Chapter 1:

The Thanatos Files

The Thanatos files

The body lay mangled behind the tape. It was my job to search for clues. But I knew what had happened as soon as I got the call. Another kid who'd jumped. Just another street rat with big ideas and one too many implants.

From the state of the body, he must have jumped from some height. Most likely from roof of the apartment complex. I’d been following a string of similar cases throughout Eros city. My charge was homicides, but there were too many similarities to be merely a coincidence.

I knelt over the body, plugged my neural deck into his. The thin cord running between our spines forming a link between the living and the dead. Modern tech has taken a lot of the guesswork out of homicide cases. The last few moments of neural activity usually leave an imprint on the chrome, a phantom impression of the deceased. Leaving detectives like myself playing medium.

A flash of sensation rushed through my body. A shivering sensation resonated throughout my body, static from his crushed and mangled nerve endings. The remnants of his last sensations came to me. The adrenaline that filled his veins as he fell, the taste of blood from his mouth.

A figure came into my view. It stood over the body. A digital spectre built from his Stimdeck.

“I am Detective Kean, Eros City homicide division. I have some questions for you. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” The construct said. The kids cheap back-alley tech wouldn’t have held much memory, it was going to be a struggle to coax much from the spectre.

“Can you recall the last thing you did?”

“We leaped from a rooftop, I believe,” the spectre answered.

“You jumped? You weren't coerced or pushed?”

“No, we were just tired,” it replied.

“What do you mean by 'we'?”

“She was there with me,” it said.

“Who was?”

“The god of death,” the spectre replied. Having heard enough, I disconnected. My assistant had just pulled up. Ria had been the best thing to happen to me in a long time. I never understood her, not why someone with her good looks would go into the force, not why someone would take a dead-end state job rather than go private. Not why a girl like her would date a guy like me.

“Detective Kean, how’s the investigation going?” she said, remaining as professional as ever. I could smell her perfume in the air, barely cutting over the city’s musty backdrop.

“One thing left to check.” I replied, examining the kid’s stimdeck remotely. She observed the body as I did so.

“Not many recent files on his stim deck. Mainly music, classic pop like Yoasobi. I don’t see any link between this case and the others” she reported, files and dossiers flickering in her retinas. She didn’t have to be here helping me. She could have turned a blind eye like all the others on the force.

“We’ve got half a dozen cases, all labelled as suicides. None of the victims were tied to local gangs or the Yakuza. None of the usual money problems or corporate feuds that would suggest a series of hits.” She knew all this of course. Although she hadn’t said it, Ria must’ve thought I was on wild goose chase. I was starting to feel that way myself. But every instinct I had as an officer was telling me there was something below the surface.

“So, we’re left in the dark? No links between the cases at all?”

“None of the victims had any connection to one another. Except one.” I said, finally locating the download I expected.

“Thanat.OS” she said, finishing my sentence.

“I found it on the kid’s Stimdeck, just like all the others. Come on, lets make some calls” I said, as we walked back to our car.

In Eros city everyone known that anyone fishing for something stronger than an off the shelf cyber stim needs to head downtown to Nyx. Once famous, but now a nightclub frequented by d-list celebrities and yuppies from 2nd rate megacorps flashing more credits than they can afford. We headed for the basement, walking past rows of salaryman and their cyber geishas, tables filled with roms and empty bottles. The place reeked of stale beer and cigarettes. Music boomed from above, causing dust lining the furnishings to dance.

At the bottom of a dark hallway lay the lab. Unlike the minimalist, sterile clinics I was used to, the place looked more like a back-alley museum. Old tech lined every available space on the walls. Disjointed Limbs and organ components sat in heaps, waiting repair or salvage.

"Kean, I've been expecting you" said a woman huddled over a desk in the one edge of the room not covered in piles of scrap. She was hunched over a leg, soldering something onto it. I had known Vannan for some years now. She used to work in one of the city’s largest clinics. Used to be legit. But somehow she ended up here in the trash with the rest of us. But I've never pried. A detective needs sources to survive when data and information is everything.

And besides, she never turned down a patient, even if they couldn't pay. God knows how many lives that woman has saved. Residents of downtown had practically canonised her as a Saint. The local gang kept her locked up in here though most of the time as their own private doctor.

"You are here about ze new stim, yes?"

Her thick German accent always came through when she was concentrating. She hadn't looked up from her latest project.

"Me and my assistant were looking into a new stim that's been making the rounds. Thanat.OS. We were hoping for some answers about its origins."

Vannan stopped her work and looked up. Her dark Bob cut and goggles masking a face I've never fully seen.

"You and your assistant? I see" she said absent mindedly, not returning to her work.

“I've seen a number of cases - suicides. The stim was installed shortly before their deaths. I suspect it may be infected with a virus.”

" You're onto something, Kean, but it goes deeper than you realize. I'm sorry; I can't assist you” I was taken aback, I’d never seen Vannan turn someone away before.

“Do you have any information about the stim, though?”

“It's unlike anything I've ever seen. It's not a viral file, the entire operating system is a trojan." She said, her eyes avoiding mine.

"But why distribute an operating system? Why not just infect their stim deck and steal their files that way?"

"No, no. The creator isn't after their files; no data is ever transferred."

"Then what's the virus's purpose?"

"Exactly what you've witnessed. Thanatos, the ancient god of death, is at the core of it. The operating system doesn't just control the nerve implant; it interfaces with the brain, altering their way of thinking."

"So it convinces them to take their own lives?"

"Exactly. There have always been people who believe they are ruled by life and death in society. Technology hasn't changed that."

"But how does the virus spread across the city? What compels the victims to jump?"

“Thanat.OS changes people—subtly at first, and then all at once. It overwrites their personality, outlook, and even the way they think. I'm sorry, but if you've linked with a victim, you're infected yourself. You should leave now."

"Can you check to see if I'm infected?" I pleaded.

"I'm sorry, Kean; it's too dangerous. There's nothing I can do for you. Take this case to your superiors; you'll need specialist care to get through this."

I turned to leave.

“Oh, and Keen,” Vannan spoke up.

“Yes?” I said.

“You came here alone today; there was no assistant with you."

There are two types of people. Those rules by life and those ruled by death. This city calls itself Eros, after the god of life. What a joke. The money, the poverty. The gangs. The corps. At the end of things none of that stuff really matters. We're all equal in death.

I don't know why I didn't see it before.

But from up here, the city does look beautiful.

“I’m sick of this Ria. Sick of this city”

“I am too” she said, smiling.

“I’m tired of it all.”

“Me too.”

I finally understand now. Why she’s here. Why she’s with me. She’s mine. My god of death.

“Shall we?” I said grabbing her hand in mine.

“Yeah, let’s go.”

The Thanatos files