It was eerily quiet. No gunfire, no tractor tyre engine, no growling rottweiler, no yelling, no explosions. I sat with my back leaning against the shed. One of the clones sat hunched next to me; he did not look well. At the end of the shed the other Rory clone peeked his head around the corner and watched the house, his rifle at the ready. A few metres away, standing in the moonlight, the real Rory and LaShawn spoke quietly, probably planning our next move. We were safe behind the shed, but we could not stay there forever.
Rory and LaShawn nodded and then came over to where I sat. Rory opened his mouth to speak but then looked curiously at the clone next to me.
“Are you all right?” asked Rory.
The clone looked up slowly, his face was pale and saggy.
“Check that out,” said LaShawn.
The clone’s earlobe hung six inches below the rest of his ear on a thin strand of flesh. LaShawn reached down and pulled the earlobe; the strand stretched then snapped and dangled. He squeezed the lobe between his thumb and forefinger, then sniffed it.
“That’s pure cheese,” he said. He put the earlobe in his mouth, chewed for a second, then screwed up his nose and spat out the lobe. “It’s a bit stale.”
The clone, unbothered by LaShawn’s casual cannibalism, sighed and bowed his head. His scalp shifted and slid down a little, so it looked like he was wearing a flesh-coloured beret.
“They’re deteriorating so fast,” said Rory.
“That one looks all right,” said LaShawn, nodding toward the clone at the end of the shed. “I reckon the machine is dodgy. You should have seen the tiny clone that came out—his head was all squished, wasn’t it, Miles?”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” said Rory. He crouched in front of me. “You doing okay, Miles?”
I shook my head and looked up at LaShawn. “Why did you cut that fella in half? You could have just shot him. And how the hell did a bear trap fall from the sky?” I rubbed my hand over my eyes.
“Listen, Miles—” began Rory.
LaShawn cut him off. “This isn’t a game, Miles. These guys have come here to kill Rory. They’ve come here to kill you and me too. I know this is all new to you, and it’s f**king unpleasant, but if we’re gonna have any chance of staying alive tonight, then some of us are going to have to get our f**king hands dirty.”
“Take it easy, LaShawn,” said Rory.
“No mate, it’s not time to go easy. You want to know why I didn’t shoot that guy? I told you already, it’s the art of intimidation. You think I was playing silly buggers putting this clay on my face? You think I like running into gunfire or swinging a f**king scythe at people?” He grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to my feet. “We’re about to run into a house full of armed goons, okay? I don’t know if you noticed, but those goons were watching from the upstairs window while we just annihilated three of their mates. Now, if I had just shot that bastard back there, those goons might have got cautious, they might have got angry, but either way they’re in good form for a fight. But, if they see their mate get a bear trap to the head and then get bloody near cut in half, they’re not gonna be cautious, they’re gonna be sh**ting themselves. And suddenly they’re not in such a good position, you get it?”
He let me go and I stood back against the shed. I didn’t like it, but LaShawn’s reasoning made sense.
“Yeah… fair enough,” I said.
“I know you prefer not to fight, but we could really use you right now.”
“I understand,” I said.
“And as for the bear trap,” said Rory, “that was Nils. He’s got a jetpack. If you look up, you’ll see him round the place, dropping bear traps, grenades, anvils…”
“Anvils?” I said. “Really?”
Rory smiled. “Yeah. F**king anvils.”
LaShawn smiled proudly. “That was my idea.”
Rory stroked his chin and looked at the slowly melting clone. “I’d say this this one is just about useless. I’ll go see if that one over there can help us.”
As he walked off toward the clone on guard duty, I stood next to LaShawn and whispered, “Are you sure you didn’t enjoy swinging that scythe—just a little bit?”
LaShawn kept a serious look on his face as he watched Rory and the clone. “If you’re gonna do something,” he said, “you might as well enjoy it.”
After a minute, Rory came back over.
“Well, that clone seems in good shape,” he said. “We’ll get some use out of him.”
“So we’re storming the house then?” said LaShawn.
“Yep. The last of them are holed up in there. With a bit of luck, one last assault and this will all be over.”
Those words flooded me with hope, which I immediately smothered by reminding myself that this last assault could also mean my death.
“How bad did Budgie look?” asked Rory.
“Pretty bad,” said LaShawn. “He might be blinded.”
Rory looked down and nodded in thought. “All right then. If Budgie’s out of action, then Ezra is probably getting him to safety. We’ll have to assume it’s just us then.” He twisted one of his sideburns as he thought. “Just the four of us, through the one door, against blokes who will see us coming. It’s not ideal. But, LaShawn did just put the fear of God into them. If we go in hard and fast we’ll have a decent shot.”
“F**k yeah,” said LaShawn. “Let’s do it.
“All right,” said Rory. “Let’s take an inventory of weapons and ammo, see what we’re working with.”
Two basic rifles low on ammunition, an AK-47, one Uzi with four extra ammo clips, one hand grenade, a seven-foot spear, a rusty machete and a ten-inch screwdriver.
“Oh, and this too,” I said, taking from my pocket the handgun Budgie had given me earlier.
Rory stood there with his hands on his hips and stared down at our little stockpile.
“Not bad,” he said. He smiled and nodded at us. “More than enough to do the job.”
I don’t know if he really meant it, or if he was lying to keep our spirits up.
“What’s the batting order?” said LaShawn.
“The clone goes first,” said Rory. “He has his rifle. LaShawn, you’ll have the Uzi, you cover us at the window while we go in.”
