In the largest room of his wizard tower, Garth arranged a massive circular table.
“We bring this, the first annual meeting of the Order of Transhemispheric Doppleganger Twins, to order.” Garth said, clacking his gavel against the table before allowing it to turn to ash. “Let the record show that we have non-members present.” Jim, Sam, Sandi, Itet, Clark and Paul watched the Garths with wide-eyed awe. Or maybe it was shock at seeing grown men wearing robes and wigs.
“Noted.” Garth’s doppleganger said, using a typewriter to act as the stenographer.
Garth cleared his throat and read from his script. “On the docket for today’s proceedings, we have:
- Integration of a Kipling tainted entity back into the workforce.
- Establishment of a supply of human corpses for said Kipling to snack on that does not offend this Order’s Morals.
- Establishment of a naming convention for doppleganger twins.
- Proper etiquette in beard usage between dopplegangers.
- Precedents for custody of physical and intellectual property, as well as inheritance law.”
“Garth, are you really gonna let a kipling run around as much as he wants just because you get a kick out of it being your evil twin? We should lock it up, if not kill it outright. I punched that thing hard enough to cave in his skull and it didn’t do shit!” Jim said, standing up and pointing at Member A with a scowl. Rude.
“Let the record show that Jim did not have the floor.”
“Noted, member one.”
“What the hell?”
“Jim, I’ve studied cliché long enough to know that stupid mistrust, suspicions, and secrets are what cause almost every doppleganger to turn evil.” Garth said. Treating your clone like shit never worked out well for anyone.
“Yeah, read a book Jim.” Evil Garth said.
“You said he wants to eat people!”
“An excellent example of putting all my cards on the table.” Evil Garth said with a shrug. “Builds trust.”
“indeed, with these uncertain times, the fact is people are already dying left and right. Evil Garth doesn’t want to kill people, he just wants to eat them. I’m sure we can create a system that will supply his needs from the military or adventurers.” Garth said.
“You just called him Evil Garth!”
“That’s why we have item three on the docket, Jim, pay attention.” Evil Garth said, rolling his eyes.
“Fuck this!” Jim shouted and stormed out of the room.
The silence hung in the air for a moment after Jim’s outburst.
“Finally.” Evil Garth said, swigging a bottle of water before returning to his typewriter.
“I thought he’d never leave.” Garth said, massaging the back of his neck. These wigs were heavy and overheating his brain.
“I’d like to add a motion to remove dress requirements to the docket.”
The two of them tore their wigs and robes off.
That done, Garth manifested another gavel and clacked it against the table again.
“Alright, before we move on to the first item on the docket, I’d like to open the floor for comments. Would anyone like to add anything?”
“How do we know this Garth isn’t going to hurt our children? Isn’t he dangerous?” Paul asked.
“Everyone’s dangerous.” Garth said. “I saw Kristen glass a section of the desert with a ball of fire bigger than a house. Your kids are as likely to be hurt by Evil Garth as they are to be caught up in a magic accident. Less likely, actually. Evil Garth’s going to be on his best behavior.”
“I guess my question is, how do you know he doesn’t have the desire to hurt people? Behavior notwithstanding.”
“I’ll field this one,” Evil Garth said, addressing Paul. “When whatever Kipling have was planted in me, I tore it out, along with a lot of who I was before. Your Garth doesn’t have a desire to hurt children in the first place, so there’s no combination of things you could remove from his personality to make him want to do that. I’m the same guy, just missing a few bits and pieces. None of that makes me want to hurt anyone.”
“Plus the eating people.”
“That’s a side effect of having my body changed by the kipling.”
“Last question,” Paul said, crossing his beefy arms. “Can you survive without eating people?”
Garth glanced over at his evil twin, who tapped his fingers in an eerily familiar way as he considered the question. That was something Garth had wondered as well.
“Probably.” He gritted out.
“But, I do exhibit withdrawal-like symptoms after a couple weeks. I wouldn’t vouch for my own behavior once that starts.”
Paul grunted and sat back down.
