In Beverley Hills, Jake Moonrath’s pulse pounds as he prepares to re-possess the stolen lifetime of ‘Time-expired Jennifer, biological and chronological age both 54. He is puzzled that her boyfriend, Franco Ardizzione, has a discrepancy of fully 13 years between his biological age – 18 – and his chronological age of 31. That much Biotime would require serious money. Is Franco really nothing but a small-time con-man?
Meanwhile, Athena appears outside the Hughes Procreation Center. She, truly, is mistress of her own destiny.
Across the road from the Hughes perimeter fence, a blonde woman stood outside the Feeding Frenzy milk bar, inspecting her face in the mirror of a scratched, pale-blue powder compact. It was a bright, clear morning, and few people were about. No-one saw that the woman wore no powder, or indeed make-up of any kind; her face was perfect already. When the breeze sent a strand of her hair curling up into the cool moist air she frowned as if troubled by some personal anxiety and snapped the compact shut.
It was nearly time.
Long ago, in another existence, the woman had been trained to ask little, and to give everything. It did not trouble her that only one person would ever know the greatness of what she was about to achieve. It was enough to know that she, Athena, was mistress of her own destiny. She entered the Feeding Frenzy.
The owner of the milk bar was a One Lifer, whose conviction that music should be played loud was classified in most theological reference works as a religious belief. When he saw Athena enter his establishment he at once dried his hands on a towel woven from recycled fibres by Native American artisans and hurried out from behind the counter. The tall blonde woman was his first customer of the day. Her DNA tab registered on his till. Her credit record showed that when she visited cafes, she normally consumed only a single health drink and never left a tip. But when he saw her shift her hips to pass between the tables, and caught her scent as she threw her jacket over a chair, he forgot about tips. It made a nice change from the usual beach bums and health workers who hung out at the milk bar. In fact, he couldn’t help feeling pleased that the cafe was so empty. Perhaps he could strike up a conversation with her.
He had no idea that for the rest of the day it would be standing room only in the Feeding Frenzy.
In Beverly Hills, Jake stepped out of the Cheyenne. The house seemed quiet. But it was hard to be certain. Enforcing Termination Contracts was a delicate business. Many offenders were crazed with fear. None had anything to live for. So they were liable to take their own lives, which legally didn’t belong to them, at the slightest provocation. The whole house might be wired and ready to blow. Even if a million dollars’ worth of ‘Time said otherwise. Open curtains in the front room should place ‘Time-expired Jennifer asleep in bed. Perhaps with a passionthriller or two the night before to weigh down any errant eyelids. That was what Jake had suggested to Jennifer’s boyfriend, Franco Ardizzione.
Jake ran across the fake lawn. Speed was vital.
Right now, his bracelet would be interrogating the tab in his spine to compare the DNA of the blood surrounding it with his identity. The match confirmed, the bracelet would announce, loud and clear, “Biotime Enforcement Officer”.
Not so anyone could hear it, except for the home security system at number 137. As the intruder alarm and data shielding switched themselves off, a stream of data appeared on Jake’s bracelet. ‘Time-expired Jennifer, biological and chronological age both 54, was inside the house. So was Franco Ardizzione, biological 18, chronological 31. Jake frowned. The discrepancy was large for a small-time conman. Could that be significant? Something to check out later. Any moment now… there. The front door of the house swung open as Jake stepped through it.
Into the heart of a gigolo’s gin palace. Everything screamed gloss, from the phosphorescent Outlive-U carpeting to the nozzles of the Dis-Arm/Dat-Arm anti-intruder complex at the angles of the hall. Straight ahead, the wall was playing a tropical beach, waves breaking silently in the rays of a dying sunset. Probably a direct feed wallpaper, Jake thought, a real-time image of a landscape half-way round the world. Soon it would be dark there, night falling at noon in LA.
This one’s for you, Jennifer.
Jake crept towards the bedroom, sneaker-soft on the Outlive-U. He hadn’t felt this nervous since the raid on the West California Access Facility in the Man Without a Past case. If only he could take some Biotime. Contrary to all the scientific evidence, Jake found the precious fluid calmed his nerves. But he’d sworn not to consume another cent before his parents were revived. He gripped his Big Fright scare-o-matic to stop his hand shaking.
Jake’s fringe had fallen forward; when he pushed it back he felt his face slick with sweat. Franco shouldn’t be a problem. But ‘Time-expired Jennifer might do anything. Silently, Jake cursed the red tape which prevented him immobilising her without issuing an oral warning. The Chattanooga court had already declared her ‘Time-expired, had they not?
A groan came from the next room.
[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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