Jake’s repossession of ‘Time-expired Jennifer’s stolen lifetime ends in disaster as Franco Ardizzione does something utterly unexpected live on-air with “an ancient handgun – a primitive thing made to fire metal bullets”. Now Jake really has a problem.
‘It’s my job to return stolen Biotime to its owners.’ If only he could tell her about his parents. But she wouldn’t understand. Jake turned to Franco. ‘How the hell do you know about me?’
Suddenly, the little man’s composure cracked. ‘All I know is, you’re the meanest double-crossing bastard I ever set eyes on and… ‘ he slumped to his knees on the Outlive-U. ‘Don’t put me under, man, I’ll do anything, I got ‘Time. Please? I don’t want to wake up 15 years older.’
Jake stepped back. The mood-swing was wrong. ‘Away from the bed, Franco.’
‘I beg you.’ Franco’s voice had dwindled to a whine. His hand was under the bed.
‘Stand up now. Last warning – ‘
Jake flicked off the safety on the Big Fright. In the same instant he saw Franco’s hand emerge, holding something. Instinctively, Jake pulled the trigger. There was a deafening explosion. Something warm spattered his face.
Franco lay on the Outlive-U. In his hand was an ancient handgun, a primitive thing made to fire metal bullets.
‘What was that noise?’ Jennifer stared down at Franco’s body. ‘Is he OK?’
‘He’s sleeping.’ On Jake’s bracelet, the red light burned. ‘I disabled him. He was threatening me.’
‘He’s injured.’ Jennifer pointed. ‘His head.’
She was right. A dark pool was spreading round Franco Ardizzione. Something was trickling down Jake’s cheek. He wiped his face and his hand came away red. A chunk of Franco’s head was missing. Jake knelt down and checked the man’s pulse. Then he stood, senses reeling.
A suspect had died resisting arrest. His death had been broadcast live. Franco would have been facing termination both for ownership of a deadly weapon and, Jake suspected, for other crimes he had yet to investigate. Franco’s biological age was 18. He would have had years to live. All that Biotime would have been the property of the Central Authority. An inquiry was inevitable. It would focus on whether Jake Moonrath could have prevented the squandering of a public asset worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
None of it made sense. The man had only had time for one shot. He’d used it to kill himself.
Jennifer was shaking her head.
‘Franco would never harm himself,’ she said. ‘Or anyone else.’
‘He’s a con-man! He wanted your money. He was ready to sell you out for a million bucks of ‘Time.’
‘He was more than that.’
‘Maybe.’ Jake sighed. ‘But not the way you think.’ If you see anything strange, Rose had said. Well, he wasn’t flying to Kansas to discuss Franco Ardizzione with a bunch of One Lifers. It was time to regain control. He nodded at the transmit light on his bracelet. ”Time-expired Jennifer. You have the right to make a statement before your sentence is carried out.’
‘Don’t call me that.’ Jennifer’s face was pale. ‘You want me to say something on-air? Now?’
‘It’s up to you.’ He wanted to tell the woman she had nothing to fear. But she was a convicted Biotime criminal.
‘OK.’ Jennifer glanced down at Franco’s body, then began to speak, her voice wavering. ‘As an ex-member of the Confederation of US Journalists about to lose the right to life, I’d like to put on record my view that the Central Authority should outlaw the practice of Termination Contracts at once. I also want to declare my support for the One Life movement, although not of course the One Life Army.’
‘Thank you, Jennifer.’ Everyone due for termination wished they’d been a One Lifer. ‘Now back on the bed, please, and I’ll put you out. Relax.’ It was vital she did not injure herself as she lost consciousness. ‘Easy, now.’
Again he released the safety on his Big Fright and pulled the trigger. In an orgasm of rapid data exchange her bracelet responded, checking separately her DNA tab, her security status on the Central Authority’s Federal Unitary Control Computer in Washington (lest she, like Jake, should be registered as disability-immune) and lastly Jake’s own ID – a precaution against the scare-o-matic passing into the wrong hands.
It was done.
For a moment, Jake gazed down at the limp, naked body. It was almost as if she were the victim, not the perpetrator, of a crime.
Then he terminated the holo.
Who the hell was Franco Ardizzione? CLEF in Chattanooga had identified him as a small-time crook who preyed on cash-rich women near their termination dates.
But he’d known about Ed Zipper.
He’d been waiting with a handgun to kill Jake.
He’d killed himself rather than face arrest and questioning.
He’d even admitted another crime, infinitely more egregious than Jennifer’s misappropriation of a single, worn-out lifetime.
Jake checked the time. Now he really had a problem.
[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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