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Shadows of the Kraken: Remastered & The Lost Chapters


CatastrophicFailure
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"Ninety-nine bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag! If one of those bottles shold happen to fall, ninety-eight bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall! Ninety-eight bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall, ninety-eight bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag! If one of those bottles should happen to fall, ninety-seven bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall! Ninety-seven bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag.....

ROFL,ROFL,ROFL.

Methinks that they are heading to.. Bop, perhaps? Dead Space Kraken? Or not dead…

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A twinkle came to Chadvey's eye, "the desert dwellers who lived on the temple grounds a thousand years after it was abandoned called it Shai'tan, an entity that sought to unmake the world until it was trapped outside of reality using its own power, by a Chief of Chiefs."

Ahh - the legend of Randalthor Kerman unless I miss my guess. :) Do darker legends speak of Therin-Lews Kerman and his One Hundred Companions?

To the Tolkeen people of modern Ussari, it was Morgoth, they wrote many, many books about that one.

I like it. :D

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Chapter 28: A Fairy Tale

"Jool? Jool?!" Edgas exclaimed, "why Jool? No one's ever been there before."

"You remember Ah said there was something on the back of the tablet, in the same ancient language that led me to transliterate the seal?"

Edgas nodded.

"It was a legend, a fairy tale, a very interesting one coming from a culture that lived thousands of years before the first telescopes, that shoudna have had any knowledge of bodies like Eloo, Gilly.... or the five moons of Jool.

"The legend tells of a figure they called the Sky King, who was associated with the color green, and had five daughters, whom he loved greatly. Especially the youngest, whom he'd found wandering in the darkness and adopted. He loved them so much, with the help of beings called the Servants, he created the whole universe just to please them, and set it dancing to the Great Song. For ages and ages they danced and circled one another in happiness. But one day, the great evil that lived in the darkness descended upon them, for it was none too happy to see such merriment, and creation, and life. It was recorded only as the Adversary, and it did battle with the Sky King right there in his dance hall. The Sky King struck off its right hand, but the Adversary's counter-stroke was about to strike down the King himself, when the youngest daughter threw herself upon it, and gouged out its eyes with her brooch pin.

"But she was young and small, the Adversary overpowered her, held its blade to her neck, and demanded the Sky Kings kill all the Servants, and then himself, with his own blade. The youngest daughter was cunning, however; she stabbed herself in the right hand with the brooch pin, her own blood mixing with the Adversary's, and threw it to the Servants, imploring them to bind the Adversary with it. The Sky King begged them not to, but they acted quickly, and trapped the Adversary within the girl, transforming the brooch into the seal. But the Servants warned that the seal was imperfect, and would eventually degrade and weaken."

Edgas listened, enthralled.

"Now here's where it gets interesting. The seal was divided into three parts, the first stayed with the youngest daughter, the other two, as well as the Hand, were given to a figure called the World-Mother, and then to her two sons for safe keeping. In the end, the poor girl went mad, and the Sky King was so devastated that he cast the Servants out into the darkness, but not before they distilled some of their power, and gave it in a vessel to the World Mother, for when it was needed again. The Sky King's grief was too much for him to bear, so he turned himself and all the people of the universe into stars, so they would never feel again, except the World-Mother and her sons, who guarded the seals."

"That's.... awful." Edgas said.

Chadvey fired the thrusters again, "Not every fairy tale has a happy ending, lad," Chadvey said softly, "you should hear the one about the mermaid."

"And you think all that really happened?" Edgas asked.

"Of course not," Said Chadvey with a great laugh, "Ah'm pretty sure Jool is a four an' something billion year old gas giant planet, not the repose of an ancient demigod. But the allegory is certainly compelling, once you add this: the probe to the Jool system several years ago detected anomalous readings nearly identical to the one on the Mün when it flew past the smallest, farthest moon... which is thought to be an 'adopted' asteroid."

Edgas thought for a moment. That wasn't.... "But... the probe never made it to Bop... it ran out of fuel and crashed into Jool before it could make the flyby... right?"

Chadvey has that mischievous look again, "that's what they said, that's what all the documents in the archives reflect... but... Data has become like matter and energy. You can change it, manipulate it, hide it, but never really destroy it. The probe did indeed run out of fuel and crash into Jool... because of the maneuver that brought it to within a few kilometers of the surface of Bop. Took me years of digging to uncover that, rebuilding backup tapes byte by byte, and one extremely unpleasant summer goodwill tour through Ussari picking through intercepted transmission recordings. Have you ever been to Ussari in the summer? Humidity so thick they cut it with a knife and serve it as a side dish, and the skeeters are as big as yer head! Why once Ah... oh...."

