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 Post subject: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-11 06:56pm
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Sith Marauder
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Joined: 2010-06-21 11:05am
Posts: 4226
Location: In Transit
Some of you might've seen this in a couple of other places, but since I was asking for advice on it over in Sci-Fi I figured you guys might want to take a look. Oh, and credit for most of the questions Jeb is responding to go to various readers on the official KSP forums and eventually our Arch Rival as well. Credit for many elements of the worldbuilding, especially Kerbal biology and culture, goes to the author of this superlative fanfic, who gave me his enthusiastic consent and borrowed a few of my ideas in return.

Chapter 1

Welcome To The Captain's Blog!

Posted by: Jeb

July 20th, 2522*

Mood: Chipper

Okay, before we go any further I'd like to make it clear that the name of this thing was not my idea. If my taste in puns was that bad, my list of accomplishments in the field of kerballed spaceflight would be much shorter and end with "first astronaut to be murdered in space".

Anyhow. My name is Jebediah Kerman and I'll be regularly updating Kerbalkind on the progress of our first ever interstellar voyage through these blog entries. Why blog entries, I hear you ask? (Because Lord knows I did when the suits told me about it.) Well, turns out that designing, testing and building an Alkerbierre Drive and a Quantum Entanglement Communications System costs a lot of money and we had to lay off our entire Public Relations office, so for once our perenially inadequate budget is working in our favour...
I kid, I kid! Supposedly this is supposed to be more personal, intimate and Kerbal than pre-digested press releases and staged video interviews. I guess I'll have to let you all be the judge of whether it works.

Anyway, I'm writing this from the Starfarer 1 in a standard 100km equatorial parking orbit, currently passing over the Great Tranquil Sea. We're waiting for favourable orbital conditions for the transfer to Jool, which we'll be using for a gravity-assist to take us well clear of the system before we fire up the hyperdrive...

Damn. I've been in this business nigh-on thirty years, watched the space programme grow from my first sub-orbital flight strapped to a glorified firecracker to flags and footprints on every solid body in the system and permanent settlements on two of them, and I still can't quite believe we've got an honest-to-Kerweh faster-than-light drive on this ship. And yes, I know it's not technically FTL because it bends or compresses space-time or something -don't ask me how that works- but anything that gets us to our nearest stellar neighbour in eight months where light takes as many years is close enough in my book.
Oh, yeah, that reminds me. Technical questions about how the Alkerbierre Drive actually works should be directed to Mission Specialist Scott Kerbley -see the "About the Crew" page for his email address- because I really don't know much more than what I read in Science Quarterly; my degree's in aerospace engineering, not quantum physics. Questions about that Quantum Entanglement Communications System I mentioned earlier should be directed to Kurt MacKerjel, our other mission specialist. I doubt he'll be able to tell you a whole lot though, because it's on loan from the Air Force -as is Kurt, incidentally- and most of the details are classified.

And since it's already been leaked to the media I might just as well confirm that yes, Kurt is also our Weapons Systems Officer because no, we are not going out into a completely unknown and unknowable situation without some means of self-defence. I know lots of people are unhappy about it; hell, I'm not exactly thrilled with the prospect either, and I hope and pray we don't need the shotgun and the game rifles in the surface excursion gear, much less the ship-to-ship mass driver or the point-defence lasers. But better to have 'em and not need 'em than the other way round, I say, and I'm the one flying this thing.

And no, the lander will not fit down the barrel. I already tried. ;-)

Anyway, I'm going to have to wrap this up now, because we're running an RCS test as soon as the last supply container's locked down. I think Stratus Inc's logistics people are running a livestream; time permitting I'll put the address up here. Adios for now!

Comments:

Sat Jul 20 02:41

Quote:
And no, the lander will not fit down the barrel. I already tried. ;-)


Don't ever change, Jeb!

-Wehrner

Sat Jul 20 02:46

Damn it Jeb ! What part of "neither confirm nor deny" wasn't I clear to you about?

-Hanfrod at KSC

Sat Jul 20 02:47

How 'bout the part where we're still keeping that up after the new guy rammed an ammo canister with a forklift and scattered 150mm railgun slugs all over VAB 4 while you were stood there spouting soundbites for the TV news crew? "Zero-G bocce tournament in Jool orbit" was a good one-liner but a lousy cover story. Now get your sorry keister in here and help me with the accident report, I've got about five government agencies wanting an explanation for the mess in there.

-Gene

Events at KSC

Posted by: Jeb

July 21st, 2522

Mood: Nostalgic

Finally got to see the news clip. (RCS test went fine, by the way, after we shifted some stores around to correctly position the centre of gravity.) Man, we haven't burned down a Vehicle Assembly Building in a while. Kinda brings back the good old days!

Since a couple of people have been asking, the stuff that got spilled? Chlorine trifluoride, which we use for recycling the cores of the LV-Ns and never, ever under any circumstances load onboard a rocket. That is not an optical illusion, the sand someone threw over the spill really did catch fire. We did look into the stuff as a propellant once, just after we got federalised into the KSA; I think the details are still classified, but suffice it to say that the stuff was responsible for some of the Propellant Research Complex's more memorable explosions before we gave up on it as too damn dangerous.

And no, I don't know what it was doing in VAB 4 either, but I don't envy whoever put it there when Gene gets his hands on them. I don't think I generated that much paperwork after the RT-5 Incident!

Comments:

July 21st, 22:47

Not quite, but it was a close-run thing. I'm still mad at you.

- Gene

July 21st, 22:50

The owner of that yacht was looking for a good tax write-off anyway, we found Bob in the end, the trailer really wasn't all that badly damaged and I bought you another car with my own money. Will you let it go already?

- Jeb

July 21st, 22:54

Remind me again why I'm flying with this maniac? Anyway, the chlorine trifluoride figures actually have been declassified and are available at www.kerbinnationalarchives.kn. I won't bore lay readers with the math, but we could have easily got single stage to Munar orbit out of that witche's brew if we'd found anyone willing to fly it. Yes, amazingly enough, there are depths of suicidal idiocy that even Jeb refuses to plumb. At least when he's sober.

- Bill

On the Selection Process

Posted by: Jeb

July 25th, 01:18

Mood: unspecified

So, a major newspaper who shall remain nameless published a column this morning criticising the lack of female representation on the Starfarer mission. I'm going to reproduce my response in the comments section here:

"Holly: I'm not going to disagree with you that it's a damn shame, but I want to be clear on something. The Kerbal Space Agency does not, never as and as long as I have any say in the matter it never will have 'diversity quotas'. I want us to recruit, asssign and promote on merit and merit alone.
"What we do instead, because I'm sad to report that some of our senior people are too ornery to change their minds but too good at their jobs to simply pension off, is remove any personally identifying information from resumes on arrival. Age, gender, ethnicity and even the candidate's name is only revealed after the selection committee decides to hire them. It's almost certainly possible to circumvent this system, but we haven't caught anyone trying yet, and if we ever do they'll be clearing out their desk the same day.
"I've been told, by the way, that one of the shortlisted candidates for Mission Specialist was a woman known to Scott Kerbley, the successful candidate. I won't name her here, but I do have a message for her. Candidate 276, if you're reading this then let it be known that you are an excellent astronaut and I think you'll go far in the spaceflight business, whether it's with the KSA or the private sector. The one and only reason you were not selected is that you have fewer hours in space than Scott and aren't yet command-certified. Experience is paramount on this kind of mission, and we have almost no margin for error."

I hope that clears up any misconceptions.

Comments

July 25th, 01:52

Mr Kerman, you flatter me! And no hard feelings, even I have to admit Scott's the better pilot.

- Candidate 276

July 25th, 01:56

You dodged a bullet, lady. Jeb's got enough cheesy pickup lines to last the whole two-year mission!

- Bill

July 25th: 02:10

And yet I've still had more sex than you...

- Jeb

July 25th, 02:16

*sigh* We didn't even make it out of Kerbin orbit this time. Is that a new record?

- Bob

"So, what's it like being an astronaut?" And Other Frequently-Asked Questions

Posted by: Jeb

July 28th, 18:37

Mood: Amused

So the five of us up here and a bunch of other KSA flight crew were having this big conference call a day or two earlier, and we ended up comparing lists of questions members of the public have asked us. Some of them were amusing -"What happens if the astronauts fall off the space station when they're outside?" was my favourite- many of them were inane and some of them were unfit to reproduce in an all-ages environment like this blog.

Though for the benefit of that one guy Geofley met in a bar a couple of years ago, doing that with a vacuum cleaner and doing it with a hole drilled into the hull would not be remotely similar except for the "serious and lasting injury" part. (I hope I don't have to draw you all a picture.)

But nevertheless, it inspired me to open up a sort of Q&A session. Post your questions in the comments section and tomorrow afternoon I'll have a shot at answering some of them.

Geneny Kerman

Posted by: Kurt

July 29th, 01:02

Mood: unspecified

I guess you'll all have heard by now that Gene collapsed at the Space Centre a couple of hours ago. We don't have many more details than the media at this point, but it's serious.

Jeb, Bill and Bob are on the surface right now, and so's Scott; he didn't think any of them ought to be flying a spaceship on their own right now, and I can't blame him.

I know your thoughts and prayers are with Gene, his family and friends right now, but I'd like to ask well-wishers to refrain from attending the hospital in person right now. We appreciate the sentiment, but it's making it difficult for the medical staff to do their jobs.

If there's any further news, good or bad, I'll pass it on as soon as I hear it.

Comments

July 29th, 18:46

He's gonna be okay. Docs saoid it wasn'y as bad as it looked at first but if he hadn'y come in when he did it coulda been mouch worse.

Tired. can't see to type right. gonna craSH NOW, VALL YOU IN THE MORNING.

- JEB

Farewell To Gene, And Responses To The Q&A

Posted by: Jeb

July 31st, 00:06

Mood: Misty-eyed

Got some sad news, folks, though not nearly as sad as the news I thought I'd be breaking this time the day before yesterday. After that little health scare, Gene Kerman has made the decision to take his well-deserved retirement.

No words of mine can even begin to describe his contribution to the Kerbin Interplanetary Society, the Kerbin Space Agency and the whole field of spaceflight. Bob and I flew the rockets, Bill told us where the hell we were, Wehrner designed 'em... And Gene made sure everything was paid for. He organised the meetings and fundraisers, negotiated the sponsorship deals and made sure we didn't blow the rent-money on rocket fuel. Maybe it wasn't glamorous, but if it wasn't for him we would literally never have got off the ground.
As Operations Director at Mission Control, he never once lost a Kerbal on his watch; he never panicked, he never lost hope and he always found a way to bring us home safely. As Chief Executive of the KIS, he was a brilliant negotiator and an outstanding manager. The interoperability agreement with Rockamax, the merger with C7 and Probodobodyne, the huge operational freedom granted to us after we were federalised into the Kerbin Space Agency? All his doing.

Enjoy your retirement, old friend, because Kerweh knows you've earned it. The space program won't be the same without you.

Anyhow, I guess I ought to take care of the questions everyone asked. First up is someone calling themselves "Scotius":

Quote:
Dear Jeb. What is inside the compartment labeled as "Not Food"?


Oh, now you're taking me back! For the doubtless depressingly high percentage of readers too young to remember, our correspondent is referring to this infamous publicity shot of me and a couple of rookies sitting in the first production Hitchhiker Crew Module.

Those labels were a practical joke by someone working in the VAB -we never did find out who- and were stuck down so thoroughly with Superglue that they were still there when the Vanguard station was decommissioned. I think that module ended up as part of Munbase Two.

