THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

 “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.”…

Image result for crank call

Crank Call by Graham Annable

“I will tell you of something your greedy leaders will not: At eleven o’clock AM Texas time, the Earth’s ultimate imperialistic endeavor, Space Colony 1 has been completely and utterly destroyed!” There is more than one stab into the belly and genuine pride in his delivery.

Francine eases herself down into her chair, gasping at the mere thought. This man does not sound like your typical crank.

“Did you hear me woman? The Taliban, Nepal and Korean governments applaud this accident. Allah and Buddha have spoken.”

“I heard you,” she whispers faintly. Everyone in southern Texas knows someone who works in the space industry or Space Colony specifically. “I am not inclined to believe you sir,” is all the journalism she can muster.

“You are the only civilian who has this information, use it to disgrace the infidels and enhance your own career and that of your station. Reuters would gladly break this story, no problem.”

“If I am the only Westerner to know this, if it is true, wouldn’t NASA want to hold a formal press conference?”

“But you do not want to share the spotlight,” he pauses, she mulls. “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.” He slips back into his Arabic vernacular.

“I’ll need more information before I can break this story.”

“You must have a source in the space program; I suggest you confirm it with them. But they will tell you the same things, if they are honest. They will speak of how an asteroid has destroyed your space station and stopped the useless expansion into space. They may try to rescue the project, but they will fail, Allah has prevailed. You will not discover your source…”

A dial tone abruptly replaces the bearer of horrible news.

And what is she to do with this? No one else of import is at the station.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 52


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 46

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 46

CHAPTER THREE

 Up A Creek

…like I was saying, the Korean Sang-Ashi Probe is not an ordinary satellite…

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Whistleblower © Ben Jennings/Cartoon Movement

 “I think we have reestablished voice-com on the secure channel, listen,” Braden King carries it over to the intercom.

Colony Control

Colony Control

“Mission Control Galveston, can you hear me please?”

“Sam must be trying out a new accent,” comments Roy.

“Is this another of your jokes Sam?” Braden is sorting things out.

Aldona Afridi is just as, if not more confused. Is this the way Americans communicate on their space missions?

“I need to speak to a Roy Crippen, the Mission Director.”

The man himself answers, “This is he and what are you doing on this secure band?” He is firm, yet yielding.

Sang-Ashi Probe“My name is Aldona Afridi. I am the Chief Ordinance and Systems Engineer for the Sang-Ashi Deep Space Probe. I have defected; I am in Turkey in order to give you vital information.”

Roy is holding back, waiting for anyone else with a clue to jump in. He whispers, “I seem to remember hearing that name in connection to Korean Space. Isn’t that probe passing by Mars soon … and could this be the cause of our communication gap with Mars, Braden? Maybe they are doing some spying.”

“No telling Crip, this is strange, but yes that Korean thing is out there somewhere, maybe it’s lost. We are not seeing it.”

“You have obviously gone to some effort to speak to me, so for now, I will listen to what you have to say.”

“Very well, like I was saying, the Korean Sang Ashi Probe is not an ordinary satellite, in the codessense that it has its own defense laser ordinance. It is far more powerful than it needs to be, but I was forced to design it as such.”

“Why does a space probe need defensive systems?” wonders Roy aloud.

“They told me it was for warding off asteroids and meteors; not an unusual reaction for the paranoid Koreans. But I start to suspect that they had something else in mind, when they ask me for the manual override codes for the laser. I refuse and that is why my family and I escape to Turkey and precisely why I need to warn you.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 46


page 44

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 24

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 24

…The Space Colony 1 mission will be a steppingstone to the stars….

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The large real-time holographic mock-up of Mars is immediately beside the live video feed, making it hard to take your eyes off them. The Mission mock-up has been a control room fixture since the project was in its infancy. The 15′ x 20′ comes from the camera aboard Space Colony 1 and was only turned on by its tenants when they arrived.

The Tow-Drone, Martian Mule, had hauled the Space Colony 1 out to Mars orbit 10 months ago, two months ahead of the Chronicle’s arrival, yet those epic events now pale into comparison to where Tycho is about to go; the tranquil crimson Martian plains.my-project-23-001

With the placement of the Space Family McKinney, this occasion represents the dawning of a lasting human legacy in deep space. Science has benefitted greatly from studying the long-term effects of prolonged space travel on astronauts and in the near future, the building of Mars City will be as enigmatic as the first British colonists upon stepping foot on North American soil.

