Redeeming Zorus – Laurann Dohner

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Charlie glared at her brother. “No way in hell.” “They are willing to pay a fortune if we do this. We’d be set for life, could leave Earth, and go settle on Saturn. It’s not a shithole and did I mention how much money these guys offered to rescue this thing?” “We couldn’t spend a credit of it even if I could pull it off because dead people don’t buy stuff, Russell. We’d be fugitives and if you think I could get that thing out of there without tipping them off that I’m the one who did it, think again. I know the security measures they have since I installed most of them.” “That’s why you’re the only person who can do it, Charlie. Come on, baby sis.” He gave her a pleading look. “Stop it. That doesn’t work on me.” An annoyed look twisted his features. “I gave my word we’d do it.

” “We? You mean me. You were wrong.” She ran her fingers through her thick, dark hair to push it over her shoulder and then shook her head. “I worked really hard to get where I am.” She glanced around their small apartment. “It’s not much but we’re not scraping by inside hovels anymore. We’re living in a good part of the city where we’re safe from thieves. Nobody can get past those guards outside.” Russell bit his lip. “I already took the money.

I told them there would be upfront costs involved. If I don’t deliver the cyborg, they’ll kill me. I know you’re going to tell me to return the deposit but it’s been spent. I lost it gambling.” She had to take deep breaths to control the anger boiling up. She counted to ten silently. “Damn you,” she hissed. “I worked my butt off to get us out of the trouble you kept finding when we were kids. I should allow them kill you.” “I’m all you’ve got and you love me.

” He gave her a knowing smirk. “There’ll be enough money involved that Earth Government can’t touch us on Saturn.” “You’re an idiot. Of course they can. They’ll just hire assassins to come after us. That’s what they do when you screw with them. They are really excited about this cyborg they captured. He doesn’t appear to have aged since he escaped Earth a long time ago. Do you get that? They aren’t going to shrug this off. He’s pure gold to those scientists.

It’s the most animated I’ve ever seen those jerks since I started to work there.” “I know I’m not as smart as you.” Bitterness tinged his voice. “But I gave my word to break him out when I took their money. You have to do this or you’re killing me.” She closed her eyes, fighting tears. It had fallen onto her to take care of her older brother after their parents had been killed when she was fifteen. Russell had issues with gambling, he always ran his mouth, and it had been one bad situation after another. 6 Redeeming Zorus The cyborg was a huge discovery since they were supposed to be extinct, thanks to Earth Government having killed them all decades before. Whoever had paid her brother probably valued it as much as the scientists at the Earth Government-run Gorman Medical Facility.

The cyborg might be some kind of miracle cure for aging if the doctors could just figure it out. “Charlie? I love you. I know you’ll do the correct thing.” Her eyes snapped open to glare at him. “If that were true, I wouldn’t have brought you with me when I landed the job at the facility and earned the transfer to the safer side of the city. Of course those guys you owed money would have killed you if I hadn’t. Now you’re causing me more problems. When is it enough with you? Don’t you ever get tired of ruining my life? I work hard to give us a better one but you seem just as determined to screw it up.” “They’ll kill me and those guards downstairs won’t be able to stop them. You and I both know they’ll just bribe them to get at me, with the kind of money they have.

” “Fuck!” She sat hard in a chair and shot him another glare. “I want you to know, if we survive this, if we manage to get off Earth alive, I’m done. Do you hear me? We’ll split the money and then you’re on your own. I love you but I’m not allowing you to take me down with you again. You’ve obviously got a death wish but I want to keep breathing.” “It hurts me to hear you say that.” “It hurts me every time you get us into one of these messes.” “You can do anything you set your mind to.” He inched closer to give her the look she hated most. It was the one that reminded her of when they’d been kids and he’d still been the brother she loved so deeply.

“I knew you’d do the right thing for me.” She stood. “Shut up. I have to plan on how to get that thing out of there.” She paused. “He’s dangerous. For all I know, he’ll kill me the second I get him free. Did you think of that?” “Tell him the council paid you for breaking him out and you’re the one who is going to get him off Earth. They said he’d know you were friendly then.” “What council?” An uneasy feeling surfaced inside Charlie.

“I have no idea. That was the message they gave me to relay so he knows you’re really there to help him.” “Who are these people?” Russell shrugged. “I didn’t ask.” “Maybe they are bullshitting you about the rest of the money. Did you ever think of that?” “I’m not totally stupid. I had them put it into a trust.” “Shit.” She shook her head. “And who is the controller of it? Some lowlife you used to run with who is going to steal it?” “It’s Gerald.

” 7 Laurann Dohner Pain sliced through Charlie at the mere mention of his name. “Oh.” “He won’t steal from us. He still feels real bad about what he did to you.” Hot tears burned behind her eyes. “How is his rich wife?” “He hates her.” “Good.” She decided a little satisfaction had to be better than none at all. “He doesn’t need to steal. He already gave up his soul for all the money he could ever spend.

