TF Chapter 1 My Dream
The smell of the sulphuric toxic air, the warmth caressing my skin, the solid warm ground beneath my feet, and the hazy orange glow in the atmosphere...all these served to set flames of excitement onto my heart, like adding petrol to smoldering wood. Finally! I had finally managed to make it to this unusual continent!
What was more amazing though was the adaptation of my body to the environment...wow! The way a bunch of rewritten genetic sequencies are able to alter a fragment of my being to survive in this toxic atmosphere was just too, what is the word...amazing!
First of all, this atmosphere had zero oxygen as it would be burning right about now, so my body's genes had been programmed to develop an oxygen storing organ! It really made me happy, since I had been grumbling about spending my hard earned money on the transformation the previous month. All these changes were engineered to last for five whole years!
How the times change! A month ago, I was sitting behind my desk at the office, typing away and working my butt off just like the other normal humans in the empire...now, I was about to embark on the path of becoming a super being, a forger!
The word alone elicited excitement within me. I took in a deep breath, mind you, this air was useless to my lungs, which were now coated in a thin organic film...anyway, this was a whole new beginning for me. It was chance to rise from a common mortal to a super human, besides, I had literally spent all my savings just to get to this continent. I should at least gain something for it, right?
After a few moments of admiring the new changes to my body, I started walking. The ground was releasing heat that was five times the boiling point of water, but all I felt was the warmth of an air conditioner, hooray to gene editing!
Being a forger had been a lifelong dream of mine, from the moment I had been a teenager, now aged 45. The good thing about this was that I still had over 300 years of living, provided I didn't die off because of those forger conflicts and dangerous planetary explorations I had heard so much about!
I conjured up all the information I knew about this continent, it was something that had simply popped up one day from the depths of the molten seas of the sun...hehehehe...crazy right? I am literally standing on the sun, though the ground from the continent was protecting my body from the millions of degrees of heat and the burning molten ocean beneath, anyway, we, as a species had just discovered interstellar travel at the time. The first human who managed to set foot on this continent discovered the way of forging, ushering in a new era. That was some 600 years ago.
As I walked, I took in my surroundings, no plant life or animal life visible, though, I heard that there were some peculiar underground fauna and flora, though, those tunnels were somewhere within Musana city, my current destination. I had been dropped off just a few days away...(why couldn't they have dropped me off right at the gates, the idiotic money grabbers!)...and was in the middle making my way towards it.
A Forger; that was someone who stood at the pinnacle of human life, capable of enjoying boundless riches! I wanted to really become one as I had gotten bored of spending my life as a mere mortal human. Honestly, it was tiring simply working from paycheck to paycheck! I had been so busy and focussed that I hadn't even gotten the chance to date! My colleagues always pestered me to find someone...but why would I? I wanted to become a forger! A being whose lifespan surpassed that of the human average, 450 years. I never said anything about that dream as they would have made fun of me, but now that I am here, maybe I should date after advancing as a forger, right? Though, it should be another forger woman. I wouldn't want to have to watch someone grow old while am still in my youth, honestly, that wouldn't be good for the both of us involved.
Anyway, I don't know how much time has passed, but I am starting to get tired. Seating in one place and not walking long distances is really bad for the body...will I really be able to get to the city in the next few days? I wondered. I wasn't carrying anything extra except for the black skin tight suit that looked like something out of an assassin's futuristic wardrobe. Good thing it was so advanced that it didn't cause heat to be trapped inside it or else I would have been discarding the damn thing right about now. For someone like me, who was used to somehow larger wear, something this clingy was uncomfortable.
I moved along for several days, with hunger not being an issue due to another energy storage function within my stomach, before the city walls loomed on the edge of my vision. Yes, I had a device for keeping time, a watch, the only piece of technology allowed on the continent. Apparently, the forger in charge of this continent had made such a rule, giving the reason that a human in his or her most primal nature was more likely to breakthrough the mortal threshold. I was starting to dislike this rule...if I had had a GPS right about now, I wouldn't have had to gaze in every direction, hoping that I was going the right way! Those money grabbing idiots had only said to go straight! As is human nature, I didn't trust them, so I decided to follow the direction, but keep on the look out in other directions, though, now they had proven themselves right. I didn't want to admit that, but had to.
A deep breath once again...the smell of baked earth really is delicious!
Have you ever stood in front of a mountain or a skyscraper whose very height, surpassed the cloud cover? The feeling you get the first time upon seeing such a marvel was what I was feeling upon laying eyes on the brown city walls just a kilometer away. It was overwhelming and gave a sense of majesty. I wondered within myself how someone could have built this! It wasn't made of stone or anything, only the red soil beneath my feet! If I was one of those explorer people, I might have even mistaken it for a canyon wall or a cliff or something.
