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The Story of Dr. Martel (Part 2)

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Ambrose stood on the deck of the steamer leaving for New Babbage, looking back one last time at Caledon. ‘Fools,’ he thought contemptuously. If they couldn’t recognize the potential of his work, fine–let another city-state be connected with his name when he finally revealed his inevitable success to the world.

He still wasn’t entirely sure what had happened–perhaps one of his colleagues at the free clinic had snooped where he shouldn’t–but somehow, he gathered that rumors had started to circulate–rumors about what happened to those who died at his charity clinic. All he knew for sure was that the numbers of poor folk coming to that clinic had drastically reduced, and even a fair number of the gentry had stopped consulting him. No one, not even his friends, not even Dr. Harrington, his mentor, had wanted to discuss the specifics of the rumors with him.

Dr. Martel knew he couldn’t fight the rumors–he certainly couldn’t have anyone investigating the free clinic too closely. The only thing he could realistically do was retreat, and find another place to pick up his work again. But he wasn’t going to retreat without at least one shot fired back. Conversations with the right people, repeatedly saying, with just the right mixture of bewilderment and disappointment, that a doctor who has, rightly or wrongly, lost the trust of his patients can no longer practice among them. The right amount of martyrdom in his demeanor should be enough to plant doubts among the fools, even if it was too late for them to repent.

It hadn’t taken him long to decide to relocate to New Babbage. A free-wheeling society, where folks were left in peace to operate as they willed–and with very sooty air, which would mean plenty of respiratory ailments that he could turn to serve his purpose when needed. And now that he was past 25 years of age, he no longer needed a trustee for his inheritance, which meant he no longer needed to operate a regular practice to earn his keep. He could concentrate on his free clinic–and his research.

During the trip to New Babbage, he spent a great deal of time thinking about the next steps for his research. His experiments in transplanting dog brains from one dog body to another had met with success…or so it seemed. Certainly, the dogs had acted broadly much the same. But he really didn’t know enough about the physiology of animals to be able to detect the subtle changes in physical or mental behavior that he needed to know about before he started working with transplanting a human brain into a human body.

But what could his next step be? He pondered this question for several hours, until an answer hit him. Cross-species transplantation, especially between radically different species, would likely produce the differences he would need to study. But not a human brain into an animal body–while some aspects of that were intriguing, especially if the human brain could somehow produce speech from the animal body, he still faced the same problem of not understanding animal physiology as well as human…even assuming he could find an animal cranium in which a human brain could fit.

An animal brain into a human body, though…that had potential. And the more he thought about it, the more intrigued he became. Would such a hybrid act solely like an animal, or would ingrained reflexes of the human body be able to override the animal instincts? An interesting question, indeed! With the course of his research now set in his mind, Dr. Martel slept, eager to reach New Babbage.

On arrival, he’d settled into a hotel for the short-term, while looking for more permanent living quarters, and places for his clinic and his laboratory. All three needs were quickly to be had in Clockhaven, along with a steady stream of the indigent in need of his services. He hired a couple of likely-looking young women who could be trained to give basic care to those staying in his clinic, and who could also watch over the place during the times he shut himself away in his laboratory. After a few months of that, he was ready to start his secret work, and transplant a dog’s brain into a human body.

There was just one problem. There weren’t actually that many dogs in New Babbage; even the few he saw roaming free usually turned out to be someone’s pet that had gotten loose. He wasn’t keen on tangling with outraged owners and squalling brats by mistakenly operating on an owned dog. As he strolled the docks near his clinic one fall afternoon, he began wondering if he’d have to import his experimental animals. But then he saw a few cats scatter from a half-eaten fish, and the idea hit. He may not have seen any feral dogs about, but there were plenty of feral cats about. And it was unlikely anyone would question the disappearance of a few cats here and there. He’d have to retrace some of his work and map out the cats’ brains, but he was sure that wouldn’t take too long.

