Touching Ice | Chapter 3 of 16

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Chapter One

The female voice had a high-pitched Southern accent that grated on Megan’s last

nerve. Whoever the programmer had been who had last worked on the station had

obviously been a man with a sick, twisted sense of humor since he’d given the

computer the most annoying voice he could download. He’d also had a thing for

teaching Clara—the computer that ran Folion— how to be a smartass. Because of the

state-of-the-art, artificial-intelligence chips that made up the computer’s “brain”, it was

capable of learning.

“You have committed violations since the ship arrived at dock six, sugar.”

“I keep telling you to stop calling me that. My name is Megan.”

“Don’t get your panties in a bind.”

“I could take you offline for maintenance, you know.”

The computer went silent for a few seconds. “That would be another violation. I’m

keeping track.”

“Bite me, Clara.”

“I don’t have teeth, sugar, or I might be tempted. Is it that time of the month?”

Oh yeah, Megan thought. If I ever meet the guy who had this job before me, I’m going to

kill him for screwing up a perfectly good computer. She took a deep breath as she counted to

ten. It didn’t help cool her temper by much but at least she wasn’t ready to try to escape

the employee quarters and travel three decks to yank out Clara’s motherboards.

Her attention returned to one of the screens where the sexiest man she’d ever seen

slowly dressed. It should be a crime to cover up that perfect, dusky-gray body, she decided.

He was unlike anything she’d ever seen and her one bright spot in a dismal job working

as the programmer on Folion. She’d been desperate enough to transfer to a floating

whorehouse in space four months ago since she’d needed the higher salary to pay off

debts. No one had told her she couldn’t leave the employee quarters, couldn’t interact

with other living beings, or that she’d have to put up with Clara’s annoying artificial

personality.

“It is against regulations to turn the cameras on in the client rooms. Master never

did.”

Megan rolled her sky-blue eyes. “Stop calling the last programmer that. He

shouldn’t have ordered you to do that. Why aren’t you bitching about him breaking the

rules? Did you screech about violations he committed?”

“He is incredibly handsome and sexy.”

Megan snorted immediately. “He’s probably some pathetic troll who couldn’t get

laid if he had a ton of credits.”

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Laurann Dohner

“He had sex with the bots.”

“There’s a huge violation. How the hell did he do that?”

“He changed my programming. I am forbidden to keep records or report the

employees for making personal use of the bots.”

“Well, there’s one violation I’ll never commit. They are all female and I don’t do

women robots.”

“They are artificial-intelligence, sexual-aid androbots. That is the official title the

company has assigned them but you may call them bots for short. Master always did.”

“I feel a headache coming on,” Megan muttered, watching the sexy man put on his

boots.

His hair was wet from the fresh-water shower he’d taken—one of the many

luxuries aboard the expensive Folion—making it appear darker. When dry, it became a

beautiful white-ash color. Most people would have just called it white but the streaks of

light gray were something that Megan didn’t miss. The sex bot moved across the room

to smile at him. Her lips moved as she spoke to the client but he shook his head.

“The client has refused more service,” Clara stated. “The man you illegally watch

having intercourse with the bots is preparing to leave.” She paused. “You will have to

wait until he returns to violate company rules and infringe on his privacy again. You

are making a habit of it each time this client pays for service.”

“Shut up.”

“Do you know the client?”

“I wish.”

“Clarify.”

The man on the screen closed his shirt as he headed for the door. Depression hit

Megan hard. Three months ago, she’d accidentally spotted the guy on a security feed

when he’d forgotten to remove a gun he wore. It had sounded an alarm and brought

him to her attention when Clara had ordered him to return the weapon to his shuttle.

Those few minutes of staring at that beautiful, burnished-gray face had done things to

Megan that she didn’t want to admit. His image had burned into her mind.

He was a cyborg, something that shouldn’t exist anymore. Everyone on Earth had

been assured they’d been killed off but obviously that had been a lie. Is he alone? Is that

why he visits a whorehouse staffed with androbots who are programmed to never keep records or

report who visits them? A real woman probably poses a threat to his secret existence.

