Dec 2011 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]

[Elsa, review and enhance visual on that last scene, please…]

“What the hell are you doing?” Haggerty shouted, angrily getting to his feet. “She’s in no condition to make a run for it.”

Sharyn covered her face, her sobs graduating to keening moans.

Corbin smiled tightly. “Sorry, Haggerty,” she said.

As Haggerty realized the drawn weapon wasn’t for Sharyn, the room went black.

Corbin fired. The shot went wide in the dark. Sharyn screamed.

Then nothing.

The lights came on again. Elsa stood over Corbin’s crumpled, unconscious form.

“I judged agent Corbin’s actions to be dangerous to your well-being, and incapacitated her,” Elsa told him. “Forgive me for taking so long. I should have begun polygraphing her the moment she hit the girl; however, I am only capable of testing one subject at a time.”

Haggerty thanked God for the loyalty chip.

“Your actions were quite appropriate, Elsa,” he said. “Take Corbin’s stunner, her com, and everything in her pockets. And find something to bind her hands and feet.”

He turned to Sharyn, who was pressed against the wall as if trying to burrow into the plaster.

“It’s okay,” he told her calmly. “You’ll be safe now. I’m sorry agent Corbin hurt you. As you can see, she’s no friend of ours either.”

“Jason, look at this,” Elsa called.

Haggerty moved to where Elsa knelt over Corbin. The junior agent’s shirt was undone, exposing blisterbrandings etched into one shoulder and a blisterbrand design on the opposite hip, above the waistband of her pants.

“This is truly fucked up,” he said.

He returned to Sharyn.

“Please let me go,” the girl begged him.

“I plan to,” Haggerty said, squeezing her arm comfortingly, “as soon as you tell me what you know. But first we have to get out of here, before the police arrive.”

* * *

Sharyn quickly rummaged through her clothes, dressed, and threw some personal items into a small travel bag. Either she had sobered up or Happy Sticks left her clear-minded enough to know where her best interests lay — more likely the former, Haggerty surmised. He lifted the notebook off the desk.

“Is this Regina’s?” he asked Sharyn.

“It’s all her crackware and computer shit.”

Haggerty took the notebook and the holograph, then hurried Elsa and Sharyn out of the tiny pairplex shrine to Clone Jesus, past the bound and unconscious Corbin.

The Westside denizens paid little heed to the trio as they sped along the streets. They finally stopped at a dimly lit dive where they could refresh themselves briefly and talk.

“I need you to help me help your friends, Sharyn,” Haggerty said, quietly but intently, once they were settled. “Please tell me where you and Traci work.”

Her anguished expression told Haggerty she was truly terrified.

“Think of Traci,” he implored. “Think of what they did to Teardrop and Sunset. Help me!”

“All right,” she finally said. “I don’t want to see anyone else die. We work for the Society of the Last Supper. It’s an after-hours club run by the Triads.”

The Triads were the only organized crime leagues remaining in NewVada. The understaffed police generally left them to their own devices because they ensured that no petty crimes or offenses to tourists were committed on their turf. What could be going on at this club that merited their involvement?

Haggerty asked Sharyn.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Traci says it’s a members-only restaurant. I’ve never been inside. I just deliver invitations.”

Haggerty looked to Elsa, who nodded that Sharyn was telling the truth.

“How do you get the invitations?” he asked.

“I pick them up from a guy, an ex-footballer, at the Orphanage.”

“I’ve been there,” Haggerty said.

Sharyn lowered her head and dug a fingernail into the pad of her thumb. “He hands me the invites,” she continued, “and the list telling me where to deliver them. And my credits for working the last run. I destroy the list afterward, so there’s nothing to tie me to what’s going on.”

And nothing to tie the club’s owners to Sharyn, Haggerty thought.

“I’d need one of these invitations to get inside?” Haggerty asked. “They won’t know how I got there,” he reassured her, responding to her obvious alarm. “And you’ll be safely on your way. I promise, Sharyn.”

