Sunrise. Earthrise. I guess it depends on your point of view.
From space, the sunrise is spectacular. An arc of glowing light strikes the curve of the planet and rolls along, driving away the darkness in its path. Of course, that’s not how it works – the sun’s light is fixed and the Earth spins through it. But why let facts ruin a lovely image?
I stared out the porthole, dreading the day to come. My class had finally hit a point where we were deemed capable of handling A5 tasks with minimal supervision, and we’d receive our work assignments today.
Along with the other tenthers, I’d spent time working in nearly every section of the station – robotics, astromech, waste management, life support, maintenance, eco support, freight ops, lift ops, medical, and recycling. Contracted techs and their families were never allowed into the command center – WalCorp claimed it was a security problem, but I think it was to keep us from finding out that we’d never go home to Earth.
That’s a funny phrase: “home” to Earth. I was only 2 when my parents signed up for this. They lifted us within months, and I don’t remember anything about the surface. How can I call it home when I don’t remember anything about it?
No control room for us; no radar, no administration, no flight ops, no communication with the surface. We existed in a little bubble and serviced the great machine in which we lived – the hum from the constantly running lift seemed to vibrate through every metal surface. I even thought I could feel it when I curled up in my bunk, but my mother told me I was imagining it.
The grades below us, mostly sevenths and eighths, had to supervise the younger children and clean the living quarters. Sometimes they helped with other things, like harvesting in eco, but they mostly took care of the cleaning. I didn’t miss that; I preferred digging into the mechanics of the servo arms to fix them.
I loved the sight of Earth from my private window, but even that couldn’t soothe me while I waited to find out where I’d be assigned for the next two years. Our classes would continue until we were 20, but we’d have to work an increasing number of hours along with our studies. I don’t mind the studying, but I do mind having to give up any semblance of privacy and free time for something I didn’t agree to. I love my parents…but right now, I hate them for bringing me here.
Anything but recycling; anything but medical. I can’t stand it when they bring in people who got hurt loading or unloading the lift. It takes 22 hours for it to climb or descend, so there’s a two-hour window to unload and then load it with whatever’s going back to the surface. The lift is tethered in the center of the station where there’s no gravity – or maybe I should say the station rotates around the spot where the lift is linked. I guess it depends on your point of view.
I’ll know in five minutes. That was my thought then, and I remember it clearly even though it’s been nearly 10 years since my last few days on Proteus Station.