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Monday 27 December 2021

Chapter 13



    Escape, we all want to escape when our spirit’s broken.

    It was early one morning, when after taking a long stroll along the cliff top, No.4 sat himself down and gazed out at sea towards the far horizon. His attention was suddenly drawn by movement down in the cove below the cliffs. A man was dragging a raft across the beach towards the water. No, not a raft, it was a hollowed out tree trunk.
    It had taken No.62 several days to hollow out the old tree trunk he had found over grown in the woods. For the task he had managed to steal a hatchet, hammer, a large chisel, and a length of rope. He had worked in the woods, hollowing out his tree trunk which he then had roped up and dragged to the edge of the cliffs and tilted it over the edge, and lowered it down to the beach on the end of the rope. He scrambled down the cliff, and from his knapsack he took a bottle and drank deep of the water, before putting the rope around himself and began to pull the hollowed out tree trunk across the sand. He released the rope then launched the canoe into the water. The water was warm. He clambered aboard and taking up the roughly hewn paddle from a branch of a tree began to paddle his dugout boat.
    No.4 continued to keep said man under observation, he had watched the man launch it into the water, and saw him jump aboard and start paddling away from the shore. He could see he was making descent headway, then there it was, bursting out onto the surface of the sea, a white amorphous sphere that was skimming across the waves in the direction of the slow moving craft. He shouted from the top of the cliff “Below there, look out, look out below.”
    Whether the man in the dug out trunk had heard him or not he didn’t know, but suddenly the escaping prisoner saw the white amorphous sphere heading in his direction, and panic set in. He managed to steer his craft away, but it was much too late. The white sphere emanated a bloodcurdling roar, and was on its victim in an instant knocking him into the water. He tried to swim for it, but to no avail. The white sphere emitted a further blood curdling roar. It caught up with the man in the water, covering his face, hands clawed at the membrane his lungs burned for the lack of oxygen. Finally half suffocated, half drowned the man’s body went limp and was left floating in the water as the Guardian moved away.

    No.4 stood on the cliff stunned by what he had seen; there was a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. There was nothing he could do, nothing he could have done. And then he heard the sound of engines and a motor cruiser appeared from round the point of the cove. It came to a stop, and he could see two crewmen busy hauling the dead man’s body out of the sea. Was this an opportunity? He


shouted out from the cliff top as loud as he could, stood there waving his arms desperately trying to attract the crew’s attention. The body having been hauled aboard, one of the crewmen went into the wheelhouse and took the helm. The engines revved and the motor cruiser moved off. He stopped shouting, his arms became still and the opportunity was gone.

    Later that day No.4 attended the regular Brass Band concert, he was nicely relaxed in the comfort of a deckchair when a shadow crossed his face, blocking out the sun.
    “Oh it’s you!”
    “May I?” No.2 asked indicating the grass with the point of his shooting stick.
    “If I object?”
    “I’d sit down anyway.”
    “Then why bother to ask?”
    No.2 glanced about for a vacant seat. Not seeing one he opened the handles of his shooting stick, making himself a seat and pushed the steel spike into the ground and sat down.
    “You were on the cliffs this morning.”
    “You noticed.”
    “You were observed shouting and waving your arms in the air.”
    “You can’t stop a man from trying.”
    “It wouldn’t have done you any good had you succeeded in attracting the crew’s attention.”
    “Why not?”
    “The boat is ours!”
    “Is that you telling me that, or the machine?”
    “Just because you know what Number 1 is, don’t think for one moment it will do you any good.”

    “I wasn’t thanking of that” he said giving No.2 a quizzical look.
    “Why do you look at me like that?”

    “I’m trying to size you up.”
    “What for, my coffin!”
    “Something funny happened to me, in the Fun Palace.”
    “Really” No.2 said eagerly “do tell.”
    “You were in the Black Cat bar quietly getting drunk, something to do with a Burlesque singer.”
    “Really, doesn’t sound like me!”
    “Now mark this, you were shot by an assassin!”
    “Only it wasn’t you.”
    “I’m glad to hear it” No.2 said feigning relief.
    “It was an automaton that was shot.”
    “You don’t say.”
    “Are you playing some kind of game with me?”
    “Whatever do you mean……oh I see, you think I’m some kind of automaton!"


