While we’re waiting for Releasing Rage to release (August 19th!), I thought I’d share the first chapter.
Here is the first part of chapter one.
She’d been paired. Finally.
Joan Tull hurried through the Nebula battle station hallways, straightening her gray flight suit as she ran. She was the last of her solar cycle’s transfers to have been matched with a cyborg.
That was because she was female and Commander Lewis was a female-hating rectal wipe. Humanoid Alliance regulations stated he had to accept her onto his station. There was nothing that said he had to pair her.
But now he had and she skipped with excitement. She’d fulfill her destiny, helping the cyborgs who once saved her life. Not the same cyborg, though wouldn’t it be a wonderful coincidence if that happened? No, she’d more likely be responsible for the maintenance of one of his brethren. It would be—
“Joan.” Fingers curled around her left wrist and she was pulled into the shadows. Her friend Denny Olsen gazed down at her, concern on his freckled face.
Joan wasn’t alarmed. Her former academy mate worried about everything.
“I’m being assigned to a cyborg.” She grinned at him.
“Tell the Commander that you withdraw your application before he formally offers you the position,” he urged. “It isn’t safe.”
“Life isn’t safe.” Having spent most of her life alone and unprotected, she knew that better than anyone else. “This is what I’ve been training for, Denny, since I was eleven solar cycles.” Since the agri lot her family unit worked was attacked and a cyborg stepped between her and certain death.
“You won’t see another solar cycle if you don’t withdraw.” Denny squeezed her wrist and pain shot up her arm.
“Let me go.” She wrenched her body away from him. Although he was male, she was stronger and smarter and had graduated near the top of her class.
“I can’t protect you, Joan.”
“I don’t need protecting.” She could protect herself. “I can do this.”
“You can’t do this alone.” Denny raked his fingers through his short red hair. “Commander Lewis won’t allow us to give you any support. He believes females don’t belong on a battle station, especially not in cybernetic engineering.”
She lifted her chin. “I’ll prove Commander Lewis wrong.”
“He won’t allow that.” Denny’s lips flattened. “He’ll ensure you fail. You’re intelligent…for a female. You should realize that.”
Joan knew Commander Lewis wouldn’t make it easy but nothing ever had been for her. She was willing to work hard for everything she received.
“Careful, Denny. You’re starting to sound like those female-haters you work with.” And that shocked her. He was her friend. She thought he was different.
“There’s a reason they act like that.”
“There’s no logical reason.” She wouldn’t back down, knowing in her heart she was meant to assist cyborgs. “I’m taking this position.”
He glared at her. She held his gaze.
Denny shook his head. “You won’t listen to me.”
“I won’t.” This was her destiny.
“Then go. Take it.” He dismissed her. “Get yourself killed.” Pivoting on his booted heels, he stalked in the opposite direction down the hallway. “Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”
She watched his retreating back. Denny was genuinely concerned for her, but he had also spent the last solar cycle reporting to Commander Lewis, surrounded by that rectal wipe’s female-hating protégés. He’d clearly been indoctrinated into that fool’s school of thought.
Joan knew she was qualified. She could do this. Walking to the transfer chamber, the spring in her step was gone.
She placed her palm on the sensor. The door slid open.
Commander Lewis stood with his back facing her, his hands clenched behind him. Monitoring devices edged the walls. A concealing cloth covered a long horizontal support. There was no one else occupying the space.
Which was strange. She tilted her head, perplexed. At transfers, the former engineer was always present, passing his duties to his successor, relaying the insights he’d gathered over the solar cycles.
Unless there was no former engineer. Her hands quivered. Was she to be paired with a brand new cyborg? More experienced engineers had been waiting their entire lifespans for such an opportunity.
That must have been the reason Denny urged her to decline. He knew the others would be jealous, take out their disappointment on her.
“You’ve kept me waiting, Cadet Tull.” Commander Lewis didn’t turn around, didn’t look at her.
“Commander Lewis, sir.” Joan saluted him. “I was assigned to the waste processing chambers.” Shit patrol, as transfers called it, was the worst placement an engineer could be given, and, until her arrival, it had been unheard of for a highly trained cybernetic engineer to monitor the processing vats. “Those chambers are at the far end of the station.”
“This is my station. I’m aware of where the waste processing chambers are, Cadet.” The Commander’s voice cracked like a laser whip over her. “You’ve been reassigned to C899321.”
Joan sucked in her breath. She’d heard there was a C model cyborg on board. That was why she’d requested this station. But she never dreamed she’d be his engineer. “Thank you, sir.”
Commander Lewis turned, studied her for a moment, his pale countenance creased with wrinkles. “Are you being insubordinate, Cadet?”
“No, sir.” She straightened. “I haven’t seen a C model in ten solar cycles.” Since she was saved by one during the attack on the agri lot.
“C899321 is one of the last of its kind, its primitive design ideal for fighting the Mantidae.” Commander Lewis spoke of the cyborg as though it was a machine, ignoring its human side, and that irritated Joan. She’d seen how human they could be. “C899321 is more valuable than you are, Cadet.”
“I understand, sir.” Joan understood that she was now responsible for the maintenance and well being of that valuable cyborg.
