Copy Center: Have Wife, Will Travel

Here’s something from the archives, another Copy Center Story from 2004, presented in its original raw form.

Thursday’s Harold Emmet sipped deeply from the navy blue coffee mug he kept on his otherwise empty desk. His khaki suit coat lay hung on the back of his chair, to be thrown on quickly over his blue dress shirt and bright yellow tie, as each customer walked into his clear glass office. The office was deceptively Spartan, sporting no fake plants, papers, or photograph of loved ones. Shrubs had never been in Harold’s taste and the office had gone paperless shortly after it was opened, his desk actually a sophisticated touch screen computer with access to the entire network. As for the pictures of loved ones, well, Emmet saw them six days a week and sometimes it was nice not to see their five identical smiling faces.

Finishing the coffee and contemplating a mid-morning cigar, Emmet noticed his customer approaching and threw on the coat, standing up to pump the man’s hand vigorously before offering him the chair across from the empty desk. The chair was also deceptive, being comfortable, yet simultaneously gathering information about the customer including DNA, blood pressure and heart beat and thousands of other myriads of data that were already appearing on the non-visible part of Emmet’s desk.

Waving his hand second time for the customer to sit, Emmet sat down on his own comfortable and non-technologically adorned chair. “Did you have much trouble with the forms?” Emmet asked, already starting to small talk. “I know some of the questions can be pretty personal.”

The man just nodded nervously. “No problems.” He said quietly.

It’s just to ensure that we bring you the very best of products uh, Mister…?”

Fergusen. Jim Fergusen.”

Oh, really?” Emmet’s smile brightened slightly and his tone became friendlier. “Same Jim Fergusen that’s senior VP at Xenacorp?”

Fergusen nodded, aware that this information was bound to come out quickly, but at the same time looking like he wished Emmet hadn’t known. Emmet meanwhile was smilingly even broader. The forms were part of Copy Center’s very complex way of delaying the customer long enough to know everything about them. While there was a valid scientific reason for knowing who people had sex with in the past ten years, it was also useful information for the times Copy Center’s work was challenged.

Don’t worry, Mr. Fergusen. We here at Copy Center are proud of our discreteness to all our clients. If I might ask, though, shouldn’t you be at work right now?”

Fergusen looked embarrassed and Emmet laughed. “Just kidding, Mr. Fergusen, one of the privileges of a position of your importance I suppose.” Fergusen nodded, having deliberately rearranged his schedule to make his appointment at Copy Center during work hours, with orders to his secretary not to take any calls.

So what can I do for you, Mr. Fergusen. Maybe make another copy of yourself to take care of all those boring staff meetings?”

Fergusen seemed to smile at this a little. “No, I’m just late to those any way. But what I do spend a lot of my time doing is trade shows. Xenacorp as you know is one of the world’s leading engineering firms.”

Larger than Microsoft from what I’ve heard.” Emmet said, boosting the man’s ego as Emmet leaned back in his chair.

Fergusen chuckled. “Well, not yet, but maybe someday. But anyway, I spend a lot of time going to various trade conferences and retreats and consequently I spend nearly six months out of the year on the road.”

So you’d like a clone to help you lighten the load.”

Oh no, nothing like that. In a field mike mine you need to be on top of everything that’s going on, and that’s something I can’t trust to a surrogate, even a surrogate me.”

I assure that our products are of only the highest quality and can be trusted as much as you’d trust yourself. After all, it really would be you.”

Fergusen raised his hand. “I don’t doubt your work, Mr. Emmet, that’s why I’m here in the first place. As I was saying, I spend nearly six months out of the year away from home, and this has been causing a bit of a strain on my marriage.”

Emmet smiled, it was his presence, or that of people very much like him, twenty fours hours a day that sometimes caused tension within his own family. He wondered if his wife would have the same reaction if he said he’d be gone for six months. She’d probably say ‘You were gone?’ he chuckled to himself. Tuning back into Fergusen’s conversation he sifted through the specific domestic problems back to the point of business.

So you want be make a copy of yourself for home so that you can be with your wife more often?” Emmet asked, crossing his arms beneath the desk.

Fergusen and frowned. “No, Mr. Emmet. No I told you I didn’t want to make a clone of myself. I want you to clone my wife.”

Emmet leaned forward in his chairs, arms uncrossed and eyes wide open. “You want to clone your wife?”

Yes, Mr. Emmet.”

Call me Harold. After all as its says on our doors we’re not salesmen, were your friends.”

Harold, you can understand the strains that being away from a wife can put on a man.”

Emmet understood quite well what Fergusen was getting add, but leaning back once more decided to play the fool a little bit longer. “I’m not quite sure I follow you, Mr. Fergusen.”

