Leaving the Terran Empire's POW camp, they thought they found their way home. Home, however, is taking a different route than these cyborgs expect.
Most Wanted Alien Brides Series, Intergalactic Dating Agency, Book 3
When the transport landed at Disguised Serenity, the last thing that Solkan wanted to do was be shuffled into the Intergalactic Dating Agency's offices and tested.
He had plenty of tests as a prisoner of war of the Terran Empire. Doing more, even if it was to find his mate, just pissed him off. He'd been in solitary for a reason. He didn't want to be around anyone.
Especially not a mate. Cyborgs weren't supposed to be slaves to their Cravings. Solkan refused to be slaved to anyone, ever again.
Now that the prisoners are being released, it's time to be free.
As if that's ever possible.
Terran officer Addigale Vinka spent a great deal of time around the cyborgs. So much so, she was fired. She bonded too easily with them, or so she was told. Especially Solkan.
Whatever it was about Solkan, she couldn't help the desire to be around him. The others? They were fine, but Solkan?
It was beyond the fact that he was spectacular to look at. She felt something.
Now, though, she might have a chance.
Then maybe, she and her favorite cyborg have a chance to see if this thing between them is really important, or just a prisoner falling for his jailer.
Most Wanted Alien Brides:
The cell had very few lights. Shadows created architecture, and perception made them move like Solkan was in his own private city.
He painted analogies in his mind of what he saw. Otherwise, the isolation might make him mad. He delved into anything he could to keep his head while he was stuck in this hole.
They kept him alone.
To see what it would do to the cyborg. Would isolation affect him?
Or was he too cybernetic to be touched by emotional stressors?
What was the answer? Solkan didn't know. Disconnected from Master System had only his current, outdated protocols. No new commands.
No new procedures.
He was still at war.
He might be in a cell, but he was still fighting the Terran Empire, and he was not about to quit.
Down a few cells from him were two of his unit, Marcin and Kolvin. They were still allowed to communicate with each other, to a degree.
If he tried, Solkan could hear what they said. Not all the time, but sometimes.
He was never one for companionship, but his unit was his priority. He was stuck in this cell, away from them, and the disconnect frustrated him. But he maintained his anger. What The Terrans wanted, beyond breaking him, he didn't know. He thought they just wanted into their heads. Into any of the Rhimodians, to see who would give up Rhimodian secrets.
If Solkan had some to give, he might have considered telling the Terrans.
He had none.
The Terran Empire did not understand that Master System kept all the cyborgs on a need-to-know basis. While there are many things that they would know in any given scenario, they were still on a data lockdown because of the war. And there was no connection to Master System to find out what the latest protocols were.
It didn't matter.
All that mattered was that he survived.
Unlike his fellow Rhimodians, he was kept in a box with minimal external stimuli. The tiny bit of contrast in the architecture was because of cracks in the cell shaping that let small bits of light seep into the cell. Just enough that he could mentally create images to keep himself occupied.
He laid on the floor, watching the shadows move. The room had very little in the way of accouterments.
It was a cell.
Not a hotel room.
It contained only what he needed to survive.
And be properly tortured.
Footsteps outside made him focus not on where he was in his head but on the surroundings. The crunching of boots on the floor was at least two, and from the sound, it seemed like one was of a more petite frame than the other. Footsteps were not as hard.
The observation plate slid open.
"Solkan. Get up," snarled one of the guards.
He didn't move.
Why should he bother? They were going to hurt him anyway. Might as well get the pain over with sooner and understand why they were doing it.
"Solkan!" the guard snapped.
He still didn't move. If they were going to hurt him, they had to come in and do it. They would have to drag him--
"I just want to talk to you," came a female voice.
The guard snapped outside. "He's not going to listen to you. All he hears is violence."
"Perhaps there is more than one way to get through to the Rhimodians. Your methods are not working with optimum results. Maybe mine will."
What in the stars is a female doing here? Why did she want to speak with me?
Solkan rolled over and rose from the floor.
Was it curiosity? Maybe. Intrigued? Probably.
The fact that he had not seen a female in a long time.
Through the observation window, he met her gaze. Her dark eyes widened ever so slightly, but she kept her face neutral.
He stared at her through the window. She would come to his shoulders, maybe.
She had the same tan complexion as the other Terrans and similar dark eyes. Her hair, however, was down in loose, free curls. In the ship's light, he saw reflections of color all throughout her strands.
In short, she was stunning.
Under his skin, the Craving roared to life. The one primitive side of the Rhimodians that, regardless of protocols, could not be entirely suppressed. It controlled their desires for primal needs, including sexuality and mating.
Or it would have controlled mating if there were any Rhimodian females. There had not been any Rhimodian females for many generations. For some reason, they could not get the cybernetic enhancements, and as such, females soon died away.
It left Rhimodians--due to something in the cybernetics--unable to mate with any female species. They tried. Master System created protocols that allowed them to mate with any female they chose, as long as specific rules were enforced.
No species had ever been able to create offspring with them. Had Solkan explored that aspect of existence? Of course, he had. He, like plenty of others, enjoyed the feel of female flesh wrapped around him. It was never anything more than a fleeting moment, one that was purely for release and gratifying the Craving.
