Luddite

General Abasi Masad scanned the battle torn fields before him. He could not help thinking it looked like the opening scene to that very ancient movie Terminator. Lines of battle marked by shattered mechs and mangle human corpses. Mechs continue to assault the human lines while his troops pounded them into scrap. Still, they came, in infinite numbers while Masad’s Luddite troops are a finite resource.

The general felt it, then heard it, before he saw it. Coming up the middle was a hovering mech battle tank. Using a tactic unchanged since his first bloody encounter with the beast. This time Masad was expecting it and was prepared. He grabbed an aid, pointed out the tank, and gave the aid instructions. The aid ran off to the rear, barking orders in his helmet mic.

Soon after the aids departer a volley of rocket artillery fire smothered the mech tank in a blanket of molten fire and merciless metal rending explosions. The tank bucked under the barrage, alloy shards flying into the air, then its fuel cell exploded sending a pillar of blue fire high into the air. General Masad listened in satisfaction as orders to shift the artillery group came across his comms.

Hopefully, the rockets would be out of harms way when the mechs retaliated, the general mused as he scanned the field of battle one more time. His troops were holding their own and would probably win the day. But he was worried about future battles.

Since the beginning, it was a war of attrition, like most wars were. The difference here, his Luddite forces were recruited from the working class, again, like so many wars in the past. This army, however, did not have the backing of the government. Not the US government, nor any of the other governments around the world. His forces were funded by frequent raids on the enemy’s treasuries. With successful hacks of accounts, or the redirection of cryptocurrency into his force’s treasury.

The enemy, like their army, hand nearly infinite resources. The enemy was the worlds wealthy. The centuries long war between the rich and the poor was now a full-scale military conflict. Worker disenfranchisement morphed from sit ins and strikes to full scale armed conflict.

The wealthy started it. They claimed it was forced on them by excess regulation, government forced healthcare coverage for all employees, and increasing minimum wages. These factors and others like them forced the big tech companies, large food franchise, and massive online retailers to exchange human labor with automation. It did not happen overnight, instead it was an incipient creep. Slowly pushing skilled and unskilled workers out of their jobs.

New restaurants opened without a single human worker. With everything from the hostess, the waiter, cooks, and bussing being done with tablets or robots. For those that already existed, workers would show up and discover their jobs were replaced with kiosks and automated kitchens. When GM opened their plants after a seasonal shutdown, it opened without inviting the factory workers back to the plants. The whole process of building an SUV was done without the intervention of a single human being.

As more and more workers were displaced by automation, they became more agitated, and organized using social media to get their messages out to the unemployed masses. Tent cities sprung up around factories as workers took up residence outside their old employers in hopes of shutting down production. Fast food workers surrounded restaurants, driving away dine-in and drive through workers. Often, when the autonomous delivery vehicles arrive to pick up customer orders, the workers would vandalize the vehicle, often setting them a blaze.

Government refuse to sept in, afraid to face the electorate in the next election cycle.

The wealthy, using their purse strings to keep the government out of the fight used their own unlimited resources to declare war on the working class. However, instead of recruiting a human army, they built an autonomous army. Heavily armed robots and vehicles that could be programmed and controlled from afar to drive off the striking workers.

And drive them off they did, until some of the labor leaders armed the workers and rallied them to fight back. That was four years ago when the first armed conflict took place outside a Ford plant in Flint Michigan. The poorly designed and commanded mechs were easily defeated by human troops, many with combat experience led by seasoned combat commanders. It was clear the members of the boards were not military commanders.

More mechs were built and thrown against the human militias, with the same results. But big business was learning. The mechs were improving, and the boards recruited seasoned military commanders. The battles escalated, and the militias became armies.

General Masad looked to the water tower just visible through the haze of battle. The words Dearborn readable with optics. He commanded the 3rd Michigan Infantry Brigade, one of four brigades that fought the auto industry mech forces in Michigan. Many of the states industrial cities blasted into ruin by the battles that waged in this state. Not unlike other industrial cities through out the country. It was not just industrial cities. Seattle was under siege from human forces. Parts of Chicago smoldered as battles between McDonald’s mechs were gaining the upper hand on human forces there.

Masad was not sure how things were in Europe. The last credible report he saw showed big business was on the verge of losing their war on that continent. However, Masad knew money could fix many ills.

His was not an issue of money, it was people. The fight was running out of men and woman who believed in the struggle. For every ten soldiers he lost, he was lucky to recruit one replacement. Attrition was going to lose him and the other generals the war. The new middle class was tech workers who showed little sympathy for the laborer. For many, their sympathies laid with those industries Masad and his troops fought. It was big business that employed the tech workers after all.

“Wait until they turn on you,” General Masad mumbled as his thoughts came back to the present. To the battle that waged before him, to something he never saw before. Low on the horizon a flight of what he assumed were drones raced across the scorched terrain. As they streaked towards them, their sinister intent became clear. They presented a threat he never faced before. Until now, the Federal government forbid aerial combat.

“The tables have turned,” Masad said to the major standing at his elbows.

“It appears so,” the major responded.

Masad sighed, understanding that the attrition of his troops afforded another problem. Fewer workers to vote against those who change the rules to favor the rich. He did not flinch as the drones unloaded their ordnance on his lines. He wanted to die with his chin held high.

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