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.
With a ding the elevator opened to the conference room. Monty stood closest to the door, followed by his Bots, and Takashi and Kiddo leaning against the window looking out to the Puget Sound. The elevator was positioned at the far end of the room. It was wide open with a vaulted ceiling that set it apart from your average office space. Instead of plain walls and doors there were sliding rice paper walls. The floor was polished wood where stood a table that was so short you had to sit on your ass with cushions.
If you ignored our tepid trio in the elevator, there were only five people present in the room. Seated at the head was the Shogun, an old man on the edge of 80. He wore a business suit minus the jacket, hugging his skinny frame. Where his spine met his cranium an external drive hid under the curtain of grey hair. It had a slight curve, flush with his skull. To the Shogun’s left sat two box-standard Yaks, waiting for orders.
Opposite them was a suit and a not-your-average cop. The suit was about as basic as you could get when it comes to a salaryman; clean cut, young face, and a fresh two piece suit that put the Yak getup to shame. A portion of his hair on the left side was shaved and dotted with neural ports, one fitted with a translator chip by his ear. Next to him the cop wore a fancy double-breasted tunic of blue and silver. His stiff shoulder straps bore three stars with a badge and colored tabs over his heart. He looked old with a white flattop and goatee, but he was built like an athlete.
Everyone but the Shogun bothered to acknowledge the new arrivals, looking happy to see them.
“A moment, Montgomery,” he said from the other end of the room.
Monty and the Bots stepped out before they bowed.
The Shogun returned to the table.
“I trust we have an understanding, gentlemen?”
The cop nodded with a grimace.
“We do, but this isn’t over, Kyrii,” said the suit. “Plenty of variables left to consider.”
“Damn straight,” said the cop under his breath.
“Of course; battle’s over, but the war, and all that cliché nonsense. Think of this as an extended hiatus. We’ll lick our wounds and come back to the ring ready to start again. Agreed?”
The two nodded at the same time. The Shogun smiled and started to stand, the Yaks helping him.
“Have a good rest of your day, gentlemen,” he said with a bow.
The men bowed back and made for the elevator.
“Gimme 12 hours, access to R-‘n’-D, and I–“ said the cop with a conspicuous whisper.
“–Save it for the car ride, Ira,” said the suit. “We have plenty of time.”
Kiddo, Takashi, and Monty were taking off their shoes when they passed. Kiddo caught the eye of the suit when she hung her hat on a hook above. It wasn’t much of stare, but enough she unconsciously logged his face in the back of her mind. The two broke it off when she had to move on into the conference room proper.
“A pleasure to finally meet you both,” said the Shogun. “Names and reputations can only get you so far.”
The Yaks helped him bow and everyone but Kiddo returned it. Takashi looked back at her standing with her hands in her pockets.
“Bow, you idiot,” he said under his breath.
One of the Yaks reached for a wakizashi on his belt before the Shogun waved him back.
“No need, Takashi-chan. Emotions are high enough thanks to your poor planning last evening.” The Shogun moved back to the head of the table. “Come sit. Let us talk business.”
The Yaks switched places and sat to the Shogun’s right. Monty was closest by the corner on the other side while Kiddo and Takashi stacked beside him.
The Shogun cleared his throat and clapped twice. The rice paper walls at the back of the Yaks slid to the side and out came a small troupe to join them. Five of the new arrivals carried something in their hands: a small ream of paper, a fancy raised cutting board, and three platters of nigiri. The platters were placed in the middle of the table while the cutting board and paper were set down by the edge.
“Feel free to indulge,” said the Shogun gesturing the platters. “Rest assured, none of it is poisoned.”
“I already ate.”
“Fair enough, Kiddo-chan.”
A short silence came to the table when the raw fish and rice was picked up and chewed whole.
“…So,” said Takashi, “shall we start?”
The Shogun smiled before he turned his back to the Yak by the corner. She pushed the old man’s hair out of the way and pulled the drive off, leaving behind a pair of old fashion neural ports, the kind that looked like headphone jacks glued to his skin. She replaced the drive with another that was more angular. The Shogun sat up straight, his eyelids quivering for a moment.
“Now we may start,” he said opening his eyes. “Firstly, what do they call you on the street, Kiddo-chan?”
She took what she could get.
The Shogun chuckled.
“I mean your nickname. I am afraid it is not in my backup, but I recall it is something consistent with the flapper terminology?”
Even if she wanted to kill the old man and his boys, Kiddo couldn’t help but feel a little humility in the presence of an elder.
“Aw! That’s it! Can you explain the meaning or is it in reference to your hair?”
“…Cici explained that a hundred years ago, when companies had problems with workers going on strike, they called the Pinkertons. They were mercs that cracked skulls, pulled security, and hunted people for the right price. I do all of that and with my hair he thought it fit.”
“Given your persona and reputation, I could not agree more. Thank you for the in-depth explanation. Do you speak Japanese?”
“Not a word.”
“I cannot say I am surprised. Your heritage is Russian-Korean, two peoples Japan had treated rather unfairly.”
