Neon Oldie #4

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

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

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

It’s easy to see Kiddo as just another hipster. The clothes and funny way she talked were the signs of a person who enjoyed living in the past with benefits of the present. Thing is, she and her fellow gangsters are a very specific kind of hipster.

For some, the 1920s were the pinnacle of fashion and style. Back then everyone had class and self-respect and wore it for everyone to see. Men were men and women were women and they made sure to dress like it. Bobbed hair, undercuts, three-pieces suits, double-breasted coats, flat caps; depending on who you talk to, that was the single best decade for clothing. Of course, a fedora means something else entirely to some, but that doesn’t stop Kiddo’s friends from wearing them.

The term for this version of hipster is “flapper,” derived from the ‘20s slang word for a rebellious woman. They dress the part, talk the part, and sometimes act the part. It’s really just a form of fashion that takes a little more effort, but guys like Cicero take it to the extreme.

Nothing more fitting for a flapper than organized crime, the kind that seems antiquated in a world of cyber crime and designer drugs. In Seattle there are a few gangs of flappers playing mobster, but all of them answer to the Gorinnis, Goris for short. If you’ve ever seen a gangster movie, you can imagine the kind of enterprises they had across town. One was at Pier 46 where Kiddo found herself after a short ride on the train and jog through Pioneer Square.

Dockworkers with hardhats crisscrossed between stacks of shipping containers. A few sat in the seats of forklift mechs, carrying containers across the busy paths with the beep of tedious safety sirens. Kiddo kept to the side, stepping clear of workers as she moved. They knew who she was and where she was going. As she drew closer the commotion got louder and crowd thicker. The dockworkers made way for her, keeping their attention ahead. Kiddo stopped just short of the clearing to get acquainted with the situation.

Between the stacks were two lines: one side were Goris in their flapper attire and the other were Yaks in black and white suits. Each line was sparsely armed with blades, batons, pipes, or just their fists. Some of the Yak carried wakisashis, real Japanese short swords. They were all tense and ready, but neither side could advance more than a yard before backing up, hurling insults instead of bludgeons.

Yaro!” said a Yak.

“I’m gonna teach ya speak English with this pipe, buddy,” said a Gori.

“Like to see you try, white boy!”

“C’mere and put your money where y’mouth is, ya Nippon prick!”

You can imagine what else they might’ve said had Kiddo not stepped from the crowd. Both sides turned to her and suddenly went mute. That’s the power of reputation for you.

“What’s the problem, boys?” she asked the Goris.

“Got a call from the foreman these mooks were tryin’ to get into one of our boxes, Miss Pink,” said an older Gori.

“Is that so?” she asked with an obvious hint of sarcasm. She turned to the Yaks while hooking her glasses to the opening of her coat. “Bit early in the day for thievery. Y’know, when I stole from the Trotskys down in Renton, I did it at night so I wouldn’t be seen. And when I got caught, I ran away.”

“And yet, here we are, half-breed,” said one Yak.

Oh,” she said through a smile. “Skipping down the Left Hand Path, are ya? As my dad would say, it’s the easiest route to reward, but not the most rewarding, if you know what I mean.”

“You’re one to talk,” said another Yak. “Word has it you’ve been itching for bloodshed since the Shogun ordered the expansion. We’d be happy to oblige.”

The Yaks smirked and chuckled, handling their various weapons like they were prepared to use them. It was enough to set off the Goris, the line surging in place at Kiddo’s back. She made a toothy grin and took off her hat, placing it in her back pocket.

“Can’t say I’m surprised a bunch of Japs are suicidal.” Kiddo waited for her boys to stop laughing. “I have orders not to kill anyone, but you’re making this so simple, I’m tempted to take you up on that offer. Let’s hold hands and follow the path together.”

With that she took her knife and popped the blade.

“Not if I have something to say about it, Volk,” said a voice from behind the Yaks. Suddenly their unfettered thuggery turned disciplined, each one putting up their weapons like they weren’t about to brawl. Shame was written all over their faces as the center of the line parted to the sides.

Strolling up the open gap came Monty Goichi in the same black and white Yak uniform. On his hip hung a katana with a black wrap over a grey handle and a silver cross guard. He was Modded with a pair of arms and legs that were longer than his Flesh torso, making him taller than your average Yak. They were fancy arms fitted with touch and temperature sensors underneath sectioned latex that matched his skin tone. Monty easily dwarfed Kiddo, staring down at her with green eyes as he stood within arms reach between the gap.

