“Jerry, how’s this one look?”
I glanced over at the poster held in the receptionist’s hands, trying to smooth out the frowning creases in my face that threatened to become permanent. “Actually, that one’s not so bad,” I said after a minute’s reflection. “Very retro.”
The receptionist nodded, biting her lip as she looked down at it. “Our windows aren’t that big, though,” she pointed out.
I didn’t need a mirror to know that the twitch was back in my jaw. “Maybe they’re kids looking out the window, so they’re smaller. Whatever. It’s just an ad, Sherry.”
Sherry still didn’t appear fully convinced, but I had more on my plate than convincing the newly hired receptionist that our posters didn’t have to be completely physically accurate. How the hell did I land myself in this situation?
Oh, right. I’d been sitting at my desk in SpaceCentral (building 4E, the one towards the back behind the parking structure, big concrete rectangle, can’t miss it), trying to keep my attention focused on the spreadsheet displayed on the monitors in front of me. Just another unhappy little cubicle drone, tapping away at my keyboard as I scrolled through a billion lines of shoddily written code, highlighting areas that needed to be rewritten by another Indian coding team in a hovel somewhere.
My phone beeped, and I looked down with annoyance at the spam email. Go vacation in Russia? Who were they kidding? Now that the new economy had opened up interstellar mining outside our solar system, no one cared about the natural resources that used to give Russia a seat at the solar superpowers table. They’d been trying to shift to a tourism economy for a few years now, but no one ever chose it as their first destination.
I certainly wasn’t going to waste my precious time off in Russia. Hell, if I wanted to travel, I’d just take one of the SpaceCentral positions located on Trappist-1e, the ones they were constantly advertising through internal mailers. It wasn’t like I had anything keeping me here on Earth, no family or friends, and I wouldn’t mind seeing another solar system before I died. It might even be a nice vacation, almost-
That was when it hit me. Bolt of freaking lightning, straight to the cerebral cortex. I actually fell off my chair, and Barry, my cubicle neighbor, stuck his head around to blink nearsighted at me.
“You okay there, Jer?” he asked, using that shortening of my name I hated.
This time, however, I was willing to overlook it. “Better than okay, Barry!” I exclaimed, jumping back to my feet. “I’ve had an idea for a business!”
“Yeah? What’s that, Jer?”
“Space tourism, on Trappist-1e!”
He didn’t look excited. He just blinked his owlish eyes, behind those glasses he insisted on wearing. I knew for a fact that he didn’t have any eye problems; he just thought the glasses made him look distinguished. He was wrong.
“Space tourism?” he echoed back. “But Jer, no one goes outside the solar system for tourism. Mars, sometimes, but that’s it.”
“But that’s because there aren’t any tourist agencies operating in the Trappist system!” I fired back. “Think of it, Barry! They’ve got seven planets, three in the habitable zone, and all with unique features! We’re already setting up colonies there, shipping out people and equipment. The mass launchers are firing round-the-clock to send stuff up there. Why not people?”
Barry blinked again. “I dunno,” he said slowly. “But if it was such a good idea, Jer, wouldn’t someone have thought of it?”
“Yes, someone did,” I snapped, suddenly infuriated with my stupid coworker. “Me. Now, I’m off to go request a transfer to Trappist-1e.”
“It’s Jerry, you stupid hipster prick! Jerry! How many fucking times have I told you, you idiotic four-eyed shit-gibbon? Huh?”
My supervisor stuck her head out of her little office at the sound of my shouting. “Er, Jerry, everything okay?” she asked with her nervous, reedy little voice.
I paused in my tirade long enough to beam at her. “Just great, except that I’m suffering a stress-related breakdown,” I told her. “I think that the best answer would be to offer me a paid transfer to Trappist-1e.”
She gulped, and scurried back into her office.
That had been nearly two years ago. The transfer went through, and I soon found myself strapped aboard a shuttle, fired off the equator at nearly 0.08c. Even with the newest forms of Alcubierre technology, the trip out to the Trappist system took nearly a year of my time, mostly with accelerating and decelerating. Then, while occasionally handling duties for SpaceCommand, I started setting up my new business.
And now, we had posters.
“And the agency’s going to share these?” I asked Sherry. “Get them up all over the Ethernet, broadcast them?”
She nodded. “They’re very excited. The first interstellar tourism opportunity. They’re even giving us heavy discounts, as long as they can get a cut of the customer signup fees.”
I wasn’t thrilled with that deal that we’d banged out, but I knew that I couldn’t afford to shoulder the advertising cost myself. “Yeah, I know. Okay, these have my stamp of approval. Send them out, Sherry.”
She winked at me. “Will do, boss.”
As she hurried off, I sat back in my chair, looking out through my office window at the planet-scape above me. My old office hadn’t had a window. I was nearly forty light-years away from everything I knew, the world where I’d been born and spent all my life.
Opportunity was here, and I was going to embrace it.