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Apr 2012 20

by Steven-Elliot Altman (SG Member: Steven_Altman)

Our Fiction Friday serialized novel, The Killswitch Review, is a futuristic murder mystery with killer sociopolitical commentary (and some of the best sex scenes we’ve ever read!). Written by bestselling sci-fi author Steven-Elliot Altman (with Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse), it offers a terrifying postmodern vision in the tradition of Blade Runner and Brave New World

By the year 2156, stem cell therapy has triumphed over aging and disease, extending the human lifespan indefinitely. But only for those who have achieved Conscientious Citizen Status. To combat overpopulation, the U.S. has sealed its borders, instituted compulsory contraception and a strict one child per couple policy for those who are permitted to breed, and made technology-assisted suicide readily available. But in a world where the old can remain vital forever, America’s youth have little hope of prosperity.

Jason Haggerty is an investigator for Black Buttons Inc, the government agency responsible for dispensing personal handheld Kevorkian devices, which afford the only legal form of suicide. An armed “Killswitch” monitors and records a citizen’s final moments — up to the point where they press a button and peacefully die. Post-press review agents — “button collectors” — are dispatched to review and judge these final recordings to rule out foul play.

When three teens stage an illegal public suicide, Haggerty suspects their deaths may have been murders. Now his race is on to uncover proof and prevent a nationwide epidemic of copycat suicides. Trouble is, for the first time in history, an entire generation might just decide they’re better off dead.

(Catch up with the previous installments of Killswitch – see links below – then continue reading after the jump…)

[THE KILLSWITCH REVIEW – CHAPTER TEN, PART FOUR]

[PURGING THE SYSTEM]

[Previous Chapter / Next Chapter]

Svoboda walked Haggerty out of earshot. “I’m concerned about Stelwyn,” he said, crossing his arms. “I’m also concerned about you knowing what’s going on here.” He indicated a woman leading a toddler with one hand, an infant strapped to her chest, who crossed nearby and flashed them a timid smile. “I have it on good authority that you’ll be interacting with Federal agents when you leave here.”

“Trust me,” Haggerty said. “Even if your predictions are wrong, I won’t be trotting back to my old post.”

“What if I offered you a place in my colony?”

“This is a bit different from the lifestyle I’m accustomed to.”

“There are benefits,” Svoboda said. “Have you thought about having more children? I know that can’t make up for the loss you’ve endured, but it can help you to heal, give you new purpose. There are dozens of beautiful women here who want to be mothers. I’m sure Regina would be more than willing to conceive by you.”

“An interesting offer,” Haggerty said. “But I’m infertile.”

“Annette has an excellent track record of reversing the procedure,” Svoboda said.

“I don’t think producing a family is the most responsible thing I could do right now.”

“It’s not irresponsible either,” Svoboda said. “We’ve simply taken back the rights this government denied us: control over our own bodies and how we live our lives. Not all of us live in the compound and not everyone in our organization chooses parenthood. But we are capable of providing for every child born here.”

“I’ll keep your offer in mind,” Haggerty said. “Whatever I decide, I don’t plan on turning you in.”

“Not today,” Svoboda said. “What about tomorrow?”

“Svoboda!” a voice shouted angrily.

Antonio Stelwyn strode across the sand toward them with two dark-suited giants flanking him on either side. Svoboda tentatively extended his hand in greeting. Stelwyn slugged him in the face, sending Svoboda sprawling. Once he was down, Stelwyn kicked Svoboda in the stomach.

“That’s for introducing that sycophant to my son, you sonofabitch!”

Haggerty stepped back, unwilling to intervene. A dozen women rushed to see what the commotion was about. The guards closed ranks to enable Stelwyn to beat Svoboda without interference.

Stelwyn hoisted Svoboda roughly to his feet, only to floor him again with punches to the stomach and kidneys. “It’s about time you took responsibility for your actions,” he shouted.

“You don’t know the first thing about taking responsibility,” Svoboda spat back through bloodied lips. “Not with the companies you own, and not with your only son.”

Stelwyn kicked him in the face but Svoboda recovered.

“You think you’re so powerful but you’re as much a pawn of the system as Haggerty. You could have had a dozen children and you only had one. Now you’ve lost him to one of your own disgruntled workers.”

Stelwyn pulled out the antique revolver and aimed it at Svoboda. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”

“Hold on, hold on,” Haggerty begged.

“How dare he imply that I’m responsible for Tyler’s death,” Stelwyn shouted.

“The truth hurts,” Svoboda said. He coughed blood. “But before you shoot me, ask yourself if you’re angry because you lost your son or because someone took something away from you.”

Stelwyn ground his jaw; the veins of his temple pulsed. His knuckle went white on the trigger.

“Killing Svoboda won’t bring Tyler back,” Haggerty urged.

Stelwyn fired point blank into the sand beside Svoboda’s face. Svoboda screamed.

“I want Max,” Stelwyn seethed.

“Then put the gun away and help us work out where he is,” Haggerty said.

Stelwyn holstered the ancient firearm. His bodyguards stepped back. Regina helped Svoboda to his feet.

“All right,” Haggerty said. “Let’s put our differences aside and see if we can get a handle on the situation.”

Ricardo joined them. “You’ll want to see this,” he said, directing their attention to the viewscreen.

A viewcaster stood before the NewVada Central Stadium as crowds of people weaved in all directions behind him, assembling for the Superbowl. “Younger fans are desperately trying to scalp tickets since the announcement that the musical band Clone Jesus has petitioned to appear as scheduled in the halftime show.”

The live feed cut to a media conference taped earlier, in some location Haggerty did not recognize. Shintag Lake, extravagant in black leather and red silk, sat with his attorney as half a dozen coms were thrust toward him by disembodied hands.

