John Scalzi’s Lock In

Lock In by John Scalzi: Chapter 3

Read a free excerpt from Lock In, John Scalzi’s new novel, out on August 26 from Tor Books! And check back every morning for another chapter from Scalzi’s new science fiction thriller.

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent—nearly five million souls in the United States alone—the disease causes “lock in”: Victims are fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to any stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.  

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. They are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “Integrator”—someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder will be that much more complicated.  

But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe the puzzle that ensues. As Shane and Vann begin to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery—and the real crime—is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with change comes opportunity that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture.  

For additional context, check out “Unlocked,” a short story by John Scalzi set in this world.


Chapter Three

So, to recap,” Samuel Schwartz said, and held up a hand to tick off points. “Illegally stunning my client when he was not offering any resistance, detaining him without cause in a holding cell, and then two separate law enforcement agencies, one local, one federal, question him without making him aware of his rights and without his lawyer present. Have I missed anything, Captain? Agent Vann?”

Captain Davidson shifted uncomfortably in his desk chair. Vann, standing behind him, said nothing. She was looking at Schwartz, or more accurately, at his threep, standing in front of the captain’s desk. The threep was a Sebring-Warner, like mine, but it was the Ajax 370, which I found mildly surprising. The Ajax 370 wasn’t cheap, but it also wasn’t the top of the line, either for Sebring-Warner or for the Ajax model. Lawyers usually went for the highend imports. Either Schwartz was clueless about status symbols or he didn’t need to advertise his status. I decided to run him through the database to see which was the case.

“Your client never expressed his right to remain silent or his desire for a lawyer,” Davidson said.

“Yes, it’s strange how getting hit with fifty thousand volts will keep a person from verbalizing either of those, isn’t it,” Schwartz said.

“He didn’t ask for them after he got here, either,” Vann noted.

Schwartz turned his head to her. The Ajax 370 model’s stylized head bore some resemblance to the Oscar statuette, with subtle alterations to where the eyes, ears and mouth would be, both to avoid trademark issues and to give humans conversing with the threep something to focus on. Heads could be heavily customized, and a lot of younger Hadens did that. But for adults with serious jobs, that was déclassé, which was another clue to Schwartz’s likely social standing.

“He didn’t have to, Agent Vann,” Schwartz said. “Because he called me before the cops stunned him into silence. The fact he called a lawyer is a clear indication that he knew his rights and intended to exercise them in this case.” He turned his attention to Davidson. “The fact your officers deprived him of his ability to affirm his right does not mean he refused his right, even if he did not reiterate that fact here.”

“We could argue that point,” Davidson said.

“Yes, let’s,” Schwartz said. “Let’s go to the judge right now and do that. But if you’re not going to do that, then you need to let my client go home.”

“You’re joking,” Vann said.

“You can’t see me smile at that comment, Agent Vann,” Schwartz said. “But I promise you the smile is there.”

“Your client was in a room with a dead body, the guy’s blood all over him,” Vann said. “That’s not the mark of complete innocence.”

“But it’s not the mark of guilt either,” Schwartz said. “Agent Vann, you have a man who has no previous police record. At all. Not even for jaywalking. His line of business requires him to surrender control of his body to others. As a consequence of that, from time to time he meets clients he does not personally know, who conduct business with others he also does not personally know. Such as the dead gentleman at the Watergate.”

“You’re saying your client was integrated at the time of the murder,” I said.

Schwartz turned and looked at me for what I suspected was the first time in the entire conversation. As with Schwartz’s threep, mine had a fixed head, which showed no expression. But I had no doubt he was sizing up my make and model just as I had sized up his, looking for clues as to who I was and how important I was to the conversation. That, and taking in my badge, still in my chest display slot.

“I am saying that my client was in that hotel room on business, Agent Shane,” he said, after a moment.

“Then tell us who he was integrated with,” Vann said. “We can take it from there.”

“You know I can’t do that,” Schwartz said.

“Vann tracks down creeps with threeps all the time,” Davidson said, motioning at Vann. “That’s nearly her whole job, as far as I understand it. There’s no law against tracking a person back from information on their threep.”

Out of reflex I moved to correct Davidson’s bad comparison, then caught Vann’s glance at me. I stopped.

Schwartz was silent for a moment, then Davidson’s tablet pinged. He picked it up.

