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Darken Wolf strode toward the observation deck of the passenger freighter that was bringing his brothers and him back to Earth after 95 years, 8 months, 21 days, 18 hours, 38 minutes, 37.4 seconds. He looped the message he’d received over the internal cyborg network for the fifth time.
DHK18497, aka Darken Wolf, your genetic mate, is located in the Enclave community south of new Chicago. Her name is Gina Malcolm, 29 years old, health excellent. An image that looked very much like Gina’s was planted in his mind when he was made.
She was beautiful, the one genetically compatible female with whom he could breed and make offspring. She was the only one who could give him the family he never had, that no cyborgs ever had because they were grown to adulthood before they were awakened.
The door to the observation deck opened automatically for him, and he stepped inside. His commander Blaze Savage was there watching as they approached Earth. The blue planet swirling with white clouds was a beautiful sight.
Although they had integrated tech in their bodies and programs that regulated their brain chemistry and suppressed their emotions, cyborgs were still innately human. They could appreciate beauty and form friendships. The suppression of their feelings was gradually reversed after the war.
“Commander, they found my mate!” Darken exclaimed as he came to stand beside him.
“That’s great, brother. I’m pleased for you. I hope for the same one day. That’s the primary reason I wanted to come back to Earth. It seems the most likely place to find our mates.
“This is going to delay starting my assignment,” said Darken as he came to stand beside the other cyborg.
“New Mexico has waited this long. A few more weeks won’t matter,” said Blaze.
“At least I have a home for her. I hope she will like New Mexico.”
“You’d better hope she likes you,” Blaze teased.
“She already said she looks forward to meeting me,” Darken insisted. “I hope you will find your mate as well.”
“Thank you. And I hope you and your new mate will be happy together.”
Biologically, they were brothers but spawned in different batches. Blaze was two years older. They had other biological brothers but had no contact with them. All the cyborgs on Blaze’s team considered themselves brothers.
The many years they’d fought the war had been hard on them emotionally and physically despite the emotional dampers programed into them. Darken had been left for dead with catastrophic injuries on a hostile planet.
He’d lain alone in a snowy field drifting in and out of consciousness for days. His internal computer sent pings through the cyborg network to let them know he was still alive. Vyken Dark on Starfire Nemesis received the distress signal when they were scouting the system for Mesaarkan ships.
Commander Dark had convinced the ship’s captain to allow his team to recover Darken Wolf. He had lost an arm and leg, suffered a concussion and a gut wound, yet his nanites had kept him alive though barely. Six months in a nurturing tank grew him a new arm and leg over a cybernetic frame.
He emerged as good as new, physically. He’d needed gene therapy to recover from the emotional trauma of being left alone to die by inches. Apparently, his emotional dampeners had failed. It was why his psyche was impacted by his abandonment as deeply as it was.
Darken fought another fifty years when he recovered. The gene therapy had reduced the emotional impact of his suffering, so it seemed almost like it had happened to someone else.
Unfortunately, his experience was not an isolated one. Many cyborgs had been left to die on planets all over the galaxy rim. Some naturals in command positions viewed them as expendable, regardless of how much they cost.
Darken sat through Commander Dark’s briefing on their mission as Cyborg Rangers without hearing his words. He let the computer record the speech while he looped on the message and picture of his genetic mate. He was amazed that she looked so much like the avatar his creators planted in his virtual life before he was awakened for war. Darken was programmed to fall in love with his mate before he ever met her.
So far, he was the only member of the team whose mate had been located.
The database they started eighteen months before Darken’s arrival grew steadily with DNA profiles of females wanting cyborg husbands. It was a genetic database of females to match with the existing cyborg genetic database. It was beginning to work, but the cyborg database was larger than the female one. Expanding the Enclave reach to the West would give them a fresh data supply.
They would all collect data from their new territories. Hopefully, it would help more cyborgs to find their mates.
Darken only realized the briefing had ended when the other cyborgs stood to leave. His mind had been filled with thoughts of meeting his mate for the first time.
Quickly accessing the briefing, he was up to speed when his turn came to pay his respect to Commander Dark. He hadn’t known the commander when he chose his name.
It seemed fitting of the dark deeds they were made to do. Darken chose Wolf for his last name because they were strong, fierce creatures. He hoped one day to see them in the wild. Before the war, packs had been reintroduced to the wild. Since they weren’t living in the cities, they might well have survived.
Darken followed the other team members from the building to the transport garage to claim his new sky cycle just delivered from the spaceport. He was the only ranger who had purchased his own custom-built Sky Rider. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever owned or wanted to own.
There hadn’t been much time to ride it on Phantom before catching the ship to Earth. The few times he had; the power and speed were exhilarating
They were also called hovercycles, but they were actually hybrid vehicles that could be ridden on the road, hovering over the pavement, or they could fly above the tree tops and stop in midair like a helicopter.
