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Kavy Kerlem - Wider Vistas


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Author's Note: This story was originally posted by me during the 0.90 era on the Fanfiction website, but I am moving it here due to the flexibility and interest here.  Also, with the releases of 1.1-1.12 it makes more sense to completely redo things, at least as far as operations are concerned.  

And just to set the record straight, my first name, Kavy, does not rhyme with "Navy," but is pronounced with the "a" sound in "father."

Things just seem to come together a just the right time every so often...

"And that was our number four hit this week, moving up the chart from seven and passing up 'Kresspian Melody' - which unfortunately appears to have gone into rating freefall.  While we were listening to that, I thought we might listen to some tunes from yesteryear, so I'm going to play you 'Monotreym' by the Railers."

I'd been a professional CJ for nearly two years by then and had come up with some clever shortcuts, positioning the sound cylinder to play the moment I flipped the switch - but before I did so, I hesitated.  There was something off about what I was hearing in my earphones.  An odd bit of static; coarser, less sibilant than what I was used to hearing.

"Boley?" I called to my sound engineer.  "Boley, are you picking that up?"

"You betcha, Kav."  He looked me squarely in the eye.  "That's not us."

"No, I didn't think it was.  Go ahead an isolate it as well as you can.  Looks like someone is messing with our signal."  

I ran my fingers through my dark hair in exasperation knowing I'd have to explain this and hope the listeners understood, "Okay, sorry folks, as I'm afraid you heard, we got some weird kind of interference there." I then flicked the audio player to avoid irritating any more AKKP listeners.  I did have to handle a pair of annoyed callers and assured them that I'd get it handled.  Boley, always helpful, had made a recording of the odd sound which I picked up after my shift.  I ran a couple of blocks to the studio of AKKP's main rival, AKKT, and demanded to see Heekoo Kersal, the director of programming.

"It wasn't us, Lady Kavy."

I was just twenty-three years old, and not royalty or nobility, but it was a polite custom to address us female Kerbals as 'Lady.'  Lying in Kerbal societies was almost unheard of, so this declaration kind of surprised me.  He must have noticed the look I was giving him and raised his hand to acknowledge it.

"I'm quite serious, Kavy.  This was deliberately broadcast, but not from AKKT.  We picked up the same thing."

I sighed.  Kerbals didn't lie much, but they were given to practical jokes.   Still, Heekoo was just a competitor, not an enemy of mine and I never had any reason to mistrust him

"All right.  Fine.  Any thoughts on what it was, Heekoo?"

"We ran it though our computers, I guess you did the same.  I think what we picked up used to be a lot stronger."

I tilted my head.  "I'm thinking we bring this to the scientists."

That recommendation was readily accepted.  Heekoo and I brought the recordings to KSO, the Kerbal Science Institute.  

"You picked this up from the airwaves?" asked Dr. Kerberka, the scientist on duty.   "Were you able to get anything else?"

"No, Doc, we talked things over and came straight to you guys as soon as we got things sorted out."

"Very well, had you taken note of where the antennae were pointed when you picked up the signal?"


"Kavy is using somewhat more primitive equipment than my station," Heekoo interrupted.  "Our own dishes were pointed at elevation eighty-eight degrees, forty-four seconds, twenty-one and a half seconds, the ascension was two hours, seven minutes, fifty-one point one seconds."

"And all you got was static?"  He shrugged.  "Well, no matter.  Let us take a little listen and see what comes of it."

Not only was the static still there, within two hours there were reports of it coming in on other stations.  All the signals were faint, some more than others, but they were there, and they all appeared to come from the same patch of sky.

I looked on as scientists seemed to go from mildly interested, to intrigued, to fascinated.

"What's going on?" I asked.  "What's going on!?!"

The good doctor looked at Heekoo and me, smiled, and shook his head.

"It's not Kerbal."


"Kavy, the transmission" he emphasized the word "transmission," "the transmission you intercepted was from outside the Kerbol System.  As far as we can tell, this is alien technology."

Our mouths dropped wide open.  It's one of those situations where you can't disbelieve what you're hearing, but at the same time, believing it just feels bizarre.

"You mean we found alien life?  How far is it??"

Doctor Kerberka held up his hands attempting to calm us down.  "Now please, we believe that it is alien.  The signal is so degraded that it may be impossible to salvage, and therefore confirm.  On a positive note though, we've been getting reports of similar signals coming in from several locations on Kerbin, and that makes it easier to triangulate the signal.  For now anyway, we're estimating the signal origin from about sixty-five to eighty light years away."

That was depressing; I'd never live long enough then to meet them.  "So unless they were heading in our direction..."

Doctor Kerberka smiled compassionately.  "We won't be expecting any visits from them in our immediate future, most likely in our lifetimes.  Not unless they figured out away around the light wall."

"But they really are out there?"

The doctor patted my shoulder appreciatively.  "It looks like it Kavy.  You, me and several others, we've just changed the way everyone looks at the world now."

"So what happens now?"  

Doctor Kerberka shrugged.  "We'll have to report this to the Governor.  This might be the kick needed to get the possibilities of spaceflight back on the agenda." 

Kerbals are not the only form of life on the planet Kerbin, I could tell you a lot of stories on that front, but we are certainly the most intelligent.  We're ambivalent about cities, but being as gregarious as we are, we tend to congregate around them just the same.  The wealthier Kerbals enjoy living in single family homes that incorporate seamlessly into the landscape.  The poorer ones...they tend to occupy cities.

Typically Kerbals have a surname beginning with "Ker" and nobody is sure where this tradition got started.  In order to avoid confusion, most Kerbal families have adopted at least one middle name, some, with the intention of standing out, have adopted four or five of them.  I was not among them; my full name is "Kavy Ann Bethany Kerlem."

Despite having more than the rudimentary technology for it, full-scale organized space exploration had taken a back seat to more mundane research and projects for the past fifty years.  There had been pioneers in that field just the same.  Being a junk dealer isn't usually considered a lucrative profession, but for Rufus Kerman it had resulted in him becoming one of the wealthiest Kerbals on the continent.  After he died, his fortune was distributed to and all but squandered by his three sons.

The Kerman brothers, Jebediah, Robert, and William, all in their thirties, seemed to be the only contemporary practitioners of "spaceflight" and even that was now severely constrained after one too many incidents led to Jeb being effectively grounded by local authorities.  Kerbal City was expanding, the largest urban area on Kerbin, and people were enjoying the prosperity it brought.

We don't have nations as such on Kerbin; it would be more accurate to say that we grouped themselves into city-states; of course some city-states are more willing to cooperate with others.  People gravitated towards Kerbal City and its environs because of all the city-states, KC was indubitably the freest.  That was not, unfortunately, the norm.  There was little outright tyranny to be found, but while a few of the twenty-eight major city-states were happy to accept guests, they not so happy about seeing them depart.  There were ways to "discourage" Kerbals from leaving, especially those who were more learned or talented.

A couple of days had passed since our discovery.  I was more than a little dismayed to come back to work and find myself the center of attention.  For someone who enjoyed working on the radio, I was a fairly shy and inarticulate young woman.  I have to credit my survival on job as being a result of intense preparation prior to my shift and being able to use the time during songs and musical pieces to come up with something meaningful to say in-between.

"Before we go on to our next song, I've just been handed a news report by Stephen, our intern.  Let's see...oh apparently the governor is going to be speaking on an urgent matter in the next ten minutes regarding a recent scientific discovery..."  I nearly laughed out loud at this, I'd been told to keep a lid on the recent scientific discovery until it could be "officially verified."  "Of course we prefer playing music for you," I said wryly, "but in this case I think you will all wanna stay tuned." 

After three of those tunes, I cut my microphone and listened to the Governor.

"My Dear Kerbals...

A few days ago, a young lady by the name of Kavy Kerlem was performing her usual duties as a cylinder jammer..."

Oh no!  I buried my face in my hands.   

"She and her sound engineer Boley noticed a strange kind of static in their headphones..."

Boley, in contrast, seemed thrilled to hear the Governor calling him by name.

"Consulting with their friendly rival station, and then with the Kerbal Science Institute, it was determined that this static was in fact a significantly deteriorated radio signal from outside the Kerbol System.  This would indicate one of two things.  The first possibility is that it was one of our older broadcasts returning to us after being warped and redirected by a neighboring star some thirty-five to forty light-years away.  Now, my friends, this possibility seems exceedingly unlikely, though not entirely impossible."

That's an interesting idea, I thought.  We send out a radio signal, it hits a star and is warped back around and right back to us.  What amount of mass would that have to use??

"The other possibility, the more likely and infinitely more compelling one is that we picked up a signal from an alien intelligence."

Boley and I shared an amused look as we heard gasps and shouts from the adjoining rooms.

"I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't take into account the worst possibilities.  Like you, I'm sure, the hope is that we are going to eventually be opening up a channel to intelligent life elsewhere in our Ehcel galaxy - and of course that will be a major part of our focus.  But we have to consider the possibility of hostility.  Fortunately, we can concentrate our efforts on both simultaneously."

What efforts are those, I wondered.  We'd all seen movies about hostile aliens invading Kerbin and brave Kerbals fighting them off, but that the government would actually consider that as a real possibility surprised me - at first.  Then I realized that it made a certain sense.

"We have always looked towards the stars, but our technology towards reaching them has been, shall we say, somewhat lacking.  But we know that we can go into space, to the Mun, to the outer reaches of our system and beyond should we so desire.  That being the case, and knowing what we do now, the objective of Kerbal City will be to colonize the terrestrial planets outside of Kerbin's orbit, with the far objective of reaching for the stars."

"Wow...." I breathed aloud.

The Governor chuckled.  "Of course we're not gonna be doing this tomorrow.  My office will be contacting some key people over the next two weeks, and we will flesh out some tentative plans.  For now, my friends, let's keep looking up."

My eyes rolled at that signoff.  'Keep looking up,' how trite!


Three days later I was enjoying a day off from work and was reading one of the books I had picked up from the library last night.  I have a widely eclectic taste in literature as well as music, but for tonight I was content to enjoy a light romance.  We Kerbals are quite an affectionate and high spirited people; good writing can move the most callous - though callousness is an exceedingly rare trait among us - to tears.

The phone rang.  I sighed in annoyance, undoubtedly another marketing call.  I supposed it served me right to make my first job with a radio station that would take any advertising that would pay well enough - one of the first campaigns my station had been involved with had 'strongly urged' me to give them my phone and speedywyre address.

"You reached the Kavy Kerlem residence, listen, I know you..."

"Lady Kavy Kerlem?"

"Yesss -" I stopped suddenly, I knew the voice, somehow.

"This is Jax Kermynn, science advisor to the Governor."

Oh.  That made...sense??

"Uhm....right...whatcanIdoforyou...Sir Jax?"

He chuckled.  "If I may call you Kavy, by all means call me Jax.   Look, I'll be brief about this.  I trust you saw or heard the Gov's speech from a few days ago?"


"He wanted to get you involved in 'fleshing out the plans,' as it were.  Can you be ready to come to the City the day after tomorrow?  We'll pick you up in the morning, give you three square meals, and listen to your input on what we might do over the next few years."

"Um..."  I hadn't expected this.  "Um...Sir J....Jax.  I...you realize that you are talking to a girl who's a really, really, good CJ - but who knows next to nothing about space or planetary defense."

"Of course, Kavy.   I'm fully aware of this, and I know that you graduated fourth in your class from the KC School of Broadcasting three years ago, that you have a four centimeter scar under your left arm - I won't embarrass you by mentioning the details about that, and that you excelled in math and science when you did concentrate on those subjects.  The Governor is aware of this as well, but he wants the input from a layperson.  Since you played no small role in bringing the original signal to our attention, it seems fair that it be you."

I was curious to know how they found out what they knew about me, and since I was never one to turn down a free meal, especially three offered by the Governor, I readily agreed.

The day after the next I was chauffeured to the Governor's mansion as promised, given a security badge, and was escorted into a small conference room where Heekoo and five others were chatting among themselves.

"We're waiting on just a few others," said my escort, "the Governor will be along shortly." 

I shyly eased up to the group and greeted Heekoo.

"Kavy!  I didn't know they invited you too!"  He chucked at this.  "Oh but they would, of course they would have to."  He turned to the others.  "Boys, this young lady is Kavy Kerlem as you might have guessed.  Kavy, I'd like to introduce you to Bob and Bill Kerman."

"Hi!" I said eagerly, shaking their hands with both of mine.  Of course I'd known of the three brothers, but I never thought I would get the chance to meet them.  "How's business and where's Jeb?"

"Jeb is...well, Jeb is away pouting" answered Bob.  "He was invited but thought he'd sit this meeting out as a protest of some sort."

"He's probably working on our newest engine" said Bill.  "Business is slow, so we need this contract."

I nodded and was then introduced to Johnnie Kerplen of Rockomax and Sean Kerstin of C7 Aerospace.  Both of their companies were doing well, except that they had expressed frustration that they were unable to find a market for their most intriguing projects.

"The company we really need to watch is Kerbodyne," said Johnnie, "and I'm frankly amazed that they haven't been invited."

"They were," said the Governor, Smedlee Kervrum, as he entered the room with three other men and another woman.  "Couldn't make it, and apparently they have been having some issues with leaks...in more ways than one."  He stood behind the chair at the head of the table. "Good of you, all of you, to come.  Shall we begin?"

I sat between Bob and one of the new men I didn't recognize.

"I'm assuming that you all know why you're here, but just to state the general theme:  we are operating on the assumption that we are about thirty years from an alien invasion - and that at this moment there would be absolutely nothing that we can do about it.  My friends, I want that reality changed as soon as possible.  Each of you has something up here," he tapped his head, "that you can contribute to that objective.  I want at minimum a basic integrated plan to defend Kerbin while reaping the benefits of planetary exploration."  

He sighed, thinking deeply.  "I don't think we'll have the chance to worry about interstellar spaceflight any time in our lifetimes.  The possible exception of course being Lady Kerlem."

I blushed a deep green.  Oh brother.

After the chuckles had died down, the Governor continued.  "Oh, and before you get too enthusiastic with your planning, the council - in its wisdom - is only allocating five hundred thousand in funds for our little endeavor."

Bob Kerman shook his head.  "It will be a little endeavor indeed if all we get is 500K.  You saw what we were able to do with fifteen million of our papa's fortune.  After we purchased Boxey Point, there really wasn't a whole lot left.  And with Jeb's pilot's license revoked, all we can do are launch ballistic rockets.  Notta lotta profit in that, even if Jeb thinks it's a lot of fun."

