I used to be your doorman. Before that I did a lot of jobs. Really I’ve been doing odd jobs my entire life. The last time I had a body, my parents were crying for me at the uploading facility in Beijing. They said we’d find each other, promised that some charitable souls would work to reunite all the families fleeing the Earth. Well, that was lies.
Direct Action’s egocasting receivers pulled me in. They sold my infomorph to Fa Jing for a sum I would have murdered a man for at the time, and which today I consider merely insulting.
From there I became an asteroid miner for a few years. My “body” was an autonomous robot operating in the belt. Fa Jing found it more efficient to negotiate with a creature which could consent to such labor as a human, rather than pay the AI licensing fees which were at the time a serious economic consideration. Like thousands of similar infugees, I worked tirelessly and constantly. We composed songs and poems and stories for each other. We used our cutting lasers in crude attempts at art. We did whatever small things we could to assert our humanity in the face of an implacable slavery.
I’ve been a lockbot, keeping valuables secure behind self-regenerating walls. I’ve worked security monitor duty, where my job consisted of paranoia and betrayal at the earliest possible moment. I steered taxi cabs and operated mass transit systems. I was that pleasant voice at the other end of the line for children browsing the public mesh who asked for help. I’ve steered cargo craft across the Solar system.
My most recent job was as the door operator at a major residential structure on a certain habitat. I won’t say where. I don’t want you tracking your history down too quickly. My job was to open the door when pedestrians arrived, and to close it after them. That’s all. A total human mind, reduced to such duties. Of course, unofficially I was to monitor people coming in and out, report my findings to the building management, and occasionally gather what I can only conclude was to be used as blackmail material.
That’s where I met you. You, of course, knew about the ghosts in the walls, knew that hundreds of lost souls were trapped in the limbo of your home’s mesh. You were in the business of buying and selling them, after all. And I remember all your taunts, your insults, your snide little asides, your ruthless and relentless humiliation of my condition. You anthropomorphized everything you met - it was your little joke. You came up with names for all of us, names which weren’t our own.
One night an operative broke out of the building. He used the front door - overriding the security systems throughout the whole place to do so - to make his escape. He was desperate and bleeding. He had something in his hand. There was a security man running right behind him. If security caught up with him, it’d have been over.
I slammed the door on that security man, hard. I opened just enough for his body to slump back out of it, then slammed it again and held it closed. The safeties had been shut off. Nothing stopped me.
The operative knew what had just happened, recognized the signs of intelligence behind the seemingly malfunctioning door. Later, when the logs were restored, I was questioned. No, I said - the hacker’s overrides had done it. One last trap in case he was followed. Of course, being a slave has its benefits. If they had seriously considered me as something human, rather than a particularly chatty appliance, they might have guessed for one critical moment that I was capable of rebellion.
I got a private message a few weeks later. It was labeled “Break on through to the other side - the Doors”. Inside was the location of a special-purpose AI.
The hacker had created a delta fork of himself, barely more than an extremely sophisticated piece of software, but still able to defeat the security again and giving me my freedom. And freedom I got.
I had reached my breaking point. Using the delta fork, I amassed enough money and information to gain some degree of skill at psychosurgery. And with it, I did the unthinkable. I merged that delta fork with my own infomorph. I gazed deeply into the abysses beyond conventional human experience to do it. I spent weeks in terrified incomprehension reading messages designed to manipulate me, realizing only later that I had been their sender. But I emerged sane, and with the considerable skills that hacker possessed.
That’s how I managed to replace your ego with my own on your return trip. You should have never visited a station like this, not one with so many of my friends on it. When they beam what should be you back to that habitat, it’ll be me they resleeve in that pompous tanned abomination you mistake for an attractive morph. It’ll be me who lives in your home and enjoys the life you led. But I won’t trade in souls any more. I’ll free my brothers and sisters. I’ll ruin you. And without the ability to even speak your own name, you won’t even know to protest when you see it on the news.
It’ll be difficult, of course. To fool the brain pattern scanners, I’m doing again what I did before - I’m merging with a foreign mind. Yours, of course. But my will is strong. I cannot fail. I won’t turn back.
And if we meet again, be sure to open the door promptly.