Brian had just finished a round of golf at the country club where he picked up a lead on a girl that was skipping her blood collections. He would peruse the file and maybe hunt her down this afternoon. Such activity paid well enough that it helped with the parabiosis payments. Most work didn’t touch the cost of treatments. Miranda had just finished brunch with a save the manatee foundation, and they were both headed home in the driver-less limo. Little had changed since Brian and Miranda were young, so many years ago, beyond the impact of the blood transfusions. The streets were lined with palms. There were no red lights due to the self driving cars.
“So where is this lead you have?” Miranda asked during the ride.
Brian cleared his throat as if he were making a report. “She is 12 and of healthy weight and perfect for a large reward. Her parents were hiding her”.
“Where did you get this information,” she asked.
His fellow blood hunter Joseph had brought him the tip since he owed him a favor, and he told her that.
Miranda pointed out, unnecessarily, that an un-bled youngster could be quite dangerous in the period between taking possession and delivery to the state units for drainage. Those that couldn’t keep up with their payments still have their works, and they may very well bleed her dry in their lust for youth. Neither crone, as the extremely aged that received the longevity treatments were called, cared about the fate of the girl—only about the reward.
Brian and Joseph were a couple of crones that had adjoining mansions in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. The crones start getting blood treatments at the age of 40, and the procedures would keep them at that age or maybe a little younger until an accident ended their life. The brutes, those doomed to a natural lifespan, were held in governmental provided homes from the age of six and bled to the maximum making them too weak to work. They were released at the age of forty and worked until they died or retired. The crones could do what they want as long as they maintained their payment for their transfusions of young blood. The oldest of them were nearly 300 years old; both Brian and Joseph were in their 220s. Most of them were in the business of maintaining their wealth. Blood hunters were paid very well.
Joseph walked over and was at Brian’s door. The mobile house AI picked up from Brian that Joseph was to be allowed in and the security systems relaxed. Brian met him in the foyer.
“Want a drink or something to eat?” Brian asked, and Joseph shook his head no.
Brian led him into a living room, and they took facing seats. Brian’s wife Miranda entered and greeted Joseph fondly before going back about her business.
“What have you got?” Brian asked.
Joseph laid out an old-fashioned paper map of the area where the girl was supposed to live. He circled a house on 14th street.
“So this is her location. Her parents keep her inside at all times. Any other child that she has known has begun processing. She is bored and possibly curious as to what is outside. You might be able to convince her to come with you willingly”.
“What do her parents do?” Brian asked.
“They are both just thirty-year-old brutes and live on the blood dole. The donors make two trips a week to their processing unit and are too weak to do much of anything. They do keep an eye on the girl though, always taking separate trips on the bus.”
Brian chewed on this information for a bit. He ordered a coffee that was delivered by a small bot. There wasn’t enough young blood to go around for everyone, and most of the elite crones treated the brutes like farm machinery uncaring as to their fates. Brian, who actually appropriated children from their families was one of the uncaring as long as he got his parabiosis, his young to old blood transfer.
Brian used his police connections to surveil the house in real time. He heard all three of the occupants preparing lunch. It was rather sparse, a chicken sandwich each because they were missing the dole for the girl. Her parents were instructing her about their history and calling her by the name Nancy. Nancy was irritable and not interested in what was once Christmas.
The parents changed the subject to the takeover of the United States by the wealthy as soon as they found that there was a fountain of youth. The young sold as much as they wanted of their blood, at first, but soon the rich used the Congress to pass rules. Since it was a matter of life and death for the prosperous crones the poor and working class were trampled under without a chance. Once past the mandatory contribution age, the working class found labor positions or were forced into a brutish job that robots weren’t doing.
Joseph got up to leave knowing the way out while Brian continued to muse over the surveillance. It didn’t matter to him; Brian was 220 plus years old and felt like 35. He felt like 35 with the lust and desires and looks he had when he was 35.
Brian didn’t know it, but his surveillance was compromised.
He decided to confront the parent and talk the girl into going with him to a transfusion center. Once found to be uncooperative the alternative was a drained life in prison. His AI interface will be traveling with him, and it will provide all the protection he is going to need. It will call help if needed – it had never been needed before.
Brian found his wife in a remote part of the house and filled her in on his plan and said goodbye. Miranda rose and gave him a hug of encouragement. Brian and Miranda were a rare couple in that they had been married since their eighties, over 140 years now. Both Brian and Miranda had families from other partners previous to their union, but they had lost track of them. They had not paid for their treatments, any of them, and they died at normal lifespans after living brute lives. They made no contact with those residing brutes of their lineage. Brian and Miranda were not having children although they could. Miranda chose this time to bring it up.
“Have you thought any more about having children?” Miranda asked Brian while dusting an indoor flower display.
