The Mark 1
The door of his cottage opened and a young
woman dressed in a black dress, frilly white apron, and white sailor’s hat
entered the cottage carrying a breakfast tray.
“I’ll put this in the kitchen for you” she
said in cheery way.
The five feet eleven inch silhouette of a
man in his dressing gown stood standing looking out through the net curtain of
the window, he turned round when he heard someone come into the room.
“You look better this morning” she told
“Better, better than what?”
“Better than you did yesterday.”
True the swellings had gone down, and the
bruises were not so prominent, and the stiffness and soreness were wearing off.
“Just remind me, who are you again?”
“I’m your personal maid. I’ve just brought
“Did you bring me my breakfast yesterday?”
“Yes, don’t you remember?”
“Then do us both a favour, and don’t waste
either of our time tomorrow.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Whose clothes are hanging up in the
“Why they’re yours.”
“What have you done with my suit?”
“It was taken away and burned.”
“I couldn’t get the blood stains out. You
had better eat your breakfast before it gets cold!”
“What’s the difference, it was cold
yesterday when you brought it!”
The maid shot him a look of indifference and
annoyance “I was going to dust your room, but I’ll come back tomorrow when
you’re in a better mood.”
“What makes you think I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow?”
The grey trousers and burgundy coloured
sweater were okay, but the grey piped blazer he took from the wardrobe didn’t
seem to suit him at all. Opening the French window he stood on the small
balcony wondering what the day would bring, wondering what he was to do, what
was expected of him to do.
In the kitchen his breakfast was cold; he
threw it in the waste bin. Then in the bathroom he showered and shaved, then
dressed in the bedroom before making himself a cup of coffee and two slices of
toast in the kitchen.
Outside the sun was shining, making the village glow. He decided to
out, to make a reconnaissance of his new surroundings. So donning his grey
piped blazer he went to open the door of his cottage but was startled when it
opened all by itself and closed behind him as he stepped outside.
He worked his way along the back of the
terraced cottages, at the end there was an archway between the terrace and a
large semi-detached cottage. Through the arch was a passage which led to a set
of steps and out onto a small lawn in front of the terraced cottages. There was
a round look-out set on top of a rocky outcrop. From there he looked down on
the road below, and out across the centre of the village.
There was a lawn on which four people were
playing croquet. In the Piazza citizens promenaded themselves around the long
pool, at one end of which was a fountain. The people dressed in brightly
coloured clothes, some carrying open colourfully striped umbrellas using them
as parasols against the brightness of the sun. Others wore coloured striped
capes, straw boaters, and piped blazers, looking as though to attend a boating
regatta. And believe it or not there was a chap dressed in blazer and straw
boater messing about in a dingy on the water being pulled along by another chap
dressed much the same, at the end of a length of rope. Down in the road
pedestrians walked in either direction and greeted each other as they passed
by. Cyclists rang their bells, and a light blue open topped taxi sounded its
horn to warn pedestrians of its approach.
“The jeeps also act as an ambulance” a
voice behind him said “when they do they tow trailers with a red cross on the
side. That’s the Town Hall over there by the way.”
No.4 turned round to see a man dressed in a
striped jersey standing just behind him
“And over there is the café, the General
Store is just along street, on the other side of the Green Dome is the Citizens
Advice Bureau. And that long stone balustrade is the top of the bandstand” the
“And what are you supposed to be, a tour
“I thought you looked a little lost, you’re
a new face here” the man said.
“Where is here?”
“The village! And where is the village?”
“Its here, all around you” the man said gesturing
with his arms “be seeing you” he saluted before turning and going on his way.
No.4 retraced his steps to the back of the
cottages opposite was the woods, he turned left and carried on his way, then
left again and on his right a grand pink and white cottage which looked like a
small version of a much grander house and Georgian in style. He followed the
stone steps, through a pair of turquoise gates and onto the road.
