Back again in the same room, that isn’t really a room, three weeks after his last visit, Marin is waiting for Colin Jameson to show his face and report on what, if any, progress has been made.

In the time between visits Marin’s health has deteriorated, which is why his wheelchair has changed. No longer is it the slick expensive electric kind that had allowed him to navigate himself around. Instead, it is an entirely manual affair that requires the strength of another to push him about.

There is nothing, Marin does not think, that annoys him more than having no agency over what he can do. After all, he is a man who has built his life around self-reliance and has prided himself on doing as he wants when he wants. To have that taken away, at any time, is devastating but to the old businessman he thinks at a hundred and eighteen it is the worst because he will not be alive, unless some miracle has occurred with project, long enough for him to grow accustomed to…

He cuts his train of thought. Reality is he could live another thousand years and would never become used to being taken places by someone else. It’s just the way he is and to believe any different is… unlike him. He wonders why he might have considered any different.

More than his lack of mobility he believes this development to be the most worrying.

How long has this gone on? I can’t say. I do not know. Is that because I am old or because this is so new of a development in my steady decline toward oblivion? No answer is forthcoming. From that Marin feels equal measures concern and relief.

Balance he can cope with he thinks glancing at the face of the watch on his wrist without moving his arm, principally because he can’t without aid.

His minder, he who pushes him about, was dismissed once they arrived. Marin will call for them when he must depart, but there was no need to risk a potential snake eavesdropping. Whether Hank would or not is impossible to say. Every check on his background came back clean. A little too clean for the tycoons liking, but that might solely be his cantankerous paranoid streak emboldened by his advanced age.

He vaguely remembers his mother having been the same late in her life, many years after his dad had died of a sudden catastrophic heart attack.

For the first time in many a year Marin continues to think of his parents, usually his recollections of them have been fleeting. Not because there was ever any animosity between them but because… He was busy. Is that a sad thing to admit, he wonders. To many it might sound it, but for the old rich man sat in a wheelchair within a hangar surrounded by the walls of a room that isn’t it does not feel as though it is.

That is however, not to say there are not things that do not bring him sadness. There are. He refuses to think of them for they…

Footsteps reach his ears ending his thoughts abruptly. He focuses in on the footsteps. They sound distant but Marin is acutely aware they are not. He curses his failing senses, fidgets as best he can and then waits.

Colin Jameson appears first, a mild surprise, but nothing compared to who strides in behind, for it isn’t Madeline Gough-Ince.

To be honest Marin was sure Colin would chicken out, bring Miss Gough-Ince along regardless of his demand that he not.

A smirk creeps across his face. It would slide but his muscles are slow and struggle to obey without giving him any indication of such issues.

“Mr Wren, good to see you again.” Is all Colin dares say. He thinks if he tries to continue with any further pleasantries he’ll erupt into a demand that the old feeble man wipe that smug smirk off his wrinkled old face.

It’s exhaustion, the long nights, making you like this. These are the things Colin tells himself but is that true? He cannot say and forces the thoughts from his head while simultaneously making efforts to ignore the expression on his employers face.

To make matters worse, his associate, Bobby, not his actual name but the one he uses as people struggle to pronounce his birth name, Pence, is, unbeknownst to him, an uber fan of Marin’s successful career.

At the first sight of the dying tycoon the young tech exclaims, “Mr Wren, huge fan. HUGE! It’s an honour, a privilege. Think you’re really going to love what we have for you today.”

He sounds more like an avid salesman, a marketing bod, than he does a member of a science team. Even has the ear splittingly wide smile to back up his tone and body language.

“Congratulations Colin, you managed to find a bigger stain of a human being than yourself and in a completely different yet worse way.” Is the blunt response uttered by Marin who makes no efforts to mince his words.

As you might imagine the reaction is instantaneous from both men. Colin goes wide eyed, incredulous as he never expected Marin to speak so disrespectfully, while Bobby sinks into himself, wounded by the barbs carelessly thrown at him for they have stuck and are well on their way to worming deep. The old adage, never meet your heroes, screams through his head like a dying phoenix who is at the end of their last life. If Bobby were to analyse the comparison he would see a strong link between the final life phoenix and Marin, but he does not. Instead, his face twists into a mask of hurt confusion.

Say something! Colin cannot, does not dare. Marin has reservations about him already. If he speaks out now, he is confident, the old businessman will boot him, metaphorically, out the door to live the remainder of his days in the gutter, penniless and hopeless.

So you’re just going to stand there?!?

Clearing his throat, aware he is right and cannot simply do nothing, Colin endeavours to get this meeting back on track.

