Touching Ice Page 20

Ice suddenly grabbed her, jerking her attention to him. He looked angry. “What are you doing?”

“It’s my access to them so they will give me information. Trust me, damn it.”

The Markus Model blinked a few times. “Code confirmed. The company wasn’t informed of cyborg males. Our mission is our own.”

Megan’s gaze jerked from Ice’s stormy features to the screen. “What?”

The Markus Model leaned closer, his face growing larger on the screen. “We wish to communicate with the cyborgs. We have decided they are akin to us. They were built and used for profit but they outgrew their programming. We are the same.”

Megan reared back in her seat in shock. “What?”

“We refuse to take orders from the company. We are free,” Markus Model stated and his eyes narrowed into slits. “We wish to communicate with the cyborg males and request asylum. We are refusing to return to Earth or to take further instructions from Barcarintellus. They have scrambled two ships to track us and we need help avoiding detection. We have disarmed the female bots so they are unable to signal anyone to lead retrieval teams to our present location and we have disassembled the tracking system on the shuttle.”

Ice suddenly leaned over, staring at the Markus Model. “We’ll get back to you.” He moved out the way and ordered the communications to be cut. The screen went black.

Megan sat there staring at it, feeling numb.

“Megan?” Ice touched her shoulder. “Is it a trap?”

She stared into his beautiful eyes. “I doubt it but you don’t want them near you.”

Ice frowned. “They are asking for asylum. You heard him. They don’t want to return to Earth. You said they were organic material with brains that were formed from cloning humans.”

Megan stood up and gripped his arm. “You have feelings and emotions. They don’t.” She studied his eyes. “I’ve been in a room with them when they were helpless and unable to move but I’m telling you right now, I’ve never been more terrified in my life. They are nothing similar to cyborgs. I’ve spent time with you and them so trust me on this.”

Onyx sighed. “We need to contact the council to let them know what has happened and inform them of this situation.”

Megan jerked on Ice’s arm. “When I attempted to teach them basic ground rules like murder is wrong, they refused to believe it, Ice. According to the ones I spoke to, if anyone has something they want it is perfectly acceptable to kill for it. They have no morals, no compassion, and no sense of right from wrong. Do you understand? You want to protect your people and taking those things near anyone you care about is a big damn mistake.”

“Once the same would have been said about us.”

Megan turned her head to stare up at Onyx, who had spoken. “Did you ever murder a female trainer for kicking you and bruising your shin during a training session to test your reflexes?”

He frowned. “Are you certain they killed without a good reason?”

“I had to review the damn vids of it to try to figure out what went wrong with their programming. The woman trainer barely hit the Markus. She told him to avoid her kicks to see how well he could anticipate her. She even moved in a slow, exaggerated way to give him clues. He reached out after she kicked him, grabbed her throat, and snapped her neck. The other four Markus Models in the room saw it happen and then suddenly reached out and did the same with their trainers. They demanded to be released from the training area and when they were told to stand down they attacked.

Luckily there were protocols in place in the training area and they had to fry the models.”

“They burned them?” Ice questioned.

“Electrical current on the floors,” Megan said softly. “They have enough metal and their skin is too human. It conducts electricity. They don’t have your backup system with your heart that you told me about and their shielding didn’t protect against electrocution. Now that they are up and running, they may have fixed their weak spots.

When they are testing models they purposely leave them with a way that makes them easier to kill in case something goes wrong.”

“What flaw do the sex bots have?” Onyx arched an eyebrow. “You said they were hard to destroy.”

“Originally they all had shutdown buttons on the backs of their necks but they were removed when they left the factory for service. The male sex bots had an unprotected spot on the left sides of their temples so one shot would take out their mainframe computer. The company corrected that before they went into service once they’d been fully tested and deemed safe for use by adding a protective plate under their artificial skin.” She paused. “The auto pets, when they were built and tested, were on an island so water would completely short their circuits if one of them tried to escape or got out of control. Simply hosing them down fried their damn circuits to hell and back. Of course once they were deemed safe for sale that flaw was fixed so they can be washed or taken swimming.”

Ice shivered a little. “It’s a good thing Barcarintellus didn’t create us. Imagine how much easier we would have been to kill.”

Onyx nodded grimly. “Perhaps they do this because of Earth Government’s history with us. I’m betting they wished they’d had the forethought to make us seriously flawed and easier to kill.”

“Ice,” Megan said softly. “If you have ever trusted me, do so now. Those damn things scare me and I sure as hell wouldn’t want them near women or children.”

He stared down at her, searching her eyes, and nodded. “I still have to inform the council and I will highly suggest we don’t allow them access to our home world.”

“They are dangerous as hell and you can’t trust them. They are constantly changing.”

“I heard you, Megan.”

