Albert Teichner – Man Made

If I listed every trouble I’ve accumulated in a mere two hundred odd years you might be inclined to laugh. When a tale of woe piles up too many details it looks ridiculous, unreal. So here, at the outset, I want to say my life has not been a tragic one—whose life is in this day of advanced techniques and universal good will?—but that, on the contrary, I have enjoyed this Earth and Solar System and all the abundant interests that it has offered me. If, lying here beneath these great lights, I could only be as sure of joy in the future… . My name is Treb Hawley. As far back as I can remember in my childhood, I was always interested in astronautics. From the age of ten I specialized in that subject, never for a moment regretting the choice. When I was still a child of twenty-four I took part in the Ninth Jupiter Expedition and after that there were many more. I had a precocious marriage at thirty and my boys, Robert and Neil, were born within a few years after Marla and I wed. It was fortunate that I fought for government permission that early; after the accident, despite my high rating, I would have been denied the rare privilege of parenthood. That accident, the first one, took place when I was fifty. On Planet 12 of the Centauri System I was attacked by a six-limbed primate and was badly mangled on the left side before breaking loose to destroy it. Surgical Corps operated within an hour. Although they did an excellent prosthetic job after removing my left leg and arm, the substituted limbs had their limitations. While they permitted me to do all my jobs, phantom pain was a constant problem.

There were new methods of prosthesis to eliminate this weird effect but these were only available back on the home planets. I had to wait one year for this release. Meanwhile I had plenty of time to contemplate my mysterious affliction; the mystery of it was so great that I had little chance to notice how painful it actually was. There is enough strangeness in feeling with absolute certainty that a limb exists where actually there is nothing, but the strangeness is compounded when you look down and discover that not only is the leg gone but that another, mechanical one has taken its place. Dr. Erics, who had performed the operation, said this difficulty would ultimately prove a blessing but I often had my doubts. He was right. Upon my return to Earth, the serious operations took place, those giving me plastic limbs that would become living parts of my organic structure. The same outward push of the brain and nervous system that had created phantom pain now made what was artificial seem real. Not only did my own blood course through the protoplastic but I could feel it doing so. The adjustment took less than a week and it was a complete one. Fortunately the time was already past when protoplast patients were looked upon as something mildly freakish and to be pitied. Artificial noses, ears and limbs were becoming quite common. Whether there was some justification for the earlier reaction of pity, however, still remains to be seen. My career resumed and I was accepted for the next Centauri Expedition without any questions being asked.

As a matter of fact, Planning Center preferred people in my condition; protoplast limbs were more durable than the real—no, let us say the original—thing. At home and at the beach no one bothered to notice my reconstructed arm and leg. They looked too natural for the idea to occur to people who did not know me. And Marla treated the whole thing like a big joke. “You’re better than new,” she used to tell me and the kids wanted to know when they could have second matter limbs of their own. Life was good to me. The one-year periods away from home passed quickly and the five-year layoffs on Earth permitted me to devote myself to my hobbies, music and mathematics, without taking any time away from my family. Eventually, of course, my condition became an extremely common one. Who is there today among my readers who has all the parts with which he was born? If any such person past the childhood sixty years did, he would be the freak. Then at ninety new difficulties arose. A new Centaurian subvirus attacked my chest marrow. As is still true in this infection, the virus proved to be ineradicable. My ribs weren’t, though, and a protoplastic casing, exactly like the thoracic cavity, was substituted. It was discovered that the infection had spread to my right radius and ulna so here too a simple substitution was made. Of course, such a radical infection meant my circulatory system was contaminated and synthetically created living hemoplast was pumped in as soon as all the blood was removed.

This did attract attention. At the time the procedure was still new and some medical people warned it would not take. They were right only to this extent: the old cardioarterial organs occasionally hunted into defective feedback that required systole-diastole adjustments. Protoplastic circulatory substitutes corrected the deficiency and, just to avoid the slight possibility of further complications, the venous system was also replaced. Since the changeover there hasn’t been the least trouble in that sector. By then Marla had a perfect artificial ear and both of my sons had lost their congenitally diseased livers. There was nothing extraordinary about our family; only in my case were replacements somewhat above the world average. I am proud to say that I was among the first thousand who made the pioneer voyage on hyperdrive to the star group beyond Centaurus. We returned in triumph with our fantastic but true tales of the organic planet Vita and the contemplative humanoids of Nirva who will consciousness into subjectively grasping the life and beauty of subatomic space. The knowledge we brought back assured that the fatal disease of ennui could never again attack man though they lived to Aleph Null. On the second voyage Marla, Robert and Neil went with me. This took a little political wrangling but it was worth throwing my merit around to see them benefit from Nirvan discoveries even before the rest of humanity. Planetary Council agreed my services entitled me to this special consideration. Truly I could feel among the blessed. Then I volunteered for the small expeditionary force to the 38th moon that the Nirvans themselves refused to visit.

They tried to dissuade us but, being of a much younger species, we were less plagued by caution and went anyway. The mountains of this little moon are up to fifteen miles high, causing a state of instability that is chronic. Walking down those alabaster valleys was a more awesome experience than any galactic vista I have ever encountered. Our aesthetic sense proved stronger than common sense alertness and seven of us were buried in a rock slide. Fortunately the great rocks formed a cavern above us. After two days we were rescued. The others had suffered such minor injuries that they were repaired before our craft landed on Nirva. I, though, unconscious and feverish, was in serious condition from skin abrasions and a comminuted cranium. Dr. Erics made the only possible prognosis. My skull had to be removed and a completely new protoskin had to be supplied also.


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Updated: 25 November 2020 — 16:00

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