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BRENDEN GLAUDE

01
My hands are cold, Salene complained.
Here, let me, said Dresden, taking her hands in his. We used to have the same problem with
the H!"#s you know, be$ore we per$ected the li%uid circulation system.
&hey sat in the center o$ '()S&#s open!air s%uare o$ raised glass, with giant water lilies $loating
beneath their $eet.
) like to think that )#m a little more advanced than an H!", she *oked. Secretly resenting the
$act that all o$ their conversations seemed to loop back to arti$icial li$e!$orms.
Why o$ course darling, you#re at least, three models ahead o$ the H!"#s, Dresden *oked back.
Salene#s eyes $lashed $or a $raction o$ a second, be$ore she composed her e+pression into one o$
sportive unamusement.
O-K, by the ne+t time we have se+, those H!"#s might start looking pretty good to you, she
warned.
Hey, the H!"#s en*oyed a good market in ,apan a$ter they were re!branded as personal
companions. &hey practically paid $or our house.
&hen you won#t mind sleeping in the basement tonight, amongst their spare parts- She
countered %uickly.
Well, Dresden continued care$ully, that would give me a chance to implement some new
de+terity algorithms into the latest H model hands.
.h, )#m sure you and your hands will be %uite busy, Salene said, recrossing her legs. /ou
know, $or someone who#s supposed to be a genius, you sure don#t know much about women, and even
less about when to %uit.
0uitting was never really my thing, he said, pausing a moment to glance up at a cluster o$
paper lanterns, hanging $rom the upper e+tremities o$ a tubular tree sculpture. 1ut seriously, ) would
much rather spend the night going over your parts.
Smooth. /ou sure know how to make me $eel like a lady. 1ut seriously, ) have something )
need to work on mysel$ tonight2() stu$$2right a$ter a %uickie.
/ou#ve certainly got the male mind $igured out.
) had the male mind $igured out a long time ago. )t#s the subtle nuances o$ the $emale brain that
remain, somewhat o$ a mystery.
Well, ) had better get back to the lab, Dresden said, checking a small digital display in his
wrist, embedded *ust beneath the skin. /ou know how than gets when )#m late.
3ight. ) have a lecture to give in ten minutes anyway.
.n what sub*ect-
&he biochemistry o$ se+ual attraction, Salene said, biting her lower lip ostentatiously.
.o, ) look $orward to that review.
&onight, Salene promised, sashaying sensually away.
)#m a really lucky guy, Dresden stated to himsel$, be$ore turning to go.
&he (dvanced 3obotics 4aboratory had the appearance o$ an industrial!scale $ive star kitchen, a
geometric archipelago o$ polished chrome. 1ut, lurking *ust below those shining table tops were
archaic cardboard bo+es crammed with all manner o$ disused detritus5 hal$!$inished heli+opters,
camou$lage $lesh, submarine lungs, responsive mouth arrays, nanowire torsos, autotint $ingernails, sel$!
lubricating tongues, atomic wristwatches, hands $or a hundred di$$erent $unctions, mechanical
scorpions, hard!resin rotator cu$$s, and biogel eyes. Most were abandoned student pro*ects, but some
were pro$essional works!in!progress6 temporarily put on hold in order to pursue something new.
Dresden, i!is that you- a %uavering voice called $rom behind a huge spool o$ $iber optic cable.
/es, than. )t#s me, Dresden responded, unenthusiastically.
( short, round man with wide, yak!like eyes, a rough reverse mohawk, and a long chin beard
emerged $rom behind the spool.
.h, thank (simov7 /ou#re ten minutes late. ) thought you#d been swarmed.
Swarmed? 3eally- 1y wealthy science and technology students-
)t happened in Seoul. ) saw a special. ) mean, they weren#t university students, but2
3ight, they weren#t university students. 1esides, there are over twenty million people in Seoul6
)#d challenge you to $ind something that doesn't happen there.
Hm- .h, )!) guess that#s true, but ) still carry a stun!stick with me, whenever ) leave the lab.
/ou leave the lab-
8ery $unny, Dresden. 1ut, while you were out taking an e+tended lunch break, ) had a
breakthrough. 9ome see, this way, than gestured, walking hurriedly towards the back o$ the lab, with
all the elegance o$ an upright gorilla.
(t the rear o$ the lab, behind an arc o$ touchglass, was an area reserved $or only the most
innovative pro*ects6 the cutting edge o$ '()S& robotics. &hough really, robotics was a rather crude
and anti%uated term $or the type o$ work that went on there. #(ndroid Design# would be more accurate,
but personally, Dresden liked to think o$ it as the #4iving Machine 4ab#. )t was here, using a cluster o$
highly advanced sel$!replicating nanomachines, that they brought the $irst arti$icial $etus to $ull term6
where they not only copied, but actually improved human organs using synthetic materials6 where,
%uite simply, they blurred the line between the arti$icial and the real.
than came to a halt in $ront o$ what looked like a manne%uin head, but was in $act a
sophisticated piece o$ bioengineering, worth more than most people#s home.
)#ve $inally $igured out a way to make hair grow naturally, than e+claimed.
)#m listening, responded Dresden, mildly surprised. &he synthetic hair!growth problem, while
$ar $rom a primary $ocus o$ his, had been pestering him $or months.
&he solution was rather simple really, started than, we#ve known how to grow hair $or some
time now, using the nanoring method you developed last ,une. 1ut growing hair at a natural rate, as
would a real human being, has eluded us $or months. &o solve this, ) simply programmed the scalp to
receive an electronic pulse proportional to the amount o$ nutrients metaboli:ed by the (DS, and voil;,
natural hair growth.
&he more it eats, the more it grows. &hat is simple. Damn it, why didn#t ) think o$ that-
Well, it did take me a lot o$ late nights to get right, longer to come up with the idea.
<ow, now, don#t be modest than6 your solution is %uite elegant. <ice work.
&hank you.
Well, ) should get back to some pro*ects o$ my own, Dresden said, returning to his sector o$
the arc.
( new, almost palpable e+citement had been building up inside him o$ late, though he#d been
oddly unwilling to admit it to than6 they were getting very close to developing a robot that was
physically indistinguishable $rom a living, breathing human2the per$ect copy.
02
Dresden and Salene#s modest mansion *utted boldly out over the sea, waves crashing against
ragged rocks $ar below its lagoon!like deck. )t was one o$ the $ew privately owned coastal properties in
the province. .nly the e+ceptionally wealthy lived in houses. &he vast ma*ority o$ people resided in the
Samsung arcology comple+, closer to the maglev line. =rivacy came at a premium, but Dresden and
Salene were more than willing to pay $or it. &heir ample income allowed them to pursue their interests,
desires, and disciplines, without restriction.
Dresden tapped a tabletop keypad, while watching the sun set $rom the dining room. &he sky
$lared pomegranate, be$ore $ading to peach!pink, and dissolving to a starless bruise.
1ruises, he said out loud.
What was that- Salene asked $rom the kitchen, where she was preparing dinner.
<othing. ,ust one more problem to solve, Dresden responded, typing a note in the margin o$
the code he was writing.
(h. /ou want a beer-
Sure. &hat#d be great.
&hey#re in the $ridge.
&his wasn#t the $irst time his wi$e had played this *oke on him, and indeed, he had walked into
it willingly *ust now, $or this time, he was ready.
Mimas7 .h, Mim!as7 he called, with e+aggerated theatrics.
($ter a small series o$ hisses, a little cylindrical robot rolled in $rom the ne+t room, clasped a bottle out
o$ the open case beside the $ridge, inserted it into its tube!body, and blasted it with a %uick burst o$
white gas, then wheeled its way over to Dresden, handing him an open, ice!cold beer.
Show o$$.
Dresden *ust smiled crookedly, and kept typing with his right hand, while taking a pull o$ the
beer with his le$t.
