Neon Oldie #17


C.T. McMillan

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

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

Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’ll do.”

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

“What did I say?”

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

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

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

“What else?” asked Lotch.

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

“And after that–“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s dead. You’re next.”


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

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

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

“But Boss Kyrii–“ said the same Yak.

“Did I stutter, boy?”

The driver answered by turning onto the next street.


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

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

“Call the boss,” he said.


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

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

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

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

“Got it.”

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

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

“More like Jaws of Death.”

He chuckled. “Good one.”

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

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

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

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

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

The uniforms in earshot, including Dom, looked nervous.

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

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

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

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

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

Pierce looked at Dom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did they catch the guy that broke in?”

“Nothing in the database.”

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What, Sterling?

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


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

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

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

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

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

The last call came just before he went to bed.

You beg like a whipped cuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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 #16


C.T. McMillan

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

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

Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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 Yak’s eyes were all the way up once his head slid off. The angle of the drop was perfect, coming out enough for Kiddo to give it a stiff kick. Takashi was trained on her center of mass by the time the head hit his pistol loose, mid-trigger pull. The bullet hit the ceiling and sounded the remaining eleven Yaks to charge. Kiddo hunched slightly and launched herself into them.

The second Yak took a shallow cut across the stomach. She wanted to open him up, but Kiddo had to dash right to avoid the third Yak’s swing from a baton. That left his arm vulnerable once she pivoted for a counter. The third reeled back, the stump of his forearm gushing. He didn’t suffer long when Kiddo went for the head. She was greedy and paid for it when the fourth got around to slice her back with a wakizashi.

When she swiped backward with a shriek, the fourth Yak ducked out of the way before his buddies got a few hits in. Kiddo saw a knife coming in low from the fifth and dropped to one knee. Swinging to keep her flanks clear, she grabbed the guy’s knife-hand, and squeezed with a whirl of the spinner. Blood shot out between her fingers as he shouted. Then Kiddo rolled between his legs and grabbed him by the collar.

Orite!” shouted Takashi and the Yaks dropped to the floor. Behind them he had his gun back in hand.

Kiddo went small, pulling the fifth Yak down before cutting his legs out below the knee. The guy was pretty big in comparison, putting enough meat between her and Takashi’s bullets. He emptied the magazine into the Yak, keeping the grouping tight. Still, he would’ve needed more ammo to reach her.

With her arms, the fifth wasn’t heavy, and rolled the corpse to the side once Takashi clicked empty. Kiddo charged him, the fear of God in his eyes. She didn’t make it when the second Yak, bleeding like a stuck pig, put her in a headlock. The guy was wounded, but she couldn’t get out of it. Kiddo wiggled and thrashed enough to get her left loose. She threw it to the side and her joints bent backwards, bringing a tight fist toward the second Yak. The bone around his ear caved in under the skin like a flesh-colored bag of broken pottery.

When the second fell away, Kiddo snapped her arm back in place, and locked blades with the fourth Yak. Their edges ground into each other, making a noise that’d send a shiver up your spine. She saw the rest of them moving around for her flanks and took her left off the hilt to snap the wakizashi off at the cross guard.

Kiddo held it backwards, making it easy to shove through the fourth Yak’s throat. She pulled it out to the side in a spin to deflect the sixth’s baton, opening the fourth’s throat halfway. The snapped blade still in hand, Kiddo dragged it from the sixth stomach to his chest. He staggered back, failing to keep his guts from falling out. Kiddo left the blade in him to focus on the last six Yaks.

Takashi saw an opening and rushed to the bar. The Goris were hiding behind, sticking their heads up enough to watch the slaughter.

“Lotch, “gimme the scatter gun!” They snapped out of their awe to stare at him like stranger. There wasn’t anger or resentment; just pure uncut indifference. “What about a spare mag? C’mon! Any of you got one? I’m still your boss, you pieces of–“

It was like getting hit with a baseball when that head nearly knocked Takashi over the bar. Kiddo wasn’t far behind, sword at her hip with fresh cuts around her legs and shoulder. None of them sapped her speed with the last three Yaks on her tail.

Takashi jerked himself to the left, but wasn’t quick enough to keep one of his hands. He screamed as Kiddo hit the bar with a thud that took the air out of her lungs. She turned in time to catch the tenth Yak’s knife before it sunk deeper in her chest. With a groan through clenched teeth Kiddo dropped her sword to squeeze the tenth’s hand into crumpled bone. He didn’t yell for long after she crushed the side of his face with the other hand.

The sight was enough to stop the eleventh and twelfth Yaks in their tracks.

Nanishiteruno?” yelled Takashi. “Kill the bitch!”

They got a hold of themselves the same time Kiddo shoved her latest kill away. The eleventh Yak had a baton before she struck his forearm with an open-hand chop. As he roared, Kiddo caught the baton mid-fall, and buried it in the twelfth’s head when he got close. She finished off the eleventh with a punch to the throat that cracked his spine out the back of his neck.

It felt like hours since Kiddo had a chance to take a breath. Suddenly she felt all the cuts and bruises, the loose strands of hair tickling her ears. The blood on her face and clothes was cold as ice, already hardening into a deeper shade of crimson. What she couldn’t feel was the knife still in her ribs. Wasn’t deep enough to register, but its hard to miss something sticking between your ribs. You could tell she got enough of a break when Kiddo limped toward Takashi.

