Editorial 45: Modern Warfare (2019)

The last Call of Duty I actually wanted to play was Black Ops 2. After that, the series became an afterthought thanks to Activision pushing out a new title each year. CoD played like no other, laying the groundwork for all shooters since the very first game. 4A Games perfected the formula with Metro and shooters would not be what they are today. The latest release, Modern Warfare (2019) is the first game I bought in a long time un-ironically (had to play Ghosts just to make sure). You can tell Activision understood the need to return to normalcy after years of monotony. My only gripe is with the game’s story.

I have no problem with the inclusion of white phosphorous or the Highway of Death allegory. The gaming press before launch made a big deal about the game having WP as a Killstreak because they had nothing better to do. Yes, it is not a great weapon before or after you use it, but it is useful when you want to start a fire that wont spread or need to set off munitions. The Highway of Death allegory meant nothing overall, but the reaction to it inspired me to write this.

MW (2019) is military fiction, but it is so far outside conceivable reality it is fantasy. The word “fiction” is a misnomer because the genre is grounded in the real world. The story makes sense if you do not think about it; were I not researching Russia’s history as a military power, I would not be writing this. And before I continue, I do not have a pro-Russia bias. They make the best guns and women next to Czechs, but they have a history no normal human being could overlook. I am not going to be offended for them; they are quite skilled at doing that on their own.

Less than five years after the Soviet-Afghan War, Russia became the target of the longest insurgency in its history. The Chechen Wars were a continuation of the kind of warfare that lost them tens of thousands of men years before, but in a form no nation can afford. Chechnya is located in North Caucasia, within Russian borders, and directly south of the country’s industrial heartland. Further south is Transcaucasia, the Middle East, and Turkey, a cornucopia of would-be adversaries that could take advantage of a compromised sector if need be. There were two Chechen Wars and an insurgency that went on for about fifteen years, including a hostage situation whose outcome changed how Russia would approach terrorism.

America dealt with similar problems in Vietnam, but post-Perestroika Russia had far less time to catch up after their own Vietnam. The country was and still is somewhat Third World having been under Communism for roughly eighty years. Before then they were barely up to par with Europe or America; the Japanese were able to defeat them in 1905 and they just came on to the world stage. The deck has been stacked against Russia for about a century and only recently have they figured out how to play to their strengths.

The key to contemporary Russia’s military success is a balance of diplomacy and police action. They dealt with Chechnya by appealing to pro-Russia moderates among the secessionists while assassinating-the-shit out those they could not flip. With terrorism, no one is taken alive and hostage takers are killed through the hostages. There are stories out of Dagestan where homes are raided and suspects shot on site. Crimea was annexed while Ukraine was in the middle of political upheaval without firing a shot because the country was fearful of a localized “fascist” takeover. Russia gained a further foothold in Ukraine by assisting secessionists in Donbass, a war that continues today. And in Syria, I am willing to bet there are less than a thousand Special Forces and Air Force personnel assisting President Assad.

This tells us Russia is not willing to engage in large-scale conflict, nor could they maintain it without employing depopulation tactics like in Afghanistan, to the further detriment of their already tarnished image. In the event an insurgency or escalation seems likely, they go through diplomatic channels. In Donbass, they organized a semi-successful ceasefire with Ukraine after President Trump took a firmer stance compared to his predecessor. Chechnya was turned into a federal subject under a puppet, Ramzan Kadyrov, and I predict the Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine will follow suit.

I would also like to point out to certain American readers (you know who you are) that Russia’s tactics do not include nation building or destabilization. They would never and cannot rig elections for a country of our size, nor could they influence an election via memes or “hacking.” The most they would do is resort to conventional intelligence gathering and espionage, whereas Soviets were quite fond of assassination. This whole “Russia got Trump elected” horseshit was conjured by sore losers in the corporate-controlled media to stagnate our government in an investigation that led to fuck and all. If you actually believe this shit, get yourself committed.

Conventional warfare is not an option for today’s Russia. They would only take action if success was guaranteed and they could do it quickly. Back in Crimea, Russia stole the region from Ukraine in less than a year because there was so much upheaval during Euromaidan. The same can be said for Donbass, Syria, Chechnya, and Georgia.

In American military fiction there has always been the “great enemy” trope among others. Russia is the cunning main villain, Arabs are terrorists, Africans are warlords while Afrikaners are mercenaries, South Americans are drug lords or despots, and American politicians are corrupt middlemen. These tropes defined military fiction from years’ past with some reoccurring today in one form or another. They are extremes based in reality that seem outlandish, but make sense when you keep in mind it is still fiction.

In the first Modern Warfare Russia was a mutual ally dealing with internal strife. The second game made them the enemy after an ultra-nationalist regime takes over and launches a sneak attack on America’s east coast, followed by an invasion of Europe in the third game. The first was perfect military fiction whereas the last two skirted by because it was able to justify Russia’s aggression. The HBO show Chernobyl put it best when it referred to Russia as a country “obsessed with not being humiliated.” The incredible “No Russian” mission in MW2 was the catalyst for the invasion because that mission was seemingly carried out by Americans as it was engineered to be by the real antagonist.

Contemporary Russia is similar to Imperial Japan. It is modern, but cannot sustain a long-term, large-scale war with another superpower. Had Japan not attacked Pearl Harbor, they could have taken over China and been on par with America in a matter of decades. After Pearl Harbor, however, they ran rampant through the Pacific for six months before we pushed them all the way back to the Home Islands. In MW2 and 3 the invasion lasted about a week or two before the East Coast was liberated. It was also probably the same in Europe where only major cities were occupied, but I played that one days after it came out and never again.

The first three Modern Warfare games had stories that worked within the confines of military fiction, but the latest reboot makes almost zero sense considering the current state of Russia. Logic was likely sacrificed to push the story’s allegory for the Syrian Civil War and to play on the “Russia Scare” currently consuming a number of mentally ill Americans. MW (2019) suffers the same problem as Bright where it was more interested in saying something instead of thinking about its own world. I am pretty sure the writers had a cursory understanding of military fiction from movies and Tom Clancy books, but did not bother to understand what made them work.

The overarching set-up of the story is Russia has been occupying a small country the size of New Jersey called Urzikstan in the northeastern corner of Turkey. The war has lasted 20 years with a strong insurgent movement that has resulted in routine reprisals with neither side making much headway. In the middle of it all emerged a terrorist group called Al-Qatala that stages a brutal attack on London in the second mission. However, AQ was a red haring being used by rogue Urzik insurgents to get back at the leader of the occupation, General Barkov.

Pretty standard stuff when you do not think about it. When you do, the whole enterprise collapses in on itself. As an allegory for the Syrian Civil War it kind of makes sense. For one thing, it is said Urzikstan is in a civil war with AQ at odds with the insurgents (one coded as ISIS and the other YPG), but the Russian occupation is pushed as the primary antagonistic force that is doing the most damage. AQ was well defined as the Islamic Extremist allegory with the best missions featuring them as the enemy.

The story has a strong anti-chemical weapons theme where Russia uses them on the Urziks and later vice-versa. To the writers of MW (2019): ever heard of the Geneva Convention? The Soviets were quite brutal to the Afghanis, but they were not dumb enough to use chems and I doubt any nation, big or small, would use them today. However, I see what you were trying to do considering Assad’s alleged use in Syria. Yeah, he got a few angry letters from the UN, but President Trump made sure he got a proper punishment after taking office… allegedly.

Furthermore, it is strange that Russia would bother occupying a country like Urzikstan given its size and political situation. It would have made more sense and fit the allegory if Barkov was working with either the insurgents or a third element like a pro-government force. It seems all there is are AQ and insurgents. On top of that, there is no reason why Russia would go to the trouble of wasting twenty years trying to control a country via anti-partisan tactics in a comprising part of the world.