“I just sent you ten years of case law about the status of Integrators, Captain,” Schwartz said. “I did it because Integrators are relatively rare and therefore, unlike Agents Vann and Shane here, who are currently being wholly disingenuous, you might be speaking out of genuine ignorance and not just your usual levels of casual obstructionism.”

“All right,” Davidson said, not looking at his tablet. “And?”

“Superficially, Integrators perform the same role as Personal Transports,” Schwartz said. “They allow those of us who have been locked in by Haden’s syndrome to be mobile, to work, and to participate in society. But this,” Schwartz tapped his threep’s chest with his knuckles, “is a machine. Without its human operator, it’s a pile of parts. It has no more rights than a toaster—it’s property. Integrators are humans. Despite the superficial resemblance to what threeps do, what Integrators do is a skill and profession— one that they train hard for, as Agent Vann can no doubt tell you.” He turned to Vann at this point. “Speaking of which, now you can tell Captain Davidson where I’m going with this.”

“He’s going to argue there’s Integrator-client privilege,” Vann said, to Davidson.

“Like attorney-client privilege, or doctor-patient privilege, or confessor-parishioner privilege,” Schwartz said, and pointed at Davidson’s tablet. “And I’m not going to argue it, since the courts have already done so, and have affirmed, consistently, that Integrator-client confidentiality is real and protected.”

“No Supreme Court cases,” Vann said.

“And that should tell you something,” Schwartz said. “Namely, that the idea of Integrator-client privilege is so noncontroversial that no one’s bothered to appeal it all the way up. That said, please note Wintour v. Graham, affirmed by the D.C. Court of Appeals. It applies directly here.”

“So you’re going to argue your client didn’t murder anyone, it was his client who did it,” Davidson said. “And that you can’t tell us who that client is.”

“He can’t tell you who the client is, no,” Schwartz said. “And we aren’t saying it was murder. We don’t know. Since neither Metro nor the Bureau has bothered to charge my client with murder yet, I’m guessing neither do you, at least not yet.”

“But you do know,” Vann said. “Bell said he’s been recording everything. He’d have a record of the murder.”

“First, if you try to use anything my client said to you in that illegal interrogation of him in any way, I’m going to make life very difficult for you,” Schwartz said. “Second, even if there is a record of what happened in that room, it’s covered by privilege. My client’s not going to turn it over. You can try to get a warrant for it if you like. All we will attest to is that my client was working from the moment he stepped into that room until the moment your goons assaulted him,” Schwartz pointed at Davidson for emphasis, “and dragged him out of there. He’s not responsible, and you have nothing. So either arrest him and let me go to work dismantling your case and setting up a ver y profitable suit for police harassment, or get him out of that interrogation room right now and let him go home. These are your options, Captain Davidson, Agent Vann.”

“How does he get to have you as a lawyer?” I asked.

“Excuse me?” Schwartz asked, turning back to me.

“You’re general counsel at Accelerant Investments, Mr. Schwartz,” I said, reading from the data I had pulled up. “That’s a Fortune 100 company. It has to keep you busy. I don’t suspect you have a private practice on the side, or that Mr. Bell could afford you if you did. So I’m wondering what Mr. Bell has done to deserve having someone of your caliber show up here to spring him.”

Another second of silence from Schwartz, and Davidson’s tablet pinged again. He opened the ping, looked at it, and then turned it around to show me and Vann. The tablet was open to a colorful site full of baby goats and merry-go-rounds.

“It’s called ‘A Day in the Park,’ ” Schwartz said. “Not everyone who’s locked in is a lawyer or a professional, as I am sure you are amply aware. Some of those who are locked in are developmentally challenged. For them, operating a PT is difficult or next to impossible. They spend their days under very controlled stimulus. So I run a program that lets them out for a day in the park. They go to the petting zoo, ride rides, eat cotton candy, and otherwise get to enjoy their lives for a couple of hours. You should know about it, Agent Shane. Your father has been one of its co-sponsors for the last seven years.”

“My father doesn’t outline all his charitable work with me, Mr. Schwartz,” I said.

“Indeed,” Schwartz said. “In any event. Mr. Bell donates his time for this program. He does more for it than any other local Integrator here in D.C. In return I told him if he ever needed a lawyer, he should call me. And here we are.”

“That’s a sweet story,” Davidson said, putting down the tablet.

“I suppose it is,” Schwartz said. “Especially because now I’m going to give my client a happy ending to this particular problem. W hich will either be his freedom, or a retirement-level settlement from both the Metro Police Department and the FBI. Your call, Captain, Agent Vann. Tell me what it will be.”

