In this biotech science fiction story, because advanced biomedicine is banned in the United States, rich and powerful Americans travele to India to extend their lifespans and augment their bodies and minds.
So too do Americans who want wealth and power. Middle-class, middle-aged Americans like Liam Kleinschmidt and his wife.
But traveling 14,000 miles to a south Indian medical resort proves the easy part.
Wonder and dread combine in a near future tale of vast medical opportunities… and shadowy figures out to deny those opportunities to the 99%.
Sample of “The Malabar Coast”
The Malabar Coast
The boat bobbed on the brackish waters of the tidal lagoon. Across the lagoon, partially obscured by palm trees, the resort’s main building showed teak timbers and a steep roof tiled in orange-red laterite. “Come aboard, come aboard,” the dock attendant said in his Indian accent.
Liam Kleinschmidt took his wife Courtney by the elbow. They shuffled forward in line with a dozen other American medical tourists. Like Liam and Courtney, most looked middle-aged, with paunches and wrinkles and a few gray hairs. The men wore polo shirts with golf logos or the names of the small businesses they owned. The women wore hats and blouses, capri pants and flat-soled shoes. Everyone — even the swarthy couple, South Asian or Hispanic? — had white dabs of sunscreen on their noses and ears.
The dock attendant helped Courtney over the canal’s low stone wall and onto the boat. Liam’s heart tapped faster. He took the three steps up the wall in a single leap. He hesitated with one foot on the railing. The apogee of a suborbital flight, the moment where its momentum balanced with the Earth’s pull, must feel like this.
He would take that flight someday.
After this trip, he would have all the time he needed.
He stepped onto the boat. His legs felt like compressed springs. Just one suborbital ride? If he continued growing his business, he would earn enough to buy his own suborbital.
An awning shaded the wooden bench seats. Courtney sat next to the boat’s railing. Her head bobbed as she studied the water.
Liam set next to her. “We’ll remember this like our wedding day. The kids’ birthdays.”
She turned to him. Her hat’s wide brim made her eyes seem far away. “These treatments are banned in the US for a reason.”
A pulse of annoyance tightened his lips, narrowed his eyes. This again?
He relaxed. The jet lag, ten and a half time zones and 14,000 flight miles in two days, made her cranky. “The reason is, the stem cell and telomere therapy industries didn’t pay enough bribes to the FDA.” Liam’s voice sounded breezily confident. “The doctors here graduated from the best American medical schools. They know what they’re doing.”
“I’m sure,” Courtney said, though her tone told him otherwise.
After everyone boarded, two boatmen shoved long poles into the water and pushed the boat away from the dock, toward the lodge. The folds of dhotis wrapped around their legs flexed with their motions.
Courtney spoke again. “What if the treatments fail?”
“The treatments will work. In a week, you’ll feel decades younger. All this humidity, it’ll be just like that spring break trip to Destin.”
She ducked her head and wriggled her shoulder against him. Liam imagined memories bringing up an embarrassed but lusty smile hidden by her hat’s wide brim. He put his arm around her and the boat went on. Kingfishers hovered over the lagoon. Splashes sounded the dives of turtles.
The boat pulled up to a dock near the lodge. Another boat bobbed there. The boatmen shoved their polls against the lagoon bottom and leaned on them. They chatted in the local language to the men of the other boat. The latter stretched out on their boat’s cushioned benches, under an awning of thick fabric and fans buzzing like gnats. A luxury boat for VIPs.
He and Courtney would ride that on their next visit.
They debarked onto tight-packed paving stones. A broad pathway of the same stones led to the lodge. Courtney and Liam joined the crowd heading that way.
The lobby could belong to a resort in the US, except with more South Asians on staff. Spacers held the resort’s name, The Malabar Coast, float-mounted on the wall behind the front desk. Men and women in khaki pants and horizon blue polo shirts bustled about the lobby and the concierge stand. The only sign of the resort’s medical services came from one corner. A slender woman in a white lab coat sat in front of a video display showing energetic middle-aged white couples. Flanking the display, posters listed various medical service packages, omitting prices.
A short line of new guests, presumably freshly arrived on the VIP boat, already waited at the check-in desk. A youthful-looking man with a long, narrow nose, every strand of sandy brown hair in place, looked familiar. Liam blinked. He put his hand on Courtney’s shoulder and guided her closer to the man.
“It’s okay.” Liam raised his voice. “Sam Deckard?”
The man turned his head. His eyebrows crinkled, until he blinked. “Liam?”
“It’s been a long time since college.” Liam extended his hand, held it out for a long moment. Deckard’s grip mixed supple skin with vise-like fingers. “You remember Courtney?” Liam asked.
“Of course.” Deckard nodded in her direction. To Liam, he said, “Were you at the twenty-year reunion?”
“I wish I could have gone, but I was just getting my business off the ground.”
Deckard asked, “Which industry?”
Deckard blinked once. “Really. I’m with UFabIt.”
The biggest player in the industry, coasting on its founders’ two-decades-old insights. It made sense. Deckard made solid grades in their chemical engineering classes, but his strengths and interest lay more in glad-handing and schmoozing.
“What do you do there?”
“I was recently named chief government affairs officer.”
He couldn’t hack real work? Liam clamped his lips together. If he said that, Courtney would glare sidelong here and give him an earful once they reached their cabin. Liam’s cheeks tightened in a smile absent from his eyes. “It’s a shame regulatory compliance is such a big part of the industry. All the paperwork about biological feedstocks, biodegradable products, emissions monitoring—”
“Regulatory compliance is just a fraction of my job,” Deckard said. “You have someone to do that at, what’s your company again?”
“SinterPrinter.” Liam delivered his pitch with practiced ease. “We just went to market with our lead product. We combine 3-D printing and laser sintering to allow our customers to make plastic-cased electronic products in one fab round.”
Deckard’s eyebrows rose for a fraction of a second, then seemed to strike an iron wall and flatten out. “You made that work? UFabIt R&D has been pursuing that for a while. How’d you make it work?”
“You can read the patent.”
“Why haven’t we heard of you?”
“SinterPrinter is small,” Liam said. “For now.”
Deckard smiled. “We’ll keep an eye on you. Maybe we’ll buy SinterPrinter someday.”
“Maybe.” William bared his teeth, like a small mammal finding a nest of dinosaur eggs. “Or maybe someday we’ll buy UFabIt.” He laughed and