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´╗┐Title: Nine Men in Time
Author: Loomis, Noel Miller, 1905-1969
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Nine Men in Time" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                            Nine Men In Time

                             By NOEL LOOMIS


[Transcriber note: This etext was produced Science Fiction Stories 1953.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: _The idea of sending a man back in time to re-do a job he's
botched, so that a deadline can still be met--added to the thought of
duplicating a man so there'll be two doing the same work at the same
time--adds up to a production-manager's dream. But any dream can
suddenly shift into a nightmare...._]


[Illustration]


The receivers, two of them lawyers, had long faces when they sat down
across from my desk in the office of the Imperial Printing Company.

"Frankly, Mr. Shane," said the older one, "it is a very grave question
in our minds whether we should try to continue to operate the business
or whether we should close the plant and liquidate the machinery and
equipment the best we can."

I was stunned. "I don't understand," I said helplessly. "We've been
doing a nice business--and at a profit--in the year I've been here." It
was my first big job, and I wanted to make good. I thought I had made
good, but here they were jerking the floor out from under me, and I
couldn't make any sense out of it.

"Well," said one, "the business isn't showing the profit we expected."

"What you need is a used-car lot," I said pointedly.

The elder man cleared his throat. "Now look, Mr. Shane, suppose we say
three months."

"What do you mean--three months?"

"We'll allow you to go ahead for three months. If the business doesn't
show a distinct upturn by then--" He raised his eyebrows.

I swallowed hard. So that was it, then.

They even had the date set for the execution, and I knew they intended
to go through with it. Only a revolution would change that.

I wanted that job; it was my chance to make a name for myself. If they
should close the plant now, I'd have a black eye. You can't go around
asking for a job and saying, "But I was making money for them." They'll
wonder what else was wrong.

I thought I knew why they were so willing to close the plant; it was
part of an estate, and the way things were, it took a lot of their time
each month for not too big a fee. But if the estate should be
liquidated--well, figure it out yourself. This business was all mixed up
between an administratorship and a receivership, and the attorney's fees
for liquidation would be a percentage of a hundred-thousand-dollar shop.
It could run to a nice sum. They'd sell out, collect their fee, and
forget it. A nice clean deal for them. And no more worry.

That is what I was up against, so perhaps it was inevitable that I
should find Dr. Hudson--Lawrence Edward Hudson. That was 1983, really
about the beginning of the scientific age in industry, and I dug this
idea up out of the back of my head where it had been for some time. Dr.
Hudson was the result. I did not label him efficiency-expert, for
printers have always been notoriously allergic to that title. I called
him production-engineer.

He was a small, thin-faced man with a face that seemed to all flow into
a point where his nose should have been, and he started talking things
over with me before he got his coat off.

"Printing," he said, "is really _the_ backward industry. There has been
no basic advance since the invention of the linecasting machine around
1890, and possibly the development of offset printing."

"That," I said, "is why you are here--to bring out something startling."

"Well," he said, "you've heard the old one about the man who had
something to do with each hand, and if you'd give him a broom he could
sweep out the shop, too?" He leaned forward, his nose jutting at me, and
said impressively, "Mr. Shane, we shall make that come literally true;
we'll have men working in two places at once before we're through."

"Okay."

"In the meantime, there are certain old-fashioned fundamental principles
on which we shall start. I shall be here at seven-thirty in the
morning."

I should have known. Man, being mass, possesses inertia, mentally as
well as physically, and therefore offers a certain amount of resistance
to being kicked around. That applies to printers as well as to people.
But at that time I was too worried. I gave Dr. Hudson full authority.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was there at seven-thirty the next morning, as he had said. At eight,
the printers were standing around the time-clock, waiting for it to
click the hour. It clicked, but the man nearest it was smoking a
cigarette. He punched his card and then stood there, finishing the
cigarette.

Dr. Hudson stepped up. "Gentlemen," he said, "it is now four minutes
past eight. Starting-time is eight o'clock." He looked at his watch and
compared it with the clock. "Please do your visiting and your smoking on
your own time," he said coldly.

