THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 205

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 205

…great pains have been taken to restore the spacecraft to how they found it (minus the dead space-guy dudes) approx. 5 years ago…

For all the tragedy and misfortune that the Space Family McKinney has endured, most astronomers worth their salt would give over the left side of their brain for this opportunity.

This, “plain dumb luck” as Sammy Mac puts it, renews the group vitality. The Sammy Mac tag is a well-earned nickname, born out of sure bravado and worn like a merit badge. Before the sudden disembarking, the McKinney family unit had been sentenced to a potential lifetime on that barren red sphere, with only their resourcefulness as a survival skill. Badge awarded: Planetary Exploration.

They likely will never know that fate actually interfered and whisked them away from a New Mayflower rescue. Perhaps it is just as well.

So now comes the chance, however up-in-the-air, to actually have other beings to interact with; to share knowledge and history, keep company or perchance complete a rewarding life. That which was out of reach 5 years ago has been broached in the unlikeliest of circumstance.

To erase any possible doubts as to their intentions in their awkward capacity as stowaways and reflect positively on their culturally civil nature, great pains have been taken to restore the spacecraft to how they found it (minus the dead space-guy dudes).

“How are we going to explain the absence of their crew?” Celeste wonders while she and Sammy tidy up.

“Hopefully they have already guessed the fate of the expedition, seeing that it had gone on so long and returns only by the grace of automatic recall. If these folks bury their dead, we can show them the pictures of their Martian graveyard. If they do not bury their dead and consider the practice barbaric, then we didn’t see anyone on Mars alive or dead!”

From out of nowhere, a new sound filters into the bridge of the ship named by them, NEWFOUNDLANDER. Celeste is quick to identify it, “That is music played on a recorder! Why didn’t I pick up on that earlier?”

“Recorder, as in recorded music?”

“No I mean recorder….a 12th Century crude version of the flute… a musical instrument.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 205


page 185

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 200

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 200

…We may be treated like unwanted visitors, stowaways feeling like common squatters on someone’s private property…

Stowaway Peers Out at the Speed of Light by James Rosenquist

Just how long would it be before an Earth produced space vehicle can match the fleeting speed of the outbound NEWFOUNDLANDER?

That very subject is broached by the senior member of the Space Family McKinney, who along with the rest is traveling multiples of the speed-of-light, not by the grace of genius or invention, but by pure dumb (bad) luck, especially since the New Mayflower would have rescued them several years ago.

“Do you realize that we could have made about a half a million round trips from Mars to Earth by now?” Sammy Mac enlightens anyone who bothers to listen. “If only I could steer this thing!”

“Yes dear, you’ve told us at least that many times in however many years it has been,” answers Celeste, who comprises one of the two other pairs of ears on the ship, “but we agreed to let the NEWFOUNDLANDER go its own way, likely with a purpose as we have determined and if we don’t stop where we think it is going to, then we’ll consider turning around.”

“We’ve come this far haven’t we? I guess it would be impolite to turn back right now. Hell, Gus & Deke may pay us a visit one of these years. The only obstacle I can think of is coming up with a hull superstructure that is strong enough to withstand the pressure and skin radiation. AND if they follow the path to cold fusion, which is the heart of the SOL Project, at least in its infancy — they might be zipping along like us in no time.”

“That is a wonderful thought Sam, but we may find ourselves in a tenuous situation soon. We may be treated like unwanted visitors, stowaways feeling like common squatters on someone’s private property.She climbs into the King Ranch WABAC machine. “Do you remember that house Braden was supposed to look after back in ’23?”

“Yes, he was doing the neighbor rancher a favor, or so he thought, while they went north for the summer… they really hated the 100º  degree weather in the summer.”

“What is 100 degree weather Daddy?” Deimostra Samantha McKinney, the first child-of-space has many questions about a home planet that she has only heard stories about.

“Let Mommy finish her story….”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 200


page 184

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 171

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 171

…“How do I politely kick the butt of the first female presidential candidate since 2016?”…

To his credit, Roy Crippen has been coached into being an eloquent speaker, once some of that Texas drawl is withdrawn and his quiet ways set aside for super-sized Roy.

His sneakily crafted campaign assault against Pete Sanchez and his policies are working. The once modest crowds are increasing steadily. He seems to be growing in popularity with people who are taking the future seriously, not just along for the ride.

His speech today at Chicago’s Lincoln Park & Zoo expects to draw 100,000; none of them Republican Party plants, as opposed to the Kool-Aid drinking poster-wavers at {Sanchez VP} Sylvia Freelove’s scripted stops. Sometimes it’s hard not to think that he is running against Pete Sanchez.

How do I politely kick the ass of the first female presidential candidate since 2016?”

“Let me see that tie,” insists Francine and far from the first female first lady hopeful. By virtue of a scheduling snafu, Francine is in the Windy City to speak to the convention of Aeronautic Manufacturing Contractors in her newest/continuing duties as Public Relations Executive for NASA. Today she will wear both gaudy hats, much like her candidate hasn’t completely left NASA behind, “Did I pick that one out?”

