Taunting Krell Page 1


The distant past on Earth

Cyborg Detention Center

Emily heard the door softly open and flicked her wrist. The screen on her computer instantly changed to display a card game. She glanced at the smaller monitor to her right and relaxed. A smile curved her lips while she watched the tall cyborg approach from behind.

Mavo’s masculinity flooded her as she breathed him in. There was something to be said about overdeveloped senses. He’d showered recently, he’d used the musky new soap she’d ordered for him, and she closed her eyes to savor how good it blended with his natural scent. Her eyes opened.

“What are you doing here?” She waited for him to move within her side vision as he crouched next to her chair. She stared into his beautiful green eyes. They always took her breath away when she gazed into them. The color complemented his pale, silvery skin and jet-black hair. “We said our goodbyes earlier.”

He didn’t smile back. “Come with us.”

Sadness gripped her hard. She forced back tears that instantly formed. “Don’t make our last conversation be an argument. We’ve been over this a thousand times.”

“I won’t leave without you.” His strong jawline tensed and his full lips pressed tightly together. “I’ll carry you.”

She wished it were that simple. “And then what?”

“We’ll make it work.”

Her wrist flicked again, her original screen returned, and she glanced at it. The small sensor on her forehead vibrated as it read her brainwaves—her thoughts—and she watched what she was doing instead of continuing to stare at him.

“You need to go. Time is running out.”

From the corner of her eye, she saw him turn his head to peer at the screen.

“What is this?”

“I’m reprogramming the satellites. You’ll have a better chance if the surface can’t warn the ships what is going on down here. It will fool them into believing there have been some solar flares. It’s going to take effect in ten minutes. It’s going to really screw up communications. It will give you about a fifteen-minute window. I couldn’t give you more time without creating suspicion.”

“Emily,” he growled her name, “you’ve done more than enough and risked too much already for us. Get out of there before they realize you’ve hacked it.”

“That’s the awesome thing about being me. I am good at this shit. My entire life revolves around computers. They haven’t tracked me yet. I sneaked inside to get you the override codes for all the ships orbiting Earth. I changed the delivery schedules to put more shuttles on the ground.” Her wrist flicked again to open a third screen. “I reinstated your people to make sure no alarms will go off when you pass through the atmosphere. The crews aboard the ships orbiting above will read you as actively on duty. They’ll believe you’re just coming to report for work.”

“Emily.” His hand reached up to brush her cheek. “Stop. You risk your life every time you do this.”

What life? She held that thought back, not speaking it aloud. She met his gaze, saw the sadness there, and wished she could touch him back but she had too much to do. His warm thumb caressed her skin, pleasure at that slight contact was something she’d come to appreciate.

“What are they going to do to me? Unhook me from the system?” She couldn’t prevent the snort. “My father is God to them. He created your people and is responsible for those androids they depend upon so much. They wouldn’t dare risk alienating him by arresting me. I’m all he loves besides his work.”

The green of his eyes darkened with anger. “Come with me. Please?”

Longing gripped her so strongly that she had to look away for fear he’d see it. “I can’t. Eighty percent of my body doesn’t work. I’d only be a burden.”

“Never,” he rasped.

Emily had to fight back more tears before she dared meet his intense gaze again. “We’re doing this to give you the opportunity to have a normal life. You and your people deserve to be free and happy. You wouldn’t have that with me tagging along.”

His jaw clenched again. “You want me happy? Allow me to unplug you and carry you out of here with us. Do you think I won’t take care of you?”

She knew without question that he would. There lay the problem. “I love you, my friend. In a way, we’re family since we are both creations of the same man, in one way or another.”

“I love you too. I don’t want to leave you behind.”

“That’s why I’m saying no. You’ve taken such good care of me in the past year that you’ve been assigned as my guard. All my other guards avoided me, stayed as far from me as they could, but you got to know me. We talk and what you’ve given me is more than you’ll ever know. I don’t want you to spend whatever time I have left doing the things the nurses do.” She lifted her chin. “Changing my diapers and feeding me is not a chore you should ever suffer.” It embarrassed her to even admit it to him. “I require too much care.”

“I’d do it happily. Please,” he rasped. “Allow me take you with us.”

“Stop!” She knew she’d start to cry if he didn’t. She wanted to go with the cyborgs so bad it hurt. “No. Stop arguing with me. We’ve done this too many times. Resources are going to be limited, you don’t even know where to go once you’re free and the last thing you need is someone being an extra hindrance.”

“No one would dare say that.”

Of course not. Mavo would kick their asses. She remembered the human guard Mavo had beaten up two months before for making a joke about her physical handicaps. The price for defending her had been two days detained within a holding cell until she’d been able to make her father pull strings to return him to duty as her guard. She’d had to beg and tell her father what the offensive guard had said to get her cyborg released. Her father had wanted her protected and that’s what Mavo had done. Being punished for following orders had been wrong.

“I know.” She glanced at the time. “You have to go. You know where you need to be in eight minutes.”