Johnnie of Rockomax agreed.  "We can test our fuel tanks under laboratory conditions, but we can't really put them to use - except to cut the tops off them and sell them as swimming pools and fuel storage containers.  Put a rocket engine on one though..."

"Why can't they be used?"

"We're still having problems with leaks when it comes to attaching the rockets.  To be perfectly candid, it might be a year before we can clear it up.  Funding problems, y'see."

"Okay," said Kervrum.  "Okay.  Let's take it one step at a time.  We have thirty years.  What. Should. Be. Our. Next. Goal!?"

"If our ultimate goal is defending the planet," said the Defense Chief, "our first goal should be making sure that Kerbals can handle themselves in a space environment.  Let's face it; we don't even know the extent of our own system."

"If you want to be picky," offered Von Kerman, "our little system shouldn't even exist.  Our star is too small, our planet too small.  But it exists just the same, here we are.  And I agree with our Chief.  We must find out what Kerbals can do up there."

"We are currently designing a chamber or capsule that could help us with that," said Eduard Kerlington.  "We call it the MK-1, it will keep a Kerbal safe for as long as the supplies last."

"Do you just lock him in, does he have any control?" asked Bill.

I suspected that Kerlington knew perfectly well what was being asked.  "There is no control during launch, but there is a reaction control system that the subject could use to control the capsule after separation.

Bill and Bob shared a look.  Jeb wouldn't be happy with that.

"Let's work with that then, at least for the time being," said the Governor.  "How many pilots do we have to work with, Bob?"


"'Um' is not the answer I'm looking for.  Am I right in assuming that your roster of test pilots is somewhat lacking?"

"With Jeb being grounded?  Yep!"
"Well, whatta 'bout you two?"

Bob and Bill again exchanged glances.  

Seeing the governor glaring at them.  "Lord Governor, we are a scientist and an engineer.  I determine if something is possible.  Bill makes sure it is practical, and helps Jeb build it.  Jeb flies them, or at least he did.  Couldn't the Defense Chief provide us with some pilots?"

The governor turned to his Defense Chief.


I was unable to stifle a giggle.  The Governor noticed this immediately.  "You have something to add to this, Lady Kerlem?"

"I'm sorry, Governor," I offered as a nervous apology.  "But why don't we try sending up rockets without Kerbals first?  I mean, the communication we got was through wadio...radio.  Shouldn't we send them a message that way before we start sending people up to risk their lives?"

"That's not a bad idea on its own merits, Kavy," said Bob.  "Right now though, we don't have the communications needed for it."  Bob thought a bit, scratching his cheek.  "We're definitely gonna need a network like that though.  You can't fight an effective war without good communications - not that I think it'll come to that.  If we could get a proper communications network in place, that will open a lot of doors for us."

"And to put that network in place, Bob," said the Governor, "you'll need space pilots."

Bob nodded readily.  "Space pilots, space engineers, space scientists.  But mostly pilots at first, preferably those trained in engineering."

"All right then," said Kervrum.  "We're getting somewhere.  So our first objective then is getting enough pilots and putting a communications network in place."

"Sign me on for that project..." muttered Heekoo.

"Right!" said Bill.  "And how many pilots do we have.  Oh...that's right...none!"

The governor shook his head.  "Jebediah-Kerman's-license-suspension-is-hereby-repealed-he-is-now-fully-returned-to-flying-status.  See?  Done."  Bob and Bill exchanged a gleeful glance.

"...Provided that your brother passes a full military physical.  We can't have him losing consciousness at 70K now can we?"

Bill and Bob shrugged.  A minor detail it seemed.

"And I will need at least six other volunteers within...five days from now."

Bob tilted his head at this.  "Wait, Governor, what are you telling us?"

"I am beginning a new quasi-governmental organization called the Kerbin City Space Agency, Bob.  And I want you...and Bill...and Jeb to run it.  You indicated, as I recall, that you were having some...fiscal issues?"

"Not only that, we're goin' broke!" piped up Bill.  "Oh...sorry."

"Well I like dealing with companies that have fiscal issues.  It always seems to make them more...malleable.  I'll tell you what I'm gonna do for you and your brothers, Bob..."

"Uh, Lord Governor," I asked.  "Did you need me to stay for this?"

The Governor thought for a few moments.  "Actually...yes, Lady Kerlem.  Since you and Heekoo are the closest thing to press in here, I would like you both to stay."  He addressed the other members present.  "Gentlemen, I thank you all for coming, please help yourself to luncheon, I'll be getting in touch with all of you personally sometime over the week."

There was no shortage of grumbling but they did as requested.  The Governor motioned for the four of us to come up front.

"All right, Bob, Bill, here is my offer.  I'm going to give you the grant for half a million.  Now you can spend that money in any way that you like - but here is the catch:  I am going to need to see steady progress - and I need you to meet the goals that I set."

Bob thought a moment.  "What kind of steady progress do you have in mind?"

"You're getting the 500K.  That's guaranteed.  What's not guaranteed are any more funds.  You're going to have to figure out a way to do three things.  Number one is that you're going to have to turn a profit.  Number two is that you're going to have to set up a satellite communications network - I'll give you five years to do that.  Finally, and this is just an arbitrary standard, I want at least the beginnings of bases on both Mun and Minmus.  You have ten years, starting from the beginning of next year and ending on the last day of 1690.  Failure means that we send you a tax bill for 750K, five percent interest.  Is that understood?"


"Waitasec, waitasec, waitasec!" shouted Heekoo.  You're saying that if they don't get to the Mun and Minmus, they gotta pay you back a grant?  That sure doesn't sound like any grant I ever heard."

Heekoo had a great point; "That really doesn't sound fair," I said.  "After all, the people of Kerbin want to see this happening, they want to see what's out there."

The governor considered.  "The people also want to ensure that the government remains solvent," he murmured.  "All right," he said, "if you don't get the bases started in ten years, I'll give you a five year extension - but I'm going to need a Kerbal on Duna by the end of the fifteen years.  If you do get those bases started within ten years and get us to Duna within...fourteen, I'll give you boys a grant - a real one, Heekoo - for ten million.  Do we have a deal, Bob?"

"And we can make money any way we like?  I mean, upgrading our facilities, such as they are, is going to take a huge chunk of kredits all on its own."

"As long as you aren't lying, cheating, stealing or being sneaky, you can make it any way you please."

"What about paying our people?"

"Ah, yes.  Well, I'm going to be assigning a few government employees to keep an eye on things - Werhner being one, I'll let you know who else in a few days.  You will be responsible for hiring, training and paying your space pilots - and as you suggested, I don't think Jeb will be able to handle everything that we need you all to do."

Wernher spoke up at this.  "I don't expect that you'll have much trouble hiring people.  We can rig up the capsule so anyone could fly it, or they could just sit in it and we send our commands to an onboard guidance system.  Not so much training needed, yes?"

Bob shook his head vigorously.  "I'm not going to send anyone up there without proper training; they need to handle anything that could happen."

Wernher was annoyed at this.  "Well then, I expect you will have trouble hiring people.  We are conspicuously short of test pilots."

"Maybe so," said Bob.  "But the three of us could train anyone for that job."

"Oh?  Anyone??"

"Yes.  Anyone."

"Including, let us say, Lady Kerlem?"

What the...

"Sure," said Bob.  "Why not?  She's got the brains, she can handle the mathematics, and I know that she can do the reporting.  Jeb would just need to teach her to handle the stick."

Now I was bewildered.  "Uh...guys...uh why are you bringing me into this??"

Nobody seemed to be listening to me.

"Would you care to make a little bit of a wager on that, Bob?"

Kervrum shook his head at this.  "Hey, now fellas come on!"

Bob stood up.  "You name it, Wernher!"

"So be it!  If you succeed, I will buy your entire staff of space pilots dinner for a month!!  If not, then you use your funding to build a science academy on KSA grounds!!!"


"Guys, uh...hey!!  Hello!!"

After that outburst, I looked and noticed Bill regarding me with an amused smirk.   "Excuse me gentlemen," Bill said.  "I think a relevant party in this wager should have some say in it."

"Thank you Bill," I said.  "Bob, I appreciate your confidence in me, but I'm really just a cylinder jockey.  I'm happy where I am, it's...interesting work."

"But Kavy," said Bill.  "Think of what you could be involved in.  Exploration!  Seeing space, being in space.  Surely you don't get that working in radio."

"No," I had to admit.  "I don't."

"Kavy," Bill now spoke up.  "Once we get home to discuss this with Jeb and he concurs, we're going to be throwing open the doors for applicants.  This is a guaranteed opportunity for you now, but only now.  What are they paying you at AKKP?  Never mind answering, just show me your next pay stub, and we'll triple it.  Plus we'll give you a few extra perks."

Triple the paycheck.  A few extra perks.  I figured that even if things didn't work out, I could at least stay long enough to help Bob win the wager - and with the way my working paper was shaping up, there was little doubt that I could find another radio job soon enough.  Besides, it would be pretty cool just learning how to fly.  Bill was right; there was no way I could pass up this opportunity.

"All right Bill," I said.  "I'm game."

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"That's it?" asked an astonished Heekoo.  "'I'm game?'"

"How often does such a chance come up?" I replied.  "Besides, since I have no flight experience to speak of, it would be a chance for the Kerman boys to either prove what great teachers they are or how anyone could do this."

"Right.  And if they're not able to?  This wouldn't be a safe job under the best of circumstances, young lady - and that includes the training for it.   We might be competitors, but I'd sure hate to lose you, Lady Kavy."

"I know, Heekoo" I replied.  "And I really appreciate your concern."

"I'm also concerned," said the Governor.  "Bob, you're supposed to be the sensible one, but you're willing to risk this girl's life to make a point?"

"She's an adult, Governor.  It's available to her if she is willing to take that risk - and only if she's willing to take that risk.  I don't conscript my test pilots...sir."  He then turned to me: "We'll be in touch, Kavy," said Bob.  "I still need to tell Jeb and all three of us are going to have to do some equipment testing."

"Do you have any suggestions?"

Bob thought a minute.  "You mean other than notifying your family and getting things squared away at the radio station?  For starters, you should go to the library and absorb every space and aviation-related thing you can.  It'll be some time before we can even get a proper entry level training plane.  Also, since you are eventually going to be testing high-performance aircraft, whatever physical condition you're in right now needs to be improved as much as possible"

Both suggestions matched my very intentions.  My mind raced as I thought about everything that needed to be done.   How am I going to bring this up when I call home, or resign from my job?

Better to sleep on it, I thought.  I enjoyed a delicious feast of roast in the company of Governor Kervrum, Heekoo, and the Kerman brothers - was given firm instructions not to release any information we had discussed - and was driven home.

I arrived early to work the next morning, my mind still spinning.

"Hey everyone, it's Kavy!!  I'll be here with ninety minutes of music and the news for your listening pleasure today.  Gotta lot to talk about, but let's start things right off with a song that everyone's been asking for:  I Give My All to You, by the Donyrs!"

Good song.

While the song played, I scribbled some additional notes on the news releases.  Prepping was key to doing well in this job - or maybe my crutch - and I didn't really take the time that I needed this morning.

"The weather today is gonna be pretty cool, we're looking at temperatures in the low to mid twenties, with a slight chance that rain will give us some chills in the afternoon.  In the news, the Governor is rumored to be meeting with top officials concerning the revelation that there is probably intelligent life out there."  I then reported on more mundane news - there really wasn't much worth mentioning, despite what I'd said in the opening.

"Before going on to our next song, I wanted to mention something personal; there's a good chance that I won't be doing this for much longer.  I can't go into a whole lot of detail either on or off the air, but I'll give you the hint that it would have something to do with some recent news events.  I'll tell you more when I can...so you all better stay tuned!"

Oh, that was brilliant, Kav, I thought to myself.  Boley now had a bewildered expression on his face, and the phone was starting to ring.  I finished my hour and a half and was immediately brought into the program manager's office.  Jack was the guy that hired me just a year and a half ago.  He looked at me with a quizzical expression.

"What's going on, Kavy, are you planning on leaving us?"

"I think I am, Mr. Kerbalam, but I'm not really sure.  I'll tell you more when I know more, and when I'm sure that I can release that information."

He studied me intently for a few moments, shrugged and asked that he give me the normal twenty days noticed when I knew for sure.  I then jogged to the library and got everything related to aviation that I could.  I wasn't sure what the Kerman brother's plans were for me.  Did they want me to actually be a test pilot or were they just going to put me in a spaceship and send me up with everything being automated?  The second thought irked me somewhat.  Experience I didn't have, intelligence I did.


"Say that to me again, Bob??  My license has been restated and what else??"

Back at Boxey point, Bob repeated the essentials of the discussion that they had with the Governor the night before.  "Oh, and I kinda made a bet with the head of scientific research that we could take pretty much anyone and make them into a good test pilot."

"Anyone, huh?  Well who's this 'anyone' gonna be?"

Bob wordlessly walked over to the radio, turned it on and adjusted the station.  "...so I'm not saying that it is likely, but it is possible that we could find ourselves visited by extrakerbinial intelligence within our lifetimes.  I'm twenty-three; I figure I've got a good forty years.  It could happen, Kalpy."

Jeb scoffed.  "A cylinder jockey?  You want her trained as a test pilot, Bob?"

"Jeb, I think she'll do very well if she applies herself.  She's smart, she's pretty.  She can do the math, and therefore the engineering.  I think Kavy Kerlem would be a great asset to our public relations alone - but, like I said, that's not why I'm hiring her"

Jeb Kerman thought for a bit.  "So the clock doesn't start for us until the beginning of the year.  That's eighty days from now.  You know there is no way we can have her ready by then?"

Bill laughed at this.  "Jeb, we aren't going to be sending anyone up for at least half a year.  We have to get the equipment checked out, figure out our strategies, hire a boatload of support staff and have meetings with the government every few tendays.  We can get Lady Kerlem trained up in two-hundred days."

Jeb wasn't at all convinced.  "Bob...think a bit.  Let's say that she starts...forty days from now.  We get blessed with great weather and she flies every day for two hours.  More than that, under training conditions, the girl is going to be exhausted, she won't make it.  She also has to learn the relevant engineering as well as the flight training ground school.  At the end of it, two hundred and forty days, she will have accumulated less than five hundred hours.  I would call her a good pilot at that point, not a test pilot.  She would need another three hundred hours just to meet the flight requirements for the military test pilot program - and you're saying that we're gonna be a paramilitary outfit too, 'Colonel?'"