Anyway. To answer your question, so far as I can remember from when I was on Vanguard, that cupboard normally held crockery and eating utensils. Though we did occasionally stuff some of the more unpleasant ration packs in there as a form of protest!

Next up is a twofer from "Kirk Kerman":

Quote:
Dear Jeb, I would like your, shall we say expert, opinion on something. I'm sure all of us are familiar with the theoretical "Orion Project". Tell us, and settle a bet; how effective a form of propulsion system would it actually be? And, personal curiosity here, why a single habitat ring rather than two contra-rotating ones?


We'll do these in order. As far as Project Orion goes, there isn't really a straight answer to that. in theory it had an absolutely astounding thrust-to-weight ratio and could have made the trip to the Mun in a matter of hours, but there was one big problem; getting the parts into orbit. The pusher plate alone would have massed as much as all three stages of a Pioneer-type Munar lander, and we couldn't simply spread that mass out over a few dozen conventional launches because it has to be completely seamless in order to withstand the blast. There's a proposal for manufacturing it in orbit that is the single most awesome piece of aerospace engineering I've ever heard of; it entails pumping a few thousand tons of liquid steel into orbit, letting it coalesce into a sphere naturally and then using two specially-designed spacecraft as a giant hammer and anvil. Unfortunately, the necessary infrastructure is generations away, and now that we have VASIMR engines at the ground-testing stage the whole concept is likely to remain an interesting might-have-been.

As far as your second question goes, there's a couple of reasons. The first and simplest is that the Starfarer 1 is a refitted Dres Prospector factory-ship, which was the largest craft in mothballs when the mission was green-lit; as I've alluded to elsewhere in the blog, the Alkerbierre Drive was staggeringly expensive to develop and the budget didn't stretch to buying anything newer. It's probably for the best, though. Nearly all modern long-haul ships use the newer system these days because it eliminates the need to de-spin the ship in order to change course, but the older technology has the advantage of being a lot simpler mechanically; no need to worry about the rings getting out of sync, forcing you to hit the emergency stop and limp to your destination at one-quarter speed so you don't snap her in half. It doesn't happen often these days, but we don't want to take the risk on a mission where there's no repair facilities waiting for us at our destination.

Reader "KSK" has one about the warp drive:

Quote:
Dear Jeb, although I guess this one's for Scott really. The Alkerbierre Drive sounds like it uses a lot of energy. Is there any truth to the rumour that it's powered by the crew treadmill in the physhab module? If not, how is it actually powered?


Scott hasn't stopped laughing yet, so I'd better tackle this one. The crew treadmill in the physhab module being wired into the power grid was a serious proposal at one point, because we're not going to have much solar energy to collect en route and every way we can economise on electrical power will help, but it was eventually ruled out as involving too much complication for too litle gain. As for the Alkerbierre Drive, its primary power source is technically a military secret, but a number of eminent scientists and a lot of science fiction fans already guessed correctly. I'm not going to tell you which ones though!

And I'm about to hit the character limit, so I'll tackle some more in a day or so.

Comments

July 31st, 17:57

Minor correction. That module was actually integrated into Munbase Three, and is still in use as a break-room for the astronomy team. Not only are the labels still there, the compartment labelled "Board Games" actually has board games in it!

- Dodgee the Munar Janitor

July 31st, 18:04

Jeb, if you keep playing fast and loose with classified information on this thing I'm going to tell Kurt to start censoring it. Last warning!

- Hanfrod at KSC

July 31st, 18:06

Jeb already ran it by me and I okayed it. Lighten up.

- Kurt

July 31st, 18:09

I swore to keep this a secret until my retirement, but I guess medical leave with a view to same is close enough, so here goes.

I put the labels there.

- Gene

Our Destination

August 1st, 00:00

Posted by: Bill

Mood: unspecified

Jeb's going to be off the air for a bit thanks to an EVA accident; nothing serious, just a sprained wrist. In the meantime, I'll be taking up his duties as primary blogger.

I'd like to talk a little about the system we're hoping to reach, Zyrix. Depending which astronomer you ask it's either an unusually large large red giant or an unusually small red supergiant, with two gas giants and at least four planets in the same size range as Kerbin or Duna. It's only the third closest star to us after Cherint Prime and Proxima Cherint respectively, but it has one important distinction; we have evidence for intelligent life there. Tenuous evidence, but evidence nonetheless.

You've all heard the rumours about "The Bleep", I'm sure. The papers blew it some way out of proportion; it's impossible to even be certain it was an intentional transmission, much less clean it up into anything we could decypher. But it's a lead, the first lead the Search for Extra-Kerbin Life's radio-telescopes have ever found. And having listened to the clearest version we can get with current technology, I'm satisfied in my own mind that it's no pulsar or other natural emission.

You want my hypothesis? Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I reckon someone out there is looking at the same issue we are: We can broadcast all we like, but nothing we have -nothing that's reckoned to be even theoretically possible with conventional radio, in fact- can travel more than a few dozen light-hours before it degrades into a garbled mess. Even prime numbers or something might not work. But a long burst of a single repeating tone, or a modulation like we use in distress radiobeacons? Those can be identified at much, much greater distances than anything else, even simple stuff like letter-codes. It can't convey any message more complex than "Hey, over here!", but if it reaches a civilisation with the same technology we've got plumbed into this ship, that's all you really need.

Like I said, maybe it's wishful thinking. But the only way to know for sure is to go there and find out. And that's what we're going to do...

Forgive me if this sounds like a terrible cliche, but this is the moment I have been waiting for since I was a ten year-old boy staring up at the stars. Thirty years of flying rockets, from a prototype we literally built out of scrap in a tin shed behind a junkyard to a ten million kero spaceplane, have been building towards this moment. Thirty years of wrangling with government committees, spending weeks at a time in a tin can the size of a handicap stall and worst of all, putting up with Jeb's driving. ;) And it's all going to be totally worth it.

I won't even care that much if we don't find life out there, much less another civilisation. What matters is that we dared to dream of this day, and we made it happen. Not just the five of us, or even just the dozens of engineers at the KSA and the many universities and private companies who've worked to build this ship and its technology. You, the ordinary Kerbal on the street, you cared enough to send us out there. And for that, I can never thank you enough.

Comments

August 1st, 00:02

You're welcome, buddy. Good luck.

- Nisa320

August 1st, 00:04

That was beautiful, man. But I'm still gonna kick your ass!

- Jeb, dictated to Kurt.

It's Go Time!

Posted by: Bill

August 4th, 19:42

Mood: Indescribable

We commence the transfer burn to Jool at the top of the hour. Approximately three months later, we'll make a brief stopover at Laythe to pick up fuel and then use Jool for a gravity-assist in the direction of Zyrix. Once we clear its SOI, we're firing up the hyperdrive.

I'm about to ruin my image as a perenially stoic, level-headed kind of guy now, but I don't care.

Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaw!

Oh, by the way. "Mallock Kerman"? I like your theory a lot.

Comments

August 5th, 11:10

Huh. Speech-recognition software really has advanced by leaps and bounds. Must remember that when I get around to dictating my memoirs.

- Gene

August 5th, 21:50

Don't do it, Gene. That's a slippery slope all the way down to long cigarette holders and a wardrobe full of black turtlenecks!

(Can you tell we already watched most of the good movies in the onboard library?)

- Bob

Under Weigh

Posted by: Jeb

August 9th, 00:42

Mood: Restless

You know, a much younger and stupider Jeb Kerman would have been truly shocked to discover that his future self was bored during a flight to another world. But it's true. The actual "getting from place to place" part of interplanetary travel is honestly kind of dull, long periods of waiting punctuated by short bursts of complicated math. It's got better in some ways as technology advances but worse in others. Take Pioneer 3, for example; on the one hand, I had a reasonable amount of stuff to do what with the need to take position data at regular intervals with nothing but a sextant, a pad of paper and an onboard computer that amounted to a glorified scientific calculator.
On the other, I had a grand total of 20kg of space for personal effects, and I had to fit everything in there. Books to read, shaving kit and toiletries, clean underwear... If Mission Control hadn't taken pity on me and plugged an FM radio into the comm system so I could listen to it on the backup transceiver I might have gone nuts.

Here on the Starfarer 1, I still have all of 20kg for personal effects. One-twentieth of it is taken up by a laptop and an external hard drive with so much assorted entertainment media that the books alone would have needed their own mission to get to the Mun with me. No, really: I have about 57GB of them. A typical book takes up 1.2MB of disk space in most common ebook formats and weighs... Well, I don't have a set of scales or a Kerbin-equivalent gravity well handy so for the sake of argument, call it 250g in paperback. I'll leave the math as an exercise for the reader.
If someone ever decides to write the definitive history of kerballed spaceflight, I hope he or she dedicates an entire chapter to the role of miniaturised personal computers and the digital distribution and storage of books, movies and music.
But conversely, we've considerably increased the level of automation. Position fixes are taken with an array of onboard cameras, and as for computer support, I'm typing this blog entry on something more powerful than what we had to work with back then. It's more fuel-efficient and a hell of a lot safer to let the automated systems handle everything under normal circumstances, but it does tend to leave us crewmembers feeling more like ballast than an important part of the mission. And it's still not very exciting day-to-day until you reach your destination.
Wanna experience a taste of it for yourself? Buy a copy of Buzz Kerman's Race Into Space (I'd give you the usual spiel about how other space-program simulators are avbailable if I could think of any), install the "Mechanical Buzz" mod and set up a mission to one of the outer planets. Without turning on time-compression. Oh, and you can't leave the house or access the Internet until you reach your destination unless you're reenacting a mission from the last five years, in which case you can have a 25kb/s dial-up connection for the duration of your trip. Say, did anyone mod in QECs yet now they've been declassified? Must check the forums later.
Anyway, if you still think I have the awesomest job in the world after doing all that, I suggest either checking out the "Careers" link at the bottom of the page or seeking professional help.

All the same, I have to admit the food's got better since I started out in this business. And the view out the window? Man, that never gets old...

Anyhow, a correspondent by the handle of "Needley Kerman" brings up a pretty good question.

"To the entire crew:

I have a question about relationships within the mission. Who are all of you more/less friendly with? Also, do the recent upgrades to the KSC change anything about the mission?"

Hah. Well, Bill and Bob and I have been doing this long enough that we're almost at the point of finishing each other's sentences. We weren't always on such friendly terms -Bill and I in particular hated each other with a passion at first- but I guess you kind of get used to the two faces who've been around more or less consistently for three decades, so we get invited to each other's family barbecues and go out drinking together occasionally even if we don't see all that much of each other when we're planetside. (I don't see much of anybody when I'm planetside these days, truth be told, not since I finally saved up enough for a real boat.)
The new guys are... well, we're still getting to know one another, and I hope the three of us aren't too cliqueish. Scott's a nice guy, almost permanently cheerful and one of the very few guys I've ever known who can get Bill to laugh in company, which almost entirely makes up for his inexplicable fondness for shepherdball* and his complete inability to make coffee** that anyone but an engineer can drink without heart palpitations. I also suspect he may dabble in Mad Science in his free time, but hey, who am I to judge?

Kurt was a little standoffish at first, but he fit in pretty well; you might think a military guy seconded to a civilian crew would have a bad case of culture shock, but in reality the Air Force work a lot like we do: Everyone knows who's in charge and what our jobs are, but rank and ceremony stays on the ground. I do wish he wouldn't wear those augmented-reality glasses of his when he's in the crew lounge, though, I can never shake the feeling he's not really listening.