But it was nothing necessary for survival. Solkan had not thought about his for the last four years while he'd been in this prison. Even before, he rarely gave it thought.
Today, though, looking at this female, he felt it burn under his skin.
"Step away from the door!" the guard yelled.
Solkan tore his attention away from the female and glared at the guard. He took two steps back.
"In your chair," the guard said.
Solkan took another step back and sighed.
The chair, a metal structure anchored to the floor, restrained Solkan when anyone entered the cell. It creaked when he stepped into it. The bars clasped around him and yanked his posture upright--uncomfortably so--and fastened around his arms, legs, and waist.
They snapped around the gauntlets that covered his forearms, the metal clanking against metal. The sound bit against his ears.
The door opened, and in came the guard, his stun baton out and ready to use if he felt provoked.
The guards always felt provoked.
The female glanced at Solkan, then at him. "I think that's unnecessary, don't you?"
"You do not know him."
"That is why I am here. To know him."
The guard snorted. "He is one of our most violent. That's why the chair, and not out of this room."
"I've read the reports," she said. "You can go."
"I don't think so, girl. He'll tear you apart."
She glanced at Solkan, then back at the guard. "I don't think so. Wait outside."
He grabbed the female's arm.
Yanked her hard.
Solkan made a fist, pulling at the restraints in the chair. He could not move, but it was not from lack of trying. The Craving burned again, but this wasn't the same. It was fury that poured through him.
He was going to rip the guard's head off, how dare he--
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye before she grabbed the guard's wrist and very deftly forced his grip off her.
She shoved him into the wall.
Smiled at the pain on the guard's face.
Solkan might have clapped had his hands been free.
She leaned in close to the guard. "Now, listen. I. Will. Be. Fine. Move alone. I got this." She pulled his hair and slammed his face into the wall for the final measure.
The guard snarled multiple curses at her as he stormed out of the room.
She turned back to Solkan. "Sorry about that. Some people have no manners."
Solkan raised his eyebrow.
She sighed and straightened out her shirt, pulling it down. "Sometimes, one has to fight to be heard."
He assumed she had a double meaning with her words--most Terrans did.
"Now, where were we?" she said as she pulled a small data pad from her pocket. She tapped a few keys, and he saw holograms appearing, facing her, but transparent, so he could read the data as well.
Data on him.
Pretty much everything the Terrans had on him, he imagined, looking at it.
It surprised him that she would display what they had so obviously for him to see.
Maybe it was a trust exercise.
She sat the pad on the floor and stepped out into the hallway. She returned with another chair. She took a seat across from him--so they were both eye-level but far enough away that he couldn't touch her.
Not that he could, in the chair restraints.
"Solkan, is it?" she said as she picked up the data pad again and sort of waved her hand in the air through the data, making it shift.
He didn't move.
He stared at her.
She raised her eyebrow. "Solkan is your name, isn't it?"
She leaned forward and glared at him. "Look, I'm not out to hurt you or mess with you in any way. If I wanted to perform some kind of procedure, I would have started already. I really do just want to talk to you."
"I am Solkan."
"See, that's a start. Thank you."
"You will have to watch your back. You angered the guard. They do not like retribution."
She glanced at the door. "He's not the first boy I've had to face off with."
"I do not doubt it," he replied. She likely had defended herself before, with the given data he already had, just watching her.
"Now, though, back to you."
He shifted in the chair as best he could.
She watched him. Her gaze ran over him, up and down.
"You have markings on your arms," she said, gesturing to him.
"Does it mean anything?"
He glanced at the art drawn on his skin, then back at her.
She raised her eyebrow. "I'm not asking you for the secret codes to the Rhimodian shields. I'm asking if the art on your arm means anything. Not many Rhimodians have tattoos. And the fact that some are flowers makes me curious what a Rhimodian would be memorializing on his body."
"They were practice."
She raised her eyebrow again. "For you?"
"For a friend."
"Kind of you to allow your body to be used for art."
"The flesh is just a vessel."
"Your skin doesn't matter?"
"It can be replaced as needed," he said.
"You'll just get new gauntlets and cover it, huh?"
He blinked. "That is not how they work."
"Then how do they work?"
He sighed. There it was. The question that would cause the issues.
"You don't want to talk about your gauntlets."
He didn't reply.
"Did you want to talk about anything?"
He shook his head.
She tapped through her holographic data again and then closed it down.
Now nothing separated the view of her from him.
Her hair fell around her face, tumbling locks of gold that shined from a light he didn't know was in his cell.
"Here's the thing, Solkan. I'm here to find out what is going on. You can either help me by answering my questions, or you can sit here and rot for the rest of your existence. Makes no difference to me."
"So why do you care if I answer your questions."
She stood up and started to pace. "You know, I'm not sure."
He watched her look away from him, staring at the wall, though he doubted she truly saw it. She had fallen into her own thoughts.
"I came here to help rectify a situation. Now that I'm here, though, it seems like the situation is much worse than I expected. Than anyone knew."
"What situation is that?"
This did make her turn and look back at him. "You."
"None of you should be here."
"No kidding," Solkan replied. He knew Galactic Law just like anyone else did, and he knew the Terran Empire was breaking a massive one.
"I'm here to determine how to get you home."
Solkan was impressed.
She was quite the performer.
He almost believed that she was telling him the truth.
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