He knew he was done for; no exit, no friends, nothing to keep him from getting what’s coming. Takashi backed toward the office door, hand clasped over his bleeding stump like he was praying. “I-I didn’t do it!” he cried. “I’m sorry about Enzo, but I didn’t do it! I swear!” He hit the wall by the door and went to his knees. “I’ll get you your money! More money even! I’ll get you anything you want! Please!”

Kiddo grabbed him by the hair and pulled Takashi’s head back. With a grimace she yanked the knife from her chest. “When you get to Hell,” she said putting the edge to his jugular, “give my regards to Cici.”

She savored every stroke as blood poured down his three-piece suit. Takashi’s gurgle grew louder as Kiddo sawed deeper, slowly fading into silence. Before long his body slumped to the side, his heart making a few final pumps out his exposed arteries.


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 #15


C.T. McMillan

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

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

Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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.


There wasn’t a black suit among the Gorinnis stacked at the bar. They had on their usual flapper getup with the addition of a black armband hugging one sleeve. It was late in the morning, but that didn’t stop them from reaching for glasses. Lotch was kind enough to help them to it, sharing the same two bottles of whiskey.

“So, we taking the monorail?” asked one Gori.

“We’re sharing cars in the procession,” said Lotch. “Me and Cody’re driving one.”

“And me,” said a second Gori down the other side of the bar. “I can fit four.”

“If I can’t fit the rest, we’ll double up,” added a third.

“How long’s this gonna be?” asked a fourth.

The whole bar eyeballed the kid sitting at the far end, totally isolated.

“Got somewhere to be, pal?” asked the first Gori.

“This too much of an inconvenience for ya?” asked the third.

The kid looked like he was ready to get his teeth kicked in.

“What do you want me to say? It’s friggin’ sad. I don’t wanna do this. Do you guys?”

The kid made enough of a point to make the Goris go back to their drinks, Lotch pouring seconds before taking his own swig.

“I used to have all this debt from school,” said the second. “Had to work a janitor’s gig at the museum. Then one day, my prick boss was screaming at me in the middle of the day, the place packed with people. And here comes Cici, half the size of this guy, and grabs his balls ‘til he fainted.”

The bar laughed.

“After that, he made me a package boy, and all my debt was gone after a year’s work.” He finished his glass in one gulp. “True friggin’ story.”

No one wanted to talk after that, but the silence didn’t last long when the doors slid open. Takashi Sterling came in, dressed in a blue three-piece, and topped with his single blue eye mod. His left hand was wrapped in fresh gauze, most of it around his missing pinky. Behind him was a gaggle of a dozen Yakuza, black suit and tie like you’d expect. They didn’t want to be there and the Goris would’ve been happy to show them the door.

“Morning, fellas,” said Takashi, standing towards the middle of the club so everyone could see him. “I know the timing ain’t ideal, given everything that’s happened, but I think Cici would’ve…


Not much you could say about a street alley. They’re either dirty or very dirty. The alley behind Le Speak looked like the next one over, and the next one after that. Garbage bags were packed next to dumpsters the city forgot to pick up last week. The one by the back door was particularly hefty, enough that you’d need a proper truck to empty. It wasn’t too hard for Kiddo when she pushed it in front of the door, clad in her signature crimson peacoat and grey flat cap with round sunglasses. The creaking against the pavement was louder than her arms humming with the effort. Once you couldn’t see the door, Kiddo jogged down the alley and rounded the corner at the street.


“…Now, as a part of the very generous terms outlined by our new partners,” said Takashi, “we’re taking on new blood in an exchange. We get a little of theirs, they get a little of ours. I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but I think this is a good opportunity to…”


The hatch leading into the cellar sat above ground to the left of the club’s awning. Looked like an urban storm shelter with the lock on the inside to keep out would-be boozers. It was the only other exit out of Le Speak next to the main entrance.

Kiddo pulled a small pry bar tucked in the back of her pants and hooked it into the handles of the hatch. Holding the ends of the bar on either side of the handles she bent the metal. The rings of her arms spun under her sleeves until the metal was wrapped around the handles. The lights on her wrists stopped blinking as Kiddo descended under the awning. She took one step at a time, taking it slow to think it through again and again.

Takashi cut his speech short and watched her come in. The Yaks turned her way and squared up under their cheap suits. Kiddo didn’t meet anyone’s eyes as she turned to the glass panel by the door in the wall. The screen blinked on before she fingered the keypad.

“Hey ya, Pinkerton,” said the third Gori.

She kept typing.

“Need an armband for the service?” asked the first. “I brought spares.”

They still couldn’t get a word out of her once the locks clicked and Kiddo took a stool at the end of the bar on the left after the Gori got up.

“Sake,” she finally said.

Lotch was starting to get the picture and passed her a whole bottle, the expensive kind that looked handmade, and kept his distance. He wiped his hands with a rag as he watched her finish it off in slow gulps.

“You and the rest of us, Pink,” said the second Gori. “Talkin’ about the good ole days can only do so mu–“

“Y’know,” she placed the bottle down, “I never killed anyone before?” She gave the bar a slow glance before turning back, shaking her head. “Not one. Not ever. Everyone says Pyongyang is dangerous at the lower levels and they’re right. It got worse after I lost Dad and my arms. But I never had to killed anyone. I stole, picked fights, begged for food, even tried whoring one time… Got cold feet the last minute. It was survival. Wasn’t out for blood or desperate enough I had bite someone’s throat out. All anyone needs is a little.”

