THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

…any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel…

“The country would not stand for news of the McKinney deaths… they adore that couple,” President Sanchez makes a politically generic statement.

“This should have nothing to do with Time Magazine Online “Most Influential People” issue and everything to do with putting reprobate rulers in their place.” Roy moves to move the President of the United States of America into action. The man is stuck on how this latest development makes his administration look, instead of recognizing the threat to the welfare of the planet itself.

“Chances are Pete,” using his first name for effect, “that armchair diplomacy or economic sanctions will not work here.”

Sanchez should ask himself why, in retrospect, that the very same type of jealous admiration exhibited by Korea, were one and the same as his quest for the United States Senate, lo those many years ago. As a younger, more idealistic politician, Sanchez had practiced a suspicious mudslinging campaign against the incumbent Senator, in the primary election that year. And though Sanchez did not get the nomination and the other party ultimately won the general election, it ruined the man’s reputation unnecessarily.

It is a lesson for those who are lame ducks or out of favor; there may be someone or some country lurking, ready to ruin his legacy or bring down the entire nation he is ultimately responsible for.

“I guess we need to flex our muscles.”

“And forget about that gratuitous speech you are about to deliver,” Roy whispers under his breath. “And you know that we at NASA and SAC will be vigilant, Sir.”

No sooner than the phone goes dead, Roy wonders if the President meant yet another dreaded commodity embargo or economic isolation; neither of which work against those determined to make, in this case, outer space mischief.

Francine is privy to one side of the conversation, but any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel. She is aware that stakes of the game have changed and she will have a front row seat to it all.

It is getting late at Lovell and making the trip home to Houston less desirable than usual, but in these times of fear and doubt, where better to spend the night but at King Ranch, “I’ll give Braden a heads up about an incoming Canadian-made helicopter with a Russian sounding name (Sikorsky) and two tired NASA people aboard,” she states.

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.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 149


page 141

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

..When it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D….

“Thank you and good day.”

Francine backs away from the podium, turning toward a stage left exit, when a cry comes out from the crowd, “Miss Bouchette!!! Is it true that you left KHST in Houston in violation of your “sweetheart” contract?” He must be a friend of her former fiancée.

Nowheresville USA from Kasey Musgraves

This voice is antithetical to the previous 30 queries, antagonistic, from the middle of the mulling transcriptional troubadours. She was going to ignore the provocation and continue on, but chooses not to retreat from the cowardly question asked when the lights have been doused and attentions have shifted… by someone she recognizes.

“If I am not mistaken Mr. Loyd, with one L, weren’t you under contract when you left Nowheresville, Arkansas for the greener pastures of the Dallas market six years ago?”

The man’s self-righteous grin is inverted to a frown as he slithers toward the door, while other reporters in the know inherit his smile. Pockets of applause erupt from those remaining to witness Francine’s rapier wit.

In the wings, Roy exhibits delight for Francine, fully aware of the awkward position he has asked of her. She is more relieved than pleased, but accepts his warm embrace.

police-siren-animated - The HostBaby BlogWhen it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D., “You’ll want to take a seat for this one.”

He makes the caller {the President} wait five rings and clears his throat, preparing for a preemptive strike lobbed all the way from the Hawkeye State, “Your Press Secretary delivered a real snow-job at that presser, which was nothing more than an advertisement for funding of a second space colony, Director Crippen. I think they would be more interested in the incompetent handling of the New Mayflower Incident!”, Pedro “Pete” Sanchez blusters in his best  back-seat bravado!

“Mr. President Sir, we are talking about a clear matter of self-defense and protecting the World Space Consortium’s investments from the jealous actions of rogue nations.”

Francine could not possibly guess what Roy is about to tell the leader of the free world, of all people.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 147


page 139

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 90

1 Comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 90

…And then there is the inconvenient reality of her VP fiancée, who is probably worried sick, period, without knowing about what is going on between the TV Newswoman and the NASA Colony Mission Director…

inconvenient-truth-001

Right now (Braden King) he feels like 80. —

— As would Roy Crippen had he not found himself half-passed out on his office couch, next to Francine, who is showing no signs of wanting to leave. She is obviously preoccupied by the concept of how she ever ended up so “close” to the space program. Conversely, for the first time since breaking 200 MPH whilst speeding away from her native Houston, the 10 o’clock newscast she bolted from crosses her mind. Her newly acquired sense of four-letter loyalty has shifted from KHST to NASA, in addition to that deviant stance, she doesn’t feel at all guilty about not having a camera crew along for the station’s {and her career} enrichment.

In fact, her television chores have also occurred to Roy, “Aren’t you going to file a
report to KHST Channel 13 Houston’s News Source?”

