THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 214

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 214

CHAPTER NINE

  Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

… no matter what schedule Gus McKinney is on, hell-or-high water, he shows up for movie night at the White House…

“What movie is playing tonight?” Roy Crippen, leader of the free world  is always the last to know.

He is still an important individual. Even on a light duty day like this one, he has had a meeting with both the King and Prime Minister of the South Pacific island nation of Tonga, greets the National Spelling Bee champion, and deals with a World Bank proclamation;

  • Tonga has a fishing dispute with Fiji and Samoa
  • The new best speller cannot speak a lick of English.
  • And in the most disturbing development, he learns the details about China’s latest demand against the world banking system, demanding payment in full from debtor nations. (Can you spell repossess? Not.)

Come Hell Or High Water by lilcoletterpress

In a topsy-turvy entangled selfish world, re-elected Prez Roy deserves some down-time and if it is the third Tuesday of the second month of the first quarter of 2037, then he should have known that his youngest stepson is in charge of selecting the movie.

He may be turning 21, he may be assigned to another part of the world or he may be bringing a date; no matter what schedule Gus McKinney is on, hell-or-high water, he shows up for movie night at the White House.

“It’s going to be a space movie, what else do you need to know?” Francine Bouchette-Crippen, who is both First Lady of the United States and Social Secretary, cares less about the movie, yet always welcomes the opportunity to ask a number of $64K questions, with a young man in need of some sort of oversight.star_trek_online

And Gus is so brutally honest that he says the darn(dest) things, “Well, some rookie was supposed to fly an X-66 back to Langley (AFB), but I did it instead… and here I am… STAR TREK: ORION’S BELT, right, that’s the movie?”

“And how did you come to get here last month?” A good stepparent would detect a pattern of behavior.

“I told a Senator’s daughter that she could swim in the White House pool, if she gave me a ride in her daddy’s limo?”

“And when the Senator needed his car, it was nowhere to be found,” an inconvenient fact. “Don’t you remember what happened before the 2032 election? Your brother was accused of assaulting a Congressman’s daughter. You better be careful about bending the rules to suit your fancy.”

“But Francine, I only do it so I can spend time with the best 1st Chick this country has ever seen!”

She is generally steamrolled by Gus’ charm.

And how could his stepdad, the Top Gun of the nation, protest watching a movie Star Trek movie about a peaceful planet in the constellation of Orion that kidnaps baby James T. Kirk III, right after he is born. (At a theater near you in 2037)


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 214


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 213

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 213

…Deimostra has spent the final 15 hours sleeping, harmlessly dreaming of the people they were about to meet…

“I think we may have made a slight miscalculation about just how old the Newfoundlander is, considering this collection of spaceships.”

Photo by Lauren Hansen-Flauschen for Penn Museum

“Then how does one account for those never-before-seen artifacts in storage below, Sam?”

“Maybe they were lifted out of museum and the curators reported them as stolen. Or maybe they got lucky and found the stuff where no one else had looked before; I’m sure they had mass spectrometers long before we did.”

“No Sam, I’m telling you that modern man has not seen those treasures below! As for getting lucky — maybe, but not likely, considering the archaeological coverage in the Nile Delta.”

As NEWFOUNDLANDER shimmies into its pre-destined parking place, something occurs to Sampson’s astro-nautically trained mind, “Could it be that these people have abandoned space travel? I mean, did you see a fleet come out to escort us in? Have any of us seen any shuttle traffic, weather satellite or space station anywhere on the way here?”

Before Celeste can agree, the closing of the 100 foot tall doors distracts her and once again they are left to wonder what happens next. The enclosure now adds a claustrophobic slant to their rampant speculation. Confinement is a stark certainty, after over 5 years in the vastness of deep-space

Unease, doubt, apprehension: all these begin to consume Commander Sampson McKinney, formerly of Space Colony 1, recently employed NASA astronaut and previous inhabitant of Earth. It is all he can do to merely stand still and wait. The waiting is the hardest part.

