TC-Brains

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LCA: In the conference room of the lab where Dr. Amanda Chase was introduced to Director Earl Roland her eyes kept drifting to what she thought were two detailed models of human brains cast in white plastic, sitting in the center of the long table. "May I have a closer look?"

LCB: "Most certainly," said Roland, grinning, as he pushed both of them closer to her side of the table.

Examining both of them quite thoroughly, she said, "They are both remarkably accurate, except for this structure at the back. I fail to see the point of making that."

LCC: Roland's grin became an full smile after that remark. "Ah, you must think these are sculptures of some sort, or perhaps casts made in plastic of a mold taken after the demise of a living person. But what you have in your hands are actual relics, Dr. Chase."

LCD: Amanda eyed both Roland and Dr. Trochmann with a quick flash of indignation, which they fully expected. She said, "The color is all wrong, no matter what solution you used to preserve them. Brains of this age would be an unsightly dark yellowish-brown. And softer."

LCE: Trochmann said, "Dr. Chase, do you see the pins inside the cup of bone shaped like the letter 'D'?"

She looked closely, but shook her head. "I see none."

"Oh, you must be looking at Gabriel Shybear," said Roland. "The other one belonged to Kimberly Shybear.

LCF: That one still has the pins."

Amanda looked at the other relic and saw rings of black pins arranged with geometric precision. It was the precision which spurred her unbelief.

"The pins you see would grow back if they were broken off, at least they would in a living subject.

LCG: There was a subject named Rebekah Redstar who was also afflicted with this change. She held Gabriel's brain in her hands even as you are holding Kim's in your own, and sabotaged it. She broke off all the pins. So we learned they do not grow in a subject who is dead."

LCH: She said, "Even healthy living things do not develop with such mechanical precision, yet you say this is a disease? Or perhaps a mutation? So much the worse for your claim."

Roland said, "If you look more closely, you will see where we cut tissue strips as samples.

LCI: We have examined these samples under extreme magnification, and there is always more detail. But it is the nature of the detail which is most interesting. How did Director Tolson put it, Ian?"

Trochmann remembered well. "He compared it to a bridge across a stream.

LCJ: He said that nature, with all the time in the world, still only made bridges by mindlessly rolling boulders into a rough line, or maybe having a log drift downstream and get caught by boulders, and that is what we see with how evolution made our nervous system.

LCK: But this is like someone poured concrete over the boulders, then cut up the log for timber to build a functional and efficient truss."

"So you think this is artificial," mused Amanda.

Roland said, "That is something I'd like to find out. And if so, who did it, and why."

LCJ: Dr. Trochmann asked a question. "Dr. Chase, in your professional opinion, what is the mechanism by which human beings store long-term memories?"

She thought about that for a moment, then said, "Even now, we only have a variety of competing models, all in a state of flux.

LCK: And when you talk about them, you have to specify what level you're referring to. For instance, I am of the opinion that what we call autobiographical memory is stored, at the highest level, in the dream format. But you may be asking about the lowest, physical level."

LCL: Trochmann nodded his head, so she continued.

"The brain has layers upon layers of neurons arranged in networks that are connected more or less randomly, but order can be imposed on them in much the same way you can tread through a field of grass and create paths.

LCM: So every time you get behind the wheel of a car, your movements seem almost automatic. You call it 'muscle memory' but it's really your mind rehearsing some well-worn paths in the grass. But other paths double back around and make loops. These are nagging memories.

LCN: You might find yourself rehearsing something you did in the past that was very stupid, something that nobody else in the world but you remembers, yet you process them with emotions of regret, or shame. Those are the loops. But they're important in making you who you are."

LCO: "Thank you, Dr. Chase. And would you find it safe to say that three years after death, a human brain could not, by any means, still retain memories in any meaningful way?"

"Not even three minutes after death," said Amanda. "It begins to turn to slurry almost immediately."

LCP: "And yet Deputy Director Tolson reported that a woman named Rebekah Redstar, who exhibited the same D-shaped cup at the back of her head, was able to connect herself to the brain of Gabriel Shybear with a cable prepared specifically for that purpose.

LCQ: Director Tolson reported that this Rebekah, after making contact with Gabriel's brain, knew about and reacted to actions and conversations that only he, Gabriel Shybear, and Director Roland had witnessed, words and events which had been conveyed to no others.

LCR: Amanda shifted her glance to Earl Roland, as though seeking confirmation, which he provided simply by not objecting to what Dr. Trochmann said.

Trochmann continued. "We have concluded that that these brains are preserved in both the external and internal sense."

LCS: Amanda chewed on that, then said, "Do we all agree these are not living brains?"

Trochmann and Roland both made affirmation of that.

"And you told me these pins at the back, if they were damaged, would grow back, but only if the subject was still alive."

Both men agreed.

LCT: "In that event, gentlemen, I fail to see how these relics can be, as you claimed, preserved in an internal sense. It takes a great deal of energy for neurons to propagate information. The brain alone consumes fully a fifth of all the energy used by a human body."

LCU: "Science has advanced quite rapidly over the last thirty-five years," said Trochmann, "but we knew, even in the beginning, the dynamics of this change. It moved from neuron to neuron and retained all the pathways, but the ion channels were replaced with something else.

LCV: Instead of atoms of potassium and chlorine and sodium being pumped in and out of cell walls to make a wave, like letters moving on a marquee, you have long gadgets with sliding rods. It's mechanical now, not electrical. Memories are stored in the position of the rods.

LCW: That, at least, is what we discovered when we put samples of these relics under an electron microscope, and if you care to take your own samples, Dr. Chase, and have a look for yourself, it is most certain you will find that to be true as well."

LCX: Amanda removed her glasses to rub her eyes as she shook her head. Director Roland interpreted this as an expression of exasperation. He said, "Dr. Chase, we are pleased that you have joined our project, and it is my sincere hope that you will help us finally crack this nut."

LCY: "But if you believe we are executing a complicated ruse for some obscure but nefarious purpose, we are ready to let you take all the time you need to investigate all the evidence for yourself, with any apparatus you require and under any conditions you name yourself."

LCZ: "There is no need," said Amanda. "I know how important you are, Director, and I cannot imagine why you would spend decades carrying out an elaborate practical joke. Besides, considering what you now have planned, certainly I will see the transformation myself, first-hand."

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