Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Eleven, Part One
Apr 2012 27

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

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 ONE]

[SUPERBOWL CXC]

[Previous Chapter / Next Chapter]

Regina reached for Haggerty’s hand as the turbines kicked in and the multimillion-dollar stealth jetcraft fired off. Stelwyn was at the yoke, his bodyguards seated on either side of him. Haggerty watched the receding compound turn to sand beneath the floorview window. He needed to ascertain the situation at headquarters but had to wait until they were far enough away not to lead the authorities to Svoboda’s door.

“How long until we can touch down at the stadium?” he asked Elsa.

“Approximately fourteen minutes, Jason, provided we can land at the coordinates Mr. Stelwyn suggests.”

“We’ll land all right,” Stelwyn promised.

Regina handed Haggerty a small bottle of water and he dosed a celtrex. “Patch me through to the office,” he told Elsa. “Tanner’s line, visual on.”

Elsa punched her codes into the small display comlink above her. Tanner looked like he had not slept and was none too pleased about it. Seeing Haggerty on his display, he spilled his coffee on his disheveled suit.

“Holy shit, Haggerty, do you have any idea —”

“Save it, Tanner. I’m not guilty. What’s Corbin’s status?”

“AWOL, same as you. Heard you tried to pin this on her.”

There was no time to make his case to Tanner. “Are the Dragon and agent Keenan there?” he asked.

“In the boardroom. It’s now the Federal command post dedicated to hanging your ass in a sling.”

“I’ll need you to transfer me, but first I’m calling in favors, Mitch.”

“I’m all ears,” Tanner said.

“I need whatever information you can give me on a double press for a couple named Jennings.”

“Jenkins, double press?” Tanner said, tapping keys.

“Jennings, not Jenkins!”

“Don’t get your panties in a wad. Jennings not Jenkins it is.” Tanner continued to tap keys. “Here it is. Uh-oh, it’s a red flag.”

“Criminal violation?” Haggerty said, surprised.

“Looks like,” Tanner confirmed.

“No time for the full report. Just read me the epitaph.”

“There’s two,” Tanner said. “First one’s Mr. Brent Jennings, 98, and Mrs. Katherine Jennings, 95. Consecutive presses. Eulogic proceedings convened on September 12, 2152 by BBI Agent William O’Connell. Both presses judged clean. Life insurance settlement to be placed in trust and paid in installments to surviving child, Maximilian Jennings.”

Max’s parents, Haggerty assumed. “Who was the insurance underwriter?” he asked.

“Cromwell and Sons.”

Haggerty frowned. Cromwell and Sons was the biggest insurance firm in NewVada. They handled a large percentage of the cases Haggerty reviewed. Still, what were the odds they would be the agency in all three cases he’d become involved with in the past twenty-four hours: Nyuga-Rosenberg, Tyler Stelwyn, and now the Jennings double press?

“The second epitaph is from you,” Tanner said.

The hair rose on the back of Haggerty’s neck. He dug his fingernail into his thumb.

Tanner continued. “KV units exhumed for post-press revisit by senior agent Jason P. Haggerty due to suspicious stamp from the coroner. Mr. and Mrs. Brent Jennings. Consecutive presses judged clean. Date of death corrected to August 12th, 2152. Insurance policy voided. Jesus, Haggerty, you’re a real bloodhound.”

Haggerty remembered now. He’d reviewed the recordings multiple times, acting on a hunch. The parents had pressed legally but the dates reported were false. The original audio timestamp had been altered. Haggerty had caught it and correlated the actual press date with a pair of banshee lights on the board — one of the rare events where a circuit malfunction lit up a box that hadn’t been used (BBI workers joked that such lights showed who was planning to press next). The Jennings couple’s legal suicides had occurred before the allotted waiting period expired and Max, who had worked for the company that made the KV units, had rigged both the boxes and BBI’s light boards. He’d also found a way to crack the coroner’s records and cover his tracks. Haggerty’s discovery had cost Max the proceeds of his parents’ insurance policy.

“There was a criminal investigation pending but no follow-up here,” Tanner said. “What’s this got to do with anything?”

Haggerty recalled the avatar’s words: You will discover yourself as a source of that rage. “I’ll explain later,” he told Tanner. “One more favor before you connect me to the boardroom. I need to know if these five individuals registered for boxes.”

“Haggerty, this could be my ass. . . .”

“You owe me, Mitch.”

“All right,” Tanner grunted. “Gimme the first one.”

“Elsa, read us the birth names of each of the members of Clone Jesus,” Haggerty instructed.

“Processing,” Elsa said. “Alphabetically by last name, the first is Bin Ibriham, Jaleel, aka Whisper.”

“Negative,” Tanner said, his fingers dancing over his boards. “Next.”

“Howard, Gerard, aka Cherub.”

“Uh-uh.”

The next two names were also negative. Haggerty began to doubt his line of reasoning.

