SIMS One: La Causa Chapter 2

Patrick won the round by a single stroke, so Armstrong would have to buy the drinks. Before heading for the bar, Patrick slipped Nabb a ten-dollar bill.

Armstrong snatched it from the sim's fingers and handed it back to Patrick. "No tipping sims. That's a no-no."

"I always tip my caddie."

"If he's human, sure. But what's a sim gonna do with money?"

"Buy candy bars, or maybe a bottle of Cuervo. Who cares?"

"Better not. Holmes'll have a fit."

Patrick knew all about Holmes Carter: club president and a notorious pain-in-the-ass stickler.

Patrick winked at Armstrong. "You ever caddie?"

"Me? Naw."

Of course not, Patrick thought. You were probably getting private golf lessons instead.

"I did. Right here, before anyone ever heard of sims."

And I don't care if he's human, sim, or some kind of robot, Patrick thought, I willalways tip my caddie.

When Armstrong turned toward the locker room, Patrick rolled up the bill and palmed it to Nabb.

Inside, they had a corner of the bar to themselves, and while they were talking and drinking -  Armstrong a Gibson up and Patrick a Rob Roy on the rocks - he had the odd feeling of being watched. But whenever he looked around he saw only the sims bustling about. The wait staff was human, but sims did all the bussing.

Patrick listened to Armstrong's idea about opening negotiations with the clerks by demanding a few choice give-backs from the full-timers' benefits package. Figured that would put them on the defensive. What an asshole. The idea sucked, truly and big time. Not because of the give-backs - nothing Patrick liked better than putting the screws to the opposition - but because the clerks' negotiator was a bitch on wheels who'd take that kind of opening salvo personally. From there on negotiations would go straight downhill.

But he said, "The idea's got merit, Ben. Let me think on how to approach it."

No sense in miffing a deep-pocketed client.

Patrick ran a hand over the polished mahogany of the bar and looked around at the well-heeled members gathering in clusters on either side or filtering into the adjacent dining room. He wanted to belong here so bad it made his gut ache. Wander in whenever he damn well felt like it, set his foot on the brass rail, and hang with the high rollers, trolling, setting his hooks, reeling them in.

But he'd already been turned down three times.

While Armstrong was ordering another round, Patrick headed for the men's room. After he washed up, the white-coated sim attendant handed him a towel.

"May sim speak, Mist Sulliman?"

Patrick glanced at him in the mirror. An older sim, touches of gray at his temples and above his large ears. Patrick had been here often enough to recognize him. His brass name tag read "Tome."

"You know my name?"

"Read you in paper, see play golf - "

"Wait-wait-wait. Read in paper? Sims can't read."

"This sim read."

That jolted Patrick. The world was still trying to get used to talking animals, but reading - sims weren't smart enough. Or at least they weren't supposed to be.

"How'd you learn to read?"

"Taught self, sir," Tome said, puffing his chest. "Not good, but can do."

Patrick stared. "This is amazing! Why haven't you told the world?"

Tome shook his head. "Other sim name Groh learn read. Tell evyone. Mans come take way. Nev more see Groh."

"Really?" Who could that have been but SimGen? But why recall a reading sim? Unless it was to see how they could replicate the ability.

"Please not tell."

"Okay. Mum's the word." But a reading sim...he shook his head in wonder. "So what'd you want to say?"

"Mist Sulliman lawyer, yes?"

"Yes." Patrick grinned. "This isn't going to be a lawyer joke, is it? Don't tell me you do stand-up too."

"No, sir. You lawyer for union, is true?"

"Some days, yes; some days I'm for management. Where's this going, Tome?"

"Sims been talking and..." His voice trailed off.

Impatience nibbled at Patrick. Out there on the bar the ice in his drink was melting.

"And what?"

"And..." The words rushed out: "And sims want you start sim union."

Patrick's jaw dropped - he was looking in the mirror when it swung down and he saw it hang open like a trapdoor. Slowly he turned.

"A sim union? Have you been nipping at the aftershave, Tome?"