Or maybe that's because I've developed a tendency to ramble in my old age. Whose idea was this blog thing again? Is anyone even still reading this?

No Comments

Expletive Deleted

Posted by: Jeb

August 9th, 21:43

Mood: Wrathful

I don't know who turned off comments on that last blog entry without telling me, but if I find out I will personally see to it that he or she is fired. Into orbit, while duct-taped to a booster stage.

I was saving that whiskey, too... And forget what I said about Scott being a nice guy.

Comments

Whoever provided the relevant mouse-clicks, the decision was ratified by the entire Press Office. You really should quit calling them "REMFs"* behind their backs, dude.

- Anonymous

August 9th, 21:53

You're a mean drunk, Jeb, you know that?

*sigh* Alright, alright, I'm sorry I laughed at you. Now let me back in, I need to pee.

Scott, posted by mobile

August 9th, 22:00

* I can't translate this one without violating the KSP forum's language guidelines.

Laythe

November 21st, 11:23

Posted by: Jeb

Mood: Excited

Sorry about the long silence, folks. There hasn't been a great deal to blog about until now, although you'll be pleased to know that I accepted Scott's apology before his air supply gave out, and my mid-life crisis has been put on hold for the duration of the mission... Unless we find a planet of pink-skinned space babes with [details redacted for the benefit of human readers who'd probably rather not know that much about Kerbal anatomy] or something. Hey, you never know your luck, right? ;-)

As I type, we're about three hours from entering orbit around Laythe, where we'll be taking on extra reaction mass kindly donated by the Laythe Colonisation Cooperative. (Disclosure: I'm a non-voting honourary member of their board of trustees.) The orbital fuel depot and the ground station are currently unmanned, but the first colony flight is pencilled in for August 4th three years from now. Homesteading rights on land are three hundred keros a square metre plus passage while stocks last, and houseboat berths available for the low, low rate of two hundred keros! (Houseboat sold separately, of course.)

Yeah, yeah, I know. No product placement. It is pretty exciting, though; the first off-Kerbin colony to be totally organised and financed by the prospective colonists!

You know, in its way, that's almost more exciting than the thought of travelling to another star system. See, for the last couple of decades, space travel has been largely the preserve of either government agencies like us or corporations like Rockamax and Davon Logistics. We've achieved a hell of a lot, don't get me wrong, both directly and as a result of spin-off technologies ranging from satellite communications to personal computers to non-stick cookware. But much of it's been top-down, filtered through grants committees and risk assessments and red tape until the process of putting Kerbals on another planet got to be about as exciting as securing planning permission for a suburban housing development. I don't mind the cost-benefit evaluation process so much -if I learned nothing else from the Interplanetary Society days, I learned the virtue of getting maximum effect out of limited resources!- but something of the joy and wonder of spaceflight was lost when we moved on from a group of like-minded amateurs getting together to do something that had never been done before, for no better reason than because they could and they wanted to.

And that's precisely what a couple of hundred ordinary men and women from all walks of life are doing now. They're pooling their money and their knowhow and they're making plans to achieve a first in Kerbal history, namely building a fully self-sufficient colony on another body. Because they can, and because they want to.

Sometimes, when I'm visiting other nations and tribes looking to send one of their own into space, their people ask me what it might take to build a space program of their own. I always say they're half-way there just by being willing to ask the question. You don't need to roll your own rockets and launch 'em from your own facilities; I won't stand in your way if you wanna try, but there's no shame in buying off the shelf. What matters is having the ambition, the persistence and the courage to dream of doing something awesome when you get there.

Comments

You're developing a sentimental streak in your old age, Jeb. You're right, though, the Laythe Colony folks remind me a lot of us old hands when we were still having our planning meetings in a bar and using a rented warehouse for a VAB. Very little cash, not really knowing what the hell they're doing, but lots of moxie.

Heh heh heh. Guess I finally get to pull off a first in kerballed spaceflight all of my own: First beach bar on Laythe! I've got this great little spot picked out near Geofley's Cove. There's a beer on the house with your name on it any timne you boys can come visit!

- Gene

November 21st, 23:53

Now that's a real rocket man's retirement! Can't wait to come visit you there, old buddy.

- Jeb

November 21st 23:58

You know, I should be mad at you for shilling your side projects on company time. But you know what? I don't care. That was friggin' beautiful.

- Hanfrod at KSC

November 22nd, 00:01

* Author's note: This is a very approximate translation of the name for a Kerbal team sport that, for reasons probably involving hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings with far too much time on their hands, bears an uncanny resemblance to the game of cricket.
** Another approximate translation; its name is difficult to render even phonetically but it's usually served hot, it's bitter-tasting and it's got caffeine in it.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!


Last edited by Zaune on 2013-10-12 11:43am, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-11 07:15pm
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Joined: 2010-06-21 11:05am
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Location: In Transit
And here's Chapter 2, or most of it. And many, many people have already pointed out the scientific error shortly after the big reveal, but I'm going to tell you what I told them; major rewrites are postponed until the completed story is posted, lest I lose momentum and never finish the thing at all. Anyway, without further ado...

Interstellar space, some months later.

TABI've blogged previously about how space travel can be kind of boring, Jeb wrote. And it turns out, perhaps not altogether surprisingly, that hyperspace travel isn't very eventful either, without the redeeming feature of a beautiful view.

TABHe stared out of the centimetre-thick reinforced glass of the cupola where he was sitting, set into the hull like an old-fashined bay window. The Starfarer 1's lights reflected off the uniform, featureless expanse of grey that comprised the interior of the warp bubble.

TABThat's the most disappointing part, I think. The warp bubble, as Scott describes it, is just so... so damn dull! No fantastic lightshow of Dopplered, red- and blue-shifted stars, no indescribable void so far beyond anything the Kerbal mind can comprehend that to stare into it is to be stricken blind or go gibbering mad, just... grey. The exact same shade as my TV screen back home if I flip it to a dead channel by mistake, in fact. I mean, why? Had Kerweh's special effects budget run out by the time he got to this part or something?

TABHe thought about that for a moment, then added: It's not that I particularly wanted to be stricken blind or go gibbering mad the first time I looked out of the window, mind you. But it would at least have created a certain sense of occasion.

TAB"Jeb, we're going faster than the speed of light. How much more sense of occasion do we need?" Bill remarked, handing Jeb a mug of a liquid it is convenient to call coffee.
TAB"See, this is why I get all the speaking engagements and interviews. You've got no flair for the dramatic at all, have you?"
TAB"And this is why I hate your driving. You've got too much of it."
TAB"My flair for the dramatic impresses the people who get our decide our budget."
TAB"They weren't riding shotgun when you got the genius idea of "catching vaccuum" in a rover."

TAB"There they go again," Kurt muttered. "Were they this bad when it was just the three of you in a Mk2 capsule?"
TABBob glanced up from behind his laptop, revealing a pair of very large and powerful-looking stereo headphones. "Eh?"
TAB"Hah! Never mind."
TAB"Jeb's got a point, though," Scott added, looking up from whatever mysterious electronics hobby-project he was working on. "That picture of him jumping the rover over the Mun lander was probably what got me into this business."
TABKurt gave his coilleague a sidelong look. "I'm beginning to see why my old Engineering professor used to say astronauts are just mad scientists who get laid."
TAB"I'm not going to comment on the getting laid part, but there is a certain amount of demographic overlap. I think it's the combination of extreme geekiness and complete disregard for one's own safety, along with the likelihood of massive explosions. Biggest difference is that for rocket scientists, the explosions are a consolation prize; for mad scientists, they're the desired end result."
TAB"You've put more thought into this issue than I consider entirely healthy."
TABScott shrugged. "I'm in the high-energy physics business. I've had to work with both."
TAB"So which one are you?"
TAB"Ah, I'm more an engineer than a scientist. Pretty sure I'm not mad though, or they wouldn't trust me with the keys to the antimatter."
TAB"On the other hand, you volunteered to work with the antimatter."
TABScott pondered this. "There is that, I suppose. You can't have Mad Engineering, though. Mad Science is one thing, but-"
TABA loud electronic chime sounded, interrupting their conversation and startling Bob into yanking his headphones off. "Attention, attention," a recorded female voice said in calm, measured tones. "Deceleration in T minus five minutes. All personnel report to duty stations."
TAB"All right!" Jeb launched himself to his feet. "Showtime, boys!"

TABThe cockpit -it wasn't big enough to merit being called a bridge- was in the bow of the ship, partly because it was traditional but mainly because it was the only place the designers could think of to put the main passenger airlock. Pilot and copilot sat at narrow consoles on either side of the hatch, with the Navigation/Sensor Officer and the Mission Specialist (Comms and Weapons) directly behind them. It wasn't a particularly comfortable working environment and the crumple zone between the outer hatch and the crew's knees was minimal, which was the main reason the Starfarer 1 had been so cheap, but Jeb and the boys had worked with worse.
TABStill, they were fully suited up save for the Emergency Pressure Hoods, which could be pulled up and sealed in a matter of seconds. In the event of a collision, they'd be on their emergency air supply in under a minute.

TABNot that there was much danger of colliding with anything this far out, or so they hoped. The Starfarer 1 was scheduled to drop out of warp* on the outer fringes of the Zyrix system's sphere of influence, or at least their best estimate of where it began based on observations taken when they'd dropped briefly into normal space a week earlier. From that point on it was conventional rocket motors all the way; shutting the drive down launched a sort of omnidirectional particle beam as space dust caught up in the bubble was released, a phenomenon the KSA had long suspected but which was definitively and spectacularly confirmed by an unmanned test flight, which also rather firmly laid to rest the question of whether or not Eeloo counted as a proper planet. Further, much more cautious experimentation had established a minimum safe distance of roughly twenty-five million kilometres, and the phenomenon had been filed under "Useful To Know About" by the military and "Things We're Never Letting Jeb Try" by the KSA.

TAB"Transition in sixty seconds."
TAB"Roger that. De-spinning in three, two, one, mark. Hope you all remembered to stow your valuables, fellas."
TAB"Very funny, Jeb. Attitude control check."
TAB"Roger. We'll start with the reaction wheels. RCS to OFF, please."
TAB"RCS to OFF."
TABJeb worked his manual control joysticks to test pitch, roll and yaw. It was sluggish, but that was normal; reaction wheels were only really included aboard a ship this size as a backup. "Everything checks out. RCS to ON."
TAB"RCS to ON."
TABJeb repeated the process. "All looks good. Ready when you are, Scott."
TAB"Understood boss," Scott replied somewhat tinnily over the intercom. "Shutdown in three, two, one..."

