The Jills bought a house and quite a large chunk of land in the desert of Eastern Washington using Audrey’s old name of Morgan Brooklyn to keep DECON from snooping around. The house was partly underground, completely hidden from the access road but as you drove around to the back a wall of windows and a door were revealed, forming one face of a natural-looking mound.
The home had had been owned by a man, recently deceased in an self-inflicted gun accident, who considered himself, ironically, to have been a survivalist, someone who wanted to live through a nuclear war or the collapse of civilization. The property had an extensive bunker and a partially completed system of tunnels.
The Jills incorporated under the name CryoScan. They began converting the bunker of the Methow Valley home into a freezer bank. The house was remodeled with wheelchair access, not only for Jill’s sake but also for their first customer, an elderly woman named April Downs, who arrived at the house shortly after it was prepared. With their wheelchairs they were a matched set, Jill and April.
“You already know about the Cryo part of Cryoscan,” Jill told April after taking her on a tour of the house and the grounds. “Now let me tell you about the Scan part.”
“Do you really think it’s time?” Jade asked her. Jade was the newest B’nei Elohim, a young woman who came from the growing pool of fans of The Jills.
“It’s more than time,” Jill replied. “April doesn’t have any more time.”
April didn’t have any more time because she hadn’t caught her aggressive inflammatory breast cancer until her nipple inverted well into stage three, and the following mastectomy only removed the breast, not the cells that were already colonized in dozens of scattered lymph nodes around her body, which in turn, in stage four, recolonized her bone marrow. Despite her millions and the best treatment she could buy in the early 1960s, she was a goner.
Trish, the lead guitarist of The Jills, said, “What we’re going to do to you, April, is the old bait-and-switch. We’ve got this company we call Cryoscan that offers a freezing service. That filters out the ladies who aren’t really desperate. The ladies who come hunting for us, the ones who want to have their corpse frozen for two or three hundred years, they are already crazy enough to try the most harebrained schemes ever devised. No offense. That’s the bait. Now we’re going to do the switch. We’re going show you our real specialty.”
Then Trish and Jill and Jade began to explain to April about a better way, a way to continue her life without interruption by the death of her body. The explanation was partly show and tell. It was the distinguishing characteristic of the women who were in Jill’s orbit rather than Robyn’s orbit that their pony tails were piled up in a bun. The other B’nei Elohim had started to call them Bunners. The three Bunners lifted their hair buns to reveal their white skull connectors to the gaze of April Downs.
“For one million dollars,” Trish said, “you gamble that nothing will go wrong, you gamble that CryoScan will last for centuries without going broke or getting sued, that medical science in the future comes up with a way to safely unfreeze you and kill all the cancer cells that have spread through your body. And even then, as an elderly woman, you will only get a few more years or decades of life. But our other way gives you eternal life right now, guaranteed.”
“And how much would this different way cost me?”
“The whole $40 mil,” JIll said. “You become a full partner in Cryoscan..”
“And whose body will I get? Yours? More life in a wheelchair?”
“This one.” Jade stripped herself naked and turned her remarkable body slowly for her inspection. She had that fleeting smooth fullness of youth. And April’s ears blushed red, for she had been raised near the turn of the century. But she continued to mull it over.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Jill said. “You’re thinking that this whole thing could be some kind of elaborate hoax. But you are a very important customer to us, April, so I’ve arranged a little demonstration that I hope will help you make up your mind. I sincerely hope it does, because I’ll only get one chance to do it.”
Jill wheeled out of the kitchen and they all followed. Trish and Jade had prepared the walls, floor, and ceiling of the living room with a layer of wax paper. The wheels of Jill’s wheelchair crinkled this paper when she rolled out into the room.
“I’m already damaged goods,” Jill said to April. “At least this way I can go out with a useful sales pitch.”
“How did you lose your legs, Jill?” April asked.
“My father had a doctor take them off, without anesthetic,” she said.
“What kind of father do you have? Why would he do that?”
“He wanted to learn the very things that we are telling you.”
Trish came over to where Jill was, sat on the floor and attached one end of the Purple cable to the back of her own head. Then she attached the other end to the same tape recorder they used to record their songs. Then as the reels began to spin, Trish continued to sit quietly.
