Chapter 12


"Do you know why you're here Veren?"

The woman spoke with authority. Not as though she were an authority figure over him. Just professional. Neat. The voice was clean, stern, but hinting at kindness, as if creeping out from the corners of her mouth.

"Sort of." Veren said slowly.

"That's fine. You're nervous. It's perfectly understandable. I'm here purely in a medical capacity though. Think of me just as any other physician giving you a physical. This just happens to be a physical of your brain. A 'mental' if you will."

Lina let out a small chuckle. Varen forced a smile but he couldn't hide his uneasiness.

"You're nervous, that's fine. There is a lot to be nervous about, but there's also a lot to not be nervous about. I'm here to help you figure that out. Tell me, how have you been feeling lately?"

Fidgeting in his seat, his eyes wandered down to his shoes. They didn't feel like his shoes, but they were on his feet. They were his feet. They were his shoes. He's never owned shoes like them before though. Or had he? He guessed that he had. How many years had he worn shoes like them? He had to remember. One hundred and... Fifty years was it?

He felt Lina's gaze dissecting him.

"What do they call you? 'Rehabilitators?" Varen finally said, still looking at the shoes.

"Yes that's right. Our primary duty is making sure un-in-hab'd bodies are fit for mind transfer."

"By doing what, exactly? You become them?"

"Yes and no. We generally don't consider ourselves 'becoming' anyone else. I'm still me. Just some days or weeks I wear a different body. Just a different pair of clothes. Think of it as a specialized tailor. We have to make sure the clothing is fit for the next person who wants to wear them. Make the suit fit the next customer's needs."

"Are you doing that now? Is that one of those bodies?"

"Oh no," Lina smiled. "Generally when we're rehabbing un-in-habs, our schedules are very strict. It's a 24 hour job for as many days as it takes to tailor the body. No, I'm 'out of uniform' as it were. Generally there's a week or so break in between each body you rehab, and in that time we work in this capacity, aiding post transition."

"So that's your real body?"

Lina chuckles. "I'm not a hologram Varen, yes I'm a real person."

Looking up from his shoes, Varen's intense eyes meet Lina's. She notes that it looks as though he hasn't slept in days.

"No I mean, is that your original body?"

Lina's smile begins to fade quickly, but she manages to save it.

"Well, no. We get a new body every few years. Something like a company car."

"Do you get a company car?"

"No."

Lina stared at Varren for a moment. He was a peculiar case.

Varren Arlen was an exceedingly wealthy man. Old too. She didn't have access to his age by year, but Lina's files on Varren indicated that he had more than half a dozen transfers. It seemed odd to her that someone with this much experience in body transfers would be having difficulty adjusting to another transfer, but there are a number of reasons that could explain it. Mostly related to the new body. Perhaps residual memories that managed to stay attached to the brain tissue. It's rare but known to happen.

That was the odd thing about Varren's file that stuck out to Lina though. In all of Varren's past transfers, the bodies were picked from the Company's certified re-habbed body pool. If there had been a problem with the body, (which would be VERY unlikely) they could see the body's history and know the possible risk points. His new body has no records in the company. No record of the body's previous health, who re-habbed it, or even if it was re-habbed at all. Silly, she thought. It had to have been re-habbed. There being no record of the re-hab suggests that the transfer was done out of the country. Maybe a sudden health problem while Varen was away on business or vacation. The case was odd, but not unbelievable.

Lina wouldn't be able to ask Varen directly about his transfer of course. Most clients of the company pay the prices they do for this exact kind of discretion. The policy on privacy for the customer is very clear.

"What did you look like before? your original- I mean, your first body?" Varen broke the silence suddenly.

Lina continued to stare at him. Not dissecting now. He was looking at her. She was putting on her caring and concerned face. Her empathetic face. The face that usually worked. "I'll tell you what, I will show you my picture, of my first body, but after that you have to let me do my job. You have to answer my questions. To see if I can help you. To see if there's anything wrong with your current body. Is that a deal?"

Varren looked down at his hands. He was supposed to be 173 years old. He remembered now, how old he was. But his hands. They were the hands of a 29 year old. How can you act like a 173 year old when you have 29 year old hands? He wondered.

"Okay." He replied.

Lina opened her desk. In her bottom drawer she kept a framed picture of herself from when she was young and in her first body. She handed the picture Varren.

The photo was of a fairly normal looking woman in her early twenties. She was decorated in a tight short sleeved jumpsuit, in keeping with the fashion at the time, and a slightly melancholy frown (also fashionable at the time). "The time" being fifteen years prior to the current year, and the year before being diagnosed with the illness that led to her first body transfer.

Lina didn't have a good reason for keeping the photo. Nostalgia maybe. Or something else. She always felt homely looking. Never the prettiest girl in a room. Not ugly, just not impressive.

She was impressive now, though. Each new body she picks, as impressive as the last. One of the perks of being a rehab officer.

Varren handed the picture back to her.

"I think I keep this photo to remind myself of something about humility." Lina said, looking at the photo herself now, "Like no matter how far I go, I have to remember that I used to be ugly."

"I think she's pretty."

"Well, she's dead now."





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