He heard a brass band suddenly strike up, they were playing Strauss’s Radetski March. Crossing the road and stepping out of the
a cyclist, he walked through an arch and stood at the top of a set of steps for
a moment as he glanced about him. Descending the steps leading onto the Piazza
he joined the promenaders some of whom greeted him with a warm smile,
commenting on the weather as they passed by. There was a chap wearing a crash
helmet struggling to wheel a Penny Farthing bicycle. The Penny Farthing
supported a now bent and twisted steel frame which formed a high canopy over
“Have an accident?” No.4 asked.
“And why don’t you mind your own business!”
the man in the crash helmet snapped back, who was clearly in a bad mood.
“That thing looks top heavy to me” 4
“Know so much don’t you! Here they said, go
about the village riding this thing. It looks dangerous I said, that high
canopy makes it top heavy I said, dangerous they said, no they insisted, but
they gave me a crash helmet to wear anyway. And that canopy…wouldn’t protect
anyone from the weather” the man said in a moaning tone of voice “and what
happened…….I fell off. I went the one way and this contraption went the other.
Now it’s torn, bent and twisted and they’ll blame me for it you see if they
“I’m sorry I asked” No.4 said but helped
the man to his feet anyway.
At the further end of the Piazza was a set
of steps leading down onto the lawn where the croquet match was still being
played. They did once have to pause their game as the brass band, led by a man
wearing a colourful striped cap and straw boater, marched across the lawn on
the way to the bandstand. Steps led from the lawn onto a slightly higher
grassed terrace where chairs had been put out, and which people were now taking
those seats ready for the afternoon’s regular brass band concert.
Number 4 decided to give the concert a miss
seeing as he could hear the music being played as he walked. Slowly he wound
his way through the village, studying the buildings, the roads, getting a
complete ground layout. He had with him a map, which he found in a drawer in
his study. However the Map of Your Village didn’t indicate much at all, simply
the woods, the sea, the mountains, beach, the tower, the boat, Old People’s
Home. He paused outside an imposing looking building. There was a chap on a
ladder cleaning a window.
“Excuse me, but can you tell me what this
The window cleaner looked at No.4 and said
sarcastically “You’re the one with the map!”
“The building’s on the map, but there’s no
indication of what it is.”
“This, this is the Town Hall.”
“The Town Hall!”
“Yes, but it won’t let you in.”
“What do you mean it won’t let me in,
what’s to stop me?”
No.4 step forward and up the steps of the Town Hall, and at the entrance was stopped dead in his tracks! He dropped his map as he
momentarily stunned by an electric shock.
“Told you so!” said the window cleaner returning to his work.
“Officer of the Watch, Number 4 attempted to
enter the Town Hall” a member of the Watch suddenly reported.
The Control Room is a large domed chamber
located beneath the Town Hall. Its wall depicted both astral and terrestrial
maps, while a map of the village set at an angle ran round the base. There is a
large wall screen, while five members of the watch sat at their monitors, two
further watchers sat at their monitors on either end of a steel see-saw device
which revolved up and down, round and round. And the entrance to the chamber
was via a double blast proof steel door at the top of the mezzanine level.
No.28, a baldhead man wearing spectacles
dressed in grey flannel trousers, dark green polo neck jersey, and dark blue
plain blazer, was the Officer of the Watch consisting of seven men and women
who spend their time watching and listening to the citizens of the village
through surveillance of the community.
“Let’s have him on the screen” No.28
No.4 picked up his map and went on his way,
down the hill towards the Old People’s Home.
An assortment of People were sat at tables
set out on the lawn, not only senior citizens, one of whom was an old woman
being pushed in a wheelchair, but middle aged people, and two sinister looking
men wearing long black coats and black top hats. A waiter was busy serving at
tables; he carried a silver salver with tea for two with neatly cut cucumber
sandwiches. No.4 stood watching the scene, he saw a vacant table by a white
balustrade, and made a bee-line for it, sat down and looked over the expanse of
sand that made up the beach.