“Thank you for that proper station ID,” she forms her real response carefully, if not unenthusiastically. “I suppose I should.” And then there is the inconvenient reality of her VP fiancée, who is probably worried sick, period, without knowing about what is going on between the TV Newswoman and the NASA Colony Mission Director.

For Roy, whose mind never rests anyway, has been doing some thinking, you know, about mortality and bachelorhood. He has noticed the Francine’s transformation from selfish career person to Mamma’s every prayer for a daughter-in-law.

“Francine…….I’ve been kicking something around.” That is an understatement considering the drastic implications for her.the-right-words-001

“What???” She had been in a trance of her own.

“Well……,” he stutters, stumbles, and skirts the issue, “…throughout my years at NASA, both in the air and here with the Space Colony project, I feel there is a void, when it comes to a public presence, that one authoritative voice; someone with your media flair and experience that can deal with situations like we had today.”

Francine thinks she knows what he means, but does not lead him forward, fearing how she would respond.

“Heck,” his Southern drawl breaking in, “for as long as I can remember, it has always been ‘good ol’ Roy’ plunked in front of cameras and microphones and not to nasa (1)thrilled about it.

“No offense, but I’m not a big fan of you press people, although at first the attention was nice enough. But now it is a hassle and it is taking me off-course from my real job.”

“Sure, sure, you want someone else to be the face of failure.”

“Failure, I’m not so sure. We have only scratched the surface of what caused the Colony to go down.”

“I have not seen a single member of the press, not that pompous ass from Channel 5 or anyone from FOX or REUTERS and if they were here they would be asking a millions ignorant questions and some poor sucker here at CMC would have spilled their guts and piss you off.”

Roy is taken aback by Francine’s callous bluntness, and he hasn’t even asked the question.


THE RETURN TRIP

newsroom-001

Episode 90


page 85

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 87

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 87

…“And you found out that I am a sucker for a beautiful girl with a gun pointed at her head!”…

Big Red Lollipop by Donna Pomponio

“You are bluffing.”

“Am I?” Roy Crippen retorts.

Perhaps because his ears were burning from the flush of embarrassment, or out of shear frustration, he rips off his elastic face/mask, revealing the fire in his eyes. He is also nobody’s’s fool.

Rather than reacting irrationally, he decides to act on a more limited target, while outwardly staying cool.

Enough time has ticked off the countdown clock that Roy can sense the reversing of fortunes.

His assumption is premature, upon seeing Gherkin Dogman turn calmly, raise his weapon and aim it at Francine’s head. Without hesitating he dives headlong into the man, a tackle with the greatest execution, causing the furious spray of bullets to go straight up.

With the noose of reinforcements closing in around them and Gherkin/whomever intentions clear to his men, they are firing in an instant… not at Francine but in the direction of Gantry #2, with the Russian-made jetcopter rising off the ground, pivoting to fire its lethal boom-001payload.

By the time the copter has turned, a good-guys Image result for good guysshoulder-fired missile takes it down in a fiery heap and not a single hostile bullet finds its mark, while the foreign boots-on-the-ground are mowed down like so many weeds.

Roy Crippen has the lone survivor of the raid pinned beneath him, pretty much alongside where Francine spent those terrifying few seconds. Both she and he are very fortunate survivors, given the fact that they were the only participants without a gun.

Francine is lucky in another sense: 100 out of 100 journalists would have given their right arm to be at the scene of the 21st Century’s most compelling stories. But that wasn’t on her mind right now, “That was the bravest thing I have ever seen Roy, live or on video.”

“Had to save that “space-plane”, right Gherkin?” he says while looking down. And you found out that I am a sucker for a beautiful girl with a gun pointed at her head. In the fog of conflict, Roy reacted the only way he knew how. (Never give a sucker an even break)

He actually was thinking of her first, even before his precious Space Colony.t-minus-to-launch-001

They are soon surrounded by Mission Control Marines.

Braden King declares, “T-minus 00:10.00 and counting all systems go in the launch of the deep-space New Mayflower. The sky is high and we have two important people waiting for us.”


THE RETURN TRIP

im-a-sucker-001

Episode 87


page 82

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

…All of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in on Space Colony or not…

pretty-face-001

Francine’s shiny sports car sits conspicuously close to the entrance of the station, where lighting is2031 Model Corvette brighter and security tighter, for her new four-wheeled two-seater. For the first time in the Chevy’s 550 mile life, its rear tires lay down matching black stripes on a paved surface, through gears 1 & 2. She uses every side-street-shortcut available, ignoring some red lights and praising the cooperating green ones. Her biggest roadblock is the exit/entrance ramp from the South Sam Houston Tollway, those damned tolls are always backed up on the weekends.