■ ■ ■

“Your thoughts,” Vann said, at lunch.

“About this case?” I asked. We were sitting in a holein-the-wall Mexican place not too far from the Second Precinct. Vann was plowing through a plate of carnitas. I was not, but a quick status check at home told me that my body had gotten its noontime supply of nutritional liquid. So I had that going for me.

“Obviously, about the case,” Vann said. “It’s your first case. I want to see what you’re picking up and what you’re missing. Or what I’m missing.”

“The first thing is that the case should now be all ours,” I said. “Schwartz admitted Bell was working as an Integrator. Standard procedure with Hadens means that the case needs to be transferred to us.”

“Yes,” Vann said.

“Do you think there’s going to be a problem with this?” I asked.

“Not with Davidson,” Vann said. “I’ve done him some favors and he and I don’t have any problems with each other. Trinh will be pissy about it, but I don’t really care about that and neither should you.”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so,” Vann said. “What else.”

“Since the case is ours now, we should have the body sent to the Bureau for our people to look at,” I said.

“Transfer order already processed,” Vann said. “He’s on the way now.”

“We should also get all the data from Metro. High resolution this time,” I said, remembering Trinh’s last bit of feed.

“Right,” Vann said. “What else.”

“Have Bell followed?”

“I put in a request. I wouldn’t count on it.”

“We won’t put a tail on a potential murder suspect?”

“You might have noticed we have a protest march coming into town this weekend,” Vann said.

“That’s Metro’s problem,” I said.

“Dealing with the logistics of the march, yes,” Vann said. “Keeping tabs on the protest leaders and other highvalue individuals, on the other hand, is all us. What about Schwartz?”

“He’s a schmuck?” I ventured.

“Not where I was going,” Vann said. “Do you believe his story about how he happened to be Bell’s lawyer?”

“Maybe,” I said. “Schwartz is really rich. I checked when I pulled his data earlier. Through Accelerant, he’s worth at least two or three hundred million. Really rich folks do a lot of reputational transactions.”

“I have no idea what you just said.” Vann stuck another piece of carnitas into her mouth.

“Rich people show their appreciation through favors,” I said. “When everyone you know has more money than they know what to do with, money stops being a useful transactional tool. So instead you offer favors. Deals. Quid pro quos. Things that involve personal involvement rather than money. Because when you’re that rich, your personal time is your limiting factor.”

“Speaking from experience?” Vann asked.

“Speaking from very close observation, yes,” I said. That seemed a good enough answer for Vann. “So you think this could be a case of noblesse oblige on the part of Schwartz toward a hired hand.”

“I’m saying it wouldn’t surprise me,” I said. “Unless you think there’s something else there.”

“I do think there’s something else there,” Vann said. “Or someone else. Lucas Hubbard.”

I sat there, thinking about the name Vann said. Then it smacked me like a fish across the head. “Oh, man,” I said.

“Yeah,” Vann said. “Chairman and CEO of Accelerant. The single richest Haden on the planet. Who lives in Falls Church. And who almost certainly uses an Integrator for board meetings and in-person negotiations. You need a face for face-to-face meetings. One that moves. No offense.”

“None taken,” I said. “Do we know if Nicholas Bell is the Integrator he uses?”

“We can find out,” Vann said. “There aren’t that many Integrators in the D.C. area, and half of them are women, which rules them out, given what I know about Hubbard.”

“I know people who have Integrators tied up on longterm service contracts,” I said. “Locks up their use except for NIH-required public service. If Bell’s on a contract we could find that out, and for whom.”

“Yeah,” Vann said. “I hate that shit.”

“Abrams-Kettering,” I said. “You said it to Bell, Vann. They passed that law and suddenly a lot of folks have to think about where their paychecks are coming from. Everyone around Hadens has to change the way they do business. Rich Hadens can pay for Integrators. Integrators have to eat.”

Vann looked grumpily into her plate of food.

“This shouldn’t be a surprise to you—” I said. I wanted to segue into asking her about her time as an Integrator, but got a ping before I could.

“Excuse me a minute,” I said to Vann, who nodded. I opened up a window in my head and saw Miranda, my daytime nurse. She was in the foreground. In the background was me, in my room.

“Hi, Miranda,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Three things,” she said. “One, that bedsore on your hip is back. Have you felt it yet?”

“I’ve been busy working my threep today, so I’m sensory forward here,” I said. “I haven’t really noticed anything going on with my body.”

