Releasing Rage

By: Cynthia Sax

Chapter One

She’d been paired. Finally.

Joan Tull hurried through the Nebula battle station hallways, straightening her gray flight suit as she ran. She was the last of her solar cycle’s transfers to have been matched with a cyborg.

That was because she was female and Commander Lewis was a female-hating rectal wipe. Humanoid Alliance regulations stated he had to accept her onto his station. There was nothing that said he had to pair her.

But now he had and she skipped with excitement. She’d fulfill her destiny, helping the cyborgs who once saved her life. Not the same cyborg, though wouldn’t it be a wonderful coincidence if that happened? No, she’d more likely be responsible for the maintenance of one of his brethren. It would be—

“Joan.” Fingers curled around her left wrist and she was pulled into the shadows. Her friend Denny Olsen gazed down at her, concern on his freckled face.

Joan wasn’t alarmed. Her former academy mate worried about everything.

“I’m being assigned to a cyborg.” She grinned at him.

“Tell the Commander that you withdraw your application before he formally offers you the position,” he urged. “It isn’t safe.”

“Life isn’t safe.” Having spent most of her life alone and unprotected, she knew that better than anyone else. “This is what I’ve been training for, Denny, since I was eleven solar cycles.” Since the agri lot her family unit worked was attacked and a cyborg stepped between her and certain death.

“You won’t see another solar cycle if you don’t withdraw.” Denny squeezed her wrist and pain shot up her arm.

“Let me go.” She wrenched her body away from him. Although he was male, she was stronger and smarter and had graduated near the top of her class.

“I can’t protect you, Joan.”

“I don’t need protecting.” She could protect herself. “I can do this.”

“You can’t do this alone.” Denny raked his fingers through his short red hair. “Commander Lewis won’t allow us to give you any support. He believes females don’t belong on a battle station, especially not in cybernetic engineering.”

She lifted her chin. “I’ll prove Commander Lewis wrong.”

“He won’t allow that.” Denny’s lips flattened. “He’ll ensure you fail. You’re intelligent…for a female. You should realize that.”

Joan knew Commander Lewis wouldn’t make it easy but nothing ever had been for her. She was willing to work hard for everything she received.

“Careful, Denny. You’re starting to sound like those female-haters you work with.” And that shocked her. He was her friend. She thought he was different.

“There’s a reason they act like that.”

“There’s no logical reason.” She wouldn’t back down, knowing in her heart she was meant to assist cyborgs. “I’m taking this position.”

He glared at her. She held his gaze.

Denny shook his head. “You won’t listen to me.”

“I won’t.” This was her destiny.

“Then go. Take it.” He dismissed her. “Get yourself killed.” Pivoting on his booted heels, he stalked in the opposite direction down the hallway. “Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”

She watched his retreating back. Denny was genuinely concerned for her, but he had also spent the last solar cycle reporting to Commander Lewis, surrounded by that rectal wipe’s female-hating protégés. He’d clearly been indoctrinated into that fool’s school of thought.

Joan knew she was qualified. She could do this. Walking to the transfer chamber, the spring in her step was gone.

She placed her palm on the sensor. The door slid open.

Commander Lewis stood with his back facing her, his hands clenched behind him. Monitoring devices edged the walls. A concealing cloth covered a long horizontal support. There was no one else occupying the space.

Which was strange. She tilted her head, perplexed. At transfers, the former engineer was always present, passing his duties to his successor, relaying the insights he’d gathered over the solar cycles.

Unless there was no former engineer. Her hands quivered. Was she to be paired with a brand new cyborg? More experienced engineers had been waiting their entire lifespans for such an opportunity.

That must have been the reason Denny urged her to decline. He knew the others would be jealous, take out their disappointment on her.

“You’ve kept me waiting, Cadet Tull.” Commander Lewis didn’t turn around, didn’t look at her.

“Commander Lewis, sir.” Joan saluted him. “I was assigned to the waste processing chambers.” Shit patrol, as transfers called it, was the worst placement an engineer could be given, and, until her arrival, it had been unheard of for a highly trained cybernetic engineer to monitor the processing vats. “Those chambers are at the far end of the station.”

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