THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

…All of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in on Space Colony or not…

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Francine’s shiny sports car sits conspicuously close to the entrance of the station, where lighting is brighter and security tighter, for her new four-wheeled two-seater. For the first time in the Chevy’s 550 mile life, its 2031 Model Corvette rear tires lay down matching black stripes on a paved surface, through gears 1 & 2. She uses every side-street-shortcut available, ignoring some red lights and praising the cooperating green ones. Her biggest roadblock is the exit/entrance ramp from the South Sam Houston Tollway, those damned tolls are always backed up on the weekends.

Related imageAs expected the lanes are stuffed with Houstonian peons, but the far right lane is closed for maintenance. Risking scratches to the Honeysuckle Red Fiberglass frontend, she plows through the gate, leaving the metal breakaway logjam in her wake.

The dusty display of driving catches the eye of a Tollway officer, who stands pointing an accusing finger at the violator whose picture has been taken and there will be a price to pay. The scornful look on his face produces momentary guilt from Francine, for 2 meaningless seconds, and then she is back laying rubber as she jumps on the 45, watching the speedometer leap past 100 in two-shakes of an angry man’s finger

Once on the Interstate she finds it free of southbound traffic, free to focus her memory on the mysterious Arabic caller that started these present events in motion. This went down in such rapid succession that she was afraid that some important detail would fall through the cracks of awareness.

The most amazing thing about this whole ordeal, now an international big deal, was the wide exposure she had fallen into. Her name is on more tongues tonight than in any single Texan year in the last 10 and her agent is probably on the phone with news directors in the #2 & #1 markets, if not network television.

Related imageAll of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in or not. For the second time today, Francine steps back to examine her soul, wondering just what has come over her. The “values” transformation is in direct opposition of everything she had become up to January day into night.

Pre-disaster Francine was a bitter person, so caught up in vanity that she never learned how to relate with all people, not just the important ones. Her idea of intimacy was to string along a poor sucker local TV broadcast exec, allowing him to think he had a future with a “trophy” catch.


THE RETURN TRIP

visual-journalism

Visual Journalism

Episode 69


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

…Out of the blue, an idea bubble forms above her head

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Hurriedly, without checking a mirror first, KHST 13’s lead weekend anchorwoman heads straight for theFrancine Bouchette newsroom. She is advancing at a pace that takes out 2 interns and an IT nerd, casualties of the ardent instinct that drives the best newshounds. And if she has the look of preoccupation, the end justifies the means.

The standard method of breaking a news story of this magnitude would to lead off the next scheduled newscast with it, replete with file footage, bios, and interviews. OR, she could fire up KHST’s news crawl at the bottom of the screen, but that would only tip off the competition and she will not have any of that.

Neither one of the above methods would benefit her rating-card, that already was #2 with a bullet. On top of all this, the station has stuck her with a stiff of a co-anchor, hired from an independent in Indianapolis and she would have to let him in on the action. Sharing is not one of her redeeming qualities.

Out of the blue, an idea bubble forms above her head, “What if I do a programming break-in, like they did back in 2017 when Barack Obama was assassinated… wow that was 13 years ago already and I am still in local TV?… it’ll be an outrageous stunt, but most of management is teeing off on Image result for thought bubblethe 14th hole at their country club or at a spa… no one is around to get in my way.”

It was a BIG bubble.

Shuffling feet and adolescent whispers signal the presence of Hightower Junior High speech class, whom she had forgotten about, them and their Junior-Journalism field trip. And who is the tour guide for these kids, none other than Steven Sharkey, the albeit handsome hick from Indiana? Before she can head for the hills, good ol’ Steve uses her as an excuse to use her pretty face as a backdrop to the newsroom.

“And by demand of her adoring fans, I’d like to introduce, you media students, Miss Francine Bouchette, our lovely and talented weekend news anchor and weekday reporter.” Steven coaxes her out of her chair, giving her a warm hug, like a good friend, instead of the rivals that they actually are.

Queen Francine manufactures an agonizing smile, this not being a good time for her. There is some applause {eyes glued below her neck} from the 14 year old boys and gigglies from the envious {of her breasts} girls. Steven takes the opportunity to horn in on her story, “Please notice how fast she is flying through those web searches. What are you working on Francine?”

“I am actually working on a story about a tour guide accused of inappropriate touching…. and look who shows up?”

Dost thou feel the scorpion’s sting fledgling Steve? She dashes off, leaving Steve to distract the students by moving on to see the studio set.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Big bubble by kritsaft deviantart.com

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”…

Image result for prima donna painting

Prima Donna by Brenda Ferguson

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business.”

“Unfortunately Senator Boyles, my interviewing skills and 20 bucks gets me a bus trip to Beaumont, unlike your friends in high places,” she pulls a small mirror from a handbag to check her hair, “as you well know. Your path to Washington started as an alderman back in Austin, if memory serves.”

“Well Honey, you are soooo right about know the right people and considering the innumerable favors you are doing me in this all-important election year, I would like to number you as a good friend and my good friends always come out on top.” And he means it. “In fact, if you are thinking about doing a story about my work in ol’ D.C., I would gladly throw a wing-ding party in your honor; then you can take national stardom to the bank.”

“That would be wonderful Senator Boyles,” she leans over to give him a peck on his rosy cheek. He would appreciate this kiss even more, had he known how hard it is for her to be nice to anyone. “If you will excuse me gentleman, but I have a script to edit for the 5:30 cast; bound to be a shitload of mistakes by my writer.”

She leaves the set in her typical prima donna style; no words of praise for the set-crew, head tilted back prima-donna-intersectionwith skirt swinging from side to side, as if propelled my some mysterious force.

Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”

Queen Francine. All the director/lackey can do is roll his eyes….and think about the heel marks on his backside.

