Neon Oldie #23

Cover23

By
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
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

Taro was the last one out with a messenger bag over one shoulder, key ring jingling as he locked up. “Want us to run y’through it one more time?”

“Think we got it,” said Monty waiting with Kiddo and Ricky, the hacker wearing a business suit similar to Taro’s.

“Pardon me if I don’t take y’word for it. So, me and Ricky check in while you two get into position.” The lock clicked and Taro started down the hall to join them.

“We set up across the station, hop onto the piggys’ wireless, and text ya once we’re in,” said Ricky. “Know which room, Pinkerton?”

“Like I said, not my first break-in.”

When Taro was close Monty and Kiddo lead the way up the stairs.

“Best not kill anyone,” said Monty. “Dead criminals are one thing, but dead cops–“

“I’m the last one you need to worry about,” she said. “Here’s hoping no one rats to the Shogun while we work.”

The night was baked in neon when they stepped outside. The four of them had been under a hash parlor that painted the busy street in green while the surrounding joints shined reds and blues. In the alley they were in enough darkness that the drunks and stoners lining the sidewalk barely noticed.

“We’ll pick up traffic while tethered to the network,” said Taro locking the basement.

“Anything that sends up a red flag in regards to you two, we’ll pass it on,” said Ricky.

“Appreciated,” said Monty.

The hackers stood by for their criminal compatriots to lead the way before Kiddo took the first step. “Think I’ll consider giving you two a little bread if this goes smooth–“

“You’ll have wire it from prison, Volk.”

The four of them stopped as foot traffic rushed clear off the sidewalk. The flow of people diverted round into the street to reveal Pierce and Dom beside two cars on the curb. Dom leaned with a cigarette and a fedora while his Android partner wore a wide grin, hands in her pockets. On the street stood a quad-ped by each car with their riders on the sidewalk. The Copper was on Kiddo’s side of the alley to the left while Jacobs had Monty on the right, combi-pistols held low. Ricky and Taro threw up their hands.

“You can thank your rat Freeman,” said Pierce. “And right before we passed 48. New record?” she asked turning to Dom.

“Personal best,” he said.

“Good enough for me.”

“Congrats, you did your job,” said Kiddo.

“I should thank you for being so damn sloppy.”

Monty grimaced. “Makes one of us.”

“You know what Volk did, right? Maybe it’s a little too soon to celebrate because I’m curious how you’re mixed up in all this, Yakuza.”

“To do what you’re not,” said Kiddo. “Find Enzo’s hacker.”

“Out of our hands thanks to you. And now you pay for it. Book ‘er.”

The Copper barely moved his foot when Kiddo pulled her sword hilt. He responded by zeroing in on her head. “Test me, Volk.”

“Don’t be stupid,” said Pierce. “They’re loaded with MP rounds. Two in the chest will make you useless enough to yank those fancy arms.”

“Better be quick on the squeeze,” said Kiddo.

“Jacobs, clear the street,” said Pierce

“Rodger that.” The other beat cop turned to his stationary quad-ped. “Crowd control. Twenty yard spread.”

The mech trotted into the street, lights flashing at the low setting, near overpowering the neon. “Stand clear,” it repeated with a metallic voice.

“Crowd control twenty yard spread,” said the Copper without turning from Volk.

With the mechs pacing from one side of the street to the other an open space formed with the alley in the middle. Our players were almost alone save for crowds that formed on the edges of the perimeter.

“Best put ‘em up,” said Pierce, “or we take you in by–“

“That won’t be necessary.”

She turned to Dom with a raised eyebrow as he took a final drag and put a finger and thumb to his lips for a sharp whistle.

From the crowd on the left side of the alley came Lotch and a bunch of Goris out between the civilians. They gathered into a blob of suits and fedoras, armed with pipes, chains, and crowbars. The ones not holding were obviously packing.

Lotch wore his best waistcoat and shoes as he stepped forward. “You know the score. Pinkerton walks. Don’t care what ya do with the Yak.”

Pierce had drawn her piece and looked over at Dom. “Trust is expensive,” he said moving off the car. “But loyalty?” He shrugged at her. “I got alimony… Right, Jacobs?”

The beat cop looked surprised before holstering his pistol. “Yep.” He turned to the Copper. “Let her go, man.”

“You son of a bitch,” he said through clenched teeth. “Think all I got are MPs? Half a second’s all I need to go lethal.”

“Got enough bullets for everyone, Montana?” asked Dom. “Read the room. You’re outnumbered. Both of you.”

“Then you better do something about us,” said Pierce. “Fast.”

“Whoa, whoa,” said Jacobs. “I’m not killing cops, Dom.”

“Did I say we were, numb-nuts?”

“Get over here, Pink,” said Lotch.

“I told you–“ she started.

“You’re not my boss anymore. So I can do what I want,” he said with a wink.

“You’ll have to come get her, prick,” said Pierce.

Lotch gave her a nod with a mild grimace. “Show ‘er, boys.”

The Goris that weren’t visibly armed moved to the front and pulled pistols from their suits. Lotch pulled his own from the back of his waist, a chromed 1911 made to look old fashion.

“Still feel like being stupid, partner?” asked Dom.

“I could ask you the same, detective,” said a loud metallic voice from the opposite side of the street.

All eyes turned and Kiddo felt her stomach knot when she saw five Bots push through the crowd with Yaks in tow. They wore the signature white shirt and black tie under soft-shell armor covering their necks, arms, and groin. Some had custom mempo masks of varying decoration. On their hips hung a combat katana, modern blades with rubber hilt wraps and sheaths of thick black polyester.

The Bots were skinned in a red metal carapace resembling a naked man in every way but anatomy. The head, shoulders, and chest had yellow plating made to look like samurai armor. Four of the Bots moved in complete lock step while the fifth in the middle walked like a human, his face toward the alley. In place of yellow armor it had white and a traditional set of swords on a white wrap tied to its waist.

