Tristan was methodically taking apart his hands when the doorbell chimed. He jumped at the sound, going to the door in such a hurry that he left behind the joints and pieces of his left hand on the worktable. All nine of Tristan’s eyes blinked and strobed expectantly, wanting to know if this was it, what he had been waiting for, the final piece. The post-bot offered no answers, merely hovering in front of Tristanâ€™s doorstep, humming a tune written specifically to pacify. But the box carried the familiar barcode, Isolde’s barcode, and Tristan was so excited he left the door open, the post-bot forgotten, and tore open the package with his one intact hand.
But he was careful, for he knew the fragility of the contents. It pained Tristan to do so, but he was careful. He had to be. What if he were to break it?
Nervously, with forced concentration through metal fingers, Tristan pried open the box, shifted aside the packing foam, and pulled out the small, translucent capsule. Three eyes telescoped out as Tristan took a closer look at the small object contained within the thick amber liquid.
Within, a tiny human heart floated in perfect stasis, undamaged by delivery. Tristan’s extended lenses accordioned back into his head, pleased. It was delicate work, a heart. He had made the right decision, ordering this piece from Isolde, and her talent as a tissue sculptor showed in every facet of the miniscule muscle. Tristan was a genius with metal and bone, flesh and glass, but he knew his limits. It was said that Tristan would never be willing to swallow his own pride and use parts crafted by specialists, and this desire for personal construction of each and every element had made him the most renowned robot-builder on the planet, fame far outstretching those who preferred to turn to others for parts.
It was this quirk, and the reputation attached to it, that had given Tristan his current commission. He accessed the images of the kindly bronze couple who had requested, bashful and stuttering, a biological child. Not just a biological shell on a metal framework, either, though they admired such creations from Tristan’s catalog. No, they wanted wholly organic sentient, the kind of which had not been seen on this world or any other for time immemorial. They had shown Tristan a data file of approximate proportions, told him expense was no object, assured him he was the right man for the job, and tottered off.
He could not complete the heart. For some reason, it was beyond him, though he tried over and over again. Four chambers, however, proved more difficult than they looked.
But the rest of the child he crafted with art and skill. So many hours and days lost to the building and forming of this small, soft thing, with its large head and tiny hands and round belly. So tiny, so delicate. And now, almost finished. He would place the heart within the small cage of bone, in between the languid lungs, seal it up and be finished. The child would live with blood pumping through its veins, it would laugh and scream and run and grow…
And grow. It would grow, wouldn’t it? That’s what biologics do. They grow and change. In mere years, the child would be unrecognizable.
Tristan stood in the middle of his workspace and tapped at his head with the stub of a left arm. He looked from the small pod containing the heart to the larger one containing the body and back again, frightened at how little of his masterpiece he actually could lay claim to.
It was such a small thing to open the pod and pour out the little heart and let it plop against the floor of the workspace. Tristan jumped up and down on the heart with steel heels, crushing the intricate valves and muscle fibers. Tristan didn’t stop until the doorbell chimed again, and the he didn’t turn around until he heard Isolde’s voice, as golden as her gleaming plating.
“I thought you might need another heart,” she said, blinking two of her five eyes. “Just in case something…happened to the first one. Though I didn’t expect…”
Tristan turned to face her, motioning with his handless arm at the mess about his feet. He tried to explain, but there were no words.
“It’s okay,” Isolde said, golden fingers gently caressing the dull metal of Tristan’s arm. “Let me help you finish. We can build this together.”