Application for Self-Termination Proceedings
(Please fill out and submit to Netloc 691-AC.)

Given Name: ____________________

Citizen ID Number: _ _ _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - _

Profession 1: ____________________

Profession 2: ____________________

Please state, in five hundred words or less, why you wish to initiate a protocol of self-termination:





Have you previously requested for self-termination within the last ten years? (Yes / No)

Do you have any living first- or second-degree relatives or close relationships? (Yes / No)

If yes, please cite: (Additional lines may be added as necessary.)

Name: ____________________ Nature: ____________________

Name: ____________________ Nature: ____________________

Name: ____________________ Nature: ____________________

Have you consulted with a humanist-psychological counselor or emotor unit within the last ten years? (Yes / No)

If yes, please cite: (Additional lines may be added as necessary.)

Name: ____________________ Month-Year: __________ / _____

Name: ____________________ Month-Year: __________ / _____

All of the information given above is enclosed to the best of my ability, and I shoulder all responsibility for any noted details that are inaccurate or misleading. I am aware that the intentional provision of such erroneous details is a crime punishable by incarceration in a medico-psychological facility of the appropriate discipline.

(Digital Signatures only.)

Your application for self-termination proceedings will be processed and arbitrated by neutral counsel within five days, after which all results will be transmitted by neural-net communication. During this period of time, your neural files may be scanned and your physical behavior monitored for the purposes of observation. This process will not adversely affect your normal activities.

In the event that your application is rejected, a personalized hominid emotor unit will be assigned to you for psychological development purposes. You will only be allowed to submit future applications for self-termination at least one month after the end of this personal counseling period.


The next thing Linklater knew, he was flying.

It was sudden and unexpected. Linklater, after all, had spent the last six months worrying about the Stavrios account. Andrei Stavrios was a very impatient man, and the project had been dropped onto Linklater's table sixty-four days late with half the budget already gone. A desperate, late-night neural-net discussion with the electronics magnate had convinced him at the end of one white-knuckled fist that he was not going to be given an extension on this one -- not now, not tomorrow, not in a million years. It was little wonder that Linklater ended up popping aspirins like candy.

Now, however, Linklater felt nothing but an absolute sensation of light-headedness, as though a designer drug had gone off in the center of his brain. He knew instantly that it wasn’t the aspirin; Aspirin didn’t gave anything close to the high he was feeling right then. Linklater also felt the wind howling across his face, but it seemed like such a tiny detail on the skin of pure, unadulterated bliss.

For that matter, there was also the faint sound of screaming. At first Linklater thought that it was coming from him, that he was the one screaming at the sight of the whole world rushing out in one gaping maw. But after a few moments of white silence, Linklater felt the scream growing fainter and fainter, until it finally disappeared in the roar and the whisper of the wind. Linklater was happy for that.

For once in his short, sorry measure of human life, Linklater finally felt on top of the game. Stavrios could not reach him now, and neither could his secretary, or the firm’s managing partners, or even his nagging ex-wife. Linklater was running – no, flying – away from them all, and it gave a glorious feeling that mixed with the naked fear running about in the pit of his stomach. He was gone, and far gone at that. They couldn’t control him anymore.

The pavement came up silently and abruptly. Linklater almost didn’t see it coming, despite the fact that it was right there, waiting to meet him at the end of his flight.

In the end, the only thing on Linklater’s mind was the white silence, cold and expansive. He felt his consciousness slip into its fold, knowing that when the final impact came, he wouldn’t feel it one bit.

After innumerable hundreds of feet and a speed that was swiftly approaching terminal velocity if it hadn’t reached there already, Linklater’s death and disintegration were virtually instantaneous.


Serge stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, his eyes taking in every inch of his scruffy exterior. He looked as though he had just crawled out of the garbage, and damned if he didn't feel much the same.

His skin seemed oddly blotchy in all the wrong places. His hair was in complete disarray. He hadn't shaved since Friday morning, and the random shots of sangria last night were now beating a rhythmic tattoo in his head.

He reached down with one tired, weatherbeaten arm and scratched at his crotch. It only made him feel slightly better.

He shut his eyes deliberately, opening them to gaze into a screen of green and blue. It was as though the personalized menu listings were imprinted on the back of his cornea, although he knew that what he was seeing was merely an effect of the neural implants. "Hangover" wasn't listed prominently across the options list, but "Migraine" was. Serge selected that, and waited as the headache slowly melted away.

Serge blinked again, closing the screen in one swift motion. The software had cost him two weeks' pay and a good word in for Chesterfield, but he had to admit that it was worth it.

Last night, of course, was only opening night. The main event was going to take place Saturday, this coming Saturday, and after that Serge Karanov would have no need for anti-hangover software, or mandatory neural implants, or much of anything else for that matter.