The mood shifted. The Goris were wondering what Kiddo would do once she was done talking while Takashi was making his way to the door.

“After I snuck into that container, I realized, this time, I really had nothing. No friends, no family, no house, no purpose. When I woke up in Seattle,“ she said taking her cap and coat off, the reveal of the new arms that put her audience further on edge, “this short, bug-eyed old man made me the woman I am today. Cici thought because of where I’m from, I was a hard-up bruiser that knew how to play dirty. Course, I didn’t, but I faked it because I owed him. Then I had new friends, new house, and a reason to keep going. Cici made me, and there was no way I’d let him down by telling him I wasn’t a killer.” Kiddo joined her glasses with the cap and coat. The steely solidity of her Slav eyes made Lotch duck under the bar. “And now he’s dead. I spent 10 years putting on a stupid accent and a tough-bitch façade for that man… and then Tak splattered his brains all over me.”

The Goris turned to Takashi at the door. He was dialing a code in the panel that was changed minutes ago. As she went on, one Yak came to her right-hand side, waving off the Gori in the opposite stool. Then the guy next to him and the one on the wall gathered with their buddies in cautious anticipation.

“After that, I just wanted to leave. Make the rest of the money and skip town. No way I was going to give that traitorous schnook the same respect. It was going to take a while, but some one was looking out for me yesterday. I must be a real high roller to be so lucky. If I couldn’t serve as a warrior, then I made up my mind to do it as a mother. I finally had enough to start the family I wanted.”

The words were harder to get out, Kiddo’s lips curling inward. It came to her when she pulled her driving gloves off, one by one. “Enzo tired to kill me last night before turning our gun on himself… The second he put his hand around my throat I knew it wasn’t him. The cops told me someone jumped his brain and while they were looking for evidence, they took my money. All I needed to start over, what I worked so hard to get, snatched away… Now I’m back to nothing. No home I want to go back to, no boss to serve, no money to start my family, and no man to love me. I just wanted to leave this all behind to be a mother.” Kiddo balled her hands and talked through clenched teeth. “But when does anyone get what they want?”

It was just a matter of time. The Goris kept their distance while the Yaks were ready to draw. Takashi joined his new friends with pistol in hand, screwing off the suppressor. Kiddo reached around and held her sword in her lap, the Yak to her side reaching in his jacket.

“Dad was a funny guy. He was a Russian that loved Japan, but he lived in Korea because he couldn’t afford it. Anything Nippon, he knew it like the back of his hand. Right now, he’s looking down on me thinking I’m a ronin, samurai without a master. He’s thinking I could find work as someone’s bodyguard like those ancient movies he made me watch…” She sat up straight, one hand over the business end of the sword. “But this isn’t a movie, I was never a samurai, and I’m not a ronin.”

The blade shot out as fast as she threw her arm to the side. The Yak beside her was playing statue with an angry set of eyes that were slowly rolling up. The blade hovered over his shoulder, a clean red stripe painting the width of the metal. The Goris piled into each other once the sword came out and the Yaks and Takashi got a face-full of crimson.

Kiddo kept her back to them as she slid off the stool. When she faced the Yaks their wakazashis and batons were out. Some carried blades similar to hers, but smaller. Takashi was squared up and ready to take aim. She took the sword in two hands and held it down at her hip, face locked in a scowl.

“I’m just mad.”


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 #14


C.T. McMillan

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

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

Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

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.


Enzo van Gogh’s remaining eye stared at the ceiling as he lay in the bag. His other was blown out on the floor, pulled through the hole of shattered silicon by the bullet. Kiddo Volk watched him from the bed, displayed atop the gurney. She clutched the blanket on her shoulders, hoping he’d look her way.

“What you think?” asked first coroner at the end of the gurney. “Kernel panic?”

“For sure,” said the second at the front, clicking the gurney upright. “Guy blew a synthapse and went nuts.”

“I remember in Baja,” said the first moving to the side of the bag, “Cyber Ops hacked a Federale brothel and RC’d the Andie whores into killing a dozen politicians and top-brass hombres. Real nasty.”

They spoke like she wasn’t watching them seal up Enzo like a gas station sandwich. “And that’s why closed circuit is the way to go,” said the second pulling the gurney.

“Or buy a firewall,” said the first. “Guess this guy couldn’t afford it.”

Kiddo stared at the threshold after they left. Her peripherals were blurred, even the Copper’s snapping fingers by her face.

“Volk? Volk, come back to me.” The Copper stood with a notepad and pen in hand. He was in full beat cop attire; helmet, armor vest, and combi-pistol on his hip. The stiff gust of a sigh escaped his nostrils when Kiddo didn’t look away. “Is ‘at concussion playin’ with her head?” he asked the EMT dabbing the cut on her scalp.

“Not a concussion, Quincy,” she said. “Just a bad knock.”

“Well, she’s actin’ pretty out of it.”

“She’s in shock. I’d be if my boyfriend blew his brains out in front of me. Apply a delicate touch, I guess.”

The Copper made a grimace hidden by most of his asymmetric visor before going to one knee. He put the notepad on the floor and joined it with his helmet. The face beneath matched the accent, tanned skin creased in darker lines of wear and tear. His hazel eyes fit the brown crewcut ironed by the helmet. “Look at me, Kiddo.”