“Can I get you anything sir” asked the man
in the short white coat and black trousers.
The waiter withdrew.
No.4 maintained his vigilance of the beach
where a few people walked, or paddled in the shallow gullies of water. Two
chaps in white naval caps were busy building a sand castle as others played
with a beach ball. He saw the island and looked out towards the far side of the
estuary; he took it all in and wondered.
“Your coffee sir” the waiter set out the
cup of coffee, sugar and milk “that will be 2 units if you please.”
“And if I don’t please?”
“Its still 2 units sir” the waiter told
He began to ferret in the pockets of his
jacket “I’m sorry but I don’t appear to have…..” from a pocket he produced not
only his card of identity, his health and welfare card, but a credit card.
“That will do nicely sir” the waiter said taking the credit card and clipping it.
No.4 ignored the milk and sugar and slowly
sipped his coffee, his eyes staring out across the estuary.
“Fancy a game” a stout man with a bushy
moustache suddenly asked sitting himself down in the opposite chair and placing
the wooden chequered board and box on the table.
“You do play chess?”
“Yes I play chess, but not just at the
The man sitting opposite opened the box and
busied himself setting out the chessmen on the board. He was wearing a British
military cap, a General’s cap, this aroused No.4 curiosity.
“Why are you wearing that cap?”
entitled to it.”
“Whatever are you doing in a place like
“About to play chess I hope, your move
Number 4” the General announced.
“That appears to be all perfectly normal”
No.57 remarked to the officer of the watch.
No.57, assistant to the officer of the
watch stood watching the game play out on the large wall screen.
“Yes, but appearances can be deceptive.
What’s he thinking?”
“Who, Number 4?”
“He’s probably thinking whether to block
the attack by the Rook with his Bishop, or to take the King’s Bishop’s pawn” 57
“That’s not what he’s thinking” the officer of the watch replied and picking up the receiver of the cream telephone, he put a call through to No.2 in the Green Dome.
“I can see the battle is lost” the General
said in a deep gravely voice “I can see I should have resigned long ago,
obviously now I’ve no alternative. Look at my King it can’t move, my Rook’s
smothered by your Bishop, my Queen is trapped, there’s nothing I can do, its
obvious checkmate in eight moves” so he tipped the King over in an act of
“Thank you for the game General, but I
really must be going.”
“Be careful Number 4, that’s my advice.”
“What’s to be careful about, what’s
stopping me from simply walking across the sand to the other side?”
“On the face of it nothing, but if you’re
thinking of setting out on an exploratory expedition beware of the soft.”
“The soft, what’s that?”
“Quicksand, however there is another
obstacle you must overcome, looks like you’ll need a boat!”
Ironically people were scurrying about aboard the boat next to the
as though they were making the Stone Boat ready for sea. An elderly man wearing
a white cap stood at her stern, his hands on the ship’s wheel. And where there
had been an open expanse of sand between No.4 and his objective the sea now
covered! No.4 stared out across the water hardly believing what his eyes were
“Where did that come from?”
“The tide comes in quick here. If you had
been out there you would have been cut off, dead and drowned.”
No.4 made his excuses and left the General
setting out the chessmen on the board once more.
“He isn’t there” No.28 said replacing the
“Who isn’t?” asked 57.
“Shall I put out a general call for him?”
“You can if you want to receive the sharp end of his tongue!” the officer of the watch warned.
No.2 was pre-occupied in the laboratory.
Two technicians in grey polo neck jerseys and white coats, 243 and 253 were
about to introduce him to something that would become invaluable regarding the
security of the village.
“And this is it, is it?” No.2 asked looking
at the dustsheet covered shape.
“Yes Number 2” No.243 replied with a smile.
“Can I see it?”
“Of course” No.253 said whipping the
dustsheet away to reveal….
“ROVER” 243 announced with pride.
