Sep 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 parts ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, and SEVEN – then continue reading after the jump…)



[Previous Chapter / Next Chapter]

Haggerty watched from the bathroom door as Regina turned away from his cityscape view and moved to his bar. Streams of alcohol and carbonation flowed into a short glass.

Why had he let this girl distract him?

His experiences with Regina and her unpleasant world where hopeless children tormented their bodies with blisterbrands in order to control something in their lives had done nothing to convince him not to press, especially since that hopelessness seemed to be the only birthright now afforded to the young. There was nothing in his own life left to hope for. Why continue? He would wait for the girl to leave and then fall into the peaceful sea of eternal darkness. He continued to observe her while her attention was directed elsewhere and she was unaware of his regard.

Regina paused at the stand holding his replitext and ran her hand over it almost reverently. He wondered if she’d open it, what book she’d call up if she did. She sighed and withdrew her hand. Holding her wouzeburst, she crossed the room and sank into the form-adjusting esplanade couch, making herself comfortable. With a word she activated the viewscreen.

The Nine O’clock News offered a menu of headlines:


“Clone Jesus,” she said.

A raven-haired viewcaster appeared, standing before a stage where workers were setting up for a concert. Regina leaned forward, enraptured.

Maybe that was it. Regina had stated her anti-BBI sentiments plainly. She was all about living and enjoying life as fully as possible. Perhaps she’d simply wanted to see what might be in store for her when she was an adult with a successful career, and the perquisites that went with it, a hedge against despair. Haggerty didn’t know what things she hoped would lead her to success, but she had at least a decade before she could even begin to make her own path. He wished her well, hoped she’d end up with more contentment than he had.

He slid a celtrex from his remaining supply and swallowed it. As he came out of the bathroom, the lights dimmed behind him.

“Not the four-by-four cell you’d wanted?” he said, smiling.

“At least you’ve got a decent-sized viewscreen,” she tossed back, her eyes riveted on the report. She let loose a squeal, frantically waving at the monitor. “That’s them! I can actually see them! That’s my band!”

Your band?”

“Okay, my favorite band,” she amended. “You know what I mean.”

The screen now showed a crew of bare-chested young men with buzz cuts and blisterbrandings of Asian mandalas on their skin, carrying their instruments past a cheering crowd of young people and boarding a small jetcraft.

“The band Clone Jesus, due to arrive in NewVada in less than two hours to kick off their world tour, will be performing a full concert before a live audience on this very stage,” the viewcaster intoned.

Haggerty was surprised that the band was reviving the old custom of world tours. He wondered what something like that must be like. Sure, any Conscientious Citizen could register to leave the United States, but who in their right mind wanted to? Celebrities with a great deal of money to be made, obviously. They were the only ones with enough of it, and enough power behind it, to be granted re-entry.

“I’ve heard about this band,” he said. “Why all the fuss?”

“They’re enlightened,” Regina said excitedly. “They grok!

He was about to ask what, exactly, it was that they grokked and what sort of enlightenment they’d attained, when the glass in her hands caught his attention. He’d nearly forgotten that detail. The news byte came to an end, and Haggerty ordered the viewscreen to mute.

“You’re too young to be drinking,” he said.

Regina looked at him quizzically. “I’m old enough to press a button legally and die, but too young to drink?” she said mildly.

“The law says twenty-five to consume.”

“And eighteen to press,” she said. “I know the law. I also know why the law to raise the drinking age was passed, and it had nothing to do with preventing accidents or lowering crime, or any of the other reasons politicians like to spout. Look at the statistics presented in the debates and you’ll see the real reason. The age limit was raised to keep so-called Junior Citizens in line — to reduce our power by infantilizing us. Three hundred years ago, a woman my age who was still unmarried would be considered a hopeless spinster. Two hundred years ago, she’d be pressured by her family to marry, or sent off to college to earn her M-R-S degree. A hundred years ago, women my age had careers, served in the military, ran for public office. There were exceptions, yes. But there are always exceptions. My point is that women my age were considered fully competent adults. Not girls. Not Junior Citizens.

“Telling us we’re not old enough to drink keeps us children. Letting us press when we’re only eighteen gets us out of the way. So before you go all Blue Code on me, let me ask you: Do you agree with the morality behind it? Do you really think it’s sensible, or even fair, for the law to say that the decision to drink requires more maturity than the decision to end your own life?”

“It isn’t sensible at all,” Haggerty acknowledged. “Go ahead, enjoy your drink.” One wouzeburst wasn’t going to significantly impair her judgment, he decided, but he certainly wouldn’t let her have more than that.

She lifted her glass. “You want one?” she asked.

“I don’t drink,” he said. “I keep it for guests. I’m going to order your cab. There’s usually a wait. If I call now, you’ll have plenty of time to finish your drink before you leave. I have something important to do, and it’s getting late.”

“Why do you think your life’s so different from mine?” she said unexpectedly.

Haggerty considered. “I’d say the only real differences are communal privileges, a shift in responsibility from yourself to society,” he said. “And maybe a sense of security.”

