Dec 2011 23

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]

Main Street was dark and deserted: no signs, no cars, no people in sight. The sleek Jetstream Corvair pulled up a couple of blocks before Sinatra, hoping to avoid Triad surveillance. If someone was watching, they would identify DeAngelo’s car. Haggerty had taken the precaution of switching to the driver’s seat at the slotway, just in case, and hoped that Triad technology did not include night vision.

We’ve got ten minutes before DeAngelo is scheduled to arrive, Haggerty linked to Elsa as he emptied his identiplate, com, the defaced black box, and anything else that could identify him as Jason Haggerty into a storage bin beneath his seat.

Jason, I’m worried about you going in alone.

We need evidence regarding the origin of those stolen boxes, and I’m praying it’s in there. I’ll be out as soon as possible. He handed the stunner to Elsa. If anything happens, defend yourself. Then turn yourself in to the Feds and show them the recordings and the unit we confiscated at the pairplex.

Elsa accepted the stun warily. Please be careful, Jason.

“I will,” he said aloud. Meanwhile, go through that notebook and see if it offers any clues to Regina’s whereabouts. People. Places. Anything.

Haggerty dosed a celtrex and handed Elsa the pillcase, then got out of the driver’s side of the car in DeAngelo’s tuxedo and headed toward Sinatra. They’d agreed that Elsa would linger long enough for him to get safely inside the club, and then drive down Main a few blocks in the opposite direction to a factory where she could park and wait for his return.

At Sinatra, Haggerty stopped before a battered warehouse with a smallish, peeling reproduction of DaVinci’s famous mural on the deteriorating wall. He was still alone, but had no doubt that he was being observed now and was glad that the dim lighting revealed DeAngelo’s face and not his own. The plastiche technician had done an excellent job; he felt confident at least about his appearance as he calmly entered the building.

He descended a staircase to a gleaming, expensive, well-maintained hypersteel door — a stark contrast to the derelict appearance of the rest of the building — and knocked.

“Please slot your invitation into the receptacle,” a genderless electronic voice requested.

Haggerty inserted the plasticine card engraved with Sasha DeAngelo’s name in flowing script. Scanners whizzed. A small light above the reader switched from red to green and the door slid back, revealing a huge doorman who looked more like an ape than a human.

“Welcome to the Last Supper Club, Mr. DeAngelo,” he said. His manner was soothing but he projected brute strength. Haggerty thought he must be an ex-footballer, perhaps the one Sharyn had mentioned. His face seemed somehow familiar. Haggerty pitied the young man; normal people couldn’t develop like that and the enhancements made to footballers came at a heavy price. With all the permutations lavished on his DNA since childhood, he wouldn’t live much past fifty. Telemor treatments had yet to solve the damage to the individual’s cell-replication cycle.

Haggerty stepped onto plush red carpet. “I hope I’m not late,” he told the doorman.

The ape indicated a small security arch. “If you wouldn’t mind passing through the scanner?”

Haggerty made it through without setting off the alarms Corbin’s autostun would have triggered. His stomach growled; too much celtrex on too little food. It was just as well that his best lead had brought him to a restaurant.

“This way, sir.”

The ape led him to the hostess station. The hostess was one of the most beautiful creatures Haggerty had ever seen. Lithe and dark, she looked to be of Cambodian or Thai descent, her shimmering blue-black tresses fell to the waist of her bolero-type garment and sheer trousers. She regarded Haggerty calmly with large, liquid sapphire eyes. Haggerty’s suspicion was confirmed as she extended her hand and he felt the weight differential. She was too perfect to be human.

“Good evening, Mr. DeAngelo,” she said, her well-tuned mezzo-soprano tinged with vibrato. “Your table will be ready soon. I’m here to answer any questions and explain the rules.”

“Thank you,” he said.

“The first rule is, once you enter the club you may have anything that you like.”


“Anything. Your courses will proceed as you wish, when you wish. If you see a performer you’d like to pair with, simply ask and it will be scheduled, as long as it does not interfere with the wishes of other guests. You’ll know who they are. They’ll be wearing white roses, like this one.”

She pinned a white rose to his shirt front — a real rose.

“The second rule is that you dose as instructed.”

Haggerty’s interior alarms went off. “Happy Sticks?” he guessed, then cursed himself for saying anything.

“You are well informed. Most guests don’t know what drug we use.” If he’d aroused her suspicions, she didn’t show it. “Do you also know the procedure?”

“I don’t,” he admitted smoothly.

Though Sharyn had seemed to come down from the drug’s high relatively quickly and appeared clear-headed by the time she’d got into the cab, Haggerty preferred not to compromise his ability to reason even temporarily. But he might have no choice.

“You dose at regular intervals,” the hostess continued. “It keeps you level and enhances the pleasure.”

From behind her station she produced a small box and placed it in his hand. It looked like a slightly smaller KV unit, only it was white with a bright amber button and half as heavy, no doubt due to its lack of armswitch and recording apparatus. It occurred to him that the thing might be loaded with the same toxin used in the triple presses. But no doubt killing customers would have an adverse effect on return business.

As he followed her into the club, Haggerty searched for an acceptable way to protest. Surely some customers changed their minds when confronted by the reality Haggerty now faced. Then again, the club was run by the Triads. It was likely that patrons knew beforehand that drugs were involved, and still likelier that the android and the ape directly behind him — each far stronger than a normal human — were there in part to dissuade procrastination, by whatever means necessary. And even if they allowed him to leave the club, that meant the end of his investigation and probably any chance to clear his name. On the other hand, he was expected to dose more than once. Could he withstand the effects enough to keep his wits about him?

They halted at a curtained doorway. The hostess pulled aside the curtain, revealing a small alcove containing a very good replica of a nineteenth-century chaise lounge. “One press equals one dose,” she said. “We find it is best if you are seated, or even reclined, for the initial press.”

The hostess and the ape regarded him intently as he settled onto the chaise. She handed him the white box.

There was no turning back. Haggerty pressed.

The number “1” registered on the unit display as the button clicked down and a dozen microfibers injected the drug through the pores of his thumb, a cool, tingly sensation. A few seconds later, warmth emanated from a glowing ball in his chest and sang along his veins — not unlike celtrex but better, more intense. Celtrex dulled emotional and physical pain. This stuff banished it completely. Pleasure flooded his body, suffusing every nerve. He lay on the chaise moaning, a wide grin on his face.

Then pain clenched his vitals. He convulsed and began retching the minimal contents of his stomach into a silver basin the hostess had ready for him.

“This is natural on your first dose,” she said reassuringly. “It won’t happen again.” She mopped his brow with a cool cloth fragrant with rose water.

“In a few minutes it will be as if this hadn’t happened at all,” she murmured soothingly. “You’ll find your second dose even more pleasurable, with no aftereffects whatsoever.”

At length, Haggerty’s convulsions subsided. The basin was nowhere in sight. “I hope so,” he said, exhausted.

The hostess smiled. “I assure you, Mr. DeAngelo, you won’t be disappointed.” She turned to the ape. “Brian, please escort our guest to the washroom and help him clean up, then see him to his table.”

She turned to Haggerty. “Enjoy your stay with us, Mr. DeAngelo. I will let you know when it is time to dose again.”

* * *

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