Biotime enforcement agent Jake Moonrath knows that he is the only “informal” Biotime enforcement agent left on the planet: the other 11 were erased in the same instant as the attack on the Hughes Procreation Center in Santa Monica.
Someone has killed plus 10,290 mothers, infants, medical staff and visitors to increase the price of Biotime. Now they’re after Jake. Instead of hiding, he decides to rattle their cage. Go Jake!
Meanwhile at Moon Beach resort, gangland boss KY Sutanto watches whale hunting and indulges in other time-rich activities as he waits for his henchmen to arrive – including Athena, the woman who watched as Santa Monica was destroyed.
When Jake left the Rescue Center he saw dozens of holo crews gathered beyond the cordon. In the absence of new developments, they had formed a glittering armadillo of recording equipment focused on the two rescuers with the net-on-a-pole inside the razor-wire fence. The objects of their attention were competing to deliver the most newsworthy sound-bite.
‘Not a snowball in hell’s chance of anything coming out of this stuff alive,’ the tall man said. He had untidy grey hair and gold-framed glasses. ‘Frankly, we’re wasting our time poking around in there.’
‘Still warm.’ When the smaller man spoke, the cams had to pan down to him. ‘About the only sign of life you’ll find.’
The tall man nodded. ‘Still warm.’
Jake stepped forward. It was time to focus the attention of the whole world on Michael Novak. What had Devonte Ray said? Our only hope lies in secrecy. Jake was taking an insane risk. But if he created some pressure, whoever had destroyed the Hughes Center might react. Might make a mistake.
‘There are survivors,’ Jake said.
The armadillo convulsed as cams swung round. Beasdale, in his white coat, stood next to Jake. Strong visuals, Jake thought.
The press pack paused for a moment as journalists consulted their bracelets; then surged forward.
‘Any sign of your wife?’
‘Think it was the OLA, Alan?’
‘My wife and child died today,’ Jake said.
There was a moment of silence. Next to him, Jake heard Beasdale say “whoosh”.
‘They tell me the price of Biotime is rising because of this.’ Jake clenched the corners of his mouth. ‘And that some people are making a stack of cash.’
‘I’m stocked up.’ Beasdale grinned.
Jake stared at the cams. ‘I believe this is a Biotime crime,’ he said. ‘I believe whoever did this wanted prices to rise.’
‘The One Life Army did it,’ a journalist said. ‘Obviously.’
‘Tell us how you feel, Michael.’
‘Did you see it happen?’
‘Did you love your wife?’
‘Do you want to see the OLA punished?’
‘Why would they do this?’ Jake had to shout above the hubbub. ‘I don’t believe it was the One Life Army.’
‘Who else is against Biotime?’
‘Was your kid born yet?’
‘How did you get out?’
‘Whoosh,’ Beasdale said.
‘Hey, guys!’ Behind the razor-wire fence, the tall man with the untidy hair was waving his arm. ‘We found something truly gruesome.’ A battery of cams turned towards him.
Jake hesitated. Should he say more? Had he done enough? A seed had been planted. Someone, somewhere, would have seen him. If he was right that it wasn’t the One Life Army, whoever had destroyed Hughes and killed the other Informals was working out right now how to kill him. He turned and ducked into the crowd. It was time to become someone else again, fast. His fingers moved towards his bracelet. Nearby he heard Beasdale once again say “whoosh”.
This time followed, unmistakeably, by the chuckle of a happy man.
Moon Beach, Paradise. An idyll in the night. Along the shore black granite flags shelve into the waves. The ranks of viewing stools stand widely spaced, ports faced out into the dark like mute gun turrets. In each, still, breathing deep and yet not sleeping, a single witness to the passage of the moon. Sunk in reveries and deep-pile velour, these connoisseurs of night-time, superegos of the unlit hours, gaze away the hours from dusk ’til dawn. When the orb itself appears, bathed in a pale reflected light, their liquid eyes turn upwards, in fascination of a leisured kind, until at last it sinks from sight, into the distant sea.
Advertising flyer, Moon Beach Resort
Ten minutes’ stroll from Moon Beach, by the side of an indoor swimming pool, a man lay on a sun-lounger. He had dark, wavy hair, calm eyes, and smooth olive skin. Outside, the Florida sun was frying up the down-at-heel on the public beaches. Here, artificial ‘shine from the Big Sun Corporation provided a relaxing and non-carcinogenic alternative set of rays.
The man was studying holo images projected in the void above the water. To the left, live coverage of the Hughes aftermath showed the stooped form of the President of the Central Authority, Thomas 469, visiting the site in Santa Monica. To the right an image of Jake hung over the water, beneath a banner labelled “Michael Novak: Survivor.”
‘Again,’ the man said.
‘I believe whoever did this wanted prices to rise,’ Novak said.
‘I believe whoever did this wanted prices to rise. ‘
The man climbed off the lounger and stood by the pool-side. ‘Whales next. I need to think. Please summon Bean, and Athena, in person. We need to talk privately.’
‘Yes, KY,’ a voice said.
The images from Santa Monica disappeared, to be replaced by the bow of a ship cutting through the water. A small white sun was high in the sky. In the lower left-hand corner, a mass of penguins on an ice floe waddled every few seconds into a new configuration, spelling out the latest price movements on the New York Biotime markets.
KY Sutanto walked to the edge of the pool. It would take his two associates several hours to reach Moon Beach: face-to-face meetings were rare these days. But KY wanted to touch them both. To smell them. In his business, understanding the people you worked with was the difference between life and death. He closed his eyes, lowered his chin to his chest, and began a programme of rhythmic Tai Chi movements.
By the time the door opened, the sun was low on the horizon, peeping out from behind a derrick. The surface of the swimming pool was obscured by the deck of an arctic whaler, on which teams of men in sou’westers were butchering a carcass. As the body was disassembled, streams of blood poured through openings in the sides of the deck. The penguins were gone: now a pattern of offal, mingling with the clear arctic water, showed that the price of Biotime had risen by a further six hundred thousand dollars a gram in the past five hours.
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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