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Monday 14 January 2019

Dangerous Assignment

    The helicopter approached the Village from the far side of the estuary, the tide was out, so a large number of villagers were entertaining themselves on the beach as the helicopter flew over and circled the Village twice. A man sat alone on a bench in the Piazza, as villagers promenaded around the pool and fountain. Two cyclists peddled by riding canopy covered bicycles. And two white Mini-Mokes one with its candy striped canopy up, the other with it down. The scene was perfect, almost idyllic. The man sitting alone looked up at the helicopter shading his eyes from the afternoon sun. The helicopter was gone out of sight, but it could still be heard as it flew out over the estuary before turning back on itself to land on the triangular lawn by the sea wall.
    A taxi stood waiting, the driver sitting patiently waiting, having been despatched to collect the passenger in the helicopter. Its rotor blades were still spinning, but slower now that the engine was silent. A cabin door opened and a lean tall man stepped down onto the float, then onto the lawn, which he crossed somewhat briskly. The taxi driver got out of the white Mini-Mike and quickly collected the man’s suitcase, putting it into the back of the taxi as her passenger climbed into the front seat.
    The taxi moved off up a slope towards the Old People’s Home, then took a hairpin turn and up the road towards the Town Hall where it stopped.
    “Is this it?” the passenger asked.
    “This is where I was told to drop you sir.”
    “This...this is the Green Dome?”
    “No, this is the Town Hall.”
    It was then that a tall man dressed in a double breasted blazer, grey flannel trousers, with a scarf wrapped around his shoulders and carrying an umbrella shooting stick appeared on the steps of the brick building.
    “Ah Colonel, glad you could make it.”
    “I wasn’t given much choice in the matter.”
    “Indeed, that unfortunately for you, could not be helped.”
    “And you are?”
    “Number Two, Chief Administrator. But let’s not stand about here all day, shall we go inside?”
    “I would offer you lunch, but sadly time is of the essence.”
    Number 2 led the Colonel into the Town Hall, a few doors led off from the foyer, and a staircase led upwards. Number 2 opened a pair of doors, and immediately a set of steel steps led downwards.”
    “This way” said Number 2 leading the way.
    A pair of steel blast doors slid open, Number 2 and the Colonel stepped through onto a steel gantry. The pair of doors slid shut behind them.
    “This is the Control Room Colonel, the nerve centre of the Village.”
   Roughly two thirds of the domed chamber was decorated in a map of the world, the rest was covered by an astral chart of the stars. There was also a large wall screen. In the centre of the chamber was a steel see-saw device, one man sat on one end and another at the other, as it rotated round and round, as well as up and down. Five men and women sat at monitors.
   “They are the Observers, and the bald-headed man pacing the floor is the Supervisor.” Number 2 explained “Shall we?”
    Number 2 led the way down the steel steps to the floor of the Control Room. The Supervisor crossed the floor and approached the two men.
    “Is this him?” asked the Supervisor looking the Colonel up and down.
    “He’s not much to look at, is he up to the task?”
    “I don’t know” said Number 2 “I’ll ask him. Are you up to the task Colonel?”
    “What’s my assignment?”
    “Dangerous” the Supervisor replied.
    “I would have sent one of my operatives, they sent me instead!”
    “Seeing as who they are, you should feel very gratified.”
    “I’m curious to know what my assignment is.”
    “Of course you are.”
    “We’ll have to go and see the doctor.”
    “Why aren’t you feeling very well?”
    “I’m fine.”
    “Then why the visit to the doctor?”
    “It’s you he’ll be giving the once over to!”
    “Once over?”
    “Your medical.”
    “I am perfectly fit thank you very much.”
    “Yes......but one has to be sure, doesn’t one?”
    At the hospital the Colonel was put through a rigorous medical. And was declared.......
     “Absolutely fit, fit in fact for any contingency” pronounced the doctor.
    “Do you have anything in mind?” asked the Colonel.
    “Now we go to the laboratory, if you would follow me Colonel.”
    It was but a short taxi ride from the hospital to the densest part of the woods. Ahead was a set of high rocks, in those rocks was a solid blast proof steel door. The taxi stopped, Number 2 and the Colonel alighted and walked towards the rocks.
    “Where are we going?”
    “To the laboratory, its top, top secret.”
    The six inch thick steel door opened and both Number 2 and the Colonel stepped through, the steel door closing behind them and they walked along a corridor to a pair of steel doors at the far end. The doors slid open to reveal a large laboratory where technicians in white coats were busy at their work.
    “What is this?” the Colonel asked.
    “It’s why you are here........ah Professor how does it proceed?”
    A grey haired man, quite short and in his late fifties turned and pushed his spectacles on top of his head.
    “It goes very well, preparations are almost complete, we’ll be ready in two hours.”
    “Is this the man?”
    “Yes Professor, this is the Colonel.”
    “He has been briefed on the assignment?”
    “Ah no, not yet.”
    “He realizes that this is a dangerous assignment?”
    “He does, and he’s just about to undergo a briefing, if you would Colonel.”
    Number 2 indicated a small room just off the main laboratory.
    “What is all this equipment?” asked the Colonel as they crossed the room.
    “It’s all for you.”
    Number 2, the Colonel, and the Professor entered the room, and closed the door.
    “You are about to undertake a most dangerous assignment. Sit down Colonel.”
    The Colonel did as he was asked.
    “You saw the machine?”
    “The one with the curved steel spikes you mean?”
    “That Colonel is a time displacement machine, it displaces time and makes time travel possible” Number 2 began.
    “Time travel? No it’s not possible.”
    “On the contrary” said the Professor “It is very possible, as previous experiments have shown.”
    “Previous experiments?” asked the Colonel.
    “Of course, you don’t think we would send you back in time without first making sure the machine works do you?”
    “Colonel, you are to go back in time, and stop the evacuation of The Village” said Number 2.
