Sunday, September 17, 2017

Trying my hand at Science Fiction. Here's a free sample!

So, I've got to crime novels indie published and I plan on doing a lot more writing in that world. However, it's not for everyone. One of things that I new I'd be doing with the Roger Devereux books would be graphic sex and violence. I wanted to write something in the vein of the television series Strike Back and Bansee, or John Ringo's Paladin of Shadows books series (Oh, John Ringo, no!). And that's not for everyone. I get that, but that's the stuff I most enjoy when I need entertainment.

Anyway, a while back I had an idea for a science fiction-y detective story that seemed like it would be a lot of fun to write. The plan is for it to be a lot less graphic than the Roger Devereux books, and what I've written so far has been fun so I thought I share a little with anyone who still bothers to stop by here:

1

I had defaulted on my debt and was living in indentured quarters. Some claimed indenture was slavery, but it wasn’t. My debt holder didn’t own me. She couldn’t sell me, though she could sell my debt. That didn’t happen often though. Most people knew it was better to hold onto a long term indenture rather than sell it off for a fraction of it’s value.
Indenture meant I was paying every credit I earned above basic living expenses to the debt. At least there was not interest once you defaulted and became indent. That would have been virtual slavery, and why work hard to pay off your debt if you’d never be able to? No, it was much more profitable to have a motivated indent.
So, I lived in a tiny studio apartment in an indent tower in Dallas, Texas. If I looked out my one small window on the thirty-seventh floor of the south side of the tower I was looking into Houston. The two cities had grown until they might as well have been one city from the Gulf of Mexico to Arkansas. Most of what had been the United States, except for a few states in the Northwest, was one big city. It was a good thing someone had got around to inventing viable fusion power generators and orbital farms.
Indentured wages were banked for thirty days in the Quarters’ accounts. For your first thirty days in the Quarters the AI learned your power and water usage. Another calculation based on based on metabolism and average energy expenditure was run for food expenses. The AI transfered the cost of rent, power, and water from your balance into the Quarters’ account, transfered the expected cost of food and basic hygiene necessities to your personal account, and the rest went to the debt. All very civilized.
Smart indents lived like monks and consumed as little as possible that first thirty days. After that, your costs were fixed for a one year period. A smart indent would have a some extra personal cash and be able to make extra payments to the debt, or make the indent period a little more tolerable with better food and standard of living. After that first year costs were calculated based on average use for the prior year. It was a not so subtle hint to get your ass out of indent as soon as possible.
There were also off the books jobs, but these were not legally sanctioned, and usually dangerous. I had been a cop, though, so I was comfortable with a certain amount of danger.
There were those who refused to pay their debts and only worked off the books jobs. They didn’t usually live long and you would never make it to the top that way. I wanted back up. I wanted my debt paid and nice apartment. Maybe even a car. I wanted to be able to afford the android pleasure houses instead of haggling with off the books human whores with who knew what diseases that would put me further in debt to cure.
I was in hock for killing a man. It was an accident, and I shouldn’t have been found responsible for his death, but the wife had enough money to hire a good attorney and cried the right number of tears for the jury. Showing up to court drunk probably hadn’t helped my case, even if her idiot husband stepped right into my line of fire when I walked into a robbery.
So, I was responsible for paying his estimated lifetime income to the wife. This wasn’t the bad old days of qualified immunity where a cop was free and clear of wrong doing if his actions were in the course of the job, and a cop who fucked up wasn’t given any benefit of the doubt for acting in good faith.
A fuck up is a fuck up. Results mattered, intentions be damned.
And that’s the way it should be. My only real complaint was that an indent couldn’t be a cop. He couldn’t work as a Private Investigator either. Not on the books, anyway.
2

I spent the first two months of my indenture working as a Level One Electrical Tech. It was hot, sweaty, dirty work that involved a lot of time crawling around in access crawl ways that infested every building. It paid a decent wage, but I’d given up hard work when I’d become an investigator with Dallas Policing Industries. As soon as I had a little reserve built up I cut my hours down from sixty a week to thirty.
I hadn’t turned on a light or watched the vid once for the first thirty days in the Quarters, and I’d showered only when my own smell got the best of me. I’d built of a nice reserve in my personal account as a result and the thirty hours a week was more than enough to make some inroads on my debt and cover my living expenses. The debt was large enough I’d never be able to pay it off in a year, or ten years, so I needed the freedom to make some moves off the books. Debtors didn’t care where the credits you used to pay of your debt came from, as long as they couldn’t be proved to have been stolen, so if I paid off earlier than my current job would allow no one would ask any questions.
Now that I had some extra credits I was able to afford some real necessities, like real meat, cigars, booze, and a little synthweed. The cut in hours at the tech job would give me the time I needed to pick up some clients. I had no official standing as an investigator, so that meant clients who couldn’t go to the cops. They would have to be able to pay me, so that meant criminals or rich people with secrets to keep.
I wasn’t worried about dealing with criminals. I still had a gun. Everyone has a right to defend themselves and their property, even indents, and while all my other assets had been auctioned off to pay my debt I was allowed to keep a gun.
A gun.
I’d owned fifty-three.
3

