THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 162

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 162

…“It appears we are going for a ride, family!”

“Where are we going,” Celeste wonders?

“I’d like to know, who is driving?”…

“Sit down in that chair over there, strap yourself in and wrap this blanket around Sammy,” he hands it to her and secures his girls.

For his part, Sampson seizes what they believe is the command seat, though there is no crew to instruct or the slightest feeling of control. The king and queen of this mysterious realm are compelled to hang on for an unidentified unknown outcome.

The previously dormant main viewscreen snaps to, filled with a panoramic picture of the Martian landscape. Syrtis Major looms stoically in the background, with Tycho and AL wondering what is going on in the fore. At the peak perfect pitch of A, the NEWFOUNDLANDER pauses, as if to bid Mars farewell, the only home it has known for some 3000 years.

“It appears we are going for a ride family!”

“Where are we going,” Celeste wonders?

“I’d like to know, who is driving?” He tries get the feel for some sort of helm, but it seems to be fruitless. “Let’s hope that it hasn’t forgotten the way to Earth, if that’s too much to ask.”

Liftoff is smooth and with the exception of the anticipated g-forces, they were soon out of Mars’ loving embrace and headed… headed… unfortunately headed away from the sun, which at this point in planetary alignment, is in the opposite direction of Earth. After Sampson proves to himself that he has not figured out the secrets of navigation, he unbuckles himself and what to his wondering eyes does appear a solid boot footing and a stable atmosphere. Space Colony 1 had some measure of gravity, but not anything approaching this downward force.

His first official duty as commander of the NEWFOUNDLANDER is to check on Celeste, who is still in post-delivery recovery, and of course the baby. Both are partially conscious from the shock of the ship achieving what has to be multiples of the speed-of-light. There is no space-speed indicator, but the sun of this sun system is fading faster than the orb on an Alaskan winter’s night.

Martian Sky


 THE RETURN TRIP

Rocket Ferry Leaving Mars by Chesley Bonestell

Episode 162


page 153

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 128

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 128

…“You take care Missy and if you don’t mind me saying, you would be wise to hitch your wagon to that astronaut guy.”

“He is something special isn’t he?”…

Image result for something special artwork

Who’s in that other chopper,” Gus points.

With everything secure, the unarmed aircraft settles down nearby.

“That is Uncle Roy’s Sikorsky, wow!” Deke McKinney is beside himself, both off and running into the arms of their joint Godfather.

“This is not the way home from school, boys,” Roy states the obvious.

“We’re the last ones on the bus and they nabbed us at the end of the driveway, nearly scared old Frank the bus driver half to death.”

“I’m sorry boys. We should have had some security for you two rascals.”

“Why would they grab two kids like us? The only thing we could understand, besides “shut up” was Allah this and Allah that”, what does god have to do with kidnapping?” Deke wonders

Roy parses his words, “Some people use their gods as a cause for mischief, especially those who are jealous of a unified planet.”

“That is dumb,!” Gus proclaims.

“Dumb.” echoes Deke

“Dumb,” and Roy makes three.

Not at all dumb and equally as patient, Francine sits on a crowded Air Jamaica jet, currently under an unexplained ground stop. She knows that Roy has his hands full, so she does not fret over her failing to receive desired updates. But it doesn’t help that she has drawn the short straw: middle seat between two overweight natives.

She is also fortunate that she still had a KHST Press credential when it came to poor Roger’s attempts to get all her stuff {luggage-purchases-Roy’s luggage} into the cargo bay in the belly of the MD-110. Once she was all set and ready to go, she shares her genuine feelings for Roger the Dodger. It has been a whirlwind term of service for the affable driver and his valuable flexibility has made her stay worth the price of admission. “You take care Missy and if you don’t mind me saying, you would be wise to hitch your wagon to that astronaut guy.”

