Chapter 2 - Space Buddies

"Morning, Sam," said Al. "We've got the waiting room set up as a 
command center and Sammy Jo is coordinating it. If we have to, we'll 
pipe the information directly to you. Now more about your mission. 
Poor old Drop Kick bought the farm while he was space walking to retrieve 
the film from the Scientific Instrument Module in the side of the Service 
Module. A random thruster fired jostling the Enterprise throwing him around 
and causing his spacesuit to get punctured. You don't last long when exposed
to the environment in space. Damn waste. He and I flew together at
lamented Al. 

"Drop Kick?" asked Sam.

"Yea, Ron?" asked the Command Module pilot.

"Ah, nothing," said Sam looking frustrated.

"Oh, he was the field goal kicker at the academy, though we all knew it was 
due to his luck with the ladies. So many of them. The drop kick. It was his
favorite position when he, well, you know. Now YOU know the REST of 
the story. Put me to shame. Anyway, you'll have to keep an eye on the 
pressure gauge for that thruster. That might have warned us, but probably
not. You see that was in front of me and I should have been watching it. And
that's why I always blamed myself. I was responsible for watching that gauge. Now
it's all up to you," said Al hopefully.

"I won't let you down," said Sam smiling.

"Hey, we've been through these simulations dozens of times. I have great 
faith on you Firefly!" said the younger Al responding to Sam's last comment.

"Firefly?" asked Sam quietly.

"Yea, in Nam he was flying back from bombing near Da Nang. He took a 
bad hit in his left engine, but still nursed it all the way back to the
Hornet. Landing at night no less, he looked like a firefly. Or so the landing deck 
officer claimed. So Firefly stuck. He hated that name," explained Al.

Looking both ways Sam whispered. "Yours?"

"I hoped you wouldn't ask. Benny. But that wasn't used in the usual 
NASA public circles. Julius Caesar, another Italian, wrote "Veni, vidi,
vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. Firefly back at Patuxent caught me one 
time with this gorgeous red headed nurse . We were both in the middle
of a spectacular..anyway. Firefly always liked his Latin and said "Veni,
vidi, Calavicci." Which he roughly translated as he came, he saw, he pounced.
And for the next two tours of duty I was Veni vidi Calavicci or Benny
Calavici for short. Actually I kind of liked the name. The Julius of the 
nurses set. But as you can see NASA didn't publish that story either. 
Sometimes I would be embarrassed about it if the nickname came up in 
the wrong company, but the red headed nurse was worth every bit of it. 
Whoa!" said Al now smiling from ear to ear.

"Benny?" said Sam himself now smiling.

"Shh!" said the younger Al. He turned off his mike. "Not with 500 million 
people listening in!"

"Sorry, COMMANDER!" replied Sam.

"Joe, grab the camera. It's time for the Al, Ron and Joe Show," said Al 
the younger.

Several minutes later, the three-crew members of Apollo 18 were on the air. 
Even though the press had the TV feed directly from NASA, broadcasting from 
the Command Module was stale news. The networks no longer interrupted
programming since they started doing the same thing during the flight of  
Apollo 7 six years before. So for the benefit of the press, NASA personnel
and the astronaut's families; on with the show.

"Greetings from the Enterprise. I'm Moe, and these are my partners Larry and

Curly. We're the three stogies. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, you know," 
announced Al.

"Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk," said Sam very stiffly not quite in the spirit of the 

"Hey this is PR," said Al the observer.

"I want to saw hello to my lovely wife Beth. Tell her I won't be needing 
the dry cleaning back for another two weeks," said Al the younger.

"Hi, honey. Everything is fine. Hi Sarah, Jimmy, Cathy, Debbie and Susie. 
Be good for your Mom and Uncle Bob. Daddy will be home real soon," 
said Joe.

"God, I hope that'll be true. Your wife is Nancy and your son is Ron, Jr. 
He's fourteen," said Al the observer.

"Ah, hi? I'd like tell my wife Nancy and my son Ron that I love them," said 
Then both Al and Joe gave a detailed description of their mission and their 
jobs. All Sam got out was, "I fly the moon thingy!"

"Moon thingy? Where were you when all those old flights were on TV? 
But then your brain is full of holes we have to go over some basic 
terminology. Oh boy. That is the Lunar Module or LEM," 
said Al the observer.

The show ended with them turning the camera on the moon and showing 
the audience their destination.

"And with that we say aloha and good night to all of you back on the warm 
planet earth. Good night and God bless," said Al the younger.

"And we're off," said Joe watching the connection voltage.

Cap com replied, "Eighteen, thanks for a great show fellows." 

"Roger, that cap com. We're going to get into a breakfast mode here. We'll
be ready for the flight schedule update and the course correction data
afterwards," said Joe.

"Roger, eighteen. The chimps should have all the calculations done by then,"
said the cap com.

"I always wondered what happened to our friends from Mercury. Thanks for 
the update. Calavicci out," said Al the younger.

Sam smiled thinking of some of his friends he met on a visit he made so 
many leaps ago.