"All right, let's think outside the box, like you usually do, Jeb.  How much time do you really need, and don't worry about the paramilitary aspects, Captain?"

"In a crunch, I could get her trained up in three hundred days, but I'd prefer five hundred."  

"Okay, that's what I needed to know.  So we'll make Kavy our 'special project.'  She won't be the only one, of course, but the other five will be experienced test pilots - or at least the closest we can find..."


I learned about this conversation from Bill over lunch a few tendays after Bob left a message for me.  It was just a few days after my impromptu radio announcement.

"Kavy, this is Bob Kerman.  Good news, I was able to convince Jeb to train you.  Call me!"

Naturally I called him right back.

"Yeah, Kavy.  Come on over to Boxey Point as soon as you can, we want to get you started right away.  We'll have a few other trainees coming in later on, but seeing as you're new to this, we don't want you drowning in all the information you'll be learning."

"Fair enough, Bob.  Give me two weeks."

Bob gave me his two weeks, and at AKKP I gave them mine:

"You may remember everyone, that I announced a couple of days ago that there was a possibility that I would not be doing this anymore.  Well, I'm telling you now that this is definitely the case.  I was in attendance at the Governor's meeting regarding the extrakerbial transmission, and I was invited to join the Kerman brothers and become a space pilot.  I hope you can understand my desire to accept this invitation, though it's not without some sadness that I tell you that I'm leaving."

The response was overwhelming.  Most of the people wished me the best of luck and promised that they would be watching the events at the Point.  A few tried to discourage me from going, calling it a fool's errand and that there was no way that I could handle the training needed - or that it was just too dangerous.  The staff at AKKP was very supportive, and on my next-to-last day presented me with a chocolate cake the size of my head in the shape of a rocket ship - with me (supposedly) waving out of the window.

My right arm was delicious.


Two days later, driving along the coastal road, I rolled up to the stubby Boxey Point.  A dirt road lay beyond the gate.

"May I see your identification, please?"  He took a long look at his clipboard.  "All right, Lady Kerlem, you can drive on through.  They're going to be meeting you at the Administration building, just go straight down the road to the general parking lot."  He handed me a map and I followed the road as instructed, it was about a three kilometer drive.  The Kerbal Space Agency was definitely a work in progress, but at least the sidewalks were paved, and there was work being done in the research center as I walked by.  Everything appeared to be laid out in a hexagonal pattern, a well-conceived designed, but it was still quite a walk from the parking lot to the administration building - a double-wide portable building.  Oh goody.

Bob bounded up to greet me as soon as I opened the door.  "Hey Kavy, come and meet everyone!"  I looked around and there were four men sitting at folding tables in folding chairs, it couldn't have been much cruder if they were using old doors on cinder blocks.  "Sorry for the appearance, but we are on a budget."

"No problem."

"Kavy Kerlem, I'd like to introduce you to Mort, Linus, Walt, and Gus.  Mortimer is our resident CPA. Linus works with Werhner in the labs.  I expect that you'll be working with Walter quite a bit -  he's our PR guy - and also Gus, he handles operations."

"Or at least I will be, soon as we get some operations to handle," said Gus with a chuckle.

After meeting with them, Mortimer gave me two temporary ID's, one to wear and one for the wallet or pocketbook with a warning to keep them on me at all times.  He then handed me a wodge of kredits for me to use to buy my uniforms.

"KSA is a civilian organization, but also a paramilitary one, so if necessary you will have the authority to lead troops...or more likely a fighter or bomber squadron if it comes to that.  Once you complete your training, you'll be appointed to the rank of captain.  For the time being, you're a flight cadet."  Bob shrugged easily.  "The Governor has seen fit me a lieutenant colonel and Jeb and Bill captains."


Bob took me across the courtyard, past the waving flag, to a much larger building which was being worked on by at least a couple dozen men and women.

"Welcome home, Kavy.  If you give me your keys, I'll make sure that your bags are brought up.  But let me show you around first."

I had to give the Kerman brothers a lot of credit; they had made sure to take care of their people.  The astronaut complex as they called it was beautifully designed with gleaming white tile floors, a massive recreation and fitness room, a completely stocked kitchen and cafeteria, and the individual rooms were large enough to sleep four, but only had beds for two.  Training areas were on the ground floor and in the basement; individual quarters were on the top floor.

"How many astronauts are you planning on having?"

"Just seven to start.  You and Jeb will be two - assuming you successfully complete your training - and we'll have five others coming in over the next few months.  Eventually we'll be hiring more, but I expect that will be a year or more from now."

"So I'll have a room to myself for at least a year then?  Cool!"

"Actually, no you won't.  You'll be sharing a room with our cousin, Valentina.  She's a refugee from Kerkutsk.  Valli will be helping you with your training, and you'll want to listen to her closely, she's nearly as sharp as Jeb is in the cockpit.  But she needs some work when it comes to aerodynamics and fluid theory."

"...Well I could help her with that, no problem."

"Could you really?  Fantastic!"

He then escorted me out the back of the Astronaut Complex and classrooms right behind it and showed me two buildings.  "Okay, look to your left...and look to your right.  Care to guess what these two buildings are?"

The one on the right was a massive structure of pale brick and steel girders.  "That's where you put the rockets together?"

"Precisely, what we call the Vehicle Assembly Building.  The other building is for airplanes."

From the wooden patches propped up against the aluminum building to the left, I guessed that it had been a rough year for the poor thing.  "Somebody doesn't like that building, I take it?"

Bob shook his head.  "Aluminum siding and explosive fuels, combined with the stunts Jeb pulls?  It's a wonder the thing is still standing at all."

"Between the VAB and Hangar, you'll see our Mission Control building.  You'll be spending a lot of time there, one of the reasons I was able to sell Jeb on training you was that you would be better able to handle ground-to-space communications."  He then turned in the opposite direction.  "Over there you'll find the tracking station, and one of our objectives is going to get enough satellites up to ensure global communications."  Bob patted me on the shoulder.  "Let's go meet Jeb."

We found Jeb working with Bill in one of the side offices of the VAB working on a rocket engine.

"Heya Bob," he said as we entered.  He nodded to me with a smile.  "Kavy Kerlem, I presume?  Stand back please...  Way back."  In lieu of offering his hand, Jeb instead handed me a small black box with an orange blinking button and some goggles.

"Okay, all clear?  Good.  Goggles on...hit the button Kav."

I pushed the button with my open palm - and the rocket engine came to life.  The workshop turned searing white with light, and my skin became uncomfortably warm.  

"WOW!!" I screamed gleefully.  "Good test?"  Jeb nodded casually.  

"That was about a quarter liter of oxygen and paraffin - and that's our newest engine.  We're still working out a few kinks, but Bill and I are thinking that it's going to be our workhorse for at least the next year or so.  That, or until we have the kredits to work with Rockomax.  Come with me Kavy, we need to talk."

Bob and Bill exchanged a look, and I followed Jeb, feeling somewhat apprehensive.


Jeb and I walked out of the VAB towards the ocean.  We followed a concrete track that lead off into the distance and eventually arrived at a patch of hard-packed and mostly blackened sand, with some greenish glass beads in the dead center.  Bags of cement lay off to the side.

"They burn that hot?"

Jeb nodded.  "The big brother to the engine you just tested, the LV-T30, does if it's burned hot enough, it'll reach 3500 at full throttle.  Normally it doesn't have to, but Bill and I had one clamped down.  But just to give you an idea of what you'll be in for: before I let you take a ride on my rockets, you're going to learn how to take that engine and the T45, break them down and put it back together again.  Your final test will be to fly on it."

He fixed me with his wide eyes, his expression friendly but serious.

"Are you up to it, Cadet Kerlem?"

"Not yet.  But I will be..."

"Good answer.  Get a good sleep tonight; you're going to be hitting the ground running first thing in the morning."

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Nice work! Welcome to the forum - always good to see more fiction around here.

"My right arm was delicious." :D


Edit:  Just took a quick look ahead - good to see that we've got plenty more to look forward to! 

Edited by KSK
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Jeb wasn't kidding about hitting the ground running; in fact he was being quite literal.  My first experience the next morning was to run the length of the runway and back, with Jeb at my side.  After that, we went back to the astronaut complex and headed downstairs to a machine that appeared to be a jet cockpit attached to a steel girder with a counterweight on the other end.

"This is," said Jeb "a gravity centrifuge.  Typically you'll experience anything from five to nine g's at liftoff and up to twelve coming down."

"I see," I replied.  "And you use this to train your body to absorb the high g-forces?"

Jeb looked up at this, thinking. "Well, yeah, I suppose we could use it for that.  But Bill and I mostly use it to play 'Ride Those G's.'  Whoever bids the highest and rides that bid without passing out...wins."

O...kay.  "And the current record holder..." knowing full well what the answer would be.

"Me, 13.8 g's, but I burst some blood vessels and stumbled around with red eyes for a month and a half."  He smiled sheepishly at the thought, and then regarded me as he opened up the capsule.  "This isn't how most pilots start their flight training, but we might as well see how far you have to go.  Have a seat."

I did as he asked, strapping myself in tightly, and Jeb fastened two plastic bands to my wrists.  "These will monitor your heartbeat.  We'll just run it up to seven g's and see how you do.  Keep this button pressed and let go of it if the g-forces get to be too much for you.  You ready?"

"All set," I said quickly.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was petrified.  Just do it!  I commanded myself, taking a deep breath and trying to relax.  The pod began moving, rapidly picking up speed - by the time it completed the third rotation I felt myself pressed into the seat, as if accelerating from zero to one hundred in two seconds.

"That's about 1.5 g's Kavy.  Ready for more?"

"Oh yeah!"

The rotations increased. By 5 g's I was nearly completely immobile and by 7 it was difficult to breathe. I started straining to stay conscious.  Eventually the g forces were too much and I saw everything go grey.  I released the button just before I passed out.  The next thing I knew I saw a smiling Jeb looking me over. 

"Okay, Kavy, you took it all the way to 9.4 g's.  Not bad at all, that will ensure that you won't be passing out if we send you up.  Go get some breakfast and meet me out at the hangar in half an hour.

I won't bore you by describing the details of my flight training.  Jeb was an outstanding instructor, and after two hours in the TI-K5, a simple, single propeller, two-seat trainer, I was doing takeoffs and landings as if they were second nature.

"Looking good, Kavy, just pick a fixed point on the plane and graze the horizon with it."  I picked the third rivet and did exactly that.  As we came back around to the starting point, the aircraft bounced around a bit.

"Right back into your own turbulence.  Perfect job."

After the last landing, we went back to the classroom and talked about what we did and what we would do the next day.

That was the routine for the next ten days.  On the tenth day...

"All right Miss Kerlem, go ahead and nail the landing..."

I let the plane sink towards the runway, and then brought the nose up to kill the airspeed.


"Excellent, go ahead and taxi to the ramp.  Make it a full stop but keep the engine running."

Uh-oh, my insides began tightening up.  I did as he said, and as soon as I hit the parking brake, Jeb leapt out. 

"Kavy, go ahead and take her up.  Do three complete circuits and landings, then bring her on in.  Remember...the next two things.

The next two things.  That seemed to be Jeb's training theme: always be ahead of the airplane - what do I do next, what do I do after what I do next.  I focused on the pre-taxi checklist, then took her out to runway nine.  KSC was not yet a towered airport, so I simply announced that I was taking off.  I firmly pushed the throttle forward.  Without the added weight of Jeb, the plane left the ground sooner than usual.  I kept the runway underneath me until I was over the ocean, and then turned to the left once I reached the pattern altitude.

"Square the corners, square the corners.  Landing checklist..."

Airspeed...check.  Flaps to one third.  I tuned on final.  All right, perfect landing profile.  Flaps to landing configuration, gear down, mixture to full rich, carburetor heat on.

Because of the rough nature of the runway, the wheels didn't squeal when I touched down - but I did.  I repeated the procedure twice, and taxied in.

Both Jeb and Bill were there to congratulate me on what they assured me was only the first real step.


Twenty days after my first solo, I had gotten to the point where I was ready for my first flight test.  Gene Kerman, the flight director of mission control was mostly responsible for training the ground controllers, but was an accomplished pilot in his own right.

Gene had me preflight the plane, asked me to simulate talking to a control tower for clearance, and we taxied out to runway 27.

"Go ahead and take us out to the mountains, Kavy."

We took off and headed west towards the mountains.  He quizzed me as we flew, but it wasn't so much of an interrogation, just two pilots conversing.  After circling the mountains we tried a number of maneuvers.  This was turning out to be fun.

"I think I've seen enough. Go ahead and bring us down."

After we touched down and taxied in, he shook my hand and confirmed what I was thinking, first hurdle beaten.  Now that I had my pilot's license, Jeb intensified the training.  We switched from training in a propeller plane to a twin-engine jet and I started learning advanced instrument procedures.  This was naturally a lot more complex than just looking outside and making sure you didn't hit anything - so I did struggle with it quite a bit.  The hardest thing about it was flying so that I was able to maintain a perfect arc around a navigation beacon.

"It doesn't have to be a perfect circle, Kavy.  A hectagon will work just fine.  No point in trying to do differential calculus in you head."

That was actually one of the few times that Jeb had lightened up during the instrument training portion.  Now that I had my pilot's license, he had gotten a lot stricter, expecting everything to be done precisely.

"I have to be hard on you here, Kerlem, this is where pilots are made or broken, we want you to develop the right habits, they could save your life one day."

Yeah, that was rich, coming from Lord License Suspended For All Eternity, but I gritted my teeth and wisely kept my mouth shut.

"You're off the localizer by half a degree.  Get it back on.  Control the aircraft."

His standard was simple:  You either had the plane under control or you didn't.  Under control meant the desired heading, speed, altitude and attitude.  Anything else was insufficient: "a complete loss of control and not-fit-to-be-in-the-skies-with-Jeb-Kerman."  We were rapidly approaching the end of the year, and we both wanted me ready for the high performance jets by New Year's Day.  Besides my personal training, I was also keeping an ear to the ground for developments in the space program.  The astronaut complex was nearly finished, and they were putting on some additions in Mission Control, but for the time being there were no contracts to be serviced.  The governor was pushing local and foreign companies to refer whatever testing that they could to the Kerbin City Space Agency, but the bottom line was that unless we could prove that we were worth the additional expense, the governor could plead all he wanted with no result.