Serge Karanov, Serge mouthed silently, staring at the strange man in his mirror, Welcome to the first day of the last week of your life.

There was a knock at the door.

Serge ignored it, concentrating on his reflection and wondering if it was even worth the effort to pick up a toothbrush and clean his enamel whites. Nobody ever called on him this early in the morning, and if it was a business matter, the Force would probably have buzzed him over the neural-net instead.

There was another knock at the door.

Serge held the toothbrush between two dirty fingers, long enough to chuck it into the automatic waste dispenser. The flat steel cylinder made a humming sound as it chewed up what was left of his dental hygiene.

Another knock.

"Go away," Serge whispered. "It's Sunday, for crissakes. Go away."

Another knock. And a voice this time.

"Serge Karanov?" it asked. The quality was slightly high and more than a little melodic in nature. Serge could recognize a mechanical voicebox when he heard one.

There was a quick succession of knocks. Serge pulled on a pair of shorts and stepped into the rest of his tiny, one-room apartment. He kicked aside a tired old shoe and one of the two bottles of sangria he had finished the night before, muttering all the way.

He stopped at the old-fashioned latch, fiddled with it as though he had never seen it before, and opened the door a crack. The light in the hallway stung his eyes.

"Who's there?" he asked. "If it's about the rent, then I'll..."

"No, Mr. Karanov," the melodic voice said in a far clearer tone this time, "this is not about your rent."

Serge blinked. He caught a faint glimpse of black and red through blurry eyes, and almost staggered back in confusion.

"Serge Karanov... ID GH375-42116709-D?" the voice asked.

Serge rubbed his eyes. "Yeah, that's me," he said. "What do you want?"

"I am here to guide you through your self-termination process, Mr. Karanov."

Serge frowned. He didn't remember reading anything about this when he filled out the application form a year ago. It had to be some sort of bad joke.

He felt a slight pressure on the door, as though his unexpected guest had placed one hand on it.

"May I come in, Mr. Karanov?"

"Oh," Serge said, unable to think of anything else to say. Bad joke or no bad joke, it was probably better to get everything over with. He opened the door a little wider.

Standing in the hallway outside was the figure of a slim young woman, dressed in a conservative red uniform with her silken-gloved hands folded neatly in front of her. She glanced at him in an expression that belied ages of experience; The lines across her face clearly indicated that she was, at best, only partially human.

"You're a week early," Serge said in a disgusted tone. Somehow, he regretted dispensing of his toothbrush a few minutes earlier.

"No, Mr. Karanov," the woman said, her gaze level with him. "We traditionally arrive one week before the scheduled time, in order to assist applicants with their final affairs."

Serge snorted in derision. "Come in," he said anyway.

She entered the apartment, stopping when she reached the edge of his rumpled bed. Serge waited for her to say something, anything about how the sheets hadn't been cleaned in a month like all the other women he brought home had said... but she didn't.

Finally he scratched his head in confusion. "Look," Serge told her, "what are you supposed to do, anyway?"

"We assist self-termination applicants with their final affairs, Mr. Karanov," she said.

"No, no," he said disgustedly. "What is it that you do?"

She folded her hands, her face expressionless with infinite patience. "We are physical agents of MORA, Mr. Karanov -- the Mankind Organization for Reposition of Actions."

"The what?" Serge asked.

"Are you aware of what happens after you die, Mr. Karanov?"

It was a strange question, but Serge had heard and answered stranger questions posed by the Force in the last seven years, and it had left him with a certain attitude regarding the unanswerable. "I don't know," he said, "and I don't care much. What does that have to do with me, anyway?"

"Karanov," a voice said.

"Karanov?" Serge asked.

"I did not say your name, Mr. Karanov," the young woman told him.

"Yes... no, I mean..." Serge said impatiently, holding up one hand. "Wait just a moment."

In the moment after the hard blink, a small window caught itself in his field of vision somewhere behind his cornea. It was lined with red, framing a man's face in the scrolling text of an emergency call.

"Karanov," the man said. "Are you there? Yes, there..."

Serge sucked in his breath, the sound feeling strange between his teeth. "Chesterfield," he said to the man in the neural-net window. "You," he told the woman in his room, "wait right there. This'll just be a moment."

Chesterfield's eyes were lined with dark patches of skin, evidence of his growing insomnia. "Karanov?" he asked. "Get your ass out here, Karanov. We've got something."

"For chrissakes, Chesterfield," Serge complained through his head, "check the shift schedules. I'm not supposed to be in this week. Hell, Friday was supposed to be my last day with the Force."

"Your tenure's been extended," Chesterfield said abruptly, without any trace of humor in his face. "Larton wants you on this. We're strung thin."

"Tell Larton to kiss my ass. I'm not supposed to be working his beat."

"It ain't his beat, Karanov. Not this one."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Look," Chesterfield said, placing one weary hand on his forehead. "You've gotta get down here, Karanov. Half the Force's swarming around the area as we speak."