“Should we add a possible rehab to the docket?” Garth asked.
“A relapse might get someone killed. Be safer to feed me a corpse every month. Tastier too.”
“And what do the non-members think?”
“I’m with Evil Garth on that one. A junkie is dangerous and unstable when they’re jonesing. Keep him stable if you’re gonna keep him around.” Paul said.
“I don’t think people are going to be happy being fed to a monster posthumously.” Clark said.
“Pay people’s families a premium for organ donors.” Evil Garth said with a shrug. “It worked in my city.”
“your city?” Sandi asked.
“Garth-topia in the northern hemisphere.”
Clark blinked. “Well now I’m convinced it’s the same guy.”
“All right,” Garth said, banging the gavel and drawing attention to himself. “This sounds like we’re discussing item two on the docket. Let’s hold this conversation until we’ve cleared item one: Integrating Evil Garth into the workforce.”
“What kind of job would you like?” he said, glancing at his doppleganger. “Maybe something in the military to put you closer to the corpses?”
“I would have taken that offer a while ago, but I realized recently that I could do a lot of good for people as a physician-plastic surgeon-physical therapist-women’s self-defense instructor.”
“That’s a lot of slashes. And I’m a little concerned about the last one,” Samantha said, the ex-nurse frowning as she studied Evil Garth.
“And you are, miss?”
“Samantha, you are a good example of what I could offer. You’re looking a little long in the tooth. Do you have any age related aches or pains?”
“My hands are pretty fucked up from thirty years of washing them fifty times a day, and my knees are running out of cartilage.”
Sam considered it a moment, before nodding.
“Knock yourself out.”
Evil Garth glanced around a moment, seeing that no one objected before he returned his attention to Sam. “This is gonna hurt a bit.” He waved his hand and Garth watched incredibly fine thread of mana tug out of the weave of the surroundings before sinking into Sam’s hands and presumably her knees beneath the table.
To her credit, the older woman didn’t even flinch or wince, taking the pain in stoic silence.
In front of them, the gnarled hands smoothed, seemingly regressing years of age.
“I rebuilt the cartilage in your knees, smoothed down some bone spurs, and took the liberty of making your skin softer.” Evil Garth said, leaning back in his chair. “Needless to say I can fix pretty much any ailment, with the possible exception of auto-immune diseases.”
Sam stared at her hands for a moment, opening and closing them. She looked at Evil Garth, then stood and raised a knee to her chest before extending it.
“If my knees are the same a week from now, then I’m convinced,” she said, sitting back down.
“Is that permanent?” Garth asked.
“Well, they’ll probably come back in twenty years or so.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s permanent.”
As far as Garth was aware, there wasn’t a spell for changing people permanently, and he’d looked. It was only by manipulating a loophole that he’d managed to do what he had on himself. Interesting stuff.
Did Evil Garth…have a patron?
“Doctor it is.” Garth said. “Provided you study medicine and have Samantha supervise you for a probationary period of no less than a year.”
“Fair enough,” Evil Garth said with a shrug.
“Alright, on to item two on the docket. I believe it’s been discussed at length, and so I suggest we move the issue to the city council to arrange the funding for an organ donor incentive.”
“Why would anyone be an organ donor? Nobody’s got the equipment or training to transplant organs?” Paul asked.
“I can do it.” Evil Garth said. “Easily. Arms, legs, hearts, lungs, whatever you need.”
“Alright, as long as more people than this one guy are benefitting from this, I’m on board.” Clark said. “I’ll bring it up to the council.”
“Thanks,” Garth said. “Now, Item three, what do we call our dopplegangers?”
“I think he looks like a Kit’chit.” Itet said.
“No.” Both Garths said as one.
“Personally I feel we shouldn’t change either of our names. Names are tied to your identity. If you change it, you change who you are. And I’m already pretty messed up.” Evil Garth said.
“Agreed, but how about a title…Dr. Garth?” Garth asked. “Considering the profession you’ve chosen.”
“Hah, not Dr. Daniels?”
“I’m sure one of them rolls off the tongue better.”
