“Well, Maurice, sunlight is canceled.”
“I’ll add it to the list, Mr. Crush.”
Craig Crush cast aside the tablet he had been reading from and said, “The range of ultraviolet exposure between a sunny and an overcast day — It’s just too unpredictable. Have the R&D bros make an artificial exposure room on thirty-seven with a UV index of 6.2. Get me an omni-directional treadmill, and the Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast of Kauai on the VR. I’ll be in there fourteen minutes per day, and I want it 72 degrees with a breeze of — are you writing this down?”
“Of course, sir.” Maurice mimed tapping on his tablet.
“Good.” Craig stood from his Yves Saint Laurent chair and walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows. His legs wide and solid under him, fists on hips, elbows pointed out and chin pointed high, taking up the maximum amount of space, he surveyed the city below. He inhaled a deep and noisy breath through his nose. “Goddamn, I love the view from up here.”
Maurice slouched behind Craig’s side, “There is no better view than the penthouse of Crush Tower, sir,” he said with hardly any cynicism.
The news-anchor on the TV said, “For the fifth time in five years, we are looking at record high temperatures contributing to raging forest fires, devastating droughts, and now—”
“Jesus, isn’t there ever any good news? Maurice, silence all that negative energy. I don’t want it getting into my pores.”
Maurice shuffled over and turned off the TV.
Craig’s biosensor implant chimed and a group of men came into the room. With the efficiency of a NASCAR pit-crew they set up a massage table and a serving tray with a buffet of supplements and injections. Maurice turned to leave.
“Ah ah, Maurice, I need you here to actualize all my fantastic ideas,” said Craig, wagging his finger. Maurice slouched harder.
Craig addressed the team. “Kevins, how are you all?”
The Kevins muttered a few words simultaneously.
“Wonderful. What do you have for me today?”
The lead Kevin stepped forward with printouts. “Shall I read the reports from your cardiologist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist—”
Craig interrupted. “I know the drill.”
Lead Kevin nodded, picking up a syringe. “Your GABA and serotonin are down, and your norepinephrine is a little high.” He motioned for Craig to roll up his sleeve, then jabbed him. He continued, holding up a capsule. “Pulverized banana peel for fiber.”
Craig picked up the glass of water from the tray and took the pill.
“Hormone balancer, testosterone boost, EGCG, curcumin, CoQ10…” The capsules and syringes emptied from the tray as Lead Kevin rattled them off.
“What’s this one?” Craig picked up a small, white pill and squinted at it.
“That’s a wintergreen tic-tac.”
Craig eyed it suspiciously.
“You requested it.”
“Don’t remember that.” He popped it in his mouth.
Lead Kevin picked up a blood bag of the deepest red-wine color. “And finally, your young-blood transfusion.”
Craig rubbed his hands together. A secondary Kevin indicated the massage table, and Craig laid down. Two Kevins immediately got to work on Craig’s quads while Lead Kevin found a vein and began the transfusion.
Craig closed his eyes and smiled. “Maurice? Where are you?”
“As I was saying, 14 minutes of UV exposure daily—”
A nervous man entered the room. “Mr. Crush, Dr. Banks is here to see you.”
“She isn’t scheduled,” Craig said in irritation.
The nervous man said, “Yes, but… she is in between receiving her Nobel Prize and presenting to the global climate summit… I mean, she’s very busy.”
Craig sat up abruptly, tugging on the IV line. He winced. “Is her time more valuable than mine?”
The nervous man swallowed hard. “No, sir.”
Craig sighed. “Did you screen her?”
“She’s been swabbed?”
“Lots. She’s not sick, sir.”
“Fine, send her in. Kevins, get lost.”
The nervous man left. The Kevins followed, abandoning their IV drip and table where Craig sat, legs dangling. Maurice shuffled behind the Kevins.
Maurice groaned. “Can I sit?”
“What? No, of course not.”
Dr. Banks passed by the departing Kevins as she entered the room. She looked at Craig with barely concealed disdain. Folding her arms, and coming to a stop much closer than he was comfortable with, she said, “Christ, Dad, don’t you have any women that work for you?”
Craig rolled his eyes. “Hi, Emily. What are you doing here?”
She looked over at Maurice, who withered. “Does he have to be here?”
Maurice started to leave.
“Yes,” said Craig.
Maurice folded in on himself.
“Fine. Listen, I won’t be long. This isn’t a social call.”
“I want you to come with me to the global climate summit tomorrow.”
Craig tensed. “Why would I do that?”
“Because you said you would.”
“Well yeah, but, you know, I do that a lot.”
