THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 1

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 1

…THE CONTINUING SAGA OF THE SPACE FAMILY MCKINNEY…

Chapter One

 The Return Trip Continues {Stardate 2051}

… And so it was on that fateful day of the return trip, at 3X the speed-of-light, on an abnormally cold January day {in usually arid Galveston Texas that Gus McKinney is trying to explain what is inexplicable. His adoptive father, who also happens to be the heart and soul of NASA’s SOL Project, fears the possibilities. How can the young co-pilot possibly clarify someone vanishing? That he departed Earth’s gravitational influence with his brother, Deke in Stellar Explorer’s pilot seat, only to return without him.

“So you and Deke thought you were in trouble, ‘phasing in and out’ as you put it?” Roy Crippen is in an untenable position. After having experienced the elation about what had been deemed a colossal success, he must now reconcile what can only be described as a handful of nothing.

Gus McKinney knows nothing, at an utter loss for answers, but for some odd reason he parades a peaceful façade.

Former President of the United States of America {#48}, “Prez Roy”, can only be described as befuddled. “I have been getting some feedback from Fletcher Fitch here {lead SOL engineer}, not to mention the crew of the SLAV that clocked your speed averaged around warp 3 — WARP freaking 3, Gus! Stellar Explorer was engineered to approach SOL, not exceed it, could not exceed it… yet here you are in one piece, returning to Earth with a spacecraft that has been souped-up!”

“Look Crip, if I had clue what happened, you’d be the first to know.” Gus is still in shock himself. “All I know is that I have this nagging feeling that Deke is alright.”

“But…”

“Yeah, I know that doesn’t make a lick of sense, but some damned weird stuff was going on in the cabin just about the time we lit the fuse.” The memory is fresh, if not sketchy. “The last thing I remember, Deke said something about Mom.”

“What do I have to do with this?” The former First Lady of the USA, project Spokeswoman and host on The Space Channel, Francine Bouchette-Crippen, has been an insistently ardent observer to the debriefing.

“No offense Francine, but I got the feeling he was talking about our real mom, as in Celeste McKinney, you know, the one who vanished from Mars along with Dad back in 2030.”


The NULL Solution

Episode 1


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THE NULL SOLUTION = RETURN TRIP Recap/History

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The NULL Solution = TRT Recap/History

…Off to parts unknown – History of THE RETURN TRIP…

…It all began on Mars…

The McKinneys are whisked off Mars {Star Date 2030}

“It appears we are going for a ride family!”

“Where are we going?” Celeste wonders.

“I’d like to know, who is driving?” Sampson tries get the feel for some sort of helm, but it seems to be fruitless. “Let’s hope that it hasn’t forgotten the way to Earth, if that’s too much to ask.”

NEWFOUNDLANDER liftoff is smooth and with the exception of the anticipated g-forces, they were soon out of Mars’ loving embrace and headed… headed… unfortunately headed away from the sun, which at this point in planetary alignment, is in the opposite direction of Earth.

The McKinneys spot their destination

As the enlarging emergence of Epsilon Eridani and the heightened anticipation it is producing, Sampson’s demeanor stabilizes; finally a goal is in sight. There aren’t stars around every corner. In the coming of a new orange sphere, he can sense the warmth internally, even though an Earthly comparison would be like spotting the Rocky Mountains from the east while driving an automobile. What seems like a day later, you first get the sense you are going uphill.

The End is in sight

The NEWFOUNDLANDER continues to hurtle toward the planetary system which must surely be their final destination {that would be a muffled please, please, please?}. The ship with a remote control mind uses all the right moves on its approach, like it had done this very move before. A skilled navigator himself, Sam sincerely hopes so, because he is beginning to feel uneasy with the speed at which they going at this late stage. That scary mega planet is looking large and larger, its red-hot surface churning like the gates of hell…..and they have barely dipped below SOL.

