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Not My Kind of Date

Keywords: MF, ScFi, adventure
Part: 1 of 1
Author: Knave of Hearts
Title: Not My Kind of Date

Not My Kind of Date
1993 2000 Knave of Hearts

"May fourteenth, twenty twelve. Welcome Mister Lostridge." The
synthetic female voice confirmed the log-on process. The
workstation screen filled with email and scheduling windows. He
glanced through the news. Nothing much was happening in the
world. Some college professor raising a stink about government
hit squads, another miracle drug, some new social reform program.
Same stuff, different day.

"Three more weeks 'till my ultimate humiliation." Guy Lostridge
sighed as he pushed away from his workstation. Taking a pull
from his coffee cup, he looked over his to-do list for the day
but his mind kept wandering. In a mere three weeks, Guy's cousin
Henry was getting married back home in Arkham.

Like everything else Henry did, this wedding would be perfect.
Guy had always been unfavorably compared to his cousin, they were
the same age and that was where the similarity ended. Guy was a
moderately successful journalist, unmarried, and living in the
Boston Metro-spire. Henry was a prize-winning author, poet,
employed as a full professor at Arkham's local university.
Better looking and more popular than Guy, Henry was marrying
Ashley Wilkes, the beautiful heiress to the Wilkes Bank fortune.
Guy hated Henry with a loathing only the eternally second place
could ever understand.

Taking another swallow of coffee, Guy's mind tormented him with
visions of the upcoming wedding ceremony. The endless questions
from various relatives: "Why aren't you married?" "When are you
moving back to Arkham?" "Guy, you're looking a little stout.
Have you been feeling all right?"

And of course there would be all the comparison stories. The
Little League game when Guy committed an error but Henry saved
the game. Henry's rapid rise through academia, Guy's position as
a local stringer for a small part of the Metro-spire network. It
would go on and on. Setting his cup down, Guy remembered that
he'd only gone home twice in the four years since graduation. He
lived only 30 minutes from his parent's door.

"Hey man," Fred Chu's surfer dude drawl came from across the
cubicle partion, "When'd you say you were going down to Arkham?"

"Three weeks. June the fourth."

"Yeah. Maybe you ought to check out this dude's rap." Fred
tossed a piece of paper over the wall. The picture showed an
older man, his finger pointed skyward. "Check him out in today's
headlines."

Guy paged quickly through the overlapping windows on his terminal
screen. With speed born of long practice, he keyed the news feed
and selected the headline with the man's picture next to it.
Double-clicking the video icon in the story, Guy sat back and
listened to the man, Dr. Ivan Leonberg, speak passionately about
the human rights abuses in a small Central American country. He
was great to watch. Charismatic, Dr. Leonburg seemed to speak to
every individual, regardless of the fact that his speech had been
taped and broadcast the night before.

Fred came around the partition. "He's all yours babe. He's
addressing the Conference on Human Rights on Saturday, your
wedding isn't until Sunday."

"And I can spend the weekend at home on the office expense
account." Fred smiled in agreement. "Sweet."

Now that the finances had been taken care of, there was only one
more problem. How could he avoid his family's smothering
interrogation? Earlier, he'd talked about it with Fred. Fred's
solution was as elegant as it was unattainable. "Go home with a
beautiful woman and let her tell them how successful you are."
In other words, lie to them.

Leaning back in his chair, Guy decided it was time to give this
problem some serious thought. What could he tell his folks? The
success part was true. Guy was up for promotion and had just
received a big productivity bonus. He had a nice place and all
the material trappings of a young exec. It was the companionship
part the was the problem. Long hours at work, psycho-women, and
contagious diseases limited the desirability of the singles bar
scene. Another option was to use an escort service, but trying
to keep up an act with a hired partner was daunting.

"Here you go, man. The answer to your dilemma." Fred must've
been reading his mind. The warning chime heralded the arrival of
an email advertisement. Garrety's Replicants.

