Attack doll 4 primes em.., p.1
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       Attack Doll 4: Primes Emeriti, p.1

           Douglas A. Taylor
 
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Attack Doll 4:  Primes Emeriti
Attack Doll 4: Primes Emeriti

  by Douglas A. Taylor

  Copyright 2014 by Douglas A. Taylor

  Chapter 1

  "Whew! This is one posh-looking place!" That was Mike, our team leader, and he was right. Six of us Primes were standing in the parking lot of the Naples National Golf Club in Naples, Florida. I don't play golf myself, but from what Wizzit had said before sending us out, Naples National was a very select, very prestigious private golf club. You know, the kind where the restaurant has a "chef" instead of a "fry cook" and doesn't bother to print the prices on the menus? I could believe it. The place fairly screamed money.

  I suppose it shouldn't have made a difference to any of us just how expensive the place was. We weren't there for dinner and a round of golf, after all. We were there, as always, because the alien would-be invaders who ran Enclave had sent out another monster. This time, though, we weren't there to attack and destroy said beastie. We were there -- with our force shields set to camouflage mode, so no one could see us -- to watch the show.

  You see, some weeks ago the United States government had decided that all Primes found on US soil were subject to arrest and detainment. I don't know who actually made that decision, and it didn't make a whole lot of sense to us. After all, we don't bother anyone or ask for help. We just fight the monsters Enclave sends out, and we go to great lengths to ensure that any collateral damage remains at a minimum. All that we have ever asked is to be left in peace to do our jobs.

  Regardless, we found out about that decision when police weapons started getting pointed at us every time we battled a monster in the US. We evaded capture the first time this happened, but then they arrested our team leader at the time, Shelley Windham, after one particularly brutal battle on the streets of New York City. She has been held prisoner ever since in a secure underground location somewhere near Denver. No charges were filed; no access was granted to anyone on the outside. Even the writ of habeas corpus presented by the lawyer Shelley's mother had hired was flatly denied on national security grounds.

  The official reason originally given for this bit of stupidity was that we Primes had supposedly stolen all our highly-advanced technology from the US Army years ago, and they wanted it back. The army have since backed off that claim; some people had begun asking the obvious question: If the army developed the tech in the first place, why didn't they just re-develop it? I mean, it's been almost sixteen years. So now, if you listen to the various blowhard policymakers on the Sunday morning talk shows, they're claiming instead that the US has the right to seize any and all advanced technology used on its soil in the name of combating terrorism or something.

  (Incidentally, lest one think that the United States was uniquely bloody-minded in its attitude toward the Primes: I know for a fact that the Chinese and Russian governments had been planning much the same kind of chicanery, and possibly India as well. The US just beat everyone else to it; the others at this point had evidently decided just to sit back to see what happened.)

  Of course, the exact reason given didn't really matter to Wizzit. He didn't argue the point. Come to think of it, I've never known him to argue with anyone about anything. Maybe the beings from his home planet don't argue; I don't know. What I do know is that after Shelley was arrested, he simply announced on our web site, "Primes do not operate where they are not welcome," and that was that.

  So now we don't fight Enclave monsters in the United States any more. We simply monitor the situation discreetly, and Wizzit posts vids of the incident alongside our own (generally more successful and less messy) missions. Which is why we were here today.

  This wasn't our first such outing. In the weeks since Shelley's detainment, Enclave had sent a couple of monsters to the United States -- one to the Mojave desert and another to the middle of Alaska. In each case, Wizzit had posted alerts and coordinates on our web site and sent us out to monitor the situation.

  The army had shown up in the Mojave within the hour and in Alaska after ninety minutes -- which I have to admit was pretty fast when you consider that they can't teleport like we can -- and had promptly shown that they really do believe the maxim that when brute force fails, one should simply apply more brute force. There was, like, no finesse to their operation at all.

  Bullets didn't work, so they tried armor-piercing rounds. Those fared only a little better, so they moved up to rocket-propelled grenades. The RPGs tore small chunks out of the monsters, but they didn't stop them or even slow them down much. Finally, the monsters had been taken out in each location with bombs dropped from airplanes. I won't pretend to know how powerful the bombs were; all I know is that each removed its respective monster and left a smoking crater in its place. I was curious to see how well such tactics would work today on the exquisitely-manicured lawns of the Naples National Golf Club.

