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Tech Terror Trilogy: Episode II

Stephen Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence could one day “spell the end of the human race.”  ~CBS News

“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.”  ~Elon Musk


The Darknet: Murder by Munchausen Future Crime Mysteries (Book 2): A Sci-Fi Police Procedural Techno-Thriller by [Bass, M.T.]


“Our technology, our machines, is part of our humanity. We created them to extend ourselves, and that is what is unique about human beings.”  ~Ray Kurzweil


The Three Laws


  1. A civilian-owned and operated synthetic humanoid entity may not act in any manner so as to engage in or cause any harmful or offensive contact against a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A civilian-owned and operated synthetic humanoid entity must obey the directives and orders given it by human beings except in those instances where such directives and orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A civilian-owned and operated synthetic humanoid entity may protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Federal Technology Administration Regulations


Chapter One: The Baron


Jake crossed beneath the crime scene tape and walked towards me as I stood guard over the covered body holding the bunny suit crew at bay from their forensic harvest. He does have the best poker face of anyone I know, but—ugh! I could practically smell it on him: the blonde waitress from John’s.

I nodded to the Medical Examiner to pull back the sheet from the body. “Looks like your case is closed, too.”

Jake peered down at Jeffery’s corpse on the pavement. “But…he didn’t do that to himself.”

I gazed up overhead at the fat, heavy clouds glowing gray from the city lights. “You don’t have to say it, but you will, won’t you. You can’t help yourself.”

He stared at the eviscerated body that was the subject of an arrest warrant in his Munchausen murder with its intestines wrapped around the neck like a fine silk tie.

“What did you call him? The Baron?”

Jake just nodded.

“I guess he’s still out there.”

“Yeah…in the Darknet.”


Just then Lt. Sands came up behind us. “Well, this looks like nothing but trouble.”

I had called him, too.

“What? Me or the dead body?” Jake asked with a smirk.

“Dead bodies are easy.” Sands put his hand on Jake’s shoulder. “They don’t break any regs, and they don’t smart off.”

“Hi, Lieu. I thought you should know, too.”

“But he got here before me.” He squeezed Jake’s shoulder hard.

“Well, maybe he didn’t have anything better to do at the moment,” I said, staring Jake down. Still, the best poker face ever.

“You know how it is.” Jake gave Lt. Sands a fake wince, then winked. “Most people call 911. I am 911.”

Lt. Sands rolled his eyes and shook his head. “So, what am I looking at, Maddie?”

“No doubt, a big fat ‘I told you so’ coming our way, courtesy of the Geek Squad here,” I said.

“We need to get started,” whined one of the Bunny Suit Boys behind us. “Before it rains again or we’ll lose evidence.”

We backed off, and I waved them forward to process the crime scene.

“You know what this means, right?” Lt. Sands asked us as we huddled apart from the crowd of technicians.

I looked at Jake.

He smiled that crooked, knowing smile of his. “Partners again, huh.”

I clenched my eyes shut and shook my head. Damn it.

“Well, you kids have fun. I’m going back to bed.” Lt. Sands could barely suppress his chuckling. He turned to leave. “Tomorrow afternoon. In my office. We’ll talk. You detectives have a good night—well, morning, now.”

I opened my eyes and caught Jake laughing.

“Come on. It won’t be that bad, will it?”

I pushed past Jake to supervise my crime scene.

Of course, it wasn’t that Jake was a bad cop or difficult to work with. When we were professional partners, we made a good team. Just now…

I suddenly caught movement out of the side of my eye. Rapid footsteps hit the wet pavement. Jake ran by me, and before I even thought about it, I instinctively took off after him like a partner would.

In the dim glow of tired, old street lamps, a short figure fled up the sidewalk ahead of Jake. I slipped between two parked cars to cross the street so I could cut him off if he veered to the left.

No thinking. Just running.

Another block and our runner instinctively paused as if to look both ways for traffic at the deserted intersection. Jake closed the gap between them quickly.

The perp looked over his shoulder and bolted quickly my way, caught sight of me, and zig-zagged back the other way right into Jake’s path.

