When consciousness returns, Jesper Iversen believes that the unraveling of his flesh and blood was but a bad dream and that his bedroom is unusually pitch black. When he tries to get out of bed, he discovers that he cannot move and that his eyes are not open, as he previously thought. Rather than panic (test pilots do not panic), he tries to take a deep breath before calmly thinking things through. This proves impossible: neither can he draw breath nor push it out. In fact, his lungs, throat and mouth seem to be absent altogether.
Jesper can however still think. He believes that perhaps he is paralyzed and he hopes that it is temporary. Any second now, sensation will return to my body. It will come to my fingers and to my toes and then I will move my body and open my eyes and wake up. He waits for what seems like an eternity but the sensations never come. No movement. No sight. No sound. No smell. No feedback from his body. No pins and needles.
Eventually, he gives up on waiting for feeling to return. So this is it? I’m a formless phantom trapped in my own body. Now is a good time to panic! But as Jesper has no body to panic with, he finds that there is no blood to boil, no muscles to flex, no mouth or lungs with which to scream. There is nothing to break, nor any world to destroy in protest of his misfortune. There is simply nothing but his thoughts, divorced from a physical realm. He cannot find the means to panic or even muster up the will to force anxiety. He wonders how much longer he will remain human, how much longer he will hold on to the memories of a body, under such heavy sedation.
“Are you there, Jesper?” It is only when Isa speaks, her voice carrying from a distance, that Iversen feels himself a nothingness apart from the abyss.
Jesper thinks his response, Yes. I ‘m here, though he cannot speak it.
“Good. In this place, you will be able to speak with a true voice only when you believe that you can create that voice,” Isa says as if standing right next to Jesper.
But I don’t have a body.
“Neither do I,” Isa whispers where Jesper now believes his left ear should be located. “There is no ear there,” she lets him know, whispering even more clearly from where Jesper imagined there might be a floor, and his feet, if he had any. “In this space, you are limited only by your self perception. Tell me, can you see this spot?” Isa creates a spot of light, as if a star in the sky.
“What about this one?” Isa creates a second spot behind Jesper’s forward vision. Yes. “And these?” Isa creates a third spot to his left, Yes, a fourth to his right, Yes, a fifth above, Yes, and a sixth below, Yes, so that the final effect is that Jesper perceives vision in all six directions at once.
Suddenly the first spot comes into clearer focus. No longer appearing as a star light years away, it is a doorway or the end of a corridor from which a man comes in. Jesper recognizes the man as his corporeal self. From his body, Isa speaks, “Do you think you could see as you now see in this body.”
“No,” Jesper Iversen says.
“You have found your voice,” Isa says, continuing to speak from Jesper’s body. “Tell me, can you see this body from its front and back without moving?” Jesper finds that he could.
“Yes, I can,” he replies.
“Tell me why.”
“Because, I am this space,” Jesper says, understanding the revelation for the first time.
“Exactly. Now get us out of here.” As Isa’s words leave Jesper’s lips, the darkness fades. Jesper perceives his own body suspended inside the navigation capsule. Quickly he perceives much more, the entire ship, it’s ARK cargo, the annoying Super AI robot Herman CARP, four other passengers (five if you include the Captain Preserved Intelligence), attack drones outside, firing at the ship … firing at me! (I am the ship!!)
With heavy fire from below, Jesper pulls an evasive barrel roll, avoiding several lines of plasma beams, slices out of it, pointing the ship earthbound. “You’re going the wrong way,” he hears Herman protesting.. When he sees the drones reaching the angle of his trajectory, Jesper breaks skyward and sends the ship into an incredibly fast and tight roll that pits ISA-001 behind the drones.
“Set course for the gateway,” Isa says.
“Setting course for the gateway.” In full sync with the ship, Jesper does not need to ask for the gateway’s coordinates, nor does he have to pull them up. He knows them instantly, as if he’s always known them. “Course set.”