The Duplication Machine (continued . . .)




Nightly and in great secrecy, Robi made use of the strange device in his master's laboratory. Nothing can stop me now— nothing ! The device was capable of duplicating any precious object placed within it. There was only one snag—it would only make one copy of each object, and the duplicates could not be copied. What's more, the law cannot touch me—for I commit no crime ! The activities of Robi's henchman mystified and worried the Commissioner of the Trigan City Police. He reported it to the Emperor. . . . a series of the strangest thefts that has ever come into my experience, Imperial Majesty ! Only items of the greatest value are taken—and then returned to where they belong within a few hours ! This raises a puzzling point of law, Commissioner—is it a crime, in the Trigan Empire, to borrow another person's possessions without asking permission ? Er—I rather fancy it isn't, Imperial Majesty ! Nightly the strange thefts continued. Peric, meanwhile, had no inkling of what his device was doing. By the way—have you managed to get any sense out of this confounded contraption ? Not yet, master. Maybe its workings are too difficult for me to comprehend—but I live in hopes. It would be simpler if I could remove it from the laboratory and work on it at home. Take it with my blessing. I don't think it will ever work properly. Thank you, master ! You old fool ! Little do you know that you are giving away a fortune !
Once the device was set up in his own lodgings, Robi was able to spend all his spare time in adding to his hoard. What about this ! I sneaked it out of the State Museum ! Wonderful ! Wonderful ! But what's this ? By all the stars, this ring you're wearing was supposed to have been returned days ago. What happened to its companion pieces, you rogue ? I—I sold them ! Well, why not ? I'm sick of taking stuff and then having to return it. Sold them ? You blundering dolt ! Don't you realise that if the city police trace these pieces back to you, we could both spend the next ten lunar years in the mines ? Get out and stay out ! I've finished with you ! Aaaaaaaaaaagh ! I've not finished with you, master ! Robi was in despair. All night long, he racked his brains for a solution to his problem. What am I to do ? I could pick another thief out of the gutter—but the same thing would happen again. If only I had an accomplice I could trust. And then—his eyes fell upon the strange device. And a wild idea sprang into his mind ! Supposing I were to make a duplicate of my own self ? There is only one person on Elekton I can really trust— myself !
I've not finished with you, master ! Robi was in despair. All night long, he racked his brains for a solution to his problem. What am I to do ? I could pick another thief out of the gutter—but the same thing would happen again. If only I had an accomplice I could trust.

This installment was originally published in Look and Learn issue no. 499 on 7 August 1971.

 

The Duplication Machine (continued . . .)




It happened in a dark alleyway in a rough quarter of Trigan City. A figure leapt out at a passer-by, and a heavy cudgel was raised for a merciless blow. But the blow never fell ! Uuuuuh . . . Hmmmm ! What have I caught ?—a sneak-thief of the worst and most contemptible type. But he will serve my purpose. Later, the footpad recovered consciousness. Aaaaah ! Where am I ? Don't hurt me, master. I—I meant no harm, I swear it ! You meant the worst possible harm, you rascal—but I am willing to overlook it. Robi sneered. In fact, I will do better than that—I will make you the richest rogue in Trigan City— If you obey me without question ! The following morning, Robi went to Air Fleet Headquarters. As assistant to Elekton's top scientist, he carried a pass that admitted him to the air strip. Here comes Janno now. I'll speak to him when he gets out of his craft. It's a good idea to be on good terms with a member of the Imperial family.
Janno recognised the young scientist. Hello ! Robi, isn't it ? As you see, my leg is mended, and I'm back on flying duty. Very glad to see you recovered, Lord Janno. I've brought something for you. Something you probably thought you'd lost for ever . . . My signet ring ! You dropped it the day you visited the laboratory, Lord Janno. I found it when I was sweeping up this morning. Janno was profuse in his thanks. He would have been surprised to have seen what Robi held in his hand as he walked away. Everybody's happy ! The stuck-up Lord Janno has his ring back —and I have an exact duplicate of it ! That night, Trigan City suffered the first of many inexplicable thefts. Robi's henchman stole a collection of gems from the home of a millionaire. Cry out—and it will be the last sound you ever make ! AAAAH ! Take the jewels ! Take anything—but don't hurt me ! He delivered them to the darkened laboratory where Robi waited. Good ! Now wait outside till I call you. You have one more task to perform before dawn. With the aid of the strange device he had secretly perfected, the ruthless young scientist duplicated the priceless gems. Ha ! Ha !—Nothing can stop me now—nothing ! By the end of the lunar year, I shall be able to buy and sell the Trigan Empire ! There was a surprise in store for his henchman, later. You ask me to return this loot to where I stole it from !— Master, have you gone mad ? No, my friend. I have not gone mad. I have simply discovered the perfect crime !

This installment was originally published in Look and Learn issue no. 498 on 31 July 1971.