„Jimiyu? Jimiyu, are you listening? Pod 3, Jimiyu, Code Grey. And hurry up…”
Jimiyu clenches his teeth hard, to refrain himself from saying it aloud, the big bad four letter world he’s thinking..
‘Hurry up’, he has so had it with ‘hurry up’. For tonight. For this year. Forever. Jimiyu longs to go mean on the caller, but that would be wrong. She sucks, but it’s not her fault.
The voice reaching out to him over his earpiece, one more Kibibi or Sabiti or whatever this particular girl is called, she’s a mere messenger. It’s her bad bloody operator job to drive him hard, to do his bad bloody maintenance job. Impossible schedule not her fault.
Jimiyu confirms Code Grey for Pod 3, in as level a voice as he can muster, and puts on his gloves. He’s not going to wipe up vomit without gloves.
Godforbiddenly rich, the customers celebrating the New Year on the space elevator. You’d think there’d be the odd coin available, to spare on a literacy course. You don’t need Shakespearean levels of reading proficiency, to decipher the wording on the barf bags.
The space elevator pods feature an ample supply of basic malaise appliances for a reason.
The ‘space’ in ‘space elevator’ means exactly that, ‘very, very far up’. Getting there involves a substantial amount of horizontal acceleration. Combined with some swaying, because hey, who’d have guessed, there’s wind, between ground and space. First time riders tend to experience a little discomfort. Combined with shrimps and champagne, things can go wrong way.
Bracing himself for the nauseating smell associated with a Code Grey, Jimiyu grabs his high-pressure cleaner and gets ready for action.
Some clonking one level up signals Pod 3 has reached the space elevator base station. It’s followed by the hissing of the pressurized door. The filthy rich idiots take a while to get going, thereby worsening Jimiyu’s time constraints, but finally laughter and stomping signal the party is leaving. The access corridor shutter clatters close and the pod moves down to the maintenance floor where Jimiyu springs into action.
This Code Grey is mostly red. Someone has been drinking red wine instead of champagne. But at least it’s mercifully localized, only affecting the corner next to the tiny sanitary cubicle.
Not hard for Jimiyu to guess what happened. Another vomiter must have reached the loo first, leaving the red wine idiot short of choices. HighFly Inc really should hand each customer his barf bag, or better make that two or three, to avoid this kind of embarrassment. But they don’t want to advertise, how bad the pods roll.
Twenty-four seconds, pretty good for a Code Grey. It was an easy one, but Jimiyu is still proud.
His is private pride, because steam cleaning a space elevator pod fast is not the feat his mom likes him to brag about, at family events.
When people ask “And how’s the literature rolling, these days, your books selling well?” you better don’t answer “Doing OK, my writing nearly pays the food. And for the rest, I’ve got my neat minimum wage gigs at the space elevator. Lots of hours, in the holiday season.”
Jimiyu only went down that road once. He ended up having to admit he was performing manual labor wearing blue workwear, and that maintenance meant cleaning. His mom shunned him for two weeks, and he hadn’t even mentioned body fluids and smells. Much better to keep quiet about proud moments like this one, and pretend exploding book sales.
There’s a risk to alert the ubiquitously listening tax people, but having to deal with those is far easier than handling an angry mom.
Four more hours to go, until it’s 2069 all over the planet. Once the Hawaians are done, his shift will be over and he‘ll get the chance to call his Nankunda, to wish her a belated Happy New Year.
Jimiyu’s girlfriend doesn’t mind his odd hours. She’s working, too, catering to a big party in a fancy venue.
The event features a live gig by a living legend of a pop star. She got flown in all the way from Korea, just for this one New Year celebration. Astronomical sums involved, long distance air travel costs a hectare of reforestation per mile. Rich people, they never tire of coming up with novel ways to waste tons of money.
Nankunda is no trained caterer. Carrying around trays of bubbly was not what she was aiming for, when she studied archaeology. But it fits in nicely, with her hours as a primary school teacher, and one has to make ends meet.
Their minimum wage gigs at odd hours are the price to pay for not living at Jimiyu’s parents house. You don’t rent a flat in one of the most fancy locations this planet has on offer on one salary and a few book sales.
Kampala is in boomtown mode, and not just because of the space elevator. That’s merely the fun ride side of the operation. Excellent for tourism, obviously, and not just during the holiday season, but not the big money spinner.
The far less glamorous, unmanned space links bringing out what is called climate mitigation nets, to make the contraptions sound less chemical, those are Kampala’s cash cows. Three already in operation, one under construction and two more at an advanced planning stage, the climate rush is in full swing.
Jimiyu and Nankunda are lucky, to have been born in this most fancy of equatorial locations. Nothing beats Kampala these days, not even Quito comes close.
Jimiyu sighs. He has heard this mantra ever since preschool: “We’re lucky, we’re equatorial, best place in the world to have been born. Enjoy your luck and strive, boy. Billions of people would give their right arm for right of residence in Kampala.”
Jimiyu keeps hearing this. His brain understands what people mean to tell him. They have a point, sure. He’s trying to get into that mood. But there’s no paradise feel to his life.
“Jimiyu? Jimiyu? Code Red, Jimiyu! Pod 5, Code red. Code Red, Jimiyu!”
The voice of the operator is a anguished as it should be. ‘Code Red’ stands for blood. Someone got seriously hurt. Jimiyu quickly confirms, before dressing up.
He’s going for the full program this time. White coverall overall, face mask, two pairs of gloves.
Code Red can get very messy. Like when his colleague Ocan got what was left of that stupid paranoid bomber. Brought along some explosives, despite all the fancy hazard detection hardware, and blew himself up at the top of the ride. The pressurized pod held tight, confirming the outstanding resilience of its design, but the passengers were reduced to…
Jimiyu quickly stops recalling Ocan’s tale, because he can’t use the barf bag he doesn’t have at hand wearing a face mask.
Hearing the sounds of the arriving pod overhead, he very much hopes his Code Red not to be a bomb. „Please, fate, make that a broken champagne bottle and a few cuts“ is all he can think right now. And he’s not feeling lucky at all, once again.