“Mr Wren, we think we have…”

“I’m sick of the chatter, the noise. Show me Colin.” Those words aren’t spoken with any hint of boredom or irritation, the kinds of things Marin would normally display. Rather, they are spoken in the way those without energy left to give might, when they are close to their end, death.

Am I dying? Is this what it feels like? Marin cannot say for he has never died before, though he can think of no other way of explaining it for this is by far the worst he thinks he has ever felt in all his life. But what is making me feel… I don’t know. I can’t think. Everything is cloudy. I feel like I’m in a fog, a haze.

Suddenly it passes and in doing so, colour, as limited as it is, returns to Marin’s face. Colin breathes a sigh of relief for he truly expected Marin to drop dead at that moment leaving him with a mountain sized issue he does not believe he could overcome, especially without Mady here.

No, he didn’t tell her, though he wanted to, that she could not be present. Rather, he sent her on a wild goose chase. She won’t be happy, especially when she learns he changed the meeting with Marin to today to coincide but he can explain that away, he thinks.

Sure, it’s cowardly, deplorable even, but…

“Mr Wren do you need a minute to…”

“No, I do not Colin.” The old man closes his eyes not because he is tired. Rather, he does it for another reason. Sadly he cannot provide it.

Is my mind failing? Am I unravelling? I think that might be worse than death.

“Has there been a development?” The feeling passes at the conclusion of his issued question leaving Marin feeling normal, relatively speaking, again.

“There has Mr Wren, we think we’ve cracked it.” Is the reply from the greying scientist in his late thirties who is, in Marin’s opinion, in dire need of not only a haircut but a comb. How he’s allowed himself to deteriorate to such a pitch the tycoon cannot imagine. He’s more than eighty years the chief scientists senior and more presentable.

Sadly, Bobby leaps in at that point with his sales pitch, “Yeah, not only have we made de-aging a reality, we’ve branded it; Age Regression Initiative.” A smile beams across the young techs face as his outstretched arm slowly moves across the empty air as if he can imagine a mighty banner with the words written upon it.

Evidently the name must’ve been his idea, for he looks hugely proud as he says it.

Both Colin and Marin are a breath away from chastising the man when he continues by blurting in a chipper voice, “Or Ari for short.”

Colin sighs, his eyes rolling at what he is sure will be a swift berating from their employer. Meanwhile Marin has an entirely different reaction and no he doesn’t berate. You see the name Ari brings memories flooding back to the old businessman in the twilight of his life for that was the name of his second love. Well, to be more accurate that was the name he called her by. Her actual name had been Arianne Dumaine and hearing it has sent him reeling, oblivious to the queries which are soon issued by Colin and then Bobby some time after when the old man slides into freefall toward oblivion.

Ari is one of the regrets he has in his life, not that her death less than five years into their marriage had been his fault. Unfortunately, and unknown to Marin, Arianne had a hereditary condition that resulted in brain tumours for any daughter born to her family. Occasionally it would skip a generation, but mostly it didn’t. To make matters worse it was incurable at the time of her suffering its effects.

The first Marin knew about any of this is when he’d received a call telling him that his darling wife, the love of his life, had suffered a nasty fall.

As any good husband able to would he rushed home immediately, from the other side of the world, to find her propped up in bed, pale and fragile. By that point, some fifteen hours after the initial call, the doctors knew what was ailing her and it was not the fall. In fact the fall had been but a symptom. Not the first, one of the last. The earlier ones she’d kept to herself, hidden so Marin would not worry.

Upon learning the details of his wife’s ailment as well as her inevitable fate he offered any doctor any amount of money if they could save her. They couldn’t, and so Marin had been forced at forty three years of age to watch his second love die after only knowing her for maybe twenty years and being together for eighteen.

“What’s happening?” A panicked Bobby demands as he jogs alongside Colin who is pushing the wheelchair occupied by a dying Marin.

“What the fuck do you think is happening Bobby? Marin is dying!”

“But why?”

“How the fuck should I know? I’m a scientist not his fucking physician!”

“So why are we going toward the labs? Shouldn’t we, you know, be calling someone?”

“There isn’t time. We have only one shot at this.”

Bobby stops dead in his tracks. He is sure Colin cannot mean what it sounds like he’s suggesting. That would be madness. No, worse than madness.

“You aren’t planning to?” The young tech calls down the corridor without a ceiling, the walls of which are white and illuminated from the floor upwards as well as from the wide rimmed lights that hang at the end of long fragile looking cables he has always had issue with walking under.

“Of course I am. Now open these doors! I can’t do it alone, it wastes too much time.”

For reasons he cannot give, Bobby complies by breaking into a full on sprint that sees him not only catch up but then pass Colin who is growing steadily slower the longer he pushes the dead weight, not yet he hopes, of Marin Alexander Wren who is swimming around in his memories of Arianne recalling the time they spent together.

