The Forever Man: A Near-Future Thriller

The Forever Man: A Near-Future Thriller

by Pierre Ouellette

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804177191
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/08/2014
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 340
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Pierre Ouellette entered the creative realm at age thirteen as a lead guitarist for numerous bands in the Pacific Northwest, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, and later played with such jazz luminaries as saxophonist Jim Pepper and bassist David Friesen. He has had two novels published in seven languages and both optioned for film. He has also authored two biotech thrillers published in paperback under the name Pierre Davis, and directed and produced The Losers Club, a documentary about struggling musicians. Ouellette lives in Portland, Oregon, where he now devotes himself exclusively to writing fiction and playing jazz guitar now and then in a little bar just down the street.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Sportin’ the Lobe
Portland, Oregon

            “How much more if I suck you?”
            The girl leans forward across the booth, her breasts shoving at her tank top and her cleavage a bottomless canyon. Her smoky blue eyes peek out from a cluttered maze of makeup. Twin waves of blond hair flop down to obscure her vision and her bony arms are chemically tanned, probably through a biogene spray. Her forefingers tap the shellacked plywood tabletop with vicious ebony fingernails.
            “You know, I’m really a pretty sensitive guy,” Lane answers, “and that makes me feel bad.”
            The girl pulls her breasts back across the table and slumps in her seat. “Yeah, sure.”
Lane doesn’t know her name, and she’d lie if he asked. Anonymity is rule number one out on the street, and this shabby little bar is definitely an extension of the street.
            “Tell you what,” Lane counters. “I’ll buy you a pipe before we go do the deal. How’s that?”
            She brightens a little and sits up straight. “I like that.”
            Lane slides out and gets to his feet. The musical blast of the junk crew hits him full on, and he imagines getting a pipe for himself and drifting around inside their percussive crosscurrents. But he’s on the job, even now. Too bad. The crew is good. They’re called Olds, because all their instruments were extracted from a wrecked 1979 Oldsmobile. Hubcaps, radiator, air filter, water hoses, and so on. No lyrics, no amps. Just riffing and chanting.
            Lane smiles as he heads for the bar. The department thinks he’s crazy to groove on the junk scene, but then again, the department thinks he’s crazy in general, just like all the other contract cops. But he also knows that their opinions are secondhand at best. Those at the top of the police department never come out here anymore. They stay in the Trade Ring on the other side of the river and calculate the budgetary savings from hiring people like Lane, with no retirement benefits to choke the city’s operating costs. Sure, there are still a few regular cops, but they stick to the West Side and the occasional high-rise homicide or white-collar business fraud. Portland’s Middle East is basically a contract gig, which is to say that the East Side of the city has mostly slipped out of civil control. It happened in stages. First, they lost the Far East, the big urban sprawl east of the 205 freeway—which the gangs now run as a toll road. Then the blight and anarchy slowly seeped west, until it reached the Willamette River in the middle of town.
            Enter the Bird, who now runs everything for fifteen miles out, starting at the river. Lane is reminded of this when he gets to the bar. “Gimme a draft beer and pipe of yellow dream,” he orders the bartender, a corpselike figure with razor eyes and bony knuckles. He turns to check on the girl. She sits staring at her nails and swaying her shoulders to the junk crew. He can’t afford to have her back out now. He’s spent two weeks setting this thing up.
            “Twelve crows,” demands the bartender.
            Lane turns back around as the bartender shoves the beer and flat pipe with its nickel-size bowl across the bar at him. Lane fishes in his pocket and pulls out a roll of bills. Each is the size of a dollar and printed on banknote stock, but where the presidents usually reside is a picture of a crow, its beak breaking out of the traditional oval. The Bird is vain, and the crow is in his image, a sign of his economic sovereignty over a vast hunk of the city. The Bird is also a very bad man, but that isn’t the problem. Lane is here because the Bird’s monetary power is making bigger ripples than are politically tolerable over in the Trade Ring.
            “You take card bucks?” Lane asked, out of idle curiosity.
            You could see the fear expand the circumference of the man’s eyeballs. “You f***in’ crazy, man?”
            Lane raises his hand in a conciliatory gesture. “Just askin’. Twelve crows. You got it.” He pushes the bills across the bar, and grabs the pipe and the beer. The punk would clearly take a bullet in the groin before he took Lane’s bank card, a fact central to Lane’s presence here. The Bird collected all the bank cards from each and every wage earner on his turf, including the temps: a minority of the populace, but a relatively prosperous one. The legitimate banks in the Trade Ring and the Chip Mill had always issued debit cards. No more dirty bills or clunky coins. You just shoved data around in abstract ledgers. Eventually, they stopped accepting cash altogether. All the country’s money now had an audit trail behind it, an incriminating thread that embroidered the pattern of your lifestyle for inspection by various regulatory agencies.
