“Run away! Run away!” I scream at the top of my lungs. A medley of bullets ring out of the house in front of Bill and me, and they barely miss us. I dive just in time to knock Bill down before a second volley sprays at right where we were standing one second earlier.
I’m on top of him in a quite compromising position. This is… really awkward. But also we’re in the middle of a gunfight so I don’t have time to think about it.
He pushes me off of him and crawls over to a mailbox on the sidewalk. A row of bullet-sized dents pop up out of the mailbox just moments later, and so do the hairs on every single part of my body. Goosebumps out the fucking wazoo here.
I rush over to the mailbox as well, and luckily, the whole thing doesn’t get hit by a rocket launcher or anything like that. The gunfire continues but the bullets don’t quite reach in this direction.
Somehow, I’m completely relieved. Like… utterly relieved, in one extremely small way.
“It’s not for us,” I say with the single shriveling gasp of breath I’ve been able to take. “The gunfight is something else.”
Bill cradles himself, holding his knees together and clutching them firmly against his nearly-bare chest. He doesn’t say anything.
This house in front of us erupts into flames only seconds later, and any innocent bystanders are now running, screaming for their lives. The gunfire continues, and at least one masculine voice cries out in agony in what appears to be Japanese. A nearby delivery robot is struck by a stray bullet and collapses on the ground, its cardboard boxes tumbling all over the street.
Yeah, so I kinda figure we’ve accidentally walked into a mafia battle or something. That’s… fun. if “fun” is a synonym for “terrifying.”
I look at Bill closely and try to figure out how well he’s handling this life-or-death situation. Doesn’t seem too well, by the look of it. What should I tell him? I shrug internally and say, “Yeah, so I kinda figure we accidentally walked into a mafia battle or something.”
“You’re darn right we did,” Bill responds, a lot quicker than I had expected.
“Well, what do you wanna do about it? Get the hell out of here?”
“I think so!”
“That’s the spirit!” I say. “Now… How are we gonna do that? Wait why am I asking you this?”
“I’m wondering the same thing, myself,” he says. “Ain’t you a hero or something?”
“Okay, let me focus. Let me focus… Alright! First, we need to get out from behind this mailbox because another few rounds and I think the bullets will tear through the metal and we’ll be shredded. But the real question is… Where is all the gunfire coming from, and how can we maneuver through it and not die?”
Bill peeks his head past the mailbox, only to duck back in once another shot rings out in the distance. “It’s all from the roof,” he says. “The roof of those apartments beside the house.”
“I’m assuming the house is abandoned by now,” I say, “considering there’s fire coming out of it already.”
A single bullet whizzes past the mailbox and bounces off the concrete in front of us.
“And,” I continue, “we should probably go through that building because doing really stupid stuff is the only way to fight people with large guns!”
“We… what?” His expression is about as dumbfounded as most people’s when I come up with my patented Morgan Method plans.
I grab his wrist. “Just follow me and we’ll be out of here in a jiffy.”
“Also, hold your breath in about five seconds and absolutely do not breathe anything.”
Timing it right after I hear bullets firing off in another direction, I leap up and pull Bill behind me as I sprint right in the direction of this burning building. To be fair, it’s not THAT burning. It’s going to be in a couple minutes, but any nearby fire department could probably save this place if they got here in time. I don’t imagine they will, though, considering the mafia battle going on around us.
I kick open the door without any hesitation and take my deepest breath possible. Lots and lots of smoke, which means lots and lots of opportunity to breathe in a lot of carbon monoxide and die. I’m gonna assume my healing powers don’t cover toxins in my lungs.
We run straight through a building engulfed in flames, like two absolute madmen except that I have one secret non-dumbass plan.
This house is a pretty standard design, the kind of home you’d build in the middle of forest-filled Atlanta. Everyone’s near the woods here and guess what’s right at the back of this house? A door to the backyard.
Bam— I kick the second door down and we’re out of the firefight before either of us even had to struggle for breath.
Except… we’re covered in smoke now. Yuck. Yucky icky smoke smell. I hate this.
“We’re safe, at least,” I say, as if to reassure Bill of my own annoyances.
“Well, this apartment building’s right here. I guess we sneak in through the side door, get up to the roof, and subdue the shooter or shooters?”
