Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6
* * * * *
I was in a good mood. The tests in the pseudo-pod were going well the past two days and I was getting the hang of managing all the information input while connected to the pod.
The man in the white lab coat looked impassively at me as I strode in naked. The other lab assistants didn't take any notice and continued to watch output screens and modify settings. "Please get ready, Ensign," he said.
I climbed up the steps to where an orderly waited with the pod neural interface jack which connected to the main jack at the base of my skull. I lowered myself into the hatch at the drop of the test pod and my lower half of my body felt the chill of the oxi-gel. The orderly grabbed my skull not too gently, inserted the interface, and my world went dark-INSECTS CRAWLING IN MY SKULL OH GOD THEY'RE EATING MY BRAIN NO NO NO HELP ME-and then I was in the black all alone. I wondered if I would ever get used to that transition.
The world suddenly brightened as the station's sensor input channels were funneled by the hundreds into my brain. I settled into the sorting process I had internally developed over the past two days and soon everything was in its place and I relaxed, enjoying the solar waves of radiation warm my armoured skin, the constant chatter of ship traffic whispering in my electronic ear, and the thump of my nuclear heart in my chest. I could not wait to feel like this in a ship I could control.
"Excellent, prepare the neural transference protocol."
My attention snapped back to the inputs from the lab. "Wait, what?" I asked.
The doctor looked up at the video camera that was acting as my eyes. "The neural transference protocol. We are going to simulate a pod breach to initiate a reading of your neural pathways and transference to the medical facility on deck 10."
"But won't... I mean... doesn't the reading done in a pod failure effectively kill the pilot?" I was very confused.
"It melts the neurons of the interfaced clone, yes." There was a little smirk on his face and it made my angry.
"Are you saying you're going to kill me?"
"This is the third and last test, Ensign." He turned to one of his assistants. "Activate."
"Now wait a minute doc! I don't think this is-"
"Ten seconds to pod breach simulation."
"SHIT! Doc, stop this right now!" I vainly struggled to make my body move but the pod interface intercepted all communications from the brain to the body.
"Five seconds to pod breach simulation, 4, 3, 2..."
"GET ME OUT OF HERE-"
* * * * *
I was cold, shivering, and blinded my a bright light.
"Well, he's alive. Some neural activity."
"Let's get him to the shower."
I was lying down. I couldn't move. I wanted too and my arms did move but not where I wanted them too. I felt so weak. I tried to speak, ask where I was, but all that came out was a groan. Neither my lips nor tongue moved right.
"Its OK fella, you just need a few minutes to warm up."
At least I could see better as the white and black spots faded. I was on a gurney being wheeled down a hall. On either side were banks of clear tubes bodies, male and female, floating naked in them. Clones I realized.
We wheeled into a large shower and the two men washed me down with blessedly warm water. My body stopped shivering and slowly I regained control of my limbs.
"Come on, sit up if you can, I'll help ya." One of the men, a clone medical technician I thought, helped me up and my stomach lurched but nothing came out as I retched. "It's alright, everyone of ya feels this way when it happens to them. Let it run its course." I finally stopped and took a deep breath.
The second man grabbed a rough towel and dried me off while the second man gave me another examination, flashing his small light in my eyes to watch my pupils dilate, checking my pulse and blood pressure, and my balance as I sat and he let go. Seemingly satisfied, he turned to the back of the room and said, "He looks good."
There was an officer writing on a datapad. He looked up at the pronouncement of my status and walked over. Training insisted I get up to salute but my legs felt wobbly and he waved it off. "Don't bother sailor, it will be hours before you can stand without falling over. First time is a bitch for all of us."
"Yes sir," I tried to say. It actually came out vaguely recognizable.
"For the record your name, rank and serial number."
"Kodachi, Ensign, 214933." Damn, I felt out of breath. "Sir, I think they killed me!" I blurted.
He chuckled. "Yes Ensign, that they did. Before the Navy spends time and effort on turning you into a valuable asset, we need to make sure you survive the inevitable death that comes with the territory of being a capsuleer in the navy. There is a one in twenty chance that you do not survive the first transference. After that it drops to one in ten thousand, and lower every time after. So we have the third test. It may seem a little cruel now, but after a few more times it won't seem that bad to you."
"Where is my body?"
"You are IN your body," he said sternly. "Don't get obsessed with your 'original' body. Some podders have driven themselves crazy thinking about it. It has probably already been dissected for science and burnt in the medical waste incinerator."
He turned the pad around. "Put your thumb here, son." I did as I was told, still numb at the thought of my body, my old body I corrected myself, being gone. "Congratulations, you are hereby promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade of the State Navy. You have leave for three days and will report to medical for implants at 0900 on the 16th. Understand?"
He handed me a small datacard with the information on it, we saluted each other (him more crisply than I), and as he turned to walk away he said, "Welcome to the ranks of the capsuleers."