  We quickly spotted the monster in question, one of Enclave's tank-like models built for power rather than speed or smarts. It was over by an irregularly-shaped lake off to the left of the clubhouse, and it was currently tearing up the green on which it was standing. I could hear the screams and shouts of would-be golfers fleeing in panic.

  "It looks like we have several vantage points to choose from," Mike said calmly. He was speaking Prime-to-Prime, which meant that only us Primes and Wizzit could hear him. "Roof of the clubhouse, island in the middle of the lake, stand of trees by the sand traps, . . ."

  "I see them," Wizzit said. "Teleporting now . . ."

  I felt the familiar everything-going-hazy sensation, and when my vision cleared, I was standing near a tree, up to my ankles in sand. Looking around, I saw that the side of the clubhouse was behind me and the lake was in front. Perfect view of the monster. I spotted another pair of invisible feet making impressions in the sand beside me. "Is that you, Indigo?" I asked softly.

  "No, it is Orange. Blue?"

  "Yeah, it's me."

  "Indigo and I are on the roof," came Mike's voice. "Where is everyone else?"

  "Green and I are on the island," Nicolai said, and Trina reported our position.

  "All right," Mike said, "everyone keep your eyes open. I know it's going to be tough, but remember, we're not to get involved."

  "Give me your hand, Blue," Trina said beside me. I reached out and felt her hand fumbling for mine. "We had better stay near the tree, out of the sand, so no one spots our footprints."

  Being more-or-less invisible has its good points and its bad points. The major good point is that no one can see you -- duh! -- so you can go places you're not supposed to go and not get caught. The major bad point is, again, that no one can see you, not even your teammates. I mean, Trina was standing right beside me, and all I could make out was a slight distortion in the air, something like a heat shimmer.

  If I worked at it, I could probably have kept visual track of where she was, but it would have taken a good deal of concentration. So when she suggested we hold hands, it wasn't because she wanted to get up to any hanky-panky. Sure, I like to think I'm nice to hold hands with, but she was being purely practical; it was the easiest way for each of us to know where the other was.

  "This looks like a tough monster," she commented. "I wonder whether the army's bombs will be able to defeat it."

  I shrugged. "Probably. I'm wondering how they're going to explain all the mayhem to the rich people who come here." I caught the sound of sirens in the distance. "Sounds like the police are on the way."

  "I wish I could be in there helping. We could destroy this thing in thirty minutes."

  "I know," I said. "It's hard to stand here just to watch."

  "I hope they bring
enough --" Suddenly she stopped. "Blue, look over there!"

  "Where?" She was probably pointing, but I couldn't see it.

  "Oh, sorry. Over to your right, coming out from behind the building."

  "Hmm. Zoinks." No, that wasn't an exclamation on my part. Zoinks, what Enclave calls drones, are the mindless, vaguely human-shaped foot soldiers they send out with their monsters to make life more difficult for us Primes. At present, they seemed to be doing a good job of scaring the local populace.

  "No, not the Zoinks. Lily Lee!"

  "Lily?" I looked again. Sure enough, striding confidently along amongst the blob-like bodies of the Zoinks I could make out an Asian-looking woman. Short, lithe, and drop-dead gorgeous, she was directing the Zoinks to attack the few onlookers who had stayed behind to watch. "Great, just great! Why did they have to send Lily out here today?"

  "I don't know, but it looks like you might have a problem keeping your word to JB Swift."

  I looked sharply over to where the Trina-shimmer was. I wished I could see her face so I could tell whether she was serious.

  Lily was an old enemy of ours. Her minder, whom we had nicknamed JB Swift, had somehow managed to take a sweet-natured, fifteen-year-old Chinese girl named Li Lin-fa and over the course of six years transform her into something both more and less than human, something he called the attack doll. What we were currently seeing was the attack doll's so-called "commander mode" -- basically acting as a Zoink general.

  According to Wizzit, Lily was one hundred percent human female, without a single speck of Enclave hardware on her anywhere. That made her something of a problem for us to deal with. All of our weapons are designed to disrupt the enhancements that Enclave uses to power their monsters while leaving ordinary humans unaffected. (Hence my earlier remark about limited collateral damage.) That meant that none of our special tech would touch Lily at all.

  Bullets would, though, and thus you might think that her presence today, with police cars en route, would be cause for rejoicing. You would be wrong.

