Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
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"Congratulations Ensign, you have passed the first test."
The voice originated in my head but was not mine. I could see, hear, feel nothing. It wasn't even black, it was just gone.
"Now, we will begin adding inputs starting with external sound."
Suddenly I could hear. Fans whirring, consoles beeping and chiming, mumbled voices talking, footsteps, chair creaks.
"Within acceptable levels."
"Alright, let's go for vocals." The voice raised and addressed me. "Ensign, we are going to activate your vocalization commands. You will subvocalize to communicate. Don't try to talk, just think about talking."
A speaker squawked and warbled. "Try to focus, Ensign. Its part of your body, learn to use it." The speaker quieted and a barely recognizable computerized voice said, "Hello?"
"Excellent, Ensign. We're going to practice by having you say your name, rank, and serial number." I complied and slowly the computerized voice became clearer as I adjusted to the different way of thinking. When I finished the main voice said, "Good work. Eventually you can modify the software to make the voice sound more like your vocal cords but for now we are going to move on."
"Activate visual sensors."
A room came into being in my brain. I was seeing, but not through my eyes. I wanted to blink, I desperately felt the instinct to blink, but nothing happened. My body's neural pathway messages were intercepted into the pseudo-pod's hardware hookups. "I can't blink," my external voice said with an edge of panic. I knew it was trivial, but it seemed like the most important think in the world at that moment.
A man looked right at 'me'. "OK, I understand, focus on me, think about what you see. Think about what you can see. Come on, now, stay with us, you're doing good." I did as he instructed and realized that without turn my head or eyes, I could see all around me. The room was completely visible and my brain processed it into a 3D model in my head. The demand to blink faded into the background.
"I'm OK now. Thanks doc."
He smiled. "No problem, Ensign. Tomorrow we're going run through some more exercises, chart your responses, get you used to the pod's neural interface. But we're done for now. I'm going to disconnect the inputs and then flush you out."
I tried to nod, realized that was impossible, and instead vocalized an affirmative. A moment later the world went dark and silent. There in the darkness I had a momentary thought that I had died like a percentage of new pod pilots do on their first disconnect from the pod. Something just fails and they come out like a vegetable or simply dead. One of our classmates, top of the class and brilliant at everything she tried, got in the pod, pass all the tests like she had been doing this for years, and then upon disconnect she simply stopped living. This is why each candidate went through the process privately and the results not known to the other candidates until all the tests were done for everyone. No need to jack up everyone's nervousness any more than it was already.
I felt something, not through the neural connection but in my limbs, as the pseudo-pod's access hatch at the bottom was opened and the goo flushed out with my naked body with it. I landed unceremoniously on a drainage floor and puked/coughed up the goo that was in my stomach and lungs. It was a horrible sensation.
Two assistants came over and helped me to my feet after I was done heaving. The doctor stood in front of me and held my eyelid up and flashed a light in my eye as I tried to find my feet with wobbly legs. "Name and rank?" he asked.
"Kodachi," my hoarse voice responded with effort, "Ensign."
"Congratulations, Ensign. You have passed the second test."