            Of course, the banks and the government had not anticipated the Bird, an economic genius in the rough. Every payday, his people marched the wage earners to the bank booths, where they deposited the contents of their debit cards into a maze of accounts maintained by the Bird’s bean counters. In exchange, they were given crow money, negotiable everywhere inside the Bird’s turf. The Bird held the equivalent of hard currency, while his flock dealt in the soft coin of the immediate realm. The local merchants exchanged crow money through the Bank of Bird to obtain legitimate funds for outside purchases. The Bird took a simple transaction fee for every bill exchanged.
            You didn’t have to be an economist to understand that the Bird and his peers in other cities were now a force of considerable weight in the local business system. But they were equally difficult to bring to justice. By now, there were several ugly cases to prove the point. One was in St. Louis, where a police operation to arrest a local boss resulted in a full-scale urban battle that killed twenty-seven police officers and forty civilians—all with no arrest.
            Here in Portland, the Middle East holds maybe a third of the urban population, but exactly how many is no longer known. And in the long hours of the night, the Middle East leaks into the rest of the city, and the weapons pop and the sirens wail. Everyone who can afford it now resides in one of numerous secured compounds surrounded by razor wire, armed guards, dog patrols, motion sensors, and neural-driven video surveillance.
            To present the political illusion of positive action, the police have adopted a strategy of hit-and-run harassment. If they couldn’t shut the Bird down, they could at least keep him off balance. That’s where Lane comes in.
            The solo crazies writhe like vertical snakes to the call of the junk crew as Lane crosses the floor with the beer and the pipe. In the booth, the girl bobs her head in synchrony with the elusive 7/4 meter, and her palms catch the accents as they descend on the table. Truth is, she looks pretty damned good. Skin smooth and taut, hair thick and shiny. She is in the peak of bloom, and determined to grab what she can before the petals close forever.
            Lane sighs inwardly as he sits down. Beyond the immediate call of the girl’s flesh, he knows another force is at work: the raw, unfettered attraction of her youth itself. At forty-six years of age, he can see that quality clearly, much more so than he could in his own youth, when everyone’s age was a given, not a treasure.
            She pulls a lighter out of her purse as he pushes the pipe across. The ocher color of the hashish in the bowl tells him it is probably from one of the new Mongolian sources. Lane takes a sip of his beer and watches the girl apply the lighter to the pipe, a lighter designed specifically for this kind of operation. As she pushes a button on the top, a horizontal jet of flame ignites the drug while she sucks greedily to get the best possible hit. Her bosom swells to maximum circumference as she puts the pipe down and holds the smoke in the laboratory of her lungs, where the compounds quickly dissolve into her bloodstream and are pumped posthaste into her brain. When she exhales, he sees her sinuous arms unfold into a smooth plane as the tension dissipates before the onslaught of the psychoactive molecules.
            She stares at him dreamily through a crooked smile. “You’re cute. Did you know that?”
            In fact, Lane no longer knows that, but this is hardly a time for self-exploration. “So what you gonna do with the card bucks?” he asks.
            She focused into the far distance over his shoulder. “I got plans. Yeah, I got plans.”
            “What kind of plans?”
            He can see her arms begin to knot up again. He’s pushed a little too far.
            “Just plans. That’s all.”
            He knows her plans, of course. Get behind a gate. Get some nice clothes. Get some fine food and fast drugs. Get plugged into the Feed. It’s always the same. But it won’t happen. She’ll blow the money and be back blowing the trade in no time at all.
            As he watches her, he feels himself locked in a nasty little internal cycle. She’s a victim of circumstance, a microscopic effect driven by a macroscopic cause. He should feel her pain, but doesn’t. His years on the street have built up a powerful immune response to this kind of thing, a protective barrier against personal devastation. Yet he hates his vacant heart, his lack of compassion. And on it goes. The only way out is to focus on the job, on the mission.
            “Shall we go?” he asks gently.
            She looks at him suspiciously. “Let’s see the card.”
            He scans the windowless room, a professional precaution. The junk crew blasts on and the crazies gyrate in their singular spaces. The other booths are mostly empty at this time of early evening. At the tables in the back, the Oldies play cards. Looks okay, so he gets out his wallet, keeping it below the tabletop as he pulls out the card and shows the girl. The holographic logo sucks in the dim light and flings it out in a strange braided pattern. She seems satisfied.
            “Okay, let’s go.”
            He takes a last sip of beer and watches her rise. Her hips and thighs move gracefully against the tight restraint of fabric worn to the point of gloss. He feels a distant longing, but finds it easy to squelch. Far too easy to squelch.
           

