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Authors: William Shatner

Tek Kill

BOOK: Tek Kill
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Tek Kill

Book Eight of the TekWar Series

William Shatner

I'd like to dedicate this book to Ron Goulart
.

Mining the words out of a rich vein of plot
—

a miner, but no minor, his face blackened

with printer's ink, his fingers blue with

bruises from the keyboard
—
he toils in

unrecognized effort. Hail to you, Ronald, a

writer of minor physique but of major talent
.

I
would like to acknowledge

C
ARMEN
L
A
V
IA

S
USAN
A
LLISON

I
VY
F
ISCHER
S
TONE

1

LATE on the night of February 3, 2122, she saw them murder her brother.

Saw it clearly inside her head while she huddled, hugging herself with her thin arms, in the deep armchair in the big domed redwood-and-plastiglass bedroom where she spent most of her time now. All the long days and nights.

When the vision, sudden and unbidden, hazy at first, started, Susan Grossman jerked upright. Pressing her right hand hard to her left breast, she inhaled sharply. As her slim body began shaking, the dark-haired young woman could hear her heart thumping in her ears.

Susan had been hoping she wouldn't have any more of these seizures or whatever they were.

“Not another one,” she murmured in a low, sad voice. “Please, no more.”

She shut her eyes, even though she knew that wouldn't help. She'd have to suffer through the painful, unwanted vision anyway. That was always the way it was.

What she saw now, quite clearly, was her brother Dwight outside in the large holographic garden at the back of his half-acre estate over in the Woodland Hills Sector of Greater Los Angeles. A lean, dark man of thirty-seven, nearly seventeen years older than his sister, he was standing in the slightly hunched way of his. He faced a heavyset man who had absolutely no hair on his head or face. Not even eyebrows.

The hairless man was arguing with her brother, his skin glowing deathly white in the light from the globes floating over the night garden.

She heard Dwight tell him, “You really don't think that's going to work, do you?”

“It's a very reasonable offer, sir.” The man's voice was high-pitched, piping.

“Just leave now,” ordered Dwight Grossman. “Get the hell away from here.”

“I'm really terribly sorry this turned out this way, sir.”

A second man, unseen by her brother, appeared behind him. In his knobby left hand he held a snub-nosed lazgun.

“Dwight, look out!” she cried, rising up from her chair.

Her head was throbbing, pain zigzagged through her lean body. This was worse than any Tek spasm she'd ever experienced.

The second man—small, frail, and red-haired—fired the gun. The beam went digging into her brother's back, slashing through cloth and then flesh.

Dirty gray smoke came spurting up as Dwight screamed, doubling, and toppled forward.

Susan could smell the deep, black wound.

The hairless man moved aside as Dwight, a large bloody rut smoking across his back, fell down into a projected rosebush. The image of red blossoms closed in around his sprawled body.

The hairless man smiled, nodding satisfaction. “That was nicely done,” he told the little redheaded man.

SOMETIME AFTER MIDNIGHT Susan finally forced herself to leave her room. She had no phone of her own. Her father felt she wasn't ready for one again just yet.

Moving slowly and quietly along the dimlit upper hallway, the thin young woman headed for the stair ramp leading down to the lower level of the Bel Air Sector mansion. All you could hear in the night house was the hum of the various mechanisms that ran the place and the chill wind that was blowing down across the hills outside.

Susan was fairly certain her father had turned in earlier. She didn't want to encounter him. He wouldn't understand what she'd experienced tonight.

“Say I had a relapse,” she murmured. “Tell me I had to go away again.”

She made her way, cautiously, down the curving ramp.

Susan didn't want to run into the woman her father was currently living with, either.

“She thinks I'm nothing but a crazy Tekhead. She'd call Dr. Stolzer for sure.”

Dr. Stolzer would mean going back to that grim, dead-white rehab facility out in the Palm Springs Sector. Being hooked up to all those awful gadgets and having those damned medbots always hovering around and talking to you in their tinny patronizing voices.

Sometimes, most times, it was really damn hard not to ease back into the old ways. Hook up to a Brainbox, drop a Tek chip, and get clean away from all this shit.

Shaking her head, Susan pushed open the door of the library.

“Low light,” she whispered.

The room obliged and became faintly illuminated.

For some reason she was having trouble breathing now. She couldn't seem to take a deep breath and her ribs were hurting.

Hurrying to the vidphone table, Susan seated herself. Carefully she punched out her brother's number.

There was no guarantee that the latest vision was true. All the others had proven to be accurate. But maybe this one wasn't.

The phonescreen remained black.

“Let him be alive,” she said softly as she tried the number once again.

Nothing happened. She didn't get her brother's recorded answering image, nor did any of his bot servants show up on the phonescreen.

She sat back in the chair, the breath wheezing in her chest.

Then, making up her mind, she leaned forward to call someone else.

2

AT five-thirty that morning, Walt Bascom was arrested for the murder of Dwight Grossman.

The chief of the Cosmos Detective Agency had been asleep, alone, in the oval master bedroom of his seaside home in the Santa Monica Sector of Greater LA.

Bright yellow light suddenly blossomed all around him.

Wide awake, the wiry Bascom sat up and reached for his bedside lazgun.

