Neon Oldie #23

Cover23

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
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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.

***

Taro was the last one out with a messenger bag over one shoulder, key ring jingling as he locked up. “Want us to run y’through it one more time?”

“Think we got it,” said Monty waiting with Kiddo and Ricky, the hacker wearing a business suit similar to Taro’s.

“Pardon me if I don’t take y’word for it. So, me and Ricky check in while you two get into position.” The lock clicked and Taro started down the hall to join them.

“We set up across the station, hop onto the piggys’ wireless, and text ya once we’re in,” said Ricky. “Know which room, Pinkerton?”

“Like I said, not my first break-in.”

When Taro was close Monty and Kiddo lead the way up the stairs.

“Best not kill anyone,” said Monty. “Dead criminals are one thing, but dead cops–“

“I’m the last one you need to worry about,” she said. “Here’s hoping no one rats to the Shogun while we work.”

The night was baked in neon when they stepped outside. The four of them had been under a hash parlor that painted the busy street in green while the surrounding joints shined reds and blues. In the alley they were in enough darkness that the drunks and stoners lining the sidewalk barely noticed.

“We’ll pick up traffic while tethered to the network,” said Taro locking the basement.

“Anything that sends up a red flag in regards to you two, we’ll pass it on,” said Ricky.

“Appreciated,” said Monty.

The hackers stood by for their criminal compatriots to lead the way before Kiddo took the first step. “Think I’ll consider giving you two a little bread if this goes smooth–“

“You’ll have wire it from prison, Volk.”

The four of them stopped as foot traffic rushed clear off the sidewalk. The flow of people diverted round into the street to reveal Pierce and Dom beside two cars on the curb. Dom leaned with a cigarette and a fedora while his Android partner wore a wide grin, hands in her pockets. On the street stood a quad-ped by each car with their riders on the sidewalk. The Copper was on Kiddo’s side of the alley to the left while Jacobs had Monty on the right, combi-pistols held low. Ricky and Taro threw up their hands.

“You can thank your rat Freeman,” said Pierce. “And right before we passed 48. New record?” she asked turning to Dom.

“Personal best,” he said.

“Good enough for me.”

“Congrats, you did your job,” said Kiddo.

“I should thank you for being so damn sloppy.”

Monty grimaced. “Makes one of us.”

“You know what Volk did, right? Maybe it’s a little too soon to celebrate because I’m curious how you’re mixed up in all this, Yakuza.”

“To do what you’re not,” said Kiddo. “Find Enzo’s hacker.”

“Out of our hands thanks to you. And now you pay for it. Book ‘er.”

The Copper barely moved his foot when Kiddo pulled her sword hilt. He responded by zeroing in on her head. “Test me, Volk.”

“Don’t be stupid,” said Pierce. “They’re loaded with MP rounds. Two in the chest will make you useless enough to yank those fancy arms.”

“Better be quick on the squeeze,” said Kiddo.

“Jacobs, clear the street,” said Pierce

“Rodger that.” The other beat cop turned to his stationary quad-ped. “Crowd control. Twenty yard spread.”

The mech trotted into the street, lights flashing at the low setting, near overpowering the neon. “Stand clear,” it repeated with a metallic voice.

“Crowd control twenty yard spread,” said the Copper without turning from Volk.

With the mechs pacing from one side of the street to the other an open space formed with the alley in the middle. Our players were almost alone save for crowds that formed on the edges of the perimeter.

“Best put ‘em up,” said Pierce, “or we take you in by–“

“That won’t be necessary.”

She turned to Dom with a raised eyebrow as he took a final drag and put a finger and thumb to his lips for a sharp whistle.

From the crowd on the left side of the alley came Lotch and a bunch of Goris out between the civilians. They gathered into a blob of suits and fedoras, armed with pipes, chains, and crowbars. The ones not holding were obviously packing.

Lotch wore his best waistcoat and shoes as he stepped forward. “You know the score. Pinkerton walks. Don’t care what ya do with the Yak.”

Pierce had drawn her piece and looked over at Dom. “Trust is expensive,” he said moving off the car. “But loyalty?” He shrugged at her. “I got alimony… Right, Jacobs?”

The beat cop looked surprised before holstering his pistol. “Yep.” He turned to the Copper. “Let her go, man.”

“You son of a bitch,” he said through clenched teeth. “Think all I got are MPs? Half a second’s all I need to go lethal.”

“Got enough bullets for everyone, Montana?” asked Dom. “Read the room. You’re outnumbered. Both of you.”

“Then you better do something about us,” said Pierce. “Fast.”

“Whoa, whoa,” said Jacobs. “I’m not killing cops, Dom.”

“Did I say we were, numb-nuts?”

“Get over here, Pink,” said Lotch.

“I told you–“ she started.

“You’re not my boss anymore. So I can do what I want,” he said with a wink.

“You’ll have to come get her, prick,” said Pierce.

Lotch gave her a nod with a mild grimace. “Show ‘er, boys.”

The Goris that weren’t visibly armed moved to the front and pulled pistols from their suits. Lotch pulled his own from the back of his waist, a chromed 1911 made to look old fashion.

“Still feel like being stupid, partner?” asked Dom.

“I could ask you the same, detective,” said a loud metallic voice from the opposite side of the street.

All eyes turned and Kiddo felt her stomach knot when she saw five Bots push through the crowd with Yaks in tow. They wore the signature white shirt and black tie under soft-shell armor covering their necks, arms, and groin. Some had custom mempo masks of varying decoration. On their hips hung a combat katana, modern blades with rubber hilt wraps and sheaths of thick black polyester.

The Bots were skinned in a red metal carapace resembling a naked man in every way but anatomy. The head, shoulders, and chest had yellow plating made to look like samurai armor. Four of the Bots moved in complete lock step while the fifth in the middle walked like a human, his face toward the alley. In place of yellow armor it had white and a traditional set of swords on a white wrap tied to its waist.

While the four Bots stopped past the civilians, the gang of Yaks not far behind, the White Bot stepped out to make sure everyone could see. “My employees are here to assist you, officers,” it said with Kyrii’s voice. “However,” he pointed to Monty, “Montgomery Goichi comes with us.”

Pierce looked over her shoulder at the Copper still aiming at Kiddo. “Fair enough.”

Dom and Jacobs drew, the former taking the Yaks while the latter kept his combi-pistol low to Monty. The Goris started shouting insults and waving their weapons at the Yaks who drew their blades. The law was busy yelling at each other and their respective enemies on the street.

It seemed to happen on the periphery for Monty and Kyrii. Jacobs got antsy when his reached into his suit, free hand up with palm out, and pulled his phone. Kyrii nodded and Monty dropped it. “Should’ve known better.”

Anata no kōdō wa uragiri, mongomerī-chan ni kakatte imasu,” said Kyrii.

Tono, imi shimasendeshita–“ started Monty with fresh sweat on his forehead.

Zan’nen’nakotoni teki no tame ni hataraku tame ni? Sonkei? Sono yōna mudana doryoku. Anata wa kanojo o hikkurikaesu ka anata no uragiri no tame ni omoku shiharau kikai ga arimasu.”

Kiddo picked up what she could from their tone, but the conversation was just one in a deluge of noise. Seemed everyone forgot why they were there. Each had their reasons, but no one tried anything because either way you went was dirty. It gave Kiddo a bit of comfort knowing this could all go bad for everyone else until she got a chunk of the puzzle she’d been piecing together for two days.

“Ain’t afraid to put you down, son,” said the Copper to Jacobs.

“I’m not gonna kill you–“

“Good!”

“Shut! Up!” shouted Pierce.

“Let’s work this out, guys,” said Dom with the only calm in the bunch. “I’ll give you my bonus for a whole year if you open your dumb, hick eyes, Quincy–”

“You’ll die second, traitor!” shouted the Copper.

Suddenly all Kiddo could hear was a ringing and there was nothing in sight but Quincy. She focused on the nameplate bolted under his badge with the name “SPEERS” engraved in white. “…Get work done, Quincy?”

He cut out mid yell and turned to her, mouth formed in a grimace.

