THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 124

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 124

you have seen what these people are capable of, so do not underestimate their reach or cunning

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Cunning by Skia on DeviantArt.com

“In opening, my only question for you is, did you recognize the man who shot you?”

That is a stupid question from someone who should already know the answer, considering that the hail of bullets sailed through the closed door of the lavatory, while the victim was seated on the stainless steel pedestal.

“No I do not.”

Related image“Was there anyone on your flight who looked familiar to you, suspicious or otherwise?”

“I did recognize that pop singer my daughters are so crazy for, the one that has all those tattoos…”

When a bad-guy can board an international flight with a weapon and a covert agency of the USA cannot identify him, it is an insecure feeling.

It is obvious that neither Afridi nor his family can be of any help, at least for the Man in Black. He motions to the other non-family interested party, who has her own set of questions.

“My name is Sandi Gilbert, a close associate of Roy Crippen, here at Lovell and at Galveston and we would like for you to tell us about the revelation you flew all this way to share.”

Lieutenant II Gilbert has been leading the Incident Audit Team {Space Colony 1.20.2030} from the beginning and the older sister of KHST’s NASA Expert Randi Gilbert. All the evidence supporting the accidental destruction of the Mars orbiting Colony has been peeling away, one pungent layer at a time. Unlike the Space Shuttle Challenger that exploded on a frosty Florida morning in 1986 or Shuttle Columbia’s re-entry miscalculation in 2003, both of which happened with wide-eyed witnesses in Earth’s atmosphere Space Colony 1 disappeared into the abyss of space, without Earthly observation. NASA has been out of the disaster business since the funding drought began in 2009 and the Mars mission inception a decade ago.}

Aldona Afridi is shell-shocked, both literally and figuratively. What an odd path:

  • He had successfully defected from his Far East homeland, at great risk to life and limb
  • Navigated The Orient Express all the way to its Istanbul railhead
  • Made few friends and many enemies along the way
  • Tried and did to warn NASA about a space probe with bad intent
  • Got a ride out of the Near East for him and his family, for safe asylum in the United States only to be shot to pieces while using a Turkish Airlines toilet

Not a bad month’s work for someone who isn’t employed by anyone in particular.

“You may want to check the flight path of Sang-Ashi. It was never intended to continue on out of the solar system. I believe it used Mars gravity to slingshot itself back in the direction of Earth.”

“I’m still not sure what that has to do with NASA or you ignoring a global manhunt to speak to someone,” Lt. Gilbert is trying to blend compassion with curiosity.

“You have a rescue mission underway, do you not?”

“The New Mayflower is on its way; yes that is no secret?”

The New Mayflower

The New Mayflower

NASA

“You would be well advised to compare the flight paths of your Mayflower and the Sang-Ashi probe.”

“NASA can do that Mr. Afridi, especially since a security breach was uncovered in the Mission protocols.”

“Then you have seen what these people are capable of. Do not underestimate their reach or cunning.”

“I will pass on your concerns.” Sandi Gilbert removes her flight cap to add, “Please excuse me for saying so, but whoever “they” are, have been dogging your ass ever since you left Talibanistan.”

Thank you for noticing…….. now can I see my family?”

— Some lessons can only be learned the hard way and for NASA, a non-warring agency of peaceful exploration, it is difficult to shift mental philosophies mid-mission.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 124


pages 153 + 154

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 111

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 111

…The customs agent has pawed her way through mounds of tricot, lace, and female toiletries, looking at Francine like she was a hooker…

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The flight itself is uneventful, if you don’t count the gusty 2000 foot winds produced by a line of thunderstorms over the previously tranquil waters of the coming Caribbean Sea. It looks as if Cuba will get a blow from the prevailing winds in the next few hours.

140 miles south of Cuba {a fractional contributor to the Space Colony 1 project – celebratory cigars, so still communist}, lays the luxe landmass named Jamaica. Montego Bay is a coastal-cruise-ship-commune nestled against the foothills and mountains which rise out of the tropical waters. As they lower their altitude to the tree line they receive permission to land at Sangster International the island’s only legal airport.

“My head is throbbing,” Francine complains, “must be the difference in barometric pressure.”

