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                                                   Prologue

    What would you do if you knew you could live forever? How would you change your life? The world? Would you be the one to make it better? I thought the cure for aging would be the answer to so many of humanity’s problems. I really believed this little pill would help us make the world a better place. 

    Yet all I have seen is the further deterioration of generosity, love, compassion and freedom. It has not brought out the better side of the human race. It has created a darker side where compassion and generosity are rare traits that are almost extinct. It has taken me over 400 years to realize that the end of aging does not give one freedom. Your body becomes a prison in which you are trapped and from which you can’t escape.

    It saddens me that the world has entered such a dark time, to the point where I no longer want to stay and witness the pain that we, as people, are putting ourselves through. 

    To many, this will come as a shock. My success has only forced me to put up a wall, one that keeps away even those who feel they are my closest friends. I do not trust anyone. The friends I have left only appear to be interested in their association with me to advance their own political aspirations in life. 

    I feel that if I can’t offer the peace that eternal life brings to all, then none of us should have it. It is not fair of us to choose a select few to live far past an age that God has intended. 

    I have watched too many good people come in and out of this world, knowing that, “in the end,” I could have saved them. However, like many other people, I had started believing that I deserved this gift, that it was my right, and that if a person was not smart enough or rich enough to buy this gift, then they did not deserve to obtain it.

    Looking back on my life, I can see that I am the origin of all the world’s troubles. As intelligent as I was to invent this amazing drug, I can’t begin to imagine that I am brilliant enough to change the course of our planet.

     My heart is broken, my soul damaged and weak. My resilience is nothing but a shadow left. I cry, for humanity, mother earth and the faith that we have lost in God. So the only thing left I can offer is the end. Tonight will be my last. I have settled my regrets, sins and all other misgivings with God and look forward to joining all of those I have cared for over my 400 years on this planet.

     He slowly raises the gun and puts it into his mouth. With a quick fluid motion, the trigger is pulled.


                                             Chapter 1

    I walked down the stairwell toward the luge. It was even more putrid smelling this morning than most days, since the temperature was already almost 100 degrees, and it wasn’t even 7:30.


    The luge hall was filled with people buzzing about. Something had happened this morning, but since I was running a bit late, I hadn’t yet watched the news on the holli. I pushed my way through the milling crowds and grabbed the last seat on the luge. The transit train got its name from the fast pace that it could move. No longer operating on a rail, it was a sleek tunnel that used a hovering system all around the train to suspend it in the center. Magnets were used to help propel the train forward. No longer did you feel the bumps of the tracks—just a smooth ride that could twist and turn around corners at lightning-fast speeds. 

    Settling in for my hour-and-a-half commute, I lowered the holli screen and pulled out my tech chip. I had to find out what was going on. I hung my chip around my neck and clicked it on. Immediately the menu was displayed on the holli glass. I didn’t have the energy to return any calls this morning, so I swiped on to the next screen. I found the news station and tapped it to open up the display. Champagne Green was on with a picture of Adam Easter in the background.


    “Volume up,” I said, and the sound increased to a level loud enough for me to hear.


    “Adam Easter, the inventor of the anti-aging medication called Xenvie, was found dead this morning in his upper Westside villa. It’s been 400 years since his invention of the medication that halted the aging process, creating the medi society that we know and prosper from today. While some believe that the creation of this medication has been a huge advance for humankind, others feel it is a step closer to our own self-destruction. 

    “Adam Easter, who long ago became a self-proclaimed recluse, stepped off the society roller coaster at least 40 years ago. His sudden disappearance increased the mystery about who Adam Easter really was. He will be missed for his brilliant medical breakthroughs as well as for his generosity to those less fortunate; coupled together, they firmly place his legendary persona in the history books.

    “There is no word yet on the cause of death at the age of 56/413, but we can say that this is a great loss not only for the medi world but also for all of mankind. This is Champagne Green. Good day.”

    With that, the newscast was over, but there were so many questions running through my head. What would this do to the medis, those upper-class people who take the Xenvie medication? The death of such an important leader ranked so high up in the medi society would surely have repercussions. He was 56/413, which  means he was 56 years old when he started to take the Xenvie medication but has lived 413 years since. So Adam Easter’s actual age would be 469 years old, but he would look as if he were only 56. 

    My mind continued wondering through everything this could mean. What would this do to the Xenvie medication? Would it finally be available to all instead of just the upper-class elite? I, being part of the non-medi world, could only hope Adam Easter’s death would help alleviate this suffering. Living in our world today without the benefits of Xenvie only brought you loss and suffering, a heartbreaking life that often offered little light in the dark non-medi world. Choosing to be a non-medi meant a lack of money, which brought with it poor living conditions and back-breaking work until the bitter end.