“What is she doing?” April asked in a hushed tone.
“The connectors we showed you in the back of our heads weren’t part of some Halloween costume, April, there’s twenty-seven signal pairs and a guide pin. Each pair can transmit or receive tones of different frequencies, and those frequencies can be recorded. Trish is saving a copy of her memories to tape, everything that she knows and everything that she is.”
The backup took about an hour. During that time, as Trish dumped her memories to tape, Jill and Jade told April the whole history of the B’nei Elohim, all the events that led to them getting the Change.
When the tape ran out, Trish unplugged herself and stood with Jade on the far side of the room from Jill where they faced the wall. April thought this action was very strange. Jill said, “April, please wheel yourself closer to me.”
So she did, and Jill leaned in close to whisper, “Tell me your deepest secret, April, something that only you would know.”
After a pause, April did whisper a dark secret, but she still didn’t have a clue what Jill was trying to do.
Then Trish returned to the tape recorder and removed the cable from the adaptor they had added to the machine. She plugged that end of the cable into Jill, and she plugged the other end back into her own head.
“Please don’t take your eyes off of me, April,” Jill implored. Then Jade reached under a cushion of the living room sofa and grabbed a handgun. She put the muzzle in Jill’s mouth, aimed high, and pulled the trigger.
The sharp report hurt April’s ears and there was the smell of spent powder. Some of the contents of Jill’s skull cavity splashed against the wall behind her and the ceiling above her. Only her lower jaw and everything below it remained attached. Jill’s nearly headless corpse leaned forward and spilled out of the wheelchair onto the floor.
April screamed at the sudden, unexpected horror of the killing and began to vomit, overcome with revulsion, and this too ended up on the wax paper.
“I’m not dead, April,” Trish said. “I’m Jill!! I’m safe in here!” And she leaned close to April to whisper the very secret that she had whispered to Jill. Then April understood why Trish and Jade had faced the wall, so there was no question they might have read April’s lips and guessed the secret.
Jade went over to the couch and retrieved a white shape, the remnants of Jill’s modified brain. She showed it to April when she was ready to look. It was like a white wineskin. The neck of the funnel terminated in a 55-pin connector.
“This was in case you thought the connector was some kind of cosmetic appliance just for show,” Jill said with Trish’s voice. “No. This is all very real. I’m sorry about that overly dramatic scene, but it was the only way to prove to you that we mean what we say. Eternal life is yours, and it’s just a decision away. The choice is yours to make, April. Will you accept the Change? Shall it be Cryo, or Scan?”
April was shaken by the demonstration, but it was utterly convincing. When she calmed back down April realized that the reason for Trish and Jade eerie confidence, their ‘Thousand Year Stare’, was all very clear to her. Eternal life? In this world? It was real! But one thing still nagged her. She asked, “What about Trish, is she to remain forever without a body, as just a reel of magnetic tape?”
Jade said, “What we’re proposing to do, April, is start a system of time-sharing, kind of like when people pool their money together and build a vacation cabin which they occupy on a rotating basis.”
“What do you mean?”
Jill said, “As we gain new members, we’re going to lump them into three groups based on their seniority. Let’s call the oldest group the duchesses, the middle group the countesses, and the newest group the baronesses. Now the baronesses would be on a rotation schedule where they spent two years stored as tape like Trish, and one year in a new body. The countesses would alternate, one year on tape, one year in a new body. The duchesses would spend one year on tape and two years in a new body.”
“A new body?”
“We’re talking about a kind of pyramid scheme, but with bodies,” Jill said. “Do you see? We’re not only talking about eternal life, but eternal youth! You of course, April, as one of the first, will always be a duchess.”
And April knew that the alternative was a wretched death, now only a few months away. So she stepped over the edge, made a leap of faith, and came to a decision. “I want to accept the Change!”
The bloody remains of Jill’s body, the one born Rebecca Roland, was put into one of the four cadaver freezers in the house.
A month later on the End Dome summit in the Name Ritual, Robyn said, “Take control of your destiny, April Downs. Carve out your own free will. Discard your given names and choose for yourself a single new name. But consider it well, for it shall be your name for all eternity. All your actions have eternal consequences now. Choose!
