Lesson 7 : Houston You’ve Got a Problem

“Houston, are we on target?” The disembodied voice of Col Stamplton floated through NASA’s Mission Control Center. Visual contact was lost well into the mission and until now the loss of visual connection to the space shuttle was just an annoyance.

“Not yet, Argo. Hold it, Hold it.” The sweat beading on Sam Hickson’s forehead even though the MCC room at NASA was its usual cool 72 degrees.

“Houston, Have we got a problem?”

“Negative, Col. Stamplton. We have a window coming into view.”

“Negative, Negative Houston, Check your data. We are coming out of the pipeline. Repeat out of the pipeline. In three minutes and we will have to wait another rotation, and I don’t think we have another 45 minutes of fuel. We’ve cut this trip home short as it is.” Stamplton had seen MCC room controllers come and go over the past fifteen years. Sam Hickson was one of the best.

“Negative, Negative Argo we are showing that you are three minutes from the edge of the pipe.” Sam’s voice was showing stress. His fingers closing around the lime-green tennis ball, signed by tennis champion, Venus Williams. He used the tennis ball as stress relif to get him through times like this in the Mission Control Center. Things are just not adding up Sam said to himself. He was sure there was an error. It has to be on the Argo.

“Houston, You’ve got a problem.” Stamplton said, jokingly.

“We are passing the Horn of Africa now. If I hold, we will reenter in the middle of Wriggly Field, and won’t that make a mess of people miss supper tonight.” Col. Stamplton was laughing to cover his concern.

“Negative. Look out your window. You should be directly over Dubi; you should be able to see the pyramid of Giza and the Euphrates on your left and the Tigress River on your right.”

“Like Hell I can, all I see is the Horn of Africa.” The astronaut cursed. “I can count the tits on the sea gulls from here.” Stamplton was trying to make light of the error. “I am telling you we are over the Horn of Africa. You have thirty seconds to straighten out your problems, or I’m coming in.”

“Wait,” Sam was yelling. “Your instruments are hundreds of miles off. Do not initiate a burn, Repeat Do not initiate a burn.”

The Col switched off his mike to cover his school boy profanities, raising his heavily gloved hand and making a vain attempt to slam his fist onto the Space capsule’s console. The slow motion zero-gravity of space lacking the power to knock the hell out of the control panel; only making a mockery of his frustration. He hated not being in control of the situation. He was hoping that an impact adjustment would right his misscalabrated equipment. Planet side; Sam Hickson was standing, pacing, pitching the tennis ball from one hand to the other. His guts telling him one thing and equipment another.

“ I need a status update. You said you knew what you were doing,” growled Darrel Meredith into Sam’s head set. He could see the stress was taking a toll on Hickson. “I don’t care how you do it. Fix this Now!”

“Dammit!” Sam screamed and threw the fuzzy green tennis ball. It went sailing across the room bouncing off the Control center’s viewing room window, sending Mrs. Marshalls’ 5th grade class scrambling for the door of the viewing room at the back of the control room. In the confusion someone had hit the control room panic button putting the entire Johnson Space Center at NASA on lockdown. The hysterical 5th grade class would just have to wait it out. Luckily, the three inch glass, bullet proof viewing windows of the observation room muffled the bevy of eight year olds panic screams.

“Get those kids out of here!” Shouted Sam. He took a frustrating breath, kicking his computer console hard enough that the three hundred pound, three million dollar key console fell off the metal desk it was sitting on. The Giant view screens sputtered and snapped off.

“He’s lost it. Get security in here, pronto!” Darrel Meredith, the Control room supervisor whispering the order to Robin the lab tech cowering in a corner   with a clipboard in front of her face for protection.

“Now, Miss Eddleston, Now!”

Two Military Police were quick stepping their way through the Mission Control room’s door. The officer in the rear was pulling his baton. The lightly armed pair stopping only to size up the situation and single Sam Hopkins out as their target.

“Houston, Houston, I need a go ahead.” Col. Stamplton’s voice crackled through the loud speaker mounted in the control room. Col Stamplton had muted his mike, but Houston was coming in loud and clear. The Col. Had heard the commotion state side.

“Check that Mudpuppy now.” Stamplton shouted at Sam.

Sam grabbed the edges of the console and gave it another few short, sharp taps with his palm. The Control room’s four giant monitors jump into life. The Global Positioning Satellites begin updating their information. Gigantic maps of the world began appearing with trajectory maps superimposing themselves over the continents of the planet.

“Horn of Africa! We got southern Africa,“ someone was shouting. The commotion coming from space was just as chaotic as Sam’s Shouting startled the MP’s long enough to keep them from tackling Sam.

“Punch it, Stamplton! Now!” shouted Sam as he kicked his console again just for good measure.

“You bring in the pipe 5 x 5 her home.” Sam calmly held out his arms, preparing for what he knew was heading his way. One of the Military Police grabed Sam from behind, slamming the back of Sam’s knees. He went down like a shot.

“Stop. Stop hitting him!” The children were beating on the viewing glass of the control room. Mrs. Marshall had her hands full trying to pull the children from the window.

“Be quiet, be quiet. Sit Down. Now.” She was shouting at the class with little or no effect.

Col. Stamplton’s face appeared in the monitor “looks like one hell of a party down there.”

From Sam’s vantage point the whole thing was becoming one inappropriate laugh after another.

“Stand down men.” The voice of Astronaut col Stampleton brought the MPs to attention. “This man just saved my ass. Not to mention a few billion of your nations dollars. I suggest you move away from him unless you want to answer to me.”

“Yes, sir.” The younger of the two MPs spoke releasing Sam Hickson’s arm as the other MP dutifully removes the handcuffs from his wrists.

“Apparently, the chain of command of the US Air Force extended into the stratosphere and beyond.” Sam was a civilian contractor and until now had little or no appreciation for military protocols.

“Just another day at the office, eh Sam.”

“Yes, Col. Stamplton, I believe it is.” There was a pause in Sam’s voice. “By the way your buying.”



About prue

Humm. When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer. My teacher told me I couldn't write because I couldn't spell. I believed her. What I should have said is "Can't count either. But, that's not stopping me now."
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3 Responses to Lesson 7 : Houston You’ve Got a Problem

  1. Gary says:

    What do teachers know then Prue.

    The discourse rolls well so good job there and it is a dialogue course so thats the whole point lol

    The subject matter is not something I am familiar with though so hard for me to know if that’s what happens. I would offer my opinion on things like that though in that people reading science type texts will check the information flow in it for accuracy. Personally I have no idea if you are spot on or not so I take it at face value and enjoyed the story 🙂

    An aviator might put holes in it if the research is not bang on. You are obviously more knowledgeable on this than me so don’t take it as a criticism but something to take on board when writing on a subject that the target audience will know something about.

    I really hope that comes across as constructive lol

    Story dialogue was very good. Ignore your teachers 🙂

  2. freckles says:

    Nicely done Prue 🙂 I agree with Gary. I’m not pie-hot on the terminology about that specific subject matter, but you do. That is one thing I love when I write, is figuring out all that stuff and researching it. Although, if you know first hand, that really helps in making a wonderful read.

    Nice flow of dialogue, I found myself wanting to throw a shoe at the Control giant monitors too 😉 Well done, Prue.

  3. Hana says:

    Wow, the tension you create in this is great. Nice job! The story was good – I followed it and found it quite believable. I also like the relationship between Sam and the Col. The children watching was a good addition. Good stuff!

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