Redeeming Zorus Page 4

“They should have sent a male to break me out. Women on this planet obviously are still as irrational and irresponsible as ever.”

Anger rose instantly inside Charlie. She’d risked her neck to get him out of the cell, saved his life in the process, and he had the nerve to insult her. “Do you see a guy standing before you? No, you don’t. Guess what? Nobody else was irrational or irresponsible enough to take on the government to save your big, gray ass. You should drop to your knees before me and show some gratitude.”

He growled again and took a threatening step closer before he halted. “I am no longer forced to perform sexual acts upon your females.”

Shock overwhelmed her when his words sank into her stunned brain. An image of him on his knees in that context stole her breath away. The guy had definite sex appeal that made her wonder what it would be like to have him touch her. She’d once been assigned the task of fixing a male sex droid with a malfunctioning “off” switch. The thing had used his hands to massage her br**sts, despite her protests, the entire time she’d had his chest open to replace the fried circuits that kept him from shutting down. She’d hated the way her body had gotten turned on but she had to admit the thing knew how to touch a woman to make her ache. She’d bet cyborgs were more advanced than androids and wondered how complex his sexual programming would be. That thought was quickly replaced by another one that made her grimace.

“Ewww. They made you do Doctor Correl? She’s like a hundred years old.” Her gaze raked up and down him. “Did you break her?”

“That hag who drew my blood this morning?” Danger radiated off him as he took another step closer. “I spoke of my captivity before I escaped Earth.”

She released the breath she’d held. “Oh.” She suddenly laughed. “That’s good.”

“Good?” He snarled, advancing again until he towered over her—at least a full foot taller, which put him at about six feet four. He was so close, she could feel his body heat.

“I didn’t mean it was good that you once were programmed to do that stuff but I am relieved you didn’t have to touch Doc Correl. Not only is she older than a century but she’s meaner than an attack droid.”

Their gazes held while she watched him battle his anger. She realized they were wasting time by having a glaring contest and decided to try to defuse the situation. They had enough people out to get them at that moment without turning on each other.

“Chill out, cyborg. I didn’t mean that you should open my pants. I meant that you should be saying ‘thank you’ for getting you out of that place before they strapped you down and started examining you with sharp, pointy knives. You know—grovel, not, well…you know.”

He eased back more. “You weren’t implying that I should use my mouth to stroke you to cl**ax as payment for you releasing me from being a prisoner?”

His blunt words left her speechless. A mental image of him doing just that made her back up, bump the cyclone, and she nearly tripped. She shook her head while she found her footing.

He spun away and grabbed the tarp. “Understood. I am grateful for the rescue but I do not appreciate the implementation of it. A male would have come up with a better plan that involved less danger.” He bent, showed off his beefy ass molded inside the tight pants, and then approached her. “I’m valuable and you took too many risks with my life.”

Charlie moved out of his way to give him room to toss the cover over the vehicle. “You’re something all right.” She headed for the stairwell of the building. “Outdated, a chauvinist, and an ass**le,” she muttered.

“My hearing is enhanced.” He sounded pissed. “I heard you.”

“How is your night vision?” She lifted her hand and flipped her middle finger up at him, over her shoulder. “Move it, Mr. Valuable Cyborg.”

He growled behind her. She itched to get her hands on his access panel and remove that little annoying quirk from his programming. The building door remained unlocked, the way she’d left it, to allow them to enter the stairwell. She begun praying they didn’t run into anyone. People didn’t really use stairs anymore but they remained intact inside older buildings. Unless the power failed or a fire broke out to force other people into the stairwell, she estimated they’d make it to the basement undetected.

His heavy tread remained behind her so she knew he followed. At the basement level she faced him. “Wait here.”

“You’re not leaving me behind.”

“I’m making sure no one is within sight when you step out. I have a hovercraft parked two stalls over. We’re going to drive out of here but I can’t risk anyone seeing you. There aren’t cameras inside this building. It’s why I picked it.”

He nodded curtly. She paused. “What’s your name?”

He hesitated. “I am Zorus.”

“What kind of name is that?”

“It’s a masculine name intended to be used for a male. We have that in common.”

Her eyebrows arched. “Zing on the insult I haven’t heard a thousand times before. I meant what culture did it come from? I’ve never heard it before.”

He hesitated again. It was obvious that he didn’t want to answer. “It’s one I gave myself. It has meaning to me.”

Her curiosity was pricked. “What’s the meaning?”

He said nothing.

“You want out of here?” She decided to be a bitch. He totally deserved it. “It’s the least you could tell me since I’ve risked my life saving you.”

Irritation showed clearly on his handsome features. “It stands for zestful of rights undermining supremacy.”

Charlie gaped at him. “Uh-huh. Okay.”