As expected the lanes are stuffed with Houstonian peons, but the far right lane is closed for maintenance. Risking scratches to the Honeysuckle Red Fiberglass front end, she plows through the gate, leaving the metal breakaway logjam in her wake.

The dusty display of driving catches the eye of a Tollway officer, who stands pointing an accusing finger at the violator whose picture has been taken and there will be a price to pay. The scornful look on his face produces momentary guilt from Francine, for 2 meaningless seconds, and then she is back laying rubber as she jumps on the 45, watching the speedometer leap past 100 in two-shakes of an angry man’s finger.

Once on the Interstate she finds it free of southbound traffic, free to focus her memory on the mysterious Arabic caller that started these present events in motion. This went down in such rapid succession that she was afraid that some important detail would fall through the cracks of awareness.

The most amazing thing about this whole ordeal, now an international big deal, was the wide exposure she had fallen into. Her name is on more tongues tonight than in any single Texan year in the last 10 and her agent is probably on the phone with news directors in the #2 & #1 markets, if not network television.

Related imageAll of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in or not. For the second time today, Francine steps back to examine her soul, wondering just what has come over her. The “values” transformation is in direct opposition of everything she had become up to January day into night.

Pre-disaster Francine was a bitter person, so caught up in vanity that she never learned how to relate with all people, not just the important ones. Her idea of intimacy was to string along a poor sucker local TV broadcast exec, allowing him to think he had a future with a “trophy” catch.


THE RETURN TRIP

visual-journalism

Visual Journalism

Episode 69


page 65

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 57

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 57

…“You’re just a speck of moon dust to her, like she would be interested in a kid like you,”…

Pebble Beach by Emily James

 CHAPTER FOUR

  Space Family Confidential

  “As we prepare to bid adieu from the scenic and historic Pebble Beach Golf Links, you are looking at rare ground, one of only 500 pieces of real estate around the world that has the capability to host a professional golf tournament, none more treasured than this.

“And how appropriate it is that the man holding the Bing Crosby Trophy is none other than Evan pebble-beach-trophySamuel Michelson, whose father has joined him on the 18th green. Let’s go down to Bubba Watson for the presentation…”

Gus McKinney is wearing the headset for the televiewer and he has set it in motion to search for other sporting activities. They have violated rule #1 in the McKinney brood: Never put a VoIP block on the televiewer. They have been incommunicado for the balance of this January day. Braden King, their Earthly guardian is currently on his way back to the ranch, to ward off “you know what” from reaching the kiddos before they can be properly {co}parented.

Related image“AW, COME ON GUS, if we have to watch Four-man Power-Curling or Male Ice Dancing I am going to throw up,” brother Deke is already tiring of the 2030 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. The mindbogglingly 1000 choices arbitrarily comes to rest on the low number 13, the lower the number, the more local it is; 1000 being JEOPARDY!, hosted by Watson the IBM brainiac.

“Good Evening, my name is Francine Bouchette and this is a KHST 13 Special Report, your news authority for the last 10 years.” An assortment of Space Colony footage scrolls on the screen.gif pretty art indie moon Grunge space stars dark Alternative moon gif phases craters

“Isn’t she a fox?” raves Gus.

“You’re just a speck of moon dust to her, like she would be interested in a kid like you,” which isn’t completely true, given her afternoon’s crash course in McKinney Family history.

breaking-news-1

The ever-fetching Francine reappears on camera; now joined by her junior co-anchor {piece-of-crap} Steven Sharkey who doesn’t have a clue on what he may be reading in a few seconds.

“In a KHST 13 News Authority Exclusive, I just got off the phone with Space Colony 1 Coordinator Roy Crippen, a friend to Channel 13 News, having confirmed a story that I have been tracking down all afternoon. He has confirmed the horrible news that Space Colony 1 appears to have been destroyed, which verifies my confidential alternate source.”

“Nnnooooooo,” screams Deke…


THE RETURN TRIP

newsroom-001

Episode 57


page 54

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

…A cold chill travels up her spine at the thought of the reprehensible plight of the McKinneys…

time-magazine-001

Since the newswoman is so close to going with this story live, she takes a deep breath to reassess the wisdom of her coming actions. In the big scheme of things, nothing is bigger than {breaking} news of a probable Space Colony disaster, but in her hours compiling file footage, Francine has come to admire the husband-wife astronaut team, who have invested their lives, sacrificed valuable family time, and now may be doomed to sacrificing their lives, literally.

