: I know you're all interested to find out the resolution to the 10th Seo story arc, and it's coming (story after this one). But first... we get a different kind of story.
I'm surprised that not a lot of sci fi writers have written stories about 3D printing and its impact on the future. Maybe I'm just not reading the right people. But I think 3D printing is going to change our lives big time, and I always wanted to see a future that reflected that. So... I wrote one.
I hope you enjoy the world and characters I've sculpted for you in this story. I put a lot of thought into it, and I hope that shows.
Zed Square shot Timmo a proud look, tapped the side of his kit. "Locked and loaded into the system." He grabbed up his energy pistol, checking the sights. "One human being. Earth Central really think it's worth it?"
"Better be," Timmo said, syncing his own kit with the data stream on Zed Square's. "Detect, locate, round up. That's the mission."
Zed Square spun around. "Ready, D-man?"
"Let's get it over with," Dave muttered. Checking all his guns, just to make sure they were in working order. "I joined the military to kill things, not to run in and play the hero."
Zed Square smirked. Clapped Dave on the back. "And your heart just keeps getting colder and colder!" Gave a fake shiver. "Freezin' me to death over here."
"Shut up and get the teleport working," Dave said, shrugging Zed Square off. He stared at the view-screen, at the planet below. "You ask me, any son-of-a-bitch can't rescue himself, he deserves whatever he gets."
The third time it jammed, Dawn lost her temper.
Started kicking and hitting and screaming at the damn public 3D printer thing to "Just work, damn you! Just once! Just now!"
Alison and Seo stood some way off.
Watching Dawn break down, both somewhat amused.
"She can face down Daleks, vampires, aliens, her sister dying, and the end of the world," Alison mused, "but a public model 3D printer on a shopping spree is enough to break her." She looked over at Seo. "I think that says a lot about the universe, actually."
Dawn gave the machine a vicious kick, accompanied by a blood-curdling scream.
Seo tilted her head to the side. "I'm getting the impression… this wasn't what Aunt Dawn expected when she decided to go on a future-style shopping spree."
With one final punch, Dawn spun around. Fuming.
"This," Dawn hissed, "is not
a shopping spree! This is just… evilness
Alison and Seo exchanged a look.
"I mean, when did humanity take one look at shopping, and say, 'hey, I know! Let's take all the fun out of it, and instead leave all the parts that you want to MURDER!'" Dawn screamed.
At which point she vaulted herself back at the public printer.
And resumed her attack.
The whole thing had begun after Dawn returned to London, to help Seo look after Buffy. Alison had watched as Seo and Dawn had spent endless days worrying and waiting, without being sure of what to do or how to help.
It was driving them mad.
Which was when Alison had decided to take things into her own hands. "This time machine of yours, Seo," Alison had proposed, "it can take us anywhere at all, for days — and still drop us back here the second after we left, right?"
Seo had nodded.
"So let's take a holiday!" Alison had declared. "Head off and do something fun. Then, when we come back, maybe we'll come at this illness from an entirely new perspective!"
Dawn had been the one to propose the future-style shopping spree.
But judging by the way Dawn was pummeling the public printer, now, it looked like she was reconsidering her choice.
"It's interesting, actually," Alison mused, looking about herself. "Just from a historical standpoint. Seeing how both 3D printing and online retail will eventually change the entire shopping experience."
"I think it's rather neat," Seo said.
She gestured around herself. At the mall full of stores that promised clothing "designed for standard cartridges!" or the designer boutiques, where you had to purchase not just the design, but also the exotic cartridges and to create clothing and shoes from nonconventional materials.
Alison recalled that Seo had rather enjoyed trying on the trial versions of the different clothes — plugging their codes into the machine and letting the retail store test-clothes-printer whip her out a sample, then racing off to try it on before it all disintegrated, leaving her in the changing room in her underwear.
And then there were the constant flyers and warnings, telling them that 'Only You Can Defeat Clothing Design Piracy!' and warning them that if they pirated the download of their clothing-of-choice, they'd wind up in court, owing credits beyond their wildest imaginings.
"I like that there aren't any shopping bags," Seo said. "Just a download tag, transferred to your account. That's a bit brilliant."
Alison glanced around themselves. "I'm more impressed that the act of purchasing in-store retail is reserved for tourists — and even then, only the poshest ones." She beamed. "I'm finally posh! My parents would be proud."
