Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
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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.
Junior sat at the counter in the waiting room with the lights off. He closed up an hour ago, but there was work left on his computer. As he typed away a car drove by and cast columns of light across the room. The only thing brighter was the monitor two feet before his face. Another car passed and for a second you could see a pair of gloved fingers pry open the automatic doors at his back.
Kiddo squeezed through the gap, front side facing Junior. She dropped off her pea coat and jeans at a cleaner that specialized in blood and discretion. This time she wore a grey hoodie and matching sweatpants with those crappy tennis shoes from last night.
She left the gap open and crept toward Junior, stepping from heel to toe until she was two-arms away. When his chair swiveled Kiddo rolled in front of the counter and got small. She edged into cover and watched Junior walk to the gap.
“The hell?” With a short grunt he pushed the doors closed and made for his seat. “Piece of garbage.”
After the chair creaked Kiddo walked upright behind him. She pulled his right wrist from the mouse and dug her fingers into his left shoulder. Junior didn’t gasp or flinch, frozen with eyes bugged-out.
“Hiya, Junior. How’s business?” He couldn’t get a word out he was so scared. “Like the new hardware? They’re milspec. Stole ‘em from a gun-runner in Tacoma. They come with haptic sensors and this,” she said with a whirl of the spinner under her sleeve, “feels like your collarbone.”
“I’ll pay you back everything,” he said quickly.
“Keep the money. I want Enzo’s personal clients. The ones he saw on the regular and kept their numbers.”
“Like- like from this month?”
“Let’s start there,” she said letting go of his wrist. “Gimme a hard copy.”
Her grip loosened on his shoulder as he typed and clicked. The printer to the right in the shadow of the counter spat out a paper lined with names and numbers that took up half the page. Kiddo picked it up with her free hand and scanned for anyone that struck a cord. “Gimme one from last month and the month after that.”
“Might get repeats–“ he stopped when her grip tightened.
“And I might not.”
Junior printed another two sheets. The list on top was shorter and Kiddo didn’t have to look close to see someone familiar. She picked up the papers, joining it with the first, and underlined the name ‘Steiner, Cassidy’ with her thumb. “Hello, bitch.”
She quickly scanned the last page and the look of a delighted scoundrel Kiddo was known for went rigid and serious. She slowly let go of Junior and held the paper with two hands like it weighed tons. Her jaw clenched and before her face got any redder, Kiddo made for the front door, leaving Junior to rub his shoulder. Another passing car painted her in stripes as she folded the three papers together.
“See you round, Junior.”
Renton was a nice change of scenery. It had a suburban feel if nature went out of control. Grass filled cracks in sidewalks and weeds sprouted from shattered asphalt. It wasn’t a town that time forgot, but at an hour till midnight, anywhere could look deserted. The boarded and fenced fast-food joints and superstores didn’t help. One store was an old hardware chain that went under years ago, standing like a monolith surrounded by forest on three sides. The closer you got to the place, the less abandoned it looked.
Arranged in a checkered board at the front were two rows of wide garden boxes. From black soil rose corn, soy, wheat, and tomatoes near ready for harvest. Next to the entrance tools and baskets were gathered beneath wooden awnings with sheet metal roofs. Along the length of the superstore from the awnings solar panels were angled to the sky. The gardens and panels were new to Kiddo. What waited inside she had no idea, but what never changed since the night Cicero sent her in starred down from the middle of the superstore. Rendered in black graffiti were the shadows and lines of the face of Leon Trotsky, a man so dangerous in his time, Stalin had an ice axe buried in his skull.
The first time she saw the face Kiddo remembered her father’s history lessons. Memories of vivid descriptions and her mother telling him to tone down the horrific imagery flooded her mind every time she saw the face or a Trotsky on the street. She wondered how insane do you have to be to idolize such a degenerate, the thought making all the stealing and sabotage easy. Keeping her eyes on the face Kiddo sniffed hard and hocked a thick wad on the asphalt. “Suka,” she said before tightening the straps of her knapsack and flipping on her hood.
It’d crossed her mind that the Trotskys got wise to her numerous burglaries, given all the intimate details of various schemes the cops magically acquired to get a warrant or several, not to mention the missing funds and rosters. Naiveté was a thief’s death and Kiddo knew she was going to try something new.
She ran right toward an outcropping that was used for loading lumber onto customer cars. It was shorter than the main roof with a drainage pipe that ran from the top like a steel vein. The whole time she climbed the pipe Kiddo expected the screws to come loose. The roof of the outcropping was gravel when she climbed over and rushed to the remaining pipe.
On the main roof she crouch-walked to a large set of skylights. There were smaller ones spread out, but painted over with grey. The old wrecked AC units she used to squeeze through to climb across the rafters were replaced with new ones that couldn’t be opened unless she wanted to make noise or get shredded by fans. The small turbines were also out of the question.
