The Second Angelby Philip Kerr
Q: The Second Angel is being compared to your earlier book, A Philosophical Investigation, which earned you quite a following for its sheer intelligence and its futuristic bent. In what ways do you think this book is reminiscent of your earlier book?
A: There is perhaps the same underlying interest in science and/i>/i>/b>
An Interview with the Author
Q: The Second Angel is being compared to your earlier book, A Philosophical Investigation, which earned you quite a following for its sheer intelligence and its futuristic bent. In what ways do you think this book is reminiscent of your earlier book?
A: There is perhaps the same underlying interest in science and where science is taking us. I sometimes see the novelist writing about science in the position of the priest in the chariot of some general accorded a great triumph, saying "remember ye are but mortal." Too often scientists ask only if something CAN be done, not if it SHOULD be done. Novelists are best placed, usually through ignorance, to point up the ethical problems that might be inherent in some scientific discovery.
Q: Your fiction has been noted for both the diversity of its subject matter (virtual reality, the psychology of serial killers, intelligent architecture, mountaineering, prehistoric history, the biotechnology of blood) and the incredible depth of your research into these subjects. How do you do your research? How do you bring such a wealth of knowledge to your stories?
A: How do I do my research? I read a lot, of course. I don't know about a wealth of knowledge. I've always believed that it can be very useful for a writer to start from a position of complete ignorance. When I was a kid and people said, "write about what you know," I used to think that Shakespeare didn't, so why should I?"
With my research I begin as a layman and end up knowing just a little bit more than what I began with. In this way I don't burden the story with too many facts, or too much expertise. Experts can never write decent novels because they put in everything, and because of the facts, nothing is possible.
Q: One of the qualities that most sets The Second Angel apart from other futuristic novels is that you move beyond simple prediction of future technologies and developments to create their genesis -- related inventions and developments, failed attempts, relevant world events and histories that resulted in progress -- essentially the who, what, when, and why of the world you write about. How do you create these kinds of histories? What kind of research is involved?
A: Prediction is very difficult, especially when you are predicting the future, so it's best never to try. I like my fictional future world to seem real. It's actually quite a simple technique I learned when writing three novels set in Nazi Germany. I include small points of detail rather than larger ones -- points of color instead of broad brush strokes. Pointillism, in other words. Only when you step back from the canvas do you see the whole effect. I hope.
Q: How do you arrive at the concept of "blood banks" -- of human blood as a tradable currency?
A: Blood banks? I've always loved heist/caper stories. I must be a frustrated criminal. The trick of any good heist story is to think of something interesting to steal, and then an interesting way to steal it. Thus blood banks. It adds all sorts of useful dramatic possibilities to have people bent of stealing the stuff of life itself.
Q: There's something almost involuntary in our reaction to this idea of blood for sale -- sort of a universal shiver among your readers. Why do you think that is?
A: Because Market Economics says it's plausible. Health authorities already charge for blood. Price is a function of supply and demand.
Q: You use extensive footnotes to enrich your story and to create a history of the world you're depicting. What led you to construct your story this way? Do you view the footnotes as an integral part of your story, or simply as a tool to propel your narrative forward?
A: I wanted to include detail without holding back the story. Too often people writing this kind of thing, cheat. Best example of someone who didn't, George Orwell. He invented Newspeak, and described it in an appendix. Actually his technique was more of an influence in Philosophical Investigation. With The Second Angel, I wanted to cut out more on my own. Footnotes add texture in my opinion. They make the science seem more plausible and real. I guess 75% of the science is real. The rest is made up.
The great thing about cosmology for the novelist is that it is not empirical. So, without experiments to prove what theoretical physicists say, it's anyone's best guess. Science is much more philosophical than it has ever been. Stephen Hawking treads in the toes of the Creationists. Mischievously so, in my opinion.
Q: Do you believe the world you depict in The Second Angel is possible?
A: I can't write any kind of scientific novel that I don't see as being in some way possible. Medical research companies are already patenting certain kinds of blood e.g. chord blood, from umbilical chords. It is only a matter of time before our whole bodies end up being owned in some sense by scientific companies who hold copyrights on this and that.