“You also said if atmospheric carbon dioxide removal could be brought to scale for under fifty billion dollars you’d pay for it.”
“But that was just a Tweet,” he whined.
She locked eyes on him and he squirmed, shuffling his legs below. “Dad. You could save the world.”
“I mean… I guess.”
“I’m not even being hyperbolic.” She gestured around, “Besides, what do you think happens to your little empire when you die?”
“I’m not dying.”
“I don’t mean tomorrow, I mean when you die.”
He folded his arms, tugging again at the IV, and again wincing. “That’s not happening.”
“What are you talking about? You’re getting more and more delusional every year.” To his horror, she leaned in. “When wasthe last time you left this building?”
He opened his mouth, trying to remember.
Maurice offered, “Dave Chapelle at Madison Square Gardens.”
“That long ago?” Craig scratched his chin.
Nobel Prize winner Dr. Banks turned to Maurice and said, “You shut your whole stupid face.” Maurice promptly died.
She turned back to her father. “Please, we have our differences, but you made a promise. Consider it an investment; other corporations would follow. Stand on that stage with me and you could turn the tide.” She arched an eyebrow and added, “People would love you.”
He sighed. “I’ll think about it.”
The next morning Craig sat in his Yves Saint Laurent chair and gazed at the city below, hardly even enjoying himself.
Behind him, the news-anchor said, “Wide-spread flooding in the Middle East is causing a new wave of refugees from areas already war-torn—”
Craig sighed heavily and picked up his phone, tapping it a few times.
“Fine. I’ll do it,” he said.
“You will?” said Emily. “Really?”
“For realsies. I’ll come with you to the thing.”
“And the pledge to fund global CO2 removal?”
“Yes, and the forty billion.”
“Fifty billion, Dad.”
“Jesus. Fine, fifty. But people have to love me.”
“What is wrong with your brain? I can’t promise that.”
“Well then, what’s the point?!”
Emily sighed. “I promise you that if you fund this project, you will definitely be loved by a lot of people. I mean, I don’t know if they’ll make a statue or anything—”
“Great! So I’ll be in and out and I don’t want to touch anyone.”
“I know, Dad.”
Craig hung up the phone. “Maurice. Maurice!”
“I’m right here,” Maurice shuffled out from the corner.
“Oh good. Make sure there’s hand sanitizer in the chopper. Let’s bounce.”
From the dais, the woman spoke. “Our guest of honor today is a leading climate scientist, and, as of yesterday for her pioneering work on CO2 removal…” the woman looked around giddily, “can I say it now?” she asked no one in particular, “…is also a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics!” The crowd applauded. “Please join me in welcoming Dr. Emily Banks!” The crowd applauded harder.
Emily shook the woman’s hand as she took the stage. The applause died down. She adjusted the lectern mic and inhaled. “As you know, we in the scientific community have been sounding the alarm for decades that an average global temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius would bring catastrophic harm to our home. We are already seeing longer and more destructive hurricane seasons, rising oceans, longer and more severe droughts, crop failures, and endless forest fires. We’ve been warning for a long time, and what has changed in those years? Not much. But now, thanks to the tireless work of my team at Forward Future Environmental Alliance, not only can we strip harmful CO2 from the air and safely put it in the ground, we have shown that we can do it globally at scale. Folks, we can reverse the doomsday clock!” The crowd thundered in applause. “It is, however, an expensive endeavor, and the accountants with their calculators are going to want to know how we’ll pay for it.” The crowd laughed. As they quieted, Emily leaned in. “I’m thrilled to announce that I can answer that question today.”
Silence filled the hall. Emily waited a beat as her father had instructed her to do.
“I’ve secured a generous pledge. From a… generous man.” She coughed and took a sip of water. “A pledge of fifty billion dollars,” the crowd gasped. “Offered by the richest man in the world, who happens to be my father, Craig Crush!”
The doors in the back of the hall flew open. Loud rock music played. The crowd craned their necks. Craig stepped through, fists on hips, chin pointed up, an entourage of security behind him. And Maurice. The crowd went fucking nuts.
Emily rolled her eyes.
The next morning Craig sat in his Yves Saint Laurent chair by the floor-to-ceiling windows. He gazed at the city below, imagining worshipful crowds in undulating applause, calling his name. Begging for him. He was enjoying himself very much.
“Right here, sir.”
“Get me a cup of Kopi Luwak coffee with yak butter.”
“Caffeine? And dairy? Are you sure, Mr. Crush?”
“Life is short, right, my man?”
Maurice shuffled off in bewilderment to fulfill the request.
