Archive for the Alternative Energy Category

Underfunded Military

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2012 by javedbabar

The dark car appeared at 6 p.m. People should check the opening times, thought Sami. I don’t mind helping out in emergencies, but I’m getting tired of working late just so people can dump their recycling and trash. His customers at the 3D Unit booked their sessions; they knew that just turning up wasn’t a good plan. He needed to educate the regulate punters.

Sami shouted to the car, “Sorry, we’re closing. Please come back anytime tomorrow between ten and six.” He had a date tonight with Sophie, sort of. She had invited him to attend the new multimedia show at QARY, the old quarry, inspired by Tao Te Ching.

The car didn’t move. It remained there with headlamps on and engine running. Sami shouted out again. They must have loud music on, he thought, or maybe they were taking a call. All the windows were dark, even the windshield. He approached the driver’s door.

As he reached the car, the passenger’s door, and the rear door on the opposite side, flew open. Before he knew what was happening, he heard sharp clicks and two soldiers stood with rifles pointing at his chest. Sami shuddered.

“No sudden movements please,” said a cheerful voice from within the car. “We wouldn’t want to shoot you. That would upset the lovely Sophie. You are seeing her at eight tonight, is that right?”

Sami couldn’t speak.

The voice continued, “You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to. But I must warn you that anything you do say may be taken down and used as evidence against you in a court of law.”

Sami decided not to speak.

There was laughter, and a tall man with thick beard, green eyes and green turban exited the rear of the car. Even though he wore combat gear, he was clearly no ordinary soldier. “Stand down,” he instructed the other soldiers. They put on their safeties and lowered their rifles.

“I hope you didn’t mind too much,” said the senior soldier. “It is standard operating procedure. I am General Singh, responsible for Extraordinary Logistics. You were approaching the vehicle in a potentially hostile manner; my men took the right course of action. Now let’s go inside. This won’t take long. An hour maybe.”

Sami led him to the 3D Unit. The general took a seat and said, “Do you enjoy living in Arcadia? Very good. We all do. It is a wonderful land. But we must not take our blessings for granted. There is always the likelihood of threat, and occasionally some aggression is required. We have an unstable world and the cost of maintaining the military is rising. It is a function of the size of the economy, which as you know is shrinking, and there are other demands on funds, and government and public willingness to spend on military budgets is waning.”

He looked around conspiratorially and continued, “To run operations with our big allies, or to run smaller independent campaigns, we need certain levels of technology. I will cut to the chase. We need nuclear bombs but we can’t afford to build them. I have heard about the wonders of 3D printing. Can you fabricate some for us?”

Sami was alarmed by the request, but also relieved. This wasn’t a job for him at all; it was a job for Alfred. He said, “Have you tried AMP Co. in the village. It is a government funded facility doing vital work. It was recently declared a Strategic National Asset. I just run the public interface here.”

“Drat!” said General Singh. “You see the results of cuts in research funding? I can’t afford a full time assistant, so looked it up myself. Now, which way is AMP Co.? My GPS software needs updating.”

Higgs Boson

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Scientists are a strange bunch, thought TJ. In his four years of working as Lucerne Valley Hotel’s night-receptionist, he had seen all kinds of people, but these nerds were something else. He had no complaints about their manners, it was their thoughts that troubled him. Their brains. Did they ever use them? And if so, did they manage to do so successfully?

TJ was busier than ever. These men, and a few women, were the most incompetent beings he had ever known. Not just socially incompetent, with their awkward gestures and jumbled words, but functionally incompetent; they were unable to execute the simplest tasks.

They repeatedly asked him which rooms they were in; they called to ask how the kettle worked; they didn’t know how to switch on the TV, and if they managed to, were unable to adjust its volume or change channel – but had no trouble finding adult channels and turning them up to full blast. They burnt themselves, or black-fringed iron-shapes right through their suits. They couldn’t figure out which switches operated which lights so often read books in near darkness, or slept in bright light, at least for a while before calling him for help.

TJ spoke to every guest, he guessed, ten times daily, and after two days knew each one by name. The only exceptions were male scientists who had brought along their wives. They seemed to cope better with hotels, giving the impression that they were competent beings in touch with the modern world. They never credited their wives for this, but TJ knew better.

This morning the scientists were leaving. TJ realized that he had been so busy with requests for extra tea bags and toilet rolls, remote control batteries, and more shampoos – not that they needed any for their eggheads – that he didn’t know why they had come here.

While Dr Simoniski studied his bill, TJ asked about his stay.

