Home > Enhanced (Brides of the Kindred #12)

Enhanced (Brides of the Kindred #12)
Evangeline Anderson

Chapter One

“Who are you?” she whispered. “Why am I here?”

“I…do not know.” Six’s voice sounded rough and uncertain in his own ears. The slender, tiny shape of the girl who haunted his dreams stood before him, her dark eyes wide with fright.

“I don’t know why I can’t stop having these dreams.” She looked around her at his service room which was where she always seemed to find him, when he was resting in his docking station.

Her hair fell in a long, straight waterfall of black down her back and her big eyes were partially obscured by strange glass and wire oculars. Six wondered what they were for. They didn’t seem to have the range of his own ocular scanner, the one he’d had implanted over his left eye. Could they be to correct her vision? But if that was the case, why did she simply not have some enhancements done?

“What is your designation?” he asked, since she continued to stand there. Usually she faded almost immediately. It was disturbing to note that this time she wasn’t leaving.

“My…designation?”

“I am Six.” He thumped the breastplate of his exoskeleton impatiently with a metallic clang. “What do you call yourself?”

“Oh. Mei-Li. My name is Mei-Li.”

“May-Lee?” Six frowned at the strange mixture of syllables.

“It means ‘beautiful flower’ or something like that, I think. My mother picked it out when my parents adopted me from China because it sounded exotic without being too hard to pronounce. I…” She took a step back. “I’m sorry, I’m babbling. And I’m still here. These dreams never last this long.” She looked around. “Why am I still here?”

“I do not know why you remain or why you come at all,” Six said. “You certainly do not belong—you have no enhancements and clearly you are consumed by emotion.”

“Enhancements?” For some reason she looked down at her small, barely rounded breasts.

Through the sheer white garment she wore, Six could see that they were tiny but perfectly shaped. For a strange moment, he wondered what they would feel like in his palms. Would the pink points of her nipples, pressing innocently against the thin white fabric, feel good against his fingertips? And what would her reaction be to his touch? Would she moan—illicit emotion overcoming her as he stroked those delicate buds? Would she—?

He shook his head, trying to clear the strange thoughts away. Where had they come from? And what had he been talking about with the little female? Oh, right—enhancements.

“Enhancements like my own.” He motioned to his enhanced left hand and the ocular scanner in is left eye. “You have no enhancements. You are not authorized to be here.”

“That’s what you always say—that I’m not authorized to be here… That you’ll hunt me down and make me pay…” She began to back away from him, fear growing in her eyes.

“Because you are not.” Six reached up to disengage himself from his docking station and took a step toward her. His exoskeleton made a mechanical hiss and his boots thudded heavily against the metallic floor panels.

“No—please!” She backed away from him, almost stumbling in her haste. “Please don’t!” She looked around. “Oh God, I just want to wake up! Just let me wake up…”

Suddenly Six’s eyes opened and the dream—if that was what it had been—was over. He looked around, searching the room with his scanner but it was empty—it was always empty. The girl in his dream was nothing but a figment—an insubstantial wisp who disappeared the moment he opened his eyes.

But he could no longer dismiss her as nothing but a figment and the dream as nothing but a slight aberration during his recharging period. It was coming more frequently for one thing—the girl was disturbing his sleep on an almost nightly basis now. And for another, the dream seemed to be lasting longer. He had been able to have an actual exchange with her this time—not a good sign.

Reflexively, he reached behind his head and felt the small metal button of his emotion damper, embedded in the flesh of his neck, just below the base of his skull. Still in working order, he assured himself. I feel nothing. But then why did the dreams keep recurring? And what could he do about it?

Suddenly the speaker at the door of his service room buzzed to life and the voice of Ter, his domicile’s informations system, spoke.

“Six, you are requested in One’s domicile at once.”

For some reason, Six’s heart began pumping harder.

“Why?” he demanded. “It is not my day to communicate with One. Please clarify.”

“No clarification possible,” Ter’s mechanical voice said. “One has requested your immediate presence. He has given no reason for this request.”

Nor did he have to. As the Mouthpiece of the Collective—the group of mechanoids which ruled Zeaga Four with an iron hand—One was entitled to make any request he desired and expect immediate obedience.

“Will you come?” Ter asked.

“I will. Tell One he may expect my presence momentarily.”

“Very good.” With another buzz, the speaker fell silent.

A vague feeling of unease settled over Six as he left his domicile and entered the busy, dark streets of Prime, the main urban center of Zeaga Four. Six frowned to himself as he walked, threading his way through the busy traffic of wheelers, trackers, and mechanoids as well as the organic Enhanced that made up the diverse life in the city. High walls of metal and tempered glass rose all around him, blocking out the sky but he was so used to the view—or lack thereof—he barely noticed it. Instead, his thoughts were turned inward. This unease that would not leave him…it was almost like…like an emotion.

But that was foolish, surely. He was simply concerned for his future, as any rational being would be. And possibly the dream, which kept coming over and over again, was getting to him.

Not that he planned to do anything about it, he reminded himself. The girl was light years away and obviously a Feeler. There was no place in his neatly ordered life for such as her.

Still, his thoughts kept returning to her slight, frail form and her large, frightened eyes. What if someone threatened her, so far away on that tiny planet where she lived? How could she protect herself? She didn’t even have an exoskeleton…

Before he knew it, he found himself standing outside the featureless metal door that led to One’s domicile. It was exactly the same as any other organic’s residence. There was no class distinction among the inhabitants of Prime—not even for those close to the Collective.

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