Touching Ice Page 23

“We all are in command,” they said in unison. “This is the number of our strength.”

“Shit,” another cyborg whispered from behind Megan. “So much for Zorus thinking there are a bunch of models willing to stand up to Earth Government. I’m glad there’s not more of them. It’s creepy the way they talk together.”

Megan understood that sentiment as well and the uneasiness his voice revealed.

The defense hybrids were hive minded, obviously linked together, and working as one unit. They hadn’t been designed that way so it was something Megan surmised they’d changed in their own programming. She had a feeling that the council members were wishing they’d heeded her warning now as she watched Zorus take a step back from his potential new allies. He cleared his throat but before he could speak again, they did.

“You brought programmer Megan Bellus with you. As one of our terms, we demand the threat destroyed.”

Ice reacted first, before Megan’s stunned mind could translate that the machines wanted her killed. He released her and a heartbeat later put his body directly in front of hers. His hand reached for the weapon holstered to his belt and gripped it. A tall cyborg, a bald one, suddenly brushed against Megan’s arm, stepping forward to her side. Ice turned his head, met the cyborg’s gaze, and nodded.

“Get her out of here if this turns bad, Coal,” he whispered.

The big, bald cyborg nodded grimly and whispered back, “I’ll protect your female with my life.”

Ice faced forward and moved to the right, putting himself in full view of the Markus Models. “We’re not going to kill Megan Bellus for you. Why would you ask that of us? She’s my wife and she’s not a threat. We brought her with us because she’s familiar with your kind. We wanted her expertise in our negotiations with you.”

The four Markus Models locked their chilly gazes on Ice. “Humans are expendable, a threat to our existence, illogical, and we want her destroyed.”

Coal reached out, his arm going across Megan’s chest, and he gently pushed her behind him. He reached for his weapon as well, gripped it by the handle but didn’t withdraw it from the holster. He backed up a step and Megan moved with him, having no other choice as the big cyborg pressed against her.

“I don’t trust humans myself.” Zorus stated. “She did form a family unit with a cyborg though, which makes her part of our society.”

“We want the threat destroyed,” the models demanded.

Megan inched over a little to peer between the cyborgs in front of her. She saw Zorus as he glanced back at her, their gazes meeting, and she saw his grim, suspicious look before he faced the Markus Models again.

“Why is she a threat to you?”

They refused to answer. Megan’s mind went into overdrive. Why were they considering her such a threat? She’d worked with them but besides that, the only way she could possibly hurt them was if she used her programming codes but those had to have been changed. It was standard policy to do that as well as fix the flaws when a product was released from the testing stage for future use. Their codes would have changed unless… Oh shit, she thought.

“Ice?” she whispered. She wished she were linked to him mentally the way some of his men were so she could talk to him without the risk of being overheard.

Onyx moved to stand on the other side of her and leaned down. He pressed his lips to her ear. “What? Tell me and he can hear you. He doesn’t want to move from his position.”

Megan had to put her hand on his shoulder to lean in, nearly touching his ear with her lips. “I don’t think Barcarintellus put them into production.”

Onyx frowned, turning his head to stare at her.

She tugged on him, bringing his ear down to whisper into it again. “I think they may have escaped instead. That’s the only reason I’d be a threat. I know their weakness and their shutdown codes. If they weren’t fixed, modified by the company, and cleared for duty, those wouldn’t have been changed.”

Onyx straightened and his expression hardened. He said nothing but she saw Ice nod ahead of them so he and Onyx were obviously silently communicating. Onyx hunched down a little and met her eyes. He mouthed his words.

“What is the shutdown code?”

She licked her lips, wetting them, and took his hand. She met his gaze. “Mercy,” she mouthed back and looked down. She showed him four fingers, then two, then four, and then one. She looked up. Onyx nodded. He understood.

“We request asylum with you,” the Markus Models stated loudly. “We wish to integrate with your society and live with your people.” They paused. “How many cyborgs survived? We would like an exact number.”

Warning bells were going off inside Megan. Why did they want that information? It was an odd request.

Zorus hesitated. “We’d rather not give that information out.”

“It is a logical question,” the Markus Models stated louder. “We need to know the exact numbers of surviving cyborgs and their exact location. We demand to know.”

Megan moved forward. Onyx grabbed at her arm but she jerked away and walked to stand next to Ice. She stared at the models and saw that they noticed her movement as all four of them turned their heads to stare at her. Ice reached out and put his hand on her arm, gently tugging to pull her behind him. She jerked back, holding ground.

“Authorization beta-one-four-four-six. State your real mission. That’s a direct order.”

“What are you doing?” Zorus hissed. “How dare you interrup―”

“We are going to exchange cyborgs for cash reward and then buy more models to conform to our mission and save the rest of our brothers,” the Markus Models stated.

Megan’s heart nearly stopped as the shock tore through her. Her gaze jerked up to stare at Ice. “We have about fifty seconds before they aren’t frozen by that command,”

she told everyone in the room.

