Goliath and the Girl

Motivation

Coordinator Marx knew he’d had a good reason for sending the Goliath and the girl in search of her blocked memories; but until he stepped into the craft room, he didn’t remember what that reason was.

The memory was on the tip of his mind as he marched through downtown New Barcelona. It tugged him toward the abandoned building in midtown, past the empty playground and up the staircase. The cleanup crew he’d dispatched had already removed the bodies of the thugs that 231 had killed that morning, leaving no trace.

The deja vu startled him as he saw the hallway, the classrooms on his right, the row of windows on his left. He couldn’t look away from the door nearest him. Marx’s brain hummed. He felt the gray blankness threatening to surge over his consciousness, but weakening. The block was breaking up.

He stepped into the doorway, looked inside, and remembered.

He remembered Sister Parveen Al-Khouri shaking her head, scowling.

He remembered promising her that the children would be well-protected in Tower’s care. They would be better off than they were here. The research project would help them as much as anyone.

He remembered the nun snarling. She knew he had tried to buy the property from under them. He couldn’t fool her — she was a psion too, just like they were.

He remembered telling her to stay out of his head unless she wanted a bullet in hers.

He remembered her last words, thrust straight into his mind. I’m not afraid of you.

He remembered the rage when he drew his gun and shot her in the chest.

He remembered storming down the hall to —

Marx found himself leaning against the wall, breathing hard. The block was still there. Something was still missing. He pounded his fist into the wall.

He still didn’t remember where they hid the children.

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Goliath and the Girl

Teamwork

231 heard Sophia’s shout an instant before the separatist sighted on him and opened fire. Blue flashes popped in the air two strides ahead of him, ricochets smacking into the walls and floor of the station. 231’s every instinct screamed at him to take cover, but he stood his ground. The terrorist in his grip shrieked and thrashed to no avail.

The gunman gawked in disbelief, letting go of the trigger, cursing and frantically scanning the area. As 231 marched forward, the terrorist he held spat at his partner. “I’ll kill you! You — hrk!”

231 nearly stumbled as he lurched to a halt against his will. What? His separatist sputtered, turning his face to one side. The shield. “Sophia! Move the shield!”

Nassar aimed one rifle at the gunman. “Now put down your — no!”

The armed man’s eyes had fallen on the capsule. He raised his rifle to shoot.

No, no, no… “Sophia! Drop it! Drop it now!” 231 pressed on the barrier, crushing his captive mercilessly against it.

The separatist’s gun rattled, spraying the capsule with bullets. 231 could hear every impact. Nassar was suddenly pressed against him from behind. The Goliath shouted, eliciting another shriek from his captive. “Drop it now!

He lunged forward as the shield came down. Instinct kicked in. He broke into a full run, lifting the separatist off his feet. He reached the stairs, leaping up them two at a time. Nassar’s rifle exploded to life behind him. As he rounded the corner toward the gunman’s position, he heard the separatist’s rife erupt. A burst of pain in his right forearm.

His human shield grunted as he gripped him tighter — roaring pain in his forearm — and charged. Two more rife bursts, and his separatist lurched sharply. A spatter of warmth on his shoulder. He never slowed down.

The clattering sound of a rifle hitting pavement a moment before he rammed headlong into the shooter. 231 felt the man’s weight and carried it, heard the grunt of impact. And a crunch as the man’s back crashed into the railing behind him just above the waist and snapped.

231 shrugged away the bullet-ridden corpse and shook his head. The two separatists lay in a heap. His forearm leaked from a bullet wound. Glancing behind him, he saw the enforcer on the landing below, gun trained on 231’s position.

“…you get him?” said Nassar.

But 231 barely heard the question. “Sophia?”

Her dark head poked out of the capsule door. “Is it over?”

“Not till you’re safe.”

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Goliath and the Girl

Ambush

The emergency transit capsule came to a stop quietly at the terminal. Davis took his hand from the foregrip of his rifle to tap his comm. “It’s here.” He glanced across the walkway at Schmidt, who stared at the closed door of the capsule down the sights of his own rifle.

