THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

…Braden King feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it and that means a change in lifestyle…

A NEW LEASE OF LIFE by UZO EGONU


This picture was drawn by Erika Aoyama 11/16/ 2002

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. —

— And until Sampson and Celeste packed their bags for Mars, Braden King also lived to work, he would come home to help work his 2500 acres and 1000 animals, catch up on the nightly news, eat some beef, steal 5 hours sleep and do it all over again.King Ranch logo

But King Ranch now teams with the vitality of two teen-aged McKinney dynamos, never more important to him, considering the status of their parents, not to mention his own recent health scare. There isn’t anything that cannot wait, unless something can’t wait, then it is filed neatly into a simple list of priorities; family first, everything else second. Never having married has made for tiny family reunions. And you can’t choose family, we all know.

Friends on the other hand, you can choose and do, while at other times they choose you and the fun is in seeing where you stand in a year, five years, etc…

He feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it. That means a change in lifestyle, from the high octane excitement of daily interaction at the Galveston Launch Facility, with whoever is outside Earth’s atmosphere at the time, to working at home from the ranch, keeping track of now ten ranch hands and two McKinney children who depend on him for everything. Braden King will not be making the same mistakes.

New projects are a good way to take your mind off of your old ways, the old days when the International Space Station required attention or that shiny-new Space Colony 1 was being towed into place or you could hardly pull yourself from watching it crawl away from SpaceDock.

With Francine and Roy coming over to spend some time, he has dusted off a 3’ cylinder that has been sitting in his hall closet, taking it over to the dining room table, removing the coiled parchment inside. It is an architectural rendering of house, three bedrooms, two baths poised on a west-facing slope about 200 yards from the main house.

As he remembers, he and Roy had been in serious discussions over the project that would be Crippen’s home away from the space program.


THE RETURN TRIP

Artist Rendition of Crippen Hacienda

Episode 150


page 184

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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, he 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 helicopter with a Russian sounding name (Sikorsky) and two tired NASA people aboard,” she states.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 149


page 183

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 144

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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.


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Episode 144


page 177

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 143

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THE RETURN TRIP– Episode 143

…I miss Earth as much as you, but we cannot allow it to disrupt our survival and seeing Braden is definitely a case of Desert Mirage Syndrome…

Desert Mirage by SoolArt deviantart.com

“Braden!” Celeste’s reference to the guardian of her children and dearest of friends is way out of context in relation to what she and Sampson were discussing, over yet another strange meal provided by the “Infinity Kitchen” of the NEWFOUNDLANDER, permanently parked on the Martian surface.

Sampson finishes swallowing the pleasant tasting orange substance he was eating to address her disjointed alluding to their friend, “What does King have to do with learning how to fly this thing.” He is itching to unravel the procedure connected to the actual engine start-up & driving of this alien contraption.

“Nothing Sam, I guess I am getting homesick.”

“Getting? So am I… so was E.T.”

“Well okay, got it bad, thinking about the kids, when I saw Braden’s face. He looked worried, like he was trying to tell me something.”

That is definitely a case of Desert Mirage Syndrome. I miss Earth as much as you, but we cannot allow it to disrupt our survival. We must keep our best wits about us!”

“Of course we do and I often fight off the homesickness, but this is different. For a moment, I would swear that he was trying to tell me something; no Deke, Gus or peanut butter cups, just Braden with a message.”

“And no Baby? Hhmmm, this must be serious.” Sampson is understandably concerned with the mental well-being of his wife, especially as it applies to her pregnancy. This imposed isolation is playing mind games with them and it is a constant struggle to repel imbalanced thoughts; and without an OB/GYN, her dietary needs may or may not being met.

“If you are worried that I am teetering on the brink, forget about it, I am fine. I am merely astonished by the clarity of the vision. He WAS trying to tell me something.”

“Does this mean I can’t commit you to that rubber-lined room, the one we haven’t figured out its purpose?”

“Your 25 credits in Psyche 101 do not cut it here, oh and by the way, your title as Commander is hereby revoked. We are on an alien spaceship and you cannot make anything work around here without my help.”


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Episode 143


page 177

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 139

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 139

…Talk to me Tuesday continues, as Francine begins to reel in the illusive astronaut.

In the course of a 3-course cattle-country lunch, Roy lays out his vision, Francine’s upfront role as his Press Secretary. “I never was any good at suffering fools, so dealing with worldwide media is not my strong suit. I mean you can’t teach physics to a preschooler, can you?”

“I’m not so sure anymore, from what Gus was telling me, they already have the necessary education to go straight into the astronaut program.”

“Gus is also positive that Earth has been visited by beings from another planet and that they have been doing since before Jesus Christ was born.”

“B.C. meaning Before Cleopatra?”

“Right, and A.D. means After  Dinosaurs. God bless him for his imagination, but for all our science, we have yet to confirm anyone’s evidence on any alien incursion.” {He could be wrong about that, right?} “Getting back to my need for a media maven; we seem to be able to work extremely well together, you can put words in my mouth and then I can focus on the important things.”

“I thought you did a good job handling me and the other scoops. I had to force my way into your insulated world.”

“Insulated… good word, but I would describe me as “in a zone”, with all the chaos going on around me. That pre-launch stuff, they have made movies about, but the difference is, I had no script to follow…and I don’t like having to explain my decisions.”

