Day Five Hundred Thirty One #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

There were no overt signs, no indication on any level that this place was given over to the enemy. Not even any posters of Stan’s image staring down from the walls.

But a brooding sense of malignancy made its presence felt at the edge of our senses.

Elijah and I remained in the ship. One look over the ship’s railing was enough for us.

Tomas took P ashore to school him in the purser’s responsibilities with the dispatcher. The other Raj twin G wanted to accompany them, but was told his charge was to remain with the ship.

Tomas brought back surprising news – we will be allowed to load several containers whose owners don’t bear the mark either.

Astonishing indeed.

Day Five Hundred Twenty Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The cargo was loaded back in the holds, with room to spare, no need to place any of the containers on deck. An official from the world government stood by watching everything. He even made a pitch to the Captain extolling the benefits of bearing the mark. The Captain declined politely without explanation.

We managed to take on a pilot without an accompanying government representative.

He missed the boat.

When beyond the harbor, Elijah met with the Captain to talk about the next port up the coast. The Captain wanted to skip this port and strike out eastward. But Elijah argued for the risk as he judges it the best port from which the Raj family can start their journey.

Day Five Hundred Twenty Two #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The Captain sent Tomas ashore to confer with the dispatcher about taking on again the cargo that had been off loaded prior to the ship’s entry into dry dock. And to discover if the port is now under global control.

He brought back answers for both questions, plus one other. The Captain had hoped to add some new shipments, but we will only be allowed to take on the old shipments. Indeed the global government is now exerting control – no new shipments will be allowed without “the mark.”

We had a short debate whether to go back in or not.

The Captain brought the ship alongside the cargo dock after the Raj family and Elijah and I were secreted away.

Day Four Hundred Eighty One #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Elijah wants me to accompany him. Not just ashore, but to continue across this subcontinent and perhaps rejoin the ship at a port on the other side.

I want to go, but not before discharging my responsibilities.

Elijah will wait, but will wander around the waterfront in the meantime.

We have landed the cargo for this port and that of the prior one. Due to our status (i.e. No mark) we will not be allowed to take on any other business. That cuts our time short here. The Captain and I had to battle the port authorities for more time and space to get down to that mystery container.

They only relented, when we shared our suspicions of potential danger.

Day Four Hundred Seventy Four #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Patrol boats have stopped us twice and sent us on our way. Both were satisfied with our paper work and seemed even less curious when they learned our port of call was not to be the capital, but a port hundreds of miles from here.

I suppose if we were headed to the capital we would have come under closer scrutiny.
One of the officers was curious about the shortage of people bearing the mark among us. They boasted that this definitely will be the last voyage for the ship under those circumstances. Elijah kept to the special cabin whenever officials were aboard. Each time the Captain was relieved when he did so without being asked.

And so it goes.

Day Four Hundred Sixty #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Elijah took me on a tour of the city underground. The hum of electricity and the knock of water in pipes dogged our every step. Residence after residence proved empty. So Elijah changed direction and lead us to their subterranean meeting place.

Silence greeted us there. I found the light switch and turned it on. It broke the quiet only to reveal no one was there either. Elijah discovered a tally sheet. A vote had been taken – an unanimous decision to abandon the city for the island interior.

Explanations were made to the Captain in the morning from what little we knew. We asked leave to open the three cargo containers.

Inside was equipment to brand people with the mark.

Day Four Hundred Fifty Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

A tug chugged out early to the roads where we three vessels were waiting for entry. We were surprised to see that each vessel received two men from the tug. The mystery was cleared up come time to receive our own charges. One was a pilot, the other was a political officer representing the world government.

The latter made it very clear that we could not enter and conduct any business unless negotiated by someone bearing the mark.

The Captain countered that we were not desirous of entering for any purposes of commerce, but rather only delivering a shipment to the city’s governor from his sister city on the island.

This stymied the duo. They returned to port for instructions.

Day Four Hundred Forty Two #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We’ve had our reunion. Of sorts. While Tomas remained on duty, the Captain came out to us. It was a joyous occasion.

Especially as we have ascertained that the Captain as well as his crew, remain free of the mark. They have consequently since our parting been forced from some ports which were wholly given over to the world government, including this city’s sister port across the water.

I gave the Captain the messages from his former purser, which he received with thanks. And he greeted my offer to serve in his place with enthusiasm.

Elijah was glad to learn that the ship’s future course remains the same. He was relieved enough to surrender his reluctance to enter the city.

Day Four Hundred Twenty Nine #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Late into the night Elijah and I discussed what to do. Before turning in we concluded that we would explore our immediate surroundings.  

First on our list was the northern road that runs out of the one open gate. In the hills just outside the city we discovered a series of villages and farms. In those that were closer to the city the mark was prevalent. But further out it disappeared. Good news.

We were able to restock some foodstuffs. And gain some information. Those without the mark had been driven from the city. They uneasily await a future expulsion from their current locale.

Come that time Elijah advised them to prepare to travel north to search out the Purser.

Day Four Hundred Twenty Seven #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

First thing we descended to the city. All the gates were closed. We heard the sounds of activity within, but saw no one. We made our way around to see the harbor. Three ships floated there and two were tied up at docks, but none was ours.

Then we realized we had to check the opposite side. And when we did, we discovered another road from the north and an open gate.

The guard in command denied us entry, for in his words we may not conduct business without the mark. Elijah declared we were not merchants. This stymied him and said he would ask his commander. And sent us away.

We have to wait to see what comes next.