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THE GHOST PLANET

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER FIVE

When they saw Peter, both Lisas stopped wrestling and looked up at him. When they saw his hesitation, they immediately figured out what was going on. One of the Lisa's saw the diary lying on the ground and picked it up. (To make things less confusing, I will refer to her as Lisa One and the other one as Lisa Two from here on.)

"I dropped this during the struggle," said Lisa One.

"I was the one that dropped the diary," disagreed Lisa Two.

By this time, Hank, Linda, X, and some of the tribe members had caught up with them and were just as confused as Peter was. X figured the first thing to do was make sure there were no other impostures, though he didn't think there were.

"Hank, how did you sabotage the robot factory on Barchon?" X inquired.

"I blew it up," replied Hank as if it were something he did every day.

"Linda," X continued. "What was the Earth year at the time you joined M.W.G.D?"

"2010," she stated.

At last he was ready for the question that Peter's duplicate had missed. "Peter, what was the secret password for entering M.W.G.D. headquarters when I was in command?"

Peter smiled. He had the easy one. "There was no secret password."

"Then what kind of security measures did I take?"

"There was a microchip planted in each badge. When the microchip was activated, the computer would open the doors automatically."

X was satisfied that they were the real Hank, Linda, and Peter respectively. Distinguishing which Lisa was the real one would be much harder. Under normal circumstances, he could have asked another question that would be trivial to the real Lisa, yet impossible to the imposture. However, since Lisa had lost her memory, he had to find another way of telling them apart.

X knew he could ask a question about the Alpha Memory Computer and find out who was who that way, but he had another plan in mind. A plan that, if successful would not only tell them which Lisa was real, but would also give the real Lisa her memory back. Strong emotions was the key.

He studied the two Lisas pretending he had no idea how to tell them apart.

"Give up," Lisa Two ordered Lisa One. "You're only going to make things harder for yourself in the long, run. They'll be able to tell the difference between us eventually."

"By that time, the Ruler's forces will come back and rescue you," snapped Lisa One.

"Break it up you two," X commanded. "I have an idea that will allow me to tell which one of you is the real Lisa, but it will take some time to set things up."

"Will it help me get my memory back too?" Lisa One wondered.

"It might," X agreed with more than a hint of secrecy. He had figured it out already.

"The sooner, the better," Lisa Two agreed.

TIME : 1:00 P.M.
PLACE : Inside the ruined city

X told the tribe to keep the two Lisas in the cave with them until he had finished setting things up. X worked entirely by himself not wanting anybody else to know what he was doing. He had to do it that way in order to keep the test fair.

When he had finished, instead of asking everybody to return to the city, he asked for Codin to come alone. Codin was curious what X was doing and was proud of his opportunity to help, so he eagerly ran to the city and awaited further instructions.

Codin saw some sort of cage with a rope attached to it that went all the way up to a series of pulleys on the fifth story and had an idea of what he was supposed to do.

"I want you to go inside the cage," X explained confirming Codin's idea. "Lisa needs for someone she knows to be the volunteer and you were the first person she saw after she lost her memory. You don't have to volunteer, but whether you do or not, I promise you that you won't be hurt."

"I'll go," Codin volunteered.

"Good," complimented X. "I knew I could count on you."

At last, X told the others to come to the city. The two Lisas led the way. When they got there, they saw the cage with Codin in it. X slowly started hoisting the cage into the air until it was level with the fifth story. He secured the rope in place and handed each Lisa a knife.

"Don't think of stabbing anybody because Peter, Hank, and Linda will shoot you down at the first sign of treachery," X warned them before starting his explanation.

"Codin is currently being suspended fifty feet in the air by this rope. A plunge from that great a height would certainly result in his death but I promise you that he will not be harmed."

He looked at both of them to make sure they had heard his last sentence before continuing. "When I tell you to cut the rope, I want you to do so."

Both Lisas looked at him like he was crazy. This time they both agreed, the rope was not to be cut.

"I promise you he will not be harmed," X repeated.

Each Lisa gave a different reaction to his last statement. Lisa One showed defiance, Lisa Two showed hesitation.

"Now I know the real Lisa has a strong belief against killing," X declared turning to Lisa One. "I want you to cut the rope."

"Are you kidding?" Lisa One protested. "Codin's my friend. I would never do anything to hurt him."

X gave a nod of satisfaction and then turned to Lisa Two "Now it's your turn, cut."

Lisa approached the rope hesitantly, but did nothing else.

"CUT!" X commanded.

All hesitation was gone. She took the knife and cut the rope in one mighty swing. X pointed the accusing finger at Lisa One. Knowing her cover was blown, she panicked and tried to run away. She was killed instantly.

Meanwhile, Lisa Two watched in horror as the cage continued to plummet to the ground below. Then suddenly, about three feet above the ground, the cage stopped falling in one massive jerk. The cage was specifically designed to absorb the full impact of the fall.

"A backup wire," Lisa Two, the real Lisa, sighed greatly relieved.

X yelled at the tribe for once more killing somebody unnecessarily and then turned his attention to Lisa once more.

"Can I do that again?" inquired Codin who had missed all the excitement because he closed his eyes.

"Maybe later," X conceited. "You've been a big help to us."

"How did you know I would cut the rope?" wondered Lisa letting Codin out of the cage.

"It was simple," X began. "I knew both of you would not cut the rope at first because it seemed like a stupid thing to do, but I kept promising that Codin would not be harmed and the imposture would do what she thought you would do, not cut the rope, and it would remain that way until one of you broke the stalemate."

"I had to trust you," acknowledged Lisa.

She remembered what Hank had said about trusting other people and thought it was ironic that his prediction was true.

She picked up her diary that had fallen next to the corpse that looked so much like her that it gave her the creeps. She opened it up and began to write in it. She reviewed what they had done. The two impostures were killed, the robots were destroyed, Vondwin's lab was sabotaged, and the remaining scientists had been captured. However, the mission wasn't a total success. Vondwin had gotten away and there was nothing to prevent him from producing the formula again.

As Lisa continued to write in her diary she began to cry. The fact that she had trusted X enough to cut the rope was what distinguished her from her imposture. Out of all her flaws it was a virtue that was her dominant personality trait. Suddenly, she stopped crying and stared at her friends in amazement.

"Peter! Hank! Linda!" she exclaimed. "I remember!"

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