I'm pretty sure that I first read the story in a sci-fi collection.

I think the story takes place on a space station. There is a businessman who wields a great deal of power, who has managed to track down a man that can manipulate himself at the molecular level to change his appearance, age, health, etc.

The businessman is old and wants the secret and goes about trying to convince the other man he needs the secret, so he can live and do a bunch of good for humanity using the technology his company is currently developing.

The immortal man decides to test the businessman by teaching him part of the secret to see how he uses it. The businessman fails after giving himself an overly vigorous, powerful, and handsome form, but neglecting all the little chemical balances within the body.

The businessman dies, and the immortal man changes himself to take the businessman's place to actually do the good the businessman had claimed in his attempt at immortality.

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    When did you read this short story? Please read the hints for improving your story-identification question at scifi.stackexchange.com/tags/story-identification/info or scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/q/9444/4918
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 13:48
  • Unfortunately I can't provide a great deal of help there. I don't know exactly when I read it, but it was before 2014, but after 2001. I read a lot of sci-fi collections. Mostly from the era of Issac Asimov, John W. Campbell, and Arthur C. Clarke. But there's enough random other places/times mixed in it can be hard for me to work backward. I took Sci-fi themed writing courses in college that had us read various anthologies modern and old, I randomly grab "The Year's Best Science Fiction" collections, and I'll grab random books off shelf at libraries without looking at date of publication.
    – Wodahseht
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 16:58
  • The businessman seems very healthy, but starts to have small tics and tremors that rapidly escalate to seizures and death. By growing a bunch of muscle tissue really fast he completely put his neurotransmitters out of whack and it kills him. The immortal man remarks on the strange circumstances that have made him change into the form of an old man.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 21:05
  • I think this might have appeared in Analog in the 80s or 90s. I have a recollection of a black-and-white drawing of the rich guy, bulked up, behind a desk.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 3:35
  • I have for sure read this one. Do not remember a space station though. Might it be the rich man approaches the immortal initially in a bar, and dies in a property/mansion of his? I remember specially the immortal attitude, as if it is not the first time it happens and knows how it is going to end. On their first meeting, the rich man describes how much resources he put on finding him, and the rationale he followed on the search. When he meets the immortal for the last time, he is initially accompanied by some festive girls who leave to let them speak alone.
    – Seretba
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 10:09

1 Answer 1


This is “To Sin Against Systems” by Garry R. Osgood, published on Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, 4th issue.

Got it all, the rich guy, the immortal who takes over when he dies, the space station I didn't remember, the promises to work for the better good by the rich man, the way he dies...

The story can be read online at the Internet Archive here.

  • This is definitely the correct answer. I've taken the liberty of cleaning up your answer a bit. +1, good ID. Commented May 19, 2019 at 15:14
  • This is indeed the right one. Thank you so much for helping me find it! (I'd actually not checked in for a while because I gave up on getting an answer. Very glad to be wrong.)
    – Wodahseht
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 4:22

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