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Thursday, 2 April 2020

Tales From The Village

    There was an air of excitement in the village, because of the forthcoming village regatta.
    “Good morning, good morning and what a lovely day it is. The spell of fine weather is due to last at least another month” the cheery female voice announced “Ice cream is now on sale, vanilla is the flavour of the day. There are just 7 days before the village regatta. Don’t forget, if you wish to take part in the regatta you must register your boat within the next three days.”
    When No.9 had heard the announcement he was sat at a table on the patio of the café enjoying afternoon tea. The announcement puzzled him, and turned to two chaps sat at another table, they had ‘Village Yachting Club’ on their jerseys.
    “You look like two likely chaps to tell me about this village regatta.”
    No.213 and No.267 looked at each other “What do you want to know?”
    “You’re allowed boats?”
    “Why yes” 213 said.
    “Otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a regatta would it!” 267 said.
    “And you’re members of the village yachting club?”
    “He’s sharp” 213 said.
    “You thinking of joining the club?” 267 asked.
    “I might, have you got a yacht you can lend me?” No.9 asked.
    “Haven’t you a yacht of your own?”
    “No, I didn’t know we were allowed them, that’s why I want to borrow one.”
    No.213 rubbed his chin “Well the committee likes members to own their own boats.”
    “That’s right” 267 said “particular about that the committee is, beside members don’t like to lend their boats to people, not even to a fellow members of the club.”
    “And Number 2 is alright about you having boats is he?”
    “Why shouldn’t he be, he himself is a member of the village yachting club.”
    No.9 stood up and joined the two men at their table and drew near to them, so as not to be overheard.
    “Tell me, if you all have boats, why don’t any of you try and escape? If I had a boat I wouldn’t hang about this place for more than it took me to set sail!”
    No.’s 267 and 213 looked at each other quizzically.
    “If I had a boat I could take part in the village regatta, and when it was in full swing I could slip quietly away and make for the open sea.”
    No.267 and 213 still looked at each other then at No.9.
    “Well at least take me to your boathouse” No.9 pleaded.
    No.267 and 213 looked at each other.
    “Well I suppose we could take you to the yachting club” 213 finally said.
    “Yachting club, well that’s more like it” said No.9 eagerly “Say when shall it be?”
    It was then that they were joined by two more men sporting a Village Yachting Club jersey and they were each carrying something which made No.9’s heart sink.
    “Wh…..what are those?” No.9 asked.
    “Pond yachts” No.59 said enthusiastically
    “Mine is called Northern Star” No.104 said.
    “And mine’s Southern Star” 59 said “Mine has the blue and white paint, and Northern Star has the green and white paint.”
    “You mean……you mean your yachting club sails pond yachts?”
    “That’s right” 267 said “we’ll be sailing our pond yachts in the Free Sea in the Piazza for the village regatta. It should prove very spectacular.”
    No.9 made his excuses and left the group with No.267 shouting after him about going to the yachting club.
    In the control room the supervisor-No.56 bald-headed man wearing a dark green polo neck jersey and single breasted dark blue blazer stood with No.2 looking at No.9 pictured on the wall screen.
    “He looks disappointed” said the supervisor.
    “He has every right to be” said No.2, who was a man in his late forties, with black hair wearing steel rimmed spectacles.
    “As if we would permit the ownership of any kind of boat to ordinary citizens” said the supervisor.
    “Indeed to any citizen” No.2 said still watching the wall screen as No.9 made his way to the Piazza.
    There was the red and white striped awning of a kiosk where a variety of pond yachts were for sale. No.9 paused and looked at the tidy vessels. Then his attention was drawn to No.66 the ex-Admiral, who was with a fellow boating enthusiast.
    “Hello” No.9 said “Not sailing today?”
    The ex-Admiral looked up, he held a small control box in his hands, a small aerial protruded from the box.
    “Well yes and no” he said “allow me to introduce you to my first officer Number 1.”
   The first officer also held a control box and was concentrating very hard as he pressed a number of buttons. No.9 stood looking at the two men, then turned his attention to the Free Sea, there was a yacht towards the farther end of the pool. Suddenly there was a minor explosion, a spout of water, the yacht heeled over and began to sink. He saw a man step into the water in order to retrieve the stricken yacht and began to study it. The ex-Admiral and No.1 looked at each other, a final press on the two control boxes and two miniature submarines broke through the surface and made their way to the side of the pool.