“Take three of these and by the time we clear customs, you will be fine.”

“What are they?”

“Space flight enchanted capsule capsules.”

“Are they legal… I don’t want to know.”

NASA pharmaceuticals will have plenty of time to work. The people in customs are disheveled and crabby, seeing that they had just processed an incoming Chicago red eye charter, loaded with “loaded” passengers.

Skycap Roy has conveyed their suitcase armada to duties & tariffs. The rather robust woman who has drawn the short straw is leaving nothing to chance. Under Jamaican guidelines, she is more concerned about what comes into the country than what may be leaving; guns are banned as are wild animals.

She has pawed her way through mounds of tricot, lace, and female toiletries, looking at Francine like she was a hooker. Not one of the items banned by Jamaican customs. “That bag is clothes, that one is clothes, and that one is hair care,” she points out.

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“She is going to cost you Mon,” she pulls Roy’s single bag to inspect it.

“Are you two really together?”

Roy feels compelled to explain, then decides what the woman thinks about his intent is of no matter.

“Please address your editorial comments to KHST Television.” Francine is a bit put off. “You aren’t sorry I came along, are you?”Image result for jamaica no problem

“No way wo-mon! Thees ees Jamaica no problem.” Roy loosens his tie and leaves his merits at the gate. They are but one couple among an island full of them.

As luck would have it, an outbound bus headed for the north shore is just about to leave, with several seats to spare. “Look at these people running back and forth,” he refers to the employees of the Blue Danube Tours Company. It is an unlikely name considering that the only thing this island and Deutschland have in common is Heineken’s and Red Stripe, “reminds me of a Chinese fire drill.”

“That is weak PC Roy… Chinese, jeez?!”


 THE RETURN TRIP

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“Political Correctness” BY THE RED PHOENIX

Episode 111


page 137

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 106

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 106

…“Roy???” Braden wonders if his friend has suffered brain damage…

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“All in all, I think this bash has been a chart topping smash!” Braden King has bid adieu to all but two of the birthday partygoers, Francine and Roy, who seem to be chart-toppers-001reluctant to part company.

“A great day for those boys,” Francine has been welcomed like family. “And there are some interesting people working for NASA, well except for Roy’s secretary.”

“It is nice of you to stay on Francine. Your support and friendship is a valuable public relations coup for the space program.” Personal feelings aside, Roy cannot help but speak the truth as he sees it.

She has utterly blown off any other plans, or anyone linked to them.

“Copy that,” Braden echoes his appreciation! “Bring that bottle over here bartender,” He points to the bottle of peach schnapps and pours three shot glasses. “Let’s raise a glass to the fine people connected with Space Colony 1. Here’s to Space Colony II!”

“To Space Colony II and Sampson & Celeste McKinney,” Roy increases the tote; three small glasses of nectar clank together, by three peachy people.

The trio sits around the circular island table, dazed yet unable to wrap a bow around this evening.”

“I don’t know what is, but right now I feel like getting away for a while, you know like get my butt out of this island of titanium and technology and get it down to one of the last unspoiled islands in the Caribbean.”

“What???? Roy Crippen, married to space is considering a vacation to Puerto Rico, no way?” King knows Roy’s hesitance about the 51st State. Conversely he is serious about the man’s devotion to the Space Colony project, ever since it was on the kma-kiss-my-001drawing board.

“Yeah, what the hell, New Mayflower has no need of my doting and the “cold” weather this winter is getting to me AND to top it all off, the United States Congress is on recess; they can kiss my ass.”

“What on Earth will we do, without Mother Hen looking over our shoulders, beating a path back and forth from Galveston and Oskaloosa? Please do us a favor.” Braden cannot help himself.

Francine can identify with Roy, treating vacation and sick days like stepchildren, all the while keeping her puss in front of the camera lest a single Sweeps Period goes by without her help, including February’s. “Were you planning to leave before the end of the week?”

“I was thinking Sunday; need to tie up some loose ends, why do you knock-me-down-with-a-featherask?” He is curious.

“Well I get a discount through the station for United Airlines and Hilton Worldwide and if you don’t mind a tag-a-long…” Knock him over with a feather. “I hope I’m not overstepping, but I happen to adore Jamaica and I am overdue for a getaway.”

