Attack doll 5 the end o.., p.1
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       Attack Doll 5: The End of Lily Lee, p.1

           Douglas A. Taylor
Attack Doll 5:  The End of Lily Lee
Attack Doll 5: The End of Lily Lee

  by Douglas A. Taylor

  Copyright 2014 by Douglas A. Taylor

  Chapter 1

  "All right, team, Wizzit says this will be the last one, so let's not let up!"

  That was Mike, our team lead, trying to keep our spirits from flagging as we faced our fifth monster of the day. And as I looked around at my fellow Primes, all of whom were standing around in various stages of exhausted readiness, I privately agreed that we needed something to inspire us.

  Toby and Bill were limping heavily, Nicolai and Padma were each leaning on their battleaxes for support, and Mike was definitely favoring one arm. The sword in Trina's hand was drooping almost to the ground; I hurt all over, and I could barely see out my left eye, which was rapidly swelling shut thanks to the death struggles of the last monster we had fought. Yup, we were going to have some serious healing up to do after this mission was over.

  It used to be that the alien would-be conquerors of Earth who ran Enclave could send down no more than a single monster every couple of days, and at the time, that seemed like a lot for us Primes to handle. Then, about six months ago, they started sending out as many as three monsters in a single day, and for the past two months they had been sending up to five at a time.

  Granted, that didn't mean that we suddenly had five times as much work to do. For one thing, Enclave has as much trouble as anyone else finding quality recruits. Of the fourteen or so monsters we had faced so far this week, five were real pushovers and two had vaporized the moment any of us had fired a blaster at them. Then, too, we were getting some extra help; besides us seven full-time Primes, we had the four retirees, the so-called Primes Emeriti, helping us out as often as they were able.

  Today had been a bad day, though. The four previous monsters had been real doozies, and this one looked worse than the others. It was a large, long snake -- large as in "I couldn't get my arms all the way around this sucker" and long as in "if you laid all us Primes end-to-end, that would make it a whole lot easier for him to gulp us down." And fangs! I know the Enclave folks love fangs on their monsters, but this pair were some of the biggest I had ever seen -- as long as my arm and dripping with something I was afraid was probably poison.

  Shelley raised her triple-blaster, the one she was borrowing from Trina, and fired a shot into the creature's gaping maw. "Shooters, let's position ourselves and start whittling this thing down to size," she called out. Although Shelley has been a Prime Emeritus (or Prime Emerita, I suppose, since she's female) for only a couple of months, she has quickly become the unquestioned leader of that little subgroup of ours.

  The other three Emeriti -- Mayumi, Alvaro, and Cathy -- gamely spread out so that they formed a rough square with the snake in the center and began firing. The four of them had to be at least as tired as we were, but they were probably in better shape, injury-wise. Paradoxically, this was because they had no force shields to protect them the way we regular Primes did. We tended to keep them back, out of harm's way, while we did the close-in fighting and got beaten up the worst.

  "All right, let's the rest of us start attacking in pairs," Mike ordered once the Emeriti were in position. "Green and I will go first. Ready?"

  "Actually," Wizzit broke in, "Blue's got this."

  Everyone turned to look at me. "I do?" I gulped nervously, trying to gauge how much bigger this monster was than me. Wizzit is the alien cloud of pink gas who gives us the tech we use to fight Enclave, and he usually knows what he's talking about. I wasn't so sure about this time, though.

  "You do," he affirmed. "It's time to start putting some of that extra practice to work."

  "Uh, right." I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. "Okay, then, I guess I've got this. Um, everyone back away and stop shooting. And . . . here goes!" I concentrated briefly, the way Wizzit had taught me, and inhaled a quick, sharp breath.

  Nothing happened. After a moment, I said sheepishly, "Uh, let me try that again . . ."

  "Yup, you're just taking him apart, aren't you, Blue?" That was Toby, supportive as ever. He hefted his hammer. "Come on, Red. Let's start this."

  "Just a minute, Green." Bill stepped forward. "I know what Blue is trying to do, and it's not a bad idea. I don't know why I didn't think of it first. Blue is just not experienced enough to handle it yet. Here, step aside, Blue; I'll take care of it."

  I held up a finger. "Hang on, Black," I said sharply. "I've got this; just give me another shot." I set myself, concentrated, and drew in another sharp breath.

