These Mean Streets Darkly
Liquid Cool Prequel
by Austin Dragon
Genre: Cyberpunk Detective Thriller

THESE MEAN STREETS, DARKLY the prequel to the cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool.


It’s a world of colossal skyscrapers. Hovercars fly above in the dark, rainy skies and gray people walk below on the grimy, hard streets in the “Neon Jungle.” Uber-governments and megacorporations fight for control of the supercity, but so does crime.


An average woman, Carol—hardworking and decent in every way— loses her daughter to the psycho Red Rabbit. Can Police Central find the girl in time—alive? And is it really a random, senseless kidnapping in the fifty-million-plus city?


There are a million victims and perpetrators in this High-Tech, Low-Life World. This is one of those stories…before we meet our private eye (and unlikely hero), Cruz, in the debut novel, Liquid Cool!

**Free on Amazon!**

 Book links here:

Liquid Cool
Liquid Cool Series Book 1

A Cyberpunk Thriller To Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat!


Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), cyberpunk detective series.


How Much is One Life Worth?


In the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon shows why you never want to meet a cyborg in a dark alley. Liquid Cool is a cross between Blade Runner and the Maltese Falcon. There is plenty of gritty action, suspense, thrills, and even a few laughs.


It’s cyberpunk reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hovercars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and megacorporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus super-city, but so does crime.


We meet Cruz, our private eye (and unlikely hero), in this super-city with a million victims and perpetrators. Watch out for tech-tricksters, analog hustlers, and digital gangsters—psychos, samurais, and cyborgs aplenty. Visitors have a way of becoming permanent attractions.


Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.


Get Your Copy of Liquid Cool Right Now.

**Free on Amazon!**

Book links here:

Blade Gunner
Liquid Cool Book 2

The Cyberpunk Detective Thriller Blade Gunner Keeps You on the Edge of Your Seat!


Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), debut cyberpunk detective series.


Who is Blade Gunner?


In the next installment of the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon shows you when two forces of evil want to kill each other—get the hell out of the way! The Liquid Cool Series is the sci-fi classic, Blade Runner meets the Old Hollywood classic, Maltese Falcon. There is plenty of gritty action, suspense, thrills, and even a few laughs.


It’s the cyberpunk novel reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hover-cars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and mega-corporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus super-city, but so does crime.


Sinister secret megacorporations. Savage Cyborg cults. And the Blade Gunner. How does Cruz, our private eye (and unlikely hero), solve this case—let alone survive? Off-worlders will do anything to stop the unknown man called Blade Gunner—even to blow up a supercity from space! The seedy spousal surveillance case doesn’t look so bad after all, but it’s too late to go back. You haven’t read a cyberpunk novel like this.


Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.

Book links here:

Liquid Cool Book 3

The Cyberpunk Detective Series Continues to Thrill in NeuroDancer!


Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), debut cyberpunk detective series.


Has Cruz met his supervillain match in NeuroDancer?


Liquid Cool is a Blade Runner meets the Maltese Falcon. In the next installment of the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon goes from less frenetic cyberpunk to a smoother, cyber-noir with our hero, Cruz, matching wits with the sultry NeuroDancer. There is always plenty of gritty action, suspense, thrills, and even a few laughs.


It’s the cyberpunk novel reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hover-cars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and mega-corporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus super-city, but so does crime.


“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” she said to him. He should have listened to his instincts when she strolled into his office to hire him. “I knew I wasn’t gonna touch this case with a 10-foot pole. It had danger written all over it, back and front.” But he did take the Case of the NeuroDancer. Is this the private eye story where the bad “guy” rides off into the sunset and the hero lies flat on his back waiting for the meat wagon to fly down in their hoverambulance.


Which is crazier, indeed: the criminal—or the client? Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.


Book links here:

The Electric Sheep Massacre
Liquid Cool Book 4

The Cyberpunk Detective Series Goes to London!

But in The Electric Sheep Massacre does our detective come back? And, is that before or after someone tries to kill him in the world of virtual reality?!


Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), debut cyberpunk detective series.

Liquid Cool is Blade Runner meets the Maltese Falcon. In the next installment of the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon takes our private detective from the wild, concrete wastelands outside the supercity Metropolis across the Great Ocean to London Prime (that’s what they call it in the future) to the most dangerous place in the world—virtual reality, where all of a sudden people are killing and dying. 

It’s the cyberpunk novel reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hovercars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and megacorporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus supercity, but so does crime.

Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool. 

