THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 72

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 72

…the man he is watching is as cool as a comet in between stars and manning his post like he belonged there…

comet

Jim Scotti’s Comet Artwork

“There is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”

“And you don’t dare question someone’s qualifications. Political correctness has been the ruin of this world,” Francine adds her opinion about questioning anything about anybody… and the fallout.

Without hesitation Roy brings the room consuming monitor to life. Francine can see that it is not an ordinary one, seeming to follow Roy’s slightest gesture, the picture races through various angles of Colony Control.

A Happy Gherkin

It does come to rest, Roy’s steely blues focused on a shot of Gurkhas {not Gherkin} Shah Dhangotma. Of all the Hindi/Arab/Buddhist, Middle and Far East cultures in of this selective space community, this particular man has left him with an uneasy no-peaceful feeling; replacing a previously healthy and indispensable man in Phil Jansky. And what is worse and more telling, is that he doesn’t even know who is doing the hiring since the death of Fred Cabell. It’s enough to put his spinning head on a swivel.

But if he were the informant or the mole or the mastermind, any of the three, the man he is watching is as cool as a comet in between stars and manning his post like he belonged there. But Roy cannot clear his mind’s ear of the man’s clumsy English in the moment before Space Colony 1’s ruin.

“Keep an eye on that guy,” Francine is told, “if he makes any sudden moves, give a holler.”

She obliges and can actually be helpful after getting a few quick tips about controlling that section of the screen… with a blink of an eye.

2018 Map Before the formation of Talibanistan

Roy turns to text searches that may support his flimsy suspicion, or not. Dhangotma’s personnel file is bland and incomplete, though the Baikonur Cosmodrome is listed as experience. Even his file picture has mug shot written all over it, but it is not viewed by someone who knows a hoot about the man.

In alternating between the files and the live video, comparing it to their meeting earlier in the day, his eyes tell him ‘not the same guy’; his memory screams ‘he had jet-black hair, not dark brown’. He knows that you don’t change Spatial Debris techs like you change passwords.

“What’s he been up to?”

“He raised his hand, got up and came back a minute or two
later. My guess it was a quick pee.”

“Then why has his hair color changed?” On a thin whim he says, “Let’s pay Gherkin a visit.” With time dwindling, hunches played trump hunches ignored.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 72


page 68

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 67

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 67

…Roy Crippen’s thoughts degrade to the horrifying events of 12 hours ago, when everything was going at the same giddy canter then, until things reached the point of no return

aviation_artist-alan_hindle_painting_vickers_vimy_alcock_brown_point_of_no_return-01

Point of no Return – Vickers Vimy Transatlantic flight of Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown- by Alan Hindle

An eight month round trip awaits the 3 modern day Mayflower’s astro-sailors, prepared now to be flung away from Earth’s gravity out to a new completely literal New World. {There was supposed to be a few dozen others aboard} Roy speaks to Rick Stanley, the commander of the rescue mission, who not coincidentally was the understudy for Chronicle’s  assignment, without the benefits of a cutie copilot; his 2nd has chest-hair with the name of Saul.

“As soon as you get within hailing range, at about half way there, please go over the shuttle-to-lander docking procedure, it has never been done in space.”

“What if they don’t have the power to lift off?”

“Well… in that case you will need to test your landing skills ‘cause it ain’t going to be like Elgin A.F.B (Lovell Space Center),” Roy is stressing flexibility in the face of fluidity. “I do not want you coming back empty handed.”

“I have been running through all the possibilities one by one, Roy.” There is only one person who has  Sampson McKinney’s flying skills, but she is in the same hope-lacking boat, so 2nd place goes to Rick Stanley. “What I can’t do, Sammy Mac will tell me, no doubt.”

“The new booster package should get you off the ground and out, right Karl?”

“Escape velocity is 5.027 km/sec, which is less than half of Earth’s, so if you take off at a low trajectory you can get up and out with minimal fuel consumption.”

