BY: MARIE DRY

On a future earth, Aurora has been desperately searching for her long-lost sister, when she is sacrificed to Balthazar, leader of the fearsome Cyborgs who invaded earth. Now she is stuck on an alien spaceship with a crazy Cyborg who thinks she can give him a soul and who has a weird fixation with the way she moves. Aurora is desperate to return to earth to search for her sister while the President of United Earth insists that only she can save Earth from enslavement by the cyborgs. After spending time with the cyborgs, Aurora realizes that the machine she thought would be easy to betray, the machine she has to betray, if she ever wants to rescue her sister from enslavement, has turned into a man she could come to love.

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Dawn of the Cyborg by Marie Dry, Aurora Skuy has become Earth’s last hope. The year is 2116, and alien cyborgs have invaded Earth. Now, the leader of the aliens, Balthazar, has demanded that the United Earth President hand over Aurora or suffer the consequences. But Aurora has a mission of her own that does not include being held captive on a spaceship orbiting Earth. She has spent years looking for her sister who was sold into slavery. Just when she gets a promising lead as to her sister’s whereabouts, Balthazar interrupts her life and her plans by demanding her presence on his spaceship. Now Aurora has two choices—seduce and betray Balthazar, a man she is falling hard for, or lose her sister, and her planet, forever.

Like all of Dry’s novels, this one is hot, sexy, suspense filled, and fast paced. The characters are both believable and endearing and the plot filled with surprises. You won’t be able to put it down.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Dawn of the Cyborg by Marie Dry is the story of Aurora Skuy, the grand master of a foundation to help children in 2116. Motivated by her desire to find her sister—who was sold in to slavery along with Aurora when they were children and who failed to escape when Aurora did—Aurora has worked hard to become a powerful influence in society and to be in a position to find and rescue her sister. But when Balthazar, the leader of an alien force of cyborgs, sees her in a social media clip and demands that she be turned over to him, Aurora is devastated. She doesn’t have time for this. She needs to find her sister, and she believes she is getting close. Then on top of that, the President of United Earth is not only willing to sacrifice her to the aliens, but he wants her to seduce Balthazar and then inject him with technology that will make him her mindless servant, after she gets all the information she can from him, of course. Aurora is in a no-win situation, especially when she realizes that she is falling for Balthazar, forced to choose between destroying him or watching him destroy everyone on Earth, including her sister.

Dawn of the Cyborg, like Dry’s other books, has wonderful characters, lots of twists and turns, plenty of hot sex scenes, and enough tension and suspense to have you biting your nails all the way through. A really great read.

CHAPTER 1

Washington, DC, Summer, 2116:

The President of United Earth had an “I’ve got bad news but let’s smile and pretend it won’t destroy your whole life” look on his face. “Ms. Skuy, come in. We don’t have much time before I have to sacrifice you to the aliens.”

Aurora stumbled through the door of the Oval Office. She’d like to believe his words had been a joke, but she knew better. Tension hung thick in the air. “Excuse me?”

The president’s tired face softened. “My apologies. That was in bad taste.”

He clasped her arm and steadied her, giving her elaborate, medieval style dress a quick once over, lingering on the elegant signature glass hairpins keeping her long upswept hair in place. In the outer corners of his eyes, crinkles appeared, as if he wanted to smile. As if pleased. The dresses were her armor and the hairpins potential weapons. But why was the president this pleased about her wearing them?

“You wore your hairpins,” he said.

“As fascinating as I find the fact that the President of United Earth apparently plans to sacrifice me to the aliens with my hairpins in place, I’d like to know why your soldiers invaded my office and brought me here at gunpoint.” That was an exaggeration, but not by much.”

He led her to a royal-blue-velvet-covered visitor’s chair. “I need your help. The survival of the human race is at stake.”

The president had been the most powerful man on Earth, until the alien spaceships arrived a year ago. Now the commander of the menacing alien fleet orbiting Earth filled that position, even if he wasn’t quite on Earth. And probably not even a man.

“When your soldiers came to my office and insisted I accompany them here, I assumed there was a crisis at one of my foundation’s soup kitchens. Human sacrifice did not occur to me.” She really hoped he’d been joking, but the ruthless purpose in his eyes and the ominous feel in the air told a different story.

He fixed her with those fierce, battle-worn eyes. “It’s ironic, isn’t it? We finally get it right. No more pollution, population numbers are manageable, and healthcare has never been this good.” He rubbed his brow, a weary irritated gesture. “Goddamn aliens.”

She nodded. “It does seem ironic. Instead of 2115 going down in history as the year we conquered famine, it’s known as the year the aliens came.”

He had to know of the harsh realities the media glossed over. The previous president had all but destroyed the freedom of the press. Men and women had been forced into sterilization clinics during the last two presidencies. Her sister was living proof that slavery was still thriving. Ever since his election, she’d wondered what this man was capable of. “What do the aliens have to do with me? Why did you mention sacrifice?”

The angry buzz of the protestors outside filtered through the walls. They’d congregated outside United Earth buildings all around the world, waving placards demanding the aliens leave, with unimaginative slogans like, Earth is for Humans and Aliens Go Back Where You Came From.

