SIM:Jose and Emma Fangjian - Excision
Emma Fengjian, Jose Fangjian
Emma and Jose discuss the ethical implications of the excision of Patri-Jia Kom's Grendellai slave tag that Emma performed using a holodeck.
((Jose Fangjian's Quarters - USS Independence-A a few days before))
::Jose sat down at his desk, tired from the long day's work. He couldn't put in the long hours a programmer needed to any more. But he wasn't sad or disappointed. He'd had a good run. He'd designed and built a line of robotic phobia treatments when the holography industry had laughed at him. Henk still served aboard this ship. Theresa the Tarantula was alive and well on the Terran colony of New Texas.
Lassie the retriever was helping children in Victoria's many psychiatric wards. She'd been quite a challenge. He'd had to build the temperature regulation system inside of her tongue when the bulk of her heat was generated not by the internal organs but by the servo motors.
And his wife... His wife was on the cutting edge of existential computing. She was the reason he sat here now, waiting for a call.::
::The screen flickered on, the federation civilian sciences logo blinking. Tapping the monitor Jose smiled as he saw the familiar face. Emma. She'd mis-spelled the family name enough times that she was known officially as Emma Fengjian while Jose stuck with Fangjian.::
::It was a happy greeting for Emma. Jose knew that grin, knew that her voice was level not to hide her emotions but to indicate the pneumatics of a failed attempt to hide them -- communication through indirection.::
Jose: Hi. ::Coyly:: How are you?
Emma: Very well.
::The two made a point of following one another's publications. Jose knew she was probably somewhere near Pamos, the new colony. There was a prison there, a facility that helped provide the labour pool for the local colonists. Again he resumed the indirection, maintaining the scaffold on which their intimacy climbed and grew.::
Jose: What's new?
::Emma loved that. Seated on the other end, light years away, her husband was the only person other than her mother who could tell when she was onto something. Her smile was a professional fastened door keeping her giddiness at bay.
She'd just performed the first neurosurgery using a holodeck as a kind of scalpel. This was completely unheard of. The patient had been introduced into the holodeck, her mind continuing to function under the watchful eyes of Emma's instruments. Slowly, the excision had taken place, parts of complexes and other psychic phenomena emerging only to be rendered into the simulation as it progressed. The result was a self-perpetuating feedback loop that allowed the patient's brain to rebuild itself as the foreign object (in this case a Grendellai slave tag) was removed. Without the feedback mechanism the surgery would have left the patient permanently brain damaged.::
Emma: Remember that article I wrote a few weeks back? Well it's not science fiction any more. You really can perform a holomatrix-guided excision of foreign objects from a patient's brain.
::Jose nodded. This was an accomplishment.::
Jose: You mean you...used a holodeck to--::
Emma: ::giggling:: Yes. It was rough at times. She tried to kill me but I flipped on the safeties after falling a few hundred feet.
::He was horrified. The fear that his wife might die in his absence was always there at the back of his mind.::
Jose: Falling a few hundred feet?? Are you alright?
::Emma smiled, broadly this time. This wasn't something one restrained.::
Emma: Of course I am, honey. I had the holodeck rendering data from the patient's neural implant while I tried to remove it from her. And well... I guess she tried to kill me by opening a fissure in the ground below me.
::Jose couldn't help but laugh.::
Jose: You mean she could direct the holodeck through the implant?
Emma: Yep. The Grendellai tried to transport a slave tag into her when she was a kid. They left it there and her brain grew around it and integrated its curcuitry into its own synaptic connections. In essence she could issue remote commands to computers through it.
Jose: Are you sure she wanted it removed?
::She sighed. That was the crux of the matter. The fact was that the implant had led to an unstable personality and a penchant for criminal activity, not to mention prosopagnosia.::
::He could see she wasn't sure.::
Jose: This was ethical I hope.
Emma: Of course it was. She was hauled up on charges for using that device to commit computer crime. She was a miserable woman. She'd tried to get the tag removed before. I just didn't want to get her hopes up.
::Jose nodded. He wondered who this woman might have been. He tilted his head with a glimmer of mischief in his eyes.::
Jose: Who was she?
::Emma smiled coyly and said,::
Emma: Doctor-patient confidentiality.
::Jose looked over the prison records. As a member of the Federation psychological society he had access at least to the manifests of facilities like correctional institutions. He scanned the records for someone who might match the specifications of the patient Emma would have needed.::
Emma: You're scanning the prison database aren't you?
Jose: Uh yeah, there's this research paper I'm working on involving keeping up with the work of a famous existential computing scientist who doesn't like to talk much about her work and--
Emma: Okay okay. Patri-Jia Kom. She was a hacker who was arrested by... by the ship you're on right now actually.
::Jose nodded. Now he understood why that patient had been so important in Emma's work.::
Emma: Something happened with a slave tagging. The transceiver tag started interacting with her brain tissue at an early age. She became almost a living network server. But the problem was that it had the side effect of completely destabilizing her personality.
::Jose nodded again.::
Jose: How is she now?
::Emma had watched the patient closely, poring over prison reports during the weeks following the treatment. Her penchant toward religion seemed to have remained.::
Emma: Apparently she's become quite a religious visionary. She holds a meditation class in the prison camp and the guards see her as an asset in maintaining order.
Jose: So she's recovering?
::Emma nodded and Jose could see a tinge of doubt in her face.::
::When the conversation was through Jose sat in the dark for several minutes, the stars outside his window providing his only illumination. Across these distances in this darkness specialists pursued recoveries to conditions no one would even have dreampt of only 300 years before. The computer, he realized, could help just as much as it could kill.::
::Emma stood up from her seat and strolled back to the library. The glowing light beneath the book trollies offered a comforting reassurance of the progress of sentient beings. The bluish glow of the book spines tugged subtly at her. "Discourse on Depressive Disorders." "Sickness Unto Death." "Fundamental Gestalt Shift Theory Across Species." "Guilt: An Interspecies Comparative Analysis."::
::She grabbed that last one and sat down at a vacant desk. She looked up to see the stars in the sky roof window. She knew that these were the stars under which both she and her husband sailed, no longer constant and no longer able to guide anyone. The North Star was every star and it was nothing. It was wherever one was. Looking down at the book again, she read: ::
In all species, throughout all of history, persons have struggled with one question: How do I live after I have committed a crime?
Jose Fangjian and his wife Emma Fengjian
as simmed by
Lt. Kevin Breeman
Chief of Science
I had wanted a more satisfactory conclusion to Patri-Jia Kom's story for a long time. I understood that her marathon sim was wrong but I also thought that simply setting her aside would not do either. I brought Patri back in the writing challenge piece Excision and in that piece I removed her slave tag once and for all. Finally I decided to write this sim as a way of placing Excision into the context of the wider story weaved in SB118.
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