“I don’t fly commercial and don’t like big Hotels either.” Is he blowing her off? Is he blowing a chance at love a chance of a lifetime?brain-damage

“Roy???” Braden wonders if his friend has suffered brain damage.

‘I gave it a shot,’ Francine thinks privately, having stuck her neck is out to its vulnerable limit.

“What do you think about us taking my helicopter instead? It’s quicker and I have open reservations at a little spot called the Silver Seas in Ocho Rios.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Silver Seas Hotel

Episode 106


 page 131 (end ch. 5)

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 101

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 101

…”I don’t know what I love, been chasing after the brass ring so long, I have lost track of my North Star.”

Roy points to the early night sky and Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor…

north-star

“I have been avoiding my fiancée, some boring media banquet he wanted me to go to. Sometimes he treats me like a station commodity, not a future wife.”

“It sounds like you don’t see things his way.” Roy dares to test her loyalty.

“We are speaking different languages these days” True feelings bubble to the surface. “I think I have become his pet project, but that’s why I have a talent agent wedding-invite-001and I have no need of two.”

“Have you set a wedding date,” he forces the issue?

“A date, we’ve had 4 June dates and counting; not in the same year and I have managed to tiptoe into July every time,” like it is a Girl Scout badge. “Aren’t you going to ask me if I love him? I don’t know what I love, been chasing after the brass ring so long, I have lost track of my North Star.”

Roy points to the early night sky and Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor.

Francine nods and goes on,“He has done a lot for me, but we are losing touch, both kinds.”

“Sometimes that happens,” like Roy has ever been serious about a girl since his high school physics teacher.

interuptus

Deke and Gus choose this moment to settle a dispute, “Didn’t you choose Mom & Dad to go to Mars because they were the best astronauts for the job? Bobby says that his Dad told him that it was for advertising.publicity-stunt

“That would be a publicity stunt, Gus and no that is false. A husband/wife team was first put on the table years ago,” Roy directs his recollection at Bobby.

“My father said they flat-out screwed up,” a 15 year old’s blather.

Francine steps in, “I think your father should get his facts straight! Who is he to say something like that?”

talk-bubble-001Roy leans over to whisper in her ear.

“Then he needs to get his facts straight, nobody screwed up here.”

“What Miss Bouchette means is that the Senator from Oklahoma needs to reconsider his position, pending the results of our internal investigation.” He puts his arm around Bobby’s scrawny neck. “The entire world is rallying in support of Gus’ Mom & Dad.”

“THE 1st people on Mars and we are damned proud of them!!!” punctuates Deke, who has been encouraged never to swear… but there are exceptions.

Endless Space Video Game

Adolescent squabbles are best settled over high-tech video consoles. Bobby apologizes to the adults and off they go to the house.

“Thank you for defending Sampson & Celeste with such vigor.”

“I hope to have the privilege of meeting them soon,” she is sincere.

“I’ll hold you to that.”


 

THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 101


page 123

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 94

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 94

…Now that’s what I want to hear… enthusiasm – enthusiasm…

Image result for enthusiasm painting

Brittle Enthusiasm by Polly Castor

“The President says that there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth!”

“Is this a repeat of what went on in the 20-teens? Feed the people and starve the christopher-columbus-001space program, how shortsighted is that? Yeah, let’s try to privatize space again, we all know how that turned out; that’s like sending out Christopher Columbus with two dinghies and a canoe. By the time they get done with the Washington push-pull, a Martian colony will not be feasible, hell then we might as well shoot for the stars.”

“Not necessarily Roy, they (the McKinneys) could be debriefed en route from Mars and we could have the main body completed by then; no reason we couldn’t have #2 in place by the end of ’31.”

“A year behind schedule and not manned by our 1st string people!” Crip’s biorhythm readings are lowered to somewhere between Custer at Little Bighorn and the Captain of the Titanic; surrounded by 2000 fighting Indians & the Promenade deck listing at 45º in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

“Maybe they are right Braden. We had a serious breach of security at the very least and when the smoke clears from the inquiry, I will be working 2nd shift IT at an El Paso Automated Warehouse.”

