"Easy Money" - Part One

When the carabiner snapped, the shock cord slipped off from around the rafter, and I plunged ten meters to the floor of an East End warehouse, one of Murphy's favorite expressions came to mind: "Fuck a duck."
Just another typical day in the life of a ronin. Street mercenary. Gun for hire.
Me. Name's Kat.

God, I love my job.

I don't care much for cracking my skull open.

Lucky for me, I missed the floor by half the distance and slammed instead onto a stack of wooden shipping crates that snapped under the impact of my eighty kilos, shoved air from my lungs, and left me gasping.

Unlucky for me, the cyberdeck I'd been holding popped out of my hands and clattered to the floor below.

Even more unlucky for me, the four dark-suited muscleboys down below picked that moment to open fire on me.

"When it rains, it pours." Another Murphy gem. My old mentor had a
million of them

In my case, though, it doesn't just rain.

It floods.

I rolled sideways off the topmost crate a split second before it exploded in splinters under a hail of gunfire, showering me in wood chips and fabric scraps. Dropped two meters to the next stack of crates just below, then leapt the rest of the way to the warehouse floor, knees bent to absorb impact.

Not that I was worried about the drop. Bone lacing comes in handy for situations like that. The joys of a reinforced skeleton. A perk of the Biz.

My worry at the moment: the two mooks who skidded around the stack of crates three meters to my right, pistols at the low-ready position, pointed down at a forty-five degree angle.

A subvocalized command flooded my body with adrenaline stimulators and the world around me slid in slo-mo.

Pivoted toward the onrushing pair as the Twins, Bonnie and Clyde--my pair of Colt-Springfield M2001 .45-caliber high-capacity pistols--leaped into my hands from the double-holster shoulder rig I wore beneath my black leather biker jacket.
The mooks raised their pistols.

And hesitated.

Probably expecting a slip of a girl. Not a meter ninety of dark-haired Amazon in black biker leathers toting twin hand cannons.


Their hesitation was all the time I needed.

Right about now, the majority of ronin would let their gunlink biomods take over. Their firearm would collect and feed data to the targeting optics via induction pads on the pistol grips. Then point and shoot.

Sure hit every time.

Me, I'm old-fashioned.

Got me a natural targeting system. No mods.

Murphy noticed it right away. Said the braindocs called it "focalized optimuscular reflexes."

He just called it "The Eye."

Lets me put a pistol round into a five centimeter target at 50 meters.

While moving.

And with hell breaking loose around me.

The Twins each boomed twice and caught both mooks in the chest. One folded. The other slammed backwards into the crates, arms flailing.

Another mook popped out from around the crates. He raised his pistol to fire.

I plugged him between the eyes. A misty crimson halo burst from his head and he crumpled.

One more.

Footfalls to my left. Spun.

Saw the last mook level his gun at me.

Then a dark fluttering shape crashed down and slammed him to the warehouse floor. He yelped. The pistol clattered away.

Metal flashed.

The mook reached for his neck, his hands suddenly covered with blood. He twitched, then lay still.

Mouse, my partner and fellow ronin, stepped away from the body, a bloody wakizashi--Japanese short sword--in hand. She saluted me with the sword. "Slice and dice," she said.

I shook my head.

At a meter-fifty and just shy of sixty kilos, Mouse doesn't look like much. A petite twentysomething with short brown hair pulled back into a stumpy ponytail, a few stray locks always spilling across her forehead.

But the pointy toys.

Mouse loves her pointy toys.

She'd definitely come a long way since Murphy and I ran into her in an alley full of dead bodies and live Lotus Boys two years ago. Seems Mouse and a couple of her buds had tried to make quick cash selling joyjoy pills to some suits. The pills turned out to be bad and the suits turned out to be low-rung members of the White Lotus Syndicate.

Japanese gangsters.

Always bad news, White Lotus.

Murphy and I had no desire to mix it up with Lotus. But six to one was dirty pool. So we evened things up.

Two days later, Mouse showed up at the Red Dog Bar with a tightly-packed duffle bag.

"Teach me," she'd said. "I wanna kick Lotus ass."

So we took her on.

Since Day One of her training, she always gravitated to all things sharp and stabby. Folders. Fixed blades. Throwing knives and shurikens. Short and long swords. Name it. If it's got a point or an edge, she probably owns at least two. She'll use a gun or SMG--hell, even a rifle--if that's all there is, but don't expect her to like it.

But give her a blade--she's in heaven.

And heaven consisted of twin wakizashis

Murphy always said: "You don't choose your weapon. The weapon chooses you."

For me, it was the Twins. A gift from Murphy. Given to me the night he--

I pushed the thought from my mind, then holstered The Twins and looked around. Felt my pulse drop back to normal.

Four bodies at our feet, blood pooling beneath them. At the other end of the warehouse was a battered-looking white delivery van, its back doors open. Two sets of feet stuck out beneath the back bumper.

Poor guys. A pair of tech-types gone greedy. Tried to sell off goods and got double-crossed.

The way of the Biz.


That reminded me.

I made a circuit of the area around the stacks of shipping crates and found it. The cyberdeck. One of two Mouse and I had been hired to retrieve. Mouse had grabbed one of the 'decks. I had grabbed the other.

Then the anchor on the rafter snapped and I did my swan dive.

So did the 'deck.

I'd come through relatively unscathed.

The cyberdeck hadn't. One corner had a dent and part of the case had popped off.
I sighed and picked it up.

"Kat?" Mouse said behind me.

I turned to her, the 'deck in hand. "I got it," I said. "Sort of..."

She saw the cyberdeck and shot me a look.

"What!" I said.

"You killed it."

"Did not."

"It fell apart."

"Cosmetic damage," I said. "I'm sure it still works."

"How do you know? You're not a tech."

"I'm sure these things are sturdy..."

"Back on track, Kat--"

I held up a hand. "Don't start."

"Fine," she said.

"Let's just get to the drop and be done with it."

(to be continued...)

"Easy Money"
Part 2

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