The skier was off-piste in a heavily wooded section of Baldy when he collided with a Douglas fir. The only one to witness the accident, I skied over to where he lay. He was dead, his face smashed in like day-old road kill. I noticed he was wearing one of those high-end ski outfits with heating and cooling systems built into the jacket, bib, boots, and gloves. Obviously a rich guy, but stupid: he’d not been wearing a helmet.
Even now I can’t tell you what I was thinking when I pulled up his right sleeve and sliced out his financial chip with my survival knife. I left the body in the trees and skied down the hill. The next day I flew to California: I’d always wanted to see the Pacific Ocean.
I’m a Nobotech (No body technology). My long departed parents were part of the migration of ’32, when those unwilling to accept government biosensor implants were ordered to move to one of the “Left Behind” states, as many called us. I’ve spent my entire life in Hailey, Idaho, at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains, living without electronic implants and paying cash or bartering for what I needed. In this state, God and guns are revered and the national guv’ment despised.
With the dead guy’s chip taped to the inside of my wrist and covered with a big bandage, I was now able to travel outside the state, paying for flights, hotels, and food with a swipe of my arm. Each day in Los Angeles was a whirlwind of activities as I had limited time before the chip was shut down. The skier’s biosensors would have instantly registered his death and transmitted the information to a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) database. I was counting on ordinary bureaucratic ineptitude and the incompatibility of the government systems with private financial systems to give me a week or two before the banks became aware that purchases were being made by a corpse. If I didn’t return to Idaho by the time the dead man’s accounts were frozen, I’d be trapped in LA with no way of paying for anything since the forty-eight enslaved states no longer accepted cash––not that I had more than a few dollars.
But I didn’t want to go back; there was nothing for me in Idaho. I wanted to travel, to see the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, Manhattan, Niagara Falls, and all the sites in between.
I needed financial chips.
My targets became rich, old men. Finding my victims at country clubs, coming out of doctor’s offices, or dining at five-star restaurants, I’d follow them home and concoct a way of approaching them. Being a relatively attractive woman in her early thirties, they never saw me as a threat. Before shepherding the silly, old codgers to the great beyond, I’d spend at least twenty minutes stroking their male egos. I was doing them a service by ensuring they didn’t suffer the progressive atrophy of the mind and dissolution of the body that attend senescence. The quid pro quo was ten days living off their savings. Seemed like a fair exchange to me, not that they were alive to dispute it.
Robobank was the first institution to recognize the pattern of murdered old guys and plundered accounts. Someone at the bank leaked the discovery to a Denver reporter who aired the story. All hell broke loose. Thousands, then tens of thousands fearing imminent death had their chips removed. Shirts emblazoned with “Chip in my wallet” sold like hot cakes and the only firm still manufacturing wallets––located in Wyoming, the other Nobotech state––acquired a six-year backlog nearly overnight.
By that time, I was in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee visiting the Alcatraz East Crime Museum. The display of arcane murderabilia was a rich source of new ideas and the mango margaritas at a nearby fusion restaurant were to die for.
The public berated the police forces for the ineptness of their investigation. For the past several decades, crime rates had declined dramatically, particularly offenses against persons. Since biosensors provided the exact location of anyone and everyone at the time of a crime, old-fashioned detection skills had atrophied. Only police in Idaho and Wyoming were trained in traditional investigative skills. When asked by the Feds for help in catching the serial killer, Wyoming’s governor replied, “When bison fly, buttheads”––a sentiment echoed by Idaho.
The FBI called in long-retired agents to develop a profile of the murder suspect, which they released to the public. No better than drivel, all the character sketch got right was my intelligence and resourcefulness. The bit about a grandiose ego was insulting; I maintain a healthy respect for my innately superior abilities.
It was pure dumb luck the police caught me.
An over-protective mother at Disney World spotted me alone, waiting for the “It’s a Small World” ride. She feared I might be a child kidnapper in search of a victim. Instead of just keeping an eye on her own children, Madame buttinski felt compelled to report her concerns. When I stepped out of the boat Snow White and Dopey, aka Disney security, accosted me and muscled me backstage. They checked to see if I carried a chip record of criminal behavior and discovered I didn’t have any biosensors. I did, however, have a financial chip for the recently deceased Brennan Houseworth III.
Fifty years earlier I would have been given the death penalty. Instead, I was sentenced to experience one simulated death for each person I had killed. Tied to a bed and covered with electrodes, I’ve felt the chest-crushing pressure of a heart attack, the tearing and burning of my lungs while drowning, the agony of multiple gunshot wounds, and the excruciating pain and acrid smell of burning skin. As a special treat, my simulated death always ends with the razor-sharp pain of a financial chip being torn from my wrist as I draw my last breath.
I’ve lost count of the exact number of times I’ve died: more than ten but less then the twenty-three the government knows about. After the last death, I’m supposed to be incarcerated for twenty years; plenty of time for a genius like me to escape.
I’ve always wanted to see France.