How had it not crumbled?! How was it standing there just like that?! Honestly, it resembled something a kid who was playing in the dirt might construct with their hands! It both puzzled and amazed me.
"Did you come here as a tourist?" A question from my back reminded me that I was in a line and my marvelling had stalled those walking behind, so I hurried to move forward.
"I wasn't berating you or anything, just curious." The voice once again came from behind me, a youngster...from the tone. It was male, that much I could tell, though, I swivelled my head to get a glimpse and blue eyes with blond short curls entered my vision, plus the streamlined athletic build. The man...no, boy, to me was lithe and well built while I had wasted away all my hours sitting on a desk working long hours. I felt envious...if it wasn't for the fact that a potbelly could be removed with just a simple protein edit, I might have arrived with such a baggage on this continent. Though, that made me more envious, as his athleticism highlighted my contrasting scrawny form.
But, why was the boy speaking to me? I wasn't one of those people whom someone would want to hold a conversation with due to my demeanor and looks. Due to my origins being the state of Uganda, I was black skinned, with a very serious looking expression, almost bordering on sternness. Most people who saw my face always tried to give a wide berth, so what gives? I was one of those people whom you would think their profession was that of a teacher from the moment you first got a look at me.
"Why would I spend my hard earned salary on touring? Only the rich heirs have such a pastime." I answered, after seeing the youth's expensive body suit. The grimace had already given him away...another rich kid with too much money and time on his hands. Clicking my tongue and shaking my head, I turned my attention back to the front. It was better I got rid of his image lest I develop jealousy and other negative feelings. This was supposed to be a new and exciting start, such negative things would only serve to dampen my spirits.
I scanned the line...mostly those I could see...only to be wowed by the variety of humans within the line. From the Asians to Africans to the Europeans. This was the first time I had seen a crowd holding so many different versions of humanity.
A sigh escaped my lips at how embarking on the path of the forger drew multitudes...though, I knew that the failure rate was high. If in five years you couldn't advance, Musana city booted you off the continent. If you tried to stay on the continent, heh! Then you had to ensure that the genetic manipulation would last longer, which could only be done away from continent! That alone ensured that there were zero stowaways on this continent.
My hands clenched in resolve...I had to become a forger! This was my only chance! If I failed...I hadn't made plans for such a possibility.
The line had moved while I had been mulling over things, the kilometer from gate having shrunk to the point that I was right at the large entrance...no, scratch that! It was huge!
"Nathaniel Bosingwa!" My name was uttered once again, this time with a note of impatience within.
My attention was drawn away from the magnificence of the arched entrance to the two people standing in front of me. One was a woman, lithe and fit, just like the youth behind me. Her black hair was tied up behind in a ponytail, showing off her smooth round face. A frown was currently marring her features, dissatisfied that I hadn't answered, so I hurriedly acknowledged while stealing a glance at the long list of names in her hands, written on some woven material.
These people really took the rule of no technology to the extreme!
Anyway, after she ticked off my name, I was allowed into the city proper, where the temperature abruptly rose, catching me off guard. If the outside had been lukewarm, then this was essentially the same as being thrown into a pot of boiling water!
I searched for the source, only to see trenches of orange on both sides of the road.
Was that molten metal? How were they have keeping it flowing like that? I was amazed! There were no external sources of heat that I could see, so why was the metal molten? Not to mention that it was flowing? I scuttled close to appreciate the wonder, only to pause five meters away. The temperature at this point was already causing my body to feel as if all the moisture was being wrung out!
"Amazing!" A puff of air blasted out of my mouth with the word.
"What!!!" I growled. My ears had already recognised the person, the youth. Hadn't I made it clear that I didn't want anything to do with him? Why the hell was he calling my name? Had I cared to listen when his was being read out? NO!
My face must have been terrifying on the turn, cause he took a step back, a glimpse of fear and uncertainity on his face.
"We may have started off on the wrong foot. My name's Danny, Danny Whitmore."
"So, now that you have finished with the introduction, what do you want from me?" I asked, my face probably painting a scowl.
"You are here to become a forger, right? Why don't we become friends? I also came for the same purpose."
Ah, youth! My gaze softened when I caught the fear in his gaze, that of rejection. But it also caused me to wonder...
"Aren't there other people your age? Why do you insist on sticking to me?"
Intuition!? Are you fuckin' kiddin' me?! Is he crazy?! What intuition?!
"Hey! If you want to lie, something better would have worked, like, 'I don't have any other friends.' Or something!" I raised my voice only to lower it upon catching the glares of the passerbys.
"I am really not lying! You can believe me on that!" The youth shook his hands and head vigorously.
