There was a ten minute wait while the guard bot was called out of his restorative cycle and back into service. Proper logging of the reason took another five. By the time he was cleared to enter, Eric was tense with impatience.
He trailed behind the guard bot moving slowly down three sets of stairs until they were at some old admin level of the bomb shelter. It took several more minutes and several more sets of steps to reach the electrified cage on the bottom floor of the underground facility.
Once again a small tornado had ripped through the furnishings inside it. Once useful items, like tables and chairs, now sagged brokenly against walls. A roughly disheveled woman paced in the remaining space as she mumbled lines of code almost silently to herself.
Eric would have liked to have recorded her recitations for Kyra’s study, but Lucy’s wild gaze swinging his way removed all normal thoughts from his mind. Once again he felt like someone was squeezing his brain. He shook his head and fought to focus his gaze. Her image wavered as his eyes blurred.
“If you don’t want to star in my personal porno again today, get the hell out of my head,” Eric ordered, relaxing when the pressure behind his eyes eased immediately.
He watched a very frustrated woman kick her metal cot and send it rolling against the bars keeping her constrained. He wasn’t used to seeing angry females with cyborg strength. Her enormous capacity for destruction was enough to put any man on edge.
When the guard bot lifted his weapon and took aim at her, Eric reached out a hand and pushed the weapon up until it pointed at the ceiling.
“Stand down,” he ordered sharply, glaring at the guard bot.
Then he turned to Captain Lucille Evelyn Pennington and glared at her too. “Can’t you be cooperative for the three seconds it will take to hear your real name?”
“No,” she said flatly, turning back to the wall. “Go away.”
His stomach somersaulted when Lucy Pennington turned her back to him and covered her face. He knew it was to hide her tears. Her ragged sigh as she pushed back her emotional outburst had him frowning. Now what was he supposed to do?
“But I thought you wanted the information. You have that book and I… well hell. I’ve been looking for it ever since.”
“That curiosity was a momentary weakness I regret. I don’t want to know now and it won’t help me. Trust me and just go away,” she replied coldly.
Eric sighed. “But… I… damn it, Lucy. Shit, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”
He hadn’t meant to call her the name he’d called her in his head while he’d searched for her real history. He ran a restless hand through his hair. “I thought you’d feel liberated to know your real identity had been discovered. You’re definitely an Army Captain. We’re not just guessing anymore.”
Her gaze swung back to him in both shock and alarm. “Stop talking. I’m not interested. Just leave and don’t say anything else. My instincts are telling me not to listen and I trust them more than I trust you. So don’t make me harm you, Eric 754. Get the hell out of my sight.”
Eric shook his head. She was the one being harmed. She was the one in the cage. He was determined to help change that situation. Why the hell did she call him by his cybernetic name? She knew who he really was. Was she trying to put emotional distance between them? Well, he hadn’t let Marcus do it. He for damn sure wasn’t going to let her get by with it.
“You have a right to know your human identity and I’m sorry it took me so long to discover it. You’ve had some secret conversions done on your cybernetics. Someone has been hiding your files in a high security database. As soon as I pass the information I found along to Kyra, she and Nero can start to find a way to help you. The information I discovered was detailed about your situation.”
He knew better than to mention Evil Brad had been the one hiding the information. Even the mention of Dr. Bradley Smith set her off. Too late, Eric remembered that Lucy could read his mind. Before he could swear at his lapse, Eric heard her scream. Seconds later she was clapping hands over her ears. Her obvious physical pain jarred him into stepping back a little to assess the situation.
At his retreat, the guard bot pointed his weapon at Lucy again. Eric shook his head, irritated with the insensitive treatment she was receiving from both him and the bot. He turned and glared at the unfeeling machine.
“Unit 4906, you are to stand down. Lower your weapon to the floor and don’t raise it again unless I order you to. The woman is in pain, not going into damn attack mode.”
Eric took a step closer to the cage. He was no professional head shrinker, but he thought he knew what was best in at least this one case.
“Look—I just need to say this and then I’ll leave you alone. Your name is Captain Lucille Evelyn Pennington.”
Eric swore richly as all hell broke loose in the cell. Lucy literally went nova, screaming insanely as she completely lost her shit. First the bed came flying at the bars, which were all that saved him from finding it wrapped around him. Metal sizzled against metal as it hit the current. It was followed by all the other furniture she could get her hands on. Most of it also sizzling as it hit the bars.
