the cleanup of level 12 was about to begin. applesauce and rango were ready to roll. just before zero minute, applesauce got a message to make another pickup after they participated in the cleanup.
"message accepted. good to go."
applesauce bumped her 98 percent human fist against rango's 91 percent robot fist. an assignment like this was a mark of favor, a "good job guys".
the vans began to move. applesauce started hers up. she followed the vans ahead of her up into the streets and headed for their assigned area.
sherlock holmes felt quite a new man after he had the drink of water that annie the avenger had obtained for him at the little guard post just behind the street.
"now," he announced, i think the next order of business us to make our presence known officially. how do we go about that?"
"we can help you with that," annie the avenger told him. "me and polly can take you to an official personage."
"excellent," holmes replied. "you won't be deserting your posts to do it, i presume."
"oh no, this is part of the job."
lolabelle the robot led mike mean and mac the mailman through a series of narrow corridors to the front of the recycling center. sammy the newsboy was sitting on a bench with three other retooled individuals waiting to be released. there was a bench right beside the door for anyone waiting for a recycled friend, but it was empty.
"look at that," said mac. "we could have just gone in the front."
"but you didn't know that, did you?" lolabelle answered him. she led them to a desk with another robot behind it. "these individuals are here to pick a friend up, george," she told him. "please show them every courtesy."
"ok." the robot looked at mike. "does your friend recognize you?"
"i don't know. why don't we ask him."
"hey!" george called to sammy and the other three on the bench. "anybody know these guys?" they all looked at each other but none said anything.
george shook his head. "i don't know what you expected."
"can i talk to him?" mike asked."
mike walked over to the bench. "sammy, don't you recognize me?"
sammy looked at him vacantly and answered politely. "i can't say i do."
"that's ok. why don't you come with us anyway? i guarantee you nobody else is going to come pick you up."
"all right." he didn't sound very enthusiastic. he got up and followed mike and mac out the front door. the two robots, lolabelle and george silently watched them, but started laughing as soon as the door closed behind them.
annie and polly led holmes, amadis and baywolf across the street and into an ordinary looking (by lost city standards) building and up four flights of stairs.
"wait here," polly told amadis and baywolf. annie stayed with them and she took holmes up another two flights and knocked on an unmarked door.
"i think i can guess what comes next," farqhuar told barbarian.
the door opened behind him and applesauce and rango entered chuckie's bar.
barbarian the bartender looked up at them. "can i help you, officers?"
"why is this place open?" applesauce asked him. "didn't anyone tell you about the shutdown? level 12 is shut down."
"i know that. at five o'clock. i'll be shut down at five o'clock, don't worry, officer."
"five o'clock this morning."
"that's not the information i got," barbarian answered. "look, i'll show you." he took a piece of paper from under the bar.
rango snatched it out of his hand and crumpled it up. "no, we'll show you. we'll show both of you you are under arrest."
"everybody knows it's five o'clock tonight. i know my rights."
applesauce laughed. "listen to this guy. who are you, moses the lawgiver? did you go to heidelberg law school with hammurabi? cuff him, rango.'
'this guy too."
farqhuar looked down at drink. he could shrink himself but it might not do him much good in the empty bar. he might just get squished, especially by the heavy, mean looking robot.
"can i close the place up?" barbarian asked.
"what for? it's just going to be totalled."
barbarian hesitated, but didn't say anything more.
they both let themselves be cuffed and led outside to the van.
outside the recycle center the street was quiet and deserted.
"should we be out here?" mac asked.
"this is level 13," mac told him. "the cleanup is level 12. and they have until five o'clock anyway, until then you'll just get a warning. nothing to worry about."
sammy looked around with mild bewilderment.
"hey sammy, can you remember your number? the one you played every day for thirty- three years?"
"i'm not even thirty-three years old any more."
"true. but don't worry, i got it written down if you want to use it again. you want to get another newsstand?"
"i don't know," sammy answered slowly. "they told me to report to an employment center - they were going to give us a list with some levels to try."
"level 14, we'll go up to level 14, get you another newsstand, it will be like the old good old days,"
they started walking.
"i think we're a little too close to level 12 here, " mac persisted. "i think all those people who aren't here know something we don't."
"stop worrying. it's bad for you."
"look at those guys." rango pointed to mike, mac and sammy. "walking a fine line, aren't they?"
"a little too fine for my taste," applesauce answered. she went past them and stopped the van. then they both got out and quickly ran up a flight of steps to confront the promenading trio.
"citizens!' applesauce addressed them. "a nice quiet morning for a walk, hey?"
"indeed it is, officer," mike answered.
"it's a nice morning to get arrested. and you're all under arrest."
mike smiled confidently. "i'm afraid you are making a mistake, officer. this is level 13, not level 12. the announced cleanup is on level 12."
"i know where the cleanup is. we are authorized to arrest anyone on the streets or in a suspicious environment or acting suspiciously in the vicinity of the cleanup,"
"and this is the vicinity of the cleanup and you are acting very suspiciously," rango rumbled.
"wait a minute! it isn't five o'clock yet. you are just supposed to be issuing warnings." for the first time, mike looked a little worried.
"true, but suspicious behavior warrants immediate arrest."
"but we weren't acting suspicious. we were just minding our own business." mike pointed to sammy. "this guy just got out of recycling. how suspicious is that?"
"another lawyer." applesauce laughed. "we got more lawyers this morning than miscreants."