Could it be that he wasn't lying? I tried to read his facial expression, seeing only genuineness. What am I going to do with him? Could I really harden my heart and turn him away? I could, but then it would eat away at my mind later, wouldn't it?
I sighed, this time in exasperation. I wondered why I couldn't have sighed in amazement, instead of this? What a pain!
"Okay, Danny. Are you headed to the Musana Forging Institute?" I asked, though already knowing the answer. There was no way a rich boy like him couldn't have afforded it. Curses! I had to work for 20 years just to scrounge enough to get in, yet, his parents had probably already arranged this path from the get go! How infuriating!
But I didn't let any of this make it to my expression. I had to show the image of a senior citizen, not a jealousy driven nincompoop, right?
"Danny boy, trust is something that I don't have for you right now, so, we shall have a deal-like relationship. What can you offer me in exchange for following me around?" I asked while moving along the road, having decided to abandon gazing at the stream of molten metal because I was starting to feel weird gazes upon my skin. I had already realised that most of the people who set foot upon this continent had some status, so they already had an idea of what existed in this place. I came off as a commoner in their eyes when I gazed a little too long at the streams of molten metal, so I decided not to embarrass myself further.
I felt Danny fall in beside me, his eagerness a puzzle to me. Why did he trust his so-called intuition do much? Was it even real?
"I can fill you in with some information I have about Musana city and the continent at large."
What an astute youth! He had already picked out that I had come from the boonies. There was no use hiding it, so I decided to simply accept it as it was.
"Okay, first, tell me more about the Musana Forging Institute. All the other things can wait." It was better to gain information about the place I was heading to first. That would allow me to mentally prepare myself for what was to come. I had done a bit of research myself but the information had been scant, the higher authority having deliberately hidden most of the knowledge.
"Well...maybe I will start with the courses that can be taken..." After some thought from Danny, he started.
I, Nathaniel had had the dream of becoming a forger for such a long time that anything related to it had the effect of stimulating my excitement. So, I perked up my ears and took in all the information Danny had to offer.
Honestly, it was enlightening and allowed me to gain a basic understanding of the institute. I thanked my lucky stars that the lad had chosen to follow me. If he had not, I might have blundered from muddling my way through.
The journey to where I was heading, no where we were heading was quite long, but finally, we managed to reach within a distance that allowed the institute's looming construct to fall into our eyes.
"By the way, where do you come from? I am from the state of North America." Danny's question caught me off guard initially, before I regained myself. I had been so caught up in absorbing knowledge of this place that I had forgotten about these basic courtesies. We had to at least have a smidgen of information about each other. I had forgotten something like that.
"I come from the state of Uganda."
"Really?! The place that produced the first forger! How amazing!!!" He squealed in delight, his eyes lighting up with a fanatical light.
Yeah yeah! I had seen his reaction many times from the others, so it was normal to me. So what if Uganda had produced the first forger? It had absolutely no relation with me, so I hadn't been excited about that. What I really cared about was me. Someone else's achievements only mattered if they were related to me...but when they were not, I didn't give a shit.
"I heard 'Musana' means the Sun in your native language, is that true?"
"Hoh...it looks like you did your research. That is true." At least the guy had decided to remember where he had come from and gave the city an appropriate name. That was worthy of the tiny sliver of pride in my heart, right?
Musana city was divided into four quadrants with the institute occupying the centre. No building within was over two stories tall and they were all brown, the bricks having been baked from the soil on the continent. The buildings looked very crude to my eyes since I had been used to well-sculpted skyscrapers. It put into perspective how I was starting over here, having left the great of what our civilisation had to offer to come and toil away here.
But I had also been toiling away there. Life had been comfy, true, but I had had nothing that could let me feel excitement. It had been dull, boring and monotonous. Now that I had set foot on this continent, my heart was thrumming with excitement! The path of the forger was just within my grasp! After all that toiling away to save up money, I had finally embarked on the road of following my dream! Was Danny also feeling the same way, or was it that he had no particular care about how life changing this opportunity was?
I looked at his side profile as he gazed at the towering building in front of us, but all I saw was calmness. Could it be that he had been here before, or was it because of something else? I wondered. He had acted excited when I had revealed my origin, so why weren't the youth's eyes lighting up at the sight of the institute?
"Are you really here to become a forger, Danny boy?" I asked. If he had come here with some other motive, I was going to ditch him. People with ulterior motives brought trouble, and I wanted to be as far away from trouble as I could.
'Anyway, I will deal with it when it comes.'
I decided to ignore that for the time being as I waited for his ans-...I blinked multiple times after moving my gaze from the looming building to the walls surrounding it.
Did they just ripple, or was it a figment of my imagination?
