Volume 2, Issue 2 
2nd Quarter, 2007

The Clinic Seed - Africa

Keith Henson

Page 4 of 6

When her parents had entered the clinic Suskulan told them that Zaba could not move or feel anything yet, but if they wanted to speak to her spirit, it was nearby and he would try to invoke it.  Tomorrow her spirit would be back in her body.

Zaba had never used a telephone, the tata being well out of range of a cell tower but she knew what they were like.  Suskulan's wire frame image handed Zaba a cell phone image.  She reached out with her wire frame body and took it from him.

"Mother?"  Her voice came out of the speaker Suskulan used.


"Are you going to be all right Zaba?"

"Suskulan says I will be, but he doesn't know how many days it will take.  Can you get Tanko to finish weeding?

"I will do it myself."  Her mother said.  She did not want to risk her other daughter.  After a strange hour of visiting with Zaba’s spirit through a speaker and holding the warm but still hand of Zaba's utility fog image her mother and father left promising to come back the next day.

When they left, Suskulan told Zaba that tomorrow she would be able to talk to her mother and feel her through the image. 

He offered to let her sleep till the next day, but Zaba was curious about what had happened to her.

"Who shot me?"

"That I do not know.  However, the bullet fragments can be matched with the gun if someone else is shot or the gun is found.  It was an AK-47 or similar.  The bullet went through your spine."

Sensing that she wanted to know more, Suskulan generated a wire frame of her body and fed it to her visual circuits.

"The bullet entered the outer edge of your right nipple between ribs, passed through your right lung just missing your heart.  It hit the 4th thoracic vertebrae, shattering it and severing your spinal cord."  Since butchering animals was a common (but not common enough!) practice at the tata Zaba understood the picture she was seeing.

"That takes a lot of fixing.  Your body is being kept very cold so my healing spirits can work fast without burning up."

"How do they work?"

"Ah.  Such a simple question; such a hard answer.   The problem is you don't have the words; they don't exist in your language.  To understand how healing spirits work would require that you learn to read and learn another language."

Zaba, like 99% of the Tamberma, was illiterate.   Not that learning to read in her language would have been much help.  The only literature in the language was a translation of the Bible, not terribly useful to people with traditional religions.

"Can you teach me this language and how to read?"  Zaba asked.

There was a short pause, which was really a very long pause for Suskulan as he projected what would happen and thought about the unstated (though obvious) reason he had been given the upgrade.

"Yes" Suskulan said at last inflecting his voice to a sigh.  "But it will change you and the rest of the people of the tata in ways you cannot foresee and may not like. You can sleep through the nine or ten days it will take to finish healing you.  Are you sure you want to do this? 

"Yes," said Zaba firmly, "I want to learn."

And thus was the fate of this particular tata determined, though in truth something like this had been ordained since Lothar and Mabo traded the clinic seed that became Suskulan for a fetish and before that when the Foundation organized the distribution of clinic seeds, and before that when an early clinic design was released under a creative commons license, and before that . . . leading back and back in time to when proto humans first discovered that a broken stone's sharp edge was just the thing to get at the meat under a hide.

Zaba’s real body was near freezing and 30 meters under the tata. Subjectively Zaba talked to her parents every ten days.  By the next day Suskulan had animated

her image on the healing table so Zaba was able to speak through it and to feel her mother holding her utility fog image when she visited.  Zaba’s real body was near freezing and 30 meters under the tata.

Her biological memory was being mechanically updated in her very cold brain and her consciousness was running in a swarm of fast nano computers.  Suskulan could have let her experience run even faster but he didn't want Zaba to get too far out of synch with her family and the rest of the tata. 

Mechanically constructed memory is a very efficient way to learn.  With Suskulan's help Zaba learned to read her own language in a few hours, to be fluent in English in 15 days (subjective), to an eighth-grade equivalent education in 30 days and to a rough understanding of the physical and chemical background for nanotechnology by 60 days subjective.

Toward the end of her stay in the clinic, Zaba had an understanding of what the swarms of repair devices were doing to restore her spinal cord, patiently teasing out where the nerves should be reconnected across the gap, replacing cell walls and myelin in the destroyed section, rebuilding the shattered bone, muscle and connective tissue and fishing out the bullet fragments down to single atoms of lead.  She even had some understanding of how her mind was being supported in the nano computers that were acting in place of her very cold brain.

A few hours before her parents were to come on the last day, Zaba warmed up her body under Suskulan's guidance.  Her consciousness was continuous as the reactivated brain cells took over from the slowed down swarm of nano computers that had been simulating them.   The support and information umbilical connections withdrew and the holes in her skin closed seamlessly as Zaba started breathing for the first time in 9 days. 

She sat up and coughed a few times.  Her physical body was different from what she had experienced for the past subjective 90 days.  Better?  Worse?  She could not decide.  Zaba was delighted that there was no sign she had been shot.  She walked around the huge underground space, which had become familiar to her in the past 3 months as she shifted her virtual viewpoint among clouds of utility fog.  Zaba detected a few misconnected sensation nerves in one foot.  Suskulan said if her brain did not adjust to them in a few days she should come back and the clinic would fix them.

She was mildly distressed that she now had to voice talk to Suskulan, who appeared as a projection, instead of "talking" directly to his spirit in the spirit world she had inhabited.  Then she realized from her new knowledge there was a way she could if she took a bit of the clinic with her.  However, there wasn't much time to before her parents came.

"Can I come back to visit even if I am not hurt?" she asked. 

"Yes.  Anytime I don't have another patient."

"May I take the clinic's interface with me?"

"There is nothing so addictive . . ." thought Suskulan. 

"You may."  Part of the cloud of nanomachines that had just left Zaba's brain returned as a momentary haze.  Since they retained their memory of where they had been it was a matter of a few minutes before the machines reestablished their monitoring posts in Zaba's brain.

"I missed not being able to talk to you in the spirit world."   Zaba said without voicing.  A wire frame image in Zaba's visual cortex overlaid the physical projected image of Suskulan.

"Spirit talk does not reach as far as your garden."  Suskulan warned her.

Zaba lay down on the repair table that was now at the bottom of the elevator shaft.   The elevator lifted it into its place in the clinic.   Zaba was treated to seeing the rapidly thinning utility fog image of her body that had comforted her family for the last ten days before she merged into her image.

The nanomachine haze that had fogged her image and now her real body withdrew into the low table.  She greeted her family as they came into the clinic 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.

Suskulan sent off a strictly factual report.  There were no replies this time, but perhaps that was due to the high report traffic.

Her family had visited every day, but they 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.)

Zaba 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.



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