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Fictional Item

Name: The Protean Machine

Category: Automaton

Size/weight: A bit taller than an average human

Rarity: One of a Kind

Value: Unknown

Uses: To store human consciousness inside the body of an automaton

Description (ca. 1921):

What started out as Nathan Garner's life long dream is starting to become reality after he pitched it to Nora Marshall, Emily Ballard, and Gabrielle Garnier as an idea for the New Steam Society's steam competition. The four of them began work immediately, hoping to create a device capable of storing a human being's consciousness inside a mechanical body, effectively eliminating disease and removing the need to eat or drink. Following Gabrielle's recent and unfortunate mugging, the remaining team members have decided to continue moving.

Nora has created the automaton shell almost single-handedly at Garnier's Workshop. Despite her inexperience with this type of engineering, as well as some injuries and setbacks, Nora has proved to be quite capable in her construction of the brass body.

Nathan and Emily crafted the "brain" of the machine, while connects to the body using a series of interweaving wires. It is designed to hold human conscious, but whether or not it can actually do this is unknown at this point. Much of its design was inspired by Emily's research in the Neural Stack Papers and the previous efforts of Nathan and his father to craft a similar device.

As a whole, the machine will be designed to be capable of most, if not all, human functions such as talking, movement, making and recalling memories, as well as forming emotional bonds and preserving the original human's conscious and memories. The team has worked on the project tirelessly, sacrificing sleep and time with family in order to complete it enough to display for the steam competition.

George Greene and the others have decided not to invest in this project, making it a loser of the steam competition. Despite this set back, the team has decided to keep making the Protean Machine, though it's currently unknown if this dedication will stand.

However, following their embarrassment at Greene's hands, they presented the project to William Tenerly. Tenely was so interested that he gave the team all scholarships to his school, the Tenerly School for the Mechanically Gifted, and decided to pay them for continued contributions on the machine.

In the next few months, the team has made multiple models and improvements, including doubling of the neural stack foil and more limb articulation after Gabrielle rejoined the team. Three tests have been done, starting with Sparky the dog, Jonathan Fox, and an unknown woman. All the subjects' mortal bodies died as a result of the procedure, with only pieces of their consciousness making it to the automaton. Sparky only lasted a few minutes, it's consciousness not taking. Jonathan fared much better, with all of his memories carrying over, but lost his personality in the process. The third subject maintained her personality, but at the expense of her voice and some memories. Research has also gone into combining this tech with Tenerly's Skin Doll in an attempt to make it seem more realistic.

In April 1921, the team were invited to present their Protean Machine at the Rochester Grand Steam Fair. Archibald Regiblaster joined the team shortly before, believing it could be used to revive his comatose brother, Gregory. Through Regiblaster's research into human steam augmentation, the Protean machine became capable of being combined with living tissue.

While the public was initially skeptical, following the moderate success of Gregory's transfer, more research was put into the product. For a while, the machine had reasonable popularity, being seen as an alternative to suffering from illness or death. This fad proved short lived, and the Protean Machine soon became seen as just a fancy automaton, eventually becoming irrelevant. The long term consequences for those who did take advantage of the product are currently unknown.