Piedmont Park is unusually crowded, even for a Friday afternoon. It’s typically packed with people, but right now it’s like some sort of cultural festival out here. And all this when the sky looks like it could rain at any moment.
The reason for this occasion is, of course, the upcoming shoot for Mega Busters 3: The Search for Drippy. Everyone wants to watch it happen, and everyone wants to be put in the film as extras, even if they don’t actually know what the movie is about and even if it’s during normal work hours.
Karina in particular feels the urge towards wanting to get into the movie. She watches the people setting up equipment and groans as we pass it by without another look.
“Where would Jones be?” I ask, mostly to myself.
“What I don’t understand is why they think she would be here,” Karina says.
“What do you mean?”
“She’s probably going to do a big hacking, right? She can’t do that from a thousand miles away on the internet?”
“She already did it once. Do you really think the Social Media Killer would miss out on a chance to see the biggest social media splash of her career in-person?”
I don’t know if I’d really call it a career, but you know what I mean.
Karina stops. “I guess you’re right. But… there’s a whole lot more security here this time.”
I see it too.
It’s pretty obvious that there are more thugs in the crowd, even more than when they were tailing me. I see far too many men in suits for it to be anything else. They must be expecting something already.
You know, this whole scene is making me antsy.
What the hell did Martin Quartermaster do to deserve something as theatrical as this? Uh, no pun intended.
I don’t know where Jones is in this crowd. I don’t know what’s going to happen, or when. I’m starting to get really worried. With this many around, people are bound to be hurt by whatever happens. I don’t want that on my conscience if I can help it.
And Karina. We’ve gone on a couple adventures together, some more life-and-death than others, but this one takes the medal for most perilous journey. I don’t like leading her into all this, as much help as she gives.
Maybe… “Do you want to try again at getting into the movie, and then I can find Jones myself? I don’t want to see you get hurt if–”
She shoots a glare. “I’ve been trying to tell you and R8PR this whole time that I really can help you two. I’m not just some innocent bystander; I can help because that’s what I want to do.” Karina looks at the robots setting up equipment. “I mean… I WOULD like to try getting into the movie. I’d just like to help you out… more than that.”
“Well, then, that’s fine. We’re looking out for anyone with a portable computer on their wrist, or anyone sitting and using a laptop. That shouldn’t be too hard.”
I take a look at the crowd around us.
Dozens of portable computers amidst hundreds of people as far as the park stretches on.
“This is going to be too hard,” I say. “I mean, she’s about as tall as me… brown hair just like in the pictures…”
I flash back to the other night, when I saw the figure in the crowd.
I just have to match my mind to that and I’ll find her.
A huge sound reverberates throughout the park. The robots shuffle away from the equipment, and one of the cameras starts filming all on its own, pointing towards the crew and projecting onto the back of a green screen.
The director Martin Quartermaster, an aging, balding British man, storms to the center of the set and begins yelling up a storm. “What the bloody hell is going on right now? We have to shoot this scene today. It’s cloudy, you wanted cloudy. I’m not dealing with this shite if–”
“Martin Quartermaster, there you are,” a distorted female voice sounds on the intercom. That’s definitely Jones, I realize. “In a few moments, you won’t need to deal with anything at all.”
“What the f–”
“Shut up. That goes for everyone.” She clears her throat. “Martin Quartermaster, in the year 1992, was accused of sexual assault by an actress he was working with at the time. He, of course, got away with it because he’s the big fancy blockbuster director, and the actress was some two-bit nobody. The producers, George Hamilton and Bernie Dean, swept it under the rug, and it all went away.
“But it didn’t, not actually. I will play the vocal recordings for you here today. The producers talking with police all those years ago.”
There’s a click, and then the tape starts playing.
“You can’t do that kind of stuff, Marty! What the hell were you thinking?”
“I mean, who is she, anyway? Just some whore.”
“We’re finished, you and me. After this, no more movies. Isn’t that right, Bernie? Bernie?”
“She had it coming to her.”
“Bernie! What the hell?”
“I didn’t even do anything to her, George. She ran out of the hotel room after I gave her that shiner.”
“Well, how are we going to deal with the cops, Marty? When they…”
This stuff is absolutely horrible. It’s even worse that Martin Quartermaster is a family movie director revered by millions, and this tape recording is being played to an audience of thousands live in Piedmont Park.
