Read Wired Online

Authors: Douglas E. Richards

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Thriller, #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adventure, #Fantasy

Wired (21 page)



had fought terrorism for many years and had a wealth of knowledge imbedded in
his mind. He focused on anti-terror strategy for thirty seconds and had insight
after insight. Patterns of sleeper cell organization flashed into his head that
US forces had completely missed. There was a better way to find them. It was so
obvious. There was a better way to deploy Special Forces teams. There was a
better way to arm them.

was a kid in a candy shop. Wherever he turned his intellect, provided he had a
solid knowledge base in the area, and sometimes even if he didn’t, breakthrough
ideas presented themselves. Desh was able to monitor and analyze the
conversation between Sam and Kira with just a small fraction of his attention,
and on multiple levels at once. While calm on the outside, Sam was enjoying
himself so much he was almost giddy, especially when he was able to taunt Kira
about the murder of her brother. And while her pretend stoicism might have
fooled other men, Sam knew with certainty, just the way a dog could smell fear,
that his barbs were boring into quivering, exposed nerves just as surely as if
he were wielding a dentist’s drill.

Desh continued exploring his newfound faculties, he realized with a start that
his autonomic nervous system was now under his complete control. It would work
as usual, unsupervised, until he decided to assume command.

resting heart rate was about fifty beats per minute. He lowered it to forty. Then
thirty-five. Then back to fifty. He adjusted his body temperature down to
ninety-seven and then quickly brought it back to normal. He ordered his
circulation to abandon his extremities and concentrate at his core, something
the body did naturally in extreme cold to conserve body temperature. His
circulation dutifully complied, the blood altering its usual path. He ordered
it back to normal and blood immediately rushed back into his extremities. He
accomplished all of these feats without any idea how he was doing so.

pondered existence for several minutes. He could use a far more extended
analysis, even enhanced, but it was immediately clear that Kira
had been
right. There was no God or afterlife. He had been a fool. Without emotional
baggage, and able to draw on his memory of everything he had ever read or
heard, this was crystal clear. Like love, religion was a useful delusion—an
opiate of the masses sort of thing. He still harbored some slight interest and
affection for Homo sapiens, but could see how this interest could quickly wane.
The power of thought he now possessed was intoxicating. How had Kira
to resist it for so long? To ignore the will to power that was the obligation
of every living being? And Kira
had achieved a higher level of
optimization even than this. Incredible!


had been so quiet that Sam had almost forgotten he was there. His eyes remained
locked onto those of Kira Miller. “I hatched the sterilization plan using only
of your pills,” he boasted, “right after you escaped Lusetti. I began to frame
you for the E. coli plot immediately, and I added evidence that it was real—because
I was making it real—as I went along. At least real as far as the terrorists
were concerned.”

hate to break it to you,” spat Kira condescendingly, “but this plan of yours
won’t get you what you want. Were you not paying attention the last time you
tried to get the secret to longevity? I was
to save my
brother’s life, remember. But
unlock the memory of the flash drive's location. It wasn't that I didn’t
. Is
this ringing a bell? The enhanced me set things up to make sure nothing, or no
one, could ever force the secret from me. Not by threatening
, my
brother, or the entire universe for that matter. Shoot me full of truth drugs
again and I’ll tell you the same thing: bigger threats and greater duress just
make the information
impossible to access.”

glared at her. “No, my dear,” he said evenly. “I haven’t forgotten. My strategy
takes this into account as well. But I’ve always believed that you could find a
way inside your little memory prison if you were, uh . . . properly motivated.”
He paused. “Well, I’m giving you plenty of motivation.”

shook her head. “I set up a failsafe that
can’t fool.
If I’ve been coerced in any way to seek out the information, the failsafe kicks
in and locks me out. Even if I enhance myself I can’t undo it. I locked the
metaphorical gate and fused the keyhole.”

this will be your chance to put that to the test, won’t it?” said Sam,
undaunted. “You
tell me the secret,” he said, sneering. “Make no
mistake. I believe you’ll be able to break through your self-imposed memory barrier
to prevent me from going forward with my sterilization plan. But if I’m wrong,
you’ll ultimately tell me anyway—of your own free will.”

