were once again “sailing” aboard the Stone Boat, well at least clambering about
her deck, climbing the rigging and with one man at the helm, the ex-Admiral.
The tall figure of No.2 leaned on his umbrella shooting stick, the old college scarf wound about his neck and shoulders. His assistant No.12 stood next to him behind the balustrade looking down at the quayside.
“They’ve made an excellent job of the
refit” No.2 said with a pleased expression on his face.
“They have indeed sir” No.12 replied “I think the choice of a black sail was a good one.”
“Oh you do.”
“Yes why sir?”
“Well it helps the Stone Boat stand out.”
“Yes it does, doesn’t it” No.2 replied thoughtfully.
Bunting fluttered in the breeze amid the rigging of the Stone Boat, but No.2’s eyes were on something not quite right about it.
“Who ordered the Stone Boat to be decorated with bunting?”
“I don’t know sir.”
“You don’t know sir?”
“I believe the instruction was on the worksheet.”
“Who signed the job off upon completion?”
“I did sir.”
“You did sir?”
“Why did you do that?”
“Well I know you to be a busy man, I didn’t see the need to bother you sir.”
“Oh you know me to be a busy man, and you didn’t want to bother me, that was very good of you sir.”
No.12 stood quietly smiling to himself.
“The bunting is one thing, but what about those flags?”
“The distress signal flags.”
“Are they sir?” No.12 said in feigned astonishment.
No.2 turned to face his assistant “You know damn well they are!”
The pair of steel doors slid open and
No.2, followed by his assistant, marched smartly into the domed chamber that is
No.2’s office. No.2 propped his shooting stick against his desk and unwound the
scarf. He picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone.
“The works department……..works department, the bunting on the Stone boat I want it removed………never mind that my lad, just get it removed!” and replaced the telephone on the desk.
“So what’s the game Number 12?”
“Don’t play the innocent Number 12; you know what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t sir.”
“The black sail to attract attention from a passing ship or plane, and then the recognition of the distress signal flags in order to bring help and possible liberation.”
“You should talk to Number 66 the ex-Admiral” 12 suggested.
“I’m talking to you!” No.2 barked out losing his composure, which he quickly regained “what do you mean the ex-Admiral?”
“Well he’s always banging on about the Stone Boat and how she needed a refit. If it wasn’t for him……”
“I see” No.2 said thoughtfully “and you think this old fuddy-duddy of an ex-Admiral added the flags to the bunting?”
“Neither do I sir. But I’m bound by duty to find the culprit. What about this Number 6, would he be up for something like this?”
“He might sir, except direct action is more his style, he’s attempted escape several times.”
“And once it became clear that escape is not possible, he might try to attract someone’s attention and think to bring about a rescue. And if he were part of that work gang how easy for him then to help hang the bunting and send his distress signal.”
Two men in dove grey overalls stepped
aboard the Stone Boat, one climbed on top of the forecastle, while the other
climbed in the rigging to take down the bunting. On the lawn of the Old
People’s Home two men in black overcoats and Top Hats, wearing dark glasses sat
at a table drinking afternoon tea.
“Those two men are taking down the bunting” said one.
“So I see” said the other.
“It didn’t work!”
“It was worth a try though.”
Just then No.12 and two burly set men marched passed and approached a table at the far end of the lawn.
“Number 6 you’re to come with us” No.12 said in an authoritive tone of voice.
“Why should I?”
No.12 tipped the two Guardians the wink, and they pounced on No.6 tipping him out of his chair and onto the grass. There was a struggle and a fight broke out with No.6 giving as good had he got. But in the end was over powered and frog-marched across the lawn in front of the citizens, who abhorred such behaviour, to the waiting Mini-Moke.
The pair of steel doors slid open and No.6 was manhandled into the domed office and set down in a leather chair. Behind the grey curved desk No.2 sat in a black global chair, he waved a hand and the two Guardians withdrew.
“You can remain Number 12, I might need you.”
“Well Number 6.”
“As well as can be expected, under the current circumstances.”
“I wasn’t asking after your health.”
“You have become suspect!”
“Really, and what am I supposed to have done now?”
“Don’t you come the old acid with me; I know what you have been up to.”
“Which is more than I do!”
“You stole a pair of overalls and cap, and joined a work gang working incognito with the refit of the Stone Boat, you helped rig the bunting, adding a couple of flags to the decoration.”
