CatastrophicFailure

Shadows of the Kraken: Remastered & The Lost Chapters

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tl:dr A shadowy corporation sends three intrepid Kerbals to investigate a strange, dark anomaly on the Mün. What they find is far, far worse.

Chapter list:

Chapter 1: The Three
Chapter 2: Dawn 
Chapter 3: Preparations
Chapter 4: An Excursion 
Chapter 5: Shadows & Mündust 
Chapter 6: Interludes 
Chapter 7: Duna Rising 
Chapter 8: A Change of Plans 
Chapter 9: The Shadow Falls
Chapter 10: A Seed

Chapter 11: The Call 
Chapter 12: Mountain 
Chapter 13: Into the Halls of Madness 
Chapter 14: The Shadow Stirs 
Chapter 15: Per Aspera 
Chapter 16: Answers 
Chapter 17: What Dreams May Come 
Chapter 18: Ad Astrea 
Chapter 19: Shadow's Pawn 
Chapter 20: Voices 
Chapter 21: Chadvey Kerman 
Chapter 22: Buford T. Kerman 
Chapter 23: 'So Much Universe, and So Little Time.' 
Chapter 24: Lighting the Candle 
Chapter 25: Space Oddity 
Chapter 26: Revelations 
Chapter 27: Shadows of the Kraken 
Chapter 28: A Fairy Tale 
Chapter 29: The Two 
Chapter 30: To Boldly Go... 
-Elsewhere....- 
Chapter 31: Emptiness 
Chapter 32: Insights 
Chapter 33: Speed 
Chapter 34: We Have a Problem 
Chapter 35: So Far Away 
Chapter 36: Alone 
Chapter 37: Unintended Consequences 
Chapter 38: Jool 
Chapter 39: The Shadow over Bop 
Chapter 40: Betrayer 
Chapter 41: The Kraken 
Chapter 42: Edgas Kerman 
Chapter 43: The Place He Arrived At (Reprise) 
Chapter 44: Homecoming 
Chapter 45: Shadows and Mündust (Reprise) 
Epilogue: A Memory of Light

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The Lost (Early) Chapters

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Since I keep mentioning such, here's the map of the place names I use. Credit goes to the author.

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Due to a deplorable excess of imagination and getting paid to sit in traffic all day with nothing else to occupy my mind, a string of mission reports is apparently morphing into an actual story. So before I loose my nerve, here's the first installment. Nothing that interesting yet, just character intros. I had no idea three semi-random Kerbals I stuck in a pod & sent to a station weeks ago would turn out to be such, well characters. If there's any interest, I'll put down the rest. Here's the lead up WDYIKSPT posts since it kinda picks up in the middle:

So without further ado, I give you chapter 1 to Shadows of the Kraken

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Chapter 1: The Three

Edgas Kerman stared out into the darkness. It had been 14 days since they landed. Well, 14 24-hour cycles. Time was strange here. The crew still kept to a 24 hour day, but the day/night cycle on the Mün was well over four Kerbin days. Two days of light, two days of darkness. Edgas figured he'd eventually get used to it. Or he'd have a psychotic episode. He was already growing to hate the nights here. Even the darkness itself wasn't....right. It was darkness like he'd never known. It seemed to draw in, to consume the light as it crept across the landscape like a blight. Now it hung thickly around the base once again. Edgas could see the stars, but he tried not to. The way they sank down, then just disappeared into the inky, unbroken blackness of the distant horizon unsettled him. The base had floodlights, of course. They cast a pallid glow around the floorplate. But even that seemed to shrink back from the darkness. They were supposed to have installed long range spotlights by now, but hadn't gotten to it. Edgas wished they would.

He had one friend in the darkness. From the window of his tiny cubicle on the hab deck, he could just see the old descent stage from Isfjell 1. It stood as a brave, lonely beacon out there in the night, its own floodlights fighting back against the consuming darkness like the desperate defenders of a besieged fortress. It was just a derelict now, there was no probe core to control it, but the departing crew had left the lights on. The base crew were supposed to have shut it down and stripped it for parts already, but hadn't gotten to it. Edgas hoped they wouldn't. The lights ran off the batteries. Only for a few hours each Münar night, not nearly long enough. It was a silly thing, yet it gave Edgas some small comfort. Then, just as he was thinking this, the voltage dropped below some threshold, the castle wall was breached, and the lights winked out. Darkness rushed in like a conquering army.

Edgas sighed, closed the window shade, and leaned back on his small cot. He rubbed his stubby fingers where they had been pressed against the cold hull. It was always cold in here, but he didn't mind. The cold never bothered him anyway. Edgas liked the cold. He stared up at collection of wires and tubing covering the ceiling. Nothing to do now but wait for the next duty cycle to start so he'd have something to occupy his mind and take it off what was outside. Now, the night truly began.

