Nov 3
Competition for
Lady Berkley’s sponsorship

As I try to design a safe way of having windows on my longrange cruiser, I am disheartened by the scary amount of patents already filed for how to accomplish that goal. I read a seemingly endless list of patents that just goes and goes and goes. I could choose one of the many available, but then all my work would be attributed to someone else and wouldn’t help us maintain our status. One has a surprising amount of window real estate in his patent filing, but notes from past users show it to be a delicate system. 
    I watch in horror a mock experiment in which the robots operating the space ship are violently sucked out of the vehicle. They had bumped a rock wall slightly and the edge of the window gave out, which was enough to create intense suction. When the robots hit, then, the whole plane of glass popped out of place. 
    So not only are there a ridiculous amount of patents, they are also altogether useless. I have to rethink windows. What is a window? I look out my window into space. It is a portal, a viewing portal. Is just the view important, or is the illusion of transparency also important? What about the illusion of safety? Is that a necessary element of a window?
    My train of thought is derailed by a knock on the hardwood doors, which produces a resounding low sound throughout the workroom. Lady Berkley enters. She isn’t elegantly dressed today. She wears a loose blouse and comfortablelooking sweats, but the bracelets, necklaces and other baubles are still there. 
    “Jessica, dearie! How good it is to see you! I come with marvelous news! I think you will be most impressed!” she says exuberantly. 
    I’m about to correct her for calling me Jessica, as she always thinks Jess is short for it, when I see Amanda behind her. My heart sinks. 
    “Whatever could it be, Lady Berkley?” I ask genuinely.
    “You remember Amanda from last night, surely? She’s so incredibly enthusiastic about continuing her Design, that I simply had to find a place for her work. That is when I thought, surely Jessica could use an assistant? Amanda could use a tutor, no? So I have made all the arrangements and now the two of you will be sharing this workroom! Isn’t that wonderful?” she asks sweetly.
    Lady Berkley is not idiotic, not entirely. She has to know what kind of competitive spirit this brings to our efforts. But I truly think she is delusional. Can she really expect us to share this small workroom as we fight to see who can stay? Amanda looks sheepish, an odd look for her. She, at least, must understand what is going on, which is worse than not knowing. She enters and sits in the chair viewing the second window next to the old printers and the scraps from misprints. And then a man comes in and attaches another Design board in front of Amanda, pushing aside the printers. 
    Lady Berkley leaves with a wave and a kiss, but neither of us are looking at her or each other. I want to get back to my work, but now I’m annoyed. I steal a quick glance over at Amanda and see she isn’t doing anything either. Good, I think. I want to cry. I deserve this position, and it has been my home for some time. Whether I can compete with Amanda has nothing to do with my worth, which is why this feels so cruel. I hear Amanda crying softly. I hear her turn in her seat.
    “Jess — I didn't mean to — “ she sniffles.
    I don’t turn in my seat. I fold my arms in defiance.
    “I don’t want to hear about it,” I assert.
    She continues to cry for several minutes until we are sitting in silence. What do her parents think of all this? They are probably as ignorant as Lady Berkley. And what about dad? He’d love me no matter what, which makes this a completely personal rather than a family matter. 
    “I didn’t want to put you in this situation at all. Whether you are listening or not, I mean to tell you that I just want to be your friend,” she says.
    She starts crying again.
    “You can take all the credit. I really will be just your assistant,” she begs, “We can show everybody we are better as a team. We can show them that neither of us has to go. Jess? Please.”
    I turn to see her eyes are all red and puffy. If we truly showed that we make things together in the same amount of space that was once just mine, we can prove we aren’t a drain to the system. But we would have to work hard, and it isn’t exactly conventional. That is why Lady Berkley used those words: assistant, tutor. This relationship is supposed to be temporary. Pupil is meant to surpass tutor, or at least become a tutor as well. But no station could have a monopoly on skill like that. It just isn’t proper. Those in high society find ways to spread things out evenly. 
    “We would have to be more than just a good team. We would have to prove that we are inseparable. We would have to prove that we create just as many things as one person, but they are the best things,” I think aloud, “It would be as if we have one large family, actually not that large, and we are one person creating the most wonderful, innovative Design.”
    “Okay,” she agrees. “Show me what you’re working on and I’ll try and be of help.”
    She gets up to come over. I get up and give her a hug.     She smiles.
    “Thank you, Jess. We are going to be great friends, I think,” she hopes aloud.
    I show her my design so far, which looks kind of like a pill, but split in the middle longways. The entire thing is glass except for the connection in the middle and the girding there. I explain to her my object is to create a more pleasant traveling experience by having more window space, but that I am having a hard time reconciling safety concerns with window real estate. 
    “The issue is glass, right? Why not use another material?” she asks.
    I try to remember why that wasn’t possible. 
    “The cost is too great or the process is too lengthy. I don’t remember the reason. Either way, people prefer to be able to print their ship within the hour and take off. Can’t do that with other materials. Plastic creates too much of a fishbowl effect if I remember correctly, otherwise it is quite cheap and quick to print,” I reason.
    “We’ll figure this out, Jess Fens. We’ll have to make sure it’s foolproof, right?” Amanda assures me.
    “Right,” I say.
    She sits back down and gets to work. I, too, find I can work again. Before I lost my train of thought I was caught on something important about windows. Illusion is the word I kept using. Windows aren’t apertures to the outside, but are an illusion of connection. Windows are not a protection from outside, just an illusion of separation. What they are not is an illusion of transparency. So any fake alternative to glass or what we traditionally think of as a window is just as good as an actual window because the illusion is already implied, so long as it is transparent. But what if that, too, is made an illusion?
    “What if the window is not literally a window, but just the idea of a window?” I ask Amanda.
    “What do you mean?” she responds.
    “How can we show the outside while maintaining a thick wall between you and the outside?” I ask.
    “Like they do now, with screens and cameras?” 
    “Precisely. But what if the screens were showing exactly to scale what the camera is seeing. That would be a window, no?” I ask.
    “Yes, I suppose so, but aren’t those cameras to show you the exterior of the ship, not the outside?”
    “Yes, but I think we have found out how we can solve this problem,” I cheer.