Edgas was staring very intently at nothing, his lips moving slightly.

"Come again, lad?"

"Firefly queen," Edgas mumbled, still staring, "she... she trapped the Woodsie Lord in the full moon... drives people mad..."

"Ah think now you're staring to understand, lad."

"No!" Edgas shouted, "I don't understand at all! This all sounds so crazy, and now I'm a fugitive on a stolen space ship!"

"Does it feel crazy?"

"What?"

Chadvey rapped him lightly on the chest, "in there. After all you've been through, and Ah probably don't even know the half of it, does it feel crazy?"

Edgas just looked at him, his mouth working soundlessly.

"Sometimes, lad, when reason fails us, we have to just believe, and trust that the understandin' will come later."

"But..." Edgas hesitated, "what if I believe in the wrong thing?"

"Better to believe in the wrong thing," Chadvey said, "than nothin' at all. People who've nothing to believe in, are easy to control."

"But still, what if I get it wrong? What if it everything goes bad because it was the wrong thing?"

"Then at least you've tried. You've played your part. You've stared down the darkness." Chadvey smiled, "sometimes the darkness does win lad, let it not be for lack of challenge."

Edgas thought, and stared out the small window. "Why aren't we going back to the Mün? That's what started all this, isn't it?"

Chadvey shook his head, "too dangerous. The seal's been broken, and it's strong there now. Ah think anyone who went anywhere near that anomaly would just end up like Edmund and Billy-Bobrim. No, we need to go where it's still trapped and weak. To Bop."

Edgas looked around the cramped pod, "but... in this?"

Chadvey rolled his huge eyes and fired the thrusters again, "no..." He said with a grin, pointing past Edgas out the window, "in that."

Edgas gaped in amazement.

"Told ya lad," said Chadvey, "Ah pulled some strings."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Lessee what I see in there...

There's a kerbal origin legend hinted at.

Probably a stop at Minmus is in the works. May be skipped if Chadvey ("Chadvey?") has been there already.

The Billy-Bobrim's bauble (from Mün) remains a mystery. I wonder what role will it play in the final showdown?

There is also a new macguffin: The Hand of the Kraken. Who has it, or who is it? Is it the driving force behind L-W's exploration program?

I'm still intrigued. If only you could write faster CatastrophicFailure... :D

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Lessee what I see in there...

There's a kerbal origin legend hinted at.

Probably a stop at Minmus is in the works. May be skipped if Chadvey ("Chadvey?") has been there already.

The Billy-Bobrim's bauble (from Mün) remains a mystery. I wonder what role will it play in the final showdown?

There is also a new macguffin: The Hand of the Kraken. Who has it, or who is it? Is it the driving force behind L-W's exploration program?

I'm still intrigued. If only you could write faster CatastrophicFailure... :D

Don't I wish. They need to invent a mental transcription device.

Abd yes, Chadvey. Don't look at me, KSP came up with that one lol.

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Chapter 29: The Two

Edgas gawked out the window. Even from this distance it was truly incredible. He'd never seen anything like it. It was, without a doubt, the ugliest spaceship he had ever seen.

It had to be half a kilometer long, and nearly all of that was a string of large white spheres, each on sprouting a pair of radiators or maybe solar panels. At the front, or what he assumed was the front, were a pair of cylindrical modules, a ring of docking hubs, and various asymmetrical sciencey-looking bits. It looked vaguely familiar. But the other end was strange. He thought it might be the engine. A wide metallic disc separated it from the rest of the ship. What he thought might be the engine bell was enormous, but instead of solid metal it was a lattice of flimsy looking stringers.

Edgas looked back at Chadvey, "how do I not know about this?! That must have taken dozens, hundreds of launches, I never saw any contracts!"

"Take a closer look, lad," Chadvey said with a wink. Edgas did, and as they neared, it became obvious. The logo was right there, emblazoned on every other sphere. And on the ones it wasn't, it was spelled out in letters a meter high. Layland-Wutani.

"The Company?!"

"The Agency had no hand in this one," said Chadvey, "the Company financed the whole project. Then contracted the Ussaris to launch it from a site in Cerima. Easy to keep secrets there."