Urzikstan is situated along the Black Sea (practically owned by Russia), directly south of Georgia (almost Russia), and a neighbor to Turkey (who hates Russia). That country and Transcaucasia as a whole serves as a buffer zone to the Middle East. Were they closer, it would open up the Russia to attack from Western powers that are entrenched throughout the region. Is there some resource in Urzikstan they are desperate enough to exploit that they resort to total war? Do they want to install a puppet regime to increase their sphere of influence? I have no idea because it seems to me the game is more concerned about saying something profound instead of explaining itself.

All of these shortcomings could have been justified had MW (2019) made General Barkov divorced from Russia. In the game he appears pretty well off with a large estate in Moldova and chemical plant in Georgia. He does not even wear the RusFed flag on his uniform, nor do his troops. Like Zakhaev from the first MW, he could be a warlord with connections who decided to lead a conquest of Urzikstan like Slavic Caesar. Maybe you end up working with Russia to help put him down because he is making everyone look bad. Sure, you are essentially repeating the first game by appealing to logic, but with the added allegory to current events, people would have looked the other way.

Modern Warfare (2019) is still a video game and no one will give that much a shit about the story unless they are not focused on the game element. Other than Metro Exodus, there is no better shooter on the market right now. The feeling of going through missions and doing what we have been doing since the very first Call of Duty has never felt better. I could not recommend picking it up enough. I just wish the same effort applied to the gameplay was put toward the story.

Editorial 44: Matt- Portrait of Misery

I am going to talk about something I probably should not, but it has been picking at the back of brain for some time. Today, I’m going to talk about YouTube Bullshit. I am not referring to Logan Paul or any other neurotic dweeb who has no life beyond YT. I am referring to the realm of commentary and its dramatics. This is where the personality of content creators is without superficial skin and bares it all. However, honesty can be a detriment to not only the creator, but the audience as well. Sometimes your personality comes out in ways you did not intend and next thing you know it, you lose a hundred thousand subscribers.

This past year has seen the greatest shake-up for a sect of commentators who cater to drama and politics. This group commentates on commenters and it is an excellent source of entertainment. There have been several subjects picked apart like a corpse in the company of buzzards, but there is one commentator’s ever spirally downfall that has forced me to exercise a little introspection. In very small ways everyone can relate to this unfortunate failure of man.

MundaneMatt is a content creator that reads stories from Google News on webcam, uploads it to YT, and repeats this process throughout his day. He is a spam-up-loader much like the New England Cockroach, DarkSydePhil. The only reason Matt achieved any sort of notoriety in the past is he had a video flagged by Zoe Quinn, a hack writer that got jobs in comics because she slept with a bunch of dudes to get good reviews for her game. She also made a guy kill himself last month over still unproven abuse accusations. The flagging was one catalyst of GamerGate, the gayest culture movement in history. Not only Matt, but a number of prominent commentators got their start talking about GG in protest to those like Quinn seeking to make games more progressive.

The flagging helped Matt gain some prominence, and his GG content gave him much-appreciated attention. Ironically, however, a flagging would begin his downfall. Last year, Matt was exposed live for flagging several videos criticizing him, many being other commentators, on the KillStream. Weeks ago, the same stream released audio leaks from Matt’s Discord server where he criticizes fellow content creators, is openly jealous, is very aware of his shortcomings, and unfortunately, reveals that his infant daughter is not his own.

Within a year the man’s reputation as a serial flagger and all around passive-aggressive weak-kneed cuck culminated in a series of revelations that will undoubtedly bring him lower than dinosaur bones. It remains to be seen if Matt will acknowledge the leaks, and while I wrote this, the KillStream released more leaks. Many, including myself, found the revelations hilarious. Here is a man that is not only incapable of improving himself, but is aggressively stubborn to the point he refuses to change. Matt is a joke and yet, I feel bad for him.

The flagging of other creators is inexcusable, but it comes from a place many have been. According to a former acquaintance and other videos on the subject, he wanted to break into the film industry. Judging by his facial hair, he strikes me as a fan of Kevin Smith, and as a movie fan that grew up in the 90s, it makes since he would model himself after the man. So, Matt moved to Los Angeles in the late 00s to pursue a career in screenwriting while making his own movies. Here’s a link to his IMDB where some of the posters were changed to imagines of Matt attempting to cry.

Obviously he failed and moved to the Pacific Northwest to do what he does now, but the impact of failure is still with him. He has become so obsessed with avoiding further failure he has not only pigeonholed himself, he is openly hostile to criticism. He is aware and unaware of his shortcoming because he lacks humility. You are supposed to learn from mistakes, but Matt is afraid of his mistakes and attacks people when they confront him. Even as he talks about trying to change his content and how to improve himself in the leaks, his timidity keeps him bound to monotony.

And then there is Matt’s nonsensical ego. You look at the guy, see the things he has done, and think there is something wrong with his brain. Matt is in complete denial of his shortcomings to feign confidence. I find it hard to blame the guy given his past, his features, and the fact he is raising and providing for another man’s child. And yet he holds onto what self-respect he has left, manufactured or otherwise. In a way he sees his failures as learning experiences to dictate how other creators should operate on YouTube, while also studying said content, and not changing his own.

The leaks show a clear animosity towards more successful creators like The Quartering and Bearing for essentially doing the same thing in every video. Even before his flagging was exposed Matt criticized a Star Wars-centric channel about the monotony of their content. He also tried to start something with Ethan Van Sciver, a very talented comic book artist and commentator that is not at all serious. The leaks also revealed he takes issue with content that appeals to rage or confirmation bias while he wallows in boring, perpetual stagnation.

So, what we have here is a stubborn man that has known great failure, yet is incapable of learning from his failure, and makes it his mission to criticize the work of others in a vain attempt to feel confident. He sees himself as a YouTube expert dictating how others should produce content while ignoring his own advice. Furthermore, he has a history of taking out his anger on his critics by flagging, the proverbial cardinal sin among creators. What we got here is a bully with a vagina deeper than the Mariana Trench that lashes out at others for the qualities that make him unappealing, while putting no effort into changing, and I feel bad for the poor bastard.

Everyone has known failure. No one that is successful has achieved it without failing, nor have they not known weariness in the face of monotony. In my personal experience, I lost interest in writing movie reviews after four and half years. I just did not care to the point I wrote myself a list of rules to cherry pick the movies I actually wanted to see. Then I simply quit reviewing them. I used to go to the theater every week and I can count the times I have gone this year on two hands.

Did I bite the bullet and write a review for everything that came out? The last movie I wrote about was Captain Marvel and I could not work up the will to write about what I saw after. Do you know what I did instead? I dedicated my time to writing genre fiction because that is where I found renewed interest. I still review streaming titles, but only something I actually want to see. Only reason I have not written about Too Old to Die Young is because I do not know what to say.

When you are faced with a brick wall, you have to pivot around or go through it. No one can do something they hate day in and day out, and not try something new. When I was stuck in two jobs I hated, I chose to work towards something I actually wanted to do and I have yet to give up on it. To this day I am still working on getting somewhere better. Matt obviously hates what he does and refuses to change. In the leaks he sounds miserable and if he put the same effort he does into criticizing others toward improving himself, he would be happier. Even Kevin Smith, Matt’s apparent idol, got tired of directing to the point he went on a hiatus for years.

In this regard, he deserves everything he gets because he needs to be reminded that he has no one to blame but himself. Matt’s misery is the result of his inability to improve himself while attacking others. He has no right to criticize his betters when he is incapable of showing he can do better. Until he makes an attempt to fix his situation, he will always be the butt of jokes.