While the four Bots stopped past the civilians, the gang of Yaks not far behind, the White Bot stepped out to make sure everyone could see. “My employees are here to assist you, officers,” it said with Kyrii’s voice. “However,” he pointed to Monty, “Montgomery Goichi comes with us.”

Pierce looked over her shoulder at the Copper still aiming at Kiddo. “Fair enough.”

Dom and Jacobs drew, the former taking the Yaks while the latter kept his combi-pistol low to Monty. The Goris started shouting insults and waving their weapons at the Yaks who drew their blades. The law was busy yelling at each other and their respective enemies on the street.

It seemed to happen on the periphery for Monty and Kyrii. Jacobs got antsy when his reached into his suit, free hand up with palm out, and pulled his phone. Kyrii nodded and Monty dropped it. “Should’ve known better.”

Anata no kōdō wa uragiri, mongomerī-chan ni kakatte imasu,” said Kyrii.

Tono, imi shimasendeshita–“ started Monty with fresh sweat on his forehead.

Zan’nen’nakotoni teki no tame ni hataraku tame ni? Sonkei? Sono yōna mudana doryoku. Anata wa kanojo o hikkurikaesu ka anata no uragiri no tame ni omoku shiharau kikai ga arimasu.”

Kiddo picked up what she could from their tone, but the conversation was just one in a deluge of noise. Seemed everyone forgot why they were there. Each had their reasons, but no one tried anything because either way you went was dirty. It gave Kiddo a bit of comfort knowing this could all go bad for everyone else until she got a chunk of the puzzle she’d been piecing together for two days.

“Ain’t afraid to put you down, son,” said the Copper to Jacobs.

“I’m not gonna kill you–“

“Good!”

“Shut! Up!” shouted Pierce.

“Let’s work this out, guys,” said Dom with the only calm in the bunch. “I’ll give you my bonus for a whole year if you open your dumb, hick eyes, Quincy–”

“You’ll die second, traitor!” shouted the Copper.

Suddenly all Kiddo could hear was a ringing and there was nothing in sight but Quincy. She focused on the nameplate bolted under his badge with the name “SPEERS” engraved in white. “…Get work done, Quincy?”

He cut out mid yell and turned to her, mouth formed in a grimace.

The spinner on her right arm whirled under her sleeve. “My Enzo was the best gear-head in town. The boss always called when we were on vacation, trying to get him back to the shop.” Quincy’s lips curled into a thin neutral line. “…But he stayed with me because he really was that good–“

The air escaped her lungs as fast as the bullets hit her chest. After the first slug she couldn’t feel the next five and their barbs hooking to her skin. From heel to head every muscle contracted into numbness and she was a helpless amputee again.

The whole scene went incoherent when Kiddo hit the ground. Both crowds of gangsters surged at each other. The Goris that came packing were torn between aiming at the Yaks or cops. The Yaks stayed behind the Bots, but that didn’t stop them from breaking their otherwise professional bearing. Dom and Jacobs were hesitating to perforate Quincy while Pierce didn’t know whether to help or keep the other two at bay. Monty just stood by the wall, hands up.

It was pretty clear to Kiddo what was coming. As Quincy stepped closer the magazine dropped from his pistol. When he reached for another on his belt she caught the reddish glint of a copper slug. There was nothing Kiddo wouldn’t have sacrificed for just one chance. Nothing worse than buying it in a dirty alley with one final loose end untied. But the last thing she wanted were two vans to pull up across the street, Trotsky’s face in red and black on the side, and see 18 Comrades pour out with the biggest guns she’d ever seen.

Everyone got the picture too late once those ancient Soviet machine guns rang out.

There were two groups of Trotskys: heavies and riflemen. The heavies had helmets with face shields and flak jackets, carrying RPDs. The riflemen had your average garden variety AKs and next to no armor. The biggest guns unloaded the second they hit the pavement into the Goris, Yaks, and alley as they slowly advanced, tearing up masonry with bursts of rock. The little ones were surgical, picking targets from the stationary and moving in to avoid capping their advancing friends.

Kiddo squeezed her eyes shut when the shooting started and felt herself dragged across concrete. She looked for a second to see Monty pulling her by the arm against one of the cars on the curb. Another quick look saw Jacobs ducking beside her and Quincy and Pierce behind the other car across the alley. The alley itself was clear of Ricky and Taro.

The crowds of gangsters didn’t have a chance. The Goris with guns got about two shots in before falling into each other in a bloody mass. The Yaks fared worse, their armor not built to stop rifle slugs. All five Bots hit the street in a flurry of sparks bursting across their metal flesh. The pedestrians behind each crowd knew better than to stick around, some getting hit by stray bullets in back.

When she could feel the pavement dig into her shoulder Kiddo sat up, wobbling as the feedback sensors slowly came back to her. She forced her back against the car, feeling it rumble from dozens of impacts. Her hearing was gone, Jacobs’ shouting coming in as a mumble. Monty sat beside her, breathing hard and fast. It was the first time she’d seen him panicked.

Pierce was shooting from behind the front-end tire when it burst. It made her jerk closer to the middle, scraping the ass of her pants open. She didn’t notice, too focused on the reload, but she did see Dom’s fedora on the sidewalk splashed with blood. Pierce couldn’t bear to see his corpse in the gutter between the cars and just sat there bug-eyed.

When the slide of his his combi-pistol locked back Jacobs went low to trade mags. He got fresh slugs in, but the second he put his head up one Russian copper tagged him in the helmet. The impact twisted it off Jacobs’ head and sent him to the ground. Her hand moved on its own when Kiddo pulled him by the ankle about a foot closer before Jacobs’ vest burst apart. She stopped after his head turned to red chunks and Kiddo realized the Trotsky had walked up to the back of the car, still pouring lead.

Again her body moved on it’s own, springing to her feet, and throwing out an open palm into the Comrade’s features. It tore his face off, bits of skull included. The guy was big and Kiddo grabbed him by the neck, keeping his back to the street. Kiddo was too shaken to know where to go from there as the rest converged on the alley.

