Programmed To Protect
The Tau Cetus Chronicles, Book 2
by Jenna Ives
Ebook ISBN: B00I798V2A
[ SciFi Romance, MF ]
Leith Wyatt is overseeing the production of a robot army for Tau Cetus’s defense, and knows the Beautiful Doll sexbot from robot manufacturer Carron is a bribe. When Carron tries to overthrow the ruling High Council, Wyatt must choose between loyalty to the planet and the android he now loves.
“The premier of the High Council will see you now.”
Leith Wyatt swallowed. Those simple – yet ominous – words kick-started the adrenaline already running through his veins. He rose from his seat in the thick-walled, missile-proof reception area of Tau Cetus’ High Council headquarters, and shoved a hand through his neatly-trimmed brown hair.
He’d been ordered to report to the most powerful man on the planet.
And Wyatt had no idea why.
Not good. A police agent should always know what he’s walking into.
Unfortunately, he had no intel about this meeting beyond Theus’ cryptic summons.
Wyatt frowned. He’d be the first to admit that his last assignment from the High Council – involving the notorious arms dealer, Marque Callex – had not gone exactly according to plan. Nevertheless, the Council had been satisfied with the end result. So Wyatt didn’t think this summons could have anything to do with that case.
Still, there’d never been any question about Wyatt reporting as ordered. As the premier of the High Council, Theus had near-absolute authority in this part of Tau Cetus. Hell, every person in Wyatt’s police agency technically answered to him.
When Theus calls, we come.
And today Theus apparently wanted Leith Wyatt.
Wyatt shifted on his feet, his one-piece navy blue uniform straining over his tense muscles. He stared down at the tiny, androgynous-looking government aide, and nodded.
“This way, please.”
Taking a deep breath, Wyatt followed the silvery-blonde haired aide down an equally missile-proof hallway. The twisting corridor brought them to three different hand-and-eye recognition stations, each of which opened massive metal doors. If Wyatt thought his police headquarters was well protected in its military bunker, it was nothing compared to this subterranean stronghold.
Then again, the High Council needed to be protected. It was tasked with the responsibility of ruling this area of Tau Cetus, and preventing another Great War like the one which had wiped out nearly half the population twenty years ago, including Wyatt’s own mother and sister.
Tau Cetus couldn’t survive another conflict like that one.
The High Council consisted of five men, drawn from some of the most powerful regions of the world. Shadowy men, who guarded their position and their power. If pressed, Wyatt couldn’t even describe what they looked like, but he – along with everyone else on Tau Cetus – certainly knew their names: Zelonis, Troian, Alon, Reigh, but above all, Theus.
Five men, who held the fate of Tau Cetus in their hands. Five men with ambitious rivals who would stop at nothing to usurp their power and become Council members themselves, in order to have a hand in dictating the future of the planet.
The tiny blonde aide in front of him stopped suddenly, and turned to Wyatt.
“In here, please.”
Wyatt raised an eyebrow as he stared at the solid stone wall in front of them. The aide waved a small hand over a small side panel, and a hidden door in the wall slid open. Wyatt’s eyebrow shot higher in surprise.
Fuck. Not so solid after all. But brilliantly concealed.
At a nod from the aide, he stepped inside a darkened room.
It took a moment for Wyatt’s eyes to adjust to the dim interior, but his police instincts told him that the dark lighting was intentional. In fact, it was a good defensive maneuver, because if – by some highly unlikely possibility – an intruder managed to get this far into the High Council’s headquarters, security would still have a final shot at the man while he was silhouetted in the “kill zone” of the doorway, illuminated by the light from the corridor.
“Very clever.” He’d have to remember this set-up for possible future use.
“I’m glad you approve.”
Wyatt jumped despite himself, spinning toward the sound of that deep, rich voice. A man stood in the corner of the room, nearly blending into the dark background. Wyatt had never seen Theus in person, not even during the Callex case, but Wyatt had no doubt that the tall man with the black suit and matching black hair was the premier. He had a dangerous air that exuded tightly leashed power.
