. He scanned the passenger compartment, facing the ring of acceleration couches. “Everyone strapped in? No problems with the harnesses?” The circle of upraised thumbs was all the answer he needed. He pulled himself along the ladder and into his own couch, followed eagerly by Jeb.

The shuttle slid smoothly away from Dres Explorer. Jeb watched his ship recede into the distance, dwarfed by the immensities of a planet on one side and open space on the other. He listened to Richlin’s running report to Duna control with half an ear, lulled by the familiar cadence and terminology of re-entry preparations. The star field wheeled past, Duna sliding out of view as Richlin oriented the shuttle for the first burn. Then the engines fired, pressing him briefly into his seat, before cutting out.

Re-entry was almost an anti-climax. The russet glow of Duna shine took on a ruddier hue; the shuttle vibrating gently as it plunged through the tenuous upper atmosphere. Jeb flicked a glance at the g-meter and saw its needle barely lifting from its stop. Another burn, longer this time, pressed him into his seat, the blackness of space outside gradually shrouded by a dusty orange sky as the shuttle raced onwards.

“Initiating powered descent.”

Jeb’s heart leapt in his chest. The engines lit for the last time, ramping up to full thrust, shoving him back into his couch with his full weight and then more. Slowly the shuttle pitched over, engines throttling back, until he found himself lying flat on his back as if ready to launch again. The landing gear unfolded with a clunk, the hull juddering this way and that as Richlin made the final corrections to their course. The outboard engines shut down, the centre one throttling back to minimum thrust, matching Duna’s gravity and slowing the shuttle to a hover before shutting down. Jeb felt a familiar lurch in his stomach as the little vessel dropped away from underneath him before coming to rest with a thud.

“Just stay seated,” Richlin called over the intercom. “Stairs and rover are on their way.”

Jeb shuffled around in his seat, trying to get a better view out of the side windows until at last, he heard a hiss of pneumatics followed by a clank and a rattle of docking latches. He reached for his harness buckle but Richlin shook his head. “Rover’s locking on, folks. Couple more minutes and you’ll be out of this can.” There was a second, fainter rattle and a light blinked on above his head. “After you, boss.”

Jeb wriggled out of his harness and half clambered, half slid down the floor ladder, dropping nimbly onto what was now the shuttle floor by the airlock. Below him, Bob was hanging onto the opposite ladder leading down to the passenger couches. Jeb grinned at him and ducked into the already open airlock. The outer hatch cycled open and he bounded down the stairway, through a short connecting tube and into the waiting rover, to be met by a pair of beaming figures leaning over the back of their seats.

“Genie! Wernher! Great to see you guys!”

“Great to see you too, Jeb. You managed to find the place then?”

Jeb laughed. “No problem! I had Lucan on navigation, Richlin to get us down to the surface and a flight director on standby for the first time in months. Seriously though guys - we’re getting the VIP treatment here. Chauffeured rover to the base and everything. Beats the Blight out of floating about on the Great Tranquil Sea waiting for Bob’s boat!”

“You’ve not seen anything yet,” Geneney promised him.

“I’ve seen the pictures. Looks pretty impressive.”

“And how well did Bill’s photographs match up to the real thing?” said Wernher.

“Good point,” answered Bob, settling into his seat beside Jeb. “Hey Gene, hey Wernher.” He turned to face Jeb. “And if you start knocking the boat again, I’ve got a story about a seasick kerbonaut to tell you.”

Jeb affected an air of innocence. “You mean Dodgee?”

Geneney raised an eyebrow. 

“Dodbree,” said Lucan, emerging from the airlock. “You remember him, Gene - he was finishing his training about the time you left for Duna. Nice guy, flew a great Munar mission but wasn’t ever allowed to forget the splashdown.”

Bob grimaced. “That was one capsule we didn’t bother to re-use.”

“Anyway,” Lucan said, “the rest of the intake started calling him Dodgee. He managed to get on the next flight to Munbase Three, has been there ever since.”

“He calls himself the Munar Janitor,” Jeb added. “Lives in the first production model Hitchhiker module - the one with all the labels superglued to the storage lockers.” He shook his head. “Feel sorry for whoever did that when you catch up with them, Genie.”