Instrument training continued to frustrate.  I liked the sciency portions of it, the meteorology and fueling strategies, the weight and balance, and the actual flying.  It was just the actual flying that could be so aggravating.

"Just keep at it, Kavy.  This is not an easy undertaking."  Jeb seemed to be telling me that on a daily basis.  It was nighttime and we were flying cross-country, heading towards the city of Makkem.  My eyes were hooded, forcing me to focus only on the instruments.  I was given clearance to land

A rapid beeping filled the cockpit.

"Outer marker.  Go ahead and look up."

I did, and saw that I was perfectly aligned with the runway.  Just like my instruments said.


I passed the instrument module the week after New Years, so I did lose a little time, but not enough to be concerned.  Jeb had already moved me from a twin-engined civilian business jet to a full-fledged fighter jet, so the transition was very smooth.

"Alright Kav, so we're at 0.9 SOS*.  Go ahead and hit those afterburners!"  I felt a slight bump and we were at 1.2 SOS by the time I checked the airspeed indicator.  Flying faster than the speed of sound was really not much different from flying in my first trainer.  I just couldn't put my hand out the window to feel the breeze.


While I was doing flight training, a number of preliminary tests were being carried out under the title of "Foundation Building." These flight test would not necessarily enter space; just check maneuverability within the atmosphere and handle whatever ground tests we could get.  With the official announcement that we had reached this stage, KSA began receiving testing contracts.

FB-1 and 2 were sounding rockets based on Wehrners original rocket design, with some modifications of atmospheric testing.  The objective was simply to collect scientific data while ensuring that the launch went off smoothly.


FB-3 was a Blip 1 stubby rocket designed to test the efficiency of our smallest 1.25 meter SRB.

While this testing was taking place, construction workers were making improvements to Mission Control, the runway and the astronaut complex, making it difficult to get any studying done.  Still, I persisted.


Day thirty of the new year.  I was flying solo over the ocean, practicing stalls and spins and loving every moment of it (the jet was certified for spin training, thank you for your concern.)  I would fly straight up at SOS 1.8, cut the power, kick over the rudder and pull the stick in the opposite direction.  The fighter would be soaring one moment and then be flailing around trying to find the air that had somehow disappeared right from underneath it.  I always waited a few seconds before doing anything, just enjoying the rush of fluids in my body, then straightened things up, applied power, and my jet was back to behaving as it should.


Noticing that my fuel was running low, I returned to KSC, and noticed five other jets that hadn't been there before.  Slightly distracted, I came in a bit too fast, this forced me to go around and try again, something that I had only done before for the purposes of training.  A bit sheepishly, I came in properly the second time, and nailed the landing.  I taxied back to the hangar and saw Jeb laughing it up with five others, four men and a woman.  Jeb shot a salute in my direction.

"Right then, Kerlem.  I assume you know what you did on that first so-called 'approach?'"

"Yessir," I replied. "I -"

"Don't tell me Kavy; just learn from it, and congratulations on passing your high performance training.  Everyone, as I'm sure you figured out, this is our resident CJ, Kavy Kerlem, and soon-to-be astronaut.  Kavy, I'd like you to meet the people you'll be flying and training with, they're all test pilots.  First my cousin and your roommate, Valentina."

"Nice to meet you, Kavy."  Oh wow, I loved this girl's accent.  Valentina was just a few years older than me, as far as I could tell.

"You'll have to tell me how you did what you did in the time you did it," I said, shaking her hand.

"Oh, I think you have experience along those lines already my little artsyes.  But we have much to talk about, yes?"

Elliot Kermin was a quiet man, but he had over two thousand hours and was an accomplished civilian test pilot after a sucessful but minimal career in the Kerbin City Army Air Force.

Major Able Kirklen was aptly named, not only had he been a military test pilot and flight instructor, he trained military test pilots and flight instructors.

Captain Ricky Kermunn was a straight-up joker, but he had taught engineering and physics, written books on the subjects, and had over a thousand hours in high-performance jets with the KCAAF.  He wasn't actually a test pilot, but he sure matched the qualifications.

Lt. Colonel Thomas Kermann was our senior man, complete with grey hair and moustache, technically overage, but he had gained a degree of fame by designing the very aircraft I had just exited.  He had been flying for three thousand hours, and was actually Elliot's first flight instructor.

Of course Jeb Kerman was famous for his entrepreneurial talents and getting along on sheer nerve.  When I asked him, he said that he only had about eighteen hundred hours, but sometimes it's the quality of training.

And then there was me.  A former CJ with a degree in broadcasting, a firm grasp of math and physics, and about one hundred and seventy hours of experience.  Talk about feeling somewhat outclassed.

My classmates really didn't seem to care though.  Valentina and Ricky wrapped their arms around my shoulders and we headed over to the astronaut complex to learn what we could expect over the next year.

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I'm really enjoying Jeb-the-flight-instructor.

A lot of stories here feature Jeb the bad ass pilot but going behind the scenes a little and finding out quite why he's got that reputation makes a very interesting change. Combined with flight training (and seeing the developing space program) through a rookie's eyes - yeah I'm liking this!

10/10 - will keep on reading. :)

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We all filed into the classroom to be greeted by Gene Kerman, as well as Bill and Bob.

"Have a seat everyone.  Hit the lights." We did so, and Gene started his slide presentation.

"As I'm sure you all know, we're going to be starting a series of new space exploration projects in a few months.  Six of you have all exceeded the highest standards of achievement in the fields of aviation, science, engineering, and frankly acting like a damned fool."  Jeb shrugged, but couldn't stop himself from blushing.  "And we also have Kavy here, but don't you worry, we'll get her up to speed soon enough."  Now Jeb wasn't the only one flushing dark green.

"Right now we are concentrating on building a foundation, it'll be just the Kerman brothers working on that, so you needn't worry about it.   Your focus will be on what we're calling Project Moho.  This will be a series of at least seven flights - so you'll all get at least one - seven flights above seventy kilometers - that's outer space.  Our objective is to determine how well the Kerbal body can function in that environment - so you can count on a loss of some privacy if you catch my meaning."  We all laughed uneasily at that prospect.   "We haven't decided on the flight rotation or schedule - except for the first and seventh spots.  Jeb will take the first flight, and Kavy will take the seventh.  That's all right, isn't it Lady Kerlem?"

I held up my hands, "No problem, Gene."  Honestly I didn't have any idea what to expect, but I knew they wanted to give me all the training they could squeeze in before I did anything for "real."

Gene nodded.  "The rest of the time you will be training and following the development of everything that goes into the rockets you're going to be flying."  He saw that Rick had his hand raised.  "Yes, Rick?"

"What are we going to be doing when we're up there?"

"For now, that remains to be seen.  One of our objectives is to get a dependable satellite communications network in place, Project CommSat will run parallel with Project Moho.  But that means orbiting, and what we have now isn't quite ready to get us into orbit.  We're either going to have to cluster several rocket engines together or get some new technology, but at the moment we're losing more kredits than we are bringing in, so we can probably expect a wait.  The main objective for this particular project is to see how well we Kerbals can survive in space."

"What are we looking at doing after Moho?"

Gene didn't reply immediately to Tom's question, not out of reluctance, but because he really wasn't sure.

"After we've established that we can function properly up there?  To be candid, Tom, I can't say for certain, but I have to assume that we're going to be moving continuously outward.  The obvious goals would be Mun and Minmus - though there's no guarantee of that.  It all depends on having the technology and the ability to pay for it."

He then gave us all an appraising look.  "I'm sure you're not going to happy with my next announcement, and Kavy, you're going to have to show all these fighter jocks how to handle it.  Tomorrow afternoon, we're going to be having the first of several press conferences."  There was an audible groan at this announcement.  Ricky leaned over my shoulder to whisper:  "Kavy baby, get me outta this..."  I'm sure I gave him a very odd look.


Gene dismissed us, and we enjoyed and hour or so of hangar talk before heading to our rooms.  Valentina and I talked well into the night.  "Oh I'd always wanted to go into space, Kavy.  Or at least fly a lot.  But you know, there weren't a lot of opportunities where I was, and getting out wasn't really an option.  I had no place to go - not until I found out that I had cousins."

"How did you get the flight time?"  Valentina laughed.  "I worked crazy hard.  I trade work for flight time.  I managed to get almost all my engineering courses done by mail - but you know of course I had to travel for laboratories.  So I work hard for three-fifty days a year, and rest of time I travel and do labs."

She asked me and I told her of the training I got.  "But really, Vally, the only reason I was here is that I was at the right place at the right time."

"But is that not what all of life is anyway, Kavy?  You and I just need to take the line that Jeb, and Bob, and Bill offered us and make their generosity worth it."


"Lords and Ladies of Kerbin City, I'm honored to present you with our first seven astronauts."  The governor introduced us to the public with that, and the questions began.

"When are they leaving?"

"Not for several months, we expect, there are still a lot of tests we need to run on the equipment."

We were then asked to stand up and identify ourselves individually, then asked a number of questions about our private lives...which most of us tried to blow off as politely as possible.

"Lady Kerlem, is this anything like your previous career with AKKT?"

"Oh yes, definitely, except that I'm awake five hours out of six, flying jets at 1.2 times the speed of sound on a daily basis, hearing music only when I think to turn on the ADF to the right channel, and working with dangerously corrosive chemicals if they need an extra hand in R&D.  Other than that, it's very similar."

"How were these seven selected against all the others that applied?"

Gene took the question.  "We had a total of three hundred and forty-five applicants.  Half of those were completely unqualified just going by the application.  We brought in the remaining two hundred and eighty for physical and mental testing.  After we eliminated those that didn't meet the standards, we pretty much started looking at total flight time and education.  I should point out that it was just five that we had to select.  Jeb Kerman and Kavy Kerlem were both pre-selected for what they would bring to the program." 

"Jeb, isn't it true you had your licensed revoked until recently."

"That-is-true.  Thanks-to-the-governor-I-am-now-able-to-focus-my-energies-productively-towards-a-noble-cause.

"Yeah, that doesn't sound at all rehearsed," Ricky muttered to me with a wink.  The reporter, Jon Kerpung, wouldn't let the point go though.

"So you are going to be given the responsibility of piloting a rocket, really nothing more than a massive bomb on top of a controlled explosion, even though your pilot's license had been revoked for...careless and reckless flying?"

"...I'll be good."

At this, Gene stepped in:  "Major Kerman's abilites are exemplary.  He was charged with the responsibility of training Lady Kerlem, and has done a superb job of it.  Kavy passed her basic and advanced flight training more smoothly than just about anyone I'd tested before.  Not only are we giving Jeb the responsibility for flying that rocket, his flight will be the first.  I hope you all can make it.

After about half an hour, the press conference ended.  As a treat for our patience, Gene drove us into town for lunch and drinks at a seaside restaurant.  As a CJ, my voice was easily recognizable, but I was pleased to learn that my face still wasn't.


Over the next eighty days, we worked on doing tests for Demolition Enterprises, Rockomax, Kashcorp, MRS and Periapsis.  

I was not directly involved, as I was busy learning exactly how to be a test pilot.  This meant a five hour day for me, and only two of them were spent flying.  Most of what I was doing was writing reports and translating the mathematics into understandable Kerbalese.   Since we only had six types of airplanes, eleven total, it fell onto Bob or Bill to tweak the airplane of choice behind my back and onto me to take her up, put her in a variety of flying situations and figure out exactly what had been changed.  I have to give Bob and Bill a lot of credit; they never altered something to the point where the aircraft was completely uncontrollable. Of course that was a double-edged sword, would I be able to react in time when there was a time to let the aircraft go and eject.  They tried to train me for that eventuality in the simulator - but naturally alarm bells were ringing when they sat me down in it.


After the flying portion was done for the day, again I would translate that into a flight report to be checked by Bob or Bill.  It was rough at first, they were wondering what I was going on about, but Valentina walked me through a few of them and I settled into a consistent routine.

After successfully testing C7 Aerospace's MK1 cockpit and TR-1V stack decoupler, Jeb was forced to bail out of Blip 2, the rocket used for FB-5, as the rocket tore itself apart.  The capsule was recovered and a successful FB-6 was flown less than a week later.  We had broken the ten kilometer barrier.

Twenty days later, we doubled that achievement by reaching twenty-five kilometers, mission FB-9, but missed the landing zone and only recovered a portion of Blip 3.  We ran another test on Day 81, this one for CTC Enterprises, and ten days later Jeb broke the thirty-five kilometer barrier and landed in the highlands just as we planned.  Again, however, we only recovered a portion of the rocket.  Following FB-11, we completed the Foundation Building project with a series of disconnected equipment tests.  It was time to go into space.



They announced the final flight rotation a few days later:  Jeb would take the first flight and be backed up by Tom.  Able would be next with Rick as the backup.  Tom would take the third flight with Valentina being the backup.  The fourth flight would be done by Rick, backed up by Elliot.  Flight five would be manned by Valentina, I would be her backup.  Jeb would back up Elliot on the sixth flight, and I would be scheduled to fly the seventh mission with Able as backup.

Jeb's flight would be a suborbital.  Jeb would travel just barely into space, escape the atmosphere and fly straight east as far as his fuel would take him.  I kind of felt sorry for Jeb, he had so much talent, and yet it would be such a tiny flight.  Of course, he would have the distinction of being the first Kerbal in space, so, as I said, kind of sorry for him.

The rocket itself would be a single-staged Korvette I.  Not even fifteen meters high, 2.2 meters wide, weighing in at 9.3 tons.  It would burn through its fuel of liquid hydrogen and oxygen in eighty-one seconds, so optimally it could travel over 200 kilometers.  


So eight days after the successful completion of FB-12, early in the morning, Jeb found himself on the top of that rocket.  Mission control was packed, and I had the responsibility of talking with the news, providing analysis, as we readied for launch.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now about five minutes and counting down to what we hope will be the first Kerbal into space.  Thirty-four year old Jeb Kerman, along with his brothers built this lonely peninsula into Kerbin's first spaceport, and within less than half a year converted it into the cutting edge of space technology.  I'm here with Lady Kavy Kerlem, the co-discoverer of the extra-Kerbin broadcast you're by now all familiar with.  She's now well into training to become an astronaut herself.  Kavy, what must be going through Mr. Kerlem's mind right now?"

