Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
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Also By CT McMillan
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.
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.
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.