"I 'M NOT YOU," he said.
I stared up at him from across the room, still seated in the recliner. "Uh, actually, that wasn't my first-"
"Really," he insisted, stepping deeper into the living room, swiping at the water splotches darkening the shoulders of his trenchcoat. I had not realized it was still raining outside. "I know how it must look. How, well, startling. How..."
"Off-putting?" I suggested.
He grinned and in a voice the echo of mine said, "Yes. That's the one. Off-putting." He repeated it as if liking the way it rolled off his tongue. "You must be confused. I look like you. I sound like you. I even have your mannerisms."
I eased slowly to my feet, without being too obvious about it. "Surely that's all just a coincidence. I'm sure you're a few centimeters taller."
He shook his head.
"An extra mole or two?"
Again, the curt shake.
"No. I'm not you, but, well, I am." He stopped and frowned. "Don't be frightened. I've been constructed to resemble you down to the minutest detail."
"Constructed?" I stopped by my desk. "Surely this is just a freak of nature? You saw me on the street, were amazed by the similarity, and followed me home. Right?"
He frowned and looked sad. "I wish it were that simple. No, I'm afraid I've been constructed by the Jh'via Confederacy. That's an alien civilization -- alien as in outer space," he clarified helpfully. "They want to take over earth and they're going to do it by replacing key personnel with replicas loyal to them."
"So you're a...a...Jh'vian?"
"Not quite. I'm an artificial construction, a sort of bio-organic android. But the point is, I don't want to help them take over earth. That's why I escaped from the holding compound. They made me too well, you see, they duplicated you too well within me. In a way, even though I'm not you, and I know I'm not, I feel like you, I think like you. I have the same hopes and passions and dreams. Which is ironic. They did their job too well. And together, we can help stop them, expose their scheme. We have to go to the authorities. When they see us side by side, they'll have to believe."
"They might at that."
He smiled, obviously relieved. "What's that?"
I had drawn from out of my desk drawer an object the size of a television remote control. Without saying anything, I depressed the center button and a blue beam shot out, stabbing him through the chest. He slumped soundlessly to the ground. I casually dropped the device back in the drawer, then opened up my desk calendar. A sophisticated LED system was contained between the normal-looking pages. The communicator activated instantly and a green, multi-tusked face materialized.
"This is unit 47. Arthur Morin showed up here at-" I glanced at the clock "-5:32 PM, earth reckoning."
"I've dealt with him. The precautionary conditioning he received worked perfectly. He had been completely brainwashed into believing he was me -- what I am. Instead of escaping and going to the authorities, he came to me first, to solicit my aid. I'll need a clean-up crew to dispose of the body."
"Out," I said and straightened my tie.
* * *
The Jh'vian waited a moment, running his secondary tongue contemplatively over one mossy tusk, then he squished his finger into the activation chute, calling up his personal log system and opening a new entry file.
He said, "Regarding feasibility of using indigenous
earth subjects as operatives: it is difficult to fully convince an
otherwise loyal earthman to betray his people, even under level-7
conditioning. However, by removing their sense of identification with
earth, we can actually use that sense of loyalty to our advantage.
Patriotism is, to use one of their own metaphors, a two-edged sword.
Case in point: test subject Arthur Morin. His conditioning appears
absolute. He believes himself to be a replica unswervingly loyal to our
cause, and just destroyed the test replica he believed to be himself
without hesitation. Recommend we proceed using world leaders..."
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