Neon Oldie #7

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.

***

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.

“Shoot.”

“How loyal are you to Cici?”

“If he told me to kill you, I’d do it.”

Takashi sniggered.

“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.

“Excuse me?”

“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.”

Kiddo scoffed.

“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.

“Yeah?”

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.

Kiddo smiled.

“Just work stuff. Might need to work late up town a bit.”

“Pretty far?”

“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.

***

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 #6

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.

***

Next to hash parlors and cathouses, coffee shops took up what’s left of the real estate. If you know anything about Seattle, that shouldn’t surprise you. With so many shops you’d think the people have coffee for blood.

Like the next joint not even a block over, this shop was packed with vampires getting their daily dose of grande black. A line snaked before a display window of pre-baked pastries. It barely moved because every other suit took a dictionary’s worth of words to make their order. Among them was the Mark, a Japanese Andie with red eyes and a black undercut. She wore a silk vest over a dress shirt with suspender straps holding it all together.

At the bottom-left corner of the shop window Takashi held his phone with the camera looking inside. He leaned against a brick wall, keeping his body in cover while Kiddo watched the flanks. A cord fed from the phone to the back of Takashi’s right ear.

“Still in line?” she asked.

“Yes, for the second time,” he said with his eyes closed. “It’s past ten. Why are people still getting coffee?”

“Who knows? Lemme go in and pull her out the old fashion way.”

Takashi opened his eyes to stop her from getting past him.

“You wanna get made by some Yak spy? We’re out in the open, Pink. Use your friggin’ head.”

“At this point, why’re we holding back? Let’s snatch her and deal with whatever comes after.”

“This is my mess and we’re gonna clean it up however I damn-well want,” he said, looking at her dead in the eye. “You been here almost a decade and still act like you’re fighting for air and space.”

Kiddo backed off.

“Same fight, different city if you ask me.”

Takashi shook his head and went back to a lean.

“You’re impossible,” he said closing his eyes.

She smiled.

“And you’re always wound up tight as a virgin. If you relax and cut loose, maybe you’d enjoy yourself every once an’ a while.”

“I don’t need help relaxing–“

“–Can’t do it here, boy.”

Suddenly Takashi stood up and quickly put his phone is his pocket. Kiddo remained casual, hands in her coat pockets.

The Copper sat on a quad-ped, a four-legged mech with proportions equivalent to a horse. It was fitted with a siren and lights behind the saddle and unit markings around the front shoulders. The Copper wore an armor vest and helmet with a tinted visor. It looked like one piece, covering everything except his chin, lips, and nostrils. A silver badge was fixed over his heart and on his right sleeve the TalSec claw was sewn under the US flag. A combi-pistol sat in a holster on his hip. It was like a regular shooter, but with a shotgun tube under the barrel.

“IDs, citizens,” said the Copper, craning toward them.

Kiddo and Takashi held their ID cards facing out between their fingers. The Copper’s visor blinked blue before he looked to Kiddo’s card. When it blinked again, he sat up in his saddle.

“Glad to see you’re naturalized, Volk. Immigration sure took their sweet damn time.”

“You ICE or something?” she asked.

“I’m a lawman doin’ my job and you weren’t legal for four straight years… Mind explainin’ why you two are loiterin’ on my sidewalk?”

“Oh, we’re just waiting for a friend to get her coffee,” said Takashi with a smile.

“You know how it is,” added Kiddo. “Rush hour.”

The Copper kept his visor directed at Kiddo, his mouth locked in a stubborn frown.

“…Mmm-hm.”

“We’ll be gone once she gets out,” said Takashi. “We’re not looking for trouble.”

“Why leave so soon?” asked the Copper, nudging his quad-ped. “I could use an excuse to clean house.”

They waited until he was out of earshot.

“Clearly someone’s not taking his bonus,” said Kiddo.

“Get his badge number?” asked Takashi.

“Yep.”

“Text Mitty. Let ‘im know one of his coworkers was about to smear us.”

“I wouldn’t worry ‘bout it. He was just venting.”

“Yeah,” he said turning back to the shop window. “Wait ‘til that venting turns into a buck-shot lobotomy–“

Takashi’s eyes bugged out before he shoved himself against the window.

“Where’d she go?”

“She dipped?” asked Kiddo. “Did you see where she went?”

“That friggin’ pig was distracting me,” he said pulling the cord from his neural port and frantically swiping through his phone.

Kiddo peaked into the window and threw up her arms.

“Nothing.”

“…Damn-it! Footage goes black before I could see.” Takashi pocketed his phone and the cord. “Take one end of the block and I’ll go the other. Call if you spot ‘er.”

They started going in opposite directions.

“And if I don’t?” she asked.

“Back here in 20.”

“Got it.”

 

On her side of the block Kiddo jogged at a quick gate, dodging between pedestrians. She made sure to give each of them a good long look at the back of their heads before darting past. Kiddo looked back to make sure they weren’t the Mark.