TABThe transition back to normal space was anticlimatic when viewed from the inside, a dull thud and a brief flash of light and then the dull grey of "hyperspace"** was replaced by a regular starfield. "Well, we made it," Jeb said after a moment. "Starfarer 1 to KSA Barkton. Comms check, over."
TAB"Starfarer 1, this is KSA Barkton. Read you five by five. Sitrep, over." The voice sounded like it was coming down a very bad telephone line, to the point where Jeb couldn't even tell who it was on the other end, but it was there.
TAB"Starfarer 1 is at our arrival point. Position fix, uh... Stand by, over. Bill?"
TAB"Working on it." Bill bent over his console. "Right on the nose! Half a million kilometres short of Zyrix capture, position error's below the measurement threshold." Said measurement threshold was approximately the volume of Jool, position data in deep space being what it is, but at a distance of six lightyears that was the next best thing to a bullseye.
TAB"You hear that, Scott? Nice work. Starfarer 1 to KSA. Position is nominal, proceeding to injection burn. No further information yet, over."
TAB"Understood, Starfarer 1. You're on live TV all over Kerbin and most of the rest of the system, folks. Anything you wanna say, over?"
TABThere was an awkward silence. "Well don't look at me," Jeb grumbled. "I thought I'd get to blog something later. I mean, geez, what do you even say 'bout a moment like this?"
TAB"You managed alright when you landed on the Mun," Bob pointed out.
TAB"I had three days and not a whole lot else to do but think of a good speech!" Jeb protested.
TAB"Guys, we're on the air!" Kurt warned.
TAB"Don't worry about it, Starfarer 1. The TV guys say this is ratings gold. I think Hanfrod just facepalmed so hard he gave himself a black eye though, over."
TABBill gently banged his head on the console in front of him. "And we're off to a great start..."

* Look, don't blame me. Miguel Alcubierre got the whole idea from watching Star Trek in the first place!
** Anyone complaining that Star Trek calls it "subspace" can Google that word with Safe Search turned off and see if they can keep a straight face next time they hear it.


TABA short burst from the main engines put the Starfarer 1 in a loose elliptical orbit around Zyrix, and Bob and Kurt turned their various instruments on the inner system. "We're not going to get much at this distance," Jeb explained to a reporter back on Kerbin, having recovered some of his usual eloquence. "Mostly we're hoping we'll get some idea of the orbital periods and inclinations of the planets in the system so we can rendezvous with them when we're ready, or at least not have to burn a lot of fuel to avoid unplanned lithobraking." That got a polite chuckle. "Joking aside, that's a real problem right now; we're working with..." he checked his watch, "... A little over an hour and a half of observations where we'd normally have literally centuries of accumulated data to work with. However exciting it is to be here, that's not a very comfortable feeling."
TAB"I guess not. Anyway, Jeb, I guess the biggest question our viewers and listeners want to know the answer to is this: Are you hopeful that you'll meet aliens on this or future missions? And if you do, how will you greet them?"
TAB"Oh, that's a doozy. Right now, I'm cautiously optimistic. Kurt, can you tell the folks back home what you've been able to find out?"
TAB"Sure. Shortly after we arrived in-system, I pointed the high-gain antenna in the general direction of Zyrix and scanned back and forth a few degrees. We're too far out for any realistic chance of picking up a recognisable transmission, at this distance you'd need a radio-telescope array bigger than this whole ship and a supercomputer in the low exaflop range. But what I was looking for was high levels of static in the UHF and VHF radio bands, the same ones we use for communications. The reason for this is simple; physics are universal. Unless they've got some weird technobabble-powered telepathic hivemind going on or whatever, aliens are probably going to use technology that works on the same fundamental principles as ours, because they have to solve the same problems.
TAB"And guess what? There's a noticeably elevated level of static in those same bands compared to normal emissions from Kerbin. Now don't get too excited, because Zyrix is a whole different type of star to Kerbin and we've never seen one this close before, so this could be a totally natural phenomenon. But like Jeb said, it's definitely grounds to be cautiously optimistic."
TAB"Thanks Kurt. As for what I'll say if we do meet some aliens, well, I have absolutely no idea," Jeb replied. "Especially if they really are pink-skinned space babes..."
TAB"But if it ends up being 'Take us to your leader!' we're making him walk home!" Bill chipped in. Jeb made a rude gesture at him.
TAB"Thank you Bill. Any other questions?"
TAB"Sure. A listener calling themselves 'Zero from Kerbwick' just emailed in with this: 'What happens if something goes wrong? How soon can a resupply or backup ship come to pick you up?' That's a good question, given that we know there's at least one other ship fitted with an Alkerbierre Drive."
TAB"A while," Jeb replied. "It took us three months and change to achieve Kerbol escape, and even if we took the fastest route instead of the most fuel-efficient, I doubt we could have shaved much off that; someone at the Space Centre could probably give you a precise figure, but we'd be doing well if we could save more than thirty percent. Then there's the eight months it took to get this close to Zyrix, and probably another three months to get into the system proper where we're headed now. That's not to say it couldn't be done; we've got enough food to last us about three years if we're cautious, and our air and water should last almost indefinitely as long as the reprocessor doesn't pack up. But I really, really hope we don't have to try!"
TAB"Us neither, Jeb. Oh, yeah, one other question. Do you guys have a still set up yet?"
TABJeb snorted. "Not that I'm aware of. Guys?"
TAB"Bill's too uptight, Kurt and I wouldn't know how, and Scott wouldn't tell us if he had because Jeb locked him outside for two hours when he was drunk that one time."
TAB"Hey! He laughed at me 'cause I thought everyone was tuning me out!"
TAB"It was funny!"
TAB"For the love of... Guys, we are live on worldwide television!"
TAB"Don't worry, I got this." With the nonchalance of many years of practice, Bob placed one hand on the back of Bill's head, one on the back of Jeb's and brought them together with just enough force to startle them into shutting up without doing any actual damage.
TAB"Ow!"
TAB"Hey!"
TAB"Oh, so that's his secret," Kurt sighed.
TAB"Did he do what I think he did?"
TAB"Yes," Kurt sighed.
TAB"You're co-starring in the world's most expensive sitcom, do you know that?"
TAB"Yes," Kurt said, in haunted tones. "Yes, I do."

Intelligent Life

August 24th 2523, 23:45

Posted by: Jeb

Mood: Contemplative

Regular correspondent "Needley Kerman" wrote in the other day with this:

Quote:
Have you started to rev up any "Intelligent Life Detection Tools" of a sort on your ship, now that you're close enough to Zyrix? Also, did you find the dumplings which I packaged into Food-Container G1F7 yet? A bag of 10 for each of you. Trust me, I'm sure you'll like them. Just need to be steamed (they're frozen and compact right now).


Not yet, we're still on Row F at the moment, but thanks buddy! Anyway... Intelligent Life Detection Tools? Hah! If only it were that simple.

To be perfectly blunt, there is no 100% reliable method of detecting intelligent life. I did read a novel once that proposed scanning for the specific electromagnetic patterns created by brain activity back when I was in college; I forget the title now, but the idea stuck with me to the point where I asked around at the university SF&F Society, and a fellow member who was studying to be a radiography technician actually ended up writing a paper on it. Unfortunately, her conclusion was that it's a fascinating theory, but detecting it at inter-planetary ranges would take an MRI scanner roughly the size of Minmus.

So much for that, then. But surely finding evidence of technological civilisation should be a lot easier?

Well, theoretically, yes. Radio is one obvious sign, but as Kurt pointed out in last week's interview with KBS, we didn't pack a full radiotelescope array: We'll have to be no more than a couple of AUs from an inhabited planet before there's much chance our antennae will pick up anything we can unambiguously identify as comms traffic.
The other big one is drive plumes. This was the method everyone was talking about a few years back, when we thought anyone who made it to space would have to be content with accelerating massive generation ships -or sleeper ships if we ever got cryogenics to work- to a fraction of c and putting up with multi-decade journeys to neighbouring star systems. That approach might have worked, and indeed might still work if we're lucky, but the very existence of this ship calls it into question. Maybe not everyone is fortunate enough to have a weird wrinkle in space-time near the orbit of one of the more interesting bodies in their home system to give them a head-start, but the ol' Deep-Space Kraken only fleshed out a lot of stuff we already suspected.

Of course, there are supposedly ways of detecting warp bubbles as well, so who kn

TAB"What the...? Guys, you'd better come take a look at this!" Bob called out.

TABStarfarer 1's radar and scientific instruments could be controlled from any computer connected to the ship's intranet, including the crew's own laptops if they chose to plug them in. Bob had taken to working in the rec-room, citing the workflow benefits of having the coffee machine in easy reach instead of having to walk and/or float to and from the cockpit all the time.* Jeb, Bill and Kurt crowded around the table beside him so they could see the screen.
TAB"Whoa. I think we'd better add a zero to our estimates on the number of planets," Jeb remarked. "I count what, ten?"
TAB"Eleven, I think; I'm still figuring out which ones are planets and which are moons. But while I was doing that, I tied the main scope into the spectrometer. And it found this." He tapped a key, and each fuzzy sphere was overlaid by a false-colour display. An identical false-colour display, showing a distinctive greenish-blue that wasn't quite turquoise.
TAB"Does that mean what I think it means?" Kurt said slowly.
TAB"Oxygen and water vapour," Jeb replied. "Anything over about fifteen percent of each always shows up that colour when light reflects off it, just like you're on the ground looking up. It's a bit greener 'cause the spectrograph's more sensitive than our eyes, I think."
TAB"Something like that," Bob agreed.
TAB"And the odds of eleven separate bodies in a single solar system just happening to develop an oxygen atmosphere are?" Kurt continued, suspecting he already knew the answer to this one.
TAB"Miniscule," Bill replied. "Like, win the lottery twice in two weeks miniscule. Hell, having two's a big lucky break."**
TAB"So much for insurmountable logistical challenges," said Jeb, half to himself. "O...kay. Bill, extra-solar planets are your hobby, you'd better give Bob a hand. Kurt, get Barkton on the line and tell them to set up a conference call with the Council of Twelve, then warm up the high-gain antenna. Is Scott done fixing the intercom?"
TAB"No idea," Bill replied.
TAB"Never mind, I'll go get him. We're gonna have to circularise a whole lot further out than planned, I wanna double-check the numbers."

TABTheir mission hadn't really changed much, Jeb reflected as he descended the ladder from the habitat ring to the main body of the ship. Orbit at a safe distance, listen out and learn what they could from a distance before committing themselves to making landfall... "Scott? Scott, you in here?"
TABThe engine room, like most of the working areas of the ship, was large but crowded. Extra electrical cabling and coolant pipes had been bolted rather haphazardly to the bulkheads, deck and overhead, cutting into the already limited space to float between machinery Jeb could only vaguely identify. The reactor control room wasn't much roomier, its total space roughly the size of an ordinary suburban living room but its actual floor space -for want of a better word- closer to an office cubicle, the rest taken up with banks of monitoring equipment and metal tool cabinets. Scott had attempted to brighten the place up a bit with posters; not pin-ups, surprisingly, but reproductions of Wykebin Kermilt's famous Duna landscape paintings and a couple of similar Mun oils that Jeb didn't recognise.
TABThe distinctive sound of the zero-g head flushing startled Jeb out of his contemplation of this hitherto unsuspected aspect of Scott's character. The man himself emerged from the washroom off one end of the control room a moment later. "Oh, hi boss. Something up?"
TAB"You might say that." Jeb condensed their situation into a few terse sentences.
TAB"Bloody hell," Scott concluded. "I'm glad you came to me when you did, I just found out Primary Tank One's level indicator's on the blink. We should still be within projections but I'm going to have to go EVA and check it manually."
TABJeb nodded. "Get it squared away ASAP, then prep the ice-mining gear as soon as you're done. We might as well tank off now to be on the safe side."

TAB"We've got a nice big debris belt at about five AUs,*** about two degrees off our current inclination," Bob reported. "If I can find us a big enough rock to orbit we'll disappear into the background noise."
TAB"Try and pick one that doesn't have much worth mining in it," Jeb replied. "If they've got this many terraformed worlds then the odds are good they've got asteroid mining craft out there. Speaking of which, see if you can locate one with some ice. This next burn's gonna drop us below the fifty percent mark."
TAB"Got a couple good candidates already marked on the chart. One of them's big enough to use as cover."
TAB"Two birds with one stone. Nice going Bill. Scott?"
TAB"Mining rig's prepped and mounted on the lander, boss. Are you sure you want to handle this solo?"
TABJeb shrugged. "I'm the only one without a completely irreplaceable skill, unless you count blogging."

