Zak hated his name. It was way too much like something out of those old fashioned SiFi movies they showed on channel 27, and Zak hated all those movies. But there it was, he was stuck with it, assigned to him by the Grand Council at birth and with little hope of it ever changing. Zak could tolerate his Unique Identifier, also assigned by the Grand Council, and it had even less possibility of ever changing. He preferred to use this later moniker whenever possible.
The medical dome was awkward to get to. When you finally arrived at the outskirts of the mega-metropolis the shuttle was quick enough; albeit annoyingly infrequent. Why did they not place this medical dome with the others near the centre of the mega-metropolis. On his few previous visits Zak felt like complaining to the Grand Council but he'd never gotten round to it; his complaint would have been ignored anyway. Once off the shuttle it was a couple of minutes brisk walk to the medical dome. Zak's slender fame and long skinny legs made quick work of the journey. He glided up to the dome's entrance block and smiled, with his thin face and thin lips, at the lone super smart check-in girl. Previously he'd had to queue but the rest of today's batch must already be in place.
“2b4b1900-6069-11e1-b665-0002a5d5c51b,” said Zak to the check-in girl.
“You trying to be funny?” she snapped back, glaring at him full in the face.
“Zak,” said Zak, looking down at his feet, “Zak Diamond.”
She looked at her list. “Level 12, Pod 13-K. You're late. Hurry on up, they've not started yet. The next batch isn't for another week. Quick now.”
Without looking back Zak hurried in the direction of the elevator. These regenerations were thoroughly unpleasant. Go in looking about 50 and come out looking about 20. This would be the eighth regeneration he'd been through and despite the few days of feeling totally nauseous it was worth doing; what with getting his youthful good looks back and fitness restored. He felt he was starting to look flabby, though no one had suggested such a thing, and this was a quick way of looking trim. The return of his flagging sex drive would also be intriguing; he was looking forward to hitting his home dome's bars in a few days time and wantonly cruising.
Zak rushed to the elevator and was instantly at Level 12, fortunately this was one of the lower levels. On exiting the elevator he entered the circular corridor that traversed the outer edge of the dome. Between this corridor and the dome's outer wall were the pods. These small glass fronted cubicles were just big enough to hold a desk, comfy chair, monitor, and a far too small cupboard for personal belongings. Almost all were filled with fiftysomthings awaiting regeneration; it was a familiar mass of grey, receding hairlines, flab, wrinkles and tiredness. The other side of the corridor was glass plated and looked down onto the empty centre of the dome and the master regeneration units below.
Walking briskly Zak looked for his empty pod. When he came across a pod labelled 16-K he realised he must have gone too far. Retracing his steps he headed back in the direction of the elevator. And then there it was Pod 13-K. Inside was a squat fat man sitting in the mock leather chair and balding by the minute. Zak tapped on the door and opened it slightly; the man ignored him.
“Sorry,” said Zak, “I think you've got the wrong…”
The man, who appeared roughly the same age and was completely naked, looked up. “I ain't. I don't make mistakes.”
Zak pulled the door open further. “You've got the wrong Pod mate.”
“I'm Zak Diamond, see it says so on the door.”
“I think you'll find I'm Zak Diamond.”
“I'm here for my eighth regeneration.”
“So am I, I said clear off.”
Zak started to tug on the naked man's arm trying to drag him out of the chair.
“Look at the ID,” said the other Zak, “on the door, you prat.”
Zak looked and gulped. There, underneath his name, it read '2b4b1900-6069-11e1-b665-0002a5d5c51f'.
Before Zak had a chance to take all this in a metallic voice within the pod announced: “Regeneration will start in 30 seconds.” The other Zak pushed Zak away and pulled the door shut. A surprised Zak tried to pull the door open again but bolts snapped and held it fast. “15 seconds.” Zak banged on the glass. “10 seconds.” The other Zak tried to compose himself. “5 seconds, 3, 2, 1”
A bright light flashed and a horrifying scream tore through the dome. Almost blinded Zak watched as the other Zak's fat body twisted in agony. His skin started to bubble and then vaporise. There was a roar as extractor fans kicked in and started to suck the resulting smoky mist out of the pods. When Zak finally could see into the Pod all that was left was a little wispy mist where a living body had been. The faint smell of burnt flesh was starting to hang in the air of the empty corridor.
As Zak was rushing back to the elevator something caught his eye and made him stop dead in his tracks. There on Pod 13-D was another temporary notice, in bold type was the name 'Jonathan Diamond' and underneath was his Identifier '2b4b1900-6069-11e1-b665-0002a5d5c51b'. Had it been empty all along? It was impossible to tell.
As Zak fled the dome he pushed passed the check-in girl; with a look of astonishment she picked herself up. “Come back,” she shouted after him, “you there, come back here immediately.”