Chapter 29

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Dvorak slips on a pair of surgical gloves before giving Zandra a shrewd look and slipping past a curtain blocking the view of an adjacent room. She's thankfully spared making awkward conversation with the stoners by his quick return. He holds something familiar in his hands.

"Amanda," Zandra says in a panic, calling out in the direction of the room. "It's Zandra. Are you in there? Are you alright?"

By the looks of the severed tube of flesh in Dvorak's hands, she's not. Down another finger.

"Your alarm pleases me greatly, although I'm not surprised. My work is the best in the world," Dvorak says. He scolds Zandra with a wag of the severed finger. "No shouting down here. We like to keep things quiet."

Zandra gets a better look at the finger. It's similar to the other two she received in the mail, down to the purple nail polish.

"I suppose next you'll tell me these are my daughter's fingers," Zandra says, not forgetting the photos of the woman.

"Not quite, but I'm enjoying the perplexed look on your face," Dvorak says, his tone growing more and more condescending with every syllable. "Those photos, they were just to fuck with you, cut through the static to get your attention. And now that I have it completely, I'd say it worked."

"Congratulations," Zandra says.

"Thank you. Tell me, have you heard of 3D printing before?" Dvorak says.

Ever the Luddite, Zandra admits she hasn't, so Dvorak fills her in. It's the process by which three-dimensional objects are created by layering materials, typically plastic, into place using a machine called a "3D printer." The technology is evolving rapidly, with everything from screws and toys to gun parts and medical devices available at the push of a button.

"But here's the kicker. To date, no one has pulled off a 3D printed body part indistinguishable from the original. Until now," Dvorak says. He points the finger at his chest and smiles. "You're looking at the future, Zandra. Imagine a future where you could conjure any body part you need using 3D printing technology."

Zandra glances at the medical alert bracelet on Dvorak's wrist. He's a kidney transplant recipient.

That's one way to fix the organ shortage.

"So you're doing what, asking me to invest?" Zandra says.

"I'll get to that. Hear me out first," Dvorak says, the pace of his words quickening. "The technology I've built right here in this basement will change the trajectory of the human race forever. The ability to regenerate our bodies on command is the key to immortality. Imagine how different the world would be if we knew no one could die. We'd be living gods, all working toward building a utopia here on earth. No more of the ridiculous follies of mankind. Political borders, gone. All of those awful -isms, gone. Superstitions about the supernatural, gone.  Our technology would be the supernatural."

He may be smoking his own product after all. I can think of plenty of reasons why people need an expiration date.

"The police couldn't tell those fingers you sent me were fakes, I'll give you that," Zandra says.

"But they weren't fakes, that's the thing. Amanda gave me a sample of her blood and allowed me to scan her hands. A few keystrokes later and I had a whole batch as genuine as the day she was born," Dvorak says.

Zandra still isn't convinced, but it's not worth getting into right now. As a kidney transplant recipient, Dvorak should know that swapping in a new body part isn't as easy as changing a tire. The body's immune system will attack the new real estate, which is why Dvorak will have to take immunosuppressants the rest of his life. Without those, his new kidney would die. That's on top of the hundreds of biological criteria that go into successfully matching a donor organ to a recipient. The same would apply for any other body part.

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