He watched Salene cook dinner. &here was something mesmeri:ing about the way she prepared
$ood. She was able to prepare si+ di$$erent dishes simultaneously, and $inish them at e+actly the same
time. She was e+tremely e$$icient in her movements. She didn#t use too much or too little o$ any
ingredient. Her pots never boiled over. 8egetables were chopped into identical si:es. She never once
cut hersel$. )t was as i$ she approached recipes as mathematical e%uations, and, knowing the solution to
each in advance, there could only be one result.
What are you working on- she asked.
,ust $ine!tuning a blush response, and calibrating the corresponding pupil dilation and other
physiological $actors, he said, taking another drink o$ his beer.
=rogramming the H#s $or love, are you-
/ep. &he physical signs o$ it anyway.
=oor things. ,ust glori$ied chameleons until they get a proper ().
&hat#s where my wi$e, beauti$ul in both mind and body, comes in.
.h please, Salene said, blushing slightly hersel$.
What- Have ) embarrassed you-
<o. ) mean please, do go on.
Salene, Dresden began in a resolutely con$ident, yet heart$elt tone, you possess a beauty both
stunning and rare. ) grow hard $or you even in my sleep, and pinch mysel$ every morning to make sure
you#re real.
.kay, now )#m wet.
Hold that thought, Dresden said, smiling to himsel$.
Dinner was delicious. Si+ 'orean dishes cooked to per$ection5 seaweed soup, grilled $ish, egg!
$ried mushrooms, bee$ stew, $irm $lavored to$u, and rice. )t was eaten somewhat hurriedly, but savored
also. 8irtually every bite brought $orth e+clamations as to how good it was.
Don#t you have something tomorrow- Salene asked, sighing in satis$action a$ter she#d
$inished.
,ust my yearly check!up with doctor 'wak.
Salene $linched. Still think he should change that name.
Why- He#s the best in the province.
<o reason. Shall we go upstairs then-
&heir se+ was urgent, vigorous, hal$!clothed. ($terwards, they drank co$$ee and retired to their
respective workspaces, programming long into the night.
Dresden awoke early, $ace!down on his basement workbench, neck like a bundle o$ copper
wire. He uttered a string o$ curses, and made his way upstairs. &here, he $ound Salene sitting on the
$loor, typing $everishly6 surrounded by a rough circle o$ co$$ee rings.
/ou didn#t go to sleep- Dresden asked stupidly.
<o. ) was too e+cited. ) did it Dre:. )#ve $igured out how to re!create the human mind in digital
$orm.
(re you serious-
/es7 ) knew ) was onto something big last night, ) *ust didn#t reali:e how big until ) got
started.
She e+plained everything.
Dresden $elt the back o$ his skull tingle as she talked. She spoke %uickly, $ueled by e+citement
and ca$$eine6 it was highly technical, but easily understandable. .nce she#d $inished, Dresden was at a
loss $or words. What do you say to one o$ the most important scienti$ic discoveries o$ the modern age-
&hat#s...$antastic, he managed eventually.
)t#s unbelievable, ) know. =ure () may soon be a reality, she said, almost $eeling detached
$rom her own voice as she said it.
How long-
&wo months. .ne, i$ ) don#t sleep.
Dresden giggled, then hugged her in congratulations.
>et your se+y brain some rest. )#m going in $or my check!up.
03
)t was a short drive to the maglev station, slow and steady through thick $og, the outlines o$ low
mountains passing like giant turtles in the distance. Dresden parked at the rear o$ the train, watched the
speedometer rise to ?@Akph, and was in Dae*eon be$ore he knew it.
Dr. 'wak#s o$$ice was on the B"th $loor o$ the )<9( building downtown. &he receptionist, who
looked $ar too young to be working there, took his name and invited him to sit down. Dresden sat on a
hand hewn log bench, opposite a massive saltwater a%uarium. He watched $lashy $ish dart around
brightly colored coral. (t his knees, on a bisected tree root glass!top table, were an assortment o$
plast)0s. He picked one up, scrolled through a $ew headlines, then put it back down. He looked at a
clock, pro*ected on $alling water on the wall beside him. Cam. )t $elt earlier.
&he doctor will see you now, the pretty young receptionist said.
&he doctor took a sample o$ Dresden#s blood, urine, saliva, and hair. He checked his eyes, ears,
throat, and genitals. Scanned his chest. 4istened to his lungs. &ested his re$le+es. &ook his blood
pressure. )maged his entire body in DD. =robed his anus. He was very thorough.
Have your results in a minute, he said, and le$t the room.
Eive minutes later, the doctor returned with a dour look on his $ace.
) have bad news Dresden. &here#s no easy way to say this, so )#ll *ust say it. /ou have cancer.
Dresden#s mind sank away $rom him. Eor a moment, he was a nonentity, be$ore he caught
himsel$ and snapped out o$ it.
(re you sure-
0uite sure. ) ran the results three times.
)s it...treatable-
)#m a$raid this particular type o$ cancer is very aggressive, and yours is already in an advanced
stage. &he chances o$ success$ully treating it now are e+tremely low.
So, he inhaled deeply through his nose, how long have ) got-
Si+ months. &hough, your %uality o$ li$e may be severely diminished in three.
) appreciate your candor, doctor. =lease, say nothing o$ this to anyone.
.$ course.
Dresden le$t the o$$ice in a ha:e o$ disbelie$. Cancer- Si+ months to live- <o way. &here was
*ust no way. He#d $elt great lately, mentally and physically. <ever better. &here had to be some mistake.
He saw another doctor. Same result. <o mistake.
His mind was reeling now, caught in a loop between bitterness and sheer terror. Dresden didn#t
think that he was a$raid to die2he was. 1ut even worse than this sudden and acute $ear o$ death he $elt
was the unfairness o$ it. )$ it had to be, then $ine. 1ut why now- He had never been happier, more
productive, or closer to achieving his dream. &o have it all ripped away so inopportunely2that was
unacceptable.
(nd what would become o$ Salene- She#d lose her husband, and her home, *ust as she was
about to make a ma*or breakthrough. )t would be devastating. &he emotional trauma alone could...it
might be too much, even $or her. She didn#t deserve that.
Dresden $elt as i$ a cockroach was burrowing through his brain, triggering impulses at random.
(t once, he wanted to hire a hooker, rush home and tell his wi$e, hug a stranger, punch someone out.
)t was overcast. He tried not to meet anyones eyes. veryone walking the streets was beauti$ul,
repulsive, too %uiet, and too loud. He looked at the ground, his shoes, and somehow made it back to his
car. He set it to auto!drive, then writhed with pain$ul sobs all the way back to the maglev station.
Dresden pulled himsel$ together *ust be$ore boarding the train. He sensed the vacuum sealing in
sub!:ero silence around him. &otal stillness2broken by $rightening acceleration through an endless
tunnel.
(uto!drive moved Dresden between mountains tipped with tiny wisps o$ $og like spent
volcanoes. 1y the time he was home, si+teen minutes and several dark thoughts later, he#d decided what
he was going to do.
04
Salene wasn#t sleeping when he got back, annoying, but probably $or the best2she#d be easier to
deceive i$ $atigued.
How was your check!up-
,ust $ine. Eit as a $ireman.
>ood. ) may need someone to carry me to bed soon.
)#m not sure you understand what it is $iremen do.
/ou took a while.
/eah, ) *ust stopped by the (34 to get a $ew things, Dresden lied.
He had never lied to Salene be$ore, and now he#d *ust done it twice in twenty seconds.
How#s than-
.h, you know.
>od. ) can hardly keep my eyes open.
>o to bed.
/eah, Salene agreed, ) think )#ll do that.
Downstairs, Dresden immediately went to work on plans to steal all the H!" parts he didn#t
have already, or couldn#t make soon enough to meet his morbid time $rame. (c%uiring the needed
components and covering up their disappearance, he knew, would be the easy part. 1ut assembling
them all in secret, and in $ull2alone2would be $ar $rom easy. (dd to that the success$ul installation o$
Salene#s as!yet!un$inished (), and the complete upload o$ his mind, and Dresden had no doubt that this
would push him to his very limits. &here was no time to waste. Dresden began by calling Dr. 'wak#s
o$$ice.
