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
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.
Packed in like sardines you could cut the tension with a knife and sell the slices for a quarter an ounce. Takashi wore a headset as he drove the hov-car through a cloud. On the windshield vector graphics outlined his flight path and marked passing vehicles in the distance. Farther out it highlighted an oncoming rainstorm and buildings, the proximity scale counting down as he flew closer.
It’s stressful enough flying in Seattle weather, but Takashi had a whole lot more on his mind than safe driving. He couldn’t focus while sat next to an experienced enforcer itching to take his head. Kiddo didn’t look it with her cap and glasses, but he knew; he’d be stupid to think she was just swell after last night. He knew he had to say something.
“I didn’t wanna do it, okay? They didn’t give me an out. It was him or me.”
“If you gave a damn,” she said without turning from the windshield, “you’d given it up.”
“I’m not a friggin’ samurai, Volk. This is real life. Real odds. Real consequences. They would’ve wiped us out if I didn’t cooperate. It’s like you said, you don’t play nice with savages; you be more savage.”
“I didn’t mean to your own people… your own boss. Makes you less than a savage. You’re garbage.”
“Then why don’t you take out the trash? Huh? I lost enough face to earn me a spot beside Judas, Brutus, and all the other famous traitors. Yeah, I’m going straight to Hell, but I’m still breathing. I’m still kicking it like nothing happened. If you’re so much more loyal, more honorable than me, go ahead and do it. I dare you, Volk… You won’t lay another hand on me because you agree. This is real life with real odds and real consequences. Take my head and you lose that precious income. Raising a kid comes with a whole lot of expenditures. Most people are too scared of how much it costs to make babies. Only reason you’re doing it is ‘cause you can afford it…. But by all means; wanna kill me, now’s your chance.”
Takashi took his eyes off the road to see if she’d make a move. Nearly a whole minute she didn’t twitch, not one inch before he turned back.
“Yeah. That’s what I thought.”
What he didn’t see was her fist closed around her sword on the other side of the seat. Her hand shook, but not enough that the servos whined in reply.
When China started eating it’s guts after 70 years of peace, a lot of Japs set up shop on the West Coast. The fighting was separated by miles of saltwater, but it scared a good handful of expats and local businesses out of the home islands. America got a massive taste of the Nippon soon after, bringing over their customs, food, and gangs. For corporations that made the move, they had enough money to change the skyline of cities like Seattle.
The Kyrii Engineering tower was a perfect combination of glass and concrete. Sharp ridges and steep angles ran up the sides like spines, bending the late morning light onto itself. The broad sides of the tower faced the Puget Sound to the west and Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest in the east. The bottom third was a parking structure of dull concrete. Just below the tower proper were conveyer platforms extended outward, wide enough for a midsize hov-car.
Takashi followed the blinking lights to one platform as he came in slow. He lined himself according to the lines below and landed with a lurch, the thrusters kicking up dust before they went cold. The conveyer hummed to life and pulled the hov-car into the parking structure.
The interior was round and sectioned off into floors. It took up half the total structure, the bottom made for ground cars. In the center was a rotating arm with a wide wedge between two hydraulic clamps. Once Takashi and Kiddo got out the arm turned to their car. They moved to the right side before the wedge slid under and the clamps closed in snuggly around the vehicle. The arm retracted and lowered into the depths of the structure for an open parking space.
Between two empty platforms sat an elevator encased in concrete where stood Monty with a pair of Bots, your average humanoid automatons. They were naked without plating, showing off black myomer cells and servos attached to polished steel armature. All they had in the way of coverage was a yellow mempo mask and a basic red polymer head chassis. On their hips were telescopic batons where a steady hand rested, ready to be drawn on command.
The Bots’ movements were in synch and totally uniform, keeping the same distance and in step with each as they followed Monty at his rear flanks. They stopped when he met Kiddo and Takashi, his eyes fixed on the latter.
“I knew it.”
“What?” asked Takashi.
Monty dug into his suit jacket and tossed Takashi a black clip-on tie.
“Think this is a videogame? I expect flappers to dress like idiots, but you’re beyond the pale, Sterling. Put it on and try to look professional for once in your life.”
As Takashi turned down his collar, Monty looked to Kiddo.
“I said no weapons.”
“I was just about to say–“
“–Waited the whole flight over, eh Sterling?”
“–Shut-up.” Monty snapped his fingers and pointed at Takashi. “Sachi.”
The Bots turned their glossy camera eyes to Takashi before he spread his arms and legs. As they patted him down with their skeletal hands, Monty came face to face with Kiddo. He held a hand out and received her sword, his long fingers rotating and turning it over.
“Not a bad conversion,” he said.
“Any idiot can turn an Allen wrench,” she said.
“True, but nothing beats the real thing.”
“It’s just metal with an edge. What matters is how you use it.”
“That’s what they all say. What use is talk if you can’t back it up?”
He stared down at himself in the obsidian tint of her glasses. Kiddo took them off so they could have a proper conversation. Not long after the Bots stepped away from Takashi and faced Monty.
“Search complete,” said one in a metallic voice. “Subject clear.”
Neither broke eye contact when Monty returned Kiddo’s sword and did an about-face to the elevator.
“’Ey, that’s not a good idea, Monty,” said Takashi as the Bots followed. “I’m serious–“
“–And I’m serious when I say if you two screw up this meeting, I’ll need an armed opponent.” He tapped the call button while Takashi and Kiddo caught up. “No hats or shoes in the conference room.”
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
Deus Ex: Human Revolution/Mankind Divided, Created by Eidos Montreal
Blade Runner 2049, Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Altered Carbon, Created by Laeta Kalogridis
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Neuromancer, By William Gibson
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
R.U.R., By Karel Capek
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Westworld, Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
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.