The spinner on her right arm whirled under her sleeve. “My Enzo was the best gear-head in town. The boss always called when we were on vacation, trying to get him back to the shop.” Quincy’s lips curled into a thin neutral line. “…But he stayed with me because he really was that good–“

The air escaped her lungs as fast as the bullets hit her chest. After the first slug she couldn’t feel the next five and their barbs hooking to her skin. From heel to head every muscle contracted into numbness and she was a helpless amputee again.

The whole scene went incoherent when Kiddo hit the ground. Both crowds of gangsters surged at each other. The Goris that came packing were torn between aiming at the Yaks or cops. The Yaks stayed behind the Bots, but that didn’t stop them from breaking their otherwise professional bearing. Dom and Jacobs were hesitating to perforate Quincy while Pierce didn’t know whether to help or keep the other two at bay. Monty just stood by the wall, hands up.

It was pretty clear to Kiddo what was coming. As Quincy stepped closer the magazine dropped from his pistol. When he reached for another on his belt she caught the reddish glint of a copper slug. There was nothing Kiddo wouldn’t have sacrificed for just one chance. Nothing worse than buying it in a dirty alley with one final loose end untied. But the last thing she wanted were two vans to pull up across the street, Trotsky’s face in red and black on the side, and see 18 Comrades pour out with the biggest guns she’d ever seen.

Everyone got the picture too late once those ancient Soviet machine guns rang out.

There were two groups of Trotskys: heavies and riflemen. The heavies had helmets with face shields and flak jackets, carrying RPDs. The riflemen had your average garden variety AKs and next to no armor. The biggest guns unloaded the second they hit the pavement into the Goris, Yaks, and alley as they slowly advanced, tearing up masonry with bursts of rock. The little ones were surgical, picking targets from the stationary and moving in to avoid capping their advancing friends.

Kiddo squeezed her eyes shut when the shooting started and felt herself dragged across concrete. She looked for a second to see Monty pulling her by the arm against one of the cars on the curb. Another quick look saw Jacobs ducking beside her and Quincy and Pierce behind the other car across the alley. The alley itself was clear of Ricky and Taro.

The crowds of gangsters didn’t have a chance. The Goris with guns got about two shots in before falling into each other in a bloody mass. The Yaks fared worse, their armor not built to stop rifle slugs. All five Bots hit the street in a flurry of sparks bursting across their metal flesh. The pedestrians behind each crowd knew better than to stick around, some getting hit by stray bullets in back.

When she could feel the pavement dig into her shoulder Kiddo sat up, wobbling as the feedback sensors slowly came back to her. She forced her back against the car, feeling it rumble from dozens of impacts. Her hearing was gone, Jacobs’ shouting coming in as a mumble. Monty sat beside her, breathing hard and fast. It was the first time she’d seen him panicked.

Pierce was shooting from behind the front-end tire when it burst. It made her jerk closer to the middle, scraping the ass of her pants open. She didn’t notice, too focused on the reload, but she did see Dom’s fedora on the sidewalk splashed with blood. Pierce couldn’t bear to see his corpse in the gutter between the cars and just sat there bug-eyed.

When the slide of his his combi-pistol locked back Jacobs went low to trade mags. He got fresh slugs in, but the second he put his head up one Russian copper tagged him in the helmet. The impact twisted it off Jacobs’ head and sent him to the ground. Her hand moved on its own when Kiddo pulled him by the ankle about a foot closer before Jacobs’ vest burst apart. She stopped after his head turned to red chunks and Kiddo realized the Trotsky had walked up to the back of the car, still pouring lead.

Again her body moved on it’s own, springing to her feet, and throwing out an open palm into the Comrade’s features. It tore his face off, bits of skull included. The guy was big and Kiddo grabbed him by the neck, keeping his back to the street. Kiddo was too shaken to know where to go from there as the rest converged on the alley.

The other Trotskys were finishing up the gangs, the riflemen plugging corpses while the heavies reloaded, pretty calm for newly christened mass murderers. Some by the Goris kept the cops in cover as they finished. The guys around the Yaks weren’t taking chances with the Bots, the heavies moving in to give them a full squeeze to face. There were three left by the time one Comrade stood over Kyrii, smoking muzzle hovering above the thing’s eye.

That’s when Kyrii hooked his feet around the guy’s armored neck and jerked down. The heavy flipped back into the pavement, blood gushing over his helmet. The momentum brought Kyrii to his feet and drew his sword. Two of the heavies that were supposed to finish off the Bots ended up on the ground, broken bones and all before the machines popped their blades.

It got the attention of the other Trotskys in the middle of the street, so Kiddo charged, popping her own blade. They spotted her about the same time she darted away from her shield after shoving it into a rifleman at the right. She swung blindly and opened up her Second Kill’s stomach. The girl’s intestines spilled onto the street as Kiddo spun further left. There wasn’t any cover, so she made some, the Second Kill taking hits from a heavy in the back right.

The girl hit the ground after Kiddo took another shield: Comrade Tommy. She couldn’t tell it was him apart for the blue hair sticking out the back of his helmet. Kiddo held the top of his helmet with a grip that cracked the enamel. There was 12 Trotskys left: four behind preoccupied with the cops and eight in front, half of which were trying to finish the Bots. Either way Kiddo knew she should’ve moved on milliseconds ago, staring down those guns behind her shield. The sudden anxiety made her grip collapse the helmet further.

Then Monty threw her a big fat bone. He came darting out as a black blur with a hand gripping his fancy katana. The blade flashed from the sheath and cut a rifleman from ribs to shoulder, head included. That was Kiddo’s moment to move left-ways after jerking Tommy to the ground.

She leapt over him and landed in a roll toward her Third Kill. She stopped on one knee under his AK, close enough to smell the Comrade’s sweaty crotch. In one fluid motion she pulled her knife with her other hand and cut a leg out. He shrieked and held down his trigger from the pain. Kiddo pivoted round and and slashed up, the AK and half his arm falling free.

The rifle kept shooting from the ground as Kiddo shot up with sword drawn back. She would’ve take his head had a heavy behind him not opened up. The force from the impacts shoved the guy into her arms. Kiddo let the knife fall and grabbed her Third Kill by the back, digging her fingers into his flesh.

The feedback sensors went numb after a burst of sparks as she charged, roaring through it. Within sword range she shoved her shield at the RPD hanging by the Comrade’s hip, sword drawn back. Kiddo stopped short of swinging when Monty darted in, burying his sword into the heavy’s armpit. The Trotsky gave out a muffled scream through his helmet.

Monty’s sword slid free as the heavy fell, a fresh coat of crimson covering an already soiled blade. He breathed hard, just as scared and bloody as she was. Kiddo looked at the dents in her left forearm, surrounded by scratches where the bullets fragmented, sensors still numb. She and Monty looked at each in a moment of pause, fighting still going on around them. One of the Bots was down with three Trotskys left for Kyrii to the right. Behind Kiddo to the left the cops held their ground, but the four Comrades remained vertical, having made shields of the dead Goris. Neither said a word or gestured when Kiddo and Monty stormed toward them.

The crossfire didn’t enter her mind when she met her Fourth Kill: a heavy kneeling behind a stack of her friends on the outside of the pile. She came in low, sword held inverted. The heavy turned her way just as Kiddo shoved her left hand through the narrow viewport of the Comrade’s face shield. She couldn’t feel how deep she’d gone, but the guy going limb was a decent hint. Monty dashed past her into the pile and met a kneeling rifleman with a single slash through the neck.

The last two were closer to the cars. Kiddo yanked her hand with a gush of blood, but before she could rush in, a stiff metal hand grabbed her arm where the sensors worked. With a tug that could’ve ripped her mod out Kiddo was thrown where she’d started killing. Tommy writhed on the ground trying to pull his helmet off when she landed in a tumble, sword bouncing to the side.

“Get up, Kiddo-chan,” said Kyrii walking toward her as he pulled a white cloth to clean his blade. “Pick up your sword and prepare to die.”

