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 have the honor of reviewing an early copy of the new “Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit” in August from the original creators of 2020 thanks to R. Talsorian Games 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.

Neon Oldie #18

Cover18

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.

***

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.

***

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 #17

Cover17.png

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.

***

Kiddo shook the last flecks of blood from Takashi’s head. Retracting the blade she pocketed the knife and searched through his pockets. After retrieving his phone she limped back toward her stool.

“Small bag and some dry rags,” she said. The Gori’s watched her stagger to her place at the end of the bar like she was Jesus swinging his ass across a lake. Kiddo put the head and phone on the bar before picking up her sword from the floor. That’s when she noticed everyone staring. “Please?”

Suddenly they tired to look busy. Lotch passed his rag over then bent down for a fresh stack from the laundry. Kiddo ran her sword blade through the rag, followed by the knife, before one Gori put a small black plastic bag by Takashi’s head.

“Alright, guys,” said Lotch struggling to find the words. “Get the big trash bags inna back and the bleach–“

“Gimme the first aid kit instead,” said Kiddo.

“You’re gonna need more than band aids, Pink,” he said as a Gori passed her a white tin with a red cross on the lid.

“It’ll do.”

“Lemme put in a call to Arn and get you–“ began another Gori.

“What did I say?”

Her tone and the look in her eyes made everyone freeze. They’d never heard her talk or look so serious. In a few seconds of shock they watched her pull her jeans down and shirt off. They were kind enough to look the other way, but Kiddo didn’t care if they saw her goods.

“Leave the bodies,” she went on, wiping the cuts with a fresh rag. “You showed up for the funeral and found them like this and that someone wiped the camera feed from this morning.”

She didn’t have to say more for them to understand, two Goris making for the back room behind the bar.

“What else?” asked Lotch.

Last thing she wanted was to keep talking, wiping her arms like cleaning a car. “Call the cops after I leave. The Jap capos ‘ill know it was me, but they’ll keep it in the family ‘cause we own the cops.” She groaned while wrapping herself in gauze. “All the heat will be on me.”

“And after that–“

Kiddo scoffed. “I don’t know, Lotch! Do what you like. This has nothing to do with business or the line of succession. This is all mine. Just an ole fashion vendetta against whoever made Enzo blow his brains out. Tak was just a loose end.”

“Well, you’re leaving this ship with no captain. How we gonna stay on course if the last guy just lost his friggin’ head?”

Kiddo smirked as she fastened her belt. “Seems you’re ready to mutiny. Be my guest. I’m going over board.”

Lotch nodded with a short sigh. “You can say that again.”

Rather than put on her shirt Kiddo slipped into her pea coat and wrapped her shirt around Takashi’s head. Once the whole thing was in the bag, it looked like dirty laundry.

“I don’t wanna see or hear about any of you helping me,” she said clipping her sword to her belt. Then Kiddo put on her cap and glasses and limped to the front door. She almost forgot to slip on her gloves before typing in the new password. “I was never here.”

The cold breeze felt good on her cuts through the fabric as she limped down the sidewalk. Kiddo thumbed through Takashi’s phone to recent calls and put the speaker to her ear.

Stop calling me, Sterling,” said Monty after a couple rings.

“He’s dead. You’re next.”

 

Monty looked at the phone after pulling it away with a flat grin. “Sterling’s dead,” he said in Japanese.

“And the guys we sent him with?” asked one Yak sitting across from him in the car.

“Let’s assume they’re dead too and I know who did it.” Monty raised his voice so the driver could hear him. “The Gorinni club.”

“But Boss Kyrii–“ said the same Yak.

“Did I stutter, boy?”

The driver answered by turning onto the next street.

 

The Yaks followed Monty up the sidewalk, blades and batons ready. When he turned the corner they almost ran into his back.

From curb to curb the whole front of Le Speak was stacked with blue and whites and a pair of quad-peds hitched to lampposts. Investigators in rubber coveralls were going in and out while one cop was posted at each end of the sidewalk. Monty and his boys stood like rabbits trying to evade a predator as Detective Pierce crossed the street with her portly partner Dom at her back. She was swiping through a tablet, but glanced at the Yaks in a brief pause. It was enough to make Monty about-face back the way they came.

“Call the boss,” he said.

 

Investigators dotted the club, taking pictures and flashing faces with hand-scanners, and marking evidence and blood splatters with numbered sticky notes. Lotch and the Goris were gathered and segregated on the clean half of the club as beat cops questioned them. The bodies and their assorted parts were covered in black sheets.

Pierce was putting on a pair of latex gloves by the time she reached the bottom of the stairs. “Now this is a proper mess.”

“True that,” said Dom slipping into his own, one over a fancy chrome hand. “Been a while since we had a turf war.”

