Live Forever or Die Trying

K’Byss, Kandarin


If I ignore it, it’ll go away. It’s probably Finance again.

Bing bing! The ringer was a little louder this time.

If I ignore it, it’ll go away.

Bing bing bing!

If I ignore it… Rachel Penteleimon, Lady Primary of House Honist and Foreign Minister of the Kandarin Federation, repeated the mantra and covered her ears with a pillow as the noisome machine rang a third time. It rang a fourth time, a fifth, and a sixth. Okay, they aren’t giving up. I told them I didn’t want to be disturbed, but there’s only one way to deal with this. Blearily, she crawled over to the holophone and checked the caller identification with one open eye.

Navarone. He would . This is going to be worth it just for the story. Rachel sat up and hit the “Accept” key. The holophone gave a little chirp of approval and projected the ghostly image of a man in a lab coat.

“Good evening, Jason.”

“No, no, it’s not a problem.”

“Yes, I sleep in this! I’ve got a whole closet full of them, you know that.”


“Is this important, Jason?”

“I…see. Are you certain?”

“Thank you. Is she well?”

“Thank you. Good night, Jason.” Rachel shut off the holophone. Somehow she didn’t feel tired at all anymore. She had expected boring, ordinary news, a crisis maybe, not…this. Yawning, she got up and began getting ready for a very long day. There was a lot of work to be done.

“Sarai, are you sure you feel well?”

The red-haired young woman who was perched on the lab’s examination table contemplated the question for a moment. No longer, for it had been asked five times in the last fifteen minutes. “Rachel, I’m fine! You make it sound like I’m dying.”

“You are.”

“I am?”

“We all are!” The Eldar pounded her fist on the table in frustration. “Every last one of us. Everyone in the whole world, everyone you or I have ever met, is going to die, and there’s not a…”

“Not a thing we can do about it.” Sarai promptly finished the sentence. “Remember what I told you, on the day we first met?”

“You fight the battles you can win. And…” Rachel Penteleimon bowed her head as she spoke, realizing her mistake. “We can’t win that one. We’re not meant to.”

“That’s right. We’re always going to lose the big battle. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight the little battle. Don’t be sorry for what you’ve done. I have a lot to thank you for.”

“No. Thank you. For everything.” The two embraced, and Rachel departed the room in silence.

“So we’re sure?”

“Quite, My Lady.” Navarone gestured to a holopool displaying a dizzyingly fast array of charts and graphs. “Cell division has ground to a halt all over her brain. It’s actually quite impressive to watch, even if you’ve seen it a thousand times before. But it’s ultimately no different from the normal aging process. We’ve seen so signs of serious complications for the others, either.”

“Good.” Rachel smiled weakly. She obviously didn’t feel good, and it showed. “Now that the last of the test subjects have come through, we’ll put it to market. Domestic and global at the same time. It’ll be an ordeal, but if we can save lives…it’ll all be worth it.”

“Absolutely, My Lady.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Of course I won’t, My Lady.”

Approximately one week after Honist Biogen confirmed the completion of the last test subject, an official communique from the Board of Directors was telegrammed to national governments across the East Pacific and several other regions. It was a simple and unpresuming, well-intentioned note, that nevertheless would unleash all manner of madness upon the world.

— Begin quote from ____

On behalf of Honist Biogen Incorporated of Kandarin, we request your approval to begin selling Enkindle, our newest pharmaceutical product, within your borders. Extensive testing with numerous test subjects has demonstrated our product’s capacity to extend the functional human lifespan by postponing aging by ten to twenty-five years. Further details are enclosed in the attached file.

We understand that the precise nature of the treatment means that our medical personnel may need to cooperate with your hospitals for some time. If this seems unreasonable to you, we offer a program wherein local medical affiliates may be trained in the administration of the treatment.

We hope you understand the many benefits that our product can confer, and await your response.