Image result for #1Image result for #2She discovers a hidden reserve of compassion deep down inside. It has never been clearer why the attractive couple ranked #1 & #2 in  TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 Most Influential People issue, for the second consecutive year. Last year they were just appearing on the national scene as an epic family.

A cold chill travels up her spine at the thought of the reprehensible plight of these good folk.

What had started out as breaking news about the demise of Space Colony 1 unexpectedly evolves into a mournful hodge-podge of doom and gloom, mostly because of the time she would devote to Sampson and Celeste McKinney, their lives on Earth and their fate in space. But the truth is, the details are meager and the creative latitude too tempting.Image result for 4:30

The script as she wrote it has a somber tone, with a theme that challenges NASA’s goals and the price it has exacted on the world economy, along with unrealized expectations. It is 4:30 and she programs her words into the teleprompter, something she almost never does.

When she takes a break before heading to make-up and hair, the gaunt face of Roy Crippen, whose eyes display the stress of unmitigated devotion, keep popping into her brain. He has become the face of Space Colony 1, unfailingly cooperative to a fault and polite beyond belief; all those inane questions from ignorant neophytes. She cannot help but project the man’s current mental state and her uncensored news flash may push him past some unforeseen brink.

Suddenly, like a sinner being visited by an angel of mercy, Francine finds herself racing to the nearest desk phone.  In a minute she is hailing the line leading directly to the Galveston launch facility. She gets funneled into a cybex satellite telecommunication router.

“Galveston Launch, we are currently unavailable due to technical problems.”

It sounds like a computer generated voice.

“Oh yeah – you can *#%+@&! – you stupid machine! I need to speak with Mr. Roy Crippen and I mean now!”

“I am sorry but he is unavailable.”newsroom-001

That is not an automated voice. Oops.

“My name is Francine Bouchette, from KHST 13 Television, Houston. I have urgent information that I need to discuss with Mr. Crippen.”

“There is a news conference scheduled for one o’clock AM and your station will be receiving a press release shortly. Until then, he remains unavailable.” She is firm.

Francine is even more firm, “I know what happened to Space Colony 1.”

There is no response.

“I am going live in twelve minutes.”

“Please hold the line.

If she hadn’t stopped smoking, in the interest of white teeth and porcelain skin, this would be the perfect time for a 100 Slim Menthol. The digital clock clicks down to 9 minutes before the live cut-in.

“Get on the stick Lady,” she mumbles into the phone.

It is three more minutes before an anxious male voice joins the connection.

“What exactly do you think you know about Space Colony, Ms. Bouchette,” this man doesn’t beat around the bush.


 THE RETURN TRIP

angel_of_mercy_by_fluro_knife

Angel of Mercy by Fluro Knife deviantart.com

Episode 55


page 52

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 54

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 54

…When Francine concentrates on a task at hand (instead of her 15-story ego) it amazes even herself

Image result for ego artwork

Stella Im Hultberg ‘Alter Ego’ Painting

For once in her life, Francine escapes the limelight to seek out and pick the brain of the station’s NASA expert; when in doubt, go to those in the know. In this space-saturated news environment, admittedly, she did not pay close attention to the Space Colony story, merely glossing over the copy her “inept script writer” provided for broadcasts.

Being the weekend, the space geek is at home, so she must do some videophone work to get her information, “Good afternoon Gilly, can you give me a few minutes?” The person on Francine’s screen is not thrilled, but is professional enough to comply.

Randi Gilbert

“Sure Miss Bouchette, what can I do for you,” Randi Gilbert, who is a former test pilot for the Air Force, has a fluid pipeline to the goings-on both at Lovell and Galveston.

“Say, I am working on this story for tonight’s cast and I need some background stuff about Space Colony 1 and that married couple Celeste and Sampson McKinney. I have been looking at file files, but I’m not getting a good feel for them as real people.”

“They are THE story of the 21st Century so far Francine…”

Gilbert goes on to tell the story of a true space family, whose heritage and focus is all about exploration, “to boldly go” as once was said.

She goes on to explain just how massive an undertaking that the world-cooperative-project truly is. 135 countries, with two or so notable exceptions, have pooled their talent and resources to give the planet Earth an out if-you-will, a relatively nearby outpost, as well as a future home to hundreds of settlers…

“Thank you for everything Randi, we will have to do lunch one of these days.”

Like that will ever happen,

“You bet Francine.”

That would be goodbye for now.

Dominic Urbano, Digital Artist

Dominic Urbano, Digital Artist

When Francine concentrates on a task at hand, instead of her 15-story ego, it amazes even herself. Behind that brazened façade lays an appreciable amount of untapped potential, perhaps needing an infusion of COMountain Dew carbonation to encourage the coming out of that trapped talent.

