WIP 1 : CYBERPUNK DETECTIVE

new short story in progress

1: REASONS

I tripped over my own feet coming to the gate; my body stopped to let the surveillance mast read my chip the same instant my mind remembered I didn’t need to do that anymore. Everything was faster these days. Smoothed into the NKPD Net. I’d probably been scanned and approved a hundred meters back. The pause was an old habit – the muscle memory from other summer nights a decade gone.   

This stretch of wall had gone up in ’46 at the height of the water riots. It was a hot summer, a bad summer. Protestors had taken over the entire Shìchǎng district. The mayor’s council was worried the demonstrations would spread through the rest of the lower city, so the wall was constructed: a hundred-plus kilometers of interlocking ferro-crete slabs, five meters tall, topped with cameras and sonic turrets and loops of writhing live wire. Every secondary street was closed off and the main avenues sprouted checkpoints and steel gates overnight. The district went from street markets to triple max prison overnight. On top of that, half a dozen concealed access points were installed so undercover teams could outflank the barricades and conduct what officials called ‘containment operations’ to secure public safety and prevent civilian casualties.   

Not that the protestors had killed anyone. Sure, there were the usual torched cars and smashed shop windows, but mostly it was regular line up of popular demagogues, opportunist celebrities, day-swarms of idealistic cause groupies all hitching a ride to the moral high-ground on the backs of thousands of sick, thirsty, low-tier workers and their families who couldn’t afford another rate hike for clean water.

This particular access opened into an alley at the south end of Shao-Bei Street. My squad had used it every night for three months to slip in and do things I’d rather forget. Back then, the neighborhood was all cheap noodles, puppet brothels, and pachinko parlors. Now it’s shops and micro-apartments, tea houses and boutique knock-offs. LNK’s version of gentrification.

I pulled the hinged slab shut behind me, felt a shudder as the bolts thunked back in place. The turrets and wire were long since removed but the alley looked the same. Less trash maybe. I wiped slime and grime off my fingers, shook off a clutch of ghosts, and was back in Shìchǎng.

The night was young so the passage was empty, which was good because I was running late and this put me five blocks closer to where I needed to be. Plus it let me bypass a serious bar fight, an in-progress robbery, and a full blown raid. The bar fight was just another drunken brawl, police drones were already on scene at the ramen stand, and the raid… the raid was an omnishambles presided over by Captain Lee himself.   

None of them were my concern – there were no bodies – but the system would log me going through the perimeter, so I would need an explanation.

The bouncers would get the fight under control before it turned serious. It was highly unlikely someone would get killed in the ramen stand hold up. Fēng Niú, the local Red Pole, took a dim view of anyone messing with the revenue stream in his territory. Everyone in Sector Nine knew it and any junkie stupid enough to slot a shop owner would be dead before I ever chased them down. All I’d get was a courtesy email telling me where to find the body. So no real pressure there either.

The raid was a thing to avoid for a lot of reasons, most of all because it was nothing but dick swagger. Our fearless leader had requisitioned two tac-teams in a Norinco 6-wheeler to pay a visit to a new, gray market cyber-ware clinic. Lee’s official reason was the place might be a front for HK separatists. In reality, our district captain was killing two birds with one sledgehammer, intimidating a new business with a welcome wagon while reminding everyone on the street he was still a big kid in the neighborhood.

Hunu, one of my CIs, said the clinic was mostly legit, specializing in geisha-mods and copycat Faberge cyber limbs. That it was backed by the Macau Triad, no less. Then again, she insisted one of her regular johns was an alien from the Andromeda galaxy, so on the off chance she wasn’t full of shit and ‘Phoria, Captain Lee might lose serious face – and maybe a finger depending on who he pissed off. If not, he’d be a few thousand e-Yuan richer when the doctor paid the ‘licensing’ fee to operate in this part of Lower New Kowloon. 

Maybe I’m thick, but it seemed to me twelve heavily armed ninja trolls backed by a Pacification droid was a bit over the top for a chop shop micro-surgeon and a pair of cloned nurses fresh out of Chiba City. A polite ‘meet and greet’ at the station would have sufficed. But what do I know? I’m just a homicide detective with just enough sense not to stick my hand in the middle of that mess. Either way, smart money said the clinic would reopen this time tomorrow.

The captain would grill me at roll call in the morning, but I had reasons – seven, bloody, dismembered ones – that would save me the worst of his scorn. Even he realized he needed to get ahead of this mess before the stink reached higher up the chain of command. Or worse, the newsfeeds got wind of it. Between the noxious election rhetoric, the latest SARS outbreak, and rumors of another hike in electric rates, tensions in the poorer districts of Lower New Kowloon were high enough. No need to add ‘serial killer panic’ to the mix.

I needed to get ahead of it too. Not to preserve my reputation – too late for that – but because it was my job and so far I had seven bodies, not a single, solid lead, and only a really bad idea on how to get one.

There was a chill on my neck. The wind off the South China Sea had finally reached under the Terrace. I cursed for forgetting my umbrella, turned up my collar and started down the alley.

