Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
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I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
The lights were turned on in the living room when Kiddo decided to play nice. Neither her nor Monty was ready to trust the other, keeping their distance, and hands ready to draw. They faced a TV on the wall at the other end of the room. Kiddo had the couch while Monty stood thumbing his phone, sword resting in her lap.
A white wheel rotated on screen. Seconds later the wheel was replaced by an image of Boss Kyrii sitting at a long desk and behind him stood the Mark in a business dress. Sitting atop a wide dresser by a long window to the right of the desk was a trio of ornamental swords on a small rack. The image was at an angel, captured above from the middle of the office.
“Remember her?” asked Monty gesturing the screen. He touched his phone and the image went in motion.
Kyrii was writing on a piece of paper while the Mark was totally motionless, not even raising her chest to simulate breathing. First time she did was to pull out her phone, each motion precise and efficient. When she put it to her ear, the Mark loosened up and her arms dropped to her sides. There wasn’t sound, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out what the Shogun might’ve said after he swiveled his chair in her direction.
The Mark’s head twitched as she looked around the room. She starred at Kyrii, face twisted in a mess of terror and confusion. She turned to the right and stumbled towards the swords on the dresser. Her gate was a staggered limp like she didn’t want to move, but couldn’t stop. The Shogun was halfway standing by the time she unsheathed the middle sword.
Kiddo stood herself to get a better look, eyes wide and lips parted.
Kyrii was still an ancient bastard back then, getting lucky when he stepped back from the Mark’s shambling slash. He backed into the desk and she moved in for a stab. The Shogun jerked to the left off the desk and took a deep cut to his side before landing on his back.
Blood sprayed across the carpet as the Mark straddled him. She would have stabbed him through the chest had his old wrinkled hands not caught the blade. Blood poured from the tip, covering his shirt as the edge dug deeper into his palms. The Mark leaned her weight on the sword, pushing deeper between Kyrii’s hands.
At an inch from penetration a pair of Yaks pulled her off. Another pair, one of them a very young and entirely Flesh Monty, dragged Kyrii to the left out of the TV frame save for the Shogun’s skinny legs. The others shoved the Mark into the window and drew knives. She slashed when they moved in, flinching out of the way. The Mark tried to slash again, but her body seemed to drop her to one knee, and turn the sword on herself. The tip sunk into her throat before she twisted with a spray of white blood.
The Yaks put up their hands to shield their eyes and mouth. When the milky geyser slowed to a trickle the Mark fell facedown, driving the sword through till her neck met the fancy cross guard. The Yaks slowly gathered around her on the outside of the white stains. Monty held Kyrii’s side as he helped him to the scene right before the video faded to black.
Monty turned to Kiddo still staring at the TV. She clicked her blade back into the hilt and hung it on her belt beside the knife she used to decapitate Takashi. “What is it?”
“A hijack program. It starts with an audio signal that causes kernel panic and opens up the control drivers for remote access. She was networked to the company server at the time, completely impenetrable. Being frequency based, all the hacker needed was the right phone number. I take it Enzo went the same way?”
She nodded before taking her seat. “Who was it?”
“The Deng Chi. Chinese don’t like Japanese and when we were making moves in Seattle, they wanted us out quick. The original program came from the PRC. Remember the Xi’an Massacre? That’s what they used to hack people with basic neura-plants, but the Chi adapted the program to work on Androids. Only made it slightly less illegal.”
“Oh, god. What’d you do to them?”
“They’re bones at the bottom of the Sound by now.”
“And the program?”
Monty took a chair across from Kiddo, taking up as much time as possible before breaking it to her. “We sold it to TalSec.”
The spinners whirled when Kiddo formed fists until she stopped herself. “How stupid are you people?”
“If we kept it, we would be. TalSec funds the police and the Gorinni Family pays off the police. This was before your time, Volk, and that program bought us room to grow and my arms and legs. “
“Think I’m dumb enough to believe you didn’t make a copy–“
“Now who’s the stupid one? That program is military tech from a hostile superpower that was used on their own people. The Deng Chi were insane enough to try it out on American soil. A man has to know his limitations, Volk. How do you think the Yakuza were so successful back in the Home Islands? No way we were going to use outlawed software for something as petty as gang politics or a turf war.”
“And you gave it to a competitor.”
“Yes and not only did it secure our place for a time, but further vindicates the Clan’s innocence in Enzo’s suicide. We may have sanctioned Cicero’s assassination, but we face enemies like you in the open–”
“Yeah. I got it.” Kiddo sat back, face to the ceiling as she sighed. “Then we go after TalSec.”
Monty squinted one eye. “Huh?”
Kiddo looked at him. “The hacker got in through Enzo’s phone, so I’ve been collecting phones from clients that had his number. Started with Tak just to be sure, then Steiner, and I came for yours. Now I’m thinking we could go right to the source.” She stood and made for the front door. “You sold TalSec the program; they’ll know how to find the hacker. Tell the Shogun I’ll leave town forever if he can get me in their building.”
Monty stood and watched her put on her coat. “I was told to collect your head, Volk. Already lost face for even thinking about helping you. I’m on my own.”
“Makes two of us.” Kiddo put on her cap. “Then we go to the next best thing.”
Monty was at Kiddo’s side in front of the door in the basement, an e-cig in her mouth. After two stiff pounds with her fist it opened to Taro on the other side. There was a gap in his mouth to speak before he noticed Monty and couldn’t say a word.
“Motto jikan ga hitsuy–“
“Not here for rent,” he said.
“He’s with me,” added Kiddo blowing smoke. “Any luck?”
Taro stepped aside to let them through. “Should’ve come early. Been warming our hands since morning.”
“Had to pick up my dry cleaning and I hadn’t slept in 48 hours.”
The Christmas lights along the corners of the ceiling were on in the den. Kiddo took to a ratty couch on the wall by the server towers while Monty surveyed his new cramped surroundings just beyond the door.
Taro shut and locked it before making for the kitchen. “Pinkerton’s here,” he said with a raised voice toward the nook at the back.
The vertical monitors displayed scrolling code while smaller ones atop the curved desk showed regular home-screens and open webpages. “Y’late,” said Ricky in one of the red leather armchairs facing the monitors.
“Picked up our new lead; one that’s got us pointed in the right direction.”
With a crinkle of leather he stood. Ricky had his orange jaw mod back in place and a custom VR set over his eyes. It was a black rectangle with cables bundled into a braid running down the back of his head. He pulled it up and kept his eyes squinted. “Brought a fox into the hen house, Pinkerton.”
“Calling yourself a hen inspires great confidence, hacker,” said Monty.
“He’s on our side,” said Kiddo
“Pardon me if I don’t take y’word for it,” said Ricky.
“They may be skinny and squishy, Monty, but they cost me nothing.”
“Don’t be so quick on the draw,” said Ricky pulling down the set and sitting. “This mining’s rackin’ up a hefty sum.”
“I can always take back the jaw, Ricky, and send my people to collect interest on your debt.” Kiddo waited for him to say something then smiled at his silence. “So, what’d you find?”
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.