you believe that, you’re even more insane than I thought,” snapped Kira

again,” said Sam icily. “I’ll keep you a hostage until you’ve confirmed that
the entire species is sterile, however long this takes. And on that day, you’ll
know that the survival of humanity will depend on you. Despite your hatred of
me, you’ll do everything in your power to make mankind’s last generation
immortal.” He held out his hands. “No duress at that point. No threats. You’ll
to share your secret, of your own accord. At that point
your request for the information from your memory will sail right past any
failsafe mechanisms in your mind.”

horrified expression came over Kira’s face as she realized what he said was
probably true.

smiled. “And you won’t have to worry about overpopulation. I’ll have removed
your objections to sharing your secret, and I’ll make sure you aren’t under any
duress.” He paused. “But no need to thank me, my dear.”

lunged at him, her eyes burning with hatred, and she was yanked back, hard, by
the cuffs, which almost pulled her arms from their sockets, and cut into the
skin on the back of her hands painfully.

I’m on your side,” said Sam, extending the palms of his hands innocently. “I
to do this. Really. It’s a lot more hassle than it’s worth. I’d
rather just give all the terrorists vials of aerosolized water to spray about
in population centers rather than active virus. All you have to do is give me
the secret and agree to work on immortality. Find a way to unlock your own
brain before the deadline.” He shrugged. “And if not, I’ll just wait for you to
give it to me by choice.”

felt nauseous. “All this just for a few more years of life?”

grinned and shook his head. “A hell of a lot more than a few. We both know
that. With the proper use of your gel pills and an extra seventy years, I have
every confidence I can push you, nanotechnologists, and others to eventually
make your blueprint for immortality a reality. Your treatment will buy me
enough time to be certain I’ll be alive when immortality is perfected.”

hung in the air for several long seconds as Kira glared at him hatefully. “I
need information on the viral construct used,” she said finally, “and the
method for attacking egg cells. I won’t even make an attempt to unlock my
memory unless I’m convinced this isn’t a bluff.” She frowned. “Not that my
attempts will do any good anyway,” she added grimly.

to buy time already, I see,” he said approvingly. “But it’s a fair request. I’ll
give you the information you require. With respect to timing, everything has
been ready for a while now, awaiting your capture. But there are some details I
have to start in motion now that I have you, so this will give you about three days.
After that, if you haven’t told me what I want to know, I will begin
distribution of the vials. Once they’ve gone out, not even
can recall
them, and the terrorist cells around the world can’t be reached to abort the
mission. At that point it will be out of my hands,” he added.

eyes darted around the room, desperately seeking a way out.

can practically see the wheels turning in that brilliant mind of yours, my
dear. Think you can trick me somehow? Think you can escape and then stop me? Well,
I’ve gained a very healthy respect for your abilities. As impossible as this
would be, I’m not sure I’d put it entirely past you.” Sam paused. “Which brings
us to our little outpatient surgery on your skull,” he said, smirking.



turned his attention to the last forty-eight hours of his life. He had been
drinking from a fire-hose but now was his chance to sort everything out. Kira’s
analysis was right, as far as it went, but she had been too shortsighted. Doubling
the span of human life in one fell swoop
lead to disaster. But there was a better answer than just
burying the discovery and walking away. And it didn’t involve sacrificing the
next generation. It simply meant expanding human territorial boundaries to absorb
population increases: it meant conquering space.

humanity could readily expand into infinity,
Kira’s therapy could be
disclosed to the fanfare it deserved, with no concerns for its effect on the
species. Not the pathetic attempts at space travel that were currently being made,
focused on incremental improvements, but attempts at revolutionary leaps in
technology, with inexpensive interstellar travel as the goal. Leapfrogging the
next several generations of space technology in a single bound. Antimatter. Wormholes.
Alcubierre’s warp drive. Tachyonic drives.

This would require the optimization of top physicists,
perhaps with Kira’s even more potent potion. This is why she had failed to
consider it. She was too used to working and thinking alone, too certain until
she had decided to trust Desh that this was critical to her survival. And too
certain that her enhancement therapy was too corrupting to be unleashed.

But it didn’t have to be that way. With
enhanced intellect, there should be a foolproof way to assess someone’s inherent
trustworthiness and integrity. Yes, the treatment led to a ruthless
megalomania, but the ethics and morals of those treated would return to
baseline levels when their brains returned to normal.

would require teamwork among truly good people, but it could be done. Safeguards
could be taken to ensure that whoever was enhanced remained under control and
working toward joint purposes. Even Sam had managed to enhance someone who was
already a psychopath and contain him for the hour. It would simply require a
team of Dr. Jekylls to restrain the one chosen to unleash their
super-intelligent Mr. Hyde.

