They had been testing their inventions on animals. Dogs and cats, animals that had been involved in accidents that were missing limbs. They had tested brainwaves to ascertain the electrical currents that were sent throughout the body via the somatic nervous system. The different scientists and mechanical engineers working on the project worked as a team. First, the scientists conducted experiments on the animals so that they could determine the electrical currents that were being sent out through the body. The mechanical engineers who were working on robotics and also a conductor and processor that would determine and translate the different electrical currents into movements through the machinery. They had built mechanical limbs and the limbs moved in response to different electrical currents. It was fine enough in theory, the mechanical limbs were easy enough to produce.
Microchip technology had improved dramatically over the past couple of decades. There was no problem with the robotics itself. What was wrong was the theory. It was that old saying of, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.’ The same idea applied to the animals that they used in their experiments. They couldn’t determine or communicate with the animals to be able to understand whether or not they were making an attempt to move their limbs or not.
The whole idea of phantom limbs had been well documented in human cases of human amputees. But it was impossible to tell whether or not the animals had the same sensation, whether or not the animals were sending these ‘phantom limbs’ the electrical signals from their brain in order to determine movement.
While the mechanical engineers looked on in wonder at the scientist’s work, the scientists grew frustrated with the whole experiment. “This is impossible,” they would complain, “we can’t possibly work within these limitations.”
When somebody questioned what they meant by that, the scientists had to explain, “We need a human subject. Unless you have some way of communicating these things to the animals, everything we do here is useless. We don’t even know if the same electrical pulse will be facilitated within human beings.”
As a result of this the manager in charge asked, “I see and what sort of experiments will you conduct on these human lab rats?”
“Well,” the scientist shook his head, “it can’t be done.” He wavered the idea without any explanation.
Which prompted the manager overseeing the project to question further, “What do you mean, it can’t be done?”
“It wouldn’t be ethical.”
“What do you mean it wouldn’t be ethical? What would you have to do?”
“We would have to operate on the individual, applying a general aesthetic to the base of the phantom limb, as well as monitor brain activity and protrude the flesh with sensitive receptors to the somatic nervous system in order to determine the frequency of the electronic pulse.”
“I see…” the manager didn’t understand any of it, “… and this would be dangerous, would it?”
“Possibly… Especially when you consider that we would have to give the test subject instructions to attempt to move the limb at the same time.”
“I see… But you can do this thing right? If I somehow arrange for you to conduct these tests, you can do it. Create a replacement limb that responds to brain activity.”
“Nothing is ever a certainty.” The scientist replied.
“Just say ‘yes’, you idiot.”
“Okay, yes, yes, we can do it.”
From that point the operation went underground and overseas. They arranged for a testing facility in the rural estranged parts of Bangladesh. Once a part of India under British rule, now its own independent nation only too willing to proceed with the experiment for the right amount of money.
Under sterile conditions they brought in a test subject. A beggar pulled off the streets with a missing leg. The missing leg, he explained, was part of his trade. The begging ring had amputated it when he was a small child in an effort to gain sympathy from those who contributed to his ill fated existence. They quickly taught the man what they wanted in terms of simple movements of the phantom limb and he complied.
They hooked him up to the machines that would test the electrical pulses that occurred travelling from the brain through the somatic nervous system. They opened up the base of his leg that had skinned over during the years, producing a stump. They made small incisions, putting the man under a local anaesthetic while keeping him awake. Filtering his blood with chemicals to decrease the blood flow in the area. They found the correct nerve endings that had been severed at the time that he became an amputee… They had to move the sensory perceptors up the leg a little bit more as the nerve endings had been damaged at the ends. They had to act quickly as they had limited time, keeping the incisions opened up as they were would cause the man to bleed out.
Then they asked the man to make as if he was moving his leg. To which he replied, “Give me money.”
They didn’t understand at first, not one of them spoke the local language. Then witnesses overseeing the operation through the one way mirror of the operating theatre used a speaker to translate. “He’s asking for money.”
The scientists looked at one another confused. “Move your leg please.” They repeated.
To which the beggar repeated, “Give me money.” And laughed.
This aggravated one of the scientists, “Move your farkin’ leg you idiot! Don’t you understand that your life is on the line here?”
To which the beggar repeated, “Give me mon…” And then he started seizing up. The chemicals that they had pumped through his veins were fading. The man started having convulsions and seizing up, frothing at the mouth.
The scientists lost control of the experiment and attempted to stabilize the man. Try as they might, the experiment was a total failure and resulted in the loss of the beggar’s life.
Afterwards the two scientists were smoking a cigarette outside the facility with the tropical sun bearing down on them. They had their surgery gloves in their pockets which were amassed in blood. They were stressed out by their attempts to save the man’s life in those final moments.
“So, should we try again?” The scientist asked the other scientist who was smoking his cigarette.
“Fark that! I’m not going to have another man’s life on my hands.” And he flicked the cigarette butt away into the surrounding area filled with jungle beneath the canopy.