“He is something special isn’t he?” She reflects on what is important in life. It is not Old Francine in control here, who would be sure to view Roy Crippen as a dull knife and dismissing him for anything but a great story source. “I believe we have an understanding, Rog. And we will be in touch, I promise.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 128


page 122

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 127

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 127

…It is unlikely that these creeps, of a terrorist bent, will decide to make a mess of both helicopters; fire and oil are a dangerous mix…

Oil rig fire distortion by Adam Miller

The addition of an incoming helicopter tips the balance of power. Is it Rompin’ Roy the square shooter from South Texas?

It turns out that the bad guys saw that Coast Guard boat bounding through the waves a few miles north. The men who pour out the slide-by doors don’t look anything like polished military men, perhaps the pilots were but not these guys. There are two blindfolded individuals being prodded to the leeward column ladder, likely for a quick transfer. But by the time the awkward exchange can take place, the Monsoon steams onto the scene, all the while firing warning shots and smoke capsules at the sea surrounding the rig.

All that unexpected action a few hundred feet below causes the scampering swarm to reverse their direction back to the helicopter. They may have had what they thought was solid plan, but they were just running out of time. So back on the helicopter they go, piling in in a big-time hurry, except that one of their detainees bolts, running as fast as he can for the derrick and finding good cover there among the pile of eight inch pipes. That bolting delays the whole process.

Roy Crippen has seen enough to know that it is Gus McKinney who broke free and it is Deke about to be spirited away. He drops his chopper down to about thirty feet above the Russian built military machine, blocking their exit. It is unlikely that these creeps, of a terrorist bent, will decide to make a mess of both machines; fire and oil are a dangerous mix.

By that time, fifteen Coast Guard infantry have gained the deck and bring the situation into reasonable control. With guns down and arms held high the entire force of kidnappers is laid low.

Slippery Gus storms out to hug his brother who claims, “You kept us on the ground Gus, way to go!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Disney’s BOLT

Episode 127


page 121

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 126

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 126

…The Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon is still 10 nautical miles away, so please be careful.

U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon – RaVell Fine Art Studio

— A needle in a haystack. That is an apt odds-against appraisal of Roy Crippen’s odds in locating either the helicopter or the boat carrying the McKinney boys. But Roy knows the Gulf like some people do their backyard pool, having seen it all in his fishing boat or 300 miles above aboard the International Space Station and now taking his sweet whirlybird up to its 4,000 foot ceiling for his best view. There are few boats less than 200 feet out in the northerly chop and most of the oil derricks have their crew choppers parked, waiting for the first shift to end, with the second shift still on the mainland.

“There has been a possible sighting, 120 miles due south of Biloxi Mississippi, by the Deep Water Neptune, a BP rig. They are being boarded by what they believe are pirates,” Braden King’s temporary replacement is on the ball.

Pirates of the Caribbean, great, is the Black Pearl flying the Jolly Roger with Captain Jack Sparrow denuding them of their oil?” Every seafaring lad had seen those old Johnny Depp movies. “Did you say the Neptune; I think I know the day foreman there. Tell anyone who cares that I’m a 25 miles southeast and closing in.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon is still 10 nautical miles away, so please be careful.

Careful is the operative word, seeing that all he has for guns is an old Colt 45, given to him by his grandfather

 A sizeable ship has docked alongside the Deep Water Neptune, without permission or explanation. If the crew suspects pirates, look for some armed resistance on their part. And had it been the ship alone, the rough and tumble brutes could hold their own. All three legs of the platform are secured.

The addition of an incoming helicopter tips the balance of power. Is it Rompin’ Roy and his six-shooter to the rescue?

Sadly no, it is not the square shooter from South Texas. This twin-rotary ransacker is armed with a potent arsenal from which to subdue the rig. After strafing the deck, clearing it of resisters, the camouflaged war bird sets down with a resounding clumsy thud, plainly bottoming out, perhaps because the folks inside were in a panic.


