Attack doll 3 protocol.., p.1
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       Attack Doll 3: Protocol Black, p.1

           Douglas A. Taylor
 
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Attack Doll 3:  Protocol Black
Attack Doll 3: Protocol Black

  by Douglas A. Taylor

  Copyright 2014 by Douglas A. Taylor

  Chapter 1

  I suppose if I had to pinpoint where the trouble all started, it would have been with Mike that time in Texas. Not that any of us blamed Mike for it at the time, as much fun as that would have been. He was just the right guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  We were fighting the latest monster that Enclave had sent out, some sort of cat-like creature that I swear could jump twenty feet straight up into the air. Made it pretty dang hard for us to get hold of it so we could destroy it, which I imagine was the point.

  Mike -- aka Prime Orange -- was in charge of our little expedition. Normally Prime Red would have taken the lead, but Shelley had been in and out over the past week and was currently unavailable. Her father had died recently, you see, his neck broken by the pretty Enclave minder we knew as Lily Lee.

  Her mother had been devastated by the sudden loss, and her sister Francesca was only seventeen, which meant that Shelley had to be the one to see to the funeral arrangements and generally hold the family together. I don't know how she managed it, but somehow she got a doctor to sign a death certificate stating that he had died as a result of a fall while horseback riding out on their ranch. The body had been cremated, and the funeral was today, in a little over an hour. Which meant that none of us Primes was in any mood to take any guff from any monsters.

  We started catching on to this guy's jump-up-twenty-feet-to-get-away tactic after only a couple of tries. The third time we charged the critter, Trina -- Prime Green -- hung back from the rest of us. When Cat-monster did his super-leap (no doubt chuckling to himself the whole time over how stupid we all were) Trina coolly raised her triple-blaster, drew a bead, and shot him out of the sky.

  It didn't kill him -- Enclave monsters are tougher than that, even the wimpy ones -- but it did send him back to earth in a smoking heap. Mike was the first one to reach him, and he didn't give him a chance to get away. He just started pounding away with his club. I joined him next, using my Escrima stick, then Toby with his hammer, and finally Nicolai and Padma with their axes.

  It appeared that Cat-monster was a one-trick pony, if you'll pardon the awkward metaphor. That super-leaping ability was the only thing he had going for him -- no super strength, no pointy teeth, no razor-sharp claws, nothing but the ability to jump up high.

  It was a little sad, really, but there was nothing for it. Enclave monsters have to be put down, without exception. We can't let them get a foothold, or else they'd be overrunning the Earth before we knew it. His Enclave hardware overloaded after just a few minutes of our assault, and he vaporized amid a shower of sparks.

  None of us spoke the entire time we were attacking him. I don't think any of us felt like it. Being a Prime can be a lot of fun at times; there's often a crazy sort of goofiness involved in fighting humans who have been willingly transformed into monsters by an alien organization bent on taking over the world. But not today. Prime Commander's funeral had cast a pall over everything.

  "I think we're done here," Mike said grimly once the sparks had stopped flying. He spoke Prime-to-Prime, which meant that the only ones who could hear him were the rest of us Primes and Wizzit, the alien who gives us the tech we use to fight Enclave. He straightened up and turned around to check the area . . . and found himself staring down the barrel of a rifle.

  A man I took to be a sheriff's deputy was holding the rifle. He was also shouting at us in the manner of law enforcement officers all over the world: "Get down! Now! All of you, face down on the ground! Now! NOW! Move it!"

  Mike slowly raised his hands. Prime-to-Prime, he said, "I'll handle this. The rest of you, camouflage mode and scatter. Nobody get behind me." Aloud, he said, "Now, officer, let's just relax, shall we? We wouldn't want that thing to go off accidentally."

  The rest of us backed away from Mike. I muttered "Camouflage mode on" to my Prime belt. Nicolai, Trina, Toby, and Padma all faded from view as they activated camouflage mode as well. Soon, the only two figures that were visible were Mike and the uniformed guy with the gun, any civilian onlookers having run away some time ago.

  Said uniformed guy looked fairly young and was obviously a bit freaked by our sudden disappearances. His eyes bugged out. "W-where'd they go?" he demanded, looking around wildly.

  "Haven't the faintest," Mike replied in a friendly, relaxed-sounding voice. "But I can tell you this: No one is going to hurt you. You're not in any danger, either from me or any of my mates, so why don't you put that thing down and let's talk. What's your name? My name is Prime Orange, but my friends just call me Orange."

  The sheriff's deputy must have suddenly remembered that he was holding a rifle, because he took a fresh grip on it, sighting along the barrel straight at Mike's chest. "Get down on the ground. Now! Face down, hands on the back of your head! Move it! Now! Now! NOW!"

  Mike remained where he was, arms still raised. "Am I being arrested, officer?" he inquired mildly.

  The deputy frowned. Guys like him are trained that they must, without exception, maintain complete control of every situation, and Mike wasn't letting him do that, despite the threat of being shot. "You are being detained for questioning by federal investigators. I have instructions that you are armed and very dangerous. Drop your weapon and get down on the ground NOW!"

  Mike looked over at the club he still held in his hand. "Sorry, officer, but I'm afraid I can't do that. Highly advanced technology, y'know. I can't let it fall into the wrong hands. You do realize that I'm a Prime, right? Everyone knows we're on the side of the good guys."

  I heard Padma speak up, Prime-to-Prime, "I could knock him down to give you time to escape."

  "No. Absolutely not," Mike replied the same way. "Primes do not, under any circumstances, attack law enforcement officials." Yeah, he really was quoting from a rule book. I was surprised, too. Mike doesn't read that many books.

