THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 83

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 83

“Don’t get too close Sam!” a strange mist emanates out 3-dimensionally, swirling and pulsating as if dancing to music…

The “thingy” inadvertently drops to the deck of the engine room from waist level.

Bboinnngggg…… tool and floor combine to fashion a perfect key of A. “Oops.” The pitch did not startle the pair, as they turn to nose around elsewhere… though the humming noise that followed, after taking a half-dozen steps, does.

HHHhhhuuuMMMMmmmmmmmmm…..

Newfoundlander Engine Room

They freeze in their tracks, turning slowly, very slowly to take a peek. A panel, on one side of the upper cone opens, which by itself is fortuitous, paling in comparison to what it reveals.

“Don’t get too close Sam!” at a comfortable distance, from back at the entrance, a strange mist emanates out 3-dimensionally, swirling and pulsating as if dancing to music. The cloud sinks to waist height; neck high for the Newfoundlians as if a whirlpool in slow motion. All they can do is stand perfectly still and hope it is noSmoke GIF | Gfycat more lethal than the air, the water or the food…. it isn’t, it doesn’t, it won’t.

Hand-in-hand they begin walking through the haze to its source, like bugs to a light. This is the very essence of why man on Earth decided to venture out into space. Detractors call it expansionism, minimalists call it greed but above all, a spade must be called a spade; the desire to see what is on the other side, whether it be a mountain or a faraway star.

Two sets of eyes wide open, stare into the mouth of a yawning abyss, the 5′ x 8′ unknown – looking more like the edge of eternity. If they had not been here to see it in person, it may well have been an artist’ rendering or cinematographers’ CGI masterpiece.


THE RETURN TRIP

conqueringthesunsempire20

Conquering the Sun’s Empire by Harry Lange

Episode 83


page 78

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 82

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 82

“Maybe it’s not a good idea to poke that thing around, not knowing what the result will be?”…

Careful now!

— Energized and ever curious, the two-remaining visitors on Mars press on to the depths of the alien ship. As they near the geometrical center, there is the palpable lets-go-exploring-calvin-and-hobbessensation of power about, much like being yards away from a pulsating 30,000 volt transmission line. The black hair on Sampson’s forearms stand on end and Celeste’s blond-locks react statically.

Sampson surmises that they are nearing the “engine room”, “Judging by its staying power it has to be nuclear or whatever style of atomic fuels they use. Old Karl at GLF would be drooling about now.”

The technology needed for intergalactic travel is beyond Earthly understanding, though they are currently on the right track. The NEWFOUNDLANDER most certainly did not plod along to get to Mars, like Chronicle did, or like the 21st Century New Mayflower is about to.

Brightly coded signs, reading gobbledigook threatening in form, leading them to believe they have found the engineering section with supercharged propulsion onyx-black-001unit/s. Upon gaining entry to the forbidden area, thank you Celeste and your mystically useful black rock, they can only wonder why it is so closely secured.Related image

There are more lifeless Newfoundlian bodies here than the
rest of the ship combined. Gathered in a tight circle, like Uni-Scouts at a Saturday night bonfire, are 10 of the NEWFOUNDLANDER’s crewmen. There is an object/i.e. device in the midst of the fallen bodies, five feet in diameter and eight feet tall. Two corpses are closer than the rest with what looks like tools in their hands, as if repairing something fragile.fork-001

While bending over to relieve one of them of his tool, “Where do you think this goes,” he beckons Celeste to come join him.

Sampson manipulates the tuning fork shaped instrument, twist it at various angle and degrees. He even goes as far as trying to shove it into the middle, where the two cones intersect, in the middle, but the smooth surfaces are not receptive.

“Maybe it’s not a good idea to poke that thing around, not knowing what the resultarrow-down will be?”press_button_receive_bacon

“You have a point; this has more and different juice than the magical-meal machine.”

The “thingy” Sam is handling inadvertently drops to the deck of the engine room from waist level.…..


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 82


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 81

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 81

..the flavor of the food is analogous to “the chef” telling you that calamari tastes just like chicken or the wisdom of  Popeye the Sailor coming up with scientific evidence that spinach gives you superhuman strength.

singing-chef-vickie-wade

Singing Chef by Vickie Wade

“Not bad, but lay off speaking in gobbledigook {Newfoundlian}. Because I can’t read your lips,” Celeste insists.

With his initial inhibitions decreased, two different colors are selected, Alpha Centauri-amber and dark matter-mauve. A longer rendition of what sounds like an alien remix precedes the arrival of his selection, again whooshing open, exposing a 2-dish assortment of steaming nourishment. It is unrecognizable, but it isn’t moving and is marginally aromatically tempting.

