231 broke into a run, his long strides catching up to her in the space of a second. But in that same second, the two figures ran into the hall.
The Goliath recognized them immediately from their haircuts. The two young men both bore the same buzzcut with a bald strip shaved along the left side. The strip was painted, possibly tattooed black.
The last time 231 was in New Barcelona, he had killed ten Catalonya Desperados. Employees of a medic service had been repeatedly raided by the street gang, and the company had hired Goliaths to strike back.
The first one had his arms full of small first aid kits. The second held one in one hand, and a handgun in the other. Wide-eyed, the second thug snapped up his gun to bear on 231.
“Whoa! Stop!” he shouted, stabbing the gun forward.
The first thug was breathing heavily, his eyes wild. “Eck,” he slurred. “th’guys a big guy.” His unfocused eyes drifted to Sophia. “Wi’ a little girl.”
Three steps to the close one, 231 thought quickly. Still in the prime threat’s line of sight. No good cover.
“Mer‘. Ain’t man. That’s clone.” The thug with the gun was sober, his hand steady. His eyes glowering at 231. “‘Ey! You Goliath?”
231 narrowed his eyes at the gunman. “Yes.” He let his hands hang at his sides.
The second thug snarled. “Always wanted kill me one o’ you.”
“X ‘at clone, take ‘s girl,” the first thug chuckled, dropping the first aid kits. He reached into his jacket and drew a seven-inch, double-edged knife.
231’s instinct told him to wait. “Under law, I must warn you that the girl is under my protection. Any further-”
The punk giggled and stepped forward to grab Sophia. The idiot actually stepped into his partner’s line of fire. He deserved what he got.
231’s left elbow cocked back for the slightest fraction of a second. His hand shot out, fingers flat, in a knife strike to the punk’s throat. The punk barely had time to gasp before the Goliath’s right hand had slipped his sidearm from its holster and leveled it at his forehead. The gun rocked, and the punk’s head sprayed crimson. Before the corpse finished collapsing, 231 had sighted on the thug with the gun and fired. The gunman lurched back from the impact to his chest, and went limp. He crumpled, the gun clattering to the hard floor.
With a deep sigh, 231 carefully checked the pulses of both men. Gone. He looked over his shoulder at Sophia, expecting her to be weeping.
She was biting her lip, her head turned away from the bodies, staring at where the wall met the floor. Her jaw quavered. After a moment, she spoke.
“I just remembered something.”