As you will recall from the previous installment, Lieutenant Brock Dalton has just woken up following an incapacitating accident, which has left him in absentia from the neck downwards. Now read on….
Major McGranite sat in his office, reading the cover of the new CD that he had bought for his fifteen year old daughter, Leanne. The album was The Biggest Love, by BoyBurger, the World’s number one boyband.Major McGranite had not seen much of his daughter since his divorce. Although he understood his ex-wife’s reasons for leaving, he still harboured resentment. She had always known that his country came first, yet she acted like she had no idea that the lion’s share of the child care would fall to her. Now that the divorce had been finalised, and she had milked him for all everything she could, she had moved back to New York, taking Leanne with her.
Spite, he thought, that’s all it is.
His phone rang, derailing that particular train of thought, and he discarded the CD.
“McGranite,” he growled into the receiver.
“Major, it’s Colonel Munch.”
“Good morning, Sir.”
“Good morning, Major. Any news?”
“Yes, Sir. Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow at oh-ten hundred.”
“Great news, Major. Let me know when he’s out of theatre.”
“Roger that, Sir.”
Deep beneath Groom Lake Air Force Base is a state of the art medical facility, complete with fully operational surgical theatres and the country’s finest team of surgeons and anaesthesiologists on standby at all times.
Dr Neilson was not medically trained, his PhD being in the field of biomechanics and artificial intelligence, nor was he an enlisted officer but, like several other civilian personnel attached to Project American Quilt, his unique skill set had made him a valuable addition to the Area 51 team. He stood just outside the Intensive Therapy Unit, talking excitedly to Captain Keith Bellman, Chief Anaesthesiologist at the medical facility. The topic of conversation was the current status of Project American Quilt, or to be more precise, the eighty five percent of it that was currently ventilated, intravenously fed, invasively monitored and electronically stimulated on the ITU.
“How’s our boy today, Captain? Ready for surgery tomorrow?”
“Everything seems fine,” replied Captain Bellman. No pressure sores, urine output satisfactory, central venous pressure is fine. Yesterday’s haematocrit and renal function all OK. Muscle tone well maintained. EKG and chest x-ray both clear. No apparent anaesthetic risk. The physiotherapist is just finishing up. Do you want to come through and see him?”
Dr Neilson changed into a set of blue theatre scrubs, covered his hair with a disposable cap and covered his face with a surgical mask before entering the ITU. The physiotherapist, similarly attired, was stood at the bedside, flexing and straightening one muscular arm of the ITU’s single occupant.
On the bed lay a most unusual patient. Perhaps the most striking feature was the absence of a head, but then again, perhaps it was the three pairs of arms, or the fact that the entire ensemble had been patched together from the corpses of both Caucasian and African American soldiers, giving him a pleasing, zebra-like appearance.
As previously stated, there was no head, and into the neck there led a pair of tubes feeding fluids both in and out. These fluids contained steroids, hormones, calories and glucose; everything a growing body needs.
The neck was attached to a broad black torso, with rugged, strong pectoral muscles, and powerful shoulders. At the junction of each shoulder and arm, there was a thick band of scar tissue, where the flesh changed from black to white. A pair of white male arms had been attached. The arms were muscular, but relatively slender, having been selected for manual dexterity rather than brute strength.
At the bottom of the chest was another thick band of scar tissue, and another chest, with its own set of powerful pecs and shoulder muscles, but this time from the body of a white American soldier. In contrast, the accompanying pair of arms were Herculean and black, with bulging biceps and triceps and brawny forearms, selected for climbing and carrying. Below the chest, the spine was curved into a wrestler’s bridge, and a large foam pillow was wedged underneath. At the hips, there was another set of arms, again strong, but angled further back for stability and power.
The impression was of a black and white, headless insect fashioned from human body parts. There were electrodes attached to each muscle group, providing a constant electrical pulse to stimulate muscle growth and tone. A ventilator tube had been connected directly into the windpipe, and the chest rose and fell as the ventilator machine rhythmically inflated the lungs, automatically adjusting the oxygen level in the mixture depending on arterial gas concentrations.
Physical therapist, First Lieutenant Jennifer Buckle, had completed the day’s manipulations and was filling in her paperwork. Dr Neilson stood at the bedside and stroked one of the bulging biceps.
“Have you ever seen anything like him, Jennifer? He’s magnificent.”
“Get a room, Neilson,” Jennifer muttered without looking up.
“OK, Lieutenant. Are you ready?”
Major McGranite was leaning over Brock’s glass tank, Doctor Nielson at his shoulder.
Brock blinked twice.
“Good for you, son. Come on, Doc, let’s get this horsey saddled up.”
Major McGranite and Doctor Neilson carefully lifted the tank onto a gurney, and wheeled it from the laboratory into the corridor. The corridor was white and bare walled, with fluorescent strip lights hung at intervals down its length, a cluster of thick pipes running across the ceiling and an elevator at the far end. The gurney was manoeuvred into the elevator, and Dr Neilson squeezed in beside it.
“See you later, Lieutenant.”
The elevator doors closed, and Brock and Dr Neilson descended. It was a minute or two until the elevator came to rest, opening out onto an identical corridor to the one they had just left. They were met by a pair of female nurses in blue theatre scrubs.
“Thank you, Dr Neilson.” The gurney was pulled from the elevator and pushed up the corridor to a pair of sliding doors marked, Anaesthetic Room.
A balding, middle-aged man with round spectacles peered into the tank.
“Good morning, Lieutenant. I am Captain Keith Bellman, Chief Anaesthesiologist. According to your records, you have no allergies and have had two anaesthetics in the past with no complications. Is that correct? Blink twice for yes, raise your eyebrows twice for no.”
“The operation will take four or five hours. I understand that Major Brompton came and explained the actual procedure to you earlier today.”
“Well, if you’re ready then.” Captain Bellman had prepared a syringe of Etomidate, used to initiate anaesthesia. “Now,” he said inserting the needle into the portal of Brock’s inlet tube, “this medication can cause hiccups or coughing, but that shouldn’t affect you, as you have no lungs or diaphragm. Now start counting back from one hundred.”
Brock mouthed, “one hundred, ninety nine,” and then he was out.