of them to additional volunteers.” He stopped his pacing and wiped a shaky hand over his face.
“It seems that the mutated gene can only be transferred from one cell group to another by
ingestion and digestion. Those volunteers who digested the mutated gene in the affected animal
meat also exhibited a slowdown in cell deterioration.”
“They actually stopped aging?” Carter asked.
“No, they didn’t stop aging,” Hudson assured him, “but they showed a definite slowing of the
age process. We won’t know for decades how many years may have been added to their lives.
There are too many variables – their age at the time of ingestion, their health at that time, other
variables we haven’t even worked out yet.”
“So, the experiments are ongoing, then,” Carter asked, finally becoming excited at the
possibilities of this breakthrough.
Hudson collapsed back into the chair and covered his face with his hands. “Only in the sense
that we can medically follow the remaining volunteers,” he admitted.
“What do you mean, ‘the remaining volunteers’?” Carter asked, suddenly feeling a sinking
sensation in his stomach. “How many are there?”
“We now have contact with eight of the original twenty-six volunteers.”
“Eight!” Carter echoed. “What happened to the rest of them?” he asked, hoping that he wasn’t
going to be told that they had somehow died as a result of the experiments.
“They walked away from the research complex in Delano two nights ago and basically
Flabbergasted by this revelation, Carter demanded, “How was that allowed to happen?”
Hudson sprang from the chair and glared at his friend. “Christ, Carter, they weren’t prisoners,”
he nearly shouted. “They were volunteers,” he told him, calming somewhat, “and they were
apparently frightened when they found out what happened to them.”
“Why would they be frightened?” Carter asked, almost shouting himself. “They should have
been thrilled to death at the prospect of living a longer life. Isn’t that what everyone wants?”
“Of course it is. That’s exactly why they were frightened.”
Confused, Carter asked more calmly, “Explain that line of reasoning to me.”
Hudson sighed and moved back over to the window and stared down at the city, knowing that
somewhere out there, eighteen frightened people were living on borrowed time. He sighed again.
“The only way the mutant gene can be transferred to another living organism is by ingestion and
the only samples of the mutant gene we have left in the whole world are in the living tissue of those
twenty-six volunteers.” He turned and looked hard at Carter, who was slowly beginning to
realize the implications of what Hudson was saying. “What do you think the rest of the world
population is going to do when they find out that only twenty-six people in the entire world have
the potential to extend their lives by twenty, thirty, even fifty years or more?”
“But no one knows about this, outside the company. Do they?”
“They didn’t up until two nights ago,” Hudson told him. “But now that the cat’s out of the bag,
so to speak, we aren’t going to be able to keep this under wraps for very long.” He turned back to
the window. “Someone is going to be upset that he or she can’t have this miracle for themselves
and they will sound the alarm. They will tell other people that there are a few special humans
who have something that the rest of us can not have. People will become jealous at first, then
they will become angry and then they will attempt to seek out these special people and try to
take from them that which they themselves do not have.” He sighed, again. “It is, after all, only
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