Guy laughed. "A 'droid? Been watching the old movie channel
again?" He hollered back across the cubicle wall.

"Sure, man." Fred's head popped into sight. "Go buy a date.
You can always return it after the wedding."

Guy read the ad. It sounded simple enough. Use the bonus as a
down payment, lease a knock-out, and impress the folks. The idea
sounded better the more Guy thought about it. Locking his
station Guy decided that it was at least worth a visit to the
showroom.

************

Garrety's showroom was gleaming white plastic. Guy immediately
thought of an expensive doctor's office. The receptionist showed
him into the selection kiosk. For the next thirty minutes Guy
specified his preferences in a companion. How tall? Hair color?
Eye Color? Birth marks? Sexual habits? Language? The
questions made Guy think about things that he had had never
considered. What kind of clothes did he want her to wear?

The questionnaire finished, Guy returned to the waiting room. It
wasn't long before a slick looking salesman approached. Offering
his carefully manicured hand (complete with diamond pinkie ring)
the salesman started his scripted sales pitch.

"Welcome to Garrety's Mr. Lostridge. We specialize in providing
the discriminating customer with the exact replicant for their
needs." He held up a printout of Guy's preferences. "Let's see
if we can't help you find the companion you're looking for."

Guy tried to make chit-chat as they walked into a private
showroom. "I'm looking for a woman to take home for a wedding."

The salesman's look said it all. Loser. "I'm sure we have just
the ticket."

Referring to a small hand held digi-pad, the salesman called out
a procession of beautiful redheads. The androids paraded out
through a velvet curtain. They'd walk along a small stage,
posing like fashion models before turning back to stand in a line
in front of the curtained exit. As each girl came out, the
display in the arm of Guy's chair gave the girl's name, price,
and how well she matched Guy's preferences.

Mamie. . . Julia. . . Lucy

Guy looked longingly at them before noticing the high price of
each android. His bonus wouldn't even cover the down payment on
these models.

The salesman noticed Guy's consternation. "Let's take a look at
some more economical models." Again his look was demeaning.
"Now these," he touched his digi-pad quickly, "won't be as
functional. But I think that they'll fit your budget better."

The next trio looked more like mannequins. Plastic smiles, shiny
skin. They looked like animated dolls. These 'droids could
never pass for human. "I don't think these will do." Guy shook
his head in exasperation. "Maybe I could see some of your used
models."

"These are the used companions." The salesman's expression
signaled that he'd obviously given up any hopes of a decent
commission. He stood and tucked his pad into his jacket.
Putting his hand on Guy's back, he steered him towards the door.

"Well. Its just that I don't think that I could ever pass these
off as a human in Arkham. And the wedding's in only three
weeks."

The salesman's eyes went hard for a split second. Recovering
quickly, he jumped back into his smooth sales delivery. "Arkham?
Did you go to Miskatonic?" The expression changed from disdain
to calculated interest when Guy assured him that he was indeed a
graduate of Arkham's local college. "I haven't been back since
my tenth reunion. Class of '98."

This change of topic inspired some hope in Guy. "Class of '06."
They shook hands as if they were meeting for the first time,
rather than an hour ago.

"Wouldn't happen to be a Lambda?"

"No, I'm a townie. In fact, I'm going back for my brother's
wedding on the 4th of June."

"Ya don't say." A few quick taps on the pad. "Well. . . For a
fellow grad. Let me introduce you to Nancy Dream." The leer on
his face made the salesman look like a fox. "Her owner recently
passed away and we were forced to repossess her. But she's in
great condition and lives up to her name in every way.".

They turned back toward the little stage. The redhead that
walked down the catwalk took Guy's breath away. Her dark blue
eyes appraised him insolently. Everything about her said that
Nancy was more than an off-the-shelf companion replicant.

"Voluptuous, smart, and fully programmable. You can give her any
cover story you want, she's good enough to carry it off." The
salesman's fingers tapped commands into the pad as he spoke.
"Take a look at the whole package."

