The Circa Stations

The Circa Stations

"I'm going to live up there some day," Leela told her mother.

Her thirteen Earth years of life had all been on a man-made space station called Circa-1.20. The United States had launched ten such space stations over twenty-seven years. Each one was designed to mimic a different time period of U.S. culture, minus the evilness of racism, sexism, and other "isms" according to their official incorporation documents. Circa-1.20 was modeled after the 1920s.

Leela was the seventeenth person born on Circa-1.20. She had a few friends, went to school, and helped with household chores. When she wasn't going to school, she was usually looking at Earth, which they were taught about in school. Circa-1.20 was nice and Earth-like, but it still wasn't the same as Earth and young Leela knew it.

Despite being modeled after the 1920s, the designers of the Circa stations were allowed to modernize certain things in order to help alleviate some issues. For example, all the stations were communal and didn't have a capitalist monetary system. Also, the different eras had different types of oppression, which shaped how society functioned. This was not how Circa societies worked, so there had to be adjustments. For some things, that meant adding technology where there wouldn't have been.

For example, a communication network was built to allow easy communications, but families and individuals didn't have personal devices. In order to use the systems, they would have to go to a communication station, which is also where radio broadcasts were centralized. Leela had never been to a communication station, although her mother and father occasionally went to communicate with loved ones on Earth. They also had a few friends in Circa-1.40 they communicated with.

Leela knew that Earth would be amazing. She had studied a great deal of Earth's history and was excited when she would eventually be able to travel to see it for herself. Her class was having a trip to Earth soon, and she was going to be on it. She was preparing for weeks, even though it was only a day trip. She had her outfit picked out, a small bag to take with her complete with a first aid kit, tooth sanitizer, and a book to read, although she figured she would be too excited to read.

The tooth sanitizer was a piece of technology the designers of the Circas agreed to standardize on all stations. It would take five seconds to sanitize bacteria and left your mouth feeling clean and refreshed. Most people used them several times per day and had greatly reduced the amount of tooth decay.

When the day came for her trip to Earth, Leela was so excited she couldn’t sleep the night before. She stayed awake all night reading all the books she had about Earth. The trip would take them to two places. The first stop was a place called Boulder, Colorado, and the second stop would be Tybee Island, Georgia. Leela had read about how people could attach skis to their feet and slide down a mountain on snow. Temperature on the Circas was always constant, so there were no seasons and even though some of the Circas had ski resorts, the 1.20 did not.

Leela was also excited about seeing a real beach. She went to the beach on her home station only once. It was a lake and was nice, but from what she read about the ocean, she was amazed. She hoped Tybee would have a huge ocean to look at.

Leela boarded the spacecraft with her classmates. For the trip, each student was given a special suit for travel. It would keep them warm or cool, based on the temperature outside. This was far different from the usual clothing Leela normally wore. As the craft left the station, Leela could see the stars. The view only lasted about ten minutes until the craft got close enough to Earth that the planet blocked the view of all the stars. Leela just stared at the big blue ball in front of her. It was scary. The ocean looked massive.

After traveling for about an hour, Leela was excited to land in Boulder. Stepping outside the craft, a gust of wind blew by. It was cold, something Leela wasn't used to. The body suit kept her warm, but it did nothing for her head. Her classmate, Tina, pointed to a small pocket on her arm. It contained a head covering. Leela put it on and was ready for skiing.

Unfortunately, there wouldn't be any skiing on the trip. The trip was to tour the city to get an idea of what life would be like if they had to live there. The class took a ten-minute walk from the landing pad and they were already in the city. The buildings looked like they were in terrible shape. Some of the bricks or concrete had fallen onto the streets. The few people outside looked miserable, carrying heavy things and trying to avoid tripping over debris.

"Why does everything here look so sad?" Leela asked Mitchell, their tour guide.

"Most of the people that live here work on extracting Earth resources. They either mine, or assist with mining. The people you see outside here are probably assistants."

Leela couldn't believe it. This looked miserable. She didn't want to be a miner. Didn't they have machines that would mine? This Earth was not what Leela had imagined and definitely not where she wanted to live. It frightened her to see what the beach was going to be like, but she still had hoped it would be better. They continued their tour of Boulder, which was more of the same. Leela had more questions, but she kept them to herself.

On the way to Tybee, a short 15 minute flight, she read a little in her book. She didn't want to think of Boulder anymore. The questions she had and didn't want to ask plagued her mind. On arrival at Tybee, the class emptied onto the beach. This seemed more like what she was imagining. The beach was sandy, and the water was vast. She couldn't wait to go take a dip in the water.

"Okay, class, I know you are all excited, but please stay out of the water. It is toxic to humans now," the tour guide said.

Leela was crushed. She saw pictures of beaches with people swimming and couldn't believe what the tour guide said. She couldn't refrain from her questions anymore. She asked the main one on her mind.

"Why do people live here now? The water is toxic, the only work is mining. Why are people here?" she asked.

"Leela, dear, Earth is a prison. It is where we send anyone who doesn't comply with our laws. They live out their sentence here helping mine resources so we can continue to build elsewhere," he said.

Leela's heart was broken. Her and her classmates boarded the craft after fifteen minutes of roaming around on the beach. Their suits protected them from the sun somewhat, but they still couldn't stay out for more than that. Earth was disappointing.