(nnyeoung haseyo, Heal 'wak , pyeongwom imida-
/es, hello, ) was *ust in. Dresden.
/es sir, how can ) help you-
) had a %uestion about my test results, do you think you could send me a $ile-
)#m sorry sir, but our system is restricted. 1ut i$ you want to make another appointment2
.h, )#m sorry, you use the .rbuS system, right- he guessed.
FnoEile. 9an ) schedule you in $or ne+t week-
Sure.... Dresden went on to make an appointment he would later cancel, already having what
he needed.
<ow that he knew what system the clinic used, he e+ploited a known security hole, and had
copies o$ all his test $iles within $ive minutes. &hey would prove invaluable in his reconstruction,
particularly the DD model. &he H!"#s insides could be arranged any way he saw $it, but the outer
layers2the musculature, the skin2had to be per$ect i$ it was going to pass $or human. Eor him.
He started deconstructing the DD model and dividing it into outerGinner, simpleGcomple+,
missing and buildable parts. With his single bio!printer, he calculated that it would take H@ months to
create the outer layers alone. He didn#t have that long.
) need to get at least seven more bio!printers, without anybody knowing about it. Dresden
said to himsel$, not knowing how he was supposed to do that.
&he university had three, two o$ which were too large to consider moving. He wasn#t about to
rob any hospitals, and since the units were manu$actured in Shanghai, he had only one choice le$t2
cosmetic surgery clinics. What cosmetic surgeons couldn#t sculpt, they printed6 e+act copies o$ celebrity
$ace parts down to the micrometer. )t cost more, it took longer, but all the best clinics had one6 and
there were a lot o$ them2over twenty in Dae*eon alone.
Dresden decided he would steal one bio!printer a day, $or a week, under the pretense o$ going in
early $or work. He would have to do it between " and @am, when there were $ew people out. He#d also
have to spread the the$ts out over more than one city, so as not to alert authorities. He#d start tomorrow.
)n the meantime, he set his single bio!printer to make his new le$t $oot. &here was no point in locking
it out o$ sight, as that would only raise suspicion. He opted instead to cover his digital tracks, and bury
the evidence o$ the stolen $iles deep within his computer. <ot that Salene would snoop through his
things, but he couldn#t take any chances.
)t was early a$ternoon, by the time Dresden $inished gathering all the arti$icial parts he could
use in his H!" clone. 1e$ore him lay a laryn+, a spleen, one lung, and a complete circulatory system,
minus the heart. Hardly the $ull set he was looking $or, but none o$ the other parts were suitable. He had
a kidney that he might be able to upgrade, but it would probably be easier *ust to steal a pair. )t looked
as though a lot o$ things were about to go missing $rom the (34 at '()S&. <o one knew the lab better
than Dresden, and there$ore, no one was more suited to steal $rom it than him. .r so he liked to think.
than did spend an aw$ul lot o$ time there, but as long as Dresden was in the lab all day, waiting
patiently, he was con$ident that opportunities would present themselves. Fn$ortunately, he#d told Salene
that he#d already been by the lab today, so going back would seem suspicious. &hat is, i$ she $ound out.
Dresden crept upstairs to see how deeply Salene was sleeping. She looked dead6 a corpse atop
the covers. Dresden moved closer, draped a blanket over her, and slipped out o$ the room. He had at
least a couple o$ hours, maybe more. )n any event, enough time to go back into the city, do what he had
to do, and be back be$ore dinner.
Dresden entered the (34 and, to his surprise, $ound it empty. He had e+pected to see than, i$
not a $ew students, but there was no one and nothing but the almost imperceptible hum o$ the machines.
&he lab was ripe $or the picking. Without anyone watching, he didn#t have to be sneaky, merely take
what he needed and cover his tracks. <aturally, he went $or the biggest, most cumbersome parts now6
there was no telling i$ or when he would have this chance again. He moved %uickly, bagging a near!as!
$ull digestive system as he could hope to take without anyone noticing, a second lung, and a liver.
verything was o$ course incomplete, but workable6 upgradeable. Dresden couldn#t e+pect to take the
best parts and have it go unnoticed, that much was obvious. 9are$ulness was key.
1e$ore he le$t, he signed out some lengths o$ various wires and plating e%ual to the mass o$
what he was already taking. )$ anyone asked, he#d tell them he was making something $or his nephew.
4uckily, he didn#t bump into anyone on his way out, so no one %uestioned the loaded du$$el bag slung
over his shoulder.
)n the lot, he lowered the bag gently into his trunk, and secured the contents. &hings had gone
so smoothly, Dresden thought, that he had time to spare. He could stake out some o$ the nearby
cosmetic surgery clinics be$ore tomorrow#s the$t.
&he $irst one he drove past2&rans$orm2was at ground level on a ma*or street6 no good, too
e+posed. 1ut the ne+t one, up a shared stairwell on the second $loor, was per$ect. &ucked into a blind
corner with an entrance invisible to anyone not standing at the top o$ the stairs, lo%uent was his target.
05
Dresden was home in time to see the sole o$ his le$t $oot $inished, and Salene rise $rom her
slumber.
>ood sleep- He asked.
8ery. What have you been up to-
De+terity algorithms. )#m not %uitting until the H!"#s can play 9hopin.
With $eeling-
Eeeling has nothing to do with it. )$ ) program the hands well enough, they should be able to
recreate any perceived emotion through technical mastery alone.
) don#t know about that. )sn#t there something to be said $or the human touch-
&he human touch is *ust training. =ressure and timing, my dear, nothing more.
)#ll believe it when ) hear it, she said skeptically.
Soon enough, he promised. So, you hungry-
)#m starving, but ) don#t want to cook6 too much to do. How about we call /oon!,i-
/oon!,i was an old 'orean lady they sometimes called to cook meals or clean $or them, when
they were too busy.
>ood idea. )#ll call her now.
&wenty minutes later /oon!,i pulled into the driveway on her motor!trike.
)t looks like she could use a hand, Salene said, peering out $rom behind the wooden blinds.
) told her not to bring anything, Dresden said, irritated. She knows we#re $ully stocked.
Erom the looks o$ it, she took that to mean, #bring everything.# /ou#d better get out there.
&he trike was loaded up like a pack mule, with large burlap bags strapped to each side and
/oon!,i perched atop the seat in a re$lective vest. She was ?D, but had the energy o$ a woman hal$ her
age, and plenty o$ pluck.
What are you doing Dresden- Hurry up and help me untie these, she ordered.
<ice to see you too, /oon!,i, Dresden said, unstrapping one o$ the bags as /oon!,i climbed
down o$$ the trike.
<o, no, no. &hat one#s heavy, you take the other one.
1ut2 Dresden began to protest, but be$ore he could $inish, /oon!,i had a sack over her
shoulder and was heading $or the door.
) guess )#ll take this one, Dresden said to himsel$, li$ting a weighty bag o$ pots and pans, and
struggling to catch up.
/oon!,i was a tiny woman2barely over " $eet2but what she lacked in si:e she made up $or in
spirit. 1y the time Dresden reached the kitchen, /oon!*i was already s%uatted over her sack, pulling out
bags o$ onions, sweet potatoes, and $at white radishes.
Dresden threw down his bag with a loud clattering o$ metal.
Why are you making so much noise, Dresden- /oon!,i complained.
We do have cookware, you know, he pointed out.
Dre:, your nose, Salene inter*ected, it#s bleeding.
My... Dresden $altered, touched his nose, so it is. ) must have gone overboard trimming today. )#ll go
wash up, he said, as casually as he could.
Dresden looked at the re$lection o$ his bleeding nose in the bathroom mirror $or a moment
be$ore wiping it clean with a cloth. He then really trimmed his nose hair, and used a ra:or blade to
make a small cut inside his le$t nostril.
(ll patched up7 Dresden announced, as he returned to the kitchen, with a large wad o$ tissue
stuck in his nose.
My husband, Salene said.