THE RETURN TRIP

The Black Pearl from ANDONOV ART Fine Art / Photography

Episode 126


page 120

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 125

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 125

…Where are Gus and Deke headed now, or are you going to tell me they are dead, which caused Braden to have a coronary

Burning the Midnight Oil by Mick Dean

After Roger Rodrigues drops his passenger off at the Montego Bay airport, Roy is off and running across the tarmac to the hanger that houses his waiting Sikorsky, without waiting for that occasional luggage ferry. After pat-down customs check and a quick systems run-through, he is towed into open space and cleared for takeoff. At about 300 feet the fuselage turns toward a west-by-northwest direction and rising, coming to 180 MPH cruise speed posthaste.

Sikorsky S-92

After an hour of thinking that someone forgot to pay his satellite bill, his NASA device comes to life, this time with a face other than the Communication Director.

“Are you there Roy?” asks the new voice.

“I was wondering what was going on. Am I on the pay-no-mind-list or what?”

Silence… For the third time silence…”Braden King was taken to the GLC infirmary, he passed out cold.”

“I could tell he was struggling with something, but he is fit for a sixty-year-old.”

“He had a reason for dropping on & off…the McKinney boys were taken 65 minutes ago……….”

“Don’t tell me, by a f***ing Mi-38 Hind?”

“Oh so you knew?”

“A lucky guess. It seems to me that there is a base of those beggars, probably in one of those drug-states across the Rio Grande.” Roy thinks out loud, Where are Gus and Deke headed now, or are you going to tell me they are dead, which caused Braden to have a coronary?”

“They were flown out into the Gulf of The Americas and were apparently put on a boat or a drilling platform.”

“Which is it?”

“We aren’t sure, with all the fuss about that Samiq Gaad episode going on, we were distracted.”

“For God’s sake why can’t we defend our own territory anymore? I think we need a change in the White House... you did not hear me say that, or the fact that President Sanchez is too cozy with the country of his father & mother!”

Pedro “Pete” Sanchez is the first United States citizen {President} whose parents are not. The Hispanic majority had finally got its wish.

“I am going to buzz every oil rig from Cuba to Texas and you are going to let me know if Braden takes a turn.”

“Yes Sir.”


THE RETURN TRIP

 Episode 125


page 120

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 123

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 123

… “Please take good care of Francine. She will take a day or so to get her bearings…

Image result for goodbyes painting

Goodbyes by Victor de Melo

Roy’s connection goes dead again… but this time Braden King does not respond.

There is no use in shaking, tapping, raising or lowering his device to get it to work. When something is sent, it will come through.

“Let me out at the service entrance Roger, I can catch a baggage hauler from here.” Roy’s endorphins are spiking in anticipation of getting a handle on things. “Please take good care of Francine. She will take a day or so to get her bearings and then she will be itching to hop a flight home.”

TYPOGRAPHICAL POSTER MADE WITH BICYCLE PARTS By Paul Caridad

Roy reaches for his money clip and gives a good half of it to his new friend. “Francine has whatever is left of our $J and I told her to give it to you  before she takes off for home and don’t you argue about it, ‘cause we will be back and we will have need of your services. Maybe you could buy a car from this century.”

“God’s speed Roy Crippen; it has been my privilege to meet such fine people as you and Miss Bouchette; 2030 is going to be a good year.”

“Where is my family?” A bandaged head, a throbbing arm, and punctured lung do not stop Aldona Afridi from asking the perfectly reasonable question, once he regains consciousness from out of his 5 hour surgery.

“They are out in the waiting room Mr. Afridi,” the recovery room nurse at Elgin AFB Hospital, Florida, “but there is an official from the United States government who has priority access to this area.”

A man dressed in black, who has actually been with Afridi the entire time, even as he was stretchered off the plane, steps into his woozy sightline.

“I am here to record your formal statement. This is an attempt to gather information about an enemy combatant and all information is for the expressed use of the United States of America,” he holds out a handheld device and nods his head indicating a starting point. “In opening, my only question for you is, did you recognize the man who shot you?”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 123 (it’s easy)


page 117

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 122

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 122

…The situation is fraught with tension, each and every passing minute brings new developments, like looking over the edge of a cliff…

Cliff Walk – Edge of Nowhere (Video Game)

As Roger pulls up, they pile everything into the back seat, “Take us back to the hotel.”