* * *

Edmund Kerman was at his station in the lab, near the top of the towering Mün base. He usually was, even if not on duty. There was just too much work to be done. He didn't like the nights here. They were too long, caused delays. He'd forbidden night EVAs shortly after arriving. Too dangerous, he wouldn't risk his crew like that. They needed to get those spots up. Even then, too much out there that could catch a Kerbal off guard in the dark. Work outside would just have to wait. So he busied himself here, in the lab, surrounded by small grey rocks and containers of soil. He reached over to the little infrared space heater next to his station and turned it up another notch. Always so damn cold in here. Edmund liked it warm. He dreamt of retiring someplace tropical, with white sand and warmth. Maybe up the coast, just north of the KSC. Where he could sit in a beach chair and watch the rockets go up. Then come back down. Then go up again. And occasionally stay there. A drink in his hand and-- bah.

No time for such idle thoughts now, he had work to do. Besides, if wishes were RatSquirrelFishes then beggars would gag. That's what his ol' Gran-pabbie always used to say when Edmund was a boy. Hadn't made any sense to him then, either, but if Gran-pabbie said it, it must be true. He had gotten a little fuzzy there in his later years. Always strong like steel though. Why, at his age he could still--

Bah! he pushed the thought away. Edmund closed his round, bulging eyes and rubbed the smooth skin between them. His head was thrumming today. That was better than thumping like yesterday. His headache had come and gone ever since taking that tumble off the ladder on Day 1. Damn fool thing to do, a trained, experienced Kerbonaut like him. Rookie mistake. But that's what did it, alright. Blow to the head can cause lasting headaches like this. No doubt. Certainly wasn't that other thing. Damn fool doctors, what did they know, anyway? Probably read the test results wrong. Edmund was the pinnacle of physical condition. Why, he could out run, out distance, out lift Kerbals half his age. Everything on his last physical exam was perfect, except--

BAH! He slammed his fist down on the table. Something flew off and bounced around the room in slow motion. His head was making it impossible to concentrate. Calm yourself, he thought. Edmund picked up a small gray rock and turned it over in his fingers, tiny crystals sparking in the light. Mission Commander. He was lucky to have pulled this tag. But this, this was a high point to end on. No one would remember the fifth commander of the space station. First permanent presence on the Mün, now that was something special. Something memorable. Chadvey should have had it by rights, but he turned it down. Hmph. Chadvey. Big damn hero. First in space, first on the Mün. Edmund had logged more time passing gas here than Chadvey spent doing anything useful.

Then there was the anomaly. Edmund grinned under his mustache, trimmed exactly according to Personal Grooming Regulation OU812. Now that... that could outshine even Chadvey. Satellite couldn't image it, even with a pass so low it smacked into a mountain. He didn't believe in that "tall pink men" nonsense, but whatever was there, it was something extraordinary. Something that would be remembered. The Company was getting impatient, they'd funded a good chunk of this base. But procedure would be followed. The rover was nearly fully checked out, just needed the final instruments installed. Should be ready on the next day cycle. Edmund would not risk his crew with an improperly tested vehicle. Then it was an easy 8.2 click jaunt up the crater wall, and--

He sat back and sighed. This was pointless. A good commander knew when to call it quits. He couldn't get any work done like this anyway. He set the rock down next to a jar of gray soil tinged with orange. That was a real bonus, he thought. Hoped for, but not expected. Billy had literally stumbled across it on a short rover excursion. Edmund looked over the collection of other samples on his table. So, so much data here. Right outside that hatch, just laying all over the ground like, well, powdery gray dirt. He got up and moved carefully to the ladder in the center of the cylindrical room. This place really is a geologist's soggy dream, he thought. He shut the lights off, went down the ladder to his cubicle, and went to sleep.

* * *

Tall pink men. Billy-Bobrim Kerman liked tall pink men. They weren't real, course. He knew that. But he still like the stories. This one was called, "Duna Attacks!" He flipped through the colorful booklet. He weren't s'posed to have this. Wasn't. Wasn't supposed to have this. He'd snuck it aboard along with some snacks he kept hidden under his cot. He hoped the Eds (he called them the Eds) didn't find it. They were too serious for picture books. He knew he wasn't dumb, but he wasn't smart like the Eds. He didn't understand alloys and compositions and things with molecular structures. But he was a good driver, and he could fix anything, and when he fixed something, why, it stayed fixed, by gum!

Billy looked out his window into the darkness. He didn't mind the dark. He didn't know why it scared some folks so. Why be scared of what you can't see? Nothing but rocks out there, he knew that. Rocks never hurt no one. Well, 'cept maybe for those mi-cro-me-te-o-roids. He'd seen some since they been here. Be looking out at the surface when suddenly POOF! Didn't really go POOF, course. The Mün was still space, and there weren't no sound in space. Wasn't. Wasn't no sound in space. He knew that. But it looked like the kinda thing that would go POOF if you could hear it. That could probably hurt a fella. No sense being scared of that either. Can't see 'em coming, either it gets you or it don't.

