The Candle-maker

Candles were the only reliable way to know that you would have light these days. Within the city walls power was not guaranteed, especially in the outer districts, and personal electrical supplies were strictly prohibited. Consequently, candles were in high demand and so they cost a fortune. The only way to be sure of getting your hands on one was to save two weeks’ worth of luxury goods tokens to trade with someone who had been able to get their hands on one. However, Rokas hated getting ripped off in the trade forums and had learned of a way to make his own candles using left-over cooking oil. He glanced at the clock. 22:19. He lit the candle ahead of the 22:30 power curfew and carried on reading his ESAO-3 Study Guide.

Rokas worked as a level-2 electrical salvage and assembly operative (ESAO-2) and has just been invited to study for promotion to level-3; his job was to put together whatever devices were called into production. This could change from week to week, sometimes even day-to-day. It was last week that he had been assembling computer screens from various reclaimed components when he was instructed to cease work on the current job as there had been a ‘P-1’ assembly requirement for ten camera units. He’d never made a camera before, and nor had any of the others, but they were given the component requirements and assembly specifications and just had to get on with it. Without questioning, fifty people were then dedicated to producing these camera units. The shit thing about the ‘P-1’ jobs is that no-one could return to their residence until the job was complete. But that’s just how it was. Of course, all ESAO-2s had been given training, but this was fairly basic; they could follow instructions, but didn’t really understand how things actually worked. Progress was sometimes slow, but opportunities like this allowed the more talented operatives, like Rokas, to really stand out and gave a chance to prove one’s worthiness of progression. As soon as the ten units had been produced to spec, the Production Director had performed final quality control, confirmed acceptance and had terminated their shift. It was in the project analysis that he had highlighted Rokas as ‘a notable talent’ and invited him to advancement training.