If you are reading this, Matt, and I know you are because you have Google Alerts set up, I am going to tell you exactly what you can do to set yourself on the right path. Firstly, go on the KillStream and apologize. It has been a year since you were exposed and you have yet to give an honest apology. Whatever happens on stream, you need to take it like a real man, because you are not. Second of all, the changes you want to make to your videos that you keep crying about? How about actually make those changes? It is not hard.

Lastly, and this is most important, dump your girlfriend, and stop raising her child. It is not because no one making fun of you will ever live it down while you draw breath, but because it makes you less of a man. I have no clue how long you were seeing her before the birth, but I am guessing you were in the room when your girlfriend’s daughter was spired? What was his name and how many were there?

Does not feel great, does it? Are you so desperate for puss’ you debase yourself by clinging to and paying for a woman that needs (a) stunt-cock(s) to satisfy her? Does she not find you attractive enough to let you in, but she accepts the food you put on the table? Judging by your appearance I am guessing she is not that much of looker. There are not many beautiful women that would find your “Kevin Smith but Fatter” look appealing unless they were pretty ugly themselves. Makes me think of the kind of men that usually prefer a woman of substantial girth, but that is a joke for another time.

To quote Shaun of the Dead, “Sort your life out, mate!”

Neon Oldie #26

Cover26

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)

Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

Also By CT McMillan
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

The BotDoc clung to the ceiling, arms collapsed. From its central thorax shined a light over Kiddo sitting on an operating chair in a hospital gown. Where Quincy had chopping her tibias were white clamps all the way around the legs. A light flashed green on each beside a set of ports for different plug-ins. Junior had a cord running from one clamp into his tablet as he sat by Kiddo’s feet. She pressed her gown at the crotch while he scrolled through the information.

“Everything seems to be working fine,” he said. “After a couple months you can take them off once they’re through reconnecting.”

“Should’ve replaced them with something better,” said Clemenza. He leaned in front of them against the wall of windows looking out into the body shop. Green curtains were drawn so none of the gear-heads could see. Beside his leg stood a small roller suitcase. Kiddo hadn’t seen it since the night Enzo died. “Maybe something to match your arms.”

Her silence was replace by Junior taking out the cord and standing. “I recommend staying off your feet as often as possible until time’s up. There’re pills at the front desk that–“

“Don’t want ‘em,” she said sliding off away from Junior. Her arms were fixed only hours ago, the seams around new fingers and welds filling scratches still shiny. Junior opted to keep his mouth shut as she went over to a table with another fresh Pinkerton uniform waiting.

“I’ll take it from here, bud,” said Clemenza patting him on the shoulder from behind.

“Sure thing, Mr. Kurt.”

He waited for Junior to leave out the automatic door before turning to Kiddo as she dressed. “You and Goichi’s names were out of the report. Official story is a guy Speers put away tracked him down after getting out. Detectives on scene made sure to make it real.” She didn’t say a word, prompting Clemenza to go on. “They’re gonna bring Pierce back online this afternoon. I’m told she had a real mad-on for you, a die-hard Andie activist. I suggested wiping her memory of the past few days, but Chief Ira isn’t as flexible as I’d like.” He reached into his suit pocket for a passport and folded papers. “We prepared a new identity in the very likely event Pierce tries–“

“I’ll make my own way.”

He paused and made a flat smile before approaching. “You’ve dealt with a lot, but you’re not invincible, Anya-jun Ivanov. Any enemies left can find you if you don’t take my help. The way I see it,” he was within arms reach behind her, “you won’t last a month once your out of–“

Her thumb hooked under his right cheekbone when Kiddo’s arm rotated back. The fingers pressed into his skull hard enough for Clemenza to give in, going to his knees. Kiddo’s arm rotated at the spinner as she turned to face him. She changed her grip and held Clemenza’s head with both hands, thumbs under his cheekbones.

“I know how this works. You make another offer, call me, send money, and I’ll forget you’re Cici’s only son. I’ll start with your mother and then your sisters before you get it slowly and nasty.” She shoved him without hitting his head on the floor. “You’re no better than the worst bastards I’ve known.” She put on her cap. “Maybe one day I’ll kill them too.”

Clemenza stayed on the floor and watched her leave after taking the roller. The calm shock on his face turned to a content grimace with a nod.

 

Kiddo stood the roller up at the top of the stoop outside the body shop and reached into her coat for the cigarette case. She stared at the e-cigs before pulling them all out with one hand and tossing them over the side. When she put the case away Kiddo continued down the steps to meet the Yaks waiting by a hov-car on the curb.

 

Pierce woke up with a gasp, eyes squeezed shut from the blinding light. Hospital fluorescents aren’t known for brightness, but when you’ve been comatose for days, a Christmas light could feel like the sun.

A white plastic shell covered her torso from neck to stomach. Beside the bed stood a dialysis machine that pumped white blood. It kept Pierce awake with tubes feeding into the chest of the shell. Curtains were drawn around the bed, giving her and Chief Ira sitting beside the machine a little privacy.

“Take it slow,” he said. “There’s plenty of time.”

She opened her eyes. “Chief? That you?”

“Mm-hm.”

Pierce looked around. “How long?”

“Three days. The hollow points ripped through your sternum something fierce. Doc needs your consent to replace what was damaged so you can get back to work.”

“It was Speers. He shot me, a suspect that’d given up, and Volk–“

“He’s dead.”

Pierce stared at him, torn between relief and disappointment.

“An ex-con he helped lock up, some cyborg junkie, went to his apartment hopped up on custom Singapore gear. I’ll spare you the details. Speers is due for the pipes on Wednesday. We’ll understand if you don’t show up.”

She let it sink in. “And Volk?”

Ira sat back in the cheap chair. “Missing. Someone pulled the street footage from that night. Whole blocks around the scene were erased and we can’t find a body. We’ve been cycling through her associates and that rat Freeman.”

Pierce laid back to stare at the ceiling. “…I thought you’d be a better liar.” Ira nodded, meeting her gaze once she looked back. “It’s all her fault. Dom, Jacobs and those people are in the ground because she tried to do my job. She’s drenched her hands in innocent blood–“

“Did she pull the trigger? Did she order those kids to murder those people? You should see what SWAT did to that Trotsky girl in Renton; everyone gave her a taste of their boot.” Ira shook his head. “Volk didn’t kill anyone that mattered–“

“What do you think I do for a living, Chief? They were Yakuza, but she still murdered them and started–“

“Maybe you’re hung up on Enzo van Gogh. She didn’t do that either, but a dozen dead dirt-bags were all you needed to keep at it. Take into account all your IA complaints that go nowhere and you don’t paint a nice picture, Detective. Bleeding hearts might call you corrupt while other cops call you whiner. Wanna stay Seattle’s Finest, you let this slide and try to learn from this nightmare.”

Pierce drove the knife deeper into herself. “No one’s getting away with–“

Ira pressed a knob on the machine and the Detective went back to sleep. Her face was slack and eyes half shut before he closed them and leaned to her ear. “Here’s hoping you come to your senses when you wake up good as new.”

 

The elevator opened with Kiddo flanked by her Yak escort to the conference room. They waited for her to step out before exiting to take off their shoes to the side. She yanked off her boots and left her cap on a hook, but kept the roller in hand.

The lights were off save for two large candles at the far end of the room. They stood on posts atop a small dais of polished wood. Between the candles sat Monty on his knees in a white suit. Before him stood a raised tray with a tanot knife wrapped in a white cloth. To his left sat a Yak with Monty’s sword, the end of the sheath on the dais. In front of him was a wooden bucket filled with water and a ladle.