Well, it bothered me a little. I'd never handled them that way--and
anyway, who cared about five minutes? The men would set just so much
type, or do so much work. If they lost five minutes in one place, they
generally made it up somewhere else. But this was Dr. Hudson's job.

It was nice that there had been no insolence--only a couple of raised
eyebrows. Dr. Hudson's gesture had had its effect. They knew now who was
boss.

For the next few days they kept their heads up. Production did not
improve much, but I personally had not expected it to do that. I think
Dr. Hudson had not expected it, either.

It was about three days after Dr. Hudson arrived, that a big job came
in from the Legal Publishing Company--a three-volume, four-thousand-page
record for the U. S. circuit court. They could not handle the
typesetting, so they farmed that part out to us.

It had to be delivered exactly one week before the deadline that had
been set by the receivers for closing the plant. I very nearly turned it
down, but Dr. Hudson's eyes glittered when he saw it. "Just what we
need," he said.

"That's almost two thousand galleys of type," I reminded him, "besides
our regular stuff." I was very dubious.

But Dr. Hudson was enthusiastic. "We'll make history," he promised.

Well, we did. Union or not, the men would have to learn to do things the
modern way. That is what I told the chairman when he protested against
having the men go back in time to set a job over. That had been my first
idea, executed by Dr. Hudson.

As I said, Dr. Hudson was an experimental physicist. He was, you might
say, a super-physicist, because he had specialized in finding ways to do
all the things which traditionally were impossible, like traveling in
time.

So when the Monotype casterman set a job in Caslon that should have been
set in Century, I turned him over to Dr. Hudson. The doctor took him
into the laboratory and sent him back two days in time and had him do
the job over--but right. The casterman didn't like it, but he didn't
know what to do about it.

There was plenty of buzzing that afternoon among the men, especially
when the job, re-set in the correct face--or rather, set in the correct
face, because this now was the first time it had been set--was put on
the dump. I gave the boys five minutes to crowd around and look at the
proof and then I broke it up. I was exultant. It didn't occur to me then
that a man could be _too_ ambitious.

That afternoon the chairman came in, and I was ready for him. "We are
not," I pointed out, "violating our union contract."

"But you made the casterman set the job twice, and he doesn't get paid
for it."

"We pay the casterman two dollars an hour for seven hours a day. When
he's here more than seven hours, he'll get time and a half," I said
triumphantly.

The chairman frowned, but I didn't relax; I was on top and I knew it.
"He set the job wrong in the first place," I pointed out, "and he got
paid for that. Is there any reason why he shouldn't correct his own
mistake, if it doesn't take any of his time?"

"It does take time," he insisted.

"No. He's only re-living that four hours and doing the job right instead
of wrong; you can't find any fault with that."

And he couldn't. I felt wonderful. I wanted to jump and shout, but I
compromised by taking Dr. Hudson down for a gleeful drink and planning
our next tactic.

We also settled a point of strategy. We decided to confuse them with a
few minor things before springing our next real item--which would be, to
put it mildly, revolutionary.

Things looked pretty good. The only thing that bothered me was that we
hadn't started the big job yet.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning I saw a new face at the keyboard of one of our
linecasting machines. I had long ago adopted democracy as a good policy,
so now I stopped to introduce myself. "I'm J. J. Shane, the manager."

His hands, with incredibly long fingers, had been just flowing over the
keyboard--that is the only way to describe it--with the long fingers
moving down an inch or so whenever they were above the right key, and
doing it all so smoothly it was hard to realize he was actually
composing lines. His hands seemed to flow back and forth like the tide,
and yet he was setting twenty ems eight-point and keeping the machine
hung. Here, I thought right away, was a valuable man. This fellow could
be a pace-setter if we would handle him right.

But when I spoke to him and held out my hand, he looked at me for a
second without missing a stroke, then his hands dropped away from the
keyboard and he started to unfold himself from the chair.

"You don't need to get up," I said hastily. "I don't want to take up any
of your time."

But he finished unfolding himself and stood up. "I have plenty of time,"
he said. He was over seven feet tall, and that meant a foot and a half
over me--and very thin. His clothes looked pretty weatherbeaten, as if
maybe he'd been caught in a few rainstorms.

