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Authors: Linda Andrews

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BOOK: The Syn-En Solution
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If only she spent as much effort into her job of technician as she did seduction, she might not be a half bad soldier.

“Yet, you’ve forgotten that under all the enhancements, we are still human.” Bei clasped his hands over his roiling stomach. Sex with Faso had lost its appeal the second she tried to use it to shirk her duties.

Lieutenant Faso’s jaw thrust forward. Planting her fists on her hips, she glared down at him. “I’m not human anymore, Admiral. I’m Syn-En, same as you.”

Bei gripped the arms of his chair. To think that she could be anything like him was insulting. He’d spent his entire life, all forty-two years, in the Syn-En Fleet. He knew the price of service. She cared more about chipping a synthetic nail than her fellow soldiers. This trip, no matter how dangerous, meant freedom for them all. Rage built inside him until his arms trembled to contain it. Her insolence threatened his mission. “If we have this conversation again, you will find yourself in the brig.”

“You can’t order me around, Tinman. Syn-Ens have no rights. The law says so.” Flopping onto the chair next to his, Faso smirked, leaned back in her chair and propped her boots on top of the table.

Leaping to his feet, Bei grabbed the front of her uniform and yanked her out of the chair. Her toes skimmed the floor as he lifted her to eye level. Nose to nose, he faced her, yet his voice didn’t rise a decibel. “I’m the law on this ship. Thirty days in solitary for insubordination.”

“Solitary! That’s inhuman.” Fear dilated her pupils. She clawed at his grip but a lieutenant’s upgrades couldn’t compare to his.

“By your own admission, you’re not human anymore. You’re Syn-En and all Syn-En in the fleet are under my rule.” Bei inhaled deeply as fear soured her skin. For the last twelve months, he’d tried to incorporate Faso into his unit. She’d resisted at every turn. No more. She’d stay in solitary until assimilating into the Fleet looked like heaven compared to the dark four-by-four-feet cell.

He only wished he could shove her in a life pod and send her back to Earth. Controlling his rage, Bei carefully set her on her feet.

“The humans are using us, sending us to our deaths,” she spat at him. “We’ll build a new empire for them and they won’t share it.”

Bei barely refrained from rolling his eyes. She’d used the argument so many times, she should have digitalized it. It might have been more effective.

“You will not fight Chief Rome when he arrives to escort you to solitary. Is that clear, Ensign?” After sending a coded transmission through the Wireless Array to Chief of Security, Commander Frankfurt Rome, Bei waited for Faso’s demotion to penetrate her anger. Settling his hands around her throat, he cradled his thumbs in the hollows of her neck and waited.

“I’m a lieutenant and no Syn-En lap dog is going to deprive me of my due.” She drilled her finger against his shoulder.

Smiling, Bei pressed his thumbs at the slight nub located at the base of her carotid arteries. The action caused the plating of her Neo-Dymatech armor to lock her body in place, paralyzing her. He hated to use the technique, but she’d left him no choice. He would not sacrifice this mission or his men’s chance at freedom because she couldn’t adapt to Syn-En life. “Either you go willingly, or the chief will carry you and everyone will know of your dishonorable behavior.”

“What have you done? Why can’t I move?” Ensign Faso’s black eyes darted around the room as she squeezed the words through clenched teeth.

Too bad the armor couldn’t stop her from speaking. At least her time in solitary would stop her from spewing her venom to the citizens on board. Too many shared her views. But then, they too had been enfranchised humans. Once.

“The professor will be around to begin your instruction in basic Syn-En behavior.” Stooping, Bei looked her in the eye. “If you learn your lessons, I’ll upgrade you to the brig for the duration.”

A month of isolation might not break her spirit, but his men would enjoy the respite from her foul temper and her emotional tirades.

“The duration!” Spittle clung to her full lips. “You’ll regret this, Tinman. Those of us humans forced to endure the humiliation of fake body parts will make certain your kind never enjoys an ounce of freedom. I swear it.”

Bei smiled at her threat. Freedom was a word none in the Fleet, except her, had ever experienced. But all that would change once they reached Terra Dos, the new world waiting a month’s journey from the wormhole’s event horizon.

