THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 151

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 151

…when Roy’s helicopter spots the  Sunset Hill letters on his hangar he can tell that something else has been going on there about…

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. There is a hangar near that very spot now, a steel shed where that Sikorsky S-96 sits protected from the sandy Texas winds when Roy flies out for a visit.

However, the house never took 3-dimentional form, set aside when Space Colony 1 became his spiritual “home”. “No time for that now Braden. Maybe someday I can settle down out here, but someday isn’t tomorrow or even the next… and what am I going to do with a spread like that, no wife and no kids, just a chopper, a yacht and a bedroll to my name.”

But previously closed doors have been pried opened and Braden decides, independently, that the time has come when that dream house becomes a real home. Local contractors have been busy preparing the ground, laying the foundation, and giving it a footprint on Sunset Hill at King Ranch {simply where the sun sets}.

At Braden’s behest the deed for the land has been Related imagelegally reassigned and most of the bills and the ever-popular junk mail should be landing in Roy’s new mailbox any day now.

The time has come for Roy to shift gears as well; Francine will be doing her part and Braden, Deke, and Gus will do the rest, should any prodding need-be done.

Life is good and getting better all the time…..And to find love right in front of your eyes, nothing could be finer.

So when Roy’s helicopter spots the Sunset Hill letters on his hangar he can tell that something else has been going on there about.

“This is KR 2022, calling King Ranch control,” he announces, “We have noticed some topographical changes near our hangar, can you confirm?”

Braden replies, “Proceed with caution KR 2022, there is concrete setting to the north of Hangar #1. Hangar #2 is a three car garage.”

“And that hole in the ground to the west, a meteor crater?”

“No, that would be the foundation for your house, silly.”


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Episode 151


page 185

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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 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.”


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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.


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Episode 134


page 165

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 99

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 99

…Too many twos, two many 2s and if there was a rock big enough to hide behind, Roy would have preferred it to this…

Image result for too many

Braden has been slowly dismantling the many-gift-mountain of cards, boxes, gift wrap and tissue. There are some meant to be shared, ‘Deke & Gus’. There are many specifically labeled either ‘Deke’ or ‘Gus’. Others are anonymous tributes to The Space Family McKinney.

By sheer coincidence and not divine intervention, we think, Francine and Roy’s packages are the last to be unwrapped. The givers of said gifts are still standing near one another, having ooo-ed, aah-d, and clapped politely throughout the process, which has run past daylight’s influence.

Most everyone has done the math or eliminated themselves from belonging to the boxes. Fate is once again shining a spotlight on that reluctant featured pairing, still trying to sort out their feelings, once they get past continuing awkward social situation.

The lady-well-wisher’s carton is next to last, opened with genuine excitement by Gus, “Channel 13 News Crew bomber jackets, look Deke!”

She was afraid people would think her a self-promoter, “It’s the same one worn by our cameramen and grips.”

“Way kool Miss Bouchette. All the kids at school can drool.”

The final unopened gift belonged to Roy.

“Read the card first Deke,” if Braden has the boy skip that part, it would be fine with Roy, who knows exactly how he signed the card.

Too late!!

“2 the two finest young men we know. With Love and friendship,           Uncle Roy and Channel 13 Francine”

The young man reads it loud and proud.

Too many twos, two many 2s and if there was a rock big enough to hide behind, Roy would have preferred it to this. The boys do not think about motivation when it comes to birthdays.

“A 4-D Galaxy Planet Asteroid Tracker by Intel, wow just like the one in your office Uncle Roy… and Francine?”

asteroid-tracker

Roy wanted to explain Francine’s duplicity, had he known how to. Some things are better left to wondering.

The agreeable crowd subdivides into smaller groups, to sample Braden’s BBQ skills—-and gossip.Related image

Roy looks for that back-forty boulder to hide behind.

Francine is just plain curious, but they are overtaken by the shuffled throng.

“I can’t believe how generous people are. Deke & Gus are so lucky,” Aunt Sassy (from the old country) shakes Roy’s hand like she was trying to bust it loose from his shoulder socket, while eyeing Francine up and down.