I decided to look closely, and behold, the silver shine just rippled as if it was water! How amazing! With my subconscious being drawn in, my feet automatically carried me to the wall, where I proceeded to stare at it closely.
Since I didn't know a lot about metal, I couldn't determine what it was, though, it gave off a shine akin to that of stainless steel.
'This must be an alloy, something advanced...there is no way it would ripple like that otherwise.' I concluded, not caring if I was being looked at weirdly. The flows of molten metal hadn't drawn my curiosity as much as this wall. I raised a finger and gave a poke, causing a ripple to originate from the point, spreading away, and fading.
'It is solid...I thought my finger was going to sink into it...how profound!'
"Nathaniel, we will miss the entrance ceremony."
A hesitant voice called to me, the one of that certain Danny...right! The entrance ceremony! I hurriedly checked my watch and it was still about 5 hours away from the event, though, I allowed myself to go with the youth.
"The wall rippled...did you see that?!" I asked, half amazed and half excited. The question that I really wanted to ask was, what was that? How can a wall ripple? Was that the latest technology? But Musana city had long since banned technology within its confines.
"Congrats Nat Senior, you have just been introduced to spirit metal." The youth had the gall to be cheeky with me! We hadn't yet become that close! Except that I quickly put that to the back of my mind as another question popped up...
"What is spirit metal?"
I had heard and watched the crazy feats created by forgers in their spirit armors...could it be that this was the raw material? How is it made?...and a bunch of other questions swarm to the fore from the depths of my mind.
"It will be better if you learn about it at the institute. I am not qualified to explain it in a way you can understand, sorry." Danny answered.
'...how frustrating! Now I have to make sure that I definitely get myself there on time!' I thought even as we circled the wall, which was still producing the occasional ripple across its surface.
"Senior Nathaniel...why did you choose to become a forger?"
Now, that was a question I didn't want to answer as it would be embarrassing for me. Could I really say that it had been a dream of mine ever since I was young? An adult like me spurting such a line to a youth would really hurt my street crad.
"To become great. Haven't you seen those magnificent feats of superhumanly power?" I decided to give out a lie. Its not like the youth could tell, right?
"If you don't want to tell me, then its fine...there is no need to lie."
Huh?! How did he know that I was lying?!
"How can you tell?" I asked as nonchalantly as I could without exposing my inner shock.
"I told you Nathaniel, my intuition." He answered while pressing his palm upon his forehead, with a confidence I couldn't quite fathom.
"...I don't know whether I should believe you or not." I shook my head and continued on. The rest of the journey was uneventful until we came upon the gate. This appeared to be even more magnificent than that arched-entrance of the city. It was golden, but in a way that it was shining. It was like looking at a very weak version of the sun, not to mention that its light somehow made my body feel warmer.
This wasn't a misconception on my part, it really did make my body warmer! It had even been shaped in a circular shape with patterns resembling flames at the edges.
We didn't dawdle, even though personally, I would have liked to stare at the magnificent piece of artwork more intensely.
As we entered, the main building of the institute came into my eyes, a dull looking piece of work, really! It was like a rusted piece that had seen the ages long past. How could they have built such a magnificent boundary, yet botched the construction of the main facility? I wondered as we strode up the many steps into it. It resembled something like those 21st century cathedrals, except that it appeared to have been crafted out of rusted metal.
Many, were also taking the same stairs, and with a bit of my attention, I managed to pick out the many who were like me and Danny, first timers. It was easy picking them out really, they were either in groups chatting up each other, or looking around with curiosity and glittering eyes. What made me feel sullen though, was the fact that there were very few who appeared to be as old as me. Do note, that I looked like a youth in my twenties even though I was 40+ due to the lengthened lifespan, but we, of this age could recognise each other.
It was in the way we carried ourselves with a certain heaviness. Life had already taught us plenty, so we had learned to lock most of our emotions deep inside instead of having them painted across our faces.
The people were diverse, short, long, thin, blue eyed, brown eyed, green eyed, light skinned, dark skinned...basically, all that the human race had to offer was here.
'I wonder whether I will be able to become a forger with this much competition.' I felt the pressure as I already knew...among all these, only 1% would become forgers while all the others would fail and be kicked back to Earth in five years...and that might even include me.
"You really don't want to mingle with your fellow youth?" I asked the silent Danny beside me. He was uninterested in many of the things, but for some reason, he appeared to be immensely interested in following me...and I still didn't believe his bullshit about intuition. There had to be something he wasn't telling me!
"Most of them aren't as interesting as you..." Was all that he said, causing me to wonder about something.
"I will say this straight out, am not gay, I like women! If you swing that way, am not the same...just so you know." I decided to make this pretty clear. I didn't have any particular prejudice against such people, just that I had been raised traditionally...besides, I worshipped the female form!