Part 13

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The summit was everything I expected - awkwardly-placed nametags that never stick, insufferably long conversations with charming people who were much better at politicking than I would ever be, and mediocre food. You'd think that at a summit where the attendance could be expected to be at least 25% Fae there would be a couple decent vegan dishes, but we were of course relegated to the salad bar, per protocol. I was still hungry when I lined up in the heavily windowed "pre-assembly" area. I saw some mention that the San Gabriel ballroom (irony, the Fae meeting in a room named for an archangel of protection) could hold up to 1,500 people, and it seemed to me that we might hit that capacity. I hovered in the air just a couple dozen people away from the door. The crowd growing behind me was a sight to see.

This next session was supposed to be a town hall-style discussion with Neo at the helm, as the bridger of "honor" and representative of the Austin area. It was something of a keynote, with the sessions earlier in the day representing a prelude to the major discussion that was supposed to happen after lunch. How this many people were supposed to have a discussion was beyond me. This was the largest such meeting I'd ever attended, to be sure. I hadn't seen Caleb since we split up for our respective sessions at breakfast.

"Look who it is!" I startled when Jess, our cab driver, appeared in line beside me looking all the more professional in a button-up top and tie. His smile was boyish, remnant of the moment where I flashed some magic at him.

My smile muscles screamed when I gave him my best pleasant-face in return, which at this point at least was genuine. "Jess! Good to see you. You're here for the townhall?"

"I am! I figure no one will be coming by my booth with the crowd like it is anyway. This moderator, Neo, is he someone you know? He's a bridger too, yeah?"

"Just from last night, but he's a friend of a-" I paused, not knowing, then decided it would be too complicated to use any other word, "friend. Caleb's good friend, actually."

"I was reading a little about him being the bridger from Austin's glade. Isn't that weird? I know my state senator and house rep and all that - you know, in business it's good to know those things - but I didn't know who my bridger was until just today..." he trailed off, and his cheeks flushed just this side of strawberry. "I think that's on me. I should take responsibility for the fact I didn't know. I should do something about that."

"That's all we can do, yeah?" I didn't feel the need to go out of my way to reassure him, and I understood all too well. The Fae were hardly considered their own government and the concept of a human knowing the name of the bridger for their area was new. Jess wanted to make change and I could hardly penalize him for it. "If you ask me the Fae should have shown themselves to humans way before The Reveal. Most of my people still think dealing with the mundane world is futile, that we should stay in our glades."

"Mundane?" he grinned, "is that what you call us?"

"All of this," I looked around the room for emphasis, "buildings, cars, streets...watches. Fae don't have much time for, well, time. Trying to get someone in a glade to meet you at a place and time just can't be done. I only started to understand your clocks a few years ago when I started getting into activism. It's all so...different...than the world I grew up in. Not wrong. Just different."

As I gestured about the room I took notice of the scene outside the window, beyond the pleasant trees and unbearable sun, where a crowd of protesters gathered to mirror the crowd collecting in our meeting space. The landscaping around the conference center created a sizable barrier between us, enough space to muffle whatever nonsense they chanted. I could make out picket signs with phrases like,

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