“You see sir” said No.12 “he admits it!”
“I should be careful Number 12; you yourself are not beyond suspicion just yet” No.2 warned.
“Perhaps we did it together!” No.6 suggested.
“There’s one way to find out” No.2 raised himself out of his chair and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk.
The large wall screen came to life the
picture showing a number of workmen working on board the Stone Boat. No.2
pressed a second button and the film went into fast-forward, and the refit of
the Stone Boat was carried out in double-quick time. Then a third button was
pressed pausing the action, the surveillance camera zoomed in on the two men
busy decking out the Stone Boat with bunting.
No.6 had been seated watching the action take place on the screen “Well that’s not me!” he declared.
“Me neither” said No.12 quick to respond.
No.2 stared at the screen “You can go.”
“Thank you very much” No.6 said rising out of the chair “What no apology?”
“Don’t push your luck” No.2 told him.
No.6 walked across the floor, up the ramp towards the pair of opening doors, No.12 turned to follow him.
“Not you Number 12.”
He stopped and turned to face his superior.
“Number 12 of Administration, you recognize the two men on the screen, it’s written all over your face.”
“They are Top Hat officials of Administration” No.12 confessed.
A general alarm was put out for the two administration officials, No.’s 128 and 213. There was a cottage set beyond the Old People’s Home on the extreme of the village built into the sea wall. At the foot of the sea wall was a sailing skiff, the two Top Hat officials had changed into swimming trunks, and now walked casually along the sand by the sea wall as not to attract any attention. Together they picked up and carried the skiff across the sand towards a deep water filled gully. They managed to paddle the skiff a short way as not to raise the alarm too soon before raising the sail.
In the control room an Observer looked up from her monitor and attracted the Supervisor’s attention.
“Let’s have it on the screen” the Supervisor said.
A good strong breeze filled the sail sending the skiff along the gully and out towards the mouth of the estuary. There was apprehension on both the crewmen’s faces knowing their escape attempt would not be plain sailing, being only too aware of the danger which lay out at sea.
The yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone began to bleep No.2 picked it up.
“Supervisor here sir, there’s a sail boat leaving the village, they have almost reached the mouth of the estuary.”
No.2 pressed a button and watched the boat
sailing towards the mouth of the estuary and the sea beyond.
“Tell me what visual range do you have out to sea?”
“Do you mean direct TV transmission?”
“Two miles, after that we’re on radar.”
No.’s 128 and 213 were making good headway, but expected an attack by the Guardian at any moment. But the Guardian was conspicuous by its absence, and as time passed they began to relax.
A small Motor Ship was on its way back from
a night cruise, the first mate was on look-out and the boatswain was at the
“Small sail three points off the starboard beam” the first mate suddenly called out.
Instantly the boatswain turned the wheel to set the vessel on an intercept course.
Aboard the skiff it was 128 who saw the Motor Ship first, and drew 213’s attention to it. They began to shout and wave, and they leapt for joy as the vessel drew alongside. The first mate stood at the safety rail ready with a rope.
“What do you two think you’re about?”
“We’ll tell you once we’re aboard” 213 said.
The first mate threw the line which helped the two men scramble aboard the Motor Ship. In the wheelhouse the boatswain gave each of the two men a blanket.
“Where have you two sprung from?” asked the boatswain.
“A village along the coast” 213 said throwing a blanket about him.
“Where were you headed?” the first mate
“Anywhere you will take us” 128 told them.
Below deck in the galley, a third crewman was busy brewing up a hot beverage he emerged into the gangway and climbed the ladder into the wheelhouse. The two men gratefully took a mug of tea each and drank deep of the warming brew.
“Now” said 213 “if you can tell us where you’re headed.”
“A small Village-next-the-Sea” said the Boatswain.
“What?” 128 asked, suddenly he wasn’t feeling too good.
213 stared at the mug he held him his hands, he suddenly felt woozy-headed. The mug slipped through his fingers, and he passed out on the floor. No.128 tried to get to the door of the wheelhouse, he managed to slide it open then he too passed out.
“I hope you didn’t make it too strong” said the man pictured on the television screen.
The chemist was busy checking the two bodies lying on the floor “No Number 2, the drug was made to exact proportions. They will be fully cognisant in time for their interrogation.”
Be seeing you