A hundred years after the first moon landing, things aren't looking so rosy for planet Earth. Global warming has dumped tons of the Greenland ice cap into the Atlantic, killing the Gulf Stream that used to warm Europe. A painstaking series of footnotes explains why there are no dogs, no wine, no fertility for most men, and no hope for most people infected with P., a deadly virus that's stricken 80% of the population, prompting furious battles over control of the blood supply and unprecedented polarization of the human race. But life is good for Dana Dallas, the chief designer for Terotech, a firm that builds security systems for protecting precious stores of untainted blood, the basis of the 21st-century economy. Wealthy and successful, Terotech's golden boy and heir-apparent to the present CEO, Dallas has it made, until the one flaw in his otherwise perfect life turns him into a fugitive from justice, hunted by the law and by contract killers. Building an unlikely but familiar coalition of rebelsan ex-con pilot, a one-armed wifemurderer, a pair of professional criminals, and one of the killers Terotech has set on his trailDallas implausibly swears revenge on the system: he'll break into the impregnable First National Blood Bank on the moon and sell its vast reserves on the black market. Even though Dallas, who designed the security system for First National, knows its weaknesses better than anyone, his plan will require a harrowing stint in a virtual-reality simulator and a break-in endangering every one of his buddies. But who's the olympian narrator chronicling every step of this elaborate caper?
Cobbling together leftovers from Robert Heinlein and The 39 Steps, Kerr gilds them all with his trademark philosophical speculations and comes up with a story vastly more provocative in its vision of the politics of blood and cybernetics than its workaday plot would suggest.
- Pocket Books
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Read an Excerpt
From the window of Dallas's gyrocopter, the Terotech Building looked like the profile of a giant lizard, perhaps a chameleon, since everything from the external climate surfaces to the height of the three glass stories was subject to change, according to whatever environmental factors were predominant at the time. The seamless interior, with hardly a post, beam, or panel in sight, was no less interactive with the intel workers who inhabited the place. Self-regulating, continually adapting through electronic and biotechnological auto-programming, the Terotech Building's dynamic framework was more than just a shelter for those, like Dallas, who were privileged to work there, more than the achievement of mere ecological symbiosis. For the building was the very symbol of Terotechnology and its business. From the Greek word terein, meaning "to watch," or "to observe," Terotech led the world in the conceptualization and construction of so-called Rational Environments high-security facilities for digital cash and other financial institutions, and blood banks. And Dana Dallas was the company's most brilliant designer.
It was a good day for flying, cold but sunny and clear all the way up to forty-five thousand feet with little or no traffic to impede Dallas's four-hundred-mile-per-hour progress. Not that Dallas took much pleasure in the machine. His mind was already occupied with his latest project and the various calculations he had requested that his assistant spend the night working on. He dropped the last fifty feet onto the ground in three seconds, undid his seat harness, and switched the twin turbocharged engine off. But before jumping out under the diminishing steel canopy of the rotor blades, Dallas took a good look around from within the safety of the bullet-proof bubble. It was always a good idea to see who was hanging around the gyro park before stepping out of your machine. These days, with all the bloodsucking scum around, you couldn't be too careful. Even inside the comparative safety of the Clean Bill of Health area the so-called CBH Zone. Deciding that everything looked safe enough, he opened the gyro and ran toward the glass doors of the Terotech Building, though not quickly enough to avoid a cloud of dust, stirred up by the speed of his landing, from entering along with him.
"Morning Mister Dallas, sir," said the parking valet, running to take charge of Dallas's gyro and taxi it to the chief designer's reserved parking space. "How are you today?"
Dallas grunted equivocally. He removed his sunglasses, stood for a brief moment in front of the security screen, and breathed carefully onto the exhalo-sensitive film. It was a simple but effective device, designed by Dallas himself. He liked to joke that you could enter one of America's most secure buildings just by blowing softly on the doors.
Having gained admittance to those parts of the Terotech Building that were not open to the public, Dallas took the elevator down to the sixth level, which was also the most secret. Most of Terotechnology's work took place below ground, in dozens of windowless offices, each made more congenial by the facility of a faux fenêtre screen offering whatever view the occupant required. Dallas liked to look out of his office into the depths of a computer-generated ocean that was home to limitless shoals of brightly colored fish displaying a host of realistic behaviors. This was the view he found most conducive to thought. But there were other times when his fluctuating mood dictated that he look at rivers of red-hot magma, snow-capped mountain ranges, or simply an English country garden.
