Coming into Power Chapter 1

Helen pressed her leg lightly against Joe to get his attention. However, her musical voice, just by itself, always caught Joe's attention. "Joe, can I change the radio station? It's not that I don't love classical music. I do. However, I really do want to hear when my friend Melody leaves the moon, and is on the way back to earth. She and the other astronauts have beat Sam Raccetts 2066 record for how long an astronaut has stayed on the moon." She felt energized while sandwiched between her best friends Bob and Joe.

Joe divided his attention. While part of his mind focused on driving them to their concert performance in his ancient white camper truck, another part of his mind focused on answering her question. "You sure can. I even give you permission." He turned his head slightly so he could alternately see the road and her reaction.

She laughed. "I'm sorry I told you about my fifth grade English teacher and her 'may I' game." She reached forward and swiftly punched the code sequence needed for her favorite news station on the truck radio touch pad control panel.

". . .waiting for the signal to liftoff. It's t minus 2 minutes and counting. Brad, while we're waiting, tell our listeners why we gave the lunar module the name 'Grayjay'."

After a short period of static, Brad's monotonic radio voice began. "We gave it the name Grayjay because of the Canadian grayjay. The grayjay, a cold weather bird, adapted itself to the cold weather in Canada and along the Rocky Mountains in the northwestern United States. One of our astronauts, as a child, lived in Canada, and we decided to name the lunar module after a Canadian bird. The fact that the grayjay also nests along the Rocky Mountains and this lunar expedition will explore mountains on the far side of the moon strikes me as an interesting coincidence."

"Sorry to interrupt, Brad. It's 15 seconds to liftoff. Countdown will begin right away."

"10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1. . . Grayjay failed to lift off. Grayjay failed to lift off." The announcer's voice held the clear tones of tight emotional control. "We know at this time only that the main engines ignited and then immediately shut down. This station will make special alerts as we receive them."

"What! Something went wrong. Oh, I hope they're okay."

Bob shrugged his shoulders. "Well. . . you can't do anything about it. You should relax. Don't worry about it."

Joe laughed. "Bob, we all cope with anxiety differently. Helen worries. Not everyone can be as rational as you."

Bob replied, "I don't want her to worry. I'm trying to explain why she shouldn't worry." He shifted into his objective mode voice. "Look. Either your friend is okay, or she is not okay. If she is okay, then we don't need to worry. If she isn't okay then we can't do anything about it, so why worry about it? We should worry only if it will help us solve the problem we are worried about. So, why don't you distract yourself for now? Besides, I believe everyone can and should be completely rational."

Joe shook his head. "My friend, you don't understand emotions yet. Emotions motivate our responses to perceived situations. After we become aware of our response we can choose whether or not we should follow through with it."

Bob meditated silently for a moment before speaking. "People can and should learn rational emotions. Your emo. . ."

She interrupted. "Joe, you two will never settle that discussion. So, don't argue with him now. Instead, tell me what you think happened on the moon."

"Well I can't. We only know that liftoff failed. That implies something went wrong with either the liftoff engines, or with the fuel. Perhaps Bob does have a point this time. Let's think about other things. Think about our walk on the beach tomorrow. Think about how well Bob harmonizes his guitar playing with your singing."

She glared at him for just a second, but then laughed. "We can at least check the news after our concert performance. I want to hear what happened with Melody and the other astronauts. I need to know that Melody is safe."

She paused, then continued. "I know, Bob, you'll just say it's so I can decide what I should feel. Well . . . I can't help it. I have to know!"

Bob grinned. "You know me very well. But that's not what I intended to say. I'm curious about Melody. Tell me how you know her."

She looked affectionately toward Bob. "Thanks for asking. During my high school years, I formed an anti-nicotine organization. Someone in our small group found out that Melody, already a famous astronaut, shared our concern. We all believe that people should know the difference between the real happiness that comes from creative work and the illusion of happiness from maintaining a drug addiction."

"We were also concerned about the growing power of United Tobacco Company. I contacted her and she actually came to our high school to speak to us. She and some guy named Grant encouraged us by keeping in touch with us by video phone the rest of the year. They taught us some history about tobacco use. Cigarette smoking rates had fallen to about two percent of the population due to the Allen Carr clinics that appeared in cities all around the world. However, the invention of the electronic cigarette and nicotine patches enabled many people to feel that nicotine addiction had become safe. Nicotine addiction gradually became a significant health issue again. It became worse after the tobacco companies merged into United Tobacco Company."

"Did they tell you how to re-open clinics like the Allen Carr clinics?"

"No, they knew students would not have the time to run such a clinic. I'm sure they hoped that later we might work with them to help. But I'm still a student. Perhaps I'll contact them later, if there is a later."

"Oh, I do hope Melody can safely return to Earth!"

Joe, having listened closely to their conversation, glanced at Bob as if to ask what he should say to help. Bob's answer was only a shrug of his shoulders. Joe was on his own for this. "If I were you, the first thing I would have said to Melody is that I liked her name."

Helen looked puzzled. "Why?"

Joe grinned. "Aren't you telling me all the time how much you like melodies?"

Both his friends laughed at this.

"Thanks guys. Now I feel better. We must be close to the concert hall. Oh, there it is!" She pointed straight ahead through the window. "Oh, I hope we do at least as well tonight as we did last time."

Joe made a sharp turn into the parking lot."Plan on it. You'll keep getting better and better until you perform perfectly almost every time."

Bob spoke up then. "But, if you don't do better tonight, please don't let it bother you."

"Thanks, guys."

Minutes later, she leaned against the heavy door of the large concert hall, slowly pushing it open. Once inside, she looked around the room. Pulling a small black box from her pocket, she pointed it at the far walls. Bob, following her in, very carefully placed their beloved instruments on the floor next to her. "How does it look?"

"It looks good, Bob. My sounder box tells me that we'll have great acoustics."

Bob nodded and pointed to his right. "There's their stage. It's perfect. We walk up only two steps and we are on stage across the room from the doorway. Where's Joe?"

"Right here. It's not easy to keep up when I'm lugging this heavy archaic sound equipment, and you guys only have to carry one double oh eighteen sized guitar, my fiddle, and the basket containing the donation jar and flyers."

Bob turned to Joe. "After we get rich, you could buy some ultra-light quality modern equipment. That is, unless you are having fun showing off this hundred-year-old stuff that you inherited from your ancestors."

"Well, I'm only keeping it now for sentimental reasons. Besides, it's better quality than anything we can afford."

She tapped Joe on his arm to get his attention. "Well, Joe, you are the tallest and strongest of us. I thought it made sense for you to carry the heavy stuff." Her admiration clearly showed in her smile.

Joe looked directly into her blue-gray eyes. "Is zat so? Well, I may be strong, and exactly 188 centimeters tall, which is at least a centimeter taller than both of you. But I'm no Superman. Which reminds me; I have in my truck the Superman comic collection you loaned me. Ask me after the concert about it."

Bob laughed. "Joe, you too? I knew that she gushed over Superman, but I didn't know you cared. Did you try to fly when you were a kid too?"

"Huh! Well. . . Before kindergarten, I jumped over a log trying to levitate. Because of that, I got a grass reed stuck in my throat about a centimeter from my windpipe."

"Bob, don't you ever dream of flying?"

"Sure. One time I dreamed I built my own airplane and flew it all over town, and people looked up and said, 'Look up in the sky. It's a plane!' "Bob grinned in spite of his intention to look serious.

She smiled in return. "I never said I thought I really could fly. It's just that when I'm asleep I forget it's impossible."

Bob shook his head. "I see." He briefly clapped his hands twice. "Well, enough of this. We need to set up."