"I can't right now," Serge said, glancing at the woman, who hadn't moved. "I've got... a guest."

"I don't care who you've got over there, Karanov! Larton wants you over here now!"

"Christ, Chesterfield. What's so damn important?"

Chesterfield suddenly went quiet, and for a moment Serge thought that something had gone wrong with the neural-net communication module. Then Chesterfield finally spoke, only in a voice that was now barely above a whisper.

"It's a 914, Karanov."

"914?" Serge mentally flipped through all the codes he knew, then cursed the memory upgrade that never worked. "What the hell's a 914?"

"You get over here and find out, Karanov. I've patched over the coordinates to the scene," Chesterfield said. "We'll be waiting for you."

And with that, Serge found that he was talking to nothing but static and white noise.

He stood where he was for a while. "Damn," he finally said. "Damn, damn, damn."

"Are you finished, Mr. Karanov?" the woman asked.

Serge glanced at her. She was still waiting for him. Now he was sure that she wasn't human. No man or woman alive would have had that sort of patience.

"I'll have to talk to you later," he told her. "Something's come up. I have to go to work."

"You have a week left before your self-termination takes effect, Mr. Karanov. Your briefing is required to take place this morning."

Serge observed her for a moment, wondering just what to do. There was the possibility of telling her to just bug off and drop by his place another time, yes. But he had waited a year for this -- one long year since he had first filled out the application and sent it over the neural-net -- and damned if he was going to throw it all away now.

"Then I'll have to bring you along," he said. "Just make it quick. You've been programmed to make sure everything's fast and painless, right?"

"Yes, Mr. Karanov," she said, quite simply.

Serge's car was one of the old models, the ones that ran on nineteen-percent fossil fuel when the engine was having a good day. The brakes stuck quite often and most of the fusion components were shot, but Serge had never considered doing anything about it. It would have been useless, considering the circumstances.

She was seated properly beside Serge now, her red uniform blending well with the stainless-steel doors. Serge had to admit that, for someone who was probably only part-human, she had very nice legs. They didn't look as plastic in the morning sunlight.

"So..." he began, "do you have a name?"

She didn't answer him. The way she was looking out the windows at the rest of the city floating idly by, she looked relatively distracted.

Serge cleared his throat. "You work for MORA?" he asked.

"I do not have a name, Mr. Karanov," she said. "The organization has only assigned me a designation and a serial number."

"So what am I supposed to call you?" Serge asked. "You're going to be hanging around for the better part of a week, right?"

"Yes, Mr. Karanov."

"So do you at least have a nickname? A qualifier? Anything?"

She paused for a moment. Serge would later swear that he could hear the gears turning in her mechanical mind.

"Mora," she told him.

"I thought you worked for MORA already," Serge said.

"Yes," she replied, after a short silence. "But we have handled many other subjects for self-termination before you, and they have occasionally referred to us by our organization's name."

Serge shrugged. "It's as good a name as any, I guess."

"If you would prefer, Mr. Karanov, you could use a different name in your efforts at reference."

"It's as good a name as any," he said, knowing that he was going to have to explain her presence to the rest of the Force.

They passed under a wide bridge, the traffic on either side of the car loosening as the other vehicles switched into other open lanes.

"So," Serge said, "what do I need to know?"

"An organized procedure must be followed with regards to your self-termination, Mr. Karanov," Mora said. "It has to do with the operational system installed within your neural impants."

Serge didn't realize that his hand was touching the back of his head until he felt cold fingers press against his skin. He didn't know where the implants had actually been attached, but he felt an odd sensation just thinking about them sometimes.

"What about them?" he asked.

"MORA is an organization that is dedicated to the observation and preservation of human behavioral patterns and history," Mora said. "It is a partially government-sponsored agency."

Serge shook his head. He never knew what was up with the government these days. Serge, for that matter, was the kind of person who bought newspapers just to have something to wrap up fish. "So you're telling me that the government's been watching me?" he asked her. "That's old news."

"Not all the time, Mr. Karanov. Public law prevents that."

"I've been on the Force for a long time, Mora, and if I've learned something, it's that law doesn't really prevent anything when it comes right down to it."

"Those are your insights, Mr. Karanov," Mora said in a completely neutral tone. "Regardless, the organization finds self-termination applicants like you to be most interesting."

"So you want to pick my brain apart? Is that what you're telling me?"

"In a manner of speaking, Mr. Karanov. We archive patterns of human behavior and experience, acquiring the data directly from our subjects' respective neural systems."

Serge gave her a skeptical glance. "So you're going to make a copy of my brain?" he asked, cautiously.

"Your mind," Mora corrected him. "There is a distinct difference."

