In 2100, the Regeneration Age officially began. After nearly fifty years of searching for the secret of bringing dead cells back to life, scientists finally cracked it when they revived a dead African Violet right as the new century began. For several months after that, the violet thrived until José Vanderas forgot to water it for a week. While he tried to show his fellow scientists that now they knew regenerated plants could die like regular ones, they were not amused since the experiment was so expensive. Regardless, they repeated it on the same violet and failed. José suffered the blame for a few more years as he completed his training.
He then moved to California just as the British scientist Sir Evan Hargreaves rocked the world by completely regenerating a dead man in 2103. José's lab at the California Institute of Science participated in the worldwide race to replicate Sir Hargreave's results. Due to his unique experience with the infamous African Violet, his team won the race by bringing their late governor back to life in September of 2104.
Immediately, the country exploded into controversy over Regeneration. Those who supported the research, known as Daisies(1), were generally Atheists that saw no wrong in bringing the dead, especially the murdered, back to life. Those who wished to destroy the research, known as Pro-Death or Reapers(2), generally consisted of religious individuals that refused to have science play God or didn't like the thought of immortal political figures. And so the fight began.
Every day, José Vanderas fought through those protestors to get to his bullet-proof car. He drove slowly through the streets so as not to kill any of the angry mob and thus cause more trouble. (Regenerating a Reaper was generally considered to be taboo.) He exited his car at the steps of CalSci and allowed it to park itself as he tried to make his way to the door. José's tall, lean frame towered over the swarm of vicious protestors with all the power intelligence could offer; still, they hurled insults and pieces of chewed gum that stuck in his mop of dark hair.
As he passed through the security checkpoint, he was greeted by the Director. "How's the crowd today?" he asked in lieu of a greeting.
"Quite a bit tamer, actually," he answered as he pulled the gum out of his hair so as not to alert the finicky DNA scan. "Do we have a body yet?"
"Thousands. All died of cancer, suicide, various diseases, murder, and just old age. I have one man that's over a hundred years old and wants to see the 23rd century!"
"Don't we have any strangulations? I can fix those in a pinch(3)."
"Since the last one you regenerated, murderers have stopped strangling their victims, preferring to hack them to pieces instead. Plus, Reapers have been breaking into our local morgues to bash in the heads of various corpses."
José slid his security card through the slot next to the door which opened up into a cold laboratory. Three tables, two assistants, and two corpses occupied the rom. José pulled on a lab coat and checked the bodies. One was a girl, about seventeen, that was being pumped full of synthetic blood to replace the embalming fluid already residing in her veins. Two red lines, one on each of her arms, were stitched closed – a ragged telling of her demise. She had been dressed and her hair washed and combed in preparation for her possible regeneration.
The other was a sixty-ish woman with silver wisps through her shoulder length dark brown hair. She was also prepared in the same way, with her hair done and her clothes donated by the Institute. Hidden behind her hairline, several neat cuts in various stages of healing told of the surgeries she had undergone.
"We can't regenerate either of these women," José announced. The two assistants suddenly froze in their work.
"They're perfectly fine candidates," the director reassured. The assistants returned to their work, like someone had pressed 'Play.'
"This girl committed suicide. She's practically got a DNR(4) on her head. And this woman is my mother!"
"Vanessa will go to counseling and we're pumping her system full of anti-depressants. She'll be fine. And your mother is a perfect candidate for regeneration."
"She died of cancer. Even if surgeons cut out all the cancer they could, even a few aggressive cells will be regenerated in the process and kill her once again. She cannot go through with it."
"Your brother said she died of head trauma –"
"Her head was split open by cancer, not a fall. Does that seriously look like head trauma to you? Or are you so desperate for a willing cadaver that you'll –"
"Settle your problems with your brothers outside of this lab or you won't ever see the inside again," the director snapped.
José pounded his head on his desk in frustration. He'd been away for two days – one weekend – and on Monday morning, his vid-mail was full and his brothers had thrown this pile of junk in his lap. Hesitantly, he opened the files to see who was yelling at him this time. A good percentage came from protestors who had hacked into his account to send him nasty messages. Those were forwarded to the police. Another chunk came from those who wanted friends or family regenerated. These were referred to mortuaries. But more than half of his messages came from the family he thought he'd escaped when he moved to California.
"Bring Mother back to life!" shouted one brother.
"Put her in the ground," another demanded.
"Donate her to Hargreaves," said a third. "Maybe he'll regenerate her and use her to cure cancer."
"Cremate her and turn her into a diamond," a fourth suggested.
"José, you're the only one with the money to do anything with her," the fifth claimed. "You should take her."
Of course, every brother was offended by each other, especially by the last comment, and so they filled up José's vid-mail space and would have kept arguing until the woman disintegrated. But then somehow, the body managed to get itself smuggled into his California laboratory and no one was taking responsibility. Now everyone was extremely upset.
It was a fight José was well acquainted with: Reapers v. Daisies, and they were in the same family. His life of surviving the fight had come full circle to completely surround and strangle him. 'If this is bac, I wonder how the reading of the will will go.' He suppressed a shudder. To settle the fight, he knew they would have to resort to the wretched thing and José knew it was written before the thought of regeneration had crossed her mind. She expected to be put in the ground like the rest of the population.
But did his brothers even care what she wanted? Those who wanted her regenerated were siphoning money from her monthly checks. Those who wanted her buried under the traditional six slabs of concrete expected a large inheritance. José passed these thoughts through is head bitterly. There must be a way to rid himself of his family.
He deleted the bulk of his messages before setting up the camera to record one of his own. The only trouble would be in making it neutral for the sake of his family and the Reapers that would certainly hack into his computers again. He pressed 'start.'
"My name is José Valderas," he began, careful to avoid a friendly greeting. "I represent the California Institute of Science's Regenration Laboratory. It has come to my possession a woman named Rosa Valderas. I wish to inform the son that delivered her to the lab that we cannot regenerate her due to the cancer that caused her death, and lying about her Cause of Death has wasted our time and yours. The method of her burial or cremation should be stipulated in her will and followed to the letter. Thank you for picking her up soon." He signed off, sent the message, and relaxed.
To his left, a box of Nanogenes(5) buzzed with excitement. They could smell blood and longed to fix his broken blood vessels. Maybe head pounding wasn't such a great idea. Still, there was no way his Nanogenes – spinoffs of Regeneration science – could solve his headache. He would have to keep working and wait for the answer to come.
1. Refers to the early 21st century television show, "Pushing Daisies," in which characters are brought back to life for brief moments of time. Their resurrection proves quite helpful to police.
2. Refers to the classic "Grim Reaper" character that takes the souls of the living and does not return them, no matter what.
3. 22nd century slang for "a short burst of time," or its 21st century equivalent, a "sec."
4. Do Not Resuscitate or Do Not Regenerate.
5. Nanobots designed to repair broken skin and tissue. Nanogenes are only used on the dead because the process is too painful for the living to endure even with anesthesia. Why José has a box on his desk is a bit of a mystery. He could be repairing them, studying them, developing new ones, or keeping them on hand in case of a major emergency.