THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 108

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 108

…there is nothing but 1350 miles of 80 degree bath-water between Houston and Montego Bay – rest stops and dry land are few

montego-bay-port-jeffrey-samuels

Montego Bay Port by Jeffrey Samuels

— True to his word and happy to do so, Roy and his limo cruise into Hobby (Airport), with one worn-out Samsonite suitcase and a pocket full of American cash.

Tucked away in an obscure corner hanger, at the far end of the airport’s least used taxiway, sits Roy’s expensive toy: a vintage Sikorsky S-76D.

And never mind that 30 year old Learjet sitting next to it. He does not own an automobile, too slow.

Francine pulls up to the open hanger door in a Cooper Mini Taxi whose tail is dragging from the weight of her bags. Roy is busy talking to his hanger’s mechanic about the critical pre-flight inspection. With nothing but 1350 miles of 80 degree bath-water between them and Montego Bay, rest stops and dry land are few. And with Cuba still stuck in the political Cold War, it is not an alternate landing spot.

It is a brisk late January, where 50 above zero winds do chill those with Southern roots. Not the sort of weather for wide-brimmed plantation hats or a sundress, which is exactly what Francine is wearing. She fights to keep the mid-calf hem below her waist.ouch-001

Roy catches a glimpse, peaking from under an engine, dropping an extra-large crescent wrench on his foot.

“Come in and get out that darn wind,” he insists while hobbling on one good foot. “I see that you dressed for the destination.”

“86 degrees with a chance of clouds, yep. The Chief Meteorologist at Channel 13 gave me my farewell forecast, the 14-day outlook, is that far enough out?”

“We’ll see. If Braden and the Colony-Incident Audit come up with something on Korea and Talibanistan, I may have to bail early,” he takes a shop rag to his hands, handing the wrench to the hanger mechanic. “You look fantastic… and me in a pair of coveralls.”

“I love a man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty,” she may be speaking euphemistically about ex- fiancée (Larry).mr-silly-001

“Didn’t you bring any luggage; a month is a long time you know.”

Silly, silly unsuspecting man. Francine’s taxi backs up to the hanger door. “Where is the skycap?”

“This thing usually seats 12, but I took out seats and replaced them with fuel reserves that triple its range, so I will need to turn away any other passengers…and you will need to sit in the copilot’s seat.”

“Isn’t that secretary of yours coming along?” It would not be farfetched for that platinum blankety-blank to implicate herself.

“Are you kidding? I may be impulsive, but stupid I am not.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 108


page 102

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 95

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 95

…Subscribing to the “strength in numbers” axiom, the guest list has been expanded to include a variety of acquaintances, from the past, present and those not met

edgar-wallace-entertains-a-few-of-his-acquaintances

by HENRY MAYO BATEMAN

These past 2 action-packed days, from the point when the McKinneys attached the deep-space Chronicle to Space Colony, then go and pile on the current theatrics, will distort a person’s concept of the passage of time. Plus or minus 48 hours have drawn 2 days out to what seems to be a week, weaving and knitting every second into a patchwork quilt…

By the grace of God, the succeeding identical period of 48 hrs. streaks by and King Ranch logobefore you know it Wednesday 9 January 2030 A.D. has arrived. For visitors to Braden’s King Ranch, they are treated to the atmosphere of 19th Century American Old West, the date and place chosen to celebrate the combined birth of Deke McKinney, born 6 January 2015 and Gus McKinney born 11 January 2016.

The event was conceived out of love by the ranch’s owner to ease the pain of separation, for both children and parents alike. If everything had gone “according to space-birthday-001Hoyle”, Sampson & Celeste would have been back aboard the Colony and through the miracle of accelerated space communication, they would have been linked to the party by voice and by sight.

Regrettably, Mom & Dad are otherwise occupied.

barbecue_pin_up

Gus’ BBQ Fantasy Guest

Subscribing to the “strength in numbers” axiom, the guest list has been expanded to include a variety of acquaintances, from the past, present and those not met. Friends, relatives, well-wishers and those pesky party crashers have gathered at King Ranch. The menagerie gathers around BBQ hour, which could be any random time of day, and has a few surprise guests; Grandma Savta Bergestrom from Sweden (the country) and Aunt Sassy McKinney, Sampson’s crazy Scottish/Irish sister from Great(er) Britain.

The turnout of GLF and LSC personnel is impressive, with the boys having grown up in front of their eyes as they tagged along with Mom & Dad over the years. Admirals and Generals have reason to be jealous of this Who’s Who crowd. There are two late arrivers to the festivities: ??? + ???