On her hands and knees she rushed to her sword and stood. Kiddo looked around to see nothing moving except the cops’ quad-peds pacing across the street. She squared her shoulders and held her sword in both hands toward Kyrii, his katana raised. Been a long time since she was in a proper sword fight. Memories of training under her father in the apartment dojo flooded Kiddo’s mind before she met Kyrii.

His blade came down just past her when she dashed right with a slash, cutting his belt to free the wakizashi and katana sheath. They hit the pavement as Kyrii rounded to face her, backing away from him slowly. He held his blade to the side of his head and followed her, stepping carefully without breaking eye contact. She brought her sword up parallel to the ground with tip forward, moving her feet back in wide circles to feel for obstructions. Kiddo feigned a step forward and Kyrii flinched. Her laugh was cut short when he decided to charge anyway.

Both had strength enough to break their swords against each other, but they clashed as if the two were Flesh. Their movements were normal and easy to follow without being too slow. It was as if they agreed to self-handicap beforehand. The two exchanged blows in short bursts and dashed away, meeting again with difference stances every time. The gunfight was still going on up the street, yet Kiddo and Kyrii were in their own world.

He may have been an ancient bastard, but he was still wired to a combat-grade Bot in an office, miles away from the violence Kiddo dealt with minutes ago. No way Kyrii was getting tired as she worked up the energy just to hold up her sword. It seemed like he was stepping closer and faster than before, forcing her to back up with equal measure. Kiddo’s patience wore quickly and she moved without regard for what may be at her heels.

Then her stance broke after tripping into a corpse.

Kyrii lunged before Monty caught his swing with a loud prang. Their swords were held high, edges locked. “Tōno, go yōsha kudasai!” With a grunt he shoved Kyrii back then pulled his blade clean through the crook of his arm. The Shogun surged forward before Monty sheathed his sword and got to his knees. “Volk o hoshō suru. Kanojo no kōdōde wa arimasen. Kanojo wa ikari nimegakurande-batsu niataisuru ga shini wa ataishinai.” He bowed. “Watashi ni kanojo o enjo sa sete kudasai, soshite watashi wa kanojo jishin no jinsei to no machigai no daishō o haraimasu.

Kyrii’s head tilted to the side. “Anata wa teki no tame ni jibun jishin o gisei ni shimasu ka? Meiyo aru jisatsu to wa? Anata wa byōkidesu, watashi no musuko–“

Watashi wa sōde wa arimasen, Tōno! Watashi wa senshi no yarikata de watashi no kokoro ni shitagau koto no kekka o ukeireru.”

Kiddo waited off to the side, eyes darting in anticipation as she listened to a conversation she didn’t understand.

Kyrii looked her way for a moment then traded sword hands, holding it inverted. “Watashi wa dōi shimasu,” he said before pointing to Kiddo, “shikashi kanojo wa anata no kaishaku ni nari, soshite anata no katana o torudeshou. Dōi shita?

Monty bowed lower. “Hai, Tōno.” He got up with a sigh. “It’s okay,” he said putting a hand toward Kiddo to gesture her guard down. “We’re okay.”

“What’s going on?“ she asked.

“You will find out soon enough, Kiddo-ch–“ started Kyrii before his head exploded.

When his metal corpse hit the ground Kiddo and Monty saw Quincy standing in the middle of the street with the under-barrel of his pistol smoking. He moved his left hand from the secondary trigger over his shooting hand to put two rounds in Kiddo, one in the side and midsection. Monty caught her from falling and made himself a shield. Quincy got off one more shot before he fell forward with a grunt.

Shots rang out from a bloody weary Lotch popping off his chromed 1911 from the piled Goris. Quincy rolled to his back and emptied into the poor guy. Then he rolled into the prone and faced the opposite side, but Kiddo and Monty were gone. He rushed to Kyrii’s body mid-reload and found fresh splatters on the pavement, the start of a trail that led up the corpse-riddled street. Quincy lowered his pistol and grimaced.

“P-please… I surrender.” He turned to Comrade Tommy sitting with hands up, bleeding from his nose. “I-I-I want a lawyer. I-I have rights.”

Quincy loosed up and looked back to the alley where Pierce was yelling into her phone for back up. Then he spied the bloody bodies of Dom and Jacobs.

“I-I have rights–”

“Rights?” he asked turning to Tommy. Quincy let it simmer before grabbing the fat Trotsky by the hair. He winced, barely putting up a fight. “First, ya gotta be human.”

Quincy pressed his muzzle to Tommy’s cheek and turned away from the splatter.

“What the hell was that?!” He looked to Pierce walking toward him pointing at Tommy. “You just don’t know how to stop screwing up, do you, Quincy? You better explain why you tried to kill Volk before–“

White blood burst from her chest in quick succession. Even from the hip Quincy was a deadeye and made sure it wasn’t too lethal. He watched her convulse on the ground and came to her side, blood dripping over the corners of her mouth.

“I don’t hate ya, Pierce. You’re just damn annoyin’… No more cops are gonna die for my mistake.” He aimed at her heart. “And I’ll make sure ya get a better body after they bring ya in.”

He dumped three shots to make her good and inoperable.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
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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Binge Review 10: The Boys

Let me get this out of the way before we begin: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was great and you do not need me to explain why you should see it.

***

Writer Garth Ennis is Mark Millar with artistic integrity. Not only has he written the best Punisher books to date, he has the uncanny ability to take intense, childishly edgy material, and play it totally straight. His books hinge on serious, but are so absurd and ridiculous they border on humorous. Ennis obviously writes to have fun and does not let that get in the way of telling a great story… except Crossed.

I was pretty young when I heard about The Boys and never picked it up because I thought it was going to be more try-hard crap like Crossed. As I got older and absorbed more of Ennis’s work I grew to appreciate what he does, but Boys did not enter my mind again until I saw it was coming to Amazon Prime. I also heard the producers of Preacher were in charge, a great show if you want to fall asleep. Needless to say I was more than a little skeptical going in.

From the start Boys captures the tone of Ennis’s writing with a heroic sequence of the show’s Justice League analogue called the Seven punctuated by a scene the protagonist’s girlfriend getting accidently obliterated by the team’s Flash equivalent. After that we switch perspectives to an up-incoming heroin called Starlight who is asked to perform oral sex on the Seven’s Aquaman analogue in order to join.

It does not get much better after that.

Boys imagines what the world would be like if superheroes were real. Not unlike how film studios handle comic book characters today, superheroes or supes as they are called in the show are corporatized assets in a multi-million dollar industry of not only (staged) crime fighting, but also movie deals, PR stunts, and sponsorships. The show also explores the psyche of the supes and gives them very human flaws. The Wonder Woman analogue is a jaded aging alcoholic. The invisible supe is a voyeuristic pervert that hangs out in bathrooms fully naked. The Superman analogue has a messiah complex and a laundry list of other issues that are bound to get worse from season to season.

The supes are only half the show with the titular Boys the main focus. We follow Hughie, a normal guy that worked at an electronics store before Butcher, an independent contractor that used to punish or kill supes for the government, recruits him following the evisceration of his girlfriend. As the pair gets deeper into a conspiracy involving the Seven and their corporate overlords, former members rejoin the Boys to help unravel the mystery. As teams go they have a good dynamic where everyone is screwed up in some way and hates each other, but they get along when it comes to taking down supes.

Unlike typical Ennis stories, the violence of the show is toned down significantly. I looked up some choice panels from Boys and there was no way even half of that was going to make it to screen. What we get is enough that it maintains the tone without too much gratuity. Sure people are lazed in half, guns melted onto criminals’ hands, and supes are blown up into bloody chunks, but it happens in short bursts about once per episode.

Where the show falters is in character progression. Boys does a good job of setting up their personalities, but they develop faster than they should for the sake of pacing. A good handful of the characters have layers of complexity that needed time to simmer and grow from episode to episode. One in particular shows his true colors rather quickly and ruins an otherwise satisfying pay off for future seasons. The whole of the season was front loaded with all this baggage unwittingly dumped on the audience for seemingly no reason. Had the show left more in the dark or set up a better cliffhanger that does not ruin the more important mystery, it would have been satisfying.