Francine makes her way through the maze of hallways and stairways that snake through the modest four-story KHST building. She whizzes past offices… sales and on-air talent, engineering facilities, editing stations, and rooms storing old-school tape and video. Even the room that harbors the most activity, the reporter’s’ area is left in the dust; all those poor stiffs with eyes fixed on computer monitors, listening to police scanners and the five competing television stations in the Houston market.


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 49

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 49

…Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business…

Image result for filly artwork

First Filly by Barbara Busch

meanwhile-caption-001“That is why I think that Houston, indeed the whole state of Texas can make a successful transition from fossil fuel production to that of high-tech robotics. We have the space industry in place, we have the brightest minds East and West of the Mississippi, and we have the biggest hearts that God gave humans; we are Texas dammit….”

“I am sorry Senator Broyles, but we are fresh out of time for this week. I would like to thank you for oil-rig-001your forward glance into Texas’ future:After the Oil is Gone’.” The pleasantly attractive, every-girl type interviewer turns to face camera two, “I am Francine Bouchette and this has been another informative edition of Inside Texas, a production of KHST 13 News.”

The studio relaxes from its keyed-up-on-air mode, the harsh beaming lights going dark one by one. Ties are loosed, blouses unbuttoned, one or two, and pleasantries are exchanged between the crew and guest.

“Thank you Senator Boyles,” the director earnestly shakes the experienced legislator’s hand, “you always give us a good show.”

“Any time Larry; you folks know how to treat a country boy right.” And the extra exposure doesn’t hurt around election time. He continues with his exaggerated Southern drawl, “I live and breathe Texas!”

Senator Broyles

Senator Broyles

Francine Bouchette

Francine Bouchette

Francine waltzes through the set, past the two men. The Senator had been casually eyeing her after the program was a wrap and when she got within a rattler’s’ tail away, he reaches out and puts a lecherous hand on her lower back. She pretends not to notice.

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business. You make those stiffs covering Capitol Hill look like hacks.”

Deep inside, she agrees and if she gets her way, her rise to the top of network television will be swift, cold, and calculated. There are footprints on the backs of any pretty-pretty that has stood in her way; the guys she merely steamrolled.


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention…

In the meantime, Roy’s PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall onboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC…..I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

Space Family McKinney

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

…In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”…

 

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The following days slow to a pleasantly crawl, their pace of life measured by the inch not by the mile. No more fertile an environment can there be to bring people closer. The kinship of this trio {Roy, Francine, Roger} builds down every new road, at each sacred island shrine. The driver of the car has become an integral element to their experience; which is incomplete when he isn’t around to steer them right.

Four days have the feel of forty, what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the 14 days; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship. So complete is the blending of Roy into Francine, or vice versa, that any thoughts of the New Mayflower & Mars or KHST & celebrity, are dispatched from the foreground of priorities.

When they aren’t being guided by Roger the Dodger, they can be found lounging by the pool or ocean, SILVER SEAS both. In the case of this lazy day, they employ their newly acquired skill in the street side marketplace. With their considerable discretionary funds irretrievably comingled, joint bargaining has become the rule, when in natural dealings with purveyors of goods and their merchandise of fluid value.

While ferrying one of their spending coups back to the SILVER SEAS HOTEL, from the interior of the island, the tranquil skies are buzzed by a pair of jets, certainly not of Jamaican or Cuban ownership. “F-77Ns in a big time hurry and they are peeling off to the southwest.” Roy determines after getting a clear look at their low-level contrails. “Something big is up.”

Navy F-77N’s

“What are they doing down here? Do you think it has to do with Cuba,” Francine wonders aloud?

“Well that isn’t a bombing run and they are going fast enough to reach the Mainland in 2 minutes.

“I think the Atlantic Carrier Group is having joint maneuvers in the Gulf with the Brits, but the attitude of those pilots are taking is urgent. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“I’ll call Roger,” Francine thinks ahead.

In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 110

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 110

…“This is KR 2022 requesting S-SE clearance for Jamaica.”

“This is KR 2022 requesting S-SE clearance for Jamaica.”

“You can liftoff after that AAL Jumbo heads out to Europe.” Straight up, more or less, is less disruptive that conventional aviation.

“Any weather out there?”

“There is a Pacific Low wobbling over the Yucatan, but you are out ahead of it.” The controller salutes to the air, “There goes a real American Hero.”

Roy looks at his passenger, straight in the eye, “Let’s go!” She flashes her Miss Universe runner-up smile, gently nudging his throttle hand forward. The RPMs of the turboshaft engines match the beating of her heart, the 44 foot rotors her spirit.

Destination: Montego Bay, Jamaica ———————–

 

Departing: Houston, Texas———————————-

Houston Sunrise

— The nimble aircraft is off the ground, ready to leave Houstonian airspace behind, but not before one last glimpse of what they are leaving behind.

Roy looks out to his left, across the early morning expanses of the Gulf of the Americas and the dimming lights of the Florida Panhandle. It is at Lovell Space Center that the bizarre story of Gurkhas Dhangotma, aka unknown is unfolding, with its veiled twists and unfinished suspense. No, he was not onsite himself to drill the intruder, but he knows he would only get in the way of fact-finding interrogators. By the time NASA security, the CIA, the FBI, and NSA get through with him, his government appointed lawyer may recommend suicide as a more desirable option….And then there is the New Mayflower.

For Francine, the sun’s fleeting reflection on Houston’s glass canyons provides a backdrop for the new life she would have to make for herself from this day forward. A cloudy past, littered with lofty ambition and vapid relationships, her career in television up in the air and her mock engagement to a management stiff mercifully dashed ……And then there are her near-term prospects.

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 110

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