Here is the fifteenth droplet of my novel Biotime. The horrors of Harlem lead to the prohibition of the world’s most sought-after – and, possibly, dangerous – medical treatment. Will prohibition work? Check the precedents.
This episode concludes Pax Vobiscum, Part 2 of Biotime. Up next: Part 3: Biotime.
Don’t forget the “story so far” page, bringing together the excerpts published up to now.
Guggenheim Museum, New York City – Photo Robert Pimm
Biotime. The future, today. Excerpt 15
[Part 2, Pax Vobiscum, continues]
The rest of the nation was dismayed, too. What we discovered inside Pax was abuse of human rights on a sickening scale. The forensic teams discovered eight hundred more donors in production pallets at the site, plus the remains of over two hundred more in the parlor’s over-sized incinerator, partly consumed by fire.
Roland had been wrong when he said the Style Soviet kept the donors in trailers so they could be moved fast. That privilege was reserved for the highest-value donors. The least valuable of the syndicate’s human assets had been left behind for disposal.
“Least valuable” meant “oldest”. Infants could produce as much as 1.5 standard grams of Biotime – for which the criminal Soviet used the codename “Style” – each year. But older contributors could produce as little as 0.75 grams. That, and their lower life expectancy, meant the potential harvest of ‘Time was too low to prioritise their transfer to a new production centre. As defenders armed with automatic weapons slowed down the assault at ground level, so-called medical staff in the cellar had been unplugging one donor after another from life support and feeding them onto the conveyor belt to the incinerator.
I guess it’s no surprise the crematorium at Pax caught everyone’s imagination. It had been used occasionally to dispose of legitimate corpses taken in during the funeral parlor’s cover activities. So it was equipped with automated curtains, soft lighting, and a sound system programmed to produce popular music in a range of styles, swelling to a crescendo as each body was engulfed in flames. The assault team testified that music was still playing when they stormed the building. A scene of sweating medics seeking to erase evidence of their crime to an amplified background of the world’s favourite funeral melodies has featured in every dramatisation of that day.
The revelations didn’t end with the siege. The Fahrenheit 451 boys had also been busy at the incinerator as the NYPD closed in, and few of the facility’s records survived. In the following weeks, however, the breaking down of one hood after another in the face of enthusiastic FBI questioning made it possible to piece together a picture of a crime which had begun eight years previously.
The prisoners’ resistance was low. Of the five top Soviet leaders, known as Chairmen, only one – a psychopathic arms collector who went by the name of Chairman Nero Hatchet – had stayed to defend Pax Vobiscum. The remainder had slipped into the Harlem night. Their colleagues, most of them wounded in the siege, felt betrayed. Basing their defence on the time-honoured principle that they had only been obeying orders, they did their best to provide a water-tight case for any prosecution of the leading offenders which might take place.
Those prosecutions would have been ferocious even without what happened later that morning. At 9.25 a.m., just as TV cameras were surrounding a beaming Roland Nelson cradling in his arms the safely-rescued Rocky, one of the escaped Soviet leaders, self-styled Chairman Divine Caligula, walked into the crowd of journalists, took out a revolver, and fired six shots into Roland Nelson’s chest. Poor Roland died within minutes, despite the efforts of the medics at the scene. Little Rocky, along with his mother Marlene who had been rescued from the conveyor belt when the National Guard stormed Pax, went on to become a leader of the One Lifer movement.
The court cases produced a string of revelations about the so-called Style Soviet. The crime of the century had started off as a haphazard operation, drawing Biotime, or “Style”, from teenagers who happened to fall in with the wrong group of friends. But as the scale of the potential profitability had become apparent, the Soviet had launched a campaign of targeted head-hunting.
Rather than waiting to see what waifs and strays the wind might blow their way, the Soviet embarked on a programme of planned acquisition designed to create an efficient, secure and low-risk Biotime portfolio.
Scouts would work their way through urban neighbourhoods spying out targets. These were usually unemployed or truant young people with time on their hands. Small-time hoods known to their intended victims to be operating on the fringes of the law would approach with offers of employment, usually in an area of semi-legal activity where it might be necessary to go underground for a while. The self-confident young men – males were preferred on account of their higher body weight and slightly greater Biotime production – would deliver themselves up, conveniently making every effort to conceal their destinations from friends, families and the forces of the law.
Having latched onto a victim, the Style Soviet moved through the vacuum created by his or her absence from the scene. Bank accounts were emptied; cars sold; apartments stripped and re-let. In the course of this scavenging, other family members came to light – girlfriends, boyfriends, children and aged relatives. The Soviet realised that they could reduce the likelihood of their original felony coming to light while opening an additional seam of donors by subsuming such uninvited guests into Biotime production.
According to the confessions, the Soviet had no policy of targeting infants. But the flow of dependants left the group in possession of a growing stock of babies, some as young as a few months old. But for the intervention of New York City’s finest, they might have provided a supply of Biotime to their kidnappers for decades.
So, that’s how it happened. Of course, history is shaped by the guys with the best holo images. So the infant Biotime donors of Pax Vobiscum were sure to have repercussions. And who can forget little Rocky Nelson? When Roland appeared from the back of a truck with the child in his arms, the image was iconic. So was the picture of another black police officer cradling Little Rocky as we both looked down at the body of his slain father. That police officer was me, Devonte Ray.
You all know what came next. The idea that photogenic toddlers could spend their lives strapped unconscious in steel cages, delivering a product many establishment-minded US citizens used daily, set off a storm of revulsion. Within weeks, Biotime was prohibited in the US. Lynch mobs stormed through Mid-West towns, meting out summary justice to bootleggers. For a couple of years, it seemed like the world’s favourite product was finished for good in the United States of America. Of course, we all know now it wasn’t the case.
But that’s another story.
[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.
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