THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 56

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 56

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

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

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

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

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

He chooses his words carefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 56


page 53 (end Ch. 2)

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 48

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 48

We have two people alive on Mars and we will not rest until they are safe, back here on Earth!…

Space Colony!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” A dazed technician stands, face paled by disbelief.

“It’s gone…” All he can do is point at the mission mockup and the flashing light that no longer shows anSC1 explodes orbit line around Mars. With all the distractions, no one had been monitoring the status lights; one green blink on the surface, none in orbit.

“Mr. Crippen, what has happened,” Aldona Afridi has more than a passing interest in the goings on?

Roy frantically seeks out key faces around the room. Total shock applies, with some tears on the move, spreading among most of the assembled 100.

cropped-mars3.jpgThey mourn the realization that any further contact with the McKinneys, now helplessly stranded on the Plain of Xanthe, would be impossible. The orbiting Colony was their only lifeline and that now seems utterly destroyed.

As good a good leader does, Roy Crippen collects his thoughts and regroups. There are contingency plans for such an unthinkable occurrence as this. He must sort through the options; no matter how limited they seem at this point.

“Mr. Frodo… sorry Afridi,” he has Tolkien on his brain. “We will be in touch with you in the near future. In fact I will arrange for you and your family to be picked up by American operatives in Turkey. Thank you for trying to warn us, perhaps we will find a place for you after all. Please leave your contact info with Mr. King.”

“I thank you for your kind offer, but isn’t the Space Colony project now terminated,” assumes the guilt-ridden accidental co-conspirator?

mckinneys-of-space-001“We have two people alive on Mars and we will not rest until they are safe, back here on Earth!”

The McKinneys are aware that Roy Crippen will not give up on them.

“Please ready New Mayflower for immediate liftoff,” Crippen commands, “zero hundred hours. No later!”

A rare midnight launch and don’t spare the afterburners!!


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 48


page 46

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 47

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 47

…What exactly is your point Mr. Frodo — that that Sang-Ashi thing is really a weapon?…

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What space looks like to kids 2ND PLACE (MULTIMEDIA), 6TH-8TH GRADE Student: Anolani School: Kapolei Middle School Location: Kapolei, Hawaii

“Your story is intriguing Mr. Afridi, but our spatial debris monitor assures me there is nothing in the vicinity of Mars.”

january20“My calculations show otherwise; it was to pass within 10 thousand kilometers on in the 20th day of the first month 2030… today!”

“He should know Crip, he helped build the darn thing,” Braden reminds him.

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Frodo by Rolozo Tolkien

What exactly is your point Mr. Frodo — that that Sang-Ashi thing is really a weapon? We are currently out of contact with Space Colony, specifically the Mars lander. The McKinney’s are currently spending daylight hours on the surface of the planet.”

It is Afridi, Aldona Afridi, and that is not a good sign. You should signal the Colony to activate its energy absorption field.”

This guy is acquainted with sensitive tech info. “You know more about the orbiting station than you should.”

“I am a great admirer of the project and regret not being allowed to offer my talents to it.”

There is a brief pause in the conversation, as Roy directs key personnel to check out Afridi’s assertions. His news is disturbing, yet there is no harm is arming the energy absorption field.

“Space Colony!!!!!!!!!”

A dazed technician stands, face paled by disbelief.

“What are you saying son,” Roy reacts to the commotion caused by the suddenly sullen young man.viewscreen-2-001

“It’s gone…” All he can do is point at the mission mockup and the flashing light that no longer shows an orbit line around Mars. With all the distractions, no one had been monitoring the status lights; one green blink on the surface, none in orbit.

“Mr. Crippen, what has happened?” Aldona Afridi has more than a passing interest in the goings on.

Roy frantically seeks out key faces around the room. Total shock applies, with some tears on the move, spreading among most of the assembled 100 technicians.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 47


page 45

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 45

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 45

“We are tracing the signal, we believe it originated somewhere in the Middle East.”…

broken-signal

Broken Signal by Carlo Formisano

“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen.”

The remarkable power of a single laminated business card is opening doors Afridi did not know he would be walking through. Now, whether or not -whoever picks up- at Lovell Space Center or Galveston Launch will be as receptive, that remains to be seen. If and it is a big IF he can pull it off, Afridi will be breaking Image result for radio transmissioninto the secure frequency band used by the Space Colony mission; highly irregular and extremely illegal.

