I was at the merger when I found out that I’d been murdered.

“Do you, Maria Klarner, take Damien Cartwright to be your lawful partner?”

It was a traditional ceremony, with a church and everything. Most people got hitched these days in a lawyer’s office, but the priest had a Masters in M&A, so supposedly it was all above-board.

“As the CEO of Maria Klarner, I do.”

An emotional moment. The father of the bride remained dry-eyed. He’d initially been against the merger, so they’d had to wait until enough of his parental shares had transitioned into non-voting shares before they could do anything. Asshole. Fortunately, when her mother bodylossed, she’d wanted to leave herself to someone who shared her values more than Daddy Klarner had turned out to. So she’d left herself and her parental shares to her best friend, who was here as CEO of Mummy Klarner and weeping enough for both of them. Obviously Daddy Klarner had been livid at the whole situation. Asshole.

“I hereby pronounce you co-CEOs of Klarner-Cartwright!”

I stood and applauded. To be honest, I was a bit squicked out by the fact that they were going for a merger in this day and age. My ex-husband and I had adopted Human Partnership Form 2B, which gave us legal precedence in matters relating to care of the other party’s Human Biological Assets, but not much more. A merger, on the other hand, was serious business. They were legally the same entity now, same bank accounts, same possessions, same liabilities, everything. Neither of them were old enough to have amassed large boards of directors, so they’d just merged them, which hardly seemed like a recipe for peaceful board meetings.

Not that it was any of my business, really. I’d be there to comfort Maria if they had to break themselves back up again, and there was plenty of legal precedent for having multiple bodies, so it wouldn’t be too complicated.

An icon blinked in the corner of my eye. I swatted at it, annoyed. I was sure I’d set my notifications to “do not disturb”. Then my internet access died.

I froze in shock, looking around the other attendees quickly. There hadn’t been an internet outage in decades, if it was down for everyone then someone else should be reacting. Yes we were at a wedding, but losing the internet is like losing one of your senses.

The congregation clapped on, placidly. I cursed inwardly - I could really do without having to replace my inplants again. I’d had them done recently, so they were still in warranty, but the surgery takes you out for a week at least.

In idle frustration, I checked the message that had come in.

hey jane, tried to pay that last invoice but the transaction failed. seems weird, might want to call your bank - k

A coincidence. Surely. People around me were still applauding, so I surreptitiously made my way out the back under the covering fire.

Half an hour later, I’d miraculously located a public internet terminal in, of all things, a pub. The ridiculousness of the situation was the last thing in my mind, however, as the reality of the situation gradually set in.

I was dead. Not bodyloss-dead, but real dead. I’d been disincorporated. This shouldn’t have been possible while my primary HBA was still alive! I couldn’t access anything, and I didn’t even want to think of what was happening to my business. The CTO would be flipping out, and I had a sales meeting on Monday. But no, I had to focus on myself first.

Perhaps my will had kicked in? I could call Tony, who was somehow still my legal executor. No… if I called him and my will hadn’t triggered, it would just be embarrassing. God knows this was stressful enough without that. Even if my will had triggered, that happens after the loss of the primary HBA, so there’s normally no provisions to dispose of that asset.

So who owned my body?

I looked nervously over my shoulder. Pulling up the government HBA registry seemed to take an age, the seconds dripping like ice down my back. I typed in my ID number and held my breath.

A bright red box. Cannot get property id of null it said, helpfully.

That was my answer. Null. Nobody writes code for HBAs without owners, because that can’t happen. I stared at the page.

It looks like you've found a bug in our website, help us out by submitting a bug report! it suggested. I closed it. There was a bug for sure, but not in the website.

I mentally went through the people I could go to for help. My personal board was full of wonderful ass-kickers who would back me to the hilt, but none of them could get me resurrected.

If you find yourself unexpectedly dead, your first port of call is a necromancer. Fortunately, I had one on retainer.

“Yeah, my implants seem to have just stopped working entirely. Unbelievable, isn’t it?”

I’d managed to find an old dear at the wedding who bought that line, or at least was happy enough for the company to stop asking questions. When she finally dropped me off downtown I felt like I’d more than paid for my fare in small talk.

Lewis & Sons rented two desks in a large coworking space. I blessed my past self for having the forethought to get a lawyer who had at least some physical presence in my home town. James, my solicitor, wasn’t here himself, but they’d at least be able to patch me through securely from here.

Thankfully the humans between me and James took my personhood at face value and didn’t ask any questions that I couldn’t answer.

James was as taken aback as I was.

“Jane, this just can’t happen. Personal corporations are created when their primary HBA is, and destroyed when it dies. They can’t just be disincorporated. What’s happened to you is definitely illegal.”

I took a deep breath. “Okay, but can you fix it?”

“Yes. Well, I mean, I assume so. I’ve never done this before. Nobody I know has done this before. I’ll have to do some research. But there’s no way the court isn’t going to find in your favour. Your body is right there.”