At crosswalk stood a small crowd waiting for the green light. She took her time and walked to the front of the crowd, nearly stepping in front of a ground car driving by. The people didn’t pay attention to Kiddo staring at each of them, probably wondering what drugs she was on. When the crowd started to cross, they moved around her like a stone in a stream.

Kiddo turned on her heels trying to get the last of their faces before it was too late. She grimaced and pushed through the people, crossing to the next block, this time at a run.

Takashi wasn’t having much luck either. He walked fast down the block, keeping close to the curb to scan everyone to his right. Every now and then he sped up to a jog to get a look at the next set of people up ahead. When he came toward an alley, a black limo came in off the street, and blocked him from moving forward. Monty stepped out and Takashi almost fell backward.

“Get in.”

He barely hesitated and sat on the other side by the window. Once Monty got in and shut the door the limo reversed back onto the street. In the opposite corner at the front end sat the Mark, sipping her coffee.

“Real sloppy, Takashi,” said Monty. “Real sloppy.”

He put on a smile to hide his terror.

“Hard to disagree, Monty. I could say the same for this dame here,” he said gesturing the Mark. “Ever heard of caller encryption, rubber-head?”

“Up yours, meat.” she retorted.

“That the best you–“ Takashi showed his true colors when Monty pushed him into the window with his sheath pressed to his neck.

“The Shogun’s getting tired of the back and forth. This little foul-up’s moved everything ahead of schedule. You and your half-breed partner are on borrowed time that’s quickly running out.”

“Half-breed?” asked Takashi, struggling to conceal his fear as sweat crawled down his forehead. “That’s rich coming from a white boy playing Yakuza.”

“Says a Jap playing Mafioso. Soon you’ll be replaced and Cicero’s operation ours. Got anything snappy on your mind, better say it now.”

Takashi hesitated to look away from Monty’s stare, and glanced to the Mark. He turned back to Monty and swallowed hard.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing/Playing
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.

Neon Oldie #5

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 brass bed was an island in darkness, picking up the faintest sources of light in the loft. Kiddo lay on her stomach, her pale skin near as white as the sheets. Without her arms you could see the nerve sockets and myomer plugs implanted around her shoulders and an anchor joint bonded to her scapula. The pillow beside her was empty and the sheets disheveled when Enzo came to her side, dressed for work.

“Babe?” he asked rocking her lightly. “Babe?”

“Mmm.”

“I gotta go in early.”

“Wha?”

“Extra orders.”

“Oh.”

She sat up on her own, moving her naked legs over the edge of the bed. Enzo was ready with her arms sitting in a padded case beside his knee. He started with the right and linked it to Kiddo’s anchor with a prang. Each of the six clamps around the deltoid of the arm had either a nerve pin or myomer link. The links connected to the Flesh muscle to enable movement while the pins interfaced with the nervous system for control and power.

The clamps twitched while Enzo aligned the pins and links with the sockets and plugs in Kiddo’s skin. She bit her lower lip as he rotated the arm into place. From back to front the clamps came down on their respective ports. An electric grinding sounded from the arm and Kiddo tensed up with a groan, her fingers twitching like the legs of a dying spider. It ended as fast as it started and Kiddo relaxed with an exhale. She made a couple fists, the mod’s feedback on point.

“We should invest in non-invasive,” said Enzo readying the left arm. “They run on batteries and all you need is an RC chip.”

“I’ll get used to it.”

“It’s been 8 years, babe–“

“–’Cause it takes a while,” she said with a tough grin. “And I’d rather save our money for Fr’isco than to spare me a little pain in the morning.”

Kiddo straightened up and prepared for the next arm. When it was secured and both mods were in synch, she pulled Enzo on top of her to the bed. He had to get up, but didn’t try hard enough to get away.

“I love you,” she said between kisses.

“Love you too,” he said, feeling her grip loosen.

Kiddo watched him exit out the front door, letting in the dull light from the hallway.

“I’ll see you at lunch,” he called out before darkness returned to the loft.

 

It was a full three hours before Kiddo decided to get up. Wearing only a thong she stood by the end of a counter in the kitchen at the corner of the loft with her hand on a switch. With a turn of a knob the blinds covering the whole wall opened halfway, letting in the 9AM sun in thick stripes. Of course, it wasn’t much with overcast filtering the light.

The TV on the other side of the loft in the living room played the latest from a pair of painted up news anchors as Kiddo reached into the fridge. As she gulped down a bottle of chocolate flavored meta-milk they described a slew of world events and scandals like it was something special. Nuclear exchanges in Kashmir, another mass grave found in the United States of Mexico, and new Libertaire skirmishes against the Corporatist Europe Bloc.