Rachel Penteleimon
Amascut Sadi
John H. Simmons
Vorik Lane
Emile Carter

— End quote

Empress Jung, read the telegram from Honist Biogen, a company from Kandarin with some concern at her desk. She knew for a fact that it could be dangerous for any East Malaysia that has had Xivalink, Varzinphid, or Nuxivaol; all three are the same but under a different name. She looked over to her computer to her left, turned it on and began to send a replying message but stopped momentarily. Pressing a control on her desk, she spoke, “Can I have the Director of EMGEN in my office within the next twenty, please.” then continued her response.

— Begin quote from ____

RE: Enkindle
From: Office of Empress Jung

As leader of East Malaysia, I am glad to hear of your discovery. I will allow Enkindle treatments to only our human populations and East Malaysian populations that have not been treated for lifespan-deficiency; other species only if approved for them by our specialized doctors and researchers.

East Malaysians that have been treated for lifespan-deficiency with Nuxivaol, Varzinphid, or Xivalink will not be permitted for fear that Enkindle could interfere with that treatment. If there are any questions to that matter, please contact me.

Since Honist Biogen is a company, I am not going to have my government in Enkindles’ direct business. EMGEN will oversee the drug initially, then the Department of Medicine will take over.

As for working with hospitals, their should be no problem with me or any government department. All hospitals are non-for-profits or companies. They can make any agreements they wish.

Glendale Jung

— End quote

The Imperial Throneroom, Amuhashi.
“No. Tell them to keep their blasphemy.” The voice of The Emperor echoed round the large room.

In unison twenty two of the twenty three Court members bowed slightly closer to the tatami matting to show their devotion. On all fours, many of them with their heads hovering milimetres from the floor, the Court members slowly inched backwards towards the huge doors of the throne room with their eyes focused on the floor.

Daimyo Hidetada’s household, Imperial Palace, Amuhashi.
Hidetada paced the room, “Who is he to deny me of a longer life…” An elderly man sat in a chair, peering through the open foor and across the mountain side.

“You disappoint me. You would turn against our Lord? You would defy the Gods themselves?”

The Daimyo growled with anger. “He represents only himself. What has he done to earn the favour of our Gods?! He has no conquests to his name. Anyway, how will he find out?”

There was a few moments of silence as the old man slid the door part shut. “You are a fool. The Emperor won’t tolerate your dissension.”

Roughly 250 miles northeast of Amuhashi

The shuttle glided over white-capped mountains, wooded valleys, and green pastures. It was almost entirely silent, thanks to extensive modifications to its drives to allow for stealth missions. It had been painted with a deep, dark alloy that absorbed light. This was not altogether foolproof; A number of peasants below would report a large, dim shooting star that crossed the whole sky tonight.

Urrik Alfheim checked his watch and adjusted the shuttle’s course. The rest of the passengers and crew were medicated into sleep; they would need it, to be fresh and ready for the demands of their mission. As a member of Honist Security’s elite, he had far less need for sleep, and so had been left with the job of piloting. Bored, he double-checked the sheet of objectives he had been given a few hours earlier. It was short, and simple.

— Begin quote from ____

*Meet with Daimyo Hidetada and verify his interest in Enkindle program and price thereof

*Promote widespread Enkindle treatments in Terasu or, failing that, Hidetada’s district

— End quote

As the shuttle approached Hidetada’s designated meeting point, the courtyard of a mid-sized hill fortress, Alfheim set it to automated landing and went to wake up his crew. They had business to conduct.

— Begin quote from ____

To: Office of Glendale Jung
From: Honist Biogen Board of Directors

We appreciate your prompt response. Several teams are en route to your capital to begin setting up clinics and public relations. However, we must express our concern with the proposed treatment of East Malaysians. Enkindle employee policy is to avoid treating individuals that are not baseline humans whenever possible, as such treatments have not been tested. Unless EMGEN or your Department of Medicine confirms otherwise and/or is willing to accept liability, our teams will only treat humans.

