Author: Brooks C. Mendell

Victoria remembered when, as a girl, she walked through Wellington Wood with her father. They listened to woodpeckers banging their heads for bugs and looked for promising oak trees to climb. The arrival of the Grafters and their technological efficiencies changed work and this way of life.

“They will try to replace us,” said Father, following an orientation session. “But it will be difficult.”

Wellington Wood, the vast forest covering half of the continent, had long supplied natural resources to families and businesses: wood for lumber, furniture and fuel; animals for food and leather; roots and plants for medicine and spices. While the Governors bickered over taxes and boundary lines, they faithfully observed the Wellington Wood tradition of sustainable rule: balance harvest with growth.

The Grafters arrived on gleaming metal ships that hovered across the water. Their representatives, dressed in collarless uniforms, visited the Governors and proposed new arrangements to increase production and revenues.

After the signing of Pact, the Grafters sent the massive, dull industrial ships loaded with equipment and their humanoid Fortechs.

“We have no interest in replacing the human workers,” said a Fortech, “but to make your work safer. This will increase our efficiency metrics.”

During weekly orientation sessions, Fortechs introduced new processes to increase volume and improve quality. The goals centered on numbers agreed to by the Grafters and our Governors. Each month, Father came home with less energy, less humor, less patience. He stooped.

Bit by bit, the Grafters bought the lawmakers and the courts and reporters. Our lives became less about walking in the woods and more about supplying energy and labor to the economic machines of our overlords.

The days of Victoria climbing in the woods with friends and family were no more. Now, she lived in a barrack with a nutrition muzzle strapped to her head and a fecal harness strapped to her hips that piped waste to the fertilizer distributors.

Humans always have a use.