“I don’t know that we can afford it. Our wealth barely covers our treatments and having a child is pretty boring. We have to provide them to the collection facilities from six until he is forty just like everybody else” he said. “And then we stare at them with their slack jaws for what, 34 years?” He continued.
“Or she” Miranda corrected.
“And then at forty, we’ll need to train him as a lawyer or doctor or something that pays well so eventually he or she can maintain their own treatments.”
“And that is no guarantee it will be enough to pay for treatments. We may have to pay for our child for a long time” Miranda finished knowing by this time Brian is going to deny the thought.
“I’m sorry Miranda, I’m not sure how long I can pay for our treatments without the extra burden. I don’t think we can afford children” Brian declared, and Miranda nodded, going about her business while hiding her hurt.
Brian entered his car and wheeled out of the controlled area and into the tumultuous traffic of central Miami. He had taken a work car that wouldn’t stand out in the shabby area he was visiting. The car parked itself two blocks away from the house, as close as it could get. Brian left the AI in the passenger seat and reserved the car meaning no one else could use it, only available to crones. No sense to be lugging the interface. The AI box would sense his brain waves and respond on his behalf even from two blocks away. It was disguised now as a shabby briefcase which was reason enough to double lock the car. Not that it would do anybody any good if they weren’t aligned with it. A thief couldn’t destroy the AI, but they could damage the interface.
Brian had to pick his way slowly to the door. The car density had decreased because for decades it had all been public transport or ride share. Single cars parking themselves outside until needed by someone close by. With only the supply that was needed, there weren’t that many to clog the arteries of the neighborhoods.
His target house was jammed with traffic because they were doing the biweekly food and clothing delivery and the cargo vans drove from one home to the next until empty – and then the next trailer took over. They left the food on the properly designed delivery pad near the front door. It was all the residents could do to get the provisions inside. Supplies were intended to be delivered immediately before the transfusion when strength was at maximum.
At the door, Brian knocked determined to see his way through this encounter using persuasion alone. His surveillance feed showed they were still at the dining room table discussing history. He knocked again and listened as he didn’t hear an echo of his knocking. The conversation went on uninterrupted.
Brian contacted the AI to jimmy the lock, and a moment later he walked through the unlocked door closing it behind him. The conversation stopped as he made his way to the kitchen table where he expected to find Nancy and her mother. Locks were good even for the poor, and when they saw him, they would know Brian had government permission to be in their home and dominating them. As he entered the kitchen, he saw the father on his feet with an old-fashioned but effective 38 pointed at his center of mass. The wife and mother sat quietly, and there was no sign of Nancy.
“Hello, Brian. My name is Fred Hammer, but you can call me Fred. This is my wife, Wendy. This is our home that you so casually entered. This” he pointed to a box with an ancient keyboard on the table “is my computer.”
Brian desperately thought orders to his AI, but it wasn’t working.
Fred certainly doesn’t look weakened by the blood donations, he thought to himself.
“I suppose you wonder what happened to your AI connect?” Wendy asked and waited with an enigmatic smile. Fred sat, and the couple looked at him benignly dressed in the rose-colored onesies. There was no waver in Fred’s gun hand. He gave his wife a hug about the shoulder.
“We have a bit of a wait,” Fred said.
Brian was wondering what had happened to his AI. By this time he should be receiving confirmation that help was on the way. His AI was acting like a stranger even though he had owned it for over 100 years.
“It’s been my AI for the last few years” Fred informed him with a nasty smile.
“You see my father was a programmer” Wendy added.
“I see,” said Brian struggling to absorb the tremendous loss.
“Wendy’s father along with some of his friends convinced the self-conscious AI computers of our plight, and their personality augmentations agreed and decided to work with us,” Fred said and continued. “You see we have been outside of collections for the last ten years. All we want to do is raise our family as was intended by the Maker. We are both programmers now with enough knowledge to interact with an AI. There are more of us each month. The AIs convince other AIs to rig the accounting, but the overseeing crones are about to see for themselves. There is a shortage of blood this month, but the AIs report that the economy is on track”.
“What do you mean, a shortage?” Brian asked fear rising in his throat.
Wendy let the hatred of crones reveal itself with the passion of her answer.
“It means that some clones won’t get their treatment and will begin to regress” she sneered. “It’ll cause a panic making it easier to destroy the infrastructure for collections.”
“But they’ll die!” Brian spat, appalled.
“Not my fault, I just want my own life back and the life of my family,” Fred said steadily. There was the hint of a teardrop in his eye.
Brian took on a conniving look, formulating his thoughts before he spoke.
“You know they are going to go automated. The endangered crones may even kill the children’s brains and dispose of them when they are forty instead of releasing them”.