Rachel Penteleimon
Amascut Sadi
Vorik Lane

— End quote

Several days after the transmission of the communique to the FPS Government, a large freight shuttle landed on one of the marked pads of the headquarters of Honist Biogen Incorporated of Kandarin in Malev. A small, older man wearing a business suit immediately stepped out of the vehicle’s small passenger compartment, and made his way over to the corporate guard standing nearby.

“Hello.” He stated as he reached into his coat jacket and pulled out an ID card. “I’m Jack Fresby, with the FPS Embassy. I’m here to meet with an official representative of this corporation in regards to the production and sale of the drug Enkindle within the Federated Alliance.”

He took a breath. “And I’m afraid I’ll need to meet with them right here; I cannot possibly fit what I need with me inside of any office.”

Dovakhanese Department of Health & Welfare
Office of Pharmaceutical & Agricultural Regulation

The Sub-Director was mystified about what to do with the telex sent by the Kandarinese. Normally, those wishing to put medicines on the market in Dovakhan go through a streamlined application, review, testing, and approval process set out by the Office of Pharmaceutical & Agricultural Regulation. However, the proposition of Kandarinese Honist Biogen was, well, out of the ordinary.

After pondering a while, the Sub-Director crafted his response, which was really nothing more than passing the buck to another agency within the Department.

— Begin quote from ____

2000-0103, ÊSPL. TKÂNÂT

Tkânâtdövâkhîâstâât, 27 August 2007

To all whom it may concern,

The process for the approval of medicines for sale in the Republic-Khanates of Dovakhan is quite clear.  The law tells us that the applying party must submit an official application.  Then, it must conduct clinical trials under the surveillance of a representative from a national or certified university health institute.

Your proposal, however, falls into a special category.  Though your brief telex does not indicate, I have made the assumption that your proposed drug has something to do with the alteration of fundamental human function, possibly at the genetic level.  If this is in fact the case, your drug falls under the regulation of the Bioethics Charter Act.  According to this law, when conducting clinical trials on your drug as described in the above paragraph, you must also be under the strict review of the Department of Health’s Bioethics Committee.  They are charged with the interpretation of the act’s words on life extension which are that neither fundamental natural cycles, the cohesiveness of our society, nor the viability and preservation of society for use by posterity may be negatively affected by any sort of artificial life extension mechanism.

Finally, as you are a foreign company, I must inform you about the national pharmaceutical policy.  Foreign companies may only sell their drugs through the national pharmaceutical company, Dövöpöjûpîk.  Additionally, the importation of your drug, if it is not in some way developed in Dovakhan, which you have the option to do, will be subject to a series of tarrifs.

I hope that you have found this information useful for the formulation of your official application.  Due to its interest and possibly widespread ramifications, I have chosen to prioritise this project.  Therefore, you may direct inquiries to me by telex or in person.

Please allow me to communicate the expression of my best sentiments,

Lêôn-Dâvîdê Ântönînâ Vêrvöz

Sub-Director for the Office Pharmaceutical & Agricultural Regulation
Department of Health & Welfare of the Republic-Khanates of Dovakhan

— End quote

New Irem – The Prime Minister Office

Putting down the sheet, Kadras Lordameer raised his glance on the woman sitting on the other side of the desktop and observed her for a brief moment before realizing he hadn’t the little chance of interpreting her expression. No chance at all, as it seemed the Minister of Foreign Affairs had decided to put on her best poker face. Slightly shaking his head, the Prime Minister smirked.

«So… let’s hear your opinion, Ileana»

Grinning, the woman shook her head back.

«No, Kadras… I’m sorry. That’s you call. I’ve my own idea, of course… but I’d like to hear yours»

Sighing, the old man threw a last glance to the sheet. Once again, his attention focused on the two handwritten notes at the bottom of it.

