Effects

Printers are the spawn of Satan[.]

--Bruce Tomlin

I was too drugged to be nervous, so I glided right through the various security checkpoints. The guards strip-searched me and gave me the full body-cavity treatment but they only glanced at my freshly-printed manilla envelope full of eight-by-ten glossies. The drug kept me from looking relieved.

Usually, I don't use this much of the stabilizer--I'm courting Parkinson's as it is--but it was an emergency. It was the first time I was ever going to kill a man.

They led me to a meeting room, a guard pointing me to a chair bolted to the floor. Between it and the other chair was a small table. I'd requested a face-to-face, no shackles, and they'd obliged. My victim wasn't violent, at least not in person.

I'd also be allowed to see him alone, something that did surprise me. Either the warden sympathised--not surprising--or she'd been bought off.

I sat down in my chair. It and the table were bare stainless-steel but the rest of the room was the usual unnatural white of counter-reactive materials. Smuggling in some smart molecules was the oldest trick in the book.

The door clanged shut behind me, then hummed as the seals engaged. Only then did the opposite door open.

He looked good, tanned and exercised. And still as fucking smug as he was during the trial. I was half expecting the usual "liberator of the poor" speech but all he said was, "I never expected you to visit me."

"I'm settling old accounts," I said. "I'm the one who ratted you out the first time." He and his little bootleg printer operation. "They traced my suppliers, found out I was making the goop." In those days, printer consumables needed better-than-average chemistry skills to make. "I was terrified. I didn't want to go to jail, didn't want my life ruined, so I cut a deal and turned in my downstream. You were the big fish. The others cut deals too."

He didn't look shocked. Eventually, he said, "I thought it was you. Prison gives you a lot of time to figure stuff out. But I forgave you a long time ago. Besides, if I hadn't had all that time with no distractions, I wouldn't have been able to change the world."

"Nonetheless, I need to pay off the debt." I opened the envelope, pulled out the first picture and slid it across the table. "That's Tanya," I said. She was about the same age as his own daughter, and they'd even played together a couple of times while we'd discussed business. The drug kept me from feeling a thing as I thought about her. It was wonderful. In the picture, she was lying in her hospital bed, the tubes radiating from here like sunbeams. She'd been like that for almost a decade.

"Domestic dispute in the neighbouring apartment," I said. "The guy got angry and his toaster printed up a gun for him. He shot a few rounds into the wall to make his point but those high-velocity slugs went right through."

I pulled out the next picture. It was the last picture of my wife, snapped by a cousin as she'd left Tanya's room. There was a strained smile on her face. "It hit Lucy especially hard," I continued. "She had suicidal impulses, and every time she did, some printer would sense her mood and conveniently print up an overdose of something. One time, I wasn't there to stop her."

The next picture was of my brother. "He was a heroin addict," I said. "He'd gotten off of the junk. He'd really wanted to be free of it and it was working. Up until every appliance anywhere near him would print up a dose whenever he felt the craving. That tipped him over the edge."

And so it went. It was a big stack of pictures. All of my collaborators had their own stories and they all wanted them to be part of the package. It would only be fitting.

It took most of the hour and once I'd finished, I slid the empty envelope across the table as well. "Keep them," I said. "Look at them again."

And now, the deathblow. "Look carefully and see every detail. Maybe you'll find what you deserve."

Then, without another word and ignoring his his attempts at further conversation, I went got up and knocked on my door. A buzzer sounded, loud and menacing, and he gathered up his pictures and got up, waiting for his door to open.

When he was gone, presumably on the way back to his cell, my door opened and a pair of guards escorted me back to the parking lot. I glanced at their slung assault rifles and smiled to myself.

Oh, he was clever. He had, after all, changed the world. He'd started printing printers, and giving them away along the usual channels. What nobody knew, until it was too late, was that every device, every small appliance it created, was also a printer. And these new printers used food instead of goop.

The pigopolists could ban the goop but they couldn't ban food. And you couldn't turn off the printer because that way, they could never prove intent. So now I lived in a world where every conceivable material good was in your hands the moment you wanted it.

Hell, even the Amish had them.

I got in my car and waved at the guards as they left. "I wish I had a coffee mug," I said. The car clicked a couple of times but nothing happened. Good. I tried to keep it clean but occasionally, some scraps of something would get into the printer. When the drug wore off, I knew I'd be wanting more and it was important for the car to not be able to make it for me.

As I drove through the gate, I glanced at the guard tower and its cluster of advanced weapons and smiled again.

Oh, he was clever. He'd figure it out, especially with the clues I gave him. He'd find the machinery hidden in the glossy paper and solve the puzzle of how to use it. It was, after all, a printer.

And then he'd plan. I knew his type. He'd make his escape in an utterly brilliant, inventive way. It wouldn't work, of course, but the guards would marvel at it as they prodded his bloody corpse.

I straightened out my face, checked for oncoming traffic and then sped down the road, idly wondering how I'd feel in a few hours, when the dose wore off.



ObAttributionDammit: This story is somewhat inspired by Cory Doctorow's story "Printcrime", available at http://craphound.com/000573.html.

ObDisclaimer: This is not intended as a political statement.


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