Taunting Krell Page 2

Time lost meaning. She barely took notice of the following explosions, more than aware of how many would come. None had been set near her office so she wouldn’t be injured accidentally. The cyborgs hadn’t wanted her hurt during their escape. She locked down the main gates to prevent any outside interference, shut down all interior communications to confuse security, and sent out an automated warning for the shuttle pilots on the ground to rush to safety inside the break room she unlocked to allow them admittance. She smiled while watching them abandon their shuttles. She sealed those doors once the last pilot entered the building. They wouldn’t be able to return to their posts.

She barely took note when large groups of cyborgs rushed out onto the tarmacs to fill the shuttles. She didn’t have time to appreciate that wonderful sight. Someone tried to hack into the system to lock her out.

“Shit.” They know I’m here but it doesn’t matter. She pushed back her thoughts, concentrating instead on preventing them from gaining control. They’d try to access the automatic weapons. No way would she allow that to happen. “You’re good, fellow hacker,” she muttered. “But I’m better.”

A popping noise sounded behind her, someone blowing the lock she’d sealed, and the door to her office suddenly opened hard enough to slam loudly into the wall. Her gaze flickered to the monitor that revealed the camera feed trained behind her back. Two security officers rushed inside.

“Stop what you’re doing,” one of them demanded. “Turn off your computers.”

She ignored them, initiating a reboot of the system that would keep everyone, including her, from being able to use the auto systems for at least three minutes to give the cyborgs more time and ordered it to launch before a loud noise gave her a start.

Red splattered her main screen. She stared at it, uncomprehending for two blinks of her eyes. Blood. Her chin lowered until she could see her chest. Bright, wet red soaked her shirt, ran into her lap, and she licked her lips.

“You shot me.”

A rough hand grabbed her shoulder and her body was thrown from her chair to the floor. Pain, as much as the shock from what they’d done, nearly made her pass out. They really shot me. She opened her eyes and glanced at her monitors. She couldn’t see all of them but caught enough of one to see it scrolling codes. A smile curved her lips. She’d triggered the reboot of the system. The hacker would be locked out.

“Did you stop her?” a loud voice boomed. “Fuck! You shot her? Shit! Get a medic. What the hell were you thinking? I told you to stop her, not kill her. Goddamn it! Move! Get a medic! We can’t let her die. Her father will have our asses.”

Craig Summers, the head of security, dropped to his knees next to Emily. His big hand gripped her jaw to force her to peer up at him. “Why did you do it? Goddamn it, Emily. Your father is going to go insane when he finds out you helped them escape. I knew it had to be you. No one else can break through our security measures.”

Breathing hurt. She dragged in air, found it tough to do and understood the bullet must have pierced a lung when the taste of blood filled her mouth. She cleared her throat.

“Did they get all the shuttles away?”

Anger, and finally sadness, filled the older man’s pale-green eyes. She’d known Craig most of her life. He and her father were friends. “Yeah, baby. They did. Not that it’s going to help them. When they reach space the ships up there are going to blow them to kingdom come.”

She chuckled, coughed, and choked on blood. “No.”

His hand tightened on her face. “You made sure of that, didn’t you? What were you thinking? They are dangerous. They are going to attack Earth, kill us all, and you made it possible.”

“Emily!” her father’s panicked voice yelled. “Oh my God. What did you do?”

Craig released her, moved out of the way and rose to his feet. “I didn’t shoot her, Edward. I swear. Two of the guys did it. I’m so sorry. It’s terminal.”

Her eyes closed. She choked on blood, knew she wasn’t going to survive, but the cyborgs had made it off the surface. A sense of peace filled her. She’d finally done one wonderful, meaningful thing with the short life she’d been given.

* * * * *

“Stay with me, Emily Rose,” a familiar voice demanded.

Her eyes opened and she stared in confusion at her father’s face inches above her own. He looked haggard, his normally neat white hair messed up as if he’d teased it, and she realized they were inside his lab when she took note of the ceiling above his head. It confused her to still be alive. She knew she’d been shot. With her sick, weakened body, it shouldn’t be possible for her to have made it from the floor of her office to his lab two buildings away.

“Hurry up,” he yelled at someone, turning his face away. “We’re losing her again. I don’t know if I can revive her a third time.”

“This isn’t going to work,” a female voice sobbed, one Emily recognized as her father’s longtime assistant, Bella. “Her heart is damaged, both lungs, and I think we fractured her spine when we just scooped her up and ran with her, Eddie.”

“It can work.” Her father’s voice broke and he leaned over her. “Stay with me. Just a few minutes more, sweetie. I’ve been working on a project for the past three years just for you. I knew your body would fail eventually and I don’t want to lose you.”

“Damn it, this is insane. It’s just a theory that it could work, not something we’ve ever tried, and we’re not gods. We thought we had more time before she’d start to die. We’re not ready!” The male voice hissed the warning.

“She’s out of time.” Her father ran his fingers through her hair to rub her scalp. His tears dampened her face where they fell on her cheeks. “We’ve got nothing to lose at this point. We can work the kinks out later but we need to save her first. Just do it. Is the prototype ready?”

