The Terran Empire is at war with The Rhimodian cyborgs. The Terrans believe the cyborgs have stolen a system of planets from them. At least, that's how it started.
It degenerated into hatred and fear.
Book 2 in the Galactic Storm Series
Lady in Waiting Freya will always support the Terran Imperial Princess Caoimhe. Including on her mission of peace.
Even if it seems fruitless.
The Rhimodians will not yield and the Terran Empire will not stop. When Freya is nearly killed en route to the negotiations, she winds up with on ally to get her to the peace talks.
The Rhimodian, Kian.
He must get the petite Terran to safety. A simple program. Master System insists. His people’s future depends on it.
He must be careful, though. The Craving is growing and with every moment he spends with her, it gets stronger.
If she keeps looking at him like that, she will break his protocols.
Kian held his arms out.
The gauntlets on his forearms plugged into the wall.
And he felt it.
Or instead heard it.
Data flew through his neural net, into the cybernetic parts of himself that enabled him to process data faster than any humanoid in the galaxy.
He downloaded all new significant information about the coming negotiations.
Inside the data, he felt the touch.
Different than data.
None of the others in his unit experienced the same sensation. And it was a feeling, more than a logical understanding. More than what he comprehended. Instead, more than what others understood.
Kian, however, carried more than most of them realized. His systems operated on a separate program—the nanite technology used an upgraded function that allowed him different mental cognition.
His ability to process and conclude worked more how a humanoid would think. It also made him more emotional. The emotions made him able to process things uniquely.
More like humanoids. Less like machines.
While still a cyborg, Kian wasn't as dependent on his mechanical side to think and comprehend for himself and not based entirely on the current running program. A hybrid of what the builders had created, their original design for bigger, more vital workers, and completely compliant ones. That was what they had been intended? Created? to be many generations before.
As the generations developed, there were changes to the programming.
Kian was from the last batch of experimental upgrades. One of a few embryos that were manipulated before the Rhimodians left their homeworld.
A different kind of connection with Master System, but more independent than many of the other cyborgs.
While they all were from a humanoid base, they were cyborgs that ran on programming.
The few in his series were advanced. At least, that was how Kian considered it. There were so few remaining, Kian believed they were some new development for the future of the cyborgs.
Because, unlike the others, Kian felt Master System.
The voice that was always there.
Guiding him through his programming.
Your mission is clear, Master System sent.
The coming Ambassadors must be protected at all costs.
"Yes, Master System," Kian whispered.
You will lay down your life for the Terran princesses if necessary.
Kian nodded again.
There is to be no question. Peace cannot falter.
"Yes, Master System," Kian whispered. Data flew through his mind, preparing him for the escort mission.
It was time for him to join his unit to escort the Ambassadors to Sol-3 and begin.
Peace to end the war.
* * *
Kian snapped on his helmet and tapped the gauntlet on his forearm. As the edge met his flight suit, the lysteel bonded with the helmet, creating a quick suction sound as it sealed.
Now his organic tissue was prepared for space flight. He and his fellow pilots in the unit were in various stages of preparing for their mission to escort the Terran Ambassador's ship to Sol-3, their main populace world.
The mission was simple. Protect the arriving delegation, and the action would add to the Terran's trust of the Rhimodians, thus fostering more likelihood of peace between the two.
Peace was necessary.
The Rhimodians had developed their last batch of cyborgs. Once they were fully mature, there would not be more.
War was going to eliminate them entirely. They'd already lost thirty-eight percent of their people due to wartime.
They had to find peace, a solution, or the war would be nothing more than an execution.
A long, drawn-out execution.
Kian adjusted his suit, his clothing wrapping around the gauntlets on his arm. The liquid fabric covered his hands, so he was sealed inside in case of exposure to outer space.
He shivered as it secured, the impulse reaction from his humanoid side, one of those involuntary actions that some humanoids did.
Or so he'd been told. At least it wasn't a malfunction.
The blue stripe on Kian's helmet and down his suit marked him as part of the -An series. A secondary type of cyborg was created as an advance among their people.
He glanced at the one other -An series member of the unit, Bahran, who had yet to put on his striped helmet.
Bahran had Tarnished himself. The downside of their different programming systems. They did not operate and process like the others.
And that could cause issues.
The lift door opened, and Wrathin stepped out. He was the last to arrive in the launch room.
Kian grimaced because it seemed that Wrathin was always slow.
"Are you flying with this unit today?" Kian asked through the communicator in his helmet.
"Do you plan on following uploads?" Wrathin replied, his own voice the static hardness of the communicator.
Why Wrathin's jab hit him so strong today, Kian couldn't grasp.
Just that it did.
"Shall we see who is strong enough to be here?" Kian said as he hit Wrathin. Wrathin was larger than him but not as fast.
Wrathin barely recoiled and threw a punch into the side of Kian's head.
Kian's mask flew open.
Adrenalin pumped through him as the air hit him almost like a slap.
Wrathin loomed in his face. "Shall I count the ways I have defeated you?"
"You have never defeated me," he said as emotions bubbled through him. Wrathin's skin shifted through colors as his emotions boiled as well.
"Enough, you two," Bahran said, a bark to his voice.
Kian glared at Bahran, glaring at his interference. "The Tarnished speaks."
Bahran lunged forward, a growl in his throat. His skin shifted dark, making him appear the color of a mire.
"Enough." Harbin glared at them all. As the oldest and the leader of the unit, they listened to him and his orders. Most of the time. He was, however, respected among them. "None of you want to do this mission, but that is not your choice. You will—"
"I do." Jedriek, the largest of them all, crossed his arms. In his armor, he looked like a monstrous beast, even by Rhimodian standards. Every generation was larger than the last. Jedriek was the youngest in their unit, as the youngest and the last generation of Rhimodians.
Harbin sighed. "You always want to, Jedriek."
Harbin continued. "This mission will not be exciting. But it is important. We are doing it. Every one of you will make sure the Ambassadors get to Sol-3 so that negotiations can begin."
"Connect," Harbin said.
Kian stepped away and touched a nearby port. The lysteel in his gauntlets formed thread-like tentacles that linked into the port's systems.
Master System connected with him.
Mission parameters updated. It included extra details about arrival plans and where the Ambassadors needed to be taken.
Like a head rush, it installed instantly.
Secure the Ambassadors.
The command felt like a reprimand, as Kian had seen parents discipline their children on the space station, Disguised Serenity, where the Rhimodians bought and traded for supplies.
Was Master System frustrated with him?
Yes, Master System.
Kian's adrenalin and anxious feelings calmed as the wires from his gauntlet slid back into the metal.
He was ready to complete the mission.
Remorse rose in him for antagonizing Wrathin. This mission was all that mattered. Not his personal emotions—emotions got in the way of being an effective cyborg.
He faced the room, where the others all stood, and everyone circled up.
"Coded and locked," Harbin said.
Their leader held out his hand, palm down.
Wrathin held out his own hand, his pinky touching Harbin's thumb. Kian did the same until they all made a circle, finger to thumb, like a cog.
"Three. Two. One," Harbin said.
"Execute," they all said at once.
The chant was spoken before every mission. A way to focus on the mission at hand and be where they needed to be.
Wrathin glanced at Kian. "Sorry."
Kian waved his hand. "Forgotten."
"To the next," Wrathin said.
Kian nodded. "To the next."
Kian stepped inside his ship and locked in to launch.
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