“Then let’s collect some dog-tags. Dibs on the bodies.”

“Got it.”

They bumped each other’s fists before separating. Dom made for the cops while Pierce stepped carefully around the splatter patterns to the body by the bar. Under the sheet she looked at the Yak’s crushed face, his remaining eye still open.

“Looks like the Jaws of Life did him in,” said the Investigator off the side flashing the bar top.

“More like Jaws of Death.”

He chuckled. “Good one.”

“You pull anything off that yet?” she asked pointing to the baton sticking out of the cranium of the Yak close by.

“We were gonna yank it outta him at the coroners before–“

“Scan it and get back to me in five.” She laid the sheet down and stood. “Whoever did this is very pissed off with weapons-grade or construction-rated mods. We’re bound to get designator prints off that handle.”

“What do you care?” said a Gori from the group across the club. “They’re Yakuza. They’re right where they friggin’ belong. Worse than us, if you ask me.” Those around him agreed with nods and mutters.

“You’re right, punk, we really don’t care,” said Pierce crossing over to the kid. “What they don’t show you on those awful police procedurals is how little a few dead bodies fazes us on the daily. We’re janitors with better pay and fancier uniforms. Mopping up a massacre is just part of the job.” Now she was right in front of him and the kid was wishing he didn’t open his mouth. “But every now and then we get a little curious and decide to turn our brains on. Can’t say the same for the guys you have on the payroll.”

The uniforms in earshot, including Dom, looked nervous.

“I’ve never taken a bribe in my life,’ said the closest beat cop.

“Don’t incriminate yourself, Jacobs,” said Pierce with a smile before turning back to the Goris. “Now, what’s got me curious is your boss, the new guy from what I read on the way here, is sitting over there without his head. Still haven’t found the head. And none of you seem the least bit perturbed the guy who writes your checks is dead. I take it you didn’t like the guy? I’m guessing Godfather Cicero was the favorite and this guy wasn’t. Better question, where’s Volk? She was Cicero’s number three after that guy. I wonder how she felt about the new–

“That’s what a chain of command is for, Detective,” said Lotch. “Just ‘cause he’s dead doesn’t mean the ball stops rolling.”

“Wouldn’t be organized crime without organization, I guess. Got something you can tell me, old man?”

“I can tell ya we found the place like this. Not the how.”

Pierce looked at Dom.

“That’s what they’re all saying,” he said.

“Figures. How long did it take to get your stories straight before calling 9-1-1? Probably not long given all the officers in your pocket–“

“Wanna do your job and keep patronizing us, Detective?” snapped Lotch.

“I would, but you guys have been so generous feeding my curiosity. See, if none of you were here when these poor Japanese waiters were butchered like sushi in your own club,” Pierce pointed to a Gori at the margins without looking at him, “explain the blood on that kid’s lapel.”

All the attention made his cheeks turn read, his forehead already glistening with sweat. The guys around him looked like they wanted to tear him apart.

“Dominic, badge 1947,” said Dom into his phone. “Need a paddy wagon at Madison and 8th. Full house.”

“Real gangsters are great liars,” said Pierce with a smirk. “Should’ve watched more movies.”

About the same time she walked away the Investigator came under the police tape around the entrance, tablet in hand.

“Got a name for you, Pierce,” he said passing it to her waxy Android hand. “Ramos, Leeland. Reported a break-in at his gun store in NewCal seven years ago. One of the items was a pair of milsurp Model C arm mods. Their D-prints are an exact match to the ones I pulled from the baton.”

“Did they catch the guy that broke in?”

“Nothing in the database.”

“Then let’s give the locals cops a call.”

 

The hotel was a “no questions asked” kind of joint; the kind husbands brought their favorite hookers because regular cathouses keep a customer registry. It’s not hard to ask the front desk for a name when you come up crying with a wedding ring. The old lady in the dingy lobby at reception was glued to a ragged paperback when Kiddo limped through the revolving door, carrying the bag. The lady gave her a glance before she boarded the elevator.

She’d been there before heading to Le Speak bearing the essentials. Canvas bags sat on the bed when Kiddo got to her room and locked the door. One bag had medical supplies, fresh clothes, and another had tools from Enzo’s workbench with cleaning supplies. There were also fresh towels she wouldn’t feel bad about throwing away once they were stained crimson.

First thing she did was limp to the mini-fridge and gulp down a bottle of chocolate meta-milk like she was about to die of thirst. Killing thirteen people will take a lot out of a Modded person, especially when you push your gear as far as Kiddo. After breathing hard from finishing the bottle she noticed the red lights on both wrists blinking and pulled off her coat.