"Have money," Tome said. "Have saved. We give you make sim union."

"Wait a minute...wait a minute..."

Patrick suddenly had a wild thought. He looked around for a video camera. When he didn't see one, he checked the stalls - all empty. Laughing, he came back to Tome.

A reading, AFL-CIO sim. Sure.

"All right, who put you up to it? Armstrong? Rogers? Come on, who?"

"No, Mist Sulliman. We know you. Want hire."

Could this cloned ape be serious?

Patrick sighed. "Tome, you have no idea what you're saying. Unions are for people. Sims aren't people. That's the law."

"Yessir, but Mist Sulliman lawyer. Lawyer change law. You - "

Just then the door swung open and Holmes Carter waddled in. About Patrick's age - mid-thirties - but he looked older and had a commanding lead in the gut department. A bulbous forehead and no lips to speak of, and where Patrick's hair lay thick and fair, Carter's was dark and thinning; his scalp gleamed through his comb-over. Soon he'd be a chrome dome.

Or maybe not. Looking at Carter's hair now, Patrick noticed that it was thicker; didn't appear to be a rug or a weave either. Must have gone and got himself a splice to replace his baldness gene. You ol' devil, you.

Too bad the genemeisters couldn't do anything to reduce his fat. Scalps were easy: a limited number of cells to splice. Fat was a whole other deal - trillions of fat cells in a body.

But fat, thin, bald, or pompadoured, Carter would always be a first-class dork. No splice for that. But he was also third-generation Beacon Ridge and first in line to inherit the family's string of car dealerships. In his teens Patrick had caddied for the two preceding generations of Carters and they'd been pretty decent. But Holmes...Holmes must have been fashioned from what had collected in the skimmers of their gene pool.

Although Patrick qualified for the club professionally and financially - at least on paper - he hadn't been able to squeak past the membership committee. The blackball rule was alive and well here, and he was pretty sure Holmes Carter had used it to keep him out. Probably couldn't tolerate the idea of a former caddy hobnobbing with the members.

"Talking to yourself again, Sullivan?" he said, baring his teeth in what passed for a smile.

"You might not believe this, Holmes, but Tome and I were just..." Patrick noticed a sudden fearful widening of the sim's eyes "...having a little chitchat."

Carter swung on Tome. "You know the rules! No talking to people - even if it's a nonmember. You are to be barely seen andnever heard!"

"Yessir," Tome said. He turned away and hung his head.

Patrick spotted the ID number and bar code tattooed on the nape of the sim's neck.

"Lighten up, Holmesy," he said, then eyed the man's gut. "In more ways than one. What's he supposed to do when I talk to him? Ignore me?"

Carter bellied up to the urinal. "If it's you, yes. What's the matter? Can't get any people to listen to you?"

"I guess I like sims better than some people I know - present company included."

Carter had that shark grin again as he returned from the urinal and began rinsing his hands. "You never learn, do you, Sullivan. Why do I keep seeing you around here? When are you going to quit cadging rounds of golf from our members and bamboozling them into sponsoring you? Didn't you get the message when the committee turned you down? You're not wanted around here."

That stung. But Patrick hid the hurt and said nothing, simply stared at him.

"What's the matter?" Carter said as he dried his hands. "Cat gotcher tongue?"

"No," Patrick said. "Just wondering why you sprang for a hair splice and passed up one for a personality." Figuring he didn't have to worry about burning nonexistent bridges, he added: "Also wondering why I'm standing here listening to a used car salesman - "

"They'renot used!"

" - who has to use a homing pigeon to get his belt around his waist."

Carter's pie face reddened toward cherry. "You think you're funny?"

"I'm no Bill Hicks, but I have my moments."

"Keep it up, Sullivan. I hear you tipped a caddie today. Just keep it up and I'll have you banned from the grounds, so no matter how many friends you have here, you'll never step on our course again."

He threw his towelette at Tome and stormed out.

Patrick waited for the door to close, then turned to Tome.

"When do you get off?"

"Club close ten," Tome said.

"I'll meet you then. You may have found yourself a lawyer."

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