Prologue

The night was veiled with darkness and there was a familiar alkaline smell in the air. A black cat walked around a dark and dank alley just overlooking the docks. A sudden clap of thunder and lightning briefly illuminated the surroundings of what was an abandoned Russian Naval Base. The cat looked up at the sky and gave a soft yet apprehensive purr. As if to taunt the cat, another bolt of lightning tore through the dark, cloudy sky. The cat let out a sharp hiss of contempt, jumped over an old battered trash lying near a 3-foot high steel fence and fled into the darkness, in search of a dry shelter to spend what was going to be a stormy night. After a few minutes, it started to pour down heavily, but that did not seem to bother the two men who were having a very important discussion in one of the cabins of a fairly small Russian cargo ship. The cabin was lined and littered with broken wooden crates and empty metal barrels. There were clusters of electrical wires hanging from the ceiling. The only furniture in the cabin was a wobbly wooden table and a rickety wooden chair. The cabin was dimly lit but the appearances of the inhabitants were visible enough. One of them carried a brown leather official bag but the stockier one carried a custom SPAZ 12-gauge shotgun. He was about 50 years old, well built for his age, and was dressed in a brown leather jacket with fur collar and cuffs, a pair of black pants and heavy boots. The length of the jacket was near his knees. He was bald at the front and the long graying hair at the back of his head was tied in a ponytail. He had a scar on his rugged face that started over his left thick bushy eyebrow and stretched diagonally down to his left cheek. He had brown, piercing eyes that shone with an unnatural gleam. The crooked shape of his nose, with its broad tip and flaring nostrils, indicated that the once broken bone was never properly set into place. His square jaw, in contrast, was firmly set, and both ends of his thick graying moustache stretched down to the sides of his slightly protruded chin. He had an air of ruthlessness about him. The other person, younger by about 10 or 15 years and slightly taller than his companion, was neatly dressed in a teal-colored suit and wore pointed brown shoes made from crocodile leather. He had the athletic build of a swimmer, and features that were more favorable: a clean-shaven face, hazel eyes, a smaller but upturned nose, a strong jaw with a deeply dimpled chin and his brown hair was neatly brushed back and glistened with hair gel. Unlike his companion, he exuded an air of poise and subtle cunning that was singular, awe-inspiring and frightening at the same time. His appearance was similar to those involved in negotiations of corporate contracts. He took out a file from his bag.

"Hmm…look at this," He told his companion in a moderately deep voice, "it seems your brother was involved in a lot more activities than just smuggling guns for you."

"So what is this?" His companion asked in a rumbling voice that showed no attempts to hide a thick Russian accent, "Drugs? Prostitution? Extortion?"

"I had heard of this project in Indochina years ago," The American replied, "but I never believed in it. It seems they actually had the resources to pull it off. I'm most impressed. What does say here?" He held the paper close to the flickering light bulb and scanned a marked line on the paper, "'an augmented, amplified and improved version of the human species.'"

"Why would anyone clone a little fool like my brother?" The Russian asked, exasperated, "Where did this take place?"

"Umm…in some remote location in Romania," The American answered, checking the document in his hand, "doesn't say exactly, but I know how to find it…if you're still interested."

Later that night, a black unmarked BMW silently pulled up in front of an old building far from town and the two men got out. The weather was worse than before; the storm was at its full wrath and the raindrops were accompanied by hails which made tremendous impact upon collision. The iron-clamped gates of the main entrance to the building were heavily battered and one of the gates was on the verge of falling away at the hinges. Pieces of broken glass littered the front of the gates. It looked as if someone had rammed into them with a car. Where there was usually a set of heavy locks on the gates, there was a strange emblem. At the foot of the gates was a heavy iron deadbolt that was broken in two. The building was enclosed by a ten-foot rectangular wall topped with barbed wire and powerful flash lights were set up at the four corners and on both sides of the iron gates. The surrounding grounds of the building were desolate and the grass was overgrown in places. They entered the grounds and walked along a stone pathway leading towards the dun-colored mansion. There was a circular driveway in front of the mansion entrance. The mansion stood in the middle of the dreary, wet grounds. It was a three-storey polygonal structure, with a square front and a rectangular back. The front had broad, square mullioned windows with arched tops made of thick metal frames and had frosted panes, some of which, on closer inspection, revealed bullet holes. There was a large circular window in the center of the third floor, just below the attic. Two long, narrow balconies started from the east and west corners, ran along the front of the third floor and ended right below the periphery of the circular window. A wide wooden plank placed over the gap between the balconies acted as a crude bridge. There were two small porches with glass doors on either side of the second floor, and a ladder built into a corner wall on the side of the left porch led down, via an enclosed patch of grass, onto the grounds. The vast size of the building, with its gloom and eerie silence, along with the dismal weather, made the environment gruesome enough to run a chill down anyone's spine. The two men cautiously climbed up the stone steps onto the landing, the Russian in front with his SPAZ raised and the American following suit with a powerful flashlight in his right hand and his bag in the left. The Russian grabbed the knob of the double doors leading into the building and turned it. It swung open, and the two men entered into a reception area. The area was divided into two portions by a metal fence that stretched from the ground up to the ceiling and a wooden desk placed by the doors. Behind the desk was another set of doors beside a small wooden table occupied by paper pads, a bell and a telephone. At the far end of the fence was a single steel door with an electronic lock which opened by sliding a keycard through a small horizontal slit. The Russian pointed his shotgun at the lock and pulled the trigger. With a deafening noise that shook the closed room, the lock shattered into countless bits of metal splinters and tiny bits of electronic devices, and the door swung open with a rusty screech. The men crossed the reception area, approached the set of doors and opened them.