**.99 on Amazon!!**

Book links here:



Everything that was seen or heard, every smell, and almost every feeling belonged to it. Skyscraper monoliths with their side lights rose into the near-perpetual overcast sky one way, blink-blink, and the lukewarm downpour fell onto the neon urban jungle the other, drip-drip. From the ground, looking up, on those days that were as clear as it could ever get, buildings seemed to have their own halos, courtesy of the rooftop lights. On “normal” rainy days, that same illumination gave the sky a faint glow. Also from the vantage of the streets, the city’s lighted buildings pulsated in all the many psychologically-tested and focus-group-researched colors to mitigate the street’s base griminess, despite the ever-rain. The flashing neon signs screamed every second of every day; their soft-sell, quasi-hypnotic consumerist cons of Big Bad Business and government public service “aggravations” (PSAs) of Big Bad Government. But people were numb to it all, no matter how outrageous or provocative.
The crowds on the streets moving about were like a collective lifeform. Everyone clad in their gray-toned or black slickers, and for those carrying them, umbrellas with glowing colored handles. Most had their ears covered with headphones, their heads covered with hoods, and everyone had their eyes covered with glowing colored glasses. The masses were in the world, but mentally someplace else—away from it, never a part of it, unless there was a reason, and there rarely was a reason. Tech-tricksters, analog hustlers, and digital gangsters, at least, had purpose. The masses had only one concern—to exist, get to the end of the day unscathed, and then do it all over again the next day. Maybe smile a real smile a time or two in life. Escape was only possible if you could buy or trick your way Up-Top or, of course, when the Grim Reaper came a-knocking. ‘Til then, for most, there was plugging the ears into the music, and the eyes (and brain) into the virtual television. For too many others, it was also about jacking the body into the drugs or the mind into the cyber-games. Everything in an attempt to stave off the dark emotions and conventional madness that accompanied the daily grind of life in the 50 million-plus, supercity of Metropolis, and the many, many other metropolises exactly like it, though smaller, on Earth.
“Yo, yo, yo. Easy Chair Charlie! What’s the street talk, E.C.?” a voice called out.
If it were not for their glowing colored glasses, the three street kids would have been invisible through the drizzle of the night. Easy Chair Charlie stopped his musically-influenced stroll through the streets, pulling his headphones down around his neck. He wore his favorite embroidered, black slicker that flowed behind his tall, lanky frame. He also had the attached clear hood pulled over his bleached-white spiky hair and wore glowing, dark blue-black shades, but looked out from the top as if they were bifocals.
A neon sign flashed, and he could see the kids clearly—flapper hats and chia-pet bubble-coats—squatting on the corner. “What you playin’?” he asked.
The boys looked like gorillas with the heads of old World War I fighter pilots. The water-resistant, faux-fur of their coats kept them toasty warm in the rain.
“Just a game of street jacks to pass the time, Easy,” answered the same boy. “Easy, what’s the street talk? You always know the low-down. If we get something, we’ll give you a cut like always.”
Easy Chair Charlie was a hustler of some distinction. His racket was the numbers, and he had the inside scoop on every professional and amateur, major league and minor league sports game, hovercar race, horse race, dog race, boxing match, or martial arts match there was and every illegal and back-alley one, too. But he was branching out from his old racket, though he still had the touch and threw a tip here and there to the street kids he liked.
“No action now. But I may have something for you later,” he said.
“Righteous, Easy. You always come through for us.”
“You always come through for me. The street looks out for self.”
“You know it, Easy.”
“Catch me later.”
“You got it, Easy,” they said in unison.
Easy Chair Charlie returned his headphones to his ears and strutted away to his tunes. He gave them the thumbs-up as he disappeared into the rain.
Downtown loved to tout the ethnic diversity that was the melting pot of Metropolis. It was true; everyone felt equally miserable, and that they were being melted into a pot—a big wet one. With so many millions in the supercity, there were more ethnicities, nationalities, and languages spoken here than any other place in the world.
In the old days, groups fervently protected their neighborhoods, but legacy housing changed all that, some say, ending the traditional ethnic communities forever. There were still the ethnic enclaves of old, but often, they were not run by the nationalities that originally created them, back when Metropolis was just a city, let alone a mega-city or the supercity center it was today. The suave, hipster Old Harlem, with more historical landmarks than any other part of the city, was run not by Blacks anymore, but Italians. Most of its buildings were not as tall nor as massive, but many argued it had the best clubs and restaurants in the city. It was also the center of the cigar aficionado world, one place in particular.
