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Jake has thrown down the gauntlet to whoever destroyed the Hughes Procreation Center. He showed his face to the media and promised to come after them. Now, he knows they’re after him. He changes ID, then flees from Santa Monica to New York City by long-distance autocab. In these days where every second you’re alive is beyond price, no life insurance company allows its clients to fly. Only the One Lifers indulge in intense and dangerous habits…
Jake awoke outside Tucumcari to find his body dank with sweat and the arid scrub alongside the Interstate bathed in moonlight. It was 3.43 a.m. Long-distance autocabs were so safe they were permitted to travel at up to 60 miles an hour. But with refuelling stops, the trip would still take two days. Desperately slow; but like the slogan said, You’d Have to be Mad to Fly. Most life insurance companies would not allow it if you had significant life expectancy.
He’d been dreaming again. His parents’ dead bodies on a viewing platform, rotten and decayed. In the visitors’ chairs, the corpses of Ed and Abigail. Only the security guards were the same, their leather uniforms gleaming, Big Frights ready. (more…)
Gangland boss KY Sutanto summons lieutenants Bean and Athena to tackle Jake Moonrath’s live challenge to whoever destroyed the Hughes Procreation Center in Santa Monica and its 10,290 residents. But can KY trust his people? Athena, a former female access product turned assassin, may have her own agenda.
The new arrival was a stocky man whose eyes were permanently narrowed, as if confronting bad news or bright light. A black singlet exposed powerful arms, liberally endowed with the same curly red hair which sprouted from his head. Amidst the freckles which peppered his left shoulder was a tattoo of a severed hand transfixed by a hunting knife. He scratched his head and looked at KY, who was standing on one leg with his hands together at his breast as if in prayer.
‘KY. You called for me.’
‘Thank you, Bean.’ KY opened his eyes and lowered the leg which had been raised. Behind him a slab of meat fell to the deck, appearing to throw a spray of gore towards them both. ‘Come.’
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 Moonrath, having adopted the identity of Michael Novak – a man killed in the destruction of the Hughes Procreation Center in Santa Monica – visits the rescue pod to try and find what has happened. Could the atrocity be linked to the fact that the killing of 10,290 mothers, infants medical staff and visitors has sent Biotime prices in the US rocketing? Since everyone in the US owns Biotime – in the form of their own lives – everyone just got richer. But who benefits the most?
Jake has an idea. Now it’s time to strike back.
‘My name’s Michael Novak. My wife and child are missing.’ Jake tapped his bracelet. ‘I’m grieving. I’m angry. And I’m coming in.’ A dozen holo crews were crowding around. Jake stepped forward. The cop hesitated, and Jake was inside. When the news teams made to follow, one of the traffic police unholstered a Big Fright, and everyone froze.
Except Jake. ‘You can’t disable me,’ he said. ‘I’m bereaved.’ He entered the rescue center before the cop had a chance to consider this further.
The interior of the pod was crammed with emergency personnel, communications equipment and holo images. Jake saw a huddle of men in one corner in what looked like army uniforms. Everyone seemed to be shouting.
‘Mr Novak!’ A man with a bushy moustache was approaching, wearing a bright yellow firefighter’s helmet emblazoned with the words John McNeill Chief Rescuer. ‘You’re alive! This is great news.’ He grasped Jake’s hand in a two-handed grasp and shook it vigorously. ‘You just doubled our survival ratio.’
Biotime Informal agent Jake Moonrath debates with his boss Devonte Ray, head of the Home Security Bureau of the Central Authority, how to respond to the killing of 10,290 people at the Hughes Procreation Center. Devonte tells Jake he’s on his own – only one other Informal agent is left alive. But when Jake arrives at the scene of the disaster he finds – nothing. Nothing whatsoever.
‘I can’t understand why he’s still President of the Central Authority. He hasn’t done a day’s work for two centuries.’
‘He is President, Jake, first, because he was a political appointee. Second, because there is no candidate to replace him. Third, and most important, during his time in office the Central Authority has thrived. Gone from strength to strength. A runaway success. He’s a figurehead. An icon. An institution.’
‘But why not put in someone with ideas?’
‘Never underestimate the desirability of doing nothing, Jake. Put in someone with ideas at the top, and anything can happen.’
Jake Moonrath learns of the destruction of the Hughes Procreation Center and its 10,290 born and unborn occupants. He discusses with his boss, Devonte Ray, whether the terrorist organisation The One Life Army (slogan: Extreme suffering justifies extreme measures) could be responsible. Jake also learns that he is the only Informal agent of the Home Security Bureau who is still alive. And whoever destroyed Hughes is out to kill Jake, too.
Dev Ray – a man legendary for having known Roland Nelson personally – is one of my favourite characters in Biotime: “After centuries as a bureaucrat, Dev had a tendency not only to speak extremely slowly, but to say everything in triplicate.”
In response to popular demand, and as Easter is coming, this droplet of Biotime is longer than previous episodes. Enjoy!
‘My first impression? Like a gigantic dried-up clam and tomato dip, spiced with Tabasco.’
Schlaraffenland Broadcast News reporter Dusty Oldman describing the remains of the Hughes Procreation Center
‘Speak to me, Jake. Speak.’
Jake raised his head. Devonte Ray, head of the Home Security Bureau, appeared to be sitting on the black plastic of the Cheyenne’s rear seat. His short, tightly-curled hair was pure white. His lips were chapped. A line of sun-block ran down the centre of his nose. He looked way older than his 65 biological, Jake thought. If Dev Ray hadn’t known the great Roland Nelson personally, you’d have thought he was a One Lifer.
‘You know?’ It was all Jake could manage.
‘Yes. I know.’
There was a silence.
At last Jake spoke. ‘Is Ed really dead?’
‘Everyone on-site.’ When Devonte Ray frowned, the wrinkles which crowded his face collapsed into one another. ‘Each person. Without exception.’
Jake searches Franco Ardizzione’s house; finds evidence of a Biotime crime; then sets off to meet his best friend Ed Zipper before Ed’s wife Abigail can give birth at the Hughes Procreation Center. Before he can reach Santa Monica, a news flash interrupts all programming:
In a corner of the holo, Jake saw the anchor shaking her head. Her image disappeared for a few long seconds. When it reappeared, her cheeks and nose were red.
‘This is an announcement from the Central Authority.’ She paused, and took a deep breath.
Franco Ardizzione’s body lay motionless beside the bed. It took Jake seconds to transmit the contents of Franco’s bracelet to the Home Security Bureau. The experts in Aspen would analyse every detail of the dead man’s credit, purchase and employment records, travel, communications and health. If they wanted, they could access his pulse, blood pressure and drug consumption record since the day was born. Soon they would know Franco better than the little man had ever known himself.
But Jake hadn’t come for Franco’s bracelet.
He checked the bedroom and the holo chamber, where he was distracted to find girl triplets from a romance weepy, undisturbed by the past hour’s events, still plotting their revenge on the cad who’d jilted all three of them. The hygiene area offered little scope for hiding anything; but the kitchen was a favourite place, packed with bulky electrical appliances. An inspection of an antique food processor revealed nothing untoward. The circuitry of the US-manufactured Dial-Eze ordering terminal seemed no messier than usual, and the home laundry center had obviously not been shifted since the house was built.
Jake stood in the centre of the kitchen. It was mid-day. The CA recovery team would be here any moment. “I got ‘Time,” Franco had said. Where did he keep it?