Taken by the Cyborg
Attie stepped off the lift onto level three and faced an empty corridor. Her skin prickled with goosebumps; she seldom saw a corridor on this ship that was completely empty. The walls were brushed metal, not painted like those in the rest of the ship, and it somehow felt ominous. Steeling her spine, she moved toward the single, unmarked door at the end of the hall, footsteps echoing against the metal deck. She pressed her palm against a glowing blue biometric security panel next to the door, heart pounding in her ears. For some reason, she half-expected alarms to blare. The door slid aside and she let out a relieved breath.
A man in a solid black security uniform with no visible rank manned a desk just inside. Holo screens cycled through security footage of various rooms, while behind him sat closed doors marked with acronyms she didn’t recognize. He looked up, examining her uniform with an arched eyebrow. “Can I help you?”
She saluted. “Attie Swan, reporting for duty.”
He returned his gaze to the nearest monitor and tapped in her name. His eyebrows shot upward. “New NIU Consort?” He shook his head and opened a drawer to pull out a folded stack of clothing. “You don’t look the type, but whatever.”
Consort? She thought back to the list of positions she’d applied for on the ship, but couldn’t remember that one. Was it a code word for some secret project? She lifted her chin, determined to show she could obey orders and not ask questions. This job—whatever it was—was finally her chance to prove herself. “I’m with the administrative pool.”
“Great.” He thrust the clothing at her. “Put that on.”
Standing, he turned to the wall behind him and popped open what looked like a medical kit.
Attie shook out the thin orange skirt and sleeveless top that looked like it would barely cover her midriff. The letters NIU were imprinted on the back of the shirt in blue and edged the bottom of the skirt. The thing looked more like something a cantina waitress would wear than a uniform. “Is this standard issue?”
When she looked up, he stood next to her with a hypodermic injector. “Standard as it gets. Feel free to dress it up if you like.”
Before she could protest, he’d pressed the hypo to her shoulder. The slight pressure of the injection sent a chill over her skin, quickly replaced by heat. A wave of vertigo made the deck feel like it was tilting under her feet. “What was that?”
“Little something to take the edge off.” He leaned close to her face, breath fanning her skin as he looked into her eyes. Apparently satisfied, he stepped back.
“I—I think there's been some mistake,” said Attie, her words feeling thick. Her legs felt weak and her head swam as if she’d been drinking. “You need to check your files. Who issued my transfer?”
“Someone higher up the chain of command than you.” He returned to his desk and tapped a few keys, then waved a hand at something behind her. “Change over there.”
She glanced over her shoulder. A glimmering privacy screen now blocked off the far corner of the room. Feeling like she was moving in slow motion, she returned her attention to the man, then down at the black admin uniform she currently wore.
“I suggest you hurry.” He put a hand on her shoulder and turned her toward the privacy screen, patting her butt to urge her forward. “You’ll pick last if you’re late, and no one wants to be paired with Rust.”
Paired with rust? What does that even mean?Like an automaton, she shuffled behind the screen and shucked out of her tunic. Dropping it onto the chair, she held up the sleeveless orange top. The fabric was a little stretchy and very thin. What kind of uniform is this? She slid her arms into it and pulled it closed over her chest. A single snap held it together in front, dipping low at the neckline and riding high over her midriff.
Hoping the skirt would be more modest, she shimmied it over her uniform slacks. The hem came to just above her knees. She debated leaving her pants on, then pressed her lips together. She hadn’t risen in the Syndicorp ranks by disobeying orders. This could be part of a test. A way to see how well she would behave under pressure. She would do as told for now and talk to her superior later, after she’d proved herself.
She slid out of her pants and folded them neatly along with her tunic, laying them on the chair. Stepping out from behind the screen, she saluted, feeling silly in the skimpy outfit. “Ready for duty.”
The security officer swept his gaze over her and nodded. “Pretty thing like you is going to be popular. This way.”