” “He loves you.” “Shut up. He made his choice when he dumped me for that rich bitch. Let’s not say his name again. That’s the rule, remember?” “You asked.” “I did. My mistake.” She ran her fingers through her hair again, a habit she hated but couldn’t break, surprised she had any left after years of her brother making her tear at it. “Let me think. I need to come up with a plan.

” “They want him out fast, Charlie. I told them you could do it within twenty-four hours.” “Are you high?” She yelled but then remembered the walls weren’t that thick and they had nosy neighbors. Her voice lowered. “There’s no way―” “They have a ship waiting and ready to take him off Earth. We’re supposed to rendezvous with it at seven tomorrow evening. They bribed officials to allow it to lift off without being searched first. They also booked us passage on another ship where they won’t check our identities in case they immediately figure out who took him. This is all going to work out great. It’s going to be easy money.

” “Great. I’ll just sprout wings while I’m doing the impossible, fly in and grab him, and we’ll just sail out of there.” “Smart ass.” “Dumb ass.” Russell grinned. “I love you.” “You’re lucky we’re blood, Russell. That’s all I have to say. Now shut up and let me think.” 8 Redeeming Zorus Chapter One Crazy.

Insane. Nuts. This will never work. I need my head examined. Those were the thoughts that ran through Charlie’s head while she listened to Doctors Barklin and Aims argue. “The only way we’re going to figure this out is by autopsy.” “What if that doesn’t work? We don’t have a large supply of them anymore to run tests on. If more of them exist, that thing isn’t talking. We’ll have lost the only live opportunity to study him if you’re wrong.” “The autopsy will work,” Doctor Barklin grumbled.

“I can do extensive studies on the cyborg’s body. I believe the brain slice samples alone will unlock the mystery.” Nausea settled in Charlie’s stomach at hearing them speak so callously about killing the cyborg. She’d never tolerated the scientists much and knew it was a mutual hatred. Their utter lack of compassion left her cold inside, wondering if they considered her subhuman as well. She was just a tech-head who ran their security upgrades and kept their machines up and running―a nobody in their world. Both doctors had been raised in the better parts of town, had access to education levels she’d only dreamed about. She owed it to the kindness of rich people for the skills she had learned as a teen. Someone had taken pity on her, deemed her cute, and life had improved with their generosity when they had donated a scholarship for her schooling. Of course that had only gotten her so far with the “well off” population.

Everyone at the facility knew she’d been raised in the slums. “I say we wait and run more live tests.” Doctor Aims whined when he spoke. “If I don’t get significant results we could do it your way. I know you’re impatient but the risks are just too great if you’re wrong. We need to play this safe.” “Fine,” Barklin snapped. He turned in his chair to glare at Charlie. “What do you want, grunt?” She hated the title they’d dubbed her, a constant reminder of her low status. “It’s time for the security upgrades.

” She glanced at her watch. “Of course you could complain to the director who scheduled them if you don’t agree with the timing. I hear he hates to be disturbed during his dinner break but it’s your ass he’ll chew, not mine.” Aims paled slightly, obviously not thrilled with that prospect. “No one mentioned it to us. It’s marked on the schedule for tomorrow evening.” “That’s not my problem.” She shrugged. “I’m just a grunt, remember?” She enjoyed the annoyed look they shared when she tossed their title back in their usually smug faces. “I just follow orders.

” 9 Laurann Dohner Both men stood. Doctor Aims leered at her when he passed, his gaze lowering to her breasts. “Really? So if I tell you to―” “I wouldn’t finish that sentence,” she interrupted. “You know where I grew up and I’ll remove any of your body parts you tell me to touch. It wouldn’t be the first time some idiot bled over making that mistake.” “Bitch,” he muttered, leaving the room quickly to follow Barklin. Charlie dropped into one of their chairs and started typing at a terminal the moment they cleared the room. In seconds the screen in front of her showed the holding cell where the cyborg had been detained. She openly gawked at her first glimpse of him. He appeared huge on the monitor, mostly naked except for a pair of baggy black shorts, and they had him chained against a wall.

Muscles and dusky, smooth, silvery-gray skin were plentiful for her to gape at. His hair hung to his shoulders in a tangled mess. The lighting inside the cell had to be harsh on his eyes, would be on anyone’s under the too-bright illumination. Charlie bit her lip as she pulled up the tracking system that monitored all the employees on the basement floor of the building where she sat. Two signals moved toward the break room, she assumed it had to be the doctors, while three more life signs registered inside the security room two corridors over. One additional one showed up near the main elevator, probably the fourth guard, she guessed. Then hers and the one locked inside the holding cell. Her fingers flew across the keyboard to implement a shutdown of most systems. She knew the security protocols since she’d written them. She stood when she finished, her gaze still on the image of the cyborg who stood in chains, his eyes closed.

