Read an Excerpt
Look What I Found
Though he was filthy from head to toe, bloodied, and his skin shredded as thoroughly as a cat's scratching post, Omad couldn't suppress a grin. He was a miner with a knack for finding veins of valuable material even in old, worked-out quarries, and he felt in his bones that today was his day. Today he'd find something valuable enough to achieve his dream, and achieve it at the respectably early age of sixty-nine. His stock was selling for 183 credits a share, and all he needed was one more good find and GCI would owe him enough credits to enable him to buy a majority of himself. Even if his stock price rose, as was often the case with personal success, he could still make majority. He'd just have to pray that his personal valuation wouldn't go over 200 credits a share, and that he'd take home at least 20,000 credits from this venture. Yes, Omad was 100 shares away from controlling himself. He could taste it. The thought of being able to choose his own vacation times and consume what ever substance he wanted, when he wanted, almost made him too excited to work. But he quelled his feelings of joy and concentrated on the task at hand.
He was walking into a mine on GCI's property that hadn't been worked in centuries, and he was walking in without a corporation mine car or drill-bot. The less of GCI's equipment he used, the less of a percentage they'd be able to claim of his profits. It wasn't the norm, and he'd never have been as successful without corporate sponsorship and equipment, but this was different. Though it might take a little longer, this excavation would have to be donecarefully and in person. Maximum allowable risk for maximum profit, and the risks were real.
Still, it was in these old mines that sometimes one got lucky. The technology of mineral extraction had improved greatly in the four centuries since this quarry had been actively worked. More important, the science of mineral transmutation had been born, and some metals were easier to transform from one into another. Many a decrepit lead mine had been reopened to turn its once worthless innards into a marketable commodity. And when this one was closed and forgotten in the late 1800s, it was done so out of prudence. It had been stripped bare, and there was simply no point in keeping it open any longer. What ever possible riches lay in waiting now, Omad was sure of one thing—he would be the first to find them.
He took his time with the mine scan. Impatience might make him miss something, and even walls as old as these left hundreds of chemical and structural clues. Know before you go, he reminded himself. The first part of the morning was spent insuring that the caverns were sound. He need not have worried. The mountain was formed of igneous rock—a type of hardened molten lava that had lasted eons and would last for eons more. By the time Omad finished his tests he was convinced the dig was stable. His safety assured, he now began looking for the telltale clues of wealth—wealth that could be shared with his investors, his employers, and himself. If he was right about this place, all would benefit from the investment that individuals and society had made in him—as it should be. Omad would also be pleased to gain 51 percent of himself, which was also as it should be.
His thoughts were interrupted and his dreams almost shattered by what appeared before him—a tunnel shaft in abject disarray. It was blocked by a few large boulders among hundreds of smaller shards in all shapes and sizes. What had he missed? The sight of such instability alone almost made him turn back and choose a new mine. He had just conjectured that this one would last eons, and now here was proof that it was coming down a lot sooner than expected. Clearly a malfunction on the part of his hardware, he reasoned. Perhaps a costly one. But his years of experience told him what he already knew: The type of rock he'd ventured into didn't need a reader to give up its history—only to verify it. He would exchange the mine-reader when he returned. But against his better judgment, or perhaps because of it, he decided to venture a little farther.
