Taunting Krell Page 21

“Baby?”

The pilot started to annoy her with his questions. “The shuttle,” she sighed. “I’m telling you that’s the only way you’re going to hurt it. You need to side impact it with this shuttle and slam it into those delivery doors. I’m a pilot and we were warned that we needed to land them gently when we were given the specs of them when they were trying to sell them to our units. The issue with hard impacts is the only flaw I know of. It’s like slamming someone’s head into a wall. Their skull might not crack but you can cause some damage to their brain.” She studied the console carefully and shock struck her once again. “This is the Bridden. How did you steal it?”

Krell grabbed her arm and jerked her around to face him. “How do you know that?”

She held his gaze. “I know my shuttles and I’ve been on this one before. I should have recognized it but I have been a bit distracted since we boarded.”

“When were you on it?” Krell’s hold on her tightened.

She swallowed. “This was Dell Harver’s baby. I worked with his uncle, General Vern Mellhorn, for two years. He commands the Gordon Lee One-Two-Seven. Every time his nephew was in our part of space he’d dock and stay a few days with the Bridden’s crew. He allowed me to fly this ship a few times. He considered himself a real lady’s man.” Memory of the guy flashed—she’d liked him, but they hadn’t been close. “How did you swipe his shuttle? He loved this thing as if it was his wife or he gave birth to it. I know he wouldn’t have sold it.” She dreaded the answer.

“We’ll discuss it later.”

Shit. That’s not good. She had a sinking feeling she’d never see Dell again. He’d been a nice guy but would do anything for a buck. It was one of the reasons she’d never hooked up with him. He’d have turned her in for reward money in a heartbeat if she’d ever slipped up if they’d had a personal relationship and something revealed her secret. The guy had been a paid mercenary willing to go on any dangerous job if the price was high enough. She pushed those thoughts back and would deal with her emotions later. Her training took over. She stared into Krell’s eyes.

“I know this shuttle, I’ve flown it, and you need to trust me. I think the Markus Models damaged that floating hotel of yours in order to lure more of you to come here or they are tracking it until the other unaccounted shuttles they stole from Earth can converge on this location. It’s a trap either way. Mavo is on that ship, right? Please believe that I want to save him. You said the Markus Models want to exchange cyborgs for more of their units still in storage on Earth. How many cyborgs are on that ship? They are sitting ducks, ready to be boarded and taken prisoner. I need that pilot’s seat to take out that shuttle and we need to get out of this sector of space fast without being tracked.”

Krell studied her and it really angered her.

“Trust me, Krell. Please? Give me a chance. Mavo is on that ship. The Bridden is heavily shielded by special materials the sensors can’t read, I’m assuming they haven’t noticed us yet because of it, but once they realize we’re here, a Genesis Four could kick our butts. We will be useless to the Vontage unless you want to be cellmates with your fellow cyborgs aboard that ship once the Markus Models capture everyone to use as bargaining chips. We have one shot at this. We hit them hard and fast before they realize what’s going on. They are going to notice us soon, we’re coming up on them, and they’ll get a visual with the outer cameras. They can see us but the sensors don’t register anything because of the shielding.” She took a deep breath. “You’re here. You can watch everything I do and kill me if I’m lying to you.”

His dark blue eyes narrowed and seconds ticked by. “Remove yourself, pilot.”

The pilot hesitated. “Excuse me?”

Krell never looked away from Cyan. “She’s piloting the Bridden. That’s an order.”

“That’s a mistake,” the pilot hissed as he moved.

Relief flooded Cyan as she dropped into the warm seat. She grabbed the belts to harness her body in tightly. “Secure everything and order them to buckle in. This is going to be rough.”

Krell growled and dropped into the other seat, reaching for his own belts. “You heard her,” he demanded louder. “Secure everything loose and prepare for an impact.” He turned his head. “I will kill you if you betray me.”

She met his gaze. She noticed he’d referred to himself and not cyborgs in general. She’d evaluate that later too when she wasn’t scared and worried about the dozens of things that could go wrong. “I don’t doubt it for a second but you’re the only one worried about that now. You can trust me.” She rolled her shoulders and grabbed the controls. “Ready?”

“We should warn the Vontage of the impending impact.”

“It’s too risky. The Markus Models would pick up the signal too and they’d know we’re here. It would blow our surprise advantage. Just let me do this and be quiet. I need to concentrate.”

She focused on the screens. One more deep breath and she blew it out. It’s now or never. This is insane. Her thumbs pressed down on the thrusters, activating them to full burn, and she wished could use the onboard computer to help her calculate velocity and impact but knew it wouldn’t. They were designed to avoid crashes.

“Did you modify Dell’s computer?”

“We replaced it.”

“Shut it down. I need full manual override or it may try to take control to avoid a collision and I don’t want the Markus Models to try to hack it when they spot us. They will try.”

He touched his side of the console with his palm. “Done.”

It was coming down to trust and she knew it. He had to trust her and she had to believe he’d really turned off the onboard computer. She’d find out real soon if he had. She tried to judge angles as she flew at the Genesis Four shuttle. It was closely trailing the Vontage, a good thing. She hoped Dell hadn’t been full of crap when he’d told her his work stories, trying to impress her.

