Feb 2012 03

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…)



[Previous Chapter / Next Chapter]

Onstage, Zephyr strutted before the frenzied audience. The kids ran to his side and dosed. Tyler fell along with the others, his face ecstatic. The crowd screamed. This was the point where Corbin had halted their first review. Haggerty watched now as Tyler spasmed, moving in close and trying to read the boy’s mind through his eyes. The crowd kept screaming. Haggerty silently counted out the predictable physiological shutdown he’d witnessed in thousands of recorded deaths. Something was wrong. Did Tyler’s eyes register shock? The unit continued recording, going on and on for what seemed like eternity. At length the projection showed Elsa’s hand reaching for the unit on the stage. The transmission finally went black as the box entered the minthizine case.

“It appears that Tyler Stelwyn was still alive when I retrieved his unit,” Elsa said.

“There was no one at the press site to certify that vital signs had ceased before the bodies were removed,” Haggerty said, sitting back against his vault. “It troubled me at the time but I attributed it to crowd control and unusual circumstances.”

“Tyler Stelwyn may not be dead,” Elsa suggested.

Haggerty felt a surge of hope, immediately dashed. “His parents identified Tyler’s body at the morgue. Whoever staged this made sure the boy died.” Reluctantly, he retrieved the white box hidden beneath his sweatshirt and handed it to Elsa. “This is from the club. Analyze the contents, compare it to the drug you found at the scene, and return the unit to me.”

Elsa dealt with the closures of a dress not designed for her unique needs and ported the unit. As Haggerty expected, the drugs matched. He clipped the unit to his waistband as Elsa rearranged her dress, then laid his head against the shelf and closed his eyes.

“Now we know why those involved want the recordings erased, Elsa. We’re dealing with murder. Not merely of the son of the wealthiest man in NewVada but of Teardrop and Sunset, and accessory to murder of every copycat. The recordings prove it. But who can we show them to? We don’t know who to trust.”

“Have you considered enlisting the aide of Detective Woyzeck?”

“Woyzeck broke procedure at the triple press and had his gun ready to arrest me before the viewcast aired naming me as the chief suspect. Help me to figure this out, Elsa, if you can. Your logic boards may work better than my reasoning right now. Let’s go through what we know or have cause to believe.”

Elsa nodded consent.

“Max invented the drug, so he’s involved. Corbin’s arrival at the club proves she’s involved with Max. So was the lead singer of Clone Jesus, who came to the club and invited Traci to a party. Traci involved Teardrop and Regina’s brother, which seems to implicate Regina, although it’s clear from Sunset’s recording she had no idea he planned to press. And if I had any doubt about that, her reaction to the viewcast of the concert removes it completely. We’ve deduced that none of the kids knew that pressing at the concert would kill them, although we can’t be sure yet what Zephyr knew.”

“We haven’t accounted for Tyler Stelwyn, Jason. Why was he there? Was someone as wealthy as he likely to be involved with Teardrop and Sunset?”

“We don’t know that he was, Elsa. Neither of them was in his recording before the concert. He may have met them there for the first time. Probably he was involved with Clone Jesus for the high life — the drugs, the celebrity, the hotels, God knows what else. And we know from Regina’s pairplex that the other kids were fans of the group. Their manager, Shintag Lake, is probably involved. He told me he provides whatever the band members request, no questions asked. Woyzeck’s boss did his best to accommodate Lake’s demands when he had him in custody. He may also be involved.

“But who is big enough — or stupid enough — to risk incurring the wrath of Tyler’s father?” Haggerty wondered aloud.

“The Triads? We know that they protect Max’s club.”

“The Triads have worked out their arrangements with law enforcement to everyone’s satisfaction. I can’t believe they’d risk bringing the entire establishment down on them. Who would profit from that? It’s likelier that Antonio Stelwyn is in league with the Triads, and if they were even distantly responsible for his only child’s death, he would stop at nothing to extinguish them. No, everyone in his right mind fears Antonio Stelwyn. The only person I can think of who might not is Consuela. She didn’t bat an eye at the pain the Stelwyns revealed in her presence.”

“It was Consuela who told the media you killed Dr. Zabrowski.”

“Correct. And it was Consuela who hired Corbin and according to Corbin sent her after us, supposedly to save us.”

“Do you think Dr. Zabrowski’s death is connected to the triple press, Jason?”

“We can’t rule it out. But if so, what was the link? He hadn’t seen the recordings. He’d had no direct contact with any of the witnesses or victims. But he told me he was going to ask the Surgeon General to control the media’s reporting in order to prevent an explosion of copycats. That was before Consuela sent me off to interview the band members.”

“Who could possibly argue with his request for media restraint, Jason?”

“Someone who wanted the media coverage to be as extensive as possible, Elsa. Someone with something to gain if Doug’s scenario of a contagion of suicides played out. Or something to lose if it didn’t!”

Haggerty went pale. “It’s too absurd,” he said. “It’s grotesque.”

“What, Jason?”

“Think about it, Elsa. Doug would have required authorization from his direct superior to contact the Surgeon General. After Consuela sent me to the precinct, Doug would have told her about Cobain Syndrome and his intention to try to stop a wave of suicides. Was Doug killed to prevent him from going to the Surgeon General?”

“Do you believe that Consuela engineered the triple press?” Elsa asked.

“Can you think of another explanation for Doug’s death?”

Elsa considered what had been said and answered no. “But why would Consuela want children to kill themselves, Jason?”

“Maybe it wasn’t Consuela’s design,” Haggerty said. “What if she was carrying out orders? BBI is a subsidiary of the State Department of Public Health. Could the State itself want a rash of youth suicides as some bizarre means of population control?”

“Then why send agent Keenan to investigate?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time one branch of the government didn’t know what the other was doing.”

“If we present him the information we have retrieved thus far, he could clear you.”

“If Consuela and her superiors at BBI are involved, agent Keenan will be given false information against me. And whatever they come up with will be very convincing. This unit loaded with Happy Styx isn’t enough to prove my innocence. If anything, it could have the opposite effect.”

“But coupled with Tyler Stelwyn’s review —”

“You don’t understand the circumstantial evidence, Elsa. I had access to the units. They know I was with Regina and that she knew Teardrop. I stole a piece of evidence from the triple press site and withheld your copies of the recordings that suggest it was murder. We have to assume that those boxes have been erased. I’ve eluded the police and failed to turn myself in despite a Federal demand to do so. The fact the media was told I was responsible means someone in power wants to guarantee all this gets pinned on me. And the only way for them to ensure that is to have me dead. I’m even in possession of a dispenser of the same illegal drug that killed them.”

“But if you are in the custody of the Federal Bureau —”

“Then whoever is wielding this power can get to me and clean up their tracks after I’m out of the way. I can’t take that chance. There’s still something missing. We don’t know why Clone Jesus was involved or what Max has to gain. Let’s get out of here, Elsa. I’m not giving up until I’ve found out and exposed the monsters who think murdering children is sound social engineering.”

* * *

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 and click on the SG logo.

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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