I don't know if you've heard of Lexmarks shrill attempts to kill the remanufactured ink market - but they include suing their own customers. It is with this in mind that I have written this bit of fiction.
Part II to follow...Enjoy!
The security guard found the footfall of the Expert reassuring. His soles pressed the linoleum as though the tiles were something to be owned: each step were as a grandfather clock striking the hour. Bong – the glass door has closed behind the Expert. Bong – he was at the reception, removing his sunglasses as he faced the guard.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” the guard said. “We wouldn’t have called, but it’s an emergency –“
“Not to worry,” the Expert said. He wiped the lenses of his sunglasses upon his lapel. He raised them to the sun and narrowed his eyes. Were they satisfactorily clean? Most certainly. He propped the sunglasses upon his nose. “What exactly is the problem?”
“Well –“ the guard hesitated and closed his mouth. He resembled a goldfish that finds itself on the wrong side of the tank, caught in the hungry embrace of the family cat.
For a moment it seemed that the will to live would fail him entirely, but then he breathed deeply. He pointed to the door marked ‘Security’ and said “It would be easier to show you.”
He and the Expert soon faced a blank monitor. The arms of the Expert were folded: the two limbs put a steel-reinforced concrete wall between him and whatever the guard would show him. He wore a grimace in anticipation.
And when the Expert nodded, a button’s press brought the screen to life. It showed a still image – security footage of the printer room. It was like any company’s printer room.
The guard ringed a printer in the corner of the screen with his finger.
“Watch this,” he said and, though he still wore the expression of an asphyxiated fish, he sounded like a child in the early hours, following a visit from Father Christmas.
Another press, and the video began. The hum of a VHS tape playing fell into the silence. At first the printer room was still, but then an obese man in overalls heaved through the door. He swaggered – not because he seemed self-assured but because his bulk compelled him.
The sound of struggle up three flights of stairs piped through the monitor’s speakers. The man pressed the door shut with what might once have been hips, turning his back so it faced the camera. The word ‘Janitor’ could be read on his overalls.
Then he faced the printer the guard had ringed.
“Here,” the guard said.
From the pocket of his overalls the janitor took an ink cartridge. He lifted the hood of the printer.
“What brand is that?” the Expert asked.
“Lexmark,” the guard said. “And we understand that he’s not holding an official cartridge.
“That can’t be good,” the Expert mused. He pressed his arms more tightly against his chest, adding another layer of concrete between himself and the events of screen. Then he was quiet.
The janitor had removed the exhausted cartridge, splattering his hands in the process. He wiped the ink against his overalls, and his groan became a hacking cough that ended in the excavation of phlegm from his throat. “Hrergh” he said warmly. The empty cartridge stood on the table: there could be no doubt it was a Lexmark product.
“Hrergh,” the janitor repeated, and the monitor’s speakers vibrated. His breathing had slowed but he continued to inhale with gusto – his audience couldn’t miss a thing. Satisfied that the transfer of ink from his fingertips to his clothes was complete, the janitor reached his hand into the Lexmark to insert the new cartridge. He fiddled until he heard the all-important click – the cartridge was installed.
As though the force of gravity had then increased a hundred fold, the printer’s hood came down. The janitor yanked his arm away, only to discover his hand was gone.
It was still in the Lexmark.
He stared at the printer. The plastic was a benign grey, and the touch screen electric blue. The machine’s hum brought to mind the song of a man with a clean conscience.
He fainted. The tape ended.
The Expert nodded. “I see why it’s best that you showed me,” he said.
“We’re thinking of putting it on YouTube,” the guard said. “Our marketing people think it might go viral.”
“Okay. So why am I here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s these ridiculous ink cartridge controls Lexmark have in place. They charge so much for their official cartridges – and it doesn’t make sense to pay what they’re asking when there are great quality compatibles for a lower price.”
“I see, I see. So you want me to…?”
“Yes,” the guard said. He pressed a button and the monitor was dead again. For a moment the image of the felled janitor was an echo against the black; then it was gone. “You must challenge the Lexmark. Conquer the in-built cartridge controls so we don’t have to hire a new janitor every time we use a compatible. Can you do this?”
The Expert spoke with the assurance of a man safe from bombs inside his steel bunker.
“Yes,” he said. “Let’s do it.”