Haunting Blackie Page 25

“Why weren’t other cyborgs told about canine units?”

“It could have compromised the success of the mission. Everyone was given specific assignments to perform. In case of a breach of information, it was more logical to keep their knowledge limited to their tasks.”

“I understand that reasoning,” Zorus agreed. “One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing in the event of being captured and forced to talk.”

“Correct. We needed the canine units to free cyborgs we didn’t have access to. They still held some of our kind inside the research department, which they had turned into a termination center. That’s where the canine units were stationed.” She looked at Eve again. “You performed admirably and rescued more units than we calculated. Good job.”

“Thanks,” Eve muttered. “Did you purposely leave us behind?”

“Yes.” The woman cyborg answered without hesitation.

“Why?” Zorus’ voice deepened with anger. “Is Eve telling the truth? Did you promise to take her line with us when we fled?”

“Don’t answer,” Parlis hissed.

Jazel hesitated. “We made that promise but we never intended to keep it.”

“Shut up!” Parlis took a threatening step toward her.

The female cyborg threw out a hand, hitting him mid-chest and knocked him back. He stumbled but managed to stay on his feet.

“I will damage you if you attempt that again.” Jazel faced Zorus. “We lied to the canine unit leader.” She addressed Eve. “I apologize. At the time it didn’t seem wrong. The implants that controlled our emotions had been recently shut off and we weren’t totally rational at all times. I have since regretted that decision.”

Eve felt rage boil up inside. “They slaughtered my littermates one by one as punishment for helping you.”

Jezel didn’t appear surprised. “Again, I apologize. Our priority was saving cyborgs. You can see the logic in that.”

“Fuck you. There were three hundred of us and now there are just two.” Eve inched closer to Blackie, glad he held her hand. She wanted to kill the cyborg woman. She fought tears.

“There is no justification you could state that would excuse leaving them behind to die,” Blackie hissed. “Eve deserves to hear the reason behind it.”

Jazel took a deep breath. “Parlis argued they were weak, too emotional and therefore unstable.”

“I did not!”

The cyborg woman turned toward him. “You stated they would be a nuisance on the ships and an extra burden on our limited resources.” She faced Blackie. “Fleet and I only agreed because it seemed rational. They weren’t able to go days without food if necessary to help stretch our supplies, nor were they trained to slow their breathing to minimize the drain on life support. We had no information to calculate or even estimate the extent of our journey in space. At that time we had no idea how long it would take to locate a new home planet. The government never allowed us access to solar system charts or to any information that might make it possible to escape Earth. It seemed reasonable at the time to leave the canine units behind to give our people a higher survivability rate.” She gazed at Eve. “We deemed your line expendable due to those factors.”

Blackie released Eve and took a menacing step closer to the woman. “Did you ever take into consideration that they were women when you were doing your calculations to assure our race would survive long-term? So few of ours were alive.”

Zorus put his body between them. “I wish to know the answer to that as well, Jazel.”

The cyborg fixed her cool gaze on Eve. “We did. The three of us discussed the matter at length.” She sighed, shifting her attention to Zorus. “They wouldn’t have been an acceptable match for breeding purposes.”

“Who gave you the right to make that decision?” Blackie released Eve and tried to lunge forward. Zorus blocked him by stepping into his path again.

“Were canine women designed to be infertile?” Zorus sounded calm. “Is that what you are stating, Jezel?”

“No.”

“Stop playing verbal games,” Parlis hissed. “Those creatures were able to breed and we knew they’d have extended life spans. That’s why we couldn’t allow them to board our ships. We’re cyborgs!”

“You knew our men would welcome canine women into our society if it were taken to a vote,” Blackie accused. “You weren’t thinking of the good of our people but of your own bias against another race.”

Parlis threw out his hand and waved toward Eve. “It was repugnant to even consider downgrading our superior DNA by mixing it with theirs in our future generations. Our men would have bred with those animals if we’d allowed it. That’s why you have to help me stop her from telling our population about their existence. Imagine the horrific results it would have caused. I prevented that from happening. The offspring of those pairings would have fangs and claws, growling as if they were barbarians.”

Zorus sidestepped out of Blackie’s way. “Leave him alive when you’re done. Enough has been said.”

Eve watched as her mate attacked the male council member. Parlis didn’t even have time to lower his arm before the bones in it snapped as Blackie gripped it with both hands. The sickening sound was heard over his gasp of pain.

“She’s not a barbarian!” Blackie bellowed, swinging his prey and throwing him into a wall. He hit with a loud thud and stayed down. “Eve is a person.” He bent, grabbed Parlis by the front of his uniform and jerked him to his feet. He drew back his fist and punched him in the face. “You should have been left behind on Earth.”

“Enough!” Jazel attempted to intervene.