"Why? It's enormous, what could they possibly need a ship that size for?"

"Ostensibly, it's for a crewed Grand Tour of all the planets. What the real purpose could be, Ah haven't the foggiest. But we've caught it at an advantageous point in the construction. The drive system, most of the fuel, basic living quarters, and one small lander are assembled, but none of the heavy science modules or mission landers. Means we can burn all that fuel and reach the Jool system in only two weeks."

"TWO WEEKS?!?" Edgas exclaimed, "that's impossible!"

"That's another reason they had the Ussaris build it. They're willing to use technology even the Agency won't touch. You'll get to see shortly."

Chadvey produced another object from... somewhere. Where was he getting all this stuff anyway? Then Edgas recognized it.

"A G.I.Jeb Real Action Hero Walkie-Talkie?" he gawked.

"Oh you're familiar with them?" Chadvey asked.

"I had one when I was a kid. But why do you have one?"

Chadvey grinned, "cheap, disposable, low-power, virtually untraceable, and the electronics are so bad it even distorts your voice. Only a couple of hundred meters away now, should be in range."

He keyed the mic on the small radio and was greeted by a burst of static, "zebra? Zebra? This is lungfish."

A pause, then a hideously garbled static-laced response, "lungfish, this is zebra."

"Good, they're there," Chadvey said to Edgas, "now the challenge phrases."

He keyed the mic again, "Pyrex. Pickle. Blowfish."

Another pause, "Waterford. Cheese Dibble. Red snapper." At least that's what it sounded like.

"Very tasty."

Static hissed and flared, "John has a long mustache. John has a long mustache."

Chadvey looked slightly concerned, "the chair is against the wall."

A crackle, then hiss, "tip my canoe..."

Chadvey looked relieved now, "and tie it, too." He turned back to Edgas, "good, everything is in... what?"

Edgas continued gaping for a moment, "if you say 'I'm a little teapot' next I'm kicking you out that hatch."

Chadvey pinched his brow, "now why would Ah say a ridiculous thing like that?"

Edgas looked at him blankly.

"Besides, that's the code for a political coup in Cerima. The last one was just the other day, they're not quite due again."

Edgas raised a palm to his face. Another rolling wave of nausea was working its way toward his gut.

"Well, no more time to dally, best we be on with it," said Chadvey as he fired the thrusters again, "you may recognize the design..."

Edgas watched as the small ship neared the docking port. Indeed he did recognize it. The central module was the same design as the space station, and the Münbase. Chadvey deftly guided the mule towards the port, completely by hand, until a thunk and series of clicks signaled it was secure.

"Welcome, lad, to the R/V Determined Consternation."

"The what?"

"Well, they wanted to call her the Righteous Indignation, but Ah guess that name was already taken."

Engineers. Pfft. The two Kerbals squeezed past the control panel to the docking hatch, Chadvey pressurized the collar, and they swung the pod's hatch open. A face appeared for a moment in the small window of the other hatch before it too swung open with a slight hiss. Two unfamiliar Kerbals waited on the other side. Two...?

"Lads!" Chadvey exclaimed with his arms wide, "ach, but it's good to see you two again!"

"Chadvey, you shaggy old goat! It's been too long!" said... one?

"We were getting worried..." said the... other?

"As Ah promised, this is Edgas," Chadvey said, clapping Edgas sharply on the back, "Edgas, this is Jerdous and Burdous. They've been with me since nearly the beginning."

That bizarre crackling reality sensation was back, strong, this time. Edgas looked from Jerdous? To Burdous? And back again. They? stared back at him. Finally, one of them rolled his bulging eyes and clicked his tongue, and the other offered a hand and an uncomfortable grin.

"Yes, we're twins," said the one with his hand out, "I'm Jerdous, he's Burdous. Er, welcome aboard."

Edgas shook his hand, feeling decidedly... unwell.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Chapter 30: To Boldly Go...

 

Chadvey broke the awkwardness, "do you have the seal? Is it safe?" Jerdous took a small, wrapped object from his pocket. Edgas stared in amazement as he took the cloth off. It was identical to the white disc Chadvey had shown him, but unbroken.

"The second seal?" Edgas asked.

"Aye, we found this on Minmus a while back. Kept it a secret these past years. It was our confirmation that the legend might be more than just an old story." Chadvey wrapped the seal up and handed it back to Jerdous, "keep this safe."

"What about the third one?" asked Edgas again.

