Roland Ruiz isn't very good at taking time for himself. When he loses a big intergalactic trafficking case at his legal firm, his boss tells him to take the Vacation Station travel liner and visit the vacation moons of Jupiter. What should be fun ends up feeling more like exile, especially as Roland is left unimpressed by the first moon he visits and is snubbed by the locals. Everything changes when a beautiful scientist working on Io shows him the dynamic chemicals that go into synthetic snow, which keeps the vacation ski lodge up and running in the most drastic of space climates.<br><br>Martha Carpenter has been working hard her entire life and with very little credit. It's only when her ex wins a prestigious grant, however, that she begins to feel resentment creep into her daily life of making weather conditions for some of the Jupiter’s vacation moons. In an effort to stay positive, she turns to her old routine of self-care, and soon meets trans man and disgraced lawyer Roland, who could benefit from her many lessons.<br><br>As Roland and Martha grow closer, she must decide if being invisible in the workplace is worth the cost to her self-esteem, while Roland must reconcile his failure with his hopeful future. Together they both realize it is far better to be recognized by one person than to be rewarded by many, and that recovery is just as thrilling as discovery.
Roland Ruiz stood from his cluttered desk and wandered to the window in his office. Night on Earth always enchanted him in a way he couldn’t quite put to words. The city was alive with colour and light; though it was nearly three A.M., people emerged from other buildings and gleefully lit up their devices in neon green and orange in order to call transportation towards them. Other offices flicked on their own lights across the street, ready to begin a morning call in another solar system—or they shut off their computers and florescent lights, leaving nothing but the red glow of exit signs in their wake. The cars snaked their way between the cross-streets and through the tunnels, beeping and sputtering exhausts ten floors below Roland. When he finally looked up, and over the tall sky scrapers, he saw the moon. More planets, now visible through their own artificial illumination, were visible beyond the moon’s calming half-quarter glow. Roland remembered what life was like on some of these planets.
Then he didn’t want to look out the window anymore.
He turned towards his desk and sat back down. His knees ached as he did. So did his chest, and his scars burned as if he’d just undergone the knife. When the pain persisted, he even unbuttoned his dress shirt and glanced down, expecting to find raw wounds. But no, there was no blood. His body was healthy, as far as he could tell. This pain was just…pain. No rhyme or reason, so he tried to sort through the loose files—why did they still have loose files?—on his desk. When the migraine started ten minutes later, and the lights of the city he loved so much made his forehead flare with pain, he realized he’d have to leave his office.
Just for some pills at the drugstore, he told himself. Maybe around the corner to the bodega, too, so he could get a sandwich or maybe even a moon muffin. The thought of the moon made his forehead flare again. He sighed.
A sandwich it was.
Roland kept his eyes closed as he stepped into the elevator. The lights hurt him less this way, and he’d been in this office so much the last six months that he knew it like his own body, the scars, and the stories the doctors had once made him tell about his gender transition. He shoved that thought away, too, as the elevator dinged. He stepped out squinting and nearly ran into a large body.
Roland opened his eyes and saw his law partner, Donovan Bailey. Their firm also included a third partner, Michael Sullivan, though Roland still insisted that three people couldn’t be partners. Partners were for twos. You sort of used to be another person, Donovan said. So you’re your own partner.Roland had laughed at the joke then. He thought it made him one of the guys. But now he felt the ache of his body as he looked into Donovan’s sceptical gaze.
“What are you doing here so late?”
“I could ask you the same question, couldn’t I?”
Roland tried to be nonchalant, but it was hard with his head in a cloudburst of pain. There was also the fact that Donovan was dressed in club clothing. His shirt was as bright as the damn sun and radiated iridescent light in his face. Donovan was not here for work. He was here to get something from his office after the parties he’d gone to, and so, Roland wasn’t surprised when a blonde woman spilled out of the women’s bathroom on the first floor. Her dress was short, barely to her mid-thighs, and was a shade of teal.
“Julie, come here and say hello.” Donovan held out an arm and the woman went under it right away. She smiled with straightened teeth at Roland as if she expected him. Her eyes were the size of dinner plates. Her nostrils flared from a foreign substance. “This is my partner, Roland.”
“Nice to meet you. I didn’t know he had another partner. I already met Michael.”
“Of course. I’m two people,” Roland said. The joke was flat. It hurt his head. He winced and clutched at his forehead.
“Your third eye hurts,” Julie said. “Your second sight.”
“It’s from the fluoride in the water,” Julie deadpanned. “Your pineal gland is calcified, so you don’t know who you are anymore. That’s why it hurts.”
“I think I know who I am, thanks.” Roland huffed and turned away from Julie. “I gotta go, Don, my head is throbbing.”
“Julie, dear,” Donovan said, his voice taking on the commanding tone he used in the court room. “Give this man some help.”
“No thank you,” Roland said. “I don’t need that kind of help.”
“You do,” Donovan challenged. “But that’s not what I meant. Julie. You’re a lady. Surely you have some Advil on you?”
“Oh!” Julie grasped her barely pocket-book sized purse and pulled back the flap. Something glowed inside. Roland knew the light source as a common compound used for sedation; he knew what its presence meant, as if her eyes and nose hadn’t already given it away. Though he knew that Julie was consenting, Roland still wanted to retch. Not everyone who encountered that chemical came away so lucky.