I woke up and the first thing I saw was a smiling nurse’s face.

“How are we?” she asked with that incorrigible familiarity of medical practitioners.

“I am fine, thanks. Was the operation cancelled?” I wondered, as I didn’t feel any different.

“No, the transfer was successful,” she smiled encouragingly, “look at your arm.”

I followed the advice and found that the silly tatto was gone! I was in a clone, and that also meant that… I sat up in the bed and carefully touched my back. There they were – several depressions in my spine lined with some hard material. I’ve got the slots!

“Don’t worry about them,” said the nurse, “they are firmly attached to your vertebrae and are harder than bone. In fact, if you ever fall on your back they will protect you from an injury.”

“And what about, you know, showering. Am I going to short-circuit anything?”

“Oh, no. The slots are passive; they are activated only when capsule cables are plugged in.”

“And how are the cables attached?” I continued questioning, “I don’t feel any kind of grooves where they could be fixed.”

“They are fixed in place by suction. Look, I don’t know all the details but you will soon have a session with our researchers who will be able to answer your questions.”

“Oh, you were very helpful, thanks. I wouldn’t bother you but I’ve just realised that we were not given any information about slots before the operation; and somehow I didn’t actually think about asking.”

“That was on purpose. You see, your mind unconsciously avoided this topic because it scared you. Giving you all the information beforehand would only increase your anxiety. But soon you’ll learn all you need to know.”

“Can I get up now or do I need to stay in bed?”

“Sure, you can. Just don’t do any sudden movements until you get used to your new body.”

I slowly lowered my legs from the bed and carefully stood up holding a rail on the wall in case I was dizzy after the operation. Then I made a few steps along the wall; then I released the rail and walked towards the window.

“You know,” said I, “I feel lighter. Is it some kind of lightheadedness after the transfer?”

“No, in fact your new body is lighter. The clone does not have extra fat, it has stronger and more flexible muscles which do not have problems that your old body accumulated over the years. Consider yourself lucky – you have already won a minor prize. Even if you don’t become a capsuleer this body will serve you much longer than the old one.”

“And what if I become a capsuleer?”

“Well, unless you plan on spending all your career in hi-sec, I wouldn’t recommend investing in expensive tattoos,” winked the nurse.

I expected to have some kind of recovery period in the hospital, but I was checked out after only one day. Even that, I’d been told, was just because it was the first transfer and they wanted to monitor me in case I had some psychological problems. Experienced capsuleers were ready for action as soon as they woke up in the new body.

“A session with researchers” mentioned by the nurse turned out to be a two-day seminar where we were given an overview of and a practical guidance on all technologies which enabled capsuleering. Cloning and mind transfer were the most well-known ones, but there were a lot of others. Take, for example, pod goo. I saw how Gerhardt’s capsule was filled with liquid but I was so shocked to discover he was a capsuleer that I didn’t assess that observation critically – it all seemed to me a kind of magic. In reality, pod goo is a very smart invention that enables capsuleers to survive extreme accelerations by spreading the force evenly across the surface of their bodies. You can think of it as a kind of amniotic fluid which surrounds a fetus in a mother’s womb.

One question that should have come to my mind, but didn’t, was how did one breathe in that goo. I didn’t see any pipes connected to Gerhardt’s nose or mouth, yet he didn’t look like a drowning man. The thing is, there is no point in cushioning the body with liquid and leaving air in the lungs. External pressure applied to the chest may compress the air inside, crush the ribcage and cause lung collapse. To avoid that, lungs must also be filled with liquid, so the pod goo is actually breathable. Now imagine the complexity of the task faced by scientists who developed pod goo – they had to put together a concoction which had the same density as human body, was biochemically neutral and was saturated with oxygen!

While the scientific achievement was mind-blowing, the practicalities of its application were rather unpleasant. Have you ever tried to breathe water? And if you did, what was the result? Don’t know about you, but my first experience resulted in a bout of extreme nausea which didn’t cause vomiting only because I did it on empty stomach. It took me three weeks of daily training to get completely comfortable with liquid in my lungs.

Everyone in our group was keen to get into a pod and try his hand, or should I say mind, at controlling it. We expected that we would be able to do it straight after the seminar. To our frustration, we discovered that “water-breathing” and several other exercises, like manual pod control, formed a learning programme that we had to go through before we were allowed to actually board the capsule. As eager as we were, there was little we could do to expedite the training which took five more weeks. But finally the day has come.

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