A man called Louis lives in a sci-fi, securitized America where the omnipresent subway and its security checks maintain peace and ensure safety. X-ray machines not only scan all of the passengers' properties but also dematerialize them and re-materialize them without any dangerous component or substance. This is impacting Louis's marriage, since he can't bring any gift to his wife that is not reconstituted by the security checks. After confessing his plan to bypass a security check, his wife reports him to the police - he is arrested, his marriage falls apart, and once out of prison he decides to move to China, an even safer country, where he discovers the existence of a much larger security check.
After the security check, they place a “safe” sticker on my chest. Dazed and numb, I get on the subway. All the other passengers are also wearing “safe” stickers. Preoccupied, none of us say a word.
One time, Hoffman told me that the machine they use at security checkpoints isn’t really an x-ray machine. The government confiscates everything you put in; whatever emerges from the machine may look indistinguishable from what went in, but it has in fact been reconstituted. Atom by atom, the new objects are assembled, printed, and returned to the passenger. The process takes but an instant because our technology is so advanced. The new objects conform perfectly to the new American national security standards, with all elements deemed dangerous removed. If the objects contained any gasoline, it would be turned into water; if there were a gun, the bullets would be turned into rubber; if a computer contained harmful knowledge, it would be deleted and replaced with sanitized information.