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Hermes Trismegistus - Chapter 6
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 26 July 2001, 2:46 am

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Laying there, in the box, was a dummy replica of Bob. This surprised him greatly, to the point of silencing his mind. Every detail of the mannequin matched that of himself, except for one subtle difference -- the dummy had clothes on.
İİİİBob stared down at his replica for a moment, half expecting it to sit up and start talking. The fantastic manner of everything he had experienced from the moment he had woken on that first table demanded that this inanimate object stand up and walk. But it didn't. It lay there with an expressionless face staring with it's single eye up at the heights above.
İİİİThe dummy gave Bob insight to his own situation, however. There was a covering drawn ever so subtly from the nose up around the left eyebrow and down to the cheekbone that made Bob draw a breath in awe. Bob had expected the covering over his left eye to be translucent, allowing the viewer to see into the depths of his cranium, but it was not so. The covering over the left eye of the mannequin was opaque and the same color as the skin on the rest of it's face. Indeed, the appearance of the covering over its left eye convinced Bob that if he hadn't previously known that he originally had two eyes, the dummy would have given no hint that his face should have ever been different. The sight of it seemed dehumanizing and felt wrong to Bob.
İİİİBob leaned to one side towards one of the closer boughs and touched it. "Is it alive?"
İİİİ// It depends on how you define 'alive' // came the response, // If you mean 'Is it teeming with life?', the answer would be yes. Every cell in that body is almost as alive as the cells of your body are. It, however, doesn't have a central consciousness to drive it, as you do. Essentially, it is the embodiment of yourself in a controlled coma. You were brought out of this coma and it remains. //
İİİİ"Wait a second. What do you mean, 'You were brought out of this coma and it remains'? Can you wake that thing up? Is it like me?"
İİİİ// Yes and no. The two of you are physically identical. The two of you are also mentally identical when you wake up. After you have woken up, however, you experience different things and therefore become different. You have the same memories of childhood and 'Earth' as you call it; you have the same memories of waking up and fighting the spider and the same dreams. It was only after you were put under the second time that you were replicated. Thus, he is like you and not at the same time. //
İİİİThe reality, or rather the surreality, of the situation began to sink in. Bob put his other hand on his knee and leant heavily on it. His breathing quickened and his vision blurred momentarily. "Talking to a plant. How foolish."
İİİİ// Yes and no. On your planet many people talked to plants and found that they (the plants) grew better as a result. On this construct things are quite the opposite. Since the beginning of our conversation many of my upper leaves have faded slightly, which I can only attribute to the level of your communication. If you want to get out of here alive, I suggest that you put on his clothes and be nice. // Another sharp gusting sound emanated from the box and the body of the other Bob upon its platform was slowly lifted until the surface that it lay on was flush with the top of the surrounding frame. Now the setup resembled Bob (the awake Bob) as he had laid upon the box, except that this time he had clothes on.
İİİİ"Why didn't you just start me off with clothes instead of making me take them from him?"
İİİİ// The body you are in is the body you arrived here with. As such, you were left naked so that you could be replicated more easily. We also thought that it would dampen the psychological stress of possibly meeting an animate double later on by showing you now that they exist. That's not important at the moment, however. What you need to know now is that you're needed too urgently on the surface to warrant letting you crumble into nothing like your associate on the other box over there. I suggest you hurry. //
İİİİBob left the plant and surveyed his duplicate on the table. He was dressed in a baggy pair of overalls patterned in an effective camouflage print with many large pockets. Laid over its legs was a large backpack. Around his torso was a tactical vest with several long magazine pouches on the front. Attached to a harness around its shoulders was a submachine gun that Bob instantly recognised and detested. Around his hips was a thick gun belt, on which rested a Cordura holster, several smaller magazine pouches and a large sheath knife. Bob reached around the body to it's right side, unsnapped the safety catch on the holster and withdrew one of the oldest pistols he'd ever seen. On its side was printed in big stamped letters,

"HK USP .45 Auto".