“Let me be called Amber.”
“You are Amber, forever the ninth member of the B’nei Elohim. Welcome to your new family. This is the ceremony of belonging, Amber. You are now fully one of us!”
She wanted to shout Thank You! but no words would come out. The entire experience was too much for her and she burst into tears.
But the Name Ritual, as moving as it was to her, was nothing compared to what happened when Cryoscan kept their end of the bargain. Just as Jill had taken possession of the body of Trish through the Purple Cable, now Amber took possession of the body of Jade after the donor had made a safe copy of her own memories.
During the transfer there was a strange sensation of dual-awareness as Amber found herself in both Jade’s body and her own. Through the Purple Cable could see that, yes, Jade and Trish and Jill had been telling the truth all along. Amber pushed into Jade’s body until the final ratio of personalities that formed the new mix stood at 71% herself and 29% Jade.
The part of Jade who still existed within her could conceal no secrets, for they were now one being. It was sufficient to overcome the last of Amber’s doubts. In fact, Amber was now embarrassed that she had ever doubted.
Jill handed Amber a syringe so that she, while looking out from Jade’s eyes, could put her old pain-ridden body to sleep forever. Through the Purple Cable she experienced her own death, which she felt only as a sensation of the dual-awareness coming to an end, and now focused as only a single awareness in Jade’s body.
The cancer-ridden body of April Downs was laid to rest in the second of the four freezers in the Cryoscan house.
After that it was time to make the money transfer. Amber called Sid Drury, one of her accountants, into the room.
Forty million dollars was a lot of money for a single bank-to-bank wire transfer and so Amber had taken certain precautions. Both she and Sid had to give a verbal code. Amber didn’t know Sid’s code, and Sid didn’t know hers. Even Sid’s identity as the authorized accountant from a whole floor of accountants downtown was kept a secret from her until she saw his face just then.
The first transaction was the $40 million to CryoScan’s account in a bank on the Caribbean island of Barbuda.
The remainder, $1,348,767.54, went to Sid Drury for his silence. As far as Sid knew, there was only the Cryo option, he knew nothing about the Scan option which April had taken. The money was given to him with the understanding that he was never to reveal the location of April’s body.
“Her family might think she went nuts at the end,” Amber explained to him. “They might get a court order, thaw her out, and give her a proper burial. And then she would never see that future day when curing her cancer would be a trifling matter.”
The real reason was to maintain CryoScan’s anonymity. The wrong kind of publicity would mess up the next sale. Already April was thinking like a B’nei Eloah. She dismissed Sid from the room.
“Your family is going to be less than thrilled about the missing money,” Jill speculated.
“My children and grandchildren have wished me dead for a long time,” Amber told her. “When they learned I was terminally ill they could barely conceal their glee, hoping to soon come into their inheritance. Frankly, I wish I could see their reaction when they learn this news.” She focused on her most recent memories. The transition had been was perfect. Truly this was immortality. She considered the $40 million a bargain.
“How far back do you remember, Amber?” Jill asked her, and for a moment Amber suspected that Jill could read her very thoughts.
“I can remember, I think, 1903 or 1904. Back in those days it wasn’t a big deal to lose relatives at age forty or so.”
“You broaden and enrich our common pool of memories. Welcome aboard, Amber. Welcome home.”
The 1963 case of Downs Family v. Cryoscan wrapped up with Amber on the stand, newly installed in Jade’s body, but for the trial she had to revert to using ‘Samantha Addison’, which was Jade’s original name, to satisfy the legal paperwork.
During the discovery phase, the employees of Cryoscan, under oath in a deposition, stated that only two bodies were on freeze, that of April Downs and also that of Rebecca Roland. Learning of this, Earl Roland, Becky’s father, took a leave of absence from DECON and offered to represent the Downs family in the trial pro bono, without asking for a slice of the final judgment. He said he merely wanted Cryoscan to release his daughter’s body so he could arrange for a proper burial.
The Downs family thought it was a far better offer than any of the other law firms had made, and after reviewing Roland’s credentials as an attorney and his work history as a highly-placed administrator in the federal government they agreed to let him handle the case.