The undersea view invested the brushed steel, polished wood, and soft leather finishings of Dallas's office with the feel of a private submarine. But despite the obvious luxury of these surroundings and Dallas knew how fortunate he was it was not uncommon for him to wish that he could simply have propelled his sumptuous sanctuary into the faux fenêtre's unfathomable azure, far away from Terotech and the man next door, who was in overall charge of the company his boss, Simon King. Dallas's assistant, Dixy, was fond of quoting at him she had an inexhaustible memory for this kind of trivia when you're between any sort of devil and the deep blue sea, the deep blue sea sometimes looks very inviting.
Dallas enjoyed his work, but loathed the man he worked for. It's a common dilemma, and Dallas knew himself well enough to recognize that this had as much to do with his own character as it did with King's. The Terotechnology CEO was arrogant, capricious, and cruel, but no more than Dallas, or for that matter anyone else who was on the Terotechnology board of directors. Dallas hated the director chiefly because he saw himself reflected in the older man and recognized that in time he would probably fall heir to King's job, which was all that he feared most in the world. Design was a very different proposition from the day-to-day running of a corporation the size of Terotechnology. It was an activity for small groups or, as Dallas preferred it, for individuals. The CEO function was about development, a process that required whipping, kicking, and pushing. Small wonder that King required the assistance of Rimmer, his head of security. But it was unthinkable that you could make the Design Department work in that way. The more you tried to make it efficient, the less efficient it would become. For Dallas, his own lack of corporate responsibility was a source of pride. His mind worked to perfect pitch only when it was unfettered by the need to perform the mundane tasks of routine administration. He thought it would be crazy for someone like him, a pure designer, to run a company like Terotechnology; but at the same time, he knew that this was what King, himself a former designer, had planned for him, and he hated King for it. All Dallas wanted was to be left alone to design his intricate models of high security.
Sweeping quickly into his office before King could spot him, Dallas closed the door and then locked it.
"That won't keep him out," said Dixy.
"I know," he answered dully. "I'm open to suggestions for making his exclusion from my life something more permanent."
"Sounds like someone had a bad evening."
Silently, Dallas shrugged off his jacket and poured himself a glass of water. Finding herself ignored, Dixy awaited her master's orders with patient respect.
"These days they're all bad," he said at last.
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"It's my daughter. She's sick."
"Caro? What's the matter with her?"
"That's half the problem," he said. "The doctors they don't really know." He sighed and shook his head.
"It sounds like she's been sick for a while."
"Since she was born."
"But why haven't you told me before?" Dixy sounded a little hurt.
It was true. It was the first time he had mentioned Caro's illness to his assistant. Dallas wasn't the kind to mix his home life with his business life. But now he felt the need to tell someone about it. Even if that someone was only Dixy.
"You can tell me anything. That's what I'm here for."
Dallas nodded. He appreciated Dixy's seeming concern.
"She just doesn't seem to thrive," he said. "For a start, she's anemic. And then there's her jaw." Dallas shrugged. "It seems to stick out in the most peculiar way. If she wasn't so sickly, she'd look like an infant Neanderthal. I mean, you'd look at her and your first instincts would be to leave her out on a hillside somewhere, you know what I mean? No, I don't mean that. I do love her, but there are times well, let's just say it's not easy to bond with a child like that, Dixy."
"Well, I wouldn't know about that," she said stiffly.
The note in her voice surprised him, and for a moment Dallas wondered if perhaps she wanted a child of her own. Maybe he could organize that.
"Take my word for it," he said bitterly.
"What do the doctors say?"
"The doctors," Dallas snorted contemptuously. "They're running tests. Always more tests. But this far, whatever it is that's wrong with her has eluded their diagnosis. So to be honest, I'm not very optimistic that they'll find anything."
"Oh dear," sighed Dixy. "Is there anything I can do?"
