I wrote a very short story tonight: Alice rested her head on the cool inside surface of the window, half looking up the road towards town, and half idly watching as her breath misted and re-misted the inside of the glass in little puffs. Pointless topping up the meter when the taxi to take her to the station would already be off the charging grid, meandering its way through the pot-holed, rain-slicked city streets towards her building. A visa, an actual honest to goodness government off-world visa, glistened on the replacement ID card that had almost been lost in the pile of junk mail and unpaid bills that made up the greater part of what came through the letter box these days. It was a long time coming, this shiny new lease on life. Earth’s time was over, really, but the few remaining earth-based governments hoarded their citizens like misers. Strict quotas limited who could leave surface of the planet, even temporarily, struggled to maintain population levels high enough for each country or federation to maintain its sovereignstatus. The outcome of a series of ill-thought-out treaties ratified back when the space elevator was new, back when everyone truly believed that it was indestructible. The failing economies of Earth made even a shared berth on a low-orbit biomass farm in a decaying orbit look hugely attractive, and the compulsory longevity treatments issued by many Earth-based governments meant the vast majority of Earth-dwellers were fit enough to work. Alice had met her child-bearing quotas, put in her hours asset-stripping paper-based libraries for missed titbits of human ingenuity. She was not going to a farm. Alice had scored the proverbial ‘golden ticket’. Just over a month ago a message had pinged her inbox out of the blue from someone purporting to be a blood relative, offering sponsorship for one of the most exclusive landmasses in the Solar System. The only place where you could stand out under an open sky and safely breathe the air. The message came from a man rather laughably claiming to be her father; Alice was going to Mars. A ping on her phone told her that the cab was waiting outside, in the dark. She hooked her breathing apparatus over her head, logged out of the room for the last time, and headed down the stairs with a spring in her step that matched her physical age of 34, hardly feeling the rest of her 120 years at all. Her father…. Alice laughed to herself. She didn’t even know if her mother knew who her father was, for sure. Not a usual ‘claimer’ tactic either. Usually sponsors would claim to be at most a cousin, if they were applying to bring an Earth-dweller up out of their gravity well. It led to fewer issues when they inevitably wanted you to breed for your visa.