Prequel

Epilogue Four

Blackjack's Story

Blackjack examined the jar, carefully turning it around in his hands to examine its contents before putting it back into the refrigerated storage locker.

"What's that?" Pinoko asked.

"That is a very powerful herbal drug." Blackjack answered. "I had experimented with it at one time, but it proved too dangerous to use. A shame since it seemed to have some very strong potential. I still keep the original sample of the plant form in this preservative as a reminder to me never to take anything at face value."

"Want to tell me the story?" Pinoko begged.

"Sure, why not?" Blackjack shrugged his shoulders.

"This happened years ago, before you were born. I was still working at Metro City General Hospital with Dr. Tezuka, though I had already started thinking about starting my own clinic. I was working out of a different house in the outskirts of the city, but I hadn't yet left the hospital."

"You mean you hadn't yet been kicked out of the hospital." Pinoko laughed.

"Yes, that too!" Blackjack confessed.

"I often went out with the EMT's on ambulance calls, sometimes a very badly injured person with the means to pay for top notch care would be brought in. I made a few patient contacts that way, it helped start my career.

One day I was in the ambulance when a young boy about 9 or 10 years old had been in a bad accident on his hover scooter. I could see that he had sustained very bad injuries to his head and torso, it looked like he would need major surgery to survive, and very likely had enough brain damage that he might not recover anyway. The regular emergency doctors did a good job at stabilizing him, they had to open his skull to relieve the the pressure from a brain bleed, as well as repair similar injuries to his spleen and liver. He remained in critical condition in the ICU while they waited for him to recover enough to survive additional surgeries. I found an ID on him in the form of an insurance policy made out to him as the recipient."

"No wonder you took his case. You wanted the insurance money." Pinoko said.

"The thought had crossed my mind." Blackjack answered. "The boy's father was a famous scientist and engineer. That also made him worthy of my attention. However, it didn't take me very long to see that his symptoms indicated damage to his brain stem. He already had trouble breathing and they had put him on a respirator. I predicted that his heart would fail within hours as his body's internal pacemaker shutdown due to the damaged brain stem. In short, he was a goner. He was doomed to die a brain death that surgery could not repair."

"Is that where that herbal drug comes in?"

"Very astute Pinoko! You are correct. This drug was given to me by a colleague who had connections with the supplier from deep in the Amazon jungle. This is the root of a tree that only grows deep in that tropical rain forest. It is supposed to be able to promote regrowth of nerve cells, to actually be able to reverse many forms of brain damage, even when the organ has been deprived of oxygen for too long. Naturally, I was skeptical about this. I experimented on mice, rats, dogs and cats. It all cases the drug would bring dead nerve tissue back to life. I finally tried the drug on monkeys, and chimpanzees, animals most like humans. The results were quite encouraging. This boy was the first patient that I came across that could prove that the drug might work on humans. I couldn't get permission to try it, I had to wait until he had been declared legally brain dead before attempting to bring him back from beyond. If that worked, well think of the lives that could be saved!"

"But there was a catch, right?" Pinoko guessed.

"Unfortunately, yes. A big one." Blackjack took a deep breath and sighed.
"Eventually, the boy's heart did stop beating and the doctors could not get it restarted with the defibrillator or with adrenalin. As soon as Dr. Tezuka had signed his chart with the time of death and the boy was left alone in the ICU, I entered with my equipment. The first thing I did was to restart the respirator. Then I make an incision in his chest to allow me to push a probe into his heart to attach wires for a pace maker. Using a small external pacemaker, I restarted his heart."

"Why didn't Dr. Tezuka do that?" Pinoko asked.

"The procedure I used to insert a pacemaker this way is a bit unorthodox, but not unknown. I'm sure that Dr. Tezuka would have tried this next if the boys EEG readings weren't already flat lined. They believed him to be brain dead, so they didn't bother working further on his heart.

I observed that the color returned to his skin. His body was still alive, but his brain was dying or dead. I now piggy backed a bag of my experimental drug onto his IV. I had to move him from the ICU, I didn't want to risk being discovered. I managed to sneak him into an ambulance and transport the boy to my private clinic a few miles from the hospital. The hospital thought the boy was moved to the morgue."

"Very sneaky" Pinoko said.

"The boy lay in a coma like state for a few days. Finally, his brain function began to return, the drug was working, just as it had in all of my animal trials. It wasn't until later that I learned just what this drug actually does. It stimulates the reproduction of new neuron cells. These cells are like stem cells in a way, they can assume whatever function is required of them. If they are reproduced in the spinal cord, they replace damaged nerve cells there. If they are created in the brain stem they will assume that function. However, they do not repair existing synaptic connections. All existing memories are lost. The brain becomes whole again, and functions, but it is now a Tableau Noir, a blank slate. The person that once was, is gone. I hadn't saved the boy, I'd sealed his death. His body was alive, and his brain could be re-trained. He would have to start his life all over again, and form new memories, loves, friends, and so on. This was worse than amnesia, it was a total erasure of his mind."

"Acchonburike!" Pinoko yelled out.

"I knew that Dr. Tenma, the boys father would never accept him back the way he was. It was better for everyone to just assume that he had really died in the ICU, because in fact, he had. His identity was gone, that insurance policy was worthless. I didn't know what I was going to do for him. And then I got another patient."

"Who"

"The industrialist businessman and billionaire Daiki Tokugawa. He and his wife had tried to have children for many years and he asked me to test him and his wife to see what their problem was. I found nothing wrong with him, but I discovered that his wife had terminal cancer. In fact she died within a month of my first seeing her. Tokugawa was desperate to have an heir to his fortune, someone to assume control of his company after he was gone. I suggested he adopt a son, and I mentioned that I had a patient that needed a good home. It was the perfect answer to my problem, and Tokugawa seemed like a good person."

"That scumbag?" Pinoko cried. "You're a dumb ass!"

"At the time, he gave me no reason to doubt his sincerity as a father. I introduced him to the boy, whom he later named Daichi. He had the patience required to re-educate him and the boy soon felt at home with Tokugawa. It seemed like a good fit."

"Then what?" Pinoko asked.

"Well, as you know Tokugawa's business grew and required more and more of his time. He failed to supervise his son, and the boy fell in with some gangs. Daichi grew to hate his step father, and one day he and his gang tried to hijack the moon shuttle operated by Tokugawa industries. There was an accident and Daichi along with a few gang members were killed. I felt responsible for the whole thing. That poor boy died twice. And there is yet another postscript to this story."

"What's that?"

"After Tobio Tenma died, Dr. Tenma created a robot replacement for him. Later on, Tokugawa paid Dr. Tenma to create a robot to replace his adopted son. In both cases, Dr. Tenma extracted brain patterns from the dying boy to form the basis of the robot's AI. It's strange. The newspapers sometimes compare Atom and Atlas, they sometimes say the two are brothers. They are more than brothers. They are the SAME person, just different sides of the same coin."

"Acchonburike!" Pinoko yelled again.

"I'll second that!" Blackjack said, as he poured himself a tall glass of sake.

Authors note:

And so ends this story. I hope you enjoyed it.

This final chapter actually stands alone on its own rather well. I might submit it as an Astro Boy x Black Jack crossover.