“Figured you’d try to start a fight,” he said with a clear American accent.

“Who says I’m starting the fight, Monty?” she asked. “Seems your boys were up for a scrap since they got here.”

“That may be, but coming from you that means a whole lot of nothing.”

Kiddo smiled.

“Least I’m honest. I know what I am and I know what I’m not. How about you take that slag stick on your belt and show me who you really are,” she said nodding towards Monty’s katana.

“Show a little respect,” he said grabbing the sheath under the cross guard with this left. “This is real tamahagane from the islands. You’re trained to use one, but carry around a glorified box cutter. Your father would be ashamed–”

“–He’d be proud I’m still alive and made it out. I bet he’s looking down on me from Takama-ga-hara hoping I open you up before your sword-hand grazes the wrap on that handle.”

“Hoping. Yes. But when does anyone get what they want?”

It got uncomfortable for both sides when Kiddo and Monty just stared at each other for the longest seconds of their lives. Neither broke eye contact nor blinked. They were standing so still you could’ve drawn them like models.

Lenikaeru,” he said with wave of his hand to the side.

All at once the Yaks did an about-face and walked away. The Goris jeered at their backs.

“Show’s over, guys,” said Kiddo cutting them off. “Get back to work.”

The Goris dispersed, some telling Kiddo goodbye. The dockworkers went back to their business, sad that they didn’t get to see a fight and catch it on video. All that was left were the two of them locked in a staring contest.

“You’re wasted, you know? Putting on a stupid accent and cosplaying like you’re about to take a tacky family photo at an amusement park.”

“This ain’t cosplay. It’s just me–”

“–Keep telling yourself that. From my perspective, you know you can do better. You know you put on this facade because you need a place to belong. You know you can go your own way and farther than ever before because there’s nothing to hold you down. You can be great, but you dress and talk like a delusional, regressive piece of garbage that belongs in a landfill.”

Kiddo took her time to smirk at him.

“…I chose this life. You were born in yours. And if you really knew me, you’d know I don’t give a damn about fitting in.”

She didn’t linger, leaving Monty to follow her departure with his emerald eyes. His hand around the sheath tightened for a just moment before he relaxed and went out the way he came.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing/Playing
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.

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Neon Oldie #3

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

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

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

The body shop was a few blocks northeast in Cascade, hidden in the shadow of the glass spires downtown. A sign of a green cross in the circle of a white gear stood over automatic doors that creaked open as Kiddo ascended the stoop. The cool air smelled like an electronics store with hints of chlorine. Her jackboots clicked on the linoleum floor as she approached the reception desk under a long glass window in the waiting room.

Staring at an old fashion computer monitor sat a chunky Flesh stiff in a white button-down and khakis. He peered up for just a second when Kiddo rested her elbow on the counter top.

“Figured you’d show up sooner, Volk.”

“Work stuff. You know how it is, Junior.”

“Don’t I ever. Enzo’s got orders to fill and lunch ended 45 minutes ago.”

“Gimme 15,” she said flicking a folded 20-dollar bill onto his keyboard.

Without looking he slipped the bill into his breast pocket.

“Need a little more time? 15 don’t seem like much.”

Kiddo snickered.

“Maybe you need more than 15, pal,” she said walking past the desk.

Junior was too slow to give a retort when she stepped through the automatic doors to the shop.

Imagine a tattoo parlor, but instead of separate rooms for each artist, each gear-head had a cubical of nylon curtains on the wide-open floor. At each station they worked on mods in green coveralls, some with customers seated on adjustable chairs. At work benches the gear-heads repaired busted servos, replaced hydraulics, or mended faulty circuits with a variety of tools. In the back of the shop was the complicated work, where Flesh became Modded. That area was sanitized and exclusive to specialized personnel.

Kiddo walked between the cubicles at the center and stopped at the second to last station where Enzo van Gogh sat. He was an Andie, short for Android. They’re supposed to look human, but you could spot one in a crowd like a lit cigarette in a cornfield at midnight. Andies have skin that looks like wax with varying pigmentations, including those not found in humans if they choose to change it. Another dead giveaway is their hair of poly-fibers that shine like they’re saturated with gel. In Enzo’s case, he had skin in a shade of blue so dark it was almost black, and shaggy gold hair with matching eyes.