Dallas stared into the screen of the faux fenêtre as a school of butterfly fish swooped as one, their eyes peering out from behind broad bands of black lending them a villainous look, so that they most resembled a gang of marauding bandits. It never ceased to amaze Dallas the way the fish all managed to turn in the same direction at exactly the same time they may have been generated by a computer, but they were as realistic as if they had been bought from an aquarium. He supposed it was behavior associated with and modified by their breeding and feeding requirements. But how like the population at large, he thought. The masses of people who were obliged to live outside the Zone, with its system of medical privilege that cocooned Dallas and his class. Dangerous, nefarious people. Uneducable, infected things made of greed and desire. Crowded seas of dying generations against whose contagion a smaller, healthier, morally superior population had, of necessity, sought the protection of reinforced glass, scanning cameras, and lofty electrified fences in hermetic, guarded communities of RES Class One citizens.
Dixy coughed politely, and realizing that she had asked him a question, Dallas looked away from the faux fenêtre with a questioning sigh, to which he then added, "What's that you say?"
"I asked if there's anything I can do," she said patiently. Redundantly. For they both knew that there was nothing she could have refused him. That was why she served as Dallas's assistant instead of some more lowly job function.
"You know I like to please you," she added in the most sultry voice she could muster, running a beautifully manicured hand through her long abundant hair in the way she had seen it done in old movies, when women wanted to offer some sexual provocation.
Dallas smiled, grateful for her sympathy. Every little bit helped. Even an assistant's compassion was worth something. Dixy was indeed a nonpareil among assistants. Tall, immaculately proportioned, with long blonde hair, and in her late twenties, she was the kind of female whose beauty was considerably enhanced by her certainty that she was his perfect woman and the knowledge that he could never touch her. For Dixy was a Motion Parallax, a three-dimensional image display with virtually unlimited resolutions that had been rendered by a computer using the electrical signals within Dallas's brain and recorded using a DTR. She was the interactive, real-timetransmitted image of his electronic assistant's program bundle, a sophisticated optical device that helped Dallas to get the best out of the massively parallel computer that served his intellectual endeavors. Dixy could do just about everything that didn't involve physical contact with Dallas. She was secretary, graphic artist, counselor, numbers-cruncher, jester, colloquist, translator, interlocutor, and even, on occasion, an autoerotic aid. In short, Dixy was invaluable to Dallas and capable of solving the most complex polynomial equations while simultaneously treating her human master to the lewdest, most intimate displays of her realistic, almost opaque (from whatever perspective you cared to regard this two-gigabyte basis fringe trioscopic display, Dixy was an exact creation of reflected light) and lifelike anatomy.
"You could give me those figures," he suggested. "For the new multicursal route design."
"I know what you meant, Dixy," Dallas said gently.
It was his own fault. An indefatigable interest in sex was part of his own mind's conception of the perfect woman. That Dixy didn't look more like his wife had as much to do with Aria as it had to do with Dallas. Knowing her husband's propensity for the abuse of his Motion Parallax program in this regard, Dallas was in no way atypical Aria had insisted that her husband should try to visualize someone very different from her for the original DTR recording. She had no wish for the director or any of Dallas's other colleagues to find her image in such a subservient and occasionally pornographic role. So it was with Aria's encouragement and complicity that Dixy most resembled an actress from one of the two-dimensional moving picture disc recordings of the early twenty-first century that Dallas collected as a hobby.
Careful of her feelings function, he added, "Perhaps later you could show me that trick you learned. The one with the cigar. But right now, I really need those calculations for the MR shape the ones based on Fresnel integrals. And of course the component specifications."
"Sure," smiled Dixy, for despite her feelings function's semblance of sensitivity, it was impossible to offend her in any lasting way. "Would you like me to display the differential equations on paper, or on the faux fenêtre?"
"Sur la fenêtre," said Dallas.
His undersea view was now replaced by rows of figures. Overnight Dixy had produced a number of equations it would have taken a whole team of engineers months to do manually. Designing Rational Environ-ments within the budgetary and time constraints imposed by Terotechnology clients would not have been possible without an assistant like Dixy. This was the nineteenth blood bank he had designed in as many months each more sophisticated than the last. But working for a larger client like this one the Deutsche Siedlungs Blutbank, an Earth-station facility with a generous budget, meant that Dallas could indulge himself a little with a favorite touch, adding a multicursal route to all the other security management systems he had devised to protect the deep-frozen deposits of Deutsche Siedlungs' autologous donors. Including an MR was his opportunity to be creative, to do something artistic and imaginative, to surpass himself, for every route he created offered a more bewildering range of choices than the last. It was one of the things for which Dallas was famous and was why many of the clients keen to outstrip their competitors in the modernity and complexity of their security management systems came to Terotechnology in the first place.