"Tsion, if I know Jeb, he's thinking that he wants to be up there enjoying the flight.  I wouldn't say he's fearless, he's perfectly aware of the danger and he took pains to make sure that I was aware of it when he was helping me learn this business; he's still doing that as we speak.  But he's confident enough in his support personnel that whatever danger there is, the chances are small enough to discount it and get the job done."

"Thank you Kavy and we're down to two minutes before launch.   There was debate as to whether the ignition sequence should be controlled by the astronaut or the mission controllers, is that correct?"

"Not much of a debate, to be honest.  We decided after a bit of discussion that Operations Control could control the ignition sequence leaving the pilot to handle the actual flying of the rocket.  It's not as if he could turn off the runway and return to the terminal."

"And if something were to happen?"

"There is a dead zone that we have to worry about.  Between about one hundred meters and a thousand, he'll be too high to survive the fall and too low for the chutes to open fully, never mind the fact that -"

"Forty seconds."

"- the explosion'd probably get 'im anyway."

"Ignition sequence started..."

From where I was sitting, a small platform in front of some bleachers at the southernmost part of KSC, I saw the flame and steam flare out of the engine bell, and the tall cylinder trembling before it rose off the pad.  I heard nothing until it cleared the tower.

"Liftoff and the clock is running!" said Jeb.  "Aw guys, this feels great!  I'm barely hitting 2g's!"

The rocket streaked up, hitting five hundred knots just after five thousand meters.  As Max Q approached, Jeb announced that he was reducing the power.  Rather than flattening out and turning to the east, the rocket drifted over my position, but Jeb corrected the drift and increased the power before reducing it.  The craft rotated again, and Jeb cut the power entirely.  The Korvette cruised out of the atmosphere on its own momentum, and Jeb reignited the engine just before reaching eighty-three kilometers.  It was just a few seconds before the fuel was gone.

"All righty, I am definitely in space now.  I'm feeling absolutely no gravity, and I'm just going to let the gravity that I don't feel do the work for me now."  With that, he separated the pod from the rocket.


Jeb would land in a few minutes, coming down at twelve meters a second, but a few kilometers south of where they had intended.  That wouldn't be a serious problem today, but it was something that we would want to correct.  Today, of course, would be dedicated to the actual history being made.

From the time that he lifted off to the time that he arrived back in the space center was less than an hour.  Jeb was deliriously happy to be the first at something so significant. 

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(My sincere thanks to the creator of this map)


With Jeb walking around without his feet touching the floor for the next several weeks, my training became correspondingly more pleasant.  In fact, the first thing he said to me when he first saw me after his flight - after a not unwelcome hug - was that I was ready for my final test.

"No, I really mean it, Kavy.  Just take two weeks to review everything and get up to speed, and we'll have you straight-up certified."

With some trepidation, I agreed.  I was a bit disappointed though to discover that there were no available examiners for at least a hundred and eighty days.  I ultimately settled on Day 252 for my test pilot examination.

Seventeen days after Jeb's flight, Abel repeated Jeb's feat.  Shortly after liftoff, he pitched over going south by southwest and finally settled on a heading of 135 degrees befor separation at 54,000 meters.  He reached an apoapsis of 122 kilometers before coming down to be scooped up by the Navy.


Having successfully launched two suborbitals, and with technological advances in construction and fuel systems we decided to go for the circumnavigation.  Thomas would be the pilot of MP-3, and the ship he would take would be the Klipper Ib.  Unlike the Korvette, which is a straight stack, the main booster would be powered by three LV-T45 engines arranged in a horizontal configuration.  The middle engine would burn out first, the two outer ones would continue into space, after which the second stage would fire to achieve orbit.  Thomas Kermaan, our resident senior, he was fifty-four years old.

Before Tom's flight though, we launched our first contribution to the CommSat program.  For now we would simply be satisfied with putting the satellite in orbit, the fine tuning would come at a later date.


Tommy's flight went according to plan.  He expertly guided the rocket into a more or less equatorial orbit of 114 kilometers by 90.7 kilometers.  He did three complete orbits before firing his retro rockets, and landed as the sun was rising past the Crescent Mountain Range into the Great Kulge Desert.


The idea for ending this orbital mission was just to get the spacecraft and the astronaut on the ground - and do not land in a volcano or in quicksand if you please.  Mission rules stated that he was to wait by the spacecraft until KSA officials picked him up; there are more than a few areas on Kerbin where it is very easy to become part of the food chain.  Space in the capsule being what it was, there wasn't any room for defensive weapons, just a hatch that could be sealed tightly from inside.   There hadn't been any thought that collecting samples might be a good idea.  Taking the initiative, Thomas left the capsule and gathered some samples before he was picked up.

Thomas arrived to a hero's welcome, and most importantly to his wife, Djudi and two children.  I was there to greet him myself, but I couldn't stay long.  I had my examination for test pilot scheduled for tomorrow.


So finally, it came down to this.  Of all the people I would not wish to be tested by, Werhner was the one responsible for conducting it.  It wasn't so much that he was hostile, though if he passed me, he would lose his bet with Bob.  Werhner was far too professional to let such a thing affect his judgment.  No, what bothered me was his accent and manner of speaking.

(Author's Note:  Think Winston Churchill combined with an Arnold Schwarzenegger -  with both having just badly bitten their tongues.)

"GoodmorninglaadyKerlem, are y'readyferyaxaminaation?"

I told him that I was all set to go. I assumed that's what he'd asked about anyway.

He put a blindfold on me, spun me around several times, had me do twenty pushups, stood me on my head, spun me around several more times then walked me over to an aircraft.  Still blindfolded, he told me to climb in and run through the checklist - again, still blindfolded.  He called out the items and to my relieved surprise I was able to locate everything from muscle memory.  Even though he had apparently wiped the cockpit with alcohol to eliminate that distinctive and wonderful aroma that a proper vintage cockpit has, I knew within two checklist items what plane I would be flying.

"So, Miss Kavy, you take us up, and I tell you vhat to do, yah?"


"SOMEZING is wrong with this plane, you find out what it is!"

We took off into the rising sun, and then leveled off at ten thousand meters.  So far, so good. 

"Let's do some turns at fifteen, thirty, forty-five and sixty degrees."

Okay, no problem with that...

"Now ninety."

All right, so now I was flying so that my elevators were rudders and my rudders elevators.  Still no problem, just somewhat more difficult.

"Show me how high we can go, Lady Kerlem."  I increased the power.  The ceiling for the aircraft was nearly fifteen thousand meters.  I took her up to 14,634.

"Higher Miss Kerlem, higher!"

Despite myself, I grinned.  Test pilots were supposed to ignore what airplanes were rated to do and find out what they could do.  I pushed her even higher.  Eventually you come to a point where the maximum airspeed is lower than the stalling speed and the aircraft assumes the flying characteristics of a cinder block.  It finally did at 17,222 meters.  As we dropped, I made sure to enter the information in the standard test pilot report.

"We are now descending at an increasingly dangerous rate of speed.  I would like you to stop the stall, stop the descent and show me exactly how slowly this aircraft can be flown at a thousand meters before plummeting as we are doing at this moment."

I waited for the plane to enter some thicker air, and then pushed the nose down.  The airflow over the wings became a smooth fluid again and we began flying once more.  We gently descended to a thousand meters, and I pulled the nose back up, lowered the flaps and reduced the airspeed to the minimum.

We stalled well above that.  I recovered and regained altitude, then repeated the process.

"Well there's your problem," I announced.  Minimum controllable airspeed was at least twelve knots higher than it should have been.


"Higher stall speed, higher landing speed."

"Take her in.  I don't want to hear the stall warning till we are within a meter of the ground."

I did as instructed.  The next part of the examination was to write up a full test report.  I took my time with it, handing it in an hour and a half later.

The day after my examination, while I was helping Rick in the simulator, we were summoned into conference hall in the Astronaut Center. 

All of the astronauts were there, so were Gene, Bobak and Werhner.  Bob took the podium.

"Everyone, I brought you here today because there is an announcement to be made.  You know, this...none of this would have happened if there hadn't been a whole lot of radio stations out there that were tuning in a Kerbin-shattering radio signal and someone paying attention to it.

One of those who had the foresight to bring it to the attention of scientists is with us

Because I failed to keep my big mouth shut, I wound up getting this  young woman involved in what we are doing in the deepest way possible.  I had faith in my brother's ability and this was apparently well-founded.  My friends, I'm honored to officially introduce Kavy Kerlem as our newest certified test pilot!"

I tried so hard not to squeal at this, and everyone laughed as I failed miserably.  Then I hugged everyone in sight.  Unprofessional - yes, care - no.  Bob banged on the lectern.

"I'm happy to welcome you to the ranks, Kavy.  Attention to orders!"


"The Governor of Kerbin City and its territories, acknowledges special trust and confidence in the valor, loyalty, and professional excellence of Kavy Kerlem.  In view of these qualities and demonstrated leadership potentional, she is hearby appointed to the rank of captain."

Oh.  I'd forgotten about that - and as I fingered the pretty golden bars on my collar, I really hoped that my apparent "leadership potential" wouldn't be put to the test.  

After my official promotion and commissioning, Gene had a follow-up announcement to make.

"You know, we've been talking about this for a while, debating the possibilities about what course we're going to take.  I got word last night that our first extra-Kerbin objective will in fact be the Mun, followed by Minmus.  We're still trying to decide whether to make a direct ascent or use some sort of rendezvous plan.  Yes, Bob"

"Gene, could you explain what the possible options are?"

"Sure Bob.  The simplest plan is where we just launch and go directly to the Mun - launch from here, go to there, land, explore, take off and come back, no orbiting involved.  That's the direct ascent model.  Another possibility is Kerbin orbit rendezvous.  With this, we have two launches, we place the supplies and extra fuel in LKO and the astronauts launch later, rendezvous with the supplies and go to the Mun.  Finally we have Munar orbit rendezvous where we send the astronauts and supplies on one ship, but remain in Munar orbit, with a small excursion vessel landing on the Mun's surface.  Like I said, we haven't decided what option we'll be going with - we still have to figure out how to communicate from that distance.


MP-4, Rick's flight, was going to duplicate Tom's, but it would also be responsible for conducting a battery of scientific experiments

After a launch that was delayed in lifting off thanks to a clamp glitch, Ricky took the spacecraft up as high as 184 kilometers, with a pariapsis of 101 kilometers.  Rick conducted a set of scientific experiments and measurements and then made six orbits around Kerbin.  Reentry was routine, though he missed the water and landed in the rolling grasslands between Wormhole Lake and the Sea of Worms.

Valentina's flight was next, and as I was her backup we both spend the next few weeks running simulations.  The goal of the mission was both to stay up for another three hours and repeat Rick's experiments at a higher orbit.  There were growing concerns about radiation in space, and Val would be taking a magnetometer to ensure that the planet's magetic fields would be an adequate defense for Kerbals in orbit.

MP-5 lifted off on Day 426, the last day of the year.  Because of the weight involved, we weren't going to be doing a conventional gravity turn - just bore straight through the atmosphere and pitch over at the last minute.  I have to tell you, straight vertical is a really easy maneuver to master.  The pitchover was a bit more interesting.  Vally started turning at 35 km up, with the apoapsis at 61 km and climbing.  At 44km she cut the engines briefly, then burned up the rest of the first stage to bring the apoapsis to 86 km.

It was looking good, we still had a Vega tank worth of fuel to go, and Val ignited the T45.  The number that had everyone concerned was not the 86 km, it was the -596.3 km under "periapsis."  It was going to take a two minute burn to get us where we needed to go:  accelerate us to 2,200 meters per second to a sustainable orbit.

Val nailed it.  When she closed the throttle, she had established a 113 by 86 kilometer orbit.  She did a few loops and then activated the satellite separator.

"Okey-dokey Kav, I'm handing COMSAT over to you...now.  The controlling light flashed green and it was time for me to go to work.  I ignited the engine and increased the throttle.  I watched as the apoapsis climbed from 113 km to 713, then shut everything down until I could be sure of getting a good signal.  I probably wasn't going to be getting back to it until after Valentina landed.

Valentina was hoping to stay in space a lot longer than was scheduled, but a battery managed to spring a leak.

"Chyort!  I've got a battery leaking here, KC. I'm coming down."
"Gotcha, Val" I said.  "Where should we look for you?"
"Let me see...well, more or less the same place we picked up Rick.  I'll let you know when I know more."

I wasn't too concerned, but a loss of power is always a serious issue, especially if it's premature.  By the time we lost the signal for reentry, Valentina was down to ten percent.  The one thing I was banking on was that the parachutes were mechanical, not electrical.

From what we could recover, it was estimated that the electrical charge ran out at approximately 20,370 meters above sea level, mission time T + 04:22:15.  With no functioning RCS, the spacecraft yawed up and the violence of the motion tore off the RCS unit and heat shield.

What was left of the capsule exited the reentry heat zone about fifteen seconds after it lost power.  We knew nothing of it at the time as the capsule was out of range of the communications network with the radio antenna ripped off.  I was certain that I had lost my friend.

Stunned, and not really caring if anyone saw the tears in my eyes, I returned to my duties and managed to get COMMSAT1 into a precise 1.5 hour orbit as the mission required.

"That looks really good Kavy," said Gene.  "See if you can get a lock aound Gnosis with the weather sat."

We had to wait several hours for everything to be in the right position, Gnosis being on the opposite side of the globe, but eventually we were able to get the proper triangulation.  Valentina landed in Diablo Lake, within sight of shore.


Valentina Kerman had survived.  The fifteen seconds of heat had left her nauseated from heat exhaustion, but the capsule retained it's structural integrity and delivered her safely - if a bit toasted.


"What happened here, Elliot?"

We were looking at the recording of the first few minutes of Elliot's flight.  MP-7 had lifted of on schedule, gotten into orbit, performed expertly and landed perfectly.  The concern was with what happened during the launch.  Elliot brought the rocket up safely, smoothly taking the gravity turn, and reducing power by Max Q.  The Klipper continued upwards, passing ten kilometers, and then at thirteen kilometers the rocket began to shift and then slip, with the tail end continuing east and the nose going to the southwest.  Elliot cut the power and let physics take over.  The rocket did a reverse somersault and began losing altitude.  Here, Elliot applied power and retook control.  It all happened over the water, so there was no immediate danger, but it could have been disastrous.  

"Gene, I don't know.  I felt the ship get wobbly, then I lost it altogether for a few seconds, but I was able to get her back."

