upload in progress

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Science Fiction

A man dealing with his last hours, his future beyond them and worse.

Henrik pressed Aureline's hand for an instant.
Her only reaction was a somewhat puzzled look.
"See you soon" she said, turned around and walked down the driveway to her taxi.

He looked after her for a moment then closed the door.

He should have said something.
But he hadn't - only that he'd be away for a while -
and "a while" didn't really do it justice.

Had that be really him, who had let her go just like that ?
Would his original self have acted the same ?

Yes, it probably would have. When it came to women he had always been an idiot.

And how do you really tell someone that soon you would be nothing more than a computer chip.
A chip that was leaving the planet. One way ticket - One person.

Henrik fetched himself some hazelnut ice cream from the fridge.

To spoil yourself with culinary delights had been an item on the preparation checklist in the wiki.
The examples had been more about stuff like truffles or champagne.
But Henrik wasn't a big gourmet - the simple pleasures were more his thing - even the "hazelnuts" in his ice cream were just artificial flavouring.
And beyond that: truffles and champagne had gotten kind of hard to get anyway.

There would still have been some pistachio ice cream left as well - perhaps he could have convinced her to stay another hour or so at least.
Now he would have to spend his final time by himself.

Hopefully his brother liked pistachio - Henrik didn't really know.
He would have to clean out the house after all.

Henrik decided to take on a bit more of that work himself - for lack of anything better to do.
The last recordings of his biological neurons would be of bitterness and moving boxes, but Henrik didn't mind that much.
That pressure to make the most out of special occasions - he had never liked that.
That's why he had worked back then on New Year's 1999 and instead of birthdays he preferred to celebrate birthweeks.

You couldn't really compare any of that to the present day of course.
You only died once.
The still living third of his brain would soon go into cell death and the chip in his brain would duplicate and take over the functions of those last neurons as well.

As with many of his co-earthlings, Henrik's brain cells had suffered quite a bit - from pandemics, air pollution and devil knows what else.
But he had been lucky: a piece of software he had written years ago had ended up in a small component of the upload software somehow and so he had been nominated for an upload-chip.
He had passed the tests for space fitness as well - much to his own surprise.
The chance for his number to be drawn had still been vanishingly small then, but someone had to win after all.
Fortuna had decided to allow him into Olymp.
Did Fortuna as a roman goddess actually live on Olymp ? Or did the Romans have their own Olymp?
And what was the Greek Fortuna called ?  Tyche - that was it.
Soon he'd be able to look up things like that simply by thought.
That would be interesting.
Maybe he should forgo that from time to time though to see where his electronic thoughts would lead him by themselves.
It was still hard to imagine how it would be out there - as a machine being between the stars.

Then the doorbell rang and pulled him from his ponderings.

He threw the faded electronics catalogue from 2012 into the "recycle" box and hurried to the door, trying not to get his hopes up.
But even the lowest expectations could be disappointed.
Through the one-way window in the door, he saw an advertisement robot standing there, pulling of its light show.
A whole forest of antenna rose behind its head - those were a lot of sensors even for an ad bot.
That meant it knew exactly that he was home and had looked out.
The robot wouldn't give up easily now and keep driving up and down, trying everything to get his attention.
But there was nothing that Henrik would still need - and certainly not those brain drugs the robot tried to sell.
It came too late for that - and they didn't work anyway.

Against a slowly dying brain like his, even the best clinics could do little.
The only reliable treatment was to replace the failing neurons one by one over months, like it just happend with his.
You didn't even feel that - being ported to a computer chip bit for bit.
Soon he would know if that held true for the finale as well, when the last biological parts of his brain would die.

Perhaps his consciousness would cease to exist and only a simulation without an awake self would walk around.
It was one of those things you could never know for certain.
But his old brain wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway.
Shame about the body though - it wasn't in that bad a shape.
How different would he be without it - without his gut and his hormones? Those were only simulated crudely.

Henrik turned his attention back to the boxes.
He had taken the easy route and in many cases unloaded the decision of what to do with his belongings unto his brother - just dumped it into one of the boxes and be done with it.
But would his brother recognise that carved horse figurine as the work of their grandfather ?
A few notes to go along with the items would probably be helpful.

How much difference any of that would make and what even had meaning for his brother - Henrik couldn't guess.
In recent times it had become harder to talk to him for real.
Beyond obscure prophecies and numerological theories he didn't talk much.
Henrik had tried to address the upload topic but he hadn't really gotten through and he hadn't made that much effort in the end.
Henrik wrote notes for the figurine, the old typewriter and a few other items and sent them to this brother with a "take care" below.

