“Welcome to Venus Ascendant, a Public Grade space station in the Andromedan Sector. With our open-to-all policy, any being in the universe can find their perfect R & R, romantic getaway or dangerous liaison at our purpose built resort. The on-board empathic AI Ganesa ensures that anyone coming to Venus Ascendant will find their heart’s desire, with suites that transform from luxurious boudoirs to sunset-lit beaches to dark BDSM dungeons. So come to Venus Ascendant and find exactly what you’re looking for!”
It was meant to be a romantic getaway for Marie and the love of her life Jaisen; a chance for him to get to know her better after months of her denying him more than a few stolen kisses. Instead, Marie finds herself dumped and alone on Venus Ascendant with no credit for a transmat and the next starship home not due for another hour.
But the all-seeing AI isn’t going to leave anyone aboard the space station with their dreams unfulfilled. Marie’s boyfriend might not have made it to the station, but there are others willing and able to take on the role – even if they aren’t entirely human.
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Marie jerked her gaze up to meet that of the man before her, then reassessed her first thought. This was no normal man. Although the impossibly deep, almost indigo blue of his eyes held her, she noted the silvery sheen of his skintight one-piece with the logo VASA at the shoulder that marked him as one of Venus Ascendant’s subsidiary avatars. Her distress at Jaisen’s message had no doubt sparked the AI into an immediate response—that kind of emotional hit on its empathic sensors wouldn’t have been missed, although it was probably equivalent to no more than a poke in the eye. For Marie, it was like someone carving out her heart with a blunt instrument.
“No intention of mine,” she snapped.
Not now. Not ever!
“Perhaps I can be of service?”
Marie stared at him…at it. She’d heard about the VA avatars but never been so close to one. She’d learned from the space station’s blurb that the main AI took the form of a young Indian woman called Ganesa, spoken of with as much reverence as the bronze-cast deity behind her. This particular avatar had been crafted into a ruggedly handsome, if stereotypically human, male. Thick blond hair left a shade too long framed his face perfectly; darker brows arched over eyes the most glorious shade of deep blue she’d ever seen. He was broad shouldered and athletic, and the thin, snug-fitting one-piece in gray outlined the well-defined musculature of his torso in a way no doubt intended to draw attention and tease the imagination of potential clients. A shapely hint of what lay beneath without full disclosure, like the metallic foil used to cover chocolate treats. Also a complete contrast to the man she’d hoped to see, and all too perfect to be real.
“I don’t need your service, thank you very much.” She jumped up and tried to shove past him, but the dense composition of an avatar meant she only jarred her arm and had to sidle past in an embarrassingly servile fashion. He made no attempt to stop her, and she headed blindly down the nearest access corridor.
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