“My stay? Here? Oh yes! The hotel? It was very good, thank you. It is pretty big for a B&B. Much bigger than I expected.”

TJ said, “Sir, it is not a B&B. It is a fifty-room hotel.”

“Oh yes! You are right. I had a mix up. That was when I was in Lucerne, Switzerland.”

“Were you there on holiday?”

“Holiday! Holiday!” Dr Simonski laughed uncontrollably. “Holiday!” He looked at his wife coming down the stairs. “He said holiday!” Then he turned back to TJ. “There is no time for holidays. I was visiting the Large Hadron Collider, searching for the Higgs boson particle. Have you heard of it? Good, good. It is an elementary particle of the Standard Model of particle physics, and predicted to exist for theoretical reasons. It creates a field with non-zero strength everywhere, even in otherwise empty spaces! Identical particles can also exist in the same place!” His enthusiasm caused his mouth to foam lightly.

TJ asked, “If it is only theoretical, how can you detect it?”

“It is unstable and decays into other particles almost immediately. That’s what the Large Hadron Collider picks up – their atomic signatures.” Sweat appeared on his egg head. He finished checking the bill and said, “That’s why we are here. To celebrate its discovery.”

“Have you found it, really? Where is it?”

“Oh, in a very special place. No wonder it took so long.” He smiled at his wife and handed her the bill to sign.

She had the craziest signature that TJ had ever seen. The ink flowed everywhere – in lines, dots, jets, and scribbles. She smiled weakly and said, “It was in my handbag all along. I didn’t want to steal his thunder. I’ve got a few of them in there.”

Under Investigation

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by javedbabar

On Shama’s third day as Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, he found a file marked “UNDER INVESTIGATION” in the stack of papers on his desk. Let’s see what’s going on here, he said to himself. He pushed aside the executive toys left by his predecessor, and opened the file fully across his desk.

It contained a hand drawn map and the record of an anonymous telephone call, reporting someone building without permission. There were a few sheets of illegible notes; people had terrible handwriting these days, and the day was dawning when they’d forget how to hold a pen altogether. The application forms on his desk bore testament that this day was fast approaching; he couldn’t read any of them without guessing half the words.

He located the place on a large scale map of the Lucerne Valley. It was in the Upper Valley, 25 kilometres out of town, where cell phone reception was non existant. When he reached the location he found the “hidden driveway” shown on the map, two tire tracks in the bush. There was an old brown truck at the end of the driveway, but no sign of any construction activity.

Shama saw two lengths of rebar stuck in the ground, with ropes tied around them bearing tension. What were they tied to? he wondered, and looked for a large item they may be securing. The ropes went through some forest, over a small bank, and into the River Lilly. What was going on?

Maybe it was a hunter keeping game cool or chilling beers for after. He’d also heard of people “icing” champagne in the Lilly’s glacial waters. Was it someone living off-grid, storing dairy products?

Shama heard strange sounds coming from the river: regular thumping and gurgling. Was it a trapped log being battered by the flow, creating air burps?

It sounded mechanical though, somewhat like a diesel generator.

He saw a cable rise and float on the water, followed by a slimy brown mass – was it a bear, fishing? He prepared to run, but then saw that it wasn’t was a beast. It was a very hairy human head. The hair seemed to wrap right around it, like a small inflated skin.

“Hello!” shouted the head. “I’m just coming. Wait there!” He swam over and hauled himself out. “You’re the BCO? What happened to the other guy? He was snooping around here. He wouldn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t building anything on land.”

“Well, are you?” asked Shama, bemused.

“No way! You think I want to get in trouble with the Building Control Officer?”

“Well, what are you doing then?”

A smile burst in the hairball. “Want to see? Good! The last guy didn’t, and that’s why we didn’t get anywhere. Here, put on this diving suit.” Shama did so. “Now, hold onto these ropes and come down. Don’t let go, the currents strong.”

After twenty metres, they reached three joined containers on the riverbed. They went through an airlock and emerged in a warm dry room. “What is this?” said Shama.

“The answer to global warming for millions of people around the world. This is a prototype. It runs on water power, uses aqueous gas exchange, and has arctic insulation.”

Shama thought that he’d better change the file name from “UNDER INVESTIGATION” to “UNDER WATER”.

Programmable Matter

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Everything was possible with the 3D printer. AMP co.’s prototype had so far produced another printer, a worm, a baby girl, and a 4D crab, and a variety of holy objects including Moses’s Tablets of Law, Buddha’s begging bowl, Siva’s drum and Thor’s hammer, though they couldn’t be sure if these holy objects could be equated with the original items. At best they were period copies, and at worst, accurate reproductions.