Cupbearer to the King

Again, with the aid of the air-water-food scrutinizer, “Enzyme modified something, xanthan concentrate, autolyzed extract, and hydrogenated disodium phosphorate. gobbledigook {you first}

“Where are the knives and forks?” Celeste asks pretentiously.

“Use your fingers until and when I can find the right colors to push. You know we cannot be sure how these guys consumed their food; for all we know they may stuff it into their stomachs through a navel valve.”

“Assuming they have navels.”

“Do you want to do an autopsy on one of them?”

“Not before we eat Sam… you don’t want me to lose my dinner, seeing I am eating for two.”

“Or more.”

“Stop yourself and eat!”

Describing the flavor of the food is analogous to “the chef” telling you that calamari tastes just like chicken or the wisdom of  Popeye the Sailor coming up with scientific evidence that spinach gives you superhuman strength; to each his own.

“Eat, eat, there is plenty more!”

When cast in that subjective light, the food they sample aboard the NEWFOUNDLANDER is an acquired palate, as opposed to Grandma Sally’s home cooking. Overall the adage cliché “never look a gift-horse in the mouth” applies on this distant planet and you are going to run out of your own food.

Sampson makes mental notes of all his happy-finger combinations while using Doctor Yum’s magical-meal-maker-machine, as he calls it. They can only hope to get better at working it… perhaps some Italian? —

— Energized and ever curious, the two-remaining visitors on Mars press on to the depths of the alien ship…


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 81


page 76

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 80

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Please note that I wrote this book  in the mid-1980’s (before updating it). 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 80

…Sam proclaims, “H20___ out-of-the-faucet ___ shower-taking ___ sprinkle-on-your-garden ___ garden-variety ___ drink-it-down ___ WATER!!!!

water-digital-artwork

Water Nuclear Bomb by Dimitar Krstevski

The Space Family McKinney continues to explore the “NEWFOUNDLANDER”.

In one such alleged crewman quarters, Sampson, going on the assumption that no harm could come out of testing switches or push-buttons in the privacy of one’s own room, decides to do just that. There is a lighted checkerboard panel on a wall, right next where one would sit and well — not work, so this would be the time to experiment.

He chooses two such buttons to push, one colored black-hole-blue, and the other galaxy-green. Seconds later, there happens a fanciful flickering light in combination with a whimsical whoosh; a small opening opens to reveal a sippy cup type container filled with some sort of liquid.

Celeste watches her husband’s foray into technical tryouts, shrugging as he removes the vessel from the alien cube, “It’s your hand dear.” The opening closes as soon as the sippy and its clear fluid is removed.

Evidently the liquid is meant to be consumed, yet this is no time to be reckless even though thirst and hunger are high on the list in the unenviable sport of survival. So instead of two gulps and hope for the best, Sam uses the same versatile sampling device he used to analyze the air, in order to break down the elemental composition of the benign smelling liquid.

When the handheld monitor turns green he proclaims, “H20___ out-of-the-faucet ___ shower-taking ___ sprinkle-on-your-garden ___ garden-variety ___ drink-it-down ___ WATER!!!!”

“What do they add to it to make it smell so inviting; there must be more to it,” armed with the crave-driven sagacity of a pregnant lady.

“Purified water, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride and a negligible amount of sodium minerals,” he specifies. “The nutrition label reads: CRISP, FRESH TASTE, FILTERED THROUGH a STATE-OF-THE-ART PURIFICATION SYSTEM AND ENHANCED WITH MINERALS FOR a PURE, FRESH TASTE THAT CAN’T BE BEAT.”

“You made that up, you can’t read gobbledigook{Newfoundlian}.”

gobbledigook{bottoms up you chicken},,” translates to bottoms up. He lifts the liquescence to his tentative lips? bravely?, partaking in the alien brew. It is on the warm side, though the container remains at the ambient room temperature of 820 F, as long as it doesn’t burn on the way down.

gobbledigook{Try some} {try some},” he submits it to Celeste for her assessment.

“Not bad, but lay off speaking in gobbledigook {Newfoundlian} . I can’t read your lips.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 80


page 75

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 79

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 79

“This baby is definitely not a luxury cruise ship; few windows, no padding or frills, and come to think of it NO females.”…

future-cruiseship

Future Cruise Ship by Robert J. Tiess

“So let’s check out this galaxy trotter!” Sam exclaims.—

—Now two things are easier said than done: Knowing where to start and resisting the urge to press buttons of unknown function.