Joe Blows was where Easy Chair Charlie was going—the world famous Joe Blows Smoking Emporium on Sweet Street. He was out of smokes and needed to replenish his stash. It was a lucrative storefront, but also an official historic landmark of the city. In the old days, movie celebrities and megacorporate playboys made up its famous clientele, but though it no longer featured in the papers and trades like back then, everyone knew it as the establishment for all cancer-stick connoisseurs, and people came far and wide for a stash. There wasn’t an exotic, classic, or premium cigarette or cigar in the world that they didn’t carry. But no narcotics. If you wanted that, any corner dope daddy or drugstore cowboy on speed-dial could get you that. Joe Blows was for those who loved smoke—the taste and feel through the lungs, nose, and mouth. For the true connoisseur, that was the high. It had its main store, but the real action was the adjoining smoking rooms, where old-time smokers sat around chatting it up for hours and doing deals as they smoked and joked over drinks, dinner, poker, or a game of pool with beautiful waitresses around. Joe’s was strictly a straight joint—male chauvinists and babes only, though nowadays, a quarter of its clientele were female smokers.
“This is a public service announcement to remind you that the Metropolis Surgeon General says you can double your life expectancy by ceasing the use of all tobacco products,” said one of the baby-faced agents in a suit, but without a lick of style.
The government’s “cigarette police” would stop by every month or two to pass out anti-smoking flyers, but were met with howling laughter and men stuffing the flyers—in front of the agents—into their butt cracks or in the front of their jock straps. However, today was one of those bad days, and Easy Chair Charlie entered the smoking room as the two meek college kid agents—paid government volunteers—were practically running out as smoking room customers threatened them with obscene gestures, jeers, and curses. The entire establishment was yelling at them to leave.
Easy Chair Charlie chuckled, carrying his two just-purchased boxes—his stash of exotic cigars for the month—from the main store to the sitting rooms.
“Easy Chair Charlie!” a booming voice called out.
Fat Nat, a large pot-bellied man, waved to him as he stood up from a card table of other men. Easy waved back with a smile and then gave him a salute. He walked to the table and set both boxes in the center, on top of the men’s cards.
The men grinned at the words on the boxes.
“Havanas, Easy?” a seated man asked. “How the hell can you afford a box of those? One of those is worth a king’s ransom, and you got two boxes.”
“This is Easy Chair Charlie. He knows how to get things, so he can sit back easy-like in his chair,” Fat Nat said.
They listened keenly to the sounds. Easy carefully cut the outer plastic wrapping from one cigar box with his switchblade and asked, “May I perchance offer my good comrades a genuine Havana?”
The men stood from their chairs as Easy lifted the lid and then slit the inner plastic covering to allow the aroma of the cigars to rise from the box. Each man pulled a glove from a pants pocket and put it on their right hand. One by one, the four men grabbed a cigar and inhaled deeply as they were passed under their nostrils.
“This, Easy…is what heaven smells like,” Fat Nat said.
Easy took one himself. One of the men pulled another chair from a nearby table for him. “Easy, set yourself down in an easy chair.” Easy smiled as he and the five men sat. Fat Nat pulled a box of old slow-matches from his chest pocket and struck one. He lit Easy’s first and then each friend’s cigar with its steady, slow-burning, tiny flame. He left his for last.
“The first puff of the cigar.” Easy leaned back in his chair to savor it.
“Easy is like no other.” Fat Nat lifted his Japanese whiskey glass. “Here’s to Easy and easy living in this wet, rainy, modern, miserable world.”
The men drank.
Easy Chair Charlie stifled a slight burp. “Gentlemen, I may have something for you.”
The street knew Easy for his take-it-to-the-bank betting tips, but few knew of his new, more lucrative, racket of the acquisition. Not a finder. They only told you where an item you desired was, but Easy found it and delivered it right to you. Acquisition experts, like him, were in high demand and insanely compensated. He could make more with the successful acquisition of an item in one year than his old gambling racket. His specialty was acquisition of items from Up-Top—where the wealthy and powerful of the planet lived. That’s where the astronomic cash was to be had.
“Something good?” Fat Nat asked.
Easy did a slow exhale. “If I play my cards right, I’ll be able to make it all the way to Up-Top myself. Not just get things. And you know how generous I am to my friends.”
