Goliath and the Girl

Reinforcements

“Milord, I am bound to protect milady. I must get her safely to the telepad and off of this colony.”

The policeman’s gun had not lowered. “I can’t let-” But the officer stopped and put one finger to his ear. He kept his eyes on 231 and nodded grimly. “Maybe I can. They’re calling everyone to the telepad. The separatists have plasma mortars.”

Few things could damage a telepad. Plasma mortars were one of the few that could. Between the shells’ concussive blast and star-hot gel, the protective dome would not hold up long.

Not much time.

“Milord, I must insist-”

“Let’s go. Down to the emergency line. And you give me that gun.”

Sophia still clung to 231’s arm, stubbornly staring away from the corpse of the separatist. She started forward at the law enforcer’s command, tugging at his elbow. 231 relaxed his grip on the rifle, flipping it around in his massive hand and handing it to the officer as they passed.

“To the left,” the officer said, slinging the rifle by its strap. “The station’s at the next alley.”

There was an emergency station on the same block. 231 cursed inwardly.

“You should help them,” Sophia said. “You should stop them.”

“Who?”

“You should stop the… separatists, or whatever,” Sophia said, turning onto the main street. “You’re a really good fighter. You could help.”

231 followed a step behind her, automatically scanning the crowd. The panic was starting to spread. Clusters of people stared at them, whispering.

“My mission is to protect you. That always comes first.”

‘But you could save people! You have to try!”

Definitely a squadmate. “Yes, Milady.”

Somehow, she chuckled at that. 231 felt his shoulders relax.

“It’s weird,” she said, “but I think that’s what God made you for. Fighting.”

“I don’t know about God,” 231 said, “but it’s definitely what humans made me for.”

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Goliath and the Girl

{excerpt from recovered journal}

They must have been smuggling in weapons for months. Weapons and people. I still don’t know how they did it.

Hmm. Maybe they gave one of the security chiefs money. Humans lose their minds when they get enough money.

[pause] I hope that’s not what happened. Even the thought makes me mad. My life is about protecting people. I don’t get paid — it’s what I’m for. It’s my job to die in the place of someone else.

But if you pay a human to do it, they’ll let people get killed if someone else gives them more money?

[extended pause]

So, Dubai wasn’t safe anymore. I knew if I didn’t get her off the colony fast, we’d be trapped in a warzone. I knew we’d have to fight our way through the separatists to get to the pad.

I just didn’t expect…

I didn’t know I’d end up here.

{analysis confirmed. voice match: Goliath 231}

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Goliath and the Girl

Tactics

The sound of explosions reached them just as the separatist stirred.

231 leveled the gun at the man’s forehead. “What are you doing here?” He kicked the man in the ribs. “What’s your objective?”

The man wheezed and cursed, rolling onto his side.

Sophia gasped. “They’re-”

“Hey!” came a sharp voice from the mouth of the alley.

231 looked up to see a local law enforcer marching on him, pistol drawn. Not good.

The rifle jerked in his hands. 231 tensed and looked back at the separatist, who had grabbed the barrel of the gun and shoved it toward the policeman. With his other hand, he reached into his oversized jacket.

231 flexed his arms, swung the gun back, and shot the separatist in the chest.

The policeman and Sophia shouted at once. 231 could only make out what she said.

“No!”

The Goliath barely had time to look up at the law enforcer and see him squeeze the trigger.

The shot cracked sharply in the narrow alley, louder to 231’s ears than the separatist’s rifle. It was a well-aimed shot. 231 was staring straight down the barrel of the handgun. There was a flash of blue before his eyes, and a tiny, distant smack. For an instant, 231 assumed he was dead, and that his body had fallen limp behind him.

But then he registered Sophia’s heavy breathing. The look of shock on the policeman’s face. Then, he saw the hole in the pavement where the smack had come from.

“Stop! That man was chasing us! He had a gun! He saved me!” Sophia shouted, clutching 231’s arm.

Another detonation sounded in the distance. The law enforcer risked a glance over his shoulder, his gun still trained on the Goliath. He looked back to them, his face harried. “Milady,” he said, “is this Goliath protecting you?”

“Yes!”

The flash of color. 231 remembered where he had seen it before. On New Corinth, he and his squad were clearing out a separatist stronghold, and they got hung up on a psychic. The woman held them off with a telekinetic wall, which flashed colors when their bullets struck it.

