Mar 2012 02

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]

They wove between stalks of NewVada skyline toward the rising sun. Haggerty leaned his head back against the panel and closed his eyes. He’d gone a long time without sleep. He popped a celtrex while Elsa threaded them between the monolithic skyscrapers of the Kubrick district past the city demarcation line and over the desert.

“Where is she, Elsa?” he asked.

“The geographical coordinates of her last signature place her approximately twelve minutes out,” Elsa replied. “But scanners indicate there’s nothing there but a power grid.”

Haggerty cracked his knuckles. Twelve minutes was a long time in the air; they might be tracked via satellite or, worse, shot down. Mile after mile of desolation sped by in the viewer and miraculously no weapons lock was detected. Either they were incredibly lucky or somebody was on their side.

“We should be coming up on visual range of the grid now,” Elsa said.

The protruding hypersteel dome of the grid shimmered into existence atop the sand — and nothing else.

“Could she be in there, Elsa?”

“It’s possible,” Elsa replied. “But we’re talking very small maintenance shafts and her signature registered outside the grid.”

She directed Haggerty’s attention to an empty patch of sand and rock and began dropping altitude to circle. The pod pitched forward, throwing him hard against his seatbelt.

“Initiating emergency procedure,” Elsa said calmly, adjusting the aircraft’s trim and retracting the steering mechanism full back, bringing the nose of the pod suddenly skyward.

Haggerty caught his breath as Elsa’s fingers blurred into motion on the thruster controls.

“We impacted with something beneath us and sustained damage,” she said. “I’ll bring us down as slowly as possible. Cross your fingers.”

Haggerty watched the ground rush up to meet them. He was painfully jolted again as the landing gear struck prematurely and Elsa quickly disengaged the thrust.

“We’re down,” she said, “although the altimeter readings state otherwise.”

Haggerty rubbed at the base of his spine. Someone wearing goggles and a loose, enveloping robe — male or female was impossible to tell — appeared out of nowhere and headed across the sand toward them.

Haggerty drew the stunner and popped the hatch, confused as he stepped down; it didn’t feel like sand beneath his shoes. “Hands in the air!” he warned.

The approaching figure complied instantly and cautiously continued in their direction, stopping about two yards from Haggerty and Elsa.

“Pull down your face mask,” Haggerty said. “Slowly.”

The goggles and face mask came away, revealing a man with dark eyes, a reddish beard, and heavily tanned skin. He looked like someone in the prime of a vigorous, active middle age.

“Who are you?” Haggerty demanded.

“I’m Joe Svoboda, Mr. Haggerty. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m sure Regina will be happy to see you. If you’ll put that stunner away, I’ll bring you to her and answer all of your questions.”

He’s telling the truth, Jason, Elsa linked.

Haggerty pocketed the weapon.

“Thank you, Mr. Haggerty,” Svoboda said. “Come inside and meet your fans.”

Haggerty looked bewildered. “Inside?” he asked, indicating the miles of empty desert around them.

“You crash landed on top of our mess hall. I’m hoping you didn’t cause too much damage to our projection cells.”

“We are standing atop a projected image?” Elsa asked.

“A bit of holographic technology,” Svoboda said proudly. “Hundreds of tiny cameras continuously capture images of the desert and project them across the surface of our little town.”

“Making it virtually invisible,” Elsa said.

“Precisely,” Svoboda responded. “Follow me. Be careful on the glass.”

He led them toward the place where he’d first appeared out of the sand and retracted a small hatch, abruptly ending the illusion. Before them was an old-style electrolift. Dozens of people shouted up at them excitedly from below.

“They’re cheering for you, Mr. Haggerty,” Svoboda explained, stepping onto the lift and activating a control. “We’ve all been following your investigation and we’re very impressed.”

Haggerty looked up at the underside of the massive screen of projection cells as they descended. “I’ll be damned,” he muttered.

Svoboda smiled.

The hidden town was comprised of several dozen double-decker cabins, a few buildings that appeared to be made of desert rock, a huge water tower, and at least fifty antiquated mobile homes. When they reached the ground, a young man attired similarly to Svoboda stepped over to him.

