THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 169

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 169

…“Just how long will we be staying on Mars?”

“Until the experiments are done or we run out of excuses… and then we will discuss.”…

“We’ve been eavesdropping Rick… where the hell is Sammy Mac?” If the situation weren’t so bothersome, it would make for a great episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. “Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions?”

“Their boys aren’t listening in are they?”

“No, thank God and we are going to control who knows what, when and you are taking care of the where.”

“Then I don’t think we can say anything for sure Roy – Braden. This is all way too strange and it is going to take some time to do a CSI Mars or wait for them to come back from wherever they are hiding. Tycho looks lived in but not lived-in enough, if you know what I mean?”

“I may be overstepping my bounds, but I am going to have you stay out there and conduct every single experiment or at the very least, pick up where they left off.”

“FYI……I see some early spectro-photographic soundings that show some huge lithium deposits, not to mention liquid water and crude bacteria deep in the subsoil.”

“See if you can unravel the missing person’s mystery first and worry about all the other goodies later.”

“Just how long will we be staying?”

“Until the experiments are done or we run out of excuses… and then we will discuss.”

“What do we do with Tycho when we leave, shut it down, blow it up, hang a For Rent sign on it?”

“None of the above; Just close the door and leave the lights on!”

“Now who would leave a perfectly good machine like Tycho behind on a distant planet?”

“Too bad we don’t have an automatic recall feature or a good hangar to store it.” Roy laments an unnecessarily un-lamentable set of circumstances. “I guess we will have to be the first.”

{Maybe not Roy!}


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 169


page 160

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

…“Mission Control, there is a problem…

“This is Rescue Mission 2A-1B, the New Mayflower approaching Mars orbit, range 225,200 miles and closing.”

To say that this April day has been anxiously anticipated is a colossal underestimation. Few like comparisons can be made, with the almost three month build up to this historic moment.

“We have been attempting to make contact, but Tycho is giving us an away message. Image result for emotional rollercoaster gifThe signal is strong and there is no sign of distress. She’s a good sight for sure!”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, and the entire GLF staff are poised to witness a watershed moment in the agonizing saga of Space Colony 1. The minimum expectations of the rescue mission involve flattening the emotional roller coaster that has been this colossal project, one that has dominated the past two years in everyone’s’ life.

High-highs followed by the lowest of lows are not a healthy prescription for the faint of heart. Braden can attest to how mounting mental pressures can manifest itself into the physical.

And hope is the most powerful drug at our disposal and you do not need a medical doctor to prescribe it. Suppressing it today would require a cold wet towel or a badass, who-cares attitude. To have gotten the mission organized and off the ground, overcoming relentless interference from determined enemies, and reach this point is a testament to the audacity of hope.

“Take it down to 200 miles and make two orbits at 0º degrees latitude. When you have a good fix on Tycho, use the Plain of Xanthe as a landing strip, just like we did out at White Sands {Missile Range N.M. simulator).”

“We still have not established voice or visual Roy.”

“Let’s not borrow trouble now Rick. Take her down on the smoothest 200 yards you can find.”

This newest incarnation of the Mayflower circles Mars at its equator twice, the first orbit locates Tycho; the second has trouble locating anything that resembles smooth. An area to the left of the lander has the appearance of a recent Xanthe neighborhood to-do.

“Mission Control, there is a problem…..”


THE RETURN TRIP

Emotional Rollercoaster – fightingwithstrength.com

Episode 166


page 157

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 161

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 161

…Systems on the NEWFOUNDLANDER that never made so much as a peep, poop or gurgle are adding their ovations to the emergent chorus…

Chorus by Jacob Rowan

The Space Family McKinney, Sampson, Celeste, and Sammy are strangely content with whatever fate befalls them, but not long after that adorable-Mars/moon-namesake joins the 4th planet party, the NEWFOUNDLANDER seems to be having other ideas. Several times in the recent past, Sampson noted sudden, uncharacteristic computing activity. It seems random and spontaneous, not as a result of anything they or he was doing, but it is incremental in its frequency.

“Here it goes again Sam! Are you sure you didn’t bump something over there?”Celeste is concerned about the electronica noises distracting Sammy from feeding time, courtesy of one of her two milk-filled nursing stations. It is the only dispensary aboard this ship that is certified Grade A.

“I keep telling you that nothing I am doing around this musical chatterhouse is causing any of this. I would not risk upsetting the status quo, although I really think I getting that steering thing nailed.”

During this current cycle of beeps, boops, bops, pops, and hums, the whole ship comes alive at once, in the familiar key of A. Systems that never made so much as a peep, poop or gurgle are adding their ovations to the emergent chorus. It is like the ghosts of its former crew were manning their stations, which was impossible.

When the unmistakable whine of the ship’s propulsion unit, that magical mystery miniature module in the bowels of the lower deck shakes the control bridge and the sheer awesome power is being harnessed and directed with purpose, Sampson acts instinctively.

