THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23
…Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that…
“Planetary conditions are stable, touchdown grid confirmed.” Roy Crippen has settled in at Galveston Launch Facility to oversee the crowning moment of 20 years of work. Once Tycho comes back home to roost, after its 18 hour maiden excursion, his stay on the Texas coast will shift gears; to sending off the 21st Century version of the floating boat filled with Brits, the New Mayflower, the first of three trips; winged people-movers that will add a decidedly human touch to a previously hominid-less planet. Mars City will be filled to the brim with 21st Century groundbreakers.
But that is tomorrow and today is today and other portentous profoundness. The Lovell Space Center’s attention is equally split between Mars and Galveston, with Roy Crippen as the connecting driving force for both. He contemplates those that he supervises, a sea of techs and specialists, tops in their field worldwide, 100 people comprising man’s future as good space citizens.
There is one console, Spatial Debris Traffic for the Colony and Satellite tracking, which has an unfamiliar body seated there. For as long as Roy can remember, Phil Jansky has filled that seat.
“Where is Philip Jansky?” Something has slipped past him. He asks roving security, “Is he taking a break… now!?!”
“Jansky is dead, sir; we found him in his quarters when he didn’t confirm his 04:00 wakeup call.”
Roy’s mind starts somersaulting through any number of questions he could ask. He settles on, “Why am I the last to know?”
The security chief is embarrassed, if for no other reason than not knowing who dropped the ball. “The Coroner said he’d get back in touch with both autopsies.”
Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that.
“I should hire a full-time mortician, set him up with an office, he spends so much time here lately.” The mission head is losing control of personnel matters and his patience is flagging. “Who is Phil’s replacement?”
The guard checks his roster, “Gurkhas Shah-Dhangotma, from Kathmandu.”
“Never heard of him. Who hired him with Fred Cabell gone? My God we have a Nepalese debris tracker. Aren’t they still Sherpa guides? This is space for crying out loud, not the Himalayas!
“Mr. Gherkin better be qualified. I do not like this, not at all!” he punctuates his rant sharply, while walking off a disquieting combination of anger and grief… even though “Gurkhas” in not a pickle.