“Now Sassy, don’t break his wrist,” insists the senior member of the McKinney relative contingent Savta Inga Bergestrom (from the other old country). “You two look like you are having a wonderful time.”


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Episode 99


page 122

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 98

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 98

…Attention everyone, I would like to propose a toast… raise your glasses as I salute our Director Roy Crippen and Channel 13’s own Francine Bouchette!”

Image result for a toast artwork

Separately and together, she and he play it oh-so-kool, willing to allow randomness to take its course.

To anyone with two eyes and a television, they had been captured on video holding hands; the tension is thick and juicy.

braceT LFTWhispers:“Why aren’t they talking?” “I thought they liked each other.” “At bracket rt least they can talk to each other.”

In-house wagering is going on among the adults, “I have 50 bucks that says they will not talk.. any takers?” Just one of the side bets.

The master of ceremonies takes matters in his own hands, “Attention everyone, before Deke & Gus open their gifts, and I take the ribs off the grill, I would like to propose a toast… raise your glasses as I salute the two real celebrities among us—my apologies to any movie stars or sitting Presidents—To our Director Roy Crippen and Channel 13’s own Francine Bouchette!”

“C-H-E-E-R-S! Here – here! Salud!” come from all around from every side as the toasted make their way forward.

Whispers (he & she):“There are lots of people here.” “Yes there are and so many gifts.” “I didn’t expect to see you here.” “I had to file that story, I hope you know that.” “Of course you did, and I imagine my impulsiveness caught you off guard.”

13d01-6a00d8341cb55f53ef010536ace89f970b-800wiFrancine, in her big girl voice, “No need for you to apologize Roy what happened to us was perfectly natural.”

“Had I known you were engaged that would have never happened,” counters Roy.

“You were every bit the gentleman and I did not offer any résistance.”

“I am in some hot water over this whole mess, maybe you should keep your distance.”be5e8-6a00d8341cb55f53ef0120a604af2c970c-800wi

“Do you think I’m worried about my association with you? Bring it on fools!”


 

THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 98


page 120

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 95

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 95

…Subscribing to the “strength in numbers” axiom, the guest list has been expanded to include a variety of acquaintances, from the past, present and those not met

edgar-wallace-entertains-a-few-of-his-acquaintances

by HENRY MAYO BATEMAN

These past 2 action-packed days, from the point when the McKinneys attached the deep-space Chronicle to Space Colony, then go and pile on the current theatrics, will distort a person’s concept of the passage of time. Plus or minus 48 hours have drawn 2 days out to what seems to be a week, weaving and knitting every second into a patchwork quilt…

By the grace of God, the succeeding identical period of 48 hrs. streaks by and King Ranch logobefore you know it Wednesday 9 January 2030 A.D. has arrived. For visitors to Braden’s King Ranch, they are treated to the atmosphere of 19th Century American Old West, the date and place chosen to celebrate the combined birth of Deke McKinney, born 6 January 2015 and Gus McKinney born 11 January 2016.

The event was conceived out of love by the ranch’s owner to ease the pain of separation, for both children and parents alike. If everything had gone “according to space-birthday-001Hoyle”, Sampson & Celeste would have been back aboard the Colony and through the miracle of accelerated space communication, they would have been linked to the party by voice and by sight.

Regrettably, Mom & Dad are otherwise occupied.

barbecue_pin_up

Gus’ BBQ Fantasy Guest

Subscribing to the “strength in numbers” axiom, the guest list has been expanded to include a variety of acquaintances, from the past, present and those not met. Friends, relatives, well-wishers and those pesky party crashers have gathered at King Ranch. The menagerie gathers around BBQ hour, which could be any random time of day, and has a few surprise guests; Grandma Savta Bergestrom from Sweden (the country) and Aunt Sassy McKinney, Sampson’s crazy Scottish/Irish sister from Great(er) Britain.

The turnout of GLF and LSC personnel is impressive, with the boys having grown up in front of their eyes as they tagged along with Mom & Dad over the years. Admirals and Generals have reason to be jealous of this Who’s Who crowd. There are two late arrivers to the festivities: ??? + ???

Tune in tomorrow


THE RETURN TRIP

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by Jon Flaming

Episode 95


page 117

 

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