Authors: Brian Parker
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Notice: The views expressed herein are NOT endorsed by the United States Government, Department of Defense or Department of the Army.
The Immorality Clause
An Easytown Novel
Copyright © 2016 by Brian Parker
All rights reserved. Published by Muddy Boots Press.
Edited by Aurora Dewater
Cover art designed by Luke Spooner
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.
Works available by Brian Parker
The Path of Ashes
A Path of Ashes
Washington, Dead City
The Immorality Clause
Stand Alone Works
Origins of the Outbreak
The Collective Protocol
Battle Damage Assessment
Zombie in the Basement
Self-Publishing the Hard Way
New Orleans is a shithole,
I thought as I punched the save button and closed the case report I’d prepared.
A doorman at one of the thumper clubs in Easytown accidentally discharged his pulse blaster into a line of people waiting to get in. The victims were four college students. They were drilled clean through, which resulted in their deaths. Another three were injured, but that was only a side not in my report. The incident was unfortunate, but ultimately it was a manufacturer’s default. That’s a case for civil court, not homicide—and just another day on The Lane.
I looked at the clock; it was almost 2 a.m. I’d been working on my report for more than three hours and finally finished it. I needed to get some sleep. But, before I could do that, I had to mail the case file back to the precinct.
“Andi, call up a courier,” I told my assistant.
“Already did, Zach,” Andi’s voice replied softly from a speaker on my desk. She knew to use the desk speaker instead of the ones in the walls when I was trying to wind down. “I monitored your progress on the case and determined you’d be finished by two-thirty. You finished early.”
“Yeah, well the last few pages of the report wrote themselves.”
“I don’t understand. I saw you write them.”
“It’s a figure of speech. What’s the ETA on the courier?”
“I still don’t understand, but I’ll research the term and discuss it with you tomorrow,” she said with a news anchor’s flat accent. Over the years, I’d tried programming her with various regional accents, but in the end, I preferred her clean, easy to understand voice. “The courier from New Orleans Secure Transfer will arrive in approximately twelve minutes.”
“Thanks, Andi,” I sighed sleepily. “I’m gonna shower and get ready for bed.”
“Sounds good, boss. I’ll wait here.”
I laughed at her attempt at a joke. I’d owned Andi’s AI program since high school, upgrading and transferring her essence with me each time I moved. Andi had originally been “Andy” until college, where I’d decided that I was sick of a male voice waking me for class and talking to me while I was in the shower. Now, Andi was the only
in my life who understood me, if not all of the slang terms I threw at her. She usually predicted what I needed before I knew that I needed it—like determining that I’d finish the report tonight instead of tomorrow and preordering the N.O.S.T. courier. I wouldn’t necessarily be lost without her, but my life would be a lot more difficult.
By the time I finished the shower, the N.O.S.T. courier robot was at my door. I put the finished case file into the police department’s standard lock bag and handed it to the droid in the hallway.
“Thanks, buddy,” I said.
“You are welcome, Detective Forrest,” the courier bot replied mechanically. N.O.S.T. was obviously about functionality, not customer service. “Estimated delivery time to the Easytown Police Station is…twenty-eight minutes. You will receive a confirmation message when it is delivered.”
Once I’d scanned my credit implant, the droid spun on its wheels and drove quickly down the hallway to deliver the package in the timeframe quoted. I closed the door and walked through my modest apartment to the bedroom.
Ahh, sweet bliss
, I thought as I laid my head on the pillow.
The phone rang before I got the opportunity to fall asleep. I peered at the blurry alarm clock, wiping away sleep from my eyes. It was 4:13 a.m. I’d fallen asleep and not realized it.
Unfortunately, when the phone rang at this hour, it was usually work calling. “I tapped my phone, choosing to use voice instead of video. “Forrest,” I muttered.
“Detective, it’s Drake,” the sergeant’s voice drifted from the phone. “We’ve got another one.”