Her movement was robotic, head turning on a swivel until her slack face met his.

“Ain’t gonna pretend I know what you’re going through. Not my job. But ya need to gimme an idea of what happened. After he attacked you in the tub, what’d Enzo do between then and his death? A little somethin’ will do just fine. Are those little cuts on your face his too?”

Her jaw clenched and Kiddo blinked for the first time. “When can I bury him?”

“Afraid that’s not my department. If y’help me get to the bottom of this, we can turn over the body in no time. Just talk to me.”

Kiddo turned to the cops probing the apartment. They wore rubber coveralls and gloves, groups of two spread around. One team scraped Enzo’s brains and eye into an evidence bag. Another took pictures of white splatters by the tub and bed. Kiddo focused on a team going through her luggage. They bagged up clothes and the usual toiletries, the wads of money already gathered off to the side.

The Copper watched her stare before slumping his head and retrieving his helmet.“Dicks on their way?” he asked after clicking the vox unit wired into the collar of his vest. He stood after putting his face back on. “…Good. This one’s out of it. A little time in interrogation ought a’ do the trick.”


On the way to the station the EMT stabled Kiddo’s cut and covered it with a bandage. She sat in the little room of painted cinder block, a ceiling camera and two-way mirror her only company. The fluorescents had a low hum that was impossible to ignore in the compressed silence.

Kiddo watched her hands under the shadow of the table, the broken polymer exposing the pulleys underneath. They sat palms up, making slight involuntary movements with a low click of the fingers. They twitched at once with a flinch when the door finally opened.

Mitty Freeman didn’t look like a cop, but wore a cop’s desk-jockey uniform. It was a blue and white double-breasted shirt with featureless blue trousers. His last name was printed over his heart with corporal chevrons on the shoulders. Down his left arm “TECHNICAL” was stitched parallel to the sleeve in black on a white stripe.

The guy was sweating, his ebony forehead shiny before he wiped it dry. Mitty sat opposite and took his time. “…Enzo was a good guy… So much, it almost hurt. I remember this one time–“

“I want his body, Mitty.” The words came out indifferent. “I’m listed as next of kin. You can’t keep me from burying him.”

Mitty knew exactly what to say and wished he didn’t. “That’s why I’m here. This situation’s got everyone in my section and the higher-ups spooked. Company guys ’re on their way right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Enzo wouldn’t ‘ve touched a hair on your head, Pink. He was remote hacked. The long-term drive was shredded, but the short-term told us the truth. You’re innocent, but what happened to him was impossible. Enzo was soul’d; a closed circuit Andie. You can’t hack one without a hard-wire link. We’re talking experimental tech.”

“So, when do I get the body?”

Mitty pinched the skin on the bridge of his nose. “Given the extraordinary circumstances behind this case, I have no idea. TalSec wants him here for exploratory analysis. It’ll be a month or two of deep-dive mining and autopsy. Maybe longer.” He could see it in her eyes she wanted to rip him apart. “And they wanna keep everything recovered at the scene in case this was caused by some external trigger or–“

The look on her face stopped him cold.

“Don’t you dare. I earned that money for us. For our future. It’s all I have left–“

“And it was found at a crime scene, under very, very strange circumstances,” he said with a loud whisper. “Look, I’m just the middle man, and guys off the payroll wanna empty their gats into your face. The detective working your case sent me in because she doesn’t wanna deal with ‘Gori trash’ as she put it. You’re outnumbered and the only way you’re gonna get what you want is to chill out.” He stood behind his chair after pushing it in. “I’ll try to speed this along, but the evidence will stay impounded until the analysts deem otherwise. We get it: that money’s yours and you’re not gonna lose a cent. They’ll uphold the law if you behave yourself. All you have to do is mourn. I know this ain’t any better with Cicero gone, but you have to manage.” Mitty made for the door. “Text me if you need someone to talk to.”

Kiddo’s isolation wasn’t so quiet like before. The air pumping out her nostrils was louder than her whining fists. She rocked in her seat, tears spilling over. She bent forward, her head resting on the edge of the steel table. A deep groan rumbled through clenched teeth as she pulled pink strands from her head.

It was harder to cry than she thought.

When the door opened Kiddo didn’t bother, staring at the tennis shoes she threw on before they took her in. The shadow under the table gave little respite from the fluorescents that felt like heaters.

“Did you know 5% of android/human couples end with the human killing their partner?” asked a voice. “5% is a big number when you consider there aren’t a lot of us out there. At least, the ones with consciousness.” Kiddo slowly peeked at an Andie in a suit by the door. She had a badge clipped to her belt and blonde hair held in a stiff pompadour. “Must feel rotten inside,” she went on. “Like there’s a hole in your chest that isn’t quite empty, but it’s opening wider and wider. I’m surprised you feel anything, punk.”

The Detective took the seat as Kiddo leaned back, eyes down. “Your rat Mitty and the tech boys might’ve found footage to prove your innocence, but I’m not convinced. There was enough cash in your luggage to buy the best data fixers to scrub a snuff film into a family friendly musical. You’re allowed to go home, but don’t think you’re off the hook, Volk. I’ll be looking into you closely and there’s no way you’re getting away with it. Not you or any of your crew.”

Silence again, the Detective looking at her with a smirk, expecting a snappy retort.