The MR Dallas was currently working on included a curving corridor where the floor gradually, almost imperceptibly, became the wall, to increase the sense of disorientation experienced by a potential interloper. For despite these Byzantine security precautions, criminals still tried to rob these facilities, even the ones in space, although so far, none had ever succeeded.
"To set up an optimal corner," Dixy was explaining, "we require a curve whose curvature increases in a linear way, with arc length. Differential geometry shows us the following equations, which we can immediately solve algebraically."
Dallas nodded thoughtfully. "Is it possible to show me that curve as a parametric plot?"
"Of course." Dixy's symbolic solutions gave way to a picture of a graph that was more spiral than curve. Dallas realized that it was a spiral he could very easily incorporate within the route's overall design. And where better to locate the living conditions and essential nutrient supplies for a transgenic the highly aggressive life-form that Terotech employed as custodians in all their Earth-based Rational Environments.
"That's good, Dixy," said Dallas. "That's very good indeed. You've done well. You can go ahead and incorporate that spiral in the overall design."
Dixy shot Dallas a flawless smile, delighted to have given her master some satisfaction. Folding her arms across her breasts she walked up and down the floor in front of his desk, tossing her mane of blonde hair from one shoulder to the other, like an excited horse. Dallas became aware of the scent of perfume in the air, puffed through his office air-conditioning by the Motion Parallax reality support sensor.
Dallas breathed deeply through his nose, aware that Dixy's was no ordinary perfume, but one containing the tiny quantities of the drug that he needed to treat his own genetic predisposition to prostate cancer. The disease had killed Dallas's own grandfather. Hence, his treatment, based on the modern medical assumption that preventing cancer was the only infallible way of treating it. A predisposition to arthritis and brittle bones on the part of his wife was similarly treated using other prophylactic vomeronasal drugs. The pity was that Caro's condition could not be so easily relieved.
There were times in his baby daughter's life when Dallas despaired of an accurate diagnosis, let alone a cure. That was the trouble with being RES Class One and an autologous donor within Crossover Healthcare: It was very easy to gain the impression of an omnipotent medical system. But just because you weren't afflicted with P2, like the other 80 percent of the population, didn't mean that you were going to live forever. There were still plenty of other illnesses to which even someone who was RES Class One could fall victim. Not to mention all the violent crime there was these days. Most of it blood-related. There was even a name for it in the news media: vamping. Hardly a day passed in which New York Today did not carry a story describing how some hapless victim had been murdered and drained of blood, like a lamb slaughtered in an abattoir according to strict religious rules vamped, the newspapers said by one of the bestial and sanguinary creatures who made up that wretched section of society known as bad bloods, or the living dead. This sensational modern phenomenon was no ancient superstition, and owed more to the story of Elizabeth Bathory, the so-called Countess Dracula, than it did to the eponymous count. Bathory was a seventeenth-century Hungarian aristocrat who murdered some three hundred girls in order to bathe her aging body in their supposedly rejuvenating blood. For does not the Bible say that the blood is the life?
By twenty-first-century standards, three hundred murders hardly ranked as noteworthy. There were many more egregious instances of blood felony, some of them involving several thousand victims. Just such an example had been reported in the current edition of New York Today.
Carl Dreyer was sentenced to death yesterday after being convicted of the "depraved" murders of over two thousand men and women. He greeted the sentence with the same pallid, blank expression he has worn throughout the three-week trial. Dressed in the sober black suit he has worn almost every day in court, he looked more like a lawyer or a civil servant than the pitiless killer he has been shown to be. Today, as Dreyer prepares to meet the executioner, police are appealing for more information about scores of other people who may have fallen victim to him and his partner in blood felony, Tony Johannot. Last week, Johannot hanged himself in prison.
During the trial, the Supreme Court of Justice heard the two men described as a modern-day Burke and Hare. Between 2064 and 2066, the two drove around North America kidnapping their RES Class One victims, then cutting their throats and hanging their bodies upside down in the back of their customized furniture van in order to drain them of blood. At one stage they were probably killing as many as eight people a week.
