Hub. Largest city in the Northwest and our only plateau. Branded with one of those quick and sticky names that tend to fall short over time. Any newcomer to our corner of the sky might hear that name and be unimpressed. The city can dispel that right quick. You just gotta approach it from the right angle, take it full on and get the proper effect.

You approach a big, half-circle hollow the side of the plateau, an inviting curve of soaring stone, stacked strata of tans and reds. Three terraces of solid flat ground arc along the wall, wide bluffs descending from the plateau’s surface above. An isle floats right in the middle of it all, the spoke of the wheel and a unique enough find this close to a plateau. Top it all off with a spit of land on the west side kindly blunting the prevailing winds.

When explorers found the place the isle was spinning in place and shrouded in mist from a waterfall up top. They recognized the port-to-be and it wasn’t long until settlers came in, diverted the river a little ways inland to create reservoir and make those wide terraces a good deal less wet. The isle was chained down much later, the titular hub robbed of its spin.

Hub occupies every inch of those terraces, layers of buildings in a medley of styles packed tight between the rock walls and the sheer precipices. The city’s stratified like you’d expect. Laylow holds the port with its warehouses and shipping offices, its taverns filled with all sorts of people, its backstreets occupied by the poor and recently arrived dreamers. Central is a mix of all the normal stuff, plus a section of Imperial buildings. War leftovers from when the Empire swept in and boosted Hub well above its class. Word is those Imperial buildings, with their white cliff-like faces and now-empty alcoves, were the last built in that style anywhere. Up top, just below the plateau’s surface, is On High where it’s sunnier and richer, where thin towers peak above the cut.

Over the top you’ll find the remnants of the old settlement, a train depot leading deeper into the plateau, and farmland as far as you can see in most every solid direction. Downwind are the Stacks, the largely abandoned Imperial factories from the bygone War era. Some of those places nearer to Hub have been reclaimed and repurposed, but there’s simply not enough demand for that much output right now. Some hope we’ll never have that much demand again.

And in all the airspace in between you’ll see activity, day and night. While the larger airships congregate in Laylow, the little crimson-hulled cabs flit about between the terraces and the chained isle, between the shipyards and the Breakers. The shining, sleek craft of the elite and lucky ply around the upper levels, while junkers and lancers tie into port to unload or take on new tasks. Sometimes, when the clouds billow in off the open skies, the entire city appears to float in its sheltered cove, hundreds of moving parts flying about a misty hive.

Hub’s run by a council of men and women from all the important walks of life around here. A representation of interests chosen in a variety of ways. An officer from the city’s fleet, a couple merchant and money bosses, one from the builders and fixers, a ‘citizen of note’ from each terrace, and so on. Beyond the council, the sheriffs and port watch and fleet keep the peace well enough. As for being the capital of the Northwest’s loose (and I do mean loose) association of freeports and settlements, there’s considerable disagreement about that. Hub certainly styles itself an up and coming nation in its own right, and no one in the Core has laid claim post-Dissolution. They have a martial fleet, an eclectic mix of War hardware and locally built ships. They’ve a rack of laws and regulations, mostly the basics that apply anywhere. Those things only reach as far as Hub’s crimson ensign flies and only as far as you can find people willing to agree. Which ain’t as far as the council of Hub thinks it is. For the time being, anyway.

But it’s the people that make a city and in Hub you’ll find all kinds, especially since most everyone arriving in the Northwest comes through there. Your builders and fixers for airships and crews to fly them. Your merchants bringing in the goods from the Core and shipping out what we have to offer. Your schemers and swindlers, your settlers and visionaries. You’ll see every sort of face from every sort of nation, extant or expired. More differences than similarities but they’re all tied together by one thing: the proper spirit of living on the edge and living free.

Hub resides on the edge, literal and figurative. Perched on descending bluffs above that big gray nothing below. Perched on the boundary between the Core lands and the frontier. Between the known and the grand potential of the unknown. We’re defined by that spirit of embracing uncertainties and unknowns, of carving out your own piece of this grand old sky. Hub and the Northwest spin on that axis, on and on, ever outward.

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Copyright © Michael L. Watson 2015

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