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Excerpt from

Mated to Mek

Mek stepped off the Hardship’s ramp and into the cavernous bay of the flagship. The Icarus was an incredible trophy for the rebellion, especially with the cyborg crew now joining the cause. Tools and supplies lay scattered across the deck, and a couple of charred spots on the deck were obviously from weapons fire.

But right now Mek’s mind wasn’t on the fight or the rebellion. It was on the puzzling contents of a long metal cryo pod waiting at the far end of the deck.

Tovik, the Hardship’s young engineer, thundered down the ramp behind Mek, his bare feet slapping the metal deck as he pelted toward the pod. Or, more likely, toward the blond human female standing among the cyborgs grouped around it. Ever since the Denaidans had discovered nanites that would allow them to not only couple with human females, but successfully form a mate bond, Tovik was fixated on the opposite sex.

To be fair, most Denaidans were at the moment. After fifteen years of celibacy, they had good reason. Mek, however, had little interest in pursuing a female. Any thoughts he had about sex tended to be clinical. He desperately needed to understand human physiology and so he could facilitate successful procreation between their species. So far, none of the pairings had successfully become pregnant, and without children, his race was still doomed. He didn’t have time to dally with love.

Picking up his pace, he hurried toward the waiting group. Tovik had a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and blond-haired Attie was already mated to Doug, the Icarus’s cyborg captain. The last thing the rebellion needed was to alienate their new allies.

Thankfully, the kid seemed to be focused on the pod’s glowing purple interface. His fingers tapped a rapid staccato against the pod’s metal casing as he spoke. “…until the doc has a look.”

A red-headed human cyborg took a half step forward as Mek drew near, fists clenched at his sides as if raring for a fight. “You’re the doc, right?” he directed at Mek. “Let’s bust it open.”

Tovik vaulted over the pod to put himself between it and the cyborg. “Uminaq, no!” He swore and shook his head. “Last time we found a cryo pod, there was a girl inside. Forcing it open might harm whoever’s in there.”

Attie nodded in support and shot a dirty look toward the cyborg who’d suggested breaking in. “That’s why I insisted on having a doctor on hand before we do anything, Rust.”

Doug tapped the pod’s surface with a polymer fingertip. “The lid’s locking mechanism uses a revolving algorithm that’s impossible for even my skills to crack.” His green cybernetic eye flashed. “Dollard went to great lengths to keep whoever or whatever’s inside this thing secured.”

“That asshole thought it was important enough to die for,” said the Enayshuan cyborg, his metallic facial tattoos like silver slashes against his dark skin. “He lost both arms trying to get it onto the shuttle.”

“Hope the fucker took a long time bleeding out,” muttered Rust.

“Well, you were wise to wait for me.” Mek examined the glowing purple screen on the pod’s dark metal surface. “This interface looks complicated.” The biometric data was as confusing as the pod itself, with displays of information for multiple species. Yet, the pod wasn’t large enough to contain more than a single large cyborg. Wondering how big the occupant might be, he ran his fingertips over the lid. This pod wasn’t a standard unit, and there wasn’t even a window to view the occupant, which was a shame; knowing what sort of life form he’d be dealing with could help him prepare in the event things went sideways when it opened.

Straightening, he glanced toward where the Hardship sat parked on the deck of the shuttle bay, its mismatched plating and sensor arrays as unique to it as the implants on a cyborg. He had a decent stock of basic medical supplies on board, but the Icarus likely had a better facility.

“I assume you have a working med bay?” he asked. “I’d prefer to open this there in case something goes wrong.”

“We were going to take it to Dollard’s lab in case there’s a cyborg inside, but one of the pod’s mag lifts isn’t working,” said Doug, pointing to the head of the pod.

“And this damned crate’s heavier than it has any right to be.” Rust flexed both hands. “Either that, or my arms need recalibrated.”

Tovik bent to examine the transportation clips at one end of the pod. “Bet I can fix that.”

