Author : Bob Newbell

“It’ll cost me that much?!” asked the thin man in a louder voice than he’d intended. The man in the black suit who sat across from him in the coffee shop leaned in and gestured for him to lower his voice.

“For the service you require, Mr. Dalrymple, the cost is quite reasonable.” The man sipped his espresso con panna.

“But that’s,” the thin man began and then leaned in and spoke more softly. “But that’s almost all the money I embezzled.”

“And you’ll get an equivalent sum back, plus or minus a few percent. Two percent of your funds will be invested in a very diversified portfolio. Even with taxes and market crashes, one hundred years of compound interest adds up.”

“But I’m losing ninety-eight percent up front,” protested the thin man.

The man in the black suit gestured at one of the waitstaff robots that ran along tracks in the ceiling. It glided over to the table. The machine telescoped down to eye level and took his drink order.

“Mr. Dalrymple, you appreciated the scope of the service I’m offering, do you not? A whole new identity including name, birth certificate, social security number, and detailed education transcripts, work history, and medical records. Suspended animation for one hundred years. A nanotech wetware package to give you knowledge of historical, sociopolitical, economic, and technological advances during your hibernation, as well as fluency in the top three predominant languages at the time of your reanimation. And there are, of course, the little matters of not going to prison and being able to enjoy the money you…appropriated.”

“How do I know I’m not going to simply be put in suspended animation indefinitely? Or maybe for just a day? And then I’m reanimated to discover my identity was never changed and the police are after me and you’ve made off with the money?”

The waiter robot returned, descended, and placed another espresso in front of the black-suited man.

“Do you recall a recent news item involving a man named Jason Underwood?”

“Yeah. He was that guy who pulled off that big bank robbery 20 years ago. The cops just caught up with him finally. Say, I remember them saying he didn’t look a day older. Was he…?”

“One of my clients? Yes. Mr. Underwood was a stubborn man. I recommended a much longer duration of suspended animation than 20 years. He wouldn’t hear of it. And then he was foolish enough to contact his old girlfriend after his reanimation. It was she who betrayed him to the authorities. I always warn my clients never to contact old family or acquaintances. A clean break with one’s past is required.”

“Aren’t you worried he’ll tell the authorities about you?”

“What name will he give them? The one I gave you? I have nearly two dozen identities I employ. And I put myself into suspension for years at a stretch with some regularity. One does not pursue this career successfully for half a millennium by being sloppy.”

The thin man considered his words. “Alright,” he said at last. “How do we begin?”

The man in the black suit handed him a card. “Bring the money to this address tomorrow at 9:00 am. Don’t arouse suspicion by telling your family and friends goodbye. Simply know that after tomorrow morning you will not see them again.”

The thin man took the card, stood up, and walked out of the coffee shop without a word.

“Pleasant dreams, Mr. Dalrymple,” the black-suited man said to the empty chair. “Give my regards to the future.”

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