This historic mission will be a steppingstone to the stars. To that end, most of the entire Earth has banded together to set aside their differences and nuclear armament to make this happen.

Only Talibanistan and the United Korean Peninsula have opted out, along with Chino-Indian complex which had long since deteriorated into an over-industrialized environmental slog.cropped-stay-tuned-001.jpg

For Roy Crippen it is now sweaty palm time; no matter the mission track record or confidence level. He would rather be performing the Martian landing than coaching it from this distance. He paces below the holograph, all the time speaking to Braden King on the Lovell-Galvy link, “What’s the mood out there,” he asks the communication expert, while walking under the live streaming video……


THE RETURN TRIP

Stepping Stones by Rob Gonsalves

Stepping Stones by Rob Gonsalves

Episode 24


page 23

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 19

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 19

…May the name of Aldona Afridi hereby be erased from Talibanistan records, as if he never existed!…

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“He must be dead, Sheikh Nutkani. No one can survive in water that cold… what a fool!” Nae Tan-Dan assumed he would play by the rules, finding it hard to believe that Aldona Afridi would act so rashly.

Shaikh Nutkani

“If he is dead, we must act on our plan sooner than we wanted. If he isn’t dead, he will wish he were.” The former Taliban tribesman is outraged, appalled that this scientist would betray his duty. He is not however, without his wits. “You must find another source for the laser access codes. Surely there is a failsafe protocol built into the system.

May the name of Aldona Afridi hereby be erased from Talibanistan records, as if he never existed!

“The United Korea will honor its end of the bargain, Sheikh. Nae Tan-Dan has the loyalty of all his people.” Third person references denote self-importance.

The reprehensible twosome reassembles their entourage of cars and men, speeding off into the Near East dawn, each to his own clandestine objective.horizontal-line5

Fading automobile noises signal a reprieve for the severely exposed Aldona Afridi. He has spent the last hour clinging to the drive shaft of his ferry refuge, giving e tenuous lease on life. Bleeding from a flesh wound to his upper arm, due solely by regaining dry land, he needs to come with a more well thought out plan. There are signs that he has not been completely forgotten, the fresh siren sounds of activity, likely not from concerned ambulance medics, not mention the helicopters.

Where will he go, is the question of the moment? This nondescript and aptly unnamed tribal village has some 500,000 clansmen/women and not one would open their drafty homes to help a stranger, let alone a hunted one. The logical thing to do is to change his identity, but that is currently a longshot option.escape2-001

He decides that his best chance is on the other side of the river, bridges being few and far in-between, then take his chances from there. He needs to convince himself that lowering his body temperature once again is a good idea.

But that he does with a polar bear’s approach, so he tackles the fifty meter swim to provisional independence; independence not freedom, with freedom attained only with asylum status for him and his family at a rare Western Embassy.


THE RETURN TRIP

No Safe Haven by Larry Selman

No Safe Haven by Larry Selman

Episode 19


page 18

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 13

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 13

…Excuse me Comrade Aldona; this is Comrade Nae Tan-Dan, our main liaison to the great nation of Korea and the constructor of our glorious plan…

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Aldona Afridi is becoming more restless by the second. Everything about this strange encounter has trouble written all over it.

Oddly, no one in the limo makes a move; the newcomers cover ground in a hurry to join an already crowded limo.mastermind-001

“It is good to see you again Sheikh Khan-Nutkani,” states the smallest of the group, speaking with an accent not indigenous to the region.

“Glory to Allah, Comrade Dan, I am hoping your news is as good as Comrade Afridi’s”

“It is even better; phase one of the operation has been carried out. Fredrick Cabell has been neutralized.” The dwarfish man sticks his chest out as if he were waiting for a medal to be pinned on it.

“Excellent, excellent; time is growing short Dan.”

Afridi suddenly has the feeling that there is a plan that he is not in on. And what is with all this “comrade” stuff all of a sudden.

Comrades

“Oh excuse me Comrade Aldona; this is Comrade Nae Tan-Dan, our main liaison to the great nation of Korea and the constructor of our glorious plan.” Nutkani’s introduction is lavished with admiration.

“I was not aware we were working on the same project?” Afridi has a shrinking perception of just what the goals of the Sang-Ashi Probe are exactly.