They were thinking of how to fabricate the original mythic elements of Creation – often expressed as water and clay – and ultimately, the dot of pure potential from which the universe evolved.

Alfred said, “This printer is more versatile than I thought. We have to be careful how we use it. It’s taken fourteen billion years for us to reach this point of creation.” He stopped and thought for a moment in his habitual fashion, staring at the cogs and levers of the large photocopier sized machine. Then he said, “Recreation.”

They both remained silent. They glanced around the workshop in which so much had happened since they’d met by chance and begun working together. The Bible says that God created the world in a week. It had taken them three weeks to reach the point of recreating it.

Alfred said, “I don’t think we should go too far. We shouldn’t test the limits yet. Who knows what might happen.”

Sami nodded. “You said that you wanted to monetize your invention. Why don’t we focus on that? Let’s see how we can apply what we’ve learnt to commercial purposes.”

“That’s the hardest part! How to benefit from your own work?”

“I’ve had a thought,” said Sami. “The problem with stuff – all stuff – is obsolescence. Whatever the item, it still ends up in landfill, or is recycled eventually. The first is totally wasteful, but the second isn’t much better. The amount of energy required to collect, sort, process, redesign, remanufacture, and redistribute is huge. If we could…”

Alfred nodded along enthusiastically and then interrupted. “Use fluid particles to make flexible matter. We have found a way of making anything we want; we just need the right materials and data. But all things are made of the same material – atoms! The only difference is how they are put together. If we can retain the energy inherent in an object, stored in the form of materials, we just need to change the data. We can reprogram the object to become something else! I was wrong before when I said we can’t create gold. We can create anything. That’s what the ancient alchemists were saying.”

Sami was delighted by this chain of thoughts. He developed the idea further, saying that they only needed to fabricate the object once with the 3D printer, but could encode it with multiple possibilities. Then the owner could decide which item he needed, and activate accordingly.

After a month of experiments they had it – a bed that becomes a chair, then a desk, then a table, and then a bed again. It was perfect for students living in studios. Their next model was a backpack that became a sunlounger, then a sailboat, then a paraglider.

“We should probably build a stretcher option into that model,” said Alfred. “We can do many things, but we can’t program the weather or remove human error.”

Holy Things

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by javedbabar

AMP co. had been testing their prototype 3D printer for two weeks, and fabricated another 3D printer, a six inch worm, a baby girl, and a 4D pink crab, but they weren’t sure whether the latter’s strange movements were due to continual flux between states of being, or its natural erratic motion; was it alternating between living and dying, or just picking its way about? The baby girl – who was now named Abby – was unconcerned by their chrono-spatial conundrum. She waved her arms about and giggled.

Sami found himself staring at the cogs and levers of the 3D printer. This was usually something that Alfred did when deep in thought.

After a while Sami said, “If we use the fourth dimension, we can make ancient things. We could make creatures that we only see as fossils now – prehistoric fish and dinosaurs. We could also recreate evidence of historical events, or of unsolved crimes.” He stared at the machine some more, and added, “We could make historical artifacts, like the swords and shields of great warriors, or kings’ crowns.”

Sami worked as an assistant to retired holy man, Guru Baba, of whom he was very fond. He turned to Alfred with a big smile. “We could even make holy things.”

“Like what? You mean old Bibles and golden Buddhas?”

“I mean real holy things. Objects that belonged to Masters – like Moses’ Tablets of Law, Jesus’s cross, and Buddha’s bowl.”

“We’d have to know exactly what they looked like; I doubt there are accurate depictions.” Alfred’s face was contorted. He wanted to be positive, but couldn’t.

Sami said that he’d be back in a few minutes. He went to the village’s community centre – known as the Transparent Temple – and took a book from the library. Then he returned to AMP co.

“Guru Baba showed me this book,” said Sami. “The illustrations are based upon exhaustive research.” He flicked through the themed sections. “Ok… Judaism… look, there’s the Tablets. We’ll need powdered rock… Christianity… here’s the cross; that would be too big to produce though, we’d have to fabricate it in sections… okay, here’s the grail, just some metal powder… Buddhism, here’s Buddha’s begging bowl, we need sawdust.” He looked up from the book. “Such simple objects. How did religion get so complicated?”

