It was a day of days for this No.2’s term in office was over, she would be shaking the dust of the village off her feet in a matter of hours, all that remained was to pack her suitcase and wait for the helicopter to arrive. To be perfectly honest the three days spent in the village might not have been what she had hoped for. True an escape had been prevented, and a certain amount of information had been extracted, yet the primary objective had not been reached, which was to obtain the identity of X!
No.2 took a last look around that which had proved to be a most comfortable room, a place of sanctuary where she could be alone. She was about to pick up her suitcase and leave the room when the teleprinter began to type a message. She thought to leave it, what was that message to her, it could not be for her as her term in office had come to an end, and she was due to leave for the homeland. At the door she stopped, turned, placed the suitcase on the floor and crossed the room to the teleprinter, and began to read the typed message.
The pair of steel doors opened and No.8 walked casually down the ramp and approached the desk. He was surprised to see the female figure of No.2 sat in the black global chair.
“I thought you had gone” he said.
“That’s been the trouble with you Number 8, you think too much” No.2 told him sternly “as you can plainly see….I’m back!”
“Before you even went and gone in fact!”
“We have a task to perform, a job of work. We can either work together, or I can work with someone else.”
“Is that a threat or a promise Number 2?”
“Take it as you will, but I shall not have my position undermined by you!”
“Right-ho Number 2.”
“Oh don’t say right-ho.”
No.2 opened the black file on her desk, removing a photograph she showed it to No.8.
“You know this man?”
No.8 looked at the photograph it made his blood run cold “Yes I know of him.”
“He’s still here?”
“Would that he weren’t.”
“What do you mean by that?”No.2 asked replacing the photograph.
“He used to be nothing but trouble, poking his nose in where it wasn’t any of his concern. If he wasn’t doing that he was always trying to escape.”
“But he stopped.”
“Yes, well everyone does when they finally realize they’ve run out of options.”
“He’s just an old man who no-one ever bothers with. He’s no longer of any importance to anyone.”
“I have to ask him three questions.”
“He won’t answer them, he hasn’t answered one not since he said “You’ve been told!”
“Do we take a taxi, or do we walk?” No.2 asked.
The walk did them both good, it cleared the head, and No.2 was cheered by the number of greetings she received from well meaning citizens. It is the one thing she had regretted that she had not had time to enjoy the village for itself. There had never been time to relax for a moment, there had always been some business or other to attend to, like now really!
At the bottom of the hill was the Old People’s Home No.2 and her assistant approached the building slowly. If one is lucky enough, one is gracefully retired into this place, to live out the rest of one’s life in senile serenitude. They walked across the lawn looking for a certain inmate, and there he was sitting in a wheelchair playing chess with a young man.
Looking up from the chessboard he saw the pair walking across the lawn towards him, and knew what to expect.
“Why can’t you leave me alone? You’ve been told, it’s not my fault that you weren’t listening, ah” he said moving his King’s Bishop taking the Queen’s rook’s pawn “checkmate!”
He shook hands with the young man who vacated his chair and walked away.
“Don’t worry its just you make him nervous” the old man said.
No.2 took the vacated seat, No.8 remained standing.
“Make yourself useful” the old man said looking up at No.8 “go and organise a pot of tea.”
No.8 was about to take the old man to task, and would have had No.2 not given him the nod!
“Your boy seems pretty docile, in my day Number 2’s assistants were made of sterner stuff. I recall Number 14……..”
“What else do you recall Number 6?” No.2 asked leaning across he table.
“A game of chess?”
“It’s not my game” she told him.
“Just what is your game that brings you to me?”
“I’m told I should ask you a question.”
“Did Number 1 tell you that?”
“No, the machine.”
“The teleprinter you mean.”
“You know about that?”
“Oh yes, it and I are of a firm acquaintance” No.6 began to rest the pieces on the chessboard “what about a game of chess?”
“I don’t think I would win against you” No.2 told him.
“So, what is your question?”
“Will you give me a fair answer?”
“Is that the question?”
“Pity, you came here to ask a question, you’ve asked it and now you can go, unless you wish to stay for afternoon tea” No.6 told here.
“Tell me about the village in the desert.”
The question took him by surprise “How did you know…..”
“I didn’t think there could be two such hell holes. But I managed to escape, and woke up here!”
“But you have been here all the time.”
“All the time, then how do you account for my blazer?”
No.6 wore what at first glance seemed to be his regular piped blazer, and yet there were a few additions, an off white ring on both sleeves, and a white line round the flaps of the pockets and at the top of the breast pocket on which was an embroidered shield and the number 93.
“That’s not right” No.2 told him.
“No, but that was my number, 93. No-one here believed me, well not until now.”
“You are to leave the village with me when the helicopter arrives tomorrow.”
“Are we going somewhere nice?” he asked.
“To see our masters.”
“I don’t think so, I like it here.”
“I can refuse because I died out there in the desert. Village is good enough for me, because I am village! Breathe in, breathe out more village!”
No.2 rose up from the chair “You are mad!”
“Mad as hell at the way I’ve been treated, now go away and bother someone else for a change!”
He had disturbed the other citizens sat at tables on the lawn, they all looked at the old man disdainfully.
“Come 8, we’ll get nothing from this old
Leaving the Clinic they were given a free ride home in the village’s official transport, a black van.
No.8 turned and followed his superior “What did you mean about the village-on-the-estuary?”
“Nothing, only that……” 2 took a piece of paper from a pocket, unfolded it and looked at the pencil drawing of a domed building, and bell tower.
Breathe in….breathe out….more village, I'll be seeing you