So we’re back together, the three of us, again in midtown, where the neon night lights up bright.
Now that the sun has set, Atlanta’s gone from a city of green and gray to a city of blue and pink. It’s gaudy and soft-hued in all the ways you’d expect. Yes, there is a gigantic LED peach that glows on the side of Peach Towers for a few hours every evening, and you can see it from almost any spot in the city. No, nobody but me ever points out how tacky it looks.
I don’t know how many people really decide to go shopping at Tifa’s and the other upscale department stores on a Wednesday night, but there do see to be quite a few people looking around at the big stores right now, absorbed by the flashy colors of the signs and the giant TV monitor advertising Hellboy 4, some animated movie I’ve never heard of.
Sometimes I feel like the nightlife is all bright pink-and-blue baby colors as a subconscious way to influence the production of infants. However, my conspiracy theory has been rejected by all who listen, and Tower Publications sent back my book manuscript on two separate occasions. One day everyone will learn the truth, and I’ll be the one saying I told you so.
“Morgan, what are you even thinking about right now?” Karina asks.
“You got that dopey smirk on your face like you just thought of some new pun.”
“Maybe I was just thinking about you.”
“I sure hope not.”
“What are we talking about?” Lamar asks.
“Uh, the mystery of the Magitek Soda, of course,” I say. “We’re always completely focused on the task at hand.”
A group of middle aged people, five of them, walk out of the Tim’s Codes near us, all carrying huge shopping bags filled with heavy-looking electronics. They’re chatting it up like they had a great time spending a ton of money. The bags are branded–what do you know–”Magitek Corporation.” One of the middle-aged people has a cylindrical cardboard tube sticking out of their bag, what I assume to be a sword/computer combo where you swipe your sword to use the mouse and jab to right click and pull back to left click. I have no idea if this is a real product, but in this modern world, it probably does.
Why is this company producing a soda again?
“Yeah, alright then,” he says. “So the soda.”
“So the soda.”
Karina rummages through her purse and pulls out… a glossy purple aluminum can with the Magitek logo printed prominently on the surface. Exactly what we’ve been looking for.
“So, the soda,” she says.
“That’s it?” I ask. “The soda we’ve been looking for all this time?”
“Indeed it is.”
I peer at the Magitek Soda can with focused intent. What the heck could it be that’s so special about this thing… Sure, most soda brands don’t use purple, I guess. It’s a consumer electronics manufacturer producing a carbonated soft drink. It may very well be sugary, and thus in grave violation of Atlanta’s health laws by being sold in a convenience store/vending machine combo. But… this just doesn’t seem like something worth, like, actual effort. Certainly not the effort we went into it. Unless it explodes when you open it?
“And now our mystery is over,” I say. “It’s nice to wrap things up so easily.”
“I wouldn’t call this easy,” Karina says. “But I did send a different can to an address R8PR gave me, somewhere I’ve never heard of. I don’t know where it was, but he made me write some cryptic message saying ‘the cat is in the bad bag’ or something. I think that ends our side of things.”
“Yep, it definitely does,” I say. “Except for the thing I found.”
Lamar and Karina both give me a suspicious look, even going so far as to both raise their left eyebrows.
I clarify. “There was something I noticed at the location I went to. A tiny computer chip planted on the ground, right in front of where the auto-conbini might have been. And right next to that chip was a Blyth Industries insignia on a manhole.”
“Wait, I saw it too,” Lamar says. “The memory I’m pulling up shows it. Same manhole, and a tiny object that may be a chip.”
Karina looks dumbfounded. “Why didn’t you mention this earlier?”
“Wasn’t sure if it would be relevant.”
“Of course it’s relevant! If both of you saw it, then it’s definitely connected to this Magitek Soda stuff. Oh, God, this is going to turn into a real investigation… I can’t handle this…”
I want to grab her and shake her while yelling at her to get ahold of herself, but I can say I feel exactly the same way. It would have been so nice to have ended this by now…
“We need to find the vehicle again,” says Lamar, switching into professor mode. “Now that we’ve located it multiple times, I can create an accurate model for where it’ll be all night, based on the foot traffic that’s likely to occur based on the mayoral debates tonight.”
“Oh, isn’t that soon?” Karina asks, instantly snapping out of her despair. “I wanted to watch that and see how badly Aisha Baker will perform.”
“Well, we have an auto-conbini to catch instead,” I say. “Again.”
“Also, we need a plan on what to do once we find it,” Lamar says. “What’re we going to do?”
“We need to find out why a vehicle owned by Nathan Nguyen is selling Magitek Soda, why Blyth Industries manholes are next to its stops, and why R8PR heard it was suspicious to begin with.” I punch my fist to the palm of my other hand. “I’ve got it. We disable the vehicle, it gets dragged off for repairs at some undisclosed location. We follow it in, and we solve all the mysteries at once.”
“Both of you? Come on, this is such a good idea.”
“I said nothing illegal,” Lamar says.
“We break the law all the time. We’re vigilante fighters for justice. It’s what we do!”
“Not vandalizing a car,” Karina says. “That’s just plain rude.”
“Well, what do we… Ah! I have a plan.” They just stare at me. “Like, a real one. Trust me. This one’s going to make you both happy, and none of us will have broken the law. Technically.”
Technically is one way to put it.
But we can do this. All thanks to political division and discord.