A hail of gunfire in the distance. Still no sign of police sirens anywhere.
Bill waits for the sound to subside before asking, “You real sure?”
“I… I guess we could just run away into the woods and forget this ever happened.”
“But then your contact’ll be as good as gone, Little Morgan.”
“Yeah… Well, it’s going to be ridiculously dangerous. I can’t have it on my conscience if you’re hurt or—”
“I’ll do it.”
We go into the apartment building, mostly abandoned because all its residents are either hiding in their rooms or running as far away as they can. The stairs are unguarded, which means this team isn’t some gigantic mercenary group or anything. I doubt they even realize there might be people coming.
Bill and I get to the roof—lo and behold, the shooter is standing at the top, aiming an assault rifle below and haphazardly blasting down at the road. He doesn’t look amazing at it, but I guess with giant death weapons you don’t have to be. He’s a well-dressed, suited Asian man with sunglasses and a mustache, which is exactly what I expected.
Before the guy can even turn around, I’ve already punched him to the ground. I’m not dealing with a drawn-out fight today. A kick in the stomach sends him sliding across the roof and colliding with an HVAC unit. He sits up slowly and spits out blood, but this mobster’s not fighting back.
I kneel down on one knee and look at him closely. Then I slap him for good measure.
“Who are you, and why the hell are you shooting in the middle of a populated area?”
His response is mumbling, angry, and all in Japanese.
His response is angrier and still in Japanese.
“I mean, I didn’t imply that you’re only supposed to speak English in Atlanta. We have many cultures in this city all living together and speaking whatever they are comfortable with. What I mean is, I don’t know Japanese, so stop speaking it.”
Bill taps me on the shoulder. “Need help, partner?”
“Seems like it.”
“I’ve lived in J-District for twelve years. I can translate.” He tips his hat at me as if he’s the savior I’ve always needed. He’s correct. “Right now he’s telling you he don’t understand you.”
“Oh.” I think for a second. “Tell him that I’m mad at him for not saying ‘No English!’ or some other giveaway phrase. I thought he was just being a jerk. Don’t ACTUALLY ask that, but do ask him what the hell he’s doing here.”
Bronco Bill says something in heavily accented, very slow Japanese. The mafia guy responds in laughter and what I can only assume is a rude comment.
“He’s saying something about a new guy in town and teaching them a lesson,” Bill interprets. “Not sure who they’re teaching. Some other faction, maybe?”
“New guy in town? Who?” I ask.
The message goes through, or at least I hope it does.
“Some fellow named Ohata King. You heard of him?”
“Not in the slightest. Is he scary?”
Bill asks this of the mobster for some reason.
“Real ruthless. Gonna kill your whole family, and all that sorta stuff.”
“Good to know, good to know.”
The police sirens finally show up in the distance, and Bill and I dash away from the scene as quickly as we can (while knocking the shooter out and tying him to the HVAC unit, of course).
I have no idea how we lived through a real-life shootout between Japanese mafia groups, but we did. And now I’ve unlocked a very big new piece of the puzzle.
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Notes from Thedude3445:
Hey, sorry about the continued delays; I told you about them before but I still feel bad about them anyway. ATL will be returning to a regular weekly schedule very soon, hopefully in mid-January, so please be patient just a little bit longer. I promise, it’ll be worth it!
Now, for one of the major reasons for ATL’s recent delays, guess what? I have a whole new book coming out on January 1st, 2021! It’s called The Gay Gatsby. That’s right; Gatsby goes public domain on January 1st, and I’m releasing a whole damn novel on the same exact day. If you like the humor of ATL, you are going to really enjoy the way I turn Fitzgerald’s original work into a satirical sci-fi head trip, so I HIGHLY recommend buying this book as soon as you can. (Also, if I can sell 50 copies on the first day, it has a shot of being the #1 LGBT Sci-fi novel on all of Amazon! That would amazing and I really hope you’ll help it reach that goal.) The URL is really easy to remember: http://gatsby.gay. Got that?
Anyway, yeah thanks for sticking with ATL through the past year of sporadic updates. Barring any unforeseen disasters and/or career changes, that’ll all change in 2021, and I’m pretty excited for it.