The final morning of the trial began with Amber being sworn in. The council for the plaintiff, Earl Roland, approached the stand and asked her, “I’m interested in CryoScam’s general philosophy in all this. Would you agree that CryoScam’s only purpose is to get filthy rich?” Roland had been getting away with calling the company Cyroscam for the whole trial.
“No, I would not agree,” Amber testified. “We offered April hope, the hope that she could remain intact until she reached some future time when medical science would have a cure for her cancer and they could thaw her out and give her a new life.”
“And why do you think the people in the future would bother to do that?”
“Curiosity. If we ourselves today found a man who had been frozen since the American Revolution, and knew a way to revive him and cure what ailed him, there are many historians and researchers who would jump at the opportunity to do so, merely to record the recollections of someone with living memory of that time.”
“Is that the only hope you offered to Miss Downs? That maybe people would view her as an object of curiosity and raise her from the dead?”
“Half of her forty million dollars has been invested. It will be quite a nice chunk of change in the next century. Compound interest is a wonderful thing, you see. With a seven percent return it would double ten times in only a hundred years.”
“And CryoScam would, of course, manage this investment for that hundred years, all for the low fee of the other half of her forty large?”
“Yes, of course.”
“What level of education have you attained to, Miss Addison? Masters degree? Doctorate? What?”
Amber’s lawyer Megan interrupted here. “Relevance, Your Honor!”
“It goes to background, Your Honor,” Roland countered. “I’m trying to establish Samantha’s credentials as a responsible manager of Ms. Downs’ money.”
“So you completed twelve years of school, and you propose to tell this jury that you are qualified to manage an annuity, or operate a company specializing in cryonics.”
Amber could not detect a question in there, so she merely blinked at him.
“Did you bother to inform April Downs of your…lack of higher education?”
“We offered the cryo, not pieces of paper from schools to impress her.”
“Your Honor!” Roland said, looking at the judge with a scowl of disgust.
“Answer the question, Miss Addison,” Judge Carl DeMott snapped at her.
Roland repeated it. “Did you inform Miss Downs of your lack of higher education?”
Roland referred to his notes, then said, “You have stated that Cryoscam, in addition to the body of April Downs, has placed the body of my daughter Rebecca Roland on ice, which is, of course, why I agreed to take this case. What happened to her?”
“Becky lost both of her legs,” Amber testified. “She was not terminally ill like April Downs but she felt her quality of life had been compromised beyond what she was willing to accept. Like April, Becky is holding out for a future time when she can be made whole again.”
“She committed suicide because she lost her legs?”
“Not suicide. She’s in a state of suspended animation.”
“Oh, that’s so very good to hear. So if I asked you to thaw out my daughter and return her to me, there would be no harm done, is that correct?”
“No, that is…not correct. The freezing process crystallized the water in her body such that every cell wall has been pierced. If we tried to thaw her out now, in the Nineteen Sixties, before we had the technology to repair the damage, she would not survive.”
“Which is exactly what I said. She committed suicide. But what happened to make her lose her legs?”
“They were shot during a concert performance, and the hospital, wherever it was they took her, apparently botched things.”
“I have a sworn statement from a surgeon working at that hospital who says the damage was consistent with an accident with very cold liquid, such as perhaps the liquid nitrogen used at Cryoscam. Was there a spill?”
Amber stared directly at him trying to imagine why he was daring her to blurt out, “No, you tortured your own daughter by having a doctor cut her legs cut off without anaesthetic.” Instead she merely said, “There was no spill.”
“That is not consistent with this report, Miss Addison. Please tell the court, what is the temperature of some of the coldest material used at Cryoscam?”
“More than four hundred degrees below zero.”
“Suppose there was a spill, Miss Addison. Suppose Becky tried to run away. Wouldn’t her feet become frozen so hard and so fast they would became dead and useless for locomotion?”
“But that didn’t happen!”
“In the end wouldn’t Becky have to kind of crawl out of the spill area, just sort of hop out of there on her knees, because she was trying to at least save her hands.”
“Objection Your Honor!” wailed Megan, and she hardly needed to remind the judge why.
“None of that happened to Becky.”