“You were never deemed subhuman and under the total control of others. I was young and newly freed when I came up with the words that formed the acronym of my name. Eorus sounded wrong to me. The E would have stood for enthusiastic.” He gave her a cold look that would freeze water. “What is the meaning of zing?”

“Forget it. It’s slang, which I suppose you weren’t programmed to speak.”

“Why do you have a male’s name?” His dark gaze lowered down her body slowly. “Are you really just a small male with a female voice?”

“You know,” she warned softly, “if I didn’t need to deliver you completely undamaged to get paid enough money to escape Earth Government, I just might turn you into a toaster or something.” Anger burned inside her at his calculated insult. She knew she wasn’t gorgeous but nobody had ever implied she might not really be a woman. “My parents had me during the years of the black flu.”

“I’m familiar with that bit of your history. We occasionally monitor what happens on Earth to assess their danger level. The black flu struck mostly human females with a death rate of the infected estimated at seventy percent. Earth Government implemented a quarantine until the epidemic could be contained. The affected sections were deemed irrelevant. Why would that have any relevance on your given name?”

The urge to deck the big bastard had her fighting hard to keep a lid on her temper. “I was one of those irrelevant people who lived in one of the poor sections nobody gave a shit about. I lost an older sister, my grandmother, and two aunts when it spread through the neighborhood. They were all denied medical attention. The only intervention the government decided to give was to snatch healthy, newborn baby girls to be given away to some high-ranking officials who wanted to adopt them. Or they donated us to be medical experiments. My parents gave me a boy’s name and a sympathetic doctor put ‘male’ on my birth registration to protect me from either of those fates.”

Something in his features softened. “You’re irrelevant.”

Charlie spun away, gripped the door, and jerked it open hard enough to flinch when a muscle inside her arm protested. Think of the money and don’t kill the bastard, she thought, fuming over his insult. She took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm down before she forced herself to study the parking basement. Nothing moved.

“Come on,” she called softly. “Let’s get you onto that shuttle.”

She jogged toward the hovercraft at a brisk pace. The sooner she dropped him off, the faster she got paid and could get the hell away from him. When she saw her brother again, she would kick his ass for getting her into this mess and subjecting her to the conceited, rude cyborg.

She squeezed into her seat and pushed a button to open the passenger door since he wasn’t coded to automatically access her vehicle. The sight of his large, tall frame folded into the small seat made her smirk. His knees were shoved against the dash and he had to tuck his chin to his chest to fit inside the compartment. He looked uncomfortable and she could have sworn he flinched when the door closed, probably hitting his hip and thigh area.

“My irrelevant ass is taking you to safety so remember that when you blast away from the surface of Earth on your way back to wherever the hell you came from.”

He turned his head just enough to see her. “I meant no insult by that term. I meant we have that in common as well.” His deep voice softened. “Cyborgs and grunts were assigned the same insignificant classification by the government. We were both deemed a disposable workforce.”

She stared into his brown eyes, saw no cruelty there, and relaxed as her anger faded. “Oh.”

“That is a compliment that we have things in common.”

Charlie wasn’t so sure of that assessment since the cyborg wasn’t someone she liked very much. “Let’s get you to safety. No one can see inside here with the tinted glass.” She started the engine and pulled away the parking space. “We’re only a few miles from the port located just outside the city limits.” She forced her focus on where she steered. Maybe I was too hard on him. The stress he’s been under since his capture has to be over the top. I’d be a bit grumpy too. “And I’m definitely female.”

“I knew that. I wished to insult you and it worked. I hate humans and female ones are worse than the males, in my opinion.”

So much for him not being a total ass**le. “My opinion of you isn’t real high either, Zorus.” His name sounded strange when she said it. “Why don’t you shut up and let me drive? I had to disconnect the onboard computer that usually does the piloting since it would have reported you to the authorities if they put a search bulletin out with your description. It’s coded in all vehicles to lock the doors, shut down, and alert the police if it realizes we’re the ones being sought. I didn’t have time to hack into the mainframe to disable the auto systems.”

“You should allow me to control the vehicle. I’m still appalled over your cyclone piloting skills.”

Charlie clenched her teeth, flipped off the stabilizers, and drove faster, swerving as often as possible. She smiled when he softly cursed every time his knees and head repeatedly bumped against the interior as she slammed him around.

“Sorry about that,” she lied, going just a little faster to give him a rougher ride.

“You are doing this on purpose.”

She refused to glance his way. They drove until they reached the freight port of the manufacturing area outside the city. After dark nothing moved on the street, the human employees had already clocked out for the day, leaving their jobs to the automated systems. She parked and finally gave him her full attention.

“The android work shift has started. They only register life forms so they won’t notice your skin color. You won’t draw their attention unless you say or do something odd. Just stay on my ass and don’t speak. Do you think you can handle that?”

“Yes.” He peered through the windshield at the shipyard. “I’m leaving on a cargo ship?”

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