Alfred said, “Let me take a look.” He flicked through some other sections. “Look… we can make Siva’s drum… and Osiris’s crook… and Thor’s hammer. If these pictures are accurate, we’re really on to something.”

Alfred’s interest lay in mythology rather than religion. He felt that the basic stories myths encompassed – those of creation, fertility and heroes – were the basis of all religions.

He looked up some creation myths. “Look Sami, look at this. This is the first water… This is the first clay… and this is the point of Creation from which all things emerged.”

They both were silent, thinking how to create the dot.

Then Alfred smiled and said, “Maybe we’ve also overcomplicated matters. Shall I get my old dot-matrix printer?”

Fourth Dimension

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by javedbabar

AMP co.’s experiments were progressing. Alfred’s innovative 3D printer had so far fabricated another 3D printer, a worm, and a baby. With the right data and ingredients – chemical or organic – it could produce almost anything. The process was now proven.

“What do we do now?” said Sami, his regular helper. “Shall we start making and selling stuff?”

Alfred said, “People are bored of buying stuff here, my friend, but I would like to monetize my invention. We must do something original. You know that so many inventors have gone mad or gone broke, leaving others to benefit from their work. Another thing to watch for is corporations. They try to buy your idea for peanuts, and if that fails they launch their own version, differing in a few details, and if you complain they launch a battery of expensive lawyers at you, and sometimes send crooked cops and heavies.”

Sami didn’t like the sound of any of that. “What should we do then? Should we sell basic versions of the printer for people to use at home? They could make spare parts for domestic items, and maybe copy precious objects; they could replicate seeds, and make their own medicines and cosmetics.”

“They could certainly do that,” said Alfred.

“You could keep the full-scale printer here, and charge a premium for complex jobs. That way you could also safeguard the technology.”

Alfred stared hard at the printer’s levers and cogs, as he often did when mulling over an issue. He said, “Sami, I’m enjoying working with you. You are an asset to AMP co. How would you like to work full time here, helping me with development of the 3D printer?”

It was an unexpected offer. Sami’s day job – if you could call it that, for it sometimes involved working all night – was assistant to retired holy man Guru Baba. He’d learned so much from him; he was like the grandfather he’d never known. He didn’t want to abandon him. Sami said, “Can I continue to help you casually? That’s what works for me right now.”

Alfred was surprised at the rejection of his offer. Rather than dwell upon it, he said, “Okay, let’s get moving then. Something has been niggling me for a while. Production takes time, too much time in my opinion. I want to integrate time into the process.”

“You mean accelerate production? We could fabricate more machines, and break down jobs into parts.”

“I’m not sure that would work. Each job is processed as a whole. Anyway, I meant something else. I meant using time as a fourth dimension.”

“You want to make a 4D printer? Is that possible?”

“I’m not sure, but I have an idea. We could integrate the start time and end time of production into the process – so the object exists in both times at once – and then compress them into a singularity. I’m not sure if that would make the object unfinite or infinite though.”

They adjusted the 3D printer’s settings, fed in crustacean data and plenty of calcium and chitin – and produced a pink crab. It moved and stopped, moved and stopped, moved and stopped. It was hard to say if this was the crab’s erratic motion, or continual flux between life and death. This was the secret hidden by its shell.

Whether or not the experiment was successful, it amused the baby they’d fabricated the day before. She kept waving her arms and legs about, clamping her fingers together, and laughing.

Good People

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami was spending all his free time at Lucerne’s new store, Additive Manufacturing Processes, known as AMP co. It wasn’t open for business yet, as the owner, Alfred, was testing his new equipment – an innovative 3D printer that could fabricate almost anything, given the right data and materials.

It was an amusing contrast to the previous business there, the General Store, filled with everything you could think of. The owner had sold it after 72 years of living and working there, which had cost him the chance of having a wife and family.

“I’ve often been tempted to create something living,” said Alfred. “But till now I have stopped myself. There could be a tricky situation…”

“We created a worm yesterday. That was successful.” Sami recalled stepping on the poor thing accidentally. “Well, sort of…”

Alfred stared hard at the 3D printer. He seemed to look at particular cogs and levers sequentially. After a while he said, “That’s the problem, my friend. We’ve crossed the Rubicon. We’ve gone beyond the Pale.” Sami must have looked at him strangely.

“Excuse me; I am a keen student of history. The Rubicon was the river crossed by Caesar with the Roman army, after which he became dictator of Rome. The Pale was the part of Ireland controlled by the British, beyond which was wild, lawless terrain. Making the worm was easy. It was a shame you killed it, but I don’t think we were really affected by its death. If we created a human being though, that would be a different matter.”