It was dangerous up here. He knew that. But he was happy to be here. Being somewhere was always better than being nowhere, yes sir-ee. Billy was a Kerbonaut, and he knew there was always a risk of suddenly being nowhere. Or everywhere. Just one of those things. Being scared won't help. Besides, it was pretty up here, in its way. And interesting. He got to see interesting stuff that no one had ever got to see before. He didn't always understand it, but he got to see it and other folks didn't, and that was something.

The Eds didn't have no family. Any. Didn't have any family. That was too bad. Billy had a baby sister. She was all growed up now, course. Grown up now. But she'd always be his baby sister. He talked to her every chance he got on the uplink. Those controllers were always pretty good about that. She was so proud of her big brother the brave Kerbonaut. Maybe they'd let him bring her back a rock. So many rocks up here. He liked the ones that sparkled. Those scientists didn't really need all of them, did they? She would really like a nice, sparkly rock.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
REMASTERED!
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Interest here. :)

I'm liking Billy already. And the writing style too.

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Chapter 2: Dawn

Dawn finally came. Edgas hadn't bothered trying sleep. Too many bad dreams lately. Not horrible, but just enough that he didn't want to sleep until the day returned. He watched it now, from the small window of his cubicle. Just as the darkness had conquered the land, now it retreated, but ever so slowly, straining to keep every last centimeter. Finally, the three tones signaling the start of the duty cycle sounded over the intercom, Edgas zipped up his flight suit, and headed down to the galley.

The base was a pair of stacked cylinders. The smaller one, the lab, was on top, with three floors of workspace. The main hull was huge, based loosely on the core module from the highly successful space station, but whereas the space station was all smooth plastic and padded surfaces, the Münbase was entirely utilitarian. Metal grating divided the floors, the only exception being the nominal privacy of the crew quarters. The crew called them cubicles, though they were really more like triangular sectors spaced around the top most deck of the main hull, with open sectors filled with supplies separating the three.

A tall metal ladder ran down the center of the cylinders, from the docking hatch at the apex of the lab, to the node at the bottom of the core module. Below the crew deck was the operations deck, filled with flat displays, walls of gauges, and a large map of the immediate area displayed on a round table off to one side. Below that was the airlock, taking up most of the deck, the rest being suit and equipment maintenance shops. At the bottom of the hull, was the galley. This meant a continual rain of Mündust from the open grating of the airlock above, despite the abatement blowers and containment procedures inside the airlock.

The crew had long since gotten used to the gunpowder-like smell of fresh Mündust that now permeated the place. But not the grittiness it imparted to their food. Edgas was convinced it was an intentional design flaw so the engineers could study the long term effects of habitual Mündust consumption. Pfft. Engineers.

And finally, below the galley and beneath the main hull, usually sealed by a hatch in the floor, was the node. It was a dimly lit, spartan section that split off into four docking tunnels for future modules. At the end of one was the crucial life support module, its hatch kept closed to keep noise down. The other three were just used as storage space.

Edgas slid slowly down the ladder and gently thumped to a stop on top of the hatch in the middle of the galley floor.

"Hi Ed!" said Billy, with his usual cheerfulness. He was seated at the wall-mounted table, eating mush from a bowl.

"Morning, Billy" Edgas said with a smile. Edgas liked Billy. He thought it would be impossible to not like Billy. He had that enthusiastic exuberance people so often mistook for stupidity. Billy was uneducated, that was true enough, the Corps took practically anyone with a pulse. But Billy was sharp as a tack. Edgas knew about the comic books, of course. Billy kept them stashed underneath the massive copy of Field Geologist's Guide to the Biomes of Kerbin that Edgas had given him when they graduated training. The comics were always pristine, but that old tome had been read so much it was starting to fall apart. Engineers. Pfft. They scoffed at a comic book massing a few grams but had no trouble approving an ancient textbook that must have been a couple of kilos. How much had it cost to put that thing on the Mün? A new kar? Small house maybe? Big house? Probably more than-

"Edgas!" said Edmund sharply. Edgas realized he had been staring off into space again.

"Huh? What? Oh, morning Ed, sorry."

Edmund was organizing boxes next to a pantry bin. "You all right, son? Still not sleeping?" Edgas shrugged. Edmund drifted past, clapped him on the shoulder, and sat down at the table with his own bowl of mush. "You should try the sleep aid. That's why they provide it. You don't look well."

Edgas sighed, "nah, makes me loopy." He ambled over to the coffee machine and slowly poured himself a mug of thick, syrupy coffee. Everything was thick and syrupy in this low gravity. At least it still tasted like coffee. Horrible, burnt, grainy, industrial coffee. Just like home. He took a long sip.

"Edmund says we're going to see the anna-molly today!"

And promptly sprayed it all over the metallic cupboards.

"Wait, what?!" coughed Edgas, "already?"

Edmund rolled his huge eyes at Billy. "Not today, today. Next duty cycle. Need to do the final setup & planning today."

"So soon?"