He pondered the identity of Smith and Sam
and their possible connections to Morgan, Kira’s boss at NeuroCure, and also
how Morgan had managed to learn of her work in the first place. He called up
his every memory since he had first stepped into Connelly’s office and let his
mind search for patterns and connections. His mind raised a few interesting
possibilities to his consciousness for consideration. Very interesting
possibilities, in fact.

After a few more minutes of concentrated
thought on the subject, the probability that he was on the right track
continued to grow, although there were so many unknowns he was far from certain
of this. Still, he needed to assume his working hypothesis was true and plan

And in the meanwhile, he would attempt to do
something about another discovery he had made, one that he had already
incorporated into his analysis. To do so would require redirecting untold trillions
of his own antibodies and lymphocytes. He wondered if his newfound ability to
control his autonomic nervous system applied to his immune system as well. There
was only one way to find out.


smiled at Kira and tapped his head, just over his ear, with his index finger,
taunting her. “While you were unconscious,” he said, “I took the liberty of
having a tiny, tamperproof capsule implanted in your skull. With an explosive
charge inside. Not much of a charge, I’ll admit, but enough to turn the inside
of your skull to liquid.”

eyes widened in alarm. The persistent, piercing pain from the minor surgery,
obviously performed without anesthetic, served to make Sam’s words all the more

set it to blow at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. And it will, too, unless I
transmit the proper encrypted signal from my cell phone before then. If I do,
it resets for ten o’clock the next morning. And so on. It resets in twelve-hour
increments. You see where this is going?”

glared at him but said nothing.

chances of escape are exceedingly small. But I’m a careful man, and you have an
impressive history. So I’ve implanted this explosive device to be on the safe
side. Just in case you do manage to pull off a miracle and escape, or think you
see an opening to kill me while you or Desh are still hostages.” He paused. “So
until you’ve given me your secret, if I happen to end up dead somehow, you’ll
have until the clock strikes ten, either a.m. or p.m., whichever is closer, to
say your prayers. With me dead, the sterilization plan goes forward
automatically. And even if you managed to escape and kill me right after I’ve
reset the timer, you would only have twelve hours to stop my plans. Even with
your skills, even taking multiple doses of your treatment, you’d never be able
to do it in that short of a time.”

bluffing,” said Kira. “Implanting an explosive device in my skull would be
risking my death, leaving you no way to get the secret of longevity you so
desperately want.”

shook his head. “No risk at all. I have every intention of resetting it every
twelve hours religiously—as long as I’m in good health. The only way you die is
if I’m already dead, and at that point the fountain of youth won’t do me a lot
of good.”

risk at all?” said Kira scornfully. “You’re more insane than I thought. What if
the receiver fails? And what if your signal can’t make it down to this basement
and through my skull? How many bars of reception do you think I get inside my
head, anyway?” Her lip curled up in disgust. “Take it out.”

eyes blazed, betraying a rage at having been spoken to in this manner, but only
for a moment. His eyes quickly returned to normal and he smiled serenely. “Not
to worry. The device has two receivers for redundancy. And while the explosive
is a few centimeters deep in your skull, the receivers are affixed just a few millimeters
below the surface of your skin. And they’re next generation. Won’t be available
to the public for another year. Nothing but the best for you, my dear. You
could be in a coal mine in West Virginia with your head in a freezer and my
call would make it through.”

glared at him but said nothing.

pushed himself off his perch on the table to a standing position on the
concrete floor. “So let’s review your options,” he said. “Option one: you tell
me the secret, and no one’s reproductive abilities have to be destroyed. I
remove the explosive device from your skull and you live a life of luxury—heavily
supervised luxury, but luxury nonetheless—while you continue to work on

smiled insincerely. “Option two: you don’t tell me, our generation will be the
end of the line for humanity, and you’ll end up telling me your secret and
working on immortality eventually anyway.”

eyes continued to burn with a seething hatred. “As I’ve said,” she hissed in
barely contained, clipped tones. “I need to verify that you can do what you say
before I make any decisions.”

nodded. “I’ll make sure you get all the evidence you need.”

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