    “Or you could be Number 1 getting its hands dirty. Are you?”

    “Certainly not, I’m me, Number 2, always have been. Prick me do I not bleed?”
    No.4 removed the badge from the lapel of his piped blazer and offered it to No.2.
    “You want proof?”
    “If you wouldn’t mind” still holding out the badge.
    “Anything to oblige” No.2 said taking the offered badge and pricking his index finger “I take it that has put your mind to rest?”
    No.4 looked at the blood on the tip of No.2’s finger.
    “Can’t have you worrying, can we” he said with a smile, and handed back the badge.
    No.2 paused a moment or two, then stood up and pulled his shooting stick out of the ground, closed the handles “Well I can’t lounge about here all day like some people. I’ve things to do.”
    “Don’t let me stop you!” No.4 said sarcastically.
    “I’ll be seeing you” No.2 said saluting with thumb and forefinger.
    He watched No.2 walking away “Not if I see you first you won’t” 4 said under his breath.

    The Brass Band concert came to an end to the gentle applause of the audience. No.4 rose out of his deckchair and returned to his cottage where he found a housemaid busy dusting.
    “Having a good day?” she asked
    “What’s it to you?”
    “You’re in a bad mood.”
    “Can’t be happy all the time, its not healthy!”

    He made himself a cup of coffee went outside, the French door was open, he stepped out onto the balcony balancing himself on the railings.
    “What’s out there that you find so interesting?” the housemaid-No.32 asked.
    “The village, people promenading around the Piazza for no good reason, it makes you wonder why they do it” he said.
    “They promenade to be seen that’s all. Didn’t someone say there’s only one thing worse than being seen, and that is not being seen?”
    “It looks like people exercising in a prison exercise yard!”
    “Your trouble is you have no soul” she told him returning to her dusting.
    He finished his coffee and returned to the lounge.
    “Is that what’s wrong with me, I have no soul!”
    “What’s put you in this mood?”
    “How many people have tried to escape this place?”
    The housemaid stopped dusting the bust of Will Shakespeare “I know there are some people who have tried.”
    “Has anyone ever escaped?”


    “No as far as I know” came the reply “mostly they are brought back.”
    “Sometimes they are dead” she told him with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
    “Perhaps their plans had flaws, or they didn’t know who to trust!”
    “You realize the watch do see everything” the housemaid warned.
    “And in asking questions I naturally become suspect! Do they hear everything?”
    “You mean “The Listen!” Are you going to try and escape?”
    “I’m not telling you, I don’t know if I can trust you. And for those who are listening, I am not planning to try and escape. But even if I were, you can’t blame a chap for trying!”
    He made for the door.

    “Where are you going?” she asked.
    “Just out and about, I suddenly feel like promenading in the Piazza in order to be seen. Let yourself out seeing as you let yourself in, be seeing you” he saluted.

    A few minutes later in the control room, an Observer reported No.4 promenading around the free sea in the Piazza.
    “What’s so unusual about that?” asked the Supervisor.
    “It’s out of character, he’s never done it before, that makes it suspicious” the Observer replied.
    “Let’s have him on the screen” ordered the Supervisor.

    And there he was, promenading in the Piazza making himself known, making himself seen and making small talk with other citizens. The Supervisor picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone and called No.2.
    “Promenading in the Piazza, well what’s so unusual in that? He might just feel like a little exercise.”
    “Daily walks around the village is one thing” the Supervisor said “promenading in the Piazza is another, he thinks it’s a waste of time.”
    “You think he’s up to something?”   
    “Well he’s never done it before, it’s almost as though he deliberately wants to be seen.”

    “Keep a close surveillance eye on him, report any further unusual activity to me.”
    “Yes Number 2.”