Writing these days

Got a newsletter recently from one of the Indie Writer groups I lurk around, asking if/how the Covid-19 lock down affected my writing. Have to say ‘Quite a bit” if I’m being honest.

It’s not just the Covid-19 though. That was tough. Weird. But do-able.

Nope. In short order, global pandemic was at the bottom of a pig pile of deaths, crises in leadership, international strife, economic uncertainly, racism, political and social animosity, demonstrations, looting*… and then I got sick and spent a month in an out of the hospital.

It felt like I was breathing smog. Gasping, every time I sat down at the computer. It was hard to think straight, let alone relax and get creative. “Flow Space, anyone?

I pushed on. No props to me, really. It was some combination of prayer, grace, and mule-headed desperation. Had to keep busy with something and I didn’t have the energy for anything new, so I stuck with the familiar.

Felt like I was clawing at granite with my fingernails but things got done.

At the top of the fiction list, the first portion of my post-apocalyptic fantasy saga was polished and kicked out the door. Finally. Beneath the Broken Moon. Shattered Worlds, Book One is currently available as an ebook at Amazon.

Rachelle Stewart Ramirez of the Story Grid and Leonora Bulbeck over at Reedsy were both invaluable. A debt of eternal gratitude to them both. I can only hope I did justice to their hard work and excellent advice.

Next, my second STALKER/METRO 2033 flavored short story, Strange Treasure is now available as an audio book as well as a Kindle read. For anyone other than me keeping count, that makes six audio books: Strange Treasure, Prayer to St. Strelok, Hard Kill, Sozo, The Stones Remember, and The Barrow Lover. A little light listening for your daily commute. You’re welcome.

While we’re getting post-apocalyptic, I should mention my writing for the table top wargame hobby is still going strong. Zona Alfa has been available since late January, courtesy of Osprey Publishing. (Thanks, guys) The S7 Facebook Group is approaching 800 members and is filled with some very cool, creative, and inspiring war game comrades. I’m quite grateful.

It’s not limited to a Soviet-style apocalypse either. Gamers from all sorts of interesting places also seem to enjoy my solo/cooperative cyberpunk skirmish game, Hardwired, and the expansion, Tsim Sha Tsui Expansion.

I was encouraged enough by the support to build on the same game mechanics to hammer out a set of Fantasy-genre, monster hunting rules. Titled, Nightwatch: Terror and Treasure in the Dark Corners of the World, it’s nearing completion and should (God willing) be out in August, 2020.

It’s been a slog, I have to admit. I feel like I’ve been tunneling out of a POW Camp with a soup spoon; cramped, sweating, panting in the dark, measuring progress inches at a time. Not quite the artist’s life I imagined, buoyed by a supportive community of like-minded creatives and a brisk, tail wind of the Spirit.

Erm… nope.

Still, stuff got done. There’s more stuff to do. Forward motion – even in inches – is still progress. We’re all going though it, getting through it. That’s the season we’re in. It’ll turn. Until then, we persevere and keep doing the next right thing.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a book you really should read: Robert MacFarlane’s Underland.

Dissonance is produced by any landscape that enchants in the present but has been a site of violence in the past. But to read such a place only for its dark histories is to disallow its possibilities for future life, to deny reparation or hope – and this is another kind of oppression. If there is a way of seeing such landscapes, it might be thought of as ‘occulting’: the nautical term for a light that flashes on and off, and in which the periods of illumination are longer than the periods of darkness.

That’s all for now. I hope and pray you are all safe and well.

Until next time, take care.

***

*what happened to the Murder Hornets? Are they still around?

Now Available: Tsim Sha Tsui Expansion

The TSIM SHA TSUI EXPANSION. A supplement for the co-op/solo table top war game HARDWIRED. New weapons, new gear, new missions, new threats.

Available in PDF format at WARGAMEVAULT.COM or for Kindle at AMAZON .

Hardcopy version is on the way.

Here are some pictures from our games.

If you’re looking for ready-made figs to run a few test missions, you could always pick up this excellent set of cyberpunk flats from ArcKnight.

HARDWIRED and the TSIM SHA TSUI EXPANSION – It’s definitely time to put on your mirrorshades and get to work.

Thanks. Have a good day.

Next up: Clar1ty Wars 3

‘Strange Treasure: Another Tale from the Exclusion Zone’ is done, now it’s time to circle back to the Clar1ty Wars.

It seems Cyberpunk is making a comeback, what with CD Projekt Red’s upcoming game causing a huge nerd buzz in the PC and console gaming worlds. On the table top, the venerable RPGs, Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 are getting new editions. And then there’s my fast play, miniature wargame rules HARDWIRED and Osprey’s upcoming mega game, Reality’s Edge

Gameplay video: https://youtu.be/RfmB1eoyzwY

Coincidentally, it wasn’t until very recently I started to receive a lot of feedback and questions about the books. Juggling a full-time business and all-time Real Life means fiction writing gets dropped from the To Do List . Obligations, everyday emergencies, and plain old end-of-the-day exhaustion pile up so fast – which is why I’m only now getting back to the next installment. My apologies and gratitude to those who wondered if it fell off the edge of the map – I’ll do my utmost to make it worth the wait.