Anyway, most criminals were selling bootleg software or making unlicensed recreational pharmaceuticals. A few pimped human whores that were cheaper to come by than androids, but not nearly as skilled or suited to refined tastes. Every once in a while a low rent pimp would get his hands on an android and run it until it broke down or started malfunctioning. That’s what brought Chris to my table in the back of the Mel’s bar on the ground floor of the Correia Mega Tower. 
Mel’s was the type of place you went to when you wanted a dark, smoky atmosphere where you wouldn’t be bothered. I sat at the table with a view of the entire bar and drank from a glass of bourbon. I had a cigar in my other hand and the picture of missing woman. She was an indent and had skipped out of the Quarters’ she’d been living in while working an overnight manufacturing job. It turned out the man who owned her debt had been promising to forgive it if she’d sleep with him. She’d done it, and when he refused to forgive the debt she’d skipped. Now he wanted to find her before she showed up on his door step with the the vid she’d made of their romp to his wife and kiddies.
The debt would be forgiven as soon as he had the vid and a signed contract she wouldn’t distribute it from any copies. He was also offering her a bonus, of course.
I was studying the picture and wondering were to start looking for the woman when Chris approached me. I smelled him before I saw, the harsh body odor he exuded hovering around him like a force field generated to push people out of his personal space. 
“Need something, Chris?” I asked.
“Yeaaaahhh,” he dragged the word out while bobbing his head in the affirmative, a stupid grin on his face.
“What?” I asked.
“I got a problem, Roland,” he said.
He sat at the table without invitation and I puffed hard on my cigar, hoping to generate enough smoke to mask his pungent aroma.
“Well?” I asked.
“I need you to find something for me,” he said, leaning forward.
I blew smoke into his face and he coughed.
“What?” I asked.
He waved the smoke away with a smile.
“An android,” he said. “Pleasure model.”
I sat back in surprise.
“When did you get enough scratch from your human whores to afford a pleasure droid?” I asked.
He shrugged.
“Got a good deal on a refurb,” he said.
I knew he was lying. Pleasure model androids were the playthings of the rich and famous, and most were owned by the higher end brothels. A street pimp dealing in human flesh would never make enough to afford one. Their synthetic flesh was indistinguishable from the real thing, except when in action. They would fulfill any sexual fantasy, perform any act, and convince you their were experiencing the wildest orgasms while doing it. It was all programming of course, but it was damned good programming. Want a husky sexpot? A weeping submissive? A growling dominate? There’s a program for it. Any fantasy, dark or light, there was a program for it. It was the reason pleasure models were so expensive, and so worth it.
“How much?” I asked.
“Ten thousand credits,” he said, going serious.
“Bullshit,” I laughed.
“I’m serious, man,” he said. “I’ll even give you a thousand earnest money.”
Ten thousand credits wouldn’t come close to paying off my debt, but it would make a nice little dent while giving me some additional space to work more cases. 
“I’m listening,” I said.
“She malfunctioned while we were doing an upgrade to the programming,” Chris said. “Took off before we could shut her down and disappeared. I think she might be trying to return to her old brothel, but the place has been shut down for years.”
I nodded.
“Does she have a deactivation code word or a remote?” I asked.
“Not that works, we tried,” he said. “You’ll have to shut her down manually.”
I nodded. Manual shutdown meant getting close to her and operating the pressure switch behind her right earlobe. I’d have to hold it down for five seconds. That was the standard time to avoid accidental shutdown.
“Why not find her yourself if you think you know where she’ll be?” I asked.
Chris smiled wide again.
“I’ve got no time,” he said. “I got to keep up with my human workers. It’s a full time job.”
“It’s really worth ten thousand credits to you?” I asked.
“Got your credit chit?” he asked.
I reached into my jacket and pulled it out. He took out another and touched it to mine. I checked the balance on the readout and found myself a thousand credits richer.
“Money talks, right?” he asked.
“Yes, it does,” I said. “One other question.”
“Sure, man,” he said.
“Are her safety features disabled?”
“Of course not, man,” he said. “I’m a crook, not crazy.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll get it down. Send her info to my comm with the address of her old brothel and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Yeaaaahh,” he said with another idiotic grin.
He stood and walked away. Unfortunately, his stink lingered.
4

