The first thing he noticed was the cold. As soon as he woke up he felt his whole body numb and heavy.
He tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids – like the rest of his body – refused to obey his scattered will.
“Don’t try to move.” The voice came from somewhere above him. “Everything is okay, just relax. Your body is still too weak, it needs some time to adjust.”
His mind felt like a mushy swamp. Every thought had to painfully struggle to move forward, step by slow and hesitant step. Where was he? What was happening?
“We have to raise your temperature gradually. It might take some time for your metabolism to stabilize. Most of your body processes are still starting up. Don’t fight it, let it flow. It will be easier that way.” The new voice had come from a place slightly to the right of the first one.
Gradually, his thoughts began to get faster and clearer. But the numbness of his body was still there.
With some effort, he managed to will his mouth to speak. “Where… where am I? What happened?”
His voice sounded strange and unfamiliar to his own ears.
“It’s ok, Jim, don’t strain yourself. The procedure was a success, you just have to give your brain some time to adapt. It’s still learning how to talk to your body.”
Procedure? Somewhere at the bottom of a deep well within his mind a memory was trying to take form. But it felt like trying to remember a dream after you wake up, always at the very edge but never quite revealing itself.
“Your reaction time is getting better by the minute, at this rate you’ll be fully in control of your body within a few hours, mayor.”
Mayor! Suddenly the shadow of the dream became as clear as day. His eyes opened to see the cold and greenish glow of fluorescent lights above him. He tried to get up, but found himself firmly restrained.
“–His brain activity is jumping all over the place! –Quick, increase chlordiazepoxide to five units! –Mayor, you have to calm down!”
A familiar face appeared above him. “Take it easy, Jim. You’re ok, your brain is just reacting to a situation it doesn’t understand. Look at me! Count down from ten. Come on, let’s do it together.”
“General Morgan? What have I done? Oh my god! What have I done?”
He felt like a wild animal that suddenly awakes to find itself confined to a cage.
“Take it easy, son. Just look at me, focus on me. Come on. Everything’s ok. You are perfectly safe, just different. You have to let your brain adapt.”
The words from someone he trusted slowly began to calm him down, or maybe it was the drugs finally taking effect. His panic began to subside.
“That’s better. Just relax and let your new body and your brain get properly acquainted. Everything will be ok as soon as they get used to each other.”
He felt the restraints being untied. Slowly, he raised his arms to his face… two things made of titanium and shiny carbon fiber came into view.
“God.” He thought. “This is what I asked for. Why do I feel like this?”
The answer to his unspoken question came from the man in white standing at the foot of his bed.
“It was the only way, mayor. You wouldn’t be able to survive the mission.”
Yes, the mission. Robots, no matter how advanced their brains or how perfect their programming, lacked the most important thing for exploration… curiosity.
“Listen Jim. By the time you return from this mission our technology should be advanced enough to give you back your human body.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Of course we are! We have prepared samples of all your tissues and already there are programs being funded to plant the seeds for that to eventually happen. When you come back those expecting you will be ready.”
His body was beginning to respond more clearly. Soon he would be learning how to use all the new senses he now possessed. But for now, even if this new body didn’t need to rest, his mind was totally exhausted.
“I’d like to rest for a while.”
“Of course, Jim. You need some time to adapt. We’ll be right here if you need anything.”
Alone in the darkened room, as he lay staring at the empty ceiling, he made an effort to distract his still uneasy mind by dreaming of the stars.