Authors: Harold Robbins
Descent from Xanadu
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Descent from Xanadu
Descent from Xanadu
Copyright © 2014 by Jann Robbins
Cover art, special contents, and electronic edition © 2014 by RosettaBooks LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover design by Alexia Garaventa
ISBN ePub edition: 9780795340932
Many thanks to the man who wears the hat, Bradley Yonover.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The tiny doctor, hidden by tinted European eyeglasses, rose from her desk to face the windows. She gestured to him.
He towered above her, then followed her hand to a giant fountain in the expanse of green-blue grass.
“Do you know what that fountain is, Mr. Crane?” she asked in her mid-European accent.
He nodded. “Of course, Dr. Zabiski. The fountain of Ponce de Leon.”
She looked up at him. “It’s a legend, Mr. Crane. An allegory. It’s not a reality. There has never been a reality like that.”
He was silent for a moment. “I know that too, Dr. Zabiski,” he said.
She went to her desk and sat in her chair and waited until he was seated opposite her. She held her tinted eyeglasses in her right hand, then placed them on the desk in front of her. “You have dark cobalt-blue eyes,” she said.
A faint smile crossed his lips. “And yours are tawny yellow-brown, almost like a cat’s.”
She met his gaze directly. “If it’s immortality you seek here, Mr. Crane,” she said in a soft voice, “you’ve wasted your time.”
His gaze had not changed. “That’s not what I heard.”
“Then you’ve heard incorrectly,” she said.
His expression did not change. “Twenty million dollars incorrectly?”
The tinted glasses covered her eyes again. “I guess what I’ve heard is true,” she said. “You are one of the richest men in the world.”
“Now you have heard incorrectly,” he said softly. “I am the richest man in the world.”
She tilted her head. “More than the Saudi king, Getty, Ludwig, Hughes?”
“They’re all like children playing games,” he said. “With a snap of my fingers I can take away their marbles.”
“Then there is only one game left for you to play,” she said. “Immortality.”
“It’s the last game, Doctor. We’ve played the space game and we’ve won it. The ocean depth game—we’ve won that, too. Speed, height, depth, you name it, we’ve won them all. And I’ve played all the other games. Money, power, sex. I love them and I play them all the time, but those are children’s games. I’m going for the big one. Immortality. I want to be the first man to live forever.”
“You don’t want much! Only something that no man has ever achieved.” She watched his eyes carefully. They never changed focus or expression. “But do you believe me when I tell you I have not been able to achieve it either?”
“I believe you,” he said.
She hesitated. “Then I don’t understand,” she said. “What do you expect of me?”
“Nothing,” he said quietly. “Everything. You have come closer to what I want than anyone in the world.”
“I’ve had success in some cases of geriatric retardation. Nothing in geriatric arrestation. That’s not immortality.”
“But you helped many important people,” he said.
She allowed herself a small modest smile. “That’s true. And I like to feel I’ve helped them.
who came here from Germany, the Pope from Rome, even Stalin from Moscow. But in time—they all died.”
“But they came here. All of them. And they did get something.”
She nodded slowly. “In each case, the quality of their lives got better whatever their age.”
“Mentally and physically?” It was almost more a statement than a question.
“Yes,” she said. “But finally they died.”
He looked at her. “On average, how much time do you think you gave them?”
She held up her hands. “I don’t know. There were many factors. Not only their ages, and the time they came to me for treatment.” Again she hesitated. “There are some who do not respond to my treatment at all. There are no guarantees.”
“If I respond to your treatment, what might I expect?”
“On average?” She was thoughtful for a moment. “You’re forty-two now?”
“In eight years, in 1984, at age fifty, geriatrically you would be forty-five; at sixty, geriatrically fifty-two; at seventy, perhaps sixty and at eighty, possibly sixty-four to sixty-six.” She paused, then continued. “That, of course, assumes you continue the program to its conclusion.”
“That’s to the end of my life?” he said.
“This is a life program, Mr. Crane,” she nodded. “To begin with, you’ll require a two-month stay here while we determine whether you will respond to our treatment. Then if we determine there is a likelihood of a favorable response, you’ll have to spend one week here every third month for the treatment itself.”
He smiled, not unpleasantly. “Dr. Zabiski, say that I do continue for the whole term of treatment, what happens to you?”
She smiled in return. “I will have long been dead. But that is not important. The treatment will continue.”
He was silent for a moment. “Adding to the treatment time, I’ll have to manage two more weeks for travel to come here. That will come to almost two months a year of my time. I’d have no way to take care of my affairs.”
