I was working for Ferraset loading crates into to ships for export. It wasn’t my usual work I— I usually work in the harvest, but Gial was sick and the boss needed someone to replace xer, and I thought I could do it. Double pay seemed really good, and I was looking at moving to a better room in the port so I thought if I did a good job maybe they’d keep me on permanently. I liked working above water. You meet more— More people, you know? And, well….
Well. We thought they were just thieves, at first. Just one or two. Crates of medicine went missing and I— Miina told me that they’d dealt with thieves before. Usually you just spook them and they back off. So we thought we’d be able to handle it. We thought— We thought it was just thieves. We had no idea— We didn’t know— We didn’t know— We— We— We didn’t—
It’s alright, Jaisa. Take a deep breath.
I— I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
That is okay, lovely one. You are okay. That is it. Deep breaths, now.
Okay. Okay. I— I’m okay. Uh….
We— We uh….
It happened overnight. We were running behind on loading some ships but my— My g— My—
My genitor. The dock manager. My genitor was the dock manager. They got me my job at the farms and recommended me to replace Gial and— And I thought I was lucky for that. But I…. I wish I hadn’t taken the work.
I wish I hadn’t because… my genitor… they….
They what, Jaisa?
They…. They had us clock off even though there was still a lot of stock left. They said that we could catch up in the morning, and to just leave everything in the warehouse. A-At the docking bay. It wasn’t anything the crew hadn’t done before so they— We thought it would be fine. But when we came back in the morning the lock had been opened, n-not broken, and half the stock was gone.
That’s when we should have known something was off. Usually it’s just— One or two crates that go missing, at most. This was close to a hundred. I guess we panicked a little bit. I know I did. Everyone— Everyone started asking questions. They tried to find my genitor to ask what to do but— But he hadn’t come in yet. Which was weird. But we were all so distracted by the missing stock nobody even really thought about how strange it was and—
And I told everyone. Over and over. I knew I locked the door. I was sure of it. I know I— I knew I did. But nobody— Nobody believed me.
I wish I hadn’t been the one to lock up. I wish it had been someone more experienced. They might have believed the door had been locked if it was Miina, and realised something was wrong. But they— They thought it was just because I forgot to lock the door. And someone had gotten in and taken advantage of that but— But I— I—
Yes. Okay. Breathe.
Yulpa was furious with me.
‘You should have stayed on the farms,’ xie’d told me. ‘When the boss finds out they’ll throw a fit and both you and that genitor of yours will be thrown out, and I won’t be defending your stupidity!’
Gods, I wish stupidity was all it had been. I wish— But— But they…. It was a lot.
Miina was nicer.
‘Get the tracker,’ they’d said. ‘Get the tracker and we’ll get everything back and the boss won’t even have to know it was gone.’
I still remember their tail wrapping over mine as they stood between me and the others. They argued for a bit, but Miina was— They’d worked on the loading bays since they’d come of age, almost fifty years ago. Nobody had worked there longer, so we all listened to Miina about most things. And— And I wish we hadn’t. I wish they’d told Miina no, and just reported me, and I wish I’d quit instead of— Instead of agreeing to go after the thieves.
But again we just thought— We thought they were just petty thieves. We had no idea what we were getting into when we went into the woods.
The tracker was a human, and she was good at her job. I wish she wasn’t. Maybe it wouldn’t have ended so badly if she’d not been….
We left in the early morning, and it was almost noon when we decided to take a break. We hadn’t expected the thieves to have gone so far but the tracker said the trail was clear. They’d not bothered to even try and hide themselves…. Again, that should have been a red flag.
We rested by a river. It…. It tasted bad. Nobody was sure why, at the time. We considered refilling our bottles but we didn’t really want to drink the water. Which it was good we didn’t because— I found out what was wrong with it and it— It was contaminated.
Contaminated? With what?
W— With…. With…. Lots of things. They used the river to dispose of everything. Mould and chemicals and clothes and— And— Everything….
Keito, a freshwater, got really sick after rubbing it into xer gills and had to go back. I— I’m glad xie went home. Miina sent Naikio with xer, which was good. I hope— I hope they got back to the farms alright….
Would you like us to send word to them and make sure?
That— That would be nice. Would you let them know I’m alive? Naikio was a friend and they— They’re probably worried.
We’ll make sure they know. Now, what happened next?
We— We took our break. We talked for a while. Everyone— Everyone was pretty mad at me. Even Miina seemed frustrated by how long we’d been gone but they— They tried to reassure me that we’d get everything back.
We should have just gone home after the break. But we were just— We would have lost our jobs. And none of us could afford that.
So the tracker kept us going, and it was starting to get dark by the time we got to the base of the mountain. The sun was only just setting but the mountain cast a— A shadow. That made it seem later than it was. It was creepy. And I wanted to go home. But I didn’t say anything. I— I was too scared of being yelled at.
But now I wish I had said something because— Because— If I had maybe everyone would have turned around and left and forgotten about it.
But I didn’t. And we pushed on.
It wasn’t long after that we could hear voices and see a light. We went quiet and tried to listen in. There wasn’t many of them that we heard, so Miina had us approach.
There was a camp with about three naga. They were talking over a fire, and the crates were there. Three of them, eight of us, we figured it was fine.
We approached, called out, and the naga turned to us. They didn’t look surprised. They looked… happy, to see us. Like it was some sort of sick game. Which it was, to them.
And I guess was stupid of us to have not realised there was more of them, really. There was a hundred crates, and to move them this far overnight with only three naga? It wasn’t possible.
One of the thieves let out a shout and then more— Seces and naga and foxens and nurlak— They came from all sides and— And they— It— They t— There was— So many and I— We—
Take a breath, Jaisa. It’s alright.
I can’t— I’m sorry! I can’t!
Maybe we should stop, Q? Have a break.
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