Fort Wayne was buzzing with rumors, speculation and politicking the week after the ceremony honoring the city’s 1 millionth resident.
The derecho swept in with little notice. Fortunately, police, Headwaters Park safety crews and many citizens knew exactly what to do. After the warning was issued over everyone’s Tau, many citizens were directed to The Commons, a fortified building that was once a jail, on the south side of Headwaters. Others went to the newly rebuilt Headwaters Pavilion (Mayor Roberto Gonzalez refused to name it after a politician). Those remaining went to the underground bunker north of the river, across from Science Central.
With so many festivals and celebrations at Headwaters each year, the evacuation and protection plan was used – to great success – more often than anyone wanted. But surprise storms, not to mention radiation scares, were just part of life in 2062.
Mia Brown supporters went to their Taus to criticize Gonzalez for spending city money for the celebration, for the way he chose the 1 millionth resident, for the kids who barely survived after the winds blew them into the river at the end of last Saturday’s ceremony.
Frank Gray wasn’t the only person to notice the river level was falling quickly. Most people were more worried about running for safety and didn’t notice the St. Marys River seemed to have dropped a couple of feet just since the morning. The heavy rain brought the level back up, and few knew about it until Gray wrote about the river on Sunday, the day after the ceremony. Two citizens later came forward with Tau 3-D footage that clearly showed the water level had dropped significantly.
The Fort Wayne rumor mill had long had a life of its own, and the bigger the city got, the smaller it sometimes seemed as everyone knew everyone else’s business – or at least stories about them, be they fact or fiction or somewhere in between. So the drop in water level – and accompanying drop in water pressure – set Taus to work across the city and beyond.
The mayor was hoarding water, some of Mia Brown’s supporters claimed.
No, he was stealing it and selling it on the black market, others claimed.
No, he was diverting it to Henry Manufacturing for its production of polymerastics.
No, he was allowing Kekionga Optics to siphon water from the Kekionga Dam through a secret pipe buried underneath the Maumee River.
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Angelica Lewis knew she had to come up with some plausible explanation.
Everyone knew that people squatting in condemned riverside homes and some wildcatters along the river siphoned water out of the St. Marys and St. Joseph rivers. Studies indicated that the amount of water the city lost was measurable but not truly significant, except during an extreme drought – which happened only a couple of times each year.
But Lewis was looking for a way to tie the water level from last weekend to the individuals who stole water from their fellow citizens.
She pitched her plan to Gonzalez.
We need to send the water police down the river and look for these illegal pipes, Lewis told her boss on his 26th-floor office tower. We’ll get photos of the City Utilities crews busting up the illicit pipes and of police arresting these criminals.
I don’t know, Gonzalez responded. I still don’t see how we could lose that much water with just individuals taking small amounts. And I don’t want to start arresting poor people who can’t afford water – especially two weeks before an election.
Lewis pressed on. But it would be a great way to show you are tough on crime, she said. With all these break-ins and robberies, it would show that you care about everyone. These are squatters and wildcatters. They don’t vote.
And we have to come up with some explanation, she continued, because people are already starting to believe these rumors about you stealing the water.
Gonzalez shook his head. Water made his political career. He couldn’t believe it could be his downfall.
There has to be an answer, the mayor told her, and it isn’t just squatters and wildcatters. Let me make a couple of calls and I’ll get back with you.
OK, Lewis said in frustration, but we need to get on top of this story quick.