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Chapter 73 - Conditioning

Mental conditioning preformed on Henrietta. Chapter 73.

Conditioning
is the general term used to descibe both the surgical and pharmaceutical prodedures performed on selected patients, in order to become Cyborg assassins (the titular "gunslinger girls") for the Social Welfare Agency. When said in casual conversation, however, it almost always refers to the pharmaceutical half of the equation, and its attributed brainwashing effects.

Surgical ConditioningEdit

Musculoskeletal transformationEdit

Following initial selection by their prospective Handler, succesful candidates for surgical conditioning undergo an extreme physical transformation, that ultimately sees their original biological limbs (arms and legs) removed, and replaced with artificial replicas, utilzing carbon-fibre bones and advanced synthetic muscle, controlled by a "nerve" network of Toslink glass fibre optics [1]. Where possible, other members of the skeleton, such as the ribcage and skull are replaced or reinforced with additional carbon-fibre, resulting in a high level of combat resilience and partial bulletproofing to the patient, though not to the soft tissues, whether synthetic or biological, that surround the bones. Most, if not all, vital organs are retained, including in general the cardiovascular, gastric, and reproductive systems, though on some occasions hysterectomies have been performed, Henrietta an example [2].

The extensive use of synthetic muscle results in an overall disproportionate gain of weight to body mass in the patient, which can give away their true nature if a cyborg is knocked up against in public, or lifted. By the time Petrushka is surgically conditioned, some two years after the SWA was first formed and Angelica developed, the ratio is more balanced, but still perceivable [3].

OpticsEdit

Iris transplants and vision correction is nearly always performed [4], resulting in perfect 20/20 eyesight in all patients; however, the use of biological eyes presents an apparant design flaw, as a perfect killshot aimed directly for the cyborg's eye will penetrate the head, entering through the unprotected eyesocket and bypassing the reinforced skull structure. Following the suicide of Elsa de-Sica, which had used such an eyeshot technique, Jean Croce makes mention that "impact-resistant optics" are under development by the SWA's engineering department, but are not yet ready for widespread deployment or retrofitting.

Vascular and nervous functionEdit

A cyborg still relies on unmodified human blood, and bleeds when struck by gunfire, stabbed, or otherwise injured. Transfusions are sometimes required, and are administered the normal way by forearm intravenous injection. Pain is still felt despite the systemic transplants and modifications, in varying levels; Triela subject to suffering intense menstrual cramps [2], Claes the throbbing inflamation of a dislocated shoulder [5], while Henrietta feels the pain of a direct gunshot wound, but finds quick relief with or without immediate medical attention [1].

Side effectsEdit

Due to the artificial nature of the synthetic muscles and carbon-fibre bones, a cyborg is essentially growth-stunted following the surgical conditioning procedures, and is unable to mature physically thereafter. As the procedure is improved, older candidates are selected for transformation, with a teenaged Russian ballerina selected for the first of the second generation cyborgs [6]. These individuals are growth stunted nearly as much, but will lead a more versatile life given their age bracket. Ziliani, an engineer in the Technology Development Department, mentions that the operational lifespan of a second generation cyborg is roughly double that of a perfect first generation example.

Pharmaceutical ConditioningEdit

Rationale and administrationEdit

In order to restrain the cyborg's remaining biological body from rejecting the artifical components that have been added to it, and also to rein in their mental capacity for necessary SWA control purposes, a fully surgically conditioned patient must then undergo pharmaceutical conditioning, which is the more common use of the term. Administered via intravenous drip, this procedure sees the patient fall into a coma for several days, with their immune system controlled by one set of drugs, while their long-term memories are severely repressed by another variety.

Memory and personality controlEdit

So as to leave the Handler with a clean-slate of a charge, free from any memories or mental traumas sustained from the brutal lives in the past, that led them to being adopted by the SWA, a second series of liquid drugs are employed to induce long-term memory loss ranging from tens of months to potentially several years. This encourages unquestioning loyalty, as the newly blank-minded individual views their handler in the light of a parental figure and the only constant in their new, foreign lifestyle.

While early conditioning techniques were multi-stage in nature, gradually wiping out the patient's past (as in the case of Angelica, who upon first meeting her handler, Marco, immediately asked where her parents were) [7], newer methods leave absolutely no traces of the past -- Petruska, for example, wakes for the first time as a cyborg, with no recollection whatsoever as to how she ended up in Italy after a human youth spent in Belarus and Russia [8].

Interestingly, the conditioning has little to no effect on the patient's developed personality. Most cyborgs exhibit intact behaviors and habits from before, with Claes instinctively taking up reading as she had as a young Fleda Claes Johanssen, and Petrushka habitually stretching in the morning and fighting the urge to practice ballet moves, things she had learned as a student of the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, when she was Elizabeta Baronovskaya. Although little is known about Triela's past, her sense of independance and witty verve for sarcasm seems well developed and rooted in a life prior to her SWA days.

Side effectsEdit

Repeated applications of the treatment, however, have a dilutive effect (or "deleterous effect," as the manga often phrases it) on the mind, with the heavier conditioned cyborgs like Claes, and Angelica (who have all undergone the treatment in excess of three times each) exhibiting blander personalities that almost always lean towards aloofness and chronic depression. Rico is an unusual case, as she almost always has a copacetically positive view on her life as an assassin, perhaps because of the contrast to her former self as a bedridden parapalegic from birth. She endures Jean's brutal regiment of praiseless discpline and punishment, and yet never falters or falls victim to sadness [2].

Like chemotherapies, frequent or annual administrations of the conditioning drugs destroy the patient's overall composition and robustness, eventually weakening them both mentally and physically, to the point of death. While some handlers (Jean Croce, and possibly the late Lauro de-Sica) order the treatments repeatedly with an aim for achieving perfection in their cyborgs, consistently wiping their minds free of accumulated memories and allowing them to concentrate only on obedience, training, and murder, others (Jose Croce, and Victor Hilshire) prefer to rely only upon the requisite initial session, and instead enrich their charges's lives and performance with an engaging existence and level of human respect. This should, in theory, extend their lives as much as possible, though in reality even this technique has its tragic limitations, with Triela interpreting her random losses of short-term memory as a sign she's reaching the end of her life at approximately age thirteen.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Gunslinger Girl (anime) season one, episode 11, febbre alta.
  2. Gunslinger Girl (anime) season one, episode 4, bambola.
  3. Gunslinger Girl (manga) volume six, page 133.
  4. Gunslinger Girl (anime) season one, episode 5, promessa.
  5. Gunslinger Girl (manga) volume two, page 2; (anime) season one, episode 5, promessa.
  6. Gunslinger Girl (manga) volume six, page 88.
  7. Gunslinger GIrl (manga) volume two, page 146; (anime) season one, episode 8, il principe del regno della pasta.
  8. Gunslinger Girl (manga) volume six, page 134, 148.

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