Eric backed up to observe the chaos he had instigated. What in hell had he said to make Lucy so mad at him? He watched in gut clenching agony as she fell to her knees in obvious agony, her hands held tightly over her ears at first, then moving to clutch at her throat as she struggled to speak commands that wouldn’t take form. Tears streamed down her face as she glared at him.
It was obvious Lucy was fighting something happening within her. It was also obvious she was losing. Eric stood by helplessly staring in shock at her strange reaction to hearing her real name.
“Lucy? I mean… Captain Pennington? I apologize if I overstepped. Are you functional, ma’am?”
Then suddenly, as if it had never happened, her angry fit was over. He watched as Lucy rose from her knees and looked around the cage in wonderment at the violent upheaval of everything. Despite the tears still dripping from her eyes, her calm gaze finally came to rest on him briefly before turning to the guard bot.
“There is no more reason to be concerned. My companion protocol is now fully in effect. Is the sentry programmed to kill? If so, he must be neutralized,” Lucy said calmly.
Her soft-spoken, sultry voice made every hair on Eric’s body stand at attention. His masculine reaction to it was distracting and totally inappropriate in the circumstances. But he’d been like that about women even before his conversion.
Eric answered quickly trying to cancel out his lusty thoughts. “The guard was programmed to protect me during my visit with you. He’s certainly capable of harm, but I would never let him hurt you. You have nothing to fear.”
Eric saw her nod at his statement.
“Excuse me while I acclimate to my new settings,” she said.
He watched as her eyes went through the same kind of seizure activity Evil Brad’s had earlier. But his “oh shit” moment came a few seconds too late to stop her from taking action. When her gaze returned to him, it was completely and utterly serene.
The guard bot lifted his gun again, just as unsure as he was about what was going on.
“Greetings, Eric 754. I am your New World Companion. I have been programmed with the ability to neutralize all personal threats to your safety.”
“My… what did you say you were?” Eric swallowed nervously, nearly unable to speak.
Her voice was sweeter than dripping honey. What the hell was going on? He’d obviously triggered some secondary program. Peyton was going to absolutely kill him. Kyra might scrap him for parts when she found out he’d flipped some switch in Captain Pennington.
In a sweetly cultivated tone any human licensed sex companion would have envied, Captain Lucille Evelyn Pennington uttered a rapid sequence of cybernetic commands with the same ease Kyra often spoke them. The guard bot crumpled immediately to the floor. His weapon fell from his suddenly inanimate fingers and lay beside him now. All signs of activity were gone from the metal AI unit. She’d somehow turned him completely off. Could she do that to his cybernetics as well?
“Uh… what did you do to the guard bot? If I can ask…”
“I shut him down so he could no longer harm you,” Lucy purred, reaching up to sweep her ragged, uncared for hair out of her eyes. “I am unfit in my current hygienic condition. I need to prepare myself properly for you. May I take a shower?”
“Prepare for me?” Eric found himself repeating her startling statements like a cybernetic parrot.
“I am your New World Companion. It will be my pleasure to service all your needs. I await your commands, Eric 754. Please advise me of your wishes.”
Finally the statements got past his body’s involuntary reaction to her artificially sweet nature. As a Cyber Husband, he’d once uttered similar statements to his contracted wives. Eric clenched and unclenched his fists at the realization. The bastards had used her real name as a neural trigger for some secondary processor running some kind of sex bot program. And now he’d accidentally activated it. He’d sent her straight back into the hell she’d somehow managed to escape after she killed Dr. Channing. He suddenly wanted the hellcat back even with all her screaming.
Before he could get a handle on his human freak-out about what was happening, he saw Lucy glance around. Her gaze landed on the manual control panel for the cell which was located on the farthest wall. She held up an arm and poked it with one finger. The humming bars instantly lost current. She poked her arm again and the cell doors swung open with a quiet click. Some sort of anti-security device was built into her arm.
Eric stepped back, ran a hand through his hair, and swore silently as Lucy smiled warmly at him. Glancing at the wreckage again, he noted her shrug and casual head shake. No anger was evident at all. The hellcat who lived in her other processor definitely wasn’t in control of Lucy anymore.
Her companion side was serene—too serene.
“Thank you for freeing me from my captivity, Eric 754. I apologize for destroying these possessions. Nothing of value remains here. Please provide me with clothing that fulfills your desires. I am ready to go with you now.”
Eric locked his hands behind his head wondering how much danger he was in. Could she still squeeze his brain until it exploded? Only one way to find out…