“Clarify,” the computer screeched.

“Shut up. I just meant that I’m lonely and the guy is hot.”

“You are horny and desire to have sex with a client. That is a violation I am not

programmed to overlook. I would have to immediately contact the company if you left

these quarters. Not even Master violated that rule. Unless it is an emergency, the

bulkheads are to remain sealed between this section and the rest of Folion where the

clients have access.”

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Touching Ice

“Who made that stupid rule?”

“Four years ago there was a hijack attempt and the programmer was extinguished

when he refused to order me to pilot us into deep space away from help. Androbots

would sell extremely high on the black market so we are always at risk of attempted

theft. Company policy implemented the separation to protect you from harm and

doesn’t allow the clients to know there is a human aboard to monitor all the bots and to

adjust our programming if we malfunction. All clients are told that Folion is one-

hundred-percent automated to protect you.”

“I’m not leaving this section. I said I wish. That means it’s something I’d like but I’m

never going to get. Besides that, he looks way too big. That bot is five foot ten and he’s

taller by a good four inches. I like my men on the smaller side—not too tall, and

definitely not big enough to pancake me if he rolls on top.”

“That is physically impossible. The male would have to weigh―”

“Shut up! It’s a saying, damn it. Can’t you be quiet for ten minutes?”

“I am registering an incoming, large vessel.”

“Ah. Great. It’s going to be a busy day then.”

“Welcome to Folion,” a sweet, female computer voice stated. “Please slow your

speed and dock with port nine.”

“Why can’t you use that voice with me, Clara? Huh?” It totally angered Megan that

Clara always used a nice speaking voice with clients. She got to monitor all verbal

communications and it pissed off Megan every time.

“Hello, Folion,” the man slurred his words. “What dock did you say?”

“Reduce your speed immediately,” Clara ordered the incoming ship. “You are

coming in too fast.”

The voice on coms laughed. “We already started the party and now we just need

some of your hot bots.”

“He’s intoxicated,” Clara’s annoying voice informed Megan. She changed the pitch

of her speech. “Reduce your speed immediately. Warning. Collision imminent. Reduce

speed.”

Fear spread through Megan. She adjusted her chair, her focus locking on the screen

that monitored incoming space traffic. She saw the freighter heading right at them, not

reducing speed at all. The big C-class, long-distance hauler appeared as big as the

Folion.

“Move us out of their way,” Megan yelled. “Now, Clara.”

The engines flared to life, the sound a dull hum with mild vibrations under

Megan’s bare feet on the floor.

“Collision imminent,” Clara said calmly. “Brace.” An alarm siren blared to life and

the automated warning went ship-wide. “Brace for impact. I repeat, brace for impact.”

A scream tore from Megan as the other ship hit them broadside. The engines had

moved them but not fast enough to completely avoid the hit. The impact sent her flying

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Laurann Dohner

from her chair to land hard on her stomach on the floor. The entire deck shook and the

station groaned.

Stunned, Megan lay there for long seconds. The alarm blared out sharp, loud

whistles. Worse, she started to float away from the floor. Her fingers frantically clawed

the smooth surface but she had nothing to grab on to as her body rose higher.

“Clara! Restore gravity!”

The computer had gone silent. The lights flickered on, off, on, off, but then stayed

on. The alarm stopped as suddenly as it had started, followed by an eerie silence.

Everything seemed to freeze in time for Megan and then she heard a dull roar. She

turned her head to stare at the screens but they were white static. Her leg bumped

something and she twisted in the air, grabbing for the desk she’d touched. Her fingers

curled on the edge, gripped it in desperation, and she managed to keep hold with two

of her fingers and thumb.

“Clara? Respond, damn it. Report to me. How bad is the damage?”

“I am still evaluating.”

Hearing Clara’s grating voice relieved Megan. “Restore gravity.”

“I am damaged.” The computer paused. “I can’t restore it. I’m reading hull breaches

on four levels. Five. Seven.”

Horror washed through Megan. The ship consisted of seven levels so the damage

had to be extensive. “Send out an emergency distress signal.”

