Thursday, November 5, 2009

the seventeenth letter, part 7

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

monsieur barras is right about one thing," were mrs roosevelt's first words when the meeting recommenced. "we have spent too much time talking over the same things. the time has come for deeds, not words." this was a favorite expression of hers. it usually meant the hammer was coming down on somebody. she now had everybody's full attention.
"i have thought for some time that the twin duties of security and population were too much for one department. or one department head."

all eyes were now on barras, who gazed ahead with a small smile.
"monsieur barras deserves the gratitude of the universe for his efforts, which have had no small effect on his health." mrs roosevelt paused.

charlie bates, barras assistant, whose own fate now hung by a thread, kept a poker face. mrs brown and anna akhnaton and her assistant looked sincerely sympathetic, and madame defarge totally bored. everyone else smirked with varying degrees of openness.
"monsieur barras contributions have been so valuable," mrs roosevelt went on, "that we are loath to dispense with them completely. therefore madame defarge and myself ask him to stay on as head of the new, separate, department of population. monsieur barras?"

"i am here to serve, madame."
"we thank you. i am sure everyone here is properly grateful." she looked around the room. "permit me to digress a little here. this morning charlotte made a suggestion.

a suggestion to the effect that it would be a good idea to put the whole human race in prison, in order to properly reeducate it. i was sorry to see expressions of disbelief, amounting almost to outright derision, on some of the faces here. charlotte's vision is a noble one. unfortunately, one not ready to be put into practice. much has been done, but we still have a long road ahead of us.

all of which brings me to the subject of the new department of security, which will not simply be half of m barras old department, but a new expanded one with expanded powers. and of course, a new head of department will have to be chosen," she turned to madame defarge. "do you have anything to add?"

madame defarge looked around the table. "i think you have their full attention."
"indeed. a decision on the new head of the new department will be made at the next meeting, which will be called at no distant time. meanwhile we need a temporary head." she looked across the table behind barras. "mister bates?"
"yes, madame?"
"i understand that in your capacity as m barras' assistant, you have been concerned primarily with security and not population. am i correct?'
"i am not sure what population is, madame."
"what was that?" madame defarge asked him. "speak up."

"i said, i wasn't sure what population is. i think it's how many people there are in the world."
"actually," mrs roosevelt said, "it's how many humans there are in the world."

"i told you." bates smiled and spread his one arm. "i don't even know what population is."
"very droll. be that as it may, mister bates, are you prepared to act as temporary head of security during the first stages of reorganization?'
"i'm here to serve, madame."
"good. be assured that both madame defarge and myself are ready to give you any advice and assistance you may need."
"i appreciate it."
"thank you. before we move on, are there any questions? i see that the duc d'otrante has a question."

"more a request for clarification. these new - measures - must mean that the current policy of mass arrests is considered a success."

mrs roosevelt considered before answering. "it means it is going to be pursued with vigor."
"and other police work - the investigation of conspiracies and crimes - is to be - i 'won't say downgraded - but lowered in priority?"
"monsieur le duc," mrs roosevelt answered. "please use your own judgment. spend as much time as you see fit on whatever you think deserves your time."
eyes lit up around the table at this.

"i understand." the duc replied. "but let us be clear. the new policy indicates a perception that the current unrest is in effect generic and not the result of conspiracies. how deeply are we committed to that?"

"that is a very good question," madame defarge replied. "very well put." she looked down the table at charlotte.
"you have a broad mandate at unspeakable crimes, charlotte. what do you think?"

" unspeakable crimes supports the new initiative. wholehartedly.

i intend to devote most of my time to its implementation. at the same time, i have an assistant capable of keeping up - and more - with the conspiratorial side. if the conspiracies blossom again, unspeakable crimes will be ready, thanks to her, to meet the challenge. i guarantee it."
"well." mrs roosevelt smiled down the table at jeanne, who was the furthest person from her in the room. "that was quite an encomium. are you prepared, jeanne, to live up to it?"

"i'm here to serve, madame."
"this is a good group," said madame defarge. "they all want to serve."
"any other questions?", asked mrs roosevelt.

"i have one more," said the duc. "just one."
"the new initiative surely implies an increase in the police force. will the increase come through human recruitment or robot manufacture?"
'why," mrs roosevelt answered. 'that is an excellent question. as always, monsieur, you show a quick grasp of the broad situation. the answer is this will be decided by the full council as the reorganization proceeds.

for the moment, however, you have anticipated my next announcement. which is that, pending final decisions on these matters, robot production will be stepped up. as well as construction of prisons" she turned to anna. "did you hear that, anna?"

"yes, madame. and other public works projects?'
"use your own judgment. you are head of the department. i am sure mrs brown, madame ching and m barras in his new capacity as head of population, will give you every assistance, whatever you decide."

"yes, madame."
"robots and prisons, anna, robots and prisons."

"let's get out of here," the duc turned to olivia as soon as the meeting was over and madame defarge and mrs roosevelt had exited.

she jumped up and helped him get unhooked from his chair and back on his board. olivia packed and closed her briefcase and they got out to the elevators as fast as they could without looking like they were running,
"you did great," she whispered to him after she punched the button for an elevator. "you got back on your horse and charged up the hill. and you had charlotte back on her heels."

"yes, for a tenth of a second."
"you got a compliment out of mrs r."
"she was being sarcastic."

they fell silent as margot de valois and madame ching and their assistants joined them.

"didn't that feel good?" sally asked larry as they came out of her building into the sunlight.
"doing something useful. instead of running around arresting people all day."
"right. do you want a ride back to the employment agency?"
"no. i want you get me something to eat. like you said."
'it's still kind of early."
"i'll follow you until it 's time."
"no you won't. i have a car, you don't."
"you said."
larry started to laugh. "all right. want to go for a ride?"
"yes, to get something to eat."

"that's where we'll go. there's a restaurant i used to work in. i was a waiter, before i got on the police."
"where is it?"
"way across town."
'are you sure it is still there?"
"no, i am not sure it is still there. we'll take a ride, see if it is."
"suppose it isn't?"
"by the time we get there it will be lunch time."
"and you will buy me something somewhere?"
"all right.'
"then let's go.'

the seventeenth letter, part 8

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