“Have we landed yet Mother and Father?” Deimostra has spent the final 15 hours sleeping, harmlessly dreaming of the people they were about to meet, confined to her cabin for safety’s sake. Her feet have never been in contact with solid ground, but that is about to change. She has put on the dress Celeste had fashioned for this very portentous occasion, a feminine frock with as many little girl touches as were available on this male laden vessel.

“We have just landed dear one and we are inside a very, very…very large building.” She spins Deimostra around, tugging and adjusting clothing and hair. “These people are going to meet my pretty little girl.”

“When will we get to meet them?” she asks.

“I believe they would be coming through door number two!” Sampson hazards a cautious guess at the first sign of activity.

The next chapter of Earth’s history is about to be written.

The folks on Planet X is in for a surprise of historic proportion.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 213


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 212

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 212

…Only one new model in four thousand years, how can that be, I think we may have made a slight miscalculation…

Miscalculation by Jared Hindman

The largest of these towering edifices opens its low-level gates, in order to swallow the NEWFOUNDLANDER. The giant size sliding doors draw apart slowly and they can almost hear the creaking of the glides due to a possible drought of inactivity. The well-traveled ship both lumbers and floats in, after the gap reaches its full extent.

The adult McKinneys cannot take their eyes off the still functioning monitors. They have entered into what appears to be a vehicular {space} gallery.

“Do you remember the EAA Convention in Wisconsin?” Sampson tests his wife’s premarital memory about a yearly gathering of flying machines, pilots, enthusiasts and an accompanying aviation museum.

“Yes I do. You wanted to show off something there to your buddies.” Celeste was thinking about her inaugural introduction to his friends and fellow airborne buffs.

“Yeah Oshkosh, by gosh, and the P-51 Mustang I had been working on for 5 years!” That comment earns him a fist to the shoulder. She meant hers-truly. “There is every type of spacecraft imaginable here.”

About that he is correct.

And then some; human eyes have not seen, nor can they imagine where some of these ships came from, though there a few that look like they were made by Earth’s own rocketeers, “That looks the first liquid-fueled rocket made by Robert Goddard in the 1920s! They made a movie about that Celeste. Stick an American Flag on that one.”

Identifying the antiques is easy. Just where the NEWFOUNDLANDER fits into this collection, only the folks of Planet X would know, although that vacant slot on the right, near the end of this mindboggling menagerie seems to have NEWFOUNDLANDER written all over it.

“There is only one ship here that looks more advanced than this one.” He is baffled. Only one new model in four thousand years, how can that be? I think we may have made a slight miscalculation.” (like Wile E Coyote)


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 212


page 192

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 211

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 211

Shangri-La is one proper adjective attached to describe Utopian perfection, though there is nothing on Earth, mythical or real, to compare it to…

NEWFOUNDLANDER follows in behind the withdrawing cover and as it descends to the altitude of an intercontinental supersonic transport, the planet of their fancy is revealed in its entire splendor.

“This is the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on,” Celeste puts her hands to her chest, to contain her rapidly beating heart.

“My God Celeste, I believe we have discovered where Heaven is.” Put an X on this spot for further reference. It’s is one thing to have seen Mars in person for the first time, quite another to observe the incomprehensible.

Eridanus2 - Copy

There are no clear-cut continents or oceans below, or any typical land features for that matter. In the place of familiar geography, spiraling cities, on invisible stilts, rise randomly up into the pastel pink skies. The majestic lofty perches are scattered about the planet surface in no particular pattern. Nowhere to be found: sprawling industrial complexes, its attending pollution, gaudy interconnecting roadways for wheeled vehicles or skies plugged with crisscrossing contrails trailing flitting aircraft.

Shangri-La is one proper noun/adjective attached to describe Utopian perfection, though there is nothing on Earth, mythical or real, to compare it to and no word in the English language can do it justice.