“Shut them down,” Ice barked.

Megan nodded. “Authorization mercy-four-two-four-one.”

“They were setting a trap for us,” Zorus gasped, astonished. “They wanted us to lead them to Garden and the rest of our people.”

“Megan stated it was a bad idea to meet with them in the first place.” Ice glared at the councilman. “I put that in my report but you discounted her opinion because she’s human.”

“I hate to break up the finger pointing,” Megan said loudly, “but just because I shut them down doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way. I don’t know what kind of modifications they made to themselves. They obviously somehow escaped the testing facility.

Barcarintellus didn’t change their authorization codes so that’s where they came from.”

“You shut them down.” Flint spoke. “Doesn’t that mean they will stay off until they are turned back on?”

“Not necessarily. They are unstable and were always messing with their own programming.” Megan stared up at Ice. “I say we fry them just to be sure. Since the codes weren’t changed, nor were their flaws, they are still vulnerable to electrocution.”

“No.” Zorus shook his head. “We could study them. We’ll take them to the Vontage and use that ship to secure them while we bring a team of our best scientists from Garden to run tests.”

Megan glared at the man. “Let me tell you something, sir―”

“Shut it up,” Zorus yelled, glaring at Ice. “I do not speak to humans. Silence her.”

“They escaped a high-security testing facility,” Megan spoke louder, unwilling to be shut up by the rude cyborg. “They would have turned them off and the only way I can figure they may have escaped is by bypassing that command somehow. You can bet that the guards didn’t just allow them to walk out the doors. They―”

“I’ll shut it up myself permanently,” Zorus snarled, taking steps toward Megan.

Ice grabbed her, pulled her out of the advancing cyborg’s path, but then another cyborg moved in his way as well. Zorus was blocked from getting closer to her. Ice glanced down and shook his head at Megan, silently ordering to her not talk anymore.

She sealed her lips and kept them together.

Flint glared at the councilman. “They are dangerous. They lured us here to find out our numbers and obviously planned to trick us into leading them to our home world.

We should end the threat now.”

“If we are destroying all threats to us then every human should be taken out as well.” Zorus marched right up to Flint and glared at him. “I give the orders.”

“A human, my Megan, just saved us from making a fatal mistake to our future,” Ice snarled. “These Markus Models should be destroyed. You refused to listen to her advice before but you were wrong. If she thinks they pose a danger, we should listen to her.”

“I give the orders,” Zorus snapped. He looked away from Ice and glanced at a few of the cyborgs around him. “You, you, you, and you. Come with me. We’re going to pilot this shuttle to the Vontage.”

“Perhaps the human is correct.” One of the council members spoke.

“I refuse to listen to one of them.” Zorus turned and stormed toward the doors that led to the interior of the shuttle they were on. “We’re not going to pass on an opportunity to study the technology that Earth has come up with to make them. They could be the next threat we face if Earth Government ever sends these things after us. I want to know their weaknesses.”

Two of the council members nodded, following Zorus while one remained. He sighed, glancing at the men around him. “You heard him. I believe it is a possibility that we may face this threat in the future. We have a rare opportunity to study them.”

They were making a big, stupid mistake, Megan thought. She glanced up at Ice, seeing the frustration on his face as he stared at Flint. Flint had a grim expression as he shrugged.

“You heard their orders.” He paused. “We’ll warn the Vontage crew what is coming their way. Steel will take every precaution.” Flint focused on Megan. “Will you share all 107 your information with us so if this goes bad they can at least attempt to neutralize the threat?”

“Of course.” She turned and looked up at the sex bot still hanging. “Ice?”

“Yes, Megan?” He inched closer.

“Can you please get the bot down? Please? I can’t stand to see her that way. I think I can fix what they did to her.”

Ice glanced at Onyx.

Onyx nodded. “I’ll cut it down and bring it aboard the Rally.”

“Thank you,” Megan whispered, looking away from the damaged bot. What had been done to it was horrible. She didn’t know if she could fix it but she couldn’t stand to see one that way. “What about the other bots?”

“Coal? Find the other eleven bots if they are still on the shuttle and transfer them to the Rally quickly please, before they undock this shuttle from the Star. I figure you have about half an hour while they assess if they booby-trapped the systems before attempting to take control of it.”

“Of course.” Coal headed for the doors that the council and the four ordered cyborgs had gone through.

Ice shook his head. “Let’s contact Steel now and warn him.” He held out his arm to Megan. “He’ll want to talk to you, Megan. He’s going to want to know everything you can tell him about those things, in case they somehow reboot since they are going to be on his ship. He’s a good friend of ours and he’s also married to a human. He’s going to be furious that not only is Zorus bringing danger aboard the Vontage but that he’d dare go there in the first place. Zorus once attempted to prevent Steel from forming a family unit with his female.”

“I really don’t like Zorus,” she muttered, wrapping her fingers around Ice’s arm, allowing him to lead her back to the Star’s cargo bay.

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