Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 26: Before We Get to the Rodeo

Walking around J-District by yourself in the evening can be an overwhelming experience with all the people around, all the meaty smoke rising from the open-air restaurants and faint sounds of pop singers playing over distant speakers. But, when you’re with a companion, it feels more like an adventure through uncharted territory, no matter how many times you’ve been down this particular street.

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 25: The Informant

So many steps, so many barriers to solving what should be such a simple evil conspiracy…

Not only am I out here in the sweltering heat of J-District, Atlanta, but I’m out here searching for an extremely secret informant of R8PR’s. This informant is so confidential that I’m not allowed to get precise directions there. He printed out a piece of paper for me, but all of the information is scrambled in a code. “Go left at the fork” is actually supposed to mean “Ignore this advice” according to how R8PR explained it.

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 24: Yeah, I Know, Geez

I walk into the bank three minutes before my shift, and all eyes set on me. My chatting coworkers’s conversations crumble into a murmur. The whole room doesn’t fill with silence, but a dramatic drop in volume coincides neatly with the fact that everyone’s now looking right at me.

Mr. Larkins, screaming at someone over the phone, is still a silhouette seated in his insulated office. But after a phone beep, after a door swinging open, my boss enters the front office and joins the cacophonous chorus of stares.

“Geez, Harding,” he says, “You look like shit.”

***

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 23: The Boardwalk Arcade

The “boardwalk” has been closed for probably ten years, by this point.

Atlanta, obviously, has no shoreline to build a pier onto. There is absolutely no possible way for there to be a boardwalk in the traditional sense (or, any sense at all that is comprehensible by normal people).

Hell, aside from the Chattahoochee River that flows in the north part of the city up in Bucukhead and Roswell and all those rich people neighborhoods, Atlanta doesn’t have much in the way of water at all. I guess that’s part of the reason Georgia fought that battle in the Civil War to get Chattanooga acquired from Tennessee, because without it we’d be facing a drought every couple of summers.

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 22: Phone Call In Transit

Morgan’s in transit.

I’m on the bus with a bunch of other bored people staring at whatever mobile devices they might have on them. The elementary-age girl next to me’s playing a Game Boy Series X, while the mustachioed older man across from me has his portable PC out, staring blankly at whatever video or something he’s watching. Another man, still, plays Snake on his cellular, something you only do when you are at the absolute pit of despair when it comes to craving entertainment.

I, on the other hand, have got something real good going on in my life, even though I’m not entertained by any sort of media in the slightest. In a few minutes, I’m about to get a phone call from my own burner cellular, thanks to a carefully calculated text message sent directly to the phone number Phil McWhorter gave me. His boss, the one who’s involved in this gold or whatever, is probably really far into the crime world, so the text message I sent is sure to get a response:

“whats up wanna talk shop”

It’s calculated precisely in the way that will best provoke certain types of people to either respond enthusiastically, or lash out suspiciously. Either way, there is basically a zero percent chance that this woman (?) will ignore me for very long. I suspect she is conferring with her associates as we speak, about how best to respond to me.

Also, I know you’re thinking it, so let me address the elephant in the vehicle before you get all up in arms or start silently judging me or whatever: I’m not going to get in a loud phone call in the middle of a crowded bus. I’m far from a good person, but I’m not evil. What do you even take me for?

In fact, in preparation for such a phone call, I get off the bus at its next stop. Sure, that puts me down two bucks when I get back on again later, two bucks I could have spent on a sweet tea or something, but the rudeness factor is simply far too much to make it worth it otherwise.

Also, I guess I never really considered it until now, but there is a fair chance that I could have just been going back home only to find out that I need to go to a completely different part of Atlanta. So… I probably should have done this phone call thing before I even got on the bus.

Well, sure enough, with me standing near this random bus stop next to some random park, my burner cellular starts buzzing away.

“Hello?” I ask in a slightly disguised way. Like, imagine my voice, but a little bit higher-pitched. That’s basically all I’m doing.

“Let us talk shop,” the soothing, feminine voice on the other line says. “I want to know about you.” The voice has something of an accent, but I can’t place it.

“I’m just an average jesse looking for work,” I tell the person on the other end of the line. “Any problem with that?”

