Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
The tumblers clicked and ticked in the dark. Only after a stiff clank and turn of the knob did the door open. Kiddo Volk stood in the threshold, the flickering fluorescents bending around her silhouette.
You couldn’t tell she was half Korean with skin as pale as a ghost and eyes as blue as glaciers. She wore a crimson pea coat and grey flat cap. A pair of tight blue jeans hugged her slender legs with jackboots that came up just before her knees. Her hands were squeezed by black leather driving gloves, the holes at the knuckles showing a glimpse of her prosthetics.
Kiddo placed the lock picks inside the silver case beside her e-cigs. Returning the case to her inside pocket, she pulled out her phone, and clicked on the flashlight. Kiddo made sure the door was locked behind her before moving on. On her belt hung a knife handle that swung against her backside as she walked.
The den’s floor was covered in raggedy Persian rugs. Kiddo probed the darkness with her light, finding a trio of server towers to her left. To the right was a small kitchen with a table for two. Cables from the towers were strapped into bundles, trailing across the floor under the rugs. She followed them to a nook at the back of the room, lined with vertical computer monitors. There sat two leather armchairs with a sliding keyboard on each armrest.
Kiddo returned to the front door to mount her cap and coat on a coat tree, leaving her with a tight sleeveless shirt. She was Modded with two polymer arms the color of ivory with black-grey mesh between the plates and her hair was fashioned into a pink undercut shaved close. At the nook she held her phone in her teeth to turn one of the chairs out, her arms making a quiet whine from handling the weight. When it faced the front door she put out her light and sat down.
As if on queue there came footsteps down the hall with accompanying muffled voices.
“…Gotta spend money to make money.”
“Says dummies who don’t know how to spend smart. The more negatives y’get, the lesser a positive sum accumulates.”
At a door came a jingle of keys.
“Malarkey. How do y’think the high-hats downtown got so big?”
“By not being stupid with money!”
“You’re too cynical. We did this job right, which means more guys like that cop will pay for our services. We’ll be the go-to grey-hats in no time. Y’get me?”
A key slid into the lock with a click of tumblers.
“Okay. But no more stupid spending or I walk.”
Ricky and Taro didn’t look like scum, but they fit the bill once you got to know them. Ricky was Flesh with all his fingers and toes. Taro was Modded with a jaw skinned in orange latex and a pointed chin that didn’t fit his face.
“To where, the poor house?” asked Taro making for the kitchen. “Where would we be without each other?”
Ricky flipped on the Christmas lights pinned along the corners of the ceiling. When he took off his jacket to hang on the coat tree, he saw Kiddo’s coat and cap on one of the hooks.
They were too small to be either of theirs.
“How’s it hanging, Ricky?” she asked.
He turned and shoved his back into the tree, knocking it over. Taro walked back to his partner with a bottle of meta-milk, the kind that keeps invasive-mods running. His expression was totally blank, but you could tell what he was feeling.
“Pinkerton?” asked Ricky.
“Nice mod, T. Better than the voice box the doc gave you after the op.”
“…I got high standards.”
“I bet. Expensive is the way to go, even if you can’t afford it.”
“Well, I could’ve. Did the hard work and everything like a regular Joe.”
“Best not kid yourself. They don’t call us thieves because we work hard.”
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” said Ricky.
“Oh, you did, but nothing serious in the grand scheme of things. This is a technicality.”
“We paid Cicero everything,” said Taro.
“You guys are pretty terrible at math,” she said standing up. “Last I checked, 6,243 bucks isn’t the same as eight grand. As hackers, you aught to be ashamed of yourselves.”
“We also told your gal we’d have the rest by the end of the month.”
“That kid’s a scrub we hired a week ago.” She came closer, pulling the handle off her belt. “Still learning the ropes. I’m here to finish the job.”
Taro couldn’t move, but Ricky made for the door.
“If you run this’ll get a whole lot nastier.” She popped a six-inch blade from the handle in an inverted direction. Along the thin metal strip were groves that ran parallel to the top edge like a box cutter.
“How ‘bout you pick up that coat thing and fight for it?”
Ricky grabbed the shaft and swung it at Kiddo. Didn’t take much for her to lean out of the way. He swung again and came up empty.
“You’re killing me, pal. Gimme your best shot.”
Losing ground he backed up and charged with the coat tree like a spear and Kiddo stopped playing around. She moved in and cut the wood like it was nothing. Grabbing Ricky by the crotch she flipped him up, the ceiling low enough he made impact.
Kiddo left him groaning on the floor and continued to Taro playing statue by the door. She took his bottle, downing the whole thing in a couple gulp. After putting it back in his hand, she stood on her toes and clicked a knob on the inside corner of his jaw.
Taro’s eyes grew wide when the servos hissed and his mouth went agape. The latex skin slid away from his flesh before Kiddo pulled the mod off by the chin. His tongue drooped from his maw, exposing nerve sockets under his ears, and an anchor joint behind each cheekbone with myomer plugs. The upper portion of his neck would have been open without the skin graph keeping his throat and larynx in place.
Kiddo retracted her knife and hooked it on her belt, looking at the serial number engraved in the jaw’s aluminum armature.
“You have a week to make up the difference,” she said picking up her coat. “If you don’t, my boyfriend will sell your fancy mod on the sly for double what you owe. Then you’re in deeper with the Gorinnis.”
With her cap in one hand and the jaw in the other she made for the door. Kiddo stopped just before stepping out.
“Look at me.”
Taro slowly turned, dripping spit on his chest.
“If you want to be whole again, take your partner’s advice and stop spending like a moron. See you around, T,” she said with a smirk before moving on.
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.