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The man had grown old in the lap of luxury.
In a society full of new idealism and fresh new inventions he was one of the few remaining who’d come from old money. In his grandfather’s hands, the company had been a simple 3d printing idea. It had started as a toy factory or something like that, but he couldn’t be bothered with humble beginnings. Earth’s soil had failed to produce edible crops when his parents had been teenagers. His father had taken over the 3d printing family business, and begun producing food. Shortly after that, the dome was built to preserve the remaining life on what threatened to become a dead and crumbling rock, and his parents had quickly realized that their family business had the potential to be a fortune sitting directly in their laps.
The climb to the top had been a difficult one, but the man’s father had been a ruthless man prepared to do what ever it would take to take a position of power.
Soon the business was the only major producer of essential goods. Their replicators produced the main food supply for the entire dome. In fact, most everything was produced by the man’s company. He would own the entire dome if he could lock down oxygen and water productions, but sadly those were still too far above his technology. Now he sat at the top of one of the dome’s four main support towers, and surveyed the world that could one day be his personal kingdom.
The dome’s creators didn’t waste any space. The dome’s supports and columns were built of a strong titanium steel alloy discovered in the late 21st century. The center of the dome was kept open, and used for growing grass and trees to produce oxygen for the inhabitants of the dome, and in fact the entire center of the dome was a dense man made rainforest.
The curved walls and support columns were all hollow, and connected by a series of catwalks and gangways. The people literally lived in the walls, and he, being one of the richest men of the 23rd century, lived and worked in the sprawling network of rooms that was the very top of the dome.
The office he sat in was comfortable, and very bland. The walls were gray, the carpet was white, and the only decoration in the room, or in any of his many rooms, was the view through the circle of glass set in the center of the floor which provided him with a view of the sprawling rainforest.
He loved watching the people below from this advantage point. They looked like mere insects against the backdrop of the wild tangle of plants they tended, and that’s how they should look, because they were, after all, lower life forms.
A soft knock sounded, and the man glanced up from appreciating his view of humanity below him.
“Come in,” he ordered, annoyed at being disturbed.
The door swung inward silently, and a young woman dressed in a light blue dress stepped past it. Her hair was a silvery blonde, and fell to her shoulders. Her eyes were a storm gray, and almost expressive enough to pass as human. She was short, and willowy.
“I like your new interface upgrades, Atlanta,” the man said with a note of approval. The change in his voice was the only outward sign that he was pleased. The man had stopped smiling. Well… he didn’t really know if he’d ever smiled. He never saw the point in facial expressions.
“Thank you, sir. Have you reached a decision on the price of vegetarian products?” When Atlanta, the man’s personal computer opened her mouth, her voice was male with the clipped British accent of her former persona which had been a butler.
“Atlanta, install vocal upgrade recognition. You still sound male, and given your current persona, that is not pleasing to me.”
“I apologize, sir. Is this better? Does this voice module match my avatar more suitably?” she asked. Her voice had retained it’s clipped old world British accent, but had risen several octaves.
“Much. Thank you, Atlanta. Now. What was it you were asking me before?”
“I am happy to please you, sir. I was asking about the production of vegetarian product, formerly vegetables produced by Essentia-com. The demand has gone up, and my medical sensors tell me that the population of the habitat known as The Dome are in need of the dietary benefits of the products.”
“Atlanta, I have read the reports. What is the decision you’re asking about. I’m a very busy man, and I don’t have time for a full report on the situation at the moment.”
“I apologize, sir, but your schedule is free for the next hour. You do, in fact, have time to hear a full report. Would you like to hear it?”
The man wanted to glare at the computer, but due to his own dislike for facial expression, Atlanta had been programmed without facial recognition.
“Atlanta, did I ask if my schedule were free? No. I do not want to hear a full report. That’s what I just told you.” Shouting at the machine made the man feel just a bit better. She could and did recognize vocal patterns.
“The main question is, should Essentia-com raise the price of the vegetarian product, or keep it at the price of public consumption. Current labor reports tell me that base line labor currently produces fifteen thousand Essentia-Credits a year. At this level, we are advised to keep the product at it’s current price of 2 Essentia-credits per gram.”
“Raise the price to 6 credits. If they need it bad enough, the population will find a way to get it.”
“Warning detected. If the price of Vegetarian product goes above 4 Essentia-credits per gram, the economy in the habitat known as The Dome will destabilize.”
“I don’t care. Raise the price of the Vegetarian product to 6 credits per gram.”
“Do you want to over-ride or ignore the given warning?”
“Yes. Override and ignore.”
