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A Date With Patti Pleezmi

Written by Chuck Rothman
Illustrated by Lee Kuruganti



"Now," I said, very sweetly, as I pressed the taser into Quinlan's side, "what was it you called me?"

"I didn't mean anything by it. . ."

"My name is Tricia, Quinlan. Don't forget that." I gave him a slight jolt, just enough to let him know I was serious. "Better yet, from now on you can call me Ms. Mahaffey. If you get to know me real well, you can drop the 'Ms.' Is that clear?"


I squeezed the trigger again, giving Quinlan a second jolt. It wasn't quite as big as the first, but it made my point. "Is that clear?"

"Yes," Quinlan said. He was a small man for a moondigger. They're usually big and mean—eight hours a day digging tunnels—where the wrong cut might crack things open to vacuum—makes it hard to be calm and contemplative. Not that they give me any trouble; they know better.

"Next time," I said, letting him loose, "you're not going to be so lucky."

"I was just trying to—"

"I don't care. I just don't want to hear that name. Ever."

Quinlan was rubbing his sore arm. He should have been thankful I hadn't broken it. "I . . . I didn't know you felt that way."

"Now you do. And be sure you don't forget." I put the taser back in my belt and took out a glass from behind the bar. "Here," I said, pouring him some of my best stuff—imported from Earth, not made in my back room. "On the house."

Now Quinlan was even more confused, but not confused enough to turn down a free drink. He was new to Luna City. It was even possible he really didn't know how much I hated that name.

It had been a noisy night. The Moonshine rarely had a slow one, but they had finished off a new tunnel and a lot of the workers had stopped in to celebrate.

People are generally well-behaved at the Moonshine, since they know that Lunar Horizons would love to shut down any competition to its own bars. Or at least, that was the common knowledge. I knew they could have shut me down years ago, but they liked to be able to say that Luna City wasn't just a company town.

There was the sound of a scuffle. I leapt over the bar—easy enough to do when you're at one-sixth gee—and into the middle of it, jolting the scufflers left and right. If I hit a few innocent bystanders—well, they should know better. It was hard work keeping the peace around here: most Lunies were either hotheaded kids on their first job, or people no one on Earth would want to hire—usually for good reason. But the company asked very few questions, since the more settled people weren't going to pull up stakes and travel a quarter of a million miles. Not for these wages.

At the bottom was a digger and a surface rat. I didn't ask what started it, and didn't care. I had a bar to run, and fights were bad for business. In a few moments, they were too convulsed by the shock to be any problem.

"All right," I said. "That's the end of—"

Then I spotted him, sitting at table five, not three meters away from me. Someone I had never ever wanted to see again.

Reid Eberhardt.

He looked back at me, a slight smile on his lips, almost a twin of the one he had shown me the last time we spoke.

"Hello, Patti," he said. "It's been a long time."

I wanted to jolt him with the taser, like I had with Quinlan when he called me that. I wanted to kill him. Slowly. Several times.

Instead, I turned away from him. Murdering customers was bad for business, even in Luna City. "That's it!" I shouted. "Bar's closed."

There were a few cries of protest, but they were halfhearted; it was late, and everyone knew that I was in charge. People do what I say, or go to the company-run bars. My beer may not win any awards, but it costs half what the company charges and doesn't taste like it was made from soap. "Everyone out. Now."

The protests turned to grumbles and people filed out.

Eberhardt stayed behind.

"I meant everyone," I said.

He smiled at me. "It's been a long time, Patti."

"Bastard," I muttered, but I ended up sitting across from him. "Don't call me that. My name's Tricia now. I'm sure you know why."

Reid shrugged. "You really don't have the right attitude about this."

The man hadn't changed a bit. "You really don't see anything wrong, do you?"

"Wrong? Of course not. I was honoring your beauty."

I knew this would be a losing battle. There wasn't a chance he'd think there was anything wrong in what he did to me. "Why are you here?" I asked wearily.

"It's a long story, P—Tricia. Care to listen to it over dinner tomorrow?"

"You going to record that, too?"

"Maybe. If it's interesting enough."

I stared at him. It was his idea of a joke. How could I have even been so taken in by him?

Reid was my first serious love—you know, the one who makes you feel all the crap they write songs about. One day, without my knowing, he recorded our lovemaking. Then he took my image, computer-enhanced my tits, and animated the result into a porno queen. Patti Pleezmi, he had called her.

