THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

…“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents…

Suffering by Paula Heffel

“I am not going to waste our time together squabbling over that necktie.” Their 17 month marriage remains solid, as most do, in spite of the ongoing McKinney heartbreak, career shifts, and the blinding glare of the national spotlight. Like those ships in the night, passing near not seeing, “We can’t waste this time.”

Space Academy

“Speaking of not seeing someone, how did Deke & Gus do on their Academy exams?” Co-surrogate father Roy would give anything short giving up on the election to be there to help the boys with the critical Space Academy simulator tests; the single biggest factor in becoming an astronaut candidate. Braden King is a ground expert, but has little to offer the two rapidly maturing space-aspiring young men.

The adults’ combined mission is to help them attain those desired goals.

“Gus barely got by the book test, then A-ced the simulator.” she tells Roy. “Deke lost his gyro-control, hit an asteroid and he will never live it down. It turns out that the professor rigged his test by inserting THE QUARKIAN QUANDARY, I believe he called it.”

NASA Top Gun

NASA“They only pull that on the Top Guns. I bet Deke had already been promoted.”

“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents.

“The way I see it Francine, Gus knows that his flying skills are the only way he graduates from the Academy; it’s hard to keep up with his genius brother.”

“Whatever the reason,” she concludes as their Ford Hydrogen vehicle pulls up to the Hilton Hotel & Casino, “I think that Celeste would be pleased as punch and Sammy Mac is screaming at the top of his lungs … somewhere out there.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 172


page 207

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 153

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 153

…What is taking four months to accomplish {the New Mayflower rescue mission}, a SOL equipped spaceship would take 10 minutes, akin to a trip to  a corner store in New Orleans

French Quarter Corner Store by John Boles

— After he had escaped from a treacherous country, had his family risk their lives fleeing to Turkey, managed to  contact the Space Colony Director with scandalous information, only to be shot by an assassin’s bullets while being flown into the United States, poor Aldona Afridi is not an yard closer to applying his trade.

SOL-logo

But now the renegade turned research scientist has been assigned to the SOL Project: the independent foundation, with significant ties to NASA that is dedicated to achieving space travel at the speed-of-light threshold and not a mph less. With the recent stranding of personnel, some 3+ months distant and without a lifeline, efforts have been redoubled in the quest of 670 million miles per hour.

Do the math. What is taking four months to accomplish {the New Mayflower rescue mission}, a SOL equipped spaceship would take 10 minutes. What is presently classified as a time-sensitive mission would be akin to a trip to a corner store in New Orleans.

Another comparison may apply to the situation on Mars. Unknown to anyone on Earth, the NEWFOUNDLANDER would have taken over four years to reach this solar system, assuming that they came from the nearest star.

Such are the daunting numbers that face a small grouping of scientists that does now include Aldona Afridi; and he feels well-favored to have the opportunity. He is making a good wage, not a fortune but sure beats the United Korean blood money by light-years.

His family is safe, though the Afridi family name has been changed. Meet the Fitch’s:

  • Father: Fletcher Fitch
  • Wife: Madonna Fitch
  • Daughters: The Fitch girls

How easy are things when you are under the protection of a benevolent Federal Government such as this? You get an undercover makeover, govt. housing and a new outlook on life, just like that.

Fletcher and Madonna Fitch have that new look, new wardrobes and names that they had no choice in getting.

And still, life is good… so far.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 153


page 188

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 152

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 152

“If this is your theatrical way of proposing marriage to me, then I accept…

Francine has been an interested observer during this current visit to a ranch under recent excavation. “It looks like Braden has been busy.”

“I hope you don’t think he is being somewhat presumptuous,” Question and statement. “I know he talked to about me building out here at King, but I am not the one who got this ball rolling. I don’t want you to think I was taking anything for granted,” disclaimer delivered JIC {just-in-case}.

“If this is your theatrical way of proposing marriage to me, then I accept… but I am in charge of the inside of that house!”

The chopper suddenly tilts at 250 .

“Am I the one who is presuming something? I just thought this had to be a plan of some sort.”

“Ask her now Roy!” Braden screams from below.

KR 2022 bounces back to 00.

“I’ve already got the family car,” she prompts.

“Earth to KR 2022, are you still there,” Braden quips from below.

“I have no contagious diseases and love the Houston Rockets,” she adds, looking at his ashen face.

Roy feels like a rat trapped in a maze, but upon further review and instantaneous reflection he surrenders this: “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with me? I mean I am about to be held in Contempt of Congress, I am wanted in Jamaica for driving 100 miles over the speed limit and I was thrown out of a Rage Against the Machine concert when I was at the Space Academy.”