    It was a bright sunny day, and quite a warm day perfect for promenading around the Piazza. Citizens all dressed for the summer in brightly coloured clothes, well everyone except the two men in black overcoats and Top Hats, administrators who were merely passing through on their way to the Town Hall. Some ladies wore colourful striped capes, and held aloft open umbrellas which acted as parasols against the brightness and warmth of the sun. Senior citizens were


pushed in wheelchairs by their personal maid. While gentlemen paraded about wearing piped or striped blazers and straw boaters, all enjoying the day, taking the air. And there was No.4 amongst their number acknowledging an elderly couple as they passed by.
    “Nice to be seeing you” they said as they passed by arm in arm.
   “And you” No.4 replied, and went on to pass the time with a young woman in a red trilby hat. He stepped to one side in order to get out of the way of a man who was pushing a Penny Farthing bicycle, as well as avoiding the odd taxi. There was No.66 the ex-Admiral and his first officer - number 1, both wearing British Naval caps, sailing plastic boats in the free sea. There was one chap sitting in a white dingy in the free sea, although he had a paddle, the dingy was being pulled along in the water at the end of a rope by another chap! No.4 promenaded for about ten minutes or so before eventually slipping quietly away, taking himself off into the woods, taking the first path he came to. He met no-one on his walk and that pleased him, for there were times when he much preferred his own company to that of others. Not that he was alone for long, not in the village; everyone was close far too close at times. Ahead of him he saw a row of plinths, and set upon each plinth was the bust of some famous person. It was the bust of Voltaire that attracted him, because as he walked passed, the bust rotated, a camera lens set in the stone bust’s left eye tracked No.4 who saluted the Observer with circled finger and thumb.
    “Supervisor, Number 4 is in the woods” the Observer reported.
    “What’s he up to?”
    “He doesn’t appear to be up to anything, he’s just walking.”
    The Supervisor picked up the receiver of the grey telephone and made his report to No.2.
    “In the woods you say, what’s he up to do you think?”
    “He’s just walking.”
    “And you are bothering me with this, why?”
    “He slipped away from the Piazza unseen, we lost him then picked him up in the woods” the Supervisor explained.

    “Alright, keep me advised” No.2 said and hung up.

    It was all very well trying to keep an eye on No.4, but not all of the woods were covered by surveillance cameras! It wasn’t long before No.4 had completely lost himself in the depths of the woods totally unseen by the Observers. Eventually he stepped out of the trees and into a small clearing where many tree branches had been piled up, as though a bonfire was waiting to be lit. But it wasn’t a bonfire, as he looked more closely he could see tarpaulins under the branches, and it soon became clear something had been deliberately camouflaged. Clearing the tree branches, he pulled back the tarpaulin and uncovered a light blue American Willy Jeep with a grey canvas canopy. Jumping in behind the wheel he pulled out the hand throttle and choke, turned the ignition on, but there was no power.


Uncovering two other jeeps, the result was the same, both with flat batteries. However when he tried the fourth jeep, turning on the ignition there was power and the petrol gauge read half full, pressing the foot starter the engine coughed into life. Switching off the engine he sat there in the Jeep his mind turning over an idea, formulating an escape plan. The question is, how far would a half full petrol tank get him……quite a way he should think. He replaced the tarpaulins, and the tree branches, making the camouflage look as undisturbed as he could. Walking back the way he had come, No.4 eventually left the woods and finding himself back in the village, he took the short road to an outlying hamlet to the village yet appeared to be a small hamlet in its own right. He stood there in the square by a tree watching people going about their business, looking at the plain brick and stone walled buildings with their slate roofs and wooden verandas, there was even a domed tower, and even a stone horse trough in the square. And there was the imposing stone building of the Fun Palace, which now displayed a dark green sign with the words Recreation Hall.
    “Supervisor, Number 4 is in the hamlet community” an Observer reported.
    “Is he, what’s he doing?”
    “He’s standing by a tree looking at the Recreation Hall.”
    “Let’s have him on the screen” ordered the Supervisor.
    No.4 acknowledged the salute of a couple as they passed by, then went on his way reaching the far side of the hamlet, and stood looking at the open countryside beyond, while the Supervisor reported this activity to No.2.