Geneney’s reply was interrupted by the sound of the airlock opening and Bill making a slightly unsteady grab for the nearest seat. Bob shot Jeb a warning glance. “Speaking of living in a can,” he said, “how’re all the kermol adapting to living in caves?”

“Better than the kerman,” said Wernher dryly. “Having a Kerm as an integral part of the air handling system has been interesting.”

"That sounds like Jeb’s definition of interesting,” said Bob. “What happened?”

“They all turned kermol,” said Wernher simply. “Or as good as. It turns out that pheromone release is an involuntary process in Kerm trees - we did ask Jendun to stop but we may as well have asked a kerbal to stop breathing. By the time we worked out what was going on, they’d spread through the village - and the air scrubbers can’t seem to do much about them.”

Lucan blinked. Jeb just grinned. “So when do we get to meet little Wernher then?”

Wernher snorted. “No lady in her right mind would want this old engineer.” 

“I think I could get used to that,” said Bob quietly. “Everyone in the same capsule together.”

“People are still adapting,” said Geneney. “but I think it’ll work out in the end. The agronomists have always pulled maintenance duty anyway and even the old engineers are learning new tricks from the Kerm. Everyone strapped in?”

The rover eased forward with a hum of electric motors. Conversation inside the crew cabin died away as everyone turned towards the nearest window. Wernher drove off the concrete apron marking the edge of the landing strip and headed for the first of a string of marker poles stretching into the distance. The rover rocked on its suspension as it trundled along, occasionally jolting over a larger than usual rock. The Dres Explorer crew stared raptly out at the desert landscape. 

Jeb stirred. “You mentioned new tricks for an old engineer, Wernher?” he said.

Wernher’s eyes lit up. “Kerm control networks. Absolutely fascinating - and so many applications! The older base systems are about what you’d expect. Most of the control systems are borrowed from ones we developed for the LV-Ns, interestingly non-linear feedback loops not being the best idea in your very first life-support systems. But the systems we’re developing now? Twice as flexible with even more redundancy.”

“You should send the schematics for latest versions back home” said Geneney. 

“Oh I will,” said Wernher, “and speaking of LV-Ns, Dres Explorer was going to be fitted with the Mark 3s wasn’t it?”

“Yep,” said Bob, “and they’re beauties. Brand new materials, pebble bed reactors and enough thrust to double as a sustainer stage if we were allowed to fly them in-atmosphere.”

“Pity the bridge isn’t as well designed,” muttered Jeb. Bill and Bob rolled their eyes. 

“There’s not much room upfront,” Bob conceded. “Definitely not an old kerbonaut’s rocket ship.”

“Hey!”

“I heard that Steadler have a bigger model on the drawing board,” said Geneney. “Working name is Dres Prospector. Whether they get round to building it…” He grinned. “That probably depends what you find out there.” The rover crested a shallow rise and Wernher swung sharply left before parking on the edge of a shallow downward slope. Jeb stared out of the cabin window, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. Then his jaw dropped open. 

In the distance a spike of mountains shouldered their way into the sky from the centre of a shallow bowl-like crater. Reflected sunlight twinkled from innumerable windows in the nearest cliff face - and from the thirty-eight great geodesic Domes scattered in front of it.  

Slowly, Jeb began to pick out the details. The long central tube linking the cliff face to the central Dome. Twelve similar tubes, six to each side, fanning out from the central hub in a bow-tie arrangement, more Domes strung along them like gems on a silver wire. The thirty-eighth dome, connected directly to the hub, the flag of the new Duna Council flying high above it. The criss-crossing of other smaller tubes, stitching the Domes into a single structure. And finally, the scalloped waves of smaller domes, like a frothy sea of green bubbles lapping against the tubes. Row after row of them, merging together into great canopies protecting the open spaces beneath, each supporting the whole in a way that would be startlingly familiar to any kerman - or kermol - architect back on Kerbin.

Jeb blinked back the sudden tears prickling the corners of his eyes. “Sweet Kerm above,” he murmured to himself. Similar mumbled sentiments rippled around the inside of the rover cabin.

