The Chief was beyond caring at this point. He didn’t blink an eye when I took Fats’ badge off the desk. I don’t know why I did it, perhaps I thought it was only fair. Ned had started all the trouble and I was just angry enough to want him on the spot when it was finished. There were two rings on his chest plate, and I was not surprised when the badge pin fitted them neatly.

“There, now you are a real cop.” Sarcasm dripped from the words. I should have realized that robots are immune to sarcasm. Ned took my statement at face value.

“This is a very great honor, not only for me but for all robots. I will do my best to fulfill all the obligations of the office.” Jack Armstrong in tin underwear. I could hear the little motors in his guts humming with joy as he booked Alex.

If everything else hadn’t been so bad I would have enjoyed that. Ned had more police equipment built into him than Nineport had ever owned. There was an ink pad that snapped out of one hip, and he efficiently rolled Alex’s fingertips across it and stamped them on a card. Then he held the prisoner at arm’s length while something clicked in his abdomen. Once more sideways and two instant photographs dropped out of a slot. The mug shots were stuck on the card, arrest details and such inserted. There was more like this, but I forced myself away. There were more important things to think about.

Like staying alive.

“Any ideas, Chief?”

A groan was my only answer so I let it go at that. Billy, the balance of the police force, came in then. I gave him a quick rundown. Either through stupidity or guts he elected to stay, and I was proud of the boy. Ned locked away the latest prisoner and began sweeping up.

That was the way we were when China Joe walked in.

Even though we were expecting it, it was still a shock. He had a bunch of his toughest hoods with him and they crowded through the door like an overweight baseball team. China Joe was in front, hands buried in the sleeves of his long mandarin gown. No expression at all on his ascetic features. He didn’t waste time talking to us, just gave the word to his own boys.

“Clean this place up. The new police Chief will be here in a while and I don’t want him to see any bums hanging around.”

It made me angry. Even with the graft I like to feel I’m still a cop. Not on a cheap punk’s payroll. I was also curious about China Joe. Had been ever since I tried to get a line on him and never found a thing. I still wanted to know.

“Ned, take a good look at that Chinese guy in the rayon bathrobe and let me know who he is.”

My, but those electronic circuits work fast. Ned shot the answer back like a straight man who had been rehearsing his lines for weeks.

“He is a pseudo-oriental, utilizing a natural sallowness of the skin heightened with dye. He is not Chinese. There has also been an operation on his eyes, scars of which are still visible. This has been undoubtedly done in an attempt to conceal his real identity, but Bertillon measurements of his ears and other features make identity positive. He is on the Very Wanted list of Interpol and his real name is …”

China Joe was angry, and with a reason. … chevronRight icon