Chapter 6 - The Leap Home

A man named Al who ran a bar one time told me that my leaps
were going to get harder. At the time it made me think, but I never
realized what lengths I would have to go to. Arranging weddings and
saving people from traffic accidents was nothing compared to the
terror, danger and effort required to keep the three of us alive in the
hazards of space AND save one of my fellow travelers from a death
in the cold dark vacuum of space. But I had done it, I had done it! Not
only was I filled with a great sense of satisfaction, but I had helped out 
the one true friend I had along with my journey up and down the space-time 
continuum. No one else in the entire world knew about it because history 
had been changed and one tragic event in the American space program 
had been corrected.

Flying the rest of the way home was literally a walk in the park. A 
150,000 mile walk between the earth and the moon! Back at our previous 
routine Al was telling me what to do as we flew the Enterprise home and
monitored her systems. As the Apollo 18 Command Module increased in speed
and headed toward the atmosphere, we prepared for splashdown.

"Enterprise, Houston, your velocity is 23,800 miles per hour. You are go 
for capsule separation," said the cap com.

"Houston, Enterprise. We copy. Separation in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Separation bolts
ignited," said Al the younger.

"Houston, that was some jolt!" said Sam.

"Report on battery power and attitude," said Al the observer.

"Power is green and attitude vector is 23, 56, 015," said Sam.

"Correcting attitude. Thrusters commencing. Pitch and yaw look 
good," said Joe.

"Enterprise, Houston. Attitude is good. Entering atmosphere in ten minutes,"
said the cap com.

Several minutes later Al reported, "Houston, G level is up to three. The
outside the craft are spectacular!" 

"Looks like were right next to the campfire at my old scout camp. Beautiful,
beautiful!" said Sam.

"Ionosphere building up around the capsule," said Al the younger.

"Roger, eighteen. We will be losing contact in less than..." reported the
cap com.

"That's it. We're out of touch again. This gravity feels pretty rough since
haven't felt this much in two weeks," said Al the younger.

"The extra G's will be over in three minutes according to Ziggy," said 
Al the observer.

"Soon it will be over soon," said Sam to Al the younger.

"Not until the shoots open. Then you can relax," said Al the younger.

"You're not scared, chief?" asked Joe.

"Only fools aren't scared. I DO have faith in the design of this capsule!"
said Al the younger reassuring his crew.

"You're about to soil your spacesuit, my little astronaut," said Al the 
observer really remembering what happened.

The extra G's lessened as the drogue chute could be seen shooting out of
the top of the capsule.

"Come on, BABY!" cried Al the younger.

Sam said a quick prayer even though he knew they made it. It was 
the immediate perception of danger that worried him.

"Floot!" went the sound of the main shoots in bright and colorful white and 
red stripes. A sudden pull from the tension of the chute straps gave a
momentary tug sensation inside the capsule and then they slowly lowered the capsule to
the awaiting ocean below. The astronauts could feel the capsule gently rotating
the massive chutes above.

"Yippee!" cried the three astronauts one at a time. 

"Eighteen, eighteen. This is Houston. Do you copy?' said the cap com.

"Roger, Houston. Three beautiful chutes can be seen out the window
and the most glorious blue sky above. It's good to see the underside of the
clouds again," report Al the younger.

"Welcome home, eighteen. The JFK reports you twelve miles off their 
port bow!" said the cap com.

And the capsule slowly descended through the deep blue sky.

A final thump was felt as the capsule hit the water at thirty plus miles an
hour. It began to roll and pitch in the ocean.

"OH BOY! That's pretty rough," cried Sam feeling the motion in his stomach.

"Tell me. Great little old spacecraft. LOUSY BOAT! Secure all stations,
cut the power and unstrap yourselves," said Al the younger. "I'll open the

The salt-water smell was overpowering. Even though I had grown up on a farm
in Indiana, that salt water sure smelled like home compared to the sterile
hospital, sweaty smell of the capsule air. 

A frogman poked his head in. "Welcome back, gentlemen. Lieutenant Jonathan
Mathews at your service."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. We could sure use a lift," said Al the younger.

"The Navy is proud and pleased to give it to you. Your raft awaits," said
the navy frogman.

Al stood up in the capsule door, took a deep breath of the salt air. "Ah,
the smell of being at sea. Nothing else like it in the Navy. OK, crew let's bid
Enterprise a fond farewell." He pulled out a fresh cigar kept lovingly in his suit,
chomped away on it. and jumped into the life craft.

The Command Module pilot was out next. He stood up and stretched out his
full length for the first time in two weeks. "God that feels good. Look at that
beautiful copter overhead. Follow me, Firefly."

"Welcome home Jim. You'll never know the difference, but GOD it's good to 
see you alive and well," said Al the observer standing on the waves next to
the capsule. Joe joined the younger Al in the life raft.

Next Sam Beckett stood up smiling his broadest smile. He saw Al walking on
the water and laughs. "Any messiah-like tendencies?"

"No. Just our usual leaping miracles, thank you. Joe is still with us and he
kept on being an astronaut well into the space shuttle program. AND since no one
died on this flight, NASA was able to complete the Apollo program with Apollo 19 and 20. 
As an astronaut, I thank you again. Your job here is done cowboy. You can
leap onto the sunset," said Al.

"Great! That was one hell of a leap. I could never do it with out you Al,"
said Sam.

"Same to you, Sam. To a job well done. Bye," said Al as he tipped his cigar
and Sam disappeared from the early morning Pacific sky in a brilliant flash of