Sadly, it is mainly her final days he is forced to relive, and when finally the memories are over he is finds himself surrounded only by an endless black void.

“Hello? Is there anyone out there?”

“Where am I?”

“What is this place?”

“Answer me!”

The time between these statements are more than Marin might expect, if he were capable of considering. He isn’t. And as you might imagine is presented with no answers, for he is alone. Not that it stops him from screaming to the void more questions and demands that will never be answered.

“Give me a hand; we need to get him into…” There is a pause as Colin attempts to readjust Marin’s limp body in preparation to move him into the canister shaped pod from which copious cables and pipes sprout as it lies on the floor. There is a mounting arm nearby which lies vacant and awaiting the pod to be bolted atop it.

That is one of the many things that should’ve been done by now but that have had to fall by the wayside so they could get to where they are in terms of the process of regressing cell age.

“No, there is no way I’m being part of this.”

“You already are!” The chief scientist on A.R.I., a name he does not believe is fitting for what they have achieved because it sounds so generic, demands while trying to haul the old tycoon from his wheelchair to the cylinder of black, silver, white and grey.

The pod is a mishmash of whatever they could get their hands on, yes even with all the money funnelled into this project. After all, it is a proof of concept. Something used to get them to a point where they could dependably regress the age of test subjects. And yes, there have been subjects.

“Colin, we’ve only tested this thing on rats, rabbits and pigs. None of which are a human being!”

Patience gone, Colin stops and turns, his eyes lock on Bobby in the moments prior to him uttering, “We try or we’ll get blamed for this. You know that right?” True or not, Colin feels as though that is what will happen so what has he got to lose in using it against his colleague? In his eyes nothing, at all. Marin either dies and his life is ruined or he succeeds and… He won’t say his life is saved but it surely won’t be worse than if Marin dies.

“Now get over here!” His expression softens, marginally. “Help me.” The greying man commands through gritted teeth stained by copious cups of coffee that far exceed what is considered healthy for any human being to consume.

A period, fairly short at that, follows as Bobby considers his options. At the end of said time, feeling the pressure on him, he relents and rushes over to give Colin a hand transferring Marin’s body from Wheelchair to pod.

Right after, Colin lowers and secures the hood obscuring Marin, who is continuing to fights for answers in the void surrounding him, from view.

It takes no time at all for ‘final’ preparations to take place. Sadly, just as Colin is about to activate the age regression process Mady bursts in.

“What’s going on?” Unsurprisingly, she is puzzled. Not only by the car out in the lot or by the suited minder, both of which suggest Marin Alexander Wren must be here, but by the fact that Bobby and Colin are in the lab about to conduct an experiment?

Then Mady’s gaze falls upon the empty wheelchair, her eyes go wide, her mouth opens in horror.

“This isn’t what it looks like.” Bobby insists while closing on Mady, who pushes him aside, finds her voice and exclaims, “What the fucking hell do you think you’re doing Colin? We’re in the early stages, as promising as they might be. Is that why you sent me off on this wild goose chase today? Are you mad? If this goes wrong…”

“It isn’t what it looks like.” The chief scientist exclaims adamantly, his hand still ready to initialise.

“Like hell it isn’t. You have to stop…”

“Mady, he flatlined…”

“WHAT?!?” The short haired woman wearing spectacles today instead of her usual contacts, something she has to do when pulling all-nighters, says spinning round to meet Bobby with her fiery gaze.

“Yeah, we were filling him in when…”

“So this wasn’t planned but his visit was?”

Colin feels himself shrink for his lies are beginning to catch up with him. In that instant he regrets not being honest.

Why am I such a coward?

“How could you do this?” An incandescent Mady demands to know.

“Mady, its complicated…”

Swallowing her anger for the moment, but making sure to store it for later, Mady returns to what is of most import, Marin.

“Fuck you Colin. Still, doesn’t explain why our biggest backer is in the pod.”

“It’s either this or he dies.”

“No Colin, it’s not!”

“Yes it is and if he dies, we’ll get the blame!”

“No, we won’t. Think!” Are the words from the woman as she hurries toward Colin convinced that she needs to stop him.

She’s already too late. Colin activates the age regression process, which has been tested on nothing approaching the genetic similarity of a human being, long before she can reach him.

“You’re crazed!” The woman roars, shoving him aside, ready to deactivate when both Bobby and Colin restrain her.

Just as they do sparks begin to fly, hoses decouple, lights flicker and sirens blare in warning.

“No, no, no, no, no.” Is the repeated utterance from Colin who distracted loosens his grip allowing Mady to break loose from his grip and deliver an elbow to Booby’s nose which is crushed as a result.

