Attack doll 2 junior pri.., p.1
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       Attack Doll 2: Junior Prime, p.1

           Douglas A. Taylor
 
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Attack Doll 2: Junior Prime
Attack Doll 2: Junior Prime

  by Douglas A. Taylor

  Copyright 2013 by Douglas A. Taylor

  Chapter 1

  "What the hell is that thing?"

  Mike was backing away from the furry beastie that had sprung out of nowhere at us. It looked like a big cat of some sort, except that it was the size of a horse and had a saddle on its back. In the saddle was a figure that might have been a caricature of a Mongol warrior, complete with scraggly beard, furry hat, and (unfortunately for us) a deadly-looking recurved bow.

  "I'd say it is monster Wizzit sent us to find," came Trina's comment. I couldn't see her face, which was obscured by the green mist of her force shield. She sounded cool enough as she circled around to the thing's right, but anyone who knew her could tell she was keyed up; being Russian, she tends to drop her articles -- her a's, an's, and the's -- when she gets excited. She had already pulled out her triple-blaster, but was not pointing it at the figure. Wizzit had not yet determined that it was hostile, so we weren't yet allowed to be hostile in return.

  I began circling around the other way, which brought me over to the tooth-ish end of the cat rather than the tail-ish end, and Padma followed me. I'm not Padma's babysitter during battles any more -- Shelley officially made her a "grown-up" Prime a couple of weeks ago -- but she still tends to stick close by me during our missions. That annoys Nicolai to no end, I'm sure; he'd much rather Padma stay close to him. Isn't much I can do about it, though. Padma's a big girl and can make her own decisions, and she and I do work well together. Besides, I like her. Not quite the same way Nicolai likes her, but she's a nice kid.

  "Which one is the real threat, Indigo?" she asked me. "The rider or the . . . whatever that thing is?"

  "No idea," I replied, wondering the same thing myself. "Probably both." The cat looked normal enough, except for the size. It had large tan spots ringed with black, but it was a bit heavier-built than your standard leopard, even taking its enlarged size into account. Maybe it was some sort of local animal that Enclave had mutated; it sure didn't appear to be an altered human being like we normally see.

  The rider, on the other hand, was typical Enclave. Oversize head, ginormous fangs (yeah, they always make with the fangs), and the snarly voice that you could barely understand. He was currently yelling something about how he would destroy us all.

  Even with the fangs, though, he looked a bit less out of place than we did, seeing as we were presently in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, standing in front of a largish, square building bearing the words "The National Museum of Mongolian History". In fact, he bore a fair resemblance to the guy pictured on the front of the museum.

  "Keep a sharp lookout, everyone," Mike was saying via Prime-to-Prime communication, which meant than no one who wasn't sporting a force shield could hear him. "I don't like the look of that bow. And can we get the crowd here to move away? Wizzit, what languages do they speak around here?"

  "Mongolian, duh!" came Wizzit's voice. I guess he decided that he was going to be snippy today.

  "Not helpful, Wizzit," Mike replied after a moment. I could hear suppressed exasperation in his voice, and I imagined that he was wishing that Shelley was here right now. She never lost her temper with Wizzit's occasional childishness. "I meant, what languages do they speak here that we know? Mongolia's just north of China, isn't it? Indigo, if you would --"

  "Green would be more help," Wizzit broke in. "They speak more Russian here than Mandarin, in case the Cyrillic script on the museum sign didn't give you a clue. Also, English would work -- again, the sign has the museum's name on it in English. They speak some Japanese here, some Korean, even some German. In the west of the country, they speak --"

  "That'll do, Wizzit," Mike said patiently. "You heard him, everyone. Green, warn everyone away in Russian, if you please. Blue, in English. Everyone else, just be careful, and let's surround this thing. Wizzit, let us know as soon as you've determined it's hostile."

  "Don't I always?" Wizzit sniffed, as Trina and Toby went into the standard everybody-move-back speech in their respective languages.

