Aug 27, 2016

Brothers (Part 1)

Recode Casper’s turbocycle flew down the 660, weaving in and out of the normal mess of hovercabs. His helmet blared an incessant alarm and he could feel the pain in his leg spreading. His brother was dying.

The cycle hit the maximum safe velocity for the 660 and the automatic speed control kicked in, disabling the accelerator. Recode swore as a jolt of pain shot up his left side, causing him to inadvertently swerve towards the sidewalk. The cycle corrected itself, though not before a mechanical voice admonished him for potentially dangerous driving practices.

The hospital building rose over the horizon - a towering spiral of calming curves - and Recode guessed that it was still a good 20 minutes away, at least at cruising speed. That would be too long; he could feel it. Cody would be dead by then, if the numbness in his thigh was any indication.

He could have left earlier, of course. He could have stopped surfing the metastream as soon as he felt that heaviness in his leg. He could have called his parents to see if anything was wrong. He could have hurried to his turbocycle with purpose and haste instead of standing outside his door with his helmet on, tracking his vitals, pausing, waiting. For what? To see if this was another drill, another test?

The message had flashed across his helmet as he stood next to his cycle, staring at the numbers that told him how alive he was: "HOSPITAL ASAP. -C" It was the kind of message that declared its sincerity with its brevity; this was no drill, and yet Recode found himself glued to the sidewalk outside his apartment. He hadn't gotten onto the road until the first spasms of pain had started to radiate out from his foot.

"Fine," Recode muttered under his breath. He reached down, pried open a panel on the side of the cycle, and pulled out the network card. He stuck the card into a pocket in his jacket as several warning lights lit up on his dashboard. The cycle was slowing down.

From another pocket, he retrieved a similar looking card, jammed it into the slot, and replaced the panel cover. He was glad he had kept his unlicensed card from his street racing days. It meant that he could get to the hospital almost twice as fast, though he couldn't count on the collision avoidance system anymore. The system was designed for the government-mandated safe speeds with maybe an extra 10% leeway. Recode hit the accelerator until his speedometer hit the maximum value and then rolled over to simply show all zeroes.

He arrived at the hospital exhilarated and exhausted. He hadn't been on the roads at those speeds for years - his parents had made him pay for a new cycle when he'd gotten his confiscated after a run-in with the police, and it had literally taken him years to pay it off. During that time, the rest of the family had kept a wary eye on him.

Recode's left side of his body, however, was by this point almost completely without feeling. He stumbled into the hospital, sometimes dragging his leg behind him and making every effort to stay on his feet.

He approached the front desk and a sweet looking young man gestured for him to step up to the scanner. Recode placed his forehead on the scanner, which lightly beeped as it registered his presence. There was a quick flash over his eyes. The orderly glanced at his screen.

"All right. Casper - room 6. Oh, are you the clone?"


"What wrong, mom?" His parents were wearing such serious expressions; even Cody was sitting nervously on the couch. Recode's father patted the seat in between him and Cody.

"Come sit with us, Reco," he said with a voice that began calmly but cracked right at the end of the sentence. Recode found his way over to the couch and planted himself between Cody and his dad.

His mother continued to stand in front of the three of them, taking small steps this way and that. The two adults began to speak in spurts, each attempting to pick up the conversation when the other dropped it.

"We know you've started to have health class at school," began his dad.
His mom took a turn. "That you've been learning about-"
"About babies. And men and women and -"
"Sex and pregnancy and how babies grow-"

Recode felt ill. He glanced over at Cody who had averted his gaze from the rest of the family and decided to focus on a bookcase on the other side of the room. His dad barreled on.

"But there's something you should know, Reco, about how you grew up-"
"You didn't grow in my belly like most babies. You're different. I mean, sort of-"
"What your mom means is that you and Cody didn't exactly - well, your mom and I didn't-"
"We couldn't have another baby. But the hospital referred us to a nearby lab that said-"
"They said they would take a bit of Cody and give him a brother that was just like him-"
"And we thought, well, of course! That sounds perfect. And you were - you were perfect."
"But that's why you're so connected, why you look so much like each other but Cody's two years older."
"The scientists said you might be able to feel what Cody is feeling, especially when he's hurting, and I think that's why recently you've been asking-"
"Like when he broke his arm doing tricks on his cycle, why you thought you'd hurt your arm, too."

Recode stared at his family. He opened his mouth, but couldn't think of what to say. Cody shook his head. "I'm going to my room," he mumbled, then left.

"We know it's a lot to take in," his mom said, trying to sound reassuring.
"But we wanted you to know. We still love you. And you're not Cody." His dad paused, considering this statement. "I mean, you have a part of him in you, but that's what brothers are, right?"

Recode wasn't so sure, but he nodded anyway.


He was used to it by now, of course. Clones were still fairly rare. Voluntary cloning had only gotten more expensive and the myriad of genetic risks that science had uncovered made Recode's relatively uneventful medical life the exception. Most people were aware that clones were among the general populace, but most had never known one - or at least, the ones they knew had never found cause to reveal the fact.

So Recode was used to the orderly's eyes growing ever-so-slightly before he professionally assumed as neutral a gaze as possible. He had seen it before, in the woman's face who had helped him fill out his financial aid document, which required the same disclosure that had popped up in his medical info. He had seen it every time he traveled out of the country for work, in the eyebrows of the immigration agent that checked his passport upon return.

He was used to it by now, but never quite escaped feeling like an animal in a zoo for that brief moment when the other person's eyes filled with surprise and curiosity and - sometimes - suspicion. He wordlessly took the nametag from the orderly, shuffled to room 6, and waited for the tag to beep and the door to open.

His parents were on him immediately, all hugs and tears. Cody lay on the bed, attached to various medical apparatuses. He smiled weakly at Recode, before a spasm contorted his face - his body - and arched his back for a moment. Recode felt it and pulled away from his parents at the same moment, putting a hand on a nearby wall to steady himself.

The three of them stepped outside on dad's suggestion, leaving a nurse with Cody.

"Is he going to be OK?" Recode asked. It was an unnecessary question. He already knew the answer, but felt like it was the best opening salvo in what was sure to be a dismal conversation.

"No," his dad said - almost shouted. "No," he said once again, more calmly. "Well, maybe. His heart is failing.The doctor's aren't sure why, but they are sure it'll give up some time in the next day or so."

Recode turned to his mom, who was quietly sobbing. His dad continued, "Thanks for coming."

"Of course," Recode replied. "We're a family."

"Yes," his dad said, his eyes widening in much the same way the orderly's had when looking at Recode a few minutes ago. "About that. We'd like you to consider-" His dad trailed off, attempting to push the next few reluctant words out of his mouth.

Recode's mother completed the thought for him. "Consider giving your brother your heart."