There was something here and he knew it. Plus, he was driven by his personal mantra, "Little risk, little profit," so he bent to examine the crumbled evidence before him. Explosives, he realized, upon examining the shards. Not a "natural" cave in after all. More evidence lay in Omad's path. What ever, or more precisely, whoever had made this mess had left the detonator, some primitive blasting caps, and humorously, an instruction manual on how to set off explosives in a mine. Since no skeleton or evidence of a body was visible, the perpetrator had obviously read the manual well, done the deed, and exited to safety. There was also a box of something called "Twinkies." Omad picked it up and examined it carefully. Aside from its unique and unusual artwork, he was able to discern its key ingredients as well as something called an "EXP" date, which was marked from an eleventh month in what appeared to be the early twenty-first century. This was starting to get interesting. He gathered all the wrappers and placed them in an airtight container, along with the manual and blasting caps he had so far collected. Omad loved a mystery, and judging from the leftover wrappers, whoever blasted this tunnel had time to eat at least twenty-eight of these Twinkie things and walk out in one piece. Must have been some kind of nutritional energy snack, he thought, as he cracked his knuckles and continued on deeper into the shaft. The dry, consistent atmosphere had preserved the scene almost as if the long-gone blaster had left just before Omad had arrived. Even if he couldn't make a profit out of what was buried in the tunnel, he might just make a profit from what he'd just discovered outside of it. The nutritional wrappers and blaster manual alone would fetch a very good price on the open relic market. No, even if he found nothing else, today would not be a loss by any stretch of the imagination.
Neela Harper was not a country girl. In fact, she'd always preferred the big city. Anything with only a million and a half people in it just didn't seem natural. If she had had any inkling that the career she had chosen for herself would dump her in this remote part of the world she probably wouldn't have chosen it. Then again, being a minority shareholder in herself, she would have had little or no say whatsoever about her place of employ. Luck of the draw, she thought somberly to herself. And this year I'm clearly down on my luck. Anybody looking at her would not be displeased. She was five feet eleven inches—about average for a woman. A very healthy thirty-seven, but this was not surprising in the era of nano-medicine; positively everyone was healthy, and everyone looked great. Still, if everybody was a giant health-wise, then Neela, by her rigorous adherence to exercise, stood on the shoulders of those giants. Her appearance was 97 percent original, with only minor changes to control her hair growth and the removal of some facial bone damage suffered in a childhood accident. She hadn't had a sex change or so much as a boob job by her eighteenth birthday, something that was practically a rite of passage for her generation. Nope, just chestnut hair, green eyes, a tiny nose, freckles, and a supremely athletic body. Her problem was not so much physical as it was economic.
Not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, she spent all of high school and most of college studying the basics. Nothing wrong with that. And she did well with all the courses she took. In some ways it was helping her now, but not in terms of her percentages. At an age when most of her peers owned 35 percent of themselves, she only owned a paltry 30.5 percent. It had nothing to do with gambling or expensive trips. Her debt was an investment. Those who knew they were going to go into an expensive or prestigious field prepared themselves by maintaining a stellar GPA. Further, they specialized in a chosen field all through high school and university. Thus, by the time they got to the advanced, and therefore expensive, part of their training, they were better able to bargain for lower percentages. And so the university-cum-investor was held to grabbing only 7 to 9 percent of that student's self-equity, as opposed to the standard 12 to 15 percent. Rumor even had it that one top-fight student had received her education from San Francisco State University, the top Pacific League school, for an amazingly low 4 percent. But Neela wasn't prepared to commit to a major she didn't feel strongly about, and it wasn't until her junior year that she felt such passion. And while her patience at the time was seen as somewhat virtuous, it was now turning out to be a costly virtue indeed. As far as majors went, she'd picked a doozy. Neela was going to be a reanimation psychologist with a subspecialty in social integration. Since reanimation psychology was considered a prestigious field, what institution of higher learning would risk educating a latecomer when they could get more valuable stock in a better prospect?
The answer was a not-so-great institution of higher learning, Harvard, and the loss of more personal stock than she would have preferred—14 percent, to be exact. That, combined with what her parents, the government, and various other organizations held, gave her what in this day and age amounted to a measly 30.5 percent of herself. This also meant she had very little bargaining power as to where she was going to start her glorious career. If she had realized her dream, or just a better percentage of it, she would have been working in the famed Vegas reanimation clinics. They had suspendees yet to be reanimated who were, given their late ages of suspension, rumored to be close to two hundred years old. Those suspendees would be from the early days of the incorporation movement and might even have personal memories of the Grand Collapse. Any one of them would make a great thesis subject. Yes, Vegas had it all: interesting patients, great bonuses, and the chance to publish. And with that kind of clout, Neela would have been able to negotiate a vertical position for a better percentage on the slow and steady climb to 51 percent. And that, she believed, was what it was all about.
