The Complete Stories (Page 256)

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The patient shrugged. "If I ever break a rib, I’ll have that replaced by titanium, also. Replacing bones is easy. Anyone can have that done anytime. I’ll be as metallic as I want to be, doctor."

"That is your right, if you so choose. However, it is only fair to tell you that although no metallic cyber-heart has ever broken down mechanically, a number have broken down electronically."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that every cyber-heart contains a pacemaker as part of its structure. In the case of the metallic variety, this is an electronic device that keeps the cyber in rhythm. It means an entire battery of miniaturized equip-

ment must be included to alter the heart’s rhythm to suit an individual’s emotional and physical state. Occasionally something goes wrong there and people have died before that wrong could be corrected."

"I never heard of such a thing."

"I assure you it happens."

"Are you telling me it happens often?"

"Not at all. It happens very rarely."

"Well, then, I’ll take my chance. What about the plastic heart? Doesn’t that contain a pacemaker?"

"Of course it does, Senator. But the chemical structure of a fibrous cyber-heart is quite close to that of human tissue. It can respond to the ionic and hormonal controls of the body itself. The total complex that need be inserted is far simpler than in the case of the metal cyber."

"But doesn’t the plastic heart ever pop out of hormonal control?"

"None has ever yet done so."

"Because you haven’t been working with them long enough. Isn’t that so?"

The surgeon hesitated. "It is true that the fibrous cybers have not been used nearly as long as the metallic."

"There you are. What is it anyway, doctor? Are you afraid I’m making myself into a robot . . . into a Metallo, as they call them since citizenship went through?"

"There is nothing wrong with a Metallo as a Metallo. As you say, they are citizens. But you’re not a Metallo. You’re a human being. Why not stay a human being?"

"Because I want the best and that’s a metallic heart. You see to that."

The surgeon nodded. "Very well. You will be asked to sign the necessary permissions and you will then be fitted with a metal heart."

"And you’ll be the surgeon in charge? They tell me you’re the best."

"I will do what I can to make the changeover an easy one."

The door opened and the chair moved the patient out to the waiting nurse.

The med-eng came in, looking over his shoulder at the receding patient until the doors had closed again.

He turned to the surgeon. "Well, I can’t tell what happened just by looking at you. What was his decision?"

The surgeon bent over his desk, punching out the final items for his records. "What you predicted. He insists on the metallic cyber-heart."

"After all, they are better."

"Not significantly. They’ve been around longer; no more than that. It’s this mania that’s been plaguing humanity ever since Metallos have become citizens. Men have this odd desire to make Metallos out of themselves.

They yearn for the physical strength and endurance one associates with them."

"It isn’t one-sided, doc. You don’t work with Metallos but I do; so I know. The last two who came in for repairs have asked for fibrous elements."

"Did they get them?"

"In one case, it was just a matter of supplying tendons; it didn’t make much difference there, metal or fibre. The other wanted a blood system or its equivalent. I told him I couldn’t; not without a complete rebuilding of the structure of his body in fibrous material. … I suppose it will come to that some day. Metallos that aren’t really Metallos at all, but a kind of flesh and blood."

"You don’t mind that thought?"

"Why not? And metallized human beings, too. We have two varieties of intelligence on Earth now and why bother with two. Let them approach each other and eventually we won’t be able to tell the difference. Why should we want to? We’d have the best of both worlds; the advantages of man combined with those of robot."

"You’d get a hybrid," said the surgeon, with something that approached fierceness. "You’d get something that is not both, but neither. Isn’t it logical to suppose an individual would be too proud of his structure and identity to want to dilute it with something alien? Would he want mongrelization?"

"That’s segregationist talk."

"Then let it be that." The surgeon said with calm emphasis, "I believe in being what one is. I wouldn’t change a bit of my own structure for any reason. If some of it absolutely required replacement, I would have that replacement as close to the original in nature as could possibly be managed. I am myself; well pleased to be myself; and would not be anything else."

He had finished now and had to prepare for the operation. He placed his strong hands into the heating oven and let them reach the dull red-hot glow that would sterilize them completely. For all his impassioned words, his voice had never risen, and on his burnished metal face there was (as always) no sign of expression.

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