    “Even if I believe you, back in time to where?”
    “The Village.”
    “Here? But I’m here already.”
    “Yes, but now, and not then.”
    “No this can’t be right” the Colonel protested.
    “There is no such word as can’t Colonel. You can go the easy way, or we’ll have to send you back to the Village the hard way. Which is it to be?”
    The Colonel sat gathering his thoughts.
    “Professor if you would continue with the preparations.”
    “Yes Number Two.”
    “What am I to do?”
    “You will be sent back to the Village in nineteen sixty seven, you will go to the Green Dome and make yourself known to Number Two. You will make him or her aware of the current imminent danger. Now everything is set in place, we have taken a great deal of time and care to set all this in motion for you. Now if you would please change out of your clothes and put these on, I shall be waiting for you in the Control Room.”
    “Why should they believe the ravings of a man whom they do not know?”
    “It is up to you to convince them.”
    Left alone the Colonel changed out of his grey suit and into beige trousers, a grey turtle neck jersey, and blue blazer with grey piping. The number 21 was pinned to the lapel. He left the room, crossed the laboratory to the Control Room, which Number 2 and the Professor were just leaving.
    “Ah Colonel we are almost ready for you.”
    “This will work won’t it?” the Colonel asked nervously.
    “There is no need to be nervous, all systems and circuits have been run and tested. Everything is on the top line, nothing can go wrong” the Professor said completing his check list.
    “Colonel if you would please take your position on the centre disc.”
    The Colonel stood looking at the machine.
    “I am being sent back to the Village in order to stop an evacuation. Why is the village to be evacuated, and why must I stop it?”
    “In order to put things right of course” said the Colonel “now if you would.”
    “How do I get back?”
    “Get back?”
    “To the village?”
    “Don’t worry Colonel, we’re about to send you back now.”
    The Colonel approached the machine and stood on the centre disc, while everyone retired to the Control Room.   
    “Bring up the power to maximum, set the time displacement reactor” the Professor ordered.
    Suddenly the laboratory was filled with arcs of electricity, which grew with intensity. The three points of the time displacement machine began to glow, there was a sudden clash of thunder, and the Colonel stood there no more.
    The pain intense, his whole body tingled and burned. The Colonel lay prostrate on the leafy ground. Slowly he sat up and began to study his surroundings. He was in a woodland, it was daytime. He got to his feet and stumbled forward along a path which eventually brought him to steps which led down to a road. There were people, people dressed in colourful clothes. Then the sound of a two tone horn and a white Mini-Moke with a candy striped canopy went passed. Then a girl on a bicycle, also with a canopy, and a chap riding a tricycle and holding up an umbrella.
    “Lovely day” the Colonel said from the bottom step.
    “Showers later” the cyclist said peddling passed.
    There was a woman walking along, wearing a blue trilby hat and a striped cape. The Colonel addressed her.
    “Excuse me madam. But could you direct me to the Green Dome?”
    “Up the street, up the steps on your left, you can’t miss it” the woman instructed.
    “Thank you” and with that the woman went on her way, as did the Colonel.
    Once on the balcony of the Green Dome the Colonel wasted no time in approaching the door, he paused and pulled on the wrought iron bell pull, the bell tolled once. He stood there expecting something to happen, it did. The door opened and there stood a diminutive butler. The Colonel looked at him.
    “I’m here to see Number Two.”
    The butler waited a moment, said nothing, then gestured the Colonel inside. There was an anti room, a table stood in the centre, there was a fire place, and a comfortable looking armchair, and pictures of sailing ships adorned the walls. The butler opened a pair of doors which led to a ramp and a pair of steel blast proof doors which opened as the butler approached. Slowly the Colonel stepped forward and followed the butler.
    “Who are you?”
    “The Colonel.”
    “I don’t know you, what do you want?”
    “I was sent here to see Number Two. Are you Number Two?”
    “I am the acting Number Two.”
    “Well I guess you’re the man I need to see. I’ve been sent to the village.....”
    “Well we all were at one time or another.”
    “No, you don’t understand.”
    “How did you get here?”
    “I was sent back to the Village.”
    “Oh you’ve been here before.”
    “Not exactly. I was sent back to the village by Number Two.”
    “I don’t understand.”
    “I was sent from the village back to the village, in order to stop an evacuation of said village.”
    “Evacuation, what evacuation?”
    “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.!
    “I don’t understand, that’s Number Two’s voice!”
    “I thought you were Number Two?”
    “I said I was the acting Number Two. Number Two is somewhere holding a closed security session. Something to do with a democratic crisis, he cannot be reached at this time.”

    Outside there was complete chaos as the command “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate boomed through the public address system, people running this way and that, helicopters taking off from all corners of the Village, white Mini-Mokes racing through the streets and across the beach their sirens blaring out.
    “Well Professor?”
    “As can be expected Number Two.”
    “Tell me does anything feel different to you?”
    “Has anything changed at all?”
    “No.....I do not think so. I am still here, you are here, the laboratory is here, so too the Village.”
    “Unfortunately it can mean only one thing.”
    “It hasn’t worked!”
    “I shall have to recalculate, and recalibrate.”
    “And try again? Number One isn’t going to like this!”
    “I shouldn’t think the Colonel will be too chuffed about it either!”
    “Or indeed any of the others!”
    “Yes, but none of the others went through. The Colonel was the first.”
    “But still something went wrong.”
    “Perhaps he never arrived, or arrived too late. I must recalculate, and recalibrate. Yes, perhaps the timing was out!”
    “Professor, we have your next subject, isn’t that right Number Fourteen!”

Be seeing you

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