He appeared to be sleeping on his feet or perhaps he was in some sort of shutdown cycle. She hoped that wasn’t the case. He needed to be alert and ready to flee when she reached him. She headed for the door, kept a mental countdown as she opened it into the hallway, and turned in the direction of the holding cell. She felt down the front of her shirt to locate the small objects she’d smuggled past security, hidden under her breasts inside her bra. “Crazy,” she muttered softly. “I’m going to get killed and it’s your fault, Russell.” The lights suddenly cut out around her and she figured the guards would give it about a minute before they grew alarmed. At that point they’d attempt to start lockdown procedure but would then realize she’d cut off all outside communications by jamming them. She jerked open the door to the cell she’d opened from the terminal before she’d restricted the power grid to the entire building.

The emergency lights she’d programmed to stay on inside his cell worked. She could see him clearly enough to make out that his eyes were open and fixed on her. “I don’t have time to explain a lot to you.” She spoke quickly. “I’m here to get you out. You need to do as I say, stay on my ass, and not pull any shit.” She gripped the shackle on his wrist, inserted the small lock pick, and had it open in seconds. “We have 10 Redeeming Zorus about three minutes before they come here to check on you but we need to be long gone by then.” He grabbed her throat the second she freed his hand. Shock tore through Charlie when he forced her head up.

She couldn’t breathe from his tight hold. He glowered at her in the dim light when their gazes met. “I know a trap when I see one. Is this a test, human? I am not stupid.” His unusually deep, husky voice startled her for a few heartbeats but then she gripped his fingers. She jerked on them while she struggled to get air into her starving lungs. His hold loosened just enough for her to breathe again. She drew in another breath and then spoke one word. “Council.” His fingers loosened more.

“What did you say?” “The council hired my brother to break you out of here. That is supposed to mean something to you. We could stand here talking but all you’re doing is wasting time we don’t have. You’ll get us both killed.” He released her as quickly as he’d grabbed her. “Do it.” She pushed down her anger over his attack and instead freed his other limbs quickly. She watched him roll his massive, muscled shoulders as he stepped away from the wall before he glared at her again. She decided his soft, dusky-gray skin looked better here than on the monitors. It was such a pretty silvery gray.

The sweat beads on his skin even made him a little shiny. She guessed he’d been fighting the chains to have earned the signs of some sort of workout. “The council really sent you? This isn’t a test by humans to see what I will do?” “No test. We’re in danger so could you please shut up and follow me?” She spun away. “Don’t talk. Just stick close and stay on my ass. We need to book out of here.” She ran across the room to make up precious seconds they didn’t have that had been wasted when he’d grabbed her. She stepped through the door to his cell, into the hallway. She figured he’d either follow her or he wouldn’t.

Either way she had to leave the building quickly, knowing the guards would arrest her or even kill her. The second object she carried—her tiny flashlight—clicked on and its small beam of light gave her the ability to see a few feet in front of her boots. “Where are we―” She twisted around quickly, only to slam face first into a wall of hot, muscular chest. She jerked her head up to stare at his chin. “Shut up. We have to get out of here. Seconds count. Just do what I say. Got it? If you’re so damn smart, you should know we’re in deep shit. In about two minutes security guards are going to regain control of the systems, lock the building down, and if we’re still inside, you should be able to guess how bad that will be for both of us.

” She turned away from his big body and took off at a jog toward the maintenance elevator to make up for lost time. 11 Laurann Dohner It opened as they approached, as she’d programmed it to do. She pointed at the suits that lay on the floor. She’d put them there on her way to her post. “Get dressed fast. That’s the biggest size they had so make do as best you can. We’re going to be visible to the police security cameras. We don’t want to draw their attention. They’ll assume we’re just employees exiting the building as long as they don’t get a good look at you.” She pushed the button to close the doors and turned to grab the other suit.

Frustration filled her when the cyborg just stared at her. He wasn’t doing as she’d instructed. She shoved on the coveralls-type suit with jerky motions. “You’re nearly naked, as big as a tree, and distinctive. Cover up or we’re never going to make it. Are you deaf? Dress now. It’s not going to fit properly and you’re far taller than I guessed you’d be so you’re going to have to hunch down a bit. Move, damn it. Don’t just stand there.” Anger was an easy emotion to read on his strangely handsome features while he glared down at her but then he bent to grab the suit with one hand.

She didn’t care if she made him angry as long as he covered his body. She zipped the front of her suit closed and reached for the helmet. The lift stopped but the doors didn’t open. “Hurry up!”

.

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