"that robot is just lying there."
"he's not moving."
some of the humans who had been watching from the sidewalks came over to look down at pinky.
"you know what i think?"
"i think this robot is dead, sib."
"you know, i think i agree with your diagnosis, doctor."
country girl closed the driver side door of the van. otherwise she ignored the spectators, who for now were just talking.
"is he dead?" sally asked country girl.
"no, he is just sleeping. i just turned him off."
"can we turn him back on?"
" turn him back on?" country girl gave a short laugh. "after all the trouble i took to turn him off?"
"what are you going to do with him?"
"put him in the back. think you can help me lift him?"
"i don't know,:" sally answered doubtfully. "he looks awfully heavy."
"well, give it a try, ok? let me open the back first. " country girl walked around and opened both back doors of the van. for the first time she addressed the spectators, most of whom were still on the sidewalks on both sides of the street. only a few of the bolder ones had come right into the street.
"nothing to see here, folks. the officer had a little accident, that's all. we'll be on our way shortly."
laughter from the spectators. "accident?" somebody yelled. "you killed him! we seen it."
"that's not how they show it on shows!" another shouted.
"yeah," from another loud voice. "what way is that to act from a sworn officer of the universal law?"
country girl ignored them and came back around to where sally was standing uncertainly over pinky with a couple of ragamuffins at her elbow.
"come around here and get his feet. i'll get his arms."
sally did as country girl directed. some of the other spectators moved a little closer.
"all right, lift."
sally gave up after three seconds. "forget it."
"he is heavy, isn't he? you'd think these new models would be made out of lighter material."
"so what are you going to do now?" sally asked.
country girl straightened up and looked over at the sidewalk. "all right, any of you big strong humans want to earn some coin? for a few seconds work?"
the small crowd quieted. even the laughter stopped.
a hulking fellow with a blue spotted bald head walked out of the shadows. "you got some good coins?"
"yeah, i got some coins. i keep them for special occasions."
"like murdering one of your fellow officers?" this got a couple of laughs.
country girl ignored this and took a couple of coins out of her pocket. "take a look at these."
"just a moment, officer." another figure emerged from a dark doorway, a bent man with a long gray beard and leaning on a stick carved with some faded symbols.
country girl looked at him. "you think you can help lift this fallen officer?"
the man looked back at her with dark sunken eyes. "i would like a little clarification." he pointed to pinky. "is this creature dead or alive?"
"he's a robot. he needs to be turned back on."
"then why don't you turn him back on?" the man asked.
country girl hesitated, looked at the blue spotted man who was considering the coins, then over at sally. "because he needs to be programmed. if i try to just turn him back on the most that would happen is he would walk around in circles and knock things over."
more laughter. "that sounds like it might be fun," a voice called.
"would he remember anything?" the graybeard asked.
"he will have a memory lapse," country girl answered impatiently.
"will he remember anything at all?"
country girl looked over at sally. "he won't remember anything that ever happened to him."
"ah!" the bearded man waved a long finger at country girl. "ah! but memory is both the glue and the harmonics of the soul. according to the third council of arimathea. therefore i conclude that the creature is in fact - dead."
some mild clapping emerged from the sidewalk behind him. " you testify, prophet," someone shouted halfheartedly.
"thank you, citizen, for those insights," country girl told the prophet. "on behalf of law enforcement i'd like to say we are glad we can provide you with a safe environment to consider these matters." she turned back to the bald man who was rolling the coins in one his big hands. "how about you, slugger, you ready to help out?"
"got any more?"
'"i got one more." she took another coin out of her pocket. "but what i haven't got is all night. this one is better than the others, trust me, so take it or leave it."
the man shrugged. "all right."
"you need someone to help you?"
"nah, i can handle him myself. i might bump his feet a little, dragging him."
"not a problem. do it." she handed him the third coin, and looked back at sally, "get back in the cab.
the bald man put the coins in his pocket and grabbed pinky under the arms. with a few bounces of pinky's feet on the paved road, he got him into the van effortlessly, almost tossing him in with one hand.
country girl closed the van.
the ragamuffin who had first come over to pinky's prone form stopped her as she went back to the cab. "can you give me a ride uptown?" he asked her.
she got in the drivers seat. "all clear over there?" she asked sally.
"there's nobody hanging on the side."
"then let's go." they raced off up the empty street. a few indistinct shouts followed them.
they rode in silence for a few minutes. "there was no danger, you know," country girl finally said. "those chumps would never actually attack a police officer unless there was a full scale riot. and they weren't about to start a full scale riot."
"i was scared."
"yeah, but you didn't show it. you were cool."
"i want to go home and go to bed."
"that's where we are going. i got a long night ahead, filling out forms and answering questions about our friend back there." she looked over at sally. "you don't want to wait around while i do that."
"you know why i did it, don't you?"
"i did it for us - so that we can be friends."
sally didn't answer.
"i think you need a friend. and i want to be your friend."
sally looked out the window.
"just think about it. i'm taking you home now. right up ahead, i'll get back on the main road and we'll go right into level 15."
"what are you doing tomorrow?"
"i guess i'll go over to work and see if i can get my job back."
country girl laughed. 'with anybody else, i'd say forget it. but with you, mystery girl, who knows?"
"you are really taking some chances, aren't you?"
"you got to roll the dice some times."
"i'm not a dice roller. i just like to go home and watch shows."
"hey if nobody ever did anything, there wouldn't be anything for shows to be about, would there?"