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.
The BotDoc clung to the ceiling, arms collapsed. From its central thorax shined a light over Kiddo sitting on an operating chair in a hospital gown. Where Quincy had chopping her tibias were white clamps all the way around the legs. A light flashed green on each beside a set of ports for different plug-ins. Junior had a cord running from one clamp into his tablet as he sat by Kiddo’s feet. She pressed her gown at the crotch while he scrolled through the information.
“Everything seems to be working fine,” he said. “After a couple months you can take them off once they’re through reconnecting.”
“Should’ve replaced them with something better,” said Clemenza. He leaned in front of them against the wall of windows looking out into the body shop. Green curtains were drawn so none of the gear-heads could see. Beside his leg stood a small roller suitcase. Kiddo hadn’t seen it since the night Enzo died. “Maybe something to match your arms.”
Her silence was replace by Junior taking out the cord and standing. “I recommend staying off your feet as often as possible until time’s up. There’re pills at the front desk that–“
“Don’t want ‘em,” she said sliding off away from Junior. Her arms were fixed only hours ago, the seams around new fingers and welds filling scratches still shiny. Junior opted to keep his mouth shut as she went over to a table with another fresh Pinkerton uniform waiting.
“I’ll take it from here, bud,” said Clemenza patting him on the shoulder from behind.
“Sure thing, Mr. Kurt.”
He waited for Junior to leave out the automatic door before turning to Kiddo as she dressed. “You and Goichi’s names were out of the report. Official story is a guy Speers put away tracked him down after getting out. Detectives on scene made sure to make it real.” She didn’t say a word, prompting Clemenza to go on. “They’re gonna bring Pierce back online this afternoon. I’m told she had a real mad-on for you, a die-hard Andie activist. I suggested wiping her memory of the past few days, but Chief Ira isn’t as flexible as I’d like.” He reached into his suit pocket for a passport and folded papers. “We prepared a new identity in the very likely event Pierce tries–“
“I’ll make my own way.”
He paused and made a flat smile before approaching. “You’ve dealt with a lot, but you’re not invincible, Anya-jun Ivanov. Any enemies left can find you if you don’t take my help. The way I see it,” he was within arms reach behind her, “you won’t last a month once your out of–“
Her thumb hooked under his right cheekbone when Kiddo’s arm rotated back. The fingers pressed into his skull hard enough for Clemenza to give in, going to his knees. Kiddo’s arm rotated at the spinner as she turned to face him. She changed her grip and held Clemenza’s head with both hands, thumbs under his cheekbones.
“I know how this works. You make another offer, call me, send money, and I’ll forget you’re Cici’s only son. I’ll start with your mother and then your sisters before you get it slowly and nasty.” She shoved him without hitting his head on the floor. “You’re no better than the worst bastards I’ve known.” She put on her cap. “Maybe one day I’ll kill them too.”
Clemenza stayed on the floor and watched her leave after taking the roller. The calm shock on his face turned to a content grimace with a nod.
Kiddo stood the roller up at the top of the stoop outside the body shop and reached into her coat for the cigarette case. She stared at the e-cigs before pulling them all out with one hand and tossing them over the side. When she put the case away Kiddo continued down the steps to meet the Yaks waiting by a hov-car on the curb.
Pierce woke up with a gasp, eyes squeezed shut from the blinding light. Hospital fluorescents aren’t known for brightness, but when you’ve been comatose for days, a Christmas light could feel like the sun.
A white plastic shell covered her torso from neck to stomach. Beside the bed stood a dialysis machine that pumped white blood. It kept Pierce awake with tubes feeding into the chest of the shell. Curtains were drawn around the bed, giving her and Chief Ira sitting beside the machine a little privacy.
“Take it slow,” he said. “There’s plenty of time.”
She opened her eyes. “Chief? That you?”
Pierce looked around. “How long?”
“Three days. The hollow points ripped through your sternum something fierce. Doc needs your consent to replace what was damaged so you can get back to work.”
“It was Speers. He shot me, a suspect that’d given up, and Volk–“
Pierce stared at him, torn between relief and disappointment.
“An ex-con he helped lock up, some cyborg junkie, went to his apartment hopped up on custom Singapore gear. I’ll spare you the details. Speers is due for the pipes on Wednesday. We’ll understand if you don’t show up.”
She let it sink in. “And Volk?”
