My eyes glanced over the document in passing. The office smelled of mildew. I suppose someone had spilled something the week before. The light switch clicked as I flipped it on. The fluorescent lights above me flickered twice, then light spilled onto the papers in my hand. It was quite a small thing, really. It had only seven pages even with the larger-than-normal font. Much of it was translated into legal jargon and several signatures graced each page. Only one signature was blank. I reached for my pen, not to fill in my missing signature, but because I tend to think better with something in my hand. I turned the page as I took a seat in my leather office chair and tapped the silver pen on the hard mahogany of the desk.
After reading the next page my mind drifted and I caught myself looking at the nameplate on my desk. It read, "E. A. Freeman, CEO."
I had started the company ten years before. We were one of the first private companies to begin business in space. After those two inventors took that antique rocket into space and returned with it intact, all for less than the cost of a house, the corporate space race took off. I was lucky enough to see an angle that others didn't. Dozens of corporations landed on the moon and claimed land to colonize. Space hotels became the new fad for the rich and famous. But I had other plans. I set up our base of operations on a satellite orbiting the moon and sent mining ships to mars. I was able to bring in the key investors and by the first year we were the largest supplier of almost every mineral needed for effective space travel. We hit figurative gold on Mars. When other companies came to Mars they found a few veins of useful ore, but apparently we had landed on just the right spot. It took barely six months for all of us to become billionaires, and I've still barely left Earth's atmosphere.
Just then, when we thought it could never get better, a ship by the name of "The Columbus," funded by Exploration Incorporated, landed on one of the moons of Jupiter and discovered intelligent life. It was nothing like I'd read about in any science fiction story. They were almost just like us: carbon-based Homo sapiens. They had more body hair and some scientists were on the television once explaining how this and that was different, but none of us ever thought of them as aliens. On a technological perspective they were behind us in a number of ways, but they had had enough astronomy to know we were here. They welcomed our ships and were hospitable. They taught us about their planet, and I think I heard somewhere that their help was instrumental to the subsequent colonization of the other moons in the solar system. In return we gave them much of the technology they lacked and in a very short time they have come to be just like another country instead of another world.
My company hit gold again when it found deposits of some new isotope underneath the ice of Pluto. The new fuel was used for faster engines and even though the speed of light still limited us, we could now travel to neighboring stars.