They were still called printers, but the machines were unlike anything imaginable to Gutenberg, or Galvani, or Gates. They looked like empty rooms. Drop in your raw material—didn’t really matter what it was, as long as you had enough mass—and let the nanomites turn it into something else. Turn ashes into drinking water; spent power cells into charged ones; lead into gold. Printers paved the way for the Second Renaissance. Everyone on Earth could have everything they needed.
But not everything they wanted.
There were restrictions, of course. A lot of rewriting of intellectual property law. And there were practical concerns, too. Safety interlocks were needed. But where there’s a possibility, there’s an inevitability.
Commercial printers can’t be overridden—they scuttle at the first hint of a jailbreak, converting their own critical components into helium until they fail, former pieces of printer escaping into the sky. But the syndicates don’t buy commercial printers; they make their own. They want what they can’t have.
There are people they want to make disappear. And they want extra copies of themselves. Sometimes, they make the latter from the former. My job is to track them down. Disable them. Convert them back, when it’s possible.
A small irony, considering my own…unorthodox…origin.