Ira sat back in the cheap chair. “Missing. Someone pulled the street footage from that night. Whole blocks around the scene were erased and we can’t find a body. We’ve been cycling through her associates and that rat Freeman.”
Pierce laid back to stare at the ceiling. “…I thought you’d be a better liar.” Ira nodded, meeting her gaze once she looked back. “It’s all her fault. Dom, Jacobs and those people are in the ground because she tried to do my job. She’s drenched her hands in innocent blood–“
“Did she pull the trigger? Did she order those kids to murder those people? You should see what SWAT did to that Trotsky girl in Renton; everyone gave her a taste of their boot.” Ira shook his head. “Volk didn’t kill anyone that mattered–“
“What do you think I do for a living, Chief? They were Yakuza, but she still murdered them and started–“
“Maybe you’re hung up on Enzo van Gogh. She didn’t do that either, but a dozen dead dirt-bags were all you needed to keep at it. Take into account all your IA complaints that go nowhere and you don’t paint a nice picture, Detective. Bleeding hearts might call you corrupt while other cops call you whiner. Wanna stay Seattle’s Finest, you let this slide and try to learn from this nightmare.”
Pierce drove the knife deeper into herself. “No one’s getting away with–“
Ira pressed a knob on the machine and the Detective went back to sleep. Her face was slack and eyes half shut before he closed them and leaned to her ear. “Here’s hoping you come to your senses when you wake up good as new.”
The elevator opened with Kiddo flanked by her Yak escort to the conference room. They waited for her to step out before exiting to take off their shoes to the side. She yanked off her boots and left her cap on a hook, but kept the roller in hand.
The lights were off save for two large candles at the far end of the room. They stood on posts atop a small dais of polished wood. Between the candles sat Monty on his knees in a white suit. Before him stood a raised tray with a tanot knife wrapped in a white cloth. To his left sat a Yak with Monty’s sword, the end of the sheath on the dais. In front of him was a wooden bucket filled with water and a ladle.
In front of the dais were two folding stools, one empty while the other was occupied. Behind him sat rows of Yaks in all black suits, swords on their belts. They were packed to the elevator where Kyrii stood with the help of two goons. He wore a traditional kimono with a black monsho over it. The back and chest of the garb had a white crest: a small crescent circle within the embrace of a bigger crescent.
The Shogun smiled when Kiddo faced him. “Good to see you in good health, Kiddo-chan. A shame we could not have met under better circumstances.
She couldn’t be bothered to answer immediately. “Likewise.”
The old man gestured to the dais and his goons helped him walk, Kiddo following with her escorts in tow. She could see the audience look her way in passing.
“Our duel three days ago was a welcome digression from the tragedy of that night,” he said. “I was told your Russian father taught you sword play?”
“I would have enjoyed meeting him. It was clear to me that he understood the blade better than the average gaijin.” Kiddo didn’t speak because Kyrii was turning to face her. “One day, if you decide to return from exile, I will be waiting. If I am dead, my son Jubei will make a worthy substitute.”
They continued to the dais. The Shogun took the empty stool beside the other man, similarly dressed as Kyrii with long hair past his shoulders, bangs pulled into a tail. Kiddo assumed him to be Jubei. She positioned herself beside the sword-bearer, standing the roller up behind her legs out of respect for the scene.
Being so close to the weapon she realized that it was almost the size of a nodachi, a larger version of a katana. It wasn’t a real nodachi, but it was big enough that Kiddo understood why Monty had leg and arm extensions. The sword was so long it came up past her navel and she imagined how difficult it’d be to carry on the hip.
“Junbi wa i, Monty-chan?” asked the Shogun.
“Watashi wa Tonodesu,” he answered.
“Anata wa shizoku Kiddo-chan no hanzai no omo-sa o ukerremasu ka?”
Kyrii sighed and nodded. “Saigo no kotoba o iu koto ga dekimasu.”
Monty turned to Kiddo without shifting his legs. “Guess I’ve said all I needed, eh?”
She didn’t know what to do, lips quivering with hesitation. Then Jubei filled the silence.
“Kore wa detaramedesu!” he shouted with a deep voice.
“Shizuka, Jubei,” said Kyrii.
“Watashi wa shimasen! Monto-san wakesshin shimashitaga, kono Roshia no zasshu meinu ni kare no kaishaku o sa semashita ka? Kare wa watashi no kyo-daideari, anata wa kara no meiyo o yogoshimasu!”
Some of the Yaks in the audience stood, reaching into their suits while others formed fists.
