Walking up the fourteen flights of stairs outside our apartment building, I saw the light through the curtains of our window. Dad was awake.
The door creaked open, much in the same way the stairs always groaned. Our building was an oldie, one of the survivors of the new developments. The apartment was definitely the shortest in all of Las Tunas, the more modern housing accommodations were at least thirty stories tall, never less. Ours was the only one reliant on stairs, for sure.
Dad was sitting in our old 2100′s style couch, yellow, with stylistically high arms, it wasn’t the most comfortable time in furniture manufacturing, that’s for sure, but it was cheap enough second-hand for us to put up with it. The news was playing on our wall Slate, the sound was set to a low murmur, so I figured he wouldn’t mind an interruption.
“Hey dad, anything new today?”
He turned and I saw that he was holding his personal Slate as well, still job-searching. Ever since he was laid off out of the blue from his career as a robotics engineer, he had been scouring the wanted sectors relentlessly. It was a painful irony that the reason finding a new position was so hard for him was that increased-efficiency automatons were taking over the workforce in every way that was possible. The only reason dad was sacked was that fresh blood was coming into the field. He was highly skilled and everyone was shocked when it happened, but the company favored the thrill of possibility that the newly educated could provide. They seemed to think his good ideas had already been squeezed out of him, preemptively throwing away the husk before it was too dry.
“How was work?”
“It was... fine. Good tips tonight.”
It was obvious that his mind was elsewhere. I raided our tiny kitchenette for a bottle of guarapo and plopped myself down beside him, peeking over at his Slate screen. I didn’t see anything fitting his skill-set, most of the ads were looking for people my age, a lot of them were in the entertainment industry, like my job at the Prawn. Dad just wasn’t going to be an asset anymore, and it killed me to see him realize it.
“You know, I could go for that one, dad.”
He shook his head, he was exhausted. I knew he hated relying on me, he had always been Super Dad and now I put the proverbial bread on the nonexistent table.
“It really wouldn’t hurt. Might even be fun?”
“Rebecca. I can’t let you work yourself to death. It’s hard enough watching you go out to that damn bar every night. You’re better than this.”
I wrapped my arms around him, careless of the Slate in his hands.
“Things’ll get better, daddy. It’s fine. I’ll work as hard as I need to. It won’t last forever.”
He didn’t look too sure when I sat back against the arm of the sofa again.
“I bought a ticket today,” he was being conversational, we were moving on.
“Well then, maybe it won’t be much longer at all! Who knows?”
He cranked up the volume of the wall Slate, and we listened to the young reporter tell of a possible murder in Undersea. They wouldn’t say it in the report, but it sounded like it was politically motivated. Wars were supposed to be a thing of the past, a weird barbarity that people just didn’t bother with anymore, but most people, those who weren’t easily influenced by the media, knew that wars weren’t dead, they were just more subtle. What used to be battled out by thousands of men, publicly, became an underground business sector. War was a money-maker for the more morally grey of men. Assassins drove the market, and nobody really knew what was happening until land traded hands.
“On a more cheerful note,” the reporter chimed, “a new apparatus brought to us by Gadgeron, the Elite Crisponix 7 is expected to hit the market by next week. They’ve done a great job keeping this baby under wraps during development.”
“Was that one of yours?”
“Yeah. We started on it before I… left.” The sparkle in his eyes was between pride and remorse.
“You did good dad.” I stood and kissed him on the forehead, “I’m off to catch a shower, tell me when I get back if the lottery numbers are any good.”
As I rounded the hall to the bathroom I heard the start of the Station Lottery drawing, regularly scheduled every night for three months until the launch of every pilgrimage. The sixth one would be next week.
“The Lottery continues to raise money for the maintenance of our crowning achievement, the space colony, Station, years after it’s initial launch. So far this year we have seen ticket sales climb to the trillions of dollars towards Station funds, keep it up! Every ticket bought is another chance you too can experience life in The New World! Our first...”
The sound of her chirpy voice was muffled by the closed bathroom door as I turned the shower pod’s nozzle. Warm water flooded into the pod and I shed my work attire before stepping in, ready to get rid of the many putrid smells that clung to my hair and skin. I let the horrors of the day run down the drain and leave me, clean and ready to curl up in my blankets for bed.