“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 RETURN TRIP

No Control by Güneş Yılmaz

Episode 161


page 152

Abundant Vital Quenching and Wondrous – WIF WATER

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The Many

Marvelous Mysteries

of Water

Water is, by far, the most abundant natural resource on Earth, as around 72% of the planet’s surface is covered with it. It’s also the driving factor behind the origins of life, as we do not yet know of a life form that’s not water-based. The same cannot be said for anything else. We know of organisms that don’t require light, oxygen, warmth, or even the Earth’s atmosphere to survive – as many microbes can stay alive in space, too – though every one of them absolutely requires water to function.

Humans and animals alike love to frolic in it, when it’s warm enough.

While the reasons for all that may be obvious to most – it makes sense that life evolved around the most abundant resource in the environment – it doesn’t have anything to do with the Earth or the environment at all. Water is – in itself – one of the weirdest substances to ever exist, with mysterious properties that aren’t just unheard of on Earth, but anywhere in the universe. Right from its highly-debated structure to the baffling Mpemba effect, it’s exactly these unexplained properties that give water its unique position as the single biggest factor behind all life we know of today, and why finding life based on any other substance anywhere else in the universe is more unlikely than we think.

8. Water’s Inexplicably-High Surface Tension

One of water’s most unique – and mind-boggling – properties is its surface tension. While nothing unusual in itself, as every liquid has some surface pull that keeps its molecules together in that state, water’s surface tension is much higher than any other liquid we know of. This unique property has some far-reaching consequences for the evolution of life on Earth. For an example, it’s how blood – over 80% of which is made up of water – can overcome the force of gravity and circulate around the body.

As for why this is, you guessed it: we’re not sure. Scientists previously believed that it’s because of the uniquely strong hydrogen bonds found in the water molecules, though if a recent study is to be believed, that’s not the case, and water is actually even weirder than that. Apparently, its surface tension isn’t even static, and could change according to how water is feeling that day.

As the study found, it’s the stickiest just when its surface is formed – like the exact time a water droplet falls down. Surprisingly, it takes unusually long for it to come down to its original value, too, something the researchers didn’t understand. What they did clear up, however, is that it has nothing to do with the hydrogen bonds, or anything else we know of.

7. We Don’t Know Why Water Expands On Cooling, Or Vice Versa

That things expand when they’re heated up and shrink in size on cooling is one of the fundamental rules of nature. We can see it in play all around us, and a lot of our infrastructure takes this rule into account. Almost every building has expansion joints, allowing it to breathe in or out depending on the season. Rules, however, do not apply to water, as it remains the only known substance that expands on cooling and vice versa, and we still don’t know why.

It’s not even difficult to verify this. Just take some ice in a container, note its general volume and wait for it to warm up and liquify. It would always take up less space than its solid form, which also happens to be one of water’s weirdest properties. Science has been trying to answer it for a while, though the potential answers – much like everything else about water – make the whole thing even more mysterious.

According to recent research, there is a perfectly good explanation for this unique property: liquid water doesn’t really expand when it’s cooled, but actually oscillates between two distinct states of liquid matter. If you cool it down below 0 degrees Celsius, it may seem to be expanding, but if you lower it even further, you’d start to notice that it’s contracting, too. Keep taking it closer to its freezing point – which is around -60 Celsius for pure water – and at one point it would seem to be expanding and contracting with almost the same frequency.

While that does seem to explain exactly how and what happens to water when it’s cooled – in the way that it clarifies that the real process is even weirder than we imagined – it still doesn’t touch on the ‘why’. It may have to do with the inherently weird structure of water molecules and how they interact with each other, but then it’s not like we’re sure about how that works, either.

6. No One Can Agree On Its Structure

Most of us would probably not believe it, but water – perhaps the most studied natural material in history – incites some pretty strong opinions in the scientific community, for the simple reason that there’s still a lot of debate around how exactly it’s structured. A lot of its weird properties could be explained if we just knew how the hydrogen and oxygen bonds in water interact with each other. Surprisingly, though, even with our modern research techniques, we still have no idea.

While traditional wisdom previously suggested that despite its weirdness, the structure of water is still a natural tetrahedron, one recent study found that the shape is actually a more loosely bonded collection of closed rings and chains, which is actually what gives water its weird properties. It’s still not a widely accepted opinion yet, though, as other researchers say that the results aren’t due to looser bonding at all, but because of the water molecule’s ability to rearrange itself in entirely new shapes. Whatever may be the case, it’d be a while before we could even understand the structure of water, let alone the plethora of its other mysteries.

5. The Mpemba Effect

While there’s no doubt that water possesses many abilities that may as well be magic to the scientists studying them, a lot of them have been recent realizations. It’s only thanks to recent experiments that we’ve come to understand the full extent of water’s weirdness, as for the majority of history, it was the simplest substance we know of. One of its properties, however, has baffled keen thinkers and amateur scientists alike for centuries – possibly even millenia. Water, contrary to all common logic, freezes at a faster rate when it’s hot. Again, it’s unlike anything else we know of, and has been verifiably observed since at least the ancient Greek times.

