Saturday, July 18, 2015

Short Story - Want More Toms? Get More Toms!

Want More Toms? Get More Toms!
The story decidedly NOT about shoes.
2084 words

Batman toys with Tom transposed on the chest


Tom aimed the laser pistol, firing at Duke, Roadblock, and Skeletor. He imagined the figures falling to the ground defeated. He checked the sight, adjusting it before aiming at the figures again. In mid aim, a knock on  his bedroom door broke his concentration.
“Hey, what’s that?” Kate asked, flopping onto the bed. Tom handed her the laser gun. “I used a toy and parts from a toaster. Now it’s a laser gun.” The bright orange gun had toaster coils affixed around the barrel with knobs screwed into the grip.
“When did you do that? I was just here last night.” Kate flipped the gun over, looking at the end of the plastic barrel. “This is pretty cool.”
Tom tilted the barrel away from her face. “Never point the gun at yourself, or anyone else.”
Kate smiled. “If your toy gun fires real bullets, everyone’s in trouble.” Kate handed the gun back. “How do you always get so much done? You’re always building cool stuff.”
Tom smiled. “I wish I had even more time. If there were two of me I could really get some work done.”
“No way.” Kate replied. “Then I’d feel even worse about how lazy I am.” She flicked Skeletor off the bed post. “Get your bike. You can’t stay in your lab all day.”
Tom threw laser pistol on his bed and followed Kate out of the house.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if I could duplicate myself.” The wind whipped through Tom’s hair. Kate slowed her pedaling, letting Tom catch up. “If anyone can do it, you can.”
Tom took the opportunity to pedal past her. “Tag, you’re it.”
Kate zipped by Tom. “Now, you’re it.”
They stopped at Mercer’s Grocery, both out of breath from racing.
“You’re pretty fast for a girl.” Tom said.
“For a girl? I’m fast period.” Kate replied. “You’re crafty, for a boy.” Kate punched Tom in the shoulder and skipped to the drink coolers.
Two grape sodas later they headed out of the store when Tom grabbed a classifieds magazine.
“What are you going to do with that?” Kate asked.
“Look at it.” Tom flipped through pages. “Maybe they’ll have a duplicator.”
“I doubt it. That doesn’t exist.” Kate gulped her soda. “If you can’t find it on the internet, it’s not worth having.”
“Look.” Tom exclaimed. “A 3-d printer. It says it prints anything you can imagine.”
“I doubt they mean people.” Kate pointed at the text. “Does it list a price?”
“No, but that address is close by.”

---

The kids stopped their bikes at a dilapidated warehouse. A single small door hid among larger bay doors. Tom walked to the door and looked back at Kate for reassurance before turning the handle. He ducked inside, and then motioned for Kate to follow.
“HELLO?” Tom called. Dismantled equipment littered the dim warehouse. Tom and Kate searched for signs of life, their voices echoing in the cavernous space.
“Maybe we should go.” Kate suggested. “I want to at least see it.” Tom kept walking.
“Can I help you?” A gruff voice broke the silence. Tom and Kate wheeled around. The man’s hair was white like his bushy eyebrows. His skin was tanned, but smooth.
Kate nudged Tom with her elbow. “Uh, yeah. I saw your ad in the magazine.” Tom’s voice was an octave higher. The old man didn’t respond. “For the 3-d printer?”
“Oh yeah. Hrmf.” The old man started walking away. “Well come on now. Ya wanna give it a look?” Tom shrugged, jogging to catch up. “How long have you had it?”
“Dunno. Got it at auction. Never worked. Tried to print and nothing.”
Tom wondered if the guy knew how it worked. “How do you print with it?”
“Same ways as any other.” They stopped at a bay with a piece of equipment the size of a car.
“This is it.” The old man asked. Tom circled the printer. It was rust-free, unlike the other equipment. It was blue with a white and black stripe and the words REPRODUCTION TECHNOLOGIES GROUP emblazoned on the side.
“How much do you want for it. Seeing as how it doesn’t work.” Tom asked.
“Givin’ it away. Don’t work. Takes up too much space.”.
“I can’t move something this big.” Tom responded.
“Don’t run a deliv’ry service.” He coughed, eyeing the machine. “Where ya live. I got a trailer. If you’re not too far I can drop it off. Ya got a place to set it, right?”
Tom doubted his parents wanted something so big in the house.
“You’ve got the garage.” Kate suggested.
“Yeah, the garage.” Tom said.
“Where ya live? Not gonna drive all over.”
“Just a couple streets over. Not far.”

Tom and Kate rushed to Tom’s house to clear the garage. Luckily his parents had taken the car, so he could avoid questions about his printer. Tom felt like he waited a week by the time a beat up pick up truck pulling a shining 3d printer deftly backed into the driveway.

“So, what do we do now?” Kate asked.
“We need a file to print.” Tom responded.
“Oh. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before.” Kate tapped her head. “Probably because I was scared of that creepy guy.” Kate cleared her throat. “My dad has a 3d scanner he uses at the university. We could scan you.”
Tom’s eyes lit up. “That’s awesome!”
“Doubt this thing will print a human though.” Kate patted the side of the printer.
Tom frowned. “Maybe.” He still hoped.

---

“Are we supposed to be here?” Tom asked as Kate unlocked a steel door on the university campus.
“Sure. I come through here with my dad all the time.” Kate crossed the threshold and flipped the switch.
“Yeah. With your dad.” Tom shut the door as Kate bounded down the sterile corridor. “Wait up!”
“Really though. Should we be here?” Tom asked again.
“Do you want a 3d scan or what?” Kate asked. “Besides, no one’s in this part anyway. If you see anyone, tell them you’re looking for my dad.” Tom reluctantly followed.