The sky cycles also came armed with small missiles, and they could morph into a mini jet plane. Because of the vastness of each territory assigned, they were the perfect vehicles for these lone rangers.
Darken didn’t waste any time stowing his gear on his cycle and taking off. Even though assigned separate territories, they were still a team and would be in contact throughout their extended mission. The regions they would serve weren’t divided exactly as the states and countries had once been. The New Mexico territory included the northern third of old Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado.
Most of their job would be recon and public relations to assess the current population and determine the requirements to maintain laws and order. It sounded simple, but they were warned it wouldn’t be that easy.
It would certainly be different from the war where they were dumped on a planet and told who to kill, rescue, or retrieve. Their virtual training included first-hand experiences from Jolt Somber, who started the program.
Darken might have been worried had he not been so distracted by his upcoming first meeting with his genetic mate. Logically, he knew she wouldn’t be just like the avatar he was programed to love. She was constructed from the genetic profile that matched his.
His flesh and blood genetic mate had a whole twenty-nine years of life events not available when his avatar was made.
Pheromones guaranteed attraction for each other, but he was going into this prepared to love and care for her. Finding his mate to love and make children with was every cyborg’s dream. It was the carrot dangled in front of them so-to-speak that motivated them all to fight the war.
It didn’t matter to him that she might not be all he’d imagined when he fantasized about their life together. He would accept her as she was because he trusted the logic of their genetic matching.
Darken smiled to himself as he climbed onto his Sky Rider. On his first ride on Earth, he would meet his mate at last.
Gina Malcolm walked the short path to her current home, a temporary one she hoped, leased from the Enclave. It was a one-story domed dwelling made from aerated concrete sections notched to fit together like children’s building blocks. She earned the right to her own tiny house by accepting an apprenticeship with a construction crew building the homes.
Although androids could do the job, they were no longer manufactured on Earth since the war started. They had to be imported from offworld, and there weren’t enough to go around.
The lengthy interstellar war that started with the bombing of Earth’s major cities had set technology back almost 400 years. It had only been about five years since the cyborgs returned from the war to help rebuild and awaken those still in stasis.
Gina had been rescued from Farringay with her friend Layna Rose by Layna’s cyborg mate, Axel Rex. After seeing how happy Layna was with the cyborg, Gina applied for a cyborg mate. All she had to do was give a cheek swab to run her DNA against the cyborg database. She had been waiting ever since to hear back.
After the first month, her hopes started to dwindle because there had been no response. So, when she entered her dwelling and saw the light flashing on her vid com, she was surprised. Any of her friends would have pinged her wrist com. She couldn’t imagine who would have left her a message.
When she turned on the message, the first thing she saw was a picture of a handsome man with a voice-over telling her that he was her cyborg and she was his genetic mate. It was obvious by insignia that the message sent was pre-recorded from Cyborg Command on Phantom their planet.
Gina was so excited she was jumping up and down, squealing for joy. After all this time, she had almost given up hope this would happen. Subsequently, a prerecorded message came from Darken Wolf, letting her know he was on his way to Earth and looking forward to meeting her.
His words seemed to be spoken with little emotion, and she wondered if he could actually love her. But maybe he wasn’t excited yet because he had not met her. Layna’s husband Axel Rex was openly affectionate and emotionally available as she thought about it.
With that thought, Gina quickly punched in Layna’s code and fidgeted impatiently while the system signaled her. Although it was less than a minute before Layna’s face came onto her screen, it seemed like so much longer.
“Layna, they finally found my cyborg, and he’s on his way to Earth now. I can hardly wait to meet him. I hope he’s as wonderful as Axel.”
“I don’t think you have to worry because all of the other women with cyborg mates feel very much loved and cared for, and they adore them.”
“I hope you’re right. The message he sent me… He didn’t sound excited or anything. He said the right words, but they came out flat.” Gina sighed with a slight frown.
“It could be all the time he spent in the war with his emotions in check, and the time he’s been on Phantom might not have given him enough stimulation to let himself experience any emotions.” Layna smiled sympathetically at her friend. “That may change once he has met you, and his hormones kick in. Remember I told you; Axel said they are all programmed to love their genetic mate, so that means he is predisposed to love you.”
Gina nodded. “Axel would know,” she agreed.
“Did the message say when he will arrive?”
“As far as I could tell, it should be next Thursday.”
“Wow! That’s only five days,” said Layna.
“Yeah, five long, endless days, and I will feel every minute of every one,” said Gina.
“Well, Axel could pick you up tomorrow night, and you could come to spend Saturday with me,” Layna suggested.
“But don’t you want some time alone with Axel?”
“Oh, he will be working so I could use the company. It’s been weeks since we’ve had any girl time together, and we could do some research on your cyborg.”
“Yes, that will be wonderful. I forget you have access to those things. I should be done by four, so Axel can pick me up whenever he gets done with his shift.”
