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.
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?”
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.”