“I know I speak for the entire band when I say we are deeply saddened by the events that took place onstage last night, and for any of the young fans out there who would injure themselves because of it.”

“Mister Lake,” a viewcaster shouted, “your lead singer, Zephyr, seemed to condone the act last night!”

“Appearances are often deceiving,” Lake stated calmly. “That is why Zephyr and the other band members wish so strongly to make this appearance today. They want to decry the violence and implore other children to stop hurting themselves.”

“Mister Lake, who are you betting on?” another viewcaster yelled.

Lake smiled. “NewVada, of course.”

The broadcast cut to a roped-off area outside the stadium where reporters pushed their coms toward Zephyr as dozens of JCs stood on the sidelines screaming his name. He looked tranquil, as if the events transpiring made no impression on him.

“I’m very sorry that some of our fans took such extreme actions last night,” he said mechanically. “If you’re listening, please stop and think before you act.” His lack of conviction was palpable.

The transmission cut from the tape back to the live feed. “With the reported blessings of the Surgeon General himself,” the viewcaster said, “Clone Jesus will perform in today’s halftime show.”

Haggerty turned away in disgust. Cherub had told him he would not decry the act, and now Lake had used that very word. Could the band truly just apologize and walk away from this unscathed?

“I don’t care what they say,” Regina told Haggerty. “They’re part of the reason my brother and my friends are dead.”

Haggerty pulled her close. She rested her head on his shoulder, glad for the silent support.

“In related news,” the viewcaster continued, “there has not been a single reported suicide since it was announced that Clone Jesus would be granted permission to play.”

Haggerty looked to Elsa; she ported back into the BBI system.

“It’s true,” she said. “There has not been a single light on board.”

“They’re waiting to hear from the band,” Svoboda said.

“I’m going to stop this,” Stelwyn said, pulling out his earset.

“Hold on,” Haggerty said, noting the tension on Svoboda’s face. If Stelwyn called from here, the settlement would be traceable. To what lengths would Svoboda go to avoid that? “Let’s exercise that predictive mind of yours, Joe,” he said. “What would you do in Max’s situation, if your message wasn’t heard loud enough to reach your goal?”

“I’m not culpable here, Mr. Haggerty,” Svoboda said.

“I think it’s safe to assume that Max, if he’s still pulling the band’s strings, would institute your methods,” Haggerty responded. “So please indulge me.”

“I’d reinforce the message in some peaceful manner,” Svoboda said calmly.

“Last night at a JC dance club, someone was giving away tickets to the game. I thought they must be counterfeit. Now I’m not sure. I think Max wants to guarantee that the audience is filled with Clone Jesus fans at today’s game. But not for any peaceful reason.”

Svoboda lowered his head into his hands. “You’re right,” he said softly. “Both of you. I am responsible for this. I can see how Max’s mind is working. He’ll do it again. But harder, much more harshly. The children are waiting for further instructions.”

“Can you get us into the Superbowl?” Haggerty asked Stelwyn.

“With no difficulty at all,” Stelwyn answered. “I own the stadium.”

“Are you coming, Joe?” Haggerty asked.

Svoboda shook his head sadly, stifling tears.

Haggerty had no sympathy for him. “I sincerely hope you’ll reconsider getting involved,” he said.

“I’m coming with you,” Regina said firmly.

Haggerty opened his mouth to protest, then realized she needed to do something to strike a blow against the people who had taken her brother and her friends from her.

“I wouldn’t dream of trying to stop you,” he said, smiling crookedly.

* * *

Excerpt from The Killswitch Review, published by Yard Dog Press. Copyright 2011 Steven-Elliot Altman.

Steven-Elliot Altman is a bestselling author, screenwriter, and videogame developer. He won multiple awards for his online role playing game, 9Dragons. His novels include Captain America is Dead, Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires, Batman: Fear Itself, Batman: Infinite Mirror, The Killswitch Review, The Irregulars, and Deprivers. His writing has been compared to that of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton and Philip K. Dick, and he has collaborated with world class writers such as Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, Harry Turtledove and Dr. Janet Asimov. He’s also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Touch, and a contributor to Shadows Over Baker Street, a Hugo Award winning anthology of Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft stories.

Steven also bares ink on his body, and is bi, as in bi-coastal, between NYC and LA. He’s currently hard at work writing and directing his latest videogame Cursed Love, an online free to play gothic horror RPG from Dark Hermit Studios, set in Victorian London. Think Sherlock Holmes, Jack The Ripper and Dorian Gray mercilessly exploit the cast of Twilight. Friend Cursed Love (Official Closed Beta) on facebook and you can have fun playing out this tawdry, tragic romance with Steven while the game is being beta tested!

Diane DeKelb-Rittehouse spent several years in Manhattan as an actress before marrying her college sweetheart and returning to the Philadelphia area where she had been born. Diane first worked with Steven-Elliot Altman when they created the acclaimed, Publisher’s Weekly Starred-Review anthology The Touch: Epidemic of the Millennium, in which her story “Gifted” appeared. Diane has published a number of critically acclaimed short stories, most notably in the science fiction, murder, and horror genres. Her young adult fantasy novel, Fareie Rings: The Book of Forests, is now available in stores or online.

Interested in buying a printed copy of The Killswitch Review? Well, Steve’s publisher Yard Dog Press was kind enough to put up a special page where SuicideGirls can get a special discount and watch a sexy trailer. Just follow this link to KillswitchReview.com and click on the SG logo.

* * *

Related Posts:
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One, Part Four
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Two, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Two, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Two, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Three, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Three, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Three, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Four, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Four, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Four, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Five, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Five, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Five, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Six, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Six, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Six, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Seven, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Seven, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Seven, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Seven, Part Four
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Seven, Part Five
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eight, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eight, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eight, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Four
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Five
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part Three

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