TABThe Kerman-Steadler "Homesteader" general-purpose lander was a derivative of the Pioneer series, and externally very similar: A Mk 1 Mod 5 capsule atop a tall FLT-800 fuel tank body, with four landing legs and a small LV-9 series engine. The design had been superceded by larger multi-crew vessels for exploration, so Kerman Aerospace Engineering (formerly Jebediah Kerman's Junkyard and Spaceship Parts Company) adapted it as a short-range tug and utility craft, fitting a small docking clamp in place of the braking parachute and adding a bank of RCS thrusters and modular attachment points for external stores. Optional extras included a winch with three hundred metres of cable, a refuelling hose to enable the lander to act as a buddy-tanker, radial drogue chutes for emergency landings and leather seats for rich idiots to impress other rich idiots with.****

TABJeb settled into the pilot's seat, shoving a duffel bag containing his laptop and a packed lunch into an overhead locker. Then he looked up again, to confirm that yes, he really had just seen that.
TAB"Scott? Are these [ulr=http://robotpress.blogspot.co.uk/2006/01/fuzzy-d20s-for-your-rearview-mirror.html]fuzzy d20s[/url] yours?"
TAB"Oh, yeah, meant to tell you. Can you take a picture of 'em at some point? They're from my mates at uni, we've got a contest going to see who can have their dice photographed in the most exotic locations."
TABJeb chuckled. "Yeah, sure. What's the prize?"
TAB"This year? Bottle of plonk and a hundred keros in gift vouchers."
TAB"Well, I'd love to see your buddies try and top this location. Preflight checks complete, decoupling."

TABThe asteroid was some four kilometres long by two wide, a vaguely lozenge-shaped lump of grey-brown rock with a large patch of dirty ice near the equator. "I'll grab some samples for the lab, but in the meantime, my semi-educated guess would be that it got T-boned by a comet a few million years back," Jeb remarked, watching the radar altimeter. "One minute to braking burn."
TAB"Copy that. We're right behind you."
TAB"Oh, that's reassuring," Jeb muttered.

TABThe refuelling operation was conceptually quite simple. Jeb would bore a shaft about thirty metres deep with the drilling rig, then lower a unidirectional microwave emitter to the bottom and lock one end of the refuelling hose onto the mouth of the shaft. When he threw the switch, the microwaves would melt the ice and the water would be pumped aboard the Starfarer 1 to be filtered.

TABThe main complicating factor was that Starfarer 1 only had five hundred metres of refuelling hose, a little over one ship-length. They could manufacture more if they had to, but the raw materials were also in limited supply and synthesising more on-site was beyond the capabilities of their equipment. Extremely careful ship-handling was going to be called for, especially since they'd retracted every radiator that wasn't on the direct opposite side of the ship from the refuelling port and would therefore have to use a gentle hand on the throttle.

TAB"Braking burn in three, two, one... Mark." Jeb throttled up to just above ten percent. He also needed to use a gentle hand on the throttle, because while their equipment was up to synthesising the gasoline/kerosene mix that the lander and spaceplane used for fuel, it took a hell of a lot of power and production averaged five litres a week. Not that something this size needed a lot of thrust to set down on; this rock's gravity was so slight he could land and take off with nothing but RCS thrusters in a pinch.

TABThe lander touched down a bit harder than Jeb would have liked, tilting slightly as the gear settled into the ground. "Surface is kinda loose," he remarked, as much to fill the sudden silence as anything else.
TAB"Nothing the drilling rig can't handle. We're on station, ready when you are."
TAB"Understood. Preparing for EVA." He'd suited up before boarding, so all he needed to do was seal the helmet and pump the air in the cabin back into the tanks. Five minutes later, he was stepping off the ladder.

TABStepping onto any newly discovered orbiting body for the first time should have been an exciting moment, but unfortunately, once you have stood upon the face of one asteroid you have to a great extent stood upon them all. "Nothing out of the ordinary to report, at least so far," Jeb reported. Then he sighed. "I'm the first Kerbal, maybe the first sentient being, to ever set foot on this rock and nothing's out of the ordinary. Maybe I really am getting too old for this."
TAB"Eh, asteroids are asteroids. If you're still feeling this way when we hit one of the inhabited worlds then you've got a problem," Bill replied cheerfully.
TAB"Point. Anyhow, let's get this done." Jeb carefully picked his way towards the storage container bolted to the Homsteader's outer hull, mindful of his footing; in this gravity he could end up putting himself in orbit if he wasn't careful, and the others would be laughing at him for weeks if he didn't slam into a hill and break his neck-

TAB"Holy shit!" Bill yelled. Jeb all but jumped clean out of his skin and grabbed one of the Homesteader's landing legs to prevent himself taking off like a rocket. "Sitrep!" he barked, once he'd got his breathing and heart-rate under enough control to speak. "What's going on up there, people?" Whatever it was, if Bill of all people was resorting to foul language then it was serious.
TAB"Something just lit us up on radar," Kurt replied, speaking like he was afraid of being overheard. "Can't tell where it is without powering up. Not sure if we've been picked up or not."
TAB"Son of a bitch," Jeb breathed.

TABA million kilometres away, the Longbow-class "Patrol Cruiser" -what the Kerbals and most human surface navies would call a frigate- IAV Fredicksson adjusted its orbit slightly to avoid another asteroid.

TABThe bridge was uncomfortably silent. It had been communicated to the crew rather bluntly that the fugitives they were seeking had personally embarrassed a number of senior elected officials... and worse, regular campaign contributors to senior elected officials, so failure to carry out their assigned task would be a career-limiting experience.
TABAt last, the sensor officer spoke up. "Radar contact at extreme range, bearing zero-six-zero degrees, inclination positive seven. No transponder."
TAB"Any chance it's our Firefly?" the captain replied, sounding almost painfully hopeful.
TAB"Not certain yet sir. Trying to get a visual fix now." The young officer bent to her console for a few moments, then swore softly. "Negative. Damned if I can tell what it is, in fact."
TAB"Punch it up on my screen." The captain examined the blurry but recognisable outlines of a long and boxy vessel sporting what looked like a gravity wheel. "Huh. That's gotta be Exodus-era at least. Derelict?"
TAB"Hard to say at this range, sir, but its infrared output's negligible; could be waste heat from a failed reactor."
TABThe captain nodded. "Log its position. Someone ought to take a look at some point, but right now we have more pressing concerns. Like our pensions." The laughter that followed was rather forced.


* Jeb had taken the opportunity to calculate Bob's daily caffeine intake, and the results had explained quite a bit.
** Laythe's inexplicably habitable status was the subject of much bafflement to the Kerbals until the third probe fly-by proved conclusively that it had a magnetosphere and thus a partially-liquid iron core, rare for a body of its size and speculatively attributed to high concentrations of fissile materials forming a natural nuclear reactor.
*** Yet another approximate translation, because the Kerbal equivalent of an Astronomical Unit is approximately 10% shorter than ours.
**** Nobody in Marketing had realised Jeb had been kidding about that last one, but by the time he pointed this out they'd had five clients request it.


TAB"We dodged a bullet there," said Scott. "Maybe literally if that thing was a warship. I don't know how they didn't see us."
TAB"We're only half a klick from the surface of the asteroid," Kurt pointed out. "They'd have to have really lousy radar firmware to miss us at that range, but it's possible." He snorted. "Happens to us in the Air Force often enough."
TAB"Infrared cameras wouldn't have told 'em much at this range either," Bob added. "We had everything but RCS, passive scanners and the radar altimeter shut down. I don't know about the locals, but if they're around the same level we're at back on Kerbin you'd need some pretty specialist gear to pick us up, bulky as well as expensive."
TAB"The other possibility is, they did see us but didn't have the delta-V to investigate at the time," Jeb replied. "If we're lucky, they figured we're local asteroid miners with a bad transponder, but you all know my views on trusting anything to luck. As soon as we're done tanking off I want us rigged for silent running. Full EMCON, everything non-essential offline. We'll run the instruments in shifts for now, but as soon as we get a solid radio signal that takes priority; we can probably get better numbers just by asking the locals once we can understand each other."
TAB"Better break out the thermal underwear then," Scott sighed.

TABThis is one of the things the movies nearly always got wrong when I was younger, Jeb wrote in his blog a couple of days later, huddled in several blankets over almost every potentially warming item of clothing he'd packed. I think one of our space program's most under-appreciated achievements is forcing science-fiction filmmakers to raise their game when it comes to doing the research.

TABHe took a long, warming swig of coffee. And yet here I am, wrapped in about four layers and slowly losing sensation in several small but very important bits of me. Ain't that a kick in the head?
TABThe reason is simple, of course. The onboard radiators are designed to maintain a pleasant twenty-four Celsius in the ship's interior when we're running a 400MW nuclear reactor, a small university's worth of advanced scientific instruments, a modest server farm and five nuclear-thermal rocket motors. At time of writing we're down to one server and the high-gain antenna; I can't tell you an exact temperature at the moment, mostly because finding out would entail getting out from under the covers, but Scott actually had to throttle the pumps down earlier because he found ice in the toilet. Glamorous job this astronaut malarkey!


* * *

TABThe captain of the IAV Fredricksson had just given up on professionalism and started reading an ebook on his console when the sensor officer smacked her forehead and cursed under her breath. "Captain? I just realised something. That old ship we thought was a derelict... It had an old-school habitat wheel, didn't it."
TAB"Looked like it. Why?"
TAB"Well, if you factor in the lack of a grav envelope, their infrared is way above the threshold for working life-support. Sorry, sir."
TABThe captain sighed. "Don't worry about it, lieutenant, I should've thought of that too. Well, nothing we can do about it now, we haven't got the fuel to double back. Besides, if they knew anything useful I doubt they would have told us. Nobody else this far out but fundie whackjobs, wanted fugitives and Browncoat bitter-enders."
TAB"And Reavers," the navigator muttered darkly. The captain gave him a sharp look, but didn't make an issue of it.

TABAfter all, the man did have a point.

* * *

Anyway, onto the questions. Reader "K9 The First" writes:

Quote:
Hey Jeb! What was it like when you realized the Eve Mission rocket wasn't attached mid-launch?


Oh, yeah. Our first, and in all probability last, manned Eve mission. I might've known somebody would bring that clusterfuck up sooner or later.

Anyway, for the benefit of anyone too young to remember this all going down on live TV, at about the time we were preparing to execute our gravity turn we discovered that the control linkage to the Number Three engine had failed. That meant no throttle control, no thrust vectoring and worst of all, no idea if the booster was still physically attached.
Well, the launch escape system was off the table; with no way to cut the throttle there was a pretty good chance the damaged booster would either slam into us or melt the capsule with its exhaust. We could either blow the bolts on the hatch and try to bail out manually, hoping our emergency thruster packs could carry us clear of the rocket exhausts, or we could hold on tight and try to nurse the ship up past the tropopause for an Abort to Orbit.

What was it like? Terrifying, that's what. For the first time in my whole career I really thought, "We're not going to make it home this time." I like to think I did an okay job of hiding it; the habits of highly effective airline pilots and all that-

TABThe intercom panel bleeped. Jeb set his laptop aside and reluctantly crawled out from beneath the nest of blankets to grab the handset. "Yeah?"
TAB"Kurt here. You'd better come down to the messroom, skipper, I've got a signal!"
TAB"On my way!"

