The world, sunk beneath like a coin into a well, still sings to us:
“We won’t be sure for another eight and a half years, but these should be the first signals received by Dent and his skeleton crew. Wallace, are you listening? Because THESE are the top new singles playing back here on Earth…”
Chiro laces the display in green ivy and moss, her signal of plane vitals and operations. Nothing to worry about. The news from home will soon be grim, I know. Talk of war, diseases of poverty, crime lords. Gridlock. Politicians with aspirational marketing techniques. Death.
I cure us of death, yet death remains. Deathlessness is cause of death.
“Though neither side could come to an agreement, both seemed buoyant back at home, almost excited that fighting may continue. Their thirst for victory may be fuel for a longer, intensifying civil war…”
I can’t be faulted for wanting out of the loop. It would have been my noose, to see them clutch tighter at blots of mud as they slid into Earth’s bedrock. Why live so long, on a dying world?
I knew all that when I started. That was why I started. I needed the money, and the one thing that the rich would pay anything to get is immortality. Serve the elite, and you are rewarded. Scooping soup at the shelter earns no credit. So, I scooped data.
“Dent, you lucky fool! You picked a good time for all this, and style points for making such an exit. The world went crazy for your treatment, and now it’s just gone crazy. These execs, and the mob, the Chinese — it isn’t a clash of ideologies, it’s a RACE between TITANS! Now that you made these people young, they plan to never leave their mansions, power forever after. Their bodyguards are the only regular guys who stand to profit in this world. There’ve been assassinations… I can’t… Look, Dent, you said you would pay us the rest, I took your word, and… Hell, it probably doesn’t matter at this point. You knew you screwed me, before we ever shook hands. Even with your winnings, you couldn’t’ve really afforded that plane.”
I shoveled data. Nothing got through my lab without my eyes on it, without my code licking information like a sore tooth, without comparing it to my secret, my intentions. I could have made more money, if I had staggered pricing better, yes. I didn’t, strategically. My advantage, my leverage, would rapidly disappear as elite consolidated. I knew what I sought, in every grain of data. Knew how it must end.
Chiro flashed a question: Should I wake them up yet? It will take at least twenty minutes for the sedatives to be neutralized. “Not yet,” I am mumbling — I see how the syrup in my veins has intoxicated me. I hadn’t tried to move, yet. Every muscle feels like roots of a tree, cold, wedged in rock. I need more time, first, so that I speak clearly. When they wake, I’ll tell them.
“… ‘I realized — being twenty years ahead of my time wasn’t really the answer. I could be a hundred years ahead of my time in something profitless, like mathematics. Didn’t matter. I only needed to be five months ahead, in the right ways. I beat them to patent by five months. And that made all the difference.’ That was Wallace Dent, in an interview thirty years ago. Hard to imagine that this impetuous biochemist would become the FASTEST to a trillionaire, right Katy?…”
They really suspect nothing. My mad dash to the patent office. My rapid roll-out, even as litigation sloughed along. Earnings bought lawyers, lawyers brought loopholes. So, I skidded into home — cheap radioisotopes. Dirty ores. I bought it all. Bezos had a strategy for rockets. I rode isotopes up on those rockets, with this dirty plan: build the first large scale Greason-Slough plasma magnet sail, powered by fissile patties. People laughed at the idea, sure — “C’mon, Wally, the Singularity is about to happen, really, it’ll be so much cheaper once we have strong intelligence. What’s the rush? We’re not getting any older!”
I was racing out ahead of the racers, outpacing them, like their dogged lure.
“Wallace Dent, who must now be listening to all of us here at the studio,” cheering, whistles, “Wally, we miss you! We are wishing your family well, and we hope you find it welcoming in your new home. I thought I’d never want to travel through the stars, but now, I know I speak for many of us here — take us with you! We all love your treatment, but, you know, things are rough back here in the states. Not as bad as some places, sure, but I haven’t been able to leave this zip code for a week. Have you seen what happened to Paris? Oh, god, Wally, send us one of your bio-hack things that cures STUPID!” applause.
I had to look through all the data, first. Correlations, follow-up questionnaires, interviews, sometimes staged as businesses looking to hire, leaflets baiting them. I had to look, first: who isn’t stupid? Or evil?
Sociopaths, by dint of their lack of empathy, are willing to do anything that has them win. They take the jobs no one else would touch. Those jobs always pay more. Sociopaths heaped wealth upon cunning, and they were the bulk of my clientele. God-fearing folk, even rich ones, weren’t interested in my gift. I had to find them before they went extinct.
“Doctor Dent, who channeled his wealth first into server farms here in Canada, rapidly targeting drugs and treatment plans with such astounding benefit to the poorest, has triggered a wave of compassion across the globe. This ‘dent-effect’ even has the Pope selling properties to finance greater aid efforts. And, in an act some are calling chivalrous, Dent moved to capture much of the world’s supply of fissile materials, saying that they are better used for space travel than arms races. What will this trillionaire researcher, inventor, investor, philanthropist think of next?”
I thought of how to be my neighbor’s stumbling block. I slunk into research institutions, gummed up their numeric controls, soiled their samples, stole thunder and fire. I crept under their doormat, under their footsteps, a lace caught at their hem. My machines weren’t cracking genetic codes — they were hacking geneticists.
I’d had the first insight, sure. I am an accomplished researcher. But others would have noticed the same, soon enough. I broke with my team, after breaking into their lab. My first real crime. My patent, my company, all followed my racing heart — ‘Before they do. Before THEY do!’
The entire plan crystallized in two weeks, I remember — between the full moon that drove my midnight lunacy in that lab, and the gloom and whisper-grey of the new moon when I concluded. Isotopes. Drills, autonomous. Data on every last soul I could, DNA of every stripe, textbooks. Proxima Centauri. I knew that we couldn’t survive any other course. I was shameless, merciless. I had even set the fuse for 4.24 years before my arrival here, to save myself the guilt of contemplating their state much longer. I awake, I see my sickness gurgle forth, I hear their pleas, and then I wake the others. Any minute.
“This is horrible! Dent! The news! It’s yellowstone… and, we’re just getting word, oh, the other stations, the internet is down, we’re bouncing satellite now, the ash cloud is expected to be…oh, wait — wait, we are hearing now, that… DENT.” ah, here it is. “Dent, you fuck! How could you?! They’re reporting readings, sieverts, it’s YOU! You must be laughing, right? Laugh, laugh, you sicko. You cheat. Oh, hell isn’t enough for you, Wallace Dent. Go live with your family. Have a blast. I just want to know, just one thing, really, send us the message, maybe someone will be around to hear it: what are you going to tell them, your family?” Yes.
I will tell them that they have a new world to themselves, three new suns, and a raft of new faces waiting to be born. Good, homely faces. But there will be survivors on Earth, the wealthiest — sheikhs and mobsters, who will plot revenge. Revenge that lasts hundreds of years, boiling like the volcano that bought it. They will come here, and you must prepare to meet them. I will be gone by then, like a coin sunk down in a well.