But I try not to listen further, and instead look out at the crowd and search for her. She has to be close by, because she’s simply too arrogant not to attend this in-person. That’s what she did last time.
There’s a few people using their portable computers typing messages to their friends, a few recording this scene on their own cameras. Even though this is being done live, it is very much so a “social media killing.” Quartermaster’s career is ruined.
So for that, it’s very hard to discern if Jones is anywhere near here. Way too many spectators out in this crowd using their devices.
Karina’s behind me, her hand over her eyebrows and squinting at the crowd.
“Do you see anything?” I ask, looking back at her.
The tape ends, and people start yelling loudly, insulting Quartermaster, some of them even trying to get past the makeshift fences blocking the film crew from the watchers.
“Get outta Atlanta!”
One of the producers on-set throws down his hat and begins storming off. “Thanks a lot! Eighty million dollars I raised for this crap, and it’s all going down the drain thanks to this bitch…”
“Shut up,” the voice on the intercom says. “This is what he has wrought from his misdeeds, and that is why I, Social Media Killer, have chosen Martin Quartermaster as my latest victim.”
There are audible gasps.
“Through all of my targets, I have been unveiling the worst in our society. The scum of the planet that make Atlanta a worse place by their very presence. And my next will be even greater. I will reveal something so deadly to this city, such a cancer, that it will be forever changed by it. You have followed me as I exposed the lives of such scum as Tim DuPont, the…”
Where could she be?
This crowd is gripped on her every word, listening intently and following her orders. Maybe Jones should have been the one to run for mayor.
There’s so many people, so many hoodies… It’s the end of March in Georgia; there shouldn’t be so many people wearing such warm clothing! She’s lucky the weather is poor today, because any other day and this would have been easy.
I just… can’t seem to find her.
“…And finally, I will commit my greatest act tonight. I will burn down the city of Atlanta and take all the evils with it, because–”
And then I bump into someone wearing a hoodie and whispering softly into a portable PC Our eyes meet.
She drops her arm to her side and begins dashing through the crowd. The Social Media Killer’s rant stops. I follow in close pursuit. Karina starts running beside me and we break from the crowd so we can catch up to Jones.
But at the same moment, a dozen or so men, all wearing black and in raincoats, fold out of the crowd as well and begin running in the same direction as us.
It’s Motokawa’s men. And I see each of them putting together and loading their pistols.
Crap, crap! I can’t let them kill her.
A gun fires.
The crowd scatters.
My adrenaline mode kicks in and I start sprinting towards her.
Karina lags behind, but she’s keeping up with the armed thugs as the chase begins, even if she’s panting heavily already.
Jones leaps over a fence onto the film set, barging into the robot workers and knocking one of the lights down. One thug is hit by the light and knocked to the ground, while the others being firing their pistols at her.
Even during the gunfire a crowd of onlookers now rampages onto the film set, causing complete chaos as everything falls apart. The robot staff are trampled over, the set work torn apart. Several of them begin screaming at Quartermaster and one girl kicks him in the stomach.
Can’t stop to help that guy out. Not that he deserves it.
Jones is stopped by two robots carrying a large wooden mural, seemingly unaware of the fact that this movie definitely isn’t going to shoot today.
In fact, all of the worker robots are going on business as usual, including the second unit director, who yells “Action!” with its chippy voice, and the camera robot that starts filming everything.
I catch up to Jones, and she pulls out her knives. She slices them at me again, but I block them with my cast. It sears a cut into it and probably ruins it, but that’s probably okay since my arm will probably heal in a few days.
Motokoawa’s men continue firing at us. They aren’t good shots and the most that’s accomplished is that the mural behind us is completely ruined.
I try to balance out not being shot with not being cut in half, but it’s an increasingly-dangerous game here. I swing my fists wildly hoping they’ll hit someone, but almost immediately, one of the thugs grabs me by the arms and pulls me backwards.
Karina catches up, right behind the man grabbing me. She gets into judo stance, spreading out her feet and raising her arms up, and then sweeps her leg and trips him over. He lets go of me, and we both crash onto the ground.
Her glasses fly off, but she keeps on fighting. I get up and try to back away, letting her go at it with this guy while I take on everyone else.
