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For nearly as long as he could remember, Ambrose Martel had been fascinated by the brain. He wanted to do nothing more with his life than to try to discover as much about the workings of the brain as he possibly could. He studied hard in school, and excelled. But diligence can only take one so far; money was needed for the best schools, and that was something his family didn’t have. He might have continued to labor in obscurity, had it not been for the proverbial rich relative.
His grandfather’s cousin, to be exact. They met when Ambrose was eleven, on the occasion of his grandfather’s funeral. The elder Mr. Martel was asking all the youngsters the basic questions any elder asks children–what year of schooling they were in, what they liked to study, etc. And like most elders, he wasn’t particularly interested or enthused by the answers he received…until he got to Ambrose.
By this time, Ambrose was already attempting to further his knowledge on his own, studying the brains and nervous systems of frogs and mice, and studying from whatever books he could get his hands on. The elder Mr. Martel seemed keenly interested in Ambrose’s studies, and the two of them spent several hours together in close talk. His parents didn’t say anything, though they knew, as he did not, of Mr. Martel’s riches, and they hoped something might come of it.
Sure enough, in a few weeks, a letter from Mr. Martel arrived, informing them that, if they were so inclined, he was prepared to pay for Ambrose to attend a top preparatory school and, assuming his studies went well, for university study afterwards. They were all very much inclined, and Ambrose soon began his new studies, determined to make the most of this opportunity.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Five years of unremitting study later, the now sixteen-year-old Ambrose was ready to graduate. And there Mr. Martel was, with news that Ambrose had been accepted to a prestigious university and medical school in Caledon, coincidentally (or perhaps not) not far from where Mr. Martel lived. So, without missing a beat, Ambrose entered his collegiate work. As he grew older, though, and somewhat wiser in the ways of the world, he began to wonder more and more what Mr. Martel was getting out of this. A week before he received his undergraduate degree, he found out.
Ambrose had dinner with Mr. Martel once a month, and their after-dinner conversations were usually largely comprised of his studies. This evening was no different, as Mr. Martel, escorting him to the library, asked, “So, my boy, are you ready to start your full medical studies?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Ready and eager!”
“Good, good. And have you given thought to what you’ll do after that?”
“Well,” Ambrose replied, settling down in his usual chair by the fire, “what I’d like best is to devote myself to medical research, though I know it likely won’t be easy to win such a position right away.”
“You’re still wanting to study the brain, I take it?”
“Oh, yes, sir.” Ambrose felt the old man’s keen gaze, and wondered if he was finally going to reveal something.
“Excellent! I’m keenly interested in the subject myself, you see.” Mr. Martel looked at Ambrose shrewdly. “And I’m sure you’d like to know why.” Ambrose nodded, and Mr. Martel leaned forward a little, eyes alight.
“I’m not ready to give up my life yet–at least, not permanently. There’s so much more I want to see, to do, to learn. My mind is still sharp, but my body is definitely breaking down. But if my brain could be transplanted to a new body, one that’s young and healthy…And just think, Ambrose. Think what *you* could achieve if you had more time than your allotted ‘three-score and ten.'”
Ambrose did think of it, and his eyes caught the same fire burning in Mr. Martel’s eyes.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to find someone with the interest and intelligence to carry forth such work,” Mr. Martel continued. “When I talked to you after your grandfather’s funeral, I decided to take a chance on you, and so I paid for your education. I think it will pay off.”
“But…” Ambrose faltered. “I still have several years of schooling left, and you–“
“Yes, I probably don’t have more than a few years left of my life. But brains can be preserved, can they not? I shall make a stipulation in my will that you be permitted to remove and preserve my brain, and then, if and when you feel ready in the future, you can transplant it into a suitable body.”
Ambrose caught the older man’s phrasing. “Ahh, so you’re realistic about this.”
“Oh, yes. I certainly mean to give myself every chance at success, but I know there are no guarantees. Study hard, do your best–lay the groundwork, if nothing else–and I’ll consider myself well repaid.”
The next years saw a continuation of Ambrose’s medical studies. Mr. Martel did indeed pass away three years after their important conversation, leaving Ambrose nearly his entire estate and fortune, though it would be held in trust for him until he turned 25. And, of course, also leaving his brain, to be carefully preserved by Ambrose, under the supervision of his teachers. Ambrose found a mentor in Dr. Michael Harrington, a professor and researcher specializing in the structure and workings of the brain. He learned a great deal from Dr. Harrington, and even discussed some of his dreams for his own research–though carefully, and never getting too close to his ultimate goal. After all, if it were easy to find people of like mind when it came to experimentation on and transplantation of human brains, Mr. Martel wouldn’t have had to wait so long to find someone to sponsor in the work.
So during that time, he concentrated on exploring and experimenting on animal brains, especially dogs. He learned to use galvanic stimulation on their brains to create reactions, even in dead animals, and so, through painstaking work, could map the brain, learning which areas controlled which actions. Though the animal brains weren’t as complex as human brains, he knew he needed such practice for that later study.
Ambrose had hoped that, upon graduation, he could move right away into a teaching and research position at the university. There was even such a position open, as an elderly professor was retiring that year. Unfortunately, he ran headlong into university politics, which dictated that another recent graduate–not quite as good scholastically, but better connected with university benefactors–would receive the appointment.
“Don’t worry about it,” Dr. Harrington had told him. “Just set yourself up in a good practice for a few years. With your reputation, it shouldn’t take you long to become the doctor of choice among our well-heeled citizens. Build those connections, and you’ll soon find yourself supported for the next appointment to come along.”
“Hmmm,” Dr. Martel had replied, suddenly struck by a thought. “And if I opened a free clinic elsewhere in Caledon for those less fortunate…”
Dr. Harrington looked at him shrewdly, and smiled. “Yes, charity can often enhance the reputation. Good of you to volunteer.”
So, with Dr. Harrington’s help, Dr. Martel set up his office on a fashionable street, and soon found his days full of consultations and work. But he kept his word and, with the able assistance of two other doctors, created his free clinic in a poorer area of Caledon. What no one knew, though, was that this free clinic was serving his own purpose and obsession.
Among those who came to the free clinic were many who had no family or friends, and were in poor health, though not in danger of dying. But when Dr. Martel needed a new experimental subject, it was easy enough to convince one of those poor unfortunates that they *were* dying, and move them to an area of the clinic to which he restricted access. It was also easy to convince these people to sign an agreement to allow him to use their bodies for medical research when they died. Once that was done, he allowed some time to pass by–he varied the amount, sure that would keep suspicions at bay–and then gave them an injection that quietly, painlessly passed them into death.
Then his real work could begin–applying galvanic stimulation to map the human brain. On occasion, he actually kept his subject alive and conscious while he exposed their brain to his work, so that they would be able to answer his questions about what the stimulus was doing. He always worked very quickly in those cases, though, not wanting to have them suffer more than was needful before he gave them the release of death.
This wasn’t all he was doing in his secluded laboratory. After two years, he felt confident enough to being experimenting in actual brain transplants. He started with animals, of course, needing to start on their simpler brain structures and nervous systems. He created a host of small but powerful machines that could keep bodies and brains from dying completely while he operated on them. And again, progress was steady.
He kept up this double–even triple–work for nearly three years.
((To be continued…))