Last of the Opera Stars

“Certainly,” snaps Professor Kinnison, glowering at the smug faces of his students. “Certainly the Philips treatment stimulates the regenerative abilities of AAAAAA-classification lifeforms — humans. Certainly. And as you no doubt gleaned from your exhaustive study of the reading, the cells so regenerated are functionally indistinguishable from untreated cells.”

“So no problem, right?” drawls Derek Samms, the insufferable young puppy. “Sounds like another gift from the Age of High Tension Thinkers. The supermen.”

Kinnison growls at him. “Mr. Samms, I know you enjoy pretending to be denser than triple-alloy dureum, but underneath that think mantle of bone I more than suspect a brain of more than mean quality yearns desperately to think, to really think. True, the treatment appeared to work flawlessly, but what the Posenian styled ‘Philips’ failed to realize — what Chief Surgeon Lacey discovered, to his everlasting horror — was that while the regenerated cells matched the original cells in many respects, including apparent age, they were capable of reproducing nearly indefinitely. Think, for a moment, if you are capable of it, of the horror of watching your body slowly wither away, life decreasing asymptotically, never quite reaching the zero of death.”

He pulls out a glass jar and holds it up to the light. “When Commissioner Kinnison — no, no relation — realized this, over a thousand years ago, he ordered all Philips treatments ceased and founded this facility.” Inside the jar something moves and presses its face slowly against the side. A light flares in scintillant glory on one of its serrated limbs. Kinnison’s face twists sorrowfully. “Ladies and gentlemen, our founder.”