Her further research centers around the year 2018, about the time the Space Colony project morphed from the state of figures and computer animation, to a worldwide financial octopus; the substantive mass of lightweight titanium it has ultimately become {unthinkably became?}. With Galveston so close at hand, the crux of R & D for generations of NASA ventures, KHST’s story files are crammed with stories of the men and machines that explore beyond Earth’s atmosphere.


THE RETURN TRIP

Jung’s Model of the Psyche.

Jung’s Model of the Psyche.

Episode 54


page 52

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

…Out of the blue, an idea bubble forms above her head

think-bubble-001

Francine BouchetteHurriedly, without checking a mirror first, KHST 13’s lead weekend anchorwoman heads straight for the newsroom. She is advancing at a pace that takes out 2 interns and an IT nerd, casualties of the ardent instinct that drives the best newshounds. And if she has the look of preoccupation, the end justifies the means.

Ratings book

The standard method of breaking a news story of this magnitude would to lead off the next scheduled newscast with it, replete with file footage, bios, and interviews. OR, she could fire up KHST’s news crawl at the bottom of the screen, but that would only tip off the competition and she will not have any of that.

Neither one of the above methods would benefit her rating-card, that already was #2 with a bullet. On top of all this, the station has stuck her with a stiff of a co-anchor, hired from an independent in Indianapolis and she would have to let him in on the action. Sharing is not one of her redeeming qualities.

Out of the blue, an idea bubble forms above her head, “What if I do a programming break-in, like they did back in 2017 when Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey… wow that was 13 years ago already and I am still in local TV?… it’ll be an outrageous stunt, but most of management is teeing off on the 14th hole at their country club or at a spa… no one is around to get in my way.”

It was a BIG bubble.

Shuffling feet and adolescent whispers signal the presence of Hightower Junior High speech class, whom she had forgotten about, them and their Junior-Journalism field trip. And who is the tour guide for these kids, none other than Steven Sharkey, the albeit handsome hick from Indiana? Before she can head for the hills, good ol’ Steve uses her as an excuse to use her pretty face as a backdrop to the newsroom.

“And by demand of her adoring fans, I’d like to introduce, you media students, Miss Francine Bouchette, our lovely and talented weekend news anchor and weekday reporter.” Steven coaxes her out of her chair, giving her a warm hug, like a good friend, instead of the rivals that they actually are.

Queen Francine manufactures an agonizing smile, this not being a good time for her. There is some applause {eyes glued below her neck} from the 14-year-old boys and gigglies from the envious {of her breasts} girls. Steven takes the opportunity to horn in on her story, “Please notice how fast she is flying through those web searches. What are you working on Francine?”

“I am actually working on a story about a tour guide accused of inappropriate touching…. and look who shows up?”

Dost thou feel the scorpion’s sting fledgling Steve? She dashes off, leaving Steve to distract the students by moving on to see the studio set.


THE RETURN TRIP

B-I-G

Episode 53


page 51

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

 “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.”…

Image result for crank call

Crank Call by Graham Annable

“I will tell you of something your greedy leaders will not: At eleven o’clock AM Texas time, the Earth’s ultimate imperialistic endeavor, Space Colony 1 has been completely and utterly destroyed!” There is more than one stab into the belly and genuine pride in his delivery.

Francine eases herself down into her chair, gasping at the mere thought. This man does not sound like your typical crank.

“Did you hear me woman? The Taliban, Nepal and Korean governments applaud this accident. Allah and Buddha have spoken.”

“I heard you,” she whispers faintly. Everyone in southern Texas knows someone who works in the space industry or Space Colony specifically. “I am not inclined to believe you sir,” is all the journalism she can muster.

“You are the only civilian who has this information, use it to disgrace the infidels and enhance your own career and that of your station. Reuters would gladly break this story, no problem.”

“If I am the only Westerner to know this, if it is true, wouldn’t NASA want to hold a formal press conference?”

“But you do not want to share the spotlight,” he pauses, she mulls. “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.” He slips back into his Arabic vernacular.

“I’ll need more information before I can break this story.”

“You must have a source in the space program; I suggest you confirm it with them. But they will tell you the same things, if they are honest. They will speak of how an asteroid has destroyed your space station and stopped the useless expansion into space. They may try to rescue the project, but they will fail, Allah has prevailed. You will not discover your source…”

A dial tone abruptly replaces the bearer of horrible news.

And what is she to do with this? No one else of import is at the station.


THE RETURN TRIP

newsroom-001

Episode 52


page 50