“So just stand really still on the platform.” Kate eyed the switches on the side of the scanner. The machine had two tall vertical arcs anchored to either side of a black platform.
“Does your dad scan people?” Tom stepped onto the platform.
“Sometimes. I’ve never seen him actually do it, but he’s talked about it.” Kate asked Tom’s height and weight, keying the information into the scanner. “So the arc will circle you. Stay still, look straight ahead. It takes a while.” Kate pushed a red button and the scanner began buzzing. It sounded a lot like the print scanners at school. A wave of warm green light scanned his body as the arc traveled down.
Tom was getting tired of being still, trying to stifle a cough, laugh, and sneeze all at the same time. Kate punched a few buttons and the noise of the machine subsided.
“It’s just about over.”
Tom breathed a sigh of relief as he stepped off the platform. “Is that it?”
“Yep. let me just copy the scan to a flash drive.”

Tom couldn’t wait to try out the printer. While the old guy said it was broken, Tom figured the man just didn’t know how to work it.
“Are you even listening?” Kate asked, her bike skidding to a stop in front of Tom’s house.
“Sorry. I can’t wait to try it out.” Tom grinned.
“What if it doesn’t work?” Kate asked. “He said it was broken.” They entered the garage.
“It’s got to work. If it doesn’t, I’ll fix it.” Tom scanned the machine, trying to determine his first step. He saw a cord on the back and plugged it in. “Here’s the power button.” Kate called.
Tom excitedly pushed the button and the machine began humming.
“There’s the spot for the flash drive.” Kate inserted the drive into the port, but nothing happened. Tom tried hitting various buttons, but none produced a response.
“I hate to say it, but maybe it doesn’t work.” Kate said. “Sorry.”
“I guess not, but on the bright side I’ve got a new project.”

---

Tom woke early the next morning, excited to work on the printer, but something was different about his room. It was spotless. Did he sleep clean? On his desk was a model car completely assembled. He hadn’t built it, and it had the exact paint job he had imagined, except he hadn’t told anyone.
“You’re thinking you should call Kate. I’ve already called.”
The familiar voice’s owner stepped into the door frame. Tom eyed this new person. It was like looking in a mirror. Before he could say anything, Kate called. “Hey Tom! You home?”
“You’re never going to believe this.” Alt-Tom responded.
“There is no way you fixed the pri…” Kate’s voice trailed off when she discovered two Toms.

“You thought it didn’t work, but the file was large and complex, obviously.” Alt-Tom gestured to himself. “It took an hour for the machine to buffer before printing.”

“So why aren’t you wearing the same clothes?” Kate asked.
“The machine doesn’t print clothes.” Alt-Tom responded.
“Wait, so it can print organic tissue but not clothes?” Kate squinted.
In unison the Tom’s responded, “I don’t know, I didn’t make it.”
Kate took a step back. “Which one of you is the real Tom?”
“I am.” They both answered.
“Which one of you bought a 3d printer yesterday?” Kate asked.
“Me.” The Tom’s answered.
Kate looked from one to the other. “Alright, what do we do now?”
“Call customer service?” Alt-Tom suggested.
“That’s a good idea.” Tom said.
“I think I saw a number on the machine.” One of the Tom’s said.
Kate was the first to the garage door, and she yelped as she opened it. “Hi Kate, just tinkering with the printer.” Said a familiar voice.
“So, he’s got to be  a copy.” Kate stated.
“Why, because you just found me? Maybe they are colluding against me.” Tom motioned to the Toms.

---

Kate was surprised the customer service representative didn’t laugh at her claim. The machines had been discontinued. The representative promised to send someone out to address the issue. Kate wasn’t sure what that meant and hung up “So what now?”
“We need to sort the real Tom from the duplicates.” Tom said.
“Sounds like something a duplicate would say.” The second Tom responded.
“That sounds like duplicate talk.” The third Tom replied.

Kate’s head whipped towards the door. “Did you hear that?” She peered out the garage window and saw three men dressed in black flak jackets jump out of a black van, each of them holding a small pistol.

The front door splintered moments later. Before Kate or the Tom’s had time to react one of the men pointed the pistol at the Tom’s and fired. One Tom and then a second dropped, a feathered needle protruded from an arm and chest. The third Tom darted for the door, but a dart hit him in the back. Kate was too stunned to even scream.

---

Tom pulled his hair back looking at the roots of his hair. He could see a few white hairs beginning to appear. He exited the bathroom, returning to his bedroom where Kate was looking out the window.
“It feels like a dream, now.” Kate said.
Tom nodded. “Just think what it was like for me.”
“How did they know which one was the real you?”
“I don’t know. They interrogated each of us, did some tests, and then let me go.” Tom ran his hands through his hair. He would have to dye his hair again tonight.

---

“They’re all ready to go.” Said a man in a black flak jacket.
A man in a white lab coat picked up a clipboard. “Great, how many did you set up?”
“About a hundred. We can get more if you need.”
“That’s fine for now. We can increase the number once we get farther into product trials.” The man in the lab coat grabbed a pen from his chest pocket. Stitched above the pocket were the words REPRODUCTION TECHNOLOGIES GROUP. He walked down a corridor to an observation room. “I’m proud to announce product trials will commence. This will go much easier if you don’t resist. We’re starting with eye drops.” Screams echoed throughout the room from the hundred Toms strapped to gurneys, their eyelids taped open.
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