His thumb stopped moving. “I’m taking you. I won’t leave you behind. I just can’t. We owe you too much to abandon you. They may punish you if they discover what you’ve done.”

“No.” Her voice shook. “Don’t. I’ll slow you down.”

“I don’t care. I’ll stay if you won’t go.”

“No!” She jerked her arm and managed to bump her hand against his side. “Don’t you dare, Mavo. I told you I intercepted the government notes of their last meeting. They are planning to scrap the program. They’ll kill all of you.”

“I’d rather die than abandon you.”

Sincerity shone in his eyes. It made her want to cry again and love him even more, if that were possible. He meant so much to her, even if he didn’t see her the way she did him. He felt gratitude, protective, but never viewed her as a sexually attractive woman.

“You promised me you’d go. You swore.”

“You made me.” His voice deepened with anger. “You can be irritated with me later, once we leave Earth.” He paused. “Together.” His hand dropped away and he turned in his crouched position to reach for her wrist.


A pop sounded and her link to the computer severed when he disconnected her.

“Damn it, Mavo. Stop. I know you’re worried about what will happen to me but I won’t survive a week if I leave Earth. My time is short enough, maybe a year at most before my body calls it quits, but I’ll take every day I can get. I swear I’ll be fine. They won’t arrest me. At worst they’ll box my computer access to prevent me from connecting to any other exterior sources. My father won’t allow them to arrest me and they need him too much to mess with him. He always gets what he wants.”

He hesitated. “I’ll worry.”

She stared into his eyes. “I know, but don’t. I’m a big girl, I knew what I was doing, and my father will protect me once you’re gone.” She decided to distract him. “Is everyone excited? You have to think about them. They need you more than I do.”

His head bowed. “Yes. They can’t wait to leave here.” His tormented gaze rose. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

“Hook me back in. I want to monitor it going down and do what I can to help you guys escape.”

She breathed easier once he reconnected her to the machines, relieved she’d been able to talk sense into him, and glanced at her screen. She focused on a small, red blinking alert.

“Oh no. Security has grabbed one of your people.” She pulled up the report. “It’s a male, he’s been taken to security building two, and they plan to kill him. They believe he knows of some plot to escape.” Her heart raced. “There’s four guards with him, according to what I’m reading.” She focused her mind and pulled up the security cameras inside the detention center, found the one where the cyborg male had been taken, and activated the live feed.

Four guards had a cyborg male on his knees, his hands restrained behind his back, while they kicked and beat him. One of the bastards held a knife, slashing at the man, and horror filled Emily. She couldn’t see much of the cyborg with the guards surrounding him but she could see flashes of red from how much they’d already made him bleed. She opened another screen with the cyborg’s file, revealing a picture of him.

“I don’t know him. Do you?”

“Yes,” Mavo snarled. “He’s a friend.”

“Go save him,” she ordered as she hacked into the mainframe of the detention center. “The attack will begin soon so hurry. Get to him. I’ll unlock the exterior doors and trigger the fire alarms to prevent them from killing him. They’ll exit the south side the way they’ve been trained to do in the fire drills. They’ll just leave him inside the cell to burn to death. God, I hate those jerks. He’s helpless. You’re going to have to run. The first distraction begins in four minutes.”

A hand brushed her cheek. Emily peered up at Mavo. “Thank you. I’ll never forget you or how you helped us.”

“Be happy. That’s thanks enough. Now go!”

He rose to his impressive height and spun away, leaving her alone. She glanced at the monitor to watch his back disappear. Sadness gripped her for a moment, until her focus returned to the poor captured cyborg inside the detention cell. She triggered the fire alarms in the building and groaned when the guards backed away from their prey.

The cyborg slumped to the floor. As the jerks ambled for the exit, she realized just how bloodied the silvery pale skin of their victim had become. Tears blinded her. She had discovered him too late. No one could survive that kind of blood loss. She could see it pooling on the concrete floor around his body, sprawled motionless where he’d fallen. Her gaze drifted to his file, his photo—a handsome male with deep blue eyes and jet-black hair. That face would haunt her, she’d remember the cyborg she’d failed to save, and her heart broke a little.

Anger gripped her next. On the cameras, she followed the guards’ progress until they reached the outside. She activated the auto locks on that side of the building to prevent them from returning. They didn’t try, too busy congratulating each other with grins and man-pats over the cruelty they’d just dealt out to a cyborg.

Motion drew Emily’s gaze to one of the camera views. Mavo rushed into the room, to the downed cyborg, scooped him up into his strong arms and ran for the doors. The cyborg in his hold didn’t appear to be alive.

A sudden explosion pierced the quiet around her, her chair and everything on her desk shook from the shockwave, and a loud siren blared throughout the compound that housed the cyborg prisoners. Emily focused on her screen. She had work to do, no time for emotion, and she started to lock down sections of the facility to trap the human employees inside the buildings. It would prevent them from helping security when they attempted to stop the cyborgs.