    “He’s doing what?” asked No.2.
    “Now he’s on his way back to the village.”
    “Why did he go to the small hamlet do you think?”
    “I really couldn’t say sir. He seemed to be simply looking.”
    “Looking, looking for what?”
    “He seemed to be studying the lay of the land, the countryside.”
    “But he didn’t make a move to go further than that?”
    “No sir, he simply turned and walked away” the Supervisor said

watching the wall screen “he’s back in the village now; he appears to be returning to his cottage.”
    No.2 replaced the receiver of the yellow telephone “What’s he up to?”

    No.4 played the game for a couple of days as he worked out his plan for his escape. He joined in playing croquet on the village green. He spent time playing chess with the ex-Admiral-No.66, he went swimming in the local lido, attended a folk music concert, a garden party at the Manor House. And all the time he was formulating his plan.

    The more he thought about it the more it became clear that the route he intended to take was out of the question, as a jeep passing


through the hamlet would certainly attract the attention of the Observers. A more direct route had to be taken from the woods to the open ground of the countryside which he would have to traverse as quickly as possible if he was to disappear into the hills beyond.
    One morning he purchased a few extra provisions from the General Store.
    “Stocking up for the winter?” the portly shopkeeper asked.
    “Something like that.”
    “Right, four tins of baked beans, four of corned beef, tin of peaches, two loaves of bread, and 2 bars of chocolate” said the shopkeeper totting up the total.
    “Do you self flasks?” No.4 asked casually.
    “Flasks of what?”
    “Thermal flasks?”
    “Oh I see, no we don’t stock them.”
    “Bottles of lemonade perhaps?”
    “What about rucksacks?”
    The shopkeeper shook his head.
    “Duffle bags?”
    “Sorry sir.”
    “Never mind, I expect I’ll manage.”
    “I can put these things in a cardboard box if you like” the shopkeeper offered.
    “Thank you.”
    “Are you going on a picnic?” the shopkeeper asked.
    “What’s it to you if I am?”
    “It’s nothing to me what you do with your time, I was just being friendly.”
    No.4 looked at the contents of the village food cardboard box “Well that seems to be about all.”
    “That will be thirty-four work units in all” said the shopkeeper, and clipped the credit card handed to him.
    No.4 took back his credit card, picked up the cardboard box, while the shopkeeper came out from behind the counter and opened the shop door for him.
    “Well call again, always a pleasure of your custom…be seeing you” he saluted as No.4 went on his way.

    His customer gone, the shopkeeper-No.19 picked up the receiver of the black telephone and made a call to Control.
    “What’s so unusual in No.4 doing his weekly shop?” No.2 asked.
    “Nothing, it’s the quantity that’s in question” the Supervisor-No.28 replied.
    “What did he do with the provisions when he returned home?”
    “He put them in a corner of the kitchen and placed a tea towel over the box."


    “He hid it!”
    “Well I can’t say he hid it, he simply placed a tea towel over the box.”
    “But he must know he’s being observed.”
    “Yes sir, that means he’s being cleverer than we might think. He’s also been seen hanging about outside the admin building.”
    “Really, what could there be to interest No.4 there?”
    “I really don’t know, unless it’s someone in administration that’s suddenly attracted Number 4’s attention.”
    “I’m not sure that’s it at all. The works department building is behind the admin building isn’t it?”
    “Yes sir, works and maintenance” the supervisor confirmed.
    “That would be more likely to attract Number 4’s attention. He’s planning something, for which he requires a set of tools” No.2 said feeling pleased with himself.
    “Do we stop him?” asked the Supervisor.
    “No. Let’s see just how ingenious our friend Number 4 can be. We’ll keep him on a long leash for the time being!”