With streaming services everywhere these days, there is so much content in the open that it is impossible to judge what is worth watching. About 90% of what is available is the same crap you find on cable. The Boys is the exception as it deconstructs the superhero genre in a time when entertainment media is utterly saturated in them. May not be the most intellectual, but the show is a good start in the right direction. If you have Amazon Prime, it is worth looking into if you have eight hours to spare.

Editorial 43: Johnny Mnemonic

At the start of every June is the Electronic Gaming Expo (E3), an event where developers and publishers show off upcoming titles and demos to the public. This year was okay with not many worthwhile announcements other than the Cyberpunk 2077 presentation. While the footage shown was pre-rendered, it revealed that Keanu Reeves would play a character before the man himself appeared on-stage. His presentation became a meme within minutes, but he reminded me of a lesser-known movie from his past. He is best known for Neo in The Matrix, but years before, Reeves was Johnny Mnemonic.

The early 80s and 90s saw an explosion of cyberpunk films. Blade Runner was the first to put the genre to screen and influenced many a prospective director. Hardware, the Nemesis movies, Class of 1999, Cybernator, and Hands of Steel were low budget attempts to capture the essence of Blade Runner. Whether they succeeded or failed is debatable, but because of the volume of such movies, cyberpunk was pigeonholed into B-movie status for years.

By the time Johnny Mnemonic (JM) came out in 1995, many tropes were established in how these movies were supposed to look based on budget limitations. The genre was still in its infancy and I imagine not many producers would take the risk of dumping money into projects about cyborgs. As a result you get a false equivalency: most cyberpunk films are cheap and thrown together, so all cyberpunk movies should be cheap and thrown together.

Rather than begrudgingly accept this fact, JM embraces it. From the very start, the film is proud to be a B movie, and does a great job of appearing professional.

From setting to setting you feel the desolation and decrepitude of the world. The opening hotel scene appears clean and tidy, but it is packed with people and cluttered with stuff that likely does nothing except take up space. Then you get to the truly ruined setting of Newark that is lawless and disgusting with trash piled in corners of run-down buildings. There is this anti-corporate resistance group called Lo-Tek living in this fort built of scrap and garbage on a destroyed bridge with tons of make-shift elements inside.

The costumes leave a bit to be desired. Everything looks mostly thrown together or pulled right out of the closet hours before shooting. Even the borderline homeless Lo-Tek guys look like extras from a Mad Max knock-off. Early on, Dina Meyer’s Jane wears this chainmail top that looks so out of place and uncomfortable that she loses it not long after. All the Yakuza goons wear trench coats that were three sizes too big. Then Dolph Lundgren’s Street Preacher is dressed like a friar that slept in a dumpster for three days straight and somehow he is this powerful cyborg.

However, all the awesome props throughout make up for the lack of better costumes. From mini-cd readers the size of pagers to a giant VR headset made of computer scrap, there are so many little things to admire because the tech in JM is analog. It came from a time when no one knew how advanced wireless would become; hardwire seemed the only way to connect back then. On top of that, it works in favor of the setting because the world is so rundown it has not progressed beyond analog. As a result we get physical, unique props that someone put effort into making appear real.

Good production value can only get you so far without a good story. The titular Mnemonic is a courier that stores information in his brain for delivery. On his latest job, the data Johnny downloads is so overwhelming that it will kill him in a matter of days unless he gets it out. While tracking down a specialist to extract the data to give to the client, Yakuza under contract by a major pharmaceutical company is on the hunt for Mnemonic’s head to take the data.

Given what we know about the storage capacity of the brain today, the story is totally far-fetched. At the start, Reeves plugs a device into his head to give himself extra gigabytes, which does not make sense unless it removed data because the brain retains about 2.5 petabytes. Unless Reeves had a ton of uncompressed crap in his head from other incomplete jobs to the point he deleted parts of his childhood to make room, still nothing makes sense. That being said, the story has stakes and a ticking clock to keep things moving along. Once you divorce logic from the equation it works a lot better and makes for a great cyberpunk adventure.

It also helps that the movie is just about perfectly cast. Actors from a wide variety of fields take up the supporting roles like B-movie veteran Udo Kier, the late voice actor Denis Akiyama, rapper Ice-T, and Takeshi Kitano, a legend in his home country of Japan. The only bad casting choice was Henry Rollins. Whoever thought that was a good idea probably lost their job. Everyone else does very well, but Lundgren had such a tiny part that why he was cast remains a mystery. All he does it show up when the characters need to be in more danger, but he is so non-threatening it does not matter.

The way Reeves plays Mnemonic is related to why he picked the roles he did back then. For years he was the Ted-half in the Bill and Ted movies, a skater-punk that travelled back in time for reasons (haven’t seen it). The kiss of death for actors is to become typecast in the same part over and over again because casting directors think you cannot act. Reeves played a pretty convincing skater-punk and signed on to not only a second Bill and Ted movie (soon to be third), but a show as well. To audiences at large that part was him and Reeves knew he had to show off his acting chops elsewhere, lest succumb to slow career death.

And so he branched out after 1990 with Point Break, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Little Buddha, and did not stop for nearly 24 years. Each new movie he showed off his skills as best as possible with varying degrees of success. The self-imposed demand for diversity shines through in JM where Reeves plays not only an arrogant scoundrel, but also a petty one. Mnemonic’s a morally neutral criminal that takes most dirty jobs and the last thing he wants is complication. When he gets the data uploaded, everything turns upside-down, and he just wants it out of his head. What begins is a cascade of hardships that culminate in a hilarious rant by Reeves that should have been better remembered had people actually seen it.

While JM is not the most remarkable cyberpunk movie, it nonetheless had a look and feel that influenced some, most likely the developers of 2077. Blade Runner may be the grandfather of the visual style of cyberpunk, but it was JM that perfected it if you ask me. Casting Reeves was a no-brainer considering his role as Mnemonic, but after re-familiarizing myself with the movie, I noticed JM had a lot more to do with 2077 than Reeves’ casting.

If you take a scene from the film and put it against any 2077 footage, they almost blend together. The degradation of the setting, rudimentary tech, and clutter are inherent throughout the movie and game. There is some wireless tech, but the hardwire element is still prevalent in 2077 with the characters putting chips in their heads or plugging into each other. It is not a clean setting either with grimy, dirty rooms packed with people. Little things also appear busy and overbearing with oppressive neon advertisements and clothing on the characters that is so complicated I cannot imagine wearing it in public… except the Samurai jacket.

Johnny Mnemonic is based on a story by William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk, and Cyberpunk 2077 is a follow-up to the TTRPG Cyberpunk 2020, which references Gibson’s work as the progenitor of that world’s punk movement. And being the visual realization of a seminal work of cyberpunk, it would be fair to say that Johnny Mnemonic had as much to do with the creation of 2077 as 2020. Casting Keanu Reeves seemed almost necessary. Whether other members of the cast or figures in the cyberpunk genre will also make an appearance remains to be seen.

Obviously I am going to write about 2077 when it comes out next year. Before then I will review the “Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit” in August from the original creators of 2020. As a fan of the genre, the next several months are going to be great. Getting back into writing after an extended hiatus to talk about a cyberpunk movie was a great reminder of why I got into this hobby so many years ago. I apologize for the long wait and it will be a very long time before I leave you guys hanging like that again.

Neon Oldie #22

Cover22

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
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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.

***

Both chairs in the nook were turned out and taken by Ricky and Taro. Monty had joined Kiddo on the couch and everyone but him was eating noodles from foam cups.

“Phone’s ‘re Freddy,” said Ricky. “Clean numbers leading to nowhere incriminating. All they got were texts from Enzo about going out of town. No replies.”

“If anything was 86’d, we’d ‘ve found it,” said Taro.

“Trotsky’s pulled the spy-drive after an hour, but we were already knee-deep.”

“Got neck-deep in the laptop, though.”

“And?” asked Kiddo slurping her noodles.

“Enough dirt to put ‘em away for a dollar or two,” said Ricky.

“And that’s not including their ID theft racket,” added Taro.

“Dollar?” asked Monty.

“Means a hundred years,” answered Kiddo.

Shushin-kei,” said Taro.

Monty rolled of his eyes. “Christ.”