Image result for the quick and the deadGood old-fashioned observation is the safest way to go, you know, like finding out why the owners of this intergalactic flying machine have seemed to meet their fate with an uncomfortable immediacy; that is the quick and the dead, everywhere bodies strewn exactly where they wanted to be at that fateful moment.

The commander of the ship, or the person who probably called the shots on the NEWFOUNDLANDER, is seated in a swivel chair, facing what appears to be a viewing screen, poised as if he was expecting his ship to move. Others of the crew are braced at their posts, also indicating anticipated movement.

If that was the case at the time, then why were they leaving compatriots behind, left to die on the unforgiving Martian terrain.Related image

Amid the frozen moment in time, while moving about the narrow passages, Celeste takes note, “This baby is definitely not a cruise ship; no windows, no padding or frills, and come to think of it  NO females.”

“Then it must have been a dream vacation for these guys.”

“See what happens when you leave all the wisdom at home?”

“Or they were on the way to Earth and Mars’ orbit happened to be on their course heading.”

“Curiosity killed the cat,” she comments, “or when on Mars don’t drink the water.”

“That may not be so farfetched Cel. Judging by the landscape, that depression down range may have been a huge lake/inland sea, at the time they arrived… ain’t here now though.”

“Whatever the case, these guys were traveling light, like the economy class on a Boeing SST 807.”

“Hey, these GUYS didn’t come from just down the block, I’m sure they have budgets where they come from,” his practical nature surfaces, “and I am guessing that this ship covers at lot of space in a big-time hurry, which would explain the frugality.

“Why don’t you try to use that thing?” Sampson eggs her on.

At his bidding, Celeste fondles that black oval-shaped rock thing which she has seemed to gain mastery of; left click in, sort of, center-scroll the lighting. It is the key boat-001to getting around here.

“Absolutely Spartan.” Comments Sampson upon seeing a typical personal-space for the crew of the newly christened, NEWFOUNDLANDER.

“Nothing like the suites on the Colony, hey. We she realizes what she just said, she reaches over to put a hand on Sampson.

“I know, it’s still hard to believe she is gone.” The sullen Commander speaks of the trillion dollar wonder that they had boarded, for the first time a scant 45 hours ago.  So much has transpired since then, the entirety being both a space-traveler’s dream and nightmare simultaneously.


 THE RETURN TRIP

boat-001

Episode 79


page 74

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 78

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 78

…Suddenly, stranded & pregnant in space is trumped by, “Are we taking off?”

stranded-in-space-001

“This is your last clue: One thing leads to another and we gave “it” a name,” Celeste Prompts.

“Itsaboutdamntime!”

“What did NASA tell us about the efficacy of birth control in a semi-weightless environment?”

“Dontellmeyouare?!?!?”

“Bingo, give that man a cigar!” Celeste can only make light of delicate condition. “I are-you-sure-001believe that I have become the guinea pig for an unscheduled NASA experiment.”

After a flood of possible emotional responses runs its course, he concludes, “I wonder if Engineer Karl had the foresight to build a nursery into (NASA’s rescue ship) New Mayflower’s medical bay?”

“WE don’t need to worry; women have been giving birth in unusual places for four millennia.”

“In space, damn Cel, are you sure you’re pregnant? We don’t need to be distracted by a false alarm.”

The mother-to-be runs her hands through her blonde hair front to back, “It has been about 15 years, but yes I am 100 percent sure and this time feels different, maybe the daughter you’ve been wanting?”

schawonkschawonkabelumphhh !!!!!!

Related image

schawonkschawonkabelumphhh !!!!!!

The tender family moment is stunned back into present realities by a vigorous combination of a good healthy belch and a Winnie the Pooh sound effect.

Suddenly, stranded & pregnant is trumped…

“Are we taking off?”

Sampson pauses to identify the cause of the quaking. “No, no we’re not, but I think it is time we more thoroughly assess our newfound sanctuary.”

“Along those lines, I think we should give this thing a name, since we can’t read extraterrestrial and just because we can.” Celeste thinks on it, while Sam starts scanning the bridge of this bucket of unknown metal. “Newfound sanctuary, Newfoundland Province Canada… how does the
NEWFOUNDLANDER
 sound?”

newfoundlander-001“That’s a good one, the NEWFOUNDLANDER! So it shall be from this day forward,” Commander McKinney proclaims,
entering it into his continuing log of the newest incarnation of the Space Colony and temporary Mars City. “So let’s check out this galaxy trotter.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 78


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 64

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 64

…“Damn,” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrateness. (he trips & falls) “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,”…

space-colony-2030-001

The outside hatch slides open, allowing Martian air to encounter the interior of a man-made object for the first time {man-made}, the clarity of which comes as a surprise to two earthlings who are accustomed to a smoggy haze.