"We've been up here almost three weeks now. The rover's been checked and re-checked, logged a couple dozen clicks on sorties, never so much as a hiccup. It's ready."

"But..."

"And the financier is getting impatient. They blew a gasket after they crashed their satellite trying to image it up close. They want real data, and that's our gig."

"That thing gives me the creeps."

"It's just a thing. Pretty sure whatever it is plenty dead by now, if it was ever otherwise. Might be nothing there at all, just some magnetite playing havoc with the scanners. But they paid for us to find out, so that's what we're gonna do.

"Yes, sir" Edgas said flatly, staring at his coffee.

"Ed," Edmund rolled his eyes again, "you know your input is important to me. But this is what we signed on for, this is what got us here. Sooner we get it out of the way, sooner we can focus on the real science. They paid for data, not results. Get 'em that, the contract's complete, and they can shove off. Besides, you won't need to see it.

"He won't?" said Billy, frowning. Edgas looked up.

"I need you here monitoring the mission. Still not ready to risk the full crew on an excursion that long. Maybe after."

"I won't argue with that" Edgas said, sitting down with his own bowl of mush.

"Look guys," began Edmund, "that thing gives me the shivers too, but I don't put much stock in it. I think there's nothing there. One way or the other, in 48 hours, it'll all be behind us. Objective complete."

Their fresh food had run out last week, nothing but everything that can fit in a can, bag, or box from here on out. But the mush was, well, good. Even the grit couldn't spoil it. They ate it happily. Edgas glanced toward to pantry, filled with uniform, nondescript boxes. He hoped it would last. The three finished their meal, and went over the plan for the day.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Looks interesting, looking forward to more! (Billy! :D)

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Chapter 3: Preparations

The airlock was a half circle on the EVA deck, and most of that was space for the dust mitigation systems. They worked quite well, but couldn't still stem the tide of dust tracked into the rest of the base, that inevitably found its way to the galley. It confounded Edgas. The scientist in him found Mündust endlessly fascinating. So much to learn from such a simple substance. But the practical Kerbal in him didn't like it at all. It was coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it got everywhere. It stuck to every surface like a magnet, since it was electrically charged. Once it got out of the airlock, there was no getting rid of it.

Edgas and Billy-Bobrim were in the airlock now, getting suited up for their EVA.

"Do you think Ed's right? That there's really nothing there?" asked Billy. His movements were fluid, precise, almost careless, as he connected various hoses, turned various dials, checked various fittings.

"Oh, I don't know, probably," Edgas replied. He fumbled wit his suit. Engineers. Pfft. Put everything in the worst possible places. "Just makes me uneasy."

"But there's nothing out there but dust and rocks, nothin' to be scared of, no sir-ee. Check me!" Billy grinned as he spun around. Edgas began safety checking Billy's suit. He knew he needn't bother. Every fitting, switch, and knob was always perfect. Even the ones Billy could barely see, let alone reach.

"Fear's not always a rational thing," Edgas said as he finished the checks. "OK, check me."

Billy almost instantly began clicking and fiddling with things where Edgas couldn't even see.

"'Fear always springs from ig-no-rance', that's what Annazzzzzzzz..." Billy's breath caught. Edgas couldn't see his face, but his own heart dropped. Billy was always cheerful. Setbacks, disappointments, flat out insults, nothing got to him. Nothing got through that shell. It was impenetrable. Except for one thing. Billy had trouble with big words. Never in his life could he pronounce his sister's full name.

Edgas opened his mouth, was about to speak, when something behind him clicked.

"Whoops! Don't wanna go outside like that, no sir-ee, that'd spoil your day real quick like!" Edgas closed his mouth, and for a moment turned a slightly darker shade of green. "All set now!" Edgas turned, and Billy was once again his usual self.

"How is she?" Edgas asked.

"She's ok," he paused, "she says the burrow-craps are arguing about us again."

Bureaucrats. Pfft. The only thing worse than engineers. "They're always arguing about us. It's what we pay them for."

"She says they say Duna's more important, that we should just come home instead. Especially that guy in charge. She says he's a squid-licking son of a-"

Edgas gasped. "That's not a very nice word."

"Well it's what she said!" Billy pleaded.

"Well, he is one, but still" Edgas grinned, "that's not nice." Billy laughed.

Edgas switched on his commlink.

"Edgas here, how do you read?"

"Read you loud and clear Edgas," said Edmund from the ops deck above. "Billy?"

"Billy-Bobrim here, how do you read?"

"Read you loud and clear Billy. Comm checks complete, everything looks good, advise when ready."

They put their helmets on and did a final check out. Once Edgas depressurized the lock, the pair made their way out to the surface.

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There were several hours of work ahead. Two contingency rover chassis were detached from the main body of the rover. One decoupled incorrectly and landed upside down. After much struggling, the pair simply left it as it was, as a problem for another day. Even in the low gravity, it was too heavy to right. The other unit worked properly, and was outfitted with seats, power, and extra life support from the storage containers. If the mission rover became disabled, this small unenclosed buggy could retrieve the stranded crew.