   That night just before curfew a maid in black dress, white lace apron, and white sailor’s cap was busy in the kitchen making No.4 his nightcap of hot chocolate as he paced the floor of the lounge. Having carried the cup and saucer into the bedroom the maid bid him goodnight, and he saw the middle aged woman to the door. That was something out of the usual because he had never done that before! And as he closed the door he slipped a piece of tinfoil between lock and latch as the electronic lock engaged. The lights dimmed and he simply went to bed biding his time until just a little before dawn.

   The Watch had just changed from night to day shift, the Observers settling themselves down at their monitors while the two Supervisors exchanged notes and discussed any special instructions. The Observers were making the usual scans of the village, which was yet to wake up, so early in the morning it was that no-one was out and about. One Observer making a scan of the interior of ‘4 Private’ revealed the occupier was no longer at home!
    “I can’t find Number 4” reported the Observer.
    This immediately attracted the attention of the Supervisor who couldn’t believe it so soon in the morning!
    “Look again, he must be there, he can’t get out.”
    The Observer did as ordered.
    “No sir, he’s not there.”
    “He’s not hiding in the wardrobe again is he?”
    “He could be sir…..sir look at that!”
    The Supervisor ordered camera 22 put up on the screen. The door to ‘4 Private’ was open, and on the floor was something shiny, the


camera zoomed on a strip of tin foil. The Supervisor hardly believing his eyes picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone.

    A little before dawn No.4, who was still fully dressed, had climbed out of bed and in the gloom of the cottage slowly and carefully made his way to the cottage door so as not to attract the attention of any Observer. He waited a moment, his heart pounding, his pulse racing, before he opened the door and letting himself out slipped quietly away across the gravel and into the woods, carrying his box of provisions. Skirting the fringe of the village moving stealthily through the trees, making good use of the undergrowth as quick and sudden movement attracts the eye of the Observer. He made his way to the clearing deep in the woods on the far side of the village. Picking up a green petrol filled jerry can along the way. This he had managed to purloin from the back of the works department, this being nothing more than a glorified shed, the previous day. As luck would have it, the works department was but a short walk across open gravel and through the woods from the back of his cottage.

   With the camouflage removed he put the provisions into the back of the Jeep, and topped up the petrol tank from the jerry can. Then climbing behind the wheel he sat and listened for a few moments. The morning was still, the silence only broken by bird song. He pulled out the hand throttle and the choke, turned on the ignition and pressed the foot starter firing up the engine. Reversing the jeep out of the clearing he pulled hard on the steering wheel turning the Jeep onto the track leading though the trees and out into open countryside. The Jeep stopped, its engine idling as the driver took his bearings. Ahead of him was the outlying hamlet, it was clear that he would have to drive through if he was to continue on his way. Depressing the clutch he engaged first gear releasing the clutch he pressed gently on the accelerator, the Jeep moved slowly forward along a well rutted country track and into the small Hamlet. It was quiet at that time of the morning, no-one was about, and yet he knew that somewhere someone would be watching. It was now or never and he pressed gently on the accelerator, the Jeep moved forward through the hamlet, through the square, passed the Recreation Hall and then hard down on the accelerator taking the hedge lined track out into the wide open countryside. He stopped at an old wooden gate and studied the terrain ahead. The track continued now lined on the right by a wooden fence, to his left a row of oak trees, and on both sides open pasture. He drove on.

    The red telephone on No.2’s desk began to bleep somewhat impatiently, leaning forward in his black globe chair he picked up the receiver.

    “Number 2 here………no sir there’s no sign yet. The Observers are attempting to find him, and two security teams are searching the


woods for Number 4 as I speak………..yes sir I am perfectly aware of that……..yes I will sir, I shall keep in the closest touch.”
   No.2 replaced the receiver, and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk. The image of the bald-headed bespectacled Supervisor in the control room appeared on the wall screen.

    The Supervisor turned and looked at the wall screen.

