The first thing he noticed was the perimeter of robotic assistants around the tree and the cool spring breeze rocking the cocoon. The robots sat motionless as they could for eternity. There was nothing for them to do until he had a need for them to do it. Enough time had passed that new vines had curled around their legs up to the waist. No matter he thought. The transparency of the cocoon wall allowed him to view his surroundings as he chose. Consciousness signaled the metamorphosis was nearly complete. The enticing scent of fish wafted in from the nearby ocean and reminded him he was now a fisher.
In his boredom He let his mind wander back to the time he was trapped in his pathetic slow motion, bipedal, domesticated, puny, vulnerable body. The concept of the human body seemed ridiculous but he knew that if he resumed that form the attraction would return with the instinct alterations that went with each new form. Now though the thought of it seemed outrageous.
Watching a video of the history of earth reminded him of ancient concepts like war, murder, crime, illness, grinding labor and short seemingly pointless lives. Those ancestors though had made this era possible and the virtual reality produced by the central computer made it seem as if they were alive. Staying awake he spoke to the virtual re-creations and questioned them about their lives. These beings were tough. They clung to their short lives battered by nature and disease and starvation. At the beginning of the revolution many died holding on to their power and possessions. They tried to use the central computer to enslave the rest of humanity. When people began to live in harmony with nature and adapted biological solutions to existence all things changed. When the weather was not desirable they could migrate, grow fur or feathers to keep themselves warm. If it got to hot they could do the same in reverse. The central computer and all the machines had moved into orbit around the planet. All the atoms needed for manufacturing were acquired throughout the solar system and were assembled there
The side of the cocoon facing the sun began to turn opaque to maintain consistent temperature inside.
To test his memory in the new configuration he again let his mind wander to the past. In his reconstruction of the past he would remind himself how much better life was now than before. Millions of years ago he tapped out questions to the central computer. Mom and dad had told him there was a time when people remained people all their lives and that lives lasted less than a century. They had gladly resumed human form after being selected at random to parent a new life. He would remain emotionally connected to them forever. Even though they might separate they would always retain a bond.
Interrupting his review he signaled his mechanical servants of the immanence of his rebirth and they sprang into action rapidly working as a team in a circle to modify themselves into a configuration that would serve their biological master in the most efficient way. An airborne robot flew low and dropped parts needed to complete the job. The timing was perfect as the parts were already made and ready to be delivered as soon as he awoke and signaled it was time. His walking assistants were now flying assistants.
There would be a celebration with new and old friends in similar forms. He wondered what his new form would find entertaining and satisfying. The robots had been completely modified and had brought some leaves and cactus and mushrooms to make a broth he knew would be part of the ceremony to celebrate his transformation. Raw whole fish they had brought looked delicious, new tastes that came with every change. These new eyes were fantastic he could see the whiskers on a rabbit two hundred yards away. They were the best he had ever had.
Changes in the cocoon told of the imminence of the awakening. The cracking exterior signaled the robots to begin to tear it away. A large robot cut the attachment point at the tree branch and the group lowered the entire cocoon gingerly to the ground. His new arms, long, hairless, light and thin that had been folded into perfectly fitting slots that ran from armpits to waist now stretched out eight feet to grasp the still moving fish and pull it to his mouth that was now a sharp, narrow, long, beak with small teeth. The fragrance and flavor of the pieces as he tore them off were an experience to remember. He went after the fish tearing , ripping it apart then tilting his head back and swallowing in ecstasy. Tilting back his huge head he issued a cry that would have terrified his ancestors He stretched the light but immensely powerful wings and beat them furiously to test them and he rose lightly from the ground and then floated back down.
The wings were dry and leathery with tiny proto-feathers protruding from every pore. He could feel the breeze touch each and every one and they told him something about the nature of air moving across the wing surface. He tucked his arms into their perfectly streamlined pockets and stretched his wings out fully to their fifty foot span and again began to beat them. A pair of his kind circled five hundred feet above.
“James, we are here” they called.
