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Chapter One

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My name's 4Pollack. I'm the fourth clone of the original Pollack. In my prime life, I was a detective and good at it too. It was a reason I was cloned in the first place. Most call me 4Pollack; a few call me Four. Not many in the last category. Another reason for my cloning; I fit a certain profile the Terrans needed for their wars. Hence, I also served in the Eugenic War. Though that was too long ago to remember, without a 'Catch. Seventy years—and three bodies—later, I'm here on Mars, trying to pay off the debts racked up by my other incarnates: Pollack, seventy years older and wiser, while still looking thirty. Inheritance fees, memory transfer and taxes, not to mention the cost of jumpstarting a cloned body aren't cheap. Even with a steady paying job, I couldn't stay more than a half step away from bankruptcy. Terra and the Luna are too expensive. My kind wasn't welcome on those pieces of rock anyway. Rather than being shunned by the moral upright citizens of Terra, I lived on Mars in Old Tharsis. It's filled with Spiders, chimeras and clones. Some still look at me with suspicion, yet it's better than the alternative.

Through the window in the apartment, I saw the twin moons, Deimos and Phobos glaring down at me. The sunscreen was gone and the dim light of twin moons looked down over Tharsis. The light of moons fought with the pseudo-light of Tharsis at large. The city was constantly alit with neon, headlights from free-caps and skimmers along with lights of the buildings around my building. Tharsis was a city of light. The auto shade was old and faded, letting more of the light bleed in. The dome over the city warped and refracted the light so the tiny moon of Phobos looked like its bigger brother Deimos. Most Martians liked to have them both looking the same.

Not me. Knowing that the two moons were named for Fear and Nightmare; having those two glaring down at me always caused a small itch between my shoulder blades, seeing that the two moons were close caused something in my mind to dredge up a memory of the latest case. If I was right with the position of the two moons, I knew there had been another murder. Even before my commlink started to buzz.

It wasn't unusual for a call at 3 a.m. Earth Standard. It was annoying. Earth Standard was used on Mars and Earth, since Mars has such a similar day. There was a Temporal Adjust at midnight, the clocks did it—no one cared. It was rare to catch the jump forward on a clock anymore.

Part of me knew only an hour ago I had closed my eyes. I wished it were a dream. The commlink continued to slide towards me. I knew this was real and it wasn't going to be a good call.

The bulky commlink buzzed along the metal nightstand again. The noise drilled into my head. I looked at it with bleary eyes for a moment, willing it to stop. I felt sleep dragging at me. I wanted to close my eyes and sleep. Tess started to stir and I didn't want her to wake up either. I chose the lesser evil. I grabbed the bulky commlink, squeezed the catch and the screen popped up.

The angular face of Rawlings, that is Lieutenant Paul Rawlings of the Tharsis Police Department, stared back at me in the small monitor. "4Pollack?" He growled, a cigar clenched between his teeth, half gone. Rawlings only used my full name when shit went down.

Definitely not a good call.

"Yeah, what?" I croaked. My head was throbbing from using the Alpha Catch with a splitter. Rawlings started to speak and I looked at Tess. She stirred beside me; her green-scaled chimera body glinted in the wan light that crept in from the pseudo-daylight of Old Tharsis outside. The frayed edges of the auto-shade let it bleed in. A snakehead chimera like her husband Drake—my partner. I traced the contact from her temple to the splitter that still tethered the two of us to the ovoid shape of my personal 'Catch. The Catch was created to relive memories. On the way, my eyes slid over her slim scaly belly and leg, a familiar heat stirred in me. I then heard Rawlings shouting at me on the comm.

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