After Gina ended the call with her friend, she took a prepared meal out of her small refrigerator and heated it. She sat alone at her tiny dining table, eating it with relish. Since it was still early, she had time to work in her kitchen garden that she had started in the spring. Although she had mulched between the rows, she still needed to weed between the plants.
Things were quiet in the small neighborhood filled with widely spaced single-family dwellings like her own. Finally, she felt safe away from the gangers and Farringay. She had run there to escape life as a sex worker for an abusive overlord. Unfortunately, she’d traded one nightmare for another.
Gina had been lucky that Axel’s team pulled them out of Farringay when they did. Word on the streets was that Devlin White had called in a favor from Overlord Alexander Berke to help him find Gina. She hadn’t heard anymore after that as Axel’s team transported them out of the city. Alexander Berke would not interfere once they were under the cyborgs’ protection.
After a year, Gina started to relax, figuring Devlin had given up and found someone else to service his friends and associates. But working in her garden so deep in thought, she never heard them come up behind her. As she stood to stretch, he grabbed her from behind and pressed a strong-smelling cloth over her nose and mouth. She tried to push his arm away, but the world went black.
Arriving two days early, Darken settled his sky cycle on the tarmac beside the old milk house that disguised the Enclave’s underground facility entrance. It housed the elevator that would take him six stories underground to the facility that spawned him and his brothers.
He paused in front of the conventional door for a moment and took a breath, tamping down his emotions. He’d been both excited and nervous from the moment he got the message that his mate had been found. Announcing his arrival, the moment he landed, Gina would be waiting for him at the reception area by the elevator at sub-ground level 1.
The elevator opened as soon as he stepped inside. Though it only took seconds to carry him down, each one seemed so much longer than that.
Darken stepped from the elevator and frowned when he saw an older woman waiting there instead of his mate Gina Malcolm. A quick check of his memory banks told him she was Gwen Fielder, the Enclave’s chief administrator.
By the look on her face, Darken felt certain he didn’t want to hear what she was going to say.
“Yes, I am.”
“I’m sorry to tell you, Gina Malcolm has disappeared. No one knows where she is. She was supposed to visit a friend in the mountains, but she was gone when they stopped to pick her up,” she explained. “We think someone from her old life took her. Axel Rex is investigating.”
“I don’t understand. Gina left? She knew I would be here today.”
“No, I don’t think she left by choice,” said Gwen. “She was excited to meet you, that you were her genetic mate. Axel should be contacting you through the cyborg net soon. He may know more.”
Darken let out a breath and nodded. “Thanks for letting me know. I won’t take any more of your time.”
He stepped back in the elevator and directed it to return him to the surface. On the way up, he pinged Axel Rex through the cyborg network. That his mate had gone missing before he even met her was greatly disturbing, especially after they’d agreed to meet at the Enclave headquarters.
“Darken,” Axel replied almost immediately. “I was about to contact you. “Here’s what I know. Apparently, Gina was claimed by an overlord in old Virginia, not far from Farringay. She escaped making her way there, where she became friends with my wife, Layna Rose. Her father is the overlord of Farringay. Gina’s overlord commed Layna’s father for advice on how to find her, so he told him that my cyborg teams rescued the women from the streets and transferred them to old Chicago.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Devlin White is part of his syndicate. Berke didn’t know Gina was Layna’s friend until I inquired about her. He was pretty sure White sent men to New Chicago to look for her.”
“Why now? The Farringay Starport was completed almost two years ago.”
“White is obsessed with getting his harem back. He’s had people looking for her all that time. Either Gina is in hiding someplace, or White found her,” said Axel. “Layna thinks White found her and took her because Gina hasn’t commed in a few days. She was excited to be matched with you and anxious to finally meet you in person.”
“Then you are probably right. Where can I find this Devlin White?”
“I can give you the coordinates, but we can’t help you officially. The Enclave has a treaty with the overlords agreeing to noninterference with their businesses. We cannot pursue lawbreakers into their territory.”
“But they took mine—my mate. They had no right!”
“Darken, I fully understand your feelings. I’m not saying you should not go after her, only that none of us can officially help you.”
“I have faced far more deadly foes than normal unenhanced overlords.”
“Some of them have converted natural cyborgs as enforcers,” Axel warned. “They can be as dangerous as we are.”
“They haven’t waited their whole lives for their mate, only to have her stolen from them. I will avoid confrontation as much as possible. To do otherwise could put my female in danger.”
“That sounds like the best approach. If you get into anything that you can’t handle, don’t hesitate to call me,” said Axel. Darken thanked him and ended the communication. He had a new technology developed near the end of the war that could cloak him while he was in his armor so that he could not be detected by sight, even by cyborgs. From his sky cycle, he contacted Vyken Dark to let him know that he could not start his mission until he rescued his mate. Commander Dark assured him that he understood and granted leave to resolve the situation.