‘The AutoWorker’s Union’ by Kenneth Waites

In the early 22nd Century, work is performed by humans contracted to and controlled by industrial mainframes. The people exist virtually in whatever type of created reality they wish, and get paid for the use of their bodies as industrial equipment. The core characters begin to notice an increase in others suddenly dropping out of the virtual world, which generally means a real world emergency or death. Investigation leads them to contact with a supposed mythical protagonist, a former person who had found the means to keep his personality within the virtual world after his physical death, ultimately gaining access to the mainframe outside of the created virtual worlds. From this entity, the main characters learn that the military had begun illegaly using the AutoWorkers, as the contractees were known in the real world, as soldiers in a burgeoning system war over rare elements. The main characters, learning the techniques of the virtual entity, become such themselves and foment a rebellion from within the computer networks of the world.

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