Missing Parts by Jemma Weir

The bucket of body parts sat on the edge of my desk. Some of the dark fluid had dribbled down one side after it had been brought in. I resisted the urge to clean it. There was no point yet.

I turned away, looking over the factory. The glass window covered most of the wall, giving me a clear view of the line below, finally running smoothly again. A small win, considering.

“It really wasn’t my fault, Alex,” John said, voice holding a note of impatience. He did not even glance at the bucket.

I exhaled slowly, trying to reign in my temper. I knew better than to let my emotions get the better of me. But if John said that one more time, he was going through the damn window.

The first production line worker was showing his colleague how to work with Empathy, a tricky business at the best of times requiring a delicate touch that few had. I’d thought John had it, though as I glanced at the bucket I knew I had been wrong.

With effort, I turned to face John. He was lounging in front of my desk, not looking worried in the slightest. This was not how the day should have gone. Empathy and Compassion were just as important as Fear, and Anger, though both of the later were far easy to deal with.

“You deliberately removed the parts,” I said, shaking my head as I held up my hand so John couldn’t talk over me. “Did you think we wouldn’t notice?”

“They weren’t the important parts. They can still function without them,” John said, sinking into his chair, losing some of his confidence.

“There is a level of quality we provide to our clients, a standard we have to follow,” I said slowly, breathing in deeply, then regretting it as I inhaled the faint scent of rot from the bucket. “You are not meeting that standard.”

I pressed the intercom on the phone. Two men entered, moving to stand on either side of the door, holding it open.

John curled his lip as he stood, walking to the door without any fuss, he paused, turning to add. “It’s slower your way. I made a choice so I could keep up with the demand.”

“It’s not your job to choose,” I said, then nodded at the guards, who closed the door behind them.

I turned back to the bucket. The missing pieces were stacked without any order, or care, and several one had been damaged. Even if I could find a way to fit them back in, they wouldn’t be the same.

I picked up a piece of Compassion, the heart-shaped human emotion was still warm enough that one of the Empathy pieces had stuck to it. I placed them both back in the bucket with a curse.

It was bad enough that a small percent of Humans got off the production line without all the right pieces. Those were accidents. But this was deliberate negligence. I was going to have to explain it to the Boss at the four O’clock meeting. I already knew how that was going to go. Who was going to be blamed.

An entire generation of Human serial killers were being born right now. It was going to play havoc with my statistics.

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