 

“Look my friend, we are not going to let you anywhere near some half-baked witch-hunt, so I have a proposal,” Braden does what a friend does best; he tosses out a life preserver. “Come up to the Ranch (King) for a little R&R. I have a reluctant filly I’d like you to break.”

“That’s not in my wheelhouse right now. I would probably get thrown and break my back, neck, and both arms trying to cushion the fall.”

space-birthday-001“We will be expecting you on Wednesday the boys’ birthday bash and bring your bedroll.”Related image

“Hey, I can’t disappoint my biggest fans!”

“Now that’s what I want to hear…enthusiasm — enthusiasm.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 94


page 116

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 93

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 93

…the insurance carriers for Space Colony 1 are not in the mood to pay off — there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth…

insurance-001

“Two of your biggest fans got their 2 hours sleep and have been glued to KHST ever since. I don’t know if you know it, but live coverage of the launch went black about the10-1 time that you were guys were outnumbered 10 to 1. What a fright to see everything you do go down,” Braden King relates.

“How did she get the digital feed… never mind,” Francine likely made off with the footage like she walked away from Roy’s kiss.

“In fact, here is Deke McKinney with something to ask you.”

Vertical-001“That was some spicy tacos Uncle Roy; you saved the day for Mom & Dad!”

“Yeah,” Gus beaks in, “and we want to have you at our birthday party on Wednesday, maybe you can bring that hot TV reporter with you?”

“I’d love to boys, but I’ll see what I can do. I will need to get Space Colony II construction going as soon as I can fire up the production line.

For the first time in 10 minutes Braden goes silent, his end of the 1-to-1 video betraying his concern. “What’s up King? Do not be holding back on me.”

“I hate to throw cold water on your morning, but the insurance carriers for Space Colony 1 are not in the mood to pay off, at least until there is a complete investigation to what caused the accident; a meteor strike falls into the category of the “Acts of God” exemption.”

“We’ll see about that bullcrap! If they can finance the second and third Panama Canal, they can cough up the dough for us.”

“That may be so Roy, but even with the funding, Congress is convening an emergency session, called by Senator Jomayra Jiménez from Puerto Rico and you know where she thinks the money should be spent instead?”

“Sure, flush it down into a crumbling tourist-trap!”

“President Sanchez is going along with her and word has it that there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 93


page 115

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 88

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 88

…So what does shy and conservative Roy Crippen do next? He utilizes an isolated corner of Colony Mission Control to plant a very intentional kiss on Francine’s unsuspecting lips!…

“T-minus Related image00:05.00 and counting all systems go in the launch of the deep-space New Mayflower. The sky I high and we have two important people waiting for us,”

Braden next-to-last call illustrates the emotional nature of the coming mission and the dedication of the space program as a whole.

“What do you say we find ourselves a front row seat,” he puts an arm around her, “I know the guys in the box office.”

She rests her head against his cozy clavicle and together they walk away from the smoky mess back on the tarmac, like two teenagers fresh from a movie midnight double feature.

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The several hundred yards, indulgingly used to unwind, has eaten most of the time left in the fast-ly fleeting midnight launch of the New Mayflower. As they and their military entourage re-enter Colony Mission Control there is a trifling two minutes remaining until liftoff.

So what does shy and conservative Roy Crippen do next? He utilizes an isolated corner of CMC to plant a very intentional kiss on Francine’s unsuspecting lips!

No inhibition, no resistance, and no time left to speak. Actions always speak louder than words.t-minus-to-launch-001

“T-minus 00:00:30 seconds, gantry is clear,” green and go….”we have liftoff of the New Mayflower rescue mission to Mars with Commander Rick Stanley at the helm.”

A distinct sense of pride washes over Roy as he and Francine watch the deep-space shuttle knife its way into the night sky. To pull this together is such a short period of time is a feather in everyone’s cap. Amid the exhilaration of a successful gantry getaway, each and every person has stowed their prayers in its cargo hold, a petition that includes keeping the McKinneys alive long enough to benefit from NASA’s hasty rescue mission.


THE RETURN TRIP

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First Kiss by Jeffrey Koss

Episode 88


page 108

 

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