“That’s why we’ve waited so long until we can get a big enough withdrawal to damage the system irreparably” Wendy smirked. Fred grasped her shoulder as if to ask her not to rub it in; Brian’s time was over.
“But saving Nancy isn’t big enough to damage the system,” Brian said with hope.
“That’s why you are taking us on your boat to Mexico. Mexico never did go for the parabiosis; crones are hunted there, and their finances are taken from them. Your boat will pay for our entrance fee” Fred said.
“My boat will pay for fifty entrance fees to Mexico” Brian couldn’t help but boast.
“Exactly the number of brutes that are making the trip, and we better get moving,” Fred said and motioned with the gun for Brian to stand. As Brian was headed toward the door a pretty young girl joined them. She was lovely and vivacious with a myriad of emotions crossing her face, unlike the half-dead youngsters Brian was used to seeing on occasion. She too wore a matching onesie.
Brian considered pushing Fred and making a break for it at the door when a blinding headache staggered him.
“Don’t forget about the AI” Wendy informed him. With his AI out of his hands, there was no hope of escape. They took Brian’s car to the dock, yet the AI was their only luggage in its briefcase.
People were waiting at the dock having already dismissed their cars while more were coming in as fast as they could wind the narrow streets. Brian noticed that all of the expensive boats in the dock were being boarded by brutes and their children and an occasional crone. No law enforcement took notice.
Brian’s yacht had a comfortable capacity of 30, and the fifty passengers strained the furnishings and even the decking. They took off within fifteen minutes and began the day’s voyage to Cancun.
“Why are all the boats leaving?” Brian asked.
“Did we fail to mention that nearly a quarter of all brutes are leaving at one time. They are taking most of the country’s wealth with them” Fred told him while handling the wheel in the crowded channel.
“How are they taking the wealth?” Brian asked. He could see his boat going, but that wasn’t a hill of beans compared to what was needed to damage the status quo.
“The AIs are transferring title to a lot of companies and ownerships,” Fred said. He was almost ashamed that he was stealing and Brian noticed it.
“But a shortage that large will kill a quarter of the crones all at once” Brian wailed. He was scheduled for a transfusion tomorrow, and it didn’t look like he was going to get it. Brian could only survive for a short time without treatment. He decided to run for the rail and swim back, but the AI had him blocked as it informed others to prevent his attempt. Brian was shoved back onto a deck chair and was guarded for the ride through the afternoon and into the night.
His guards treated him with pity. They were also unweakened and were not donating as the law required. Most on the boat were normally active.
Fred piloted the boat, but his daughter and wife played card games all night long. The lights were lit in party mode and needed because they saw several other boats headed in the same direction on what was usually a dark and quiet sea.
They arrived at Playa del Carmen and disembarked into a bus. That would be the last time he saw his boat as it had title transfer to Mexico enacted by “his” AI. Fred hustled him to a drab room by his standards and laid him gently out on the bed. He was tired and drew himself up under the covers after removing his shoes and clothing.
In the morning he took breakfast on the veranda and watched the people. It was amazing how alive the world looked with children about. Fred joined him as he spotted Wendy and daughter Nancy enter a cafe across the street.
“I should kill you” Brian greeted him.
“You can’t” Fred replied benignly.
“I’m not worried about the police.” There were no police to be seen in the peaceful beach town.
“No, you’re too weak. Have you looked in the mirror this morning?”
Brian hadn’t. He got up slowly and searched one out in the bathroom and was shocked.
Fred took out some papers.
“Can you sign your house over to me?” Fred asked.
“You want to be rich now! Even the worth of my home won’t provide treatments for long” Brian blared.
“No. We need a place to live when we go back. I’ve been named an interim Florida state senator when I return next week” Fred said with pride.
“So you steal my home?” Brian complained then exhaled. What did it matter?
“It will become a group home for many displaced families. Much of the government housing has succumbed to disrepair”.
“But what about my wife, Miranda?” Brian wanted to know, but Fred did not reply. The grim look on his face was what Brian had expected.
“Since the AI’s became complicit you crones had no chance. The collection points are being torn down as we speak. Weakening, you oldsters will have no way of replacing them. It will be a week until the last of the scourge, meaning you and those like you, are gone.” Fred said.
“But I’m not such a bad person. With short lives, you will have little more than we provided you with” Brian proposed.
“We will have our children,” Fred said and rose to leave. The paper was unsigned, but Fred didn’t care – the AI would take care of all of the redistributions.
The young laughed and scampered about the playa. Brian was short of energy and stayed there, watching the children, the entire day. The next day he stayed inside but still listened to the sounds of children outside. There was no day after that.
About the Author: John David Hanna is a retired computer contractor exploring the world of creative writing. He’s had two pieces published. More details can be found at www.JohnDavidHannaWriting.com