Enzo was immersed in his work, wearing a pair of magnifying goggles as he worked a pair of tweezers on an eye mod in a vice. He did not see Kiddo stop just short of entering his station, leaning towards him on one foot with a goofy smile.

“Got somethin’ that needs your attention, Mr. Repairman,” she said placing the jaw onto the desktop.

Enzo smiled without turning to her.

“You gonna fix me or what?”

 

The broom closet was standing room only. Their options were limited, Kiddo’s backside pressed to Enzo’s crotch. She gripped a tuft of his hair, making a high-pitch squeak of plastic-on-plastic. When she wasn’t biting her finger they kissed to keep quiet before he slowed to a gradual pause.

“Keep going.”

Enzo pulled up his coveralls.

“Time’s up.”

“…Should’ve paid for more.”

Kiddo turned to face him, buttoning up her coat.

“I told Junior not to take your money.”

“Dough’s more convincing than your word, babe. I could’ve pulled his fingernails for free.”

“Please don’t do that,” he said zipping her pants and then himself.

Kiddo stood on her toes to kiss him.

“You’re worth it.”

With cap in hand the two stepped out into the shop. Kiddo walked past the view-window into one of the operating rooms at the back following Enzo. On a table laid a patient as a Bot attached to the ceiling slowly cut into their chest with its long arms.

“It’s like I said on the phone,” said Enzo. “The thing is glorified scrap, but somehow more worthless.”

“I said the same thing, but Cici insisted you appraise it.”

“That’s what I get for being in debt.”

“That was years ago, but you are dating a mobster.”

He chuckled before Kiddo took his arm to walk side-by-side. At the station Enzo sat at his bench and picked up the jaw as she held him from behind.

“See this?” he asked showing her the inside of the armature. On the ramus was a hawk’s claw in a circle engraved into the aluminum.

“I know,” she said. “It’s a TalSec mod from last decade. Same ones you put in me when we first met.”

“Mm-hm. We use them to train new customers and employees. The most I can do with this is keep it in a box. Sorry you wasted your time.”

Kiddo shrugged.

“Wasted? Got my 15 minutes, didn’t I?” she asked kissing his cheek. “Wish you’d just quit so I can have you all to myself. I make money faster than you.”

Enzo chuckled.

“That sounds great, but we’d probably get sick of each other real fast.”

“Maybe… not if we have our plus one.”

He put down the jaw and turned his chair to face her. Kiddo sat on his lap, hands on his shoulders.

“A couple more weeks of extra work and that’ll be a reality,” he said.

“Feels like I don’t do enough.”

“I’d say you have the harder job. I sit here and fix people while you break them.”

Kiddo laughed.

“Not all the time, but I love it. And I love you.”

“Love you too.”

They kissed.

“I’ll get home a little late tonight,” said Enzo.

She made a sad frown then nodded.

“I’ll wait for you.”

They kissed one more time before Kiddo left him to his work. On the way to the front of the shop, she looked back at him. Once she entered the waiting room her phone vibrated until she answered it.

“Yeah?”

Pink,” said Takashi, “big problem at the docks.”

“What kind?” she asked descending the stoop.

The kind that needs your delicate touch. The kind that’s got Yaks snooping where they shouldn’t and making our guys nervous. Feel like doing some real work?”

Kiddo made a toothy smile.

“Limits?”

Just get ‘em outta our territory. No corpses.”

“You go it,” she said hanging up before bolting it down the sidewalk.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing/Playing
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.

Neon Oldie #2

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

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

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
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.”

“Thanks.”

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.

“It’s me.”

“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.”

“Fair enough.”

“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.”

Takashi nodded.

“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.

Takashi chuckled.

“I bet.”

“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.”

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing/Playing
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.

Editorial 40: The New Thing

Neon Oldie is my second attempt at a serialized story. My first was essentially the same narrative years ago, but of less quality and time devoted to getting it perfect. I just jumped in without thinking and lost interest shortly thereafter. Later I figured out how to approach the story and format and here we are.

This endeavor is mostly experimental. I not only wanted to attempt serialization, but give my take on cyberpunk and noir. I studied the genres and worked up a decent understanding before putting pen to paper. My hope is I translated the various tropes and clichés well enough that readers will get what I am trying to do.

