While the ominous Athena polishes off a nourishing energy drink in the Feeding Frenzy in Santa Monica, Biotime agent Jake Moonrath is in Beverley Hills, face to face with ‘Time-expired Jennifer – the woman whose lifetime he has come to repossess. Why is her boyfriend, Franco Ardizzione, so cool when he looks down the muzzle of a Big Fright? Jake is uneasy. But not as uneasy as ‘Time-expired Jennifer.
A groan came from the next room. Jake slowly raised the Big Fright. Disabler: ready. The old men in Washington had been procrastinating over changing the Criminal Justice Act for decades. Hands: steady. So the guys on the front line had to creep around risking their lives (valuable) and those of their targets (value actuarially assessed) to preserve someone’s precious civil liberties. Civil liabilities, more like. Taking two steps back, Jake launched himself into the bedroom.
Jake had only one thought as he rolled twice across the floor, leapt to his feet, and waved his Big Fright at the two very naked people on the bed. He should have known what the targets were doing. His bracelet could tell. But the Biotime-dependent veterans on the Hill didn’t allow Enforcement Officers to exploit the potential of the equipment, did they? So Jake hadn’t known that ‘Time-expired Jennifer and Franco Ardizzione were making love. If you could call it that.
Jennifer was old. Jake had imagined someone more glamorous, more full of life. He felt a pulse of pity at the sight of her knobbly knees, her bony feet, and Franco’s hairy ass.
‘Biotime Enforcement Officer!’ Jake yelled. ‘Any movement and I open fire.’ He brandished the scare-o-matic. Its hideous mass performed no function except to house the tab-disabler which, having issued the prescribed oral warning, he was now entitled to use. He could no more do actual bodily harm to either of these two than he could fly: she alone was worth over a hundred million dollars alive, and a load of lawsuits dead. But research had shown that people responded better to instructions when facing a perceived threat of pain, injury or death. Most Enforcement Officers agreed it felt good to have a scare-o-matic under your belt. People respected you more.
‘Stand up. I need to see you.’ Behind the bed, the walls glowed orange with exposed flesh, some part of the human anatomy so enlarged that Jake could not immediately recognise what it was. ‘That’s it.’
They were both standing now, bodies pasty in the glow of the screens. Next to Jennifer, Franco looked like a child: short, with a firmly-muscled body. The little man was alert, watching Jake with a disconcerting familiarity. Who was this guy?
‘Have you anything to say before you are disabled?’ Jake activated his bracelet, as required by law, and held it towards them. The transmit light twinkled. The arrests were now going out live on the Biotime Enforcement Channel.
Jake had addressed Jennifer. Her soft green eyes might have been beautiful had they not been full of sadness. So many times he’d seen it, the despair of the endless night to come. Once he put her under she’d spend the rest of her life on the slab at CLEF. But it was Franco who answered.
‘You’re late,’ he said. ‘You don’t know how lucky you are.’
‘I make it my job to be lucky.’
Franco shook his head, but said nothing. He seemed unnaturally calm for someone looking down the muzzle of a Big Fright.
Jennifer was staring at her lover. ‘This is who you were waiting for? Are you crazy? He’s a Biotime Enforcement Officer.’
Jake had a sense of something slipping away. ‘I promised you a third of a gram bounty to bring her in, Franco,’ he said. ‘One million bucks’ worth. But I’m taking you in too, for Biotime theft.’
Franco’s gaze was still fixed on Jake. ‘I heard you were always on time. So when you didn’t show, I figured you’d gone to see your friend. That would do the job. I thought I’d use the time to say goodbye to Jennifer.’
He knew about Ed. How was that possible? And what did he mean, that would do the job?
But ‘Time-expired Jennifer had heard something else.
‘Franco! A bounty? Can’t you see we’re in this together, sweetheart, you and I? Look at yourself. In it. Right up to here.’ Her hands being in the air, she jerked her chin up to indicate submersion. ‘He’ll take you down for helping me evade my contract. That’s a Biotime crime. Your penalty is half what you were trying to steal. Did he give you anything in writing? Like hell. So I’m on the block for 30 actuarial, you get 15 years.’ She looked back at Jake. ‘And what’s your bonus, mister?’
‘One per cent of Biotime recovered.’ Jake frowned at Franco.
‘So if I’m worth thirty and Franco’s going down for fifteen, that’s zero point four five grams for you. Nearly six months of ‘Time.’ Jennifer looked older every second as the colour rose to her face. ‘Nice day’s work.’
[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.