You live in a spinning tube of metal.
Ash-mixed whips of air rise to Center Sky. Looking up, you think you see the soft green fields through the filth. The white lattice of wealth sprawled along the verdant curve of Bright Side. Families and love live there. The seats of power. But for you that place is a dream—you live in Cupid. Sector 6 slum to be exact. Your education in sex work and drug usage finishes this semester. And at eighteen, it’s time to enter the working world at last. Still, it’s a better life than sectors 7 and 8.
Things might change though. Douglas Triumph has just been elected President of Lutalica (the 5th Earth-launched tube colony). He’s won on the promise that he will make the tube great again. Make things as good as they are back on Earth. But you and everyone else in Sector 6 know he’s talking about one side of the tube—the Bright Side.
He’s on TV again tonight. Announcing that at last he’s implementing his first promise—to bring capitalism back onto its proper course—encouragement of competition at the genetic level. The world was proud of its eugenics programs back in the early 1900s, he says through the screen. Great names—the Rockefellers, Roosevelt, Churchill—they were thwarted before the full fruit of capitalism came to bear. Prevented by a historical overreaction to one man—Hitler. Hitler went about it all wrong, but we can’t let his mistake taint our progress any longer, he says. And as Triumph begins a sermon, explaining how the roundup will occur, how the gutters will be cleared, how he will put a stop to all unlawful movement between Sectors—send the illegals back to 6, 7, and 8—you turn off the TV. Because Dad wants to have a cake for Mom’s birthday. She’s been dead for 3 years, but he doesn’t care. You still celebrate.
She died on the job. HTR. The Helen Trigger Retrovirus.
They taught you the statistics in school. Sex workers can mitigate their risks by following the rules. Obeying the law. Doing the right mix of drugs. You do your best to listen. You know she didn’t, but you still loved her. And so did Dad.
But something is hanging in the air. A gloom over the candles. The palpable reek of Triumph’s words. Dad says that the roundup will be nothing like what he’s broadcasting on TV. That he’s out to cull the population and overload us here. That they’re not just going to dump the trash from their side into the high sectors. That they’ll be deselecting in Sector 6 too.