  I don't know about Trina's Russian, but Toby can do a pretty good public school British accent when he wants to, even if he is from Manchester. It sounds very official even through the voice alteration, which disguises our varied accents to some extent. If Shelley's not around, Mike will often have Toby make our announcements in English for just that reason. Well, that and the fact that he's, like, six-four. People tend to pay attention to him.

  Big Kitty was starting to dance around and make threatening noises at the locals who were getting too close to it, so it wasn't difficult to persuade them to move out of the area. That was definitely a good thing. A Prime getting hurt would be bad enough, but a local getting injured was always much, much worse. We Primes don't have much of a public relations problem, and that's partly because we go to such great lengths to ensure that the only one who gets hurt during these encounters is the Enclave bad guy du jour.

  The six of us had just about completely encircled the thing when the rider went into action. Sometimes Enclave monsters are like these slow-moving tanks, but not this guy. One second he was scanning the horizon like he was posing for a picture, and then next he had some sort of arrow nocked on his bow and was launching it straight at me.

  I might have been able to dodge the thing if it hadn't been so unexpected. The force shields we use during battle jazz up our reflexes to their theoretical limits. I couldn't quite twist away in time, though, and the bolt managed to get through my force shield and pierce my right leg.

  "Indigo!" I heard Padma scream. At least she had learned one lesson in the last several weeks, I thought as I went down to one knee with a cry of pain. She called out my color, not my real name like she did that time in Vietnam. That had turned out to be a serious blunder. It was good to see that she wasn't repeating it.

  "Wizzit, we can attack this thing now, right?" Mike snapped. When Wizzit replied in the affirmative, he said quickly, "All right, Green, start taking shots at the rider. Keep him busy; I do not want anyone else stuck with an arrow. Yellow and Violet, let's us take this thing on. Blue, help us with the monster, but keep an eye on Green and run interference as needed. You all right, Indigo?"

  "I'm not dead or dying, if that's what you wanted to know," I replied through gritted teeth. Damn, that thing hurt a lot!

  "Yup, that pretty much covers it," he said. He was holding his club in front of him, ready to attack as soon as Nicolai, Padma, and Toby were ready. "Wizzit, send Indigo back to headquarters and initiate a healing coma right away."

  "Hey, I don't have to go just yet!" I retorted promptly. Man, I hated to leave right in the middle of a battle. "Okay, maybe I can't fight, but I could use my blaster and help Green keep that thing off-balance."

  "It is a clean wound," Padma added, looking up from where she had been examining my thigh. "The arrow appears to have gone straight through the muscle and out the other side."

  Mike shook his head. "Nothing doing."

  "No offense, Indigo, but you are worst marksman on team," Trina said as she snapped off a shot that nearly knocked the rider's bow from his hand. "You'd probably hit one of us before you hit monster."

  "Green's right. Sorry, but you're no good to us injured," Mike said. "Wizzit, take him out of here. Heal him up quick sharp, and let me know as soon as he's ready to go again."

  "I will do that thing," came Wizzit's cheerful reply.

  "Damn!" I muttered.

  I started to feel the tingling at the base of my skull that told me that Wizzit was about to teleport me back to HQ.
He told me, "I have notified Prime Commander that you are returning. He will meet you in the lounge." Then my vision went all hazy. When it cleared again, I was in the lounge at HQ.

  I have no idea where the place is. As far as I am aware, none of us Primes knows the location of our headquarters. Well, Shelley might, and Prime Commander probably does, but certainly no one else. The only way we ever get to it is when Wizzit teleports us there. It could be in an office building in Manhattan or Hong Kong, or it could be buried deep under a glacier somewhere in Greenland. I just don't know.

  If I had to choose, I would go for the Greenland glacier. The idea of being so remote from everything seems pretty cool, somehow. In fact, sometimes at night I like to lie in bed and imagine what remote spot we might be in -- inside a mountain in Tibet, maybe, or on a windswept plain in Antarctica, or deep in the Mariana Trench.