I’ve resurrected the old notes, files, and assorted scraps of inspiration, and begun hammering the next set of stories. Things are getting ugly in Kepler22, and Seeb, Detectives Lynch, and Junior-Inspector Sarin are about to get stuck in the crossfire.

In case you’re interested, here are links to books one and two:

One Bad Apple and Under Strange Stars

That’s all for now. Thanks for all your support and have an excellent day.

Now Available: Strange Treasure

For those who enjoy their post-apocalypse flavored with AK-47s, vodka and salo, my latest short story, ‘Strange Treasure’ is available at Amazon.

Written with my upcoming war game rules – ZONA ALFA – in mind, Strange Treasure follows Zone Guide, Yuri Bonyev as he leads Russian mobsters on a search for prime real estate inside the world’s largest and most mysterious quarantined area.

Kindle only for now, I’ll add it to a print collection once I’ve accumulated several more shorts. Thank you all for your support. It’s very much appreciated.

Coming Soon: Strange Treasure

A.K.A. the short story formerly known as ‘The Vladivostok Kind’.

The adventures of Zone Guide, Yuri Bonyev, continue. In finishing and editing, it became apparent ‘Strange Treasure’ was a far more appropriate title. And with that came the need for a more relevant, engaging cover. So…

To finish what I started, I’ll post the final chapter at my hobby blog Stalker7.com this weekend. However, the full and polished story – “Strange Treasure. Another tale from the Exclusion Zone” – will be available at Amazon soon. Kindle only for the time being.

Thanks to everyone who read and commented. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Have an excellent day, comrades.



Now Available: HARDWIRED

cover

HARDWIRED – a table top war game set during the Corporate Wars of 2069 in the mega-city of New Kowloon. Miniatures agnostic. 1 – 6 Players, Co-op or Solo Mode. Made for 15mm – 28mm miniatures. Grab your friends, create a team of elite Agents, and select a mission. It’s time to put all those cool, random sci fi miniatures to work.

***

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a long-time table top war gamer. (4 + decades) HARDWIRED is a set of simple, war game rules that allows players to reenact the desperate missions and frantic firefights from their favorite cyberpunk books, games, graphic novels, and movies. Select a mission, create your team of Agents, and gear up for a run-n-gun.

Also available in print:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1071441671

Thanks and enjoy.

A short book review

Of Dan Abnett’s The Magos

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I know the cover looks cheesy. I know game-verse fiction is often (rightly) dismissed as little better than fan-gush, but if you’ve never read Dan Abnett, I think you’re missing out on some truly good Sci Fi.

It was the Eisenhorn trilogy that did it for me. I’d never heard of Mr. Abnett before. Apparently he writes comics. Cool, but not really my cuppa. But as an avid table top wargamer and spec-fiction reader, the books appeared on my radar screen and I took a chance on the first one. Then I bought the second. And had to get the third.

I was hooked.

Yes, it helps to be familiar with the Warhammer 40,000’s grim, Gothic setting, but it’s not necessary. Abnett’s Inquisitor novels are ‘domestic’ 40K; all about conspiracies, cults and covert operations. The ‘total war in the grim darkness of the far future’ is an ever-present backdrop, sure, but they have more in common with police procedurals and Gothic mystery thrillers than grand-scale military Sci Fi. Interesting characters, twisted plots, good pace, depth, solid, efficient prose, I kept flipping to the back cover picture asking ‘Who is this guy?”

An incredibly talented and prolific writer, apparently.

Mr. Abnett is now on my very short list of writer’s I’ll pre-order. (William Gibson and Steven Pressfield are the other two)

The Magos is a collection of short stories packed in with a new Eisenhorn novel. Some of the shorts appear in the Eisenhorn Omnibus and other Inquisitor novels, but several are brand spanking new. Plus there’s a novel at the back of the book.

I’m not a spoilers/book report kind of reviewer, so I’ll spare the synopsis, but if the previous Inquisitor books caught your attention, you’ll want to add The Magos to your Summer reading list. Enjoy.

You can get a copy (hopefully) at your local book store, or Here at Amazon

Have a good day.

Latest Zombie Six

zombie6-logo

 

Charlie Foxtrot

 

The next chapter in the Zombie 6 novella ‘Enemy of my Enemy’ is now available. Click on the title link above or use the pull down menu in the header. Treachery, reversals, foes all around, the team races to confront the real enemy.

Thanks and enjoy.

Zombie6-Book-Cover2

* cover art by J. Penswick Designs. Nice one, eh?

I’ll leave this right here

In discussing cover art for the upcoming Z6 ‘Enemy of my Enemy’ novella, I mentioned to the graphic artist I had a couple more ideas for the team/setting. Not only did he do an excellent job for ‘EomE’, he worked up a quick Z6 team logo – For when Z6 comes around in the fiction queue again.

zombie6-logo

Pretty cool, eh?

Have a great weekend.