Doctor Percy Olson, her father’s longtime friend and research assistant, suddenly hovered over Emily. He met her gaze and she saw fear on his aged features, regret. “Yeah. It’s out. This is going to hurt her a lot.”

“Do it,” her father sobbed. “She’s lost to us for certain if we don’t try.”

She’d grown up with Percy. He was like an uncle to her. His daughter happened to be her best friend. She saw tears swim in his eyes before he looked away. Something hot and agonizing pieced her skull.

She screamed and fell into nothingness.

Chapter One

Present time, decades later

“Systems check,” Cyan ordered the computer.

“Everything is fine,” it responded.

Frustration rose. “Then why aren’t you responding the way you should?”

“Perhaps it is an operator failure on your end.”

“Damn hunk of junk,” she muttered under her breath. “I’m fine.”

“You could have made an error.”

She flipped it off. “Just keep your heading. How long until we reach Belta Station?”

“Ten minutes.”

Cyan checked the readings. No ships were within range, a good thing in her mind, but the Markus Models she tracked were smart. Anger stirred. Why she’d been sent on the mission wasn’t a mystery. She’d made an enemy of General Vargus after she’d broken his thumb for grabbing her ass.

“This is a suicide mission if we find them.”

“Response noted.”

“Note this, you hunk of junk.” She kicked the side of the pilot’s station with her boot. “What happened to the signal? You’re supposed to keep tracking it. It was there but now it just disappeared?”

“Affirmative.”

“Maybe those stationers managed to kill all those androids. That would be too tidy, wouldn’t it?”

“Response noted.”

“Have I mentioned I hate when you say that whenever you don’t know how to respond? And don’t say it again. I’m talking to myself so butt out while I have a decent conversation for once.”

The computer remained silent. Cyan rose from her chair, her fingers absently rubbing the weapon strapped to her thigh, and paced the floor. “It’s got to be a trap.”

She paused and reached for one of the cabinets but cursed. “I hate being short.” She had to find something to stand on to reach it, tore it open, withdrew spare energy shots for the gun and shoved them inside a pocket of her pants. “I swear that dickhead assigned me to this shuttle on purpose. He could have let me have the Derik but no. He stuck me on the Blarney where everything is higher. What a prick!”

“Belta Station within docking range. Hailing.” The computer paused. “No response. I read extensive damage. They have hull breaches on two levels.”

“Of course they do. They were attacked by those crazy defense Models that are one circuit short of mass murder.”

“Response noted.”

Cyan screamed in frustration. It made her feel slightly better. She’d had to spend nearly two weeks alone inside the ancient shuttle with only the computer for company. General Vargus wanted her to suffer for embarrassing him in front of his men when she’d openly rejected his advances. The fact that she’d actually broken a bone hadn’t helped. No other soldier had ever been sent on a dangerous solo mission.

“I’m just special,” she snorted. “He’s got no idea.”

“Response noted.”

Her weapon cleared the holster before she realized she’d aimed it at the computer module. Her finger froze over the trigger and she took deep breaths. “Blowing you to pieces may feel good but it would only make my job harder. Stop talking. That’s an order. Silence.”

She planted her butt on the seat, took the controls and did a visual inspection of the large space station that had sent out a distress signal weeks prior. They’d been under heavy attack, had identified the Markus Models as the aggressors, and she’d been sent to investigate.

The station had put up a vicious fight. They’d taken a lot of damage and obviously hadn’t just surrendered. She glanced down.

“Computer? Why aren’t you scanning for life signs?”

“There is too much interference from debris. I’m unable to get accurate findings to display.”

“Great. I guess when I board Belta Station I’ll just hope I don’t run in to any surprises. My birthday is coming up and here I thought I wouldn’t get anything.”

“Response—”

“Noted!” Cyan yelled. “Yeah. Shut up. I am ordering you to stop saying that.”

“I’m unable to follow that order.”

“I hope I run into one of those crazy-ass androids. I’d love to kill something at this point.” She steered the shuttle against one of the undamaged docking doors. She turned off the engines and stood.

“Wish me luck.”

“Good luck.”

Cyan moved quickly through the shuttle. She’d usually have a team of at least eight soldiers under her command to board the station with her. No help waited when she entered the cargo bay. She paused at the door, grabbed one of the masks off the wall, and shoved it over her face. She ignored the tug on her long hair. The general would have a fit if he knew she’d stopped braiding it against her skull. It was against regulation to wear it down while on duty but it was also against regulation to send a soldier on a mission without an armed team to back her up.

One glance at the monitor indicated the pressure on the other side of the door was stable enough to enter the station. One hand gripped her weapon and her other hand keyed in the code to unlock the door. Air hissed when the seal broke and the door popped. She used her foot to kick it open. She wondered if the area of the station she was about to enter had been depressurized since the attack and if her docking had auto-triggered the onboard computer to pressurize the area. It would be a very short trip if that were the case since she’d be contained in a small area before hitting sealed doors.

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