Abad the Turkish METEOR Radyo-master gives the earnest scientist a quick run-through of all the pertinent buttons and switches of the equipment, then leaving him to the fate of the frequency. He is fairly sure that the station’s anonymity will be untraceable; thereby absolving it of culpability. Unless, that is, if this guy saves the world, in which case he would gladly share in the glory.

Aldona looks back at Fatima, who throws him a good-luck kiss. He then takes a deep breath and initiates his long-range pirate transmission.

“Mission Control, come in. This is an urgent matter,” he urges in his bifurcated English intonation.

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“What was that? I don’t recognize that voice,” Sampson is distracted, “did you hear that Crip?”

The Mars landing sortie was supposed to be a private party.

“We are tracing the signal, we believe it originated somewhere in the Middle East.”

“I was thinking the man has a Jupiter accent,” chimes too kool for his spacesuit Sam.

“There was a large solar flare a couple days ago, probably a piggyback transmission,” Celeste speculates.

“Let them take care of that Cel, let’s get closer to this thing,” Sam’s eyes are trained on the forty foot high blinding-lightunnatural object that had stolen their attention, before they were rudely interrupted.

As they move in, a blinding flash engulfs the landscape, bright enough to light the already daylight Mars landscape. Horrified at the unsavory possibilities, Sampson McKinney switches to Tycho’s skyward monitor, perhaps to catch an incoming meteor. Debris is pelting the ground around them.

“What in God’s name!?” That could have been voiced by anyone of them.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 45


page 43 (end ch. 2)

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 38

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 38

…“Som……ing is not righ…” that is the last transmission they will be hearing on this trip down to the Martian surface…

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THE LAST TRANSMISSION by bmessina.deviantart.com

Hal 2001

“All right Sam,” Roy Crippen advises, “Check in before returning to the Colony.”

“It’ll be there when we get back, as long as Al {Space Colony 1 mainframe brain) lets us back in,” referring to the
perfunctory processor.

So, Roy must sit back and watch while the McKinneys set out to prove their worth to an admiring world. Measuring the depth of dermis layers throughout Tithonius Lacus neighborhood will be accomplished with aplomb. It may be Saturday night, on a faraway silent habitat, but they would not trade places with anyone, here or there. And the pay is secondary to the payoff.Muddy tractor tracks.

Sampson actually is enjoying himself in the back, with Celeste at the wheel, while he calculates the exact depth of their tracks. It cruises handsomely across the barren plain, but he is noticing an earthly occurrence called clumping; like walking on naked rich black topsoil in the defrosting springtime, “Mud?!”

Not all terrain here is a plain and they conquer the grueling Martian hill climb with ease. The rover comes to rest on the crest of one of the craters, cropped-mars3.jpgoverlooking the Plain of Xanthe, from where Celeste takes notice the previously inconspicuous, yet prominent mound which nearly brought their mission to an unceremonious halt.

Intuition, the human trait that seems to get better with age, clicks on within Celeste, the driver who does notdunes-001 consult while taking a detour on their way to Syrtis Major; inquisitiveness is an attribute that begins at conception

The formation that has beckoned her, stands out because from what they observed about the general topography, this knoll is singular. As they draw near, its uniqueness is even more pronounced; nothing round about this mound, angular and structured, not at all natural.

Commander Sam suggests a cautious circling approach, like a vulture cruising at 300 feet above a rotting carcass. This “thing” has a different look from every angle; one side terraced, another gently sloping, yet another with a notch running perpendicular to the base, into the interior.

Braden King breaks in to express a concern, “Our picture has been degrading steadily since you took that detour—is there another inversion storm kicking up?”

Interference is hampering Mission Control’s depth perception, with the good looks they have been enjoying transitioning into a fuzzy blur.

“No sandstorms or such” Sampson fingers a touchscreen to boost the signal, “upping to 5500 dBs.”

“No change Sam,” there is a disappointing tone back on Earth. It is like losing the picture, leaving only sound for the 7th game of the 2029 World Series, in the bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, full count, bases loaded, score tied and it’s the West Coast Dodgers at bat vs. the Twin Moons of Minnesota. The first reaction is to check the coaxial cable connections.

“Go on with what you were doing Sam,” commands Roy Crippen, “We’ll tweak something at this end.”

Even as he speaks, the crackling turns to persistent static.

“Please repeat. Braden, what did he say?”

“Som……ing is…not righ…”

That is the last transmission they will be hearing on this trip down to the Martian surface.