Kiddo brushed her teeth at a sink situated on the back wall. Behind her was a freestanding tub with a little a drawer set and towels. She had to wear plastic gloves to keep water out of her hands, one of many flaws in cheap mods. After putting on her usual attire of jeans and crimson pea coat Kiddo made for the front door, cap and glasses in hand as her knife swung from her belt.

Dying bulbs on the walls lit the hall when she stepped out. After locking the door Kiddo walked to the elevator one door over. It opened the second she hit the button. On the other side stood a ginger in a sundress and denim jacket with a stack of books in hand.

“Morning, Miss Volk,” she said.

“Hey, Sally.” Kiddo came in beside her before the doors shut. “How’s your mom?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know. She’s been out and about everyday since the operation.”

“Must be real happy she can walk again.”

“Yeah. I might have to go back to Portland now that she doesn’t need me anymore.”

The elevator stopped with a ring and opened to the lobby. The floor was tiled with molding around the corners and a wall of bronze mailboxes.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” said Kiddo keeping to Sally’s side as they walked to the front door. “Parents like having their kids around when they get old and ugly. At least, that’s what movies tell me.”

“Maybe,” she said as they came out onto the sidewalk.

Kiddo put on her cap.

“Do good in school, Sally,” she said before putting on her glasses.

“Thank you, ma’am. See you later.”

They parted ways in opposite directions, Kiddo stuffing her gloved hands in her coat pockets.

 

It was too early for Le Speak to prep for the night. For now it was a lounge for Gori soldiers and package boys waiting for orders. They congregated at the bar eating breakfast from foam boxes, each one of them with a wax coffee cup from the same joint. Lotch was behind the bar checking and cleaning glasses with a rag.

“Y’know,” said one Gori, “ya gonna spread whatever y’wipin’ from one glass to another usin’ the same rag.”

“Are you a bartender, Donny?” asked Lotch gesturing him with his mod hand holding the rag. “Could use some help tonight if you’re not too busy.”

“I’m just sayin’ that aint doin’ the glass much good or the customers that’ll be puttin’ their mouths on it.”

“Try working the dishwasher at a pizzeria and then tell me if this is sanitary.”

Kiddo came through the doors and made for a spot at the middle of the bar.

“Morning, Pinkerton,” said Lotch, the Goris giving their own greetings after.

“Hey, guys,” she replied taking her seat. ”Cici in?”

“Should be,” said Lotch.

“Door was shut when I got here,” added Donny.

“It’s always–“ before another Gori could finish his sentence, the office door burst open.

The whole bar turned to Takashi running out of the room with a thick book following him through the air. It wasn’t fast enough, hitting the floor with a thump. He faced the open threshold as Cicero staggered into view, looking all sorts of furious.

“What’d I say, Boss?” asked Takashi. “What’d I do?”

“It’s what ya didn’t do, ya mook!” answered Cicero walking toward him. “Do I look senile to you? Do I look beat?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Cicero turned to the bar.

“Boys, do I look old and stupid to ya?”

“Nope–“

“Spry as a young man, Boss–”

“Ain’t aged a day–“

“Then tell me way Tak over here couldn’t friggin’ call me last night with some pertinent information?” asked Cicero.

The Goris and Kiddo were puzzled.

“Here’s my friggin’ cell,” he continued, pulling his phone out. “It’s always on loud so my bum ears can hear it and I always friggin’ answer!”

Takashi caught the phone after Cicero threw it at him.

“Mind cluing us in, Cici,” asked Kiddo.

When he turned to her his expression got serious. He gestured her to follow as he returned to the office, Takashi coming in behind Kiddo. Inside they stood by while Cicero locked the door.

“Something tells me this is Barney,” she said.

“For sure,” said Takashi.

“’Member that new girl we sent to the hackers yesterday morning?” asked Cicero to Kiddo.

“Mm-hm.”

“Mitty got an alert on some Yaks the coppers’re surveillin’ and she was on the other end of a call on a bugged phone line.”

“Jesus…”

“He told Tak last night and he didn’t feel it was important enough to tell me after.”

“I get it,” said Tak. “I screwed up.”

“She working today?” asked Kiddo.

“It’s ‘er day off,” said Cicero, “which is a perfect time to pull her off the streets before she squeals.”

“She’s probably told the Yaks a lot–“

“–That aint the point, son! We get her outta the picture today. And whatever this stooly’s got on us, she’s got plenty on them. Nobody else knows about this except us and Mitty. We keep it confidential, she won’t find out from anyone else.”

“Want her live?” asked Kiddo.

“Exactly. Track her down, jump ‘er brain for information, and bring her to me wrapped up like a friggin’ Christmas present. Be gentle, Pinkerton. I mean it.”

Kiddo nodded.

“Won’t let you down, Boss.”

“Take Takashi with ya. He’s gonna help fix his mistake before it gets any worse.”

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing/Playing
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.

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 wakizashis, 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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.