    “What progress has been made in the search for Number 4?”
    “We have established he is nowhere to be found in the village. He’s obviously made good his escape sometime during the early hours” which was a clever move as it deflected any blame away from him.
    We know that!”
    “Yes but now we know how.”
    “Go on.”
    “One of the search teams in the woods came across the three old Jeeps we had dumped there.”
    “Three Jeeps, there were four!”
    “Precisely!” the Supervisor said smiling.
    “There is also a further report. A citizen living in the outlying hamlet says he heard a loud engine a little after dawn.”
    “That way we know roughly the direction Number 4 has taken. Put all Posts along the southern perimeter on yellow alert.”
    “Already done sir.”
    “Good, I’ll join you in the control room directly, Number 4 must not be allowed to escape!”
    “Yes I know that sir” and had the Supervisor not put the grey receiver down No.2 would have understood the sarcasm with which he said it!

    There was one point about the grassy track he travelled, it had been well used, judging by the two ruts on either side of a grassy bed! The further he travelled the more the track had become enclosed on both sides by thick hedge row, coupled with various trees. The Jeep carried along the track for another quarter of a mile then No.4 pressed on hard on the brake, as the track suddenly ran out at the edge of a steep incline. Climbing out of the Jeep and stepped out, it appeared the only way forward it seemed, was down! But the incline was far too steep for even the Jeep. There was only one thing for it, to retrace his wheel tracks, and try another way.
   About a mile and a half back along the track there appeared a small gap in the hedgerow. Stopping the vehicle No.4 clambered out and stepped off the trail and through the gap in the hedge. Ahead of him was an open field but with hedges and ditches on all sides, except in the far corner there was a closed wooden gate. He climbed back into the jeep and started out across the field. The ground was good to soft and easy going for the jeep. But even at this distance he was still on his guard, he was not far enough away from the village to drop his


guard just yet. There had been no sign of anyone, no sign of occupation, farm, or cottage. Then there it was! The long arm of the village reached even this far, as the white amorphous sphere crossed the field towards the jeep. He kept the Jeep heading straight towards  the gate which he fully intended crashing through and carrying on his way. He calculated that as long as he remained inside the vehicle he was safe from that membranic thing! He was surprised that it could maintain the same speed as the Jeep, but was unable to get aboard the moving vehicle.
   In his camouflaged hide Post 10 put down his binoculars and picked up his high powered rifle, pulled back the bolt putting a 44 calibre bullet into the breech, then balancing the barrel on a sandbag the rifle butt pressing into his shoulder, he put an eye to the telescopic sights and took aim at the approaching Jeep. The amorphous Guardian moved away, there came a loud crack of a rifle, the ricochet of a bullet as it hit the front grill of the Jeep. No.4 pulled hard right on the steering wheel veering the vehicle away. Anther crack of the rifle and a shattered windscreen, a third shot and a tyre burst. He fought to control the Jeep pressing on and away from the gate he had been aiming for. But there is only so far even a Jeep will travel with a flat nearside tyre, and finally the vehicle came to a top at the same gap in the hedge he went through only a few minutes earlier. Stepping out of the vehicle and through the said gap in the hedge, he found three snowdrop policemen, dressed in grey overalls, white helmets, gloves and boots, each brandishing a white truncheon waiting for him. 

    “Now Number 4, are you coming quietly, or do we have to use force?” said one of the security guards.
    No.4 was quick to weigh up the situation, and only a fool offers resistance when the cards are stacked against him, but he was no fool. He kicked out at one guard his deck shoed foot catching him hard between his legs sending him to the ground clutching his groin

. A second guard came at him his truncheon raised above his head. Grabbing the arm he twisted it, broke it, the truncheon falling to the ground, the guard incapacitated. The snowdrop who asked him to “Come quietly” moved swiftly towards No.4 who stooped picking up the truncheon off the ground. The two came quickly to blows as they duelled with truncheons hard and fast, No.4 getting the better of the snowdrop hitting him the midriff, and about the helmeted head. But in an unguarded moment one decisive blow to No.4’s head sent him off balance and staggering backwards. There came the sound of clanking, whirring, the World suddenly spun, the truncheon dropped from his hand and No.4 fell to the ground.

