Holy shit it’s the Dial-Up Demon after all!
And his secret identity! He’s…
Just some random old black guy.
“Get out! Go away!” he screams. His voice immediately confirms that yes, this is the right guy. The very same man whose scratchy radio voice has been my sole source of mystery for over a week now.
“I don’t know who you are, but you’re finished doing criminal stuff. You’ve been captured by none other than… Morgan Harding!”
…I need a secret identity too, don’t I?
Frank and Erin rush over with handcuffs and other bindings, which Erin apparently carries in her purse at all times (I won’t pry further on that one). We capture the man and force him to speak.
“I’ll never talk,” he says. “I’ve done all the talking I need to on the airwaves.”
Junkers the dog looks at him and woofs angrily.
“…Well, maybe I can explain.”
“Please do,” I say. “First, your name.”
“Daniel Damon,” he says with a smirk.
“Please say that’s an alias.”
He doesn’t respond, but the look in his face tells me that it unfortunately is not.
“And why did you do all of this?” Frank asks.
“Yeah, why did you do it?” Erin asks. “You’re doing a lot of bad things to innocent people.”
“Listen, y’all don’t get it,” the man begins. “Y’all are educated kids who are gonna get a good job one day.” (Not true for me but I don’t say anything.) “Me? I’m just an old man who’s got no real skills. Well, except for my lovely voice.”
“It is a pretty good radio voice,” I say. Frank and Erin glare at me.
Daniel Damon continues. “I used to work here, you know. At GSU. I was a janitor right up until the day these damn robots took over everything. Only reason I knew all the transponder locations is because I cleaned the rooms. I ain’t too bitter about this place, but when I got word of some big new project for new STEM jobs? Nuh-uh. No way. I won’t let the rest of the world get replaced by machines so all the rich get free work and all the poor go hungry.”
I want to tell him that that the new project is specifically about educating low-income adults so that they won’t have jobs easily replaced by robots, but I don’t think he’s in the mood for a lecture. And also I think I’m not supposed to talk about the rocket rail yet.
“So you just wanted to sabotage the school until the STEM projects were shut down?” Frank asks.
“That’s what it sounds like,” Erin adds.
Mr. Damon cackles. “No way! I don’t give a shit about that, besides petty revenge. All I care about is money! And boy did I rob this school clean while y’all were running around getting chased by robots. Nobody’s ever gonna find that stuff.”
“But you’ll be in jail so you can’t spend it either,” I say.
“Well, I would have gotten away for it, if it weren’t for you stupid kids.” Junkers barks. “Yeah, and your moron dog, too.” He laughs, almost wistfully. If he weren’t entirely focused on stealing money for greed, I might actually feel sorry for the guy.
“So, uh, how do we get this security door open?” I ask, beckoning over to the President’s office.
He shrugs. “I don’t know nothing about technology. I just came across some plans that ended up on the street. All the best marks that had outdated security. I was bound to be caught eventually. At least it was you.”
…I really hope we get this door open soon…
Four hours later, the police have arrived, taken statements, and put Daniel Damon in the back of a patrol car. The security door was reopened after a Blade Runner specialist came and did some fancy techno-magic on it, though all of the disabled robots and PCs seem to be glitched for good. That’ll cost the company a lot.
Mr. Larkins and President Dean Morgan don’t seem too upset about the day’s events, though.
“I think this day ended up quite well,” President Morgan says.
“Yeah. Real productive meeting,” says Mr. Larkins. “All that extra time really let us hash out the details. Who knew extra time was all we needed?”
“So the, uh, ‘project,’ is a-go?” I ask.
“Soon as the lawyers put their smeary claws all over it, yeah,” my boss says. “Everything worked out just perfectly.”
“That’s… really good to hear.”
“And I hear you stopped the Dial-Up Demon somehow! It makes no sense why it wasn’t me who got to sock the guy in the face, but I’m real proud of you, kid. Who knew you had it in you?”
He reaches to pat me on the head, but since I’m taller than him it looks too stupid and I dart away before he can touch me.
Despite all of the idiocy, all of my insecurities, all of the doldrums I’ve been feeling, I actually succeeded at something for once. It isn’t such a bad feeling.
I look at Frank, Erin, and Junkers, and wave them goodbye. “It was nice meeting you,” I say. Nice meeting you despite laying a fake trap intended to ensnare me…
“I think we’ll be seeing each other again soon,” Frank says. “Mystery hunters often collide.”
“He’s right. Mystery hunters meet each other quite often,” Erin adds.
Junkers whimpers at me until I pet it a few times. Good dog.
Well then, I’ll be off. Another day, another adventure for Morgan G. Harding, the superpowered savior of Atlanta.