Say avatar to most people these days, and they either think of the little images we now use on social media sites such as Twitter, or perhaps the James Cameron film with the big blue aliens. But it has an older meaning...
1.Hindu Mythology - the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.
In Terms & Conditions Apply, the main avatar is Ganesa - the physical manifestation of the AI aboard space station Venus Ascendant. Ganesa considers herself the incarnation of Venus - the Roman Goddess of Love. Combined with her omniprescient abilities as the station’s AI and the principle that VA is actually meant as a place for lovers to fulfil their dreams, she comes close to matching the original definition.
For my story I gave her some sub-avatars - artificial constructs just like Ganesa, but linked to her and working in a subsidiary fashion, helping to ensure the smooth running of the station and the happiness of her visiting clientele. They’re replicas of a real human, with that human's persona and memories imprinted into the copy. So my male MC - Soren - isn't a digital image or a human/alien hybrid powered by a genetically compatible human mind. He's a mechanical construct, designed to be as close to his human original as possible, and with all his memories of the human life he lived before. And while he's linked to the AI, he's still capable of autonomy. Despite being contracted to work on the space station and bound in return for his maintenance, he's allowed a certain freedom of choice. He chooses Marie - even if she isn't particularly flattered at the start. But being as close to his original humanity with all the emotions and complexities of human nature comes with a price.
“Look, no offence, but your only purpose on this station is to please the clients, and while you’re doing a pretty good job of making me feel a little better, I just got dumped by the love of my life and I’m not up for some construct trying to have sex with me.” The words spilled out in a torrent, and she bit her lip as she finished.
“I see.” The easy smile that had graced his perfect lips faded for the first time. “You are one of those who believe that the AI’s sub-avatars are no more than programmed pleasure machines, solely for sex. That we have no personality—no feelings.”
His comment sparked a sudden pang of guilt. “You mean you’re not just a machine?”
He gazed at her, as if considering the question. “We are artificial constructs, built to serve the AI, to be an extension of it and to ensure that everyone on Venus Ascendant is happy. But that doesn’t make us mere ciphers. Each of us carries memories from a real person, one who either chose this existence in preference to the many kinds of death they were facing, or as penance for a crime.”
“Some of you are criminals?” she squeaked. That wasn’t in the station’s blurb!
“Oh, not the dangerous ones. We are incapable of harm.” A smile lifted the corner of his mouth, and he leaned forward to run a finger up the inside of her wrist. The tiny gesture sent tingles skittering over her skin and she caught her breath. “Unless harm is our client’s preference, of course.”
“What was your crime?”
He snatched his hand back. “I never said I was a criminal.”
“Then what were you?”
Buy it in all digital formats from Smashwords.com
Coming soon to B&N
There’s also a chance to win a copy in the digital format of your choice, plus a super shiny star keyring, available internationally. Just enter the rafflecopter form for your chance to win.a Rafflecopter giveaway
A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. Between torturing her characters, she spends the odd free moments trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 19 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.