Here is the twenty-third droplet of my novel Biotime. In California, Jake Moonrath heads towards Santa Monica to terminate ‘Time-expired Jennifer. He’s scared – enforcing termination contracts is a ticklish business. He has no idea how much more scared he should be.
‘If you’re the kind of person who likes the idea of staying in bed for the rest of your life, Biotime may be just your cup of tea.’
Early Central Authority advertising, quoted in “Why Biotime Stunts Society”, Zenon Kool, Schlaraffenland Press (out of print)
Northbound on the crumbling concrete of I-405, Jake Moonrath clenched his teeth. Thanks to Rose, he was late for his meeting with ‘Time-expired Jennifer. In fact, Rose had screwed up his entire day.
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!
Jake cranked up the volume, but the music failed to lift his mood. Why? He should be full of joy for sure. Soon he’d be seeing Ed: his closest friend and a top Biotime Enforcement Officer. More than that: Jake shared a professional secret with Ed of which even Ed’s wife Abigail knew nothing. But all Jake could think of right now was the acute risk of life expectancy reduction to which he was about to expose himself.
That, and the note Rose had passed him at the Culver City Contribution Center. It was a print-off from a One Life Trust financial subscription service.
Guys. This is a confidential Platinum Client alert from your friends at the One Life Trust. The numbers continue to add up for us. But not for the rest of the financial sector! The plunging value of our un-favourite commodity means Biotime reserves held by the top ten US banks are now worth less than those banks’ financial obligations for the next twelve months. This is grave shit! A financial tsunami is out there! In the last three hundred years, the OLT has never marked Biotime a “buy” for obvious reasons. Now it’s a must-sell! In fact, we alert all Platinum Clients: get out your financial life preservers and inflate! Those are some big waves coming in!
Across the bottom, Rose – or Sam – had scribbled:
Something weird is happening, Jake. Sure, I always hated the system. But now it’s falling apart. Even the OLT is worried. Be careful, little brother. Something awful is heading our way. LS.
Jake sighed. The One Life Trust was America’s most successful investment bank. But it was, by definition, run by One Lifers who believed that eschewing the use of Biotime gave them an intellectual edge, greater creativity and stronger emotions than people who used the precious life-extension fluid to live beyond their years. So the Trust had always opposed the way Biotime had become a de facto reserve currency for the US financial system.
Rose must be spooked to come all the way to California to hand him her little note. But what could go wrong? People would always want Biotime. The US had been stable, if maybe a little sluggish, for centuries. Most One Lifers were conspiracy theorists, or paranoid, or both.
He smoothed the paper between his fingers, and read it again. Be careful, little brother. Jake’s line of work meant he was careful every day. Sometimes – like the Man Without a Past case – he took risks. But they always paid off.
Jake fought the urge to hit the gas. The Cheyenne could no more exceed forty miles an hour than any other vehicle on the sparsely-populated highway – there seemed to be less traffic each year – and he was locked a safe distance behind the Nagasaki Commemoration up front. He eyed the Korean car’s smooth lines. A classic roadster, much favoured by women. ‘Time-expired Jennifer herself owned one, as it happened. But not for much longer.
Jake had been turned on to the case of ‘Time-expired Jennifer by the Chattanooga Life Exchange Foundation (“CLEF – your key to a better life”) two days before. He’d strolled into his office, hung his shades on the hat stand, and settled down at the desk. Immediately a man with a grey moustache and dark-rimmed glasses had appeared opposite Jake, leaning forward over a second desk which had materialised with him.
‘Baker 309, CLEF, Chattanooga,’ the recorded holo had opened. ‘Case for you.’
It was routine: a cash-poor, mid-aged woman going nowhere, forty years actuarially-certified life expectancy in hand, deciding to cash in her assets.
‘So,’ Baker 309 had said, biting the end off each word as if the CLEF couldn’t afford the holo charges, ‘she takes out a generous Termination Contract with us here in Chattanooga and becomes, maybe for the first and certainly for the last time in her life, rich enough to live in style. Which she then does, with gusto. Nothing wrong with that.’ Baker 309 coughed and wiped his moustache with a handkerchief.
‘However. Following much indulgence in moon-gazing, fancy vacations and so forth, she meets the usual younger man, who says, as young men do – ‘ Baker had coughed again ‘ – beautiful mother, please don’t leave me. Pay no heed, precious angel, to the Biotime-obsessive grey-suits at the CLEF, oh, no. Termination Contract or no, I’ll hide you away in a little house in the big city, and we’ll make love ’til the day we die.’ At last Baker had smiled. ‘Whenever that may be. Well, Mr Moonrath, we’d like you to enforce the contract. The usual commission will be payable.’ So saying, Baker 309 had disappeared.
[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.