İİİİFrowning, Bob quickly found the magazine latch and depressed it. A long box magazine fell out of the bottom of the gun, which Bob caught with his left hand. He removed the first round of the magazine and shook his head in disdain; it was some nondescript jacketed hollow point in .45 ACP. The meaning of the acronym ACP escaped him at the moment, but he recalled that this was a reasonably powerful cartridge with reasonable one-shot stopping ability, obsoleted by the penetrators and super-penetrators of Bob's generation. Long ago, when he had still been in the arenas, one of Bobs instructors had carried a weapon similar to this one, and the training sessions that the youths participated in when weapons in this caliber were involved were often sobering and comical at the same time. If memory served, rounds of .45 ACP couldn't permeate at any range any type of body armor popular with the shadier elements of society; armor always found in the hands of criminals and the military -- -two groups against which Bob had fought in his earlier days. While this cartridge gave a good amount of recoil, there was virtually no armor penetration ability in it. In essence, it was doomed as a head-shot and civilian caliber; only able to do damage with a direct shot to the head or against unarmored suspects. The recoil was manageable, however, and if you planned to go in the 'all hands useful' gunfighter style of some of his old Navy buddies, with double pistols, you were just in luck. Bob remembered well the jolt of firing the weapon relative to many of the smaller caliber pistols in use by his employers -- there was a marked difference when compared to 4.6mm shells; and .45 rounds also took up a lot more space. He faintly remembered the first time he had tried to fire a similar weapon with one hand -- the bump on his forehead had taken a week to go down and in the meantime had elicited some rumors around the orphanage that he had been in a fight with the headmaster; a large and burly man to be sure. Similar techniques applied to a 4.6mm cartridge, however, produced hardly enough felt recoil to move the weapon, allowing for quick followup shots. It was for these three reasons -- armor piercing capabilities, space efficiency, and recoil -- that Bob found himself to be bewildered at the voice's comment about good equipment. Bob reached over to touch the nearest vine.
İİİİ"Why is this pistol chambered in such an outdated cartridge? I thought you said that you were going to give me the best stuff you could find."
İİİİ// We did. That is one of the most reliable and popular pistols from your era. //
İİİİ"From my era or the era when I was two years old? This thing is a frickin' dinosaur."
İİİİ// Calm down, princess. It's not like it's a complete loss. //
İİİİ"Yeah? Where I come from, it would be better to go with no gun at all rather than with something like this."
İİİİ// If you don't like it, then fine. Leave it here. //
İİİİ"Ok. Sure."
İİİİ// Alright. We'll just be seeing who needs what in future... //
İİİİBob put the pistol down on the box and looked up the frame of his replica at the other weapon laid across its chest. He recognised it as a UMP series submachinegun, built by HK before the 'stock-market crash' around the time he was born. It was an old weapon for sure, but effective for its purpose, which was to engage unarmored targets at short to intermediate ranges. Bob removed the magazine from the gun and took a round from the top. Again, it was a jacketed hollow point in .45 ACP. It seemed that on Earth, before his departure, just about everybody had aquired body armor from the militaries of the former governments -- making the cartridge that this weapon was chambered in useless. It was when terrorist attacks consistently began to utilise body armor that the doctrine in anti-terrorist small arms took a radical swing; bullets became smaller and thus more able to defeat an armored subject. Bob removed this weapon from the shoulder harness and checked it to make sure that it was in proper working order. Finding that it was, he moved on.
İİİİBob continued by searching through the backpack laid lengthwise on his doubles' legs. On the belt of the pack was a machete in a long kydex sheath. Strapped to its back was a small folding shovel. Inside were an assortment of items including undergarments, socks, a few extra pairs of coveralls, a pair of shaded safety glasses and their case, a broad-brimmed hat, a first-aid kit, a survival tin, a pair of work gloves, an interesting flint and steel fire-starting device that held tinder in one end, owners manuals for both the USP and UMP, a compass whose needle spun erratically in circles without any pretense of stopping, a tightly packed camouflage net, three filled one-liter water bottles, a cooking pot in which were stuffed many of the smaller items, a map of the Rocky Mountains, a wristwatch that was still running, a small bottle of water purification pills, sticks of camouflage paint with a small mirror, a knife sharpening set, a packet of toothpicks, a sketch book and a bundle of ball-point pens held together with an elastic band. He decided before finishing with the backpack that a weapon was better than no weapon, especially if he came upon any more spiders, and chose to take the UMP.
İİİİMany things like undergarments and the fashionably patterned overalls came in duplicate or triplicate, allowing Bob to clothe himself without moving his twin at all. The exceptions to this were the tactical vest, UMP, harness and boots, all of which he took for himself. Of the three one liter water bottles, Bob took two. He also left a few of the MRE's that filled the extra space in the backpack, the compass, the owners manual for the USP, the map and a couple of the pens, of which he had no need. These he all left in a neat pile on the floor beside the box.
İİİİBob pulled the knife from it's sheath on the belt of the double. It was very obviously a survival knife in the scandinavian tradition. It was very sharp, which was a good thing. Bob resheathed the knife and left it on his twins' belt with the other things that he was going to leave as a waking up present for his double; there was no need to worry the man the same way that he had been worried upon waking up in this place -- being without food, clothing or weapons beyond his own two hands. Besides, the plant might not open the box again for Bob II, leaving him without any form of useful equipment. There was no point in assuring that his twin died of starvation or cold before he got out of this place, if he woke up at all. On Earth, Bob may have committed some very distinctive atrocities, but there was no point in killing the next guy for no reason at all.
İİİİIn a short time, Bob had checked everything: he made sure that the magazines were full, that the water was palatable, that the USP was operative, that the camouflage paint hadn't hardened and that the ball-point pens worked. He seemed to have everything necessary for a good hike in the woods. Even the sunhat had a mosquito net that could be pulled down over the head.
İİİİBob suited up in the tactical vest (which took no small amount of work to remove from his twin), put on the harness and attached the UMP to it. But, before putting on the back pack, Bob strode the few short steps to the nearest large vine and grabbed it.
İİİİ"Now that I'm ready to go, is there anything I should know before I get out of here?"
İİİİ// Just wait and all your questions will be answered. // A low rumble as of a large gong filtered into Bob's head. The rumble faded and was replaced by the singing of a group of monks in gregorian chant.
İİİİ"Man, this is some trip." The singing continued. "I'm just glad I can do THIS." Bob pulled his hand away from the vine.
İİİİThe singing continued.
İİİİ"Oh shit."