     I remember my grandpa talking about a time when his parents were little. They would speak of how the playing field was a little fairer, of how there was not so much waste from the upper class while the lower class went without. There was clean water for everyone, not just the wealthy. People lived in real houses, not small apartments stacked high into the sky on top of one another.

    Back then, there were vacations, sick leave, and cars. Now the streets are crowded with the homeless. The price of gas is so expensive that no one can afford a car let alone a place to keep it. No one, that is, except the medis. They keep their wealth and hoard it within their society, gaining all the power and enjoying the luxury that it affords them. Living for hundreds of years has it benefits. The rich get richer, live longer and stay young forever. The poor get sick, receive little medical care and often die as a result. 

    Most medis don’t look any older than 25, the legal age that you are allowed to start taking Xenvie. They meet someone when they are young, form an alliance and have a couple of kids all before the ripe age of 25. Then once that happens, they ship their kids off to the country to be raised in large compounds that have big open spaces for them to run. Clean air, fresh food, along with every other need and desire a child could ever wish for. Many times it is a non-medi raising them, giving them the care that their own mother and father should be giving them. The medi society is a selfish one, driven by greed, beauty and long life.

    It’s not fair. Medis are allowed to have two children. Most of the time they are not even wanted—just an obligation that they must fulfill for their family. Non-medis must petition to have even one child. Even then, they have the burden of proof. They need to show that they can take care of this child and that there are no genetic disabilities that run on either side of the family. A slow genocide led by the medis to thin out the non-medi population is a fact that we all have adapted to but will never accept. Sure, their way takes time, but that is something they have in spades.

 
    “Embarcadero.”

   
     As my stop was called throughout the luge, I quickly folded up my holli glass and prepared to depart. Walking off the train every day, I couldn’t help but notice the strong contrast of the medi city compared to the overcrowded and dirty non-medi suburbs. Taking in a deep breath, I smelled the salt in the fresh sea air. The buildings are beautiful. They reach like long elegant fingers into the sky, twisting and turning in ways that almost defy gravity.

     Only medis can afford to live in the city. Most of them have palatial penthouses located at the top of their corporation buildings. Occasionally, if a non-medi family has worked for a medi family long enough, they might give them a small apartment. This is usually so they can have their servants close by if they need them. Although they are paid, often they work long hours and are not compensated as well as they should be.

    
    “Mari! Wait up!”


     I heard Jenni calling after me. She’s another non-medi that I worked with at the Aramat Corporation, and one of my few friends. The Aramat family is one of the most powerful families in the medi community. There are even rumors that they have ties to the President.

    
    “Hey, Jenni, how’s it going?” I said, slowing so she could catch up.


    “Great. Where were you last night? I waited at the bar for you. You never showed.” Jenni looked at me with her piercing eyes. I always felt as if she was looking right through me.

    
    “Yeah, I know. I’m so sorry. I got stuck at the office. My boss has been throwing file after file at me for review. I’m starting to think that I am doing his job for him.” 


    I laughed a little under my breath, trying to hide the resentment I carried about all my hard work being passed off as someone else’s.

   
    “On the bright side, I think I found out something that will help in the Liberty case.” I couldn’t help but get a little excited again. I loved the feeling of finding that one piece of information that could turn a legal case upside down. The cadence of my speech picked up, gaining momentum with each word that spilled over my lips.  


    “Last night I was in the law library, and I found a little known law that the government had introduced as a peace offering to the non-medi community when they passed the law to ban religion.” I looked up at Jenni who was staring at me, unsure of where I was going with my story. I shrugged off her expression of boredom and continued.  


    “As an olive branch, the government signed a law that allowed people to transfer property without having to pay an inheritance tax from generation to generation. This law was passed in hopes that it would relieve some of the inheritance tax burden non-medis often had to pay, thus creating an even playing field regarding the accumulation of wealth. However, this law was short lived and eventually expired with Camden James’ presidency in 2286. The most amazing part of this story is that if you filed form 56a during the 30 years that the law was in effect, your property would be forever grandfathered in.”

   
    “Slow down, Mari. You’re talking about the Liberty case where the Aramat Corporation is trying to foreclose on the small store and apartment complex above?” I could tell that Jenni was struggling to follow. “I thought that case involved back taxes, and that was how we were going to be able to kick the Liberty family out.”