“But we found nothing about hacking software or a hit on ya,” said Ricky. “You were on a list, but so were a whole of lot of Janes and Joes.”

“Had everything they needed except the program,” said Taro.

Kiddo rested her warm cup on her leg, chopsticks inside. “I got stabbed, sliced, and shot at for a handful of dead ends.”

“Not so dead thanks to ya samurai friend,” said Ricky.

“One out of three,” said Taro.

“Not her friend, hacker,” said Monty.

“So, can you get us into TalSec?” asked Kiddo.

“Absolutely no,” said Ricky with a laugh as he stood.

“We’ve wormed through their sub-systems for ind-ep and tester jobs in the past,” said Taro, “but there’s hardly any protection round there. Where we need to be is gonna get us fingered.”

“Know who ya looking for, Pinkerton?” asked Ricky. She waited for him to finish typing in the nook for the answer. He backed away so they could see one of the vertical monitors. “Charlie Kurt, Chief Executive of Auxiliary Activities. He’s the go-between the cops and the company; supervises how their money’s spent and other things of the morally relative variety.”

“Slimy as your typical corporate suit,” added Taro.

Kiddo had stood as Ricky spoke to get a better look. No way she’d forgotten that face from the meeting with Boss Kyrii. She turned to Monty. “Know him?”

“Not my department.”

“But he was at the meeting before we showed up.”

“That’s company business. Not the Clan.”

“Not much a difference,” said Kiddo.

“Anything we can work with would be appreciated, samurai,” said Ricky.

“What’d I just say?”

“Then we go through Pinkerton,” said Taro. “Who’s your contact in the pigs?”

Kiddo slowly reached for her chopsticks like she was afraid to eat and sat back down. “Not a good idea.”

“She’s under investigation for killing my guys,” said Monty.

“Don’t forget Tak.”

“Who?”

“The point is,” she continued, “I call my guy, my number shows up on their radar, I get pinged. The detective working Enzo’s case also hates Goris.”

The hackers weren’t too subtle about relishing the idea of being needed. “That’s two for the grey-hats,” said Ricky before turning his chair in and sitting.

“Know why we couldn’t pay the whole debt days ago?” asked Taro. “Gave a client a discount for a cat-house wipe on account of he’s a cop.”

Ricky put on a headset with a mic. “Didn’t want his wife finding out he had a taste for synth-strange.”

“Charged him half our rate and made up the difference with a favor.”

“And it’s time to cash in.” Ricky typed before their came a dial tone from the computer speakers. Kiddo and Monty gathered closer to the nook.

 

Early dusk shined through the windows as the sun held on to those fleeting final hours. The slats were angled low, leaving the fluorescents to flush out the shadows. Mitty was at his desk clicking through his fancy computer. It looked like a pane of glass with a thin polymer backing held up on a small stand. The keyboard and mouse, however, weren’t so sleek.

Mitty had his back to the glass wall that divided his office from the precinct proper. Day shift was on its way out with the night crew trickling in. He was the only techie left, catching up on the last bit of work. He wasn’t the only one as Cory Rodriguez stood behind him in the entryway, the pits of his desk uniform and forehead just about soaked and an earpiece in one ear.

“H-hey, man?” he asked like he never spoke to the guy before.

Mitty swiveled in his chair.

“Uh, Sarge wants me to check something out in the server room. I don’t know anything about circuits and electronics and stuff. Could you help me out?”

Mitty raised an eyebrow. “Why’d he ask you and not me? I handle all the–“

“No idea. Y’know, the guy likes to mess with me and…”

Keep going,” said Ricky in the earpiece through a modulator.

“…And treat me like I’m still a rookie. You know how it is.”

Good, piggy.”

Mitty held his stare. “No… I don’t.”

 

“Say he wants you to dust off the box,” said Ricky. “He’ll know what you mean.”

Everyone watched the hacker work the guy over while Kiddo let her noodles go cold as she stared at the vertical screen. Kurt’s face lingered in the back of her mind since the meeting with the Shogun; not out of cautious curiosity, but he had features that are hard to forget. And then it came to her like a heart attack, her chest getting hot as burning iron before Kiddo reached into her pocket.

She turned her back to the nook and set her cup on the floor beside the couch. The list of Enzo’s clients had curved before she unfolded it, Steiner and Monty’s names crossed out in red. Kiddo went through two of the papers looking for Charlie Kurt to no avail. On the latest list, however, she focused on the name “Speers, Quincy” stacked among the others.

Maybe it was the distinction of the name for a guy living in the Pacific Northwest, but suddenly Kiddo had this nagging scrape on the inside of her skull. No matter how deeply she searched her memory, she drew nothing but blanks. Could be just a random guy; a regular stiff that Enzo worked on, but Kiddo knew she heard the name before, and the thought would’ve given her a headache had she not realized the hackers were about to make a huge mistake.

That’s not a thing, Cory. Sarge is messing with you,” said Mitty through the speakers.

I know, Freeman. He’s done it since I got here. Can you just humor me? For my sanity’s sake?”

The client list scrunched into a ball in Kiddo’s fist before she shoved herself in beside Ricky. “That’s my guy he’s talking to,” she said quickly. “Freeman? Mitty Freeman? He’s our middleman. Get your guy–“

Ricky wrapped on hand around the mic and spoke with a loud whisper. “No way do I trust this idiot to do the job of a–“

Who’re you talking to?” asked Mitty.

Everyone froze.

Uh, what?” asked Cory. “Nobody–“

Then take out the earpiece. Makes you look like a moron.”

Man, I’m just–“

Ricky tapped a key and took off the headset. It made the others relax, backing up to give him room to move out of the nook. “Up for a break-in, Pinkerton?” he asked after a couple nods to himself.

She opened her mouth about the same time her phone went off. After pulling it out, the hackers calmly panicked with the caller ID showing “MITTY.” Kiddo tapped the red “end” button and the phone went silent. The hackers let out a sigh.

“Gotta move fast,” said Taro.

“I’ll walk you two through a plan we’ve kept on the back-burner for just this occasion,” said Ricky gesturing Kiddo and Monty. “Ever broke into a police station?”

“’Course. Won’t believe the dirt I’ve–“ She cut herself off when there came a flashing in her peripherals. Kiddo looked at her hand and her phone screen was striped in white and black static. Between the distortions she made out the incoming call window with “MITTY” again and the hackers went to full-blown panic.

“Bake it!” shouted Taro.

“Put it in the microwave before–“ started Ricky.

What did I tell you?” asked Mitty through the phone speaker, loud enough for everyone to hear. “What did I tell you, Pink? I said mourn and let me do my job. All you had to do was remember the good times with Enzo, maybe stay in bed for a week or two, but you decided to start a gang war!

The hackers tried to take the phone, but Kiddo had to listen, putting up an arm to keep them away.

All the guys in Organized Crime are losing their minds! First you wipe out a squad of Yaks, then you get caught doing something to the Trotskys, apparently. All the snitches say something huge is about to go down because you wouldn’t let us do our job. Now the whole PD is focused on cleaning up your mess before it gets outta control.”

Kiddo hesitated when he paused, like Mitty was waiting for a response. “Then help me get the guy. I know where to start if–“

I don’t want anything to do with you or the Family or anymore of this Flapper gangster nonsense! Find a new middleman because you couldn’t leave it to the professionals. I’ll live without the money. You started the fire; have fun burning.”

The screen went black and everyone could see themselves reflected in the glass.

 

A thick cable feeding into Mitty’s computer was plugged into his phone before he yanked it. On his monitor scrolled code in a small black window with an audio visualizer that ran in a straight blue line across a grey field. He stood with a sigh and turned to leave, but didn’t go anywhere.

Pierce leaned in the entryway with a wide grin and Dom behind, flanked by two beat cops with helmets on: the Copper and Jacobs.

“Who’re you talking to, Freeman?” she asked with a hefty dose of sarcasm. “Maybe an ole business partner?”

