Chapter 14:

Confront! You Look a Little Lost

Mylo and the Summoned Hero

Ezre returned to her flat with a sigh of relief and an armful of groceries. The mana station’s day crew, finding their station too broken to crew, finally took over helping the emergency service teams. It would have been so much worse if the pipes ran under the buildings and not the street. But she could think about that later. Right now she needed a bath, to put the lettuce in the cold box, to purge some emotions onto paper, and to say hello to the person on her balcony.

Wait, why was there a guy on her balcony?

The balcony was small, extending only a foot or so beyond the access door, and barely wide enough for Ezre to squeeze a chair onto. It lacked connection to either of the neighbors’ balconies. He must have flown or floated up—big breach of etiquette.

Ezre grabbed an oversized radish from the grocery bag and stomped over to the door.

"Oi! What do you think you’re doing?"

Kasumi looked up. The tape measure in her hand rattled and snapped back into its case.

"Measuring. What are you doing here?"

"I live here!"

They regarded each other. Ezre saw a what appeared to be a young man, neighborhood of Mylo’s age but more conventionally handsome, kneeling down on the balcony floor. Black hair, pale golden eyes, a sharp jawline—Ezre acknowledged Pelgram’s looks with the same dry disdain an academician regards a well-argued paper that proves their pet theory wrong.

Kasumi, meanwhile, saw the older sister she never had. And probably never could have had—that shocking red hair and the green eyes weren’t anywhere in her family tree so far as she’d heard. Still, Kasumi thought Ezre looked mature, cool.

"So, can I measure your place?"

"No. Why would you even need to do that?"

"Okay, you see, there’s something funky about this town." Kasumi stood and leaned in conspiratorially. Ezre leaned out and was this close to shoving the trespasser away—off the balcony, if necessary.

"Every house and apartment is a different size. It’s horribly inefficient."

"I think you should leave."

"Oh." Kasumi looked crestfallen. "Okay then. Well, can I at least go through the main door?"

"You flew up, right? Fly down."

Kasumi gave a nervous laugh. "My mana still hasn’t recharged."

"Fine." Ezre lowered the radish from Kasumi’s throat.

She lead Kasumi through her flat, keeping a close eye on her. Kasumi’s eyes went everywhere and to everything.

It was a mercy Ezre hadn’t started a letter to exorcise what she’d seen in the hospital that morning. Were that so, Kasumi would have teased her incessantly. But the letter which lay with its guts out on the desk was addressed to an employee at another Callawea mana station. In the ink, Ezre had begun to describe the quake’s damage.

Kasumi perked up. "Oh, you work where that tower was? I know someone who works there too. That place got romped."

Ezre couldn’t help but agree. "They’ll rebuild it with the same design flaws, and understaff it again. Now, you were leaving?"

"I thought it was critical infrastructure. A disaster like that and it’s not going to be nationalized?"

Shooing Kasumi out the door was proving difficult, but that damn pumping station and its useless safety valves—something had to be done. No official magnitude on last night’s quake, but if it had been a bit larger it could have wiped out the entire crew, herself included. Ezre would listen to anyone’s suggestions right now.

"What exactly does nationalizing mean?"

"You don’t have that here? Oh, of course not, it’s a fantasy setting. The government takes over something that was privately owned, happens to critical energy or transportation infrastructure thingy." Kasumi unpacked the idea on the couch while Ezre made tea—decaff, naturally.

Weird fellow, but if I know anything about Morin and the Callaweas, they’ll talk the Jagai’s treasury into paying for the rebuild. The Jagai might as well own it then. Can’t run it any worse.

"Okay, Pelgram, thanks for telling me all this. I’ll try to get in the Mayor’s office and pitch this. Maybe next quake we’ll have pressure release systems that actually release." She started to stand. "Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some letters to write."

I wonder which of my employees is friends with this fellow. Ezre thought of Kasumi. I suppose he’s not so bad. Bit obsessive about details, but harmless.

Kasumi looked shocked, almost offended.

"Oh, I’m not done. Not even done with the mana infrastructure. Have you considered the pipe layout? Haphazard, hard to maintain, impossible to expand. First, the pipe diameter should be tripled, for future growth. Second, rebuild them in a grid that every building can link to…"

It wasn’t so much the words that struck as odd, as the way in which they were said. Not suggestions, nor best case scenarios. Kasumi was talking about ripping the town up from its bones with the same casual manner someone normal suggests a run to the convenience store for snacks.

"Pelgram, what you’re saying would require demolishing most of the town."

Kasumi looked Ezre right in the eye. "Good, most of it wasn’t fit for habitation anyways."

I’m not sure if I should bring this guy to the Mayor, or keep him as far away as possible.

Ataga Corliss
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