TAB"We just came into its line of sight," Kurt explained. "Directional microwave in the Ku-band, pretty wide-angled so it's not a direct ship-to-shore comms beam. Probably multiple installations on the inner edge of the asteroid belt receiving transmissions from the same uplink station. I can't tell you much about the content without a lot of mainframe time, but I don't think it's military or government comms traffic; they'd use tight-beam links for anything confidential and it wouldn't be continuous. My working hypothesis right now is satellite TV."
TABJeb grinned. "Jackpot. Warm up the rest of the servers, but zip up as much of the raw data as you can to send home, Barkton'll want to turn the backroom boys on it as well."
TAB"That's going to push our heat signature up a lot, boss," Scott warned, though he didn't sound all that unhappy about it.
TAB"We'll have to take that risk. That line-of-sight won't last forever, and this is our best chance to learn something about the locals before they find us."

TABAliens pirating cable TV to learn about another, pre-First Contact culture is one of those tropes that's reached cliche status in spite -or perhaps because- of the fact it makes a good deal of sense. If you can intercept the signal (which is harder than it sounds if you're not dealing with a truly spacefaring civilisation like the Kerbals or post-Exodus humanity) then you can learn just about anything about their society. Languages, culture, religious and political beliefs; probably just about every facet of a sentient race's psychological makeup can be extrapolated from their broadcast media.

TABThis is one of the many, many reasons why Bob Kerman is a staunch advocate of public funding for television and radio programming.

* * *

TABAdmiral Mang Liu, officer commanding the Alliance Navy's Fifth Fleet, was on his eighth report and his third antacid when his adjutant (the admiral refused to describe himself as having a secretary) tapped on the door.
TAB"Lieutenant Commander Derek Tarrant to see you, sir."
TAB"Tarrant...? Oh, yeah, the Fredicksson's captain. Send him in, chief."
TAB"Sir."

TABDerek Tarrant was tall and lean, with a riot of naturally curly brown hair. He would have been good-looking if it wasn't for the haunted look in his eyes and the dark smudges under them. "You wanted to see me, sir?" he said slowly.
TAB"Come on in, captain. I saw your report. There was nothing more you could have done for those colonists, and those abominations will never be a threat to anyone else again."
TAB"I know sir. It doesn't stop the bad dreams. And we took out one ship, out of how many?" He sighed. "Well, we're not denying the Reavers even exist anymore, I guess that's a start."
TAB"Quite. Anyway, what I wanted to talk to you about was that unidentified Exodus-era derelict that might not have been so derelict after all."
TAB"Sir?"
TAB"It piqued my curiosity," the Admiral admitted, "so I had the photo-recon team at Naval Intelligence take a look at your sensor records and see if they could identify it. They put it through every image-enhancement algorithm they'd got, and came back with this." He handed Tarrant a print-out showing two pictures, a grainy, high-contrast version of a still frame from the Fredricksson's long-range optics and an "artist's impression" sketch that was rather clearer. It looked pretty much how he'd expected; a stubby cylinder with several thick spokes radiating outwards to a wheel at the centreline; remove the solar panels and radiators tagged with question-marks, presumably to indicate that their number and configuration were guesswork, and it resembled nothing so much as the front wheel of the tricycle he'd owned in fourth grade.
TAB"I don't know how good a ship-spotter you are," Admiral Liu continued, "but my first posting out of the academy was manning the harbour telescope at Osiris Station. They beat visual recognition techniques into our heads there after an Independent cruiser squawking false codes pasted a bunch of ground installations, never forgot it. That thing's not in any of the books. In fact, if the backroom boys are right then Exodus-era might be lowballing its age; shipbuilders went over to two contra-rotating grav-wheels to even out the torque pretty early on."
TAB"So it was a clunker pulled out of mothballs because the governments back on Earth-That-Was needed everything even half-way spaceworthy they could lay hold of for Operation Seed Corn." Tarrant tried, not entirely successfully, to keep a note of irritation out of his tone. "Sir, may I ask precisely where you're going with this?"
TAB"I'm not entirely sure," the Admiral admitted. "But the fact is, captain, you've presented me with a mystery. A mystery in an orbit that takes it uncomfortably close to several populated worlds. I think it bears further investigation, and I want you to check it out as soon as your ship returns to the belt." He smiled wryly. "Besides, they might know where the Tam siblings are."
TABCaptain Tarrant's expression might have been described as a smile, but only if you were feeling charitable. His feelings towards his political leadership had been ambivalent trending towards negative for some time, and his most recent cruise out in the Belt had not improved them at all. "Understood, sir."

* * *

TAB"What we're using today," Jeb said into his lapel mic as he floated along the racks of computer hardware, "is a variant of something called the Von Gruhn process. It's named for a software engineer and data security consultant by the name of Melzer Von Gruhn -no relation to our own Wehrner, by the way- who came up with a method of reading the screen of a computer from a distance. The principle is fairly simple, actually; every TV screen emits a tiny amount of electromagnetic radiation in the RF band... Or sometimes a not-so-tiny one, as computer enthusiasts of my generation and older might be aware. Get yourself a sensitive enough receiver to listen in at a long distance, apply a fairly moderate amount of processor power by today's standards, and you can theoretically perform screen-captures from several hundred yards away.
TAB"Von Gruhn never got his prototype apparatus working well enough to be any use for espionage, and it's pretty easy to shield electronics against that kind of signal leakage anyway, but he did discover that the process works equally well in reverse. Given enough time, our software can tell us exactly what kind of equipment this signal's intended to be displayed on, and even convert it into something comprehensible on our screens."
TAB"It can't help us with anything that requires an encryption key, however," Kurt added. "In fact, we're not actually going to attempt any codebreaking if we can avoid it; being caught snooping on encrypted communications would not get our relationship with the locals off to a good start, even if all we were doing was pirating premium-rate cable."
TAB"Which is a shame, really, because I've always thought you can learn a great deal about a culture from its... ahem, premium-rate cable, quote unquote," Jeb quipped.
TAB"Can you tell we've been away from home for a very long time?" Kurt sighed. "I'm just glad we learned from the mistakes of early explorers and agreed not to name anything officially until we get home."
TAB"I still say that crater on that dwarf planet looked exactly like a girl's... Well, I can't say that word on television, so use your imagination."*
TAB"Thank you, Jeb. Anyway, we expect to have some results by the morning, so we'll tape another segment as and when we have something noteworthy. This is Kurt McKerjel and Jeb Kerman for KBS News, signing off."
TAB"Well, that was an easy twenty keros," Bob remarked, turning off the handheld camera. Due to a technicality in the relevant employment laws, any content they recorded for the news networks by themselves had to be paid for at the same piece-rate a freelance journalist would receive. Strictly speaking this only applied if they were in front of the camera, but they'd agreed to split it between the five of them.
TAB"So long as they air it," Kurt agreed, shooting Jeb a weary look. "Well, you guys might want to go get some coffee or something. This is gonna take a while."
TAB"Alright. You want some?"
TAB"Great Kerm yes!"

TABHe had a long and not very comfortable wait ahead of him, strapped into a seat at the server farm's workstation rather than moving to the relative comfort of the gravity wheel because the ship's intranet couldn't handle large video files. The first phase was down to the computer, sifting through the raw signal looking for patterns. After a few minutes of watching an hourglass turn over on the screen**, he plugged the base unit of his smartglasses into the terminal and accessed the book he'd been reading; using the glasses and a regular monitor both at once gave him eyestrain.

TABAbout an hour later, a plastic bottle of coffee drifted into his field of view. He caught it expertly and looked up to see Jeb at the door. "Thanks buddy. You timed that right, we've got definite progress." He brought up a window on his screen that resembled a mosaic of abstract art pictures. "Definitely an analogue transmission, with eighty-six separate channels. One of which has been broadcasting the exact same thing the whole time we've been recording."
TAB"Test pattern?" Jeb guessed.
TAB"That's what my money's on. Right now the computer's trying different combinations of scan-lines and colour palettes looking for something coherent. It's kind of a brute-force method but it should get us something eventually."
TAB"Good. Keep me informed."

* * *

Blue Sun Inquiry Chairperson Named As Reagan Tam Makes Impassioned Appeal For Her Children's Return

The long-awaited public inquiry into the activities undertaken by the Blue Sun Corporation and elements of Alliance Military Intelligence is to be chaired by former Justice Secretary Edward Lee, a Parliamentary spokesman annoued today. Mr Lee was unavailable for interview, but released the following written statement:

The people of the Alliance will no doubt be aware that I have argued strongly for the actions of Blue Sun and their cohorts within our government to be immediately subjected to a criminal investigation by the Federal Marshals. My opinion has not changed, but in the spirit of compromise I have consented to chair a full Parliamentary Inquiry with representatives of all parties. The selection process for the board is currently ongoing and I prefer not to comment on possible candidates at this time.

And to the families of the victims I make only one promise. When I graduated from the police academy I swore an oath to God that I would respect and uphold the law in letter and in spirit. I have upheld that vow to the best of my ability, first as an officer of the law and later as a member of the legislature, and I do not intend to break it now. I will see justice done.

Relatives of the children who attended the Blue Sun Academy welcomed the sentiments, but it remains to be seen whether Mr Lee can fit the deed to the word.

Meanwhile, Mrs Reagan Tam made a tearful public appearance on ANN News earlier this morning imploring her children to contact her. "I realise they both have many good reasons to be angry," she told the Morning Team, "but I hope they will at least let me tell them to their faces that I am sorry."


* We're not getting into the nitty-gritty of Kerbal reproductive biology in this story, but it didn't look remotely like anything a human reader is thinking of. Make of that what you will.
** There's a finite number of feasible visual metaphors for "this may take some time", so it might actually be more surprising to find an alien species that hasn't hit on this one.


TAB"It looks like a cross between a snowstorm and a kaleidoscope."
TAB"The locals watch stuff like this for fun?"
TAB"Well, it could be a documentary on avant-garde graphic design or something."
TAB"I told you, it's a test pattern. And unless their taste in art is really weird, it's also a test pattern that needs to be decompressed before it'll show properly... Aha!" An over-saturated, somewhat grainy but still quite recognisable image came up on the big screen.
TAB"Son of a bitch. They really are pink-skinned space babes!" Jeb laughed.
TAB"Maybe when they grow up. Assuming that the one on the left is the actual alien..."
TAB"I think that's a safe assumption. That said, they do look remarkably similar to us; bipedal, two eyes, opposable thumb... One extra finger, I think. Is that writing on that board, d'you reckon?"
TAB"Maybe. Could be some kind of game like linethree."
TAB"Either way, we've got eighty-five channels, so let's come back to this." Kurt tapped a key, and the picture was replaced by... Well, it took a moment to figure out what they were looking at.
TAB"Is this what I think it is?" Bob said slowly, tilting his head slightly to get a better view.
TAB"Yes. Yes, it is."
TAB"Oh. Well, that's... different."
TAB"No pouches?"
TAB"Looks like. I'm guessing they nurse externally. Male equivalents are vestigal, maybe?"
TAB"More pigment variation than us too."
TAB"Hmmm. A certain amount of creativity might be required, but I don't see any insurmountable compatibility issues so far. That's worth knowing."
TAB"You haven't been laid in far too long, have you?"
TAB"Moving on!" Kurt said firmly. "Hmmm. That one seems to be shut off for the night, so does that one..."
TAB"Say. If we can figure out what those numbers mean -I think they're numbers, anyway- we might have a clue which planet's their homeworld," Bill pointed out.
TAB"If we're lucky, we'll find a children's TV network on here so we can just ask them a few months down the line."
TAB"Wonder how many languages they've got, anyway?"
TABKurt peered at the screen. "Well, from looking at what I'm assuming is a 'This Channel Will Return At 9AM' message, I reckon there's a minimum of three commonly spoken ones." He flipped channels again. "Huh. Looks like they do rolling news too." Apart from the language being spoken and the race of the newsreader, it looked so similar in concept and presentation that it would have been fairly unremarkable on a Kerbin cable network, although the locals apparently preferred a horizontally-scrolling headline ticker along the bottom rather than a column down the left-hand side as was the fashion back home. A panel of four local worthies -it wasn't clear if they were politicians, academics or some other form of celebrity- were debating back-and-forth with great apparent passion, while a fifth who appeared to be a studio employee attempted to mediate.
TABJust at the point where a fight appeared to be breaking out the camera rather abruptly cut to the anchor, then to some sort of whatever-they-called-themselves interest report on what appeared to be an amateur sports team.
TAB"Well, they do say it's a sign of a healthy democracy," Scott remarked. "Hey, that looks a bit like shepherdball."
TAB"You mean there's two races in the universe willing to play that game? Dear Kerweh..."
TAB"Oi!"