He proudly cinches up his favorite Orion Constellation tie. “I am, after all, “The Hunter” in this campaign…..hunting down an obstacle to social progress and an opponent to a second Mars Colony.”

“I’m not sure the voters are going to make the connection Roy. It looks like you splattered paint on it from 30 feet away. Maybe the one that matches your eyes would be a better choice.”

“Bloodshot?”

She completely ignores that comment, spoken by a man with his mind set on his, ‘This is my lucky tie.’

“Wasn’t that the tie you were wearing the day the New Mayflower landed on Mars?”

“Okay it may not be all that lucky, but there is something about it that is consoling.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Lucky Goldfish by Pan Xiao Ling

Episode 171


page 162

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 167

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 167

… I am issuing a gag order, no network feed until further notice. I don’t want Deke and Gus finding out their parents are missing…

“Mission Control, we have a problem,” Rick Stanley reports. “We are seeing some surface disturbance in Space Colony 1 lander’s landing field and it looks fresh, real fresh. Can you see what we see?”

Braden King and Roy Crippen are only separated by their cuffed shirt-sleeves, side-by-side to rely on the other for support.

Braden wonders why neither McKinney is signaling their brave rescuers in any way…. or answering the hails… .or firing a single blast from the quieted Tycho.

Roy is in possibilities mode… they are conserving fuel… they are low on oxygen…that impact crater, maybe a meteorite knocked out their communication gear.

Anxiety levels on Earth can be measured at the Moon Station and the beating of hearts drown out any other sound. Even the successful landing of the New Mayflower fails to break the spell.

“Two of us are going EVA. We can see lights on inside the lander and one of them is the green airlock beacon!”

“Doesn’t that mean they’re out of the lander?” Braden knows enough about procedure to be dangerous.

“You’ll need to close the airlock manually to balance the air and pressure before you enter,” Roy cautions and informs those who have not been around a lander simulator for a while.

It seems like only yesterday that New Mayflower had Mars within
hailing distance. Was it too much to ask for Sampson & Celeste jump on the horn and say “hey!”? Shouldn’t monumental effort be rewarded when expectations are being met?

Those damned Koreans officially leapfrog Osama Bin Laden as “Satan of the Century”? It is a very long line of evil and growing.

“It’s a good thing we did not run a live feed to the networks, in fact I am issuing a gag order until further notice. I don’t want Deke and Gus seeing this stuff.”

One doesn’t read a book from back to front, right?–


Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) is any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere. {Wikipedia}


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 167


page 158

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

Leave a comment

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


page 157

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 158

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 158

CHAPTER EIGHT

 Going Somewhere? {very far?}

…The most noted casualty from the space-spat-dust-up is President Sanchez, who had to stand up in the moment, to straddle the fence…

The Mercury Seven in 1960. Back row: Shepard, Grissom, Cooper; front row: Schirra, Slayton, Glenn, Carpenter. This was the only time they would appear together in pressure suits. (wikipedia)

The intervening months in the lives of Roy Crippen and his new bride, now a hyphenated-lady {Francine Bouchette-Crippen}, are quite tranquil in comparison to the preceding 80 eventful days. That Sunset Hill house-ienda that Braden King had started has taken full form. With the national space program on the back-burner for a few more weeks, much of Roy and Francine’s time is spent interior decorating and bonding with Deke and Gus, the McKinney kids whose given names intentionally, not coincidentally mirror those of the pioneering Mercury 7 astronauts {D. Slayton – G. Grissom}, in NASA’s infant forays outside the ionosphere.

 Those young men, with their adolescent world in flux, have taken to the new arrangement with determined zeal. They have no shortage of foster parents who love them like their own and the youthful refreshing presence they offer may be the very reason that Braden has recovered from his health issues fully intact. His debilitating concern about Sampson & Celeste has waned, primarily in the final days before the New Mayflower scoops them up and brings them home.

As for the world in general, the moral fallout from the United States’ assault on the enemies of  the World Space Consortium has been swept away like the dust in a stiff wind. The indisputable evidence about Sang-Ashi’s intended mission removes any need for justification, as civilian casualties in the affected areas were negligible and both of those countries do not publicly acknowledge setbacks that aren’t caused by earthquake, monsoon or outside propaganda.

The most noted casualty from the space-spat-dust-up is the man who had to stand up in the moment, to straddle the fence that divides right and wrong, but only history may judge him correctly in the future.

President Pete, as he likes being called, has been skewered by the court of public opinion, by those who hide behind their AnonyMssg, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging bravado. The ironic thing is, that for the first time in his 6+ years in office, he made the tough call and is paying a political price for that.

Even though he was hailed privately for employing brilliant strategy while accomplishing a perfect measure of revenge without reprisal, critics of such bravado hound for using the end of his second term to bolster his already weak legacy; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 158


page 149

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 144

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 144

…Before we get sidetracked by sonic overload, I was trying to tell you – that I think I could fly the NEWFOUNDLANDER back to Earth…

Sonic Overload by Caleb Brown

“Your title as Commander is hereby revoked. We are on an alien spaceship and you cannot make anything work around here without my help.”