At 51 percent she'd have almost absolute control over her life. The only drawback would be a lack of insurance. One percent was only a hair-thin margin should, heaven forbid, she find herself needing extra funds. The further she could move her own percentage up, the better she'd sleep at night.
With GCI controlling her outright majority through a proxy agreement with Harvard (bastards!), she was stuck here in the Rockies of the North American Union for as long as they deemed profitable. Neela gained little solace from the one dubious distinction her location had as part of its claim to fame. It was, in fact, the smallest reanimation clinic in the world. Miners and ranchers who got into bad accidents were frozen and sent here. At most they would be bathed in liquid nitrogen for six months while some body parts were regrown or memory networks painfully restructured. They didn't need a reanimation specialist at all beyond some standard death trauma issues and, to be honest, not much social integration either. After all, how out of touch was a suspendee going to be if down for only six months? Oh, there were the little things of course. She knew how to sympathetically impart bad news regarding a suspendee's family, whether it be an untimely and permanent death or, as was often the case, spousal abandonment. She knew to keep up with the latest trends and, much to her chagrin, the latest sports statistics. If she had a credit for every time a suspendee awoke asking, "How'd the Broncos do?" she'd have gotten her majority eons ago.
Out here she would never meet what she affectionately referred to as "the time travelers." They were Vegas's unopened treasures waiting for the precise technology to ensure their successful reanimation. And at the pace technology was evolving, it wouldn't take long. By the time she got out of her current locale, or rather, if she ever got out of her current locale, the time travelers would all have been reanimated by others, who would have published their findings to a fascinated world and retired at the impossibly young age of seventy. Neela, on the other hand, would get typecast as a "short-term specialist" and would probably never leave Boulder in her working life again.
Neela's phone vibrated, and she held her thumbnail to her ear. She squinted her eyes, trying to bring her retro wall clock with the phosphorus tips into focus. It was 2:30 in the morning. She groaned in the general direction of her pinkie.
"Whoever died, I don't care," she said with her eyes closed. "Just freeze them and call me in the morning." The voice on the other end answered her so clearly it was as if he were in the bed next to her.
"Neela, sorry to wake you, but you are the primary revive specialist on call for this week, and we have something that needs a sign-off."
"Watanabe, this had better be good."
"Neela, I don't know what it is." The genuine confusion in the voice of her contact made her sit up. The emergency rescue ser vice always knew what was going on. That they now didn't shook her out of her daze.
"All right, Ben, I'm on my way."
"Don't bother, Neela, we'll have a flyer out to pick you up in ten minutes."
"I know how to get to center, Ben," she answered, with no small amount of disdain.
"That's good, but you're not going to center."
"Ben, I'm no good at the medical end of suspension. I get them after they're thawed, remember?"
"Trust me, Neela, you'll want to see this." Neela heard the soft pop that told her the phone was disconnected. She managed to prop herself up. In her semicomatose state she laid out in her mind what she'd wear. She decided on an all-weather outfit. It would be a little more cumbersome but would come in handy just in case this call led her up into the mountains. This day was becoming very out of the ordinary, and for someone with a daily routine as rote as hers, any chance to shake things up was certainly worth the extra effort required to drag herself out of bed.
She was gratified that she'd guessed correctly about the mountains, and was certainly not surprised to see evidence of a mine being cleared of rock. It was still dark as the flyer landed, but she could make out the entrance to the shaft only because it had been painted with Daylight, an amazing substance, she thought, that lived up to its brand name. About twenty rescue workers were operating heavy machinery, and she could see that a few more were spraying a fresh line of Daylight down the mine entrance leading into the tunnel. The pile of freshly cut logs stacked fifty yards away told her that this area had been heavily wooded until the crew got here.
Whoever's in there must be important, she thought. That would explain why they wanted her here—the expert witness lined up neatly with the rest of the bureaucratic pawns so necessary to make sure the paperwork .owed smoothly. It was only after the flyer landed near the log pileup that Neela realized what was missing. There were no emergency medical vehicles. In fact, there was no medical setup of any kind, just a cleanup crew.
