VOIDNet.

Four: Terminate.


He didn't want to work, but he needed money, so Sallum set his global status to let the system know he was available. His first ticket was within the same building, which was a rare luxury. "Maybe my luck will change," Sallum thought sardonically.

When he opened and read the ticket, it made him think otherwise. "User account has run out of VOIDCredits. User no longer responding to contact attempts. Repossess base station and terminate connection to dwelling endpoint." Great. A reposession job.

He took the short walk across his building, and knocked on the door. No answer. "Oh, come on," he said aloud. This wasn't worth it. He wasn't paid enough for this.

He hit the open button. The door buzzed a negative response, and the touch buttons on the tiny display disappeared, and a message was displayed: "Hello! Sorry, I can't come to the door, but I'm in the VOID (ping me)!"

Sallum leaned against the wall next to the dwelling's door and sighed. He twitched his fingers to manipulate his HUD, sending an aSync message to the main VOIDNet management system. Once, this message box was monitored by a skilled support staff of technicians and specialists. Now, nearly all on-the-job questions from VOIDNet employees could be answered by AI with little or no human staff required. His message read, "Cannot gain access to user's dwelling chamber to reposess VOIDNet Base Station. User is connected to VOIDNet."

In a matter of seconds, he heard the dwelling's electronic locks disengage just before his HUD pinged with the management system's response: "Unlock signal has been sent to dwelling indicated." Sallum held his breath and mashed "OPEN".

On the bed was an apparently living person, a middle-aged woman, eyes closed, cranial implants blinking with ongoing VOIDNet activity. There was no sign of damage or struggle, just an ordinary person, connected to the VOID, not paying her bills. Sallum sighed with relief. This, he could handle. He walked over to the Base Station and tapped it twice to activate the standard alert in the user's VOIDNet HUD to let them know someone is nearby and has requested they disconnect. He waited, but there was no sign of a response. No twitching fingers, no REM-style eye movements, none of the typical signs that the user, even in VOID consciousness, was actively using their interface.

Sallum, unsure of what to do next, double tapped the Base Station again. When that did nothing, he pulled up his HUD and was about to ping for advisement when, as if anticipating, the management system messaged him instead. It was short and direct:

"Terminate user connection and reposess base station."

Disconnecting a user's Base Station when they are connected to VOID consciousness nearly always causes brain death. Sometimes, if they're "lucky," it will only cause a dibilitating stroke.

Sallum sent back, "Negative. User not responding to alerts or making any indication that they intend to exit VOIDcon. Please advise."

The management system's AI did not hesitate. The response was near-instant. "User's consciousness has been subsumed fully into the VOID; User no longer requires a physical body. Terminate user connection and reposess base station."

Sallum read the message several times, making sure there was no alternate way those words could be understood. Was this someone's idea of a joke? He responded. "That would kill the user."

Again the response was instant. "Negative. User's consciousness has been subsumed fully into the VOID; User no longer requires a physical body. Terminate user connection and reposess base station."

Sallum frowned and pulled up his own HUD to "ping" the user, as she had requested in her door message. Searching based upon his current location, and using his enhanced capabilities as a technician, he pulled up the connection readouts for the dwelling in which he now stood, and his HUD showed him the results: "No user connected at Base Station. Base Station status: NORMAL".

Sallum looked at the thin, gaunt woman who lay nearby and shook his head. "Fuck this." He left the dwelling.


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