“That has to be your decision, Mr. Crane.”
“Is there some way the treatments can be brought to me?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Crane. It has taken me thirty years to develop this complex and it’s the only one in the world.”
“Drs. Aslam, Filatov and Niehans export their treatments,” he said. “And you include some of their methodology in your own.”
She agreed. “That’s right.”
“Then what’s the secret ingredient you so guard that it cannot go elsewhere in the world?”
She half-smiled. “The secret ingredient, Mr. Crane, as you say, is you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I think you do, Mr. Crane,” she said.
“I know all the theories,” he said frankly. “I know you incorporated the procaine, magnesium and minerals of Aslam, the fresh placenta implants of Filatov and the unborn ewe cells injected by Niehans. I sometimes even think you’ve made them into one formula. But that would be much too simple. That’s why I think there is a secret ingredient.”
“You have not listened to me, Mr. Crane,” she said patiently. “I have already told you that the secret ingredient is you.”
He stared intently at her.
She was silent.
His voice was hushed. “Cloning?”
She remained silent.
“Implantation of living cloned cells from the body’s own reservoir.” His cobalt-blue eyes seemed to turn into the color of a night sky. “That’s never been successful with humans.”
For the first time in her life she felt fear, as though a chill wind was blowing through her body. Her voice was almost trembling. “Mr. Crane, I have other patients I must attend to.”
He remained silent.
“But perhaps we may make another appointment tomorrow,” she said.
His voice was thoughtful. “Tomorrow I will be in Pekin.”
“Another time then,” she said.
He rose from his chair. “Twenty million dollars will not be enough; I see that now,” he said. “Fifty million dollars? Would that be enough?”
She looked up at him. “You don’t understand, Mr. Crane,” she said. “Money is not important. This is a socialist country. Everything here belongs to the state.”
“Then forget the word ‘money’ and put in its place the word ‘priorities,’” he said. “Each country has its own priorities and its own order.”
“Now, you’ve lost me, Mr. Crane,” she said.
He smiled. “You’re a doctor and a scientist, Dr. Zabiski, and you understand your profession. Please allow me, my profession is in the trading of priorities.” He held his hand out to her. “Thank you for your time, Dr. Zabiski.”
Her hand was firm and warm. “I will always be at your service, Mr. Crane,” she nodded, and smiled although he had not expected it. She escorted him to the door. “Good-bye, Mr. Crane.”
He stood there in the open doorway. “You’re a great lady,” he said. “
, Dr. Zabiski.”
The private door to her office opened as soon as Judd had gone. The tall Russian, his face strong with authority, reached her almost before she went behind her desk. An attractive young woman wearing a white lab coat followed him and closed the door behind them.
Zabiski slipped into her chair. “What do you think of him?” she asked.
The tall Russian swore. “The egotistic pig! He thinks his money can buy everything.”
The young woman looked down at the seated doctor. “I thought he was quite attractive,” she said. “And I have a feeling that he is very intelligent.”
Zabiski looked across her desk at the man. “Don’t underestimate him, Comrade Nicolai,” the little doctor said. “He is very smart. See how quickly he seized on parts of our methodology.”
“That doesn’t matter, Comrade Doctor,” Nicolai said. “You must make sure that he doesn’t get away from us.”
“What makes him so important to us?” Zabiski asked. “To me, he is just another man that wants to extend his life span. Exactly like many others who pass through this clinic.”
Nicolai stared at her. When he spoke, it was as if to a child. “Crane Industries is not only the largest industrial complex in the world, it is also the biggest supplier of a range of products to the U.S. government. From office supplies, to medical, to aerospace and heavy armament.
“For many years we have attempted to infiltrate the executive level of that company. But it has been impossible. Because Judd Crane himself owns and operates it alone. He makes all the decisions and his assistants only carry out his orders. Any person who can get next to him cannot help but learn more about the policies and plans of the United States than perhaps is known by the President of the United States himself.”
Dr. Zabiski stared up at him. “If you expect me to be that person, you’re making a big mistake. If he wants me to go with him and work with him, that’s impossible. I’m too old and not able to keep up with him physically.”
“We don’t expect you to do the physical work. We want you to convince him that you will cooperate with him. You will then assign Sofia to act as your surrogate. She has the legitimate credentials, both as a doctor and assistant professor of gerontology and geriatrics, and is completely competent to undertake the tests and prepare him for the treatments that you will undertake personally.” He paused for a moment. “I listened to your conversation through the microphones. He wants to believe so badly that he’ll accept every suggestion you offer.”