“I’m next through the door,” said Rory. “I’ll take the AK—no offence, Miles, but I can do more damage with it than you can.”
“None taken,” I said.
“You’ll be right behind me—start with the rifle, and when the ammo runs dry go with the handgun. Watch your sides, watch for blokes hiding round corners, and try not to shoot me in the back. Once we’re in and clear, LaShawn, you follow us. There’s plenty of ammo for that Uzi, so don’t hold back, shoot anything that moves.”
“Got it,” he said.
“Okay, what’s left?” said Rory. “Grenade? I’ll take that. Might be handy going upstairs. The spear? That’s going to be more of a hindrance. I don’t think we need it. LaShawn, you keep your screwdriver, and Miles, take the machete. If you need to use it, grip it like you’re trying to choke it, swing it hard and fast and scream like a maniac. You got it? A f**king maniac.”
“Okay,” I said, beginning to feel the nerves I used to feel before a football game, only in a larger dosage.
“Well, that’s about it,” said Rory. “Fight like madmen. Fight to the death. Give no quarter. And afterward we’ll get pissed and eat cake.”
LaShawn tucked the screwdriver lovingly back in his pocket. He had a huge grin on his face. Now I was terribly nervous.
“What should I do?” drawled the sickly clone, sitting against the shed.
“Huh? Oh, uh, you’ve done enough, mate,” said Rory. “Just wait here… and keep guard.”
“Argh, don’t give me that rubbish,” said the clone like a cranky old man. He struggled to his feet and puffed out his chest. “I’ve still got some fight left in me.” His nose grew longer, slid down over his lips, then detached and fell to the ground with soft splat.
“No, seriously,” said Rory, “we’ve got it covered.”
“You’re wasting time is what you’re doing,” slurred the clone. “Look at you all, standing around talking about who gets what weapon, who gets all the bullets and the weapons. Bunch of cowards. Weapons, ha! You just gotta… do what we did—you and your weapons—bah!”
“Slow down,” said LaShawn, “you’re not making any sense.”
The clone stood tall, with his chin raised. “Sense? So now I’m not good enough for you, is that it?”
“Oh, come on,” said LaShawn. “Don’t be like that.”
He tried to put his hand on the clone’s shoulder, but the clone slapped it away.
“No, forget it,” said the clone. “I know when I’m not wanted.” He picked up the machete.
“Whoa, hey, easy mate,” said Rory.
We all took a step back.
“Oh, calm down ladies,” said the clone, tucking the blade into his belt. He leaned forward, paused, and then vomited a bucketload of a clear, slimy substance. There was a dead mouse in it.
“Ah sh**,” said LaShawn, turning away and shaking his head.
I watched with an apparent look of disgust.
“Oh, you too, Miles?” said the clone. “Can’t stand the sight of me, huh?”
“What?” I said.
“Well, don’t worry about it, I’ll be out of your way soon enough. Ungrateful sods.” He picked up the AK-47. “While you girl scouts sit around playing patty cake, I’m gonna do what you should have done long ago. I’m gonna kill Johnny O’Biscuits.”
With that, the clone ran around the back of the shed and headed for the yard.
“Wait, no, we need that gun,” said Rory.
It was too late, the clone was off.
“I’m telling ya,” said LaShawn, “something’s wrong with that cloning machine.”
We watched the clone run clumsily toward the back door of the house.
“Is he going inside?” said Rory.
“Maybe,” said LaShawn.
“I don’t think he’s going to make it,” I said.
The clone slowed and stopped next to the mutilated body of Red Ned. He looked down at it.
“This isn’t going to be good,” said LaShawn.
The clone took the machine gun and fired a short burst into Red Ned’s chest, then leaned down and examined the corpse. He tossed the gun aside and then bent down and grabbed Red Ned’s ankles. He raised them so Red Ned was lying on his back with his legs in the air and spread wide.
“Don’t do it,” said Rory.
The clone raised his right knee then slammed his heel into Red Ned’s open groin.
“Oh damn,” said LaShawn.
The clone repeated this ruthless manoeuvre six times.
“Stop it man!” shouted Rory. “He’s already dead!”
The clone let go of Red Ned’s left ankle but kept the right one held high. He drew his right fist back and then gave the dead body three hard punches to the back of the calf before releasing him. He spat on the body and then turned and walked back toward us.
“We have to get rid of this clone,” said LaShawn. “He’s likely to kill us all.”
“Yeah, you might be right,” said Rory. He went and grabbed a rifle.
The clone stopped in the yard and yawned. A large chunk of his head slid loose and fell off, leaving him with a face but no skull. He dropped to his knees. Rory returned with the gun.
“Yeah, you may not need that rifle,” said LaShawn.
The clone swayed kneeling for a minute, then drew the machete from his belt.
“What now?” said Rory.
Clasping the knife handle with both hands, the clone turned the blade toward himself. He extended his arms in front of his stomach and took a deep breath. After speaking something we could not hear, he rammed the machete into his belly. The blade only got about halfway in, and it was stuck. He wiggled it and tried to pull it out, but it wouldn’t budge. LaShawn burst out laughing. He covered his mouth to try and stifle his laughter, shook his head by way of apology and then went back behind the shed. Rory and I watched the clone struggle.
“Is he… committing hara-kiri?” I asked.
Rory sighed. “He’s making a fool of himself.”
He raised the rifle, took aim, and fired. A loud crack rang out and a thin grey puff burst from the back of the clone’s neck. Its face instantly shrivelled. The rest of the clone wavered for a second then slumped forward, another body in the battlefield.
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