"Jones," said his booming voice from somewhere far above me.
"High-Pockets Jones, sometimes known as the Dean of Barn-stormers."

I leaned back to look up at him. His face was as weatherbeaten as his
clothes. I recognized the reddish tan that comes from facing a hot wind
on the top of a moving boxcar. He was obviously a bum, and probably
wouldn't be with us long, but there was something almost of nobility in
his eyes--calmness, gentleness, or perhaps just the knowledge of having
been in many, many situations and the experience gained from getting out
of them, and the self-assurance that he would always be able to get out
of any situation.

I reached up to shake hands. "Yes, I've heard of you," I said. "You're
sort of a throwback to the days when they needed barnstormers to correct
bad working-conditions, aren't you?"

He chose to pass that remark, "I've heard of you, too," he said, that
last word sounding like the low string on a bull fiddle.

I laughed quickly but efficiently--shortly, I believe they call it.
"Nothing good, I hope."

High-Pockets Jones paused a moment before he answered: "Not bad, until
lately."

It took me a moment or two to realize what he had said. I bent back to
look at his face. He was quite sober about it.

"Okay," I said hastily. "I don't want to keep you from your work."

I worried a little about High-Pockets. I had heard a lot about him; he
was a sort of mystery man in the printing business, going from place to
place, wherever printers felt they were having trouble, and trying to
straighten things out.

The stories about him indicated that he had some odd ways of doing that,
based largely on a sort of legendary influence that he had over
machinery. I remembered even the theory that all machinery was
negatively charged with some sort of "personal" electricity, and that
High-Pockets--having been hit by lightning--had a terrifically high
charge of positive electricity of the same sort, which enabled him to do
miraculous things on occasion with machinery--especially linecasting
machines.

Well, I dismissed that as a bunch of talk, but what I didn't quite like
was the fact that High-Pockets traditionally appeared in places where he
was needed to straighten out things for the men.

       *       *       *       *       *

I went into conference with Dr. Hudson, and he agreed with me that we
should go right ahead; but we'd keep an eye on High-Pockets Jones, and
at the first sign of interference Mr. Jones would find himself in a
great deal of trouble. I would even, I decided, stoop to having him
thrown in jail on a phony charge, if that should be necessary.

By this time we had started on the Legal Printing Company job, and we
went ahead with our next offensive. Mind-reading came first. Dr. Hudson
installed a black box at the water-fountain, and he explained to the men
what it was for. He had a private wire to his desk, and a transformer
that turned the current from the box back into thoughts. It was quite
efficient. Some of the thoughts we got the first day were vituperative,
some were quite obscene, and some were pretty feeble, but that didn't
matter. It got the boys to worrying, and it saved us a bottle of spring
water a day.

Then there was the installation of the lucite piping. Of course seeing
in curves had been possible for years, but never on this scale. We piped
lucite to every place where a man worked, and so we could throw a switch
in the inner office and check on every man in the shop without their
knowing it. That was a very clever device; it really put the men on the
spot.

Once in a while, when I needed to relax, I would flip a switch and throw
High-Pockets Jones' machine on the screen. The smooth rhythm of those
flowing hands was more soothing than a lullaby, especially because I
knew how much type they were getting up.

Then we advanced to the third step in our strategy: having a man in two
places at once.

Dr. Hudson finished making his cabinet filled with coils and
transformers and condensers and circuits I'd never heard of, and we set
it up in the composing-room one night.

It was that night that full realization hit me that we had set only two
hundred galleys of type out of the two thousand on the Legal Printing
Company job, and that there were only two weeks left to get it out.
Somehow or other, I had let it slip by. I thought Dr. Hudson was
watching those things; I had been busy trying to make an impression for
the receivers.

I was sick when I figured it all out. We had six machines. If we should
run those six machines two shifts a day, our capacity was about three
hundred and sixty galleys a week. Into eighteen hundred that goes
considerably more than two times. We would need five weeks of full
production--and we couldn't possibly give it full production; we had
other jobs, too.

The only hope was Dr. Hudson's new machine.

