Author: Alastair Millar
Eighty lights is a long way to go for a party, but Prosperina Station orbits Dis, the rogue gas giant PSO J318.5-22, and where there’s no sun, the nightlife never stops. More importantly, the Company had decided that I was due a good time, and they were footing the bill to get me there.
Why? Because I’d just landed the contract to supply exotic fuels for a new fleet of starliners. Without semi-biological gas derivatives, you’re just not leaving the Solar System, and we’re a big player in a cut-throat market. This was a big deal in every sense.
The congratulations came on my first office day back after a mandatory medical. “You’ve got the right stuff, Marty!” said CHRIS, the Corporate Human Resources Intelligence System. “Time we got you out beyond warp!”. An all expenses paid trip to a high class playground where most terrestrial laws don’t apply? How could I say no?
Two weeks later, I stepped off the transit liner Magellan, and settled in for a vacation to remember. Which it turned out to be, if not for the reasons I’d expected.
It started, of course, with a girl. Well okay, several, but this one stood out. No facepaint, which I liked: it was a fad I could do without. None of the obvious sensory implants favoured by the ostentatiously kinky, either; also good, I was still getting my bearings and wasn’t ready to experiment yet.
We ended up making out on a couch in a half-lit lounge with an amazing view of the luminous planetary bands. She scratched my neck in a moment of passion… and then I woke up under harsh ceiling lights, strapped down, with tubes inserted in my arms and unmentionables.
“Welcome back, loverboy,” said a honey-sweet voice in my ear. As she walked to the foot of the recliner that held me, I saw she’d swapped her party outfit for a white lab coat.
“Welcome aboard the gas dredger Cerberus.”
She laughed. “No, you’re taking a private cruise, courtesy of your employer.”
I started to get a sinking feeling. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s like this. Those exotic fuels you sell? Making them needs catalysts – specifically, blood antigens. Really rare ones. We can synthesise them, but we need to calibrate the process regularly using fresh samples. And guess what? You’re one in ten million, so management signed you up for the donation crew!”
“Empty space! You could have just asked.”
“You might have said no. Or worse, demanded a bonus. That’s not how things work.” She winked.
“So here’s the choice. You can yell and complain, in which case I’ll sedate you for a week, take the necessary anyway, and send you home. Or you go “okay ’Seph”, and I hook you up to the VR so you can have fun for a few days while we draw what we need. That way you get the tail end of your holiday. Or,” she leaned in closer, “you say “Yes please, Miss Persephone”, in which case I slip some of my personal content into the VR, reschedule you for a later flight back, and then show you what Prosperina really has to offer. Your call.” She smiled.
Well I mean, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse, right? I’ve already volunteered to go back and donate again next year. It would be irresponsible not to. After all, like HR said, I’m made of the right stuff.