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Monday 29 November 2021

Chapter 8


The Test

    “Hello Number 4, what are you doing here?” No.2 asked from across the lawn.
    “I often wonder myself!”
    “No, I mean here at the Old People’s Home?”

    “I’ve been playing chess with the Admiral.”
    A silver grey Alouette helicopter circled above the village.
    “A new arrival?” No.4 asked.
    No.2 looked up at the helicopter circling, which turned and descended, landing on the triangular lawn by the sea wall. As the rotor blades slowed the cabin door opened and a tall man in black overcoat and top hat and a black document case under his arm, stepped out of the helicopter and down to the ground. He stood there looking about him, then began to walk.
    “Who’s he?”
    “He’s no-one.”
    “What do you think would happen if I took command of that helicopter?”
    “I didn’t think you could pilot a helicopter?”
    “I can’t, but I could force the pilot to fly me out of this place” No.4 said producing a gas gun from his pocket.
    “Now where did you get that?” asked a rather surprised No.2.
    “I found it! Another idea has just struck me.”
    “Do tell.”
    “I could take you with me.”
    “Its crude, and how far do you think you’ll get?”
    “By the looks of it none of the people here will stop me.”
    No.2 looked about him. No-one on the lawn of the Old People’s Home was taking the least bit of notice of the little scene playing out in their midst.
    “Walk this way, and don’t try anything.”
    “Now what would I be trying?”
    “Don’t get clever with me!”
    No.2 walked a step or two in front of his abductor.
    The helicopter pilot closed the cabin door and stepped down to the ground. And then he looked on as the two men approached.
    “I would be obliged if you would climb back into the helicopter” No.4 ordered.
    No.2 nodded.
    “Now don’t you do anything” No.4 said poking the gas gun into his prisoner’s back.
    The pilot climbed back into the cabin followed by No.2 and No.4.


    “This is now an interesting situation” said No.2
    “In what way?” asked No.4.
    “If I made a move to stop you now, and you pressed that gas gun in the close confinement of this cabin, you would either paralyze or kill all of us!”
   “Start the engine” 4 ordered.
   The pilot did as he was instructed. The rotor blades began to turn slowly, then faster and faster, the helicopter lifting off the ground and taking to the air and flying away from the village out across the estuary.
    “Do you really think you are going to get away with this? Attempting to escape is one thing; abduction of its chief administrator is another!”
    In the Control Room the officer of the watch-No.28 stood watching the scene play out on the wall screen. He saw his superior and No.4 approach the helicopter, the gas gun in No.4’s hand as they boarded the helicopter.
    “Track the helicopter” the officer of the watch ordered.
    “Would you mind telling me where we are going?”
    “As far as this helicopter can take us” was the reply.
    The pilot glanced down at the fuel gauge, as did No.4, it read half full.
   In the Control Room the officer of the watch had given them long enough, and indicated to an operator on the steel see-saw to take command of the helicopter.
    Aboard the helicopter the pilot felt a change in the cyclic and collective pitch controls, as well as the throttle, he took his feet off the antitorque pedals and hands off the controls as the helicopter was taken over by remote control.

   “What are you doing?” No.4 demanded to know.
   The pilot glanced over his left shoulder “I’m doing nothing, we’re hands free!” he said raising his hands.
   The helicopter climbed, then turned back towards the village.

    No.2 laughed “Relax Number 4, and enjoy the ride. And don’t worry, this little adventure will not be held against you, I’m not a vindictive man” he held his hand out to take the gas gun.
    No.4 knew when he was beaten, and handed the weapon over.
    “There is however one thing I should dearly like to know, who gave you this?”
    The helicopter approached the village, the nose rose up, tail down, the speed slowed as it made its approach, hovered for a few moments  before landing on the lawn by the sea wall. A Mini-Moke was parked by the lawn, and No.12 stood waiting as the helicopter landed. The rotor blades slowed as the cabin door opened and the figures of No.2 and No.4 stepped down onto the lawn, as No.12 walked forward to greet his superior.
    “Take this” No.2 said handing 12 the gas gun “I’ll leave you to


question him.”
    “Where did he get this?”
    “That is what you are going to find out, get in” said No.2 climbing into a back seat of the Moke.
    No.4 climbed into the vacant rear seat, as No.12 climbed into the front passenger seat, the taxi driver driving the mini-Moke up the hill into the village, but stopping on the way to drop No.12 off, then carried on its the way to the Green Dome. The two passengers alighted, climbed the steps and entered the domed building.

    “Right sit down Number 4” No.2 ordered pressing a button on the control panel of his desk.
   A black leather chair rose up through a hole in the floor. No.4 stepped forward and sat down, instantly steel bands appeared out of the arms of the chair securing his wrists, as steel bands secured his ankles. The chair descended through the floor into the darkness below. The chair came to a stop and then turned 30 degrees to the right and moved forward. No.4 travelled in the chair for a few minutes before it stopped, turned 90 degrees and rose upwards through a hole in the floor into a green walled chamber. There was a second low grey inner wall, made up with a number of arches.

    “Where am I?”
    A grey haired man in shirt, tie and grey tails sat behind a grey curved desk. On the desk was a grey telephone and a thick leather bound ledger.

    “I asked you a question, where am I?”
    “In the Labour Exchange if you must know” No.20 said in a friendly tone of voice.
    “What’s he doing here?”
    “He’s drinking his tea.”
    No.12 stood with cup and saucer in hand.
    No.20 put on his black rimmed spectacles and rose up out of his chair and walked from behind his desk “We want to know something, and you are going to tell us.”
    “I can’t say I’m a fan of your interview techniques!”
    “Would you like a cup of tea?”

    “Do I get a biscuit?”
    “Sadly we only have biscuits with our elevenses, not in the afternoon.”
    “Yes I would like a cup of tea please”
    The manager of the Labour Exchange turned back to his desk and poured out a cup of tea “Indian or China?”
    “I generally drink Typhoo tea, “You only get an oo with Typhoo!”
    The manager picked up the teapot and poured out the tea, and looked over his shoulder and smiled “Most amusing, sugar?”
    “No thank you, I gave it up.”

    The manager turned in order to consult the ledger on his desk,


opened it and ran his finger down the page “It doesn’t say that here.”
    “I can’t be held responsible for that!”

    The manager picked up the cup and saucer and handed it to the Prisoner.

    “Don’t get clever with me Number 4.”
    Because of the wrists restraints he couldn’t drink his tea.
    “Would you mind.”
    “Would I mind what?”
    “I cannot drink my tea!”
    “You want me to release the restraints?”
    “It would help.”
    “Oh I couldn’t possibly do that, could I Number 12?”
    “No, he couldn’t possibly do that” No.12 agreed.
    The Prisoner let the cup and saucer drop from his grip, the tea spilling out, and the crockery breaking on the floor.
    “Tut, tut now someone has to clean that up!”
    “Don’t look at me!” said No.4.
    The manager returned to his seat behind his desk. He pressed a button on the control panel.
   “Did you know that Number 2 has an identical desk to yours?”
    The wall screen, having been switched on, was blue and depicted a black silhouette of a man sitting in a chair, No.4 looked at the screen.
    “Is that supposed to be me?”
    “It is you” said the manager from behind his desk.
    Pressing a button on the control panel of his desk the lights dimmed, pressing another button the view on the wall screen changed.
    “This is merely the truth test. Now, tell me how you managed to acquire a gas gun?”

    “I found it in my Christmas stocking!”
    “Flippancy will get you nowhere.”
    “How did you acquire a gas gun?”
    The Prisoner said nothing, he didn’t need to. On the wall screen was the silhouette of the Prisoner’s head. There were two lines set at an angle to each other but meeting at a point at the silhouette’s forehead. A black circle set on the top line moved forward.
    “That is a lie” said the manager “but it won’t be held against you. Everything you think here is in the strictest confidence.”
    A square silhouette then moved forward.
    “That’s better. Now how did you acquire a gas gun?”
    The Prisoner sat in the chair seemed to be struggling with himself. There appeared to be conflict as both the round and square silhouettes moved forward at the same time.
    Come, come, you’re not being honest. It didn’t arrive in the post!”
    The square silhouette moved forward.
    “It did arrive in the post! So who sent it?”
    Again conflict was demonstrated on the wall screen as the two


silhouettes receded. Then they moved forward in unison as the Prisoner struggled not to think.
    “Why was it sent to you?”
    The black silhouette moved forward.
    “And was there a missive with it?