Despite Theus’ intimidating presence and superior rank, however, Wyatt felt the need to stand his ground. He’d been called here for a reason, and showing fear or anxiety was not a smart move. “Theus?” he asked, injecting a note of doubt into his voice.
The man let out a low laugh, although Wyatt could hear no real humor in it.
“Yes,” he acknowledged, taking a step toward a switch on the wall, and bringing up the level of lighting in the room.
Unfortunately, the brighter light didn’t make Theus look any less dangerous.
“And you’re Leith Wyatt.” It was a statement, not a question.
Wyatt’s chin came up, and he dutifully saluted. “Yes, sir.”
“Welcome.” Theus motioned to a chair in front of a massive, ornately-carved desk nearby. “Won’t you sit?”
The dark wood and the hard oak chair placed in front of it perfectly matched the deep brown color of the starkly paneled walls and the massive furniture placed around the room. But when dealing with an imposing figure like Theus, Wyatt’s gut instinct was not to sit, it was to stay on guard. “I prefer to stand, sir.”
The man in black regarded him carefully. “Very well.” He took three easy steps toward his desk, but never turned his back on Wyatt.
The action told Wyatt much. How many assassination attempts had Theus survived already? Three?
At least three that Wyatt knew of.
Despite that inherent stress of the job, Theus wore his power confidently. He straightened to his full height. “You may be wondering why I called you here.”
Actually, Wyatt was wondering why Theus remained standing himself. No, cancel that. He knew exactly why. Theus had always intended to stand. If Wyatt had accepted Theus’ offer of a chair, it would have put the premier in a subtle position of power, towering over Wyatt while he sat.
Clever. The man obviously knew how to wield his power. As it was, the two of them were on an equal level at the moment, at least psychologically.
“I have a special assignment for you,” Theus continued.
“With all due respect, sir, the last time you gave my agency an assignment I lost not one but two partners.”
It was a bold thing to say. No one questioned Theus’ orders. No one. But Wyatt wanted Theus to know exactly what doing one’s duty as a Tau Cetus police agent often cost.
Theus waved a hand. “Past history, agent Wyatt. What concerns me is our future.”
Wyatt set his jaw but held his tongue. Danger was part of this job. He’d known the risks when he’d signed on to be a police agent.
“I called you here today because I’m appointing you as my personal representative. A liaison between the High Council and Anson Carron.”
Wyatt inhaled sharply, as if he’d been punched in the gut.
Anson Carron? No, no, no…
Theus crossed his arms over his chest, but Wyatt ignored the subtle warning gesture. Holding his tongue was not an option this time.
“Sir, Anson Carron may have saved his own neck during the Callex case by proposing to supply robot soldiers to the High Council for use in keeping the peace on Tau Cetus, but that man shot my partner.”
“Which is exactly why you are the perfect person to be the High Council’s liaison between us and Mr. Carron,” Theus continued calmly, beginning to pace the short distance behind the length of his desk. “You know how devious and dangerous Carron can be. I’m confident you will keep a close eye on him.”
Wyatt’s mind was reeling. He wanted to ask Theus why the hell he’d even agreed to work with such a despicable character like the owner of the former Beautiful Dolls sex robots, but he’d already come very close to insubordination with his comments, so he kept his mouth shut.
Theus threw Wyatt a pointed glance. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
Wyatt blinked. What the— Did the premier read minds?
“There are many elements in play here, agent Wyatt. Anson Carron cannot be trusted. We know that. And then there’s the traitor on the High Council to consider—”
“What?” The word was out before Wyatt could stop it.
There was a traitor on the Council? What the hell did that mean for the safety of the planet?
Theus ignored Wyatt’s interruption and continued with his narrative.
“Before Marque Callex was…relocated, he informed me that Anson Carron had access to information only those of us on the Council are privy to. Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine which man is the traitor, and Carron has not exactly been forthcoming with the information. Not even during my, er … questioning…of him.”
Wyatt found himself swallowing at the ominous tone of that one word. The way Theus had emphasized it – in three long, drawn-out syllables – convinced Wyatt that questioning equaled torture.
“Shame, that. And since my fellow Counselors have power of their own and vast followers from their respective regions, I have to tread carefully. But that is my problem, not yours. I merely wish you to realize that we have enemies on all sides. Within and without.”