“Yeah, it would be a bitch if we had to coast home, but I am hoping we can do this in space.”

USS Hillary R Clinton

The brief statistical back-and-forth ends when the countdown demands Commander Rick’s full attention. Every minute passing brings him closer to a launch that has only been attempted in a simulator, yes a simulator. The New Mayflower is perched at a 45º angle, aboard a 100 yard ramp and ready to be hurled, like an F-77N Navy fighter off the flight deck of the USS Hillary R Clinton, knifing through the atmosphere, while missing every orbiting object circling the globe.

Roy’s thoughts degrade to the horrifying events of 12 hours ago. Things were going at the same giddy canter then, until things reached the point of no return. Just what was the exact cause of that muddle had to be set aside for the current rescue mission, but he would definitely sift through the evidence leading to Space Colony’s unexplained demise.


THE RETURN TRIP

space-colony-1-disaster-001

Episode 67


page 64

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 58

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 58

Image result for quotation marksImage result for quotation marks…Thank you watching this special report, I am Steven Sharkey. We will be seeing you at our 5:30 Newscast,..

pregnant-pause

…I get one (plucking) line at the end? What is that?” Only some of that reaches the air…

“Nnnooooooo,” screams Deke McKinney, leaping to his feet, a boiling flash of blood flowing to his brain. The brothers stand together, eyes fixed to the televiewer.

Vertical-001Vertical-001“These are Roy Crippen’s words to me,‘At approximately 11 AM local time, Space Colony 1vanished from NASA tracking. The astronaut team of Commander Sampson McKinney and Lt. Commander Celeste McKinney, who were on the surface of Mars at the time on the 1st surface exploration, are believed to be thriving, though communication has been disconnected on their end. There are sketchy clues to what may have occurred.

‘We have weighed all viable options and have decided to launch the deep-space shuttle New Mayflower, with a skeleton crew of three, to effect the rescue of the McKinneys before their means of survival have been exhausted. This unprecedented Midnight launch will retrieve two of the World’s greatest space pioneers.’

“He finished by telling this reporter, ‘Plans are already in the making, discussed by our consortium partners, to build a second orbiting Colony in place starting before this year is out.’

“This is Francine Bouchette and KHST 13 will continue to monitor this tragedy and will bring you the latest, whenever that will be… back to you Steven.”Image result for blooper

Thank you watching this special report, I am Steven Sharkey, we will be seeing you at our 5:30 Newscast,closes an embarrassingly mortified co-anchor. “I get one (plucking) line at the end? What is that?” Only some of that reaches the air


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 58


page 55

 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

…A cold chill travels up her spine at the thought of the reprehensible plight of the McKinneys…

time-magazine-001

Since the newswoman is so close to going with this story live, she takes a deep breath to reassess the wisdom of her coming actions. In the big scheme of things, nothing is bigger than {breaking} news of a probable Space Colony disaster, but in her hours compiling file footage, Francine has come to admire the husband-wife astronaut team, who have invested their lives, sacrificed valuable family time, and now may be doomed to sacrificing their lives, literally.

Image result for #1Image result for #2She discovers a hidden reserve of compassion deep down inside. It has never been clearer why the attractive couple ranked #1 & #2 in  TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 Most Influential People issue, for the second consecutive year. Last year they were just appearing on the national scene as an epic family.

A cold chill travels up her spine at the thought of the reprehensible plight of these good folk.

What had started out as breaking news about the demise of Space Colony 1 unexpectedly evolves into a mournful hodge-podge of doom and gloom, mostly because of the time she would devote to Sampson and Celeste McKinney, their lives on Earth and their fate in space. But the truth is, the details are meager and the creative latitude too tempting.Image result for 4:30

The script as she wrote it has a somber tone, with a theme that challenges NASA’s goals and the price it has exacted on the world economy, along with unrealized expectations. It is 4:30 and she programs her words into the teleprompter, something she almost never does.