    Again the black silhouette moved forward.
    “No missive! Was it your own decision to abduct Number 2?”
    The Prisoner struggled to keep his thoughts to himself.
    “You tried to escape holding Number 2 as a hostage. Where were you trying to escape to?”
    The square both silhouettes moved forward.
    “You wanted to escape to anywhere that wasn’t here!”
    No.12 stood quietly observing the interrogation, and as such observers should never get involved.
    “You can’t blame a man for trying.”
    “Don’t you like it here Number 4?”
    “It’s alright for a holiday, but I couldn’t stick it for more than a couple weeks!”
    “Let’s face the truth of it Number 4. You’re nothing more than a burned out agent, who is now of little use to anyone” 20 said accusingly.

    “Then why was I brought here?”
    “No-one has told you.”
    “Oh dear, how very remiss of them.”
    “People keep asking me questions.”
    “Oh they will.”
    “People like you and him over there.”
    “What about him over there?”
    No.20 shot 12 a knowing glance, it had not gone unnoticed.
    No.4 knew then that he had an ally “Is that all?”
    “What about him over there?”

    “I want to leave.”
    “I’m sure you do. What about him over there?”
    “He’s Number 2’s assistant.”
    “Yes, and he’s also a cog in the wheel of administration.”
    “Really, I had no idea.”
    “Only someone deep seated in administration would be able to get his hands on such a weapon” No.20 stated “that man over there would be in such a position. Wouldn’t you say so Number 12?”

    “Don’t drag me into this!” his demeanour calm, cool, and collected.
    “Excuse me” said No.4.
    “Yes what is it?” No.20 snapped.
    “Are you interviewing me, perhaps putting me to the test for a job in administration?”
    “You heard. As manager of the Labour Exchange do you carry out


many of these interrogations? I only ask because I thought it might be job orientated to see if I would break under stress. If I pass the test I could look after the secret files, or perhaps I could work second to No.2 when him over there gets the sack!”
    No.20 stood in the middle of the floor, first looking at No.12, then fixing his stare on No.4 who was still secured in the chair. Returning to his desk he pressed a button on the control panel. Instantly the steel restraints released their grip on the Prisoner.
    “You can go.”
    “Go where?” No.4 asked.
    “You can both go.”
    “The interview is over?”
    “Yes” the manager said pressing a button on the control panel.
    The wall screen went dark.
    “Have you failed?”
    “It was never a question of success or failure.”
    “So I haven’t got the job in administration?”
    The manager of the Labour Exchange sat down behind his desk.
    “Well thank you for this opportunity, I’m sorry I didn’t do better in the job interview” 4 said rising out of his chair.
    No.12 headed for the pair of steel doors which opened at his approach, and No.4 quickly followed him.

   In the outer office of the Labour Exchange two workmen were busy hanging signs on the walls, “Of the people, by the people, for the people” one read, another “A still tongue makes a happy life,” and a third “Humour is the essence of a democratic society.”
    No.180c was up a wooden step ladder holding a framed sign against the wall. 
    “Up on the left a fraction” said No.180b
    “How’s that?”
    “Just a fraction more.”
   180c moved the sign a little more “How’s that?”
    “That’s about it”
    The door to the manger’s office opened and No.12 rushed out brushing passed the step ladder.
    “Oi watch it mate!”
    No.4 followed suit and nudged the step ladder.
    “Ere what’s your game?” No.180c protested dropping the sign.
    “Watch it, you nearly dropped that on me!” said 180b.

    “Wasn’t my fault, blame him!”
    But No.4 had long gone, and now stood outside the Labour

Exchange looking to see which direction No.12 had taken. Then he glimpsed him, taking a track into the woods. He followed on behind.
    No.12 followed the track deep into the woods, glancing now and


again over his shoulder to make sure he was being followed. But then he stopped and turned round, there was no-one there!
    “Looking for someone?” No.4 asked poking his head through a bush.

    “We can talk here” No.12 told him.
    “Can we?” said No.4 emerging from behind the bush.
    “And why should I take your word for that?”
    “You don’t trust me?”
    “I don’t trust myself!” No.4 told him.
    “And I thought you were the man I was looking for!”
    “You’re Number 2’s assistant, why should Number 2’s assistant seek me out?”
    “You sent me that gas gun.”
    “You knew what I would do.”
    “I thought you might try something, given the opportunity.”
    “You knew such an off the cuff plan wouldn’t work?”
    “I needed you to try.”

    “You used me.”
    “Yes, now I know you want out just as much as I do.”
    “Why should you want to escape, after all you’re a cog in the machine.”
    “One missing cog and the machine stops functioning!”
    “So why should I help you?”
    “We’ll be helping each other. Wait, get down!”
    No.4 didn’t know why, but he obeyed the instruction. And as both me hid behind the bushes, the white membranic mass of the Guardian rolled passed along the track towards the village.
    “What is that thing?” 4 asked.
    “Rover, a watch dog!” 12 told him.
    “They know we’re here!”
    “No, it’s just a routine patrol. Listen I’m a plant, a British agent sent here by M division in order to infiltrate the village.”
    “We all have our problems!”
    “I was supposed to have been extracted by now.”
    “By submarine.”
    “You mean your M division knows the location of the village?”
    “Yes. But it seems I’ve been left high and dry, and left to my resources!”
    “The submarine didn’t show up, so you blended in.”
    “You could put it like that; I kept my head down and lost myself in administration. But then Number 2 needed an assistant, my number came up and that was that!”
    “So why do you need to escape now?”


    “I’ve become suspect.”
    “Suspected of what?”
    “It doesn’t matter what of, everyone becomes suspect sooner or later.”
    “And you think I can help you escape?”
    “We can escape together.”
    “You have a plan?”

    A twig snapped!
   Two men in striped jerseys emerged from the trees and stood in the clearing.
    “They look suspect to me” said one.
    “Conspiring I’d say” suggested the other.
    “Number 2 wouldn’t like that would he?”
    “No Number 2 wouldn’t like that, oh look…’s Number 12.”
    “So it is, wait till we tell Number 2!”

    “I’m busted” Number 12 told him.
    “What will they do to you?” 4 asked.
    “What won’t they do to me?”
    “You need not bother yourself Number 4, your turn will come in time” Number 214 told him.
    Two burly set watchmen suddenly appeared on the scene.
    “You had better go”12 said.
    “What and leave you to them, I don’t think so.”
    “It’s not your fight.”
    But the die was cast, two onto two, brute force on the one side, and fleet of foot on the other as No.’s 4 and 12 turned and ran into the woods. But not very far with No.214 and 213 close on their heels. And then the blood curdling roar of the Guardian echoed through the woods, and the membranic sphere suddenly appeared. 4 and 12 stopped dead in their tracks.

    “It can only go for one of us” 12 said.
    “So I’ll divert it, while you escape.” 4 said.

    “Escape to where? The game’s up I’m afraid.”
    Before he knew it No.12 ran deliberately towards the Guardian as the two pursuers caught up. The Guardian roared as 12 laid into it with his fists, but the Guardian with its balloon-like quality offered no resistance. And as 12 tired and fell to his knees the white membrane covered his face, cutting off the oxygen, smothering him, suffocating its victim to death!
    “Why did he do that? We had orders to bring him in” said 214.
    “Death is a form of escape, that way he beat you all” said No.4.

    It’s just not good enough!” said No.2 in a rage.
    Number 14, a tall man with light brown hair, in olive green jersey, and a light blue piped blazer stood at attention in No.2’s office.
    “It was unavoidable I’m afraid sir” 14 replied.
    “If those two goons had done their job!”


“Well quite sir, but good men are hard to find” 14 suggested.

    “Oh don’t give me that old chestnut!”

