It was a short two weeks later that I was scheduled to undergo the neurophotonic implant. You see, the longer you wait after a spinal cord injury to re-enervate the nervous system, the harder it is. And speaking of nervous, that was me.

We had made great strides with a patchwork of circuitry and neurostimulation wiring. I was to the point where I could take a string of robotic steps and move my arms club like. But this was not enough to make me anywhere near human.

Armstrong had given me as much background as I could ingest on my neuro implant.

"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, has been working for decades on a brain implant that can give the human brain immediate access to the digital world . Call them cyborgs, but the research has the deadly serious aim of helping amputees get back as much function as possible to help them in their post-war fighter lives. To give amputees an effective way of “feeling” their artificial limbs, which could revolutionize their freedom of movement and agility."

"So there's a chance I could move and feel the world around me again?" I'd asked hesitantly. "I could be human?"

Armstrong then explained that this was a much bigger effort than I had thought. "Our partners in the Neurophotonics Research Center envision man-to-machine applications that extend far beyond prosthetics, leading to medical breakthroughs like brain implants for the control of tremors, neuro-modulators for chronic pain management and implants for patients with spinal cord injuries.

"We believe new

technologies can provide the solution to the kind of injury that left actor Christopher Reeve paralyzed after a horse riding accident. Maybe even patch the spinal cord above and below a spinal injury. “Someday, we will get you there. Your neurosurgeon, Rachel Aguerro, can tell you more.”

I met with Dr. Aquero later that day when she made rounds. She was a slim Latina with piercing eyes and a somewhat grim demeanour - as though under constant pressure. Aguerro had obviously made her family proud by making it through the grueling path to become a neurosurgeon.

DARPA’s Neural "The Engineering System Design program, (NESD), creates implantable neural interfaces that also serve as translators to convert the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain into the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology," NESD surgeon Dr. Auerro cut to the chase. I hoped she realized I was someone capable of following the high tech concepts she was about to unleash.

“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an antique 300-baud modem they have in the museum,” Dr. Aguerro told me as she mentally prepped me for the operation. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”

"We first started implanting computer chips into soldiers’ brain tissue, after their return from campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq decades ago. First it was to help regulate the nervous system and alleviate symptoms of a variety of conditions from post-traumatic stress disorder to arthritis." Dr. Aguerro continued. "I was just an intern then."

"Did it work?" I asked nervously.

"Not at the beginning," Aguerro replied, "The brain implants tried to squeeze lots of information through a small number of channels, with each channel aggregating signals from tens of thousands of neurons at a time. The result was noisy and imprecise."

"Is that what I should expect?" I asked, bucking up my courage. "So I shouldn't hope for a a more than mediocre, at best, outcome?"

"Not anymore," Dr. Aguerro was surprisingly upbeat. "The NESD program aims to develop systems that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a given region of the brain. The implants you will be getting will not just inject sounds and images into the brain, but provide unprecedented signals and data-transfer bandwidth between your human brain and the digital world."

I mulled this information thoughtfully as Dr. Aguerro let it all sink in for me.

"So I will be a bionic robot. Hopefully, unlike most DOD-funded work, my being a guinea pig will also help in the civilian world," I responded. "Besides lost limbs, there are tens of thousands of spinal cord injuries in the United States each year. The grief hit to lives and families is huge."

"Well, you will still be a military project," Aguerro brought me back to earth. "DARPA is funding this research into direct stimulus of brain functions to help soldiers deal better with battlefield stress and reduce the effects of traumatic brain injuries. The technology can be built directly into soldiers’ heads up display helmets."

With technology-enabled brain-body links, computer chips implanted in my brain to control my limbs, it was no longer science fiction to believe a human with shattered limbs and minds --- helped by U.S. military research -- could be made almost whole again.

So, with great trepidation, lying on a guerney in a whitewalled hospital ward room, I gave my goodbyes to my mother Ada and father Burt, to Liddy, and my friends from the California Institute. My bioengineering Gurus Kevin Armstrong, Eric Chang and Andy also wished me well. But as they wheeled me out, the one image I remembered as I slipped into unconsciousness from the anaesthetics was that Laura Silvan was also there.