Red Line Underground, Book 2
by Cheryl Dragon
eBook BIN: 06139-01971
A cyborg in the Corporation’s Headquarters, Halnel endured special torture as a teen. The rebels need Hal’s knowledge, and he needs the connection to AnSol — but he has even more to offer. He’s found love and freedom are worth fighting for even if he can’t handle a blindfold just yet.
2215 Chicago Territory-Summer
A few months had passed since the rebels in the Underground pulled down the former cyborg Vel. He’d proven a good and informative addition to the efforts to overthrow the Corporation above. The attacks had ceased and things had calmed down. Still they lacked enough hard intelligence to mount a revolt.
AnSol never doubted his old friend KiRin’s move to snag the cyborg. Their hacking skills made it so tempting to take over the GPS and other implants controlling men who’d offended the Corporation and been put to work as punishment. Freeing men who shared their need for BDSM play felt like an act of kindness.
Ginger walked into the monitoring room, and AnSol sat up straighter. She was their first pull from above and had eagerly joined the rebel operation. Unfortunately she lacked any useful intelligence about the Corporation.
“What’s with you?” asked the blonde, doe-eyed young woman with one big green spiral curl. The Underground clothing was mostly black and gray. Touches of color or other styled expressions were minimal and meaningful.
“Nothing, just one of those frustrating days.” He wanted to do something. Every so often the urge to strike against the machine that controlled everyone’s life up top and kept the rebels in the old train tunnels under Chicago boiled up in him.
“Patience.” Ginger smiled at him.
“I’m tired of being patient.” AnSol had been below for over ten years now. He’d been unable to hide his dominant sexual nature long past puberty. Above, any violence was illegal, but sexual deviants were more harshly punished. Here they were free, but AnSol was alone and the rebellion efforts lagged. Without sufficient intelligence on the Corporation layout, security measures, and the Artificial Intelligence technology, they couldn’t plan an all-out overthrow.
“Stop mulling it over. You’ll go mad,” Ginger said.
“I’ve been here a hell of a lot longer than you.” He saw a cyborg reading come on his screen that registered differently than the others. Focusing in, he tried to tap into its system.
“I know, but starting a war when we can’t possibly outgun them isn’t a smart move either. We need to out-tech them.” Ginger nodded.
“Exactly!” The dingy room felt brighter to AnSol. He didn’t mind the dark so much if there was hope in his heart. True, he’d rather live in freedom underground than obey above. But what was the point of all his hacking and computer skills if he couldn’t help the rebellion?
“What?” Ginger looked over AnSol’s shoulder. “No. You can’t pull down a cyborg. He’s in the headquarters. On a top-level floor. It’ll never work.”
“Look at his coding. It’s not normal. Something in his programming is unique. I’ve never seen one like this before.” Ever since his friend pulled down a cyborg and found not only a rebel informant but a sexual submissive, AnSol had dreamed of finding his own man. Odds weren’t great love would follow sex, but a sexual partner would be a step up from being alone.
“So maybe he’s damaged or lower level. You want to waste a pull? We’ll get attacks from above. You know we will. It has to be worth it. I keep telling you guys to pull two or three at once.”
“Can we control three cyborgs at once? Even hacking in and taking them over, it’s dangerous with their strength and implants. Besides, the AI will pick up on that attack faster. One cyborg can malfunction but three at once?” AnSol had watched the cyborgs off and on, even when it wasn’t his turn on the monitors. Something deep inside told him this unique signature was a sign.
Ginger pressed her lips together and shrugged. As a former cyborg, she wasn’t a risk taker by nature. The Corporation had reconditioned the drive out of her, and AnSol couldn’t blame her for playing it safe. Still, he needed her expertise with the implants.
“How soon can you be set up to pull the implants and dump the information?” AnSol asked.
“Ten minutes but you’re not serious. AnSol, we need security backup and help.” Ginger shook her head full of curls.
AnSol sent a message to KiRin and Vel. If anyone would understand the positive end result, they would. Both confirmed they’d be there within minutes. “Backup is on the way. Vel is fast. We’ll have a sedation gun ready to go. We need more cyborg knowledge, Ginger, more cybernetic enhanced help. Everyone down here would die to be free, but I don’t want to die. I want to live free in the fresh air.”
“We all want that, but one more cyborg won’t make it happen tomorrow.” She sighed. “Fine, I’ll get ready. It’s hard to watch, though. Becoming a cyborg is worse, but humans adapt. We can learn to live with a lot of things, especially when they monitor your thoughts and punish you. Letting go of that and becoming free again isn’t easy either.”
“We couldn’t do what we’re doing without you. Every move is a step closer.” He smiled at her.
