Touching Ice Page 24

He answered her by snorting. “No one likes him.”

They were walking toward the Rally’s docking door when a cyborg approached. Ice turned to face him and his body tensed. “Darius.”

The cyborg’s attention wandered leisurely over Megan’s body. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll break something so weak?”

“No.” Ice’s silvery-blue gaze narrowed dangerously. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll break you for insulting the woman in my family unit?”

Megan glanced between Ice and the other cyborg, wondering what was going on.

The dislike between them was evident. Ice tugged her closer to his body and put his arm around her.

“What do you want? Your father is aboard the Earth shuttle.”

“I’m aware. He linked with me and ordered me to find you to give you orders. You turned off your link. Your female is ordered for duty to assist with his new project. He 108 is expecting her on the Earth shuttle immediately so she’s on hand if there is a problem.”

“No,” Ice snarled. His arm dropped from around Megan’s waist and he stepped forward, going nose to nose with the other cyborg. “She’s the female in a family unit and I do not give my permission for her to be assigned to a dangerous mission.

Councilman Zorus has no right to do that.”

Darius took a step back and his dark eyebrows rose. “My father assumed you’d take that stand. I am to remind you that your DNA is no longer needed on Garden, nor is your female’s. We don’t want to contaminate our gene pool with your contributions any longer.” He lowered his gaze, staring at Megan. “And she is just useless in general unless a male needs sexual release.”

Ice took a threatening step toward the other cyborg and Megan saw rage on his features. She grabbed his arm to stop him from hitting the jerk. If Zorus was his father then Ice would probably get in trouble if he decked the rude cyborg.

“It’s okay,” she said quickly as Ice jerked his head to stare down at her. “He’s the one not worth it.”

Ice stepped back and glared at the cyborg. Darius smiled coldly. “My father wants her on the Earth shuttle now.”

“I go with her.”

Relief was instant for Megan. She didn’t want to be on the same shuttle with the Markus Models without Ice.

Darius paused, obviously listening to a voice in his head. “My father said that is acceptable. Proceed now.”

“We need clothes.”

“He said now.” Darius jerked his head and smiled coldly. “Right now.”

Ice glared at the other man and his hands fisted at his sides. Megan rubbed the arm she still gripped. She wasn’t happy to be stuck in the heavy leather uniform for however long it would take to reach the Vontage but she was too grateful to still be with Ice to really allow it to bother her.

“What is his problem?” she whispered as they walked away.

Ice stopped walking and met her curious gaze. “He’s a completely sterile male in my breeding pact. The drugs do not work on him. His female requested my DNA as her donor for his child and the one for herself. It was successful both times and then she called upon me for a third time. After each breeding session, she offered me a place in their family unit but I refused. She already has two males in the family unit and he did not like her wanting me to join their unit.”

Cyborgs do get jealous, she thought. “I understand.”

Ice nodded. “We do not get along. He is angry that three offspring in his family are all from my DNA.”

“I got it.”

Ice sighed. “Let’s go. Councilman Zorus can be an ass when he’s made to wait.”

Chapter Twelve

The bot had been taken down and was no longer within sight when they returned to the cargo hold of the Earth shuttle. Megan was grateful she didn’t have to see that view again. The Markus Models stood frozen where she’d shut them down, their eyelids closed the way they were mandated to do to protect their cloned-tissue eyes.

“If they aren’t going to destroy them, then within a few days, they are going to need maintenance.”

Ice stopped walking and stared down at her. “Recharged?”

She hesitated. “Their living tissue needs supplements as well as recharging their power sources.” She really took a good look at the room around her and saw the name of the ship painted on one of the bulkhead beams.

“Oh crap!”

“What is it?” Ice frowned, his gaze following to where she stared.

“This is the Nugget.”

“Is that supposed to have meaning for me?” He arched an eyebrow as he met her gaze.

“This is Victor Barcarin’s luxury shuttle.”

“Who is he?”

She bit her lip and then sighed. Cyborgs really were out of touch with Earth if they didn’t know the name of one of the richest men on four planets.

“You know how I work for Barcarintellus? Victor is the Barcarin in that first half of the company’s name. His partner is Roy Tellus. This ship was designed for him last year and it’s probably the envy of every person who owns a shuttle.”

Ice’s disbelieving expression almost made Megan laugh, even under these tense circumstances, as she watched him carefully run his gaze around the cargo hold.

“It looks standard to me.”

“How many shuttles have you ever heard of that boast the best of everything? Remember how fast you were told this shuttle came at us when they were after the bots? That’s just an example. The news on Earth ran tons of stories about it when Victor Barcarin first took possession of this baby. No cost was spared. It can hold thirty people comfortably so he can have his full personal staff with him wherever he travels—that’s ten more than standard and we’re talking really nice quarters with fresh water baths and showers. The plating on this thing is supposed to be superior to anything on the market.”