“Mitekudasai, shonen,” said Kyrii with a mad tone and expression to boot.
Jubei looked at Kiddo. “You’re about to kill a very good and loyal man.” He pointed to the katana. “That sword has more history and honor in its steel than you will ever–“
“Let it go, man,” said Monty with a snap. He waited for Jubei to sit down. “You don’t know what’s been going on over here. Of all the pricks I’ve dealt with, Volk’s the only one worth a damn. If she didn’t hate us so much, she’d make a great sister. There’s no better equal I’d trust to carry my sword.”
He looked at her again and Kiddo saw the whole room was giving her attention. It felt like gravity was pressing down on her shoulders.
Monty turned back. “Clean it once a month and immediately after use.” He straightened his back and let out a slow exhale. “Junbi da dekita, Tono.”
Kyrii and Jubei inclined their heads while the audience bowed low. When the sword bearer bowed Kiddo quickly bent to Monty while standing.
“Saraba, kyuyu,” said the Shogun, prompting everyone to come up, and looked at Kiddo. “Do you know what to do?”
She nodded and smoothly drew the katana. She looked at it’s side, kneading the wrapped hilt with her metal fingers. Kiddo held the tip to the water, resting the spine on the bucket. The sword bearer took the ladle and dripped water from the cross guard down the edge. She let the excess slide off the tip before coming to Monty’s left side.
Keeping his head and eyes straight he opened his shirt above his belt. Monty pulled out the end and felt his right side with one hand while the other reached for the tanto. Kiddo brought the sword up to her head, tip to the ceiling when Monty put the blade to his skin and held it with both hands.
After a sharp groan the veins in his neck popped and face turned red. He started to shake and didn’t stop as Monty pulled the knife across his stomach. Kiddo couldn’t bear to watch, keeping her eyes shut despite how the audience would judge her weakness. Monty’s teeth were clenched so tight his groan came out in a screech. Not a single tear rolled down his cheeks as he let out a heavy set of breaths, prompting Kiddo to look. Monty’s hands were now on his right side as blood pooled onto the dais. He was leaning forward slightly, neck more visible.
“Gomen,” she said before bringing the blade down with a bend of her legs.
It was the cleanest train she’d been on since the year her family went on vacation to Busan. Other than the seats the cart seemed made of one homogenous form. The window was an uncut oblong piece from one end to the other that tinted depending on how much sun it caught. The interior walls were rounded with the floor curving flat for the seats and walkway. The ceiling curved outward with a window showing clear azure. The glass was cut with the thin white lines of solar cells that kept the train moving.
Kiddo sat on the left side, head against the window. A forest of redwoods passed her by, but the scenery washed over her like a common breeze. Her cap was pulled over her brow, keeping the morning sun out of half-shut eyes. It wasn’t weariness, at least, not the kind she would’ve had after getting up so early. Not even 24 hours had passed since she decapitated Monty and his sword sat in a black case beside her.
Minutes ago the train crossed state lines into San Angeles from New California. The details of the sojourn were logged into the back of her mind. It didn’t matter to her, but Kiddo’s instinct knew better. Then the train passed beyond the edge of the redwoods and she was brought out of her melancholy long enough to feel awe.
The Golden Gate Bridge stood in its red glory across the strait. A squat tanker equipped with Flettner rotors passed beneath it into the Pacific, but it wasn’t what caught Kiddo’s eye. She could see skyscrapers in Berkley and Oakland cast long shadows across San Francisco Bay, almost touching Alcatraz. She saw them as silhouettes with the sun close to the horizon, but to the south the detail was clearer.
A solar tower stood every five miles down the coast. Each had a flat face that curved outward toward the bottom, covered in square mirror panels. The towers stood on massive rotors below ground that turned with the rotation of the sun. On the strip of land that was SanFran rose massive towers and structures of various designs of glass and stone that could’ve been mistaken for plastic. Their aesthetic was arcological in nature. As the train curved east past the bridge the view of the ground revealed itself.
Old SanFran was still there in the shadow of the Future. Row houses leaned against the sloping streets while small Victorian mansions remained untouched by time. Whatever was left of the past stood across the bulk of the hilly suburban areas toward the south and Pacific while the metropolitan heart clustered to the Bay. Some ancient skyscrapers were pushed between the new, the Transamerica Pyramid trapped like a toddler in a forest. Across the city a highway broke up the landscape like concrete veins.