The McKinneys arrive at their destination {Star Date 2036}

As NEWFOUNDLANDER shimmies into its pre-destined parking place, something occurs to Sampson’s astronautically trained mind, “Could it be that these people have abandoned space travel? I mean, did you see a fleet come out to escort us in? Have any of us seen any shuttle traffic, weather satellite or space station anywhere on the way here?”

Before Celeste can agree, the closing of the 100 foot tall doors distracts her and once again they are left to wonder what happens next. The enclosure now adds a claustrophobic slant to their rampant speculation. Confinement is a stark certainty, after over 5 years in the vastness of deep-space

Unease, doubt, apprehension: all these begin to consume Commander Sampson McKinney, formerly of Space Colony 1, recently employed NASA astronaut and previous inhabitant of Earth. It is all he can do to merely stand still and wait. The waiting is the hardest part.

An historic chapter of Earth’s history is about to be written.

The folks on Planet X (Eridanus) are in for a surprise of historic proportion.

This concludes our “catch-up” of THE RETURN TRIP

Sunday February 21 The NULL Solution = Prelude/ TRT Recap


The NULL Solution

Recap/History


THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 260

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 260

…“We can’t be sent back or they won’t let us go back?…

Cerella speaks to Deke alone; who takes her hand and kisses it gently, like it may fall off in his.

“What did she say Deke? It sounds like Far East music to me.” Gus is not used to being upstaged when it comes to getting attention from the female persuasion.

The two that have been taken with one another, continue their one-on-one exchange undaunted.

Quite comically, the remaining characters in the room restart a conversation of their own.

“What’s the matter Gus, do you feel left out?” Sampson chides Gus, like a father teases a son.

“Hell no Dad, I’m engaged to be married.” The fact that they are 10 light-years away from a wedding day matters not.

“What’s her name, where’s she from, do you have a picture?” Celeste bullies her way into a litany of motherly queries.

Gus reaches into his SOL Project flight suit for the engagement picture from The Houstonian  of him and Mindy McDonald. “How long did it take us to get here?

Celeste looks to Sampson, the official timekeeper of the family.

“30 months, as far as I can tell.”

“That’s 2½ freaking years! Are you sure we needed rescuing, because I bet Mindy has already mourned my death… like we did you guys?”

“Ten more seconds into SOL warp and you surely would have died. NASA astro-mechanics did their job, but the bio-people did not,” Dad does his best.

“The Eridanians have mastered the fabric of time and they thought we would like to know about your fate. So, “we” went back to when/before that happened, adjustments were made to your ship. It is because of those adjustments that we could not allow you to return to Earth,” good news-bad news from a loving mother.

“We can’t be sent back or they won’t let us go back?” The more the idea of being separated from Mindy sinks in, the less savory is the notion.

A loving father cups Gus’ face with his hands, massaging his cheeks, wiping away the tears, “Never say never…”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 260


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

…“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents…

Suffering by Paula Heffel

“I am not going to waste our time together squabbling over that necktie.” Their 17 month marriage remains solid, as most do, in spite of the ongoing McKinney heartbreak, career shifts, and the blinding glare of the national spotlight. Like those ships in the night, passing near not seeing, “We can’t waste this time.”

Space Academy

“Speaking of not seeing someone, how did Deke & Gus do on their Academy exams?” Co-surrogate father Roy would give anything short giving up on the election to be there to help the boys with the critical Space Academy simulator tests; the single biggest factor in becoming an astronaut candidate. Braden King is a ground expert, but has little to offer the two rapidly maturing space-aspiring young men.

The adults’ combined mission is to help them attain those desired goals.

“Gus barely got by the book test, then A-ced the simulator.” she tells Roy. “Deke lost his gyro-control, hit an asteroid and he will never live it down. It turns out that the professor rigged his test by inserting THE QUARKIAN QUANDARY, I believe he called it.”

NASA Top Gun

NASA“They only pull that on the Top Guns. I bet Deke had already been promoted.”

“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents.

“The way I see it Francine, Gus knows that his flying skills are the only way he graduates from the Academy; it’s hard to keep up with his genius brother.”

