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Charlie Foxtrot: Blog


December 18, 2017
Posted at 10:44 am

Thanks for your patience. I've started reposting corrected chapters of the first 2 books. The only significant change is the renaming of one "Cynthia" character to "Candace" to reduce confusion on who was doing what.


Editing has started....

October 5, 2017
Posted at 12:35 pm
Updated: December 9, 2017 - 4:11 pm

Just a quick update since several readers have asked.

I have started sending the next nine chapters (41-49) of "A New Past" to my editor volunteers. That's approximately 90k words, by the way. I've not yet determined a schedule for posting, but wanted to let folks know that progress is being made.

I plan on completing Paul's story in about 60 chapters total, but have not made as much progress on chapters 50+ over the past few months, due primarily to real life work commitments.

I will begin posting updated versions of the prior chapters the week or so before posting new installments. I appreciate all of the readers who have taken the time to provide feedback and spotted typos in the original postings.

Thanks for reading,

-Charlie Foxtrot

Progress Update - June 2017

June 3, 2017
Posted at 2:18 pm

Thanks to all who have gently encouraged me to continue working on the next installment of "A New Past". I'm happy to say the story is still progressing, though not at the pace I would like. Real life intrudes too often. That said, I am roughly half way through the third (and final) book and am still confident that I'll start posting in the last quarter of the year. That could be October 1st, or it could be December 31st. At this point, it depends on how easily the words flow now that all of the major plot pieces are in place.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.

-Charlie Foxtrot

Progress Update - Jan 2017

January 27, 2017
Posted at 4:51 pm

Several readers have asked for an update on the next installment of "A New Past".

I'm happy to say the story is progressing, but my day job is limiting my writing time, so it is going slow. I am on the 6th of 20 planned chapters. If a logical breakpoint is reached (something less than 20 chapters), I'll reach out to my editors and try to post a sub-set of the entire tale.

In the meantime (so you know there is progress), here is another scene from the work in progress.

The usual caveats apply. This has not gone through any editing or proofing, so please don't think it will remain the same when I finally start posting.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.

-Charlie Foxtrot


"Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan. This is Golf Sierra Niner, in de-orbit profile passing latitude eight-nine north on heading one nine zero, altitude two twelve klicks, descending. We are broadcasting in the blind and unable to receive communications."

I marveled at the disciplined voice of Terry White, the pilot. We had been on what I considered a routine flight up to PTO-1 for a supply delivery. We had launched the station in December of 1994, just outside my eighteen month goal and manned it continuously since. Dr. Thomas Culpepper, one of the season three interns and now working with Dr. Wilkerson in my materials research team, oversaw the orbital science operations.

I had joined the flight at the last minute, wanting to review some of the material processes being worked on in the orbiting lab. It was two days docked to the station and then an orbital change to retrieve an end-of-life military satellite for the DoD before returning to Edwards Air Force base with our cargo. That had been the plan.

That changed after a debris hit following the satellite retrieval.

"Anyway to know if we are broadcasting?" Samantha Conner, the co-pilot asked.

"Negative. Whatever hit us took out at least one antenna array. Once we get lower and are not ionizing the air so much, our other comms should work," Terry replied. "I just hope no one gets twitchy with something de-orbiting from over the pole."

While tensions around the world had reduced to some extent over the past two years, the START II treaty was still stalled in Congress and the US retained a formidable response capability to a missile attack. Of course, GS-9 was on a published flight path and I was confident the Air Force was tracking us, given our mission to retrieve a military satellite.

"How's our speed?" I asked as I glanced over my shoulder and out the window. The glow of reentry had dimmed.

"We're below six klicks a second. Why?"

Rather than answer, I flipped two switches on the engineer's panel before me and began typing on the keyboard. After a minute, I sat back and watched the screen.

"Yes! I'm able to connect to the remote telemetry system. Let me alert ops."

I began typing again.

"Ops is online. They can hear our broadcast, but we can't hear them," I said a few moments later.

"That's good news," Sam said.

"It is. Let me see if they are tracking....Shit. High T-34, high fluctuations on M-34, port engine." I typed furiously as I kept one eye on the monitors at my engineering station.

"Any station this net, Golf Sierra Niner broadcasting in the blind. We are loosing one engine. Requesting immediate clearance to land...."

"Hill Air Force Base looks closest," Sam said as she checked the track against her display.

"...at Hill Air Force Base," Terry finished.