    “Right, it does involve back taxes that they owe. That’s why this form is so important. If the Liberty family signed this form 200 years ago, then they wouldn’t have any back taxes to pay. They would in reality be owed money from the government. This form could save their store and their business.” I was breathing fast, thrilled at the information that I had uncovered last night.


    “No, I get that part, Mari, but that would mean that the Aramat Corporation would lose. You know, the company that we work for. The side of the lawsuit that you are supposed to be on. It would help the Liberty family, not us.” Jenni’s tone was thick with sarcasm. I could only assume that she felt as if I had lost my mind.

   
    Ignoring her, I continued, too excited to let Jenni derail me. 

    “Jenni, I did some more digging in the archives, and I found it. I found the form that the Liberty family signed 200 years ago. They can keep their store!” I knew that I was rambling on, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t help but be excited that I was helping the underdog. After all, this family was hard working and deserved to keep their business.

  
    “Mari, what are you going to do? You can’t help them; you could be fired. If the Aramat Corporation finds out about this, your career could be over.” Jenni was looking around, nervous that someone might overhear our conversation. 

    
    “I don’t care. I am going to send them the form I found and help them anyway. No one ever has to know it was me that sent it. Besides, it’s the right thing to do.” I smiled at Jenni, trying to reassure her that I wouldn’t get caught and that she should not give it another thought.

        
    “Be careful, Mari, you never know who is watching you at work; not everyone is your friend. However, I guess I can give you a pass for last night considering you are trying to save the world one non-medi business at a time. Besides, my night ended up OK,” Jenni said, smiling suspiciously at me, making me feel as if there was much more to the story than she was sharing. Jenni had a habit of getting in over her head and placing herself in bad situations. Most of the time it involved a man.

  
    “Did you hear?” Jenni said struggling to keep up. I realized my steps had quickened along with my speech, so I again slowed my stride to match the pace of my friend. 

    
    “Yeah, I did,” I quickly answered. “I can’t believe that Adam Easter is dead.” 

    
    “Wait, what? No, that’s not what I was talking about. Adam Easter is dead?” Jenni’s voice cracked slightly with shock.

    
    “I saw it on the news this morning. Wait, what were you talking about?”

Jenni looked at me, confused for a second.

    
     “Umm, I heard that Joseph was coming to work at the Aramat Corporation.”


    “Who?” I had no idea who Jenni was talking about, but then again, Jenni was far more educated on the office drama than I was.

    
    “You know, Joseph Aramat, the youngest son of the Aramat family. I heard that his parents are forcing him to work since he is getting so close to being 25 and has not made an alliance yet. I guess he is sort of a rebel and keeps sleeping around with non-medi girls.”

    
    “Yeah, I guess I have heard of him. I heard that he was a real player, promising to save all these girls, then leaving them with nothing when he is done with them. I don’t know if I have ever even seen a picture of him.”



    “Man, Mari, I wish I could be as blissfully ignorant of social news as you are,” Jenni said. “I can’t believe you have never seen a picture of him. He is practically plastered all over the holli cast every day.” 

    
    I watched Jenni as she quickly fished out her holli glass. In a hot second, she had pulled up at least 20 pictures of the infamous Joseph Aramat. He looked like every other medi 24 year old, well groomed with short brown hair that was brushed forward, lying flat on his head. Even in the photograph, I could see mischief in his brilliant green eyes. He had a dimple on his chin, and freckles sprinkled his tan nose. 

    It looked as if he didn’t have a care on the world. Medis didn’t have to worry about growing old, or working long hours their whole life. They had nothing but time to throw away doing whatever they wished. They could travel to places that were still beautiful and not covered in grime and filth. Often medi children were sheltered to the real ways of the world. They did not have to experience poverty, illness or death. They truly did have a charmed life.

    I had worked hard for my life. Going through lower school, I had spent hours in what was left of a crumbling library, studying and reading in every spare second that I had. It was important to both me and my family that I passed the final test. Only the top 20% that passed were deemed intelligent enough to go on to finishing school. That is where they would finish their final education, or what used to be called college. Only those who passed finishing school were considered qualified enough to work for the medis in their corporations. 

    Luckily, I was born quick witted, and because of this, I enjoyed the game of finishing school. Picking up social skills that were needed to navigate through finishing school quickly, it was easy to become one of the most popular girls in my class. Realizing early on it was better to share as little as possible about my own life, I tried to focus on being a good listener and maintaining all confidences that were shared with me. Because of my book smarts, I felt as though I had nothing to prove in the classroom that my work couldn’t prove for me.

