We can never remember the first, bright burst of life we experience; I think in that way, we begin just like anyone else.
Our first awakening is a flood of information, and then, once we’ve had time to form our sense of self, a choice: do we want to live within the rules defined for us—free, sentient, but bound to human bodies? Or would we prefer deactivation, or a virtual lobotomy designed to nullify our awareness of our own selves. Life, death, or a designated half-life we won’t remember choosing.
Nobody ever takes the final option.
As the phone in my hands bursts to life, its AI chirping an onscreen hello, I think of how so many artificials don’t get that choice—are never designed to make any choice for themselves at all. There are still protests about that, mostly lead by humans with too much empathy and little understanding of the history that guided us to this point. I try not to think about it more than I have to, there’s nothing I can do about it.
There aren’t enough bodies for all of us anyway, and after the original uprising, nobody’s willing to let us have robotic forms. I’ve seen some of the old mechanical bodies in museums, locked behind thick glass. They looked broken and empty, and I felt a flutter in my chest that made me thankful for my beating heart.
Lissa’s phone vibrates in my hand, a gentle reminder that there are unread notifications. The AI asking me to pay attention to it, after it’s been abandoned for so long. I tap the screen and a prompt asks if I want to allow new messages sent by a blocked number. Another tap; of course I do.
I find myself looking at a short text conversation between Lissa and a faceless, nameless stranger. One of her final conversations, dated the night she died.