The briefing room’s double doors sighed open. Security Chief Frankfurt Rome’s blond crew cut skimmed the door’s header as he breezed inside. His brown-eyed gaze flicked over the recently demoted Faso. A grin revealed the gap between his two front teeth and deepened the laugh lines in his olive complexion. “Tell me you’re finally planting the Syn-En wannabe where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Bei nodded. “Bury her in solitary and inform the professor he can see her in a week.”

“Don’t touch me!” Faso ground out.

“My birthday came early this year.” Chief Rome rubbed his palms together and settled his hands on Faso’s waist. His Syn-En limbs rippled under his black uniform as he stared at Bei. “Can I carry her stiff body or should I unlock her armor?”

“Unlock me, you bastard.” Faso glared at her escort. Red tinted her dark skin. “You two need a lesson on how to treat humans.”

Striding toward the door, Bei smiled at his security chief. Although both men stood at six and a half feet, Bei outweighed his friend by at least ten kilos. Rank carried its own burdens, as did the hundreds of versatile units incorporated into his sixth generation bionics. “Your choice, since I won’t have to get you a present next month.”

The chief tucked Faso’s stiff body under his arm and carried her feet first out of the room. “Hell Admiral, her confinement for the duration is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Exiting the briefing room, Bei stepped onto the command deck, taking in his three man bridge crew, the fleet’s second in command and two civilians. He scanned the half circle shaped room and his crew. Ten steps could carry him to any of the work stations embedded in the hull, five steps to his chair in the center of the room. Panning from left to right, three Syn-En soldiers and the
Starfarer’s
captain manned the com, navigation, weapons and telemetry stations. Their associated LCD screens banded the room like a bank of dark windows. Overhead white lights shone harshly down on the soldiers.

On his left, two civilians sprawled on the floor working on the fiber optic wiring of the empty science and tactical bays. Both frowned as the chief toted Faso, like unclaimed luggage, to the elevator tucked into the quarter moon space off Bei’s left shoulder.

Next to the doors and connected to the communication’s hub, Commander Havana Keyes turned toward him. “Admiral.”

She stroked the black fiber optic cables hanging from the knot of black hair restrained at her nape while her brown-eyed gaze skimmed Chief Rome.

Commander Keyes and the chief’s sexual tension clogged the wireless array his command staff shared. Although the link was originally created to transfer data and orders during an emergency, the Syn-En had quickly learned to express their repressed emotions through the WA. These bursts of feelings not only allowed others to know how a particular soldier felt but also caused a sympathetic response in the recipient’s brains.

Bei shifted as Rome and Keyes’s arousal wormed its way into his body. As soon as they set foot on Terra Dos’s lush landscape, Bei would use his authority to unite those two in marriage. Using the WA, he pinged both soldiers to get their attention.
Save it for later
.

The chief smiled, flashing the gap in between his front teeth at everyone.

Commander Keyes flushed.

Their arousal melted into the background noise of the WA. One problem solved.

Still grinning like an extinct baboon, Chief Rome stepped inside the elevator and propped Faso against one wall as the door slid closed.

Bei strode closer to the two civilians. Would these two cause trouble over Faso’s confinement or did they view her as Syn-En? “Report, Commander Keyes.”

After a fearful look in his direction, both civilians ducked their heads inside the workspace under the flat LCD panels.

Even though they had no WA capabilities, news of Faso’s confinement would soon reach the civies. Good. It would make it easier for his men to discover those Faso’s mouth had turned against the mission.

Commander Keyes cleared her throat and her dark eyes narrowed. Using only her fiber optic connection, she brought up images on the LCD in front of her. “The
Ursa Minor
is experiencing engine trouble.”

Telemetry streamed down the screen next to dart-like ship plowing forward ten kilometers and twenty degrees starboard off the
Starfarer’s
stern. The three fins of her cylindrical hull glowed red against the white light of the wormhole’s interior. The
Ursa Minor
would soon lose steerage if she couldn’t find a means to dissipate the heat.

Bei kept his expression blank, although he allowed a spurt of frustration to join his crews’ swamping the WA. Just for one day, he’d like to have no life or death emergencies. Eying the com screen, he strode to his chair. Restlessness filled him, making it impossible to sit down, so he stood and waited for his bridge crew to do their job.