Responding to the salesman's commands, Nancy slowly stripped.
Her eyes stared into Guy's. By the time she reached for her bra
strap he was sold. "How much?"

The figure was just under his bonus amount. "What about clothing
and accessories?" Guy asked.

"Included. Just sign and she's yours to take home. But I'll
tell you what. If you ever tell anyone the deal I'm making you,
I'll deny it to your face." His smile made it sound like he was
letting Guy in on the biggest inside secret in the world.

Guy couldn't keep his eyes off Nancy as they rode the transport
tube back to his apartment. Guy had never believed the "old
school tie" bit would ever pay off, but the salesman had cut him
this special deal - just because they had graduated from the same
school!

Stepping out onto the automated walkway, Guy's brain raced.
There have to be bugs in her programming. He looked closely at
Nancy's face for some trace of instability, a tic or some
mechanical blemish. Nothing but smooth, milky white skin.
Won't mom and Dad be surprised. His mind raced from topic to
topic; feature to feature. I never checked out her voice.
She'll put every babe at the wedding to shame. Guy noted with
pride that other people turned to admire Nancy's trim form and
beautiful features. For the first time in his life he felt the
pride of being envied by other men. He took Nancy home the long
way, reveling in every step.

Entering his apartment, Guy tossed his jacket onto the chair.
Nancy stood in front of the couch watching him. "Uh. Oh yea.
Nancy, please get me a beer from the refrigerator."

"What should I call you, master?"

Guy chuckled in embarrassment. "Just Guy. Ummm. Yea that'll be
fine."

Next, he'd have to program her with a background and cover story.
But first he had to call Fred and plan what to do. Ten minutes
later Fred was knocking on Guy's door. Fred brought a six pack
and Guy ordered pizza. Both men stared as Nancy brought them
glasses.

"So what's her story?" Watching Nancy, Fred missed his glass,
spilling beer onto the table.

"Maybe she's an astrophysicist or some kind of space shuttle
pilot."

"Yeah. And I'm the Pope." Fred took a hit from his glass.
Settling back on the couch, Fred looked thoughtful. "Nancy, turn
around. Let's see that award winning cleavage."

The android stayed in the kitchen. "Maybe she's imprinted with
your voice." Fred said. "Call her over."

"Nancy." Guy smirked as he called her over. "Sit down. We need
to decide what to do with you."

Nancy sat on the couch opposite Fred with just a hint of
superiority.

"Model," Fred offered.

"Too short. How about secretary? Or maybe a school teacher?"

"Come on. I thought you wanted something glamorous." Fred
gestured with his slice of pizza. "She should be something like
a fashion designer or an architect. You know, something
creative."

"Yeah." Guy swallowed. "Nancy, can you draw? Could you
impersonate an architect?"

She nodded yes. "I have access to the information required to
perform as a structural architect."

"Good." Guy was glad to get started. "We'll make her from one
of the big West Coast spires. No one in my family's ever been
out of Arkham." Fred nodded. "Nancy, take some notes."

"I am recording, Guy."

"Good. Now. We met right after Christmas."

"At the New Year's office party." Fred interjected.

They proceeded to create a background story - nothing that would
be too preposterous, just enough to make everyone jealous. They
listed movies and places, likes and dislikes, even her favorite
drink. Over the next three hours Guy talked and talked. Fred's
eyes never left Nancy's chest.

Taking a deep swallow from his beer, Guy shook his head to clear
the cobwebs. His throat felt dry. "Yeah. Umm. We can iron out
the details later." He raised his glass. "Here's to my new
fiancee."

Fred returned the toast. "I'd say a long courtship would be
perfect. In the mean time, what say we give this model a spin?"

"I don't know Fred. I think I'd like to be alone when I try her
out." Guy looked more than a little embarrassed. "You know?"

"Sure man." He grabbed the pizza box and two beer bottles.
"I'll leave you two love birds alone." He pushed the door lock
with his elbow, a lecherous grin on his face. "See you tomorrow.
If you can walk."

