Lelia thought living and working alone on an asteroid was an ideal job. Far from the maddening crowds, she values her peace and quiet, but soon she finds she longs for company of an amorous kind. Following a tip from a fellow asteroid miner, she acquires a holographic lover based on the man of her dreams, her friendly postman who visits briefly every two weeks. When postman Del makes an unexpected visit and catches Lelia fooling around with his doppelganger, the fun really begins. Can Lelia handle two Dels at one time?
“Damn it! He’s late. What the hell’s the matter with him?”
Crossing her arms, Lelia Clayden anxiously paced the corridor in front of the hanger dome airlock. She hated herself for whining over something as inconsequential as the postman arriving two hours late, but when your only biweekly flesh and blood visitor is the postman, his tardiness becomes a great cause for concern.
It wasn’t like she was about to run out of atmosphere or food supplies if Del Tourner didn’t show this week. Oh, no. The Outer Worlds Mining Corp stockpiled its asteroid outposts with more than enough nutrients and sufficient oxygen generators to allow a staff of one hundred to breathe fresh air for one hundred years or more. Ten months into her stint Lelia realized food and air alone weren’t enough for a bored, solitary asteroid miner. Erotic vids and rechargeable vibrators couldn’t meet the psychological and physical needs. Humans needed frequent face-to-face conversation and simple skin-to-skin human contact.
She needed to connect with a lover and get laid properly now and then.
She gritted her teeth and growled. “Damn it, Del. If that worthless Hak Shaunesi held you up on your route, I’m going to tell Hak I’ve terminated our cybersex relationship now and forever, and I really do mean it this time.”
With that she sighed, kicked the wall beside the airlock for good measure, and stomped back into the control center. What would it look like if Del caught her cursing, frowning, and pacing in front of the airlock door when he did arrive? She’d look pretty stupid and childish. Lelia had too much pride to ever leave that impression on any of her fellow Outer World employees.
She settled down at her desk and busied herself with the chemical analysis of this morning’s robot-mined load of ore. One thing she enjoyed about working by herself was she never had to deal with idiots who screwed up reports or were slow at finishing their part of a project. The pay was pretty damn good, too. After her three years were up, she’d have more than enough credits squirreled away in the bank to buy that deep space cruiser she’d had her eyes on for years. Then maybe she would become the postman doing the rounds of the asteroid belt, dropping off supplies, and providing a quick fifteen minute human contact with all those lonely, desperately hungry-for-humanity souls.
Fifteen whole minutes. It really sucked Lelia decided. If she thought her job was trying at times, poor Del was only allowed a quarter hour at each outpost to offload supplies, retrieve ore, deliver mail, and be on his way to the next rock to repeat the process all over again, week after week after week. The only time the poor man got to sleep and eat was while he traveled between stops. Too bad he didn’t have a partner to ease the tedium of his constant journeying. Too bad he didn’t have her.
“Fraternizing with fellow employees is allowed if it does not disrupt operations.” Lelia mumbled the company code to herself then pushed a button to speed the ore to its next step in the processing cycle. “Those idiot Outer World execs are full of shit, and they know it. We can talk about sex over the com screens all we want, but we sure as hell can’t act out on any of our mutual fantasies since we’re stranded millions of parsecs from each other. Great set-up for romance that is.”
The proximity sensor sounded. She jumped to her feet.
“Incoming spacecraft,” Bilgee, the computer, announced in his usual bland manner. “Spacecraft identified as Outer World Mining Corp Vessel Alpha-Six-Niner. Pilot requests immediate docking privileges.”
“Let him in, Bilgee. Let him in.” Lelia threw up her hands in disgust at the delay. “Pressurize the hanger as soon as he’s touched ground. Turn on the ore pumps and swing them to his port side. Advise onboard inventory comps that there’ll be an extra metric ton of processed ore for transport this week and turn on the microwave for thirty secs on high.”
“Very good, sir,” Bilgee replied.
When the airlock pressure light turned green, Lelia pasted on a smile and sauntered toward the ship, acting cool, calm, and unruffled as usual. No way did she want Del spreading gossip among the other asteroid miners that she couldn’t handle the stress of a solo operation. No way did she want to ruin her future chances of promotion within the corporation.
No way did she want him thinking she was a love-starved female miner eager to jump his bones.
“Lelia, how good it is to see you again.”
She shook Del’s offered hand. His long, dark fingers felt like velvet in her grasp. His captivating grin sparkled a vivid white, a marked contrast against his milk-chocolate complexion. His tall, lithe frame seemed to hover over her like an angel looking down from above. The man was heavenly, simply heavenly to look at. She wondered if under his bulky utilitarian gray jumpsuit his body matched his stunning facial features.
Lelia swallowed hard and shook the cobwebs from her mind, refocusing her thoughts on the business at hand.
“I thought something had happened to you there for a moment, Del. Any problems?”
He shrugged and ran a palm across his shiny, bald pate. “I ran into one slight problem.” His full, deep baritone with its melodious, lilting accent made Lelia practically wet with anticipation. “The ore pump clogged over at Zed Lido’s place. It took nearly forty-five minutes to get it running again. I’m going to have hell to pay if I can’t make up the lost time before I’ve finished the circuit next week.”
“That’s too bad. I’ve double checked my pumps, and they’re in fine working order so you’ll be on your way before too long.” She nodded toward the galley area. “Want a cup of coffee and some fresh cinnamon rolls before you head out again?”