Ice still frowned.

“From what I heard, you could fly it through a meteor field and it won’t even dent.”

“That’s impossible.”

“That’s what the news said.”

“They lie.”

Megan stared up at him, having to agree since she knew, according to everyone on Earth, that cyborgs were all supposed to be dead. That had to have been posted on the official news channels at least once for everyone to believe it.

“I wonder how they stole it.” She stared at the still Markus Models. “They had to have escaped while Mr. Barcarin visited the testing facility.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

That was true enough. They had escaped, stolen the Nugget, and for some reason had come after the bots. A horrible thought struck Megan. “I bet those things activated the thief modes on the bots, looking for Clara.”

Ice had started to move again, tugging her toward the doors to the interior of the shuttle when he paused. “Clara was the main computer on the Folion, correct?”

“Yes. If they had gotten their hands on her they could have controlled a lot of the company’s assets. They could have blackmailed them to hand over more Markus Models. I bet they were disappointed when they realized Folion had been destroyed and Clara with it.”

“We must have been their backup plan.” Disgust laced his tone. He told the two cyborgs standing guard by the interior doors, “Don’t take your focus from them.”

“We won’t,” one of them promised. “They are nothing similar to us.”

Ice glanced at the four still models and nodded his agreement. “They escaped Earth somehow and Megan doesn’t trust that they will remain powered down.”

“Understood,” the other cyborg said softly as his hand reached for his weapon and his fingers curled around it. “We will remain vigilant.”

Ice touched the pad by the door and it opened. He got his first glimpse of luxury living as they entered the hallway. He paused, staring at the floor and then the tiled walls. His eyebrows rose.

“Is that carpet and stone?”

Megan nodded. “Yeah.”

“It’s a shuttle. It’s illogical.”

“I know. Check out the paintings too.”

Ice uttered a curse. “Humans have no common sense.”

She couldn’t argue that point. Ice turned left. “Let’s go find the council members. I want to have a word or two with Zorus.”

“Don’t. He’s an ass and we both know he doesn’t have any sense.”

“Zorus has no right to order you here. You’re my female in a family unit. It is forbidden to order a female on dangerous missions without the permission of her male or males.”

“You heard his son. That was his son, right?”

“Yes.” Anger laced his tone again. “Because our DNA is useless on Garden, he believes he can get away with not following our procedures.”

“I don’t want you to get in trouble over me, Ice.”

He refused to glance at her as he led her down a few corridors. He did pause when they came to a pair of life-sized statues of na**d women. Megan nearly laughed at his dismayed expression.

“It’s considered art,” she explained.

“It’s a waste of space in an already narrow hallway. Where are their heads? Were they broken off?” He turned, looking around.

Megan laughed. “They are replicas of ancient Earth history, I believe. I hope they are replicas anyway. I’d hate to think they risked precious artifacts by putting them on a shuttle.”

“Why couldn’t they reproduce them with heads?”

She chuckled again. “I don’t know.”

“Damn illogical,” Ice muttered, walking again.

They found the other cyborgs in the piloting section of the shuttle. Zorus had taken the captain’s plush chair while the other three council members had taken the other station chairs. The two remaining cyborgs stood guard just inside the door. Ice nodded at them and released Megan when they entered the room.

“Finally.” Zorus punched in a command on the pad in front of him. “We were waiting for you to board. The systems are all online and it wasn’t protected against an attempt to take command of it.” He shook his head. “Stupid.”

The engines flared and the slight vibrations were noticeable even through the thick carpet on the floor. One of the cyborgs wearing red spoke softly. “Undocking with the Star. I’m programming in coordinates to rendezvous with the Vontage and will test the engine abilities on speed limitations.”

“Good.” Zorus spun and glared at Ice. “Take your female back to the cargo hold.

She is to stay with those things.”

“We’re at least a full shift away from the Vontage. I refuse to have Megan hungry and uncomfortable for that length of time. As you are so fond of pointing out, she is not a cyborg.”

“You are refusing my order?”

“She’s here when both of us know you had no right to order her to be on this mission. Do you really want to push it?”

Some of the anger eased from the councilman’s face. “Take her and get her out of my sight until she’s needed. Go find her a bed and food.” He turned away to face the screen that showed nothing but empty space. “Weak,” he muttered.

I’d rather be weak than a total ass**le, Megan thought, keeping that opinion to herself.

Fury gripped Ice’s features as he spun on his heel, gripped her arm gently, and led her back into the hallway.

“He goes too far.”

“He’s an ass, just like most bosses are.” She shrugged. “I’m not hungry but I wouldn’t mind finding a bed.”

“Sleeping quarters logically should be on the deck below this one. Are you tired?”

They located a lift and stepped inside it. She grinned. “No. I just want to find a bed and some alone time with you.”

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