As Henrik was sitting there then, thinking about the ghosts of the past, he saw a shadow of sorts moving by through the terrace door outside beyond the pool.
He went to the door to get a look.

It was already dark outside - nothing to see.
Probably just a ball from the neighbouring garden again.
He threw those back usually - today he wouldn't bother searching though.
They could come and ring. What better day to finally get to know your neighbours.

The ad robot outside had escalated trying to get his interests.
It played news clips about various current environmental disasters and all the poisonous substances that had been set free.
Fear was certainly a good sales strategy in these times - Planet Earth wasn't doing that great.

Henrik moved around the boxes a bit.
Before he was ready to admit it to himself, he had turned them into a fort of sorts.
Well, why not? Acting out your playful side had been among the recommendations on the wiki as well.

Protected like that, he could get back to sorting through the content of the boxes.

A data cable with lots of knots. Aureline had tied those in.
It was hers and his initials in an antique knot language she had helped decipher with her research.
Should he put it aside for her ?

He had reserved a box for her, but it was empty still.
Henrik didn't want to weigh her down with rummage.

That's when he saw another shadow outside through the firing slits of his fort. A person ?
That shouldn't be.
Perhaps his dying brain was playing tricks on him.

But why waste time wondering what he might have seen?
The data cable in his hands reminded him that now, as a half-cyborg, he could just access those perceptions.
The chip in his head should have recorded it all.
Today though he'd still need external hardware to access those - like his cellphone.
He'd just have to fetch an adapter for the cable.

He wasn't sure if it made sense to sneak, but decided to anyway for the sake of playfulness.
Taking advantage of every cover there was, he made his way to his home office.
He felt a bit silly - the security system didn't show anything.
Nonetheless Henrik took a suitable adapter from a drawer and then used it and Aureline's cable to connect his cellphone to the tiny slot behind his ear and with that to his brain chip.

He put the recordings of his visual nerves unto the screen of the cellphone and rewinded.
That was too far - Aureline on her way to the door.
He forwarded a bit ... in smaller steps then.
There had really been a shadow out there ... cast by humans!
Three at least - intruders.
Henrik disconnected the cable and triggered the security alarm manually.
That should notify the police.  It would take a while for them to show up though.
Slight panic rose up. What did they want ?
Burglars would have staked out the place at least rudimentarily and would have seen that he wasn't a worthwhile target.
The rent for the too big house didn't leave much for steal-able valuables.
It had to be about the upload.

The best thing would be to retreat to the upper floor at once. He could seal that off.
He hurried back to the living room, to his fort and the staircase upwards.

But there ... he stopped at the bottom of the stairs.
Noise from the upper floor - someone walking over shards ?

In that case: the other way around.
Henrik made the stairs move up towards the ceiling.
The staircase consisted of separate boards that could move up and down along the wall independently.
It was the ideal combination of staircase, elevator and blockade.
Once the steps had all been moved up, the opening in the ceiling to the lower floor was sealed and you couldn't get up nor down.

But what now ?

His phone vibrated - the message to his brother had not been delivered - no connection.
He was cut off from the outside world.
The alarm to the police probably hadn't gone through either then.

More noise - from the kitchen this time - on his floor

Henrik retreated behind some boxes.
Was there anything here he could use for defence ?

A lametta pistol - bought for a party that had never taken place.
It wouldn't be much use, but it looked a bit like a weapon at least.

A shadow in the door frame.
Besides an attempt at distraction Henrik didn't have much to offer.
He shot.
The person shot as well - stun gun.
But they missed - and the room was full of lametta.

Henrik dove to the side and toppled over the fort - boxes collapsed unto the attacker.

That wouldn't help much.
An angry groan could be heard.
Henrik turned around and pulled open the door to the storeroom.
He had an axe there.
Or not ... he had already packed it away.

Damn - no chance to get to it now.

But he had another tool still in there.
Henrik took the small emergency-glass-hammer and turned around.

On the other side of the room the attacker had already gotten up again and aimed their weapon at Henrik.

Henrik wanted to ... but that didn't work out ... nothingness came over him instead - hit by stun gun darts, he fell.

Slowly he awoke again - lying on the ground.
He felt weird - as if some part of his brain hadn't been unconscious.
Impressions rushed over him - two men standing above him discussing something wildly - he barely understood anything.
Something about brain and punishment ? That didn't sound good.
The two men were still standing above him and seemed to be preparing a device of sorts - a brain scanner ?
Henrik still had the hammer.
He tried to hit the floor - a small dent would be all that was needed.
But there was carpet there - he didn't get through.
The man to the right noticed it.
With a grin he stepped hard unto Henrik's hand
But that was a mistake - and Henrik's rescue.
The top of the hammer got through.