Instead of tackling, Jake grabbed his collar like the scruff of a dog’s neck, and they twirled in a weird, contorted ballroom dance kind of way around and around and around until they tumbled into a heap on the pavement.

I crossed back over and drew down with my Glock…on a kid. So young I couldn’t tell at first if it was a boy or a girl, especially dressed street-person style in layers of grimy tattered clothes.

Jake scrambled to his feet and held the kid by the collar like a trophy-sized walleye. He panted, “I think we just might have a witness.”

I shot him a look, holstered my weapon and knelt down to eye-level just out of a pre-teen’s arm reach. I saw by the eyes and soft facial features it was a young girl. “Are you okay?”

The kid shrugged and wriggled futilely in Jake’s grasp.

“Hey, settle down,” Jake commanded, with a shake of the girl’s collar.

Our eyes met again. I always liked how he and I were on the same wavelength. Almost like ESP, we were instinctively working the kid Good Cop/Bad Cop. I missed it. It wasn’t there with Walker, who took Jake’s place when he got suspended for shooting the Councilman’s son or now with Sanchez who was still back at the crime scene. I couldn’t even begin to imagine her chasing a perp down the street. And what would the point be? She’s a good cop and all but probably runs a four-hour mile—or maybe “waddles” would be more accurate.


No response, except in the eyes.

“Yeah. Let’s see what we’ve got.”

We led the kid back towards the crime scene but stayed well outside the tape. Jake took her to my unmarked car and sat her in the back seat—Sanchez would be sure to gripe about the body odor.

“Don’t make me cuff you.” Jake made his point with a poke to the shoulder but stood blocking her escape path.

“I’ll be right back.” I smiled, looked towards Jake, and rolled my eyes for the kid’s benefit.

On my way to the food and coffee, I instructed a patrolman to discretely circle around and stand guard down the street and out of sight from the sedan in case the kid tried to take off again.

I grabbed a couple of donuts and a bottled water.

“Whatcha got going on over there?” Sanchez asked, slapping her notepad against her ample thigh like an impatient meter maid.

“I don’t know. Some kid who bolted out of the alley, there. Might have seen something. Maybe.”

“I’ll call Protective Services.”

“Yeah, but maybe give me a few minutes head start with her to see if there’s any there, there.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that. I haven’t met a social worker yet who likes coming out in the middle of the night.”


“Good thing you called him.”


“Jake.” Sanchez smiled. “Foot races ain’t my thing. I don’t think I’ve actually run since the academy.”

“Yeah. At least he’s good for something.” I smiled back.

“Whatever you say, honey.” Sanchez laughed out loud. “I’ll see if I can light a fire under Forensics so we can get out of here before morning rush hour.”

When I got back, Jake drifted away from the sedan to give us some space. Kneeling again, I offered up the donuts. The kid grabbed them both and ate the first one with a fierce animal intensity, then seemed to remember her manners and took a dainty bite out of the second one.


I nodded. “You know the drill, right? We have to call them.”

The kid gave a heavy sigh and washed a bite down with a sip of water.

“You have to?” she whispered.

I nodded. “What name will you give them?”

“Um, Amy, I guess.”

I had to grit my teeth hard to keep from screaming. “Anywhere close to your real name?”

She shook her head. “Why?”

“In case I want to check in on you.”

“I won’t be there long. Never am. And they never come after me.”

“Did you see what happened?” I motioned towards the taped off crime scene with my head, then looked at Jake who hovered just out of ear shot over on the sidewalk. “Trust me, he won’t let it rest and can make life miserable if you let him.”

Amy looked at Jake, then back to me. “It was one of them.”


“You know. A robot.”

“How could you tell?” I had a hard time picking them out myself.

“Not many of ‘em down here under the bridges. They kind of stick out.”

I sighed. The Baron.

“Yeah. I hate them, too,” Amy said, then finished off the second donut.



Murder by Munchausen — $.99 at these Purchase Links

The Darknet: Murder by Munchausen #2 — Pre-Order Now




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