    “You’ll be requiring a new assistant” 14 said.
    “The man’s not cold yet, and you’re ready to step into his shoes, is that it 14?”
    “I don’t let the grass grow under my feet sir.”
    “Bit quick off the mark though!”
    “Yes sir.”
   “So it turns out 12 was a plant.”
   “Yes sir.”
    “Sent here by whom?”
    “We don’t know sir.”
    “But you’ll find out.”
    “That might prove difficult, after all the man’s dead.”
    “Yes 14, and as my new assistant it’s your first task to organize the man’s funeral.”
    “Yes sir” 14 said with his chin up and his chest out.
    “Just as long as I can trust you 14.”
    “Oh you can sir, I’m loyal. What about Number 4?”
    “What about him?”
    “He was there, he might have some incite into 12’s motivations.”
    “You think so? Very well then, make out your report and let me have it as soon as.”

    “Yes Number 2.”

    “Be seeing you” No.2 said raising the circled thumb and forefinger of his right hand to his eye.
    “What was that sir?”
    “It’s a salute.”
    “A salute sir, we’ve never had a salute before” 14 told him.
    “Well we’ve got one now” No.2 told him.
    “Show me again sir.”
    No.2 repeated the motion and No.14 imitated the motion.
    “Curious, this might catch on you know.”
    “That’s the intention” No.2 told him.
    “Who came up with this, the general purposes committee?”
    “That’s not important” No.2 told him.
    “Right sir, be seeing you” he saluted.
    “And you” No.2 replied.
   14 turned on his heel and marched smartly across the floor, up the ramp and through the already opening steel doors.

    There was a small turnout for No.12’s funeral. The cortege was lead by the brass band playing the Radetzky March. Then came the hearse, a white Mini-Moke with a black and white striped canopy, towing a trailer with a black velvet canopy containing 12’s coffin and flowers. Following behind was a Top Hat official from administration, and a number of citizens carrying open black umbrellas. The solemn


procession wound its way through the village passed the Town Hall, down the hill and across the lawn of the old people’s home. A citizen opened the gate at the far end of the lawn and the cortege passed through and along the path leading from the village towards the Camera Obscura. Then through a tunnel and along a path towards the cliffs, then came to a stop at the end of the path. The hearse could not travel any further, so abandoning the hearse, the cortege carried on along the narrow path along the cliffs, with the coffin now being carried by 4 pallbearers and the brass band played on. When they eventually reached the lighthouse, the cortege descended the sloping rocks down onto the beach, then proceeded to the cemetery on the beach at the foot of the cliffs. Two men in dove grey overalls who had been digging a grave stepped back as the cortege arrived. The Top Hat official resided over the funeral, no words were spoken as the coffin was lowered into the grave to the music of the Radetzky March. And as the citizens stood in quiet reverence the two gravediggers set about backfilling the grave.
    “You could have attended the funeral had you chosen to do so” a voice said suddenly.
    No.4, who had been quietly watching the funeral from the cliff top spun round to see the figure of No.2 behind him, leaning on his umbrella shooting stick. 
    “I didn’t like to intrude.”
    “It’s hardly a family affair, Number 12 had no family, well not here in the village. Come to think of it he didn’t have that many friends either.”
    “So who are the mourners at the graveside?”
    “We could hardly let Number 12 go to his grave alone and un-mourned.”
    “So you put on a bit of a show for the good people here.”
    “We would do it for anyone; we’d even do the same for you Number 4!”
    “It’s a funny place to have cemetery don’t you think?”
    “What makes you so interested?”
    “I’m not, it was merely an observation, that when the tide comes in it will cover those graves.”
    “I meant in Number 12’s funeral, I didn’t think you knew the man.”
    “I didn’t.”
    “But you were in the woods together, oh the funerals over. Shall we walk back to the village together, I would be pleased of the company.”
    The two men took the path back along the cliff top.
    “What were you and Number 12 doing together in the woods?”
    “Planning an escape.”
    “No not really, were hadn’t got that far, we were interrupted.”
    “Quite. It no longer matters really, seeing as the man is dead.”
    They emerged at the end of the sandy path where a taxi stood


waiting on the slate covered path leading back to the village. On the beach people were enjoying themselves sat in deckchairs, sunbathing, or playing beach ball, paddling in the water, dressed in swimming trunks, bikinis, or swimming costumes. Whilst other ladies and gentleman promenaded in piped blazers and straw boaters, brightly coloured sweaters and slacks, protected from the sun by open umbrellas. There was a kiosk selling everything for the beach, it was the image of an idyllic holiday report.
    “I was simply wondering if you gained any incite into Number 12’s recent motivations.”
    “I didn’t know the man. I would have thought you would have been better placed.”
    Me? Good Lord, he was my assistant yes, but I hardly knew the man. Can I give you a ride back?” No.2 offered climbing into the back of the Mini-Moke.
    “No, I think I’ll walk.”
    The taxi drove off, in reverse towards the village, there being no room for the vehicle to turn round, leaving No.4 standing by the rocks. Not looking on the idyllic scene before him, but beyond that, and out towards the sea.


Monday 22 November 2021

Chapter 7

 The Rover Experiment

    There had been heavy rain during the night, everywhere had been thoroughly drenched, and torrents of water had run through the streets. Although it had stopped raining, in the woods rain water still dropped from the trees, and the atmosphere was clean and fresh.
  Life in the village went about its normality; a middle aged woman, No.38 was buying her groceries at the General Store. Citizens took morning tea at the café. The Tally Ho kiosk was open for business, along with the watchmaker’s shop. Citizens promenaded around the pool and fountain in the Piazza, and general store. Three of the taxis plied their trade, while the fourth was being repaired by motor mechanics in the workshop.   “Good morning, good morning, good morning” began the public announcement “congratulations on yet another day. Here is the local weather forecast. The spell of inclement weather will continue for at least another day, with intermittent showers and freshening winds. However a high is slowly moving in and a fine spell of weather to come is forecast for later in the week. Your local amateur dramatics society is currently rehearsing the play ’The importance of being Ernest,’ and on Tuesday Number 72 is to give a piano recital in the Recreation Hall, and ice cream is now on sale, strawberry is the flavour of the day.”

    Two senior gentlemen were sat together on a bench contemplating the free sea, they do that most days.
    “What do you think she meant by that?” said No.113.
    No.189 thought for a moment “Who?”
    “You did hear that announcement, or are you going deaf in your old age?” said the first.
    “These days I just choose what I wants to hear, and I ignore all the rest. Meant, meant by what?”
    “What she said in that announcement, congratulations on yet another day.”
    The other thought for a moment or two “I expect she was congratulating us on another day, by which I take to mean having survived another night.”
    “Now what do you mean by that?”
    “Well they come for you in the night, well not so much now of course because we’re too old. They don’t bother us old folk so much these days, squeezed us dry they have.” said the other.
    “You speak for yourself, I’ve things I haven’t told them, nor likely to!” the first said brusquely.


    “Well she was right, we did survive the night.”
    “Meaning we’re still alive!”
    “Put like that….yes” the other agreed.
    “And one more thing whilst we’re about it” said the first.
    “And what’s that?”
    “Why is it always strawberry the ice cream flavour of the day, who decides these things on our behalf?”
    The other leaned on his walking stick and thought for a moment “Someone who likes strawberry I shouldn’t wonder!”
    “Oh you’ll put up with anything, won’t you?”
    “Do I detect the sound of rebellion in your voice this morning, or did you just get out of bed the wrong side?”
    “My bed’s up against the side of the wall, so there’s only one side to get out!”
    “Rebellion then!” said the other.
    “By jove I’m going” 113 said standing up slowly and purposely.
    “Going, going where?” asked 189.
    “To complain of course!” and he smartly marched away across the Piazza.

    “It’s no good” 189 called out after him, and under his breath “they won’t listen.”

    It had taken a few days to retrieve the Rover MK I from the watery depths of estuary after the collision with the speed boat had caused it to sink. The strong currents had made it particularly dangerous for the divers to retrieve the droid, so the decision was taken to wait for tide to recede and that caused a delay. Eventually the tide went out, and the beach of the estuary had finally been laid bare, which in turn revealed another problem. As the team crossed the sand looking for the MKI Rover it was discovered almost buried, having been sucked down in “the soft,” which was almost like quicksand. It took four men to dig and two Mini-Mokes to pull the droid free of the sand’s grip.