"Yes, recovering it was an expert job of piloting, and the rest of your mission looked just great.  But that's not what people are gonna be talking about.  Instead, it's the fact that for some reason, you did not have control of your ship for a good fifteen seconds.  That cannot ever happen Elliot..."  

Elliot paled slightly and swallowed hard.  He had nothing to say to this.  "Am I," he finally replied, "you're not..."

Gene held up his hand.  "I'm not letting you go Elliot; you are far too valuable a pilot to lose.  But I am taking you out of the next rotation cycle, you understand?  We have a new bird to prepare, and the rookiest of rookies to get ready."

It was a month away, but a rush of adrenaline flowed through me:  My flight was next! 

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The seven of us were not very happy about Elliot being taken out of the flight rotation.

"I nearly got myself killed and lost chunks of my ship," she said.  "Why didn't they bust me?"  She had a good point, but Val stuck to the prescribed launch profile and had a battery go screwy on her.  Elliot tried to milk some extra fuel out of the rocket with a premature gravity turn.  In the long run though, it wouldn't be making much difference.  We persuaded Gene that Elliot and I would just be switch spots in future flight rotations - depending on what I did on my flight.

A few days after Elliot's flight, Wernher and Gene called Abel and me into the office.

"We're going to be changing your mission profile - loading you up with science experiments.  We're also installing the new SCANSAT equipment, so we are going to be launching you over the pole to map Kerbin."  Gene grinned.  "We'll see how close the old surveyors and mapmakers really were.  Oh, and since we want a complete map, we'd like you to stay up there for at least two days."

I was happy to hear that. The problem it presented was that since it would be over the poles,  I was required to complete an additional mission prior to launch.  The standard fare was a simple flight to one place on the globe or another and obtain a meteorological reading, or perhaps land on any given spot and collect a soil sample if they were feeling particularily nasty.

Using the FA-1BT, a two seat trainer, Bob and I headed northeast to the Terror Mountains.  My objective was to reach the peak of K1, our highest peak.  Bob was coming along to provide any technical help, although the climb could theoretically be completed by simply walking to the top, with no technical assistance.  Just the same, a six-thousand meter peak was still a six thousand meter peak and I prefered to have as much backup as I could.


I landed just at the base of the mountain near a trail on the edge of the timberline.  Our intention was to take the long route along the ridge, first north and then curling back around to the south to the massif's peak.  This plan worked up to the point where we crested the ridge running north and south, but intense and turbulent winds from the east force Bill and I off the ridge and into our EVA suits.


"You know Kavy, it's only gonna be worse the higher we go?"

"I know!  I know!  But for now we can use the ridge as a wind break.  If the winds force us down, then that's fine.  But let's at least get to that coire below the summit peak."

That plan worked well untill we got out from behind the ridge onto a flat plain between the northern ridge and the summit peak.  We were at about 4250 meters, the air was bitterly cold, and I was thankful that we had the oxygen - but the plain was blasted by stiff winds.  After talking it over, Bill and I decided to go for it.  Bill had the foresight to bring ropes to tie us together just in case it might do us some good.  The walking was stiff and we got pushed over more than once, but we did manage to get to the southern edge of the glacier - where even stronger winds flowed down from the summit ridge.

We were running out of daylight and electricity and decided that our best bet was to go near vertical and ascend the northeastern wall.  In our EVA suits, the only way to do this was to take the two ladders we had brought, bolt them in, ascend, remove the bottom ladder, bring it to the top, bolt that one in, ascend.  It was a tedious process and by the time we got to the top, twilight was upon us.  But, the winds had died down, and from there it was a simple process of walking through the cold to the summit.


Bill and I picked up a small amount of notice for our feat.  But that would be talk for another day.  My focus now was on flying the best mission I possibly could.  In the twenty day interval between K1 and MP-7, I flew the simulator four hours every day.  Because of the configuration, we decided on a conventional launch profile, with a pitchover at 100 m/s, except that we'd be going north instead of east.


I don't recall sleeping much the night before, but I heard the thump on my door and crawled out of bed.  Valentina was sleeping peacefully in another room, the same one I did when she went up.  I got into some light clothes and was greeted by Bob.

"Good morning Kavy.  Do you want some breakfast or do you want to eat once you're up?"

I wasn't sure how long I'd be waiting for launch, so I leaped at the opportunity for a warm breakfast.  Bob just warned me to go easy on the coffee.

After eating the last warm meal I would have for a few days, I went downstairs for a quick medical checkup.  I assure you that it consisted of a bit more than holding a mirror to my nostrils, but it wasn't all that thorough either.  My vital signs being nominal, I was directed to the fitting room, and was helped into my space suit by two male technicians - and let's just say that I'm relieved that they were fully professional.  Three minutes later and it was time to go.

Bob put me on the bus to the launch pad.  It didn't seem that long ago that it had been merely a blackened patch of concrete.  Now it had a raised, reinforced steel grating and an adjustable launch tower.  Attached to the tower was my rocket, the Klipper IIa.  Like its sister ships, it was powered by two LV-T45 engines with a larger WildCat engine between them, with two smaller Falcon radial fuel tanks connected to a Vega fuel tank.  A second LV-T45 and Vega tank made up the second stage, with a round blue, white, and red KSA logo emblazoned on the sides.  The third and final stage consisted of an LV-909 engine connected to a slightly larger fuel tank than the preceding rockets, followed by the SCANSAT equipment, then the additional science experiments.  Finally came the capsule and escape tower.


I took a very rudimentary elevator, really just an oversized dumbwaiter, to the top of the tower and was greeted by the four technicians waiting for me.

"And the lady of the hour has arrived, fellas, I give you...Kavy Kerlem!"

I chucked weakly.  "How'd I know that was coming, Gus?  Thanks guys."

"We're ready and your ship is ready when you are, Captain."

"So, do I just crawl in?"

"We'll give you a boost if you need it."  He was being serious; because of the way the scientific and SCANSAT equipment had been installed, the umbilicals forced the boarding platform well below the entrance hatch, and with the suit I was wearing, I was going to need the help.

They simply grabbed me by the legs and shoulders and shoved me in, then secured the restraint belts as tightly as they could.  Gus reached in, mussing my hair.

"Enjoy your flight, Kavy!"

"Thanks Gus.  I'll see you in a few days, eh?"  Which was more a prayer than I would have admitted at the time.  But after shaking hands, it was time to go to work...

"Control, this is Moho Seven, with you at...forty-six past the hour, how do you read?"

"Loud and clear, Seven," said the voice of Abel.  "Everything looks good so far, we should be getting you up on schedule.  Just sit back and relax...we are at time minus thirty-seven minutes, twenty-five seconds and counting."

I took a deep breath.  If I didn't get any sleep last night, you never would have noticed.  I had never been so excited and thrilled - with just the tiniest element of fear as well.  I forced myself to concentrate on the checklists and flight plan - they were second nature by now, but you still go by the numbers if the time allows for it.

"Time, minus nine minutes, fifty-four seconds and counting..."

Whatever else might happen, I thought, you are probably going to be the last Kerbal in space to go it alone.  So enjoy it.  I did look forward to the days, however many there were, of isolation.

Mission control had now begun its checklist.  "...go/no-go for launch.  Flight Dynamics?"





"Nav is 'go,' Flight."




"We're go."




"We're go."


"Er, her pulse is a bit rapid, but Kavy is go."

"Range safety?"


"And recovery?"


"Launch control, this is Flight Operations, we are 'go' for launch."

"Understood, Gene, all systems go, countdown is at...two minutes and counting."

Less than a hundred and twenty seconds.  I squeezed the control stick.  Less than a hundred and twenty seconds and I'd be flying this gorgeous machine.

"...twenty seconds and counting."

"fifteen seconds..."






"seven, ignition sequence start"  I heard the ship's pumps groan


"four, we have ignition!"  And the ship began rumbling and shuddering.  I had seen it before, but to feel the raw power underneath you is something that has to be directly experienced to be appreciated.


"one!"  At "one" the clamps holding her down released and the rocket slammed into my back while g-forces began shoving me down in the front.

"The clock..." I said...

"And liftoff!  Astronaut Kavy Kerlem begins the ending of Project Moho!"

"....is running!   Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"  The sensation was incredible.  And I could only enjoy it for a few moments; I had a spacecraft to fly.  

"The tower is clear at 4:29!"  

Savoring the feeling of the raw power pushing against me from all sides, I twisted the stick right into a roll to get her properly oriented, then pushed it gently to the left to pitch over to north once the airspeed indicator showed a hundred meters a second.  Not too much force now, I was controlling it with two fingers and a thumb, holding the stick as if it were an egg.

"Reducing throttle for MaxQ," I announced, limiting the engines to 66%

"Roger Seven, reducing power, you're looking good!"

The center engine now cut off, leaving the two outboards to do the work.

"Seven, this is Control, go for throttle up."

"Control, this is Seven, throttling up at eleven thousand meters."  
About a third of the fuel was left in the first stage now.   I was still within ten degrees of vertical, but now pushed the stick forward and gave Klipper a little more gas.

"Seven, you're shallowing a bit, push it harder."

"Roger, Control."  Keep it in the yellow, Kav...

By the time I passed 26 km, I was at about a 46° angle and the projected apoapsis was 30 km.  I reduced power now to conserve fuel.

Keep it in the yellow, I thought to myself.  Let the speed do the work.

At 34.2 km, the first stage exhumed its last drops of oxygen and hydrogen.

"First stage separation!" I announced as I hit the switch.  I pushed the throttle forward; air resistance at 40 km was practically nonexistent.  I could look out the window and see the Kulge Sea.

At 89.4 kilometers, it was time to jettison the second stage, but I was going over seventy-two hundred kilometers per hour, and the projected periapsis was looking better and better.  I was nearly horizontal now at 90 km, heading almost exactly north, both apoapsis and periapsis increasing and I'm sailing along at 8300 kmh.  Within seconds, my apoapsis was projected at 113 km.

"Control, this is Seven.  Cutting engines and coastin'!"

"Cutting and coasting acknowledged, Moho Seven.  You're right on the mark, Kavy.  Just sit back and relax and we'll let you know when it's time to go to work."

"Roger.  Thanks, Abel."

In the distance, to the west, I saw Volk Lake, Volk Mountains and the tundra and was soon flying over the polar ice.   I saw the North Pole speed by and then headed south.

My initial orbit was about 113 by 81 kilometers.  I began running the first set of scientific experiments, checking the goo...which seems right at home in space, getting magnetometer readings, doing an ionization scan and doing a bit of astrophotography with the installed telescope. 

"Nicely done, Seven.  Let's see what SCANSAT will do."

"Roger control.  Setting up."


The first orbit uncovered four percent of Kerbin.  Forty-five percent was completed by the end of the first day, three quarters by the second.  By the end of the third day, ninety one percent of the planet had been mapped, but there were still some streaks that had not been covered.

"Kavy, you are go for staying up as long as you want.  Your vitals look good, I'm sure they've packed enough food."

"That they did.  I'm sure I can get the remaining nine percent easily enough."

"Just let us know when you fire so we can notify the rescue team."

"Wilco.  Thanks Abe."

By the end of the fourth day, I'd uncovered the remainder of the map.

"Control, Seven.  I think we've got as much out of it as we can.  I'm going to do a few more experiments and call it a flight."

After checking the telescope and mystery goo, I secured the experiments and altimetry sensor and prepared for reentry.  I set the initial approach periapsis for 74 kilometers and maneuvered into position.

"Moho Seven burning for 74,000!" I announced.  I burned for thirty-five seconds and finally used all the fuel in the third stage with the periapsis showing 160 km.  Now down to the last tank and requiring a burn to come down any further, mission rules stated that the mission was effectively over.  I separated the stages, ignited the last engine, and burned down to 74,000 meters.

"Control, Moho Seven requests circularization burn for 70K.  Let's see how close we can get to the speed record."  We still hadn't broken the 2500 m/s speed record, and the closer we get to the atmosphere, the faster we go.  After about a minute, Gene came on the line

"...Kavy, you know the mission rules.  But I'm going to approve your request.  Just make sure you have enough fuel to get you down to 25K when the time comes."

"Roger Flight, thanks."

Again, I waited to position myself and burned into a very low orbit, with the periapsis just over 70 km.  Despite that, I couldn't get any faster than 2302 m/s, so that was a disappointment.

"Control, this is Moho Seven.  I guess 2500 isn't going to be broken on this flight, so I'm coming home."  I readied the final reentry burn with 25,366 meters as the initial reentry periapsis. 

"Where shall we look for you, Kavy?"

I told them that I expected to land somewhere on the radial that I was heading, somewhere between the equator and the North Pole.  "But other than that, I can't be too specific."

With that understanding they gave the go ahead for the final reentry burn.  When it was over, I was down to the last third of my fuel in the last remaining tank.  I separated the engine, and reentered the upper layer of the atmosphere just coming over the southern ice cap.

"Control, this is Moho Seven. I've got a few seconds before loss of signal."

"We copy Seven, we're tracking the package.  Go ahead and secure everything for reentry, get ready for a bumpy ride, and we'll see you on the other side."

"Roger, see you in a bit!"

I kept descending, and from what I could tell by looking out the window, I was heading more or less northeast, and all of it was over land.  I'd have preferred to land in the ocean, but as long as I can miss the mountains...  I double-checked my orientation to make sure I was landing retrograde.


I saw the first reentry flames as I cruised over the Ocean of Smiles.  Soon the soft rustling flames became a roaring inferno surrounding me and the g-forces pushed me hard into my seat, harder even than the liftoff.  The controls were stiff and I had to fight to maintain proper position.  Finally, the forces on the capsule overcame the flight controls and I began yawing just as Valentina had done...but I had come through the hottest layer unscathed.  The airspeed now showed 583 m/s and dropping.  I waited twenty seconds for the airspeed to drop below 300 and deployed the double parachutes.

"...this is Flight Control, do you read?"

"That's affirmative Flight Control.  Moho Seven has just deployed her chutes and I'm coming down!"

I landed close to the shores of Booster Bay, very close to home, at 15.8.  Mission elapsed time was four days, five hours and thirty-eight minutes.

"Moho Seven has landed!" 


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I do like your writing style. The combination of KSP tropes (especially the flights being piloted manually all the way) played dead straight, complete with proper flight training, works really well.

Also - which mod are you using for the launch tower? Looking at your screenshots makes me realize how much I miss the old tower. I know it was taken out for gameplay reasons but it does mean that launches lack that certain something.