Craig returned to his reverie, smiling like a fool. He didn’t even hear the news-anchor from the TV say, “Further desperation over food scarcity has caused NATO to collapse, meanwhile Russia invades China—”
Suddenly Craig paused and sat up straight. An overwhelming panic washed over him. “What is that? Maurice! What am I feeling? Maurice!!” He clutched his throat.
Maurice shuffled back into the room. “You’re feeling your throat, sir.”
Craig looked at Maurice with wild eyes. “I don’t mean what am I feeling with my hands, I mean what is this feeling in my throat? It’s… scratchy.” He swallowed. “It’s ten percent harder to swallow.” He took another test swallow.
“I think maybe you’re getting a cold.”
“No! That’s impossible. How?”
Maurice grinned, “Maybe that was the plan.”
“The plan? What plan?” Craig’s jaw fell open. “Oh my God, she… infected me!”
He picked up the phone and tapped it. Emily answered.
“You made me sick!”
“What are you talking about?”
Craig stood and paced. “I. Am. Never. Sick. What have you done to me?”
Emily laughed. “You should get sick more often, I bet your immune system is like a wee little baby’s.”
Craig roared, “Nothing about me is like a wee little baby!”
“I am bulletproof. I am a god!”
“Dad, I don’t have time for this. Take an aspirin and a nap. Maybe get some therapy.” She hung up.
Craig threw the phone across the room.
“Should I still get your coffee, sir?”
“Get me the Kevins!”
A moment later the Kevins burst in, all in scrubs. Lead Kevin sat Craig on the table and looked in his ears and mouth. He felt his neck and listened to his heart, then pulled up Craig’s biometrics on his tablet.
“You have a cold.”
“Nope.” Craig shook his head.
“You’re all fired. Get out.”
The Kevins filed out, heads hung low. Craig flopped down in his Yves Saint Laurent chair overlooking the city. “God, what is even the point?”
Maurice shuffled into Craig’s proximity. “Maybe there is no point, Mr. Crush.”
Craig shook his head. “No, there’s definitely a point. There has to be a point. Why else would I have all this money?” he hung his head.
Suddenly Craig’s eyes lit up. “I am the point.” He stood and paced again, testing out the new thought. “I am the point. I am the point.” He pointed to himself. “I am the point.” He stopped pacing and smiled. “That’s it, Maurice, I can’t be sick. I can’t age. I was chosen and I must never die.” He shuddered at the word.
“Sir, what is happening?”
“Maurice, where are we with anti-aging science?”
“You mean our chronological spot in a continuum as a species with evolving scientific knowledge?”
“Um. I don’t know, Mr. Crush. I think, maybe… mice.”
Craig rolled his eyes in exasperation and scooped up his tablet. He flopped back down in his Yves Saint Laurent chair and began to research.
Maurice backed away, “Shall I leave you, sir?”
“No, stay right there in case I need something.”
From the video monitor in Craig Crush’s office, the executives and board of Longevity Biosciences crowded on one side of a conference table.
Craig sat at his desk surrounded by lawyers. “Wonderful to see you today. Please, allow me to introduce my legal team. Say hello, Tims.”
The Tims muttered greetings simultaneously. Maurice stood against the back wall.
“Mr. Crush,” said the woman in the center of the video. “Melissa Rembrandt, founder of Longevity Biosciences. With all due respect, we are on the cusp of a major breakthrough here.”
“So freaking cool. What is it?” said Craig.
She cleared her throat. “What I mean to say is, we’re very busy. What is the nature of this meeting, and please, be brief.”
Craig sat up straight. “Oh. I’d like to live forever.”
Everyone in the video laughed. The Tims seriously folded their arms. Maurice slouched.
“Yeah,” said Craig. “How much would that cost?”
They stopped laughing. Melissa said, “You… want to pay us for immortality?”
“I mean, or buy you.”
The board and executives of Longevity Biosciences began to murmur. Melissa held up her hand to quiet them. “Listen to me, Mr. Crush.” She stood and placed her palms flat on the table, leaning in. Craig flinched. “Longevity Biosciences will not be some billionaire’s vanity project. And we don’t deal in immortality. Our mission is to bring cutting-edge cellular therapies to the world, and to do it equitably.”
Craig rolled his eyes and muttered, “Woke.”
“We will usher in a better life, where people live to 150, free of heart disease and cancer, mentally and physically as strong as if they were fifty.”
“Yeah. That’s what I want. But, ugh, thirty, not fifty. So, how much?”
The man next to Melissa spoke. “Gerald Longbottom here, Chairman—”
“I’m not chairman, I’m CEO,” said Craig, folding his arms.
“Yes, I know. I’m the chairman.”
