I didn’t know at what time Professor Muhamad normally had his breakfast, but mine started at 16:00 next day. After weeks of pushing myself to the limit my mind welcomed the opportunity to catch-up on the missed rest, and as a result I soundly slept for twelve hours straight. I guess, all that time Prof was anxious to interrogate me, but I was grateful he gave me R&R I badly needed. When I woke up I felt light and energised, like I was newly cloned.
After the “breakfast” I knocked on the Professor’s door. He greeted me as if nothing happened, “Come in, come in. Had a good rest?”
“Yeah, thank you for letting me oversleep.”
“Don’t mention it, you needed some downtime. Not sure if you noticed but for the last week you looked like a zombie. I wonder if that contributed to the breakthrough you had. It would make your case extremely unique – you would be the first person who tortured himself into a capsuleer,” said Prof and chuckled.
“So, you think I can repeat it, Prof?”
“No idea. The fact that you moved your pod in sleep makes replication of your success completely unpredictable.”
My heart sank, “So what should I do?”
“While you were snoring, I put together some thoughts. Look here,” Professor pushed a printout to me, “these are a few ideas that you can try out. Firstly, we’ll see if you can move the pod while you are awake and are thinking of your last night’s dream. If that doesn’t work, we can put you to sleep and check if you can send a mind signal that way again.”
“What’s the point of making me sleep? Even if I manage to repeat the mind signal, I won’t be able to consciously control it. And who needs a sleepwalking capsuleer?” snorted I.
“The point is, my friend, the more you exercise that neural path, the easier it is activated.”
“Hmm… Ok, let’s see what will come out of it. May I return to the pod?”
“Not so quick. First, go to the lab where my assistants will do a few tests on you.”
“A few tests” actually took the rest of the day by the end of which I was so tired that I didn’t feel like going to the capsule. I left the laboratory and shuffled towards my room when for the second time that day I heard “Not so quick.”
I turned around and saw our whole group standing in the corridor, looking at me with sly smiles and hiding something behind their backs. Lenka detached herself from the crowd and walked towards me, “Have you forgotten your friends?”
I started mumbling something apologetically, but she put her finger to my lips and said, “Shh, close your eyes.”
I was too tired to argue and just followed the order. Lenka put her hand around my neck, whispered in my ear “Congratulations” and kissed me. Then she dived behind my back, put her hands around my body and yelled, “Guys, I am holding him!”
I heard loud pops and opened my eyes. While I was enjoying a moment of intimacy with Lenka, the mob converged on me, uncorked the hidden bottles of bubbly and started showering me with frothy liquid, shouting “Hip hip hoorah!” and “Congratulations!” I made a half-hearted attempt to wiggle out of Lenka’s grip but then gave up, laughed and tried to catch the fine Amarrian sparkling wine with my mouth which caused a new round of cheers. When the wine finally ran out, Lenka, almost as doused as I, let go of me and said, “We thought you’d like to refresh yourself with something delicious before embarking on the lifetime filled with pod goo. Now, you owe us a story. Change your clothes and come to the bar.”
It was a fair call and I couldn’t do anything but oblige. The celebration went into the wee hours of the next morning. Just before we dispersed someone noticed that we all were in pretty much the same state, tired and inebriated, as I was during my successful pod activation. So instead of going to bed, the whole company, including me, headed to the docks to try and replicate my experience.
I fell asleep almost immediately after moving my pod to the start position. Again I dreamed of flying, but that time there was a sense of a nightmare. I felt like I was in an invisible cage. It was all around me, and in whatever direction I chose to fly, I eventually pushed against something soft but impenetrable. After several such attempts to escape the cage I felt a sudden shudder and woke up with a start. First thing I noticed was a broken beacon floating a few meters in front of my pod. And it was not the one that marked the start of the course. I realised that I randomly moved the pod in my sleep and collided with the beacon. There was also an explanation why I felt trapped. As I mentioned before, each candidate was given about a cubic kilometre of space for training. The pod had built-in safeguards which prevented it from leaving that area. Whenever the capsule approached the limits of the allocated space, an automatic circuit overrode controls, be they manual or mental, and gently decreased the speed so that it became zero at the border.
I was elated that I managed to move the capsule twice in a row. And who knows, maybe I discovered a path which could be reused by other people. I still remembered the sadness in Professor Muhamad’s eyes when he told me about his own failure to pass the second test. I wish I could help him achieve the breakthrough – after turning hundreds of candidates into capsuleers he certainly deserved that honour himself. However, later that day I found that I was still the sole one who activated the pod while dreaming. For others the only positive outcome was that, floating in amniotic fluid in zero gravity, they had had the best night’s sleep in years.