Maximum Offense (Death's Head, Book 2)
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With Death’s Head, David Gunn rocketed onto the scene in the most explosive and entertaining science fiction debut since Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon. Now Gunn is back–and so is Sven Tveskoeg: antisocial, antihero, anti-you-name-it, a one-man killing spree whose best friend is an intelligent handgun with a bad attitude and whose worst enemy is, well, just about everybody else.
And if Sven weren’t dangerous enough already, add in the lethal alien parasite that resides in his throat . . . and is capable of bending space and time. Then there’s the fact that Sven’s genetic makeup is only 98.2 percent human, the rest being undetermined but possibly contributing to his enhanced healing abilities, superior strength, unusual agility, and notable sociopathic tendencies. The result is one seriously badass soldier with a hair-trigger temper and a chip on his shoulder the size of a small moon. These are qualities that would doom a man to prison or worse in any decent society.
Luckily, Sven doesn’t live in a decent society. He lives in the empire of OctoV, a tyrant who is part machine, part boy, part god, and all evil. Sven’s qualities have brought him to OctoV’s personal attention and earned him a lieutenant’s commission in the Death’s Head, the elite corps of assassins and enforcers whose purpose in life is to kill and die for the greater glory of OctoV.
Sven’s new assignment? Lead his ragtag band of Death’s Head rejects–the Aux, short for auxiliaries–to the artificial world of Hekati. It seems that a citizen of the United Free, an empire not only vaster than OctoV’s but far more technologically advanced, has gone missing there. Now it’s up to Sven to rescue the poor soul.
But Hekati turns out to be a vicious den of backstabbing and betrayal, where nothing and no one can be trusted, least of all the greenhorn colonel put in charge of the mission at the last moment. It looks like somebody wants Sven Tveskoeg dead.
So what else is new?
he waves it back and forth until it bursts into flames. Then he turns and heads into the cave. Shil and Haze are sitting in darkness. ‘Haze found it,’ she says. ‘Behind that,’ says Haze. The wall he points at looks like every other one in this place, yellow and dry enough to crumble. They don’t know she’s dead, I realize. ‘Touch it,’ says Haze. I am tired, Franc’s blood is on my hands and I am out of patience. ‘Cut the shit,’ I tell him. Scooping up a pebble, Haze lobs it at the wall. It
to shut up and go do something useful. So Shil lights a fire, using dry wood to keep the smoke down, and Neen collects firewood. Finding a spring, Franc sniffs the water and sips a little. When it doesn’t taste sour, she scoops a mouthful and drinks that as well. If she’s not rolling around in agony in ten minutes I will let the others drink it too . . . As for Rachel, she’s on top of an outcrop behind us. A building once, I guess. Now it just looks natural. Rachel has night sights and thermal
hollow-point. ‘You knew?’ ‘Oh,’ says the SIG. ‘Now he decides to talk to me.’ As ordered, Neen goes first. He finds a ditch and crawls along it until he crosses the wildcat’s track we found earlier and follows that for fifty paces. I’m right behind him, and slam my hand over his mouth the moment he stops. ‘Quiet.’ He is not nearly scared enough for what’s making its way towards us. Unholstering the SIG, I drop out its clip, count ceramics and fold my fingers round the handle to deaden the
give it the real ones. If it is as clever as the gun says, then it can match the hand scan to my service records anyway. A line of words scrolls across the glass plate. Information already entered. ‘Genotype human equivalent. Status DH class 2, override . . .’ It’s reading a bloody identity chip fitted when I was on the general’s mother ship. Knew I had one in that arm Colonel Madeleine made me. Obviously got one under my skin somewhere as well. There are three combat seats in the B79. The
killed twenty-three fighters . . . ? ‘Fish in a barrel,’ says the SIG, sounding disgusted. ‘Them?’ The gun snorts. ‘Us,’ it says, and tells me why. We didn’t kill that fighter. It crashed into the inside edge of a force field Victory First threw up the moment this battle began. If the field can destroy their fighter, it can destroy us. And I have problems that are more pressing. We are almost out of fuel, our oxygen’s nearly gone, and we’re using what is left faster than the converters can