The men smiled.
“How Easy?” Fat Nat asked.
Easy Chair Charlie leaned back. “How indeed.” He took another draw from his cigar like a king. They all heard a low hum. Easy clenched his cigar gently between his teeth and said, “Excuse me, gentlemen, my pants are vibrating.”
A couple of the men grinned as Easy stared down at the display of the mobile phone in his hand. He answered it as he got up from the table and walked outside.
“Something good must be callin’,” Fat Nat said to the men.
From the roof of a skyscraper, a silver-and-black body-armored policeman stood with a high-powered binocular attachment over his visored half-helmet, watching. To him, two miles away was turned into five feet away. Easy, Fat Nat, and the boys were back at the card table, laughing and joking.
From the darkened sky, a policeman slowly descended via rocketpack, the yellow flames glowing from the double exhaust nozzles. The word “PEACE” was visible on his black chest body armor. Two more policemen descended from the sky and then another half dozen.
Foot police arrived on the ground, and people crossed the street or double-backed to walk away from them—something bad was about to happen. In mere moments, the busy street was empty, except for the police and an arriving police cruiser that appeared, hovering six feet from the ground in stealth mode.
Joe Blows also had its main bar—a big bar. Members always got their first drink free, and all members, besides their love of smoking products, loved to drink. And Joe Blows only served alcoholic drinks. If you wanted coffee, green tea, or another girly-man non-alcoholic, then you needed to get in your hovercar and go someplace else.
“Hyper, waiting on my drink order!” the waitress yelled out.
The bartender behind the counter seemed to float on air as he moved to her with a tray of clear and colored drinks. She smiled, and he smiled back.
“Your slowing down, Hyper. Normally, you’d have my order before I started my sentence.”
“If you say.” He continued to get bottles and glasses, pour alcohol into glasses, get trays, and then set drinks on the bar and on trays for pick-up. He moved like a machine.
“I thought you were off tonight—” she began.
A pulse-round of white light exploded her tray of drinks, sending glass and alcohol everywhere. Another blast hit Hyper in the shoulder, knocking him back, and ripped through the wall behind him. The waitress screamed as more rounds whizzed past, hitting the bar counter and the wall. She stood in place, yelling hysterically.
Everyone in the bar dived to the ground for cover.
“Get down, Tab!” Hyper yelled from behind the counter.
Big G was about to throw his card on the table, when a pulse-round blasted through his hand and the cards. Fat Nat kicked the table away and pushed his friend to the ground from the chair. All the men were flat on the ground as the pulse-rounds ripped through the establishment. They could hear screams from patrons and things being blasted apart. One of the old-timers got to his feet and ran to the side entrance.
“Stay on the ground!” Fat Nat yelled.
Another customer jumped up and ran to the main entrance, also in panic; others jumped up, following. A pulse-round ripped through the wall, knocking the left leg off one man’s body and grazing the head of another, sending both patrons to the ground in shock.
“’Nuff of this!” Fat Nat bolted away on all fours.
“Nat, where you goin’?”
Tab, the waitress, kept screaming, frozen, as multiple pulse-rounds whizzed closer and closer to her head on their way to blast the front bar area to pieces. Fat Nat appeared from around a corner, crawling fast. He stopped and pulled his piece from his back waistband. The rifle auto-unfolded; he aimed and then fired at her. The waitress fell, crashing to the ground on her back and her screaming never ceasing.
“You want to get killed!” A round hit the wall above his head. “Hyper, you alive?”
“I’m good, boss. Now, I can get that bionic arm I always wanted—for free!”
“Who’s shooting my place to hell!” Fat Nat was red with anger and stood to his feet.
“Nat, get your ass to the ground before you get yourself shot in the head!” one of his card buddies hollered as he was crawling into the bar area on all fours.
Fat Nat yelled at the top of his lungs, “Nuke attack!”
“Emergency Nuclear Blast Doors activated,” answered the overhead computer voice.
The sound of several-feet thick alloy walls rose from the ground in a slow rumble as they sealed Joe Blows up like a tomb. The barrage of pulse-fire continued, but were just a melody of taps from outside, rather than projectiles of death and destruction.
Fat Nat stood to his feet with a deep frown on his face to survey the damage. He walked to the bar and peeked over the counter. There was the kid, Hyper, lying on the floor, missing an arm, in a puddle of blood, but smiling.
“I’m good, boss.” He gave a casual salute with his good arm. “The blast cauterized the wound, so there’s almost no blood.”
“Tab?” Fat Nat yelled.
“Yes, boss.”
“What’s your disposition?”