)s handsome and debonair- Dresden o$$ered.
More like loathsome and unaware.
.h, that#s, much worse.
)#m going to work on (), Salene said, call me when it#s time to eat.
)#ll be downstairs /oon!,i.
>et out o$ my kitchen.
/oon!,i may be a bit gru$$, but she was a phenomenal cook. &he oldest o$ seven siblings, and
daughter o$ a single alcoholic mother, she was $orced to cook $rom age ten. Most children had to
contend with math and Mandarin, but not /oon!,i. Eood was her only sub*ect6 the local market her
school. &here she studied the color o$ cabbage, the touch o$ to$u, the smell o$ $ish. She learned all the
best gardens to pil$er $rom, and when. .n weekends, while her younger siblings played, she scoured
the countryside $or rare roots, herbs, and wild mushrooms.
)t was on one o$ these weekend e+cursions Ideep in the mountains *ust be$ore her eighteenth
birthdayJ, that she discovered a patch o$ natural red ginseng Ithought to be e+tinctJ, and sold it to a
local buyer $or a small $ortune. She put a thick envelope under her mothers pillow, and le$t home.
/oon!*i used her share to pay $or tuition to cooking school, and has been living by her own terms ever
since.
/oon!,i unceremoniously banged a wooden spoon against a metal pot. )t was her entirely
unsubtle, but e$$ective, way o$ announcing that dinner was ready. Salene and Dresden emerged to $ind a
hot, mouth!watering meal laid out on their dining room table.
)t looks wonder$ul, Salene complimented.
&hank!you, dear. Wait until you taste it.
Won#t you *oin us, /oon!,i, Dresden o$$ered.
.h no, )#m not hungry.
1ut, you made so much2 he insisted.
So eat double. /ou could stand to gain a $ew kilos, /oon!,i said.
Salene and Dresden sat down to eat, and /oon!,i returned to the kitchen to begin cleaning. She
pushed a button between the rooms, and a $olding screen un$urled $rom a slit in the wall, giving them
complete privacy.
How#s the () coming- Dresden asked his wi$e.
) $eel inspired. 9ode is $lowing out o$ me so $ast that my $ingers can hardly keep up7
&hat#s great, Dresden said, with genuine enthusiasm.
(nd what are you up to, down in your lair-
Dresden looked up at the image o$ cherry blossoms blowing on the $olding screen and
considered saying the truth2)#m planning to break into a cosmetic surgery clinic2as Salene would
probably think he was kidding, but thought better o$ it, and said, Same old, instead.
)#m going into work early tomorrow, Dresden added, a$ter a pause.
.h- Salene in%uired, taking a spoon$ul o$ soondubu *igae.
/up, very early. 1ig push to build a complete H!" by the new year.
&hat wasn#t a lie, merely an omission o$ the whole truth. Dresden had a strange thought *ust
then5 once he had built his copy, but be$ore he died, there would be some overlap. Would he, then, e+ist
in two bodies2one organic and one arti$icial2simultaneously- (nd i$ his consciousness could be
copied2
Solar or lunar- Salene asked.
Hm- Dresden hummed, taking a mouth$ul o$ $ood.
ither way, it sounds like we#ll both be busy $or a while.
06
(n electric bu:: *olted Dresden awake. He looked at his wrist. )t was Dam. &ime to steal a bio!
printer. Dresden eased out o$ bed and got dressed, packed a bag, and le$t the house. He had a banana
and a co$$ee in the car, and rode an empty train to Dae*eon.
&wo blocks $rom the clinic, Dresden pulled into a narrow alley, got out, and changed his license
plate. .ne o$ the advantages o$ having a very geometric alphabet was that it could be easily altered
with the right color tape. He then got back in his car, put on an air!pollution $ace mask, and drove to
lo%uent.
Dresden backed into a small courtyard, Ireserved $or wasteJ and killed the engine. <ot only was
this ad*oining space enclosed on all sides, but it was also unlikely to be monitored by 99&8. He
walked around $ront, slunk up the stairs, and approached the door. A fingerprint scanner. How uaint.
Dresden thought. He removed a strip o$ transparent tape $orm his bag, pressed it onto the chrome door
handle, and peeled. He held the tape up to an e+terior light, e+amining the mass o$ swirls. ,ust then, a
crash rang out $rom the courtyard6 a sound like breaking glass. Dresden tensed, looked down, but was
relived to see it was *ust a drunk. He watched as the man stumbled, $ell over, and stayed there, then
applied the tape to a pocket scanner and trans$erred the data to his DD palm printer.
1ecause human $ingerprints are only a $raction o$ a millimeter thick, it didn#t take long to $inish.
Dresden slid the $reshly $orged identities over the door scanner, one print at a time. 3ed. 3ed. 3ed.
>reen7 &hat was it.
.nce inside, the lights came on automatically, and a co$$ee machine began bubbling in the
corner. Dresden was tempted to wait and have a cup, but decided he#d better not push his luck. )t was
all about the bio!printers.
He $ound a pair o$ them humming %uietly in a back room. &hey were both busy. .ne was
building a nose, now nearly complete, and the other, an unknown body part2too early to tell. Dresden
decided to do the considerate thing and leave the one that was $urthest along alone. He unplugged the
other bio!printer, and li$ted it o$$ the table. )t was heavy as sin. He could barely walk.
.utside, with arms trembling, and $ingers slipping, he set the bio!printer down. &here was no
way he could carry this down the $ront stairs by himsel$. !ow what? )n the courtyard below, he spotted
a dumpster $ull o$ cardboard. He#d have to chance it. Dresden deadli$ted the monster machine and
heaved it over the railing.
07
&he bio!printer spent the rest o$ that day in the back o$ Dresden#s car, under a blanket. )t wasn#t
until a$ter midnight that he had an opportunity to move it into the basement and con$irm that it still
worked. He set it to begin building his right $oot, checked the progress on his le$t one, and looked over
what he#d taken $rom work today2a synthetic testicle. than had been too annoyingly present to steal
anything bigger. )t would be easy enough to clone, but wholly unnecessary, since procreation was %uite
impossible $or electronic humanoids, he could stick a boiled %uails egg in there and no one would be
the wiser.
Dresden had long ago accepted that he wouldn#t sleep tonight, so he poured himsel$ a drink and
began planning his ne+t the$t. He#d go south to 1uan, a smallish city that had recently e+perienced an
in$lu+ o$ artists interested in altering the human $orm, and was there$ore $lush with bio!printers. &he
prevalent bohemian li$estyle there should make 1K relatively easy. =eace, love, and respect $or all did
not *ive with high!end security systems.
He#d have to start locking his basement workshop a$ter all. He couldn#t very well e+plain an
ever!growing collection o$ various bio!printers to Salene, though he would have to come up with a
good e+cuse $or the increase in power consumption, or covertly install some means o$ generating
power himsel$. How had he ever thought that it would be okay not to lock them away- &hen there was
the matter o$ removing them a$terwards. He couldn#t a$$ord such careless oversights6 any oversights.
Dresden took a couple o$ ca$$eine tablets, and washed them down with a beer to steady his nerves.
)t#s only going to get harder $rom here on out. &his is the easy part. 1e calm, Dresden intoned.
&he 1uan bio!printer the$t had been as easy and trouble!$ree as Dresden could have hoped6 that
is, until he began loading the machine into his car.
Hey brother, is that yours-
Dresden started at the voice, turned, and saw a slim, bearded $igure standing in the pale urban
lamplight behind him.
Where#d you come $rom- Dresden asked.
) live here. Do you-
<o.
&his was going nowhere $ast. Dresden abhorred violence, but his situation le$t him little choice.
He made a $ist, and struck the slender man s%uare in the $ace. Dresden wasn#t a big guy, but he was
solid, wiry. &he man went down, and didn#t get back up. Dresden drove away.
&hat fuc"wit creeper. What did he think was going to happen, sneaking up on me like that-
Dresden said, cursing the man. He $linched, saw a $ace contort in the re$lection o$ the windshield.