“Already done,” Clara’s voice changed, deepening. “There is a fire in my

mainframe, Megan.”

“Download your program to control now.”

“I’m unable to transfer my data stream. The relays are damaged. Evacuate.” The

alarm started to peal loudly again. Clara’s voice sounded the way a man with a

damaged throat would—deep and gruff—as she opened ship-wide communication.

“Evacuate. I repeat. Evacuate. Folion is unstable. Evacuate immediately.”

“Clara, suppress the fire and download your core programming into the control

room servers. That’s an order.”

The voice that came from the speakers had become high pitched, as if she’d sucked

in helium. “I have control of the hull doors to open them. The employee escape pod

isn’t registering and is in part of the heavily damaged section. I have concluded it was

destroyed. You must reach the client emergency pod on deck three. Leave now, Megan.

I am unable to suppress all fires and we are leaking oxygen. There are explosions on

deck seven.” The doors that separated the employee area from the client areas of the

ship slid open. “I have regained some system control but more damage is presently

occurring.”

Megan dropped as gravity returned with a vengeance, yanking her down fast and

hard. Pain shot through her body from her neck to her lower back then to her throbbing

knees as she hit the deck with a grunt.

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Touching Ice

“Download to control now, Clara.”

“Unable to comply.” The voice rasped. “System failure. Evacuate. Life support is

offline. There is a thirty-five-percent oxygen loss from my readings.” She paused. “I

have missing parts of the grid without readings so my findings are inaccurate. It is

logical to assume that number is forty-two percent with unresponsive sensors.

Evacuate. Folion is unstable. There is a probability of complete destruction of all living

beings aboard. Evacuate.”

“Shit!” Megan pushed up from the deck and frantically looked around the control

room. Her private room was located behind a closed hull door and the opposite

direction of where she needed to go. Everything she owned was in that room but it

wasn’t worth her life to attempt to retrieve it.

“Evacuate. Twenty-one percent of active sensors are reading fire and smoke

damage in this area. You have a clear path to client escape pod but you must hurry. A

client is attempting to activate pod but I have overridden until you arrive. My systems

are failing. If I lose that grid I will no longer have override option.”

Megan ran. She had to jump over a fallen chair but then she entered the corridor.

Smoke filled the air, an acrid smell that had her fighting a sneeze. She avoided the lifts,

uncertain if they were working or not. Grateful to have gravity restored, she made it to

a down hatch. Bending as she panted from her mad dash, she yanked it open.

As part of her job, she’d learned every inch of Folion, so she knew where to go. As

the hatch opened, clean, smoke-free oxygen met her. She quickly climbed down the

metal ladder and found herself on deck three. The pod was just two long corridors

down. A bot walk at the opposite side.

Megan bolted for it and at the bend of the corridor she nearly plowed into a bot. It

turned to face her, a cold smile on its features.

“May I serve you?”

“Move,” Megan panted at it.

She barely dodged the bot and ran around it, hitting the turn literally as her body

bounced off a wall. She saw the emergency pod sign ahead, blinking red, fast flashes.

The alarms were still blasting through the ship and Clara’s automatic evacuation

statement filled her ears as she ran.

An explosion tore through the end of the corridor with a flash of fire and a loud

boom. Megan screamed, twisting around in mid run, and threw herself to the floor. A

roar whooshed behind her as she lay there and threw her arms up as hot heat blasted

above her. She turned her head, peeking up between her curved arms toward the

ceiling. Flames licked along the ten-foot-high ceiling but then died. She turned her

head, staring in shock down the hallway where the pod had been. Twisted metal and

charred scars marred the wall, the light no longer blinking.

“Client has overridden pod.” Clara’s voice had become louder than the alarm, her

annoying accent back. “He set a charge in the wall control pad and severed my

connection to the docking clamps. Pod safely jettisoned.”

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Laurann Dohner

“Oh God,” Megan lay there, horrified. There were only two emergency pods so that

had been her last chance at escape.

“Megan, proceed to section four of level three. I have locked the clamps of the ship

still docked in that section. I am attempting to stall their ship from leaving. Hurry and

attempt to board it. They are allowing bots passage. I negotiated with the captain to

save as many units that could reach his ship before I lost the ability to communicate

with them.”

