Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the sixteenth letter, part 25

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

"you can't treat me like this," country girl told giselle. she picked the 637 form up off the floor where she had dropped it. '"'l'll fill this out. it doesn't matter where i sit when i fill it out."
"i didn't say you couldn't fill it out." giselle answered. "fill it out to your heart's content. meanwhile i will be filling out my own form - remanding you to the outer perimeter jurisdiction. " she opened a drawer and took out a one page form and showed it to country girl.

"outer perimeter jurisdiction, corporal. use the correct terminology, please."
"this isn't fair.'" country girl struggled to keep her voice down. " i have a clean record. i have a good record. i was sent on a special assignment just this morning."
"and look what you did with it."
"i had an accident. but i was sent on a special assignment - you sent us on it yourself."
"i see." giselle's voice rose, and the whole station grew quieter. "and you took that as a mark of favor, did you?'

"well - yeah, if you put it that way."
"you were half right, corporal. it was indeed intended as a good training assignment - not for you, but for officer pinky."
"but he was so dumb he was complaining about it - i had to explain to him it was good duty."

giselle's voice rose another notch. "officer pinky was a maximum 28 model, marked for rapid promotion." behind her on the officers' benches, some of the humans glanced quickly at each other.
"great. turn him back on and rapidly promote him." someone on the benches laughed.

"i have had enough of you, sit down, please."
"but it's not - "
"sit down!"
'what's all this brouhaha, eh?" a human male officer had emerged from a door behind giselle. he was pasty faced and pot bellied and leaned on a cane.

"major dreyfus," giselle straightened up. "i'm sorry to involve you with this." she paused. "let me explain."

the major waved his cane. "i've heard everything. i think i have an idea of the situation."
"then i am sure you will agree - " giselle began.

the major interrupted her. "i have reports of possible unrest in the 65th and 68th tonight. we may need all the officers we can get. what's that you have there?" he took the one page form from her hand. he looked at it and laughed. "a jupiter one-pager? where is your judgment, sergeant?"

"with all due respect, major, this is a truly outrageous development."
"and a riot in the 65th wouldn't be?"
"the corporal's story is preposterous. officer pinky was a highly developed model who couldn't possibly been injured in the manner she describes."
the major raised his eyebrows.

giselle went on. "in addition, officer pinky was heavily involved in robot empowerment and advancement programs - "
"was he, now? the officer's extracurricular excellencies are no concern of mine." the major turned to country girl. "we may need extra officers tonight. i hope you will consider staying the night on overtime."
"sure. sure. no problem. "

"good, that is settled then." the major folded the jupiter one-pager and put it in his pocket.
"but what about officer pinky?" giselle protested.
"if there is no external damage - as the corporal has indicated - send him to recycling to have him turned back on. what else would you have?"
"i think a full departmental investigation is called for."

"nobody cares what you think. i believe, sergeant, i heard you speculating - and rather loudly - on internal department policies. most irregular. but i will overlook it, in view of tonight's situation."
"but -"
"carry on, sergeant." the major went back into his office and closed the door.

giselle looked at country girl. "i think you should still fill out the 637."
"right. coming right up," country girl went over to one of the officers benches.

the other officers, human and robot, edged away from her. she didn't notice them. she began filling out the 637, trembling with relief.

in his office, major dreyfus leaned back in his padded chair with a sigh. the screens in front of him were blank. there were no reports of unrest in the 65th or the 68th or anywhere else.

edwin was exhausted. he couldn't go any further. according to the paper crispus had given him he had reached the right level - the 71st - but he still had ten blocks out of the hundred to go. he sat down on the sidewalk. a few people passing by looked at him curiously. he was a little more respectably dressed than most of the people on the street. there were signs of erased graffiti on the buildings. edwin didn't know what to make of that.

he was being watched from across the street. two ragamuffins, connie and bonnie, sat at the corner of an alley, connie in the alley on a box, bonnie on the sidewalk under the front window of a dusty store.
"he's got that look about him."
"you think so?"
"not that he looks like much of a pickup."

they watched him for a while. he sat on the sidewalk with his head down, oblivious to what was around him, but staring at his feet.
"look at him," said connie, "he wants to take his shoes off but he's afraid."
bonnie laughed. "that's a good citizen."
"he has to be sent. he picked a good time for it." the police had swept the area less than twenty-four hours earlier, carting off a couple of dozen riffraff and cleaning the mostly albigensian graffiti off the buildings.
"or somebody picked it for him."
"let's give him a few more minutes, see if he moves."

bonnie had a little bag beside her on the sidewalk. she took a lime and papaya drink out of it and opened it.
"don't offer me any of that."
"you don't like warm drinks. "
"you're right, they're disgusting. but it's the principle.'
bonnie didn't answer and slurped up some of the contents.
"they should make little refrigerators that you can carry around with you."
"you're right."
edwin finally pushed himself up off the sidewalk, almost bumping into a preacherly looking individual walking behind him. the preacher glared at his back but moved on.
connie got up. "i'm going to follow him."
"i'll be right behind you."

the van returning from jupiter was about ten blocks from garage 533. it slowed at an intersection and bobo and lobo slipped off the top of it. they headed down the first alley they came to.
'that was refreshing," said lobo.
"you want to do it every day?"
"i meant the ride back. there was a nice breeze."
"it was cold."

they crossed some streets and went down another alley. they came to a barely visible door. bobo opened it by turning the doorknob back and forth like a combination lock.
they entered a bare room. a hanging bulb in the back gave the only light. jojo stood on a box beside a small printing press. piles of pamphlets were on the floor and on a chair behind him.
"i'm ashamed of you guys," he said without looking at bobo and lobo.
"we're here, aren't we?" asked lobo.

'you shouldn't have let yourselves be arrested in the first place. you're a disgrace."
bobo took the pamphlets off the chair and sat on it.
lobo took one of the pamphlets up. "secrets of eternal love-truth," he read. "could you come up with something more original?"
"could you?"

the sixteenth letter, part 26

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