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Once the mini-rover was tested and secured, Edmund replaced Edgas outside to assist with the installation of several instruments on the mission rover, including an externally mounted observer's seat. Edgas supervised from the ops deck. Finally, they made their way over to the old Isfjell 1, to repurpose some of its instruments. When they had finished, Edgas was glad to see the lights were still on.

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The crew were exhausted after such a long work day. In planning the rover's route to the anomaly on the edge of the crater and back, it was Billy-Bobrim who pointed out that while the rover would have no trouble making the climb, the soft regolith could pose a hazard when descending. An alternate return route was added, following the lip of the crater back to a nearby survey site they had already visited, knowing they could return from there.

When he finally crawled into his cot, Edgas was happy for the low gravity. He didn't think he would have gotten that far otherwise. He closed his window shade against the Münar noon, leaving just a crack so a slim beam of light shown on the opposite wall. He was still uneasy, but that night he slept like the dead.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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THE SUSPENSION IS BUILDING... Great pieces of work so far man!

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Chapter 4: An Excursion

Edgas awoke with a start. For a moment, he didn't know where he was. In rising panic, he peeked out the window. Still daylight. The shadows appeared not to have moved at all. Did I have a nightmare? He thought. He couldn't remember. But something....well, it was gone now. He put on a fresh flightsuit, and was about to head down to the galley, when he heard Edmund and Billy on the ops deck above.

"Hi Ed!" said Billy as he came up the ladder.

"Well, morning sunshine!" said Edmund, leaning against a console with a mug of coffee, "So nice of you to join us. I was about to come looking for you."

"Wait, what? Why?" Asked Edgas. Edmund nodded towards the mission clock. His jaw fell open.

"Told you that sleep debt would catch up with you," Edmund said with a smirk. "We're almost finished here."

"Fine, fine, I'll eat later," Edgas said, putting a palm to his face and picking a procedure manual from the map table, "what're the call signs for today?"

"See for yourself," Edmund pointed toward the manual with his mug.

Edgas opened it and flipped to the "Designated Callsigns by Mission Day" section, running his thick finger down the list. His jaw fell open again.

"You've got to be kidding."

Edmund threw his non-coffeed hand up, "hey, you can't make this stuff up."

For the first of many times that day, Edgas wished it was over. He looked at the line in the book again. Hounddog. Jailhouse. Engineers. Pfft.

***

From the only window on the ops deck, Edgas watched the rover trundle off past the perimeter of the base, its wheels throwing up little puffs of Mündust as it went.

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"Jailhouse, Hounddog, how do you read?" Radioed Edmund from the rover's observation seat. Edgas could see his small white form wobble back and forth as the rover went over lumps in the terrain.

He cringed. "Hounddog, Jailhouse, you're in the pipe, five by five. Telemetry looks good." Mission control was monitoring the excursion on a satellite uplink, so Edgas refrained from lamenting the pointlessness of silly callsigns when no one else was on the same frequency. Or body. "You're cleared to continue." He was acting commander while Edmund was on the surface. He could call the rover back at any time if he thought it warranted. That fact brought him little comfort as the rover passed out of view from the window. He had a very bad feeling about this.

Edgas smirked as a thought occurred to him. He grabbed his tablet from the counter, flipped the telemetry readouts over to it, then bounded to the ladder and up towards the lab. Standing order is only two EVA's on the surface, he thought. Doesn't say anything about... Something caught his eye as he ascended through the lab. A small container of Mystery Goo on a shelf was glowing. That's....odd, he thought. Not particularly unusual, Mystery Goo did odd things all the time. No one really understood it. Just...odd. It seemed to be silently judging him.

Edgas put the thought out of his head as he climbed to the small, unused contingency airlock at the very top of the lab. There, he donned one of the quick-use emergency EVA suits, depressurized the lock, and stood up through the top hatch. Banging his helmet against the uplink comm dish in the process. He watched as the rover shambled off across the grayness, monitoring telemetry from his tablet. Then, suddenly, it disappeared. That always disturbed him, how objects simply disappeared when they got more than a couple of kilometers away. It was still there, of course, still feeding telemetry. He just couldn't see it anymore. Some strange quirk of physics. Perfectly normal.

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***

The rover bounced and tossed its way up the crater wall. Edmund was beginning to regret his decision to make the entire trip in the outside observer's seat. The rover's suspension wasn't as effective so far from its center, and each jolt felt like it was going right up his spine. When he wasn't simply getting tossed around like a rag doll.

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"Bring it (oof) down another (grunt) meter Billy, getting real (ack!) rough out here," he said through the intercom.

"Ok Ed!" replied Billy from inside the relative comfort of the cupola at the front of the rover. The rover slowed just slightly.