In front of the dais were two folding stools, one empty while the other was occupied. Behind him sat rows of Yaks in all black suits, swords on their belts. They were packed to the elevator where Kyrii stood with the help of two goons. He wore a traditional kimono with a black monsho over it. The back and chest of the garb had a white crest: a small crescent circle within the embrace of a bigger crescent.

The Shogun smiled when Kiddo faced him. “Good to see you in good health, Kiddo-chan. A shame we could not have met under better circumstances.

She couldn’t be bothered to answer immediately. “Likewise.”

The old man gestured to the dais and his goons helped him walk, Kiddo following with her escorts in tow. She could see the audience look her way in passing.

“Our duel three days ago was a welcome digression from the tragedy of that night,” he said. “I was told your Russian father taught you sword play?”

“Mm.”

“I would have enjoyed meeting him. It was clear to me that he understood the blade better than the average gaijin.” Kiddo didn’t speak because Kyrii was turning to face her. “One day, if you decide to return from exile, I will be waiting. If I am dead, my son Jubei will make a worthy substitute.”

They continued to the dais. The Shogun took the empty stool beside the other man, similarly dressed as Kyrii with long hair past his shoulders, bangs pulled into a tail. Kiddo assumed him to be Jubei. She positioned herself beside the sword-bearer, standing the roller up behind her legs out of respect for the scene.

Being so close to the weapon she realized that it was almost the size of a nodachi, a larger version of a katana. It wasn’t a real nodachi, but it was big enough that Kiddo understood why Monty had leg and arm extensions. The sword was so long it came up past her navel and she imagined how difficult it’d be to carry on the hip.

Junbi wa i, Monty-chan?” asked the Shogun.

Watashi wa Tonodesu,” he answered.

Anata wa shizoku Kiddo-chan no hanzai no omo-sa o ukerremasu ka?

Hai.”

Kyrii sighed and nodded. “Saigo no kotoba o iu koto ga dekimasu.”

Monty turned to Kiddo without shifting his legs. “Guess I’ve said all I needed, eh?”

She didn’t know what to do, lips quivering with hesitation. Then Jubei filled the silence.

Kore wa detaramedesu!” he shouted with a deep voice.

Shizuka, Jubei,” said Kyrii.

Watashi wa shimasen! Monto-san wakesshin shimashitaga, kono Roshia no zasshu meinu ni kare no kaishaku o sa semashita ka? Kare wa watashi no kyo-daideari, anata wa kara no meiyo o yogoshimasu!

Some of the Yaks in the audience stood, reaching into their suits while others formed fists.

Mitekudasai, shonen,” said Kyrii with a mad tone and expression to boot.

Jubei looked at Kiddo. “You’re about to kill a very good and loyal man.” He pointed to the katana. “That sword has more history and honor in its steel than you will ever–“

“Let it go, man,” said Monty with a snap. He waited for Jubei to sit down. “You don’t know what’s been going on over here. Of all the pricks I’ve dealt with, Volk’s the only one worth a damn. If she didn’t hate us so much, she’d make a great sister. There’s no better equal I’d trust to carry my sword.”

He looked at her again and Kiddo saw the whole room was giving her attention. It felt like gravity was pressing down on her shoulders.

Monty turned back. “Clean it once a month and immediately after use.” He straightened his back and let out a slow exhale. “Junbi da dekita, Tono.”

Kyrii and Jubei inclined their heads while the audience bowed low. When the sword bearer bowed Kiddo quickly bent to Monty while standing.

Saraba, kyuyu,” said the Shogun, prompting everyone to come up, and looked at Kiddo. “Do you know what to do?”

She nodded and smoothly drew the katana. She looked at it’s side, kneading the wrapped hilt with her metal fingers. Kiddo held the tip to the water, resting the spine on the bucket. The sword bearer took the ladle and dripped water from the cross guard down the edge. She let the excess slide off the tip before coming to Monty’s left side.

Keeping his head and eyes straight he opened his shirt above his belt. Monty pulled out the end and felt his right side with one hand while the other reached for the tanto. Kiddo brought the sword up to her head, tip to the ceiling when Monty put the blade to his skin and held it with both hands.

After a sharp groan the veins in his neck popped and face turned red. He started to shake and didn’t stop as Monty pulled the knife across his stomach. Kiddo couldn’t bear to watch, keeping her eyes shut despite how the audience would judge her weakness. Monty’s teeth were clenched so tight his groan came out in a screech. Not a single tear rolled down his cheeks as he let out a heavy set of breaths, prompting Kiddo to look. Monty’s hands were now on his right side as blood pooled onto the dais. He was leaning forward slightly, neck more visible.

Gomen,” she said before bringing the blade down with a bend of her legs.

 

It was the cleanest train she’d been on since the year her family went on vacation to Busan. Other than the seats the cart seemed made of one homogenous form. The window was an uncut oblong piece from one end to the other that tinted depending on how much sun it caught. The interior walls were rounded with the floor curving flat for the seats and walkway. The ceiling curved outward with a window showing clear azure. The glass was cut with the thin white lines of solar cells that kept the train moving.

Kiddo sat on the left side, head against the window. A forest of redwoods passed her by, but the scenery washed over her like a common breeze. Her cap was pulled over her brow, keeping the morning sun out of half-shut eyes. It wasn’t weariness, at least, not the kind she would’ve had after getting up so early. Not even 24 hours had passed since she decapitated Monty and his sword sat in a black case beside her.

Minutes ago the train crossed state lines into San Angeles from New California. The details of the sojourn were logged into the back of her mind. It didn’t matter to her, but Kiddo’s instinct knew better. Then the train passed beyond the edge of the redwoods and she was brought out of her melancholy long enough to feel awe.

The Golden Gate Bridge stood in its red glory across the strait. A squat tanker equipped with Flettner rotors passed beneath it into the Pacific, but it wasn’t what caught Kiddo’s eye. She could see skyscrapers in Berkley and Oakland cast long shadows across San Francisco Bay, almost touching Alcatraz. She saw them as silhouettes with the sun close to the horizon, but to the south the detail was clearer.

A solar tower stood every five miles down the coast. Each had a flat face that curved outward toward the bottom, covered in square mirror panels. The towers stood on massive rotors below ground that turned with the rotation of the sun. On the strip of land that was SanFran rose massive towers and structures of various designs of glass and stone that could’ve been mistaken for plastic. Their aesthetic was arcological in nature. As the train curved east past the bridge the view of the ground revealed itself.

Old SanFran was still there in the shadow of the Future. Row houses leaned against the sloping streets while small Victorian mansions remained untouched by time. Whatever was left of the past stood across the bulk of the hilly suburban areas toward the south and Pacific while the metropolitan heart clustered to the Bay. Some ancient skyscrapers were pushed between the new, the Transamerica Pyramid trapped like a toddler in a forest. Across the city a highway broke up the landscape like concrete veins.

The rail system ran underneath, a fact made clear when Kiddo saw the train descend into a tunnel past Presidio. Then the intercom announced their arrival and she pulled the case closer.

 

The window looked out to Tenderloin as hov-cars flew low. The streets were packed with more cyclists and runners than cars, including a few quad-peds. What stood out to Kiddo was how the people were dressed. Between some suits and blue-collar coveralls the clothing was tight and matching in material and color combination. They all looked good too, not a fat-body among them. Kiddo studied the people while the Banker typed at his computer.

“And how long will be using our vault?” he asked.

“Four months,” she answered before turning to him, keeping her right hand on the case leaning on the arm of the chair. At the back of the chair stood a larger roller she’d bought the night before the trip.

“Okay… And would you like insurance on the item?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Are you sure–“

“Yes.”

The Banker nodded. “And I can’t convince you to extend your–“

“No.”

