"A Family Affair" - Part Two

Before Mouse and I started working together a year ago, she'd been a member of a punker gang who called themselves "The Wolfpack." She'd left them to work with me after Murphy and I helped her out of a tight spot--whenever the White Lotus Syndicate is involved, it's always a tight spot.

Seemed Mouse and some enterprising Wolfpack members were trying to earn creds for the gang by dealing joyjoy pills to some suits. The pills turned out to be bad and the the suits turned out to be Lotus boys.

The others got greased. Mouse was next.

That's when Murphy and I walked in.

Didn't really seem fair, six against one. So we evened the odds a little.

After that, Mouse decided she wanted to sign up with me and Murphy. Wanted to learn how to handle herself in case more Lotus boys came calling.

I'd done a similar thing three years earlier and Murphy had taken me under his wing.

My teacher. Best friend.

Like a father to me.

Then two months ago, Murphy had been--

No. Not now.

I shook myself out of my thoughts and looked down into the alley.

I spotted Mouse and a couple of Wolfpackers huddled around a burning trash can. Light from the fire danced across their faces and tossed flickering, gnarled shapes across the alley's walls like some kind of demented shadow-puppet show.

The dog boys were great street ears, always tapped into the latest jungle chatter. Having Mouse as a link helped us immensely, especially in a recent mix-down that saved our skins but took out half of an Uptown luxury hotel and the squad of hitters on our tail.

Mouse finished her conversation and exchanged a quick, elaborate handshake with her former companions then started back up the alley toward me, the tails of her black trenchcoat billowing behind her.

"So what'd they say?"

Mouse shot a look back at the two Wolfpackers she'd talked to.

I followed her gaze and saw the taller of the two--Diesel--narrow his eyes at me. I shot him my best Smile, the one that always makes people nervous. He flinched.

Worked every time.

"Car," Mouse said, turning back to me. "Tell you on the way."

We made our way back to my re-fitted Shelby GT500 parked across the street. I shook my head, hiding a small smile. "They still don't trust me? Even though we're running together?"

Mouse grinned. "They're scared of you."

"Me? Can't imagine why."

That earned me a snort.

"Okay," I said. "So what've we got?"

"You were right," said Mouse. "Wannabes. No local colors or tags. Blew in about a week ago. Some hit and runs. Mostly tourists near Uptown. Plus, they're not sticking to one spot."

I grinned. Bingo.

Joyboys are extremely territorial. When they aren't whapping victims from behind, they're gunning against other packs for space. Marking territory in blood.

These mooks were definite wannabes.

"That it?"

Mouse grinned. "Got a place, too."


"Black Rider."

I fought back a shudder and nodded.

Old stomping grounds.

We reached the car and got inside.

"So what we've got here," I said, leaning an elbow on the steering wheel, "is a bunch of wannabe joyboys out for some laughs and quick cash who just happened to steal from and piss off the meanest bitch ronin to walk Bay City. And now, it's payback time."

Mouse's eyes lit up. "Can Mean Bitch Ronin Number Two tag along?"

"Of course. Kat and Mouse. Meanest bitches in the biz."

Mouse gave a maniacal giggle. "They are sooo screwed..."

* * *

The Engineer was dead, Sikes was still out there, and the Black Rider brought everything back in one cold chill that slithered up my spine.

The Rider was just one of the dozens of wall-crack dives scattered throughout Bay City that reeked of stale sweat and beer and catered to the typical assortment of punkers, wireheads, and razorjocks. This dive sat on South Harbor Boulevard, south of the Gibson Street Tunnel.

On the edge of Southside.

The weight of the Twins beneath my jacket relaxed me a little.

Still, being this close to Southside made me just a bit jumpy.

Unfinished business in the Zone...

First things first.

I shook myself back to the present and did another quick scan of the place. From our seats at the back, I could see the door and the rest of the bar amid the curtain of cigarette smoke and the knots of bodies.

Unfinished business...

"You all right, Kay?"


I nodded. "Occupied."

"Better get unoccupied. Here come our boys."

I straightened in my chair.

Mouse nodded toward the huge grimy front window. Past the crowd I caught the flash of color and chrome as five crotch rockets fishtailed to a stop across the street.

They definitely looked the part. I gave them that. The rockets were bright, flashy. They were decked out in leathers, piercings, tattoos.

But something was off.

The quintet strode through the doors, nodding to the other denizens as if they owned the place. The bartender inclined his head at them. A few others nodded. A nearby table cleared fast and they claimed it like a pack of vultures on carrion.


"Kay," Mouse began.

I heard the tone in her voice. "You too, huh."


Walked and talked--

I popped my optics to thermograph mode and looked.

Then looked again.

"Cakewalk," I said, then got up and headed for the table of five.

Other than their bikes, joyboys love toys. Implant blades. Monowhips. Pop-ups. Anything that can be hidden--literally--on their person and used to take an opponent down while they're on a rocket. Name it, they have it.

Not these guys.

My therms showed them with minor biomods. All flash, but no joyboy substance.

Oh, and they also packed.

But then, so did I.

I reached their table, put hands on my hips, and peered at each one of them over the tops of my mirrorshades.

