The Robin Hood of Couches – Chapter 2

Here’s a sneak peak at the first chapter of my new book: The Robin Hood of Couches. It will be exclusive to Kickstarter in January. You can preview it here. Keep in mind, this chapter hasn’t been to the editor yet:

The academy never prepared Reese for the smell of a body. It was a putrid foul odor that was worse than the time he had found week old leftovers from a steak house underneath the seat of his car. Since he hadn’t known what inside the foil surprise baked by the sun, he had unwrapped it and puked. The body of the man festered in drainage pool. The victim’s beard was matted and infested with bugs. According to the display hovering in the air in front of him, the DNA match was for Derrick Yusuf, a delivery handler for MotoCom. According to his supervisors, the man took a week off without giving a reason why before he died.

The local detective walked right into the display. Normally, it was rude to walk into other people’s displays but Reese had set it to private so no one could see what he was seeing. The screen hovering in front of him was only in his field of vision. The cop poked at Reese and said, “Do you need to puke?”

“No, I’m fine.” Reese’s stomach had come a long way since the tin foil surprise, but that didn’t stop the smell from the loss of his appetite the rest of the day, which was unfortunate. His girlfriend treated him to this new Russian place with the best perogies in the city, and he didn’t eat a bite, claiming illness rather than relive the memory of the smell with her.

“I’m surprised. All you corporate types puke your first time out.” The detective said.

“Most of my colleagues are here to expose fraud and get big paycheck when they find the C.F.O. skimming of the top and don’t usually muck around with dead bodies.” Reese said.

“I don’t think you’ll get a big paycheck from this guy.”

“I’m here to find the truth.”

“What? You didn’t get into Corporate Investigations for the finder’s fees and the big payday?” The detective rolled his eyes. “If you wanted to make difference in the world, you should come collect the city paycheck with us.”

“Then I wouldn’t have the access to the best equipment. And I couldn’t afford those subscriptions on a cop’s salary.”

“It’s the gadgets he says. Yeah, yeah, you’ll be driving your Maserati at the track on weekends. We appreciate the funding CI gives us but try to remember this is a crime scene. That’s a real person, and don’t touch anything.” The cop walked out of the screen view, and the Derrick’s information came back up on the screen. His crawler was now downloading social media info. Mr. Yusuf apparently had liked to cure his own meats and make his own cheeses. It was an esoteric hobby when everyone’s entire house was giant 3D printer these days.

Unlike the officer’s misgivings, the truth of the situation was that Reese enjoyed the tech available to even the lowest level investigator, but it wasn’t the real reason he decided to attend the CI Academy. A school that only admitted .03% of the applicants every year. He suffered through the sleepless nights of study, grueling physical training, and endless skills training because he really wanted to make a difference in the world.

When the CI’s weren’t driving their Maserati’s at the tracks on weekends, they were making the world a better place. It was a high-profile CI who brought down the most notorious drug lord that made crime bosses of the past like Guzmán and Capone look like the awkward kid brother. CI’s brought down an entire terrorist network that almost snuck a dirty bomb into the Olympics.

A lot of people criticized the CI’s and said they were only out to protect their bosses’ payday, but no one ever talked about that by protecting corporate interest, the people’s interest were protected too. The cop wouldn’t understand any of it. He’d think Reese was CI chasing another payday, when the reality was that he cared just as much about solving the murder as the police did. However, that wasn’t the main reason why Reese was assigned the case. The victim had a couple of anomalous shipping reports.

Despite the cop’s fear, Reese wouldn’t need to touch anything to find out everything he needed to know. There were microprinted nanites swarming the scene, scanning everything, and uploading it to the CI cloud. They were spawned from a set of implants. The chip in his arm and ocular enhancers were top of the line. In fact, the injections wouldn’t even be available to the public for another five years and CI would have something beyond the general public by then.

While the profile of the murder victim was being built, Reese switched off and decided to take a look around the crime scene. It didn’t take a forensic scientist to figure out cause of death. The man’s head was caved in with blunt object. From the messiness of the wound, it wasn’t one strike, but many. Reese would confirm with the nanites later but that did tell him that his killer was upset at the time or was getting a twisted pleasure out of it. Reese ruled out pleasure because it didn’t have a serial vibe to it. Everything seemed hasty from the first blow, to the unceremonious dumping of the body.

From the looks of it, the body would have gone unnoticed for a while if a couple of kids hadn’t decided to race their sticks down the storm drain. According to the social media reports, the man didn’t have anyone close enough to report him missing. A regular gaming group grumbled at him on his social media when he didn’t show, but there were no police reports filed. The poor guy didn’t have anyone close enough, and from his phone and email records, he sparingly called home. CI were quick to file the documents for the release personal records, and it was even easier when there was a body. Reese was sure the local police didn’t even have email access yet.