"Ops says we are clear. They are alerting Hill."

A red alram flashed and a klaxon sounded on my panel.

"Shutting down port engine!" I announced.

"Throttling down starboard," Terry stated as he monitored his controls.

The cockpit was quietly tense as the two pilots adjusted course and monitored our altitude. I kept an eye on the engines. I had many hours in test firings and simulator time, but this was the first trip sitting alone in the engineer's station on a real flight bridge. I was proud of completing all the certifications we had devised for the position, but found myself wondering if the training was enough for a real emergency. I pushed those thoughts away and pulled out the checklist for landing on one engine and began reviewing the procedures, just as I had trained.

"Should we stretch for Edwards?" Sam asked.

"Negative," I responded. "Get us on the ground. We should not have lost the port engine from a debris strike. Something else is going on. Let's get safely down and figure out what happened."

The design of the GO-X had given way to the GS series of orbiters. Hunter and I had been able to reduce the size of the generators and make them integral to the wing base, to allow a streamlined lifting body design that could support both orbital and sub-orbital operations. While this was the ninth orbiter PT Innovation had built, it was only the second of the GS series. This flight was making me wonder if we had missed something in the design.

"I've got the beacon for Hill," Sam announced several tense minutes later. "I guess that means the nav array is intact at least. Come right to two-two-five and we'll then track back south to line up for a straight approach."

"How long is their runway?" Terry asked.

"Runway 14 is 4115 meters long. You should have plenty of roll space."

"Agreed, but let's get the speed down some more. I'm going nose up and drop some speed. Starboard engine at idle," he said.

I felt myself press into the seat as our nose came up and we climbed some while Terry put us into a gentle turn, first further west, and then back to the southwest.

"Looking good," Sam said as she handled navigation.

"Hill is ready for us," I said as I read the brief message from Ops on my display.

"Come right to one four zero," Sam said as she kept an eye on the nav display.

"I've got a visual," Terry said as he banked the orbiter. "We're on the glidepath."

I scanned my controls and then pulled my seat belt and shoulder harness tight. While the pilot and co-pilot had windows, the engineering station and the payload specialist stations blocked any view, so I had to rely on the video display to show what the pilots could see through their windows. I made sure the emergency landing checklist was clipped in place where I could easily see it.

"Ten-K to threshold. Angels four-mike," Sam said. We were at four thousand meters, and ten thousand meters from the end of the runway. It was a little higher than our typical approach profile.

"Port engine offline. Starboard engine at idle. All indicators green," I said.

"Lowering gear," Terry said without emotion.

I monitored the landing gear indicators.

"Gear is down and locked," Sam reported.

"I've got the ball," Terry said. "High in glidepath. Correcting."

I felt the nose come up some and watched the airspeed bleed off and the altitude drop. The deft balancing of forces was an artform that I could appreciate but did not want to try and master. I would have been inclined to drop the nose, which would pick up speed and increase lift in this craft.

"On glidepath," Terry said for the benefit of our cabin recorders. Over and over, it had been drilled into me to keep the dialog going on actions and observations to capture as much data as possible.

"Four-K to threshold, Angels one-mike," Sam said. I had wondered why we used the "K" designator for kilometers, but called out "mike" for altitude. Evidently, "Angels" had been used for altitude in thousands of feet, so our pilots had taken the Angels as one thousand, but added "mike" to indicate meters instead of feet.

I brought my focus back to my display.

"Two-K, five hundred meters," Sam said softly.

I took a deep breath and watched our airspeed drop as the nose came up a little higher. The last two thousand meters seemed to take forever, even though I knew it was a matter of moments before we pressed firmly against our seats and heard the chirp of tires hitting the runway. A moment after that, I was pressed against my shoulder straps as the brakes were applied.

"Touchdown," Sam said.

I began going through the post landing checklist as Terry and Sam brought us to a complete stop at the southern end of the runway. On my monitor, I saw the base emergency crews surrounding us.

"Sam," Terry said. "Let Paul and I finish the shutdown while you go pop the hatch and let them know we're okay."

"I'm on it," she said as she unbuckled and headed aft to the primary crew hatch.

Ten minutes later, we were all standing in the shade of the orbiter as we looked at the communications antenna array. A small pit was evident in the carbon fiber panel, but there was nothing catastrophic about it. The port engine also looked fine.

"Whatever caused our problems," I said softly to Terry, "It was not a debris strike."


