by Jason Gibbs
Lucy hated visiting Tom’s flat, mostly due to the risk of vampires.
“Why do you have to live in such a dodgy area?”
“Rent is cheap. Besides, it annoys Father.”
“But what about …”
“The vampires? Oh Lucy, don’t be ridiculous. You’ve been reading too many tabloids.”
“I swear I saw someone watching me as I walked here.”
“And it must have been a vampire? Not just someone staring at your skimpy clothing?”
“I’ll have you know that this is the height of current fashion.”
“The low more like.”
“Look Tom … why did you ask me to visit you?”
“Ah sister dear, so quickly to business. Perhaps you have a date after this?”
“As a matter of fact I do, with Julius.”
Tom rolled his eyes. Lucy knew what he thought of him, and quickly moved on.
“That’s not what you wanted to talk about, so what is it, darling brother?”
“Well it’s something I’ve found, something which affects both of us. And might actually affect your liaison with Julius too.”
“It’s our blood Lucy, it doesn’t contain all that we have been told. In fact, it’s blank.”
Lucy stared at her brother, then laughed.
“Oh Tom, you do have such a sense of humour sometimes …”
“I can explain.”
She turned to her personal organiser, which formed a discreet sheath around her left wrist. At the top it had the standard connection, into her vein.
“Look, I can show you my itinerary, direct from my blood.”
“No, I didn’t mean your personal stuff, I meant the deeply encoded files. Our wealth. There isn’t any. No books. No source code written on our DNA. Nothing.”
She saw his face. He was deadly serious. Shaking her head, Lucy sat down heavily.
“But Tom, it can’t be true, we’ve tested it many times. I’ve had to have mine tested just to be allowed to talk to Julius.”
“Look, I didn’t tell you this at the time, but I got stabbed. A few months ago. Someone took my blood.”
“Vampires! Tom, I told you this area wasn’t safe …”
“Actually it wasn’t far from Father’s City pad. And I do wish you wouldn’t use that name for them. They’re just blood thieves, not the kind of supernatural monster the media portrays. Anyway, they were very professional. Quick and almost painless. Two men bumped into me as I was leaving. I’d had an argument with Father, again. I apologized, and then felt a scratch, and looked down to see a needle disappear. They can’t have got much blood, but it should have been everything.”
“Oh Tom, what if they’d infected you? Are you sure you’re alright?”
“That’s exactly what I was worried about. I ran back here and tested my blood, and it was fine—no foreign agents introduced. Then I started to worry about what it meant, and also … Well I started to wonder about what it was I actually had encoded. All this data wealth that we carry about with us, pumping through our veins. What is it? So I acquired some samples of family blood.”
“Yes. Sorry, I thought having multiple different samples, with allegedly the same information would help me crack it. You know Father still won’t give me the key.”
“I wonder why?”
“Don’t start Lucy. Anyway, the thing is that I’m relatively certain that all the blood kept on file for us is actually Mother’s. What tipped me off was a couple of tests which seemed to show that our blood had identical deep files on it. As you know, or would if you’d ever studied, the likelihood of that in non-identical twins is vanishingly small.”
“The blood can only have come from one person.”
“There’s more, after I saw that, I retrieved every blood listing of ours that I could—quietly of course. They are all identical, and they are all identical to Mother’s. Either our blood contains exactly the same file sets as each other, and our Mother, or someone is pulling a massive scam.”
“Tom you know that’s just a security measure right?”
“You never listen do you. Mother told us after our first test, she would never allow a permanent sample of our blood to be stored, so they’re always replaced. It doesn’t mean anything.”
He looked a little crestfallen.
“Oh, well that makes sense I guess.”
“That was it? You tried to panic me because you forgot one of our basic security measures. Tom, really.”
“Actually that wasn’t the real problem, it’s just what got me determined to crack the code. And I did, and my blood is blank. Which means yours probably is too.”
“How did you find out?”
Pointing to the next room he said, “I have a portable deep scanner next door. I used it on myself. The files on my blood were all encrypted with the family key of course. But I, erm, I kind of managed to get hold of that when Father wasn’t looking. I came back here and started to unlock them. They were all empty, just noise.”
Lucy stared at him. He was serious. She felt like her world was about to fall apart.