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 10:36am
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Just saying that yeah, the image in the first chapter breaks the tables pretty badly. Otherwise, I will be reading this with much enthusiasm...

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 11:03am
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Damn. Sorry, guys, I got away with it when I posted elsewhere and I thought it was just my netbook's screen that was having a problem when I posted last night.

Huh. No edit window in User Fiction? That's useful to know.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 11:22am
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Yaaaay!

Hm. I bet the first space elevator ever would be getting blueprinted for Duna; Ike's presence as a conveniently placed moon in planetary synchronous orbit is just too helpful to ignore.

[There are good reasons not to have an edit window here; people routinely go back and fix drafts. Plus, this forum isn't used so much for debates, and the original reason for the tight edit window was to keep people from going back and changing what they'd said after someone else had already quoted it in a debate.]

EDIT: Also, it is good to know that while Kerbals share the same dreams as humanity, they never, ever lose their sense of humor.

EDIT Mk II: Although I'd think even the Kerbals would have thought about a first contact protocol before making the trip.

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 11:59am
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They did think about it, but as we'll see in the next chapter, the only plan they could come up with from several lightyears away was "observe and report from a covert distance and we'll figure out the rest when we know more about the locals". They were expecting them to be a bit more... well, alien.

And Duna would certainly be the easiest planet to build a space elevator on, but it's also arguably the planet that least needs one given the low gravity and (currently) thin atmosphere. At any rate, their materials science still has a little way to go before they can present it to the relevant grants committees as shovel-ready.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 12:03pm
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The other main advantage of a space elevator is that it scales very well (you can just keep adding more strands until you're hoisting thousand-ton payloads, in principle). While Duna has low surface gravity and a thin atmosphere so that leaving the planet is easy, there are still practical limits on the size of the landers and launchers that move cargo onto and off the surface.

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 12:20pm
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True. At any rate, it probably won't come up in this story except as something that's on the to-do list once carbon nanotubes and/or some of the more interesting zero-g alloys are cheaper to mass-produce.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 06:22pm
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I'm enjoying it so far; I do wonder about the relative militancy, or lack of it, of the Kerbals though. I did pop over to read the sort of prequel; very nice worldbuilding but the human impulse to space, in Firefly or in reality, came out of some pretty barbaric circumstances that just don't seem to have been there for the little green guys.

They had something else instead, and this may make them nicer beings, and worth rooting for- I disagree on the alienicity; compared to the Alliance (or at least the decision making levels of it) they are very alien and better for it- but in a 'verse full of things like reavers, and government sick and cynical enough to create them, they are going to need all their wits to survive.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Considering what was laid out in the thread in OSF, does the first phase of the story end with Starfarer One towing Firefly back to Kerbin?
.

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 07:08pm
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You know, that's going to come up actually. I am bound and determined that the Kerbals will not come off as a smug Mary Suetopia; they had their share of wars and tyrants and suffering too. And sure, humanity trashed their own planet pretty thoroughly as a result of their own bad judgement, but they survived and they've even prospered in their new home thank to sheer bloody-minded refusal to give up. If the Kerbals are Space Elves, and I really hope they aren't, humanity are Space Wolfriders.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
And not exactly. In fact, I don't plan for Jeb and company to meet the crew of Serenity in this volume at all, and they're actually nowhere near the Belt anyway. I did at one point plan on ending the scene where Starfarer 1 is nearly spotted with a POV switch to our heroes watching from underneath some asteroid-pattern camo netting, but I couldn't think of anything interesting to do with it and came up with something much funnier.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 09:44pm
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It seems to have been easier for the little green guys; humans (apparently) didn't have bizarre deep-space anomalies in their system that allow them to unlock the secrets of warp drive.

My picture of the Kerbals is that they are capable of the normal allotment of violence and internecine conflict- it fails to surprise me that they have a substantial force of lightly armed spacecraft to patrol their own booming space effort. You could make a reasonable case that they are, roughly, what and where we expected to be in the year 2000 or 2020... from the perspective of 1950.

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-12 10:09pm
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Actually, now you mention it that kind of fits. They're perhaps a little more European than North American in their outlook, though; in the backstory I've roughed out, rather than two huge world wars with twenty years of uneasy peace in the middle, they had about forty small to medium-sized ones with no more than a few months of peace at a time across a roughly similar length of time that only ended when a couple of countries developed atomic weapons roughly simultaneously. Bit of a toss-up who was worse off there, really, and almost every country has had firsthand experience of being invaded. They also ended up a lot more multi-polar than us, with five or six competing alliances on a roughly equal footing rather than our East-West dichotomy.

Of course, I haven't got to some of the weirder aspects of Kerbal society. And biology, for that matter. Check out the link at the top of the page for more details.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-13 06:21am
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This is an interesting read and I love the firefly/serenity crossover. You have also got me interested in playing KSP better then anything the developer has done.



MCITNAA

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-13 01:16pm
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Not really happy with this, but it's just going to have to do. And fair warning, InsaneTD; I'm playing very fast and loose with the game mechanics.

TABCaptain Derek Tarrant had never been the most even-tempered of men. He had enough self-discipline to keep it from being a career-limiting issue, with one or two unfortunate lapses over the years that had largely been smoothed over thanks to his prior service record, but he definitely had a short fuse. And the presence of a small and noticeably unmarked ship of uncertain design currently keeping station a kilometre off his command's starboard bow was about to light it.
TAB"Admiral," he said in the blandly inquiring tone he normally used as his opening gambit against a subordinate brought before him on Captain's Defaulters, "what is that ship doing here?"
TABAdmiral Liu had the decency to look embarrassed. "Civilian specialists attached to the taskforce courtesy of Blue Sun Corporation. They claim to have... assets that can assist us in locating the fugitives."
TABComprehension dawned. "You mean an Academy graduate."
TAB"They wouldn't give me a straight answer on that, which probably means yes."
TABYou could almost hear the match being struck. "Sir," Captain Tarrant said coldly, "do you mean to tell me that one of the children who had their brains butchered by those sociopaths is-?"
TAB"I don't like it either," the admiral replied. "Orders came in from on high, and between you and me it was strongly hinted that if I wouldn't stand for it then I'd be replaced by a taskforce commander who would."
TAB"I see. Please excuse me, Admiral, I have something to attend to. Mister Peterson, you have the conn." Captain Tarrant spun on his heel and strode into his ready-room, a small office just off the Combat Information Centre that he fondly imagined was soundproof. There was a tremendous crash, followed by the Captain yelling every swearword in every language he knew. Him being a career naval officer, this was quite a lengthy process.
TAB"Still working on his little anger management issue, hmmm?" remarked Admiral Liu, who'd been on the promotion board that appointed Tarrant to the Fredricksson and knew all about his short fuse.
TAB"Oh, I wouldn't say that, sir," the Executive Officer remarked loyally. There was another crash. "Quartermaster might not agree though."
TAB"Someone should really tell him we can hear him out here, you know."
TAB"Might be so, sir. But unless you make it an order, it sure as hell ain't gonna be one of us does it. Maybe not even if you do make it an order, truth be told."
TAB"Well, since I'm not in the business of ordering my subordinates to do things I wouldn't do myself, let us never speak of this again."
TAB"Aye sir."

TABThe small and rather motley taskforce broke orbit as soon as favourable orbit conditions permitted. The Fredricksson was the only capital ship; between anti-Reaver operations on the frontier and steadily increasing civil unrest the Navy was stretched thin. Six Davis-class patrol boats and a single Victoria-class corvette were all that could be spared, along with a Fleet tanker and logistics ship taken up from the Naval Reserve... and the civilian vessel, which lacked any exterior markings and was painted a shade of matte black that blended in so perfectly with the Black-with-a-capital-B, one swiftly began to doubt that it was a paint job at all. A couple of ratings on lookout duty swore up and down they'd glimpsed a star shining through it, and when one of the gun crews tried to use it to check the calibration of their laser rangefinder the targeting computer consistently spat out an error message, even after they took the whole system apart and inspected every last component for wear or damage. Nobody dared turn a searchlight on it.

TABThe practical upshot of which was that by the time some of its crew -or passengers; it wasn't really clear what they did over there- deigned to come aboard the IAV Fredricksson for consultation, Captain Tarrant was thoroughly creeped out as well as righteously pissed off. The Blue Sun corporation's representatives did very little to improve his opinion of them.
TABThey were so nondescript it was a little unnerving, their conservatively cut grey suits and slicked-back hair almost pathologically neat and their accents lacking anything that might hint at their place of origin. The only splash of colour anywhere on them was the inexplicable blue latex gloves. Captain Tarrant was sure there was a reason for those, and equally sure he didn't ever want to find out what that reason was.

TABThis was going to be a long meeting.

TABThe two... executives? Security Service agents? T-850 infiltration androids? God only knew... played a video file of a teenage girl rather brutally taking down several much larger and older men on the screen in the conference room. "This is the typical combat performance of an Academy graduate," said the one who'd introduced himself as Mr Brown. "Those men are from the Pathfinder Company of the Army Rangers, all handpicked for their unarmed combat prowess."
TAB"Very impressive," replied Captain Tarrant, not bothering to sound even slightly impressed.
TAB"They had to be," replied the one who'd introduced himself as Mr Green, "if they were to have a chance against the Reavers."
TAB"So to fight one set of monsters that they created by accident, Blue Sun decided the best solution was to create another set of monsters on purpose. Right." Tarrant sighed. "Have I mentioned how glad I am that I don't own any shares in your company?"
TAB"The children of the Academy were originally going to be trained for combating more... conventional threats to the stability of the Alliance," replied Brown, either genuinely not recognising the scathing tone or choosing to ignore it. "When we realised that the Miranda experiment had fallen afoul of unintended consequences, we had to use whatever we had available."
TAB"And 'had' available is the operative word thanks to Captain Reynolds and his associates," Green continued. "This isn't just about the property damage and the theft of corporate assets," by which he meant teenage children placed in indentured servitude through deception and horribly tortured and experimented on, "it places every Alliance citizen at increased risk from the Reavers and conventional subversives. Those children represent the most powerful force for security and order that the Alliance has ever had."

