"you're a bright new human, aren't you? a real bright new human."
"now, now, i don't think brightness is the issue here," said molligan. "i think trust is the issue."
benson didn't bother answering this, but kept staring at jody.
"i am sure we are going to have a very nice conversation," molligan continued.
"we have done what we can here," benson said. "i'd like to get back and start putting what we've got through the labs."
"sure. might as well take this." molligan handed benson the gun he had showed to jody.
"might as well."
"you got two or three techs going through the building counting heads?"
"two of them."
"put a third one on, so we can get this over with. you and the others can go back."
"all right, i'll leave two vehicles."
"one will be enough."
"you're not going to bring our friend here back with you?"
"i haven't decided yet." molligan stared at jody. "if i do, one car will be enough."
"suit yourself." benson took the gun and moved away.
molligan leaned back in his chair. "now," he said to jody, "where were we?"
"you were talking about bonney and garrett - how they were famous outlaws or something."
"oh well, that probably wasn't important - i will have somebody check on it."
"check on 'it'? what exactly is 'it' if you don't mind my asking?
"your and nikki's entire genetic history, what else?"
"but it is nikki who is missing, not me. why not concentrate on nikki?"
molligan sighed. "don't you just want to get this over with?"
"more than anything in the world."
"then why not just answer my questions? maybe, just maybe, if you answer my questions, i won't have to bring you down to a station."
jody did not believe this for a second , but nodded. "all right."
the door opened and dooley returned with three styrofoam cups of coffee in a cardboard tray.
benson and three of the techs had packed up what they were taking, including the gun, nikki's books, the complete contents of the refrigerator and the kitchen cupboards, and the bottles and other trash, and started to move out.
jody watched them leave. "did they take all the food? and all the beer and drinks?"
"i am sure they did," molligan replied. "don't worry, we'll feed you."
"even if you don't take me down to the station?"
"of course. you're in good hands." molligan smiled again.
"the best," dooley added.
when suzi and robbie got back in their car, the green message light was on on the dashboard, which was no surprise and no big deal.
if there had been a priority message, the light would have been blinking.
if there had been anything really urgent, it would have been beamed directly to robbie's brain and to suzi's phone.
suzi rolled down the window and looked out at the night.
there was a dark alley directly across from here.
"did you see something down there?" she asked robbie.
"no, but i wasn't looking."
"you didn't sense anything?"
"no. what did you think it was?"
"probably just a cat or a rabbit." she reached for the dashboard.
"you want to get a cup of coffee or a doughnut first?"
"no, i'm good. thanks for asking." she touched the dashboard. "you spoil me."
"central. you have one message," came the voice from the dashboard.
"this is 52-78."
"thank you 52-78. i have you in c-290."
"please proceed to c-293, structure 67-b - that's a small reinforced cardboard structure."
"an altercation?" suzi asked.
"no, a missing - a missing something - i can't read it. robot, maybe, or rabbit - "
"well, is it robot or rabbit?"
"you don't have to get snippy. why don't you go see what it is? that's your job."
"i know that. i was just asking -"
"it is marked priority 9. repeat, nine. i didn' t think it worth questioning."
"i'm sorry. i apologize. we'll get right on it. i didn't mean to question your efficiency or cause you any undue stress. i'm sorry."
"your apology is accepted," said the voice. "i overreacted. i apologize."
"your apology is accepted. thank you."
the green light clicked off. and stayed off - there were no more messages.
suzi looked over at robbie and raised her eyebrows.
"everything is missing tonight," said robbie.
"probably a rabbit . priority nine."
"or a radish."
"a missing radish?"
"maybe the occupant has a radish patch behind his reinforced cardboard structure."
"and the rabbit got into it."
"right. the same rabbit you just saw in the alley."
"wouldn't that be something, huh?" suzi pressed the ignition and started the car away from the curb.
"wouldn't it?" robbie agreed. "the interactions and integrations in the immensity of the night are incalculable."
suzi made a u-turn and they headed for sector c-293.