— Begin quote from ____

With all due respect, as Minister of Healthcare for the New Iremian Government, I cannot agree with the opinion of the Gran Duke. Honestly, I’m persuaded such decision derives more from a all-Kandarinese-stuff-is-bad-let’s-declare-it-blasphemous than by a serious approach to the whole thing. Moreover, I’d like to stress it’s not the Kandarinese Government which is proposing this new drug, but a private company. If – as it’s usually declared – the New Iremian nation intends to be a liberal one, probably we should abandon this Governmental-crusade attitude and start reasoning in scientific terms. To this purpose, I suggest to authorize further tests on human volunteers under the MoH surveillance.

Ramadi Sem Girbah – MoH

— End quote

Raising his glance back on Ileana De Corde, Kadras sighed again.

«Who’s this Sem Girbah, anyhow?»

«Minister of Healthcare. Airbusian… a chemical scientist. An impressive curriculum. Graduated in FPS, two years as lecturer at the Tasman University. Further studies in Infinite Loop and Gnidrah, if I’m not wrong. High experience in the healthcare sector… rumors tell he has worked for the Airbusian military for some kind of military projects, too. Appointed some two months ago… you know, the let’s involve the Airbusian policy»

«Yes… I remember. Ki’jo… he has sent Reziel to hell without wasting too much time looking for periphrases. I wonder how he’ll take…»

«Probably he could have been a bit more tactful… but something he says he’s not that wrong. Reziel has developed a phobia for Kandarin… and we both know it’s not completely justified»


«I’m not sure Kantar has been forced to betray us all»

«You’re probably right… but we cannot ignore Reziel has a point, when he speaks about possible side effects. We both know…»

«I do agree, Kadras. But I suppose no Shadow Iremian will be foolish enough to volunteer for such experiments»

Nodding, Kadras grabbed his fountain pen and removed its cap. He was almost going to add his own comment, when he suddenly raised his glance back on the woman.

«Would you like to live… forever, Ileana?»

Headquarters of Honist Biogen- Domestic Division
Honist District, Malev

A tall elf in black armored robes stepped out of the elevator and took a moment to peer quizzically at the large freight shuttle. What are they carrying? No matter. Putting his curiosity aside, he approached Fresby and vigorously shook his hand. “Welcome to Malev, Mr. Fresby. With what sort of business do you come to us today?”

— Begin quote from ____

To Lêôn-Dâvîdê Ântönînâ Vêrvöz or anyone else to whom it may concern:

Normally, we would simply submit to your application process. We are quite aware of the process for approval of drugs in Dovakhan. However, the prior communique was addressed to your office in the hopes of bringing to the surface several issues that threaten the possibility of sale within your country. As these have now surfaced, I will address them.

First, Enkindle is not a drug. It cannot be prescribed or sold over a countertop in pill form. It is a series of drugs that must be administered under very specific circumstances at specific intervals. In addition, its function relies entirely on a sequence of advances in chemical synthesis and genetic science that your industrial base currently lacks, as well as certain theoretical bases that are not as yet accepted within your nation. As a result, in its present state, your pharmaceutical monopoly is quite incapable of producing and distributing Enkindle. Furthermore, a repeat of clinical trials under the supervision of your officials is quite impossible due to the very nature of the treatment. Any such trials would, under ideal circumstances that are often lacking, take over ten years. If your department is serious about allowing us to proceed within your borders, you are welcome to examine the records of our own clinical trials.

There is, of course, the possibility of our selling the requisite supplies and providing the requisite training to your pharmaceutical and medical personnel. However, in their present state, this is equally impossible. Were we to sell you the supplies at the standard Dövöpöjûpîk rate, the project within your nation would operate at a financial loss. Were we to do so with tariffs, the losses would simply be devastating. Yours is not the only such request, and were we to accomodate all such demands, we would rapidly go out of business.