The other Trotskys were finishing up the gangs, the riflemen plugging corpses while the heavies reloaded, pretty calm for newly christened mass murderers. Some by the Goris kept the cops in cover as they finished. The guys around the Yaks weren’t taking chances with the Bots, the heavies moving in to give them a full squeeze to face. There were three left by the time one Comrade stood over Kyrii, smoking muzzle hovering above the thing’s eye.

That’s when Kyrii hooked his feet around the guy’s armored neck and jerked down. The heavy flipped back into the pavement, blood gushing over his helmet. The momentum brought Kyrii to his feet and drew his sword. Two of the heavies that were supposed to finish off the Bots ended up on the ground, broken bones and all before the machines popped their blades.

It got the attention of the other Trotskys in the middle of the street, so Kiddo charged, popping her own blade. They spotted her about the same time she darted away from her shield after shoving it into a rifleman at the right. She swung blindly and opened up her Second Kill’s stomach. The girl’s intestines spilled onto the street as Kiddo spun further left. There wasn’t any cover, so she made some, the Second Kill taking hits from a heavy in the back right.

The girl hit the ground after Kiddo took another shield: Comrade Tommy. She couldn’t tell it was him apart for the blue hair sticking out the back of his helmet. Kiddo held the top of his helmet with a grip that cracked the enamel. There was 12 Trotskys left: four behind preoccupied with the cops and eight in front, half of which were trying to finish the Bots. Either way Kiddo knew she should’ve moved on milliseconds ago, staring down those guns behind her shield. The sudden anxiety made her grip collapse the helmet further.

Then Monty threw her a big fat bone. He came darting out as a black blur with a hand gripping his fancy katana. The blade flashed from the sheath and cut a rifleman from ribs to shoulder, head included. That was Kiddo’s moment to move left-ways after jerking Tommy to the ground.

She leapt over him and landed in a roll toward her Third Kill. She stopped on one knee under his AK, close enough to smell the Comrade’s sweaty crotch. In one fluid motion she pulled her knife with her other hand and cut a leg out. He shrieked and held down his trigger from the pain. Kiddo pivoted round and and slashed up, the AK and half his arm falling free.

The rifle kept shooting from the ground as Kiddo shot up with sword drawn back. She would’ve take his head had a heavy behind him not opened up. The force from the impacts shoved the guy into her arms. Kiddo let the knife fall and grabbed her Third Kill by the back, digging her fingers into his flesh.

The feedback sensors went numb after a burst of sparks as she charged, roaring through it. Within sword range she shoved her shield at the RPD hanging by the Comrade’s hip, sword drawn back. Kiddo stopped short of swinging when Monty darted in, burying his sword into the heavy’s armpit. The Trotsky gave out a muffled scream through his helmet.

Monty’s sword slid free as the heavy fell, a fresh coat of crimson covering an already soiled blade. He breathed hard, just as scared and bloody as she was. Kiddo looked at the dents in her left forearm, surrounded by scratches where the bullets fragmented, sensors still numb. She and Monty looked at each in a moment of pause, fighting still going on around them. One of the Bots was down with three Trotskys left for Kyrii to the right. Behind Kiddo to the left the cops held their ground, but the four Comrades remained vertical, having made shields of the dead Goris. Neither said a word or gestured when Kiddo and Monty stormed toward them.

The crossfire didn’t enter her mind when she met her Fourth Kill: a heavy kneeling behind a stack of her friends on the outside of the pile. She came in low, sword held inverted. The heavy turned her way just as Kiddo shoved her left hand through the narrow viewport of the Comrade’s face shield. She couldn’t feel how deep she’d gone, but the guy going limb was a decent hint. Monty dashed past her into the pile and met a kneeling rifleman with a single slash through the neck.

The last two were closer to the cars. Kiddo yanked her hand with a gush of blood, but before she could rush in, a stiff metal hand grabbed her arm where the sensors worked. With a tug that could’ve ripped her mod out Kiddo was thrown where she’d started killing. Tommy writhed on the ground trying to pull his helmet off when she landed in a tumble, sword bouncing to the side.

“Get up, Kiddo-chan,” said Kyrii walking toward her as he pulled a white cloth to clean his blade. “Pick up your sword and prepare to die.”

On her hands and knees she rushed to her sword and stood. Kiddo looked around to see nothing moving except the cops’ quad-peds pacing across the street. She squared her shoulders and held her sword in both hands toward Kyrii, his katana raised. Been a long time since she was in a proper sword fight. Memories of training under her father in the apartment dojo flooded Kiddo’s mind before she met Kyrii.

His blade came down just past her when she dashed right with a slash, cutting his belt to free the wakizashi and katana sheath. They hit the pavement as Kyrii rounded to face her, backing away from him slowly. He held his blade to the side of his head and followed her, stepping carefully without breaking eye contact. She brought her sword up parallel to the ground with tip forward, moving her feet back in wide circles to feel for obstructions. Kiddo feigned a step forward and Kyrii flinched. Her laugh was cut short when he decided to charge anyway.

Both had strength enough to break their swords against each other, but they clashed as if the two were Flesh. Their movements were normal and easy to follow without being too slow. It was as if they agreed to self-handicap beforehand. The two exchanged blows in short bursts and dashed away, meeting again with difference stances every time. The gunfight was still going on up the street, yet Kiddo and Kyrii were in their own world.

He may have been an ancient bastard, but he was still wired to a combat-grade Bot in an office, miles away from the violence Kiddo dealt with minutes ago. No way Kyrii was getting tired as she worked up the energy just to hold up her sword. It seemed like he was stepping closer and faster than before, forcing her to back up with equal measure. Kiddo’s patience wore quickly and she moved without regard for what may be at her heels.

Then her stance broke after tripping into a corpse.