“Olaffson, Clifford, aka Zephyr,” Elsa said.

“Match!” Tanner said. “And guess whose name is on the time and date list, same office? Corbin, Nia. That mean something?”

“Only conspiracy to commit mass murder,” Haggerty said grimly. “Thanks, Mitch. Now patch me through to the Dragon.”

Consuela stood beside a tall, youthful-looking man with dark blond hair, dressed in the unimaginative suit apparently required for all FBI agents.

“Where are you, Mr. Haggerty?” agent Keenan demanded.

“On my way to the Superbowl,” Haggerty said. “You might want to meet me there. I’m convinced the next performance is going to be even more dramatic than the one last night.”

“Sonofabitch,” Keenan swore. “Any reason why I should think you’re not involved?”

“I’m afraid I’m short on hard evidence at the moment, but would I be speaking to you now if I was involved? Listen, agent Keenan, I know who’s pulling the band’s strings — Corbin and the owner of that club, a kid named Max Jennings.”

“The club where the only evidence was your DNA?”

“That’s right. Jennings invented the new drug that was loaded into the units at the triple press. He’s got a grudge against Stelwyn for firing him over it, and a grudge against me for getting his parents’ insurance claim cancelled. Corbin’s only twenty-three years old. I’ll wager that Doug Zabrowski found out and she killed him for it.”

“I’m afraid that’s not all you need to clear you, Mr. Haggerty,” Consuela said.

“I’ll vouch for him,” Stelwyn interjected.

“Who is that?” agent Keenan asked.

“Antonio Stelwyn,” Consuela answered.

“We’re about to touch down at the stadium,” Haggerty said. “I believe Max Jennings and Corbin are there. All I ask is that you keep your agents off my back while I try to get at them. Afterwards, I’ll surrender to you.”

“Touchdown in forty-eight seconds,” Elsa warned.

“What if I say no?” Keenan said.

“I can’t afford to give you that opportunity.”

Haggerty clicked off. Stelwyn pulled the nose up hard and powered down fast, dropping the craft directly into the slot reserved for his car — much to the shock of the thousands of spectators observing the game on giant viewscreens in the acres-long parking lot. He popped the hatch and he and his guards deplaned.

Haggerty unstrapped in his form-fitting plasticine seat.

Elsa turned to him. “Jason, I feel it necessary to inform you that I have less than forty minutes of power reserve left.”

Haggerty touched her hand. “What are the options?”

“I can stay with you at full operation or shut down to sleep mode and double my time, or borrow this craft and return to BBI and upload. My primary concern is for your safety. I do not fear reset.”

Haggerty weighed her words. If Elsa drained to zero without upload, the recordings she held would be lost, along with everything she’d experienced since the last time she’d uploaded. The evidence contained within her might be the only effective way of clearing his name and, more important, stopping the conspiracy. Losing it would be disastrous.

“Go to BBI and upload, Elsa. If there’s time.”

“If I leave within the next seven minutes, I should make it,” she said.

Stelwyn stuck his head through the hatch, clearly disturbed by the delay. Haggerty explained the situation quickly. Stelwyn handed him the keycard.

“Go, Elsa. Upload, make encrypted copies of the recordings, and put them someplace safe. Then show them to agent Keenan.”

Haggerty set one foot out of the jetcraft. Elsa placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I find myself in a quandary, Jason. My concern for your safety has overridden your desire to salvage the evidence stored within me. I cannot leave you.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he said, scratching his neck. “The situation is under control and the evidence must not be lost. Now go!”

“I cannot,” she said. “You scratched your neck. You do that when you are not telling the truth. There is a great deal to worry about, and I must protect you.”

A loud horn sounded the start of the second quarter.

“We’ve got to get in there!” Stelwyn urged.

“Elsa, I order you to short your PLC. We must save the recordings.”

“Jason, I—”

“You’re too important to me, Elsa. Command override, two-four-Juliet. Short your PLC now!”

Elsa’s eyes fluttered; Haggerty imagined he could smell the electrical burn as she fried her loyalty chip’s bioelectric synapse. A small blood clot appeared in the upper corner of her left eye.

“Now go,” he said. He joined Stelwyn and Regina on the ground. “Show it all to the Federal agents.”

Elsa brought the hatch down and began her preflight preparations.

Haggerty took Regina’s hand; they followed Stelwyn and his bodyguards toward the South Gate. He glanced back once to see the ascending jetcraft disappear in the sky. Stelwyn’s bodyguards cleared a path to the ticketpoint, through throngs of milling kids calling out for tickets. A young man in a Clone Jesus jacket hawking “Samples, get your free samples!” shoved a small plastic bag into Regina’s hand.

“Try it, you’ll like it,” he said with a glazed stare.

Regina clutched Haggerty’s arm tightly. She held up the small white unit with a trembling hand. Haggerty scanned the crowd. Many of the youngsters carried similar bags. One was on his knees, throwing up.

* * *

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.

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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
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

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