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.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 150


page 142

THE RETURN TRIP -Episode 138

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 138

…Roy Crippen’s 3-2-1-0 plan is already as obsolete as Sputnik…

3. Elucidate his concept of Francine employment,

       c) to her and NASA.

2. Clarify the status of the McKinney boys care,

       b) as neither he or Braden can do it right now.

1. Describe his feelings for her,

       a) when he doesn’t fully understand them.

Oh. Pray that she feels the same about him,

       No) now that he has left himself open for a huge fall.

PEMS

1. It doesn’t hurt to pray.

2. She must have quit her job or she wouldn’t be here now.

3. She has the whole ranch eating out of her hand.

“I am impressed Francine! For a city slicker, it looks like you have taken to life out here very well,” Roy kisses her on the cheek, just as if he has been doing it for years. There is something about assumed affection that is good for building a solid relational foundation…. he thinks.

“I like it out here,” she kisses him back, “and forgive me for wondering why you don’t have a house of your own on the ranch?”

“That happens to be on my “someday” list of things to do, but there never seemed to be any hurry, with me eating, living, and breathing Space Colony 1.”

“And I guess you will be doing the same with Space Colony II?” Francine is fishing.

“Things are happening, even changing so fast that I may have to make some mid-flight adjustments. Like right now, for example: If I could, I would head for the sawmill shed and start picking out lumber for that house. Trouble is, I’d be borrowing bits and pieces from everyone else’s life to make something out of mine.”

“Did you ever stop to think that that is how it is done?” Francine is setting the hook.

“Well, I guess I should start by delegating more at work…”

“You can start by coming into the house and talking to me. I think we have some new ground to cover.” Francine begins to reel him in.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 138


page 130

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 137

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 137

…At least one of Roy’s fears is laid to rest, that Francine would fall back into her old life, because it would be the easy thing to do…

thecreativepanic.wordpress.com

There is no need to ring the doorbell or let-loose the family German Shepard to race out a-barking, when you land a helicopter out at the helipad in front yard of the main house of King Ranch.

And when you have two teenage boys and five farmhands out doing chores, pitchforks are dropped {tines down}, feed buckets are left unemptied, the hose leading to the water tank is unattended and tractors return from the back-forty.

Life is simple when you live on a ranch {or farm if you prefer, but this is Texas}, free of over-the-top technology or extreme urgency; it can wait ‘til later, unless it’s mealtime.

“Uncle Roy!” Deke and Gus did not know when they would see him next. Once the rotors have wound down to a stop, they charge up to welcome the pilot, “Boy, are we glad to see you!”

“It looks like you taking care of things outside; otherwise the cattle would be greeting me,” responsibility is job #1 around these parts. States of mind are #2, “How are you guys doing? Have you shaken off that little Gulf episode, the one where you were KIDNAPPED?

“We’re okay Uncle Roy. Francine talked things over with us at breakfast and everything is cool,” Gus gushes.

“Did Miss Bouchette drive back to the city?”

“No, she’s inside making lunch… didn’t you notice her new ride? She parked her ‘Vette, can you believe it?!”

Certainly not immune to all the fuss, Francine exits the main house looking every bit the cowgirl.

“Hello there flyboy, can I offer you a sandwich and a glass of fresh-from-the-cow milk?”

You could knock Roy Crippen over with a feather.

At least one of his fears is laid to rest, that she would fall back into her old life, because it would be the easy thing to do. He would have bet Braden’s farm that she would have brought the kids home, tucked them in {if you actually can tuck in a teenage boy} and left.

Wrong!


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 137


page 129

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 99

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 99

…Too many twos, two many 2s and if there was a rock big enough to hide behind, Roy would have preferred it to this…

Image result for too many

Braden has been slowly dismantling the many-gift-mountain of cards, boxes, gift wrap and tissue. There are some meant to be shared, ‘Deke & Gus’. There are many specifically labeled either ‘Deke’ or ‘Gus’. Others are anonymous tributes to The Space Family McKinney.