"That would be the whole point of this little endeavor, now wouldn't it?" Burdous said, still looking annoyed.

"One thing at a time, lads," Chadvey said, "how soon can we get underway?"

"We're almost ready," said Burdous, "I just need to do a final alignment check on the containment array."

"Good," Chadvey sounded relieved, "the sooner, the better. Ah've pulled so many strings now the whole thing's bound to unravel. It won't take long for them to figure out what happened to us. Ah'd like to be gone before they do."

"Wait, what?" Edgas had finally put the numbers together, "we're stealing another space ship?!"

Burdous looked offended, "we're going to bring it back! Well, probably."

"No sense dawdling in the doorway, let's be on with it," Chadvey said. As he and Edgas floated into the docking tunnel, Edgas turned and began to close the mule's hatch.

"No, leave it open," Chadvey countered, "the depressurization will help blow it clear. No way to control it on auto from here." Jerdous shut the inner hatch, moved some levers, then hit the docking release. There was a loud thud, and the small window in the hatch fogged over for a moment. When it cleared, Edgas could just see the mule tumbling away. He suddenly felt very vulnerable. And sick.

Chadvey and Edgas doffed their launch suits and stored them as best they could in the docking tunnel before the four of them floated into the interior of the ship. The design heritage was unmistakable, but similarity to the Münbase ended quickly. Where that had seemed open and roomy, this vessel was nearly claustrophobic. Every available space was crammed with equipment and storage. The galley was in the same place, but smaller. There was no EVA deck or proper airlock, that space was packed with consumables and a very serious looking medical bay. There were far more gauges and displays on the command deck, and six seats arranged around the perimeter. Edgas asked about the large hatch in the "floor," near where they had entered from the mule.

"That's my engine room," Burdous snapped, "you stay out of there."

"Easy, B," said Jerdous, then he turned to Edgas, "you'll have to excuse him. He's very protective of his little project here." Burdous gave him a dirty look.

"Er, yes," Edgas said, trying to sound amicable, "Chadvey said this will get us to Jool in only two weeks?"

"You're flarping right," Burdous said with a wicked grin, "ten days in this configuration if I could run the engine at full tilt. You've heard of a fission fragment rocket?"

Edgas thought for a moment, "yes, actually. It's like a nuclear reactor with one end open... channeling the atomic chain reaction products into the exhaust even as they're undergoing fission, using magnetic fields. But I thought they were like ion engines; high efficiency but low thrust?"

Burdous gave him a considering look, "so you do know a thing or two. That's an accurate, if elementary description." He ran a hand lovingly along a beam overhead, "but the Ussaris aren't afraid to take it eleven. This baby has an afterburner! All those spheres along the spine are full of hydrogen. Once the engine is running at the bleeding edge of its envelope, we inject it into the exhaust stream, loosing ISP but ramping the thrust up by several orders of magnitude. And as if that weren't enough, the exhaust is still so hot that every few billion hydrogen atoms, a couple will undergo fusion into helium, kicking the thrust and ISP up even more. It's technically not sustained fusion but the bumps are imperceptible to us."

He grinned evilly at Edgas again, "what that means, is that we accelerate toward Jool at .8 gees for seven days, then turn around and decelerate for seven days. And if anything goes wrong we won't even be aware of it 'cause we'll be sitting in the middle of a two hundred megaton thermonuclear explosion."

Edgas swallowed hard. Chadvey was grinning. Jerdous looked like he'd heard it way too many times. Edgas really wasn't feeling well. His face was starting to feel all puffy and his brain and his ears kept arguing about which way was up, if there even was an up, and his stomach was about to tell both of them in no uncertain terms to just shut the heck up, which ever way that was.

"Alright, alright, that's enough scaring the new guy," Chadvey said, "let's move on." They floated up the ladder to the crew deck. Jerdous and Burdous clung  casually to hand holds, while Chadvey just... floated, his legs crossed, his hands on his knees, and a wide grin. He just sort of drifted, rotating slowly. This room was the closest resemblance to the Münbase, only here there were a full six accommodations instead of just three, each room with a number on the door, and a couple of unmarked ones.

"You can take berth five there, Edgas," Jerdous pointed, "there's some clean clothes inside, and personal stuff. Also a tablet and some thumb drives in the drawer. Chadvey had me gather up all the documents I could about the seals and the Company. Should fill in on some of the holes. Maybe you could give us some fresh insight as well." Edgas felt a disturbing burbling in his gut.

