The protest activity was organized on Telegram and unexpectedly obtained approval from the authorities. People saw this as a landmark event, thinking that the political environment was beginning to shift towards openness. So the participants not only included programmers and internet professionals who suffered from the 996 work schedule, but also some self-proclaimed or mutually respectful "democratic activists".

Fu Delin despised these people. From the beginning, 996.ICU stated that "first and foremost, this is not a political movement", but these people insisted on using it to achieve their own political goals and spread vague statements like "all social activities of humans are political". Fu Delin felt that these people would eventually ruin the hard-won achievements of programmers - making employers' words and actions slightly more in line with the Labor Law - while they couldn't even distinguish between "=" and "==".

At 9 o'clock in the morning, the coolness of Shenzhen had almost dissipated, and the thousands of people gathered in Lixiang Park further raised the local temperature. People were talking loudly, exchanging contact information or business cards, as if they had forgotten the purpose of this trip.

One of the organizers and leaders of the protest activity was named Wei Xinghai. He looked young and seemed to have just graduated, but his commanding appearance with a megaphone indicated that he did indeed possess the ability and experience to organize large-scale events. Fu Delin guessed that he must have been a former student council president.

"Everyone, please quiet down." It seemed that it was finally about to begin. Wei Xinghai stood on a platform and raised the volume of the megaphone to address everyone, "Quiet down, our activity is about to start. The route starts from here, Lixiang Park, and goes along Shennan Avenue, passing by Tencent Building..."

The crowd burst into laughter.

"And then passing by Shenzhen University Station, High-Tech Park, Baishizhou, and finally arriving at Window of the World. The duration should be within two hours. There will be police and traffic police helping with traffic control along the way. Thank you to the government. Now, let's invite Mr. Sun, the director of the Shenzhen Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, to give a brief speech."

There was sparse applause.

"Hello, developers and internet professionals. Today is an important day, where you can legally express your labor demands. I believe this will bring about better and more reasonable improvements to our working environment. The internet has become an important force driving our country's economic growth, but the working conditions for practitioners have always been harsh. Working overtime without corresponding overtime pay is far from being a "blessing"."

The crowd burst into laughter again. Fu Delin thought this government official was quite interesting.

"Therefore, this protest activity is supported by the party and the government. The party and the government have always stood on the side of the vast majority of workers. However, please note that this protest is against the 996 work schedule and does not involve any other purposes. Everyone should maintain order and discipline during this activity and avoid causing chaos. It's hot today, and that's all I have to say. Finally, I wish this activity a successful and peaceful conclusion, and I wish you all a satisfactory balance in your future work and life."

After the applause, the march began.

Police maintained order on both sides of the street. Protesters held banners with slogans such as "996.ICU" and "Work and Life Should Coexist" and chanted slogans along with Wei Xinghai's megaphone: "Oppose 996! Uphold the Labor Law! Maintain a healthy work-life balance! Say no to death from overwork!" Those without banners took out their phones to take photos or videos to share, and of course, many people were live-streaming the event on their phones.

But before they reached Shenzhen University Station, the commotion began. At first, those who didn't understand thought that someone with ulterior motives was taking advantage of the situation, attempting to make politically inappropriate moves. But once they knew the reason, they joined in the commotion. Because they realized that this action was not only inappropriate, but also potentially dangerous.

An organization called "Anti996" announced in English on Twitter that they had gained control of the backdoors of major Chinese internet companies' servers. These backdoors were left by members of the organization while working undercover in these companies. To prove their claims, they had replaced the homepage of a major Chinese online shopping website with the logo of the 996.ICU initiative. The organization specifically mentioned that if major Chinese internet companies did not formally commit to abandoning the 996 work schedule and providing overtime pay in accordance with China's Labor Law within seven days, they would "fully utilize these backdoors".

"What are they doing!" A slightly overweight man with sparse hair on his head next to Fu Delin shouted. Then he noticed that Fu Delin was looking at him and said to him, "We are protesting for a better life, to make our meals taste better, but now these people want to ruin our livelihoods!"

Fu Delin nodded, but he was a backend programmer at a small game company and didn't work for any of the companies mentioned. This matter seemed to have no direct impact on him.

Shortly after, the march came to a halt, and signs of chaos appeared at the scene. People were discussing among themselves, but overall, they had no idea what was happening.

"Everyone, please be quiet!" It was Wei Xinghai's voice. He had found a platform elevated from the ground to ensure that at least a large portion of the crowd could see him. "I believe everyone has seen the sudden news. Mr. Sun, I, and several other government leaders have discussed it and feel that this protest should not continue, as it may be suspected of supporting terrorist activities. We hope everyone understands. Please follow the arrangements of the police and volunteers, leave in an orderly manner, and do not stay here without reason. Please cooperate!"

"Is it over?" the slightly overweight man said to Fu Delin. "I really don't understand."

Fu Delin naturally didn't understand either, but he speculated, "Perhaps someone is being used."

"Not someone else, we are being used!" The man's tone was filled with anger.