The first steps outside onto Mars itself are understandably tentative one, gravitational forces being less than Earth but much greater than our more regular exo-atmospheric strolls on the Moon. Practices jumps are the recommended test for knowing one’s limits, in this case two feet is a reasonable vertical, with a walking gait that compares to ice skating on Earth, a little extra giddy up in the get-along.

With sea legs established, Mars’ most recent visitors set out to investigate the other ill-fated alien presence. Now if this were the American Old West or CSI Anywhere USA, Sampson and Celeste would split up, one going to the front door, while the other covers the rear with guns drawn. Weapons may or may not be appropriate here on the Plain of Xanthe; they are guessing the latter.

With each yard closer to the craft and the next new revelation, another “look at that!” moment is shared.

“Look at this thing,” Sampson’s shod foot kicks up an oval onyx object, with marking similar to those on the Mothership. It receives close scrutiny from both, but for now it is securely sacked in his handy-dandy Mars pouch, next to a pointy metal thingy and a vile of Mars-mud.

Image result for swiss armyCloser still, looking straight up one side of the massive pewter colored shiny ship and Sampson decides to scratch the surface with his titanium knife.  The knife loses, shattering like so much cheap plastic, “Wouldn’t Swiss Army like to see this,” speaking of Switzerland’s contribute to the mission.

After traversing 2/3 of the roughly rectangular vehicle’s exterior, they find themselves at what appears to be the threshold of the apparent entrance, if it has such a thing. Assuming that nobody is home and the door is locked, gaining access should prove to be futile, with no knife to jimmy the door. The 4-foot-wide notch in the ship’s wall runs several feet into its 150 foot expanse. It is away from the sunlight, which does not make all things bright in these parts, as dark as Celeste’s native Sweden during its sunless winter swoon.

“Damn,” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrateness. (he trips & falls) “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,”...


THE RETURN TRIP

adriena_simotova_weightless

Apparition of Weightlessness by Adriena Šimotová

Episode 64


page 61

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 63

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 63

…The outside hatch slides open, allowing Martian air in for a mission first, the clarity of which comes as a surprise to two earthlings…

Just Another Martian Sunrise

The EVA suits are not as bulky as they were on the International Space Station. New technologies have been integrated for the thin atmosphere hereabout, yet the task of protecting the frail human body is never taken lightly. Extra Vehicular Activities can be rough and tumble, so if one of the McKinneys should trip over a sharp rock, there will not be a deadly CO2 breach.

Like closeted doppelgängers, two Portable Life Systems appear from out their covey, ready to be stepped into. But before the helmets go on, Sampson hands a 5-hour ENERGY  to Celeste, “I snuck my personal stash of this stuff aboard {he bought out all remaining stock from 15 years ago}, we’re going to need it out there.”

Beside the caffeinated liquid boosters, they barely have enough max-nutrition bars to last them until the New Mayflower shows up. Then there are the vegetable seeds, to be used for greenhouse experiments. exploring-marsThey leafy greens and tubers are for the last supper. The word “ration” will be the most unspoken and unnecessary word here on Mars.

“Just as they advertised in the travel brochures, it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a bullet. I’ll be down to my shorts weather-on-marsbefore you know it,” Sampson quips.

“Don’t forget your SPF 300, you’ll need it.” She knows he would go from Caucasian to Aborigine in ten seconds.

Elbow room in the Tycho air-lock is nonexistent, so Celeste comes out on the losing end of an unintended elbow from her fellow EVA partner, ah he turned to seal the inside of the two-hatch system.

“Sorry Cel, I need to allow for a larger turning radius.”

Apology accepted, but the pain she is experiencing is not commensurate with the force of the blow. She soldiers on, “I’ll be fine Sam, let’s have a look at our neighbor’s digs.”

“I want to try my jetpack, how about you?”

“I think I will pass, still a wee bit queasy,” the thought of flying like a rocket making her nauseous at the moment.

The outside hatch slides open, allowing Martian air in for a mission first, the clarity of which comes as a surprise to two earthlings who are accustomed to a smoggy haze. And no birds, no madding crowds, no annoying personal transports or aircraft either.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 63


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 39

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 39

…“It is not everyday that a Talibanistani family shows up on your doorstep, with strange warnings about powerful lasers and killer satellites.”…

ArtStation - Laser Beam VFX, Aran Anderson (With images) | Visual ...

meanwhile-caption-001“Fatima!” shouts Aldona Afridi to his wife, as he sees her pass by the room in which he seated uncomfortably. He raises enough of a ruckus that consulate personnel moving her are forced to reunite them — at last. He does not understand why they are being handled so awkwardly.

