At the Cygnus IV Division of the Space Zoological Gardens, a guide shows a student group through the exhibits. He explains that it contains new live exhibits, but recreations of life on other planets. All of the exhibits are of animals brought to them 30 years ago in the early period of space exploration of the 1980s and 90s. The creatures couldn't survive on Earth because it had a hostile environment. The last exhibit is of the Megasoid, the highest form of life discovered in space. The Megasoid is highly intelligence but consumed by an impulse to kill. The last living specimen was destroyed in the late 1980s. Once the group moves on, the Megasoid opens its eyes and moves briefly.
Henderson James arrives at his manor and notices the cellar door open. He runs over and looks inside, confirming that the creature caged up has escaped. Henderson calls to the gardener, Murdock, and Murdock says that he heard a sound inside. Furious, Henderson tells Murdock to obey his orders and sends him away, telling him that he heard and saw nothing.
When Henderson goes inside, his wife Laura looks at him inquisitively. Her husband calls the Federal Duplication Bureau and asks for Basil Jerichau, formerly associated with the Bureau. Laura interrupts to tell Henderson they have a dinner that night, and Henderson tells her that it slipped his mind. He says to send his regrets, just as the receptionist Miss Thorsen tells him that Jerichau was dismissed from the Bureau eight months ago. She gives Henderson Jerichau's address, and Laura figures that Henderson is upset because of the creature. Henderson tells Laura that it's gone, and he's going to have to find and destroy it. When Laura says the creature's name--Megasoid--he reminds her that he told her to never say the word. Henderson points out that smuggling it onto Earth is a capital offense, but he had to study the Megasoid for science. He figures that it's in a reproductive cycle rather than on a killing rampage, and Laura worries that if it reproduces then the whole world is in danger. Henderson says that he'll be back as soon as he can and tells Laura not to leave the house.
Henderson goes to Jerichau's address and finds Jerichau dozing in his laboratory. He reminds Jerichau that they met a year ago during a symposium, and asks if Jerichau has access to the duplication center. Jerichau says that he helped the duplication process, and Henderson explains that he needs a bootleg duplicate. The older man warns that it's a felony, and Henderson offers him enough money for a new start. Jerichau asks for $100,000, and Henderson agrees. Henderson says that he wants the clone programmed to find and kill a Megasoid, and figures that there's only one place it can hide unnoticed.
Later at the Bureau, Henderson arrives and Thorsen warns him that tight Federal regulations have gone into effect concerning the duplication process. He asks how long are duplicates permitted to live, and Thorsen says that duplicates are only allowed to live for five hours. Thorsen explains that the short lifespan is set because the chance of a duplicate becoming too aware of what it is too high. In time the memory would become fully restored and conditions become chaotic, and the duplicate isn't the one destroyed.
A few hours later, the James II clone wakes up in the zoo. It "knows" that the Megasoid is telepathic and has no compulsion against killing, and James II must avoid communicating with it. The guide comes over and tells James II that they're closing up. James II goes to a water fountain and hesitantly breaks the light beam from the ceiling, activating it. The guide asks his name, and James II gives his name as Henderson James. He provides his address and tells the guide not to call the police. The guide asks if he's been robbed, and James II finds no personal effects on him except for a gun. James II tells the guide that he must have forgotten and leaves.
Once the guide leaves, James II takes out the gun and realizes that it's to kill the Megasoid. He hides in the Cygnus IV division room, and once the guide leaves for the night, James II goes to the Megasoid exhibit. Once James II turns his back, the Megasoid leaps out of the exhibit case. It says that it won't hurt James II, but James II wounds it. He figures the Megasoid has been in contact with him since it escaped. The Megasoid says that it was in contact with the real Henderson, and tells James II that he's only a shadow of Henderson, a temporary duplicate. The creature attacks James II, knocks him out, and flees.
Once he wakes up, James II has the police take him to a home in the hills, claiming that he was mugged. James II takes the tram up to the house and meets with the owner, Captain Karl Emmet. Karl assumes that James II is Henderson and notices the cops, and loudly brings James II in. The cops leave, and James II tells Karl that he wounded the Megasoid and has to make sure it's dead. Karl refuses to talk about Megasoids, reminding him that they're not allowed on Earth since 1986. James II says that a space captain could smuggle one in for the right price, and Karl notes that they both paid the price.
Karl notices that James II is talking strangely, and James II talks about how the Megasoid is the most telepathic of space creatures as his memories come back. He says that he can't publish because it would reveal that he held a Megasoid captive for the last two years. Karl asks what's wrong with him and asks what he wants right now. James II says that he can't remember what he wants. He tells Karl that the Megasoid escaped, and Karl reminds James II that Henderson promised to protect him. Karl refuses to go out after the Megasoid, realizes that it's in its reproductive cycle, and warns that they could soon be facing hundreds of Megasoids.