“Another what?” I hated when the nightshift folks were cryptic. I was one of two homicide cops in Easytown, so obviously it was a murder. I needed to know what kind.
“Another sex club murder,” he replied.
“Yeah, okay,” I mumbled. “Which club?”
“The Digital Diva,” Drake replied.
Prostitutes, drug dealers and thieves were everywhere in the Easytown ward of New Orleans, but Jubilee Lane was the sanctioned red-light district where it was legal, not simply ignored. The Lane was where most of the clubs were located—twenty-seven of them to be exact—offering every form of entertainment imaginable, from the mundane thumper clubs and sex bots all the way to establishments that specialized in holoterrorism where clients could pretend to blow up a world-famous monument. If there was a legal vice to be satisfied, people could find a place to buy it on The Lane. Hell, most of the illegal ones could be found there as well.
There’d been three murders at the sex clubs over the past three weeks—all of them unrelated, but the police chief was starting to take notice. Once he got involved, the mayor wouldn’t be far behind. I couldn’t stand politicians, and there was no way that I wanted the mayor in my business, so we needed to put an end to the sex club violence.
“That’s not normal,” I replied to Drake’s statement that The Digital Diva was the crime scene. The Diva was a boutique robo-romance club between Show ‘n Tail and Megasonic. It was a quiet, upscale place where Drake and I had never worked a job—the other Easytown homicide team may have once, but my memory was a little fuzzy with the lack of sleep. The Diva didn’t usually attract the same clientele as the seedier places on The Lane that only offered clients the pulsating pussy.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Drake said. “Dispatch said there’s only been one murder reported there the entire ten years that it’s been in business.”
“Why can’t they all be that peaceful?”
“Cause then we wouldn’t have a job, sir. I’m on the way now; can I expect to meet you there soon?”
. Alright, I’m up. Give me about an hour to get down there.”
“Sure thing, Detective. I’ll see you in a little bit.” I punched the button to end the call before sliding my hands down both cheeks to help me wake up.
“Andi, lights,” I grumbled.
I squinted against the light, wishing for the thousandth time that my bedroom had dim lighting instead of the harsh fluorescent bulbs. My options were total darkness or blinding white lights. Take your pick, both sucked.
Andi had already begun to warm the floor for me before my feet hit the tile. I loved the radiant heat in this apartment, it really helped to offset the extended winters of New Orleans. My last place hadn’t been so nice and didn’t have all the tech options this one did. My old apartment was in the in St. Roch neighborhood, which I didn’t mind, and with the exception of that one incident in the hallway, it had suited my needs just fine.
Four members of a street gang I was investigating for multiple murders found my apartment and jumped me in the hallway. I got stabbed twice in the upper back before I was able to subdue them. After that, Andi had practically insisted that we move to a safer place. So I moved out to Village de L’Est. It was much closer to my work and cut the weekly Sunday night dinner trip to my best friend, Amir’s, house in half.
My new pad was full of the latest tech—all of which was meant to make our lives easier. Except, half the time, the crap didn’t work and if it did manage to turn on, I’d usually find some way to break it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved technology and Andi’s assistance was a godsend, but sometimes I longed for the simpler days of the past that my grandfather used to talk about.
I stumbled my way to the bathroom and did my business, then went to the sink to shave. My buddies gave me a hard time about using the old-fashioned razor blade since there were products available these days to permanently get rid of hair without shaving. I’d seen enough pictures of permanent disfigurement on the network to convince me that the stuff hadn’t been fully tested on humans before it went to market.
No, thank you
. I’ll stick to the way men had been shaving for centuries.
A soft chime emitted from the speaker above my head and the toilet computer began speaking. “Urine test complete. Zachary Forrest, you have elevated levels of protein in your urine.” I’d tried unsuccessfully to get Andi to disable the apartment’s toilet sensors, but the Louisiana Health Department code enforcement wouldn’t authorize it. It was their way of keeping a digital finger on the pulse of the state’s residents for health statistics as well as tracking diseases in the population.