Chadvey kept listing, not seeming to care, "good point. Our first priority will be to secure the third seal from Bop." Now Chadvey was completely upside down, his bushy gray hair wandering in all directions. Edgas's throat began to spasm. "After that, Ah'm not quite sure, but Ah do have a plan. Details just need some fleshing out, and..." He looked at Edgas, concern in his voice, "are you all right, lad? You're looking rather green...er"

Burdous gasped. Jerdous realized the danger and began pointing frantically, "space bathroom! Space bathroom!"

Chadvey's eyes grew wide. He grabbed Edgas, and half guided, half shoved him through the door, slamming it behind him. This was instantly followed by hideous, wet hurking sounds from the other side. They went on and on, pausing only for the occasional cough.

"Well, now, catastrophe averted," Chadvey said with a wide grin. Jerdous and Burdous stared open-mouthed in horror at the door.

"But..." said Jerdous softly, "...that's the closet..."

There was an especially forceful and drawn out hurk.

Chadvey's grin only faded for a moment. "Not anymore it's not." 

***

Some time later...

They were again gathered on the crew deck. Edgas hung from a handhold with a squiggly grin. He felt so much better now. Always did afterword, just had to get it out of his system. Part of the acclimation process to microgravity. Jerdous looked uncomfortable. Burdous glared. Apparently he'd been rather attached to that old shirt.

Chadvey passed out some small bits of what looked like folded plastic.

"GentleKerbs," he began, "we are about to abscond with a vessel the value of which exceeds the GDP of most nations. Now, despite the somewhat questionable legality of our endeavor, we do so for the good of all Kerbalkind. In light of that, Ah'd like to propose a toast."

He produced a beverage bag of some thick, dark liquid, and squeezed a little out into each plastic contraption. It smelled like turpentine and looked like ink.

"What's this?" Edgas asked, "liquor?"

"Of course not, can't have that here," Chadvey said, "this is what's left after it's been distilled. Protein, B-vitamins, complex amino acids, not a trace of alcohol left. It's an old family recipe."

Chadvey turned to them all, "We are about to embark upon that most sacred tradition of Kerbaldom, that which hath brought our forefathers to every corner of the globe, and beyond." He raised his space-cup.

"To boldly go where we've no business being, and hope we don't explode."

The others raised their cups, and mumbled uncomfortably. They slurped down the thick, smelly liquid in unison. Jerdous gagged. Burdous began coughing profusely. Chadvey wheezed. Edgas just grimaced, and smacked his lips. Sure, it was awful, but nowhere near the RatSquirrelFish. That, or the last of his taste buds had finally died.

"Ugh, I should run the engine on this," said Burdous, "let's just get going." The others knew their places, Edgas just picked a random chair and strapped himself in.

"What's my status?" Burdous began, looking over his own displays.

"Green across the board," said Jerdous, "LH2 at prefire pressure, injector manifolds online and standing by, main containment is active, auxiliary to emergency."

"All right, let's see if this works."

"Wait, what?" Exclaimed Edgas, "you've never fired it before?!"

"Of course not!" said Burdous, "it's not supposed to be operational yet."

"We're just the caretaker crew between assembly flights," added Jerdous.

Edgas swallowed hard, "are... are you sure you know how to fly this thing?"

"I should think so," Burdous said with a smirk, "I designed it."

"Final attitude check is good, guidance is aligned, we're ready to light it," said Jerdous.

"Bringing fuel beds towards critical... chamber temp and pressure are alive."

Edgas noticed one of the plastic space cups still floating about the cabin.

"LH2 to fire pressure, manifolds cycled, containment is good."

"Reaching critical... three... two... one... firing!"

There was a hum, and for a moment everything went blue. The ship creaked and groaned softly. Ever so slowly, the floating cup began to drift towards the floor.

"Reaction is stable," Burdous announced, "chamber stats all green... containment looks good, but I want auxiliary on emergency standby."

"You've got it," said Jerdous, "beginning turbopump startup cycle... injectors to pressure, feed lines green, ready to fire on your mark."

Edgas tensed.

"Three... two... one... engage!"

The ship groaned loudly in protest. The space cup fell to the floor, and Edgas suddenly felt heavy again. Lights and numbers flashed back and forth across the monitors. The twins grunted.

"It's... working..." Burdous lips barely moved, "containment is holding, well within limits... green across the board... fusion rate stable at three hundred gigacraps."