“Let us say that you have your talents and I have mine.”

“Comrades, let me say that both of your talents will be needed to defeat the greatest threat to our stature in the world since the unlawful attacks on our founding state. That is why you are here; to help each of our nations stare down imperialism!” Khan-Nutkani refers to the endless Afghan War and inspired by the chance to settle the score. “Afridi, you hold the key; Comrade Tan Dan needs to open the door, and between us, we must slam the door on Universe Expansionism!”

Nae Tan-Dan seems to have a {short} leg up on Afridi and is poised to carry out a plan. Aldona Afridi is still mostly in the dark, but a sliver of light is seeping through some seedy cracks.Sang-Ashi Probe

“To keep our solar system free of those who want to conquer it, we need the firing codes for the Sang-Ashi Probe.”

“Sang-Ashi will protect itself, if the occasion warrants. I built in superior internal defenses.”

“We need to have manual control over it…..and we need it now!” The Sheikh’s arms are shaking angrily.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Expansionism by Robert Bertino

Episode 13


page 12

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 12

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 12

… It is an unseemly ghetto where even the native rats must feel trapped, with no way out…

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“Our alliance with Korea is essential to the success of our goal,” the Sheikh reminds the man, an arm’s length away, at the same time speaking for the other person along for the ride, who has been uncomfortably silent to this point. 

“Our satellite is safe and ready to take out the eavesdropping satellite network that has invaded the business of our great alliance!”

Sang-Ashi

Sang-Ashi

Image result for allah“Allah is counting on you Afridi. There are many other scientists who would cherish the opportunity you have.” Nutkani sounds like the quasi-benevolent benefactor who is expecting results. “I trust your family is doing well?”

“Very well, thank you. The new city is everything my wife and I have ever dreamed of. And the children like the zoo.”

“You must miss them.

“I have not seen them in over a month, yes.”

“I understand that. This meeting marks the end to your hard work. After today, you can take a very long holiday, Mumbai perhaps.”

Aldona Afridi bows in reverence. He has had his fill of field work. His last trip to the United Korean Peninsula was particularly unsavory; too many military types for his civilian tastes.

The tank-like version of mobile tribal luxury slows to a stop in a dark, dusty alley deep inside a lower-class mountainside neighborhood dead ending at a filthy rivulet. It is an unseemly ghetto where even the native rats must feel trapped, with no way out.

But there they were, parked and quiet, watching the moonlight dance off the slow-moving water in front of them. Afridi wants to break the silence, when from behind them another fancy black sedan approaches. That makes two vehicles very much out-of-place and the coincidences are beginning to pile up. There is no hesitation by the occupants; engine off, doors opened, three men emerge.

Afridi is becoming more restless by the second. Everything about this strange encounter has trouble written all over it. He is wearing casual garb, but still tugs on his collar to cool down. He grabs a handkerchief from his pocket to mop the beading perspiration from his forehead.


THE RETURN TRIP

The Destruction of the Ghetto by Abraham A. Manievich

The Destruction of the Ghetto by Abraham A. Manievich

Episode 12


page 11

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

…Why yes, Shaikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha

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Meanwhile… that very same day, somewhere in Talibanistan, the geographical territory once occupied by: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and all the other “-stans

Sang-Ashi

“Tell us Afridi, are we sure that our Sang-Ashi Probe got through America’s Henchman Satellite Killer Network. Our source at their Pentagon tells us that that it was on high alert 7 months ago.”

Image result for mitAldona Afridi, MIT educated, has a particular set of talents where long-range satellites are concerned.

Why yes, Sheikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our United Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha.”

The Sheikh is as intimidating as he looks; lavishly robed, weathered by years of mountain life and

a radical Muslim to his very core. He has a calculating glint in his eye.

The Talibanistani’s foremost expert in laser technology squirms uneasily in a normally comfortable seat, but then again an armored limousine rarely is used to hold a sensitive meeting of such world-changing magnitude. Neither is Afridi at home with himself, having invested his design talents to construct an infamous weapon. He is also collaborating with the famously treacherous Koreans, which does nothing to soothe his restless conscience.

“Our alliance with Korea is essential to the success of our goal,” the Sheikh reminds the man, an arm’s length away.

“Our satellite is safe and ready to take out the spy satellite that has been making our alliance so miserable.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Hotbed for Mischief

Episode 11


page 11