“That’s triggered by the loss of your primary HBA. Your body is still alive, so it won’t have gone off.”

“Are you sure? Can we contact Tony just to be sure?”

James started tapping at his desk. A strange look came over his face.

“Jane… I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but Tony’s suffered body-loss. This afternoon. Apparently… self-inflicted.”

I reeled. Tony, a suicide? That made no sense at all. I had never known such a self-contained, driven, ambitious piece of shit than Tony, and there was no way he’d off himself while there were still greasy poles to climb.

James kept talking. He looked like he was reading the instructions for a complicated logic puzzle.

“His will has triggered, and you’re the primary beneficiary. But you’re dead.”

Looks like I wasn’t the only person too lazy to update my will.

“And the fallback clause states that if you’re dead then his financial assets go to his shareholders, and his informational assets are to be destroyed. Wait, really?”

The storybook logic of the events started to get to me. My ex-husband has some files that he wants either passed on to me, or destroyed. He bodylosses, unexpectedly, and then I die, meaning the files get destroyed. This is awful. What the fuck was he doing?

Feeling like a complete idiot, I realised what I’d decided to do.

“Okay James, keep at the resurrection business, I’ve got a couple of things to attend to.”

He got up as I was going.

“Jane.” I stopped.

“Right now, you don’t exist.” Our eyes met through kilometres of optical fibre. “Be careful.”

I got to Tony’s house. There were police outside.

I took a deep breath and walked straight up to the front door like I owned the place. Which I still did… 10% of it, anyway.

“Hi. I’m Jane Mellor. Tony is… was… my ex-husband. I’m the executor of his will.”

I held up my ID card and prayed. The cop scanned it. I kept breathing. All I needed is for the police database not to have updated with the fact of my death yet (and why would they hurry? Dead people don’t commit crimes).

The signature validated and he waved me through. I did not let out a sigh of relief.

I’d thought this through. If they caught me, I’d just say that I didn’t know I was dead. It’s not like I’d done anything illegal… yet.

I explained to the cop inside that I was here to look at the files. They were, I hinted, Very Important. I was still dressed for the wedding, but fortunately I only have one style, and it’s Evil Lawyer.

Finally, I was into Tony’s files with a police override. I headed straight for the financials. If there was anything suspect, it would probably show up there.

The answer was embarrassingly easy to find.

“Oh Jesus. Jesus fuck, Tony.”

Tony’s primary HBA wasn’t on his will, of course, because the will assumes that it’s dead. But even if he hadn’t bodylossed, his body wasn’t his to give away.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.”

Nobody sells themself. I mean, it’s not illegal. Yes, there are mergers and yes, you can sell non-voting shares to pay your way through university. But nobody gives a controlling share in themselves to someone else, let alone ownership of their primary HBA.

I exited the session. I did not want to be involved in this. Whatever it was that Tony knew, and was trying to pass on to me, it was bad shit. Nope nope, nope nope nope.

I noped myself straight out of Tony’s house and back to my apartment, which contained plenty of alcohol that I would not have to buy with my non-existent money.

My apartment keys didn’t work. This was depressingly obvious in hindsight, but there I was, standing outside my apartment like a lemon. A homeless lemon.

I leaned back against the door and tried not to cry. It was fine. I had friends I could stay with. And borrow clothes from. And money. All I had to do was survive until James resurrected me, and then it would all sort itself out.

At that moment, the door suddenly opened behind me and I lost my balance. I fell backwards, and

TRANSCRIPT ENDS

This transcript is a reconstruction from memory recordings in the victim’s implants. Amazingly, my client’s body was able to trigger her intruder alarm before the assailant shot her, and in his rush to escape the assailant failed to destroy her head thoroughly.

A rapid memory trawl revealed the connection to Tony Maguire, and the police were able to extract the relevant files from on-site backups shortly before his house was burned down.

This led to a series of arrests and ongoing prosecutions (see Case Notes #346642). My client’s surmises were correct: the perpetrators were attempting to prevent information held by Tony Maguire from leaking to my client. Quite how they were able to disincorporate her without destroying her body has yet to be determined, however it would have provided significant cover for their subsequent destruction of her primary HBA. Police investigations would have been blocked by my client’s lack of legal existence, and my attempts to have her resurrected would have been hamstrung by the lack of a living HBA to use as evidence that she should never have been disincorporated.

With the evidence that came to light, I am delighted to report that Jane Mellor has been officially reincorporated and regained control of her remaining assets. She will be proceeding as a productive member of society under the stewardship of her next of kin, Amanda Mellor.

James Thurman

[Author’s notes: this is inspired by Max Gladstone’s Craft novels; Black Mirror; and thinking about what society would be like if corporations (and personal corporations) were the primary entity in law. I think the novel relationships between people thrown up by this idea could generate a lot of interesting conflicts if you ran with it a bit more. Also I’m unsure whether this is a dystopia - I think it might just be a weirdtopia.]