    Two laboratory technicians were assigned the task of assessing the salvaged Rover MkI, the damage caused to it by the collision, and the effect of being submerged in both water and sand. As well as to the question of whether or not it would ever function properly in the way it was designed to do. The fibreglass dome had suffered damage in the collision with the jet boat, and that meant a new dome would have to be manufactured. One of the two buoyancy tanks had been ruptured and needed to be replaced, along with all the electrical wiring. Sinking in the soft meant the sand had got into all the control systems and hydraulics. The conclusion of the assessment was to have the Rover Mk1 scrapped and replaced.

    “This cannot be right” No.2 said after reading the report.
    “You must admit sir, it never achieved its full potential” said No.243.


   “I’ll admit nothing.”

    “It’s an accurate report on the MKI sir, repairs would be, as you’ve read, extensive. The best prognosis would be to scrap the thing completely and begin again.”
    “That’s your prognosis is it?” No.2 said closing the file.
    “Yes sir.”
    “I see” No.2 said sitting back in his chair “your recommendation is a complete scrappage of the MKI.”
    “Bearing in mind it’s a complete wreck, yes, added to the fact that it failed to perform its original requirements. What would you suggest sir?”
    No.2 sat and considered for a moment “I don’t know. What I do know is the village is without an effective Guardian.”
    “Lets face it sir, the Rover MKI was never going to be that.”
    “You’re not being helpful, you know that don’t you?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Alright, leave it with me.”
    No.243 turned to leave the office.
    “No wait, let’s begin again.”
    “With the MKII mechanical droid.”
    “An improved mark two mark you!”
    The pair of steel doors slid open and No.243 took his leave.

    In a laboratory the two bio-chemists, No.243 and 253, were busy with their latest experiment, growing bio-engineered artificial skin. A number of Petri dishes containing a three dimensional protein gel which is normally found in the skin. Skin cells from mice and placed in gel, in order to stimulate cell growth the scientists added different factors, which regulate cell growth and survival.
    “The latest batch of results indicates we are on the right track” 243 said reading the latest report.
    “Certainly it’s more pliable than previous batches.”
    “Hello what’s this?” asked 243 picking up one of the Petri dishes.
    “It’s never done that before!” 253 observed.
    “It indicates an adverse reaction.”
    “Yes, but to what?”
    “Isn’t that the one we introduced the two new compounds?”
    “Yes” 243 examined the content of the Petri dish more closely “It doesn’t look like synthetic skin, it more like a membrane.”
    The top of the Petri dish was removed, and instantly the membrane moved and began to form a tiny white sphere. The top of the dish was quickly replaced; the two bio-chemists stood looking at each other.
    “What do you make of that?”
    “Those two new compounds we added have had a positive effect on the synthetic skin.”
    “It moved, it actually moved!”
    “Which means it’s alive!”


    The two bio-chemists stood looking at each other in astonishment.
    “Why do you think it was trying to form itself into a sphere like that?”
    “I don’t know, but look its still trying.”
    The Petri dish was placed in a secure clear plastic isolation box. Carefully the lid of the Petri dish was removed, instantly the membrane formed a white sphere and began to roll and bound about the isolation box.
    “Why do you think its doing that?”
    “I don’t know, what do you think we have created?”
    “I shouldn’t like to think!”
    “Well we’d better start thinking, and have answers ready when Number 2 comes asking questions.”
    “Does he need to come asking questions?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “If we don’t tell him……”
    “You mean keep this under wraps?”
    “Only for the time being, until we understand what we are dealing with.”
    “Do you think it’s hungry?”
    No.243 looked at his colleague “Hungry?”
    “It might be.”
    “How can something like that eat, there’s no mouth, only smooth membrane.”
   253 went to fetch a mouse from the other side of the laboratory and placed it inside the isolation box. The mouse sat inside the clear plastic box sniffing for a moment, then set about preening itself. The white sphere moved, then rolled forward a little. The mouse stopped cleaning its whiskers and began sniffing the air again, panic must have set in because the mouse turned to face the glass wall and tried to climb up out of reach of the approaching sphere. There was nowhere for the mouse to go, it cringed in a corner as the sphere got closer and loser. Then the mouse made a sudden dash for it, but there was no escape. The white sphere was on the mouse in an instant, its membrane covered the face of the mouse which squeaked in fear, its lungs fighting for breath, eventually burning for lack of oxygen as the mouse collapsed, having been suffocated to death. One of the bio-chemists made to extract the poor mouse and carry out a post mortem upon it in order to understand what effect the sphere had had on the mouse. But the sphere had other ideas, suddenly the sphere grew a little more in size and completely absorbed the mouse. The white membrane now took on a pinkish hue.
    “You saw that, tell me you saw that” asked 243.
    253 turned to face his colleague “I saw it, but I don’t believe it.”
    “Now we know how it feeds, through absorption.”
    “That poor mouse, we must destroy this….this thing.”


    No.243 paused and considered “If we do that we could be throwing away an opportunity.”
    “An opportunity for what, think of the danger. Does it have intelligence?”
    “Intelligence, I should hardly think so.

    “Well it didn’t think twice before it absorbed that mouse! We are bound to inform Number 2, if this thing were to get out. Imagine if it were large enough to attack a man. We are bound to inform Number 2, what else can we do?”
    “After we have run some tests on it and learned what it is we are dealing with. And I want to examine those two new compounds we added in order to encourage stronger growth.”
    “Yes, Roc2h Vt4 and Er2b
    “But that’s three, you added a third compound?”
    “Only to this one, to see what would happen if Er2b was added in order to counteract the possibility that the cells would not bind together.”
    The laboratory was completely sealed during the running of a series of tests. It was proved that the white sphere could increase or in fact decrease its mass or size. But the both were relative to its original size which was roughly the size of a table tennis ball. Although it was living membrane it had a quality of a balloon, in that it offered no resistance. A number of creatures were introduced to the sphere’s environment, and it managed to defend itself well again large spiders. A scorpion fought well and managed to sting the sphere, to which it displayed a negative reaction. So there was the instinct for survival, but instinct was not necessarily intelligence.
   “How are we to access intelligence?” 253 asked.
   “There is a measure called the encephalization quotient that estimates intelligence by comparing an animal's brain to that of a typical creature of the same size. But here we have a problem, and the problem is?” asked 243.
   “This membrane has no brain!”
   “Therefore intelligence must be zero rated, but if we implanted a  basic artificial intelligence…..”
   “Artificial intelligence?”

   “Visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making” the basics along with a controlling agent “because the last thing we want is for this thing to be come self-aware!”
   “And if it doesn’t have a brain?”
   “We implant the AI into the membrane itself, so that it’s the membrane itself that does the thinking.”
   No.243 thought and considered “You know what is slowly developing don’t you?”
    “We know how the MK1 was very disappointing.”

    “Its performance lacked a great deal.”

    “It was fine on the road.”


    “Yes but it was supposed to be an all-terrain vehicle, on land, on the sea, in the sea.”
    “Be fair it did go on the water.”
    “And sank, it was supposed to go up walls.”

    “Well that was never going to happen was it?”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Well it behaved like a Dalek when it came to the steps.”

    “You mean it couldn’t climb them.”

    “Although it stumbled down them alright.”

    “So what do we think?”
    “Well the MK2 will perform better.”

    “Developed on a much larger scale of course.”
    “Of course, but which one of us will take the plan to Number 2?”

    The pair of steel doors opened and the white coated figure of No. 243 marched smartly down the ramp and across the floor and stood before the grey curved desk behind which No.2 sat in his black globe chair.

    “You wanted to see me?”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “What have you there?”
    “The latest report on Rover MK2” No.243 said handing his superior the file.
    “You mean the Rover mark one.”
    “No Number 2, things have moved on apace. There has been an unexpected development.”
    No.2 opened the file and began to read……“Is this right?”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “A creature of living membrane?”
    “Yes Number 2, but at the present time it is on a very small scale. We need to develop it on a much larger scale if it is to become the village Guardian.”

