By Ryan Matejka
Based on the writing prompt: A nuclear apocalypse has engulfed Earth. The rarest and most valuable resource isn't oil, food or water... it's printer ink.
My father used to tell me that he could print anything. All he had to do was send a request down to the town's 4D printer - be it food for us to eat or even a boat and trailer to take on vacation - and out of the 4D printer it would emerge.
All it cost them was a little bit of ink. No labor. No sweat. No cash. Just ink.
My grandfather once told me that my dad's generation had it too easy. He said back in his day they had to make everything by hand. He said the post-apocalypse should have been just like old times.
But you can't convince an entire generation raised to everything available at the press of the button to just do things totally differently. Not when there's still ink out there somewhere to be had. Not when everything you need can still be a button press away, if only you have the printer and the ink.
Unfortunately, since the bombs fell, ink is getting hard to come by.
I'm part of an elite group that was put together my the remnants of my town's council for one purpose; to find, collect, and return to town with printer ink.
In this desolate wasteland left to us by the decisions of our fathers; ink is life. Ink is God.
Everyone fights to death for their ink.
It used to be that you could just take a truck over to some abandoned or small town and pillage all the ink cartridges you could haul with little resistance. Nowadays it seems like all the ink left in the world has already been taken and distributed among those who are still alive. We haven't found an abandoned ounce left in any store or house for miles outside our borders. Nowadays, if you want ink, you're going to have to kill for it.
Of course, what the council doesn't know is that our group is smarter than we look. We know what it's really like outside of their little world, so while the council and citizens of our town live in relative peace and ignorance with the ink we bring them, we've been stocking up on a bit of our own.
Each time we deliver, we take a bit more for ourselves. We tell them that ink is getting harder to come by, and we exaggerate just a bit in just how rare it has gotten. In a month or so we'll come back empty handed. Then they'll send us out again and we'll come back empty handed again. We'll keep coming back empty, all the while building up our stock, letting them get more and more desperate.
And then, just when they're about ready to tear each other apart, we'll tell them about our stockpile, and we'll give them a choice; give up control of the printer to us or die.
They'll step down, and with the ink we've saved up we'll start to rebuild the world that my grandfather told us about. A world that makes things by hand. A world that knows the meaning and reward of hard work. A world that doesn't rely on a single, limited resource, but instead on the people and communities that reside in it. A world that values people rather than things.
And to accomplish this, the first thing we're going to do with control of the town printer and all the ink we've saved up is destroy it all.