Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, Part One
Mar 2012 30

Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Ten, 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 TEN, PART ONE]

[PURGING THE SYSTEM]

[Previous Chapter / Next Chapter]

Regina broke away from the group of people she was talking to as Elsa half carried Haggerty out of Svoboda’s quarters. He collapsed against a nearby mobile home. Moments later Regina was kneeling at his side.

“What’s wrong with him?” she asked Elsa.

“I’m not sure,” Elsa replied. “He began to throw up as he was accessing the Indranet. He appears feverish.”

“Did you uplink with full immersion, Jason?” Regina asked.

Haggerty nodded weakly.

“He must be suffering system separation,” she told Elsa. “It hits some people harder than others.”

Older people, Haggerty guessed she meant. The ants were massing for an all-out assault.

“Come to my room.”

He held out his hand, motioning Regina back as wave after wave of nausea passed over him. He tried to stagger to his feet. Elsa and Regina helped him stand. He concentrated on breathing, suppressing his need to vomit. He finally regained his footing as they passed through the makeshift square where a dozen or so people sat watching the viewscreen.

“It’s a live feed off Indra,” Regina explained.

The split screen held two images. On one side was a teenage boy with tears streaming down his face. Beside it was a picture of a pretty young girl holding a violin. “‘I can offer nothing but my death,’” the boy read from a sheet of notepaper. “‘I choose to represent the muse in the music and the dead in the dedication. Love, Samantha.’ Those were my girlfriend’s last words. I was holding her hand while she pressed. The media doesn’t think she’s important, but I want everyone to know. She died for the cause.”

Haggerty’s stomach knotted painfully. Ants dug trenches through his neural pathways. “Let’s keep moving,” he said.

Regina shifted to accept more of his weight. She stopped before a small wooden cabin and pulled back a curtain of strung shells at the entrance. The cabin was smaller than the pairplex she shared in the city, its one modest room divided by curtains into smaller spaces with bare walls and a sand floor. She set him down on her small foam cot.

“Rest here while I make some tea. Then I want to hear all about what you experienced online.”

Haggerty sent Elsa to keep watch outside. He glanced around the room. A makeshift nightstand that looked like it was made from antique auto parts held an airboard, a remote access terminal — and a flute, of all things. How little he knew about this girl who had insinuated herself so easily into his life.

Regina ignited a burner in a partially curtained-off alcove. “It’s Valerian Root,” she said over her shoulder. “Best thing for system separation. Sedates your overstimulated neural network.”

Haggerty began to shiver. The ants were closing in for the kill. “Where’s your bathroom?” he asked.

“Behind that other curtain,” she answered. “It’s just a hole in the ground — be forewarned.”

The few short feet felt like yards. He managed to drag himself through the curtain. His stomach wrenched at the sight of the hole in the floor. He leaned back, watching Regina prepare his tea through the curtain. He reached in his cargo pants for the white unit, staring at it. If he pressed again, the unit would empty, perhaps leaving only traces of evidence behind. Would it be enough to make the case? Could he justify leaving nothing but trace evidence when he had a full sample, far more useful, far more persuasive, in his hands?

But could he risk the erosion of his own ability to concentrate, to reason, that craving the drug would bring?

Haggerty watched in dull horror as his trembling finger reached for the button. He’d sworn to himself he wouldn’t. He’d sworn on his son’s grave. But he couldn’t seem to stop himself. How many lives were at stake if he failed to make his case because of insufficient evidence? Or would the failure to clear his mind be what put them at risk?

And then it didn’t matter, because his finger was on the button and even though he told himself he wouldn’t, couldn’t, even as he recoiled at the betrayal . . . he pressed. The reader clicked up to “7” as the box emptied.

Ecstasy rocketed through his system; he bit his hand to stifle a scream. The pleasure went on and on, sweeping away the ants.

“Jason, are you all right in there?” Regina’s voice called from a great distance.

A jangle of strung shells as the curtain jerked back. Haggerty reached out with the hand that held the white unit, his eyes glazed and pupils enlarged, his slack mouth contorted in a foolish grin.

Regina slapped it away. “How could you!” she said fiercely. “And here in my space!” She flung herself onto the cot.

“You don’t understand. I was forced to take it and now I’m sick and weak. I can’t concentrate without it. I held out as long as I could but I need it to function.”

“What’s in that box killed my brother,” she sobbed. “Now you’re going to die too. Why do I have to lose everybody?”

Haggerty sat beside her and took her hands. “Listen, Regina . . . Dawn. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love.”

“But it’s my fault. If I hadn’t brought Sunset here, he’d never have met Max. He never would have pressed.”

“You have survivor’s guilt, Regina,” he said.

She wiped the tears roughly from her face. “What are you, some kind of psychologist?”

“I’m a fellow survivor,” he whispered. “Because of me my son, my mother, and my wife are dead.” The drug sent him reeling off the cot onto the floor.

Regina knelt by his side, concern written on her face.

“Two years ago I was promoted to the highest rank and got a sizable raise,” he said. “I bought Lorraine the new suite of furniture she’d been wanting and a week at a spa resort, bought my son that huge viewscreen, got myself an expensive sportscar. Figured I’d earned it. I thought I’d take my mom and son out for a spin. Lorraine wasn’t getting back from the spa until later that afternoon. Dad was golfing. It didn’t matter. I could show off for them later. Mom didn’t want to go but I insisted. I’d had a few drinks and a dose of Sky, and flipped the controls over to manual. I bragged about buying another one for Dad but Mom said he didn’t need it.

“‘Buy one for me!’ Josh said, and we all laughed.

“‘Don’t think so, sport,’ I told him. ‘Do you want to give her a spin?’

“Mom thought it was a bad idea. I reminded her that Josh had his license and we changed places. Autodrive would have handled it fine but I was so wasted, I let my son have manual control.

“Josh breezed around a slotted car that was moving too slow for his taste. He swerved a hair, maybe an inch or so, over the line and into the opposite lane of traffic. The car’s internal warning sounded — scaring Josh. He jerked the yoke, sending the car reeling across the lane to the guardrail. Then the car leaped and flipped . . .”

The sounds of broken glass and grating steel reverberated in his overstimulated head.

“When I told Lorraine, she just walked into our bedroom. By the time I got there, she’d already pressed. Dad said it was an accident but he couldn’t live without Mom. I watched him try for a year — until the anniversary. He couldn’t pretend anymore. He went out into the desert and killed himself with an antique shotgun. He’d come to despise the black box as the easy way out. I found him at our cabin. BBI helped me cover up his illegal suicide. In the end I’d killed them all.”

“Oh, Jason,” she said softly, “I’m so sorry. That’s why you wanted to press, isn’t it?”

“You still think I don’t grok what you’re going through?” Hot tears coated his cheeks.

She took his face in her hands and kissed him softly, deeply.

Haggerty began shaking. He pulled back, his face ashen. His heart pounded in his chest. His throat went dry. His stomach spasmed. He began heaving.

“Jason, what’s wrong?” Regina asked.

He gripped his shoulders, tumbled backward, and convulsed in the sand.

“Elsa!” Regina yelled frantically. “We’ve got to get Jason to the infirmary!”

* * *

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

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