Sami had been following Alfred’s gaze as he was speaking, but now his head turned towards Alfred, almost snapping into place. He had imagined making a mouse or cat, even a dog, but Alfred was talking about creating a human. “Are you seriously considering that?”

“Well, yes. I have been for some time. The machine is life-blind. It does not differentiate between animate and inanimate matter. As long as we prepare it correctly, it will produce what we desire.”

“Why don’t we make gold then?” said Sami. “Or cash?”

“The problem is that gold can only be made from gold. We won’t be creating anything, just putting it through the machine. And cash – we could easily make coins, but notes have serial numbers, so we would either be forging them or creating new ones, which is also illegal.”

“But isn’t creating life illegal? You can’t just do it because you feel like it.”

“Of course you can. What do you think is the cause of the world’s population crisis? The people who can’t afford to feed, clothe and educate their kids are having the most. Only China has shown real leadership in this area. Anyway that is a different matter. This is science. Let’s make a person. Are you in on the experiment or not?”

Sami first said no, and then yes; his curiosity was too great.

The machine was too small to make an adult – at least in one piece – so they decided to make a baby. They fed in anatomical, psychological and religious data – hopefully covering the early needs of its mind, body and spirit. They wanted to make good people, not bad ones.

They set the chronometer to 1 month:1day.

After nine days they heard crying in the 3D printer. The owner of the General Store would have been pleased.

Pet Project

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami wasn’t sure if he was ready to create life – or at least not human life. Maybe he could start with something smaller, like a pet, or even smaller than that.

Having a 3D printer to play with was fun but was also daunting. Was it really true, that with the right materials he could create anything? Meeting Alfred was a stroke of luck. The young entrepreneur had invited Sami into the experimental shop where he was testing his new integrated technology.

“So what did you decide?” said Alfred. “Still interested in using organic materials?”

“Well yes, but nothing ambitious. We could start with amoeba or bacteria.”

“I’m not sure that would work,” said Alfred. “They are simple organisms that are easy to make in theory, but they are fragile. I don’t think they would survive the process. Also, it would be better to make something more tangible; it’s easier than making things we can’t see. We could try making an insect.”

“What about a worm?” said Sami. “I’ve always liked them, and they’re resilient. I hope worms have forgiven me for the experiments I performed on them as a child, cutting them into two, three, four or more pieces, and seeing which parts survived. We could make a worm. Bring one to life. That would improve my karma!”

“Okay, let’s make a worm.” Alfred tapped away at his computer, and printouts appeared on a small desktop printer.

Sami said, “Why don’t you use the 3D printer?”

Alfred looked sheepish. “It’s not very good with paper.” He gave Sami the printouts, which showed worm dissections along various axes.

“What about its biological systems? Will they work properly?”

“Yes, if there is enough detail. I’m going to set up the 3D printer. Can you find some more information on worms? Photos, videos, textbook pages, anything else you find interesting, and we’ll feed it into the printer, and use the integration tool. It combines all of the data to create a holistic model for production.”

Sami collated details of worms’ long, legless, tube-like bodies, their range of sizes from microscopic to over fifty metre long marine worms, their variety of parasitic niches or living freely on land, in marine or freshwater environments, their hermaphroditism and asexual reproduction, their ability to sense light, their muscular hydrostatic structure, the transmission of parasitic worms by mosquitos, their need for food, moisture, oxygen and favorable temperatures, their hatching from cocoons, their ability to replace or replicate lost segments, their valuable role in food chains, and their sticky slime that holds soil particles together.

Alfred reviewed the information before processing. “They are small but quite complex,” he said. “It will take two days to produce the worm.”

After 48 hours they examined the machine. There was nothing there.

“Damn!” said Alfred. “I don’t know what happened. Everything seemed to be working fine. All the key indicators were…”

“Uh-oh,” said Sami as he squashed something on the floor.

Another Printer

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami was thrilled by the 3D printer. Who would have imagined that a new store in Lucerne – till so recently the General Store, and now AMP co. – could contain such a wonder. When Alfred Choo had asked him what they should create using the prototype, Sami had said, “Another printer.”

Alfred stopped to consider this and said, “Neat idea, I was going to build another one from scratch, but we’ve got one already so why not put it to good use? Create a new cycle of life.”

Sami examined the machine, which looked like a large photocopier with extra wires and cogs and levers. He wanted to touch it but didn’t. It could be dangerous. “How does it work?” he asked.