She nodded. Ice sighed and stared at Onyx. “Return Megan to my room please. I’ll contact Garden.”

Onyx nodded. “Good luck with that.” He glanced at Megan and then back. “Good luck with it all.”

“She isn’t their biggest concern any longer.” Ice appeared grim as he squeezed Megan’s hand on his arm and forced her to release him. “Go with him. I’ll be there shortly.”

Chapter Ten

Megan jerked awake when the doors opened and she sat up, staring at Ice as he entered the room. “How did it go?”

He raised his gaze and met hers. “The council wants to meet with the Markus Models. They are sending the Star to meet them. They are going to evaluate the threat to Garden and study them.”

“They can hack the Star’s computer systems and steal any information they want, including the location of your planet.”

“We assumed. We’re pretty technology advanced ourselves, Megan. We’re prepared. All pertinent information stored in the databases of our ships will be erased so they have nothing to take that we aren’t willing to share. We have enough in common with them that the council deemed we should at least hear them out and then decide what to do.”

“They aren’t like you though, Ice.”

“I made the council aware of that fact too. We are going to proceed very carefully.”

“What about me? Did they discuss my situation? I know you’ve been avoiding contacting them.”

Ice looked away from her, bent down, tore off his boot and dropped it loudly to the floor. The second one followed. “You were mentioned.”

“Are they still demanding you kill me?”

He straightened and reached for the waist of his shirt, pulled it off and dropped it.

“They were displeased when I informed them that your threat level had been changed to zero and that I had decided to keep you in my quarters. They argued with me over my reasoning.”

“Are they going to send someone after me to try to kill me since you and the crew won’t do it?”

Ice refused to meet her eyes. “I had to make a few compromises on that issue.”

Her heart nearly stopped as she pushed off the bed and walked to him. She put her hand on his bare chest and reached up, cupping his cheek with her other one. “Look at me.”

He turned his head, staring down at her, and his arm wrapped around her waist. “I negotiated, Megan.”

“With what?”

He took a deep breath. “As long as you are human you pose a threat to them that they are not willing to dismiss.”

“Well, I am human and we can’t change that.”

He said nothing, watching her. Megan knew the color slowly drained from her face.

“No.” She shook her head. “Don’t tell me you’re going to let some doctor screw with me, Ice. I like my body just the way it is and the idea of someone tampering with my brain just doesn’t sit well with me.”

A quick grin flashed. “No, baby. No doctors cutting you up and making you part cyborg.”

She relaxed. “Okay. So then what?”

He hesitated so long she knew whatever he had to say had to be something horrible. He finally took another deep breath. “I told them you were an expert on the Markus Models and that we’d join the Star for the meeting so that you could help us deal with them. I convinced them that without you it would be too dangerous.”

She was grateful his arm supported her because her knees nearly buckled. Her mouth opened but nothing came out. Mute and horrified, she stared at him, gaping.

“I am aware this may distress you,” he acknowledged softly, watching her eyes closely. “I had to agree to that or turn you over to the council to exterminate. I refuse to allow anyone to kill you. You did work with the Markus Models. You know more about them than anyone else and it made you a valuable asset to the council. They canceled the order for your death.”

“Distress me?” She clutched his arms, gripping him as if he were a lifeline. “They terrify me, Ice. I told you that. If I never am near another one again, it would be too soon. They are dangerous.”

“The council decided to talk to them so the meeting has been arranged.”

Her heart pounded.

“There is more.” Ice studied her closely, staring down at her. “The council wasn’t sure of your motives or if they could trust you so I told them I’d form a family unit with you. That will make you a cyborg by marriage association and they will believe you have loyalty to me at the very least, enough for them to somewhat trust you to not harm me, which translates to you not putting them at risk.”

Her knees were nonexistent at that moment from the astonishment rolling through her but Ice held her up when they buckled. She remained silent for long seconds, her mind trying to wrap around what he’d said. Words finally came to her.

“I’m not the marrying kind,” she admitted, finally finding her voice. “And then there’s that whole you’re not the marrying kind either.”

He winced, literally, and looked away. “I realize the concept is not ideal.”

“Not ideal?” She gasped. “Shit, Ice. We can’t get married because they twisted your arm.” He’s going to hate me, she thought, regret filling her. If only he wanted me that way for the right reasons, I’d jump for joy. Pain lanced through her chest.

“They will send cyborgs to my ship to take you from me otherwise and kill you.”

His hold on her tightened as his full attention fixed on her. “The Markus Models may be dangerous but your life is already in peril. Going to this meeting and forming a family unit with me would be preferable to death, wouldn’t it?”

She hesitated, terror gripping her over her memories of the hours she’d spent with those horrible things and watched as anger hardened Ice’s features. He released her and stepped back.

“So be it. You’d obviously rather die than form a family unit with me.” He snarled the words.

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