THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 155

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 155

… you have the ingredients for the second biggest international incident, “a quarter of a million miles this side of the moon”…

Pink Floyd

— As things wind down is the Gulf region of North/Central America, just the opposite is happening on the other side of the world, specifically the United Korean Peninsula and Talibanistan. For far too long the so-called Dove of the Americas, Pete Sanchez has allowed free reign to certain, uncommon pockets of American/West hatred.

North Korea swallowed up the South when during his first term, he unilaterally withdrew United States forces, which had guarded the 38th Parallel for 3/4 of a century and the North pounced. The United Korean Peninsula was formed.

He was re-elected anyway.

At the beginning of his second term, he urged the United Nations to ease restrictions on what had only been a tribal movement in the areas north and west of India. During the vacuum of power, the Taliban seized control of all the “-stans” and formed the nation called Talibanistan. Never a friend to the west, it was allowed to fester like a regional infection, never to be challenged about its belligerent policies.

And still Sanchez sat on his hands, with the support of the festering Hispanic majority that dare not allow him to lose power.

Picasso

But the Presidency of the United States of America has not descended into dictatorship and when a Congressional majority decides to act in spite of the “Commander-in Chief”, the sleeping dove that has been the USA, can magically take-wing and soar like the proud hawk of days gone by.

Among the Joint Chiefs’ of Staff, who have been bound by loyalty and not apt to spout their verbal opposition to national policy, are privately ramping up efforts to build a case for surgical strikes against both Korea and Talibanistan. A downsized military, just like the budget-challenged space program, has to skillfully choose their skirmishes and missions.

So, when CIA briefings included information about that bodacious bash in the Korean capital, with all the prominent players involved in Space Colony’s destruction in one city block, the temptation to strike is obvious, even to the most casual observer.

Add in the fact that permission from Congress is nothing but a presidential rubberstamp and you have the ingredients for the second biggest international incident, “a quarter of a million miles this side of the moon”. As the Army Chief put it, “What happens in Korea stays in Korea.” —


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 155


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 154

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 154

…On the other side of the world and on the bad side of public opinion, Kim Jong-un is pondering the meaning of life

On the other side of the world, and on the bad side of public opinion, Kim Jong-un is pondering the meaning of life. (2 Koreans + 1 Talinaistani)

“Where has all this outer space mischief got us Nae Tan-Dan?”

“We have put a stop to America’s imperialist expansionism, Supreme Leader!”

The barely 50 year old leader of the United Korean Peninsula {formerly North Korea & South Korea} is about the only Korean citizen capable of tracking “real” world sentiment toward his country.

“And what about the fates of Comrade Afridi and Comrade Gaad, my Talibanistan brother,” he asks of Sheikh Kamran Khan Nutkani who is also among the living.
“Samiq Gaad was killed while bravely escaping American custody!”

“And that is good Comrade Nutkani?

“Comrade/traitor Afridi was assassinated while attempting to flee to the United States!”

“Did anyone find and identify his dead body?”

“No, but how can one man be a threat to “the powerful and prosperous Kim Jung-Un”?”

“That one man may have given over his secrets about our satellite program to the West. I hear that they are blaming us for the destruction of their little space station around Mars,” his voice has an indignant tone.

Cheondoist flag.PNG

Cheondoism

“Should we not take the credit…?”

“Silence you fool! Cheiondo, our god of protection, has struck them blind and dumb. We will defend Cheiondo to the death, but we are vilified by the other world powers, those not clear about our altruistic intentions.”

“What manner of threat does a weak leader like the United States’ president present to us? We have defeated him before.” Nae Tan-Dan is full of confidence.

“Perhaps none, but we have failed to bite off the head of the snake, though it writhes in our hand; a snake with its fangs is a dangerous snake.”

Kim Jung-un Immortalized

“But did you not summon us to Pyongyang for a grand celebration? Talibanistan has sent its military leaders here for tribute and all Korean provincial leaders are gathered to show their support.”