The rail system ran underneath, a fact made clear when Kiddo saw the train descend into a tunnel past Presidio. Then the intercom announced their arrival and she pulled the case closer.
The window looked out to Tenderloin as hov-cars flew low. The streets were packed with more cyclists and runners than cars, including a few quad-peds. What stood out to Kiddo was how the people were dressed. Between some suits and blue-collar coveralls the clothing was tight and matching in material and color combination. They all looked good too, not a fat-body among them. Kiddo studied the people while the Banker typed at his computer.
“And how long will be using our vault?” he asked.
“Four months,” she answered before turning to him, keeping her right hand on the case leaning on the arm of the chair. At the back of the chair stood a larger roller she’d bought the night before the trip.
“Okay… And would you like insurance on the item?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Are you sure–“
The Banker nodded. “And I can’t convince you to extend your–“
He nodded again. “Okay, Mrs. Van Gogh. Your deposit will cover four months in our vault. Once the deadline is up we’ll inform you by mail and phone. Is there an acquaintance or relative you’d like to sign as co-owner of the item in case you can’t be reached before the grace period?”
“May I get your current address and phone number?”
Kiddo reached into her pocket for a business card and passed it to the Banker. “Number’s on the back.”
He read the card as he typed. In blue it said ‘Terrace Fertility Clinic and Spa.’
The waiting room had a long window to the Pacific past Outer Sunset. She was one of five women sitting against the window, but she was the only one with luggage. She was also the only one in a coat and boots. Kiddo was slouched back, staring at the ceiling with her mouth slightly agape. The floor was carpet, so she couldn’t hear the Nurse walk in with a tablet in hand.
She came to her feet, the girl’s accent reminding her of Cicero, before pulling the roller on her way across the room.
“Lemme get one of the guys to take your luggage.” Kiddo waited outside the threshold after she disappeared to the side. The Nurse came back with a tall male counterpart. “Room seven.”
The guy didn’t say a word before he took the roller up a hall adjacent to one that ran along the side with a window.
“Follow me, please,” said the Nurse before leading Kiddo down the other hall. The place was wide and quiet. If there were anyone else inside, you’d have to work hard to find them. “First time in San Angeles?”
“I thought it was called San Francisco?”
“Well, that’s the city, but the state is San Angeles. Used to be called California, but we’re so small and dense the name was changed after the two biggest cities, LA and SanFran. We’re technically a mega-city.”
“I like your getup, by the way. Very popular in LA. Lot of Marlowes in Seattle?”
“Don’t know what that is.”
“It’s a term for people that dress like they’re in old black and white movies. I forget the name of the genre, but Marlowe was a famous character that talked and dressed kinda like you.”
“You from LA?”
“Nope. Born and raised here. So’s my mom. Lived through the Vagrant Purge if you can believe it.”
“Sounds like a rotten time.”
“Sure was. After the Partition the state couldn’t pay for all the illegals and homeless. We had a whole social welfare system that we couldn’t afford and we have Hollywood and Silicon Valley! Then the state government increased taxes and property values to try and get a little something and everyone lost their minds. Mobs went around attacking junkies, burning tent cities, demolishing shantytowns, and calling the Feds on alien families. Mom told me there was blood filling the — Oh, gosh! I’m so sorry. I talk way to much.”
“Not a bad problem to have.”
“I know, but you’re one of our guests. Stories about street battles aren’t good for a baby-making atmosphere.”
The table had steel leg supports on the end. Thankfully it was position with the side to the window. Kiddo sat on the table looking outside while the Nurse leaned on the counter to the side, touching a stylus to her tablet.
“Would you like to adjust the code of the sample post-insemination?”
“I’ll settle for the genuine article.”
“I wouldn’t either. Guy’s a looker and you two would mix well… Um, would you like to interview the donor beforehand? It says here your husband was interested.”
“Not wasting anymore time.”
“’Kay. Gender customization?”
“I’ll roll the dice.”
“Ooo, I’m saving that one for later… Any chance you’d like to stay past the first trimester?”
The nurse tapped the tablet one last time. “Alright. The doctor will be here shortly with the sample. Gown’s under the table.” With that she made for the door, but stopped short of turning the handle. “Have you thought of a name?”
Kiddo looked down at the floor. “Sasha, after my dad… Sasha Montgomery.”
“Where’s the Montgomery from?”
She turned to the Nurse and smiled. “Just a friend.”
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.