“I like it,” Evil Garth said with a grin.
“Alright,” Garth said, organizing and shuffling his stack of papers. “Cruising right along. Now we have to decide which one of us wears the bizarro goatee.”
Sam stood and left the room, followed by Paul and Clark. They walked through the open wooden arch that seemed to be melted into the wooden wall and took the stairs down to the ground floor of Garth’s tower.
“These people have no idea what’s important,” Evil Garth said, shaking his head solemnly.
“First question.” Garth said. “Can you still grow facial hair?”
**** Later that day****
“I’m an uncle!” Dr. Daniels said, picking up one of the chubby purple infants with a grin. “Awesome!”
Lucy stared at him in confusion a moment before her expression reached Zen, dropping a load in her diaper.
“…And I’m done,” he said, handing the baby back to Ms. Banyan.
“It’s only been six months dude! You work fast!” Dr. Daniels said, rounding on Garth with a grin.
“I know, I’m pretty proud of myself.” Garth said with a chuckle. He glanced around. No one else was with them besides Ms. Banyan.
Garth wrapped them in a bell of solid air, preventing any sound from escaping their conversation. Hopefully Dr. Daniels wouldn’t fly off the handle like he had with Jim. Garth pretended to be at ease, but every time he saw the shark-toothed grin on his own face, it took everything he had to maintain eye contact.
“I wanted to ask,” Garth said, spotting Dr. Daniel’s eye following the movement of mana around them.
“What made you abandon your Earth?” If there was some kind of planet-busting apocalypse weapon, Garth felt like he should know about it. Dr. Daniels relaxed at the question. Was he expecting an attack?
“A Kipling destroyed my city and swore to kill me. I felt like a change of scenery would be a good idea.”
“Does he know where you are?” Garth asked.
“Not a chance, and even if he did, I’m a lot more dangerous now than I was when he pushed me off my turf, ever since I got my class and Patron.”
Garth met his eye for a silent moment before speaking. “I can’t abandon this place. I’m putting down roots, starting a family. If your trouble follows you here, I hope you know that you’re putting your family at risk too.”
Dr. Daniels gave him a cold stare, eyes narrowed. He glanced at the babies in Ms. Banyan’s arms.
“I understand, I’ll fight to my last ounce of blood for this place if it comes to that.”
“Good enough,” Garth said, nodding. “Now, what was that about a Patron? I didn’t think Kipling could have them?”
“I’m something else.” Dr. Daniels gave a sharktoothed grin. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
“Garth Daniels, Phytomancer, Apostle of Beladia.” Garth spread his palm and focused on a tiny mote of life floating above his skin and kindled it into a miniature bonzai. “Goddess of Nature, Love, Fertility, and Home.”
“That explains the kids.” Dr Daniels said, holding out his own hand. “Garth Daniels, Fleshweaver, Apostle of Kuragor, God of Chaos, Mutability, Perversion, and Rebirth.”
The hair on the back of Garth’s neck stood up as a small finger pushed its way through the center of his doppleganger’s palm, then four more, followed by another hand, and another, until there was a fleshy ‘palm tree’ jutting out of the man’s hand in a grotesque mockery of his own bonzai, leaf-fingers twitching as if in the wind.
“A utility ability, I like it.” Dr. Daniels said, retracting the flesh back into his hand and shaking it as if working out a cramp.
“I would have picked something with a bit more range.” Garth said, allowing the banzai to return to ash.
“Me too, but I didn’t have a choice.”
“I’m not complaining. I’ve made the most of it.”
There was something Dr. Daniels wasn’t telling him. Garth wasn’t totally familiar with his own body language, but he’d never been great at lying until he’d become an apostle of Pala.
It was all fair, because Dr. Daniels was covered in motes of dust ready to spring into flesh eating roots, and Garth was fairly sure the man was hiding his own trump card.
Garth looked him in the eye, pursed his lips and nodded. “Alright, let’s get you and your crew set up with a place to call home already. I’ve got to earmark land for Itet’s hive after this.”