By sheer coincidence and not divine intervention, we think, Francine and Roy’s packages are the last to be unwrapped. The givers of said gifts are still standing near one another, having ooo-ed, aah-d, and clapped politely throughout the process, which has run past daylight’s influence.

Most everyone has done the math or eliminated themselves from belonging to the boxes. Fate is once again shining a spotlight on that reluctant featured pairing, still trying to sort out their feelings, once they get past continuing awkward social situation.

The lady-well-wisher’s carton is next to last, opened with genuine excitement by Gus, “Channel 13 News Crew bomber jackets, look Deke!”

She was afraid people would think her a self-promoter, “It’s the same one worn by our cameramen and grips.”

“Way kool Miss Bouchette. All the kids at school can drool.”

The final unopened gift belonged to Roy.

“Read the card first Deke,” if Braden has the boy skip that part, it would be fine with Roy, who knows exactly how he signed the card.

Too late!!

“2 the two finest young men we know. With Love and friendship, Uncle Roy and Channel 13 Francine”

The young man reads it loud and proud.

Too many twos, two many 2s and if there was a rock big enough to hide behind, Roy would have preferred it to this. The boys do not think about motivation when it comes to birthdays.

“A 4-D Galaxy Planet Asteroid Tracker by Intel, wow just like the one in your office Uncle Roy… and Francine?”

asteroid-tracker

Roy wanted to explain Francine’s duplicity, had he known how to. Some things are better left to wondering.

The agreeable crowd subdivides into smaller groups, to sample Braden’s BBQ skills—-and gossip.Related image

Roy looks for that back-forty boulder to hide behind.

Francine is just plain curious, but they are overtaken by the shuffled throng.

“I can’t believe how generous people are. Deke & Gus are so lucky,” Aunt Sassy (from the old country) shakes Roy’s hand like she was trying to bust it loose from his shoulder socket, while eyeing Francine up and down.

“Now Sassy, don’t break his wrist,” insists the senior member of the McKinney relative contingent Savta Inga Bergestrom (from the other old country). “You two look like you are having a wonderful time.”


THE RETURN TRIP

the-old-country-001

Episode 99


page 95

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

snows-bbq-jon-flaming

by Jon Flaming

Episode 95


page 90

The NULL Solution = Episode 180

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The NULL Solution = Episode 180

…When heaped on top of an already formidably accumulated pile of reasons, has ultimately culminated in a Space Family McKinney pow-wow…

Pow Wow by Jean Clayton

With Roy and Francine in the twilight of their lives, far from dead but golden nonetheless, that and the fact he flat-out misses the company of his brother, is not lost on Deke McKinney. As much as Eridanus has become home to him, Earth is within reach and time is a wasting.

Up until now, Deke has taken up the task of an anchor. He and his growing family are the very reason for staying put… even after Cerella was cared for by Dr. Jean-Luc Picard on Earth. Even after he and Sammy Mac were roaming the halls of King Ranch in the dark of night to retrieve his wife and child. At the time, it just made sense to return to Eridanus.

But the anchor is starting to lose its grip. When heaped on top of an already formidably accumulated pile of reasons, has ultimately culminated in a Space Family McKinney pow-wow.

The preeminent tribe of space travelers is confronted by a conundrum; not the daunting query from Mars, but nearly as seminal in nature. They have no need of permission, but a quorum amongst them is certainly required. The issue is an old one. The timing is not.

Only the cast of characters has changed, thereby severely muddying the possible outcomes. Being a groundbreaking family usually does not include introducing the 1st & 2nd true alien beings ever {that we know} on Earth. The Milky Way Census Bureau will have a time with that one…

  1. Female – Alien {Cerella} –  Country of Origin – Epsilon Eridani
  2. Male – Mixed Galactic Strain {Joyner} – Country of Origin – Texas USA Earth

The NULL Solution =

Episode 180


page 176

The NULL Solution = Episode 137

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The NULL Solution = Episode 137

…On a remote corner of King Ranch is an undistinguished home, 7/8ths of which is below grade, facing eastward and has prairie grass and cacti for a roof…

Over in the purported Mr. Lorgan’s Neighborhood, silent preparations are being made for Collapsar Axis’ arrival. Fletcher Fitch has been assigned the task of his long life; install the global force field that the inventor-race-deluxe, Seljuk bestowed upon them. While he is at it, beef up the disruptor array aboard SEx.