“I’m going to lift the nose before we hit them. You’re probably going to mistake me for trying to avoid them in the last seconds but I want to hit them belly first.”

“You said we should side impact with them.”

“That was before I knew this was the Bridden. The guy who designed this picked up a lot of extra income mining asteroids. Did you remove the belly plates on this thing after you got it?”

He hesitated, his hand still on the console, before he shook his head. “We just changed out the computer for something reliable.”

“Best news I’ve heard all day. Dell was a crazy bastard who told me he had to hard land on a lot of them and belly skid inside craters. The gravitational fields are too unstable on asteroids to use thrusters to lightly touch down since some of them are spinners. They rotate too fast to get accurate readings. Sometimes the gravity is almost nonexistent, depending on what they are made of, and sometimes it’s near crushing if it’s magnetic. This shuttle can take a beating on the underside. Evacuate them if you have men on the lower deck. I don’t want them to die if the hull ruptures. Seal this level just in case since you’re in control of the systems.”

He hesitated. “Done. No one is down there. How are you going to make sure the other shuttle hits where you want it to on the Vontage?”

She took another deep breath, adjusting their trajectory. “You don’t want to know.”

“Tell me now.” His voice deepened to a harsh rasp.

“I’m guessing, Krell. Sometimes the guys and I got bored on deep-space missions and we’d use our shuttles to bat around space debris. I’ve never hit anything that big before so now is a really good time to cross your fingers. On an up note, it’s a really big target to hit. Those docking doors are designed to take in smaller freighters. It will almost be like hitting a really big warehouse door.”

She could feel his stare but didn’t dare glance at him, not wanting to break her concentration. “Shit. They see us. They just speeded up and are turning to attack. Hang on!”

Cyan forgot about Krell and the other cyborgs traveling with her. She used pure instinct and hand/eye coordination to keep the Genesis Four shuttle between the target and the Bridden. She had two advantages, she guessed. One, the Markus Models were too smug in their superiority to use the onboard computer to pilot their ship to try to avoid the collision and two, they’d never assume another shuttle would ram them at full-thruster speed.

She jerked up the nose of the shuttle at the last moment and yelled, “Brace!”

Pain jolted through her body from the impact. The belts dug into her skin and the onboard gravity cut out for seconds as the lights flickered. The impact made her teeth ache and the monitors cut out for a second before it all came back online. The tug of gravity was sharp but she had control of the shuttle again as she barely missed hitting the Vontage too. She turned the shuttle.

The other shuttle wasn’t easy to spot at first but when she did, she smiled. Her hands eased off the thrusters completely to watch the thing twist in space. It rolled, seeming out of control, and she took notice of the damaged section of the Vontage. She’d managed to hit her mark, be it a little more off center than she’d hoped, but the Genesis had dented the big doors instead of the hull section of the floating hotel. She hoped the door damage hadn’t caused an interior breach but she didn’t see any signs of air leaking into space from them.

“Keep the computer off line,” she ordered Krell. “We’re still in hacking range.”

He didn’t answer and she tore her gaze from the monitor to check on him. He grimly watched her.

“What?”

“You did it.”

He sounded stunned and it hurt just a tiny bit. “You can trust me. I’m starting to feel like a broken record stating that.” She turned the nose of the shuttle and glanced down. “They are spinning out of control. This is the only chance we may get to hit their belly. I’m going to blast them a few times when it is exposed. I doubt I can blow them apart but the more damage we do, the more time it’s going to buy us to keep them off our asses. Do I have your permission to fire?”

“Do it.”

“Happily.” She targeted the spinning shuttle that seemed dead but she knew it was probably just experiencing malfunctions. Their systems weren’t recovering as fast as the Bridden’s had after impact. Dell had been a believer in keeping his shuttle well armed and she smiled when she fired and hit the shuttle. Small pieces of it drifted away as she hit it a few more times. She hoped she could destroy it but she’d settle for damaging the thrusters.

“It’s not blowing apart.”

“I didn’t think it would. It’s too shielded but those thrusters are suffering some pain.”

“Keep firing at it.”

She hesitated and turned her head to watch him again. “It’s like shooting a chunk of rock, Krell. We can chip away at it but we don’t have all day to do it. I’m afraid the three other shuttles they stole are other Genesis Fours. We’d face impossible odds against three of them and so would the Vontage. We need to get out of here.”

He gripped the dash scanner and sighed. “I’m contacting them now.”

“The Markus Models?”

“The Vontage.”

“Watch what you say.”

“I’m intelligent.”

She closed her mouth. Trust went two ways. Krell knew their communications would be monitored. She glanced at the dash, worried that the Markus Models would try to hack into it, but kept her mouth closed. The cyborgs had survived two encounters with the Markus Models and they had to be doing something to keep the metal heads out of their systems. She was good at hacking but she was a hands-on type, old school, and preferred a monitor-screen link to see what she was doing. She couldn’t just touch and link into a computer easily. It gave her a horrible headache. Of course she wasn’t going to share that information. It left her at a disadvantage.

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