“…On our second date, he told me even when he was an un-soul’d secretary for some CEO, he remembered this painting called Starry Night in the back of the office. He loved the swirls of color in the sky, the stars made huge and bright against the darkness, and the tree in the foreground rising up like a crooked tower. He said it felt like he was alive, staring at it from his desk. Enzo loved the painting so much, he changed his hair and skin to match the colors, even took the last-name of the artist…” Kiddo wiped her cheeks on her hoodie sleeve. “I was also gonna take his name once I was pregnant. He let me pick baby names. I wanted a boy and call him Sasha after Dad. If we had a girl, Jae-un, after Mom. I know we could’ve paid to choose the sex, but I wanted to leave it up to chance like normal parents… And I wanted to have a son more than anything.”

Shame’s too small a word to describe what the Detective was feeling. She made sure it wasn’t written across her waxy features before the door burst open.

“You harrassin’ my witness, Pierce?” asked the Copper, still head to toe in armor.

The Detective put on her serious face and got to her feet. “Doing my job, Quincy. And she’s my witness. Your job’s done.”

“Lady was cleared half hour ago. Got a couple loose wires in that plastic head a’ yours?”

“I don’t have wires. I was grown in a tank.”

“Doesn’t matter to me. Wanna be a real person, I’m gonna treat ya like one.”

“And if you’re going to bring up my anatomy in a manner that isn’t complimentary, I’d be liable to take it up with IA again. Obviously the counseling didn’t stick.”

The Copper’s mouth curled into a sneer. “…She’s clear to go home. C’mon, Volk.”

Kiddo pushed herself off the table and kept her arms close as she stepped between the two. Once she was out the door the Copper followed, no doubt leaving the Detective with a mocking look shielded by his visor.


The hard stench of bleach clung to the floorboards. All that was left were faded blotches of white between the bed and tub. Dawn pierced the blinds, painting the apartment in blue stripes. The sinking of the bed under her ass was more than welcoming. The creaking springs told Kiddo to lie down, kick those old shoes off, and get the hours she missed.

But all she did was sit and look at the stain at her feet, a stripe of blue across her eyes. Her hand whined softly as she ran her palm along the back of her head. She couldn’t feel it, but the scrape of the shaven hair against the polymer told her it was smooth. On her right temple the sound was lower, the hair longer. Kiddo traded hands on the spot like she was putting a phone to her ear.

She took a long, deep breath, and looked into the blue across her eyes.


Tossing the money counter away Kiddo grabbed the handle of the strong box and slid it out of the crawlspace. Printed in white across the lid was ‘Mdl-C,’ followed by a white American flag without the stars.

A pair of black arm mods sat in foam inside. They were thicker than Kiddo’s and more realistic, like Flesh painted to look metal. They had a glossy finish, the light bending with the mods’ stout contours. The edges between the plates and joints were flush and the texture homogenous. Would’ve been hard to figure where a plate and joint began and ended without the seams. What made them un-cannier was a ring built in before the elbow on each forearm. They were gunmetal grey and etched with slanted grooves along the circumference. On the deltoid plate of the right another white flag was printed onto the steel and the ‘Mdl-C’ designator on the left.

Kiddo sat facing the box and took hold of her left bicep. With her thumb pressed into the armpit, the mod went limp and the clamps along the deltoid flipped up. The pins and links were still pulling themselves from Kiddo’s skin as she yanked it prematurely. Her groan turned to a shriek before she tossed the arm aside and replaced it with a Mdl-C. She bit her lower lip as the arm connected with an electric rumble.

When it synched, Kiddo brought the hand up and made a fist. The ring spun as she squeezed harder and a small red light on the wrist started blinking.


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.

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel (CapMarv) is one of those characters that has a lot of potential, but the people writing her books have no idea what they are doing. In the past two years, the official CapMarv comic has been rebooted about five times. There are a lot of reasons this happens in comics and none of them are good. CapMarv has been and is being written by people who subsist on Big Bang Theory, Tumblr posts, and spend their writing time insulting readers on Twitter.

Like muh Domino, there is a lot to her that has yet to be explored. She is a recovering alcoholic, an Airman, and did some regrettable things in the very padded “Civil War 2.” So far, there has not been a good book since the DeConnick run. To say I had low expectations going into the movie would be an understatement. The bad press and manufactured outrage did not help either, almost killing an otherwise great movie.

Imagine if Wonder Woman was restricted by a small budget and shooting locations, but had a great script and actors that worked well together like a nice two-part episode of Stargate SG-1. Instead of making the movie as epic as possible, CapMarv settles on a small, but high quality film about Carol Danvers coming to terms with her past and present.

CapMarv does very well with its titular character and those around her. She has great on-screen chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson as a young Nick Fury. Despite what the trailers have shown, she is quite witty and the back and forth between Carol and Fury is classic MCU. CapMarv also does a great job of breaking the origin story mold. Instead of starting from the beginning and seeing her become a hero, we learn about Carol as she learns about herself in short bursts, and it all ties very well into the story.

While the actual window into the cosmic side of the MCU is small, it was nice to see something not tied to Guardians of the Galaxy. We get a glimpse of Hala, the Supreme Intelligence, and the Accusers are slightly more realized. And we finally meet the Skrulls. However, given budget constraints, they are relegated to just green people that can shape-shift. In the comics there is a jobber class that is cannon fodder and there are Super Skrulls that can mimic whole power sets. CapMarv does not get deep into the Skrull-Kree War either, but it is for a very good reason.