THE RETURN TRIP

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by Jon Flaming

Episode 95


page 90

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 89

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 89

…The boys could not keep their eyes off the King Ranch linkup with Colony Mission Control, watching the slow visual crawl of the New Mayflower on its way past the moon…

One-Sided Conversations Typography by cheeriosbdr529 on deviantart.com

—Meanwhile, outside the Greater Houston Metroplex, reaction to the Mars bound Image result for metroplex mapNew Mayflower is every bit the equal to Galveston, perhaps having the edge with the mission’s two biggest rooters Deke and Gus McKinney there at King Ranch. The pre-launch drama will not be left out this time, leaving it for it in the hands of local news.

Braden King does not relax until the New Mayflower reaches escape velocity and clears the ionosphere. Then and only then does he join the boys who have exploded their bedtime to bits. Wild horses could not have kept them from watching their parents’ rescue mission move downrange and Braden has learned his lesson about withholding the truth.

“I wish we had a molecular particle transporter,” Gus muses, “and then I could beam Mom & Dad in time for Wednesday.”

He speaks about the big birthday bash that surrogate parent Braden King has had planned for weeks, to treat the McKinney boys who were born within five winter days of each other, one year apart.

Space Academy

“CalTech has been doing some amazing experimentation in that area Gus. One of my friends at the Space Academy has a dad who has successfully scrambled basic molecules and reassembled them.” Leave it to Deke to know so much about the project. “In fact, they say by the end of the 2035 they will be transporting a lab rat to a remote location.”

cats rats hats bats spats by_tomikari

“That sound cruel to me… what if the rat goes in and comes out a cat.”

“I think he would be happy.”

“Or worse yet, get lost on the way,” Gus being an advocate for all creatures large and small. “They don’t get a vote.”

“If we didn’t use animals for research, the planet would have been overrun by flesh-eating epidemics back in 2018.”

“You were 3, how would you know Deke?”

“He is right,” if Braden says so, it is therefore gospel, “if I remember it spread out of  Africa and never made it across the Atlantic.

Black and White Pattern with Wavy Lines.

“You know I’ve been thinking, maybe it would be a good idea to invite Uncle Roy to the party,” no not blood uncle.  “He could use a day or two in the bunkhouse to wind down.”

“Well, duh Mr. King!” Braden speaks for the boys who are transfixed.

super-kidsThe boys could not keep their eyes off the King Ranch linkup with Colony Mission Control, watching the slow visual crawl of the New Mayflower on its way past the moon. It will be tough keeping the rescue from dominating their every thought.

“Well double-duh Braden, I didn’t see his name on the list?” King mentions.

“It wouldn’t be a party without Crip, Mr. King.” He mocks.

“Oh yes, that is an excellent suggestion, we like it when he rides old Hellraiser the bull.” Braden has conducted the conversation for the 3 of them.

Black and White Pattern with Wavy Lines.

11-oclock

“That’s it boys, I think it is time to hit your bunks. Haven’t you heard that a watched spaceship never moves?”

He gets no argument.

“Come on Gus, we cannot stay wake for four months. And Mr. King, Uncle Roy would never ride Hellraiser, he smarter than that.” The brothers are aware of Braden’s needs, “And you deserve to have time with adults of your own age, you know like 64!”

Right now he feels all of 80. —


THE RETURN TRIP

When I’m 64 by nickel8 on deviantart.com

Episode 89


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 84

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 84

…“Are you saying that that is a real universe in a container?”

abstract-universe

Abstract Universe by Wabi Sabi Kate

Celeste stalks the finite inverse cones, believing not that it contains a universe of matter, but a quantity of matter that makes up the universe, which continues to grow while pushing the bounds of the room.

Finally able to speak Celeste asks, “Why isn’t it pouring out of this room?”

“I’m not sure but I am guessing that this fog has something to do with it.” Sampson sweeps his hand through it, capturing then releasing it like the tangible material it is.

“Are we looking through a window or is this an open door,” Celeste wonders aloud.

“If it were a real door, we’d be waist deep in asteroids not gas.”bottle-001

“Are you saying that that is a real universe in a container?”

“Since I’ve been watching this stew, I’ve seen the birth of a star, monstrous passing comets, and strange inhabited worlds,” he stands on the brink transfixed. “Just don’t ask me how this is possible.”

“If not how, then where, when, and why?”

Where? – I don’t think this has anything to do with Mars directly, or anywhere close; pick a star any star.

When? – Judging by accelerated pace of this microcosm, we may be looking back as far as the birth of Jesus Christ, or whenever these people died, thousands of years.

