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[personal profile] talonkarrde
Henry remembers when they used to do everything by hand in the factory. With power drills and hydraulics, of course, but the sweat — and sometimes blood — was real. He remembers the ninety-six bolts that he used to put on every car, the three days that it took to create one.

He remembers the satisfaction of being the worker to slam the hood down at the end of the production process, the satisfying click, and the low growl of the engine as it was fired up.

There was that one night where one of the doors wasn't fitted properly, and the team spent an extra five hours replacing it. When they had finished, it was close to midnight; he felt a bit giddy, and revved the engine just a touch more than it should've been revved. Well, a touch being five thousand RPMs or so, to the cheers of his crew.

The next day, he was called into the foreman's office, who drew down the shades, raised an eyebrow, and said, "Well?"

He said, "I'll never do it again, sir."

The foreman said, "Apology accepted," and on his way out, added, "those beauties sure sound great red-lined, don't they?"

"They sure do, sir," he responded, and they share a brief grin.

Every two weeks, he gets a paycheck, and he puts a third of it to the house, a third in other resources, and saves the rest.

-

He goes hunting sometimes, bringing home game to cook. It's a good life. It's not an easy one, always, but it's a good one.

-

Henry remembers when they started bringing in the robots. It's the large ones — big, dumb things that are pretty much the same hydraulic arms they have before, but now they're on platforms and they're connected to a central brain somewhere and they still require a button to press, but they can do a lot of the heavy lifting. It doesn't take a crew of three to put on a door anymore; now it just takes a robotic arm and someone to help guide it.

At first, they make a lot of mistakes, and there's some grumbling on the floor that they're more trouble than they're worth. One time, Evan narrowly avoids getting impaled by one, as it missed picking up the door and swung back to put it in place. But as some of the issues — or 'bugs', as the guys in glasses that couldn't lift ten pounds over their head call them — get ironed out, he and the rest acknowledge that they do make things easier. Fewer back strains, for sure.

He still gets to click the hood shut, though. That's just not something a robot should do.

There's a commotion on the floor a few months in, on a Friday — some of the guys are being let go. Henry looks at the list of names and shrugs. Deadbeats, all of them, and now that the arms are in place, there just isn't room for those deadbeats anymore. Someone mentions something about union rights, but he's already turned away; he couldn't care less about those leeches anyway.

When he gets home, he opens his paycheck, and puts it away. He's been getting raises here and there, but some of the prices are going up, and he has to save for college for the little one now, and he's able to save less than he used to. Still some, but less.

-

He doesn't go hunting anymore; in fact, traded in his Winchester for a Glock 19. It's gotten a bit rougher in his neighborhood, and he sleeps better knowing that he has something, just in case something happens. There's been layoffs here and there, and there's a lot more loitering at street corners than there used to be. He wishes he could help, but there isn't much to go around. He has to provide for his family first before anyone else's.

-

Henry remembers shutting his last hood, the click as it shuts. It's one of the new electric vehicles. It doesn't slam, but they haven't for a while now. The engines don't purr, either; they don't anything.

He remembers it because it's his last day on the job.

He looks back now and sees the slow crawl of automation, the robots that got smaller and smarter until they handled all of the bolts and screws, until they took the car from the beginning to the end and pumped out a new car every sixteen hours. They started laying off more and more workers, workers that weren't deadbeats and hadn't done anything wrong, and while the union forestalled it for some time, it wasn't long until they didn't need anyone at all. Robots were the new scab workers.

There was a grace period of sorts for him; for a year or two, they kept some of the workers around to 'manage' the robots, until they performed well enough that they didn't really need some management except for some egghead that never lifted a wrench in his life. But in the end, even that was an unnecessary cost. And with that, a factory that once employed a workforce of over five hundred people now employed five.

He goes home, and looks over his savings, savings that have slowly drained over the years as unexpected expenses happened and raises didn't materialize and he kept doing the thing he was good at.

And he wonders about his mortgage, about his family and how to feed and clothe them, about his mother and her cancer and about how something that he’s done for thirty years no longer exists in this world. He thinks about the politicians talking about immigrants — as if they were ever the problem — and about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and about how someone in corporate headquarters now makes ten times what they did a decade ago and how this world just passed him by.

And he goes to get his gun.
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