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Authors: Linda Andrews

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The Syn-En Solution (9 page)

BOOK: The Syn-En Solution
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Something glittered deep within the admiral’s eyes. “Becoming a Syn-En is irreversible.”

The hair on the back of her neck rose. She was missing something here. “I—.”

A woman’s sing-song voice drifted in the air. “Oh, Lieutenant Bei. Come out; come out, wherever you are.”

The ebony face and white teeth of the Grace Jones wannabe surfaced from Nell’s memory. She squeezed the admiral’s arm. “That’s her.”

He plucked her hand off his arm, set it on the doctor’s, then strode away. The metal parted before him like curtains rising on a stage. He stopped in front of a television screen embedded in a wall. “Yes, Sir.”

Nell drifted higher, watching his progress. Would he punish the woman for what she’d done?

“Naughty boy.” Grace’s raspberry lips puckered above her pointy chin. “I told you not to search for me.”

Why had his men called him admiral, but that woman called him lieutenant? Letting go of the doctor, she tied the blanket sarong-like around her, caught the hem between her knees to keep it from floating up, then pulled herself closer to the admiral in a hand over hand action along a minivan sized piece of metal.

“With the com system down, we needed a visual on the status of rooms to hold the others.”

Grace tsked. “I don’t believe you. You know what that means, don’t you?”

Nell’s blood chilled at the other woman’s tone. Whatever it meant couldn’t be good. Heck, the woman was threatening to kill people. Tension thickened the air, confirming Nell’s instinct.

Only the admiral seemed not to react. “Bringing that many civilians aboard requires space. As you can tell, not much aboard the
is habitable.”

. Definitely on a spaceship. Goo oozed between Nell’s fingers as she clung to the side of the fuselage a yard away from the admiral. She couldn’t possibly be on a spaceship. The depression had scrapped the shuttle and the international space station. Yet, it explained why her feet didn’t touch deck, but not why theirs did.

“Ten more life pods.” Grace grinned from the screen.

Everyone straightened.

“Oh and there’s my little surprise.” Grace pinned Nell with a glare. “Did you like her? Probably not since you covered her up.”

Nell felt her mouth drop open, words crashed into each other and came out as a growl.
First the witch tried to kill me, now she insults me. I don’t think so
. Before Nell uttered a word, the admiral turned around, silencing her with a look. She obeyed only because he and his men had saved her life.

The admiral switched his focus to the screen. “She’s human.”

Grace slammed her fists against the screen and shrieked. “I’m human. She’s garbage. Ten more for insolence.”

Nell winced. Ten more what? What had helping her cost him and his men? She pushed away from the hunk of metal aiming for the admiral. She grabbed his hand, wrapping both of hers around his as she bumped into his side. Air left her lungs in a grunt from the collision. He seemed to have barely felt it.

Fury blazed in Grace’s eyes. A moment later a smile curdled her lips. “Get rid of her or I’ll take out twenty more pods.”

Nell bit her tongue to keep from lashing out. The soldiers had saved her; they wouldn’t kill her.

The admiral’s hand tightened in hers. “As you know, Sir, our programming prevents us from harming unarmed citizens.”

“But she wasn’t unarmed, was she, lieutenant?” Grace stroked her chin, foreplay before the main event. “She had explosives, enough to destroy the
, I’d wager.”

Nell’s temper took control of her tongue. “You did that to me! You should be brought up on charges, stripped of your rank and tossed in jail.”

Grace chuckled. “It’s her or another hundred or so of your men, Ensign.”

The Admiral/Ensign nodded. “Deactivate the human.”

Shock rendered Nell mute.

Two different soldiers stepped from the debris.

A moment passed before she recognized the woman who had restrained her before.

Nell pushed off the admiral/ensign heading away from them. She bumped into something hard and immoveable. “No. No.”

Hands closed around her.

She looked up into the masked face of the doctor. “I came here to save you.”

More hands pulled her away from the doctor’s chest.

Nell jerked in their hold, but couldn’t move. “That’s why I joined. I can help.”