Fitch was the scientific whistleblower who exposed the United Korean Peninsula for the Space Colony 1 destroyers that they were. That they were in league with his country of Talibanistan made him a marked man for decades to come. What he does not know, is that there is still a hefty price on his head and fortune hunters out there willing to pursue the bounty.

Texas Sunrise | by DustDevilDiver (Briley Mitchell)

On a remote corner of King Ranch is an undistinguished home, 7/8ths of which is below grade, facing eastward. It has prairie grass and cacti for a roof. It has sheltered the traitor/scientist for many Texas sunrises and provided a haven for his wife and two daughters. The daughters had departed the underground nest years ago, leaving Fatima and the former Aldona Afridi to live out the rest of their lives. Once you are a friend of the Crippens, always a friend.

Up until now, his association with Galveston Launch Facility was viewed as benign. He is just one of a thousand other geek-types that work there… until he was recognized by the single “looter” who managed to elude death the other night. It seems that King Ranch booty may have been secondary to a greater Muslim cause.

It turns out that rogue goon-squad fishing expedition has accidentally spotted a Big Fitch.

But this Fitch is heedless in respect to any danger. He is flush with the excitement, like a kid in a candy store. Molecular stabilizers, force fields and disruptor arrays replace sugar plums and squirt guns. He is on top of the cutting edge technology pile and he relishes the view.

And his daughters have returned to the nest to help celebrate science, in addition to his 75th birthday. With life expectancies exceeding 100, his ¾ share of life {26 clear of his ties to Talibanistan} is well-worth celebrating. But a glitch in the ranch power grid has forced the party to move to Crippen/McKinney territory. However, Francine and Mindy’s culinary skills are lacking when it comes to Near-East cuisine, so Fatima must ferry his favorite foods from a mile away.

“Where is Fatima? I swear that woman doesn’t sit still for one minute!”

“She went back for the Harissa, forgot it in the blackout, back on the counter.” The dish made from semolina is a treat from the old days, unknown to local restaurateurs. Fletcher seldom asks for anything Arab. “Come dance with me my daughters!”


The NULL Solution =

Image result for arab dance gif

Episode 137


page 135

The NULL Solution = Episode 133

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The NULL Solution = Episode 133

…The dark side of humanity is on full display…

“Roy is on his way home, Mindy.” Francine is trying to calm a fellow wife of an astronaut, who has mounting reasons to worry, considering that security cameras are showing tiny flashes of light out in the distance. “Fatima Fitch said Fletcher came home an hour ago.”

“I wish Gus were here.”

Roy’s flying days have long since come and gone, but she still lives and dies with every mission, by Gus, Deke, Rick Stanley or any other who sacrifice their home life in the name of exploration.

Insecurity is all around.

When there are wolves outside the door, a person requires more than reassuring words. Sometimes the tables are turned.

A dozen or so, it is too dark to tell exactly, men have shot their way past the gates of the ranch residential compound. It is not clear what they are after, but it cannot be good.

Scenes like this are being played out all around the world, whenever the dark of night can conceal identities. Mob mentality has taken root. Looting is an excuse for the opportunist.

This is turning into the wild, wild West. Where is Marshall Matt Dillon when you need him?

In his heyday, Roy Crippen was a real-life hero. Like when the teenage McKinney boys were taken hostage by terrorists, who stashed them on a Gulf of the Americas oil rig and threatened to kill them if their demands were not met. Did young{er} Roy wait for the Coast Guard? Of course not! He flew his own jetcopter in, threw the scene into chaos and rescued them himself. He took matters into his own hands.

And so he does today, when most septuagenarians have double-bolted all the doors and covered the windows with plywood, Roy reprises his role of rescuer. He leads his presidential motorcade through the battered compound gates, opening fire with his own weapon to thwart the scattering looters. The Secret Service can only join the fray.

