The Rebelliousness of Trassi Udang
A short story originally published in the Belong anthology, published by Ticonderoga Publications in 2010.
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Here is the beginning:
The rebelliousness of trassi udang
Like any fifteen-year old boy, Ari Suleiman Rudiyanto thought he knew everything: how to fool a food dispenser into spitting out double rations, where to get alcohol when under-age and how to get into the docks.
The latter was easy, really. He’d stood at a techno’s back while he was keying the code into the door’s keypad and he remembered the sequence for later use. Of course he told no one else; that would be stupid, giving away secrets without a trade. And no one had offered him a trade valuable enough to share the code, and with every day that passed, those numbers became more valuable to him.
That was why he always came here alone, to this dingy and oil-stained part of Ring 2, Section C. Not smart, and with smugglers and filchers about, not safe at all, and something his grandma would sure clobber him over the head for, if she knew, which she didn’t.
One quick look over his shoulder–no one in the grey metal corridor–and he punched in the numbers.
Click–hiss. The door slid aside in a silent whisper and Ari slipped into the large space beyond, dressed in an orange overall whose sleeves hid his hands, and whose shoulder pads covered his too-skinny shoulders.
The air bit into his face, empty and cold, sterile with white efficiency, whining tools and snaking hoses and the controlled shouts of techno-crew at work. So unlike the warren that was his home.
He peered at the dockside walkways, past the grey shapes of several transport vessels, past the bundles of feeder cables leading from dockside to the ships, to the openings of offices and storage rooms. Even there, the organised purpose of unloading crew and the meetings between pilots and dockside technos spelled order.
And order meant orders, funnily enough, and that meant someone giving them, someone from Tier 1, fair-skinned and tall, an Enforcer perhaps.
Ari already had more run-ins with Enforcers than he should have, been sent to scrub the recycling station floor for more times than he cared to remember. Today, he didn’t see any green uniforms, so he continued on, crossed the floor behind a ship and clambered up the walkway.
To the technicians whose first attention was on the bowels of the ships, he was nothing but a cargo-boy, come on some errand for my employers or for the mine. Techno crew were Tier 1, with names like Robertson, Kessler and Landau, and looked like they were all brothers, tall, white and god-like. They behaved like that, too; they called the Tier 2 workers the ‘native population’ or ‘Indians’ and herded them like sheep. Ari looked like one of those sheep; that was his strength.
The New Moon was in dock number four, hooked up to feeder leads, grey, worn with scratches, the Pilot’s Association’s emblem on the nose. A line of workers shuffled up and down the gangplank, one after the other, empty-handed on the way up, carrying blue plastic-wrapped boxes on the way down. They moved across the docks like orange-clad ghosts, padding feet on the metal floor, disappearing in the gravity-curve of the outer ring. Just look at them go. Did they ever want to do anything else, or had boredom sucked their wishes dry?
Ari schooled his face into a sullen look and slipped into the shuffling line, up the New Moon’s gangplank.
He was about halfway up when he noticed the ship in the next dock, much larger than the New Moon. Servicemen in blue uniform lined the gangplank, guns slung over their shoulders. Everything about the ship spoke in thinly-veiled threats, its white surface, its batteries of arms, its gold-and-blue emblem, which Ari had never seen.
He shuffled closer to the man in front of him. ‘Who are they?’
‘Hush–don’t look. They’re International Space Force.’