“Oh, Tracy Silver, nice to see you again!” Phil exclaims the moment he sees the back of my head. I had been darting around the warehouse looking for him, but in the end he found me instead.
I get one look at this guy’s dumb face and my brain starts to pulse with the kind of headache you only get when you realize just how much you had to screw up to get into this position. I really need an ibuprofen right now. That or a lobotomy.
Why does he remember me, or my name? I was here once, for like twenty minutes, at least a week ago.
“Oh, hi, Phil,” I say, unable to adequately mask the shrill hatred in my voice. “How, um, nice to see you.”
“You haven’t been clocking in much lately, have you?” he asks. “That or we just don’t get the same shifts. Actually, I guess it’s probably just that. Nevermind.”
Phil really is just like his cousin Mighty Slammer.
“Listen, I know a lot more than you realize,” I say. “I’m not actually just a warehouse worker. In fact, I’m not even employed here.”
“You’re not?” Phil tilts his head to the side. “But you’re here, and you’re wearing the uniform. Doesn’t that mean…”
“I snuck in.”
“Huh, why would you do that?” he asks. “You shouldn’t work for free.”
“What a good point, I guess?” He just does not fathom what I am trying to tell him. I was a little concerned he’d turn out to be the secret mastermind behind all of this and he was treating me like a moron in his puppeteering glory, but I can say with absolute certainty that he is not hiding anything behind that potato-shaped face.
“Did you meet up with my other boss?” he asks, remembering our prior conversation with almost perfect recall for some unknown reason. “Told you she was really cool.”
“I don’t remember anything about the word ‘cool’ being thrown around, but yes, I did meet her. And I beat her up.”
“Why would you do that? Is that the reason she hasn’t called me in a while?”
“No, I think that’s because you told a stranger about your secret illegal gold-running job,” I say. My desire to play along with Phil in this conversation is about the same as my desire to see a whale getting hunted down and gutted by evil boaters.
“Who did I tell again?”
“Oh, right. Tracy, you’re really good with the memory stuff. How do you do it?”
I press my hands against my face in an attempt to stave off the headache that is quickly consuming me. The attempt fails.
“Listen, I just want you to tell me what you know about, well, everything. You’re connected to Mighty Slammer, but did you know you’re also connected to the Japanese mafia?”
“Huh? Since when did I meet them?” Phil puts his finger up to his chin.
“The person who you do jobs for. Your other boss. Was she a Japanese woman with blue hair?”
“Why yes, she was. You really did meet her!”
“Her name is Nami, and she’s an enforcer for a gang of organized crime who are planning a terrorist attack in J-District.”
“A terrorist attack? Now that sounds like a mission.”
“What did you do to help them?” I ask.
“Oh, just running stuff, you know. Guns, drugs, stolen goods. Mostly guns though. I do gold, too, but that’s always a weird one.”
“A weird one how?”
“Well, when this Nami lady calls me for gold runs, it’s always with this weird voice filter and a restricted number. It’s always a lot different than the normal stuff, since I hide it in that anime store and then Mighty Slammer usually picks it up.”
“Phil, did you ever stop to consider that these weren’t actually the same person?”
He stops to consider, for the first time in his life I’m sure, and then says, “I never thought of that until now. Actually, I was always a bit confused about how these two things fit together, and now that you’re saying it I’m wondering if I got all mixed up somewhere along the lines.”
“I can assure you, you did.”
“I think I’ll ask Mighty Slammer about it next time I see her,” Phil says. “She might know more than I do.”
“Mighty Slammer was captured just last week.”
He waves it off. “Ah, yeah, I heard about that. But my girl Beth has a lot going on. She’s going to break out soon and everything will be fun again.
“Mighty Slammer isn’t breaking out of jail,” I say. “She has no powers and she’s in maximum security.”
“That’s what the fuzz thinks,” he says with a bit of pride behind his tone. “But she is definitely getting out of there soon, so she can finish her master plan, which I guess doesn’t involve Nami but maybe does involve gold?”
“A master plan…” Whatever master plan that Mighty Slammer is involved in certainly can’t be something with an incredible level of depth and detail. “Was getting caught part of her plan?”
“Yeah, I imagine so. Not like Mighty Slammer to be anything less than a careful planner.”
I absolutely doubt that in every shape and form, but in the off chance he’s right, then that means she’s much better off than I ever imagined before. That means she’s keeping stuff from me that I don’t even close to understand yet.
Phil is more than willing to tell me everything I need to know, though. “She told me about the plan way back when, so I guess it’s still important,” he says. “It was something like… Now, what was it again? Crud, I lost it.”
“I’m on the edge of my seat. My metaphorical seat.”
“Ah, right!” He pounds his fist into his open palm to signify the extraordinary breakthrough he has made. “She’s, like, attacking all these restaurants.”
“…Yes, and is that all?”
“No. Something where she is planting secret EMP bombs, I think? And then they’ll all activate at the same time and crash the Atlanta economy for a few days? Something along those lines, I’m pretty sure.”
My eyes pop open. “She’s doing WHAT?”
“It’s what she told me. I think. I might have forgotten a few parts.”
I push Phil aside and stare at the warehouse in abject terror. My mind cannot comprehend the extremity of this kind of batshit plan. Not only do I have to prevent some armed mob members from killing a bunch of people at a festival, but I have to prevent the entire electric grid of Atlanta from going down too?!
If Mighty Slammer actually escapes, I genuinely don’t know if I can succeed. Shit, shit, shit.
I have to tell R8PR immediately. I have to warn the entire world.
As I leave the warehouse, I hear Phil’s voice in the distance, shouting at me: “Yo, Tracy? You still wanna hang out after our shift? Tracy?”
Y’know what I’ve been reading lately? A Dream of Wings and Flame. It’s kind of adorable. Let’s go check it out.