Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
Seattle was always overcast. No matter what season, the city was in a constant state of grey and wet with damp moisture lingering in the air. The place looked more graveyard than city. The spires downtown were glass tombstones and the airborne traffic neurotic crows picking up the scent of corpses. At street level the people were ants in grass of brick and mortar stacks clinging on to existence as modernity began to take over.
You had to wait till dark to see all the color.
The monorail crisscrossed through the city like a concrete snake. The maglev tech used to run it had to be kept at a steady 35mph; weaving between buildings isn’t exactly safe, after all. Push to the maximum 55 and you risk derailing through an office on the eighth floor. Kiddo stood by the door holding onto one of the grips with the jaw in the other hand. She had on a pair of sunglasses with round lenses that fit her eyes just enough you couldn’t see where she was looking.
In her car was a microcosm of the people you’d find on the streets. Suits were fairly self-explanatory, businessmen and office workers frozen in starched pinstripes. Stiffs weren’t too different, only they didn’t have such high uniform standards. Then you had everyone in between; the people you couldn’t pin down based on how they dressed or where they worked. Everyone was either Flesh or Modded, but some you couldn’t tell had subtle, expensive implants. It’s easy to hide a neural port within the hairline or behind a collar. If everything but your head was mechanical, you could wear a full tracksuit and no one would be the wiser.
Kiddo’s anachronistic attire made her look like any old hipster. Wasn’t anything new in the Pacific Northwest, but anyone familiar with Seattle’s underground figured she belonged to a very specific group.
When the monorail’s breaks kicked in she leaned hard to the side, her foot lifting off the ground before the full stop. Kiddo stood firm and walked out onto the station. Not even a block away stood that brick triple-decker between two office buildings.
Le Speak was your typical jazz club. A big neon sign pointed down to the basement entrance under a red awning. It was lunchtime for the suits down in First Hill, packing the sidewalk on the way to their favorite pubs and coffee shops. Le Speak was not one of them.
What’s the point of a nightclub if it’s open before 10pm?
Out on the street three busboys unloaded cases of booze, limes, and ice from a ground truck. From the open cellar by the entrance emerged Lotch, carrying an empty cardboard box.
“Take the rest of the liquor and put it in storage,” he said.
“Sure thing, Mr. Potter.”
When he stepped onto the sidewalk, Kiddo was coming his way.
“Hey, Pink,” he said waving with his faux-iron forearm.
“Lotch,” she said with a nod. “How’s your better half?”
“Wants me to dye my hair. Say’s I’d look younger.”
“Kid doesn’t know how good he’s got it.” Kiddo walked backwards to keep eye contact on her way to the basement. “If you swung my way, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Much obliged. Cici’s in his office.”
A short staircase brought Kiddo to double doors cushioned in red leather. They came apart into the walls when she was close. The club proper was dotted with tall round tables, hardwood stools stacked to the right. The bar stretched across the length of the long room on the left. In the back corner stood a modest stage with small amps standing along the edge. The door to the office was dead center at the back. Kiddo leaned by the doorknob and knocked.
“Come on in, Pink,” said a haggard voice.
The room couldn’t fit more than three people or it’d stink to high heaven. Behind a wide wooden desk sat Cicero Gorinni, a short bug-eyed guinea with olive skin. Behind him leaned Takashi Sterling, second in command. You could spot the guy a mile away with a left eye mod that glowed blue to match his three-piece suit.
They watched as Kiddo took the lone chair before the desk, taking off her hat and glasses.
“How’d it go,” asked Cicero.
“Reno,” she said putting the jaw on the desk. “Gave ‘em a week to make up the difference.”
“Good-good. We should keep ‘em on retainer. Make ‘em work off their debt.”
“There’re hackers all over the city, Cici,” said Takashi. “Better ones at that.”
“Sure, but now we got Ricky and Taro in our pockets for nothing. That’s how extortion work, my boy.”
“Is ’at why you filched Taro’s jaw, Pink?” asked Cicero.
“More or less,” she said.
“Can we fence it?” asked Takashi.
“If you need five bucks, sure.”
Cicero raised an eyebrow.
“What’re you talkin’ about?”
“You snatched a piece of junk for no reason?” asked Takashi like it was a big deal.
“Course I had a reason,” said Kiddo.
“Can’t say the same for most of the stunts you pull, Pink. Real expensive stunts too.”
“Let ’er explain, Tak,” said Cicero. “Don’t lose your head just yet.”
“That’s a mass-pro mod,” she said gesturing the jaw. “They were built for Vets returning from Mexico, who later traded up for the fancy stuff. Then, you got a surplus of equipment, which the government sold to hospitals and body shops. I had arms in the same model after my operation. In a decade they’ll be antiques and not much more valuable.”
“Then why take it?” asked Takashi.
“It’s icing on the cake. They’re gonna pay no matter what, but if Taro thinks he’s gonna lose his jaw a second time, he’ll be more inclined to make the deadline. Sure, the jaw ‘s worthless, but I scared him enough he’ll believe I can sell it five times it’s actually worth.”
“Natural as usual, Pink,” said Cicero. “Let’s keep the thing. Might have use of those boys pretty soon.”
“Trouble?” asked Kiddo taking out an e-cig.
“Yaks acting up,” said Takashi.
“Who needs to die, Boss?”
“Down, girl,” said Cicero, putting his hand up to her. “You know how Yakuza are about open arteries. We wait ‘til they draw first blood.”
“Who we kidding, Cici?” asked Takashi. “We should just set her loose and draw all of their blood before they have a chance.”
Kiddo made a grin with smoke that smelled of lavender curling from between her teeth.
“Wouldn’t look good on us, Tak. Got an image to uphold. So does the Shogun.”
“A little more dirt on my hands wouldn’t hurt,” she said.
“You want dirt-work, Pink?” asked Cicero with a smile. “Have Enzo appraise the jaw in case we decide to fence it.”
“Okay,” she stood and grabbed the mod. “Pointless, but I was heading there anyway.”
“Of course,” said Takashi. “Instead of dirt-work, you’re getting wet-work.”
Even bad puns can be funny, the three of them having a decent laugh.
“You bet,” said Kiddo making for the door
“Don’t be in too much a hurry,” said Cicero reaching in an open drawer and tossing her a roll of red dollars with Andrew Jackson’s face etched in black.
“Thanks, Boss,” she said pocketing the cash and tipping her hat.
“Invest wisely and use protection.”
Kiddo chuckled as she opened the door.
“Don’t need protection when you’re riding an Andie.”
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scottt
Deus Ex: Human Revolution/Mankind Divided, Created by Eidos Montreal
Blade Runner 2049, Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Altered Carbon, Created by Laeta Kalogridis
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Neuromancer, By William Gibson
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
R.U.R., By Karel Capek
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Westworld, Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Battle Angel Alita, By Yukito Kishiro
On the Waterfront, Directed by Elia Kazan
About the Author
C.T. is a Florida native and proud gun owner. He is a fan of all things military, comic books, and a self-proclaimed movie buff. In his off-time C.T. reviews movies on a blog no one reads and writes screenplays that will never get made, but enjoys it nonetheless. He hopes this book thing will actually pay off so he can do it forever.