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Authors: Andy Remic

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Cloneworld - 04

BOOK: Cloneworld - 04
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A COMBAT-K NOVEL

 

CLONEWORLD

 

ANDY REMIC

This one's for Kevin Blades.

For lost friendship found again...

and
I'm
the Monopoly Master, Matey!! Reet??

 

First published 2011 by Solaris Books, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd, Riverside House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX1 0ES, UK

www.solarisbooks.com

 

ISBN (.mobi): 978-1-84997-247-5

ISBN (.epub): 978-1-84997-248-2

 

Copyright © Andy Remic 2011

The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Designed & typeset by Rebellion Publishing

PROLOGUE

TORTURE

 

Franco Haggis was in the shit.

Now admittedly, Franco Haggis spent most of his waking life "in the shit," and it should have come as no surprise to the hardy Combat K squaddie that, as he regained consciousness and swam languorously up a familiar blurred tunnel of mental honey-mucus towards bitter wakefulness - and, no doubt, an accompanying agony/torture/misery of body, mind and spirit - that he was indeed once again taking a huge chomp from the ripe shit pie. However, upon inspection, this time it certainly appeared to be an even
bigger
dunking in the faecal-tank of
life
than that to which he was normally accustomed. In at the deep end, so to speak.

Franco groaned, and the first thing that hit him was the stench. It was bad. Made him gag. It reminded him of a barrel of ten-week rotted fish-heads. He heard a voice, then, a low, masculine rumble. The sort that promoted bad B-movie trailers. It growled, boomed and reverberated in its quavering celluloid uncool:

"The little bastard's awake."

Uh-oh,
thought Franco.
That's not promising, is it? What happened, eh? Just what the hell happened? How did I get here? What's that funny smell? And more importantly, why am I all itchy-scratchy and surrounded by deep macho masculine voices?

Franco opened one eye, experimentally. He saw five huge men walking towards him with the swaggering gait of those in assured control. They wore suits that were far too tight, because of all those bulging muscles. It was like an explosion in a steroid factory for deviant mutations. They carried an array of what could only be described as "torture implements": one had a pair of laser shears, another a digital scalpel, yet another an iron bar with holes in it hissing some kind of gas; a fourth carried what looked like a spiked ball on a chain, glimmering like a holoproj whip; and the fifth carried just his fists, adorned with shiny brass knuckle-dusters, which he flexed and cracked in an alarming manner.

Franco closed his squinting eye.
Damn and bloody bollocks! What now? What now? Shit and greasy fried chicken! I don't remember how I got here, or what I did wrong. Did I do something wrong?
His mind tried a replay of recent events, but there was a big blank stop sign - probably with a middle finger raised.

Franco struggled, raising a clatter, but his hands were manacled to a steel chair, which in turn was bolted firmly to the solid titaniumconcrete floor. He struggled hard, and his round, and some would say slightly
chubby,
face grew red with exertion. His powerfully muscled, and some would say
rotund,
barrel of a body squirmed and flexed and fought the steel. Sweat ran down his shaved head, through his ginger goatee beard, and glistened on his tattooed body. But steel was steel, and Franco was Franco, and one was definitely harder than the other.

Franco slumped in defeat, and opened his eyes.
Okay then. Let's get this done.

One of the large men sniggered, in a slow, cruel way.

"Alreet, guys," sighed Franco, with the kind of resigned sigh that suggested he'd experienced many similar predicaments before. This should have provided a gentle warning to any thug approaching the incarcerated CK soldier with brass dusters. On this occasion, it served no such purpose."What's the gig, then?"

One large man, a beefcake subtly larger than the other bulging beefcakes, stepped forward. He carried the digital scalpel. He looked meaner than mean, madder than mad, harder than hard. He was a regular kick-ass bad-boy. Ex-police. Ex-military. Ex-exorcist. Probably with a price on his head. And something bionic. "You are Franco Haggis!" he bellowed, spittle foaming at his lips and enunciating each word with care, as if memorised from cardboard pages. "You
will
tell us everything!" He spoke with total confidence. Like a man who got answers.

Franco thought about this. He was, as previously indicated, Franco Haggis; but Franco Haggis was Combat K, an elite detonations expert with finely honed military combat skills and the ability to fight all day and sleep all night. Franco had, in fact, once been incarcerated for being a little bit insane. Not all the time - oh no! - but a goodly amount of his
life cycle
was spent not operating on the same plane of reality as other, more normal, people. Indeed, Franco sometimes didn't operate in the same
life bubble.
The same damn
galaxy shadow.