Come to think of it, even the NEWFOUNDLANDER, now making an aerodynamic approach to the nondescript terra firma of this enigmatic sphere, looks strangely out of place. Yet it appears to be coming home like a long-lost relative or the family black sheep welcomed back with open arms, no questions asked; The Parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15):

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

The largest of these towering edifices opens its low-level gates, in order to swallow the NEWFOUNDLANDER. The sliding door of giant size draw apart slowly and you can almost hear the creaking of the glides due to a drought of inactivity. The ship lumbers in, after the gap reaches its full extent.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 211


page 191

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 210

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 210

…that impenetrable gaseous shield that encases Planet X collapses inward, like the flushing of a toilet, revealing…

DreamySkies-blue1-(Magical)Instead of knifing through the planet’s pea soup ionosphere, to allow that anxiously awaited first glimpse from on high, the NEWFOUNDLANDER nestles into an orbit above the vaporous barrier.

“I really, really hope that is water vapor and not pollution, ‘cause I would greatly prefer Seattle to Shanghai. Or worse yet, that is an ammonia blanket!” Sampson McKinney expresses the palpable anxiety pressure in the cabin, with the trio of Earthlings as presentable as they can be after five years in space. The vagueness of the moment has leveled the playing field between adults and child; so many the questions, so few the answers.

Suffering through two orbits and finding it hard to maintain an upright edge, an unexpected event serves to divert their attention. While on the (sun)lit portion of their revolution, Epsilon Eridani bright rays vanish, eclipsed by one or both of its mates. The harsh return to total darkness lasts several revolutions only. The molten brother and the desolate daughter spin away on their intended paths while restoring a stars’ radiation to the seemingly confused little sister.

Eridanus3

Another trip around the outlying reaches of NEWFOUNDLANDER’S home seems likely. The wait is maddening for the stowaways. After all, if they were in a holding pattern above Honolulu International, at least they would know which hotel they were staying at. They have spent what they believe to be one-half of a decade of their lives aboard a hijacked alien spacecraft, willing hostages of the unknown, but reluctant strangers of uncertainty. That they arrive at this place in the galaxy with a shred of sanity to their names is a testament to their training and the dedication to carry out a mission, no matter what it takes or where it takes you.Related image

Photo by Warner Bros., from Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century

But as another ho-hum orbit ends, much like the earlier eclipse and just as abrupt, that impenetrable gaseous shield that encases Planet X collapses inward, like the flushing of a toilet in the Southern Hemisphere at home. NEWFOUNDLANDER follows in behind the withdrawing cover and as it descends to the altitude of an intercontinental supersonic transport, the planet of their fancy is revealed in its entire splendor.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 210


page 190

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 209

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 209

…The McKinneys are relieved when their space-taxi whooshes past the ominous molten maelstrom and subsequently an uninviting barren exo-world that looks like it would make a great prison planet

The NEWFOUNDLANDER continues to hurtle toward the planetary system which must surely be their final destination. The ship with a remote control mind uses all the right moves on its approach, like it had done this very move before. A skilled navigator himself, SamImage result for speed of light gif sincerely hopes so, because he is beginning to feel uneasy with the speed at which they going at this late stage. That scary mega planet is looking large and larger, its red-hot surface churning like the gates of hell… and they have barely dipped below SOL.

Born to go fast and built for speed, Sampson and Celeste are in white-knuckle mode, each in their own way, praying that the NEWFOUNDLANDER would slow down! Imagine being a passenger in an auto without a steering wheel whose brakes have failed and that would pretty much sum up the situation.

Little do they realize that due to the orb’s enormous mass, the illusion of proximity is just that, an illusion? At a half a million miles out, the stardrive that had relentlessly propelled them past several other stars without a pit-stop begins to back off, freezing the white dots of light behind them. An example: Earth’s sunlight will catch up to the Epsilon Eridani solar system in another year or so.

They are relieved when their space-taxi whooshes past the ominous molten maelstrom and subsequently an uninviting barren exo-world that looks like it would make a great prison planet. Once the sub-light deceleration has taken full effect, and you can DreamySkies-blue2-(Magical)definitely notice the difference.