As she got out of the flyer she saw Ben coming forward to meet her. They exchanged formal waves.
"What's going on, Ben?"
"It started when a company prospector was researching abandoned mines. He found this one by chance. All records of it had been removed from the official databases."
"But that's not possible," she answered, scratching her chin. "No record of this mine means this site's gotta be at least . . ."
". . . three, maybe four centuries old," continued Ben, "at least, according to the prospector we talked to." Why'd they haul a reanimationist out here? Wondered Neela. Her heart skipped a beat. No, she thought. Don't even go there.
"So," she continued, trying to contain her trepidation, "how did this mine rat—what was his name?—find it?"
Watanabe smirked, knowing full well what Neela was really asking, but he decided to play along. "His name's Omad—a grade 7-B prospector. And, according to him, he found it because it was mentioned in the old mining reports of two other mines."
They walked hurriedly into the now well-lit mine. After a few hundred yards Neela found herself at the point where the roof had caved in. She waved at some of the rescue team members she recognized, including Rita, a woman she'd helped with a revival trauma about three months earlier. Fortunately for Rita, hers had been a particularly mild death, requiring only a two-day suspension. At the end of the cleared tunnel Neela saw a circular chamber about forty feet in diameter with a ceiling of about seven feet. It was what she saw in the middle of the space that stopped her cold—a large rectangular box measuring roughly ten feet by five feet by six feet encased in some sort of black metal composite. The whole visible section of the box was covered with inscriptions that were carved into the surface and filled in with a red ceramic material. This gave the box an ethereal appearance that reminded Neela of a sarcophagus. She slowly circled the coffer, absorbing its every detail.
"Like something out of a legend," whispered Neela.
"I know what you mean," replied Ben. "Normally I'm not suspicious, but may my stock drop if I said that that," he pointed to a specific inscription, "didn't freak me out."
Neela looked closer.
Some of the writing was in English, some in Chinese, some in Hebrew; there was even something that seemed to be a series of elevated dots and dashes. On what she now ascertained to be the lid of the case were a series of large characters with a very simple message:
THIS IS A LIFE POD. A MAN LIES SUSPENDED WITHIN.
She stepped back, took a deep breath, and nearly tripped over Ben in the process.
"Holy shit," she whispered.
Ben smiled and nodded.
"Holy, holy shit, Ben," she repeated. Ask it, Neela. Ask the damned question! she prodded herself.
"Is . . . is it operational?" she asked, barely able to utter the words.
"Seems to be," Ben replied, still smiling. "You still with us?"
"Uh . . . yeah . . . sorry, Ben."
"You can see why we called you. And that's not all," he continued, pointing to the surrounding walls. "We ran a groundar to see if anything was stuck in the walls." He waited a moment.
"Well?" Neela demanded.
"We found six hollowed-out chambers, spaced equidistantly around this main one. Get this—they were shielded."
"So," answered Neela, taking her eyes off the unit to look around the cavern, "you don't know what's inside, then?"
Ben hesitated for a moment. "Well, not exactly," he answered, keeping his head low as he kicked one foot in the dirt. "We did open the one."
Neela's face lit up. "You did what? Are you nuts!? They could have been booby-trapped for all we know, or you could have destroyed precious artifacts!"
"Hey, take it easy, Neela," answered Ben, "we only opened one, and entirely by accident, I can assure you." Neela gave him a disapproving look.
"But you'll never guess what we found inside," he continued, knowing she'd soon forgive him in all the excitement of the find. "Gold bullion. Can you believe that? Imagine going through all that trouble just to store a bunch of gold. He may as well have left some rubble in there for all it's worth."
"Ben," Neela asked, "how long do you think it's been since gold was used as a commodity?"
"I dunno. I'm not good at history; maybe five hundred years?"
"You're right. You're not good at history," she replied with a smirk. "It's less than two hundred and .fty. And I'm willing to bet this man has been here for at least that long."