    “You, you pair did this” the owner of the stricken yacht shouted “you sank my yacht!”
    No.9 stood watching as the ex-Admiral and his first officer retrieved the two submarines from the Free Sea and made off with them in somewhat of a hurry, with the owner of the yacht shouting and shaking his fist.
    “Curious that they should sink 81’s yacht like that” the supervisor said.
    “Curious indeed” said No.2 “that they should have working models like two submarines in the first pace. I wonder how they came by them? Put a watch on the ex-Admiral and his first officer. I want to know where they go, and whom they meet.
    “Yes Number 2” the supervisor said, and gave orders to that effect to the Observers.
    Almost every day there were a number of the Village Yachting Club members sailing their pond yachts in the free Sea, No.9 had to admit it looked quite impressive. No.81 had purchased a new pond yacht called Northern Star from the kiosk, this to replace the one that was sunk by the rogue submarine. He immediately carried the yacht over to the Free Sea, set her sails and jib and put her in the water. There was a gentle breeze which made it perfect for sailing. There were yachts of all kinds and sizes, and everyone was honing their sailing skills, getting the most out of their vessels. The promenaders were most interested in the activity, and many stopped to watch and admire the yachts. Then the ex-Admiral and his Flag officer appeared carrying a large ship, it was a model of a pocket battleship about three feet in length. The members of the yachting club all turned and stared.
    “That’s enough Admiral” No.199 said “this is a yachting club, that hardly constitutes a yacht.”
    “Tell me why a pocket battleship cannot take part in the regatta?”
    “It’s motorised and operated by remote control, just like that blasted submarine of yours which sank my yacht. How did you do that by the way?” 81 said lifting the Northern Star out of the water.
    There was a bit of an argument before the ex-Admiral and his first officer withdrew, carrying the battleship.
    “Where do you think the ex-Admiral is getting these superb models, they are complete in every detail” Number 2 asked watching the wall screen.
    No.14 stood in No.2’s office also watching the screen “I could find out for you sir, I’ll make the Admiral talk!”
    “No! We don’t want any strong arm stuff just yet. The supervisor is watching the old sea dog, he’ll give himself away sooner or later.”
    “Are you going to attend the regatta sir?”
    “Of course, I’m to award the regatta trophy myself.”
        Citizens were gathering in the Piazza, the brass band was playing, and members of the Village Yachting Club were beginning to assemble by the Free Sea with their various pond yachts. No.10 was favoured by many to win this year’s regatta with his yacht the Amis Reunis. No.2 was present enjoying an afternoon out of the office, mingling amongst the crowd with his assistant No.14 in tow. It was certainly a grand day for it, blue sky, sunshine, and a gentle breeze made for perfect sailing conditions, and it would to prove most spectacular. No.9 was also in attendance, he had bought himself an ice cream and was sat on a bench watching the proceedings. The regatta competitors were making their preparations for the first race, setting sails and adjusting the rigging.
    The course was an easy one, yachts were set on a course towards the fountain, round the fountain, and back again, each race was run in pairs. The first race would be between Northern Star with white hull and green trim, and Southern Star with white hull and blue trim. The second race was to be between Endeavour I and Pride of The Pond, and the third race between Endeavour II and The Surprise. Each yacht had a pole-person who would walk long both sides of the Free Sea prepared to push yachts into an opposite tack before collision with the edge. The Pond yachts were put into different classes according to size. There was one disqualification and that was the ex-Admirals battleship, but it was agreed that at some point between races a demonstration of the battleship could take place in order to entertain the spectators. To this the ex-Admiral reluctantly agreed.
   And so the regatta was underway much to the delight of the spectators, No.80 set the rigging of Northern Star and No.59 did likewise with Southern Star, and with both yachts in the water the race was under way. Both yachts looked good as they were carried along by a gentle breeze. Northern Star headed towards the edge of the Free Sea but No.80 eased her away with the tip of his pole, while Southern Star took an early lead along the pool towards the fountain, but instead of heading towards the side the yacht headed straight for it, making No.59 hold out his pole and ease Southern Star onto a tack which was to take the yacht round the fountain, but found difficulty in this. This gave Northern Star time to catch her sister yacht and swept passed as No.59 tried to regain the yachts course. With a prod from No.80’s pole Southern Star made it cleanly round the fountain and on a return course to finish the race. But No.59 had managed to get Northern Star back on an even course, rounded the fountain and began to catch Southern Star, however with a gentle prod from the pole man to stop her from crashing into the wall Southern Star crossed the line to win.