“Just like we planned,” came the voice in Davis’ ear, “capture the civilians, kill the cops.”

Schmidt nodded. Just like they planned.

Both men stood in silence, their guns trained on the door. There was no movement.

Davis glared at the unmoving capsule. He jerked his head at it. “Check it out.”

Schmidt immediately stepped out of cover and walked toward the transport. Something wrong with that guy, Davis thought. Just a little too eager to fight. Schmidt reached the door and swatted the open/close button with one hand, holding his weapon steady with the other.

The door swished open to reveal a cop, hands raised in surrender. From his vantage point, Davis could barely tell that Schmidt smiled.

Both terrorists jumped when the massive hand swung in from the left, knocking the rifle from Schmidt’s hands, as the second gripped his neck and spun him about. Between heartbeats, Schmidt was disarmed and forced into a headlock by —

“Move and he dies,” said the Goliath.

Davis’ mind went blank. He saw the cloned monster, watched the cop grab the fallen rifle, and couldn’t think. The Goliath stepped out of the capsule, the cop right behind him with two — two? — AR-12s.

“Put down your weapon and place your hands on your head,” the cop barked.

A single thought leaped into Davis’ mind. No way could that cop hit him if he shot one-handed. Davis could take out the cop and the Goliath in one burst. But Schmidt was locked in the clone’s grip, stuck in the line of fire.

A second thought. The hell with Schmidt.

“Look out!” a high, scared voice called out. But Davis had already pulled the trigger.

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Goliath and the Girl

Understanding

The emergency capsule doors closed behind them. The police officer – Nassar, his sleeve said – tapped the location of the telepad on the map on the wall. He then turned to 231. “Give me your Tower ID.”

231 offered his left wrist. “Milord, the emergency terminal is likely to be heavily guarded.”

“It’s an implant?”

“Milord, yes.”

Nassar looked impressed. He slipped the ID scanner from his belt and scanned 231’s wrist. “Can’t get your mission data since the hub’s down, but… okay. Goliath 231, on special assignment. Good enough for me.” He put the scanner back in his belt and caught 231’s eye. “And you’re probably right. You have a weapon?”

Sophia looked weary. “They’re gonna be waiting for us?”

“Milord, I have my sidearm. I am also trained with the A-12 rifle,” said 231, nodding to the confiscated weapon on Nassar’s shoulder.

“I’m sure you are. We don’t have Tower’s resources, but we train out here, too.”

“Milord, let me clarify. I am rated a triple-A marksman with the A-12 rifle.”

Nassar’s eyes bulged. “You’re… take this.” 231 gladly took the weapon back from the enforcer, relishing the look of disbelief on his face. “You’ve got combat experience?”

More than any human alive. “Milord, I have fought on nine worlds. Most recently, my squad and I destroyed a tank unit on New Corinth.”

“Well.” Nassar was silent for a moment and shook his head. “You got any ideas?”

“You should let me give you a shield,” Sophia said, her gaze locked on the rifle.

231 was glad he didn’t have to ask. “Milady, how many bullets can you stop?”

“What do you mean?”

“If she keeps her focus,” Nassar broke in, “it won’t go down. Isn’t that right?”

“Yeah,” Sophia said.

231 found himself cursing Tower’s psionic trials, and the rift they caused between the corporation and the psions. He only knew what he had observed firsthand about psionics, and what his training had taught him. Mostly, he knew that he was woefully uneducated on the subject.

“S… milady,” 231 said, catching himself, “please stand behind me.”

“But they won’t shoot me!” She looked at him quizzically.

“We don’t know that,” said Nassar. “We’re almost there. Stand behind the Goliath, girl. That’s the safest place.”

Sophia threw a frightened glance to 231, then stepped behind him. She put her hand on his lower back, her fingers twitching. “Now what?”

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