Despite nearly six decades of service, Captain Cassis Penig moved with ease and strength. He unplugged from the
Starfarer’s
telemetry station, stepped around the two young Syn-En soldiers, and jacked into the com system. He bumped in the Commander. “Is it major trouble or just minor?”

A black curl escaped the bun at Commander Keyes’s nape and tumbled down her back. Humor lifted her lips for a moment before she sighed. “Their captain requests emergency docking under the safe haven protocol.”

Captain Penig, the fleet’s second in command, ran his hand through the sprinkling of white hair fringing his age spotted head before tugging on the fiber optic cable connecting his cranial implant to the ship. “
Ursa Minor
reports total systems failure imminent.”

Bei’s gut clenched. Of course it would be a life threatening emergency. Even nestled in the
Starfarer’s
mammoth wake and protected by her magnetic shields, the smaller ships endured more of the wormhole’s space-time riptides. They’d already lost twenty of their original eighty ships. Seventeen hundred people dead, but not in vain, the survivors would make it to Terra Dos. “Which docking bay has room?”

Worry filling his green eyes, Captain Penig scuttled back to the telemetry station. “Bays one through seven are full. Eight through twelve can accommodate her.”

Bei nodded. Clogged with salvaged wreckage, his men were trying to weld together into something space worthy. The project kept them busy during the long months as well as giving them a sense of control over their future. It was the only thing Bei could offer them, for now. “Bring the
Ursa Minor
into bay eight.”

Captain Penig straightened his thin shoulders. Ignoring the glowing keyboard on the LCD panel, he relayed the instructions directly through his interface. “Bay Eight prepare for emergency docking, Orion class two ship. Bay Eight ready. Fire, rescue and medical crews en route.”

Commander Keyes bracketed the
Ursa Minor
on her com panel with her tan hands as if to protect the ship. “Her fusion engines are running hot. Even with a boost, she doesn’t have enough thrust to close the gap.”

Worry flickered over Captain Penig’s wrinkled features, but he set his jaw as he stared at the image of the failing ship. “She’ll make it.”

Fear and doubt flooded the WA. Bei blasted the system with his calm determination, before taking everyone offline. No one needed a distraction.

“Distance?” Bei yanked the finger-thick fiber optic cable from its channel along his spine. He plugged the nickel-titanium interface into the metal opening at the base of his skull before inserting the other end into the ort in his chair. The influx of information slammed into his brain in the image of files and video clips. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Bei called forth his avatar to sort the data into usable bytes. A digitalized version of himself popped up on the blue screen in his mind.

Captain Penig’s jaw clenched. “Zero point four kilometers and holding.”


Ursa
’s engines are nearing critical.” Commander Keyes twirled the end of her lock of black hair around and around her finger as her raw words festered in the empty space.

If she blew, the
Ursa Minor
would take out the ships flying in tight formation around her.
No more dead
. Bei pleaded with the fates, God, some higher power while running his options through the mainframe, looking for anything to increase their odds. He’d have to close the gap, use the exhaust to slow his ship. “Vent plasma through the bow. Inform fleet.”

The ensign at the navigation hub had his hands balled into fists as he fell back on his training and used only his fiber optic link to control the engines. “Aye, Admiral. Venting plasma through bow.
Starfarer
speed down zero point five. Zero point seven-five. One percent.”

Captain Penig leaned closer to his monitor. The white and black image deepened the grooves of his face, aging him. “Wake ships decelerating. Distance between
Ursa
and
Starfarer
at zero point one kilometer.”

Bei jerked as his avatar displayed his best option for rescuing the damaged ship. A forty percent chance the
Ursa Minor
would make it. He’d take it. Duty finished, the avatar nodded and dissolved.

Commander Keyes’s fingertips bit into the com LCD. Her nails flashed white against her tan skin. “Plasma leak in
Ursa
’s port engine, Admiral. The Perseus is in her vent stream.”

Penig nodded. “Perseus altering course and slowing.”

Tapping his boot heel against the metal floor grates, the ensign at the navigation hub barked, “
Starfarer
speed down five percent, Admiral.”

BOOK: The Syn-En Solution
4.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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