Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the sixteenth letter, part 1

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

mike mean, mac the mailman, barbarian the bartender, farquhar and some other riffraff had been bundled out of the van in the garage. rango and applesauce had signed them over to a human sergeant and two large and wide robots and the two robots had led them away to a ramp marked with a big red letter p. sally was left alone in the back of the van.
"hey sarge," rango called to the human sergeant, who had started back to a little desk he had in the shadows of the basement.
"how about some backup here? we got a special pickup and we have to take her way across town."
the sergeant walked back. he had the word "old" stenciled on the pocket of his shirt. he looked in the back of the van at sally and laughed.
"she looks dangerous all right. "

"come on, sarge," rango persisted. "you know it's not her, it's who might try to free her. she's a special pickup, she must have some confederates."
"if you needed backup, you would have been given backup."
applesauce spoke up. "just in the last few nights, some sworn officers and even a couple of detectives have been waylaid in the pursuit of their commissions."

"so?" the sergeant countered. "they were probably in on it themselves. if you guys are faithful and true you should have no problem."
rango didn't give up. "come on sarge, be a pal,"
just then there was shouting and commotion up the ramp. one of the robots came running back down.
"sergeant, sergeant, we lost one of the prisoners! he was there, then he wasn't there any more!"
the sergeant didn't seem too concerned. "well, find him, dufus. lock and load and find him."
"it was the guy with a little gray hat, an old fashioned green suit."
"do you think i look at what they bring in?" the sergeant turned to rango and applesauce for support. "if i was picking up trash on the street, would i notice if i picked up an orange juice can or an orange and mango juice can?"

he turned back to the robot without waiting for an answer. "give it fifteen minutes. if you can't find the guy in fifteen minutes, process the others and get on with it."
"yes, sergeant," the robot started back up the ramp.
"and write it up! whether or not you find him, write it up!" the sergeant called after him.
"you lose a lot of prisoners?" applesauce asked.
"oh yeah, all the time. it's not like there won't be more coming. this is garage 533, it's quantity time here, not quality time."
"you sure you can't help us out with our quality prisoner?" applesauce tried one more time.

"i'm sure. now if you'll excuse me, i got a crossword puzzle to do. hey,what's a thirteen letter word for surrender to lawful authority?"
"capitulation," said rango.
"that's twelve letters."
"it was the best i could do."
"thanks for your help." with that, the sergeant went back to his little desk.
'hey," rango said when he was out of hearing range.
"did you see his name tag? do you think that was old sarge or just a sergeant named old?'
"i think it was just a sergeant named old."
'well, you never know."
"let's concentrate on our problem. think we should just play it straight and take our chances?"
"no." rango smiled. "i got a master plan."
"well, let's hear it, gridley."
"if someone tries to free her, where are they going to look for her? in the back, right? so we put her in the front with you."
"sure. you keep an extra hat in the storage compartment, right? we put her in front beside you, tied up nice and tight, with the hat on. from the street, she looks like an officer. i get in back and when the nefarious conspirators break in - suurrpriise!!" rango grinned.
"i like it. you're a genius, old buddy."

they put the plan in effect as quickly as if they had practiced it. they added some rope to the handcuffs sally already on and tied her feet too. the hat was two sizes too big and fell over her eyes - perfect, from their point of view.
rango got in back, right behind the cab's little window, so he could talk to applesauce, and facing the back door. they roared up the ramp and into the street.
"think we should gag her?" rango asked when they were on their way.
"why, is some passing stranger going to rescue her? her pals are either out here or they're not. "
"i don't have any pals," said sally.
"i don't recall asking you a question," applesauce told her.
"i'm not a prisoner anyway," said sally. ''i'm not going to complain because it will be over soon anyway, but i'm not a suspect, i'm a victim. they just want to ask me some some more questions."
both officers laughed out loud at this. "they don't send us to pick up victims, sugar," applesauce told her. "you're a prisoner."

they drove through the city in silence for a while.
"that guy who got away," applesauce said after a while. "you think he's in with her? kind of a coincidence, him getting away like that."
"i never saw him before," sally said. they ignored her.
"he's just some magician," said rango. "he probably sleeps in a garbage can somewhere. you know the first thing they taught us in robot school?'
"i think you might have mentioned it before."
"magic and superstition are no match for science and progress. and do you know why?"
"tell me."

"magic sleeps, and moves in cycles, but science never sleeps, and just keeps on coming."

when they were a block away from their destination they stopped and put sally in the back gain. the destination was a tall white building with a strip of grass in front of it. a human guard waved them around to the back.

charlotte corday was waiting outside for them, alone. rango and applesauce exchanged quick nervous glances at each other as they got sally out of the back and untied her.
"take the cuffs off her too," was all she said.
they freed sally and looked at charlotte.

"you can go now, officers."
"will we get a commendation?" rango asked.
"get out of my sight."

"are you out of your mind?" applesauce almost screamed when they were back on the street. "never ask a question of someone that high up! we'll be lucky if we're not on the chain gang tomorrow!"
"she forgot about us as soon as we were back in the cab."
"then why ask her in the first place!"
rango hung his head. "i made a mistake. i'll make it up to you."
"oh, forget it."

blinking in the sunlight, farquhar brushed himself off as he headed uptown. "i'm getting too old for this," he muttered. "and i need a new suit."

the sixteenth letter, part 2

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