“This could be an indicator of kidney damage or the onset of kidney disease. You are dehydrated; optimal levels of hydration for a thirty-four year old male are…” The damned machine droned on about risk factors and recommended lifestyle changes. It wasn’t anything new and I’d been listening to urinal computers tell me the same thing for years.
Every damn time I take a piss
. The only toilets that didn’t tell me I needed to quit drinking and get more exercise were the ones in Easytown; those bastards had figured out how to turn them off.
“Andi, weather?” I asked around my toothbrush
“It’s currently fifty-one and raining, Zach,” the computer replied. “I’ve alerted the Jeep and it’s on approach now.”
“Thanks.” Like I said, Andi knew what I needed before I did.
I selected a dark gray suit from the closet and threw it over a white shirt with a yellow tie. The captain said that a little bit of color was supposed to help people relax around police officers.
If it kept someone from getting nervous and pulling a piece, I’d wear a clown mask and pull holo-bunnies from my hat all day.
“The Jeep is outside,” Andi announced.
“Thanks, Andi,” I said as I hit the auto-tightening button on my left shoe. The button in my right Oxford was broken, so I had to tie that one by hand, once again proving that I always found a way to break my gear.
I placed my hand onto the scanner pad of my home safe and waited while the system conducted a seven-point check of my fingerprints, hand measurements and palm lines before unlocking. I reached inside and pulled out my service pistol when it opened, then put it in the holster on my shoulder. Next, I picked up my baby, a Smith and Wesson Aegis pistol.
The Aegis shot five, tightly-grouped lasers out to one hundred feet. The lasers dissipated over that distance, until it dwindled to a non-lethal strength at max effective range. Within the first fifty feet, the Aegis lasers burned clean through everything in their path. I’d shot more than a handful of perps
cover with that gun—an obvious improvement over the NOPD’s standard-issue .45 caliber SIG Sauer pistol. Plus, as a cop, I loved the safety features built into it. There were multiple sensors built into the grip keyed specifically to my DNA along with all of the standard redundant safeties.
Nobody’s gonna get old Detective Forrest on a bogus charge of negligent discharge of an unregulated beam weapon. Not with the Aegis in my hand.
The laser pistol was one of the few bits of tech that I embraced freely and it had never failed me. I slid the Aegis into its paddle holster at my hip and Andi chimed in again. “The hallway is clear of threats, Zach. Unlocking door now.”
“Right on time,” I answered. “I don’t know how long I’ll be, so don’t wait up for me, doll.”
I hated the rain. I couldn’t keep it straight if all the weather oddities were from El Niño, La Niña or just plain ol’ shitty nuclear-induced climate change. The planet’s weather cycles had been unbalanced for the last ninety years after a large nuclear exchange between Russia, China and India on the other side of the world. The resulting clouds of ash had brought about the enlargement of the polar ice caps and made New Orleans colder and wetter now than it was when my grandparents were kids.
The Jeep parked six blocks away from The Digital Diva. It was the closest available spot to the club, so I stepped onto the sidewalk for a miserable walk down The Lane. The cold September wind made me pull the duster close and I crammed my hat farther down on my head in an effort to keep the rain from dripping down my neck. Besides being generally annoying, the rain made the old wounds on my back itch like crazy. Good times.
I checked my wristwatch for the time. Both of the luminous hands fell on the five. My Jeep made good time without the normal traffic of the city getting in the way. Overhead, police drones circled lazily, scanning the early morning crowds in the district for several threats at once. The drones served two primary purposes. The first was to detect radiation. We’d started doing that fifty or sixty years ago after a terrorist blew up a suitcase nuke in Raleigh, rendering the city a wasteland. The second was more mundane, run of the mill police work. They use facial recognition software to actively scan every individual and provide a breakdown of their records to the uniformed beat cops. In a pinch, they could also act as backup to a cop in trouble, but then you had to live with the constant ribbing from other officers that a computer nerd back at the NOPD headquarters had saved you.