It is hard to discuss the real flaws because all of them can be tied to the budget. The big expensive set pieces and fights are saved for the latter third where they would logically belong. Do not expect Infinity War level CG, but from what I could tell the melee fights were mostly practical. In terms of story it was very tight and everything worked the way it should. Overall, it was a harmless and competent movie.

Many are probably discouraged from seeing Captain Marvel because of the bad press. It may not affect men too much, but when you alienate people based on skin and sex, I can assure we are still paying attention. However, I have seen this before with Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and Ghostbusters (2016) (fuck you, Paul Feig). Outrage sells and when you want a group to see your movie, make it look like another group hates your movie. Then the target will buy a ticket several times over because they think it will hurt their “enemy.” It is all made up, but you should see Captain Marvel because it is up there with Doctor Strange and Ant-Man.

The Books Are Better: The Walking Dead (2)



If you look at the front covers of The Walking Dead (TWD) hardcover collections there is the subtitle “A continuing story of survival horror.” That one sentence epitomizes what the comics are all about. It takes ideas from the original Dawn of the Dead from George A. Romero and takes them to their logical extreme. What if a zombie apocalypse actually happened and how would it affect real people, who have never known starvation or been in a survival situation? That is and has been TWD since its publishing 15 years ago.

Being real people means the characters have emotional baggage. They find love, lose it, move on, or go crazy. All the while the characters are in a constant fight against the elements, starvation, and hordes of undead. How they cope with this new reality informs who they become and how they act towards fellow survivors. To quote the comic’s tagline, “In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.”

Being character oriented and set in a hostile world, TWD does not shy away from putting survivors in danger. While zombies are slow and easy to kill, they are never taken lightly. The same can be said for other survivors. More often than not characters are killed or horribly maimed, no matter how long they have been around or how much you like them. Everyone is expendable in TWD. This is not the Mad Max apocalypse; it is The Road with zombies.

Scan 4

TWD Season 2/Volume 2

It was all downhill after Season 1. How the quality of TWD skewed so far is simple, but I want to begin with the season’s corresponding volume to start off on a positive note because it will not get better from here on out. For the sake of brevity, I will not go in depth about who certain characters are because I assume you have either watched the show or read the comic. Also, some of them are not important enough to mention until they actually are.

Volume 2 is where the themes really set root and create a road map for the series. Rick finds out Lori is pregnant and juggles between thoughts of her dying in childbirth and that the baby is Shane’s. Tyreese makes his debut, my favorite character, with his daughter and her boyfriend Julie and Chris. Tyreese is pretty much a bigger, blacker version of Rick with more experience in wild. Before joining the group he beat an elderly man to death for almost raping Julie and is scared that he does not feel bad about it.

After finding a seemingly deserted gated community, the group is free to move out of the RV, and take up residence in one house. It is here the characters get more intimate within the privacy of their chosen space. To cope with the loss of her sister Amy after the group was attacked in Volume 1, Andrea has sex with a much older Dale. At the same time, Tyreese gets closer to Carol, a more dependent character compared to her television counterpart. Though implied, she is not really a battered wife, and her husband is already dead, but she has many issues that come up later on.

The next morning Rick discovers a sign by the gate that inspired the hospital door sequence from the premiere of Season 1. It is also one of the better scares. When the dead emerge from the surrounding homes, Donna, the wife of Allen and mother to twin boys, is bit in the face, and the group becomes surrounded. In the midst of escaping by jumping onto the RV from the second floor of the house, Tyreese finds Julie and Chris about to have sex before they get clear. Back on the road the food supply dwindles and Rick, Tyreese, and Carl go hunting. Out in the woods, Otis shoots Carl in the back, and before Rick could perforate the man’s face, they realize Carl is still breathing. They rush to Hershel’s farm not far away and the elderly veterinarian patches him up just as the rest of the group arrives.

How people cope with grief and loneliness becomes a strong part of the story. While Andrea has Dale to get over Amy’s death, Allen has no one to provide such support and shuts down. When Andrea tries to talk him into getting over it, Allen lashes out. When his own prospects of intimacy dry up within the group, Glenn expresses to Maggie his need for a woman, who then reciprocates. Julie and Chris also have a thing that escalates very quickly in Volume 3 in the wrong direction.

How Hershel dealt with the loss of one of his sons would come at odds with what Rick wants for the group. He is well aware they are guests on the farm, but Rick wants to settle down and stay for a while. He suggests they move into the barn and Hershel reveals that he keeps zombies there, one of which is his son and some neighbors. He had no idea what to do once he turned and settled on keeping him confined. Hershel understands full well that the zombies are people, sick people that need to get better, and he is shocked when Rick tells him the group has been killing them.

Then Hershel has to come to terms with reality after an attempt to put a zombie in the barn costs the life of another son and one daughter. Hershel personally executes them and turns the gun on himself before Rick stops him. They bury the dead and much like Allen, Hershel shuts down. And after almost shooting Rick for suggesting they move into his dead children’s rooms, he questions if he has lost his mind. After leaving the farm the group continues to struggle along the way until they come upon the prison.

Volume 2 is where TWD hit its stride and continued to run with it from there. It was also the debut of current artist Charlie Adlard after Tony Moore’s departure. I see Volume 2 as the blueprint for the series and how it would juggle its themes as the group adapted to new challenges and transitioned from roving nomads to a community.

