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.

 

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