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Authors: Dani Kollin

Tags: #Dystopia, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Adult, #Politics, #Apocalyptic

The Unincorporated Man

BOOK: The Unincorporated Man
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TO MOM AND DAD,

who assured us with theirunflinching belief, who steadied uswith their unending support, andwho inspired us with their undying love.This book would not exist without you.

 

TO MY BELOVED DEBORAH,

without whose patience, encouragement, andendless supportthis book could not have been written. I love youmore than thestars in the sky and the sand in the sea.

 

TO MY CHILDREN, ELIANA, YONATAN, AND GAVRIEL,

thank you for giving me the best job in the world.

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

 

Writing a book ain’t exactly easy. These people helped:

Paul Lance, who let us know we were on the right track. The unnamed intern (really, we still don’t know her name) whose passion describing the concept got our manuscript into Tor. Denis Wong, for having the presence of mind to say, “We need to buy this book.” David Hartwell, for not only agreeing with him but also for changing the manuscript from a worthy concept into a worthy read. Stacy Hague-Hill, for patiently guiding us through the straits and narrows of first-time authorship. Howard Deutsch, our agent friend and fellow provocateur. (Dude, really. We so landed on the Moon!) And our test readers who kept us on course and off stupid. (Sorry about that original sex scene. What can we say? We were just starting out.)

To Bond, George, and Sasha. Many of the things I’ve done that are worth remembering (and some I’m still trying to forget) revolve around the three of you. If friends are the family you choose, we’ve been family for a long time. Uncle Harvey, who once made up a science-fiction story for a wide-eyed, seven-year-old boy who then grew up to become a science-fiction author. (I still want to know how it ends, damn it!) Eric, whose intellect, conversations, and comic book collection have enabled my imagination to grow in ways it might never have otherwise.

—Eytan

 

If you’re fortunate in life, you’ll secure a group of friends that, although not always near, somehow manage to feel ever-present. I’m blessed to have seven. Alan, Dan, David, Evan, Leo, Mike, and Yoni. I’m honored to be your friend, brother, and co-conspirator.

To the Insomniyakkers: Barry, Larry, and Lisa. As if road-biking at 4 A.M. weren’t hard enough, you have to listen to me rant, rave, and filibuster about everything under the Moon. (Some of which I really know nothing about! P.S. Don’t tell Larry.) Thanks for the endless miles and the invaluable insights.

To the Wolverines: Albert, Mark, and Jason. Your smarmy wit, dry deliveries, and wonderfully self-deprecating humor mean more to me than you could ever possibly know. Thanks, dudes. Go gym kata!

—Dani

 

 

1 Look What I Found

 

 

The counterpart for education (financing) would be to “buy” a share in an individual’s earning prospects; to advance him the funds needed to finance his training on condition that he agree to pay the lender a specified fraction of his future earnings. There seems no legal obstacle to private contracts of this kind, even though they are economically equivalent to the purchase of a share in an individual’s earning capacity and thus to partial slavery.

—MILTON FRIEDMAN,
CAPITALISM AND FREEDOM,
1962

 

T
hough he was filthy from head to toe, bloodied, and his skin shredded as thoroughly as a cat’s scratching post, Omad couldn’t suppress a grin. He was a miner with a knack for finding veins of valuable material even in old, worked-out quarries, and he felt in his bones that today was his day. Today he’d find something valuable enough to achieve his dream, and achieve it at the respectably early age of sixty-nine. His stock was selling for 183 credits a share, and all he needed was one more good find and GCI would owe
him
enough credits to enable him to buy a majority of himself. Even if his stock price rose, as was often the case with personal success, he could still make majority. He’d just have to pray that his personal valuation wouldn’t go over 200 credits a share, and that he’d take home at least 20,000 credits from this venture. Yes, Omad was 100 shares away from controlling himself. He could taste it. The thought of being able to choose his own vacation times and consume whatever substance he wanted, when he wanted, almost made him too excited to work. But he quelled his feelings of joy and concentrated on the task at hand.

He was walking into a mine on GCI’s property that hadn’t been worked in centuries, and he was walking in without a corporation mine car or drill-bot. The less of GCI’s equipment he used, the less of a percentage they’d be able to claim of his profits. It wasn’t the norm, and he’d never have been as successful without corporate sponsorship and equipment, but this was different. Though it might take a little longer, this excavation would have to be done carefully and in person. Maximum allowable risk for maximum profit, and the risks were real.

Still, it was in these old mines that sometimes one got lucky. The technology of mineral extraction had improved greatly in the four centuries since this quarry had been actively worked. More important, the science of mineral transmutation had been born, and some metals were easier to transform from one into another. Many a decrepit lead mine had been reopened to turn its once worthless innards into a marketable commodity. And when this one was closed and forgotten in the late 1800s, it was done so out of prudence. It had been stripped bare, and there was simply no point in keeping it open any longer. Whatever possible riches lay in waiting now, Omad was sure of one thing—he would be the first to find them.