Emmet watched enjoyable as Fergusen squirmed uncomfortably in the chair, his perspiration readings going up even as he tried to explain himself. “There are a lot of pressures at these shows to be, friendly with people other than my wife.”

Deciding to let Fergusen keep a little of his dignity Emmet said. “I imagine that’s a problem for many men in your position, Mr. Fergusen.”


Right, Jim.”

I want to be faithful to my wife, and have been so far… mostly. I mean it’s not like there haven’t been women who tempted me, but I love Sally and I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt her.” Fergusen was sweating openly now. “But it’s a long time for a man to be away from his wife, and even sometimes when I’m home she . . .”

Your wife doesn’t go with you to these trade shows.”

Oh, no.” Fergusen said. “We have too children and she’s a philosophy major who could have not the slightest in engineering. Sometimes I wonder why she married me.”

That’s alright, Jim. I think I understand your problem.” Emmet said raising his hand. “You want to be faithful to your wife but you are a man of certain . . . needs.’

Fergusen grew a little more comfortable. “Yes, that’s right.”

Well we have a whole product line for people like, Mr. Fergusen. I assume you brought a DNA sample?”

Oh, yes.” Fergusen said taking out a hair brush, cheaper than Emmet might have thought. ‘How imaginative.’ he thought as he put the comp in a drawer to be sent down to processing along with the other dozen combs he had collected that week.

Our travel wife model can be programmed for a variety of functions from going to social occasions, to just being wild in the sack for when you want to relax in the hotel room. Our premium model even comes programmed with all the techniques of the Kama Sutra and Maxim’s 200 best Sex tips.”

Fergusen blushed at Emmet’s explicitness, but he was definitely interested. “Not much need for the social, as there would be a lot of questions among the guys as to why my wife is away from the kids.” He coughed slightly. “Is there a way that my wife could not find out about this?”

Emmet chuckled at the man’s desire to be faithful and yet still have all the mysterious advantages that an affair could bring. He cocked an eyebrow as his screen on the side of his desk finished analyzing the wife’s DNA and bringing up her information. Smiling at Fergusen he said. “You have a very attractive wife, Jim, and don’t you worry. As I said this company has the very latest in cloning technology for the on the go businessman.”

How, exactly?” Fergusen stammered, his brow furrowing and his face going blank.

We have a model that can be shrunk to 1:144 the original size for easy packing suit case, complete with air tank and….”

Excuse me.” Fergusen said. “Did you just say shrink?”

Why yes. We’ve been required by federal mandate to investigate ways to deal with the potential for over population that is inherent our technology. In my case and for many of our clones, it’s shorter life span, about 20 years shorter in fact, but we’ve toyed with other space saving techniques.”

So I can pack her in my suitcase?”

Even your carry on luggage sir. Just add water to expand for six hours. It’s really a rather amazing trick of cellular compression. One of the techs could give you a run down if you’re interested.”

And she’ll shrink after six hours?”

Yeah, gradually over the last half hour so be sure she doesn’t move around too much. I wouldn’t suggest falling asleep in the same bed.”

Fergusen grimaced slightly and asked. “Will she be human and not some synthetic?”

Emmet laughed and patted Fergusen on the shoulder. “As human as you or me and programmed with all the things you love about you’re wife. She’s not a robot and while her cellular structure might be a bit different from yours or mine, it will still feel, sound, look, and even taste like a human. Really the techs are the best people to answer to these questions though.”

No I think that’ll be just fine, Mr. Emmet.” Fergusen said, gathering up his coat and preparing to leave. “When can she be ready?”

In time for evening commute if you like, but the premium will take until tomorrow.”

Fergusen blushed again. “I can pick her up tomorrow. I’ve got another conference this weekend.”

Well I’m sure you’ll be more than satisfied sir.”

Thank you.”

Have a nice day, and be sure to talk to Jim Arland in billing on your way out.”

Emmet took off his coat as Fergusen left and smiled taking another look at Sally Fergusen’s file. It turned out that Tuesday Harold had already seen her as a customer, having sold her one of the “helpful husband” models. As Emmet had expected, Fergusen was not the first one to have this thought, his wife having predated him by six months, and using one of her husbands back channel credit card accounts for the premium model as well. Emmet smiled pulling out his cigar and began to think to himself about the look on Mr. Fergusen’s face if he were to come back early from one of his conventions to find himself vacuuming the drapes, or his wife in the arms of another, him. ‘Oh well,’ Emmet thought. ‘That’s why we keep 10 of the best lawyer in town.’

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Filed under Short Stories, Writing

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