Fucking hell. Wyatt would never want to walk in Theus’ shoes. Who would want a life like his, hiding in the shadows, always on high alert? How did the man sleep at night?
Was power worth giving up all chance at a normal life? Apparently, Theus believed so. He’d been premier for ten years.
“As for Anson Carron,” Theus continued, “His robot soldiers are a formidable weapon for us, but it gives a dangerous man too much power. So as a check on that power, I have decided to keep Callex Industries running. Alyn Rekos is in charge there now. I trust Rekos as much as I can trust any man, and having Callex Industries weapons at the Council’s disposal will keep Carron in line.” Theus paused to let his words sink in.
Wyatt tilted his head in comprehension. “It means you don’t… need…Carron,” he said. “That the Council is not entirely dependent on him. He’s smart enough to realize this is a tacit threat.”
For the first time, Wyatt wished he had taken Theus up on his offer to sit. The weight of the information Theus was imparting sat heavily on Wyatt’s shoulders. Theus was playing a dangerous game of chess with the fate of Tau Cetus. Moves and counter-moves. And it seemed the premier wasn’t done yet.
“The High Council has decided to send five thousand of Carron’s robot soldiers to Terra Acer, at the request of the regulator there. As you may know, that part of our planet is not under the Council’s control, and it’s particularly volatile since regulator Egidia of Terra Radix killed regulator Hericus and took over the area of Terra Domus. Egidia is now threatening his neighbor to the north, Terra Acer. The High Council cannot allow one man to have control of such a large portion of our planet. Hopefully, five thousand robot soldiers along the border between the two regions will insure the peace there. You will go with Carron on the deployment.”
Good God. Theus was sharing some incredibly sensitive information with him. The traitor on the Council… the pre-emptive move to avoid a potentially bigger confrontation with this aggressive regulator Egidia…
“Permission to speak freely, sir.”
Theus narrowed his eyes, but nodded. “Of course.”
“This is a test.”
“Yes. For Anson Carron and for you.”
Wyatt was not surprised at the answer. “And assuming I pass?”
One corner of Theus’ mouth twitched. “I’m glad you’re confident you will be successful in this. Assuming you pass, you will continue as the High Council’s liaison. Tau Cetus needs good men. We need peace. We cannot risk another Great War.” He paused. “Will you accept the assignment?”
Wyatt blinked. “I have a choice?”
“Of course. But I hope you’ll agree. You’re an… interesting man, agent Wyatt. Few people have the courage to stand up to me or question my actions. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve shown me your character in just the few short minutes we’ve been together.”
Wyatt shifted on his feet. “I don’t know about that….”
Theus unfolded his arms. “The fate of our world is literally in our hands. I need people who realize that. I need people who can help me keep Tau Cetus safe.”
The hairs on the back of Wyatt’s neck stood at attention. The fate of the world was in his hands?
Great. No pressure there, right?
Then again, this was why he’d become a police agent in the first place. To ensure the peace, and the continued existence of his people. Having seen and survived the devastation of the Great War himself, it was now his job to protect. He just hadn’t expected his part in saving the planet to be on such a grand scale.
“I’m sorry about the death of your former partner, Joran Breaux,” Theus said quietly. “But you may be relieved to know that Jai Turner is safe and happy, living with Marque Callex,”
Wyatt’s eyebrow rose. Coupled with Theus’ plea to help him keep Tau Cetus safe, the mention of Wyatt’s former partner Jai forced Wyatt to reassess his opinion of the premier. Perhaps the man was not as cold and imperious as the world believed. Wyatt had no idea where Jai and Callex were, but Theus obviously knew. And, to Wyatt’s surprise, it even sounded like he cared.
That aside, did he trust Theus’ risky strategy to safeguard the planet? Did Wyatt have a choice in the matter? What was the alternative?
Dangerous men with access to dangerous weapons needed to be kept under control. Which meant Anson Carron, as well as this regulator Egidia of Terra Radix. That was the bottom line here.
In the end, Wyatt didn’t really have a choice at all.
Wyatt gave Theus a formal salute, signaling his agreement.