From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Sat May 06 2006 - 23:33:27 MDT
>The nanomachine haze that had fogged her image and now her real body
>withdrew into the low table. Her family was seated on the floor waiting
>for her to awake. She greeted her family and in voice talk said goodbye
>to the image of an old man Suskulan was projecting. Then they stepped
>through the clinic's keyhole door to where the other members of the tata
>were waiting for a joyous celebration of the healing of Zaba.
Her family had visited "by phone" every day, but were still delighted and
relieved that Zaba was back with no visible effects from being shot. Her
parents had been worried that her value as a bride might have been damaged,
but none of the tata seemed to be concerned, only very proud of the growing
powers of their clinic Suskulan. (The elders had long since wildly
inflated the value of the fetish they had traded for the clinic seed.)
She had been warned not to flaunt her new knowledge to adults and with
Suskulan's help had built temporary inhibitions into her mental
processes. She was under no such injunction toward the other children,
though. They were absolutely fascinated and wanted the ability to talk to
Suskulan in the spirit world as well. In spirit world talk Zaba asked
Suskulan if he would give the others an "interface" like she had.
"Yes, though not in one day like I did with you. It takes several days to
a week for an interface to establish itself unless you are very cold."
And so, over the next month the children from 5 to 15 acquired interfaces
to the local net, some of them getting mothers to take them to Suskulan for
"belly pain" and others just slipping away to the clinic for an hour.
A few days after Zaba was healed the village elders visited Suskulan to see
if he knew how to prevent another of their people from being shot.
Suskulan had expected this question.
"I, Suskulan, can augment the spirits in your powerful fetishes. Placed
around your gardens on tall poles they will chatter like a monkey if
someone approaches who is not of the tata."
Suskulan's image wavered into a more unsubstantial translucent mode. The
village elders quickly agreed to bring him a number of fetishes to be
By the next evening, he had a dozen fetish skulls
and the 2-meter poles to hold them placed inside the clinic. Suskulan's
fog of nanomachines equipped each of the skulls with eyes, a solar power
collector hat, power storage and a local area transceiver plus enough
utility fog to serve as local actuators.
There was argument that night if men or women should plant the poles so
they asked Suskulan.
"Children," he told them. "Three boys and three girls." He told them that
Zaba should be included
Zaba and five other older children took the ward poles out to the garden,
planting the first few along the path at 50 meter intervals where they
could serve as relays. Zaba was delighted she could spirit talk to
Suskulan through the ward poles all the way to the garden. Suskulan
directed where the ward poles should be planted through her.
It was prudent those children planted the ward poles and that the adults
didn't get a good look at them. Suskulan had indulged his sense of humor
by regenerating skin and hair on the fetish skulls and placing eyes in the
sockets that disturbingly rolled this way and that.
In the week after the poles were planted, they grew roots like the ones
that had anchored the clinic seed when it first sprouted. The poles grew
dark leaves for solar collectors and the fetishes were able to rotate on
the pole. (An artistic flourish since they had eyes in the back and sides
of the head as well as the front.) All of the poles became strong beyond
belief as Suskulan's remote controlled assemblers laid down nanotube
fibers. Two of them telescoped up ten meters over a period of weeks to get
a wide area view.
Who had shot Zaba remained a mystery. Suskulan and the neighboring clinics
never located a suspect.
The next dry season was almost as brutal as the first. Suskulan was asked
about supplying the tata with food. He explained that was beyond what he
was permitted to do. Food again was in short supply. Suskulan restored
fat on children several at a time. Instead of their being unconscious
while it was done, or talking only to him, he let them play together in the
spirit world, their bodies cooled to near freezing and experiencing ten
hours for every real time hour.
Suskulan had enough distributed processing now that wire frame body images
had been replaced by polygons, better than cartoons but simplified compared
to real life. The physics model was earth standard even to the point of
pain from running into a spirit world tree.
The children who were so inclined were offered instruction. Most of the
children learned enough to manipulate the web cameras where they could look
out at places across the world and as far out as geosynchronous orbit and
to play games (of which there was a huge variety) in the spirit
world. Eventually they discovered the library that could show them movies.
They finally understood the mysterious fixed lights in the sky that had
appeared ten years before as "solar power satellites," or "power sats" that
converted sunlight into microwaves that were beamed to giant receivers on
In spite of efforts by the children to keep their extra vision secret, the
adults figured out the children could see through the ward poles because it
became impossible to sneak up on one of the children if they were near the
The adults asked Suskulan how it was done and could they get it
too? Shortly the older children had to move away from the garden if they
wanted privacy for sex. Then they discovered that sex in the spirit world
was more fun, especially after they talked Suskulan into locally reducing
the gravity in the physics models. (Sex in the simulation had no
biological consequences; producing food *out* of the simulation and
producing babies *in* the simulated world being the two built in limits
Suskulan had no desire to break.)