"Tricia," Reid said, "you need to lighten up. Everything was a long time ago."

I had thought about suing, but Reid waved a release form with my name on it that I couldn't recall ever signing. And, bottom line, the last thing I wanted to do was admit that the plug-in slut was me. "The interactive's still selling," I murmured.

"Not that well," Reid said, and I knew he probably had the sales figures memorized. "And certainly not here. It's just Patti Pleezmi, something teenagers sneak into bed with them to find out what sex is like. No one will connect the two of you."

I guess he was right about that: it was rare that anyone in the Moonshine commented that I looked like the girl in the interactives. At least not to my face—and certainly not twice. Not that I'd admit that to Reid. "And that's supposed to make me feel better?" I started to get up. "I think we've spent more than enough time going over old times."

"Tricia," Reid said. "I didn't come here to joust with you. I have a business proposition."

"A business proposition?"

"It'll be worth a lot if you listen."

"You really are pushing your luck, aren't you? Let me tell you a secret. The key to doing business is trust. Do you really think I'd ever trust you again?"

I'll give him credit: he laughed. "Look, Tricia, let me tell you one thing. I didn't know who you were until I walked into the bar."

It was my turn to laugh, though not with amusement. "Right. And there's a building lot near Tycho I'd like to sell you."

"It's true. I needed to talk to someone who might be interested in what I have to sell here. Someone suggested Tricia Mahaffey. Your last name isn't than uncommon, after all, and I didn't make the connection."

"More likely, you didn't remember my last name."

"Are you willing to listen to this or not?"

"Never," I said.

"There's a lot of money to be made."

I tried to be indignant. "Money isn't the issue."

"But it won't hurt to have some, will it?"

I didn't answer. What with all the costs, we were doing just well enough to get by. Liquor costs a lot up here—that's why I make much of it myself—and even the raw materials can be a bitch to get ahold of. "What is it?" I finally asked, knowing that I'd probably end up regretting the question. I'm just a glutton for punishment.

Reid relaxed. "As you may have guessed, I've done okay with InteRact. Vice President now. And we're ready to move into a new market: Luna City."

"You're already here."

"But Lunar Horizons takes a big cut for our booths. We want to cut separate deals with the independents. To be perfectly frank, we'll get more money out of it. But so will you." He gestured around. "You could knock out a wall and add one or two interactive booths. We'll give you a cut of everything, of course."

"Does the company know about your plans?"

Reid smiled at me. "Of course not. They're not going to give up their cut willingly. Better for all involved if we keep it a secret until everything's signed. Well?"

I was aghast. "You really think I'd go along with this?"

"It's good money. 20% of the take—all clear profit. A lot better than selling drinks."

"And have people see . . . her? You must be stupider than I remember." I had had to rearrange my life so that no one realized the connection, and I'd be damned before I risked losing that.

"Okay, then. No Patti. As I said, she'd be too tame. Everyone's probably seen her when they were sixteen." He shook his head. "Other interactives only."

I remembered how much he had pushed to get his own way in the past; some people never change. "I don't want any of them here."

Reid frowned. "Have you ever tried one?"

"Not after what you did to me."

"Ah," Reid said. He reached into his case and took out a helmet made of silver cloth. A wire lead out of it and into a small black box. "Then you ought to give this a try."

I looked at it like it was a rat. It certainly smelled like one.

"It's a demo unit. Try before you buy. A little crude, but you can get the idea." He slid it across the table. "Aren't you at least curious about what it might be like?"

I slid it back. "Not interested."

He got up, but left the infernal device where it was. "Think of it as a gift," Reid said. "Give it a try. Maybe we can do business."

"I don't want your gifts!" I shouted after him as he left. He didn't pay any attention.

I stared at the set. Well, I wasn't going to give it back. Let him be out the money. "No," I said. "It's mine now." It was a petty revenge, but it still felt satisfying.

* * *

I should have smashed the damn thing then and there, but I stashed it in the back and began cleaning the beer off the floor and tidying up as best I could. My mind kept returning to the player.

All right, I had lied: I was curious. Not just about the interactive, but about the scenario I knew that Reid would have been sure to leave on it.

So, it doesn't take genius to guess what I did. Suffice to say, a few hours after closing I was on my bunk in the back room of the Moonshine, putting the helmet on my head.