"A New Past" will continue....

August 1, 2016
Posted at 6:50 pm

Thank you to all of the fans that have been asking if "A New Past" will continue. I can state categorically that it will.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that it will most likely not post until sometime next year.

I know everyone would like it sooner, but my real-life work schedule has not given me enough time to get back into a regular writing rhythm, which I need to be able to keep all the threads moving forward the way I like my stories to go. As the plot line has gotten closer to the recent past and near future, keeping everything straight was a major headache, which is one reason I needed a break from the tale.

I had intended on writing several sequels to "Survivors" as my interlude, but have found the stories I plotted out on that sequence are creating some character issues that I'm not enjoying, so I'm shifting focus again for a bit.

I know that a year is a long time to wait for another official chapter, so I'm putting a single scene from the next chapter here in my blog.

The usual caveats apply. This has not gone through any editing or proofing, so please don't think it will remain the same when I finally start posting.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.

-Charlie Foxtrot


"Thanks for making time for me, Kelly," I said as she greeted me at the door of her new house in Georgetown. Since she had first been elected in a special election, she had been required to stand for reelection last year. It had been a virtually unopposed run, with the Republic Party candidate only picking up just under forty percent of the popular vote.

Kelly pulled me in for a hug. "Like I'm going to tell my little brother I'm too busy to meet with him?" she asked teasingly. "Or am I such a poor politician I'm going to send the worlds richest man away without at least hearing him out?"

I laughed. "I guess you've got me on both accounts." I paused to look around her house. "This looks like a nice place," I said.

"Let me give you the grand tour," she insisted.

We quickly went through the formal areas of the first floor. They were not what I would have considered to be her style. She agreed. "But I need to entertain and be able to have meetings outside the Capitol or my offices. The first floor is pretty empty unless I'm hosting something."

The second floor was more to my liking. It felt comfortable and private. She showed me into her home office at the end of the tour.

"Before you ask, yes, Alison's folks have been over everything and are handling security. I think she even added a office here in D.C. for them to work out of and rotate through."

I smiled. "She told me. They are actually getting a lot of other discreet enquiries. Especially after the Oklahoma City bombing. I guess a lot of the government feels threatened after that."

"It's a mess," she agreed. "In every briefing we get the same questions and are told we are safe, but now a lot of my associates are feeling threatened."

"I can't condone his actions, but based on the few things in the press, it sounds like that is part of what he was advocating. I can almost understand his thinking, but again in the end he was an extremist who did not want to actually live in a democracy."

She nodded. It was a rehash of our discussions and interviews when the Unabomber had hit our offices.

"Surly you didn't come all the way to D.C. to check on my security?" She chided after a pause.

I smiled. "No. I've got some meetings in town on Monday and thought I'd check up on you to see how the 104th Congress was getting along."

"Bullshit, Paul. Don't try that game on me. I spend eighteen hours a day dealing with people trying to sell me something. It's almost enough to make me chuck in the towel and come back to the business side of things."

"You are welcome any time," I said.

She waved her fingers at me with our old "give-me" meaning.

I sighed. I should have know better than trying to ease into the conversation. We had covered the family and general business aspects during the tour. She knew I had something that might affect the hill, or I wouldn't have come in person, at least not a full day early for a Monday meeting.

"We're going to be doing some stuff on the show this summer that might raise some questions for your committees."

She had kept her position on the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee for the Senate and also joined the Appropriations Committee as the Chair for the Energy and Water Development sub-committee.

"Which one?" she asked as she pulled out a small notebook.

"Both, but the Appropriations one is probably more urgent."

"How so?"

"Several of our challenges are going to involve the desalinization plants in California. Depending on how things go, we might show a pretty stark contrast between what you guys are budgeting and what is really going to be needed to help improve water availability and usage in California."

"And it's going to air as we're working on next year's budget."

I nodded. "Also, it's pretty likely that some people are going to once again ask why the federal government is getting cheap clean power and their bills are staying the same or going up."

"What do you mean?"

"We're going to have excess power for the desalinization plants with the latest generator design. We'll be selling it on the open grid. One of our success measures for the interns is going to be how much power is left over from the water creation efforts."

Kelly had been involved enough in the show to understand we weren't talking a couple of kilowatts excess. "How much?"

I shrugged. "My initial number are at least twenty megawatts per plant. The Interns are likely to beat that number with the variables they can play with."