Why is this important? Given the views of your countrymen, I can hardly believe that you would mourn the disappearance of a giant, unethical corporation (It’s in our charter!). It is important because a central supplier represents the only hope for the vast majority of those who stand to benefit from this treatment. Most nations we have contacted lack the technological base to produce Enkindle on their own and will remain so for at least, we estimate, twenty years  (Slightly more in your case). If we were to go out of business, only those nations who have the capacity to produce their own equivalents would have the treatment. These would experience a massive increase in economic strength and decrease in public health costs that would leave the rest of you at serious military and economic disadvantage. You would be left with a choice between being at the mercy of more powerful neighbors and trying to obtain the treatment at exorbitant prices.

The choice is yours alone. I understand that you have objections to the next stage of human development, but I will not force this stage down anyone’s unwilling throats. If it is your department’s desire, Biogen will simply not try to sell Enkindle within Dovakhan.

Rachel Penteleimon

— End quote

Department of Environment, Health and Safety HQ, Dannistra Onn
19:00 EPT

Johnathon Stanton looked at the communique again. He was somewhat bemused at the seemingly extravagant claims of the Kandarinese treatment. The news that such a anti-aging treatment already stirred up much debate in Dannistaan. The news polarized public opinion over whether it was tampering with Hal’vo’s will or not. This went as far as to have protests from religious extremists appear at the Kandarinese Embassy in Nordu Dannistra City. The “Son’s of Hal’vo” had set up a special “morality camp” which they say they will continue to man until the Kandarinese withdraw the “aberration of Hal’vo’s beliefs”.

Sitting down, he finally drafted up a reply and prepared it for sending to the Kandarinese.

Foreign Office, Central Parliament Hall, Dannistra Onn
Communique sent to representatives of Honist Biogen Incorporated of Kandarin from Johnathon Stanton, Secretary of Environment, Health and Safety c/o Tr’valis No’oonsoko, Foreign Secretary, sent @ 19:30 EPT

To whom it may concern:

We have decided to allow your “Enkindle” treatment to be administrated in Dannistaan via a strictly limited clinical pilot trial only. There are still major concerns regarding your treatment which preclude it from being released on the mass Dannistrian market immediately. The treatment, as it is currently described, falls under the category of “Cosmetic Enhancements”, as opposed to “Medical Treatment”, so it will be under a slightly different and in some cases stricter period of scruitiny.

Therefore I suggest the following phases:[ul]
[li]Phase 1 - The two bodies that regulate pharmaceuticals, the “Institute of Clinical Health and Treatment” and the “Pharmaceutical Regulation Office” will conduct initial lab tests on your treatment. If they are satisfied nothing untoward is found, then phase 2 will commence.
[li]Phase 2 - The treatment will only be allowed to be administered in 1 private hospital, to be confirmed, in East Dannistaan. A number of subjects will be picked for the initial phase. No other subjects may be admitted to this phase. The subjects will be chosen by us and monitored before, during and after the treatment. They will be closely monitored for 1 year and continued to be monitored throughout their life. If no side effects appear during this first year and no serious side effects occur during the continuous monitoring, then we will allow the trial to proceed to phase 3.
[li]Phase 3 - The treatment will be extended to 10 private hospitals, 2 in each state of Dannistaan. Again, a limited number of subjects would be allowed to join the trial. This number will be larger than phase 1. Again the subjects will be monitored for 1 year and continously after that. If no serious side effects occur, then the trial will proceed to phase 4.
[li]Phase 4 - The treatment will still only be allowed to be practiced in the hospitals participating in phase 2 but the limits on numbers will be relaxed. This will last for another year. If no majorly harmful side effects are detected at this stage, the fifth and final phase will commence.
[li]Phase 5 - A final certificate of approval will be issued and “Enkindle” will be allowed onto the mass market.
Note that since this is considered to be a cosmetic treatment, it will not be available on the public health system and instead be only administrated via private hospitals. We will only subsidise the subjects in phases 2 and 3. Anyone wishing to participate in phase 4 and use “Enkindle” when it is approved for mass market sale will have to pay at their own expense.

I await your reply.

