Trials of the Cybermancer! – Chapter 18: Enroute

The fresh air…

The frosted-tip haircuts…

The tacky bright-blue windbreakers…

Oh, Atlanta in the middle of the day is so much more beautiful when you’ve been cooped up in hiding for half a week.

I like the tacky skyscraper built like a fake Eiffel Tower.

I like that guy over there peeing in the alleyway.

I like to be alive.

Okay, I’m done. Back to being ambivalent about (but secretly admiring of) Atlanta as a city.

After taking public transportation towards Chuck’s shop, I am finally starting to realize Karina’s complaints about how far out from the downtown she lives. Really feeling the pressure about the time limit… It makes my brow sweat with each passing minute I’m stuck on the local train. It has like forty more stops before it reaches anywhere near the Innovation District and I can hardly bear it.

Funny how I never got this feeling when I needed to be on time for work from her house.

Also, I realized after thirty-eight stops that the Innovation District is in the west side of downtown and the train I was on was going eastward towards Oconee Forest. Whoops. So after getting off at Lithonia, turning around, and getting off at Central Station to figure out where the Innovation District actually is before realizing that I should have just gone to Peach Towers and taken the same bus to his shop that I always do, I realized that I have wasted quite a lot of time.

I’m an hour late already.

Despite that, I’m almost there and almost ready to make some sort of deal.

Yes, I will give up my copy of Genesis Crush to appease the guy, even if it’s just some symbolic gesture. I wouldn’t actually defend it with my life… almost certainly not.

I’m just one block away, and the Innovation District is already starting to get to me.

Like most aspects of modern day Atlanta, this district was formed during former Mayor Epstein’s time as an urban planner, an influential role he held for six years before his first (unsuccessful) run for the mayorship. His theory was that incentivizing construction of office parks, technology-focused retailers, research centers, and international businesses and embassies, the district could cluster the kind of advancement that would spurn on Atlanta’s economic development in the postwar era.

It worked, and it probably worked too well, because practically every major company was investing in the district somehow, either through buying up office space or giving grants to start-up companies or building new ultra-modern buildings complete with little public parks adorned with silly statues and lots of resource-friendly waterways. There were coffee shops on every corner and… so many art galleries.

Before long, Magitek and Sakaguchi got in a massive bidding war over the leasing of one of the central office skyscrapers, and the city more strictly regulated what companies could take root in the Innovation District, soon sapping away its namesake.

While Epstein was governor, he refused to let new companies take over the leases to the “legacy companies” that already had access to the offices there. So business just… dried up. Through whatever means he had, Chuck Araragi snagged a small first-floor space for his used tech shop, and as companies like Moorehead Realities and Garfunkel & Alabaster went out of business, he got easy access to a bunch of crap he shouldn’t have been able to get.

They still officially call this place the Innovation District, but most new companies and ideas happen elsewhere in the city nowadays; Dreamtech got its start in Cobb County, for instance. A lot of people refer to this as the Retrofuture World, where companies like Magitek pump out the same gimmicky nonsense they did twenty years ago.

There’s still coffee shops everywhere, though.

And… a disconcerting number of robots, too.

Robots that are walking in my direction.

What… what is this?

There’s a couple dozen of them, and they’re encircling me on the sidewalk so that I can’t get away from them.

Moonslash’s doing, I have to assume.

One of them steps forward and, with a very low-tech vocal synthesizer, says, “I have a message for you. Morgan Harding. From Moon-slash. You thought you. Could get to the meeting on. Time. You thought wrong. Ha. Ha. Ha. I will make sure that you cannot. Make it.”

Huh, I wonder if he realized I was going to be late all on my own?

The robot continues. “Now you are exposed. And you will feel. My wrath. Attack. My soldiers.”

In synchronized motion each of the robots makes a leap at me.

Ah, crap!

I duck. A few of the robots bash into each other from miscalculated trajectories.

It’s still impossible to escape. Too many robots, and too focused on attacking me and only me.

I punch the head off one–

Owwww!!!

Punching metal is not a good idea!!!

Kicking though– is easier.

And another one goes down.

About four of them are disabled now. Sorry to whoever actually owns these robots, but it ain’t my fault you were so easy to hack into.

–I get uppercutted and fall down flat on my back.

And, if you’ve been wondering all this time, through all these perilous and ridiculous events, where the heck that first chapter was going to come in, you’ve finally reached that point. The point where you get to see Morgan Harding get beat up by a bunch of robots and tossed around like a human-shaped frisbee.

This is the modern world at its worst. A modern world of modern pain, all of it being delivered directly to yours truly.

This is a good place to stop the story for now. Because you really don’t want to see me getting absolutely destroyed by mindless machines. Trust me, it’s not as good a fight scene as it sounds. Especially when I end up running away at the end of it.

 

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7 comments

  1. Heh, I liked Morgan breaking the fourth wall at the end there.

    Though knowing this story’s sense of humor, he could have been breaking the fourth wall this entire time.

    Also, the robots being late with their declaration of attack was pretty hilarious.

    1. Morgan has spoken to the reader a few times over these two long retrofuture stories, but never so directly as this. I sure hope it doesn’t get overused as some sort of lame gimmick… :/

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