Into the Retrofuture – Chapter 20: Whew.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch!

I throw the newspaper. It hits my CRT and then all its pages spread out across the floor. Agh, that’s gonna be a pain to clean.

Amy, sitting on the couch next to Lamar, legs spread out like a sleeping man on the subway, laughs. “The biased media never fails,” she says.

“Why are you cynical at age fourteen…”

“It’s the truth. Reality bites.”

“You’re right, though… It’s not fair… Not a single peep about the fact we saved the city from a cyborg maniac and now there’s a bunch of other evil people out there that got away?”

Lamar, paying more attention to the program on TV than to either of us (it’s a Green Acres rerun), says, “It’s a public safety issue, Morgan.”

“How’s that?”

“If the people of Atlanta knew that there were rich and powerful businessmen and politicians that aren’t just corrupt, but actively working for a religious apocalypse, what would the reaction be?”

“Well said by the master of elucidation, Lamar Gwinnett,” says Amy.

“Shut up, Amy,” I say. “You’re right. I’m just… tired of all these cover-ups.”

“Then we’re the only ones that can fix that,” he says. He turns back to the TV show and zones out.

Amy elbows me. “Isn’t he so cool?”

“Shut up Amy. Why are we hanging out, again?”

“Because you love me,” she says.

“I’m not even going to reply to that.” I get up and return to my desk, where lies my apartment’s most valuable treasure– the desktop PC I purchased back during the tech expo.

It took me until just yesterday to finally set the damn thing up, and now that it’s here, it’s a shining beacon of accessibility. I’ll never have to buy a TV guide booklet ever again because I can just search for showtimes on the internet. 

The fact I went for three months without internet access home is probably unfathomable to you, but I coped fairly well. Now that that situation is over, though… I’m pretty happy.

(I’m still not signing up for a Netnect account.)

***

Motokawa’s place of business looks about normal again. The pool tables are back, there’s only about fifteen people in here rather than a hundred, and the Mercenary Prince sits at her quite literal throne, just as usual.

And, as usual, I’m not quite sure why I actually came down here, knowing that it is never going to be worth the risk.

But this time, she actually invited me. So maybe I have nothing to fear.

“Hello, Harding,” Motokawa says. 

“How’s it going?”

“I just wanted to thank you for helping me take revenge on Blyth Industries,” she says. “It felt very sweet. I would have liked to have killed the man myself, but… Your robot friend did well. He reminded me a lot of myself.”

“Yeah.” That’s what scared me so much back then. “Is that… all?”

“Well, almost. I also wanted you to make sure that our relationship is still strictly business. I have no preferential treatment towards you, and if someone pays for an assassination, I will not hestitate to accept it. I will even kill you myself.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right…”

Those fifteenish people in here are all suddenly gazing my way…

“Uh, there wouldn’t happen to be a contract on me right now, would there…?” I ask.

“I can’t reveal that,” she says. “I don’t discuss client information.”

Her stare, that piercing eye, doesn’t even attempt to divert itself from me.

“Oh.” I dart my eyes around and start to back up. “I’m just going to… go home now…”

I don’t think I’ve ever power-walked as fast in my life.

***

“The Ascendants are everywhere,” Coop Yates says. “I fear what you did in the base last week has only scattered them to the winds. If only we had been there…”

“But you couldn’t be,” I say. “You have to follow the law.”

“We do.” He grimaces. More than usual, that is.

We’re sitting at a table outside a cafe in a scenic park, Yates and me. He wanted a coffee and a chat, and I wanted a cheesecake and to not be arrested. So here we are.

“Those tunnels we found underneath Blyth’s headquarters,” he continues. “Some of them go on so long our probe teams haven’t begun to reach the end of them yet. It’s going to be months before we can understand the full scope of what we’ve found.”

“I’ll give you all the data I can,” I tell him. “If that can help you in any way.”

“I don’t think we’ll be officially investigating the Ascendants anytime soon. We’re under the purview of Chief Baranowsky, who is under the thumb of Mayor Rhodes, and I… Well, I have my suspicions about what’s going on. There’s a lot more to this than either of us know. You’ll have to pick up the Blade Runners’ slack.”

“You’re… okay with everything?”

“As long as you leave things be and let the Blade Runners do the real investigations, I’ll let you do your little vigilante work. You’ve helped us out a lot. But you’ve also made a lot of enemies. Be careful.”

“Careful is not something I’m particularly good at being,” I say.

“Then you’re as good as dead.”

“Oh, when you put it that way…”

Yates finishes his coffee. “I need to run,” he says. “It was nice discussing things with you, Morgan.”

“But we barely talked.”

“We talked enough.” He stands up and looks up at the cloudy sky. “It’s about to rain soon. You’d better get home.”

Yates pats me on the back and departs.

And, right on cue, thunder. The first raindrops fall on my head.

I get up to leave, but before I do, my eyes stop me. 

Far off in the distance, sitting at a different outside table at a restaurant across the street… A couple, brown hair and black, and a familiar sundress…

Marge. Marge and Mei.

She’s too far away for me to tell for sure, but… it looks to me like Marge is winking at me.

Ugh.

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