    “It says here you were working on growing synthetic skin.”
    “Yes Number 2, but three compounds were added by accident, the result being a piece of living membrane, which has formed itself into a sphere……”
    “Which suffocates its prey and absorbs it!”
    “Yes Number 2, it’s not a pretty sight.”
    “What prey?”
    “Has the absorption caused it to increase in size?”
    “No Number 2.”
    “What are you going to do about that?” he asked closing the file.
    “We intend to scale up the process several hundred times, so that a sphere of some 6 feet in circumference can be released from the main mass.”
    “Main mass, how much of a mass?”


    “Large enough for perhaps three spheres to be released at the same time. Eventually a large containment area will be required, thus controlling it in an isolated environment.”
    “At the bottom of the sea.”
    “And this containment area will stop this…..this thing from spreading.”
    “Yes sir.”
    “How will that work?”
    “Scientists are already developing a Perspex cube.”
    “Has this……thing shown any intelligence?”
    “We intend to give it artificial intelligence.”
    “Artificial intelligence?”
    “It’s all in the report sir.”
   “And controlled how?”
   “Through telepathic communication. We have established that once AI…..”
    “AI?” asked No.2.
    “That once artificial intelligence sir has been implanted, it will be the membrane itself which will do the thinking. The Guardian or Rover to be released by a command, we thought orange alert would be the command. It would also act as a warning to people that Rover has been released.”
    “And it will become operational, when?”

    It took the bio-chemists time to speed up the operation, to create a larger mass of Rover MKII on what could be termed an industrial level scale. Small amounts were created in stages and contained in large glass bottles filled with water in which it developed into a perpetually moving thing, as blobs of varying sizes rose and fell, making long streaks, like wax in oil of an astro lamp as one of the bio-chemists observered. It was fascinating to watch, even relaxing if one watched for long enough.
    Scientists developed sections of a strong clear Perspex cube which when constructed off-shore at the bottom of the sea by divers, made the containment area. The transference of the large mass of the Guardian from laboratory to the containment area was akin to putting the genie back into the bottle. Thus by creating a whirlpool over the containment area the mass of Rover MKII was transferred from M. S. Polotska.

    In his office No.2 and the bio-chemist-No.243 were watching the large wall screen depicting the perpetually moving mass of Rover MKII.
    “And you’re sure it’s perfectly secure?”
    “Yes Number 2, until released of course.”
    “And once Pandora’s box has been opened?”
    “We shall use a telepathic command signal which it will return it to the containment area.”


“You make it sound so simple” said No.2.
    “It will become second nature.”
    “Second nature, well we’ll see. When do you propose to test this….this Guardian?”
    “Tomorrow, we shall require a subject of course.”
    “Of course” agreed No.2.

   The day was warm and sunny, citizens promenaded around the pool and fountain in the Piazza as usual, some carrying colourful striped umbrellas to act as a parasol against the sun. The ex-Admiral and his flag officer were sailing plastic boats in the free sea, while a taxi drove round and round the Piazza. Two Top Hat officials of administration passed through on their way to the Town Hall. A maid pushed an old woman in a wheelchair, as an elderly gentleman wheeled a Penny Farthing bicycle about and made no attempt to ride it, while a man in a red jersey and straw boater rode a tricycle, as two young women rode by on bicycles fitted with candy striped canopies. In many ways it was an idyllic scene watched in the Control Room by No.22 the Officer of the watch, she being a middle aged woman, with light brown hair, wearing a dark green polo necked jersey, who stood with No.2 viewing  the wall screen.

    From a small balcony set in a nearby wall another stood taking in the exact same scene as he leaned on the railing. To No.4 people seemed to be settled to life in the village. He had been greeted by smiling, happy passers-by.
    “Beautiful day” someone said.
    And there is that salute, he had been surprised at how easily it had come to him, using thumb and index finger put to the eye, be seeing you. At times it seemed an innocent greeting, but later it becomes more sinister as one realizes that surveillance is everywhere.
   Then there came a disturbance in the Piazza, a young man in a striped jersey had been sat on the edge of the pool reading a copy of The Tally Ho. He was approached by a burly set man in a red jersey.
    “That’s where I sit” said No.130.
    The young man looked up at the burly set man, then to his left and right, then standing up he took a step or two to his right and sat down.
    “Are you trying to annoy me?” asked 130.
    The young man looked up from his broadsheet a second time “Now why would I want to do that?”
    “You’re in my place again, I sit there.”
    “There’s plenty of room.”
    “That’s not the point, I sit all along here, and you need to scoot!”
    “Do I?”
    “Yes, and if you don’t scoot I’ll do terrible things to you. I’ll hit you ugly, I’ll batter you up and down the length of this Piazza, it will be a


terrible sight to look upon. I’ll tear out your liver and feed it to the cat!”
   The young man stood up and made to walk away.
   “Oi, you, how dare you turn your back on me!” 130 said, and reaching out pushed the young man into the pool of the Free Sea.
    He sat there watching his copy of the tally how floating in the water. He stood up and wading through the water he approached the burly set man and punched him. At which the two men started to struggle with each other in the water, punches were thrown, and water splashed everywhere. No-one attempted to stop the fight, in fact no-one was taking any notice as the young man was being held under the water by the bigger man.
   Suddenly over the public address system came the voice of No.2 “Be still!”
    At hearing the command “be still” everyone in the Piazza came to a sudden halt. This focused No.4’s attention as the citizens stood as still as statues. The Mini-Moke had come to a stop, and cyclists dismounted their bicycles. In the Control Room No.2 and the officer of the watch stood watching the tableau on the wall screen, suddenly a small white sphere appeared at the top of the water spout of the fountain. Then increasing in size it floated through the air towards the big man who was holding down the young man in the water. Suddenly the man released his grip and fell backwards. The white sphere emitted a sound akin to someone breathing through an aqualung, a bicycle pump, and Gregorian chant. The man got to his feet and staggered back, but the Guardian was on him in an instant. He lashed out with his fists, but the sphere offered no resistance, the man fell back as white membrane covered his face suffocating its victim into unconsciousness. Then it moved away, rolling and bounding through the Piazza, down the steps and across the nearby lawn. Suddenly the spout of water appeared again from the fountain, and the citizens went about their business as though nothing had happened.
    One man, No.4, who having observed what had just taken place, didn’t believe his eyes still watched as an ambulance appeared on the scene. Two medics took a stretcher from the Red Cross trailer waded into the water, and pulling the unconscious man out, they placed him onto a stretcher and into the trailer, then drove away to the hospital. No.4 turned his attention away from the Piazza and looked over his left shoulder up towards the Green Dome.
    Approaching the front door No.4 pulled on the wrought iron bell pull and the door to the Green Dome opened, the Butler stood in the foyer to bid him welcome with a gesture of a gloved hand. He followed the Butler through the open French doors up the short ramp and through the opening steel doors. The Butler bowed and took his leave as No.4 marched down the ramp and approaching the desk leaned over it and stared at the man sat in the globe chair behind it.


    “What was that a few minutes ago?” he demanded.
    “And a very good morning to you Number 4” 2 said offering his visitor tea.
    “No tea, this isn’t a social call.”
    No.2 leaned forward out of his chair and placed his empty cup and saucer on the tea tray “Oh very well, let’s get it over with!”
    No.4 repeated his question adding “What’s that white “thing” all about?”
    “Don’t want to know much do you! It was a demonstration.”
    “Of the power we exert over the good citizens of this community. It was also a test of Rover, being the Guardian of the village. It was a test which I hasten to add, it passed with flying colours” said a smiling No.2 who had particularly good reason for feeling happy with himself.

    “You set the fight up of course” 4 said accusingly.
    “Did I?” 2 said indignantly.
    “And the man it attacked and subdued?”
     “You saw for yourself, he was taken away by ambulance to the hospital. The doctor will keep him in over night for observation” 2 explained “I’m informed the after affects can be pretty unpleasant.”
    “And the Guardian?”
    “Oh far superior to the mark 1, which you encountered that time you attempted to escape. You rammed it with the speed boat and sank both of them, you will no doubt recall.”
    “This Guardian….”
    “Will serve and protect both the village and its community, and woe betide anyone who should get on the wrong side of it” 2 warned his visitor “now if there is nothing else…..”
    The brief interview being clearly over, No.4 took his leave, the pair of steel doors closing behind him with a resounding clang. No.2 poured himself another cup of tea, and helped himself to the last custard cream.