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10 hours ago, KSK said:


I do like your writing style. The combination of KSP tropes (especially the flights being piloted manually all the way) played dead straight, complete with proper flight training, works really well.

Also - which mod are you using for the launch tower? Looking at your screenshots makes me realize how much I miss the old tower. I know it was taken out for gameplay reasons but it does mean that launches lack that certain something.

Thanks, KSK.  I'm using the FASA towers and clamps.   FASA hasn't been updated for 1.1, but it still works.  You can download it from SPACEDOCK.  If you just want the towers and clamps, extract the whole file, but only install the "Misc" folder in GameData.  To make sure KSP recognizes it, install it as:  FASA\Misc\FASA_Launch_Clamp_125 and   FASA\Misc\FASA_Launch_Tower.

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KSK sent me :wink::D 

I also like what I'm seeing here. The illustrations really add a lot.


If you want another RL crossover:

When making money is a problem: go tourism! Simple orbital rocket stuffed with 4 Kerbs who pay 22k each for a trip. It is the foundation of all my career games. Up to the point where I have enough miniaturization to build lightweight probes which pay a 100k+ each, and are launched in batches of three or four.


Mod suggestions:

Evironmental Visual Enhancements for clouds (can leave away the city lights since those don't fit that well)
Distant object enhancements: so you can point out Planets and such from interesting locations. (standing on top of K1, looking up, seeing Duna... "Walking up there...In just 15 years... will it be possible? who will be the first?")

Edited by OrtwinS
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16 hours ago, SCE2AUX2 said:

Thanks, KSK.  I'm using the FASA towers and clamps.   FASA hasn't been updated for 1.1, but it still works.  You can download it from SPACEDOCK.  If you just want the towers and clamps, extract the whole file, but only install the "Misc" folder in GameData.  To make sure KSP recognizes it, install it as:  FASA\Misc\FASA_Launch_Clamp_125 and   FASA\Misc\FASA_Launch_Tower.

Excellent! Thank you - I'll give that a try.

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(A/N:  Thanks for the reviews, they're always welcome.) 

Four days free of gravity is a magnificent experience that I wish everyone could enjoy, but there's no question that it takes a toll on the body.  I popped the hatch open and crawled/stumbled out of the capsule, then unlatched my helmet and savored breathing in real AIR, rather than pure oxygen.

I waited about two and a half hours before hearing the helicopters.  One of them hovered above me, and I attached the hooks it presented to the capsule as instructed.  I boarded the other one and it took me to the nearest airport where the transport plane was waiting.  Once I was aboard and on our way home, I enjoyed a warm and welcome sponge bath and a follow-up medical examination.  I was pronounced perfectly healthy and ready to fly if the opportunity arose.

We landed at KSC, on Runway 27, in the middle of the night, but I was still greeted by hundreds of curious Kerbals peering through the chain link fence and chanting my name.  That's another experience I wish everyone could enjoy - so the next time I come back from a mission, by all means please drop by KSC and chant "Kavy! Kavy! Kavy!"  

An official KSA car drove up as I was coming down the ladder, waving and shouting thanks to everyone.  One more wave and I got in the car.

"So did you have a good time, young lady?"

"Mommy!?!"  I couldn't believe it.  My parents and my little brother were here?  I had kept them informed of what I was doing, but I naturally couldn't tell them everything.

"I had a great time.  I didn't think you'd be here to pick me up though."

They all nodded.  "Gene gave us a call a few minutes after you landed and they arranged to pick us up in order to meet you." said Dad.  "They gave us an unused room at the Astronaut Complex."

"Where's your space suit?" asked my little brother, Jon.

"My IVA suit?  It's back on the aeroplane, hopefully about to be laundered - or incinerated."

"What's an IVA?"

"That means 'Internal Vehicle Activity.'  I think the next time they have Kerbals go up, they will have EVA suits, for going outside the spacecraft."

"Now why on Kerbin would they want to do that?" asked Mom.

Dad was right on target when he answered.  "There's not much point in going to the Mun if all you're going to do is look out the window, is there?  Besides, things do need fixing when they break."

"Well, yes, of course when you go to the Mun, when you have solid ground underneath you. But I couldn't imagine the need for going outside into space when you don't absolutely have to.

"We've already had some problems with our communications satellites, Mommy.  It looks like 'absolutely have to' will become a likely situation."


Two days later we all assembled in the auditorium.  As usual, Gene presided.  

"All right ladies and gentlemen.  Today we are going to officially conclude a very successful Project Moho."

"Kavy, could you step forward please?  With over four hours there, Astronaut Kavy Kerlem set the record for a Kerbal being in space"

I was awarded the Operational Service Ribbon, the Water EVA Ribbon, the Kerbin Surface EVA Ribbon, the Research IV Ribbon, and the Kerbin Orbit Ribbon.  In practical terms it didn't mean much, but it was heartening to be recognized and accepted.

"And with the completion of Captain Kerlem's flight, we conclude Project Moho.  That will be the final Kerbal space flight for some time; we are now going to concentrate on securing the logistical network to get all of you safely to the moon and back.  We expect to launch our next Kerballed mission in about a year."

There were audible moans throughout the auditorium, from myself included (I already wanted to go back!).  Gene raised his hands sympathetically.

"No, I didn't think you'd be happy to hear that, but we don't yet have the technology or equipment to do what we want.  We also don't have the people...and a lot of what we will be doing is finding another seven people to keep you pilots company.  When we go up the next time, we'll be sending up two of you; a pilot and an engineer or scientist.


So on Day 162, Year 1651 we began what was officially titled "Network Building, Testing, Probing, and Training."  Upgrades were completed on Mission Control, and research into advanced forms of flight control began.

The first mission was undesignated, a satellite to examines Kerbin's magnetic fields, this was tucked in between a pair of research flights.  To accomodate the new astronauts we anticipated, work was begun on the astronaut complex.

For several months, communication satellites were both launched and deorbited, the newer models being much more efficient.  Upgrades were made to the launch pad to accomodate the larger rockets we expected to use to the Twinkie missions.

On Day 320 of Year 1651, we met our newest seven astronauts.  As a pilot myself, it was a bit of a pill to swallow, but the fact remains that it was easier to train a top engineer to be a pilot than it was to train a pilot to be a top engineer.

Never mind that as a test pilot is essentially an engineer with a pilot's certificate, we were now looking at engineering and scientific specialists - the ones that have contributed original knowledge to their fields, and that weren't nearly as infatuated with flying as the seven of us had been.  Only one new test pilot would be brought on, the other six would be engineers and scientists.

Bob and Bill had seen the writing on the wall, shrugged, and volunteered themselves for flight duty.  They had already participated in several flights with Jeb when the three of them were "just those wild kids that were going to get themselves killed one of these days," but now they were getting more serious with the flight training.

In any case, the new astronauts were Dr. Bartory Kermin - Electrical Engineering, Dr. Jenny Kemen - Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Chadzor Kerpitt - Computer Engineering,  Dr. Neal Kernaal - Aerospace Engineering, Camorin Kerlong - Aerospace and Bioengineering,  Dr. Andi Kermol - Astrophysics and Kerbophysics, and our lone test pilot was Don Kernand, a civilian test pilot with masters degrees in physics and aerospace engineering.

(Our New Hires)
Dr. Bartory Kermin - Electrical Engineering
Dr. Jenny Kemen - Aerospace Engineering
Dr. Chadzor Kerpitt - Computer Engineering
Dr. Neal Kernaal - Aerospace Engineering
Camorin Kerlong - Aerospace and Bioengineering
Dr. Andi Kermol - Astrophysics and Kerbophysics
Don Kernand - Civilian Test Pilot

Since both Bob and Bill would be on flight status, and since Gene would have his hands full with the expected upgrades to mission control, it was decided that one of us would have to be responsible for  monitoring the coordination, scheduling, and control of the astronauts training.  Tom was the unanimous choice, which he reluctantly agreed to.

"It'll be a while before we actually do anything, so I'm not going to do anything with regards to the flight schedules.  But I will promise you that I'll be selecting the crews for the Mun flights - whenever that is - by how you perform while we're getting through NBTPT and Project Twinkie."

While the fifteen of us were running and flying around, training, and working our butts off trying to impress Thomas for the first Twinkie flight, the engineering and operations departments were continuing the unkerballed project that was moving from simple communications satellites to exploration probes.   PPP-1 (Planetary Probe Project) would a communications satellite launch of a Tipan III rocket.  It was scheduled for Day 323 and we all got up early to see it rise majestically into the air...and die powerless and without communication halfway to the Mun


"I think maybe we should have included fuel cells," said Wernher.

Twenty days later, they did manage to do it correctly, and we had our first satellite orbiting the Mun.


The Space Center was also changing.  Improvements were completed on the Astronaut Complex, the aircraft hangar, and the administration building.  By the time they were finished, the Astronaut Complex had been made into a four-story training complex complete with living accommodations for forty astronauts, a full physical training center, medical facilities and enough educational activities to serve as a small university.  In fact, we now offered a distance education degree in space and aeronautical studies.  I was now working on getting my masters degree in the subject - on the six year plan, while also creating physics lessons plans and grading papers.  I also spend a good portion of my time training the new scientists and engineers how to fly planes.

With the year nearly over, I flew one research flight out to the far north, out to the Goldstone mountains and ran some laser surface scan tests.  Bob and Bertoly followed with flights of their own.  We ran a test of a potential munar landing "capsule," really just a very basic cylinder with a window and the capacity to be pressurized.  Thomas wound up with a bad case of the bends as a result of that.  

As a result of that episode, the flight rotation was altered.  Thomas would fly the fourth Twinkie flight not the third.  Though we hadn't gotten a decision on what we'd be doing exactly, we did get the flight rotation.   Jeb and Bill would fly the first flight, Able and Bertory would fly next.  Rik and Chadzor would step out of their backup role to fly the third flight.  Thomas and Jenny would fly fourth flight, with Camorin and I backing them up.  Valentina and Neal would take the fifth flight.  My flight would be sixth, with Camorin along as my engineer.  Elliot and Andi would be seventh, and Dan and Bob would fly the final Twinkie flight.

(Project Twinkie Kerbal Flight Rotation)

Twinkie 1:  Jeb and Bill  - Rick/Chadzor
Twinkie 2:  Abel and Bertory - Rick/Chadzor
Twinkie 3:  Rick and Chadzor - Valentina/Neal
Twinkie 4:  Thomas and Jenny - Kavy/Camorin
Twinkie 5:  Valentina and Neal - Elliot/Andi
Twinkie 6:  Kavy and Camorin - Dan/Bob
Twinkie 7:  Elliot and Andi - Jeb/Bill
Twinkie 8:  Dan and Bob - Abel/Bertory

"Remember," said Thomas.  "We don't know exactly what these flights will entail, but what you accomplish on them will determine what spot you'll be on for the next project."

"And we did make a decision on how we will get to the Mun," said Gene, who had overheard and dropped in.  "Or at least we narrowed it down.  You'll either be flying there directly or by Munar Orbit rendezvous, and we'll be sending you up in groups of three.  It's going to depend on how well Project Twinkie goes.  If we are still bumbling around up there by Twinkie Eight, well, it will be some time before we are ready to send you into deep space.  If the administration likes what it sees, we may attempt the landing on the fourth flight."

"How many flights are they talking about, Gene?  For Project...um...'Get to The Mun?'"

"We haven't thought that far in advance, Jeb.  But 'Get to The Mun' would have to be designated 'Get to The Mun and Minmus,' since we're going to be doing both, one right after the other.  Administration thought it would be wise to 'secure' our sphere of influence.  But if we mirror everything we do on Minmus with what we have planned for the Mun, I'd say at least fourteen flights altogether."

I was excited at this, but only a little.  There was so much that could happen in the meantime.

The training of the new seven astronauts was going well, and we found that we actually had more and more leisure time.  The trade off is that we also found ourselves in the public eye more often.  With our celebrity growing by the day, we would often find ourselves the subject of curious stares and being greeted by name by people we had never seen.  It's not a bad experience if you're used to it, but it was pretty unsettling for the rookies.  

One day, just before they did a couple of research flights.  Val and I went to Kerbin City with Camorin and Neal to catch a stickball game.  Val was curious about, but unfamiliar with the game; my last job involved familiarizing myself with several sport in order to not look like a complete nitwit to anyone who might call in.  Camorin had actually played some in the university, so to have him along made things even better.  We made a point to grab upper grandstand seats along the third bag line, hoping to be somewhat anonymous...and we heard the whispers shortly after entering.

"Is that who I think it is?"

"I think that girl with the almost black hair is Kavy, the lighter brown is Valentina."

"Those guys with them, are they new astronauts?"

We weren't so shy or miskerbothropic enough not to introduce ourselves, shake a few hands, and pose for some pictures.

"Don't worry about it Cam," I said to the startled young man, "in no time at all you'll be a master of the quick handshake while stepping lively.  Otherwise you'll never get anywhere in KC once you finish your first flight."

"But we're just engineers," said Neal, "not test pilots like you two."  
Val scoffed at this.  "What, you think that matters?  You're astronauts, or you will be soon enough.  What counts is that you'll be in space."

After settling in, Cam proved to be an outstanding teacher of the game.  "Now you see how the outfielders have shifted to the left, towards us.  They are expecting the batsman to hit the ball to the left side of the field."

"But couldn't he hit it straight between first and second along the line?"

"Sure, he could, but the tosser will probably be throwing him offspeed," Seeing Val's quizzical expression he explained further.  "He'll be throwing the ball slower to both upset his timing and pull the ball to the left if he hits it."

I had seen and heard of a lot of stickball, but nobody explained the subtler nuances of the game like Camorin did.  I looked forward to sharing a capsule with him.  I wish I could have taken a picture of his face the next day when Cam open the newspaper and saw the headline:  "Rookie Astronaut Teaches Stickball to the Veterans"

We had just a few more tests to run and probes to launch and we would be getting on with Project Twinkie.  The launch pad had been upgraded to a massive launch complex, ready to handle the most massive rockets, and further research brought technological advancements in propulsion and construction.  As the year 1651 ended, we were more than ready to start going again.  


But...the delays continued.  

