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Chapter Nine : Alexander


London, 20 August 2004

It’s very difficult to make a significant impact on history. Some may question that as a worthy aim, and accuse me of having an overgrown ego – indeed many have. But these are people with little ambition, or at least, little chance of achieving their ambitions, and so full of envy that in order to justify their position, they seek to attack mine. I find I have less and less time for them. It is just so tedious, having to deal with their little minds and little problems. Unfortunately, I can’t realize my goals without using these cretins.

When I started, it was simply a matter of greed, get as much as possible, in as short as possible a time. I must confess that the motivation for that was borne of envy. The things I desired, were desired because I did not have them and others did, not really because they were desirable in themselves. I allowed envy to consume me, to drive me, and indeed it did carry me very far. It gave me the first taste of success. It also allowed me to understand the competition; I know they are driven by envy too.

I had learnt how to play a game, play it better than everyone else, but it was just a game. The victories felt empty. They would be forgotten. Someone else would come along one day, and beat me. They too, would be forgotten. This ability I have, to win, should be employed in order to leave some enduring mark. For all time. I will not be forgotten.

The world that has made me rich and powerful cannot continue forever. While it exists, I can exploit it to the full, but it is in its death throes. We are exhausting the resources of this planet. Humanity will die. If I am to be remembered, that cannot be allowed to happen.

So, my focus then, is survival of the species. I will save these people, and they will know that I have saved them, and I will be remembered. I will be a god to them.

I have a plan. I have the resources – or rather control over the resources – to execute the plan. There are three central aspects, and they are interdependent:

Firstly, we must conquer space – reach other star systems beyond our own. We must have new, habitable worlds that we can colonise.

Secondly, we must escape the prison of our limited lifespans. In order to reach new worlds, we must live for thousands of years.

Thirdly, humanity needs to be driven to the stars. That means the sacrifice of this planet, so I will accelerate the process. The few that survive will be stronger, and it is they who I will lead to the new worlds.

At this moment, I am rearranging a few pieces. There are discoveries to be made, and the process is not happening quickly enough. I have a busy day today. Starting with this interview. He’s asked about the acquisition.

“I can’t reveal very much at this stage, as the AppGen board has yet to approve the purchase. What are we bringing to the table? What does this company give us? Well, as I’ve always said, we only buy what we cannot build ourselves. We need to be in gene therapy. We need to be in cellular engineering. We don’t have the skills in house. This acquisition gives us what I believe are the best minds in the business. We can add scale. We can scale this up, speed the process up. Real treatments will result, treatments that will save lives, transform lives.”

I was looking at his eyes while I said this, or where his eyes would have been had he not been looking at the next question on his cue card. We were in my offices in London, not a TV studio, so no autocue, and because of the timing of the announcement, they didn’t have any of the good correspondents available. So, obvious questions, easy answers. This didn’t really justify an interview – they could get this from the press release – but of course, for my purposes, I needed to send a message. That in this area of biotech, we are serious about taking a leadership position. We have a large purse. There’d be more people looking at their risky investments, seeing an opportunity for a quick, lucrative exit. Tomorrow they’d be knocking on my door. Now he will ask me about anti-trust.

“People will ask, is this not another example of Reynold Industries using its leadership position in one market to break into another? Are you not breaking competition law? Are you not creating another monopoly?”

“Well, Malcolm, it’s true I get this every time we try to move into a new field. My answer is the same. Yes, we are exploiting our leadership position to take leadership in new fields, but that’s what they are to us, primarily, fields, not markets. We can apply our engineering excellence to any technology, and that’s what we’ll do. When we enter a new field we transform it. We don’t just play the long game. We create an environment where scientific thought leaders can flourish. We believe we do this better than any other organisation, private or public. When we enter a new market, we don’t snuff out the competition as you accuse, far from it – we encourage competition, because when Reynold Industries is in a market, it is validated, and it comes to life. We are involved in technologies that matter, that change lives. You’re going to see a flowering of activity across bio engineering thanks to our involvement. And I’ll tell you another thing – the education changes that this government put in place – thanks in no small part to our lobbying – are really taking effect. The focus on hard science, the importing of the best of elements of university education from other countries – means the UK is providing an ever increasing proportion of our top talent. This is going to be great for the UK economy.”

One more question. What’s next? This is the one where I can show that we’re prepared to spend big.

“And what’s next for Reynold Industries? What’s the next hot button technology?” So predictable.

“Energy is a big one for us. We’re already pioneers in renewables. But wind, solar, tidal, they aren’t going to provide the capacity we’re going to need. We want to move into fusion. For too long, nuclear fusion has always been fifty years away. We’re going to find a way of applying the Reynold effect to fusion. I can’t say when we’ll start, or when we’ll deliver, but we will. And it won’t take fifty years.”

