The posters all say things like “Transform and See the Universe” and “Try a Hour, Stay a Lifetime”.
Politicians and recruiters promise a lot, and get people on board and signed up before they’ve read all the fine print. I suppose they need the warm bodies, and don’t always care too much whether they also captured the hearts and minds.
I paused to read a poster, and before I new what was happening I’d triggered the sign’s own Limited Intelligence, and was suddenly getting personal attention on top of the professional sales pitch. It was overwhelming, flattering, intimidating, and convincing. The next thing I knew, I’d thumb printed the contract right there, and stepped through the portal the LI had ready to accept me.
I’d joined up for an hour’s tour. Or so I’d thought.
My first job was to sell the rest of my incoming class on the idea of staying longer.
Apparently, that kind of sales was something I was good at. After just half an hour of persuasion, I had half my class signed to lifetime contracts. At the end of the hour, I discovered that I’d signed one myself to prime the waters.
At first I was somewhat shocked, then as I settled in the idea began to seem sensible. I wrote a few notes to free myself from the last ties I had to that burg, and never looked back.
At least not for a few days.
Then I discovered that there was a darker side. Rules I’d agreed to without reading. Regulations on behavior and personal possessions. I was allowed a few minutes to cut ties, but not permitted to bring much of anything from my old life aboard. Seems that the first Transformation is to set aside one’s past lives.
I couldn’t do that. I know it makes me weak, but the cat could not stay behind and there was not time to arrange a proper adoption. Smart and clever she was, so I figured she could just come along quietly. So along she came, hiding in a deep pocket along with a little food.
What I didn’t count on was our first Translation to a new territory. By that point we’d been training and studying for a few weeks. Not much detail was provided about the process itself, and no one I spoke to would confirm or deny that they had personal experience. And yet, my own experience with Translation was inevitably approaching, marked by a countdown clock in the barracks. The day arrived, and I was kitted out with all my prescribed gear, as well as my tiny feline stowaway. My class was nervous, but ready. We still had no idea what our ordeal was, but we were as ready as we could be.
One by one, we answered the call, and stepped through doors into individual lobbies with Translation portals spanning the rooms. You could see the faint violet shimmer in the air. There was just enough room to step in without touching the field. When called, I stepped into my lobby and faced the shimmering film. Then stepped through.
They call the process “Translation” but never explained why.
What stepped out the other side of that film had indeed been translated.
That moment in between was marked by a sudden surprise. There was an additional mind there, suddenly. Extra point of view. Extra whiskers. Curiosity and ego to spare.
Then stepped out in another time and place.
Then stepped out on another world.
Then stepped out as one creature with two minds. It was not meant to happen this way. There were rules about pets, and I had flaunted them. No one took official notice, but now my pet was hiding in the recesses of my mind for the duration of this Tour.
And I had to resist an urge to pounce on any shiny thing that came my way.
My assigned world was populated by people who spoke by shining dots of visible light on each other, and modulating them in a blend of sign language and point to point audio links.
Everything is shiny.
This tour is going to be hell.