“”Why? – Why that may be the easiest of all, that we meet here on Mars sharing on common goal; for us it is reaching out toward the stars, for them Mars was a steppingstone on their way to encounter other intelligent life.”to-from-001

“They were on their way to Earth, weren’t they?”

“Or how about on their way back from Earth??”

“Or they ran smack-dab into a virus here and died because of it, like a reverse epidemic that spelled the end of the Inca’s, Mayan’s or any of many other civilizations, big or small,” Celeste reflects. “And we both have failed, each in our own way,” 

Ironically put, intriguingly postulated.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 84


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 77

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 77

…Consciousness comes suddenly for Mars’ most beautiful woman. “How long was I out?” …

Related image

Conscious – Unconscious by Marie-Christine Serres

“Celeste!” He rushes to his wife, who drops like a Mars rock onto the unyielding glossy deck, without outward signs or warning.

The image of all those previous occupants, scattered around like they were stunned by a concussion bomb, is not very reassuring. Only now does he pick up on the well-
aged odor of death, “No, not US Cel! Come on baby!”

He is not a doctor but he is the only being, human or otherwise, standing on the Red Planet. It is he who will be checking for a pulse, even with the NASA and United States logos rising and falling across her heaving chest. For one grateful moment, she had not been done in by the same “bug” that had wiped out the previous homeowners.

Her static body slowly begins to writhe, as if awakening from an anesthetic sleep. Sampson leans back, relieved that he did not entice her fate because of his own cavalier lack of caution. She must have fainted, perhaps from the hyper-oxygenated air, yet this is not the first time she has been waylaid by ill winds, the award-001first time coming in Tycho’s airlock.

Consciousness comes suddenly for Mars’ most beautiful woman. “How long was I out?” Has she pinned down the source of her dodgy episodes?

“About 3 Martian Minutes,” he jokes. “You haven’t been your usually steady self lately. Do you have any clues about what is going on, this is starting to scare me?”

Celeste knows enough about her body, an ability that every woman has need of, enough to know that these compounding events are not body-blows or fouled air. Sam’s concern is the outward manifestation of married love, a comfortable yet flattering feeling.

Samuel McKinney M.D.

“Are you Sam the Detective or Samuel McKinney M.D.?”

Sam the Detective

“As a doctor I am a quack, as a detective I am a hack.”

“Well Mister Quack-Hack, I’m going to give both of you a clue: What memorable thing happened on the night of 15 November 2029?”

“In and out of hyper-sleep I guess, about 40 million miles out. Come to think of it, isn’t that when Al the Computer woke us up to tell us that we were passing by some unidentified space probe?”

“Very good,” is her condescending comment to his incomplete recollection, “but what else went on while we were awake?’

“OOOOooooohhh….THAT else! One thing kinda led to another didn’t it?”rated-r

“This is your last clue: One thing leads to another and we gave “it” a name.”

“Itsaboutdamntime!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 77


page 72

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 76

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 76

female-astronaut-001

meanwhile-caption-001Sampson McKinney becomes the first Earthling, to board a spacecraft from another solar system. There have been other claims, by upstanding citizens everywhere from deputy sheriffs to bank presidents, who claim to have been abducted by aliens, but no one takes those people seriously, much like the folks that have been to heaven and back.

There have also been faint rumors, on the Q.T. of course, that NASA and particularly the Air Force intentionally discounting any account of alien contact or UFO sightings. Sampson has heard these intriguing stories, from Area 51 to the possessed African tribesmen, and finds it terribly ironic that he and Celeste are now in the position of having to prove, what can only be described as the greatest discovery of mankind since Galileo deemed the Sun as the center of the solar system, or at least the microprocessor.

So here in this “alleged” alien spacecraft {are they sure it isn’t Russian?} there is no denyingInside Newfoundler what he is seeing and bravely breathing. It is a calculated risk to ignore the distinct possibility that there is something about the native Martian air is fatally contaminated. But what do they have to lose, after all, had not most every cancer been conquered? Likewise, on the brink of this new world, can they afford to be timid?

“It sure is warm in here.” He planned on waiting several minutes before allowing his bride to remove her helmet, just in case, but she wasn’t about to get stuck here all alone so hers is already unlatched.

“This is incredible Sam, do you know what this means?”

Might she be referring to the seemingly endless supply of breathable air, as opposed to Tycho’s finite resources?

“If you thinking what I think you are, we still need to eat and drink.”

“I know that, you Celtic lout! Hell, we should be exploring this joint instead of holding our hats in our hands……..” she fails to complete the rant.