“Yes I did Comrade Tan-Dan and so we shall have the biggest military parade led by the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces and Korean People’s Army.” The raw feeling of power is sucking any consternation from his awareness, with lustful thoughts of world domination to guide him. “As did I include our friends from the sovereign state of Talibanistan, who themselves fought off the tyrannical nations in the fight for their territories; a special treat for the foot soldiers, bomb makers, and assassins.”

“We are happy to be here Supreme Leader and may our alliance last forever.”

The clanging of wine glasses and boastful toasts echo outside the high walls of Pyongyang City


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 154


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 153

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 153

…What is taking four months to accomplish {the New Mayflower rescue mission}, a SOL equipped spaceship would take 10 minutes, akin to a trip to  a corner store in New Orleans

French Quarter Corner Store by John Boles

— After he had escaped from a treacherous country, had his family risk their lives fleeing to Turkey, managed to  contact the Space Colony Director with scandalous information, only to be shot by an assassin’s bullets while being flown into the United States, poor Aldona Afridi is not an yard closer to applying his trade.

SOL-logo

But now the renegade turned research scientist has been assigned to the SOL Project: the independent foundation, with significant ties to NASA that is dedicated to achieving space travel at the speed-of-light threshold and not a mph less. With the recent stranding of personnel, some 3+ months distant and without a lifeline, efforts have been redoubled in the quest of 670 million miles per hour.

Do the math. What is taking four months to accomplish {the New Mayflower rescue mission}, a SOL equipped spaceship would take 10 minutes. What is presently classified as a time-sensitive mission would be akin to a trip to a corner store in New Orleans.

Another comparison may apply to the situation on Mars. Unknown to anyone on Earth, the NEWFOUNDLANDER would have taken over four years to reach this solar system, assuming that they came from the nearest star.

Such are the daunting numbers that face a small grouping of scientists that does now include Aldona Afridi; and he feels well-favored to have the opportunity. He is making a good wage, not a fortune but sure beats the United Korean blood money by light-years.

His family is safe, though the Afridi family name has been changed. Meet the Fitch’s:

  • Father: Fletcher Fitch
  • Wife: Madonna Fitch
  • Daughters: The Fitch girls

How easy are things when you are under the protection of a benevolent Federal Government such as this? You get an undercover makeover, govt. housing and a new outlook on life, just like that.

Fletcher and Madonna Fitch have that new look, new wardrobes and names that they had no choice in getting.

And still, life is good… so far.


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 152

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 152

…If this is your theatrical way of proposing marriage to me, then I accept…

Francine has been an interested observer during this current visit to a ranch under recent excavation. “It looks like Braden has been busy.”

“I hope you don’t think he is being somewhat presumptuous,” Question and statement. “I know he talked to about me building out here at King, but I am not the one who got this ball rolling. I don’t want you to think I was taking anything for granted,” disclaimer delivered JIC {just-in-case}.

“If this is your theatrical way of proposing marriage to me, then I accept… but I am in charge of the inside of that house!”

The chopper suddenly tilts at 250 .

“Am I the one who is presuming something? I just thought this had to be a plan of some sort.”

“Ask her now Roy!” Braden screams from below.

KR 2022 bounces back to 00.

“I’ve already got the family car,” she prompts.

“Earth to KR 2022, are you still there,” Braden quips from below.

“I have no contagious diseases and love the Houston Rockets,” she adds, looking at his ashen face.

Roy feels like a rat trapped in a maze, but upon further review and instantaneous reflection he surrenders this: “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with me? I mean I am about to be held in Contempt of Congress, I am wanted in Jamaica for driving 100 miles over the speed limit and I was thrown out of a Rage Against the Machine concert when I was at the Space Academy.”

Just then a flashing red light appears where the fuel gauge is. “We have to set down, that’s an idiot light.” With all the back-and-forth, Related imagethen forth and back, he had overlooked the fuel situation.

“You idiot, what idiot?”