“Kill her now.” Grace leaned back, licking her lips. “I’ll watch to make certain it is done properly.”

“No!” Nell planted her feet on the thigh of the woman to her left. She pushed trying to free herself but only felt more like a bug pinned to a mat. “No!”

“It will be fast.” The doctor stepped forward, a syringe peeking above his index finger. His warm hands caressed her forearm, before he lowered the needle and stuck it into the vein in the crook of her arm.

Nell’s muscles warmed and relaxed. The fight left her body, but not her brain.
Fight. Do something

The man and woman holding her arms lowered their face shields.

The doctor snapped a capsule and waved the broken glass vial under her nose. The scent of burnt almonds grew overpowering. An ache and throb banged inside her skull. Her limbs felt heavy and she could hear her heart slowing.

Grace broke into a full-fledged laugh. “Hmm. Cyanide is a might too quick. Next time I’ll be more specific in the manner of death.”

“Should we toss the remains out the airlock, Sir?”

Nell’s head bobbed forward. She closed her eyes, waiting for death. Her lungs stopped working. Soon she’d see the light, be greeted by her family and friends. Something tore inside her, lifting the weight that had been her body. Why had she been so determined to save people who didn’t deserve it?

A faint rustle sounded on her left. Had the doctor/executioner moved? What did it matter anymore?

“It is done.”

The admiral reported his success from a distance.

The living world versus the one Nell now dwelled in. Soon, her soul would leave her body, maybe hover near the ceiling to watch what they did with her remains.

“Throw her out with the rest of the garbage.” Grace had finally stopped laughing. “And Bei, since you have so much time on your hands, you now have sixty minutes to rescue the rest of the civilians or I’ll demand you personally dispose of your command staff.”

Nell almost felt sorry for him. Almost. After all, the man had stood by and had her murdered. She’d be glad to leave. There was nothing here worth saving.



Unaltered humans are well versed in the art of deception.

Do not trust anything they say.

Instead, rely upon your implants to get at the truth.

Vade Mecum

Interrogation Techniques Introduction



Chapter Five



Bei clamped down on the rage pumping through him and managed not to slam his fist through the cargo bay’s blank com screen. Burkina Faso had him kill the woman, a citizen. Now her corpse hovered behind him, the emergency blanket wrapped around her trim frame like a silver halo. Except for the belch of the gas lines, silence filled the cargo bay. Debris even stopped hitting the magnetic field confining the
atmosphere. Although he had murdered for the right reasons, doing so had violated the basis of Syn-En existence. He should have protected the citizen, not killed her.

Shang’hai’s soft voice cut through the hum of the engines restarting and the rasp of metal as the Smart Metal Alloy reformed the hull of his ship. “I knew I hated that bitch. Faso recorded you killing the citizen.”

Turning to face the other three members of his strike team, Bei nodded. His hand settled over his forearm. The woman had touched him, willingly, and there had been no disgust or fear on her face. He still felt the imprint of her hand burn his NDA.

And he had ordered her killed.

Her terror replayed in his mind, an endless loop on a bad circuit.

First medical officer, Los Alamos Cabo stepped forward. The salvaged wreckage floating in the room cleared around the doctor, repulsed by the magnetic charge of his armor. “I can—”

Communicate on the WA only
, Bei warned. He ushered the three Syn-Ens, away from the computer bank. Although the com system remained dark, he wouldn’t put it past Faso to leave the signal open. Bei would. If only to know his enemy’s plans.

Stopping near the citizen’s coffin-shaped stasis chamber firmly affixed to the floor, Doc Cabo pushed the clear face form of his enviromask on top of his curly black hair then held his hand over the citizen’s body still held between the chief and Shang’hai. Green beams of light radiated from his open palm down to her petite form, feeding information to his MedPak analyzer.
I can revive her, Admiral. I think

With her enviromask perched on her short, pink crew cut, Shang’hai drew the citizen away from the chief, cradled her and smoothed the light brown tresses out of the woman’s face. Sorrow weighted the array.
Why does she float

A memory stirred deep with Bei. He tried to grasp the thought but it eluded him. Somehow he knew it had to do with the citizen. There was something about her…

She’s completely biologic, Admiral
. The doctor’s awe quickly spread through the WA. Doc scratched his trim black goatee before laying his hand on the citizen again.