“The price of Vegetarian product raised to 6 Essentia-credits per gram. There is news of a new medical advancement. Would you like to hear the report, sir?”
“Scientists in the upper ring of the Dome have discovered a technology which has the possibility of making select human life forms live forever. The Technology will be announced to the general public later today. As owner of Essentia-com, and one of the richest men in the dome, I have been given instruction to allow you to hear the news before anyone else.”
The man sat in stunned silence for several seconds. Could this news be real? Could he, in a matter of days, be made immortal?
“Tell me more, Atlanta,” he said finally.
“The technology being released deals with the transferal of Circadian DNA. With a mild form of radiation and electric shock therapy, Scientists have found a way to keep the cells from mutating. If a human were to be given the treatment, he or she wouldn’t get any younger, however he or she would not age physically past the date when the received the transfer.”
“How much will this cost?” the man asked. His mind had already begun to spin with dreams of outliving most of the inhabitants of the dome. He’d be the richest man in history, and soon enough he would be living history. As time went by, humanity might even bow down to him as an immortal god. Unless… “And who will this technology be released to?”
“The technology will only be released to those who actively contribute to the well being of the dome. Your company controls the entire food supply, so it is being offered to you. Others being offered this solution are heads of research departments and technology centers.”
The man nodded, but Atlanta still hadn’t answered his first question.
“How much does it cost, Atlanta?”
“The cost will be one life credit.”
“One life credit? Atlanta, check all systems for proper functionality. Rebalance where necessary.”
The computer was silent for a few moments as she did as he asked.
“System check complete. No errors found.”
“Atlanta, there is no such thing as a life credit. I control the money in the dome. I should know. There are only Essentia-credits.”
“No, sir. I did not make an error. The procedure costs one life credit. You see, the DNA must be transferred from somewhere. In tests, the DNA of the test subject, when hit with the radiation and electric shock therapy combination simply mutated faster, causing the aging process to speed up. When treated with their own DNA, test subjects aged to the point of death, and expired in a matter of hours. However, the body reacts differently when foreign DNA is introduced. A life credit is exactly what it sounds like. Someone will have to take your place in death for the procedure to work correctly.”
The man sat in silence, and wondered who he could trick into taking his place. Suddenly he wanted this new immortality more than he’d ever wanted anything. He flipped through a list of employees trying to decide which one was least valuable, but came up empty. He’d hand selected his employees for specific jobs, and each of those jobs was still relevant.
“Visitor detected in main office. Name Blake Johnson. Admit?” Atlanta interrupted the man’s thoughts, and he sighed. The visitor was his nephew. The man had been forced to raise the boy from the time he was five when his parents both vanished into the wild tangle of rain forest. Now the boy had become a full grown man whom his uncle could not tolerate for long.
“Admit,” he sighed.
The door opened, and Atlanta slipped out as a young man stepped into the room. The man had tried to raise his nephew to be clean cut, and give a good name and future face to Essentia-com, however the person standing before the man now was anything but clean cut. Stringy black hair fell to Blake’s shoulders in a tangled mess that the man guessed hadn’t seen a brush in weeks. The hair fell over a broad forehead, and all but covered a pair of dull gray eyes. Instead of a neatly pressed dress shirt and slacks as the man had expected all of Blake’s childhood, Blake was wearing a stained white workman’s shirt and a pair of blue jeans which had seen much better days. He looked as if he belonged down on the rainforest floor instead of standing in his uncle’s office.
“What do you want, Blake? I would invite you to sit, but you look as if you’ve not seen a bar of soap in a while, so please. Don’t touch anything.”
“Have you heard the news, Uncle Marcus?”
“What news? Stop playing games with me. I’m a very busy man, boy.”
“They can make people immortal now. They just released the research.”
“Yes. Atlanta was just telling me. I won’t find you a suitable replacement. The dome doesn’t need pond scum like you living forever.”
“That’s just the point. Uncle Marcus I don’t want to live forever. I don’t want to live past tomorrow. You’re so successful, and I’ve tried, but I’m worthless. I have nothing to live for. Once I thought I’d at least be able to raise a family, but Tracy left me last week. I won’t even have a family of my own. I’ve already cleared it with Doctor Eastly. Uncle Marcus, you could be immortal. Please consider my offer.”
“I’ll do it, boy. Now. I have other matters to attend to, so when do we meet with Doctor Eastly? For that matter, who is Doctor Eastly?”
“We would meet with him tomorrow. He’s the head doctor in charge of the project.”