This'll be a long day, Edmund thought to himself. He was already getting sore. His suit was connected to the rover by an umbilical life support line, sharing its resources and saving the EVA pack on his back. He could theoretically stay like this for days. That's not happening, he thought. Still, it was an ideal place to observe the terrain. Billy could only see a fairly narrow area directly in front of him from the cupola. From up here, Edmund had a nearly unrestricted view of the landscape all around. He'd already been able to guide Billy around some of the larger bumps.

He turned and looked back towards the base. It had disappeared some time ago. Edmund felt a small tinge of isolation that was highly unusual for him. He pushed it away. Probably just nerves. His head was really killing him today.

The rover was just about to crest the lip of the crater when Edgas crackled over the comm link, "Hounddog, Jailhouse, hold position please."

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Edmund nodded to Billy in the cupola, and the rover slowed to a halt. "Jailhouse, Hounddog, holding. What's the issue?"

"Mission control just lost the telemetry feed, standby... standby... I'll try recycling the signal"

"Copy Jailhouse. Control, Hounddog, all my lights are green, the problem's not on our end." No response.

"Control, Hounddog...Control, Hounddog, do you copy?" Still nothing.

"Jailhouse, Hound...dammit. Ed! I seem to have lost audio with control too, do you have them?

"I still have them... They're not able to copy you either. Might have to rethink this."

"If you've still got them it's probably just an uplink glitch. As long as you can act as relay we're still good to proceed. Only a couple more clicks now, just over this ridge."

There was a pause.

"All right, they concur. You're cleared to proceed but be careful." Edgas sounded annoyed.

"Copy, underway." Edmund nodded again at Billy and the rover moved on. They finally crested the crater wall, and were starting down the other side. Edmund thought he saw something just beyond the next rise.

"Hounddog...hold...loosing ... signal," flashed with static.

"Billy, back it up few meters, slowly." Edmund said, "there, that any better?"

"Affirmative, got a clear signal now. Was loosing audio too," Edgas crackled, "I think we're gonna have to call this one off for now. Can't proceed with no comms."

"We're just cresting the crater lip. Probably a dead zone on the lee side. We're almost there, nothing to worry about."

"We can't continue without comms. That's a standing mission rule."

Edmund was getting irritated. His head was pounding. "Now don't go making me pull rank here. It's a minor thing, everything's green here."

"With all due respect, I have rank right now. There's too many red flags here."

"Ed I...I can see something. It's in a depression just over the next rise. Can't tell what it is but it's there." His head was splitting. "Tell you what, just give us one hour. That's plenty of time to get the data points and get back. It's less than... 800 meters now. That's easy walking distance even if something goes wrong."

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"Edmund, this is against..."

"Just one hour, please!" Why was he pushing so? This wasn't like himself. His head felt ready to explode, getting hard to think. "One hour, then we get to forget all this hoopla and move on."

Another pause.

"All right Ed. One hour. And if I don't hear from you then I'm getting in the mini rover and coming after you. Agreed?"

"Agreed! Hounddog out."

Edmund again nodded to Billy, and the rover moved off down the slight hill. A moment later, a brief burst of static indicated the loss of signal. And with that, Edmund's headache disappeared. He jerked, startled. He had been through a lot in his life. Aircraft crashes, training accidents, and the very public in-flight breakup of his first mission that still haunted him. But he had lived though things he shouldn't have, and seen things beyond his understanding, yet this was something new. Something he'd never felt before.

Edmund was terrified.

***

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"What do you think it is, Ed?" Asked Billy.

"I don't know, son. I do... not... know."

"I'm afraid..."

"It's just a thing, nothing to be scared of..." Edmund wished he believed it himself. They were standing at the base of a massive cubic structure that loomed over them. Whatever was on top, he couldn't make out. What was it made of? Stone? Metal? He couldn't tell. The Object seemed to resist being looked at, as Edmund tried to his eyes would slide off, focus on something else. If he forced himself to look, the form went all fuzzy and he started getting nauseous. Hesitantly, he reached a gloved hand out towards it, then made a fist as he yanked it back.

No. No, I do not want to touch that.

There was a growing feeling in the back of his mind, something he couldn't quite place. Foreign, yet somehow... familiar. It chilled his very bones. He was beginning to think he'd made a horrible mistake in coming here.

"L...lets get the data and get out of here," he said, "Ed's right, this thing gives me the creeps."

He turned, and started back towards the rover. It took him a moment to realize Billy wasn't with him. He looked back, and saw Billy still standing before the Object, staring up at it.

"Hey Billy!" Edmund said as he started towards him. A cold dread was creeping up his spine.

"Billy!" He reached out towards Billy's shoulder.

"Billy?"

Billy suddenly spun around.

"You ok?" Asked Edmund, "you look like you've seen a ghost."

"Yeah, I'm fine." Billy's face was pale, eyes wide and searching, "I don't like it here."

"Me neither," said Edmund, "let's just do what we came to do and go."

"Yeah..." Billy sounded a thousand kilometers away. Edmund led him back over to the rover, detached a tripod and handed it to him.