“It’s something isn’t it,” said Geneney softly. “Bigger than even we dared to dream, old friend.”

Jeb nodded dumbly. Then his eyes narrowed, staring into the distance. “Hold on - is that?”

“It is,” said Geneney, “and the Western Grove is round the other side. Both of them with much younger Kerm though - I don’t believe they’ve finished Knitting yet. We’ve only just started building the Domes for the Southern Grove - it’ll be a while before we’re ready to plant anything there. Anyway - we’re heading to the Northern Grove.” He smiled. “Jendun, our oldest Kerm has been very excited at the thought of meeting you all. And then, once we’ve attended to business in the central Dome, we’ll give you the guided tour of the town.”

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

…even though the physical scars are long gone, the medics say that I never really got over the psychological separation. Anyway, cutting a long story short, I’m putting all my affairs in order before going an-Kerm again at the end of the month. Besides, Elton could use a secretary - the First of Kolus needs his personal staff just like any kerbal president or chief ambassador does. Some people still remember the old Sage of Barkton, so I guess that will help. 

Elton sends his regards by the way and asks that you pass on his best wishes to Jendun. Jonelle sends her love too.

The latest petition to bring the Firsts into a new Council of Eighteen Pillars was finally dropped last month having gained about as much popular support as its predecessors. If I’m being honest, I think both sides are happier with the old Council of Twelve Pillars and a new Council of Firsts. 

You’ll remember all the news about Tiviena of course? I still half-think of her as Tivie’s Grove I’m afraid, which is one bad habit that I’ll need to lose quickly. Elton humours his old Keeper in private but I suspect he won’t be as forgiving to his secretary. 

Anyway, Tiviena’s first adopted seedlings knitted into a healthy Grove and Awakened into a charming young Kerm, even if she did give Elton and Tiviena absolute conniptions along the way. It seems that most Awakened Kerm are capable of tolerating (if not enjoying) a Seedling within their territory and in time they tend to get along fine with the newly awakened Kerm.

Of course that does make more than a few folks wonder why we’re still pouring resources into Starseed. Reminding them about that command from the old One-Twenty to take their Children to Duna usually helps, as does pointing out the close calls with several Awakenings and the Awakened Kerm who couldn’t tolerate intrusions into their territory. Luckily most folks seem to think that we were all too lucky with this Kerm crisis and that the Duna colony is our best insurance policy against another one.

Personally, I think the pictures of your North Grove project made all the difference but perhaps that’s just a proud father talking.

What people don’t know yet - and why I chose to upgrade our personal encryption for this letter - is that Tiviena’s second group of adopted seedlings have been knitting much, much faster than expected, to the great excitement of all the local Kerm. We’ll need to wait for the knitting to finish to be sure but Elton believes that they’re taking over the abandoned fibre the mature Kerm left behind when they pulled back their territories. He’s already talking about ‘fused Groves’, giant overlapping communities of Kerm, spreading across Kerbin. Jonelle calls it the Jonton Kermol Project. Which is flattering I suppose, although I suspect there’s an obscure joke in there somewhere – I still haven’t really got the hang of Kerm humour.

Personally, I wonder if fused Groves could be the start of something even bigger. Right now we replace old dead Kerm trees with new saplings grafted onto the stumps. What would happen if we planted a new Seedling by the stump instead? With enough overlap, might it be possible to support a Kerm mind on fewer than thirty-eight Kerm trees, perhaps a great many fewer? Perhaps one day there will be but one Kerm to a Kerm tree or even fewer. How many minds can a Grove support?

Needless to say, I haven’t yet mentioned these speculations to Elton. Time enough for that once Tiviena’s second child has Awoken. They also raise some uncomfortable questions. We have weathered this Kerm Crisis and, Pillars and Firsts willing, will weather many more Seedings to come. But one day, even with all our ingenuity, there will be no more planets to run to. With the stars beyond our reach, what do we do then?

For myself I am optimistic. The Age of Madness drove us to reshape our whole society for the better. I believe this Age of Fire will drive us to reshape it further for the sake of generations of Kerm and kerbals to come. And this time we have the Awakened Kerm themselves to help us.