Dresden#s knuckles throbbed. He let go o$ the steering wheel, and engaged auto!drive.
&ake me home, he said to the car#s computer.
Dresden awoke in his driveway at the cusp o$ dawn, hints o$ autumn light boiling up $rom the
hori:on. He opened an eye, then shut it again, be$ore bolting back to reality. ( moment o$ panic, a
%uick look at the clock2@5@Bam. He#d been asleep $or over an hour.
)nside, Salene typed $everishly at her keyboard. (nother long coding run was coming to a close.
(lmost. She scanned the last $ew lines she#d written. !ot uite right, she thought. One more cup.
Dresden couldn#t risk carrying the 1uan bio!printer in now, but he couldn#t very well pass up the
opportunity to unload the thing either. He approached his $ront door, saw Salene descend the stairs
through honeyed glass, and entered.
.h, you haven#t gone into work yet- Salene asked drowsily, dri$ting into the kitchen.
<o, ) slept in. 4eaving now. ,ust $orgot something, Dresden covered.
) didn#t see you go to bed, Salene said, taking up the co$$ee pot.
#id she see me in the driveway? Dresden wondered.
) $ell asleep downstairs again, he risked.
)#m going to $all asleep wherever ) sit, as soon as ) $inish this ne+t stream o$ ().
Sweet dreams.
08
Dresden drove a couple o$ kilometers away $rom his house, pulled over, and watched the ocean
$or an hour, be$ore returning home. He snuck inside, con$irmed that Salene was asleep, and put the bio!
printer in place. )t was as new and advanced a model as he was likely to $ind, so he set it to the all!
important task o$ bio!printing his $ace6 not something you wanted to trust to an in$erior machine.
Dresden went to work.
His day passed in a heavy!lidded ha:e, trying to look busy, even though no one was watching.
Silly, that he should sit and waste the day away like that, considering all that had to be done, and all the
legitimate work he could $e doing in the lab, i$ only to keep up appearances. 1ut it wasn#t entirely a
waste. )t was Eriday. .n Eriday he went out to dinner with Salene be$ore she taught her evening
classes. ($ter dinner, he had a three hour window to raid the lab $or parts, and get them home.
(t ten to si+, he got up $rom his stool, and began walking around the (34, visually pre!
selecting which parts he would soon steal. %hat loo"s nice. !eed one of those. %oo o$vious. &ould '
dare?
What are you looking $or-
(than.
( cochlea ) was working on a while back, ) *ust got an idea. Stupid. Still needed cochleas.
&hy draw attention to something that was going to $e stolen shortly?
) think ) saw some over here, than answered, producing a bo+ $rom beneath stainless steel.
#amn his photographic memory. Dresden walked over.
/es, here it is7 than e+claimed, holding up something that looked like a tiny nautiloid.
.h, thank you, Dresden said, taking the part.
1ut that#s strange, than said.
Shit.
) could have sworn there were three livers in here be$ore, and now there#s two, than
persisted.
<aw, ) think there were always two, Dresden tried.
) don#t think so Dresden. ) distinctly remember three.
Maybe a student moved it.
than sighed. &he state o$ this place. &hese bo+es. )t#s a wonder anyone can $ind anything here.
We should really do an inventory.
)i"e hell we should. 'f they did an inventory* (than would $ecome aware of all the missing
parts. %here was only one way out of this.
)#ll do it, Dresden o$$ered. %his may $e a $lessing in disguise.
) could help, than o$$ered.
<o, don#t worry about it. ) need a break, clear my head. )#ll get started tonight.
Well, i$ you insist. ) don#t envy you, this place is a mess.
4ooks cleaner than your lab at home, Salene interrupted. (t least, last time ) saw it.
0uite right darling, but )#ll get it sorted out, Dresden assured.
Hello than, Salene said.
>ood to see you, he returned. than had actually seen her enter the lab, but $elt uncom$ortable
greeting her $irst, so had remained silent. Salene suspected this, but said nothing o$ it.
3eady to eat- Dresden asked.
)#m starving. What do you $eel like-
) was thinking <epali )ndian. 'athmandu#s-
'athmandu#s- &hat#s where )#m going. ) have a date.
Salene and Dresden e+changed glances.
/ou have a date- Dresden asked.
&ry not to look so surprised. ) met someone, and asked her out.
Well, good. &hat#s great. So, who is she- What does she do- Salene asked.
Her name is (ubrie. She#s an entomologist.
Well, this should make $or an interesting evening, Dresden said, taking a slight *ab to the ribs.
She sounds lovely than. Shall we all go together, then- Salene o$$ered, going on ahead.
1etter leave your stun!stick behind $or this one than. Fnless she#s into that.
09
'athmandu#s was a silo!like structure walled in whitewashed stone. ( long, spiraling staircase
e+tended upwards to a vast circular skylight ringed in hanging ivy. &he topmost table a$$orded a $ine
view o$ the dining huts down below that sprung $rom the walls like clinging mushrooms, attended by
sure!$ooted waiters with iron legs.
So (ubrie, than tells us you#re an entomologist. Does that mean you deal in all things creepy!
crawly- Dresden *oked.
(ctually, ) speciali:e in insects $ound in one very speci$ic area only6 most o$ which are new to
science, (ubrie answered.
(nd where is that- Salene asked, intrigued.
( network o$ caves located beneath Mount rebus, (ntarctica.
Wow. How do they survive- Dresden asked.
Some burrow into ice so$tened by the geothermal activity o$ the volcano to stay warm,
drawing nutrients $rom the meltwater. .thers eat them. &he rest, we#re still trying to $igure out.
&hat sounds $ascinating, Salene said.
.h, it is. 'eeps me busy three months out o$ the year, anyway.
&hree months at a stretch- Fnderground. )n (ntarctica. <ow ) see how than might look
appealing, Dresden %uipped. &aking a swi$t kick by a leather boot to the shin.
&hat#s Dresden, always telling *okes, than said.
) noticed, (ubrie deadpanned, ) like bug *okes mysel$, than knows a ton.
)#ll bet he does.
>o ahead. &ell them one, than.
Well, all right. Why don#t grasshoppers like $ootball games-
Salene and Dresden blinked.
&hey pre$er cricket.
9ute. .h look, here#s our waiter, Dresden said.
He set down an e+tra oil lamp, lit it, and took their orders.
So what drew you to Dresden, initially- (ubrie asked.
)nitially- <ot a whole lot. ) actually re*ected him the $irst time he asked me out, Salene
answered.
/ou never told me that, Dresden, than said, visibly delighted.
Must have slipped my mind, Dresden de$ended.
.h, ) seriously doubt that. He took a course in postnatal psychology *ust so he could sit ne+t to
me. He was very persistent, so ) told him that i$ he got an ( in the class ) would go on a date with him.
(ubrie lurched $orward, holding a hand over her mouth and snorting.
So ) guess you aced =ostnatal =sychology then- than asked.
( plus.
Where did he take you, on your $irst date- (ubrie asked, a$ter she#d calmed down.
Songnisan .bservatory. He had an astronomer $riend sneak us in a$ter it was closed.
.h yeah, that#s right. Hey, aren#t they having an event tonight- /ou two should go.
Well, that does sound kind o$ romantic, (ubrie admitted. What about you two-
9an#t. ) have to teach a class, Salene said.
(nd ) have a lab to organi:e.
10
1y three in the morning, Dresden had the (34 organi:ed, stocked, and logged e+actly the way he
wanted it. He#d gone home immediately a$ter dinner to retrieve the liver he#d taken previously, and
returned it to the lab. He then sorted every item by type, and did a complete inventory6 an inventory
that would have been somewhat di$$erent, had it been done a $ew days earlier. 4astly, Dresden wrote an
o$$icial report o$ his work and submitted it to the president o$ '()S&#s mailbo+ $or approval, knowing
$ull well that she wouldn#t be in until Monday, and likely had a pile o$ paperwork to wade through
already. )t would be several days be$ore than would even see the list, and his ability to scrutini:e it
would be severely compromised once it had the president#s stamp.