Also known as the Mpemba Effect, after an African physics student who wrote the first peer-reviewed paper describing the phenomenon, it’s by far the most enduring of water’s mysteries. Many experiments have confirmed it throughout the years, though we’re still no closer to figuring out why it happens.

4. The Mystery Of The Cambrian Explosion

Our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth is pretty linear; that simple, single-celled organisms gradually gave way to more complex animals, leading up to all the diversity of life we see around us today. However, that is not the case at all. Complex life is a rather recent, and likely accidental, development. For an overwhelming period of our history – about 2.5 billion years – life existed as simple, largely immobile creatures, most of whom didn’t even need oxygen to survive. It may as well have been an alien landscape altogether, filled with animals (if we can even call them that) that have little to no resemblance to the mostly water and oxygen-based life forms of today.

Then about 540 million years ago, the variety and complexity of life suddenly exploded in the oceans, and to this day we have no idea what triggered it. The Cambrian Explosion, as it’s called, was the single most important event in our pre-evolutionary history, as well as the oldest mystery of the oceans. Some researchers think that it was triggered by the rise of oxygen levels in the atmosphere, or the accidental evolution of vision, or something else really. They’re not sure, but almost all of them agree that the importance of the Cambrian Explosion cannot be overstated. It was the beginning of complex life as we know it, and gave way to almost every life form in the world today, from the simplest of microbes to the entirety of human civilization, and everything in between.

In the end, it could be a God-thing.

3. Where Did All Of Earth’s Water Even Come From?

As we’ve well established by now, there would have been no life on Earth without water. Thanks to its unique and weird properties, water may just be the answer to ‘why us?’, as almost no other substance found in nature behaves like it. Moreover, it’s also rather convenient to have the one substance required to kickstart life to even show up on Earth, completing the unique set of highly-improbable factors that eventually gave birth to life. It begs the question; where did all the water on Earth even come from?

If that sounds like a simple question to answer by something obvious like ‘clouds, duh’ or ‘trees, or something’, it’s really not. As it happens, we still don’t know exactly what brought water to Earth in the first place. Some claim that it came on the back of a comet in the form of ice, though given how the Earth didn’t have an atmosphere around that time, all of that water would have evaporated into the open universe. Another theory says that hot vapors escaping from cracks in the Earth’s surface gave way to the first clouds, setting the cycle of evaporation, cloud formation and rains in motion for the first time. Though again, it’s still just a theory.

2. Water Shouldn’t Even Be A Liquid

If you take a look at the elements that make up water on the periodic table – provided you know how to read the periodic table – you’ll notice something peculiar. They exist right next to gases like hydrogen sulphide and hydrogen selenide; ‘gases’ being the key word. If water were to behave like other chemicals with similar properties, it would not be a liquid at all, especially at Earth temperatures. Water is supposed to freeze somewhere around -100 Celsius and evaporate at around -80 Celsius, as is the case with other gases of its family.

As it’s clear by now, water doesn’t adhere to expectations, which is why it’s the only substance we know of that can exist in all the three states at temperatures hospitable for human life. It can stay liquid at a surprisingly low temperature, too, provided that it’s free of any impurities.

1. The Weird Properties Of Water Make Life On Earth Possible

Reading through the absolutely rebellious chemical nature of water may give you the impression that it’s abnormal. After all, these properties are not found in any natural substance, and we even have a hard time replicating them in the lab if we want to. That’s pretty accurate, though these mysterious properties don’t make water alien. In fact, they explain why water has fit in so well with the life-giving ecosystem of the planet, and is perhaps the most Earthly thing there is.

If water didn’t have a higher surface tension than other liquids, it would be impossible for it to stick to and circulate among plant roots. Its ability to expand when frozen allowed water bodies during ancient ice ages to freeze from top down, allowing life below the surface – which was all life at one point – to survive and adapt for when it was over. If it adhered to laws of liquids, water would start turning into ice from the bottom, ensuring that any signs of primitive life died down long before they could adapt and evolve.


Abundant Vital Quenching and Wondrous

WIF WATER

The Road to Nowhere – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Ancient Places

That Might Have

Actually Existed

Myth and legend are full of wondrous places that capture the imagination and have inspired generations of adventurers to explore the world in search of their treasures. Often they come up empty-handed, but every once in a while there seems to be a sliver of truth to the tales of these mythical places. Let’s take a look at 10 that may have been based in some degree of reality.

Let us take you away…

10. Atlantis

The story of Atlantis can be traced to the Greek philosopher Plato. He spoke of the fabled land back in 360 BC. In Plato’s telling, Atlantis was a land of rich and powerful people who were technologically advanced. It was not a complimentary tale though, and his stories about it were meant to illustrate that their knowledge and might had corrupted them as a people.