There also didn’t seem to be much motivation in his social circle for his death. No one seemed to be more than lukewarm to him. That left the shipping reports that notified CI to investigate the potential profit loss. According to the report Mr. Yusuf was a Lead Mover for MotoCom’s automated shipping service. Since all vehicles were driverless, but robots were not quite ready to tackle the task of moving a package from the back of a truck into the unknown circumstances of someone’s home. The driverless trucks would park outside a house, and the movers would bring the package to the door.

The victim’s job was to sit in a truck all day and deliver packages when it stopped. Robots were no doubt already being conceived that could replace Derrick and his coworkers, but until the robotics companies could guarantee that a robot wouldn’t trample a kid playing in the lawn when it went to deliver a package, humans were still needed for deliveries, especially furniture. Derrick seemed to deliver a lot of it which was odd because people didn’t by much furniture, and companies didn’t really sell it all that much either.

The real money was in 3d printer schematics. All buildings after the 2030’s had 3d printing technology built into the very walls of the house. Companies sold people the right to use their designs for a subscription fee. The act of shopping for the latest designer trends became an antiquated thing of the past. People really didn’t own anything anymore. A Louis Vuitton couch was the digital right to reproduce it. As soon as the owner canceled their subscription, they no longer had the right to produce the furniture, so the 3d printers would strip it down atom by atom and use the material for something else. It was the ultimate in recycling.  Since most people 3d printed everything in their lives, Derrick’s job was a niche industry, dealing with folks who liked paying high prices to get stuff handcrafted.

The other odd part of the whole situation was that people very rarely had furniture shipped. People who did keep the shipping industry alive, did it because they would insist that 3d printed wine didn’t taste the same, or wanted a printed book signed by the author with little AuthetiDNA certificates that proved the author’s hand really did touch that page. It was mainly small objects that a collector or an enthusiast would pay absurdly high prices to prove that it’s molecules weren’t stacked up by a 3d printer.

A collector wanting furniture that didn’t come from a 3d printer had to have deep pockets. Reese bought a wine from vineyard once as a gift for his girlfriend, and it was easily the most expensive thing he ever bought in gift form. And in all honesty, when she wasn’t looking, he had the same wine 3d printed, and she could not tell the difference. He was of the opinion that the whole shipping industry was a gimmick to squeeze money out of rich people.

Regardless of his opinion, the furniture deliveries didn’t add up. Derrick delivered to many different addresses and never the same one twice. Each delivery was to a different name. Even the rich enthusiast didn’t have that many alternate identities. The only possibilities was that the mystery person was paying a new person every couple of days to receive the furniture and then coming to pick it up later, presumably, to hide its final destination, or the person was laundering money in which case having a Mover on the payroll might help.

If someone was trying to convert illegal money into legitimate transactions via a fake furniture company, they would have their work cut out for them. The truck had an internal scale that would track the weight coming on and off the truck, Mr. Yusuf would have had to hack that system and trick to believe that furniture was being delivered in addition to paying off all the other humans that might be on the truck to corroborate the story. A truck full of wine would be easier to fake than one full of furniture. At least there wouldn’t be any other humans on a given shift. Reese pulled the shipping history of the one of the shipments. The furniture was loaded on the truck at one of the mega warehouses that were originally constructed by Amazon. He’d have to do some digging to see where the furniture came from because the mega warehouses were world’s largest middleman and it wouldn’t be easy finding out where the furniture was coming from.

Reese was sure the murder and large influx of furniture had to be connected. Even though he wasn’t supposed to investigate the murder, he knew he’d be the one to figure it out. If he could leave the world a better place than he had inherited than he could count his new job as a win. The first step would involve checking out the last shipment Derrick ever delivered, an apartment full of furniture to a Tyrell Bryant. It couldn’t hurt to see if his hypothesis that Derrick was riding in an empty truck all day held up. His job would be easier if it was simple money laundering.

Guest Author: M. Black


99 cents for a limited time

Please welcome M. Black, and you should check out her book Electric Gardens. It’s 99 cents for a limited time!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Gosh, good one. I love to write on my bed with no one around. I guess my quirk is I can’t write as well with people around me. I need privacy.
In one sentence, tell us all about Electric Gardens. Ripped from family and thrown into a Tin controlled Compound twelve years ago, Lexi019 now believes her father is still alive outside, and she befriends a soul-searching Tin to fight her way out of the prison.
What inspired you to write the book? I love future technology and robots and asking what our world will look like in the future.
How long did this one take to write? About three months.
What’s next for the Electric World series? ELECTRIC GRIDS. Out now! This is a four book series. They are all finished, but the last two books won’t come out till January 2019. This is a relaunch after leaving my publisher Creativia.