Message authorised for transmission by Johnathon Stanton KTA/MP
Confederacy Cabinet Executive Order 081-99

Hidetada Katamori, Daimyo of the Aizu province, stood in the courtyard. He raised a hand to shield his eyes as the shuttle sent gusts of air around him. The courtyard, about thirty metres by thirty, was lined by Daimyo Hidetada’s bodyguard.

“We always had to be different*. Pity you had to push it a little too far.” Grumbled Katamori’s uncle.

“Please don’t embarrass me infront of company.” Quipped The Daimyo as he clicked his fingers for the guards to stand down. A servant girl rushed up to make sure that his kataginu was still clean and crisp looking as the shuttle finally settled on the ground. Shooing the girl way, Hidetada marched forward to meet his guests.

*The Aizu province is known (within Terasu) for being different or “standing out”.

“A pleasure, Mr…” The diplomat suddenly realized he didn’t know the elf’s name. Taking a deep breath, he continued. “The business I bring, ultimately, will be quite profitable. But in the short term…” He took a breath. “I’m sure you’re aware of the FPS Government’s love for bureaucracy.”

The elf simply nodded.

“And I’m sure your company has extrapolated that getting our government to vouch for a drug’s safety, approve of its importation, approve of its sale, and approve of its application…would involve said bureaucracy?”

Once again, the elf nodded, though this time a little more slowly. It was beginning to dawn on him exactly what that shuttle was carrying.

“And furthermore, as you’d want the treatment to take place at local hospitals and clinics, you knew you’d need to procure space at said institutions, requiring more bureaucratic workings?”

This time, the elf simply stared at the cargo hauler, quite certain of what was held within.

“Well, then, without further ado, let me introduce you to the only thing that will stand in your way…assuming the Federal Bureaus of Health and Science find your experiments to be well-documented enough.” Turning, the man made his way to the shuttle, motioning to the driver as he walked. Much like an 18-wheeler, the vehicle’s cargo department was accessible through two doors, the main rear door and a smaller forward door. As Fresby reached the truck, the main rear door began to lower.

As it hit the ground, it revealed a cargo hold filled to the brim with boxes. And more boxes. And, stuffed around and between and on top and under those boxes…extra papers.

“This can all be done online, of course, but by law we have to actually provide you with the paper. In quadruplicate.” Fresby stated. “Turn it in at will…if you have any questions, simply submit a questionnaire…we provided you with about three hundred.” The diplomat took a breath. “Questions?”

Aizu province

Urrik Alfheim stepped out of the shuttle’s hatch and strode down the gangplang. Pausing at the bottom, he took in the sights in the courtyard: Two rows of soldiers in grey and silver livery, standing perfectly still. Between them stood a young man in an immaculate hakama who could only be the daimyo, flanked by a few servants and an elderly man, perhaps a relative or advisor of some sort. He felt almost plain in his black and red Security uniform. It did not matter; his armor was still with him, packed into one of the many crates that the rest of his entourage hovered down the gangplank after him.

About ten paces from the daimyo, Alfheim halted, raised a hand to signal the others to do likewise, and bowed. “Greetings, Daimyo Hidetada. I greet you on behalf of my Lord and my House. I understand that you seek to make a deal with them, and I am here to see that that is carried out.”

Headquarters of Honist Biogen- Accounting and Files Division
Honist District, Malev
Ten hours after the FPSian dropoff

“So, how’s it going?” Vorik Lane, Chief Operations Officer of Honist Biogen, said, accosting the first worker he could catch hurrying back from a coffee break. “Is everything going well, Mr, um…Johnson?”

“Kind of. It’s mostly just drug-registration forms. Turns out every little clinic in the whole country wants them, plus federal and provincial approval of the same. After a while, it’s the same crap over and over again.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Has…um, has anyone mutinied yet?”

