I used to be a project boss at Q, working to help smooth the transition process for people who had copied themselves to our quantum servers. I edited the instruction manual for it, the one they now call The Q-nix Help Text of the Dead. They allowed me to upload myself to test those instructions. My electronic self came out so perfectly-intact that they replaced me with him within a month.
I wasn't the only one they did this to, but they also took my retirement benefits away from me. To offset the cost of uploading, they said. The training packages they offered were a joke; they trained us for jobs we'd lost the aptitude for a long time ago. Those of us who failed were doomed to Fall into the barest of government sustenance.
Most of us failed.
When you're doomed to fail, yet powerless to stop it, even the most resilient of us can be reduced to furious bitterness – if you accept that the inevitable really is inevitable. Some merely deny it, walking into the concrete towers of the Fallen neighborhoods swearing they still have a chance to escape their fate, no matter the evidence otherwise.
But there were others of us who tried to fight back, though we knew we'd probably lose.
* * *
Before my re-training exam, I emailed my upload – they gave him my old account instead of one of his own – and told him what was happening to me. I thought he might still be sympathetic, that he might be able to pull strings for me by then and find a way back into the company, even something lower in the food chain.
He blocked all contact with me, right down to email, without any explanation (and passwords changed to something I couldn't guess; probably random characters). What I do know: There's a special shame in being cast off by your own upload, rejected as if by your own self.
By then, I knew I wasn't alone – and we all knew we had to try to do something, anything but lying down and accepting our dismissal quietly.
* * *
Airborne drones circle the plaza in front of the building's main entrance; somebody in the crowd throws a wiffle ball in the air to test them, which they dodge and catch, then use their landing gear to "kick" it amongst themselves, just out of the crowd's reach. Once they're done, they drop it back down to the guy that threw it to them. These are uploaded pilots, and they want us to know how skilled they are.
On social media, the executives post grainy photos and snarky comments from their offices near the top of the tower. I have unblocked my upload for today, but there are no messages from him anywhere. The people in the building – electronic or embodied – are certain we cannot touch them, even with our Kevlar vests and gas masks
* * *
It took us a while to learn to fabricate and use the stinkbomb Molotovs we invented; two chemicals in separate compartments of a jar that mixed to make noxious fumes when thrown and broken. Nasty enough to clear us a path to the doors – and if it got on our shoes, maybe further. Maybe even far enough to make a statement, one that even our uploads can hear.
* * *
The stinkbombs pushed the guards away from the doors, allowing us to rush past the uniformed clump of them, now retching and vomiting all over themselves. If they knew what we've learned, that their jobs are as precarious as ours turned out to be, they'd have opened the doors for us themselves.
We were lucky to find a custodian who knew how to get to the floor where the sprawl of circuit breakers and transformers (and even the backup generator) spread out, with just enough room for us to wade between them in single file. We found the controls and rushed them; bombs
and bats in hand – cheering so loud that we didn't hear the drones coming over the aisles with paralysis sprays we never knew existed.
We were in zip cuffs by the time we could move again.
* * *
They sentenced us to permanent unemployment, life in the Towers of the Fallen on the other side of the river. A public display of mercy, they called it, because we'd never planned to kill anyone (the law didn't consider uploads to be human). We could have been sent to prison, they said, but they marched us, instead, over the concrete footbridge with camera drones to broadcast our shame.
Interesting titbit of history: The French Terror came to an end when the people going to the guillotine stopped dying with quiet dignity and started screaming, crying, begging for their lives.
I don't know if the people behind the camera drones knew we were ready for them.
Some of us just looked glassy-eyed on screen, shocked and wounded and scared. Some wept openly, especially those with children in hand. Others threw rocks at the drones (which dodged them handily); still others looked into the cameras, their voices just loud enough to be heard: "They won't stop here. You're next." And all the while, the drones pushing us forward on camera, occasionally misting tear gas at those who started to lag.
We already knew the narrative they'd attach to this: The mercy of the bosses, our ingratitude and impotence that proved us unworthy of anything else but Falling. But we knew what the camera would also show: A refusal to quietly accept what they wanted to reduce us to. A demand to be remembered. A visual reminder, iconic and ubiquitous, that we hadn't Fallen, but were pushed.