Just then a flashing red light appears where the fuel gauge is. “We have to set down, that’s an idiot light.” With all the back-and-forth, Related imagethen forth and back, he had overlooked the fuel situation.

“You idiot, what idiot?”

Just as they finally set down, 2 souped-up golf carts come out to meet and greet. Not surprisingly, the one driven by the McKinney boys gets there first, with Braden’s scooting in behind.

Who do the excited siblings run to, once the rotors whoosh to a stop? Francine. And where does Braden head? To the very same pretty lady who used to work for his favorite TV station.

So what is Roy left to do? Watch, as the woman he has fallen in love with is being welcomed into his extended family… just like it was meant to be. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for welcome to the family gif

Episode 152


page 187

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

…Braden King feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it and that means a change in lifestyle…

A NEW LEASE OF LIFE by UZO EGONU


This picture was drawn by Erika Aoyama 11/16/ 2002

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow. —

— And until Sampson and Celeste packed their bags for Mars, Braden King also lived to work, he would come home to help work his 2500 acres and 1000 animals, catch up on the nightly news, eat some beef, steal 5 hours sleep and do it all over again.King Ranch logo

But King Ranch now teams with the vitality of two teen-aged McKinney dynamos, never more important to him, considering the status of their parents, not to mention his own recent health scare. There isn’t anything that cannot wait, unless something can’t wait, then it is filed neatly into a simple list of priorities; family first, everything else second. Never having married has made for tiny family reunions. And you can’t choose family, we all know.

Friends on the other hand, you can choose and do, while at other times they choose you and the fun is in seeing where you stand in a year, five years, etc…

He feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it. That means a change in lifestyle, from the high octane excitement of daily interaction at the Galveston Launch Facility, with whoever is outside Earth’s atmosphere at the time, to working at home from the ranch, keeping track of now ten ranch hands and two McKinney children who depend on him for everything. Braden King will not be making the same mistakes.

New projects are a good way to take your mind off of your old ways, the old days when the International Space Station required attention or that shiny-new Space Colony 1 was being towed into place or you could hardly pull yourself from watching it crawl away from SpaceDock.

With Francine and Roy coming over to spend some time, he has dusted off a 3’ cylinder that has been sitting in his hall closet, taking it over to the dining room table, removing the coiled parchment inside. It is an architectural rendering of house, three bedrooms, two baths poised on a west-facing slope about 200 yards from the main house.

As he remembers, he and Roy had been in serious discussions over the project that would be Crippen’s home away from the space program.


THE RETURN TRIP

Artist Rendition of Crippen Hacienda

Episode 150


page 184

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 137

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 137

…At least one of Roy’s fears is laid to rest, that Francine would fall back into her old life, because it would be the easy thing to do…

thecreativepanic.wordpress.com

There is no need to ring the doorbell or let-loose the family German Shepard to race out a-barking, when you land a helicopter out at the helipad in front yard of the main house of King Ranch.

And when you have two teenage boys and five farmhands out doing chores, pitchforks are dropped {tines down}, feed buckets are left unemptied, the hose leading to the water tank is unattended and tractors return from the back-forty.

Life is simple when you live on a ranch {or farm if you prefer, but this is Texas}, free of over-the-top technology or extreme urgency; it can wait ‘til later, unless it’s mealtime.

“Uncle Roy!” Deke and Gus did not know when they would see him next. Once the rotors have wound down to a stop, they charge up to welcome the pilot, “Boy, are we glad to see you!”

“It looks like you taking care of things outside; otherwise the cattle would be greeting me,” responsibility is job #1 around these parts. States of mind are #2, “How are you guys doing? Have you shaken off that little Gulf episode, the one where you were KIDNAPPED?”

“We’re okay Uncle Roy. Francine talked things over with us at breakfast and everything is cool.”

“Did Miss Bouchette drive back to the city?”

“No, she’s inside making lunch… didn’t you notice her new ride? She parked her ‘Vette, can you believe it?!”

Certainly not immune to all the fuss, Francine exits the main house looking every bit the cowgirl.

“Hello there flyboy, can I offer you a sandwich and a glass of fresh-from-the-cow milk?”

You could knock Roy Crippen over with a feather.

At least one of his fears is laid to rest, that she would fall back into her old life, because it would be the easy thing to do. He would have bet Braden’s, farm that she would have brought the kids home, tucked them in {if you actually can tuck in a teenage boy} and left.

Wrong!