Number 2 looked the machine over.
It was large, round, with a frilly skirt at
its base. The frame was made from toughened steel covered in a fibreglass dome.
The base of the dome being white, the top of the dome segmented black and
white, something like a schoolboys cap. And in the centre atop of the dome, a
“Rover, and that stands for…what Rover
Orbital Vehicle something or other?”
The two technicians looked at each other.
It was No.243 who found his voice.
“It doesn’t stand for anything sir, except
it behaves like a guard dog, and will round up and capture anyone attempting to
“I see, tell me about it.”
“You see Number 2 this is a complex
machine, operated remotely by
operator in the Control Room.” Number 243 began.
Number 253 continued “It operates as in a
hovercraft, able to travel over any terrain, including on the water, as well as
act like a submarine able to dive into the water.”
“It can go up steps?”
“Yes Number 2.”
“Can it fly?”
“No, it can’t go into the air.”
“What about walls?” Number 2 asked.
The two lab technicians looked at each
“We’re sorry sir?”
“Can this Rover scale walls?”
Again Number 253 and 243 looked at each
“We didn’t know it was supposed to” 243
said seemingly puzzled by the question.
“In other words it can’t.”
“No Number 2.”
“We can’t think of any contingency in which
it would need to scale walls.”
“Why to spy on people in buildings” No.2
243 and 253 looked at each other, and
“So in all other respects this….Rover is
Again the two technicians looked at each
It was 243 who spoke “Not exactly sir, it
is yet to be given a test.”
“We decided that we should introduce you to
Rover first, although we have taken the liberty of setting up a control system
in the Control Room.”
“Good. I shall arrange a test for it soon.”
Numbers 243 and 253 were feeling very pleased with themselves as Number 2 left the laboratory, and set about making final adjustments, and fine tuning Rover.
The steel doors opened and Number 2, with
an old college scarf wound about his neck and shoulders and carrying an
umbrella shooting stick, stood looking down onto the floor of the Control Room
from the mezzanine level, and instantly drew the officer of the watch’s
attention. The steel doors closed with a solid thud and Number 2 walked down
the steel steps.
“Number 2, I’ve been trying to contact
“Why what’s the problem?” he asked stepping
down onto the floor.
“Number 4 has been playing chess with the
“How terrible for him!”
“You don’t understand sir, I think Number 4
is going to try and get across to the other side of the estuary.”
“Is he? Good!”
“Good, what’s good about it?”
Number 2 picked up the receiver of the grey
telephone, avoiding the seesaw device as it revolved.
“Laboratory………laboratory, how soon can
Rover be ready for its initial test........really, good” Number 2 replaced the
receiver and turned to the officer of the watch.
“Which of your operatives is to take remote
control of Rover?”
“Number 86, he’s seated on the see-saw.”
Number 2 put out a hand stopping the
revolving of the steel device.
“I take it you have been briefed on how to
control this Rover device?”
“Yes Number 2. I control it from here,
using a camera system it will be as though I’m in the machine.”
“You mean we are to run a test now?” No.28
“Yes, no time like the present, and we
shall be assisted by Number 4.”
“Number 4, do you think that’s wise sir?”
“I can think of no-one better. I think the
beach will make the best test area, arrange for a taxi left unattended with the
key left in the ignition.”
“The tide’s in” the officer of the watch
“Ah, in that case have the speedboat moored
up by the slipway. If Number 4 wants to try to escape I don’t think we should
hamper him too much, do you?”
“No Number 2” No.28 said with reluctance.
Walking away from the Old People’s Home No.
4 was considering his options, instead of taking the road up the hill back into
the village he kept to the lawn and found himself standing on a wide cobbled
path looking at two motor mechanics working on the engine of a speedboat. While
they were distracted No.4, taking a nonchalant attitude so as not to attract
attention, walked quietly down the slipway passed the one boat, and stood
looking at the one in front. Glancing over his shoulder he stooped down and
untied the mooring rope and leapt into the speedboat, turned the ignition and
steered the boat out into the estuary. At hearing the sound of the engine the
two mechanics leapt out of the boat, ran along the slipway shouting and waving
their arms at the man to bring the boat back.