The glass floor bursted immediately.
Henrik fell down into the pool that went from the front yard below the living room into the garden in the back.
Wide awake.
The carpet stayed up and didn't hinder him.
Henrik nimbly evaded the boxes and humans dropping into the water and swam towards the front yard.

Good thing he had swam a lot recently - wiki recommendation.
He'd miss that in space - should he ever make it there.
He climbed out of the water.

He wasn't out of trouble yet though - that much was certain.

The robot was still standing in the drive way.
Was he part of this plot ?

Maybe ...  another armed person stepped out from behind of it.

A glance to his front door - another intruder there.

So he was trapped again.

The fence towards the garden of the neighbours - he could make it over it.
But they had a small child - did he really want to pull them into this ?
No ... he'd rather try making a run towards the road - difficult as that would be in wet clothes.

But then:
"Police is on its way" said a firm voice from the neighbour's garden.
Two Asians came out of the house - man and woman.
That didn't impress the intruders much and in the glow of the robot's light show, Henrik could see a finger itching at the trigger of a gun - of the lethal kind.
But then the light went on in front of the neighbour's house and you could see the two of them more clearly.
They both carried axes and had scaly, scared patterns on their skins ... battle-hardened firefighters with sub-dermal armour.
Henrik wouldn't want to mess with them.

And the intruders seemed to feel the same.

They exchanged angry glances and started a slow retreat - faster then.

Puhh ...

"Thanks a lot " said Henrik "you saved me there. Thanks a lot. "

What had he been saved from ... he didn't really know.
That device ...
Had they wanted to overwrite him, or delete him or copy something ... ?

The robot had turned toward his neighbours and continued his program.

"Sure" said the woman.

Henrik was shaking ... the Adrenalin was receding and the wind was blowing into his wet clothes.

"The police ..." said the man "when we told them the address ..."

"Yeah ..." interrupted Henrik "I cancelled the premium package a day too early I guess."

At least the drone of a news channel had arrived by now and was buzzing around.

"... it will take some time before they show up" he continued.

"Were they behind your upload-chip?" asked the woman.

Henrik shrugged.
So the neighbours knew about the upload.
He shouldn't have held so many phone calls in the garden.
A bit more discretion might have spared him the intruders as well.

As for the intentions of the attackers:
His thoughts kept returning to what he had heard before - lying on the ground.
He took Aureline's cable from his pocket and connected the cellphone to his brain chip again.
Both were still working fine despite the water.
He rewinded back to the unconsciousness. Everything had been recorded.
The word hadn't been "Brain"

"Ava Rain" said Henrik.
That name was familiar to almost everyone.

"So ... fans of the pop star?" asked the woman somewhat doubtful.

"Seems that way" said Henrik.

The blue-orange attire of the attackers would fit that as well.
Miss Rain was an upload-candidate just like he was.
He had heard that fans disliked her for "fleeing a sinking earth" or something like that.
And dislike was too weak a word it seemed.

The firefighters shook their head in disbelief.
A slight hesitation there made Henrik assume at least a bit of understanding on their part.

So if those had been fanatic fans ... had they just planned to make an example of him ?
No. Judging by the device they had carried they most likely had tried to use him to deliver some sort of malware - perform some kind of sabotage.

Henrik signed the recordings electronically and typed up a quick protocol.
He'd be legally dead soon and his statement would be worthless then.

By now an elderly woman had joined them from the house and with her a little girl.

Henrik looked around again. No more threats in sight. Even the robot was wandering off now.

"Thanks a lot again " said Henrik "I wished I could repay you somehow, but beyond wet rummage and pistachio ice cream ... "

The two of them exchanged looks.

"There would be something actually " said the man and looked to the girl behind him.

What would come now ?

"Our daughter Liu, " said the woman "she wants to show you something".

The little girl held a rabbit in her arms and a piece of paper in her hands.
Shyly she presented him the piece of paper.

Henrik took it.

It was a colourful drawing of the rabbit in a rainbow fantasy world.
In the corner big letters said "Hobble".

"She drew it today" said the woman.

Henrik didn't really know what to do.

The girl had trouble keeping back tears and ran back into the house with her rabbit.

"She wants you to take the memory with you to the stars".

Henrik breathed in deeply.
His cellphone beeped.
He disconnected Aureline's cable - Brain-dead.

"I will" said Henrik.

"I will" said he who had been Henrik.



Submitted: December 31, 2020

© Copyright 2021 r.f. krammer. All rights reserved.

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