THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 72

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 72

…the man he is watching is as cool as a comet in between stars and manning his post like he belonged there…

comet

Jim Scotti’s Comet Artwork

There is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”

“And you don’t dare question someone’s qualifications. Political correctness has been the ruin of this world,” Francine adds her opinion about questioning anything about anybody… and the fallout.

Without hesitation Roy brings the room consuming monitor to life. Francine can see that it is not an ordinary one, seeming to follow Roy’s slightest gesture, the picture races through various angles of Colony Control.

A Happy Gherkin

It does come to rest, Roy’s steely blues focused on a shot of Gurkhas {not Gherkin} Shah Dhangotma. Of all the Hindi/Arab/Buddhist, Middle and Far East cultures in of this selective space community, this particular man has left him with an uneasy no-peaceful feeling; replacing a previously healthy and indispensable man in Phil Jansky. And what is worse and more telling, is that he doesn’t even know who is doing the hiring since the death of Fred Cabell. It’s enough to put his spinning head on a swivel.

But if he were the informant or the mole or the mastermind, any of the three, the man he is watching is as cool as a comet in between stars and manning his post like he belonged there. But Roy cannot clear his mind’s ear of the man’s clumsy English in the moment before Space Colony 1’s ruin.

“Keep an eye on that guy,” Francine is told, “if he makes any sudden moves, give a holler.”

She obliges and can actually be helpful after getting a few quick tips about controlling that section of the screen… with a blink of an eye.

2018 Map Before the formation of Talibanistan

Roy turns to text searches that may support his flimsy suspicion, or not. Dhangotma’s personnel file is bland and incomplete, though the Baikonur Cosmodrome is listed as experience. Even his file picture has mug shot written all over it, but it is not viewed by someone who knows a hoot about the man.

In alternating between the files and the live video, comparing it to their meeting earlier in the day, his eyes tell him ‘not the same guy’; his memory screams ‘he had jet-black hair, not dark brown’. He knows that you don’t change Spatial Debris techs like you change passwords.

“What’s he been up to?”

“He raised his hand, got up and came back a minute or two
later. My guess it was a quick pee.”

“Then why has his hair color changed?” On a thin whim he says, “Let’s pay Gherkin a visit.” With time dwindling, hunches played trump hunches ignored.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 72


 

page 89

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that

meanwhile-caption-001

“Planetary conditions are stable, touchdown grid confirmed.” Roy Crippen has settled in at Galveston Launch Facility to oversee the crowning moment of 20 years of work. Once Tycho comes back home to roost, after its

The New Mayflower

The New Mayflower

18 hour maiden excursion on Mars, his stay on the Texas coast will shift gears;

Mars City Mock-up

Mars City Mock-up

to sending off the 21st Century version of the floating boat filled with Brits, the New Mayflower, the first of three people-movers that will add a decidedly human touch to a previously hominid-less planet. Mars City will be filled to the brim with 21st Century ground breakers.

But that is tomorrow and today is today and other portentous profoundness. The Lovell Space Center’s attention is equally split between Mars and Galveston, with Roy Crippen as the connecting driving force for both. He contemplates those that he supervises, a sea of techs and specialists, tops in their field worldwide, 100 people comprising man’s future as good space citizens.

There is one console, Spatial Debris Traffic for the Colony and Satellite tracking, which has an unfamiliar body seated there. For as long as Roy can remember, Phil Jansky has filled that seat.

Spatial Debris

“Where is Philip Jansky?” Something has slipped past him. He asks roving security, “Is he taking a break………now!?!”

“Jansky is dead, sir; we found him in his quarters when he didn’t confirm his 04:00 wakeup call.”

Roy’s mind starts somersaulting through any number of questions he could ask. He settles on, “Why am I the last to know?”

The security chief is embarrassed, if for no other reason than not knowing who dropped the ball. “The Coroner said he’d get back in touch with both autopsies.”

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that.

“I should hire a full-time mortician, set him up with an office,  he spends so much time here lately.” The mission head is losing control of personnel matters and his patience is flagging. “Who is Phil’s replacement?”pickle-b

The guard checks his roster, “Gurkhas Shah-Dhangotma, from Kathmandu.”

“Never heard of him.  Who hired him with Fred Cabell gone? My God we have a Nepalese debris tracker. Aren’t they still Sherpa guides? This is space for crying out loud, not the Himalayas!

“Mr. Gherkin better be qualified. I do not like this, not at all!” he punctuates his rant sharply, while walking off a disquieting combination of anger and grief… even though “Gurkhas” in not a pickle.


THE RETURN TRIP

Mortician

Episode 23


 

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