  I'm not sure what I did differently, but whatever it was, it worked this time. My lungs burned as I drew in part of my force shield along with the air. The energy spread rapidly throughout my body, and the whole world changed. The light around me became darker, redder. My teammates' voices drifted down the scale into subsonic rumbles and then vanished into silence. And everyone and everything surrounding me slowed down until they eventually froze into immobility.

  I had done this trick, this speeding-up of my personal timeframe, a couple of times before in battle. I had never before done it on purpose, though, only in response to some great need. And now that I had this monster helpless before me, I wasn't quite sure how to take advantage of it. Should I kick it in the gut? Punch it in the eye? Shoot it with my blaster? What would do the most damage?

  "Blue, I would suggest you use your weapon to slit this thing open from head to tail." That was Wizzit, who was somehow able to keep up with me even in this accelerated state. All the practicing of this trick that I had been doing in our gym had benefited him, at least. Before, he had had trouble adjusting his synthesized speech to my rate of speed, but now his voice wobbled only a little as he spoke.

  I nodded to indicate that I had heard him; I still hadn't mastered talking while in this state, and I wasn't sure I ever would. Pulling my weapon from my belt, I advanced upon the snake. From past experience, I knew that I had ten minutes or so, subjectively speaking, before the effect faded -- about five seconds or less of real time. Certainly enough to take this critter down, but probably not enough to dawdle.

  Even though I was moving faster than the eye could follow, it felt as though I were slogging along at the bottom of an ocean of mud. Yep, air resistance was a real problem. Still, it took me only a couple of minutes to make it to the snake's, er, throat. Or whatever you called the part just below its head.

  My weapon was one that Padma had built a couple of months ago in a burst of creativity. We had just fought a faux Hindu god called Indra, and afterwards, Padma had decided to make her own version of Indra's mythological weapon, the Vajra. Knowing that I liked to use small, hand-sized weapons, she offered it to me to replace my recently-destroyed sais.

  My own personal vajra was basically just a short fighting stick, with ridges on the shaft to facilitate gripping; when I held it in my closed fist, it stuck out a little over an inch on either side. The part that came out past my pinky had been filed to a conical point, sort of like a sharpened pencil, and Padma assured me that it ought to be hard enough to penetrate the hide of any Enclave monster if I struck with sufficient force.

  The other end consisted of a spherical golden knob. The knob, according to Padma, had been packed with an extra amount of the tech that we use in our weapons to disrupt the monsters' Enclave enhancements. A good, hard blow from that end of the vajra ought to feel like a mini-thunderbolt to any beastie unlucky enough to receive it.

  The two ends together symbolized both the cutting power of the diamond and the irresistible force of the thunderbolt and thus made my vajra a fitting replica of the weapon th
at the original Indra had used to slay the legendary serpent Vritra. Or at least that was Padma's breathless, excited explanation as she handed it to me for the first time. I'm not Hindu, so the backstory didn't mean all that much to me. It was obviously important to Padma, though, and since she is important to me, I accepted the gift enthusiastically. And I have to admit, it's a pretty nice weapon -- one of the best I've ever had, in fact -- and for the most part it has lived up to expectations.

  I gripped the vajra with both hands, ready to begin slaying my own serpent. Reaching up as close to the thing's head as I could, I stabbed down with all my strength and began the task of dragging the tip along the creature's body. Let me tell you, slicing this thing open was a lot of work, kind of like trying to etch a line in asphalt with an icepick. Between that and fighting the ever-present air resistance, it took me almost all the rest of my available time to cut my way through this critter's hide.

  When I was done, I took a step back to survey my handiwork, being careful not to bump into any of my still-immobile teammates. The part I had first stabbed was just beginning to spark, and I watched the line of sparks travel down the length of its body, accelerating rapidly as my timeframe slowed down. By the time the fireworks hit its tail, my vision and hearing had returned to normal and I was moving at regular speed again.

  I heard the startled gasps from my fellow Primes as I (to their eyes) vanished from the spot where I had been standing and reappeared at my current location. The monster was in full fail mode now, as all of its Enclave enhancements self-destructed at once. A largish spark flew out from the dying beastie and struck my hand. I yelped and shook it off, then ducked for cover behind Trina. Speeding up my timeframe had temporarily drained my force shield of power; right now, I had no more protection than one of the Emeriti. Less protection, actually, since I couldn't even use one of our weapons to defend myself. A little over a minute later, the monster was completely gone and Wizzit teleported us back to HQ.

