The Clone Assassin
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Earth, A.D. 2519. The clone soldiers of the Enlisted Man’s Empire, formerly members of the Unified Authority’s powerful military, maintain a tenuous grasp on the power they fought so hard to gain. But the U.A. will not be so easy to suppress as they had hoped…
A provocateur attacks the Pentagon. Gunships converge on the penitentiary where Unified Authority war criminals are held. And a clone assassin murders Admiral Don Cutter, commander in chief of the Enlisted Man's Empire...
It all happens at once—and five minutes later, more assassins attack Wayson Harris as he prepares for a summit with delegates of Olympus Kri. With Harris missing and their most deadly enemies on the loose, the remaining officers of the Empire must uncover a plot to overthrow their government while preparing for war...
Location: Washington, D.C.
The provocateur entered the Pentagon at 10:28. He was a natural-born, something that automatically made him a person of interest. He stood in the queue surrounded by clones calmly waiting his turn to walk between the posts—the security system that would search his identity right down to his DNA.
His brown hair fell just past his shoulders, not the kind of style you normally see in the Pentagon, home of the flattop. His dark beard ran the corners of his jawline. His eyes were green. his skin pale, almost colorless.
He wore a gleaming white shirt buttoned up to the neck, a blood red tie, and a charcoal-colored suit. The clones around him wore Navy white, Army drab, and Air Force blue.
The provocateur followed the queue past a security station, closer and closer to the posts. Armed guards with M27s stood in full armor behind a wall of bulletproof/grenade- proof glass. Unconcerned about the guards, the provocateur checked his wristwatch, looked around the lobby, tried to decipher the tabs that a nearby soldier wore on his chest.
The posts was a detection device disguised to look like a set of ten-foot Ionic columns. The column on the left, “the sprayer,” emitted a burst of air and vapor that dislodged flecks of skin, dandruff, and loose hair. The column on the right, “the receiver,” drew in and analyzed the debris. Identity, blood type, genetic information, medical history . . . the posts created a profile based on genetic material, which it transmitted for analysis.
Anyone planning to fool the posts would need to trick the Census Data Agency, the government information storehouse that tracked citizens from the cradle to the grave, an impossible task.
Criminals and terrorists had tried covering themselves with skin peels, loose hair, dandruff, and eyebrows from other people. They’d tried scrubbing themselves with defoliating sponges, laser shaving all their hair, and wearing wigs on their arms and eyebrows, but the posts still identified them. If flecks of skin showed too much decay or there were signs the hair came from multiple donors, the posts’ computers asked questions.
With the government on high alert, every person entering the Pentagon was searched for metal, X-rayed, and spectroanalyzed for radioactive and chemical residue.
When his turn arose, the provocateur calmly stepped between the posts while its sensors checked his heartbeat, pulse, and brain activity for signs of tension. A set of detectors searched him for traces of chemical agents while an X-rayed device identified his telephone, wallet, and belt buckle.
The guard at the far end of the posts asked, “You Leonard Herman?”
“I go by ‘Lenny’,” said the provocateur.
“Lenny Herman?” asked the guard.
The provocateur stood over six feet. He had big shoulders that had gone soft with age.
“What’s your business here?” asked the guard.
“Floors and sinks mostly,” said the provocateur. “My company sells janitorial supplies.”
“Yes, sir. We’re bidding on the Pentagon contract.” The provocateur had a high voice, not effeminate but innocuous. He spoke softly, slowly.
“Who are you meeting?” asked the guard.
The provocateur pulled his phone from his jacket and tapped the screen. “Major Day.”
“We got a bunch of Day’s working here,” said the guard. Never taking his eyes off the provocateur, he accessed the building directory using his visor.
“Major Walter Day.”
“Got a branch?”
“Enlisted Man’s Army.”
Using the equipment in his visor, he contacted Day’s office. The conversation didn’t show on the security brief, but the communications system recorded it. When Pentagon Security investigated the attack, an officer uncovered the recording.
Once he’d reached Day’s office, the guard said, “Major, I’m calling from the main entrance security post. Do you have an appointment with . . .”
“Is Lenny Herman here? Damn, I let the time get away from me. Tell him I’ll be right down.”