Detectives remain uncertain as to the ultimate market for these supplies of quality-assured whole blood, but it's generally believed the ultimate buyers were illegal P2 clinics in the Far East. When apprehended, Dreyer and Johannot were in possession of bank accounts totaling some $1.5 billion. Both men's computer records confirmed them as officially classed P2. Following their arrest, however, medical examinations revealed no trace of the virus. A complete change of blood in conjunction with the drug ProTryptol 14 remains the only way to cure P2.
Chief Inspector Paul Arthuis said: "In nearly all cases involving vamping, first and foremost the perps are seeking a cure for themselves. But when they see how much money there is to be made from the trade in illegal blood, it becomes hard to stop. Sixty percent of murders today are blood-felony related."
Even by the standards of the day, the case has horrified people throughout America, and several congressmen are already calling for more to be done to help the victims of P2. Congressman Peter Piers said: "This kind of thing will go on happening as long as P2 victims are condemned to a living death with no hope of a cure. That's the real horror of what has been revealed in this appalling case."
Perhaps the grimmest aspect of the facts that were presented to the court was the way in which Dreyer and Johannot disposed of the bodies once they had been drained of blood. The panel of five judges heard how the pair had fitted the furniture van with a fully automated disposal system, enabling them to reduce the bodies to a fine powder, and all without the risk of foul odors, air emissions, or wastewater discharges. Microcomputers controlled the parameters of the operation, which included a shredder, a reduction system to further reduce particle size, and a grinder. After a period of holding in a tank containing a chemical condensate, a steam-jet-ejector vacuum system expelled the end product through the van's exhaust gases. The two men might never have been caught but for a police spot-check of emissions from vehicles running on compressed gases. The suspicions of the two officers were aroused when they noticed a spray gun on the van's passenger seat of a type used by the military to knock out enemy soldiers. When the van was searched, the officers found four bodies drained of their life's blood and awaiting pathological waste processing. Chief Inspector Paul Arthuis said: "It looks as if these two guys could probably have taught the SS a thing or two."
Throughout the trial, Dreyer said nothing. It remains to be seen whether the dreadful sight of the cartwheel and the executioner's crowbar will encourage the condemned man to try and explain himself.
Dixy sat down on her nonexistent chair and crossed her legs carelessly. She seemed about to tell him something, then checked herself for a moment before saying, "It's Ogilvy. He wants to speak to you."
"Put him on the window," said Dallas.
Ogilvy was a commodities analyst at Merrill Lynch. Over a period of two or three years he had helped to make Dallas a considerable fortune by speculating in the blood futures market. It didn't matter what Dallas was doing he always took Ogilvy's calls.
A neat-looking man with a bow tie and glasses appeared on the faux fenêtre, and seeing Dallas simultaneously on-screen in his own office, Ogilvy leaned forward to examine his client's features a little more closely.
"Jesus, Dallas," said Ogilvy, frowning. "You look like shit."
"Thanks a lot."
"What's the matter? Is that baby keeping you up at night?"
"Yes, that's it," said Dallas. If only, he thought. A bit of lusty crying from his daughter's cot would have sounded good, certainly preferable to the unnatural, unhealthy silence that prevailed there.
"Haven't you got some child care or something? I mean, a guy as important as you, Dallas. You need your sleep, right?"
Dallas had no intention of explaining that it was anxiety about his daughter's health that was keeping him awake at night. He had talked about it to Dixy. That was enough. Like most people with his background, Dallas thought there was something vaguely shameful about ill health. So he just shrugged and muttered something about Aria not wanting anyone but herself looking after her baby at least until the child was a little older.
"Women," remarked Ogilvy.
"So what's happening?" asked Dallas. "What's your analysis?" The fact was, he'd been looking forward to a call from Ogilvy. Speculating, making money, it was all a welcome distraction from his troubles at home. Whatever the problems with Caro's health, he could at least make sure that her financial position would always remain sound.
"Blood prices just surged for the third day in a row," Ogilvy said gleefully. "The market's up almost twenty percent this week. Can you believe it? The First National Blood Bank lifted the price of a half-liter by seventy dollars because of the soaring futures market and the strength of the yen against the dollar. Also there's a strike by U.S. transfusion workers, which has blocked some seven hundred thousand units coming onto the market. I heard that talks aimed at ending the strike just broke down."
"Sounds like the market is setting up for an explosive rise," observed Dallas.