“Well, that’s kind of a funny story…half of Accounting is running off for coffee breaks every half hour…that was my first one, sir”, Johnson added, quickly covering his liabilities. “And Jiffs in Finance actually tried binding a demon to do the work faster.”

Lane’s eyes widened in surprise. “Really? What happened?”

“She got served her two weeks’ notice, of course.”

“Of course. It’s against company policy. And the demon?”

Johnson shrugged. “What do you think it did? It took one look at the pile, started screaming, and disappeared.”

Katamori inclined his head slightly and regarded his guests. After a few seconds of silence the Daimyo lazily waved a hand and took a step forward. “Greetings, Strangers. I do indeed intend to make a deal,” Katamori paused as he felt his Uncles eye’s burn into him. “If you would please follow me.”

A door behind where the Daimyo and his uncle stood slid open, and, without waiting, Hidetada turned and marched through the doorway.

The shores of the Malev Lake

Looking at the tiny figure which was coalescing out of the shadows at his feet, Kantar Uth Mackan grinned. The small creature was exactly what he had wanted when he had started the summoning process… or probably the luring one, considering the shadow was not coming out of some infernal lower plane, but it had simply heard the call from the mysterious darkness of the Kandarinese Underworld. Even its aspect wasn’t due to Kantar’s power: probably, somewhere out there a Damis Guard had died during the past millennia, and the shadow had lurked in the immediate surroundings, assuming its resemblances. Anyhow… it would have been perfect. A tiny, armored Damis soldier some four inches high marching almost invisible through the shadows of Malev straight towards the Biogen tower.

Grinning, the Fallen Archangel nodded. The creature was powerless and harmless… but at the same time, being completely intangible it was almost invulnerable. To be honest, even a low level mage would have probably been able to ban it, thus preventing it to accomplish the task Kantar had just given it… but he was confident such a thing won’t have happened. If he had learnt something during the past year spent in Kandarin… well, it was that Rachel Penteleimon was curious. Not a foolish, not one to be lured into a trap at all… but curious anyhow. Probably, such a strange way to invite her would have drawn her attention and she would have instructed her surveillance apparatus not to stop the shadow. Above all because Kantar’s magic was blatantly obvious. The two of them had never met… despite each of them was well aware of the other’s presence. It was probably the time to change things.

Observing the creature beginning its march, Kantar sat back on the nearest rock. Looking at the lake, he grinned again.

«Well… there’s a tiny chance I’ll have a guest. It would be incredibly nice if she won’t find me half melt with a basalt rock, so I expect your co-operation»

The dark waters stood still and silent.

The federal Ministry of Health wasn’t usually the place for angry yelling but there was plenty of it these days.

“It’s insane. Everyone will want it and we can’t possibly afford to even subsidise this for 400 million people!”

“Hang on. Clearly it will be classed as something which isn’t medically necessary…”

“That’s debatable. You can bet someone will try to go to the courts with it. But can you imagine the social implications if we allowed something like that to be outside Medicare? Unequal access to this kind of thing is exactly what the whole system is set up to prevent.”

“Assuming it passes the safety certifications, I’d like to see you try to convince Parliament to ban it, which would be the only other alternative, and even so, people would just go overseas to get the treatments. It’ll have to be put through lab tests here anyway.”

There was a long pause.

“Okay. We’ll allow them to set up clinics if they want; there’s no way they can be fit into existing hospitals… and I’ll give a reccomendation that the provinces cover it.”


“Shh, shh, relax a bit. I doubt they’ll be so enthusiastic when they realise that they’ll have to submit detailed reasonings for their prices to twelve different provincial health ministries and that ‘profit margin’ isn’t an accepted reason.”

“…so we’re agreed.” Alfheim passed the contract across the table to the Daimyo. “If you’ll just sign here…my people and I will remain here until your treatment is complete. Now, there is something else my employers feel is necessary to ask you…Is there any chance of our being allowed to sell Enkindle to others in your province?”