When she takes a break before heading to make-up and hair, the gaunt face of Roy Crippen, whose eyes display the stress of unmitigated devotion, keep popping into her brain. He has become the face of Space Colony 1, unfailingly cooperative to a fault and polite beyond belief; all those inane questions from ignorant neophytes. She cannot help but project the man’s current mental state and her uncensored news flash may push him past some unforeseen brink.

Suddenly, like a sinner being visited by an angel of mercy, Francine finds herself racing to the nearest desk phone.  In a minute she is hailing the line leading directly to the Galveston launch facility. She gets funneled into a cybex satellite telecommunication router.

“Galveston Launch, we are currently unavailable due to technical problems.”

It sounds like a computer generated voice.

“Oh yeah – you can *#%+@&! – you stupid machine! I need to speak with Mr. Roy Crippen and I mean now!”

“I am sorry but he is unavailable.”newsroom-001

That is not an automated voice. Oops.

“My name is Francine Bouchette, from KHST 13 Television, Houston. I have urgent information that I need to discuss with Mr. Crippen.”

“There is a news conference scheduled for one o’clock AM and your station will be receiving a press release shortly. Until then, he remains unavailable.” She is firm.

Francine is even more firm, “I know what happened to Space Colony 1.”

There is no response.

“I am going live in twelve minutes.”

“Please hold the line.

If she hadn’t stopped smoking, in the interest of white teeth and porcelain skin, this would be the perfect time for a 100 Slim Menthol. The digital clock clicks down to 9 minutes before the live cut-in.

“Get on the stick Lady,” she mumbles into the phone.

It is three more minutes before an anxious male voice joins the connection.

“What exactly do you think you know about Space Colony, Ms. Bouchette,” this man doesn’t beat around the bush.


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Angel of Mercy by Fluro Knife deviantart.com

Episode 55


page 52

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 54

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 54

…When Francine concentrates on a task at hand (instead of her 15-story ego) it amazes even herself

Image result for ego artwork

Stella Im Hultberg ‘Alter Ego’ Painting

For once in her life, Francine escapes the limelight to seek out and pick the brain of the station’s NASA expert; when in doubt, go to those in the know. In this space-saturated news environment, admittedly, she did not pay close attention to the Space Colony story, merely glossing over the copy her “inept script writer” provided for broadcasts.

Being the weekend, the space geek is at home, so she must do some videophone work to get her information, “Good afternoon Gilly, can you give me a few minutes?” The person on Francine’s screen is not thrilled, but is professional enough to comply.

Randi Gilbert

“Sure Miss Bouchette, what can I do for you,” Randi Gilbert, who is a former test pilot for the Air Force, has a fluid pipeline to the goings-on both at Lovell and Galveston.

“Say, I am working on this story for tonight’s cast and I need some background stuff about Space Colony 1 and that married couple Celeste and Sampson McKinney. I have been looking at file files, but I’m not getting a good feel for them as real people.”

“They are THE story of the 21st Century so far Francine…”

Gilbert goes on to tell the story of a true space family, whose heritage and focus is all about exploration, “to boldly go” as once was said.

She goes on to explain just how massive an undertaking that the world-cooperative-project truly is. 135 countries, with two or so notable exceptions, have pooled their talent and resources to give the planet Earth an out if-you-will, a relatively nearby outpost, as well as a future home to hundreds of settlers…

“Thank you for everything Randi, we will have to do lunch one of these days.”

Like that will ever happen,

“You bet Francine.”

That would be goodbye for now.

Dominic Urbano, Digital Artist

Dominic Urbano, Digital Artist

When Francine concentrates on a task at hand, instead of her 15-story ego, it amazes even herself. Behind that brazened façade lays an appreciable amount of untapped potential, perhaps needing an infusion of COMountain Dew carbonation to encourage the coming out of that trapped talent.