“Past is past.”
“True, but it is important to consider the faults of our ancestors when the need arises.”
“If that’s case, would you call the Rape of Nanking rather unfair?”
Everyone stopped eating and looked at her with calm shock. Takashi rubbed his eyes while Monty bit his lower lip and looked down. The Shogun pursed his lips and made a shallow grin.
“…Then I beg your pardon as I talk to Takashi-chan in Japanese. We may be American, but we mustn’t lose our language.”
“Don’t let me stop you,” she said grabbing a salmon nigiri, the table still looking at her.
The Shogun looked to Takashi straightening himself out.
“You did well,” he said in Japanese. “Your simple gambit saved lives that would have been lost had our conflict progressed.”
He inclined his head, digging through his memory for how to reply.
“Thank you, Kyrii-sama.”
“Instead, you sacrificed only two, one more than you were ordered to take.”
Suddenly Takashi knew he was in a bad spot.
“I-I didn’t see any other way.”
“That Android was my secretary before she was soul’d. And yet, after gaining her individuality, she decided to stay by my side. She made her own life and you took it for a ploy that was unnecessary.”
“I couldn’t get to Cicero if Kiddo was in the way–“
“–So you devised a distraction to get her arrested in order to kill him afterward? The Trotskys and Deng Chi are morons, but they do not lack finesse in their various schemes. Not only that, but you defied our one condition; no one but Cicero Gorinni dies. Was Montgomery not clear in his instruction?”
Takashi was alone, the whole table looking at him as he searched for an answer that wouldn’t come to mind. He just sat there, red-faced with a sinking feeling in his gut. The Shogun nodded to the Yak with the cutting board before he pushed it toward Takashi.
“You are a proxy, but will pay for your mistake like Yakuza.”
Kiddo didn’t have to know Japanese to understand what was going on. For the first time that morning she was smiling. Then it felt like Christmas when Monty put a knife on the board.
“The small finger on the left,” continued the Shogun. “We will wait.”
With trembling hands he took his time to reach for the knife. Takashi shook even more when he saw his sweaty, scarlet face reflected in the perfect blade. He took longer to place his left hand flat on the board and angle the edge against the second knuckle of his pinky. He winced when the blade broke the skin, not enough to bleed much. Takashi’s shaking made it worse, widening the cut, and creating other scratches.
The whole table waited for him to do it. Kiddo looked like a maniac in a straight jacket, her teeth visible in a grin. Takashi breathed hard when he leaned into the blade. He growled to himself, but all he got for his effort was a deeper cut. Finally he worked up the courage for an old fashion chop, placing just his pinky on the board and raising the knife.
The pinky went spinning upward before rolling onto the polished wood of the table. Takashi did his best to hold in his cry, grabbing the remaining stump with a scrunched face. Kiddo watched him groan before taking another piece of nigiri, trying not to laugh. A few Yaks cleaned up the mess, picking up the finger and wiping the blood with white rags. Two stood and came around behind Takashi to pick up the blade and board, leaving him a cloth.
When the table was clear, the Yak with the ream of paper pushed the stack over.
“Your blood on the line will be sufficient,” said the Shogun.
Kiddo pulled the papers to her side and flipped through them, the text printed in English and Japanese on both halves of each page.
“Profit shares?” she asked.
“Only a 10% percent stake,” he said in English. “No more, no less.”
She put the ream back in front of Takashi. He pulled away the cloth and held his bloody hand over the bottom edge of the paper, a trio of neat crimson droplets hitting right on the line. Monty brought the ream before the Shogun.
“It seems our primary business is concluded. Is their anything more on the agenda?” No one said a word and the Shogun moved to stand. “Then I will bid you two farewell.”
The two Yaks helped him stand while the rest of the table got up. When everyone bowed Kiddo hesitated, her body working against what she actually wanted. Didn’t want to make a deal with the enemy, but she got to see Takashi in pain.
That alone made the Shogun worthy of courtesy.
Our trio returned to the elevator while most of the Yaks filed out of the conference room, Takashi wrapping the cloth around his hand. The Bots were still standing by the door like mechanical art statues. Kiddo slipped into one of her boots before she looked to the Shogun standing by the end of the table.
“I appreciate behaving your self, Kiddo-chan,” he said. “The Nanking remark was unwarranted, but when we are angry, people do what they can to relieve the tension, especially when we are compelled to stay our hand.”
He put his hand out to the Yak at his side before he received a thick envelope. Kiddo caught it after the old man tossed it over.
“A gang is not unlike a real family. There are fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters working together to run a business. Keep in mind, when you feel the urge, that Takashi-chan is my employee, my new adopted son. Should he be parted with his head in the near future, then the Gorinni Family and it’s children will become the Kyrii Family. Understand?”
A bit dramatic for a threat, but Kiddo got the picture and nodded. The Shogun smiled and walked back to the other end of the table, helped along by his people. Before she put on her last boot, Kiddo peaked into the envelope and turned red.
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.