where bureaucracy meets astrology and dictates interstellar travel
“It’s really quite simple,” asserted the helpdesk attendant. “Just place your travel card in the machine and press the start button, then enter your destination and key in your star sign. You will be given a ticket and print-out directing you to the applicable gateway.”
“I did that but the gatekeeper rejected my ticket,” retorted Aston retrieving the card from his top pocket. “He advised me to see you.”
“So you are a Scorpio I take it. Scorpions are always given blood red cards.”
"Aries cards are printed on completely different shade of red from Scorpions."
"This is the card the machine printed out. I clearly typed in Aries."
“The red gate no longer accepts blood red cards."
"I thought the gate accepted all shades of red."
"Not anymore. it was agreed at the last Combined Zodiac Affairs meeting. I assume you did not attend.”
Aston could feel another migraine coming on.
“I did not know of any such meeting,” he stated, his eyes shifting from the attendant to his watch then back again. It was getting late and he needed to sort this out before the Plutonian Shopping mall closed.
"The meeting was announced on page 47 of last month’s edition of QACS, The Quasar Appreciation Committee Supplemental.”
“Which I don’t subscribe to,”
“I would think not!" she exclaimed in a mocking tone "It’s only distributed to Scorpions who have achieved outstanding success in the field of Quasar research.”
“Small wonder I did not know about the change then. I thought there would at least be a sign on the machines warning about the blood red variations.”
“It’s included in the Astro Flight Terms and Conditions sign on twenty-first floor, sector eght, of the Troglodyte Housing Affairs department in Mars; though it is not generally open to the public except on unspecified occasions.”
“So what you are saying is that I am being discriminated against just because I am of a different star sign. That I am not worthy to travel with people of opposite stars signs. There must be a multi zodiac carrier that doesn’t give a toss about Astrology.”
The attendant tapped rapidly on her keyboard, stopped and studied the computer terminal.
“There doesn't seem to be anything at present, most of those flights have sold out decades in advance. There is however a Aries and Scorpion shared shuttle leaving this weekend, but its of a more romantic nature. They do not approve of passengers buying single seats."
Aston cursed under his breath.
“How would I go about exchanging the ticket?” he asked
“You’d have to talk to an exchange officer in admin stall 45, which is unfortunately administered by Virgos.”
“Virgos refuse to deal with domineering Aries, period.”
“Basically what you are telling me this ticket is unusable and cannot be exchanged.”
“Unless you’re a Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio, or a Capricorn; they all communicate well with Aries.”
“I’m on the Cusp of Taurus, if that would help.”
She checked the card then frowned contemptuously.
“This card has no Cusp Number!”
“I did not know it needed a Cusp Number.”
“There!” she grumbled pointing to the small print on the back of the ticket “Article seventeen: All cusps must press CSP before printing ticket.”
“The vender did not mention anything about it.”
“Hello? Printed clearly on the back,”
“So the only way to know about the CSP is to read the back of the ticket which you cannot get unless you press print, and by the time you read the message it is too late you have already bypassed the CSP.”
“Your Aries aggression is starting to show.”
“Look all I want is a ticket to get a shuttle back to Pluto before I die of old age.”
She checked her computer terminal
“There is an Astro-cargo ship due to leave here in about two hours from now which could perhaps drop you off, however you would have to have stop overs in Mercury and Jupiter.”
“And I could use my non CSP, wrong-shaded, red ticket to board?”
“No. You will need to obtain a transit permit from a Gemini Officer for Mercury was well as another one from a Pisces Officer for Jupiter.”
“And how much will all that malarkey set me back?”
“Total would be three sixty five srats and fifty two stenalps.”
“The original trip was only going to cost ten strats.”
“Well you should have pressed CSP.”
“Thanks, you’ve been a really great help, made my life so much easier. If it’s all the same to you I think I might just flag it and try to rent a craft instead.”
“Glad to be of service… though I must warn you to be careful with the rental companies.”
“I hear they can be quite bureaucratic.”
“I’ll keep that in mind"