Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
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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.
Takashi pulled a long drag from the cigarette. He leaned against the wall by the coffee shop window, staring off into nowhere as pedestrians passed him by. There came a repetitive click of boots heels to pavement before Kiddo came to a stop. She held herself up by her knees, breathing hard.
“You too?” he asked dropping his cigarette and crushing it underfoot.
“Gave the block a second go,” she said between breaths. “Nothing.”
“Could be on her way home,” he said coming off the wall. “Up for a stakeout or do you want to give up?”
Kiddo stood tall, forcing her breath to slow.
“Ready when you are.”
The apartment was an old brick building seven stories up in Ravenna. It was out of the way to say the least in a neighborhood on the edge of extinction, run down and neglected. It wasn’t filthy or anything; you could say it was fashionably desolate.
Takashi made the smart choice to park his hov-car just before the front of the building on the curb to the right. Kiddo sat in the passenger seat with her phone directed at the top of the stoop. She fingered the screen to zoom in on a polished steel panel next to the door. The panel had a screen close to the bottom edge and the glass bubble of a camera at the top.
“Yep,” she said bringing her phone down. “Biometric.”
“Damn-it!” said Takashi.
“Relax. All I need it my deck from home.” Kiddo leaned forward to look down the side of the building. “Could use the fire escape. Windows are easy.”
“And risky. All that clanking and shaking will spook the whole neighborhood.”
“Sure,” she sat back and pulled her cap over her eyes, “but it won’t matter until we see her.”
As she attempted to catch some zees, Takashi stared at the building. He didn’t know what to look at, scanning the brick in anticipation for movement at the one spot that mattered. He made a low sigh, closing and opening his fist like an annoying habit.
“Got a question for you,” he said.
“How loyal are you to Cici?”
“If he told me to kill you, I’d do it.”
“I think you’d do it regardless. What I mean is, if you’re so loyal, why are you seconds away from two-timing him?”
Kiddo pushed her cap up.
“Cici said no bloodshed and I hear you flashed your blade at the docks. He wanted this little stanch-an’-grab done quiet and you almost flew off the handle before we got started. Looks to me like you’re only loyal when you wanna stay in his good graces. When the chips are down, you’re in it for yourself.”
“If you were in my world, you’d get it.”
“Don’t think I would; I’m not a professional psychopath.”
“I mean doing what’s necessary. You don’t deal with savages with courtesy; you use worse savagery. As far as I see it, we needed to take drastic action months ago. Sitting on our hands hasn’t gotten us a damn thing. Cici needs me to take it further or we get swallowed, even if he tells me not to.”
“You screw up and kill someone you shouldn’t, it reflects poorly on him.”
“Y’think?” she asked turning to him. “I’m the kind of broad that does what decent folks can’t. I cut loose, of course it’s gonna look bad for the man in charge. But who’s gonna say anything if it gets us what we need? You think people talked about the civilian casualties in Mexico or over in the PCS? No, because it got positive results.”
“That’s real comic book thinking, Pinkerton–”
“–It’s logic and rational. Everyone knows it, but they’re too busy shaking in their boots to say it. I reckon you want me to go into that apartment, wait till she comes back, and come out with her head in a bag. Easier to plug in without arms and legs fighting back.”
“Jesus Christ. Clearly you don’t know me.”
“True. But maybe you don’t know yourself.”
Takashi shook his head.
“I’m starting to think it was Barney having you with me.”
“Oh! Up for a little of your own insubordination, eh?”
“I know Cici told you to stick around, but I still out-rank you. Take a little break, Pink. Almost lunch time at the body shop, anyway.”
Kiddo stared at him for a moment then nodded.
“I’ll send a footie in my place,” she said opening the gull door.
“Need cash for the train?”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said closing the door.
Takashi adjusted the rearview to watch her skinny frame walk down the sidewalk. It took a long couple seconds until she rounded a corner and a few more before he got out of the car. He crossed to the apartment building, opening his suit jacket.
Kiddo brought a sandwich stuffed with lettuce and chocolate meta-milk to the body shop. She sat on the stoop with Enzo, packed in with other gear-heads on lunch break. He ate a white wafer bar, the only thing Andies could and had to eat, lest they run out of blood to keep them running properly.
“I’m always careful,” she said.
“I know, but you usually end up overheating the servos and seizing the joints,” he said. “We’re lucky none of the myomer cells have burst. Model Fs are too cheap to handle stress.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Kiddo looked at her palm and made a couple soft fists. “But that’s why I got you to fix me.”
Before she took another bite, she planted a kiss on Enzo’s cheek, making him grin like a fool.
“…Oh, yeah!” he said. “I almost forgot.” He dug through his cargo pocket for a small tablet. “I made a top ten list that needs your approval.”
Enzo passed the tablet to Kiddo. On the screen was a list of faces with basic physical traits stacked to the left. She scanned each block of text, scrolling down with her finger.
“What do you think?”
“…Can we meet them in person?” she asked. “I wanna make sure none of them are crazy. That stuff’s genetic.”
“I don’t know if the clinic will allow it. Some of these guys put a no-contact clause on their profiles. Might cost more to meet the ones that don’t.”
“I’m sure we can spare a few hundred. I’ll go through it on my own and pick the top three. That okay?”
Enzo smiled and put his arm around her.
“As long as they look close to me.”
“Of course they will. I want him to have your hair–”
“–And your eyes.”
Kiddo ignored the vibration of her phone as they held a long kiss.
“If only humans were mass-produced,” he whispered close to her.
“We are. It’s called unprotected sex.”
As Enzo laughed to himself she put her phone to her ear.
“She’s back,” said Takashi.
Kiddo sat up straight.
“I’m on my way.“
“No. We wait till dark.”
“And risk her getting wise sooner than–“
“–Quit questioning me, Volk! We’re taking the safe route. Got it?”
She frowned to herself and pocketed the phone.
“Everything okay?” asked Enzo.
“Just work stuff. Might need to work late up town a bit.”
“Mm-hm… Sorry, babe.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said stroking her cheek with his thumb. “About time you started working hard.”
She smiled and rested her head on his shoulder, holding his arm.
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.