Kyrii lunged before Monty caught his swing with a loud prang. Their swords were held high, edges locked. “Tōno, go yōsha kudasai!” With a grunt he shoved Kyrii back then pulled his blade clean through the crook of his arm. The Shogun surged forward before Monty sheathed his sword and got to his knees. “Volk o hoshō suru. Kanojo no kōdōde wa arimasen. Kanojo wa ikari nimegakurande-batsu niataisuru ga shini wa ataishinai.” He bowed. “Watashi ni kanojo o enjo sa sete kudasai, soshite watashi wa kanojo jishin no jinsei to no machigai no daishō o haraimasu.

Kyrii’s head tilted to the side. “Anata wa teki no tame ni jibun jishin o gisei ni shimasu ka? Meiyo aru jisatsu to wa? Anata wa byōkidesu, watashi no musuko–“

Watashi wa sōde wa arimasen, Tōno! Watashi wa senshi no yarikata de watashi no kokoro ni shitagau koto no kekka o ukeireru.”

Kiddo waited off to the side, eyes darting in anticipation as she listened to a conversation she didn’t understand.

Kyrii looked her way for a moment then traded sword hands, holding it inverted. “Watashi wa dōi shimasu,” he said before pointing to Kiddo, “shikashi kanojo wa anata no kaishaku ni nari, soshite anata no katana o torudeshou. Dōi shita?

Monty bowed lower. “Hai, Tōno.” He got up with a sigh. “It’s okay,” he said putting a hand toward Kiddo to gesture her guard down. “We’re okay.”

“What’s going on?“ she asked.

“You will find out soon enough, Kiddo-ch–“ started Kyrii before his head exploded.

When his metal corpse hit the ground Kiddo and Monty saw Quincy standing in the middle of the street with the under-barrel of his pistol smoking. He moved his left hand from the secondary trigger over his shooting hand to put two rounds in Kiddo, one in the side and midsection. Monty caught her from falling and made himself a shield. Quincy got off one more shot before he fell forward with a grunt.

Shots rang out from a bloody weary Lotch popping off his chromed 1911 from the piled Goris. Quincy rolled to his back and emptied into the poor guy. Then he rolled into the prone and faced the opposite side, but Kiddo and Monty were gone. He rushed to Kyrii’s body mid-reload and found fresh splatters on the pavement, the start of a trail that led up the corpse-riddled street. Quincy lowered his pistol and grimaced.

“P-please… I surrender.” He turned to Comrade Tommy sitting with hands up, bleeding from his nose. “I-I-I want a lawyer. I-I have rights.”

Quincy loosed up and looked back to the alley where Pierce was yelling into her phone for back up. Then he spied the bloody bodies of Dom and Jacobs.

“I-I have rights–”

“Rights?” he asked turning to Tommy. Quincy let it simmer before grabbing the fat Trotsky by the hair. He winced, barely putting up a fight. “First, ya gotta be human.”

Quincy pressed his muzzle to Tommy’s cheek and turned away from the splatter.

“What the hell was that?!” He looked to Pierce walking toward him pointing at Tommy. “You just don’t know how to stop screwing up, do you, Quincy? You better explain why you tried to kill Volk before–“

White blood burst from her chest in quick succession. Even from the hip Quincy was a deadeye and made sure it wasn’t too lethal. He watched her convulse on the ground and came to her side, blood dripping over the corners of her mouth.

“I don’t hate ya, Pierce. You’re just damn annoyin’… No more cops are gonna die for my mistake.” He aimed at her heart. “And I’ll make sure ya get a better body after they bring ya in.”

He dumped three shots to make her good and inoperable.

***

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 #22

Cover22

By
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”

Acknowledgments
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.

Dedication
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.

***

Both chairs in the nook were turned out and taken by Ricky and Taro. Monty had joined Kiddo on the couch and everyone but him was eating noodles from foam cups.

“Phone’s ‘re Freddy,” said Ricky. “Clean numbers leading to nowhere incriminating. All they got were texts from Enzo about going out of town. No replies.”

“If anything was 86’d, we’d ‘ve found it,” said Taro.

“Trotsky’s pulled the spy-drive after an hour, but we were already knee-deep.”

“Got neck-deep in the laptop, though.”

“And?” asked Kiddo slurping her noodles.

“Enough dirt to put ‘em away for a dollar or two,” said Ricky.

“And that’s not including their ID theft racket,” added Taro.

“Dollar?” asked Monty.

“Means a hundred years,” answered Kiddo.

Shushin-kei,” said Taro.

Monty rolled of his eyes. “Christ.”

“But we found nothing about hacking software or a hit on ya,” said Ricky. “You were on a list, but so were a whole of lot of Janes and Joes.”

“Had everything they needed except the program,” said Taro.

Kiddo rested her warm cup on her leg, chopsticks inside. “I got stabbed, sliced, and shot at for a handful of dead ends.”

“Not so dead thanks to ya samurai friend,” said Ricky.

“One out of three,” said Taro.

“Not her friend, hacker,” said Monty.

“So, can you get us into TalSec?” asked Kiddo.

“Absolutely no,” said Ricky with a laugh as he stood.

“We’ve wormed through their sub-systems for ind-ep and tester jobs in the past,” said Taro, “but there’s hardly any protection round there. Where we need to be is gonna get us fingered.”

“Know who ya looking for, Pinkerton?” asked Ricky. She waited for him to finish typing in the nook for the answer. He backed away so they could see one of the vertical monitors. “Charlie Kurt, Chief Executive of Auxiliary Activities. He’s the go-between the cops and the company; supervises how their money’s spent and other things of the morally relative variety.”

“Slimy as your typical corporate suit,” added Taro.

Kiddo had stood as Ricky spoke to get a better look. No way she’d forgotten that face from the meeting with Boss Kyrii. She turned to Monty. “Know him?”

“Not my department.”

“But he was at the meeting before we showed up.”

“That’s company business. Not the Clan.”

“Not much a difference,” said Kiddo.