    A day or two later, No.4 was summoned to the Green Dome. Greeted at the door by the diminutive butler he was shown through into the office, the steel doors slamming shut behind him as he walked down the ramp and across the floor. No.2 from his chair


pressed a button on the control panel; a round disc dropped and a hole in the floor appeared, through which a black leather chair rose.
    “Do sit down my dear fellow” No.2 offered.
    No.4 looked at the chair “I prefer to stand.”
    “Suit yourself. I came to see you at the hospital you know.”
    “No I didn’t know.”
    “Well yes, you were well out of it at the time. I doubt you noticed much at all really. But you are feeling much better now I take it?”
    “The doctor pronounced me as being fully fit for any contingency, whatever he meant by that!”

    “Well that’s good. Can I offer you tea, or perhaps you would care for coffee?” No.2 offered in kindly way.
    “I’m sure neither of us wishes to prolong this interview!” No.4 said in less than kindly way.
    “That was audacious of you, if not a little rash.”
    “It is the pre-requisite of any prisoner to try and escape.”
    “And just when I thought you were finally settling into our way of life here.”
   “That’s what you were meant to think!”
    “I realize that now.”
    “What you want me to become a model citizen?”
    “Now what is wrong with that?”
    “Running like clockwork!”
    “There are worse things!”
    “Do you really think so?”
    “People don’t usually try to escape until their spirit is broken. Your spirit isn’t broken is it Number 4?”
    No.4 said nothing.
    “I have to say you handle yourself well in a fight, they were three of my best men.”
    “They could do with better training.”
    “Is that you volunteering for the job…, I thought not! You would never have got away of course.”
    “My standing here is evidence of that fact” he said surlily.
    “Don’t be like that. If you expect to be able to try and escape, we must at least be allowed to stop you. I know what you are, you’re a permanent test of our efficiencies.”
    “Is that what I am?” No.4 asked.
    He stepped away from the desk and stood staring at the Lava lamp effect on the large wall screen, then turned back to face the man sat in the black global chair.
    “I’ve been remembering.”
    “A noise.”
    “A noise?”
    “A noise in my head.”
    “Really, what sort of noise?”


    “Of clanking and whirring just before the world spun and I fell to the ground.”
    “A clanking, whirring sound?”
    “Something mechanical” No.4 added.
    “Perhaps it was a combine harvester!” No.2 offered.
    “A combine harvester?”
    “Well a farmer working in the field spreading muck or whatever it is they do.”
    “Perhaps his tractor broke down!”
    No.2 smiled “There you are you see, the answer was a simple one. Now if you wouldn’t mind, I’m terribly busy this morning, and I’ve an interview with Number 9 in ten minutes.”

    No.4 turned on his heels, stormed across the floor, up the ramp and out through the opening steel doors. No.2’s hand hovered over the yellow telephone on his desk, as the steel doors closed he picked up the receiver.
   “Laboratory” No.2 asked the operator.
    In the laboratory technician No.253, a man in a white coat, of medium height, his hair combed back, with a slightly receding hairline, picked up the receiver of the bleeping grey telephone.
    “Yes sir?”
    “He remembers!” No.2 said with indignation.

    “Who remembers what sir?”
    “Number 4.”
    “Oh I see, that should not have happened. But it was difficult to isolate and remove that one brief memory.”
    “You realise how important this is?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “I cannot afford any slip ups, you can’t afford any slip ups, do you understand?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Well just see you get it right that’s all!” No.2 said slamming down the receiver.
    No.253 slowly replaced the receiver thoughtfully.
    “Anything wrong?” No.243 asked.
    “He’s in one of his moods that’s all. It’s time for elevenses!” 253 suddenly announced.
    “What at half-past nine!”
    “After that ear ache on the phone, any time is time for elevenses!”


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