TABYou had to credit the bastards with honesty, Tarrant reflected, with a mixture of abject horror and extremely grudging respect. No sugar-coating, no euphemisms like "peace" or "rule of law" or even "public safety"; nothing but the unvarnished and terrible truth. The regime will be preserved at all costs. Dissent cannot be permitted.
TABThey aren't even going to stop at blanket electronic surveillance anymore, he thought to himself, thinking of laws established long before the Exodus and more honoured in the breach even then. They'll have those poor kids scanning people's gorram brains to root out anyone getting funny ideas. IngSoc'd be jealous as hell.

TAB"So you've created an exceptionally powerful weapon and then lost control of it. We get it. Now how in the hell do you suggest we get it back?" Admiral Liu said coldly.
TAB"Bluntly, Admiral? You can't. The subliminal command-codes we implanted have almost certainly started breaking down by now, and even if River Tam's brother knows about them it's unlikely he'd be pragmatic enough to reinforce them; more likely he'd try to get rid of them completely. You might be able to subdue her with less-lethal weapons, but she's been conditioned to resist sonic stun weapons and her pain-tolerance has been raised to the point where baton rounds would have seriously diminshed effectiveness." A tiny hint of a smile broke through Green's poker face. "Our employers were extremely thorough."
TABThe water glass Captain Tarrant happened to be raising to his lips at that moment shattered abruptly. "Ow! Son of a bitch!" Tarrant grabbed a napkin and tried to stem the sudden flow of blood from the ball of his thumb. "Excuse me, please?"

TABThe two Academy employees shared a worried look. "I'm not certain of that man's reliability, Admiral," said Brown. "You may wish to make contingency plans in case he becomes unstable. Or more unstable, anyway."
TAB"Quite," Liu replied, through his teeth. "Will that be all, gentlemen...? Hmmm. One further question. If your Academy graduates were all scattered across the 'Verse when their campus got trashed, precisely what assets are you contributing to this mission?"
TAB"I'm sorry," replied Green, "but that's both a trade secret and covered by the Official Secrets Act. All information is on a strict need-to-know basis."
TAB"I had a feeling you'd say that."

TABHe found Tarrant in the sickbay, his hand wrapped in bandages. "CMO had to put a stitch in it," he explained. "And he kept giving me this look. Maybe I should go to that anger-management class when I get some shore leave."
TAB"Don't sweat it, son, those two could make the Buddha's piss boil. Pity the tape was a bust." The admiral removed an elderly and probably quite valuable microcassette recorder of early 21st century manufacture from an inside pocket. Tarrant had no idea where he'd got hold of the thing, much less a modern replica tape, but it was a damn good idea; anyone scanning his body for electronic devices probably wouldn't have known what it was, so the Men in Grey probably didn't know they were being recorded.

TABWhich didn't mean they didn't suspect it, it seemed. "Nothing we can use so far," Liu declared as he played it back. "They've gotta figure we don't like having wiseass civilians telling us what to do, maybe they even did their homework and figured you or I wouldn't swallow their 'stability and order' crap like good little citizens. Wuh de tyen ah, I hope we find that poor kid. I'll bet my bottom dollar she can pick those two out of a lineup, they're too gorram sure of themselves for new hires."
TAB"We still have to take her down without killing her first, sir," Tarrant pointed out. "They ain't got much reason to lie about how hard that'd be."
TAB"You leave that to me," the admiral replied.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!


Last edited by Zaune on 2013-10-20 11:02pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-13 07:53pm
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Sith Marauder
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Oh, yeah...

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/F ... xtFrontier



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-14 10:56pm
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Sith Marauder
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Well, here it is. The moment we've all being waiting for. First contact!

TABAsteroid K-78356-Jessenstein was listed as having little or no metal ore but a moderate amount of ice. "No formal claims, no known landings. If I really wanted to get out someplace I'd probably never see another human being again, this rock'd be perfect, sirs," the navigation officer reported. "With a reasonably efficient recycler there's enough water to last that boat's maximum probable crew a dozen lifetimes."
TABAdmiral Liu nodded. "Chances are that if that ship is still operational, the crew call that rock their home port."
TAB"Got a visual, sir!" called out the sensor officer. "Infrared's noticeably higher. Distance from the moon... four kilometres."
TAB"Well, that settles that," said Captain Tarrant. "Try and raise them."
TAB"Aye sir." The comms officer picked up his handset. "Unidentified vessel, this is the frigate IAV Fredricksson. You are not transmitting IFF, please identify yourselves and prepare for a safety inspection, over."

* * *

TAB"Well, this is it boys. Sure hope this works..." Jeb took a deep breath. "Greetings, warship of the Union of Allied Planets. This is the starship Starfarer 1 of the Kerbin Space Agency."

TABIt's truly amazing what can be accomplished in less than a year when every university on two planets large enough to support a Linguistics department is prepared to clear the decks for you. The software was off-the-shelf, a combination of a mechanical translator and a speech-recognition program, programmed with every word and grammar rule they could make out in the English language.

TABUnfortunately, this was still something of a work in progress.

* * *

TAB"Greetings from the planetary Union warships. This is the Kerbin space agency spaceship Starfarer 1."
TAB"Uh... say again, Starfarer 1? Last transmission garbled, over."

* * *

TAB"Well uh... Starfarer 1 say again? Over the last transmission garbled characters."
TAB"That doesn't sound right. Did you install the new patch they sent yesterday?"
TAB"What new patch?"
TAB"I emailed you about it."
TAB"I get over three hundred emails a day, I cannot and do not read them all, and there are five of us on a ship barely bigger than my dad's vacation home. You couldn't just tell me these things? Oh, forget it. You got it on yours?"
TAB"Sure. Hold up... There."

* * *

TAB"Do you recognise that language, lieutenant?" Captain Tarrant said slowly.
TABThe communications officer, who was fluent in four of the most common languages in the 'Verse and could speak a few phrases in several more, listened thoughtfully. "No, sir. It's... I've never heard anything like it before."
TABThe faintly mechanical-sounding baritone returned. "Alliance warship, this is the Starfarer 1. Sorry about that, new software. Please repeat your original message, over?"
TAB"Something's not right here. Let me talk to them." Captain Tarrant picked up a handset of his own. "Starfarer 1, this is the Alliance warship IAV Fredricksson. You are not transmitting an IFF signal and your vessel appears to be considerably beyond its spaceworthy lifespan. Under the provisions of the Aerospace Safety Act we will be conducting a safety inspection, prepare to be boarded, over."
TABThere was a muffled exchange in its crew's own language. "Alliance warship," the voice said, and Tarrant fancied he could just make out someone speaking under it in their own tongue, "we're not entirely sure of the letter of local law regarding your jurisdiction, but I think you'd better take a look at our video feed. It's probably simpler than trying to explain, over."
TABCaptain Tarrant exchanged looks with the Admiral, who shrugged, then turned to the comms officer. "You getting their feed?"
TAB"Aye sir. It's non-standard as all hell, but it's coming through okaaaaay oh fuck me running," he finished in a very small voice. Without waiting for an order, he brought the video feed up on the biggest flatscreen display in the CIC.
TABCaptain Tarrant stared at the screen. The five... oh sweet merciful mother of the Flying Spaghetti Monster they really were aliens... stared back. One of them smiled awkwardly, or so it seemed, and gave him a little wave.
TABCaptain Tarrant slowly turned around, his expression curiously neutral except for a pronounced twitch under one eye. "XO," he said calmly, "you have the conn."
TABAnd then, quietly and without any particular fuss, Captain Trrant fell face-down on the deck in a dead faint.

TAB"Yep," Jeb sighed. "That went well."



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-15 01:02pm
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Hahahaha! Oh I love that!



"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

"Bones' remedies for problems seems to revolve around giving his patients a prescription of heavy drugs, booze, or taking them to strip clubs. He is either insane, a drug addict, or the best damn Doctor in Starfleet!" - SFDebris

SDN World 6: The Kingdom of Orion

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-15 01:22pm
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The scene is cool.

Starting your own TVTropes page less than a week after you started writing... maybe a bit premature.

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-15 01:46pm
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Sith Marauder
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What can I say? I was stuck on something and needed to clear my head. It turned out to be a surprisingly effective remedy for writer's block.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-16 12:16am
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Of Sector 2814
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My one problem is that the Kerbal language is Backwards Spanish, so translation should be exceptionally easy for the alliance.



Everyone who uses a computer frequently has had, from time to time, a mad desire to attack the precocious abacus with a axe. -John Drury Clark Ignition!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-16 12:22am
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If we adopt the MST3K model:
Gameplay/story segregation. :D

If we adopt a more literary-agent model:
I see no evidence that the Firefly 'verse contains the Spanish language. :D

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-16 10:37am
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Oh this is awesome - can't wait for the next bit.



A mad person thinks there's a gateway to hell in his basement. A mad genius builds one and turns it on. - CaptainChewbacca

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-16 10:52am
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Simon_Jester wrote:
If we adopt the MST3K model:
Gameplay/story segregation. :D

If we adopt a more literary-agent model:
I see no evidence that the Firefly 'verse contains the Spanish language. :D

I'm taking a third option, sort of. Their language sounds a bit like Spanish played backwards in-universe but it actually isn't.



There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


The Gorgon's Mirror, featuring published work by me!

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-23 04:19pm
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Couple of things, while we wait for the next chapter- I did notice somebody over on SB raised the same worry, that the Kerbals are excessively civilised and insufficiently vicious to hold their own in, I believe the phrase was "the three- ring murder circus that is the 'verse."

Thinking about solutions to this- what if the Kerbals basically compete like plants? Direct action is rare (but will have happened from time to time), but indirect hostility, wrestling for resources, blocking others off, attempting to, in a word, outgrow the opposition is omnipresent.

They who use what they have well grow and thrive, those whose roots do not reach good soil and whose branches do not reach the sun wither. Sort of explains the Kerbal Space Program too.

As to where they evolved, what biome, looking at them I doubt their ancestors ever loped across the seren- sorry, Kerbengeti veldt. Short, blobby and big- headed, natural athletes they are not. So, they evolved in a place where that disadvantage was not enough to stop them, but it was complicated and tricky enough to make them need intelligence. (If, that is, that's what Jeb actually demonstrates.) I'm thinking a close, dense environment, jungle, actually the hot green evolutionary furnaces of the kerbin equator. At least I think there are some there.

I'm from Scotland. It rains a lot here, grey and miserable most of the time, I don't believe any of this noble- savage, harmony with nature rainbow-elfy Tarzan shite. In the words of that great sage Conan, "we are never so alive as when nature is trying to kill us." Now there's an interesting mental digression, conan the kerbarian...but their ancestors would certainly have seen more than enough of red in tooth and claw- very few things live to old age in a close, cramped biological environment like that. Everything's out to get everything else.

Not even vegetables are innocent. If the kerbals do compete that way, they may be quite good at spotting a wrong 'un, and let's face it they were picked for their inventiveness.


[if you want a real horrorshow and I am almost temped to write this myself, consider; Kerbals may be something like the prelapsarian version- the harmless, blameless originals- of a species that was invaded and conquered, mutated, warped, tormented into becoming their conqueror's living weapon. Something like the Kerbals could be the template that the Great Old Ones mutated into WH40K's Space Orks. Not a happy thought, is it? Poor, poor IAU.]

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 Post subject: Re: The Next Frontier (Kerbal Space Program/Something) PostPosted: 2013-10-23 04:24pm
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Sith Marauder
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Don't you mean Konan the Kerbarian?



You will be assimilated...bunghole!

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