“Anything we can work with would be appreciated, samurai,” said Ricky.

“What’d I just say?”

“Then we go through Pinkerton,” said Taro. “Who’s your contact in the pigs?”

Kiddo slowly reached for her chopsticks like she was afraid to eat and sat back down. “Not a good idea.”

“She’s under investigation for killing my guys,” said Monty.

“Don’t forget Tak.”

“Who?”

“The point is,” she continued, “I call my guy, my number shows up on their radar, I get pinged. The detective working Enzo’s case also hates Goris.”

The hackers weren’t too subtle about relishing the idea of being needed. “That’s two for the grey-hats,” said Ricky before turning his chair in and sitting.

“Know why we couldn’t pay the whole debt days ago?” asked Taro. “Gave a client a discount for a cat-house wipe on account of he’s a cop.”

Ricky put on a headset with a mic. “Didn’t want his wife finding out he had a taste for synth-strange.”

“Charged him half our rate and made up the difference with a favor.”

“And it’s time to cash in.” Ricky typed before their came a dial tone from the computer speakers. Kiddo and Monty gathered closer to the nook.

 

Early dusk shined through the windows as the sun held on to those fleeting final hours. The slats were angled low, leaving the fluorescents to flush out the shadows. Mitty was at his desk clicking through his fancy computer. It looked like a pane of glass with a thin polymer backing held up on a small stand. The keyboard and mouse, however, weren’t so sleek.

Mitty had his back to the glass wall that divided his office from the precinct proper. Day shift was on its way out with the night crew trickling in. He was the only techie left, catching up on the last bit of work. He wasn’t the only one as Cory Rodriguez stood behind him in the entryway, the pits of his desk uniform and forehead just about soaked and an earpiece in one ear.

“H-hey, man?” he asked like he never spoke to the guy before.

Mitty swiveled in his chair.

“Uh, Sarge wants me to check something out in the server room. I don’t know anything about circuits and electronics and stuff. Could you help me out?”

Mitty raised an eyebrow. “Why’d he ask you and not me? I handle all the–“

“No idea. Y’know, the guy likes to mess with me and…”

Keep going,” said Ricky in the earpiece through a modulator.

“…And treat me like I’m still a rookie. You know how it is.”

Good, piggy.”

Mitty held his stare. “No… I don’t.”

 

“Say he wants you to dust off the box,” said Ricky. “He’ll know what you mean.”

Everyone watched the hacker work the guy over while Kiddo let her noodles go cold as she stared at the vertical screen. Kurt’s face lingered in the back of her mind since the meeting with the Shogun; not out of cautious curiosity, but he had features that are hard to forget. And then it came to her like a heart attack, her chest getting hot as burning iron before Kiddo reached into her pocket.

She turned her back to the nook and set her cup on the floor beside the couch. The list of Enzo’s clients had curved before she unfolded it, Steiner and Monty’s names crossed out in red. Kiddo went through two of the papers looking for Charlie Kurt to no avail. On the latest list, however, she focused on the name “Speers, Quincy” stacked among the others.

Maybe it was the distinction of the name for a guy living in the Pacific Northwest, but suddenly Kiddo had this nagging scrape on the inside of her skull. No matter how deeply she searched her memory, she drew nothing but blanks. Could be just a random guy; a regular stiff that Enzo worked on, but Kiddo knew she heard the name before, and the thought would’ve given her a headache had she not realized the hackers were about to make a huge mistake.

That’s not a thing, Cory. Sarge is messing with you,” said Mitty through the speakers.

I know, Freeman. He’s done it since I got here. Can you just humor me? For my sanity’s sake?”

The client list scrunched into a ball in Kiddo’s fist before she shoved herself in beside Ricky. “That’s my guy he’s talking to,” she said quickly. “Freeman? Mitty Freeman? He’s our middleman. Get your guy–“

Ricky wrapped on hand around the mic and spoke with a loud whisper. “No way do I trust this idiot to do the job of a–“

Who’re you talking to?” asked Mitty.

Everyone froze.

Uh, what?” asked Cory. “Nobody–“

Then take out the earpiece. Makes you look like a moron.”

Man, I’m just–“

Ricky tapped a key and took off the headset. It made the others relax, backing up to give him room to move out of the nook. “Up for a break-in, Pinkerton?” he asked after a couple nods to himself.

She opened her mouth about the same time her phone went off. After pulling it out, the hackers calmly panicked with the caller ID showing “MITTY.” Kiddo tapped the red “end” button and the phone went silent. The hackers let out a sigh.

“Gotta move fast,” said Taro.

“I’ll walk you two through a plan we’ve kept on the back-burner for just this occasion,” said Ricky gesturing Kiddo and Monty. “Ever broke into a police station?”

“’Course. Won’t believe the dirt I’ve–“ She cut herself off when there came a flashing in her peripherals. Kiddo looked at her hand and her phone screen was striped in white and black static. Between the distortions she made out the incoming call window with “MITTY” again and the hackers went to full-blown panic.

“Bake it!” shouted Taro.

“Put it in the microwave before–“ started Ricky.

What did I tell you?” asked Mitty through the phone speaker, loud enough for everyone to hear. “What did I tell you, Pink? I said mourn and let me do my job. All you had to do was remember the good times with Enzo, maybe stay in bed for a week or two, but you decided to start a gang war!

The hackers tried to take the phone, but Kiddo had to listen, putting up an arm to keep them away.

All the guys in Organized Crime are losing their minds! First you wipe out a squad of Yaks, then you get caught doing something to the Trotskys, apparently. All the snitches say something huge is about to go down because you wouldn’t let us do our job. Now the whole PD is focused on cleaning up your mess before it gets outta control.”

Kiddo hesitated when he paused, like Mitty was waiting for a response. “Then help me get the guy. I know where to start if–“

I don’t want anything to do with you or the Family or anymore of this Flapper gangster nonsense! Find a new middleman because you couldn’t leave it to the professionals. I’ll live without the money. You started the fire; have fun burning.”