“All right,” Miranda said. “I’ve numbed it in any event. We’re going to have to change your body movement schedule a bit to work around the sore, so don’t be surprised if you come home today and you’re facedown on the bed.”

“Got it,” I said.

“Two, remember that at four Dr. Givens is here to work on your molar. You’re going to want to dial your body sensitivity way down for that. She tells me it’s likely to get messy.”

“It doesn’t seem fair I get cavities when I don’t even use my teeth,” I joked.

“Three, your mother came in to tell me to remind you that she expects you home in time for the get-together at seven. She wanted me to remind you that it is in your honor, to celebrate your new job, so don’t embarrass her by being late.”

“I won’t,” I said.

“And I want to remind you to tell your mother that it’s not my job to forward messages to you,” Miranda said. “Especially when your mother is perfectly capable of pinging you herself.”

“I know,” I said. “Sorry.”

“I like your mom but if she keeps up this Edwardian shit, I may have to chloroform her.”

“That’s fair,” I said. “I’ll talk to her about it, Miranda. I promise.”

“All right,” Miranda said. “Let me know if the bed sore starts to bother you. I’m not happy it came back.”

“I will. Thank you, Miranda,” I said. She disconnected and I reconnected with Vann. “Sorry about that.”

“Everything all right?” she asked.

“I have a bedsore,” I said.

“You going to be all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” I said. “My nurse is rotating me.”

“There’s an image,” Vann said.

“Welcome to the Haden life,” I said.

“Not to assume too much, but I’m surprised you don’t have one of those cradles designed to keep down bed sores and exercise your muscles and such.”

“I do,” I said. “I just ulcerate easily. It’s a condition. Entirely unrelated to the Haden’s. I would have it even if I weren’t, you know.” I motioned with my arm, to display my threep. “This.”

“Sucks,” Vann said.

“We all have problems,” I said.

“Let’s get back to Bell,” Vann said. “Anything else we should be thinking about?”

“Do we need to consider his sister?” I asked.

“Why would we need to do that?” Vann asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe because Cassandra Bell is the best-known Haden separatist in the country, and currently spearheading a general strike and that protest march you were reminding me about?”

“I know who she is,” Vann said. “What I’m asking is why you think it’s relevant.”

“I don’t know that it is,” I said. “On the other hand, when the previously under-the-radar Integrator brother of a famous Haden radical is intimately involved in what looks to be a murder, using his body as the weapon, I think we might have to consider all the angles.”

“Hmmm,” Vann said. She turned back to her plate.

“So,” I said, after a minute. “Did I pass the audition?”

“You’re a little edgy,” Vann said, to me.

“I’m nervous,” I said. “It’s my second day on the job. The first one with you. You’re the senior partner. I want to know how I’m working out for you.”

“I’m not going to give you participation ribbons every couple of hours, Shane,” Vann said. “And I’m not that mysterious. If you piss me off or annoy me, I’m going to let you know.”

“Okay,” I said.

“So stop worrying about how you’re doing, and just do the job,” Vann said. “Tell me what you think, and tell me what you think about what I’m thinking. You don’t have to wait for me to ask. All you have to do is pay attention.”

“Like when you looked over to me today in Davidson’s office,” I said.

“When you were going to contradict Davidson about threeps and Integrators being more or less the same thing,” Vann said. “Yes, that’s an example. I’m glad you caught it. You don’t need to be helping Schwartz.”

“He was right, though. Schwartz, I mean.”

Vann shrugged at this.

“Are you saying I should just shut up every time someone says something stupid or factually wrong about Hadens?” I asked. “I just want to be clear what you’re asking.”

“I’m saying pay attention to when it makes sense to say something,” Vann said. “And pay attention to when it makes sense to hold it in for the moment. I get that you’re used to saying what you think to anyone, anytime. That comes from being an entitled rich kid.”

“Come on,” I said.

Vann held up a hand. “Not a criticism, an observation. But that’s not the job, Shane. The job is to watch and learn and solve.” She popped the final piece of carnitas into her mouth, then reached into her suit jacket for her electronic cigarette.

“I’ll try,” I said. “I’m not always good at shutting up.”

“That’s why you have a partner,” Vann said. “So you can vent at me. Afterward. Now, come on. Let’s get back to work.”

“Where to now?”

“I want to get a better look at that hotel room,” Vann said, and sucked on her cigarette. “Trinh hustled us through it pretty quickly. I’m ready for a slow dance.”


Lock In copyright © 2014 John Scalzi


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