Just as they finally set down, 2 souped-up golf carts come out to meet and greet. Not surprisingly, the one driven by the McKinney boys gets there first, with Braden’s scooting in behind.

Who do the excited siblings run to, once the rotors whoosh to a stop? Francine. And where does Braden head? To the very same pretty lady who used to work for his favorite TV station.

So what is Roy left to do? Watch, as the woman he has fallen in love with is being welcomed into his extended family… just like it was meant to be. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Welcome To The Family GIFs | Tenor

Episode 152


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 151

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 151

…when Roy’s helicopter spots the  Sunset Hill letters on his hangar he can tell that something else has been going on there about…

As he remembers, he and Roy had been in serious discussions over the project that would be Crippen’s home away from the space program. There is a hangar near that very spot now, a steel shed where that Sikorsky S-96 sits protected from the sandy Texas winds when Roy flies out for a visit.

However, the house never took 3-dimensional form, set aside when Space Colony 1 became his spiritual “home”. “No time for that now Braden. Maybe someday I can settle down out here, but someday isn’t tomorrow or even the next… and what am I going to do with a spread like that, no wife and no kids, just a chopper, a yacht and a bedroll to my name.”

But previously closed doors have been pried opened and Braden decides, independently, that the time has come when that dream house becomes a real home. Local contractors have been busy preparing the ground, laying the foundation, and giving it a footprint on Sunset Hill at King Ranch {simply where the sun sets}.

At Braden’s behest the deed for the land has been legally reassigned and most of the bills and the ever-popular junk mail should be landing in Roy’s new mailbox any day now.

The time has come for Roy to shift gears as well; Francine will be doing her part and Braden, Deke, and Gus will do the rest, should any prodding need-be done.

Life is good and getting better all the time…..And to find love right in front of your eyes, nothing could be finer.

So, when Roy’s helicopter spots the Sunset Hill letters on his hangar he can tell that something else has been going on there about.

“This is KR 2022, calling King Ranch control,” he announces, “We have noticed some topographical changes near our hangar, can you confirm?”

Braden replies, “Proceed with caution KR 2022, there is concrete setting to the north of Hangar #1. Hangar #2 is a three-car garage.”

“And that hole in the ground to the west, a meteor crater?”

“No, that would be the foundation for your house, silly.”


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

…Braden King feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it and that means a change in lifestyle…

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE by UZO EGONU


This picture was drawn by Erika Aoyama 11/16/ 2002

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow. —

— And until Sampson and Celeste packed their bags for Mars, Braden King also lived to work, he would come home to help work his 2500 acres and 1000 animals, catch up on the nightly news, eat some beef, steal 5 hours sleep and do it all over again.King Ranch logo

But King Ranch now teams with the vitality of two teen-aged McKinney dynamos, never more important to him, considering the status of their parents, not to mention his own recent health scare. There isn’t anything that cannot wait, unless something can’t wait, then it is filed neatly into a simple list of priorities; family first, everything else second. Never having married has made for tiny family reunions. And you can’t choose family, we all know.

Friends on the other hand, you can choose and do, while at other times they choose you and the fun is in seeing where you stand in a year, five years, etc.

He feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it. That means a change in lifestyle, from the high octane excitement of daily interaction at the Galveston Launch Facility, with whoever is outside Earth’s atmosphere at the time, to working at home from the ranch, keeping track of now ten ranch hands and two McKinney children who depend on him for everything. Braden King will not be making the same mistakes.

New projects are a good way to take your mind off of your old ways, the old days when the International Space Station required attention or that shiny-new Space Colony 1 was being towed into place or you could hardly pull yourself from watching it crawl away from SpaceDock.

With Francine and Roy coming over to spend some time, he has dusted off a 3’ cylinder that has been sitting in his hall closet, taking it over to the dining room table, removing the coiled parchment inside. It is an architectural rendering of house, three bedrooms, two baths poised on a west-facing slope about 200 yards from the main house.