The two on my left were twin square-jawed blonds who sported short, military-style cuts, but I doubt if they ever served. The bruiser on my right had a shaved head and animal tattoos up and down both hugely muscled arms. Next to him sprawled a matchstick with a mohawk and nose studs, a cigarette hanging off his lip.

The last sat directly across from where I stood, his long hair in a ponytail, sporting studded fingerless gloves. He looked up at me and his eyes went to slits--but not before they betrayed him.

By then I knew.

Suddenly, Baldy rose from his seat, all muscular, tattooed, and sweaty two meters of him, flexed his arms, and cracked his knuckles. "What the fuck do you want?" he said.

Wrong line.

I grabbed him by the throat and slammed him down onto the tabletop. The back of his head hit like a thunderclap. He gurgled in meek protest then went limp.

The others snapped to their feet.

Four gun barrels shoved themselves in my direction.

Conversation in the bar squealed to a stop.

I looked at each of them again.

One by one.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mouse standing near the bar and I could tell that she was ready to move.

Good ol' Mouse.

"I just came over here to get something back from you boys," I began.

Mohawk looked at Ponytail, his brow furrowed. "I thought the whole deal was tight," he said.

"Shut it," Ponytail said.

"You said no one knew! Not even the old--!"

"Shut it!" Spit flew from Ponytail's lips and he turned to me, the pistol still pointed at my face. "Let him go or I plug you."

"I came over here to get something back from you boys," I repeated.

Ponytail licked his lips. "Let him go, bitch."

"That's right. I am a bitch. Now give me back what belongs to me."

"What makes you think we've got your case--"

"I never said it was a case." I gave him my Smile.

He flinched. The pistol wavered in his grip.

"Oh, fuck...!" said Mohawk.

Glances shot between the foursome.

Baldy chose that moment to wake up and be sneaky. His hand snaked toward the pistol tucked into his pants and he started to sit up.

I grabbed him by the throat again and slammed his head back onto the table. He let out a strangled sigh and went limp again.

Mohawk jumped, nearly dropping his gun. "Jesus Christ!"

"He can't help you now," I said. I kept my grip on Baldy's throat in case he got stealthy again and looked directly at Ponytail. He shrank back a little and his pistol wavered again. "This can be really easy. All you have to do is hand over the case and I let your friend go. Piss me off some more and"--I nodded down at a dazed Baldy--"he dies."

"Okay," said Mohawk. "We'll give you the case--"

"No, we won't," Ponytail said.

"Fuck that! Let's just get our cash and blow!"

Suddenly the doors flew open and six leather-clad figures strode in.

Red leather.

That meant one thing.

Scarlet Razors.

Real joyboys.


The Razors got a few steps inside the bar and stopped when they spotted our little six-gun soiree.

The lead Razor's eyes went to slits. "Beat feet shitheads! You're on our turf!"

The foursome spun around, guns still raised.

Bad move.

Lead Razor went saucer-eyed.

Then the six joyboys went for their weapons.

Time to end this.

With one subvocalized command, I pumped my body full of adrenaline stimulators and the world slid into slo-mo.

The Twins leaped into my hands and spat thunder and fire at Lead Razor even before he drew his pistol from the waistband of his pants. He caught four slugs full in the chest, gurgled blood and obscenities, and folded.

I shifted aim toward the two Razors on my left as their guns cleared whatever hidden holster they had, but saw Ponytail standing in my line of fire.

Their guns started to rise.

I shoved Baldy off the tabletop with an elbow, then, with a swift kick, slammed the table into the small of Ponytail's back.

He went down with a yelp.

The Twins roared again, bucking in my hands. The two yahoos sprayed blood in protest, fell back against the door, and slid down leaving a sloppy trail.

Three more on the right.

I turned toward them.

Their guns had just started to come up when I heard fabric rustle.

Mouse catapulted through the air from her spot at the bar, her coattails billowing behind her like a comet's tail. She landed in the middle of the trio.

They managed a brief cry of surprise before metal whipped through the air and blood geysered.

Mouse stepped back, a wakizashi--Japanese short sword--held out in a kind of artful dancer's pose.

Before her, the three joyboys dropped their pistols. Then heads slipped cleanly off two necks, followed by the wet thump of the bodies crumpling to the floor.

The last Razor looked dumbly at Mouse. Then blood gushed in a torrent from the neat slice across his neck and spattered his shirt. He pitched forward into a pool of scarlet.

Mouse turned toward me and grinned. "Slice and dice."

The Twins retreated into their holster rig. I turned to Mohawk who stood beside me, pistol still raised, panting, and smelling like piss. I grabbed his shirtfront with one hand, pulled him toward me and gave him the Smile. He looked at me with eyes the size of hubcaps and gulped loudly.

"Jimmy," he croaked. "Jimmy's got your case."

(to be continued...)

"A Family Affair"
Part 1 | Part 3


Chris said...

Loved it....Love all the incarnations of an independent california...All the scifi i read (and the real news) makes it seem almost inevitable....Keep it up!!

Ace said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

There'll be more about the California Free State in later episodes.

Glad you're enjoying the story.

Miladysa said...

My favourite lines?

"Wrong line" & "I heard fabric rustle."