The door lock re-engaged. Alone for the first time with Nancy,
Guy didn't know what to do. "Well. I suppose its a little late
for wine and cheese."

She stood in front of him. Her hand went to her top blouse
button. "Completely unnecessary."

The next two weeks flew by. Guy couldn't believe his luck.
Every night he heard her call, "Welcome home Honey!" from the
kitchen. She had cleaned the apartment, made dinner, and poured
a beer or a glass of wine ready for his arrival. After dinner,
all Guy would admit was that Nancy was energetic, imaginative,
and acrobatic. After a week of trying to get himself invited
into the bedroom, Fred finally gave up and consoled himself with
a few dinners in Nancy's presence. Guy stopped worrying about
the wedding and started concentrating on enjoying himself.

Then it was show time. An inland shuttle brought them to Arkham
in less than half an hour. As he had expected, Guy was met by
his family. Nancy's presence was enough to stop the initial
onslaught of questions. The hotel was more of a challenge. Aunt
Mabel started the interrogation while Grandma Dru and Great Aunt
Sofie cornered Nancy on the other side of the room.

After what must have been an eternity, Guy broke away and met
Nancy at the bar.

"How's it going? I hope my family isn't giving you too rough a
time." Guy handed Nancy a drink.

"I'm doing fine." Her eyes seemed to laugh. How do they do
that? Guy thought to himself.

Nancy put the drink down and took Guy's arm. "Let's dance before
you go to the bachelor party."

The next day, Guy slept in and nursed his hangover. Pressing his
face against the cool shower tiles, he promised himself he'd
never drink that much again. The cool water made him shiver.
He'd need to be sharp after lunch to cover Dr. Loenberg's speech
in Atwood Hall. Nancy had left earlier to take a walk over to
the college with her sketch pad.

They met for lunch in a restaurant near campus. For the first
time, Nancy looked a little flustered. She was missing one
earring and there was a dark spot on her white jacket that she
tried to cover with her handbag. She apologized for being late
and quickly ordered a sandwich while dabbing the spot with some
club soda. Suddenly the sound of police sirens filled the air.
A couple squad cars and an ambulance tore down the street toward
campus.

"Somebody must have jaywalked," the waitress joked.

Guy relaxed as they waited, but Nancy kept glancing toward the
windows. She tensed when a couple policemen came to the hostess'
table. "Guy. Get up and go to the bathroom."

"What?"

"Just do what I say. Things are going to get interesting real
fast and we need to start making an exit."

Guy was surprised to find that Nancy sounded a lot more serious
now than she did a few minutes ago. He got up slowly and
nonchalantly walked to the back of the restaurant. Once in the
restroom alcove, he looked back to find Nancy. He saw her take
an envelope from her handbag, leave it in her seat, and follow
him to the back.

One policeman stopped at the table while the other came toward
the restrooms. Nancy took Guy's hand. "Run for the back door.
Now!"

She sprinted for the small back door, half dragging Guy down the
hallway. They had just entered the alley when the restaurant
exploded. Running down the alley, Nancy easily outpaced Guy,
even though he was much taller. They sprinted across the
sidewalk, heading away from the campus and their hotel.

"Down here." Nancy dragged Guy into a stairwell. She pushed him
into the shadows. "When the firemen come, we'll mix in with the
crowd and make it back to the hotel."

"What the hell's going on? What did you get us into?" Guy was
nearly hysterical but had the presence of mind to keep his voice
down. The firm grip she had on his shoulder made sure of that.

"I'll explain back at the hotel. For now, do what I tell you and
we'll be all right. Its not as bad as it seems."

Famous last words Guy thought. He felt the sweat break out on his
neck, but he kept his head down and did as she said. In a lucid
moment, he found that it was hard to think of Nancy as a
replicant.

