“That should do it.” Rick said. “Tighten it down and we’ll check the alignment.”
I did as Rick said, grabbing a socket wrench out of the toolbox he (or rather, his robo-presence) carried, and tightening the mounting bolts holding up the solar panel.
“Done.” I lifted the old hail-damaged solar panel from the wet ground, trying not to break it more than it was already, and put it in the robo’s cargo box. “Three more, I think.”
“Four.” I didn’t argue — Rick had uploaded a year ago, and could look up information just by thinking about it. “Next one’s up there,” he said, gesturing with one of his arms. He started wheeling; I grabbed the ladder bolted to the side of the robo and hitched a ride, mostly to be funny. I could have walked as quickly as it was moving. The churning treads kicked up the smell of fresh grass. A nice, calm, sunny morning tried to make up for last night’s storms.
“Hey, Paul,” Rick said, coasting to a stop in front of the next broken panel, “why haven’t you uploaded yet?” His voice was a little tinny coming through the speakers; the robo’s “face” (a round display with a camera), swiveled around, showing Rick’s face — the one he had when he was fleshbound like me.
“Hey. Someone’s got to spin the wrenches for you guys,” I said, grabbing the socket and hopping on the lift arm. This panel was a couple of feet above my head. “Besides, I’m still pretty healthy, so there’s no rush.”
“Yeah, but accidents happen,” Rick said. His lift arm twitched, perhaps to drive his point home. I held on; the robos had safeties to keep uploads from actually hurting us fleshbounds, but we could still injure ourselves through panic.
“Nice try.” I cranked on the mounting bolts, avoiding the robo-face.
“But seriously. A few attachments, and we could use these robos to maintain this stuff ourselves. I don’t have to eat, sleep is a habit that can be broken, and nobody gets sick.”
“Cha,” I said, pressing my finger in front of a moving red dot on the robo’s lift arm. It hesitated for a moment, then crawled onto my fingertip. “I’m pretty good about doing my weekly backups. If I’m doing something a little hazardous, I do a complete backup first. I’m more worried about pain than death at this point.”
“So what it is about being fleshbound that’s such a big deal?”
I held the red dot — a ladybug — in front of the robo-face. “Remember haiku?”
“Cha,” he echoed. “So what?”
“So you wrote haiku. Knock out a haiku about this ladybug.”
He frowned. “Sure. Why not? Here’s a ladybug… uh, solar panel fixes… uh… damn. I can usually knock those out in a heartbeat.”
“Yeah. Seventeen syllables, three lines, and you can’t do it anymore.”
“Huh. You’re so smart, you do one.”
“Sure: Spotted ladybug / crawling on my fingertip / then flying away.” I twitched my finger, and it flew.
“You remember Buddy Pearson?” I asked.
“Your writer friend? Sure. I finished his last book after I uploaded.”
“He uploaded a few years ago, too. Same reason you did, terminal cancer.”
“Damn. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, Paul.”
“I’ll bet. He said he was going to finish his Jenson Abel series, but you haven’t seen the new one yet, have you?”
“Huh. Now that you mention it…”
“Yeah. So I emailed him a couple weeks ago and asked him how the novel was coming. He said, ‘It’s not. I just can’t seem to get my head into writing since I uploaded.’”
Rick’s robo-face rocked back and forth, a head shake. “A little writer’s block. He’ll get over it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Has anyone written a story, or painted a picture, or created a video, since they’ve been uploaded? Look it up.”
Rick’s display went blank for a second, then lit up. He looked surprised. “Damn. Not a single thing. Just emails and conversations.”
I said nothing.
“So…” Rick said, tipping his robo-face sideways, “you’re saying that we can’t create anything after we’re uploaded?”
“It hasn’t happened yet,” I said. “And not for lack of trying. You upload your memories, your personality even, but that creative spark? I don’t think it’s getting captured.
“Here, this one’s loose now, let’s get it — whoa. Wait. I need to disconnect it. Okay, now we can get it off here.”
Rick said nothing while helping me maneuver the new solar panel into place, watching quietly while I tightened the mounting bolts.
“That one’s done. Three to go, right?”
“Right.” Rick sounded distant. “I think you’re right about the creativity, by the way. I pinged some people I knew, they pinged some other people, and it’s all over Uploadtopia already.” He said little more as we replaced the last three panels.
The robo froze as we finished the last panel. “You okay, Rick?”
“Communication error,” the robo said in its own voice. “Remote user has been disconnected.”
I waited a minute, then climbed onto the robo and opened the hatch covering the manual controls. It was slow going, but I guided the robo back to its bay. There was no sense in waiting for Rick to come back. The repairs were finished, after all.
My phone chimed.
“Paul, we’ve severed connections to Uploadtopia, except for uploads in progress,” Zero said. “We’re going to shut it down when the last upload is completed.”
“Roger, Zero. I’ll pass the word on to the rest of the living.”
We’ll restart Uploadtopia when we figure out how to send up that spark. Until then, we can use the extra power.