He opened a door marked NIU, and she followed unsteadily down a hall toward a door flanked by two armed guards in full combat gear. The mirrored face plates of their helmets reflected the harsh overhead lighting, but she could feel their gazes on her as she passed between them. Inside the room, a woman wearing an orange uniform like Attie’s slouched on a plush chair, long bare legs crossed at the ankles. An empty chair waited beside the woman, and gauzy curtains hung from the ceiling, which was lit in decorative scrolling panels of light. The room itself was split into six semi-private alcoves filled with all sizes of cushions in a variety of colors. Another closed door waited on the opposite wall.
What a strange waiting room. Attie turned to ask her escort what happened next and discovered he’d already retreated, the door closing into a flat panel with no obvious way to open it from this side.
Deep in her mind, she knew she should be terrified, but whatever drug she’d been given really did take the edge off, leaving her surprisingly calm, if a little unsteady on her feet. She wobbled toward the empty chair and sank gratefully onto its soft cushion.
The woman turned her head and gave Attie a once-over. She was around the same age, with liquid brown eyes and short brown hair curling slightly below her ears. The orange shirt strained to remain closed across the woman’s ample breasts, and her perfume smelled like sweet ginger. The woman would’ve been stunning except for an old yellowing bruise on one cheek.
“Oh, thank the stars they finally got another girl in here,” the woman said, her words slightly slurred.
Attie wanted to extend a hand, but it seemed like too much effort, so she just said, “I’m Attie Swan.”
“Claudia Maxwell.” The brunette thrust her chin toward the door she was facing. “They should be here any minute.”
“Who?” Attie glanced at the door. “What are we doing here?”
Claudia frowned. “You don’t know? How much are they paying you?”
“Paying me? I don’t understand.”
“Hazard pay. Sometimes the cyborgs get a bit rough. I don’t think most of them intend to. Except Rust. He can be a bit of a bully, but the others try to keep him in line.”
Stomach churning, Attie now noticed the mottled bruises covering Claudia’s knees. What sort of top-secret project was this?
Before she could ask another question, the door opened and several broad-shouldered men poured through the door. Four were human, but there was also a saluqan with purple veins glowing beneath his skin and a dark-skinned enayshuan with prominent facial ridges. Each of them had at least one visible cybernetic implant; an exposed metal faceplate over one side of a jaw, polymer bones and tendons where an arm should be, a mechanical foot sticking out below the hem of loose-fitting pants.
A red-haired human shot forward and picked Attie up with both hands, his grip like a vise around her biceps. “I’ll go first.” He held her as if she weighed nothing, carrying her to one an alcove. “This one's going to be feisty. I can tell.”
“Put me down.” Attie kicked, only then realizing her feet were no longer on the floor. Her toes met his very hard shins. She flinched—he didn’t.
Over her captor’s shoulder, she saw the enayshuan move toward them. He clamped his hand firmly on top of the redhead’s shoulder. “No, Rust. You’re the reason we were down to a single Consort. I’m trained in the art of pleasure. Let me go first.”
“It’s my turn to be first, Emilryde.” The redhead—Rust—scowled, dropping his gaze to Attie’s breasts. “Last time I didn’t even get a turn before Dollard ended the session.” His grip tightened on her arms, forcing a gasp from Attie’s throat.
A human with dark hair going silver at the temples came to stand beside him. “Put her down, Rust. You go last, and that’s that.”
Rust lowered her feet to the cushions and continued pressing her down until she was forced to her knees. “We can go at the same time. I want her mouth. You two can fight over the other end.”
Attie found herself staring at his bulging crotch. The very obvious length of an erection through his gray pants made her insides quake in terror. No way in hell was she putting her mouth or any other part of her body on that. Screw following orders.
Somewhere outside the alcove she heard Claudia’s throaty laugh and the mumbling of other men’s voices. How could the woman be remotely okay with this? No amount of hazard pay could make Attie want to do this. Twisting, she tried to get away.
The cyborg knotted one hand into her hair, holding her in place.
“Let me go!” Scalp burning, she reached up and clawed at his wrist.
Impervious to her nails, he reached for the drawstring at his waistband with his free hand.
Helpless, Attie screamed. These men—these cyborgs were about to gang rape her.
And there was no way she could stop it.