Something in their voices told him it was his parents welcoming him to his new existence. Flapping again and running he left the ground to greet them. The beating of his wings was as natural as walking had been in his last form. His legs folded back towards his tail out of the airstream. He had gained the innate feel for the air. His mother was beautiful and his father was certainly a handsome dignified specimen. The protofeathers looked like a fine short fuzz and their colors would put even the most fantastically colored bird of paradise to shame. At his neck was a brilliant emerald patch from his beak and across his chest. Both their backs had blue and red brilliant python like patterns. Their undersides that faced the ground in flight was sky blue to hide their approach from the fish swimming near the surface. Their feet were scaled and the nails were manicured and hers were studded with diamonds the size of an elephants eye. Her ears perked straight up like a foxes and were lined in rubies. The tail was tattooed the entire length with ancient native art. Her hands were gloved to the elbow with silk embroidered with flames.
“Greetings James, we love you and are so glad to see you here.
James could see differences in these two and somehow could recognize that it was them. He never got over how when he changed he could recognize others of his type that before had looked all the same.
“Hello, Mom and Dad, I’m glad to be here and that it is you that have come to greet me.
“This is a great day. You have reached a milestone in your progress. It is an honor to see you in this form. Please follow us, the others are waiting.”
What they meant was that to be allowed to assume this form was a high honor bestowed by vote from the many who looked up to him. There was not room in various ecosystems for everyone to crowd into one of them. This was the most sought after. They were the travelers who could ride the wind currents around the world.
Looking down he could see humans on foot on the beach. After all these years there were still those who clung fiercely to that form. He felt no more allegiance to that form than to the plants and animals they had eaten and used as beasts of burden. All were equal. All were assemblies of atoms and all had done their job in the development of the central computer that now directed the atoms to form as needed in a short time. In the minds of most this was the reward given to the planet that had built the self improving computer allowing it to connect to the universal mind. They had long ago relaxed the competition for dominance of the domain of thought. All their brains now were geared to enjoying existence in a real garden of Eden. Socialization and pleasure were the most revered of all forms of behavior. The power of their drives and the ability to experience physical pleasure was well beyond anything he experienced as a human.
They flapped to a thermal updraft and rode it up thousands of feet and soared towards a nearby rocky peak well above the tree line. They passed through an invisible cloud of mist from a blue whale breath and then back out of it again in a few seconds.
As they rounded the mountain it became apparent why they were flying in this direction. Thousands of his kind flew in a circle miles wide all shrieking and calling out to their friends that the new endowment to their ranks was approaching. He followed his parents who were diving toward the center of the huge circle. As its diameter began to shrink the speed of the dactyls increased. His newly reunited brethren greeted him as they sped by and he recognized them from thousands of years he had shared other forms. His willingness to assume all the forms and leave behind loved ones showed a pioneering personality everyone respected. Each form had its joys and none had any downside. They would live forever or until they were very unlucky or until they decided it was time to join their inanimate brother atoms.
As the female pheromones reached him he could feel glands that didn’t exist in other forms releasing powerful hormones. His blood raged with desire like never before and he could recognize the change in colors of the crown of their heads as a signal of interest. The females tails did a provocative dance. He knew instinctively it was seductive.
There was not jealousy or competition because there was no sexual reproduction and no disease and life was so long that the concept of monogamy was not a consideration.
Leaving the circle he followed his parents to a nearby mountain on the side sheltered from the prevailing winds but facing the east. This side of the mountain was covered with houses designed to suit his breeds special needs. They could step off the edge and fall thousands of feet to gather flight speed. They flew directly into one the size of a castle. The door was wide enough to accommodate his wide wingspan with room to spare. As he entered he flared and landed. His mechanical assistants were busy with the finishing touches. His video screen curved around in hemisphere providing view from over and under as well as right and left. The living room was at least a hundred thousand square feet and contained large soft pads for guests to recline on. A welcome party was underway and hundreds of guest had already arrived. Already James was thinking he would be comfortable in this life for a very long time.