The screen went black and everyone could see themselves reflected in the glass.

 

A thick cable feeding into Mitty’s computer was plugged into his phone before he yanked it. On his monitor scrolled code in a small black window with an audio visualizer that ran in a straight blue line across a grey field. He stood with a sigh and turned to leave, but didn’t go anywhere.

Pierce leaned in the entryway with a wide grin and Dom behind, flanked by two beat cops with helmets on: the Copper and Jacobs.

“Who’re you talking to, Freeman?” she asked with a hefty dose of sarcasm. “Maybe an ole business partner?”

He couldn’t speak no matter how much he wanted to. Just past her shoulder, however, Mitty watched Dom put his phone to his ear, and give him a wink.

***

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: Blade Runner 2049

I just want this to be good. Nothing else matters. For obvious reasons, I am going to omit the usual plot summary after the introduction.

Trying to succeed Blade Runner is like justifying the existence of Big Bang Theory. It never needed to happen, it should not happen, but for some reason (you know why) it happened. The original Blade Runner is one of the most important science fiction movies ever made. It more or less created cyber-punk and showed sci-fi could be more mature and capable of telling a deep story. Of all the classics it did not need a sequel. Nobody, including other hardcore fans, asked for this. The original was just fine on its own and somehow we got 2049.

Like Force Awakens the deck was always stacked against it. Being better than a bad movie is as easy as punching a blind toddler, but being better than a genre-defining classic is next to impossible. With Force Awakens, callbacks and references aside, it succeeded by being great. As I said in the beginning, all 2049 needs to be is good and watchable.

I would have ignored it had Denis Villeneuve not been involved. So far he has yet to make a bad film with Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival to his name. Rather than buckle under pressure he grabs the reins and leads the way in his most ambitious project yet. Being a visual director he takes full advantage of the world’s unique style. Blade Runner is saturated in neon with lived in and weathered sets, packed to the gills with people and detail. It is surprising how such elements were standard practice back in the day look like pieces of art in a time of overwhelming CG.

2049 maintains the aesthetic of decay while looking updated, being 30 years after the events of the original. It is also darker with light doused in a perpetual haze or relegated to certain areas of the setting. You really feel the world standing on the edge of total collapse, fitting perfectly in line Villeneuve’s signature. He puts the desolation on display with beautifully bleak and imposing landscapes. Most of the interiors are well lit, but emphasize the ever-present grime of the world. Being a noir, Villeneuve makes great use of the darkness to supplement the atmosphere of decay and mystery of the narrative. It helps that the practical and visual effects used in these shots are stunning.

For spoiler reasons I am going to avoid talking about the writing or acting. The latter is obvious, but judging the performances could lead to unintentional revelations. I will say that Sylvia Hoeks was the stand out as Luv, a replicant dedicated to her job, and it was nice to see Harrison Ford care about his role. The man is 75 and a cultural icon, so I understand when he wants a break. Actually, I will give away one spoiler:

The trailer for Pacific Rim: Uprising was shown and it looks like hammered shit.

A couple negatives of note are the music and the placement of a particular scene. The issue of score may have more to do with the theater in which I saw the movie. Whenever a French horn or loud synthesizer would blare, it literally shook the auditorium with a loud creaking noise. I would say about half the tracks in 2049 have this sound and it was irritating. Even Hans Zimmer would tell the composer to tone it down. As for the faulty scene, it comes out of nowhere, like it was from an older draft of the script. The lead up did not fit or feel natural given the tone. Maybe I am missing something, but that scene should have been moved or reworked.

This does not feel like much of a review with everything I left out. Without the name Blade Runner in the title, 2049 is just another great film from Denis Villeneuve. On its own merit it has enough going on that keeping you in the dark is the only respectful thing I can do. A lot of my reviews of good movies are short because why ruin something you should see for yourself? 2049 may not be groundbreaking, but it is well worth the nearly three-hour runtime. It is a great film and that is all that counts in the long run. However, I would advise watching the Final Cut version of the original before buying a ticket.

Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

I have no clue why everyone thought Prometheus was too complicated and vague to understand. Some people go to a planet to find the origin of humanity and stuff happens. That is it. There is nothing complex or too difficult to figure out on your own. A lot of it can be chalked up to assumption, but because no one likes to think anymore, they needed a Blu-ray release with deleted scenes that were not in the final cut for a reason.

The dumb criticism was the progenitor of contemporary nitpicking, where every lapse in logic must be explained, or no one will like your movie. People hate Prometheus but give a pass to Star Trek: Into Darkness because it explained its plot holes? Are you serious? However, there were questions that went unanswered. I for one would like to know what came of Shaw’s journey to meet the Engineers. Does Alien: Covenant answer these questions or is it actually terrible.

While on a colony mission, the crew of the Covenant receives a distress call from a nearby planet. After landing, they discover they should have left it alone.

Congratulations, everyone that thought Prometheus was terrible! You got exactly what you wanted: a two-dimensional sci-fi horror film that explains everything so your dumb asses know what is happening without challenging you in any way! You do not have to think because Covenant does it for you! There is no nuance like the theme of meeting your maker and the horror of finding them. No! It is the same shit you have seen before! Thanks for complaining Ridley Scott into submission, one of the most prolific directors in history, pricks!

Of course this all comes down to judging a movie based on what I want instead of what it is. I like Prometheus and I expected something of equal measure, something different from the traditional Alien formula. Judging Covenant as its own entity, however, does not change that it is not that great.

From the very beginning you know what is going to happen. Everyone is going to die, a thing you saw coming happens, followed by a twist that was set up an hour before. Where the Alien series was always a slasher movie in space, Covenant is a bad slasher movie in space. The characters are more disposable than a Red-Shirt and not worth consideration. I was not at all interested in their respective plights or lack thereof. When the characters died, my reaction was “Whose that?”