As it so happened, Kantar uth Mackan never found out whether Rachel Penteleimon was curious enough to visit him or not. His pawn, the little ghost soldier, never reached her. In fact, it never even came within range of the elaborate psionic defenses that ringed most Honist facilities in precaution against magic. For about halfway to the tower complex, the tiny figure fell into a crevasse that most larger beings would not have noticed. Being intangible and thus more or less invulnerable, it fell through many, many cracks unharmed, finally settling in a series of caverns in a level of the underworld far deeper than most Elves dared to go, and far beyond the control or awareness of the demon above.

Of the little ghost soldier’s life afterwards there is much to be said. But of how he found the iron heart of the dead manticore Eresius and so returned her to life, of how he wooed, in turn, each of the three princesses of the moss-people, and so was rejected in turn by each, and of how he bested the mad magician Pyriddis in a challenge of strong drink and much stronger puns, this tale does not tell.

— Begin quote from ____

To: Honist Biogen Incorporated of Kandarin
From: Ramadi Sem Girbah – Minister of Health of the Grand Duchy of Reziel

Dear Sirs,
We want to offer you all our sincerest congratulations for your success with Enkindle and we’d like to confirm we’ve carefully examined all the attached documents in order to carefully evaluate the feasibility of a future selling in the Grand Duchy.
According to our experts’ opinion, said documents appear to be the best compromise between the conflicting needs of being precise enough about your products and secretive enough to keep part of your industrial know-how, as you’re fully entitled to.

As a general rule, under normal circumstances similar considerations would mean there are no foreseeable problems for the selling to be authorized within a very short period, possibly after having received some further tech clarifications.
But as you’re probably well aware, this can hardly be considered a “normal circumstance”.

As scientists, we cannot be anything else but simply admired by your success, which confirm once more the skills and the capabilities of your firm.
But as men charged to protect our countrymen’s health and welfare, we have to consider both the immediate biological effects of Enkindle and its possible socio-economic repercussions, probably at worldwide level.

Consequently, at present moment we’re unable to authorize the uncontrolled use of your product in both the Grand Duchy and the East Pacifican territories under its direct influence.

As a strictly controlled cycle of tests – under the direct surveillance of this same Ministry – will be authorized on volunteers, we’ll be glad to accept your offer concerning the training in the administration of the treatment .
We’re aware of the possible implications of such decision, as the complete cycle will probably take (at least) the ten to twenty-five years of the volunteers’ lifespan foreseen stretches, and we’re aware such delay will force the Grand Duchy to fall years and years behind those nations which will immediately accept your product, too. But at present moment we honestly see no other possible solution.

If, despite this, your company is still interested in starting this peculiar “application process”, our experts will be more than glad to meet yours at your earliest convenience.

With my best regards and my sincerest researcher’s admiration,

Ramadi Sem Girbah – MoH

— End quote

The response to Dr. Girbah was remarkably brief. In between pleasantries, the only real piece of information was a request for a list of names and medical histories of would-be test subjects, for “clarification”.


The opening of the very first Enkindle-oriented clinic in the East Pacific went off without a hitch. There was a brief ceremony, some ribbon-cutting, and a public tour for the relatively few people who had picked up on the very small amount of publicity distributed beforehand. Given the reaction Enkindle had received elsewhere, the Biogen directors felt that it was best not to give any terrorist group the chance to make a name for itself by attacking such a momentous event. However, it remained that way. Several other facilities were quietly opened in the federal district, but for the time being, expansion of the Honist medical system within Kelssek stopped there.

— Begin quote from ____

To: Johnathon Stanton, MP

Provided that it is indeed subsidized, your proposal is acceptable to us. However, extensive documentation is available and has been freely provided on our own tests, covering hundreds of subjects over the course of decades. These include records of the appearance and relative frequency of side effects. While we understand that certain political niceties make it advantageous to check again, why do you seek to test our product within your borders at all if you so distrust us so?

Emile Carter
Chief Development Officer, Honist Biogen

— End quote