Death's Head Maximum Offense

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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2009-06-23
  • Publisher: Del Rey
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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 backand 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 rejectsthe Aux, short for auxiliariesto 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? From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Smartly dressed, resourceful, and discreet, David Gunn has undertaken assignments in Central America, the Middle East, and Russia (among numerous other places). Coming from a service family, he is happiest when on the move and tends not to stay in one town or city for very long. The author of Death’s Head, Gunn lives in the United Kingdom.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1

The man spins around, knife already drawn, and hesitates. It’s not his fight. Anyway, he’s in Farlight only for OctoV’s birthday, unloading luxuries from a cargo ship on the edge of a landing site. And his knife is new, bought that afternoon from a stall in the road behind Golden Memories.

He doesn’t feel ready to use it yet.

A wise choice. Someone is about to get hurt, and it doesn’t have to be him. That someone is standing in my doorway. And half of my bar door swings from a rusted hinge, while the rest lies at his feet.

“Shut it,” I say.

A girl next to me does.

I am not sure she knows she screamed.

This is my bar, but it is Aptitude’s home, and she’s family. At least she is until her mother and father get out of prison.

“Sven,” she says.

“Later . . .” My gaze flicks across the room and settles on a wiry young man with a pointed face, floppy hair, and narrow shoulders. He’s reaching into his jacket. At a shake of my head, he lets go of his revolver.

Neen’s twenty-one.

In the field he’s my sergeant, but we’re not in the field; we’re on leave. So he’s running security for a bar I own on the outskirts of this city.

Raising his glass, Neen grins. He, for one, obviously intends to enjoy tonight’s show. As we watch, the man in my doorway jacks the slide on an oversized pistol and takes a slow look around to check that we’ve noticed.


Aptitude is getting nervous.

I smile, but it is at another girl entirely. Wandering over, she sits on my lap and snuggles up to me. Aptitude scowls to see me slide my hand up Lisa’s skirt. What she doesn’t see is the knife I take from Lisa’s garter.

“Subtle,” says a voice. “Understated, anything but obvious.”

The intruder believes that my gun is talking about him. He has pegged my corner of the room for the comment, but he can’t work out who’s to blame. As the man lumbers over, Lady Aptitude Tezuka Wildeside leans back in her chair.

“You,” he says. “Got something to say?”

She shakes her head frantically.

Satisfied, the man starts to turn away. Big mistake. Turning Lisa off my lap, I pick up my chair and smash it over the back of his skull. He drops, but only to his knees.

“Finish it,” Aptitude says.

“Not yet. I’m enjoying myself.”


Clambering to his feet, the thug stares at me.

“Yeah,” I say. “I’m Sven Tveskoeg.” How many seven-foot-tall ex- legionnaires can he see in this bar?

Behind the man stands another: Federico Van Zill, provider of protection to half the bars and brothels edging the landing fields below Calinda Gap. A rumor says the war against the Uplifted will be over soon.

That is bad for Van Zill.

As long as we’re at war, there’s a chance I’ll be killed and my troopers with me. An end to the war would mean Van Zill gets some permanent competition. Peace isn’t going to happen, of course. And it’s disloyal, unwise, and probably treasonous to suggest otherwise. However, Federico Van Zill is an idiot, so I’ve been expecting this visit.

When Van Zill’s thug pulls a knife, I laugh.

It’s huge, with slots cut into the back of the blade. The slots are meant to say, This is a man ready to drag his enemy’s entrails through an open gut wound. You can tell a lot about a man from the knife he chooses.

You can tell a lot about a woman, too.

The blade I take from Lisa’s garter is a third the size. It lacks teeth, blood channels, and other finery, but it’s razor-sharp and made from glass.

All you have to do is

Excerpted from Death's Head Maximum Offense by David Gunn
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