The next day the electricians hooked it up to a twelve-hundred-volt
feed-line, and by noon it was ready to go. At twelve-thirty, as soon as
the men punched in, I called them together. This was on office time, of
course, so there couldn't be any squawk. Dr. Hudson was there to
explain. I never had fully realized how much of him was nose before I
watched him that day.

"Gentlemen," he said, "this is nothing to be afraid of. This is merely
a modern device to assure continuous production in the composing-room by
eliminating lost time from sickness and accidents. As you know, if a
linotype operator is ill, his machine goes untouched. That day's
production is lost. At a cost per man of around ten dollars an hour,
that represents a considerable loss."

He opened the cabinet and showed them a comfortable leather seat inside.

"There are two compartments in this cabinet," he said. "All this machine
does is to produce, temporarily, an extra man to fill the sick man's
place. One of the men present steps in here; I close the door, see that
the machine is charged here on the other side with plenty of linotype
metal to provide the material of atomic synthesis, press the button, and
lo!--the man in the chair is duplicated on the other side of the
cabinet."

High-Pockets Jones stepped forward with his deep eyes fixed on Dr.
Hudson. "What," High-Pockets asked, "is your theory of this machine?"

Dr. Hudson smiled. "I am glad you asked that, Mr. Jones. Very glad. This
process is in no sense a separation or thinning out of the man in the
chair. It is, in reality; an unusual extension of the well-known fact
that nature tends to follow a pattern. If you want to make a synthetic
sapphire, you start with a seed sapphire, and the artificial process
builds up on that. Now, this machine, which I call an extender, is
merely a far-reaching extension of the synthesis of precious stones."

"By use of a revolutionary type of three-dimensional scanner, which was
invented by myself," he said modestly, "I am able to focus on a certain
object from a certain distance and, if there is material at hand,
synthesize an exact duplicate of the original from the scanner. It
doesn't hurt the original in any way. You merely have two where you had
but one."

The men stood around bug-eyed and stared incredulously--all but
High-Pockets. "Is the second one alive?" he asked. "I mean, would you
say it has a soul?"

"That," said Dr. Hudson crisply, "is out of my field. I suggest you
consult your spiritual adviser."

The chairman stepped up, "You have tried this thing, have you?"

"Thoroughly tested," said Dr. Hudson.

I refrained from smiling. The printers were flabbergasted; they didn't
know what to do or think. The chairman was trying to get his poor
fogged brain together with arguments. The only person besides myself and
Dr. Hudson who seemed to be at ease was the barnstormer, High-Pocket
Jones.

"In-other words," High-Pockets said, "if we are short an operator, I can
walk in that cabinet and you can in a few minutes make another
High-Pockets Jones, who will set type until you put him back into the
cabinet and turn him back into a hundred and sixty pounds of linotype
metal?"

"Precisely." Dr. Hudson smiled and showed his teeth. I could see he was
losing his patience.

"Well," said High-Pockets, "I can see about nine hundred legal questions
right off the bat. Who is going to draw the duplicate's pay? Is the
duplicate entitled to a union card? Is he entitled to overtime? Is he a
man or an automaton?"

"Sorry," said Dr. Hudson. "I am not a legal expert."

       *       *       *       *       *

High-Pockets walked up to the cabinet and looked inside. I'd swear he
looked as if he knew what all those wires were there for. His deep eyes
took it all in, and then he announced in his booming voice from far
above us. "You're waiting for a volunteer," he said. "I'll be first."

I practically fell over. I think even Dr. Hudson was dumbfounded; we had
not expected unconditional surrender. I was elated.

High-Pockets Jones was seated in the cabinet. Dr. Hudson threw the
switch. After five minutes' humming, a relay clicked. Dr. Hudson opened
the door. High-Pockets Jones, with a deep smile on his weatherbeaten
face, unfolded his long legs and stepped out, holding his head down to
keep from hitting the top of the door-frame.

"How do you feel?" asked Dr. Hudson.

"Excellent," boomed High-Pockets, straightening up.

The physicist went around to the other side, and though I had been
watching these experiments for some time, I give you my word I very
nearly choked on my own tongue when I saw High-Pockets Jones walk out of
the second compartment.