Panic gripped Megan as she pushed up from the floor and ran. She turned down

another corridor, running as fast as she could. Two more turns and she saw three bots

walking calmly through an open docking door thirty feet ahead. A gray-skinned cyborg

stood there, looking grim. He had black hair and wore an all-black uniform similar to

the one the cyborg she had spent months watching always sported. It had to be his ship

and there was more than one cyborg after all. She hoped her cyborg had safely made it

back inside his ship.

“Wait,” she called out, pushing her tired body to press forward. Her side burned

from running and she panted hard.

The cyborg faced her as she ran toward him. He frowned but he didn’t follow the

bots into the docking sleeve to close the door and lock her out. He waited and moved

back against the wall as she ran past him, through the docking sleeve, and continued

the last ten feet it took her to enter their cargo hold. She stopped since at least twelve

bots were standing there motionless, blocking her way.

Doors slid closed behind her and she turned to face the large cyborg who had

sealed them. He reached up and touched a control pad. “Let’s go. I don’t see any more

of them and I don’t want to be still attached when it blows up.”

“Affirmative,” a masculine voice answered. “Releasing docking clamps now.”

Megan leaned against the wall, bent, and grabbed her knees. The shuttle detached,

letting her know that Clara was aware that she’d made it since she’d allowed them to

release the clamps. The motion was noticeable but with her butt against the wall it just

made her bump it. She slowly inhaled, trying to catch her breath. Her side still hurt.

She’d kept in good shape, exercised daily, but running wasn’t her thing.

“May I serve you?”

Megan lifted her chin to watch as one of the sex bots addressed the tall cyborg. He

crossed his arms over his chest and a grin spread on his face.

“How long do we get to keep them?”

“I don’t understand your request,” the bot stated.

“At least four days,” a deep male voice answered from the other side of the room.

“We are to drop them off at the Hixton Station. We’re getting paid good money for

saving them. I wonder how much each one is really worth if they are willing to shell out

that much to us just to transport them?”

“Probably a hell of a lot.”

10

Touching Ice

Megan stood, peering across the small cargo hold and she forgot to breathe for

seconds while she stared at him. The cyborg she’d become obsessed with inched his big

frame around the bots, working his way to the center of the room to reach the other

cyborg.

A laugh burst from the dark-haired male. “I love the side benefits of this job if we

get use of thirteen bots for four days.”

Her glance darted around at all the taller bots near her, counting them. There were

twelve in all. The cyborg had said there were thirteen. She frowned, counting them

again. Her attention returned to her fantasy man as he stepped near her, close enough

for her to reach out and touch. He grinned at the other man.

“I won’t be complaining, that’s for damn sure, Onyx.”

“I bet not, Ice.”

His name is Ice, Megan thought, as she stared up at him. He was a foot taller than

her, putting him at six foot two. He looked huge in person, bigger than he appeared on

screen. If she reached her arm out straight, she could brush her hand over his molded,

black leather uniform, which displayed his immense biceps. In person his hair was even

more amazing—white with very light-gray streaks that were only noticeable from close

up but she had discovered that already since she’d had the cameras zoom in on him a

few times while she’d spied on him with the bots.

The scent of leather, masculine soap, and wonderful male teased her nose. One of

the bots, nearly his height, turned to face him as it smiled. The bots were all between

five foot seven and six foot one and sturdy bodied so they weren’t easily broken.

“May I serve you?”

Ice’s eyebrows arched but he grinned. “It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.”

Onyx laughed. “The men are going to be thrilled with this job.”

“We thought we were going to spend a lot of money using bots but now we’re

getting paid for four days of unlimited sex. I’d call that a good day for us but a bad one

for Folion. What the hell happened?”

“A ship came in too fast. We were monitoring their communications and it sounded

as though they were drinking a little too much to celebrate time off and slammed right

into it. Good thing we were on the starboard side. The damage was really bad when it

hit. Damn. Do you know what this means? Folion won’t be available to us.”