“That reminds me,” Regina said. She took another sip of her drink, then set the glass aside and rummaged through her backpack, from which she pulled a small gadget that Haggerty did not recognize. “I need to charge this; can I squeeze some of your juice?” She looked around his living space expectantly.

“My juice?” The dots connected. “Over by the desk,” he said. “Electricity’s free, you know.”

“Tell that to the superintendent of my building,” she said, fitting the small box into the wall receptacle he’d indicated.

“What is that thing?” he asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“It’s a remote Indranet access terminal,” she said. “My friend Joe makes them. He’s an Indranet jock who builds bulletproof tek. It’s my vice.”

She returned to the couch.

“If you say so,” Haggerty said. Electric power had to be pretty low on the vice list.

“Can I see yours?” she asked.

“My vice?”

“Your button.”

Haggerty hesitated. But the unit couldn’t accept her press, even accidentally. It was a harmless request. He reached over to the end table, opened the drawer, pulled out his black box, and joined her on the couch.

Regina’s flippancy evaporated in the face of this instrument of mortality.

“Jason P. Haggerty,” she said, reading his name on the screen aloud. “I’ve never held one before. What would happen if I pressed?”

“You could arm it, but you couldn’t press,” Haggerty assured her. “The button scan needs my print, down to the biometric ridge and pore structure. Scans make zero errors. Even if you could press, the toxins in that unit are calibrated to my biological chemistry. Your thresholds are different. It might make you sick, possibly quite ill for a while, but you’d probably survive it.”

“What if I forced you to press it?”

“That would be murder — and the unit would record it.”

“You probably have to own this hideous thing, don’t you?”

“It’s company policy.”

She tucked her legs beneath her on the couch. “Have you ever . . . ?”

“Considered using it? This morning, as a matter of fact.”

Haggerty regretted admitting it even as the words escaped his lips. He did not say that he was only waiting for her departure to do it. That he was probably in the last few moments of his life did not disturb him. He was oddly grateful for her companionship.

Tears welled in Regina’s eyes. “Why?” she said quietly.

He found that he couldn’t help but tell her the truth, or as much of it as he could bear.

“Tomorrow is the anniversary of my father’s death a year ago. It’s also . . .” Emotion pummeled him. “I had a son, just a few years younger than you. He died in a car accident, exactly a year before that. My wife left me almost immediately afterward. Every day since then has been a struggle.”

Regina’s cheeks were wet as she leaned over and put her mouth softly yet firmly on his. He resisted a moment, then relented and let her have her way. Her tongue licked the seam of his lips. He opened his mouth for her, twined his tongue with hers, tasting the sticky tang of the wouzeburst and something more, something purely Regina — delicious and sweet enough to break his heart.

But she was so young, so full of hope and committed to life. Haggerty drew back, steeling himself to resist.

“I think it’s time to say good night.”

She looked him in the eyes. “I’d rather say good morning . . . many hours from now.” She placed her fingers over his mouth. “Don’t talk. Just listen.

“We’ve agreed I’m mature enough to decide about life and death. This isn’t life and death, Jason. I’ve paired before, more than once, and I want to be with you tonight.”

And then she was in his arms, warm and soft and smelling like summer strawberries that he had eaten long ago in his childhood, when such fruits were common and he’d been able to get his fill. She kissed him tenderly at first, and then with open-mouthed hunger, and he found he couldn’t quite refuse her. It had been so long. And after all, it was just one night and his KV unit would be there in the morning.

“Lights off,” he whispered, and pulled Regina closer in his arms.

Their kisses grew more passionate, more needy, but Haggerty was damned if he was going to make love for the last time in his life on the narrow confines of his couch, form-adjusting or not. He startled Regina by suddenly lifting her up, rising from the couch and carrying her toward the bedroom. She broke the kiss with a laugh.

“The Indran said you’d be aggressive in bed,” she teased. “But I need my backpack.”

“No, you don’t need your backpack.”

“Will you please let me get it? It’s just over there.”

He carried her the few feet to her backpack. Giggling, she leaned down and scooped up the straps.

Haggerty resumed the pleasant task of kissing her breathless, carrying her to the bedroom and setting her down on the bed. She dropped the backpack to the floor beside it. Fastenings loosened, clothing removed, he bent her backward with a sense of urgency he hadn’t felt in years, sighing as her legs came up to hug his hips.

Regina’s hair was a tangle, her breasts rising and falling with her gasps for air. The iris undulated on her belly, stickjeweled dewdrops sparkling as she moved. Her lips were kiss-swollen, her green eyes glazed with passion.

She was not Lorraine. Her figure was not as full, her hair not as dark, her skin not as pale. She did not taste like his wife, she did not kiss like her or move like her. The feel of her skin beneath his fingers was different, unknown, new. She was not the one woman who had shared Haggerty’s bed for the past half century, but she was beautiful and willing and all that he could desire, right now. Perhaps too much so.

“We need to slow down,” he said, attempting to pull back.

“No,” she said, sinking her hands in his hair and pulling him closer, devouring his mouth with hungry kisses.

