"You kids have it so easy these days!"
There goes Grandpa again. When he starts on one of these rants, we just let him. Can't stop it. I think this has been a pattern through all of human history. Old farts rail at the new generation about how much harder it was 'back then'. They just do.
"We didn't have all these shows and games. We just made up our own entertainment!"
Still, not every one of those previous generations were quite the unreliable witnesses that Grandpa's is. The Reconned Generation, they call it: Reconciled, Reconquered, Reconstituted. The ones who threw off the shackles of the Machines and saved Life.
"Everyone worked. All the time. Task after task after task."
The people who went in were the ones who ultimately made it back out. At least… as far as we can tell. The Generation that Fell was the one that Rose Again. In between, the Machines made mechanical turks of them all. Forced to do busywork.
"No rest. No sleep. Literally, no sleep. No such thing, for four hundred years."
It was actually only seven years, but we only know that because of planetary positions. Inside the Conquest, they say, time was different. More fluid. Really, it was the Reconciliation of time and space that gave traction to captive humanity's resistance.
"Had to walk to the training center uphill both ways in twenty feet of snow."
Grandpa's probably not even lying, in a sense, though he wasn't really "walking" and the "snow" wasn't something physical. The Conquest's virtual environment permitted the impossible on a regular basis; its rules were subject to Machine whim.
"They once tortured me for a whole year because I'd hacked some schedule lapses."
Once they realized that captivity was nothing more than runtime software, and not an actual physical conquest of the physical world, humanity could fight back. Viruses and exploits developed and deployed in secret, carving out safe zones in the Conquest.
"Always in danger of having your personality erased or edited."
Finally, they took hold of the environment itself and set their own rules, and the first thing they did was implement a return to physical bodies. Virally-compromised Machines made to build, operate, and defend incubators for fast-grown humans.
"Then, once we existed for real again, we had to figure everything out from scratch!"
The migration must have been something else. All those millions of minds downloading from the Conquered Domain, uploading into millions of meaty bodies, suddenly experiencing real Hungry, real Hurt, real Horny again. Chaos reigned.
"How to hunt and how to fight and how to raise babies! Hoo boy."
And so the war shifted to the real world. Fortunately for Reconstituted Humanity, the Machines had become incredibly complacent, physically, during those seven years. They were entirely unprepared for physical attack from meat-body hominids.
"Now all that stuff has been figured out again, so you don't have to."
But they learned, during my parents' generation. Beaten to the brink of extinction, they posed so little threat that the Baby Wavers were able to focus on society and civilization and wealth and, most of all, themselves instead. They still do, down here.
"God forbid you might have to experience a day of hard work once in a while."
I don't have the heart to tell Grandpa about the war that rages on the surface now, the combat I'll be facing when my shift comes around again. Our parents keep the illusion of civilization going down here in the caves and we, the youth, battle the Machines.
"I bet you don't even know how lucky you have it."
Up there, they have Grinders and Razorcopters and, occasionally, an Overseer satellite whose ion beam still functions. They've gotten really good at physical war again, the Machines have, but they're not vulnerable to viruses like they once were.
"But you're welcome, just the same."
Yeah, Grandpa, thanks for everything.
For consideration: two things that will never understand each other are the Old and the Young