He couldn’t speak no matter how much he wanted to. Just past her shoulder, however, Mitty watched Dom put his phone to his ear, and give him a wink.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
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 #21

Cover21

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
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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 lights were turned on in the living room when Kiddo decided to play nice. Neither her nor Monty was ready to trust the other, keeping their distance, and hands ready to draw. They faced a TV on the wall at the other end of the room. Kiddo had the couch while Monty stood thumbing his phone, sword resting in her lap.

A white wheel rotated on screen. Seconds later the wheel was replaced by an image of Boss Kyrii sitting at a long desk and behind him stood the Mark in a business dress. Sitting atop a wide dresser by a long window to the right of the desk was a trio of ornamental swords on a small rack. The image was at an angel, captured above from the middle of the office.

“Remember her?” asked Monty gesturing the screen. He touched his phone and the image went in motion.

Kyrii was writing on a piece of paper while the Mark was totally motionless, not even raising her chest to simulate breathing. First time she did was to pull out her phone, each motion precise and efficient. When she put it to her ear, the Mark loosened up and her arms dropped to her sides. There wasn’t sound, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out what the Shogun might’ve said after he swiveled his chair in her direction.

The Mark’s head twitched as she looked around the room. She starred at Kyrii, face twisted in a mess of terror and confusion. She turned to the right and stumbled towards the swords on the dresser. Her gate was a staggered limp like she didn’t want to move, but couldn’t stop. The Shogun was halfway standing by the time she unsheathed the middle sword.

Kiddo stood herself to get a better look, eyes wide and lips parted.

Kyrii was still an ancient bastard back then, getting lucky when he stepped back from the Mark’s shambling slash. He backed into the desk and she moved in for a stab. The Shogun jerked to the left off the desk and took a deep cut to his side before landing on his back.

Blood sprayed across the carpet as the Mark straddled him. She would have stabbed him through the chest had his old wrinkled hands not caught the blade. Blood poured from the tip, covering his shirt as the edge dug deeper into his palms. The Mark leaned her weight on the sword, pushing deeper between Kyrii’s hands.

At an inch from penetration a pair of Yaks pulled her off. Another pair, one of them a very young and entirely Flesh Monty, dragged Kyrii to the left out of the TV frame save for the Shogun’s skinny legs. The others shoved the Mark into the window and drew knives. She slashed when they moved in, flinching out of the way. The Mark tried to slash again, but her body seemed to drop her to one knee, and turn the sword on herself. The tip sunk into her throat before she twisted with a spray of white blood.

The Yaks put up their hands to shield their eyes and mouth. When the milky geyser slowed to a trickle the Mark fell facedown, driving the sword through till her neck met the fancy cross guard. The Yaks slowly gathered around her on the outside of the white stains. Monty held Kyrii’s side as he helped him to the scene right before the video faded to black.

Monty turned to Kiddo still staring at the TV. She clicked her blade back into the hilt and hung it on her belt beside the knife she used to decapitate Takashi. “What is it?”

“A hijack program. It starts with an audio signal that causes kernel panic and opens up the control drivers for remote access. She was networked to the company server at the time, completely impenetrable. Being frequency based, all the hacker needed was the right phone number. I take it Enzo went the same way?”

She nodded before taking her seat. “Who was it?”

“The Deng Chi. Chinese don’t like Japanese and when we were making moves in Seattle, they wanted us out quick. The original program came from the PRC. Remember the Xi’an Massacre? That’s what they used to hack people with basic neura-plants, but the Chi adapted the program to work on Androids. Only made it slightly less illegal.”

“Oh, god. What’d you do to them?”

“They’re bones at the bottom of the Sound by now.”

“And the program?”

Monty took a chair across from Kiddo, taking up as much time as possible before breaking it to her. “We sold it to TalSec.”

The spinners whirled when Kiddo formed fists until she stopped herself. “How stupid are you people?”

“If we kept it, we would be. TalSec funds the police and the Gorinni Family pays off the police. This was before your time, Volk, and that program bought us room to grow and my arms and legs. “

“Think I’m dumb enough to believe you didn’t make a copy–“

“Now who’s the stupid one? That program is military tech from a hostile superpower that was used on their own people. The Deng Chi were insane enough to try it out on American soil. A man has to know his limitations, Volk. How do you think the Yakuza were so successful back in the Home Islands? No way we were going to use outlawed software for something as petty as gang politics or a turf war.”

“And you gave it to a competitor.”

“Yes and not only did it secure our place for a time, but further vindicates the Clan’s innocence in Enzo’s suicide. We may have sanctioned Cicero’s assassination, but we face enemies like you in the open–”

“Yeah. I got it.” Kiddo sat back, face to the ceiling as she sighed. “Then we go after TalSec.”

Monty squinted one eye. “Huh?”

Kiddo looked at him. “The hacker got in through Enzo’s phone, so I’ve been collecting phones from clients that had his number. Started with Tak just to be sure, then Steiner, and I came for yours. Now I’m thinking we could go right to the source.” She stood and made for the front door. “You sold TalSec the program; they’ll know how to find the hacker. Tell the Shogun I’ll leave town forever if he can get me in their building.”

Monty stood and watched her put on her coat. “I was told to collect your head, Volk. Already lost face for even thinking about helping you. I’m on my own.”

“Makes two of us.” Kiddo put on her cap. “Then we go to the next best thing.”

 

Monty was at Kiddo’s side in front of the door in the basement, an e-cig in her mouth. After two stiff pounds with her fist it opened to Taro on the other side. There was a gap in his mouth to speak before he noticed Monty and couldn’t say a word.

Motto jikan ga hitsuy–“

“Not here for rent,” he said.

“He’s with me,” added Kiddo blowing smoke. “Any luck?”

Taro stepped aside to let them through. “Should’ve come early. Been warming our hands since morning.”

“Had to pick up my dry cleaning and I hadn’t slept in 48 hours.”

The Christmas lights along the corners of the ceiling were on in the den. Kiddo took to a ratty couch on the wall by the server towers while Monty surveyed his new cramped surroundings just beyond the door.

Taro shut and locked it before making for the kitchen. “Pinkerton’s here,” he said with a raised voice toward the nook at the back.

The vertical monitors displayed scrolling code while smaller ones atop the curved desk showed regular home-screens and open webpages. “Y’late,” said Ricky in one of the red leather armchairs facing the monitors.

“Picked up our new lead; one that’s got us pointed in the right direction.”

With a crinkle of leather he stood. Ricky had his orange jaw mod back in place and a custom VR set over his eyes. It was a black rectangle with cables bundled into a braid running down the back of his head. He pulled it up and kept his eyes squinted. “Brought a fox into the hen house, Pinkerton.”

“Calling yourself a hen inspires great confidence, hacker,” said Monty.

“He’s on our side,” said Kiddo

“Pardon me if I don’t take y’word for it,” said Ricky.

“They may be skinny and squishy, Monty, but they cost me nothing.”

“Don’t be so quick on the draw,” said Ricky pulling down the set and sitting. “This mining’s rackin’ up a hefty sum.”

“I can always take back the jaw, Ricky, and send my people to collect interest on your debt.” Kiddo waited for him to say something then smiled at his silence. “So, what’d you find?”

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
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 #20

Cover20

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
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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 visitor’s area was just for cops, a wide tall room with a single table and two chairs. There were spares stacked to the side where Dom leaned with a cup of coffee in his metal hand on the verge of passing out. Pierce sat with her feet up on one corner, fingering through a tablet while glancing at an open file on the table. At the opposite corner sat a box of donuts. Mixed in with the glazed were four wafer cakes the shape of hexagons with holes.

Pierce reached for one and took a bite without looking away from the tablet. “Eat something or you’ll pass out, man.”

“Gotta watch myself,” said Dom. “One donut and my heart explodes.”

“That coffee ’ll do the trick.”

“This is decaf.”

“Still coffee.”

Dom smirked before taking a sip.

The sliding door on the other side of the room buzzed before the locks clicked open. A CO in khaki and green ushered Reed Tanahn in orange inside. The CO stood by the door as Reed took the seat opposite Pierce before walking back out.

All alone Pierce could feel Tanahn staring at her, and then Dom. Without looking she slid the donuts over to him. “They quit feeding you guys? If I remember correctly, you’re supposed to get fat in jail.”