1y three in the morning, Dresden was also e+hausted. He reali:ed that, i$ he was going to pull
o$$ $ive more bio!printer the$ts in the near $uture, he needed a break. )t was probably $or the best. &here
would be more people out on the weekend, at all hours. )t would be better to put his plans on pause $or
a couple o$ days, play the healthy husband, and restart things on Monday.
.nce home, Dresden shu$$led out onto his deck and listened to the waves. He couldn#t see them,
but he could hear their ebb and $low6 the way they broke against the rocks and roiled, $orming
temporary turbulent pools, riddled with eddies, be$ore being drowned out by the ne+t one.
Dresden $ound Salene sleeping, sprawled out on the $loor. He put a pillow beside her head, but
didn#t wake her. She didn#t like to be disturbed once asleep. He climbed onto the bed, laid down dead
center, and slept.
&heir weekend played out like some combination o$ improbably great $irst date and second
honeymoon. (ll smiles and sunshine, sweet melon and si::ling bacon. 1right scarves, designer dresses
and suede open toe booties. +antaisie 'mpromptu in $irst class. <ight in 'yoto. Mai &ai#s and
&eppanyaki. Hyperboat home. .range ocean sunrise. 9olumbian co$$ee. Elirtatious drive through the
countryside. Walk through windmills. Se+ in a hedge ma:e. )ronic walt:.
(nd then it was over.
11
Monday morning hit like a hangover, rude reality rushing in. Dresden pushed the pleasure o$ the
past $orty!$our hours to the back o$ his mind, and re$ocused on the task at hand. He drew up his plan o$
attack, a mental map outlining e+actly what he was going to do, and how he was going to do it.
&he ne+t $our the$ts went o$$ like clockwork. &aean, .kcheon, 9hilgok and >umi were each
relieved o$ a bio!printer as easily as the core being cut $rom an apple, then, on the morning o$ the $i$th
the$t, Dresden saw a cop car parked directly outside the cosmetic surgery clinic he was targeting.
)t could *ust be a coincidence, but he didn#t think so. Dresden drove a $ew blocks to another
well!known clinic and $ound a patrol car sitting there as well. +uc", He hadn#t spaced the the$ts out $ar
enough. He#d taken too many bio!printers, too soon, and they had noticed a pattern. <ow they were
watching clinics. Waiting $or him.
ven i$ the police didn#t have the numbers to watch every clinic, they could in$orm them o$ the
threat. (s soon as the clinic owners got wind o$ it, they would respond by hiring private security
companies. &hey had more than enough money. .ne machine short, or without any, the result was the
same, he couldn#t build a complete copy o$ himsel$ in time.
Dresden didn#t have long to mull over this new development, as when he arrived at work an
hour later, there were already two uni$ormed o$$icers standing right there in the (34, %uestioning
than.
(h, there he is, he heard than say as he walked in.
Dresden Eledge- Head o$ 1iomedical ngineering here at '()S&- .ne o$ the o$$icers asked,
turning to $ace him.
/es. 9an ) help you gentlemen- Dresden asked back.
Maybe. We#re investigating a string o$ the$ts that#ve occurred lately. Stolen bio!printers.
Dresden kept his e+pression neutral, as the cop eyeballed him. /ou seen anyone suspicious around
here, any time in the past week or so- &he cop %uestioned.
(nyone suspicious- <o, ) don#t think so, Dresden answered evenly.
/our lab partner here says that you#ve had some things go missing recently. )s that right-
<ot e+actly, no. &hings were *ust a bit disorgani:ed, up until ) sorted everything last Eriday.
So you#re not missing one, uh, biosynthetic human liver- &he cop asked.
<o, everything#s accounted $or. Stored and logged e+actly as it should be.
than looked mildly con$used. We are short one liver, Dresden. )#m sure o$ it.
&he cops were beginning to look annoyed.
>o see $or yoursel$, than. 1in &?, table twelve.
than waddled over.
Son o$ a biscuit7 &hey#re all here. (ll three, than con$irmed.
&he black cop shook his head.
Well, we#re *ust letting $olks know, that have any o$ the bio!printers in their possession, that
someone is out there stealing them, the 'orean cop said.
/ou think this person might be dangerous- Dresden asked, hoping to $ind out what they knew.
He#s already assaulted one man, and seems intent on snatching up as many o$ these things as
he can get his hands on. (nyway, i$ you see anyone suspicious, do not con$ront him. 9all us.
) don#t think you have to worry about him stealing any o$ our bio!printers, Dresden said.
(nd why is that- &he cop asked.
&hey#re what you might call, industrial models. Weigh over DAA kg#s. Would need a $orkli$t to
get one out o$ here, and would probably destroy it in the process.
1e that as it may, we#re going to err on the side o$ caution. &his place is $ull o$ synthetic
organs, something our guy may be using these bio!printers to produce in order to sell on the black
market, to the Chinese, who knows.
-es* who "nows? Dresden thought.
We#re going to have a plainclothes o$$icer keep an eye on this lab, until $urther notice. &he
black cop inter*ected. <ow let#s get out o$ here, we#ve got $i$ty more places to be today.
($ter the o$$icers le$t, than asked a $ew irritating and vaguely suspicious %uestions, which
Dresden de$lected easily and with little concern. He had bigger problems than the impotent suspicions
o$ one weird little man. 1ut than would not shut up.
So this guy, this organ pirate2
Organ pirate-
/es, this guy is out there, hunting down bio!printers, and we#re sitting here in the middle o$ an
arti$icial organ bu$$et, with three o$ the $inest machines in the province.
/ou heard them, than. &hey have someone watching this place right now. &wenty!$our seven.
<othing to worry about, Dresden assured him.
)!) guess so, but )#m certainly going to be looking over my shoulder $rom now on, than said.
Dresden ignored the possible double meaning, and started work. 3eal, legitimate, honest work.
)t $elt good.
12
)n the weeks that $ollowed, Dresden progressed towards his goal as best he could, but the heat
on the bio!printer the$ts didn#t die down. ,ust as he had e+pected, the cosmetic surgery clinics hired
private security $irms to watch their buildings every minute they weren#t open $or business. &hey were
worried they might lose one o$ their e+traordinarily e+pensive bio!printers to the man the media was
calling the 1io!=rinter 1andit. Dresden didn#t much care $or the name, as it was both inaccurate and
sensational, but the media wasn#t e+actly known $or their precision. &he 1io!=rinter 1andit sold illicit
organs to 9hinese mobsters, <orth 'orean politicians, or ,apanese businessmen, depending on which
network you watched.
During one particularly dark night, a$ter a $ew too many beers, Dresden even momentarily
considered becoming the $ictional character that law en$orcement and the media had created. Actually
selling organs he bio!printed on the black market, so Salene could at least keep the house, but he
%uickly abandoned the idea as pure madness. He had neither the contacts, nor the moral decrepitude to
go down that road. 1esides, by copying himsel$ he could go on living, upload his mind into a new body
that wasn#t stricken with cancer, and never would be. %hat was his goal. <othing else.
1ut that goal was in *eopardy. He#d now lain low $or so long that the leaves were beginning to
change color on the trees. He was running out o$ time, and his options were limited. 9linics were out o$
the %uestion. He would never get one through customs without raising red $lags. ( bio!printer $or
personal use was unheard o$, even $or the rich. &here was *ust one vile, stomach churning, unthinkable
option le$t. He#d have to rob a hospital.
&here was really no other choice, Dresden told himsel$. He needed one more bio!printer, and as
distaste$ul as it was, it would have to come $rom a hospital. Hospitals were too big and too busy to keep
tabs on everyone that came in and out, especially during an emergency. He could create a distraction by
pulling a $ire alarm, and get the machine out while they were clearing the building. <o harm done.
1esides, Dresden reasoned, he could always make a series o$ anonymous donations to the hospital over
the ne+t HA years, to recoup the cost o$ the stolen property and pay $or any damage he may incur.
