BOOK ONE – “A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION”
(Tuesday, January 2, 2035)
But Norlin fails to attain the door to C-Squad - just at the threshold, he's braced by Clive Snipe with Dr. Skark (and his blue and gray dogsbodies, wheeling their squeaky-wheel teatray) and three identical uniformed officers. Clones. Doops... Eric Ice mutters, barely loud enough for his boss to hear…
"Fortunate to catch you on our way to the mirror-rooms, Norlin. Didn't want to scare the brass," Clive whistles through his nose, "but there's... you know... talk. Wouldn't want baroque influences disrupting the structural Substance of the Department, now, would we?"
"First I've heard of it..." Norlin demurs.
"Let's keep it that way. So you'd have no objections to our scheduling a Special Attitude Review for... let's say... Thursday?"
"I'm not due for six weeks," Norlin objects.
"I said a Special AR... of course, you have the option of refusing. But, of course, Chief Smith would also have no alternative but to place you on suspension for the duration. Unpaid suspension. Do we understand one another? Fine... I'll have Alice schedule you. All yours now, Doc..."
The shifty-eyed Skark looks up, maliciously, while one of the clones waves a scanner over Norlin's head like some demented royalty initiating a new knight into a useless, ridiculous Order. "Corporal Norlin, under Section 21:8 of the Compliance Doctrine, I am conducting this random urinalysis pursuant to the City Council's War on Substance..."
"You milked me just this morning, Skark. Think I sneaked in a cup of caffa since?"
The clone bends, whispering at his master's ear.
"Your microchip records you as having been absent from the Trouble Factory between approximately thirteen hundred and approximately fourteen hundred hours..."
"On official business!" the Corporal retorts. "Some of us still believe in serving the public, you know?"
"Immaterial... besides, random testing is performable at my sole discretion, appealable only to the Chief of Compliance. Do you really want to jerk Clive's chain with your Attitude Review coming up?"
"Please jerk my chain, penis-face..." Clive Snipe baits, brushing back the thick, black Roman curls that drip over his pale brow, a gesture that Norlin finds disturbingly reminiscent of Troosh.
"Besides," smirks Dr. Skark, "this morning's testing was Departmental, while this test is Regimental."
What's Norlin to do? Skark pushes past him, opens the door to C-Squad... glaring at Eric Ice (on the autocom to his broker, feet up on his desk). The Blue Men push their rattling teatray of paraphernalia inside, earning a middle finger from Ice and a resigned sigh from Homer Sack.
Dr. Skark crosses his white-coated arms and proclaims: "This is a random regimental urinalysis, performed under Compliance Doctrine Section 21:8. Please step away from your positions, keep your hands in view, and pull down your pants."
"Shaddup, Skark!" Ice mutinies, but he's already rising, fumbling with his belt. "Moron time, Ivy," he barks at the com, "...hey, sell the Byrd if it goes down to sixty, buy a Lewis/Julian Bond combo, and can you get a prospectus on quarter-strength Simone LeVent? Good girl!"
He stands, unfastening the velcro snaps of his union suit, waving his penis at the doctor with derisive pride. Norlin's face is blank; Homer is still fumbling with his intricately buttoned Jatesian longjohns...
"Thirsty, Doc?" Then, Eric baits the Compliance team. "Too bad you boys couldn't score anything better than the Trouble Factory - ain't much of a market for cop juice, is there? Now if you coulda bought appointment to the Media Complex, coulda cleaned up, right?"
Clive steps in. "That's enough. I said you, too!"
Norlin drops his trousers with neither word, nor gesture. Skark's clones provide paper cups to the three denizens of C-Squad.
Skark loses it, voice rising like a rat whose tail has just been stepped on. "No more back-talk! Just perform! Wait," he taunts, "...better record these kebbers - one at a time, please. They seem the sort to cause trouble..."
One by one, Norlin, Sack and Ice urinate into paper cups. Norlin's post-Terushka trickle barely covers half the cup but Ice spitefully fills his to the brim and fumbles with his fingers as he hands it to the Gray Man.
"I'm gonna write you up for that!" he vows, slapping vainly at the stains on his gray cuff.
"Not my fault," Eric shrugs. "What can I say... I'm an overachiever!"