THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 93

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 93

…the insurance carriers for Space Colony 1 are not in the mood to pay off — there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth…

insurance-001

“Two of your biggest fans got their 2 hours sleep and have been glued to KHST ever since. I don’t know if you know it, but live coverage of the launch went black about the10-1 time that you were guys were outnumbered 10 to 1. What a fright to see everything you do go down,” Braden King relates.

“How did she get the digital feed… never mind,” Francine likely made off with the footage like she walked away from Roy’s kiss.

“In fact, here is Deke McKinney with something to ask you.”

Vertical-001“That was some spicy tacos Uncle Roy; you saved the day for Mom & Dad!”

“Yeah,” Gus beaks in, “and we want to have you at our birthday party on Wednesday, maybe you can bring that hot TV reporter with you?”

“I’d love to boys, but I’ll see what I can do. I will need to get Space Colony II construction going as soon as I can fire up the production line.

For the first time in 10 minutes Braden goes silent, his end of the 1-to-1 video betraying his concern. “What’s up King? Do not be holding back on me.”

“I hate to throw cold water on your morning, but the insurance carriers for Space Colony 1 are not in the mood to pay off, at least until there is a complete investigation to what caused the accident; a meteor strike falls into the category of the “Acts of God” exemption.”

“We’ll see about that bullcrap! If they can finance the second and third Panama Canal, they can cough up the dough for us.”

“That may be so Roy, but even with the funding, Congress is convening an emergency session, called by Senator Jomayra Jiménez from Puerto Rico and you know where she thinks the money should be spent instead?”

“Sure, flush it down into a crumbling tourist-trap!”

“President Sanchez is going along with her and word has it that there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 93


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 72

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 72

…the man he is watching is as cool as a comet in between stars and manning his post like he belonged there…

comet

Jim Scotti’s Comet Artwork

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.”

“And you don’t dare question someone’s qualifications. Political correctness has been the ruin of this world,” Francine adds her opinion about questioning anything about anybody… and the fallout.

Without hesitation Roy brings the room consuming monitor to life. Francine can see that it is not an ordinary one, seeming to follow Roy’s slightest gesture, the picture races through various angles of Colony Control.

A Happy Gherkin

It does come to rest, Roy’s steely blues focused on a shot of Gurkhas {not Gherkin} Shah Dhangotma. Of all the Hindi/Arab/Buddhist, Middle and Far East cultures in of this selective space community, this particular man has left him with an uneasy no-peaceful feeling; replacing a previously healthy and indispensable man in Phil Jansky. And what is worse and more telling, is that he doesn’t even know who is doing the hiring since the death of Fred Cabell. It’s enough to put his spinning head on a swivel.

But if he were the informant or the mole or the mastermind, any of the three, the man he is watching is as cool as a comet in between stars and manning his post like he belonged there. But Roy cannot clear his mind’s ear of the man’s clumsy English in the moment before Space Colony 1’s ruin.

“Keep an eye on that guy,” Francine is told, “if he makes any sudden moves, give a holler.”

She obliges and can actually be helpful after getting a few quick tips about controlling that section of the screen… with a blink of an eye.

2018 Map Before the formation of Talibanistan

Roy turns to text searches that may support his flimsy suspicion, or not. Dhangotma’s personnel file is bland and incomplete, though the Baikonur Cosmodrome is listed as experience. Even his file picture has mug shot written all over it, but it is not viewed by someone who knows a hoot about the man.

In alternating between the files and the live video, comparing it to their meeting earlier in the day, his eyes tell him ‘not the same guy’; his memory screams ‘he had jet-black hair, not dark brown’. He knows that you don’t change Spatial Debris techs like you change passwords.

“What’s he been up to?”

“He raised his hand, got up and came back a minute or two
later. My guess it was a quick pee.”

“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.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 72


 

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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,”…

 CHAPTER FOUR

  Space Family Confidential

Image result for pebble beach artwork

Pebble Beach by Emily James

  “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 14

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 14

…A suddenly apprehensive Afridi gazes at the slow-moving water before him, the crescent moon reflecting back the ripples. He could not be party to stifling mankind’s advancement past it…

Image result for moon reflection on water

“To keep our solar system free of those who want to conquer it, we need the firing codes for the Sang-Ashi Probe,” The Sheikh is impatient.

