THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

…The Air Jamaica aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport, not being a very long flight, they barely get above 20,000 feet

20000 ft by Photojournalist Rdiger Nehmzow

Old Francine

“Do you possibly have an open seat somewhere — you know what I mean?” she points and whispers to a flight attendant, wanting to escape her sweaty human sandwich. “What is the holdup Miss?”

Old Francine would have thrown an absolute fit and shouted her way off the plane, accomplishing absolutely nothing except drawing undue attention to her disrespectful derrière.

New Francine

“We are under a security alert, something going on to the west, sort of like a red light in the sky.” A loaded passenger plane sitting on the taxiway for two hours is borderline cruel and unusual. “We just had a single window seat, 3A open up, why don’t we move you up?”

New Francine asks for the attendant’s name, “I will be writing a letter praising your service to Air Jamaica, thank you.”

Just after staking her claim at the front of the jet, the calming voice of the Captain fills the cabin, “Good afternoon passengers of Air Jamaica Flight 217 nonstop to Related imageHouston Texas. We will be taking off shortly and we thank you for your patience. The stewardesses will be handing out complimentary beverages.”

“If he weren’t the oldest pilot in the fleet, I would be offended.”

“At least he didn’t call you an airplane waitress…I’ll have a vodka rocks please,” Francine relates her similar story of having been introduced, early in her career, in a pre-sweeps station promo, as anchor-girl Francine Bushel.

The jet aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport. It is not a very long flight and they barely get above 20,000 feet, but the view from her window is nonstop fantastic, with Cuba fading into background of the azure Gulf-blue waters and the familiar soil and foliage of the Gulf Coast states rising to the north.

Like tiny islands, oil drinking platforms dot the water below, but one in particular seems to be the hub of activity. She reaches down to her carry-on to retrieve her trusty pair of field glasses, every good reporter has one, and gets a 20x power view of the action. She pulls back, rubs her eyes to make sure she isn’t seeing things, the one thing being the familiar blue & white paint scheme of Roy’s helicopter; blades idling, atop the one acre pedestal. There are a good thirty-odd people mulling about, many of whom belong to that huge Coast Guard cutter lashed to the side.


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Episode 129


page 123

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 107

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 107

CHAPTER SIX

Timeout

…“He is not just any guy, he’s twice the man you are and BTW, who puts up with a woman who stonewalls her fiancée for 5 *_*_*_*  years?”…

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True to her word, Francine Bouchette has packed up her future and stuffed it into two underused Samsonites; but she will be lucky to get out of Houston with her head atop her shoulders.

As she may have guessed, given the element of surprise, lack of warning, the upcoming February ratings slotting, and her jilted fiancée, she has upset the KHST 13 apple-cart. She does not care for threats, but she is threatened with disciplinary action for “breach of contract”.

Her United Talent agent is beside himself, given his income is tied to his clients and she is his biggest.

“They will take you off the anchor desk.”

“Go ahead.”

“They can reduce your salary by 75%.”

“I can live on $250,000.”

The intended (Larry) weighs in on her irrational behavior, “You are throwing away your future, for what, a guy you just met?”

“He is not just any guy and he’s twice the man you are. Who puts up with a woman who stonewalls her fiancée for 5 f***king years?”

So it is and that is that. With him watching her pack everything from a bikini he had
bought her and she never wore, into two duffles stuffed with evening wear and lingerie (Larry), KHST VP is left standing aghast and agape, watching his fragile pride walk away from her penthouse without turning or looking back. The only thing she does do, is issue the following order, “Make sure you take anything that you value, leave your set of keys in the foyer and lock the door on the way out.”

She takes a taxi to William P. Hobby Airport and pity the poor driver who has to handle her crammed to the brim hard suitcases and hefty Hilfiger bags. She neglected to ask the helicopter owner whether there was a weight limit. —


THE RETURN TRIP

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William P Hobby International

Episode 107


page 101

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 99

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 99

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

Image result for too many

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

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

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

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

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

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

The final unopened gift belonged to Roy.

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

Too late!!

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

The young man reads it loud and proud.

