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.
The echo in the alley made her labored breath sound mechanical, like the noise was fed through a mixer, and looped in a song. Kiddo supported herself on her knees, eyes to the ground. What remained of her gloves held on to her cracked fingers in tatters. When she reached to wipe sweat hanging on her brow, her hand was locked in a claw still holding her knee. The joints whined and the broken plastic plating scratched her skin.
Kiddo pulled her hand away and saw the exposed pulleys that allowed her fingers to move. The hand itself wasn’t overly damage, but the cosmetics were ruined. On the ground she saw bits of ivory plastic scattered by the wall she’d boxed seconds ago. Kiddo’s face scrunched into a grimace before giving her self a hard slap. The next strike to her left was harder and louder, leaving behind a pink handprint. Her lip quivered.
“Suka.” She sniveled. “Suka!”
She gave herself a few more, trading up to punches with weak fists. It was all her hands could manage.
“Suka! Suka! Suka!”
The last one nearly knocked Kiddo off her feet. She grabbed a dumpster on the side to stay up, her face red with crimson scratches on her cheeks.
“You coward,” she whispered before standing straight. Kiddo pulled the edge of her coat and wiped down her front side, trying to look as together as possible. “You coward.”
After picking up her cap she left the alley, taking it slow.
Enzo turned in bed to the door when Kiddo entered. She quickly closed and locked it so he wouldn’t see her face.
“Sorry I’m late.”
He crawled to the left edge of the bed to meet her, coming to his knees. He didn’t say a word and gave her a long kiss.
“No,” she said letting her coat fall to the floor. “I wanna go to bed.”
“Not before you have a bath,” he said kissing her neck and slipping a hand up under her shirt.
She was too distracted to stop Enzo from turning on the light atop the nightstand.
“Oh my god, babe!”
Kiddo tried to cover her face.
He grabbed her hands and looked at them closely.
“Were you in a fight? The plating’s destroyed and the joints are seized up.”
“I- yeah. I got into a scrape. I can still move ‘em.”
The whine of servos said otherwise and Enzo gave her a puppy-dog look. Kiddo turned her guilty face away before he got out of bed and picked her up like a baby. He was naked, his Android body traced with skin-deep lines around the shoulders, chest, hips, and neck.
He just smiled and carried her to the tub.
Kiddo didn’t have her arms as Enzo dabbed a cotton ball to her cuts. She winced as the disinfectant did its job before he applied a thin white bandage. Half her face was mended while he finished the other. He knelt on the outside of the tub with a first aid kit at his knee as she lay in soapy water.
“Did this guy have glass shards glued to his fists or something?” he asked.
“Probably just your sensitive skin. It’s not as awful as it looks. Swelling won’t be too bad. What’d this guy do?”
“Piss me off.”
“Not hard to imagine what he looks like, given what happened to your fingers. Should take me an hour to fix.”
“No, babe. You have work in the morning.”
“It’s nothing. I can take care of it after I put you to bed.”
“Please don’t. I’ll manage. I can wear the Cs instead.”
He just smiled and added another bandage.
“If you had a permit, then you could wear the Model Cs.”
After mending the last cut Enzo approached his workbench where his bag sat.
“Wanna take a look the top three?”
Kiddo grimaced to fight the urge to cry.
He returned with the tablet and knelt behind her, holding it in front. She was thankful he couldn’t see her face.
“See? All blonde and blue-eyed like we want, but only the last guy is willing to sit down and meet. You’re a better judge of character than me. What do you think?”
It felt like they were staring at her. Of course, they kind of were given the way their pictures were shot, but Kiddo could feel those static eyes judging her. They didn’t have to say a word to tell her the same thing she’d been thinking since leaving Le Speak with that wad of cash in her pocket. Tears slipped down her cheeks.
“They’re perfect,” she said before burying her face in his arm.
She didn’t bother to hide anymore, her sob muffled when Enzo put his arms around her.
Suddenly he realized she wasn’t crying out of joy, pulling her to his shoulder. He let her get it most of it out before opening his mouth.
“Is that why you were all beat up?”
“A hitman plugged him in the club,” she said between snivels. “I chased him down before he got far and… And–“
“–It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.” He stroked her hair. “What can I do?”
She got a hold of herself.
“…Take me to bed.”
After putting on her arms Kiddo lay in bed while Enzo stepped into his coveralls. The lamp at his workbench was still on, his tools and broken parts from her hands scattered about.
“I’m going to leave early,” he said zipping up, “and come by the club. We’ll go home together.”
She was too tired to refuse.
After slipping into his sneakers Enzo sat on the side of the bed and took her hand, the broken polymer removed from certain sections of her fingers.
“Do you know when the funeral is?”
She shook her head.
“Might be working that out today. I don’t know.”
Enzo nodded and leaned in to kiss her. Kiddo made it last as long as she could, holding him close. He paused and rested his forehead on hers.
“Will you be okay?”
“…Yeah.” She gave him one for the road and let go. “I love you.”
Enzo half smiled.
“Love you too.”
Kiddo didn’t stay in bed once he left. With nothing on she went to her jeans and brought her knife to the workbench. Grabbing an Allen wrench from a set of small drawers she loosened one screw positioned on the narrow sides in the middle of the knife. The bottom half slipped away, revealing a cartridge holding a stack of thin, edged metal sheets inside. Kiddo set the cartridge to the side and reached into the bench’s main drawer.
Among random tools and spare parts sat a long cartridge. It added about seven inches to the knife for a total of ten. The long cartridge was fashioned into the hilt of a katana with a tsukamaki wrap in hard textured rubber. Kiddo took the cartridge and screwed it in place, turning her knife into a sword.
By the time she hung it to her belt it was hours past dawn. Dressed in her usual attire she descended the stoop outside, fresh bandages on her face and gloves to cover her fractured hands. Under her sunglasses she stared at Takashi standing by his hov-car at the bottom in a casual sharkskin suit with a red shirt, collar popped. His blue eye mod was switched to red to match his getup.
Kiddo stopped a few steps from the sidewalk and watched him shake in his shoes.
“Start the car.”
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
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.