"And that means...?" he prompted.
Turning back to the window, Hudson said, "Cells in the human body die all the time, but they are
usually replaced with new cells, as the older cells die off. As the body ages, however, fewer
new cells are produced and over the years as more cells die without being replaced, we
inevitably age more rapidly. The eyesight goes, the hearing goes, muscle and bone weaken and
deteriorate, all because cells die and aren't replaced." He moved back to stand in front of the desk
to emphasize his next words.
"For the most part during the past hundred and fifty years, the average life span has been slowly
but steadily increasing. At one point, it was up to 87.6 years. That
was the number of years the average human in western society could expect to live.
Unfortunately, in the past couple of decades, that average has declined rather drastically. Due to
excessive air pollution, pesticides in our food, carcinogens in our water, strains of bacteria that
have become immune to most known antibiotics and other, as yet discovered reasons, the
average life expectancy in the western world has now dropped to approximently 78.3 years and
by all accounts is still on the decline.
"That is a huge drop in only twenty years," he admitted, "and has frightened global scientists,
who don't know if they can reverse this downward progression." Suddenly tired and frustrated,
Hudson plopped himself back down in the chair and stared at his hands for a moment before
"Now, imagine if there was something that would slow down cell deterioration in the human
body-- something that would essentially slow the aging process and add literally decades to the
normal life span. How much would that be worth to people?" he asked, looking up at Carter.
"And what would people be willing to do to achieve this miracle?"
Carter slowly began to understand the implications of what Hudson was saying. "We have access
to this, this gene?" he asked, his voice almost in a whisper.
"In a manor of speaking, we do," Hudson admitted, although he didn't sound very happy about it
as he leaned his head back and stared up at the ceiling. "When the astronauts returned from
Mars, it was months before anyone discovered that they weren't aging in a normal fashion and it
was months more before it was discovered what had caused the change. It was all top secret, of
course. No one wanted to admit the possibility of a life extending breakthrough until it had been
sufficiently tested. That's were we come in."
He leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, now staring down at the floor."We did
experiments for almost two years, using what little of the food was brought back from the Mars
mission. It turned out that we couldn't reproduce the gene mutation effect here on Earth.
Whatever happened to it could only take place out there," and he waved his hand toward the
window, indicating the vastness of space.
“We fed some of the remaining food from the mission to animals and some human volunteers. It
worked the same on either species – cell deterioration was slowed, as was the aging process. But
we couldn’t duplicate the gene mutation,” he said. Slamming his fist down on the arm of the
chair and getting up, Hudson began pacing the room once again.
“Eventually, we put down the animals that had been infected by the mutated gene and fed some
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