Franco had taken bucketfuls of rainbow coloured pills during his time at The Mount Pleasant Hilltop Institution, the "nice and caring and friendly home for the mentally challenged," had drunk enough ale and liquor during his life to fill a small lagoon, was obsessed with breasts, ate copious amounts of Pre-Cheese, Cube Sausage and dodgy tubs of horseradish, and was what could be generously described as unstable. His powers of recollection were woeful at best, and he was indeed blank right back to the point where he'd been sat on the SLAM DropShip heading for an important mission which, now he thought about, he'd misplaced.

So Franco grinned, and nodded, and frowned, and said, "Yeah mate, no worries," because Franco didn't, in fact, remember anything worth telling.

"You'll spill the data, dickhead," said another beefcake, stepping forward with his iron bar.

"Yeah. Or we'll beat the fucking mission out of you!"

"Er," said Franco. "It would seem we have a problem."

"Which is?"

"Er. I got drunk? I don't remember much. In fact, lads, I was so pissed I seem to have contracted this strange itching sensation down... below, so if you'd just, you know, undo these shackles so I can have a bit of a root around..."

"Silence!"

The voice was very powerful and very female. She strode through the - Franco blinked, his senses swirling into some semblance of comprehension -
shit,
he thought,
I'm in a dungeon!
Franco gulped. Then gulped again. The woman strode through the dungeon. She was tall, and stocky, and looked as if she was very,
very
strong. She was black, with a long luscious pelt of shining curled hair, and her make-up gleamed and her simple white dress contrasted beautifully with her ebony skin. She looked more like a rockstar - no, looked more like a
goddess
- than somebody who would imprison poor little helpless Franco.

She stepped across pools of stagnant water and stopped, very much out of place against the black and grey stone. The walls were lined with rusted iron chains. Franco glanced about some more, like a man probing a wound with a finger, not really wanting to do it, but curious as to the real damage inside. All around were chairs with spikes, racks with spikes, and tables with spikes; the spiked theme made Franco shiver, and wish fervently he was back home with his mum.

"Er," he said, again, realising he wasn't making much sense.

"Do you know who I am?" boomed the woman, and Franco's eyes dropped in degrees, from her shockingly beautiful face to her shockingly huge bosom, and finally to the shockingly lethal
laser chainsaw
which she held with the sort of practised ease which only came to people proficient with laser chainsaws.

"Somebody who's come to undo my shackles, pat me on the bottom, call me a naughty boy, and send me home with a stern letter of telling off?"

"I am Opera," said the woman, and smiled, and her smile shone like diamonds. In fact, her teeth really
were
inset with diamonds, which caught strands of light and glittered as she spoke.

"Never heard of you," said Franco. He noticed her stiffen a little, and frowned. That was odd. Should he have heard of her?
Opera?
It was more the kind of reaction he'd expect from a movie star than a gangster with a portable killing machine.

Franco was fully awake, now, and fully aware. He was frowning. Memories sleeted back into his brain like Space Worms eating through the hull of a floating Ion Platform. He remembered being fully armed and armoured. SLAM Dropship. A fast fast drop to... where?
Come on, come on, remember your mission, dickhead. Where are you? What are you doing?
He glanced down. His Kekra quad-barrel machine pistols were gone. As was his Permatex electronic WarSuit, which had been stripped from his body, leaving him sat forlornly in big white underpants and scruffy boots.

Opera moved close. There came a
click,
and a
hiss,
and the digital chainsaw ignited with flickers of blue and gold light. Franco watched the chainsaw's digital teeth spin at high speed and a noise rose from the machine, a machine used on forest worlds like Tetunga and Dago to chop down hundreds of thousands of trees but which here, it would seem, was about to be implemented in chopping down Franco Haggis.

"Wait," said Franco weakly, rattling his arms against the shackles holding him tight. "Surely, we can come to some arrangement?"

"Yes," beamed Opera, with that glittering diamond smile, "surely we can. I will cut, and you will scream." And the beautiful glow of the chainsaw moved ever closer to Franco's squirming body...

 

The Fast Attack Hornet
Metallika
hung immobile in the fluttering hydrogen streams fifty klicks above the glowing, swirling panorama of the Ganger World - known by its official Quad-Gal-imposed title of
Cloneworld
. Pippa sat at the Hornet's console, staring down at the world below and fighting a peculiar feeling of vertigo. Her hands skimmed the console, activating air and light sensors, and the HUD scanned and searched the vast, slow-turning, beautiful world below.

"I cannot locate him," came the soft, soothing and maternal voice of Alice, the ship's computer.

Pippa snorted in annoyance, and ran both hands through her bobbed brown hair. "That's impossible. The ginger bastard has logic cubes implanted in his spine. With the right codes he should light up like a damn global-net firework!"

"Even so," said Alice, "I have conducted a full continent-by-continent global search. On all channels. Fifty times. Franco Haggis has, to all intents and purposes, vanished."

BOOK: Cloneworld - 04
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