Friday, October 23, 2009

the seventeenth letter, part 3

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

beth was still getting dressed and nancy was chewing a piece of dry toast when olivia left for the towers in the morning.

"you going to tell the dodger about last night?" nancy asked olivia.
"have to. he won't care too much. but if i don't tell him and he finds out, then he'd be mad."
"how mad will he be now?"
olivia shrugged. "unless he has nothing else on his mind - which he won't - he'll just nod and move on."
"will he be mad at us - me and beth?"

"don't worry about it. especially with me gone for a few hours he'll have all kinds of emergencies going on. that's why he told me to go home - because we were going to be busy."
"all right."
olivia headed for the door. "see you when i see you."
"ok, big girl. you keep the universe straight, now."

the duc d'otrante was in such a state of excitement when olivia got to the office that he was rolling himself back and forth behind his desk, something he hardly ever did.
"you're finally here!" he exclaimed to olivia.
"finally? i thought i was a little early."
"you are, you are. but i was ready to send tallboy after you."

"before we go on, i have something to tell you." olivia briefly described her run in with the police and her need to show her coin.
the duc hardly listened, and cut off her apology.

"well, try not to do that too often. are you still hanging with those two? don't they remind you of the old days?"

"you know i do. what do you want, you want me go to high tea with madame defarge?"
"no, of course not. speaking of madame defarge, she and mrs roosevelt have called a meeting this morning. that's why i wanted you here, to get ready for it."

"what time?"
olivia rolled her eyes. "plenty of time."
"no, it is not plenty of time. get your notes, let's go over them."
"notes on what?"
"all right." olivia went out into the corridor to her own little cubbyhole of an office and returned with an armful of files almost as big as herself.

she put them on the duc's desk, which he was now seated behind.
"are we looking for anything in particular."
"yes, anything charlotte is involved in or might be involved in. that reminds me, have you heard from our guest yet?"

"what! it isn't even twenty-four hours yet!"
"i'd really like to hear from her before we go."
"for what - we know she told charlotte everything. wasn't that the plan? all we'd get is misinformation."
"i'd like to hear it.'
"we told her to go slow. so even if they are pretending, they'll go slow, right.'
the duc rubbed his eyes. "this is getting too complicated, even for me."

"you're the master conspirator. do you want me to go look for her? she's probably asleep somewhere."
"why? she slept like a dinosaur when she was with us."
"i'll go look for her then. or i could send tallboy."

"no, stay here, i need you. and he's too conspicuous. i've told you before, you do too much yourself. you need to get someone to run errands and do your dirty work."
"why not nancy?"
"no! and don't ask me again!"
"all right. i'll start looking for someone. tomorrow. " olivia took the top file off the pile. "let's get started here."

when mister happy finished his speech, the prisoners, who had been counted at three hundred and seventy-nine, were lined up by the other robots and counted off again in rows of ten.

the rows of ten were then counted off in sixes and each group of sixty was marched off as a team with a robot as "team leader." when six teams had been marched off, seventeen prisoners, including mac, mike, barbarian , chubbles the clown, hongwu and moctezuma were left.
'two missing - or we counted wrong," the biggest robot with the biggest clipboard said to the only other robot left. they looked at each other and shrugged.

"you guys don't seem too concerned," barbarian ventured to say to them.
"seem concerned? we aren't concerned," the big robot answered good-naturedly.
"one or two prisoners more or less, what do we care?"

mister happy had come down from the podium and approached the group. "everything under control here, sergeant major?"
"fine and dandy, mister happy," the big robot answered.
"carry on." mr happy disappeared into the shadows.
"what's his rank?" barbarian asked the sergeant major.
'his rank?"
"is he a general or something?"
"he's mister happy."
"that's all you need to know," the smaller robot added.
"i am sergeant major sidney," the big robot went on in his easy manner. "often referred to familiarly by the prisoners as sid the sib, a nomenclature i lose no sleep over. and this is corporal chappie, whom i now leave you with. good day, prisoners." he strode off in the same direction mister happy had taken.

"now what?" mike was the first to ask corporal chappie.
"you prisoners are excess. you will wait here until the next shipment comes in and we can make up a full team."
"do we get anything to eat?" mac asked.

"yes prisoner, you will get something to eat. right now, in fact. follow me, anyone who wants food." corporal chappie looked the group over. "you can eat, then we will issue uniforms." he turned and began walking away, and the prisoners straggled after him.
as they followed, the prisoners looked around bewilderedly. the bright light had been turned off after mister happy had finished but now some natural light was filtering in.

"are we indoors or out?" moctezuma asked hongwu. they were hanging back a little behind the others.
"hard to tell, isn't it?" hongwu looked around, "it's like there's a ceiling up here somewhere. but no walls."

sally had planned to be at universal upkeep underwriters before any of the others, to ask about getting her job back, but waiting to see if country girl showed up had slowed her down.

she was waiting for the elevator when lulu and loulou showed up. they stopped in their tracks and stared at her.
"did you escape?" loulou finally asked her.
"no, they let me go," sally answered.
"let you go!"
"yes, they made a mistake. so they let me go."
loulou glanced at lulu, who looked a little frightened. "if you say so."

"so what are you doing here?" loulou asked.
"i'm going to ask elizabeth if i can have my job back."

"they already filled it," said lulu. "they sent a new person over."
"well, i'm here, it won't hurt to ask."
the elevator opened and they got on it, along with a couple of humans and a robot from other floors who had arrived while they were talking and overheard them. the two humans got off at the nineteenth floor with a look of relief. the robot stared at sally with open curiosity until they got off at the thirty-second floor.

bessie, ida and rhoda were hurrying to the uuu building entrance when sally emerged from it.
"do my eyes deceive me?" bessie asked, "it's champ."

sally went through her story with them and got the same expressions of amazement.
"but you didn't get back on?" ida asked.
"where are you headed now?" bessie asked sally.

"the employment agency, where else?"
"this is rhoda," bessie said. "she got your job."
"i'm really sorry about that," rhoda started, "if i had any idea - "
"but you didn't," ida cut her off. "come on, we're late already."
"don't worry about it," sally told rhoda.
"well, good luck," rhoda said over her shoulder as they moved toward the door.
"good luck to you," sally answered. she headed for the employment agency.

the seventeenth letter, part 4

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