I haven’t seen these guys in more than a year.
But the fact they’re right here, four of them right in front of me, can’t be a coincidence. If they’re here, then things are getting really bad, and if things are getting really bad, then I’m probably not going to remain unharmed. That’s just how things are.
The Blade Runners have left me alone for a while, but they don’t know everything about me. If they’ve decided I’m a target, then…
“Morgan, is that you?” the man in the center of the quartet, the one without a sword on his back, asks. He notices my fists and tenses up a little– which makes me realize that I’m an idiot. They’re not here for me. They’re not even in uniform.
I relax myself and pretend to brush things out. “Coop Yates. Good to see you.”
Coop Yates, the leader of the Blade Runners, the elite technological task force in the Atlanta Police Department. They are detectives, researchers, and warriors all wrapped in one, and are so specialized that they only go after the most serious of crimes. The knights in leather armor that protect the city from the biggest of danger.
And despite that, it’s usually me (and R8PR and Karina) who’s been saving the city time and time again, so I’ve been kind of souring on their existence lately.
If R8PR was ever to become public knowledge, the Blade Runners would be the first ones to track him down and destroy him. That makes keeping myself safe from them absolutely imperative. But considering that Yates, their own leader, was the one who ended up helping R8PR and me survive the onslaught of my very complicated “origin story,” the secret is safe with him… for now.
I don’t trust Yates. But he seems to trust me.
“Good to see you,” he says, his tone betraying not a hint of emotion. He glances to his teammates, none of whom I’ve ever met, and they walk away, dispersing into the crowd in their separate ways.
Now it’s just us two, out for a private conversation in the middle of a packed convention. Though, really, this is probably the best spot for the kind of talk the two of us are likely to have.
He looks at me with that same stoic, mildly frowning expression he likes to give, and tells me, “You shouldn’t be here.”
“You told me you wouldn’t.”
“Wouldn’t what?” I ask. “I’m here because my boss told me to help him out.”
Coop’s face remains statue-like. “I know you’re here searching for Jones,” he says. “You won’t find her here.”
I do everything I can to prevent myself from literally heaving a sigh of relief. “Why’s that?” I ask, though the real thought inside me is saying, Holy crap, the Blade Runners aren’t actually onto me yet. I’m safe. I’m friggin’ safe.
“We’ve done a thorough search through this convention center on the behest of Chief Baranowsky, and we are confident that she isn’t planning any attack,” Yates says. “She won’t be here.”
“And you are telling me this because…?”
“Because you’re a threat,” he responds immediately.
“A threat? I’m not a threat,” I say.
“I’m giving you enough info to help you decide to leave things be. I’m letting you off.”
“You don’t have to worry about me.”
Yates looks away from me and out to the crowd around us. “I don’t worry about you. I worry about your ally.”
“I, uh… yeah.” He’s the only other person who knew about R8PR when I first got involved in all this. He’s the only person who was there when I died. The only one left. “So you’re not here for me?”
“I hope not.”
“But Jones is? You came here for her?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
That’s a no, I can tell.
If they aren’t investigating the whereabouts of Jones, and they don’t seem to know anything about the Ascendants (not that I do either though), then… what are they investigating? John Vann and his implicit terrorist threats? Donald Blyth and his company’s corruption stuff? Nathan Nguyen for whatever campaign finance violations he is surely using?
I don’t know, and there’s no way he’s going to tell me. So, I guess that’s the end of that. The look he’s giving me is stoic, staring, scolding. An impenetrable ice wall of a man.
“I haven’t broken my promise,” I say.
“That’s a blatant lie,” Yates says.
“Okay, you’re right, that was a blatant lie. But it’s not my fault. The things I do, I have to–”
“Just… Morgan.” Yates grabs me by the shoulder. For a moment he loses his rocky shell. For a moment I see the man I remember. Then I step back and break away, and his composure becomes solid once more. “Stay out of this world. It’s not your place to be here.”
“Mr. Yates,” I say. “With all due respect, I didn’t choose this life.”
I see another one of the Blade Runners, or the sword strapped to her back, some distance away in the crowd. My eyes dart around and I see the other two also close nearby. They have a perimeter around me in case anything happens. They think I’m a threat after all. They really do.
“If you didn’t choose this life,” Yates says, “Then explain how you caught the Social Media Killer.”
“I got roped into that. I couldn’t–”
“And explain how you were forced to defeat the Cybermancer Moonslash.”
“And explain why the Vampire turned up in police custody, ranting about some punk kids beating him up?”
“Well, I was…”
“Don’t get involved in this,” he says. “Get out while you’re still healthy. While we’re still friends.
Friends… Is that what he calls this? “I’ll try my best sir, Mr. Yates,” I say.
Yates looks up at the ceiling, then back at me, then at the crowd around us. “Have a nice time at the expo, go home, and get some rest. Then forget about everything here. Go to university. Get a spouse, raise some kids. Buy a house. That’s what you’re meant for, Morgan.”
“I understand,” I say.
“Then I’ll see you around,” he says. “Or, preferably, I won’t.”
He leaves me and meets up with one of the other Blade Runners nearby. They go off to the east wing and disappear from sight.
Not only Coop Yates here, but three other Blade Runners in the convention center. It doesn’t even matter what, specifically, they are here for. The very fact that they are here, and in plainclothes no less, means that there is yet another ingredient dropped into this very big frying pan. The oil’s gonna heat up sooner or later, and I am very concerned what is going to happen when all the flavors mix together.
Ugh, I’m sounding like R8PR now. Listen, I’m just worried that every single place I look, there’s a new sign that something big is going down at this convention center soon, and I want to prevent it before anyone is hurt.
But speaking of R8PR, I need to go see him pronto. With the Blade Runners here, I’m very worried about actually going down to see him. I can’t shake that feeling that I need to be more cautious. But… there’s nothing else I can do.
I leave the Georgia World Congress Center and make my way south of the city.