"Long time to be down," Ben replied.
"Did you get a doctor in here?"
"First thing we did. He didn't know what it was . . . and neither did his Dij -Assist! He's back at his lab running a search for info on a secure Neuro uplink."
"And that's when you decided to call me?"
"Well . . . um . . . yeah. Plus, I know you, and I don't know anyone at the university, though that would have been my next call. So anyways, the billion-credit question is, can we move it?"
Before Neela could respond, Rita spoke up from the corner of the box nearest the door. "Uh, boss, I'm pretty sure we can."
"And how do you know that?" asked Ben, as he glared at Rita. "Do you have a degree in Unheard-of Technology I don't know about?"
Rita returned Ben's glare by pointing to the corner of the unit. "No, I don't, Mr. Smart Guy. I know it because it says so right here." They all gathered around to see what she'd pointed at:
THIS UNIT CAN BE MOVED WITHOUT DAMAGING THE MAN INSIDE.
FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS WRITTEN BELOW.
The group started laughing at how simple yet ridiculous that inscription was, while Ben's face reddened a bit. The tension that had made the place seem haunted was gone.
One of the rescue workers, a short, bearded man with a starburst tattoo on his nose, spoke up. "That's definitely an operational suspension unit."
"I know. I read the inscription, too. But I gotta tell you, it doesn't look like any suspension unit I've ever seen," Neela answered.
"It's not like any you've seen," he continued. "I don't think it's like anything anyone's seen. But that's a suspension unit, and I'd be willing to bet my next dividend that there's a man inside waiting to be revived. What shape he's in I couldn't say, but he's in there all right!"
"Well," Ben chimed in, "he'd better hope that his insurance company survived the GC and still has a policy on him."
"Why?" asked the guy with the starburst tattoo.
"This revive and extraction is going to cost him a credit or two, and if his insurance doesn't kick in, he's going to lose a good percentage come his quarterly report."
"I don't think so," Neela cautioned, something beginning to form in the pit of her stomach.
"Why not?" Ben asked. "Everyone gets an incorporation report. He's no different."
"Actually, he is, Ben. If we're to believe the inscription, and if in fact there is a man still in viable stasis, then he'll be, providing we do our jobs right, the oldest man ever to be revived."
"So?" Ben asked.
"So," Neela continued, "he's not going to get a quarterly report . . ."
". . . because he's never been incorporated," Rita said, finishing Neela's thought.
The haunted air returned.
Ferdinand had reached that stage in life where the dust was beginning to settle. He wasn't about to start his own corporation, nor would he retire early. His self-percentage would be a lot better but for a wife who was a sucker for the frivolous little extras that were constantly being offered. But if she was happy, he was happy, right? After seventy-five years of working the same job, the only silver lining he managed to garner was that he could do basic background work slightly more economically than a computer. What was the old saying? You could lead a computer to data, but you couldn't make it glean.
It was a simple job, really. All he had to do was process revives. Boring, routine, safe work. Every once in a while he'd get an interesting one. Perhaps a complication concerning religious scruples, or maybe even a conflicting liability. Joy. But most of the time raising the dead was predictable, just like it was supposed to be. He'd process the name and occupation of the revival subject, determine who was paying for the procedure, and then inform Legal of any outstanding debts or stock options due. All credit on the account would then be reactivated by the upper echelons at a later date. The trickiest part was informing current stockholders about the reactivation of potential stock in the revived, but that was handled by another department. He had enough on his plate, thank you. The programs for this type of operation had been in place for de cades, and short of the rare "breakthrough" upgrade that entailed a little more learning, it was almost automatic. Ferdinand's job was only to initiate the process and see that the procedures were followed. In this way he was able to facilitate the smooth flow of the frozen revive's reentry into the corporate world.
He rubbed his eyes. It was only 11:00 a.m. and he'd already processed forty-two corpsicles. "Next," he said to the holodisplay in front of him, not bothering to look up.
He repeated his request, but this time more irritably: "Computer, next revive."
