(3-2) The City's fires are fed

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"Excellent," Crafter Derriskew said, standing up. He waved at the door, impatiently hustling two young men that the foreman Ivan escorted into the office.

Samuel was surprised by how ordinary the two of them seemed, as they walked into the Crafter's office with the familiar walk of civilians who believed they were about to be judged. The pair of young men were covered in dust, their hair was long and unruly, and they smelled faintly of sweat and burnt metal.

"These two are Cameron Sjarl and Oscar Letterman. They work as form fitters in the pipe assembly process, and they'll be happy to answer your questions," the crafter said, as he very deliberately set the two young men down.

Both of them looked unnaturally pale and eyed the young crafter warily as they slowly shuffled toward the nearby chairs.

"Have a seat, gentlemen," Crafter Derriskew said firmly, gesturing to the chairs. The Crafter carried himself with a forceful air of authority, and the two young men sat down obediently.

"The inspectors are here to interview you, about your friend. Sirius --no, that's not it -- Stylectus, Invictus?" The Crafter began to saw, floundering as he searched his memory.

"Silas Miller," Samuel said. He coughed and made a deliberate show of looking uncomfortable before he spoke again. "And Crafter Derriskew, is there a place my partner and I can conduct this interview privately?"

"I..." Crafter Derriskew began to say, reluctantly. Samuel forced himself to make and keep eye contact until the Crafter reluctantly shrugged. "You can have my office. Just pull the shutters once we're outside. The room isn't sound-proofed, but it's too noisy outside to overhear anything unless you shout."

"Of course. Thank you, sir," Angela said, nodding politely.

Crafter Derriskew stepped outside, and very gently shut the door behind him.

Samuel waited precisely three seconds before he very deliberately breathed a sigh of relief and turned to the two young men. "That's quite the boss to have."

Strangely, the lamp on the wall seemed to twitch, flickering a little before it settled.

And stranger still to Samuel, both of the young men he was interviewing noticed that small flicker of flame.

"Well boys, if it's any comfort," Angela said as she sat down in front of them, startling them both as if they didn't know she was in the room. "Neither of you are in trouble. After all, we're not from Oversight. We just have some questions about an acquaintance of yours. Silas Miller."

"Right, because the orderlies hand out commendations and lottery tokens to all the good little girls and boys of the City," the young man introduced as Cameron said sullenly, his gaze shifting nervously between Bertram and the lamp on the wall. "What ash pit has Silas landed himself in this time?"

"We'd prefer to ask him that," Samuel said, leaning forward in his seat. "Have you seen or heard about him in the last few hours? I'm told he was supposed to be on this shift."

"We haven't heard from him today," Oscar said. The young man kept his gaze fixed on his boots, and his ash-covered hands tremored little as he held them in his lap.

"Is that normal?" Angela asked.

"Yeah, it's not that strange," Cameron insisted, carefully. "Silas still has one foot in High Central. His dad got us this job, and we have apartments on the fringes of this district. Not High Central, obviously, but home's a half-hour train ride from here. And my evaluator only checks on me twice a week."

"Sorry," Samuel said, his eyes widening a little as he took in not only what Cameron had told him, but the boy's relieved and somewhat grateful smile as he spoke. Samuel marked the rueful, relaxed smile, the awkward rubbing on the back of his head, and the small chuckle he made as the boy finished explaining.

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