“If it were easy, I wouldn’t need you,” Isabel snapped. “There must be someone on this planet who could use the cash. Somewhere to hide.”
Ryan got a funny look on his face and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think there is,” he said, “but that might just be the solution.”
Isabel sighed. Dealing with Islington was always like this, but you couldn’t hurry him. And he was too powerful to get on his bad side. She gritted her teeth and waited for him to explain.
“Have you heard of the Utopia Project?” he asked.
Isabel frowned. “Is that the Finnish commune?”
He shook his head. “The name Emma Michaelson mean anything to you?”
“She owned one of the biggest corporations of the early 21st century. I don’t know what it did, something horrible, I’m sure, but it made her a lot of money. Back then there was this space travel craze for a while. Everyone with a billion dollars to spend ran some kind of private space program. Michaelson did, too, but she had a longer view than most of them. She set up a trust to create a set of orbiting space colonies, created a whole spin-off company to deal with it all. I’m sure she thought they’d all be populated by her cronies from the country clubs, some kind of oligarch’s heaven. Ha.” He slurped again and Isabel hoped he’d get to the point before someone recognized her.
“Funny thing was, her kids didn’t exactly share her vision. She had a pile of them, four or five, you know rich people. Anyway, they must have hated her pretty good, because when she finally died they turned the whole trust into a political escape hatch for the workers’ resistance. They just launched the preliminary vehicles and the first ship of people is scheduled to go up this year.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Isabel asked, frowning. “You’d have to have a PhD in rocket science with a minor in medicine to get in on that scheme, wouldn’t you?”
Ryan shook his head. “It’s political as much as it is practical. They’re recruiting from three groups: scientists and engineers, members of the radical protest movements and middle-class joes who have the desire to get out and enough money for gas. You can pay to get sent on a one-way trip to these things.”
Isabel’s eyes grew large as she realized what he was telling her. “That’s brilliant, Ryan,” she said, then forced herself to keep her voice down. “How much is it to get on board?”
He pursed his lips. “About half a mil, I think.”
“Okay, I’ve got about twice that to spend,” Isabel said, not even bothering to negotiate.
“That’s good,” he said, “because they won’t take you.”
“What?” Isabel said. “Why not?”
“Because they’re activists,” he said. “A person can pay their way to the colony, but they’ve got standards: no capitalists, no corporatists, no conservatives.”
“I’m none of those things,” Isabel said.
Ryan shrugged. “Maybe not, but you’ve worked for them all. Trust me, they wouldn’t take you. But there’s more than one way to get off this rock.” He smiled and lifted his coffee to his lips, and Isabel wondered if he’d finally lost his mind.
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