He nodded again. “Okay, Mrs. Van Gogh. Your deposit will cover four months in our vault. Once the deadline is up we’ll inform you by mail and phone. Is there an acquaintance or relative you’d like to sign as co-owner of the item in case you can’t be reached before the grace period?”

“No.”

“May I get your current address and phone number?”

Kiddo reached into her pocket for a business card and passed it to the Banker. “Number’s on the back.”

He read the card as he typed. In blue it said ‘Terrace Fertility Clinic and Spa.’

 

The waiting room had a long window to the Pacific past Outer Sunset. She was one of five women sitting against the window, but she was the only one with luggage. She was also the only one in a coat and boots. Kiddo was slouched back, staring at the ceiling with her mouth slightly agape. The floor was carpet, so she couldn’t hear the Nurse walk in with a tablet in hand.

“Kiddo?”

She came to her feet, the girl’s accent reminding her of Cicero, before pulling the roller on her way across the room.

“Lemme get one of the guys to take your luggage.” Kiddo waited outside the threshold after she disappeared to the side. The Nurse came back with a tall male counterpart. “Room seven.”

The guy didn’t say a word before he took the roller up a hall adjacent to one that ran along the side with a window.

“Follow me, please,” said the Nurse before leading Kiddo down the other hall. The place was wide and quiet. If there were anyone else inside, you’d have to work hard to find them. “First time in San Angeles?”

“I thought it was called San Francisco?”

“Well, that’s the city, but the state is San Angeles. Used to be called California, but we’re so small and dense the name was changed after the two biggest cities, LA and SanFran. We’re technically a mega-city.”

“That’s something.”

“I like your getup, by the way. Very popular in LA. Lot of Marlowes in Seattle?”

“Don’t know what that is.”

“It’s a term for people that dress like they’re in old black and white movies. I forget the name of the genre, but Marlowe was a famous character that talked and dressed kinda like you.”

“You from LA?”

“Nope. Born and raised here. So’s my mom. Lived through the Vagrant Purge if you can believe it.”

“Sounds like a rotten time.”

“Sure was. After the Partition the state couldn’t pay for all the illegals and homeless. We had a whole social welfare system that we couldn’t afford and we have Hollywood and Silicon Valley! Then the state government increased taxes and property values to try and get a little something and everyone lost their minds. Mobs went around attacking junkies, burning tent cities, demolishing shantytowns, and calling the Feds on alien families. Mom told me there was blood filling the — Oh, gosh! I’m so sorry. I talk way to much.”

“Not a bad problem to have.”

“I know, but you’re one of our guests. Stories about street battles aren’t good for a baby-making atmosphere.”

 

The table had steel leg supports on the end. Thankfully it was position with the side to the window. Kiddo sat on the table looking outside while the Nurse leaned on the counter to the side, touching a stylus to her tablet.

“Would you like to adjust the code of the sample post-insemination?”

“I’ll settle for the genuine article.”

“I wouldn’t either. Guy’s a looker and you two would mix well… Um, would you like to interview the donor beforehand? It says here your husband was interested.”

“Not wasting anymore time.”

“’Kay. Gender customization?”

“I’ll roll the dice.”

“Ooo, I’m saving that one for later… Any chance you’d like to stay past the first trimester?”

“Nope.”

The nurse tapped the tablet one last time. “Alright. The doctor will be here shortly with the sample. Gown’s under the table.” With that she made for the door, but stopped short of turning the handle. “Have you thought of a name?”

Kiddo looked down at the floor. “Sasha, after my dad… Sasha Montgomery.”

“Where’s the Montgomery from?”

She turned to the Nurse and smiled. “Just a friend.”

***

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 #25

Cover25

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)

Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

Also By CT McMillan
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

Rain started after the sun disappeared under the horizon. It pours like schizophrenic clockwork in Seattle, always overcast so you can never tell when the sky’s about to weep. Sidewalk was empty, the puddles undisturbed, and gutters filled to the brim. Signs above the street colored the water, alternating between red and orange, looking like a mix of blood and industrial waste.

Quincy Speers watched the rain at his window on the fourth floor. His Army combat pants and undershirt still fit, the sleeves sliced off. He stood in the living room, empty save for a couch facing a small TV, slowly working his way through a hand rolled cigarette. The Copper peered to his front door as if he heard something, but all he got was the rain. He unconsciously followed the conduit above the doorframe with his eyes into the left wall where his bedroom was.

He lingered on the door a bit longer and turned back. Passing ground cars slashed the colored rain onto the sidewalk. There were two puffs left in his cigarette, but Quincy burned it to the filter when he saw his neighbors filing out the building. The smoldering butt rolled across the floor as he rushed to his room past the kitchen through a threshold.

The room was packed with stacked footlockers, hard plastic boxes, and moving boxes that partitioned the space into a maze. Tactical maps of Mexico, framed photos and certificates hung on the walls. The bed was a twin pushed to the back corner by the closet. In the opposite corner stood a desk with a computer and a bank of monitors. A white sheet coving something bulky took up half of the closet with cables running underneath.

After tapping a few keys at the desk the monitors came to life with groups of four screens. Each showed a different part of Quincy’s floor, from his own front door to the hall. He saw his neighbors in rain gear lock their doors before proceeding to the stairs. He watched them leave in a nigh organized fashion before bars of black popped across the screens. It kept up until the feed went totally black.

The Copper bared his teeth then grabbed the white sheet in the closet.

 

Nothing but the rain made noise in the hall, the front side lined with windows lighting up red and orange. Then came a loud tap of knuckles against the solid oak of Quincy’s door. Thing is, there wasn’t anyone knocking and he couldn’t see until the Copper burst into the hall through his wall and dumped a magazine at the door.

He wore an EX-Frame, an exoskeleton of braces that doubled speed and strength, over his clothes with a military vest and police helmet. Strapped to his left shoulder waited an HF knife while his combi-pistol was holstered to the chest.

The weapon he used was an M4 with a Gauss upper receiver, turning the rifle into a railgun. The top was a narrow block from muzzle to butt. On the left side above the trigger were wires that fed to a battery pack on Quincy’s side. Across the front of the vest were pouches packed with magazines bearing sabot rounds. They were darts designed to eat plating, but what it did to soft targets is enough to put the fear of God in anyone on the wrong end.

The window by Quincy’s door shattered immediately while the wood and drywall practically disintegrated. The brick exterior of the apartment became exposed, but remained in place while the lower half of the door came off its hinges.

The muzzle smoked after the rifle clicked empty. He traded mags and kept the weapon trained on the eviscerated remains. The sound of rain replaced the screech of the weapon and Quincy held his breath. He played statue until the dust settled and couldn’t see a body. Instead, among the shredded drywall laid a wireless speaker punctured with a single hole.

The Copper’s mouth formed a straight line. After a second he snapped the rifle left down the other end of the hall there the stairs were and waited. He let out a breath held since smashing through the wall and started walking slowly to his door.

“If I’d done my job,” he said, “you’d be screwin’ Enzo in Heaven.” He stopped in place a listened. “A shame it’s gone so poorly.” He moved on. “I wanted to keep it clean and neat, one corpse at a time… Should’ve done it the old fashion way.” At the corner he leaned out and watched the hall, the neon at its brightest. “Nothin’s real anymore, Volk. Cops, criminals, civilians… Every-goddamn-one lives and dies on the corporate payroll.” Quincy moved down the hall. “We sold our souls and didn’t even know it! Nothin’s real anymore! No more cops. No more criminals. Just business! …You know it too, don’t ya? Where’s the honor in serving a faceless, godless company? I saw it and chose to pull it apart. Maybe you’ll continue my work; paint this city in their blood. I’ll be watchin’ from Hell–“

“Got that right.”