-es* that wouldn't $e so $ad. Dresden thought.
1ut a$ter a trip to ul*i Fniversity Hospital, it became apparent that a simple distraction would
not be enough to clear the way $or the the$t. &hey had a state!o$!the!art $ire$ighting system in place that
would not be $ooled by someone merely pulling an alarm. He#d need the real thing.
.n his second visit to the hospital, Dresden noted that the .rgan Fpgrade Wing was located
directly above the ca$eteria. &he wing was not $or people in danger o$ imminent death, but rather those
who wanted to $reshen up their internals, and had the money to do so. &he ability to process alcohol
like a teenager again a$ter decades o$ drinking was a very appealing proposition $or many. )t was a
great source o$ revenue $or modern hospitals, and one that Dresden didn#t $eel overly guilty about
stealing $rom. 9a$eterias also had kitchens, and a kitchen was the per$ect place to start a $ire. <ot only
were kitchen $ires common, but everything you needed was already there. Dresden had also noted the
ca$eterias hours, Bam!?pm daily, plenty o$ time to slip in a$ter cleaning, but be$ore daily prep. (
porters uni$orm he#d taken $rom an unattended laundry bin would serve as disguise. <ow all that was
le$t, was to do it.
Dresden#s opportunity came one evening when Salene went out $or a rare but well!deserved
ladies night with some $riends. He waited a while a$ter she le$t, got his gear, and headed $or the
hospital. Dresden was care$ul to go late enough that the ca$eteria sta$$ had gone home, but not so late
that he would look conspicuous walking the hallways.
He parked his car strategically and entered the kitchen through a rear loading door. 4uckily $or
Dresden, the hospitals security system was not as comprehensive as its $ire system. &hey only had
cameras in high priority and high!tra$$ic areas, and the ca$eteria kitchen was neither o$ them.
Dresden $elt his way past stacked bo+es, mop handles, and a cold cooler door be$ore laying his
gloved hands on something big and rectangular. He opened it, and every other $ridge, $ree:er and oven
around to give himsel$ enough light to work by. ven though he knew the kitchen was almost entirely
closed o$$ $rom the dining area, he didn#t want to take any unnecessary risks by switching on the lights.
Dresden took out a pair o$ pliers $rom a small bag he had brought with him, stood up on the
counter, bent some ears o$ metal, and removed a section o$ the overhead ductwork. He then pulled the
silver tubing out o$ the ceiling over a nearby range hood, shoved it into the open duct, and switched on
the $an. <e+t, Dresden threw several packages o$ paper towels and as many rags as he could $ind
around a single microwave, and placed three butane gas canisters inside.
13
Dresden wasn#t even a minute out o$ the ca$eteria be$ore he heard the blast.
9learly, setting the microwaves power to low hadn#t delayed the e+plosion $or very long. 1ut it
was long enough. He was nearly to the stairs by the time the alarm began to sound. Dresden burst into
the stairwell and lunged up to the second level in eight steps. He paused a moment at the doorway
stenciled H5 .3>(< F=>3(D W)<>, and opened into panic. =eople ran $rom the e+panding smoke
cloud at the end o$ the hallway like peasants $rom a waking dragon. ( man with a white goatee was
shouting $or everyone to get out. veryone rushed to the e+its holding their hands over their mouths,
leaving Dresden alone.
&here were cameras here, but they were useless now thanks to the large amounts o$ smoke
being pumped in through the ventilation system by the $an he#d rigged up in the kitchen. &he building
planners decision to install the vents below $or the sake o$ higher ceilings on this $loor had been a poor
one. Dresden pulled a mask out o$ his bag and slipped it over his $ace, pushed a button on its side, and
saw the scene be$ore his eyes trans$orm into one o$ deep blues and purples, a single blot o$ yellow
down the hall e+panding like spilt paint. He grabbed a gurney and ran towards it, crashing through the
doors. &he $loor inside was globbed with puddles the color o$ tomato soup, and it was getting di$$icult
to breathe. Higher, several salmon!tinted cuboids came into $ocus. Dresden didn#t have time to be
picky, he grabbed the $irst machine he could get his arms around and tipped it onto the gurney.
.utside, Dresden burst into clean air and gulped greedily, ashen skin hiding his identity *ust as a
scorched blanket hid his precious cargo. <ot that anyone was looking at him. &he $ire had spread
%uickly, burning through walls and ceilings with such speed that it melted the pipes that supplied the
sprinkler systems with water be$ore they could even activate. )t was now raging up to the $ourth $loor,
$orcing a massive evacuation. Dresden involuntarily met eyes with a con$used looking elderly woman
in a wheelchair, saw a cancer patient who looked like he had been pulled out o$ chemo mid!therapy, a
row o$ premature babies in portable incubation chambers.
My .od* Dresden whispered breathlessly, what have ) done-
1ack home, Dresden burned his mask and clothes in a shallow pit and buried them, then
showered. &wice. 1ut he could still smell smoke on himsel$. He scrubbed himsel$ down with vinegar
and showered a third time, then shaved, and applied lotion, deodorant, and cologne. )t would have to
do.
&he machine he#d stolen turned out to be top!o$!the!line, $ar better than anything he could#ve
hoped $or $rom any cosmetic surgery clinic. 1ut at what cost- (ll the pain and $ear he#d caused, laws
he#d broken, lies he#d told. Dresden began to wonder i$ his was a li$e worth e+tending. Was he the type
o$ man that ought to be copied- Should he program his electronic clone to become the man he was, or
the man he had once been- &hese %uestions and others spun around Dresden#s mind like an atom
smasher, threatening to collide *ust as something clicked2the latch on the $ront door.
Dres!den7 /ou home sugarbuns- Salene yelled $rom the $oyer.
) take it you had a good time- Dresden replied casually, as he stepped into the kitchen.
<o. ) had a $ucking great time7 Salene said, breaking out into a little dance.
Well that#s good, Dresden said, suddenly $eeling incredibly sober. He took a beer $rom the
$ridge. What did you get up to-
.h, we had a night, Dre:.
4et#s hear it, Dresden prompted, drinking deeply $rom his beer.
We began with a wine tasting event at an art gallery $eaturing the work o$ Mi Sun Mun.
&hat sculptor that does the di$$erent creatures coming out o$ a woman#s wa!who-
/up. We actually met her and started talking about the rise o$ arti$icial insemination.
Did you, now-
She invited us to a private party. (n erotic celebration o$ the $emale $orm. Women only.
Sorry ) missed that, Dresden %uipped.
&he wine was $lowing $reely there as well. Maybe a little too $reely, as things eventually got a
bit too erotic $or us, so we le$t $or the nearest dance club. Salene said, pirouetting and almost knocking
a potted plant over with her $oot. .h shit7 (nyway, we danced the night away until this *erk grabbed
,ina#s ass.
Fh!oh, Dresden said.
/eah. ,ina headbutted him right in the nose, knocked him the fuc" out, $lat on the dance$loor.
Holy shit.
Salene laughed. We ran in our bare $eet all the way to the subway7 ) think my shoes are
somewhere on Mercer Street, Salene said, laughing again.
Well 9inderella, it sounds like you had a ball. 1etter get to bed.
<ot without my prince, Salene said, grabbing him by the waistband.
Well, i$ you insist.
)t that brie$ e+change, Dresden decided that he had to go through with his plan.
14
ul*i Fniversity Hospital was shaken by a blast last night in what authorities suspect to be an
act o$ arson, which caused e+tensive damage to one wing, the destruction o$ billions o$ won worth o$
e%uipment, and the emergency evacuation o$ over $our hundred people, a voice reported $rom the
kitchen.
/lease tell me no$ody died. Dresden thought, walking down into the dining area.
4uckily, no one was hurt in the $ire, though several sta$$ and patients are being treated $or
smoke inhalation. Dresden let out a sigh that he hadn#t reali:ed he#d been holding as he entered the
kitchen.
Did you hear that- Salene asked, pouring a cup o$ co$$ee.
/es, terrible, Dresden replied.