I left Mel’s and went to photocopy place in the same tower to have copies made of the photo of the missing indent. I wasn’t about to drop one client just to jump on Chris’s matter even if he was paying well. I’d still have a long way to go paying off my indenture even if I found the missing android. 
I made a hundred copies at the copy booth with my comm code printed on the bottom, and held my credit chit up to the sensor to pay. It deducted the ten credit charge from my account and the slot opened for me to take the copies. I rolled them up and started making my way out of the labyrinthine building.
Outside I was surprised to find it was dark. I hadn’t realized I’d spent that much time in Mel’s, but time flies when you are having fun. I flagged an autocab over and stepped inside. I gave it the address to a dive bar near the indent towers on the edge of the city and sat back to enjoy the wait. 
I was going to hit as many bars and unlicensed brothels as I could tonight, leaving the photo with my comm code and the offer of a small reward to whoever put me in touch with the missing woman, then I’d head back to my tiny apartment to get a few hours of sleep. It was Thursday, and I worked the on the books job in ten hour shifts Monday through Wednesday. I’d have three days to look for the android and run down leads on the blackmailer.
My comm dinged and took it out of my jacket pocket and unlocked the display. It was a file from Chris, it contained a three hundred and sixty degree photo of the nude android and a serial number. It also had contained an address. I tapped the screen over the address and a map of the city appeared on the screen. 
“Huh,” I said to myself.
The address was on the third floor of a building that was close enough to on the way to my destination that I decided to make a detour.
“Detour,” I said to the autocab.
“Destination?” it asked in a computer generated voice.
I read the address off my screen.
“ETA is five minutes,” it said. “Will you be continuing on to the previous destination requested? The charge for standby service is five minutes for one credit.”
“Yes, that’ll work,” I said. “But you’re released from standby if I have not returned in thirty minutes.”
“Acknowledged.”
5

The area of the city the autocab took me to was an old section of one of the smaller cities between Dallas and Houston that had been absorbed into the Dallas city scape as it grew. Many of the building were abandoned, but a few of the newer towers appeared to be completely automated manufacturing facilities. There would be few humans in the area during the day, and next to none at night.
I stepped out of the autocab and looked up at the building from the deserted street. The building was old, built at least a hundred years ago and well before mega towers became the norm. It was less than fifty stories tall with wide concrete steps leading up the main entrance, and dwarfed by the other nearby buildings. It also appeared to be completely abandoned.
Out of long habit, I checked the gun holstered under my jacket. It was Glock 702, not the newest model but still very, very effective. It fired 6mm caseless smart pellets at hypervelocity. They would penetrate anything but military grade armor and would turn an unarmored human into so much hamburger meat. The magazine held ninety pellets.
I had a folding combat knife in my pants pocket, but if I had to use it I was already in serious trouble. Still, it was nice to have options.
I walked up the steps toward the entrance. The doors were locked, but had been made of glass held in steel frames. The glass had long been broken, and I paused before entering. It didn’t look like the building was being used by vagrants, and it still had power. The mounted wall packs lit up the interior so that I could see the tracks made through the dust and dirt on the marble floors. It looked like a group of people had entered recently, though I wasn’t enough of an expert to tell how recently.
I stepped inside and walked toward where the elevators should be. The address for the old brothel had been on the third floor. Given the age of the building and the general abandoned nature I realized the android must be much older than I had assumed by the photo Chris had sent. I hoped the elevators were functioning. I didn’t want to walk up three flights of stairs. 
I found the elevator banks and hit the call button. I was in luck, the button lit up and I could hear the whirring of the machinery in the elevator shaft. There was a loud ding when it arrived that made me jump and look around self consciously, and then the door slid open. I stepped inside and hit the button with a three on it. The doors slide closed and music fifty years out of date began to play.
The ride was quick, but I still found myself humming an old tune when I stepped out on the third floor. The man that came flying through the air hit me in the chest just as the elevator doors slid closed, providing the perfect surface for the man’s body to crush me against.

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