Sampson shrugs, Celeste gives up.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 38


page 36

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 37

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 37

…The Space Family McKinney, most recently of Mars, peers jointly out onto the planet outside…

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Illustration by Legendary outer space conceptualizer Chesley Bonestell

The Mars landing fracas adds ½ mile, bringing them closer to the Tithonius Peninsula, but the averted disaster has raised everyone’s pulse x 2. When Tycho’s four pads contact Martian firma, they sense that it sinks down a bit, not like on Earth’s Moon where scientists had predicted 18 inches of moon dust when only 4 was present.

Heartbeats recede to mission norms.

A hazed yellow sun looms an hour above its dawning and even though the rays were reaching out 150 million miles, the equatorial latitude takes in enough radiation to raise surface temps to a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

my-project-23-001The Space Family McKinney, most recently of Mars, peers jointly out onto the planet outside, from opened viewing portals, with all the bluster settling down around them. Though their ground level perspective is less lofty, it does not temper their excitement.

Mars’ eerie serenity has the feel of an Old West ghost town. It has the feel of aged stillness, devoid of activity. Pay attention and you can imagine the passing of occasional tumbleweed. Listen closely and you can hear the sounds of a creaking one-hinged saloon door. Feel the wind sweeping down dusty streets. All that is missing are cobwebs and the ancient strains out of an out-of-tune piano, played by a shapely blond beauty bedecked in silk and sequins.

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Artwork by Veenenbos

“The red sky is going to take some getting used to,” Celeste admitting her blue bias, “with nothing out there but craters and sawed-off mountains to break things up.”

“New things are popping up all the time. How about my landing skills? They are going to program that one into the simulator.”

“And we better improve that approach angle, seeing we are going to be doing it every two weeks for the next 8 months.”

A fresh voice joins in,I hate to interrupt, but you have but 12-odd hours of daylight to burn… and the matter of soil depth consistency is an issue.” Roy Crippen is getting itchy, along with a developing stress rash.

“Sounds like a plan Crip! What would we do without you?” Sampson quips.

“You would fly straight into the side of a foothill, that’s what.”

Vertical-001“We saw it,” Celeste relates her end of the story.

“It’s time to drop the wheels and see what we can see. You can be the backseat driver, Crip.”

The newest “manned” Mars Rover’s batteries are fully charged.

“Don’t mind if I do. I need you to keep that thing upright. The tow truck is 50 million miles away mars-roveryou know.”

“Cel is driving that buggy.”

 “That will drop our insurance rates!”

“I believe you are breaking up, can you repeat that wisecrack?”

“All right Sam, just check in before returning to the Colony.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 37


page 37

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 36

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 36

…“Pull up Sam,” Colony Control sees the same obstacle in the landing zone on real-time feed…

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Onsite observations are off the charts, Colony Control conversations titillating, and the possibilities innumerable, but Roy must  keep abreast of the landing.Colony Control

Tycho had already reached the prominence of Syrtis Major, which looks like a dust-covered garden without the greenness of an ecosystem, with the helm responding to a 180 degree command, negotiating a wide sweeping turn that heads it across a desert-like sea of indigenous reddish {soil}. These and other features mark the Tithonius Lacus landing threshold.

Sampson has the lander that could, skimming at 350 foot altitude as they cruise handily across the Plain of Xanthe; a rather dull ending to what had been to this point a most enlightening flight. One thousand feet of “desert” is anything but exciting, but distractions are not necessarily a good thing, when landing is the objective.

Celeste is manning a forward monitor, the very vantage view enjoyed by those back closer to the sun. As they slow to airspeed of 220 mph, her right index circles a proper landing spot on the touchscreen at her disposal. The area she has chosen is about the size of an old American Football field, relatively flat with a good view of all horizons.

So, without fanfare or even a single Martian marching band led ticker-tape parade, “Okay Cel, I am putting her down rrriiiggghhtt heeeere,” pre-programed landings are for sissies.

Just as they were slowing to nominal airspeed, a misshapen mound appears out nowhere; small enough to mars-surface2blend in, but big enough to avoid.

“Pull up Sam,” Colony Control sees the same obstacle in the landing zone on real-time feed:
NASA Digital. No more 5 minute delay.

“…that did not show on the graphics, absolutely did not show on our flyover,” out of what had been to be flat ground. Like a mirage, it has abruptly reared itself into their intended way.dust-storm-on-mars

Fortunately the pilot clears the phantasm by fully 5 feet, which is not much considering he had applied full vertical thrust. The fiery blast raises huge amounts of red-hewed particles which ride the lightweight air, obscuring the area, thus moving the landing further down range.

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THE RETURN TRIP

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Conquering the Sun’s Empire by Harry Lange

Episode 36


page 35