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?
The Ascendants already know about him. The Blade Runners already know about him, even though Coop Yates might politely decline to pursue him if it came to that. He is so powerful, so important, that just one covert Chinese spy finding his location could get him involved in a massive geopolitcal corporate war.
Actually, that sounds a little badass. The Civil War was a pretty big deal already. Why not start World War III next time where all the countries of the world try to get their hands on the first sentient robot?
Okay, “badass” is probably an insensitive term to use for global conflict that would inevitably kill millions. But I mean in the movie kind of way. I’m not an asshole.
R8PR comes out of the bathroom (why was he in there) wearing a bathrobe (why is he wearing that) and holding a glass of wine (why is he holding that). “My dear Morgan, how nice it is to meet you.”
“I thought you were supposed to be pretending to be an eccentric billionaire, not actually turning into one.”
“I have no idea what you mean,” he says. “Sit down and have yourself a nice glass of wine.” He walks up to the sofa and sets down the wine on the coffee table.
I mean, I’m not going to refuse free alcohol, especially when I have tomorrow off work…
But I feel like this is a trap of some kind. I always feel this way with R8PR, to the point that, after I take a few drinks of the glass, I have to set to down and ask, “Did I pass the test?”
“The fact that you thought there was a test is evidence that you failed,” he says. “There is no test, Morgan.”
“Wait, I failed the test, but there isn’t a test? What does that mean?”
“You’re overthinking everything.”
“I’ve been doing that a lot lately, but for very good reason when it comes to you.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing that you’re expanding your mind a little bit more lately,” he tells me. “We’re in dangerous times these days.”
I take the opportunity to let out a groan before his speech begins.
“Regardless of what Mighty Slammer has in store or how connected she is to the Ascendants, it’s another sign of the way Atlanta is shifting. The fact that there are large conspiracies like gold trading through holo-booths, or money laundering through technology in any sense, means that the old ways aren’t so powerful anymore. The police here are inept and cannot solve even the most important crimes the city has wreaking havoc, especially not with a leader like Chief Baranowsky at the helm. So people like you and me are the only ones who can prevent the baddies from taking over even more than they already have. But… people like you and me are also not able to keep those floodgates closed by ourselves. At our very most, all we can do is direct the water to avoid crashing into a few homes.
“The technological anomalies will increase from here, and I’m just glad you’ve grown enough as a hero that you can do a whole lot of the work by yourself. It’s good training for your future, Morgan. I can’t wait to see how you do on your own one day, though I doubt I will be able to see it.”
“You always have to treat me like some sort of hero… I’m absolutely not one. Not a good one, at least.”
“Nonsense. You’re the only human I’d ever work with this closely.”
“And I’m not even fully human.”
“True, true,” he says, “but we robots tend to consider people robots only if about seventy five percent of them is mechanical. Too much organic matter and you’re just some cabon-based mass of tissue. No way are you a robot then.”
“I don’t even know what percent mechanical I am. How can I quantify something like that?”
“I could quantify with a couple blood samples, but I doubt you’d be willing to give that to me to find out,” he says.
“Your doubts would be correct.”
“Morgan, I know you feel like a bad hero sometimes, especially with how slow things have been this summer since Blyth was killed.” He conveniently leaves out the fact that he himself was the being who Blyth was killed by. “And the case with Lucy de Blasio… I’m very sorry for what happened there. But you’re one of the strongest-hearted humans in Atlanta, and you should never forget that, even if you often do.”
“A strong heart… I don’t know if that’s even a good quality for me, honestly,” I say. “Sometimes it feels more like a liability. Like I’m a worse hero because I have too much empathy.”
“You certainly wouldn’t have killed Donald Blyth, I’m sure,” he says. Once again, leaving unsaid the note that Morgan wouldn’t have killed him, but R8PR did.
“Can we just get to the anime shop stuff already?” I ask.
“Oh, fine. What do you have for me?”
“Names. I’ve confirmed that Mighty Slammer definitely has gone to a specific holo-booth in that specific Anime Attic several times in recent months. Beth McWhorter is once again not very good with technology or hiding herself.”
“And the person who she communicates with, who also goes to these holo-booths? His name is Phil McWhorter.”
R8PR’s LED eyes seem to light up even more brightly than usual. “Mc…Wow.”
“I made that joke before, but it didn’t go over well.”
“I found him,” he says, suddenly.
“I found him,” he repeats. “Phil McWhorter.”
“You mean like, found him as in acknowledged his existence?”
“No, I mean I found the man and where he’s probably located at any given moment. There’s so much online about him that I didn’t even have to look him up online; my data banks already have all the information I needed.”
“So he is way too online?”
“Extremely way too online,” he tells me. “Nobody should ever be this online. He’s Mighty Slammer’s maternal cousin, and he appears to be an interesting specimen of the modern White Atlantean Male. He’s a big Genesis Crush player who does online competitive matches all the time, and has a points to death ratio of fifteen thousand.”
“Damn, that’s way better than mine. I hardly get three hundred. The minibosses usually get to me.”
“Yes, and he also posts essentially his entire life on the internet. The Social Media Killer never had to ruin him because he was already out there for the entire world to see. Now that I’m looking him up further, it seems that he is currently, at this very moment, doing a livestream of cooking a Hot Pocket. He does Hot Pocket reviews online, a whole series of them. And, if we’d like to further this image of him, he posts an average of thirty five times a day on Jelly.”
Phil McWhorter sounds depressingly like his cousin Beth, and makes me that much more aware of how intricate the Ascendants must be if they are successfully relying on agents who are this, uh, unique. Surely these can’t be their major players, can they?
“He works at a warehouse five days a week doing sorting for packages and storage units and things like that. I’ll give you his address, and you can meet him tomorrow without any trouble whatsoever.”
“So this entire investigation so far,” I say, “has been me going to you, finding a different place to go to, then finding something there that makes me go to you, then finding a different place to go to, then finding something there that makes me go to you.”
“In a way, yes. That’s almost exactly correct.”
“I really just want to be done with all this Mighty Slammer business. I’d like to move onto a nice relaxing mission where I have to go to a casino in Macau and thwart six different assassinations all in one night.”
“You may get a reprieve from the stupidity yet,” R8PR says. Without me even asking, he pours another glass of wine, and I heartily accept it. It’s like he just knows me. “I expect that whatever Mighty Slammer is doing will not be as simple as ‘some jealous business owner is convincing her to destroy restaurants for gold.’ This isn’t simply an episode of Jabberjaw, after all. I’d speculate on the real reasons, but… I’ll leave that up to you, as always.”
“I bet it’s just as stupid and it gets me literally nowhere.”
“Well, you’ll find out by tomorrow, I imagine. Question Phil, do a little bit more sleuthing, and you’ll be that much closer to the source.”
“That is, if I’m even good enough to figure it all out myself,” I say.
“I hope you’ll feel better about those inadequacies you are experiencing,” he tells me. “A exciting new case is just what you need to get you out of your doldrums.”
“You make it sound like I’m depressed or something.”
“What I’m saying is, take it easy and have some fun.”
“Good advice, I guess, except for how obvious it all is.” I finish yet another glass of wine, and decide that I’m about done here with my robotic ally.
Is he right about me? Is he dead wrong? Am I going to ever catch Mighty Slammer and be done with all this? Stay tuned for Morgan Harding’s Amazing Stories from the Modern Era. Because the next thing I’m going to do is go shopping, and everyone loves hearing about that.