This was it, this was the moment Fabian’s life would change forever. He’d worked towards this moment for years, and finally it was here. He slowly lifted his envelope to the application box, savouring every second of this momentous occasion. The moment he applied for an actual space mission. The moment his dream of seeing extra-terrestrial plants would become reality.
“Oh, hey Fabian.” The voice startled him, shattering his moment. He turned to see Sander standing there, a colleague a few years younger than him.
“Hey.” He let his hand with the envelope fall to his side, he’d put it in when he was alone again. But then Sander stepped towards him instead of in the direction of the coffee machine, and Fabian’s eyes fell on the envelope casually held in Sander’s hands. “You’re applying?”
Sander frowned, glanced at Fabian’s hand. “Yeah, you as well I see.”
He couldn’t contain a smug smile as he nodded. Space, what he wouldn’t see up there. The vastness beyond the ship’s walls, the endless stars and planets flashing by. The danger, the cold. His smile waned. “You sure you’re up for it?”
“Uh… What?” he said, laughing awkwardly.
“Well,” Fabian said, taking a superior tone, “there’s the physical requirements, not to mention the regular qualification checks.”
Sander stood very still for a moment, eyes very round. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “You are doubting if I am qualified?”
He glanced to the application box. “Well-”
“No way.” He shook his head. “You do realise the missions require a group of people to be in constant very close proximity for years right?”
Fabian pursed his lips. “I do realise that,” he said slowly.
“Are you-” Sander sighed explosively. “Look, I wasn’t going to say anything, but just in the time I was in this room you couldn’t restrain yourself from commenting on my qualifications. You’re a complete asshole. There’s a reason you always get the solitary assignments you know?”
Stunned, Fabian let himself be pushed aside so Sander could put in his application without further ceremony. “But I prefer solitary assignments…” he muttered as Sander moved past him towards the door.
“Good for you,” Sander said in an even tone. He hooked his hand around the door-frame, stopping to look back at Fabian. “I wouldn’t wish for anyone to be locked in a small space with you.” And then he left.
It was long minutes after Sander left that Fabian finally put his own application in. This is what his whole life had been leading up to. From the moment the first DEIL mission launched to the moment they announced they’d found plants. From the moment his teacher patted him on the head and told him he’d better work hard, they only took the best scientists with them on those missions.
He’d worked hard and let no one stand in his way, that’s what brought him to this moment. He was certain they would chose him, he was the best in his field. No other botanist even came close.
And so, with one determined movement, Fabian’s envelope slid into the box. He wouldn’t let some jealous coworker stand in the way of his dream.
Three months later Fabian opened his letter with the utmost confidence. In three months of rigorous interviews and meetings and tests, he hadn’t blundered even once. He had this in the bag.
But then he heard a whoop from the other side of the room, followed by a chorus of congratulations. He froze, stared at his letter in horror. Were they filling two positions after all? Was Sander happy about something else?
Slowly, he unfolded the paper.
This was it, this was the moment his life would change forever. He would see plants like never before even imagined. Colours only possible in an atmosphere that was green instead of blue. Structures that wouldn’t survive in gravity as strong as on Earth.
He felt faint, his vision tunnelled, as he read over the damning words that ended his dream forever.
Fabian Pauwel is a character in an as of yet untitled story I’m working on. The events of this story take place years before that story, but are ultimately what lead him down that path.