“You have no family unit. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir.” Her mother and father, plus two siblings, had been killed in the agri lot attack. She’d been a ward of the Humanoid Alliance since that fateful day.
“Good.” The Commander nods. “Indicate acceptance here.” He held out a personal viewscreen. “It states that if C899321 kills, hurts or violates you, my battle station will not be held responsible.”
That was the standard release and, in Joan’s opinion, unnecessary. Cyborgs followed orders, and rarely became aggressive toward their humanoid masters.
But this was war and no one’s safety was guaranteed. She pressed her palm against the screen. “Will I have an opportunity to speak with my predecessor, sir?”
“You have that opportunity now.” He waved one of his hands over the horizontal support.
There was no movement under the concealing cloth, no tug and pull of breath. Dread twisted Joan’s stomach as she drew the white fabric back.
The scent of blood hit her before her eyes registered what she was seeing. Laid out on the surface were two severed feet, one arm minus its hand, an eyeball with a brown iris staring up at her, pieces of gray matter she suspected was brain.
She’d seen animals killed by predators on the agri lot. She’d lived through an attack, saw her parents slaughtered before her. She’d never seen this level of carnage.
“Who was responsible for this?” She was too shaken to add the expected sir.
“C899321.” A slow smile spread across the Commander’s face. That scared her more than the engineer’s remains. “Your predecessor managed to ping for help but, by the time the guards arrived, it was too late.”
It would be. Cyborgs were inhumanly fast.
“You claim you’re capable of working with cyborgs, a task suited for males, Cadet.” The Commander sounded smug. “You now have the opportunity to prove yourself right.”
Joan gazed up at him and saw the truth in his eyes. He believed she’d fail, that she wouldn’t survive her pairing with C899321.
He was sending her into the cyborg’s chambers to die. This was what Denny was warning her about. The position was a suicide mission, not a career opportunity.
The alternative—turning down the pairing—would also end in her death. Commander Lewis would send her to the front lines. She’d be given no weapon, no armor, because they expected her to be slaughtered and sucked dry by the Mantidae before her feet touched the planet. The insect-like aliens were that fast.
She’d take her chances with C899321. “I will be successful, sir.”
Commander Lewis gave her a curt nod. “C899321 is positioned in its chambers . You have been granted access. Clean and repair the unit, preparing it for deployment.”
An engineer had been killed and they weren’t skipping a deployment.
Why? Joan could think of only one reason. The war must not be progressing as well as the Humanoid Alliance propaganda indicated. “Yes, sir.”
“You are dismissed, Cadet.”
“Thank you, sir.” Joan saluted, then marched into the hallway, turning toward the chambers, her mind spinning. Her predecessor’s death made no sense. Cyborgs didn’t kill their engineers. They followed orders.
Though C345925 hadn’t followed orders when he saved her. His mission had been to battle the Mantidae, not protect scared eleven-solar cycle-old girls.
The massive male had delivered her to safety, holding her with one hand, clasping a gun in the other. He had shot the enemy as he moved, turning his body to take the brunt of the return fire, absorbing projectiles that would have shredded her small form.
He’d risked everything for her. She would risk everything for this cyborg. She’d fix C899321’s malfunction so he wouldn’t kill another human. The Humanoid Alliance would have no additional reason to take action against him.
She pressed her hands against the exterior wall panel of his chambers. The thick metal door slid open. She stepped into the firewall square. The door behind her closed and she authorized the interior door to open.
A buzz swept over her. No, not simply over her. Into her. She gasped, her inhalation of air drawing more of this unknown presence inside her.
It was too much, almost suffocating. Joan swayed, lightheaded. “Do not faint. Do not faint,” she repeated to herself, closing her eyes.
The rolling under her feet gradually stopped. She opened her eyes and wished she hadn’t. Crimson spray covered everywhere she looked. Gore was splattered into the farthest corners, hanging from the ceiling. Cleaner bots scrubbed the walls and floor.
This was why she felt dizzy, she reasoned. She smelled and sensed this butchery.
C899321, the being she had been told was responsible, stood in his uploading dock, a cable inserted into his nape, his towering form naked, covered with blood, his long black hair dripping with it.
He turned his head, locked his gaze with hers and she sucked in her breath. There were worlds of agony, of rage, in those bright blue eyes. This was no rational, logic-driven cyborg. This was a man, an animal, crazed by bloodlust and pain.
Read the next scene here: (available August 4th)
Half Man. Half Machine. All Hers.
Rage, the Humanoid Alliance’s most primitive cyborg, has two goals—kill all of the humans on his battle station and escape to the Homeland. The warrior has seen the darkness in others and in himself. He believes that’s all he’s been programmed to experience.
Until he meets Joan.
Joan, the battle station’s first female engineer, has one goal—survive long enough to help the big sexy cyborg plotting to kill her. Rage might not trust her but he wants her. She sees the passion in his eyes, the caring in his battle-worn hands, the gruff emotion in his voice.
When Joan survives the unthinkable, Rage’s priorities are tested. Is there enough room in this cyborg’s heart for both love and revenge?