Provoking Odium (Cyborg Unity #1) - Cynthia Sax

CHAPTER ONE

“Fly away, fighter pilot. Fly away.” Briella belted out the lyrics of the popular Tegmen tune.

Her singing was loud and gloriously off-key. There was no one on the bridge, in her modified freighter, or in the universe who cared about her voice…or about her.

That freed her to do whatever she wished.

And what she wished to do right now was vocally murder her favorite song.

“Wage war on another heart.” She guided her ship toward Praecipua Trois as she repeated the soul-wrenching refrain. “There’s nothing left of mine. Ohhhhhhh…”

She extended that note into an ear-splitting wail and gunned the engines.

The fighting on the planet’s surface was already visible on the main viewscreen. Plumes from explosions billowed over the land masses. The Humanoid Alliance sought to decimate the more-peaceful local population and, by the looks of it, they were close to achieving that horrific goal.

“Fly away, fighter pilot. Fly away.” She sang louder, trying to drown out the tension building inside her. Her fingers splayed over the control panel. She flew her freighter faster toward the battle site.

Her ship would land in time for her to save the locals. Briella jutted her jaw. The beings were depending on her. She—

A light flashed on the console. She smacked the mute button. Silence fell on the bridge.

She opened communications. “If your credits are good, I’m your pilot.”

“A mercenary approach to life won’t fuel your soul, Beast,” Levi-Lucas the Third informed her prissily. Her contact at Beings For Peace had a stick the size of a support beam stuck up his ass. “We’re saving lives. That’s much more important than credits.”

“It’s not much more important to me,” she lied. There were easier ways to earn credits. She accepted the rescue missions for more-private reasons. “They don’t call me Beast merely because of my pretty face.” She skimmed her fingertips over one of the scars on her left cheek. “Some beings claim I have no soul.”

One of those beings had spat that declaration at her half a lifespan ago while he carved flesh off her face. She had screamed with agony and fought like the demon he believed her to be. The male, a father of a friend, had sought to gouge out her processor-equipped mechanical left eye. His efforts fortunately had been inept. Her father had stopped him before he was successful.

“Everyone has a soul.” Levi-Lucas the Third’s tone relayed he had doubts about that.

Great. Her lips twisted. She’d convinced another being she was evil. “Whatcha got for me?”

“This mission is dangerous.” He stated that obvious fact. The Beings For Peace operative only needed her for the treacherous tasks. “It’s too risky for any of my pilots.”

She, in contrast, was disposable. No one would miss her if she died.

“You don’t have to sell me on this assignment, LLTT.” She forced the lightness in her voice. “I’m in. Give me the coordinates.”

“It’s a pickup – twenty-eight locals.” He sent her their location. “They’re trapped in a dormant volcano. There’s only one exit to the site, and the Humanoid Alliance has it blocked. I doubt even you can pull off this rescue, but if you do, drop them at the usual location—the first friendly planet. We’ll take it from there.”

“Is there any intel on the opposing forces?” She wanted to know what she’d be facing. “Are the Humanoid Alliance using robots or any of those scary undead fuckers to fight this war?”

Those warriors didn’t care if they were blown to pieces, which made them pains in the ass to evade. They kept coming and coming and coming.

“The Humanoid Alliance has utilized exclusively humans for the fighting thus far,” Levi-Lucas the Third confirmed.

That was strange. She frowned. The Humanoid Alliance rarely risked their own kind.

But she was happy for that deviation. It upped her chances of surviving the mission.

“Gotcha.” She planned her route. “Consider this done.”

“You truly are a beast—fearless and—”

Briella ended the transmission, severing the male’s insincere fawning. She didn’t risk her lifespan for his empty words.

An image flashed through her mind. An older male with her coloring hugged an older female sporting a chin like hers. Another female and another male crowded around them. They all had their natural eyes, and they were smiling.

She touched the goggles hanging around her neck. Her family might’ve rejected her, might’ve sent her away without uttering any goodbyes, but she’d never stopped loving them, never stopped wishing they’d accept her communications, reach out to her.

When they finally contacted her, it’d been too late. “I couldn’t save you.”

Her pride had killed them.