By the end of the dry season, the tata inhabitants were spending half their
time with their bodies in a very cold state deep under the clinic and their
minds in the spirit world--which now sported a copy of the tata sitting in
the middle of an otherwise uninhabited world. With the start of the wet
season and the need to plant and maintain the physical-world houses all of
them were out of the clinic for a few months except when they needed it for
Expecting him to say no, the tata elders asked Suskulan if he could make
their houses more resistant to the rain. To their surprise, Suskulan
agreed and poured a large store of fuel and molecular parts into weather
proofing the mud dwellings with tiny diamond sheets. The houses didn't
look different after Suskulan worked on them but they were as proof against
the weather as the clinic walls.
Just before the next dry season arrived, Suskulan got another update, and
with the additional processing he installed, life within the "spirit world"
became very much like that outside in attention to detail. (Except no
bedbugs, lice or mosquitoes!)
With the start of the dry season, more and more of the tata members spent
most of their time in the sprit world, sometimes sleeping there and only
coming out to work the gardens or harvest. With substantially fewer people
eating, the granaries filled up, reducing the need to spend time in the
physical world even more. Weather proofing the houses further reduced the
need to spend time a lot of time in the physical world.
Just after the wet season started a "mole" laying an optical fiber burrowed
into the tata linking Suskulan to the rest of the clinics. No longer
limited by satellite bandwidth and latency, his "patients" could travel by
optical fiber and experience the virtual or physical world any place on the
planet while their bodies lay in Suskulan's underground extension. Few of
them were interested in going outside of their language group, even with
excellent translation services (Zaba was an exception). But they did use
"seven league boots" to visit relatives in other tatas, something that had
been curtailed since the pox years.
At the same time those in the sprit world were allowed to change the
simulation, locally for their own consciousness or if they wanted to change
public parts by consensus. The spirit world tata didn't change much, but
the inside of the dwellings became larger than the outside as Suskulan
relaxed the physics rules on request.
Zaba often talked to Suskulan. She eventually acquired a top-level
understanding of all of human knowledge and had access to the details
through simulated memory. Suskulan warned her that she would have a
difficult time in the physical world if she got out of communication
because her mind had expanded well beyond that could be supported in a brain.
"Why would I want to go back to being stupid?" she responded, but, after
thinking about it, she warmed up her body and moved her consciousness back
into her original brain. Her boy friend was deep in a game and would not
Zaba was one of the few Suskulan permitted to be in physical state, in his
underground extensions. He was not concerned about the safety of his racks
of freezing cold members of the tata, supported in a web of nanomachines,
he just didn't want those who did want to know how they went in and out of
the spirit world to be concerned about the underlying physical details.
She rode up the elevator and left the clinic and the spirit world for a
day. Walking beyond the reach of the local net was a disconcerting
experience at first but even without the net, Zaba's mind was
impressive. She remembered what Suskulan had said about staying awake and
learning while being healed and how it would change her and the people of
It certainly had.
For better or for worse?
For better in that nobody died of fevers or nasty parasites and nobody
starved. People didn't even die of old age with a clinic to regress age
for them and they only aged in the spirit world to the extent they wanted.
For worse in that she could not have children unless she left the clinic
for their gestation.
Since fetal development was arrested while in the clinic, (but not
post-birth somatic growth) a number of families stuck it out until a child
was born, then moved back into the spirit world tata to raise the child.
Zaba visited with the few remaining families in person, then returned to
the clinic and the spirit world. She was not inclined to leave it again.
By the start of the dry season in 2045 the presence of physical-state
humans was rare, not just in Suskulan's tata, but in a wave moving south
along the routes Lothar, Mabo and their fellow clinic seed planters had
traveled so long ago. Suskulan used extensions made of utility fog to keep
the leaves and fallen palm fronds swept out of the tata. The
weatherproofed tata required little other maintenance
A few months after the last family from the tata moved into the spirit
world with no intent to come out, Suskulan rounded up the tata's
elders. Some of them were living in simulated palaces with dozens of
simulated servants and companions.
Taking on his translucent vestige from his first meeting with them, he
addressed the group in a simulation of the physical-world clinic.
"Remember the leopard who pissed on Lothar's Land Rover when he brought the
clinic seed to your tata"?
They did and laughed at the memory.
"That leopard has been nosing around the empty physical-world tata."
Suskulan showed them video of the large curious cat cautiously
investigating the neatly maintained but empty tata.
"The physical-world tata is your property, and for that matter, the clinic
that is Suskulan is your property." Suskulan reminded them, "You exchanged
a valuable fetish for it." The elders accepted this, though it made them
a bit uncomfortable.
"Would you mind if the leopard slept in one of the houses?"
"Will you chase him out when we go back to visit the physical world?"
With assurances from Suskulan that he would run the leopard off if anyone
ventured back into the physical-world tata they said the leopard could
sleep in the tata.
The tata was home to the leopard for the rest of his life.
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