"Sending information now," the computer chirped back.
Ferdinand looked up. "I didn't ask you to send me information. Just tell me the revive's name, please."
"Unable to comply."
Ferdinand, figuring the system was in prefritz mode, attempted an end around.
"Fine," he said, rising to the challenge, "can you at least tell me who insured him?"
"Unable to comply."
OK, a real challenge then, he thought. I'm game.
"Computer, access the subject's genetic code for ID."
Four seconds passed—an eternity.
"Unable to comply."
"You didn't get a sample of the DNA?"
"Sample received," the computer responded. "However, no known correlation in any database available."
Though Ferdinand prided himself on being able to solve problems before they became real problems, he knew when he was licked.
"Computer," he said, letting out a sigh, "get me technical support."
"Contacting technical support now," the machine chirped back. "Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received."
Ten minutes later Ferdinand was interrupted by a bored-looking fellow staring straight at him from the holodisplay.
"Tech support, whadyaneed?"
"Are you guys running a beta test on the revive data procurement program and forgot to mention it to us poor slobs in Adjusting?"
"If we are, it's news to me. Let me check." The face dissolved into the background.
Ferdinand continued working.
After another fifteen minutes the tech support fellow's face showed up on Ferdinand's holodisplay.
"No," was all he said, and before Ferdinand could ask another question the face disappeared.
Begrudgingly, Ferdinand returned to the task at hand. "OK, computer, let's try this again. You're telling me we have a revive?"
"Do we know where this revive is?"
"The revive is located at the Colorado Mining Hospital in the city of Boulder."
"Good, that's a start. What's the make of the suspension unit?" Sometimes in large disasters with many bodies, information could get lost temporarily. A good way of finding out who the person was would be to track the suspension unit itself.
"Unable to comply."
"Computer, is this information restricted or unavailable due to prior command or restraint?"
"Negative. Unable to comply because the information is unavailable to all known databases. If you check the information I have sent, you will see an image of the unit as well as all known data."
With a sigh of exasperation, Ferdinand called up the data. After ten minutes of scanning, he nervously keyed the button asking for his supervisor.
"What do you mean I'm going on vacation?!" fumed Neela.
Before her sat an impeccably dressed man seemingly impervious to the steely glare emanating from Neela's eyes.
"Your passage to Luna City has already been arranged," the man answered, too stoically for her taste.
"Luna City?! First of all, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly in control of my own portfolio here, and I don't have the kind of equity to give up to go to a place like that."
"Don't worry," the man said, not bothering to look up from his holodisplay.
"It's all paid for by GCI. Consider it a bonus for the good job you've done to date. Now, if you don't mind, I've got work to do."
Neela stood quietly for a moment.
"I don't want the vacation," she blurted.
This got the man's attention. He stopped staring into the holodisplay, shifted some papers aside, and looked at her intently.
"You like your work that much that you'd give up an all-expenses-paid vacation to a place most people only dream about?" Neela shifted uncomfortably in her place. "There's the one-sixth-gravity waterfalls, wing nanites for the Galileo fly-through. The sex alone is worth the trip. Trust me, that I know."
"It's not the work," she answered. "It's this work. This find . . . right now. I never expected to be the primary reanimationist. I knew you'd bring in a Bronstein or a Gillette. But there's never going to be another find like this. I have to be a part of it."
"You're really dedicated to this, aren't you?"
The man dived back into his holodisplay and typed in some commands. After a minute or so he looked up.
"I may live to regret this, but I've just bought a thousand shares of your personal stock."
"Why'd you do that?" she exclaimed.
"I'm sorry. Most people would find it complimentary."
"Well, I'm not most people. And I intend to buy back enough of my shares to make majority."
The man let out a guffaw.
"Oh. You're one of those. Well, look, I'm worth five times your value, and I'll probably never see majority. Furthermore, why would you even try? All you'd get is some additional income—and a lot of headache." He was starting to lose patience. "Look, you're going on vacation whether you want to or not. It's already been decided."