“That is true, but the rent is paid off ‘til the end of the year and the groceries are free.”

“Money for nothing and the chicks for free.. and the music IS free, that’s right, the slightest gesture sets off some out-of-this-world sounds.” What humans refer to as musical notes and reverberations, the Newfoundlians use a form of communication. “I really miss my Justin Timberlake Collection.”

“You do have a sexy back, but I do not miss that guy… Galactic Static is more my taste.”

“How did we ever stand each other’s taste in music, long enough to get married?”

“Before we get sidetracked by sonic overload, which we can’t turn off, I was trying to tell you that I think I could fly this thing home.”

“And pass up the rescue mission without them seeing us? And when we land, if you can land it, can we convince our own people that the NEWFOUNDLANDER means them no harm,” she teases. “We would probably be shot down by air defenses, thinking we were an incoming Korean bomber.”

“But Korea is harmless, remember what President Sanchez told the world?”

“The New Mayflower expects to find us more than half-starved and happy to see them, so lets let them be half-right.”

“Good point Lt. Cmdr. McKinney, but I still may try to fly it back just to prove I can.”

Try is the operative word Sam. You are light years from understanding their technology and probably 20 light years from the folks who do.”

“I hate it when you’re right.”

“Always right and when did you finally come to that brilliant conclusion?”

“But, but, but… with me and a crew of three, I think I could get us back to Earth!” Right now, he would be 1.5 short of that.

“Let’s just concentrate on studying these beings, their technology, and find out where they came from. We have the time to have a complete dossier prepared, in the 2-odd months we have left. We can ‘present it as a present’, this incredible discovery, to the world; Perhaps the greatest contribution to the world since the wheel or fire.”

“I was thinking the microprocessor, but you are right, let’s get to work.”

She was right again. They have all the time in the world; the difference being that Mars is currently their world and the word “time” means different things to different people.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 144


page 136

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

Leave a comment

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


page 132

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 133

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 133

Hey buddy, you’re out in real space, you better be prepared for the unknown…

Floating In Unknown by Andrea Banjac

— With the condition of Braden King weighing him down, the well-being of the Space Family McKinney both here and on Mars occupying its regular space, and his unattended new relationship with Francine Bouchette bouncing around the lonely corners of his heart, Roy is forced to put those on back burners to deal with the not-so-clear and present realities that reside in that yawning dark space between the Moon and the Red Planet.

There at the launch facility he can speak directly to Cmdr. Rick Stanley, which is a luxury, considering the fractional parsecs of unknown-ities that surround the situation, “How are you doing young Rick?”

“We are just about ready to hit the hay for a month or so. Without a night and day as guideposts, it has been hard to get any rest at all.”

“I hate to the bearer of bad news, but we will need to put-off your long summer’s nap for a few days; I have a couple of things I need you to do.”

“As long as we get paid overtime… sure thing Boss!”

“I have a meeting with Global 9 Insurance and I’ll see what they cover, but for now I need for you change your heading, enough to take you a couple thousand miles to the right hand side of your flight plan and stick to that course until I tell you to go back to the original.”

“Okay?” The New Mayflower space pilot complies, taking mere seconds to do so. “Are we trying to lose that nagging echo? I know it cannot keep up with our new propulsion system?”

“Good. Now if you check your data banks, you will find a .pdf file named Afridi. Please download it now.”

“Afraid-y? We ain’t scared of nothing out here, ‘cept asteroids and hemorrhoids.”

“a-f-r-i-d-i and do not sit on this. I want you to hotwire it into the circuits of that
bucket of titanium you are driving.”

“This looks like a combination of an energy damper and electron scrambler. Is this a weapon or a shield and why are you being cryptic?” These defensive alterations have the rescue mission captain wondering. “And what about the bogey we’re trying to shake?”

Roy wants Rick to stick to the basics, so as not to keep them awake for the final two months of their mission. “And one more thing, tell your buddy AL to wake you guys up if he senses anything else manmade out there.”

AL is the generic, but contiguously used name for the on-board annoyingly expressive interactive computer systems that are built-in to every NASA spacecraft.

“We have AL’s volume muted. Someone, who best remains nameless, decided to give him a sense of humor.”

“Don’t blame it on anyone here Rick. I think AL is doing his own evolutionary augmentations; can you blame him after losing his brother the Chronicle. They are all interconnected you know.””

“You talk about AL like he is a life form.”

“Hey buddy, you’re out in real space, you better be prepared for the unknown. Is an evolving computer so unbelievable?  No it’s not, so work with AL… and keep your powder dry.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Artificial Intelligence by Mehau Kulyk

Episode 133


page 125 + 126

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 124

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 124

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

Cunning by Skia on DeviantArt.com

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

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 118 + 119