Short Stories 366:270 — “Good With Numbers,” by Heather LaVonne Jensen

coverOne of the awesome things about The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis is how you get to visit supporting characters in the greater Trade Pact universe, and get into their heads. That isn’t to say you have to have read Czerneda’s wider universe to enjoy the anthology—honestly, most of the stories in this book would happily stand alone and be just as good—but some of them have more impact when you know the character involved already, and… Well, I adore Ansel, the accountant and organizational master from Huido’s ‘Claws & Jaws’ restaurant, okay? The harried little human fellow who tries to keep the massive alien organized is sort of the best, and this story goes back and tells you how they met and started working together and it’s just adorable, okay?

We meet Ansel when he’s more-or-less a nobody doing a menial job for a tile-maker, and no one really realizes his quirks yet. Ansel has a way with numbers and organization that borders on being a savant, but at the moment, he’s not able to use those gifts at all, though he can’t help himself from doing mental math all the time, and noticing patterns in the shipments going on and the like. Which is where he starts getting in trouble, because those tiles being shipped to some restaurant on the interstellar trading post Plexis? Something’s up with them.

Ansel ends up in over his head (quite literally at one point) and by the time he ends up on Plexis, tries to warn the innocent (and not-so-innocent) Huido of what’s going on, and has his talents exposed, things go sideways in a rather chaotic way. But the ultimate solutions and friendships formed along the way had me grinning, and having this piece of the history of the two characters filled in left me very satisfied. I always knew I liked Ansel, but now I know why.

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