"Set this up, I'll get the imager." Billy took it and started back to the Object. Edmund tried to compose himself. This awful feeling... what is..? He detached the imager unit, turned it over in his hands, trying to concentrate. His hand passed over the angular logo stamped on the housing. Wutani-something-or-other. What kind of name is that anyway? Why would they need...

The device dropped from his hands, and fell slowly to the dust. Billy was back in front of the Object. The tripod lay at his feet.

Edmund went towards him, reaching a gloved hand out.

"Billy?" Uncertain.

"B...Billy?" Trembling.

"Billy?" Pleading.

His hand touched Billy's shoulder. In that moment, that awful moment, realization crashed into him like a falling star. He knew. He knew. And he knew it was already too late.

It was the feeling from a nightmare, right before the monster gets you. Slowly, Billy turned.

Edmund Kerman screamed.

And screamed.

And screamed.

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Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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*DUN DUN DUNNNNNN* I wonder what happened to Billy... :(

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And I joined the "Chills up my spine" club...

Really good!

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Well, that went bad quick.

Were you expecting Applejack,_Twilight_Sparkle_and_Rainbow_Dash.png...? :D

My top 3 authors are Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, & the late Robert Jordan. Should give some idea of where things are heading....

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My top 3 authors are Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, & the late Robert Jordan. Should give some idea of where things are heading....

It's a good thing that kerbals don't have braids to tug then. :)

Seriously though, great story - and I loved the way you worked in the Mystery Goo!

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I am definitely following this.

When is the next update?

Can't wait!

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Chapter 5: Shadows and Mündust

You couldn't pace in one-sixth gravity. If you tried, you just bounced across the floor. So that's what Edgas Kerman did now, bounding between various monitors and displays, desperately searching for some sign, any sign, of his missing crewmates. One hour. Edmund had said one hour. Just one.

It had been three.

They have to be alive, they have to be, he thought, so I can kill them. This was a disaster. He had tried everything he could think of to restore contact from within the base. Boosted power to the receivers to dangerous levels, reconfigured the observatory to scan the horizon, even reprogramming a passing satellite to try imaging the area one more time. There was simply no sign of Edmund and Billy-Bobrim. And to make matters worse, he had lost contact with Mission Control.

That's it, this is too much, I'm going after them, he thought. He was about to head to the EVA deck when his eye caught a flash of light from the window. He looked closer. It was the rover, and it was coming fast. Something didn't look quite right. Edgas watched for a moment until it moved out of the window's line of sight, heading towards the main hatch. He flew down the ladder to the EVA deck. There, he waited impatiently for...

He heard the slight sound of the outer hatch open. Watched the status light go from green, to red.... back to green. The repressurization and dust mitigation cycles began. He strained to see anything through the small round window of the inner door, but it had long been frosted by the highly abrasive mündust. Inside, he could see nothing but shadows and apparitions.

Finally with a hiss, the inner door swung open. Through a cloud of gray mündust, a ghostly figure reached out for him...

"Help me get this thing off, will you? Its stuck!" Edmund was a barely audible mumble through his helmet. The seals were so worn from the dust they were getting harder and harder to remove. Edgas grabbed the helmet, twisted, felt a click, pulled.

"Hoooo-wee that was a close shave!" exclaimed Edmund. He looked perfectly fine. "Thought we were gonna have a problem for a while there."

Edgas grabbed him by his collar ring, "WHERE IN THE FIVE SHINY MOONS OF JOOL HAVE YOU BEEN?!?" he screamed, "WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE?!?"

"Micrometeoroid!" He blurted out, "knocked the comm dish clean off, ruptured the O2 tanks, put a hole in the hull somewhere too but damned if I can find it." Billy was still in the back of the lock, facing the outer door, struggling with his helmet. "Spent too much time looking for it. Had to make the trip back on suit ox, and go the long way. Were starting to run low."

Edgas looked past him, "Billy, you ok?"

He squeezed past Edmund into the airlock "Billy!"

He reached out for him, "Billy?"

There was a slight hiss as Billy's helmet unsealed. He turned.

"Hi Ed!"

Edgas looked at him, "you all right?"

"Right as rain, yes sir-ee!" Billy said with usual exuberance, "Wow that was something! It didn't go POOF it went BANG!"

Edgas looked from Billy to Edmund and back again. "So you're both ok?"

"We're fine, Ed." Said Edmund.

He leaned back against the dusty wall of the airlock and let out a long breath. "You guys scared the mush out of me."

"I'm sorry Ed, it was my mistake. We shouldn't have wasted so much time looking for that hull leak.

Edgas rubbed his temples, "so what did you find? What was at the anomaly site?"

"Oh, didn't I say?" Edmund said with a strange smile, "there was nothing there."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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I wonder what they were trying to cover up. What actually happened... Anyway, good work so far!