The second High-Pockets produced a worn bill-fold and extracted a pink
union permit.

"I protest this inhuman manipulation of a man's individuality," said the
chairman indignantly; "this is outrageous."

I felt better now. I'd been waiting for that. "Let him go to work," I
said. "We need an operator today, anyway; Bill Smith has the flu. I
will guarantee to pay a man's wages to whomever you say, if this is
found to be illegal."

Under the law, there wasn't much they could do. And I had already taken
the precaution of retaining the best legal counsel in the city.

I was elated when they went to work. I pumped Dr. Hudson's hand and
assured him that we had indeed made spectacular history, and together we
could make millions.

The first trouble came an hour later. One of the High-Pocketses--I
couldn't tell which one--came into the office. "The foreman sent me up
to get some work," he said in his booming voice.

I frowned. What was going on back there? I went back, High-Pockets Jones
was working on his own machine. High-Pockets Jones was also working on
Bill Smith's machine. I looked up quickly. High-Pockets Jones was also
standing beside me.

He smiled. "Catching, isn't it?"

I swallowed, but I knew they were playing tricks. High-Pockets Jones had
walked into the cabinet a second time, and his double had worked the
controls and produced a third. Well, this could get confusing, but I
stayed calm. "You're a floor-man, too, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Okay. You go back to the Monotype room and get a bunch of slugs and
leads and saw them up to fill the cases. They're getting pretty low."

"Yes, sir." He turned and went away.

When I got back to the office I thought I'd just turn on the lucite and
see what they might be up to next. I had an uneasy feeling.

Sure enough, a High-Pockets Jones was stepping out of the second
compartment of the cabinet. I gulped and quickly checked the others.
This was the fourth one.

I went back to raise hell, but High-Pockets--well, one of them--was
quite calm about it. "Two men can do it faster than one," he said.

I licked my lips and beat my brains, but I didn't know the answer. I
went back to think it over. I had just decided to laugh it off when
three High-Pockets Joneses came into the office.

"We need something to do," they said, all in that great booming voice
that seemed to come from the ceiling.

"See the foreman. Tell him to give you all the standing type that needs
to be distributed."

They left. I breathed a sigh of relief and sent out for a padlock to put
on the cabinet.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later, with a nice, shiny new padlock, I went back to the
composing-room. But I very nearly fainted when I saw the activity going
on back there. The composing-room was filled with High-Pockets Joneses.

Two still were at the linecasting machines, and a whole crew of others
were running around the floor.

"Where's the foreman?" I barked.

High-Pockets Jones--one of them--came to attention. "He went home. He
was quite discouraged; he told us to throw in all the standing type we
could find."

It didn't look good. I had the feeling that High-Pockets was laughing at
me--this High-Pockets, anyway.

That reminded me. I gathered up all the High-Pocketses in the
composing-room and lined them up. There were nine--exactly nine--every
one of them over seven feet tall and thin as a sidestick, every one of
them with a gentle, booming voice.

I wanted to tell the original High-Pockets to gather them all up and put
them back together, but I didn't know how to find the original.

Well, they couldn't get me down. I fooled them. I told them all to take
the rest of the day off--at full pay.

All nine of them washed up together and left together. It was the
damnedest thing I ever saw offstage. Nine identical High-Pocketses--all
so tall they had to weave around the neon lights instead of ducking
under them. It was enough to give a man nightmares, to watch that line
of High-Pockets Joneses advancing across an open composing-room.

This kind of thing went on the next day, and the next. Every day there
were nine High-Pockets Joneses in the composing-room. Everybody was
falling over everybody else, when they weren't standing around laughing
up their sleeves.

There was nothing I could do. I had been forced to turn over all of my
house to eight of the High-Pocketses, because they had to have a place
to stay, and after all, I was responsible for them.

Our production went up a little, but the Legal Printing Company job was
hardly touched. There was too much of that sort of festive spirit in the
air; everybody was watching the High-Pocketses and waiting to see what
would happen next--and hoping for something extravagant. In other words,
they refused to take it seriously; to them, it was a circus.

