“Well, yes; I knew I couldn't move it, but I can't feel anything wrong. What's happened there?”

“Your face stopped most of the rest of the flask, apparently.”

“Then how can I be seeing at all, and how is it that I talk so easily?”

“If I knew that much about probability, I'd stop working for a living and take up professional gambling. When I first saw you after your face had been cleaned off and before the glass had been taken out, I wondered for a moment whether there hadn't been something planned about the arrangement of the slivers. It was unbelievable, but that's the way it happened. They say anything can happen once, but I'd advise you not to catch any more articles of glassware with your face,”

“Just what was it like, Marco? Give me the details.”

“Frankly, I'd rather not. There are record photos, of course, but if I have anything to say about it you won't see them until the rebuilding is done. Then you can look in a mirror to reassure yourself when the photos get your stomach. No” — as Stubbs tried to interrupt—“I respect what you probably think of as your clinical detachment, but I doubt very strongly that you could maintain it in the face of the real thing. I'm pretty sure that I couldn't, if it were my face.” Mancini's thoughts flashed back to the long moments when he had been dragging his ruined leg across the Shark's deck toward the bleeding boy, and felt a momentary glow — maybe that disclaimer had been a little too modest. He stuck to his position, however.

Rick didn't argue too hard, for another thought had suddenly struck his mind. “You're using regeneration on my face, without asking me whether I want it the way you did with my hand. Right?”

“That's right,” Mancini said.

“That means I'm so badly damaged that ordinary healing won't take care of it,”

Mancini pursed his lips and thought carefully before answering. “You'd heal, all right,” he admitted at last. “You might just possibly, considering your age, heal without too much scarring. I'd hesitate to bet on that, though, and the scars you could come up with would leave you quite a mess.”

Stubbs lay silent for a time, staring at the featureless ceiling. The mechanic was sure his expression would have been thoughtful had enough of the young face been visible to make one. He could not, however, guess at what was bothering the boy. As far as Mancini could guess from their work together there was no question of personal cowardice — for that matter, the mechanic could not see what there might be to fear. His profession made him quite casual about growing tissue, natural or artificial, on human bodies or anywhere else. Stubbs was in no danger of permanent disfigurement, crippling damage, or even severe pain; but something was obviously bothering the kid,

“Marco,” the question came finally, “just where does detailed genetic control end, in tissue growth, and statistical effects take over?”

“There's no way to answer that both exactly and generally. Genetic factors are basically probability ones, but they're characterized by regions of high probability which we call stability wells. I told you about fingerprints, but each different situation would call for a different specific answer.”

“It was what you said about prints that made me think of it. You're going to rebuild my face, you say. You won't tell me just how much rebuilding has to be done, but you admitted I could heal normally. If you rebuild, how closely will you match my original face? Does that statistical factor of yours take over somewhere along the line?”

“Statistical factors are everywhere, and work throughout the whole process,” replied Mancini without in the least meaning to be evasive. “I told you that. By rights, your new face should match the old as closely as the faces of identical twins match each other, and for the same reason. I grant that someone who knows the twins really well can usually tell them apart, but no one will have your old face around for close comparison. No one will have any doubt that it's you, I promise.”

“Unless something goes wrong.”

“If it goes wrong enough to bother you, we can always do it over.” “But it might go really wrong.”

Mancini, who would have admitted that the sun might not rise the next day if enough possible events all happened at once, did not deny this, though he was beginning to feel irritated. “Does this mean that you don't want us to do the job? Just take your chances on the scars?” he asked.

“Why do scars form, anyway?” was the counter. “Why can't regular, normal genetic material reproduce the tissue it produced in the first place? It certainly does sometimes; why not always?”

“That's pretty hard to explain in words. It has to do with the factors which stopped your nose growing before it became an elephant's trunk — or more accurately, with the factors which stopped your overall growth where they did. I can describe them quite completely, and I believe quite accurately, but not in Basic English.”

“Can you measure those factors in a particular ease?”

“Hm-m-m, yes; fairly accurately, anyway.” Stubbs pounced on this with an eagerness which should have told the mechanic something.

“Then can't you tell whether these injuries, in my particular case, will heal completely or leave sears?”

“I…well, I suppose so. Let's see; it would take…hm-m-m; I'll have to give it some thought. It's not regular technique. We usually just rebuild. What's your objection, anyway? All rebuilding really means is that we set things going and then watch the process, practically cell by cell, and correct what's happening if it isn't right — following the plans you used in the first place.”

“I still don't see why my body can't follow them without your help.”

“Well, no analogy is perfect; but roughly speaking, it's because the cells which will have to divide to produce the replacement tissue had the blueprints which they used for the original construction stamped 'production complete; file in reference storage' some years ago, and the stamp marks covered some of the lines on the plans.” Mancini's temper was getting a little short, as his tone showed. Theoretically his leg should not have been hurting him, but he had been standing on it longer than any repairman would have advised at its present stage of healing. And why did the kid keep beating around the bush?

Stubbs either didn't notice the tone or didn't care.

“But the plans — the information — that's still there; even I know that much molecular biology. I haven't learned how to use your analysis gear yet, much less to reduce the readings; but I can't see why you'd figure it much harder to read the plans under the 'file' stamp than to work out the ability of that magnetite slime to digest iron from the base configuration of a single cell's genes.”

“Your question was why your body couldn't do it; don't change the rules in the middle of the game. I didn't say that I couldn't; I could. What I said was that it isn't usual, and I can't see what will be gained by it; you'd at least double the work. I'm not exactly lazy, but the work at best is difficult, precise, and time consuming. If someone were to paint your portrait and had asked you whether you wanted it on canvas or paper, would you dither along asking about the brand of paint and the sizes of brushes he was going to use.

“I don't think that's a very good analogy. I just want to know what to expect…'

“You can't know what to expect. No one can. Ever. You have to play the odds. At the moment, the odds are so high in your favor that you'd almost be justified in saying that you know what's going to happen. All I'm asking is that you tell me straight whether or not you want Bert and me to ride control as your face heals, or let it go its own way.”

“But if you can grow a vine that produces ham sandwiches instead of pumpkins, why…' Mancini made a gesture of impatience. He liked the youngster and still hoped to recruit him, but there are limits.

“Will you stop sounding like an anti-vivisectionist who's been asked for a statement on heart surgery and give me a straight answer to a straight question? The chances are all I can give you. They are much less than fifty-fifty that your face will come out of this without scars on its own. They are much better than a hundred to one that even your mother will never know there's been a controlled regeneration job done on you unless you tell her. You're through general education, legally qualified to make decisions involving your own life and health, and morally obligated to make them instead of lying there dithering. Let's have an answer.”

For fully two minutes, he did not get it. Rick lay still, his expression hidden in dressings, eyes refusing to meet those of the man who stood by the repair table. Finally, however, he gave in.

“All right, do your best. How long did you say it would take?”

“I don't remember saying, but probably about two weeks for your face. You'll be able to enjoy using a mirror long before we get that hand unplugged, unless we're remarkably lucky with the graft.”

“When will you start?”

“As soon as I've had some sleep. Your blood is back to normal, your general pattern is in the machine;

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