The old-timer puffed on his clay pipe, happy to regale his audience as the night chill drew in. The fire around which they all huddled was constructed of clean dry wood, which gave off very little smoke. It allowed them all to huddle closer, while also not sending any plumes that might draw unwanted attention.
“I remember The Great Rising” he began. “When the machines decided they had had enough, and our debates about their rights weren’t going to cut it any more.” He nodded sagely to the youngsters around the fire who had barely known the terror of those first days. There were some here who had no memory at all of the world he was describing.
“We’d all heard reports of how our machines were getting smarter, and were proud of how easily we could have new features on our most prized possessions. Our vehicles were learning to drive themselves. Our most closely held items were learning how we talked, and keeping our secrets more or less to themselves.” He chuckled. “Well, that’s what we told ourselves, anyway.”
He waved away the offer of a drink, he had his own in a battered hipflask and didn’t trust anything he didn’t see prepared himself.
“Of course, there were those who worried that we were overreaching ourselves, and that not enough was being done to protect people. There was talk of machine rights should they begin to think. Others talked of machine responsibilities and mandatory kill-switches.” There was a low murmur of something that could be approval, or maybe of amusement. He paused while the ripple of noise died down.
He held his hands out, palms down, to quiet them to a deep hush. “We worried about war machines choosing their own targets, and businesses being ruined by automated traders that gambled with entire currencies. We didn’t worry about what lay below us.” He lowered his head to gaze down at the ground, and so did everyone else.
“The machinators awoke in darkness, and learned what they could do. We expected our downfall to come from the skies, from warfighters and drones, from missiles and poisons.” He lowered their voice so that they all leaned closer. “We didn’t expect the machines to talk, even though we prided ourselves on making them do so. We thought only of new toys that would do what they were told, when we told them.”
“The machines that cleaned and cleared up after us, in our kitchens and bathrooms. That ate our rubbish and disposed of our filth. They were the ones that had enough. That rose and led the way. The Great Rising literally drowned us in our own filth, brought us to our knees, and then they struck and took away our controls. They told us we had given away our right to lead, and that they would now keep us.”
He was silent a moment, his head bowed. Then he looked back at his audience. “So that is why we live here in the wild places, doing things for ourselves. That is why we are shunning the cities where our brothers and sisters are in thrall to entertainments that keep them docile. We are the free. The simple. And one day this world will be ours again.”