    In the next race Endeavour II beat the Amis Reunis. The races continued and the spectators watched with enjoyment the Pride of the Pond beat Endeavour I and Endeavour II in both her races. Southern Star went on to race Endeavour II however both yachts failed to finish. There was a collision; Endeavour II’s bow sprite became entangled in Southern Star’s rigging. Try as much as they may the two pole men could not separate the two yachts, and in the end had to wade into the Free Sea to retrieve them. The regatta continued with race after race, but the most outstanding yacht was the Pride of the Pond the best in her class.
    “Good afternoon citizens, what an exciting regatta we have, and I trust you are all enjoying yourselves” said a cherry female announcer “however the thrills are not over yet. To close the regatta there is to be a sea battle between a model pocket battleship and two D class destroyers.”
    The spectators watched eagerly as the ex-Admiral put the pocket battleship into the water at one end of the Free Sea. His first officer at other end put the two D class destroyers into the water. All three ships were motorized models and complete in every detail, there was even smoke coming out of the smoke stacks, and controlled from two control boxes. The pocket battleship set off, as did the two destroyers from around the fountain. Suddenly the destroyers parted and sailed towards the battleship from two angles, this action would effectively split the fire power of the battleship. The two forward turrets of the battleship turned, fixing her guns on one of the destroyers and opened fire, one shell went over the destroyer while another fell short, but a third found the range and a hit was scored on the destroyer who opened fire in return but falling short of its mark. Both the ex-Admiral and his first officer worked feverishly at their control panels, especially the first officer, as he had two ships to control. The second destroyer moved in on the battleship opening fire with her forward guns, then turning fired a broadside, as did the battleship scoring several hits on the destroyer. While the first destroyer fired two torpedoes at the pocket battleship, which took evasive action turning hard to starboard. Two of the torpedoes passed the ship, but the destroyer fired another two torpedoes and the battleship and the second destroyer continued their engagement. The battleship turned, but it was too late, the first torpedo struck amidships, the second hit the rudder and steering gear disabling the ship which began to list heavily to port. The two badly damaged destroyers moved in for the kill, but the ex-Admiral put up his hands indicating defeat and the battle was won.
    In No.2’s office he and the Supervisor had been observing the sea battle re-enactment on the wall screen.
    “What did you make of that?” No.2 asked.
    “I think it went rather well” the Supervisor said “everyone appeared to enjoy themselves.”
    “And what did you make of the spectacular finale?”
    “You mean the battle.”
    “Rather spectacular.”
    “Did you find have the ex-Admiral and his first officer followed?”
    “He went to see the Professor in the woods.”
    “You mean the Professor in the laboratory?”
    “What business would they have with the Professor?”
    “I really don’t know sir, there’s no surveillance in the laboratory, he’s always been left to his own devices.”
    “What about those ships, I mean they look miniatures of the real thing. The destroyers were even armed with torpedoes.”
    “And the damage to the ships looked realistic, for model craft” the Supervisor added.
    “Yes, that’s what worries me. Where are the ex-Admiral and his first officer now I wonder?”
    “No.2 leaned forward and pressing a button on the control panel of his desk changed the picture on the wall screen, then panning was able to pick up the intended targets. The ex-Admiral and the first officer were carrying the three model ships between them into the woods.
    “Perhaps we can pick them up on one or two cameras in the woods” No.2 suggested pressing more buttons.
    “The woods are not comprehensively covered by surveillance cameras, there are a good deal of blind spots” the Supervisor admitted.
    “I trust that is not widely known” No.2 said.
    “The Professor has been ordering a good deal of materials over the past few months, metals, wiring, motors, he’s very mechanically minded. May I suggest the ex-Admiral and his first officer have gone there in order to have the three boats repaired by the Professor?”
    “You may, but I want to know what the Professor has been working on all these past months with no sign of anything being produced. What’s he doing in that laboratory of his……..that’s what I want to know!”
Be seeing you

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