"Never doubted you B," said Jerdous, "my board is green too, we're on our way!"

Chadvey undid his harness and stood cautiously, "stellar work lads, truly incredible."

Burdous ran his hand slowly over his panel, "she may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts. All systems are stable, should just need monitoring and minor maintenance from here.

Jerdous unlatched his harness and wobbled to his feet, Chadvey had to grab him when he nearly fell.

"Careful, you two," he said, "you've been in microgravity for quite a stretch, you'll need time to adjust. We should all get some rest, really. We'll take turns standing watch to monitor the engine."

"I'll take the first watch, of course," said Burdous, "I can already see where the containment field could use trimming."

Edgas stood. Other than a faint vibration in the floorplates and a distinct feeling of lightness, it didn't feel like space at all.

"All right," Chadvey said, "I reckon we'll have network access for only an hour or two before we're out of range of the secure satellite. If there's any last data you all need, best download it soon.

Edgas helped Jerdous up the ladder to the crew deck, and then retreated to his own cubicle. It felt disturbingly familiar. As he looked out the window and saw nothing but stars, he realized he had already had his last glimpse of Kerbin for what could be a very long time. He couldn't possibly see it again from this angle. He sat down on his thin mattress and realized how tired he was. Had he really been in his own bed only hours ago? He suddenly wondered if he'd left the oven on. His thoughts quickly became jumbled and murky, and was soon sleeping soundly still leaning against the wall.

Unnoticed on a shelf, high up on the wall, was a small container of Mystery Goo. It was glowing dimly.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
DYAC.
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"Well, now, catastrophe averted," said Chadvey with a wide grin. Jerdous and Burdous stared open-mouthed in horror at the door.

"But..." Said Jerdous softly, "...that's the closet..."

There was an especially forceful and drawn out hurk.

Chadvey's grin only faded for a moment. "Not anymore it's not!" He said happily.

The laughter has stopped, but I'm still smiling over here. :D

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Elsewhere....

"I'm gonna kill him" said Dondun Kerman

"You're not gonna kill him," said Burny Kerman

"No I'm seriously gonna kill him! I can't take it anymore!"

"You can't kill him, he's our payday."

Dondun thought for a moment, "I'll file for bankruptcy."

"Well I got five mouths to feed, so can it. We'll be on the ground in an hour."

"But I can't take it! I can't take it! He just won't stop! Three hours now and he JUST! WON'T! STOP!"

"Will you calm down already?! You're a Kerbonaut, start acting like one."

"I'ma kick him out the hatch, I swear! right out the damn hatch!"

Burny put a hand to his faceplate and exhaled, "join the Kerbonaut corps, the kerb said. It's a real Kerb's life, the kerb said. See the world, meet interesting people, the kerb said."

"How can I still hear him?! HOW CAN I STILL HEAR HIM HIS INTERCOM'S UNPLUGGED!!"

"I am getting too old for this."

"ARGLBLARGLGARGLEHEEHEEHOOHOOHAAHAATHEYRECOMINGTOTAKEMEAWAYHAHA!"

"Maybe I could transfer," said Burny to no one in particular, "I hear Ussari's nice this time of year. Always looking for more people there, they are. Big skeeters though. Really big skeeters. Can't be any worse than this. I should go talk to HR, been meaning to take a vacation, maybe some sick days, I wonder..."

The tiny spacecraft drifted, slowly dipping towards the atmosphere. If you pressed your ear to the hull... well, you would suffocate and die horribly, but before you did, you might just hear...

"Four thousand seven hundred and fifty two bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall, four thousand seven hundred and fifty two bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag! If one of those bottles should happen to fall, four thousand seven hundred and fifty one bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall! Four thousand seven hundred and fifty one bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall, four thousand seven hundred and fifty one bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag! If one of those bottles should happen to fall, four thousand seven hundred and fifty bottles of non-alcoholic-carbonated-malt-based-space-beverage-in-a-bag on the wall...!"

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Chapter 31: Emptiness

Edgas awoke slowly. He looked around, blinking, remembering where he was. Apparently he hadn't moved an inch all... night? How long had he been out anyway? And what was that horrible smell? Oh, right. Him. He stood, tried to work the kinks out of his neck and back, and made his way to the space bathroom. He could hear the others in the galley down below.