Given the immense jump in quality from Volume 1 to 2, why was Season 2 of TWD so awful? Frank Darabont wanted a bigger budget to pull off his original vision, but AMC wanted to save as much as possible despite previous success. Budget cuts would be most obvious in the make-up department with the number of zombies on screen reduced or relegated to a single appearance per episode. These single appearances would be a set piece of effects work that would become a mainstay for the series.

This is rather off topic, but one set piece zombie included the “Camp RV Walker” that attacked Andrea in the RV and it just so happens I went to high school with the actor who plays him, Travis Charpentier.


Anyway, AMC also wanted more episodes, doubling the original planned quota from 6 to 13, which would later become 16, further straining the already reduced budget. When Darabont pushed against the channel’s mandates, some fuck named Glenn Mazzara was brought in to rewrite a few episodes, and take over as showrunner once Darabont was fired. Like its comic equivalent, Season 2 would set a precedent, but for the worst.

The thing about television writing/production is everything can be changed at a moment’s notice. If an actor quits, dies, or the studio wants to make crippling edits to an already planned show, then the production is forced to adapt. Once AMC made its demands, there had to be rewrites in addition to reshoots. From what I could tell, Darabont had a small chuck of his vision on film. If you look at the Season 2 trailer, there is footage that did not show up in the original cut of Shane shooting zombies and the group returning to the location from the “Vatos” episode. Whatever was already shot and written had to be scrapped and reworked once AMC made their demands.

This is where Mazarra came in. His vision and voice would inform the rest of TWD, even after his exit in 2013. He was AMC’s man and what he decided for the show was of the channel’s design. One demand was to restrict shooting locations, which is why the whole of Season 2 takes place on Hershel’s farm. Keep in mind the farm did not come up until the latter half of Volume 2. To cope with the lack of a setting, the writing took on a lot of what we authors call bullshit, better known as padding. Take the average narrative of an episode and less than 25% of that is relevant to story progression. The rest is stuffing to balloon the runtime to meet the required 44 minutes. As a result you have these meandering conversations between characters and plotlines that do not lead to anything important to the overall story.

Hershel wants Rick and friends off the farm. Rick does not want to leave. Hershel is mad they will not leave.

Glenn rails Maggie and is later mad at him for wanting to kill zombies… even after getting attacked by them? I still have no clue what that was all about.

Andrea is sad about losing Amy and cannot shoot for shit. Andrea bangs Shane, gets over her issues, and turns into an unlikable tart.

Lori flip-flops between resenting Shane for almost raping her and being nice to him while telling Rick that he is dangerous and ignoring her very young son. Then she attempts to abort her baby and changes her mind at the last minute while ignoring her still alive and vulnerable son.

Dale also knows Shane is dangerous and does not bring it up before he is eaten.

The whole group cannot decide what to do with a single captive bandit for half the season and keeps him around as a plot device.

Scan 1

That is the entirety of Season 2 and the rest of series. The comics could not be simpler and more devoid of useless fat, but to drag out 13 episodes of a story that was six issues long, Mazarra and company just made shit up or bloated insignificant details because they are creatively bankrupt and lack artistic dignity. The great thing about TWD comics is they are entirely bullshit free and writer Robert Kirkman made sure to keep it that way. When characters were not given enough coverage or they had nothing to do, he killed them off, forgot about them, or saved them to kill later.

You like Donna? Now she’s zombie food.

What about Allen and his twin boys? Brace your ass.

Boy, I hope nothing bad happens to Maggie’s little sisters and her last brother.

You think Gabriel is a great character with a lot of potential? Get ready for Volume 27, you stupid pig.

Do not forget about Lori and her bastard Judith. Oh, boy, do I have a delicious splash page for you (emphasis on splash).

The comics are fantastic in how focused they are. The group needs to survive, there is some drama going on, and Rick has to keep it all together. That is it. Could not have been simpler and it remains so to this day. But because AMC wanted to save money and make wasteful demands in the same breath, we got 13 episodes of boring bullshit. It hurt not just the story, but the characters, the actors, and no one said anything because they needed something to watch on Sundays.

Rick is barely a protagonist because the show is too busy worrying about what other characters are doing. I guess 13 episodes are a little much for the poor guy. Rick is supposed to be the leader, but there is so much crap in his way and everyone is too concerned with their own shit. Andrea, who becomes Best Girl in the comics, is the most unlikable character on the show. For no reason, she turns into this vindictive wench pulled right out of a soap opera. She is snarky and does not care about anything except herself. Granted, she is only slightly tolerable than stupid and irresponsible Lori, but she was begging to be killed off sooner than later.

Season 2 was also where Chandler Riggs, the actor who plays Carl, was set up for failure. It is well known in television and film that child actors should say as little as possible. It is not their fault they are not great actors, but it is best they are set off to the side to learn from their adult costars. In Volume 2, Carl has maybe two pages worth of dialog, and he is always with Lori and Rick or a very much alive Sofia. In Season 2 Riggs had more lines than he could handle and I blame Mazzara. He was a good kid, decent actor, and deserved better. It is a shame we did not get to see him develop into the cyclopean badass he is in the comics today.

It is also important to mention the actors that left before their characters were killed in the comic. What movie buffs will notice is three of the supporting cast worked with Frank Darabont in the past. Jeffrey DeMunn who played Dale was in all of Darabont’s movies while Andrea’s Laurie Holden and Carol’s Melissa McBride were both in The Mist. Once Darabont was kicked from the show, everyone but McBride was killed off, possibly upon request, but it is difficult to say. There is more to this story and I highly recommend checking out Adam Johnson’s video on Season 2. He is a nitpicker, but does not make you hate movies like other YouTube pricks.

