I got a request this week: Please vote for ATL on Royal Road. There’s a new ranking system involving votes, a lot like Top Web Fiction but with votes that last two weeks instead of one. It’s super easy, so please try it.
Here’s this week’s story shout-out: Please read Music Masters, the famous web serial about teens with song-based superpowers. If you read far enough, you might see a familiar face…
Time for some sleuthing synthesis with my slimy synthezoid associate.
I’m in R8PR’s penthouse again, just waking up from my midday nap on his absolutely wonderful king-sized bed. Not that my own bed is bad or anything—it’s just how I like it—but this one is a whole new level of comfort.
Why does a stupid robot have to have all the best stuff? And why does he have to keep giving me the courtesy of letting me use it all?
“Good afternoon, Morgan,” R8PR says as he walks into his own master bedroom. I get up on my feet and brush my hair all back into place to greet him with some common decency.
“That was one of the greatest naps I’ve ever had,” I say, “and I’m pretty picky when it comes to nap quality. I approve.”
“I’m glad you like it,” he says. “I’ll never use it, so it’s good to know that guests will enjoy the comforts of a home away from home.”
“It’s not THAT good. But whatever. You finished examining that helmet?”
“It only took a few minutes,” he says. “It didn’t prove very useful after all, unlike the portable PC.”
“Aw, darn it! All that quipping for nothing. But you did get something?”
“Eh, I guess. Let’s go into the living room and talk some more.”
“Yeah, I guess is was all that uncomfortable sexual tension between us projecting to all the people in the world the longer we stay in the bedroom together.”
“It’s not weird until you make it weird,” R8PR chirps.
We enter the living room, where Mighty Slammer’s helmet sits on the coffee table next to her portable PC. If every time I encounter her I take one more piece of her armor, it’s only four or five more fights until I obtain the whole set.
R8PR jumps into his spiel. “So, the helmet and portable PC didn’t have any interaction with each other, like I was hoping. The helmet does have a HUD with diagnostics on different parts of the armor, but it can’t be interfaced with the portable PC at all. They were not built together, and probably she acquired them separately.”
“Uh, okay. What does that have to do with anything?”
“It means Mighty Slammer is clearly NOT a Cybermancer,” he says.
“You’re pretty snippy this afternoon, Mx. Harding. Do you need another nap?”
“…Geez, I thought we were doing a snark thing.” I blush uncontrollably and I can’t get my cheeks to stop. No, don’t loose your cool!
“Ha.” R8PR lets out a single wheeze-like laugh and continues on with his summary. “So, Mighty Slammer is not a Cybermancer, and the Atlanta Police are either morons, or corrupt, or both, in arresting her for that very troublesome anti-Cybermancer law. Any lawyer could get that one overturned. In fact, if you didn’t hear, Max Gibson, Moonslash himself, got most of his charges swept away for that very reason. Though, I guess he had a famously good lawyer at his side, that Coco Parnell guy.”
“Moonslash is walking free?! And I never heard about it?!”
“No, he’s still probably going to serve a few years for robot tampering and fraud, but his being the Cybermancer mastermind for a decade won’t make an impact on that at all, just because there isn’t enough against him. Mighty Slammer, on the other hand, has a whole lot more she’ll find extremely difficult to fight.”
“Like destroying entire restaurants on camera,” I helpfully add.
“Precisely. She will be going to prison for a very long time, even if she is not some ultimate lord of tech like any Cybermancer would be. They’re going to try to get her to fess up to all the Cybermancer crimes they can think of to help break up the last bits of that syndicate, but she won’t be able to say a single thing to them.”
“I wonder if she’s safe…” I say. “What with Ohata King and whatnot. I still can’t understand how the mob is connected to this whatsoever. It makes no sense. But if they are, then they surely don’t want Mighty Slammer to be talking about any of their secret plans.”
“You’re right about that,” he says. “But we’re still completely blind about that side of things, thanks to your unfortunately timed non-encounter with my informant. It’s so sad that the gunfight started at precisely the moment you arrived.”
“No, it was a couple minutes before, I think. Either way, I definitely wasn’t late or anything, not at all, so that part was pretty sad since I’m not known for being on time. I was absolutely on time with the directions that I read correctly.”
“I’m proud of you,” he says. “If you had been any earlier or later, it could have been very bad for your health, so everything worked out well.”
“That all being said, this gear of Mighty Slammer’s is pretty standard-issue Cybermancer stuff. These days, all that’s left of them are hobbyists with a criminal streak and middle aged people obsessed with modding, but at their height they had enough clout to have large caches of tech and weaponry at their disposal. This helmet was one they gave out to a whole lot of their members. But it’s fifteen years old now, so definitely nothing special, and Mighty Slammer doesn’t seem to have modified it from its original form.”
“So someone gave her all this tech. Presumably the mafia, but maybe not.”
“That’s one way to look at it.”
“And so we’re stuck in this black hole of no information, where there’s a mystery of the mystery that is keeping us from solving any of it.”
“Are you… Building up to something?”
“Well, we know that Ohata King has just arrived, and he’s building up to something big to show off his new presence here in Atlanta. It doesn’t take a genius detective to connect that to all of the Mighty Slammer attacks, especially when you put into consideration one big thing: The Summer Festival is very soon. The big Nebuta parade and all the booths and tourists from around the world… It’s perfect, isn’t it?”
“Indeed it is. But what does Mighty Slammer’s restaurant destroying have to do with that?”
“I have no idea,” I say. “We need a better source or else we’ll be sitting ducks when the festival actually starts.”
“Yeah. R8PR, I know you chewed me out last time, but…”
“I’ve got to do it again…”
“Morgan, I forbid it.”
“It’s the only way we’ll get the info we need as fast as we can get it,” I say. “Danger’s just a coward’s tool to keep the masses down.”
“Morgan, that makes no sense.
“No, but it sounds cool.”
“You are NOT going to let yourself get beaten up again and possibly killed just to see if you can get a new lead. Absolutely not.”
“I have to,” I tell him. “It’s the self-sacrifice that only a person with stupidly good healing powers can do.”
He sighs in that patented robot tone. “Whatever. I’ll disavow you if you’re caught, don’t forget that.”
“Yeah, yeah. I won’t be hurt at all, except for the pain I’ll probably get from being beaten up. That Nami woman barely even won last time, and she got a jump on me. What’s the worst they can do?”
A lot, I’m about to find out.
Also, want a VRMMO LitRPG in your life? Read Prism: Seekers of Solace.