Betrayed by her best friend and handed over to people who would torture her in the name of science, Shirai-Leron is an anomaly amongst her people. Implanted with a chip and filled with nanites to save her life, she is one in a thousand recruits with natural talent—a talent that saw her banished by the very people who saved her life. The chance discovery of her life pod by pirates gives her a second chance at life.
Devral escaped from the cyborg coalition to search the universe for something. When he sees the female in the life pod, he knows she is what he’s been searching for, and he will do anything to bring her out of stasis. Even if he’s risking his own life to wake her.
Shirai wakes to find herself on a strange ship, amongst people she can’t understand, and confronted with the male who betrayed her. In her emotional confusion, Shirai’s implants spiral out of her control and forge a connection with the male, who insists he’s never met her before. Desire draws them together, but will it be enough when they are confronted with the people who tortured them both and want them back?
I knew I had precious minutes to get away as I stuffed clothes in my bag. My chest tightened at what I’d be leaving behind. My family, my friends. Everything I’d ever known, but I wasn’t going to stay.
I couldn’t stay.
If I stayed, they’d come for me, if they weren’t already on their way. My parents couldn’t protect me from this. Not this time.
My father had pulled every string, asked for every favour owed to him to get me in the program to save my life, and he’d done it. They’d accepted me, and I’d gone through the procedure that had saved my life.
I’d become something more. More than what they planned, more than what they expected. I was an anomaly. I’d let them into my head, letting them implant me with their devices, because I wasn’t ready to die. I’d wanted to live. I wanted years with my family. I wanted to see my siblings grow and find their cerant. Their one, their love, the person who would give them children and grow them a family, even if I could never find my own. Even if I could never have a family of my own, I could watch them have theirs.
Things had started to go seriously wrong, though. Really, really wrong, and I’d known the first time it had happened that I was different from all the other recruits. I’d heard things from the minute I woke, my head in bandages, my body swimming with nanites.
Those nanites were what had healed me, what continued to heal me every day. They kept me alive. Without them, my body would begin to wither and die, the degenerative disease eating away at my muscles until I would become a wasted shell of myself.
With the nanites, I was strong, and my time at the program’s academy had made me sleek and powerful. I’d excelled at the training, putting everything I had into it. I hadn’t wanted to disappoint my father. He’d done so much for me, and I wanted him to be proud of me.
I pulled the strings on my bag, closing it tight before pulling the flap over and doing up the small buckle. After tonight, I would never see my father look at me with pride again.
He’d look at me as if I was some kind of monster. I’d heard the whispers among the other recruits. A one-in-a-thousand chance that the implants would amplify a natural talent—a talent I’d never known I had until I’d woken up in the recovery room with my family around me and the doctors out in the hall.
However, I’d heard. God, had I heard.
I could hear thoughts, but they were not my own. They’d been distant, quiet, and it wasn’t until they let me out of the facility to return to my home that I’d realized whose thoughts I could hear.
It wasn’t my family, and it wasn’t the doctors or nurses who cared for me. It was others like me, people who had been implanted. They were recruits for training just like me.
Those in the program.
I left my bag on the bed and moved to the small desk that I’d studied at since I was old enough to bring schoolwork home. After picking up a note cube from the tray at the back of the desk, I pressed the small red button and held it up to my lips.
“Pater, I’m sorry. Please believe me when I say I never wanted this to happen. I love you and Mater. Please forgive me.”
To end the recording, I pressed the small red button again. I set the note cube down on my desk and turned away before I let emotion overwhelm me.
I was strong. I’d survived a debilitating and painful disease, and I’d survived recruit training, so I could survive the latest challenge my life had thrown at me.
It was time to go. All I had to do was pick up my bag and head for the wide window that looked out onto our backyard. With my bag strapped to my back, I pressed the button on the panel beside the window to lower the flexi plas panel. It shimmered a rainbow of colours before dissolving in front of my eyes, leaving a soft breeze blowing in through my window.
One last look at my room, at the place that had been my refuge for as long as I could remember, and my thoughts drifted to my family. My gaze touched on the neatly made bed, the plush rug my father had surprised me with on his return from a neighbouring sector, and the beautiful statue of a trilis my brothers had brought me for my last birthday. Its wings spread in flight, its regal head held high, the colours of its feathers matched the colours of the rug on my floor.
I would miss my family desperately, and I’d miss my best friend. Riordan-Terant. We’d become fast friends the first day of training, and our friendship had only deepened the more time we spent together. There was something different about him, a difference I’d gravitated towards, sensing that in some way, he was like me.
He was the only recruit I’d come across whose thoughts I couldn’t hear. I sensed he had secrets of his own, and had almost told him about my strange abilities on more than one occasion. It had become harder and harder to hide it from him, and lately, I’d begun to suspect that he knew there was something different about me, but I trusted him to keep whatever he suspected to himself. He wouldn’t give me away. We were best friends.
I swung my legs over the windowsill and climbed down the three stories using all the strength and training I’d received over the last five years. From windowsill, to downpipe, to trellis that grew my mater’s prized Eblom flowers, to the ground.