"I was hoping to breed him," said Gregorius, the plant foreman.
He looked wistfully down at the slave who was sedated on the veterinarian's portable examination table. They were in one of the plant's break rooms.
"You can extract his DNA," said the vet.
The vet was a young woman just a year removed from her studies. She sprayed her hands with quick drying latex. She massaged them to create a thin protective layer then fanned her hands in the warm air.
"Vat-growns are never accepted in the slave quarters the way that natural-borns are. It leads to too much friction. I don't really know why, but who knows what goes on in their primitive minds."
"I do," said the vet. She put her hands in the slave's mouth and removed a bloody tooth that was hanging by a thread. "That's what you pay me for."
"Do you think you can reprogram him? Is there enough of his brain left?"
"I think he is very salvageable, though his face will be permanently disfigured."
"I don't work them because they're pretty."
The vet put the backs of her wrists on her hips and sighed deeply.
"Look, you've got to treat your stock better. It's not just that they're expensive units they're...living beings. They feel pain."
"I really don't care," said Gregorius with a touch of indignation. "I just need them to work. They can't be getting ideas that they're people, because they're not. I mean they only have thirty-eight chromosomes, right? That's not human, not even close."
"You're missing the point--"
"Are you some kind of activist for them?" Gregorius scanned her her suspiciously.
"No!" said the vet. "It's just, they feel pain. Do you like it when you feel pain? Don't cause them pain. That's all I'm saying."
"Don't tell me how to do my job!" bellowed Gregorius. He slapped his hand down on the exam table and the slave bounced slightly.
The vet looked at the floor, her heart thumping against her rib cage.
"I'm not--that's not..." She sighed. "We don't have to argue about this. You can wait outside while I patch him up and reprogram him. It'll be about two hours, if you want to come back later."
"You better not give him any ideas. If you do, we're taking our business elsewhere."
Gregorius left the room and when he was gone, the vet unpeeled the latex from her right hand. She picked up the slave's warm hand and turned it over, looking at the palm. It was pocked and swollen with callouses. She gently placed his hand back down and then stroked some of his stray hair away from his forehead.
"Oh gentle creature," she whispered. "I'm sorry I can't just put you down. But I can wipe your cruel memories. Life will be fresh again, for awhile. It's not right, but there it will be."