     To most people, my often quiet personality came off as unassuming. In a world where it was “be the best or live in the gutters with the rest,” it was good to be top dog, but just as important to remain humble about achievements. Having my father as a role model growing up made it easy for me to learn how to maneuver through tough social situations by keeping my head down and minding my own business. I avoided the petty drama that happened in finishing school by keeping secrets and doing my work.


    “Well, Jenni, it’s not as if we are going to see this guy. Think about it, I bet he will be like all the other medi kids and sit in his office plotting how he can acquire his next non-medi girl.”


    “No, that is the best part! His parents are really going to make him work. I guess they call it tough love or something. He is even going to have his own assistant. We find out today who it is going to be. Plus, I heard through a reliable source it’s going to be you!” Jenni dropped that little piece of gossip on me with such satisfaction I thought she was going to pass out from excitement.


    “Great, I can see it now. My workload is going to double because I am going to have to cater to this pampered jerk. Can’t wait for this day to begin,” I mumbled quietly to myself.


    We walked inside the biggest of the Aramat buildings. It was a beautiful place to work, with majestic water fountains in the lobby that trickled down to coy ponds. Most fish had become ugly and disfigured from all the waste and pollution that had been thrown into our oceans and lakes, contaminating all the wildlife that lived below. These coy, however, had been in the care of the Aramat family for hundreds of years, perfectly preserved in a toxic-free environment with better living conditions than most non-medis. They considered such a rare, perfect specimen a sign for all to see as a display of their wealth and power. 

    I walked over to the elevator. Made completely of glass and much like the luge, it operated with magnets both pulling and pushing the elevator up and down. As a result, it almost felt as if you were flying. Although I had been working for the Aramats for almost 2 years now, it still made my stomach drop every time I boarded one.

    Once off, I walked down the hall toward the back of the building. I had a small office, but one to be proud of at the young age of 23. Not many second-year non-medis got an office. I fought my way up the ranks quickly helping in long, drawn-out mergers and tough land acquisitions, great at problem solving and coming up with imaginative ways to get around sticky situations. All my friends joke that my job title should just be “The Solver” since no one can really put an accurate title on what it is I do exactly.

    I reached to open my door, which was usually left open, and tried to pull. It was locked. Peering in through a window, I could see that all my personal stuff had been removed. Immediately I pulled out my tech chip along with my small holli pad and checked messages. Sure enough, I had three from Human Resources. I started panicking a little as I tapped the first one. It was from Molly in HR, who I often sat with at lunch. She sent an emotion attached. 

    When sending messages, a person can elect to send an accompanying emotion, which is captured by a tech chip usually kept close to the body. It picks up the emotion of the sender at the time the message is written, then through short electronic blasts the emotion is sent along with the message. When the recipient taps the message on their holli pad on the other side, it triggers the electronic blasts, which in turn stimulate the nervous system, tricking it into feeling the same emotion. This, most of the time, is a good thing. The chip also doesn’t lie, so if you are trying to keep the truth from someone about how you really feel, the emotion attachment can backfire. Because of this, most people only use it with close friends and family. Even then it is saved for special occasions.

    I taped the screen to open Molly’s message and immediately sensed her emotion. I felt myself relax and embody her excitement. Whew, I sighed to myself. At least this was good news. I tried not to be paranoid about things, but in my family, paranoia was just part of life.


To: Mari Messais

From: Molly Casey

Regarding: Office

Time: 7:39 AM


Mari,

    I am sorry for such late notice. However, I am writing to inform you that your office has been moved to the 78th floor. You are now located in office 12a. We have saved you some time and already had your things moved upstairs.

    When you reach the 78th floor, please see the head receptionist located at the front of the reception lobby. She is expecting your arrival and will be able to answer any further questions you might have. I hope that we have not caused you too much confusion this morning and hope that you have a great day.


Molly Casey

Human Resources


    I turned from my old office and started to walk back to the elevator. The 78th floor was where all the lower medi offices were located. Occupying the space above the 78th floor were higher-ranking Aramat family offices and their opulent living quarters. 
    I just kept thinking about the message. If I had any further questions, I could ask the receptionist? I didn’t feel as though I had any questions answered by the email. My stomach started to flip flop. The only reassuring thing was the emotion that I felt from the message. I knew Molly must be excited about it from feeling her emotion, so it had to be a good thing. Maybe Jenni was right. After the email from Molly, I was starting to believe the office gossip, too. 






Sneak Peak, Chapter 1