I recently read a short story online about a killer that was given a brain implant to control bad thoughts. I think the killer then finds another killer and has to decide whether to circumvent the implant in order to survive. I also believe the protagonist was female but I could be wrong.

In response to Richard's comment, I think the second killer's influence is that he's going to attack the protagonist so she needs to circumvent the implant in order to be able to defend herself.

I thought it was on Tor, but I went through their online stories and cannot find it.

  • Why does the presence of another killer force this decision?
    – Valorum
    Jan 1, 2015 at 18:20
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure I remember this. Brain implant that detects "bad thoughts" and reacts by punishing the wearer with an electric shock, right? And the protagonist is a police woman. But this was a full novel, not a short story. And I forgot the title and author.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 1, 2015 at 21:01
  • I think I remember the story as well.The killer has to circumvent the control, because the second killer is after her. She keeps thinking that this is what she would do in similar circumstances to evade the killer getting her. I also thought it was a TOR short story.
    – KenM
    Jan 2, 2015 at 1:59
  • Mr Lister seems to be describing The Terminal Man by Crichton, which was also my first thought. Jan 2, 2015 at 3:08
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    @OrganicMarble Yes, that's the one.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 2, 2015 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


Parts of your description sound like "Spook," a short story by Bruce Sterling (published in "Crystal Express" with several other Shaper/Mechanist stories and a few fantasy stories).

I'm too lazy to go dig my copy out, an online summary says that

In "Spook," the earth has suffered a "brain drain" through mass emigrations to space leaving a world populated mainly with "undesirables." The powers-diat-be have their hands full trying to maintain a semblance of order and control; faced with a potential uprising in Central America, they contract the services of a futuristic secret agent - the "spook" of the title - to quell the insurgency. The denouement to this space-age thriller is devasting.

The spook has some sort of implant that represses his memory and most of his feelings. He's infected with a tailored virus and heads to the jungle to deal with a popular uprising that threatens the powerful corporations. There,

he runs into another spook who's had her implant removed. She gets the drop on him, they remove his implant and when he wakes up in a hospital he remembers other assignments he's been sent on where he was basically programmed to massacre groups the corporations don't like. He appears to be on his way to joining the insurgency.

Then the story jumps to the spook being back in the office of the guy who dispatched him, explaining what happened and it turns out,

that despite having the implant removed, he still wipes out everyone involved in the uprising because he's too far gone and wants the implant back so he can stop feeling and remembering things. (I don't know if devestating is the word I'd use, but there is a pretty awesome twist in the story that I haven't included.)


I think the short story you're looking for is "Covenant" by Elizabeth Bear. You may have read it here. The protagonist is a serial killer, who had a brain implant and sex change to female as sentencing for his crimes. She is captured by a serial killer, and she uses her memories of what she would have done to help her escape.

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