The grin on Onyx’s face died. “Shit. I guess we’d better really make the best of the

next four days. Maybe they’ll send out another ship to host these beauties.”

Ice turned his head and looked directly at Megan. She froze, her breath catching

again while she stared into his beautiful light-blue eyes with silver streaks in the irises.

He tilted his head, his full lips curving downward slightly as his gaze left hers to slowly

travel down her body.

Of all the days for this to happen, she thought sourly. She wore a light-blue tank top

with black sweat pants. They were comfortable work clothes but she probably looked

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Laurann Dohner

like hell. Her blonde hair was in an untidy ponytail, which never completely tamed her

wild curls, and she knew she looked like a sweaty mess from running. She didn’t even

have shoes. This wasn’t how she wanted to meet the man who occupied all of her late-

night fantasies while she lay in her bunk. His gaze rose.

“What is she?” Onyx stepped closer. “A maintenance bot? Her smaller size and

chaotic appearance would indicate so.”

She fought the urge to sag with relief. She started to silently pray that they kept

mistaking her for a bot. Cyborgs had been deemed dangerous on Earth, the government

had ordered their eradication, and if their continued existence was reported, Earth

would probably send military ships to correct that fact. She’d always thought that’s

why their shuttle visited a totally computer-controlled ship. No live beings were

present to report their visits and it was well known that Folion kept no records—to

protect their clientele. Computers had no interest in earning rewards for snitching to the

government but humans, on the other hand, did. She worried that the cyborgs would

kill her, but as a bot, she wouldn’t pose a threat to them.

Ice shrugged, looking away from her. “Maybe she’s a defective model they use for

general purposes or maybe she’s a specialty item for some of the working human males

who have fantasies about small females who have active sweat glands. I remember,

while in training on Earth, that some of the human males would stare at human women

and get turned on by their appearance during workouts. They indicated it made their

dicks hard and they spoke of wanting to lick the sweat off those females.”

“Interesting.” Onyx inched closer to her, openly studying her. “I didn’t know they

made bots that small. I wonder if the simulated perspiration is flavored.”

Ice’s broad shoulders shrugged. “Perhaps.” He grinned. “You have four days to

find out.”

Apprehension spread through Megan as the large, dark-haired cyborg grabbed her

hips with two big hands and jerked her against his leather-clad body. His head bent,

moving to the side as he lowered his face, obviously going for her neck. She realized he

intended to lick her skin to find out what flavor gel her supposed artificial body used

for sweat. His hand slid from her ass to between her legs.

Megan’s reaction was instinctive as she brought her knee up, slamming it between

the vee of his tight pants, hitting his solid body in the groin. His response was just as

swift as he shouted and pushed her from him. Megan hit the wall hard enough that it

caused pain to shoot from the back of her head where she impacted.

“Son of a bitch,” the cyborg hissed. “She kneed me.”

He cupped the front of his pants as his head snapped upward. Pure rage gripped

his features. His hand shot out and Megan didn’t have time to avoid the blow. He

backhanded her hard across the face, sending her sprawling to the deck. She lay there

for long seconds, her face throbbing with pain, too stunned to move.

“Damn it, don’t damage their property,” Ice barked. “Maybe she’s not a sex bot and

is programmed to defend herself. She didn’t ask to service you.”

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Touching Ice

“I think we should throw it out the damn airlock and say we didn’t get that one

onboard,” Onyx groaned. “Fuck, that hurts.”

Movement from the corner of her eye had Megan turning her head. Ice crouched

next to her, a frown on his handsome features, his gaze fixed on the other man.

“The computer running Folion probably recorded us taking it. You’d better hope it’s

not damaged since it hasn’t gotten up.” He leaned closer, his attention going to her.

Megan met his beautiful eyes as their gazes locked and then she looked away from

him. “Systems are fine.” She used her coldest voice as she forced her body to move.

Ice didn’t move for long seconds, she could sense him staring at her, but she

refused to look at him for fear he’d see something that would give her true identity

away. He lingered next to her long enough for it to be uncomfortable but he finally

moved.