For most of history these tales were regarded as allegorical, used by Plato to illustrate a point. There are no other writings of the time that ever mention anything like Atlantis, so it was generally considered just to be something he made up to be illustrative. Not everyone believes that was the case though.

In more recent years, the belief that Atlantis may have been based on Minoan society has achieved some notoriety. The Minoan kingdom, ruled by King Minos, was said to be remarkably wealthy and advanced and had spread across much of Ancient Greece.

Minoans had paved roads and were believed to have been the first Greek society to use a written language. And then one day they vanished. It’s believed that sometime around 1600 BC a massive earthquake set off the volcanoes on the Minoan island known as Thera, burying it and destroying the culture forever.

9. Norumbega

Norumbega was said to be a legendary land of riches, named for an Algonquin word for the area, discovered by the Vikings well before North America was settled by Europeans. It showed up on maps in the 1500s and was situated around modern-day New England.

Archaeological evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Vikings ever settled anywhere that far south, and there’s only one confirmed Viking settlement in North America that exists in Newfoundland. That doesn’t mean there weren’t others though, and there is some evidence to suggest that perhaps Vikings did in fact settle farther north in places.

So what about Norumbega? The people of Boston commissioned a statue of Leif Erikson in the 1870s, in honor of his discovery of this legendary land.

In Viking tales, North America was called Vinland, or at least that’s what some people believe. Other historians who have analyzed the often contradictory data presented in Viking sagas have determined that Vinland couldn’t be where the Vikings landed in Newfoundland because of the lack of certain features like salmon and grapes. It’s believed that those things were found farther south around Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps as far down as Boston, which would have lent itself to the Norumbega myth.

8. Shangri-La

The legendary city of Shangri-La traces its origins to the works of British author James Hilton. He wrote of the city in his 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” According to Hilton, Shangri-La was essentially an earthly paradise hidden within the Kunlun Mountains. While many have dismissed the story as pure fantasy created by Hilton, others believe that there’s some truth to them. Especially because Tibetan myths hold that there were several such cities hidden within the mountains.

In 1998, explorers trekking through the area discovered an area that they believe may have actually inspired the Shangri-La story. To the best of their knowledge, no Western humans had ever set foot in this place. Called “The Hidden Falls of the Tsangpo,” this valley of lush greenery was hidden even from satellite imagery in the mountains.

7. El Dorado

The legendary city/kingdom/empire of El Dorado is arguably one of the most interesting in all of mythology. Conquistadors searched throughout South America to find this place, which was apparently a vast city made of solid gold. While some legendary places were based entirely in fiction, and other places like Xanadu turned out to actually be real, the truth about El Dorado is a complete sidestep from either of these things.

Perhaps the results of the same phenomena that happens during the telephone game, when you tell a story to one person and they tell it to another, and they tell it to another, and the details get muddled, the truth of El Dorado also changed over time.

The idea that El Dorado was a golden kingdom came from something a little less vast, but still pretty impressive. El Dorado was no kingdom, but a king. Archaeological evidence shows that El Dorado was a person who was, for all intents and purposes, golden. This Chieftain would be covered from head to toe in gold and every day would bathe in a sacred lake to wash the gold off before applying it again the next day.

Unlike most other legends, this makes El Dorado curiously true and false at the same time, sort of like Schrodinger’s cat: neither outcome was expected, but not entirely false either.

6. Camelot

The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a pretty fantastic one, especially when you consider it involves pulling a magical sword from a stone, and a wizard. These things are generally not found in real life history. Despite that, there’s some evidence that Arthur’s stomping grounds, better known as Camelot, was an actual real place at some point in time even if Arthur was never a real man, or perhaps a gestalt of several kings.

Retired British Professor Peter Field believed he stumbled upon the actual location of Camelot while doing some research. Based on his findings, he came to the conclusion that Camelot was a Roman fort at Slack, to the west of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.

The Roman fort, called Camulodunum, was strategically placed but currently exists underneath a golf course, so any excavation is probably going to have to wait a few years.

5. Hy-Brasil

Said to be located off the coast of Ireland, the island of Brasil, sometimes called Hy-Brasil so as to not confuse it with the South American country, is supposedly hidden except for one day every seven years. You don’t need to have a degree in geography to know that’s not a realistic feature of most islands, which is why it’s generally considered to be purely fictitious.

Despite the mysterious nature of the island, there have been accounts of people discovering similar places over the years. The island appeared on maps as early as the year 1325 and continued to appear on maps all the way up to the year 1800.

Several explorers and sailors claimed to have either seen, or even visited the island, though most who went in search of it came back empty-handed. It’s been theorized that the Porcupine Bank might be the actual source of the story — a raised shoal in the general vicinity where Hy-Brasil was said to exist.

4. Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Constructed in the 6th century BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II, the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon were supposed to be quite the sight to behold. Cascading gardens that reached 75 feet in height and featured flowers, herbs and all manner of exotic plant life to such an extravagant degree they became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And as far as anyone knew in modern times, they had never existed at all.

In order for such a garden to have existed, an impressive irrigation system had to have been constructed to bring enough water into the desert for all the plants to thrive. No evidence in modern times has ever been found to indicate such a massive undertaking ever existed around Babylon. It doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t exist though.

According to research by Dr. Stephanie Dalley, the reason we never found any evidence of the Hanging Gardens in Babylon was that they were never in Babylon in the first place. She believes she discovered evidence of their existence and the ancient city of Nineveh, part of the Assyrian Empire.

Dalley’s research shows Assyrian King Sennacherib was responsible for an extravagant garden about a century before the supposed Babylonian version. His writings describe such a thing, including irrigation technology thought to not exist until four centuries later.

3. Zerzura

West of the Nile, somewhere in the desert in Egypt or Libya, was said to be the legendary oasis of Zerzura. Written accounts of it can be traced back to the 13th century, mentioning a city that was as white as a dove. It was said that it is ruled by a sleeping king and queen; it was guarded by black giants, and it was full of treasures.

Numerous European explorers set out to discover the location of Zerzura in more modern times, some as late as the 1930s. It was in 1932 when Hungarian Explorer Laszlo Almasy led an expedition through the desert and discovered a series of wadis. Though there was no shining white city with a sleeping king, the truth was that they did discover some oases in the desert that had been clearly visited by the local Tebu nomads who had built huts around the area.

It’s worth noting that in the recounting of Almasy’s tale, he started his day of discovery by dusting the desert sand off of his plane. Had there been something in that area in the past it’s just as likely that the desert had swallowed it and only the vegetation remained. Regardless of whether there was a real city or not, the oasis does seem to exist and it’s possible something else may have once been there as well.

2. Thule

In ancient Greek and Roman writings, the farthest north you could get was a land called Thule. It was in the 4th century BC when Greek explorer Pytheas came to Athens with stories of this land where the sun never set and the land and ocean came together in a sort of jelly-like substance. So that was weird.

In later years some people came to believe that perhaps what Pytheas was describing was Iceland or even Greenland, but the details didn’t always line up. In time people came to believe that perhaps Pytheas had just made up the entire story. The only problem was he had been consistently reliable with what he had written about in the past. And the fact remains that his description of the Arctic summer was accurate. When you go far enough north, you will reach places where the sun stays up for days at a time. It would be a remarkable thing for him to have just guessed that.

Pytheas claims to have discovered the land six days across the sea from the Orkney islands. The people there were said to be fair skinned and with light hair, and barbarians by his description. In later years the Nazis would latch onto this story and mount their own expedition to find Thule, believing it to be the birthplace of the Aryan race.

Obviously the Nazis never found this mythical land of Aryan supremacy, but there were enough details of a land that clearly existed somewhere in the Arctic to confirm that wherever Pytheas had gone, it was likely a real place.

1. Sodom and Gomorrah

In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God told Abraham that the two cities were going to be destroyed because of how wicked the inhabitants were. Abraham’s nephew Lot lived in one of those towns and Abraham didn’t really want to see him destroyed. Only Lot and his family were worthy enough to live, so they were told they could flee just as long as they didn’t look back. But as they left, Lot’s wife took a peek and was turned into a pillar of salt. As for everyone else in town? Nothing remained.

You’d think the historical evidence for two cities destroyed by God himself would be pretty thin. But there is a belief that the two cities did exist and the ruins are currently near a former peninsula of the Dead Sea in Israel. As for God’s wrath, it took the form of an earthquake that was believed to hit the region around 1900 BCE, and naturally occurring petroleum and other gases in the area may have actually exploded and rained fire at the time.


The Road to Nowhere

WIF 10 Cent Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”…

plot-thickens3

The Plot Thickens by Donna MacDonald

“Then why has his hair color changed?” On a thin whim he says, “Let’s pay Gherkin a visit.” With time dwindling, hunches played trump hunches ignored.

Roy Crippen douses power to the what-not room as he and Francine scamper over to the nerve center of mans’ first colony away from Earth. From scamper to gallop, their pace quickens and if Francine had any doubts as to the seriousness of the situation, all she need do is keep up with the bulldog in front of her.

In a big building with odd angles and unexpected transitions, Roy bowls over an unsuspecting  technician, sending him sprawling. He excuses himself, sort of, while acquiring a limp in the process.

Francine mostly ignores the tech, asking, “Are you going to be alright Roy?”

“What…. Oh yes, come on,” not a complete answer.

“I hope I’m not out of line, but are we chasing a ghost here. You are making a pretty big fuss about one little man.” She is not privy to Roy’s unfolding theory.

He stops to collect himself, address her issues with a glance and a right hand thru his floppy brown straight hair. Francine straightens his tie thereby restoring the look of a man in control.