The former space captain tries to call the police, and James II knocks him unconscious. He then calls Laura at home and says that he thinks that he took care of the Megasoid. Henderson comes into the study and hears Laura talking to James II, and Laura sees her real husband. James II tells her that he'll be home as soon as he can, calling her "Princess".
When Henderson takes the phone, James II quickly hangs up. Laura tells Henderson that "he" called, and Henderson says that it was a fraud. She points out that Henderson hasn't called her "Princess" in years, and Henderson says that he had a bootleg duplicate made to kill the Megasoid. Henderson assumes that James II killed the Megasoid, but Laura wonders if James II realized he's a duplicate and doesn't want to die. Laura tells Henderson that James II sounded like him many years ago, and Henderson walks out, gets in his car, and drives off. James II slips in through the gate before it closes and goes up to the manor whiles niffing the trees... while the Megasoid watches from the shadows.
Henderson drives to Karl's home and Karl invites him in. When he says that "Henderson" told him the Megasoid escaped, Henderson plays along rather than reveal he created a duplicate. Karl notes that Henderson isn't sure the Megasoid is still alive, and works out that Henderson created a duplicate. He asks where James II is.
James II breaks into the manor and looks around "his" study. He smiles as he sees a photo of a young Laura. Laura comes in and James II greets her as Princess. James II says that he liked her hair long and casual, and Laura says that it was before ambition consumed him. The duplicate talks about his excitement at knowing he could give Laura everything she wanted, and assures Laura that everything is all right. Realizing that James II is the duplicate, Laura quickly leaves.
Karl says that he knows Henderson doesn't have the courage to take on a Megasoid, and Henderson explains that a scientist at the Bureau helped him. The ex-captain figures that he's entitled to money for keeping Henderson's secret, and Henderson admits that it won't be easy to kill James II now that he's talked to too many people. Karl realizes that James II will want to destroy Henderson as well, and Henderson says that James II is programmed to return to his home at midnight in 45 minutes. As Karl has already figured out, Henderson came there to ask Karl to kill James II because he can't bring himself to do it.
Henderson and Karl drive to the manor and Karl hides in the bushes to watch the gate while Henderson goes to the house. The lurking Megasoid watches Karl, and ducks out of sight when Henderson looks back.
James II is waiting in the study with his gun, and steps out of the shadows as Henderson comes in. James II says that it would have been easier than shooting the Megasoid. He asks if Henderson would shoot him if he had the gun, and Henderson says that he would have to. Henderson asks if James II killed the Megasoid, and James II says that he doesn't know. The original says that if James II failed, he has no purpose and no place there. James II tells him that a man has to be responsible for what he does, and gives the gun to Henderson. He admits that he can't kill Henderson, and came there because he was programmed to return. James II tells Henderson that the memories he's seen have great promise. He wonders why he has to die, and Henderson tells him that he'll go back to nothingness. James II wonders why he can't have the same rights and dreams as humans, and Henderson tells him that eventually he would catch up to him. The clone asks if he would despise himself then.
The Megasoid attacks Karl and kills him.
James II wonders if having Henderson's full memories would be worse than nothingness. Laura comes in and James II says that he hasn't reached Henderson's mental development. The clone says that he's a ghost of Henderson's past and Laura says that one of them is the man she married and the other is the man she loves. Henderson figures that he can change the past and give Laura both.
Murdock calls and says that he's found Karl's body. James II realizes that it's Karl and that Henderson brought Karl there to kill him. The Megasoid breaks in and Henderson shoots it, and it falls back into the yard. James II takes the gun and goes to make sure that he's accomplished his purpose. Laura asks how Henderson could let James II got out there alone, and Henderson says that it's the clone's only purpose. His wife wonders if that's his way of destroying the clone, and says that it's not a good way of changing the past like Henderson said. As Henderson goes out, Laura calls him briefly so he can see her smiling at him.
Outside, Henderson finds James II and the two of them hunt for the Megasoid. The wounded Megasoid follows them in the darkness and roars.
In the study, Jerichau calls and asks to speak to Henderson when Laura answers the phone. He says for her to tell Henderson that he took the precaution of putting controlled poison in James II's bloodstream, set to kill him at midnight. Shocked, Laura hangs up and confirms that it's one minute to midnight.
One of the Hendersons sees the Megasoid and shoots it. It grabs and kills him, and the other Henderson arrives and kills the Megasoid as it advances on him. Henderson returns to the study and tells Laura that both the Megasoid and the other Henderson are dead. He asks if it's too late, calling Laura "Princess". She wonders which one he is, and Henderson says that they were both him and they both loved her. Laura tells the Henderson in front of her about the poison, and the clock strikes midnight. Henderson collapses in a chair, and then says that James II was dying all the time and didn't know it. He tells Laura that he loves her.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 6, 2019