He often forgets he’s a cyborg. All she sees in the mirror is a killing machine.

Marine Lance Corporal Eric Anderson tended to forget he was cyborg. Hell–most of the time he didn’t give being mostly a military machine any thought. He’d always lived by his human gut, not his logic chip, so thinking out of the cybernetic box was just how he worked.

Then he met her–Evelyn 489–a female cyborg so erratically dangerous she has to be kept locked away. Angry, violent, and full of deadly intentions, she epitomizes every fear about cyber scientists that ever kept him awake at night. Some warped cyber scientist stripped away her real identity to create the perfect companion. Until he gave into his urge to be her hero, the woman didn’t know she used to be Army Captain Lucille Evelyn Pennington.

Though Peyton is full of doubts, Eric is compelled to help Kyra and Nero restore the woman who once liked to be called Lucy. It doesn’t help his cause that several people seem determined to kill her.

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Before dialing for help, he took stock of his situation.

On the negative side of what was happening, the guard bot was completely incapacitated. He had also witnessed that Lucy possessed incredible strength, even as a companion. Then there was her stealthy ability to break free of her containment cell which was going to give Marcus a shit fit when he found out. He bet Peyton had something similar because he always seemed able to escape cells.

On the positive side though, he was fairly sure a certain panicked Private topside was already calling in the escalated situation he had undoubtedly watched go down on the security com monitor. His guess was validated when his wrist com buzzed on the heels of that exact thought. It turned out to be Nero coming to his rescue.

“I hear we have a situation with Evelyn 489. State your evaluation of the problem,” Nero demanded.

“Hello to you too, Nero. Yes, we have a situation. I found out someone’s real name, but it turned out to be a damn neural trigger to switch her processors. Her secondary processor appears to be running a very specialized program. She says she’s a New World Companion. Wasn’t that what Rachel said the women who freed her called themselves?”

“Yes. I believe that is accurate,” Nero answered. “What else should we know?”

Eric lowered his voice, not to keep Lucy from hearing, but in the effort to hide his own extreme agitation. “Lucy—by the way I’m calling her that now instead of her real name—took out a guard bot with a set of spoken commands both Marcus and Kyra might want to know about. She also let herself out of her cell by activating some anti-security device installed in her cybernetic arm. I seem to be a positive focus of her attention at the moment, so all her actions toward me so far have been very friendly.”

“Friendly? How friendly?”

Eric snorted at Nero’s probing query within the question. “Friendly, Nero… leave it alone. I can’t talk about it more specifically right now. Check the recording. You’ll see for yourself what I’m taking about. My actions have been nothing but honorable.”

He heard Nero sighing. Any other time gaining that reaction would make him smile.

“I was not insinuating you would be less than honorable, Eric. I believe I know your true character better than that by now.”

“It’s still a problem. She’s emitting some serious pheromones that make the situation harder than it needs to be—pun intended,” Eric explained, pleased when Nero sighed again. His gift for innuendo came in very useful sometimes.

“Then we have to keep her isolated and only in your company. What is she expecting?” Nero asked.

“To go home with me,” Eric said bluntly.

“Leaving the facility with her is a huge safety risk,” Nero stated flatly.

“True, but from what I’ve seen today, this version of Lucy can leave it any damn time she wants anyway. At the moment she seems content to hang with me and I think I need to stick with her. Have someone come in here and do some redecorating while we’re gone. I’ll get Marcus working on the security issues. She’s asking for a shower right now. I’m inclined to indulge her basic requests—within reason.”

“Peyton is going to be very upset about this,” Nero supplied.

Eric did laugh then. “Now you’re just trying to be nice to me. Both of us know Peyton is going to be royally pissed, but I swear I didn’t do this on purpose. All I did was say her name. She had a seizure of some sort and suddenly turned into Miss Sexy Pants. It’s more creepy than good. Is this what happens to me when I shift processors?”

He could almost see Nero crossing his arms as he answered the question. It was hard for the man to be honest with him. He was brutally frank in answering fellow scientists, but very guarded and careful with anyone cybernetically enhanced.

“Yes. You talk like the most stoic of cyborgs when you are using the first processor, reciting facts and calculating odds. And you’re always very agitated for a while when control gets restored to the secondary processor you’re utilizing now. The switch is not a pleasant experience from my observations. I would think it would be doubly so in Evelyn 489’s case because she has been able to resist it at times. Her mind is in constant conflict with her programming.”

“Then I have to stay with her, especially since she could shift back to the other processor at any moment. I’m the only one who has an edge with her in that condition too.”

Eric considered his options. His apartment offered no protection from her weaponry, and it was too small. He’d be swimming in pheromones there. They needed more space—a lot more space. Somewhere with a lot of room.

“How about I take her to the research and restoration facility in Montana that you built? I would of course need to borrow your ride to do it. I haven’t gotten around to buying my own transport yet. It’s the one place where if anything happens, it will just be the two us lost in the explosion.”

“There are others there working, but they can be easily evacuated. But neither they nor the facility are my primary concern. I am simply not willing to risk your life for Evelyn 489’s. Let me try sending someone in to sedate her. Once sedated, we will take measures to secure the cell better.”

“No. That won’t work,” Eric said defiantly, turning back to see Lucy standing perfectly still in the same spot.

Her immobility made him frown harder. This looked a lot like what Evil Brad had done to Rachel. But Rachel hadn’t been trained to be a weapon. Lucy could kill people… innocent people.

“I can’t risk anyone human getting hurt over what I’ve done. She said she was programmed to protect me. Given what Lucy did to the guard bot, it’s safe to assume she wouldn’t hesitate to act against others she perceived as threats. The bot wasn’t pointing a gun at either of us when she took him out. She just considered him a potential problem and neutralized him. He’s completely shut off. I don’t know how permanently.”

There was a short pause on the line. “Okay. Montana it is,” Nero conceded. “I’ll drive over and leave the airjet with Private Lansdale, who I assume you realize hates your arrogant cyborg ass right now.”

Eric snorted at Nero’s chastisement. “Yeah. He deserves to. But tell him he better damn well treat me like his best friend in the world when I bring Lucy up. I’m not kidding, Nero. She’s got onboard stuff you and Kyra haven’t seen before.”

“Very well. Try to find her rest mode if you can and keep her interactions as calm as possible. If you can get her cybernetic side to hibernate, that state will make our re-apprehension of her much easier. When she was finally captured, it was because she had a head wound and kept passing out. Authorities sort of collected her the first chance they got where she stayed unconscious for an extended period of time. She is not an easy cyborg to constrain nor an easy woman to talk to even in her rational moments. Her brain damage seems severe.”

“I know. And I’ll be careful,” Eric said, mumbling goodbye as Nero cut off the connection.