“Celeste!” He rushes to his wife, who dropped like a Mars rock onto the unyielding glossy deck, without outward signs or warning.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 76


page 71

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 75

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 75

CHAPTER FIVE

Change-up

“Queen Francine” – the egotistical, self-serving, superficial diva, has been bent on clawing to the top of the competitive field of broadcast journalism…

queen-of-hearts-carved-artwork

The Queen of Hearts Red Artwork carved from Mangowood

 Personality (noun)  per’son’al’i’ty

  1. somebody’s set of characteristics
  2. characteristics making someone appealing
  3. somebody regarded as epitomizing traits
  4. famous person
  5. unusual person
  6. quality of being person
  7. personal comment
  8. distinguishing characteristics 

ediitors-noteDefinition provided by Dictionary.com,

 

It would seem that the Francine Bouchette, before Roy Crippen met her, has these
traits…

  1. best friend is a mirror
  2. has a phantom fiancee
  3. co-anchors avoid if they can
  4. treats interns like indentured servants
  5. gives scriptwriters fits

… is not one and the same. Roy Crippen has yet to meet that woman, though he wonders about her obsession with “exclusives”.

Indeed, there is no reconciling the definition with the facts, though there is plenty Francine in the first. The dedicated, concerned, sacrificial person, currently operating in the name of humanitarian justice, now working with NASA, is dichotomous when placed side-by-side with the egotistical, self-serving, superficial diva, bent on clawing to the top of the competitive field of broadcast journalism.

Francine Bouchette is truly a personality in every sense of the word. But as she prepares to continue the fresh quest to aid in the rescue of Sampson & Celeste McKinney, mercilessly stranded on Mars, the least desirable aspects of Queen Francine have been tabled; at least for now {and longer if the rest of Houston gets a vote}.

***Contrast this with the following glimpse of what is going on inside, the otherwise occupied, Roy Crippen’s analytical mind:

‘She is quite a lady. With her knack for getting to the heart of a story, I am surprised thinkershe’s not working for network news. She is ten times better than that Elle Fanning on Sixty Minutes. Boy, she tried do a piece on the Colony and by the time she was through asking dumb nonsensical questions or sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, I had had enough. The damnedest thing is that her misrepresentation of the project almost did as much damage as the accident that destroyed it… I wonder why she never married? She is as gutsy as they come, pretty as a picture and probably financially secure, what could be her downside?’

***The following is what Francine is thinking, during her time of frank introspection:

‘I’m not the person that I was yesterday, this whole experience with Roy has made me think, what kind of person is he looking to share the rest of his life with?… All the years I’ve wasted, mistreating everyone from United States Senators down to kids that may be looking up at her as role model…What has changed all of a sudden? Is it just because I am falling for some good looking science guy, probably goes to Star Trek Conventions and is what, 12 maybe 15 years older than me? What would people think? And how many people must I trample to get where I want?’

Enough of these long winded thoughts; it is time to focus on the successful launch of the new/improved deep-space New Mayflower!


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 75


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 70

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 70

…the red carpet seemingly rolls out, with Roy Crippen holding the key to this city of space geeks and rockets…

Image result for red carpet painting

Marcus Glenn- Red Carpet Series Painting. ( THE NITE THE STARS FELT CLOSER )

As her new/old-school speedometer needle exceeds the 225 speedometer limit, she has covered the 50 or so miles in an exhilarating 13.3 minutes. Francine takes the GLF (Galveston Launch Facility) exit off I-45 and travels down the expressly made frontage road for the spaceflight center.

She had been here before, but only once and only to be turned away by a snotty guard. But today the barrier drops below the pavement, the red carpet seemingly rolling out, with Roy Crippen holding the key to this city of space geeks and rockets.

“Go straight ahead to Area 3 and hang a right… nice car… you can’t miss it.” Formalities are spared but he does admit, “You are prettier in person than you are on television.”

“Well you are more handsome than your televiewer image.” She is used to gratuitous attention, the kind a lecher or slack-jaw emotes, but hearing it from a dashing astronaut-type is an especially pleasant experience.

As she drives thru the massive complex, a village in itself with streets and speed limits to match. Building heights vary greatly, from ordinary offices to futuristic towers, white coated men and women scurrying back and forth, even at this late hour.

Just as on the Interstate she glides through unimpeded. Crippen tells her to stop in front of a building, which seems to defy gravity or balance. The new Mission Control has been hailed as an architectural wonder and she can see why, with its top width 5 times that of the base and a combination V & X.

“It’s a secret,” he sees that her mouth was agog and ajar, “and don’t disable the start button Miss Bouchette; someone will happily park it for you.”

“I bet he will,” she makes eye contact with the valet while vacating her now well broke-in car.

“You made great time. Good call on your part.”