“Oh, I see.”
“If I could, Mr. Crush, it seems we are on wildly different pages here. Yes, we’ve had major age-reversal success in the cells of mice, but we are years away from a viable human trial—”
Melissa turned to Gerald, “Don’t tell him anything.”
“I was just—”
She pointed at Gerald and he shut up. She turned back to Craig and said, “You could apply to offer investment funding through the normal channels, but this meeting is over.” She reached out to end the call.
“One hundred billion dollars,” said Craig.
Gerald placed his hand on Melissa’s arm. She glared at him.
The Lead Tim leaned in and whispered into Craig’s ear. Craig nodded and continued, “We’ve seen your valuation; we know you’ve had other offers, but none of them have been even a quarter of what I’m offering. I am prepared to buy Longevity Biosciences, and all your patents and research, for one hundred billion dollars. That’s eleven zeroes, bros.” Craig leaned back, smugly.
“We’ll be in touch,” said Gerald.
“No, we won’t,” said Melissa as the video feed cut out.
Craig Crush walked into the offices of Longevity Biosciences in a hazmat suit. Everyone bustling around stopped and stared.
“Hello and welcome, all you beautiful people!”
When no one responded he became flustered, tearing off his hazmat helmet. “All of you, keep back at least twenty feet. I’m not getting sick again. Maurice.” He looked left and right. “Maurice, take this.” Maurice sighed as he took the helmet from Craig.
“As I was saying, welcome all you beautiful people! Or should I say, all you beautiful people welcome me!” He held up his hazmatted arms victoriously, to more silence. In agitation, he added, “That doesn’t even make any goddamn sense. Anyway, you’re all fired. Clear out.”
The crowd of people emitted gasps and cries as security and legal teams poured in to escort them from the building. Craig called over the din, “Get me Gerald Longbottom!”
“Right here, Mr. Crush,” Gerald stepped forward.
“Is the skeleton crew of loyals in place?”
“Good. And they’ve pledged fealty?”
Craig turned to the team of men in scrubs behind him. “Swab him, Ethans.”
The Ethans led Gerald Longbottom away to be swabbed.
“Security, assemble around me. Let’s go!” A group of security guards broke off and surrounded Craig. They went further into the building.
In the hallway they passed Melissa, her arms held by two guards. She lunged toward Craig and hissed, “I hope you die.”
“Won’t,” he taunted.
She spat at him and the mist hit his face. The guards pushed her along.
“Ew, ew, ew, ew! Maurice! Maurice!!”
“I’m right here, sir.”
“Get it off me!” he shrieked.
Maurice set down the hazmat helmet and produced a wet wipe. He sponged the spit off of his boss’s face, grimacing.
“Why would she even do that? I just do not understand people.” Craig was near tears.
“I can’t imagine, sir,” said Maurice.
Lead Ethan returned. “Mr. Crush, we’ve swabbed the chairman.”
“Really? That was fast. You Ethans are on it.”
Lead Ethan said, “We are awaiting the test results, but we will let you know when the chairman can be in your vicinity.”
“Duh. That’s the whole point. My vicinity must be kept pure. Speaking of, can you run some tests on that?” Craig indicated the wet wipe that Maurice held at arm’s length.
“I don’t think so, sir,” said Lead Ethan.
“Great, do it. Maurice, hand it over.” Maurice held the wet wipe toward Craig. “Not to me, to Ethan!”
Maurice handed the wet wipe to Lead Ethan, who crumpled it in his fist and left.
Craig regained some composure and inhaled noisily. “Ok. Where to?”
The guards all looked at each other.
“Anyone have any input?” asked Craig. “You, there? The scientist.” Two more security guards passed, holding a man in a lab coat. “Where’s Melissa’s office, Nerd?”
The man in the lab coat sighed heavily and said, “Right behind you.”
Craig turned and looked behind him. There was a door, labeled, Melissa Rembrandt, Founder.
“Wonderful. Security disperse.” The security guards left. Craig pointed his chin up and entered the office. His hazmat suit crinkled and folded as he sat behind the desk. Maurice shuffled in with the hazmat helmet and began to sit. Craig looked at him severely, shaking his head. Maurice sighed and shuffled to the corner. Craig yawned loudly and looked around the office, his eyes landing on a framed photo on the desk. In the picture, Melissa, a man, and a girl were all smiling. Craig frowned and placed the frame face down. They waited. Craig rifled through the drawers.
“I’m bored, Maurice.”
Maurice opened his mouth to speak, and the Ethans came in with Gerald and a dozen other men.
“These men are all healthy,” said Lead Ethan.
