Originally submitted to this prompt.
Silence filled the board room. And not the silence of shock and disgust one would have expected when the CEO just dropped her “brilliant” idea of offering free trips to the downtrodden members of society inside the company’s new economic personal low Earth orbit shuttle like human crash test dummies. No, the silence was as if she had said something so genius and revolutionary that the members of the boards and the department heads had to take it in and digest it like a five star meal. All but Hannah who seemed to be the only shifting in her seat. Still new to her position and not wanting to mess anything up, she held her tongue as hard as she could.
“Margret,” the CFO said, “you’ve out done yourself again!”
“I just stated the obvious, that’s what you hired me for anyways?” The CEO looked towards the board. “To cut past the red tape and have our profits soar sky high?”
The members of the board mumbled in agreement, a few expressing their enthusiasm with generous head nods. The chairman meanwhile had fallen deep asleep. A man so old that his flesh barely hung upon him anymore and he had to get his skin sprayed golden brown in private at least twice a month to keep it somewhat youthful looking. But to Hannah he looked nothing more than a withered rotten orange that should have been tossed into the compost long long ago.
“There is one problem though,” spoke the VP of employee retention and recruitment. “Where will we find people so poor and desperate enough to shoot them out into space?”
“We’ll entice them with a lottery,” the CEO said. “A dream of a better future!” She emphasized by extending her arm and making a whipping motion in front of her. “Nothing sucks the poors in better than the hope for a better future. Of course we’ll have to make the reward large enough to draw them in, but also make the odds astronomical. Pun, totally intended.”
The “poors”?” Hannah thought. Jesus Christ, who hired this woman? All she does is make the company look bad. Not that we had much good will in the first place after that Tahiti incident three years ago. And that was a fucking mess to pick up after her.
“I have a comment, if you don’t mind” the VP of engineering brought up.
“Hmmm…” The CEO said. “What is it?”
He has a reputation to keep, these are his shuttles after all, Hannah thought. Perhaps he’ll reel her in.
“We’re still in the prototype stages, as you know. So the shuttles will be missing the amenities in the final product. It’ll be nothing but chairs and a shell. No in flight entertainment or concierge services yet. Will that be okay with you?”
“We’re trying to make them dream of being rich, not make them feel rich,” the CEO said. “It’ll be fine.”
“Oh my fucking God,” Hannah said. The whole room turned to look at her, everybody buy the chairman who still laid asleep at the head of the table. Oh shit, did I say that out loud? She gasped and held her hands over her mouth. Hannah, the new VP of public relations, and the woman who single-handedly saved the company from its nose dive after the Tahiti incident, had had it enough.
“Yes Hannah?” The CEO said crossing her arms and staring her down. “Do you have anything to add to this constructive conversation?”
Hannah didn’t want to speak, but her brain wouldn’t let her hold her tongue anymore. The words began spilling out. “You can’t just shoot people into space on an untested vehicle that can’t even pass even the basic NASA protocols. And to lure them in with a fucking lottery? What the hell is your problem? It’s horrifying , it’s delusional, and it’s fucking inhumane.”
“It’s not illegal though,” the CEO said. That was true, ever since the Starfish accords were signed just last year aerospace became a lot more “experimental” so to speak, pushing NASA into a corner in which it functioned purely as an advisory role and no longer a regulatory body like it had been over the past forty years. However, no major company was willing to put their neck on the line in safety to save a few millions here and there.
“It’s still unethical,” Hannah said.
The CEO shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Then we’ll offset the damages. We have room in the charity budget right?” She looked at the CFO.
“I can look into rearranging our funds, put more towards charities that work with the poor and homeless.” He said.
“See, problem solved. We’re all good here aren’t we Hannah?”
“You got to be fucking kidding me,” Hannah said. “We can’t just offset people’s lives with fucking charity donations.”
“It’s how we solved Tahiti,” the CFO answered.
“It’s how you solved Tahiti. I had to go down there and actually be a human to show them that we cared. Clearly I was in the minority. You can’t bribe your way out of everything, no matter what the bottom line says.”
“Clearly you have a lot to learn,” the CFO answered. “You’d be surprised at what money can solve.”
Hannah shot up out of her chair. Her mind wasn’t in control anymore, just rage. The CEO flinched.
“I’m done with this place,” Hannah said taking her badge strapped around her lanyard and tossing it onto the table. “I quit.” With that she stormed off through the conference room doors into the hallway straight towards HR. As she left the chairman stirred, rising from his sleep and looked at the room with half closed eyes.
“As you were saying?” He mumbled to the CEO and drifted back off to sleep.