As soon as the doors opened, a strong smell hit their noses. They covered their faces and proceeded. They were in a great round hall with a bullet-riddled statue of a one–armed man in a lab coat holding a syringe over a small fountain in the centre of the hall. The expression on the face of the statue was that of a sadistic delight as he stared at the syringe held in his raised hand. His other arm was lying close to the fountain. Three sets of double doors in the south, south-west and south-east directions led to three corridors. Two sets of stairs at the east and west wings led up to the second floor. The small foyer beyond the reception room and the base of the stairs were strewn with disfigured, decaying bodies of four men in SWAT uniforms. The hall was also stained with bloody, mutilated bodies of more SWAT members, along with men in light blue uniforms and white shoes, lying grotesquely on the floor. Another set of doors at the end of the foyer led into a small chemical laboratory. This was a lofty chamber, crammed with broad low tables, which were packed with microscopes, broken bottles, test-tubes and Bunsen burners. The striped blue-and-white tiled floor of the lab was yet another horrible sight of bodies of men lying in dried circular pools of their own blood, wearing white patient garbs which were now a darkened shade of dried blood. A wooden spiral staircase on the right led up to the second floor. There were automatic weapons, shotguns, stun guns and pistols lying around the floor near almost all the bodies. The high ceiling, the blood-stained, bullet-riddled, originally whitewashed walls and round pillars, the tiled floor, the men in hospital garbs and those in uniforms suggested that this building was a medical asylum. The long dimly lit corridors were scattered with dead rotting bodies of at least a dozen SWAT teams. There were surveillance cameras everywhere. The two men proceeded cautiously. Everything was dead silent except for their footsteps, which echoed around the deserted asylum. They walked down all the corridors and inspected all the rooms until they reached one that contained the surveillance monitors. They found two more asylum orderlies lying dead in the room. One of them was on the table with a gunshot wound to the side of his head, and the other was lying on his face on the floor, with two wounds to the back, close to the spinal column. The Russian pushed the body of the man from the table and swore in disgust.

"Damn! The place is a mess. What the hell happened here?" He asked his companion.

"Let's have a look at these surveillance tapes." The American suggested, "I think they might explain the carnage. I had a feeling we might find something like this. I was hoping…" He played the tapes. The tapes showed how the SWAT members and the orderlies were killed, but the perpetrator probably knew the angles of the cameras very well because none of the tapes showed his face. He sneaked up on the SWAT members from behind and strangled them, shot other injured SWAT members and orderlies trying to escape from a distance but did not expose his face in front of the cameras. He always stayed in the dark spots and was deadly efficient.

"Excellent!" The Russian exclaimed delightfully. "This guy is damn fantastic; maybe not as strong as me, but fast. You know who he is?"

"Hmm," the American nodded, "and so do you. This, my friend, is Mr. 47."

"Get out of here!" the Russian said, surprised, "47 is nothing but a rumor. No one has ever proved that he even exists."

"You know," the American said matter-of-factly, "I actually met him in Rotterdam; didn't know it was him at the time, but I did some research."

"So you already knew he had been here?"

"Sort of."

"But is he for hire?"

"Used to be. I've had no reports of his activities for a long time. For all I know, he could be dead."

"Dead? Are you blind? These tapes prove that he is still alive. Now we just have to make him work for us."

"Well, let's go find him then. A killer like that never retires."