“No further questions Your Honor,” said Roland, satisfied that he had planted sufficient doubt in the minds of the jury. “As a matter of fact, the Plaintiff rests.”
“The defense may cross-examine the witness,” said the judge.
Megan stood and took Roland’s place questioning Amber. “Take us on a mental tour of your site near Twisp,” she began. “What would be the centerpiece of a visit there? What would CryoScan be most proud of?
“The freezer bank, naturally.”
“Is that where the bodies are held?”
“Yes, we currently have room for four of them. And they are to be kept cold by a twenty thousand dollar air compressor and refrigerator, together with its backup.”
“Do you make your own liquid nitrogen on site?”
“Yes, we do that to maintain the supply of liquid nitrogen lost by evaporation and purging.”
“If there was a blackout on the grid, how would all of this be powered?”
“By batteries, and solar panels on the roof that provides backup power for the freezers. The suite, in fact, makes more power than we use from the power grid. We’ve phase-matched our inverter to the line juice and the meter runs backward. We don’t get a power bill every month, we get a credit.”
Megan produced one of these bills showing a credit of $43 as another exhibit for the jury to examine. Then she said, “Now, the counsel for the Plaintiff took every opportunity this week to call your company ‘CryoScam.’ Was deception involved in any way?”
“No. Everything is on the up-and-up. CryoScan was fully prepared to take charge of April Downs’ body and Becky Roland’s body and we are still capable of keeping them perfectly entombed and uncorrupted as long for as we plan to be around.”
“Which is for how long?”
“Which is forever, of course. You see, we founded Cryoscan because we do not think in terms of a single lifetime. In my opinion that makes us uniquely qualified to offer these services. We have the long view. At CyroScan we are of the sincere belief that we are April Downs’ and Becky Roland’s best shot at a new life.”
“Thank you, Miss Roland. Your Honor, the defense rests.”
The judge ordered a recess before the counsel for the Plaintiff rose to give his closing statement.
When the court reconvened, Roland paused for a full minute to compose his thoughts and deliberately tried to create dramatic tension. By forcing the court to wait for him he heightened the impression of his own importance.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I know it’s been a long week for you. Let’s go over what we do know about CryoScam before getting to the crux of the issue. “The company is run by Samantha Addison, who testified here this morning that she has only completed twelfth grade. She is certainly not qualified in medicine, not in physics, not in engineering, nor any field that would be connected in any way with cryonics. Not only that, Samantha didn’t think it a very important thing for April Downs to know CryoScam was run by a high school graduate before she was asked to sign over her forty million dollars. Ladies and gentlemen, your little mental red warning flags should have been waving all up and down when you heard that testimony.
“The other employees of Cryoscam said they were singers in a girl band called The Jills. That’s quite a resume! No other work experience at all. CryoScam promised April Downs they would keep her corpse frozen for two hundred years, possibly more, but there’s medical evidence that my daughter was crippled by an accident that if proven true would force the Bureau of Labor Standards to shut the place down after just one year, let alone a hundred.
“Some would say what we are dealing with here is some kind of weird religious cult. A cult that is trying to raise money by suckering terminally ill patients in their final weeks of life with pie-in-the-sky promises of rebirth. You’ve heard testimony about that as well, how they believe God is a really a Jewish woman named Lilith, and Jesus is the child of this Lilith woman mating with the devil. But that is another battle for another day.
“You six people have been selected from a cross-section of citizens to do only one thing, and that is to decide the facts in this case. You must decide whether April Downs was of sound mind when she liquidated all of her assets into cash in the last week of her earthly existence. Was she of sound mind when she designated that her body was to be given over to CryoScam? Was she of sound mind when he directed that more than forty million dollars be paid to CryoScam rather than gifted to her own sons and daughters?
“You have also heard the testimony of doctors and specialists who told you of the common occurrence of growing mental impairment as this particular type of cancer progresses. But we can’t say for sure that is indeed what happened here. It is entirely up to you to decide as you carry out your sacred duty as jurors.
“Now, it is not dishonoring the memory of April Downs to recognize that cancerous clumps carried in the blood to her brain may have grown and caused dementia in her final days. But it would dishonor her memory to let her cancer-ridden dead body sit in a freezer for two hundred years, wrapped in foil, making her the permanent laughingstock of others and the butt of jokes and a source of furtive whispers.
