THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 61

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 61

…“Sampson, take a look at this!” Celeste shouts, mouth agape…


Far Far Away by Lynda Anne (Lynda Worthington is an Australian textile artist whose varied and original works cover many techniques.)

Celeste is engaged in a battle between depression and anguish. Her mind is filled with more ‘what ifs’ than ‘could we-s’, but this is no time for gloomy negativity; hope, after all, is all they have going for them.


Conquering the Sun’s Empire illustration by Harry Lange

She makes the effort to straighten out and fly right, standing tall in the low ceilings of Tycho, now “home”.
“Hey, we have the best view on the planet and the neighbors are well-behaved.”

She walks across the cramped lander to retake-in the sights of the other portal; however the scene is quite dissimilar from last they looked, before the shockwave.

“Sampson, take a look at this!” she shouts, mouth agape.

He is busy doing a rapid-fire back & forth with the data bank, but stops suddenly to see what the big stink is all about, peering over Celeste’s trembling shoulder. When his pupils properly adjust themselves from
near-to-far, he sees exactly what the fuss is about, with a quick check of the hallucination factor. Is it a mirage?

The very mound they had originally detoured to investigate has been cleared of its dust-cover, swept clean by ill-fated winds of change. It would seem that they are not alone on Mars, as one would assume, as a large spacecraft has appeared alongside and it is not of Earth. For all to see: 50 meters of gleaming out-of-this-world metal.

And judging by what is left behind, of the soil/dirt that is, it was like it had been covered in mud; Mud? It sits in a dry creek bed, for what has probably been thousands of years maybe more.

Celeste has already donned an infrared magnification enhancement and focuses in on what are markings, to the left of what is most likely an entrance. The insignia are not decipherablebut judging by the size of the entry, there is a strong possibility that the creators of this presumably interstellar ship were not midgets. It looks like Sampson could pass in without so much as stooping.

There are vertical slits, perhaps windows, placed at various points along its angular lines. Using his naked eye, Sampson swears he sees blinking lights through the largest such portal, which Celeste dismisses as a silly notion, that it can only be the reflection of the midday sun.


Space Colony’s explosion uncovers something not-of-this-solar system

Episode 61

page 58

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!!




Episode 48

page 46

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…


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.




Conquering the Sun’s Empire by Harry Lange

Episode 36

page 35