Security Chief Rome stroked the citizen’s tapered fingers, then folded his arms across his broad chest. His security insignia gleamed in the white glow of the cargo bay when he quickly placed the woman’s transport between himself and the others. “I can’t believe anything this delicate could survive in space let alone go undetected on one of our ships.”

“She couldn’t have for long. I think she was pulled aboard with the wreckage, but there’s no damage to her stasis chamber.” The hair implanted into Bei’s synthetic skin stood on end. He surveyed the rectangular stasis unit, not finding any matches to the writing in any of the Command In Control’s databases. The human had no ident chip and no metal plating on her bones for space travel. His mind swarmed with the implications. Not one outcome was good. Most made no sense. What was the woman doing here?
Shang’hai tear that stasis chamber apart. I want to know where she comes from. How she got here. Everything

Shang’hai’s almondine eyes narrowed. “Aye, Admiral.”

Doc Cabo lifted the lid of the human’s right eye. The pupil didn’t react to the white light that was emitting from his tan finger. He glanced over his shoulder at Bei, standing near the citizen’s feet.
Admiral, I don’t know how long she can remain this way before death becomes permanent

For a moment, Bei allowed himself the luxury of options. If she never woke up, the Syn-En might not have to return to Earth, might not have to acknowledge their failed bid for freedom. But he had to protect the citizen. The drive went beyond duty to something more, something deeper. Almost an instinct. He nodded to Doc.
Bring her around

The emergency blanket crinkled when Doc tugged the woman out of Shang’hai’s arms and laid her carefully into the life pod’s dark interior. The unit didn’t power on at her presence. Was it because her life signs didn’t register? Or something else?

As soon as Doc released her, an air current carried the citizen toward the ceiling.

Bei grabbed her slim ankles and pressed them against the cushioned interior while the Chief held her down by the shoulder. How could the citizen possibly think she could save the Syn-En? Had Earth known about the collapsed wormhole?
Chief, where are the mutineers

Sensors report they’re in Cargo Bay twelve
. Chief Rome’s white teeth glowed in his feral smile.
They’re attempting to start
’s engines. Shall I lock them down until intercept

. Their surprise pinged Bei’s WA receiver. Even if another strike team managed to arrive in the next five minutes, no weapon on board could penetrate the
’s hull. The mutineers would destroy his ship from the inside before leaving, killing everyone on board. After all, there was only one way for Faso to go and they would soon follow. With the wormhole collapsed, the return to Earth was inevitable.

Doc unraveled plastic tubing from a compartment in his arm, removed the sterile covering from one of needles at the end and pierced the citizen’s jugular. A whirring sound filled the cargo bay as he pumped, cleaned and oxygenated the cyanide-laced blood through the unit located in his left bicep. Once the treated blood spurted from the free needle, he inserted it into the woman’s carotid artery.
I’m running a full panel on her fluids. That should give us a good idea of her point of origin and places she’s visited

Chief Rome placed the woman’s arm across her belly. It rose lifelessly toward the ceiling.
You have a plan to get down to the surface of Terra Dos without the Oppenheims and the

While Bei admired his men’s tenacity to see the mission completed no matter the cost, he knew this time their faith in him was misplaced. They’d never reach the alien planet let alone need to land using the
prototypes made from salvaged parts. He, as admiral of the fleet, would have to declare the mission a failure and order the Syn-En back to Earth.

So many of his people had died for nothing.

I came here to save you

The citizen’s words replayed across Bei’s cerebellum. There was no saving the Syn-En, only servitude and death. His fingers bit into the woman’s soft skin before he forced them to relax.

Orders, Admiral
. The chief’s anger growled in the background like a riled beast. The vibration hummed along the WA.

Shang’hai ran her hands over the strange symbols on the stasis chamber while her gaze locked with Bei’s.
They’re opening bay doors

BOOK: The Syn-En Solution
6.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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