“The Downs family seeks to put this matter to rest in a way that will preserve the dignity of the mother they knew before her illness. Her family seeks final closure. On their behalf, I ask you to give that closure to them. And it is very important to me, personally, that you decide against Cryoscam so I can get custody the body of my own poor daughter Rebecca, who also fell under the spell of Crysoscam to the point where she committed suicide. Neither my wife nor myself can rest knowing the body of our beloved daughter sits in the freezer of some house in central Washington, wrapped in foil like frozen meat. Help us give her a decent Christian burial. Thank you.”
Megan was still flipping through the disorganized pile of yellow legal paper on her desk when the judge prompted her to begin her remarks. She stood up and cleared her throat, reluctant to begin as though she had been caught unprepared.
“Yes, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen, in the last five days we’ve lost our way. This is not a criminal trial, it’s a civil suit filed by the Downs family, because they didn’t like the way Mommy wrote her will. The ladies who form CyroScan are frankly outraged. They are not on trial for their religious beliefs, nor are April Downs and Becky Roland on trial for adopting those beliefs.
“Look at the twists and turns the counsel for the Plaintiff has taken to shore up his assertion that none of the ladies at CryoScan should be engaged in this endeavor because none of them have a piece of paper from an accredited college with a cryonics course of instruction. I ask you, how is that possible, when cryonics itself is so experimental? What happened to the America I thought I lived in? The America where Thomas Edison could drop out of school, yet go on to invent the electric light, the phonograph, and the motion picture?
“No, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you must turn your attention to the real question here. And that is nothing more or less than this: Did April Downs have the right, while she is alive and conscious, to do what she wanted with her own money knowing that she was approaching a time when she would be alive but unconscious. You see, the Downs’ are frustrated. They had no way to steal from Mommy when she was alive. But they could try stealing from her behind her back when she was comatose, not even dead, when she could not lift a finger to stop them. That is the real reason we are in court today.
“If they succeed, you the jury will be setting a dangerous precedent and it will apply to a much broader set of circumstances than just cryonic suspension. If the sons and daughters and great aunts and third cousins of a rich man or woman who dies have their hand out and don’t like the outcome of the legally executed division of the estate, and if there is a history of the slightest hint of eccentricity in that man or woman, the door will be wide open for frivolous challenges against his or her final wishes expressed in a legal will.
“Stop and think for a moment. Is there any instance in your life where you have done something out of the ordinary? Perhaps you drove your car barefoot one time. Maybe you’ve tried to smoke banana peels or peanut shells because you heard they were hallucinogenic. Would you like those things to be the basis for an ungrateful son or daughter you’ve cut out of your will to challenge your decision to leave everything to your spouse alone?
“In April Downs’s case the issue is far more important. When she closed her eyes before being frozen, she was hoping to open her eyes once again, maybe in fifty years, maybe in one hundred years. CryoScan offers her the best, no, her only chance of surviving her cancer like she so desperately hoped that she would.
“But on the other hand, if her family succeeds in pulling her body out of cryo and putting her into the ground or cremating her, her hope is buried with her. Indeed, if that happens, and it sets a new precedent, then her hope really died the moment she went into the freezer.
“From the vigorous way this was pursued in court this week one can’t help but think that April might have detected a certain eagerness in her family as her death approached. On behalf of April Downs I ask you to affirm her final wishes and keep alive the flame of her hope for a second, better life. Thank you.”
The jury deliberated for all of two hours, just long enough to scarf down the pizza delivered by the bailiff and have a few rounds of voting. The issue was never really in doubt. They found for the Plaintiff, the Downs family, who were to receive Mrs. Downs’ $40 million and the woman’s body back, plus CryoScan was ordered to pay for all the funeral arrangements. The family wanted a decent burial, to bring them “closure” as Roland put it. As for Roland, he was to receive the body of his daughter back and a free funeral for her as well. But the money was already in Barbuda, there to stay. All Cryoscan really lost was the business model they were using to attract new converts to Jill’s body-swapping scheme. As for the bodies, Roland and April’s children were welcome to them.