"And you can't just make more clean water with it?"

"California is looking at a purchase of thirty stations, partially funded with federal dollars. That will more than cover the gap in natural production. If they make excess water, they are going to need fewer plants, which they've already contracted for. I think the voters are going to want the power to go with their water."

"So what are your blockers?"

"I've got none. The public has two; PG&E and the unions. It's the same issues still. We make one step forward and two steps back, it seems."

"So what do you want me to do about it?"

I smiled. "If I knew that, I'd just tell you. I don't know what might have a chance of working. I do know this could be an opportunity for you to broker a deal that is good for your base and may have national implications. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency falls under your sub-committee for appropriations. Commerce and Science is the focus of your other one. Between the two, you are the only member on both, so if you can think of something, it's a good bet it will have decent support on the floor if it gets out of both committees."

She rubber her temples and jotted down a couple of notes. "Any carrots we can use to move things forward?"

"We're discussing back-to-back seasons of the Interns. We could probably find some way to work in a congressional challenge in the fall taping for spring airing. It's not much, but it might appeal to enough vanity to give you some leverage."

"Why are you doing back-to-back runs?"

"That's other item. Next year we'll have a sequel. We'll keep doing 'The Interns', but a year from now, you will also see the premier of 'The Interns - Orbital'."

"Which is the other shoe, right?"

I nodded. "It's got a lot more lead time for the projects, since space is not a very forgiving environment. We're planning a couple of teaser challenges this season to test out the appeal from viewers, but it has already tested well with both the network and the applicants for the show."

"And it's going to require us to revisit the charter?"

"No, but there might be a call for it from the viewing public. Since we're still defining all the challenges, I thought I should give you a heads up incase you needed any political leverage. Somethings are going to have to be done in specific locations, but there might be opportunities for other challenges."

"Like what?" she asked. "Help me understand."

"Well, some of the training could be filmed in Alabama at the US Space and Rocket Center just as easily as Houston or Wright Patterson Air Force base in Dayton. If you guide us, we can give some interplay with federal or state representatives from those locations. I would think a few million viewers would have some tourism benefits even if we don't actually have the elected officials on the show. I'm trying to give you some chips to play with, as we talked about a couple of years ago."

"When will you need to know by?"

"We're looking to lock in the new shooting schedule by the beginning of August. We should have the list of challenges by the middle of June. With our current schedule, I thought talking to you now would give you a chance to think about who might be standing for re-election and throwing some positive PR their way, or denying them of that opportunity as well."

She was nodding. "I get it. I'll have to review which seats are up and if there is an opportunity. Even the suggestion might be worth some leverage inside the DNC."

"Just keep me out of the actual discussions. I'll do some favors for you, but as soon as I get a call directly from them or the Republican Committee, I'm going to let Tom and Billy make the decisions."

She smiled. "I'll make sure anyone I talk to understands that this is a very sensitive and discrete play that I'm making." It was part of our special arrangement to build her power base without a money trail.

"Who else are you making this special offer to?"

I laughed. "I need to keep a balance, Sis. One of my meetings is at 1600 tomorrow. I'll let you infer as you will."

"George is a good politician. He'll understand and keep the Republicans in line for you."

"And you get the Democrats," I said in agreement.

"Now, why do you think this new show is going to cause problems instead of raise opportunities?"

"Money, why else? One of the challenges will be selecting a longer term mission objective. The dollars are going to be discussed on national television. What are people going to think about when we are talking about a billion dollar opportunity? You and I both know that NASA would spend two billion to bring one home. You know I won't. Under the charter, the US of A gets most favored nation status on lift capacity. They get some modest revenue for import/excise taxes. They won't get a billion dollar windfall for the budget suddenly."

"Are you serious about that kind of money?"

I nodded. "One early concept is asteroid mineral recovery. Depending on what we find, we could be looking at rare earths or precious medals in quantities to skew the short-term market. Market impacts are going to be one of the assessment criteria for analysis."

"How do you plan on making that sort of analysis television friendly?" She asked.

I grinned. "You'll just have to tune in and see next year."

"You do realize you need to manage the timing of that message, right?" she asked with a suddenly serious face.

"I think I do. Why do you think I should?"

"Next year is an election year. Bush won't be the man in the oval office in 1997. Depending on how you present it, you could raise an election issue in the debates. Be careful, because you might not like the direction the public runs with that sort of opportunity."

"Shit," I said.