As he remembers, he and Roy had been in serious discussions over the project that would be Crippen’s home away from the space program.


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

…any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel…

“The country would not stand for news of the McKinney deaths… they adore that couple,” President Sanchez makes a politically generic statement.

“This should have nothing to do with Time Magazine Online “Most Influential People” issue and everything to do with putting reprobate rulers in their place.” Roy moves to move the President of the United States of America into action. The man is stuck on how this latest development makes his administration look, instead of recognizing the threat to the welfare of the planet itself.

“Chances are Pete,” using his first name for effect, “that armchair diplomacy or economic sanctions will not work here.”

Sanchez should ask himself why, in retrospect, that the very same type of jealous admiration exhibited by Korea, were one and the same as his quest for the United States Senate, lo those many years ago. As a younger, more idealistic politician, Sanchez had practiced a suspicious mudslinging campaign against the incumbent Senator, in the primary election that year. And though Sanchez did not get the nomination and the other party ultimately won the general election, it ruined the man’s reputation unnecessarily.

It is a lesson for those who are lame ducks or out of favor; there may be someone or some country lurking, ready to ruin his legacy or bring down the entire nation he is ultimately responsible for.

“I guess we need to flex our muscles.”

“And forget about that gratuitous speech you are about to deliver,” Roy whispers under his breath. “And you know that we at NASA and SAC will be vigilant, Sir.”

No sooner than the phone goes dead, Roy wonders if the President meant yet another dreaded commodity embargo or economic isolation; neither of which work against those determined to make, in this case, outer space mischief.

Francine is privy to one side of the conversation, but any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel. She is aware that stakes of the game have changed and she will have a front row seat to it all.

It is getting late at Lovell and making the trip home to Houston less desirable than usual, but in these times of fear and doubt, where better to spend the night but at King Ranch, “I’ll give Braden a heads up about an incoming Canadian-made helicopter with a Russian sounding name (Sikorsky) and two tired NASA people aboard,” she states.

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 149


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 148

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 148

…“What do I tell the world? And will they believe me?” asks the President of the United States…

Francine could not possibly guess what Roy is about to tell the leader of the free world, of all people.

“Please don’t beat around the bush. What the hell happened to the United Korean Peninsula’s sovereign property? I have to tell them something…… and I have a stump speech to deliver in 10 minutes.”

“I’m sure that will be a Democratic knee-slapper!” Roy is sure that the President has heard the rumblings about Roy’s possible political plans. “We have thrown a wet blanket over the whole Sang-Ashi thing and I guess you can spin it any way you want.”

“Well then just spin-it-out man!”

“We have indisputable proof that Sang-Ashi was built by the Koreans for the sole purpose of sabotaging the Space Colony program, doing whatever it takes to stop it in its tracks. To that end, they have used a deep-space probe to disguise their destructive ways.

“In response to that aggression, we needed to disable Sang-Ashi as it was about to take out the New Mayflower as well. However, the crew did not pull the trigger, the onboard mainframe did.”

This information produces differing reactions; Francine cannot believe Roy was so blunt. President Sanchez sits down, aghast at the notion.

“We can’t do that!” he proclaims.

“We had to take defensive measures,” Roy indirectly crediting Aldona Afridi. “We are not going to sit on our hands while two rogue global powers have their way with us!”

“Two? Who is the other one?”

“Talibanistan.”

“That’s impossible. My Secretary of State tells me that he has a working relationship with Kamran Khan-Nutkani.”

“Sure it works for them! And who do you think is behind the freeing of Samiq Gaad and the kidnapping of the McKinney boys?” He warns, “Do not be hoodwinked by a Talibanistani Trojan Horse.”

“What do I tell the world? And will they believe me?”

“Think about Sampson and Celeste McKinney, stranded on Mars, running out of food, water, and oxygen.”

“The country would not stand for news of their deaths, they adore that couple,” he makes a politically generic statement.

“Exactly.”


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Talibanistan

Episode 148


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

..When it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D….

