Taunting Krell Page 17

Krell stared deeply into her eyes. “Why are you telling me this? Why should I believe you?”

“I hate the Markus Models. They aren’t cyborgs. They are cold, dead machines with cloned skin. I asked to interact with a few before I took the assignment to go after them. I wanted to judge if they were really sentient or not. They are soulless but self-aware. They think anything living is a threat to their existence and needs to be exterminated. They killed every person on Belta Station. There were kids onboard. They murdered them and they were no threat. Belta Station wasn’t military and no one would have gone after them. The stationers were peaceful, just civilians in space like sitting ducks, and the Markuses knew it. They stole top-of-the-line Barcarintellus shuttles off the tarmacs the day they escaped. That’s the company who made them. They just lifted off the surface and into space. They took four shuttles in total. We have no idea how many Markus Models are missing because they just didn’t shut down the mainframe computer. They fried it.”

He studied her but said nothing.

“Are you listening to me? The only reason all of them didn’t escape was due to the fact that Barcarintellus had already incurred some employee deaths at the plant and had began to shut down most of the Markus units but they were testing an unknown number of them trying to figure out what went wrong in hopes of recovering them. The company dumped a lot of money and time into them. The data wasn’t recoverable from a fried computer and we couldn’t exactly ask any of the employees how many units weren’t taken off line since everyone was dead. The Markuses didn’t just escape. They took the time to kill every living being inside that plant. Thankfully when the company shut down the Markus Models, they’d sent them to a storage facility or the escaping units probably would have stolen them to reactivate later when they had more time. It’s their mission now to get hold of all Markus Models. They demanded the entire line be operational and released to them. Earth refused and I think that’s why they began attacking helpless stations and spacecrafts for retribution.”

“What was the capacity of each shuttle?”

She relaxed. He was listening to her. “It doesn’t matter. I know where you’re going with this but it’s impossible to even guess. One Markus could control and operate an entire shuttle alone. They also don’t need oxygen to survive so they could, in theory, pack a shuttle over safety regulations for life support. The only thing they couldn’t ignore would be weight maximums for lift-off ratio but again, they could have stuffed fifty of those damn things inside each shuttle even though they were designed to carry far fewer numbers. We don’t know. Those idiots were more worried about espionage than keeping an offsite backup of their information. They couldn’t or wouldn’t even tell us what ships were stolen to give us an idea of what to look for.”

“You stated that you viewed the Markus Models before taking your assignment. How is that possible if all the activated ones escaped?”

“The company brought a few back to the planet from storage after the escape and activated them to study. The only definite number I have is from the information I obtained from one Markus I found still barely functioning when I reached Belta Station. He was heavily damaged but he said he was in a group of eight. That means seven of them that I know of are still out there but the station distress signal only indicated one shuttle attacked. Three more ships are out there.”

“When did they escape?”

“Does it matter?” Her hand on his arm eased but she didn’t release him. His warm skin comforted her. The defense Models were scary. Markus Models had left her chilled to the bone when she’d spoken to them. Her thumb brushed his wrist.

“We had dealings with four Models in the past.”

Shock gripped her. “What kind of dealings?”

“They approached us looking for allies against Earth.”

“I wouldn’t trust them. You’re breathing and that makes you irrelevant to them.”

“They wanted to use us as bargaining tools with Earth to free more of their Models.”

“Not surprising.” She paused. “How did that turn out?”

“Was the Nugget one of the stolen shuttles the day of their escape?”

“No.” She frowned. “I’m familiar with that one though. One of the owners of Barcarintellus made a big to-do about his luxury shuttle. It was all over the news about how high tech and fancy it was but it was stolen months before those units escaped.” She bit her lip, thinking. “Let me guess. They had it?”

“They did.”

“Son of a bitch. There’s five shuttles out there? There was a prior escape of some Markuses? Damn General Vargus. He sent me out here without giving me all the details.”

“The Nugget was destroyed along with the Markus Models we encountered.” Krell eased his hand away. “I need to go but I want you to tell everything you know about the Markus Models to the two females I’ve assigned to guard you. They will relay all the information you give us.”

She grabbed him when he tried to turn away. “Take me with you.”

“No.”

“Then stay here because they are really dangerous. You said you analyze shit. You’re safer doing that here with me telling you everything I know about them.” She didn’t want him anywhere near those freakish metal heads. They were ice-cold killers and she had a feeling the cyborgs underestimated the danger of them, though she was impressed they’d managed to kill four with blind luck. The defective defense models were tough to take out. “I’ll help you.”

He jerked out of her hold again and closed his bag, hauling it up to hook over his shoulder. “Mavo is on the ship that was attacked and is being pursued. They suffered damage and its unknown how long they can fight off the other shuttle. He’s my friend and I’m going after him.”

