Thoomp-Pwom! Nuri jumped, startled by the gigantic meka-cranes unloading mysterious containers from far away Hokulur or even farther away Arfiy. He could not believe he was actually going across the Shikaruum Sea to the source of whatever was in those menacing containers. He was full of excitement and terror. His elders always told stories, both full of wonder and dread of Gwij’s two major colonies. Ever since, he has dreamed of voyaging far from claustrophobic Fidaisa. It wasn’t the city that was confining but the land. No wide expanse of the sea in the northern prefecture, just the gargantuan wall of the Border Cliffs boxing him in.
Ironically, it was not his choice to undertake this adventure. His parents were murdered in a rebel attack at a high-end restaurant, just a few Mesh stops from where the underground transport system regurgitated him into the smelly, machine controlled port of Fa’ba. They were celebrating their 35th anniversary when a gunman opened fire killing most of the patrons. He was now without a family and could not afford to continue his university studies. His mother was a well respected lawyer and his father was an equally respected professor. Nuri’s entire extended family depended on his parents’ generosity. It was either sign up as a miner or harvester in the mines or farms in the colonies or live in the dark lawless Warren Towns parasitically growing around the Mesh underground lines throughout the megalopolis. His claustrophobia made the decision for him.
Nuri turned back around from the mysterious containers that greeted him as he came out of Erlan Station, named after the captain of the ship that first voyaged out onto the then completely unknown slate-coloured sea. Maybe they will name a station after me someday. He never stopped dreaming big, even when he has nothing but the clothes he was wearing. He looked at the map he bought at a kiosk inside the station with the little money his aunt scrounged up for him for the 4-hour trip down to Fa’ba. The Hokulur quay should just be down this way, he reasoned since his uncle told him that it would logically be near Erlan Station. He could see the sea just beyond the ramshackle warehouses and towering cranes methodically bending, grabbing, and releasing. The water is so dark. It looks like the sea is one big slab of Kilbet stone. He started walking towards the stone sea ready to start the next unknown step of his new life.
Watch out! Look where you’re going kwa hir! Nuri fell back onto the side of the road. He just stared with wide eyes as the belligerent crane-carrier driver sped his way past, still glowering at Nuri. “Those tires are as big as my house!” He said, his heart racing not allowing him to keep his words to himself. He quickly squatted, letting the adrenaline settle down. Is every step in this new life going to be as unpredictable? Do I really look like a kwa hir. He hated that term. It’s not my fault I’m a ‘cliff orphan’. Well, this will be my last day as one. He stood up and looked to make sure no killer crane carriers were barreling down the street. When he made it to the other side, he felt he was in another world. The lanes were slick with the blood of the sea. The warehouses all had the same wind-blown decrepit look to them. The owners no longer bothered to re-paint them. They gave up on the battle with the wind, and the glory of their colonial adventures was over. There was no need for them to be ornately decorated as if they were in the palatial districts of the city. In the heyday of colonial exploration, each trading house tried to outdo their neighbours with extravagant, to the point of being tacky, decorations and sea motifs. There were still a few in the ‘colonial style’, but they are maintained for the burgeoning tourist industry of the historical and important port. It must have been an incredible time to be a sailor or just to be brave, Nuri thought. Those days were long gone. The High Court saw to that. It was amazing they allowed the establishment of Hokulur and Arify. I guess the demands of a growing metropolis outweighed the outdated religious taboo of exploring the unknown. There is still so much that we do not know. His few days as a university history student rushed back into his mind. He was going to major in the colonial period of Gwij. He thought of this turn of fate as a real-life history course. The city is still growing, and sooner or later the old skeletons on the High Court will have to bend the rules yet again. The Confederation was becoming more and more dependent on its prize colony, and its success was a constant reminder to the High Court of its weakening hold on the minds it needed to control.
Nuri meandered his way through the wet alleyways. He was not used to the stench of rotting fish permeating everything thanks to not-so-nearby Mesotok Fish Market. His stomach will have to get used to this. He had to cover his mouth and nose with his collar to keep from vomiting. Now I do look like a kwa hir, he thought as his eyes watered. He always laughed at how port workers and people living on the coast thought that the smell was delicious. He didn’t think he would ever become that much used to the odor. He just hoped to tolerate it one day; he would have to.
He turned a corner after looking at his map. “There it is, The Lad Hokulur. My home for the next few days.” He was amazed at the size of the vessel. It had sails and steam stacks, five of each. My entire residential block could fit inside it, he thought still staring in awe at the massive ship. The Lad Hokulur was both a passenger and cargo ship. Hokulur was a massive success. The settlement of Hokulur was becoming a city it its own right with almost a million permanent inhabitants and quickly growing.
Nury was till terrified. He heard horror stories of the working conditions, particularly in the mines digging out the precious Hokulur ore that gave the strength needed for the tallest of the cloud-grazers, but the excitement of a new land and new opportunities was quickly beating down the terror. I have a feeling Hokulur will only be the beginning.