“Ricardo, please get up there with some men and tarp their vehicle before it gets noticed,” Svoboda said.

“Sure thing, Joe. Nice going, Haggerty!”

Haggerty was bemused. A Code Six fugitive, they treated him like a conquering hero. People rushed up to him yelling his name, reaching out and touching and demanding that he shake their hands, which he did to the best of his ability. Too many names and remarks for him to make sense of anything being said.

He was startled to realize that most of them had never been to a plastiche parlor. Many appeared too young for the standard geno-immunization treatments Conscientious Citizens underwent at age thirty. All were dressed in loose robes. The majority of them were women.

Svoboda held up his arms. “Everyone, please,” he said in the voice of someone used to making himself heard above large, noisy crowds. “Mr. Haggerty has had a long night and we have a lot to discuss. I’m sure he’ll make time for you later. Everyone get back to work.”

The crowd dispersed with shouts and waves and grumbles.

Svoboda, Haggerty, and Elsa passed a lean-to where two women with prominent bellies smiled and waved excitedly at him. Haggerty waved back good-naturedly. “How many people live here?” he asked Svoboda.

“A little over three hundred at present.”

“I notice your population is predominantly female.”

“The organization’s pretty equally divided,” Svoboda said. “But you’re right, the majority who live here are women.”

“Pregnant women,” Haggerty said as another strolled by, one hand on her protruding stomach and the other leading a small child.

Svoboda grinned. “Yes, Mr. Haggerty, we’re gender offenders. I don’t hold with the government interfering in an issue as personal as choosing to bear a child. These are all applicationless, unapproved pregnancies, and mostly unregistered children you’re seeing.”

Fertility was illegal but unregistered birth was punishable by exile. “I’m not a policeman,” Haggerty said. “Although I admit that yesterday I’d have reported you and had you arrested.”

“Yesterday you were an obedient cog in a dreadful machine, Mr. Haggerty. As we all were once. Today that system will be taken to task.”

They were passing through a makeshift square where a few dozen women and toddlers milled around a viewscreen powered by exposed electrical groundwire. Haggerty looked at the screen and saw himself looking at the screen with Svoboda beside him. He turned to Elsa, who was drawing the same conclusion.

“You cracked Elsa?” he said.

Svoboda nodded. “She’s an amazing piece of work.”

“You did this utilizing PE technology?” Elsa asked. She stared at her transmission; the monitor displayed a video feedback loop repeating to infinity.

“I do hope you’ll forgive me. And I see Regina’s shared more than I anticipated with you. I cracked you while you were in hibernation mode two nights ago. Had you begin transmitting to us on secured channels over Indra and blocked your awareness that I’d done so. Not bad for tek running on rusty wire, huh? I’ll assume that’s how you found us, a reverse trace?”

Haggerty was astounded. If his personal information were that vulnerable, all stored information was vulnerable. And his assistant had been used as a surveillance cam.

“Make it stop, Svoboda,” Haggerty demanded angrily.

“As you wish, Mr. Haggerty.” Svoboda went to the door of a stone building. “Please join me. My receiver is just inside.”

Haggerty stepped into the dwelling ahead of Svoboda.

“Jason!” Regina cried and rushed to him. Instinctively his arms reached to hold her.

“I’m so glad you’re alive,” she said. She laughed through her tears. “Although I wish you’d found a better disguise.” Her hand rested lightly on his plastiched cheek.

“Regina,” he said, staring down at her tearstained face. It felt so good to hold her again. She looked the same as when he’d seen her last — the same clothes, including his shirt. But so much had happened to him since then. “I’m so sorry about your brother.”

She placed a finger gently against his lips. Haggerty pulled her close.

“Your friend Traci is —”

“We know,” Svoboda said. “You’ve been blamed. We know you’re innocent. We know everything you’ve learned, from watching your investigation through Elsa. And I have information you don’t have that you’ll find useful. That’s why you’re here. Let’s go into my sitting room, shall we?”

* * *

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.

* * *

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