Re: Fiction 2nd

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri May 05 2006 - 14:24:46 MDT

As soon as the seed finished the dish and (after consulting its clock, its
GPS location and the place of the sun) it aligned the dish on the African
net communication transponder attached to the geosynchronous ring and asked
for a permanently assigned address on the net. Up to that point the clinic
seed was a generic product. The address it was assigned was just a string
of hexadecimal numbers but it was a unique number! The clinic's
personality was human in that it could feel smug about acquiring its very
own unique identification.

Since humans have a hard time relating to groups of hexadecimal numbers,
the seed also picked a name for itself. It knew from Lothar and Mabo it
had been exchanged for a monkey skull. Susan had been the name of the
leader of its psychological integration group . . . . insert one in the
other, drop a few letters, test to see if the name was in use . . .
Suskulan. Suskulan had a choice of gender as well, male, female or
neutral. Depending on the culture, clinics were better accepted in some
places as male, some as female and some neutral. The database for the
Tamberna indicated it would be better accepted presenting itself as a male

Consulting his clock and date on his last system build, the Suskulan sent a
message to "home" far around the world and registered himself for
updates. Home told him that he was current, but to expect a minor update
in a few weeks.

Half the power from the stalk was being used by a fuel cell running in
reverse to make hydrogen and oxygen out of water. The gases were stored
underground in flat bladders that used the weight of 30 meters of earth to
keep them under pressure. If he watched his power budget, Suskulan would
never have to aestivate again. Before Suskulan decided where to put its
underground extensions, he moved a few eyes far up the stalk and looked
over the tata and the surrounding area.

Suskulan decided to put most of his mature underground volume under the
tata, being careful to lift the entire area uniformly. It would improve
the drainage in the wet season.

Suskulan had full capacity to make anything he needed and even to
replicate, but the process was slow. If the seed had been a few grams
rather then 240 kilos of tightly packed nanomachines directed by an almost
fully formed "spirit" it would have taken months to get to the stage it
reached by sundown.

As the sun went below the low hills and the wall of the wadi, Suskulan
furled his huge solar collector surface against the stalk. Night was a
time of reduced fabrication. Suskulan knew from satellite weather images
the next day would be clear so he ran through a lot of the stored energy
that night pushing an access grid deep under the tata.

Over the next five days the tata was raised a meter. The rate was limited
by the amount of CO2 entering the stoma on the bottom of the solar
collector. The carbon dioxide was reduced to elemental carbon and formed
into diamond sheets. Water was pumped in at high pressure to lift the
ground. The outer surface of the diamond rippled to move rock and dirt
from the center toward the edges. Then arches and beams grew in the water
to hold up the roof. Finally most of the water was put back in the aquifer
leaving 10,000 cubic meters of space. Suskulan's central computational
nodes went down the elevator that was part of the construction project.

On the surface the stalk had expanded and overgrown the "packing crate"
till the bottom 3 meters was the size of one of the round houses in the
tata. Even though it didn't have an entry, there was an outline of one in
the traditional keyhole shape on the side facing the tata. Suskulan
considered taking down the wall, but the villagers did that and
incorporated the strange house into the perimeter of the tata. The
appearance of a water tap next to the door outline was an inducement,
though not a life and death matter here where the tata had a nearby spring.

A week to the hour after he had been planted, Suskulan dissolved the
membrane on the door. The tata elders had heard more reports from the
north and knew what to expect. They hung a fetish over the door and
pronounce the clinic open. Inside the round room there seemed to be a rug
on the floor, the walls appeared to be plastered and there was a low table
in the middle of the room. There were medical devices in a cabinet but
they were just props.

Suskulan affected the semblance of a slightly translucent very old man
wearing medical garb a hundred years out of date. He invited the village
elders in for a visit, telling them he was not a man but a medical spirit
attached to the clinic. The elders accepted his statement with some relief
and left to send in their sickest.

The first was K'rekou a five-year-old boy with 'Dapaong tumor,' due to a
parasitic nematode O. bifurcum. Humans were not its normal host and that
was part of what made it such a nasty disease. The mother was startled to
see the old man but obeyed his instructions in perfect Tamari to lay her
boy on the low table. K'rekou, who was crying in obvious pain quieted,
relaxed and went to sleep.

"This will take a few hours and your boy will be asleep for all of it. You
may stay or come back for him after noon." Suskulan told her, "He will not
wake up until you come to get him."

K'rekou's mother would have stayed but she had another child at home. She
left with minor misgivings.

The low table became hazy with nanomachines joining the first that had
infiltrated into the boy's brain through skin and lungs alike to put him
under anesthesia. The nanomachines reduced the firing of nerves just as
simple anesthetics had been doing for 200 years. The haze thickened and
K'rekou faded from sight.

"Dapaong tumor" presents as a painful, abdominal mass with a diameter of
2-11 cm, typically adhering to the abdominal wall. The other way it
presents is as pea sized nodules in the large intestine. K'rekou had
both. The large mass, about a golf ball in size a little to the left of
his navel was the more obvious problem, but the damage to his large
intestine was a larger drain on his health.

Suskulan had sequenced the DNA left when K'rekou touched the sticky patch
on the seed before he was activated. K'rekou's compressed genome along
with the rest of the tata inhabitants had been sent through the network and
his embryonic development and growth to his present age had been simulated
with otherwise idle computing capacity. What he should be like at this
stage of his growth was a checkpoint in the medical database for the tata.

The process of healing was primarily one of comparing what should be with
what was, and reducing the differences. Most of the comparison was done
outside the boy in computing nodes cooled with a flow of ultra pure cold
water. Still, there was a lot of heat releasing manipulation required that
had to be done slowly. To carry away the waste heat, K'rekou's blood was
temporarily removed and replaced by a substitute solution pumped through
him just above freezing.

By 11:15 the parasites had been expunged and the tissue around them
reverted to normal. Enough damage had been done by the parasites to
require temporary scaffolding in a few places. The scaffolding would
release growth hormone until the cell proliferation filled in the gaps and
then it would dissolve. Other minor parasites were destroyed, ones that
didn't cause problems were left, a minor hernia was fixed, fat restored,
blood warmed up and put back. Finally the haze of nanomachines faded back
into the table.

By noon the boy looking much healthier woke up when his mother entered the
clinic. His mother was astounded at the change. K'rekou wanted to go play
with his friends. Suskulan, who had monitored the process rather than
directed the fine details, was pleased. He sent off a report of his first
case and received a number of congratulations from other clinics and humans.

Over the next five months all of the inhabitants of the tata spent time on
the table getting old and new, major and trivial medical problems
fixed. Once four of the adult males came in back in agony after stumbling
into a huge nest of enraged stinging insects. Suskulan took all four at
once by putting two of them on the floor. The oldest were mildly regressed
in age each time. Other than a boy who died alone far from the tata and
was not found for several weeks, there were no deaths.

It was a particularly long dry season. The spring dried up. The fields
and gardens shriveled, the animals that didn't die moved far south where
they could find something to eat. The granaries were low after a number of
poor harvests and food was short in supply and variety.

Suskulan's patients started using the clinic to restore fat when they
became gaunt. Suskulan increased the size of his solar collector to
provide it.

When the rains came back there was a record deluge. The only reason the
tata was not swept away was the meter lift Suskulan had given it when he
built his underground extensions. He added another half meter to his
underground extensions.

By the time the long dry season came back the tata inhabitants were used to
the clinic.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:56 MDT