I have half the full story ready with roughly a quarter in final-ish form. Each completed chapter or installment is scheduled to post every Sunday morning EST. While some completed chapters wait to be uploaded, I will finish and edit more before getting them ready for posting in the future.

Keep an eye out every Sunday for new installments.

Neon Oldie #1

 

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

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

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

The tumblers clicked and ticked in the dark. Only after a stiff clank and turn of the knob did the door open. Kiddo Volk stood in the threshold, the flickering fluorescents bending around her silhouette.

You couldn’t tell she was half Korean with skin as pale as a ghost and eyes as blue as glaciers. She wore a crimson pea coat and grey flat cap. A pair of tight blue jeans hugged her slender legs with jackboots that came up just before her knees. Her hands were squeezed by black leather driving gloves, the holes at the knuckles showing a glimpse of her prosthetics.

Kiddo placed the lock picks inside the silver case beside her e-cigs. Returning the case to her inside pocket, she pulled out her phone, and clicked on the flashlight. Kiddo made sure the door was locked behind her before moving on. On her belt hung a knife handle that swung against her backside as she walked.

The den’s floor was covered in raggedy Persian rugs. Kiddo probed the darkness with her light, finding a trio of server towers to her left. To the right was a small kitchen with a table for two. Cables from the towers were strapped into bundles, trailing across the floor under the rugs. She followed them to a nook at the back of the room, lined with vertical computer monitors. There sat two leather armchairs with a sliding keyboard on each armrest.

Kiddo returned to the front door to mount her cap and coat on a coat tree, leaving her with a tight sleeveless shirt. She was Modded with two polymer arms the color of ivory with black-grey mesh between the plates and her hair was fashioned into a pink undercut shaved close. At the nook she held her phone in her teeth to turn one of the chairs out, her arms making a quiet whine from handling the weight. When it faced the front door she put out her light and sat down.

As if on queue there came footsteps down the hall with accompanying muffled voices.

“…Gotta spend money to make money.”

“Says dummies who don’t know how to spend smart. The more negatives y’get, the lesser a positive sum accumulates.”

At a door came a jingle of keys.

“Malarkey. How do y’think the high-hats downtown got so big?”

“By not being stupid with money!”

“You’re too cynical. We did this job right, which means more guys like that cop will pay for our services. We’ll be the go-to grey-hats in no time. Y’get me?”

A key slid into the lock with a click of tumblers.

“Okay. But no more stupid spending or I walk.”

Ricky and Taro didn’t look like scum, but they fit the bill once you got to know them. Ricky was Flesh with all his fingers and toes. Taro was Modded with a jaw skinned in orange latex and a pointed chin that didn’t fit his face.

“To where, the poor house?” asked Taro making for the kitchen. “Where would we be without each other?”

Ricky flipped on the Christmas lights pinned along the corners of the ceiling. When he took off his jacket to hang on the coat tree, he saw Kiddo’s coat and cap on one of the hooks.

They were too small to be either of theirs.

“How’s it hanging, Ricky?” she asked.

He turned and shoved his back into the tree, knocking it over. Taro walked back to his partner with a bottle of meta-milk, the kind that keeps invasive-mods running. His expression was totally blank, but you could tell what he was feeling.

“Pinkerton?” asked Ricky.

“Nice mod, T. Better than the voice box the doc gave you after the op.”

“…I got high standards.”

“I bet. Expensive is the way to go, even if you can’t afford it.”

“Well, I could’ve. Did the hard work and everything like a regular Joe.”

“Best not kid yourself. They don’t call us thieves because we work hard.”

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” said Ricky.

“Oh, you did, but nothing serious in the grand scheme of things. This is a technicality.”

“We paid Cicero everything,” said Taro.

“You guys are pretty terrible at math,” she said standing up. “Last I checked, 6,243 bucks isn’t the same as eight grand. As hackers, you aught to be ashamed of yourselves.”

“We also told your gal we’d have the rest by the end of the month.”

“That kid’s a scrub we hired a week ago.” She came closer, pulling the handle off her belt. “Still learning the ropes. I’m here to finish the job.”

Taro couldn’t move, but Ricky made for the door.

“If you run this’ll get a whole lot nastier.” She popped a six-inch blade from the handle in an inverted direction. Along the thin metal strip were groves that ran parallel to the top edge like a box cutter.