  See, the last time we met, I had come to an understanding with JB Swift. In return for him not telling his alien masters what he had learned about my real identity, I had said that I would sort of look after Lily, even though she was Enclave and therefore our enemy.

  Okay, strictly speaking, what I had promised him was that I wouldn't intentionally kill her and that I'd even take reasonable precautions to see that she didn't die accidentally. In my mind, though, it went a little further than that. I didn't want to see that girl get herself into more trouble than she could handle.

  Why, you might ask, would I show such consideration to one of our most troublesome foes? Well, if you asked Shelley, she would say that I had fallen pretty hard for Li Lin-fa, the girl whom Lily had once been. If you asked Wizzit, he would tell you of his observation that commander-mode Lily and I displayed "a certain amount of romantic interest" in one another. Either of those might be true, or even both; all I knew was that I could not with a clear conscience stand idly by today and watch her get cut down in a hail of gunfire.

  The sirens had gotten closer, and I thought I heard tires squealing to a stop. "Guys," I said urgently, "Lily's out there. We have to get her away before she gets shot."

  "It'd serve her right," Toby growled. I don't think he has ever forgiven her her role in Prime Commander's death. We knew now that she hadn't been the one who actually killed him -- in fact, she and JB Swift probably hadn't even known he was dead until much later -- but one could argue that she had been indirectly responsible. It was easy to see that Toby still held a grudge.

  "Green, she doesn't deserve to be killed," I said hotly. "Not like this."

  "That's a matter of opinion."

  "Enough, Green," Trina said sharply. "How would you propose we get her out of there, Blue? Without getting mixed up in the monster fight, that is. Of course she won't cooperate with anything we try."

  You know, I'm starting to like having Trina as second-in-command. Mike is doing a decent enough job as our new team leader, but he can be a bit hot-headed at times. Trina has the cooler personality, and I'm glad that she has that extra bit of 2-in-C authority to smooth over disagreements among the team. I think Mike recognizes it, too; at least, he doesn't jump into matters like this right away, which gives Trina a chance to have her say.

  "I'm not quite sure," I said. Turning around to face the parking lot, I could see black-suited SWAT officers swarming out of a police van. "The only thing I can think of is something . . . like this!" With that, I let go of Trina's hand and sprinted out from my tree cover onto the green.

  "Blue, wait!" Trina cried. But it was too late. Within seconds I was among the Zoinks, fighting to get to Lily. Now, Zoinks are stupid, unobservant critters, and it would have been easy to avoid running into them had there been, say, just a half-dozen. Since we had begun going after her directly in our missions, though, Lily had taken to surrounding herself with them as a (more-or-less) living wall.

  Lily obviously figured out pretty quickly that something was up, seeing her Zoinks being tumbled about like ten-pins, and she began to run away from the commotion, alongside the lake. Unfortunately, this course brought her closer to the SWAT team. As I knocked aside the last of the Zoinks, I glanced over at the parking lot. One of the police officers had stopped and was sighting carefully along the barrel of his rifle, and somehow I knew he was taking aim directly at Lily. "Lily, stop!" I shouted and began racing towards her, even though I knew I couldn't reach her in time.

  It was then that time seemed to slow down. Yeah, I know it's a cliche that supposedly happens during stressful moments, but honest to goodness, that's really what happened. I took in a breath, and it felt as if I had drawn in some of my force shield along with it. The energy from it spread quickly throughout my entire body. My lungs burned, my skin tingled all over, and the whole world just ground to a halt. The sky took on a deep reddish hue. The breeze died, the birds hung motionless in the sky, and even the ripples in the lake stopped moving.

  I surged forward as fast as I could, even though it felt like I was running through a sea of molasses. I slogged doggedly towards Lily, nightmarishly slow. Ten minutes or so later, when I finally drew near to her, she was still standing where she had been. She hadn't moved a muscle, and more importantly, no shot had yet been fired.

  The weird slowing-down effect faded away abruptly as I reached her. I grabbed her from behind and quickly spun her around to place myself between her and the shooter. My force shield won't stop a rifle bullet, but it does provide some protection against impacts of various sorts, and some protection is better than none, which is what Lily had.

  "Wizzit, please take us out of here!" I shouted. It's funny, even in a tense moment like that, I still remembered to say please. I guess Shelley's policy of courtesy, everywhere and always, had been drummed into me pretty well.

