Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Jack came down from Elevator Town with a tale to tell and a song to sing. He sung it good and told it fast, but we didn’t believe him. Who would? What could make a man flee from Orbitopia to come and grub in the dirt with us who didn’t pass the tests?
Okay, there were a lot of us dirtside: more than made it upside. But we didn’t pass the tests. We spent our days working to provide for the upsiders and pay for our training, all the schools and tuitions and folk who could help us pass the tests – for a fee. That’s all we did, back then. All the game shows only had one prize: a ticket to Orbitopia.
Next thing we knew, Jack had himself a cable channel: “Jack’s New World”.
We thought it was something about a new Orbitopia habitat. But it wasn’t. Just about Earth. Nothing interesting, we told each other over our pseudobeer.
But it was. Jack went outside the colonies and visited mountains and did something called ‘skiing’. He strolled through somewhere called ‘alpine meadows’ and went ‘skinny dipping’ from tropical beaches. We couldn’t help it. We watched. All the feeds from Orbitopia were about parks that curved over your head. Jack went places where you couldn’t see the end of the place. Just something called a ‘horizon’.
Then he started offering tours. After that, he started settlements to support the tours. Those settlements became the first Freetowns. All of us suddenly wanted to go out there, not up there.
It was almost five years to a day after Jack came down that the unthinkable happened. Orbitopians came down here to go on one of Jack’s tours! They had to come down in exoskeletons, they were so weak. They couldn’t eat the fruit from the trees outside the Freetowns; they had to have their protein drinks shipped along with ‘em in great big cooler wagons.
We looked at each other and the question Jack had asked rose on our lips. “Do you want to sentence your kids to this?”
We didn’t. No sir, thank you very much, we’ll work to supply you and save to move to a Freetown. Jack’s set up Freetowns near the cities. We can ‘commute’. It means we can go to the city to work, but come home to our town when we’re not working. We can watch our kids run in the sun and play, while the Orbitopians hum by looking tired and sad in the machines that hold ‘em up.
We didn’t believe Jack.
He didn’t mind.
He just gave us a new song and made us part of his story.