“Whatever the reason,” she concludes as their Ford Hydrogen vehicle pulls up to the Hilton Hotel & Casino, “I think that Celeste would be pleased as punch and Sammy Mac is screaming at the top of his lungs … somewhere out there.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 172


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

…“Mission Control, there is a problem…

“This is Rescue Mission 2A-1B, the New Mayflower approaching Mars orbit, range 225,200 miles and closing.”

To say that this April day has been anxiously anticipated is a colossal underestimation. Few like comparisons can be made, with the almost three month build up to this historic moment.

“We have been attempting to make contact, but Tycho is giving us an away message. Image result for emotional rollercoaster gifThe signal is strong and there is no sign of distress. She’s a good sight for sure!”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, and the entire GLF staff are poised to witness a watershed moment in the agonizing saga of Space Colony 1. The minimum expectations of the rescue mission involve flattening the emotional roller coaster that has been this colossal project, one that has dominated the past two years in everyone’s’ life.

High-highs followed by the lowest of lows are not a healthy prescription for the faint of heart. Braden can attest to how mounting mental pressures can manifest itself into the physical.

And hope is the most powerful drug at our disposal and you do not need a medical doctor to prescribe it. Suppressing it today would require a cold wet towel or a badass, who-cares attitude. To have gotten the mission organized and off the ground, overcoming relentless interference from determined enemies, and reach this point is a testament to the audacity of hope.

“Take it down to 200 miles and make two orbits at 0º degrees latitude. When you have a good fix on Tycho, use the Plain of Xanthe as a landing strip, just like we did out at White Sands {Missile Range N.M. simulator).”

“We still have not established voice or visual Roy.”

“Let’s not borrow trouble now Rick. Take her down on the smoothest 200 yards you can find.”

This newest incarnation of the Mayflower circles Mars at its equator twice, the first orbit locates Tycho; the second has trouble locating anything that resembles smooth. An area to the left of the lander has the appearance of a recent Xanthe neighborhood to-do.

“Mission Control, there is a problem…..”


THE RETURN TRIP

Emotional Rollercoaster – fightingwithstrength.com

Episode 166


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 159

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 159

…A weak field of contenders leaves the door wide-open for a simple astronaut with the honest face, gorgeous wife, and a perfectly vetted past…

Good Horses and Wide Open Spaces by Tim Cox

It is mid-2030, the time for Presidential contenders to step forward and declare their intentions for 2032.

In some cases, as with Roy Crippen, you may be touted as a frontrunner, never having expressed public interest in the nation’s highest office. He is as popular a man there is around the country, even more so in Texas and with Southerners in general. It is a well-known fact that he is not content merely fronting the heroic rescue effort in an otherwise failed NASA project.

And as much as he is going to see the McKinneys back into Earth’s embrace, he is surprised that he cannot ignore the ovations of the Republican National Committee. A weak field of contenders, many of whom are dodging the label of “hawk” or falling all over themselves to appeal to the “Minority Majority”, leaves the door wide-open for a simple astronaut with the honest face, gorgeous wife, and a perfectly vetted past.

He does not take that bold step into the political arena lightly, with the bitter taste of Space Colony 1 on everyone’s palate and the stench of a potential nuclear war wafting over continents and oceans.

One has to wonder what the American public would think, if it came about that Sampson and Celeste McKinney were stranded on Mars, instead of being rescued. Who then takes the blame, the evil empires or Roy Crippen?


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 159


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

…any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel…

“The country would not stand for news of the McKinney deaths… they adore that couple,” President Sanchez makes a politically generic statement.

“This should have nothing to do with Time Magazine Online “Most Influential People” issue and everything to do with putting reprobate rulers in their place.” Roy moves to move the President of the United States of America into action. The man is stuck on how this latest development makes his administration look, instead of recognizing the threat to the welfare of the planet itself.

“Chances are Pete,” using his first name for effect, “that armchair diplomacy or economic sanctions will not work here.”