Who would do such a thing- Set $ire to a hospital- )t#s monstrous, Salene said.
Dread$ul, he agreed.
/ou know, we should donate some money to the hospital. Help them rebuild, Salene
suggested.
/es. /es, ) think that#s a good idea. (nonymously, o$ course, Dresden said.
(s always.
Hey, isn#t that where you were born- Dresden asked, wanting to redirect the sub*ect.
.h, you remember- Salene asked, seeming pleased.
How could ) $orget- 1irthplace o$ my %ueen and muse, bringer o$ a thousand orgasms.
Has it been that many- Well, maybe $or you.
.uch.
Salene laughed. ) think you owe me a $ew more, yet.
)t#s a deal, Dresden said.
So, how much are we going to give the hospital- Salene asked.
Fm, two weeks pay- Dresden suggested, trying to split the di$$erence between concerned
citi:en and guilty conscience.
Erom $oth o$ us, Salene said.
.kay. )#ll make the donation today.
(nd he did6 but $irst Dresden made an o$$shore dummy corporation which he then $iltered the
money through, be$ore sending it on to the hospital. &hat way, their complete anonymity would be
guaranteed. ( large donation now could bring unwanted attention and %uestions, even suspicion, i$
someone smart enough began to connect the dots.
)n the center o$ Dresden#s basement workshop, surrounded by seven machines humming like
circling wasps, sat the hospital bio!printer, silently sculpting his new heart. With each passing day, it
wove another layer o$ arti$icial tissue together, $orming valves and veins and muscled walls, until one
crisp winter night, a$ter per$orming cunnilingus on Salene $or so long that Dresden dripped sweat, it
beat.
Synthetic organs didn#t need to be connected to a bodily system in order to $unction, each was
an autonomous system unto itsel$ whose $irst order o$ business on completion was to run a startup test,
which, in the case o$ the heart, was to beat $our times slowly, $our times %uickly, and then lie still.
Dresden had *ust entered his workshop holding a bottle o$ ice water when he witnessed this
series o$ eight beats, and then he was on the $loor, the sound o$ bamboo wind chimes plonking in his
ear.
Dresden dreamt vividly. He saw rippling rice terraces and tu$ts o$ sheep under a swimming
salmon sky. &hen there was his $ather, looking younger than he ever remembered, welding something
huge, blue light $lashing like an e+ploding star. 9onstellations on a clear, anticipatory night, and a girl.
&he images came %uickly, psychic strokes o$ watercolor over his eyes. Eau+ $ur. &oenail. 1eer
mug. 9ircuit board. Dusty calendar. &he $ace o$ a $orsaken $riend. Maglev. 4ectern. 9oral. 9harcoal.
Dresden picked himsel$ up o$$ the workshop $loor. Steadying himsel$ on one knee, he grasped
his water bottle, its cubes reduced to tiny pellets2how long had he $een out? Whether his $all had been
the cancer or the shock o$ seeing his soon!to!be heart beating be$ore his eyes, he didn#t know6 and he
didn#t care, either. )t didn#t matter, he decided. He had work to do.
Dresden stood up, brushed himsel$ o$$, and began the $inal build o$ his clone.
15
With the help o$ a horde o$ nanomachines, Dresden managed to $inish his sel$!replica be$ore the $irst
snow$all. Eor a $leeting moment in time, somewhere in the mountains beyond 9hung*u, two identical
sets o$ $ootprints had led to a $ortune in bio!printers.
Dresden tried not to think about the e$$ortless way his copy had carried the heavy machines, and
carelessly tossed them into a pile. 1ut it was true6 in its present state, his clone didn#t have a care in the
world. )t was like looking in a mirror and seeing emptiness staring back at you. Dresden didn#t like to
look it in the eyes. Salene#s () would change that, be the spark that brought it to li$e, so he could end
his.
Salene#s () had taken longer than she#d anticipated. Some strange minor detail o$ the human
mind had proven to be irritatingly elusive. Dresden was now a dead man walking, and $elt it. He#d told
Salene he had the $lu to e+plain his haggard appearance, and had been to countless doctors over the
past months. )n reality, he was eating ten grams o$ medicinal mushrooms per day *ust to stay upright,
and making $re%uent trips to the black clinics o$ Hong 'ong $or untested treatments. &he last time, they
had told him, we can#t help you anymore. &hat#s when he knew he was completely $ucked2even the
drug pushers o$ the underworld re$used to take his money. &hey were a$raid he might drop dead in their
shop, and that was *ust bad $or business.
Where are your slippers- Salene demanded.
.h, ) think ) le$t them downstairs. ,ust came up to get some tea, Dresden answered, $eebly.
)#ll glue those things to your $eet i$ ) have to, Salene threatened, ' could have made tea.
) thought you#d be busy coding, Dresden de$ended.
) am busy coding. 1ut not too busy to help my :ombie husband.
Soon enough* Dresden thought, and smiled without humor.
(ny luck cracking those last $ew lines- Dresden asked, his li$e hanging on the answer.
/ou#ll know it when ) do, Dre:, Salene answered simply.
So he waited, and time passed.
Dresden $ound that, in the interim2his last days, as he had begun to think o$ them2only music
could move him. (ll other $orms o$ entertainment became meaningless. ating seemed pointless. Work
unbearable. Dresden heard his li$e encapsulated in >lass#s Metamorphosis, $elt camaraderie in 9hopin#s
3aindrop =relude, and $ound peace in Moondog.
While hearing music as he#d never heard it be$ore was nice, what he really wanted was to spend
every remaining minute with Salene, but that would seem unusual, and his a$terli$e depended on her
completing her work, $ree o$ distraction. Dresden spent a great deal o$ his remaining time sitting
silently in a lounge chair on his deck and watching the ocean. .ne day he sat there $rom sunrise to
sunset without moving or saying a word. Salene went out o$ town $or the day and he had promised to
take care o$ himsel$. &o him, sitting and staring at the ocean seemed the best way to do that.
Erom his position on the deck, he could sometimes make out her re$lection in the open bay
windows o$ the bedroom6 $aint images o$ typing, pacing, sipping co$$ee.
&he hours congealed into a sticky stream which Dresden let carry him.
He was choking down a hand$ul o$ mushrooms that tasted like moldy tree bark one evening
when he heard a shout like a martial artist delivering her $inishing blow.
Dresden threw the remaining $ungus over the railing and hurried upstairs.
Salene was beaming, seemingly unable to $orm words.
Salene- Dresden prompted.
), ) did it. ) did it, Dre:.
/ou $inished the ()- Dresden asked, already knowing the answer.
/es. )t#s complete. )t#s per$ect, she gushed, embracing him.
&hat#s wonder$ul, dear, Dresden said, his eyes dri$ting involuntary towards the open window,
and the sea beyond.
&hey celebrated6 dinner and wine and one last night together. Dresden made doubly sure with
care$ul %uestions, between *okes and pro$essions o$ love, that the () was $ully $unctional and tested2it
was. He would upload his mind into his clone tomorrow.
Morning came, despite Dresden#s desire to live on in that night $orever. He made a copy o$ the
() program, kissed Salene goodbye, and went downstairs.
&he upload only took ten minutes. (ll his knowledge and memories, his personality, his entire
consciousness. &en minutes. &he new Dresden was ready.
)t was programmed to sel$!activate si+ seconds a$ter his heart stopped, which would happen
upon impact with the water, or shortly a$ter, once he had drowned. 9rabs would pick his bones clean,
and the crashing waves would take care o$ the rest. Dresden disrobed and dressed his clone in his
clothes. &hen, he put on a vest o$ woven vines with rocks around the waist.
&here was only one thing le$t to do.
Dresden walked heavily to the edge o$ his deck, climbed the railing, and threw himsel$ into the sea.
1ehind him, there was a gasp he#d never hear, a scream, the sound o$ running $eet.
)n the basement, the $irst $ully $unctional electronic humanoid woke up, con$used to $ind itsel$
in an empty house, utterly alone.
South Korea
Octo$er 0123