Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eleven, Part Four
May 2012 18

Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eleven, Part Four

Posted In Art,Blog,Books,Entertainment,Fiction,Geek,Internuts

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…)

[THE KILLSWITCH REVIEW – CHAPTER ELEVEN, PART FOUR]

[SUPERBOWL CXC]

[Previous Chapter]

“It’s time we granted your death wish,” Primrose said, training the rifle on Haggerty.

“Last request?” Haggerty said.

Primrose paused, cocked a brow.

“Pull the damned trigger,” Corbin snapped.

“Go ahead, Haggerty.”

“Satisfy my curiosity. Zephyr registered for his unit when Corbin got hers. Was he another classmate?”

Corbin snorted. “The little shit dropped out of high school to form a band. Never studied anything but music and never stopped whining about his art.”

“Then how was he persuaded to get involved with you?”

“Never underestimate an artist’s ego, Mr. Haggerty.” Primrose smirked. “All Nia had to do was play the adoring fan and pretend to admire his philosophy, all the while she was manipulating him into espousing ours. She convinced him there were no more challenges for him, he’d already accomplished everything, and his future was all downhill. But if he had the courage, he could make a lasting impression on the disaffected and disenfranchised youth of the nation.”

“He thought he was going to save his generation?”

“He doesn’t give a damn about his generation,” Corbin said scornfully. “I just promised that he and his music would become immortal.”

“We’ve answered your questions, Mr. Haggerty. Time to say good night.”

The door to the suite exploded inward, clipping Corbin’s shoulder as it crashed down. Elsa leapt in, armor protracted, arms spread in defensive posture, landing in front of Haggerty.

“Don’t!” Corbin screamed as Primrose switched to detonator, his finger tightening on the trigger.

A small explosion flattened Haggerty against the wall. He opened his eyes to find Primrose bloodied and lifeless on the floor — the inevitable result of the backlash from plasma fired at point-blank range against Elsa’s hypersteel shielding. Corbin lay nearby, blood staining the carpet beneath her head. He didn’t know if she were dead or merely unconscious, and he didn’t much care. He turned to Elsa.

The burst had blown her to pieces. What little was left — her legless torso missing one arm — lay twisted on the ground. Haggerty went down on his knees and touched her ruined face, more than half of which was a grotesque mesh of circuitry and burnt synthaderm. She’d overridden his command and come back for him despite her disengaged Personal Loyalty Chip.

“Jason . . . ,” a garbled, deconstructed voice spoke through broken lips, “are you unharmed?”

Startled, he leaned over her one eye that might see him. “Yes,” he choked out. It was painful seeing her like this.

“I have disobeyed you,” she said, her voice degrading. “I have not . . .” A liquid squelching sound, as of shorting circuitry “. . . fulfilled my duties to the investigation. I did not . . . want you to terminate. I do not . . . care . . . about the evidence . . . as you do. I have . . .” Another circuit sizzled. “. . . acted selfishly, inhumanely.”

Haggerty held her broken torso, fluids draining out of her across his lap. Had the chip left some imprint on all her programming, the imperative to protect him become habit through years of service? Whatever the explanation, he was humbled by the nobility — there was no other word — of her actions.

“No, Elsa,” he said. “Don’t you see? The fact that you care about me means you’re capable of caring, and discerning who you care about. That’s one of the most confounding elements of the human condition, and I’m so grateful you’ve achieved it.” And while putting one person’s life above the lives of millions might not be humane, it was only too human. Haggerty wanted desperately to comfort her. “Thank you,” he said. “You saved my life. You’re the best assistant anyone ever had.”

The lamp behind Elsa’s eye brightened. “Do you want to hear . . . my conclusion . . . regarding suicidal . . . tend . . . tendencies that arise . . . from despair?” More circuits shorted. He didn’t know how she managed to keep going.

“Yes, very much,” he said.

“Osmosis is a . . . process that is capable of . . . working both ways.”

Haggerty nodded that he understood, tears running down his face. She convulsed in his lap. She reached her arm toward his face and then struggled to turn herself toward the wall where Max’s corpse had fallen, her eye fixated there. Her arm reached spasmodically outward.

“What, Elsa? What is it you want?” he asked hopelessly.

Elsa convulsed again, spitting a torrent of coolant. She twisted free from Haggerty and struggled to drag her shattered torso toward the wall.

Haggerty put his arms around her and pulled her to Max. “What is it, Elsa?” he asked again.