Seo's face fell.
And Alison realized this was probably not the best time to bring up 'parents'.
"Yeah, well I think it sucks!" said Dawn. Turning back on them, again. "You pay through the nose for stupid fashions that are made out of sub-standard materials, and then you need one of these stupid printer things to actually get it made for you. After you leave the store!" She gritted her teeth. "And none of the public printers work!"
"Course they don't!" said Alison. "I'm guessing — if you're rich enough to go shopping like this, you're not going to bother with an out-of-date public printer. You're going to use your own top-of-the-line printer and do a decent job."
Although… Alison couldn't help but note… that public printer actually looked pretty new. Which was odd, come to think of it. Quite odd.
Dawn's eyes narrowed.
Her body shaking with utter rage.
"Maybe Aunt Dawn's right, and we should just go home," Seo proposed. She shuffled a little. "We've been here for a while, and who knows how Mom's doing without us."
Dawn's anger fell away from her, settling into that similar lost sort of despair that she'd been wearing since she learned about her sister's illness. "Yeah. Let's go."
Oh, not this again!
Ever since they'd turned up, here, every five minutes, they'd been on like this!
"But we haven't even had a proper holiday, yet!" Alison protested. Pointed at Dawn. "Seo and I might be relaxed, but Dawn's still worked up and upset! We can't approach this with a clear head while we're still upset!"
"Buffy might need us," Dawn said.
Alison shoved her hands on her hips. "Back the second after we left, remember? That's the whole point of a time machine!"
Truth was… Alison knew they all needed this.
Some distraction in their lives, so they didn't go mad worrying about an illness they couldn't cure or even properly diagnose.
"I don't think anywhere in the future is going to live up to Aunt Dawn's shopping standards," Seo pointed out.
"That can't be true," said Alison.
"Yeah, there's got to be some place
in the future that isn't corrupted by shopping snobs and anti-piracy warnings!" Dawn decided. "There just has
to. I mean, for my personal sanity, I need to know that there's one planet that still understands the fun of shopping."
Which was right around the time that one of the touristy street-mimes came over and placed a brochure in Dawn's hands.
A brochure for a mall on a planet none of them had ever heard of.
But it made Dawn's eyes light up, as she began to read about it. All concern and fear over her home situation dissipating, as she enthused, out loud, about every detail.
"Modern fashions, modern styles, modern customer service and convenience, all presented in the typical in-store retail model of the distant past!" Dawn squealed. "Try on shoes! Test out makeup! Wear clothes out of the store! Sort through racks and browse through actual clothing items, without having to access a catalogue. See how your ancestors did it!"
Seo frowned at the disappearing figure who'd given them the brochure. "Anyone else feel like there was something… odd about that street performer?"
"And the trial cosmetics don't fade off your skin after thirty seconds!" Dawn continued, her voice rising with excitement.
"Yeah, but… why?" Alison pointed out. She gestured around herself. "People seem to like it here. You can get whatever clothes you want in any color, any size, and program it into the printer so it exactly fits your body. That's shopping of the future. Why give that up for alterations and hand-browsing and hauling shopping bags?"
Seo's eyes lit up. "It's a mystery!"
"And a shopping spree!" Dawn added. "All at once!"
Alison nodded, very slowly.
Then sighed, as Seo and Dawn raced back towards Oliver.
"So much for a stress-free holiday to get your minds off things," Alison muttered, trudging back to the ship. "Should have known. Only thing that could make you two feel better… is a life-threatening adventure."
"And that's it," said Timmo, analyzing the teleport control functions. "Looks like we're all charged up and ready to go down to the planet. Get our refugee out of…"
As he noted Zed Square smacking his life sign tracker against his palm.
"Problem?" Timmo asked.
"Tracker picked up some new life sign readings," said Zed Square. Showed it to Timmo. "Human. On the planet."
"New arrivals?" Timmo asked. "I thought everyone knew to stay away from this place."
Dave scoffed. "Darwin in action, anyone?"
"Better pick 'em up, too," Timmo said. "Switch the settings on the tracker. See if you can pick up the energy signature from their ship."
Zed Square did so.
Shook his head.
"Nothing," he said. "Like they appeared out of thin air."
"Trap?" Dave suggested.
"Could be, could not," Timmo decided. "Might just be some stupid snobs out for the shopping trip of their lives." He charged up his gun. "Literally."