The only interesting character was David/Walter, played masterfully by Michael Fassbender. He had a personality and motive that was fascinating and I wanted to see more of him. I wanted to see where he would go and understand his reasoning. Everyone else was just along for the ride. The main protagonist is only memorable because of her hair. Billy Crudup’s character is so petty and pathetic I was waiting for him to die. The rest of the characters were just meat with dialog. At least Danny McBride tried and I remember him because he did things.

At that point it became a waiting game. I sat in my seat anticipating when people would buy it based on my experiences with horror and that is the problem. I had no clue what was going to happen in Prometheus and it surprised me. It was this story that was unique with complicated themes that could have led to anything. I wanted to see where it would go because it was different. In Covenant, you know exactly what is going to happen because it is so obvious. Had the emphasis been on David’s story, there would be no issue. Take out Alien in the title and it has more in common with a Sci-Fi Channel original movie.

Being a Ridley Scott film Covenant is very well made. Like Scorsese the man is old as dirt and has not lost his edge. The movie is beautifully bleak with real, lived in sets thanks to Scott’s admiration for the practical. I wish I could say the same for the Xenomorph CG. The pacing is excellent with plenty build up packed with underlining dread that felt genuine. It is unfortunate that the sum of the film’s parts is not enough to ignore its overall problems.

I recommend Alien: Covenant if you want to see more of the same. If you want to see a Xenomorph kill stupid characters and nothing else, look no further. It is unfortunate that David’s story, the best part, is such a small component. For the rest of us, re-watch Prometheus, Alien, and Aliens. Alien 3 is okay, but not that great if I am being honest. If you can turn your brain off, Alien: Resurrection is pretty good. It is basically Firefly with blood and guts. Look to the old; ignore the new.

Movie Review: Arrival

Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite contemporary directors. He has a talent for suspense and visuals that rivals David Fincher. Prisoners and Sicario are as haunting as they are beautiful with a physical darkness underlining the thematic dread. Based on the hype surrounding Arrival, I imagine he is set to wow me again. Hopefully it will make up for whatever Blade Runner 2049 may turn out to be. Was Villeneuve successful or did I watch Sicario again to get the bad taste out of my mouth?

After a dozen alien ships appear at different points of the globe Louise, played by Amy Adams, is hired by the US Military to translate the alien’s language. While hard at work, the rest of the world’s nations begin to falter from what they learn in their own research.

Arrival is very similar to Girl on the Train in how it uses suspense and that anything I say will be a spoiler. Rather than lie to the audience, the film tells you everything from the start, then gradually reveals itself. It is like watching Mr. Robot twice or playing the game Neir multiple times. You will not notice most of the details or understand what is happening at first. I only saw one at the beginning, but I had no idea what it meant until after the twist. You are never told what is going on, just what is happening in the moment.

In terms of science fiction, this is the genuine article. Arrival is an invasion movie about communication. Instead of studying what first contact would be like on a global scale, the story examines how we would approach visitors whose language is utterly unknown to us and vice versa. As a linguist, Louise has to not only figure out what the aliens are saying, but interpret what she is saying to ask them complex questions. The moments where she is working as the world falls apart make for some nice points of tension.

Despite the genre, Villeneuve brings his signature style. There is the heavy use of darkness punctuated by bright light with long cuts. This time, there is an emphasis on wide shots and landscapes to capture the large scope. Both Prisoners and Sicario were tight because the stories were personal. In Arrival, scenes that are outdoors are open and beautiful in their bleakness while interiors are detailed. This does not take away from the inherent suspense, but adds to it. The stakes are far reaching and the openness of the cinematography compounds that fact.

To be honest, there is not much wrong with the film. Apart from shoddy CG effects that are barely present early on, Arrival is pretty well put together with nary an issue of plot or overt technical problems. The performances were also serviceable with Adams proving she can act after sleep walking through BvS like Natalie Portman in… everything. And it does true science fiction better than its contemporaries.

I understand a lot of people in America are anxious after the election and Arrival is just what they need. It has a message that will lift your spirits if you are dissatisfied with the result. However, I recommend waiting until the 12th because tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and that time should be spent remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation.

Movie Review: Morgan

This week I was faced with a choice between Morgan (a week after it came out) and Sully. One is from the son of Ridley Scott and the other is directed by the original badass Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks, a national treasure. Both are associated with film legends that alone warrant your attention and they actually look pretty good. I try my best to budget my spending, especially at this current juncture in my life. My policy is to see one movie a week and save whatever else I need to see for another time. However, with two potentially good films from people who have excelled in the past, I find it difficult to pick one and postpone the other. Was Morgan the right choice or do I owe Clint Eastwood an apology?

After an incident involving a synthetic human named Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, the company who made her sends an agent, played by Kate Mara, to assess her financial value at an isolated compound. Not long after arriving does all hell break loose.

Gene Siskle, the better half of Roger Ebert (yeah, I said it), put it best when he said, “Watching girls getting stuck is entertainment,” in his review of Friday the 13th Part 4. Slashers are popular because we can watch fictional people die in creative ways without feeling bad. Could you watch an ISIL mass execution video and laugh? If you are crazy of course, but the rest of us cannot. That is why when Kevin Bacon gets an arrow in the throat it is exciting and you can take comfort in the fact that one actually died.

Morgan is Ex Machina if it was a slasher. The movie has similar themes that serve as fluff happening the background. The characters embody horror film archetypes and are also dumb as nails. I was reminded of Lazarus Effect where scientists unintentionally created a Tetsuo monster and instead of talking to it, they tried to kill it, and died in the process. In Morgan, some idiots grew a Replicant with emotional problems that were totally their fault. In flashbacks we see Morgan as a normal person that loves her friends, even though they treat her like a science experiment. She was fine and these people were somehow surprised when she started murdering them?