Ginger headed to her station looking unconvinced.
Pausing, he turned. “Do you wish we’d left you up there and not taken you?”
She looked down. “No, I’m happier here. Seeing someone else go through the adjustment to freedom is kind of like reliving it. In the end it’s better, but the sudden change can be painful.”
“I’m sorry, but they really need your help.” He couldn’t agree more that it was difficult to watch someone struggle. One day when they all were free above, it’d be a struggle for AnSol not to jump at every turn, not to fear the noon sun, and not to hide his true nature from everyone. Freedom was worth the pain.
Zeroing in on the cyborg in question, AnSol sent a few odd messages to see how the man reacted. All the responses came back normal so there was no active malfunction. Perhaps he was a higher-level cyborg? Enhanced information? His location was ideal for having added knowledge, but getting him to the Underground would be tricky.
Scrambling his orders, AnSol got the cyborg on a patrol of an area near an Underground entrance. Like any good cyborg, he didn’t question an order. Masking the Corporation’s signal, AnSol led the cyborg into the tunnel opening that was overgrown and shielded by a force field.
The Corporation hadn’t flagged this cyborg yet so AnSol made him look offline and got out of the Corporate system. The AI could find things quickly yet nothing seemed to be watching this cyborg. Dropping the force field, AnSol lured the cyborg inside by mimicking the Corporation’s signal patterns. He even modified its visual receptors to see nothing but dank tunnel.
KiRin and Vel entered just before the new cyborg.
“You’ve got him.” KiRin nodded.
“I have control of what he thinks and sees.” AnSol studied the sexy man. From neck to foot he was encased in a uniform. The implant on the side of his head was larger than either Vel or Ginger’s had been. His black hair was trimmed short to cyborg precision.
This cyborg was attractive and strong, with a square jaw and high cheekbones. The broad shoulders made AnSol’s body heat up. Those green eyes scanned the room and AnSol wanted to connect with them. It was insane to lust after a man under your control at the moment. He knew nothing about this person other than they shared something the Corporation would go to extremes to stop.
“It’s the right thing,” Vel said as he picked up the sedation gun. “In the end we’d all rather be free.”
AnSol watched the shock in the cyborg’s eyes as the sedation dart hit his neck. As the chemical entered, AnSol released his control over the cyborg. He had to be linked to Ginger’s system to retrieve information and remove the implants.
The second the cyborg was free, he should’ve slumped to the ground. KiRin and Vel were ready to catch him and ease him into Ginger’s procedure chair that reclined so she could work on the implants.
Instead, the cyborg pulled the dart from his neck and swung his fist at Vel.
“Oh God!” Ginger shouted.
The cyborg turned in her direction, and Vel hit their guest with two additional darts before he finally went down.
“Maybe you did find a super cyborg,” KiRin said.
“I never heard of anything like that. He resisted the sedation, which is odd. Maybe the Corporation was trying to bring him back online?” Vel wondered.
“No signals are getting through.” Ginger shook her head. “I’ll get the implants out and download the information as soon as I can.”
“I’ll help,” Vel offered.
AnSol doubled their force fields and checked all the security feeds from above. KiRin grabbed a seat next to him and monitored things. “He’s not bad-looking.”
Smiling, AnSol shook his head. “I went with my gut. Something is different about him. It may be good for us or not. I didn’t do it just because I’m lonely.”
“Good because he’s twice as strong as you are. Keeping him for a sub might be asking for trouble.” KiRin’s eyes were fixed on the screens.
Looking over at the unconscious cyborg, AnSol knew physical strength wasn’t the only power when it came to Dom/sub relationships. The mind was a much more powerful player, and AnSol had brains and years of patience.
* * *
Noise pulled Halnel from the drug-induced sleep. Keeping still with his eyes closed, he assessed the situation. His analysis failed. There were voices in the room but not in his head.
He tried to connect with his superiors, with the Corporation order stream ever present in his head, or the AI. Nothing but quiet and a twinge of pain buzzed in his brain.
“He’s got damage far more than either of us had. There are scars on his body, and the history in his implants show torture.” A female voice sounded like she cared.
Hal suppressed the desire to argue or fight just then. His body was partly numb, and he didn’t want to give away that he’d regained consciousness until he was at full strength. What did they know about him? Who were they? Not Corporate people or they’d know exactly what torture had been done to Hal. So far these people hadn’t hurt him.
“What was his offense?” one man asked.
“Nothing extreme. He had pictures of bondage and spanking. Self-inflicted paddle marks. His parents turned him in at sixteen.” The female seemed most knowledgeable.