Neela stood her ground. "I don't mean to be a pain, and I know the company owns my ass, but I just don't understand why I can't take this damned vacation after the patient's already been revived and socially integrated."
This time the man stood up from his desk and looked her right in the eye. As he did this she heard the sounds of corridor traffic in the background—the door had opened behind her.
"Unless you're willing to wait five years," he spat, "that ain't gonna happen, lady. This conversation is over. Good day."
"Five years? Did he really say five years?"
Neela was in the director's office. His name was Mosh McKenzie, and he was the first superior Neela had ever really liked—not that she'd had a lot. Part of it grew from the fact that she didn't understand him. He'd achieved self-majority, which, while commendable, wasn't particularly extraordinary. Plus, she'd met enough of those. Smug bastards most of them. No, Mosh was different. He was the first person she knew who'd achieved his goals—which in his case meant becoming a powerful member of the GCI board of directors—and then had himself transferred to this tiny little enclave located somewhere in the bowels of Colorado. Most assumed he'd screwed up somewhere on his steady climb up the golden ladder and that this was his punishment, but Neela suspected differently. She was a good judge of character, a must in her line of work, and Mosh was not a man who seemed incompetent, and—even more telling—not upset with his current situation. In fact, Neela would have to say that this was a man supremely content with himself and his place in life. It was true that he was 175 years old and could easily retire, but, she suspected, his inner drive would never have let him. Of average height at six feet two inches, he was confident enough in himself that when he started to bald he simply let it happen rather than spend the thirty credits it would have cost to prevent the process. Neela had to admit that, although his appearance had shocked her at first, she couldn't imagine him looking any other way.
"Mosh," said Neela, "is there any problem medically that I wasn't informed of?"
"Actually," he answered, "now that you mention it, no."
"Do we know why he was suspended?" Neela continued.
Mosh checked his holodisplay.
"Says here, lymphatic cancer—apparently late stage. Happened back then."
"Hard to believe that was once fatal," answered Neela, shaking her head. "It would be like allowing a toothache to kill someone."
"Don't laugh, Neela," he retorted. "That used to happen, too."
"Just curious, Mosh, how long would it take to cure him?"
He checked the display again. "According to Dr. Wang, six hours to cure, twelve to revive."
Neela thought about it.
"So why on Earth would that corporate goon have said five years? That's not only unconstitutional, it's unethical." She paused. "Barbaric, even."
Mosh called up the accused's .le on his holodisplay. "Our goon's name is Hektor. Hektor Sambianco. And you'd better watch your back with that one. I know the type. They're like pit bulls; once they lock on to something it's hard to get 'em to let go."
"Duly noted," she answered. "But I don't get it, Mosh. What exactly is he locked on to?"
Mosh chuckled at the innocence of his charge's question. "Our newfound friend, my dear. He wants to incorporate him, and he doesn't want to share, if you get my drift."
"Which," she continued, lightbulbs going off, "explains why everyone around here's getting paid leave. But it doesn't explain five years, Mosh. Keeping anyone down that long when it's unnecessary is not only illegal, it's unconstitutional—corporation or no corporation."
"True enough," Mosh said, leaning back into his state-of-the-art Nomic chair.
They both knew what was at stake. The "right of return" with regard to reanimation was sacrosanct. And it made sense that it would be. After all, who would willingly suspend themselves knowing their reanimation might not happen due to litigation, corporate interference, or any other manner of legality that might leave someone suspended involuntarily for centuries? Therefore, the right of return had been enacted into constitutional law almost as soon as reanimation had become technically viable. Its basic premise was that a suspended had the right to immediate revival pursuant to the ability to do so safely, without causing any realistic undue hardship to society or the individual in question.
"Alright, Neela," Mosh said, brows cinched tightly, "you've got my ear. Let me do a little fact-checking and I'll get back to you."
