Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Detective Narda looked about the scene in horror. Some of the colours of blood on the walls and ceiling he didn’t have a name for. A couple weren’t even in his visible spectrum – his forensic scanner added them to his augmented vision as blue dots or green stripes. The whole place smelled like month-old dairy products sprayed over a charnel burn.

He turned to Detective Cummins: “How often are people killed around here?”

Cummins looked up from his magnifier: “Usually takes a couple of dozen times, unless you’re thorough.”

Narda sighed. High-tech supercultures were a nightmare. Give him a backwater planet with neo-cowboys and proto-cows any month of the calendar. He looked about again. Actually, right now, he’d even settle for a mining world with shovel-handed Blinktrolls and their daily dishonour duels.

“Okay, Cummins, what are the variants?”

“We start with the original core person, born of uterine female from an egg fertilised by something accredited as eighty percent or better human analogue. That person, upon achieving notoriety, will take steps to ensure their continuance, over and above any steps their doting parental units may have. To that end, we have babyclones, kidclones, teenclones, and – rarely – adultclones. Then we can add at least half a dozen virtual images, especially if the original is a tycoon of some kind. Now, if the virtuals have been dimensioned, they are full entities in their own right. Then we have back-projection, where virtual images are flashed onto mindless organclones, or holoclones, where a dimensioned virtual has had a body grown from original stem cells.”

“That’s a lot of persons.”

“I’m not finished. Many wealthy folk like to travel, and to get the full sensation, they have bodies for each environment, so they can experience each one in-the-skin. Of course, skinjobs are meant to be extinguished at the end of a cruise, after the person has flashed back to their core body. But some get out, through malice or negligence. Then we can add the clones from stolen DNA for celebrity sex-dens – which is narcissistic in the extreme or straight-up too-far-gone in the fandom stakes.”

“Paying to have sex with a copy of your favourite star?”

“Or paying to have sex with yourself, a transgendered version of yourself, or just being there to let your fans have at you without them knowing they’re getting the real deal. It’s a whole sick snark and I, for one, will never sleep properly again.”

Narda visibly shuddered: “Definitely too far over the edge. Was that what happened here?”

Cummins shrugged: “There may have been some escaped sexclones, but what we have here is, as far as we can detect, every person of Clutha Moreno.”

“The gang boss?”

“The tentacle-eared overlord of the Cozria Nila himselves.”

“How many?”

“Best guess: seventy-two.”

“Paranoid, wasn’t he?”

“A bit. But a lot of these were not ‘official’ persons. Rival gangs, pretenders, vengeful ex-partners, the list is long and ultimately irrelevant. It would seem that Clutha’s DNA included obsessive-compulsive greed. So when it came out that he was coming here to transfer his core image to a new person, every one of the would-be usurpers turned up to take his place.”

“What was waiting?”

“Magtoran Eradicator.”

“The DNA sniffing assassins exist?”

“Actually, one does. He’s a licensed killer and a good friend of law agencies in these parts.”

“Does he have a contact point?”

“Known only to Planetary Governors. It’s safer, what with his thousand-year lifespan.”


Cummins gestured to the carnage: “With the enemies he’s accrued, he doesn’t do unexpected. He will kill first and apologise to your relatives if appropriate.”

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