Just as Nancy had said, the fire engines showed up and drew a
crowd. As casually as they could, Nancy and Guy climbed out of
the stairwell and faded into the crowd. She led him through the
city as if she'd lived there all her life. They took all the
backways, alleys and side-streets that only a native could have
known, but soon they were back at their hotel.

Guy collapsed in to the bed. Nancy drew the curtains, placing her
handbag on the table next to the bed. Smiling alluringly, she
ran her fingertips along her blouse's collar. "Only eighteen
hours before the wedding. Might as well enjoy'em." She
unbuttoned her shirt as she walked across the room.

He'd watched her plant a bomb, been chased by the cops all over
town, and he was still entranced by her creamy white skin.

The next morning, Guy woke with a start. He had dreamt that the
police were chasing him through the streets of Arkham. Chasing
him into his cousin's wedding where they gunned him down on the
altar. He stumbled to the bathroom and splashed cold water in
his face. He had intended to find out how Nancy knew so much
about the police, explosives, and Arkham as soon as they got back
to the room, be she had distracted him. Now he had to get to the
bottom of this matter.

He walked back into the room and sat on the bed. Propping
himself up on some pillows, Guy took Nancy's chin in his fingers
so that they looked each other in the eyes. "Now you need to
tell me what is going on." He tried to sound like he meant
business but it was hard to act mean and stare into her dark blue
eyes.

Nancy took his hand a lightly held it in hers. She sat up, the
sheet falling to expose her perfect breasts. "I'm a Victor Seven
Series android. Hunter-killers. My specialty is seduction and
assassination. I was sent here to kill Dr. Loenberg."

He tried to move but found that he couldn't break the grip she
had on his hand. With a pitying look, she twisted her wrist and
sent him to the floor in agony. While trying to hold on to
consciousness, Guy remembered Leonberg's speech. The doctor was
making a big noise about government hit squads and intelligence
activity inside the country and illegally financed death squads
in other countries. A Nobel prize nominee, he was a visiting
professor at Miskatonic, one of the feathers in their cap.

Nancy stepped out of the bed. She stood over him totally naked.
He thought she was beautiful even as she broke his arm. "So how
did you end up with me. I went to Garrety's just to find a
companion."

"You fit the profile. Young, lonely, desperate, and having ties
to Arkham." She let go of his arm but didn't move away. "If you
hadn't thought of coming here, I would have given you the idea.
It was nothing personal."

Guy's mouth got dry all of a sudden. He rubbed the circulation
back into his hand. "And now that I know? What happens to me?"

"Nothing. I disappear and you go back to work. Life goes on as
usual. No one is looking for you." She helped him to his feet.
Her hands started to roam over his chest and then his back.
"Come back to bed, it's too early to be serious."

Henry's wedding day was perfect. Sunshine and clear blue skies.
Everything on time, choreographed like a precision dance. Henry
even had police traffic control to block off the street in front
of the church. Guests arrived by limo like movie stars at a
premier. Guy and Nancy fit right in. Getting out of the taxi,
they got swept into the church with the rest of the people.

Everything was going smoothly. The bride was radiant, Henry
handsome, even the minister looked like he had been picked from a
GQ issue. Sitting on the aisle, close to the front on the
groom's side, Guy nearly jumped out his skin when a man in a dark
suit appeared at his shoulder. He wore wrap around sunglasses,
the discreet ear piece indicating that they were some sort of
heads-up display as well as stylish eyewear.

"Excuse me, miss.. Could you come with me please?" The man was
quiet and professional.

Nancy quietly left the pew, going to the back of the church with
the man. Ignoring the stares of his family, Guy followed Nancy
and the man to the vestibule.

Stepping through the curtain, he wasn't ready for what he saw.
The man was propped against the baptismal font, his head turned
at an unnatural angle. Nancy was picking the lock on the door
that lead to the rectory.

"Police. They've got a good description of me." She didn't even
look up. "I'm leaving town. I suggest you go back to your seat
before someone comes looking for you." She opened the door
silently. "You don't want to get mixed up in this."