It was the work of a few days to create the live trap he wanted, but soon, he was able to set it out, baited with tuna. It worked like a charm, and over the next several weeks, he thorough acquainted himself with the workings of the cats’ brains. He was ready to select a human test subject–as with his clinic in Caledon, that subject would be told they were terminally ill, and convinced to donate their body for medical research–and try his first cross-species transplantation.

It…did not go well. Oh, things seemed to proceed according to plan, at first. He took out the human brain, keeping the body alive with his machines. Then he removed the cat’s brain and placed inside the human’s cranium. He went through the *very* painstaking process of connecting nerves to brain, making sure the correct functions were connected to the correct areas of the brain. But when he applied the massive jolt of galvanic stimulation to the brain to wake it up, the bodily systems went haywire, and the patient died.

The same thing happened on his next attempt. And the next. After disposing of this third failed body, Dr. Martel had to conclude that the experiment couldn’t go on as he’d originally thought. The cat’s brain simply couldn’t understand the signals it were getting from the human’s nerves, causing the body’s systems to shut down. He sat down heavily, running his hands through his hair in frustration, wondering if there was any way to overcome this handicap.

Then a stray thought suddenly blossomed in his mind. What if he kept at least part of the human brain? What if he set up some connections between the cat brain and the human brain? Not a lot–just to those areas that would keep the body functioning correctly? Perhaps the human part of this–this hybrid brain could help the cat part. Reenergized, he’d leaped up out of his chair to go set out his trap in the waning winter’s chill. It was at least worth a try.

The operation he performed, once he got both cat and suitable human subjects, was by far the most complex he’d ever attempted. He *had* terminated the human life, at least temporarily, to fulfill the letter of the law, so to speak. Then he’d excised parts of the human brain out, to make room for the cat’s brain, and used axons from the excised parts to create the needed connections between the two brains. It took nearly a full day of intense work, and without the help of the automatons a local machinist and scientist had created for him, he never would have succeeded. But when he applied the galvanic stimulation, the body began to function on its own. He could have danced and cheered, if he hadn’t been so tired. Instead, he left the subject under the care of the automatons, while he got some much needed sleep on a nearby cot.

Dr. Martel woke to a strange cry, and sat upright on his cot, in time to see the hybrid fall off the surgical bed. He’d never, ever, seen such despairing panic before, not even on the humans who had endured his experimentation while conscious. He tried to disentangle himself from the cot’s blankets, to race to prepare a sedative. But it was too late–the labored breathing ended in a choking gasp, and by the time he got over there with his instruments, it was too late. Frustrating, but there it was. All he could do was learn and apply to the next experiment.

He already had the next human in mind. A fifteen-year-old girl had come to New Babbage recently, after the death of her parents. She was supposed to live with a great-aunt, her sole living relative. Unfortunately, by the time she arrived in New Babbage, the great-aunt was no longer living, either. She tried to find work, but a persistent cough gave rise to fears of consumption, and no one would hire her. So she came to his clinic, hoping for relief.

As always, it had been a simple task to convince her that her illness was terminal, and to secure her assent to use her body for research once she was dead. Now, all he needed was another cat. Strangely, though, it took several weeks to secure another one, thanks to that strangely resourceful black-and-white cat he’d finally witnessed in action. But that resourcefulness, combined with the youth of his human subject–if the cat mind could get past its panic, he’d finally have the success he needed for his study.

And from here, it would be only a matter of a few years until he was ready to try the final steps. His grandfather’s cousin–his benefactor–could live again in his lifetime. And Ambrose himself, once he taught the process to others, could extend life as long as he wished it.

A heady thought, indeed.

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One Comment

  1. Orpheus Angkarn Orpheus Angkarn April 10, 2011

    Perhaps this archival footage could be of some assistance….

    ((This disturbing film records the successful experiments in the
    resuscitation of life to dead animals (dogs), as conducted by Dr. S.S.
    Bryukhonenko at the Institute of Experimental Physiology and Therapy,
    Voronezh, U.S.S.R. Director: D.I. Yashin. Camera: E.V. Kashina.
    Narrator: Professor Walter B. Cannon. Introduced by Professor J.B.S.

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