After what felt like an eternity, the safety monitor let us loose. Dad led me to a Pod in the center of the room. The egg shaped devise opened on the side, revealing a plush lounge. I had to use a booster so I was the right height to fit the wired Cap over my head. The metal contraption had to be tightened to its smallest size to make sure the electrodes connected at all the right spots. Dad talked me through the entire procedure even though I'd already read every book on Jumping I could get my hands on--not just the kid ones, but advanced reading I found at the library.
My best friend Zennor, who didn't turn ten for another month, bounced up and down next to the Pod, eyes glistening with jealousy.
"Ready?" Dad asked, typing in the destination Host code into the control pad.
I licked my lips, trying to look calmer than I felt. Satisfied I wasn't going to wet myself from excitement, I nodded. Just before Zennor disappeared behind the closing hatch, I stuck my tongue out at him, and he flipped me off in return.
Jumping into another person is a curious experience. Despite all of my research, I didn't know what to expect. There was a sudden burst of adrenaline that left me woozy and sick. I'd read that about ten percent of first-timers throw up. Luckily, I kept down whatever food my Host had eaten. After the rush, there was momentary confusion as my mind tried to sync with the Host's body. About twenty-three percent of newbies trip over their own feet within seconds. Which is what I did.
I landed flat on my face, scraping my chin. While Jumping, you feel whatever the Host body feels as if it were your own, but it didn't hurt as much as a real skinned chin which kind of surprised me. The entire class had Jumped into a group reserved for us at some Host House, so all of my friends witnessed my faceplant. But since no one could recognize me, their laughter felt freeing instead of humiliating. I could do anything without worrying about how I looked.
I spent thirty minutes inside that Host, learning how to control arms and legs that didn't belong to me. Just as I was going for an awesome layup, something beeped in my head letting me know my time in the Pod was ending. I watched my ball go wide as my vision faded. I blinked, and I was back in my own body feeling a little queasy and disoriented. Dad's beaming face appeared above me.
"So how was it?"
I had to think about it for a minute because my brain was a jumble of disconnected experiences and sensations--some of them my own, some belonging to the Host. Slowly they sorted themselves out, and I smiled wide. "It was amazing! When can I go again?"
Dad helped me up with a laugh. "You have to wait an hour before you can go back in."
"But I want to go now--my team was winning the game."
"Those are the rules, Ryder, you know that better than anyone."
I pouted. "You're the boss, though, you could bend the rules if you wanted. It's my birthday."
He shook his head. "It's for your own safety. Once you get more experience, you'll get to stay in longer, I promise."
I knew he was right, but I hated admitting it. I just huffed and climbed out, nearly falling on wobbly legs. Dad caught me with a knowing look. Luckily no one else saw. By the time I'd regained complete control of my motor functions, Zennor was running my way.
"Well?" he asked, eyes narrowed. He was hoping I'd hated it. About sixteen percent of the people that try Jumping can't sync their minds and never go back in. Zennor was always looking for a way to outdo me.
I smiled. "I am never not going to Jump!"
I could tell Zennor was disappointed that I'd had fun, but he was my best friend, so off we ran to celebrate with the other Newbies that were already out of the Pods. Two months later, I helped Zennor to his feet after he nearly gave himself a concussion on his first Jump.
We've been Jumping daily ever since. And not to brag, but I'm pretty damn good at.