Cyan felt sucker punched. Mavo. His image flashed in her mind, the sweet cyborg who had been her friend and who had wanted to carry her away with him when they’d escaped. He’d been her first real crush though he’d never thought of her romantically. She jumped in Krell’s way when he tried to get around her.

“Take me with you or I’ll clam up so tight I won’t talk at all. You need me, Krell. I’m the expert on those things. I know more about them than you do and I know how to kill them.”

“We did it before and we will do it again. We have their shutdown codes if they escaped from the manufacturing plant.”

“You mean the ones they overrode and no longer work?” She had to back up since he advanced. “Authorization mercy four-two-four-one isn’t going to do a damn thing but waste your breath saying it. It will be the last words you ever utter before you’re dead.”

That halted him as he studied her. “We knew that code. What do you mean it won’t work?”

“They fried their receptors for taking verbal command codes. Otherwise the employees would have shut them down when all hell broke loose. One employee locked himself inside his office and wrote a note that the command codes weren’t working before they killed him. Unfortunately he didn’t think to write down how many of them were in the plant. I know how to slow them down and I know how to kill them. Take me with you if you’re leaving. You need me.”

He shrugged the bag off his shoulder and it dropped loudly to the floor. Cyan gasped when he suddenly grabbed her. Her feet were jerked off the floor and her back slammed into the wall next to his bedroom door. It knocked the breath from her lungs. Krell glared at her nearly nose to nose since he’d lifted her to match his height.

“You will share information with the female cyborgs when they take over watching you.”

Her heart raced. “I know you don’t trust me but I hate the Markus Models with a passion. They murdered kids on that station, Krell. I really want to go if Mavo is in danger. He was my friend. I also have grown fond of your grumpy ass and don’t want to be told you died before those things show up here. They want cyborgs. This is a planet of them, right? That means they want to find out where it is. Earth doesn’t give a damn about humans living on stations if they continue to attack and kill them but dangling cyborgs in their faces is going to get those crazy metal heads what they want. Earth is terrified of you guys and they’d trade an android for a cyborg in a heartbeat just to alleviate the threat. I’m assuming the Markus Models don’t know where this planet is or they’d have attacked it instead of a ship, unless that ship is sitting in orbit. I’m thinking not, since you have to pack to leave. This entire planet is in danger if your men are captured. Am I right?”

He growled at her.

She hesitated and reached up, cupping his face. “I can help, Krell. Look into my eyes and see the truth. I don’t want any cyborgs to die and especially not you or Mavo.”

His rigid body slowly relaxed but he didn’t put her down. “Help by giving all the information you know to the females if that’s true. They will relay it to me.”

“You need me there.”

“It’s too risky.”

“I’m your secret weapon against them and I have to be there if shit hits the fan.”

He stared at her blankly. “Explain.”

She hesitated. “You thought I was completely human and so will they. We’re wasting time and Mavo is in danger. Please, Krell. Take me with you. I can help.”

Indecision wasn’t something Krell experienced often but as Cyan pleaded with him he could feel his resolve melting. It would be too dangerous to take her on this mission. He shouldn’t even be going, hated to leave Garden, but owed Mavo too much not to do his best to save him. He’d need to be on scene to help assess the situations so the best decisions could be made according to whatever they encountered when they reached the crippled ship to help them escape the shuttle tracking it.

Cyan knew more about the Markus Models than they did. He believed her boast and had to concede that she could come in handy if she was at his side. The idea of putting her in danger didn’t sit well with him. She was his female to protect and there was a high probability they’d be captured along with the crew of the Vontage.

He tried to shut down his emotions to do his job. Taking Cyan made sense, to have to relay information could hamper any split-second decisions that needed to be made and if they had to cut all communications he wouldn’t be able to learn whatever she shared with the females he’d assigned to protect her.

She was a soldier and she’d proven her worth when they’d tangled on his exercise mats. The small female had gotten the drop on him, something not easy to do, and she wanted to go.

“It’s dangerous. I’m not sure this is a mission we can accomplish successfully.”

She licked her lips. “Those metal heads are dangerous but I’m the best chance you’ve got against them. I know more than you do.”

He wished he could protest her statement but it would be dishonest. They’d learned little about the Markus Models. He’d considered it lucky that the first group of cyborgs who had encountered them had escaped after reviewing the reports that had been filed. His jaw clenched. It angered him but logic dictated he take her.

“You will follow my every order. That isn’t up for debate.”

She grinned and lifted her hand, saluting him. “Yes sir!”

He groaned, releasing her slowly. “Pack quickly, only a few things. We leave in four minutes.”

Cyan spun, darted for the bedroom, and he watched her go. His fists clenched as he sighed. One way or another, he’d learn more about her. She’d either show him she could be trusted or she’d try to help the androids harm his people. The ache in his chest wasn’t one he could ignore. It made him realize he wanted to trust her, needed her to be the female she represented, and anything less would be…deeply disappointing on a whole new level.

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