“Of course not. Well, if you are interested, then let us meet at the usual place.”

“…Huh?”

“What?”

“The usual place, uh, yeah.”

“Yes. Correct.”

The gig may be up already. Shit. How was I supposed to know I was following some sort of covert code? I hate this criminal underworld doublespeak shit.

“So when we say usual place, we’re not talking… Saint Burger, are we?” I ask.

“I am confused.”

“I’m a little confused, too. Could you be more, uh, specific?”

There is a pause on the other end of the line. The pause lasts an unsettlingly long amount of time.

“The pier. I refer to the pier. The boardwalk arcade.”

“Oh, do you mean THAT usual place?” I let out the fakest laugh ever uttered. “Why didn’t you just say so? Gosh.”

“I look forward to talking shop with you there,” the feminine voice says. “Very much.”

“Me too! It’s gonna be so fun.” But by the time I say it, the line’s already disconnected on the other end.

This… probably isn’t going to go very well. But like any grand chessmaster, I’m going to make a calculated and foolish risk in the hopes of getting a couple extra pieces of info. Sacrifice a couple rooks to capture the queen. That’s exactly the way to win at chess, right?

Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 21: Warehoused

I don’t really get why warehouses still have so many human employees. As if robots can’t do the entirety of everything that’s done in these dreary places. But apparently there are still some tasks that cannot be automated, or at least for as cheaply as minimum wage. And that’s exactly the type of job that disaffected young men tend to take when they’re out of other options that don’t involve interacting with customers on a daily basis.

It’s hard to blame them. Customers tend to be awful, horrible people (yes, even you). It’s more fun to interact with a bunch of crates filled with stuff to ship than to pretend to be polite to some middle aged woman screaming in your face.

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 20: This Morgan Harding

Long hair, ponytail, square-rimmed glasses. A smile on their face, perhaps. This is a picture of Morgan Harding, if they never had that fateful meeting with a robot on the run. I sometimes dream about this Morgan when I’m in my deepest of doldrums, and for some reason I’m way far down in that hole just right now.

Morgan, when they were twenty years old, had an encounter that changed the shape of the rest of their life. Whether by accident of fortuitous twist of fate, they met someone who changed their life forever. They died. They were saved. They came back cybernetically enhanced. They had some abilities that exceeded a normal human by any measure. They were faster, stronger, better reflexes, better healing—an evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens in just about every conceivable way. They were a lot more than their skinny appearance let on, and so they decided to use their powers to save the city of Atlanta in any way they could.

But that is not THIS Morgan.

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 19: A Digital Walkman

“Here’s your change,” says the cashier robot. “Now Get N Go!”

“I hate that so much,” I reply under my breath.

Unfortunately, it hears me, and says, “We’re sorry you were dissatisfied with your experience. If you want to get in contact with a customer representative, please acknowledge, and we will connect you as soon as possible through our robotic relay system.”

“No, thank you,” I say.

“Have a nice day. Now Get N Go!”

As soon as I’m confident I’m out of earshot, I mutter as many obscenities as my annoyance requires from me.

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 18: Advisement

Another report with R8PR up in his Peach Towers penthouse.

I’m still basically furious that he’s even got this thing. He is quite known for his risky behavior about flaunting his intelligence and craftiness, but this takes it way too far. Yeah, sure, he’s got a lot of fancy setups to make him look way less suspicious in the eyes of anyone who might be searching for him, but inevitably one of those things is going to fail. Surely, one of them is going to fail. Then what? Will he be able to get a sky rail ticket outta here before the military and police and corporations and everyone else all converge on this location and attack with all possible firepower?

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Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 17: Tony the Terror

Tony (pronounced with an “ah,” not an “oh”) stomps up to me and points her finger directly into my chest. She’s just a bit taller than me, which helps to cement the fact that I’m about to get beaten up really bad and then murdered. I defeated that cyborg Donald Blyth, but I ain’t gonnna beat Tony.

“Sandra told me all about your garbage shit,” she says to me with the ferocity of, well, someone fierce. I’m too frightened to come up with anything clever. “Get out of my store or I’ll gut you like I gutted the catfish I caught this weekend.”

“You’re a fisher?” I can’t help myself; I really can’t. I’m going to die and I still can’t help myself.

“Shut up!”

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