Despite shoot-to-kill warnings from Chasin Hedley himself, the bad apples care not. The dark side of humanity is on full display, when ill-gotten gains will do no good, when the planet is supposedly about to be laid waste by invading aliens.

King Ranch was supposed to be a “normal” haven for his 1st family, as well as the first family of space. Until the world can set aside the mass hysteria, even the fences guarding the White House are not nearly tall enough.

When the Texan invaders are vanquished, the vanquisher himself can rest easy… until NASA breaks in to tell him…

…“Olympus Mons is starting to erupt.” —


The NULL Solution =

Episode 133


page 131

The NULL Solution = Episode 111

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The NULL Solution = Episode 111

…Princess Cerella shares her ordeal on Earth, with one-on-ones and face-to-faces…

Face to Face by Stewart Kelly

After skimming through the actual piece of paper {unheard of these days}, its magnitude sinks in, the least of which is 2 less place settings, Francine rouses the gang to attention, with more than the sweet smell of bacon.

Each of the King Ranch residents takes a turn at reading the Epistle from Eridanus. What a cruel way to start a Saturday, having family members ripped from your midst, unannounced at that.

The only individual who will not understand for months to come is young Marscie McKinney. How do you explain such interstellar interactions to a toddler? Somewhere among the excuses must come impossible understanding.

Gus and Mindy hold each other like Gus is headed to prison with a life sentence hanging over his head.

Roy and Francine wonder where time has gone, recalling the days when Gus and Deke were harder to coral than Houdini, the longhorn steer.

One person left off the salutation is Dr. Jean-Luc Picard. His stellar {inter} care of Cerella and Joyner was not only necessary, but critical in their survival. So far as he was torn from his own Alpine world, he had grown attached to his patient{s} in a personal way. He has experienced the Texas-sized down-home hospitality provided by the entire King Ranch populous, right down to the men who clean the barns.

Picard takes his leave, forever changed by the experience, but not his taste for the Suisse high life.

Eridanus is abuzz with the spreading news of Princess Cerella’s return and of course her royal child, Joyner. Even after her return, what did not come back is her previous telekinetic prowess, so the sharing of her ordeal begins with one-on-one face-to-faces, she communicates in her own letter:


The NULL Solution =

Episode 111


page 110

The NULL Solution = Episode 82

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The NULL Solution = Episode 82

…Jean-Luc uses the time away from Switzerland for a sabbatical of sorts, if one considers conversation about speed-of-light or missing cattle a retreat…

The whole Martian affair should not merit any guesswork, fruitless from such a distance, certainly for King Ranch residents Roy, Francine, Gus, Mindy and recent migrants, Princess Cerella and attending physician Jean-Luc Picard.

Babies Marscie & Joyner make for a full house on the Texas prairie. Joyner can talk before he can walk and Marscie usually cannot wait for naptime. She will stretch it out as long as she can for a little peace and quiet. It is not his English, rather the copious doses of olde language melodies. He doesn’t shut up.

Jean-Luc uses the time for a sabbatical of sorts, if one considers conversation about speed-of-light or missing cattle a retreat. He has managed to occasionally slip away to Texas Children’s Hospital to check out stateside medicine, the main purpose of which is to feed his fascination with nurses of the female persuasion. American women are so American and until he figures out that certain someone on the pediatric ICU floor, he will keep coming back.–

“Do you know anything of the Star Trek entertainment franchise?” Back in the day, it was right in Roy’s wheelhouse. It acts as an icebreaker excuse to converse with Picard.

“A film may have crossed a device of mine in the past. It is quite amusing. Why do you ask?”

“Tell me your parents didn’t name you after a certain starship captain. It has bugged me ever since I agreed to take your call.”

“Mon pére et mére are bookworms not video aficionados. I am sorry to disappoint you monsieur.”

Gus McKinney did not have the guts to ask before now, “No? That’s a good thing Jean-Luc. It just took us a while to get used to calling you by name. It just didn’t feel right.”

“My friends call me Locutus.”

It is hard to catch an astronaut off balance.


The NULL Solution =

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Episode 82


page 83