I didn't have the nerve to ask anybody else to split. After all,
High-Pockets was in nine places at once; that should have been enough.
It was apparent by that time that the extender would never be anything
in a printing office but a psychological monstrosity.

I had to admit I was stymied, and I got so I didn't give a whoop. I was
sunk anyway. That is the way it went that week. On Saturday night Dr.
Hudson and I got beautifully soused.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Monday morning I didn't care. The Legal Printing Company called up
and said they could give us a few more days; if they could have it by
Friday, they could still make the filing date. I said we'd do everything
possible, and then I hung up and laughed bitterly and aloud. We couldn't
get it out if we had another month. The only thing was, as soon as our
plant closed up, they could ask the court for an extension because of
unforeseen circumstances, and probably get it. So I laughed aloud.

I saw Dr. Hudson cleaning out his desk, and I nodded. "Sorry, Doc, we
got all fouled up. Maybe some other time--"

He nodded. "Progress always encounters opposition," he said. "It just
happens that we are the sacrifices in this deal."

"Yeah." I went out and had a drink.

I was pretty dazed that week. It didn't make any difference. I had
already tried everything possible, and they had me hog-tied. And those
nine High-Pocketses had made me a laughing-stock.

On Friday morning, I looked at the calendar and it suddenly occurred to
me that this was the thirty-first and the receivers would be around this
afternoon to decide whether or not to close the place.

There wasn't any doubt as to what they would do. I began to clean out my
own desk. I felt terrible.

Then one of the High-Pocketses came in with a piece of copy in his hand.
He looked at me queerly and then said softly, "You leaving?"

"Yes," I said bitterly, "I'm going. You got me licked; I'm through."

"I was just trying to point out to you the absurdity of some of your new
devices," he said.

"Okay," I said, "you win. Guys like you make a business of going around
the country breaking print-shops and printing-office managers."

High-Pockets' booming voice came from the ceiling. "You are mistaken. I
did not try to break you."

"Well, you broke me, anyway." I blurted out the whole thing to him, how
the receivers were about to close us up, how the Legal Printing Company
job was weeks behind and was supposed to be delivered today. Then I
apologized. "It isn't your fault," I told him. "I'm sorry. I didn't
mean that. I just--well, I wanted to make good on this job."

High-Pockets was very thoughtful. "I feel kind of sorry for you," he
said.

"Oh, you don't need to. I earned it; I've got it coming. I was just a
little too ambitious, that's all. I didn't know a man could be _too_
ambitious."

High-Pockets looked at me. His deep eyes were thoughtful. I could almost
see the neurons buzzing around in his head.

"If I could get this job out for you on time, would that save the day?"

"Probably." I laughed--or tried to. "But it is now a physical
impossibility. There isn't enough time."

High-Pockets said sharply, "Call a truck," and wheeled out of the
office.

I called the delivery truck before I realized what I had done. Well, it
didn't make any difference. They could start hauling out the machinery.

I finished cleaning out my desk and took a wastebasket full of papers to
the back shop.

And there, I give you my word, three High-Pocketses were busy carrying
galleys from the type-dump to the proof-press. And as fast as they could
carry a galley of type from the dump, another galley would just
materialize there. I stood and stared. Galleys of type were coming out
of thin air at the rate of about four galleys a minute.

I went over to where High-Pockets--the original High-Pockets, I
suppose--was sitting at his machine. "Would you please tell me what is
going on?" I asked.

"Well," said High-Pockets, "it isn't so complicated. I just sent the
other five back in time to set this job, that's all. They've gone back
about twelve weeks; and of course there isn't much time, so I had to
make them double up. I've got them split up into shifts, along with a
double of the chairman there, to cover the six machines. It's a little
hard to explain, whether they are split up in time, or the time-split
ones are split up in place, or just what."

"It's insane," I said weakly.

"Well, at any rate, you see you have the equivalent of twelve night
shifts running at once, plus twelve graveyard shifts. That's twenty-four
times six--you have six machines--times twelve--that's the number of
galleys a day for each machine. I think it comes out to seventeen
hundred for a day's work."