When she pressed the light on her left the plating of the arm opened in half with a burst of steam. Between the wrist and spinner was a twisted wrap of three myomer cells bonded partly to armature. They looked like muscle, but black and anything but organic. They flexed slightly when Kiddo moved her fingers and slowly unwrapped and expanded. She opened the other arm then started to strip again.

 

The toilet was up in the bathroom and filled with bloody cotton balls. On the floor sat the old gauze in a pile and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on the sink. The M-cells had cooled by the time Kiddo decided to jump in the shower. She stood under the head watching blood flow into the drain.

The stab wound in her chest kept catching her eye. It was just above her breast and angled in a way it would look fashionable once it scarred. Would make a great conversation piece once she decided to sleep with someone again. With her thumb she traced the edge of the wound as the blood slowed to a crawl down her lean torso. The warm water helped the pain everywhere else, but she couldn’t feel the stab anymore.

Kiddo cut the shower, but kept the faucet running when she grabbed the stable gun. With a dry towel she dabbed the stab dry and stapled it closed, pinching the edges together to make sure it was tight. She worked down to her legs, wincing every time the staples clicked into her skin. Kiddo wet another small towel to wipe down whatever blood remained.

The slash on her back required more finesse. She was smart enough to bring her hand mirror from home and stood with her back to the sink mirror. With one free hand she had to pinch a section of the cut before putting down the mirror for the staple gun. Kiddo could see her back in the sink mirror, but her view wasn’t as precise as she liked.

Four yards worth of fresh gauze later she came walking out of the bathroom with a towel around her waist and one draped over her shoulders. She sat on one of the course chairs by the window in front of a coffee table where Takashi’s head sat in the bag. Her deck was lying right by it with a neural jack ready.

Kiddo folded Takashi’s right ear and plugged into the port hidden in his hair. A white wheel spun against black on the phone screen before it turned aqua-blue. Blown out Japanese text appeared against the blue with an English subtitle that read “Recall Services.” Kiddo thumbed the text before the title dissipated into a list of small pictures with dates in descending order.

She snickered. “Should’ve set a password, Tak.”

Kiddo thumbed the second picture that blew up to fit her screen, forcing her to turn the phone sideways. The footage had a slight curve, going black every time Takashi blinked. She turned up the sound and reached for an e-cig on the table. When he pulled his dick out to jack it Kiddo ran her finger across the screen to fast forward. She sped past that morning when he picked her up, the flight to the meeting, but watched Takashi cut his pinky off over and over with a smile.

Kiddo was more concerned about later that day, scanning through hours of footage that did not immediately catch her eye. He flew to a hospital to get his stump stitched before picking up a prescription at the pharmacy. Then that night at the club he shook hands with customers, the band, and went over the books in the office. Kiddo scanned backwards to just after the meeting and spotted a familiar number when Takashi took out his phone while at the hospital.

What, Sterling?

Monty, I need help. She’s gonna kill me.

Who?

You know who! Pinkerton’s on the edge. She knows where I live and I’m not gonna wake up tomorrow.

Raise your voice to me again and it’ll be me that puts you to sleep.

Okay. Okay. I’m sorry, but I know this broad like the back of my hand and she’s gonna snap–

The footage showed Takashi moving the phone away before Kiddo scanned ahead to another call.

I’m not kidding, Monty. She’s a psychopath. I’ve known a few in my time and she’s the worst. For the love of God, she can’t be trusted. Let me speak to Boss Kyrii. Please get back to me when you get this.

The last call came just before he went to bed.

You beg like a whipped cuck.

Pardon me that your boss’s latest investment is in fear of one of his own employees.

Do it yourself. Maybe you’ll do a better job than with Cicero.

I’m serious! She’s gonna kill me the first chance she gets.

A moment of pause was taken up by a sigh from Monty.

Unlike most of you Gorinni pricks I respect Volk. She’s more Japanese than me and you combined. Had I made her the same offer I did you, she’d cut me to pieces in broad daylight or try, at least. Whatever you think of her, I couldn’t disagree more. So does the Shogun, which is why he declared her sawaranaide.

Aw, c’mon! Anata wa anata no kokoro o ushinai mashita ka?!

Anata no kuso kuchi o tojite! Moichido sonoyoni watashi ni hanashite, watashi wa anata no nodo o hirakimasu!… That envelope he gave her had ten grand. Everyone knows she was saving up to settle down with a kid and her Android. Volk is honorable and she’ll keep her hands to herself if it means getting a chance at her dream. Since she’s untouchable, you’ll have to do it yourself or pay someone. Either way, if she dies, make sure we don’t find you, Sterling. And don’t call me ever again.

The call ended and Kiddo sat back looking like she just finished a race. Instead of a victory it was closure, but then it opened a door she didn’t know to keep shut. She took a long drag from her e-cig and held it between her lips with a slow exhale.

“Whoops.”

***

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.