Cool biz fashion, once again, fails to even make a dent in how awful everything is in Atlanta these days.
Yeah, I got a short-sleeved shirt on. Yeah, I got shorts on. But I’m scrunched up next to fifty other people in the sky rail, all of whom are trying to get to work just like me, and holy crap is it absolutely destroying me.
I should have walked. I thought that’d make me way too sweaty to bother going to work, but it turns out that the sky rail and these too-tiny zipline buses are a much worse option.
Why do they even call them zipline buses? This certainly isn’t a zipline like some gondola out in the mountains. We aren’t on a skiing trip. This is more like a roller coaster with no seatbelts and way slower speeds.
Wow, I guess that makes the sky rail sound a little bit cooler than it actually is. Minus the slow part.
I should have called out sick again. Sick of working in this heat. But I also want to actually get paid, so I might as well go in.
Here we are, Peach Towers. Three quarters of the riders in the vehicle step out and onto the platform. We workers of the day shift, we proud few warriors who trudge through our lives like zombies in the morning right up until we clock in. The world revolves because we are the ones willing to get up early enough to wind up the gears.
I enter the Atlanta Cares Bank and start my work day without much of a peep of trouble.
You ever wonder why I don’t talk about my work life much? It’s because, in all honesty, it’s not very interesting. I file papers, I analyze schedules, I answer phone calls, I talk to customers. It’s not specialized work. I’m not highly educated and definitely not trained. I’m the office equivalent to a retail warehouse employee, only sometimes I’m on cashier duty too.
Do you really want to hear about that time my coworker Jenna spilled diet coke all over the copy machine and we had to fix it and get it operational before the regional manager came for their monthly visit? Do you actually care about the requisition form I had to fill out for us to be able to order new computer mice, the ones with the back and forward buttons built in?
I didn’t think so.
In fact, today is even less remarkable than usual, because Mr. Larkins isn’t here blabbering about whatever he’s on about lately, since he’s at a meeting with the Company President. The other day, before I went to see Lucy de Blasio, he ranted nonstop about the mayoral election and all the big handicaps the candidates have when they face each other, and how that’ll affect the ranked choice ballot, and blah blah blah. The election is three months away. I really don’t care to hear it. Today, I get my wish.
Soon, it’s lunch time, and I get out of there quick.
The Peach Towers food court is as jam-packed as always, probably moreso because fewer people are willing to eat outside when their food will turn to mush before their very eyes. Lots of people carrying milkshakes around today, I notice. The moment any of those people step into the Atlanta sun, their shakes will turn into lactose sodas.
There is little more in this world that irks me than ice cream treats that have already melted. You gotta re-freeze them, then they need to thaw out a little bit, then the flavor is already fifty percent gone by the time you do that, then it’s just an overall mess, all because you couldn’t eat your food or drink your drink fast enough.
I go to my usual place, Soup’n ‘n Green’n, and bicker with the cashier robot about my order. Ever since they replaced the old robot last month (on account of Moonslash having hacked it and all the other robots in the food court… Yeah I know it’s several months late), I just can’t seem to get my caesar salad without having to repeat myself five times. It’s like its vocal recognition software was designed specifically to be bad at hearing me. Which, if this is the final revenge of Moonslash, is a very fitting irony.
Well, here is my caesar salad after way too long a delay. I sit down at an empty table and start munching away at the leaves and croûtons and extra thick dressing. Accompanying me is not the sounds and sights of Karina Kodama with whatever strange lunch she has brought today, but instead the gentle soft rock of the food court’s PA system, playing some calm pop tune on the radio. It’s catchy, but I definitely hate it, as I do a great many things on this Earth.
I really need to invest in some headphones and a Walkman or something. I have my old Walkman tape player that I used in the Dial-Up Demon case, but I’d rather not dig that one out and risk losing damaging my old mixtape in the process. There are some memories in that one.
Then, before my lunch break is even half over, a familiar mouthless face comes to greet me—the courier robot. It hands me a letter from “Lawrence Garfield,” and with all that convoluted mess from the other night, I know extremely well what this means.