Faced with the prospect of staying and having to explain to his
family and the police how he came to meet a suspected bomber, Guy
followed Nancy through the passage. A quick search yielded a hat
and jacket she put on to disguise her hair and clothes. Guy
found the ignition activator for the minister's grav-car. They
got in the car, Nancy driving and Guy crouched into the passenger
foot well.

Things went wrong from the start. A woman came out of the
rectory office just as Nancy got into the car. Noticing the high
heels and shapely legs under the minister's fedora, the woman
shouted for them to stop. Nancy gunned the engines, making the
turbine squeal from the sudden demand for more power. Racing
north on University Avenue, she ran through a red light.

Guy saw the spire of the University chapel swing past the window.
"Hey!! You're heading the wrong way!" Guy tried crawling out on
to the passenger seat but Nancy pushed him back. "Boston is
south of here. You're heading north!"

"I know what I'm doing." Nancy's voice sounded calm even as she
drove erratically through the streets. Sirens filled the air.
"Some one must have found the cop. I can imagine I must have
spoiled dear cousin Henry's wedding."

"This is no time for jokes."

The chase continued across the Merchant district. She drove the
old car like a fighter jet, weaving and bobbing through traffic
and around obstacles. They'd had to double back twice. Police
cars screeched and crashed as their drivers flung them recklessly
into Nancy's path. They trapped her on the East Bridge, a police
road block sealing them off from freedom. Nancy stopped the car
in the middle of the span.

"This is the end of the line, Guy." She pulled a small hand gun
from her purse. "Tomorrow, I want you to know that I did this
for you."

Guy had always known that androids were stronger than their size
implied. But he had no idea just how strong Nancy was until she
dragged him out of the foot well and across the driver's seat.
Jamming her hand gun under his chin, she crossed to the guard
rail using him as a shield.

The cops froze as they saw their prey and her hostage. She
climbed onto the guard rail, still shielding herself with Guy's
body. She screwed the barrel tightly under his chin, she
whispered "Tell them the truth, Guy. It will be easier."

Then she dove into the river, 150 feet below. Before he could
think to do anything, police grabbed Guy's arm. Guy heard was a
policeman say, "You're all right now, mister. I don't think
she'll be coming back."

Newspaper accounts would later speculate on the identity of the
mad bomber. The Arkham Advertiser called it "The wildest rampage
ever in our city streets." Even the Boston papers compared it to
the wild and fast days of Prohibition and rum runners. No one
connected the girl, the bomb, and the death of a dissident
economics professor. At least not in print.

Guy spent about three days in the care of the Arkham police. He
was interrogated daily but did as Nancy had suggested and told
the truth. He was soon released and returned to Boston. It was
just as well. His family ostracized him, blaming his poor
judgment for bringing and unstable woman to the largest family
social engagement of the year. Guy told Fred it was all for the
best, now he would have fewer Christmas presents to buy.

The only trouble was that Guy missed Nancy. Sitting alone in his
small spartan apartment, bathed in the eerie blue glow of the
video screen, he felt bittersweet about losing her. He told
others that "at least now I never have to worry about getting
garroted in my sleep." But when he was alone he admitted to
himself that he'd give anything, even life as a fugitive with a
sociopathic android just to hear her voice again.

Summer past and Boston started feeling the approach of autumn.
Guy watched couples walk through the rain, huddled close to each
other under umbrellas or in taxi stands as he came home from
work. He woke one morning, slapping the clock as the snooze
alarm went off for the third time. Stumbling to the shower, he
dreaded another day in the fluorescent hell of his cubicle. The
water beat against his skin, slowly dragging him out of his
drowsy muddle. Turning off the shower, he threw open the
curtain. And froze.

"Welcome home, Honey!" She handed him a towel. Nancy's blue
eyes seemed to laugh at him as he stood naked and dripping in the
shower.

Here we go again, Guy thought as he watched her loosen the belt
on her bathrobe. Ah well, you only live once.

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