On the first day of the second test we rode on the internal station train to the remote arm of the station where corporation’s private docks were located. Each candidate was provided with an assistant, a capsule and a cubic kilometre of personal space. The space contained three beacons which marked a triangular route. All we had to do to pass the test was to guide the capsule through that route using only power of mind.
When we arrived to the dock, Hughard, my assistant, escorted me to the capsule.
“All yours,” he smiled.
I undressed, opened the transparent cover, took my seat and activated the capsule. The cover closed with soft hissing, and pod goo started to flood the cabin. I held my breath, and when the liquid covered me completely breathed as much air as I could out and then inhaled the goo and started breathing normally. Then the cables snaked out of the floor and attached themselves to the slots in my back. All those actions were familiar – I did them hundreds of times in a simulator. What I did next drew a line between a simulated and a real experience – I pressed green START button. In a simulator the only thing that changed after that was a projection on the capsule wall. This time I felt how a capsule was pushed through the floor out in into empty space and accelerated towards the first beacon. I was surrounded by real vacuum which would kill me in a matter of seconds if something went wrong.
Hughard probably saw my panic reaction on the monitor and said soothingly, “Easy, man, easy. In the last decade we lost only one candidate, but later found him blind drunk in a bar. Remember what you need to do?”
I took a big breath of pod goo, “Yeah, I’ll use manual controls to go through the route first.”
That was easy – again, did it hundreds of times in a simulator. In less than a minute the task was completed.
“Good boy,” murmured Hughard.
“Now what?” asked I.
“No idea,” shrugged he (I didn’t see him but I could feel that shrug), “if I knew I’d be a capsuleer myself.”
“Well, I mean, is there at least some recommendation? Surely, the successful candidates told you how they managed to control the pod with their mind first time.”
“Oh, we have thousands of such reports, and you know what – each one of them is different!”
“What, no patterns at all?”
“There are some weak ones,” Hughard admitted reluctantly.
“Good, better than nothing. Tell me!”
“I can’t. The second test is structured in such a way that during the first month you try to invent your own means of mind control. We don’t want you to lock onto a specific set of techniques. If there is no progress we’ll give you some recommendations.”
“Damn! I really don’t know where to start.”
“Ok,” said Hughard, “here is a general advice – you need to imagine that the engine and the gyroscope are parts of your body. Now, use the manual controls to start the engine and go to the next beacon.”
I did as he said.
‘What do you feel?” asked Hughard.
“Ok, stop the engine, let me increase the feedback. Start the engine again. What do you feel now?”
I had a strange feeling as if something tensed inside me and told Hughard about it.
“Very good,” said he, “You see, every organ in your body has nerves which send signals to your brain. We built such nerve system into every module in the capsule. Any person connected to the pod, capsuleer or not, will receive those signals and feel them. What differentiates capsuleers from the rest of this hopeless world is that they are able to find a way to send those signals back. You have six months to find that way. Good luck!”
I felt that further questions wouldn’t get me anywhere and focused on the task at hand. How does one do it? If it is a controllable part of the body it has to be a muscle. So I tried to imagine I had that additional muscle in my body and tried to flex it. I ended up exercising every muscle in my body (I even found a couple of new ones), sweating profoundly in the pod goo, and all the while staying put in the same position in space.
Hughard watched all my exercises through telemetry. When I gave up, he said, “Try switching the engine on and off between attempts. The feedback may guide you to the correct mind signal. Also, as this is ‘a new organ’ in your body it may be useful to imagine it and will it to move rather than trying to explicitly exert it.”
I took his advice and tried again and again. That kept me occupied for the next month by the end of which I was convinced that I would never be a capsuleer. Then Professor Muhamad called a meeting.