A Father’s Chance

“Just because I picked you, doesn’t make you special.”

Alvor knew differently. The reason he was picked was precisely because he was special. He didn’t have the most seniority (but he was close). He wasn’t the strongest, or the fastest (though he was no slouch, either).

No, Alvor thought: it was because he was honest. No one on the docks would dare steal, but a lot of the workers peeked at the cargo, and there was a woman dressed in white who came by the closest tavern every moon or so and she would pay to know what had come in and out of the harbour. The chance to supplement an already meager wage was too alluring, for some, and after all, trading information was just as legal as any other exchange in Nexus.

Alvor never did. He didn’t even have a particularly compelling reason for his honesty other than it didn’t feel quite right. And so he was special, and so he was selected.

The foreman shifted back and forth on his feet, and then drew himself up to full height. If his voice didn’t crack occasionally with nervous energy, his intimidating stance might’ve worked. “Your job is to load and unload these boxes. You’ll get double pay as long as you never tell anyone else about what you’re doing here and what the boxes contain. You understand? We’re buying your silence. If we can’t do that, we can simply kill you. Deal?”

Alvor nodded.

And, so, that day, Alvor had easy work. The boxes were barely larger than his hands and weighed only a kilogram, and he only allowed to carry them one at a time from the ship’s hold to a cart on the dock guarded by two indifferent-looking, unkempt men. After about two hours, the job was done, and if Alvor coughed at the end, it was only because the garbage floating in the river was especially pungent in the late afternoon sun.

Every day for a week, Alvor was told he wasn’t special, and then given his special task. Eventually, the other dock workers found out about the arrangement, and there was jealousy, but Alvor tried to pay it no mind. Head down, work complete. It wasn’t to last.

The last day, three labourers confronted Alvor on his last run and demanded, at least, to know what was in the small boxes, so they could sell that information to the woman dressed in white. Alvor refused, and tried to leave, but there was a scuffle, and the box’s lid cracked open, and a very fine orange powder flew up into Alvor’s face.

“It’s jade!”

“Jade doesn’t come in orange, fool.”

They would have continued arguing, but for the indolent guards who seemingly came alive. Alvor remembered that they moved too fast, seemed too strong, and the three who sought to steal information were dead and floating in the harbour before he could finish coughing.

The guards were kind and reassured Alvor that they had seen the whole thing, that he wasn’t to blame, and that he should go home and rest. Their eyes were slightly sad.

The woman in white was never seen in the tavern again.

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