The only possible landing point is the third largest member of this unique triumvirate, a misty looking sphere, the size of which is hard to judge. There are no clues as to what lays beneath the cloaking shroud; no hints to its close-up appearance.

Instead of knifing through the planet’s pea soup ionosphere, to allow that anxiously awaited first glimpse from on high, the NEWFOUNDLANDER nestles into an orbit above the vaporous barrier.

What lies beneath the clouds & mist?


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Episode 209


page 189

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 208

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 208

…“What is modest?” Deimostra, the star-child asks, though modesty is conceptual and not easily explained…

Modesty Blaise by Robert McGinnis

“Do they have one nose or none, two eyes or one or a mouth with a tongue?” Deimostra reads way too much Dr. Seuss.

“Why don’t you draw me a picture?” asks Celeste.

“I have Mommy, here,” she pulls one of the precious pieces of paper on which she has doing her studies, art, music, mathematics, etc…

“That is pretty close Sammy; you must have looked at the autopsy photos.” Celeste often wonders on how those unfortunate space-travelers looked in the living flesh. From an aesthetic standpoint, she was selfishly hoping that they are not revolting to the human eye. She really wants to like the NEWFOUNDLIANS. “We can tell that they have a pair of arms and legs and we know they are a modest people.”

“What is modest?” the star-child asks. Modesty is conceptual and not easily explained, unless Mom can produce an example of conceit.

“Do you know how your Daddy acts like he is the smartest person in the room and continually looks for a reflection of his face?”

“Yes, but I think he does know everything.”

“You are your Daddy’s daughter. We will discuss that later… you see Deimostra; these people do not have a single photograph of themselves on this ship, while Daddy must check to see if a hair is out of place.  That may mean that how they look isn’t important to them. And they do not carry personal possessions with them, not even fun clothes.”

“I only have one dress Mommy, does that make me modest?”

“No that means we have nowhere to shop, to purchase other nice things. Do you remember me teaching you about Narcissus, who loved himself above all else?” The young girl nods at a mother who wants to mold an upstanding human being that anyone would be proud to know. She hopes mightily that she has been able to offset some of Sampson’s least desired traits.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 208


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 207

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 207

…“What do these people look like Mommy?” asks the pupil who has become a sponge of curiosity…

“They will be expecting a reproduction not a response. Boy, are they going to be in for a shock when they find out who they’ve been “jamming” with, probably thinking that their crew had tinkered with the out-of-office message; We’ve Gone Fishin’! Sammy Mac toys with the possibilities.

Here's How To Actually Study For All Your Finals | Tick tock, Tick tock clock, How to memorize thingsAbout fifteen minutes passes without further tonal interaction. The builders of the NEWFOUNDLANDER may be mulling over the unusual way their ship is responding. If there is any doubt in their minds about malicious behavior, Celeste has tempered that. Pity the people who are expecting an empty cabin, on one of their vintage 4000 year-old spaceship models.

Indeed, judging by the intervening musical bantering between Celeste and the home base, these people have to know something is amiss. Did they expect a crew member to have survived millennia, when he could have flown home on his own?

Sometimes they would attempt to mimic and other times they would throw out some more ornate orchestration. Everything they send out has a distinct classical flavor, like they had stepped right out of the baroque era on Earth, like four centuries hence.

Celeste does her best to parody Beethoven or Vivaldi, with her skills and endurance tested at musical message central. She does not dare leave the console during these exchanges and it is apparent the responder(s) do not sleep much or take breaks.

***LATER IN THE YEAR THEY CORRECTLY BELIEVE TO BE 2035***

When the amount of days was less than the months of space behind them, the tension and excitement is compounding. The dueling concertos had stopped, substituted with occasional honks, toots & beeps.

As part of her space-schooling, Deimostra was learning to do the simple 3-note stuff. “What do these people look like Mommy?” asks the pupil who has become a sponge of curiosity.