“How ‘bout you pick up that coat thing and fight for it?”

Ricky grabbed the shaft and swung it at Kiddo. Didn’t take much for her to lean out of the way. He swung again and came up empty.

“You’re killing me, pal. Gimme your best shot.”

Losing ground he backed up and charged with the coat tree like a spear and Kiddo stopped playing around. She moved in and cut the wood like it was nothing. Grabbing Ricky by the crotch she flipped him up, the ceiling low enough he made impact.

Kiddo left him groaning on the floor and continued to Taro playing statue by the door. She took his bottle, downing the whole thing in a couple gulp. After putting it back in his hand, she stood on her toes and clicked a knob on the inside corner of his jaw.

Taro’s eyes grew wide when the servos hissed and his mouth went agape. The latex skin slid away from his flesh before Kiddo pulled the mod off by the chin. His tongue drooped from his maw, exposing nerve sockets under his ears, and an anchor joint behind each cheekbone with myomer plugs. The upper portion of his neck would have been open without the skin graph keeping his throat and larynx in place.

Kiddo retracted her knife and hooked it on her belt, looking at the serial number engraved in the jaw’s aluminum armature.

“You have a week to make up the difference,” she said picking up her coat. “If you don’t, my boyfriend will sell your fancy mod on the sly for double what you owe. Then you’re in deeper with the Gorinnis.”

With her cap in one hand and the jaw in the other she made for the door. Kiddo stopped just before stepping out.

“Look at me.”

Taro slowly turned, dripping spit on his chest.

“If you want to be whole again, take your partner’s advice and stop spending like a moron. See you around, T,” she said with a smirk before moving on.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing/Playing
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.

 

Movie Review: Deadpool 2

I have said before that Deadpool in the comics is a joke that got old really fast. After about six issues of in-jokes and 4th Wall gags, it becomes clear there is nothing else to him. I am sure die-hard fans will correct me, but I do not care. I went into the Deadpool movie expecting to see the same humor, but in the context of film and was pleasantly surprised. Instead of talking about how aware he is of being in a movie every other scene, Deadpool had a mix of real jokes with hints of 4th Wall breaks scattered throughout. It turned out to be a great comedy thanks to Ryan Reynolds and I could not wait for a sequel. Was DP2 an improvement or has film-Deadpool gone the way of his comic book progenitor?

After getting mixed up with the X-Men, Deadpool finds himself caught in the middle of a temporal battle between a young mutant named Russell, played by Julian Dennison, and Cable, played by Josh Brolin, who comes back from the future to kill him.

To put it simply, imagine the first Deadpool, but more and you get DP2. Seriously, there is no other way to put it. There is more action, more gore, more jokes, and it does not feel bloated or derivate in the slightest. Everything that made the first great is also improved in quality with the self-aware humor utilized in a variety of clever ways. One of the best moments happens after the first set of end-credits and it was amazing.

The standard humor is enhanced by the introduction of a larger, more involved cast. Colossus has more to do, Russell has a sizeable role, and then you have Domino and Cable putting in their two cents. Each has their own ticks and personality that juxtapose Deadpool’s unique humor. Cable is the straight man, Russell a naïve kid, and Domino the closest DP2 gets to a real person. This allows Deadpool to bounce his jokes off others like a live audience, giving the humor a ton of added flavor. It could have turned into a reaction-fest like a Paul Feig movie, but thankfully, the cast is not made up of hacks.

After the departure of Tim Miller, David Leitch took over as director. Having past experience with John Wick and Atomic Blonde, he brought his eye for action to DP2. Given the powers of each character and ridiculous tone, he had a lot of room to be as creative as possible. I do not want to explain further because you should see for yourself, but get ready to enjoy yourself. I will say, as a fan of the Domino, her sequences could not have been more fitting.

As for issues, they are small, but not enough to really hurt the film. There is awkward dialogue in some places and certain lines I could barely understand because the score was so overwhelming. Not much, but I had to point them because you will notice them.

So, Deadpool 2 was great. I would not say it is better than the first because it stands its equal. Everything that made the first exceptional was pushed to the limit and carefully refined for maximum quality. It is better than most comedies and just happens to feature action to rival some of the classics. Definitely go see it and pay very close attention to everything because there are a ton of cameos from other actors.