Instead of answering her question, he held out a hairpin. “I need to give you this. As I said, we don’t have much time.”

She studied the glass pin—similar in design to the ones she had in her hair—designed to look like old fashioned hat pins, adding an air of whimsy to her elaborate hairdo. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“It’s safe to use in your hair, but if you twist the top like this, it turns into an injection. It contains picos.” He demonstrated and, after sealing it again, handed it to Aurora. Picos was micro technology, still experimental in their application. “Never let it out of your sight.” His smile was little more than an awkward upward turn at the corners of his mouth. “Or, in this case, hair.”

“What am I supposed to do with it?”

He gave her that tight lipped soldier’s smile. “You have to find an opportunity to inject it into their leader. The picos are programmed to turn him pliable to the first person he sees after he is injected.”

“Why would you think I’d ever meet the—” She closed her eyes. “The sacrifice,” she murmured.

“The sacrifice,” he agreed.

The president clutched the nape of his neck. In that moment, he didn’t look like the President of United Earth. Instead, he looked weary and at the end of his rope. “This morning, I received a—” He hesitated and then shrugged. “—a call from the leader of the aliens.”

Aurora straightened. “You saw one of them?” She forgot to be regal and graceful, to keep her mask in place. No one knew what the aliens wanted, what they looked like. Several experts had speculated that they could be artificial intelligence, so-called tin men. The name had caught on, and now everyone called the elusive aliens tinners.

“No, the call was voice only. He spoke in English. Accented, but good English.”

The aliens had announced their arrival by bombing the International Space Station and the satellites orbiting Earth. Next, they’d bombed Washington, DC, from space. Aurora would never forget the day that happened. She’d been in her office, watching the destruction on television, the horror of it hard to accept even now. Ever since, humanity had braced for more bombings that never happened. And then the aliens called the president?

“You think the picos could give us an advantage?” She was all for any advantage they could get, but she didn’t want to be the one wielding the secret weapon.

“Yes. Those picos are the reason I had you brought here. We’ve been working on a plan, in the event that we encountered them.

“What did he want, Mr. President?”

He walked over to the window and then turned to face her with a jerky, almost uncoordinated, move. “He offered a ceasefire in exchange for certain…promises.”

“What promises?” Whatever they promised wasn’t worth more than her sister’s life.

“He made it clear that if we don’t give them what they want, they’d bomb us again. And this time, they won’t stop after destroying a few empty buildings. His smile was bitter. “He used very precise words. ‘Deliver or face another barrage of bombs.’”

Now they were getting to it, the reason he had her collected and brought here. “Deliver what?” she asked, but she knew. Oh yes, she knew. This wasn’t her first stint into being the sacrificial lamb. This time, she’d fight. She had too much to lose.

“He wants you,” he said.

The world tilted around her. Even expecting his answer, her body still readied for fight or flight. “Why? Why me?” Sure the foundation was influential, but why would the aliens be interested in someone doing charity work? “How do they even know me out of the billions of people on Earth?”

“I can only guess.”

“You’re going to hand me over?” She had worth, she should be protected. She was a tax payer, after all.

He spoke between clenched teeth, his jaw bulging like that of a bull dog. “If they’d landed their spaceships, if we could fight them, I’d dare them to come for you and give them a war that would make their great grandchildren say my name with loathing.” He paced—long angry strides, up and down in front of her. “My hands are tied. They shoot down our missiles and planes before they even leave the atmosphere. I can’t get to them to fight them.” He sat behind the desk, shoulders tensed, his hands fisted against his forehead. “Even if I could, those idiots in the cabinet would oppose me.”

Her mind kept screaming at her to get away from there. To run to safety. Her legs wouldn’t run. “I’m—” She swallowed, tried again. “I’m your only hope to get to them?”

Her hands started a fine tremble that spread to the rest of her body. She hid them in the folds of her dress. She wanted to sound as if she’d be glad to sacrifice herself for the human race, but she didn’t pull it off. Acid crept up her throat. Why did this keep happening to her?

He stopped pacing and turned to look her straight in the eye. “I hate to ask this of you.” Those soldier’s eyes pierced hers. “I don’t even want to speculate on what they want, but this is an opportunity we cannot ignore. We’d have someone on the inside.”

“But you’re not asking, are you, Mr. President?”

Just as the man who handed her over before had not asked. Aurora heard her own voice through a peculiar swishing noise in her ears, the bitterness penetrating like a whistle through fog. She didn’t want to be Earth’s only hope. If she was the only one who could save them from the tinners, Earth was in big trouble. Her sister could attest to that. Aurora wanted to run and keep running. But this horrendous feeling of inevitability chained her to her chair.

He became military straight, lifted his chin. “I cannot afford to give you a choice.”

Aurora started to lift her hand to push it through her hair, remembered she carried a deadly weapon there, and lowered it. “Let’s face it, you’d be a much better hostage. I’m only grand master of an organization that builds schools and helps street children.”

She wasn’t done, either. So many children out there still needed help while she searched for Ter. She didn’t have time for the president to sacrifice her.