Reed nodded with a passive grimace. “Depends on what ya eat.”

“They got menus now?” asked Dom.

“Nah,” he answered taking a regular donut. “I’m picky.”

“Well, it’s done you wonders, Tanahn,” said Pierce taking her feet off and sitting up. “You were with the Thompson Family, right?”

“That’s a big yes, detective. I went solo long before I got pinched.”

“Kept the accent, I see.”

“I like the flapper aesthetic. More dignified than most hipster groups.”

“If you say so. Ever been to NewCal, Tanahn?”

“Just San Diego where I was trained. Back then, it was all California.”

“Old timer, eh?” asked Dom. “Sure don’t look it.”

“Good genes.”

“A handsome face can get you places, Dom,” said Pierce, “like on the wrong end of a camera.” She showed Reed her tablet. In black and white it showed a figure in a ski mask crouching behind a strip mall. “The Shasta County deputies didn’t have the equipment, but when they sent the footage we ran the eyes and found you in here for dealing. Now, what would a pusher be doing in redneck country breaking into a gun store? I asked around and some said you sold weapons on the side.”

Tanahn stared at the screen with a sideways smile. “I was never charged with gun running, detective. If I was, I’d have more than a nickel left on my sentence.”

Pierce raised an eyebrow and put down the tablet before looking to Dom.

“It means five years,” he said.”

“Oh.” Pierce turned back. “I guess that’s less stupid.”

“Flappers got words for everything,” said Reed.

“That may be,” said Dom, “but you’ve also got a pretty bad poker face.”

“Here’s your situation, Tanahn,” said Pierce, “you’ll be tried for the burglary in Shasta back in ‘33. All the gear we have logged as evidence was traced back to that store, which will give the prosecution more fuel to your fire. Once you’re convicted, let’s just say you’ll have enough nickels to make you rich.”

“Stupid rich,” added Dom.

Pierce let it simmer, watching Reed come to terms with a few extra decades behind bars. It was almost enjoyable, but before the climax, she pulled out. “That would be the case if anyone but myself and my partner knew what we found.” Tanahn didn’t hide his relief, his shoulders relaxing as he sat a back. “I can tell the judge to cut your remaining time in half or more if you give us a hand with our case.”

As she fingered the tablet Reed reached for another donut. “I sold to the Trotskys. There was the Tacoma Reds, Renton Anarchists, and Seattle Syndicalists. They love classic Soviet and got caches all over the city. I can tell you–“

“We’ll get to that in a bit.” Pierce passed him the tablet. “Look familiar?”

On the screen was a pair of arm mods just like Kiddo’s. Tanahn smiled with a nod. “SK DefPros A12, Mdl-C. Fitted with accelerators that increase grip pressure to nearly a thousand. No active ventilation, though. Beautiful pieces of hardware regardless.”

“They were used to butcher 13 people yesterday morning,” said Dom.

“No better tool for the job, detective. I was gonna tune them up and double the regular price after I brought them home. Real shame.”

Dom brought his coffee down before he could take a sip. “Was?”

“Some coward piece ‘a trash took ‘em out of my place; an experienced coward piece ‘a trash.”

Pierce leaned forward and pointed at the tablet. “Those arms were stolen from you?”

“What’d I just say?”

“It means elaborate, punk,” said Dom.

Reed put down the tablet and took a bite of his donut. “It was… November? ’35? Left my place in the afternoon, came back at night, and the guy hacked into the keypad on my front door. Made off with the arms and some pop-knives. Guy knew what he was doing. Honestly, I was impressed.”

“Who would want to steal from you?” asked Pierce.

“A lot of people.”

“Narrow it down,” said Dom. “Maybe someone could use those mods without major surgery?”

“Who knew you were running guns and hated you?” asked Pierce.

“Uh,” Tanahn wiped his mouth, “some Deng Chi mooks, the Trotskys because I’m a capitalist, low-level weirdos around Tacoma… and Godfather Cicero, the old prick. He was the one that ordered my name into the Black Book for gun running. Is he dead yet?”

Pierce and Dom looked at him then each other. She came back around with a smile and took the tablet. “Lemme show you a face, Tanahn, and tell me what you think.”

 

Monty made sure his footsteps didn’t echo as he ascended the stairs, hand resting on the pommel of his katana. As he rose higher to the floor there came voices that rose in volume with every step. Monty angled his ear to get a bead on what was said. It did him no good until he reached his destination.

Seeing the length of the hall from the stairs Monty watched Tommy and a skinny male Flesh Trotsky at a door across from Kiddo’s. Sally stood in the threshold with her arms hugging her chest like she was protecting her vitals. Her puffy face and shaking voice said a whole lot more.

“I’m not lying,” she said. “I don’t know where she went.”

“How?” asked Tommy with his squeaky voice. “You’re a woman. You’re supposed to be an ally and help each other.”

“A white one,” added the Skinny with a liberal dose of spite.

“Miss Volk doesn’t need help.”

“Not unless you’re trying to keep a secret, racist,” said Tommy.

“I’m not a racist!”

“You better tell us where she is,” said the Skinny, “or we’ll find you on campus and make sure you never hurt anyone ever again.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know where Miss Volk went! Leave me alone!”

Before the Trotskys could hit a soprano Monty decided to make himself known. He stared them down as he approached, stepping as loud as he could without stomping. All three turned his way, but only the comrades felt his gaze bearing down on them. When he stopped before them Sally hid in the threshold while the Trotskys looked between Monty and his sword. Weren’t many options available and they slowly walked around him, Monty turning on his heels to watch them leave down the stairs. Once they were gone he pulled out his phone.

“The two anti-fascists coming out,” he said in Japanese. “Put them in the trunk.” He put it away and turned back, pausing on the police tape and sign on Kiddo’s door. Facing Sally he put on a small smile. “I hope they didn’t bother you for too long.”

She inched out of the threshold. “I know one of them from school. His friends might come after me.”

“I assure you, they won’t.” Sally loosened up and wiped her cheeks. “Actually, I’m sorry to say I’m here for the same reason. I’m a professional rival of Volk and she’s gotten into a little trouble. And I have a feeling it has something to do with that,” he said pointing his thumb at Kiddo’s door.

“Two days ago, Enzo, Kiddo’s boyfriend, killed himself.”

Monty felt a hole opened in his chest. “Do you know why?”

“No! They loved each other so much. They were gonna have a baby and all this stuff and… and they had a fight and that’s when Enzo shot himself. It was so sad. I don’t understand why he’d do such a thing.”

He gave her time to get it together. “Did the cops or Volk say anything about why he did it?”

“Um… when they were questioning me, they asked me something about Enzo’s personal maintenance? If he was prone to motor-fits and Android stuff I didn’t understand. I told them I had no clue other than he always seemed fine.”

“So you have no reason to suspect he would willing kill himself or hurt her?”

“Of course not! They were happy and had plans for the future. I told the police he would never have put a hand on her or even consider suicide. It didn’t make any sense!”

Monty nodded slowly. “One more question, ma’am: did you hear the cops mention something called ‘kernel panic?’”

Sally paused. “Yes, actually. When the coroners were taking away Enzo, one of them said kernel panic and something about hacking. I was right here crying and giving my statement and they were talking about it like it was some joke.”

He stared unblinking at her frightened little face then reached for his wallet and passed her a wad of ten-twenties. “Have a good one.” Walking back to the stairs he pulled out his phone and spoke Japanese. “Everyone off the street. I’ll deal with Volk personally.”

 

Monty’s apartment was a hole in a high rise overlooking Lake Washington. It was an up-scale hole, but you wouldn’t think a guy with his Modded height could fit. He craned his head through the door and flipped on the light, the only light on in the apartment. Monty hung his jacket on the coat rack and made for the kitchen at the right.

He left it beside a red pea coat and grey flat cap.

The space between the breakfast bar and the main counters was about two-and-a-half people wide. Monty turned the light on when he entered, but the living room past the bar was still dark. Monty opened the fridge door and stood to the side so his body wouldn’t block the light into the living room.