  Well, okay, we're probably not in the Mariana Trench. Wizzit manages to provide us with food, heat, light, power, and high-speed Internet, and I think even he would have trouble doing all that at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. But hey, we could be there.

  There are no doors to the place, but there are "windows", which are really computer-generated moving images of some fairly nice scenery. If you look close, you can tell the images aren't the real thing, but they're pretty good; the perspective even appears to shift as you move about the room.

  I suppose all the secrecy surrounding its location is part and parcel of Wizzit's (and humanity's) war against Enclave. Or, to put it more accurately, our defense against Enclave. They started attacking us over fifteen years ago because Earth is in a strategic location for something or other. At least that what Wizzit told Prime Commander when he first approached him about forming the Primes.

  (I'm using the word "approached" in the figurative sense here. I've seen Wizzit up close. He is basically a long tube of pink gas. Seems pretty immobile if you ask me; I doubt he does much literal "approaching". Come to think of it, I'm not sure how he gets around. Hmm. Maybe he teleports himself wherever he wants to go, kind of like he does with us. And as for how he does that, well, your guess is as good as mine.)

  Regardless, Commander Windham was just entering the lounge as I materialized. I whipped off my battle vest, then skinned off my tee-shirt and wrapped it around my bleeding leg; it wouldn't do to get blood all over the carpet. He stepped forward to take my arm, but I waved him off. "I'll be all right, sir. I just need to sit down in one of the easy chairs." So saying, I hopped over to the nearest one and flopped down into it. "Okay, Wizzit," I called out, "do your worst."

  "Initiating healing coma, maximum depth."

  Wizzit calls them healing comas, so that's what the rest of us call them as well. Most of the time, though, they're not comas in the medical sense; they just make you feel kind of sleepy while the force shield enters this special mode that makes your body heal itself really fast. This time was different; in an effort to get me healed as quickly as possible, Wizzit knocked me out but good. I have no memory of anything that happened from the time he said that until my eyes snapped open and I saw Toby looking down at me. A glance at the clock told me I had been out for about ten minutes.

  "Battle's over, huh?" I asked him, disappointed.

  "Yeah. There wasn't much to it. Trina was near the kitty-cat's back end, so she decided to shoot it in, let's say, a sensitive area. It threw the rider and ran off howling. Wizzit said to let it go; he said it was just a local mountain leopard and that the growth ray they used on it would wear off soon. So, the rest of us ran up and started pounding on the monster. He vaporized after only a few minutes." He chuckled. "It wasn't one of Enclave's better efforts. Feel up to a debrief with the Commander?"

  "Sure." He needn't have asked; we both knew that my leg was healed up perfectly. The only side effects were a bit of grogginess from the extra-deep healing coma and a feeling of emptiness in the pit of my stomach; healing comas tend to make one hungry. I grabbed a banana from the kitchen and joined the others in the Commander's office.

  We watched a replay of the entire battle. Mike narrated, having been the team leader for this particular outing. Toby was right; there wasn't much to it. Everyone winced when I got hit, and we all laughed when Trina singed the kitty's butt. At the end, the Commander asked for comments. There were none, so he dismissed us and that was that.

  I touched Trina's arm as we got into the hallway. "I, uh, didn't realize I was the worst shot on the team," I said.

  She shrugged. "Well, you are. You're the best fighter, except for maybe Shelley, but you're the worst shooter."

  "So, how do I get better?"

  She gave me an isn't it obvious? look. "You practice," she said. I must have made an exasperated sound, because she added, "Seriously, Trevor, that's what you need to do. I have shown you the basics -- how to aim, how to shoot. You just need to do it more. Try taking a hundred shots a day at the target range. It doesn't take all that long, and of course we don't need to worry about ammunition. You'll be surprised at how quickly you improve."

  "A hundred shots a day? Really?"

