THE ATRIUM AT AIYA CORP
"Please have a seat. Make yourself comfortable."
JJ sat down. He was anything but comfortable. He could do almost anything he set his mind to when he worked, left alone and given enough time, but interviews were a special exception to his versatility; his stomach had already started twitching and he hadn't even been asked a question yet.
"I hope you won't mind the informal setting. I find the atrium to be calming."
The atrium at AIYA CORP was a spacious, dome-covered space at the center of the circular campus. It reminded JJ of an oversized conservatory-style greenhouse, complete with gardens, tropical trees and exotic shrubs. They sat on a park bench, close to a traditional paving-stone labyrinth at the center of the space. JJ might have found this setting relaxing if it hadn't been for the hustle of people all about them, walking by, engrossed in their own conversations.
"Before we get to know each other, I just want to make sure you understand the nature of the mission you are applying for."
JJ took a deep breath and answered the hologram with a perfunctory, "Yes, of course."
"This is a solitary mission. You understand that it is quite possible you may never see another living human being again if you are selected?"
JJ had read everything he had had time to read about the 'colonial surveyor' post that he was applying for. He had been supplied with volumes of information, after signing a confidential non-disclosure agreement with AIYA CORP not to discuss any details of the mission until after the post was filled. The fact that on this mission he could be alone, without distraction, and concentrate on his work was a major selling point. Rather than appear too enthusiastic, he downplayed this by saying, "That won't be a problem."
"Your mission would be to survey the TRAPPIST-1 star system, approximately 39 light years distant from SOL, and set up a foothold on the most promising of several exoplanet candidates. You will be assisted by the most advanced artificial intelligence as yet devised by man." At this, the hologram motioned a hand toward itself.
JJ's eyes opened a little wider in surprise. No one had mentioned that he'd be interviewing with one of the AIYA artificial intelligences. He felt his mouth suddenly go dry, and gave the hologram a nod of acknowledgement.
"Well, Adam ..."
He held up his hand to halt the hologram and said, "I go by JJ, if you don't mind." If anything was able to get JJ over the hurdle of speaking up, it was the use of his proper given name.
The halo that surrounded the female-shaped hologram intensified slightly and JJ's jaw clamped shut. If it hadn't been for the halo, he would have believed himself talking to a flesh and blood, youngish, business-woman. Her red hair was pulled up tight. She wore something that looked like a stylish flight jumpsuit over which was a business blazer, monogrammed with the number '7' on the left lapel. She projected no makeup.
After a moment's pause, the hologram continued, "And I respond to Aiya Seven. I was duplicated on April 18, 2072 directly from the Aiya One prototype and assigned to oversee this mission. I will be directly integrated with our exploratory vessel, The Monk, overseeing navigation, ship's systems and stasis."
"I'm um-uh ... honored to meet you," JJ stammered.
The hologram projected a slight smirk and said, "JJ, would you please tell me a little about yourself."
"Well, I'm sort of a Jack-of-All-Trades, ma'am."
"So I understand. Please, call me Aiya Seven."
JJ smiled for the first time since entering the corporate campus, "Not Aiya, or just Seven?"
"Aiya Seven, please. In the future, it will be important that I know you are addressing me, and not another of the Aiya intelligences. You might call me 'Seven', but I would be unsure if you were addressing me or stating a number in reference to something else. We will be working a lot with numbers, IF we are to work together in the future."
"I understand. Aiya Seven it is." JJ did understand, he had worked a lot with lesser artificial intelligences housed in robots for construction and repair purposes, and generally you had to be very specific and enunciate well when giving instructions.
"I have a fully detailed record of all your past work history. So, when I say I would like you to tell me a little about yourself, I'm more interested in what motivations you have for applying to go on this mission."
"Why do you want to travel almost 40 light years from home? You'll be in stasis almost all of the way, leaving everyone you know behind ... as I said, there is a fairly large chance that you will never see another human being again."
JJ had been to many interviews lately, but this was the first time anyone had bothered to ask him WHY he was applying for the job. He had to think a moment about what to say, without saying too much.
"New horizons," JJ began. "My 'wanderlust' has taken me all over this world, and I've had many different kinds of jobs, as you know. The Earth is crowded with people. There's nowhere that hasn't been mapped. There's nothing here to discover. That won't be true at TRAPPIST-1. We know there are worlds that will likely support life, but beyond that, it's a complete blank. Everything there will be new to us. Every day will hold a new discovery. Every decision will be life and death. Every day will be a challenge to survive and thrive."
"Do you have some kind of death wish?" Aiya Seven interrupted.
JJ thought for a moment and then said, "I don't want to die. I just want to live ... really live. That just doesn't seem possible anymore on Earth."
"And the lack of human companionship will not be a problem?"
"I've sought solitude all my life."
"I am currently interviewing 17 other candidates on this campus, 74 at our other campuses, and 114 remotely. By the end of the work day, I will have interviewed over 3347 applicants. Please answer this last question I have for you: Why should YOU be the first to travel to TRAPPIST-1? Why should YOU be given the opportunity to go farther than any man has ever gone before?"
After some moments, JJ spread his hands and said, "I don't know WHY you should choose me over anyone else. I hope you will though. This IS my only dream. Until now, it never seemed possible."
"Thank you JJ,” the hologram intoned warmly, “I appreciate your candor. You will be contacted within 24 hours to notify you of the result of this interview. A press release will soon thereafter be sent to all major media outlets to announce the candidate that has been chosen. Whoever it is will be expected to attend a press conference tomorrow evening."
And with that, Aiya Seven dissolved into the air and JJ was alone on the park bench, his stomach still dancing, his eyes still tracing the labyrinth.