Monday, September 28, 2009

the sixteenth letter, part 27

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

as her shift drew to a close, giselle was still seething over the fate of pinky, and her own disrespectful treatment by major dreyfus. she had gone over the 24 pages of the form 637 country girl had filled out, and though she found it obviously duplicitous and self serving she couldn't fault it on technical grounds, so she had sent it on its way - probably to oblivion. she was checking her written log book for neatness and hadn't noticed corporal swan approaching behind her.

"excuse me, sergeant," swan said behind her, in her smooth and subtly sneering voice.
giselle was slightly startled. "yes?"
"schweik and i are putting in for extra duty."
giselle looked over at the officers benches, schweik was staring into space with his usual vacant expression.

"the full eight?" giselle asked.
"six "
'very good."
swan went back and sat down beside schweik. giselle noticed they were keeping their distance from country girl, who seemed on the verge of falling asleep. the benches looked a little empty - pinky of course was gone, and corporal amethyst and her partner grogan hadn't returned from delivering pinky to the recycling center. thinking of this made giselle's mind churn again.

although she tried to respect humans - as she had been programmed to do - giselle found little to approve of in the ones in station 1473 - a bunch of losers, slackers, timeservers (major dreyfus!) and out and out morons.

and these were the police! - not the bozos on the streets they were keeping in line and sweeping up.
corporal amethyst - a soft voiced and earnest young woman who spent her off hours studying - was all right. giselle had trusted her to check pinky out and take him to recycling. and she could almost understand how amethyst, with her kindly nature, would cover for her dumb human partner, grogan.

but swan? next to the loathsome country girl - who had more than justified giselle's misgivings about her - swan was her chief irritant. giselle couldn't understand why swan - the only human in the place with half a brain - would carry and cover for schweik, the dumbest of the whole lot. unless she was up to no good - or, more likely, just didn't want to risk having a robot for a partner. but, what if she really was up to some skullduggery? how giselle would love some excuse to have her sent to an interrogation center!

sergeant lorna arrived, a little early as usual, to take over. giselle took her aside, away from the door to major dreyfus' office, and explained in a low voice what had happened to pinky.

lorna was even more horrified than giselle had been, and kept glancing over at the solitary figure of country girl on the bench.
"look at her," lorna muttered to giselle. "talking to herself. i bet she's consumed with guilt."

" i doubt it," giselle answered. "she's probably just trying to keep herself awake." with a last glance at country girl, she went out the front door.
lorna took her log book and some forms out of a drawer. she faced front toward the door but thought she felt country girl's malevolent gaze boring into her back.

the new shift of officers arrived, leaving only swan, schweik, and country girl on the benches from the earlier shift.

amethyst and grogan returned from delivering pinky to the recycling center. after a few words with lorna, they left.
two of the new officers took away the small group of prisoners on the benches and it grew quiet.

country girl was trying to keep herself awake by thinking about sally, and fantasizing about the two of them being friends in another universe.
suddenly the small screen on the right of the front desk flashed into life. lorna studied it for a few seconds and looked over at major dreyfus' door. the major emerged, a little bleary-eyed.

country girl and sally were walking along a beach. they turned around a bend and saw a weatherbeaten shack on a small cliff, looking ready to fall into the sea.
"see if she's awake," country girl heard lorna's voice. she looked up and saw swan staring down at her through her silver shades.

"i'm awake."
"a little bit of trouble in the 91st, you ready?" swan asked.
"sure." country girl looked over and saw lorna and the major looking at her. she got up and walked over to them.

"so did you have a good time?" beth asked olivia. the two of them and nancy were on their way back home to the slag heaps after the show.
"i did," olivia answered. "it was very relaxing. thanks for inviting me."
nancy laughed. "listen to madame. you know you can come with us any time."

"you should come with us more often," beth added.
"we'll see," said olivia. she looked around at the dark street. "this isn't the way we came."

"this is a good shortcut," nancy told her. "we're almost there."
"why didn't we come this way then?"
"it's not so quiet earlier," nancy told her. "lots of the undesirable element, milling around, you know."
"huh. well. it's quiet now."
"but i think i hear something," beth said.
they came to the next corner. olivia followed nancy and beth around it and they saw halfway down the block a couple of police vans and four police, three humans and a robot, herding some undesirable elements into them.

"wonderful," said olivia.
"you can get us through them," said nancy. "what's the problem?"
'i can, but i'd much rather not. let's walk around."
they started to turn around but one of the human officers had spotted them.

"hey, short stuff! and your two pals! hold it right there!"
they looked back and swan was bearing down on them. olivia walked back and met her halfway, with nancy and beth right behind her.
"did you really think you could just turn your backs on me like that?" swan asked them with a grin.

"you know," olivia said, "i don't particularly like the tone of your voice."

swan stopped smiling. "i've had a long day and i don't need any of your ragamuffin mouth. go and get in one of those vans, all three of you." nancy gave beth a this-is-going-to-be-good look but beth looked a little nervous.
"excuse me," olivia told swan. " but i'm the special assistant to the duc d'otrante, sub-coordinator of police activity for the universe."
swan laughed. "and i'm the queen of atlantis."
"check it out." olivia took a large shiny coin out of her pocket and showed it to swan.
schweik came up behind swan. "what's going on here?"
swan handed him the coin. "go back to the van and check this out." she kept staring at olivia.

"it didn't look good enough to you?" nancy asked , but olivia held up her hand to stop her talking. they waited in silence for schweik, who first had to explain what he was doing to the two other police.
swan met him when he was halfway back.
"it's good. super good."
"i still don't believe it."
schweik shrugged. "trust me, it's not worth it. we've got a good haul, it's quiet, let them go and let's go."

without answering, swan went back to olivia and gave her her coin back. "what about them?" she nodded at nancy and beth. "who are they?"
"what do you care who they are? they're with me, that's all you have to know."
swan gave olivia one more stare, then looked around at the street. "have a pleasant walk, wherever you're headed." she went back and rejoined schweik, hearing nancy's and beth's laughter behind her.
"are you all right?" schweik asked.
"i'm fine."

the sixteenth letter, part 28


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