“I made my last run before I dosed. I don’t have any left.”

Elsa again confirmed she was telling the truth.

“Do you remember where you went tonight? Can you give me any names, addresses?”

Sharyn retrieved a lipstick case from her bag. She swiveled it up, unlatched a small compartment, and pried out a thin scrap of paper.

“I was gonna burn this after I dosed,” she said, offering it to Haggerty.

He ran his eyes down the list.

“Thank you, Sharyn,” Haggerty said. “Tell me, is Traci also a delivery girl?”

“Until a couple weeks ago. She got promoted inside. You’ll have to ask her about it — if you find her.”

“All right then. Where is this Society of the Last Supper club?”

“Sinatra and Main,” she whispered.

Vegas District, of course. “What time do they open?”

“Three o’clock.”

“You’ve been very helpful, Sharyn,” Haggerty said. “Now let’s get you out of here.” He extracted several hundred credits from his wallet and handed them to the girl. “That’s enough to get you out of NewVada, over the California border into Ridgecrest or Porterville.” He smiled at Sharyn.

“Thank you!” she said.

Haggerty and Elsa watched Sharyn leave the dive and flag down a taxi. As the cab jetted off, Haggerty looked around to see if they were being observed. Satisfied that they were not, he turned to Elsa.

We need to remain inconspicuous, he linked, and handed her the list. Run a search on these people. Find someone male who isn’t likely to be already on his way to the club.

Haggerty knew from his once-over that there were about twenty names on the list, each with an address and a time.

“So we’re going to this Society of the Last Supper?” Elsa asked him as she processed.

Haggerty nodded. “What do you have?”

“There are five names for male individuals not scheduled to arrive at the club for at least another hour.”

“Whose address is closest?”

“Edward Stevens.”

“We need to know if he’s at home.”

Elsa returned to linking. Jason, I must remind you that I am not authorized to access public surveillance systems.

I know, Elsa, he linked back.

And you wish me to proceed anyway?

Like all androids, Elsa had an ethics program preventing her from breaking the law. How much of that programming was negated by Elsa’s loyalty chip? She might already have overridden the hierarchy directive deterring an android from purposefully harming a human being, when she’d downed Corbin. But Haggerty had no way of knowing how far he could push her boundaries. Until he tried and failed.

He nodded.

May I request an explanation of why this is necessary, Jason?

Haggerty couldn’t help feeling pleased with her hesitation, having honored and followed the law himself for a lifetime — which Elsa knew from having worked with him a good part of it. He’d forbidden Elsa ever to polygraph him, and to his knowledge she had never disobeyed that command. He instructed her to polygraph him now, just this once, then proceeded to remind her that she had been with him when Regina first accosted them on the BBI quad and he had provided the keycard that led them to the pairplex, where Corbin had turned against him after seemingly rescuing them before. And why save us from Woyzeck only to turn us over to him again? Unless both Corbin and the detective had reason to keep something from the Feds that Haggerty knew or had in his possession — something damning to their own careers: the triple press recordings. Hadn’t Corbin confirmed that Elsa still had them uploaded before calling Woyzeck and producing the stungun? Did Elsa doubt that they were probably the only copies left? Moreover, Zabrowski had been alive when they’d left for precinct headquarters, and Consuela had told the world that Haggerty had killed him just before Corbin showed up — to save them, she claimed, but more likely to prevent them from evading Woyzeck and find out what she needed to know before taking them back into custody. And just what did Corbin’s blisterbrands imply? Their only chance was to find out the truth, and they could only do it if Elsa continued to help him.

Elsa cocked her head, computing Haggerty knew not what. He waited tensely, hoping her loyalty chip could withstand the strain.

“Edward Stevens is not at home,” she finally said. “But Sasha DeAngelo is.”

Haggerty wasn’t sure if he was relieved or chagrined that the PLC seemed to trump Elsa’s ethics program, and that she had circumvented the security codes protecting sensitive data in less than five minutes.

* * *

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