To this point Afridi is not impressed. This vaunted democracy operates similarly to his totalitarian homeland. His original theories, when he set his defection in motion, had the Americans welcoming him immediately as the hero he really was going to be, thereby acting on his whims at once. Instead he is left only with the knowledge that his family had completed their escape routes. Surely this is wonderful news, but definitely shy of his altruistic goal.

“Aldona!” If her husband was having his doubts, imagine what his wife was thinking; alone in a strange land with 2 little girls and left to try to explain a sketchy version of Afridi’s story.

“Fatima,” Afridi echoes, embracing her as close as he was allowed! In the back of his mind were thoughts about his newfound “friend” in Istanbul, Mehmet Ali Erim. He is brushed aside like a swarm of Tibetan Sandflies.

He grasps her shoulders at arm’s length, checking for signs of torture; such were the low sights he was now setting for their ordeal. “They are not acting on my information, Fatima. Every minute is crucial yet they are sitting on their hands!”

Perhaps they do not believe you. It is not everyday that a Talibanistani family shows up on your doorstep, with strange warnings about powerful lasers and killer satellites.”

Does his wife now doubt him, as a crackpot delusional dreamer?

He turns away from her, wondering how such a noble cause goes so unheeded. But he should not doubt Fatima’s devotion, yea confidence in his reasoning; she comforts her frustrated mate. “I am told that you must wait for the American Ambassador, he is on his way from Ankara.”

Image result for far fetched“And don’t leave out the CIA European Chief,” adds Elliot Deming as he enters the room. “They are in charge now, going through the proper channels to sanction your farfetched story Mr. Afridi.”

“It may appear unbelievable on the surface, but I swear I need to speak with Director Crippen. He will distinguish of what I speak.”

“How do you know Roy Crippen?”


THE RETURN TRIP

boom-001

Episode 39


page 37

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 37

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 37

…The Space Family McKinney, most recently of Mars, peers jointly out onto the planet outside…

Related image

Illustration by Legendary outer space conceptualizer Chesley Bonestell

The Mars landing fracas adds ½ mile, bringing them closer to the Tithonius Peninsula, but the averted disaster has raised everyone’s pulse x 2. When Tycho’s four pads contact Martian firma, they sense that it sinks down a bit, not like on Earth’s Moon where scientists had predicted 18 inches of moon dust when only 4 was present.

Heartbeats recede to mission norms.

A hazed yellow sun looms an hour above its dawning and even though the rays were reaching out 150 million miles, the equatorial latitude takes in enough radiation to raise surface temps to a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

my-project-23-001The Space Family McKinney, most recently of Mars, peers jointly out onto the planet outside, from opened viewing portals, with all the bluster settling down around them. Though their ground level perspective is less lofty, it does not temper their excitement.

Mars’ eerie serenity has the feel of an Old West ghost town. It has the feel of aged stillness, devoid of activity. Pay attention and you can imagine the passing of occasional tumbleweed. Listen closely and you can hear the sounds of a creaking one-hinged saloon door. Feel the wind sweeping down dusty streets. All that is missing are cobwebs and the ancient strains out of an out-of-tune piano, played by a shapely blond beauty bedecked in silk and sequins.

planet-mars-art-by-veenenbos

Artwork by Veenenbos

“The red sky is going to take some getting used to,” Celeste admitting her blue bias, “with nothing out there but craters and sawed-off mountains to break things up.”

“New things are popping up all the time. How about my landing skills? They are going to program that one into the simulator.”

“And we better improve that approach angle, seeing we are going to be doing it every two weeks for the next 8 months.”

A fresh voice joins in,I hate to interrupt, but you have but 12-odd hours of daylight to burn… and the matter of soil depth consistency is an issue.” Roy Crippen is getting itchy, along with a developing stress rash.

“Sounds like a plan Crip! What would we do without you?” Sampson quips.

“You would fly straight into the side of a foothill, that’s what.”

Vertical-001“We saw it,” Celeste relates her end of the story.

“It’s time to drop the wheels and see what we can see. You can be the backseat driver, Crip.”

The newest “manned” Mars Rover’s batteries are fully charged.

“Don’t mind if I do. I need you to keep that thing upright. The tow truck is 50 million miles away mars-roveryou know.”

“Cel is driving that buggy.”

 “That will drop our insurance rates!”

“I believe you are breaking up, can you repeat that wisecrack?”

“All right Sam, just check in before returning to the Colony.”


THE RETURN TRIP

mars-map-001

Episode 37


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