I guess I’ll spend the better half of my break in R8PR’s penthouse…
…Up we go in the VIP elevator…
…And here we are, in Penthouse 1A, where I can hear the loud sounds of power tools—buzzsaws and electric drills—humming through the door.
What in the world is this guy doing?
I enter the penthouse and—
It was nothing. Just recordings playing over some speakers.
“How’d you like it?” R8PR asks. “I’m real proud of the power tool idea. Makes people a little bit worried what’s going on, but too awkward to ask in case it’s just construction. I’m gonna play it for a few hours every week just to keep up the eccentric image.”
“I’m starting to wonder if you really are an eccentric billionaire, and you’ve just been wearing a robot suit the whole time.”
He laughs. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not a billionaire yet.”
“But you don’t deny the robot suit part…”
“No comment.” He puts his finger up to where his mouth would be. “Anyway, I called you up here for a very important purpose. It’s related to Mighty Slammer.”
“Oh, you analyzed the portable PC?”
“Thoroughly. In and out. Every text message, every e-mail, every Bidbay purchase, every Netnect review she ever left.”
“And your conclusion?”
“She’s a moron.”
I cross my arms and nod. “Hm, yes. A fine conclusion that was very much worth the trip up here.”
“Did you know that her real name is Beth McWhorter? I didn’t realize just how easy it was to find her entire personal info, but it was right there on her Netnect profile. She was born in Bangladesh in 1985, orphaned by the time she left the hospital. Then she was adopted and sent to Dayton, Ohio when she was three. But then the war broke out a few years later and she lost her father in the evacuation. Her mother died in a mining accident in the early 00s.”
“What the hell? That’s tragic.”
“Sorry, let me continue,” R8PR says. “Her mother died in a data mining accident. As in, she was part of a large criminal organization that was attempting to map the entire city of Atlanta and identify the daily patterns of millions of individuals using hacked drones. But then when the Drone Event happened, everyone panicked trying to cover up their project and so she tried using water to short circuit all the servers. Electrocuted herself.”
“Geez, that’s a bit dumber, but even worse. So Mighty Slammer lost both her parents before she even became an adult…”
“Oh, not really. See, she lost her father, like physically lost track of him, but he resurfaced a few years later as the harmonica player in a popular bluegrass touring band. He tried to get custody of Beth after her mother died, but it turns out he never became a citizen of the Republic of Georgia, or anywhere for that matter. He still had his United States passport and everything. So those two never really reunited. The father still posts on her Netnect feed all the time though.”
“This is pretty ridiculous and possibly explains everything about Mighty Slammer that I never thought I’d need to know.”
“And it’s probably not worth much more than glossing over, anyway,” R8PR says. “The important thing is that I’ve found a pattern in Mighty Slammer’s attacks.”
“Attacks? With an S? I thought it was just the one at Ralph’s Lunch.”
“Nope. She’s been doing it for a couple months now, but always at night up until now, so the police never managed to catch onto it. I’m not sure they’ve even pieced together that it’s always restaurants, seeing as she chose you to chat it up with and not them.”
“True… Gosh, we’re way ahead on the cops this time. It’s exactly like every single case we’ve ever had together, huh?”
“So the pattern that has emerged is that, before and sometimes after each attack, she has a meeting at…”
“At a certain holo-booth at a certain Anime Attic store.”
“Anime Attic? Like, the place where they sell anime stuff?”
“That very same one,”
“Like, the place where weird smelly dudes hog up the aisles and weird smelly chicks pour over BL comics?”
“Indeed it is.”
“And you’re going to make me go there to sleuth out some clues to help find Mighty Slammer?”
“Right on. You’re really getting good at this.”
“I was desperately hoping I was wrong…”
I’ve got to get back to work before my lunch break ends. But it looks like after work, I’ve got a quick stop to make. And by that I mean I have somewhere horrid to visit.
Please, God, if you exist, please have mercy on my soul.