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Tuesday 2 July 2019

I Will Not Be Pushed

    The steel doors closed behind the man who was projected into the domed chamber of No.2’s office.
    “Nice of you to come along.”
    The man picked himself up at the bottom of the ramp.
    “Well I didn’t exactly come along as you put it. I wasn’t given much choice in the matter.”
    “You must forgive my men, they can be somewhat over zealous in their work.”
    “Work they seem to enjoy.”
    “Yes, well you are here now.”
    “Yes, and why am I here, that’s the question.”
    “Do you also have the answer?”
    “No sir.”
    “You are Number 105, or should I say Jonathon Peregrine Danvers late of over the typing pool, and of British Civil Service, now of administration here in the village.”
    “And you’re Number 2 Chief Administrator, so that’s the introductions over with. What now?”
    “I have a few questions to put to you.”
    “Questions, what questions?”
    “Questions I’m going to ask you.”
    “I don’t know what you want with me, I’ve nothing to say.”
    “Nothing to say perhaps, but something to hide, or have hidden.”
    “Hidden, what might I have to hide?”
    “That’s what I’m going to find out.”
    “You might be Number 2, but I know my rights, you can’t push me around.”
    “Rights, you forwent any rights you might have had the day you arrived here. Who is XO4?”
    “It’s a simple enough question, who is XO4?”
    “Believe me, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
    “That’s just it, I don’t believe you!”
    “There’s nothing I can do about that.”
    “I could have my men brought back.”
    “Yes you’re good at that kind of thing. You can do what you like to me, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about!”
    “It’s a very important file that’s gone missing.”
    “How do you know it’s gone missing, there are hundreds of grey filing cabinets in the vault, how would anyone know if any file has gone missing. And why should you think I should have anything to do with it?”
    Number 2 turned his black spherical chair round and round slowly. Leaning forward he pressed a button on the control panel of his desk. A round disc dropped to leave a black hole in the floor, through which rose a black leather chair.
    “Sit down.”
    “I think I’d rather stand if its all the same with you.”
    “Its not all the same to me, sit down 105, or I can summon my men and they will make you sit down. I’ll be generous and give you one last chance. We know XO4 exists because D6 sent him a message.”
    “Look, I don’t know anything about any X04.”
    “Do not make me rely on brute force.”
    “You can’t beat out of me what isn’t there.”
    Number 2 picks up a yellow ‘L’ shaped intercom from his desk, a few minutes later two burly set men wearing red jerseys enter the domed office. Five minutes later they leave with blood and broken skin on their knuckles, and Number 105 slumped in the chair, battered and bruised.
Filed    “So this is the records department.”
    “Yes Number 2, and may I say it’s not every day we have someone as distinguished as you visiting the depository, is it 123?.”
    “No 321 it isn’t. Perhaps you would like some tea?”
    The depository was a vast secure vault in which grey filing cabinets stretched in every direction. Filing cabinets which held all manner of information. We all end up here in the end, one way or another. Those who have resigned, defected, or are just plain deceased.”
    “Well what can we do for you Number 2?”
    “I’m looking for a file.”
    “Well we have plenty of files here thousands of them in fact.”
    “Some are in dire need of de-classification they are too old!”
    “I’m looking for a specific file, XO4.”
    “XO4, have we had a file XO4 321?”
    “I don’t call it to mind, and my memory is pretty good, quite infallible in fact.”
    “Well now what have we here? ZM73.”
    “We know about him, he had a code name D6.”
    “A man with a code name, hiding behind a secondary codename, that’s taking security a bit far wouldn’t you say?”
    “Security isn’t a dirty word.”
    “No Number 2. PR12”
    “That’s Potter.”
    “Is that his codename?”
    “XB4, is Potter his codename?”
    “No, that’s XB4’s real name, Potter.”
    “We have a file on Potter here somewhere. He was given the number 20, and a position as manager of the Labour Exchange. But he wasn’t well suited to the job. So he found himself another job, promotion, that’s what comes from working in the Labour Exchange, you get first dibs on the best jobs.”
    “What job?”
    “Assistant to one of your predecessors wasn’t it 123?”
    “Yes, but that job didn’t last long. He was demoted to working as the Supervisor’s assistant in the Control room.”
    “And XO4?”
    “You keep mentioning this XO4, but we’ll need a little more information than that you know.”
    “Well just look about you, where are we to begin looking?”
    “321 here once went looking for a file on Hunter, that’s a rank you know, rather like yours. They keep changing, but not so often. Anyway 321 got himself lost for a couple of days, didn’t you.”
    “Number 105 told me the file is here.”
    “Number 105 who’s he?”
    “He works in administration.”
    “Oh, we don’t come under that heading.”
    “No, we’re more a working archive.”
    “Well work a little harder and dig that file out for me. Or I’ll see you both buried here in one of those grey filing cabinets!”
    Number 2 turned to leave “How do I get out of here?”