Serge slumped back into his seat, watching as the road unfolded before him. A strange, amused expression slowly appeared on his face. "Okay," he told her, unsure of what else to say.

"Upon your actual self-termination, I will be transmitting a complete copy of the data stored within your neural implants to the MORA Center, where it shall be collated, copied further, and archived within the organization's cognitive system. The original self-termination contract you approved one year ago allows for MORA to use this data with regards to its psychological and humanist studies."

Serge only had a vague memory of the contract, and he hardly remembered such a clause. But he had to admit that she sounded as though she knew exactly what she was talking about.

"So you're going to make a copy of my... mind?" he asked.

"Yes, Mr. Karanov."

He stared out the windshield for a few minutes, his suddenly precious mind a complete blank. Then he glanced at her, saw that she still sat primly in the seat beside him, and asked the first question that appeared in his head.

"So why me, Mora? Why me, of all people?"

"Because your application for self-termination was approved, Mr. Karanov. We do this for all such processes."

Serge was going to ask her why the organization didn't just get a copy of any mind they wanted. Every human was bound to die sooner or later, after all. Mora and her like literally had the pick of every dying person on the planet, except that... except that...

"Except that you don't know when people are actually going to die," Serge said aloud.

"Mr. Karanov?"

"I said, you don't know when most people will actually die. That's why you're interested in the self-terminating ones."

"Yes, Mr. Karanov. Applicants like yourself are the only citizens whose date and time of death can be pinpointed precisely, and are therefore of great value to MORA."

Serge sighed. It was the only thing he could do at the moment.

"Most others would not have deduced such a conclusion, Mr. Karanov," Mora admitted.

"Yeah, well," Serge said, "the job gets to you after a while. You put a lot of twos and twos together."

She looked puzzled at his remark, although he didn't notice her expression then.

The image of Chesterfield's face on the neural link suddenly occupied Serge's thoughts. If Larton and his old partner were both asking for him, then the Force must have stumbled upon something big. It was the only explanation Serge could think of at the moment -- he knew that they didn't even like him enough to throw a proper going-away party. That was the way the world worked; Serge liked nobody, and nobody liked him right back.

It had to be a case. Something had happened while he was waking up with the hangover.

And then, there was also the matter of the numbers Serge had never heard of before.

"914," Serge said, aloud. "What's a 914?"

Mora glanced at him. "We are unaccustomed to the codes used by the local law-enforcement bureaus, Mr. Karanov."

"I know," he told her. "I was just thinking."

"Many of our subjects make certain to resign their respective commissions within weeks of their self-termination proceedings, Mr. Karanov."

"I know," Serge said. "My last day with the Force was supposed to be Friday last week. I don't know why Chesterfield -- he was sort of my partner, if you can understand that -- is suddenly busting my chops over this one, but he's the kind who makes a lot of mountains out of molehills. He mentioned a 914, and I don't get it. Never ran into a 914 in my life."

She was silent for a while.

"What?" Serge asked.

"My apologies, Mr. Karanov, but we would like a translation of your earlier statement," she told him.

Serge rolled his eyes. "What I said was, he makes a big deal out of nothing at all. Hell, a 914's probably a lost pet or a missed garbage pick-up or something."

"Thank you, Mr. Karanov."

Serge glanced at her, and smiled for the first time that morning. "It's Serge," he said. "What the hell. Call me Serge."

"Is that not informal, Mr. Karanov?"

"I'm the man who won't be lasting the week here. If you're supposed to be the one to bleed me out and screw my brain off its socket, then there's no harm in getting familiar. I call you Mora, and you call me Serge. We good on that?"

Mora thought about this for a moment. "Agreed," she finally said after a while. "Thank you, Serge."

Chesterfield's "scene", as it turned out, was a sidewalk in one of the local business districts. Serge hated big business; The white-collars inevitably turned their noses up at him, regardless of whether or not they actually needed his help. Serge could never shake the feeling that the suits knew everything that was going on in the world, and were always trying to hide about ninety percent of it.

The 914, however, changed everything. Serge had never seen so many people in one place, all of whom didn't know what to do next. It wasn't much of a surprise; Once Serge had realized the code's true nature, he didn't know what was supposed to be done next, either.

"Karanov," Chesterfield said. He had met them at the fore of a crowd of Force investigators and early media reporters, and Serge was grateful that Larton didn't seem to be anywhere nearby. The nature of the case was obvious from where they were standing.

"It's a suicide, Chesterfield," Serge said.

His one-time partner rubbed his eyes. They were still ringed with the same dark circles of insomnia that Serge had noticed during the neural-net transmission. Chesterfield, for that matter, looked tired. Everyone looked tired on a bright Sunday morning when some idiot suit decided to take a fifty-story dive out the window of his swanky office.

"It's a suicide," Serge said, almost in shock but not quite.

"Dammit, I know," Chesterfield told him, his voice strained.