In the Control Room No.2 and the officer of
the watch stood watching the action play out on the wall screen.
“I think it’s time” No.2 announced.
No.28 gave the order orange alert, one
operative on the see-saw acknowledged the order and activated Rover.
From somewhere the domed droid of Rover MK
I, it’s blue light flashing, its siren sounding, came whirring along a road
startling pedestrians and cyclists alike who smartly moved to the side of the
road, out of its path to allow this curious machine to pass by, leaving
citizens shocked and bewildered by the thing.
The Rover droid rushed passed the Town Hall
and down the hill towards the Old People’s Home. In the Control Room the
operator pulled hard on a leaver and Rover responded sweeping left onto the
lawn, down the slipway and onto the water and into the estuary.
No.4 was way ahead, and close to taking the speedboat out into the open sea, it has been all too easy. And yet when he glanced over his shoulder, much to his surprise he saw he was now being pursued. Not
another speedboat, but something round something which
to skim over the water. He kept the speedboat on a true course straight for the
open sea. Casting another glance over his shoulder he saw a flashing blue
light, and that it was gaining on him.
Watching the action on the wall screen No.2
allowed himself a wry smile “Its all going very well don’t you think.”
“What will it do when it catches up with
Number 4?” No.28 asked.
“Well… we’ll see in a few minutes” No.2
replied, not having the faintest idea.
It took only a couple of minutes for Rover
to draw alongside
speedboat. No.4 pulled hard to port on the wheel crashing the boat onto the
white fibreglass dome of Rover. This sent it off course momentarily, but the
operator in the Control Room soon regained the droid’s position alongside, its
blue light flashing more intently and brighter. No.4 turned the wheel hard to
starboard leaving the Guardian in its wake, then turned again to meet the thing
head on…crash! The bow of the speedboat had punctured a hole in the fibreglass
dome, rupturing one of the floatation tanks in the process, both of which were
taking on water fast. No.4 leapt overboard and began to swim away; foundering
in the water he turned to see boat and Rover sink below the waves.
the control Room No.2 was incandescent with fury! He picked up the receiver of
the grey telephone “Laboratory.”
The view on the wall screen changed to that
of the laboratory. On the screen the telephone was bleeping, No.243, who had
been watching the first Rover test on a small monitor picked up the receiver of
the yellow telephone.
“I can’t explain it sir.”
“What went wrong with this Rover thing you
“We don’t know at this point. We need to
retrieve the machine.”
can tell you what went wrong...it sank!”
“Yes Number 2. In all probability one of
the floatation tanks was ruptured in the collision with the boat.”
“Once the tide has gone out retrieve this
Rover device. Then I want a full report ASAP do you understand?”
“Yes Number 2.”
No.2 replaced the receiver, the wall screen
went blank, and he took a deep breath in order to help compose himself “You had
better deploy the helicopter to pick up Number 4 out of the water.”
“I have already given the order” the
“Good. If you want me you’ll know where
“Yes Number 2.”
The silver grey Alouette II helicopter fitted with two grey floats attached to the skids, and crewed by the pilot and two lookouts took off from the triangular lawn by the sea wall, and flew low out across the estuary, heading towards the open sea in search for No.4. Then
one of the lookouts spotted a figure in the water swimming in the direction of the shore. The helicopter slowed then hovered for a moment before the pilot landed the copter on the water. The two watchmen opened a cabin door and stepping out onto one of the floats, hauled No.4 out of the water and into the cabin. The cabin door closed and the pilot flew the helicopter back to the village, where two medics in a light blue jeep towing a small trailer, marked with a red cross, were waiting by the lawn to collect No.4 and take him to the hospital.