  "Yes. I've seen you take two hundred kicks at the large bag. This is no different. Personally, I take twenty-five hundred shots a week."

  "Wow, I didn't realize." I let out my breath. "Okay, I'll try that. Thanks."

  I started to move away, but she caught my arm. "Um, Trevor, perhaps you can help me with something." She hesitated, and I waited for her to go on. "I . . . would like to learn to break a board with my hand. Do you think you could you teach me to do that?"

  I looked at her in surprise. I wouldn't say that Trina's bad at the hand-to-hand stuff, but it's not exactly her specialty. We expect her to be able to snipe at Enclave's monsters from fifty yards away, not pound on them close-up, and her ability to shoot that triple blaster of hers has saved our butts time and again.

  Too, her martial arts training is in aikido, which emphasizes holds and throws, not punches and kicks. It's not so good for beating up monsters, but there's nobody better at persuading an uncooperative civilian to leave the scene of a battle. Well, except for maybe Shelley. At any rate, her wanting to learn to break a board seemed completely out of character.

  "I made a stupid bet with Mike," she said in response to my look. "He was . . . 'on my case' about how well I fight." Yeah, I really could hear the invisible quote marks she put around the unfamiliar American idiom. I nodded to encourage her to go on (and, incidentally, to indicate that she had indeed used the phrase properly). She made a face and went on, "He got me so mad that when he bet me dinner that I couldn't break a board with my hand, I took him up on it without thinking. So now I'm stuck."

  I grinned. I could see Mike doing just that -- goading Trina into a dinner date. He fancies himself a ladies' man, and while I wouldn't come right out and say that Trina is the prettiest of our three lady Primes -- Padma would certainly be a contender for that title, and Shelley's not bad-looking either -- she is far and away the, uh, the curviest. Yup, Trina had a pretty nice figure to her.

  "You've come to the right guy," I told her. "Sure, I can teach you. When do you have to do it?"

  "A month from yesterday."

  "Good. I'm on vacation starting tomorrow when Shelley gets back, but I can start training you next week. I'll try to remember to bring some boards from home."

  "It's not that hard, is it?" she asked uncertainly. "I mean, you just . . ." She made her hand flat and stiff and chopped it straight downward. "Like that?"

  "Um, you could try it that way," I said, wincing at the thought, "but you'd be just as likely to break your hand with the board as the other way around." It took a second for what I had said to sink in, kind of like the way it takes me a while to get the puns Nicolai makes in German. She smiled after a moment, and I went on, "Don't worry, though. It's just a matter of learning the right technique. I broke my first board at my
black belt test when I was ten. It hurt, but I didn't break my hand or anything, and the swelling went down after an hour or so."

  She nodded, wincing and rubbing her right hand with her left. She looked a little worried, and I thought I knew what was going through her mind. Trina's an artist, you see, and the thought of breaking her drawing hand would not be appealing.

  "Hey, I'm a piano player, remember?" I said, wiggling my fingers. "I break maybe ten or fifteen boards a year for demonstrations, and believe me, my mom wouldn't let me do anything that would damage these babies. If you do it the way I tell you to, you should be fine."

  She nodded again, looking relieved. "Thanks, Trevor."

  Shelley arrived the following evening. She had taken two weeks off, which was a little unusual. Normally we each get one week off out of every seven. Since Shelley almost never takes time off except for the occasional afternoon and evening with her folks, though, no one complained. I think we all figured that she had earned it.

  And you know, I think it was good for her to get away. I worry about Shelley at times. She has been doing the Prime thing for over fifteen years now -- she was the original Prime Violet, in fact -- and I think it occasionally gets her down. But today she seemed happier and more enthusiastic about, well, everything than I had seen her for a long time. Wherever it was she went, it's my opinion that she should go there more often.

  Regardless, I was all packed, and after I had chatted with her and the others for ten or fifteen minutes, Wizzit teleported me to an empty field just outside my home town. I slung my pack over my shoulder and began walking towards my parents' house.

 
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