“They didn’t treat kids worse than adults for an offense. I don’t get it.” Another man commented as he walked around the room.
Hal tried to engage his implants for heightened hearing, but it was no use. They were gone or disabled. Waiting, he listened carefully.
“I took out all of the implants except one. It’s triggered into his brain’s pain receptor. If I remove it, the pain will render him a vegetable. It’s different than the other corrective implants I’ve seen. It doesn’t make any sense,” the woman explained.
“It must be part of the special torture,” the man replied.
“Why would they do this to people? It’s beyond cruel.” Another man sounded shocked.
Hal wanted to laugh, but he remained as still as a dead man. The Corporation was certainly cruel. Clearly these people didn’t deal with it. Was he outside the wall now? Hal tried to engage his GPS and got nothing.
“I had heard of some cyborgs fighting their programming, and that the Corporation was trying to refine their techniques for more absolute obedience. Maybe this was an attempt.”
The voices became familiar. The woman and one man were former cyborgs. Two other men chatted with authority and sympathy. Hal was far outnumbered, but he’d wait for his moment to escape.
“Why would they torture someone like this?” one of the men asked.
The female sighed. “Irony. He’s a submissive who clearly likes pain enough to inflict it on himself. They also found large dildos and that he’d pierced his own nipples. He was self-satisfying his need for sex and pain. Maybe the idea was to overload him on what he craved so he would absolutely hate it in any dose?”
“That won’t change his nature. If he wanted submission and pain badly enough to go that far by sixteen, he’ll still need it now,” one of the men observed.
Hal worked to keep his breathing even despite wanting to enter the conversation. He’d made his peace with obedience to the Corporation after the horrid reconditioning. If he pleased them, then he could live. It didn’t make him happy, but it kept him from agony. The urge to kneel and experience all his fantasies with a real man remained buried in his subconscious. He’d put it away long ago, but it was still a part of him. Memories of his childhood were pleasant until his parents found out.
Hal blocked out his memories of before he was a cyborg. He couldn’t let that cripple his escape plans. Trading one overlord for another wasn’t any better. He remained silent as he tried to feel his limbs. The tingling from whatever they used to sedate him wore off slowly. He needed full use of his arms and legs when he tried to break free. What he remembered of the room was simple. One door. He just had to be mobile.
“This Hal was granted serious access. A guard to the elite levels of the headquarters. We’ve got intel already. If he cooperates, it might be a real move forward in the rebellion.” One of the men sounded pleased.
“Shouldn’t he be waking up soon?” another man asked.
“We hit him with a lot of sedation, but he’s very strong. It shouldn’t be too long. The metal rope should hold him, though, if he panics.” The woman sounded very certain.
Rope? His nerve endings were still a bit fuzzy. Hal flexed and tried to move his upper arms. The control and feeling were back but the restraints held him. Panic was right! He hadn’t been tied up since the torture.
“He’s up!” A man approached.
Hal opened his eyes and glared at the smiling man with light brown eyes and brown hair. The goofy aqua circle on one side made Hal want to laugh, an impulse he hadn’t had in years. The two other men had purple streaks in their hair, and the girl had a green curl. What was this? A clownish joke? It didn’t matter. They had him tied up!
“We’re not going to hurt you. I’m AnSol.” The guy with the blue spot had kind eyes and a reassuring voice. The attraction shot through Hal, and there was no pain. Hal tried to calm himself.
When he looked at the amount of metal rope around his every limb, the fury and flashbacks took over… being tied down on a table, naked, while the Corporate doctors tried to find the spots in his brain that triggered his sexual desire for pain. He’d been a damn guinea pig, and they’d sworn they were trying to help him.
After months when it failed, they turned it into aversion tactics. The tears, the screams, and the raw pain that he and a dozen or so other teens went through were bad enough. The nightmares and flashbacks reinforced the message. The metal rope brought it flooding back.
Trying to stand, he strained to break the rope. He’d rather cut up his skin and bleed to death than be in someone else’s control. They’d already removed his implants. Would they put in their own? Condition him to obey their orders? He wanted kinky sex, not the life of a slave!
Sure, they could sound sympathetic, but so did the Corporation when he’d first been turned in. His own parents had betrayed him. Hal knew better than to trust anyone.
“Calm down. We’re not going to hurt you,” the attractive man said. “I’m AnSol. We want to help you, Hal.”
“Let me go, you bastards! Free me now!” Hal struggled to his feet as the rope cut into his thighs.
“Sedate him before he really hurts himself!” the woman cried out.
Two darts hit his neck, and Hal thrashed around trying to knock them free. Hands pushed him down, and the sedative took him again. A tear slid down his cheek as he cursed them all.