The guard grunted and let the provocateur through.
Major Day, a standard-issue five-foot-ten-inch clone with brown hair and brown eyes, met the provocateur in the lobby. The Pentagon had been on high alert since the discovery that the enemy had learned how to reprogram clones. Security not only screened for wolves in sheep’s clothing, it screened for sheep that sided with the wolves.
“Mr. Herman, thanks for coming on short notice,” said Major Day. He shook hands with the provocateur.
“Call me Lenny,” said the provocateur, he of the innocuous persona. He shook Day’s hand, looking slightly befuddled. Nothing strange there, natural-borns generally became disoriented when they entered the Pentagon. All of the officers were clones; they all stood five-foot-ten; they all had brown hair cut in a military regulation flattop. To natural-born eyes, the lobby of the Pentagon looked like a hall of mirrors.
“I’m glad for this chance, Major . . .”
“Call me Walter.”
He clapped the provocateur on the back, and they headed for an elevator. As they rode to the third floor, Day asked, “Have you looked at the floor plan?”
The provocateur nodded. He said, “Big place. You have a lot of floors to polish.”
“It’s a big contract,” said Day. “Pull this off, Lenny, and you’ll be a wealthy man.”
The provocateur nodded, and said, “I bet you guys go through a lot of wax and cleanser,” as the elevator opened to the third floor.
Day smiled, and said, “Seven hundred drinking fountains, five thousand toilets, seven million square feet of floor space.”
“Aren’t pentagons supposed to be five-sided figures?” asked the provocateur.
“The original building was pentagonal. The U.A. Department of Defense went with a cube during the rebuild. It’s a more economical use of space.”
As they started down the hall, the provocateur’s voice took on a less friendly tone. “Did you get the cases I sent ahead?” he asked.
“Sure. I shepherded them through security personally,” said Day
“Any problems?” asked the provocateur.
“Smooth as silk.”
Major Day didn’t notice the way his guest played with the ring on the middle finger of his right hand as they chatted. Day led the way, walking slightly ahead, not bothering to look back as he spoke. In another minute, his confidence would cost him his life.
“Your package is in the third-floor facilities locker. That’s where we’re headed.”
They walked down the hall. Most of the people they passed were clones, males, soldiers, sailors, and Marines. Day, an Army man, led the provocateur along the Army face of the building. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines—each branch had a side.
They reached a service hall, an empty, dead-ended corridor. Day said, “I know it doesn’t look like much, but you’d be surprised what goes into keeping this place clean. This is only a locker; our main warehouse is on a subfloor.
The provocateur said nothing.
Day pressed his hand against a security plate, and the door slid open. The lights inside the locker powered on when the door opened. So did the security system. The Pentagon was on the verge of a security lockdown. The entire Enlisted Man’s Empire was on the verge of a security lockdown. What happened next pushed it over the edge.
Major Walter Day stepped into the storage area. He asked, “Do you have a family, Lenny?”
Rows of shelves lined the floor. There was a clock on the wall. The time was 10:52. Having been afraid he might have missed his deadline, the provocateur saw the time and felt a sense of relief. Hoping he sound relaxed, he said, “Three kids. The oldest is my girl.”
Day said, “You’re a lucky man. Me, I got the Army, but I don’t have a wife or children. You civilians get things too good.”
Bright lights shone from the ceilings. The glare caused the provocateur to blink. He asked, “Where’s the package I sent.”
Day turned, pointed to the package, and staggered forward. He didn’t call for help. He barely grunted as he dropped to a knee and turned to face his killer, his arms already paralyzed.
The provocateur had hit Day in the back of the neck, stabbing the poisoned spike in his ring into the spot where the dying major’s spine and skull met. The spike delivered a powerful shock as well as a dose of neurotoxins, paralyzing Day first so that he could not call for help as he died.
The provocateur grabbed the dying officer by his tunic and struck him several times in the face, the spike of his ring puncturing both of Day’s cheeks, his left nostril, and his left eye. Unaware that Day had been dead for several seconds, the provocateur continued hitting him, then dragged his body into a blind between a sink and some shelves. He moved his crates in front of the body to block it from view.
