“Needles,” Pete Woodworth

Billy’d died, so he was out. Two left.

I couldn’t see what’d killed him, not until I flipped him over. A deep stab wound at the base of the skull, ripped sideways to create a ragged flap. God only knows what she’d done it with. His needle was missing. Shit. Billy made four; Jane wasn’t fucking around. Back home, any needle violation was a summary decant, with a thousand compressed hours of behavior therapy thrown in to make sure you learned from the mistake.

Not that it mattered here, really. It’s quiet on the Rez, so quiet that even the receivers can’t hear you. Which means no transmission, so no resurrection. Trashing a needle out here isn’t a felony; it’s par for the course. The autonomist adhoc behind Lethe Reservation had taken the basic script for Old Vegas – buy a bunch of desert far out where nobody gives a fuck and set up a town that caters to same – then bumped it up to the next logical step.

Set up a suicide town.

It sounds sick – I certainly thought so when it opened – but it makes sense, really. I mean, we don’t die anymore, at least not for long. And while we’re alive, every single moment is recorded for playback, even while you’re sleeping. After a lifetime or four where you can recall just about any moment with perfect clarity, you find yourself wishing for a good old-fashioned blackout, now and then. And the only way to do that is to die somewhere your needle can’t transmit, so that you’ve gotta be booted from a backup, and when you sync your clock, there it is: a day or a week or a month of sweet, sweet nothing.

So, Lethe Reservation. Hop a zep to the middle of nowhere, settle in for a week of gambling or fighting or whatever the fuck else you wanna do now that the limits are off, and then at the end of it all, boom: guaranteed no-transmit recycle. Wake up back home knowing that something happened, but you don’t know what, and never will. Vacation paradise.

If nothing else, you gotta admire the balls behind selling people vacations they’re absolutely guaranteed not to remember.

We’d bought into it, the six of us, and put together money for a week at a sweet hacienda with a pool, couple of hot tubs and a muted interface/fabber unit. The plan, as much as we had one, was to lie around, fuck as needed and tweak on whatever we could dream up. (Is it still cheating if neither of you will remember and you both die afterward? Jesus, I hope not.) We were on the zep when Jane suggested that we skip our scheduled recycle of a hemlock cocktail party and “do something a little different.”

Since we were planning to work out some subconscious sexual frustration anyway, Jane said, why not get out a little anger too? It sounded reasonable – I mean, most of us were four lifetimes or more into our friendship, and a lot of shit builds up over that amount of time. Even with reconditioning and the occasional freeboot to give a buddy the benefit of the doubt, stuff still lingers. So before I knew it, I signed up for our blowoff killing spree.

Simple rules: At one day left, we all grabbed something lethal, found a hiding place and waited for noon. When the time came, I gave this version of my Sam a goodbye kiss – we’d privately agreed to save each other for last and do it gently, if we could – and hid. I’m not shy to say, though, I was excited when it started. I mean, Frank had fucked Sam first thing when we’d arrived (big surprise there), so I had some ideas about how he’d be spending his last few minutes. When the clock ticked over, well, it got bloody.

I started with a nine iron. Everyone else picked a blade. Sharp is good, as Billy found out, but reach is pretty awesome, and those clubs are just kickass for breaking bones. Frank learned that one early on. You’re going to check a guy’s room, by the way, start with the closet, not under the bed. I mean, Jesus, did he think I was a nine year old kid hiding from the boogeyman?

Twelve hours and I’d gotten Frank and Nicole. Someone else had gotten Sam, probably Jane now that I thought of it. But now the thrill was gone. I was fucking tired. Living on adrenaline really crashes your system. I stepped over Ethan and got some air out by the pool.

“Hey, Ebby.” I turned and there she was, half-hidden in the dark of the doorway, butcher knife in hand. In the reflected light from the pool, Jane’s teeth gleamed. I was seriously regretting fucking her.

“What the fuck?” I said. “We’re just gonna decant in six hours anyway, and you won’t even remember doing any of this. Why draw it the fuck out?”

“I like it,” Jane shrugged. “Who knew? Besides, six hours can be a long time, if you really compress it down.” She pulled four intact needles from her pocket. Seeing my reaction, she held up the knife and waggled it back and forth. “One more and the party can start.”

“Shit,” I said. Even a basic interface can compress time by a factor of a hundred or more. Those final hours could be replayed and stretched into damn near half a year, and that’s assuming the Rez stops in to make sure we checked out on time. But the club was heavy; I figured I had maybe one swing left before she stuck me. No way I’d last in a fight. Sensing weakness, Jane smiled sweetly.

I took it anyway, fast and hard as I could. There was a smash, then a scream, possibly mine. Around the pain in my stomach, I wondered if one of the needles I’d broken was Sam’s.

I hoped so.