"this is really too annoying," holmes announced, as he walked through the glittering streets of the lost city with his two companions, and the ragamuffin jojo tagging along behind. "what of the two rogues who met us in the desert? they knew we were coming. surely if we find them they will at least provide us with water and lodgings."
"water, maybe," jojo answered. "lodgings, not likely. but you will have to report to someone, and not just to get your names on the bottom of the queen's waiting list. if you don't report and get issued a blue card, you could have problems."
"aye," baywolf added. "and we'll have to earn our keep too, if we have to wait a while. the queen of darkness don't care much for idleness."
"nonsense." said holmes. "i brought a bag of good british golden guineas with me and made sure i kept them safe. we'll have no problems on that score."
amadis of atlantis, who had been silent since they entered the city gate, spoke up. "the lost city recognizes no currency but its own, mr holmes. and gold - i'm afraid gold has little luster here."
holmes grimaced at this, but strode forward purposefully. "first things first, gentlemen. let us find someone in authority and declare ourselves. perhaps fortune will smile on us - and we will find a drink of water."
they came to a corner where a pair of female soldiers, one young and goodlooking and the other stout and battlescarred, were sitting on barrels with their swords on their knees. the battlescarred one recognized baywolf the briton with a hearty shout.
they greeted each other by smashing their swords together, almost knocking holmes' deerstalker cap off his head in the process.
holmes smiled gamely. "an old friend, i see, baywolf. as this is the lost city, i assume these ladies are queens or princesses, eh."
the goodlooking one looked up at him from her seat on her barrel. "not a bit of it, sir. we be simple soldiers, privates in the queen of darkness' army. i'm annie and my mate here is polly. annie the attacker and polly the pounder they call us."
"i am most honored to make your acquaintances. could you, by chance direct us to a fountain -"
"yes," cried baywolf, "by king arthur's beard and robin hood's feather, can someone get this stout saxon something to wet his whistle!"
mike mean finished his cherry coke, looked back at the clock, and pushed the glass toward barbarian the bartender.
"we have to get going. sorry we can't hear the end of the story."
"no problem," barbarian answered. "how about you," he addressed farqhuar, "you want to hear more?"
"by all means, by all means."
mike and mac the mailman got up to leave. barbarian called to them as they went out the door. "it might not be over when you get back!"
the streets outside were quiet. the big cleanup hadn't started yet.
mac glanced around nervously. "how far is this place?"
"just around the corner, but on another level. it's an official building, a good place to be when the police get rolling."
"ok," mac answered doubtfully.
holmes didn't know it, but in some ways he was being "had on" as lestrade might have told him back in seven dials. his arrival had not gone as unnoticed as he was being led to believe. in fact, the queen of darkness herself, played by mata hari, was looking down on him from the window of a small but tastefully furnished apartment in the top story of an only moderately glittering building near the city gate.
the vizier, nostramantra, played by orson welles, was resting his bulk in an old fashioned easy chair at the back of the apartment. one other person, jones the director of security, played by jesse james, was in the room with them.
the queen let the curtain fall back in place and turned to face jones and the vizier. they both looked bored. the vizier looked as if he were falling asleep.
"i have a little surprise," said the queen. "there is more to this man's visit than i previously told you." she looked from one to the other. "of course you both have your sources but - i think it might still be a surprise."
"oh?" the vizier answered in his deep lazy voice.
"maybe just a little one."
"little ones are always best."
the recycling center was only seven stories high but covered three city blocks. mike and mac went past the main entrance and mike knocked on a small side door.
they waited a minute and mike knocked again a little louder. this time the door was opened by a slightly less than medium sized robot with the name "lolabelle" engraved on her front.
mike was a little taken aback. "where's jake?"
"he's not here."
"i always dealt with jake."
'is he coming back?"
"what a question! now i'll ask you a question. what do you want?"
"a friend of mine is being released today."
"and you think he is going to know you? you must not have very high brain wattage."
"well, i"d like to see him anyway."
"go around to the front and get in line with the rest of the peasants."
"you know," said mike. "i bet you don't have any friends."
"of course i don't have any friends," lolabelle answered. "what do you take me for?"
she looked around mike at mac, who was standing nervously behind him. "is this guy your friend?"
mike ignored this and took a little book out of his pocket. "if you had a friend i bet she would really like this." he showed it to her. it had a blue cover with white lettering: astrological love secrets of the ages. guaranteed for human and robot alike.
lolabelle snatched it out of his hand and stuck it in her pocket. "i'll need your numbers."
"77H-674g5-00j674-739532, " mike answered.
"you don't seem very bright for a guy 23 percent robot. what about you, little man?"
another, same model robot appeared. "shirlene" was engraved on her front.
"i'm letting these guys in the side," lolabelle told her.
mike took another little book out of his pocket. it had a red cover and was titled: love secrets of the pharaohs and pharaohesses of mu. it was also guaranteed for humans and robots alike. he slipped it to shirlene, who took it.
"i checked this character's number," lolabelle said to shirlene. "look what he has listed for occupation."
shirlene looked. "private detective."
the two robots cracked up and continued wheezing with laughter as they escorted mike and mac down a long corridor.