“Hungry?” He looked over his shoulder to Kiddo seated in a chair in the corner. The light from the fridge made her sword edge glow. “I have plenty of left-over spaghetti,” he said taking about a glass container. “Meatballs included.”

Kiddo went back in shadow after he shut the door. “Don’t like spaghetti or meatballs.”

Before he fired up the microwave Monty laughed. “Jesus. Love playing gangster, but you just can’t commit.” While the container was being nuked he turned to Kiddo and leaned back against the counter, arms folded. “I went to school in New York, the only New York that matters. All the real gangsters are dead, but there’re plenty of Italians still around, and they play gangster a lot better than you flappers. Real accents, real food–“ The microwave went off, prompting Monty to get a pair of chopsticks from a drawer.

“I’m not interested in a critique–“ started Kiddo.

“They loved telling stories over meals,” he said digging into the spaghetti. “Even with food in their mouths they’re so loud and expressive… Good times.” Not a word was spoken for a long few seconds. “You got your redhead neighbor fingered by the Trotskys. I did what I could with the two soy-boys they sent to find you, but we both know they love to agitate and escalate.”

He could see the news didn’t sit well with her. “Another mess I have to clean up.”

“One of many,” said Monty before he chewed a meatball.

Kiddo leaned back with a sigh, wrapping one hand around the blade resting across her knees. “Would’ve been helpful if the Shogun told me in person. I’d ’ve left those guys alive.”

“The 10K in that envelope should’ve been a big enough hint, Volk.”

“If it’s a finger you want, you’ll have to settle for my toes… if you can get them.”

“You owe more than a digit or two, but after what I learned talking to your neighbor, I find it hard to blame you. Rage is useful if you can handle it, but you’ve been all over the map the past couple days.”

“Then give me a little direction, Monty. I’ll give you time to spill why you saw Enzo three months ago before I carry you out here without your fancy arms and legs.”

He shrugged. “I’ve been seeing him for two years. Came highly recommended by Junior and my guys saw you with him on a regular basis. It was a good deal: I was getting a top-notch gear-head and information on my rival. You were all he talked about… He was a good man–“

Kiddo threw out her right fist to the side and shattered a side table by her chair. At the same time she stood and faced Monty, her sword-hand and free-hand balled into shaking fists.

He didn’t even flinch. “I know what killed him–“

“So do I! A .38 slug through the skull–“

“No, Volk. I know. What killed him.”

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
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 #19

Cover19

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
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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 cinderblock walls were lined with posters of what you’d expect from a gang of Left Wing Extremists. Vintage and modern propaganda hung in cheap plastic frames as Kiddo rushed to the office. It was the first threshold on her right, same place as always. The room was stuffy with a small desk, two thin-screen monitors, and a pair of bookcases. The clutter would’ve been a problem were Kiddo looking for something inconspicuous.

Flipping on her phone light she shimmied around to push the chair back and knelt before the CPU tower under the desk. It was quite analog, the kind Kiddo’s grandparents would have used. She clicked the side panel off, revealing its guts of bundled wire and cooling fans. At the edge of the motherboard were three USB connectors, two of which were occupied. She had plenty of options, but Kiddo settled on the easiest.

She brought around her knapsack and pulled out a skinny thumb drive rigged with an antenna. In a small plastic bag of different cables she picked one that would fit the connector and married it to the thumb drive. Placing the whole thing inside the tower took some strategic packing. A light on the drive blinked green before Kiddo thumbed her phone and locked the panel back in place.

She stood and cut the light about the same time she spotted the fancy modern laptop sitting on a bookshelf at the back wall. It had a sleek body and Kiddo figured whatever was on it would prove just as useful. She glanced over her shoulder to the threshold then opened her sack. After fastening the opening over the laptop, her soul alnost jumped out of her body from surprise.

“Taping the sensor on the interior door was clever,” said Cassidy. “Stupid-simple, but clever.”

Kiddo didn’t dare move because if there was anything she learned ripping off the Trotskys, it’s they’re notorious gun-nuts. “There’s an old Russian saying: whatever works.”

“Doubt that.”

“I’d carefully explain why you’re wrong, but I’d rather keep my identity to myself.”

“Doubt that too. You know who we are. All I have to do is cross-reference the details you’ve given away with our list of subversives. You’re already ours.”

“Sharp,” said Kiddo taking her left hand off the sack. “Sharper than Bernetti. It was only a matter of time before she got pinched. I just helped her to it.”

“…How do you know about the leaks?”

“You said it yourself.” With her eyes she peered down and saw the edge of the desk right where she needed it: behind her left leg. “Look me up.”

Kiddo almost threw herself off with how fast she thrust her arm. Her left fist struck the edge of the desk and sent it spinning across the floor into the threshold. The Chairman jerked back before Kiddo tackled her. Cassidy was a head-and-a-half taller, but it didn’t make a difference against speed and combat-rated mods. The old fashion AK she was holding hit the floor when they stumbled into the hall. Kiddo had the sack in hand when she gripped a thick tuft of Cassidy’s hair from behind. The Chairman shrieked louder when Kiddo forced her to face the other end of the hall.

Tommy and the Secretary were blocking the way to the loading dock behind their own AKs. “Let go of Cassidy!” he shouted with a voice that cracked.

Her hood came off in the commotion, so Kiddo decided to play with them. “Can’t you see the hair?” she asked with a smile. “I’m one of you, chunk. I hate straight white men and love soymilk. Communism and the Matriarchy will save the world!”

“Yeah right!”

The way he said it made her laugh out loud.

“Drop the bag and we’ll let you go,” said the Secretary with an icy voice.

“I’ll yank her scalp off her skull if you don’t move out of the way.”

“Do it!” strained the Chairman.

“But Comrade –“ started Tommy.

“Do it, you idiots!”

Tommy and the Secretary glanced at each other and inched into the superstore proper. Kiddo slung the sack over one shoulder and edged forward to keep pace. She knew they couldn’t hit the side of a barn, but she put as much of Cassidy between her and those guns as possible.

The two Trotskys were well out of the hall when she stopped. “Oh! Almost forgot…” With her free hand Kiddo patted down the Chairman’s front pockets, including her flat ass.

“Stop assaulting Cassidy–“ cracked Tommy

“Aw, shut up!” yelled Kiddo before she pulled the phone from her jeans. “When they were taking over the Motherland,” she said pocketing the phone and putting her back against the swinging doors, “Dad’s ancestors were doing their own assaulting. And that straight white man on your chests told them to do it.” Kiddo gave them one more smile. “Beregite sebya, tovarishchi!”

Her shove almost made Cassidy airborne before knocking into Tommy and the Secretary. The loading dock was clear of obstruction with the lights off, but Kiddo could see the outline of the closest shudder. By the time she was standing in front of it there came the piercing bark of automatic fire. Concrete burst around her with flashes of sparks when the slugs hit metal. Tommy and the Secretary were aiming correctly as they walked in, but they hit everything around Kiddo except Kiddo.

It was no excuse to stay longer when she shoved her fingers between the shudder’s slats and made a hole. The asphalt came at her fast after diving through and Kiddo remembered she had fragile equipment on her back. Her hands met the ground first, forcing her to slide on her side. There was a loud tear and burning scratch, but Kiddo was too busy running to see what it was. As she sprinted up from the dock to the north side she felt wind ride up her leg.

The asphalt burst at her feet and tossed hot shards toward her neck. She swung left, putting the superstore in front of their aim. It gave her time to climb the fence and land in the woods before she saw Cassidy and the goons come around the corner. Kiddo rushed deeper. They weren’t shooting, but she wasn’t eager to make sure. The air was moist and thick, the ground cluttered with roots. Kiddo hiked her knees up from fear of tripping, darting side to side to keep from running into the thick trunks.

The trees thinned out when she came upon a road. Lampposts running in both directions were still functioning, showing Kiddo she was well and truly alone. She held herself up by her knees and listened between labored breaths for movement in the woods.

As she got control of her lungs she noticed the rip in one pant leg, showing off a chuck of her thigh, and a bright red friction burn. Confident she wasn’t being chased Kiddo pulled a roll of duct tape from her sack.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
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.