Containing Malice (Rebel Cyborgs #1) - Cynthia Sax

Chapter One

Help as many beings as you can.

Illona stared at the doors leading from the laboratory to the exterior landing pad.

That mandate given to her by Medic Anahit, her much beloved and long deceased mentor, was the only thing preventing her from walking through the exit.

Assisting beings was her legacy, her way of making a difference in the world, a vain attempt at being remembered, of ensuring someone missed her, thought of her after she died.

She was tempted to forgo that, to tell herself she had done enough. The Humanoid Alliance, her heartless captors, sought to design a new biological weapon. They had injected an unknown substance into the beverages she consumed. That product of their cruel and twisted minds now ran like ice through her veins, freezing her to her core, leaving her feeling frail and brittle and in absolute agony.

One step forward, one booted foot set over the threshold, could stop that hurt. The explosive the Humanoid Alliance had implanted under her chin would detonate. The nightmare she was living would end. It would be messy and painful, but it would be quick.

She brushed her fingers over that patch of skin. Her emotional suffering was as intense as her physical torment. The enemy had forced her to do horrible things to other beings.

That had carved away parts of her soul, parts of her. The urge to give up, to embrace her inevitable death, was strong.

Her quest to make her lifespan matter was stronger. There were beings she could assist, beings she might be able to free.

She took one last look at the door, gathered her white jacket tighter around her chilled form, and hurried along the brightly lit hallway.

Monitoring equipment, mounted high on the wall, followed her progress. The structure rarely had visitors. It was one huge experiment, with everyone—including medics like herself—being test subjects. But the Humanoid Alliance was always watching them.

She could fool the monitoring equipment in her private quarters. They looked at images of an empty space all planet rotation. She couldn’t modify the monitoring equipment in the hallways and public areas, not without the Humanoid Alliance noticing. That was beyond her capabilities.

Her shoulders edged higher as she neared the portals to the resurrection testing chambers.

A being flung himself at the clear wall dividing her from him. She jerked. The naked male fell, leaving a dark-gray smear on the surface. His face was twisted into a permanent silent scream.

More and more beings hit the portals. They were the dead reanimated, one of the Humanoid Alliance’s many experiments, and they were continuously rotting. The pain they endured must have been excruciating. It made her hurt seem like nothing in comparison.

Their attempts to kill themselves disturbed her. She shifted abruptly to the right, away from them. One of her shoulders smacked into something solid.

The impact knocked her off-balance. She fell. The female she’d collided with also toppled to the floor. A private viewscreen skidded across the tiles.

“Watch where you’re going, Medic.” Medic Febris, a fellow captive, shouted that response, giving the beings watching the monitored feed the antagonism they expected.

They believed Medic Febris was Illona’s sworn enemy. It was a misconception both of them reinforced.

Friendships were dangerous in the lab. The Humanoid Alliance used any and all connections against them. It was best to keep the true nature of their relationship secret.

Medic Febris grabbed her by the shoulders, brought her face closer to hers. “I’m dying, Illona.” She whispered that horrible revelation. Blood so dark it was almost black trickled from the female’s nostrils. “I have two planet rotations left, three at the most.”

Stars. Illona blinked back tears. She was losing her friend.

There was no time to grieve. The monitoring equipment was fixed on them. The enemy was watching.

She pushed aside her sorrow and focused on their plan. The steps had been outlined during previous collisions. Both of them had known what their fates would be.

They would make Medic Febris’ death count, would have one more big adventure before they parted. “We meet at sunrise.” Illona had arrangements to make before that time.

Medic Febris nodded. “We have to do it then.” Her gaze lifted to one of the gray smears on the portal above them. “I can’t end up in there.”

If they died with their brains intact, they would be brought back to life, would become test subjects for the resurrection experiment. That was a fate worse than death.

“I won’t let you down.” Illona was a healer, not a warrior, but she would summon the strength to kill