Her further research centers around the year 2018, about the time the Space Colony project morphed from the state of figures and computer animation, to a worldwide financial octopus; the substantive mass of lightweight titanium it has ultimately become {unthinkably became?}. With Galveston so close at hand, the crux of R & D for generations of NASA ventures, KHST’s story files are crammed with stories of the men and machines that explore beyond Earth’s atmosphere.


THE RETURN TRIP

Jung’s Model of the Psyche.

Jung’s Model of the Psyche.

Episode 54


page 52

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!!


 THE RETURN TRIP

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new-mayflower-001

Episode 48


page 46

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 47

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 47

…What exactly is your point Mr. Frodo — that that Sang-Ashi thing is really a weapon?…

Related image

What space looks like to kids 2ND PLACE (MULTIMEDIA), 6TH-8TH GRADE Student: Anolani School: Kapolei Middle School Location: Kapolei, Hawaii

“Your story is intriguing Mr. Afridi, but our spatial debris monitor assures me there is nothing in the vicinity of Mars.”

january20“My calculations show otherwise; it was to pass within 10 thousand kilometers on in the 20th day of the first month 2030… today!”

“He should know Crip, he helped build the darn thing,” Braden reminds him.

Image result for frodo

Frodo by Rolozo Tolkien

What exactly is your point Mr. Frodo — that that Sang-Ashi thing is really a weapon? We are currently out of contact with Space Colony, specifically the Mars lander. The McKinney’s are currently spending daylight hours on the surface of the planet.”

It is Afridi, Aldona Afridi, and that is not a good sign. You should signal the Colony to activate its energy absorption field.”

This guy is acquainted with sensitive tech info. “You know more about the orbiting station than you should.”

“I am a great admirer of the project and regret not being allowed to offer my talents to it.”

There is a brief pause in the conversation, as Roy directs key personnel to check out Afridi’s assertions. His news is disturbing, yet there is no harm is arming the energy absorption field.

“Space Colony!!!!!!!!!”

A dazed technician stands, face paled by disbelief.

“What are you saying son,” Roy reacts to the commotion caused by the suddenly sullen young man.viewscreen-2-001

“It’s gone…” All he can do is point at the mission mockup and the flashing light that no longer shows an 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 technicians.


THE RETURN TRIP

space-colony-ii-001

Episode 47


page 45

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 45

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 45

“We are tracing the signal, we believe it originated somewhere in the Middle East.”…

broken-signal

Broken Signal by Carlo Formisano

“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen.”

The remarkable power of a single laminated business card is opening doors Afridi did not know he would be walking through. Now, whether or not -whoever picks up- at Lovell Space Center or Galveston Launch will be as receptive, that remains to be seen. If and it is a big IF he can pull it off, Afridi will be breaking Image result for radio transmissioninto the secure frequency band used by the Space Colony mission; highly irregular and extremely illegal.

Abad the Turkish METEOR Radyo-master gives the earnest scientist a quick run-through of all the pertinent buttons and switches of the equipment, then leaving him to the fate of the frequency. He is fairly sure that the station’s anonymity will be untraceable; thereby absolving it of culpability. Unless, that is, if this guy saves the world, in which case he would gladly share in the glory.

Aldona looks back at Fatima, who throws him a good-luck kiss. He then takes a deep breath and initiates his long-range pirate transmission.

“Mission Control, come in. This is an urgent matter,” he urges in his bifurcated English intonation.

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“What was that? I don’t recognize that voice,” Sampson is distracted, “did you hear that Crip?”

The Mars landing sortie was supposed to be a private party.

“We are tracing the signal, we believe it originated somewhere in the Middle East.”

“I was thinking the man has a Jupiter accent,” chimes too kool for his spacesuit Sam.

“There was a large solar flare a couple days ago, probably a piggyback transmission,” Celeste speculates.

“Let them take care of that Cel, let’s get closer to this thing,” Sam’s eyes are trained on the forty foot high blinding-lightunnatural object that had stolen their attention, before they were rudely interrupted.