“Sang-Ashi will protect itself, if the occasion warrants. I built in superior internal defenses,” Afridi is confused.

“We need to have manual control over it…..and we need it now!” The Sheikh’s arms are shaking angrily.

World Space Consortium

World Space Consortium

“You want access to the manual dump mode for the laser control!?” Trepidation replaces restlessness for Afridi. If all this is about sabotaging the World Space Consortium, of which Talibanistan and the United Korea Peninsula are not a part, he wants no part of any such strategy. To him personally, Space Colony 1 is to be exalted, not grudged with bad intent. The Sheikh and Nae Tan-Dan must be forgetting that the person they are asking to betray the World had expressly expressed interest in participating in the project they wish to destroy. “I have to get some air, to help me remember the code.”

“If you must Afridi, but you must be quick about it. Tan-Dan must leave for his country as soon as possible.”

Afridi is stalling, “I have too many passcodes in my brain, please excuse me.”

It is way past late at night, technically morning on this side of the planet and the men in the car are becoming annoyed with the delay. They go on conspiring with their mischievous machinations when Afridi toddles off to wrestle with his wits, albeit to contemplate a rueful ruse.

A suddenly apprehensive Afridi gazes at the slow-moving water before him, the crescent moon reflecting back the ripples… He knew the codes by heart… But his thoughts are dominated by his dearest Fatima and his two little girls… He could not be party to stifling mankind’s advancement past the Moon…

Vertical-001Adrenaline begins to spike into his bloodstream. For the first time in 15 years, rebellion not submission, takes hold of his spirit. He is 15 meters from the chilly stream when he decides to sprint toward the water, the soles of his shoes digging furiously into the loose gravel, spitting out pebbles with every determined stride. But for all his physical fitness he dreads the temperature of the chilly water ahead.Image result for bullets and water

He thinks about stopping short, giving one last glance over his shoulder, only to see that his sudden bolt had not gone unnoticed. Fortunately for him, there are no high-powered military weapons in the hands of his pursuers; who would think that a mild-mannered scientist would “go over the wall”, with Talibanistan’s most powerful Sheikh a stone’s throw away.

That element of surprise would be his only ally this evening. Once he dives into the river, swimming as fastVertical-001
as his clothed body would allow, gunfire from the lone small caliber handgun poke holes in the liquid swirling around him. The gun owner is a pretty fair marksman, prompting Afridi to assess his best option, which happens to be a ferryboat which is docked on the far bank of the river.

Things are not looking so good at the moment, yet it would get worse when one bullet grazed his left arm.
Temporarily stunned, he snatches safety from the jaws of peril. He rolls over to play dead, realistically sinking slowly under the red water and the belly of the powered passenger boat… which he remembers as having a hollowed out section to the aft that houses the propeller.

AIR!


  THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 14


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 13

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 13

…Excuse me Comrade Aldona; this is Comrade Nae Tan-Dan, our main liaison to the great nation of Korea and the constructor of our glorious plan…

mastermind-001

Aldona Afridi is becoming more restless by the second. Everything about this strange encounter has trouble written all over it.

Oddly, no one in the limo makes a move; the newcomers cover ground in a hurry to join an already crowded limo.mastermind-001

“It is good to see you again Sheikh Khan-Nutkani,” states the smallest of the group, speaking with an accent not indigenous to the region.

“Glory to Allah, Comrade Dan, I am hoping your news is as good as Comrade Afridi’s”

“It is even better; phase one of the operation has been carried out. Fredrick Cabell has been neutralized.” The dwarfish man sticks his chest out as if he were waiting for a medal to be pinned on it.

“Excellent, excellent; time is growing short Dan.”

Afridi suddenly has the feeling that there is a plan that he is not in on. And what is with all this “comrade” stuff all of a sudden.

“Oh excuse me Comrade Aldona; this is Comrade Nae Tan-Dan, our main liaison to the great nation of Korea and the constructor of our glorious plan.” Nutkani’s introduction is lavished with admiration.

“I was not aware we were working on the same project?” Afridi has a shrinking perception of just what the goals of the Sang-Ashi Probe are exactly.

“Let us say that you have your talents and I have mine.”