Ice stood and turned his back to her. “You’re damn lucky she isn’t damaged, Onyx.

They are only on loan until we deliver them.”

Her face hurt but she didn’t rub it as she got to her unsteady feet. A wave of

dizziness hit her but then it cleared as she leaned against the wall, hoping they

wouldn’t notice anything odd about her. If she could just pretend to be a bot for four

days she’d be totally safe on their shuttle.

“Right. I won’t touch that one again but there are twelve others. I like that brunette

one in the red dress. Then I think I’ll do the blonde in leather.” Onyx blew out a deep

breath. “How about you? Which one are you going to take for the next four days or are

you going to test out them all?”

Megan’s gaze lingered on Ice’s back. Both men had moved away from her and

neither glanced her way. Ice gave his attention to a redheaded bot and chuckled. “I

guess I have my pick. I think I’ll take the redheaded model tonight and then pick

another one tomorrow.”

“Ice?” A male voice said from the speakers in the room. “Folion is warning of

explosions. You should come to control if you want to watch the light show.”

“Damn.” Ice quickly moved toward the doors. “Let’s go. We’ll pick up a bot when

we know what the situation is over there. I hope the whole damn place doesn’t go. It

could take that company months to send another ship out this way and I don’t like the

idea of not having sex for that long.”

Both men hurried out of the cargo area and, the second the doors slid shut, Megan

reached up to rub her throbbing cheek and touched her inner lip. She looked at her

hand, not seeing blood, and then noticed all the bots faced her one by one. She was the

only breathing person in the room so they were programmed to look to her for orders.

“May I serve you?” they said in unison.

“That’s eerie,” she muttered. “I’m going to reprogram you to not do that if I end up

having a job still at the end of this. Shut up and stand,” she ordered them.

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Laurann Dohner

So Ice is planning on using the bots, is he? She bit her lip, thinking. She’d spent months

wanting him and now she was on his shuttle. She stared at the bot closest to her, a

model that Ice had just spent time with but not the exact one. That one remained back

on Folion. A little voice in her head whispered, Now is your chance.

She knew it was a crazy idea but Folion was severely damaged. The company might

not even send another ship out that way. They could open up a new bot whorehouse in

another galaxy and she’d never get to see Ice again.

“Oh hell,” she muttered. “Bots?”

They stared at her. She hesitated. If she did this, she would be risking her life and

for what? Getting a chance to live out a fantasy that she’d had for what seemed like an

eternity during her boring job? She’d spent four months alone and now she had a real

chance at getting laid.

“Well hell, horny people shouldn’t be put in this position.”

The bot closest to her took a step forward. “May I serve you?”

Before she could change her mind or regain her sanity, Megan took a deep breath.

“Authorization beta-four-nine-red dwarf.” She spoke loud enough that all the bots

heard her. Their twelve heads tilted upward and she knew they were responding to her

verbal instructions. “Access recent data entry on visual memory. Target male with

white-and-gray hair who just left this room. Verify target marked by raising right

hand.”

“Verified,” twelve voices stated and one hand of each rose.

She hesitated. If she did this there probably wouldn’t be an opportunity for her to

reprogram them before they reached the Hixton Station. Once done, there would be no

turning back. She’d lost her damn mind, she admitted, but that didn’t stop her.

“Hands down.” Their hands dropped. “Marked target is not a client. Do not service

target. Verify order by raising right hand.”

Twelve hands rose. “Drop your hands now please.” They dropped. She was certain

they had received and understood her orders. ”As a learning experiment on your

Nandois program I am now to be treated as though I am a bot. If asked, I am a test

model and you will not tell the marked target why you won’t service him. Verify with

your right arm raised.”

Twelve arms rose. Relief swept through Megan that she’d programmed them

without being caught. “Lower hands, secure orders, save, and mark orders as classified.

Authorization beta-four-nine-blue star.”

The bots heads lowered and they looked at her for a second before turning away.

They were now reading her as one of them. Megan’s heart raced. If Ice wanted to have

sex, the only bot having sex with him wouldn’t be a bot at all.

14

Touching Ice

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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