Jun 02, 2020 2:58 AM
in which we marry off imrainai
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The current apartment is Kairda's fourth appointment for the day, and when this shift ends, she's got about an hour to make it to the yellow apartment where she's scheduled to scrub a kitchen down. This is fine. Totally fine. Most things are fine when there's a newborn at home, especially if you've had three cups of coffee and have sort of given up on having a regular sleep schedule. She's pretty sure the fact that she hasn't crashed the van into anything is indisputable proof of this fact. Besides, even if she weren't fine, someone has to defeat the ants. Kairda is that someone, and she is absolutely, one hundred percent, entirely fine with this.

The smile she puts on as she knocks on the door is only, like, fifteen percent forced. Tops.

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The man who answers the door has no hair and a rather horrible-looking face, and the expression of someone who expects to be the worst surprise you've had all day and is already sorry about it.

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Her eyes widen a little bit, but the smile does not falter. She manages to look without staring. Her parents may not have raised her well, but they raised her better than that. Besides, once you get used to interacting with really old people who've forgotten how to poop in toilets, there's a limit to how much more horrifying bodies can get.

"Hi! I hear you're having some problems with ants?"

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He relaxes slightly at her relatively calm reaction.

"Yes," he says, "I think they're coming in through the ceiling."

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She is a little concerned by this, but only before she thinks about the alternative. "Oh! OK, well, that's better than them coming through the floor, at this height. Can I come in?"

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"Yes, of course."

He stands back to let her in. The apartment is spacious and pleasantly decorated, but a little cluttered; every available surface is piled with some combination of books and clockwork. Dust has begun to accumulate on some of the more out-of-the-way piles.

"I apologize for the mess," he says distractedly. "The kitchen is this way; that's where I see them most frequently."

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She thinks it's pretty. The apartment, not the ants, although she is capable of admitting that she's gained a certain appreciation for ants, too. The sort of respect one extends to a worthy opponent. But they don't belong in apartments, especially in apartments that would be really nice without them. 

"OK! We'll figure this out." It occurs to her that it is really primarily her responsibility to figure this out, but teamwork is going to make that simpler. "How long ago did you first notice them?"

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"I saw one several weeks ago and didn't think much of it, and then last week they began making inroads on the kitchen, which was both much more visible and much more concerning."

When they reach the kitchen - which is much less cluttered; the sink is empty, the counters spotless - he points up at a corner of the ceiling where a few black specks are wandering up and down the wall.

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"OK! That's good, they're probably not super established yet. Some people wait a lot longer than a few weeks, and that mostly doesn't go super well." 

She sets her bag of supplies on the counter, unfolds her small folding ladder, and climbs up to see what she's dealing with. 

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The ants have found a very small crack in the corner of the ceiling. Occasionally one emerges from it or crawls back inside. The ones on the walls are milling about aimlessly, unable to find anything that interests them.

The resident hovers awkwardly by the door to the living room.

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She pulls out a magnifying glass, and is silent for a few seconds. She knocks on the wall, listening, and then starts talking again as she gets her tools. It's unclear whether she's primarily talking to him or to herself.

"Mhmm. This isn't bad at all, really. These are moisture ants. Nice little guys, comparatively speaking, though they do speed up the natural decaying process of wood. It's weird to find them here, though, your walls are not remotely damp enough to support them. The main thing is gonna be figuring out where they're coming from, and then we can clean up the stragglers. Is there a garden on the roof?"

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"There is... something on the roof that may at one time have been a garden," he says. "Most of the roof space is bare concrete, but there's a planter along the south edge that I believe still has some dirt in it."

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"Seems like a suspect. I'm gonna check it out, do you want to come along? Uh, you don't have to, if you have important things to do right now."

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"I wouldn't want to bother you..."

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"It's not a bother! I think better when I'm talking to people. Also it's like, your apartment building, you might know more about what's up there than I do."

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"Your logic is undeniable. Lead on."

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This is not something people usually tell her, at least not in those words. She smiles, then grabs her bag and her ladder and leads them to the roof.

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He follows.

The roof is, as promised, mostly bare concrete. As they emerge from the building, there's a wooden bucket next to the door containing various small scraps of metal, and hanging from the wall directly over the bucket is a long stick with a handle at one end and a dark cylinder at the other. The rest of the roof has a few more additions, some more identifiable than others: a furnace, a stack of warped boards, a tidy little firepit. The ex-planter is on the far side, a long rectangle with thick concrete walls mostly full of miscellaneous slag, with an occasional determined weed poking a stem up through the scorched wood chips and globs of congealed glass.

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She smiles at the obvious evidence of some kind of creative work being done here.

"Oh, neat, does someone make stuff up here?"

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"Yes, most of the people who live in this building are crafters of one sort or another, machinists and woodworkers and so on."

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"Cool. My grandmother is a carpenter, I bet she could use a lot of this stuff. I was always pretty hopeless at it. But I can totally get rid of ants!"

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"A valuable service," he says seriously, peering into the planter in search of ants but seeing only dirt and broken ceramic.

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She pulls out a trowel and starts digging.

"There are definitely less disruptive ways to gather evidence, but since nobody's actually using this planter, and since moisture ants really aren't dangerous, we might as well save some time. Even if someone did want to grow something here, we'd probably have to get rid of the glass pieces first."

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"Yes," he agrees.

It doesn't take very much digging to reveal an ant nest under the dirt, near one end of the planter and next to a pile of splintered scraps of wood.

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"OK! So this is your culprit here. Since the nest is out of the way like this, you have options. The cheapest thing is probably to poison them here, which is totally viable, since there aren't any plants or people to be careful of. Then we can plug up the cracks in your ceiling, and any ants stuck in your kitchen will starve there in just a few days, as long as you don't leave any food out for them. Shouldn't need to leave any poison in the kitchen, which is good, given that it's a kitchen. If the poison hasn't worked a week from now, we can remove the entire planter and solve the problem that way. Can't do that today, though, 'cause there isn't space in the truck to haul it away right now. Sound good?"

She smiles brightly. 

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He smiles tentatively back. "Yes, thank you."

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