He speaks, seemingly into the thin air, alerting security as to the nature of his pending confrontation, rejoining the previously frantic pace, with a newswoman bring up the rear.

At this late stage of the approaching launch, less than an hour now, nearly every eye sneaks a peek at NASA’s man of the hour. He looks like a man under the gun, acts like a man possessed, and don’t you dare get in his way.

With Roy grabbing the Spatial Debris tech by the shoulders, spinning him around in-your-face style, the man is startled by the aggressive move, “There is no problem in the launch window, Mr. Crippen, only some small stuff out at 500,000 out.”

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”

“I do not know what you are talking about, Sir.”

“What is your name and when did you get here?”

“My name is Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma and I have been here all day, except for a short break early this morning. I had been on duty for sixteen hours. Someone relieved me for an hour, no more.”

“You could barely speak English when we spoke this morning.”

plot-thickens


THE RETURN TRIP

switcheroo-001

Episode 73


page 68

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

…There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser…

Image result for informant painting

Informant from the 1980s by Mohammad Omran

As they dash inside Roy explains, “If I did not think this was of the utmost importance, I would not have asked you here. But I need to confirm the source of a smell in my control room, before I can act on any hunches.”

The freshly minted investigative duo and one armed {with two arms} escort enter Colony Mission Control, heading straight for Braden King, who will have the latest of the late news.

“The New Mayflower has been reprogrammed to liftoff at 11:57 to dodge a meteor… oh and and the downrange tracking is ready. That puts us on t-minus 1:49.55.” Braden has really pushed the whole ground crew in Roy’s short absence.

There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser. And we’re not talking about an old-fashioned-Chinese-like-cyber-attack.”

“Thank you for the professional manner in which you included us in your story. Those folks on Mars are dear to us and had you just blurted the news out, we would have lost control of things.” Braden doesn’t bother her with the wrenching details of Deke and Gus’ reaction to her report.

“We will be in the briefing room Braden, and not to be disturbed!”

“If there is a hitch in the countdown, I’ll let you know – t-minus 1:42 and counting.”

He nods, checks his PDA and opens the door to the classified room by placing his palm on the encoder on its right side. It is not as neat or pristine as she would have guessed one long littered table that is used for confidential meetings, taco parties and card games. Roy enters a ten character code into the comprehensive NASA database, brightening the 75” monitor on the wall to display personnel files that may hold the clue to an inside traitor.

But it is Francine who holds the key that unlocks the dark secret. She tells him every detail she could recall from that very hectic and eventful 10 minutes, which seemed much longer than 9 1/2 hours ago.

“Are you sure he had a Pakistani accent, I know that country became part of Talibanistan ten years ago,” asks Roy who knows just about everyone who has not bought into Space Colony 1.

“He said the wordsassalamu alaikum’, I looked that up; ‘may Allah’s peace be with you’ in the Arab culture. And he referred to Korean, Nepal and Taliban joy about the accident… and we are imperialistic infidels.”

The Nepal reference strikes a nerve.

“I wasn’t aware that Nepal had an axe to grind about the Mars project. But there is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 71


page 66

Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi – WIF Myths & Legends

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Universal Myths

That Persist

We all have the inner yearning that calls for answers on our basic questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going, and what is our purpose? In most cases, myths are obviously metaphoric and completely inconceivable. Others can be found in various societies that are completely remote from one another, where the similarities in the accounts are so distinct that they suggest a common historical basis. The following myths all led to controversial hypotheses and theories, adding mystery and wonder to our united consciousness.

10. Time

In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher claimed the world began in 4004 BC and that it would exist for 6,000 years until the final battle with the Antichrist – leading to the 1,000-year rule of the saints and then, finally, the end. Nostradamus used this chronology and claimed the year 1999 would be the beginning of the end times.

In mythic tradition, time is more irregular, intricate, and recurring. The Mayans thought the time had a seasonal or cyclic rhythm, and the Celts believed it ran at different rates in different realms. This mythic understanding of time is backed up by modern cosmology. The English astronomer Fred Hoyle, however, claims the idea of time as an ever-rolling stream is “a grotesque and absurd illusion,” stating that everything was, will be, and has always been. According to him, the sense of past, present, and future is all an illusion.

9. Astrology

The night sky is a portrait painted by myths. We all know our “star signs” – which consists of 12 constellations of the zodiac. Few know that the 12 symbols, or signs, that we love to plan our futures on are only part of the 88 identified constellations.

The oldest astronomy/astrology (in those days it was the same thing) records to survive are those of the Chaldeans, who nightly observed the sky looking for omens and clues to their fate, more than 2,000 years before the Romans. Modern dismissals of the role these constellations play on our futures have not ended the mythic identification with the celestial bodies and probably never will.

