"early today, corporal," was giselle's greeting when county girl reported back to station 1473 for her regular shift.
country girl managed a smile. "only a little, sergeant."
"we haven't determined a permanent new partner for you yet. for today you will be partnered with officer leslie, when she gets here. corporal columbus is on education duty. "
"i am sure you two will get on very well," giselle continued.
meaning you are both humans, but country girl didn't rise to the bait and answered
"yes sergeant" expressionlessly.
"do you think you will put in overtime tonight, corporal?"
"probably not. i'm pretty tired."
"very good. carry on, corporal."
country girl went and sat on the far left of the officers bench behind giselle. ten minutes later leslie rushed in in her civilian clothes. giselle waved her away impatiently and she raced around to the dressing room. she emerged in uniform a few minutes later, barely on time, and after a brief conversation with giselle, came over and sat a few feet from country girl.
"we meet again," leslie said to country girl.
country girl just shrugged.
"get any sleep?" leslie asked her.
"i didn't. this is my regular switch shift so i ought to be used to it.
of course with my luck we always get stuck somewhere the night before the switch."
"yeah." country girl wasn't really interested in leslie's complaints but she didn't mind them either. they might help keep her awake.
but leslie fell silent. the two of sat there as the minutes dragged by.
"i can handle this," leslie said after a while. "i'm not in the mood for any excitement."
margot de valois and her assistant, snuffy smith, did not speak, even to each other, until the door of margot's office closed behind them. margot had a little refrigerated bar behind her desk and she opened it and took out two iced coffees and gave one to snuffy.
snuffy flopped down in the big chair beside margot's desk. "that was exciting, don't you think ?"
"don't get so comfortable." margot sat down herself.
"aren't we going to sit here and scheme?'
"'we' aren't going to do anything. i am going to take a little time to consider my options. you are going to get to work on the religious elimination plan."
snuffy sipped her coffee and didn't move. "i didn't hear anything about religious elimination being final."
"i did. when you've been to a few more meetings you'll learn how to listen."
snuffy still didn't move.
"if you get the new job, will you recommend me for yours?"
"did i say i was even looking for the new job? i said i was considering my options."
"uh-huh." snuffy took another sip of coffee. "but just - suppose?"
'" i am not going to suppose anything."
"if you get the new job, what do you think will happen to bates?"
'bates! what do you care about bates?"
snuffy shrugged. "i just thought if you get his job - "
'it isn't his job."
"you know what i mean. and if i get your job - well, i just wondered if he might be - available -"
"well, you know, even with that one arm, he's kind of - what some of the girls back at the academy would call - "
"i went to the academy too, but i don't believe i'm listening to this. i was sitting directly in front of madame d and mrs r through the whole meeting. and you were sitting right behind me. are you telling me you were looking at bates like a frog looking at a fly the whole time?"
"of course not. i went to madame de la rouchefacauld's school."
snuffy rolled her eyes. "deportment isn't the main thing - it's everything."
'i'm relieved to hear that. but i guess you can take the schoolgirl out of the filth but you can't the filth out of the schoolgirl."
"how did bates got his position anyway?"
"what do you care? this conversation has gone on long enough."
'you don't suppose monsieur barras - "
"snuffy, please! some things are too filthy even for a schoolgirl! now get your languid frame up out of that chair and get to work on the religious elimination plan."
"all by myself?"
margot sighed. "i'll call you in shortly. now get - to - work."
leslie looked over at country girl. "want to ask for early break?"
leslie got up and walked up behind giselle. "excuse me, sergeant, but can we take early break?"
'yes,' giselle answered without turning around. "but don't ask for another one, no matter how slow it is."
'we understand." leslie nodded to country girl and they went over to and out the side door. there was a refrigerator for drinks beside the door and they each took a can out of it.
the sedan was standing unattended just beyond the door. leslie went over and stared down at it. "i wish they'd let me use this. but i need a couple of more driver classes."
country girl yawned and just nodded.
"how about you? would you like to use it?" leslie asked her.
"i don't care. i'd just as soon drive around with somebody, even if it's just a robot."
"not me. i want to be wild and free, and fly like a bird."
giselle could see them out the side window. what a pair, she thought. there was some old human expression she couldn't quite remember - what was it? "take three of a kind to beat a pair like that." that was it. she wasn't sure what it meant but it sounded funny. she chuckled to herself.
"can i ask you something?" country girl asked leslie.
'sure. anything. "
leslie leaned back against the car and took a toothpick out of her pocket.
"have you ever been in love?"
'i'm in love. with this girl i just met. i can't stop thinking about her. i hope i can see her again tomorrow morning. it seems like a million years away."
"very exciting, i'm sure." leslie looked up at the sky. " you shouldn't talk about stuff like that. i might fall in love with a car. or a flying cab. not a person." she chewed on her toothpick. "but hey, you told me your little secret, i'll tell you mine."
leslie moved over and whispered in country girl's ear. "i don't like robots."
country girl shrugged. "some of them are o k."
leslie leaned back against the sedan again. "not as far as i'm concerned. i don't trust any of them."
'i was out with one last night. a replacement. he was o k."
robots were programmed not to talk out loud to themselves, but watching country girl and leslie whispering to each other, giselle felt herself on the verge. she was tempted to go out and tell leslie to stop leaning on the sedan but felt that this would be some kind of victory for leslie. she decided if they were one second late she would go out and get them.
giselle had a couple of secrets herself but no one to confide them to.
she had been in love with pinky, and was determined to avenge him.
and she didn't like humans.
suddenly the message board lit up - light blue for low priority.
she took it on voice
and listened for a minute. "it's slow here," she answered. "we can send a team no problem. two, if you want."
she listened some more. "you're welcome," she answered.
country girl and leslie were returning to the bench.