“No one can blame you for appearing myopic. I think you require the visage of The Great and Powerful OZ, while you do your thing behind the curtain.”

“Well there you go; the Wizard of OZ needs another full complement of senses to help me out.”

“I’ll give you that OZ and Dorothy raises you mine,” she tosses tortilla chips onto the breakfast nook table like she is kicking in poker chips to the pot.

“I ‘call’,” he answers as he pretends to turn over, “2 pair… Kings and Jacks.”

“Three 10s and a pair of queens… full house, I win!”

“Yes you do,” he pushes the chips over, swallows hard and then out of the blue he ups the ante, “I am not sure this is the right time, but here goes nothing: As sure as a black hole devours light, Francine Bouchette, you have captured my heart.”

All this while they have been having their adult conversation in plain sight of their two tablemates, Deke and Gus McKinney, who do a fist bump, a high five and a pinky-link, having seen Francine’s hand reach across the table, a tear trickling
down her cheek.

Deke proclaims, “Is that the best you can come up with Uncle Roy? Black Hole, that’s so cornball.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 139


page 171 (End Chapter Six)

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 137

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 137

…At least one of Roy’s fears is laid to rest, that Francine would fall back into her old life, because it would be the easy thing to do…

thecreativepanic.wordpress.com

There is no need to ring the doorbell or let-loose the family German Shepard to race out a-barking, when you land a helicopter out at the helipad in front yard of the main house of King Ranch.

And when you have two teenage boys and five farmhands out doing chores, pitchforks are dropped {tines down}, feed buckets are left unemptied, the hose leading to the water tank is unattended and tractors return from the back-forty.

Life is simple when you live on a ranch {or farm if you prefer, but this is Texas}, free of over-the-top technology or extreme urgency; it can wait ‘til later, unless it’s mealtime.

“Uncle Roy!” Deke and Gus did not know when they would see him next. Once the rotors have wound down to a stop, they charge up to welcome the pilot, “Boy, are we glad to see you!”

“It looks like you taking care of things outside; otherwise the cattle would be greeting me,” responsibility is job #1 around these parts. States of mind are #2, “How are you guys doing? Have you shaken off that little Gulf episode, the one where you were KIDNAPPED?”

“We’re okay Uncle Roy. Francine talked things over with us at breakfast and everything is cool.”

“Did Miss Bouchette drive back to the city?”

“No, she’s inside making lunch… didn’t you notice her new ride? She parked her ‘Vette, can you believe it?!”

Certainly not immune to all the fuss, Francine exits the main house looking every bit the cowgirl.

“Hello there flyboy, can I offer you a sandwich and a glass of fresh-from-the-cow milk?”

You could knock Roy Crippen over with a feather.

At least one of his fears is laid to rest, that she would fall back into her old life, because it would be the easy thing to do. He would have bet Braden’s, farm that she would have brought the kids home, tucked them in {if you actually can tuck in a teenage boy} and left.

Wrong!


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 137


page 168

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 135

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 135

…Braden King recalls Roy’s turn-of-the-century (21st) brushes with death and matrimony…

“Hot dogs, pizza puffs, mac & cheese, and Kool-Aid, that’s pretty much it, but I managed to talk my way onto an adult menu.”

“That’s the food, now what about the drugs and do they make them strong enough to tame you down?”

“Tame me or tie me down? When the boys went missing, I guessed that pushed me over the edge,” the stricken man admits. “Don’t you have a real job to go to Francine?”

“Naw, I trashed that gig when I agreed to fly off to Jamaica with you-know-who.”

 

“Yeah? Wow! I didn’t see that coming.”

“Do you think I was expecting this? I have been a big fan of Roy for a while now, but that man has got into my head and I don’t think that there is a cure for what ails me.”

“You got the Creeping Crippen! You can’t get it out of your clothes and that stain it leaves on your heart does not wash out.”

“You are his best friend Braden, so tell me the truth: Why has he never married?”

He takes her aside, “Well there he was, got his first big break after becoming an astronaut, pegged to test-pilot out a nuclear powered shuttle prototype. He was engaged to a Florida socialite at the time and she didn’t like him leaving the atmosphere, especially when she learned the nickname for test pilots, it starts
with an “L”.”

“Lunar-tics?”

“That’s a good one, but no–Lab Rats,” he recalls Roy’s turn-of-the-century (21st) brushes with death and matrimony. “When he came back to Earth, she had gone with her parents to Europe and he never heard from her again. Six months later she made headlines by marrying a 70 yr. old Greek winemaker…wasn’t right for him anyhow, but he never got over losing.”

“Was he heartbroken?” Francine loves to guess.

No. She never gave him his diamond ring back. That’s what he hated losing!”

Image result for mean nurse“Out, out, out,” the floor supervisor whispers loudly, “it is past midnight and Master King has tests scheduled first thing.”

“Never mind “Nurse No-Fun”; that’s what the other kids call her.”

“Other kids?” She gives a one-armed hug, careful not to disturb all the tubes and machines. “We will see you tomorrow, Braden. Come on boys, this filly needs to pick out a bunk.”

It is Braden’s home but, “Roy’s room at the ranch is the last door on the left. It has its own bath and I told the cleaning gal you would be coming.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 135


page 166

 

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