As they move in, a blinding flash engulfs the landscape, bright enough to light the already daylight Mars landscape. Horrified at the unsavory possibilities, Sampson McKinney switches to Tycho’s skyward monitor, perhaps to catch an incoming meteor. Debris is pelting the ground around them.

“What in God’s name!?” That could have been voiced by anyone of them.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 45


page 43 (end ch. 2)

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 44

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 44

…“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen.”…

Mehmet Erim leads the Afridi’s into the radio station, the empty halls echoing the voices, of many anxious voices, over the over-the-air loudspeakers. His brother-in-law Abad sees Mehmet as an opportunist, always looking to make a fast Turkish Lira or having married his sister out of hunger.103.00 METEOR RADYO FM utilizes the tallest spire on a deserted building, with a sole lonesome announcer at the microphone. Image result for radio studio telephonesThere is a citywide buzz about the fracas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque; dead bodies always generate high audience participation.

“What do you want Erim? Make it quick; can’t you see that all the lines are lit up like the Sultan Mosque?” In the midst of a cluttered newsroom, he is short with Mehmet and before he gets a response, he asks, “Who are these people and why do you bring them here?”

Sometimes, when his wife’s brother talks down to him, he feels like rubbing his smug egotistical face into a dj-001wall, but this time it is he who is holding the trump card, an insider mosque story that will boost the ratings on The Mad Morning Turk Show. He cannot wait to see the look on his face when he realizes it.

“Abad, these good people were at the mosque in Galata. They are Talibanistani defectors wanting to talk with the man in charge of Space Colony 1.”

“So would I Mehmet. Many of my listeners are following Turkey’s contribution to the Mars Colony… great story.” In a ratings driven industry, it’s all about the buzz. “There is a trail of blood following these innocent looking persons. What makes you think that I can help them?”

space-colony-banner-001“This,” simply stated and effective = Abdullah Ashtaar, “and the fact that you control the world’s most powerful narrowband radio signal. Mr. Afridi here knows the frequency that the American Space Program uses.”

“If the exalted Abdullah Ashtaar gives you his blessing, who am I to doubt you, Mehmet.” He never calls him by his first name.

“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen,” pleads Afridi.


THE RETURN TRIP

103-radyo-fm-001

Episode 44


page 42

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 40

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 40

…“Have you not run into any Talibanistani agents hot on my trail, as The Lone Ranger would say?”…

Hot on the trail

“It may appear unbelievable on the surface, but I swear I need to speak with Director Crippen. He will distinguish of what I speak.” Afridi insists.

“How do you know Roy Crippen?”

“I do not know him, but a long time ago I petitioned my government to work on the Mars colony. Like any other dedicated scientist in the world, I wanted to join the paramount project man has ever undertaken.”

“Talibanistan was given every opportunity to join with the free-world, but they chose to belittle and criticize the waste; the ‘there are still starving tribesmen’ in the world argument.”

Afridi hangs his head low in disgust and disdain.

“You must understand our hesitance in chasing after your wild accusations. A killer satellite launched from a camel’s back? For all we know, you just needed a good excuse to request asylum. We cannot take in everyone who claims to be oppressed.”

“Have you not run into any Talibanistani agents hot on my trail, as The Lone Ranger would say?”

“Oh, we know you have stirred up a hornet’s nest alright.”

“Then get my message to Roy Crippen, or better yet let me talk the science of my claims, to support my story in person.”

“Maybe in 5, 6 hours, we’ll see.” Elliot Deming turns to walk away from the Image result for if and buts were candy and nutsissue. He regrets not having the authority…..if ifs & buts were candy & nuts.

“Wait Mr. Deming sir, I ask but one thing, that I am able to stay with my family, they have been through much.”

“I see no harm in that,” concedes the Consul General. “Move Mister Afridi into his family’s quarters, Sargent.”

“But that is up on the ground floor sir, not as secure.”

“It may be academic in a few hours; do as I say!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 40


page 38