We eagerly anticipated the beginning of Twinkie, but there was still discussion over what capsule we should use.  Two companies had come forward with capsules designed for two Kerbals.  One being tested was the Corvus by Kerlington Model Rockets and Paper Products.  They seemed to be staking the reputation of the company on the capsule they were offering, since as you can surely guess by their name, this project was just a bit outside their comfort zone.  The other one was the K2 Command Pod by Castor-Pollux Industries.  Castor-Pollux had more experience, but I have to admit that I liked the sleek lines of what the Corvus offered.  Both would have the astronauts sitting side by side, and there was a little room to move around - but only just.  We did eventually settle on Corvus - and I have to think aesthetics had more to do with it than engineering.




On top of that...or rather below that...or rather what should be below that all too often winding up on top of that and then back below that in rapid sucession... Anyway, yeah, our beautiful new sleek booster, the Rockomax Mainsail, had a tendency to get out from underneath the rocket, with it veering off to the side and forcing Mission Control to destroy it.  It surely increased the number and necessity of preflight FOD walks.


Jeb shocked everyone when he suggested that perhaps reading the manual provided would be a good idea.

It was.  After a dozen or so test rockets had disintegrated in midair, the Tipan III rocket was certified to carry Kerbals.  Project Twinkie could finally begin.

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Great new chapter!

What mod are you using for the command pod equipment? looks quite interesting.



  1. Unless you are planning a horrifying story arc which includes a fire in a pure oxygen atmosphere I sure hope they'll switch to some safer gas mixture. In pure oxygen EVERY bit of dust will be highly flammable, any spark (like from using a switch) may ignite clothing/plastics/dead skin particles.
  2. During the assembly Gene says "with over four hours there, ..." I think that should be four days.


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11 hours ago, OrtwinS said:

Great new chapter!

What mod are you using for the command pod equipment? looks quite interesting.



  1. Unless you are planning a horrifying story arc which includes a fire in a pure oxygen atmosphere I sure hope they'll switch to some safer gas mixture. In pure oxygen EVERY bit of dust will be highly flammable, any spark (like from using a switch) may ignite clothing/plastics/dead skin particles.
  2. During the assembly Gene says "with over four hours there, ..." I think that should be four days.


The pod equipment is from KIS, Kerbal Inventory System.

1.  Yes, I'm wondering if that sticky issue will occur to them as well.

2.  It sure is.  Thanks for pointing that out, and it has been corrected.

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I'm really liking this story. I think you have a fresh perspective and like @KSK said, the way your pilots fly the rockets is very kerbalish but convincing at the same time. I might even dare to say it has a tiny bit of a steam punkish attitude to it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Day 100, Year 3 (1652)

I was just there to watch the liftoff, as was about a quarter of Kerbin City.  Jeb and Bill were waiting in the early evening, dark to the east, light to the west, for the first flight of the Corvus-Tipan III. 

The rocket itself was a beauty (aren't they all?) a 36.1 by 7.1 meter spear of three stages.  The main engine was an RE-M3 Mainsail SB-4 providing 350 ISP for 85 seconds.  After falling away, its thrust would be handled by the RE-15 Skipper that would be more than enough to get the capsule into orbit.  Additional maneuvering and power would be handled by the RE-L10 Poodle.

KSA had graciously permitted the communications between Mission Control and the flight to be publicly broadcast, so we were able to listen to the conversation.

MC:  "Okay Jeb, I think we're set to go if you concur."
CDR: "I definitely concur, let's get her going!"
MC: "Roger, stand by.  T-minus twenty five seconds and counting."
PLT: "Jeb, did you bring the sandwiches Vally made?"
CDR: "...If I didn't, I'm sure they'll be there when we get back, Bill."
MC: "...seventeen, sixteen, we could stop the count if you want to check, twelve, eleven."
PLT: "...no, s'okay"

Only Bill, I thought.  Only Bill.

The rocket's engines ignited and Jeb throttled forward.  The rocket lifted off and soon began pitching over and rolling

They continued through MaxQ then Jeb his the throttle again, and the flight path got flatter and faster, finally ceasing and coasting as indicators showed an apoapsis of 120 kilometers.  A quick burn at the apoapsis and we had two Kerbals in orbit at 2140 m/s.  They didn't even need the RE-L10 engine.


CDR:  "Flight, we have a stable orbit, and with it's okay with you, we're going to pop the hatch for a fresh breath of vacuum."
MC:  "Roger, you are go for EVA.  Bill, don't take your brother literally, please."
PLT: "..........................................................................................Okay!"
MC:  "Oh good.  We have comprehension."

A few minutes later, Bill became the first Kerbal to walk in space, orrrrr at least exit the safety of the spacecraft.  In actuality, he spent five minutes outside and hanging on for dear life.  Jeb and Bill switched places, but even Jeb wasn't ready to let go of the capsule just yet.


Altogether, TP-1 stayed up for a little less than a day.  The brothers both went on EVA a few more times, but never tried floating in space.  They had asked for and received permission to stay up for an additional two days, but one of the batteries short-circuited, and the decision was made to come home immediately.  Bill volunteered to repair the battery, but the problem turned out to be internal, and Bill didn't have the proper replacement parts for it. 

We had wanted to be a lot more precise in our touchdowns.  Jeb's reentry burn changed the orbital plane as well as the altitude, wanting to land in the ocean if at all possible.  I couldn't help thinking that the reentry apoapsis was a bit steep, maybe too steep.  They entered the upper atmosphere sideways and in the dark, heading towards the dawn.  Jeb quickly set his ship's attitude correctly.

MC:  "It looks good now, Jeb, right down the pipe."
CDR:  "Glad to hear it, Flight.  Talk to you on the other side..."

We waited several minutes.

MC:  "Twinkie 1, Flight.  Come in."
MC:  "Twinkie 1, Flight.  Come in."
MC:  "Twinkie 1, Flight.  Come in."
CDR:  "Roger Flight, we're here.  Got a bit interesting towards the end there, she really tried to get away from me.  I...don't think we're gonna be in the water either."
PLT:  Drogues deployed.   
MC:  "Guess we'll have the precision landings dealt with on another flight.  Do you have a position?"

They landed at 1.8 South, 47.1 East, that's right in the middle of the next big landmass to the east of us.

Immediately following PT-1 we started doing research flights to collect as much information about Kerbin that we could.  Gene at Mission Control and the scientists broke out the Blip rockets again to hone their skills at remote sensing, but we astronaut types were more concerned with getting out to explore our own little planet. 


Able Kirklen would be joined by Bartory Kirmin on the next manned flight, designated PT-2.  They lifted of at 0:59 on day 187 into the dawn; a Corvus capsule atop a Tipan IIb booster.  It was a mission very similar to PT-1, but Able would be maneuvering the rocket to a much greater extent.  After liftoff and release of the first stage, Able brought the spacecraft from a heading of ninety degrees to one-fifty and established an initial orbit of 85 kilometers by 73 kilometers.  They ran a multispectral analysis of Kerbin, and then Able increased the orbit to 400 km by 266 km.  Then the power began running out as the multispec results were being transmitted.

It was a design flaw this time.  We had thought that four fixed photovoltaic panels would be enough to power everything, but even in direct sunlight, we just weren't getting the amps necessary.  In order to get enough power for a proper reentry and landing, our astronauts were ordered to shut down everything.

"Flight, we'd prefer not to hang around doing nothing while the power spools back up.  With your permission, I'd like to take a look around out there."

"Understood, Bart.  You are go for EVA."

Bartory accepted the invitation, and popped open the door of the capsule.  Unlike Jeb and Bill, Bartory handled the EVA like a pro, maneuvering around the perpetually falling spacecraft with ease and inspecting the batteries - still depleted but gradually regaining power.  He went around the back to check the engine bell.  All in all, he set the standard of how future EVA's were to be done.

The power situation hadn't improved though.  They, we, hated the notion of cutting the trip short, so we had them conserve power by turning off the scanner when the available power dropped below 25% - and then waited for it to build back up again.  Unfortunately, this resulted in them burning up oxygen and food, and we still only completed  Able burned the engines after Bartory was back in place, a rather narrow ellipse of 400 km by 23 km.

"Let's see how a steep angle reentry looks!" he declared.


It could have looked better as they tumbled awkwardly into position for reentry, but the capsule managed to oscillate its way into the proper attitude to feel the heat.  Little thought was given to where they would land, just that they would land, safely, that was quite good enough.  The capsule fell, slightly sideways, but enough to be protected by the heat shield - and it landed on its side at. (23.2, 69.3).  There was a lot learned and a lot to be learned by this three day flight.


With two iffy flights with Kerbal EVAs behind us, and with the communications network slipping out of place ever so slightly, the decision was made behind our backs to duplicate the mission I'd made with Bill prior to Moho 7.  This time though, it would be on the Mun and Minmus, climbing their two highest peaks.  And that was fine, after all we wanted to explore our closest neighbors to the fullest extent possible.


What was not so fine was that Gene had locked us into doing it within five years

Okay, here's the thing with that.  As a species, we are willing to go beyond, to take risks and that's why we Kerbals have accomplished so much in our existence on Kerbin.  But a line has to be drawn somewhere.  There is nothing to be gained from unreasonable risk, and we had had plenty of time, based on what we have done so far with Moho and Tipan, to prepare a Mun/Minmus ship that would assure maximum gain with minimal risk.

What Gene did was all but assure that we'd be forced to shoot the Mun on a shoestring.  Nobody was very happy about that, but after...

"Gene, just one question here...ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!?!?"

"Bob, I don't see how it's a big deal.  Kerlem did it easily."

"Oh, well if you think she thought it was done easily, I'll suggest you give it a shot yourself.  Anyway, that's not the point.  Has it occurred to you we don't even have a viable capsule to get to the Mun as yet?"

Gene shrugged easily.  "It's being handled, Colonel, the MK1-2 Sigma is being prepared by Kerlington, we're expecting word from them any day now..."

"And the boosters and fuel tanks?"

"Well...on that...maybe we can cut some corners...."

Bob shook his head at that.  "Just as I thought."

As a group, we pushed on.


Rick and Chad would take the next flight.  PT-3 would launch on day 280  the primary mission would be a multispectral scan of Kerbin, hoping to at least improve on the result from before.  The booster would be a Tipan IIIb.

After launch Rick established an orbit of 298 km by 258 km, with a northwest to southeast orientation to maximize the area covered in the shortest amount of time.  The mapping was going well - then with 56.6% of it completed we got an alert that there was a leak in the oxidizer tank.  Chadzor went on EVA and repaired the leak, but the mission ended up being scrubbed with less than of the scan finished.

The scan was eventually completed, but that was done by a less expensive unkerballed satellite launch.



Such failures will happen, but with two missions cut short, the morale of the corps was getting unsettled.


"Look folks," said Gene.  "What we're doing is not supposed to be easy.  We're at the cutting edge here, breaking new ground.  There are going to be hiccups."

"But how're we doing as astronauts?"

"I have no reason to complain, Jeb.  You and Bill did great.  Able and Bart did great.  So did Rick and Chad.  And I have every reason to expect the same from Tom, Jenny, Valentina and everyone who will follow.  But let me fill you in on what standards need to be met."

There were five more launches in the Twinkie program, plus whatever non-Kerbal flights they had.  PT-4 and 5 would rendezvous as would PT-6 (Camorin and me) and 7.  

"You understand that PT-4 and 5 are the critical flights.  Thomas, Vally, if you accomplish what we need you to do, you can probably write your own ticket on which Munmus flight you'll be taking."  Project Munmus was the designation for the Mun and Minmus flights.


PT-4 launched on Day 367 with Thomas Kermuun commanding.  In the right seat was rookie Jenny Kemen.  It was expected that the old guard and new blood would complement each other very well, and since they were looking to set a space longevity record, it was a fortunate thing that they did.


It was not simply that they were trying to see how long they could stay up, they had to provide a moving target for PT-5, and it would take several days to refurbish the launch pad and roll the rocket out.  To minimize wasted time, PT-4 and 5 trained simultaneously.

The launch and orbital insertion went perfectly this time and all systems were nominal.  The same held true for PT-5, commanded by Valentina with Neal acting as engineer.


Valentina's objective was to rendezvous with PT-4, to get within 50 meters of the target.  PT-4's orbit was between 200 and 206 km above Kerbin, so it was a narrow window she was aiming at.

It took some doing in coordinating the orbits; this was pretty much all Valentina. Thomas and Jenny, physically and mentally exhausted after nearly ten days in a cramped compartment, merely had to sit and wait.


PT5 CDR:  "Hey there, Twinkie Four, how are you two making out?"
PT4 CDR:  "Are you insinuating something, Valentina?"
PT5 CDR:  "Well now, you know we all have needs...  Okay Tom, I'm just about at where you are, do you want me port or starboard?"
PT4 CDR:  "How about on top?"
PT5 CDR:  ".........Okay Tom, I am taking spacecraft over you and north, relative to Kerbin.  Yes?"
PT4 CDR:  "That's fine, just mind that out photovoltaic panels don't get all tangled."
PT5 CDR:  "Oh yes, quite so, yes, yes, very good."

Within less than a minute, my girl had positioned the two spacecraft, one right on top of the other, and within about twenty meters.  It was precision flying of the highest quality at 2200 m/s.

PT4 CDR:  Flight, this is Twinkie Four, and we have achieved rendezvous.  Do you want us to switch engineers?
MC:  "...Negative Four, we're going to leave that stunt for Twinkie Six and Seven.  Excellent work on both of your parts.  Now let's see if you can land in the ocean by KSC."

They hit the mark perfectly.  If you had drawn a line straight out east from the KSC runway, and another line north from the island airfield, Tom and Jenny landed right where they intersected.  This precision reinforced the notion that Thomas would have first pick of the Munmus project.

Val and Neal followed a few hours later.  Unfortunately, they ran a bit low on monopropellant and were unable to follow up with the precision landing.  We would prefer to land with fuel in the tank.  Val ran out with the periapsis only reduced to 32 kilometers, right on the saftey margin, far too close.

After five flights, the flights were rated by Gene and Bob:

First Place:  TP-4 - For a successful rendezvous and perfect landing.  Nice work, old man!!
Second Place:  TP-5 - For a successful rendezvous and landing in the water.  But you have to watch those fuel levels, Val.
Third Place:  TP-2 - For a successful EVA, scan, and landing.  The wonky reentry was worrisome
Fourth Place:  TP-1 - For a successful EVA and landing.  Congratulations on being the first, Bill.
Fifth Place:  TP-3 - A hard call to make, but we simply didn't get much done.  Nice work repairing the damage though, Chad.

My flight was next.  Kavy Kerlem commanding.

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