He punched his fist into his palm, and she jumped in the chair. “Dammit, I don’t want to do this. For whatever reason, they fixated on you. And this is a chance for us to get someone on the inside.”

“What exactly do you expect me to do once I’m up there? They’ll probably throw me into a cell and dissect me.” She’d be helpless, unable to defend herself. It was ironic really. She’d spent her whole life trying to ensure that she’d never be vulnerable and helpless again. But all her martial arts and weapons training wouldn’t help her on a spaceship surrounded by aliens. “And, anyway, pico technology has never developed the way its creators hoped.” In every test, the scientists had lost control over the substance injected into lab animals.

“We have to try it,” he said.

She couldn’t suppress a visible shudder. “He could go crazy on me. Or worse, I could be gang raped.”

He tensed. “Rape is a very real concern.” His smile was humorless. “At least, I don’t think they plan to dissect you. He asked me what you eat, the precise portions necessary to ensure your health. And I mean precise. The temperature that would be ‘optimal’ for your ‘survival.’ His words.”

“He?”

“Yes, I had the impression that the alien who called me wanted you for himself. That it was personal.”

“So how is this supposed to work?” She had visions of chains clanging around her wrists and ankles while the president handed her over. Social media being what it was, it would go viral as well.

The president paced. “It doesn’t sit well with me, sending a civilian into the enemy’s hands—a female civilian.” She could see him vibrate with the need to go to war. She opened her mouth to repeat her question. He held up a hand. “To answer your question, he said he’d come get you here.”

Her stomach turned, and she couldn’t stop her hands from crushing the heavy silk material of her dress. It took all her self-control not to run for the door before the tinner came to take her to her doom.

He stopped in front of her. “I hate to say it—”

“I’m ’Earth’s only hope,” she finished for him, the clichéd words tasting ominous on her lips. “I want something in return.”

“I know of your search for your sister. I will use every resource at my disposal to find her.”

“Know this, Mr. President, as long as I am assured you are saving my sister, I am Earth’s only hope. Cross me on this, and I’ll be Earth’s biggest nightmare.” She fixed him with the gaze she used when she forced the board of the foundation to approve funds for her pet projects.

Ever since she walked into this office, she’d seen regret, caution, and other emotions in the president’s eyes. Now he lifted a hand and patted her shoulder in an awkward, almost boyish, gesture.

He walked up and down in front of her, and she resisted the urge to push him into a chair where he couldn’t make her dizzy with his pacing. “We don’t have much time left. You have to pretend to return his interest if it’s sexual. Make it subtle, so he doesn’t realize you’re playing him. Do whatever you have to do to gain his trust.”

“And if he’s a machine, how do I gain the trust of something that has the same emotional capacity than my laptop?”

The president lifted his stubborn chin at her. “If he’s any type of AI, you appeal to his logic.”

“When do I inject him with the picos?”

“First I need you to get me some information. Where do they come from? How many of them are there? Are there more on their way? What kind and how many weapons do they have?”

Did he really think they’d let her walk around the spaceship asking questions? She clutched her arms around her middle. Oh God, she was going to be taken to the aliens on their spaceship. Dread paralyzed her and stole her senses. She tried to speak, to swallow, but her mouth was too dry. “Do you think they’d let me close enough to one of them to inject?”

“He will if you seduce him.”

“And, of course, I would be the person for the job.” She didn’t care that her voice dripped bitterness. “How do I report my findings to you? I doubt he’d just let me come home to talk to you every now and then.” It was more likely that she’d be dead the moment she passed on any information she managed to get her hands on. She suppressed a shudder.

“I told him I would only hand you over if I can talk to you every week.”

“And he agreed to that?”

“Yes.”

Aurora could see the same suspicion at the tinner’s agreement on the president’s face.

“During a visit last month to the hearing-impaired school in upstate New York, you used sign language.”

“You want to communicate with sign language during those once a week calls?” It sounded like a plan that could get her killed or tortured. “The aliens are clever enough to build spaceships and travel to Earth from who knows how many miles away. Sign language won’t fool them.” She shook her head. “They won’t fall for it.”

“We do not have a choice. My first lesson starts tomorrow. Be very careful, just chat normally a few times before you start reporting. Let them relax their vigilance, start to trust you.” The president smiled, a grim satisfied smile, his campaign smile. “We may yet prevail.”

If he thought that smile reassured her, he was very much mistaken. She’d dealt with politicians in her duties as grand master of the Phoenix Foundation. No, he didn’t fool her at all. At this stage, he’d sacrifice his own mother if it meant finding a weapon against the tinners.

“How soon do I need to go?”

“He’s coming for you in the next few minutes.”

Aurora stood and started for the door, her legs trying to take her to safety. Again, that roaring in her ears deafened her. She clenched her trembling hands into tight fists and forced back the urge to flee. She turned around on trembling legs and faced the pity in the president’s eyes. Coming from the man willing to sacrifice her, she didn’t appreciate it. At all. “I have to let my assistant know.”

“Already done.”

She couldn’t do this.

Aurora took several deep breaths and returned to her chair, trying not to look as if her shaking knees would give way under her at any moment.

She had to do this.

© 2018 by Marie Dry