  As the teleportation haze cleared from my vision, Toby slapped me on the back hard enough to make me stumble. "Hey, nice work, Trevor," he said with a grin. He had unblurred himself -- that is, he had turned off the greenish mist of his force shield -- so I could actually see that he was grinning. "I know I wasn't looking forward to fighting that thing."

  "Thanks, Toby," I replied. I looked down at the vajra in my hand. The supposedly diamond-hard point had snapped off sometime during my attack on the monster. "Kind of broke my weapon, though."

  Padma came over with a cry of dismay. "Already? Trevor, you go through weapons too fast! Nicolai and I can't keep up with you!"

  I handed her the broken weapon. "Sorry," I said with a grin. "I liked this one pretty well -- well enough to ask you to make me another one -- but I guess it just wasn't hard enough to cut through a monster like that."

  "I have located the broken tip back at the battle site," Wizzit announced. "It is now destroyed." That's our Wizzit, thorough as ever. He guards our tech pretty jealously; he doesn't take any chances on it falling into outside hands, ever.

  Nicolai had joined us and was looking at the weapon in Padma's hand. "I hardened it as much as I could," she said to him. "What do you think? Is there anything else I could try?"

  Nicolai looked at her, then over at Trina. "I have an idea," he said thoughtfully. "Not for the vajra, but for something else. Let us discuss it later."

  "Enough chitchat," Wizzit broke in. "You kids went through a meat grinder today. Healing comas all around, starting in two minutes."

  We all looked at each other, shrugged, and began heading for the lounge. Wizzit could be an awful pain sometimes, the way he insists on healing us up ASAP after missions, but in this case, I didn't think anyone was going to complain.

  Looking around, I was a little surprised to discover that the Primes Emeriti were coming along with the rest of us. Shelley sometimes hung around HQ after battles, since she and Bill are engaged to be married, but Mayumi, Cathy, and Alvaro usually teleported out right away. They have lives, after all. Busy ones, too, from what I have heard.

  "What's going on?" I asked Shelley.

  She gave me a surprised look. "You mean you don't know?" she asked.

  "Trevor spends most of his time sulking in the gym these days," Trina said, laying a hand on my shoulder. She gave me a wry smile. "He might not have heard us discussing the plans."

  "Trina, love, if 'sulking in the gym' is what enabled him to destroy that snake today," Mike pointed out, "then perhaps we could all stand to sulk a bit more."

  "You do know that today is Bill's last day, right?" Shelley said to me, ignoring Mike and Trina.

  "Sure," I said with a shrug. "And tomorrow I'm bringing Angie her new Prime belt."

  "Yes, well, we decided we'd throw Bill a bit of a going-away do," Mike said. "Food in the kitchen after healing comas are done. Attendance is not optional, mate. We'll do our standard debriefing tomorrow after breakfast."

  "Sounds good to me," I said. "Of course, I'll be a little late. Got to wait for my force shield to recharge itself before my healing coma can start." Mike nodded and turned into the lounge with the other regular Primes.

  Mayumi, Cathy, and Alvaro took the right turn into the kitchen, and I headed for my room to give the others some privacy. See, when you're in a healing coma, you don't really want anyone around who's fully awake. Healing comas aren't usually comas in the medical sense; most of the time when Wizzit's healing you up, you're just sort of half-asleep. One side-effect of that is that you talk. We call it babbling. It's usually nothing important, just whatever comes into your semi-dreaming mind, but it could be embarrassing to have someone else listen in while you're doing it.

  Shelley continued walking beside me as I entered the hallway that led to the boys' rooms. "Listen, Trev," she said confidentially, "I know you and Bill don't get along . . ."

  I shrugged. "We try, but it doesn't always work out."

  "I know, and I appreciate the effort. His heart's in the right place, but . . . well, the two of you are too different in some ways, and too alike in others." She smiled and laid a hand on my shoulder. "At the party today, I'd like you to try to say something nice to him, okay? It doesn't have to be anything big, and it definitely shouldn't be anything phony. Just some positive thing you can say to him -- and really mean it -- before he leaves the Primes for good. I'd take it as a personal favor, and I know it would mean a lot to him."

  I grinned. I like and trust Shelley as much as anyone I've ever known -- heck, everybody does. For her sake, I'd gladly do something like that. "Sure thing, Shelley."

  She smiled again and squeezed my shoulder. "Thanks, Trev."

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