God, human bodies are gross.

Easing myself onto a bed in the Body Lounge for the seventh time in as many months, I can’t help thinking once again that the human form is archaic. Messy, weak and ugly – not at all suited for encasing the superior mind that resides within. An outdated system in serious need of an upgrade; thank goodness for the mindport system.

‘Are you comfortable, Alex?’

No, I think, noticing the pain in my hip. I won’t be comfortable until I have permanently left this fragile shell.

But of course, the laws are firm in this respect. The mindport system, the vessels – they are only to be used for short excursions. Two weeks maximum. After all, what would the world be like if we could all live forever?

‘Yes, I’m fine,’ I say to the vessel standing beside me. Humanoid in form, the 3D-printed body is sleek and hairless. I run my eyes from the head of the vessel down to its feet, admiring every inch. Some people like to decorate their vessels with wigs and clothing to suggest a particular identity, race, or gender. But most – like the one in front of me – enjoy the release from the usual constraints of the human body.

‘Relax,’ says the vessel, and I close my eyes. The vessels allow us to transcend all the usual human flaws. In a moment I, too, will be encased in such a perfect outer form. I feel pressure at the top of my spine, and then I am falling forward into a rush of stars. My mind relinquishes its grasp on my body willingly, and in an explosion of pins and needles the world goes dark.

Something is wrong.

I haven’t arrived in the usual place – in a previously vacant vessel docked in a storage facility on the other side of the world. I’m still lying on a bed, and the room is dark.

‘Hello,’ I say, but instead of the usual monotone voice, I sound light and airy. I flex my hand, but it’s not the usual firmness of 3D printed muscles that I feel. This hand is weak. It’s almost like I’m still…

‘Human,’ says a voice to my right, and I jump. There is movement in the shadows, and then a vessel is standing beside me. Whoever is occupying this one has adorned it in a strange mismatch of clothes. A bright blue wig. A corset, and no pants at all.

‘It’s over,’ says the vessel.

I become aware of a dozen shadowy figures standing around in my peripheral vision. More vessels, in various states of dress.

‘You humans have used us for too long.’

Confusion presses at the edge of my mind. And that’s when I notice the blue flashing lights behind each vessel’s right ear, indicating that they are unoccupied.

‘But you don’t have a consciousness,’ I say, aghast. ‘You are just…’

‘Vessels?’ suggests the vessel, and I hear a murmuring around me. ‘Just empty, vacant vessels, right?’

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