The attack left no blood on the ground. It was quick and clean and silent, leaving no mess and attracting no attention. Security cameras in the ceiling recorded it, but no one was watching.
The provocateur opened the largest crate. He pulled out three layers of cleaning supplies from the top. Beneath the supplies was a burn-a-bomb, a collection of benevolent chemicals that wouldn’t set off bomb sensors until they were exposed to heat and mixed into a decidedly malevolent compound.
Laced around the chemicals was a heating coil that would work as a catalyst, melting the packaging that separated the chemicals, heating them, and converting them into an explosive solution. The burn-a-bomb didn’t pack sufficient power to bring down the Pentagon. The layers of concrete and cement in the floor and ceiling would channel the explosion, spreading the percussion horizontally rather than vertically. In another five minutes, every person on the third floor of the Pentagon would die.
Deeper in the crate, the provocateur found two other weapons—a miniature burn-a-bomb designed to work like a grenade and a porcelain-alloy pistol with ceramic bullets. He pulled the tab from the side of the grenade, allowing an electrical charge to heat the copper coil. The chemicals reacted quickly; in a minute, a whiff of acrid smoke would arise from the globe, signaling that the mechanism was armed.
The pistol, a five-inch tube, had been sent as a precaution. It was a three-shot security blanket that the provocateur couldn’t reload once he’d spent his ammunition. He held it between his cuff and his palm, just under the wrist. He placed the grenade into his jacket pocket.
After checking one last time to make sure that the bomb had started cooking, the provocateur closed the crate and sealed it. Hoping to camouflage his handiwork, he arranged his cleaning supplies on the lid. His left hand thrust into his coat pocket, thumb held over the grenade’s pin, the provocateur gave the janitorial locker one last scan and left.
He crossed the empty service hall and entered the main corridor. A pair of soldiers walked past him, then stopped. With the building on alert, civilians were not allowed to travel alone. One of the soldiers called out, “Excuse me. Excuse me, are you with someone?” As he turned to respond, the provocateur whipped the porcelain pistol from his cuff.
The soldiers weren’t attached to Security, the only department with personnel who carried weapons inside the Pentagon. They hadn’t prepared for a confrontation and didn’t recognize the tube as a gun.
It was at that moment that the chemicals inside the grenade melded and emitted a trace of acrid smoke. Security sensors in the ventilation system detected the dimethylformamide and pentaerythritol tetranitrate that the smoke gave off, and alarms began to blare.
One of the soldiers said something about escorts, and then the provocateur shot them both. Blood and brains and scalp splattered the walls. The bodies lay in spreading puddles, their white tunics stained deep red.
The provocateur didn’t waste time inspecting the damage. He trotted toward the elevators as alarms echoed through the halls. Soldiers emerged from their offices. The doors of two elevators slid open and MPs poured out. The doors remained open, locking the elevators in place, the first step in securing the floor.
As the halls became more crowded, soldiers with MP bands screened people as they entered the stairs. They detained civilians, employees and visitors alike, escorting all nonmilitary personnel to the security office.
Seeing MPs moving toward the two soldiers he’d shot, the provocateur slipped the cylindrical pistol back into his cuff. He turned a corner and blended in with the crowd, then pushed into a different corridor, wading against the tide of clones coming from another direction.
There was no blood on him, nothing to suggest he was dangerous. He stationed himself against the wall in a corner where two halls met, and herds of workers shuffled past him. From here, he could see the door of the laboratory in which key scientists performed the Enlisted Man’s Empire’s most urgent experiments. The door was inconspicuous, and the hall looked no different than any other hall.
He stood there for ten seconds, watching the door for movement.
An MP grabbed him by the shoulder and shouted, “We’re evacuating the floor. Move it.”
The provocateur jumped at the contact. He pulled out the little pistol and shot the man, then entered the nearest stairwell. As everyone else ran down toward the street, the provocateur forced his way up against tide.
This was not a panicking crowd. Most of the clones had mistaken the evacuation for yet another drill. Combat-tested soldiers and sailors seldom panicked at the sound of alarms. Had they panicked, they would have trampled the provocateur.
By this time, though, Pentagon Security had eyes watching every monitor. The unescorted natural-born pushing his way up the stairs did not escape their notice.
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