Ever the perfectionist, Hektor Sambianco was in the transport bay overseeing the final details for shipment. He was also marveling at the beauty of the suspension unit itself. The huge black rectangle inscribed with the fiery red letters had a compelling presence all its own, unlike the simple and economical teardrop units currently in use. Hektor saw right away that the unit would be worth untold credits—regardless of the prize within. But the prize within, if successfully revived, could be worth quite a bit as well—a man from preincorporation America. There was no telling how much profit would be in it for GCI—and even better, what kind of bonus share might be in it for Hektor.
He chuckled, remembering his recent conversation with that ornery revivalist. I might just make majority after all.
Hektor's musings were rudely interrupted by the sound of confrontation. He turned around to see Director McKenzie and the revivalist woman being denied access to the bay by one of the guards he'd stationed as a precautionary mea sure.
"The last time I checked," Mosh said to the newly stationed guard, "I was still the director here, and this is still my transport bay."
"Actually," proclaimed Hektor from across the bay, "the hospital—transport bay included—still belongs to GCI, unless, of course, you've made some large purchases I'm not aware of. Nevertheless . . ." Hektor signaled the guard to let them pass.
Mosh and Neela quickly traversed the bay to where Hektor was working.
"Make it quick, please," Hektor said, "I don't have a lot of time."
"Four hours, fifty-eight minutes, and twenty-two seconds to be exact," the director answered, consulting his DijAssist.
"You've been checking up on me, I see."
Mosh was about to answer but was beat out by Neela.
"Who do you think you are?!"
"Hektor Sambianco," he replied casually. "No need for you to introduce yourself, thank you."
"I think," Mosh offered, "my overwrought employee is upset with what you're planning to do."
"No," interjected Neela. "I'm upset with what he's planning not to do!" Turning her wrath again toward Hektor, "How can you leave him suspended?"
"Don't you worry your little head," Hektor answered condescendingly. "We'll revive him, all in good time. Yes, anyways, thank you for sharing your feelings. I'll make sure to mention them to . . . whoever I mention these things to." He then turned his back on them, continuing his preparations.
Neela and Mosh remained in place.
"I may have a difficult time signing the clearance order to move this unit," said Mosh. "You know, busy schedule and all. My assistant could do it, but, oh my," he said as he pressed a button on his DijAssist, "I just gave her the rest of the day off."
With a sigh, Hektor turned around.
"Perhaps I was a bit single-minded in pursuit of completing my job. What is it you need, Director?"
Good, Mosh thought, he's got his eyes on the ball.
"An explanation would be a start."
"An explanation about what?" Hektor asked, feigning innocence.
"About why you seem to be denying this man his civil rights," challenged Neela.
"Whoa! Who said anything about denying this man his civil rights?"
"The Constitution . . . ," began Neela.
". . . does not apply here," finished Hektor.
"And who gave you the right to say that the Constitution does not apply?" Neela retorted.
Hektor smirked. "Actually, I'm a constitutional lawyer. Who gave you the right to say that it does?" Chew on that one, bitch.
"Lawyer or not," Neela continued unfazed, "this man has to be revived immediately. It's the law, and every citizen knows that."
"OK, Miss . . . Harper, was it?" Hektor began. "Let's just see about that law that every citizen knows about. First of all, how do you even know this man is a citizen? If he's not, constitutional law doesn't apply, does it? Didn't think about that, did you? Secondly, for all we know he was suspended because of some horrific act or acts he committed. Constitution or no, do you want to take responsibility for rereleasing him into our society? Would it not be prudent to wait and run some tests, and then perhaps let the courts decide?"
"We ran all the tests needed," answered Neela. "He's curable and poses no medical danger to society. Under the criteria of the Constitution and the Supreme Court's interpretation of it, no other consideration is needed—citizen or not. All crimes or debts will be dealt with upon revival."
"Bravo," Hektor chided, clapping his hands slowly. "I see you know the legal aspects of your profession well. But you're forgetting one thing."
"He's curable and he's here," she spat back. "That's the only criteria. I'm forgetting nothing."
"Payment," the director said, choosing the moment to step in. He had a grim smile. "You're going to steal him on payment."
Excerpted from The unincorporated man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
Copyright © 2009 by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
Published in April 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.