The two of them are locked in hand-to-hand combat, but Karina is obviously the trained one here, because she blocks every blow he dishes out. However, when she jabs towards his face–
Such is the tragic life of a nearsighted young woman.
He punches her in the stomach and she rolls onto the ground.
A few others notice this and surround her, but without flinching she hops back to her feet and reels backwards, kicking one in the face, and then elbowing another in the stomach.
The man I’m tangling with pulls away and goes towards her. He pulls out his pistol.
She charges towards another guy, gets ready to do another sweep, and then she realizes there’s gun pointed right at her face.
“HOLY SHIT!” she yelps.
The second-unit robot director gives a thumbs up and shouts, “Perfect! Great delivery!”
The thug jerks his head towards the second-unit director, and it gives Karina the moment she needs to knock the gun out of his hands.
He goes down one moment later.
Karina then collapses onto the ground, panting and sweating her eyeballs out. “I need to… exercise more often…”
“You’re fine, Karina!” I shout as I trade blows with basically everyone around me.
Jones takes off again, leaping through a hole in the mural.
I take off running.
Karina’s still there, laying on the ground grasping her stomach, but I can’t help her right now. Sorry, buddy.
Hopefully she’s okay.
I follow Jones, and a couple of Motokawa’s still-conscious men do as well.
We run up some stairs and through the park; I have no idea where she’s trying to go, but I have to reach her. I’m fast, but I’m reaching my own limit, and she seems to know this terrain a lot better than me.
Jones drops down a hill and starts running towards a street across a wide-open grass field. With police sirens approaching in the distance, I can’t imagine why she’d leave herself so exposed…
Unless she’s trying to draw attention away from herself and towards her assailants.
It works. The thugs see the police and immediately begin firing at them, which results in a massive firefight between the two groups. The gunfire is loud and ear-piercing but I’m more focused on catching up to Jones than my eardrums.
In this open field, she doesn’t have the advantage of any twists or turns or stairways or walls to speed herself up, and I finally catch up to her.
She notices me and starts to turn around to attack me, but I jump at her and reach out with both of my hands to pull her back to me–
Crap, one of my hands is in a cast.
I latch onto her backpack and pull it off of her, but without my second hand grabbing her arm, she continues running and I hit the ground face-first.
You know in cartoons where characters skid across the ground and all the grass comes up in front of them? That’s me right now.
Okay, where is she now?
I see her disappear into an apartment building across the street, and the police and thugs are currently in the middle of a firefight.
This doesn’t seem to have gone like planned for anyone involved.
But I’m not about to let this chance slip away from me.
Jones’s backpack in hand I try to pump the last bit of adrenaline out of my system.
C’mon, body… work! I know you’re good enough to let me sprint–
Don’t fail me now–
I reach the apartment building Jones entered a minute or two earlier.
This place is a dump. Possibly even abandoned. There’s a staircase in the main lobby going all the way to the top floor. The elevator is clearly not an option, and I hear faint footsteps, so I know I need to ascend.
Can I do this?
It’s been a while.
I crouch down on my knees, press against the ground with all my force–
Rocketing into the air a full two stories–
And landing on the stairs at the third floor.
Now I just have to run up the next few, where I see Jones already starting to slow down from all the running.
I like to downplay my abilities, but sometimes they come in handy.
She goes to the building’s roof access and I follow., She’s running towards the edge of the roof, seemingly calculating on jumping the gap between this apartment building and the next.
The only problem is the four-lane street between those two buildings.
Oh no… she’s actually going to do it. She closes her eyes and braces for possibly impact–
I throw the backpack aside and make every effort to catch up to her. When I reach her I grab her by the arm, swinging her backwards towards the roof access door.
Immediately she plunges a knife my direction, hitting me in the thigh and giving me a tense electric shock.
It still hurts like hell.
But I shake her loose of her grip of it, and knock the other knife away.
With one blade stick in my leg, I tackle Jones onto the ground–
Pin her down–
And sit on her waist while holding down her arm against her neck.
After a couple moments of struggling, her body slows down, and she relents.
Those same hazel-green eyes glaring at me. Breathing in and out like a rabid dog.
I’m bloodied, bruised, and currently have a knife inside me, but I’ve caught Jones Burrow, the Social Media Killer.