Blackie threw Parlis against the wall once more and watched him crumple to the floor. He spun around. “Feel grateful you’re a woman,” he warned. “You are guilty of committing genocide.” He turned his head to stare at Zorus. “I demand they be stripped of their positions and arrested.”

Eve held her breath, hoping her mate wasn’t about to be the one shackled for attacking a council member. She inched closer to him, intent on defending him if guards rushed into the room to seize him.

Zorus crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m currently linked with the other council members. We’re in agreement with you since they’ve been watching this interaction via the recording devices concealed around this area.”

Parlis gasped, a horrified look on his face. “I was trying to protect our race. What have you done?”

“I know your tactics well.” Zorus shook his head. “You had too much to lose without attempting to stop the woman from speaking to the other council members. This was the most logical area for you to privately confront us if we reached the building. You would have attempted to discredit anything the canine units had to say in front of the council but I correctly believed you’d be honest when confronting her. Now the members have heard facts you can’t dispute. We were once considered expendable because of human prejudice. You’re equally as guilty of that atrocious crime by your actions. The Cyborg Council has unanimously agreed to strip you of your rank and charges are being filed.”

“What charges?” Parlis turned an ugly shade of gray.

“You committed murder.” Zorus paused. “You’re responsible for the deaths of our allies. You represented our race as a whole when you made that deal with them.”

“You can’t do that.” Jazel appeared shaken and a bit pale. “We founded the council. Every decision made was to safeguard our race. That’s why I was so cooperative while answering your questions. I believed you’d understand. You should agree with what had to be done.”

“It’s over, Jazel. We only have one question left. Is what Parlis stated true? Did you abandon the canine units due to your trepidation that it would result in undesirable offspring?” Zorus arched an eyebrow, waiting.

“Yes,” she admitted. “It was deemed a relevant issue. It was better to have stronger descendants with pure cyborg DNA than risk genetic anomalies.”

“Some of our children are flawed!” Blackie yelled. “That’s why so many of them need medical attention after birth.”

Eve crossed the room to stand in front him. He appeared ready to go after the female cyborg. Parlis slowly attempted to stand but his broken arm hung uselessly at his side.

“We were incorrect.” Jazel lowered her gaze and her tone. “We didn’t realize the extent of our own damage due to our dependency on some of our implants. It wasn’t a foreseeable outcome at that time. I do regret my compliance. We failed to take emotions into account. I am saddened that so many canine units were murdered and accept partial responsibility.”

Cyborgs suddenly rushed through the doors and took charge of the injured Parlis and surrounded Jazel. “Come with us,” one of them stated. “You’re under arrest.”

“This isn’t over,” Parlis swore. “We did the correct thing. It was to protect our race. Someone had to make the hard decisions. That’s all we’re guilty of.”

“It is over.” Zorus sighed. “You made a grave error and you will be punished for your actions. Goodbye, my old friend. I would wish you long life but we both know your days are numbered.”

Eve watched them being removed from the room. “They’ll die?”

Blackie pulled her into the circle of his arms. “Yes. I will volunteer to end their lives if I’m allowed.”

“They are the reason only two of your line survived, Eve.” Zorus moved closer. “The council is aware of how adding that many women to our population could have benefited our race as a whole. They and I are not in agreement with Parlis that your canine genetics would have been detrimental to our gene pool. We mourn their loss.”

Conflicting sentiments choked Blackie. It was over and Eve would be safe. But he’d lost a friend in Parlis, a hero, though his reputation had been built on lies. Only time would heal the wounds inflicted upon his soul, knowing his blind faith in the male had been misplaced and cost him decades with a woman who should have been at his side instead of struggling to survive on her own.

Eve was his priority now. “Do you wish to speak to the council or go to our home?”

“Home.”

He turned his head, staring at Zorus. “She is owed a few things.”

“Name them. The council is still linked with me.” He pointed to the top of a pillar. “They can see us.”

“We want a new home outside the council building. I’m certain you understand this request.”

Zorus paused, probably discussing it silently with the other members. He nodded. “I remembered that request. Arrangements have been made.”

He stared at Zorus. “We’d also like to join in a family unit of only two. She is not to be considered a cyborg woman. Canine units mate for life with one male. To join her to other males would be psychologically traumatic. It’s how they were created.”

Zorus frowned.

“It isn’t up for debate. They were designed to be completely loyal to one mate. She holds no interest in other men.”

Zorus lowered his head to study Eve.

“I’ll kill anyone besides Blackie if they are dumb enough to climb into my bed. It isn’t happening.” Her voice deepened and her canines elongated to show off her teeth.

A sense of pride filled Blackie when he watched the council member stumble back a step, surprised and wary of his mate. “We’re mated, Zorus. The canine units need absolute monogamy.”

Zorus remained quiet for too long.

“We owe her and her surviving littermate,” Blackie argued.

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