Sophia had just saved his life.

The clone soldier stared at the little girl as she recounted their arrival on Dubai and their wanderings. The little dark-haired girl who treated him like a human, had now survived two skirmishes with him, and saved him during one.

He realized it was hard to think of her as his charge, and not his squadmate.

“…and he picked up his gun, and then you came in, and I heard him think they were trying to blow up the telepad…”

231 and the law enforcer shot each other a look. “You’re sure?” the policeman said.

Dubai had only one public telepad. Destroying it would cut off contact with the rest of the colonies. If they had only gotten a small squad through Dubai security, the move made no sense.

The only reason to cut off the colony…

“Milord,” 231 said, “this is an invasion.”

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Goliath and the Girl

Target

231 pretended to look down at Sophia, and sneaked a glance behind them. The man was gaining on them.

“Sophia.”

She glanced up at him, her brow wrinkling. “Yeah?”

“Please walk two steps ahead of me on my left side.” Ahead, the foot traffic was even thinner than where they were. They were on the left side of a main thoroughfare that led away from the telepad deeper into the city. 231 saw an alley ahead on the left, a half-block away. He had to decide.

Behind them, too close, was the man with the concealed gun.

“You’re nervous. Why are you nervous?’ Sophia whispered. She hustled forward, falling into position.

Good soldier, thought 231 with a little smile. He looked down at her too see her eyes widen, her mouth turning down.

Apparently, she didn’t taken the thought as a compliment. Right. She doesn’t want to be a soldier.

Clearly, the man behind them wanted to be a soldier, but wasn’t. 231 had spotted him when he reached into his jacket – too thick for the warm Dubai weather – to click off the safety of his weapon. After his first assignment on McNamara Base, that movement never failed to draw his attention.

“It’s all right.” They were almost to the alley. “When-” He stopped. “Listen to me, please.”

She kept her eyes dead ahead. He bumped into her when he turned toward the alley.

As soon as we are out of sight of the main street, find cover. Hide behind something. If you understand, cough.

Sophia lifted her arm and coughed into her sleeve. 231 heard her breath stutter. She was terrified.

They stepped into the alley. No garbage bins. No side alleys. Just a straight, dark, narrow path to the next main street. A cat tensed as it caught sight of them, then bolted, leaping over a crumpled sheet of industrial plastic.

Sophia took a step forward, then balked. Her head darted left and right, searching frantically for a hiding place. Suddenly, she gasped and looked back at 231. “There’s someone behind us!” she hissed.

“I know,” 231 growled. “Run!”

Sophia sobbed and ran down the alley, her footfalls echoing against the flat walls.

231 knew he only had a few seconds. Nowhere to wait in ambush. His eyes darted about the shadowy alley. Nothing but a-

Yes.

231 bolted to the sheet of thick plastic and rolled to the ground. He tucked his knees to his chest and, facing the permacrete wall, tugged the plastic over him like a blanket.

The pursuer’s running footsteps entered the alley, then slowed as they approached the Goliath.

Just another human street-dweller. Keep chasing the girl. Pay no attention.

“Hey!” the man shouted at him, stepping closer. “You see a big motherf-”

231 whipped back his arm, tossing the plastic sheet into the man’s face. The man flailed and stumbled back. Two blasts echoed in the narrow space as his gun fired wildly, bullets punching twin holes in the sheet and smacking into the solid wall behind 231.

The Goliath was already rolling to his feet. He spread his thumb and fingers into a C and struck the gunman’s throat. In the instant of contact, 231 felt the familiar shape under of an implanted communicator under the man’s jaw. The man gave a heaving gasp and doubled over as 231 stood and grabbed him by the base of the skull, ramming him headfirst into the wall. The gunman staggered, went slack, and toppled backward to the pavement. His gun clattered against the ground.

231 tossed the plastic aside. The man was unconscious. A compact assault rifle lay next to him, which 231 instantly recognized as a Frontline A-12. A black market channel ran them through Corinth, making them the weapon of choice for the separatists.

“231?”

The Goliath picked up the weapon. Dubai Colony’s security had never allowed a separatist incursion.

“231?”

He looked up at Sophia. She was staring questioningly at the knocked-out separatist, then back up at him. “He wasn’t after me.”

It was only then that the gunman’s words struck him. “He wasn’t. He was after me.”

The Goliath and the girl stared at each other, confused.

Then, in the distance, they heard the explosions.

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