The ship still thrummed but seemed far too quiet considering was was occurring half a kilometer beneath him. The bathroom had a real shower, not just a space shower. It was barely more than a trickle, meant to be operated at much less than the... was it .8 gees he said? Anyway, it felt heavenly. Edgas knew the water was recycled, he tried not to think too hard about where it had come from. Couldn't be any worse than the layers of foulness still clinging to him. He tried not to think about where they had come from either. He'd barely run a rag over his face before the launch. Come to think of it, he tried not to think about anything at all for the moment. Just enjoy the warm water and feel like a Kerbal again.

He dressed in the clean flight suit that had been left for him. It must have belonged to one of the Ussari crew, it was emblazoned with the Screwdriver and Scissors of their national symbol, and he thought the name tag said 'Yuri.' He had a passable knowledge of the Ussari language but always had trouble with their odd, not-quite-the-same writing. Finally he descended the long ladder down to the galley.

"Behold! It rises!" said Jerdous jovially as Edgas entered.

"Don't you mean descended?" Burdous muttered.

"Well, welcome back to the world of the livin'" Chadvey grinned, "Ah was startin' to get worried there."

Edgas looked around the little room, still rubbing at his neck. The others were seated around the small table. How long had he been out, anyway?

"Hmm, I thought I'd missed breakfast," he finally said.

"You did," said Burdous, "and second breakfast, and elevens. This is lunch." He had a tablet propped up next to him, still watching the engine.

Edgas blinked. He sniffed and... could it really be?

"There's old, lukewarm coffee in the pot, lad," said Chadvey.

"Help yourself to the pantry," said Jerdous helpfully, "we've got like five years of food here with just the four of us, though the last of our fresh food will run out soon. Hope you like dehydrated mystery food in a box."

Edgas followed his nose to the well-stained coffee 'pot,' more of an odd hybrid between a conventional coffee machine and a 'space-coffee' machine. He poured ink-black liquid into a standard mug, and took a sip. Grainy, burnt, and acrid enough to make the eyes water, but just slightly. Ahhhhhh, yes, this was the stuff. Another thought occurred to him, and he began furiously searching through the various cupboards and spaces. They had to have it somewhere, they had to.

"Looking for something in particular?" asked Jerdous.

"Mush," replied Edgas.

"Mush...?"

"Mush!"

"There's many things in there that could be called mush... though I don't think I've ever seen them labeled as such..."

"Must be here somewhere..." Edgas mumbled as he fumbled through drawers.

"Mush?" Said Chadvey, "that doesna sound verah appetizing."

"This, coming from a guy whose national dish is offal boiled in its own stomach," said Burdous glibbed.

"It'll put hair on yer chest, lad," Chadvey grinned.

"Hair on my...? I'm a Kerbal, why would I want hair in strange places?!"

"Some of your space babes have hair in strange places," offered Jerdous.

"You leave them out of this!" Burdous brandished a spoon at him.

Edgas took only slight notice of the banter. He was a Kerb on a mission, it must be some-- THERE! In a case across the room. That was an odd place to keep it. He trundled over, picked up the nondescript unmarked white box, tore it open and gingerly sniffed... Victory! He went back to the galley, not noticing that the others had gone silent. He poured some of the white powder into a bowl, added two parts hot water, mixed thoroughly, tried a small spoonful.... oh yeah, this was mush.

He took a large mouthful, and sat down at the table, still chewing. Only then did he notice the other three staring at him, eyes wide, mouths agape, horrified. Coffee dribbled slowly down Chadvey's chin. Burdous had a half-chewed mouthful of... something. Jerdous's fork had stopped half way to his own mouth, and a morsel of food lay forgotten on the table.

"What?" said Edgas around a mouthful of mush.

Nothing moved. The only sound was the distant thrumming of the ship.

Edgas swallowed, "what?? Do... do I have something on my face?" He pawed randomly at his mouth.

Chadvey looked at Jerdous, who looked at Burdous, who looked at Chadvey, who looked at Burdous, who looked at Jerdous, who looked at Edgas.

"That's... not... food..." he said slowly.

"What?"

"Its hull sealant," said Burdous, "for emergency repairs..."

Edgas looked at Burdous, then at Jerdous, then at Chadvey. Then he shrugged and took another spoonfull.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm, fresh mush

"Where did you find this guy?!" Burdous asked Chadvey.

"Um..."

"So one thing no one's explained yet," Edgas began, still chewing on mush, "what exactly happens if we don't do... um, whatever it is we're going to do? What if the other seals break?"

