Al pleads his case before the members of the board, and for his efforts, he is gunned down inside the boardroom. And without ceremony, his brain is harvested and placed inside a platinum box, while his body is disposed of.
John’s brain is installed to operate and manage the functions of a large chemical plant. The data flowing through his brain he describes as a constant hum, something akin to the hum of high-tension wires. He realizes that even though his mind is being used as a mainframe computer, he still has control of his mind and can interrupt or block the impulses flowing through his cells. He could, in fact, destroy the whole plant if he chose to do so
The chemical plant is used to synthesize protein, the building blocks for cells. In the deep recesses of John’s mind, he begins to formulate the idea that it might be possible to create things that would help him – hands, eyes, a mouth, and ears. It was preposterous to even consider such thoughts, but John had nothing to lose; he had materials to work with and plenty of time to create. The only difficulty was the task itself.
John’s primary concern was to maintain the steady flow of materials required by data input into his brain; other than that, he was free to experiment with the chemicals at his disposal. The plant was exceedingly large, and being fully automated, there was little need for humans to visit the facilities, other than an occasional plant inspector.
John’s first creation was a white blob of flesh about the size of a fist that had one Cyclopean eye. Using telepathic powers, John was able to reach out to the specialized visual cells he had nurtured and activate them. What he saw was dim light and fuzzy images. He knew he could do better. The second blob, that he now termed a frog, had clear vision, and it could propel itself by the contraction of two specialized muscles John had incorporated into the base of the frog. The third frog John created had all the features of the first two, with the addition of inferred night vision, a set of iron teeth, and a primitive digestive system so it could feed on grass and sustain itself.
With the telepathic cells that formed its major organs, John was able to hear the cries of his wife, Martha, and eventually located her in a different part of the building. She, too, had been installed to help with the operation of the same chemical facility as John, but unique to her installation was the fact that this was the first time that two cybernetic control brains had been tied together in a peer-to-peer configuration.
(As a side note, it must be remembered that when my father wrote this story in 1950, he had no concept of a personal computer that could be linked to one or more servers; the computer of his day was an enormous machine whose relay switches were vacuum tubes that required a lot of physical space and generated significant heat, and input data was fed into the machine via punch cards or magnetic tapes. Richard)
With the aid of the frogs that John dispersed throughout the city and laboratories, he was able to read news and listen in on conversations. Eventually, he located Al, who also had been encased inside a platinum box, but had not yet been installed to run a plant or factory.
John, Martha, and Al all believed that if they could get the information out to the public that the two million brains that had thus far been installed to operate plants and factories and run machinery of all types were still alive, the shock factor would be sufficient to bring about a cessation of this practice. When people realized that their parents and siblings, their relatives and close friends, were still alive but consigned to a living hell that had no end, there would be a public outcry of such dimensions that nothing could stop the downfall of this outrageous practice. Of course, that would mean the end of the Welfare State, and people would have to give up their leisure time, which for most was 24/7, and go back to work.
But for most of earth’s inhabitants, after a century of doing no manual labor at all, or labor of any kind, the very thought of work was repulsive. The alternative to cybernetic control brains was to revert back to the days when mechanical and electrical systems powered the factories.
The challenge that John, Martha, and Al faced was that no one had ever returned to challenge the concept that cybernetic brains were anything but dead. The members of the Board of the Institute knew that this was not the case, but who could challenge them; what proof could anyone place before the World Court to say otherwise.
The three decided that someone or something would need to appear in public and denounce the fraud that had so long been perpetrated upon the masses.
Having manipulated the protein contents in chemical vats to produce his frog, John felt that the combined efforts between him and Martha might be able to produce a mass that resembled something human. Their efforts were barely successful, but for the moment, it was the best they could do. The blob had the form of a man; it had speech, vision, hearing, and was mobile. After dressing the android in worker’s clothes found in a dressing room, John, using his telepathic powers, propelled the creature out of the lab building and into the city streets.
The timing was fortuitous as there was a large gathering in the city that day to hear Senator Viele. The purpose of his speech before a live audience, which was being given worldwide coverage, was to first, calm their fears that cybernetic control brains were alive; after all, who could claim otherwise, as no one had ever returned to dispute the matter; and, second to declare that it would now be the right of the state to harvest the brains of any and all without a formal contract.
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