  The deputy looked unsure of himself. He activated the walkie-talkie he wore. "I have one of the Primes at bay," he said. "He is being uncooperative. He refuses to drop his weapon and is resisting arrest."

  The walkie-talkie squawked, and then I heard a voice say, "Take him out."

  The deputy frowned. I could tell he didn't like what he was hearing. "Repeat that, please?"

  "Repeat, take him out!" The speaker's voice was hard, flat, brittle. Sounded like the guy had no sense of humor whatsoever, and people like that scare me.

  "Roger." The deputy looked grim. Taking a fresh grip on his rifle, he stepped forward until the barrel of his weapon was no more than six inches from the swirling orange mist that obscured Mike's face. "I am going to count to five," he said, his voice deadly serious, "and then if you are not lying face down on the ground with your hands on your head, I am going to fire. Don't make me kill you."

  "You do whatever you think you need to do, officer," Mike said quietly, "but you know I'm no danger to you or anyone else."

  The deputy swallowed, then set his face. "I'm counting. One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five!" He hesitated for a second, and then he squeezed the trigger.

  Now, when I said earlier that Mike was the right guy in the wrong place, you might have thought that I was just making a joke. I wasn't. See, the interesting thing about Mike is that his reflexes are incredibly fast. He's the only guy I know who can beat every level of every shoot-em-up video game ever made the first time through. He says they bore him.

  And those force shields that we wear? They do a whole lot more than just hide our faces from the world. The
y increase our strength, raise our endurance, and jazz up our reflexes to their theoretical limits. With his force shield at full power, Mike's reaction time becomes almost supernatural, and that allows him to do something that probably no one else on Earth can do. He can literally dodge a bullet.

  He turned on camouflage mode as the sound from the rifle shot was dying away. I have never fired a real gun myself, just my blaster, so I don't know what the deputy saw, but with any luck, it appeared to him as though shooting the rifle caused Mike to vanish into thin air.

  Wizzit teleported us back to HQ seconds later. Trina went over to Mike as soon as we materialized. "Are you all right?" she asked anxiously, taking his arm. "He didn't hit you, did he?"

  "'Course not, love," he replied with his easy smile. "What's the matter, afraid that you won't get a chance to buy me dinner?"

  She stared at him in disbelief, and for a moment I thought he was going to get his face slapped. "No, I was afraid you might have been shot in the head, you arrogant oaf! But now I see that scrambling your brains would have been an improvement!"

  He grinned at me as Trina stalked off. "Women!" he said cheerfully. "Who can understand 'em?" Then his face grew more serious. "What was that all about out there, Wizzit?" he asked the air around him. "No one's ever tried to put the collar on us before."

  "Unsure," Wizzit replied with uncharacteristic terseness. "Investigating . . ."

  But I wasn't really listening to Wizzit. I was busy staring at Trina. No, it's not what you're thinking. I mean, with her figure, sure, it's always a pleasure to watch Trina walk away, but under normal circumstances I don't stare at her. On the other hand, under normal circumstances she doesn't blow up at Mike that way.

  We Primes live a pretty isolated life, both socially and geographically. Each of us stays at HQ six weeks out of every seven with a week off for vacation, more or less. No one ever comes to HQ except us Primes (and Prime Commander when he was alive) so of necessity, we're a tight-knit group. Everyone is everyone else's best friend, and we work hard at that. We have to; otherwise we'd be constantly snapping at one another, or worse.

  So when one of us does start snapping at the others, it's usually a sign that something's wrong, something that might have to be dealt with. Mike was oblivious to Trina's mood, and no one else seemed to have noticed anything, so it looked like it was up to me to play counselor. I had heard some pretty ugly rumors about the way Mike treated women back when I was Prime Violet, and I wondered whether he might have done something to set Trina off.

  I started after her, but Wizzit spoke up: "Let's get ready, kids! No healing comas, but showers all around and then into your best duds. I promised Shelley I'd have you in place half an hour before the ceremony."

  Well, so much for finding out what was bugging Trina. Reluctantly, I changed course and headed for my room. It was then that Mike took hold of my arm and drew me off to one side. "Listen, Trevor," he said confidentially, "I've been meaning to ask you -- how is Trina coming along with her knife-hand chops? Is there any chance she'll actually win that little bet of ours?"

  I grinned. A couple of weeks ago, Mike had been on Trina's case (her phrase, not mine) about her fighting skills. She has never been our strongest fighter, and as the resident sharpshooter, she doesn't get much regular practice battling monsters close-up. He wound up goading her into a dinner bet that she couldn't break a board with her hand. She asked me to help her out, since I know a thing or two about board-breaking, and I had begun training her.

  "She's got every chance in the world, mate," I told him. "She's been working plenty hard at it."

  His face fell. "That's what I was afraid of. I suppose I don't mind buying her dinner, but has she said anything to you about . . . you know, the, er, the costume?"

  "Not a word." That little condition was what had made the bet so interesting. Not only did the loser have to buy dinner for the winner, but the winner also got to pick out what the loser would wear to the dinner.

  I have to admit, I sure wouldn't mind seeing Trina parade around in the little dental-floss bikini that Mike had selected for her, but fair was fair, and I couldn't in good conscience turn down her request for help. And besides, Padma might have done nearly as good a job training her. "The last thing I heard," I told him, "was that comment she made about a clown costume, a funny wig, and a big red nose."

  Mike was looking decidedly worried when I left him and headed down to my room.

  Chapter 2

 
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