Scan 2

I was one of the millions that did not notice the dramatic drop in quality following Season 1. Though I knew the comics were far superior and remain so, I failed to process the show’s downfall because I loved zombies. Name a zombie show in 2011 with the best practical effects in the business. CG squibs aside, it cannot be understated the majesty of Greg Nicotero’s work. This is how zombies should always be portrayed, no matter what, and it remains the only good part about the show. The comics only got better and the more I think about delving deeper in The Walking Dead, the more I am happy and regretting starting this series. Now I am forced to talk about a show that never got better and I will do my best to give you plenty of reasons to read the comics.

Editorial 42: Metro Exodus

Not long ago I was a videogame reviewer when I lived in Orlando. I would not have considered myself a games journalist; I have dignity, but I did not have a great time to say the least. It is far more fun to play videogames than write about them, which explains why real games journalists are cowardly degenerates. I would either make up nonsense I did not give a shit about or outright lie to meet the required word count. The only articles I am proud of are my review of Doom (2016) and an analysis on BroTeamPill. Everything else belongs in the garbage. That being said, I find it difficult to not write something about Metro Exodus.

When we think of the post-apocalypse many imagine barren blasted wastelands patrolled by raiders in makeshift cars and revealing attire. Road Warrior and the like have taken over our imagination of what the world would look like following a nuclear holocaust. The genre has been so impacted by this collective understanding there are hardly any deviations across cultures, except for Russia. Obviously, I am sure there are other localized interpretations, but the current benchmark for the Russian post-apocalypse comes from Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro trilogy.

Set in the Moscow Metro the story follows Artyom, one of thousands of people living underground 20 years after World War 3. In an effort to survive with little to no resources and under constant threat from mutants, the Metro is divided among a handful of factions that look to the past to survive the future. There is the egalitarian Hansa, the communist Red Line, and the fascist Fourth Reich. Everyone is trying to take over while the Spartan Rangers keep to the margins of society, taking down anyone or anything that threatens the Metro.

Metro 2033 was the first book and first game in the series. Originally released in 2010, I played the Redux version some months ago, and before that Last Light, the sequel. Both experiences are very different, but the core design ethos of the series is still there. Half-Life 2 set the standard for all first-person shooters, but I think Slav developers like Metro’s 4A Games perfected it.

The series is known for their immersion. You really feel you are underground not just because of the atmosphere and technical tricks, but how you progress from level to level. You as Artyom walk through long stages that have different ways of progression, either loud or quiet, with little to know direction. The developers were mindful to use light sources to guide players in a natural, unconscious fashion. On top of that is the sense of claustrophobia and danger. You have to maintain the power in your flashlight and keep a supply of gasmask filters in the event you stumble into a toxic area or journey to the surface. The tension is ramped up thanks to the fantastic sound design that make monsters scary and stealth heart pounding.

Metro Exodus continues the series traditions while taking a massive risk. After a certain revelation I will not spoil, Artyom, his wife Anna, and a handful of Spartan Rangers escape Moscow by train. When they find out Russia is not as desolate as they once thought, the group decides to search for a place to settle down and give the people of the Metro a proper future. With a greatly overhauled karma system, what happens along this journey depends on your actions.

Each level is the size of a small open world with points of interest that offer supplies to craft perishables and work/rest stations. Exploration is encouraged and not restricted by linear progression. You can start a level, go just about everywhere, and the characters will even bring up that you already visited certain areas. Character requested items are located throughout that can boost your karma if you get them. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from striking out on your own and if you follow just the main missions, you will miss a ton of extra content and negatively affect the ending.

This works in tandem with the game’s character development. The way you figure out where to go or to search for items is by interacting with your comrades. You do not speak as Artyom, but when you hover around characters they will talk to you. If you played the original games, this is how you gained karma between shoot-outs. When you listen in Exodus you not only get side objectives, but also learn about the characters and build rapport. Though not quantified in a way similar to Mass Effect 2, you get to know them like real people, and enhance your experience. For your wife Anna, not matter what, listen and interact with her whenever you can.

Gunplay is vastly improved. No one makes a better military shooter than Slavs and Exodus plays like Call of Duty made by artisan craftsmen. Every shot feels like it has so much power with each squeeze and with accompanying sound effects that sell the sensation. Modifying your weapons is far more fluid and easy. The more parts you gather from enemies, the more you can change. When you trade one gun for another in the field, you can take those parts and save them for when you get the same gun again. There are also several customization options. You could turn a revolver into a rifle or the Kalash into an RPK. There is so much you can do and the only drawback is you cannot replay the game and keep all of your attachments from your first play through.

I hope that changes in the future.

It is easy to call Exodus a “fans only” kind of experience. Newcomers will not be aware there is a karma system or how it works without research and miss out on some important character moments. It would be a learning experience, as it was for me. Where I was used to the claustrophobic tunnels and mild survival elements, I had to contend with wide-open spaces and a lack of resources to create what I needed to stay alive. Couple that with great character interactions and gunplay and you get a fantastic experience that is well worth your time, fan or not. It is certainly a more worthy purchase than Anthem or that new Far Cry expansion I cannot remember.