“Thank you and good day.”

Francine backs away from the podium, turning toward a stage left exit, when a cry comes out from the crowd, “Miss Bouchette!!! Is it true that you left KHST in Houston in violation of your “sweetheart” contract?” He must be a friend of her former fiancée.

Nowheresville USA from Kasey Musgraves

This voice is antithetical to the previous 30 queries, antagonistic, from the middle of the mulling transcriptional troubadours. She was going to ignore the provocation and continue on, but chooses not to retreat from the cowardly question asked when the lights have been doused and attentions have shifted… by someone she recognizes.

“If I am not mistaken Mr. Loyd, with one L, weren’t you under contract when you left Nowheresville, Arkansas for the greener pastures of the Dallas market six years ago?”

The man’s self-righteous grin is inverted to a frown as he slithers toward the door, while other reporters in the know inherit his smile. Pockets of applause erupt from those remaining to witness Francine’s rapier wit.

In the wings, Roy exhibits delight for Francine, fully aware of the awkward position he has asked of her. She is more relieved than pleased, but accepts his warm embrace.

police-siren-animated - The HostBaby BlogWhen it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D., “You’ll want to take a seat for this one.”

He makes the caller {the President} wait five rings and clears his throat, preparing for a preemptive strike lobbed all the way from the Hawkeye State, “Your Press Secretary delivered a real snow-job at that presser, which was nothing more than an advertisement for funding of a second space colony, Director Crippen. I think they would be more interested in the incompetent handling of the New Mayflower Incident!”, Pedro “Pete” Sanchez blusters in his best  back-seat bravado!

“Mr. President Sir, we are talking about a clear matter of self-defense and protecting the World Space Consortium’s investments from the jealous actions of rogue nations.”

Francine could not possibly guess what Roy is about to tell the leader of the free world, of all people.


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Episode 147


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 146

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 146

…What Francine cannot say {the devil’s-in-the-details} is that an out-of-control computer has an itchy trigger finger or that the destroyed Sang-Ashi space probe had itself likely destroyed Space Colony 1 …

— True to his word, Roy Crippen arranges for a hotline conversation with President Sanchez, irrespective of the leader’s chosen availability. It is midterm Congressional election season and Sanchez and the Democrats may be busy clinging to their support base, fundraising, campaigning, and solidifying their slim majority.

“If I were president, I would be spending less time on politics and more on sound policy,” he mutters to himself. He doesn’t much care for Pete Sanchez as a person, let alone his policies. It is at times like these that Roy feels he could make a real difference in the White House; a thinker and a doer he would be, not a manipulating party person who is mentally missing when things really matter.

A mere 7 meaningful minutes is going to pass as the secure cellular call bounces off three different satellites on the way to Keokuk Iowa via Washington D.C. That tiny towns in agricultural Iowa or the town halls of New Hampshire carry any weight in political circles, speaks volumes about the very drivel that is keeping Roy from jumping into the national arena with both feet. Today, the country’s business is being conducted from an ethanol plant in the middle of 100,000 acres of corn.

Roy thinks compassionate thoughts about Francine, who is currently in the midst of her maiden news conference. International incidents rarely have their roots sprouting from the hopeful unknown of the space program and the New Mayflower Incident, as it is being called, is being blown way out of proportion.

Peering out to the newly constructed conference room, with ten rows of ten chairs, he sees Francine control the room with cool familiarity. Perhaps they were going easy on her, hands are raised, questions concisely put, shouting at tolerable levels, and hardly a discouraging word expressed.

This is itchy

What she cannot say {the devil’s-in-the-details} is that an out-of-control computer has an itchy trigger finger or that the destroyed Sang-Ashi space probe had itself likely destroyed Space Colony 1, to set these events into action.

This is the stuff that comprises a competent Press Secretary. Give them enough information to fill column inches or that 30 second video clip for the evening news.

“I believe that I have answered all your questions for now and I look forward to dealing with you folks in the near future. Thank you and good day.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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