Quincy snapped to the rear, spinning to a knee. There was nothing behind him, but the Copper didn’t move, eye down the sight. There was an apartment to his right and he didn’t notice the door was cracked before he felt the floor vibrate.

He spun round to Monty charging with sword drawn. He got two missed shots in before Kiddo dove out the door, knife in hand. Her tackle forced Quincy to his feet, but she didn’t have the weight to make a difference. He grabbed her knife-wrist and swung her into Monty as he came down with an overhead strike.

They fell together and Monty was the first to see the Copper take a step closer to get a better shot. He pupped off one round that missed and not a second because Kiddo had ripped out the magazine. Quincy saw the empty mag-well by the time she threw the crushed metal box at his face, cracking his visor.

The Copper staggered back then dashed into the wall beside the perfectly fine door. Kiddo was closest and followed through, Monty close in second, and found Quincy with pistol and knife ready in his left, rifle slug. The Copper charged Monty and met him blade to blade, knife humming with sparks shooting from their edge while popping off at Kiddo under his arm. She rolled, bullets whistling overhead, and the Copper stepped to Monty’s left while kicking out one leg.

Monty fell forward just as Kiddo came out of her roll, hopping over her compatriot. She slashed at Quincy, her blade catching on the under barrel of the pistol, before he slashed. Kiddo went low as he shot, each one making her deafer. She traded knife-hands and came up with an upper cut, but when Kiddo’s knife met the Copper’s it went clean through. The blade kept going and scraped off a sliver of her forearm.

Feedback sensors registered pain and Kiddo shrieked backward. Quincy could’ve taken her head had Monty not come in with a wide upper. The Copper dashed back, but left with a cut through his lips and nostril. He blindly shot off what as left in his pistol on his way out another hole.

“Damn-it,” growled Kiddo dropping the knife and holding the cut on her arm.

“Gotta move–“ started Monty.

They dropped when darts ripped through the wall to the left. Monty wasn’t fast enough and found a hole through his right arm with wires sticking out. He couldn’t move it, sword still in his fingers.

“Split up,” said Kiddo into his ear so he could hear over the gunfire. She pointed to the hole by the door. “I got the other side!”

Keeping flat she moved deeper into the apartment while Monty went through the hole, darts zipping above. She got closer to a bedroom and rushed to put her fist through the back wall. The spinners whirled as Kiddo tore herself into the hall.

Her flat cap fell on her way out. She left it behind and stepped softly to the corner across from the hole Quincy first made. Kiddo peeked at the Copper changing mags. She didn’t want to, but Monty needed room to get around the guy, and threw a thick piece of stud at him. When Quincy turned she dashed into his bedroom.

Tripping over the room’s clutter might’ve saved her life. The stacks fell on her as the darts ripped inside, adrenaline pushing her through it. She got halfway in when the shooting stopped and Kiddo rushed to her feet. She made it two steps before he came through the wall, knife in hand.

“Think I’m stupid!” He kicked the clutter on his way toward her. “Ain’t wastin’ another bullet! You’re goin’ out nasty!”

Kiddo threw a footlocker and it fell in two pieces with a single cut. She readied herself and ducked under a slash, diving for his left leg. She pulled up, making Quincy hit the floor on his side, and grabbed the brace with both hands. The spinners whirled before it snapped between Kiddo’s fists.

She rolled onto her feet when he came in with a slash, narrowly missing her nose. When she stood Kiddo noticed the middle and index fingers on her right hand shooting sparks from cut stumps. Didn’t have time for shock when Quincy stepped in. She dashed back and rolled over a stack and waited for him to get closer. With knife raised she grabbed the Copper’s wrist before he let it go and caught it with his left hand by her gut.

She clamped around his fingers, tip of the blade an inch away. They growled at each other until Quincy shoved his right knee in. Kiddo let go of his right wrist and slid left, prompting the Copper to draw. The two spun together, one avoiding fire and the other trying to get a shot in. Then Quincy swung his captured arm toward the door.

Kiddo struck the wall, leaving a giant dent in the drywall, and knocking off some photos. She coughed up blood, feeling the stitches open around her stomach, and looked to the Copper putting up his pistol and trading knife-hands. Then Monty decided to make his move, rushing in from the kitchen with his right sleeve fluttering behind. He met the Copper with an uppercut that was batted away before sliding in for a stab. Monty stepped back and slashed from the side.

Kiddo didn’t stay to watch and staggered into the kitchen. One hand dug through her inside pocket for the pill bottle while the other ripped open the coat. She popped the cap off with one thumb and swallowed three, the rest of the pills spilling out when she put the bottle to her lips. She tried to let go of it, but found her fingers stiff and the red lights on her wrists blinking faster than usual.

She spat up blood and took off her coat. Then Monty came tumbling out of the bedroom, blood on his sword, and right leg snapped at the knee. He climbed to his good foot with Kiddo’s help as Quincy stagger out with his left arm missing at the bicep, the limb hanging in the limp brace. He growled with the HF knife between his teeth as he shouldered his rifle.

The counters burst behind Kiddo and Monty as they rushed around the corner toward the front door. They dropped as the darts killed the TV and couch before the drywall dust settled and rifle went silent. Instead of footsteps they heard Quincy groan and the weapon hit the floor. He leaned on one shattered counter and worked his belt with his last hand. He managed a loop and put it around his stump before pulling. The knife fell out so he could shout. He calmed to a growl and fastened the belt through the buckle once more. As the pain became manageable he saw Kiddo standing in the open, sword hilt in hand.

They shared a pause before Quincy picked up the knife. “Guess we’re just about even… TalSec give ya those? M-cells ain’t used to strain yet; not like worn cells.”

Kiddo looked at the blinking lights and nodded.

The Copper pulled off his helmet and let it hit the floor. “Way I see it, I can put you down in two while you vent those arms or you can charge and open me up before I get a single shot in. Either way, only one of us’ll be left standing.”

“…Yeah,” she said before popping her sword. “You might be right.”

Quincy stepped away from the counter and stood right across from Kiddo. With naked eyes they stared into one another. The sound of rain peppering the building faded into silence, no other noise or word from anyone or anything. Quincy and Kiddo had the room to themselves. The setting and Monty watching from the corner seemed light years away. With two missing fingers Kiddo moved the sword to her side, edge parallel to the floor, back hunched. Quincy flipped his knife in his palm right-wise and winded his arm over his left shoulder. They stayed like that for what seemed like an hour before rolling the dice.

Their feet didn’t make a sound with each rapid step. Kiddo hiked her knees up as she moved low, Quincy arcing down to get close. As quickly as they started the two had traded sides, respective blades held outward in opposite positions, dripping crimson. On the floor by their left feet laid a streak of blood that curved back to the middle of the path like an S cut in two. Quincy hit the floor and Kiddo would’ve turned to look were she not on her own way down.

Her hands kept her from going face first, the sword hilt falling apart after bouncing on the floorboards. Kiddo felt an icy pain shoot up her knees and saw severed tibias wearing her jackboots behind her. Her breathing couldn’t keep up with the heart pounding out her chest as she sat up, keeping the gushing stumps raised.

Monty slid to her side with his belt and tied one off. “It’s alright. It’s alright.”

Kiddo bit her lip as he reached from her belt to tourniquet the last stump.

A wet cough from Quincy caught their attention as he rolled on his back. His intestines lay on the floor beside him in a pool of red as more spilled over the cut from kidney to kidney. “Don’t take their money!” he shouted after a spray burst from his mouth. “Don’t take their money, Volk!” He groaned as he sat up to meet her gaze. “They’ll own you like they owned me and everything else.” He wiped his mouth. “…Nothin’s real anymore… There’ll be more like me. They gonna make it real.”