What have you learned about writing now compared to when you started? Wow, great questions! I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. I was just a bottle of enthusiasm and passion. But now I know so much about promoting, and book covers, editing, formatting, character ARCS.
What’s on your solar powered iPod in the post apocalypse? Steve Perry’s Don’t Stop Believing!

If you could travel through time and space, what would be your top destination? I’d like to check out the hype of Mars for myself 😉

Tell us about future writing projects. I am done with my next book, a kind of Goonies meets Enders Game, and is currently entitled DRONE WARS. I hope to release it by the summer of 2019. It is really fun!

Looking for more M. Black? Check out her website!

The Robin Hood of Couches – Chapter 1

Here’s a sneak peak at the first chapter of my new book: The Robin Hood of Couches. It will be exclusive to Kickstarter in January. You can preview it here. Keep in mind, this chapter hasn’t been to the editor yet:

Tyrell’s life was officially over. He elected to spend his last precious moments fiddling with the controls of his couch. When he had first learned of the impending disaster, he decided on Fluffy Cloud which felt like he drifted through the air when he sat on the billowing white cushions. Now, after a few swipes and taps on the display hovering in front of him, he selected College Futon. The molecules in the couch rearranged themselves to a hard, uncomfortable mattress on top of a black metal frame.

College Futon felt right. Let them take a sad futon when they would take everything he owned. He went for the TV next. He closed the couch app on the screen hovering in front of him and opened the TV one. He always liked 360 Display with HoloSport Playback. He could see the football fly from the rear wall of his apartment to the front wall as if it were in the room. He turned off 360 and pulled up 1970’s Vintage Wood Panel Tube. The TV screen that enveloped his living room faded away and old type tube TV with wood paneling and knobs appeared on the other side of the room from his futon.

Tyrell laughed as he changed the channels with an actual knob. He even had to bang the side of the TV when the picture went out. He could have saved so much money per month if he had done this earlier. But now it was too late, his bank account was not only negative, but it was so negative that his next paycheck wouldn’t even make it positive again.

He would have been fine if the daycare waited till Wednesday like they said they would. Instead, every little five-dollar transaction got hit with an overdraft fee. Tyrell was addicted to chipping in five bucks to any Kickstarter campaign that seemed halfway interesting or had a heartwarming story behind it. The little charges created giant negative cash flow when the overdraft fees got involved.

Tyrell had yelled at the customer service representative of the bank. He had called the fees a tax a on poor people and would tirade to anyone who would listen about how banks could charge as much fees as they wanted, but the only people it would end up hurting were the people without money. He had screamed and yelled, but in the end could do nothing to prevent the loss of everything he owned.

The couch went first. The screen hovering in air popped up with a message and a countdown timer marking the last minutes he’d own a couch:

Couch+: FINAL NOTICE: Your Payment was unable to process. Enter alternate payment now?

When Tyrell failed to enter an alternate payment method, the couch dissolved when the timer reached zero. With no molecules strung together under his rump to form a College Futon, he hit the floor with a thump. The TV went next:

TV HERO: Payment failed: 3rd Notice. Please enter a new payment now to avoid disruption of your service.

In the course of the next few days, every object he owned disappeared until he was left with an empty apartment. He thanked his lucky stars that his bathroom tied to the rent and wasn’t on a subscription service. He still had another couple of weeks to figure out that impending disaster.

The 3d printer built into the fabric of his walls was the deluxe edition, and the payment bounced like the rest of them. Now he couldn’t even print a new couch even if he could restart his service. He sat down in the middle of the empty room and a put formed in his stomach. Tyrell’s ex would be dropping off his son tomorrow, and once she saw the state of his apartment, everything she ever said or thought about him would be confirmed. He knew what would happen next. She would march his son out the door, and the state would evaluate his fitness to be a father. Because of a few overdraft fees, he would never see his son again.

His paycheck had hit the account last night. The negative balance was slightly less negative but still not even enough for a meal. Tyrell was hungry because even the food in his fridge (not to mention the fridge itself) was on a subscription service. He was lucky that lunch was a perk at his place of employment, so he at least got one meal a day plus whatever he could shove into his pockets.

Tyrell pondered barrowing some money to clear the balance and at least reup his kid’s room subscription service. His mother had less money than him. His father was in prison and his friends always owed him money. That left Payday loans, which were worse. He’d owe more money than he could afford in interest and be right back where he started. However, the black hole of payday loans was tempting. Maybe his ex would be a little more sympathetic when she saw he spent his last dime on his son.

