A Photocopier In Reverse—Chapter 3
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"There's got to be a twin," Caldmann says as he paces the length of the room. Over and over. Squarumscribing it with his feet.

"There's no way," I say, still sitting down. "That's ridiculous."

"Well we have a pretty ridiculous situation right now, don't you think?" he shoots back.

"There's got to be a better explanation for it—"

"Like what? Someone had fun with some skips? A few juicy temporal anomalies? Is that what you want to believe?"

"Alright! Alright!" I say. Then it hits me. "We can solve this right now. Archive…"


"Did Dr. Beanbaum have a twin brother?"

took you long enough

"No sass. Did he?"


Caldmann lets out a tremendous sigh of relief. "I knew it," he says. "No one ever expects the twin! No one!" He seems to be very pleased at this.

"No need to boast," I say, secretly relieved myself.

who is also still alive.

"What?" Caldmann asks, residual excitement not yet gone from his face.

dr. beanbaum works in site-67. as a chemist. i can show you the security footage right now, if you desire.

And there he is. Same face, same body as Beanbaum, but there are a few subtle differences between them—this one has a shorter beard, and a new haircut too; popular with the men, maybe? And his office is different as well; the filing cabinets are on the other side of the room, and the walls are a different color, and the desk is a different type. Just to emphasize the point, the archive puts the two brothers side by side.

"Are you sure these are happening at the same time?" I ask desperately.


"God DAMN it!" I scream. Caldmann just looks slightly ill, like he's seen the body all over again. Which, in a way, I suppose he is.

"This is bad," he mutters. "I guess we know why Security hasn't managed to wrap this one up yet.

"Well, what does it mean?" I ask.

"How should I know?" He pauses. "Have the brothers been notified of…their deaths yet?"

no. security officers martinson and yosemite are going to inform them now. the first dr. Beanbaum (barry) has apparently wandered into the wrong office.

Caldmann sits up. "What?"

dr. beanbaum is in the office four doors down from where the murder occurred. the name plates have apparently been switched, and he apparently could not tell the difference.

It's possible, I suppose; those offices are identical, especially if you don't need to get any physical files from the cabinets. All the pertinent work data is saved in the intranet; your login gets you access from any computer in the Foundation. But my god, to use only the name plate to tell you where to go; to have your life directed by nothing but signs, to have an office so impersonal that you could walk into another one and sit there, all day, not knowing that just a few doors down you had been murdered…

Someone walks into the offices. Same time. Perfect synchronicity. They're different, but it doesn't matter.

"Eerie," Caldmann murmurs.

We can't hear what they're saying, but both of them stand up, synchronized there as well, and connected by invisible strings, and lean against the desk for support. I can see tears in their eyes. I can't, actually, but I imagine I can. And then, propelled by something invisible, they walk out of the room, escorted by the officers.

"I think," Caldmann says, "that we should go down to the morgue."

The two brothers stood next to each other at the foot of the altar, hugging each other and crying. It was a moving scene; not even I could discount it, much as I tried. Hideous gooseflesh crept along my back. This was not right, and the fact that we were in a place where that was the norm did not make it any better.

"I don't suppose they were triplets?" I ask Caldmann, sotto voce.

My phone vibrates in my pocket.


I turn away from the tableau. "Don't do that!" I hiss. "How do you even have—oh, don't answer that. I already know."

they are only twins; not triplets. security background checks turned up no evidence of a third identical twin.

I nod to myself, sighing. If Security didn't turn it up, it didn't exist. I could easily see them going too far in the other direction—inventing a triplet where there was none (and, indeed, such things are not unheard of)—but miss something of that magnitude? No. The Beanbaums behind me should be the only two there are. At least that are left.

I hang up.

The security goons present in the room gently but firmly dislodge the brothers from the table and escort them from the room. Probably taking the opportunity to do an interrogation when they're too stunned to lie. At least, I imagine that's the general idea.

"I'll get us a copy of the transcript," Caldmann murmured to me, reading my mind.

"How hideous," Harris says, from a dark corner. I nearly jump out of my skin; I had no idea he was in the room.

"It's very grim," I agree, once my heart's calmed down. "Do you have any theories?"

"Me?" Harris laughs. "Nope. Not my job, not my department. If I had to guess, I'd say it was something nightmarish and complex that stretches the bounds of human comprehension."

"Do you really think so?" Caldmann asks (a bit pointedly, I think.)

Harris shrugs. "I don't know," he says. "I mean, you've got to hope, right?"

We're walking back to the offices. Corridor after corridor, door after door…as above, so below. Is this really all the Foundation's architects can muster? It gets so fatiguing after a while.

"Something's wrong here," Caldmann says, next to me.

"Obviously," I say. "They go through all the trouble of killing someone, and they miss both of their possible targets. I find it hard to believe that they were somehow incompetent enough to accidentally create something this—" I wave my hands, searching for the right word "—complex."

"But why, then?" Caldmann asks. "What's their motive? Why do this?"

I don't have an answer. Obviously. We continue walking in silence until we get to the office, wincing slightly as we pass by the exposed sore of the boiling server room.

"I think this was a crime of passion," Caldmann says, turning to me. "I can feel it in my bones."

"Start interviewing then?" I ask.

Caldmann nods glumly. "It's time to start filling in the blanks."

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