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The Immortality Factor



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About The Author

Ben BovaBen Bova

Ben Bova is the author of more than a hundred works of science fact and fiction, including Able One, Leviathans of Jupiter and the Grand Tour novels, including Titan, winner of John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year. He received the Lifetime Achievement... More

photo: Ed Chappell

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EXCERPT

Washington: The Capitol

The crowd surging along the barriers that blocked off the Capitol steps was on the verge of turning ugly. It was much larger than the Capitol Police had anticipated and growing bigger by the minute. At first it had been orderly, well organized, mostly women of various ages led by earnest young men in dark suits and narrow ties who shouted their directions through electric bullhorns. Their permits were all in order and they patiently submitted to searches by the special antiterrorism squad and their bomb-sniffing dogs.

The placards they carried were professionally printed in red, white, and blue.

NO MONSTERS! DON’T INTERFERE WITH GOD’S WORK STEM CELL RESEARCH KILLS BABIES MARSHAK IS A BABY KILLER

But now a different sort of crowd was pouring in, men and women, older for the most part, lots of gray hair and bald heads, many in wheelchairs. They were being searched, too, before being allowed across the broad parking area in front of the Capitol building. They had only a few placards among them, many of them hand-lettered.

DON’T CONDEMN ME FOR LIFE TO THIS WHEELCHAIR I NEED A NEW HEART MY BABY IS DYING. PLEASE HELP ME!

The demonstrators marched up and down the parking area outside the Capitol steps, chanting slogans and counterslogans.

"Marshak does the devil’s work!"

"Marshak is a gift from God!"

"Marshak ...Marshak ...Mar-shak ...Mar-shak!"

Now TV news vans were pulling up, like sharks drawn to blood, camera crews focusing on the placards and the marching, chanting, shouting, red-faced demonstrators.

The sky overhead was a clear summer blue, although the morning traffic had already raised a smoggy haze on the streets. Security choppers buzzed overhead; no news media helicopters were allowed near the Capitol. A hot, muggy July morning in the nation’s capital; it would have been a slow Monday, news-wise, except for the demonstration. Knots of picketers began to cluster around each of the camera crews, yelling out their slogans and waggling their placards.

Captain Wally Lewis watched it all from the top of the Capitol steps with a sour frown on his dark fleshy face.

"Better call the Army," he said into his handheld radio.

The little speaker crackled. "You mean you can’t handle a few yahoos?"

Lewis grimaced. "There’s more’n a few." Squinting through the pollution haze past the Supreme Court building up toward the roadblock on Maryland Avenue where incoming buses were stopped and searched, he added, "And more busloads heading this way."

"How many more?"

"Six . . . eight ...must be a dozen I can see from here. Plenty of nuts in with them." Then Lewis added, "Some terrorist outfit could use ’em for cover."

"You see any A-rabs among ’em?"

"Like they’re gonna wear turbans and bushy beards," Lewis grumbled.

"You’re overreacting, Wally."

With the weary head shake of a veteran, Lewis said into his radio, "These people are gonna turn nasty, I tell you. I can feel it in my bones."

"The hearing’s over at the Rayburn Building, ain’t it? Dumb shits don’t even know where it’s happening."

"Don’t matter where the hearings are," said Lewis. "If there’s a riot it’s gonna be right here."

"Who in hell would’ve thought people’d get this worked up over some science stuff?" In the tiny radio speaker his supervisor sounded more surprised than annoyed.

"Yeah," said Lewis. Then he added silently, Who in hell?

Excerpted from The Immoratality Factor by Ben Bova.
Copyright © 2009 by Ben Bova.
Published in April 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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