“We can’t be sure exactly dear, but they would most certainly be classified as humanoid at the very least, but they are definitely far more advanced than us.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 207


page 187

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 206

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 206

…Celeste listens more intently this time and she was able to reproduce the incoming communication to the note, using the NEWFOUNDLANDER digitized instrumentation…

Image result for digital music gif

“Yes and no… I mean recorder, a 12th Century version of the flute…a musical instrument.” Celeste contends.

“Is this a coincidence or could it be that this music is an attempt to communicate with their spacecraft?” Sam’s theory is not revolutionary considering the time they spent on the subject of the overt melodious sounds of the NEWFOUNDLANDER leading up to this seminal moment.

“I knew their use of the diatonic scale was more than fanciful fluff and this confirms it!” She spirits to an apparatus on which she had been secretly experimenting during her private time, “This synthesizer is actually the communication console.”

“Have you been fiddling behind my back?” His attempt at humor masks his openly jealously over his wife making a breakthrough discovery.

“This is no different than you nosing around the propulsion and navigation stuff and besides, you have never shown the barest inclination towards music Sam. Don’t feel left out.

“And before you turn this around a make fun of me, consider this; before I met you, becoming an astronaut was my second choice.  I actually auditioned for 2nd violin at the New York Philharmonic. I could be safely back on Earth, playing Vivaldi at Avery Fisher Hall. But instead I am second fiddle on a spaceship without a rudder.”

Avery Fisher Hall

(Take that!)Equalizer GIFs | Tenor

“There should be a musical response, if it is a form of communication. I’m going to defer to your expertise.” Sam knows better than to make-too-lightly when Celeste is passionate.

As he surmised, a very similar melodious passage is incoming. Celeste listens more intently this time and she was able to reproduce it to the note, using the NEWFOUNDLANDER digitized instrumentation.

“I made sure that there was enough difference in my melody. They will know this isn’t an echo.”

“Great observation! They will be expecting a reproduction not a response. Boy, are they going to be in for a shock when they find out who they’ve been “jamming” with, probably thinking that their crew had tinkered with the “out of office” message.”

About fifteen minutes passes without further tonal interaction.


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Episode 206


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 205

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 205

…great pains have been taken to restore the spacecraft to how they found it (minus the dead space-guy dudes) approx. 5 years ago…

For all the tragedy and misfortune that the Space Family McKinney has endured, most astronomers worth their salt would give over the left side of their brain for this opportunity.

This, “plain dumb luck” as Sammy Mac puts it, renews the group vitality. The Sammy Mac tag is a well-earned nickname, born out of sure bravado and worn like a merit badge. Before the sudden disembarking, the McKinney family unit had been sentenced to a potential lifetime on that barren red sphere, with only their resourcefulness as a survival skill. Badge awarded: Planetary Exploration.

They likely will never know that fate actually interfered and whisked them away from a New Mayflower rescue. Perhaps it is just as well.

So now comes the chance, however up-in-the-air, to actually have other beings to interact with; to share knowledge and history, keep company or perchance complete a rewarding life. That which was out of reach 5 years ago has been broached in the unlikeliest of circumstance.

To erase any possible doubts as to their intentions in their awkward capacity as stowaways and reflect positively on their culturally civil nature, great pains have been taken to restore the spacecraft to how they found it (minus the dead space-guy dudes).

“How are we going to explain the absence of their crew?” Celeste wonders while she and Sammy tidy up.

“Hopefully they have already guessed the fate of the expedition, seeing that it had gone on so long and returns only by the grace of automatic recall. If these folks bury their dead, we can show them the pictures of their Martian graveyard. If they do not bury their dead and consider the practice barbaric, then we didn’t see anyone on Mars alive or dead!”

From out of nowhere, a new sound filters into the bridge of the ship named by them, NEWFOUNDLANDER. Celeste is quick to identify it, “That is music played on a recorder! Why didn’t I pick up on that earlier?”

“Recorder, as in recorded music?”

“No I mean recorder….a 12th Century crude version of the flute… a musical instrument.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 205


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