Your loving Dad,

 Jonton.

 

Joenie removed her wire-rimmed glasses and rubbed at the scar on her throat. Well, I’d better let Jendun know about Dad going an-Kerm again and she’ll want to know about Tivienna’s new one. But the rest…preserve me but that’s going to be a long Communion. Not to mention  a lot of Kerm time on the transplanetary link. She saved a private copy of Jonton’s letter and shut down her computer. I need some fresh air. 

Donning her outdoor suit and boots, she lifted her emergency rebreather mask from its hook and checked the air cartridge valve and scrubber acidity. The indicator line was still a reassuring green from edge to edge. Satisfied, she clipped the mask onto the side of her belt, picked up her case of gardening tools and palmed her sleep room door open.

The sun-strips overhead lit the corridor with a simulated Kerbin noon. Deep in thought, Joenie let her feet carry her through the tunnels, their smoothed rock surfaces painted with brightly coloured murals of Groves and other landscapes from home. By the time she reached the main northward thoroughfare, dozens of kerbals were loping past on either side, some dressed in outdoor gear like herself, others in the distinctive yellow suits of the engineering and maintenance teams. Here and there poncho wearing figures threaded their way through the crowd, rebreathers hanging from their belts.

Suddenly, Joenie felt something rebound off her legs, followed almost instantly by an indignant wail. Startled she looked down at a bundle of fabric and gangling limbs from which a small but very noisy head emerged. The wail became a string of hiccups as the kerblet stared back at her inquisitively. Smiling, Joenie dropped to one knee and helped her to her feet. “Up you get little one. Wiggle your fingers? There you see - all better. Now where’s your Mummy or Daddy?”

“Right here, Doctor,” came a slightly embarrassed, male voice above her. “Please excuse my wandering daughter. And you, Valentina Almkerm,” he added, scooping the kerblet onto one arm, “need to stop running away before somebody squashes you!” Valentina giggled and poked him on the nose.

“No harm done,” said Joenie. She smiled, ruffling Valentina’s tousled black hair. “Walking is tricky business here - just you ask your daddy when you get a bit older.”

Valentina’s father laughed. “Oh she certainly will. But we must be going - a pleasure to meet you Dr. Joenie.”

“And you too,” said Joenie. She waved at Valentina over her father’s shoulder before turning and heading up the thoroughfare.

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

Both doors of the main airlock were open, the better to let kerbals out and fresh air in. Joenie inhaled deeply, savouring the smells of damp earth and living plants as she stepped outside and followed the main access tube to the Grove proper. Around her, gardeners and agronomists were hard at work in the greenhouse modules, tending to stacked towers of plants. The ochres and russets of the Dunan landscape outside made a stark background to the greenery. 

Joenie reached the entrance to the main Grove dome and stopped short. A group of figures stood under Jendun’s branches, talking quietly amongst themselves. One of them stepped forward and placed something on the ground. She caught a glimpse of pleasantly rugged features topped with kerbonaut short hair. Kerbonauts were hardly unknown on Duna of course but…

Jebediah Kerman? Joenie blinked, taking a good look at the group for the first time. Geneney Kerman? And Bob Kerman too and Bi…oh. Oh of course. She stepped back against the dome wall, head bowed respectfully, then knelt, busying herself with the flower bed planted around its perimeter. Presently, she heard the crunch of footsteps on gravel and the murmur of voices passing by as the kerbonauts filed out. Joenie got to her feet and walked over to Jendun.

As with every other Kerm tree in the North Grove, a plaque stood at the foot of Jendun’s main trunk, painstakingly carved from local stone and standing as a silent memorial to a kerbonaut on leave amongst the stars. An old photograph encased in a transparent block rested on a low plinth by the plaque. It showed the view from a small round window, a curved line down the middle of the picture separating inky blackness from, much faded, blues, browns and greens. In the distance, the battered grey ball of the Mün rose over Kerbin.

For a moment, Joenie studied the photograph in awe, then ran her finger gently over the plaque, re-reading the familiar words.