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Whvburnvwoiurvbwoirubvwojrvwpefvweiobjfb please next chapter please PLEASE

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Chapter 6: Interludes

Mission Day: 81

Edmund Kerman was in the lab again, cataloging, recording, analyzing. The piles and racks of samples had grown enormously. He rubbed his bulging, red-tinged eyes. So much work to do. He glanced at the mission clock for the thousandth time tonight. Five days...only five days. We need more time. In five days, the ARNDL probe was due to arrive at Duna. It was an ambitious mission, built on the successes and failures of the Eve probes years before, to map and survey the entire planet in one go, along with its small moon. It would be the gateway to a crewed landing. If it was even half as successful as hoped, it would mean the end of funding for this münbase. The end of their expedition here. And Edmund had nothing to show for it.

Nothing but sparkly rocks and orange dirt. The anomaly that had been so promising turned out to be nothing. Just... nothing. His mind got fuzzy if he thought about it too hard, but there was just nothing there. No glory. No legacy. So here he sat, surrounded by rocks and dirt. Desperately searching for something memorable, something that would have meaning to more than scholars. His headache was gone, at least that was an improvement.

It's also a symptom. He winced at the thought. Hesitantly, he held a hand up in front of his eyes. It trembled ever so slightly. Snarling, he slammed his fist down on the table. Something went bouncing slowly around the room. That hurt more than it should have. He looked at the heel of his hand, where the bruise was already forming.

No....

More time, I need more time!

Unnoticed, on a shelf above him, a small canister of Goo glowed dimly.

***

It was a good rock. Billy-Bobrim had found it a few days ago, on a long trip to the midlands just south of the crater. One little rock, that was sitting on a bigger rock, but that one was too heavy to move. The Eds had been happy, they found lots of good rocks too. But this one was his. No one else needed to know about it, right? It's just one little rock. He rolled it about on the nightstand in his cramped cubicle. It sparkled. Alot. Billy knew what it was, of course. Olivine basalt with anorthite inclusions in an igneous matrix. That's what made it sparkle. Billy could never say that, of course. If he tried to, his mouth got all confused and his throat closed up. So he used small words. The Eds knew that. They never made him feel bad about it.

They'd been doing lots of stuff lately, going all over with the rover. All three of them. There was lots of (SAW IT!

Billy blinked.

Things popped into his head some times. Nothing to worry about, no sir-ee, just his brain working overtime. In fact, (FLOATS!)

Billy shook his head.

He didn't like that. Some of the things he saw were bad things. They made his eyes hurt. Prolly 'cuz he was tired. He'd been having nightmares again and (LIES!)

He rubbed his bulging eyes tiredly and sighed.

He looked out his small window. Darkness. Edgas didn't like the dark. Billy was worried about him. He didn't think he was sleeping much. That wasn't good for a fellow. He rolled the rock around again. It was pretty. He thought Anastasia would really like this rock.

***

How long had it been since he'd last slept? Fifty, sixty hours? And how long before then? Edgas sat at the edge of his cot, with his large feet dangling over the side, holding something tiny in his hand. He knew what extended sleep deprivation did to a person. Dammit, he was a scientist, he knew this. And yet...

He was starting to hallucinate. Deep in the darkness, he was sure he could see shadows in the base moving, writhing, conspiring, reaching out for him.

This place, this whole place, it isn't right. There's something here. Something... other.

Don't be ridiculous, the scientist in him said, you're just sleep-deprived and stressed. Besides, you're too old for fairy-tales.

Fairy-tales were created for a reason, retorted the practical Kerbal in him, to teach youngsters life lessons that were important... and unpleasant. Like, 'linger not in dark places, for there be dragons.'

"Shut up, both of you." He said aloud. Now I'm even talking to myself. Wonderful.

So much work to do. Edmund had been true to his word about the anomaly. Nothing more was said about it. At all. It was like it never even happened. Instead, the crew had indeed focused on the real science. They had explored and mapped the entire crater, and made several excursions to midlands to the south, some lasting an entire münar day. That's how it had started, it was impossible to sleep bouncing around in the back of the rover. He never slept during the long dark anymore. And even in the day, there was just so much to be done. They had over 800 kilos of 'must return' samples already. Selena couldn't lift nearly that much.

Maybe I could reprogram the launch profile, Edgas thought absently, there's plenty of fuel in the return stage, if I just...

His mind was wandering. Couldn't concentrate. Another effect of chronic sleep deprivation. I'm in no shape to do anything of the sort. And to make matters worse, Billy had started mumbling in his sleep again. Edgas doubted if Edmund even knew. After all, he was on...

He looked at the large, translucent blue pill in his hand. Darnitol™, 50mg. 

Sleep. Sleep without dreams. At least, that's what the flight surgeon back on Kerbin had always said. He looked out his window into darkness, into nothing. The long night was just beginning. With a grunt of frustration, he forced the pill down with a full cup of water. It felt like it went down sideways.

That night, once again, Edgas Kerman slept like the dead.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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And the tension ratchets up another notch...

You hear that twanging? That's my nerves, son.

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I would give you more rep but it says I gave you to much

So true, so true...

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