REX’S FOOT tapped as he waited for the server to bring out their meal. Across from him, Sanjay gave a nervous smile.

So this is where you… live?” Sanjay asked, casually sweeping around the massive room with his hand.

What? Oh, yes,” Rex said, still scanning for the server. “And really, it normally doesn’t take so long. It’s just that they’re not used to cooking for anyone but me, and—”

It’s fine,” Sanj said, “really. I’m not used to being waited on. Do you always eat here?”

When work doesn’t take me away,” Rex said. “It’s just cozy, don’t you think?”

Cozy… yeah…,” Sanj said. “Definitely an amazing view. You’re sure that it’s safe?”

Completely,” Rex said, and he finally caught sight of the server zipping out from the kitchen. “Ah, finally. Now, you’ll have to tell me if they’ve done a decent job. I remember you said that you liked catfish, and I’ve been trying to teach the kitchen to make something like catfish tikka, but I didn’t really have anyone to test on and—”

I’m sure it will be fine,” Sanj said. He laughed, and a part of Rex melted then, watching Sanjay’s face wrinkle with humor. “It’s definitely the most anyone’s ever done for me for a third date.”

A pang of fear worked its way into Rex’s gut. Had he tried too hard? Yes, maybe the private low orbital shuttle to whisk Sanjay from his home in Metro City all the way to the islands where Rex’s fortress was situated might have been a bit much. But it had been so long since Rex had clicked with anyone, and their first two dates had gone so well. Audrey had been so right about the dating site. Not that she ever let Rex forget about it.

Steaming plates were set down in front of them, and Rex watched as Sanjay inhaled and smiled. Rex let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

Smells delicious,” Sanj said. “Really, you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.”


It was no trouble,” Rex said, perhaps a bit too quickly. But it hadn’t been. Just a matter of importing the content of about a thousand different regional cookbooks into his base’s main computer and aggregating that with what he knew about Sanjay’s family and history and letting Audrey figure out the rest.