 

Here rests the body of Dr Lodan Kerman
Visionary
Kerbonaut
Beloved Friend
And a Founding Father
Of the Kerbal Space Program

 

 

 

 

---- The End ---

Edited by KSK

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Posted (edited)

Awesome, thought I'm sad to see it finally end. I can honestly say that First Flight is one of the best stories I've read so thanks for all the time and effort you've put into it. I certainly understand if you need a break after writing all of this but I hope that this won't be the last we hear from you, KSK (I'll definitely be the first in the queue to read any new story).

Anyway, I seem to remember that someone was converting First Flight to a pdf and linking it here. If its alright with you I thought I'd make a complete copy and finish the job.

 

Edited by LordOfTheNorth

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Posted (edited)

Morning folks,

@Kerballing (Got Dunked On) - no, that's the end of First Flight. All done and with a more-or-less happy ending. :) 

@LordOfTheNorth - you're very welcome and thank you! I will be taking a break from writing for a bit but I have a page, maybe two pages of a non-KSP short story that I plan to dust off and get to work on. As it's non-KSP, I'll probably be posting it on the Spacebattles original fiction forum rather than here, but I'd be more than happy to ping you a PM here once it's done if you'd like? In the meantime, I'll be sprucing up the Fanworks Library here and maybe adding a couple of entries to the First Flight TVTropes page, now that the actual story is finished. :)As for the pdf - that would be wonderful so please go ahead!

 

Edited by KSK

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And so at last we come to an end. I pray at the foot of this particular Tower you find a little rest and succor, Wordslinger. Thank you for bringing us all along on this incredible journey, where the unlikely pairing of spaceflight and head-sucking hippie trees doesn’t seem that unusual. Now the Story has been told, and it, too, can have its peace. But, I’ve found its a rule of the cosmos that any true Wordslinger cannot lay fallow too long, I hope you’ll include me in that PM you just mentioned. 

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1 hour ago, KSK said:

but I'd be more than happy to ping you a PM here once it's done if you'd like?

That'd be great, thanks.

I'll start on the pdf tomorrow.

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Posted (edited)

Last Words

On the 1st June 2013, I posted a short story about a handful of kerbals making a last-ditch attempt to launch a crewed suborbital rocket. In a fit of wild originality, I called it First Flight.

Seven years and over 450,000 words later, we’re finally done. That’s a long time and a lot of words and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm of an awful lot of people along the way.

Thank you. Thank you all.

 

Thank you to @HarvesteR and @Moach for giving us the Kerbals, to the Kerbal Space Program development team, past, present, and future for writing the game that inspired me to start writing, and to Squad for letting them do it. Without you, none of this would have happened.

Thank you to my dear wife for really grokking my very first Mün landing way back when, and for putting up with my seven-year obsession with the Kerbals and their adventures.

And, in no particular order:

A very special thanks to @Ten Key and particularly to @CatastrophicFailure for so many things.  Encouragement, friendship, mentoring, ideas, patience, and a lot more besides. Without you, this story would have been very much shorter, very much poorer and, in all probability, would not have been finished.

Thank you to @JakeGrey for the worldbuilding, the sequel, the fun times, and generally being a good mate throughout. When you’re setting off on a journey into the unknown, having a destination to aim at is priceless.

Humbled thanks to @Yukon0009, @minepagan, @MarkusA380, @Mr. Pseudonym, and @Krevsin for the fan works!

Thank you to @Agent30632 , @Plecy75 and @LordOfTheNorth for the enthusiasm and for compiling everything into a readable whole.

Thank you to @bigyihsuan for the TVTropes page!

Thank you also to @superstrijder15, @Just Jim, @adsii1970, and @peadar1987 for kind comments, enthusiasm and offers of support when life went south.

Thank you again to @superstrijder15 for the Old Kerba dictionary and grammatical discussions.

Thank you to @Duxwing and @macdjord for the kind comments, helpful editing discussions, and beating the finer points of style and punctuation into my thick skull.

Big thanks to all the folks over at Spacebattles for keeping the faith.

Thanks to the MACE team for all the acronyms! You know who you are.