“Comrades, let me say that both of your talents will be needed to defeat the greatest threat to our stature in the world since the unlawful attacks on our founding state. That is why you are here; to help each of our nations stare down imperialism!” Khan-Nutkani refers to the endless Afghan War and inspired by the chance to settle the score. “Afridi, you hold the key; Comrade Tan Dan needs to open the door, and between us, we must slam the door on Universe Expansionism!”

Nae Tan-Dan seems to have a {short} leg up on Afridi and is poised to carry out a plan. Aldona Afridi is still mostly in the dark, but a sliver of light is seeping through some seedy cracks.Sang-Ashi Probe

“To keep our solar system free of those who want to conquer it, we need the firing codes for the Sang-Ashi Probe.”

“Sang-Ashi will protect itself, if the occasion warrants. I built in superior internal defenses.”

“We need to have manual control over it…..and we need it now!” The Sheikh’s arms are shaking angrily.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Expansionism by Robert Bertino

Episode 13


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 12

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 12

… It is an unseemly ghetto where even the native rats must feel trapped, with no way out…

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“Our alliance with Korea is essential to the success of our goal,” the Shaikh reminds the man, an arm’s length away, at the same time speaking for the other person along for the ride, who has been uncomfortably silent to this point. .

“Our satellite is safe and ready to take out the eavesdropping satellite network that has invaded the

Sang-Ashi

Sang-Ashi

business of our great alliance!”

Image result for allah“Allah is counting on you Afridi. There are many other scientists who would cherish the opportunity you have.” Nutkani sounds like the quasi-benevolent benefactor who is expecting results. “I trust your family is doing well?”

“Very well, thank you. The new city is everything my wife and I have ever dreamed of. And the children like the zoo.”

“You must miss them.

“I have not seen them in over a month, yes.”

“I understand that. This meeting marks the end to your hard work. After today, you can take a very long holiday, Mumbai perhaps.”

Aldona Afridi bows in reverence. He has had his fill of field work. His last trip to the United Korean Peninsula was particularly unsavory; too many military types for his civilian tastes.

The tank-like version of mobile tribal luxury slows to a stop in a dark, dusty alley deep inside a lower class mountainside neighborhood dead ending at a filthy rivulet. It is an unseemly ghetto where even the native rats must feel trapped, with no way out.

But there they were, parked and quiet, watching the moonlight dance off the slow-moving water in front of them. Afridi wants to break the silence, when from behind them another fancy black sedan approaches. That makes two vehicles very much out-of-place and the coincidences are beginning to pile up. There is no hesitation by the occupants; engine off, doors opened, three men emerge.

Afridi is becoming more restless by the second. Everything about this strange encounter has trouble written all over it. He is wearing casual garb, but still tugs on his collar to cool down. He grabs a handkerchief from his pocket to mop the beading perspiration from his forehead.


THE RETURN TRIP

The Destruction of the Ghetto by Abraham A. Manievich

The Destruction of the Ghetto by Abraham A. Manievich

Episode 12


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

…Why yes, Shaikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha

talibanistan-001

 

Meanwhile

… that very same day, somewhere in Talibanistan, the geographical territory once occupied by: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and all the other “-stans”

Sang-Ashi

“Tell us Afridi, are we sure that our Sang-Ashi Probe got through America’s Henchman Satellite Killer Network. Our source at their Pentagon tells us that that it was on high alert 7 months ago.”

Image result for mitAldona Afridi, MIT educated, has a particular set of talents where long-range satellites are concerned.

Why yes, Shaikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our United Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha.”

The Shaikh is as intimidating as he looks; lavishly robed, weathered by years of mountain life and a radical Muslim to his very core. He has a calculating glint in his eye.

Nutkani

The Talibanistani’s foremost expert in laser technology squirms uneasily in a normally comfortable seat, but then again an armored limousine rarely is used to hold a sensitive meeting of such world-changing magnitude. Neither is Afridi at home with himself, having invested his design talents to construct an infamous weapon. He is also collaborating with the famously treacherous Koreans, which does nothing to soothe his restless conscience.

“Our alliance with Korea is essential to the success of our goal,” the Shaikh reminds the man, an arm’s length away.

“Our satellite is safe and ready to take out the spy satellite that has been making our alliance so miserable.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Hotbed for Mischief

Episode 11


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