Stupid characters are an easy way to encourage the desire to see them die and I could not wait to watch these idiots eat it. At the same time, the movie and Taylor-Joy do a great job of making you sympathize with Morgan. She is literally a prisoner with no control over her fate. Outdoors she’s full of life and curious about nature. Inside she is a wounded animal that you want to let out. She is a sad character and you feel bad for her. By the time she goes full Jason, it is exciting because she is finally getting what she wants.

On that note, Taylor-Joy carries the entire film. Coming off of The Witch she excels in part to her giant Rami Malek eyes. She steals entire scenes because her sadness, anger, and happiness are so believable. In one scene Paul Giamatti’s Dr. Shapiro is interviewing her and the shifts in emotion gradually and subtly rise and fall to a gory breaking point. It was such an intense moment that would not have made the movie without the performances. In fact, Morgan should have been just Taylor-Joy and Giamatti talking.

The film obviously does not want to be a slasher, but it does not do much with the science fiction. The ideas brought up about artificial intelligence were done better in Ex Machina. There’s an interesting dynamic where Morgan was originally designed to be an assassin, but the scientists were training her to develop normal emotions naturally. When she is in distress, she regresses to assassin mode and lashes out. Instead of exploring this idea of a repressed killer instinct, it is a plot device to explain her efficiency at murder. She also has mental powers that are not explained nor make sense.

As a science fiction movie Morgan falls short. The themes and ideas are not given that much attention to the point I would rather watch Ex Machina. However, that is not to say it has no value as a slasher. If you want to see dumbass scientists punished for their incompetence, this is a great candidate. In terms of general horror, it does a better job than most. On those merits I recommend it.

Movie Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

I was four when I saw Independence Day (ID). I remember watching it over and over because I love alien invasions and destruction when done right. Now I am 24 and I see ID as passable schlock with a patriotic spin. The notion that the world follows America’s lead to fight off aliens is charming and the practical effects are a joy. The idealism is off-putting, but I understand what the film was trying to do. How does Independence Day: Resurgence (IDR) carry on where ID left off?

On the 20-year anniversary of the War of ’96, Earth is invaded again by a more menacing alien threat. Using technology adapted from the aliens, the world fights back.

I understand that my politics tend to interfere with my criticism. Sometimes it just comes out and many people do not agree with what I have to say. However, my disdain for globalism and some liberal ideals does not change that IDR is just terrible. Jane Got a Gun was so awful I do not know how it was real, but at least it was watchable in comparison.

From the start I knew there was a problem based on how fast the movie went. It moves so quickly from one scene to another that you do not have time to absorb what it happening. Because of that you are beaten over the head with repeat exposition and visual indicators to remind you of things you were already told in a prior scene. The editing is worse because there is a cut every three seconds. Even when there is no action and the scene is calm, there are a billion cuts.

The lighting fast pace is such that you do not have time to like the giant cast of characters. Furthermore, they are written so simply to the point they are one-dimensional. The returning actors at least have the previous film to establish character, but all the new people are useless. I could not care less about their various plights. I do not give a shit about Chris Hemsworth being an orphan, Will Smith’s kid watching his mother die, and the Chinese girl losing her uncle. The only character I paid attention to was Maika Monroe’s Patricia, but only because she is a great actress.

While the last movie was not perfect, I still cared about the president losing his wife, Will Smith having ambitions, and Jeff Goldblum trying to save the planet. You had time to learn about these people and grow to like them. On top of that, ID was not cluttered with a dozen other characters that did nothing. It took time with a small ensemble to develop personality and make you understand those involved. I did not care about the characters in IDR because I did not have time to care and they were so sparsely written they were not worth the trouble.

Then there is the most Roland Emmerich thing ever: The pissants. These are “characters” that hang around with the cast to provide unfunny comedy. Most of Emmerich’s and Michael Bay’s movies have them because it is great to show contempt for your audience. IDR has a nerdy government clerk, a crew of sailors that did not have to exist, Goldblum’s father, and Hemsworth’s in-the-closet co-pilot. These “people” have maybe fifteen minutes of total screen that could have been excised from the film. Because Emmerich is too lazy to write better characters he relies on pissants to compensate.

The story could not be dumber. The inciting incident is a new alien ship, not like the previous invaders, showing up out of a wormhole. Instead of listening to Goldblum, who saved the world, the UN shoots it down. They did not try to communicate with the ship or wait even a minute to consider their options. Turns out, it was a good ship sent by a coalition of refugee aliens that have been fighting the invader aliens for years. The movie would have ended, but in better hands, the story could have gone in a better direction.

After the even bigger invader ship lands over the Atlantic, the first move by the military is to attack it with everyone at once from Area 51. It is no surprise they all die and apparently that was the extent of the UN’s air force. The strategy was poor to begin with, but why did the member countries not provide their forces to help the effort? Did the nations of the world feel so safe that they were fine with having one planetary defense force based in one country? Were they not allowed to have their own army because the UN could not trust its members with the advanced weapons and flight technology? I guess that is what happens when you set up a centralized global political bloc, idiots.

Aesthetically the human/alien technology and weapons look gaudy. For some reason the engines that allow for 3-dimensional movement are placed on the outside of the jets and not integrated into the body. The jets look fine except for these weird alien circle things that stick out on their bellies. The alien ships from the first movie did not even have visible engines or exhaust on the outside. Then the human/alien rifles are too big for humans and have this triangle motif that does not work. The aliens’ guns make sense because they are tall creatures, but all we did was add a carry handle with a rail system.

The only good thing I have to say is the performances were okay. The returning cast was great save for Vivica A. Fox who always sucks. It was nice to see Bill Pullman, Willian Fichtner, and Goldblum again. Hemsworth, to my surprise, was passable and actually made an attempt to act. Everyone else sucked.

Independence Day: Resurgence is not worth your time and money. The sparse few good things are overshadowed by the sum of its parts. I wanted it to end 15 minutes in and I wanted to leave. What ever you decide to do this weekend, stay home and watch the first Independence Day. Better yet, go see Neon Demon or Civil War. That is what I should have done.