8. Curses

What we know from the myths and legends today are that curses are either cast on humanity by the gods or by lesser, human priests and witch-doctors, or by one wronged person onto another. Either way, intentional harm or death is intended. The most famous curse is found in the Bible when the serpent is cursed for tempting Eve, followed by the cursing of Adam and Eve, leading to the doctrines of the fall of man.

In most Eastern beliefs, however, the curse is our inability to see through illusion. Today it is said that a curse only works if the victim believes in it. The Hamitic hypothesis claims that Ham (along with his son Canaan), son of Noah, was cursed after exposing his drunken father to his brothers. According to the hypothesis they were “marked” by the shade of their skin, becoming the forefathers of the black race – the curse accounts for all the suffering the black race has endured through the ages.

7. Supernatural Beings

The belief in supernatural beings is ancient. Where demons want to cause us injury, angels offer protection, direction, and religious insight. The names of the great archangels are known to Muslims and Christians alike. People have seen shining winged human beings everywhere in the world. At Fatima, Portugal in 1917, shepherd children met a beautiful young woman who claimed to be from Heaven. Subsequent visions led to a crowd of 70,000, witnessing the sun descend to earth. Today the event is commonly known as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

At this event and others that were similar, mass healings followed. Scientists have ascribed the events to mass hysteria, but another more controversial theory claims that these events (as well as the ones in ancient times) were all actually close encounters with aliens, or UFOs. Whatever the environment or circumstances, the visitation of winged messengers persists.

6. Dying Gods

Examples of gods who die and then return to life are most frequently derived from Ancient Near East religions, and practices inspired by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity by extension. The archetype’s characteristics are that their birth is announced by a star, as children they teach their teachers, they predict their death, and after their death they return.

The Middle Eastern dying gods are normally searched for and resurrected or restored by their wives or sister. It has been hypothesized that religion fills a void, and that we created it to help us feel more secure and safe in a world that seemingly delivers more questions than answers.

5. The Flood Stories

Renditions of the myth of a worldwide flood, or deluge, are found the world over. Typically they agree that the entire world was inundated, that the event (though foreseen) was sudden, and that the few survivors built arks, rafts or other vessels having been warned by God (or the gods). The best known account is the biblical story of Noah.

The corresponding themes are global – arks and rafts are mostly built on high ground, and sin caused the flood. Just as odd is the wide agreement about the details (such as the size of the raindrops and hailstones, as well as the heat of the deluge). From Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology to Pralaya in Hinduism and Belgermir in Northern mythology, today it is widely believed that the global Flood was not a mythic but an actual historic event.

4. Megalithic Myths

There are normally two varieties of megalithic myths: first the myths of the builders/designers’ mysterious and supernatural powers, and second about the mystical or magical properties of the stones. Great Britain and Egypt are hosts to the most famous ones but they can be found the world over.

Having been associated with healing, fertility, giants, and the devil, the renewed interest came about when science stepped in. It became clear these stones worked as giant calendars, with individual stones marking seasons or the movement of the sun and the moon. The most interesting speculation about them came from a man called Paul Devereux, he claimed that UFOs are terrestrial emanations connected with faults in the megalithic system and that they access our brains directly as they are electromagnetic.

3. Omens

Beliefs in omens, events, or objects that forewarn us about good or evil that may be coming our way have existed since time immemorial. The Druids sought omens in the flight of birds and in Ireland each sound, position, or movement of domesticated ravens has a different connotation. Omens are also drawn by different cultures from the direction of flames, the howling of dogs, shapes of tree-roots, the state of entrails, and even from the way sandals fall when they are tossed.

At the heart of these myths is the view that everything interconnects. Jung reasoned that the collective unconscious knows all things – implying that the view may not be that absurd.

2. Creation

There are three basic questions when it comes to how the Earth, cosmos, and all life were created. How did something come from nothing? How was it created and how did the natural order of all minerals, plants, animals, and human kingdoms come to be? Theories range from the modern “Big Bang” to the older and even ancient approaches.

In most myths, the elements are favored – claiming that air, wind, fire, and sometimes vibrations caused all things to be. Another very common theme is the “World Tree” creation legends that can be found from Africa to Tonga. These are normally rooted in Paradise and all life springs from it, or it can be linked with dimensions and various created worlds. The most subtle myths imply that there is no beginning and no end, that everything is in balance, and that all is as it should be.

1. Afterlife

In all quarters of the world, the individual soul/spirit is believed to survive death. This belief goes back to as early as 80,000 BC, as Neanderthal burials would suggest that they, too, prepared for the afterlife. From the Christian beliefs of Heaven and Hell, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead that advises the newly-dead how to avoid rebirth, the belief remains despite lack of proof.

Many interesting theories exist apart from the religious views on what happens to the soul after a person dies. Edmund Fournier d’Albe was one of the first researchers that came up with an afterlife hypothesis, claiming that one’s soul leaves the body after death and lives off ultraviolet rays from the sun in another realm of the Earth’s atmosphere. Others say that the soul will find itself in a dream world or simply that only the mind will live on, becoming part of the collective consciousness.


Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi

WIF Myths & Legends

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 65

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 65

…Celeste would have laughed had she not popped her light on, fearfully recognizing the cause of Sam’s fall, “That is a body!”…

surprise-leonard-filgate

Surprise by Leonard Filgate

“Damn!” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrations. “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,” he taps the side of his head to do so, to light their way and expose the upright-cancelling offender.

“Whooaa!” he springs to his feet like a wrestler scoring 2 points on a lightning-quick reversal {and low gravity}.

Celeste would have laughed had she not popped her light on, fearfully recognizing the cause of Sam’s fall, “That is a body!”

dead-alien

Sampson backs off a few steps, so they can both see a space traveler of unknown origin, who hadonyx-black-001 met his doom several steps from the entrance. The not-of-this-neighborhood being had the rough configuration of a human; a pair of legs and one arm… at his side and the other extended out, as if to retrieve a black object, like the one they found minutes before.

IT must be a device of some kind, though either she or Sam could get theirs to so much as light up. While Sampson inspects the spaceman, Celeste further fondles her gizmo, hoping to solve its mysterious function. Had it been a ray gun, she would have blasted everything around her, but gladly it was not.

They area is spared laser fire, but she finally gets it to do something, somehow causing a momentary digital Related imagesound, hummmm in the key of C, “Hmmm! Come on, work you dumb thing!”

Then, without notice or noise to that matter, what they had guessed to be the front door, opens in a flash.

“Looks like you found the invitation Cel,” utters Sam as they must do something other than stare.

star-crossedUpon further review, this must be the star-crossed vehicle’s version of an airlock, but it didn’t do either of these guys any good, “Bodies two and three,” he point to the floor.

But as fast as the outside door opened, it closes itself.

Celeste, who could apparently operate her black oval, coaxes the set of parallel and perpendicular lines to open the interior door, followed by a rush of pungent air from inside. It seemed so unlikely, but after all these unknown years, this ship still had some operational time left in the tank.

The combination of gasses inside looked good to the mass spectrometer, but something about the Martian environment caused these life forms to expire and caution needs to displace curiosity. “Oxygen is at 20 big ones Cel!” 20% is surplus good.

Near proper amounts of nitrogen and hydrogen gases are present, along with 2 inert and 1 unknown, defying classifications on the current Periodic Table.

“I believe it’s safe to go inside, what do we have to lose,” states gambler Sam, revealing his new what-do-we-have-to-lose state-of-mind.


THE RETURN TRIP

newfoundlander-sketch-001Episode 65


page 61

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

…Four armed guards charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”…

turkish-taxi-001

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune.

The homemade taxi pulls up to the gates of the Ahmet Mosque, tall and unwelcoming. Four armed guards are-you-001charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”

“I didn’t know what he was up to, I swear,” pleads the spineless driver, once an ally.

“Not you Cabbie! We are from the American Consulate, called here by your wife, she told us you would be coming.” Those are Marine uniformed men. “Pull that hunk of junk into that garage and leave the keys with the Sergeant.”

Naturally they comply, while being led inside, then left alone. The young Turk comments, “Whoever you are or whatever you know, I am impressed Saied.”

“Fatima, my dear Fatima,” Afridi prays aloud.

“Your fat mother?”

He needs to fill in the gaping blanks, “My name is Aldona Afridi and my wife Fatima and my two daughters are probably inside somewhere.”

“And mine is Mehmet Ali Erim,” they embrace like old friends. “I own a taxi, what do you do?”

“I am a scientist not a criminal, and there evil men chasing me!”

“I am intrigued, but not surprised Saied Al. You act like a man with a scorpion in your pants.”

“Do not tell Mr. Erim anything else,” the embassy guards warn.

“They know my name!”Image result for spy

“They may have been listening when you introduced yourself,” Afridi remarks, being the “seasoned spy” that he has become.

They are escorted into the catacombs of the 3rd Century structure and shown separate rooms. The two shake hands, not knowing what the future holds.

Mehmet Ali Erim is briefly debriefed as a precaution and released to the streets and his next fare.

Aldona Afridi is grilled on a number of subjects, none of which mention his defection, so it is he who asks, “May I see my family and when can I speak to someone about the Space Colony?”space-colony-banner-001

The team of inquisitors is headed by Elliot Deming, Consulate General of the Turkish delegation based in Ankara. The very tall middle-aged American political appointee paces in front of Aldona, knowing that he has not heard the whole story. “The Ambassador to Turkey is scheduled to arrive in another hour. We cannot move on your wife’s suspicious information until the Ambassador personally speaks with the United States Secretary of State.

“What I have to say cannot wait… I would not have risked my family’s lives for anything less!”

“We have to fully vet your story, I hope you understand?”

“No I do not.” This is no time for governmental red tape. He hangs his weary and exasperated head.


THE RETURN TRIP

embassy-istanbul

Episode 32


page 31

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