Thursday, October 6, 2016

"His Finger Tightened on the Trigger"

"Murdered—Yet Alive."
By Jep Powell (James Exham Powell, Jr., 1901-57).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, July 1941.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)
"Dashiel traversed space via etherwave, and arrived twenty pounds underweight. Then a tiny Dashiel followed—and trouble began!"
Suppose there were two of you (of course, we couldn't be that lucky, could we?); our story touches on a question that actually does come up from time to time:
"If you became two men, would it be a crime for somebody to kill your other self?"
In other words, if someone does away with one of "you," is it murder—after all, the other "you" is still alive—or could it be considered something else?

For "Dash" Dashiel this is more than just an academic topic for late-evening college bull sessions, because it has happened to him; a twin Dash shows up during an ill-advised teleportation test run and, as the old saying has it about how opposites attract and likes repel, they can't stand each other. It would be one thing if their feud remained just between themselves, but the mere presence of two disputatious Dashes threatens to undo a lucrative but shady deal that Frank Hoyt of Telatom Transport, Inc. has been planning for some time, a ruthless scheme to gain a monopoly on transportation throughout the Solar System that will crash and burn—unless he disposes of a blackmailer who's demanding way too much, a blackmailer known to everyone as "Dash" . . .

Characters of note:
~ Alexander "Dash" Dashiel, "erstwhile" [read that as "washed up"] "crack pilot of the space lanes" and "the first to travel from Earth to Jupiter—anywhere, for that matter—by electric beam":
   "Well, what are you staring at? Where are my clothes?"
~ Frank Hoyt:
   "We should have known better than to pick a berry-munching hophead when reckless bums are a dime a dozen."
~ Billy Smith, "transportation tycoon whose space ships served every port in the Solar System":
   "Better shoot fast and straight. If you miss me, I'll take that gat and pistol-whip you to a pulp."
~ Percy, atomizer technician:
   "Maybe something went wrong back in Toledo; or possibly some elemental disturbance interrupted the beam. But how he arrived in two installments, identical except in size, is too much for me."
~ Gus, Percy's assistant:
   "Hey, Perce! This ain't no rabbit. It's a human bein'. A brat."
~ Lefty, Hoyt's chauffeur:
   "He was a large man with arms that dangled like an ape's. He had the scarred face of a sparring partner in a heavyweight champion's camp."
~ Mumbo and Jumbo, "gargantuan bodyguards":
   ". . . [they] moved like twin bolts of lightning . . ."

A splendid example of technobabble:
   "The inhabitants of Jupiter, in order to withstand the tremendous gravity of that world, have evolved by environmental influence to tremendous creatures with great density of body structure, and having bones as strong and unbreakable as steel. Earthmen on Jupiter must use anti-gravity shields in their dwellings, and wear gravity-repeller belts when out-of-doors. This is accomplished by a reversal of the force of gravity, associated with magnetism, to the extent of some 40%, which would make a 200 lb. man (Earth Standard) weigh only approxi-mately 250 lbs. If he did not, he would weigh nearly five times as much, and the weight of his body would break his bones.—Ed."

- There's more (but not much more) about our author at the ISFDb (HERE).
- The idea behind this story might have been new in 1941, but it's been replicated quite a few times since; see these related TV Tropes articles: "Doppelgänger" (HERE), "Self-Duplication" (HERE), and "Our Clones Are Identical" (HERE).

The bottom line: "I think it's wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly."
Steven Wright

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