Robert Pimm

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Biotime 4: a desperate TED

Here is the fourth excerpt from my novel Biotime.

I plan to release Biotime in droplets – around 500 words, fairly often.  Feedback welcome: on content, frequency, style or anything else.  I’d love to hear from you.

I’m also publishing a “story so far” post for infrequent readers, bringing together all the excerpts published up to now.

Ghanaian market 3, Nov 04

Ghanaian market – Photo SDT

 

Biotime.  The future, today.  Excerpt 4

[Part 1, Breughel vs Jones, continues]

Ten years of Biotime would change everything.

Breughel had never trusted the middlemen who sprang up when Biotime first appeared. So many old people had fallen prey to fraudsters that they’d coined a term for them. Time-Expired Dotards. TEDs. People at death’s door would pay anything to stay alive. When a life-swapping agent promised to put you in touch with a Biotime donor, usually in a distant country where life was cheap, few TEDs could resist.

The kettle boiled. Breughel concentrated as he poured. Nearly as much water seemed to slop onto the cracked granite work-top as ended up in the pot.

When Breughel had first considered buying Biotime, he’d applied the lessons of a lifetime of caution. He had sought advice from men he trusted. The recommendation of DFLI from the President of the Dutch Diamond Guild had come shortly after Breughel broke his hip. Within six months, Breughel had signed a Life-Swapping contract with the Luxemburg-based company.

The tea was ready. Breughel added a dried-up slice of lemon from a saucer in the fridge and checked his messages. It was 10 o’clock.

Any moment now, Doktor Faustus would confirm that the Biotime reserved for him had come on tap.

Then everything would change.

Once Breughel’s donor had produced his or her first cent of Biotime, DFLI would air-freight the product direct to the Haarlem Life Extension Clinic. The instant Breughel or Lotte consumed it, each would cease to age for 3.65 days. Better still, the progress of his Parkinson’s would be arrested: given enough Biotime, a terminally ill patient could live forever.

Perhaps Lotte might even recover consciousness.

He prodded the screen with the tip of his finger.

Nothing.

It was 10.05. Could Doktor Faustus have ripped him off again?

Was he himself a desperate TED?

The price of Breughel’s Biotime had been nine hundred and eighty thousand dollars a gram, plus DFLI’s commission of 1% of the value of the contract. The terms had seemed reasonable. Without Biotime, he would be dead; and his money would be worth nothing to either him or Lotte.

Breughel’s fortune from a lifetime in the diamond trade had been nearly twelve million dollars. He had calculated that he could buy ten grams and have enough to live on. DFLI had insisted on payment in advance. The donor, they explained, would sign a Termination Contract, and would need the money now. The Biotime would be provided once the donor entered contribution in seven years’ time. Breughel had transferred to DFLI nearly ten million dollars.

Then he had sat back to wait.

The nightmare had lasted seven years.

Almost at once, Breughel’s Life-Swapping partner had demanded more money. Doktor Faustus had been clear that this was illegal. But enforcing the contract with a donor who, they hinted, lived in a country with a corrupt judiciary, had taken sixteen months. Legal costs of over a million dollars had fallen to Breughel.

Each year, costly new complications had arisen. Breughel’s health had declined. Three months ago, the doctor had told Breughel that without access to Biotime he had no more than twelve months to live.

He looked at the screen and saw his breath clouding the air. Why was there no news?

Suddenly, text appeared on the screen.

URGENT INFORMATION FROM DOKTOR FAUSTUS, the heading said.

Breughel frowned as he slowly made out the words.

WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT A SERIOUS PROBLEM HAS ARISEN WITH YOUR LIFE-SWAPPING PARTNER.

[Excerpt ends][Next excerpt]

I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”.   If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side).  I can promise you a fun ride.

If you’d like to read some complete fiction by me, see what you think of my “wonderful, feminist and dark” Hotel Stories.  

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