“You got it boss.”

“Francine will be staying behind… you are going to get me back to my helicopter!”

Roger the Dodger

— Roger does not spare the horses, all 300 HP in his 1969 SS model that replaced his mini Honda Civic, to race headlong on to Montego Bay and Sangster International. Perhaps it was his police training, but no finer a display of cutting corners and ability to dodge slow traffic, hence his dodger moniker.

It is a good thing his NASA-issued device is fully charged. He is in constant contact with the covert trifecta of CIA, FBI, and NSA, as well as an audio feed from JET {Joint Emergency Taskforce}, a cooperative agency whenever foreign nationals are involved.

“Radar has lost the two choppers that nabbed Samiq Gaad, somewhere over Honduras,” Braden King is monitoring what information Roy is getting, editing out conflicting reports, giving him the best guidance once he leaves Jamaica.

“I think two Navy F-77s are on their trail, their heading checks out on my navigation app.” He urges Roger to push it, counting on him to get to his hanger in one piece. “What is the deal with Afridi’s family?”

Silence… Nothing on the other end of the satellite connection. The situation is fraught with tension, each and every passing minute brings new developments, like looking over the edge of a cliff.

“Braden, are you there, your face is frozen on my end?”

“I’m sorry Roy, had to catch my breath, having trouble keeping up… Afridi took a few {bullets} from a known Talibanistani operative, we are told…the passengers subdued him, but they were at 38,000 feet and started to lose pressurization, pretty scary I guess. Afridi tells the US Marshall he has some more information to tell you, something about the Sang-Ashi probe. This Talibanistan/Korean connection is gaining traction with the Incident Audit folks,” Braden is like a juggler w/four balls in the air.

“Are you almost ready to get off the ground Roy? It looks like you were right about those Navy fighters… they shot down one Russki Chopper and have another grounded.”

“We are pulling up to Sangster now; my bird is fueled and ready to go!” Roger’s 300 hundred horses=60 miles in 30 minutes. “What’s with all these Mi-38s in our airspace? Should I get a heading for Honduras or what……?”

Again…


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 122


page 116

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone with an update, “And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”…

Image result for a problem artwork

Houston, We have a Problem by Dadara

Roy’s text stream reads a continuous, HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!….

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall aboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC… I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 121


page 115

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

…Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship….

Image result for friendship artwork

Friendship Digital Art by Astrid Rieger

The following days slow to a satisfying crawl, their pace of life measured by the inch not by the mile. No more fertile an environment can there be to bring people closer. The kinship of this trio {Roy, Francine, Roger} builds down every new road, at each sacred island shrine. The driver of the car has become an integral element to their experience; which is incomplete when he isn’t around to steer them right.

Flying Fish and Lazy Days Waikanae by Gillian Cronin

Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship. So complete is the blending of Roy into Francine, or vice versa, that any thoughts of the New Mayflower or Mars and KHST or celebrity, are dispatched from the foreground of priorities.

When they aren’t being guided by Roger the Dodger, they can be found lounging by the pool or ocean, SILVER SEAS both. In the case of this lazy day, they employ their newly acquired skill in the street side marketplace. With their considerable discretionary funds irretrievably commingled, joint bargaining has become the rule, when in natural dealings with purveyors of goods and their merchandise of fluid value.

Navy F-77N’s

While ferrying one of their spending coups back to the SILVER SEAS HOTEL, from the interior of the island, the tranquil skies are buzzed by a pair of jets, certainly not of Jamaican or Cuban ownership. “F-77Ns in a big time hurry and they are peeling off to the west.” Roy determines after getting a clear look at their low-level wake. “Something big is up.”

“What are they doing down here? Do you think it has to do with Cuba?” Francine wonders aloud.

“Well that isn’t a bombing run and they are going fast enough to reach the Mainland in 2 minutes. 

“I think the Atlantic Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG2) is having joint maneuvers in the Gulf with the Brits, but the attitude of those pilots are taking screams urgent. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“I’ll call Roger,” Francine thinks ahead.

In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 120


page 114