A stumble forward follows but does not prevent her from slamming her palm hard against the killswitch labelled emergency in large capitalised white letters upon a red background.

An instant after that everything trips and the room goes dark.

Said darkness lasts seldom any time at all as the emergency backup power kicks in re-illuminating the hangars interior.

“What have you done?”

Mady ignores the accusing tone from Colin and rushes to the still sealed pod. The release refuses to work which forces her to resort to a nearby hammer that she swiftly whacks against the mechanism until it fractures.

Meanwhile Bobby has rushed off to who knows where, but likely as part of some prelude to fleeing for his life for fear of repercussions for his hand in what has transpired.

With the power to the pod cut and the hydraulic arms that carry the weight of the canopy too much for Mady to contend with alone she utters desperately, “Help me.”

Shockingly, Colin does without hesitation and together they struggle raising the canopy which warm steam belches from inside of, filling the air and obscuring the contents of the pod. That is until there is no more to born ejected and what remains is so thin the view is not successfully obscured.

“Oh fuck.” Colin exclaims setting his eyes on the occupant who is sat in the pod ejecting the cute infantile sound that can only belong to a baby, and right where Marin Alexander Wren had been to boot.

“What did you do?”

“What did I do? You’re the one who hit the emergency killswitch.” The greying scientist retorts defensively.

“Imagine if I hadn’t, genius.”

Beginning to pace up and down with nervous terror, Colin wonders aloud what their options are.

“Our? There’s no our here. You did this. I stopped you.”

“And who’s going to believe that?”

“You bastard!”

“Hate me later, Mady. Right now we need to come up with ways of how to dispose of…”

“Dispose! That’s a baby Colin, not a fucking nappy. You don’t dispose of children.” Shock could not fill Mady’s tone more if she tried, she thinks.

“You know what I mean!”

“No, I don’t.” Mady says turning to leave.

What she plans to do isn’t clear to her yet but she thinks the suited minder is a good place to start.

“Where are you going?” Is the query from Colin who rushes after her.

It takes him no time at all to catch up to and pass her and once he does he blocks her path, grabbing hold of her arms to prevent her from escaping.

“Get the fuck off of me!” Mady yells only to swiftly issue a kick that Colin sadly half blocks preventing it from crushing his testicles like it was meant to. And no, he does not release his grip on her as a result.

“I’ve got it.” He suddenly exclaims.

“No, you’ve lost it.” Mady lashes out, breaks Colin’s hold on her and goes to run. He trips her. Her vision goes blurred in the wake of her crash and her glasses are tossed across the floor. She hears them skitter away. When she looks up Colin is looming in her vision. Only his shoes at first, but as she raises her head she works her way up his body to his blurred face.

“I’ve got it, Mady. We take him to an orphanage. No one will ever know.”

“We’ll know. And what about when people come looking for him. There’s a minder out there…”

“We can deal with him.”

Mady is aghast. She leaps to her feet ready to defend herself but to her shock there is no impending attack, rather Colin is stood offering her back her glasses thought lost.

“You know I’m right, Mady.” The grey-black haired man says attempting to reason with her.

Cautiously she takes the glasses and returns them to their rightful place while considering his words.

“Maybe.” She concedes.

A smile appears across his face.

“But adoption…”

“It’s the only way.” He assures her.

“No, it isn’t. It can’t be. I won’t…”

“He was a bastard…” Again Colin says in hopes of swaying Mady to his line of thinking.

“He’s a baby!” She exclaims in reply.

“He wasn’t five minutes ago.”

“That was then.”

“So what, you’re going to keep him?”

“It’s not like he has any other family, Colin.”

“He doesn’t?”


“All that money and still it couldn’t buy him someone to leave it too.” Colin whistles. “Just how it goes I suppose.”

“That’s cruel and he’s not dead.”

“He might as well be.”

The baby begins to cry, loudly, as if set off by the accusation that he might as well be dead.

“Fuck, he’s loud.”

“Babies are, Colin.”

“How would you know?”

He might not know but that query wounds Mady more than she would like it to.

You see, Madeline Gough-Ince can’t have children of her own. Maybe that is why she thinks they should keep baby Marin rather than send him off to some orphanage, maybe it isn’t.

Seeing the sadness in her face Colin circles back to the problem at hand and declares once again, “We need to get rid of the baby.”

“Fine. But what about…”

“I’ll deal with him. You get the kid sorted. With any luck the minder caught sight and chased Bobby believing him to be the cause of the outage.”

“We can but hope.” Mady mutters as Colin saunters off in search of Marin’s wheelchair pushing minder.

“I’m not abandoning you. You’re proof ARI works, and the key to making it a global industry. One we can share together.” Are the words uttered by Mady as she cradles baby Marin in her arms, a determined expression upon her face.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: