When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth

“Dammit,” he said, mildly. He clipped the phone to his belt. Kelly wanted to know when he was coming home, or wanted him to pick something up for the family. She’d leave a voicemail.

He was testing the power supply when his phone rang again. He snatched it up and answered it. “Kelly, hey, what’s up?” He worked to keep anything like irritation out of his voice. He felt guilty: Technically speaking, he had discharged his obligations to Ardent Financial LLC once the Ardent servers were back online. The past three hours had been purely personal—even if he planned on billing them to the company.

There was sobbing on the line.

“Kelly?” He felt the blood draining from his face and his toes were numb.

“Felix,” she said, barely comprehensible through the sobbing. “He’s dead, oh Jesus, he’s dead.”

“Who? Who, Kelly?”

“Will,” she said.

Will? he thought. Who the fuck is— He dropped to his knees. William was the name they’d written on the birth certificate, though they’d called him 2.0 all along. Felix made an anguished sound, like a sick bark.

“I’m sick,” she said, “I can’t even stand anymore. Oh, Felix. I love you so much.”

“Kelly? What’s going on?”

“Everyone, everyone—” she said. “Only two channels left on the tube. Christ, Felix, it looks like dawn of the dead out the window—” He heard her retch. The phone started to break up, washing her puke noises back like an echoplex.

“Stay there, Kelly,” he shouted as the line died. He punched 911, but the phone went NETWORK ERROR again as soon as he hit SEND.
He grabbed Mayor McCheese from Van, plugged it into the 486’s network cable, launched Firefox off the command line, then googled for the Metro Police site. Quickly, but not frantically, he searched for an online contact form. Felix didn’t lose his head, ever. He solved problems, and freaking out didn’t solve problems.

He located an online form and wrote out the details of his conversation with Kelly like he was filing a bug report, his fingers fast, his description complete, and then he hit SUBMIT.

Van had read over his shoulder. “Felix—” he began.

“God,” Felix said. He was sitting on the floor of the cage and he slowly pulled himself upright. Van took the laptop and tried some news sites, but they were all timing out. Impossible to say if it was because something terrible was happening or because the network was limping under the superworm.

“I need to get home,” Felix said.

“I’ll drive you,” Van said. “You can keep calling your wife.”

They made their way to the elevators. One of the building’s few windows was there, a thick, shielded porthole. They peered through it as they waited for the elevator. Not much traffic for a Wednesday. Were there more police cars than usual?

“Oh my God —” Van pointed.

The CN Tower, a giant white-elephant needle of a building, loomed to the east of them. It was askew, like a branch stuck in wet sand. Was it moving? It was. It was heeling over, slowly, but gaining speed, falling northeast toward the financial district. In a second, it slid over the tipping point and crashed down. They felt the shock, then heard it, the whole building rocking from the impact. A cloud of dust rose from the wreckage, and there was more thunder as the world’s tallest freestanding structure crashed through building after building.
“The Broadcast Centre’s coming down,” Van said. It was—the CBC’s towering building was collapsing in slow motion. People ran every way, were crushed by falling masonry. Seen through the porthole, it was like watching a neat CGI trick downloaded from a file-sharing site.
Sysadmins were clustering around them now, jostling to see the destruction.

“What happened?” one of them asked.

“The CN Tower fell down,” Felix said. He sounded far away in his own ears.

“Was it the virus?”

“The worm? What?” Felix focused on the guy, who was a young admin with just a little type-two flab around the middle.

“Not the worm,” the guy said. “I got an email that the whole city’s quarantined because of some virus. Bioweapon, they say.” He handed Felix his BlackBerry. 

Felix was so engrossed in the report—purportedly forwarded from Health Canada—that he didn’t even notice all the lights had gone out. Then he did, and he pressed the BlackBerry back into its owner’s hand, and let out one small sob.

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