He took his time with the mine scan. Impatience might make him miss something, and even walls as old as these left hundreds of chemical and structural clues.
Know before you go,
he reminded himself. The first part of the morning was spent insuring that the caverns were sound. He need not have worried. The mountain was formed of igneous rock—a type of hardened molten lava that had lasted eons and would last for eons more. By the time Omad finished his tests he was convinced the dig was stable. His safety assured, he now began looking for the telltale clues of wealth—wealth that could be shared with his investors, his employers, and himself. If he was right about this place, all would benefit from the investment that individuals and society had made in him—as it should be. Omad would also be pleased to gain 51 percent of himself, which was also as it should be.

His thoughts were interrupted and his dreams almost shattered by what appeared before him—a tunnel shaft in abject disarray. It was blocked by a few large boulders among hundreds of smaller shards in all shapes and sizes. What had he missed? The sight of such instability alone almost made him turn back and choose a new mine. He had just conjectured that this one would last eons, and now here was proof that it was coming down a lot sooner than expected. Clearly a malfunction on the part of his hardware, he reasoned. Perhaps a costly one. But his years of experience told him what he already knew: The type of rock he’d ventured into didn’t need a reader to give up its history—only to verify it. He would exchange the mine-reader when he returned. But against his better judgment, or perhaps because of it, he decided to venture a little farther.

There was something here and he knew it. Plus, he was driven by his personal mantra, “Little risk, little profit,” so he bent to examine the crumbled evidence before him.
Explosives,
he realized, upon examining the shards. Not a “natural” cave-in after all. More evidence lay in Omad’s path. Whatever, or more precisely,
whoever
had made this mess had left the detonator, some primitive blasting caps, and humorously, an instruction manual on how to set off explosives in a mine. Since no skeleton or evidence of a body was visible, the perpetrator had obviously read the manual well, done the deed, and exited to safety. There was also a box of something called “Twinkies.” Omad picked it up and examined it carefully. Aside from its unique and unusual artwork, he was able to discern its key ingredients as well as something called an “EXP” date, which was marked from an eleventh month in what appeared to be the early twenty-first century. This was starting to get interesting. He gathered all the wrappers and placed them in an airtight container, along with the manual and blasting caps he had so far collected. Omad loved a mystery, and judging from the leftover wrappers, whoever blasted this tunnel had time to eat at least twenty-eight of these Twinkie things and walk out in one piece.
Must have been some kind of nutritional energy snack,
he thought, as he cracked his knuckles and continued on deeper into the shaft. The dry, consistent atmosphere had preserved the scene almost as if the long-gone blaster had left just before Omad had arrived. Even if he couldn’t make a profit out of what was buried
in
the tunnel, he might just make a profit from what he’d just discovered
outside
of it. The nutritional wrappers and blaster manual alone would fetch a very good price on the open relic market. No, even if he found nothing else, today would not be a loss by any stretch of the imagination.

The El Dorado and the Francisco mines are played out for gold and silver, however they, like the No Timbers mine, still may have substantial amounts of lead and zinc. But it is doubtful the amounts present can be extracted economically with the present state of mining technology.

—COLORADO MINING COMMISSION REPORT ON THE EL DORADO MINEOWNERSHIP TRANSFER, JULY 19, 1978 (ONE OF ONLY TWO SOURCES INWHICH THE NO TIMBERS MINE IS MENTIONED)

Neela Harper was not a country girl. In fact, she’d always preferred the big city. Anything with only a million and a half people in it just didn’t seem natural. If she had had any inkling that the career she had chosen for herself would dump her in this remote part of the world she probably wouldn’t have chosen it. Then again, being a minority shareholder in herself, she would have had little or no say whatsoever about her place of employ.
Luck of the draw,
she thought somberly to herself.
And this year I’m clearly down on my luck
. Anybody looking at her would not be displeased. She was five feet eleven inches—about average for a woman. A very healthy thirty-seven, but this was not surprising in the era of nano-medicine; positively everyone was healthy, and everyone looked great. Still, if everybody was a giant health-wise, then Neela, by her rigorous adherence to exercise, stood on the shoulders of those giants. Her appearance was 97 percent original, with only minor changes to control her hair growth and the removal of some facial bone damage suffered in a childhood accident. She hadn’t had a sex change or so much as a boob job by her eighteenth birthday, something that was practically a rite of passage for her generation. Nope, just chestnut hair, green eyes, a tiny nose, freckles, and a supremely athletic body. Her problem was not so much physical as it was economic.