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

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

asteroid-tracker

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Episode 99


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 98

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 98

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

Image result for a toast artwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Girls Don’t Cry


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he-and-she

Episode 98


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 91

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 91

…Francine’s words land harshly and dig deep, and may as well have been a dagger to the heart to a man who had suffered more than his share of setbacks as of late…

Fantasy dagger by Vadich

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

Without being asked she continues, “I am flattered that you’ve seen enough of my work that you would offer me the job, without consulting your higher-ups. And believe me when I tell you that the space program intrigues me, interesting and exciting to say big-butthe least.

“But, the big but is that I am in the 2nd year of a 4 year contract and if I haven’t admitted it before now… I am engaged to KHST’s VP of News,” she pauses to count on one hand,going on 5 years this May.”

Her words land harshly and dig deep, and may as well have been a dagger to the heart to a man who had suffered more than his share of
setbacks as of late
. Does this signal the return of “old” Francine Bouchette? Had she now secured the inside story, that juicy prize that will get her where she wants to go? ‘Good bye Charlie, I must be getting along.’

Image result for btw“I see,” TMI, BTW, TTYL Roy is an unemotional as possible, after all, what did he expect or hope for after merely holding hands or that pressure packed tender kiss.

FrancineCorvette

New

Francine stands, her skirt soiled and wrinkled and that $150 hairdo looks like a fright-wig. She brushes her hair straight and a mirror helps restore her face, the skirt is too far gone, fitting results for a day that has turned the page – plus 3 hours more.

“I have to head out Roy. I believe you granted me another exclusive and if I don’t get
going, someone else will beat me to it. I hope your valet didn’t drain my hydrogen tank, Corvettes are not fuel efficient.”

Old

“No they’re not; I have a gasoline 2001 Stingray rag-top myself.” He is brave on the outside, “If you ever need a source here at Galvy or Lovell, you can look me up.

“And don’t be too hard on us,” he uses two hands to squeeze one of hers.

Her smile is pained as she turns to find her car and shows herself out of the complex.

“It’s just another ordinary day in the life of an everyday ordinary space freak.” Roy mumbles this and other self-deprecating phrases on the way to his now lonely office, plopping onto the overused couch to close his eyes. Sleep come mercifully quick, dreams not so sweet. —


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 90

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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.


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Episode 90


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 74

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 74

…Miss Bouchette, can I count on you to help me out here? I will grant you blanket access with Level 1 Security status

security-level-1-001

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

“I have not had the honor to meet you until now; I would like to express the gratitude of all the Nepalese people for being part of the great Space Colony. My government sends its deep condolences for the horrible accident.”

This man was genuinely sincere and definitely not the Gherkin Dogma he had met right before the Colony disappeared from the Mars Mockup.

“Are you saying that you didn’t man this station until after Space Colony was taxi-001destroyed?” Roy is more confused than ever.

“That is correct Director Crippen. I was late in arriving because my taxi driver could not find Galveston Launch Facility; it seems he took a wrong turn as we left George Bush Intercontinental Airport, which is odd because you can see Colony Mission Control from many miles away.”

“Sounds fishy to me Director Roy,” Francine interjects her opinion. “I know that many cabbies are new to this country, but they cannot be blind.”

All the while digesting and deciphering, Roy is finally seeing the handwriting on the wall. As Phil Jansky’s replacement continued to ramble on about other trip delaying travails, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together:

 1)   Philip Jansky, Spatial Debris Specialist {20 year NASA employee} dies of a rare & sudden cerebral hemorrhage

2    That death occurs at a critical time in Space Colony 1’s mission, with the McKinneys on Mars surface

3)   In a scramble to replace personnel, a Nepalese technician is flown in by supersonic transport

4)  Space Colony 1 disappears from its orbit around Mars, cause unknown

“From Earth-to-Mars, no one’s laughing from here-or-there.”

5)  A rescue mission involving the premature launch of the New Mayflower is hastily thrown together

6)  One man, two manred man, blue man. A human shell game has been going on, with sketchy timelines and miss-identifications

“Time is winding down Francine and I do not have time to do a full-blown investigation. Can I count on you to help me out here? I will grant you blanket access with Level 1 Security status.”

“A good reporter never turns down the opportunity to do what she does best.” She is developing more than a casual interest in both this interplanetary intrigue and this intriguing man specifically. “You can count on me….as long as I get the exclusive.”

Roy is going to need the help…no matter what she is angling.


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Episode 74


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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


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Episode 73


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

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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.


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Visual Journalism

Episode 69


page 65

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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