"Nothing. Nothing, sir."
"Your technicians are ready?"
"Yes, sir. And vowed to secrecy."
Mayhem found a tiny capsule in the pocket of his Sirian jumper, and popped it in his mouth.
"What – what's that?" Kovandaswamy asked.
Mayhem swallowed. "Curare," he said.
"Curare! A poison!"
"Paralysis," said Mayhem quickly. "Muscular paralysis. You die because you stop breathing. Painless … and…"
"But – "
"Call your technicians … new body … ready…" Gasping, the Sirian gentleman, hardly Johnny Mayhem now, fell to the floor.
Trembling, Kovandaswamy pressed a button on his desk. A few moments later, two white-coated technicians entered the office.
"Project M," Kovandaswamy said.
Grimly the technicians went to work.
Ordinarily it was his elan alone which journeyed between the worlds, his elan which was fed the information it would need in hypno-sleep while the frozen body was thawed out. Sometimes, however, he came the normal way in a body which still had some of its thirty days left, as he had come to Ophiuchus IX in the Sirian gentleman.
Darkness. The body felt young and healthy. Mayhem wondered vaguely how it had died, then decided it did not really matter. For the next thirty days the body would live again, as Johnny Mayhem.
Recessed lighting glowed at the juncture of walls and ceiling. Mayhem was reclining on a cot. A loin cloth and a large shawl had been laid out for him. On the far wall of the room was a tinted mirror. Mayhem got up and went over there.
What his new body looked like hardly mattered, he told himself. Youth, health, strength – these were important. He could sense them internally. He could…
He stared at the image in the mirror. His face turned beet red. He went for the shawl and the loin cloth and put them on. Cursing, he went to find Kovandaswamy.
"Is this supposed to be a joke?" Mayhem demanded.
"You never asked what the – " Kovandaswamy began.