A gurgling sound as the coolant choked her into another convulsion, and still she reached, not for Max but for something on the wall behind him — an electric outlet. She upturned her hand feebly and sprung her prongs. Haggerty steadied her wrist and guided her fingers to the socket. Trembling, she turned to face him. Her powerpacks made their final discharge. Haggerty felt the last pulse of energy leave her.

“Please don’t —” she said, and powered down, whatever she meant to tell him unfinished, the final piece of evidence lost along with her. He doubted he’d ever know what she’d hoped to accomplish.

Haggerty wept, rocking Elsa tightly in his arms, having no desire to untangle himself from her. Her chestport had come unclasped, revealing something inside. He opened the port and found an unpopped KV unit. It had to be the one they’d taken from Regina’s cupboard. He’d thought they lost it in DeAngelo’s Corvair.

He slid the unit out and pressed the ARM switch, knowing intuitively that it must be his own. “Recording,” said the familiar voice he’d chosen long ago; the light beneath the button flashed pale amber. Regina must have scraped the serial numbers off to protect him. He’d had it with him all along and Elsa had broken the law and reviewed it. What was on it? The dozen or so recordings leading to his failed presses? He flushed with shame. And then he realized she’d never have judged him. It simply was not part of her programming.

Haggerty pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to hold back wrenching sobs. Finally, it was time, he decided. Max and Primrose were beyond the reach of justice, but their threat was eliminated. The evidence was lost, and with Stelwyn dead there was no one who could support Haggerty’s version of what had happened. Svoboda would not risk his colony. But none of that mattered now. Haggerty had done his duty. The band had been stopped. Doug and Elsa, the last of his friends who might regret his passing, were gone. And Regina would be better off without him.

Haggerty had his finger on the button. One tiny exertion of pressure and he would know if there was a God. If indeed He damned those who pressed. Or would Saint Peter greet him with a post-press review of his own?

The stadium crowd cheered as a trill of electronic melody washed through the suite. Haggerty looked up. Clone Jesus was onstage, warming up.

Breathing deeply to get himself under control, he reached his thumb along the gunmetal, over the cold onyx button, and pressed the ARM switch again, shutting down the unit. Until he stopped Zephyr, his job wasn’t finished. If he was going to die, it would be while seeking to stop an untold number of other deaths.

He slid the unit back into Elsa and sealed her chestport. “Good-bye my dear friend,” he whispered, leaning close over Elsa’s shattered form.

“What the hell?” a voice above him said.

Haggerty looked up to find agent Keenan staring from the scorched walls to the bodies to himself hunched over a broken android. Several men in dark jumpsuits entered the suite and fanned out, stuns drawn. One of them led Regina, hands bound behind her. She had bruises on her face and her blouse was torn but she was alive. She looked questioningly at Elsa.

“What’s going on here, Haggerty?” Keenan demanded, stepping over Brian’s body.

“I think the ex-footballer is just stunned. Get him in wristbonds before he wakes up,” Haggerty said. “You’ll need to wristbond the bitch over there, as well.”

Keenan bent to examine one of the bodies. “Tell me this isn’t Antonio Stelwyn,” he said.

Haggerty pushed off Elsa’s limp torso and shakily got to his feet.

“Why aren’t you restraining Corbin?” he asked Keenan.

The Federal agent turned his stunner on Haggerty. “I’ve got dead bodies, unconscious bodies, and the suspect everyone’s been hunting the past eighteen hours is the only man left standing, and you want me to arrest her?

Haggerty crossed weakly to the window of the suite. “If you want to prevent the suicides of untold thousands of kids and their parents, we have to stop the lead singer from giving them the idea,” he said, pointing to the stage at centerfield where Clone Jesus were playing, magnified on the giant viewscreen behind the goalposts.

“He’s going to suicide onstage?” Keenan asked incredulously.

“Not if I can stop it,” Haggerty said.

“He’s telling the truth!” Regina shouted. “Help him!”

Keenan barked an order to his men to take Corbin and Brian into custody and leave the girl. He disengaged his earpiece and leaned toward Haggerty. “I know what’s planned,” he said, voice low. “Everything you told me was transmitted to my superiors. Now for the love of God, trust me and follow my lead.” Straightening, he produced a pair of wristbonds. “I’m glad you’ve decided to cooperate,” he said loudly. “I’m sure things will go much easier on you because of it.” He kept eye contact with Haggerty as he fastened the first bond; Haggerty could feel that the clasp hadn’t been engaged. He allowed Keenan to turn him and pretend to fasten the other bond.

Keenan was still reading him his rights when the last of his men cleared Brian and Corbin out of the suite.

* * *

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 KillswitchReview.com 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
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Four
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Nine, Part Five
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eleven, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eleven, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eleven, Part Three

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