"Have you quite finished?"
Hyle's face was a mask of defiance.
"I came here to get my daughter. Not to listen to you pontificating about clone supremacy!"
"Hah!" Brown's laugh was coarse, derisive. Brown leaned on a rail and folded her arms.
Hyle went on.
"We are clones, but we are still human." She stood up straight despite being tied to the pillar. "With all the human faults. Greed, ambition and so on. Look at yourself.
The difference is that clones like you don't value life. Death is an inconvenience, half an hour of puking then carry on where you left off."
Brown raised an eyebrow; a weird half-smile crossed her face.
"Do go on."
Hyle fixed her gaze on Brown.
"Your 'clone supremacy' will never happen... Because the reset button is too readily available. Anything we build will be destroyed quickly.
Because of that human trait that is part of us, Greed. And we are more human than you care to accept."
Hyle saw Brown stiffen. She pressed on
"And you see yourself leading this revolution? You can't lead! You are too full of hate. Your leadership is all about coercion and pain.
Your revolution will implode before it even gets started." Hyle leaned forward against her bindings. "If that is your future, you get on with it.
Give me my daughter, and I'll leave you to drown in your ambition."
Brown stepped forward. Hyle's eyes blazed with cold blue fury, which irritated her.
"Miss Troy. I don't think you are in a position to 'demand' anything." Brown paused and looked meaningfully at Hyle's bound hands behind the pillar.
"In fact, I have decided I don't like you anymore. Which leaves me with a dilemma."
As Brown paused for effect, Hyle leaned back against the pillar. Brown stepped forward, close to Hyle. Their eyes locking, each blazing at the other.
"Should I let you watch me carve up Tukiko's face? Or let her watch me carve up yours. What do you say, Miss Troy?"
Hyle's eyes glowed with cold ice blue fury.
"Party girl." Brown's voice was full of scorn "Such a fine face." She caressed Hyle's face with the back of her hand. "I wonder how many men will want to dance with a girl....
without a nose, perhaps?"
She stroked Hyles's nose. Hyle felt herself shudder and tried in vain to stop herself shaking.
"So... You decide, who first, you or your daughter...? What do you say?"
Hyle shook her head. A smile drifted onto her lips
"Auf wiedersehen. Pet!"
The race was on.
Outside, Ned heard the explosion and, realising that was 'the signal', he and his men set about the doors.
Far below, the cloner vomited out two naked females within seconds of each other. They skittered together across the floor like two fish thrown into a boat.
Covered in best Life-Net icky goo. The two women writhed and slithered against each other, each trying to gain some purchase on the greasy floor.
Vomiting profusely, Hyle raised herself onto her hands and knees. On the floor beside her, Brown cursed her through gritted teeth before rolling over to spew bile onto the floor beside her.
Hyle knew it was all about who could recover first. She got to her feet, leaning against the wall for support as another spasm wracked her now empty guts. Hyle looked behind.
Brown was rising but still on all fours, a torrent of expletives issuing from her mouth between retches.
Hyle looked around for some advantage while she could. She tore open one of the Life-Net 'Welcome Packs' and seized a pickaxe handle. Brown was by now up on her knees.
Screaming like a demon, overcharged with fury, Hyle dashed at Brown, swinging the club into her head,
sending her for another tour around the cloning cycle knowing full well that a second cloning so soon after a first was always far worse. Hyle had bought herself time.
Outside, bits of metal, door and door frame rained down on Ned and the lads as they looked at the oversized hole in the side of the bunker. Ned glared at Chuckles.
"You were only supposed to blow the..... Aww, fuck it! Come on lads!"
Hyle dashed for the cloning chamber door, still naked, still covered head to foot in Life-Net goo. She took the stairs onto the mezzanine two at a time, screaming her daughter's name.
"Mommmm?!" The voice was faint but nearby. Hyle rushed the door, it opened.
In the chamber, a pit in the floor closed by a grille, a bruised and battered Tuki squatted.
The shock stopped Hyle in her tracks momentarily, but she immediately sank to her knees and scrambled at the locking bar.
And in a moment Tuki was deep in Hyle's motherly embrace. They both were sobbing.
Lucy's goons, still staggering after Hyle's explosion had decided to hand in their notices to Lucy and were making their way to the entrance when Chuckles 'unlocked' the doors.
Covered in dust, they quickly capitulated to the club-wielding gang. Enough was enough.
Racing down the stairs, Ned found Hyle and Tuki, saw Hyle naked, again, and turned to face the other way, stopping the rest of his lads on the stairs, in respect to Hyle's dignity.
"Ow ow ow." Tuki yelped. After a few minutes of Hyle's she-bear embrace, Tuki's bruises reminded her of their existence. Hyle relaxed her grip. She then remembered the other matter in hand.
"Brown's in the cloner!"
Ned's bunch headed down the stairs.
Inside the cloning room, wretched and retching, almost puking herself inside out. Miss Brown heard the mass of footsteps coming down the metal stairs.
She was beaten. That hurt. She screamed in fury.
Resigning herself to a third, and what she knew would be a cataclysmically uncomfortable bout of cloning sickness, she initiated her Life-Net hack.
Ned climbed slowly back up the stairs, carrying blankets for both Hyle and Tuki.
"I'll call Joe. Then we'll get you two home."