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The Forever Man: A Near-Future Thriller 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This genre of novel is not what I usually read. However, something in the review prompted my curiousity. It might have been the words 'set in the near future'. It turned out to be an ok read, but not something that I would ever want to reread. The whose basis of the plot is that a few individuals have literally discovered "the fountain of youth." My rating is two stars.
ToManyBooksNotEnoughTime More than 1 year ago
A Fantastic Futuristic Thriller I would like to thank NetGalley &amp; Alibi for granting me a copy of this e-ARC to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review. Goodreads Blurb: <blockquote><strong>From the author of <em>The Deus Machine</em> and <em>The Third Pandemic</em> comes a fast-paced thriller about the power of harnessing life itself&mdash;and the deadly secrets it conceals.</strong>   Portland, Oregon, was once a beacon of promise and prosperity. Now it&rsquo;s   the epicenter of a world gone wrong, its streets overrun by victims and hustlers, drifters and gangsters. Lowly contract cop Lane Anslow struggles to keep afloat&mdash;and to watch out for his brilliant but bipolar brother, Johnny, a medical researcher. Lane soon discovers that Johnny is part of an experiment veiled in extraordinary secrecy. But he has no idea who&rsquo;s behind it, how astronomical the stakes are, or how many lives might be destroyed to make it a reality.    Now Johnny&rsquo;s gone missing. To find him, Lane follows a twisting trail into a billionaire&rsquo;s hilltop urban fortress, a politician&rsquo;s inner circle, a prison set in an aircraft graveyard, and a highly guarded community where people appear to be half their biological age. Hunted by dueling enemies, Lane meets a beautiful and enigmatic woman at the center of a vast web of political and criminal intrigue. And behind it all is a sinister, desperate race to claim the biggest scientific prize of all: eternal life.</blockquote> This story of greed, corruption, love, loyalty, and the quest for eternal life is set :::in the not too distant future. As far as I could determine this story takes place in the early to mid 2020's. While the world isn't the one we know now, the changes aren't so radical as to make them unbelievable. Mr. Ouellette has created the ultimate near-future world for this story to play out in. Even the premise of the story is believable, for as a species we've been chasing the idea of immortality almost as long as we've existed. The hero of this story isn't quite your average Joe, but he is working class and as such he almost instantly becomes someone most readers can probably relate to. His filial loyalty makes him both the ideal brother and an extremely likable, and approachable, protagonist. Lane is a contract cop on the cusp of being deemed too old to continue on in his chosen profession, while his younger brother Johnny is a brilliant scientist whose star appears to be on the verge of a meteoric rise to fame and more money than he has ever imagined. But Johnny is bipolar, which means that when his mood swings toward the the manic high, his ability to make intelligent choices swings just as far in the opposite direction, causing him think he's invincible. When reality finally catches up with Johnny it's always been big brother Lane who has come to his rescue. Part of what sets of this entire story in motion are Johnny's bipolar mood swings. His most recent swing led him to make a demand of his employer. Oddly enough, that demand protects him, but not for long. Just before dropping off the map Johnny calls Lane, sounding uncharacteristically frightened, enough so to scare Lane into searching for him. A large portion of Lane's appeal is his lack of guile. He is a very genuine person, or at least he is when he's not undercover. And that lack of guile is something of a novelty in that day and age, one which attracts certain people to him. People who may be in the position to assist him in his search for his brother. It doesn't hurt that his search seems to run parallel to someone else's search for information, bringing them together to pool their resources. Throughout the course of Lane's search he encounters a variety of personalities and experiences. Some of the choices he makes will likely have long-term ramifications that he can't even fathom. But throughout it all he remains true to himself, a remarkable feat given some of the choices he faces. The hints of romance that Lane experiences never seem to be explored, yet at times it feels as if they may have actually taken place off-stage so to speak. Though this story provides a wild ride, it starts out a bit slow. But by the time I was roughly one-third of the way in (maybe a bit farther) it really exploded out of the gate. There was enough not-stop action and psychological drama to satisfy the toughest customer. Though I found the ending satisfying, there was one piece of the story that was never resolved (or at least not that I noticed), and that single piece is like a loose tooth, I can't stop worrying it. Because that particular piece has the ripple effect, and the results will just keep spreading. However my main concern is for what is at the center of the action in the unresolved section. And I'm not talking about the crystal clear section that is left open for interpretation at the end. If you think you've found it after reading the book, please leave me a private message with the book's title and let me know what you think I'm referring to (wouldn't want it anywhere that it could become a spoiler for those yet to read this compelling story).