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Rod, Rex and Rhoda

by Bob Brill

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Future Imperfect

We’re back at the one place on Earth I thought we’d never revisit, the headquarters of Rumex Pharmaceutical.

Rhoda and I have been living in close proximity for two months. It’s driving us nuts. I’m the involuntary recipient of her strongest emotionally charged thoughts, and she is the target of mine. We try to get along, but a lot of this mental interchange crackles with a corrosive negativity. We both want to sever this connection and go back to our separate lives. We have decided to accept Rumex’s offer despite the uncomfortable step of entering their trick transporter, never to emerge.

Rex is with us and looks distinctly uncomfortable. He knows something is up that’s making us nervous, but he doesn’t know why we’re back at this place that we tried so hard to leave last time we were here.

Pumphrey approaches with his hand extended. Rex barks. He isn’t sure whether Pumphrey is about to offer him some kibble or pull out a gun. I shake Pumphrey’s extended hand, which shows some scars from Rex’s attack, but it has healed and is fully functional. “Very sensible decision,” he says.

“Yes, quite,” I say, but I can’t bring any enthusiasm to my response. I don’t entirely trust that this is going to work or that Rumex wants it to work.

Dr. Hollister also greets us and introduces us to the transporter technicians. “We’re ready if you are,” he says. “The stored image is already loaded in the buffer. In a few minutes you’ll meet your reconstituted selves.”

Pumphrey adds, “We’ll have a clone situation for a very brief time, just long enough to satisfy you that the new you is the real deal.”

One of the technicians gives the okay, and Hollister presses the go button. A few seconds later copies of Rhoda and me emerge from a second machine across the room. They are dressed exactly as we were when they dragged us from the wreck and forced us into the transporter. They look wildly around, spot us standing there gaping at them, and the me copy cries out, “What the hell is happening?”

The other Rhoda sees her double and screams. In fact, both Rhodas are screaming. Rex runs in circles barking.

I walk over to my alter ego and say, “There’s a perfectly rational explanation for this, and someone will explain as soon as we all calm down.”

Across the room some comfortable executive chairs have been set up around a conference table. Hollister urges us all to be seated. Immediately coffee, tea and cakes are served and this goes a long way toward providing a friendly and cozy setting, except that the clones are all staring at each other and no one’s hand is steady enough to pick up a coffee cup.

Except for Hollister, who takes a sip of coffee and suavely launches into his explanation. Full disclosure, complete detail, perfect clarity and all presented in exactly the right order. For the first time I appreciate why he has achieved a high management position at Rumex Pharmaceutical. He ends by addressing the other couple. “Once you’ve said goodbye to your counterparts, we will update you on all that has happened since your image was placed in storage.”

The me copy says, “Here Rex. Come here, boy.”

Rex looks at the copy, takes a step toward him, then turns and comes back to my side. “Good boy, Rex. You know who’s who, don’t you?”

“Wait a minute,” cries the other me. “That’s my dog Rex. I need him.”

“He’s my dog,” I say. “I need him too. He stayed with me, because I’m the real me.”

“He’s been with you for the last two months. He hasn’t seen me or smelled me in all that time, but he’ll soon know better. As soon as you’re gone, he’ll remember the real Rod, the un-Rhodafied genuine Rod Blass.”

“No way, pal. I’m the real one. There’s a lot that’s happened that you’ll never remember no matter how much they tell you about it.”

Hollister holds up a hand for silence. “Gentlemen, this argument is futile.” He turns to me. “I’m sure you two must be convinced by now that these other two persons are you and better equipped to resume your lives. Rex, of course, will go with them.”

“Just a minute,” I say as I get to my feet. “I admit that they are us as of that infamous day that we were scrambled, but they don’t feel like us. I mean, I’m here in my body thinking my thoughts, and he is over there in a body just like mine, thinking his thoughts. I don’t feel the connection. I don’t feel the oneness. And I have to die so that this know-nothing can take over my life and he gets to have Rex. I protest.”

Rhoda jumps up and shouts, “Right on, Rod. I’m not ready to die for that bitch over there. They’re the clones, not us.”

“Let’s go, Rhoda.” We run for the door.

A guard steps in front of the door and blocks our path. Rex sinks his teeth into the man’s ankle. The guard goes into a dance, trying to shake Rex loose, but my noble friend hangs on even though he is swinging wildly through the air. The guard tries to draw his weapon, but he loses his balance and crashes to the floor. Rhoda and I slip out the door and start running.

We pass an elevator as its door slides open. We spin around and double back as three white-coated staff members emerge. I see Pumphrey, Hollister, the clones, the limping guard and the transporter technicians pouring out of the room we so rashly vacated, Rex in the lead barking. We dash into the elevator. Rex slips in behind us as the door closes and I press Lobby. But the elevator rises. Someone above has beat us to the button.

Damn. This is the hardest place to escape from, as we found out before. When the elevator stops, we practically bowl over the two women waiting to enter. We round a corner, find some stairs and sail down them, barely touching the steps. As we reach the ground floor, Rhoda says, “There’s a public transporter in the lobby. Takes a credit card.”

She runs for it. I follow, Rex at my heels. We slip into the transporter and lock the door. I set the destination for New York City’s Grand Central Transporter Station. Rhoda inserts her credit card and away we go.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 by Bob Brill

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