1. He inserted his spurs into the slots in the equinoid’s sides. The mechanical creature took off at a trot. A shift of his knees and he was moving at a lope. He resisted throttling to a full gallop. It wasn’t as if he was under any kind of time restraint. Besides, he wanted to get an eyeful of this town before he set foot in it.
2. She’d been trapped here too many months. It had gotten to where she was starting to have nightmares of never escaping. She had no idea how much longer she could hold onto her sanity. Worse, she knew her nerves were frayed to the point where she knew she’d have no choice but to show her true self. And once she revealed her nature, Yarnell would either have one of his henchmen kill her on the spot. Or—and this possibility terrified her more—he would exploit her uniqueness for his own profit.
3. Haulk froze. Now he understood what she was trying to warn him about, and why she was doing so in such an obscure language. Propping his chin on top of her head, he pretended to be enjoying her touch, which he was, damn it. But he still managed to scope out the corner she’d backed into. Because he knew what he was looking for, he was able to spot it, hidden in the lower section of the light sconce. He nuzzled the top of her head. “Sorry, sweetheart. I’m riding on thin ice already. If I try to abscond with one of Yarnell’s treasures, he’ll have no bones about taking me down for theft.”
4. She slowly nodded. “They showed up at our cabin before daybreak. They pumped a paralysis gas inside. I remember waking up to find myself being gagged and bound. Before I could…fight back, they placed a rag soaked in chloroform over my nose. When I woke up, I was in that little room where I took you.” Her voice softened as the memories returned. “Two men were standing guard over me, waiting for me to come to. One of them was Dr. Pokette. He asked if I was all right. He had me drink something. Haulk, those next few weeks are…hazy.”
5. “We caught wind of some pirates outside of the Vella Pellarum system. Cardium smugglers. We found them. Surrounded them. They refused to surrender. We boarded them. They decided to trigger the cardium in retaliation. Took out everyone in my squad except for me and Stremus Dars. Dars died before we reached the nearest med port. I was hanging on by a thread. The physicians gave me less than a ten percent chance to live. There wasn’t much left of me. And if I managed to beat those odds, what good would I be to the force? So, during one of my brief lucid moments, I offered myself as a mechanoid candidate. Unfortunately, there are still too many glitches in the program. You know that as well as I do. And because I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t have some sort of meltdown in the middle of a crucial mission, you could say I took an early retirement.”
6. Remi chewed over telling him about herself. About her true self. She wanted to explain why someone as slight as herself was able to take on the demanding and often dangerous job of being part of an intergalactic task force. Yet, to reveal her secret could put her in the same situation that Haulk suffered. Where his life was controlled by the acceptance or rejection of others, so was hers. But his was due to mechanics and science. Hers was natural. She was born this way. He wasn’t.