“I’m shot and lying on the ground.”
“Any major damage?”
“How would I know? You were the one who shot me!”
“Would you have preferred to be shot by me and alive or shot and dead by unknown bastard gunmen because you were too dumb to put face to floor?”
“Is that supposed to be a trick question, boss?”
Fat Nat continued his inspection of his place. His card-mates appeared and joined him.
“What’s Big G’s disposition?” Fat Nat asked.
“Big G will be needing a new hand.”
“Fat Nat, what are you going to do?”
The other men looked at him, and they could see Fat Nat seething as he walked through the establishment—damage, debris, and bodies everywhere.
“Make sure no one’s dead,” Fat Nat said to his friends.
“What will you be doing, Nat?”
“Nobody shoots up Joe Blows, my place of business, and gets away duty-free. I’ll be back.”
“No, Fat Nat. Not the Terminator stash. You can’t be shooting up the streets with machine guns.”
“Nobody shoots up Joe Blows!”
“Nat,” said another man. “You can’t be running around Old Harlem shooting up bad guys. This is our neighborhood. If it were somebody else’s, I’d say give me a piece too, and let’s go. But you don’t be shooting up your own neighborhood. What’s wrong with you?”
There was one loud, muffled metallic knock, then several more pounds from outside. Someone was knocking.
The men looked at each other.
“This is the Police!”
Sweet Street was totally shut down. Thick, neon yellow police tape—POLICE LINE. DO NOT CROSS—cordoned off the entire area and it was a light show of red and blue flashing sirens. People crowded the slick sidewalks and streets outside the tape, while media arrived in force. One hoverambulance after another landed on the scene.
Fat Nat argued with the policeman, but was gently restrained by his smoking buddies.
“I demand to see the body,” he yelled again at the policeman.
“Sir, this is now an official crime scene—”
“Yeah, I should know,” Fat Nat interrupted. “I was one of the ones inside getting shot at, watching my employees and customers get shot up and my place of business get blasted to hell.”
“Sir, I understand you’re upset, but we have to maintain the integrity of the crime scene.”
“Showing me the body of the supposed one-man, crazy gunman is not going to mess up any crime scene. Let me make it simple. Do you want to show me the body, so I can see who this mook was, or should I shuffle my fat self on over to the media cameras and talk about the deep psychological trauma I’m experiencing—yeah, I can feel it coming on. I might need to call my lawyer or a doctor, or my lawyer and doctor at the same time. Lawsuit settlements come right out of the police budget nowadays, never city hall—”
“Wait here, sir.”
The policeman walked over to a superior talking with three other policemen. After a few moments of speaking, one of the policemen gestured to Fat Nat with his index finger: Come here.
The white blanket was lifted from the lone gunman, lying dead on the sidewalk.
“Do you know this man?” the policeman asked.
Fat Nat stared at the body for a while. He looked up and said, “Never saw him before.”
Fat Nat’s smoking buddies also stared at the body.
“What about any of you gentlemen?” the policeman asked.
They all shook their heads.
“We’re sorry we were so jerky about this. Sorry we can’t identify him for you, either,” Fat Nat continued. “So this mook shot up the place with pulse machine guns?”
“High-powered,” the policeman added. “He gave us quite the gun battle.”
Fat Nat shook his head. “And this is supposed to be a safe neighborhood. Well, I have lots of calls to make—hospital, insurance, and so on. I got to get my place of business made whole. Joe Blows has never been closed in sixty years, and we’re not about to start now. I should have the ambulance guys check me out, too.”
“Sir, we’ll have the shift detectives contact you tomorrow for a full statement,” the officer said.
“Thanks, officer. Tell us when you need us at the station.” Fat Nat gathered his buddies and led them away towards the crowd.
The policemen watched them.
“Looks like they know more than they’re sayin’,” said one officer.
“People always know more than they’re saying, especially when they’re the victims.”
Fat Nat and the boys stopped in front of the police-tape line.
“Nat, that was Easy Chair Charlie,” one of the men whispered. “Easy Chair Charlie never touched a gun in his life! Those—”
“Shhh!” Fat Nat turned his head briefly.
The policemen were still watching them. Fat Nat smiled at them. They ducked under the neon yellow police tape and disappeared into the crowds as a light rain began again.

Austin Dragon is author of the After Eden Series, including the After Eden: Tek-Fall mini-series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and the cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool. He is a native New Yorker, but has called Los Angeles, California home for the last twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer.

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror!

Connect with Austin here:

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