"God of War"
Disclaimer: Buffy, Northern Exposure, and West Wing are not mine.
"...and then you have the NASA press conference on the Ares mission at nine." Charlie finished.
"Why is it at nine?"
"That way they're on at six in California. NASA always plays well in California."
"Am I in this press conference? Because NASA, they're in Houston, aren't they?"
"No, sir. Mr. Jobson, the administrator of NASA, is here in Washington testifying in the Columbia hearings, so they're doing the press conference from here. And they'd like you to be there, because the press is probably going to ask what's next. Toby and Will are working on an answer."
"I see. What are we having for dinner, Charlie?"
"I haven't spoken to the chef, sir."
"Next time, you should know that one."
Maggie smiled across the cramped re-entry capsule, as the parachutes deployed. "So what are you two going to do first when we get home?"
Tommy grinned. "I'm signing up for another go. This was one hell of a ride." He saw Hank wince, and turned as much as the five-point restraints and helmet allowed. "What did I say?"
"Oh nothing, nothing. First, I'm calling up Margaret, and having her quit her job at the White House. Then I'm moving back out to California. There's just something about the desert weather..."
"Reminds you of where you've been?"
"I hope so." Hank smiled. "Oh, yeah, and then..." His smile turned quickly to a frown. "I suppose I'll have to call Joyce. She is family, after all."
Maggie raised an eyebrow; the entire length of the mission, Hank had never mentioned any family other than his parents, his brothers and his new wife, Margaret. And now that they had - what, less than an hour left? - someone else had turned up in the conversation. "Who's Joyce?"
"I didn't know you had one." Tommy remarked. Maggie nodded agreement.
"We split up about... oh, must be six years ago now. We had two girls, but the older one would be in college now."
Maggie stared at him; she was sensitive about fathers, because hers had been killed in the Kenya embassy bombing. "Two girls who haven't spoken to their father in how long?"
"About four, five years."
Maggie stuck out a finger. "No, Hank, first thing you do is call them up. Margaret works with the President, she'll know you're fine. Mission Control says the President is going to be at the press conference after splashdown."
"Buffy, is that you?"
Buffy nearly fainted with shock. "Dad? Daddy?"
"Hey, kid. Sorry I haven't called."
"What on Earth have you been up to, Dad? I haven't heard from you in years!"
"Not exactly *on* Earth. So, mind if I talk to your mom?"
"Dad, Mom died. Two years ago. Brain cancer. You didn't know? Where the hell were you?"
"Turn on the TV at six, you'll see."
"I'm quitting my job."
"Your other job? Or this one?"
"This one. My husband wants to move to California."
"I didn't know you were married."
"He was on the Ares mission."
"And what the hell am I going to do without you?"
"Will Bailey offered Lauren from his speechwriting staff."
"What do you mean?"
"He's got three Laurens. Never mind, I'll ask him myself. Damn it, Margaret!" Leo said, picking up the phone. "What's his extension? Wait, he's in Sam's old office." Leo pounded the button still marked "Sam".
"And now, ladies and gentlemen of the press..." C.J. grinned, "I have the honor of introducing Mr. Peter Jobson, Administrator of NASA, and Mr. Josiah Bartlet, President of the United States. Mr. Jobson would like to share a short statement, and then we'll take questions."
Jobson stepped up to the presidential podium, and smiled. This was NASA's finest hour. "As you all know, last year, the Ares One mission landed three Americans safely on the planet Mars. They conducted several scientific experiments and lived on the surface for over three months, a sign of the possibility of future colonization of this planet. Having departed their new home, which they had named Rancho del Guerro, those same three Americans set off on the final stage of their journey - returning safely to the Earth.
Three hours ago, the Ares One re-entry capsule safely splash-landed one hundred and seventy miles west of the Channel Islands in California, and the three intrepid adventurers were rescued by a helicopter flying from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. Maggie O'Connell, Tommy Ferguson, and Hank Summers are currently being checked out by Navy, Air Force, and NASA doctors at Edwards Air Force Base, in the Mojave Desert, but our preliminary statement is that all three have returned safely to the Earth. They will be made available to the press, if they so choose, after their medical checks are complete in two days' time. Mr. President, would you like to say anything before we take questions?"
On the spur of the moment, Josiah Bartlet nodded, and Jobson stepped aside. "The successful completion of the Ares One mission highlights the scientific accomplishments and the spirit of inspiration and exploration that NASA has always embodied. As President ennedy once said, 'We choose to go to the moon and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.' NASA has never shrunk from difficulty; they overcome it, and so must we all."
"So what they're saying is..." Buffy trailed off.
Willow turned. "Your father was on Mars."
"So when I asked 'what on Earth have you been up to'..."
Xander grinned. "Might have wanted to add 'or anywhere else'."
----- The End ------