“Righteous,” said Craig. “Ok, Geralds. What needs to happen to make me immortal?”
The Geralds all looked at each other. Lead Gerald said, “Well, Mr. Crush, that’s a complicated question.”
Craig’s hazmat suit crinkled more as he leaned back and placed his hands behind his head. “That’s ok, I’ve only got forever.” He smiled wide as he kicked his feet up onto the desk. The photo frame fell to the floor followed by the tinkling of broken glass.
Craig sat with his feet up on his desk in his office of his newly renamed Crush Biosciences awaiting his Geralds. His phone vibrated.
“What the hell is going on, Dad?” Emily said.
“Hostile takeover 101, honey. You should have studied business.”
“You didn’t study business.”
A secondary Gerald popped his head in. “We’re ready for you, Mr. Crush.”
Craig held up a finger.
Emily said, “You look like a clown. I mean your investors are fleeing left and right.”
“Don’t need ‘em.”
“Yeah, they’re all stupid anyway.”
Secondary Gerald said, “Sir?”
Emily said, “Dad, you look like you’re crazy.”
Craig covered his phone with his hand and said to secondary Gerald, “I’ll forgive you once for not knowing how this works, but I let you know when I am ready.” Secondary Gerald disappeared.
Craig spoke into the phone, “Oh, that reminds me, I can’t do your little carbon thing.”
There was a long pause. “No. You are not doing this.”
“That’s what I just said, I’m not doing it. I’m spread too thin now. But next time you’re in town, come over and I’ll have my chef whip up some A5 Japanese Kobe Ribeyes.”
“I’m vegan, Dad.”
Craig rolled his eyes. “Of course you are. Well, you can have some lettuce then.”
“Don’t ever call me again. You are dead to me.” She hung up.
“Not dead,” sang Craig. “Not now; not ever.” He took his feet off his desk and put them on his floor, walking out of his office, down his hallway. Maurice shuffled out of the corner and followed him.
Craig walked into the lab. The Geralds all stood at attention.
Lead Gerald stepped forward. “Have a seat, Mr. Crush.”
Craig sat, while two Geralds took his vitals.
Lead Gerald said, “Ok, this is not FDA approved, nor remotely ready for human trial, but we are going to do some gene editing and cellular therapy to reverse your biological clock back twenty years.”
“So what, we just do this every twenty years?”
The Geralds looked at each other.
Lead Gerald said, “Let’s just take this one step at a time, ok?”
Craig sat in his Yves Saint Laurent chair overlooking the city, feeling fantastic. At no point in his field of awareness did he hear or observe the news-anchor from the TV say, “yes, we are journalists, but first, we are humans, and with the news of millions dead from North Korea’s devastating nuclear strike on Tokyo, we will observe a moment of silence—”
“Here, sir, where I always am.” Maurice shuffled forward.
“Oh, my god. I’ve done Native American sweat lodges, Nordic Ice baths, ayahuasca, cocaine benders, happy endings, and, wow… I’ve never felt better. This cell stuff is amazing, you should try it.” Craig laughed. “Too bad you don’t have a hundred billion dollars.”
Maurice hung his head.
Craig sat in his bunker below the basement of Crush Towers in his Yves Saint Laurent chair that Maurice had moved for him, watching the penthouse video feed of storm-surge waves washing into the streets amid falling snowflakes of nuclear ash. There was a smoky haze on the horizon from the wreckage of the city below.
“Sir, this bunker is maybe 300 square feet. I am literally right here.”
“Do you think it’s over?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Well, turn on the TV.”
Maurice shuffled over and turned on the TV to channel after channel of static.
Craig Crush opened the safe and picked up a syringe labeled, Crush Biosciences, from a bountiful pile of similar syringes and injected it into his arm. He closed the safe.
Craig took a brash, heaping, and entitled breath through his nose and flopped down into his ancient and cracked Yves Saint Laurent chair in front of dirty floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the sea below that covered the wreckage of a once great city.
Craig startled at the silence.
A wheezing and weak voice called out, “Here, Mr. Crush.” Maurice shuffled so very slowly from the darkened corner, stooped and gray.
Craig eyed the syringe in his hand. “Can you believe I’ve only used four of these goddamn things? It’s ridiculous how many are left. You really should try one.”
Maurice watched Craig as he placed the empty syringe on the table beside his chair. “Could I, sir?” Maurice said painfully, his tired eyes welling with tears.
“Ha! Now, that’s rich.” Craig stood and gazed out the window. “No, I’m rich. Like, the richest. I am the chosen one.” He placed his fists on his hips, pointed up his chin, and smiled.