I looked across at the screen. Looked like 5% up. Job done. Get Malcolm and his crew out of the building. Next meeting. Propulsion.

We cannot travel faster than the speed of light. 299,792.458 kilometres per second. We as yet do not have a workable technology to reach such speeds. And even if we could reach the speed of light, the nearest Earth-like planets are likely to be at least 13 light years away. We will need to identify many such possible systems, send speculative missions to them, whether manned or un-manned, during which even if our hypothetical light-speed propulsion system is employed, that’s a 26 year wait for a speculative round trip to return. Some of the systems we will need to visit are many times that distance. Even with many hundreds of simultaneous expeditions, it could be a thousand years or more before we find somewhere. Hence the need for life extension. I need to be around to make the journey, once a habitable planet is found.

If we don’t get close to the speed of light, then even with the life extension treatment, the probability that I die of an accidental injury during the wait will become a certainty. So the speed is absolutely essential. There are no shortcuts. Even with fusion, we won’t have enough energy to open wormholes – and the practical possibility of those is still very dubious. So, propulsion, propulsion, propulsion. I have some of the best minds working on this. I need more. Years ago, I planted a few seeds. Most of the crop failed. That is to be expected. However, one of them in particular looks quite promising. Time to give him a push.

I called Calvin in. He was one of the few of my staff in the inner circle, who had access to the full information on recruits and potentials. We began to review this one, who was already working in a subsidiary.

“MRCA?” I asked.

“Eve-22 – Italy. Seventeenth century. AKA ‘The Musician’.”

“Hmm. Same MRCA as the one we’re putting on point with Life Extension. And I see they were recruited together. I don’t like it.”

I wasn’t surprised. This group always seemed to perform the best in terms of intuition. When methodology seemed to hit a brick wall, members of this group, more than any other, could find solutions, often by imagination, luck. I wasn’t comfortable about them working together though; or even coming into contact with each other, although sometimes that was unavoidable. Whenever they came together, there’d initially be much progress with their work, but then too much self-discovery, and then they started to get difficult to manage. On the other hand, here we had one that knew another, from the time they’d first been identified as potential recruits. This gave us a lever. We needed leverage. That outweighed the risk, to me. Whatever that risk was… perhaps I worried about it unduly. Anyway, we should have identified this earlier. Someone had screwed up – I made a note to check later. When to pull the lever? Not yet. Save it for later. They work in different areas, and she’s got a lot still to do. At this stage, we just needed to start things moving in the right direction. He’s talented, but the research is useless, and I don’t think the company is competent enough to perform in the area I need. He’ll have to go somewhere else. And need a reason to. “Are there any angles we can use?”

“We think his wife may be pregnant. They have been trying for a while.”

“First child?”


I considered this. The best strategy, the one that usually worked, was a bit slow. Rushing it never worked. Even if this was my winning resource, executing this particular strategy would delay us by a few years. We could run the other resources in parallel though. If one of them looked more promising in future, we could change horse. Ten years. I didn’t like it, but it was justified.

“OK, Calvin. Job. We’ll have to verify the pregnancy, but if it checks out, that is the best way in; it usually is, especially on an Eve-22. Work up a few scenarios, assume ten years but see if there’s a viable shortcut.”

‘Job’ – this was a common strategy when we needed to push someone. You can’t do it too quickly as most people will break completely and then be of no use. But, do it slowly – build them up for a bit, then slowly take away everything they care about – finally, give them a way out of hell. They will give you what you want.

But ten years?! I am already fifty years old. This creates additional pressure on the life extension project to deliver. Currently in the hands of that female Eve-22 recruited at the same time, years ago, when the company I bought twenty years ago started looking for potentials by creating situations which would make them visible. In a few weeks she would have the AppGen people under her. And more funding than she ever dreamed of.

There remained one more trivial matter. Premises. As we were pushing the science agenda more and more we needed to look at the location of our core HQ. We of course had a large presence in Cambridge, and many of our recent acquisitions were based there, but we were finding it a lot easier to get through to government in London, which had promising physics, materials and biology schools. Senate House was perfect, and we’d agreed to put our senior management there, but as usual the University of London was holding out for more. 

“Sir, we really need that north door, from the public hallway underneath. That way we can secure access all the way to the top two floors.”

“What’s there now?”

“The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.”

I found this mildly amusing. Of course, if anyone had cared to dig deep enough, into my background, they’d know… There’s nothing and nobody left in Eastern Europe that will ever amount to anything. Hard-working slaves maybe. I’d already secured the best minds out of Russia.  The other countries were just places that had fallen to the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the EU… Followers, not leaders. So now they can be led out of the building I want.

“Sir, I think if we increase the donation by about thirty million, this will cease to be a problem.”

“Of course it will. Money grabbing academics are all the same.”

Next Chapter: Chapter Fifteen: Wróbel