I had expected some sort of transition, a move to another place. But no. I was still on the bunk, still feeling the helmet on my head.

Only there was someone with me.

I nearly jumped. It was me—a younger me, a sexier me, but me nonetheless.

"Hi," she said. "I'm Patti Pleezmi."

I stared at her. She was nude, and very attractive—more than I ever could be. There was no sign of age or wear and tear on any part of her. Her voice was much my own, though with a certain sparkle I couldn't imagine I ever had.

"What's your name?" she asked, smiling warmly.

"Tricia," I murmured absently. I could feel the warmth of her presence and smell the slight gardenia scent of her perfume.

"Ah. Well, Tricia, there's nothing to be afraid of. You visiting me doesn't mean anything. Some women just like to experiment." She leaned closer. "You look like you want answers. . . ."

Before I realized what was happening, she was kissing me.

I could feel her lips distinctly as they pressed against mine. It was a tentative kiss, the first kiss between two people who are not sure of making the commitment to be lovers.

I didn't like it.

Almost at the same moment, Patti broke off. "All right," she said. "Looks like you're not into experimenting. We can stop the simulation right now, if you like."

"No," I said. "I'm just not interested in . . . that."

"Ah," Patti said. She moved away from me, as though sensing her proximity was making me uncomfortable. "So, what are you interested in?"

"What do you suggest?" I asked, curious about what she was programmed to do.

"I could suggest a lot of things, but I wouldn't want to mention something that you don't like." She touched my arm. There was nothing sexual about it: just a friend making contact with a friend. "I'm here to make you feel good, not to upset you." She lowered her voice. "Why did you activate me?"

Her confidential tone unnerved me. "I wanted to find out about you."

Patti shrugged. "Not much to tell. I'm a bunch of data on a computer chip. But don't let that put you off; I'm based on a real woman. Her body and her personality."

"Who is she?" I asked.

Patti shook her head. "I don't know."

"Well, I do," I said. "I'm you." It was the first time I ever had admitted it to anyone; the words were strangely easy to say. I was warming to Patti. Despite all my misgivings, she was very easy to like.

Patti seemed to stop for several moments, looking at me as though recognizing me for the first time. "Really?" She squinted, then nodded. "I guess that explains why you're here, then." Patti smiled. "Do you like what you see?"

I looked at her nakedness. "No."

She actually looked hurt. "Really?" Then she blinked and was instantly dressed, a blouse and slacks now covering her. "That better?"

I had to admit it was. "You're much more human that I would have guessed."

"People want me to be real. They want to trust me; otherwise, they'd be reluctant to make love—" Patti frowned as she saw my expression. "Do I embarrass you that much?"

"Damn right," I said.

She was puzzled at my answer. "Then why did you let yourself be recorded?"

"I didn't know I was being recorded."


I explained.

"That's terrible!" Patti's shock was absolutely genuine. "How could anyone do that?"

"I don't know. I just ran away and tried to pretend it never happened."

"Really? I wouldn't have done that."

The words were spoken gently, but it was as though I was being slapped. "Why?"

"Because," Patti said, "that means you let the bastard win. You only helped him to ruin your life."

"What?" I felt myself growing angry. "You think I wanted people to know I was you? Especially here in a city of woman-starved miners? I hate to see their reaction. It's hard enough to keep them from jumping on me as it is."

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"I know my customers. Too well sometimes."

"Tricia, I know men. It's my job. Sometimes they can surprise you."

I glared at her.

"But you never tried it out. You just ran away." She paused. "Tricia, you have to understand that I'm very much like you. I know I couldn't stand to keep running from myself. Sooner or later I'd stop running and face the music."

I felt angry. "You're not like me at all."

Patti only smiled. "More than you think. Remember, I'm based on you. You've denied this part of you for years, but it's still there. I think you know it's still there. That's why you wanted to see me. You wanted to see what you had lost."

"I don't want to listen to any more." I reached to remove the helmet.

"Tricia," Patti said. "Don't be mad. Reid Eberhardt is the one you should hate. You just can't keep running away from yourself forever. You need to become friends with your past, not hate it. And I want to be your friend."

"How many people did you tell that to?" I shouted at her. God, I felt stupid.

"Tricia, it's not that. It's—"

I tore off the helmet. I felt sick to think that I had ever put it on. I stuck the damn thing under the bunk to try to get it out of my sight. I knew I wanted nothing to do with the interactives. Ever.