Monday 15 November 2021

Chapter 6


A Psychological Drama

    “Are you going to see that?” No.9 asked casually stirring his tea.
    “I beg your pardon?” No.4 said glancing up from The Tally Ho and across the café patio.
    “Are you going?”
    “There, to the Recreation Hall.”
    “Do I look like a theatre goer?” No.4 said returning to the broadsheet.
    “It helps pass the time.”

    “Amateur dramatics, not my thing.”
    “The month before last, they produced A Midsummer Nights Dream, it was very good. 99’s Bottom was the talk of the village.”
    “Really” No.4 said sounding completely uninterested from behind his Tally Ho
    “Its going to be interesting to see how you’re going to make No.4 become involved with this” the officer of the watch-No.28 remarked.


   He stood with No.2 watching No.4 pay for his coffee and walk away from the café via the wall screen.

    “What the play you mean? That’s easy. I had two complimentary tickets sent to him this morning.”
    No.28 turned to look at No.2 “Two tickets?”

     “So he can take a friend, what could be easier?” No.2 explained.
     “Nothing, except he doesn’t have any friends” the officer of the watch replied turning his attention back to the wall screen “and he’s not a theatre goer, he said that much himself.”
    “Well no plan is perfect, if it was easy everyone would be doing my job” No.2 said smiling “that’s why I engaged the services of Number 9. Watch, just watch.”
    “That’s what I do!” No.28 said.

    “Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde” 9 said as though to herself “a psychological drama exploring the two distinct sides of the personality.”

    “That’s a bit deep for a Monday afternoon” No.4 said from behind his broadsheet “I wonder how he’ll do it?”

    “Who, and do what?”
    “Whoever is playing Jekyll, how he’ll manage the physical transformation into Hyde.”
    “But surely Jekyll and Hyde are the same man, there’s no physical change, how could there be?” 9 asked.
    No.4 put down his Tally Ho “But isn’t that why he takes the cocktail of potions, to achieve physical change?”
    “Its more about the psychology of two sides of the personality surely. It’s the personality of Jekyll that is affected, there is no physical change.”
    “Not even for visual effect? The actor as the good doctor Henry Jekyll having drunk the potion then slinks down behind the sofa in order to undergo a quick change, then to reappear as the evil Edward Hyde. If not how are we to know who is who?”

    “It takes a real actor to play both parts of his personality looking as the same man” No.9 said.
    “Well we’ll see” said No.4 with a smile.
    “Does this mean you’re going to see the performance?”
    “Why not” 4 said “I’ve no other engagements for that evening. Besides two tickets for the performance were mysteriously delivered in the post this morning.”
    Two tickets?” No.9 asked “that means you can take a friend.”
    “I don’t have any friends, well not in this place!”
    “I could be a friend.”
    “Why not?”
    “You want me to take you to the theatre?” he asked
    “Yes. You have a spare ticket.”


    He finally relented “Oh alright.”

    No.9 a dark haired, bright young woman dressed in a light blue jersey and grey slacks jumped out of her seat and planted a kiss on 4’s cheek.

    “See!” said No.2 with confidence.

    “Not really, no” No.28 said.
    “We’re going to bring Number 4 out of himself, to reveal the 4 within. Going to the theatre is but a stage in the process, I want him interested in the psychology of the personality. To look at himself in the mirror and wonder who he is. Now I’m going to the hospital to check on Number 56’s progress” 2 said crossing the floor to the steel steps of the gantry “call me a taxi will you.”
    The officer of the watch thought about it for a moment, then picked up the receiver of the grey telephone “Have a taxi waiting outside the Town Hall to take Number 2 to the hospital.”

    No.2, the old college scarf about his neck and shoulders, eventually emerged from the Town Hall, to see a white Mini-Moke waiting at the bottom of the steps. The female taxi driver in red and white striped jersey and cream slacks was busy cleaning the windscreen.

    “When you’re ready” No.2 told the driver as he descended the steps.

    The driver quickly climbed in behind the steering wheel, the cloth thrown in the glove compartment, as No.2 climbed into a back seat and resting his shooting stick against the other.
    “The hospital Number 2?” asked the driver.
    “Yes, but don’t take the scenic route, time is short” he told the driver.
    “Yes sir” said the driver starting the engine, and engaging reverse gear released the handbrake, released the clutch and pressed down on the accelerator. The engine whined as the driver, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the front passenger seat and looking over her left shoulder, reversed the taxi back up the street. Causing pedestrians to step lively to the side of the road, and cyclists to get out of the way. Then at the top of the street a sudden handbrake turn, and the taxi shot forward through the white and yellow arch and along the road winding its way through the woods. The taxi driver, having taken the shortest route, finally turned left onto a gravelled forecourt passing two workmen who were busy erecting two brand new signposts. One pointed the way to the hospital, and a second inviting people to “walk on the grass!”

    The hospital occupied what appeared to be an old grey stone walled castle, a rectangular building with one hexagonal tower on one corner and a large square tower, and high parapets. The castle is set outside the village, and its age questionable. The taxi came to a stop, No.2 alighted not stirred, but certainly shaken up by the rapid driving of No.10, who offered to wait. But he said there was no need, saying it


was a nice day and the walk back to the village would do him a power of good.

    Entering the hospital he reported to reception, from where he was directed to a laboratory. He wandered along a corridor wondering just how many citizens were actually treated there for everyday illness, and how many were brought to the hospital for special treatment. He paused at a door marked ‘Aversion Therapy,’ and looked into the room through a round observation window. The room was empty, he walked on. Medical staff appeared to be very busy. A nurse hurried along carrying a kidney dish containing cotton wool and a syringe. Two orderlies wheeled patients along on trolleys. And a doctor in a white coat hurried along with a stethoscope about his neck. At the end of the corridor No.2 turned right and ahead of him were a pair of double doors, a single word etched in black LABORATORY. The doors opened and he was greeted by a tall middle aged woman wearing a white coat. She wore her brown hair up which gave her a severe appearance. The badge pinned to the lapel of her coat denoted the number 56.
    “Come in Number 2” the doctor’s attitude was as business-like as her hair.
    No.2 entered the laboratory “I trust the development of your drug goes well?”
    “I am almost ready.” she replied returning to the work bench.
    “At last, now you will have the opportunity to use your drug.”
    “This is not just one drug, but a cocktail of psychoactive chemicals which are based on opium, cocaine, LSD, and
methylphenidate all combine to make a very powerful hallucinogenic drug” the doctor explained.
    “Dependency drugs” No.2 concluded.
    “Yes, but they will bring the patient out of himself.”
    “I don’t want to turn the man into a drug addict, I merely want to bring about a change in his character, his personality, to bring out his inner self” No.2 explained.
    “A few months ago the patient was in East Germany, I want to know what he was doing there.”
    “Who told you he had been in East Germany?”
    No.2 held up a file “I have photographic evidence.”
    “And what cannot speak cannot lie, yet he continues to deny the evidence even when faced with it.”
    “Photographs can be faked, manipulated” the doctor told him.
    “Yeeesss, that’s what he said!”
    “When am I to begin the experiment?”
    “I’ll tell you when, but it will not be long now.”
    There was something on No.4’s mind, he came to the conclusion that only one man could help him with it. And so it was early one morning he found himself walking up the steps to the Green Dome.


Standing under the arch his hand on the black wrought iron bell pull, he suddenly felt rather stupid. After all two tickets for the theatre arriving anonymously in the post, what had that to do with No.2? He took his hand off the bell pull and was about to walk away when the door opened. The butler bowed and gestured No.4 to enter. Instead of walking into No.2’s somewhat dowdy office, he stood in a foyer. A fireplace with a brown leather armchair beside it, pictures of sailing ships decorated the walls, and in the middle a round table. In previous life the table’s use was to hold farm leases and the payment of quarterly rents. The butler opened a pair of French doors and led the way up a ramp to a pair of steel doors which slid open revealing a large domed chamber.
    “Ah a visitor, well don’t just stand there on ceremony come in come in” No.2 gestured climbing out of his black globe chair.
    No.4 stepped forward and down the ramp taking in his surroundings with quiet disbelief.

