Tuesday, 20 September 2011

18) He Stung

    A’nk ran through the forest, jumping over small streams and skirting trees at full speed. His heart raced, his feet barely touched the ground, his arms swished back and forth. His breath like the feet of mammoths pounded in his chest. A’nk loved his morning runs.
    Out of nowhere an intense pain shot up from his foot like a bolt of lightning. He cried out and fell, the ground treating him roughly with a few small sharp rocks in the backside and rubbing his face as he rolled. He slid back down to the muddy trail and inspected his foot. There between his two broad toes was a small insect. He grunted and pulled his foot closer. The tendons in his old hips complained, but he ignored them, reminded himself to do some longer stretches when he got back from his walk.
    He couldn’t quite make out what kind of insect it was, they were all so dark to his regular vision. He blinked and brought down his machine lens.
    Suddenly he was blind. No, wait, he could make out some soft fuzzy brightness. He checked the spectrum and zoom. The lenses were last set for deep sky teleoscopy in the X-ray when he had been watching the black holes dance the night before with his lovely half mate K’ma. She’d be back to the city center by now, the day after three became one. His other half mate J’on had left the day before for his inconveniently timed symposium on cognitive spelunking, leaving him and K’ma to themselves for an awkward night.
    He blinked twice and frustratingly switched his lenses to visible light with macro. The shadow dappled forest floor was a familiar green and brown, fuzzy. He brought his injury to bare and extended the small branching claws in his hand. He focused his sight on the insect and its striped carapace in black and glowing violet.
    He said, “Search?”
    A small reticle appeared silently in the center of his vision. He tracked over the insect and it was highlighted.
    He carefully pulled it out of his flesh at the base of the stinger which was smooth and leaking a milky fluid. He extended a small sensor claw and tasted the liquid then the insect its self.
    He said, “Fix. Query.”
    Data on the insect came up after a moment, Apis xenotype VII, 43%, additional unknown proteins. He frowned. Someone had let their backyard experiment get out into public. He sighed and shut off blood flow to his leg. This was not what he wanted to do today. He’d was supposed to be back to work tomorrow at the husbandry lots. Today was a day for rest and relaxation, rot and entropy.
    He said, “Search, sequence this fucking bug.” It’d take a minute and even though he couldn’t read the sequence himself he could send it to Emergency services which he’d have to call immediately.
    The species ‘xenotypes’ was attached to anyone’s experimental life form, prototypes, alpha and beta runs. Until they got to a green release and their creature was fit for the public. Each creature was tagged with a rough count of changes in powers of ten for the bases altered. Most corporations dabbled around three to four and most amateurs kept it to one or two. This little guy had at least ten million bases changed, a little less than half of its DNA was altered, meaning it could be just about anything and potentially ecology crashing if it got out, let alone horribly poisonous.
    “Rot!” He yelled and pounded his fist in the mud.
    He said, forcibly calmer, “Search, call Emergency.”
    He heard the dialing tone and pause while his search connected him to the closest Emergencies and Accidents center.
    The voice that responded was calm and centered and warm and friendly, “E&A Houston Ring, are you safe?”
    He sighed, “No, I don’t think so. I was just stung by a Xenotype seven. I’ve applied a tourniquet. I think I was exposed for maybe fifteen seconds.”
    “Ok, citizen, we’ll get you help immediately. Have you sequenced the creature?”
    “Yeah, yeah. Gimme a second. It’s almost done.” He said.
    They waited in silence.
    He heard a soft ping. “Ok, it just finished.” He paused and said, “Search, give this nice person the nasty bug’s genome.”
    A small voice only he could hear said, “Yes. Sending genome of recent search to other line.”
    “Ok, thank you. I got it. We are sending a judicial to that creature’s owner and an ambulance to your location. Uh, sir, it seems you’re out of copter range. But there is a flat area where we can land a hundred yards off East. Are you able to move yourself? We could send a drone.” She said.
    “I think I can make it. A hecto East? Got it.”
    “My pleasure, sir. Healthy day, be well.” And she hung up.
    He sighed again and felt his age as he tried to pull himself up with his gimpy leg. He scooted over to a felled tree with about three feet still sticking up out of the ground. He kept slipping and said, “Suit, stiff right leg please.”
    The right leg of his track suit warmed slightly and inflated a few centimeters. After a couple seconds it hardened and pushed his leg out straight. He leaned against the tree and pulled himself up.
    Finally, covered in mud and leaves he stood and limped East through the small copse of birch trees and out to a grassy field. He stood for a few minutes, waiting for the copter to come, until he felt stupid and angry and just sat down. He held back tears of frustration, he didn’t want to go to the hospital. He wanted to stay in the forest. He didn’t want to be in that sterile place, and its lack of smells. He didn’t want to get some poor schmuck who let his experiment out in trouble. Most of all he didn’t want to get a new leg. It would be a good six months while his replacement limb was grown from his own cells and all the while he’d be walking around like a Ludo, half human, half machine. He’d probably have to sit at his desk and miss the foaling at work.
    He shook his head and tried to banish his despair. Life was good, he reminded himself, he would be helped, he would be healed. He thought of his kids, L’un and D’sh, not that they’d be worried, they were each in their own little world. Tall lanky L’un at her parties and D’sh and ver terminal designing a new shelter or jewelry or some new automaton.
    He said, “Search, call L’un.” The line hissed and rang. Then the line connected.
    “Hi daddy!” L’un said over the background noise of the pool she worked at during the day as a lifeguard.
    “Hey, dumpling. Daddy’s gotta go to the hospital, but I’ll be alright, don’t worry.”
    “Ok, I’m sorry. What happened? Are you going to be okay? Where are you now? Where are they taking you? Do I need to pick up D’sh?”
    “Whoa ho, I just stepped on a xeno-bug. It could have venom and I’ve probably lost my leg.” He said
    “Oh no, that’s horrible. I’ll be right out. Are they taking you to the Main Hospital? Do you know what room?”
    He laughed a little.
    “Stop, daddy, this isn’t funny.” She scolded him.
    “I’ll be fine. Just make sure D’sh eats his dinner and I’ll try to be home by tomorrow. I’ll call you when I know more, ok? Don’t worry, my Love Light, I’ll be fine, I promise.”
    “Hmmm, if you say so.” She said. And there was a loud shout and splash in the distance. She said, “Sorry, Daddy, gotta go. But call me as soon as you know?”
    “Yes, no problem, love.”
    Click and the line closed.
    If he had really only wanted to convey information he would have talked to his daughter D’sh. Ve would have taken notes and been entirely disinterested. Not because ve was disconnected, just that ve was precise and cool, efficient not unloving. But he really wanted someone to worry over him, just a little.  
    Soon enough he heard the thrum of the approaching copter. Then it cleared the tree line, landed, picked him up, and took him to the hospital.

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