The man nodded. For a moment, he thought he saw… something… pass across his nephew’s nearly hidden features, but he was too elated to care. This way the dome would be rid of a good for nothing lay about, and he, Marcus Stallings the Second would live forever. He didn’t notice when his nephew left the room. He took the rest of the afternoon off to simply stare at the people working below him. He was going to be their king if he hadn’t nearly achieved that position already.
The man got the best night’s sleep he’d had in years. What was their to worry about for one night? He was going to live forever. It could take care of itself, or he’d deal with it when he returned from his procedure. His dreams were of everyone in the dome falling to their knees and then flat on their faces worshiping him. He danced in showers of golden coins. They weren’t used any more, and hadn’t been in a century, but he could have some made specifically for that purpose once he was immortal. In a hundred more years, he could own the entire dome. Maybe he’d have it expanded, or maybe he’d build another private dome just for himself. It would be nice not to be stifled by so many people all sharing the same air as he did. He didn’t want anyone else breathing his air. Yes. He would make himself a private dome from which he would control this one. Maybe one day he would choose a trophy wife for himself. It would look good if he had a pretty young woman hanging on his arm when he addressed his subjects.
He woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. The rich black coffee had never tasted so sweet. The real fruit which grew in his private garden had never tasted so fresh. The artificial sun had never shown so brightly. Life was good as an immortal, and he wasn’t even one yet. Not officially anyway, but that was fine. The deal was done.
Blake showed up an hour into the new day, and with him came a short man with a fringe of gray hair ringing a bald patch in the center of his head, and tiny wire rimmed spectacles which perched on the end of a long nose. He was wearing a white lab coat, and introduced himself as Robert Eastly.
Robert told Marcus that he was the first to have the procedure, and that in a few short hours, he would be a living piece of history.
Doctor Eastly lead the two men down a long series of brightly lit catwalks, and finally into a large building on the upper right side of the dome. Once inside, they were lead down an equally twisting and equally bright lit series of hallways, and finally reached a room with a large box taking up most of the floor space.
“First, I will need you both to sign a few forms, and then we’ll get started,” Robert instructed.
He handed a small digital clipboard to Marcus, and then passed a similar device to Blake. Both men held their thumb to the sensor at the bottom of the clipboards, and handed them back to Doctor Eastly who nodded in approval.
“Okay. Mr. Stallings, I need you to step into this side of the box. There is electricity involved, so you will have to undress. Safety measures you understand. We don’t want you catching on fire.”
Doctor Eastly tugged on a handle, and a door slid open. The inside of the box looked something like a shower stall. Marcus stepped inside, undressed, and handed his clothing out the door to Doctor Eastly. The man nodded, and helped Blake into the other side of the box before coming back to Marcus and attaching some tubes and various electrodes to his chest and head.
Moments later, the door slammed shut.
“Okay, gentlemen. We’re going to get started. Blake, I want to personally thank you for what you’re doing.” Doctor Eastly rambled on through a small speaker for several minutes, and then fell silent.
The sensation started as a tingle that could’ve easily been mistaken for a sleeping limb, but it didn’t take long for the tingle to escalate into a fiery pain that spread across Marcus’ body. He couldn’t remember when he started screaming, or when the restraints had slammed down locking him in place. All he knew was pain, and he wondered why becoming immortal had to hurt so much. Even so, it was a price he was happy to pay.
The pain finally dissolved into a warm tingle again, and then faded entirely. He looked down at himself, and smiled. He had done it. He was immortal.
The door slid open, and Doctor Eastly reached in to manually release the restraints.
“Is he?” It hurt to talk, and his voice came out in a weak croak, but Doctor Eastly had assured him that he would be back to normal in a couple of hours.
“Yes. He’s dead.”
He smiled, and stepped from the shower like box. As he did so, he caught a slightly distorted reflection of himself in the box’s metal side. Black stringy hair covered gray eyes that looked exhausted from the process he’d just been through. He looked too thin, even to his own critical gaze, but that could be fixed. His uncle had been a selfish man, and had kept his nephew as well as everyone else in a constant state of malnourishment, but that would change. He knew that his uncle hadn’t wanted to leave the company to him, but he’d had no other choice. He’d have to clean up a bit, and maybe cut his hair. He’d been constantly afraid that it was going to catch fire while in the procedure, but he’d been lucky, and now there was plenty of time to change his appearance. After all. Thanks to his uncle’s unwitting sacrifice, he was now immortal.
He had bigger and better plans for Essentia-com than his uncle had ever had. In a few years, he would control all production as well as the food supply. In another hundred years he would Have the entire dome under his control, and it would stay that way for eternity.
After all, he was immortal.
Credit: Jessie N
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