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Beta, Gamma, Delta
by David Black
"What happened to the first one?" asked Nicola as she tapped in the code to open the securidoor.
"The usual, he got sought and destroyed." came her companion's reply.
His ID card said his name was Harper, but Nicola had her doubts it was real. She ran his ID three times and nothing untoward showed up. She didn't want to make him angry and yet she couldn't stop herself asking questions. She didn't want to find out how many questions would be too many.
The heavy door slowly glided open and the lights flickered sporadically as they entered a large room dominated by three large metal cabinets in front of a smaller dais.
Nicola moved from one cabinet to the next to the next as she checked the life-signs readouts. Her companion kept one eye on the door and combed the shadows in the corners of the room with the other.
The silence was too much for Nicola. She looked over at Harper and awkwardly said "The boys call them coffins."
Harper looked at her and frowned. Seeing his reaction she explained "Oh, I meant the stasis cabinets. It's just that most of people we have on ice are either criminals avoiding the death penalty or medical cases avoiding…"
Nicola chuckled and looked over at him. She laughed alone.
"Well I suppose they're avoiding another sort of death penalty."
Harper said nothing.
"It's so rare that we ever let anybody out, they might as well be dead," she continued as she crossed to the dais. She wiped a thick layer of dust off the dais and pushed a couple of buttons as all three cabinets lit up.
Harper wheeled around to look at them. His eyes darted between cabinets.
"So which one do you want?" Nicola asked.
"Well, the paperwork doesn't specify which corpse you want", then she pointed at the dais and asked "Should I push button one, two or three?"
She felt uncomfortable as he joined her at the dais and she apologised, adding "This is no way to talk about your friend."
The sword slid through her ribs with ease and cleft her in two.
"He's not my friend."
He wiped Nicola's blood off his sword. She'd never know how right she was to have doubted him. His name wasn't Harper.
He pushed one half of Nicola away from the dais with his foot and pushed all three buttons. A computer voice started a countdown and he stepped in front of the dais. As the countdown neared its end he raised his sword in readiness. It was time.
At zero, the three cabinet doors swung open as one and out stepped Johnny Beta, Johnny Gamma and Johnny Delta.
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S P O I L E R A L E R T
I should probably point out that obviously this was written for an audience that knew 2000 AD well. I'm a big fan of Strontium Dog a strip that concerns a mutant bounty hunter called Johnny Alpha. Furthermore Johnny dies in one strip and unlike other comics characters in 2000 AD stay dead. Here's one way around it.