“What am I going to do, Tom? If Julius’ family discover that we don’t have the data, then they won’t allow me to marry Julius. I realize this doesn’t bother you, but I do love him you know.”
“I know, and actually I do like the old stick. He’s just … a little pompous sometimes. Does he not love you too? You could elope.”
“Elope? And live on what exactly? Are you mad?”
“I wish …”
“What? That the world wasn’t so messed up that we had to store our data on the very DNA which makes us?”
“No, I quite like having control of my data. My blood, my files. I have our family key, and no one other than family can, and … No, I was going to say, I wish you hadn’t found this out now. Once I’m married to Julius, assuming our parents could make it stick, I wouldn’t have to worry about this. Thanks.”
“Um, sorry. I just.”
“I know brother, can’t let something go once you’ve found the loose thread.”
“Wait, you said you had the key?”
“Um. Yes I did. Yes, I have a copy of the family key. Father gave it to me earlier this year, saying I was growing up and deserved the responsibility.”
“He didn’t give me the key.”
“I thought we’d already covered that.”
Tom looked a little abashed, and then said, “So where is it?”
“Strange, Father’s was on his right.”
Lucy looked at him a little oddly.
“No Tom, it is on his left as well. That’s where the family keeps it so that we all know.”
“But then …”
“Oh gods Tom, did you take the wrong key?”
“Um, but I was sure I saw him take it from his right eyebrow. How could I have got that wrong? Oh, damn!”
“I was watching him in the mirror. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
“Right, so now that we’ve established in your mind what the rest of us have known for a while … is there a way we can put your worries to rest.”
“Well, if you give me the key, I can test the samples again.”
“No, and also no.”
“I am not giving you the key. Father made me promise. Sorry. Also, I suspect if you test the same samples you’ll find that the files have unravelled. I expect whatever key you took to be a wiper key.”
Tom looked disappointed, then Lucy gasped and said, “You didn’t put the key into your own blood did you? You might be all unravelled!”
“I’m not a complete imbecile you know. Even if it worked, I’m not going to walk around with unencrypted files all over my blood.”
“Let’s be honest, you’ve not been that smart in all this. I bet you haven’t even told Family Security about the stabbing.”
“I did. I knew I had to. They checked me over and pronounced me clean, and then gave me a lecture on not taking so long to go to them. They’ve also signed me up for another protection and awareness course.”
“So back to what I was saying, I need to see what is in my blood.”
“Well, we can take a sample, and I’ll provide the key. Then you can search to your heart’s content. For the brief time the blood stays coherent.”
“Don’t call me sis, it’s so, ugh.”
The siblings continued bickering as Tom prepared the scanner. Lucy deftly provided the key, and ensured that Tom hadn’t copied it. Then the machine showed the contents of Tom’s blood.
“Lucy look at this. We have Tom Sawyer, the King James Bible, even a snapshot of Wikipedia from 2014. It’s amazing. And this, iTunes? What is that?”
“Old music encoding I believe.”
“It’s amazing. We have such treasures.”
“And that is why we are rich dear brother. We are the few who have pure versions. When we deign to release them to the world, they pay, and pay well. Each piece of data shining brightly, till the trolls, the viruses and entropy destroys it.”
“I heard a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird lasted nearly a week on the main web last month.”
“Possibly. But who can tell? Now, look at the time. I have to go and see Julius. His family claim a copy of Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples. Any children we might have will have a rich heritage. Anyway, au revoir brother.”
“Bye Luce, and thanks.”
As he watched his sister leave, Tom rolled her eyelash in his hand, she hadn’t noticed she’d dislodged it when she’d tweezered the other one out. Now he could finally claim his birth right, without his family dictating to him. Time to have fun.
Jason Gibbs describes himself as an IT architect and struggles to explain his job to anyone outside the industry. Having spent his whole life in suburban or urban environments, he suddenly moved to rural Hampshire (UK) seven years ago to convert a barn and keep animals. As a result he wrote a book, ‘Pigs, Poultry and Poo’, which was published in 2012. Having enjoyed writing so much he has now turned his hand to fiction, and is hoping for some success unrelated to poo. More of his writing can be found at www.jasonmgibbs.com.