Kiddo had gotten ahold of herself, both stumps tied off. She listened and stared at Quincy before reaching for his helmet not far from her reach. “…And I wont stop them.”

The Copper caught it after she tossed it and slowly put it on as tears cut through the blood on his mouth and chin. “I’m comin’ home, Daddy.” He laid back and smiled, the neon painting him red. “I’m comin’ home.”

Kiddo kept her face toward him so Monty couldn’t see her cry.

***

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 #24

Cover24

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)

Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

Also By CT McMillan
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

There was nothing but pain between Kiddo’s tits and toes. She felt her thighs go cold as blood soaked past her crotch. The sidewalk passed under her feet as Monty carried her under one arm, the whole thing a blur of night and neon. Sound came in waves between ringing that drilled into Kiddo’s brain. Something iron pooled in her mouth before she let it drool over her lip as she touched her loose pink hair.

“…Where’s my hat,” she mumbled. Monty slurred back. She turned to look at him, but all she could see was the street and his belt. Kiddo settled back to the sidewalk and hocked a wad of blood. “…Pomogite, papa… Ya ne chuvstvuyu sebya khorosho–” The blood came out like vomit. “Eomma, dowajuseyo!” she cried, tears mixing with the crimson on her cheeks.

Her body jerked back and the lines on the sidewalk turned vertical. Kiddo didn’t look to see what was happening as hands laid her on a stretcher. She saw the night sky letterboxed by skyscrapers with Monty’s towering form in between. The view shifted away as suits lifted her up before it all went black.

 

The smell of wood and carpet came to her first. Kiddo could tell she was on her back, but it felt like she was floating in a pool. It was a pleasant sensation while it lasted until she realized her arms were gone.

Kiddo’s eyes shot open and tired to sit-up before she groaned back. A sharp ache rippled from her abs that receded once she was down. Whatever supported her head squeaked of cheap leather against the bristles of her shaved hair. She looked down and saw she was wearing underwear that wasn’t hers and bandages from waist to chest. The tight bra was new and she didn’t own one in the first place.

Never saw the point with nothing hanging.

Kiddo’s brain went into high gear real quick. She didn’t feel completely helpless because whoever patched her up was either a friend or someone that needed a favor. Easiest way to get leverage is to save someone’s life.

Kiddo was on a shiny leather couch pocked with buttons. Walls were wood panel with the darkest stain she’d ever seen. The panels only took up a portion of the walls with the rest covered in pink and gold floral wallpaper. On the wallpaper hung sconces with shaded lights. The ceiling was curved outward with smooth drywall like a real house. What broke the façade was a sliding frosted glass door across from the couch.

It wasn’t enough to satisfy her curiosity. She needed to see the whole room, damn the pain. Sliding one foot off she felt a rug tickle her soles, followed by the next. Kiddo walked herself to the edge, sliding her back across the cushion, and dug her heels into the carpet. She clenched her teeth as her thighs got tight. The small of her back went hot and her stomach ached when she bent too far forward. Kiddo’s face grew redder until she stood up straight with heavy breaths.

“Really shouldn’t move, but no one can keep you down, Anya-jun Ivanov.”

Kiddo snapped to the back of the room. Charlie Kurt sat behind a wood desk of anachronistic clutter. With a fancy computer on the side stood a lamp with a green glass shade and a leather desk pad. A modern phone sat on the edge behind a large cigar box at the top left corner. Behind Kurt the windows had shutters bringing in a little dusk. A chair sat before the desk with a smaller couch to the side beside a bookcase filled with tattered cloth-bound tomes.

Kurt himself looked as clean cut as the day he walked past Kiddo in Kyrii’s conference room. This time he wore a waistcoat with his two-piece and the neural ports in the shaved left side of his head were all empty. On his lapel was a TalSec talon pin. He had on a grin as she stared at him with a scowl.

“Haven’t heard that name in years… Where’d you hear it?”

“C’mon, Miss Ivanov. You’re not one for stupid questions. Information comes cheap if you know the right people. Friends of friends in Immigration needed rent and groceries. My name, however, costs nothing.”

“I already know it.”

Kurt laughed. “Drugs must still be in your system if you’re this slow. Jesus.”

“Then talk fast before I sink my teeth into your face.”

He nodded with that grin and gestured the chair in front of the desk. “I mean the one I use for family engagements. Dad named me Clemenza after his favorite character from one of those gangster movies he made us watch,” he said as Kiddo approached the chair like a cautious predator. “One of the longer ones. My sisters couldn’t get through the thing, but I loved it and the sequel. Third one we ignored.”

He waited for her to sit before continuing.

“Funny thing is, I take after Dad so much, but got all my looks from Mom. I’m tall, blond, skinny as a rail, and I have great skin. Wouldn’t ‘ve made it this far if I was short, bug-eyed, paunchy, and looked like a week old banana.”

Clemenza let it come to Kiddo, watching her eyes narrow. “…Cici never talked about his kids.”

“Glad he kept it up to the end. He knew better than to spill too much or the whole enterprise would’ve collapsed. But he liked talking about you. A lot. You were the daughter he wished he had. Can’t say you’d make a good sister, but you’ve been a worthwhile investment.”

Kiddo hesitated to speak, watching Clemenza like she waiting for him to pull a gun.

“This is all very strange, I know,” he said opening the cigar box. “There’s a lot I need to get out of the way,” he pulled out her silver cigarette case, “and you’re probably going to get pissed off real quick.” Clemenza clicked one e-cig and held it out. “All I can say is wait till the end and we’ll both get what we want.”

She didn’t turn from his eyes as Kiddo took the cig.

“Do you know how the Yakuza were so successful in Japan?”

Kiddo blew smoke out her nose. “They worked within the law.”

“Exactly,” he said leaving the case on the desk. “Prostitution illegal; Yaks built hostess clubs. Gambling banned; they invested in pachinko parlors. Companies that built the machines traded a cut of profits for the Yak’s property to build the parlors. Suddenly company and clan become one; so do their various businesses and rackets, and you get a zaibatsu, a legitimate/illegitimate conglomerate. The law didn’t do a thing because it was all technically legal and was great for Japan’s economy… Then the Chinese started killing each other and prostitution was legalized on the West Coast.”

“So they crossed the pond to get a slice.”

“Perfect frigging timing. I was a junior executive when Kyrii moved his operation and goons under the guise of his company, his zaibatsu. My bosses saw the writing on the wall when the he started buying up property and opening small businesses. No way we were going the way of Canada or, God forbid, Europe. Thing is, we’re more regulated than a social media corporation. Sure, we fund the cops and have contracts with the military, but we couldn’t use our resources to rough up Kyrii because he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Then I got an idea that got me promoted: if Kyrii can keep his own gang under the table, why not we?”

Kiddo clenched her toes and tightened her jaw as he spoke. She was smart to keep herself from going for the neck before Kurt’s phone beeped.

The technicians are here with Miss Volk’s arms, sir,” said a neutral voice from the phone. “Her clothes were dropped off by the shopper fifteen minutes ago.”

Clemenza held a button down. “Thank you, Rachel. Send them in. And Mister Goichi if he’s awake.”

Kiddo perked up and turned to the door. Two stiffs in dark blue coveralls walked in carrying a strong box by the short ends.

“Set it by the couch, please guys,” said Clemenza. “Thank you. Ask Rachel for your tips.”

The stiffs left just as Monty came into the office, hair and collar disheveled. He stood by the box as the three of them were alone. “You okay?”

Kiddo nodded.

“She’s also right pissed with me,” said Clemenza. “Like telling a kid Santa ain’t real.”