Tyrell wrung his hangs and cursed the overdraft fees. There were fees to keep his drone technician’s license up-to-date. There were fees for phones, utilities, and roadways. Every time he encountered a mandatory task from the government, there were fees. There were late fees, and overdraft fees, neighborhood associations fees, parking fees, and the ultimate scam, the electronic processing fee.

It also didn’t help that most of his paycheck would go to his ex. The money was supposed to be for his son, but he saw her nails and hair. They weren’t cheap to maintain. He cut that thought before it could go any further. Whenever things got rocky, he’d blame her for their problems, which led to the divorce. It wasn’t until he almost lost his son that he realized he had some of the blame to share as well.

He sat in an empty apartment and waited for his life to crumble.

But it never did.

The doorbell rang.

He tiptoed toward the front door. His footsteps echo in the empty apartment and the noise unsettled. He almost didn’t answer the door, but the doorbell was persistent. He swung open the door and a white guy with a long beard and thick glasses said, “Tyrell Bryant?”

“Who’s asking?” Tyrell said.

“We have a delivery for you.” The man said, and a screen appeared between them with a signature box. Tyrell reached out and signed for the package with a flick of his finger. The man went back downstairs to get the package. Tyrell racked his brain for what it could possibly be. The various Kickstarter campaigns would always come with an award, but they would always be digital. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he had a physical object shipped to his house. It way too expensive to order an object like a fancy new kitchen knife and have it delivered than pay a low monthly fee for a fully stocked kitchen of any utensil he desired. Only elderly people like his mom had kitchens with all these drawers and cabinet space. Before his subscription ran out, he’d punch up the tool he needed, and it would appear on the counter in front of him. When he was done, it would disappear along with the mess. It loads better than loading the dishwasher like when he was a kid.

Only collectors and rich people seemed to own physical objects anymore. He had a friend who would pay buy the hundred dollar tier on Kicststarter just to buy a physical copy of a book because he liked the way the pages felt. He used to think his friend was such an oddball. However, all the collection of his Kickstarter rewards books in Tyrell’s collection disappeared when the EliteCloudPlatinum digital storage space had expired. He would not make fun of his friend anymore because of what he’d give for a book or something to take is mind off his encounter with his ex tomorrow.

The bearded man didn’t comeback with a book or anything that could even be misconstrued as an award for supporting a crowd funded campaign. It was a couch, a large brown couch with a stain resistant finish.

“Where you want it?” The bearded man said.

“I didn’t order this.” Tyrell said.

“If there is a problem with the order, take it up with the place you bought it from. We are just the delivery service.” The man rolled his eyes. His partner set the couch down and leaned against it.

“No, what I mean to say is you must got the wrong address.”

“Are you Tyrell Bryant? At this address?”


“Then all this stuff is yours.”

“What do you mean all?” Just as Tyrell said it. Two more large men hefted a twin-sized bed up the stairs. It was a perfect size for his son’s room.

“You can refuse delivery—” The bearded man began.

“No, you can put that over here, and that bed can go in smaller of the two bedrooms.” Tyrell said. His prayers had been answered. Even if it was mix up, maybe he could keep the stuff long enough to clear his account, give his son a place to stay for the week.

For the rest of the night, the movers lugged a two-bedroom apartment worth of furniture up three flights of stairs and down the hall to 307. He was getting the full service from lamps, to a new bed, and even kitchen utensils (include an cart to store them in). He even got a network enabled TV, not that it would do any good without subscriptions to any of the streaming services. To his surprise, he even got a bookshelf with enough books to make his friend jealous. What really amazed him was an archaic piece of technology called a Blu-ray player. He hadn’t seen one of those since he was a kid. Physical movie players disappeared when collections went digital. Some of the movies included were ones he remembered watching as a kid in his pajamas with his father. However, oddly enough, there were new movies too, even though companies stopped making Blu-rays years and years ago.

Before he could ponder any further, the bearded man shoved a screen in Tyrell’s face. “Sign here to verify that it is all here.”

“Since I don’t know what supposed to be here, sure, I’ll sign.” Tyrell said. The bearded man and his colleagues walked out the door. He could hear them mumbling something about rich people as they went for the elevator. Tyrell would have been right there grumbling with them if his apartment wasn’t fully loaded with subscription free furniture. The couch itself must has been worth years of Couch+ service, and it was sitting in his apartment.

Tyrell was pretty sure it wasn’t illegal to accept gifts, and for all he knew, the furniture was a gift. It was addressed to him, and while he didn’t know all of his neighbors, he was pretty sure a person who could afford to have an apartment delivered wouldn’t live in his apartment complex. He was sure they lived in compounds with private lakes in the center. Even if they did come looking for it, he’d give it back. All he needed was a few weeks to get his bank account back on track.

Until he knew otherwise, he decided to treat it like it was his own.

That was until the police showed up on his doorstep a few weeks later.