Please enjoy this reprint from Gateways, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull, an anthology of original stories inspired by science fiction great Frederik Pohl. Pohl’s latest novel, All the Lives He Led, comes out on April 12th from Tor Books.
The ﬁrst lesson Leon learned at the ad agency was: nobody is your friend at the ad agency.
Take today: Brautigan was going to see an actual vat, at an actual clinic, which housed an actual target consumer, and he wasn’t taking Leon.
“Don’t sulk, it’s unbecoming,” Brautigan said, giving him one of those tight-lipped smiles where he barely got his mouth over those big, horsey, comical teeth of his. They were disarming, those pearly whites. “It’s out of the question. Getting clearance to visit a vat in person, that’s a one-month, two-month process. Background checks. Biometrics. Interviews with their psych staff. The physicals: they have to take a census of your microbial nation. It takes time, Leon. You might be a mayﬂy in a mayﬂy hurry, but the man in the vat, he’s got a lot of time on his hands. No skin off his dick if you get held up for a month or two.”
“Bullshit,” Leon said. “It’s all a show. They’ve got a brick wall a hundred miles high around the front, and a sliding door around the back. There’s always an exception in these protocols. There has to be.”
“When you’re 180 years old and conﬁned to a vat, you don’t make exceptions. Not if you want to go on to 181.”