“Other than feeling like I was in a one car race, I made it here in one piece.” She takes a closer look at the man she had only just met and is so often the case, the voice and face are a disconnect. For a man so slight, he is extremely appealing. ‘I wonder if he’s married,’ a girl is allowed.


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 70


page 66

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 66

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 66

We all knew, deep in our souls, that something like this could happen and yet here we are behind the 8-ball….

8-ball

Tell My Troubles to the 8 Ball by Martin Wong

meanwhile-caption-001“T-minus 2.75 hours and counting folks, the nuke propulsion is coming on line for the first time and all systems are go,” the intercom is buzzing with exciting news of stretching out the new souped-up engines, leaving only crew concerns and ground fog from getting the New Mayflower on its way.

Roy Crippen is in full-pace-space-mode. With both midnight and an untimely early-season tropical system moving north out the Gulf of the Americas getting closer, his nerves are starting to show. It is one hell of a time to test a new launch method. It is quite another risking more lives on the enhanced propulsion, even though NASA’s chief engineer has been perfecting things for 2 years, when perfection is impossible.

“If it is the last thing I do in NASA, Karl, I will see us into full-blown SOL technology,” speaking to Karl the engineer. “We do not belong in space if it takes two months to travel 100 million lousy miles.”

“There was no way we could foresee this accident,” insists the aging veteran of metals and motion.

“If it is an accident at all… don’t ask, I’ll tell you later” Some stories have no abridged versions. “We all knew, deep in our souls, that something like this could happen and yet here we are behind the 8-ball.” Roy draws a deep breath to continue, “And we have our two best people out there, having stuck out their necks farther than giraffe on stilts, confident that they would be safe…safe……safe my ass and living in a lander that is not designed for a sleepover, let alone 2 f***ing months.”

“Haven’t you risked your life for the space program? And how about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts, didn’t they stick their necks out? Remember the two Shuttle accidents?”

“And Fred Cabell and Phil Jansky… shit… and all we can do is wait & see what happens next. I was hired to do a job and I am back here scrambling…”

“Please do not succumb to the ‘it should have been me’ syndrome. Somebody once said, I think it was Herbert Hoover, ‘The older men start the wars that are fought by the young’, you get what I am saying Roy.” Old Karl speaks through a heart of experience, a reliable ticker that has been broken before, only to mend and go on.


THE RETURN TRIP

conqueringthesunsempire17

Conquering the Sun’s Empire by Harry Lange

Episode 66


page 61

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 63

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 63

…The outside hatch slides open, allowing Martian air in for a mission first, the clarity of which comes as a surprise to two earthlings…

Just Another Martian Sunrise

The EVA suits are not as bulky as they were on the International Space Station. New technologies have been integrated for the thin atmosphere hereabout, yet the task of protecting the frail human body is never taken lightly. Extra Vehicular Activities can be rough and tumble, so if one of the McKinneys should trip over a sharp rock, there will not be a deadly CO2 breach.

Like closeted doppelgängers, two Portable Life Systems appear from out their covey, ready to be stepped into. But before the helmets go on, Sampson hands a 5-hour ENERGY  to Celeste, “I snuck my personal stash of this stuff aboard {he bought out all remaining stock from 15 years ago}, we’re going to need it out there.”

Beside the caffeinated liquid boosters, they barely have enough max-nutrition bars to last them until the New Mayflower shows up. Then there are the vegetable seeds, to be used for greenhouse experiments. exploring-marsThey leafy greens and tubers are for the last supper. The word “ration” will be the most unspoken and unnecessary word here on Mars.

“Just as they advertised in the travel brochures, it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a bullet. I’ll be down to my shorts weather-on-marsbefore you know it,” Sampson quips.

“Don’t forget your SPF 300, you’ll need it.” She knows he would go from Caucasian to Aborigine in ten seconds.

Elbow room in the Tycho air-lock is nonexistent, so Celeste comes out on the losing end of an unintended elbow from her fellow EVA partner, ah he turned to seal the inside of the two-hatch system.

“Sorry Cel, I need to allow for a larger turning radius.”

Apology accepted, but the pain she is experiencing is not commensurate with the force of the blow. She soldiers on, “I’ll be fine Sam, let’s have a look at our neighbor’s digs.”

“I want to try my jetpack, how about you?”

“I think I will pass, still a wee bit queasy,” the thought of flying like a rocket making her nauseous at the moment.

The outside hatch slides open, allowing Martian air in for a mission first, the clarity of which comes as a surprise to two earthlings who are accustomed to a smoggy haze. And no birds, no madding crowds, no annoying personal transports or aircraft either.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 63


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