This is a story of discovering the fountain of youth, and the upheaval that breakthrough brings to our slightly craze, slightly paranoid, overly greedy society.
When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.
Before he disappears, his stepson Matt is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt learns that world peace might not be his stepfather’s only goal. There may be a darker purpose at work. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?
This is the story of human greed and man’s lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.
This is a story of hope.
Jessup glanced out the window over the sink and saw a helicopter hovering just beyond the holding pens.
The horses spooked, galloping along the fence in all directions. Their panic turned to terror as the copter drew close. Dust thrown up by their hooves and by the copter’s rotor blades turned the corral into a brown tempest. By the time Jessup raced out the back door, the horses crashed through the corral rails, bursting into the work yard. In a single body, they tore across the yard hell-bent for the foothills.
Jessup leaped for his life and landed only a few feet from flashing hooves. He rolled under the porch and waited until the last of them sped by. He stood, squaring his shoulders, preparing for a fight. The herd was almost out of sight by the time the copter touched earth and the blades slowed. As soon as the air cleared, a man and a woman crawled from the cockpit, leaving the pilot in the plastic bubble.
The man was meticulously groomed, wearing Dockers, a Polo shirt, and aviator sunglasses. He looked to be in his midfifties, sporting a full head of salt-and-pepper hair and a salon tan. He cradled a bottle of champagne in his left arm and held out his manicured right hand to shake Jessup’s rough paw. The woman wore her brown hair in a tight bun on the back of her head, and her stylish navy blue silk suit and heels made her seem as if she’d just stepped from a boardroom rather than a helicopter. Her skirt showed off a great pair of athletic legs. She was seductive and seemed cheerily aware of it. She carried champagne flutes in one hand and a briefcase in the other. She walked several feet behind her male companion, letting Jessup know who was in charge.
Jessup pointed after the herd. “Do you halfwits have any idea what you did?”
“All too sorry,” the gentleman said with a slight Scottish brogue, “but there was no time to waste with airports and rental cars. I wanted to be the first to congratulate our rising star.” He flashed a billion-dollar smile. When Jessup didn’t answer, he added, “Fear not. I’ll buy you a new herd of thoroughbreds. Any breed you’d like.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Declan Hughes, at your service. I’m the founder and chairman of the board of Golden Eagle Industries, parent company to Golden Eagle Pharmaceuticals.” He turned to the woman. “And this is Miz Diane McCarthy, Golden Eagle’s CEO.”
She lifted her hand to shake, but it was holding four wine flutes, one stem between each finger. She shrugged, and her cheeks blushed a lovely peach color. “Pleased to meet you. I assume you’re Mr. Connors?”
Even Jessup, tucked away on this ranch for the last dozen years, knew plenty about Declan Hughes. A 2004 Timemagazine article listed twenty people under the age of forty who were shaping the new century. Declan Hughes was fifth on that list. A multibillionaire physicist and businessman, he was the Steve Jobs of the US defense industry. He made a killing in the decade-long Iraq war. In addition to owning Golden Eagle Applied Avionics, the premier corporation developing drone-aircraft weaponry for the US military, he also owned the pharmacological research company that employed Kenji.
Jessup had also read his name online and in the society columns of the LA Times, enough to know that Declan had a penchant for sexy women, vintage cars, and Cambodian art, and his charity functions drew most of Hollywood’s A-list to his Holmby Hills mansion, yet his politics were surprisingly liberal. He reportedly abhorred war, even though that’s what earned the lion’s share of his billions, and he sat on the board of advisors of the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society.
Jessup’s anger imploded. This grand entrance, no doubt, had something to do with Kenji’s hasty exit just a half hour before. Jessup waved an arm toward the back door, and Declan brushed past him, as cheerful and confident as British royalty.
In the kitchen, Declan unwired the cork on his champagne bottle, and Diane McCarthy lined up flutes on the counter. The cork came out with a festive pop.
“Pernod Ricard Perrier-Jouët, two-thousand-four,” Declan said, holding up the bottle. “It’s not quite as expensive as the Dom Pérignon Oenotheque Rose, two-thousand-six, but I think it tastes as exquisite, and I love the flowers on the bottle.” He poured the slightly golden liquid into flutes. “Please invite Kenji to join our celebration. We have much to talk about.”
