By Christopher L. Bennett.
First appearance: DayBreak Fiction Magazine, June 13, 2010.
Collected in Among the Wild Cybers (2018).
Short story (18 pages as a PDF).
Online at DayBreak Fiction (HERE; PDF).
(Parental caution: Language and virt sex.)
"You’d be surprised how much redundancy some people want. Maybe the killer didn’t know where she kept her data, or in how many places. So he had to be thorough, take everything. But he couldn’t stand to see her exposed, hence the sheet. That’s not the act of a sexual predator."
It's the mid-21st century, and now more than ever the dead need someone to speak for them—and with them . . .
~ Detective Chief Inspector Tamara Craig:
"If I didn’t piece this together quickly, the killer could disappear, adopt a new identity (in the more conventional sense), and be free and clear to kill again — maybe permanently this time. But I wouldn’t let that happen. I had enough death on my conscience already."
~ Assistant Inspector Istfan Majid:
"Call me Steve."
~ Isabelle Warner, the deceased:
". . . was slowly coming back from the dead. She was on full life support, but her blood was flowing again and she looked less like a corpse. The doctors were taking care to restore oxygen to her tissues gradually to minimize ischemic damage. That could be repaired, but there was no point in doing more damage than necessary."
~ Takeshi Ozaki, the medical examiner:
"Cause of death was what you thought, Steve. Laser probe to the base of the skull. Some-one didn’t want to make a mess."
~ Charles Trendler:
"I’M JUST NOT INTERESTED IN LIVING LONGER THAN NATURE INTENDED."
~ Rosa Manzano:
". . . lived and worked on the local university campus, a bioengineer working on a project to modify methanotrophic bacteria and integrate them safely into the ecosystem."
~ Russell Takizawa:
"I think he’s a creep and at least a borderline stalker. Whether he’s a killer . . . well, we have some alibi evidence to check out."
"Human memory and personality weren’t something you could copy and transfer like software files; that was one sci-fi conceit that remained a fantasy. Survival of the self still depended on survival of the brain; technology could supplement and protect it, but never replace it. And so humans remained mortal, and murder remained a crime."
"In an old mystery story, it might have been done to make her harder to identify. But now we had genetic testing, biometrics, phones in our heads, traceable biochips and nanofibers throughout our bodies . . . it just didn’t
"People who look to the future are generally running from something in
their past.""If all you care about is an abstract ideal, that can make it easy to sacrifice real live people to it."
Comment: The story's title could refer to the book of Romans in the Bible (HERE), Dylan Thomas's poem (HERE), and/or the last line of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" (HERE): "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
- Christopher L. Bennett has scored big with his Star Trek and Marvel Metaverse tie-in fiction, as well as his own Superhuman and Hubiverses; info about him is on Wikipedia (HERE), Memory Alpha (HERE), his homepage (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE); Science Magazine (HERE); ASME (HERE); Wired Magazine (HERE); MIT Technology Review (HERE); and ScienceAlert (HERE). Also see Wikipedia for arcologies (HERE).
- Another story in which memory plays a large part is Wendy Nikel's "The Memory Ward" (HERE).