Thank you to @Sir Nahme for the Ballad of the Kerbal 1.

Thank you to @Madrias, for all the kind words, worldbuilding chat and the Age of Fire.

Thank you to @Scotius for all the kind words and comments, and for gently pointing out, many years ago, that exposition only gets you so far and that eventually you have to add some meat too.

Thank you also to:

@Munstation, @botse, @Kerbal01, @dimovski, @Spleenslitta, @Sabastian, @ramnrmeul, @Geo793, @Byter, @RocketTurtle, @spaceminer47, @sturmstiger, @ninjakids, @AustralianFries, @Mekan1k, @qwertyx2y, @[ Jeremy ], @SpaceSphereOfDeath, @BostLabs, @Apollo1391, @The Jedi Master, @Commander Zoom, @squirtgun1234, @Exsmelliarmus, @GDJ, @Warriorbulb99, @bellino, @Patupi, @ATRM93, @TheCosmonaut, @musicpenguin, @skykooler, @briansun1, @Weegee, @Brody Peffley, @theonegalen, @Will Fawkes, Guest links123, @Nessus, @ASTRO_alec106, @Lazro, @OrtwinS, @Danish_Savage, @Deadpangod3, @CornHuskerKenny, @Wahgineer, @wminsing, @Manfredatee, @lindemherz, @Tripside, @TheDataMiner, @ElJugador, @Lightning22, @Jack Redmen@123nick, @celerystick009, @kmMango, @JebThePilot, @Creature, @mstachowsky, @AndrewBCrisp, @VelocityPolaris, @Bean9914 , @Engineer of Stuff, @Cerebrate, @KerbMav, @marysinco, @sardaukar11, @Coga19000, @Chuck U. Farley, @Excalibur., @fire219, @Armchair Rocket Scientist, @GluttonyReaper, @meve12, @BurningLegion, @Kagame, @Navy Airforce, @Ekken, @0111narwhalz, @Bev7787, @scy, @Daelkyr, @Ravens_cry, @Thalamask, @MaxL_1023, @Elrond Cupboard, @VelociraptorsofSkyrim, @Verkio, @Adam White, @GKSP, @Atlas2342, @SCE2AUX2, @AviosAdku, @SilverlightPony, @TwinKerbal, @vsully, @KAL 9000, @Garrett Kerman, @DarkOwl57, @CSE, @TheKosanianMethod, @AshleyBB, @NISSKEPCSIM, @notrealDannyDeVito, @The Grand Teki, @KerBlitz Kerman, @Spacenoob, @IncongruousGoat, @roboslacker, @aeroeng14, @MinimalMinmus, @Garibaldi2257, @DualDesertEagle, @Lo Var Lachland, @qzgy, @AVaughan, @Bottle Rocketeer 500, @GalFisk, @fulgur, @TonedMite133805, @LordOfTheNorth, @EnderKid2, @Geschosskopf, @Kerballing (Got Dunked On), @έķ νίĻĻάίή, @Misguided_Kerbal, @soundnfury, @Tetragramm, @Mr. Peabody, @PoisonBLX, @[insert_name_here], @RandomGuy1824, @TheEpicSquared, @UnusualAttitude, @Quijote, @Shamus6200, @The Space Dino, @Confused Scientist, @Pretorian28715, @Kosmonaut, @PoisonBL, @MailletC, @davidy12, @NotAgain, @Spaceception, @Tiberion, @Ozymandias_the_Goat, @IronCretin, @AquaAlmond Productions, @Dres, @RyanRising, @Orion1500, @Alpha 360, @FlyingCola, @RocketSquid, @WintericeUK, @Readerty2007, @Mods_o_joy, @SmartS=true, @Thatguywholikesionengines, @TimothyC, @mattssheep4, @The Error, @FlamingPotatoes, @Scout1218, @SchwinnTropius, @Nils277, @Zucal, @Gameslinx, @Kiwa, @ILikeIke, @DaMachinator, @Brent Kerman, @Hannu2, @53miner53, @Titan 3001, @Dirkidirk and @GuessingEveryDay 

for all the comments, discussions, kind words, enthusiasm, likes and rep.

