THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 58

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 58

Image result for quotation marksImage result for quotation marks…Thank you watching this special report, I am Steven Sharkey. We will be seeing you at our 5:30 Newscast,..

pregnant-pause

…I get one (plucking) line at the end? What is that?” Only some of that reaches the air…

“Nnnooooooo,” screams Deke McKinney, leaping to his feet, a boiling flash of blood flowing to his brain. The brothers stand together, eyes fixed to the televiewer.

Vertical-001Vertical-001“These are Roy Crippen’s words to me,‘At approximately 11 AM local time, Space Colony 1vanished from NASA tracking. The astronaut team of Commander Sampson McKinney and Lt. Commander Celeste McKinney, who were on the surface of Mars at the time on the 1st surface exploration, are believed to be thriving, though communication has been disconnected on their end. There are sketchy clues to what may have occurred.

‘We have weighed all viable options and have decided to launch the deep-space shuttle New Mayflower, with a skeleton crew of three, to effect the rescue of the McKinneys before their means of survival have been exhausted. This unprecedented Midnight launch will retrieve two of the World’s greatest space pioneers.’

“He finished by telling this reporter, ‘Plans are already in the making, discussed by our consortium partners, to build a second orbiting Colony in place starting before this year is out.’

“This is Francine Bouchette and KHST 13 will continue to monitor this tragedy and will bring you the latest, whenever that will be… back to you Steven.”Image result for blooper

Thank you watching this special report, I am Steven Sharkey, we will be seeing you at our 5:30 Newscast,closes an embarrassingly mortified co-anchor. “I get one (plucking) line at the end? What is that?” Only some of that reaches the air


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 58


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 57

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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

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Episode 57


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 56

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 56

..I am about to break into local programming and then that damned “good” angel has to go and whisper in my right ear…

angel-in-my-ear

“What exactly do you think you know about Space Colony, Ms. Bouchette and do not beat around the bush,”asks Roy Crippen

She goes on to play the foreign recorded voice of the bearer of bad tidings.

“I will be frank {don’t call him Frank}, I am about to break into local programming with a KHST Special Report, having spent most of the afternoon putting together — then that damned “good” angel has to go and whisper in my right earShe summarizes the just of her breaking news.

“I see and you plan to act on this leak,” Roy speaks rhetorically. “At this point I could stonewall you; deny and deny again, but I will not. Whoever this guy is knows more than enough to be taken seriously.”

He chooses his words carefully.

“Even though much of what you offer is true, I think you are taking too pessimistic of a slant. We or you or your informer, nobody in fact can confirm the loss of life. The McKinneys are presently on the surface of Mars, and yes we cannot communicate with them, but we are launching the New Mayflower in 6 hours and we believe we can reach them in time.”survival-001

“Are you telling me that they can survive on Mars?”

“Not only do we think they will survive, we hold the hope of rebooting the Space Colony consortium with a second station. We are in this thing to win; titanium and wires can be replaced, but not the hope of all civilizations.”

Francine is truly moved by his inspiring affirmation, but does not swallow it whole.

“I respect that fact that you want to control the message, I get that, but I have a career duty to report the news, whatever and especially the magnitude of this; America and all your partners need to know.”

“I get that Ms. Bouchette, you have a virtual goldmine in your grasp,” Roy relents, “but you will be quoting me, using my words, NOT some ¼ hour funeral dirge about the space program and the McKinneys.”

“Are you telling me that I have an exclusive?”Related image

“I suppose it does. This wasn’t how I envisioned it coming down, but I don’t want those crackpot Koreans stealing the spotlight. I will forward my statement to you.”

Francine has just lost a huge juicy story, yet she does regain another somewhat less salacious one and she will be a better person for it. After two decades in the business, she has had an epiphany of conscience.

“I appreciate how much you agonized over this. I am not sure some of your competition would have had your self-restraint.new-mayflower-001

Now I have to send off the New Mayflower, minus the 30-some hopefuls {some paid their own way} that were scheduled to go… boy am I going to catch flack about that, I can hear them already.”

“Thank you for allowing KHST to break this story,” she is sincere and do you notice it was not all about “me”? “Please bring the McKinneys home!”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 56


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

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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

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Angel of Mercy by Fluro Knife deviantart.com

Episode 55


page 52

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

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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

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Episode 53


page 51

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

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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

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Episode 52


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 51

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 51

“Assalmu alaikum. Who I am, is of little importance, what I have to tell you may change your life,”…

life-changing

Yes, Francine was lying to the Senator when she told him of her doing real work. The evening cast is 4 hours away and as for the script, she would read whatever they put on the prompter, unless it makes her look stupid or cheesy. No, Francine was headed for the comfort of her personal, fully equipped dressing room.

She flashes her thumb against the print-recognition coder, to gain access to a world no one is allowed to know about… that and her age. In a world of investigative reporters and scheming assignment editors, only her cleaning lady has access to it, lest the governor declare it a disaster area. Queen Francine does not rank #1 in market neatness.

It is a sanctuary fit for the General Manager, or Senior Vice-president for that matter, who coincidently Francine has been engaged to, ever since she was up for lead anchor on the 6 & 10; not  coincidently. The poor sucker guy may be witness to the next Ice Age before she sets a date.

Once inside, she succumbs to her narcissistic ways, her image filling the large lighted mirror. She does a pirouette to verify whether that diet she started was working or not. All it takes is one chauvinistic comment about her butt to trigger that. She nods her approval, complains about why nobody has invented a better pair of pantyhose, and goes about putting herself back together.

Once seated, she leans forward for a closer inspection of her midday makeup, that when it was applied this morning, only served to polish the already perfect face of Aphrodite or Venus de Milo. Even her many enemies cannot dispute how truly pretty she is.

Her nose was a bit on the shiny side, God forbid, reflecting light like the hood of her 2029 Corvette; Nothing that a swirling mass of tinted powder won’t cure.

Satisfied once again, that perfection is achievable, Francine decides to make her routine appearance among the peons in the newsroom. She has lucked out this day, arriving just in time to schmooze a throng of Junior High speech students; Autographs gladly, pictures surely, questions, “Talk to the news director over there.” More pictures?

She was about to see if anything new had crossed her desk, when a telephone call comes through to her cell phone. The 1970s ABBA oldie anthem “The Winner Takes It All”, beckons her to answer. Nobody is allowed to call her at work, “It might be my agent,” she thinks aloud.

“Is this Francine Bouchette?” The voice on the other end of the line has a thick, unfamiliar accent.

She has half a mind to hang up, but anyone who has her number has good connections. “This is she and who may I ask is this? I am very busy, so make it brief.”

“Assalmu alaikum. Who I am, is of little importance, what I have to tell you may change your life,” the caller must be Arab or Muslim.

“I am listening, but you’ll need to get to the point.”

“We have chosen you to tell a story, on a day that will live in infamy, as will your name.”

“Please don’t play games here, whoever you are. If this story requires national attention, you have the right girl.” Francine is playing right into the man’s hand — a full house.cell-hell

“If you meet our needs woman, you will need to listen closely and ask not what your source is.”

“Okay, yes,” and what is with that “woman” reference? It isn’t hard to disrespect this particular female and this old-school moron is lucky she hasn’t dispatched him to cellular hell.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 51


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