Knowing there was no holding the kid back when it came to mechanics, Mek sighed and nodded. “Fine. But don’t touch the bio controls, Tovik. The mag lift only.”

“I promise,” Tovik said, already prying open a control panel.

Leaving Attie to lend a hand finding parts, Doug led Mek to the lift and down several corridors into the flagship’s belly until they reached the lab. Stainless steel exam tables had been pushed against the walls, and several cupboards hung open, exposing every type of medical equipment imaginable. There were signs of a fight here, too, with control panel wiring hanging from walls and a large stain on the floor that was most likely blood. Doors to what appeared to be prison cells stood open along three of the walls.

“This is the cybernetic lab,” said Doug. “There’s also a cloning lab, but someone turned off the incubators before the evacuation, and the place reeks. Or we have a standard med bay if you prefer.”

Mek surveyed the tools and supplies scattered around the various lab tables. Compared to his tiny med bay on board the Hardship, this lab was a doctor’s wet dream. The cupboards had everything from first aid supplies to more advanced tools he assumed were for cybernetic maintenance and repair. He grimaced when he noticed the thick, dangling straps on one exam table—it was very obvious the patients in this room hadn’t always been willing.

“This should be fine.” He began organizing equipment he thought he might need, including an emergency methane breather in case the pod held a species who couldn’t breathe oxygen. Wondering how much longer Tovik would be, he glanced toward the nearest computer monitor. “Mind if I look at the doctor’s research while I wait? I’m not too familiar with cyborg tech, and I might need it.”

Doug nodded. “Have at it. We already hacked most of the firewalls.”

Booting up a computer console, Mek skimmed several folders, uncertain where to start. Dollard had been cocky in assuming the flagship would successfully self-destruct, or else he’d never have left so much information intact. There were hundreds of files detailing biological studies, cybernetic implants, and nanite inter-connectivity. Excitement swelled in Mek’s chest. Information about the nanites might help with his current research.

The door whooshed open, and the pod came gliding into the room ahead of Tovik. “Told ya’ I could get it working,” he announced before pausing to ogle the lab equipment. He reached for a hunk of cable dangling from a many-armed contraption that looked uncomfortably like a torture device. “Asirpaa! What’s this do?”

“Don’t touch, kid,” Doug said gruffly.

Tovik flushed and dropped his hand. “I was only curious.”

Mek pulled a hard line from his computer and attached it to the pod’s interface, hoping it might automatically bring up the proper files. A graph opened on the screen and he couldn’t help smiling. Finally, a stroke of luck. He cycled through several data points before pausing on a biometric reading that appeared to be ionic.

He frowned. “This looks Denaidan.”

Tovik pushed in to look over his shoulder. “One of us is in there? Really?”

“Only one way to find out.” Taking a deep breath, Mek initiated the pod’s waking cycle.

The pod gave a series of soft clicks, and with a whoosh, the chamber lid cracked down the middle, releasing a cloud of mist.

Uminaq!” Mek’s twin hearts thudded painfully against his ribs. A normal cryopod should take hours to establish equilibrium before it opened. Had he done something wrong? A rapid reawakening could cause severe cognitive damage or even death.

He waved one hand to clear the air, squinting through the thick clouds still billowing from inside. The lid had retracted into the base, but he couldn’t get a clear view of the occupant. He stepped closer, leaning down for a look, and let out a sharp breath.

Reclining against the foam inside rested a female. A stunning, naked female.

Black hair with glinting silver highlights framed her high cheekbones and fanned over the swells of her bare breasts, while mist obscured her lower half. Was she Denaidan? He’d never seen someone of his species with such pale, pearly skin, but she might have partial albinism. He longed to run his hands over every inch of her to see if she felt as silken as she appeared. To cup her breasts and taste the slight pout of her plump lower lip...

He shook his head, trying to clear it of wayward thoughts. It had been ages since he’d had this sort of reaction to a female, even a naked one.

Then her golden eyes opened, and he was sucked into a vortex of emotion.

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