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About the series
“City of Water” is a fiction series, which runs Sundays through Thursdays through Sunday. Each chapter will appear in the print edition of The Journal Gazette and online at www.journalgazette.net/water. An accompanying online newspaper will appear daily with the chapters online.
Chapter 14 recap
The mayor’s water security expert uses the latest technology to track down the missing water. The evidence leads to the site of Kekionga Optics.
Fall fiction series

Chapter 15

Early on the morning of Nov. 24, 2062, Deputy Mayor Angelica Lewis was awakened by her Tau.

“Be at my office at 8 a.m.,” was the message from Mayor Roberto Gonzalez.

Lewis was torn. Perhaps Miles Armstrong found that Wayne Robotics was stealing city water. That would be great for her boss’s re-election prospects in the vote that started tomorrow. But Wayne’s CEO, Nelson Wills, might announce she had taken a free bot and other goodies from Wayne – which would wreck her career and the mayor’s, too.

Sadie Palmer, the CEO of Kekionga Optics, had been up all night when her Tau flashed the mayor’s invitation. She looked in the mirror, gulped and got dressed.

Emilio Vasquez, the Water Utilities worker and the mayor’s lifelong friend, smiled when his Tau blipped. This was it for Wayne Robotics and Mia Brown, the mayor’s opponent in the weekend election, he thought. He got ready to travel to the mayor’s office in the Winfield Moses Jr. Government Center, the former bank building.

Shelby Loredo, the city’s official 1 millionth resident, and Miles Armstrong, the city’s water security consultant who had yet to negotiate his pay for the work he already performed, felt their Taus report simultaneously. They were already awake, sipping real Colombian coffee in Loredo’s South Waynedale apartment.

“Here we go,” Loredo said. “Time for the Miles Davis Louis Armstrong show. You gonna give us some jazz?” she joked.

“Well, you’re definitely going to hear me riff,” he said, smiling and loading his Tau with the data he was preparing.

Lewis arrived at the Moses building. She rode the elevator with Sadie Palmer. Lewis was hopeful, but Palmer seemed dejected.

“What’s wrong?” the deputy mayor asked.

“You’ll find out soon,” said Palmer, the city’s highest-profile executive.

As they walked off the elevator on the 26th floor, Emilio Vasquez, the longtime friend of the mayor and a longtime worker at the Water Utilities, also reached the top. When they walked to Mayor Gonzalez’s office, they found Gonzalez, Miles Armstrong, Deputy Mayor Angelica Lewis and Shelby Loredo already there.

As they sat down, Palmer looked at Loredo and said, “Mea culpa.”

“I think Ms. Palmer has something to tell you, Mayor Gonzalez,” Armstrong said.

“I’m sorry, Roberto,” Palmer told the mayor.

She confessed how she directed her company to divert water from the Maumee River to Kekionga Optics. The company started by looking for ways to sanitize the water before sending it downstream to Antwerp. Then it experimented with separating the hydrogen, making it available for fuel, and the oxygen, which it would supply to hospitals.

But none of the experiments were successful, so Palmer decided to give the water to drought-stricken parts of the country, sending it on rail with her company’s other products. But after the company’s fortunes began to fade, she was just stealing it, using some and selling the rest.

“What about Wayne Robotics?” Mayor Gonzalez asked, looking at his old friend, Emilio Vasquez, who first shook his head, then lowered it.

“I think I can explain,” Armstrong said. The water security consultant described how Vasquez had conspired with Palmer to throw suspicion to Wayne Robotics. Vasquez doctored meter levels, and he had reopened an old tunnel the city had started years earlier to ship water to points west. Crews ran into bad soil, though, so the pipeline was never completed.

“Emilio, is this true?” Gonzalez asked. He couldn’t believe it. He was betrayed by his best friend and the city’s most important business leader.

Vasquez was silent.

But thoughts went rushing through the political mind of Lewis, the deputy mayor.

Lewis had her faults, questionable ethics and mediocre management skills, but one thing she could do well was run a campaign. Here was the mayor’s closest business supporter and closest friend, a city employee, conspiring to steal water – the only remaining capital crime in the country.

By the time the polls opened at noon, she had already prepared Tau and TV ads, held a news conference and focused a simple message:

“The mayor uncovered the water thieves.”

twarner@jg.net

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