A Ticket to Tranai
By Robert Sheckley
One fine day in June, a tall, thin, intent, soberly dressed young man walked into the offices of the Transstellar Travel Agency. Without a glance, he marched past the gaudy travel poster depicting the Harvest Feast on Mars. The enormous photomural of dancing forests on Triganium didn’t catch his eye. He ignored the somewhat suggestive painting of dawn-rites on Opiuchus II, and arrived at the desk of the booking agent.
“I would like to book passage to Tranai,” the young man said.
The agent closed his copy of Necessary Inventions and frowned. “Tranai? Tranai? Is that one of the moons of Kent IV?”
“It is not,” the young man said. ‘Tranai is a planet, revolving around a sun of the same name. I want to book passage there.”
“Never heard of it.” The agent pulled down a star catalogue, a simplified star chart, and a copy of Lesser Space Routes.
“Well, now,” he said finally. “You learn something new every day. You want to book passage to Tranai, Mister – ”
“Goodman. Marvin Goodman.”
“Goodman. Well, it seems that Tranai is about as far from Earth as one can get and still be in the Milky Way. Nobody goes there.”
“I know. Can you arrange passage for me?” Goodman asked, with a hint of suppressed excitement in his voice.
The agent shook his head. “Not a chance. Even the non-skeds don’t go that far.”
“How close can you get me?”
The agent gave him a winning smile. “Why bother? I can send you to a world that’ll have everything this Tranai place has, with the additional advantages of proximity, bargain rates, decent hotels, tours – ”
“I’m going to Tranai,” Goodman said grimly.
“But there’s no way of getting there,” the agent
explained patiently. “What is it you expected to find? Perhaps I could help.”
“You can help by booking me as far as – ”
“Is it adventure?” the agent asked, quickly sizing up Goodman’s unathletic build and scholarly stoop. “Let me suggest Africanus II, a dawn-age world filled with savage tribes, saber-tooths, man-eating ferns, quicksand, active volcanoes, pterodactyls and all the rest. Expeditions leave New York every five days and they combine the utmost in danger with absolute safety. A dinosaur head guaranteed or your money refunded.”
“Tranai,” Goodman said.
“Hmm.” The clerk looked appraisingly at Goodman’s set lips and uncompromising eyes. “Perhaps you are tired of the puritanical restrictions of Earth? Then let me suggest a trip to Almagordo III, the Pearl of the Southern Ridge Belt. Our ten day all-expense plan includes a trip through the mysterious Almagordian Casbah, visits to eight nightclubs (first drink on us), a trip to a zintal factory, where you can buy genuine zintal belts, shoes and pocketbooks at phenomenal savings, and a tour through two distilleries. The girls of Almagordo are beautiful, vivacious and refreshingly naive. They consider the Tourist the highest and most desirable type of human being. Also – ”
“Tranai,” Goodman said. “How close can you get me?”
Sullenly the clerk extracted a strip of tickets. “You can take the Constellation Queen as far as Legis II and transfer to the Galactic Splendor, which will take you to Oume. Then you’ll have to board a local, which, after stopping at Machang, Inch-ang, Pankang, Lekung and Oyster, will leave you at Tung-Bradar IV, if it doesn’t break down en route. Then a non-sked will transport you past the Galactic Whirl (if it gets past) to Aloomsridgia, from which the mail ship will take you toBellismoranti. I believe the mail ship is still functioning. That brings you about halfway.