Sam groaned in frustration, "Come on! I know you need some tough love sometimes, but I don't feel like fighting with you today." Coughing, Sam stared at the old engine she had spent her entire morning working on. Skipping breakfast and soon lunch, it's silence was eating at her remaining confidence in fixing it. Typically, a few tweaks to the belt and a thorough cleaning of the sparkplugs, would start it right up. Today, however, she sighed, it was being a pain.
Grumbling about what to do next Sam felt a scratch in her throat and knew what was coming next. Bracing herself, Sam doubled over in a coughing fit. Feeling like she was suffocating, she couldn't do anything as her lungs and throat burned. Sam knew there would be blood in her surgical mask and the dimming of her vision told her that the light-headedness was getting worse. She had been fighting this illness for well over a month, but nothing was helping. She had tried every homeopathic remedy she had access to. Buying medicine was too pricey and going to a doctor was out of the question, everything on Felix came out of pocket. You either had the money for a doctor and meds or you didn’t, and Sam knew she didn't. Not many people did.
This illness had been spreading among the lower levels of the tower for a while. Sam had already seen a good number of people die from it and heard of even more. You would walk around and, there; leaning in a corner, there would be a body, long gone. Or maybe, they would just not show up for work for a few days and the guards would find them in their room. It was an epidemic that no one seemed to do anything about.
The colony Sam was a part of on the planet Felix, was an enormous tower made up of many floors going from 1 to 320. It was a technological feat not yet seen in the past, the Felix family named it Sulla. As most can imagine the top was made up of the wealthier of society and quickly as you went down, the poverty showed more and more. Broken up into three labels you had The Residents, The System, and The Living Quarters. It was also ingenious of the engineers to create closing doors going from one floor to the next. Most of the upper levels were always in lockdown, only those with a certain identification card could get in. And in cases of sicknesses, the floors affected were essentially quarantined until it either passed or leadership would bend and send doctors out from the upper floors to treat people for free. This strain of the cold had been going around for about a year and the leaders were fine with just sitting it out so far.
Sam was able to finally catch her breath and had to sit down on the floor to regain her balance. Waiting for her vision to stop spinning she felt helpless. "Fuck, I'm going to die before I can fix this stupid thing." She said to herself miserably. Bringing her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms around her dirty coveralls. She tried not going down the rabbit hole that was her soon-to-be death and noticed under the engine, remnants of a gasket. Sam facepalmed her forehead and reached under to grab the rubber fragments. Ok, she thought to herself this I can work with this. Rubbing her eyes clear she stood up and got to tearing apart everything to figure out what gasket was missing. Leaving all her earlier thoughts in the back of her mind. It was better that way for her state of mind and being able to motivate herself to get out of bed every day. It can always be worse.
-Later that day-
It had taken Sam well over 5 hours to find the missing gasket and replace it. To top it off, at the end of it all... It still took and good hit with a hammer to get it roaring back to life. After spending another few minutes cursing at the stupid thing and the pain it brought her that day. Sam left the engine room and started to head back to the Living Quarters. It was a long walk ahead of her, the way Sulla was set up was straight forward. The top 75 floors, named The Residents, were strictly for leadership and their circle of relations. Sam had no idea what it looked like up there but she was pretty sure it was better than everything lower.
The next 190 floors were all the stuff that kept the tower functioning; water filtration, oxygen production, waste management, maintenance, and where she was at, the power center. It was referred to as The Systems. Where she was heading was where 75% of the population was stuffed into 35 cramped floors, where all the workers lived rightly named the Living Quarters. The unaccounted ground floors 1 through 20 was where the food was produced for the tower. Except during quarantine, then it was only meant to go to the workers and the leaders got their food from a few floors above water filtration. I.E. out of the quarantine zone.
Sam had 23 flights of stairs to walk down to get to her floor, and being as ill as she was, she figured she should take her time and try not passing out on the way. The culture of the lower floors was strained, to say the least. No one helped anyone, they couldn't afford to risk being robbed or dragged into another person's mess when they too had so many problems. So, it was just another day for Sam when she walked down the stairs and tripped on her own feet. That no one reached out or helped as she slid down a flight on her ass. No one even bothered looking, why should they? They wouldn't help anyway.
Sam groaned in pain and at the mess that today was turning into... Can't breathe? Check. Can't walk? Check. Can't be a competent person and get through a day without a little self-loathing? Double-check. I can't wait to get home and sleep through to tomorrow. She thought to herself and she stood up and kept walking. Once she made it past the last power station floor the temperature dropped 15 degrees and the amount of people on the stairs started to become less and less frequent. Most people tried staying out of the Living Quarters and would rather stretch their legs in the more spacious 190 floors of the upper levels.
By "spacious" it was quite literal. The floors of the tower were not created equal, for example, The System floors were not your average 12ft tall like the Living Quarters floors. No, there were roughly 24ft- 30ft tall to fit all the machines and make room for all the pipes. Some floors were even taller, like the 5 floors of the market place? Well, they got rid of the floors and ceilings and combined them to make one large floor at was over 600 ft tall. Big enough to fit buildings of their own inside, it was the closest we got to what was described as a city on Earth.
Completed with greenery like bushes and trees. Everything was lit up by LED floodlights that lit up the interior during the night hours and during the day windows that let in the outside light. The tower was in a constant power-saving mode so even though there were windows, some areas would be completely pitch black during the day. Some areas in The System floors are nearly impossible to navigate without the use of a flashlight.
The Living Quarters were a cramped 35 floors only 12ft tall. Where the stairs opened out and you were met with rows of hallways and on each side was a door that opened into a small living area. Just big enough for a kitchen and a bed. It could be best described as cubical, like an office space but with doors and higher walls. The bathrooms and washrooms were at the end of each hall and it was communal between the living areas. These floors were mostly empty unless a person wanted to rest or to freshen up.
The bathrooms were always lit the same as the hallways, but the rooms mostly depended on if they had a window to the outside world. If they didn't, there would be a floodlight that would turn on and off automatically at 6am and 10pm. If it did, then there was no light and you had to make sure you got all your duties or chores done before night came. Most people spent all day either working or gathering at the Market Place. The Market Place was meant for buying supplies, that was where you could meet up with friends or buy what you needed to make it through the week. It was often the most populated and lived-in area.
To make it to her room on floor 42 she had to pass through floors 45 and 46 and on those floors was where the representative for the workers lived. It was heavily guarded as you needed an ID to check-in and out of the floors. That way security could check to see who passed through at any given point. It was taller than the Living Quarters at 20ft per floor. What you saw was basically a box inside a floor, when you got to floor all you saw was a narrow hallway that went around the side of the floor. Keeping to the outside edge of it, you couldn't see anything besides the hallway that led to the other side where the stairs continued down. No one got to see the other side of the wall.
Reaching that point Sam got there exhausted. She had a good 10 rounds of coughing fits up to that point and the fall on stairs still stung. Feeling dizzy and just wanting to get home Sam buzzed her ID and followed the hallway hoping to be quick. But every step was heavier than the last, another round of coughing sent her head spinning and she collapsed face-first into the path. Thinking that this was finally the end, she had no idea how big of a change her life was going to make.