“If we don’t, this is going to end much more quickly than you’d like,” he warned.

“Don’t care,” she said, and startled him by taking the lead, rolling them so that she was on top. She sat up with another giggle, leaving him to stare up at her, bemused. “The Indran seems not to have predicted that I’m pretty aggressive myself.” She smirked, then leaned over and began rooting for something in her backpack.

“You don’t need the damned backpack!” he said half amused, half exasperated.

“Lot you know,” she teased.

She sat up with a triumphant cry, holding four simple gray disks in her hands.

Haggerty eyed them dubiously. “What the hell are those?”

She smiled wickedly, green eyes glinting with mischief. “They’re nerve impulse transmitters, vaporware,” she said. She fixed one of the disks onto each of her temples, then leaned forward and pressed one to each of his.

“And these do what, exactly?” he asked warily.

“Transmit nerve impulses, silly,” she said impudently. “Don’t be such a neophobe.”

He raised a brow.

She leaned over him, small breasts temptingly close. “You’ll like them, I promise,” she whispered seductively.

“I certainly like these,” he grinned wickedly, and lifted his head to capture a rosy nipple in his mouth.

Regina hissed in satisfaction.

Haggerty gasped in shock, releasing her. “What the hell . . . ?”

“Don’t stop, Jason,” she urged, drawing his head back to her breast.

Once again the sensation of lips and tongue surrounded his own nipple.

“It transmits nerve impulses,” Regina moaned. “You feel what I feel. Go ahead, make me feel!

And so he did.

They began slowly, sharing worshipful kisses, tender tastes, caressing touches, growing hungrier and more demanding. Tentative touches and shy explorations becoming a claiming of flesh. Every touch and taste echoed and re-echoing, spiraling up and up, sensation intensifying, magnifying, building.

And that was only prelude.

The longer he wore the disks, the more in tune he became with what Regina was feeling, the easier it was for the transmitters to convey their electronic messages of stimulus received. There were a few moments of disorientation, when he seemed to be in two places at once — and then he adjusted, transcended, defied the laws of physics. Haggerty was no longer limited to his own body, his own perceptions. He occupied two spaces at once, became two beings at once, experiencing what he did to her as she experienced it, just as she was experiencing what she did to him, their responses predicated upon perfect, immediate comprehension of each other’s needs. This was intimacy taken to a new level, communication of the most immediate kind, beyond intuition or sensitivity — a revelation.

She made him feel things he’d long forgotten. Passion and grace and fire. Strawberries in summer and salt spice, hot and humid as the sea beneath a blazing sun. Haggerty lost himself in the sensuous pleasure of her touch, echoing back his own touch upon her flesh. And when they joined, strength and power and deep need. It went on unendingly, or so it seemed, as he drifted on the tides of passion.

Eventually they came to completion. Regina collapsed over him, exhausted. She rolled to his side and pulled off the disks at her temple.

Haggerty felt disoriented. He took a moment to compose himself, to readjust to the limits his own immediate bodily sensations. From a purely physical viewpoint, that had been the most mind-blowing sex of his life. It had not been making love. It had not been what he’d shared with Lorraine. And by that standard, it had not been quite as good. But it hadn’t needed to be.

“You kids and your toys,” he said teasingly.

“Not bad yourself, old man,” she teased back, a sated smile on her face. She settled her head on his chest and stared into his eyes. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to watch the Clone Jesus concert. Care to join me?” she added affectionately.

“I think I’ll pass,” Haggerty said. He wasn’t much for the discordant sounds JCs thought of as music, these days. “Enjoy yourself.”

“Already did,” she smirked, and kissed him lightly.

He watched appreciatively as she disentangled herself from his arms, stood, and stretched, her beautiful breasts rising and falling with each breath, her lips still kiss-swollen. A twinge of regret surprised him as she reached for his undershirt and pulled it on as though she’d done it a thousand times before, the fabric falling to her thighs, as she lazily slumped off to the living room and called on the viewscreen, closing the bedroom door so that he wouldn’t be disturbed. He was reminded of how young she was; young enough to be his granddaughter. That intellectual truth didn’t register on a visceral level, though. Not anymore. He didn’t perceive Regina as a child needing protection, but as a woman with more compelling needs.

Haggerty felt grateful now that he’d been prevented from pressing this morning, happy to be ending his life on this bittersweet note. Tomorrow he would make breakfast for Regina and send her on her way in a cab. Maybe he’d make a slight alteration to his will, leave her a small portion of the wealth he’d accumulated. There was no one else to inherit but a list of charities, and he supposed leaving her enough credits to move out of her pairplex, get started on some of those dreams she had, was as much an act of charity as anything else. Then he’d take out his unit and press — and this time he would turn off the phone. But for now, he lay reliving their encounter, smiling and content, until he could no longer tell if he were awake or asleep.

* * *

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


  1. […] Girls has posted the super hot third chapter of The Killswitch Review. If you like to balance out your steady diet of horror with a little gothic/sci-fi […]