Then retching. Pain, deep below my forehead.
In my mind’s eye, I flash back through the double handful of poddings I’ve gone through.
Bang. Cold. Dark. Spewing fluid out of my throat as I stumble out of the vat.
I remember the CEO of my first corporation – his face as vivid as the last day I saw him, comatose on a bed much like I knew I was, up there in the waking world.
I remember the face of my mother, smiling broadly as I was taken away to become a capsuleer.
I remember the smell of my father’s jacket. The smell of dust and fuel. The door of the dropship closing behind him as he ascended to the Nomad jump freighter in orbit high above my home as a boy.
The sound of my baby sister crying.
All as vivid as if they had just happened.
Strange that just yesterday I struggled to remember details of life before the wormhole.
Darkness. And silence. I waited.
Slowly, light dawned.
My eyes opened on a white room. A Gallente nurse waited. Water-blue uniform. Hair red, natural-looking rather than garishly tinted like so many Gallente. The window behind her casting a halo around her head. And incongruously, a bucket in hand. She smiled and handed the bucket toward me.
I put my head in it obligingly, dry heaved again. A cool, damp cloth on my forehead. Eyes. I took it and wiped my mouth.
“How are you feeling?” she asked – a stupid question.
“Unwell. Being forewarned about potential complications and experiencing them are decidedly different.”
I paused. When exactly did I start talking like that? My voice, but not what I would have said. I struggled to bring my focus back.
She nodded. “We can adjust the voltage just a bit then. Sometimes the frontal lobe is a bit overreactive.” She tapped at her control panel quietly.
Mercifully, the nervous twitch and throbbing headache stopped. “That’s better, thanks.” I paused. “And I sound less like a pretentious asshole.”
She chuckled. “How is the pain?”
“Fine. Can you stop this ringing in my ears?” More tapping, and the noise faded out.
I nodded slowly. “My eyes are still blurry. And I still feel too dizzy to stand. How long before that goes away?”
Her facial expression foretold less happy news this time. “Based on my readings, sir, I’m afraid those are entirely normal. Some times it takes a bit to adjust. Your body got used to hyper-actuated hearing, vision and balance. You will probably also find yourself less motivated than before, and more prone to flight reactions than fight reactions. These are typical aftereffects of switching the overloads.”
I nodded. Of course, there was a tradeoff for boosting your frontal lobe … you had to pull the power from somewhere else in the brain – in this case the brain stem, occipital lobe, and portions of the parietal.
I sighed. “So, glasses?”
She nodded, and extended a hand to help me stand. Shakily I took hold and stood. From her other hand, a cane. “Use this until you don’t need it any more. Your body will remember quickly enough.”
The nurse turned and walked toward the door. “The paperwork confirming the final voltage settings is on the table there, please validate them and we’ll get your clones switched over as well. The good news is that you won’t have to go through all this again when you jump, since you’ll be used to the new level of sensation by then. Rest and pour yourself some water from the pitcher on the table. I’ll be back for your final check and discharge shortly.”
The door closed, a waft of floral perfume lingering behind. I sat, and poured a glass of water. Surely it had been the right thing to do. Certainly I would learn these complex systems faster. But I felt naked, stripped of the boosts in willpower and perception that I had enjoyed since capsuleer graduation. It was hard to be happy for it – my newfound sharp clarity of thought and photographic memory only brought into sharp relief the weaknesses a capsuleer could not allow himself to feel.
Reaching to the back of my head, I flipped active a switch that had been powered down for the procedure.
Greetings, Capsuleer Rhavas. Analyzing brain functional mapping … complete. Based upon CONCORD clinical averages, my projections show that this power redistribution will enable you to progress more quickly through the advanced physics you intend to study.
“Thanks Aura. Invoke program Astrometric Rangefinding, Level 5 course please.”
I closed my eyes, and dreamed of an intricate ballet of core scanner probes.