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 137


page 168

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 135

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 135

…Braden King recalls Roy’s turn-of-the-century (21st) brushes with death and matrimony…

“Hot dogs, pizza puffs, mac & cheese, and Kool-Aid, that’s pretty much it, but I managed to talk my way onto an adult menu.”

“That’s the food, now what about the drugs and do they make them strong enough to tame you down?”

“Tame me or tie me down? When the boys went missing, I guessed that pushed me over the edge,” the stricken man admits. “Don’t you have a real job to go to Francine?”

“Naw, I trashed that gig when I agreed to fly off to Jamaica with you-know-who.”

 

“Yeah? Wow! I didn’t see that coming.”

“Do you think I was expecting this? I have been a big fan of Roy for a while now, but that man has got into my head and I don’t think that there is a cure for what ails me.”

“You got the Creeping Crippen! You can’t get it out of your clothes and that stain it leaves on your heart does not wash out.”

“You are his best friend Braden, so tell me the truth: Why has he never married?”

He takes her aside, “Well there he was, got his first big break after becoming an astronaut, pegged to test-pilot out a nuclear powered shuttle prototype. He was engaged to a Florida socialite at the time and she didn’t like him leaving the atmosphere, especially when she learned the nickname for test pilots, it starts
with an “L”.”

“Lunar-tics?”

“That’s a good one, but no–Lab Rats,” he recalls Roy’s turn-of-the-century (21st) brushes with death and matrimony. “When he came back to Earth, she had gone with her parents to Europe and he never heard from her again. Six months later she made headlines by marrying a 70 yr. old Greek winemaker…wasn’t right for him anyhow, but he never got over losing.”

“Was he heartbroken?” Francine loves to guess.

No. She never gave him his diamond ring back. That’s what he hated losing!”

Image result for mean nurse“Out, out, out,” the floor supervisor whispers loudly, “it is past midnight and Master King has tests scheduled first thing.”

“Never mind “Nurse No-Fun”; that’s what the other kids call her.”

“Other kids?” She gives a one-armed hug, careful not to disturb all the tubes and machines. “We will see you tomorrow, Braden. Come on boys, this filly needs to pick out a bunk.”

It is Braden’s home but, “Roy’s room at the ranch is the last door on the left. It has its own bath and I told the cleaning gal you would be coming.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 135


page 166

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 134

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 134

…after Francine self-parks her new bulletproof baby from Buckaroo Bob, they go up to the 20th floor where Braden King’s room is; Pediatric CCU

“Uncle Roy told us you that you drive a Corvette?” Deke McKinney is confused about Francine picking them up in an eight-seat APV (armored personal vehicle).

Buckaroo Bob Bumfort Sr.

“Two seats, three people, one license and stranger danger, all add up to me using this APV. That’s why it took me so long to pick you up. I had to park the ‘Vette, go to my GMC dealership and test drive something more sensible and safe.”

Buckaroo Bob Bumfort?” Gus has seen his car commercials way too many times.

“‘Where they will lasso you a great deal every time’, yeah that’s my dealer.

“Can we visit Braden in the hospital Miss Bouchette?” Deke asks.

“Please call me Francine {not Aunt Francine} and it is getting pretty late, visiting hours are over.”

“You must have connections there,” he insists.

“Okay, but only if he is awake,” she cannot resist.

Aunt Francine caves in like a new-favorite-non-relative-relative should. So after she self-parks her bulletproof baby from Buckaroo Bob, they go up to the 20th floor where Braden King’s room is; Pediatric CCU.

Once they see that he is alright, albeit hooked up to every medical device known to man, Deke jokes, “Don’t they have an old folk’s floor in this place?”

“Come here you wisecracking whippersnappers. I have been worried sick about you two…  I mean you too Miss Francine!”

“You mean worried about “everything in the Universe” Braden and that’s what put you in the hospital,” Francine goes over and kisses him on his forehead.

“I am so proud of you guys… and you too Francine.”

And how about our Uncle Roy? You should have seen him fly his chopper right on top of the bad guys, then the Coast Guard guys came up and rounded ‘em up like a bunch of stray calves!” Gus gushes.

“Not before you went and took off. They had guns you know,” Braden has been piecing together events by conventional means.

Related image“How is the food up here?” Francine wants the boys to settle down before they get home; amped on Mountain Dew, M&Ms, chips… and a day full of shoot ’em up hijinks.

“Hot dogs, pizza puffs, mac & cheese, and Kool-Aid, that’s pretty much it, but I managed to talk my way onto an adult menu and some takeout from BBQ Heaven.” Braden has many reasons to be grateful.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 134


page 165

 

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