Sanchez should ask himself why, in retrospect, that the very same type of jealous admiration exhibited by Korea, were one and the same as his quest for the United States Senate, lo those many years ago. As a younger, more idealistic politician, Sanchez had practiced a suspicious mudslinging campaign against the incumbent Senator, in the primary election that year. And though Sanchez did not get the nomination and the other party ultimately won the general election, it ruined the man’s reputation unnecessarily.

It is a lesson for those who are lame ducks or out of favor; there may be someone or some country lurking, ready to ruin his legacy or bring down the entire nation he is ultimately responsible for.

“I guess we need to flex our muscles.”

“And forget about that gratuitous speech you are about to deliver,” Roy whispers under his breath. “And you know that we at NASA and SAC will be vigilant, Sir.”

No sooner than the phone goes dead, Roy wonders if the President meant yet another dreaded commodity embargo or economic isolation; neither of which work against those determined to make, in this case, outer space mischief.

Francine is privy to one side of the conversation, but any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel. She is aware that stakes of the game have changed and she will have a front row seat to it all.

It is getting late at Lovell and making the trip home to Houston less desirable than usual, but in these times of fear and doubt, where better to spend the night but at King Ranch, “I’ll give Braden a heads up about an incoming Canadian-made helicopter with a Russian sounding name (Sikorsky) and two tired NASA people aboard,” she states.

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.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 149


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

CHAPTER SEVEN

Pick a Pew

AL, the computer generated intelligence  continues to develop a personality, like that crazy uncle who gets passed on from one generation of system to the next

Personality by Portus Ojomo

The tactical changes to New Mayflower have been craftily made by the three-man crew, as prescribed by Aldona Afridi, the newly branded NASA SOL Engineer. With that task complete, implementation is being robotically transmitted back to Earth by AL. The computer generated intelligence not only does his programmed functions, but continues to develop a personality, like that crazy uncle who gets passed on from one generation of system to the next. In this case it is from deep-space Chronicle and Space Colony 1 to deep-space New Mayflower, with this continuing incarnation furthering the tradition of doing things that were not programmed.

“Thank you for sending that circuit update to Mission Control, AL, although I was going to call it in myself,” Rick Stanley speaks into thin air and magically communicates with the computer.

“YOU WERE BUSY PREPARING FOR HYPER-SLEEP COMMANDER RICK. I AM PROGRAMMED TO ASSIST YOU TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY.”

The 2nd in command calls to question, When did AL start calling you by your first name?

“He did call me Commander and maybe he calls his programmer papa.”

“WE CAN HEAR YOU TALKING ABOUT US.”

“And now it’s “we” instead of I.”

“We air breathers will be seeing the inside of our eyelids in 15 minutes, forget about AL for now.”

“GOODNIGHT GUYS.” —

— Ten million miles go by, accompanied by the “curse” that sleep brings, the garbage can of the human mind called dreams. Some people don’t remember them, while others not only remember them, but in living color to boot. Advanced dreamers can wake up, remember their colorful dream, fall back asleep and pick the storyline where they left off. Still others have recurring nightmares and purposely stay awake, as to wipe their semiconscious slate clean.

Hyper-sleep has been likened to suspended animation, born out of necessity, the need to pass the time on these “short” interplanetary trips, unlike those intra-galactical excursions of the NEWFOUNDLIANS, as long as Earth-space- travelers are bound to the nagging-ly slow sub-light speeds.

Hyperactive is the best way to describe AL, no need for the male-slanted voice of the shuttle fleet main computer system to slumber. AL was intended to be totally interactive, mildly intuitive, and always at the ready. “His” recent First Person reference of “we” is a leap ahead from “I”, implying that his singular function is morphing into one of feeling like he is part of the team.

“Feeling” is the operative term here. Somewhere along the way, perhaps an evolutionary step brought on by the demise of his “brother” aboard the Chronicle, AL must have decided that independent action is necessary for self-preservation.