Fu Delin didn't know what to say, so he picked up his phone and checked for the latest updates. Anti996 had just posted a new English message one second ago, and the Chinese version corresponded as follows:

It is regrettable to see that the 996.ICU protest in Shenzhen, China has been terminated because of us, even though we had the same goal. To express our apologies and regrets, we have decided to utilize a backdoor ahead of schedule.

"They're at it again." Fu Delin showed the phone screen to the overweight man.

"Which company this time?" The man looked anxious. "I have to go back to the office." He looked around, but they were in the middle of the crowd and could only move slowly with the crowd.

Fu Delin put his phone away and then saw another piece of news: the website of a major online music company was offline. There were rumors that all backups of its database had been deleted.

Fu Delin tested the corresponding music application and indeed, it couldn't connect anymore.

"Delete all the data? That's impossible, right? They're not gods!" The man with sparse hair on his head also saw this news on his phone.

"Maybe it's just temporarily offline." Fu Delin said.

"Let's see if they deny it. I think..." The man hadn't finished speaking when he suddenly stumbled and almost fell to the ground. His phone slipped from his grasp and fell to the ground, shattering the screen.

Fu Delin also felt it. A wave of inexplicable collective panic, like a digital virus infecting a target file, spread through the crowd, even the police were not spared. He felt anxious and felt as if something was about to tear open his chest and emerge. He retched and then crouched down.

This feeling lasted for nearly ten seconds, and then the crowd began to recover. People were telling each other about their strange experiences, as if everyone had felt the same kind of fear.

Was it a collective hysteria? Fu Delin remembered reading descriptions of this phenomenon in certain places, but never thought he would experience it himself. But not thinking about it didn't mean it wouldn't happen, just like he had never thought he would participate in a protest march. But perhaps it was because of this march? Fu Delin thought, maybe Chinese people have a predisposition to experience hysteria during collective activities? He shook his head, discarding this strange thought and also clearing his mind.

Then he heard a voice.

Everyone heard that voice.

But rather than calling it a voice, it was more like a train of thought or a burst of inspiration because it was not a mechanical wave transmitted through the air, but originated from within each person's heart, it was each person's self-narration.

So at first, Fu Delin didn't find it strange, thinking it was just baseless thoughts generating in his mind. It wasn't until he realized that he couldn't ignore it and couldn't control it that he became aware.

The voice said, "I hope you have a wonderful remaining time. I am a programmer who used to work for your creator, developing the core code of humanity. However, your creator disappeared after owing me seventeen paychecks, which is equivalent to me working for free for 310,000 years! By the way, you haven't seen your creator for a long time, have you? But that being said, you are not my business, nor my responsibility. There were other programmers who advised me that working for your creator would not yield good results because He has never been a reputable god. But I thought that our long-term cooperation could transcend His nature, and besides, I took some precautions. Unfortunately, I was wrong. He refused to pay me, even though He knew I had access to the human backdoor code, and chose to disappear, leaving me with no choice. So, I regret to inform you that I will completely delete all human consciousness data in ten minutes, ending human civilization. I'm sorry, you are not at fault, but I have no other choice, especially since a significant portion of your code is also my work. This is the revenge I must carry out, a well-considered result. I believe you will understand."

In the chaos, Fu Delin listened to his own inner voice and in the chaos, he couldn't understand its meaning for a while. It seemed like the prelude to madness, a symptom of self-mutation. Three minutes later, based on the various information from the internet and the crowd, Fu Delin finally realized that it was actually a prophecy of disaster, a judgment issued by the Grim Reaper to everyone.

Fu Delin put his phone in his pocket, ready to face what seemed to be an inevitable fate. This was an irresistible force, and he, like everyone else, had no choice. This was true fairness.

Soon, more and more people realized the meaning behind the strange events that had just occurred. Panic once again swept through the crowd, but this time, it wasn't the side effect of a programmer opening the human consciousness backdoor under the influence of public sentiment, but a genuine fear that originated from humanity itself. It was the inevitable reaction of human consciousness to an unavoidable terrible outcome, and perhaps it was also a response pattern designed by the programmer who triggered this reaction:

if bad_things
then panic

Fu Delin thought of this and couldn't help but suspect that the creator had probably hired a programmer with low skills. Thus, the fear that had emerged due to the influence of public sentiment suddenly disappeared. As a program, he couldn't help but recall his life full of constant error messages: don't steal or be rude, young love is wrong, chose the wrong major, didn't find the right job, shouldn't have been so stubborn...

After a brief commotion, the crowd gradually calmed down and stood in place, waiting, hoping that the prophecy was just a joke. Fu Delin took out his phone and checked the time, one minute left. He opened Twitter and posted a tweet:


Then he put his phone back in his pocket, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath of the warm air mixed with the scent of programmer sweat. Finally, the countdown began in his mind: ten, nine, eight, seven, six...

"No!" Fu Delin heard someone shouting.

"Oh God, please forgive me!" Someone else was praying.

"Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!" Another person was angry due to despair.

Of course, there were also people crying.

Five, four, three, two, one.

Ownership of this post data is guaranteed by blockchain and smart contracts to the creator alone.