Excerpt from Cyborg Rising

California High Desert, Spring, in the not too distant future
     Em braced herself with a deep breath and strode into Control's long, narrow office. As usual, her supervisor sat at his raised desk wearing the taunting smirk of an emperor seated upon his bejeweled throne. Her new partner had already arrived. He was dressed in black, making her wonder if a pilot with her wild reputation rated a Ninja guardian. He stood to face her, and his bright blue eyes revealed his whole story.
     "Oh, no, you don't. I want a real man," she exclaimed.
     "I am a real man," he argued. He stood well above six feet in height, and his deep snarl rang against the map-lined walls.
     Control pounded his fist on his desk. "Sit down the both of you. I shouldn't have to remind you to treat each other with the necessary respect."
     Em slid into an uncomfortable straight-backed chair, but she refused to look at the black-clad man. "I won't fly with a Z-boy."
     "I'm no zombie!" he shouted.
     Control raised his hands in a demand for silence. He was a thin, sharp-featured man, who relied upon his rank to manage the rapidly deteriorating situation. "Surely you'll recall, Captain Payne, that your former partner is still recovering from the injuries suffered during your last assignment."
     "Which were his own damn fault, not mine," Em countered.
     Control's frown grew increasingly threatening and his tone sharpened, "You have filled an entire wing of our hospital with former partners. Daniel 81 is a cyborg, one of Alado's bravest soldiers, who's been given a second chance at life. He is nearly indestructible, and I expect him to stay that way. He's the perfect partner for you. He'll follow your orders and spare you even the slightest injury, although heretofore it's been your partners who've required emergency attention."
     Em opened her mouth to argue, then thought better of it. "How many other pilots are being forced to fly with Z-boys?"
     Control shook his head. "Captain Payne, I'm making you responsible for creating and maintaining a harmonious relationship with Daniel 81. Forging a life-long bond isn't mandatory."
     Em snorted.
     Daniel 81 swore under his breath.
     Control ignored their unvoiced complaints and opened a folder on his desk. "The five-year-old daughters of Rafael Salinas, Alado's administrator for South America, have been kidnapped. You and Daniel 81 will deliver the ransom and see the girls are safely returned to their parents unharmed. This should be a simple assignment for a woman of your amazing array of talents, Captain. I'll transmit the details to your hopper. Leave immediately."
     "Yes, sir." Em led the way out of office. They had not taken two steps down the hall before Daniel 81 grabbed her shoulder to press her against the wall and trapped her between his outstretched arms.
     "I have all the vital parts required to be a real man. Would you care to run an inventory?"
      If she overlooked his dangerously hostile expression, he was a handsome man. His light brown hair was cropped short, but his darker brows and eyelashes emphasized his distress. She was surprised to discover a faint hint of cologne. She recognized the scent and wondered about the Z-boys reputation as indefatigable lovers.
     "Are you sniffing me?" he asked, clearly astonished.
     "Yeah, you smell good. I was expecting a heady odor of machine oil." She ducked under his arm and started down the hall for the second time. "I'm the leader of this expedition, 81. We can argue later over who has the bigger cock."
     At six feet six inches in his boots, he caught up to her in a single step. "Women don't have cocks," he whispered.
     She laughed. Cyborgs tended to be a literal sort. Their memories were erased in the tanks and perhaps their natural gift for humor. "That was a joke. Come on let's go. I can see this is going to be a wonderful flight."
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