tammy lee had just been promoted to corporal and assigned her own van and robot partner, so she was disappointed but not surprised when she wasn't assigned to the sweep of level 12.
she got into the drivers seat of her van and waited while the vans assigned to the sweep pulled out. she had a little hand written note posted to the dashboard. it read "do what you can, not what you can't". she noticed her partner, a large robot called the torque man, reading it . the torque man was an older model robot, but recently refurbished and polished.
"that's a nice sentiment," the torque man told tammy.
"thank you," tammy told him and smiled. "let's go catch some bad guys." she pulled into the line and rolled up into the street.
tammy was the third and youngest daughter of the count of toledo and his second wife. three of her uncles had been popes, and an aunt had been abbess of vienna. she was determined to overcome the shame of known birth and her association with the old crumbling ways, and had applied herself diligently at the academy. her dream was to be admitted to the reactionary indication or the suspicious development or even the unspeakable crimes unit.
but on this morning the streets were unpromisingly empty.
the torque man leaned back. "whenever there's a sweep on one level, the other levels are pretty quiet too," he told tammy.
tammy frowned. "i thought the bad guys might get off the level being swept and be ripe for plucking on the others,"
"they do. but if they are that clever they are usually staying out of the way. you really have to watch for them."
"well that's what we are here for, aren't we. let's watch for them, " tammy said, with a friendly smile at the robot.
they drove for a little while. they van came up to a large supermarket. some employees were entering the front door for the morning shift. tammy slowed down, but the employees seemed to be filing in correctly.
"stop!" the torque man told her.
she stopped and glanced at him questioningly.
"i thought i saw something in the back lot."
tammy started to back up.
"stop. let's get out and go back on foot."
they got out and walked briskly around to the back of the supermarket, tammy in front and the bigger, more visible robot a few paces behind her.
three men, two with their backs to tammy and the torque man, were standing suspiciously close together and listening to a little ragamuffin in a black hat who was thrusting a handful of pamphlets at them. the third man had his head down and was shuffling his feet nervously.
they approached cautiously but the ragamuffin heard them. he dropped the pamphlets and took to his heels.
"jojo!" exclaimed the torque man. he took off after him.
there was a fence behind the lot and jojo was over it in a flash. the lumbering robot, unable to climb it quickly, smashed through it and followed him.
tammy bent down and picked up the pamphlets jojo had dropped. "the god of love explains all," she read the title of one. "love - the ultimate secret," she read another.
"nice material," she said to the men. "do you read this sort of thing every day?"
"we weren't reading it," said hongwu. "he was just trying to sell them to us. but we didn't buy any."
"selling them?" tammy raised her eyebrows. "he must think he has a good market around here." she looked around the lot. "are you coming off a night shift?"
"yes, we are," hongwu told her.
"really? you aren't on the night shift because you're good citizens with clean records."
"i'm on probation," said hongwu.
"and? go on, this is getting interesting."
"i'm on probation and i am trying to live up to the terms of my probation. that little fellow was trying to sell me some improper material and i was debating the best way to thwart him and report him to the proper channels when you arrived, officer."
"it sounds like you've had some practice making that speech."
"i assure you, officer, that is not the case."
moctezuma spoke up. "it was jojo! what do you want from us? if the police can't catch jojo, what are we supposed to do?"
tammy ignored this. "i noticed," she went on, "you were all standing awfully close together. almost as if you were plotting something."
"maybe we were surrounding jojo, so he couldn't get away," said hongwu.
tammy laughed, and hongwu laughed himself.
"nice try," said tammy. she took a pair of handcuffs out of her pocket. "let's get these on you."
as she was clicking the cuffs on, hongwu said, "you have a nice shape, officer."
"what!!! what did you say?" tammy's brain almost froze. it took her a couple of seconds to realize what he was doing. she turned away and moctezuma was racing for the fence. but he was no match for tammy and her academy training, and she quickly caught him, brought him down and cuffed him.
edwin had been even more surprised than tammy. as tammy chased moctezuma, he stood frozen, but at hongwu's headwagging urgings, he found himself racing out into the street.
which way to turn? what difference did it make? he ran.
tammy grabbed hongwu and moctezuma by their cuffed wrists and hustled them out to the van and locked them in the back. as she was closing the door, the torque man came running down the street, without jojo.
"did you see him?" she asked.
"jojo? yeah, i saw him but i couldn't catch him."
"no. the one that got away. the little weak looking one got away. i've got the two tough guys in the back."
"he didn't come this way or i would have seen him. he must have gone down that way."
they drove at medium speed down the street, quickly scanning doorways and alleys. the street was almost deserted as the people reporting for work at the supermarket and the other large stores on the street had almost finished filing in.
crispus was walking alone in the direction they were driving. tammy pulled up beside him. crispus stopped and turned to face the torque man.
"did you see a man running this way?" the torque man asked him.
"are you sure?"
"i would certainly have noticed if i had, officer."
"stay there." he got out. to tammy the torque man said, 'i'll check this guy out. keep driving around for the other one."
"right." she drove off.
"are you carrying any improper or subversive material?"
"where are you going?"
"i am on my way home. i just came from the supermarket, where i work."
"ah" the robot smiled. "let's take a little walk. i can look for your friend while we talk."
"i don't have any friends."
"that's what they all say."