Opus X Book 11: Deception of Age
Is this ground breaking technology going to be the answer for humanity or the answer for one person only? Find out in this second Snippet for Opus X 11 Deception of Age.
Bright arcs and bolts of green energy zipped across the platform. Julia tingled.
She held her breath, just now realizing she hadn’t asked Doctor Selan something important, but judging by previous experiences, she already knew the answer. Whatever this process was, however different it might be from previous regenerations and de-agings, it would hurt.
Julia took slow, even breaths and lowered herself to her knees in anticipation, careful to keep her body inside the generously-sized circle. There were so many lines of energy now that most features of the room had vanished, bathed in the blinding emerald glow and sizzling arcs of light.
Expectation could only do so much to prepare a woman, especially when the experience outstripped the expectation so thoroughly. Julia’s mouth opened in a silent scream as her entire body became a distillation of pure agony. This was what death felt like.
She had a paranoid thought before she fell unconscious.
What if Sophia was getting the last laugh?
Julia strained to open her heavy eyelids. She was in her bedroom now, an ornately decorated canopy above her. Her blankets and pillows were perfect: not too firm, not too soft.
“Welcome back, ma’am,” greeted Doctor Selan. The scientist stood beside her, flanked by one of Julia’s elite personal guards, a tall shaven-head man named Yan.
“How long have I been unconscious?” Julia asked, sitting up. Her entire body ached, but it was far from the pain she’d remembered before passing out. “And how long will this discomfort last?”
Doctor Selan smiled. “You’ve been asleep for a day. We’ve checked you regularly, and you’ve stabilized nicely. Mild pain should linger for a day or two, but other than that, it’s been an unmitigated success. Congratulations! You will never age again.”
“I see.” Julia took slow, even breaths. The thrill of achievement needed to take a backseat to operational concerns. “And you have all this research data backed up?”
“Of course.” Doctor Selan looked insulted. “I went ahead and typed up some notes concerning Chalice replication and put them in, but it’s all there in a nice central location. I could die tomorrow and this research could continue. Obviously, I hope not to die, but I understand the importance of this work for the future.”
“Have you been following the security protocols as instructed?” Julia asked.
Doctor Selan nodded. “I’m not going to let some Purist terrorist destroy humanity’s chance at immortality. There’s nothing out there to find, other than what I have on your systems, ma’am. It’s safe. Per your instructions, I verified that with the systems specialists you sent to talk to me. This whole project is successful, safe, and secret until you’re ready to reveal it to the rest of the UTC.”
“Excellent.” Julia lifted a hand and stared at it. “How sure are you that I’m stable?”
“One hundred percent,” Doctor Selan declared. “Well, at least ninety-ninety percent. Would you like me to go into the results or just provide a summary?”
Julia continued to stare at her hand, turning it one way and then the next. “Summary.”
“The short version is that all your test results and biomarkers are consistent with complete success. I needed a day of data to be sure, and now I am. It was successful, ma’am. The only thing is, while you were asleep, some of your assistants said that the other people on the project are temporarily reassigned.” Doctor Selan looked concerned. “I’m not going to downplay my own importance to the project, but I’ll need the others if we want to get going on the Chalice replication project. As you might understand from what I outlined before, the timeline on that project is such that I’d prefer to start as soon as possible.”
Julia took a deep breath. She really wished she weren’t in her bedroom for the next part, but she needed to verify certain things with her own eyes. Relying on second-hand accounts could cause trouble.
“If there were sabotage or an accident,” Julia began, “and the equipment was damaged, the personnel scattered or killed, how long do you think it’d take to replicate the entire experiment?”
Doctor Selan blinked. “I…it’s not going to happen without certain key artifacts, not just the Chalice.” She paused, looking at the ceiling, lost inside her head for a moment while searching through her mental file cabinets before she returned to looking at Julia. “We don’t have a method, even theoretically, of replacing the other artifacts.”
Julia put her hand down to focus on the doctor. “What if one already had most of those artifacts, or at least ones close to them.”
The doctor’s eyes widened. “You have spares?”
A quick shake of the head. “Not necessarily, but let’s assume the answer is yes.”
“If the new team had all the previous research data, it’d still be hard, and that’s if we have most of the key artifacts, not even considering the Chalice.” Doctor Selan cocked her head and furrowed her brow as she thought through the answer. “Before we get to the point where we need a Chalice replacement, there will be years of tuning and testing involved with all the necessary artifacts and equipment. I was only able to make as much progress as I did because I built on previous researchers’ work and artifacts that Miss Vand’s team had mostly prepared.”
“How long?” Julia snapped.
Doctor Selan swallowed. “From scratch with no calibration but most the artifacts and data?”
“Yes. Don’t tell me you can’t be sure. Give me an estimate.”
Doctor Selan shrugged. “Ten to fifteen years.”
“Good.” Julia nodded slowly. “Excellent, in fact.”
“Good? Oh. In case something happens, you want to make sure the project isn’t halted. I understand. I should have been thinking ahead. You’re already thinking like an immortal, ma’am.”
“You misunderstand.” Julia shook her head. “Now that I’m stable, I want to make sure no one else can become what I am until I decide I’m ready.”
“It’ll be a while,” Doctor Selan agreed. “We still have the chalice issue. You’ll have plenty of time to figure out the appropriate way to pass the information along.”
“Oh, let me make this clear.” Julia nodded at Yan, who stepped behind Doctor Selan. “I don’t think I’ll be ready for that for at least a century. Maybe three?”
“B-but…what about me?” Doctor Selan sputtered. “I can’t last that long, ma’am, even with de-aging.”
“You’re now a liability,” Julia explained. “You don’t have to last that long. Yan, did you take care of the others? It sounds like you did, but I’d prefer to hear it from your own mouth.”
The guard gave a curt nod. “The entire team has been disposed of, Empress.”
Doctor Selan looked shocked. “I…” She turned her head to look at Yan, then back. “What? Liability? Empress?”
“It’s presumptuous, perhaps, at this point,” Julia offered. “But the most loyal among me should get used to it. Thank you for your service, Doctor Selan. You have made my dream come true, and you have saved humanity, just not in the way you thought. Yan, please.”
He pulled out a pistol and shoved it against the doctor’s head. Her teeth chattered, and she put her hands out in front of her.
“Y-you don’t have to do this,” Doctor Selan insisted. “You need me. I-I can still help you!”
“No. I needed you.” Julia gave her a cold smile. “Now you’re one of the few people who could grant my enemies immortality. Don’t feel so bad, Doctor. I’m convinced Sophia would have done the same if our positions were reversed.”
Yan pulled the trigger, creating an unfortunate mess all over Julia’s bedroom floor. She let out a long sigh as the body collapsed with a thump and stared down at the dead scientist.
“I’ll get that cleaned up, Empress.” Yan bowed his head and walked toward the door.
Julia lay back in her bed. She would have preferred to have killed the woman herself, but she was still weak from the treatment.
Now that she had what she needed, it was time to initiate her true plan. Only a small number of variables remained that would determine the course of human history.
“Let’s see how foolish they are before I make my next move.”
So the Deception Begins. Why not share the technology with others, or even sell it right away? More answers to come in the next snippet of Opus X 11 Deception of Age. Available for pre-order today and will drop on all platforms Christmas Day.