* * *

Reid returned the next evening. The place was packed, but I noticed the second he entered the door, as though his anger was giving off a signal.

He grabbed my wrist as I was mixing a Bloody Mary. "Leave me alone," I said.

"I don't have the time to fool around," Reid said. "The company has found out our plans. They want me out of here by tonight. Now, if we sign the contract now, we can—"

I shook him off. "No contract."

"But they can't stop us once it's signed."

"Reid . . . "

"Look, I know you want more time. This isn't just a pressure tactic. I'm telling the truth. The company knows all about our plans."

"Oh, I believe that," I said. "I'm the one who told them."

Reid's eyes went wide with shock and betrayal. His expression was some measure of satisfaction.

"Bitch," Reid said. "I trusted you."

I laughed at his indignation. Now he had a small taste of what he did to me. "Call me whatever you want. I agree to nothing."

Reid turned red with anger. "Bitch," he shouted.

I pulled out my taser. "Get out of my bar."

He stared at it.

The Moonshine had turned silent.

Reid looked at the weapon, then at the crowd. "All right," he said. "I'll go." He walked toward the door.

Then, he stopped abruptly, whirling to knock the gun out of my hand. "You know who this woman really is?" he shouted, jumping atop an empty table.

I felt my insides freeze, as the Moonshine grew instantly quiet, as though the moon had been waiting since Armstrong for this revelation. It was my own damn fault for not thinking things through. "Reid," I said. "You've got nothing to gain by doing this."

"And nothing to lose." He pointed at me. "This woman is Patti Pleezmi!"

The bar remained quiet. I looked around tiredly, wondering if I'd see the moment when the news sunk in and my hard-earned respect vanished into the vacuum.

"Did you hear me? You remember Patti, don't you? I bet everyone in the room has had her."

"That's enough!" I shouted, not sure if I wanted to kill him, or just run away.

But I had been running for so long. Maybe Patti was right. Maybe I needed to stop running and face things.

I looked around the room. Everyone was watching me, waiting for my next words.

"Yes," I said, my voice surprisingly strong. "I'm Patti Pleezmi. Anyone want to make anything of it?"

Still silence. But no one seemed to be smirking.

"Tricia?" The soft voice beside me made me jump. It was Quinlan. "You want us to kick him out?"

I didn't know I could be so astonished. Somehow I managed to nod.

About half the men in the bar rose, and I think the other half would have joined them if they thought it was necessary. They walked menacingly toward Reid.

"You guys didn't understand me," he said, but his voice held no bluster. "This is—"

"Oh, shut up," someone said just before a bottle flew up and landed on Reid's face.

This wasn't the movies: the bottle didn't shatter. But Reid staggered backward in pain and fell off the table.

I really didn't see him after that. A mass of people surrounded him. I caught a few glimpses as he was dragged out the door.

Quinlan grinned at me. "You all right, Patti . . . I mean, Tricia?"

When I realized what he called me, I found my voice again. "I told you—"

He held up his hands. "Sorry," he said. "I just wanted to help out an old friend."

There was something in the way he said it and I put up my guard. "How old a friend?" I asked.

"Oh, come on, Tricia. I doubt there's a man on the moon who doesn't know about you and Patti Pleezmi."


"You don't understand. You were our first, and no one ever forgets his first. We're all very fond of Patti." He reddened at the admission.

I though of my meeting with Patti. I had to admit, there was a lot to like about her. "And you didn't rub my nose in it?"

Quinlan pointed around the room. "You think we're working here for the money? Nearly all of us are here because we're running away from something. If anyone recognized me, for instance . . ." He shook his head. "No one asks."

I looked around. The rest of the men in the bar were watching me, a few nodding in agreement with Quinlan's words. They all had known from the start.

They were waiting expectantly.

"If you think you're getting drinks on the house out of this, you're all crazy," I finally said.

There were a few laughs, and the Moonshine was quickly back to normal.

I shook my head. Patti had been right; there was no reason to run. I was running from myself, not from the shame.

Patti was a wise women—for an imaginary one.

I'd have to tell her that myself. I needed to apologize, so tonight, after the bar shuts down, I have a date. A date with Patti Pleezmi. A chance to meet myself again.

I think I will like what I see.

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