       *       *       *       *       *

I grabbed hold of the vise-locking screw to keep my knees from doubling
under me. It was incredible--and yet it was true.

High-Pockets also had organized the proofreaders and copyholders, and
they were reading in the past also, and sending us proofs in the
present. If anybody ever tells you they can't get seventeen hundred
galleys of type a day out of six linecasting machines--well, they just
don't know High-Pockets Jones.

"Of course," he said apologetically, "they'll want to be paid."

I was practically hysterical by that time. "I'll see that they get
overtime for every hour they put in."

High-Pockets looked at me with his deep eyes. "Me, too," he said. I
laughed when I thought how there were nine of him working in twelve
places at once--or was it twenty-four--or maybe forty-eight. I was too
dizzy by that time to figure out anything. I only knew the job was going
to be delivered. The truckers were going in a steady stream through the
back door.

Maybe the receivers would close up the place; maybe they wouldn't. At
least the job was being delivered.

About four-thirty, the galleys suddenly quit coming; the job was
finished. Half an hour later it was out of the shop, and I had entered
it on the books.

I had hardly laid down the pen when the three receivers came in. They
smoked a little and talked and I held my breath while they looked at the
books. I couldn't figure out what they were going to do.

One of them whistled when he saw the Legal Printing Company figures.
"Well," he said, "business _has_ been good."

"Fair," I said modestly.

The door to the shop opened and High-Pockets Jones walked in. I gulped;
eight High-Pockets Joneses walked in behind him.

The three receivers stared. Their eyes stuck out until it was ludicrous.
But it wasn't funny; I knew something was going to happen now.

By the time the last High-Pockets got in, the first receiver had seen
what was going on and was trying to get out, but nine High-Pocketses in
one room are a lot. For a minute it looked like a basketball game.

The elder lawyer looked at me suspiciously. "Please explain this."

I was too weak. "See for yourself," I said.

One High-Pockets spoke to me. "Sorry, Mr. Shane. Just came in to say
good-bye. Never realized--"

"That's okay," I said. "You've done your part; I can't squawk."

The attorney spoke up. "Mr. Shane," he said, "I think the affairs of
the Imperial Printing Company are in perilous circumstances. I do not
know what is the meaning of this, but certainly there is something here
without precedent." And if you know lawyers, you know that anything
without precedent is very unholy.

I told what we had done, but he was interested in only one thing. "Think
what a combined suit by these nine-er-twins here would do."

"Nontuplets," suggested one High-Pockets.

"Why"--the lawyer seemed to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the
damages he was visualizing--"that could amount to millions."

I was desperate for an idea, but it wasn't any use. They were taking it
out of my hands. I saw the righteous light in the eyes of those men, and
I knew it was all over.

But High-Pockets--or one of him--spoke up. "Is it your intention," he
asked me, "to keep the time-machine and the extender?"

"No," I said. "I rather thought I'd get rid of the whole business; it's
much too complicated. Anyway, you boys out there came through with
superhuman efforts this afternoon. I don't think I'd ask you to be in
two places at once again."

High-Pockets turned to the lawyer. "If the receivers agree to let the
plant operate as long as it shows a profit," he said, "we'll all go back
together and then you can break up the extender and there won't be any
more trouble. If you don't agree to that"--he paused--"we'll stay in
nine bodies and sue you every time we get a chance."

The lawyer winced. The receivers went into conference. Finally they
said, a little anxiously, "If the Messiers High-Pockets will be good
enough to go back together, and if Mr. Shane will destroy the machine,
we are agreeable to the plant's continuance as a printing office."

"Hooray!" I said, and nine High-Pocketses yelled hooray.

I was exultant. I shook hands with each one of the High-Pocketses as
they filed into the extender. When there was only one left; he shook
hands with me.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Nothing at all," said High-Pockets Jones. "Just got a call this morning
from a print-shop where they're trying to make the men wear
roller-skates so they can move faster. Guess they need me down there. So
long, boss."

"So long," I said. I was sorry to see him go. I locked up the shop--but
first I cut off all the power and got a pig and smashed up Dr. Hudson's
coils and transformers. I wanted to come down in the morning without
seeing double.





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