    “You’ve had the decorators in I see.”
    “Yes, a little ostentatious perhaps.”
    “I’m impressed.”
    “Yes, its futuristic looking, minimalist.”
    No.2 pressed a button on the control panel of his desk, and a black leather chair rose up though a hole in the floor “Please, do sit down.”
    No.4 ignored both the chair and the offer, but walked round the purple walled chamber.
    “It’s nice to receive visitors, but what have I done to deserve your coming to see me?”
    “I’m wondering why you should send me two tickets to the theatre.”

    “I’m sorry, you’re here to ask why I should send you two tickets to the theatre.”
    “Yes” said No.4 looking at the large wall screen “what’s that?”
    “Its said to be relaxing if you sit looking at it long enough.”
    “The effect on the screen is the same as in the two Astro Lamps in my cottage.”
    “If you see me as your anonymous benefactor then I can tell you, you are mistaken.”
    “Mistaken, about you? No, and I have never seen you as being my benefactor.”
    “But it does mean you can take a friend.”
    “I don’t have any friends!” he said tossing one of the tickets onto the desk.
    “What’s that?” he asked leaning forward and looking at the square card lying on his desk.
    “A ticket to the theatre, I thought we could go together.”
    No.4 left the Green Dome and returned to his cottage. No.2 picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone “Put me through to the hospital, the doctor Number 56……Number 56 we must bring the


experiment forward………I can’t help that, he knows, he just brought

me a ticket to the theatre…….tonight!”

    The maid closed the curtains, turned down the bed, and then busied herself in the kitchen making No.4 his nightcap of hot

chocolate. He emerged from the bathroom to see the maid come out of the bedroom, having placed a cup and saucer on the bedside table.
    “Goodnight sir” she greeted him.
    “Goodnight” he replied and went through into the bedroom as the maid left his cottage.
    He sat on the edge of the bed drinking his nightcap, he had taken a book from the library ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’ as a boy it had been a story which had fascinated him. Picking up the book he climbed into bed and began to read.

    “Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.     

  “I incline to, Cain’s heresy,” he used to say. “I let my brother go to the devil in his quaintly: “own way.” In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of down-going men. And to such as these, so long as they came about his chambers, he never marked a shade of change in his demeanour.            

  No doubt the feat was easy to Mr. Utterson; for he was undemonstrative at the best, and even his friendship seemed to be founded in a similar catholicity of good-nature. It is the mark of a modest man to accept his friendly circle ready-made from the hands of opportunity; and that was the lawyer’s way. His friends were those of his own blood or those whom he had known the longest; his affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied no aptness in the object. Hence, no doubt, the bond that united him to Mr. Richard Enfield, his distant kinsman, the well-known man about town……….”      
    Two medical orderlies entered the cottage of 4 Private, between them they carried a stretcher. Laying it upon the floor the two turned their attention to the slumbering figure in the bed. The book had slipped from his hand and now lay upon the floor. One of them picked


it up and marking the page placed it upon the bedside table, while the other checked the cup making sure its contents had been drunk. The subject’s pulse was checked, an eyelid raised, and then placed on the stretcher and taken to a waiting ambulance.

    In the laboratory No.2 and the doctor-No.56 waited the arrival of the subject.
    “Our friend should be with us any minute” said No.2 casually “You have the drug to the exact proportions?”

    “Of course, but the reaction might not be the one you are expecting.”
    “How do you mean?”
    “How do you find the subject’s character?”
    “He has been uncooperative, stubborn, and single-minded in refusing to give away the smallest detail.”
    “And his general demeanour?”
    “Has been calm, calculating, un-bothersome.”
    “He doesn’t go poking his nose in business which is none of his concern, nor has he tried to escape.”
    “And you find something wrong in that?”
    No.2 thought for a moment “He’s clever, but he knows his limitations. He will attempt to escape only when the conditions are right. He’s not one to expend energy uselessly.”
    “And you want to draw out his inner self; I think you’re asking for trouble!” the doctor said checking a syringe.
    “What do you mean by that?”
    Before the doctor could expand upon what she had said the pair of doors to the laboratory opened and the two male orderlies wheeled No.4 in on a trolley.
    “Ah good” said No.2 “we can begin.”
    “Place him in the chair” the doctor ordered “then you can go.”
    “Is this going to take all-night?” No.2 asked.
    The doctor was busy restraining the subject in the chair.
    “Is that necessary?”
    “The subject may become violent, its always best to take precautions” pulling up the pyjama sleeve of the subject’s left arm took the syringe and injected her cocktail of drugs “Now we wait” she said.

    They did not have to wait long for a reaction. The subject’s body began to shake violently and he strained against the restraints, a sudden change came over the subject and he spoke in anger.
    “What in Hades is this shite all about, why am I all trussed up ready for the oven?” a whole mouthful of obscenities issued forth from this foul creature’s mouth “When I get out of this chair I’ll snap your neck like a twig you spineless cretin. As for you gorgeous I’m going to enjoy you!” he strained violently against the restraints, which looked fit to bust at any moment.


    “This isn’t the reaction I expected” No.2 said stepping well back.
    “Of course it isn’t sweet cheeks, now let me out of this chair. You, missie untie me, untie me now or I’ll do indescribable things to you. I’ll bash your face in, I’ll hurt you bad. I’ll tear out your guts and spread them all over the place. I’ll eat your liver and kidneys…….I’ll aggghhhhh what have you given me?”
    The doctor prepared a hypodermic “And you thought you could deal with his other self!”
    “What, what’s that?” said the subject.
    “Nothing more than a strong sedative” said the doctor holding a syringe in readiness.
    “No, no you can’t do that. You let me out, and if you think you’re putting me back…..”
    No.2 took a step or two forward “Give me some information and we’ll not put you back.”
    “What, you dare to make a deal with me sugar, who are you to make deals with me? Why if I wasn’t trussed up like this I’d rip your gizzard out and feed it to the pigs!”
    “Tell me what you were doing in East Germany in 1962.”
   No.2 repeated the question “What were you doing in East Germany in 1962?”

    “Was I in East Germany, where’s that, never heard of the place before. Now piss-off! You sister, don’t be shy, give us a kiss you saucy mare.”
    “Just answer the question.”
    “Why should I answer your sodding question?”
    “Alright, put him back, sedate him” No.2 ordered turning his back on the subject.
    “No, wait……East Germany 1962….I was in a brothel, a prostitute wearing nothing more than basque and stockings sat on my knee, and me whispering sweet nothings in her ear.”
    “Alright doctor.”
    The doctor stepped forward at that moment a wrist restraint gave way under the pressure, and a hand reached for 56’s throat as the needle entered his arm, the doctor managed to pull herself away. The subject’s free hand tore at the other restraint, he felt the buckle at his midriff and started to undo it. Then the sedative began to take effect, the hand fell limp.
    “Klaussmann” was the single word that passed No.4’s lips before he fell into black oblivion
    “Klausmann, get him back” No.2 ordered “I must have him back, another does of the drug!”

    But it was too late. No.2 stared at the doctor in disbelief “I was sure I could have made a deal with him.”
    “Well now you know differently, don’t you?”
    “We can try again, tomorrow” No.2 urged the doctor.


    “I think once was quite enough, don’t you?”
    “You could lesson the strength of the drug.”
    “You wanted me to bring the subject out of himself, I did, did you like what we ended up with?”
    “But he has things to tell me” 2 demanded.
    The doctor opened the laboratory door, and beckoned the two orderlies in “Take this man back to his cottage and put him to bed.”

    The next morning No.4 woke, his head aching, and there was a nasty taste in his mouth, his wrists were red a raw, as were his ankles. Now how had he received those? Climbing out of bed he went through to the bathroom. Turning on the shower he held his head in the cold water to help revive himself. With a towel he dried his hair, and looking in the mirror he looked at his face, and poked out his tongue it wasn’t a pretty sight.