"I'd say so. Naturally you'll want to go on buying futures?"
"Consider it done. But what about selling some of that blood you've got on deposit? Maybe take some quick profit."
Dallas shook his head. "Actually I think I'll just hang on to it a while longer," he said.
"Know something I don't, is that it? You know, each time they build a new blood bank, the five hundred mill price skyrockets. Are you designing another blood bank?"
Dallas said nothing. He enjoyed watching Ogilvy supply his own explanations. The truth was, Dallas would have quite liked to have sold off some deposit and taken some profit. The trouble was, he'd already used most of it as collateral on the loan he had needed to buy an enormously expensive country house the previous summer.
"Seems the least you could do for an old friend would be a simple yes or no," grumbled Ogilvy.
"Good-bye, Jim," said Dallas and nodded to Dixy to cut him off.
Ogilvy disappeared, and Dallas was back staring into the ocean depths and at a beautiful manta ray flying gracefully through the water. Dixy sighed loudly, uncrossed her legs, and then crossed them again. Dallas looked at her and smiled. She may have been a computer interface, but he could always sense when she had an opinion to air. It was part of her counselor function. But usually she had to be prompted first. Dixy was nothing if not diplomatic.
"Is there something on your mind?" he asked her.
"I was thinking," she said. "This speculation in blood futures. I wonder if perhaps it's a bad thing."
Dallas was surprised. This was as near as Dixy had ever come to voicing a criticism of him. Certainly she had never before offered an opinion about the blood market.
"How do you mean?" he asked, intrigued.
"I'm reminded of the Dutch Tulpenwoede," she said. "The speculative frenzy in seventeenth-century Holland that attended the sale of rare tulip bulbs. Prices began to rise so that by 1610 a single bulb was acceptable as a dowry for a bride. Of course, what happened was that as prices continued rising, many ordinary people were tempted into the market and whole estates were mortgaged so that bulbs could be bought for resale at higher prices. When the crash finally came, in 1637, many ordinary families were ruined."
"That's very interesting, Dixy. But I think there's an important difference between a tulip bulb and a half-liter of quality-assured blood. And it's this. A bulb has no real intrinsic value. The most it can ever be is a tulip. But blood, well that's something else. Blood performs a number of vital physiological functions that make it much more precious than any bulb. It's the very stuff of life itself. And besides, markets are made by the laws of supply and demand. With eighty percent of the world's population afflicted with P2, the demand for quality-assured blood far outstrips the supply. That's why the price keeps rising. It's a matter of simple scarcity."
"But isn't it a fact that there's enough blood on deposit in banks to reduce by half the number of people suffering from P2? And that it's only the artificially high price of blood that prevents it being used to cure people?"
"Well, that may be so," admitted Dallas. "But no one's going to do it. No one's going to help that spawning rabble out there. Pigs, most of them. You know, sometimes I think it would be nice if God were to send another flood and drown the world. At least that part where the pestilential hordes are living."
"But if they were gone," said Dixy. "The 'pestilential hordes,' as you call them. Then surely the price of blood would collapse. If all the sick people were removed from the world, then quality-assured blood would hardly be scarce anymore, would it? And you'd be out of a job."
Dallas frowned. "What's gotten into you, Dixy?" he asked. "What do you care what happens to the swarming masses?"
She shrugged back. "Oh, nothing at all, of course. It's you I care about, Dallas. I just wouldn't like the same thing to happen to you as happened to all those seventeenth-century Dutchmen."
Dallas nodded his appreciation. "Thanks," he said. "Look, nothing's going to happen to me. Nothing's going to go wrong. Believe me, Dixy. It's very sweet of you, but really, there's nothing to worry about. Nothing at all."
Meet the Author
Of Philip Kerr, The Washington Post Book World wrote: "He has the talent to convey the big idea and to take you places you have never been." The author of ten wildly imaginative and acclaimed novels, including A Five-Year Plan (Holt, 0-8050-5176-7) and Esau (Holt, 0-8050-5175-9), Kerr--one of Granta's "Best Young British Novelists"--led In Style to say, "Move over Mr. Grisham, the new master of books-to-movies is Philip Kerr."
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yes phillip kerr will shock the most sophisticated. what he does with the science of blood is very unique. not to mention the people are well developed as well as plot detail.