Thank you – and apologies – to any other readers of First Flight whom I may have missed out.

And last, but certainly not least, thanks to @Needles_10 who, in response to that original short story, posted a reply with the immortal words: “It’s beautiful. Make more.”

Beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder but I think I eventually made good on that second part.

 

KSK.
3rd May 2020

Edited by KSK

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And now  i will have to sit down and read this absolute unit of a fic from start to end in one go :) Congratulations on finishing it.

But...

Now you will have to write another First Flight when KSP 2 comes out :lol:

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Posted (edited)

I hope they'll make this part of KSP 2. That'll push it into the "must buy it!" category.

Edited by GuessingEveryDay

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Wow. I can't believe it's all over.

Spoiler

I'm also flattered for being mentioned for asking just one question. It really means a lot.

 

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Absolutely fantastic ending. Congratulations on the completion of the series. 

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And with that, the cycle of an incredible and deserving novel well worthy of a Harry Potter style movie franchise, Funko merchandising deals or at the very least a stellar-rated Netflix serial comes to an end. I can't really say much more than others better with words than I have already said, so I'll leave it at this:

Thank you, @KSK. Your work and personal support as a writer in this community is nothing short of incredible. The Kerbals may have made it interplanetary in the end, but I think it's you who has made the real journey: thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Kerbas ad astra.

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Posted (edited)

*applauds solemnly*

Thank you.  For the words, for the kerbals, for the kerm, and for bringing their world to life.

Edited by Commander Zoom

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On 7/19/2013 at 7:06 PM, KSK said:

 

Quite a number of he crowd had been half expecting something like this. Even so, the passion and the conviction in Jeb's voice was enough to send a shiver down their spines. Jeb paused again, blinking hard.

Going through this again, now that it's complete. Just reading this part of Chapter 9 gave me the shivers.

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Thank you very much for sharing and motivating

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So this is it...the finale...after all this time. The literary experience you provided @KSK leaves me bittersweet today--fortunate to have been along for the ride from day one yet sad the journey is now complete. First Flight holds a special place in my heart for the pure sense of adventure and space exploration it embodied that KSP itself extrudes for me. Countless times after reading a chapter, I would have to fire up the game to quench my thirst. So many years ago I just bought the game and visited the forum for the first time mere months before Chapter 1 was released. Here was this little nugget of a story about a clobbered together rocket launching to space against the odds with mixing in just the right balance of worldbuilding and technical descriptors fit for a rocket engineer such as myself. How the saga developed wrapped both sides together into what concluded in the epilogue was great work. You did not disappoint and while the Kerbal universe must be left here for now, I sincerely hope you continue writing and perhaps, picking up something else Kerbal based to write about when KSP2 comes out. Congratulations. o7

P.S. I will be looking forward to the Pdf so I can add it to my collection to read again.

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2 minutes ago, aeroeng14 said:

P.S. I will be looking forward to the Pdf so I can add it to my collection to read again.

On it's way, its about ⅔ done at the moment.

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Excellent! Thanks for compiling everything. You never know when the forum is going to be shuffled again. So many good stories and mission logs now lost.

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aw shucks

I need to read this from the start. I disappeared from the forums for a while and lost track, and since I've been (sort of) back I just watched the chapter number tick up. Certainly a work worth rereading, if my memories serve.

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And so it ends... the story that went so far beyond the bounds that "KSP fan fiction" usually implies, and of course I don't mean that in even a remotely negative fashion. This isn't a story built from the Kerbal Space Program universe, this is the First Flight universe.... that happens to have names of a few celestial bodies, people, and businesses borrowed from KSP. Just like everyone else, I'm incredibly sad for it to be over, but gratified to have been on the journey along the way.

But I have just one question: 
When can we expect the film adaptation and officially licensed Extended Universe novels? ;) 

It's honestly an unexpected and undeserved honor to have my username put in the closing remarks of this, just for a few trite comments I made along the way. Thank you again for the thousandth time, KSK.

 

and on the EU novels note: yes, I am aware of Jake's sequel on Spacebattles, I've only read it about a thousand times too. :) 

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