At the skylights Kiddo had to crawl to keep her shadow low then cupped her eyes around the glass. The ceiling lights were off, but at the back shined something bright. It wasn’t clear because a giant red and black flag hanging from the rafters covered the view. Trotsky’s face was also on the flag.
Kiddo crawled away and knelt by one of the covered skylights. She ran her fingers under the rim and scanned the sides all the way around. The motion sensor bolted to one hinge near gave her a heart attack when she almost touched it. Kiddo sat up with a long sigh and pushed her eyebrows back. Of course, there were other options, but she didn’t want to think about them. Last thing she wanted was to make this harder than she preferred.
Nevertheless she crouch-walked to the back where a ladder was calling her name. She climbed up and hung off the side to see the loading dock below. On either side of four tall shudders were smaller adjacent doors. Without seeing them through the darkness she knew they were fitted with sensors, but Kiddo resigned herself to make this hard.
The stage was built of bare wood with red curtains and a floor of polished panels. It was surrounded at the front by a square of folding chairs with a path down the center. Lights were positioned along the front edge with covers that directed illumination inward. Only a few were on as Chairman Cassidy Steiner stood in the middle.
She was Modded from one knee down. It was an artistic prosthetic modeled to look Victorian with scrollwork and brass clockwork that serve no purpose. She had on a dark khaki military tunic with stiff gold and red straps on the shoulders. One sleeve had a circular patch of the red and black flag with Trotsky’s face. Instead of military trousers Cassidy wore ripped jeans: one leg bloused into a black boot and the other rolled up to show off her mod.
The Secretary sat in the front row with a pen and legal pad in hand, wearing a similar uniform with the sleeves off, and the patch over her heart. On her back the Seattle skyline was stitched with a gold hammer and sickle in the background. “Ready when you are.”
The Chairman cleared her throat as she touched her purple hair tucked in a bun. She put her hands behind her back and forced herself upright. “Ladies and gentlemen. The Renton –“
“Gotta be gender binary, babe.”
“My bad. I had speech class this morning. It was the formal oratory exam?”
“I almost failed that one,” said the Secretary adjusting her glasses. “Petersen is such a test Nazi.”
“Yup. Okay. I got it now. Ready?”
The Secretary nodded.
“Comrades. The Renton Anarchist Commune has enjoyed great success and prosperity this past year.” She paced as the words came to her. “We are nearing completion of our seconded Three Year Plan and our homeless outreach program has not only helped displaced and impoverished persons, but increased our annual recruitment rate by 5%. To our sister groups that may seem small, but any victory is still a victory…”
She spoke like in a one on one conversation, but her voice carried between the thin walls that partitioned the store floor into different sections. There was a kitchen, storage area filled with boxes and barrels, and a barracks with three-stack bunk beds. Being a school night the place was almost empty save for a few bums in the barracks. In the rec room sat Comrade Tommy on a second-hand couch playing a videogame in front of a large TV.
A thin wire fed from the controller in his thick hands to the back of this head under a blue Mohawk as he watched the screen. He was utterly transfixed, but when the tablet lying by one love handle went bright, Tommy turned away. What he found made him yank the wire and rush out into the hall. He wasn’t exactly fit, so his rush was a fast walk with heavy steps.
“…protest at the Dalai Lama Memorial in Astoria, we have started a national conversation that questions the legitimacy of the Pacific Celestial Sphere and it’s illegal war against the People’s Republic of China,” continued Cassidy as Tommy arrived. He approached slowly with the tablet down the center path. “We… It was not long ago our senior members and mentors stood up against the theocratic fascism of America and its puppet master Israel as they…” She stopped pacing and turned to the Secretary. “I don’t like that last line. Feels weird.”
“Just say whatever comes to mind and I’ll edit it together to make it sound nice.”
“Oh, yeah.” The Chairman was about to continue when she spotted Tommy. “What do you need, Thomas?”
He looked twice as nervous when she used his formal name and came closer to the Secretary. “Um, Comrade Chairman,” his voice effeminate, “the motion sensor went off at the loading dock. One of the small doors.”
“Which one?” asked the Secretary taking the tablet.
“Uh, the one by the old locker room.”
Cassidy looked at the tablet when the Secretary held the screen outward. “It’s probably Joshua. They always comes back after hours looking for more.”
“We should ban them,” said the Secretary passing back the tablet. “They take without giving. It’s against policy.”
“Only for members,” said the Chairman hopping off the stage to join them. “They’re just another causality of this rotten system. That’s where we come in.” Tommy and the Secretary followed her to the threshold built into the store’s main structure by the stage. It led into a hall with the loading dock through a pair of swinging doors at the right end. “Let’s get Joshua fed.”
Kiddo watched the three Trotsky’s enter the hall from under the stage. When they were out of sight, she inched between the support beams and crouch-walked to the edge of the threshold. The doors creaked before lights flickered on through the small square windows, nobody standing watch. That was her cue to dash down the left end of the hall, the linoleum floor making whispers of her feet.
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.