Diane handed Jessup a glass of bubbly.
“He’s not here.”
“When will he return?”
Declan glanced around the kitchen, lingering on the two things that were unusual: the ashes in the sink and the envelope on the counter. “I see you’re a man of few words, Mr. Connors. Would you tell me where I might find him? I’m sure his letter gave his destination, or you wouldn’t have destroyed it.”
“We’re just simple ranch people here. We don’t like folks butting in, and we don’t give out information until we know why someone is asking questions.”
Declan’s smile broadened as he held up his flute in a toast. “Mr. Connors, cheers.” He swallowed a thimbleful and seemed to roll it on his tongue. “Superlative.”
Diane also sipped. Jessup drained his flute in one swallow. Declan refilled his glass.
“As to the why, we want to congratulate him and his research partner, Miss Consuela Rocha y Villareal, for their discovery of the greatest scientific breakthrough in the history of mankind.” He took another sip, but his eyes never left Jessup’s face. Jessup felt like he was being dissected like a lab rat.
He shook his head. “Kenji never mentioned any breakthrough.”
“Mr. Connors,” Diane said, “Kenji and Consuela are leading authorities in the field of regenerative medicine. Let me show you something that will explain everything.” She set her flute on the counter and placed her briefcase on the walnut table. She sat before the case, popped open the latches, and removed a laptop.
Jessup drained his second glass while she brought the computer to life and clicked an avatar. The monitor filled with a video of Kenji and Consuela in a lab setting. As he listened to Consuela spout off a lot of scientific jargon about altering human DNA, he felt the blood drain from his face. They claimed their breakthrough regenerated human tissue so effectively that a body could remain healthy for thousands of years. And with this ability to mass generate healthy cells, the body could reverse many forms of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Kenji made the outrageous claim that he was born during World War Two, which would make him over seventy years old. Absurd, of course, because he looked not a day over thirty. Jessup had to admit, however, that during the last eleven years of living with him, Kenji had not aged, not a day.
To prove their assertion, they showed an elderly Asian patient who they claimed had been treated moments before. The old man looked wrinkled and sickly. A clock on the bottom corner of the screen showed the passage of time. He went from looking ninety years old to a healthy forty years old in five hours, and with the aid of time-lapse photography, those hours sped by in three minutes.
Then came the kicker. Consuela announced they would not share their research findings with anyone until every gun, bullet, bomb, tank, battleship, and nuclear warhead had been destroyed. “When the world is wholly disarmed, when there are no armies, when war and mass killing are no longer possible, then we will end disease and aging. Everyone will live for several thousand years. Nobody will suffer old age.”
On screen, Kenji added, “We can wait centuries for you to de-arm. You, unfortunately, have little time if you wish to live.” He smiled, and the screen went dark.
“Oh shit,” Jessup mumbled.
“Spot-on, Mr. Connors,” Declan said. “You Americans have such clever slang.”
Diane closed her laptop. “Consuela posted this video on YouTube this morning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time. Because of Consuela’s considerable fame and reputation as an exemplary scientist, nobody is doubting its authenticity. It scored a hundred and sixty million hits before YouTube crashed. The world is going crazy over it.”
“You see, old boy,” Declan said, “Consuela disappeared after she made that post. We want to tether Kenji before he vanishes as well. They’re hiding because they’re in severe peril.”
Jessup grabbed the champagne bottle, pressed it to his lips, and upended it. He emptied the bottle and wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve.
“You’re not as simple as you would have us think, Mr. Connors,” Declan said. “You see the gravity of this situation. They’ve engineered a formula worth several trillion dollars, over time, perhaps a hundred trillion. Everybody on the planet will pursue them—every government, every drug company, every bounty hunter. No telling what will happen if the KGB or the CIA get to them first. I have the resources to protect them. I can safeguard them and the formula, but we need to find them in a hurry.”
I write novels, short stories and screenplays.
I am the author of nine published novels and three unpublished screenplays. You can read about all my pubished works at http://alanchinauthor.com
I live and write half of each year at my home in Southern California, and spend the other half of each year traveling the globe with my husband, Herman Chin.