Courtesy Alistair Cunningham
Courtesy Alistair Cunningham

For the Terribleminds challenge, Somethingpunk. I think this qualifies more as laserpunk than cyberpunk, but you be the judge.

Jack Magnum was never more at home than he was on the ground, a warm beamer in his hand, goons on his tail.

The incandescent neon of the street illumination and the various store signs were a counterpoint to the lances of hard light that sliced through the night. This had been a nice neighborhood once. Before Manhattan had been co-opted by the Cyber-Mafia, it had been making a comeback from the various financial failures of the early 21st century. That was before America got carved up and sold like so much cake at a desperate bake sale.

But Jack Magnum hadn’t given up on America.

“Jack! Two more on your nine-o’-clock!”

“I know.” The AI in Jack’s head, which called herself Artemis, was helpful in some situations and irritating in others. His cyber-enhanced senses and on-board radar could communicate with him at the speed of thought. There was no need for Artemis to engage his inner ear speaker to give him information he already knew. Still, there was a hard barrier between them when he was conscious, so he understood her desire to keep him safe. After all, if his body failed, she’d cease to exist.

He swung his .75 caliber heater in the direction and squeezed off two rounds. The projector snapped off two flashes of steel-melting light, and one assailant found his faceplate burned off, exposed circuitry sizzling and its CPU melting down its chin and faux leather jacket. The Cyber-Mafia liked to dress its goons up like bikers, so the human populace didn’t blatantly see the mostly robotic terrors that kept them in line and fed the syndicate its cash and bodies to maintain business with the struggling and laughable US government.

“That’s three total still on our tail, Jack. What’s the plan?”

“There’s a hoverbike 100 meters ahead. Can you hack it?”

“I’m on it.” The wireless transmitter in Jack’s skull hummed as Artemis tried to access the hoverbike’s security and key it to Jack’s DNA. Jack fired behind him, and heard a surprised, robotic squawk as another foot soldier got blasted. Two to go. If he couldn’t blast them, he could outrun them, and keep the information packet in his hard drive out of Cyber-Mafia hands.

“It’s ready, Jack!”

“Thanks, babe.”

He turned and sprinted backwards, taking his gun in both hands, firing a shot that melted the gun-arm off of one of his pursuers. The other opened fire, chewing up pavement just behind Jack. He had to turn quickly and jump, lest the half-molten pavement slow him down. The neon of the airbike snapped on, and Jack leapt onto it. He holstered his heater and revved the drive, getting the fans up to speed, and kicked hard off the ground. Standard airbikes didn’t have much in the way of altitude, but the hop threw off the aim of his pursuers. He whipped around the corner and tapped the holo-projector in his right cybernetic eye to call up his GPS plotter.

“They know your face, Jack. It’s going to be hard to get off of Manhattan.”

“The CIA didn’t hire me because this would be easy, Artemis. Now find me a chopper or a boat.”

“I’m on it. I’m just saying, they’re going to shut down the island rather than let you off.”

“I don’t get what the big deal is.” Jack swerved around a truck, which honked at him on general principle. “All I have is the shipping manifests for the Cyber-Mafia’s airplanes and boats for the next six months, and a detailed list of every government document to which they have access.”

“Which means they can no longer blackmail the government into holding Manhattan, I know. It’s what they wanted you to get.” Jack’s map was replaced by a holo-representation of Artemis. He knew it was a replication of one of her designers, a petite young woman with bangs, short hair in the back, and a form-fitting suit. “But Jack, the Cyber-Mafia’s been in control of the island for almost a decade. They have a private army. Hell, for all we know they have an air force by this point. How do you plan on getting around them?”

“If I can’t, I’ll just go through ’em. Just like in Casablanca.”

Artemis rolled her eyes. “Jack, after Casablanca, your organics were barely alive and your system was shot to pieces. You had to crawl onto the rescue boat and it nearly sank!”

“We’ll be okay, Art. Trust me.”

She sighed. “I hope you’re right.” She brought his GPS back up and plotted a course through the streets to a dock. Smiling, Jack revved the engine and made a sharp turn.

Minutes later, he brought the bike to a halt near the dock. He blasted the lock off of the gate with his heater, and made his way down to the boats. Artemis had picked out a small speedboat, rigged up for water skiing. It was a derelict, a relic from before the Cyber-Mafia. Artemis walked him through getting the engine running and disengaging the rig that could slow them down. When he looked up, he saw spotlights in the distance.

“Artemis, tell me those are CIA choppers on the other side of the sea wall.”

“Negative. Cyber-Mafia attack choppers on an intercept course. Three of them so far.”

“Well, shit.” Jack pulled out his heater and checked the charge. 50%. Probably enough to take down one chopper with a well-placed full-power shot. He looked down at the boat. “Artemis, I need to know how to drive this thing like a pro.”


“Look, we’re the only hope the country has of getting back to what it was. It has to start with us. We have to at least try. Agreed?”

“You mess up, you’re going to get us both killed.”

There was a pause. Then, suddenly, a rush of information, part head-swimming kiss from a beautiful woman, part searing shock of straight whiskey.

“So don’t.”

Jack Magnum smiled. “Trust me, darlin’. Just hang on. It’ll be fun!”