"Is he really that dense?" Burdous said to anyone who would listen, "bad things, ok? Very. Bad. Things."

"And I heard, as it were, a voice like thunder, saying 'come and see', and I saw," intoned Jerdous, looking blankly at the table, "and behold: a pale horse. And his name that sat on it was Betrayer... and Hell followed with him. He spake thus unto the Beast: 'Arise!' And so it did. I saw the sun become as black as night, and the Mün become as blood, and the Beast didst appear out of the darkness upon a chariot of fire. It had six heads, and upon those six heads were six horns, and upon those six horns were six diadems. Lo, I saw the Beast descend among the people, upon the righteous and wicked alike," Jerdous suddenly looked up, and looked right at Edgas, "and there was wailing, and gnashing of teeth."

Edgas swallowed his mouthful of mush hard.

"Ach, enough with the drama Jerdous," said Chadvey, rolling his eyes. Then he turned to Edgas, "as you can probably tell, Burdous here is our engineer. Jerdous is the anthropologist."

"That's... an odd specialty for a Kerbonaut," Edgas squeaked.

Jerdous grinned warmly, "I'm also the pilot. He runs the engine, I make sure we're pointing the right way. Fearless Leader there tells me where to point it."

Chadvey clicked his tongue, "It was Jerdous who first discovered the tablet and convinced me Ah wasna crazy mahself," he said.

"Rediscovered," Jerdous said with a hint of eye roll, "sitting in a plain-looking box in a warehouse full of plain-looking boxes, forgotten for decades. I've been to the temple site, and similar sites all over Kerbin, trying to piece this together. That quote was from the Third Prophetess of Gerin. Every culture has a slightly different take on it, sometimes deeply buried, but they all agree on one thing: if the seals are broken and Ba'alzacropth is released..."

"Kraken," said Chadvey.

"Yog-Sothoth," said Burdous.

Jerdous rolled his huge eyes, "if whatever it is crosses into this reality... everything else in this reality will cease. If we're lucky."

"...and if we're not?"

"Then it will un-make this reality into something so alien and abstract that merely contemplating it would drive you quite mad," Jerdous said with a sinister wink.

"Oh," said Edgas, "well I suppose that's a pretty compelling reason." He looked down at his mush and sighed. Suddenly he wasn't very hungry anymore.

"And what's his purpose again?" Burdous pointed at Edgas with his spoon.

"It'll be clear enough in time, lad," Chadvey said.

"Dead weight if you ask me."

"Engineers," Edgas sighed, "pfft."

"Did you just pfft at me?!"

"Yes, I pfft'ed at you."

"Don't you dare pfft at me!"

"Pfft."

"You take that back or so help me...!"

"Pfffft."

"Gah!" Burdous screamed, "I swear by the Queen's frilly brassier I will stab you with this!" He brandished his spoon threateningly at Edgas. It looked dull, too.

"Children," said Chadvey with a belabored look, "we are all on the same side here." Jerdous was smirking.

"Excuse me," Burdous said, getting up, "I have to go recalibrate the containment matrix." He disappeared up the ladder.

Jerdous sighed, "I'll go talk to him."

Finally Chadvey stood, rubbing his face. He clapped Edgas lightly on the back, "he'll come around, lad. He's always been a bit... picky." Then he, too, disappeared up the ladder, leaving Edgas alone with his mush.

Edgas stared into it for a long time, as if seeking counsel there. He was so used to it, he almost hadn't noticed at first. The crinkly-reality feeling, it was... stronger around those two. Especially Burdous. Well maybe. Maybe it was the twin thing. They sure didn't act like twins, though. But... could he be...? No, Edgas shook the thought away. That made no sense anyway, why bring them all the way out here just to...

Because it's convenient, if overly dramatic, the scientist in him said, no need to hide anything.

Bah, he shook the thought away again. What was happening to him? Some Kerb is rude and the first thought that occurs is that he's...

...Betrayer...

Edgas rubbed his temples. Pity to waste good mush, but his appetite was gone. Maybe he should go have a look at those documents. He still had no idea what was going on, just felt dragged along by forces beyond his control. But one thing he was certain of. Whatever the truth was, the endgame was rapidly approaching.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Man, the Eds and Billy sure got a long way into the 'Not food' locker. :) I don't see Munbase fusion cuisine catching on though.

Really enjoyed the last few chapters. Just hope it doesn't all turn out to be a bad dream caused by consumption of too much Mush. :)

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