  I felt a pinch along my side as we teleported away. A hard pinch, as if someone had taken a giant pair of pliers, grabbed the flesh just under my ribcage, and squeezed hard. A bad sting, more than any real pain, but a sting that just didn't go away. If anything, it got worse as we materialized -- not in a plain white room of painted cinderblock as I expected, but in the middle of a grove of trees.

  "Wizzit, where are we?" I demanded.

  "Across the lake from where the action is," he said. "It was the nearest safe place. The location you were probably expecting is not available."

  "Not available? But --"

  Lily chose that moment to start struggling. "Let me go!" she yelled.

  "Settle down!" I ordered, tightening my grip. "Look, I'm not going to hurt you, Lily. I'm trying to save your life!"

  In commander mode, Lily isn't much of a fighter, and it normally wouldn't have been difficult at all for me to hold onto her until she calmed down. She started throwing elbows at me, though, and one of them ha
ppened to connect with the very spot that had felt the pinch. Pain exploded in my side. I gasped, and everything sort of faded from my view.

  When my head cleared, I was lying on the ground and Lily was looking around confusedly. "Where are you?" she shouted. "Where did you go?"

  I must have groaned, because she suddenly looked down, obviously struggling to make out my sort-of invisible form. Her face displayed the curious mixture of defiance and fear that seemed to characterize her personality in commander mode. As I watched, she drew back her foot and kicked experimentally at me. She didn't strike the exact spot that hurt the worst, but it was close enough that I yelled in pain and rolled away from her.

  I came to a stop some yards away, lying on my good side, panting heavily, and wondering why the heck she was able to hurt me so badly. I mean, it was obvious that I had caught a bullet out there -- I could certainly figure out that much -- but even so, my force shield should have protected me from the brunt of her weak, inexpert blows. Wounded or not, I should barely have felt them. So why did my left side feel as if it were on fire?

  Lily's eyes were following some visual trail from the spot I had been lying to where I was now. She knelt down, touched something on the ground, and brought it up before her face. She swallowed and licked her lips uneasily. "You're . . . you're bleeding," she said softly.

  "Yeah, I probably am," I replied tightly, taking quick, shallow breaths to help with the pain. "And it really hurts, so please don't kick me again, okay?"

  "W-who are you?" she demanded. "And why can't I see you?"

  "I'm Prime Blue," I told her. "We've met before. Say hi to your Uncle Oswald for me, would you?"

  Her eyes grew wide. "You know Uncle Oswald?"

  "Uh huh." JB Swift's real name, I had recently discovered, was Oswald Grumpf. Lily had mentioned an Uncle Oswald the last time I fought her, and I had drawn the obvious conclusion.

  The sound of gunfire made her head jerk up. "What's that?" she demanded, skittish as a cat.

  "I think somebody's shooting at your monster," I said. "That's why I dragged you away from there. Didn't want you to get hurt."

  She glanced down at me, then cautiously stepped away towards the shots. I don't know what she saw when she peeked out from among the trees, but when she came back, her face had gone pale under her Chinese coloration and she was visibly shaking. "I-I have to talk to Uncle Oswald."

  "When you do, let him know that Prime Blue keeps his promises, okay?" And then, just because it was becoming sort of a tradition with me, I spoke to her in Cantonese, the language that her alter ego Li Lin-fa understood. "It is good to see you again, pretty one. Come out and talk to me."

  "No!" She hunkered down on the ground, hands pressed to her ears. I was surprised to see tears spring to her eyes. "Why do you do this to me?" she cried. "Please, no more magic words!"

  She moved away. With shaking hands, she reached into a pocket of the standard-issue black Enclave jumpsuit she wore and pulled out, of all things, a cellphone. "I'm calling Uncle Oswald right now," she said, dialing a number, "and he'll come and get me. You had better not stick around, because he'll be mad when he gets here and he'll . . . he'll make you sorry!"

  "Fine." I closed my eyes wearily. The pain from her kick was starting to subside, but only a little. "Tell him I said to keep you out of the United States. They're starting to play rough here, and I might not be able to save you next time." Then, Prime-to-Prime, I said, "Wizzit, can you get me out of here?"

  He replied, much too cheerfully, "I was wondering when you'd ask."

 
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