“In the same way that there are inkjets, bubblejets, and mono and colour laser jets for 2D printing, there are also many technologies for 3D printing. I studied them all but found them wanting. I developed a new theory during my engineering project at university but kept it quiet. If I’d have told them they would have claimed ownership. So I dropped out of college and developed the technology myself.”

There’s more to this guy than meets the eye, thought Sami, and he wants to keep things quiet. Maybe I should stop asking questions.

Alfred however seemed comfortable with Sami being there. He continued, “I looked at Selective Laser Sintering – using carbon dioxide lasers to fuse powders in layers, slowly building up objects. Also Fused Deposition Modelling, where you unwind a filament or wire from a coil, extrude it through a nozzle, heat the material to set it. And Stereolithography – focusing a concentrated beam of UV light into a vat of liquid polymer, and cross-linking layers to create a solid.

Fancy stuff, thought Sami. Very complicated indeed.

“I also tried DMLS, LOM, EBM, plaster based printing, and Holographic Reproduction, but they all held complications and limitations. So I integrated all these methods into a new one that can fabricate objects from almost any material, including plastic, metal, ceramic, glass and wood powders.”

“Can you really make anything with it?” asked Sami.

“Yes, with the right materials.”

Sami was nervous, but decided to ask anyway. “What if you added organic matter? Things like calcium for bones and iron for blood?”

Alfred was quiet for a moment, and then turned to face the 3D printer. “Let’s do what you suggested earlier – make another printer. It should be easy. I’ve got the materials and plans here already. I just need to feed in the data.”

“How long will it take to make?” asked Sami.

“About twenty-four hours. Why don’t you come back here at this time tomorrow?”

That night Sami dreamt of the Beginning. The earth was without form and void; God separated the land from the waters and created every living thing. The next day Sami couldn’t focus at work. All he thought of was creation. He went to AMP co. that night.

“Here’s the second printer,” said Alfred. “It’s yours to try out. What would you like to make with it?”

Additive Manufacturing Processes

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2012 by javedbabar

It was sad to see the General Store closing down. It had been here from the very beginning, supplying essential goods to settlers, making their lives and the development of the Lucerne Valley possible.

Everything changes in time. The owner was surprisingly stoic. Though he hadn’t been present for the store’s full 108 years of trading, he had been born there, and lived and worked there for the 72 years since then. The reason why he’d never married and had children was because he was stuck there.

He said to Sami, “I am bored selling stuff here, and people are bored buying stuff here. Either we replace me, or we replace the people. That’s the situation. It’s a lot easier to replace me, so I’ve sold the place to a young guy from the city. He seems like a smart kid. Maybe he’ll know what to do with it.”

Sami had only been in town for a year, serving as the retired holy man Guru Baba’s assistant, but he’d developed a deep attachment to Lucerne. He was sorry to see the demise of this institution. Hopefully the new owner would see the value of heritage; he could continue the business, and even expand it, if he had good marketing and business plans.

When the shop’s renovation began, Sami’s hopes were dashed. It was a wholesale remodeling. The old – admittedly pokey, leaky, rotting and rusted – features of the store were removed or replaced to create a plain aesthetic. It seemed more a workshop than a store.

Finally a new sign went up, saying “AMP co.” The AMP was in a robot font formed of cut out grey metal letters. The co. was in black italics, also metal cut-outs. The whole sign was backlit golden.

An electrical store, here? thought Sami. If there wasn’t enough business for the general store, who would open an electrical store? The previous owner had said that people were bored with buying stuff here; even his modest “Technology” department hadn’t survived. People went to big box stores in malls or bought online. Who did the new owner expect to be his customers?

The new owner was a Chinese guy. Sami waved when he saw him one day, and he was beckoned in. “Hi, I’m Alfred Choo, proprietor of this fine establishment.” He explained that yes, people were bored with buying stuff here, but he believed that they would be keen on making stuff here.

“Making stuff like what?” said Sami.

“That’s what the mayor asked when I told him my plans, but then he saw my point. I’ve received a grant from the Authority, credit from my bank, and a tax break from the village. I have purchased all the components required and built the first prototype. Would you like to see it?”

He took Sami into the back room. There was a machine like a large photocopier with additional wires, cogs and levers.

“Here it is, a 3D printer. The nature of commerce is about to change. People will no longer buy things. They will be able to make them themselves just as easily and cheaply. Anything they want. I’m testing it right now. What shall we make?”

Sami’s mouth hung open. He said the first thing that came to mind, “Another printer.”