    “Walk down that centre aisle, tuned left at the wall, then keep turning right.”
    “He’s a one 321.”
    “He most certainly is. If he wants a file on this XO4, we’ll make one up for him!”
Stamped    The pair of steel blast proof doors slid opened, and Number 14, Number 2’s assistant walked in and down the ramp, the pair of doors sliding closed behind him. He carried something in his hand and approached the desk. Number 2 sat up in his chair with interest.
    “What have you there 14?”
    “A file Number 2.”
    “Yes, I can see that much for myself.”
    “It’s been stamped XO4 top secret and confidential.”
    “XO4! Let me have the file.”
    Number 14 placed the file on the desk, Number 2 rose out of the black special chair and picked up the file.
    “Alright 14 you can go.”
    “May I warn you sir, your predecessor used to tell me to leave this office just when things were getting interesting. In short he didn’t trust me.”
    “Meaning I should?” Number 2 asked.
    “I am still here, whereas he is not, you are sir.”
    Number 2 thought for a moment “Alright 14 you can stay.”
    “Thank you sir.”
    Number 2 paused a moment, then opened the file.
    “You know 14 this file is like the auld empty barn!”
    “The old empty barn sir, how do you mean?
    “There’s nothing in it!”
    “I don’t understand sir.”
    “How did you come by this file?”
    “It was passed on to administration from the file archive, I was sure there was……just a minute sir, there’s a piece of paper.”
    “Good, what does it say?”
    Number 14 studied the sheet of paper.
    “It appears that someone has rubbed a pencil over indentations in the paper.”
    “Let me see” said Number 2 taking the paper. He studied it carefully, just able to make out the indentations.
    “To XO4 Ref your query via Bizet record. No.2’s instability confirmed. Detailed report follows. D6.”
    “What do you make of that sir, and who is D6?”
    “D6 is the code name of ZM73.”
    “And who is ZM73?”
    “Our friend Number 6!”
    “And XO4?”
    “Refuses to be identified!”
Indexed    XO4 identity unknown.    ZM73 carried out top secret confidential assignments.    D6 code name for ZM73.   ZM73 is Number 6 indexed as having resigned his top-secret confidential job.    Number 6 still refuses to be indexed by revealing his name, always relies on code names, or pseudonyms such as Peter Smith.   Number 2 Chairman of the village.    Number 14 assistant to Number 2.
Briefed     Number 14 “So who exactly is XO4?”     Number 2 “That’s just it, I don’t know, and why I’m trying to find out.”
    “Number 6 wrote the note, and the evidence is clear enough, he tried to hide the fact.”    “Number 6 is on record as having written a missive to this XO4 signing himself D6. I checked with Visual Records.”
    “So who did he give the note to?”
    “Perhaps no-one!”
    “He couldn’t have left the village, so it follows the note was meant for someone here.”   “Yes 14 of course. But did he actually give it to anyone?”    “Sorry Number 2, I’m not with you.”
    “He may have simply have kept it, and disposed of it later.”    “Why should Number 6 do that?”    “Why should he have left blank sheets of paper in the stone boat!”
Debriefed    “Number 6 left blank sheets of paper in the stone boat?”    “Yes.”
    “To catch someone out!”    “I hadn’t thought of that.”    “The stone boat was a prearranged dead drop. He was putting someone to the test, but who?”    “Don’t you know 14?”    “Me sir?”
    “Yes you sir.”
    “It was your predecessor who found the envelope. We went back to his office, I wanted to see what was in the envelope, but he told me to go. When I protested he told me just to obey orders. I never knew what was in the envelope.”    “There was nothing written on those four sheets of paper, they were just what they appeared to be, blank sheets of paper.”   “But where does that get us?”   Yes, where exactly?
 Or Numbered   Number 2 sat contemplating his future when the thick steel doors to his office slid open, and the tall figure of Number 14 entered. He stood there, framed in the door way for a few seconds before he walked down the ramp, the steel doors shutting behind him with a resounding clang.
    “How goes it with you sir?”
    “I’ve just been sat here contemplating my future.”
    “Really sir?”
    “No not really because I’ve been informed that I haven’t got a future, not here are any rate.”
    “I’m sorry to hear that Number 2.”
    “Apparently I’ve been wasting my time since I arrived here.”
    “Surely not!”
    “XO4 so I’m told doesn’t exist.”
    “Doesn’t exist?”
    “No, neither does D6.”
    “But I thought…….”
    “Yes, so did I, 14 but apparently not.”
    “Hard luck sir.”
    “Anyway its all yours now 14, well until my successor arrives. I’ll be seeing you, well perhaps not.”
    The ex-Number 2 cut a sad and forlorn figure as he raised himself out of his chair and walked across the floor. At the bottom of the ramp he paused and looked back, before turning on his way up the ramp and through the open doors. Number 14 removed his badge from his grey jacket, and from his breast pocket he took another badge and pinned it to the left lapel. The red ‘L’ shaped intercom began to bleep, he picked it up.
    “NO2 here…..yes sir I’m making myself at home in my inner sanctum……..well thank you sir, I hope so too.”
    The new NO2 placed the intercom back on the desk, and picked up the turquoise ‘L’ shaped intercom, he paused before he spoke.
    “Put me though to XO4…..”
Be seeing you

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