10 million miles is the equivalent of 2 weeks of space real estate covered and “they” must be ever vigilant.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 140


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 136

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 136

…Someday maybe we’ll find other intelligent life out here, but for now we have exactly two living reasons for hauling butt out to Mars…

“We have lost that echo Cmdr. Stanley. That bogie did not change course with us,” assures the 2nd in command, hurtling toward Mars.

“There is no way it could keep up, but we still have to make the changes that Roy sent over. This stuff is genius as long as you want to turn the New Mayflower into a Romulan Warbird and this ECM {electronic counter measure} stuff is right out of Starfleet Command.”

“I didn’t know you were a Trekkie Rick?”

“We all are, whether we watched the show or movies or not. Fortunately or unfortunately there is no such thing as THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS to defend. The planet Earth seems to be on its own in the Universe.”

“So it would seem.”

Someday maybe we’ll find other intelligent life out here, but for now we have exactly two living reasons for hauling ass out to Mars!”

Having two days crammed into one, while spanning the Caribbean basin and Gulf of the Americas from all points of the compass, Roy takes off from Elgin AFB by his lonely old self. He has burned 3000 gallons of high octane turbojet fuel chasing righteousness, freedom, and dreams, not necessarily in that order.

When yesterday turns into tomorrow and he has done everything possible to secure his sphere of influence, it is time to go home. Just what defines home is up for interpretation. He has already left his Panhandle pad behind him and really has no interest in his Houston high-rise at this point, so no better excuse can there be for making a beeline for King Ranch.

This once solitary man, bothered not with factoring romantic emotion in any matter of his life, now must face the female element head on. Not only has he just spent significant time with Francine, he has entrusted the children {of indisposed friends} with her and on top of that, offered that same woman a job.

Below is classic 1-2-3/a-b-c formula for his private life in reverse {with a twist}:

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 it.

0. Pray that she feels the same about him

        Ÿ) Now that he has left himself open for a huge fall.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 136


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 132

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 132

…“Russia is like a rotten cousin; you have to invite them to family gatherings, but you serve them cheap beer instead of fine wine…

“I have fashioned a schematic for you to forward to the crew of the New Mayflower, if it’s not too late. They must construct a circuit in that vehicle with an anti-laser deflection field. I can be fairly positive that Sang-Ashi’s path may be on an intersecting course.”

“They have had a small shadow following them ever since they got a million miles past the moon. Do you have any idea what that could be? Does Sang-Ashi have a twin?” asks Roy Crippen.

“I know that the Russians were ready to launch their own probe, Uralsk I think it’s called, but I only know this because of a launch conflict with an astronaut exchange to the old International Space Station.” ISS is still in orbit, though its usefulness has long since been relegated to space lab experiments. “They claim that it is headed for Uranus, but if that was the case, they’ve missed their mark by 10 million miles, like they were aiming for the elliptical, but used parabolic calculations.”

“Can they be that bad? They are truly like the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

“They will claim to have had Mars in mind the whole time, who would know the difference. And I don’t think any harm can come from a country whose Soyuz continued to be the workhorse of the ISS, ever since the United States stopped the shuttle program and until privatization came along. Regardless, my system must be implemented.”

Russia is like a bastard cousin; you have to invite them to family gatherings, but you serve them cheap beer instead of fine wine.” United States’ relations with the Great Sleeping Bear has been as chilly as the original Cold War, but has warmed since they put Putin in the ground in 2028.

“Okay Aldona, I will forward this plan to Rick Stanley, before they go into hyper-sleep.” Roy Crippen trusts this man’s insider instincts, even though the verdict is still officially out on the fate of SC1. “As for you, my friend, I am getting you an office at Lovell and your family will be set up here at Elgin—you are officially onSOL-logo the payroll, with an eye on placing you in the SOL Project.”

“Do you mean speed of light?”

“Can you dig it Mr. Afridi?” Roy is retro-hip.

“Working for NASA seemed like a foolish dream to me and now it has come true!”

“We can use your expertise and any tidbits about the Korean factor.” — hipster Roy.


THE RETURN TRIP

Robert McCall, NASA Artist (1919-2010)

Episode 132


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