Dr. Zimmerman sat across from his creation, Grundie, a human being made von Grund auf neu. From scratch, starting with basic protein sequencers and folders, as well as mitochondrial shells constructed with nanotech assemblers among many other things, he’d created the cell that grew into an embryo, accelerated into adult form, and now held a conversation with him.
Two guards stood by the door. Dr. Shackelford took the seat next to the doctor. “Grundie, I told Doctor Zimmerman about your request. He’s here to talk to you about it.”
Zimmerman eyeballed Shackelford. “Don’t talk to him like a child. We’ve got to make him feel like a grown person.”
“Yeah,” said Shackelford. “He can hear you.”
Zimmerman shook his head and addressed Grundie. “Why did you ask for these changes in your dietary plan?”
“I asked for changes in my diet yesterday.”
“I know, but why?”
Grundie’s cheek twitched. “A compulsion drives me to drink blood. Several pints, preferably human, should be added to my daily intake.” His cheek smoothened into his normal placid expression.
“Grundie, you’ve been quite amazing. Do you know that?” Dr. Zimmerman sat forward and tapped the table. “We’ve calculated your nutrition requirements precisely for you, and until now you’ve eaten exactly what they were and no more. Why the sudden change?”
“A compulsion to drink blood animates me,” said Grundie.
“So you said,” remarked Shackelford.
“Where are these compulsions coming from,” asked Zimmerman. “And why do you want to indulge them?”
“I am compulsions,” he said.
Zimmerman furrowed his brow. “That doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“That is,” said Grundie.
Zimmerman grunted. “Grundie, we made you out of the best of everything. You’re literally perfect. Not only that, we’ve given you evolutionary precipitates that will adapt you and achieve greater superiority in a single generation than natural humans could ever hope for in a hundred. You’ve seen how much we’ve deteriorated in your acculturation program. We desperately need you. You’re our saving grace.”
Zimmerman held his hands together as if in prayer. “Before any of that can happen, you have to be prepared to integrate into society, and this isn’t acceptable. Do you understand?”
“If you will not provide the blood, integrate me and I will take care of it.”
“Why do you say that?”
Grundie’s eyes tightened to a squint and both cheeks twitched. “Integrate me.”
Zimmerman sat back. “What will you do if we integrate you?”
“I will find blood and drink it.”
Zimmerman scoffed. “We can’t let you do that. Look, Grundie, you have to find your way around this before we can ever integrate you. No blood—especially no human blood. Otherwise you can never be free.”
“I will find my way around it,” he said.
“You will?” asked Zimmerman.
Zimmerman gazed at his creation for almost a minute. “Okay. We’ll revisit this in a week.” He gestured to the guards, who escorted Grundie out.
“He seemed to understand,” said Shackelford.
Zimmerman mumbled. “Find my way around it.”
“Should I get him rarer meats?” asked Shackelford.
“No. In fact, start finding alternatives for meat.” Zimmerman buzzed his lips. “Double his guard, and don’t deviate from his routine without my say-so.”
“All right. What are you thinking?”
“I’m beginning to understand him.” His creation. His child. Zimmerman had felt like a real father. “It’s a blessing. And it’s a curse.”