   After a cold shower, he dressed and found an appendage pinned on the left lapel of his blazer, a black badge. Etched upon it was a white Penny Farthing bicycle with the addition of a canopy, and the white number 4. For breakfast he made coffee and toast, then went out into the village. He was greeted by a clear blue sky and sunshine. He walked along the road, a taxi warned him of its approach and drove passed. A cyclist rang his bell in greeting.
   “Shove that bell up your arse!”
    Now why had he shouted that out?
   No.32 looked in shock at No.4 as she walked passed.
   “What are you looking at you hatched faced old crone?”
    He had shocked himself, that wasn’t like him at all. He shook the feeling off and continued on his walk.
   Crossing the lawn he walked up the steps into the Piazza where citizens in their brightly coloured clothes were promenading, a taxi drove slowly passed. In the middle of the Piazza was a pool and fountain, a signpost indicated “Free Sea,” he studied the sign.
    “Stupid damned thing” he shouted “free sea, what the clucking hell do they mean by that?”
    People began to laugh “Did he say clucking hell?”
    “Yes we all know what he meant to say, but couldn’t bring himself to say it!”
    “What is he, too much the social convert that he can’t bring himself to swear?”
    No.4 stared at the young man in a grey blazer and stepped lively towards him “You laughing at me?”
    “You laughing at me, you’re all laughing at me, well I couldn’t give a damn. You’re all scum, scum, sum” and with that he pushed No.128 into the Free Sea.
    “I’ll report you for this, you see if I don’t” said the man standing


drenched in the water.
    “Oh go and boil your head, think I’m scared of Number 2, well I aint, I aint scared of no-one.”
    A little old lady sat on a bench looking at what was going on “You’ll die in your bed alone you will” she told him.
    “Is that what I’ll do, well so long as I don’t wake up one morning lying next to you, you old bag!” he shouted.
    In the Control Room a Watcher reported a disturbance in the Piazza.
    “Put up camera 23” ordered the officer of the watch and stood watching the disturbance on the wall screen.
    “That’s not like him” No.60, the officer of the watch’s assistant remarked.
    “It’s certainly out of character to cause trouble for troubles sake” he picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone “Get me Number 2.”

    “Number 2…….yes officer of the watch…….is he, well certainly that’s not like him……just a minute” he covered the mouth piece of the receiver and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk “Doctor….yes….Number 4…..what about him?........How long does it take for that drug of yours to wear off?.........It should have done long before now, why?.......It hasn’t!......I don’t understand?....Mister Hyde is alive and well, and living in the village!” No.2 pressed a second button and the communication was ended, he returned to the phone “Officer of the watch, have Number 4 picked up by security and brought to my office.”
   “Yes sir.”
   Within minutes a high pitched wine of a siren could be heard as a white Mini-Moke sped through the village. Two figures sat in the vehicle, both dressed in grey overalls, wearing white helmets and gloves.
    “There he is” said No.256.
    The Mini-Moke pulled to the side of the road and the two security men, truncheons drawn, jumped out of the taxi and approached No.4.
    “Now we’re not looking for trouble” 234 said.
    “Well you’ve certainly gone out of your way to find it” No.4 said preparing himself for the oncoming attack.
    “Are you going to come along quietly?” asked 256.
    “Piss-off you poor excuse for crushers” *
    When the attack came the two security men brandishing their truncheons laid in hard on No.4, who gave as good as he got, better as he defended blow after blow, kicking and punching back. Then relieving one of the security guards of his truncheon it helped No.4 batter and bruise the two “snowdrops” who were left lying unconscious in the road.
   No.4 dropped the blooded truncheon, looked at the taxi and climbed in behind the wheel, starting the engine, engaging first gear and drove off at speed.


    The turquoise telephone on No.2’s desk began to bleep, picking up the receiver he announced himself “What!” he cried sitting back in his chair unable to believe what he was being told.
    The officer of the watch continued with his report “He’s driving like a madman, terrifying the citizens with his dangerous and erratic driving, he’ll run someone down if he’s not stopped!”
    “Yes I hear what you say. Yellow alert, if he comes close to any of the Posts they are cleared to shoot the tyres of the Mini-Moke” No.2 instructed.
   “Yes Number 2” said the officer of the watch pressing the cradle of the telephone “attention all Posts yellow alert, yellow alert. You are clear to shoot out the tyres of the Moke.”
   Located at various points, both near and far, are a number of “Posts,” armed guards who help to protect the village and put a stop to any escaping Prisoners. In this case No.4 in a Mini-Moke, driving passed the Town Hall, down the hill towards the Old People’s Home, round the hairpin bend, down the slipway and out across the sand of the estuary.
    In the Control Room No.28 had been watching No.4’s progress on the wall screen, he picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone “Attention Post 5, approaching now, Number 4 escaping in our vehicle, I repeat Number 4.”
    Atop of the cliffs Post 5 had already observed the approaching vehicle through his binoculars when he received the message from the Control Room. Putting the binoculars down he took up his rifle, the butt wedged against his shoulder as he took aim on the approaching vehicle through the telescopic sight. It would be easy for him to take out the driver through the windscreen, but Post 5 lowered his sight on the front off-side wheel. From the cliff top there was a sudden glint in the sunlight and No.4 saw it. He pulled hard on the steering wheel, the Mini-Moke veered away. A shot rang out and a tyre suddenly burst causing the driver to lose control. No.4 was thrown from the vehicle as it hit something in the sand causing it to flip and rolled over. He lay there, there was a noise in his head just before he collapsed into unconsciousness. A siren grew louder as the ambulance towing a two wheeled Red Cross trailer raced across the sand to the site of the accident.
   A nurse with syringe in hand, and male orderly, jumped out of the ambulance and ran across the sand to the unconscious body lying there. A sleeve was rolled up and No.4’s wild looking eyes opened.
   “No you don’t!” 4 shouted, his hands reaching for the nurse’s throat.
   The male orderly took a firm grip on No.4 and pinned him down, the nurse stabbed the patient with the hypodermic, and pressed down hard on the plunger. No.4’s body collapsed, and Post 5, who had

watched the scene play out in his sites stood down, placing the rifle by his side he opened the flask and poured hot coffee into a cup.

    No.2 was not in the best frame of mind when he called to see No.21 at the hospital.
    “So doctor, what went wrong?”


    “I don’t understand” the doctor said “the affect of the cocktail of drugs should have worn off in his sleep. There was a book he had been reading.”
    “Book, what book?”
    “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it was lying on his bed.”

    “What’s that to do with anything?”
    “It’s suggestive….don’t you think?”
    “You mean Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was the last thing on his mind before you injected the drug, and his mind took on the persona of Mr. Hyde?”
    “The effect of drug did last longer than I had estimated….or on the other hand. Do you wish to try again?”
    “No doctor, I can’t have Number 4 running riot again. The fact of the matter is you are at fault for this” No.2 said accusingly.
    I am at fault, I like that!” the doctor replied in indignation. 

    “So how is the patient?”
    “I’ve sedated him.”
    “You can’t possibly leave him in that condition on a permanent basis. What do you intend to do doctor?”
    “I shall administer a reflux to cleanse his system.”

    In the theatre at the Recreation Hall the performance of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was well attended.

   “It is well,” replied Hyde “Lanyon, you remember your vows, what follows is under the seal of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors—behold!”

    “Hyde put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change, he seemed to swell, his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter, and the next moment. Lanyon sprang to his feet and leaped back against the wall, his arms raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror.”

   “O God!” he screamed, “O God!” again and again, for there before his eyes, pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death, there stood Henry Jekyll!”

    It was a few days later when No.4 was eventually discharged from the hospital, on his way home he was met by No.2.
    “Ah Number 4 we are well met.”


   “If you think so, then I’m happy for you.”
    “You seem more your old self again. What about our trip to the theatre Number 4?”
    “Strange as it may seem, but I no longer care for it!”
    There was a parting of the ways as No.4 returned to his cottage.

    * UK Victorian era slang term for a police officer. From the slang term beetle crushers, in reference to the heavy boots they wore in the era