Not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, she spent all of high school and most of college studying the basics. Nothing wrong with that. And she did well with all the courses she took. In some ways it was helping her now, but not in terms of her percentages. At an age when most of her peers owned 35 percent of themselves, she only owned a paltry 30.5 percent. It had nothing to do with gambling or expensive trips. Her debt was an investment. Those who knew they were going to go into an expensive or prestigious field prepared themselves by maintaining a stellar GPA. Further, they specialized in a chosen field all through high school and university. Thus, by the time they got to the advanced, and therefore expensive, part of their training, they were better able to bargain for lower percentages. And so the university-cum-investor was held to grabbing only 7 to 9 percent of that student’s self-equity, as opposed to the standard 12 to 15 percent. Rumor even had it that one top-flight student had received her education from San Francisco State University, the top Pacific League school, for an amazingly low 4 percent. But Neela wasn’t prepared to commit to a major she didn’t feel strongly about, and it wasn’t until her junior year that she felt such passion. And while her patience at the time was seen as somewhat virtuous, it was now turning out to be a costly virtue indeed. As far as majors went, she’d picked a doozy. Neela was going to be a reanimation psychologist with a subspecialty in social integration. Since reanimation psychology was considered a prestigious field, what institution of higher learning would risk educating a latecomer when they could get more valuable stock in a better prospect?

The answer was a not-so-great institution of higher learning, Harvard, and the loss of more personal stock than she would have preferred—14 percent, to be exact. That, combined with what her parents, the government, and various other organizations held, gave her what in this day and age amounted to a measly 30.5 percent of herself. This also meant she had very little bargaining power as to where she was going to start her glorious career. If she had realized her dream, or just a better percentage of it, she would have been working in the famed Vegas reanimation clinics. They had suspendees yet to be reanimated who were, given their late ages of suspension, rumored to be close to two hundred years old. Those suspendees would be from the early days of the incorporation movement and might even have personal memories of the Grand Collapse. Any one of them would make a great thesis subject. Yes, Vegas had it all: interesting patients, great bonuses, and the chance to publish. And with that kind of clout, Neela would have been able to negotiate a vertical position for a better percentage on the slow and steady climb to 51 percent. And that, she believed, was what it was all about.

At 51 percent she’d have almost absolute control over her life. The only drawback would be a lack of insurance. One percent was only a hair-thin margin should, heaven forbid, she find herself needing extra funds. The further she could move her own percentage up, the better she’d sleep at night.

With GCI controlling her outright majority through a proxy agreement with Harvard (
bastards!
), she was stuck here in the Rockies of the North American Union for as long as they deemed profitable. Neela gained little solace from the one dubious distinction her location had as part of its claim to fame. It was, in fact, the smallest reanimation clinic in the world. Miners and ranchers who got into bad accidents were frozen and sent here. At most they would be bathed in liquid nitrogen for six months while some body parts were regrown or memory networks painfully restructured. They didn’t need a reanimation specialist at all beyond some standard death trauma issues and, to be honest, not much social integration either. After all, how out of touch was a suspendee going to be if down for only six months? Oh, there were the little things of course. She knew how to sympathetically impart bad news regarding a suspendee’s family, whether it be an untimely and permanent death or, as was often the case, spousal abandonment. She knew to keep up with the latest trends and, much to her chagrin, the latest sports statistics. If she had a credit for every time a suspendee awoke asking, “How’d the Broncos do?” she’d have gotten her majority eons ago.

Out here she would never meet what she affectionately referred to as “the time travelers.” They were Vegas’s unopened treasures waiting for the precise technology to ensure their successful reanimation. And at the pace technology was evolving, it wouldn’t take long. By the time she got out of her current locale, or rather,
if
she ever got out of her current locale, the time travelers would all have been reanimated by others, who would have published their findings to a fascinated world and retired at the impossibly young age of seventy. Neela, on the other hand, would get typecast as a “short-term specialist” and would probably never leave Boulder in her working life again.

 

Neela’s phone vibrated, and she held her thumbnail to her ear. She squinted her eyes, trying to bring her retro wall clock with the phosphorus tips into focus. It was 2:30 in the morning. She groaned in the general direction of her pinkie.

“Whoever died, I don’t care,” she said with her eyes closed. “Just freeze them and call me in the morning.” The voice on the other end answered her so clearly it was as if he were in the bed next to her.

“Neela, sorry to wake you, but you
are
the primary revive specialist on call for this week, and we have something that needs a sign-off.”

Neela sighed.

“Watanabe, this had better be good.”

“Neela, I don’t know what it is.” The genuine confusion in the voice of her contact made her sit up. The emergency rescue service always knew what was going on. That they now didn’t shook her out of her daze.

“All right, Ben, I’m on my way.”

“Don’t bother, Neela, we’ll have a flyer out to pick you up in ten minutes.”

BOOK: The Unincorporated Man
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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