The brain jerked to life at the new stimuli, working to process input it couldn't begin to comprehend. All that registered was that this phenomenon was unknown, and there was no knowledge of how to proceed. The only thing to be done was to wait.
"Ma'am…signs of…appears to be…awake."
There it was again.
Something twitched; with a sudden tugging sensation, the cerebrum registered movement of its own, and suddenly the voices – yes, that was the term – voices, were clearer. Much clearer.
"The subject is responding to auditory stimulation."
"Yes, I see." More sounds were registering now. Soft, rapid taps; inhale, exhale – respiration; a shuffling noise rapidly approaching. Suddenly, very close, there was a sharp rap against a hard surface. The brain recognized a possible threat, and muscles instantly contracted as one, moving it away from the danger. Now the encephalon was aware of its body as a whole: head, the main trunk – torso and abdomen, a part of the mind was quick to supply – arms and legs, hands and feet. Each part, ready for commands.
Somewhere beyond, roughly at the location of the taps, the voice spoke again. "Hello, in there. I know you can hear me. Nod your head if you understand."
Understand? Yes, it found that it could understand. And nodding…a quick jerk of the neck vertically, and the motion was completed. Odd, how it recalled the concept of the thing, and yet the movement was so unfamiliar…
"Good. Very good. Now we'll test your reaction to visual input. Open your eyes."
Eyes. Open your eyes. Eyes were on the upper portion of the head. The brain attempted to manipulate the appropriate parts, and an odd distortion of sounds followed. Ah, those were –
"Eyes, not ears. Try again."
There was a twinge in the lower stomach – embarrassment. On a second attempt, eyelids slid open a fraction, then just as quickly snapped shut again in a grimace of discomfort. The light was much too bright.
The voice again: "That's all right. You'll take a little more time to adjust. We can try again in a few minutes." There was a slight pause, the sound of faint scratching, and then, "Do you know where you are?"
No – but how to convey that? The brain took time to consider this. If a nod was affirmative, then a negative response was indicated by…a shake of the head. Twisting the neck from one direction to the other was the correct action, but an awkward one to execute. The voice seemed satisfied, however.
"Understandable. Can you tell me who you are?"
That question was much more difficult. The cerebrum stalled, switching gears to what it was at first; a simple query. In its entirety, it was just a collection of coordinated muscles and other materials, an organic machine of bones and blood. Who…that was a strange concept. It implied a personal identity, a description of an organism above and beyond the physical parameters. The question of who was a complicated one indeed, and the brain, quite frankly, was baffled by what it might imply.
Who it was as a person…who it was…
An assistant glanced up at the figure by the tank from behind a myriad of monitors.
"Ma'am, mental operations are diminishing."
The woman merely shrugged, pulling her hand away from the glass.
"That's fine. She'll be awake again soon."
"Subject Three. Wake up."
The words shot straight through its brain, and eyes snapped open with no trouble at all now – a mental note was made that reflex was much easier (and more fluid) than manually moving muscles. Once again the lights were nearly blinding, though nowhere near as painful as before.
"Ah, you're awake. Excellent. As you'll notice, we moved you from the hydrotank to a gurney. A hydrotank is –"
"Anngh." The sound of its own strained, gravelly voice stopped the subject mid-articulation. It had wanted to reply that yes, it did know what a hydrotank was: a vat of dihydrogen monoxide along with various other substances, designed to hold an organism in suspended animation – most often used for short term hibernation. A sister to the cryotank, often used in…experiments. Yes. That was what it had wanted to say, but the rough, heavy feeling of an unused tongue over unfamiliar teeth made it difficult to communicate. A frustrating situation, as it knew the words, but was unable to form them.
"Yes, I understand. You remember what it means." The woman speaking was leaning a few feet away, pen tapping away crazily at a clipboard. Her expression was one of extreme interest, her eyes locked on the prone form on the hospital bed. "Your muscle memory is weaker than predicted, though. Practically nonexistent. We'll need to target that especially, if we're going to get you up to speed."
As the meaning of that became clear, another jerking nod was given to confirm understanding. The woman gave a small smile at this.
"Your cognitive abilities are as strong as I could've hoped for. Your mental development is projected for another week or two of rapid growth, and then it will most likely level off. You'll still be smarter than the average human will ever be, though, thanks to that little implant in your brain." She tapped her forehead with her pen knowingly, the smile still on her face.
Her experiment did not see it, as it had turned inward once again as it was faced with another complex concept: time. Time was passing, always passing; there one second, gone the next. But what was a second, even? It was all relative. A second could be a mere instant, or as long as a lifetime. What was there, really, to distinguish an hour from a week from a year? All could pass in an eye blink or stretch on endlessly. Time was a bizarre concept, to be sure…
"…appreciate your need for prolonged contemplation, but I would prefer if you waited until after I was done speaking with you." These words brought back some semblance of reality and conscious thought, as well as a burning sensation in the eyes – why? Was something wrong? A complication unforeseen by the scientists?
Blink, a quiet, sensible voice in the brain suggested, and finally the eyelids snapped down, one after the other, before flicking open in an ungraceful manner. Another note was made to remember to do this on a regular basis in the future.
The woman was still watching, pausing now to make a note on her clipboard. Finally her attention returned, and she stepped farther into the room, closer to the bed in the center.
"Do you remember who you are yet?"
A shake of the head.
"Do you remember anything before waking up in the tank?"
"Unfortunately, we don't know much either. You were delivered to us by a third party – just the typical Jane Doe, thanks to the Anonymity Act – and you were already little more than a corpse with a heartbeat; severe brain damage, they claimed. Well, we managed to fix that with the help of the chip and a few other operations. We made other modifications as well, as you'll discover later. You were restored with the utmost care, and it's been nearly four years since you were first rolled in through the front doors. There's no guarantee that your memory will return, but there's always a possibility…" She trailed off as she realized the information wasn't having the effect she'd expected. In fact, her patient appeared not to care in the slightest how it had come to be.
Instead, it was staring fixedly at the wall above the other's head, apparently waiting patiently to return to its thoughts.
"All right; just one more thing before I go. We don't want to keep calling you Subject Three – we believe a more informal name will better instill you with a sense of self. Do you have anything you'd like me to call you?"
There was the slightest tilt of the head from one side to the other. Even if there was a preference, how could it be conveyed?
"Well, if you don't have a choice, then I suppose your name will be…" Picking the right name quickly became difficult; it was hard to remember that this was a person, not a pet, but an experiment all the same. It wouldn't be right to tack an ordinary name onto such a grand creation. Suddenly, the name popped into her mind, and the woman grinned slyly at her patient.
"Abeni. Your name will be Abeni."