Private Parts

“Hello Sami, its Alfred from AMP Co. How are you doing over there?”

“What a nice surprise,” said Sami. He said it to be polite, but it wasn’t really. He hadn’t seen or heard from Alfred for three months, ever since the government had declared his 3D printing lab a National Strategic Asset, banned him from opening to the public, and made him a government employee. At the same time, they had repurposed his casual assistant, Sami, to the Transfer Station to run the 3D Unit there, deemed an acceptable public interface for the new technology.

Sami said, “I am doing some good work here. Maybe not pushing the boundaries of science like you are, but I am playing my part in helping humanity. It’s open…”

“Did you say part?”

“Yes, I said part. Why?”

“I need help with a project. Can you come over?”

Last time Sami tried to visit Alfred, he had refused to let him in, and an immediate text had come through, repurposing Sami. He said, “Isn’t your work secret now? I don’t want to get into trouble again.” The Authority knew everything, always adding information to your files. He didn’t want to become a repeat offender. He had heard what happened to them.

“It is secret, but I’ve checked with The Authority. They say you can help me.”

Sami was busy today at the 3D Unit. He had a range of appointments booked to prototype products, print components, and create unusual gifts. His rag picker assistant, Jamz, was still at school, so he couldn’t just leave.

“Look ear!” said Alfred. “You are allowed to be nosy, as long as you don’t mouth off about it. Just come and see, and then give me a hand.”

What is he talking about? Sami wondered. Some kind of private joke? Alfred really is a strange guy.

Sami went over later. Alfred opened the door immediately when Sami arrived. He must have seen him on CCTV. “Come in, come in, my friend.”

Sami saw a selection of artificial body parts scattered around the lab. He understood the puns now. They were pretty tasteless, considering.

Alfred watched his face. “Sorry about that, I was being subliminal.”

A shaven-headed oriental man stepped out of a doorway. Alfred said, “Meet Yojin. I am afraid he doesn’t speak English. He has come here from China after suffering a serious kung fu accident.”

Sami wondered about the “serious kung fu accident.” Guru Baba had once told him about kung fu’s relationship to the power called Tao. It bends like a reed, rather than being stiff like an oak, and has the fluidity of water, the most powerful element, wearing away even stone. Maybe Yojin needed to improve his alignment.

“He was more of a hustler than a fighter. One day he offended a real kung fu master, who removed half his face. He said that was appropriate punishment for half a man. But can you tell that? Take a look. You can’t!”

It was true. Yojin didn’t look at all disfigured. Sami asked, “Has he had plastic surgery?”

Alfred looked very pleased, and said, “Yojin!”

Yojin removed half his face, beneath which was a mass of horrific congealed tissue. His nose, left cheek, left eye, left ear and half his scalp came away with the mask. He stood erect, bravely, still lacking fluidity.

Alfred said, “I scanned him yesterday, did processing overnight, and printed off the replacement tissue using a dollar’s worth of materials this morning. This is the future of cosmetic surgery. What do you think?”

Sami wondered if Yojin was now more himself, or less himself. He looked different on the outside, but had his interior also changed?

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