“Don't,” someone suggested, clutching his wrist in a rough grip.

He found himself surrounded by five SoCal Police officers. All of them in uniform except Detective Lieutenant Len Drexler, who had hold of him.

Some of the room's windows had been opened, and swirling streamers of white dawn mist were drifting in.

A lean black man, Drexler was wearing a gray suit and holding a lazgun aimed at him. “Morning, Walt,” he said, letting go and inching back. “We've dropped over to arrest you.”

“For what, Drexler?” He swung his legs out of the bed and sat on its edge. “Must be serious if it requires five goons.”

One of the uniformed cops gave an annoyed grunt and scooped Bascom's silvery lazgun off the night table.

“Eleven goons actually,” corrected the police detective. “The rest of them are searching the place. One of them is confiscating your secsystem vidtapes.”

“You've got all the necessary warrants?”

Perching on the foot of the wide bed, Wexler grinned and patted a jacket pocket. “I can show them to you, Walt,” he offered.

“Never mind,” said Bascom, wiggling his toes a couple of times. “But you might tell me what you're arresting me for.”

“Dwight Grossman was killed around about midnight.”

“No great loss. And?”

“We have reason to believe you committed the murder.”

“Bullshit,” suggested the agency chief, standing up. He was wearing the top half of a candy-striped pair of pajamas. “I've been here since a little after eleven-thirty. Hell, the tapes your boy is grabbing will establish that.”

“And where do you claim you were earlier tonight?” asked the policeman, getting up from the rumpled bed and keeping his weapon trained on the detective agency chief.

“I claim I was exactly where I really was.” Bascom was frowning at the black detective. “I had a date with Kay Norwood. We—”

“A very respectable attorney,” observed Drexler.

“Too respectable for me, huh?” Bascom gave a small impatient sigh. “Anyway, Lieutenant, Kay and I went to dinner in the Studio City Sector,” he continued. “She's preparing a case, wanted to get home fairly early. I left her at her place around eleven and came back here.”

“Witnesses?” inquired Drexler.

“I live alone, except for Ambrose, my android valet and handyman. But he can tell you what time I got here.”

The lieutenant shook his head and attempted to look sad. “Is Ambrose that chrome-plated andy in the white suit?”

“Yeah. What did—”

“Poor guy seems to have had some kind of accident,” explained Drexler. “He's spread-eagled flat on his ass in your pantry, Walt.”

One of the cops chuckled.

“You assholes used a disabler on him,” accused Bascom, angry, jabbing a finger in the lieutenant's direction.

“You know that would be illegal.” He shrugged and another of his men laughed. “What I'm trying to convey, Walt, is that this andy—Ambrose, is it?—poor old Ambrose is out of commission and isn't going to be able to back up any of your statements. Damn shame.”

“The SoCal cops are going to get the repair bill.”

“Seems to me you've got much more important matters to worry about.”

Bascom gestured at a dark robe that was hanging over the back of a tin slingchair. “Can I put that on before I freeze my fanny?”

“Sure, but do it slowly and with no funny stuff.”

One of the cops took a step back and swung his lazgun to aim it directly at him as the agency chief bent to grab up the robe.

“I'm a crack shot, but I don't think I'm up to shooting it out with five of you lads,” Bascom said. “Besides, I don't keep a gun hidden in this.”

Drexler said, “Oh, speaking of security tapes, as we were a while ago, Walt. The ones at Grossman's show
you
shooting the poor bastard smack in the back at exactly 11:53.”

“That's goddamn impossible.” He hit his palm with his fist.

The cop shrugged. “It is also pretty near impossible to fake a tape like that,” he said. “We're going to have to arrest you, Walt.”

“What, just out of curiosity, would my motive be?”

“Well, Dwight Grossman used to date your friend Kay Norwood before you cut him out,” answered Lieutenant Drexler. “Past few weeks he's apparently been calling her, making threats, generally harassing her. Dumb way to try to get her back, but guys do things like that.”

“So?”

“So last week at a popular Hollywood Sector bistro you threatened to kill the guy if he didn't leave her alone. You put on that little show in front of quite a few attentive bystanders, Walt.”

“C'mon. I threatened to poke him in the snoot, not knock him off.”

“Not according to what we've heard.”

“Does this sound like the kind of slipshod obvious crime I'd commit, Drexler? Give me credit for—”

“You've been pulling all sorts of shady stuff in Greater LA for years, Walt. I think you reached the point long ago where you decided you could get away with just about anything.” Nodding at Bascom, Drexler added, “If you don't want to go downtown in your robe, Walt, this would be a damn good time to get some clothes on.”

ALTHOUGH HE NEARLY got into a fight a little over an hour later, Jake Cardigan woke up a few minutes beyond seven A.M. feeling neither angry nor apprehensive. When he stepped out onto the moderately foggy deck of the Malibu Sector condo he shared with his son, he found Dan already sitting at the breakfast table finishing up a plazcup of orangesub.

Dan, a lanky young man of sixteen, was already dressed in his SoCal Police Academy uniform. “Morning,” he said, smiling.

“Is that a smirk?” Jake sat opposite and glanced out across the yellow sand at the pale, blurred Pacific.

BOOK: Tek Kill
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