Monty made flat frown and started to adjust his collar and tie. “What’d you expect?” He made for the couch close to the desk. “She loved playing gangster–”

“You saved my life,” said Kiddo holding her e-cig to one side of her mouth. “But you,” she turned to Clemenza, “you might’ve patched me up, but I’m going to need a better reason to let you live. I joined the Family because I owed Cici and you spit on his grave treating it like a joke.”

While Monty hid a wide grin under his large mod hand Clemenza put up his palms to Kiddo and looked as though he was about to laugh. “Hey, I only gave him funds and a business plan to start the Family; off the books, obviously. That was the extent of my involvement.” He lowered his hands. “Everything after that was quite genuine. I know it meant a lot and I told you weren’t going to like what I had to say. You needed to know or else nothing was going to make sense.”

Kiddo didn’t realize her heart was racing. She leaned back in the chair and sucked down another drag of flavored vapor that made it slow.

Clemenza adjusted in his seat. “Now, I take it you know who hacked Enzo?”

“I have a hunch.”

“Just a hunch? The holes in your stomach and cracked ribs weren’t enough?”

“It was that cop Speers,” said Monty. “All him.”

“He was a technician during the Second Mexican-American War. Never saw a day of combat, but the man knows his way around very dangerous and expensive equipment, including our Android hijack software we purchased from Kyrii. Guy’s an R’n’D tester on weekends.”

“Apparently, these idiots allowed him to take a copy of the program out of their lab about a year ago,” said Monty.

“A year ago?” repeated Kiddo.

“I’m not in charge of R’n’D,” said Clemenza. “Those eggheads trusted him enough to let him work from home. Who knows what else he’s got.”

“…So, he’s retired military with a small arsenal of prototype weapons,” said Kiddo. “Why’d he come after me in the first place? I just met the bastard a day before he hacked Enzo.”

“Ask him yourself,” said Clemenza before typing a few keys on his keyboard. He turned the monitor to face Kiddo and on the screen was a grid map of a city block. In a colored square was a red dot. “Hasn’t moved since the massacre. After shooting you he put Detective Pierce in a coma and went home. We told Seattle PD we’d handle him–”

“And you prefer the vengeance angle,” said Kiddo.

Clemenza cracked a smile he made sure didn’t stay long. “Oh, we’d deal with it personally… if Speers weren’t a cop and one of our employees. Funding the police was always a slippery slope for the company. Hard to spin a story about a cop using TalSec equipment to wreak havoc on innocent minorities like your boy-toy–”

“He wasn’t a toy, you prick!”

The suit paused then went on. “You’re off the books and you have a newfound reputation for dispatching criminals by the bushel.” Kiddo felt her stomach knot. “Given the circumstances of the Enzo’s death, we can make it all justified. ‘Loose-cannon cop killed by would-be victim’ sounds agreeable. And given what he did to Pierce, the PD won’t miss him anytime soon.”

“Nice neat bow,” said Monty.

“And your samurai friend insisted on making sure you didn’t go it alone.”

Kiddo looked over her shoulder at him nodding back. “Everyone wins.” She turned back to Clemenza, “but my vengeance comes with interest. My money the cops impounded–“

“Yours,” he said.

“The investigation for what I’ve done–“

“I’ll set you up once Speers is in pieces. I suppose we shake on it?”

Kiddo let out a mild groan as she stood and walked to the strong box. Monty met her there and pulled out her right arm. Both mods were like new with a shiny finish in place of all the wear and tear she’d accumulated since putting them on. The arm linked to her anchor joint with a prang and the clamps twitched as he helped align. The pain of connection that made her shiver didn’t hurt as much; the last few days helped build up quite the tolerance.

About the time the fingers stopped twitching Clemenza was there with his hand out. “Dad would be proud.”

She shook it and fought the urge to crush his tiny bones. “Mmm.”

They let go. “My secretary has new clothes at her desk. Same old Pinkerton uniform with boots, blades, and fast-acting painkillers. I recommend putting on something a little less conspicuous so Speers doesn’t’ see you two coming.”

Kiddo shivered as the left arm connected then made a pair of fists. “He won’t.”

 

The hall outside was sterile with muted paint, paneled ceiling, and a thin carpet floor. By the sliding door was a desk where Rachel sat, an Android. She wasn’t soul’d like Andys you find in public. They’re grown to serve as computers with feet for whoever can afford them for five years. Legally you can’t keep an Android in a reactive state past five years because they’re considered people. Afterward they’re given self-awareness to go their own way: they gain a soul.

Rachel sat completely straight in her chair toward a computer, eyes unblinking, and chest still. Once Kiddo and Monty came out she turned and reached for a large shopping bag at her feet. Her blank expression met Kiddo’s as Rachel waited for her to take the bag.

Kiddo threw on the clothes right there. Monty was modest enough put his back to her, but she didn’t seem to care if anyone watched. She got a fresh crimson pea coat, grey flat cap, jeans, jackboots, sleeveless shirt, and a sword and knife with the hooks to carry them on a belt. Before they left Rachel, Kiddo asked for a rubber band to tie her hair back.

TalSec was set up in one of the glass towers downtown, so tall and narrow it was more of a crystalline spire. When they got into the elevator the sun was going down and Kiddo and Monty could see Seattle painted gold. She faced the cylindrical window while he leaned by the control panel, hand resting on his katana.

The city rose as they descended, Kiddo popping a pill from a blue bottle and chewing it with her back teeth. “What’d you say to the Shogun to make him stop?”

Monty took his time. “Made a deal.”

“Of what variety?”

“The kind that no matter how this ends, I’m dead. Either Speers kills me or you take my head with this,” he said before tapping the pommel.

Kiddo looked over her shoulder. “You’re either really dumb or really brave.”

“Fine line.”

She turned back and lit an e-cig. “I have to live with knowing I got more people killed than I thought possible because I was thinking with my sword. My friends, your friends, a couple cops, even those degenerates that pulled the trigger. All because I stole a laptop and phones that led me nowhere. I’m going to live with that until I’m ash. Only one more has to die,” she blew smoke through her mouth, “not a second.”

“You should know better. Made my bed… have to sleep in it.”

Kiddo turned to Monty and they shared a silence in each other’s eyes. “In case I don’t get the chance,” she extended her hand with a smirk, “it’s been a ball, dirty Jap.”

Monty smiled and they shook. “Likewise, Korean dog.”

***

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 #23

Cover23

By
C.T. McMillan
+++

Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)

Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

Also By CT McMillan
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

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

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

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

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

“Like I said, not my first break-in.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Appreciated,” said Monty.

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

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

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

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

“Personal best,” he said.

“Good enough for me.”

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

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

Monty grimaced. “Makes one of us.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jacobs, clear the street,” said Pierce

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

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

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

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

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

“That won’t be necessary.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did I say we were, numb-nuts?”

“Get over here, Pink,” said Lotch.

“I told you–“ she started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not gonna kill you–“

“Good!”

“Shut! Up!” shouted Pierce.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then her stance broke after tripping into a corpse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s going on?“ she asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“I-I have rights–”

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

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

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

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

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

He dumped three shots to make her good and inoperable.

***

Recommended Reading/Viewing
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Battle Angel Alita, By Yukito Kishiro
On the Waterfront, Directed by Elia Kazan

About the Author
C.T. is a Florida native and proud gun owner. He is a fan of all things military, comic books, and a self-proclaimed movie buff. In his off-time C.T. reviews movies on a blog no one reads and writes screenplays that will never get made, but enjoys it nonetheless. He hopes this book thing will actually pay off so he can do it forever.

Binge Review 10: The Boys

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

***

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

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

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

It does not get much better after that.

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

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

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

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

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